A Very Special Veranda
I spent quite a bit of time during the past month or so visiting Botswana, in Africa. Up in the eastern part of the country, not too far from the Limpopo river, is a place called Pete's Pond. At one time, the people there were trying to establish a cotton plantation, but those efforts were not successful, and the area has now reverted to its natural state. But the pond that they dug to provide irrigation water is still there, and during my visits I sit on the veranda of one of the old farm buildings, and watch animals come down to the pond to drink and bathe.
We are just coming to the end of the dry season in Botswana, and this source of water has been a life-saver for many animals over the past few months. The first animals to show up each day, arriving in the faint light before the sun rises, are the impala, and I have seen as many as 20 of them at a time all lined up with their noses in the water, drinking their fill. The entire herd never drinks at the same time, as a few members always 'stand guard' while the others take their turn.
Then, after the rising sun breaks through the cloud banks over the distant mountains, other animals begin to crowd in for their chance. Perhaps the most numerous of these are the guinea hens, and the large flock that lives here is always getting in everyone's way as they gather at the water's edge. The ostriches just push their way past the short birds, and these are great fun to watch as they lower their heads to drink, then stretch their neck high before swallowing. You can see the gulp of water as it then flows down into their body.
Tortoises can be seen swimming in the pond itself, and you can occasionally catch one sunning itself on the bank at midday. There are primates visiting the pond too, among which baboons seem to be the most common, although I more enjoy watching the vervet monkeys, perching in the trees, stuffing their mouths full of nuts and berries.
One aspect of life at Pete's Pond that surprised me when I first visited here to watch the animals was how well they seem to be 'living' together. A couple of warthogs may be wallowing in a mudbath at the side of the pond, a few wildebeest will stroll by without even looking at them, the impala are bounding around here and there unconcernedly, and all the while, any number of birds and smaller animals are flitting about here and there. I suppose they all know just who is dangerous, and who isn't, and behave accordingly.
One morning just last week though, I did catch the tail end of a high drama. A large impala had been a little bit careless while getting his morning drink, and had been nabbed by a crocodile that must have been waiting just under the surface of the water. By the time I arrived on the scene, the body of the impala was floating out near the center of the pond, where he was providing breakfast for not only the crocodile, but a cluster of tortoises.
But far and away the most fun I have had while sitting on this veranda is watching the parade of elephants that comes by every day in mid afternoon. They arrive at the pond very hot and dusty and obviously ready for a drink. After they have quenched their thirst, the fun begins as they spray water over themselves and each other, and many of the younger ones scrape hollows in the banks of the pond, and flop down into the mud with a great splash. Sometimes one of the youngest has difficulty getting up out of the water again, and he is pushed up the bank by one of the older ones, slipping and stumbling as he goes. The herd then heads off to a dry area just a short distance away, where they siphon up huge quantities of dust and spray it over each other, before heading away on the next leg of their daily journey.
I am told that the rains will begin soon, and perhaps that means that the 'traffic' around Pete's Pond may taper off a bit, as other water sources become available to the animals of the area. But I'll still be dropping by every few days, in between sessions at my workbench here in Tokyo. What an incredible world we now live in, where any of us can watch the action at a water hole in Botswana, on live video on our own computer screens anywhere in the world! Why don't you drop by too!Story #95, October 21 2007
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