Tuesday, November 27, 2007

nearly there!

So, after 2 months of living in the middle of nowhere, the end is in sight! i recaptured enough lizards to make a fasible sample, altough not as many as I would have liked. This is pretty impressive considering that I think I've recaptured more than most people woud have expected, particularly considering that the weather got so horrible and hot and humid that the lizards were only really trappable between 6am and aroun 8:30, so I spent a lot of days getting up at 5 and rushing off to the rocks that were already hot and steaming. I'm sure the humidity is good for me, sweating out al the toxins and so on! All in all it was pretty unpleasant and I felt like I wasn't going to make it to the end here without deregistering quietly and moving to sweden or something.

I've also been collecting insects, which hasn't been going too well as I'm trying to catch the things that i've seen the lizards eat, but all those insects are really really tiny, and hard to catch, and to get enough to do a real chemical analsis when I get back, I'm going to need millions.

Watching the lizards has been a whole bundle of fun too... they're really skittish and its hard to get into a position where I can actually see them well enough to identify individuals. on top of that they move superfast so I can't stay in one spot to watch them, and they generally run around for a minute or two and then vanish into a crevice, only emerging afer a few hours.

Then on thursday it started clouding over. By the evening it was freezing cold.By morning it was still freezing and rainy and we had no power. Ingrid decided to go to nelspruit to have unch with a friend. An hour after she left we had a downpour like I've never seen before. The power came back on in the early afternoon and there was no sign of Ingrid. I did all my work in a hurry so that if the power went out again it would be ok. She got back after dark, all the power in Nelspruit was out, so there was a gridlock around every intersection.

It rained for two more days, torrential rain that made me wonder if the Lowveld gets a monsoon season. We even had purple sky at one stage! It was quite scary! And, contrary to our normal experience the power stayed on! I was quite happy about thata, although also glad that I'd made the trek to Kaapmuiden a few days before to get ive to pack around my samples in the freezer in case it went off again. Kaapmuiden is a tiny tiny town around a train station. When I say tiny I mean it makes Kamieskrron look like a thriving metropolis! It's quite scary too, all sort of ding and dodgy, complete with random dogs running around. I can't even say around the streets because there aren't any. It's a train station, about 10 houses, a bottle store and a general store and that's it.

Yesterday was better and I went out bug-hunting, and today is freezing and clouody, so i'm not too sure if it'll clear up enugh to go out today. But I cna't be lazy because I need to get everything done before I GO HOME! i'm so glad I'll be able to sleep in my own bed, see my family and friends and animals again!

Of course the fact that I'm looking forward to it means that I'll get home, be exhausted and grumpy, and then fight with everybody I care about. fun times!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Since I got here, almost 2 months ago, every evening/late afternoon I've taken a walk. It varies, from rather ambitions exploring and finding all kinds of new outcrops and plants and running ito kudu ALL the time, to days that have been hard work and i'm feeing a bit down so I'll walk to one of the outcrops, lie on my back and stare up at the beautiful blue sky until it starts getting dark when I'll walk back. I always hate going back, into the brightly lit house. I take a torch with me, but rarely use it, unless I left a bit later than usual and then get a bit more ambitious than I'd intended. There are a lot of big loose rocks on the roads and paths here, and it can be really dangerous to walk in the dark, particularly with my track record for injury!

For a few weeks I would walk along a really narrow path, through grass that is as tall as me, to a flat bit of road that isn't too rocky, where i would run for a bit. That was fine, but when I got really badly sunburnt and sunstroke it had to stop because moving too much hurt. I'm still relishing the ability to sleep on my back, twist to grab something, bend over...

Lately I've been pretty lazy in my walks. Its been raining a lot, and I got frustrated, but never walked far. When it doesn't rain it gets so blisteringly hot (and humid) that I get home from the field and collapse, having had at least 2 1/2 litres of water in the four hours that I was out and still being thirsty.

Today was a bad day. It was raining when i woke up, so i went back to sleep. an hour later the sun was coming out, so I dashed off, set up traps and it because so hot that nothing moved, and I caught a few lizards for the Masters student, but nothing for me, which was exhausting and frustrating! I came home, did some work with the lizards that I have here and slept until I had to work on the lizard (yes, just one) that I caught yesterday. After helping the masters student (who officially doesn't lift a finger to help me, and it really annoys me) with the lizards I had caught for her, I went for a walk.

