Thursday 27 December 2012

Boda Bodas in Uganda

Before embarking for Uganda, I looked into public transportation. Google reveals the negatives of the infamous Ugandan bodas bodas. 

"They are uncomfortable and accident-prone and there are hardly ever helmets for passengers, or even the drivers" (Mugira: 2008, Mail and Guardian) 

"They are Silent killers" (Nakiyimba: 2012, RFI)

Motorbikes are a form of transport I grew to love when travelling. With my eyes closed, it's the closest feeling I've ever felt to flying (without a helmet admittedly). Having taken around 15 - 20 journeys via boda-boda in Uganda, I can safely say that with precaution, they are the most efficient,  fun and cheapest way to get around. Boda-bodas do however, divide opinion. I stayed with two sisters during time in Uganda and they both had separate views on bodas. 

Easy, widely available, cheap, accessible to rural areas where there are no bus routes. Good for going to the market with!

I hate them! I'll only go on them if its the only available choice. My friend is doing a medical degree and she told me about the amount of accidents and hospital admissions because of them. They are dangerous, I'd rather walk.  

I found it interesting that something so embedded within Ugandan culture could divide opinion. Although I really enjoy travelling on them as a form of transport, out of the 20 or so rides I had with boda bodas, I witnessed two (small-ish) accidents with friends. 

Boda Accident #1
Without a doubt, the most contributing factor to this accident was the weather. It was Thursday 21st June 2012 and mum and I were travelling back from Bududa hospital after visiting a girl with severe malaria. 
We rode back amongst a storm. The rural roads were slicked with mud and puddles and without warning, the boda in front of me slipped and fell. We were travelling slowly, the drivers were reluctant to transport us due to the weather conditions. My mum sensed it before the motorbike fell and she managed to jump onto the bank. 

Rural Roads
I admired my host mum's reflexes, however I was fearful for the rest of the journey. Our driver, (an old family friend) rushed the journey as the monsoon rainfall got worse. I pressed my face into his jacket. The speed of the motorbike turned the rain into small painful pricks. I was incredibly relieved to arrive home safely. A key tip from me would be to only ride boda bodas in clear/good weather conditions because they slip easily!

Boda Accident #2
We rode uphill around 1.5km up to see the view of Kampala. One of the travellers I met, called Jessica, was riding on a boda with her friend who recently came to live in Uganda. We were trundling down a very steep, rocky hill on our way back to the city centre when her motorbike slipped and she scratched her knee/palm/elbow. 

View of Kampala
Here I believe the main reason was lack of experience (the driver, a guy from the UK had only been driving bodas for a few months) and due to the really steep road we were on. A key tip here would be watch out for steep gradients on roads/be weary of driver experience.

Boda boda in Kampala 
Whilst in Kampala, I went on a tour of the city via boda boda. We paid 50,000 ush (£15.00) for motorbike transportation, lunch and a canoe trip to a island on Lake Victoria. 

(Highly recommended - Walter's Boda Boda Tours)

Boda bodas are a wonderful way to see Uganda. You are able to see, embrace and feel the area you are travelling through. They are more direct then buses and a cheap way to get around. 

All pricing is open to negotiation. For the journeys where I travelled alone, I highly recommend that you: 
Have very small notes/change so you can pay the driver the exact amount you owe.
Ask the locals! For my journey from Adrift camp site to Jinja Town centre, I asked the guy at reception how much it would cost. He called over a boda driver for me and I paid a reasonable rate of 4000 ush (£1.00) for a 10 - 15 minute ride without the mzungu (white) price inflation.
In Bududa, I took the approach of going straight to a driver and telling him my destination and getting on the motorbike without negotiation. Upon arrival, I paid him 2000 ush (I travelled the journey before so I knew the price). He thanked me and he left. Sometimes, asking 'How much' can aggravate the situation. 

Boda Boda Tips 

  • In Uganda, women traditionally sit sidewards on the passenger seat. For me, I always straddled the motorbike as I found it more secure. Don't worry, no-ones going to judge you.
  • Don't use a helmet as a indicator that the driver is experienced. Some boda boda drivers take more risks/drive a lot quicker when they wear helmets. Unfortunately it is very rare that passengers are provided with helmets in Uganda.
  • Ugandans are very friendly! If you feel your driver is going too fast/being too reckless, just tell him. As the fee payer you are in every right to ask your driver to slow down.
  • Ask locals for prices if you are unsure how much a journey is going to cost. 
  • Have fun!

