Travel Diary Part 2: Past the half-way point

Sunday 20th July 2014   5.10pm

Woke up at 4.55am! Didn’t even know that that time existed unless to board an airplane to somewhere really exciting…or maybe a really good night out :P. We were out in the bush by 5.30, the sun hadn’t started to rise yet and we were freezing half to death, despite there being 9 of us huddled like penguins in the back of Betty (many bruised knees over the bumps!). I think we were all seriously doubting our mutual resolve in this chilly project of ours until the sun started to rise. I half ignored the zebra just feet from the truck to watch the colours change; the flat-topped acacias still black silhouettes against the gradient of purple and red, fading into terracotta, mustard then almost white, before the sunrise succumbed again to the night, disappearing into deep blue and black and still scattered with stars. Listening to music in the truck is also fab for passing the time, especially when the old-school jesters style tunes come out and we’re all dancing wildly, half just to keep warm!

We made it to the south eventually and completed 4 bird counts and 4 habitat assessments which thankfully only consisted of grass biomass measurements using the disc pasture meter. Along the way we spotted loads of lovely birds; rock kestrel, black-shouldered kite and Marshall eagle as well as several rhino, elephant, kudu, zebra and our first sighting of the elusive roan antelope.

Just about to go and do our camp version of circuits with Simon, Lawrence and Ryan, then might go over some data or carry on watching ‘The Green Mile’ before satay chicken for dinner. Hopefully tomorrow we won’t have to get up quite that early!


Monday 21st July 2014

Not a huge amount to report today but I am still absolutely cream crackered! Woke up as Melissa and Lauren were getting ready (at about 5.45am)and scurried around attempting to wash my fringe, get some leftover porridge while it was still warm and tasty, and generally try and make myself look alive in record time. Managed to hop on the truck just in time to find out we had a flat tyre so leapt off a little peeved that all the rushing had been unnecessary and Amy told us to ‘go away’ while she battled the flat. Once changed we drove to main gate to fix the spare which turned out well as I managed to grab some Wi-Fi for the first time in nearly 4 weeks! Messages replied to and a few cheeky photos uploaded then drove to East Gate, now easily one of my favourite parts of the reserve, with a multitude of rocky streams and steep slopes winding over into the south of the reserve. A rather stressful game transect, lunch and some developing sunburn later we started on home spotting more red hartebeest and rhino on the way. Now thankfully home, wrapped in my sleeping bag waiting on some hearty bangers and mash while doing some pre-dissy work, toasty from sunburn (why will face not just tan!?) and hoping so hard for a warm shower and a decent movie tonight….although I might just sleep until tomorrow!


Tuesday 22nd July 2014

Hard ass day! Not a huge amount occurred to be fair, just the normal bird point counts, gradually increasing in warmth as the day progressed. Lots of sunshine though, totally celebrating the ‘first days of spring’ as we’ve decided to call them (seriously hoping this continues – need to beat the tans of those at home in the Great British Heat Wave that we’re hearing so much about). We got home to be welcomed by the idea of cooking dinner so I soldiered on, very thankful for Emily’s culinary expertise as we made cheesy pasta with bacon and mushrooms, a glorified carbonara I guess, with salad and baked tomato and aubergine. All went well, then Lucia and I held the spider (so beautiful and delicate!) and watched the beginning of Moulin Rouge up to the song Roxanne, mainly because I for one was absolutely knackered, and none of us fancied being upset by come what may and the other heartbreaker songs!

Wednesday 23rd July 2014

Beginning to feel the days merge together now we’re going out everyday, leaving at 6.30am, same breakfast and routine, however today was camera trap taking down day which was a welcome change. I had pre-arranged sitting in the front with Amy to save my back so we chatted about various things, hair and cosmetics, our favourite areas of the reserves, our hatred of doctors etc. We stopped at main gate for a while so we made the most of the internet, checked the news and found out I’d had about 47 likes on my photo post (feeling a little popular!) and grabbed a good haul of grenadilla. Also checked tan in the loos – seriously need to get my bikini on! We saw an elephant and several rhino up nice and close, so we made use of my phone to note down which individuals we had spotted using GPS for the upcoming database. I also pointed out to Amy on the way home that we’d been coming back to camp much later than the other group and happily she agreed that we should have an easy day tomorrow, but supposedly she then mentioned to Ryan that we ‘weren’t here to shower’ so umm…screw that (not a massive fan of the two-facedness!?). Just about to watch the rest of the Moulin Rouge with a bowl of yoghurt and grapes, better find some tissues for the ending!

P.S. a month today since I left for S.A…where did the time go again?


Thursday 24th July 2014

Out with Ryan in the Green Dragon today and in an undeniable amount of pain. Amy and Annie stayed here to get some work done and power through some nasty period pain so we left as normal to complete 4 bird counts and as much habitat assessment as possible. Everything was great, snuggled up at the back of the truck, listening to some music swaddled in blankets. All went pretty smoothly and even took some really nice snaps of grass catching the light and African Swallows in the tree-tops. However, on the way to the nearby dam for a tea break we went of a monumental bump, I smacked down bruising my coccyx on the bar of the seat, then flew upwards, my head throbbing as it hit the upper bar. I tried to cover up the tears in my eyes as the funny-bone feeling crept up my spine but my hands flew to my head to assess the damage up there. Thankfully my bun of hair took the brunt of the impact, my bent hair pin showing extent of the whack. While my brain gradually recovered every next bump and lurch made my bum ache so I hunkered down to soften the lumpy road. The next habitat assessment and lunch was fine, the spring sun happily tanning us as we worked in only shorts and a strappy top but the next habitat assessment took its toll! I knew I was dehydrated but with the added blow to the noggin I felt really woozy as the heat soared. When the nausea set in I went to sit in the truck and happily we soon headed back, held up briefly by a bull elephant in the road. So now, I’ve had a nice warm shower, washed my clothes and done a little skipping. After dinner we’re gonna watch a movie (maybe Frozen!) and have a seriously long sleep!!


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