Tuesday, May 27, 2008


So I caught lizard number 11 today. It was the end of a marathon morning of trapping. I decided to go outside of the farm, into the conservancy, where the nearby farmers have allowed to to climb fences and trap on their properties. I headed off to the nearby dam because there are lovely outcrops right next to it, although the lizards there have always been ridiculously stubborn. I didn't manage to catch anything, and by midmorning was packing up and getting ready to move on when a tiny old lady came up and said hello.

I got the fright of my life, but I responded and we got talking. She didn't speak any English and I don't speak Swazi, so we settled on both using our relatively shaky Afrikaans. My Afrikaans is surprisingly good, thanks largely to having spent time outside of Johannesburg where nobody speaks English, as well as being friends with Lara and Jo, and meeting their friends who are almost all afrikaans and tend to forget that I'm not. Afrikaans in Joburg and out of Joburg is remarkably different though, and so I had to struggle to stop using slang, while she kept on throwing in words in other languages. I learned words for crocodile, snake, round rock, peaut and a number of other things. she insisted on leadngme around the outcrop to show me where the lizards live, and I accepted although I know most of the spots, and nothing was moving out there. Once she released me with a ton of directions in case I want to find her again - she wants to help me, and offered the ervices of her children as well, I drove away as quickly as possible to try another site before it got too late.

A few months ago when we were here on the fieldtrip, our honours student and my supervisor had found another new site that, by all accounts was fantastic. I had been avoiding it because it involved climbing a rather tall, barbed-wire fence, but decided to go for it. The outcrop is huge, and surrounded by plants with stinging hairs that I'm still trying to remove from my arms and legs and back... I explored all over the place before deciding that it ws a crappy location that only had skinks and geckos and Gerrosaurus and basically every cool lizard except the ones I was looking for. On the way back I spotted a lovely male though and stopped to try and get him. Unfortunately he hid halfway up a cliff.

I had all my equipment, except for the cooler bag for blood samples, in a backpack, so I climbed up after him, and ended up chading him around and around the stupid cliff until I cornered him in exactly the same place I had first spotted him. So I set traps as well as I could on a sheer rock face, and then managed to cahse him onto one. So I was standing on a tiny ledge, halfwy up a cliff, with a lizard on a glue-trap. Oops. I'm not qute sure how someone like me who is a)clumsy and b) scared of heights stayed so calm. But i pulled him off the trap, got the blood sample stuff out of various pockets, pressticked a sample tube to the rock, took a sample, cleaned him off and bagged him and somehow climbed back down with a blood sample in one hand and a lizard bag in the other. I had to calm down and have a water break at the bottom, but I managed!

And for the record, I tried to work with him when I got back, and he is a complete and utter brat! He almost escaped, and had me running all over the place after him!

So today was a day of firsts, I had a succesful, although painfully long, discussion in Afrikaans, went rock climbing, did my first extreme lizard sampling (should make it a sport...), oh and when I got back I did my first long hike of the trip, to check out some old sites on the farm.

Something tells me I'll be sleeping very well tonight!


Luke said...

Bravo! You climbed something high and didn't plummet to your death! See! Danger makes life exciting! :)

ADDhole said...

You've now given me new appreciation for the expression, "Leaping Lizards."

I'd also love to know the derivation of an expression you've used several times - "is rox."

sounds like a bastardization of our American slang - "that rocks!"

And remember it is better to be an Afrikaan than an African't.