Thursday 15 November 2012

The Kindness of Strangers

"Are you a student?" 
"No, I've graduated now"
"Are you lost? Where do you need to get to?"
"Just a bit. I can't remember the address, I think it's called Homerton house" 
"Let me go check with Chrissy in the laundrette and I'm sure she'll know where it is"

This was a random encounter on the street last weekend. I was just walking, it didn't cross my mind at all that I looked lost. 
The guy helping me went into two different local shops to help me find where I needed to go to. As I left he told me to "walk with purpose" and not to walk back at night alone within the area.

It is incredible how collectively as humans, we instinctively act to help each other and to do good deeds. Just yesterday on my bus ride home, I twitched as a blind man got onto the bus. I wanted to help him. Before I could, another guy stood up and led him straight to his seat. 

The encounters I have with friendly local people are integral within my travel experiences and form part of the reason as to why I love embracing the unknown. The kindness of strangers reinstates my faith in humanity. It keeps me optimistic and it reminds me that we have free reign on our capacity to do good deeds.

Below are a few personal experiences that I've had abroad.

I lost the most important item that a traveller would have. My Passport. 
I was 19 and it was my first time of being abroad independently. I was hysterical. I was due to fly out the next day, and my backpack was snatched whilst I was kneeling on a crowded street, looking at a DVD market stall. 

Instead of being rational about it, I did nothing but cry for a few hours. Morag (A fellow SOAS girl I met in Nepal a few days before) helped me through everything. She accompanied me to the police station, lent me £100 for a emergency passport, helped me at the embassy and looked up the Jet Airways offices so I could rebook a flight. 
I met this girl a few days ago. She could have walked away or criticised me for being absent-minded, instead she went out of her way to help me, instilling her trust in me and lending out £100 to a girl she met only a few days ago. 

Sangita took me back to her home in Sangha. I had zero funds, as it was my last day of the trip and my bank card was it my bag too. She took me back via motorbike, and she insisted I stayed with her family whilst all the travel documentations/flights were sorted out.

To this day, my parents don't know that my passport got nicked. I called over the phone that day, mumbling something vague about a over-booked flight so I had to stay for 5 more days. Overall, It was out of the goodwill of others that I was able to stay in Nepal for a further 5 days, without a single penny on me... 

A knock can always make you stronger. A single theft wouldn't and hasn't put me off travelling solo. I've learnt to be more careful and to never hold more then what I need. Better yet, I've learnt to appreciate modest things. I see travellers with £500+ photographic equipment on them, iPhones and laptops that amount to the yearly wage of a local person in the area. 
And I wonder, how would you feel if you lost that? When you bring little, you risk little. 

All the little things

A small random act of Kindness can create such a difference in your day. Here are a few of the little encounters I've had abroad that always brings a smile. 

  • I was adventuring alone in Uganda. After volunteering for 3 weeks, I went off for some white water rafting, bungee jumping, canoeing in Lake Victoria and a safari. I was on my way back to Bududa to bid farewell to my family and to collect my suitcase. I had a small scrunch of paper in my hand with the bus directions back home to the little village of Bunabumali. I sat on the bus, trying to work up the courage to ask the guy next to me. Instead, he offered his help without prompt, pointing out that we were approaching Mejeme Corner and that I could catch a boda-boda straight up to the village from there. 
  • I parked my bike outside a shop in Pokhara. I didn't have a bike lock and I wanted to do a quick one hour trek up to Sarangkot to see the view of the Himalayas. The lady running the shop watched me curiously, asking what I was doing. I told her I wanted to go up to Sarangkot but I had a bike with me. She offered to look after it for me while I was away. After I came back, we got chatting and she introduced me to her daughter. I brought a little elephant statue from them which I still have until this day.
Pokhara, Nepal.
  • Maltese Lady: *pops her head out of the shop* "Where are you going to? Rabat? Walk five minutes down the road and the buses come much more regularly, here they only come once an hour".
  • Local love: Soph and I were at the beach in Camber. We set up our towels and left our bags on the soft sandy bank, where the water had gone out. When we came back an hour later, the ladies a few metres away from us told us "we moved your things for you, because the water came in". 

Random Acts of Kindness in action (CY)
A few weeks ago, I participated in a Apprentice City Year Task of 
"You have £10.00. Make as much difference to people's lives as possible with it in one day, spending as little as possible". 

