The Klipspringer

I’m in Spitzkoppe. A place of huge rocky outcrops that are Africa’s version of Uluru. Smaller, yet when the sun sets they shift red in the same way. It’s a beautiful place.

One afternoon I go on hike to climb an outcrop that had blocked my view from an earlier hike. I walked around the base in a counter-clockwise direction looking for a way up. Along the way a family of rock hyraxes watch me before scurrying off between the cracks in the great red slabs.

I find myself half way up the face, looking for the passage that will take me the rest of the way. All the routes I could see were beyond my ability: they required either a leap of faith or rock climbing skills I didn’t possess. So I kept circling until I found a face that was steep but not too steep that I couldn’t ascend it. I started to scrabble up it and about half way I had to switch to finding good footholds and gritty granite hand holds. At about three quarters of the way I realised it was a one-way route and the descent would be too difficult.

The view from the top of this outcrop was just as wonderful as the last one I had climbed. Since the last climb the sun had dipped causing the colours in the rocks to changed. A sat up here for the longest while I could afford –I didn’t want to descend in the dark. I hadn’t worked out my descent yet. So, I got up and checked each of the faces to see which would be easiest. The face opposite the one I ascended was a ramp. A trivial descent. I grabbed my bag and started down. Out of the corner of my eye I caught the movement of small antelope. A klipspringer! I’d wanted to see one of these since the Serengeti.

The animal had frozen as though it had seen something. Something that was tucked around a rock face and out of my view. I needed to act fast and quietly so I wouldn’t alert it to my presence. I wrestled with my bag, unzipped the top and pulled the big camera out. My smaller camera was tangled in the strap! I had to unwind the two whilst keeping an eye on the klipspringer in case it made a break for it. I might not see another one.

I was in luck. It remained frozen and I zoomed in as far as I could, lined it up and snapped a shot. I was about hundred metres from it and high above it.

I got it.

Shortly after the first shot, it ducked in behind the rocks it had been looking towards. I checked the shot and confirmed the it was a klipspringer. Then I noticed something in the shot. Off towards the left where the klipspringer had fled was another grey shape that looked a bit like an animal. I zoomed in. What did I see? Another klipspringer staring straight back at me. They had seen me, well before I had seen them.

They got me.

when: Friday, December 12, 2014