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Reisverslag Sanctuary Saga - a three week rush - part 1
17 mei 2017
Sanctuary Saga - a three week rush - part 1
My laptop isn’t cooling properly so I am worried it will overheat and crash
My tent does not have a place to sit so I have to be in the lapa, and I feel guilty to sit and do ‘nothing’ (yup, even as a volunteer I still feel I have to perform to be accepted)
By evening I am tired, been getting up at 5:30
Things were happening that I wasn’t sure to write about because it would worry the people at home if they read it
And I guess I also just wanted to be selfish and delve into being in the bush and connect with everything it was bringing with it, so much to take in and process!
It has been quite the ride, and three weeks to the day I am back in JNB, blink and you’ll miss it
I had a run-in with dad before I left ( as expected), he wasn’t happy with my choices, so the night before I sent him an email trying to explain and find a way to straighten things out between us…
I didn’t sleep well Tuesday night – I hadn’t heard from Miss M, and the situation with my dad kept the realms of slumber at bay
Wednesday morning Joy dropped me off at Sandton Gautrain and I was grinning, it was finally time!
I waited at ORT and Miss M arrived at about 11am
She greeted the volunteers Martina and Jakob, and then said hello Michelle to me.
Michelle???? I only have 3 letters in my name, can’t be that difficult??? Anyways...
And off we went, to the car, and to The Sanctuary. It took about 3.5 hours and it was nice chatting to Miss M along the way.
As the scenery from Johannesburg to Pretoria and then Modimole and onwards changed I felt more and more happy, calm, at home, belonging. This is what I have been missing
We drove up to the entrance of the lapa, and then followed the small path through the passage to the main area, it was awesome! I couldn’t stop grinning. And then – as we were talking I suddenly heard them – the call of the lions! My heart skipped a beat, I had to pause and just absorb – I was close to the lions….
We each got our own tent, and mine was (in my opinion) better, it had a double bed and a really comfy duvet. Not that I get cold, but there is something about the feel of a down duvet on your skin when you are really tired and you crawl into bed. I guess its nostalgia from when I was a child crawling into my gran’s bed, I don’t know, all I know is I love it!
I unpacked everything, my side table became my memoir place, I put all the things there that I had been given from loved ones for my journey – photos, books, cards, drawing, chocolate. It felt like they were there with me, and beyond the missing I felt loved and blessed
The first evening we were finished with unpacking just in time for the sunset, and it was moving.
Watching the colours mingle, gel, marry and transform from bright light to deep and warm, all in a matter of minutes is something I can watch over and over again. It seems like every sunset and every sunrise is different, whether it’s a wisp of a cloud or the shimmering of the sun as it dips behind or erupts from the horizon, and every single one has something that – just for a moment – makes time and breathing stop
I found slipping into my appointed role of ‘volunteer coordinator’ and lodge manager easy. Martina and Jakob were 2 young adults (21 and 27) from Sweden. She was bubbly and he was awkwardly shy / uncertain, (reminded me of myself long time ago) and I enjoyed chatting to them. We went to bed around 9pm and I had to check on Martina and Jakob in the morning before going to the lapa at 6am to make them coffee and then I would walk with them to the meat room (where the meat for the lions is stored and prepared)
So, sleeping was difficult, I was too excited to be tired, and a number of times during the night sounds of Africa would make any bits of dozing off disperse. Hearing the lions roar, the porcupine scurry past the tent, ‘something’ tripple over the top of the tent… I couldn’t stop grinning
In fact, I woke up from the sound of roaring, still grinning! What a way to wake up!
