Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The Three Penguins

Not so long ago we said farewell to three of our volunteers, Jourdan, Amy and Christina. During their time here they joined forces and conspired to make my life as difficult as possible and initiated a prank war – for this contest they called themselves The Three Penguins. This has something to do with the film Madagascar (which I haven’t actually seen) therefore I was then dubbed ‘King Julian’ – I later learned that King Julian is a rather groovy Lemur so I was actually quite pleased with the name (yet another failure on your part penguins!).

So throughout this blog entry I will keep score so there will forever be no doubt who came out on top (its me by the way, oh yes it is Penguins read on and weep!). But first, who exactly were my adversaries? First up we have Amy, a South African teenager who god bless her has a lot to learn about the ways of the world and can best be described as….’special’. In fact the pic below pretty much sums her up :)

Next is Jourdan an American veterinary student who spent most of her time playing with cheetah poo, since she has gone the air smells sweet and is ok to breath again. Finally and least is Christina, least because when we first saw her we thought a small child had strayed from the playground and got lost – she’s smaller than Cheri believe it or not (in the pic below, Jourdan on the left is actually sitting a good 10 feet behind Christina!)

Let it be known the Penguins struck the first act of war in an extremely dangerous and unprovoked attack, which was all caused by them being unable to take some well-meant constructive criticism. You see, the troublesome trio liked to make desserts on the weekend and I would give my honest opinion on their concoctions - because if I didn’t tell them the truth how would they learn from their mistakes, right? So when I tasted a piece of their ‘Apple Pie’ I simply gave them the truth, which was that the pie was ‘all right’. This comment was meant with only good intentions but instead of being thanked for my expert opinion I was bombarded with insults and hurtful names. The next thing they attempted was ‘strawberry ice cream’. I found the ice cream in the freezer and thought I would playfully write my name in it as a way of bridging the divide that was developing between us. However, later that day when they handed me a portion my ninja like instincts told me that something was a miss. As I slid the pink sloppy goo around my bowl I noticed something in the ice cream that was not a strawberry, upon closer inspection the horrifying truth was revealed……the dirty Penguins had placed a filthy rock in my ice cream!! I could not believe it, all I had done was try and nurture them like a mother cheetah would nurture her cubs but I had my generous efforts thrown back in my face, I could have chocked to death on that rock!

Score: Penguins 1 King Julian 0

So the next day I found the ice cream in the freezer again, but this time I added an extra ingredient of my own – a generous portion of peas! Unfortunately I was not able to see the moment they discovered the peas but I was told it had the desired effect and they were thoroughly pissed off!

Score: Penguins 1 King Julian 1

The pea sabotage provoked the penguins to spend the rest of that evening plotting and scheming and they thought they had come up with a perfect way of getting instant revenge. Christina (who lived with me at Boskop) snuck into my room and stole a pair of my flip-flops, put them into a tub of water and left it in the freezer over night. In the morning I discovered the flip-flops floating in the tub of unfrozen water along with a note declaring war, signed by the Three Penguins. However, this attack was a spectacular own goal as the flip-flops they chose were my work flops, which were dirty and stinky. Also because our freezer is on a timer and not on constantly throughout the night the water did not freeze – so what the Penguins had actually done was wash my flip-flops – result!

Score: Penguins 1 King Julian 2

It is time to mention that during this war I had given a challenge to Christina who was volunteering with us through the zookeeper internship. The challenge was to learn all 21 Bellebenno cheetahs before she left – a challenge that others have taken and failed (sorry Tamara). If she was successful I would buy her a 6-pack of her choosing, if she failed then I would be the recipient of the 6-pack. Despite the prospect of loosing I guided Christina with care and understanding, but again my generosity was unappreciated and Christina would often talk back to me and give me grief. Christina was also the cockiest of the Penguins and often bragged about the pranks she had played on her friends and that I shouldn’t mess with her. So I felt no shame in singling her out for special treatment including:

# Throwing a big stick swarming with bees at her feet (her face and her screams of ‘are you f**king crazy’ will make me smile for the rest of my days).

# Kicking a football at her head – what made this extra great was the fact that not only did the football hit her but when she raised her hand to defend herself she hit herself in the head with her camera leaving a bruise.

# Squirting her in the face with a hose (I was actually aiming for Amy but fate intervened).

# Stabbing her with her a sharp stick (I stabbed her in response to one of her smart ass comments but I didn’t know the stick was as sharp as it was, again fate knowingly intervened).

