Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A random day

I'm writing this while itching with sunburn - yes, it warmed up today, no, it's still windy as anthing and the lizards aren't cooperating.

I should have known that it wasn't going to be a normal day, when i slept through my alarm this morning, and then woke up and dashed off to the field site, to find baboons and giraffe all over it! I've got to know the giraffes relatively well, there are usually 3 of them and they stay in a pretty small area. It's so dry at the moment that I'm seeing a lot more of the big mammals than usual, I think they're battling to find food. There was a fourth girafe today, which was quite exiting! I used to get stuck behind a single giraffe on the road all the time, I wonder if that's him, if he's made a few friends... I hope so.

I should have gone to a different site straight away, the lizards are very wary when it's cool, and something like giraffe trampling around means that they might not coe out of hiding for at least several hours, but it was still windy, and this site is one of the more sheltered ones, so I stayed. Bad move.

Firstly, my back and arms got fried today! I'm usuall realy good about sunscreen, but with the wind blowing it didn't feel too hot, so I forgot about it.

Secondly I decided to bite the bullet and trap one of my least favourite sites on the outcrop. It's very sheltered and away from the worst of the giraffe-baboon invasion and I can usually bank on getting quite a few lizards there. Basically it's a long, smooth slope at about 45 degrees, kind of convex, with big boulders at one end, a long crevice at another, and a long convex rock in-between. the rock has been named "the bitch" because it's about 5 metres long, and every single lizard in that area runs under it at some stage during the day. this means that it's incredibly important to set traps under it properly, and incredibly difficult to do so. Generally it involved a lot of me setting three or four and then falling to the bottom, swearing as I do it!

Unfortunately it's been a while since the last burn (and with this dry wind it will be a while until the next one) so the bottom of the outcrop is surrounded by thorn bushes, shrubs, fallen branches from the windstorms and a lot of dead leaves - all in all not the sliding and thumping own on my feet onto earth that I'm used to. So I went aong the bottom, wading through the leaves, and traping the long crevices as I went. When I got to the bottom of the big rock, I started laying traps along the edge, and then climbed a bit up and set some more. this was all carrying a large, purple bucket full of traps! When I couldn't reach anymore I mnaged to somehow get the bucket wedged at the top of the rock, only raining a few raps down onto my head, and started to climb. I was only a few metres off the ground when I realised that I was completely and utterly stuck. I couldn't turn around to slide down because I had switched feet on the one and only foothold in my direct vicinity and there was no way of switching back. the nearest hndholds were out of reach, and the closest little nubs of rock weren't enough (with my female-typical upperbody strength) to pull myself up. My other foot was splayed across the rock face onto an almost-foothold, but more to stop the cramps in my other foot than for any actual purpose. I've climbed a lot of rocks here, and I understand that almost foothold + almost handhold = a bad idea.

I couldn't go back down, I couldn't jump down without risking a pretty bad injury, and I ouldn't go up at all. My left leg, which had been supporting me for about 20 minutes on a pretty sharp piece of rock was cramping and I didn't know what to do. I used to be really afraid of heights, and it was like I was 8 years old on the high-dive board all over again. I coulnd't move, I was terrified, I started shaking.

Then something weird happened. I leaned across and put my right foot back onto the slightly rough patch of rock that might almost be a foothold and then I watched as my arms seemed to move by themselves, onto the almost-handholds and pulled me up. I could feel my arm muscles straining and my leg pushing as my left foot finally left the uncomfortable spot and my knee came to rest of a slightly rough seam of rock. I came to my senses enough to pull muself up to the top of the big rock (it's a thin, long rock, so its kind of a sharp top, but stable enough for the moment) and I sat down and pulled myself together before setting the rest of the traps.

The weird thing was that a while later I was at the bottom again, checking and fixing up traps, and I found myself wating to climb the rock again. I thought that I ahd done it, so it was possible, so why not? Then the logical part of m brain told me to shut up, and I went bak up the easy way.


Kath Lockett said...

You just HAVE to love a blog that commences with the line... "and the lizards aren't cooperating." That's not something one reads too often! :)

Helen said...

Thanks Kath! I tend to forget that I'm living a bit of a different life...

SuvvyGirl said...

I hate heights. I'm okay with carni rides and airplanes etc. but when I have to rely on my own two feet I'm scared shitless. I'm glad you made it up okay. Too bad you couldn't call the giraffes to come help :P What we all wouldn't give for Dr. Doolittles talent some days. LOL