Check on the swifts and release them from their box and they manage to fly back to their nest ? hopefully what ever was in there last night that disturbed them has gone away.
I’m trying to start each day with some exercise, especially as the Lewa half marathon is coming up in June (it is a virtual event for everyone this year, but we are getting staff together to run it inside the conservancy). I of course also need to exercise the dogs so I and trying to kill two birds with one stone. Today I though I would be brave and try and run with 2 dogs at the same time! Another bright idea was to put them in a harness so I might have more control over them… Worked fine with the *kubwa dog, although I am beginning to think a harness also gives the dogs more pulling power but stop him from slipping out of his collar so its a pay off. The *kidogo dog however (think greyhound build, with a funny ridgeback) managed to slip out of her harness within 5 mins of the run, this is unsurprising given that the harnesses are a hand me down from my friends dog, a very large standard poodle, who when on his hind legs reaches over 6ft. The running story was very similar to yesterdays except off course with added tangling of leads and legs and being pulled in two different directions at the same time, one from the waist and one from my arm. Maybe I need to invest in a waist belt that can secure two dogs at once??
On the way back from the run, I glance in a bucket to find a (very venomous) puff adder all curled up, apparently rescued from a drain this morning. The bucket was placed in the sun so she could warm up and then she will be taken out to the bush to be released later. Despite her being in a bucket, which I was assured she couldn’t get out of, and her being very still due to being cold, I was still a little nervous about getting close. She is a formidable creature, apparently, according to Perry’s Bridge Reptile Park, she can strike within 0.25 of a second of being threatened (information found onThis webiste). Thanks to that website I have also just discovered some other interesting facts about Puff Adders:
They can replace their teeth up to 6 times (like sharks)
The name puff adder comes from the sound it makes as a warning to try and keep people/animals away
The puff adder will only strike when trying to kill its prey or when absolutely necessary, other than that she will try and move away.
For those of you wondering how I know she is a she, apparently it is to do with the tail (which you can’t really see in this picture). Males have longer tails and females shorter, males are also usually bigger (although I have always thought that a difficult way to tell when you only have one in front of you, much like when you are told one identical twin is taller than the other.
Their fangs can grow up to an inch in size
The fangs are hinged so they only come out when the snake opens her mouth, other than they are protected in a sheath
Anyway after that excitement I headed home for my healthy smoothies breakfast and cuppa tea.
Later in the day we went to release the adder back into the wild, she was a little disorientated but she went off fine.
In other news Roo is able to jump the fence around the garden so we are working on making that taller and the garden a little bigger so the dogs have more space to run around in. I am also trying to find ways to entertain the dogs after the morning walk. Once they have had a sleep they then spend a lot of time following me around, wanting another walk. I am going to try and find somewhere I can drive to that means they can be off the lead and run free but that will take a bit of time so I will update when I have found somewhere. In the mean as I said I’m trying to entertain them more at home, they do play together but not all the time and Roo in particular gets bored so I have started using a kong type toy to feed Roo. She was a little frustrated with it at first but then figured it out..sort of. My only question is how do the dogs actually get all of it out, surely their tongue can’t reach that far??
In the afternoon Charl and I attempted to clear the walking trail a bit more to make it a bit easier to walk/run with the dogs, but we didn’t get very far so will have to continue tomorrow. Charl is at work hosting this evening so this is my first evening alone in the house… that means I get to watch crap TV without anyone complaining ?
Today I didn’t do much, I spent a lot of time in front of the computer editing the jackal cub photos and old photos which I hadn’t gotten around to yet. I also attempted to make the house keepers less scared of the dogs by showing them some of the tricks they can do and encouraging them to ask the dogs to do it, they asked for the trick but was too scared to feed them the treat 😉 we will keep working on it.
Dog recall training today involved one dog at a time on a long line (well the African version which is a rope) attached to their collar. This time when they ignored me after calling them back I can reel them in like a fish on a hook. After about 30 mins of this with each dog I then let them off the leads on the lawn as there was no guest as I feel sorry for them not being able to run free and expel their pent up energy so they ran and played and ignored me when I called, therefore undoing all the hard work I had just put in. It was nice watching them run around though and be free. Well one of them ran…
I realise I haven’t mentioned the cat for a while, poor Duma has been in the house the whole time, there was one afternoon where I let her into the garden and followed her around until she figured out she could climb the fence and escape so she promptly went back inside. She sleeps every night on the bed, this cat is only affectionate when she is cold and its get cold here at night, so she curls up on my legs, which is really comfortable during the night..
