Happy Anniversary Ellies!
So Monday morning I was fortunate to have a lay in and was up at 7.30am. I went out at 8.30 to see Shaka and Clyde and do Activity Budgets for a couple of hours. The boys were supposed to go on a walk at 9.30am, but Shaka was just not co-operating and refused to stretch down so that the guides could put the blankets on him. He was rather lethargic and just did not want to do what he was told. It took over half an hour with a lot of enticing with a watermelon, a pumpkin and getting Austin out of the field to tell Shaka to stretch down before he finally did. The walk was nice though, Alice had to do an SDB on Clyde so we got to follow him together and have a bit of company which was nice.
When we got back I had a break to do some data entry and have breakfast then I started cleaning out the cupboards and fridge ready for the arrival of our new volunteers. At 12.30 I was back out watching Shaka and Clyde for another two hours. Shaka was still a little off but Clyde also kept lifting his back right leg, so I wondered if he still had a sore leg from having his injection. I came back in a little bit red from sitting out in the sun, but thank goodness I was not in the sun all afternoon! I had another break and finished off preperations for the arrival of the volunteers just in time to welcome Maya and Wayne a couple from Switzerland/ South Africa.
I then went out for my final shift with Shaka up to the herd of ellies because the boys had finished their rides for the day, I followed them until 5pm when I finally came in and got out of my uniform. Alice and I then went to Dr Debbies house to collect her car so that I could drive into Plett and pick up another new volunteer. Unfortunately the bus was delayed for an hour and a half, but Alice and I killed time at the backpackers that we were picking Jane up from and sat in the garden with some fanta watching all the holiday people wondering around having a braai and chilling out. It was a lovely little place and reminded me of the atmosphere at Funky Monkeys. Very relaxed and welcoming. Eventually though the bus arrived and we were able to finally head back home to the park. Jane is from Brighton so we all got chatting and had a lovely drive back. Then when we returned there was our fourth new volunteer who had arrived while we were gone and she is called Vanya from Brazil. Dinner was exciting, we all got to know the new volunteers, and besides a few minutes in the boma doing browse we all sat around the table for ages swapping stories about Knysna and getting the volunteers excited for their first encounters with the elephants! I can't wait to see the look on their faces when they walk into the boma to say good morning to the ellies!
Tuesday morning I was up bright and early for my 6.30 start watching Shaka and Clyde. The boys were interesting to watch as usual. Once again Shaka did not want to do what the guides were saying, he would not stretch down until Greg came over and got him to do it. I think that his back leg is still hurting and that is making him not want to go down. It was ok in the end though, he finally made it outside and I followed the boys and the herd up to the training ground where we all gave the elephants watermelons as a celebration of the anniversary of some of the ellies arrival.
They absolutely loved them! I gave mine to Clyde because I was doing his activity budget, then I stood back and watched him crush the whole thing in his mouth, then half of it promptly fell onto the floor while juice just dribbled from his face. I took some pictures while the ellies munched away on the watermelons, and Sally basically just ate hers whole. Once they were all finished I went back to watch Shaka and Clyde. After my first shift I went back to the bunkhouse for breakfast and read my book until my next shift. When I went back out to see the boys I got to go for a ride on Shaka because the guides didn't want me walking on the ground alone. So there I was again trying to write while plodding along on an elephant. It was not my finest handwriting! I did enjoy it though, perks of the job being able to walk through the reserve on top of the ellies while doing a bit of research!
I then came back in for my last break and read some more of my book while waiting to do my last shift with Shaka and Clyde. They were doing two consecutive rides, so I walked along beside them for an hour and a half around the valley and to the dam, it was lovely! I loved walking along side them and it never gets boring, especially when I have to write down everything that they are doing. Though I do struggle to keep up sometimes because when it comes to walking and writing I tend to fall down a few holes, which knowing me is not so uncommon, but also gives the guides a bit of a chuckle.
Once I had finished with them for the day I came back, had a shower and did some work. Alice and I went out to check that the ellies had come in so that we could go for a run, but were slightly worried by Darth the Black Swan who was following us across the lawn, so waited inside the house until we knew that they had come in. Our run took us around almost the entire circuit of the park, stopping halfway at the top of the hill by the all weather barrier to do some sit ups etc. It was such a lovely run, the sun had begun to set and it was nice and cool out, plus the terrain wasn't too bad on the dirt roads so no falling down holes this evening! When we got back and had collapsed on the lawn we forced ourselves to do another forty sit ups before going in and putting some dinner on.
It's nice to feel properly tired at the end of the day, so after chowing down some dinner I was ready to relax and go to bed!