# Removing important letters from her favourite game of Bananagrams – this was probably my cleverest idea but unfortunately she failed to play the game again after I had done it so I concede this as an own goal.

Score: Penguins 2 King Julian 6

However, my own goal was nothing compared to the Penguin’s next effort. I had brought my ipod and speakers to dinner at the hot spot one night and when I went to go home to Boskop I left them behind on the dinner table. Jordan and Amy found them and decided to go up to the tower and have an impromptu dance party. Around this time my departure for Boskop was slightly delayed due to an issue with the dogs and I needed to find Amy to ask her a question. However, I couldn’t find her anywhere and even started shouting for her – Amy and Jourdan mistakenly thought I was on the rampage about my ipod and decided not to show themselves. After I had left they then went to the office and connected my ipod to a computer and attempted to mess with the contents, however all they managed to do was add some of my albums into the ’My Playlists’ menu - this is nothing but a minor inconvenience for me but I will concede a point. So, thinking that I was mad about my missing ipod (in fact had no idea it was missing) Jordan and Amy thought it would be highly amusing to plant my ipod and speakers into the car we had driven to Boskop with the hope that I would discover them the next morning and start cursing the name of the Penguins. To do this Jourdan got up ridiculously early in the morning and RAN the 7km to Boskop, snuck through our gates and placed the ipod and speakers on the back seat of the car and then ran back to CCF! HOWEVER, what they didn’t know was that we had taken two cars to Boskop (as Rob had to leave much earlier than the rest of us) and he decided to take the car with the ipod inside, myself and the other boskopians took another car into work. When I finally found my ipod later that morning I simply thought I had forgotten to bring it back into the house upon returning home the previous night and thought nothing of it. This is what you would call an EPIC fail!

Score: Penguins 3 King Julian 7

I will be fair and give the penguins points for placing a goat horn in my water bottle, obtaining video footage of me falling over a football and for the time Christina passed out at the base of the toilet after drinking way too much tequila and hence scaring me to death when I went to use said toilet! I also lost a bet with Jourdan which I can’t go into too much detail here as this is a public forum, but the result was me having to hand over half a 6-pack.

Score: Penguins 7 King Julian 7
Ooooh, the score is so close I hear you say …..but wait:

# When Christina was helping Amy carefully take out a burr that had got caught in her hair I walked over with my leatherman and just cut it straight out of her hair (the look of shock on Amy’s face will also make me smile for the rest of my days).

# When Amy was taking a swig from her platypus water bottle on the drive back from feeding I reached over and squeezed it, causing water to explode all over her face.

# When I found Jourdan’s bag unguarded I filled it with dead moths.

Score: Penguins 7 King Julian 10

Sadly, Christina also failed to correctly ID all 21 Bellebenno cheetahs on her official test, and I mean sadly as I willed her to succeed, I even gave her a second test but alas she failed again. Therefore I was reluctantly the recipient of a sweet smelling $50 note to buy my 6-pack of Hunters Gold.

Score: Penguins 7 King Julian 11

Finally, in the Penguins last few days as a group they pretty much conceded defeat by kneeling down in front of me begging for forgiveness and offering me another 6-pack of Hunters Gold. I even have photographic proof that this act of submission took place, behold:

Final Score: Penguins 7 King Julian 12!

Defeated it was time for the Penguins to leave and I told them that to replicate their presence I would stab myself in the ass with a pin every two minutes. So as we said our goodbyes they handed me a departing gift – 3 pins (one of them was bent so I have called that one Amy).

Now this is hard for me to say but I do kind of miss them, we no longer have Amy to amuse us with her habit of splurting out whatever mad thoughts popped into her head (believe me, what goes on in her head is madder than an episode of the Mighty Boosh), I can no longer tease Jourdan the smelly poop lady and I miss finding ways to cause physical and mental pain to Christina. :(

I will now await the deluge of angry accusations of foul play from the Penguins but whatever you say you three…… King Julian kicked your asses!!!! Mwwhhaaaaa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!!!

Monday, 30 November 2009

Blog of the Week!

