It was supposed to be a field day. We visited a nearby construction project and the head builder agreed to let us bend some rebar to use as ground anchors for the traps – one of our major missing pieces. Later that day the rest of our gear would arrive, as well as some bits and pieces from a mission to Tajikistan – so the trap kits are ready.
Boone and Goodrich spent the rest of the morning packing, and we were just about to head out to set our first snares when Hussein came back. “Bad day to go to mountain,” he reported. Apparently the border guards have their heckles up – there were some illegal border crossings recently, and they said no travel today. At lunch, we got the rest of the story: the Taliban are getting uncomfortably close. Marcus looked at a map and did the math: only 6.5 hours by car.
Then – just twenty minutes ago – I walked into the WCS Office to download our media for today, and found Boone hunched over his computer, shaking his head. “I was walking over here and I just heard this gun cock in the darkness,” he said, “and two guys with machine guns came out and pointed them at me, told me to walk.” It was the border guards again, and they harassed him for twenty minutes or so before leaving. Sitting alone in the office, typing, as I am now, I keep stealing glances at the windows, wondering if they’ll be back. It’s pretty clear these guys are just yahoos, and wanted to mess with him, but that’s exactly the worst kind of situation to get yourself into. “I really want to catch a leopard, but honestly, I’d like to get out of dodge,” says Boone.
Despite the nervousness this is causing, the day went incredibly well. The gear we weren’t sure would make it through the combat zones arrived. The traps are ready to deploy. Boone and Goodrich trained the Afghanis in snare building, and Stephane trained them to shoot the dart rifle and pistol. Tomorrow we head to high camp and start snaring. I’ll be staying over the first night with the trappers in a makeshift camp before the full camp arrives the day after.
So this is it. We’re going into the field tomorrow, and I’ll be out of email contact until the 8th, or the 18th, it’s hard to say. Trouble seems to follow us, but we’ve also had good luck, so I’m staying optimistic. I hope we catch a cat soon, though, so we can (as Boone said) get the hell out of here. Meanwhile, I’m incredibly excited to get to the heart of our story: prep is over, and the game is on.
Thanks to all of you who’ve sent messages of support / requests to me not to die. I mean to take your advice.
See you on the other side!