Week 22 - Monday 5th - Sunday 11th
So this week it was all about finishing up with paperwork and everyone leaving. Monday morning we had to go into town to do our written SASSETA Rifle test. Which we all passed…not surprising seeing as it was an open book exam! Then after that we were left for a bit to go shopping while the 4x4 was being fixed, so instead of waiting around town we decided to go to Sleepers and get a Milkshake!
After we were all full on Milkshake and the cars were ready to go back to Garonga Ben said goodbye to us all and went on his way to his placement at Karrongwe. Dan and Candace also left which I was a lot more upset about because I knew I would not see them for a while. It was hard saying goodbye to them, and I am still trying to get used to people leaving, but it's so hard when we have spent every day off the last five months together and know each other so well. I wasn't too bad when Ben left though because I knew that Ben was coming to visit during the week to pick up some paperwork and I was going to see him over the next couple of weeks before going back to England for Christmas, which I was very thankful about. I think being the only one left for 12 days until I fly home would be a little less fun filled, but at least I have a lot to do with getting the pictures from the week off sorted and a couple of books I am trying to finish.
That evening was just not the same though. It was the first time I had come up to bed without saying good night and it just felt all wrong. The sad thing was that over the next week it was going to take even less time to say good night to everyone and eventually I would be going to bed by myself with no-one left in the farmhouse but me and Bob the frog.
Tuesday was a fun day, I spent the morning reading by the pool, but stayed in the pool a bit too long because I got very badly sunburnt. I therefore came in showered and put on some moisturizer. While the boys went out to go and shoot a warthog for a big feast tonight I made a marinade from a German recipe that Ulla and Stefan had found for me. Not only did I have to translate it, I found basically none of the ingredients on the list so I had to find the best substitutes in the cupboard that I could and pray that it all worked out OK. For instance we had no olive oil so I used vegetable, there was no Muscat wine so I used sherry, there was no curry powder so I used cumin and the list went on and on. It turned out ok in the end though!
I also managed to book my flight home to England, much to mum's delight I am sure, but while I was on the phone everyone suddenly started running out to jump on a game viewer and there I was trying to chat to the poor bloke on the phone who was sorting my flight out while the car engine was roaring to go and JP kept telling me to hang up because the lions were close. I couldn't help it though, and it turned out to be impala at the end of the airstrip anyway, so not really a big deal!
Then while the warthog was cooking some of us went out on a game drive up to rhino pan. On the way back down via Jackalberry drive I noticed that there were literally hundreds of vultures on the trees. As we drove down the road they became more congregated in a block and so Sebastiaan figured there was a big kill somewhere that vultures where waiting to get too. We circled for ages trying to see where the centre of the vultures was. After we had called the sighting, a car from Garonga came and we drove in from opposite sides until we met in the middle where we found a dead giraffe guarded by some lionesses. It was weird because there were no bite marks on the neck and the giraffe looked more like it had collapsed than brought down. So I wonder if it died of old age or something (seeing as it had gone a very dark colour) and the lionesses had stumbled upon it but were not yet sure what to do with it. They however would not let the vultures anywhere near it but it was cool watching them walking around the 4x4 and patrolling the carcass. We felt bad for leaving some of the guys cooking the warthog so went back to get them and a camera. We found our way back pretty easily and once again the lionesses came out around the car and we had a perfect sighting of them.
Eventually it was time to get back and finish cooking so once we returned we cooked some corn, potatoes and made salad then had our feast! Warthog was not what I expected it to taste like but it was really nice. Once we were all sufficiently stuffed we took the rest of the warthog over to the guys who worked at Garonga and then chatted around the fire, until I was becoming the mosquitoes dinner and so decided to call it a night.
So I was meant to go out and help with some bush clearing on Wednesday but my sunburn was pretty bad so JP said that I had to stay in today and could not go out on the game drive. I therefore spent the day in the house covered in chamomile lotion. I stayed in bed laying on my front and watched a couple of movies, then went to help Rosie make lunch. It was a pretty boring day, but there was not much else I could do. Ben came by to drop off some papers so I got to see him while for a bit, which not only was lovely because I was missing him just a bit, but it was a boring as hell day so it made it a lot better! After a while he had to get back to work at GVI so I went back to bed with some more lotion and that was pretty much my day.