When I started this blog I thought it would only be seen by friends and family who would just check on it every now and then to check that i'm still alive. But much to my surpise my blog appears to be finding a wider audience and this week one of my blog entries has been deemed worthy enough to be considered blog entry of the week on southafrica.to (an online travel agency). The entry in question is entitled 'Back to Work' which involved my stories about getting an upgrade from Air Namibia and my now infamous battle with a vicious warthog (which actually gets mentioned in the blog description on the site). Don't believe me?! Then check out the link below and see for yourself:


So thank you Karen from southafrica.to, I hope your readers enjoyed the blog and will keep checking in on my African adventure :)

Friday, 27 November 2009

Bella and Padme

The small cute cheetah you see below and on the left of the pic above is Bella, probably our cutest cheetah. The grumpy looking cat to the right of Bella is Padme, one of our feistiest females, second only to the infamous Xena. When Bella first came to CCF in October 2008 she was only 5 months old and was found without a mother which meant that she would not be able to learn to hunt and therefore have to stay with us for the rest of her life (cheetahs learn to hunt from their mother who they stay with for ~18 months).
Upon arrival Bella was very shy and was easily scared when approached. However, she slowly became used to her new home and started to greet myself and Kate in the way most of our cheetahs do, with hisses, spits and paw slapping. However, no matter how hard she tried Bella was just not very intimidating and only provoked myself and Kate into saying: 'ahhhh, you're so cute!' Not long before Bella arrived we had two 7 month old orphaned cheetahs come in, a brother and sister who are now known as Padme (see pic below) and Obi-Wan (yes there are lots of Star Wars fans here at CCF!). Right from the start we knew these two cats were going to be trouble as they were both very confident about coming right up to myself and Kate at feeding time and giving us a very impressive synchronised display of tough posturing. Sadly, it was soon time to seperate brother and sister and Padme was then introduced to little Bella - it has to be said we were a little apprehensive and thought Padme would eat Bella for lunch, but thankfully they hit it of immediatly.
Padme is definitely the dominant figure in this pairing and often unnecessarily picks on Bella at feeding time, smacking her out of the way and ensuring she gets her peice of meat first. However, Bella is learning from her mentor and is getting some bad ass attitude of her own and on occasion getting her own back on Padme. One day Padme got so worked up at feeding time that when she was chucked her meat she was unable to get a good grip on it and started to cause quite a commotion, Bella meanwhile was just sitting patiently beside her looking bemused. As Padme continued to make a right mess of taking her meal Bella did a sneaky double take before smacking Padme right in the face with a good right hook - this seemed to have knocked some sense into Padme who then finaly grabbed her meat and ran away with it. Seeing little Bella grow up from small shy bundle of fluff into a kick ass cheetah (as the pic below clearly demonstrates) made both myself and Kate very proud!
ahhhhh, but she is still sooooooo cute!!! :)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Goat Devil Update: Revenge!

In my previous blog you may recall me stating my intent to get revenge on the goat devil, well true to my word revenge was well and truly mine!!!! The goat devil's stay in the pen with Amos resulted in him missing his appointment with a bath full of dip. However, the dipping was re-scheduled and I was there in person to get some justice!

At first I thought the devil had used his demonic powers to escape the pen as I was unable to find him. However, the devil was found hiding like a coward under an old bakkie canopy they use for shelter - he obviusly knew what was in store for him.

I grabbed him from underneath the shelter and pulled him over to the bath of dip and turned him over onto his back where he was quickly hoisted into the air and plunged into the dip. I then thouroughly soaked him and enjoyed his screams of discomfort!
After his dipping he looked very sorry for himself and walked away sulking, knowing that he had at last met his match! Lets hope the dipping acted like a baptism and makes him turn his back on the dark side. If he doesn't then rest assured, I will be waiting to resume battle!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

4507: The Goat Devil

The creature you see above is one of our milking goats and his ear tag identifies him as number 4507. Do not be fooled, this is no ordinary goat for when you look into 4507’s eyes you are staring into the eyes of a devil……..an evil goat devil!!!!

4507 and his cohorts have been housed in a small pen designed for holding leopards near one of our cheetah pens along with Amos, one of livestock guarding dogs, who had to be removed from the goat kraal whilst some of our females were in heat (we didn’t want him mating with them just yet). So seeing as the pen was close to a cheetah pen I was tasked with feeding Amos and the goats during my daily feeding routine. I was forewarned about 4507 by our safari guide James who had a disturbing encounter with the goat devil whilst placing the goats in the pen the previous day. During the drive to the pen 4507 attacked James and tried to bit him in a man’s most vulnerable place!

