At all of the unfenced wilderness camps in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) they have a “Welcome to . . .” note taped up in the kitchen area. After the initial welcome message, it is basically a list of all the fierce creatures outside your cabin/chalet door just waiting to sink their teeth or fangs or venomous stingers into you.
One point is “Predators are free to walk through the camp. Take a good look around before leaving your chalet.“. Another reminds you that “Smaller animals such as snakes and scorpions can enter your chalet. Remember to close doors and gates when leaving your chalet. Lift large items that have been resting on the ground with caution.” Having once shared a sleeping bag with a scorpion, I’m not keen to repeat the experience. So I make sure to follow all the safety measures advised.
However, there is one creature that the KTP do not warn you about – one with whom I had a close encounter one cold night at the Grootkolk wilderness camp.
It was a very cold night, so in addition to the duvet and sheets on the bed, I threw over one of the thick blankets they supply. Snuggling in and going to sleep to the sounds of hyenas close by, I was smug in the knowledge that I was warm and safe. In the middle of the night I was jolted awake with a panicky feeling that something had just bitten or scratched my hand (under the blanket). My second thought was that I had probably been dreaming. On the verge of drifting off to sleep again, I felt a definite movement against my foot. I lay there for a while contemplating what I should do. Thinking it was probably a scorpion, I didn’t want to make any sudden moves. So my strategy was to slowly reach for the torch I kept next to the bed, while carefully lifting the blankets. And then I saw it . . . Its cold eyes staring at me, its sharp teeth ready to sink into my foot, its claws ready to gouge me.
We later identified the fierce creature as Mus minutoides or the Pygmy Mouse. Essentially, Mini Mouse . . . Which, I know, doesn’t sound too impressive as far as fierceness is concerned. However, I still told Willie that should I fall ill with a mysterious illness (and not be able to speak for myself) he should tell the doctors about my scary encounter. Obviously I’ve been watching too much of House M.D.!
Now the nibbled edges of the blanket I’d noticed earlier made sense – I had stolen the Mini Mouse’s nest. Anyway, the story ends abruptly with me launching the little critter out of the bed and onto the floor, where it sat dazed for a while before scampering off. Willie, woken by the light and the noise, asked what was going on. Hearing that it had “just been a little mouse”, he rolled over and went back to sleep. Maybe if it had been in his bed, he would have felt differently?! I, however, lay awake for quite a while trying not to think about what else I’d have to ward off that night. It didn’t help that I could still hear hyenas and jackals outside in the bush . . .
The Kalahari 2011 Series:
- An oasis in the desert
- Take your camera to the bathroom (and other Kalahari safari tips)
- The long road North – Southern Cape to Upington
- The Long Road North – Upington
- Showing your kid where its food comes from
- Fierce Creatures (this post)
- Gemsbok Graphics
- The Long Road North – Upington to Twee Rivieren and beyond
- Campfire story: The Last Outpost
- Slip-Slap-Slop-Slide and other Bush Beauty Tips
- Hey Mom . . . wait for me!
- A tough customer
- Frenzy at the “water hole” – includes the movie
- The Camp Cat