Marakele National Park
Lions and Leopards and Rhinos, oh my! That’s what you go looking for when your bosses come to town. ECHO CEOs Stan and David came this past weekend to get some business done. So of course around such formal events, they take the lowly, overworked researchers to a national park.
Marakele National Park to be exact. This NP has the big five: rhino, lion, elephant, buffalo, and leopard, but without any of the crowds or expense of Kruger. Plus it is only an hour’s scenic drive from the farm.
What we ended up seeing were black rhino, impala, blesbok, waterbuck, steenbok, giraffe, reedbuck, mountain reedbuck, kudu, eland, baboons, tsebee, plains zebra, blue wildebeest, warthogs, and tons of birds that Stan and Brandon geeked out about. There were also Cape Vultures, who have beautiful white upper-bodies and nest in caves and crevices of the rocky mountain cliffs. We got to see hundreds of them flying in a tornado pattern. Very eerie.
Here is also located the highest mountain in the Waterberg (pronounced “vaterberg”=Water Mountains), standing at 2100 m (6,890 ft, taller than any of the Appalachians). The drive up is precipitous, with one lane for two-way traffic and only a few shallow pull-offs against sheer drop-offs. On the way up though, you come across a large beautiful mountain valley where bok roam around and you see the national flower, Protea. And along the rocky sides, you see Africa’s equivalent of big horn sheep, my favorite animal of the trip, the klipspringer.
This beauty posed 5 feet away from my window. They are fairly easy to spot since they stake out a territory and protect it from intruders. They have such confidence and discipline to walk these rocky walls, fidelity to their home, and quaintness by living on these quiet, secluded heights.
Our time with Stan, David and Tim Motis (who came after our NP exploits) was wonderful. I am speechless about how their coming here was really to serve Brandon and I and help us to have a great time while we're here. Stan and David worked hard to get ECHO registered in country so, among other things, we can have a car to get to town with, and on occasion go explore. Stan took us for meals in town and made dinner too, and then drove around with us after work to spot game around the farm. David showed humbling servitude multiple times by simply cleaning the dishes when we weren't looking. Tim helped us by setting up our lab, buying supplies, and cracking jokes about DI systems. Their prayer, encouragement, support, and distraction were just what we needed. Stan's homemade popcorn every night was alright too.