There is a tiny little outcrop a few hundred metres from the house, where there is a tiny population of lizards, with one male who I hae never been able to catch. I figured I'd go there, its a fitting place for frustration. In the first few weeks when I was really upset with the other student I would go down there and call Lara for smpathy and advice. I got there in under a minute and then looked up at the road. The first time I went walking was during the first week that I was here. I walked long the road, took a little path and got totally lost in a clump of trees, but managed to find my way back because the lights in the house were on.

I realised that i hadn't taken a proper walk in ages, so I followed the road around the small loop, which goes past the closest outcrop and then back to the house. it's a hilly walk, but not long, probably around 2km or so. I've done the worst parts carrying equipment before and survived. So I walked the loop, stopping only to take a large roll of rusty barbed wire out of the road (I have to dodge it when I'm driving to the farthest outcrop every day and it gets quite hair-raising!). By the time I got back it was almost dark. the frogs were out in full force and it was deafening, but not unpleasant. the moon is a crescent, and looks bigger here than it is at home. I could almost imagine the little kid from the dreamworks logo sitting in it and fishing!

So that was my day!

Monday, November 12, 2007

The little things in life

I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while! I was planning on using this as a record of my first field season, but it just hasn't happened. Firstly, everything here is always hectic, and secondly... life in the field is tremendously dramatic and exciting when you're there, but in actual fact, when I try to explain what's been going on, I always realise how incredible boring it is. Here's my basic schedule:

06h30: wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, pack equipment for the field
07h30: leave for the field
07h40 - 08h00: walk from car to field site, taking two trips because of all the equipment
08h00 - 12h00: trap lizards, getting sunburnt, exhausted and often injured in the process ( I consider a day that I don't bleed as a day wasted)
13h00: leave field site, get back to the house and process samples. If possible take a nap on he dodgy futon couch thing (photos will be added as soon as I get home to faster connection speed!
14h00: start other work - either processing lizards - which can take hours, or else walking around the farm for a few hours with traps, trying to get extra lizards.
17h00: start finishing up the previous days lizards, do readings on the other student's lizards
23h00: bed

That's it, 7 days a week! if it rains, I'll use the opportunity to catch up on sleep, get my work done slightly earlier and take walks for fun instead of for work. Nothing too exciting to write about! Occasionally something will happen - like I'll be bleeding more profusely than usual, or the time I got sunstroke and was unable to sleep for 3 days because I was too burnt to lie down in any workable posiion. Or the power failure the other night, which had a nasty effect on our food which i only realised 2 days ago, after cooking with some of said food and becoming violently ill for two days. There was also the day I pioneered a new lizard-trapping strategy, of hiding in bushes and then jumping out to scare lizards onto traps. it worked very well until I realsied that sme of the farmers from next door had just driven past, and found me tumbling out of bushes to be mildly amusing!

I can't really think of anything else interesting.

Its coming close to the end of this season's work. I'm a bit stressed, I have a lot to do in the next 3 weeks, and am not nearly where I need to be. We lost 6 of the last 8 days to rain, which also doesn't really help too much! I can't wait to get home and see everyone again, but I'm also dreading all of this being over. Its kind of nice, being in charge of my own schedule, knowing that if I don't work hard enough I have to answer to myself. I've also grown to like the farm, its really beautiful, especially at aroun 5 or so in the afternoon, when I take a walk, and its all quiet and cool, and still. I really love the fact that if I can't sleep, I can also go for a walk, without worrying about anything more than disturbing a sleepy kudu along the way. It took the farmers next door 5 weeks to realise that we were here, we're so isolted. It'll be hard to go home to the noise and the rush of joburg, where there are people everywhere and traffic and the noise which gave me such a headace when I went home for a couple of days a little while ago. The idea of having to switch my priorities from catching lizards to having a social calendar and christmas shopping and having people around all the time... I miss the people back home lke crazy, but I'm not sure I can handle going home just yet!