There were many ideas across the table. Buy people some bananas. Give them hugs. Go to random charities. Volunteer in a children's ward. Go to a homeless shelter. It was thrilling, because it was uncoordinated. 

We split into two sub teams, with three people in each. We started off small, picking up stray pieces of litter to improve the image of the local area (Elephant and Castle). We then proceeded to Salvation Army and Age Concern, where we had no luck in finding any impromptu voluntary work that we could help with.
Soon, our sub team randomly stumbled across "Waterloo Hub". Upon entry, the venue was empty. We bumped into a lady and explained our situation, that we were a youth charity organisation assigned to make a difference in one day. Her eyes lit up, she explained how she was moving all the board games/Arts and crafts equipment into three new cupboards in the Youth Centre. 
Ashton and I got onto this straight away, clearing and setting up the cupboards in a little over an hour. The third member of our team bravely ventured around the area solo, looking for more good deeds that we could potentially do. 

Waterloo Hub
After Waterloo Hub, we went into Elephant and Castle shopping centre. I approached the manager in Iceland, explained our situation, and we asked him if we could help the customers bag pack for a short while. 
Although I was doing such a small thing, it genuinely surprised me when people acknowledged me, smiled and thanked me really warmly. Some of the customers engaged in a bit of banter too, asking if I wanted to go to their's and cook dinner for them too.

With City Year and Travelling, I was reminded of a wonderful phenomenon that we all know of, yet we forget to put into practice. "Do Good, Feel Good"
Modern day society has ingrained that we should we be weary of others, that we shouldn't return a smile because there is that tiny chance that the person could be a axe murderer. We all need to remember that there is so much happiness that can be born out of virtue, we just need to go out there and act upon it. 

Monday 5 November 2012

Camping in Europe

We were greeted by the same skeptical reaction. "Camping? You are camping?" in a bemused yet curious manner. But it's 5 degrees outside! 

We spent four days on the road, camping in various locations. We sneaked into closed campsites, we stayed in touristy sites near the City, rural sites down twisty roads in Germany and even wild camping along the canals of Belgium. Total cost of accommodation = 14 euros. 

I can happily say that regardless of how cold it can be, layering does wonders. Admittedly, it was very cold on the first night. My legs that were tucked in the sleeping bag felt like two blocks of cold marble and my head radiated a chill instead of warmth. 
I quickly learnt on the second night how effectively a T-shirt, hoodie, fleece, blanket, hats and gloves could insulate really well when used together. Regardless of appearance, I was warm for camping! 

4 nights of camping under the stars. What is camping without eventualities!? On the first night, we misplaced the pegs. Leaving them under the tent and searching for them in the cover of darkness. A plastic fork proved to be a worthy replacement on the first night with the cold yet still weather conditions. 

Fork Peg! :D 

Night 3

Night 3, I have to admit I found quite terrifying. We approached the campsite around midnight after a organ concert on Halloween evening. The site was closed and gated off. We walked through the site and a barn glowed red in the backdrop. Tall thin trees towered over us with a full moon casting a eery glow across the forested site. 
The boys shrugged non-chantantly, conversing of werewolves, zombies and of the crazy people who come out on Halloween night. I had the hiccups while Matt and I searched for the toilet facilities to fill up our water bottles.  
"Do you know what gets rid of hiccups really well?"
"A big shock!"
"No Thanks!" 

As we unpacked the car, I saw a security light blinking on and off inside a building from the corner of my eye. We quickly pitched the tent and crawled inside. I felt as if my senses were heightened. The trees rustled and tent swayed slowly in the breeze. As the time approached 1:00am, thankfully I was able to fall asleep quickly on the Halloween night of our road trip.

Full Moon on Halloween 

Tent pitched.

The campsite looking much less intimidating in daytime! :D 

Night 4 

Wild camping! Or at least camping not within the confines of a advertised site. On the drive from Ghent to Brugges, we followed a motorway out of the city, following a beautiful canal. It soon became evident that despite the short distance between the two cities, we were a little lost. 
We drove passed a pitched tent and a parked car. This instantly created a spark of inspiration. Camping along the canal? For free? Yes please! I was a little worried of setting up our tent randomly, alongside a road. However, any doubts were instantly set aside. A clear sky and the city lights reflected across the canal made a incredible backdrop for European camping. 
As we finished setting up the tent, a storm emerged. The tent quivered uncontrollably in the wind as heavy rain fell across our tent. Condensation emerged in the inner layer of the tent and a chill rose from the moisture of the grass. Despite hours within the storm, the tent held up incredibly well. 