Thursday was a little better, my sunburn was still quite painful and I had to stay in all day again. I worked on my essay a bit and did some elephant research. Spencer then came back that evening for a visit and we all ordered pizza from town, which Katy and Spencer picked up and we celebrated the evening away while munching on pizza! By the time I went to bed my sunburn was feeling a little better and I was feeling a little less annoyed at myself for getting burnt. Lesson definitely learnt.
On Friday I went into town with Margaux, Katy and Heli in the quantum. I went and booked my rental car for driving to the airport and then went to the shopping centre to buy a bigger suitcase for the flight home. It was enormous! But I had so many new books and uniform that there was no way of getting it all home. Then while the girls took their hire car back to Garonga, Margaux and I had a great chat while driving back to base in the quantum. It was a nice trip back, Margaux and I had never really chatted before, and going through the reserve we saw loads of baby Impala and wildebeest.
That afternoon Katy, Heli and Spencer left on their last trip to Kruger before returning home and going back to their old lives, and Malcolm and I waved them off one last time while reminiscing over the last few months and what exciting new things lay in store for us. I forgot how some people were going back to their normal lives now that this was over, but for some of us it was just the end of an experience that was hopefully going to make the rest of our lives all what we had dreamed of. I didn't envy that lot going back home to jobs and university, I missed my family and was eager to see them over Christmas, but for the most part my heart now belonged to the African bush and that is where I want to stay.
Finally Malcolm packed up and left and it was really sad but also quite exciting that he was leaving for his new job at a reserve in Pilanesberg. He was the last of the late night Saturday crew to go and finally I felt that all my close friends from the last six months were gone. That was it, I was al by myself and with no-one else there I went back to the farmhouse and started cleaning it one last time ready for when the new students came in. I finished packing then had dinner while watching a movie. That night it was so quiet that I couldn't get to sleep for ages. Only when the lions started roaring and the hyenas started howling did I stop feeling alone and finally drifted off to sleep.
On Saturday morning I woke early and got ready to go to Mahlahla. Finally Margaux and JP turned up on the 4x4 so I was able to pack everything onto the car. I said goodbye to Sebastiaan and JP then headed off with Margaux over to the Mahlahla campus. The drive was nice, but there were not many animals about today, we passed the area where the fire had been, it was so luscious and green now that it amazed me how quickly the bush can go from completely destroyed to teaming with life. The natural world is a precious thing and I hate that people see it as just a means to an end. It's so hard to make people realise how magnificent the natural world is and how much we need to protect it, if only they got to live in and experience the African bush the way I have in the last six months I only hope they would appreciate and love it half as much as I do.
Once we got to Mahlahla, I said hello to everyone staying at the campus for a few days and took all my stuff to my new room. It was a rondewall, and quite cute too! The ants were not so pleased as to my moving in, when I went to take some food to the kitchen the Mandibile ants had a right go at my feet and I ran away to put some hiking boots on. After saying goodbye to Margaux I finished unpacking and went to hang out with the other students. I also went for a walk to find some phone signal (a half mile up the main road later) and explored around the campus a bit.
That evening a bunch of us went up the road to Mahlahla bar where we met loads of other safari guides from various lodges and projects, as well as Ben and his lot from GVI Karrongwe. It was nice to say hello to everyone again and also to see Ben. Then while they were off having their Christmas meal I got to see some of the other students who were still in the area on placement and find out what the first couple of days had been like. Leon and Ayesha were having a great time at Siyafunda and the Leo project, so I was glad to hear all about it. I also talked to Chris who was heading up to Namibia this week for his placement and talked about how excited he was. Everyone at Mahlahla had been given amazing placements and it was nice to know how happy they were. Eventually though it was time to go, so I said goodbye to Ben and went back with the others to Mahlahla. It was so strange sleeping at the campus that night, I felt like the whole Bushwise experience was finally over but at the same time I was still here and stuck half way between the end of this experience and the start of my placement. It was weird to say the least, but I guess I have a few days to sort everything and say goodbye properly.
Sunday I awoke not really remembering where I was, but after a couple minutes I took in my new surroundings at Mahlahla and got out of bed. That day I sat out in the sunshine reading my book, then went for a little walk around the reserve. It was a glorious day and it was nice to sit there with my book and do not much else. That evening I made dinner and Ben popped over for a visit. He was settling well into his placement and was to be up early the next morning on a game drive to search for the lions and cheetah again. The sightings he had encountered already were making me so envious that he was staying on a reserve. Already I was starting to miss Makalali what with no lions roaring or hyenas giggling here. It's so quiet!