Tag Archives: Namibgrens

Go ape about Chacma baboons

It’s sad when humans encroach on the habitat of wild animals and it’s not often that they can live side by side without conflict.  Here, on the outskirts of Windhoek, we live beneath a rocky hill that is the home to a troop of Chacma baboons.  At night they keep us awake with their very vocal fighting and courting and during the day they make their presence felt in the suburb by raiding dirt bins or entering houses looking for food.  We have to remind ourselves that they were here long before we were and we are in actual fact the intruders on their turf!  Hard to be fair-minded when there is litter strewn all over the ground though.

Very obviously a male!

Be that as it may, they are interesting animals to observe.  Chacma baboons move around in troops of fifty or more, lead by both an alpha male and female.  The large alpha male, weighing in at about 32 kgs, does most of the mating in the troop and his existence revolves around maintaining his dominance.  Fights break out when young males try to mate with females or usurp the alpha male’s position.  They have a strict behavioural and dominance code, even when it comes to troop movements.

Bobby the baboon

The lifespan of a baboon is between eighteen to thirty years.  They mate throughout the year and females give birth to a single offspring after a gestation period of six months.  Young babies cling to the underside of their mothers initially and as they grow older, they move onto her back where they are supported by her tail.

Mother carrying baby on her back

The weaning period is between six and eight months.  Although there is a very close bond between mother and baby, all babies are protected by the other females in the group.  Females have babies every two years.

Cute baby

Their diet consists of fruit, roots, bulbs, insects and sometimes very young buck.  They can be domesticated, (see our story on Bobby the baboon at Namibgrens, who thinks he is a goat), but it should be remembered that they are wild animals and can be extremely aggressive towards humans, especially if there is food around or mothers feel that their babies are threatened.

Bobby thinks he's a goat

In their troops they are very sociable and spend hours grooming and playing with each other.

Grooming time

The Latin name for the Chacma baboon is Papio cynocephalus ursinus.

Bushveld Soap Opera

There’s a Dettol advertisement on TV in South Africa at the moment in which they are marketing a soap dispenser with a sensor that makes the soap squirt out without you having to touch it at all.  This is to prevent you from catching germs from the dispenser itself.  I ask you with tears in my eyes – just how many people have died from dangerous soap dispensers in their homes?  Aren’t we becoming a little too paranoid about germs these days?

Our travels through Southern Africa have taken us to many different places and we’ve come across ablution set ups that have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous, especially at campsites.  These are great fun though and we never fail to be amused at the creativity of the ablution designers, which tells you a lot about them and their sense of humour.  I don’t mind how whacky and adventurous a loo or shower is as long as it’s clean.  In all the years of camping, there haven’t been many places that weren’t acceptable, although I doubt whether the Dettol manufacturers would agree with me.

Bear with me as I take you on a little tour of some of the ablution facilities we’ve been privileged to use over the last few years…..

Let’s start with this elegant design that we found at the Omandumba campsite in Namibia. Definitely worth wiping with Dettol before sitting on that!  Not your average loo, but at least it has a good plastic seat and the toilet roll holder is conveniently close enough for you to unroll paper from the nail in the ground.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Talking of toilet roll holders, the owner of a campsite near Clarens, in the Free State, surpassed herself when she designed matching arum lily doorhandles and toilet roll holders in the ladies’ ablution block.  How classy is that!

Arum lily doorhandle

Arum lily toiletroll holder

For the adventurous camper there is always the open-air, out-door bathroom.  Sometimes it’s built into the rocks, like this one at Namibgrens.  This one doesn’t have a door, but that’s not the only part that makes you slightly uneasy – it’s the fact that there is a big hill overlooking the loo, so you have to be on the look-out for peeping mountaineers as well.

Open-air loo Namibgrens

Or what about this lovely loo overlooking a dry river bed at the Tsauchab River Camp?  Admittedly it’s a private spot with no other campers within miles, but there’s always the chance of a stray hiker following the course of a long-gone river.

