Cheetahs, Quiver Trees and Oryx steak

First, it was stingrays, then a tiger, then lions, and now ...... patting a cheetah while it's eating!

From Mariental, it was a relatively short (230km) ride to the next major town, Keetmanshoop (pop.30,000), but it was far more than that again to the South African border then on to Springbok, the next town of any size. So Keetmanshoop it was, for tonight's stop.

Below: As I refilled the bike, I spotted this statue honouring the shepherds and the sheep indistry in general, in the main street beside the servo.

As usual, after refuelling, I went to what I thought was signed as the Information Bureau. Ahhhhhhhhhhhmmmm, it was the Police Station!

But a lovely little (several inches shorter than me) policeman took me in hand and offered to become my guide, after I'd asked him about internet availability. He took me to the Central Lodge where the manageress verified that, yes, they do have internet. Then it was off to the ATM to get some more money. He told me of another place that had internet, out on the road to Sth Africa, that also had camping. His "2-3km out" was actually 7km!! But he got a koala for his efforts! Anyway, the camping space was, yet again, just dirt, and they didn't have internet, so it was back to the Central Lodge.

Was allocated a brilliant, big, spacious room with tea making facilities and an air-conditioner! Yea! But it wouldn't go below 16C, unfortunately. And here I am still, two days later. I slept most of yesterday, after buying another internet access card and some fabrics. Today, I walked all around town till it got too hot, and called in to the Info Bureau (next door to the Police station) as I wanted to go visit the cheetahs and the Quiver Tree Forest. But it was on 14km of dirt road! OK, so I'm getting very wussy. I know this, but who cares? Not me! So the lady at the Info Bureau, after telling me that there are NO rental cars in the town, rang Michael and asked if he could take me out there this arvo. Yes, he could, for N$250 (about A$35). Michael informed me later that they DO have rentals, for N$770 (A$110) per day, so it was far cheaper for him to drive me, as it happened!

He picked me up here in his nice new bakkie (ute) and we set off. I was OH, SOOOO glad I hadn't ridden the bike out there! Quite dippy (lots of crests dipping straight into causeways with corrugations and loose gravel everywhere) with shoals of loose gravel all over the road. Admittedly, it was hardpack underneath, but with the loose gravel on top. No thanks.

Walked into the office, paid my N$50 (A$7) and walked out, immediately hearing a funny mewling sort of sound. It was the cheetahs! Two of them were in the enclosure right beside the homestead. It's a funny sound:- meannnnk, meannnnnnnk - well, c'mon, use your imagination, guys! I'm not good at writing animal sounds!!!

Feeding time was 4pm, and these two were laying in wait for their owner, waiting for their food to appear from the bucket by the gate. They are older animals, about 20 years old, where the natural life expectancy is about 12 years in the wild, and in captivity about 15 years. Because they are old, and get fed every day or so, they are also lazy!

Above: This younger stud male was in the next enclosure, and he kept pacing the fence, waiting for his dinner.

So after a few instructions to us, he fed each cheetah a quarter of a goat then opened the gate and herded us all inside with the cheetahs. We could go anywhere in front of them, but never behind them. No wearing sunglasses, for some reason I didn't catch. The male (I think) had grabbed his goat and crawled under a shrub, basically making himself unavailable to us. The female stayed out in the open, so we could all get in front of her. She didn't worry about us being there, as she chomped on her goat.

Above: she wasn't snarling - she was mewling! They open their mouths when they cry.

Above and Below: It's tucker time! Surprisingly, their jaws are very weak, and they chomp and lick their food when eating. When hunting, they always attack from the rear or side, using the dew claws on their front legs to grip the prey, then kill it from on the back, as their jaws aren't strong enough for anything else. Also, their claws don't retract, so they can't climb trees.

Then it was time to go visit those in the third enclosure.

Above: The only shot I got with all four of them in it, unfortunately.

We were told that kids are not allowed in the enclosure, as one of the females has chased and "smacked" a few noisy, pesky kids! Good on her, I reckon!

Above: The mother of the two 14 month old cubs.

Above: The two cubs and Below: with their dinner

Then the last goat quarter was given out, to the other female (the kid hater!) and she promptly jumped up on top of the "kennel" and proceeded to eat it. The the owner invited us to come pat her.

Above: Gee, aren't I brave? Actually, a cheetah is the only predatory animal which will let a person pat it whilst eating. Ever tried patting your dog while it's eating?

Above: The two cubs Below: C'mon, there must be more in here, surely?

Above: One of the cubs. Note the large curved dew claw higher up than the others.

Above and Below: These are Quiver Trees, a strange tree, hollow sounding when tapped, with a soft pulpy core. The tribesmen would cut off a limb then scrape the core pulp out to make quivers for their arrows.

Whilst we were watching the first cheetahs eat their goat, my attention was caught by a horse over the back in a round yard, being worked by its owner. It was a beautiful Fresian stallion, high stepping around the yard. Stunning! So after patting the cheetah, I walked back with the owner and asked if I could go visit the horses. He agreed, so I wandered over to chat with his som, who had been working them.


Above: The younger stallion, and Below: The father of the other three, whom I'd seen working in the yard.

Above and Below: The two mares

Above: The gig in which the horses are shown at exhibitions and championships.Below: The younger stallion

Above and Below: Some of the Quiver Trees in the forest

Above: As we arrived at the Quiver Tree Forest, I noticed movement among some rocks. I asked Michael if they were Dassies, and he said they were, so, the first I'd seen. About the size of a wombat, but a lot more agile and quick.

I was returned to the Central Lodge. For dinner, I chose from the menu, kudu steak, but it wasn't available, so I had the oryx steak instead. Oryx is a large antelope. As the meat is rather dry when cooked, it is best eaten as medium, so I ordered mine done rare, and it comes with a Monkeypod sauce. Don't get excited - it's a combination of tomato and other sauces! It was cooked to perfection, quite red in the middle, but oh, so tender! A very slight game taste combined with a smokey flavour, but definitely not unpleasantly strong like some game. Superb!

Well fed, it's now time I went to bed.

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