After rain, rain more rain, broken fuel pipes and water in the diesel it felt good to finally leaving Cape Town, not to mention the rain. Our last week in Cape Town was fairly unmentionable; we did get to use all the public transport from trains to buses to minibuses while the Land Rover was in getting fixed. The whales turned out to say good bye and last week on Saturday we left Cape Town, next stop Ulovane.
We arrived at Ulovane Environmental Training in Amakala Game Reserve on Sunday morning after a short drive from Storms River Village. Ulovane means Chameleon in Xhosa and is run by Schalk, Candice, Chris and Erica all of whom gave us a very warm welcome. After months of planning it was good to finally unload our stuff here. The other people who are here with us to learn about the field guiding (Chris, Du Vries, Pieter and Rio) are all young so I’m having to try not to sound like an old man. I had to stop myself from urging people to pace themselves down the pub last weekend! I decided if you can’t beat them join them!!
The camp is on
a small hill in thicket with several tents set out along a series of gravel pathways surrounded by dense bush. The wildlife is all around and in some cases even in the buildings. One of the toilets has a couple of resident Boomslangs, who live in the space between the wall and the roof and occasionally stick their heads out to stare at he occupant of the shower. They are not aggressive snakes and although extremely venomous are not prone to bite and are very beautiful to look at. We found another one sunning itself in a tree so clearly we should get to see quite a few over the next months.
On the first night after meeting the other people who would share our time here and were hastily instructed by Chris and Erica to get together everything we thought we needed (and could carry) for a 3 night induction to the reserve. The 3 nights were to be spent under the stars, I can honestly say that this was one of the best experiences I have ever had. Sleeping out in the bush with the stars above, the sounds and smells of the night all around you,
not to mention the special feeling of keeping watch around the campfire during the midnight shift making sure no animals took an unhealthy interest in our group. The food was limited to what we could or would carry and each night we had rice with tomatoes and onions, needless to say when Schalk arrived on Tuesday night with garlic potatoes wrapped in tinfoil he was definitely getting some desperate looks. On the final night we moved down to the river and Candice arrived with a load of food which we cooked on the fire. That night we had visits from both the elephant and a white rhino which was pretty special.
One of the key element this week was vehicle skills and finally I get to learn how to drive the Land Rover properly, Schalk is a passionate teacher and I think he really does love his Land Rover (Eleanor) no doubt letting us loose on her must be a bit painful especially when I got stuck in a hole two minutes in. I think Eleanor must go through an unusually high number of clutches and universal joints judging by the way we all drove her - hopefully as
the weeks pass we can be a bit nicer to her. I’m learning more than I ever though I could take in about the plants, animals and the management of a game reserve. I think it’s a case of the more you learn the more you find you have to learn and the more you love this environment. Looking forward to next week where we look at the reserves dangerous animals.
Our typical day starts at about 5.30 when all the birds start calling - extremely loudly through the tent walls - I’m sure they do this on purpose!!! We then get ready for the day and have breakfast. By 7am we are out on a drive or walk for 3-4 hours, then study during the day then out again at 4 until 10-11pm. We’ve even been eating our dinner out in the bush!
Next door to the lodge is the conservation centre who conduct animal / grass counts etc.
Well I can’t believe how much we’ve learnt all ready, there are so many topics to cover we never get a moment without reading about something we’ve just seen. We also spend a lot of time are
looking at, smelling and identify poo!
Vehicle skills was good. I can now explain all the different systems on a car, both petrol and diesel - From the electrics, transmission, cooling, braking, suspension etc. Although I think I’ll still be calling the AA if I ever break down. I never knew that I was supposed to grease my nipples each week - 2 squirts is apparently what I need to do!
Well we are both busy revising for our first exam. We have one every Monday and we need an average of 75% just to sit the final exam.
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