Saturday, 14 June 2014

Money and every day expenses

The exchange rate is roughly 10 Rands ( South African dollar) to $1US dollar which makes things very cheap here for tourists. But living here not so much. The average salary is about $4000 a month- $400 US ! Not much to live on for sure. And you would think that would mean living expenses would be a lot lower but not the case. A trip to the grocery store for basic food supplies would mean an easy $200 trip. 

2L milk- $30Rand
White bread-$10
Cheese-$50 (for less than 500g)
Whole chicken-$90-110
Hamburger mince-$25-40

I did end up buying some nice clothes, more then I was planning on which I blame on Maddy (lol). I kept finding nice things that I really liked and with the exchange rate meant were insanely cheap. A couple nice sweaters, a couple dresses.....

Fuel was roughly $12 a liter which adds up in hurry. 

I really don’t know how anyone manages to save enough in order to buy a house but some people do seem too. Though I do think a lot of people try and work a lot of overtime in order to have spare money. 

One thing I did notice when it came to salaries was that most, if not all people were paid only once a month (!) and in cash at that. Needless to say lots of partying going on during pay weekend. 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Oscar Pistorius Murder Trial

The Oscar P. Murder trial which is going on right now in Pretoria, South Africa - close to Johanasburg is currently the biggest thing going on in news these days and has been for the last month. And when I mean big news , it has it’s own 24/7 tv channel , twitter and facebook accounts as well. Along with multiple different panel discussions after court is done for the day. And has a twitter feed showing the comments from watchers along the bottom of the tv screen. 

Back story since I have no idea how big of news it is everywhere outside of Africa. 

Oscar also known as “the blade runner” the double leg amputee who ran in the London Olympics against able bodied people. He is charged with murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, of 4 months on Valentine’s Day 2013. 

The trial was suppose to be all done and wrapped up in 3 weeks. Needless to say that went out the window and it is still going on now over 3 months later. The last I heard was that he was in hospital to see if he is mentally capable in handling everything. Kinda of think his defense team is grasping at straws now. Surprised they are doing this now and not after it happened last year. 

Based on everyone that I have talked to, most people have said that he is guilty. Then it varies on whether he planned to kill her or not. I don’t think he was planning too. 

I don’t watch a lot of the court proceedings but I got to give the prosecuter, Gerrie Nel, credit he is GOOD! I for sure would never want to be up against him. He is making experts witness look dumb. And these are experts in their fields for 15+years. Actually pretty interesting to watch him cross examine the experts and he is finding so many holes in the original story and the story keeps changing so it no longer makes any sense. 

I won’t go into to many details ( doubt many of you really care! Lol) but for someone (Oscar) who is scared and never felt safe why is he leaving the balcony door open all night with a ladder out in the open? He had working fans ( Nel spent I think 2 days talking about those fans! Lol drove me nuts!) 

I was hoping this trial would be done before I left Namibia but its not. So will have to keep looking it up to see how it is going. And the trial is still on break with Oscar being in the hospital being checked out for another few weeks. 

Between this and Nelson Mandela passing away, South Africa has been in the news a fair bit in the last year or so. 

Everyday Life in Africa

Someone was asking me about what life was like on a day to day basis so the next few posts will be more in that aspect. 

So expect everything from murder trials, shopping to dealing with horses. 

Sorry for the long delay!

Internet in Namibia was not my friend. I was constantly fighting with it hence no blog or pictures. But here are some more updates.

And yes I am currently in Sydney, Australia.....

Friday, 18 April 2014

A Shout out to Mill Park!

Just wanted to give a quick shout out and big congrats to Mill Park Stud back in South Australia aka my Aussi home of 5 years. They just wrapped up a successful yearling sale season. I don’t have all the numbers in front of me but the Inglis Sydney Sale was a huge success with the Dane Beltar filly being sold to UK for 650K, Kaimana colt close on her heels at 500K to Hong Kong Jockey Club and Dancing on Waves filly at 300K. Sale results at Sydney earned the farm #10 overall sale average, awesome result for a farm from South Aus with only 7 yearlings at the sale. :D 
It’s great seeing my little foals grow up into stunning young horses. And did really miss getting the chance to see them grow up this year after taking care of them before they got weaned. 

Hope everyone is getting a well earned break before starting to wean the current set of foals! 

Go check out the Mill Park website at: and you can see pictures of all the yearlings under “Yearlings” and just click on the different sales. 

Monday, 7 April 2014

Random Fact:

 I have written over 15 400 words and 47 pages (in word) on the blog so far. And over 63 posts. Actually it is probably over 16000 but I don’t have all of the blog posts here on the computer. Not to shabby. :D 

Afrikaans Lessons and buying a donkey!

The two main languages here in Namibia are English and Afrikaans. Afrikaans is a bit of a mixed language of english, german and maybe some other European languages from what I gather. All I know is that I don’t understand it. Lol I can sometimes understand if I know the context but even that is very hit and miss. And my French is really not helping me out at all. A few words do sound a lot like Danish (thank you Schanne for my limited Danish knowledge!) And to make it more challenge speaking it is that it is very heavy “r” sounds which I struggle with. 

I know a few words like asseblief  (please) and  dankie (thank you). 

One of the kids from one of the local lodges heard that I didn’t know Afrikaans but wanted to learn so she took it upon herself to teach me. Good little teacher considering she’s only 9. 

A few other Afrikaans words:

Oma -> grandmother
Opa -> grandfather
baum -> tree
Kar-> car
foto -> photo
Kat-> cat
Die-> the

When I fist got to Namibia, I always heard people saying “baie dankie” which I gathered was something to do with saying “thank you” which it does “many thanks”. But to me it always sounds like everyone talking about buying a donkey. I mentioned this to Maddy and my other Namibian friends the other day and they found it pretty entertaining. So it has become a joke here which I can’t help grinning every time someone says “ baie dankie”. 

