Another mega-twitch!

Piriformis syndrome (loosely translated as a pain in the butt) makes one acutely aware of how the bones hold the skeleton together. Every single part of the body has a purpose (still await the reason for the appendix) and when it is not functioning correctly, you soon find out what it is. Over-enthusiastic climbing up steep mountain tracks is the cause of my current pain, and the solution is rest and gentle stretching exercises. There are 13 steps to my front door and I go up and down at least 8 times a day, so not much chance of a rest. The worst part of this ‘injury’ is the restriction it places on my hiking as I can now only do flat walks – my least favourite. A couple of gentle strolls through the flatter parts of Kirstenbosch and Constantia still provide food for the soul, though, as the trees are still showing no sign of autumn shades and the grapes are heavy on the vines, awaiting a late harvest due to a mild summer.

My attempt to take it easy all came to nought yesterday when I joined a group of twitchers (excessively keen birders who travel unheard-of distances to catch a glimpse and especially a photograph of a rare bird) down at Soetwater a few kilometres from home. Word was out of the sighting of a Red-tailed Tropicbird, which breeds exclusively in northern Madagascar and is a very rare vagrant on these shores. Caught up in the moment, binoculars trained on the shoreline, I stumbled over a rock half buried in the soft sand. Feeling myself lurching into an undignified and potentially injurious swallow-dive, I rectified the situation by throwing my foot far forward, forgetting my already painful piriformis, which performed a ‘ping’ and an excruciating pain from hip to ankle. As I stood frozen, my fellow twitchers asked if I was alright and I said no but please go on. This was a serious search for a rare sighting and it was a case of the infirm having to fall by the wayside.

As they disappeared into the distance, I was still assessing which direction I should hobble or hop in – back to the car or further along the shore. Birding makes you do strange things. I turned to face the direction we had come from and immediately saw a man waving and gesticulating that we should all turn around. They had found the bird! Out with the cellphone to contact my son far ahead – despite a good pair of lungs, my voice was blown away in the wind – and soon everyone was congregating to admire this very elegant bird. It seemed to enjoy the attention and flew languidly just above head level in small circles around us, ensuring that everyone had ample opportunity to capture it on camera. How terribly cooperative! We couldn’t believe our luck in finding it in the same place as it had been reported about half an hour before, and although it was a long hobble back to the car for me, the perfect end to a lovely day spent chasing nature.

Although this means that flat walks are on the agenda for a while, resting a bit never did anyone too much harm.

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