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Trip Report South Africa, Big Eyes, Small Brain

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Just outside of Cape Town after driving past stunning roadside mountains topped with early morning low lying fog clouds, I enter Huguenot Tunnel. I am headed on National Route 1 for a destination about a ninety minute drive away.

This route is inland and I get a close up experience of the landscape I flew over just a few days ago. Gone is the high altitude haze. It is now replaced with rich blue skies, accented with small white whisper clouds that hang over jagged gray, brown and green covered mountains. At the surface, miles and miles of bright green vineyards.

Nearing my destination the area becomes arid and is sparsely populated. My car rumbles over a dusty gravel road then comes to a stop just outside the entrance for Karoo Ostrich Farm. A small admission fee is paid along with a few rands for a cup full of animal food and my tour of the farm begins.

After a feeding of the welcoming resident ambassador we are taken to the incubator where I discover that in dealing with ostriches the same question arise as in dealing with chickens.

Which came first, the ostrich or the egg?

Here at Karoo Ostrich Farm not only does the egg come first but about sixty of them come at one time. Normally an ostrich lays about eighteen eggs at a time but by taking advantage of their questionable intelligence, the workers here are able to get an ostrich to lay more eggs than normal. Eggs are removed from the nest as they are being laid and this confuses the ostrich.

“Ummm, I could have sworn I just laid eighteen eggs. Guess I better crank out another one. That's 17,18.. That's 17,18.”

Did you know that an ostrich egg is so strong that two of them can support at least a 300 pound weight?

I prove this for myself by standing on two of them or at least my Jenny Craig, Atkins, South Beach, Grapefruit, Weight Watcher diet is finally working!

From the incubator, I get a close up personal feeding of the ostriches especially the baby ones which turns out to be fun. At first, I think a few of them find my fingers more tasty then it becomes clear that they are a little smarter than I think. By biting on my fingers they are trying to get me to spill the food that is in my hand. This trick worked well with one of the other visitors on the tour, time for her to spend a few more rands.

Next we are introduced to one of the male ostriches who seems to be quite comfortable wearing pink lipstick. However, he does not paint his toenails. Either way, this apparently works for him as we are told he has two wives.

Not sure how that might work on this side of the fence but you just never know.

Our next stop is at the infirmary where we get to hold and cuddle a few of these cuties that will someday be one of the fastest runners on earth although they will never fly. Their feathers are so soft that you just want to take one of them home with you.

At Karoo they also have different type of ostriches including the Zimbabwe Blue ostrich which we are told yields a better quality meat. I find this very interesting and jump at the opportunity to interview one of them. However, he does not do much talking and seems to prefer to just entertain me with a very cool neck dance.

In an effort to get the inside scoop, I try talking to his neighbors a couple of emus but they calm up on me. Nonetheless, I learn a few things about these guys from a reputable but undisclosed source.

It seems the emus are known party goers and they start chasing the ladies as early as from eighteen months old. I am told they are also fast on their feet and can get around town at about 30 miles an hour. At that speed, the ladies better watch out.

Unlike it's smaller relatives, the emus, ostriches which can move at about the same speed are rideable and sometimes there are actually ostrich races. Climbing on board an ostrich we get to experience a bit of this although it happens at a warping zero miles per hour.

The ostrich is secured in a stand but I do get to do some neck steering which is how the ostrich is maneuvered while riding or racing it. For me, this adds a new perspective to the phrase, “moving at a neck breaking speed.”

As our tour comes to an end, we are shown some ostrich skins, which is second only to the crocodile in strength, along various products made from the ostrich like jackets and painted eggs. One egg is painted with the picture of former United States President George W. Bush. I won't draw any conclusion about that particular egg.

However, did you know the ostrich brain is smaller than it's eyes?


Video:
http://youtu.be/eK5epQP-Ngg

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