Wednesday, January 4, 2012

time to go again

I’m always a little sad during my last few days of a Harnas trip. Tuesday night at dinner, I suddenly started crying over my food. No explanation to Johannes, my server, needed. He just gave me a hug and said he understood. He’s seen it a hundred times before with guests and volunteers alike. He just said, “I will look forward to the day when you return to Harnas.” That made me cry more.

I try to make the most of my last days. On Tuesday afternoon I took a walk with several volunteers that I especially like and three baboons that I’m fairly fond of. We walked through the bush while the baboons ate berries, explored, and took a ride on our heads—as in this picture. Sometimes they were sweet, giving kisses, and a couple of times they took a ride on their mood swings and tried to bite us. Generally, we forgive them for the latter. They’re baboons, after all, and live a manic life.

Today, walking across the lapa lawn, I saw a strange sight: a baby crocodile—about two feet from head to toe—was trying to get INTO the adult croc enclosure and had gotten his head, front legs and part of his belly through the chain link fence and then gotten stuck. The big croc—nine feet in length and scary--had his long mouth around the head of the baby croc, pulling him through. He could have beheaded the baby with ease, but seemed to be trying to HELP the youngster. Apparently the little one had gotten out of the baby pen and decided to join the two adults. Odd situation. What was actually happening here?

Of course I called for help. Gabriel, one of the bartenders, came running and we tried to decide what to do. I grabbed the tail of the baby and pulled him back—out of the mouth of the adult—and then Gabriel picked him up by the tail (brave man—flashing teeth and anger emanating from the little one) and carried him back to the baby pond and deposited him there with his siblings. Then we looked at each other and laughed. You just never know at Harnas what will happen. Rescue a baby croc? Just part of the morning routine.

This afternoon I visited my new love, Atheno, and asked a volunteer to take some pictures of the two of us cuddling. This picture is my favorite. I’m going to miss this boy. Just how do you tell an animal that you have to leave—to go back to work to make money so you can visit again? I’m sure I don’t know.

My heart breaks every time I leave Harnas. Tomorrow morning I begin the return. Thanks for taking this journey with me again. I appreciate all my readers and especially the ones who leave comments. Until the next time—B

Monday, January 2, 2012

this and that

It’s been a slow couple of days here—just enjoying the peace and quiet of the new year and spending time with my favorite babies.

I finally went back out to find Pride again—hoping she wouldn’t have just made a kill, so I could cuddle with her. Sure enough, we found her lounging under a camelthorne tree. As soon as we came into her sight, she started purring. She was affectionate and cuddly—amazing that one minute she’s a natural born killer and the next she’s licking the faces of her human companions and purring up a storm. She truly a wonderful cat who has proved to all that wild animals brought up by humans CAN be returned to the wild.

Yesterday, I took two new volunteers out in the late afternoon (it was soooo hot—it’s been over 100 degrees several days in a row) with the two 3-legged caracals for a walk in the wild. You’d think they couldn’t go very fast with only 3 legs, but they can really move when they want to. The heat kept them down a bit, though, and they spent most of their time moving from one shady tree to the next.

Here’s a great shot of one of the baby leopards resting, legs slung over the wooden log, hanging. This is how they sleep in the trees. Their balance is astounding. They look so carefree, but about two seconds after I took this, Gabana was up and flying through the air to land gracefully on his sister, Dolce. They move so fast and soundlessly. I can see, even in these babies, why they’re the stealthiest hunters in the wild. Nobody would see or hear a leopard coming.

Only a couple of days left. It’s been a great trip.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


I hope everyone had a good New Year’s Eve. It was wonderful here.

Marieta had the Bushman set up long tables out on the grass the lapa area and the cheetah enclosures (I'm sure the cats were a bit confused all night). All afternoon, they roasted three sheep and twelve chickens on spits over fires and the kitchen people prepared a feast of side dishes. Spotlights and candles were set up all over, and someone worked as a disc jockey near what used to be the outdoor dining area but what became for one evening our dance floor.

Around seven guests and volunteers began arriving. The volunteers had decided the theme was a masquerade ball, and they had all made masks decorated with whatever they could find. Feathers from the aviary were popular—as was some glitter from the children’s school. This picture shows a group of them showing off their masks.

Before dinner the Bushman children did a series of African dances to entertain us. No music--just handclapping in various rhythms--like their own sets of drums. They were so great—had on traditional costumes and really stomped and clapped their way into my heart.

Lots of eating, drinking, and laughing all evening, and then there was dancing under the stars for hours. Finally, at what we agreed was midnight (there was no Dick Clark and a lighted ball in Times Square), we all stood in a circle and counted down from ten. It was a memorable way to bring in 2012—a New Year’s that will stand out in all our memories as beautiful and fun and a bit exotic.

Today everyone looks a little worse for the wear, but we all agreed it might be our favorite New Year’s celebration ever. It’s hard to top dancing under the African stars while the lions roar in the distance.