It was probably in late 2008 when I was helping out at the Moholoholo Forest Camp Game Reserve near Hoedspruit South Africa that I had my closest shave yet with the wildlife of the bush.
A long term friend of mine was the manager at the reserve and he was off on his annual leave so I said I would stay at the lodge and help out the resident guide as it was around Xmas and New Year and this was always a busy time in the camp. It certainly was busy with school groups and many overseas visitors looking to experience the great wildlife that was on the reserve.
I think I had been there around a month and I won’t lie…I was loving it. I wasn’t even missing riding motorcycles!! As a product of the late 50’s I was raised by a big old black and white TV on a diet of such shows as “Tarzan”, “Daktari” and Anglia TV’s “Survival”. This really was a small piece of heaven for me. I had been to school during the early 70’s through the Secondary Modern system so consider myself lucky to have got through it being able to write my name. Just the name “Secondary” made people feel defeated before they had begun. However now I was in an environment that I had longed for. Somewhere I didn’t have to worry about books and paperwork as everything I was being ask to do was totally practical knowledge based. I loved and still do, taking people on game drives, bush walks and helping to interpret the tracks and signs of wildlife.
Of course it’s not all about wildlife and the bush. When you are dealing with people you can come up against 1st world problems too. Like the day a lady who was staying in one of the elevated reed cabins, managed to drop her grandmothers gold wedding band down through the floorboards into the small services room located under the cabin. I should point out the these cabins are located in the forest. So with some reluctance I took my torch and climbed down the side of the cabin to the forest floor and started to shine a light under the decking towards where the service cupboard was located. ” I really don’t fancy this” I thought…. Snakes, Scorpions and all sorts of bites stingy things live under there. Anyhow, I popped my head under the front of the decking to start the slow crawl deeper under the cabin. WACK, WACK, WACK and WACK again. The pain on the back of my neck was like nothing I had felt before. @&%##!!!!! “Bless my sole” I said…… I had been tagged by a Paper Wasp! This is a special breed of wasp who’s mother and father are not married. I did retrieve the ring and returned it to the lady, then went and nursed my very swollen neck.
Straight after the the New Year my mate returned from leave and the camp got a little quiet, so we did what we did best. We went out walking in the reserve and practised our Track and Sign skills. We also managed to get some shooting practise in on one of the other reserves Moholoholo Mountain View. I hasten to add it was target shooting and not wildlife! I don’t think it matters how long you have been involved in wildlife and walking in the bush it is such a pleasure every time, as its never the same twice.
The downside of loving this environment so much is that sooner or later I have to leave to get on with other projects. That time had come round far too soon and on a Sunday morning I was walking around with my chin on the floor because I knew the time had arrived. Well in fact the actually time was going to to be 11.30 when my flight left Hoedspruit so I had a few hours still. “Wanna go shooting?” ask Jared the manager. I was already in the bakkie waiting for him. We went and shot some paper targets of attacking lions and buffalo and at about 10.30 my lift arrived to take me to the airport. Just had to pack first….nothing like being prepared. Still I had and excuse…I didn’t want to leave!!
Toss everything into the big bag and chuck laptop, cameras, binoc’s etc into the back pack. I now needed to focus on the next bit. It was just a short drive to the airfield where, once inside, I put the hold luggage onto the not plugged in scales where they weigh your bags and handed my passport to the lady behind the desk. “Alex, your backpack….” said the person who had driven me there. ” What? Not a chance. I am keeping that with me or I will never see the valuables ever again” ” No” she said. “Take it off…..Slowly” Now bear in mind it’s only been about 4 days since I got beaten up by a wasp so I am thinking. ” Oh this is jolly exciting.. I wonder what it could possibly be” Well it was something like that. I do know I suddenly felt like I did when I stood in the doorway of the first plane I ever jumped out of. I did as she said and turned my head slowly to look at the bag as it slipped down from my shoulder. Phew, it’s not a wasp, it only a snake sliding out the top of the bag between the two zippers. I honestly felt super calm which is more than I can say for the lady that used to sit behind the desk…never did see her again. I simply walked out to the the grassy lawn area at the front of the building and put it down to allow ‘Sid’ to slip away. Later on, once I had read up on it I wasn’t so happy but hey.
THIS IS AFRICA!