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Welcome to the blog of the NeverTooLate Girl.

With the aim to try out, write about and rate the things that people say they'd like to do but haven't quite gotten around to, this website gives you the real and often humourous inside gen on whether it's really worth it.

Read about it,think about it, do it.

 The Top 20 Never Too Late List

  1. Learn to fly - RATED 4/5.
  2. Learn to shoot - RATED 4/5.
  3. Have a personal shopper day.
  4. Attend carols at Kings College Chapel on Christmas Eve - RATED 2.5/5.
  5. Have a date with a toy boy.
  6. Do a sky dive.
  7. Eat at The Ivy - RATED 4/5.
  8. Drive a Lamborgini.
  9. Climb a mountain - CURRENT CHALLENGE.
  10. Have a spa break - RATED 4.5/5.
  11. See the Northern Lights.
  12. Get a detox RATED 4/5.
  13. Read War & Peace - RATED 1/5.
  14. Go on a demonstration for something you believe in.
  15. Attend a Premier in Leicester Square.
  16. Go to Royal Ascot.
  17. Buy a Harley Davidson - RATED 5/5
  18. Study for a PhD - RATED 4/5.
  19. Visit Cuba - RATED 4/5.
  20. Be a medical volunteer overseas - RATED 3/5. 



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Getting into the swing of things

The days have started to fall into a bit of a routine.  I rise early, usually about 6am, shower and then breakfast in the Lappa though it's quite cold here in the mornings now and so this requires a jumper or jacket until it starts to warm up about 8.  When I get dropped off each evening I'm told what time I will be collected in the morning and this can be anywhere between 06:30 and 8 o'clock but on average we seem to get off about 7.  Also invariably we drop into the Na/a'n ke se guesthouse for 30 minutes or an hour or so which is on the way to the clinic while Rudi or Marlice have meetings and I write in an effort to try and keep my blog up to date.  Today might be the last time I have a chance to do this for a while because on Monday I should be going to Epikuro and there is no access to the internet there.  I sat a written test today to check my competency level which is a prerequisite before going out to Epikuro.  Spending time at the clinic in Windhoek has been invaluable for someone with no medical background and so whilst I found the test quite hard, I hope I've passed with a sufficiently high mark to be let loose elsewhere.  My place will be taken at the clinic by the new medical volunteer who arrived yesterday.  Though she is a medical secretary, she has no formal medical background and so will go through a similar experience to me so far.  Right now I sitting in my office at the clinic and it makes me smile to use the word 'my'.  The office actually belongs to Dr Willem Genis but I've never seen him or met him since I've been here and understand from asking today that he usually spends most of his time at one of the satellite clinics in the town.  It's been very useful to use his office though it's situated right next to the cafe and the smell of food wafting in makes me very hungry which isn't helpful when I want to lose the several pounds I have put on since I've been here.  The meals at the farm are high carb and with little exercise to burn it off I am finding all my trousers are getting that little bit too tight and my shirts are starting to gape.   

My training here has progressed on from medical histories to incorporating a general examination and interpreting the urine analysis and BP taken down at the nurses station before the patient comes up.  I check for the outward signs of jaundice, anaemia, cyanosis and odeama and also check for swelling of the lymph glands.  It has made me look at people much more critically and it's interesting how much you can tell just from how someone looks and the way they walk or sit.  If there are any external signs of illness then I have learnt to check the tonsils for infection and also what kind of sounds to listen for in the lungs if people are complaining of breathing problems. 

Several of the patients I have seen have been children and there is a problem here with respiratary problems, so often they get put on an inhaler which delivers a vapour that helps open up their airways.  I don't suffer from breathing problems myself normally but the air is very dry here and so much dust is kicked up off the roads by vehicles (particularly on the dirt roads) that I have also felt some tightness and wheezing.  I have taken to prescribing for myself two bottles of Windhoek Lager each night  and for this particular complaint the treatment seems to be working very nicely so far. 