Now people need to quit talking about buying a donkey and just go buy one! Lol 

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Okutala: Rhinos

Okutala was already pretty cool with being home to 3 giraffes and 4 elephants but they also have 4 rhinos. Unlike the other animals the rhinos will probably not ever be released but will have a large enclosure to live in. They won’t be released due to the high risk of them being poached for their horn. These are white rhinos, though I called them red rhinos due to the dirt. White rhinos have a flat nose for grazing unlike the black rhinos who have a hooked nose for easier eating bushes. 

The 2 pairs are: Noah & Valarie and Dan & Dina. 

As guests we did see them every day, well actually twice a day since we got to feed them a bale of lovely lucern hay to them morning and afternoon. Felt weird feeding beautiful lucern ( alfalfa) hay to rhinos instead of horses (though the 9 horses at the lodge got it as well.) 

Dan & Dina are the newer pair who are still a bit shy of humans since they did come from a hunting lodge. But are slowly coming around. Noah & Valerie are the older pair who may also be pregnant now. :D It would be super exciting to have a baby rhino in , wait for it ..... A year and a half! LOL 

Most of the animals here are radio collard and the rhinos are no exception. I had always wondered where or how they get radio collard. Turns out they wear it as an anklet on the left hind leg. And they actually get micro chipped twice: one in their neck and one in their horn. The theory being that if the horn is cut off and found, it can be returned to the owner. No like it is a lot of help since the rhino would most likely be dead by that point. That was something I hadn’t known is that you can’t even protect the rhinos from poaching by cutting off their horns (very controversial idea) because there is actually a big (5kg) portion of horn under the skin which people will dig out as well as every thing else visible. But when ivory is worth an insane amount, people will do anything to get it.  

And one thing I always smile at is the rhino house. It is a pretty impressive building of small pens and shoots to move the rhinos through and to load/unload. I smile because back at Mill Park ( The thoroughbred stud farm in Oz where I lived/worked at) we had the elephant house and hippodrome, so now I know of a rhino house. And that loading shoot is pretty impressive. 

Okutala: parrots, horses & goats!

Surprisingly one of the animals that I bonded most with here at Okutala were 2 of the macaw parrots. The aviary was pretty small for the number of birds in it but it was a temporary one and there are actually 2 massive ones being built with in the next couple months. I’m not sure what it was about the 2 macaws but they loved sitting on my shoulders and my head. Lol I think my Tilley hat did fascinate them. They were pretty entertaining birds even if one tried to take my finger nail off! Ouch! 
The horses were pretty cool too. They are a bit of a mixed herd of 2 stallions (buckskin & chestnut), 2 pregnant broodmares (grey and bay), an older gelding, 2 -2 yrs cremellos, yearling cremello and a foal.  They only arrived last month. No one really knows how much training they have but most of them are pretty friendly. We did spend a couple hours deworming them. The big buckskin stallion is probably the friendliest one of the bunch and definitely use to getting his way, bit spoiled. I had to laugh at him because he is so food motivated that Livia managed to distract him by walking around feeding him one pellet of grain at a time while we fed/dewormed the others. I was actually offered a “job” ( working to cover food and bed) working with the horses. But ended up turning it down since I wasn’t planning on being in Namibia for much longer. And the risk of getting hurt and still having lots of traveling left to do. Would have been fun to do though. 

I do have to quickly mention the goats since I know Keiko is reading this. :D The herd of 23 goats that Okutala owns and are milked to use for cheese. The guests walk them out to their daytime paddock and then get the joyous task of finding them and bringing them back in ,in the afternoon. Bringing them in was sometimes a bit of a long hot task trying to find them in the bushes. Specially if you go out with a few people and someone else finds them and you can’t hear the other person yelling to say that they have been found. Pretty cute but not the friendliest goats.

And while I was there, another smaller herd of goats had been found on the property so they were rounded up and kept with the horses til the owners were tracked down. PJ adored the big billy goat who he named Baloo  and was heart broken when the goats went home. He blamed me for not keeping Baloo for him. 

Okutala: parrots, horses & goats!

Surprisingly one of the animals that I bonded most with here at Okutala were 2 of the macaw parrots. The aviary was pretty small for the number of birds in it but it was a temporary one and there are actually 2 massive ones being built with in the next couple months. I’m not sure what it was about the 2 macaws but they loved sitting on my shoulders and my head. Lol I think my Tilley hat did fascinate them. They were pretty entertaining birds even if one tried to take my finger nail off! Ouch! 
The horses were pretty cool too. They are a bit of a mixed herd of 2 stallions (buckskin & chestnut), 2 pregnant broodmares (grey and bay), an older gelding, 2 -2 yrs cremellos, yearling cremello and a foal.  They only arrived last month. No one really knows how much training they have but most of them are pretty friendly. We did spend a couple hours deworming them. The big buckskin stallion is probably the friendliest one of the bunch and definitely use to getting his way, bit spoiled. I had to laugh at him because he is so food motivated that Livia managed to distract him by walking around feeding him one pellet of grain at a time while we fed/dewormed the others. I was actually offered a “job” ( working to cover food and bed) working with the horses. But ended up turning it down since I wasn’t planning on being in Namibia for much longer. And the risk of getting hurt and still having lots of traveling left to do. Would have been fun to do though. 