With this warning in my mind I went to feed the goats for the first time. The first thing I needed to do was close a guillotine separating the goats from Amos so he could eat his food in peace. It is important to note that at this point I am now in the side with the goats (in order to collect the feeding bowl and change their water). I then handed the bowl over to a volunteer through another guillotine so they could fill it up with goat food, and it was at this moment the goat devil made his move and head butted me in the backside before jumping straight at me and onto my back. I pushed the foul beast away but back he came, grunting and trying to butt me some more. The food was finally ready so I opened the guillotine and attempted to grab the bowl when you know who jumped on me again! This time his minions joined in and I ended up being surrounded by goats as I desperately tried to pull the feeding bowl through. I eventually had hold of the bowl but my next ordeal was trying to free myself and get to a position where I could spread out the food into their feeding trough. This I was eventually able to do with some excellent dodging and weaving – Regular readers of my blog will remember that I possess ninja like skills that enabled me to overcome the ferocity of a psycho baby warthog!

I knew I was in for the same treatment the next day because when I approached the pen the goat devil was already waiting for me, standing right at the gate staring at me with evil intent! I was head butted some more and jumped on numerous times. This was the way it went for the next few days but to my horror things took a much more sinister turn and left me with no doubt that 4507 was indeed a creature from the darkest depths.

As I entered the pen I was greeted by a bloody stringy mass hanging from the guillotine and at first had no idea where it came from, however a closer inspection of the pen uncovered a poor mongoose carcass and most disturbingly it’s intestines had been removed and tied up on the fence! There could only be one conclusion drawn….the goat devil had used his satanic powers and made an animal sacrifice in order to try and get to my soul!! Later on that day a Jackal carcass was found in a tree close by our eating area and a dead hartebeest was also discovered…..coincidence? I think not!!!!!

For the last few days I have been on my guard and stopped the goat devil from carrying out any more heartless attacks. The last day I had to feed him he was especially bad, jumping on my back and trying to bite my ear off, but I had the last say as I successfully wrestled him into the back of the car and took him back to the goat kraal from whence he came. As I walked away he gave me one last evil look, but little does he know that one day soon he needs to be dipped and when that day comes I will be there to personally carry out the procedure and then true revenge will be mine!!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Goodbye General

Last week we said goodbye to one of our long term staff members and fellow Boskopian, Lazarus, aka........The General. Reasons for this nick-name should be evident from the pictures above and below. Lazarus liked to think of himself as a man of great importance here at CCF and his pimp walk has gone down as part of Namibian legend. However, in the past some concerned people have stopped him to ask if their is something wrong with his leg.

Lazarus always had conservation in his heart which is why he came dressed as an African Hunter for our ‘Predator/Prey’ theme party. So as you can see the General likes to portray himself as a bit of a tough guy, but his courage went missing one day when a small harmless bush snake came to visit our kitchen at Boskop. Upon seeing it and letting out a little scream he ran as fast as I think he has ever done in his life and locked himself in his room. He then started shouting from beyond the door begging me to kill it, like I said, conservation is in his heart! :) Don’t worry I didn’t kill it but instead opened a window and let the snake wiggle away to freedom.
Unfortunately for me Lazarus took a bit of a shine to my sister when she came to visit me in April. He is now threatening to move to England and marry her, the fact my sister already has a boyfriend doesn’t seem to bother him and is determined to become a part of my family! Lazarus, if you are reading this THAT IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!

Good luck with the new job General and just to make it absolutely clear....stay away from my sister!!!!!!!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

The Four Scientists

Ok, so you may have noticed that I have devoted a lot of my blog space to Xena, the Greatest Cheetah in world. However, we do have many other cheetahs and althouh they are not as great as Xena they still deserve some attention. So I thought I would start introducing you to some of our other resident cats.

The cats you see in the pic above are collectively known as the Four Scientists - the menacing looking charactor to the right is Livingston, next to him is Fossie, the cat at his feet with the big white tip at the end of his tail is Darwin and finally we have Mendel at the back. Ok, so not all of those names belong to Scientists but the name has a good ring to it!

The Scientists live in a 5 hectare pen in Bellebenno which means they have to suffer being right next door to 17 beautifull female cheetahs that they can't get too! Also, much to their annoyance the boys are on a diet at the moment as they had to be housed in a smaller pen whilst Emma, Minja and Jacomina used their pen for their training (see previous blog). This meant we couldn't exercise them as much as they were used to - the result was four very chubby scientists! So for the last couple of weeks their food has been halved and they are being made to really earn their food by running the entire length of their pen. Their new regime is working and they are slowly regaining their figures.

