Monday 9th of October – Life!
What a morning! Over the weekend D and I had been in the North on one of our wildebeest-camping trips. During the trip it has rained almost every night with this morning being the cherry on top of the cake. For 4 hours, a steady rain cooled us down and relieved the dry soil. I can’t say it enough: it is amazing to feel the rain, the cooler air it comes with and to see the immediate change in the landscape and the species of Liuwa. It brings everything to life. Countless insects have started to come out which in turn lure birds, mammals, frogs and toads out of their hiding places.
When we make our way back to the south, it stops raining, but the fresh air combined with the thousands and thousands of Blackwinged Pratincoles that have come out and are flying over the plains, make the drive one to never ever forget. The birds are everywhere, as far as the eye can see and beyond and they just keep coming. I’ve tried taking pictures but they just don’t do it justice. It’s definitely one of the many things to see for yourself!
Wednesday 11th of October – All of that in one frame
One of the collared cheetah has started coming closer to camp which means we can do hunt-follows with her. I am the lucky one that can go and find her in the morning and I return to her in the afternoon. She is not very active but has moved closer to a pan and just sits there looking around.
Previously today, I had been quite happy about the fact that I had seen all Liuwa’s big carnivores in a day. I had seen hyenas before finding the cheetah and then on my way back to camp I passed the lions. It is quite rare to see all of them but not impossible. This afternoon my carnivore karma is even better. As cheetah sits, something catches her eye. I grab my binoculars and see it is one of the female lions, followed by the others, heading to the pan for a drink. They are not only noticed by me and cheetah. A hyena had been resting in the pan and is scared by the mere sight of the lions. It flees out of the pan and runs straight up to me and cheetah. And I just sit there… My lower jaw has dropped and I forget that I am supposed to write stuff down. For 30 seconds I have a cheetah, 5 lions and a hyena in one frame. Now those are cool sightings!
Thursday 12th of October – Surprise!
I’m following cheetah 180, all day! It’s cloudy and not as hot as usual, so the cheetah can decide to get up to hunt any minute. Not that she looks like she will… But you never know. While she rests in the shade of a tree, I park the bike under another tree and read a book. I look up every minute to check if cheetah is still there, but she doesn’t really move. Until I look for the hundredth time and notice that the familiar shape of her cheetah head is no longer under the tree (cheetah, just like lions, sneak away). So I have to start moving too.
I want to grab my backpack off the ground but it is infested with red ants, all going for my snacks of course. I try shaking them off (while singing Taylor Swift’s famous ‘Shake it off, shake it off, ah ah’) but the more I do so, the more seem to appear from inside. I don’t feel great about the idea of having thousands of little biting buggers in my neck so I put the bag on the rack of the bike. Now I have to hurry because cheetah is moving and I haven’t yet, which means missing data.
I start driving, hoping I will see her. This is not the case so I have to stop, stand on the bike and scan to know where to go. I’m sort of halfway through the ‘stand on the bike’-part when I hear rustling near my foot. I look down to see a massive (like 1.5 metres!) snake raising its head near my foot!
20 hyenas around me? Awesome! Unexpectedly running into lions? No problemo! But if this cool bush-chick is surprised by a snake, she turns into something that resembles a teenage city girl with a beetle in her hair, including (but not limited to) hysterical screaming and irrelevant moves.
So… A sound that, in retrospect, can be best described as a high pitched, panicky, out of breath, ‘fuck’ escapes my throat and because of the sudden sound and movement, the bike wobbles dangerously. I jump off and run a few metres. But my head goes faster than my legs and in one more dramatic move I fall over. Yours truly gets up same second (what if the snake is following me?) and does a few more very fast metres.
Shaking and out of breath I stand still. I look at my bike, try to discover the snake as a sighed ‘I hate this’ comes out of my mouth. As a kickass carnivore researcher I had expected myself to behave cooler than this. But there is only a few things I dislike more than unexpected spider Harry encounters and a surprise snake-encounter is one of them, not helped by the fact that the snake was raising up at me.
Then I gather some temporarily lost courage to move back to the bike step by careful step. I don’t see the snake anymore and assume the poor thing was just as scared as I was. I check once more and then get the hell out of there.
And Miss Cheetah? She had just moved to the next tree… Bitch.