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Just deserts in South Africa

October 31, 2011

Inverdoorn Game Reserve, South Africa

Usually, I prefer to spend my birthday drowning in decadent desserts. Because everyone knows that calories don’t count on birthdays. And special occasions. And days the Earth orbits the sun. That’s just science.

But this year I dieted, dropped an “S” and turned 31, the age-flavor equivalent of being my own Baskin-Robbins, in the dry, desert region of South Africa called the Karoo.

Claire, a longtime blog reader in Cape Town, graciously invited me to drop in on her life, and because I apparently have no inner voice that cautions me against taking three flights totaling 10,000 miles to meet strangers from the internet, I was more than happy to accept. To commemorate my seemingly irreversible onward march into my thirties, she booked us an overnight at Inverdoorn Game Reserve, where we embarked on a private safari in hopes of catching glimpses of hippopotamus, antelope, buffa— OK, totally not fooling anyone. I was just in it for the cats.

We set out at sunset in a 4 x 4 to cover the vast and gorgeous expanse of the park. A few minutes into our once-in-a-lifetime adventure, during a creepy conversation about Claire’s crippling fear of snakes, a cape cobra sprung up on a rock to our left. The safari guide — rastafari is the preferred term, I’m pretty sure — stopped the vehicle and told us to get out. Claire froze, then shoved me toward the serpent in a shameless attempt to sacrifice me and save herself, as if to say “Take the American!”

Claire, probably laughing about her shrewd "Lord of the Flies"-style survival strategy.

Undeterred, Rastafari again implored us to exit the truck. Which seemed totally safe, with our slippery fork-tongued new friend slithering close by. So we hopped out and into harm’s way. Because yes, when someone tells me to jump, I say “How high?” followed by a disclaimer that my legs are unnaturally squat and stocky and watching me leap pathetically is unsatisfying for all involved. However, I have no issues with authority. We can’t all be independent thinkers.

But it was all worth Claire and Rastafari taking my life into their hands, because also nearby on the other side of some thorny bushes we came face to femur with Shorty.

Shorty's name is slightly misleading.

Mocking my stature and nationality in one fell swoop, Claire instructed me to get my short self in front of Shorty the giraffe and wave like a tourist. I do what I’m told.

Shorty meets Shorty.

The blind agreement didn’t stop there. It’s a good thing I wasn’t being led to slaughter — except for the part about being thrust into the cross hairs of a killer cobra — because I just kept obliging without resistance. It’s my gentle nature.

In the midst of being in the majestic company of, among many others  …

… white rhinoceros …

… wildebeest …

… zebra …

… cape buffalo …

… gemsbok …

… black-maned Barbary Cape lion (squee!) …

… and cheetah (squee times infinity!) …

… Rastafari pulled up alongside a tree, rocketed from the truck, ripped a few leaves from the branches and handed us each a green gift. Licking the leaf and remarking on its salty taste, he looked to his captive audience to follow his lead.

I've put worse things in my mouth. *ominous foreshadowing*

After observing Claire and I hesitate with suspicion before sampling the snack, he said rhinos often favor that plant when marking their territory — yes, what we’d just lapped up was pungent rhino piss.

We spent the next several minutes spitooing and scraping our tongues, until Rastafari, rolling with laughter, revealed the plant’s just naturally high in sodium. Kind of a let down.

You’d think that would have been enough to lose our trust, and yet. Spying some springbok droppings, Rastafari explained how spitting contests are common in certain circles with the round pellets. Then he devilishly peered at Claire and me.

With a turd between his teeth.

And that’s how I ended up eating shit on my 31st birthday.

Not quite the cherry on top I’ve come to expect, but oh-so-much sweeter. Unless we’re talking about the actual taste of the chocolate-colored diminutive desert dung. In which case it was odorless, with a hint of grass.

49 Comments leave one →
  1. October 31, 2011 4:28 AM

    Okay, I’m just going to gaze at the lovely cheetah for a while and try to erase those last couple paragraphs from my memory.

    • Dizzy Goddesski permalink
      November 7, 2011 12:07 PM

      I’m with Laura. I love that cheetah, but the cuisine & customs are something I’d rather skip. You are. . . Brave. We’ll just go with brave. Happy birthday!

  2. October 31, 2011 6:35 AM

    spitting springbok scat? you know, i thought that there was a type of porn for everything, but when i googled it, i just ended up back at this post….

