Monday, 31st of July - Off we go
17.10 – with a 15 minute delay, our mini plane to London lifts us from Dutch soil. From London we will have 40 minutes to find our flight to Nairobi and from there we’ll go on to Lusaka. With mixed feelings I look out of the window at the green, organised, flat country below. It’s always difficult to leave family and friends behind and go to the other side of the equator. Everything being organised and knowing I officially reside in Zambia from now on, makes it even harder.
For a minute, I feel tears welling up in my eyes (I think it looked as dramatic as it seems).
But the excitement is bigger and I get to share it with Daan, my solid rock, my piece of peace. We are going back to Zambia. After all the hard work and stress, we are going home! I have a job, a work permit, a great boyfriend and endless exciting times ahead.
And so a big smile pushes the tears away. Here we go!
Wednesday, 2nd of August - Plants
We are driving around Lusaka in the beautiful Landrover that was donated to ZCP. We are running errands as one does in Lusaka: Driving from one place to the other, slightly stressed out, trying to do everything as quickly as possible, failing because… oh well.. Zambia, but mostly: stuck in traffic ALL. THE. TIME. On one of our missions we see a place that sells plants. I am over the moon, because for 60 kwacha I am now the proud owner of a real Aloe plant! A simple dream of several years that was always difficult to fulfil because I either couldn’t find the one I wanted, or (and this was more often the case) I knew I wouldn’t stay in one place long enough to actually watch it grow. But now I can. And in the right climate too!
Friday, 4th of August - Spider Harry
Today was the day!!! We finally got back to Matiamanene camp, our home in Liuwa. Good to see our colleagues again and everyone was over the moon to see the new Landrover. A lot of work awaited us in unpacking the fully loaded vehicle, sorting food items and unpacking bags in our tent that is becoming increasingly full.
After all this sorting, unpacking, stuffing, etc. I was craving a shower. Upon entering the bathroom, I saw that everything was right where I left it. Shampoo on the shelf, soap in its box, big massive giant spider Harry still in the corner of the shower….
BIG MASSIVE GIANT SPIDER HARRY IN THE CORNER OF THE SHOWER??!!
Now, I should probably add to this story that Harry has been haunting me since April. He started showing up randomly in different places in the bathroom right in the week that Daan was not here. After scaring the crap out of me for 4 nights straight, Harry vanished and I didn’t see him anymore. Funny enough the last time I saw Harry was on the day before Daan returned to Liuwa.
As I didn’t see him any longer, the memory of Harry faded to the back of my mind, where he became a distant image, a bad bad bad nightmare that gave me shivers whenever I recalled it. Until one cold June night, Harry showed up again. This time it was Daan who found him. Daan was excited about his sighting of such a huge spider. All I could do was stare at it in disgust and horror (from a nice distance of course). Luckily, Daan caught Harry in a container and then released it… BACK INTO THE BATHROOM. Because Harry is “harmless”. Fellow arachnophobics (fear of spiders, red.) will understand that I freaked out and had a drama queen outburst that will be remembered as the best in Liuwa history. Unfortunately for me, clever Harry then retracted into a place where he could not be caught, and my drama queen fit was to no avail.
And so I learned to live with Harry again. Apart from that one time that he jumped off the pole onto the floor and started climbing up another wall towards Daan’s towel, Harry would usually reside on the pole that is the corner of the shower. High and dry, about 75 cm from my face and tucked in enough to not get caught. How happy I was when it was time for my trip to the Netherlands. Because there is no such thing as massive, stalking, clever spiders in bathrooms in Holland.
Over 5 weeks later, I surely did not expect to see Harry in that same corner still/again, but there he was. Still massive, still stalking, still in a clever spot where he could not possibly get caught.
I will probably have to start getting used to Harry, with his massive, unpredictable, stalker-like appearance… One could possibly argue that, since he was there still, Harry died in his corner. I did not take the time to consider that. Turn tap on. Jump in. Keep watching the spider at all times. Jump out. Tap off. With unpredictable types like Harry, I am not taking any chances!
Update day later: huge spider has left the corner, Harry is not dead.
Sunday 6th of August – Back in the saddle
My first solo field-day after the holiday and all the catching up I had to do upon return. By field-day I mean: going out on the motorbike to find hyenas/wildebeests/cheetah or do another task and collect the data that comes with it. It’s funny how something that used to be routine, becomes nerve wrecking after you have broken the routine. When I prepare my fieldgear in the evening, and check it 100 times in the morning, I am still convinced that I am forgetting something. When I put petrol in the motorbike, I worry that I can’t drive it anymore, and so on…
Luckily everything goes smoothly. My task is fairly simple: I am going to the Mutata hyena clan area and find the collared individuals as well as visit the den (where the hyena cubs stay and which is also sort of a social meeting point) to see what is happening there.
When I get to the den, nobody is home. I wait for a while but soon decide to move on. In my search for the collared hyenas I cover a lot of ground and eventually find hyena 255 raising her sleepy head out of the tall grass. Soon after I find 6 hyenas (4 curious youngsters and 2 lazy adults) at a pan. After noting all the data I cover some more ground, ALMOST have a close encounter with the ground and then make my way back home.