The four boys get on famously for most of the time; the exceptions are when it comes down to food and women! Fossie unfortunately ended up with a swollen eye after coming to blows with his coalition mates whilst competing over the attention of Rosy and Misty who had just returned from NamibRand and were being kept in the holding pen directly opposite them. He looked pretty sorry for himself for a while but he soon made a full recovery and was back to scrapping for food at the next feed.

Mendel is definitely the boss closely followed by Livingston who is the one scientist who really likes to give his keepers a hard time by acting like a right punk, coming as close as he can and hissing and spitting in their faces. Darwin is the most relaxed and often just lies down and watches the others getting all worked up trying to prove how macho they are.

So, thats the Scientists......just another 47 cats to go!

Monday, 28 September 2009

Xena: the Greatest Cheetah in the World!

Those of you who are regular visitors to my blog will know that I have a particular soft spot for a very special cheetah named Xena!

Xena used to be housed along with 3 other females Jacomina, Emma and Minja as previously mentioned in a previous blog entitled ‘One hell of a crappy week’. In that blog you may recall me talking about our failed attempt to release these girls in the big Bellbenno pen with 13 other females. However, after several months of intense training Jacomina, Minja and Emma have learnt to come when called and chase after the feeding bakkie for their food (Xena had learnt all of this many months ago!). So myself and Kate thought it was time to make a second attempt at letting the girls into the big pen and we are very pleased to say that it has been a great success! Xena of course came for feeding on the very first day, but it took the other 3 girls a couple of days to settle in, but since then they have all started to come to feed regularly and even chase after the car. So we now have 17 cats in the Bellebenno pen and Xena and co now have 50 hectares of land to play in.
Seeing as we could leave the new girls in the pen this time we could now place their name signs at the entrance to the pen but to my horror I realised that Xena was the only cat without a sign! This just would not do, there was no way I was going to stand having every other cats name at the gate without Xena’s!!! So I took it upon myself to take one of our old signs and glue on laminated letters, with an extra note informing whoever enter the pen, be they tourist or staff that Xena is the greatest cheetah in the world!
Since the move Xena appears to have ditched Emma, Minja and Jacomina who have still remained a very tight coalition and are often found together in the same area. Xena is often found in the same area with Luna, and often joins up with the other regular girls when we are running them. Xena is a beautiful runner and is not intimidated by the other girls one bit and I am sure it wont be long before she establishes herself as the top cheetah in the Bellebenno pen!

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Little Matt

So my mum has ordered me to update my blog as every time she checks it the first picture she sees is the upturned car that almost killed me so I thought I’d better obey orders. Little Matt is not a nick name for a certain part of my body but is the name we gave to one of our recent volunteers who has earned this great honour of having a whole blog dedicated to him!

Now you may notice that Lil Matt is actually taller than me but the name indicates a difference in status, I am after all a rather important person around here don’t you know (those of you chuckling at that comment can go suck on a particularly sour lemon covered in paper thorns!).

Not only does he have cool name (which means ‘A gift from God’ by the way) but this young American whipper snapper has been one of those rare volunteers that we really wish we could clone as he never complained and got stuck in with whatever we asked of him and worked like a machine. His enthusiasm for the wildlife we have here was infectious although I resisted copying his desire to run after every living creature and groping it. Lil Matt unfortunately had to be pulled out of several holes where terrified animals had run to seek refuge. Alas some poor creatures failed to escape and were made to pose for a picture.

Lil Matt became the first student at Magic Matt’s Driving School! Matt has a licence but wanted to learn how to drive a manual/stick, you see in America you can pass your test on an automatic and still legally drive a manual (yes I know, but we are talking about a country that elected a man dumber than a poorly trained gibbon as president…..twice). At the beginning Lil Matt was like a nervous toddler learning to ride a bike without stabilisers but under my expert tutorage (suck on that lemon again chucklers!) Lil Matt blossomed to a road competent manual driver…..just!!! :)

Lil Matt was also the co-creator of what will soon become a cultural phenomenon – a game that requires skill, courage and cunning and goes by the name of “You’ve been Billied!” I will not go into too much detail as this requires a blog all to itself! So be sure to keep checking in on the African Adventure!

