The Renoster has arrived

Good morning and happy August!

It is absolutely freezing this morning, but the weather in general is heating up and the sun is rising earlier each morning. I love it! I even wore shorts for a bit yesterday! But right now, at 06:30 it is cold. I am currently sitting on my couch wrapped up in my favourite blanket. Hedwig is perched above my door doing her little head dance and standing on one foot. And Ryno is curled up like a fox with his tail over his nose on his big fancy bed.

Wait a second…. Ryno?

You heard (ahem, read) correct! Ryno is now in Mozambique with me!!!!! My heart is so happy in a way that I cannot even put to words. He was the missing piece to making this amazing place truly home.

This past weekend I went to Maputo and got to see the “big city.” Hugo and his lovely wife, Ily, took me in on their awesome pallet futon, we stuffed our faces with sushi (oh man have I missed sushi), and Hugo took me around town and gave me a grand tour of the place he grew up. I got to go shopping for myself for the first time in nearly five months. It is a crazy concept. But the world is crazy right now. Being properly in public during COVID times is … well, it is an experience. Masks are mandatory in Mozambique (cue the great mask debate – now giggle for a second because if you say “mask debate” out loud it sounds like “masturbate” … I promise I am an adult). Moving on… Every shop you enter, they make you hand sanitise and take your temperature. But the thing is they do not actually seem to read or care about what your temperature is. My temperature ranged from 34-36.something°C, 34 would mean I am a corpse, but the temperature-taker did not even seem to bat an eye at that, as long as he did his job of taking temperatures. I also managed to squeeze in some pampering and went and got my hair done for the first time since December, it feels so good to be a redhead again! I am so grateful to Hugo for taking me and translating too because no one at the hair salon spoke a word of English. That is another new experience for me. Every country I have lived in up to now has had English as the primary (or one of) language, in Mozambique everyone speaks Portuguese and all of the road signs and everything is in Portuguese. I do not know Portuguese. So, I was a little nervous if my hair was going to come out correct, but it came out perfect! (Also insert a shout out to Heather from Next for sending up my specific shade of red all the way from Joburg). I got to see the beaches from afar and enjoyed watching all of the flamingos, but the beaches are closed to the public due to COVID. Pubs are open but open air outside beaches are closed. Figure that one out. I also spent two nights in an AirBnB while in Maputo. Another new experience. I have always had the best of luck with AirBnBs, even the cheap ones, well my luck more or less ran out on this trip. The AirBnB itself was not so bad on the inside, but it was a small apartment shared with three other people who barely spoke English. They seemed nice though, but we more or less just kept to our own bedrooms. The area was kind of dodgy and I was a little nervous about parking my cruiser there, but all turned out okay! Just probably will not be a place I stay in again.

The AirBnB…

But the big event and the whole reason I was in Maputo – to meet up with my baby boy!!! Ryno came across the border late Sunday evening. I was so happy to see him again that I wanted to cry. Monday morning, we hit the road to home and he has been by my side ever since.

So far we this week we have driven up to the north section of Karingani twice and on the way had incredible drives – we saw elephants, a big herd of wildebeests, zebra, a stunning group of massive male kudus annnnnndddd yesterday morning on the way to photograph a management burn WE SAW A LEOPARD MAKE A KILL right in front of my cruiser!!!!!!!!! It was only the second kill I have ever seen in the bush and I was so excited about it! (Ryno slept through the whole thing). This young leopard (I am guessing male but was not able to confirm) took a male duiker right in front of me in the road and then moved off about 15 meters, but still in the open. He was pretty skittish though and after he killed the duiker he moved off into a thick bush. I knew he would come back out to eat his kill, so I stuck around and every so often I could see the leopard poking his head out to check on me, but he never wanted to come back so I decided to leave him in peace to enjoy his breakfast.

Ryno has been running with me in the evenings and it is so nice to have my running partner back. Although my little 5 km run is nothing for him since living with Kathryn who is incredible and ran marathons with him in Joburg while he was there.

At first him and Hedwig were both scared of each other, but now they have set into a hierarchy with Hedwig as definitely the more dominant one. When Ryno is eating and she decides that she too is hungry, she will fly down and start biting at his toes until he moves away and then she tries and steals his food. You would think that I never fed her for how much begging she has been doing lately, she is worse than any dog. Last night she nearly landed in my salad and then tried to steal lettuce – someone please remind her that she is a raptor that eats MEAT not salad.

