Last night I got a Christmas treat! Behati brought Adam for a visit! Unfortunately, I didn’t prepare the gate beforehand, so I wasn’t able to get pictures. Hopefully they’ll both come back tonight. Today held a few surprises…starting with the wind picking back up again. My original adventure today after spending the past 2 days in the house was to go to a nearby ostrich farm. It’s pretty close, but I figured it would be super windy there too, so I nixed that plan. Plan B was the other activity that’s been on my list- the Two Oceans Aquarium at the V & A Waterfront in Cape Town. I had read on their website that they had added an Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) to their exhibit on December 21. The story about how they got it and the care they took to get it to its new temporary home (supposedly they release many of their animals after a period of time, which I have mixed feelings about), is quite amazing, and I would KILL to be the person who got to hand feed it! Mola molas are probably my most favoritest saltwater fish- they’re the largest bony fish in the world! I’ve only saw one once before, at the Atlanta Aquarium, so I was pretty excited!
Got my Uber and headed in to Cape Town. Guy dropped me off in front of some huge mall thing. My mall-o-phobia kicked in. There were people EVERYWHERE. Ugh. Walked through the mall, out the back, and followed the signs to the aquarium that was a couple of blocks away. The line was really long, but I got to bypass it because I bought my ticket online and saved 10% to boot! Once inside, it was crowded. REALLY crowded. With tons and tons of tourists. And they all had multiple children shorter than my armpit (my measuring stick for the presence of sufficient cognitive thinking skills- the only type of children I enjoy!). Kids were running around everywhere, banging on tanks, running in to me, shoving in front of me when I was standing in front of a tank to take a picture- all while their parents did nothing to reign in their little
demons darlings. So far, within the past 5 minutes I had been subjected to three things that I can’t stand- mindless consumerism, tourists, and small children. I really shouldn’t be allowed in public places unsupervised…
The aquarium was very kid friendly, I’ll say that. The tanks were clean, animals looked healthy. No complaints from me (those of you who know me, know that I was in the aquarium industry for about 25 years). It’s not the most spectacular aquarium in the world, but for the amount of space it’s pretty well planned out with some nice exhibits and a lot of educational material. And a few things I had never seen before, which is always exciting!
And I got to see something really rare- a common octopus doing something very uncommon- actually not hiding! It was great watching him swim to a crevice and presume the camouflaged position! #cephalogeek
There was a penguin exhibit, that was kinda stinky. I don’t know, it just didn’t feel right to me, but I must say the Rockhopper Penguins (Eudyptes moseleyi) were gorgeous!
And then I came to the very large “Predator Tank”. Inside of it was a big mesh holding pen. And inside of that was…..my Mola mola!!! Oh my god, but it was so amazing. I spent about 45 minutes total in the aquarium, 15 of it with this big, lovable, amazing creature! Taking pics behind glass is bad enough. Behind glass and through a mesh net- ugh. I’ve sent the aquarium a facebook message to see if they’re going to release it into the main tank soon. If so, I’ll go back and see it again.
I would have spent more time in the aquarium, but I just couldn’t take the noise and people anymore. I decided to walk into The Watershed- a huge building that housed a lot of African craft shops- more like booths actually. There were some beautiful things, but the whole scene was just too touristy/froo-froo for me. I had been at the waterfront for a little over an hour (about the amount of time it took to get there), and I was over it. I felt I needed a “palette cleanser” after having to deal with all of that, so I decided what the heck…I’ll go to the ostrich farm!
Got an Uber with the FRIENDLIEST driver I’ve had so far. We talked the whole way about all kinds of things. He speaks English, Swahili, and 3 other native languages. Every time I leave the United States, I realize just how dumb I am. As we drove further and further into the middle of no where, I started getting concerned about getting an Uber back…
Reached the farm, said a warm goodbye, and headed off to explore ostriches! Went to the office to buy my ticket, and they said an English tour had just started so just go ahead and join them. There were a group of about 30 people under a tree, and the guide was explaining all about ostrich breeding. I came in about 10 minutes late, and missed a lot I fear. I hate missing things like that! The people on this tour were SO. DAMN. RUDE!!! There were 2 different couples who insisted on having a conversation among themselves in full voice. I moved closer to the guide so I could hear. I wanted to record it, but it was so windy I knew the video would just sound like “sssssssssssswwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”. 🙁 She asked if we wanted to stand on an egg to see how strong it was. Of course, being the Hermione of every tour group I’m ever in, my hand shot up.