So today has been rather fun! This morning I was out 'training' the two new girls how to do the orchard. By training I mean basically I told them to pick up the branches left behind by the ellies and put them on one of three piles. Very hard work this training business… Then it was back to the bunkhouse for a quick spot of breakfast before heading out onto the field. I was doing Activity Budget for Sally today, and I could not believe how greedy our girl is! Well I guess she is the matriarch but still, during one visit from the tourists I counted her eating 54 pieces of fruit, that was about half the buckets! She kept stealing all the fruit that was thrown to Thato, and then slapping the other trunks away so that she would be given the food. Greedy thing! I did note though that she does barely any self directed behaviours (SDB's) like touching her face with her trunk, and I'm pretty sure this is because she spends the majority of her time eating!
When I came in I had a few hours to have a break and do some data entry. I am so far behind that it is not even funny! It takes as long if not longer to enter the data than it does to take it down, but while I was waiting for some bread to rise I managed to get a fair bit done before heading back out onto the field to do my last AB for Sally. Once again she was being a greedy little miss and at one point ran over to us lot standing under the shelter because she saw a pellet bag, but didn't realise it was empty. Honestly! I had to follow her closely though because there were so many people on the tours and I could not count how much fruit or tourist touches she was getting. Some of the tourists asked me what I was doing, and at first it is nice to explain when they are genuinely interested, it's just that some look at you with quizzical looks as if to say ' you pick up their dung and count how many times they fart in a day?!' which I guess is a bit odd but all very necessary. Hopefully in the next couple months once I have finished helping Lisa with her PhD stuff I can get round to analyzing the data and telling you all the weird and wonderful things we have found out!
So once the tractor brought us back I was late for my next shift in the boma and ran in quickly to get a drink, but then Charlotte found me and kindly offered to do my shift. I then sat down and did some more data entry when not ten minutes later the girls returned with a grin because everything was all done and the rest of the afternoon was theirs. I then went in the office to ask Laurie and Lisa a quick question about AB's and somehow ended up chatting for over an hour! But then again it is a gift us women possess and can't really be helped. So after that I managed to finish my section of AB on Shaka and Clyde before dinner.
The rest of the evening flew by, after finally having dinner and trying to get the videos of the elephants eating a watermelon off of Alice's camera (which was a complete fail) it was getting pretty late so Alice and I sat in our room looking at bad photographs of ourselves at uni and when we were little until I finally had a shower and tucked myself up in bed.
Thursday was not as interesting as usual. Even though I didn't have to be up until later I was up and out in the boma at 6.30am to say good morning to the ellies before spending the day writing up my data. I first went out and said good morning to Keisha, Thato and Thandi who are so inquisitive in the mornings. Little Thato was still half asleep bless her and kept rubbing her eyes like a sleepy kid. It was adorable! Then the little ones; Thato, Shungu and Mashudu went out to do a bit of training while the rest of the herd stayed inside and this sparked a thunderous trumpeting session from Nandi, soon joined in my Sally and Thandi who were wondering where the others had got too. I could tell they were a little agitated this morning and I can only guess it was because the little ones went out for training yesterday which kicked up a fuss with the other ellies and so they must have been anxious to know if they would be taken away again. The training session didn't go on for long though, and not ten minutes later were the herd reunited and sent off up the hill to do a spot of morning grazing.
I then spent the rest of the day doing data entry for about an hour and a half then taking a half hour break to have breakfast or chat with Laurie and Lisa in the office. It was tedious work, but I definitely got a sense of achievement after typing up 8 pages of Shungu AB, plus half a notepad of Clyde and Shaka! It finally got around to about 3pm and Laurie asked if I fancied a proper break so we went outside to help with the sawdust in the boma, but it had not arrived yet so we found ourselves another job to do with Lisa and set about cleaning out and filling up Shaka and Clydes bath tub (that they drink out of…not bathe in!).
Once that was done I was refreshed and ready to continue with data until dinner time. There was still a bit of chatter going on in the office and when Debbie was saying how much she needs at least three people to work for her full time to even get through everything that needs doing, I said from my desk ''shotgun!'' and we all had a good laugh while Debbie was saying I was top of the list! Eventually though I had to stop with the whole data thing and went to go and make some dinner. I made some pasta and sat with Alice watching 'Russell Howards good news' while we ate. It was so funny and once Charlotte had joined us the three of us were in fits of giggles, I don't know why but things are always funnier when someone is laughing about it with you! Then after washing the dishes and having a shower we went to settle down with some microwave popcorn and watch Moulin Rouge, but then Alice had a Skype chat and I chatted to Ben so not only was it too late to watch, we had also absentmindedly chowed the whole bowl of popcorn and had nothing left for the movie. Fail! Well just as well I suppose, up early tomorrow and back out in the Orchard to do some very complicated stick moving so I get a good night sleep!