I do have to quickly mention the goats since I know Keiko is reading this. :D The herd of 23 goats that Okutala owns and are milked to use for cheese. The guests walk them out to their daytime paddock and then get the joyous task of finding them and bringing them back in ,in the afternoon. Bringing them in was sometimes a bit of a long hot task trying to find them in the bushes. Specially if you go out with a few people and someone else finds them and you can’t hear the other person yelling to say that they have been found. Pretty cute but not the friendliest goats.

And while I was there, another smaller herd of goats had been found on the property so they were rounded up and kept with the horses til the owners were tracked down. PJ adored the big billy goat who he named Baloo  and was heart broken when the goats went home. He blamed me for not keeping Baloo for him. 

Monday, 24 February 2014

Okutala: rest of my stay

Okutala: rest of my stay

I really can’t say enough good things about this place. You really do get treated like family and it is a lot of fun. Going to be hard to leave and really wish I could stay longer! 

One of the most relaxing nights was the sleep out on the deck of the lodge overlooking the water hole. Beautiful clear night listening to the eland -never did see them, looking at the stars . Did see a large flock of flamingos fly over on their way to Etosha. Was joined by Garfield the cat. PJ ( guide) telling us stories of his past guiding jobs while sitting around the fire.   

The other sleep out was up at the top of the mountain where we watch the sun sets. Amazing view down the valley, stunning sunsets enjoyed with some champagne. 

Another lovely night just didn’t really end up getting much sleep for some reason. 

Okutala really tries to have a wide range of activities to chose from. It was really nice having everything as an option. Odd in a way that I didn’t have to do anything if I didn’t want to. Did pick the pool over feeding the big cats a time or two. 

I mentioned earlier that we tracked a radio collard goat the one afternoon. No the goat isn’t normally radio collard though after spending 45 mins trying to find the goat herd I think it would be a good idea! A couple of the other guests had never used the tracking equipement so PJ caught one of the goats and let it loose for us to track. We did alright until we ended up in the scrub which was not pleasant since it is all thick accai trees with massive thorns. We were trying to get clues from PJ and we did end up figuring it out that the goat wasn’t loose but down at the Rhino house. And Latoya had brought out afternoon cool drinks and cake down there for us.  

And I know I already mentioned the full day of driving around the property checking the 23 water holes. That was one of the best days. One air jeep with Nel driving. Saw lots of different wildlife : kudu, heartbeests, springbox, wildebeest and best of all 8 giraffes.

Also spread out lots of monkey oranges that most animals enjoy eating. 

Spent lunch hour at one of the bigger waterholes that is more like an above ground pool complete with fish at the bottom. And went for a nice refreshing swim there. The lodge cooks are awesome and had packed up each a super cute little lunch box. 

We finished by stopping by both of the “ghost” lodges. The “ghost “ lodges are 2 different lodges that were completely finished but were abandoned before they were ever actually opened ( accountant ran off with all the money). The baboons have destroyed a lot of the roof but Okutala have plans to re-do them and open them again. Both are in gorgeous areas with water holes in front of the lodges and are part way up the hills so have excellent views.

I did get a bit sun brunt today but so worth it! 

Okutala : Elephants

One big difference between Okutala and Harnas is that Okutala have the big animals like giraffes and elephants. The 3 yearling giraffes are fun to bottle feed. Bottle feeding a 2 m tall animals - you have to stand on a platform. And watching a giraffe run - looks like it’s running in slow motion. During the day they just wander around the yard. They actually just got released 2 weeks after I left. Hoping they are doing well. 

The elephants we didn’t do a lot with but Dr. Simone is a elephant specialist did take us down there a few times. She loves her elephants and could talk about them all day. She did give us a 2 hour intro to elephants which was super interesting. All of this way done while sitting about the elephant area up on a platform so we could still watch them. 

There are 4 young elephants ranging from 1.5 yrs to 3.5yrs. This is not the ideal situation at all. I had never really thought about it but elephants are very very close family animals. When there is a situation of to many elephants and some need to be culled it is generally the adults who get culled. This is the situation that happened.  Baby elephants are easier to transport and care for. But in the long run bad since the baby elephants don’t have anyone to discipline them. When they become teenagers big troubles tend to start. They have been recorded accounts about herds of teenaged elephants actually going around killing rhinos just cause since they didn’t have any older elephants. ( top alpha elephant is always the oldest one and they stay alpha until they die). As soon as an older, elephant is put in with the teenagers , all of that stopped. 

So Dr. Simone is looking for an older elephant to solve future problems.  There is an older female and her own son on the property and she is radio collard but she is very wild and shy after being next to her friend that was shot and killed when it was still a hunting lodge. They are hoping that they may be able to release the 4 baby elephants with her if they can’t find a different older female. 

I actually ended up hearing the intro to elephants talk twice but it was just as the second time. Charlotte, Livia and I got to help hide all of the elephant food around their paddock. Dr Simone is trying to teach them how to find food for themselves. And it makes their day more interesting for them. So we hid lots of monkey oranges, flakes of hay, seedpods, apples. 

We did get to spend the afternoon on an elephant “walk” which is more of an elephant observation at close range. We took one of the elephants outside of the paddock and let her do what ever she wanted too. Very impressive to see her break tree branches with ease and just to chill wandering from bush to bush munching on leaves. All of this within 5-10 feet range. And what was nice was that the gate to her paddock was left open so she has the choice to go back whenever she wants too.

Very cool experience.

Oh and yes these 4 still get milk but it’s easier since it is only in a bucket that they drink from and not bottles. 

Okutala African Quest=amazing expierence!

Sitting here on the deck of the lodge , last person still awake. Watching a big thunderstorm roll into the valley. The breeze is beautiful and cool which is a lovely change to the 60% humidity we had yesterday when we were leaving for Etosha. 

