After a late braai and social night last night, the early morning was a killer. We all stayed up talking and playing games forever, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to go to bed because it was too much of a laugh. Whatever funny thing happened, a thunder of laughter would follow for about five minutes each time. We played so many games that we lost count. We also sat around the fire in a massive circle with everyone, which made the whole night that much better. The rainy air was nice and cool, and it was definitely a night to remember! Although it was a late night, it’s amazing how well we sleep out here. I don’t think anyone has had a poor nights sleep since we’ve been here.
This morning brought a really interesting fog that settled in the valley in front of the lodge. It was very thick and you couldn’t see past the pool on the deck, but it was a really unique sight. It cleared off by the time we planned to leave, so the morning activities could go on unaffected. Breakfast was another hit, and we all loaded up on some delicious eggs, toast, beans and sausage. We love yummy breakfasts like this! It makes us really ready and energized for the day!
We had a bit of a leisurely morning, but we soon split off to do our individual activities. Tara’s group consisted of Cheleigh, Emily, Amalie, Phil, Dan, Alyssa, Will, Eric, Drey, Shelby and Elissa. It’s fun splitting up the groups differently each day! It’s a fun surprise seeing who’s with who each day, isn’t it?
Anywhooo, we got to track rhinos right away with Riley! The people who haven’t had the opportunity to use the radio telemetry equipment did so this morning and we were excited to hear the sound of the beep from one of the rhinos. The beep means they are nearby and when you move it away from where they are standing, the beep fades in volume. That way, you can tell what direction they are standing and an idea of how close they are.
We drove a little ways down the road and then got out to track them on foot. We only walked about five minutes before we checked the telemetry again. They were right in front of us, so we continued on. We walked another ten minutes or so and checked once more. Somehow, we managed to walk right past them and they were now behind us. Gee dangit! So we turned right back around and went the other way. We found that they were off the road in the bushes nearby, but it seemed to be really thick brush. Riley decided to go investigate to see if it was safe for us to go in to find them. He went away for a few minutes, and when he emerged, I tricked everyone into thinking it was a rhino. Everyone got so excited, but it was just Riley. They did not appreciate me doing that hahaha. I thought it was hilarious and almost fell on the ground laughing.
He said that the woods were too thick, and that he felt uncomfortable taking us through there in case it alarmed the rhinos and did something unpredictable. Then, we wandered up the hill a bit to see if they would come out into the open up at the top. We waited for awhile, but we didn’t have any luck. We passed the time waiting for Riley daring each other to do some pretty weird things. I got dared to put a piece of nyala poo in my mouth, Will got dared to bite a piece of nyala poo and he also got dared to welcome Riley back by stroking his beard and saying, “hey sexy.” We got a kick out of it. Even though we couldn’t see the rhinos this morning, our conversations and hilarious moments really made up for it. We also saw some giraffes!!
It’s always up in the air whether or not we find the rhinos. Sometimes the weather conditions are bad and sometimes the rhinos don’t want to cooperate with us. It’s never guaranteed that you’ll see them even with the tracking equipment, but we’re always hopeful. We’re not too worried, though; we’ll get another chance to see them tomorrow.
As we swopped everyone around again today T.L Ben had been given Elisa , Deborah , Jordan , Keira , Chris , James , Doug , Scout , Nikkita and Devon . Our first task this morning was to head out to the local village and help them finish off the Cattle crush which is primarily a little round enclosure with a long straight attached to it so that their cattle can be sprayed down and protected against ticks and other diseases .
Pulling up to the cattle crush we could see that the main pole structure had already been completed by a previous Spanish group staying at the reserve so our job now is to try and finish it for the local community . We unloaded the tools and waited for Izzy ( one of our guides ) and Devon to come back with the poles so that we could begin .
Our aim for this morning was to drill and bolt these poles on horizontally to the already vertical pole structure so that the cattle couldn’t escape . Sibusiso ( our other guide ) showed us how he wanted them and we got straight to it . We found it easier working in small teams so that we could spread the workload and get more done in a shorter time . First we had to make sure the pole was level , then drill holes through the pole and through the vertical pole so we could then put the thread rod through . Once this was done we placed on the washers and nuts on the end , tightened them and then hacksawed off the end of rods as they were too long .
Some of the vertical poles weren’t even straight so some of them we had to cut notches out of them so they fit properly . We actually worked really well as a team .. and with the smaller groups idea we got soo much done that we ended up running out of nuts and washers so we just carried on with drilling the poles and holding them up with the rods ready for Tara’s group to finish this afternoon . JOB WELL DONE TEAM !
