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A Shrew's World
I have often been asked in interviews where my favourite place in Africa is to watch the sunset? Answering has never been a problem as I know the exact spot, but getting a photograph of this place took me 3 years...
In a hidden corner of Botswana there is a place that has been dubbed The Land of the Giants. It's a place filled with baobab trees, sandstone outcrops, dry riverbeds and hundreds of elephants (the largest land mammal on the planet). Within this enchanting land there is a particular baobab tree that has been there for hundreds (and possibly even a thousand) years! This Baobab has the signature of Sir Cecil John Rhodes engraved in its trunk and it grows aloft a massive sandstone koppie. From this vantage point one stares over the Botswana hinterland and such beauty is hard to describe. I have sat on this koppie many times and many times I have again fallen in love with Africa.
I have watched the seasons come and go from this vantage point. I have seen the setting sun reflect off distant pans of water near the Motloutse River. I have also watched the sun set over the dust swept plains. I have seen clear blue skies and skies filled with white puffy clouds. I have watched elephants roam below. I have watched a leopard hunt rock hyrax up there too. I have sat in silence up there and experienced the silence coloured by the last whistles of a White-browed Scrub Robin, calling way down below. I have drunk deep of Africa's beauty up there, had my veins filled and recharged with Africa's blood. I have watched the sun rise and set many times from this place. I have watched the moon do the same. I have sat beneath the African sun and stars up there. I have seen time stand still up there. I have seen into the past and into the future too. This place has a magic to it. It is timeless. It is ancient. It is Africa - personified.
But, just after the sun sets, the magic of this spot escalates when the true giant of the 'Land of Giants' emerges. If one sits there long enough, you would not be blamed for thinking that you had enjoyed one to many sundowners. You might think that your eyes were deceiving you. Out the corner of one of them you will see a tiny mouse-like shadow dart across the rocks. If you sit even longer, one of those mouse-ghosts might stop, pausing just long enough to reveal to you its long trunk-like nose. Then, just when you think you have seen an elephant shrew, it will dart off at the speed of light, leaving you staring at nothing but rocks. If you keep sitting you will see the stars come out as the shrew becomes one with the night.
This little creature goes by the official name of Rock Elephant Shrew. The shrew I know does indeed live among spectacular rocks and is in fact surrounded by elephants. This little shrew might be small but it enjoys the finest view in Africa. Its as if that Baobab tree that grows on the edge of its rocks was put there by God himself, simply to complete the view from the shrew's house. This shrew, darting about in the twilight epitomizes Africa. How could a creature so peculiar and so wonderful ever exist? And how could it exist in such an incredible place? Can you imagine a tiny mouse living under gigantic boulders, beneath an ancient baobab tree? A tiny mouse living among elephants? A tiny mouse living in a place that has a view fit for any king? Indeed, this shrew's view has been enjoyed by kings as this is the site of an ancient stone-age kingdom where the royal family lived on top of this very hillock, while the paupers lived in the valley below. Imagine such a creature not only possessing a movable trunk-like elephant-like nose but possessing the speed of Usain Bolt. Wait, forget Usain Bolt, possessing the speed of a lighting bolt. Now imagine this little creature, with its metabolic rate through the roof, only emerging when there is hardly any daylight left. Imagine all this and what are you left with? I will tell you what. You are left with a creature so enchanting that it possesses the very spirit and energy of Africa.
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