so then came the game count. we had a long drive to wereldsend (world's end, literally), going by twyfelfontain, a nice area with posh lodges and some rock carvings. we visited the carvings and then stuffed our faces at a restaurant and drank cold guava juice, hadn't had a real meal or refreshing drink in days.
we arrive at the group camp, which is home to the save the rhino trust, and a bunch of local NGO's. we set up our tents in this nice shady area and waited for some other folk who never showed up. a few hours later a pickup arrives with about 12 people stuffed in the back like cows or sheep. they unload a whole bunch of crap, tents, mattresses, bags...and half of an animal. they said it was zebra, but it was actually gemsbok, you can tell from the hoof. (this made me wonder how reliable they would be for the game count. then again, i still don't know the difference between a cheetah and a leopard, and i still call rhinos hippos). they put it on a table and hacked at it with machetes for a while, and then lit a fire and cooked it in these giant iron cauldrons. they offered me some, but if the best time to get diarrhea is during a game of scrabble, then the worst time is riding in the back of a pickup truck for 6 hours in the bush with strangers. i politely declined.after dinner we had a group meeting about what would happen during the game count, how we would split up into groups etc...i met my team, #4 and we planned our early departure of 6 am the next morning. i went to bed, and they stayed up late and sang and laughed and talked around the fire pretty much all nite so i was quite dead at 5 am. i was sick of the caffeine withdrawal headaches and went over to their site and asked for coffee, holding my cup out like a beggar. instant ricoffy. no milk. i took a good shot of it and hopped into the truck, the sun barely over the horizon. it was rrrrreally cold.at our starting point we went over our tasks and set off, driving 35 mph through these bumpy rock roads looking for wildlife taking notes on distance from the road and numbers. these guys had crazy eagle eyes, picking out lone springbok on a far away hill, whereas i was all, ooh! look over there! and would be pointing at donkeys. the weather slowly warmed up, and i peeled off layers until i was sweating through my t-shirt and getting a nice farmer's tan.
there was nothing soft to sit on in the back of the pickup, and my ass was being pounded into the metal wheel well, which, someone had managed to spill a liter of coffee on. sometimes i would stand and hold onto the side window of the cab and try to surf out the bumps, but would almost always get thrown out whenever we hit a good one. the coveted spot in the back is in the spare tire. it's not attached to anything so it bounces around a fair bit, but it's like your very own bumper car, with some extra cush for the tush.
everyone had their tupperware of leftover meat from the previous night's feast, and were munching on bones and ribs throughout the drive. sometime around 11 am, we started stopping a lot more, and guys were running behind euphorbia bushes with rolls of toilet paper and coming back rubbing their bellies, shaking their heads: the international sign for i shouldn't have eaten that sketchy meat. toldja so!oddly enough though, as we saw all this amazing wildlife, and even as guys were pooping and puking behind bushes, i have to say i was often thinking which animal would taste the best, and which one i would order upon our return to joe's in windhoek. the springbok is tasty and tender, a small agile animal. but what next? i decided on the gemsbok, the georgeous oryx, which are hands down the coolest, with their tv antennae horns and swishy tails: kudu looks too horselike and muscular, and i've already had zebra, which was just like a big hunky steak. coulda been beef.
we also saw some giraffes. this my first giraffe!we made a lot of random stops, which is totally against game count protocol, but whatever, i wasn't one to say anything. we stopped at a place that had all this bloody meat hanging, and i guess they were arranging the next day's meal. we stopped at some farm when the lady in our group had to go do her duty, and couldn't handle being behind the bushes anymore i guess. these people at the farm had a million goats. there was one pen full of the babies and another full of adults. i was checking them out, petting a cat, taking pictures when woah, one of those goats is pooping something really weird. wait...it's a little head! and a foot! it's giving birth! this is the first time i have seen the miracle of life, people. couldn't take me eyes off it. it plopped out 5 minutes later, all dirty and gross, but was immediately making noise and trying to stand. cooooool.
we were the last team to make it back to camp, hours after the others, and they were ready to send a search party for us. robin was all, what were you guys up to? what animals did you see? i saw a goat give birth! wait, what?
on day 2, our route was far more spectacular, and smooth, along sandy riverbeds and lush valleys. for the first hour, i was severaly admonished for once again shunning the fire/meat party. "why do you eat far away from us? wrong! wrong!" but they didn't exactly invite us, either. i apologized profusely. next time, i'll know better. tho, i will admit that they were all in bed moaning and groaning by 7pm.alas, we saw almost no animals, because according to legend if a baboon is the first animal you see in the morning, then you will have bad luck, and we did. (they were all like, duh, everyone knows that about baboons. don't you have the baboon rule in the US? you americans are just weird.) so we say nuthin' for hours. then, some magnificent gemsbok in a beautiful yellow field, some more baboons leering at us, and finally a few kudu. one guy did manage to spot an old mattress that had somehow gotten stuck in a euphorbia bush. he jumped out and grabbed it, a ratty, nasty foam thing wrapped in electrical cord. of the major rules in life, 1 is to not eat meat that's been sitting in the back of a truck, 2 is to try to stay away from nasty used mattresses. but to demonstrate to you how much my ass was hurt and bruised from the previous day, i sat on said nasty mattress for three whole hours. and i'm still alive. so there.