We went inside for a mini lecture (YAY!!!!). Of course, I was on the front row and asking questions. And of course, the jerk tourists were STILL talking like they were the only people in the room. The guide would look at them every once in a while, giving them “the eye”, but they didn’t care. Man, I was pissed. I wanted clean video for my students. Anyway, I learned a lot of things. An ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain! Ostriches have the 2nd strongest hide on earth. Bet you can’t guess the 1st….KANGAROO!! Isn’t that crazy!! And ostriches are the 2nd fastest animal on earth, behind the cheetah. She talked a lot about incubation of the eggs. And when she was done, we got to look in the incubation rooms.
The next area was the baby grow out area. And OH MY GAWWWWWWWWWWD!!!! Guess what? I almost d-i-e died! They were SO cute!! The grown ones scare the crap out of me. They’re big, dumb, and intimidating as hell. But these bay-bays!!!! I wanted to jump in and kiss them all! Unfortunately, we couldn’t touch them. The first pen were the 2 week old babies- they were as big as big chickens! Then there was a 3 week, 4 week, and 5 week pen. The 5 weekers were as big as turkeys! It was insane how fast they grow! And how beautiful and camouflaged their colors are when they’re young.
Tour was over. I went into the gift shop, because I knew I wanted one of the decorated eggs as a souvenir. At the waterfront, the eggs were 700 rand (about $55). Here, they were only 300 rand!! Less than half price. I knew I hated that froo-froo craft market… As I was looking at the eggs, the guide came up and asked me if I needed any help. We started talking and I thanked her for the tour. She apologized for the jerks, and said she could barely talk over them, so didn’t even tell us a lot of stuff. She then started to tell me a lot of other things about the farm and the birds in general. I was in heaven! I know she singled me out because I was paying attention and asking questions! It’s good to be the Hermione! 🙂 It was 2pm now, and I was STARVING- I hadn’t eaten since about 7am. Went to the resturant and had an AMAZING ostrich filet (they pronounce it fill-it) with these crazy good fried potatoes and cole slaw. Only $15 with a drink and tip, so I was pleased with that. First time eating out since I’ve been here (I hate eating alone). There was no wifi, so I kept myself busy reading tourist brochures of local activities. Nothing popped.
Headed out to see the big birds- Bonnie, Connie, and Clyde (I know this because the tour guide told me in the “Mary Special Post Tour” 🙂 ). Dang. They are big. And scary. You could buy food to feed them from your hand. I watched other people do it and scream- they go after you pretty fast. Uh, yeah. I’ll pass. Took some pics of them, though. The males are bigger and have the black & white feather and red beaks. Females are smaller and brown.
Back to the gift shop to decide on an egg and stand. Then, I started searching for a wifi signal to get an Uber. I asked the staff. They told me 3 different areas to go stand to maybe get a signal. No luck. I asked someone else, and they said go to the gate. Walked all the way to the parking lot gate. No signal. Fucksticks. I’m in the middle of no where with no signal and no ride. Mary, circa 4 years ago would have had an epic curse-laden rant on hand for such an occasion. Mary, circa now, says “Fucksticks”, shrugs, and starts verbally hitchhiking. I approached 3 different people. “Hello. Are you a serial killer? No? Great! Any chance you’re heading to Simon’s Town?”. Well, I thought the serial killer part but left it out of the convo. A resounding “nope” from all of them. Mary, circa now, does not fear. Because I know these people are not going to shut the gates and throw me out in the street alone. I went back to the restaurant and explained my dilemma. They knew someone from Simon’s Town who would come get me, and they’d call them right now! WOO-HOO! See, Mary circa 4 years ago, things work out. No need to panic. 🙂
The absolute LOVELIEST woman walked up about 30 minutes later and said if I was waiting for a taxi! She was all smiles and light!! We got in the car and immediately hit it off. Talked about all kinds of things. Twice she told me I was a breath of fresh air! As mentioned earlier in this blog, I live for those compliments from locals!! I was sad when we pulled up to the house, sad to lose such good company. I said, “200 rand, right?”. She told me she didn’t even want to charge me, but her boss wouldn’t be pleased! If you are in Simon’s Town and need a ride, call Simon’s Town Shuttle.
