Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Hammerstein Wild Cat Walk Mar 2016

We passed on the backpackers accommodation in Maltahohe and continued on to the Hammerstein Lodge that the gas station owner had told us about.  We still had the daylight to make the distance and nobody wanted to stay in the short, soft, bunk bed arrangement at the backpacker place, with the toilet and shower a good walk across the muddy rock driveway.  We were so glad we did.  Not only did it take an hour off our drive the next morning to get to the Sossusvlei sand dunes, but we got a great surprise when we reached the lodge.

This cat on a tree limb and the tiny roadside sign were the marking for the lodge.  We missed the sign and had to turn around to come back to find the dirt driveway into the place.

The lodge was much plusher than we'd expected.  The staff was so friendly and willing and able to offer discounts to us for our rooms.  The rooms were the nicest we've seen in a long time and for a mere $20/pp per night.  We were offered a free coffee/tea/hot chocolate even though we arrived well past the time that such amenities are normally kept stocked.  This tooled leather hide on the wall in reception area was very nicely done--a piece of art on the wall,

An extra "Wild Cat Walk" was arranged for us even though the latest scheduled one had just left. The lodge keeps two caracals, two cheetahs and a leopard on their grounds.  Clemmons, our guide, agreed to let the four of us come with him for the price of three and we headed off to the pen where the caracals are kept.  They are a small cat, able to jump 2 meters straight up to catch birds.  The pair, Romeo and Juliet, have been here for years and are used to humans.

 The very long tufts of hair on the tips of their ears help them gauge the wind so they can jump up and catch birds.
 Amazing ears on these guys.  Our guide had never seen one in the wild before he came to work at the lodge.
 The second caracal is hidden under this bush.  Easy to see why so few people ever see them in the wild.
 I'll zoom in to show you Romeo snoozing in the thorny bush.
 This is Lisa the leopard.  Her eyes are two different colors.  The darker one has cataracts and she will probably be completely blind in that eye in a couple of years.  They will continue to feed her zebra meat chunks as long as she lives, but people aren't allowed to go into her pen area,
 She'd seen enough tourist for a day and turned her back on us when we showed up.  Beautiful spots on her coat.  Clemmons said a pelt could go for US$10-20,000, so you can see why they want to protect her from the poachers.

 Lisa on the move.
 The two cheetahs, Oscar and Wilde, (don't ask me about their dumb names) are kept in a pen here, too, and we could walk into it.  The late day sun caught her eye nicely.
 Lounging against the wall of the pen, there isn't a care in the world for this cat.
 What a cool shot of the eyes in the sun!  He walked right up to me.
 They look cuddly and cute, but are still wild animals.
 Kind of an arrogant look on Oscar.

The facial markings are quite striking.
Oscar moves away, but we follow.  
 Yes, we can touch the cheetahs here.  Myra pets Oscar.
 Another shot of Karen petting Oscar the cheetah. Their fur was much coarser than I expected, but they did purr like a cat.  He didn't seem to mind the attention at all.
These jaws of a leopard can lift twice their weight to drag and hang a kill up in a tree. 
 A nice shot of Lisa the leopard.
 Jason and Clemmons, our cat guide.
 A giant barrel cactus outside the reception area at the Hammerstein Lodge.
 This springbok has broken antlers but is very friendly.  He walked right up to me looking for a handout but didn't want the brown bread or cheese he was offered.  He was curled up in the dirt next to our car in the morning.
 The pool at Hammerstein Lodge.  It beckoned, but the sun was gone and the evening air gets cool, so we passed.
 We sat outside and nibbled cheese and crackers with wine and beer for dinner here.
 The springbok nibbled up the seeds that dropped from the trees onto the patio.
A typical desert panorama with Brian by our rented vehicle.  We left the Hammerstein Lodge and headed out to the dunes of Sossusvlei.

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