She will be let out soon, we just want her to get used to her new home and know where it is. We can’t keep her inside for ever she is definitely part wild cat, she is an amazing hunter and has fully black paw pads, so we will let her out but make sure she is always inside at night as we have been informed there is a resident leopard near our house.
Today there was only one guest in camp so we had dinner with her so she wasn’t sitting on her own. On the way to dinner we noticed about 7/8 swifts fly abruptly out of their nest in the roof off the main area and hit the ground. Swift cannot fly well at night they get very disorientated as they should be snuggled up in the warmth of their nest. We attempt to pick them up and throw them back in the direction of their nest but they don’t make it and come back to the ground. We are now worried about snakes and other creatures eating them as well as the cold weather effecting them during the night, we decide to collect them all up and put them in a box inside for warmth and safety during the night. There must be ants or bats or something disturbing them in their nests so at least we can try and keep them warm in the night and let them out tomorrow morning.
We then continue to diner with the guest, who is a very adventurous Kenyan lady who has been living in the USA for 16 years and has now moved back to Kenya. She said she will get us on a few Whatsap groups to try and introduce us to people so we are not just recluses up here on our own!
Today I am off to Nanyuki for the second attempt at getting a SIM card. I take the dogs for a quick walk, feed them and the cat and then leave at 8.
Early morning walks
Going anywhere here means a game drive on the way, which is great. We saw Bat eared fox, the jackal cubs, this time 4 of them and mum, 2 tawny eagles as well of the usual zebra, giraffe, etc.
I realise this is just 3, I couldn’t get a picture of all 4 together
I am attempting to learn Kiswahili so use the car journey and a Kenyan colleague to teach me some new words on the way. Words retained: 0 more work to be done.
SIM card registration successful, you can’t just pick up a sim from the pound shop like you can in England, you need to register it to you with your passport, another way for Big brother to keep an eye on you. I also set up Mpesa which is a way of paying for things on your phone, many Kenyans Malawians, Tanzanian’s, and I am sure other countries, don’t have bank accounts they just keep money on their phone, you can send money to other people, pay bills, buy data and airtime (no contracts for phones out here) pay for your cable TV and electricity it’s great, I think the UK needs to get on board – unless I have been out of the country so long that it does actually exist now?
While in Nanyuki I took the opportunity to get some junk food, KFC to take home for dinner (we didn’t have a KFC in Tanzania) and get a bit of shopping (Amarula, Jamesons, dog treats – all your necessities) checked out the local Mitumba – a second hand clothes market, which is where ALL of my clothes come from these days and then back to Lewa. On the way back we saw a beautiful (very poisonous) **puff adder on the road, trying to get some heat from the sun. We watched her on her way (interestingly they don’t slither like you would expect, they undulate so it almost looks like they are walking.
** Edit: after doing some research on Puff Adders I have to now edit this and put ‘very venomous’ not poisonous – poison is something which is inhaled or swallowed, Venom is a specific type of poison that is injected. So there you go… every days a school day.
We got back to the house at around 4 (there is no quick pop into town, it’s about at 3 and a half hour round trip and everything takes time). Quick dog walk, then the other manager joined us for our junk food dinner and a few glasses of wine.
I appear to be in a habit of waking up early so I attempted to make the most of it and go for a run before it gets hot/starts raining. Again I run with one dog at a time, I take the big dog Rafa first all was going well until he sees something and makes a dash for it, yanking me forward down the hill and into the bush. Unbeknown to me my new fancy running watch which was tracking my run decided that I had had a fall and stopped tracking my run to send out an SOS and GPS tracking signal to my next of kin (Charl) to tell him where I was. I get the dog back, get back on the path and continue my run, 20 minutes later I glance at my watch to see ‘GPS tracking signal on’ and realise it has stopped tracking my run and is sending an SOS, I also realise Charl has not come running to my rescue…. So now pissed off that it hasn’t tracked my run properly/completely knackered from running up the hill, I use this as a good excuse to give up and walk the rest of the way home to collect dog number two.
