Saturday, November 11, 2006

Wild animals like the Kudu, jackal and different small mongooses can be seen in the hills around Windhoek city, especially in times of drought.

Windhoek is small for a city and a capital city to boot. This neat clean city without smog, is situated between mountains on an uneven hilly terrain. The overall atmospheer in the city is friendly and to get away from a stressed situation at work, walk to the nearest hill.

This is Windhoek in the winter. The nights often goes down to freezing but as soon as the sun is up in the morning the temperature heats up quickly.

The botanical garden is my favourite place to visit. Anybody interested in out of the ordinary plants here are many to see. The garden grounds are large with walking paths over the hills. Most of the many different trees are named with more plants and aloes to enjoy.

The baboons tend to be a dangerous nuisance. They are cute to look at, but they can attack and the males are large enough to kill a human or dog. The photo below is from a large handsome male who saw the ripe papaw in the garden and decided that it was just what he wanted. We did not want to agitate him so we took the photo through the kitchen window. This gives the impression that he is behind bars, but we were strictly speaking behind the bars not him.

Gorgeous little fellow this gecko. Those large eyes are handy for his nightlife adventures. He can run on the ceiling while tiny slits under his feet forming a suction on the substrate. His feet feel like velvet if he is on your hand. I do hope the old tale that they are poisonous has been cleared in modern times. He will hiss to try and defend himself and his bite feels like a soft pinch. It does not even leave a red mark, far from drawing blood, let alone the ridiculous poison tale.

He will run if he is on a wall but on this carpet he thinks that he will disappear like when he is on the bark of a tree, so he remains still. This works out fine in nature on a camelthorn tree but at night on a carpet some-one will step on him. Consequently any gecko on the carpet, no matter how cute he looks, is put outside.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

into Namibia from the southern border

Into Namibia from the southern border

This was not a tour to see the Namib, but a quick trip up to Windhoek with a day trip to Swakopmund. It is a pity that time was short, as the scenery and the open tranquil atmosphere of the Namib desert is soothing to the rat raced soul.

Namibia has only 2 seasons, a long hot summer and a short cold winter. It is now September which should be spring, but here that is no option. The dry heat is not as depressing as humid heat of tropical countries, but the hot day temperatures reach dangerous levels in the sun.

The bright greens of the extraordinary rain season at the start of the year 2006 have matured into softer shades. The color of the landscape in Nambia is back to soft pastel shades which blend in with the peaceful quiet wide open spaces of this country.

The dry semi-desert southern part of Namibia is the habitat of Aloe dichotoma The trees, faintly visible, on the hill are Aloe dichotoma trees. (22175 bytes) (45655 bytes)

It was exhilarating to find such a healthy young Aloe dichotoma tree.
Very few seeds reach this stage. The photo below shows an old tree with dead branches - battle scars dealt out by nature. (34138 bytes)

An Aloe dichotoma garden with colorful hardy pelargoniums is at a petrol garage with Bed&Breakfast bungalows. Opposite of the road where the informal shops (photos below) are situated. Gruenau can be seen in the background, it is a very small town. The distance from the border is 120 kilometer and to the next town Keetmanshoop it is 146 kilometer. Few tourists do not stop for petrol here, which is just fine for al concerned in this lonely location. (petrol = gas in the USA) (13623 bytes)

A small flower garden on the other side of the aloe dichotoma garden on the photo above. The petunias are in a corner protected by the reed-bush. To see this little corner in the garden in a desert habitat is unbelievable. The very cold winter nights often below freezing and the hot dry summer air that scorch anything green - amazing what can be done. (19844 bytes)

Informal shops catering for tourists, at the roadside opposite the Bed&Breakfast. Never be out in the midday sun over here. Note the barren mountains in the background. (28275 bytes)

The the elephant is astonishingly realistic. I hope that the pile of hardwood for sale as well as the carved figurines are from dead trees. Namibia has a very low supply of hardwood trees. The camelthorn tree is very hardy but in a harsh climate it grows slowly.

Acacia trees are a very important part of life in the arid regions. The seedpods and seeds of most Acacia trees are edible and used as fodder for farm animals. (The wild herbivores appreciate it too). We saw many small stalls alongside the roads where people were selling bags of Acacia pods in the central parts of Namibia.

Aloe hereoensis in bloom a few kilometres after Keetmanshoop on the way to Mariental.

Aloe hereroensis has a wide distribution throughout Namibia. Photos
left were taken during the good rains in the beginning of the year 2006. Photo right
were taken in September 2006 - the aloe plants are in bloom and the grass so green
on the photo left are now dry with the seeds blown away by the wind. (7283 bytes)

The Towns are far apart. We traveled from the Namibian border at the Orange

harsh life like a harsh desert

A harsh life like a harsh desert brings forth the character of the strong ones.

dunes reflecting in water

Photo above taken of the same scene but from the top of the dune at a slightly different angle.

Dunes reflecting in the water. Sossusvlei gets some water every few years but the water dries up very quickly.

life in the desert

This corn cricket joined us for a beer. He sipped a few large drop-mugs and walked away as if he had nothing but water to drink.

The corn crickets are tough residents of Namibia. They excrete large green droplets from the thorax which must taste awful as they have very few enemies that will eat them. Thus they move around quite fearless, as even humans will jump out of the way.

The young animals are vegetarian but grown corn crickets must eat some protein to reproduce. Nature is ruthless when reproduction is at stake. Corn crickets are not hunters but they will eat anything that can not move away fast enough - including each other. One gets run over by a car on the road and the others will know that in no time. As they start to eat another car comes by - this time the meal is larger and more come for the feast ... etc.

Nature has a tough time against humans, but in a country like Namibia there is more than enough space away from roads for the corn crickets to go on creating life.

The mountain monitor is out looking for a mate. The monitor was roughly 1 m (just over 3 feet) long. They are generally higher up in the mountains between boulders, it must be love that brought him down in the open. There is no time to waste, the good time after the rain does not last long. The hot sun and dry air scorch away anything green.

dunes reflecting in water

The year 2006 brought new life to the Namib desert, Namibia, South Africa.

Every year the grass seeds are blown from the grasslands in central South Africa over the desert up to the west coast of Namibia. Many small animals and birds benefit from the seeds and dry grass, but in the year 2006 the seeds were stopped by rain. The desert turned into grassland creating nourishment that will last a long time.
The rain started January, it is now end March and the grass are already in seed.
Nature knows when to rush.

The naked rocks and sand are covered in a soft grass coat. These photos were taken from the lodge