Good luck with school Matt, we already miss you and hope our paths do cross again! Just please try and stay away from creatures that could kill you and be safe on those roads! :)

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

An Unforgettable Weekend

The weekend in question started on Saturday the18th of July which was the day of our annual fund raising gala in Windhoek. It was an event we had been looking forward to as it gave us a chance to spend some time away from CCF and dress up in cloths not covered in donkey blood. I went to a lot of effort to pick an outfit that would dazzle and amaze and I think in the end I looked pretty groovy with pin-stripe trousers, a smart white shirt, pink tie and a black vest. However, the element that really tied the outfit together was my super cool trilby hat, and although some people who have no sense of style took a dislike to it I believe the evidence speaks for itself, the hat rocked! Remember, my sense of style has been endorsed by a man who has met the Hoff!!!

It has to be said that everyone scrubbed up rather well, especially my fellow keeper Kate who looked fantastic, whaaaa whaaaa weeee wahhhh (I can say that as we are a couple if you hadn’t already worked that out!). The evening itself went well; the food was great a few drinks were had and a lot of smoozing was done. So the next morning started positively, myself and Kate had an AMAZING breakfast at the lodge we were staying at. As well as the normal breakfast stuff - eggs, bacon, sausages etc there was also chicken wings, meatballs and mushrooms in a cheesy sauce, everything on offer was mmmmm mmmmm! After brekkie we headed back to the posh hotel where the gala was held to finish cleaning up and we were soon packed up and ready to go. The car we were in, one of CCF’s Toyota Hilux’s was scheduled to be the first car back to CCF as we had no other errands to run, so we were eagerly joined by Ryan, Rob and Leigh. Kate was driving and normally I would have offered the front seat to Rob who has much longer legs than me but I had developed a headache and didn’t want to be crammed in the back, so I declined to offer – this act of uncharacteristic selfishness would actually turn out to be a good decision for Rob!

So we headed back towards Okahandja and were looking forward to getting back and having a relaxed Sunday afternoon. However, at just before 12pm something happened that I will remember for the rest of life and is the reason why I haven’t updated my blog in a long while. We were driving on the main road at 120kph and ahead of us we could see a car of to the side of the road moving slowly, as if he was picking up speed to pull out onto the road AFTER we had passed him. But no, as we approached him he violently pulled out into the road directly in front of us; Kate had no option but to swerve to avoid him, driving onto the other side of the road and it’s a good job she did because if we had hit him then I would not be talking to you right now. Kate then corrected the car but and at that speed it was inevitable that we would start to slide and slide we did. At this point many expletives could be heard from myself and my fellow passengers. The car slid completely around and we slid of the side of the road, for a split second I thought we would just slide to a halt however, the next thing I know there is a loud crash and I am upside down. The following seconds were the scariest of my life as the car continued to tumble for what seemed like an age. We actually tumbled 2 and a half times before a wire fence stopped us and brought us to a sudden halt upside down.

Immediately after the car stopped, hanging upside down by my seatbelt, I felt unbelievable relief that I was still breathing only to have it quickly wiped out by the concern for everyone else. At this point the car was filled with shouts of: ‘Are you ok?!’ and ‘I’m OK!”. Thankfully everyone responded and we then began evacuating ourselves from the car, which for myself and Kate meant crawling along the roof and into the back of the car as our windows had been significantly crushed. As we emerged we shared a few hugs and noticed that the canopy had come of the bakkie and had thrown all of our bags and stuff from the gala all over the place. By now several cars had stopped and we were being met by very worried people asking if we were ok. Two of them happened to be a Canadian couple who are paramedics who actually saw us go of the road and had rushed to us with first aid kits. They looked at us in stunned amazement that we had all survived with only bumps and minor cuts and scratches. Looking at the car we were also amazed, one thing’s for sure if we were not wearing our seatbelts we would have been done for so let that be a lesson to everyone, wear your seatbelt!!! The front of the car where I and Kate were sitting took the most beating and if Rob had been sitting where I had been he just may have come out of it a lot worse due to him being much taller.

