First Trip of the Year
Journal of a Professional Reptile Catcher
Well this one was a little more exciting. As usual I started off by not knowing an exact departure date in advance. So after a late night telephone call, the next day was spent trying to get tickets, packed, sorted out, and all those things that one tends to leave till the last minute. I got to the Air Madagascar office late in the afternoon as the "riot" police were setting up for the demonstrations. The next morning at five AM I was up, and off to the airport. When I arrived in Johannesburg I overheard a couple of people discussing the "demonstrations", one of them got a whiff of tear gas, her claim to fame I guess. But to me it makes more sense, that when you come across demonstrations, to head in the opposite direction, works for me. As usual I was met at the airport by a mate, but I informed him straight away that I was on antibiotics and was not drinking. He was taken aback, but there was no choice, he would have to get inebriated without me. Which he did, it is a totally different scene being the only sober person, instead of the most drunk. Seeing as it was nice warm weather, we headed off to the Vaal river to visit someone. The guy's brother in law is one of those people with more money to buy toys, than time to use them. The garage was full of jet skis, and quad motorcycles. But on the river was a boat with wall to wall carpeting, inboard motor, and an excellent stereo system. So we spent some time just seeing how well the boat handled, after the sun went down we retired to the heated pool and a B.B.Q/Braai. Sometimes life is so difficult :)) But I had to cut the fun short and head to Uganda the next morning. The guy who met me at the airport was late, which set the course to what was to come. The next day I started packing a shipment for Richard, the guy I work for. I started doing the venomous snakes first, some nice Atheris, and Forest Cobras. But whilst putting a Jameson's Green Mamba, that was unship able, back in it's box I was tagged. Stupidity really, I should learn not to expect help from these people. So twenty four hours later I was out of the clinic, though not quite on my feet so to speak. I sat it out with a compressive bandage rather than take the antivenin. Whole body numbness, jerky legs, and a general feeling of highness. I spent the next few days trying to see where the exporter was in his husbandry knowledge. I wanted to then go to Mount Elgon to see Chamaeleo hoehnelii, but time was not on my side. So I headed back to the South West of Uganda, where the Mountain Gorillas are found. Another trip passes and I still have not seen the Gorillas, though I have been in the National Parks where they live. It costs $150 USD for a ticket to see them, that sort of money I just never seem to find at the right time. Though I did get to see Chamaeleo johnstoni from another population outside of the Rwenzori mountains. They appear to be a more sky blue colour, and live in disturbed habitat. I was right next to Lake Bunyonyi where Mr Schraml had found some interesting cichlids, but alas as usual I was unable to go "fishing". The driver I had the use of was so experienced, I think he had never driven a car before. Where you are supposed to go right, he went left, when he was supposed to go left, he went right. Potholes a hundred metres ahead, in full view, were hit head on at 100 km/hr. Not got for the vehicle. He even hit a cyclist on the return journey, needless to say he is not working for the exporter anymore. I had use of a VERY old Land Rover, that needed fixing before I left, then again half way through the trip, and on the return as well. You go through a lot of petrol when there is a hole in the fuel tank. Anyway I also went back to the Rwenzori mountains, again the park was not open due to rebel activity, so I was unable to climb up into the mountains themselves. But I sat around for a coupe of hours while the locals collected a few chameleons, and I took a few more photographs. I arrived back in Kampala in time to pack another export. I photographed everything before hand, and as per usual when I needed help there was none. I wanted to photograph a Jameson's Green Mamba, which was not too co-operative, I had it by the tail and asked for a hook, and asked, and asked, eventually I turned my head to see why a hook was not forthcoming, only to get bitten on the upper thigh for my trouble. Luckily I had plenty of antibodies floating around. So the only effect was a very sore thigh, a general feeling of weakness and a splitting headache. I was able to pack the export a couple of days after no problem, except by the time everyone got their act together the freight department had closed. So I worked ALL day for nothing. I also did a couple of side trips not too far from Kampala to see so Atheris hispida, and Great Blue Turacos. I also organised some Turacos, Hornbills, Barbets, and Crested Guinea Fowl for myself. Unfortunately they have not arrived yet, maybe in a week or so. Luckily I could return to South Africa for some R&R. Another day on the Vaal river, supposedly to learn skiing, but alas we came across a group of friends having a party, this time I was not on antibiotics so joined in the fun. Though when I went to the clinic in Kampala for the snake bite, I found out that I had Guardia, and Bilharzias. The joys of living in the tropics. I spent a week in Johannesburg stocking up my stomach in restaurants, and buying supplies to bring home. South Africa is very cheap in comparison to other parts of Africa, and the world. The locals just do not understand how well they live, on so little. I arrived in Antananarivo to notice from the plane that it had been raining a little while I was away. Tana looked liked a lake full of islands from the air. The world's news organisations just seem to forget about Madagascar. Last year when the floods hit Mozambique, people were not informed that the cyclones passed through Madagascar before they got to Mozambique. Ah well, it just goes to show how relatively peaceful Madagascar is, that it does not even hit the news. I arrived home to over a thousand emails, and some welcome magazines in the post box. Though as usual the "Reptiles" magazine has gone astray, in one year I get three issues, but get ALL other mail, I have heard of others having the same problem in Europe. Well hope you enjoyed. If I missed responding to an email just remind me.