One of the first things that I realized was there is more than one way to lose your breath… The views, the sounds, it all made me lose my breath
Running up and down the bloody uneven, crooked stone made stairs did the same! Flippin hell! I cursed myself for not working on my overall condition before coming to SA, and cursed some more when my knees started to twang and hurt
The first sunrise was also beautiful, and I was alone, Martina and Jakob had already gone to the meat room to collect the meat for the feeding, so I could sip my coffee and witness as the horizon gave birth to a new day, and hear how nature erupted in applause. How many words are there to describe breathtaking? Not enough in my opinion
And then I was off to get the table set for 7am breakfast and the beginning of my ‘work’ at The Sanctuary
I went back to the lapa after breakfast and chatted to Miss M. She basically told me to do what I wanted to ‘upgrade’ things and give it a more European feel, a bit more classy, a bit more organized. Simple things like salt and pepper on the table during meals, and sorting out the coffee station… just ‘take initiative and do your thing’…
And boy did it need it! The contrast between Dutch / European standards (or even just normal standards that you have at a lodge) and The Sanctuary was huge but what took me aback even more was the difference in approach towards the workers because they were black
Over the days I noticed there were no kind words, no chatting, no engaging, just orders, condescending, slavish. I mean, for fucks sakes, phoning the maid from your seat that she must come all the way from the laundry to the lapa to be told to go back to her (Miss M’s ) house to fetch headache pills and then also bring water? Seriously? Or a cable. Or the dogfood. Or whatever
There were some problems with the geyser by one of the tents and one of the guys was trying to fix it. Miss M couldn’t reach him on the phone so she got someone else to go fetch him, and she swore and shouted at him… I was gobsmacked, actually horrified. I think the Afrikaans (lower class?) mentality and approach towards black employees is different than the English but I have never experienced this so blatantly and so quickly in the presence of a ‘guest’ (being me). I felt it ricochet, in my head, in my heart, I was so embarrassed and felt ashamed for her towards them
And the warmth and openness I received from them, just because I was respectful (or actually normal since I would be the same towards anyone really), I called them ‘ladies’, I joked with them, asked about their children, I worked with as opposed to just dictating as Miss M etc did, and just said please and thank you, and they blossomed in appreciation. I felt ashamed, embarrassed, guilty, bad, these poor people, to have to put up with this kind of treatment, to be called lazy (among other things) just because they were black, I felt a very deep sadness.
How difficult is it to treat a person like a person? I found it such an eye opener with regards to my own viewpoint, but is it because of who I am or who I have become? I don’t remember ever talking to anyone like that, including the domestic workers we had at that time, it was not allowed and we didn’t think in that way, it just wasn’t who we were
Yes, we were spoilt, we had a maid that ran behind us, but we were still taught to respect and appreciate. It seems taking something for granted is also privy to how and your attitude that forms that mannerism of treating the other person. Lots of internal dialogue!
After breakfast I could go with to help clean out the lion enclosures, my first time close to these majestic beasts! The system was quite simple as there are a group of pens in which the lions are and they are systematically moved through them by interleading sliding doors, so you check one pen is empty, you go in and clean it out (poop, bones, water, bedding), get out, open an interleading door and move the lion through, and then move on to the next pen
Some lions you can really see something physically or mentally is not 100%.
Limps, scars, deformations, blindness, broken teeth, aggression, ‘circus tricks’ that they had to learn and cannot unlearn, repetitive motions, devastating stories, damaged bodies, scarred souls.
I realized you can also lose your breath because you just want to cry
From there we went to feed the sheep and the impala. I never knew you could also get black impala! It’s the same genetic default as in albino except that they are black, I guess like you get black jaguars, as the sun hits the hide at a certain angle the dapple of colours shimmer through, amazing! Also, where an albino impala would be rejected, the black impala has no problems with the rest of the group, now that is funny for a country like south Africa!
The sheep were cool, there were 3 orphaned babies that got bottlefed, and a number of newborns that were sooo cute (and made me contemplate giving up meat a bit more)
The guards for the sheep were in the form of 2 Anatolian dogs – Eno and Blue. These dogs are put with the flock at a young age and stay there to protect and watch over
I guess I’m just too much of a softy, Eno looked like he was dying for a bit of contact, a pet, a nice word, a cookie, shame, I really felt for him
Back to the lodge and a quick lunch and I went back to sorting out a few things, and in the afternoon Miss M took me on a walk to show the area and some of the lions.
Finally I could see Tau, the white lion whose mythic genes reach back to the white lions of the Timbavati
He and Raka, his ‘brother from another mother’, what a sight to see!
I guess being enclosed and looked after is the best for them given the circumstances, but it occurred to me no matter how we think we are doing good, we are still interfering, still deciding for them, and by doing so they will never experience their own true, great potential
And yet, circumstances dictate you have to because if you don’t they will still be at the mercy of the whims of a human, and that human will not do good and they will suffer. So here the care is ‘weëig’ as they would say in Dutch – sickly sweet (in my opinion)
Back at the lodge for dinner which was really nice. There were 2 drawbacks (in my opinion), one was that the woman (Zhané) that cooked was so used to staff that she couldn’t even throw away packaging or food rests while preparing. Every time she was finished in the kitchen everything was full, full of dirty dishes, opened packets, rest bits, not one space of the table, kitchen counter, freezer counter, gas stove (!) was untouched, clear or clean, and she would walk off and the cleaners would have to clean it up.