Canal camping!

We woke up a little chilly, but dry! Our European camping experience amounted to a myriad of difference experiences, squeezed into a jam-packed but incredibly relaxed paced Euro road trip! I would happily consider camping as a brilliant alternative to hostels/hotels, where accommodation can be the biggest cost for travelling abroad. 

Euro Camping 
  • This website proved incredibly helpful/informative when we were looking for campsites in Europe >>
  • If camping in Autumn/Winter, bring as many layers as humanly possible! 
  • Contrary to expectation, camping isn't uncomfortable. With a roll mat and a warm sleeping bag camping is practically sleeping in a bed. 
  • Torches are your best friend. 

Sunday 4 November 2012

Euro Road Trip.

1,476km, 4 countries, 5 days and the memories that will last a life-time
Sea (Zeeland Island, Netherlands)
City (Ghent, Belgium)
Rural villages (Fischerhude, Germany)
Sand-dunes (Zeeland Island, The Netherlands)

Camping under the stars. 

In a nutshell, we travelled from:
- Calais to Oyten (German rural campsite)
- Oyten to Fischerhude (Germany)
- Fischerhude to Bremen (Germany)
- Bremen to Amsterdam (Germany > The Netherlands)
- Amsterdam to Den Haag (The Netherlands)
- Den Haag to Middlesburg (The Netherlands)
- Middlesburg to Ghent (The Netherlands > Belgium)
- Ghent to Brugges (Belgium)
- Brugges back to Calais (Belgium > France) 

Ferry, petrol, food, car rental spending money and accommodation included, our adventure trip came to less then £50 a day! (Even with your own car travelling doesn't cost the world) :)

Monday 23 July 2012

Nile High Bungee: 3, 2, 1....BUNGEE!!

Having recovered from the previous day of white water rafting, the prospect of the bungee jump loomed.
Nile High Bungee
The bungee platform overlooked the dining area. I sat having breakfast, thinking of my previous bungee jump four years ago. I remember the speed of the fall. There is no "I can fly!" feeling, you plummet like a stone. It is terrifying but the thrill is incredible.

I climbed up the steps to the platform. I remember thinking Why is my heart beating so hard? Have I really become so unfit in Uganda that I cannot walk up a flight of stairs? My palms were sweating and my legs were shaking. Despite this, I believe that part of the thrill of a bungee jump is conquering your fear.

I was instructed to sit down and a towel was wrapped around my ankles to prevent friction burn. I was given a harness, where the bungee guy explained that the bungee was tied on the feet and clipped at the waist as a back-up system.
He asked me where I was from. I replied "Thailand". He pauses and says "they sent me to jail when I was there". I thought...shit, I've pissed him off, now he's remembering some bitter memory associated with Thailand and he'll avenge it with my bungee death".

Defying any sense of rationality, I got up as instructed and hopped over to the open platform with my feet tied tightly together.  He told me to hold onto the bar above my head, and shuffle forward until my toes hang over the edge. It was here the fear trebled tenfold, and his instructions blurred into meaningless jargon. 
Before I could gather my thoughts, 3, 2, 1.....BUNGEE! was shouted from behind and ignoring any sense of self preservation, I leapt. 
3, 2, 1....BUNGEE!!!!

Free-falling is a terrifying yet brilliant thrill. I remember feeling a crazy sense of relief when I felt the bungee cord catch me, so much so that I started laughing hysterically whilst bouncing around in the air (hopefully the spectators didn't think I was crazy).

I was lowered onto a waiting raft, where the guys joke "you're alive". Overall, Bungee Jumping is a huge, huge rush. The fear factor, the jump and the after feeling all make up a memory of a lifetime.

Bungee Details

  • Company: Adrift (Nile High Bungee)
  • Cost: $70 (£40 - £45)
  • Height: 150 feet (45m)
  • Tips: I opted for the water touch. Although I fell to around a inch above the water, I just missed it with my finger-tips. The guide said to never look at the water and make sure your arms/hands break the water first. 
  • The bungee is incredibly fun! The worse part of the jump is the build up and leaping off, the actual fall and the rebound is an experience like no other. 

Bungee Platform

Saturday 21 July 2012

White Water Rafting, Adrift, Uganda.