Now just hoping the roof doesn’t start to leak on my bed. This is the only problem with thatched roofs. Apparently they leak once a year at the start of wet season and then the grass bind again and don’t leak anymore. 

As my FB status said today: 

One open air jeep - check
2 good friends( Livia and Charlotte) - check
1 cool guide-check
World's 8th largest park(Etosha National Park) - check
Amazing views of amazing animals and landscapes-check
And one crazy African thunderstorm- check

Equals priceless memories that will last a lifetime! — with Livia Debora Rüegsegger.

I got back from our super quick trip to Etosha mid afternoon today and it was a great quick trip! 

Travelling in an open aired vehicle was pretty fun. Was a little nervous with the predicted rain and camping but hey that’s part of the adventure! The amount of stuff we had packed into that truck for only 24 hours was pretty impressive but were very comfy and very well fed. Livia, Charlotte and I with Nel as guide set off just before lunch. It had already rained once at Okutala but we left in the sunshine. 

It is awesome that Okutala is only 40 km from Etosha, so a quick drive and we were there. I honestly didn’t have really high expectations of what we would see because the week before they saw nothing. With all the rain Etosha has gotten lately the animals don’t have to come to the waterholes and most are on the far east side of the park. And considering the amount of animals I saw on the G adventure trip would be hard to beat. 

The original plan was to head straight for far east side of the park which is where Nel thought most of the animals would be. Also all of the flamingos which I was really hoping to see out on the salt pan. I saw a large flock fly over when Tamara, PJ and I slept out on the deck the other night. Pretty cool. 

Five minutes into the park and we have already seen 2 lions. Nel did get a heads up from one of the other trucks passing us. The lions weren’t the closest, about 200-300 m off the road under some bushes. The girls were pretty happy with seeing them anyways. And then a few minutes later, we spotted a male elephant attempting to hide behind a tree. It wasn’t working well. Lol He was a ninja elephant as PJ would call him. He needs to work on his ninja skills. 

This trip was looking good! 

We were going to have a quick stop at Ok.... And then keep going. I did convince Nel to do a quick stop at the water hole just to see if anything was there. I didn’t think much would be being lunch time on a hot afternoon. This is the same waterhole that we slept at on the G adventures tour and where the lions made a kill. Well our quick stop turned into having our lunch there because as we walk up so do close to 100 zebras. I had to laugh since I pretty much have identical pictures from my earlier trip- same waterhole, maybe same zebras. They did have a few very cute little foals as well. The lunches were packed in cute little  lunch boxes, super yummy as well. 

With seeing all of these animals right off the bat, we made the decision to stick close by and not drive all the way to the east side. Nel hadn’t realized I had already been to the park but he did go to a few different places. 

We headed out to the Ghost forest which I am drawing a blank on the name of the trees but are similar to the bayobab trees. Looks like someone ripped out the trees and put them back in upside down. There aren’t many left because during one draught the elephants started eating them. 

We passed tons of zebras , wildbeestes and springboks all with little ones. I still can’t get over how fat zebras always are. You never see a thin one. We did see our first giraffes who did a very cute pose behind some zebras. And one of the highlights was seeing the Battleier (sp)eagles. Saw close to a dozen in varying ages. Nel was beside himself with seeing all of them and super close up ( a few feet away). 

Swinging past a tiny part of the massive salt pans, one reason why Etosha is famous. I think I mention it back when I was last here, but it measures 130km long. The last time it filled up was 4 years ago. It would be pretty impressive to see, reminds me of Lake Eyre in Australia.     It was dry though did see some zebras at the spring that runs into the pan. And 3 lions! Under a bush trying to stay cool. They looked very hot and tired. 

We slowly headed back to the campsite and decided to quickly set up camp and then head back out to find more animals. This turned out to be a good plan since when we headed back out we last less then 15 minutes before the rain arrived! Remember we are driving in an open air truck..... Yup fun times! Lol Between the wind and driving, the rain actually hurt. And it was a good thing that we did head back since the rain lasted for ever. We ended up hiding in the wash up area til it ended. I was happy to see 2 other G adventure trucks there :D except we just missed seeing a rhino at the waterhole. Darn! 

Supper cooked on the fire was amazing ! Lamb chops, potatoes, corn and grilled cheese sandwiches all done on the fire. A cool sunset.

The next day was a lovely sleep in though I was first up so took my kindle down to the waterhole to read and see if anyone happened to be there. 

It was a pretty quiet day on the animal view front due to all the rain but a highlight was seeing a spotted hyena with in 5 feet. It had been hiding in a culvert and poked it’s head out when we drove past. Lots and lots of babies everywhere. 

We headed back to Okutala in time for afternoon feeding. Awesome 24 hours! 

Friday, 21 February 2014

Harnas: a wrap up.

I do realize that I am writing this close to 2 months after leaving Harnas but oh well I blame it on not having decent internet. 

Overall, I loved my time at Harnas and I would for sure go back if I had the opportunity. Not sure if I would go back for 5 weeks. But I think I would go back for another 2. And would probably do the volunteer program again and not a guest since you don’t get the hands on time with the animals if you are a guest. 

The people I met from co ordinators to other volunteers have been amazing and truly hope that we can stay in touch and catch up somewhere in the world. And a few of them have become very good friends. 

The animals , well I think I have made it pretty clear that they are insanely awesome. Don’t agree with everything that Harnas does but they are making a difference. I do really hope that Harnas doesn’t piss anyone off and gets shut down for a few things they do, do which are illegal. 

Overall I had an awesome time and really enjoyed it and very sad to leave. But will be back at some point. 