I came out of the shower to see all three animals staring through the glass front door, I went to investigate and saw a big family of dwarf mongoose playing outside, one was very brave a was coming close to the door to tease the animals. The mongoose live under the house so I look forward to seeing more of them, that is of course if the pets don’t get to them first.
Charl managed to get away from work and we went for our first game drive this afternoon, it was quiet to start but then we spotted a tiny jackal and reversed to get a better look. It was a jackal cub all curled up in the long grass and it was soon joined by two of its litter-mates.
They seemed to be quite tame and were as curious about us as we were about them, they came quite close to the car and were sniffing the air picking up our scent. We spent about an hour or more with them getting some nice photos. That’s the best thing about being on your own with no guest you can sit at a sighting for as long as you want. A lot of guests are just interested in the big five but I like to see the small stuff also. No matter how many times you have been on safari (and I have been on a lot) there is always new stuff to see. I had never seen jackal cubs before, definitely not this close to the car and this relaxed so it was a great afternoon. It was starting to get dark so we headed home.
The night was pretty uneventful and we wake up refreshed. Charl goes off to work (2 min walk to the office) and I attempt my first run. I decide I can only manage one dog at a time on a single track path hacked through the thicket. I’ll be honest, it was not the most relaxing of runs, its goes something like this, dog on lead which straps around my waist we start running, dog needs a wee and stops abruptly jerking me back, dog goes for a wee, we continue, dog runs close behind me, me unintentionally kicking him in the face with every step, pulls dog in front, dog runs really slowly in front of me nearly tripping me up, as he is unsure if I am coming or not, until dog hears something in the bush, dog charges off pulling me by the waist as I stumble over rocks and acacia thorns, yank dog back on track, continue to run slowly, run, stop, pull repeat, run, stop, pull repeat… the cycle continues until I put that dog back and get the next one.I manage 2.5km before I have had enough/I’m too tired/the altitude kills me, not my best run yet but we tried.
View from the hide
The rest of the day revolved around getting our belongings, cleaning and arranging the house, it is a beautiful old farm style house, with three big ensuite bedrooms so *Karibu to friends and family to visit. Most importantly we get the internet and TV set up, a desk put in (for all the work I’m going to do at home) a dining room table and all the bedrooms set up. I whittle away time in between by watching the sunbirds and purple grenadilla in the bird bath in front of the house and put up a bird feeder to encourage more birds. In typical geek fashion I also set up a ‘birding station’ with bird books, tripod camera and binoculars by the front windows in case of any particularly special visitors.
The evening is spent having dinner, watching TV and attempting dog recall training, mainly me calling the dog manically while waving chicken around while said dogs run off in two different directions chasing animals with their noses to the ground.
*Karibu – welcome in Swahili
View from the front door of the house onto the bird bath
Today we are starting the trip from Arusha, Tanzania to Lewa, Kenya. The car is jam-packed with household goods, two dogs a cat in a cat travel bag, Charl and I.
According to google maps, it’s around 518km (give or take) from point A to B and should take around 11 hours. Top tip for travel in Africa NEVER believe google’s estimated time!
We set off at around 7 am and got to the border at around 9:00. In true *pole pole (slowly slowly) fashion the border took forever so once getting my passport stamped I got the cat and 2 dogs out of the car and tied them to a lamp post in the shade.
I felt sorry for duma (the cat) in her little bag so tried to let her out and put her on Roo’s lead (one of the retractable ones), but that didn’t go so well… while on the lead she jumped up into the open window of the immigration office main room, her collars *safety release* opens and now Duma is just running around inside…
I followed her through the (very large open) window picked her up and struggle to put her back in the bag (going out the door on the way out). All this time there is a *Mzee Askari (older security guard) just watching and laughing at me. Meanwhile, Roo is loose as her lead was on Duma and I didn’t have time to get another lead before duma jumped….
So there’s me chasing Roo around the car park, next thing an angry immigration officer is shouting at me about arresting me for jumping in the window. He shouts at me “do you jump in your window at your house ‘ (sometimes when I forget the key).
Mzee Askari just sneaks off before I can call on him as a whiteness as to why I might have jumped in the window. Not satisfied with just an apology and explanation, the security guard decides to make me sweat.
As punishment he makes me unpack and carry all the bags back and forth in the 30-degree heat. Each nag had to be sniffed by the sniffer dog (while Roo barks at said dog) and put through the bag scan. I then had to carry them back to the car (while the security man stood and watched) and spend another 45 mins sweating and swearing while trying to pack the car up again.