$125 (£80.00) for:
  • One and a half hour transfer from Kampala to Jinja.
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner & drinks.
  • One night camping in Jinja.
  • And of course a full day of intense white water rafting!
7:00am was the pick up time for white water rafting at Backpackers hostel, in Kampala. The night before, I met 2 Canadian medical students also going on the trip with me. The choice was 'Mild', 'Wild' or 'Extreme'? We agreed on Extreme of course!

We trundled through the morning traffic in Kampala, stopping at various hostels including Red Chilli which I had to move out of the night before because of a block booking. 
Upon arrival in Jinja, we were greeted by an enthusiastic, topless guide. From here; helmets, life jackets and paddles were distributed, we were divided into groups and each assigned a guide. 
Our group had 3 guys, 5 girls and Sadul as our lovely guide! 

Breakfast consisted of sausages, battered whole eggs, bananas and bottles of water served in a 'grab and go' basis. After breakfast, we were led straight to the water to practice some safety drills and then commerced the most wildest and most exhilarating grade 3 - 5 white water rafting Uganda has to offer!

Morning Rafting
The morning session began with 5 rapids through an estimated 15km of river. We warmed up with rapids grade 3 - 5, finishing with the notorious 'Bad Place'. 

Warm up fun rapids.
Grade 4/5.
Rescue Kayakers watch from the side.
Relief that we didn't capsize! :).
We paddled for around half an hour down a calm stretch of river, awaiting the next rapid.

Me and the guys swam down a portion of the river, aided by our life jackets alongside the boat. The water temperature was perfect and the backdrop was incredible. We floated past beautiful landscape, with different species of birds everywhere. There was a tree in the middle of the river where thousands of bats flew out from the branches....It is simple sights such as these which makes travelling so wonderful and free. 

Five minutes after being pulled into the boat (it was very hard to pull yourself up from the water!), we saw a large snake glide past on the surface of the water. We felt fear and utmost relief. We were lucky that we didn't encounter it when we were swimming!

We approached the 'Itanda' and the 'Bad Place'. From a distance, the rapid looked like a waterfall! The guide told us to paddle to the bank, as it was too dangerous to raft through the upper section, which was a grade 6 rapid.
We told him we were up for it, and he dismissed immediately, merely stating that "we could die". (To this day I am unsure if he was serious or not).

Our raft was lifted up by the porters, we clambered back and then came The Bad Place......

Ready, Steady, Go! 
I cannot completely recall what happened, other then utter mayhem! We rafted hard, straight into 'giant hole' that is the Bad Place. I don't know if we capsized, or if I was just dragged out by the force of the rapids.

The more you struggle, the deeper the rapid claims you. I fell into blind panic as I was caught in the undertow of the water, swallowing more of the Nile water then I'd ever want to. The paddle was torn from my hands. I'd bob up temporarily for a gasp of breath, only to be dragged under the water again by the rapids. I can only describe it as a 'washing machine' effect, you are being pulled and pushed by the water with completely no control of where you want to go.
There was a moment where I thought I would drown, until I felt a yank on the scuff of my life jacket. A rescue kayaker pulled me out of the rapid and told me to hold tightly onto his boat.

Grade 5 - The 'Bad Place'

He navigated his way across the rapids to calmer water. He asked me if I was OK and pointed out that I had a nosebleed. It was then I remembered that in the midst of chaos, I was headbutted by a helmet when the water threw us all out.
Our guide later informed us that we rafted straight into the most powerful rapids of The Bad Place, with half the boat falling out on the first wave and everyone else falling out on the second.

Afternoon rafting 
The 5 girls left in the afternoon, having only booked the half day rafting. One of the Canadian students left for the bungee jump, leaving our group with just me, Matt, Will & our guide, Sadul.
We moved into a smaller boat with just the 4 of us. Less weight in the boat = higher likelihood of capsizing!! The afternoon session consisted of 4 rapids grade 4 - 5 and around 10km of river. We capsized on around half of the rapids, with our boat becoming nothing more then a toy within the currents. 
One of the rapids was 'vortex' like, plunging the rafter deep in the water  that is perhaps 5 - 10 seconds in reality, but what feels like a complete eternity underwater.
With less people, Sadul was more lenient and he let us surf the rapids and even tackle some of them twice! There was no fear, only thrill. We were happy to capsize, merely enjoying the added adrenaline rush of being inside the rapids. 