The other was that the ‘menus’ being used and according to Miss M were selected for health properties were actually recipes taken from her program to lose weight, giving people a grand total of 1200 – 1500 kilocalories A DAY!
She was obsessed with weight and actually posted on The Sanctuary looking for a personal trainer ‘for everyone’, but it was for her and her obsession
In the evenings when the volunteers were off to bed and I was still in the lapa with her I realized that she enjoyed her wine just a bit too much which started to bug me.
The stories and ‘conversations’ we had about her friend that was there leeching off her, Zhané who was probably pregnant by her black boyfriend and its too late for an abortion and now what, and the nude calendar she wanted to make with everyone once we were ‘all in shape’, for The Sanctuary
Her wish was to be free of babysitting volunteers and running the lodge and kitchen and staff problems and and and. She wanted to just do the marketing and social media, she was ‘great’ at thinking up the ideas and others were there to implement them... And she wanted me to take over all those tasks
I was astounded at the similarities there were in mannerisms to my previous job and boss Jan, and she was moody, the smiles (if she listened) felt fake, and when I spoke in answer to something I was asked I was shut down, it was all about her – her opinion, her view, her wants, her issues, what could suite her. I felt like I was there to listen and hopefully agree (and possibly applaud)
I also struggled with her insistence with regard to how to direct the workers – ‘tell them!’
No one knew why I was there so Zhané started to feel uncomfortable because I was instructing her, organizing the kitchen around her and basically telling her what to do (as per instructions from Miss M!) and I could feel the uncertainty with everyone because all they thought they knew was that I was a volunteer for 2 weeks, and here I was overhauling everything
Plus a number of other things, but by the time it was Sunday I was tired of all the problems and not being able to connect with Miss M in a way that it could be tackled - printers, plumbing, water pump tripping and needing restarting 15 times a day, leaks from taps and pipes, leaks with regards to food disappearing in the kitchen, a menu that was just bullshit with half the ingredients missing and Zhané not knowing how or what to substitute, a bug infestation in Martina’s tent that they were downplaying yet hadn’t bothered to go look, the intermingling of personal and business that was financially and mentally detrimental to The Sanctuary and staff, the leechfriend running around with wine at 5pm in front of the volunteers but I am chastised for talking about the bug problem in front of the same volunteers, the staff must come sing and play the drums by the fireplace on Friday evening, but they are given a box (3liter) of wine which is guzzled down and they end up arguing outside within hearing range of the rest of us... what kind of impression does this give to volunteers???. I was ready to stop and go home
I messaged and spoke to Melina and finally managed to relax and take a step back and rethink everything and I decided I would try stay the full time until 19th of July and do what I could, also for the black staff to help them learn
One last issue which is actually a luxury was the wifi. From 7am to about 9:30pm at least 10 phones and laptops are using the wifi so it was crap, just crap, I couldn’t phone to Holland or to JNB, I couldn’t upload photos, it took almost minutes to post to Facebook... Shit!!!
And it was difficult to phone my mom.
I was really wondering how she was doing, I had (and still have) found it extremely difficult to leave her behind, and despite her reassuring me it was ok I struggle with guilt, I wish it could be different for her, that I had the means to make it different and easier for her.
So by Sunday afternoon I was ok again, we went to feed the sheep and had a game drive which I really enjoyed. The Sanctuary does have some game, we saw giraffe, zebra, eland, waterbuck, rooibok and various birds so I really enjoyed it, and the sun going down as we went along
That evening after dinner I tried to clean up and take things to the kitchen. There was literally not one place to put the tray. I looked at them sitting there in the mess (Miss M, Minnie and Zhané), I turned around and walked off, put it back on the table in the lapa and went to my tent
Monday was about the same as per usual, the only difference was that Martina had had enough of the bugs and asked to sleep in my room. We got on well so we had a really good laugh about it. I focused on them and did my thing and tried to relax.
