Monday – Reunion continued
After finding that specific wildebeest last week (you know, the one day too late), something else happened that day. I had to break the story in 2, so here is what happened on the rest of that Sunday.
After finding WB-20 and observing that she is happy, with calf and alive, I continue my search for other wildebeest. I find 4 more collared individuals and when I look for my phone to do a herd count on the last one (I use it as a voice recorder), I can’t find it. I frantically search and turn everything upside down but it’s not there.
This can only mean one thing: I’ve lost it somewhere in the park. I know when I last had it, but I also know I have driven about 20 km crisscrossing the plains since then. I know that this can happen, we do lose stuff sometimes and we always find it back, but I am a little worried. As much as I hate to say it: my phone is important to me. It’s my link to the world outside of Liuwa, it allows me to be in touch with family and friends and know what is going on in their life. It gives me entertainment and stores many pictures and files. Heck, I even write 80% of this blog on my phone. So it’s important and I want, no, I NEED it back.
I go back to camp first to ask someone to help me. D volunteers and together we go on our way in the Cruiser. We use my GPS track to see exactly where I’ve been and simply drive the same route (including all detours, bumps and bends) all over, starting from the point where I last had it, with a speed of 5km/h while scanning the ground for a black phone with a pineapple-cover. The search is slow. Very slow.
After 3 km the miracle happens. I see a pineapple. MY pineapple!! MY PHONE!!!!! A hysterical euphoria comes over me and I almost flatten D in my hug. I’m so happy that I don’t even mind the tire puncture we get at the exact same time. D and I change the tire together while I vow over and over and over that I won’t ever take my phone in the field again. Lesson learned.
Wednesday – Flightradar24
Nope, this is not about some kind of very bad 90's song. It's about airplanes. I have an obsession with airplanes… It’s kinda weird. For as long as I can remember I HAVE to count all the planes I can see in the sky at a time. Counting a big number is very satisfying (which is weird because I feel like I should worry about all the air pollution instead). It used to keep me busy on the train, on the bike, in the car… Always. Because in Holland the sky is busy and just when you think you have counted them all, new ones appear and others disappear.
In Liuwa seeing more than 8 aircraft per day is special. That’s a little boring for a plane-counter like me, but it has given me some peace of mind too. My airplane OCD gets a break.
Second part of the obsession: wanting to know the plane’s origin and destination, the airline, etc. Until recently, the closest I would get to knowing those facts was figuring out the direction and taking random guesses. However, I was never sure and that was frustrating to say the least. I have always wished for a website that could tell me exactly where the planes that I see are going to.
Then, last year, someone casually told me that there actually is an app for that (why did no one tell me this before?!). Yes. It exists. It’s called Flightradar24. My gosh, did I get excited! I had to wait for a month before I could download it (shitty bush internet, it’s a common thing here) and then… it turned out to be useless. The app only told me the flight number which I then still had to Google, which (with poor internet) was impossible. Experiment failed. App removed. Back to my good old guessing work. Back to the nagging uncertainty.
Half a year later (when in Holland), for some reason I decided to give it another try and downloaded the app again. To my hysterical excitement, the app had been updated and now actually gave me all the information I had always wanted to know! It’s so beautiful…
Like I said before: In Liuwa, I may be lucky if I see 8 planes fly over in a day, but now I can sit at a den in the morning, knowing that that plane going from North to South over the western side of Liuwa at 6.45, is the British Airways flight from London Heathrow to Johannesburg. I know it has another 1.36 hours to go and that it will be followed by the Swiss Airlines flight from Zürich to Johannesburg at 07.35. It is great. It has made my life a little bit easier and less obsessive.
Friday – One more reunion
II am with 2 cheetah. Both not collared and therefore difficult to follow but great hunters so not something anyone would want to miss. Right now it’s quiet, they are bedded and I am reading a magazine while eating a peanut butter cracker (only the best field cuisine for me!). Then something catches our attention and all 3 of us look up. It’s a lone wildebeest cow running past in what seems to be a panicky state.
Confused, me and the cheetah stare at her and follow her while she runs over the plains (the cheetah possibly with a different motivation than me).
Then, from the opposite direction, we all hear the sound of a mini wildebeest. The cow hears it too and runs even faster now. Soon we all locate the source of the mini wildebeest sound. It’s a calf that is running alongside another cow (let's call this one ‘the aunt’). Upon seeing the panicked cow, the calf starts running even faster, leaving his aunts side. In a beautiful Hollywood like scene it runs towards the cow, who I now believe is the mother. They meet in the middle where cow and calf are reunited. It looked a bit like last week.
I think that cow just went through every parent’s worst nightmare. She lost her child in the chaos that is a normal daily situation. Luckily, the calf was found by a good Samaritan who protected him and helped him finding his mother back.
Unfortunately, my spotted friends have witnessed the scene too. In their cheetah-way they crouch down into stalking mode and slowly creep closer to the delighted cow and calf and the excited aunt. The delight and excitement make the animals fast though and soon they move out of sight. The cheetah are not fussed and resume their important task of snoozing in the shade.
That’s one happily ever after in the land far far away.