Sunday, May 24, 2009

Not so good

I had a bad day today. It was hot, horribly humid and the lizards decided to take a weekend off or something because there were practically little lizard-shaped tumble-weeds rolling around. You know, when you see something and go "LIZARD! It's a liza- nope, sorry it was a leaf..." Gotta love pareidolia! However you spell that. Interestingly enough when I was in Kruger wth the Australian, she saw kangaroo-shaped rocks everywhere.

I hate trapping on weekends because a lot of the farms in the conservancy are owned by people who stay in town and have normal jobs and then pop down to the farm when they can - usually on a Saturday or Sunday. The farmers who actually live here are pretty nice and we have a mutual-ignoring policy where we just don't bother each other. So on weekends I try and trap as close to the farmhouse as I can to avoid weird strangers wearing way too much khaki (I'm in black at the moment, very emo-trapper...).

So today I went to a few sites and nothing was moving so I went to one of the ones that has been good before, but on this trip hasn't been great - last year I got something like 12 lizards in two days there, this year I got two. In two days (numbers 9-16 and 9-17 for what it's worth! 9-16 was hiding behind a bed of our equivalent of stinging nettles. Bugger). Usually when I get to a site I pull off the road and then walk to the rocks. This can be anything from a few metres away to a half-hour hike through thorn-bushes, in this case it was about 100 metres of thorns and then the outcrop itself stretches up the hill in clumps of rock for quite a way. This spot has nowhere to pull over so I generally just park in the middle of what can be very loosely described as road, and nobody ever goes down there so it's OK.

I had been there for about an hour when I heard someone coming. It sounded like a tractor that I see relatively often (about once every week/ten days) which usually takes a different fork in the road, so I didn't worry. Vehicles in the section of the conservancy that I'm in have to be kitted out with silencers and things so they don't disturb the other people there or the animals, which are super-skittish to begin with. Either way I stood to see what was happening - I had more than enough time to move the car if the giant tractor came my way, otherwise I could watch it pass and keep working.

Next thing I know, along comes a giant Land Rover, occupied by a giant farmer and his equally giant wife, all kitted out in safari-gear for their little game drive. I sighed and packed up my things, as they seemed to see right through me when I waved (the person dressed in black on very light-brown rocks, clearly visible from the road) and I figured I'd better move on anyway. The farmer got out, walked around my vehicle and looked through the windows, while his little wifey decided to be helpful by hooting. A lot. Because obviously having a car that sounds like a small fleet of fighter-jets isn't enough to disturb the wildlife.

Then he walked off the side of the road as if he was looking for a way around. There isn't one. If there was I would be parked on it. Moron. Then he started to climb the hill at the side of the road opposite to where I was, as if he was looking for the mysterious person who had left a bakkie in the road. I waved, but once again they didn't see me. By now I was making my way down the hill. There are a lot of loose rocks, and I was quite slow because my knee has been punishing me for all the work I've been making it do, and the last thing I want is to fall and hurt any other parts of me, and I heard him on the phone.

How he got signal out there is beyond me, I get it occasionally if the wind is blowing in the right direction, and I hum and spin in a circle and then climb a tree - and that's at the TOP of the hill! (It's a good tree, I sit in it often). And he started yelling into the phone. Because hooting and driving a caterpillar-truck disguised as a Landie doesn't upset the wildlife at all. I couldn't quite make out what he was saying, it was quite far from me and in angry Afrikaans. Basically it was to say that there was an abandoned vehicle on the road, he couldn't get past and something about smoke, or smell or something. My Afrikaans is pretty good (I go to the AGMs here and discuss fire-protection policy and wildlife-stocking versus organised hunting or culling regimes all in Afrikaans) but sometime it seems to pack up and go to Venezuela (why there? because the lizards are in Jamaica of course!).

By then I was almost at the road,and I picked up the pace - as much as I don't really like dealing with farmers, the last thing I wanted was for the shotgun to come out of the glove compartment to fire warning shots in the air or something. And then I heard the Juggernaut starting and clumsily reversing down the road a bit, turning around and driving off in the other direction. It's a one-way road - not because of oncoming traffic, but because very few cars (4x4 or not) could get up the hill, where I generally have to force myself to keep my eyes open when going DOWN for fear of the car doing a somersault.

So I counted: 4...3...2...1... and then I heard it "GRAAAAUNCH!" They'd got stuck on the first bump. Whoops. I drove off quickly, and turned up my music in an effort to avoid hearing the vehicle of death churning up an already vague road. If anyone asks, that wasn't me! I ran into the anti-poachers on the next outcrop, and they'd totally testify to it!


po said...

Lizard-shaped tumblweeds waha!

Are you allowed to be on these farms? It sounds a bit stressful having to deal with the farmers, specially ones with shotguns.