Monday 15th - Sunday 22nd
So even though it was nice having a week off to do whatever we wanted and go to Kruger, it was nice to get back to class on Monday morning and have everyone back home! We started the morning cleaning the classroom, the cars and just generally cleaning the camp. Then in the afternoon we had the ecology and taxonomy lectures. It was interesting studying things that I had done at university, fingers crossed I can put my degree to good use after all! In the early evening there was a bunch of us that did the bleep test, because we have all started to feel a bit crap what with not really getting to exercise, so that was fun! We also got our new books, so I cannot wait to go on the sleep out deck now and do a spot of stargazing!
Tuesday all of us doing our driving permits went into town for a driving lesson, while everyone else went to the reptile park. The driving lesson was a bit of a piss take. We went to a football pitch with the instructors who marked out the parallel parking and reverse around the corner bays. I spent about 15 minutes then driving around Hoedspruit with one of the instructors and then 15 minutes practicing maneuvers. I was absolutely terrible at the right reverse parallel parking. But then again I had never driven a huge Toyota pick up truck before, let alone attempted to park one. It does concern me just a wee bit that that is all the lessons we are having, I don't want a repeat of what happened first time round with my driving test!
Ok so we got back that afternoon and went for a lecture in the classroom. We were then assigned nutrient cycles between the groups which we had to prepare for Wednesday when we would present it. Dan, Stefan, Spencer and I had the Nitrogen cycle ( the best in my opinion because it is the hardest so when it comes to revision we would be alright with this one) and it was apparent that I would be the one speaking. So we spent the rest of the evening preparing our presentation and the slide ready for because we were to be at the reptile park Wednesday and would have no time to prepare the next day, besides it was an early start and I needed some sleep!
Wednesday was one of the most horrifying days of my life thus far. Us learner drivers went to the reptile park, where the others went yesterday, so that we could go see all the snakes etc. It was fun when we got to see the snakes, have a boa constrictor around our neck and feed the chameleons with meal worms between our lips (they would snatch it with their telescopic tongue and eat it!). The horrible bit was when we were allowed to pick up the scorpions and spiders. I was a little wary of the scorpion, but held her with no problem. She just ran around my hand like a hamster getting exercise. The worst part was the enormous baboon spider where I really tried to calm when people had it on their faces or in their hands, but every time it started crawling my eyes welled up and I freaked out inside. Eventually matthew - the curator - asked if I fancied getting over my fear and told me to stand next to him while Dan was holding it. So I did but very very cautiously. Then he scooped her up and asked if he could put just one of her legs on my hand. I agreed but started crying a bi when he did it. After that he put a second leg on my hand and then eventually asked if I would be willing to put my hand on the floor and have her sit on it.
Now I really started to get upset at that point, but agreed as I wanted to at least try and if I wanted I could pull my hand away at any point and it would not harm the spider. So he placed her across the fingers of my right hand on the floor and I sat there for a minute fighting back what felt like every tear from all those moments when I had been frightened of spiders since when I was a kid. It was almost unbearable but I sat there just praying she would not move in that spiderish way but just sit still until Matthew would take her away. He eventually asked me if I would want to hold her properly in my hand but for me that was just too much. I would not have been able to bear it if she started crawling on me, but at least he understood that I had had enough for one day and I went and sat back down while the others tried to cheer me upby congratulating me on making an attempt of trying to get over my fear of spiders.
I will in all honesty say it was the most difficult moment of my life trying to come to terms with my fear in front of everyone, especially as some of the other girls like Katy and Heli had done so well with their fear. I just hope that people realise how much effort it took to try and get over it, but I kind of feel bad that I couldn't quite let it go. Maybe another time. Well anyway, as I said everyone was so understanding on the way home and very supportive, Ben even bought me a mint aero for my good effort!
Ok so we got back to Makalali at around 3pm and we had our nutrient cycles still to present so we had a little while to compose ourselves and then get on with it. I think the Nitrogen cycle went down well, I was a little bit out of it after the ordeal that morning but never mind, it still went ok. Candace and I then decided to sit on the sofa for a little while a lot of people went and had a go at the bleep test again. Bad idea because we ended up falling asleep and napping for about an hour and a half. We got woken up eventually by Nicky and later was shown the photographic evidence of our little snooze. Embarrassing to say the least as everyone had been walking past us all afternoon taking photos. It was an awesome nap though!
On Thursday we went on a game drive in the morning. We didn't get very far but just drove around the big dam mostly. It paid off though because we saw some great birds at the dam and a lioness from the pride aswell. She was on a bit of a mission though and didn't stick around for long, probably trying to get back to her cubs. In the afternoon we had a slide show test on mammals and birds. It wasn't too bad as we were allowed to use our books to look them up. We also got our test results back from the tree test and I got 97%! Obviously the Leadwood sabotage was to blame for one of the marks but on the whole was pretty chuffed.
