Fish River Canyon: where time is written in the rocks

The landscape, immediately after crossing the Orange River at the Noodoewer border post, takes on a desolate appearance.

The route through to Grünau, in the Karas Region goes over gravel plains and then as we head to Hobas – the viewpoint for the Fish River Canyon.  Clumps of milkbush and granite outcrops form a backdrop to this arid Eden.  As we travel we wonder which animal will be our first viewing of local wildlife?  Take a guess?!

Yes!! Baboons!  How remarkable that they have adapted and can find enough to sustain life in this tough environment.  They are far leaner than the coastal cousins and their fur much finer.  I worried about their feet pads burning on the scalding stones, but they appeared to walk quite comfortably but nimbly over the rocky terrain. Their diet would include mainly insects – scorpions, beetles and tuberous plants.

How to describe the spectacular Fish River Canyon? It draws the viewer’s eye into a terrain of riverting and rugged convolutions, twisting and turning.  The information boards tell of ancient geological history, but i’m also fired by the local mythology and the story of Koutein Kooru, a giant snake frantically scrambling to get away from San hunters.

Impressively the oldest rocks here existed long before today’s continents were formed by the break up of the super continent Gondwana.  The basement rocks are believed to be 2,000 million years old!  At some point tectonic plate movement caused a huge block of the Earth’s crust to subside along deep-reaching faults and formed a deep trench.  The geology was further shaped through the eons by dramatic forces – erosion, volcanic and climate action.  The river has melded its way over millions of years and cut through the Namaqualand Metamorphic Complex exposing horizontal layers of quartzite, gneiss and sedimentary layers.

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Rain

A feeling of elation lingers as the soft rain which has fallen over the last two days, soaks into the parched earth and the raindrops glisten like jewels.  The dam levels supplying Cape Town’s needs are still way below par but through this respite we can visibly see the vegetation greening up and the first signs of spring are emerging.  Through my dining room window there’s a buzzing scene.  Wagtails are in-coming carrying nesting material, while the sugarbirds and sunbirds flit about foraging for nectar.  The protea pincushions (Leucospermum) are coming into bloom though i still put out the occasional bottle of sugar water (fructose/sucrose formula) for the sunbirds.

The ‘tweeting’ going on is full of robust conversation; the wagtail pair call constantly with urgency – “Where are you, where? Bring in the next twigs, need fluff, fluff?”  While the sugarbirds have the gruff throaty voice of nightclub singers; deep and croaky.  They have the least melodious of songs while the dainty sunbirds have ‘chirp’; full of small bird attitude.  My guidebook describes their calls as a wheezy single “tsearp” or  double “teer-turp”. And with that, a jubilant “hallelujah” from all of us here on the rainy shores of the Cape Peninsula.

Delta

Here it is: a single photo showing the passage of time, transitions and change.  This bleak scene signifies change – climate change.  A dry riverbed with almost no water may well be a typical scene in the future.  Described as a water scarce country, South Africa’s average annual rainfall is a mere 464mm. While parts of the country suffer drought conditions, the Western Cape is in dire straits.   This is “The new normal”, we are told.

This week Erica poses the WP  challenge:  Delta. Share a picture that sybolizes transitions, change and the passing of time.

The storm brings a feast for Cape baboons

Two days have passed since the storm and the sandy beach where I photographed the galloping zebra has altered in the aftermath. Today it is strewn with huge piles of kelp,  dislodged by the powerful waves and borne in on the spring high tide.

The kelp brought with it a bonanza for the baboons, a feast of  mussels still attached to the fronds.  The baboons living along the coast supplement their diet with this highly nutritious resource which is rich in omega oils.  They tucked in with gusto, and I noticed that some of the older females had packed their cheek pouches until they bulged into hanging pouches.  There was a lot of ‘chatter’ as they sucked and chewed and a delightful sound of ‘hiccups’ as one greedy adult male gulped down the morsels far too quickly.