Tuesday 29th - Sunday 4th
Tuesday was so quiet and boring compared to the last ten days. We didn't do anything special today except for revision for our trails guide theory exam on Thursday. So Ben and I spent the day uploading our photos and trying to whittle out the crap ones from the 1500 pictures I had taken. Not an easy task! It was great going through the pictures, there were so many I didn't realize I had taken, and so many memories that were caught on camera that I know I will remember every amazing sighting and enjoyable moment from that trip.
Ben and I did a photo swap too because evidently I did not have enough photos, but by the end of the day I had managed to get my 1500 pictures down to a respectable 561. It's still more than probably the last five months put together, but to be honest I could not justify getting rid of another single picture. Then having to pick my favourites for the blog was the hard part, after an hour of much deliberation the best of the lot, some 120 pictures were ready to be photoshopped for my blog. So probably not the most revision I could have done today, but I still have another day to go. Phew!
So today was all about revising. All day. Seeing as we had already done the Bushwise tests I still had my revision notes! I spent the morning going over my notes and the rest of the afternoon/evening filling out the Trails Guide question booklet. I never realised that is was going to take so long though! The questions in the third section were all about mammal behavior. It was a little irritating that the answers had to come from a specific text book, because some of the elephant behaviours I know are different than what the book says. Anyway, I stayed up late that night trying to make sure that everything was sufficiently crammed in my head.
I was up at 4am on Thursday morning to make sure that I still remembered enough to get me through the exam. I am not entirely sure I had, but the exam didn't actually seem too bad, and that is with just a day and a half of revision, fingers crossed I passed though! We had a quick breakfast then headed off into town to get photocopies of all our certificates and pick up our PDP's from the licencing department. We went to MJ's to use the internet seeing as it wasn't working back at Garonga, and while I was checking my email I was overwhelmed to have received an email from one of the many elephant places I had sent my CV.
This was from Knysna Elephant Park's Research Unit, Dr Debbie who in fact runs the whole thing and she was so thrilled that I had applied because after looking at my CV said that there were definitely some things she would like me to help out with just as long as we could make things work with dates etc. I was elated, not only did I finally get a response that wasn't no, Dr Debbie had read my CV and no questions asked offered me the chance to come down to the research unit. It was the first time in my life that I felt that all my hard work had finally come together to help me achieve exactly what I wanted to do, and I was even more proud that I had got the placement all by myself and off of my own merits and achievements.
Once we had run all of our errands everyone headed off to Sleepers for a Milkshake while the instructors were busy getting the vehicle fixed. I was celebrating the fact I had got a placement at last and everyone was so happy that I had got one doing exactly what I have always wanted. The instructors on the other hand did not say anything when I told them I had found my own placement, but I did not let that rain on my parade and was blissfully happy for the rest of the day which put me in a great mood for what was to be an epic weekend!
Friday morning everyone was out in force cleaning up the house and getting it ready to be fumigated because of the cockroaches in the kitchen. At 1pm however Ben and I were joined my Kieron and his wife Denise from the other campus and went up to Garonga lodge to spend the night as the prize for Ben and Kieron getting the best student award at the leaving lunch. They each won a night stay at the lodge, and that included a plus one, so Denise and myself were invited along too. The lodge was beautiful and Bernie was really happy to see us again and welcome us to the wonderful place. Once we got to our rooms which were simply gorgeous with the all amazing view of the riverbed I wanted nothing more than lay in that hammock and look at that view for the rest of the afternoon. However, Ben and I were called up to Lunch at around 2pm and had a delicious lunch before heading out on an afternoon drive.
The drive was wonderful, we got to relax and sit back and enjoy the whole thing, no naming trees or birds or recalling various facts about animals. There were the four of us plus two guests from the lodge and they kept joking around about how privileged they were to have six guides on one drive. They were a lovely couple and we all had a great time. We saw elephants down on Jackal berry clearing. Jesiah drove in so close to them that they were sparring right in front of us. Eventually they got far to curious for their own good and came to inspect the car, a little unnerving, but at the same time it was awesome seeing wild elephants this close! I swear if Ben had reached out he could have touched those bulls! It was soon getting a bit late and so we headed off for sundowners near Rhino Pan. While we were having drinks there was a distant roar of a lion, so after a few minutes of taking in the sound, we packed up the drinks and snacks and went to go and find them. It was fun going out to find them, stopping every now and again to listen for the roar. Eventually Jesiah and the tracker got out to look in the bush, but came back ten minutes later saying they had gone. It was really fun even though we didn't get to see them so we eventually made our way back to the camp.
When we got back we had half an hour or so to shower and get to the boma for dinner. I tried to shower quickly but the shower was just too awesome, even for Golden Gate Park standards so I ended up making us few minutes late. Oops! We were also greeted with a message from JP telling us that we had both passed Trails Guide Theory, so we were both celebrating on our way to the boma. Dinner was such a delight though, we were greeted by Jesiah and Bernie and we had drinks and Canapé's on the veranda. Luckily Ben and I had arrived first (so I didn't feel so guilty about the shower) and chatted with Bernie while we waited for the others.
Once everyone was assembled the chef came out and introduced the menu, then we were all taken to our tables which were set around the veranda and the pool. Our table was tucked under a tree next to the pool with the toads happily singing and the sound of the waterfall in the background. Ben and I could not believe that we were here, It was the loveliest setting and if I dare say rather romantic to have dinner by candlelight while looking out on the reserve which was now bathed in a beautiful purple hue. The food was delicious and Bernie was always making sure we had enough drinks and was so kind as always. Once I was adequately full all of us returned to the boma and sat on the sofas having a chat with a few drinks…I think was losing my balance by the end of the night! It started getting late so by 11pm Kieron, Denise, Ben and I went off to bed after what had been on a truly magical day, and to top it all off we were invited out on another drive the following morning, so it was off to sleep ready for our 4.30 wake up call!
Saturday morning Ben and I were woken up by Jesiah calling to us from round the corner of the tent, and reluctantly I climbed out of the comfiest bed I had slept in in a very long time! The four of us met for tea before heading out on a game drive. We went down South to look for baby hyena, but to no avail. Amazingly though our tracker had spotted some rhino prints and we went off to look for her. A few minutes later we stumbled upon her and drove off road to get a better look. I was so excited because it was the first rhino I had seen on the reserve! I got a little bit sleepy on the way back (unsurprisingly) and ended up falling asleep for a few minutes, but when we were back at Garonga and had some breakfast I was feeling a lot more energetic!
The masseuse came around to us while we were eating and offered us massages during the morning which both of us happily agreed on, so we just waited back at the safari tent until it was time to go. I went first and had a wonderful massage in a little open sided hut overlooking the riverbed. I came out feeling so relaxed and my neck and back was feeling much better! I then read a book in the glorious sunshine while waiting for Ben. Then once he got back we packed up our bags, went to thank Bernie for a wonderful stay and headed back to the farmhouse.
After the last two days, things were a little subdued back at the farmhouse. The afternoon was spent unpacking, doing washing and trying to photoshop all the pictures from the week off, then in the evening it was the usual braai and drinks round the fire. I was rather tired after the early morning so went to bed early.
Sunday was a day of relaxation, I sorted through all my paperwork and got it ready to post off to DEAT and then went through all my classnotes and chucked out all the crap that has been accumulated over the last few months. It took a fair while but a job well done. The rest of the day was spent chatting with Candace and watching a movie.