A layer problem

My winter habits are a running joke amongst my friends. Despite me being 50% Latvian and it being logical that I should have some sort of resistance to the cold weather, I have… none. Some girls buy makeup, bags, shoes.. I buy sweaters. In all colours, shape and forms. My soul was born in the Caribbean so any endurance to the cold weather was forever lost upon this choice.

To counter what the weather throws my way I have resolved to wear as many layers as I can. It’s an art I have been perfecting through years of freezing out in Africa. Yes, in Africa. The biggest media lie in the world is that Africa is always hot (and that male lions don’t hunt).

Thanks to JMS for capturing this pic of my “getting warm” routine at 6am

While working in the Khwai area in Botswana I was particularly cold.. all day, everyday. This was due to the fact that the icy winter winds found no barriers in getting to me, I slept in a tent with no front flaps, and worked in an open game drive vehicle. Layering up became part of my survival (along with a hot water bottle for the morning safari).

One particularly cold morning we set out of camp in search of leopards. Our guest was desperate to see one and so when we came across tracks, we had hopes that we would finally get lucky. All of a sudden I felt a sting. The sting was similar to a beed sting, and having seen many bees floating around half empty coke glasses, I assumed that somehow one of them had gotten caught in between my layers. Because I went through a phase where I was always being stung by bees (and develop quite a bad reaction to them), I knew that had this been a bee it had already paid its price and it was likely dead so I didn’t worry too much… until I felt a piercing second sting on my back.

“Stop, no, I didn’t see a leopard. There is something in my clothes I need to find it cause it’s stinging me”.

Confused and searching for a potential mean spider I started stripping off all my layers. One, by, one. When I was down to my last T-shirt and not being able to find anything, the horrified scream from Alex came right through:

“It’s THERE, on your leg!”

To my surprise when I looked down my leg I didn’t find a spider but a tiny, mean scorpion.

“Crap”.

“Throw it away, kill it”.

“No, wait!.” I flicked the little bastard off me (he hurt me first) and proceeded then to take a pic for ID purposes. With so many dangerous and venomous things out there in the bush, rather know for sure than guess as to what it was.

The culprit: Uroplectes vittatus (potentially) or Jack

I had an idea of what scorpion it could be (they have never been my strongpoint) but needed confirmation before letting the panic in the car subdue, and while I waited for Tristan to confirm what it was, the hot water bottle did its trick in easing the pain.

“Are you ok?”

“Yeah I’m fine, it only burns”.

Barbara and Alex were clearly worried because they thought I was about to die, which never ever helps. Alex went into full panic attack mode, as he was sure he would witness me die and so in turn we had to stop a few times as his worry made him physically sick, twice.

“Maybe we should call the Okavango air rescue”

“I’m fine, let me confirm what it is and then we can worry”.

Eventually Tristan confirmed: “some uroplectes” – immediate relief as I was not going to die and would just have a sore sting.

When I told my family about it my dad’s wisdom had me giggling.

“I’m sure it was a male scorpion though”

“Huh? Why?”
(I was waiting for some lesson as my dad normally has some random animal information that ends up being really useful to know)

“Because of where it stung you”

– Insert my non impressed face here –

My dad was probably right, after all the little bastard did get me on the love handle, twice.

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