3 out of 8 rafters left!
Afternoon Rafting
The last rapid!
With the day drawing to an end, we finished with a BBQ, a transfer to the Jinja campsite and the memories of an experience of a life-time. 
White Water rafting was terrifying, intensive and an exciting thrill that I cannot wait to do again! 

(Video of The Bad Place Rapid)
(Guide to the Rapids & link to Adrift)

Week 4, IPR

Day 22 - The Lion Park!
Day off today with Neil, Lauren, Bryony, Liam and Ollie! Waking up at the lovely time of 6:30am for a 7:00am departure, together we ventured off to Hammaskraal and managed to stick together as a group travelling all the way to Pretoria. The driver of the combi was incredibly helpful, taking us to Hammaskraal then driving us all together to Pretoria without us having to change buses. Upon arrival, we set off to the Tourist Information Centre, hoping to get a vague idea of how we could continue our journey to The Lion Park.
After general mix of luck, Liam's sociability skills with the Tourist clerk and a bit of negotiation, we managed to secure two taxi's, both agreeing to wait for us while there, for a return cost of 270 rand each!

Dividing into two groups of 3 with one guy and two girls in each, we set off for an hours drive to the Lion Park! We laughed at the quirky toilets on arrival, and purchased entry tickets for 195 rand (£19.00).

Lion Park Arrival!

'Lion' toilets 

The taxi journey there :)

 A really fun and chilled out day followed:
- Stroking absolutely beautiful lion cubs.
- Having a drive through tour of the Park with lions, cheetahs, zebras, antelopes and wild dogs.
- Burger for lunch!
- Taxi back, quick visit to the craft market in Pretoria and the bus back to Kromdraai :)

Lion cubs <3

Liam, Bryony and Lauren on tour :)


Lion Park Tour

Cheetahs too :)
Only downside of the day really was that I still didn't have my voice back! Oh poor taxi driver. Trying to make conversation with me. I tried making vague attempts of sounding at least half normal. I bet he thought I was a 1000 a day chain smoker or something. Dam westerners and their health habits :P.
We arrived back home to a crowded braai area with the accumulated number of volunteers at the sanctuary. Me and Neil washed all the monkey bowls the night before, all ready for a lightening fast morning feed at 05:30am the next day :).

Day 23 and 24 - Morning Feed, Best night in decision ever and a Monkey licking my face. 
The beginnings of day 23, 05:30am morning feed! I set my phone on vibrate for 5:15am as a means of trying not to disturb anyone as I left (10+ people in our dorms now!). Strangely enough, this morning feed I wake up 5:10am, without any aid of a alarm. Such a brilliant psychological phenomenon right? Mentally preparing for waking up before we doze off, then waking up at a utterly convenient time.

 Me, Neil and Jax all set off for morning feed, finishing it very quickly, seeing as bowl washing was completed the night before. Together we helped with the house chores alongside morning feed, then I spent the rest of the morning happily seated in the holey hammock, with a warm cat on my lap and a book in my hand. The sanctuary was beautifully quiet and the sun rose around 6:30am, no-one wondering about, no loud conversations, just peace and quiet. I remember feeling really content, hardly worth going to bed :).

After breakfast of peanut butter and jam on toast, 9:00am duty commerces with checking for holes in enclosures and blocking them. Day 23 saw the first time we were given pizza for lunch which was a nice treat!  Beats the frozen soup by a good margin :)

Typical lunch of vegetable soup :)
Rest of the day:
- Volunteer duties of course! 1:00pm Top-ups with Tracey, Clothing enrichment of cages and 3:00pm pellet time.
- Everyone having a good old chat lying around in the dormitory, examining the new addition of the 'bunkbed of death' seeing as it was extremely narrow with no ladder, and no railings. 
- My voice began to regain normality from today! Sounding normal but just a bit deeper then usual.
- Cut my foot quite bad on some stray spiky branch or brambles or whatever they were. (put a plaster on it, but it was still wins the prize of 'Dirtiest Cut Ever.' 
- Ate a baked caterpillar, compliments of Didler (happy & hard working French guy married to Louise). It was spiky and excessively chewy, didn't taste of anything and made me gag a little. Wouldn't want to eat one again, but try everything once as I always say :). 
- Potato Bake for dinner made by Auri :)

and Day 24?? Began the day with waking up EXTREMELY cold. I didn't take off my hat, scarf and gloves all day. 9:00am was observations of little Mai Tai, his behaviour slightly erratic and wiring in yet another trapdoor, this time for Goblin and Hope. It was extremely hard to shut them off in the feeding area! Basically involving endless temptation of marshmallow in an attempt to get them to shift. 
My last monkey time.............went in with the lovely Chimera and Kermit! Chimera kept licking my face (probably the sun-cream) which was extremely ticklish! 

