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Day Thirty Five to Thirty Eight – Poisonous Creatures

27th - 30th October 2011

sunny 38 °C

Waiting for papers and the phone was dreary, we had to escape. We’d heard of a walking safari that we could do for ten quid each in the Waterberg Plateau...

At the Namibian Wildlife Office we were told that for the walk we needed a minimum of three people as it could be dangerous otherwise. (A fact we weren’t previously aware of is that a rampaging rhino or hungry leopard will stop if there are three of you, but should one member be omitted they will continue their stampede/stalk and crush/eat you dead. The lady counted us and told us there was only two of us meaning unless we found someone else we couldn’t go.)

And then a sparkle in her eye; there was another walk. A guided walk. We would have a tracker and a man with a gun to show us around the park, take us to amazing spots and see some wildlife on the ground fully exposed to the dangers, (apart from the fact someone would have a massive gun.) She continued that there was a problem though as they needed a minimum of six people and as we hadn’t yet reproduced whilst stood there, there was in fact still only two of us and this was a problem. True to stereotype we bought all six places on the hike. It was a four day three night hike and at eighteen pounds a place it still seemed reasonable even with our four imaginary friends.

The Waterberg Plateau is a 50km by 30km section of sandstone rock that rises a hundred or so metres out of the ground. On top is a long established ecosystem in which rhino, giraffe, leopard, cheetah, buffalo, antelope etc. thrive.

Our guide was a man called Kapia. He looked like he been a rhino in a previous life, thickly set, deeply barrel-chested with a laugh that sounded like it emanated from somewhere beneath the earths’ crust. We signed our indemnity forms and he explained the rules. This was when we noticed that whilst he spoke excellent English, his R’s were replaced with L’s. He explained that the Lainy season was nearly here and when it came the Livers would be full and the Black Lino would be all over. If we saw them we would hide behind the Locks because we couldn’t out-Lun them. Again our shallow humour gave us a giggle.

Our camp had been built by the Raleigh International lot in the nineties and was cool. Little stone huts surrounding a fire pit that nestled beneath a large red sandstone cliff face. By day we hiked through the park to the edges of the plateau through thick bush and over rocky escarpments. The evening would be spent with sundowners at the watering holes before retiring for fire side chatter.

As a side note our satisfaction at paying for our four friends increased as each night the tourists from the camp would appear after us in a huge 16-seater safari truck. They would then leave before us enquiring as to why we got to stay and watch the rhino/buffalo/giraffe and respective babies for longer. They’d each paid forty quid for an evening safari, they were each paying a tenner a night for a campsite, a tenner a day for park access, and walking around ‘safe’ footpaths by day. The good guys always win, it’ll serve them right for staring a war 97 years ago.

The first night, we were sat supping cold ones by the fire, when suddenly Somers pointed out that there was something by my foot. Her tone of voice implied an interesting stick or maybe a strangely coloured stone. I finished the sentence in my book and looked down to see something massive, scary and most likely poisonous. It ran away before we could get a good look but it was yellow, four or five inches long and had at least eight appendages. (We couldn’t see if the front ones where legs or claws.) Somers till wasn’t in the slightest bit alarmed. I explained that it was either a massive spider or a scorpion and that either of these should instil a deep rooted innate fear within her. I suggested we take a burning stick from the fire and kill it. Somers suggested that I wouldn’t have a girlfriend much longer if I did. I danced a strange tip-toe dance back to the car to find my shoes, and returned to sit cross-legged on my chair. Somers was still reading but had been intermittently watching the monster run circles of fear around the fire and our seats. I got through two chapters of my book, I’ve no idea what they were about.

The following evening we were again driven out to the waterhole. Our transport was a flat bed truck with a mattress in the back on which we sat cross-legged with the wind in our hair. Back at the camp Somers made for bed, whilst I stayed up reading. I’d recovered from the previous nights’ dangerous creatures episode and my heart fate was entirely normal as I read all about a chap following Stanleys’ footsteps along the River Congo. And then I thought about the night before. I looked down at my feet, there was nothing there. Back to my book, images of a white man and his entourage trekking along the Congo dealing with cannibalistic tribes and evil man eating scorpions eating their feet... I looked back at my feet and there was a little black scorpion right next to my left foot. I would have squealed but the air wouldn’t come out. I was on my chair in a flash. Like a granny looking at a mouse. The little creature ran to the chair leg then ran three feet to my left. I jumped onto the raised fire pit and grabbed a stick. The hunt was on. It didn’t take long. I pinned my nemesis to the sand with the glowing end of a two foot stick, as the scorpion sizzled it’s tail struck the stick about fifteen times in three seconds. It was over, I put its half toasted little carcass on the fire, actually thought about eating a bit and then regaining my senses, settled back to my book. Fear leads to death one way or another. The next day I was reassured by my guides that the black scorpions, whilst not lethal, are the most poisonous. They also told me they’d have killed it too. I felt justified.

It was our last days walk, and we got the first of the seasons’ rains. Only a very light drizzle, but infinitely more than they’d had for the last ten months. After a couple of hours we turned for home with Kapia guiding our way, me in second, Somers in third and Sapira the pump action shotgun wielding tracking assistant at the back. Sapira was comedy as every time Kapia looked lost or reached the end of a trail he’d shout from the back “Is this the right way?” The answer was always yes which always encouraged “Are you sure?”

P.S. Quite what effect a shotgun would have when off-loaded into a charging adrenaline fuelled adult male rhino is uncertain especially given the fact that they have a huge horn protecting their head and the effective range of a shotgun is about point three of a second before a ton of 50kph meat goes through you. I was hoping it made a loud bang.

P.P.S. The rangers in South Africa had rifles with bullets so big that they looked like they could take down a fairly large aircraft at range. You couldn’t help but imagine a charging bull elephant cinematically crashing down at the rangers’ feet. As the dust settles and the barrel smokes the camera switches to a close up of the rangers’ face as he pulls the cigarette from his mouth and utters his perfect one liner...)

As we trundled along there was suddenly a shriek from Sapira at the back. We stopped suddenly and spun to see him backing away. We followed his eyes to the ground. Next to Somers’ footprint was a small Boomslang snake. Any real fear had been avoided by the fact that we’d all missed spotting it and now we were sufficiently far enough away to just want to take photos. But still we’d come close. Back in Windhoek I read that the Boomslang is ‘highly haemotoxic... with a delayed onset of poisonous effects which include soreness, burning, lethargy, vomiting, headache, nausea, skin rash, oozing punctures, developing into bleeding both internally and externally.’ Ah well. All’s well that ends well.

Posted by ibeamish 07:28 Archived in Namibia

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