But overall, I am so happy. My house is home now, I have my fur and feather children with me, work is busy in a good way and my soul just feels good being here in the bush.

I hope that wherever in the world you are reading this from that you too are happy. And you should take a moment to look around you and just find some little thing that makes you smile – a plant that you have managed to keep alive, your cat curled up in the sun, your kids running around, a project that you are working on or finished, or maybe you are sipping on an incredible cup of coffee. Just take a second to appreciate something around you. Go ahead and do it right now. You are amazing and you should know that, and I love sharing my stories with you. Thank you for reading along and just for being YOU. We live in a crazy world and in currently a really crazy time, but life is still good. Remember that.

Until next time…

Ocean breezes and owl fluff

Things are continuing to operate at a million miles per hour and I am absolutely loving every moment of it. I have officially moved into my new house and it feels so good to have a home again!

I have very limited furniture and not much of my personal things here yet, but as soon as borders open I’ll be able to get my decorations and furnishings and really be able to personalise my new home. Though, it is sounding more and more like borders will not be opening until February next year. Eish. I am going to have to make a plan. Lisa, Gareth and Kathryn were absolutely incredible and went to my house in Joburg to pack it all up and move everything into storage so I do not have spend money on rent for a place I cannot get it. Packing and moving is not fun at all and I am so grateful that I have them there to be willing to do something like that for me. They really are family and I do miss them oh so much! Apparently, Lisa and Gareth’s son, Jayden – my ‘nephew’ was asking about me the other day saying that I am his best friend. That just makes my heart melt. ❤

I am really starting to make some amazing friendships here though. Initially I felt very isolated and was nervous about being too lonely here, but over the past two months or so I have really grown to feel more at home here and I love the people here. Two weeks ago, Rhalda, Ellery and fam invited me along to the beach with them for a little holiday near Xai-Xai. It was incredible!! There is just something about that sea air (which is ionised air as Ellery would say). We stayed in a big house right on the beach that was isolated from other properties giving an exclusive and very private feel. The first two days were really cold and rainy, but after that it cleared and warmed up giving us such perfect weather for the rest of the trip. The Indian Ocean is so much warmer than the Atlantic too, even in the middle of winter you could still go swimming! And that is a HUGE statement coming from me, I am such a weenie when it comes to cold and especially cold water. In the mornings during low tide, the sea receded back exposing incredible rock pools and reefs. We saw lion fish, bluebottle jelly fish, starfish, nudibranch and all sorts of incredible little critters – I felt like such a kid again playing in the shallows checking things out.

Definitely cannot complain about this amazing view and room!
Even Hedwig enjoyed the sea breeze
Building sand castles with the kids
I am a sand shark 😂

In the evenings Rhalda, Ellery and I would play cards, listen to music and stay up all night laughing and having such a great time. It was really such a wonderful escape and a nice refresh!

Last week I was excited to be asked to photograph a rhino dehorning operation for Saving the Survivors on another protected reserve in Mozambique. It is such a strange concept to be the “professional photographer” for the event – imagine, me, a professional photographer. I don’t know, it is just a strange thing to wrap my head around as it had always one of my dreams and now it is a reality. It makes me happy. Anyways… The operation went very smoothly, and it was a beautiful, huge white rhino bull.

Dehorning is such a sad thing to have to do, but this bull had a really nice horn and was the only rhino on that property with such a horn as all the rest had already been dehorned. Being the only one with a horn put a huge target on him. All in all, it was in the best interest of the rhino and for his safety to remove the horn. Also, for those reading this that do not know what dehorning is – it is exactly what it sounds like, trimming and removing both of the rhino’s horns to make them less of a target for poaching. Rhino horns are made up of keratin and calcium, just like our fingernails so dehorning them is completely painless just like trimming your fingernails. I also really enjoyed seeing a bit more of Mozambique – I really enjoy this country.

Hedwig is doing great! She has discovered her wings and now hops/flies from spot to spot and often back to the same spot again and then she pounces on some invisible prey before flying to another spot all in rapid succession. I enjoy watching her grow so much! She also now has to really attack and “kill” her meat at every feeding. Then she tries to hold to meat with one foot as she tears into it. The thing is though she often drops the piece of meat and keeps attacking at her foot confused as to why the meat that was there a moment ago has disappeared.

