Monday 5th - Sunday 11th
So this week started off pretty interesting. We had lectures in the morning as usual but it was actually split into two lectures. The first one was looking through assessment sheets for the people doing the FGASA L1 exam and the SASSETA rifle exam so that we knew what to learn for the test and what to expect. Then the second part of the morning was spent learning about Immunocontraception on elephants in the Greater Makalali reserve. It was amazing, it was nice to have a lecture that was almost university level again, and something which I hadn't already learnt before, because up until now every lecture we have had I already did two years ago for my level 1 and so it has been a little tedious, but today's lecture was just fabulous.
She talked to us about the elephants on the reserve and background of elephants before going into population control in South Africa and how this reserve is pioneering in the research of immunocontraception in African elephants. We learnt about previous research into hormonal contraception and how Kruger stopped implementing it due to bad side affects and the fact that receiving this would cause an already pregnant elephant to abort the baby. So this new type of contraception is designed to create antibodies that bind to the female's eggs to prevent the sperm being able to attach to the receptors and fertilize it. This is good because it means that it wont abort foetuses because there is no egg involved, and also that there are not yet any side affects after 12 years of research. The other amazing thing is that if they bring the female off of the vaccination then after two years she was able to get pregnant again. It really is phenomenal that they can control population control in the long term . It was such an enlightening and inspiring lecture that I went to her at the end to ask her for details so that I could potentially go and work with the research program maybe in my placement or even after that. So we shall have to see how that goes!
The afternoon was equally interesting, we were leant the rifles from Garonga and did some rifle handling practice. The first exercise for group B was firing at targets. From a standing position we had to load the rifle (with an imaginary bullet), get into the stance and fire at a 15m target - without pressing the trigger, reload, fire at a 10m target, reload, fire at a 5m target and then make the rifle safe in the quickest time possible. It was hard to get started because rifles are completely foreign to me, but I was getting the hang of using the bolt by the end of it and got pretty fast too! The second exercise was to learn how to load the rifle. From a standing position we had to put the gun in the correct position to load 5 imaginary rounds into the magazine, close the bolt half way without chambering a round, check the chamber for any loaded bullets, depress the trigger, close the bolt, stand up with the rifle ready in a firing stance and chamber the imaginary round. It then finished with learning to remove the imaginary rounds without dropping them on the floor etc etc. it was pretty cool to finally be learning how to use them and get to know the weight and feel of holding a rifle and how you have to stand. Once again it was timed, and did fairly well once again, although people like Sheldon and Malcolm who have been hunting since they were little kids did amazingly well. All in all I think the whole group did great, some of them had never picked up an air rifle before, let alone a gun, so it really was a big well done to everyone!
On Tuesday we went to visit Mahlahla campus because we had two guest geologists coming in to teach us all about the wonderful world of rocks! It was actually rather interesting, and I loved the geeky little geology jokes like the 'it takes us a million years to do anything' was so funny I had to sit there trying not to giggle. We also went on a practical to an old dam near to the South of Makalali where the other lecturer took us out to look at rocks in the riverbed. It was very hot though so we were all grateful to get back to their campus and chill out by the pool while they took our vehicles and went with the bloke to do their practical. Everyone just lay outside the classroom reading and falling asleep. I sat by the pool with my foot in the water because the mosquito bites I got on Sunday had swollen so much that my foot looked like cankle, you literally could not see my ankle bone from all the swelling, and my toe was nearly twice its normal size! However, the pool was very soothing and I also eventually convinced myself to take a piriton, but then fell asleep all the way back to Garonga because it wasn't a non drowsy one, so the swelling did start to go down, luckily!
On Wednesday Heli and I headed out for our driving test at 5am, we were taken by Mark up to the testing center, where we met Sam and went out for a test drive in the little blue car we had driven last week. I managed to get the feel for the clutch and gear box before the drive, which was good practice because fortunately both of us passed! My test was pretty hilarious, the guy had no care in the world about what I was doing, he even still stood at the top of the incline maneuver hill while I was on the other side of the testing ground doing my reverse around the corner. The drive around town was even funnier, he just laid back in the chair chatting away to me and not marking anything down, then after only 15 minutes we went back to the test center, only then did he start writing down all these apparent mistakes (which I am bloody sure were not true!) before adding them all up and eventually telling me that I had passed.
Heli and I then spent the rest of the day waiting around to get our papers issued, which unfortunately did not happen as the computer system was not working, so we had to tell mark that we needed to come back in on Friday to get our papers issued (what a nightmare!). So yes by the end of it we didn't get back to Garonga until about 5pm, where on the way in we came across Group A and hopped onto their vehicle to join their evening drive. It was pretty cool to be on their car for once and see what banter they have going on there. Ben was driving most of the drive, but Sebastiaan drove into the lion sighting with the two week old cubs (which were unbelievably cute), a lioness and a male lion because we had to go off roading right next to a drainage line with a sheer drop, so he didn't want us to accidentally end up there where the male lion had just trotted off to. After that we went exploring around the reserve for a bit and maybe got a little bit lost, but with the help of the good old southern cross and our expert guiding abilities we managed to get home before dinner got too cold!
