I'm a Mountain Zebra… NOT
Trip Start Jun 15, 2013
33Trip End Jul 17, 2013
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I woke up around 6:30 to shower and grab breakfast. The bed felt so good and warm, especially since I didn’t get a good night’s sleep, that I returned and slept a bit after my shower and before breakfast. Then I went out with the Duke student Matt to look for some tracks in the canyon and consider a location he thought about putting a camera trap. I guess I thought we would drive in the canyon, somehow, and walk from there. Definitely wrong, and boy was I glad that I wore pants.
Because it has been so dry, and the rainy season wasn’t that wet, the animals have been quite desperate. At one part of the Honey Canyon we found a hole that had been dug into the ground and a bit of water was at the bottom. During the duration of our brief pause near the small waterhole, bees completely covered the surface of the water, and more continued to join the others.
I forgot to mention when I first I arrived at the farm that nearly every plant has some form of thorns or splinters. My first day at the farm, my jeans got caught on a low tree branch. Instinctively, I reached down to remove the branch and let myself free, and in turn I received a handful of splinters, which finally came out and completely healed a few days ago.
Back to the canyon adventure. We sat above the canyon and enjoyed the view for about 15 minutes. This gave us enough time to get rehydrated and catch our breath. Then, it was time to go find another canyon to climb down. It had been established that I was probably the only one afraid of this endeavor, and I was certainly the one who took the most time to get up and down the canyons… I admire everyone for how brave they were. I have no idea why they weren’t scared to death. Fiona, the wonderful lady who joined me in riding in the back of the truck the other day, was again kind enough to stay behind with me and made the situation as pleasant as could be.
We walked atop the canyon for a good twenty minutes. The terrain on top is no different than the terrain that forms walls of the canyon, but it does make life a bit easier to have horizontal ground as opposed to vertical ground to endure. The decent into the next canyon was nowhere near as bad as the adventure of climbing back up the previous canyon, but it was still quite steep. Worst-case scenario, Matt told us, we would slip on loose sand/rock/soil, land on our bums, and slide down a ways. This wasn’t unappealing to me, as Fiona and I had both discussed how tempting it was to sit on our butts and slide down the slope as a quicker, less energy exerting method. We arrived at the bottom of the canyon and walked for another longer period of time to the end of the canyon. It was a location that Matt had considered putting a camera trap, and while we were there he decided against it. The canyon provided a bit of shade at location, and we sat down for another good 20 minutes and just relaxed.
Then it was time to go back to the vehicle. We walked for ages on the rough land in the canyon. Our only reference to where the vehicle was located was the GPS system, which only tells how many meters from the target point someone is. Basically, we weren’t sure the exact location of the vehicle and where the best spot would be to climb based on closeness to the vehicle. We settled on an area that was more of a very very very large and steep hill as opposed to what seemed like a mountain. This trip up was no where near as scary as the other as I was able to walk on just my legs instead of all fours the majority of the way and most of the rocks were more stable. The difficult part came from already walking and climbing for more than three hours and being sore, exhausted, and almost out of water. It was an incredible feeling when I reached the top, as I just knew that the vehicle would be waiting for us, and our hike would be done.
No vehicle in sight. We all continued on the direction that we knew we came from. We had more than 500 meters to hike until we would see the truck according to the GPS. This meant a bit more climbing, a long stretch above the canyon, and then a decent to where the truck was. Finally, we had made it. Four hours later.
I would like to point out how thankful I was that I did not make this trip in the rainy season, during this canyon trip more than ever, as there is no way I would have made it out of the morning without at least some form of snake, scorpion, or spider injury. I did not see a single one while I was out.
Also, don’t confuse the smile in my pictures in the canyon for happiness… It’s really pure fear.
Then we headed back and had lunch. We had these fantastic fried buns that were topped with a ground beef mixture, mozzarella cheese, and then I added mayonnaise. I was told that these “sandwiches” are called fat boy sandwiches.
I had a couple of hours to recover, so I went and showered (it was much needed… whether I sweated from fear or heat and exhaustion or all of the above, I will never know), then came back to visit with everyone and have a drink. Almost everyone was journaling at the outside bar top. Sven, the German man that arrived at the farm the same day as I did, and I spotted a larger and quite beautiful bird (hopefully I will get a picture eventually). I learned it is called the grey go away bird because when it makes its call it sounds like it is saying “away”. It reminded me of a more tropical bird, despite its bland color, because of the crown on its head, much like a cockatiel.
During this relaxing time period, the three warthogs from yesterday returned to graze in the yard. Noodle, of course, was after them again, trying to herd them off. At one point, right as I turned away of course, apparently Noodle got quite brave and put his front paws on one of their heads. The warthog then lifted his head quickly, and Noodle went flying. He was okay, and everyone burst into laughter. I am hoping I have the opportunity to witness a similar situation before I leave Neuras.
Then we went on a game count. Yesterday we were on the north side of the land; today we were on the south side. The south side didn’t have as pretty of views, but definitely was not short of incredibly steep hills that caused all of us to slide all of the way forward in our seats. We also didn’t see as much game, only a handful of female kudu and a couple of springbok.
We got back around 4:00 and supper wasn’t until 6:00. That left me enough time to nap. I rolled out of bed and headed to supper. We had a fantastic leg and thigh chicken dish with sweet potatoes (the best I’ve had prepared in cinnamon… normally I don’t like them made like that), some bland wheat dish, and a small Coke (I woke up with a headache and thought the caffeine might help).
Now everyone is gathered around and watching one of the Batman movies (I think). I have to be up early tomorrow morning (5:30 departure) to head to Sossusvlei where the sand dunes are located. I’m quite certain they are the largest in the world. It’s about an hour and a half drive and we stop to eat a buffet (a buffet!!) at a lodge with Internet access (internet access!), so you all will actually be able to read this tomorrow (if I can get everything posted with the limited time I have). Quite exciting!
Things I’ve learned today: Honey badgers are badass. There is a book of African animal dung called The Scatalogue. Nike running shoes suck for hiking. American Eagle khakis are no match for canyon rocks. I am not a mountain zebra, nor am I a kudu, a klipspringer, a rock dassie, a springbok, or any other rock-climbing animal.