Previous "Botswana 1"
Back in SA and the border formalities were quick despite a very informal car search. Once on the tarred road and able to reach a reasonable speed the car started to wobble. At Zeerust, Mike and his mechanic rebalanced the wheel. What an incredible difference - the fridge was no longer trying to climb out of the back door. I'd highly recommend the services at Econo Tyre and Exhaust (address on SA 1 page).
The Backpackers Ritz in Joburg is a comfortable place to stay and has lots of facilities including a pool. That afternoon we had a bit of shopping to do before the bush course and a bit of dust to shift from the car!
The 11th was the start of a two week residential adventure at Klaserie Private Nature Reserve in Kruger. We had decided to undertake a Field Guides Training Programme with John Locke to learn a little bit more about the bush. We met John and our other two colleagues - Hayley (from Botswana who now works in London) and Amy (on holiday from New Jersey) before setting off on the six hour drive to the camp. Dinner, wine and a briefing around the fire prepared us for what was expected during the next two weeks. The first expectation was to have breakfast ready by 6am. Agh!
Getting up at 5.30am was no problem as it was light and the birds were letting us know with no uncertainty that it was morning. The format for the first five days was the same. Lectures under a tree started at 6.30am and covered all aspects of wildlife including animals and vegetation. The course is designed for people who wish to go into the field guiding industry - that is to take groups around the parks and tell them all about what they see. This course forms the first part of that training and is an introduction to habitats and the relationships between animals, plants, soils, weather etc. Basically you get an understanding of how the bush works. After four to five hours of lectures you have lunch then around four hours off. This was our own time but because so much information had been given to us in the lectures we had to spend most of the free time going over the notes and learning the material. At 4pm we had a two hour walk in the park looking at various aspects of the ecosystem. Afterwards it was drinks around the fire, dinner then bed.
On day six we had a test to monitor our own understanding of the course. The rest of the day was free so the four of us jumped into Punda and headed off to the nearest bar and swimming pool for a relaxing afternoon away from any brain activity.
The next two days were spent doing more lectures but the material was much lighter - nowhere near as intensive as the previous week. We learned about the weather, astronomy, how cars work, medical aspects, how to run a camp, the qualities required of a field guide and navigation. Very interesting stuff. The "bush practicals" over the next few days enabled us to practice some of the things we had learned. Navigating with the help of lichen, the sun and termite mounds was amusing. Andrew became known as CNO (chief navigation officer) as he was the only one of us going in some reasonable direction. We tracked wildebeest, made ropes out of bark and did some painting with dyes made from bark and leaves. Further bushpracticals were curtailed because of a couple of days of rain. It was miserable and grey - just like being back home. However the electrical storms were spectacular. At one point there were four storms around us - it was like a Jean Michel Jarre concert without the music.
On the 23rd we all went on an outing into Kruger Park in the car. This is baby season for a lot of the animals and there were day-olds hobbling around still with their umbilical cords dangling. Many of the animals have nursery groups where the mothers and babies stay together and the fathers go off for a pint! It wasn't just a day of oohing and aahing - we had work to do to. We identified 63 birds (can't say I am a great twicher) and looked at the habitats of impala, giraffe, buffalo etc. We came across three prides of lions, one of which was lying in the road. One pride was looking a bit scanky - most likely related to the fact that the chief lioness had rotten teeth and was having problems killing the prey.
The camp leopard returned after a long absence. We were all woken by heavy breathing (like sawing) just outside the tents. The spoor (footprints) revealed that the leopard had walked only a few metres past our tent. No wonder the noise was loud. The next day we had a wonderful lie in until 7am then spent the morning revising and the afternoon passing the exam. We all celebrated that night - our last night of the course.
Back in Joburg and at the Ritz again we were straight into chores, pizzas and trips to the cinema. We also got our Moroccan verruccas zapped then hobbled around forever. Punda was given a really good clean. The water in the tanks was disgusting - filthy brown. Once filtered it looked and tasted all right but it was no wonder that Gordon was sick in Botswana as his water was from the same source.
We finally left Joburg on Monday 29th and set off on a long drive to the border town of Messina. The only excitement of the day was getting lost in Pretoria. The long journeys here don't get easier to deal with. You can drive in W. Africa for eight hours and feel as though you are making some progress. In southern Africa it takes that long just to get to the next town! Although it is summer now it is very wet. This area (north east) has high summer temperatures and high rainfall in the afternoons. As a consequence the area is beautifully green but there is not much hope of seeing game.
After a night in the Messina campsite we were off for another round of border formalities and another battle with a customs official who stamped the wrong page on the carnet. Zimbabwe here we come!
Next "Zimbabwe 1"
|Bored but luckily not hungry||Cute !||Ooochy coochy coo||Hyena wouldn't laugh even after being tickled||Oh ..... Swwweeeetttt|
|At the Ritz with Deb, Marisa and Javia (M&J off to Angola tomorrow - gulp)||So... Which way is home then guys ?||Big teeth/tusks on this Hippo skull||S.K.S. the resident spider loving Monitor lizard||Mid week break in a local bar and pool - much needed|
|Red Billed Oxpecker takes a ride and cleans up a bit||All the little babies were being born - 'Ack cute eh man'||This boy was rolling a BIG ball||Sunset over Klaserie - Kruger Park|
from Botswana - Visit No 1
|Joburg||Ritz Backpackers (no camp)|
|Messina||via Pretoria along the N1 motorway, Beitbridge border||Messina Campsite|
on to Zimbabwe - Visit No 1