The beer is finished! This is the cold, harsh reality we are now faced with. Until we can find a willing soul to bring in another shipment of this sanity-preserving liquid, we will have to appreciate the twilight hours at Base Camp in the company of a plastic cup of Oros. However, despite this minor setback and along with the many other technical, logistical and environmental challenges that we will face over the coming months, I have decided to focus this post on the wide range of things that we have to be grateful for. Instead of the somewhat clichéd and over-used “Top 10 List”, I have decided to go with the far more dynamic “Special 13”. Here, in no particular order, are my reasons for optimism as we draw ever closer to going LIVE.
1. We have a pool at Base Camp. After several hours of chasing meerkats, my skin invariably has an extra sticky layer thanks to three unavoidable factors; the sun, my reaction to its extreme heat and the fine red Kalahari sand. The feeling of diving into this perfectly cooled bit of aquatic heaven, as that sticky layer is washed away and my tired feet get their just reward, is simply indescribable.
2. The Ganda is working. Working well. (I am stretching my toe to try and touch the wooden door as I type this). Waiting at the workshop earlier this week, as the very helpful men there went beyond the call of duty trying to get it back in working order, were some of the longest hours of my life.
3. There is a small, but telling black spot on the left side of Gandalf’s neck. This is huge (no, not the black spot, this fact). He is now easily identifiable, and as he is the alpha male of the Gosa gang and an important part of this story, our lives have been made a lot easier by this discovery.
4. Clouds. They have been providing momentary relief from the harsh desert sun. A clump of cumulonimbus shifting into just the right position when the sun is at its peak can certainly help to reinvigorate one for rest of the day.
5. Neither Rob nor Paul snores (although, according to Paul, Rob did try and imitate a lion briefly the other night). The importance of this fact cannot be over-emphasised. With the physical and mental demands of this project, a good night’s sleep is a non-negotiable.
6. My shoes are comfortable. Despite their propensity to collect sand faster than a tornado whipping through the desert, they remain pleasing to my feet and blisters have thankfully been kept at bay.
7. I have a very understanding wife. 3 months away from home……enough said.
8. Birds, the feathered variety that is. Taking nothing away from the stars of our show, it is such a pleasure to be up at sparrow (if you’ll excuse the pun) and take in the symphony that is the morning chorus. As an avid, but amateur birder, there is plenty to be enthused over. From the phenomenon of the sociable weavers’ monstrous nests to the delicate but deadly pygmy falcon, from the striking colour of the crimson breasted shrike to the impossibly high-flying predators of the sky, there is plenty for me to aim my binoculars at when the Gosa gang have decided to take refuge from the elements and retreat back into one of their burrows.
9. I am not a beetle in the Kalahari. I am very thankful that I am significantly further up the food chain when I see the ferocity with which these meerkats attack their prey, first with their vicious claws and then with their razor sharp teeth.
10. Paul discovered an old aqua-coloured shower curtain that we now use as a groundsheet to lie on under the Camel Thorn tree when the Gosa gang decide it’s siesta time. It is more comfortable than lying in the dirt and it saves on washing.
11. Nurse Betsy has very kindly provided us with a constant supply of anti-histamine pills to help ward off the debilitating effects of hay fever. Without these pills delirium would set in quickly and I would not even be able to enjoy seeing one of our Gosa gang members tackle a scorpion if the only thing that was occupying my mind were my itchy eyes and the thought that gouging them out with an Acacia thorn would provide some relief.
12. I have not been scent-marked by Gandalf yet. I was curiously observing this behaviour for the first time earlier this week as Gandalf performed his alpha male duties on a nearby tree when…… it hit me. The smell. Not since Standard 7 science class, some 20 years ago, has an odour penetrated my nostrils with such intent. I will continue to try and avoid being scent-marked by Gandalf. My wife may become a little less understanding should I return home with any remnants of that pungent smell still attached to my clothes.
13. You, our audience. Without trying to sound too soppy, thank you for your positive comments and good vibes. It makes it even more worthwhile knowing people out there are excited to know what is going to happen to our stars in the making, the Gosa meerkat gang.
Stay tuned for more updates from the WildEarth crew.