Friday was our study day as usual. We all got up early and settled ourselves around the kitchen table and got to revising ecology and taxonomy. It was rather boring as usual, but the day did get broken up with a visit to Garonga lodge. It was beautiful there, an amazing picturesque lodge with the 6 tented chalets all facing towards a bend in a dry river bed where the visitors constantly see elephant and hyena walking around. The rest of the lodge was amazing too, there were little bomas where you could have a bush bath, basically a big bath tub outside with lanterns and you watch the riverbed from the top of a hill then get taken back to your room afterwards. There is also a beautiful salon where Genine had an elephant walk past it the other day, its more of a wooden gazebo with a massage bed, but it was just past a beautiful waterfall, and just lovely. So yeah that was the visit, and we also got chatting to Bernie the owner who walks to the lodge every morning past our house.
On the way back to the farmhouse we came across 5 bull elephants and two of them were play fighting on the road. You often get young males following around big old bulls and he teaches them how to be a good bull elephant, so despite what you may think men are not always solitary. Anyway, so these two bulls were busy charging at each other and messing around, kneeling on the floor or sitting on bushes. Then one started trumpeting and it was the loveliest sound. I was so in awe of watching this, I was so excited, I felt like a five year old kid going to the zoo for the first time! Like I haven't seen enough ele's already! To be honest though they will never get boring, I love every sighting that we get of them! So yeah that was a lovely way to finish of the afternoon and break from revision. It was quite hard to get back into, so by the time I felt I was prepared for the test it was almost 11pm!
The test on Saturday was ok. Once again most of the things that we spent the day revising did not turn up on the test and a lot of random things that we had not covered were on it. I felt cheated out of learning all the taxonomic names from kingdom to speices for the trees, birds and animals and revising my nutrient cycles inside out only to have something else come up on the exam. But there we go, nothing I can do about it now! So to get over the horrendous morning we went into town for lunch at Sleepers and after a relaxed couple of hours Candace, Dan, Ben, Anthony and I went to go sightseeing while Spencer and Katy remained behind to watch the football.
We went just out of town (sort of next to the reptile park) to go and see Jessica the Hippo. She was amazing! We got to this house with a river flowing at the bottom, and alongside this jetty was a gorgeous hippo laying in the water having her back scratched by a few other people who had gone to visit her. I went don to the waters edge with Candace, sat down and then cautiously put my feet on Jessica's back. I could not believe I was touching a hippo! I mean a hippo?! It was amazing. I got so excited I could not stop grinning. Eventually Candace and I went to go and sit by her head while the boys came on down and massaged her back. At the head end we had to sit there holding her head up out the water while she had a nap. If we weren't up to scratch though and let her nostrils drop in the water then she would nudge our legs until we were holding her head up again. It was so crazy, I could not believe my feet were this close to a hippos mouth and it was not trying to chow me.
Then after a while of stroking her head and her tough whickers on the front of her nose, the owner tony let us give her some tea. She got so excited she came right up to the jetty and started nudging us to give her tea. It was from a sort of make shift baby bottle, and she drank from it while I gave a her a big kiss! It was awesome(…like a thousand hotdogs awesome!) and by far the coolest thing I have ever done. Ben then went on to give her a bit of tea and big smooch, which was lucky because apparently she is not to keen on the men, and then she went off to the other end of the lake for a big old poo and proceeded to get out the water and walk up the garden to the porch where she sleeps on a mattress every night. We got told that she came to be here because as a baby she was washed down the river in the floods and ended up in this guys back garden. He brought her up, and she goes up the river a couple of km to visit her friends, but she never wanted to leave properly so she stays in his back garden and just wanders off whenever she feels like it. Apparently she is used a lot in animal programs when they simulate hippo attacks and stuff, so she really is pretty famous!
Ok so after seeing Jessica we headed back to Sleepers to pick up Spencer and Katy so that we could head to a sports bar and watch the rugby. However they were rather drunk by the time we got there so decided to stick around and have a few drinks there! It was a lot of fun and the Springboks won, so everyone was in a good mood. We also met some South African guys who have swapped details with us and might be able to sort out some work experience or even jobs with them after the six months are up, so we were pretty chuffed. Sebastiaan and Andy also turned up at the bar and we had a couple more drinks with them before heading to the hotel next to the sports bar to check in. It was a bit sneaky but we got all seven of us in two two person rooms, which was fine because we all went straight down the bar anyway, but left Spencer and Katy to sleep the effects of the afternoon off. The bar was quiet and a bit naff but Candace and I had fun dancing, and then the boys joined in too! Anthony and one of the guys from sleepers even break dancing…well I say break dancing… so all in all it was a good night, and we eventually rolled back at the hotel at around 1am. It's so weird saying 1am is a late night when some nights out at uni never finished until 5am or so!
Today as you can guess people woke up a little hungover, but not too bad considering the night we had. I think Candace and I got away with it pretty well, probably because of all the crazy dancing but there we go. So yes we all got up around 6.30am (I think it's almost something out of habit now) and we all got packed up and headed out for some food before coming back home to the farmhouse. The rest of the day has been pretty subdued, most people having a nap or just sitting quietly reading a book. Then this evening we had braaied chicken for dinner, and it was amazing. I felt like a gremlin eating all that chicken! Definitely enjoying not being a veggie J.
Right so that was my week. Pretty hectic what with the spider and Jessica all in one week, I am pretty sure next week is going to be nowhere near as entertaining but we shall see. Until next time.