The rest of our CCF convoy soon joined us and more hugs were shared, we then began the process of picking up all of our belongings and I soon found my bag and discovered that my camera and laptop had taken fatal hits, but I was strangely not bothered, probably due to the fact that I felt glad to be alive to realise they had been broken. However, my ipod survived intact! Those of your familiar with my fantastic music collection and my extensive playlists for any occasion will know what a blessing to the world that is :)

Soon an ambulance arrived. I had begun to notice that my head was really hurting and noticed a lump on the right side of my head (probably caused by bumping heads with Kate). My lump was not as bad as the humdinger Kate had though as she whacked it pretty good against the window as we started to roll. So Kate and I ended up in the back of the ambulance, my head pain was probably due to the headache I had before but I was sent just in case. We ended up at Okahandja hospital where we were reminded that we were in Africa and health care is not what we are used to! We were ‘assessed’ by a ‘doctor’ who was wearing jeans and a t-shirt and appeared not too pleased to be sent to see us. After hearing our story and taking our blood pressure we were handed……paracetamal! So after that expert assessment we were picked up and made our way back to Otjiwarongo where there was a much better Medi-Clinic that was covered by our medical insurance. There we were seen by a proper doctor, Kate was given a neck brace, Rob got his foot bandaged which was badly sprained and I at this point felt much better and was given the all clear. Needless to say we were all very glad to finally arrive home at Boskop where we were welcomed by very hungry dogs. The next day was spent recuperating at Boskop where the adrenaline rush I must have had after the crash had well and truly worn of and I woke up with aching limbs, a headache and the chills, which lasted all day. Rob’s foot was hurting a lot and Kate’s neck and shoulder was causing her pain. Ryan and Leigh meanwhile were suffering from similar ailments back at CCF and all of us shared the problem of repeating the incident in our heads over and over again. However, it’s been a couple of weeks since the accident and we are all on the up, I have actually caused myself more injury outside of a tumbling car. I pulled muscles in my shoulder and neck whilst simply turning over in bed and I then stabbed myself in the head with my Leatherman whilst fixing a fence. Whether the accident was partially to blame or it’s just because I’m a clumsy idiot I’ll leave it up to you to decide!

So in conclusion, the whole experience is one I hope never to have to go through again. However, it has put things in perspective and over the last two weeks the air has smelt sweeter, the African landscape has looked more beautiful and food has tasted that little bit better. Although I’m sure it won’t be too long before human nature takes over and I’ll think the world is coming to an end when its tuna for lunch and Liverpool loose their next match! But for now, it’s GREAT TO BE ALIVE!!!!!! :)

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Matt and Kate's NamibRand Adventure!

So here is a bit of background before I tell my tale of magical adventure far beyond the boundaries of CCF. NamibRand is a large nature reserve in southern Namibia where 5 of our male captive cats were released over a year ago, the release of this coalition was the subject of the infamous British documentary entitled ‘Cheetah Man’ which you may have seen recently on the world respected…….. Chanel 5. When the boys were first released they wandered beyond the reserve’s boundaries and strayed onto a neighbouring farm killing a prize winning breeding ram…..not good. So in an attempt to keep the boys in the reserve we sent two of our females down to act as bait. The girls in question were Rosy and Misty and their feminine charms worked a treat and they have kept the boy’s interest for many months. However, the boys have since become excellent hunters and should have learnt that they can make a good living by staying in the reserve. So it was time for Rosy and Misty to come home which required both cats to be placed into transport boxes, a task that requires people of great skill, experience and courage. Therefore myself and Kate were sent on our way to bring the girls home to CCF.

Hearing the news that BOTH of us were allowed to leave CCF at the same time and travel several 100kms away was very exiting!! It almost seemed too good to be true and we only truly believed it was happening the moment we drove past the final CCF gate and into Otjiwarongo. We had a good 10 hours of driving ahead us but despite the fact that we were late leaving CCF we still had to go to Kamel Dorn for breakfast and for me that meant having the best cheese burger in the world! After a hearty breakfast and stocking up with supplies for the trip we were finally on our way south to NamibRand complete with two cheetah boxes on the back of the bakkie. It also meant that Kate would have to spend American independence day (otherwise known as British generosity day) with an englishman. Most satisfying! ha ha :)
We successfully navigated our way across Namibia, taking turns to drive and arrived at NamibRand at 5.30pm where we were immediately greeted by our host James and his father. James has been monitoring the boys for over 6 months and had been looking after Rosy and Misty for us. Our accommodation was extremely nice and we couldn’t stop smiling as we stood outside and looked around at our surroundings, the view was breathtaking, vast open grassland with huge hills all around us. That evening was spent enjoying a couple of ciders and catching up with James who was a great host by cooking us up some tasty Oryx meat on the braii.

