Khaki fever, puff adders and graduation

My time at the nature college was so wonderful. It was a lot of lectures, a lot of field work, and a lot of studying. But I appreciate this area so much more now.

The other people in my course were all so fantastic. There were seven of us; Rose is a birder and reminded me of mom, Lorna called me ‘pet’ and always had a hug or something nice to say, Landi is studying nature conservation in school and has the perfect personality for tour guiding, Jaunita works on expedition ships and is very well travelled, Paul is a hunter and has done anti poaching work in Tanzania, Richard just sold his B&B and wanted to get into guiding, and Wendy is hilarious and is definitely going to have entertaining tours, I wish I could see her in action. Our instructor John was so knowledgable, I get the feeling he could survive quite nicely for a long time if someone were to dump him out in the woods. And Jaques is this hilarious Afrikaans guide who gets soooo excited about everything. He has this amazing ‘african hillbilly’ accent and I will never forget the way he yelled ‘ETHICS’ when talking about a guide driving over a quartz field.

I have had some of the best running of my life here . First the ostrich incident I mentioned in my last post, then a few days ago I found a dead snake. I flipped it over and took a picture. John identified it as a puff adder and told me about thanatosis. Sometimes snakes play dead….luckily mine was actually dead or I could
have gotten a nice dose of cytotoxin! I was really enjoying a nice short run one day when this spribgbok darted out across the road.
So I stood there thinking “oh no…why is this thing running? There must be
something chasing it…” there had been leopard tracks the other day, and they were far away, but i patched myself out and decided
to turn back. I ran a few minutes back towards the college and I saw some
ostriches running then they stopped on the road ahead. Again:
what were they running from? I sat down and waited until they moved and then a snake darted into the bush beside me. I jumped and just ran at full speed for about
5 minutes completely missing the turnoff I should have taken. So I went all the
way to the paved road, which is a ways away, and in the end I accidently ran for about an hour and a half.
Short run day indeed.

For my assessment this morning I had to give an hour long tour to Landi and Lorna while John followed and assessed me. He was watching for client handling, general knowledge, interpretations, awareness and just generally how I was doing. I talked about spiders, lichen and sybiotic relationships, mistletoe, the poverty bush and num num tree, ostriches, porcupine dung, aardvark burrows, mima (termite) mounds, the San people, how to tell direction, adiobatic cooling and rain shadows, bird identification, quartz vein formation….you can discuss a lot in an hour! I lost a couple points because I was discussing a midden (a pile of dung to mark territory) and apparently there were some baboon calls that I didn’t hear or acknowledge. I also apparently sounded a little uncertain about some tracks I identified as “probably steenbok”, so I got docked a couple points but managed to score 90%. Which I feel pretty good about considering I have been here for two weeks and have never seen these plants/animals before.

But it’s over! I have a written test, which I am not worried about, then i am a CATHSSETA certified field guide. Everyone left happy, and we all piled into our respective vehicles and said our goodbyes this afternoon. Jaques and his wife nadia drove me into town. During the drive we had a talk about HIV and ‘khaki fever’ (when “foreign girls make it a mission to hop into bed with anything wearing khaki” and get HIV). I knew the rate of HIV was high here but it is ridiculous! One of the bigger universities has a 1/3 rate of infected people. Also, the president apparently proposes that if you have sex with an HIV positive person you can just have a hot shower. He did it with an HIV postive prostitute so it obviously works. Jaque, his wife Nadia and I had lunch before I went back to the Garden Route Game Lodge. Jaque’s last words to me; “keep in touch, and don’t forget; khaki fever is real!’ I got back to the game lodge, had the best shower of my life, a glass of wine to celebrate and the fire was just started for a braai.
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Paul, Wendy, rose, Richard and landi on the bakkie
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A blackback jackel. You can tell its a blackback jackel and not an aardwolf because of the way its claws are away from the toes and point straight ahead, also because there are two lobes on the pad and the back two toes are more or less parallel. Fun facts.
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Checking out some tracks
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My friend the puff adder – definitely dead
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Landi and Jauni watching some birds
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The little brown ones are South African shelducks. I used them in my assessment, thankfully they were on this lake because they are one of a few I can identify.

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Cave painting in ochre by the San people. The speculated meaning of this one is a woman died giving birth here
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Me and Jauni cooking up a storm, ochre face stripes and mealie pap to make it a very African experience
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A mould fossil of a glossopteris leaf
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Jauni braaing. Everyone here braais everything. Also, fish with apricot jam, try it sometime.
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The best shower in the world. Outdoors, wooden slats, overlooking the game reserve and I brought a glass of wine.

Loving life. Glad to be back at the game lodge, as much as I loved the college I am happy to be surrounded by elephants, baby cheetahs and lions again. Tomorrow I get to do snake handling and elephant darting! So excited.

See everyone in two weeks!

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3 thoughts on “Khaki fever, puff adders and graduation

  1. Sounds like an amazing time Christina. I wish I would have done something like that when I was younger. Looking forward to hearing more stories when you return home. I hope you have lots of pictures to share.

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