Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

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Like my brownhouse:
   the many flavors of bush meat
Monday, March 31 2003

setting: Nyala Campground, Kruger National Park, Northern Province, South Africa

We were awaken early this morning for our first walking safari. We stumbled out of our huts and went to the central dining place for a quick cup of tea or coffee to clear the cobwebs from our minds. The coffee, by the way, was Nescafé instant coffee. The relatively primitive Nyala camp might be forgiven for not offering real coffee, but the truth is that throughout South Africa, instant coffee is the norm, and no one is even the least bit apologetic about it.
The rules for our walking safari were as follows. Our tracker Chris would lead. He came armed with some sort of rifle just in case we were attacked by a dangerous animal. Behind Chris walked his scrawny sidekick Richard. Unlike Chris, Richard was an actual Kruger park employee and came with law-enforcement authority on the off-chance we stumbled into a poaching operation. Richard wore a small five-pointed star and was armed with a well-worn machine gun. Behind these two, the rest of us all walked single-file. To avoid frightening animals in the bush, we weren't supposed to talk. Game animals are familiar with the dangers of humans and can instantly recognize us by the cadence of our vocalizations, no matter the language. If we wanted the group to stop to observe something, we were supposed to whistle. Game animals mistake human whistles for the calls of harmless birds.
Chris knew an awful lot about nearly everything we encountered. His native language was Shangaan, but he could discuss matters competently in English. Indicative of an intensive college education, he also knew the scientific names of nearly every lifeform we encountered.
It was obviously Chris's show, and it seemed that he wasn't particularly fond of his scrawny sidekick Richard. Richard was a good sport though and tried to do his part. He seemed to be something of a specialist in the taxonomy of shrubs, and often stopped us to point one out and tell us all about its medicinal properties. Since his command of English wasn't too good, he tried to compensate by repeating what he'd just said over and over again in slightly different ways. It didn't take long for this to prove tiresome.
Being familiar with the plants of temperate North America, with their complex diversity of leaf shapes, I found the monotonous ovoid leaves of lowveld vegetation made all the plants look the same. The only plants that stuck out were woody members of the legume family (such as acacia), which have compound leaves.
After an hour or so of hiking steadily uphill, we came to a precipice, where we stopped for our first water break. Soon afterwards we stopped for breakfast at the edge of another cliff, this one above the Luvuvhu River, which marks the northern frontier of Kruger Park. The fucked-up country of Zimbabwe lay only ten miles to the north. Breakfast consisted of sausage, crackers, cheese, fruit juice, and various forms of candy.
We descended into the Luvuvhu Valley and walked along a lesser streambed for a couple miles, stopping here and there to note tracks (which Chris called "spoor," the Afrikaans word). Being on foot, it seemed we scared away almost all of the game before getting close enough to see it. The only mammals we saw during the morning safari were a gang of baboons. Towards the end of the hike, the heat of the approaching mid-day started to become torturous.
After a "lunch" of scrambled eggs and a iron cauldron of bacon and sausage, we retreated to our huts for an afternoon siesta. It was the only way to deal with this part of the day.
The evening safari was much less of a hike. Chris drove us out to the banks of the Luvuvhu River and then took us to a place in the rapids where we could cool ourselves by relaxing in the water. First, though, he had to ensure that there were no crocodiles waiting to grab us, so he tossed a bunch of rocks into various places. He kept tossing rocks both upstream and downstream for the duration of our time in the water.
Meanwhile a hippopotamus started making a fuss in a pool a couple hundred feet upstream. He wanted us to keep moving, but now suddenly all we wanted to do was watch him. We relocated to a tangled patch of driftwood just above the hippo's pool and had our sundowner as he stared at us. Occasionally he'd open his mouth and smack his head down on the water in an effort to terrorize us. His open mouth resembled a huge vagina equipped with scattered teeth.
Back at the camp, Thomas had prepared us another dinner. This time the black iron cauldron contained a hearty oxtail stew. For Gretchen, of course, the main entree was a bowl of baked beans. Early in the meal, Barnaby had set up a satellite radio so we could catch up on the news (being mostly press people, the others were all news junkies like me). Later, though, the radio was turned off and the subject of the conversation turned to Africa's wildlife, that is, how Africa's wildlife tastes. Barnaby's girlfriend was fascinated with this subject and kept quizzing Chris about how various forms of bush meat taste. She listed nearly every animal she could think of, sort of like a relentless five year old. To each of these (except crocodile, which he'd never had), Chris invariably said, "It's very good." Gretchen, of course, was revolted by the conversation and stormed off to our hut. But I stayed. I was drinking wine and it was making these people fun to be around. [REDACTED]

See some photographs from the South Africa trip.

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