The meerkats’ justified skittishness has rubbed off, and left me with a wariness of anything that weighs more than me, of which there are plenty – but now that the days are hotting up, it’s just as necessary to keep an eye on where you’re putting your feet. Rob and I walked past the same bush dozens of time in Sequoia territory last week before we heard the tell-tale deflating-football sound of a puff adder coiled menacingly at the base. It raised a lazy head at one of the young males who ventured too close, but we wouldn’t have had such a warning as we walked through the vegetation to follow the group. Closer to home, the first scorpion of the summer to be found in the house was swiftly dispatched in the bathroom with a flip flop before it could climb into someone’s bed – the most common cause of stings, a sloppily made bed with sheets touching the floor!
Watching my step is now important for happier reasons – the plucky little pups that dart around following the adult females that I’m following in the hope of getting fed a juicy grub. The pups at Pandora are obsessed with shoes, and play-forage around my heels as I record observations on their mother, and if I sit down, there’s soon investigation of my hems, laces, and pockets. They are still the size of my palm, though getting heavier by the day – but still delicate enough to cause me severe panic every time I put my foot down near where I hear their squawking begging calls.
Today looking at where I was putting my feet gave me a reminder of what a special place this is. I was at Lazuli with Lydia, who took some pretty stones from the riverbed to her geologist sister last time she went home. More than just attractive pebbles, this is apparently some of the oldest bedrock in the world, washed here from who knows where by the Kuruman River that was flowing through this land before there was language to call it that. Washed smooth by water and dust, they are a fitting reminder of the two elements that make the Kalahari truly extraordinary – the ancientness of the landscape, and the time that has shaped it, brought these stones downstream and left them in the dry dust – and the transience of these elemental forces, as well as the landscape itself, everything shifting millimetre by millimetre, Sandy Hill moving glacially with the constant winds. I pocketed a few to take home in the hope that such a souvenir, brought here after millions of years of which I am here for less than one, would always remind me in future of an important lesson the Kalahari has taught me – smallness.