Along with the range of standard complaints there have been a couple of patients that have required more complicated treatment. My favouite so far is patient 15 who has ingrowing toenails on both his big toes that are causing him pain and affecting his walking so need to be removed.  It was wonderfully gruesome and while I observed the first toe being dealt with I was invited to do the second myself.  I can't believe how eager I was to have a go.  Perhaps I've missed my vocation? First I had to inject local anaesthetic into points around the toe.  The syringe was metal and felt much heavier than the plastic ones I had used before and the needle was much more fine and flexible.  The key was to adminster the local just under the skin rather than deep into the muscle and this took a moment to get a hang off.  I was either injecting too deeply or the point of the needle went into the skin and came out again the other side.  I felt the patient twitching and gasping as I fumbled about slightly but after two or three goes I started to get the hang of it and I heard the patient's teeth stop grinding and he loosened his grip on the bed.  He was one brave soul.  I'd watched how the nail on the first toe had been removed and had noted that it required a lot of effort and a kind of pulling and twisting motion.  The aim I'd been told was to get the nail out in its entirety despite it being grown over by skin.  As I pushed the scissor clamp right under the nail and down to the base I watched for any reaction from the patient and was relieved to see him lying relaxed and apparently undisturbed by what I was doing.  The local had obviously kicked in sufficiently well. Getting the nail off was a b*****d.  I couldn't believe how much effort and force it took and I succeeded only in removing half of it.  I had to hand over the rest to Rudi who had to exert some real force to get the rest of it off.  We stemmed the bleeding by  cauterising the nail bed and I stood back to assess my work.  The toes did not look pretty but the patient seemed happy enough and poddled off, somewhat unbalanced, to pay his account.  He would be coming back in the morning to have the wound checked and redressed and I hoped I would get the chance to check on how it was doing.

A close second to the ingrowing toenail event was the opportunity to observe the removal of a melanoma on the lower left leg of a patient.  The melanoma was to be removed using a surgical blade and then stitched with simple interrupted sutures.  It was not a big operation - it could be done at the nurses station - but I was interested to see how it was done and to watch some suturing again.  A local anaesthetic with adrenaline injected into the area reduced the amount of blood and I watched at an eliptical insertion was made around the growth which was then dropped into preserving fluid to be sent off to the lab for testing.  The wound looked like the shape of an eye and was quickly pulled together with four or five stitches, the whole time watched by the patient.  It has to be said that people seem pretty tough out here.

It's my last day at the Khomas clinic and I know from the information I have been given to read that the Lifeline clinic is much more basic and that I can also dress more casually.  I am looking forward to going out there and hope I get an opportunity to be really useful.  I'll be able to put into practice all the skills I have been taught, that is, if I've passed my medical test.  Still no news.        


Easter weekend – checking boreholes for elephant damage in Damaraland

The prospect of getting off the farm for a few days and seeing a bit more of Namibia comes up in the shape of a trip to Damaraland.  The focus of the expedition is to check on boreholes that had been built by various volunteer groups over the last ten years and to see if there has been any damage either by elephants (I didn't realise how destructive they are) or humans (actually, as destructive again). The trip was opened up to the volunteer cohort but with some clear caveats – we were going to be driving a long way over a short period, we would be camping and it was going to cost about N$1200 each to pay for the cost of hiring additional 4wd vehicles. This was enough to put nearly everybody off but as I wouldn’t be getting the opportunity to go into the clinic over the holiday break I was keen to get out and explore some of the country.


We left at 6am on Good Friday. Rudi and Marlice and their three year old son Zacheo and his seven year old Bushman friend Willem (or Dabu, which is his Bushman name) in one car and myself with Erica and Gerdt who were to photograph and film some of the expedition in the other. The cars were well packed with not only camping equipment and food but all the essential things that you might need when travelling off road in the bush – spare wheels, ropes, lifting equipment, extensive tool kit etc.  Enough tinned food had also been packed in case we became stranded or lost and had to sit it out for a week or so until we were rescued. We were aiming for Damaraland, southeast of Etosha National Park and about 10 hours drive away. Once there we would locate the boreholes, plot their GPS location and photograph and film any damage. The plan was to go back with a group of volunteers later in the year to do any repairs or maintainence. A secondary reason for the trip was to look for new sites to release wild carnivores from the sanctuary back into the wild. Finding new sites is an ongoing problem for a number of reasons; the relocation site has to be sufficiently far enough away from the place at which they were caught (particularly for problem animals that attack farm animals), it has to have sufficient game for the animals to feed off all year round and there has be enough breeding pairs or the males will roam across great distances in order to find a mate.


