I have many more stories to tell, but this one has been on my mind lately and knowing my tendency to forget things after i promise to write about them, I thought I’d better put you all out of your misery and post this! Be warned, it’s a long one!
On the Western side (amongst all the beautiful, BEAUTIFUL rocks) is a tiny little guest house. I’m not sure why we turned in there, but as I drove up to the house my jaw literally dropped. There, nestled in some of the most amazing outcrops I’ve ever seen (I get quite nerdy about lizard habitat) was a lovely house, surrounded by trees and a swimming pool which giant covered stoep in front. The whole place looked like some kind of oasis and I could almost imagine the clouds (there weren’t any that day, it was flipping hot, but you know what I mean) parting and angles popping out going ‘AAAAAAhhhhhh…” Monty Python style! The rains this year have been good, last year they were almost two months late – take the pictures I posted while ago and convert them to sepia and add a dust haze and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what this place looked like then!
The amazingness continued: the owner was more than happy to help, spoke to me in English (by then I’d spoken so much Afrikaans in the last few weeks I actually battled slightly and kept answering him in Afrikaans) and asked me how many lizards I needed.
“forty more? Ag, you’ll get that in two days here!”
The next day I went back with my traps and all the other trapping paraphernalia to find the gate closed, so I left the bakkie outside and walked up the driveway (the gate was closed but they didn’t have a wall yet) where i was greeted by the owner who was quite upset that I hadn’t told him I was coming that day as he and his wife were going into town.
“I’ll be fine! Really, I just need to go on the rocks for a few hours and I promise I won’t damage anything you don’t have to watch me!”
“I wish I’d known. LIEFIE! Lizard-girl is here!” his wife emerged from the house.
“Oh! Lizard-girl! I wish I’d known you were coming, we’re going to town...”
“I’m sorry if it’s a problem I can come back tomorrow?”
“No no no, that’s alright, come let me introduce you to the people we have working for us, if you need anything, anything at all they’ll help you!”
I was whisked off and introduced to three guys who were building or something in the grounds as well as a lady working in the house. They were told in no uncertain terms that anything I wished for had to be done as long as the owners were away. Bear in mind I usually get told to stay out the way and climb the fence if I had to rather than bothering the farmers.
Before they left the owners tried very hard to offer me tea or coffee (by now I’m totally confused and twitching to get out to the rocks before it gets too hot) and then freaked at the idea of me walking to get the bakkie and insisted on driving me all 200m to the gate. They also kept worrying about not being there and finally forced me to take their dogs with me, just in case.
The dogs turned out to be a mixed blessing. By this stage I’d been away from home for three months and I was missing my pets like crazy so it was nice to have four-legged non-reptilian company. On the other hand they tended to run after my lizards. Pretty soon though we had an understanding and they stayed back when i told them to and came when I called (I thought they were exceptionally well trained, which was quite funny as the owner claimed that they were untrained and never came when he called!) and at one stage even chased a lizard onto a trap for me!
At some stage one of the workers came and asked what I was doing and I showed him, he seemed quite interested and obviously thought I was crazy and then went off to work again.
I caught a lot of lizards and a few hours after the return of the owners from their expedition into town I went to thank them and be on my way. The owner came rushing over to see how I’d done, scoffed at the mere thirteen lizards I’d caught (‘You can do better than THAT here!’) got me to show him a lizard which made him very excited and had me showing it to everyone around.
He also refused to let me leave without giving me something to drink and invited me in for some lovely cold Coke or something and told me to take a seat.
What kind of farmer keeps white couches? I dress relatively nicely when I’m on other farms as I don’t really want to expose the world to the horrors that are my standard torn, sewed-up, dirt-stained, oil-stained, blood stained, glue stained field clothes, but still I’d been out all day, for all I know I’d sat in a mud puddle or something. Anyway we sat and I perched as little of me on the seat as possible while juggling a lapful of cat and a glass of juice. the owner (I hesitate to call him farmer, but owner sounds so… formal, I’ll call him Bob.) Anyway Bob immediately started interrogating me on what I’d seen.
So I told him about the birds and the insects and when that didn’t get the desired response I mentioned a few bokkies I’d seen. he got very excited and started writing all of the names down. At one stage there was something he hadn’t seen before and he rushed off and found a field guide and showed me the pictures so I could confirm that yes, I’d seen a… I don’t remember, I think it was just a reedbuck or something. finally he sent me on my way with a reminder to “Look after my lizards!”
Over the next few weeks I went there at least twice a week and got the majority of the rest of my lizards. Bob was really nice and even showed me some other sites and how to get to them (for the record, rock-climbing up a sheer rock face turned out to be safer than his route, but moving on) and got to know them quite well. They were actually new to the area, and originally came from Joburg, but had bought a little farm to retire on once their kids had grown up. Bob had grown up on a farm near Bulawayo and loved that this area reminded him of home, while I’m pretty sure his wife put up with it for his sake – she reminded me of my mom a lot: loving nature as long as it didn’t ever get too close. Bob had actually built paths around their land so that he could get to the pretty places without too much effort (I took them once. Turns out a recently cleared bush-path that hasn’t been at least driven over to compact it is a surefire way to learn dune-boarding – minus the board).
One day I packed up to go home, thanked Bob’s wife, refused the offer of lunch (farmer’s wives like to feed me) and stayed to chat to her and have something to drink as usual. It was the first time I’d spoken to her alone as Bob was always bouncing around, showing me plants and tree agamas and they way he’d decorated the guest house and where he saw some or other animal. So I stood in her kitchen, trying not to touch anything and chatting about the weather and how I wasn’t trapping very many lizards as the drought had hit the local population hard.
I think it was a combination of heat, frustration, having someone to talk to and the fact that she reminded me of my mother, but out of nowhere I burst into tears and said something along the lines of “I just want to go home now.”
Next thing I knew she’d whisked the glass out of my hand, made me take out my traps again and lead me around the house, showing me all the places she often saw lizards. I ended up staying for another few hours and catching quite a few lizards while she rand around pointing out areas. At some stage I heard a terrible noise and rushed over to see what had happened: Bob’s wife was absolutely terrified of lizards, but she’d been watching me chasing them onto traps, and so she’d seen a lizards near one and tried to help me. As she didn’t want to get too close, she had grabbed the nearest tool (leafblower) turned it on and tried to use it to herd lizards. It didn’t really work, but I was very touched by the fact that she was trying so hard to help me!
And that is the saga of Bob and the Leafblower Lady, probably the closest I’ve had to family out here!
Oh and Kath, rather than the banjos, here are two songs I’ve herd quite often around here, so you might want to listen to them instead. I take no responsibility for any side effects!
Funny story to this one, I was at a party before I left and was feeling sick and so I went home. Next thing I get a million messages from people saying I’d missed it… Strange people back home…