Monday 25th - Sunday 2nd October
Monday morning was busier than usual, we had an amphibians class in the morning as well as a special guest lecturer that came in to do a frog and conservation talk. It was really interesting as usual with the guest lecturers and it was fascinating learning all about how the frogs are dying out because they are stressed. They have skin which is absorbent so all the horrible things that we pump into the soil is being absorbed by these frogs and they get stressed out and die. It is happening on every continent and they think that eventually all the frogs are going to die out if we don't sort out all the chemicals we are pumping into the ecosystem. Shame. So after that class we had lunch then went back for a quick lecture of fish before spending the rest of the afternoon doing dry runs on the rifles in preparation for the SASSETA assessment. I wasn't feeling up to it much so I went to bed early in the hope that I would feel better for the assessment the next day.
On Tuesday morning we had astronomy class, and it was pretty good because we were going for a sleep out that evening. Before that though we went for our first proper rifle assessment exercise. It was fun. I passed the first exercise which was shoot 3 rounds into the target as accurately as possible in your own time. I managed to get 10, 10, 8 for my score which was pretty damn good. Then the second test was the 15m,10m, 5m timed exercise. I had to shoot the three targets and reload the rifle, chamber a round a point it at the 5m to complete the exercise. This had to be done in 21 seconds, but I took far too long. My first attempt was 23 seconds and then my second attempt which had two perfect bulls eyes and an 8 was 31 seconds long because I could not open my bolt after the first round had fired so I had to bring the rifle back down and proper force it open before I could shoot my next round. It was really annoying but at least I know that I can shoot on target which is the main thing. I can just go back next week and re-do that exercise.
After I had done the shooting though I came back with Heli and Sebastiaan because the two of us were not feeling very well again. And I spent the rest of the afternoon studying out of the sun and having a nap to try and get better. Then around 4pm everyone else came back from shooting. It had been a long day and people had done fairly well. Everyone had passed the first exercise and four of them passed the second. After showers and some much needed ice cold water we packed up camp ready for a sleep out and headed down to the drainage line at the eastern corner fence line for the evening.
It was pretty fun, when we got there we started a fire to warm the dinner rosemary had prepared and set out all our beds. Then after having some lovely stew Evan and I went on first watch between 8pm and 9pm. It was a little scary because my torch shone for all of about 5m so when I heard the hyena's calling I had no idea where they were! Luckily everyone was still up at that time so they wouldn't have got anywhere near the camp. It was pretty cool actually! Then after the watch I was stargazing for a while with the guys before going to sleep. Then at 4am I was woken up again for the final watch until 5am. I was sitting in a chair at one end of the drainage line and heard a rustling noise close by. I figured it was the civet that had been around camp earlier that night so was looking for eyes with the terrible torch, and could see nothing. The rustling was getting closer and I was utterly perplexed that I could not see anything when all of a sudden this tiny mouse came out of the bushes and sat there next to me for 5 minutes or so before it left. It was very cute! Then at 5am everybody was woken up and we started packing up the camp to head back to the farmhouse.
When we were ready to go back to camp a few of us had to wait behind in the drainage line with Sebastiaan while the 4 x 4 full of sleeping bags went back to camp. So we had a while to kill and decided to go for an explore around the drainage line. Just around the corner from where we were sleeping there was a pile of fresh elephant dung and a big hole dug in the sand all the way down to the water at the bottom. Because it was still wet we figured that the elephant had been there during the night just out of our sights! Then eventually we got picked up and taken back to camp. We all had the morning off so I had a shower and went to bed for a little while. At 10am a few of us went for a little lecture about birds and had lunch.
At 3pm we then all went on a game drive. It was a lot of fun! I was tracker today and thoroughly enjoyed it because we came across a big Bull elephant and I was so thrilled. We saw him twice during the drive. Heli drove us up to Korhan Dam where we had tea, then on the way back we went past him again. He had stripped some branches off of the trees which were across the road and because he was still about we had to drive very slowly over them. He was just lovely, even if he did start scraping his feet at one point! So eventually we left him to it and went back home. It was one of the best sightings in ages!
