June 8: What to do With a Porcupine’s Stomach

Was the night drive tonight my favourite drive ever? Quite possibly. Tonight is shaping up to be the coldest so far this year, but that didn’t stop us from having the most perfect drive. Perfection was helped by my latest invention- a hot water bottle in a tote bag strapped around my neck and worn under my many coats. It makes me look 6 sizes bigger, but it’s awesome.

At present, i’ve got two members of the local Khomani San community who i’m helping to mentor. They’ll be coming on all of my drives for the next month. If tonight is anything to go by, it’s going to be one of the more valuable months of my life.

This is what guiding is all about and it’s why i’m here. For two whole hours on the night drive, ideas and culture flowed freely. It was like one of those awesome dinners where everyone brings their own thing to share. I always bring Rice Krispy Squares.

I had one of my better porcupine sighting tonight. It stood right by the vehicle and rattled its quills (as an unhappy porcupine does). Recognizing that it couldn’t leave the road because the banks were too high, I turned off the engine to let it go. And there in the dark, the sharing kicked off.

My guests tonight were Afrikaaner farmers. They mentioned that porcupines that are caught on farms are often eaten and taste pretty good. I backed that up by explaining that despite the risk of a quill through the face, lions and leopards love to hunt porcupine, so it must be worth it. Consensus: Porcupines taste great.Then we learned what the Khomani San do when they catch a porcupine. Its quills are used for crafts and then its stomach is removed and dried. Eventually it’s stomach is broken into pieces and infused in hot water to make a remedy for tummy ache.

I’ve never seen the Milky Way like I saw it tonight. No one knows just how many stars are in our own galaxy. Estimates range between 100 and 400 billion. You can see all of them from the Kalahari. Okay, not really. But tonight you’d believe you can.

And how to top off a mind-blowing night? ELAND! My first since coming to work here and something that’s been hovering at the top of my sightings ‘wish-list’. Tonight there were five at a waterhole socializing with some Gemsbok. The air was so silent that we even heard their characteristic ‘eland click’. Some say the clicking comes from a lack of cartilage in their knees, but it’s more likely that It’s their splayed hooves snapping back together when they lift their feet.

Love Kalahari. Like, really really Love Kalahari…

Night Drive Sightings:

Bat Eared Fox
African Wild Cat
Barn Owl
Spotted Eagle Owl
Verreaux’s Eagle Owl
Kalahari Moose

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