My dad phoned me and we had a chat. I was SO happy, it seems my letter to him did some magic and softened the stone. He was trying, with his limitations and rigid way of thinking and being he was trying, and for that I can only say thank you, and I did, and his reaching out really touched me
Miss M told me that Tuesday 2 lionesses would be sterilized and I could join in helping. Now THAT I was looking forward to, to get SO close to them, to touch them and help… WOW!
Oh, and one of my hero’s passed away
RIP Roger Moore, gorgeous man, animal advocate and fantastic person, sleep soft and shine bright
Another quiet evening and the bugs in Martina’s room had disappeared so she was happy to go back to her own tent
Tuesday we were stoked, the area for the sterilization was behind Sav’s tent on her verandah and garden table – African style *grin*
Miss M ‘gave’ me 4 workers and 3 hours to clear out the area of debris, rubbish, leaves etc as it needed to be clean but also because she would go live for the The Sanctuary page
I got Simon and Lena to help, I worked with them to keep the pace up, and we were done in an hour, I was laughing
I also had to set up and organize the lunch etc at Sav’s house so I got everything ready in the kitchen. I walked in and it was a disaster and I just became so exasperated that I told Zhané can you seriously not clean up one thing behind you? The onion peels were there where she peeled, the packets, spills and messes were too much for me, so we had a bit of a run in but I thought just leave it, its her stuff and I’ve had enough, I have other things to do
While cleaning up at Sav’s porch she came to talk. She was worried I was there to take her job as the staff etc had been talking about it
I really felt for her, she’s not a bad kid at all, so I sat her down and explained things to her and gave her a huge hug and she was happy again
And then the waiting game. Because Peter Caldwell had to come in from JNB and after other patients we were not sure what time he would be there
He arrived at about 11:30 ad with his assistant set up the operating area
And then we were off to fetch Amazonas, the first lioness
Its really sad and amazing to see how they recognized Peter, and desperately tried to get away from him and the dartgun. His energy was amazing – calm, compassionate, resolute, quiet, confident
The dart went in just at the base of the tail and it took about 5 minutes for Amazonas to go down, With the other lions desperately trying to help and protect her from the second enclosure, and then we were in the enclosure removing her
I expected I would have been nervous, apprehensive, flutterings of fear, but I wasn’t.
It felt SO natural, SO normal and SO good. I remember mentally absorbing this realization, in between grins *grin*
Amazonas was brought to the ‘operating area’ and hoisted onto the table into a cradle that keeps her in position on her back. She was heavy, about 110kgs of muscle, snoozing and snoring
It was amazing to see how synchronized Peter and Angie (his assistant) were. Absolute clockwork, minimum of words, swift, neat, effective, yes so concentrated and under pressure.
I was surprised at how tough the skin was, also in respect to its thickness, at a certain point he needed the entry cut to be longer so he took scissors and cut.
It sounded like heavy thick leather resisting and splicing under protest, each downward motion of the blades needed force that you couldn’t see but could hear, like shears struggling through cardboard
It took 52 minutes (if I remember correctly) to remove everything that promised new life and future generations and in return gave a more secure life and health safety:
“ It is in ALL aspects the best for Amazonas ...
to breed more lions in captivity does not make sense ...
to treat her with an implant to prevent pregnancy means she will have to be sedated every 12-18 months and this is not good for her either ...
it is unacceptable to castrate a male lion and by doing a vasectomy only ... will increase the probability of cancer and infections for amazonas as the males (Scarc & Cusco) will still mate with her ...
From a health and management perspective, to sterilise all the females in a captive environment (like The Sanctuary) is the best solution ...”
And then it was over, we quickly transported her back to the bakkie, and back to the safety of her enclosure. A reversal injection was given and distance was created so she could emerge from the whispers of sleep under a watchful eye
Mahla was next, and was more difficult to dart, she really ran, poor girl
Mahla had never had any cubs and although I understand why this is happening and agree with it because of the implications if it didn’t happen I was still angry that this had to be done because of us humans
It occurred to me that even when we are trying to do good, to protect, to help, it is still invasive, according to our ideas because of our greed and ego.
It seems doing ‘good’ is the lesser of 2 evils when it comes to animals, always.
I felt sad for her that she was being robbed of something natural because only that way she could be safe in our world, according to our rules.