Harnas: tracking

** been fighting with my internet hence why no posts lately!**

With Owen being a member of the anti-poaching squad and having intensive training that comes with that, we did have the chance to go tracking for an afternoon with him. Very cool day and even got to see the  shy but resident giraffes. And then followed them by putting our tracking skills to use following them for the next hour or so. 

I have a high level of respect for someone like Owen who can track and figure out all the info only from looking at a track. I guess a lot of it does come down to be very observant and looking for things like depth of the track, any branches broken if so at what height.

And we got to arrive back to the truck to it having a flat tire. This truck was having issues this week- 3 flat tires and running out of fuel. 

One of the negative sides of Harnas did rear it’s ugly head while we were out there. The lack of communication on the place is annoying and in this situation could have been dangerous. Owen got a radio call asking where we were and then followed up by saying Derek ( another staff/coordinator) was out hunting game for New Year’s Eve party. But not sure where he is hunting and he’s not answering his radio. Found out a little while later he was in the same area as us! Not fun and really how hard is it to check with other staff to see what activities are happening during the day? 

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Harnas: Fun times, Christmas, NYE and awesome friends

The people I have met on my African Adventure so far have been incredible. And the ones I met at Harnas were no different and in a lot of cases they were the best part of being at Harnas. I now have friends all across Europe and a fair few more in Australia. 

Laura, my good friend who I spent 5 weeks living with and so tough to say bye too 
Tamara from Belgium who was one of the oldies and good friend and lots of fun
Stacey my twin- only spent 3 weeks with but already wearing matching clothes and saying the same things not to mention the giggle fests! 
And Dave , Stacey’s other half, who put up with us and fellow fetch ball addict!
MT my fellow horse lover and that is pretty much what we talked about. 
Victor the Alaskan and fellow traveling gypsy and protector
Livia from Switzerland and the best village mom ever and cabinmate!
The Aussies (Dom, Tim,Matt and Lili)- they were aussis need I say more?
Thomas and Erik- my german guys, fetchball fans and fellow Snoobobs and actually like working with the baboons!

Missing a few I’m sure but definitely made some life long friends who have impacted me and I will for sure catch up with somewhere sometime I am sure of it! And miss you all! xx

I was really looking forward to having my first African Christmas. It was a good christmas but probably didn’t exceed my expectations mainly due to a whole lot of waiting. Now I will say that yes I know there is African time to take into consideration but to be honest it was a just bit disorganized. Harnas staff didn’t know what was suppose to be happening. Not like this is a new holiday by any means. 

Being that Namibia is very German, it is Christmas Eve that is the big night and not Christmas day. The bushmen kids sang a few songs and did some dancing. Santa also arrived to hand of presents to everyone. Santa , Derek, was somewhat busted by the great dane dog Lexie following him around. We joked that they should have put antlers and a red nose on her . And it rained a lot! The last few days it pretty much hasn’t stopped raining. I had been saying: all I wanted for christmas was sun or even just for it to rain at night. Needless to say it has become an on going joke that I must have been very bad this past year! Lol 

Mariata did totally make our nights by having a little present for each of us- chocolates and little jewelry.

Christmas day morning was disorganized, more hungry volunteers not made happy by watching guests having coffee and snacks while nothing for us :( But this was followed by a quick church service , the christmas story read in Africanz by Derek and acted out by the kids. Followed by super yummy food. Laura ate waaaay to much and proceeded to not eat for the next 2 days. Unheard of for her! Amazing how much food she can eat! 

New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve started out a bit the same way but did get better. It was a lot of waiting around to finally eat after 10pm with not to many snacks since lunch time. Saying we were all hungry and tired was an understatement. And we slowly all got cranky. Once we were fed which was super yummy BBQ lamb and goat, lots of salads and delicious cake it was a lot of fun. Just wish we had been told the party wasn’t going to start until late so we could have had a nap and a snack. 

A really fun part of the night was getting to play with fire! Owen does some fire dancing and thought it would be really cool to have 6 other people doing it at the same time. So I got to twirl /swing a piece of plastic wire/pipe with steel wool that gets lit around for a minute. Sounds really easy- it’s not! You have to swing it super fast to get it burning and keep it burning. Got one blister from it! But got some cool pics too! 

Needless to say most of us were in bed by 12:20! Lol 

Harnas: Morning & Afternoon Tours

If you are a guest at Harnas, you have the option to take 2 tours around the property. In my mind the more exciting and interesting of the 2 tours is the morning tour. This involves seeing and feeding all of the outside big cats (lions, cheetahs and leopards)and the little cats (caracals) along with the baboons, ostriches and wild dogs. It is normally about 3 hours long and goes rain or shine, animals still need to be fed. There was more then one occaission that we did the tour in the pouring rain. It is a driving tour complete with trailer with all the meat. 

We, the volunteers, go along to actually do the feeding while the guests watch and take pictures and listen to the guide talk about each animals. I ended up helping on 5 tours. It is always fun getting to see all of the big cats getting fed since they are in an area where you need a co-ordinator to get into. But does get a bit boring hearing the same info again and again though each tour guide (Enrico, Tertius and Derek) does it slightly differently. 

For the most part, the tour is pretty much just feeding and listening to info about the animals. The way we feed all of the animals is pretty basic - calling the animals over to the fence and then throwing the meat over to them. Most of the animals know the drill. There are a few lions that have to be fed with a lot of space between them or they fight or steal all the meat. We do use this time to give them a quick once over to make sure they are healthy. 

If the animals don’t come over to the fence then we come back to them or make sure to come back and check them later in the day. Though also depends on the animals.Terry, a lioness, who sometimes doesn’t come over if she is feeling old and stiff. Her friend, Dewy, will come and get her piece and take it to her and then come back and get her own piece. 