Thursday was pretty cool, our group went on a game drive this morning and I was heading up the drive. I decided that we would try and find some Lions because I had heard them behind the house that morning, so we set off on the route I set out in the hope that we would find some tracks and perhaps come across them. It was quite successful, I tried to follow the tracks because my tracker was a little unsure as to what she was looking for and we ended up round the back near garongs lodge following the drainage line. JP stopped me after about 15 minutes of driving and said that the lions were gone so we should stop this wild goose chase, but not 10m round the corner there sat two lion cubs sitting on the rock by the drainage line! They sat there for a while and then started playing before walking off into the drainage line. Then this big male walks out of the bush and lazily walks across the road before heading off in the same directions as the cubs. It was such a lovely sighting to see the cubs had really started growing up since we first saw them a few months ago. I then drove us up to Korhan Dam in the hopes that the male elephant from yesterday had made his way to the water hole. He was not there, instead the dam was teaming with Giraffe, Impala, Wildebeest, Warthogs and Zebra. It was a proper sight of Africa! The eight giraffe were all trying to bend down to have a drink while the other animals slipped in between them to join them by the waters edge. We sat and watched them for a while, before heading off for a tea break. It was a really nice drive!
When we got back to camp the others were back from their drive, and they had a fairly average morning on the reserve. We had lunch and while everyone chilled out or revised I went to bed for a while because I was feeling ill again. The afternoon drive rolled around and JP took us out on a mock practical drive to show everyone what they need to do on the assessment. Group A went down to Makalali for the afternoon and had the most phenomenal drive. They saw a Leopard! She had taken an Impala kill up the smallest tree and balanced like a ballet dancer to eat it, making sure that no other carnivores were going to get to her kill. So while they had a marvelous sighting while we were out on our mock exam with JP learning about termite mounds…again! It was a very helpful drive though and we did see lions this morning so we were a little green with envy but I guess we do always get to see the lions on our drives while they spend the day looking at zebra.
Friday was once again study day, and today we were revising for Fish and Amphibians. Most of the day was spent writing notes with a very small proportion of it actually learning the notes. I also went and booked an appointment at the doctors seeing as I was still really unwell and had progressed to being rather sick, but apart from that little break it was all study, study, study! Because we didn't really have a lecture on fish (it was more a half hour talk on what we need to learn form the book) I learnt all from the level 1 and level 2 book just to be on the safe side. Then Ben and Sheldon asked me to test them on fish. I was asking them questions but they just looked at me utterly perplexed every time I gave them the answer I had asked for. So Ben and I made a little bet that I would finally beat him on the test. The bet was a new pen (seeing as someone keeps using them anyway…) and after the testing session I was feeling pretty confident and pretended I was busy choosing the colour. Hehe! When I went to bed that night I was still feeling pretty crap and when I got into my pyjamas that mum had sent me in the post I got this scent of home and for the first time in 12 weeks felt just a little bit homesick.
Saturdays test was great! I was up at 5am to do some last minute revision, but I felt pretty good about a test for once, the amphibian and the fish one at that. There was the odd question I was a little unsure of, but for once we were able to spend the day celebrating instead of commiserating. I went into town with Nicky, Heli, Evan and Katy because four of us had to go to the doctors for various reasons. So I went in first and this really nice doctor who it turns out was in my home village only a couple of months ago at the summer fair visiting his uncle. It made me miss home just a little bit knowing that mum had probably taken little Grace down to the fair (perhaps entering her in the waggiest tail competition at the dog show again). But he said that the reason I was so sick was because I was allergic to my Malaria tablets of all things and it had caused a lot of problems in my tummy. So the solution was no more Malaria tablets, just lots of mosquito repellant, and some tablets to make my tummy all better again.
So after that little trip I gave mum and dad a call to quickly catch up while we waited for the others to finish at the doctors. Then after that we made our way to our favourite lunching spot, and with a couple of my new tablets (that worked a treat), I munched down a burger of epic proportions! (with hollumi of course!). That evening we came back and had a braai as usual with a few drinks around the fire. It was a pretty subdued evening and I think maybe I was a little tired from waking up so early because I accidentally fell asleep on the sofa! Woops!
Today as usual was a lovely relaxing day off. I spent the day doing almost nothing. I chatted to Nathan on Skype for a while and spent some time on my elephant essay in the hopes that I might finally finish it. I gave up at dinner time and everyone went off to watch movies again. This time we watched the Adjustment bureau. It was really good all the way through and you think its going to culminate in this epic ending and it was sort of just the biggest anti-climax ever. Kind of like a Dan Brown novel. Still it was a pretty good concept and a nice relaxing evening. Can't complain really!