Saturday, 31 March 2012

Prickly situations in the night


I sometimes think that I’m just too adventurous for my own good! First it was encounters with snakes, but now I have upgraded to close encounters of the prickly kind!

My first attempt to get a shot of the night sky
spinning above us
The other night I walked out into the Kalahari to take some long exposure shots of the night sky. Not bad for my first time, but I reckon I can do a lot better when we have a new moon again. Anyways, there I was standing out in the dark watching the camera blink away during the photo. Now as you may or may not know, many animals in the Kalahari are nocturnal such as the Springhare, Aardvark, Pangolin* and Porcupine, and while I was staring out into the darkness the latter walked right by me. Now, that’s not very scary. In fact it was quite thrilling to see such a large healthy porcupine bumbling its way through the bush. Very few people actually get to see one out in the wild, let alone have one so close. My golden bush rule is They won’t bother you if you don’t bother them and sure enough the porcupine simply walked past me about 3m away as I stood still in the darkness. FANTASTIC! I was so excited you could have seen my grin in the dark! After a while, I packed up my gear and headed back.

The next night I was too tired to go out and try again so I climbed into bed and caught up on lost hours.

Now in our current sleeping arrangements, our room is split in two by a very low wall. Two beds are on one side, and on the other side is the kitchen area and my bed. At 1am I heard someone rustling around in the kitchen. I thought “It’s probably Paul getting some water” and left it. But the rustling seemed a bit…random, which made me think “Paul’s probably sleep walking”.  I sat up and groped around for my torch...hmmm, no torch. Ok, a cellphone should do the trick. I pushed some buttons randomly and shone the screen's light towards the kitchen, and SHIKKA-SHIKKA-SHIKKA-SHIKKA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A large porcupine spun around right in front of me and flared up all its quills! 

Oh Rob, seriously where do we go from here. I’m in the back section of a room split in two by a low wall, the door is on the other side and the small walkway between the two rooms is right near my bed. I have a porcupine 1m away from me who is HIGHLY irritated and if he goes the wrong way he’ll end up cornered in the bathroom. Crikey. I may end up becoming a Kalahari Kebab. HEY! SHOOOO MAN!! SKRRRIK! HEY HEY HEY I shouted! Paul, who had been asleep all this time, woke up and said “What’s going on??”. “Paul, there’s a freaking porcupine next to me, stay there!!”. Luckily, the large prickly invader decided I wasn’t worth the effort and he high-tailed it into the next room, past Paul and out through the door. Crisis over? I think not. Before our spiny friend made his getaway, he made sure no-one followed him and sprayed a potent mixture from his rump back in our direction. Well that finished me off! I was coughing and sneezing as if I’d been hit by a more natural form of pepper-spray. It was such a choking stench that we didn’t recover for a good few minutes! After I’d stopped feigning my own death in the entrance, and with my body still pumping with adrenaline, Paul and I simply burst out laughing! Did that really just happen? Yes! HAHA! No one is going to believe us!!

After we’d settled down, we realised that our door had been blown slightly ajar by the wind and our nosey fortress-like rodent friend had simply pushed his way in and headed straight for the sweet smell of potatoes. 


*On the topic of Pangolin, I thought you'd like to know that I am also on the committee of the African Pangolin Working Group who are recognized by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and are concerned with the conservation of Africa's endangered pangolins. Check it out at http://pangolin.org.za/

Rob’s song for the day: Night Fever - The Bee Gees

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Rob



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