Monday May 21- Everyday I Shovel Sh*t... I mean poo

After catching up on lost sleep, we woke up early again to start our routine as volunteers.  Excited to spend some time with my lions, I was disappointed to see I was going to the bomas first thing in the morning but happy I was trying something new.

So we went to the shed at 6:30am in the morning and loaded the back of a truck with wheelbarrows, shovels and pitch forks.  We sent the truck on its way which was going to meet us at the elephant bomas, and we started our short walk with out guide to the bomas.

When we arrived at the bomas, the usually empty enclosure for the elephants now was overflowing with 4 elephant bodies and a whole lot of poo.  When we would walk the elephants at night and bring them back to their bomas, each elephant would walk themselves into their own enclosure, which separated each elephant from the next by large bars.  Then just outside of the closure but within a trunks reach was a trough full of grass, food and treats and a puddle of molasses water (also a treat).  Now, after spending the evening in the enclosure and having no where to go, the huge trough full of food had obviously passed through each elephant and they had made a noticeable mess.  No worries!  Alex and Justine to the rescue!

Don't judge me but here is a confession: I have never done serious shovelling in my life.  Since I was born and raised in the city and never have had experience on a farm, shovelling poo the size of my torso was an interesting challenge.  There is a first time for everything!

So we let the elephants out of their bomas and they went straight for the trees where their favourite berries were hiding.  Armed with a shovel and a wheelbarrow at my side, I started at the first boma and shovelled shit to my hearts desire.

Needless to say, it took a little bit of time because there 4 bomas, and 4 people including Alex and myself, and the other two people were workers who spent a lot of the time running the wheelbarrows full of poo to the piles a short walk away.

I don't have a lot more to say about shovelling shit.  It was hard work because sometimes the poo did not want to cooperate and would fall off your shovel or fall through the pitchfork but we finished, loaded our tools into the truck again and walked with the elephants for the short distance they needed to be accompanied to their daytime location.

We had a quick breakfast and regrouped a short time later for our second volunteer duty of the day which had us at the stables.  Fortunately for us, it was not horse food making which was a blessing, but very well could include more poo shovelling because you do whatever is needed at the stables.  To our surprised, most of the work had been done for the morning and we did not have to shovel more poo but were asked instead to go into one of the corrals with the horses and give them some TLC.  Although the stable man will never admit it, it was obvious the division between the horses.  There were lots of horses at the stable, nearly 20 of them were polo horses or polo horse babies and probably another 20-30 were "regulars".  The polo horses got the best food and the most special treatment and while the other horses were no where near neglected, they just did not get a whole lot of attention when compared to the polo horses.  So Alex and I got ourselves some brushes and tick ointment and went to the horses.

We had our focus directed to a few pretty ladies n particular, mares that had been bitten or were skittish  and their foals who were also skittish.  We decided divide and conquer was our best bet at getting through all the horses that we wanted to and so I went and bonded with a mare.  She was dirty from rolling in the dirt, shy and covered in ticks.  After spending some time to get and know each other, I began my work brushing a fair bit of dirt off of her.  Looking very pretty, I armed myself with rubber gloves and began pulling ticks out of her.  Most of them were knotted i her mane or all over her face so with a gentle handle, I started pulling blood filled bodies off of her.

Clearly, pulling ticks is a large task and I would have had to shave her to get to all the baby ticks nestles under her hair so I started spreading tick ointment on her head.  The tick ointment which is like a grease, is blue in colour and gets rubbed in.  Unfortunately for my horse, she was white, and she looked a bit silly with a blue head but before I knew it, tiny tick bodies were being worked to the top and were showing up everywhere like flecks of dirt.

After spending time with this mare, Alex and I shared the job of a foal who was extra shy but loved following Alex around (probably because Alex is a horse whisperer).  With Alex distracting the little baby, I had the lovely task of pulling an incredibly large tick from the little horse's bum.  Poor thing was probably so uncomfortable with a giant tick (literally a giant, this sucker was ready to blow because we was so huge and full of blood) in such an inconvenient spot.

After brushing several horses, Alex and I finished up by rubbing tick grease on all of the horses noses and then went and put our things away before lunch.

Back at camp, and following lunch, we prepared ourselves for more shit shovelling.  Clearly, we were making up for the all the shit shovelling we missed the week before.

So off to BPG we went.  Again, with a shovel and wheelbarrow in tow, we shovelled and scooped more shift that should be humanly possible to an audience of full grown male and female lions.  The cheered us on as we went with the occasional roar off (although the lion handlers say they were trying to prove who was the big man on campus, I still think they were cheering me on) and anxious entered back into their enclosure just to make another mess.

Oh well.  I will still love them!

Back at camp, and suitably exhausted, we finished our day with a much needed walk with Paza and Penya.

I seriously love those girls.  And Laili and Lewa.  I love lions. Does this make me a crazy cat lady?

Back on topic, Paza greeted me at her enclosure with a nuzzle and a lion noise ( I cannot articulate the noise in writing, nor can I make the noise myself, but if you ever meet Alex or Dan, ask them to make the noise, or just go to Antelope Park, because it is awesome) and we made our way on our walk.  On our walk were some new volunteers, a couple of which were Canadians.  Sarah from Ontario, Ellie from Quebec, and Lauren from the United States, were all sharing a room just a hop, skip and a jump away from our room while another new volunteer Mieke from Alberta, had another room .  Since they were Canadian and America, Alex and I flocked to their sides immediately.  Even when we had arrived at Antelope Park a few weeks before, certain people grouped together based on where they were from.  The overwhelming majority was from Norway, and they always sat together and would speak Norwegian   This was a problem for me because I am hardly fluent in English, which is my first and only language so I never met many Norwegians while I was there.  But Since Ellie, Sarah, Mieke and Lauren seemed relatively normal, we instantly associated ourselves with them.  Probably a good move in the long run seeing as how I still keep in touch with the people and we are no longer temporary friends, and instead have upgraded to Facebook and actual friends.  Big step, I know.  Anyways, the night was getting cooler and was noticeable after spending the last week in the warmer part of Zimbabwe at Victoria Falls.

After our walk with my little lionesses, we went back to our rooms, bundled up in about layers (kidding, I could not have fit that much in my 2 suitcases), had a quick dinner and curled up in bed for the night.

Off topic but somewhat relevant- while I was in Zimbabwe, I thought about keeping a journal.  Did not happen.  So instead every 2, 3, or 6 days, i made notes about what we did each day.  Since we did a ton of lion walks, they all somewhat run together and I could never remember how many impala the girls chased, how lazy or excited they were when they saw prey, or how long each walk was.  So all that got written in my little bible of the days events was "lion walk with ___".  Descriptive right?  Not.  I wish I had wrote more and kept better track.  So for those of you following along and are thinking "Jeez, she says she likes lions and went to Antelope Park for this reason, she sure does not write a lot about them", you're to a degree.  I do not write a lot because I do not want to make things up.  Lying, not cool.  What is cool.  Lions and how much fun and interesting lion walks are to go on.  So when you see "lion walk", think "it was so awesome it blew my mind".

Also, during lion walks we had to keep track of data and characteristics like how often the lions engaged in stalks and how close they got.  This is all for the forming a pride to move into Stage 2.  I recorded data A LOT.  Seriously, all the friggen time I was recording data.  Not a bad thing, and since I recorded data so often, I can tell you the lions liked to stalk and chase and kind of get close and then decide, nah, they didn't want to run anymore.  See how awesome lion walks are?

Crazy cat lady for sure.

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