Friday, February 28, 2014

Pushing my boundaries

I've been spending most weekdays at the CARACAL Biodiversity Centre where Sarah does her field research. There's always something different happening, making it a great place to hang out. 

 I've even made myself useful in the lab providing a bit of unskilled labour labelling test tubes.

Life's never dull. The tyre on the work vehicle exploded while Sarah was driving us to work last week.  

It was 8 o'clock, in the morning, the sun was shining, there were 4 of us, and we were able to slow down and pull to the side of the road. No harm was done, and after Manager Mark came to our rescue with a tyre change we were on our way again. 

I'm trying not to think about the fact that the work vehicle doesn't have a spare tyre if we get another flat.

Right now I'm sitting at a table in the field lab with a tub of meal worms at my feet, breeding in raw rolled oats under a blanket of cotton wool, and destined to become snacks for mongooses Joey, Mary and the (mongoose) pups.

Apey the bush baby, a tiny bundle of saucer-eyed cuteness, is bouncing around the office next door. springing from one human shoulder to the next. Only an animal this sweet can get away with a questionable habit of urinating on his paws and leaving a trace of 'Eau de bush baby' on every surface he touches.

Outside the fence a troop of baboons is scampering past the gate.

There's a dead impala in the freezer and a live cobra in a locked bin waiting to be relocated.

And I've just eaten my first dried mopane worm. Actually its not really a worm, it's a caterpillar that lives off the leaves of the mopane tree, and it's considered a delicacy, eaten dried out of a packet, or fried up fresh with tomatoes, onions and garlic. While it looked gross, it tasted pretty ordinary and rather salty. I won't be doing it again though.

At the rear of the building not 10 meters from here, a black mamba, a boomslang, and a spitting cobra, along with many more of the deadliest snakes in Africa, are resting uneasily in their cages. They're a pretty evil looking bunch but I'm getting used to walking past them. I even joined the whole CARACAL team last week for an evening braai (barbecue) with a Gaboon Adder watching us from her cage (see picture below) as we tucked into our sausages and maize meal.

That same day I held my first (and possibly my last) python.

Then Sarah's house was broken into at 1.30 one morning, while we were in bed.

 It took us both quite a long time to realise that the noises we were hearing at the door weren't just (four legged) animals. Sarah's house is basically just one large room, and when she heard the security screen on the door being pushed back she bravely hopped out of bed and moved towards the door, mobile phone in hand. Our would-be intruder promptly disappeared into the night. Wise man.

There's been a spate of burglaries in and around Kasane over recent months, and the police seem powerless to track down the culprits. I'm not surprised, given their methods which discretion prevents me having a good rant about here. I wish there was a real life Precious Ramotswe who could take the case.

This is the closest we come to the No 1 Lady here.

Theories abound. It's said to be the work of a gang of four, some working in bare feet (one dubbed 'Big Foot' because of his large, but not too deep, footprint), always striking around the same time of night. They are extraordinarily stealthy, bold, and able to make a nimble getaway when surprised, but no-one has been hurt or even threatened. That is, if you don't count the intruder who Sarah's friend woke to find standing beside her bed. She promptly punched him in the face! Or the thief wounded in the knee last week by a pellet gun as he made off with cash after breaking into a parked car.

These thieves seem to be only after money and saleable goods like computers, mobile phones and other portable valuables.

Sarah's timely action prevented a break-in becoming a theft, and again plenty of helpers came to our rescue very quickly. The radio and mobile phone support network works well here and word spread quickly that we had (almost) been the latest victims of these scoundrels. 

With the house unsecured, we were taken in by kind neighbors, and after a week the door has now been repaired and modified to Bank of England standards😳.

As someone called Dorothy once said, "Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas any more!".


  1. what a rough world it is! your are having a very big adventure indeed right down to the house being broken into! When do you head back to Australia?

  2. Such adventures! Glad you are safe and your spirits are still high! I don't think I'd have eaten the worm even once. You're so brave!

  3. Goodness, what incredible experiences you are having.....even if you would rather not have some, like the burglary and flat tyre!

  4. You are so smart to have someone with a phone ready to take your picture during these daring and gross life events..... holding snakes.....eating bugs.....popped tires, etc.

  5. I must admit you sounds like you are having an amazing and eye opening time Di but I don't think it sounds as if there will be any worries about you shifting there permanently-lol

  6. What's a holiday without new experiences? Every day seems to be bringing new experiences - good and questionable - into your life!!! Enjoy your time there and keep rolling with the punches! You seem to have a smile on your face no matter what!!


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