Charm­ing si­lence says it all

Ka­roo farm­house Jakkals­dans pulls rab­bit out of hat with treats, tales and a myr­iad out­door ac­tiv­i­ties travel2011

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - TRAVEL 2011 - MYR­TLE RYAN

ANY self- re­spect­ing jackal would have had its nose tucked into its bushy tail. An icy wind was driv­ing enor­mous tum­ble­weeds be­fore it on the lonely ex­panse of veld.

We were stay­ing at Jakkals­dans, on the R354 be­tween Suther­land and Calvinia, and I was on a mis­sion to find the shy river­ine rab­bit. The ter­rain seemed per­fect for the en­dan­gered mam­mal – a dry wa­ter­course with scrub bushes hang­ing over the edges.

So I hopped over rocks, searched for prints and tried not to sound like a herd of spooked ele­phants.

That evening, owner Jo­han Visser told me Jakkals­dans was too cold for river­ine rab­bits, though they were found in the re­gion. There were three other kinds, which came out mainly at night, he said.

A treat was in store – his wife, Lien, ar­rived with freshly baked roost­erkoek, a tra­di­tional bread which of­ten ac­com­pa­nies braais in the Ka­roo. We tucked in as she lit the fire to ward off the chill.

Lien told us that when she came to Jakkals­dans, af­ter mar­ry­ing Jo­han, for the first three months her ears rang from the si­lence. “When a bird flies over­head, you look up, be­cause you hear the wind in its wings,” she said.

Si­lence is part of the charm of the spa­cious, well-equipped, self­ca­ter­ing Jakkals­dans. Lien has put her stamp on the decor of the five bed­rooms, each named for dif­fer­ent jack­als and the bat-eared fox.

Guests can go moun­tain bik­ing, hik­ing, and fish­ing in the Fish River which runs through the farm. There is a quad-bike track (bring your own scram­bler), 4x4 trail, bird watch­ing, stargaz­ing, or you can par­tic­i­pate in farm ac­tiv­i­ties.

Nearby at­trac­tions in­clude the South­ern African Large Tele­scope at the ob­ser­va­tory; the Louw Mu­seum (birth­place of poet broth­ers NP Van Wyk Louw and WEG Louw); Ou­berg Pass with its views of the Cedarberg and the Ka­roo val­ley; Gan­naga Pass; and Tankwa Ka­roo National Park.

Jo­han told us his grand­fa­ther (who had six daugh­ters and six sons) on his mother’s side owned the farm Wol­wedans. He and the boys worked the lands and sheared the sheep. The eldest son kept count of who brought what sheep.

Even­tu­ally, the old man di­vided Wol­wedans into six sec­tions, one of them be­ing Jakkals­dans.

An ar­ti­cle hang­ing on a pas­sage wall gives some in­sight into the bat­tle for sur­vival, which the much­ma­ligned jackal faces. It tells how an­i­mals be­tween 10 months and two-years old have to search for their own bit of land.

A jackal of just 11 months has been known to walk 24km in a night for four nights in a row.

Some­times they cover 40km a night, then lie up for sev­eral days to let their tat­tered feet heal, be­fore car­ry­ing on. The stress of such stren­u­ous phys­i­cal ex­er­tion ac­counts for a 60 per­cent mor­tal­ity among young an­i­mals.

On the fi­nal morn­ing, white stream­ers of clouds ra­di­ated across the sky. Snow was on the way. A lonely swing, creak­ing in the wind, per­son­i­fied all I had come to look for by way of an iso­lated farm.

Call 023 571 2745 or 072 996 8185.

PIC­TURES: MYR­TLE RYAN

DE­CEP­TIVE: Jakkals­dans may look like a typ­i­cal farm­stead, but it is spa­cious and well-equipped.

STARK AND HARSH: Typ­i­cal ter­rain favoured by the en­dan­gered river­ine rab­bit.

DRAW­ING IN­SPI­RA­TION: The shy mam­mal the writer had hoped to spot.

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