A bit chilly in winter

The shower cubicle is a bit drafty too, so it’s probably advisable to do your ablutions under cover of darkness.  I can see a Dettol sensor dispenser looking quite neat on this wash basin.

Drafty bathroom Tsauchab

If you get tired of the outdoor stuff and want something a bit more upmarket, then look no further than the VIP suite at Namushasha.  The wash basin comes complete with animal horn to give it an authentic African bushveld look!

Horny washbasin

Fantastic.  Must tell them about the Dettol dispenser though – that’s if I live to tell the tale because I only use a disgustingly dangerous bar of soap when I wash my hands.

On the edge of the Namib

We arrived at our campsite in the late afternoon, with the January sun still high in the sky and settled down with a cup of coffee before setting up camp. We were drinking in the view when a slight movement on the rocky backrest of the seats in the braai area caught Jane’s attention – a metre long spotted bush snake! In the way of most snakes, it disappeared from view almost as quickly as we could grab our cameras, but Jane spotted it again half an hour later; in the tree overlooking the braai area this time, and we were able to watch it slithering through the branches of the tree for a good fifteen minutes before it made its final exit for the weekend. Perhaps not the best of welcomes as the shade below this tree was an ideal spot for our friends Des and Jo to position their tent!
Namibgrens is a wonderful campsite, just 165 km from Windhoek on the D1275 road, and is located just a couple of km from the top of Spreetshoogte Pass, the steepest pass in Namibia. The mountain campsites are located amongst the granite hills and are better equipped than the average campsite in Namibia. Each campsite has its own toilet, shower, braai area, washing up facilities and large canvas-walled shelter that provides a cool respite from the scorching summer sun. There are also two swimming pools in the campsite. Veritable luxury as camping goes!
The spacious campsite number 1 has wonderful views and is probably the choicest of the campsites, and here we were visited by constant parade of Mountain wheatears, Cape buntings, Great sparrows, Black-throated canaries and African red-eyed bulbuls. A female Great sparrow took a liking to her reflection in a shiny kettle, and she spent several minutes walking around the kettle, preening herself like a prima donna and pecking at her reflection.
There are wonderful walks at Namibgrens, and it is possible to walk for many hours through the spectacular scenery in the comparative isolation that is so refreshing for the soul. When following the Dassie Trail it is possible to take a side path that leads up a fairly steep climb to Eagle’s Rest, from which there are 360-degree views over the deserted hills and valleys.
Standing at the top of this hill and rotating slowly it is possible to take in the plains spread out below Spreetshoogte Pass; the flat-topped Gamsberg, the Namibgrens campsite and farmhouse; several dams and a seemingly limitless series of rocky hills.
It is also worth taking a walk to the larger of the dams on the farm, a walk that will take you past the goat pens, where you may see Bobby, the baboon who lives with the goats and has become something of a tourist attraction on the farm. The dam is populated with quite an assortment of waterbirds, including, on occasion. Great white pelicans.
We were returning to Windhoek when we left Namibgrens, and took a wonderful drive down Spreetshoogte Pass to Solitaire. After coffee and a generous slice of the famous Solitaire apple-pie at the bakery, we followed the route over the Remhoogte Pass and so back to Windhoek.

A trifle bizarre!

When you think back over your life, who are the folks that you remember most? It’s not the quiet peaceful guys that stand out in your mind but those unconventional people who did extraordinary things, drove you mad, or made you laugh. It’s these delicious characters who make life colourful and its always a delight to come across them. You’ve probably met quite a few in your lifetime and no doubt they will spring to mind when you read this. Perhaps you’re even one of them! If so, good for you.

My own family has been blessed with crazy souls – I remember my eighty year old father-in-law replacing the entire roof of his house without any help whatsoever. This was an amazing feat for an octogenarian, but sometimes his enthusiasm for the job was so overwhelming that he forgot to dress appropriately and on at least three occasions he was caught working in his slippers which didn’t give him any grip on the slanting roof.  His craziness wasn’t limited to fixing roofs in his eighties, but we won’t go there right now.