During our break before and after lunch, we spent more time playing games. I doubt anyone has played this many games in this short period of time in their lives. Lunch was delicious, as are all the meals. Then, it was time again for our afternoon work/fun!
2:30pm approached and it was time for us to roll out for our afternoon activity which will be Rhino Tracking again .. which helps the reserve to check up on the Rhinos and make sure everything is fine with them especially with all the poaching that is occurring all over South Africa at the moment . Let’s hope we have better luck than this mornings group who unfortunately couldn’t see them due to them being too far in the thicket of the bush as Rhinos tend to do .
Driving through the reserve up ahead we spot what looks to be a Wild Dog !!!! but just as the excitement kicked in we suddenly realised .. nope .. wait … ROCCO !!! It was the reserves dog who happened to be roaming around haha doing what dogs do I suppose , chasing anything he could find – you should have seen the naughty look on his face .. damn I’ve been caught haha . He jumped in the vehicle with us and we dropped him off at the nearest house much to his disappointment .. awww
We made our way to a vantage point so that we could get out the telemetry equipment and try and pinpoint where they were .. we can’t tell you exactly how many Rhinos there are on the reserve but we had a few different channels that we could try . Some of us had already used the tracking equipment before so we let the others in the group have a go and try their luck .. Elisa was first up , then Keira and finally Chris unfortunately to no avail even after heading to the far side of the reserve L .
Ok , new plan … we decided to head back to where we saw the 2 White Rhino bulls the other day . Riley picked up a signal from them so we began our chase ! Driving along Ben was now using the telemetry equipment out of the top of the safari vehicle to narrow it down .. we could hear the beeps getting louder and pinpointed to between 11 and 1 o’clock .. no sooner as he said that Keira shouts out from the back RHINO .. and would you believe it they walked out right in front of us !! But as we drove towards them slowly they got a little spooked and ran off down the road .
This was our chance to get out and track them on foot !! J . Following their tracks we came to an open part of the field and heard the Blue Wildebeest in the bush giving off a warning call letting us know that they knew we were there .. this worked against us as the Rhinos paid attention and ran off again .. hmmpphh ! Again we began following their tracks in the mud and saw them up ahead .. and they ran …again … lol
Riley said let’s give it one last try and daylight was about to leave us so we carefully tried to get ahead of them and down wind of them so that they couldn’t smell us coming as their sight is poor but sense of hearing and smell is incredible ! AT LAST .. we managed to get to a point where they had calmed down and we could stand there and watch them peacefully .. are we really stood in the middle of the African Bush with White Rhinos !!! Such an amazing experience that we will probably never have again so we cherished every moment we got to spend with them before we had to return to the vehicle as it was getting to dark .. and that’s when the predators begin to wake up .. !! Let’s get out of here !!
Tara’s group went out to the community this time where we continued the work that the other group had started on the cattle crush. We’re building it for the community so that we can protect them from any diseases that may be passed to them from ticks and fleas.
See, they are trying to introduce buffalo to the park, but buffalo that are disease free cost an arm and a leg. Therefore, they are going to get ones that have disease. 90% of buffalo in Africa have diseases such as tuberculosis. They are extremely strong animals, so it doesn’t affect them until much later in their lives and only makes them a bit less strong than disease free ones. Even though it doesn’t affect them, doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect animals around it, though. Because buffalo and cattle are very similar, that is the only animal it can be passed on to. Cattle are much less strong than buffalo, so if they contract TB, they will die. It’s important for us to build this crush so that we can successfully spray and protect all the cattle in these surrounding areas.
As Ben explained the drill (see what I did there?) we drilled a lot of holes. Eric, Shelby and Alyssa got to use the drill, and they did a great job handling that heavy machinery! After the holes were drilled, we placed the logs up and held them together with a metal rod. Then, we sawed off the ends to make them nice and short. Elissa was the saw queen, and really got the hang of it! Drey also tried her time with the saw and did great as well! We also out up some of the wire along the inside to hold the future cattle in place and to make it sturdier. Emily jumped right in there and hammered all the U-shaped nails in. We all worked together on everything! It was very fun work, and we made lots of progress! I hope we can finish that tomorrow!
It was another packed full day of fun, adventure and work! We love it here so much! Tonight we’ll go on our second night drive here. We’re gunnin for some leopards, hyenas and other cool things. Cross your fingers for us!!
The Ben and Tara Team!