Playing in the mountains and a moonlit walk up Lajuma

As Hai, one of my climbing partners, would say, “You gotta trust your feet!”–something I’m definitely learning to do while bushwhacking through the bush.

My work for the PhD student, Ben, has been centered around vegetation transects so John (the 20 year old Australian, who also works for Ben, with a panache for climbing trees and rocks–swear to God he was a monkey in his previous life!), and I go out into the forest to locate and record vegetation information on certains areas. While the work isn’t that fascinating, getting the data is: slithering between/under/over rocks; climbing trees and cliffs; using vines as tightropes…it’s so much fun I can hardly believe this is work! At one point, I had to push off between two rocks over 15 feet as I inched my way to the other side…my fear of heights is slowly disappearing.

I’m falling more in love with the mountain each day.

On Thursday, several of us decided to climb Lajuma at dusk beneath the full moon. We left a little before 8 PM with headlamps on and spirits high! Up the leopard trail, we reached the pastures which was silvery beneath the moonlight. The ferns, still gray from lack of rain, were a ghostly sheen and blinking eyes could be seen from trees–probably bushbabies. We reached a nice spot beneath the peak surrounded by rocks to protect us from the wind and laid down some blankets and looked up. With binoculars, you could see Jupiter’s moon.

I woke up around 130 AM, right when the full moon was centered over the 2x5in gap I left open for breathing–it was way too bright! That and nature was calling. With a strong wind and the moon as my guide, I tried to find a protected area where the wind wouldn’t shift too much and splatter me with urine…miraculously, no problems encountered! I took the time to explore the area a little bit and felt like I was in Lord of the Rings. While the mountains here are less impressive than the ones surrounding Seattle, moonlight seems to make everything mysterious–turning it black, white and silver.

We woke up around 5 AM to catch the sunrise–cue Lion King music–then made our way to the top of Lajuma. Hey look! Botswana! Exhausted, we made our way down and took a nap before setting out into the forest for more “work” that afternoon.

Adjusting to life on the mountain and its simplicity has been calming. I spend my free time doing laundry, reading in the sun and watching the monkeys play in our yard and on the roof. No worries about crime or other life dramas. Listening to Oldrich, an avuncular man with a passion for conservation, talk about his dream for Lajuma has been inspiring–hopefully I can get more involved with learning more about conservation and the administrative/business/political side on how to make a change.

Until then, I’ll enjoy playing in the mountains and hopefully more moonlit walks exploring the Lajuma.

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