Thursday morning we had another game drive. It was pretty relaxed and we didn't see an awful lot, just some Jackals, the usual antelope species and some birds, but still it was nice to be out and about. We got tested on trees a lot which was useful, seeing as how we all did so bad on the tree test last week! Then in the afternoon we watched a DVD about hunting elephant. It was meant to be educational in the sense of learning where to place a shot in the event that you get charged by ele's when on a walk. The DVD however did not seem to get it's point across in a particularly good way, instead we all just sat there (some of us with tearing eyes) watching these hunters killing the poor elephants that are just minding their own business or looking after their calves. It was so traumatic to watch these poor elephants stumbling around or tumbling down slopes or even having the herd around them and the calves wondering why mum isn't moving that I completely missed the point of it. The hunters aswell who were high fiving each other afterwards and saying what a good hunt it was or gloating about having to just bump another couple off that had charged after the initial kill was so bone chilling that I wish I never have a job where I get put into close quarters with professional hunters. So yes anyway after that bad note, we spent the rest of the evening trying to cheer up by revising round the table and having a bit of a laugh.
Friday was study day as usual. However Heli and I had to go back to the stupid driving center at 5.30am and queue up for hours to get our papers issued. It was so frustrating to have to go back for them, but we got to hang out with the Mahlahla lot who also could not get their papers on Tuesday. The boys (Ben and Dan) went into town with everyone staying at the farmhouse during the week off to get the food for camping in Kruger, Candace and I had written them out a man proof shopping list it even told them what aisle to go down for most of the stuff on the list, but then when I got back late that afternoon I asked where all the cold food was because I couldn't see anything in the fridge when I got a drink. Well would you believe it, because it wasn't on the list to put it in the fridge they didn't do it. Apparently it was our fault we didn't tell them to do that, but I'm not sure we are going to take the fall for that one! Honestly. Guys.
The rest of the evening was spent learning all our Geology and Arthropod stuff. Well I say learning, once again most of the day was spent writing out notes and only after dinner did we actually learn them! We got out tests back from the previous week's ethology test, and surprisingly I got 88%. Was not expecting that after the major anal gland disaster of week eight. So yeah not great but still a pass!
Just before we went to bed, Ulla came out of hte bathroom laughing while brushing her teeth so we followed her back in ther to discover Bob the frog on the toilet seat. he looked so smug sitting there, it was hilarious! So i took a couple pictures of him then went back to studying for a bit. jsut before i went to bed i went to the loo aswel to discover Bob had gone so i went for a wee and looked around wondering where he had gone and noticed out the corner of my eye he was sitting on the towel rail right by my head. hmmm. i can't say i was all too comfortable with that so i gave him a talking to and said 'if you jump on me Mr then we are going to have a falling out', which confused the guys sitting in the dining room, but he did listen so i managed to get to bed relatively frog free.
On Saturday we had the geology and arthropod test, celebrated the end of the week, and the start of our week off to Kruger, and then once again headed into town. But this time we decided to change things up a little. Instead of Sleepers, we went to Sleepers AND watched the Rugby :D We almost didn't get there though, Ben's car's engine light came on just as we got into Hoedspruit and went to the petrol station to figure out what was wrong. The water pump was empty, so the guys filled it and then proceeded to Sleepers. It was a fairly good afternoon, I guess we did win the England match, but I did spend most of the match shouting at the TV in complete despair while Ben, Candace and Dan looked on in disbelief that for such a small person I got rather het up about the match. It's a bit like Jekyll and Hyde with me when it comes to rugby…
But yes, while we were at lunch, Ben went with one of Sebastiaan's friend's who was helping him make sure the car was up for our week off to Kruger, but unfortunately the car was not in the best shape, infact it would not even work so the car stayed in town while we were momentarily stranded, due to the fact htat we could not get hold of a hire car anywhere. Thank goodness Ulla and Stefan joined us at Sleepers, so we managed to get a lift back with them, it was a bit cramped, six people in a 4 x 4 Panda, but we got back and enjoyed the evening as best we could, knowing that we would not be able to go to Kruger on Sunday as planned. So yes the few of us that remained at camp; Myself, Ulla, Stefan, Spencer, Evan, Ben, Candace and Dan (also joined by Taro) had a little week off celebration with a Braii and lots of drink! Seeing as there were no South African guys about (Evan had gone to bed) us girls managed to get in there and have a go at Braaiing for the first time! It was pretty fun.
So we didn't leave for Kruger today as planned, however there is a silver lining to everything, and instead of having to get up at 4am this morning we were able to have the most epic lay in! I didn't get up until about 8am, it was absolute bliss! So Candace and I spent the day around the pool chilling out and reading a book, we packed for tomorrow, did our washing and planned what we were going to do on our week off. It was such a chilled out day and actually just what I needed after the last two hectic weeks of driving tests etc. Fingers crossed we get the car back tomorrow morning and can head off to Kruger to begin our week off properly!!!