She was robbed without a say in it at all, she was robbed, plain and simple
It also struck me that the volunteers had lost interest, I was astounded. How close will you ever get to a lion again, how privileged are you to be allowed to stand right there to watch, to ask questions. I called them twice to come look, to have a photo taken with their hands by a paw and then they went back to sitting, chatting
Perhaps I’m just always sticking my nose in everything. I want to know, to ask opinions, to find out why, and if possible to help. Well, ok, here I couldn’t help, I had been told how far away to stand etc, but I did get my tuft of shaven hair!
We brought her back to her enclosure and like with Amazonas she was placed gently in her tent and given the reversal drug and we retreated out of her enclosure to watch her wake up at a distance
Before going back to the lodge we drove past José and Liso with Peter because they seemed to be having bad eye problems
And then we went back to Sav’s house for lunch
Another disaster explosion as Zhané prepared the pizzas etc but I figured it wasn’t my circus so it wasn’t my monkey either, and I left it all after eating and went to the main lapa
That evening I went to my room early and just contemplated what I had witnessed and what it all meant, the impressions, the thoughts the ponderings
A new sunrise a new day. I couldn’t believe I had only been at The Sanctuary for a week
All the highs and lows, and the impressions, and all the silence
Not having a radio or tv at all is such a strange experience. At home I had the news on all the time, news or music and now the music is the sounds of nature – the birds, the lions the tigers, the porcupine that passes my tent every night, the bugs as they scurry away, my own soft shrieks when a spider darts away, and the incessant annoying mosquitoes, I look like I have smallpox!
I listed the tents today, what was broken or needed to be changed, and set up a plan
We had lunch and after that we went to check up on Amazonas and Mahla, and put David and Barbie together as they were going to form their own pride along with Easy and Shakira
David is a lion that was rescued from a circus in Peru. He was ‘taught’ tricks and had been treated so badly that he developed repetitive motions totally unnatural to lions
He obsessed about his water trough, digging all around it, and would also often lie on his side and paw like a dog doing a trick
I shudder to think how a simple human being could get such a majestic animal to cower and concede to humiliating behavior for entertainment and laughter.
David is also shy with regards to the ladies, so he needed some persuasion to move from the one enclosure to the other where Barbie was
To do this Sav lay down on the ground in his view and pretended to crawl, mimicking an injured animal. We sat a few meters from her watching what would happen
And then I blinked and almost missed it all. Within a split second David bounded over through the partition and across the 10 meters right up to where Sav was and stopped within millimeters of slamming into the fence! Bloody hell that was breathtaking!
Jakob got such a fright he jumped up and half a meter backwards, onto my lap. Shy or not that bothered him less than the idea of taking his eyes off David
David and Barbie sat for about 15 minutes with a few meters between them but when David shifted Barbie lunged at him and gave him a clout, sending him off to the corner. Easy was trying from the other side to get through the fencing to also get to him, shame, I really felt sorry for him
Most lions have also been declawed while they were at the circuses. This is an extremely painful and debilitating procedure, often leaving them more or less crippled from pain, arthritis etc
When it comes to them fighting each other it’s a bit of a blessing as the damage they do to each other is markedly less
We left David and his Barbie to allow them to relax and get used to being in the same enclosure and went back to the camp
Another quiet night
The next few days were more or less the same, I kept myself busy with keeping Jakob and Martina entertained. We played games at night while the others went to their homes. It was asif it were just us 3 and I was more one of them than of The Sanctuary. I personally found it rude, just like sitting at the table for breakfast, lunch and dinner and not being able to put the flipping phone down. No one engaged them, I was the only one that asked questions or showed interest, I found it embarrassing, these people pay €1.400,00 per person for 2 weeks of feeding lions and scooping poop, and simply talking to them and showing interest was too much to ask
So for the last few evenings from about 8:00 pm I would make hot milo or chocolate and we would sit and play a cardgame and have a bit of a laugh, I actually looked forward to it!
Friday evening Martina, Jakob, Sav and Zhané went to town for a rugby match. I initially wanted to go with but found I was really tired so I chose to stay in. That night as I was in the lapa with Miss M suddenly Eno came in from the kraal – that’s about 5kms away! He came in and was restless coming and going 3 times. Unfortunately Miss M was rather well on her ear from the wine so we couldn’t go drive out and see what was happening, but I thought it very odd. That night and Saturday night for that matter, I felt the lions were restless, their roars were resonating and it made me uneasy. In hindsight I wonder if they felt the change that was imminent
Sunday morning was sleep in again, breakfast was around 8:30 as the lions don’t get fed on Sundays (one day of fasting) so Zhané and I (we were getting on well now *grin* ) prepared everything for a bush braai evening at an open campsite next to the lion enclosure.
