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  • Inspector Clueless with her map – cruising through Valentine’s with a happy heart

    Posted by Nikki Tilley February 21, 2014 - 1,507 views - 0 comments - 0 likes - #I have fallen in love 

    Oh boy Tilley, now what? Your wild and free spirit has gotten you into trouble again. Your romantic heart has taken you away and hidden you into a world of dreams and everlasting love.

     Oh no. Oh yes. Oh no. Oh yes. Alas, tis true.

     Oceans and sharks, the big blue, soaring eagles, hungry vultures and a touch of culture. I am tickets. Gone, sold, to the closest bidder. Throw my passport away. I am NEVER leaving. Do you hear me? This place of paradise is simply that. It has stolen my heart. Much like a lekker local farmer, but that would be more for my Cupid Column. Or stupid column. After all, love does make one a little strange.

     So last we left off to hunt down Thugosaurus Rex’s ancestory in the spectacular Oribi Gorge, the hinterland of the South Coast. To recap – Thuggie heils from Lesotho – a rather mammoth looking Basotho mountain dog, and on hearing that her Jurassic park relatives once wandered the Gorge, her mission has commenced. Her photo attached as evidence of her physique.

     The topography of this area shares similar compositions to that of the Drakensberg and in Lesotho itself. The sediments of mud and sand were deposited for millions of years into a vast central swamp - a place where dinosaurs lived and died. They became agglomerated and compacted through the immense pressure caused by the weight of all the overlying layers. This thick blanket of sediment built up about 490 million years ago and today the resultant sandstone can also be seen forming the typical table- top shapes in Oribi Gorge.

     What followed after the dinosaurs, was the travelling of the nomadic San people who moved into the mountain paradise centuries ago, and certainly long before the Bantu-speaking people or the Europeans did. Recent discoveries of Namibian rock paintings are dated at more than 14 000 years old, suggesting that such rock art originated in Southern Africa, not Europe. These tiny nomadic artists roamed the southern plains and mountains, adapting themselves to all manner of environments (just wait until you see the Gorge!), and recorded their experiences upon thousands of rock canvasses. Many of these in the Gorge are rather fortunately (un)seen as hidden treasures, almost totally inaccessible in the Oribi Gorge. Yes humans like to touch everything.

     Why don’t they just listen to their parents and read the warnings like they have in the shops – you break, you pay? The San used paints prepared from iron oxides, charcoal, gypsum, ochre, and paintbrushes made of reeds, hairs and feathers. With these tools they created the rich and unique heritage left to those who came after.

     Now you get humans with fancy ideas about art, forgetting to use it as a medium of storytelling and because there is no glass or frame to the art, think they can touch it. What’s that about anyway? Like they secretly want to become a San warrior? Yeh, questionable, but you get my point.

     And here is my next cunning discovery. What is so interesting is that the Stoneage San were people of the eland, and their culture was based on hunting these largest of antelope with bows and arrows. Their activities and beliefs were reflected on the walls of their shelters by their artists - the battles, the hunts, the animals and birds, the mythological beings, bees and fish, ladders and digging sticks, dances and families. Why this is interesting is that here in the Gorge, is a Nature Reserve called Lake Eland, populated with this spiritual and magnificent animal. Timeless treasures, centuries on. 

    Since all other avenues were closing down on her investigations, Thuggy decided to approach an Eland and find out if perhaps through its DNA, that on a cellular level she would know a little more about her family origins. Unfortunately the language barrier proved a problem and Thuggy resigned herself to becoming my travelling buddy once again, just in it for the fun of it and accepting that her ancestors and dinosaur family members were deeply entrenched in the rocks.

    Next up, we bumped into some travelling media and conservationists and they invited me to join them at an exclusive opening of a vulture hide. Why did I crack the nod? Maybe my binoculars gave me away. It’s quite a birding thing after all. Given the need to conserve the delicate land and the nurtured, growing population of the vulture colony, this hide is unsigned from the road, and not on the official map but is open by appointment only (I can give you their number). Wow, fascinating stuff - we were treated to some very thought provoking insights about these endangered birds. Did you know that for every two diminishing numbers of rhino in South Africa, there is only one Cape Vulture?

    Poisoning, shooting and mostly power lines are the culprits, so whilst man has had a hand in the decline of these spectacular birds, at least he is now doing something about it. Even the trusty power source guys in South Africa have agreed to change the structure of the pylons. Not bad going. Pretty progressive this place is given there are dinosaur bones somewhere under my feet.

    The vulture restaurant is quite specific about what they serve their colony. Not always easy to feed a crowd. No additives or unusual drugs allowed. So no dead cows, donkeys or zebras that have had medical treatment. Entry to this menu is death by natural cause only. Ah ecology and the environment. When it all pulls together and some very dedicated humans respect what was there long before them, we have what I call progress. A world moving towards a better place.

    And what better place is there than the South Coast and its awesome hinterland? I told you in the beginning. I am in love. I now have a 365 day a year Valentine. So therefore I have handed my passport over onto the authorities. I don’t even mind if they put me on house arrest. So long as I can stroll the 120km of pristine coastline and wonder into the magic of the mountains and forests – you can put a tracker system on me anytime. I am here to stay. When are you coming?

    So until we meet again, get your people to call my people. 0800 FINDME. Erratum: [email protected] 

     Signing out,

     Inspector Clueless WITH a map,

    Tilley the Tourist.