Feeding the cheetahs, all 22 of them in one paddock, was interesting. The sounds a cheetah can make always sound so tiny and meek coming from such a big cat, though a very delicately built cat. They are probably my favourite big cat- so elegant. Lots of chirps and meows and only big cat that can purr. And that purr - Amazing!

The leopards was one we did have a couple demos with. Remember that the leopard is one of the Big 5 and rightfully so. Probably not one I would want to run into while walking in the bush. Insanely quick on ground or climbing and very agile. With one leopard, she would sit on a big branch in the tree to catch her meat. Normally hanging on with hind foot claws and stretch to catch with front claws. MT (Marie Therese) has some fantastic shots of this. Casu, another leopard, he would show how fast he can climb a tree to catch a piece of meat. Very quick!

Wild dogs I find to be beautiful and very interesting creatures. There are less then 4000 left and about 1500 are in captivity. Harnas has 40 of them. Always seem like happy dogs but very accurate in their hunting skills with a kill rate of 96%! Helps when you hunt as a pack which is divided into a “chasing” and “killing” groups. And they can trot along at 40km an hour for hours. With the wild dogs , they had a platform above the dogs in the enclosure to feed and watch them. 

A bit of a side note, Harnas was going to release one of the smaller packs of dogs to start tracking in January. Will be interesting to see what they learn. Also one quick job I helped with one day was removing a full zebra carcass from their enclosure. Smelled a bit and a few still oozy maggoty places but mainly dry bones. Didn’t get a lot of help from MT loading it! Lol    

** slightly disgusting topic - what the big cats eat in detail**

I will say that if you don’t like meat or handling meat this would not be the place for you. I would have thought it was fairly expected that you would see and handle large parts of donkey carcasses, we are feeding () big cats after all. I only say this because there were a few people (volunteers) who were surprised at what we fed the the cats. I didn’t find it gross , what the wild dogs are worst- whole intestines. :S That was a smell you didn’t get off your hands easily! 

Cat diets ( massive guess on weights of meat)
Caracals: donkey hearts or small piece of meat with a bone in it
Cheetahs: 1-2kg  piece normally with a bone
Lions: a rack of ribs or half a donkey head. (7 to 12kg guess)
Leopards: 3-4 kg of meat

We do feed the meat with the bones in so that they get their calcium. And they have a fasting day once a week. And launching some of that meat over a tall fence is sometimes fairly difficult. 

  ** No more gross talk ** :D 

The afternoon tour is a tour of all the animals on the farm. The tour starts with feeding the 3 tame cheetahs. They have a raised platform that they go and sit on to receive their food. They delicately take the piece of meat from a bowl that we hold for them. 

The mongooses are called and fed next. I call them mongeese- sounds better to me :D And have actually managed to get other people to start calling them that as well. hehe These are wild ones who roam around the farm. There is a special “trill” to call them which I can’t do. 

We, the volunteers don’t have much to do on the afternoon tour. Primarily, just helping feed the cheetahs, mongeese and Gumbi. Gumbi is the resident brown hyena who is ancient but also obese. Feels very odd. Hair which is kind of pig and dog combined. But does have a cool sounding “laugh”. 

Other then the animals, you do get to see the church and the plane crash site that Mariata’s husband and son were in but survived. Not sure how since it looks like a nasty one. Unfortunately, they both died a couple years later in seperate incidences ( heart attack while biking and a mosquito illness). 

Interesting tour to do once but after that pretty boring. Especially when the tour is in German or Africanz. But some of the co-ordinators are super nice and let us go after we finish feeding. 

Friday, 17 January 2014

Harnas other tasks: Animal Caretaker

Because I like being busy busy and because I was suppose to be taking the animal caretaker project that ended up not happening, I ended up being Animal Caretaker. This is a position that entails being in charge of all of the animal well being and health. Also doing any of the medications needed and keeping an eye on everyone. It was a pretty easy job, just made for some rushed mornings. Normally, I would have to give up the Snoobobs when I took over being Animal Caretaker but due to the small number of volunteers, I volunteered to stay on and do both which worked out well. 

My 2 big tasks were giving Kaptian his medication and feeding the springboks and kudu every morning. Kaptian is an older german shepard dog who needed arthritis meds and also had epilepsy. So every morning involved stuffing his 4 pills into 3 pieces of meat, tracking him down which was the hardest part and feeding him. Normally he was where ever Mariatta was but that was sometimes a challenge to track her down! 
Feeding the kudus and springboks involved 5 different types of feeds: cow, sheep, lucern pellets, horse feed and crushed corn. Bumbi, the bad springbok loved me for this reason. Him and I got along before I started feeding him but we became good friends after. I rarely had to chase him away , just had to talk to him and walk with who ever he was eyeing up.  

One special activity I did get to do because I was Animal Caretaker was that I got to take a wild vervet monkey mom and baby into Gobabis to the vet. The mom had gotten a nice bite on her arm on Christmas. Livia ( cabin mate and vet assistant in real life) took her in to get checked out a few days later. Nice getting off the property for awhile. I had been helping with cleaning the wound and giving her antibiotics up until the vet visit. Bit stressful dealing with a non tamed, non sedated vervet but we all came out of it unscathed. 