  3. October 31, 2011 6:56 AM

    dear Goddess, this is why we don’t let you go places… look what happens!

  4. October 31, 2011 7:48 AM

    And this is why I question almost everything that goes in my mouth, which isn’t obviously food [insert obvious jokes about my sex life here].


    What’s the plural of Rhinocerus? Rhinoceri? Rhinocerus’s’s’s’s’s?

  5. October 31, 2011 7:53 AM

    Happy belated, and what a wicked adventure! Fantastic post and photos.
    I went to Brazil for my 30th bd and tried to tell the waiter that it was my bd, he didn’t understand, then I sang the HB song, and well, he still had no idea what I was on about. It was a great and honest moment.
    Glad you had a good time, the pics show it.

  6. October 31, 2011 8:18 AM

    1. i’m very relieved claire didn’t chop you up into itty bitty pieces and scatter you across south africa. *stranger danger*

    2. i totally would have elbowed that dude in the mouth.

    glad you’re back safe & sound–and in one piece 😉

  7. October 31, 2011 8:38 AM

    What a wonderful birthday present! I can’t think of a better way to spend a birthday! All the animals are perfect. Of course, my favorite is the picture of you with Shorty.

    You are a brave woman! Keep it up!

  8. October 31, 2011 8:47 AM

    Happy belated, and DAMN. That is some kind of an awesome adventure.

  9. October 31, 2011 8:50 AM

    Happy Belated!!! That was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience!!!

    I am “squeeing” here too!!!

  10. October 31, 2011 9:26 AM

    That is an awesome way to spend your birthday! Will Claire be my friend, too?

  11. October 31, 2011 9:40 AM

    Happy belated birthday! Funny as always.

  12. October 31, 2011 9:50 AM

    turd contest aside, that is so freaking beyond cool. I want to go to there!

  13. That Girl permalink
    October 31, 2011 9:57 AM

    So jealous. When I lived in South Africa no one tried to convince me to put poop in my mouth.

    Assholes. The whole lot of them.

    Happy Belated!!

  14. rholmes1987 permalink
    October 31, 2011 10:39 AM

    Happy Birthday! I hadn’t heard from you in so long that I thought you’d fallen off the face of the earth. Turns out you were just upside down on another continent. And yes, that does imply that I pretend these are letters to me.

  15. October 31, 2011 11:15 AM

    Wicked, dude. And a belated many happy returns of the day.

  16. October 31, 2011 11:20 AM

    You’re my hero.

    Well, you and Shorty.

    It’s a tie.

  17. October 31, 2011 12:12 PM

    Happy belated birthday. I can’t think of a more awesome way to spend it than on safari. This will be hard to top when you turn 40 since you have set the bar so high.

    • October 31, 2011 4:53 PM

      when Jess turns 40, she’s coming to Australia to stay with me. I’m going to put her in a kangaroo pouch and we’re going to race down the main street of Sydney. Take that South Africa!

      • November 1, 2011 9:09 PM

        This is *so* happening. I’d book my flight now, but the stupid airline won’t let me buy a ticket nine years in advance. I’m going to call and complain.

      • November 2, 2011 6:00 AM

        well, let’s not wait for your 40th. come as soon as you like

  18. October 31, 2011 12:33 PM

    Aaaahhhhhh!!!! This is so cool! I’m so impressed that you went for it. You’re so good at meeting strangers. And animals! 10,000 miles!!! You can now officially say that you are not like the average American.

    Holy shit. I’ve been in awe of you before. But I’m not sure what to do with this jealousy I’m feeling. Gotta go talk to my life coach.

  19. October 31, 2011 2:24 PM

    Wow. Very cool. Yes the Cheetah is just… all that. Not so sure about the turd bit though but I guess when in Rome… eh South Africa.

    Great pics!

  20. October 31, 2011 2:33 PM

    Best line: “Take the American!”

  21. October 31, 2011 5:59 PM

    Yay! Welcome back!

    That cheetah is looking quite regal. Add me to the squee chorus.

  22. October 31, 2011 10:09 PM

    “face to femur with shorty” is my new favorite phrase. i’m not kidding.

  23. November 1, 2011 1:24 AM

    FANTASTIC. Brilliant.

    I loved the photos…I loved going on your adventure w/ you.

