The recorded ramblings of an unschooled writer, aspiring biologist, amateur equestrian, ardent bookworm, avid music appreciator, increasingly addicted runner and college student spending the summer in Ely, MN.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

We're going on a leopard hunt...

October 22, 2009

Unlike, my usual journaling, this actually isn’t happening at night. We’ve had a few hours of quiet time after an absolutely fabulous morning, so I’m using some of it to write.

I woke up around five this morning and though the leopard hunting group was supposed to be composed of nearly half of the wanifunzi, only Anton, Zach, Heather, Michael and I actually showed up. We are kind of the group of usual suspects when it comes to partaking in extra outdoor activities.

Though we saw no leopards and only two sets of glowing eyes (one belonging to a small duiker of some sort, and the other we think possibly to a smaller forest cat), it was an incredible walk. My favorite part was when it started to get just a little bit light and we were able to switch off our headlamps and try to walk as quietly as possible. I used my camera a bit, shooting by headlamp, cameralight and moonlight, so much of it probably won’t come out, but the bit that does is likely to be quiet hilarious and Blair Witch Project like in style – lots of semi-frightened whispering and shaking of the camera due to the fact that I was filming, walking and giggling all at the same time.

We all really wanted to see a leopard, but also admitted to each other that we would all be absolutely terrified if that were to happen! We’re going to go again tomorrow and have asked Daudi (with his wildlife expertise and spotlight) to come with us and help us find things – I can’t wait!

After an hour at camp for a break and breakfast, we headed out with the whole gang to hike to a waterfall. We left at around 8 and returned around 2 after spending an hour hanging out at said waterfall, so it was a pretty healthy hike, especially given that we haven’t been doing much physically lately. I enjoyed it so much. The waterfall is a place that has been seen by very, very few wazungu eyes and I felt so privileged to be there. Some of us went swimming/splashing/wading in and around the waterfall. Quite a few people tried, but Kai, Anton, Beto, Zach, Heather and I were definitely the most enthusiastic and were in the water until we were all just about blue and shaking nearly uncontrollably (except for Kai, because he really is a marine mammal). I especially loved standing under the waterfall – when I stood under the main part of the spray I could barely stay upright because it was pounding so hard – I definitely staggered backwards into Kai more than once or just grabbed onto whoever happened to be nearby. The water was so cold that towards the end it actually started to feel warm and I was in a ridiculously giddy sort of mood.

I was so cold on the hike back home, even with all of my layers and some of Rachel’s on (she being smart and not going for a dip in the waterfall) and am now just finally warm. The nap helped too – I think with the combination of 6 or 7 hours hiking and an hour in freezing cold water really knocked me out, which is great. I have been sleeping terribly here and I now know its just because I’m not tired enough at night. My favorite feeling is when at the end of the day I am so exhausted that I feel like I can’t take another step and I’m out before my head even hits the pillow (or backpack, in this case, I don’t have a pillow, so I’ve been using the clothes containing section of my pack). When I get home, the rest of my winter break is going to be like boot camp – I can’t wait for running, riding and all day hikes with the Labradog and friends.

The best way that I can describe today is to say that it was absolutely awe inspiring. Despite all of the terrible things that people have done to the natural world, it is incredible that we’ve done enough things right to still have places like the waterfall. It makes me more than ever want to what I can to make sure that I’m living in a way that is environmentally responsible, and to remember that even when I go back to the US, what a messy business living really is.

In the US, I feel like we try to make things so clean and sterile we often forget where they really come from. Meat doesn’t come from an animal, but rather from a Styrofoam package in the grocery store. Water doesn’t come from a well or a river (or a waterfall), but from a tap that can be turned from hot to cold at will. Even the problem of waste isn’t an issue, as all toilets flush and its simply carried away. I don’t think that its bad we have so many inventions to make life easier (and believe me, I do appreciate them when they are available!), but I do think its sad that they let us forget or just fail to notice at all the whole “circle of life” thing, you know?

I really encourage all of my younger barn chums and friends to talk to your parents about some way for you to travel to a developing nation, whether its for volunteer work or a study abroad in high school or college. I’m really looking at some many things from an entirely new perspective.

I don’t feel that going off to college (even when I went across the country for my freshman year) really changed me as a person in any lasting ways, but traveling to East Africa certainly has!

Well, I better get going – I its time to go set out the mist nest and catch birds again!
-Hill!

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