The vet visit was pretty interesting. I’m not sure how much the vet had been told, not much I don’t think! He was hoping she was a tame vervet, he was disappointed when I said “nope , most definitely wild!” lol. I was impressed with how fast and easily he caught her in the cage to sedate her, but she did get out of the cage before she fell asleep ( was in a small room , door closed!). Livia and I were both a bit shocked when she fell over asleep while sitting on the floor. I got the lovely task of holding the baby, Klaus, while Mom was worked on. Klaus did not like me one bit and spent the next 30-45 mins attempting to bite me and already had instincts to go for my neck and screaming! Luckily he didn’t really have nails or teeth at that point. I was very happy to put him back with Mom in the cage. 

And I got to clean and change her bandage the next day. I will take an angry horse over doing a monkey. They are probably both on the same difficulty level despite the monkey only being 7 kg. 

And the only other downside of being animal caretaker was having to tell people off for feeding the animals candy. *rolls eyes* Yup multiple people thinking it was alright to feed human candy , chocolate etc to any animal on the property. And I would have thought people would have known better but anyways. 

Harnas: Animal Interactions

Probably one of my favourite activities and one of the easiest. Title says it all really. Basically instead of being on food prep or helping on the tour, you get assigned to go interact with an animal like the baby baboons, Tyson the cheetah or reading to Audrey the blind vervet monkey. And you do this all afternoon. Easy and fun! 

Reading to Audrey was good but a but self conscience reading to a monkey but it was that or talking. You have to so that she knows where you are. She is very sweet and would normally come over and cuddle and hold your hand while you talked/read. It was always hard to remember that you couldn’t just stroke her back, even if she was holding one of your hands since this would normally earn you a slap on the wrist -literally since it would scare her. She’s also the only vervet monkey I liked. Vervets are known for being agrissive and if they attack they go for necks and arteries - yes very charming creatures. Luckily Audrey is ancient and blind. 

Tyson, the young cheetah, was cool because who doesn’t want to hang out with one. As I mentioned earlier, I’m still on the fence about having to tame him instead of trying to keep him wild but since they wanted him tamed I figured I would put in a fair few hours hanging out with him. I would sit in his enclosure talking to him for an hour or so most lunch hours. And then having a few hours on an official interaction time was always a bonus. He’s a gorgeous boy who had come a long way and grown a fair bit by the time I left. 

Baby baboon interaction was one of the most common ones to have and I did end up on it twice. And to be fair to the baboons they actually went fairly well. They did grow on me as my time at Harnas went by but still not my fav creatures by any means. Laura would agree with me and she did finally convince Tertius that she really didn’t like them! After 5 weeks there and still not liking baboons , don’t think she’s going to change her mind! I did figure out that they are very nice after they have been fed and therefore only want to cuddle up and sleep on you. Super nice! Means they aren’t jumping on you randomly and biting! Though my last interaction didn’t go the best since Bella just started biting me and not just test bites. Who knows what I did to make her angry but needless to say I made a quick exit complete with black bruises on knee and calves and back of my neck. I went to see Oma who is lovely old granny baboon who lives by herself. And loves to groom you. Such a sweetie. 

And you did have loads of time to visit and bond with your animals after your activities and during lunch. Not to mention the sleep outs you could do. 

Harnas: Baboon Walk

As much as I didn’t particularly get along with the baboons, I did want to go on at least one walk just to see what it was like. Everyone said that the baboons are totally different when they are outside of their enclosure which does make sense since they are no longer on their home turf. 

I went on two walks in my time there both with the baby baboons. I will back up and say we have baby baby baboons which are the youngest ones and are probably under 3 months old. The next oldest group is the baby baboons which are under 7 months. And the rest are jut called baboons. 

The baby baboons consists of: Ronny (the lone male), Rika and Rosey (has a bad leg). 

I hadn’t been in their enclosure before I went on a walk with them since they are pretty bouncy. But we loaded them up in their cage and took a short truck ride down into the bush. Once unloaded, we all started walking and the baboons are busy running around checking out all of the bushes. 

They are pretty cute when they get tired and want to be carried, they just run up to you and put their arms up. Just grab their hands and pull them up and set them on your shoulder. Which becomes normal position for them and normally an arm across your face/eyes which makes walking difficult. But pretty entertaining! 

The worst part is them getting off you is generally a sudden decision and a quick one at that and they hang on to you by your hair. I lost a bit of hair to them leaping off but still hanging on by my hair. I have short hair which I think worked in my favour. And by the second time out, if I thought they were wanting down I would just bend down and let them off so they didn’t have to use my hair. 

Once we had walked a bit, we would stop at a nice tree and let them climb and play in that for awhile, while we sat down. They would usually come over for a cuddle and to be groomed. During the second walk Rika did do a few dental exams on a couple people. Remember when I said all piercings had to come out before interacting with baboons. This is why. They will go searching your mouth ( natural behavior for them) and if they find a tongue ring, they will pull it out. Svenja, a fellow Snoobob, nearly didn’t take hers out before hand but luckily we convinced her too. 

Through out the course of the walk, we normally stop at 3 or 4 different trees for them to play in. Learn a bit about the different trees and bushes. Try and figure out which way the farm is ( some people are better at this then others! Lol ) 

Also watching for the little herd of giraffes which normally lived in that area. 

I found the walked to be pretty relaxed for the most part. The baboons are pretty different and relaxed and loved bouncy and running around to check everything out. Rika did give us a scare the second time out. She ate something and then seemed like she was trying to cough it up and then almost seemed like she fainted. She really had Morgan, Mariata grand daughter, pretty worried. Of course we didn’t have a radio or water but we headed back to where Owen was suppose to pick us all up and by the time we got there she seemed to be her self again. 

The only downside of the walk was loading the babies back up into their cage and heading back to the farm. They didn’t like it one bit and then knew they were going back to be fed so they got very grumpy. Lara got bit fairly good on the arm before we got them back into the cage. And they spent the entire ride home trying to grab and bite us. All 3 of us were trying so hard to be out of their reach after spending 3 hours with them climbing all over us and not having any issues. Annoying but we lived. 