Miss M was in a bit of a mood because Sav’s boyfriend (they don’t get on either) was there and I actually found I was getting tired of her mood swings and lack of interest or listening etc so I just left her and stopped trying to engage. She knew where to find me if she needed me
We got the stuff to the open camp where Portia and Letta had set everything up
Zhané made a biltong potjie and we sat and enjoyed ourselves with the sounds of the lions right around the corner, very special to hear how they call in response to each other
We went to bed a bit later than usual, and I remember thinking to myself I’d get up for breakfast, I don’t need to be there to make coffee for Jakob and Martina, 30 minutes more for me
And that was the last night of The Sanctuary Lighthearted, The Sanctuary Simple, The Sanctuary Safe
I got up at about 6:15 and quickly got dressed. As I was getting ready to leave my tent I heard Miss M calling me in a bit of a panic, saying there was a small problem.
Before I got up the stairs she scurried away, I didn’t understand.
I walked into the lapa and found Martina and Jakob there.
Martina told me that they were at the enclosures of Liso and José when Miss M who had walked ahead had come running back in panic shouting to get them back to the lodge.
They were bundled onto the back of the bakkie and she sped back with them bouncing.
I assumed perhaps one had fallen and died, these boys were the old men of the group, fragile, broken. The beatings on their head had left them with brain damage and mostly blind and deaf, judging distances was difficult at best for the bit that they could see, but they were sweet, their vulnerability palpable. Seeing the other lions made you twinge in reflection of what they had been through, these boys brought it all to the foreground, you couldn’t assume or think what might have happened during their years of abuse, you could just see it. I had only seen the boys twice but they left a lasting impression almost immediately. As big and dangerous as they still might have been, all I wanted to do was hug and protect and help them
So, I thought something had happened, perhaps a fight, or one had fallen and died. Miss M phoned to say keep them busy and keep it light, so I got the breakfast going and chatted away.
And then the word poached fell and it felt surreal. It felt like everything shattered but we couldn’t comprehend. It seems you can also lose your breath the instant the world changes, yet you have no inkling what the consequences are.
Miss M came back, the energy was changed. It reminded me of how they show a world changing in a movie, how a line ripples through and the image change for the worse, from light to dark, from smooth to cracked, from perfect to destroyed.
She asked me to keep Jakob and Martina busy, she would get back to me as quickly as possible
So, we went and cleared the tigers’ enclosures (without help so it took longer), looking for pawprints for photos, touristy simple things, uncomplicated innocent things, uneasy plasters used to try keep the old world together, to stop the ugly underneath from coming up, at least until tomorrow when they leave, at least until this erupting nightmare could be stopped. Does anyone know how to turn the clock back?
As we were finishing Miss M and Sav came to us and told us the boys were dead, they had been poached, and to please keep it completely quiet. The only reason she told us was because Jakob and Martina were present this morning and she wanted to keep everything calm
Just after 13:00 I took Jakob and Martina along with Zhané to Lephalale because the police were coming as well as anti poaching units and other officials, and the bodies had to be taken through to Onderstepoort for dissection.
I remember walking past the bakkie where the bodies were and wanting to look and to say goodbye. The way I had understood it the bodies were still intact so I figured they had been killed (poison or bullet) and the animals that did it couldn’t get to the bodies to take what they wanted, and I was SO grateful that the hadn’t been desecrated as well
Travelling to Lephalale and going for lunch and chatting to the others and doing grovery and tourist shopping I realized Its such a strange contradictory feeling when you are ‘being’ happy and having fun while inside you are wondering what the hell is happening and you want to cry for two boys who have been killed, but you don’t know whats really going on so you don’t want to be dramatic but you know about poaching and what happens, but you thought and believed nothing could get to them, but but but. And it fascinated me how your mind can create and throw at you so many thoughts and questions and ponderings, faster than a speeding bullet… what an unfortunate pun
We got back at about 6pm and I quickly made dinner. Miss M and Sav played with their food. Jakob and Martina stayed up for a few games as it was their last evening
Martina came to my tent for a last night sleepover and chat.
