Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The bushpig guy

I’ve been working on writing about one of my encounters with some of the children who live here, but it got long and depressing, so I figured I’d finally tell you the story of the Bushpig Guy.

Last year the other student as here for two weeks while I was working very hard and not catching lizards due to the horrible drought. I had told her about the other side of the conservancy where I’d taken a detour once for some reason (might have been a geocache but I’m not sure) and wound up trying to drive along while taking pictures of some of the most beautiful rocks ever (I managed to do this without incident, although the pictures didn’t come out too well).

As it was cold and threatening to rain (it was actually another month before we saw any real rain) I figured I’d show her the rocks I’d seen while chatting to the farmers about trapping there (I was desperate) and acting as translator for her (she needed a ton of sites across a large area).

It wasn’t long before we started to notice differences between the western and eastern sides. Our side has large-ish properties with several generations of farmers in one place, while that side has small properties that are usually converted into guest houses, school camp locations or hunting lodges.

The people were very different too, although not any friendlier than the farmers we knew already. These were keen to help (we found out later that the head of the governing body had sent out an email warning the landowners of our impending arrival) but often barely knew their own land. They generally sort of knew where there might be rocks, but they weren’t always sure.

On top of that the properties were so small that there was no way of sneaking in and out unobserved. Usually the farmers on the Eastern side would let me trap on their land, if I could figure out a way over the fences. They would never leave a gate open or anything.

The people on the Western side asked a lot more questions about what we were doing and why and also gave us phone numbers so they could let us in, and occasionally showed us around. Some of them, one we got deeper into the conservancy were far more what I was used to, but rather than being a bit brusque and formal they would tease me by pretending that they didn’t understand or by asking question after question until my Afrikaans ran out. As it was, although I’m more than sued to explaining my project, hers required vocabulary that i didn’t have, so I was working around words I didn’t know by describing things rather than naming them – so anything fancy was out of the question!

One guy (his staff still called him ‘baas’ which upset me) was convinced that we wanted to steal his giant garden gnome collection which he had cemented across the outcrop in his front garden. We found out later that he’d actually filled all the cracks in the rock with concrete as well so it had been a bit of a waste of time. He also threatened to get his shotgun and kept trying to interrogate the other student, even though she wasn’t south african and spoke no Afrikaans beyond ‘north’ ‘south’ ‘bathroom’ and that sort of thing. Eventually he told me to stop trying and speak English and so I made her speak for herself.

There was also the guy who was convinced that we wanted his bull, which was kind of creepy and rather grouchy looking (a bit like the owner) as well as the motel right at the entrance that defies description. All i can say is… nope, can’t. Except that I had to have my foot stamped on before i could stop giggling at the dodgy silhouettes on the walls, the animal skins stuck to the ceiling and the photographs of drunk people all over one wall. One day i will get up the courage to get photographs because nobody will ever believe me!

Anyway ne of the last places we stopped at was way off the main road, I’m not actually sure how we found it. We could see some rocks so we drove up about three little roads and found a house so we stopped to see if the owner was home. After much debate we found the front door (remarkably difficult sometimes) and knocked but nobody answered.

This isn’t too unusual, people are often not around, nobody really locks their doors and i hate poking around to find them, so we went to the back of the house to see if there was someone there.

Halfway there we found a giant bathtub, painted green, surrounded by ferns and agapanthas and funny hanging plant baskets. The pipes all connected to the house, so there’s no reason to suspect that it wasn’t a fully functioning bath, just next to the house rather than in it. I’ve used outdoor showers before, and they’re amazing, but usually they also involve some kind of privacy screen or thick clump of trees or something, this was out in the open and the guy didn’t even have a gate.

We decided against exploring further and went and knocked on the front door again. This time I looked down and saw a blood-covered chunk of bone on the doorstep. I turned to the other student

“The-ah-bone-ah-weird! We have to go now!”

Before she could answer the door opened to reveal a small guy in a really dodgy tracksuit and a maltese poodle which grabbed the bone and ran off. After some spluttering I went through the usual dialogue and he was very nice, gave us directions for the easiest way to the rocks and went back into the house.

As we walked back, giggling and discussing the strangeness of it all, he reappeared behind us.

“Hey, do you girls want to see something?” My mind was screaming NO!!! but he’d spoken in English and the other girl agreed immediately so we followed him back to the house where he vanished and re-emerged with a baby bushpig!

It was the cutest thing I’ve ever ever seen, tiny with little baby bushpig patterns and hardly squealing at all! He let me hold it, but it didn’t like me much and I gave her back to him where she settled down and went to sleep. Apparently her mother had died and so he took her in as she was too young to survive. Having encountered a few in the field I shudder to think of having her as an adult, but she was really really cute!

I didn’t get a picture as I didn’t have my camera that day, although I went and knocked on the door whenever I went back there to trap lizards. I never saw him again.

And I lived in terror of arriving in time to catch him taking a bath.


po said...

Sounds bizarre. But then much of what happens in your lizards-lands is quite bizarre to me. You should write a memoir, it would be a little like Herman Charles Bosman, only lizards would feature a lot more! It would be awesome!

Kath Lockett said...

These are fascinating to read Helen, but each time I do, I automatically hear the banjo theme music to 'Deliverance' in my head!

EEbEE said...

One of my buddies had three baby bushpigs on his farm (similar story).

I even went to visit when they were about the size of an avergae A5 copy of Lord of the Rings (sorry only thing comparable i could think of).

They have since grown up and cause SERIOUS problems. destroying the gardens, breaking into the kitchens and eating everything (once they ate 10kgs of sugar), hurting people while trying to play with them, raiding campers tents...

bushpig guy is in for a treat

Tamara said...

Truly, Helen, you have seen some interesting stuff.

One day they'll make a movie out of your memoirs and it will further cause Americans to believe that SA is a land where Coke bottles fall from the sky, white witch doctors rescue golfers from their egos and most families have a pet bushpig ;-)

Helen said...

Po: it's not bizarre, it's normal! Although i do get Herman Charles Bosman vibes occasionally!

Kath: these people are awesome and kind and generally willing to help, so i added some more... local music to the next post. I hope i'm not struck down by ightning for putting sokkie music on my blog, but anything to help!

EEbEE: I thought that might happen, I'll have to go and visit sometime and see if his house is still standing!

Tamara: I've thought about writing a screenplay about this place but neve got around to it. I should totally do it and live off the movie rights :)