• Petra Vandecasteele

Part 3 – An Uninvited Guest in My Shower

We're getting deeper and deeper into the 'real' Africa. Homesteads are made up of separate huts or buildings – each with a function: one to cook, one to sleep, one to bath – as opposed to having different rooms inside a house. The shops too present an entirely different offering: chicken feet, bovine intestines and hoofs, and large open containers with exotic spices. We can't find any sunscreen though.

I should have listened to my son James when he recommended we buy the groceries for supper and breakfast upon arrival in Hluhluwe (read 'sjloosjloowe') and then continue further to our cottage. But nope, I wouldn't hear of it. I was tired of the long drive and the overpowering heat, and all I could think of was to cool off in the sparkling swimming pool at our destination. I was secretly hoping that there would be a shop nearby, but of course there wasn't and instead of relaxing for the rest of the afternoon I had to drive 20km back to town and 20km back to the cottage before closing time. I had chosen a self-catering option to give my body a break from all the culinary overindulgences at most of the lodges, hence the need for shopping...

During the last stretch, a swarm of insects suddenly appears out of nowhere and hits the car from all sides, leaving an indescribable imprint on the windscreen. In disbelief, I watch how, within seconds, the heat dries the sticky mess to the extent that my wipers can't remove anything. But my frustration immediately gives way as I arrive at destination and am greeted by a giraffe and a family of blue vervet monkeys.

I'm too late to enjoy the refreshing swimming pool, so my next best option is to cool off with a cold shower. At long last my sticky clothes can come off! I leave the bathroom door open, step into the shower, close the shower curtain and to my absolute horror I find myself face to face with a scorpion. My flight-fight response doesn't kick-in. Instead, I freeze. There it sits, high up between the folds of the curtain. What now? It's rather awkward to have to call for help when you stand stark-naked in the shower, isn't it? From the size of its pinchers and tail I can judge that it's not a dangerous scorpion. The bigger the pinchers, and thus the smaller the tail, means that it defends itself more by pinching and less by venom. In the opposite case, the large tail will be packed with venom which means big trouble. Nonetheless, I'm not even remotely considering to remove it myself, in which case I'm stuck in the shower because I'm not going to get past it either. So I stand there, weighing my options.

"What's taking you so long?" I hear my daughter say from my bedroom. When I tell her about the uninvited guest in my shower, she's not keen to remove the scorpion either. "James," she calls, "we need you in Mom's bathroom. There's a scorpion in the curtain." James arrives with a glass, quietly moves it up to the scorpion until it drops into the glass, and releases it in the bushes a safe distance away from the cottage.

During my walk in the forest after breakfast I realise scorpions are a definite occurrence around here...

Travel Tips:

  • Always close your luggage, toiletry bags, and handbags to prevent scorpions or snakes to get inside;

  • Before putting on your shoes, always shake them upside down in case a scorpion hides inside;

  • Always shake your clothes before putting them on for the same reason;

  • Never turn or pick-up a rock without checking first that there isn't a scorpion under it.

Also read: Scorpions – Did You Know?

Great field guide: Scorpions of Southern Africa


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