It was my first night that I couldn’t sleep at The Sanctuary and the first time the silence and also the roaring of the lions was a worry instead of a comfort
Tuesday morning Miss M asked me to take Jakob and Martina to Johannesburg and Zhané to Pretoria, the Anti Poaching Unit was going to come in the afternoon among other groups.
I arranged that I could stay in JNB because I didn’t want to drive back in the dark, and so I ended up having an impromptu dinner with Joy and my dad and stayed over at Joy’s place
That was really nice. I have never been able to do that before and I thought I would really enjoy being able to do it more often
Wednesday after a warm bath and a bit of pampering my dad drove with me to the Toyota dealer as the Fortuner was having problems with the gearbox. It got fixed, we said goodbye and off I went
I enjoy driving, I always have and now with a Toyota Fortuner under my bum I felt really cool *grin*
Driving in South Africa is different to Holland, its more defensive, and you really need it.
The taxis that change 4 lanes in 1 minute regardless of what is happening around them, the potholes in the roads, everyone taking chances to just get past or in or out or next to, you need eyes everywhere. Yet, there is also an unspoken rule of signaling to help if you want to pass or using your hazards to say thank you. It’s a yin-yang combination of individuality and togetherness to help you get from A to B
This togetherness can also lull you into a false sense of safety, that was something I realized when we came across a really serious accident just outside Vaalwater the day before.
We couldn’t pass so I told everyone to stay put as I went to see what the layout was and talk to the other folks setting up the lines and directing the cars
The car with the most damage had the whole motorblock on the front seat and it was turned over.
I asked one guy what was going on, and matter of factly he stated ‘the driver is moer toe (afrikaans for seriously or badly dead in a damaged way), but the folks in the back are still alive’...
I told him I had people that had to get to the airport and he said ‘walk around and see how you must drive past.’
I couldn’t go off-road because the embankment sloped down steeply on both sides of the road.
So, I walked via the back part to get to the front. I looked at the back window, it had been crushed down to about 10 cms, glass everywhere and I couldn’t think for the life of me (poor pun, I know) how folks could still be alive in there, and how the hell they were going to get out.
And then I rounded to back to get to the front side but that was all of 2 seconds. I saw things hanging out the window and just backed off, that was something I really didn’t need to see.
I asked the one truck driver from the other side of the road to please help and move his truck (and feeling guilty, like that is more important than saving a life?) as there were now also others helping, and he obliged
I got back to the car and told them how I would drive past and that under no circumstances were they to look left, they had to keep their eyes right
And so we drove past, admiring mountains and an open field as blood flowed and bodies fought for their next breath
Another thing about Africa, everything is on African time. This is often funny, but in this instance it isn’t. 45 minutes after continuing we came across the ambulance on its way to the accident
So, the road back to The Sanctuary was good but like I said you are continually aware, just in case
I really enjoyed the offroad part and I was itching to take my shoes off. Its very South African to drive with bare feet and I think everyone should try it just to understand the sensation.
I contained myself and just relished driving over the hobbles and into the dips, feeling the unevenness of the raw ground passing under me. I SO love the bush!
Given that Zhané was now on leave I was in the kitchen sorting out the meals. There were no volunteers, just the 4 of us, and the sphere was down.
I was happy as well because now I could go with the feed the lions, and that really made my day
I remember driving past the enclosures where Liso and José had been and it was asif we all looked the other way, much like with the accident, because the other side was nice, untouched by brutality and death, a last escape being so close to the truth
In a conversation Thursday afternoon Miss M uttered in frustration that ‘someone had just made a million rand with what they took’... My being shattered... They had not been left intact, Liso and José had been desecrated in the most vile sickening way
After all they had been through all those years in the circuses their little bit of happiness and experience of no pain or abuse had been taken away, snuffed out, ripped away from them from within
Poaching is mostly for 2 things – parts to sell for mounting or food, and parts for muthi – African ‘magic’.
When it is for muthi the paws and head are taken leaving the rest behind. For mounting it would be the head and skin, and for food it would be whatever but that is more general animals like buck and monkeys etc. Lion poaching is very specific, like rhino and elephant, it has a select demand for a very specific purpose or audience
These boys had been slaughtered, their limbs and head AND complete skin taken.
This has never happened before, so speculations were running rife.