She is about 60 days old now!
Trying to “kill” the squirrel

She is getting more and more cuddly as well. I had the day off on Saturday and she hoped into bed with me early in the morning for some cuddles and has spent most of the morning today in my office sitting in my lap. She is rapidly defluffing as well – ALL over the place. But she is looking more and more like an owl and less like a fat, fluffy butterball.

Ryno sounds happy and seems like he is doing great with Kathryn and family in SA! They adopted a new puppy and it sounds like he is getting on so well with the new puppy, I am sure he loves having the friend to play with too. I am very lucky he has such a wonderful family to love on him and take care of him until we can be reunited once more.

What day is it even?

Things have been completely non-stop here lately! If you follow the Karingani social media pages @karinganimozambique, you are probably pretty up-to-date, but if you don’t then go follow them! One of my jobs here is managing the social media accounts so all those post you see from Karingani and most of the photos are my doing. 😊 But if you are slacking behind – in the past week plus we have darted a lion three times (once to administer a TB test, once to check the results of the TB test and finally when he was confirmed negative for TB, we were able to pack him up and ship him out of here). I have a whole story written up about that particular lion’s story, but you will either have to check out Karingani’s pages or wait until I can post the full blog.

Also last week, we caught up with the Mbilu wild dog pack who have two of the females (alpha female, Albie and beta female, Nonisa) currently denning! Wild dogs typically give birth to 8-12 puppies each year around May-July. Generally, the alpha female will be the only one to breed each year. However, occasionally another female, often the beta (second in rank), will fall pregnant as well. Depending on the pack dynamics, prey availability and other factors researchers are still investigating, if a non-alpha female gives birth to puppies, one of four things usually happens – 1) the litter is killed by the pack, 2) the alpha female ‘adopts’ the puppies and raises them alongside her own, 3) the beta female splits from the pack with one or more other pack members and starts her own pack, or 4) the female is allowed to raise her litter along with the pack. Now while these scenarios are not necessarily set in stone, nothing truly is when it comes to wild dogs, they are the most commonly recorded scenarios through observation.

I am anxious to find out more information about the Mbilu pack dynamics with both Albie and Noni having pups. But since we found the den site only about one or two weeks after the pack had settled, we did not want to push too much and had work to do, so we kept as far away from the actually dens as we could. We darted the pack’s alpha (and only) male, Lightning to place a satellite tracking collar on him.

The pack will generally stay at the same den site until the puppies are mobile enough to move on their own and then eventually the entire pack will relocate to a new den site. This helps prevent flea infestations as well as protects the young pups from being discovered by other carnivores which might try and kill them. Having both Albie and Lightning with satellite collars will allow us to be able to track the pack even if they do move den sites. I am really hoping to get back to the den once the puppies are a little bit older and see how many puppies there are and what the pack dynamics are like with the puppies. The alpha female, Albie and some of her daughters are quite special dogs to me. They were the very first wild dogs that I had ever seen and worked with! I helped move and collar Albie and pack back in 2017 in Tembe Elephant Park in South Africa! How cool is that? Small world, hey?

And of course, I am sure you are wanting a new Hedwig update. She is doing great, getting even fatter and fluffier if that is possible! I am so amazed by how far she has come. She is now standing and hobbling around pretty efficiently as well! She can also now eat two whole (well chopped up) but two flipping mice at her big feedings, she is most definitely no longer lacking an appetite!

Also I need to add a disclaimer for those following this blog via email subscription… my WiFi here is very poopy and so the easiest way for me to share blogs that have photos that I have taken with my phone is to first publish the blog and then go back on my phone and edit it, but that means those of you reading in your e-mails or who are REALLY fast as checking out my latest post might miss some or all of the photos. I have tried saving just as a draft and not publishing but for some stupid reason my phone says no to that idea. So, I suggest giving it a few minutes and actually clicking to go to the blog page instead of just checking out the email version. Sorry if that makes things difficult.

Then there are days like today and I cannot get the dangnabbit WordPress app to work at all so you are going to have to deal with the photos in here until probably tomorrow. Sorry about that.