Friday, June 25, 2010

A day alone with the trees

On my second day in Messina, I arranged for a rental car so that I could visit the baobabs and take all the time I needed to be with the trees, and that’s what I did: I spent all day walking among and sitting with these wise old trees.

It was a beautiful, gorgeous day, sunny and warm with the clouds darkening, at times, just enough to make a fine texture in the sky.

I would drive to “do not enter” side roads, park my rental car, and hike for hours and hours. I was thrilled to be out of the car and walking in Africa with giraffes, baboons, warthogs, and antelope. (The park is home for a great deal of African wildlife, but the listed animals are the ones I saw.) Since it is the dry season, the side roads and river beds were dry and sandy, which made for great viewing of animal tracks.

The park is not in the best of shape and is, in fact is severely neglected. (Hence the poor condition of the main road.) The park used to allow visitors to camp, and even has (had) a guest house and bush camp, but camping is no longer allowed and the facilities are no longer used and in disrepair. (The one building you see in my photos is of the guest house.) In fact, the park no longer charges admission into the park.

While I was saddened to find this treasure of a park so neglected, I was personally thrilled to find myself nearly alone in this African wonderland. Just me, the trees, the animals, and the African sky! What a day! (It was the favorite of my trip.)

I have many, many more photos of the glorious baobabs of the Messina Nature Reserve on my Facebook page and can be viewed at the following link, but be warned, there are a lot of them!! (You need not be a Facebook member to view these photos.):

I usually cull my photos and pull out only the best, but I can’t part with one single shot of these trees.

It was a beautiful, wonderful day and my favorite day, by far, in Africa!



PS. This is going to get me into loads of trouble with my worry-worts, but guess what else I found in the Nature Reserve?! A horned adder! Isn’t he magnificent? I’m not sure what was up with him, he was extremely lethargic, and in fact, I thought him dead. He may have been in a hibernating state, having not made it to a burrowing place? I don’t know. Here’s some more info on the horned adder from Lee Gutteridge’s, The South African Bushveld: A Field Guide from the Waterberg (Southbound: Johannesburg, 2008). (Rachelle, if you’re reading, this is your field guide—it is awesome and I refer to it all the time!):

Horned adder (Bitis caudalis)

This small adder rarely reaches 30 centimeters in length, but what it lacks in length it makes up for in aggression. This snake will not hesitate to strike or bite. The color varies greatly through the range of this species, with the Waterberg preference for reddish, blotched with a sandy-orange brown. The most prominent feature for confirming this species’ identity is the pair of erect, horn-like scales above the eyes. This species is not found throughout the entire range, but has a limited excursion into the northern and central reaches of the Waterberg, where it shows a preference for rocky hillsides. It eats by day and night, feeding mainly on lizards. It can use its dark-tipped tail as ‘bait’ by waving it, after burying part of its body and leaving the tantalizing tip of the tail exposed. If it bites onto a lizard it will try to hang on, unlike the Puff adder which lets go. It will also eat toads and small rodents. It gives birth to about ten young in late summer. The bit is painful, with swelling and necrosis. This is a dangerous snake, but no fatalities are known. (224)

I thought this a young snake originally, but after reading this, my snake was probably an adult (as he was about 30 centimeters long). I could not find on this snake (then or now) the dark-tip of the tail that it uses as “bait.”

I was thrilled to find him and wish I would have stared at him a bit longer.


  1. These are lovely photos! I'm so glad that was a sleepy snake. He's awesome!

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