The Cactus Patch
Volume 9       April 2006      Number 4

More Caves
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

After the eight cavers gave their presentation at the museum, we all went for a game drive at Mokolodi Nature Reserve. This was followed by a farewell dinner at the restaurant there. They finally got the meal they had been looking for -- crocodile, ostrich, impala and kudu. As reported, six of them left the next day, 23 Feb.

On the 24th we discovered a white-browed scrub robin had built a nest by a pillar of our front porch. The nest was almost at ground level and had three small white eggs with brown speckles. Too bad Peri, an amateur ornithologist, had left. Rolf, the entomologist, looked at the museum insect collection.

Despite an overcast and sometimes rainy day on Saturday, we had lunch at Sanitas, a plant nursery with an outdoor restaurant. That evening Rolf went back and collected insects in the bush near there. I found a lot of the small carrion flower, Duvalia polita as well as an unusual Kalanchoe rotundifolia with three-lobed leaves.

On the 26th we drove around the Gaborone Game Reserve and saw lots of animals, including two large monitor lizards. That evening Rolf flew off to the Transvaal Museum in South Africa to check out their insects.

The 27th was a restful day in Gaborone, but on the 28th we drove to the "Cradle of Humankind" world heritage site west of Jo'burg. It was a bit of a drive, but we managed to get there in time to tour both Sterkfontein Cave and Wonder Cave. The former is the site of a large number of early relatives of modern man. We could only peer through a gate at the place where they are still digging out "Little Foot", the most complete Australopithecus skeleton so far discovered. The second cave has more of the formations visitors like to see in caves. It also has an elevator, although both caves had too many steps.

The area around Wonder Cave is a game reserve so we went backthe next morning and drove around. The lions were sleeping against the fence and the wild dogs and cheetahs were invisible, but we did get a good look at rhinos, crested cranes, ground hornbills, etc. We made it back to Gaborone in time for Polly's book club that evening.

On the 2nd of March we went to the opening of "Art" at Capital Players. It is a well-written play about three people’s reaction to an all-white painting. On the 4th we again had lunch at Sanitas and on the 4th we went back to Mokolodi. On the 5th we joined the bird club on a walk in the Kopong Hill. The birds were interesting, but the best find of the day was a rocky hill slope of the endemic Gladiolus rubellus in full bloom. (Endemic means found only in Botswana and there are less than 20 such plants.)

That evening we saw John off to California and things have settled down to "normal".

For those interested in more information about the "Cradle of Humankind" there is a terrific book by Brett Hilton-Barber and Dr. Lee R. Berger (The official Field Guide to the Cradle of Mankind, 2002, Struik, Cape Town). Much of the book is devoted to what is known of human ancestors and relatives. There is also a bit on recent history and geology as well as illustrated lists of plants and animals. The illustrations on these last two are not up to the quality of the rest of the book and the plant list is rather short. Kalanchoe thyrsiflora is listed, but I saw Kalanchoe paniculata in bloom and it is not listed. They also miss Euphorbia rhombifolia which is important here as it is far from its normal distribution further south. The small aloe which is found there is listed as Aloe davyi, but this is more properly known as Aloe greatheadii var. davyi. But these are minor faults compared to the overall quality of the book.

John at the surface digs at Sterkfontein

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