Sunday, October 25, 2009

Brushes with beauty, death and Frank

The last few days have been the kind that I want to remember forever when I think back on the days that I’ve spent here over the last few years. They haven’t been the epic days of catching 12 lizards and scaling cliffs while carrying equipment, but they’ve been the standard, regular trapping days at their best.

I remember realising that I was going crazy the first time this happened. The scenario: it’s boiling, like 40 degrees in the shade kind of boiling (you know that saying ‘blistering hot’ they weren’t kidding!). you’ll have hiked miles to get to an outcrop and then spent hours chasing down lizards, often waiting for hours for a lizard to get caught while scouting the surrounding area at a sprint between trap checks. Most of the time the elusive lizard will not let itself be caught and the odd one that you spot while sprinting will jump onto a trap at the first opportunity, but superstition (removing traps means that you’re telling the universe that you don’t NEED the lizard and then you won’t see another one for days. It’s like sleeping in ensures a week of rain because you didn’t use a trapping opportunity) and the memories of the one time in 20 that you caught the bugger prevents removing the traps and moving on.

You’re exhausted, sweaty, kind of dizzy from sweating so much and drinking tons of (rather warm) water, coated in glue, dirt, blood and insects buzzing into your nose and ears and mouth at any opportunity.

And you realise: Hey, this is awesome. I was totally meant to do this! 

Yip, I’m nuts. But I’m happy!

The last week has also been a great one for close encounters with ‘nature’ – I’ve chased baboons from the house and giraffe from my study sites (not too unusual in itself), found massive shed snake ski around the rocks where I’ve been trapping, been caught up in a mongoose stampede (I actually accidentally caught one but he managed to get away, to great relief on both sides!). I’ve walked next to kudu, impala, reedbuck and all the regulars around here. they still freak out when they see me, but it’s been good to see them.

And as I walked to a site yesterday (it’s quicker to walk than to drive, although the walk home isn’t fun at all as it’s all uphill in full sun) through an area of quite soft sandy soil and I saw leopard spoor all over the place! Leopards have quite big feet.

This week was also the return of Frank – the snake that lived behind the kitchen cupboard during one of my trips here. I though he’d died (there was a weird smell) but i saw him running around outside on the patio. I still have no idea what he is, but he seems to be ok with staying out of the house (for now at least).

As for brushes with death: well as a good Joburg-girl, I always shake my shoes out in the mornings, check my bed before I get into it and never sit with my feet dangling over the edge of my bed (OK the last one is more to do with a fear of being grabbed).

But nothing prepared me for finding a Parktown Prawn while I was brushing my teeth this morning. I actually screeched.


po said...

Hehe have never seen a live parktown prawn in my life, but I can live with that. We had the Durban monster cockroaches to make up for it.

I can't believe you regularly see giraffes. That would make me a very happy person. I don't think I have ever had that experience. If I did I was probably very young.

EEbEE said...

We had to chase some Giraffe away from our mist nets the other day. They are SOO much bigger when you have to shoo them away as opposed to when viewed from inside a car... or on a postcard

Kath Lockett said...

Photos! Please Helen, we need photos!

Actually, us good Aussie girls always check and shake out our shoes too :)

Skinny Bitches in the Making said...

like you said, you may be nuts but at least you're happy. enjoy it all! except for the parktown prawn, that is just gross.

Tamara said...

I don't think you're crazy (well, I do, but nmot for the reasons you've given) - I think you just understand the magic of the bush and being away from the rush of normal life.

Luke said...

Even the most hardy muscle man would squeel at the sight of a parktown prawn in the bathroom while brushing teeth!

I also love what we do! It's great! Nobody will ever understand it, I don't think. We're special like that...