Herping in Hogsback 3.0

Once again I found myself in Hogsback, and this time I was determined to catch and photograph (properly) the Amatola Flat Gecko (Afroedura amatolica). This trip to Hogsback was however not intended for herping or adventure but rather as a farewell for the Rhodes Zoology Honours class of 2016 who were staying on a nearby Hogsback farm for the weekend. Unlike my classmates who sought to study in the spare time between meals, I opted to use the Saturday afternoon to find my arch nemesis gecko, which had thwarted my photography session weeks earlier.

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The gecko which got away just weeks ago

The day was neither pleasant nor neutral, it was kak, giving new meaning to the misty mountains, mountains which were so wet they ran the risk of slipping off the map. After mustering up the will and once I had acquired a rain jacket, I was on my way. I was dropped off at the base of the mountain by my friend Ella who quickly disappeared into the mist after pulling away. The mountain which usually towered over Hogsback, was nowhere to be seen, a product of the mist which obscured landmarks just metres away. Using my bad sense of direction and a fervent desire to catch the regionally endemic gecko, I set off in the direction of the mountain I had ‘herped’ just weeks earlier.

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Every step was wetter than the last, and I soon realized, the rain jacket which I so proudly wore did little to retard the constant stream of water falling from the sky. After what seemed like an eternity of walking, I reached a familiar hill, and I decided to flip a few rocks in hopes that I would find a natal black snake. Granted I was not in the right area but I saw no harm in trying, that is until of course I heard something growling just 20m away. The direction which the growl emanated from was obscured by a pile of boulders so I couldn’t quite decide if I was going to die or not. The growl sent shivers down my spine, and after contemplating the fabric of my existence, I cycled through a list of possible ‘growlers’. The list included but was not limited to: caracal, leopard, baboon and feral dog. It’s safe to assume that nothing came of the growl because you are reading this now but at the time it was frightening to say the least. After cycling through the list of possible ‘growlers’ I mustered the courage to walk ‘quickly’ away from the scene of the growl.

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I ventured further up the mountain, following a winding road which hugged the slope. I followed the road to its highest point and then moved off into the pathless terrain in pursuit of the flat sabs of rock at the wedged inside the hill. At this point I had already found two short-legged seps, one cape skink and a cape girdled lizard but I was itching to add some snakes and hopefully an Amathole flat gecko to the list. Once I reached the first step in the steep mountain, I decided that going any further alone would be dangerous given the conditions I found myself in.

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Luke and I had sought to climb this mountain weeks earlier but were defeated by the terrain which took us down a dead-end path, a path which ultimately led us to fall asleep on the same dirt road which I had decided to follow this time. In addition to looking for the gecko, this herping trip doubled as an attempt to find an easier path up the mountain, because Luke… and now I, believe that the top of this mountain holds ‘unherped’ secrets, the subject matter of any ‘herpers’ ‘wet dreams’.

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My secret mission was thus complete because although I was unable to find the gecko on the way up the mountain, I was able to find a route which Luke and I could use in the future to climb to the peak of the mountain. On the way down I decided to peak into the gaps of the last big slab of rock left in my path. I saw gecko eggs and one gecko just out of reach. Just when I thought I would not get it, I found not one but two geckos nestled between a loose piece of rock stuck to the slab. I was over-joyed and after snapping some pictures, of the now-soaked geckos, I put the geckos back and set-off back to the pick-up point with a smile stretched across the entire length of my face.

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I was picked up soon after and while I was unable to find a natal black snake nor any snake for that matter, on this trip, I was able to find a ‘lifer’, making this trip a trip worth getting soaked for.

For more pictures of the Amatola flat gecko click here:

Amatola Flat Gecko (Afroedura amatolica)

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