4th October 2011
04.10.2011 - 05.10.2011 28 °C
Up at 5.30 and out by 6. And boy was it worth it! After an hour we came across some stationary cars who had heard there were cheetahs nearby. At this point they were nowhere to be seen. The convoy trundled onwards until suddenly the lead car stopped. Twenty yards in front of him was a female cheetah. Suddenly along side the 6 or 7 cars appeared four fairly mature cubs wandering along after mum. We were the last car, and while everyone in front took amazing pictures of super close cats we were watching a small child smash a plastic dinosaur against the window of his fathers’ Toyota Hilux. Grrrrrrr. We thought about overtaking and cutting in but being that we’re British we thought twice.
After ten minutes the cats had all scarpered to our right and into the bush. One appeared fifty metres away and I began snapping away. As I took grainy and blurred pictures at full zoom I heard a rustling immediately in front of the drivers’ door. As I lowered my camera there was the mother creeping through the thicket! So close that my camera couldn’t focus! Somers performed similarly trying to view the cat through the binoculars before realising they were wholly unnecessary! The cheetah trotted around behind us as one by one her cubs followed her. Mum was hunting! Crouching she moved forward one paw carefully placed after another. All the time less than 6 feet from Redvers. Suddenly her focus changed as there was a series of loud barks from across the river. Two black backed jackals came running across to confront her; she didn’t want a fight, the hunt had been scuppered and diplomacy required a tactical retreat. There we sat watching her and her cubs sitting, watching, about 30 metres from us.
Around this time Laura revealed that she had needed the loo for some time and, if she waited any longer, may spring a leak. What a pleasure for us blokes, in the most trying of circumstances we can whip it out and the jobs a good’un. Somers however was more than aware of both her limitations as a lady and the hungry cats’ just metres from us. She searched for a vessel. That vessel came in the form of a tall coffee mug. I’ll save the vivid descriptions of a perched Somers desperately trying not to spill a drop but suffice to say, twice I opened the door, and twice the thirsty sands of the Kalahari received a full cup.
We made it back to the main gate by lunch to arrange our first border crossing. (The Kgalgadi becomes one huge no mans land if you choose to go through customs at its gate.) We sailed through but with no space in the South Africa camp site we booked a spot in the more basic Botswana site (no water, no lights, no electricity, come to think of it no actual site to camp other than a bush filled field.) We were out of SA and wanted to head for Namibia but you can camp in Botswana without officially crossing the border.)
Later on, news of a lion meant we drove for our lives along the Nossob river to Kij Kij waterhole. We found him and watched him sleep as the sun set. It was approaching 6pm and our camp gates closed at 7 meaning our maths was put to the test. What’s the shortest amount of time required to cover 37kms without breaking the legal speed limit of 50kph whilst still ensuring you see the lion stand up, roar, chase its dinner, reproduce and make cute cat faces? We stayed until ten past and then legged it.