Face licking LOL

Sugar ring doughnut treats :)

Monkey Time buddies - Lauren and Neil

Me, Vicky and Katie spent the afternoon going down to Petronella (the local supermarket) to pick up food goodies and other stuff people craved too. Everyone was getting hyped up yet another night out at Hatfield, which I didn't put myself down due to being quite illl, general lack of interest and no money! The taxi arrived for everyone at 8:00pm (one hour late again), which turns out to be a rather large car/small van for 14 people to cram into. The day after, people complain of the taxi getting lost, the sitting on other people's laps and generally being squished in like sardines.
That night with just me, Vicky and Katie on site (and Intrajit in bed), the lack of people being quite a relief. I took advantage of a extremely long shower (without people turning the taps on!), spent the evening roasting marshmallows together and chatting, then stargazing in sleeping bags, lying down on the picnic bench, nearly falling asleep! South African night sky = beautiful. There is no light pollution, no cloud, no horrible tall buildings that entail civilization, just a stunning backdrop of stars glowing absolutely everywhere. Best decision I made staying in that night rather then conforming socially and going out to very typical western setting of bars/clubs :).

Day 25 and 26 - Spreading the 'Illness love', More Volunteers??
Day 25, er journal wise, is about four bullet points lol. Day 25 saw the departure of Lauren, and the addition of Nikki and Gabrielle. Two really lovely people that I got to know in my last week of volunteering. I nicked Lauren's bed (bottom bunk), wanting to have a dog in my bed (6 dogs on site, 2 of them tend to sleep with volunteers).
I had Hoolio night 26! Basically the only male dog on site with the reputation of 'slut', moving around the girl's dorm, sleeping in various beds on different nights. He was absolutely beautiful. Basically this warm and incredibly lovable dog who loves sleeping next to you, under the duvet.
I earned the reputation as a crazy cat lady too, basically picking up kitties (Rufus, Noir, Squidge, and Tilly), and putting them in the dormitory. It was so comfortable/lovely sleeping with cats, especially Noir who had the tendency to sleep on you, and lovely Rufus, who climbed up on my bed and would wait there. I really can't wait to have a cat or dog. I love them so much =)!!
and the daytime, day 26? I had a rubbish day off! Hardly anyone had a day off to, hence the boredom. However, I spent the afternoon with Vicky, taking a combi van to Hammaskraal and browsing around the small shopping complex there. This day I apparently give poor Bryony my illness. Although I really think it's inevitable to be ill at IPR at some point! Living in a moudly room does have its cons :\.


Day 27, 28 and 29 - FIRE, Invasion of IPR, Bed boxes, feeling up people and just pure gloominess when I realise that the end is near.....
In all honesty, I did not have any daily journal entries for these days. There was this crazy lingering fear of leaving, and writing the dates in my journal only made it too real. On my last day, I wrote very roughly the happenings of day 27, day 28 and day 29. All of which, were very eventful!

Day 27? A massive, massive bush fire! Apparently reaching incredibly close to the sanctuary itself. Where was I? I was out dogwalking with Tracey! I'm away for just 30 minutes from the sanctuary, and a fire occurs....>.<
Farmers typically slash and burn their land as a means of improving cultivation. South Africa being so dry, fire can quickly become out of control. Volunteers described the craziness of beating the flames back, the awful heat when one got too close, the speed of which the flames spreaded and the ash absolutely everywhere. The fire invoked team spirit. Nearly everyone worked together. Carrying water, beating back fire with tree branches and just about every physical effort possible to prevent the spread. Poor April got walloped on the head, Clyde got burnt on the forearm and breathing for quite a few volunteers was laboured due to ash inhalation. I still can't believe I missed this, away for just 30 MINUTES. Although I must say, a beautiful and congratulatory effort for everyone involved, illustrating the care and dedication of volunteers at IPR.

Day 27 duty wise, me and April spent the morning speedily doing bed boxes. Basically going through a obstacle of a enclosure, standing on a table and using a big stick to knock the bed boxes down into our hands. Take out old blankets, wipe with bleach, replace with new blankets x 20.