The road to Windhoek and onto Omaruru is metalled though pitted with potholes that have been filled and refilled. This makes the surface very uneven and at times the road slants off into adverse camber.  Cars overtake with no apparent concern for anything coming towards them and there are several hairy moments where I grab onto my seat and brace myself but luckily the only result is a few more grey hairs. The lanes are narrow, too narrow really to safely accommodate the high levels of freight vehicles that use this main arterital route through the country to and from the capital and the government is in the process of improvements. So for thirty or so kilometers there are groundworks at various stages of completion where the road is being widened.  After about 3 hours we arrive at Omaruru where we fill up amongst a profusion of 4wd vehicles almost exclusively driven by affluent looking whites on their way north for the holiday break. Having risen at 5am and breakfasted at 5.30 I'm peckish by this time and so as our two vehicles are refuelled I sit in the sun, watching the comings and goings and refuel myself with a large, stale iced bun bought at the service station payment point (heavily protected by metal grills.  Everything has to be pointed at and it's passed through a small gap). But at N$4 (28p) and with a growling stomach I wasn’t about to be fussy. From time to time an older, more battered vehicle would pitch up and a family of black Namibians would spill out along with various dogs, bags, boxes and other paraphernalia. The women are mostly dressed in an impressive manner in long dresses with high waists which spill into a profusion of pleats down to the floor. Round necks and huge puffed sleeves are set off by a headdress which looks for all the world like an oversize croissant perched on their head. Expensive looking jewellery and hairpieces finish off the outfit. Apparently a large and portly figure is still seen as a sign of affluence and status in this community and the women can wear up to fifteen layers of petticoat in an attempt to get the desire level of rotundity. 


Past Omaruru we turn off onto a red dirt road and the shrubs and trees become sparser and we see mountains in the distance, out of focus and glazed in the heat haze. Namibia is a large country - 824,292 sq kilometres and getting anywhere takes time.  The country really is very beautiful as you drive north. Not in the verdant, lush way of our own countryside but in a more basic and brutal way and with a quality of light that brings out the beauty of the red earth and rocks. We keep our eyes peeled for wildlife for mile after mile but see nothing other than rocks that look like animals or shadows playing games with us. From time to time we came across a view or a plant that warrants a photograph and so we get out to stretch our legs and to get cold water from the back of the car (each car has a fully working refrigerator in the back.  Oh, joy!) and in the process feel our skin prickling and contracting in the heat of the sun. Taking your sunglasses off is a shock. The white light sears your retina and even with squinting it’s almost impossible to focus. The desert here looks like a dreamscape after the unusually heavy rains with mile upon mile of delicate fronds of golden grasses blowing in the breeze and which release spores that litter the ground and look for all the world like snow. It’s an amazing scene and you forget for a moment that you are in one of the most inhospitable deserts on earth. There is a story in my guidebook that tells of a couple that hired a car to tour in the far north. The car broke down and nobody came by them for a week by which time the husband was dead and the wife was in a critical state. Reading it is a good reminder of how easy it is to get into trouble out here if you don’t follow some basic rules and common sense.


