There are no soft, rolling green hills here, instead this part of the Karoo is noted for its rocky landscape.

A White-browed Sparrow Weaver blends into the stony environment as it looks for seeds to eat.

These tiny grains of sand have been used to build an entrance to an ant nest.

Enormous smooth boulders swell out from some of the hills.

As barren as this might seem, a Cussonia has found a foothold between the cracks of the rock.

Survival is everything here. On the valley floor a tree has a tenuous hold.

For, as you can see, the rocky substrata is friable.


A quite unexpected find along a dirt road far from the nearest water source: a Pelomedusa subrufa. I am not being highfalutin here, but sticking to the name that is common to the variation of common names I have come across, such as: Helmeted Turtle, Marsh Terrapin, Side-necked Terrapin, and Waterskilpad. We nearly didn’t see it as it blended so well with the gravel on the road and the shadows as it sought shelter under a bush.

Seven hours later another one crossed a different road in front of us.

According to the reference below, although these freshwater turtles/terrapins live in water they make terrestrial excursions during the rainy season. The rainy season? Perhaps these two were out and about because this particular area of the Karoo had experienced a heavy downfall of rain the day before our arrival. There were still a few muddy puddles here and there in the veld – none that would remain for more than a day or two.

What is particular noticeable about this terrapin is that its flattened shell is oval to circular and that the head and neck withdraw side-ways into the shell. The carapace and plastron are brown to black in colour – both of these terrapins are also covered in dust and what could be the remains of mud. They are occur through most of South Africa except in the western regions.

This is a useful identification guide:


The Mountain  Zebra  National  Park  is  situated  on  the  northern  slopes  of  the Bankberg mountain range, near Cradock in the Eastern Cape. Apart from seeing animals, birds and appreciating the natural vegetation, it is worth visiting the area for the scenery alone: the high peaks and plateau provide unparalleled views across the Karoo; then there are the ridges, wonderfully shaped rocky outcrops, and deeply incised valleys caused by the Wilgerboom River.

Generally, the dirt roads are in good condition, with some sections either tarred or have had concrete strips laid down.

It is while driving along some of the steep winding roads that lead down to such valleys from the plateau that one becomes aware of the underlying geological  formations  consisting of  sandstone,  siltstone  and  mudstone  of  the Beaufort  Group  of  the  Karoo  Supergroup,  with  dolerite  plates  and  dykes.