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Current update

And another break from Harnas....nearly done talking about Harnas really! Lol 

I finally managed to get out of kinda dodgy Windhoek ( see previous post). I am up in northern Namibia, about 40 kms from Etosha National Park, at Okutala African Quest ( lodge. 

Okutala use to be part of Harnas up until a couple years ago. It is a 48 000 acres property that use to be a hunting lodge. The animals are slowly learning that it is no longer a hunting lodge. They are slowly renovating a few different parts of the property and they have big plans for it. The main guest lodge is already beautiful and overlooks a big waterhole which is very active. The other night there was over 5 different species of animals at it at one time. 

On the property WILD there are: 
-under 10 cheetahs
-under 10 leopards
-tracks of lion
-1 elephant and her 6 year son
-oryx (gemsbok)
I'm sure I am missing a few species.

They are also trying to acquire animals that they will be able to release on the property. So at the moment they only have: 1 lioness, 3 cheetahs, 2 leopards, 1 spotted hyena, 4 young elephants, 3 baby giraffes, young ostriches, 4 white rhinos, a waterbuck and a few parrots ( macaws in particular) A few of the animals won’t be able to be release due to the risk of poaching ( rhinos) or grew up in captivity ( lioness and hyena).

One of the nice things about Okutala is that they also have a volunteer program but it is more laid back then Harnas. And it is more of a “volunteer when you want to” type program. So you can help feed the animals in the morning and then spend all afternoon in the pool instead of cleaning up the hay shed and fixing one of the waterholes. This means you  also don’t need a work permit for Namibia since the lodge considers you a guest and not a volunteer. 

I have been here at Okutala for a week now.  It has been a nice change from Harnas and I have taken advantage of just sitting in the pool or reading a book instead of helping feed. I do find that there is a bit of standing around watching other people work ( not enough equipment -shovels etc) or it is just a way more relaxed pace and some of the chores/feeding seems to drag on longer then it really needs too. 

And there is a fair bit of rivalry between Harnas and Okutala because they where together once and you use to be able to book to stay at both up until they separated. Loving this right now because this allowed me to catch up with 3 cool peeps - Tamara, Livia and Charlotte- various friends and cabin mates from Harnas.  Also does sound like there might be a bit of bad blood between both camps as well which doesn’t help. But people are forever comparing them both ( I’m guilty of it!) but hopefully once all of the bookings that came through from Harnas have finished, they will become more separated. 

I have done lots of fun activities like a full day driving around to check on most of the 23 different waterholes. Swam in one of the deep one during our picnic lunch stop. Fixing waterholes, tracking a radio collard goat, a night drive complete with a bit of port to drink and a couple sleep outs - one on the deck overlooking the waterhole at the lodge and one up the big hill that has a gorgeous view over most of the property. 

We are off for a quick overnight trip to Etosha National Park this afternoon. Hoping it will be as exciting as the last time I was there with the Woodrow G Adventures tour in mid November. It will be hard to top those 2-3 days specially since Etosha has gotten a fair bit of rain lately so most of the animals don’t need to hang around the waterholes now. But crossing fingers and hoping we see lots anyways! 

Harnas Activities: Research

Harnas has 5 cheetahs who live in the 8000 acres LifeLine. All of these cheetahs were hand raised at Harnas ( for different reasons) but have successfully been released back into the wild. All 5 are radio collard.

The cheetahs:
Pride: 8 year old female
Mercy: 2 year daughter of Pride
Dinga: 2 year old adopted son of Pride
Max: 5 year old male (brother of Moritz)
Moritz: 5 year old male (brother of Max)

Research was one of my favourite activities since it involves us going and tracking and finding the cheetahs using the telepathy antenea. Learning to use it was interesting and really seemed to be almost more of an art then science sometimes. Trying to figure out the beeps and the how many ‘bars’ that would appear and what all that meant in order to figure out which way to go in. Electric fences and power lines also don’t help either. 

Also fun sitting on top of a big landcruiser driving around the LifeLine.  

Normally it is the 2 brothers ( Max and Moritz) hang out together which goes against the norm. Pride and her 2 young ones are usually somewhere else together. Though Pride had been hanging out with the 2 brothers when I left Harnas and had been thinking of mating. Hoping for a few cheetah kittens in 3 months! 

When we did find the cheetahs, Kathy would take notes on where we found them, what they were doing, how they looked health wise. Basically notes to keep track of them health wise including breathing rates ( they can breath really fast!). 

Kathy on the right. Max & Moritz being lazy.

Pride still likes humans and will come over to see us and get a pat or water. Her 2 young ones aren’t as friendly ( good thing overall!). The 2 brothers are fairly friendly. 

I lucked out and had a few really exciting research outings. The last one before I left was the most exciting one. Pride hanging out with the brothers and making mating chirps. Also means that she is feeling better after her injuries ( kick and gash on her chest from a warthog) and leaving the young ones for awhile. 

When we finally tracked down Dinga and Mercy after a 2.5km walk through the bush , thorny ones at that. We had just seen a mother warthog with a youngish one trot by ahead of us and right behind them came Mercy and Dinga. Mercy ended up chasing down the young one straight towards us! And catching/killing it about 15 feet from us. While Dinga chased the mother past us but didn’t catch it. 

Just a bit of excitement! Lol and managed to get some pictures of Mercy taking the warthog down too. So cool!

And one of my favourite pictures on my adventure so far came while being on research. Max and Moritz lying under a tree with a massive black rain clouds in the background. We did seriously wet from that cloud too!