About 70km north of Omaruru we turned off the dirt road onto a track about a vehicle wide. This cuts off two corners of a triangle and takes us about 60k up to a small town called Uis.  Uis was established around a salt mine and you can still see the heaps of discarded salt glinting in the distance as you approach it.  But now the mine is closed and the village survives around a supermarket and a couple of roadside restaurants and, strangely, a garden centre, though it's difficult to tell whether it's still actually trading or not.  We sit outside because we have Arbout the Jack Russell with us and order our lunch.  The menu is pretty basic - toasted sandwiches, german type sausages (Namibia was a German colony before independence) and salads but it's nice just to get out of the car and stretch our legs and chat about where we are going,what we might see and the general itinerary over the next few days.  After Uis we drive for another 30k, three sets of eyes in our truck scanning the horizon for any of the Big Five.  In the dry season there's a chance to see elephant, rhino and even giraffe in this area but luck is not with us for the moment.  We are doing a detour to a village called Ghaus to drop off some maize for the people that live there.  To call it a village is an overstatement really as it is rather a clutch of small buildings and shacks that house a family or two and a small variety of animals.  The buildings are quite amazing in the way they've been manufactured out of anything that has come to hand.....



First day at the medical clinic

My first day at Khomas medi-clinic was preceded by a lively baby baboon sleep over. As a medical volunteer I’m not required to mother a baby baboon but when you share a room with two wildlife volunteers who are, then you might as well be on the schedule. We’d had Bachis and Lala and both had decided, at one point of the night or another, to practice some pretty hard core disco dancing on my head. Needless to say, waiting at 8am to be picked up to go into the clinic, I did not feel my best.


I’d attired myself in ‘appropriate clothing’ as instructed and felt a bit out of place at breakfast. Clean clothes, especially white ones kind of stand out on the farm and I only hoped I would not be set upon by turkey, big pig or one of the farm dogs in the interval between leaving my room and getting to the front of the admin building. The animals on this farm are stealthy operators and it wouldn’t have surprised me at all to get to the clinic pleased with myself for out-manoevouring them all only to find myself sporting two muddy paw prints on my bum without even realising I’d been got. As it happens, apart from taking some mild stick from the other volunteers over breakfast due to my somewhat pristine appearance and the fact I was wearing mascara (didn't want to scare the patients) I had to contend with no commando type attacks from anything furry or feathered.


The Khomas Clinic is a large private medical practice in the centre of Windhoek which means a 35 minute or so drive in from the farm every day with Dr Rudie van Vuuren who with his wife Marlice set up the Lifeline clinic for the Bushman out at Epukiro and who also own the animal sanctuary where I live during my time at the project. Having arrived on Thursday lunchtime and having spent four days in the compound, my feet were itching to see different surroundings and I was looking forward to the first part of the drive especially as there was chance we would see some game and possibly some warthogs and wild baboons (known by the locals as the 'black mafia'). 


The medical practice has eight doctors in total and also houses a pharmacy, dentist and optician and a coffee shop which is open to non patients. The practice is light and airy, well maintained and modern. On the way in I’d been given an instruction manual and was told now to read several of the early sections which related to patient clinical history taking, wound care, ultrasound and taking blood pressure. In the process of doing this, I took on a battery of new words and phrases that sounded like a foreign language - dyspnoea, claudication, vasovagal, pyloric stenosis. The trouble was I didn’t know what any of them meant. I started to feel a bit out of my depth. After all, at some point, much much later on I expected, I’d start to deal with real people. But I was sure that wasn’t anything for me to worry about just now and so in the meantime I stuck my nose back in the book - supplemented now with a med student handbook and medical dictionary - and started to feel marginally less twitchy. Rudi stuck his head around the door, ‘come with me’ he said and disappeared. I sat for a moment and then grabbing my notepad followed him down the hall. I learnt I was going to see a large absess on a patient’s face being drained. The patient was already at the nurses station on an examination couch and as Rudi pulled the curtain around he handed me some sterile gloves and told me to put them on. A second later I was staring at them as they lay on the floor. My first instruction and I had failed miserably. Rudi observed drily that they were no long very sterile. He asked me to describe what I could see while he injected local anaestetic into the swelling on the patients face and then after a few seconds used a small blade to make an incision about ¾ of an inch long. Blood oozed out, followed by thick yellow pus. I looked at it and felt slightly queasy but tried not to look too pathetic. Rudi cleaned the wound and then covered it with antiseptic ointment and a dressing. He asked me how I had found it.  I said it had been fine, both sets of un-sterile fingers crossed behind my back. This turned out to be the right answer because the patient was coming back tomorrow and I was instructed to check and clean the wound before calling Rudi to see it.  No soft intro then.