April crawling through a full enclosure with our reaching stick.

Day 28, Morning feed with April, Gabrielle and Tracey! April's alarm didn't go off, (oops) but we managed to get there relatively on time. Tracey said it was the quickest morning feed she's ever done, which was really lovely to hear :).

At 9:00am, me and Krystelle collected wheelbarrow, after wheelbarrow of clumps of grass for Dale and Howard's new enclosure. We dug in the roots where possible, and managed to cover a fair proportion of the enclosure with what we collected. I didn't witness the transfer of Dale and Howard, having departed IPR when it happened. However, it really was a great group effort. In the month I volunteered for, I saw the transformation from completely empty enclosure, to one enriched with the imagination and creativity of everyone involved. A great team effort and a lovely new enclosure for two marmosets (even if it did take a whole month LOL),

New enclosure with tent, tunnel, hanging hammocks, hanging  boxes, branches, ropes, balls/bowling pins and rope ladder. 

Endless clumps of grass we gathered...

The night of day 28 saw me accidentally stroking Neil's leg under the table. Completely innocent and unintentional of course!!! Narmay (a sweet and soft large brown/gray dog) was under the table, we both stroked her together. Next thing I know, she's gone somewhere, I reach down to stroke her. Oh this texture is a bit weird...I glance down to see a pair of legs and Neil looking a little bewildered. I actually couldn't help but burst out laughing and publicly apologising for my actions. (Oops, living up to this 'hussie' reputation, stroking people's legs under the table =L.

Poor Neil (Me teaching her capnapping)

Day 29 was just depressing. I really, really did not want to leave. I also mistaked my flight details, thinking I was flying the next day because it was 'Next Day Arrival'. It was incredibly lucky that Tracey asked me to check my flight details when she did, or I would've missed my flight! I was really reluctant to check my flight times the whole week, just another delay tactic of leaving. This resulted in a crazy shock of leaving a day earlier then I anticipated, and missing out on going to the De Wildt Cheetah Park with April, Nikki and Krystelle. The night before I left, I found a letter under my pillow, with a chocolate peppermint crisp bar wrapped inside, addressed from Gabbi. She was in Johannesburg on the weekend of my departure, hence the letter for the really lovely farewell. It was so incredibly sweet and thoughtful of her to do and it still makes me smile that she made the effort to do something so considerate.
I was to depart at 2:00pm. I did top-ups at 1:00pm. Felix (the sweet capuchin) reached through the mesh and stole a glove (which I managed to get back). I hung with Liam, Bryony and Katie, helping with the installation of shade netting on Dale and Howard's enclosure, until the end.
It was a horrible, horrible feeling to leave, I just didn't feel ready for it, I was ready to stay another month should the opportunity arose to. Chino (who for the past few weeks has been really bitey with lots of people about) gave me a hug and made some of his little twittering noises like he knew I was going. I held onto Lulu before I went and had to say bye to everyone and all the animals I grew to know and love.

Felix and his 'play' face and handshaking
My favourite past time: grooming the beautiful Cassia
Little and lovable Lulu

Chubby Pixie :)

Yappy Poppy :)
1 hour drive to the airport. I was pretty mopy from leaving, hence the lacking of trying to make conversation. Amazingly Sue said she really liked my name and would love to name Gabbi's babies (a pregnant marmoset, should she have a girl) after me.  I was soo extremely flattered by this! A baby marmoset with my name at!

Arrival at the airport and a hug from Sue, I'm left with a suitcase and a thirteen hour flight back to the UK. I go to Castello, for a last treat of south african rump steak (as recommended by Jax) and was served by a incredibly charming waiter, called Marvin. I sneakily hand him a 20 rand tip as I depart, unsure if he's able to keep tips if I left it with the bill. He tells me to "keep in contact"as I leave. Eh?? I am in a airport, I'm leaving the country, mate. It was then I realised he probably left a number/email address on the back of the bill which I didn't check. Oops.

Uneventful flight and back to civilisation. I think of the luxuries back home, internet access, meals that aren't chicken grisle and stew and a bed with a mattress more then 1cm. Home life is appraised way too highly. Nice to have surely, but for me, it didn't effectuate my happiness in any way shape or form. South Africa was a wonderful trip, although I didn't get to experience much in terms of culture and exploring the area, I rediscovered my crazy love for animals and met a incredibly varied but lovely group of volunteers.