I hope you remember me. I’ve been gone for a while, or actually... I was in the same place, right here in Liuwa, but you know how it goes, busy, tired, stuff happening, no inspiration, no internet and I guess I just didn’t want to write for a while. Maybe I was having a bit of writer’s block, who knows.
So I left Wild&Beast for what it was for a while and man oh man… a lot has happened. Big things, small things, happy things, shitty things. I will try to catch up on everything in due time but I’ve managed to write up two stories from the notes in my phone. And if you can read this, I have obviously managed to post them too.
Sooo... Major things that have happened in the past months:
Monday 16-07-2018: Angola
I'm from a town very close to the Belgian border. After I got my driver's licence at the city hall, my oldest brother and I went for a drive in his car. We didn't take the last exit before the border, we drove straight into a different country. And came back half an hour later.
When my friend Amber had just moved to Nijmegen, a town near the German border, she once told me how she accidentally cycled into Germany one day.
That's how I feel right now. As if, if I'm not careful, I will accidentally enter another country. Not so strange as Mboo and I just checked our GPS's, we are 8.71 km from Angola. We live in Matiamanene, in the middle of nowhere. From there we go to the middle of nowhere on a daily basis and call it work. Yesterday we set off to go and camp at Salwella, a small camp where we have now created a base, Mboo and I rode there on our bikes, 52.5 km Northwest from what we already call the middle of nowhere. And now we are 28.93 km Northwest of thát, following a cheetah. This is as remote as I've ever been, especially on a motorbike. I feel ok knowing that my colleague Mboo (who is a scout) is with me, we can help each other out if need be. Because this is quite an unusual situation when I think of it. There is no communication in this area, not even via radio, we are out here, alone. Even Mboo is not 100% comfortable being this close to Angola, which represents so much more of the big unknown.
It's an excellent test for my strong independent woman attitude, but I'm the first one to admit that I’m not at ease. This is scary but it’s also a thrill and it’s best to stay optimistic, not think about it too much and just know that we always make it back. This is my job, my reality, and I wouldn’t want to miss it for the world.
Tuesday 17-07-2018: Please just shit.
Dear cheetah, dearest LCH-439,
I know I was too late finding you this morning, you know how communication in this area is basically non-existent right? So I had to wait until 07.30 until I finally received your coordinates from my colleague at the ZCP base in Matiamanene. Then I spent 50 minutes finding you, not bad considering I had to drive 8km and you were not at the coordinates anymore so I had to search for you. And I know you had already caught and finished half of your breakfast (a subadult oribi) when I came. That, half an hour later, you were full and tired and bedded under a tree I find understandable. But for heaven's sake could you please, pretty please be so kind... To go and take a SHIT?
Yes, that’s right, I want your shit. I need your shit. I want to put it in a paper bag and take it with me to camp. Your shit is going to mean so much for cheetah conservation all over the country. Do you feel the pressure? Do you understand? I want your shit, and I want it now. Because, don't get me wrong, spending 3 hours with a lazy sleeping cheetah is the best plan I could have for the day, but your brother pulled the same trick yesterday and I really would like to do something useful in the next 6 hours.
PS: I wrote this while waiting for a sleeping cheetah to get up and take a shit (obviously) because we needed cheetah fecal samples. We needed fecal samples so badly that I spent about 7 days in total that month on watching a sleeping cheetah ALL DAY and hoping they would take a dump. My efforts were to very little avail, I ended up with 3 samples.