Monday, 30 December 2013

Last weekend of the year - Thursday to Sunday in the Lowveld

Thursday 26 December 

Cloudy and overcast. Maybe some rain will come.

After a slow start to the day (I was up early but was slow in serving breakfast) we decided to slow completely down and enjoy a morning of relaxation at the house. 

This gave for plenty time to play rummy kub and yes, I won again. 3 rounds in a row. Mom is determined to beat me but just like her scrabble strategy beats my strategy, I think that my rummy kub strategy just works better than hers. Ok, and I know where the jokers are! They are in the corner and weigh 0.000001 grams heavier than the others so I can feel which ones are the jokers.

After my winning streak, we got down to the serious business of reading our books. I have been reading 3 books at once and was determined to finish the one and just after lunch I succeeded. I finished reading Riaan Manser's Around Madagascar on my Kayak. His first book, "Around Africa on my Bicycle" spurred me on as an adventurer and is why I got off my couch all those years ago and did Tour de Tuli. Now I am feeling revved up to do another adventure. 

Obviously one tends to think of previous trips when here. Obviously the elephant charge weekend comes up with all its fun and games and of course people with fun habits. One particular one we are all missing (no names mentioned) is a certain person who has a pea-sized bladder. Drives seem to have less stopping for "I need a wee" without him here. Lion sightings are longer and we are definitely not going to have a shortage of Coke as a result of his not being here! Mr Coke, we are actually missing your company (especially for your raptor identifying) and promise to bring you a single Coke back.

Back to the trip: The evening drive included the start of the rain. Was so awesome to have a light drizzle after an insanely hot day and this drizzle definitely didn't stop the drive!! Due to the rain however, game was scarce but we were treated to a herd of elephant at a dam as well as a few more birds to bring the sightings to 60. 

Lions eluded us but were seen at a dam that we had driven past! But, tonight we were treated to seeing that we have a golden orb spider on the deck! I have named her "Harriet" and have taken to feeding her by shining a torch on her web and attracting insects for her to catch. After Harriet's last feeding session, I shone the light below the deck and we were treated to a sighting of a civet - haven't seen them in a while so that's a mega treat!!!

Friday December 27 

Woke up this morning to rain! Yay!!!!  Last night as I was reading the frogs were going nuts so knew it was definitely coming but the real treat for me was hearing lions roaring in the distance. There is just something magical about hearing the king of the jungle roar. 

After my ritual of doing the dishes and making coffee, I crawled into bed to read for an hour or 2 before my folks woke up. I then read for another hour or so before actually getting up and showering in the rain. Yep, you read right. I showered in the outside shower, in the rain! It was quite cool. 

The morning was spent relaxing with our books and scrabble (I finally beat mom in a rather tight game that I only won as a result of a sneaky move). 

This evening we headed out for a game drive and although sightings weren't great, we were treated to really nice light and the sight of animals clearly refreshed from the rains. Only notable sightings were of elephant in thick bush and another civet.

Am so full from eating snacks on the drive that I skipped dinner. 

And if by now you are jealous of my being here, don't be: the stink bugs have arrived!!! As I type this blog insects are bashing into the closed window, desperate to get to my light. And I dare not open my window because the tiny stink bugs will overwhelm my room!! I will open the windows after the lights are off and have been off for a while.

Interesting point from today: we are struggling with our spotlights again so I am now pretty much permanently using my cycling light as a spot light and its actually pretty good as one. It doesn't shine terribly far into the bush as its only 900 lumen but is perfect for thick bush! Mom actually made a comment that they should maybe invest in one or 2 as backups. Personally, I think 2 strong +2000 lumen ones with big batteries could replace the need for big spotlights.

Hoping for a nice storm in the night and some more rain tomorrow.

Saturday 28 December

Day was so humid!!! Drats it was hot. Spent the morning relaxing with books and scrabble and then went out for a short drive in the afternoon along the river. Not much of a day. Added some birds to the list and are now equal to dads friend. Elephant on the other side. Stink bugs are insane tonight and not fun.


Seriously restless night! Then, at around 4:30 I heard the frogs go noisier and the soft patter of rain began on the roof. It was so lovely and gentle for an hour that unless you were awake you would not have noticed it. Then it started bucketing down so I ran outside and pulled the chairs under cover and crawled back into bed to enjoy the rain. I ended up chilling in bed for a longer than normal time before getting up and enjoying an amazing shower in the outside shower. Yes, I had lost the plot but it was awesome having a hot shower with a thin perspex roof that leaks and drips icy cold rain water on you whilst looking out over the Olifants river. 

We spent the day in the lounge and only ventured out of there if we needed something from our rooms or if we needed the loo. (Due to the design of our bush house, you get a little wet when moving between sections of the house.) We had egg on toast for breakfast and then played a game of scrabble. Mom and I are getting quite good and she no longer whips my butt in this game of spelling and tough words. I won yesterday's game and it was purely thanks to one good word because for the rest of the game she had me sweating. We are also starting to use up the whole board which earlier in the week we just couldn't do.

After hours of being cooped up in the lounge, we had a restaurant worthy lunch of fish and chips before I snuck away for a nap. Honestly: I am going to struggle when I get back to work because I have become so reliant on my naps!!! I woke up from my nap to dad walking on the deck and saw it had stopped raining. We took the gap and went for a drive.

Was a fairly uneventful drive with no big game being spotted. However, we did see plenty impala and other general game and the bird sightings were great! We managed to add another 3 birds to our list - including a spotted eagle owl - which now brings our list up to 69 which we had thought was a new record but I found a recording in our visitors book where we had recorded 95 birds one weekend in April 1990. It's amazing how we could have done that since that would have been an Easter weekend but I do actually remember that weekend because we were stopping every few meters for birds and us kids were getting super bored. Additionally, we had a really good border with us and I suspect that April may actually be a better birding time than December but I will have to test this theory out when I am here in April.

The one but of adrenalin pumping action that happened last night was that one of the units here saw a guy running across the road near 2 of our dams. He called it in on the radio and our ranger and his dog were dispatched. We have not heard anything further, other than one unit reporting that it could be an anti-poaching team member. Odd though cause a few days ago we spotted a non-reserve vehicle not far from there with a guy just sitting on the roof of the bakkie. Mom and dad said they were sure it was nothing and was likely some guy waiting for one of our rangers or something whilst I said it looked dodge. Hmm.... I still smell a stinky rat! And my stinky rat feeling is because the river is full so the ratbag poachers can't get through from that side so surely they will find other avenues of entry? We are going to the office tomorrow so we will ask if it was ProTrack or poachers. 

Last thing before I head off into dreamland: mom has finally cottoned on to my eating habits! With just the 3 of us here we don't cook most nights so we sort ourselves out and for most of you who know me well, you will know that if I am not hungry I won't eat dinner or I will have something random like chocolate. I have been doing this here as well and it's purely because I am just not hungry. Why eat if one is still full from lunch? 

Off to dream about tomorrow mornings breakfast....

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