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. 

Week 3, IPR

Day 15 and 16 - Trapdooring Enclosures and Pretoria Town Visit.
Day 15 marks the third set of trapdoors I've wired into the marmoset enclosures, this time teamworking with Evelyn on Pecan's and Shacked's enclosure. I managed to get 4 long-ish wire scratches down my forearm whilst at work, once again accumulating the number of skin nips and scratches down my right arm. Always a great souvenir to bring home and as Bryony said, 'scars have stories' :).

Trap door wiring 

Pecan checking out the new trapdoor
Other then 1:00pm trapdooring and 9:00am chopping, Day 15 was relatively quiet. 5:30pm saw a team of six of us all go together  for the bowl collection. 1 row each, run down the row, stack up the bowls and chuck the food out. Must have been completed in IPR record time :).
Day 16 - A day off! Me, Charlotte and Bryony originally planned to go to the Kolonnade shopping centre, however we were unable to get a lift thus we settled with a town trip to Pretoria. Day 16 marks the first time of travelling solo outside the sanctuary, via public transport. Leaving at 10:00am, I think we were all a little apprehensive! South African public transport uses 'combi' buses, basically small white people carriers that act as public taxi's. It became incredibly difficult to decipher between white buses, cars, vans and other general vehicles from a distance and this general fear settled in of accidentally signalling a normal car to stop for us. Twenty minutes in, we signalled a combi to Hammanskraal (local township), to the bus station then another bus to Pretoria for 17 rand for a 45 minute bus ride (£1.70). We spent the day doing a little souvenir shopping, internet surfing, and exploring the local craft market. We wanted to grab some renowned South African steak from Castello (recommended by Jax) but we found it closed and crossed the road for Fish and Chips.....very disappointing I know.

South African Taxis
Day 17 and 18 - General Volunteering!
- The weather turned crazy cold. Ice was found where the monkeys have their water bowls!

- Enriched Flea's and Kismit's new enclosure with a little creativity, a hanging box, a T-shirt hammock, a old bra and hanging colourful goodies. 

- Monkey Time! With: Monique and Monika (who kept hiding in my hood!) and the squirrels, Honey and Girlie! 

Honey and Girlie <3


Monique and Monika

Day 19 - Kolonnade Shopping Centre
Day 19, I start to feel really quite tired and run-down. Me and Lauren had a day off together and we consulted with Ros about nearby places to go, Kolonnade shopping centre it is, we decided :). We waited for ages for a dang combi! A police truck drove past us twice, then pulled up, asking what on earth we were doing in the middle of no-where, telling us it was unsafe due to highway robberies to be here. We told him we wanted to get to Zambesi Drive and he waited with us for about twenty minutes, trying to signal combi's that were all full up on the way to Pretoria. Sweet guy :).

We ended up doubling back to Hammanskraal bus station and taking another x 2 combi's to the Kolonnade, without getting lost of course :). Upon arrival, we grabbed KFC and explored all the shops! The shopping centre also had a ice skating rink, cinema and go-karting. GO-KARTING for FIFTY RAND =] (£5.00). Lauren well and truly owned me at driving (her first time on go-karts and my second), giving a cheeky grin whenever she zoomed past! I blame Clapham racetrack, I'm still pretty terrified behind the wheel from crashing a few months back! All brilliant fun and got back to the sanctuary in good spirits :).

 It was dark when we got back (oops). According to Lauren there was a single bloke just standing there, moving slowly and hovering. I couldn't see ANYONE, it was extremely dark walking back down the driveway, and we didn't bring torches. Lauren said to walk extremely quietly, seeing as he was quite a bit ahead. Turning down the sandy path back towards IPR was a crazy relief but we still ran back (quietly!!) just in case! 

Day 20 and 21 - Horrible Illness, Cleaning, cleaning and more cleaning.
Day 20. oh day 20. I couldn't SPEAK. I woke up with this really horrible, raspy cough and no voice. I've never lost my voice before, so it was a first experience. Bryony blamed my lost voice on 'too much kissing', always calling me a 'wee hussy'. Oh Bryony, anything but :).
Days 20 and 21 I was put on cleaning. Monas.............I don't think that smell will leave me for a while. Their bed-boxes had no drainage holes, so it all just kind of 'puddled'. Enough said, it had to be done, always good to get your hands dirty in a while :)

The Monas.........

Cleaning the Primate Kitchen 

Scrubbed and bleached!

Cleaning the macques
Also spent day 21 doing the macques with Lauren and the Primate Kitchen with Neil. Dragging out tons and stuff, bleaching the surfaces, mopping the floor, sweeping away rat droppings and putting it all back again. All good fun. Oh maybe it wasn't, just satisfying to do. 3:00pm, Tracey asked me to give pellets for the bigs for the first time, which was brilliant fun to do.

Pelleting the macques
Pelleting the macques

The night of Day 21, we spent planning our venture to The Lion Park for day 22! I've slacked a little in mentioning the abundance of new volunteers we've been receiving, but day 21 marks the occasion of Intrajit arriving at the sanctuary. We were getting overly crowded, beds were being dragged around from everywhere (including a dog's bed!) to accommodate for the increasing number of people staying. From general memory we had Me, Lauren, Ollie, Vicky, Katie, Bryony, Liam, April, Gabrielle, Donna, Katie, Clyde,Nikki, Emily, Neil, Louise, Intrajit, Krystelle, Louise and Didler. Nearly everyone was 18 - 20 which was pretty crazy!!

 Our cosy little dormitory: >>