Our first full day in NamibRand began with saying hello to Rosy and Misty again and making a plan for how best to box them the following day. After that we went radio tracking in an attempt to find another of our cats that had been recently released in the reserve. Shanti and her sister Tisha were released together a couple of months ago and sadly Tisha was killed by a Spotted Hyena (we had also been tasked with bringing her body back to CCF). Shanti has proven to be a good hunter and has been surviving well on her own; however, James had been unable to locate her for over a week and was concerned. It is thought that the only reasons he can’t pick up a signal from her collar is that she may have strayed far beyond the reserve or her collar has broken due to an extreme drop in temperature. We searched for her all day but with no luck. James has since radio tracked in the air but was unsuccessful, so all we can do now is hope that she is out there somewhere enjoying life as a wild cheetah.

The morning of our second full day began with a meeting with the 5 boys who are now celebrities and part of CCF legend. One of the boys, Ra had recently had a fight with a leopard and had picked up some injuries. James wanted me and Kate to have a look and get our opinion. It took no time at all to find them as they were sat under a bush just 100 metres away from the house where we were staying. It was great to finally see them and they looked great. Ra still had a slight limp but didn’t appear in too bad a way.
The rest of the morning was spent looking for Shanti and exploring the reserve. The highlight was an area known as the ‘Waterfall’ which is tucked between two rock faces and is where, as the name suggests, a waterfall can be found. Being the dry season the waterfall itself wasn’t very spectacular but the surrounding area was an amazing place to be, full of huge boulders and crevices and myself and Kate had a great time climbing around and exploring. It was leopard paradise and we saw many tracks and even some blood on the rocks where one had recently made a kill. So in the spirit of the leopard we then climbed up a nearby tree and had our lunch. It was a FANTASTIC morning and one of the highlights of my time here in Namibia.
Thanks to Rosy and Misty however, the afternoon was completely different! The pen the two cats were in was not designed for boxing cheetahs so James and the NamibRand staff had done a great job in doing a quick build and had prepared a small holding area and put a trap cage in place (from previous experience we knew Rosy and Misty would not go straight into the box). Things started well enough, Rosy was tempted into the holding pen no problem and she walked straight into the trap cage where we then closed the guillotine and enclosed her inside. But this is where the fun began.

We placed the box at the end of the trap cage and in a lot of cases the cat just walks in, but not this time. If a cat does decide not to cooperate we can usually slide a panel across to force them in but this was a trap cage and not a squeeze cage so that was not an option. So then began an exhausting period of trying to persuade Rosy into the box, we tried tempting her with meat, poking her with sticks, chucking water over her and making loud noises at her. None of which worked and was horrible to do as the last thing we wanted to do was stress her out. Finally she placed half of her body into the box, I slowly slid down the door until it was resting on her back and with some more poking with sticks her backside disappeared into the box and I quickly slid the door down the rest of the way. We were all extremely relieved!

By now the sun was getting very low in the sky and we thought we’d at least get Misty into the small holding area, but no, Misty decided to hide under a bush and was not coming out. So we were left with no option but to abandon our efforts for the day and try again first thing in the morning. So we got up just before the sunrise and headed over to the pen praying that Misty would be kind and just walk in the box, we really didn’t want to leave that morning with only one cat! Thankfully things went much more smoothly, she didn’t walk in but we had her in the box within 20 minutes. With mission accomplished it was sadly time to load up the boxes onto the bakkie and leave, we would have gladly stayed for much longer but we had to get Rosy and Misty back home as soon as possible, they had a long drive ahead of them.

We took a different route on the way back as it involved less gravel roads and would therefore be a slightly more pleasant ride for the cats. The route also took us high up on a plateau that provided yet more stunning views. Driving with two cheetahs on the back of our car guarantied we turned a few heads and we received plenty a strange look, especially when we had to stop of at a bottle store and buy a large quantity of ice to keep the body of a dead cheetah cool that we had with us in the back seat! We arrived back at CCF about 7.30pm and the ice thankfully did the job and we didn’t suffer a stinky ride. We had to leave the poor cats locked up in the barn over night and needless to say they looked very happy when we did let them out of the boxes the following morning! So Rosy and Misty are back home and doing well, time will tell how the other Bellebenno girls will react when they meet up with their old pen mates again, there could be some very interesting battles for dominance!

In conclusion me and Kate had a flippin amazing time and can’t wait till we can go back!!