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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The Baboon Baby Pics

It was one of those perfect spring days, warm and sunny and the local baboon troop came down to forage along the beach.  Playful, curious and full of energy, the youngest baboons explore their surroundings.  Observing them from a distance and not intruding into their space (keeping 10m away) is part of a photographer’s required etiquette around these wild animals.

Rain: 1.6% rise in Cape Town’s dam levels

Baboons huddling together to keep warm.

The welcome rain continues to bring relief to the parched veld and urban gardens.  Within days new shoots are greening up and animals appear to be coping, if not revelling in the fresh rainwater.  Though we have a long way to go before the strict water restrictions can be eased.

Interesting to note the animals’ fur ‘fluffled up’ to create thermoregulation which helps to insulate and retain body heat.

Baboons huddling together to keep warm.

 

A Nocturnal Visitor

  
One tends to think of porcupine roaming in the wild but they are quite common here in the neighbourhood, though they  not always welcome.  For the keen gardener who prizes the display of flowering bulbs they can become pests.   Being herbivores they are partial to a diet of juicy geophytes and digging up corms / bulbs is a nightly escapade.  

Baboon car raids – who is to blame?

The popular Cape Town cycle tour is to be held on Sunday (12 March) and as the participants and visitors arrive in preparation for the event the peninsula is abuzz.   35,000 cyclists are registered to take part.   The lead up on the roads with the mix of cyclists, motorists, heavy vehicles, tour buses and wildlife sometimes result in dangerous situations.   The stretch of road between Millers Point and to the top of the Smitswinkel rise has been particularly challenging especially with it’s blind rises and sharp bends.  A couple of days ago, dodging cyclists and tour buses we came across this scene where a troop of baboons scattered across a section of road and motorists had pulled off to get a close-up viewing.   Generally this troop’s movements are curtailed by appointed rangers, but this day they had given them the slip.   What followed was inevitable,  car windows were open and baboons being opportunistic went to investigate.   A female baboon made off with a backpack, which fortunately she surrendered when chased.  Luckier still is that the adult male baboon following behind did not challenge the man as he retrieved the bag.  It’s doubly disappointing that careless motorists aren’t penalised or fined as this particular troop is being “conditioned” through the use of noise / pain deterence to prevent raiding behaviour.   If motorists abided by the conservation laws and kept their car windows up and doors locked the baboons would have a better chance of not becoming raiders.