Just when we finally go back to love the desert, the summer furnace hits us in Tankwa National Park of the Great Karoo, South Africa.
In the shade it’s 42 degrees Celsius (108 Fahrenheit). Even less nice, Landy’s lack of Air Conditioning creates a blazing oven even Hansel and Gretel would appreciate. Yes, I procrastinated having the A/C looked at and boy are we’re paying for it.
Fortunately the hot blast from the fan, the rushing air from the windows, and managing to gulp down tons of water helps a bit. Even so, the sun bakes us in this massive desert expanse.
The road goes on forever as we start feeling the familiar signs of heat exhaustion. Finally at the far end of the park we reach the reception compound. Looking forward to a much needed Siesta, we pay our fees and head for the closest active water hole to cool off and see some wildlife.
You guessed it. One lone tree! And no joke, the water hole is dry as a bone with no wildlife for miles in this desolate landscape. Disappointed we pull under the tree. Surprisingly, Margrit opens her door to the unexpected excitement of a large Spotted Eagle Owl a few feet from her head.
Now he menacingly stares us down from his new perch on a fence. There is something desperate about a night creature sitting in the blazing sun challenging you for the only shade for miles. Reluctantly we give in to his needs and move on to our campsite.
By the time we get there we start remembering why we love the desert. It’s about 5 pm, the shadows are growing while the mirages disappear. As the temperature drops the breeze on our sweaty clothes actually start cooling us off. Then the changing landscape transform our campsite into a paradise. Albeit a deserty paradise.
Quickly we forget the heat of the day to enjoy the ghosts of the past at the remains of an old mud hut. We wonder, how did they survive? And why here of all places?
Yet incredibly, it is looking better by the minute.
The dessert sunset without clouds or even humidity is a thin orange then pink line along the vast horizon. The stars begin to appear in numbers unimaginable. The glory of the Milky Way is beginning to show itself. AND THEN A FULL MOON.
It is as if we are standing alone in the center of the universe… I guess we are, at least our center.
Next the howling Jackals bring us closer to home. If you can believe it, that night the temperature cools to 60 degrees requiring our light blanket. In the morning the process reverses. Again, a quiet peaceful feeling of being just a spec yet part of it all.
I guess to love the desert, like life is a lesson in extremes. Yet on balance a uniquely beautiful place.
Enjoy the day and do some good.
Don’t forget to join us on our journey traveling Africa to find Wildlife Heroes. Nikela.org