I began trapping and measuring lizards but the numbers weren’t great and i needed a few sites nearby for afternoon trapping – nothing major, just a few extras to boost numbers. So one afternoon i drove around looking for rocks.
i stopped at Arends-nes holidays first, which is a tiny little house (I’m not sure where they put the guests) made remarkable only by the giant disintegrating bulldozers next to the front door. I figured I could start there and so I stopped the car and got out, only to be knocked over by the biggest dog I’ve ever seen! He was very sweet, but had giant growths all over his head and so I wasn’t quite as friendly to him as I may have been otherwise.
The kortbroek-bedecked owners were very polite as I stammered through the explanation of my project in Afrikaans for the first time and they agreed to let me trap on their property. Which is all of about 200 square metres. Thinking they might own some property nearby or around the house I asked if they could show me any rocks around there, and they got very excited and took me behind the house. Before I could worry too much about what exactly was going (and thanking La and CG and Joey back home for teaching me to understand rapid-fire Afrikaans) the owner very proudly gave me a tour of his rock garden. It was basically a flowerbed. and it was very pretty, but entirely devoid of any of my lizards. I thanked him and left him shaking his head in bemusement at the weird English girl…
It got better from there as I found some decent-looking outcrops and drove up the nearest driveway. There I parked by the pigsty and was greeted by a tiny dog and a small boy who ran off screaming for his father. His father was Malcolm, a lovely guy who grows and sells his own chili-mix (it’s delicious but somewhat lethal) as well as making a living off people hiking and camping on his land (it’s steep, so they’re welcome to hike, but they have to pay him if they want a ride back). He was a great source of information, giving me phone numbers for a lot of his neighbours, explaining which rocks belonged to the local dominee (and therefore I could probably get away with being there ‘by accident’ as long as the wife didn’t catch me) and which rocks belonged to the butcher (and horse farmer. Suspect?).
He was the first to look me up and down, say
“ Do you have a 4x4?” I pointed to the bakkie which is actualy pretty fantastic off-road and he nodded.
“Do you know how to use it?”
Of course! How could he think such a thing? Just because I’m a girl…I told him it was no problem. I had done a small amount of off-road driving in the past, and I’d always paid attention and asked questions as a passenger when other people drove, plus I knew that the car had an instruction manual in the glove compartment. To his credit Malcolm didn’t even twitch, he just gave me directions and sort of snuck a mini-lesson in there, by mentioning which 4x4 gears I should use at each section.
Oh. My. word. I’ve taken the bakkie over some pretty appalling ‘roads’ since then, but nothing compares to the tracks on his property. At one stage I was convinced that I was going to roll the car (I had two wheels on one boulder and two wheels on a different bolder, with a height difference of about a metre and a half between them. When I got to the end and had do drive back up it I think my fingers might have dented the steering wheel! I stopped around the corner from the house and took a break to stop myself from shaking before I drove back the rest of the way.
Malcolm greeted me with
“SO how did you find the road?”
“It was FINE! No problem!”
I never went trapping there again. My adrenal glands couldn’t take it! I go back to see Malcolm occasionally though, to get chili (my sister-in-law loves it) and to catch up on the local news. His son also collects snake skin as his father won’t let him keep pet snakes, so I keep an eye out for it when I’m in the field.