Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.Terry Pratchett
And of course when you come back you have tales to tell. You may start by describing the big stuff, the famous sights you saw: the Taj Mahal perhaps or the Eiffel Tower. But what often remains in the memory long afterwards are the small happenings that punctuate a trip. Those are the stories that you will return to again and again …
This week Patti has challenged us to tell a story or stories through our photos, using no more than five. One of the main aims of my whole blog is to tell the stories of my travels, in words and pictures, so it was hard to know where to start with this theme. How could I make this post distinct and relevant to Patti’s concept?
In the end I decided on three stories I haven’t yet told (or at least not in full; I touched on the Huab Lodge tale here). And to link them with a theme; each of these tales involves birds.
A dramatic rescue in Cape Verde
One hot morning on Santiago, one of the Cape Verde islands, we visited Cidade Velha with a guide, Luis. This was the first capital of these islands, settled in 1462. Back then it was an essential stop for great strategic importance. The city supplied passing ships with water, fresh food and repairs, and was a centre for trade between the Americas and Africa. Later it became an important port for trading slaves. Today though it is a quiet village, its inhabitants engaged in farming and fishing, with an increasing but still small tourist trade. I must share more about this fascinating corner of the islands one day. But today I want to tell a single tale from our brief visit.
Down by the water’s edge here is a little cove used by fishermen and here we instigated a rescue mission! A hen was pecking around with three fluffy chicks, but we spotted two more chicks which had got entangled in a fishing net left lying on the beach. Luis proceeded to try to free them. The first was soon rescued and restored to its mother but the second was badly caught, with one strand of the net tight round its throat. Chris joined the rescue efforts but to no avail. But help was at hand. We started to attract the attention of a few villagers, one called to some nearby fishermen and one of these produced a penknife with which he cut through the line – the chick was free! Not that he seemed too grateful, as during the rescue procedure he had pooped on Luis’s hand!!
The story in pictures
The fishermen’s beach in Cidade Velha, Santiago, Cape Verde
Two free chickens and one caught in a net
Luis starts the delicate operation to free the most entangled chicken
Luis rescuing the badly caught chicken
Almost free, thanks to the fisherman’s penknife!
To the eagle’s nest in Namibia
One of the most memorable stays we have had on our travels was at Huab Lodge in Namibia. Our hosts here, Jan and Susi, made us so welcome that we didn’t want to leave! Jan was so knowledgeable about the local environment. He could imitate all the birds and identify animals at a glance.
Over dinner on our last evening here the conversation turned to eagles and Jan mentioned that a pair of black eagles was nesting on the property. The nest was high on a cliff face, but he had climbed up a couple of times to check all was well. Last time he was there the egg looked almost ready to hatch and the new baby should have arrived by now. By the way, he did reassure us that unlike other eagles, black eagles won’t desert a nest that has been visited, hence his regular trips to check up.
Some new guests asked if this was something they could see the following day and were told yes, if you’re able to make the climb. I was sensing that Chris was a bit disappointed that we were leaving and wouldn’t be able to join them on this adventure, when suddenly Suzi asked if we’d like to stay until after lunch so that we could do so. With only a fairly short drive to our next destination of course we accepted the invitation.
I and another of the guests didn’t feel able to climb. But Jan suggested that we might like to come along for the ride and wait at the foot of the cliff. So we stayed below to watch and take photos of the climb, while Chris and the others started up the cliff.
The nest was perched on a rocky ledge high above the dried-up Huab River and wasn’t easy to reach. Once up there they could no longer see it. But Jan had left me with a walkie-talkie and using that I could direct them from below so that they went up past the nest at a little distance and then approached quietly from above. The climbers’ efforts were repaid by some stunning views of the young chick, who was about seven weeks old and already the size of a hen. Obviously all the photos up here were taken by Chris, including the one above, and are used with his permission.
The story in pictures
Huab Lodge at night (from their website), the site of our dinner-time conversation
Climbing to the eagle’s nest
The view from near the eagle’s nest, with me and the brother by the jeep
The black eagle chick in its nest on a rocky ledge
Chris with Jan at the top
Feeding the cranes of Khichan
Unlike the two tales above, this isn’t so much our personal story as that of a whole village. Khichan is a small village in the Thar Desert area of Rajasthan. It has a significant population of Jains, who value all living things. In the 1970s a married couple here were given the job of feeding the pigeons, something that Jains do all over India (as, from what I observed, do many Hindus).
As winter approached some demoiselle cranes started to join the pigeons and eat the grain that this couple were spreading on the ground. During the course of that first winter about 100 cranes came, and the next winter 150. But the local dogs started to hunt the cranes, so the couple asked the village assembly to make land available to create a safe feeding place for the cranes. This was agreed as the people here loved the cranes because of their vegetarianism and monogamy. Other villagers helped to build a fenced-in chugga ghar (bird feeding home) and local traders donated grain. From this small beginning a major migration has grown up, with thousands of cranes visiting the village every winter.
Feeding them has become a major initiative for the locals. There are now a number of feeding houses where the cranes congregate each morning for breakfast, before moving on to spend their day by the lakes on the edge of town.
At night they leave to roost in the fields around the village, before returning the next morning to feed again. It’s possible if you are here early enough to watch the feeding, but if you come later as we did you can visit the cranes by the lakes. The small fee you pay goes towards buying the vast amounts of grain needed.
The story in pictures
Panorama of the lake with goats and cranes on the far side
Some of the Demoiselle cranes by the lake
A crane taking flight
Demoiselle crane in flight