Greetings to you all, hope all is well, I'm back! Arrived back to drive on Monday, a little earlier than usual, but I guess there is no rest for the wicked!
I returned early as we were a little stretched at the lodge and this would also mean that I'd be without Jacky for a couple days, my solo début. Flying solo doesn't come without its challenges, first up is the ever present danger, let me rephrase that, ever present embarrassment, of getting lost. This is only amplified with the sun going down. Although Jacky wasn't physically with me he was still taking care of me and amongst organising my vehicle, he went to the effort to arrange me a smaller, lighter spot light, so it would be easier to drive and shine the light, and my arm wouldn't get as tired as if I was carrying the standard spot.
All organised, I was off. I did have the advantage of a sighting from the morning of ten wild dog that I headed straight for as I thought this would be a good way to start off. After navigating my way there I found the sight with relative ease, “this wasn't to bad, I can do this”.
So with the confidence boosted I left the dogs as they became mobile, I wanted to respond to Mbali who had been found not far away. As I approached the sight however they lost her in the thick reeds in the riverbed that she was making her way along, hmm, “ what would Jacky do?” I decided to drive around to the opposite bank and took a chance that she would reappear in the vicinity of where she was last seen. As I rounded a corner, I could hear a number of birds alarm calling off towards the river bank, confidence still running high, I proceeded to tell my guests that the birds alarm calling meant that she was there and it was only a matter of minutes before we would find her. Driving off the road and into the thick bush to the source of the birds alarm and my crowning glory, I came up empty handed or should that be headed! The birds were still going crazy but there was no sign of a leopard. I looked up into the trees to locate the birds and hopefully a direction for their distress, at which I found a small Pearl Spotted Owl and thus the direction and reason for all the commotion, “what the chances!”
Leaving the area ego somewhat deflated I did not venture far before deciding that I would take sundowners on a ridge above the river that allowed us to keep an eye out and hopefully afford me the chance to regain my now flailing ego. Drinks passed without any luck and now I had the added joy of having to drive and operate the spot light while still operating the radio and looking for game, I don't know how the self-catering camp guys do it. Unbeknown to us Irish Luck was with us and as we approached the dam up river from where we had drinks there in our spot light stood a male leopard on the dam wall. As we approached he got mobile slowly towards a drainage line and an area of very thick vegetation, at this point the thought did cross my mind that these leopards were “taking the mickey,” so not allowing them to get the better of me I followed. This is when things got interesting! I was now no longer on the road and heading in who knows what direction, so the potential for getting lost was almost a guarantee, added to this I was trying to direct other stations to the sight, never an easy thing when you don't know where you are yourself. To make life easier I had dropped the spot light into my lap, as I was trying to talk on the radio and navigate through some pretty thick bush scattered with the more than occasional boulder. Somewhere along the way I mentioned to my guests that I had the faint whiff of something burning to which they replied they had also picked up on it, this little mystery quickly exposed itself as an ever increasing heat spread from my lap and down my legs! OK, so maybe smothering a high powered spot light in your lap is not the “brightest” of ideas! I guess we were, know I definitely was, paying wildlife tax and after avoiding a somewhat very embarrassing incident, our male leopard took a seat in a small clearing allowing us a couple minutes great viewing. Once he decided our fare was up he stood and got mobile again, it was also our cue while vaguely remembering where we came from to embark on our next adventure, A Way Out!