I think I can say I am settled a bit now. I have been here with the SCBC, Soutpansberg Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation, for five days now and I feel like I am getting into the swing of things. Of those five days, three have been in the field and I can already say my spotting and identification skills are rapidly improving. It seems three years out of any kind of field work really puts you back a bit. This is even more evident next to Ryan and Melissa, who run the project and have been doing so for the last three years, who seem to both be able to spot 2cm-long geckos whilst driving at 50mph down the highway! I’m not sure I’m ever going to quite get to that stage but then again they have been living in the bush for four years…
There is a good reason for the sporadic nature of these posts: I am living in the bush. No electricity, no running water no phone signal, at least that’s how it is here at Medike in the Stone Cottage. Some of the sites we will be working at are much better provisioned, Gorro, where we travel tomorrow, is meant to have everything as they invested in a huge solar farm two years back and so now WiFi and even washing machines are available. That’s why I am typing this now in anticipation of being able to get it published tomorrow evening at some point, although a very long Skype conversation with Zoe might be slightly more likely.
Living this cut off from the world is incredibly refreshing. I know you’re all rolling your eyes, but the lack of artificial light makes such a difference to day to day life. Reading by the warm glow of a paraffin lamp is a pleasure in itself, and the lack of blue light emitted from phones and laptops means sleep comes easily. There are of course a few drawbacks, washing clothes by hand isn’t too bad but then when it rains the same day you realise how wonderful tumble dryers are! This was what I realised today, and because of the shitty weather I managed to melt a large hole in one of my hiking socks whilst trying to dry it on the donkey boiler.
In terms of the scorpions, (the reason I am here), we have found quite a few. I am slowly getting to know the names of species and identifying features, and have been able to get some really nice photos of them (although in five days I have taken roughly 700 images so I would be embarrassed if I hadn’t managed to geta few in focus…) I have also seen a huge amount of other wildlife; antelope, warthogs, wildebeest, lizards, spiders, butterfly’s, solifuges (camel spiders) and of course the most exciting, the snakes!
Early on my second day out in the field flipping rocks for scorps, I stood up from checking a rock and looked up to find myself eyeballing a 2.5m Black Mamba maybe 3m away from me. He was pissed I had disturbed him basking and so started to hood! Let me tell you, that WAKES YOU UP! I have also seen a vine snake, a herald snake, a green water snake and a horned adder, although this last one is captive in a jar so maybe doesn’t count, but does mean I can guarantee some good snaps in a few days! For the meantime hopefully this will tide you all over for a bit.
Safe to say after all of this I find myself pretty shattered every day, and so, as now, I usually end up heading to bed by about 9pm, GAP YAHHHHHH!