Wow. What a day! Fed the porcupines and Behati showed up like clockwork at 8:30, but no Adam tonight. Next couple of days are going to be work filled, so don’t expect anything too exciting out of me. Oh! And here is the egg I got! I paid extra for this really cool carved stand that spoke to me instead of just getting the regular flat round one. Because my consumerism is based on experiences, not random, meaningless junk. And this egg will be an awesome addition to my travel display case at home- reminding me of a great experience!
DAY 13 and 14
Day 13, life couldn’t have been more boring. I worked 15 hours straight, and even the porcupines didn’t show up. 🙁 Winds are still blowing pretty strong. Day 14, almost a repeat of Day 13. Until I went into the kitchen around noon to get lunch…Did your windows rattle around 12pm Cape Town time?? No, it wasn’t an earthquake. It was me screaming. And I’m sure that no matter where you are in the world, you heard it. I went to put a dish in the sink, and this THING was in there. It was huge. It was disgusting. It was creepy as all hell. The fact that I didn’t drop the dish is truly a testament to my mad house sitting skillz. Because I let out a scream and jumped about a meter both up and backwards. After the initial shock wore off, I leaned in for a closer look. It reminded me of the super nasty mole crickets I’ve seen in the states- a really soft body. It looked like a cross between a giant cricket, a giant ant, and a giant nightmare. Slowly, the critter curiosity in me became stronger than the fear. I knew I had to get it out of the sink (way to big to wash down the drain). I was really concerned about it jumping, or killing me by spitting venom or some koo-koo uncivilized African thing, but it was SO big, and its hind legs really didn’t look strong enough to propel it very far. I seriously considered coming downstairs to google it before I got too close, but figured I was safe. So I got a tupperware and scooped it out. It didn’t make too much of a fuss.
I snapped those couple of pics. My face was less than a foot from it when I was taking the pics, but I was so enthralled at this point, I didn’t care. When our photo shoot was over, I took it out in the backyard and let it loose. Then I came to google it. I googled “big cricket South Africa”. After seeing images of cricket games, I refined it to “big cricket insect South Africa”. And what came up was something that looked exactly like my critter, commonly known as a Parktown Prawn. And get a load of this…they are NASTY buggers (no pun intended)!!! They will HISS when threatened!!! Not only that, but they can jump A METER!!! And they usually will jump RIGHT AT/ON YOU!!!! And if that wasn’t bad enough, they will squirt out a horribly rancid smelling black liquid feces when agitated!!! WTDDF (what the double dutch fillintheblank)!!!! Had it done any ONE of those things, I would be blogging right now from either the hospital or a hotel. The only thing about my ID that bothered me was that I could really only find reports of it around Johannesburg. Apparently people there are scared to death of the things, and there are horror stories and videos all over the ‘net about them. Holy. Crap. Ola. I was so happy mine was docile! It’s abdomen was so soft looking and super fat, I figured it was a female full of eggs who probably came in (how???) to get water. The drought here is awful. I happily posted my find on the Entomology Facebook page. A few people agreed with my Parktown Prawn ID. But one lady said no, it was a Sia pallidus, which looks very similar to the species I had IDed it as, but is found in the Cape. That made better sense. Especially because these guys are burrowers, so no need for super strong, leap terrified Americans in a single bound, hind legs. Phew. Scorpions in the bathroom in Costa Rica (I killed that thing dead, dead, dead by drowning it in a puddle of bug spray). Giant crickets in the sink in South Africa. Oh, the adventures never end. At least it broke up the work day a bit! And qualifies as my only adventure in 2 days. I’m prepping for the beginning of the spring semester for online classes- they start January 9, so everything has to be ready by the time Brian gets here. Busy, busy, busy…