Meanwhile, Roo barks because she can’t see me and Rafa sits and waits patiently and silently like the angel he is… Charl, of course, is nowhere to be seen as he is sorting out car insurance!
Finally, we are off again…5 mins into the continued journey poor Rafa, a very un- snuggly dog has been forced to snuggle up to Roo as a bag fell on his side due to poor, pissed off packing! Lucky Roo is needy and loves him so she is acting as his chin rest.
As a result, Duma has been given more ‘calming pills’ and everyone is passed out in the backseat while I sit with 6 bags on my lap? We have decided f*ck getting to Lewa as we will never get there before dark as the border took around 3 hours, we have therefore booked into a beautiful little pet-friendly air BnB cottage near Nyanuki with amazing views of Mount Kenya, to give everyone a well-deserved stretch of their legs, dinner and toilet stop!!
To be continued Kesho (tomorrow) …
Second Moving day
Today we are off to a good start, every pet has had breakfast and done their morning ablutions, humans are not so lucky as we have no food with us so we will get something in Nyanuki. Our packing seems to have got significantly worse, I now have the cat on my lap and the dogs somehow have even less room in the back so everyone’s a loser! But hey only 3 hours of driving today!
The fun continues… we find a beautiful local cafe for some human breakfast, the lady is lovely and says the dogs can just be free so they go roaming, Duma yells from the bag and so I get her out and put her on a lead so we don’t lose her. All is well as Duma walks me around the garden until Roo comes trotting around the corner with a tail hanging out of her mouth.
I’m talking full-on hair, fur and at least 4 inches of tail, she proceeds to settle down to crunch bones, fur and all down her mouth, not even giving it up in exchange for pleas and offerings of biltong, looking forward to that coming out from either end later…
Anyway, after a delicious breakfast at ‘shop14’ we move off, we have one job to do in town which is registering a sim card so I can get data and be able to call etc. I wait in line get to the desk, ask to register … “we have a problem with registering.. the system is temporarily down, come back tomorrow” OF COURSE IT IS… it’s like being in Tanzania all over again.
Anyway that’s now a problem for another day, the pets are content and it is just a couple of hours more driving and we will be in our new home.
The drive through Lewa was interesting, it’s about an hour’s drive from the gate to the lodge of course passing many animals as we went. Roo, maybe still too dosed up on ‘calming pills’ just slept quietly in the middle of the car. Rafa suddenly perked up and had his head out the window whining to be able to go and chase everything he could see.
We arrive at the house and put the cat in one room with a litter box and food and put the dogs in the garden with access to the house. Our belonging had been bought up the day before and was kept in the lodge room next to the house.
They decided that the house had too many cracks in the walls (it does) and that we wouldn’t want to stay there. We decided a house with cracks was better than a one-room tent with all of our belongings, 2 dogs and a cat. We had all we needed for one night so decided to start the process of moving everything the next day.
I thought I had better take the dogs out for a walk to stretch their legs. As I said the camp is in the middle of the conservancy, it does, however (thank god) have an electric fence around the lodge buildings to stop any big animals from getting into camp. It doesn’t however stop small animals (or even predators) as they can get under the electric fence.
So walk number one, dogs on leads so they are not very happy, usually, they just walk next to me without a lead. We go out of the house and turn left, there is a small single track that has been cut into the thicket as a ‘walking trail’ so we take that route, next thing there is a noise and the dog’s ears prick forward, then they charge and a bushbuck goes running off into the distance, dogs panting and trying to free themselves from the lead.
We move on, Rafa suddenly stops and looks ahead, there is a big elephant in front of us, and then Roo notices it, they are not so brave this time and stand staring at it rather than trying to chase it. The elephant is behind an electric fence but it is only about 200 yards away. It doesn’t seem to have noticed us and keeps walking. We slowly walk forward a bit more and the dogs are still unsure what to do. Of course, if an elephant wanted to it could get through the electric fence, so we decide not to use our luck and change course, going back the way we came.
We continue past the house and continue our walk. A little while further there is another rustle and I look to the right, this time spotting a young black rhino browsing from the bushes, again behind a fence, but again capable of charging through. I decide that is enough excitement for one day and head off home for the first night in our new house.
I spent the evening watching youtube videos on how to train your dog not to chase things….
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