Thursday, January 1, 2009
An abandoned dugout, washed up by high water.
Upon returning from our adventure with the Victoria regia waterlilies, we made for our huts, using the headlamps that would be indispensable throughout this trip. Simple brick abodes, the huts lacked screens or door seals, and wildlife traversed them freely via the wide gaps beneath the thatched roof or under the door. Through the night, bats chittered and fluttered in the thatch, swooping in and out of the cabin, and occasionally a huge red wasp would plop down on us--the task being to brush it away before it could unleash its painful sting. I was thankful for the mosquito netting that surrounded our beds. As I was tucking it in, I heard the plop of what had to be a very large roach...or... something...falling off my bed netting and onto the concrete slab floor. You know the sound. Plop. Silence. Scuttle. I looked down, to behold a 2 1/2" long scorpion gathering its wits and then scuttling into the darkness under the bed. Oh, great. Great. Lullabye, and good night...I tried but failed to find it, so resigned myself to dreaming about it. For all I know it climbed right back up the mosquito netting and tucked itself under my thin mattress. It simply vanished.
Terry Moore takes five with a good ceegar outside his hut. He ain't afraid of no scorpions, but he does shake out his shoes before putting them on in the morning. Scorpions hate to be stepped on.
Communal meals at Karanambu are delicious and lively. The whole place has the feel of an African camp. Diane McTurk presides and serves the food, tells stories and makes conversation with her guests. She's had amazing first hand experience with rare mammals, as you'll see...
Wait. What's that in the little brown jar? Marmite? I'd heard of Marmite, and had always wanted to try it.
I took a tablespoon and daubed out a large gob, conveying it directly into my mouth, figuring it would taste like, oh, I don't know...molasses? It looked like molasses.
What followed was apparently hilarious to everyone but me. An indescribably foul, salty sludge scraped from the cracked pipes in the putrid sewers of Hell spread across my tongue. I struggled to gag it down, just to be rid of it, and not to have to spit it out in front of fifteen people. Bad choice. I should have spat it against the opposite wall. It was like digging a spoon into the drip pan of an old tractor and eating the oily sludge. # !@##@$#% that is FOUL!!
Marmite, purportedly made from used brewer's yeast, is an acquired taste. (Whatever Marmite.com says, I'm sticking to my Satan's sewerpipe theory). Apparently the English, with their world-reknowned culinary sensitivity, like to spread it on toast, but they use about one-tenth what I'd just ingested. Gaaagg. Glad I could give y'all a laugh this morning. Feh!I mentioned free-roaming wildlife at Karanambu. It was here that I met Bandit, the hand-raised crab-eating raccoon. You'll notice he's not Procyon lotor. He's P. cancrivorus.Much shorter of fur, beautifully rusty, and with the biggest feet I'd ever seen on any raccoon anywhere--look at those hind feet!!, this crab-eating raccoon was a whole different ball of wax than our North American beast. I was thrilled to make his acquaintance. Catlike, monkeylike, coonlike, coatilike, he was all of those, and like nothing else I'd seen. Big hands, I know you're the one.
He patrolled from hut to hut as if he owned the place, and I came to understand why he was allowed out only for short periods, under close supervision.
If I had to pick a favorite moment of the whole trip, I think it was when my roommate Erica and I were unpacking our suitcases, and there came a sudden fierce scrabbling as Bandit forced his tubby body through the narrow louvers of our window, an exhilarated grin on his simian face.
Finally popping through, he dove into my suitcase and began throwing clothes over his shoulder as he dug for the food he figured must be in there. He was just about to get to the beef jerky and power bars when I tapped him on the shoulder. HEY YOU! What do you think you're doing?
Biting you, that's what I'm doin'! Lemme be, woman! There's jerky in this suitcase, and I mean to find it!
Well, uh, help yourself, I guess...I'm not dumb enough to try to pick you up, you little hellcat. But that is my snack store you're getting into...Dang!
Erica and I laughed so long and hard that Pat, one of our hostesses, figured the little beast was up to his usual tricks, rushed over and unceremoniously grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and carried him out, twisting and snarling. Since he could force himself through the louvers, only a cage was going to stop him now.photo by Erica Gies
Such a bad, bad animal. I loved him, even as I realized that having a crab-eating raccoon break into one's hut and pillage one's suitcase isn't at the top of the most-delightful incident list for most tourists. Crab-eating raccoons are a little like Marmite. You love 'em, or you hate 'em.
The Swinging Orangutangs play tonight, and January 2, too, at the Marietta Brewing Company on Front St. in Marietta, Ohio. We been praktisin'. Happy New Year!