You have to be a bit weird to ride a bicycle across continents don’t you think. I have to admit that being married to someone who does this occasionally makes for an interesting life. We met an Australian male nurse one Christmas and told him that Rob had ridden across Australia in just twenty-eight days (see account of this trip and others under his Cycling page on this site) but this gentleman was totally unimpressed, telling us that he had ridden around the whole perimeter of Australia on a horse. Well not exactly one horse – it had taken him four years and numerous horses to make this incredible journey. His hobby was to go around the world and join in re-enactments of cavalry charges of famous battles. I just love these people who travel the road less ordinary.

I could go on about eccentrics and achievers we know, but let me tell you that unusual behaviour is not limited to homo-sapiens. We’ve seen quite a few animals that defy typical behaviour for their species.

Some people take domestication of animals to extremes. We came across this goat at the same place where we met the Australian horseman and were amazed at how this animal was addicted to TV. According to his owner he loved watching sport and would sit on the couch for hours glued to the telly. However, if they changed channels to SkyNews, it would really get his goat (sorry about that) and he would promptly drop off to sleep. This same household also had a beautiful otter as a pet, but it’s toilet training left a lot to be desired. 

Oh no! Not SkyNews again!

Oh no! Not SkyNews again!

We spent last Christmas at a farm in Namibia called Namibgrens and here we came across a tame baboon that had been hand-reared by the farmer when its mother was killed accidentally. Bobby was a real character because he grew up with a herd of goats and didn’t realize that he wasn’t one himself. He spends his days harassing the goats on the farm to such an extent that one has to feel quite sorry for them. Bobby’s fame spread far and wide when he captured the imagination of the editor of a magazine called Drive Out and featured in a little write up on the leader page.  

Bobby thinks he's a goat

Bobby thinks he's a goat

At Roys Camp near Grootfontein we were preparing a New Year’s Eve braai when an Eland walked into our campsite and helped itself to half a loaf of bread on the table. Once it had finished eating it came and said hello before disappearing into the bushes. We were left wondering what his story was.  

Rob and the Eland

Rob and the Eland

At most of the campsites we visit we usually find hungry cats and always put milk out for them. They are mostly wild and very timid. However, at Harnass, a wildlife rehabilitation centre on the eastern side of Namibia, we were visited by an enormous ginger cat and his companion, a mongoose. What an unlikely friendship.

Strange friends

Strange friends

If you spot warthogs in the wild they usually run off at great speed with their tails straight up in the air. At the Chobe Safari Lodge campsite in the Caprivi, we were a little intimidated when an enormous warthog came into our space. We needn’t have worried though, as he turned out to be quite docile with a penchant for Romany Cream biscuits!

Warthog at Chobe

Warthog at Chobe

Even birds sometimes show their little characters in delightful ways. This crow at Sossusvlei caused much amusement in our party when he aggressively jostled with the bulbuls and sparrows for bread. He didn’t eat it however, but buried it all around the area to dig up at a later stage. I guess that is a survival thing in the desert. We had to hang onto our food as he was quite prepared to grab it off the table in front of us. 

Bread thieving crow

Bread thieving crow

And lastly, this sweet little Trac Trac Chat greeted us on arrival at the Moon Landscape near Swakopmund and followed us around as we checked out the scenery. He was no slouch as can be seen from his dead straight back. I immediately stood more erect in his presence! He so impressed our party that  my brother Vaughan and Mary made up a limerick about him on our drive home.  (This is an abridged version!   Note:  Vaughan and Mary join our list of weird and wonderful people as they make up limericks about everything in sight)

The chat is a quaint little bird
Who lives in a place quite absurd
With just desert and sand
And no food right on hand
He’s thinking of moving, we’ve heard 

Welcoming Trac Trac Chat

Welcoming Trac Trac Chat

These wonderful encounters, both human and animal, make life so interesting and I can’t wait to see who or what will be next to enrich our lives.