Back in my room, borrowed from one of the doctors who was on leave, I wrote down my notes on patient 1 and reread the section in the manual on wound cleaning and swellings just incase I really had to do it myself tomorrow. Rudi came in with a file. “Your next patient” he said. “Take a medical history and then be prepared to present what you find”. At that he ushered in two adults and a small child and closed the door. I checked the file to see what notes I could find and found it almost all in Afrikaans.  I looked at the parents and smiled weakly.  They looked back at me expectantly. So, what seems to be the problem with your (I checked the file) daughter, I asked. “Well doctor” they said. Shit I thought, they think I’m a doctor, this is really bad. I put my hand up and told them I was a medical volunteer doing some basic medical training, and very much not a doctor. “OK doctor” they said. With a sigh I knew I was going to have to take off the white coat and stop wearing the stethoscope round my neck.


So day one and five patients later (absess, hayfever, tonsillitis, pregnancy, and exhaustion coupled with stress), my clinic duties were finished. I kind of felt I’d got the hang of medical histories and looked forward to practicing them again the following day. No one had laughed in my face or stormed out and demanded to see a real doctor. In fact, everyone had readily answered any questions I’d put to them and believe me, when you are taking medical histories you have to ask some pretty personal and searching questions. Feeling pretty pleased with myself, I jumped into the car for my ride home. Tomorrow you’ll be taking blood pressure and doing a general physical examination on your patients Rudi said. You’ll be checking for jaundice, anaemia, cyanosis, odeama and lymphatic problems. Then you’ll work with the nurses on urine analysis and taking blood. You’ll also be learning about HIV as 23% of the population have it.


Steep learning curve I said quietly to myself as I looked out of the window and watched the world go by. This is really going to be a steep learning curve.


Life as a school teacher. Not sure who learnt more .....

I learnt that I would not be going to the Khomas medi-clinic until Monday and so I volunteered to work (with a certain amount of trepidation) in the school on Friday morning. Though this is not necessarily a formal part of the programme the volunteers are encouraged to participate and today the children were making Easter cards to send to their school teacher who was back in the UK trying to earn enough money to come back. For the time being Carol (who normally works in the research department) was standing in. After Carol had talked me through the programme for the morning and designated me some jobs (she said try to draw like a child when you show them how to make the Easter cards. I assured her that really wouldn’t be a problem) she sent me up to the Bushman village to collect them. She is never really sure how many children she will get but the children are encouraged to attend regularly, though one of two are in their teens now and have had almost no schooling so far. I walked with one of the other volunteers up to the village which takes about ten minutes and is the same route we take on the baby baboon walk. The village is very basic, several wooden huts which look much like our beach-huts back home and a couple of largish tents. A circular seating area has been built where any discussions about the group as a whole take place. I’m uncertain how many people live in the village in total, but from the few times I have been up there, mainly to visit or feed the meerkats which live in a pile of rubble, it seems like there are about six families, most of whom have 2 or three children. The ages range from one year old to Anna, who at 15 is the eldest. As you approach the village you call out “time for school” and the children slowly trickle out of the huts or tents or from under the tree where the mothers are sometimes sitting. A couple of the children are quite bright and show some potential though they are all a very long way behind where similar aged children would be back home. But there is little urgency in the way the children come over to us and it takes some minutes of cajoling and persuading to get a reasonable number together. In the end we have about five or six and communication is not very easy. They speak Bushman first, Afrikaans second and English in third place if at all. I speak no Bushman, some very basic Afrikaans which I have picked up or learnt in the last few days. But in the end we manage to get together a raggle-taggle bunch of children of differing ages including some very young ones which gives it the feel of running a crèche as much as running a school. The children get fed a good lunch before they break at 11:30 or midday for the older ones and there is sense the mums are sending them along for this as much as for the schooling. In the older generation there doesn’t seem to be much value placed on education or desire to see the next generation in a better position than they were. Perhaps this is just a behavioural manifestation from a cultural group who’ve been surpressed in one way or another for a very long time. As a group, we make our way back to the farm. This way it is slower as one of two of the girls are carrying their younger siblings and/or buckets of tea and so I help with this. I find it difficult not to help when for example you have a small eleven year old girl carrying her three year old brother on her hip at the same time as having her one year old sister strapped to her back and all while carrying a largish canister of tea. The interaction is also a way of getting to know the children a little bit before school starts though most of them are very shy or don’t have sufficient English to do much more than make the most basic exchange. But it is nice nonetheless, to stroll along together, smiling at each other when we really don’t understand what is being said and also to think that perhaps this bit of schooling might make a difference to their lives in some way. If they have some education and English it at least offers some prospects of being able to apply for a job in the tourism industry or perhaps do something on the farm. It’s unlikely though that any of these children will end up in more challenging careers even if that is the dream of those that run of project. Perhaps the children of the children might be more lucky. The compound fence comes into sight and we pass through the gate and onto the farm, crossing it as we head towards the original small thatched Lappa at the far end of the administration building. A variety of metal, wooden and plastic tables have been set out to cater for the different ages and I see Carol mentally making a tab as we walk over of how many children we have got and how old they are. More children have come in from parents working at the farm-owners house and so in total we have about twenty children, of which about eight are probably under three. It makes for a very interesting schooling session and needless to say, everyone has to be a bit flexible.