Friday morning I was out in the Orchard with Vanya and Jane, the ellies had been very messy once again and so we were trying to neaten up all the piles which they had so famously ruined. It started to rain quite badly, but seeing as it was not a long job and we only had half a day we decided to stay out and finish it. It was all looking great and as we walked back into the bunkhouse Laurie came to find us saying we didn't have to work in the rain, but we were already finished and so took an hour off to shower, have breakfast and warm up a bit. The rest of the mornings activities were cancelled and instead I did some data entry and finished my book.
We were then summoned to the boma at around 11am to help move sawdust into Harry, Namib, Tosha and Nandi's pens. It took a couple of hours to move six truck loads of sawdust, but it looked great at the end of it and by that time there was not much time until we were going into town to do our food shopping.
We rushed in and got changed and then I packed up my laptop and got the bus with the other girls to pick n pay. First of all we went to Mugg & Bean so that I could use the internet and load up my pictures for my photography page. Alice, Charlotte, Laurie and I enjoyed blueberry muffins while we left the laptops to do their thing until it was time to do our weekly shop. I whizzed round picking up all my bits and pieces, not forgetting the usual mango, and then we were on our way back to the park.
We didn't get up to much that evening, Alice and I made dinner and joined Charlotte and Laurie for a movie night. We watched Angels and Demons in the TV room which was fun because the echo if the room made it feels like a cinema, all that was missing was the popcorn! But once that was finished I went to bed and worked on my blog for a bit.
Saturday morning us girls were up at 8am and got ready to go out. Alice, Charlotte, Laurie and I walked the 3km down a lovely country road to the local market. It was a lovely little place with local and handmade food and crafts. Alice and I bought some spices from one stall and then some plum jam from this lovely couple who had brought their two cocker spaniels with them. There was a tricolor mum and a 6 month puppy who reminded me just like my little Grace. The lady brought him over to us and as I tickled his big soft floppy ears he fell asleep. It nearly brought a tear to my eye because I miss her so much, and I thought about how much I left behind by coming to Knysna. I do love it here though, and at the end of the day I know that all my hard work is totally worth it.
When we got home us girls sat down and relaxed for a while, then Clara returned from her travels and we sat chatting for a while at the restaurant. After some tea we came back to the bunkhouse and had an afternoon of baking. We made bread, scones and flapjacks and enjoyed munching on everything while chatting even more around the kitchen table. Eventually we had dinner and then Alice and I went out to the boma to give ellies their dinner. Once we had finished dishing out the browse Silas let Alice and I feed some pellets to the girls. Alice gave some to Keisha and I went and gave little Thato some. I put a few in my hand and held them out to her so she could pick them up, but bless her she couldn't quite get them and kept holding onto my hand while trying to get to them, so eventually I just told her 'trunk up' and put them straight in her mouth instead! Then I saved my last small handful for Thandi who had been waiting patiently with her head against the bars as close as possible to me and the pellets. It was adorable! After that we came in because it was starting to get a bit cold and I got into bed and watched some Scrubs on my laptop along with a cozy hot water bottle!
Today was another glorious day! I spent the first part of the morning trying to figure out some stuff on my computer (since Vista got installed it's been nothing but trouble!) and so by lunchtime I was eager to get away from it all. Alice and I headed off down to the bush for a few hours to lay in the sand, read and enjoy the sunshine. We chatted for ages, bought an ice cream and attempted to go in the sea, but oh my god it was soooooo cold that I just about got up to my ankles before I ran back out again. This coming from someone who once went diving in a semi-dry wetsuit in 2⁰C water…yup definitely enjoying the heat too much!
So we came home at around half 5 and once washed and sand free went to make dinner with Laurie and Lisa. All the others went out for dinner so the four of had the bunkhouse to ourselves. We planned on watching a movie but then we were asked to help out with browse, so instead we did that and said good night to the ellies. Laurie, Lisa and I then decided to swap movies etc on our hard drives so Alice and I could watch an episode of True Blood so that we could catch up with the other two. It was hilarious! Alice and I could not stop giggling the entire time we were watching it and we were so addicted to it by the end of the episode that we even watched the next one. It meant we didn't goto bed until 11.30pm but it was so worth it! I can see that it is not going to be good for early nights!