When Alex was only 4 weeks old we made the big move from my apartment in the Netherlands to Stevens house in Letaba. I had been to Kruger on holiday many, many times. And spent weeks on end with Steven in Letaba. I even lived there with him part-time while I commuted back and forth between South Africa and Holland for my work as a cabin attendant. So I was by no means a newbie when it comes to living in the bush. But things change when you throw a baby into the mix!
Because I was a total newbie when it came to motherhood and babies! And I had to figure everything out in a new and somewhat ‘hostile’ feeling environment. I mean: you don’t want anything to happen to your precious little one. And we had moved from cold, wet, ‘safe’ Holland where the most dangerous insect is a wasp, to the wild Kruger National Park; with extremely dangerous animals both big and small. But, I suppose a lot of things feel dangerous to your baby when you are a first-time mom.
We moved in with Steven at the end of October and the summer heat was hectic from day one. If I remember correctly, the daytime temperatures were well into the forties that whole first month in Letaba. One day, with temperatures reaching 48 degrees, the bats that live in the bridge over the Letaba River got so hot inside they just needed to come out – only to cook on the boiling hot tarmac. There were hundreds of dead bats on the bridge, a sad, sad sight. I think that was the day we decided to spend my last Euros on a split unit for the living room.
Steven was with me in Holland for 6 weeks before we moved. During his absence, a lot of ‘guests’ took up residence in the Letaba house. That first month we had a genet in the roof, monkeys broke into the house, and I found out that there was a rat living in our stove. We evicted both stove and rat and were without a stove for weeks!
We had to give an eviction notice to two squirrels too. They had moved into the TV cabinet in our living room and were quite reluctant to leave.
One morning we were sitting outside on our stoep when I saw a warthog casually stroll through our living room! She had broken the gauze of our sliding door and was walking in the house like it was her own. Steven chased her down the street with a whip!
Then there were a bunch of red romans and scorpions that also needed to find new homes. Or that just needed to go live outside. Especially now that there was a baby in the house. I remember sitting on our bed breastfeeding Alex one night when movement on the lampshade next to me caught my eye. It was a tiny scorpion!
I also found a spittlebug in Alex’ cot a sac spider in my bed and a snake in the crack in the stoep at our sliding door. Of course, most of these ‘incidents’ happened while Steven was on trail. So I had to handle it on my own. I have to be honest with you, after that first month, I sometimes wondered what I got myself into!
But, one gets used to things I suppose, and a bit more confident in handling, or just accepting, the ‘guests’ in our home. This new mom and new resident of the Kruger National Park had some serious toughening up to do! Over time I learnt that not everything is going to harm my children. They are a lot tougher than we think. They can handle a bit of hot weather. And scorpions and other critters do not come into the house just to attack them. That does not mean we are not careful though!
Yesterday, a little shadow under the door to the stoep caught my eye. Closer inspection revealed a scorpion! Our boys are extremely curious so I told them to stay in the kitchen and went to go fetch my trusted broom. A big sweep of the broom and the scorpion was outside. It immediately ran back inside! He was quite an aggressive little bugger that eventually took shelter in our doormat. I put the doormat with scorpion up against a tree – a much more suitable place for a scorpion to live!
So, these days I can handle myself quite well with the animals inside and outside our house. And in evacuating critters from the house, my broom is probably my best friend. (I have used it to chase a snake out of the garage, to sweep scorpions out and also used it to take sac spider webs down from the ceiling. I even use it to angrily wave at the monkeys when they become a bit too cheeky!)
The potential threat of one of us contracting malaria is still a real concern though. But, we take our precautions to try and prevent that. Luckily now we live at Malelane Gate, good medical care is a lot closer than when we were living up in Letaba. Which helps a lot. (I wrote a blog about our experience with malaria. You can find the link here)
I think now, after more than four years in the park, there are not a lot of things that faze me anymore. The city girl from Holland that refused to eat outside as a child because she was scared of pretty much every single flying insect, got used to living out here in the bush. Seeing how my children grow up here, the way they love all the animals in this beautiful place, without the dangers of life in the city? I love it and would not change it for the world!