Before we left for the Bushman Village we’d made some example Easter cards and we showed them now to the groups we’d been assigned and gave them card and coloured pencils to make their own. I’d brought a variety of stationery and bits and bobs for the school in my suitcase and this included some small stickers which happened, usefully, to have rabbits and lambs as well as flowers and hearts so ideal to use on Easter cards. One or two of the older girls have some artistic talent and could be left on their own to draw and colour something suitable. But attention span is low for many of the children and the Lappa being open to the lawn where the baby baboons live and also miscellaneous dogs, chickens and humans wandering freely through and round makes it difficult to keep the children focused for very long. The old schoolteacher had devised a teaching plan for Carol which included work on numbers, shapes and colours and everyone does their best to keep the children going on these important tasks until they are done but you can see for almost all of the children that they would really rather be somewhere else. The children have been learning some songs over the last few months and so once the cards are done and the lessons completed we take them all over to the lawn by the new Lappa. Everyone is encouraged to take part in the songs and games and so ensues half an hour of mayhem with much laughter and falling over as everyone does the penguin song and the hokey cokey, volunteers, cooking staff and all. The younger children are carried so they too can take part in the fun and it’s lovely to see them so happy. One of the cooks has a two year old son called George (all the children have Christian names and then Bushman names too) and he is the most amiable and easy going child and all the volunteers love him. Whatever it’s the morning or afternoon you see someone playing with him and his infectious giggles and laughter make everybody smile. At the end of the games everyone looks happy and you can see from the children that this is probably their favourite part of coming up the farm for school. After an early lunch, the younger children are taken back to the village and the older ones stay for a little while for some extra tuition. I look at the older girls. There are three or four that are aged between thirteen and fifteen and I wonder about the lives that they will lead. Their generation is important in that it is they that have the power to improve the lot of future generations of Bushman children behind them, but with little education available to them the odds of making positive change in the short term is stacked against them. These girls don’t have Bushman role models to learn from and so must become them themselves. But as I sit here and think about the ways in which I might be able to help, the sheer prospect of what needs to be done seems daunting. I do my bit to encourage them to think beyond their very narrow and confined world and to try and get them to understand how education can offer them some level of freedom and control over their lives. I’d like to spend more time with them but tomorrow I will be going into the clinic at Khomas to start my medical training and so might not get the opportunity to see much of them again.


An introduction to the babies....