    Happy Birthday!

  24. November 1, 2011 1:38 PM

    What an amazing vacation! I thought the ominous foreshadowing was that the cat was going to take a bite out of you. That’s the kind of irony that is a lifetime in the making. 😉

  25. November 1, 2011 5:17 PM

    I give up having any adventures because this is clearly The. Most. Awesome. One. Ever!

    Also, Springbok poo? Geez, I can’t even eat green beans that come out of a can.

  26. November 1, 2011 9:56 PM

    New reader here, and I celebrated my birthday last week–a REALLY BIG ONE. And after seeing this, I totally want a do-over.

    Love your blog.

  27. November 2, 2011 12:18 AM

    I would rather eat rhino turd than most of the “meals” I ate in North Vietnam last week. Congrats on a fun birthday adventure.

  28. November 2, 2011 3:12 PM

    So awesome! Happy belated birthday! 🙂

  29. November 2, 2011 3:45 PM

    You’re friggin AMAZING. I love that you did this for yourself. And the pics are spectacular. What an adventure. Thank you for sharing. Takes courage to do what you did. You’re an inspiration.

  30. November 2, 2011 3:46 PM

    also… eating shit isn’t so bad.

  31. November 2, 2011 6:11 PM

    Saw this and thought of you, hope that doesn’t freak you out. I mean, who embodies the two elements of karma and cats better than you?

    • November 2, 2011 6:35 PM

      Yoga cats! Yoga cats!

      If yoga actually involved cats, I’d be much more likely to do it. Namaste.

  32. Carolspy permalink
    November 2, 2011 10:54 PM

    You are my super hero! I am so envious that you are such an adventurer – amazing! Love these photos too…just think what they could have been with Chad’s stage directing…

  33. November 3, 2011 9:33 AM

    You should totally come to London!

    I can’t offer wild animals however.

    Well, other than the predatory ‘butches’ who tend to start stalking around midnight in the local bar.

    They’re pretty wild.

    And terrifying.

  34. November 3, 2011 2:17 PM


    I am.

    I don’t even know what to say.

    Except that you are awesome and far, far more adventurous than I.

    Love the cheetah and the lion.


  35. November 3, 2011 3:50 PM

    Way awesome! Well at least now you can say I’ve tasted sh*t…fill in the rest later, lol.

    Congratulations on your bold voyage…you are like Captain Kirk…only cuter, a girl and took a plane instead of a starship. You go girl!!

  36. November 4, 2011 2:05 AM

    Oh I love you so much. That you get invites to Africa and…you say yes. Yes to strangers! Yes to eating poo pellets! Yes to giraffes! Yes to life goddamnit!

    You are my hero. I’d write the female version of that but I’m never sure if I’m spelling the drug or the other thing.

  37. November 4, 2011 4:43 PM

    The people stuff is nice, I guess, but could we have more pictures of cats?

  38. November 7, 2011 4:00 PM

    Only you would make me feel like I’m missing out on life because I’ve never eaten exotic excrement with strangers on MY birthday….

  39. November 7, 2011 4:06 PM

    How do you get people to invite you to places with them? Because I want to go on a goddamn safari and eat poop, too.

  40. November 8, 2011 5:03 AM

    Brilliant! So cool to try something different and get off the beaten track!

  41. November 11, 2011 2:13 PM

    Okay, so given that all of the pics have actually downloaded this time (as opposed to my four hundred earlier visits), I’m going to take a chance that my comment will actually go through. (I don’t care what you say, unless they learn what the term “High-speed Internet” really means, we will NOT be moving to a senior’s condo in Mexico.)

    First, Happy Birthday!! Second, while I love all these pics, the one of you with the giraffe is my favorite.

    Third, I will now be referring to everything as “pungent rhino piss.” Even good things.

  42. November 12, 2011 8:24 AM

    So now you’re no longer just plain ol’ sassy “30”. You’re officially IN your 30’s and eating animal waste… mmmwahaaahahah!

    ps. wicked jealous about all of it.

  43. November 15, 2011 5:38 PM

    Fun, critters! I always liked zebras. They’re pretty. That would be neat to see real wild animals, out in the wild, but I’m just sticking with zoos. It’s a lot closer. And I’m safe from cobras.

  44. November 17, 2011 9:58 AM

    Are you taunting me with a new post?


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