STARS! … and Some Other Stuff.

It’s been a busy week and I have lots to ramble about. Last Sunday was my first time hosting guests for the evening meal. Personally, I would consider it a roaring success—I only smashed one bowl and that was in the kitchen, not in front of guests, so it barely counts. Clearly I need to have my fingers upgraded to asbestos. Fortunately, most of the guests were part of one large group so they mostly entertained themselves and any uncertainty I had about what to do, quickly faded.

Cookies!!!
So many cookies!!!

After a peaceful day of office work on Monday—the itinerary brochures are now in their final stages of proofreading and I have another spreadsheet to add to the collection—I volunteered to host guests again on Tuesday. I confess to having an ulterior rather than altruistic motive when I did this. A motive suspiciously shaped like Dr Phil Calcot’s awesome Starlight Safari. Hence, Tuesday morning saw me checking in with Rachel: “Hosting=Stars?”. With an affirmative and something about rhinos (but whatever because STARS) I happily left Rachel’s office and spent the day researching bike shows.

About four thirty I was pulled from my personal contemplation of whether the Ard Rock Enduro Festival would be a suitable place to showcase CycleMashatu (Yes, it is one word—I had to correct five brochures). “Elanor, are you ready to go?”  What? Go where? Ooooh yeah. That thing about being the guide and official sundowner server while the guests were seeing rhinos. Welp, suppose I better do that.

Scafolding
Not sure this would meet health and safety regulations.

SO TOTALLY WORTH IT! Thank you so much Rachel for arranging for me to tag along as the Horizon Horseback guide. We went to Ant’s Nest, a nearby lodge, and saw all the rhinos being fed. Between pouring G&Ts and opening Savannahs, I gawked over the sheer size of the rhinos, something that photos never really show, and admired a really pretty eland that was loitering around. It was fascinating to learn about the precautions taking against poaching, from a 24-hour guard to inserting a dye and toxin into the rhinos’ horns.

With a careful application of logic, I planned our departure time from Ant’s Nest. It was perfectly balanced for maximum rhino viewing and a prompt arrival at the dinner table to minimise the inevitable lateness to the Starlight Safari. I had time for people to change and even a generous additional ten minutes for the expected unexpected delay. This planning naturally meant that all my plans went awry. The steep nature of the road into Ant’s Nest meant we had to exit by a different road, or the minibus would do a First UniBus and breakdown halfway up the hill. This meant exiting by a different gate. A gate that required buzzing through before it could be opened. Thus, a lack of people picking up phones and poor signal left us sitting at the gate for over twenty minutes and I watched my carefully allotted minutes inexorably tick away.

Rhinos

Arriving back at Horizon at the same time that dinner was supposed to start, we scarfed down the quickest three course dinner on record, forwent amarula, and speed walked up to the western games field (“big rock” is definitely a valid navigation aid). Fortunately, we arrived on (Horizon) time. As Phil put it, “it’s Horizon, I expect you to be late”.

Once everyone was safely tucked up in blankets and sitting comfortably, Phil proceeded to walk us through our solar system, the Milky Way Galaxy and beyond, describing the vast distances that stretch out beyond our little blue dot. The southern skies, free of light pollution, never fail to steal my breath each time I look up. Painted with millions of stars, there is something truly indescribable about the sight.

From Jupiter and Saturn, we journeyed onwards to Alpha Centauri, our nearest neighbour star (shut up Proxima Centauri, red dwarfs don’t count). We discovered Antares in the Scorpio constellation (please go supernova in my lifetime) and marvelled at the vast arch of the Milky Way. Phil’s ability to hold numbers in his head was extraordinary as he reeled off greater and greater distances until we had admired the dust lanes and looked towards the centre of the galaxy. Breaking free of the galaxy’s confines, we spied Omega Centauri, a globular cluster, and the Magellanic Clouds, distant dwarf galaxies.

I have no doubt that I will be boring people by pointing out constellations for a long time to come. On a personal note, Phil told us of his faith, something I found extremely special as so often faith and science are mistaken as mutually exclusive entities, and it is always refreshing to meet another Christian scientist, especially physicists and especially when the opportunity to fangirl over the cosmological constant arises.

Bush Breakfast

Wednesday dawned bright and way too early as my body decided five o’clock is a reasonable time to wake up. However, it did mean that by the time I emerged from the staff room, I had a peaceful half hour to watch the sun rise and the mist slowly clear from the lake. Escaping the office, I met the morning ride at Morgan’s Rock for a bush breakfast. This late brunch and lunch substitute (my main reason for going) is a campfire cooked full English and is always a fun surprise for guests and a tasty bit of variety for everyone else. An afternoon ride left me fully booked for the day and ready for a solid night’s sleep.

This week has held a large amount of veterinary interest. One of the horses, Major, has an ulcer in his eye and has been receiving drops of various medicines every half hour for twelve hours every day. Fortunately, this is paying off as the blood vessels are slowly but steadily growing towards the ulcer, whereupon the blood supply will help it heal. Thursday had the added interest of watching a couple of the jack russells be castrated. This was a fascinating if  a slightly surreal experience as I doubt dogs are castrated on mounting blocks in dusty yards anywhere else in the world.

Watching Polocrosse

Our big group of guests wrapped up their visit with a game of polocrosse on Friday. This is a game I’m fairly certain was invented when someone wanted to play polo but only had lacrosse sticks. As always, it bought out everyone’s competitive spirit with lots of cheering and jeering. I particularly enjoyed watching some of the excellent horsemanship on display as the ball was cantered from one end of the pitch to the other.

Other than an ongoing issue with the Wi-Fi and checking in a new group of guests, yesterday passed quietly and I finally finished typing up the Botswana guest questionnaires (does silly dance of celebration).

Molting Season
You still can’t tell I brushed him.

Today I went to church. This was a lovely close to the week with a ministry that has left me with a lot to think about. It was also the first church where I’ve spent half the service with a dog on my lap, something I am most definitely not complaining about and hope will be a repeat experience.

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