One of the most rewarding and engaging elements of the wild life programme as a volunteer is to spend time with and be a sleep mom with the baby baboons. There are five in total, each with its own story of how it came to be in the sanctuary and all orphans. Sarafina is the oldest but also the smallest and most frail looking.  She had been badly abused by a human who amongst other things (how are humans capable of this?) burnt her body for fun. Kayla had been found still clinging to her mother’s back even though she'd been found drown in a reservoir. My favourite was Lala, the second largest and she seemed to like me too.  It's a funny thing how some of the babies take to you and some don't but you get used to being hugged by some and shunned by others after a few days when you realise that the same is happening for everyone else too. When you first meet the babies it’s difficult to distinguish them apart but gradually over the course of a few days and nights you get to know them and their different personalities and idiosyncracies. For example, Troy likes to pee in your ear if he thinks he can get away with it and Sarafina (small but fiesty) thinks nothing of throwing cold tea in your face if she wants you to wake up to play with her at 4.30 in the morning. The babies are caged in a small enclosure on a lawn near the admin block and that area of the farm is also shared with a colony of tortoises. Baby baboons are major and accomplished escape artists and many a time we can be at the Lappa having a break for a cup of tea and some cake and a call of “ the babies have escaped” wafts over to you on the breeze. Sometimes the first thing you know about it is that you have a hand in your food or up your t-shirt. They, especially Sarafina, like breasts and the larger the better. Needless to say, I’m not the one she heads for first though she has a particular soft spot for my roommate Lucy. Catching the babies is not easy. They are small and they are fast and they know all the tricks. They have a way of wriggling and twisting that means no matter how much you try and hold onto them you end up letting go of them. In your innocence you try bribing them with little pieces of apple, but they’ve whipped it out of your hand and are up and over the nearest fence before you’ve had a chance to say hold it. But they are, in the main, the most loveable and intriguing creatures and it is very easy to become attached to them.


Baby baboon walk was my first introduction to how not to get taken for a ride by something that is less intelligent that we are (alledgedly). The babies are taken out every day and you can see how much they love it. Open the door to their cage and they are out like furry exocet missiles. Squabbling, fighting, performing somersaults and climbing up and swinging from everything or anyone that happens to be in shot is just part of the fun. Sometimes they hitch a ride on your foot, wrapping themselves around your ankle and admiring the view while you do all the work. Usually 4 or 5 volunteers do the baby baboon walk together and lead them across the yard (or they lead us, I am not sure which), past the vehicle depot with its Fire and Rescue engine and out through the compound gate. The path we take leads up to the bushman village about ten minutes walk away and from time you time you will pass Bushman children on their way back from school or a Bushman man on his bike going along at a rate of knots. This last event is quite unusual because everything here seems to be done at a fairly stately place and a time given for anything means a time-ish.  The path we take is the characteristic red soil of Namibia and on each side grow various grasses, bushes and small trees. You have to keep you eyes peeled at the moment because this is the time of the year that Black Mambas are active and, I understand, getting a bite from one of these is a pretty unpleasant experience.  But even having to keep one eye on the babies and another on the path for unwelcome visitors doesn’t detract from how beautiful the weather is, the sense of peace and tranquillity and the slow pace of time. This sense of tranquillity is soon interrupted however when we stop at the half way point of the walk and sit down under the shady surround of one of the larger trees. To be used as a human springboard is an interesting experience and usually one you don't see coming.  One moment you're chatting with the group and the next you have a baboon or two on your head or several hanging off various parts of your body.  They don't mean to hurt you (though if they are very unhappy with you you'll get the occasional nip) but then they don't much care about your sentiments either so it best to just go with it, roll with the punches and let them enjoy themselves and to grow confident around you.  Volunteers change regularly and this early bonding session is important and especially helpful when you take part in your first baby sleep over.  Two of the babies especially are getting quite big for the space in which they live and the workers at the farm are mindful of this.  Major work is going on in a new compound for the adolescent baboons (think baboon-style equivalent of Alton Towers) and soon, in the next few months, there will be a bit switch around and the babies will suddenly find themselves with more space than they know what to do with. But for the moment, they'll  continue to live in the smaller cage and make like Houdini from time to time.