The only blessing in this fucked up situation was that they had ingested a large amount of poison and had died quickly before having their bodies desecrated
And what was worse was that the police of all people leaked the story AND a photo to the press
And that is how I got to see what Miss M and Sav had come across that cold Monday morning
For some people it doesn’t take a lot to hate and some people need to journey to the end of their being before radically changing. I now understood how the dislike and disrespect Miss M has for black people had changed to intense hate in the last few days, fed by anger, hurt and pain. Liso and José were her favourites because of their total fragility and special needs.
As Sav said, ‘someone has come in to my home and slaughtered my children’, and I can fully understand that. The boys were not only slaughtered but parts of their being had been taken away, their uniqueness of who they were was gone, all that was left was a bit of body stripped of the last bit of regal identity and majestic ‘lion-ness’, tossed to the side like worthless unusable bits, asif their only value were a part of them instead of them as a whole, as a being
Sick sick sick. This world is fucked up. And I know if I could get hold of these people I would hate too, I would want to hurt back, I don’t think I would be able to contain myself
Miss M seemed to be sinking, in the evenings wine flowed and she cried and murmured how she would get them and kill them and why would someone do this, did someone hate her or ADI this much, it had to be personal because otherwise why would someone do this?
And all I could do was watch and listen and show compassion and try understand
June 1st – Thursday – after feeding and eating I helped clear out the room that would become the office and took everything from storage there to where Miss Ms mom lived, about 7kms away. Given the dirt road and the stuff on the bakkie and Daniel and Simon on the back of the bakkie (because in some areas or communities the black staff don’t sit next to you in the car) it took about 30 minutes to drive there and another 2 hours to unpack, repack etc
And then back home and set up a plan of what to do because ADI (Animal Defenders International) and Stichting Leeuw were going to be flying in one of these days
By this time we had armed guards 24-7, guys that patrolled the area, and there was a complete curfew after 6pm, no walking around because there was a ‘shoot first, ask second’ rule. We had also had a cobra slithering in the entrance of the lapa and a python passing by
The cobra got shot, the python captured and released somewhere else
And a violin spider which I killed, no way in hell was I going to let that come near me. Their venom itself is not lethal but Elzet said it could cause necrotic wounds and I was not having any of that. After googling later I found out this might be wrong, so I don’t know...
Charl – head of security – gave me a lesson in handling a pistol but I wasn’t allowed to shoot, for that I need to go to a firing range
Friday we did the feeding and I carried on with whatever in the lapa. By this time I had cleared out the whole kitchen and rearranged everything systematically. A few days earlier I got the dishwasher brought to the main kitchen and connected and going which was sheer bliss as there was no hot water, water had to be boiled in the kettle or on the stove for dishwashing, and when the pump tripped there was no cold water either so it was beyond irritating.
I also go the oven swapped so now we had an oven that worked properly, yaay me!
I also became aware that the one guard from the Security had taken a liking to me. Tertius liked to talk, a bit much for my taste, and a bit too nosey but I told him from the first day I had no interest, all I wanted to do was do my thing at The Sanctuary and spend time with the animals, and he wasn’t my type in any case. So from my side – and also towards Miss M and Sav as they had also noticed he was often in the kitchen talking to me – I made it very clear that nothing was going on and nothing would ever happen, I seriously was not interested. He was a nice guy to talk to, and by being friendly I got him to help me check the geysers at the back of the tents – one had a gasleak and all three had bad warmwater supply which I think we managed to fix in the settings, so I was happy, and it was a good laugh for everyone.
Elzet asked if I wanted to go with to feed and bring in the sheep which I really appreciated, but we had to go in her car as the Mahindra was not there yet, so we had to let security know there was a foreign car travelling on the property and to please not shoot us or blow us up. As serious as it was that was really funny
We got to the kraal and herded the sheep in, and Eno the one Anatolian guard dog was lying there and didn’t get up
On close inspection the poor boy seemed to have had a run in with a warthog and his hind leg had a big entry and exit would giving a window view of the muscles in his leg.
As time was ticking we quickly loaded him onto the back of the bakkie and took him to the lodge where he spent the evening in the laundryroom as Sav tried to organize a vet...
Foto's bij verslag (24)
13 juni 2017 19:38 | Door: Nicole
Wauw Kim wat een mooie foto's!!
15 juni 2017 21:49 | Door: Pascale Schroenn
Amazing highs and terrible lows - the depths of humanity's lust and lack of feeling/oness is heart breaking