Sunday, August 25, 2013

What research

Taking advantage of the wifi while we're still in St Lucia! :) Ok, so the research we're helping with. It's very interesting. So one of the issues happening in SA is that in some ways there are too MANY elephants. There are really no non-fenced animals, they're all in reserves or private land. Because they can't migrate like they used to, they do more destruction to the ecosystem, AND their young and old aren't picked off as much as they used to be. Herd growth in limited areas spells trouble. They're trying a new form in contraception which will hopefully have less of a negative impact on the elephant herds than other kinds.

What we're doing is going out, counting the elephants, IDing them, watching their social interactions and their impact on the surrounding environment. With other forms of elephant contraception the change in hormones have created big issues in the herd (pushing elephants out, causing strife etc). One worry with this kind is how the females will react to their babies...will they coddle them more than they "should", and for longer because there's not another baby on the way, or will they kick the calves out sooner...? Will it change how the females interact? Will the females react differently to the males? All these things are very important, so we go out every day looking for them.

There's this invasive plant that has just taken over, so another of our jobs is to work to remove as much of it as we can. It's truly amazing how far it's spread. It arrived....hmm....back in the '60s?? Not sure exactly when, but it arrived in horse feed and has spread over the whole country. It's called...hmm, I'll have to go find out what it's called.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hippos and crocs!

We just got back from a hippo and croc boat ride. OMG they're so cool! I've never seen hippos in the wild. They're quite impressive. There's this big sign at the place we're staying to beware of hippos and crocodiles after dark. Evidently the hippos come out of the estuary behind this place and go through here to the rest of town to graze. It's not uncommon to see a bloat (group name for hippos... Isn't that awesome?) of hippos wandering down the main street. St Lucia is a small town, so really just one main street. And sometimes at night you have to share... :)

Some of the group tried to go whale watching this am, but the winds were so strong and the ocean so rough that it was cancelled. :( two of the volunteers are going kayaking with the crocs and I'm not adverse to some risk...but that's waaaaay too risky for me!Tomorrow I'm going with one other volunteer on a horse ride, then we leave at 4:00 to return to Thanda. Home sweet home.

Friday, August 23, 2013

So many animals!

 Have the weekend off, so I'm in St Lucia on the coast with a bunch of other volunteers. Tomorrow we're going in a hippo and croc "safari". :) I'm having such a great time, so are my mom and dad. Even though we're here on the elephant and rhino research, we're also going out with the large predator research, which is great. I'm working on updating the elephant ID kit, which means sifting through thousands of photos, identifying the elephants and then putting them into these documents along with their identifying marks. To take out on the vehicles, so we can try to identify them on the spot. Anyone know how to ID elephants? :) I'll tell you at the presentation. Hee hee. Have to be able to ID them to make any meaningful interpretations of their behavior.

There's this group here who are doing a photography course. It's four weeks and pretty darn intensive. Man, if I had the money, I'd totally do it! SO COOL! Ok, so our day begins with either a research drive or a game count drive at 6:00 am three days a week, Tues and Thurs we start with conservation @ 7:00 (conservation is stuff like clearing bush etc). All of those activities last until 9:00. Then back for a coffee/tea and muffin break. After that its either work on your research projects or some days we go to a community school. Lunch is @ 12:00, then more research work or a lesson about something. Then at 3:00 there is another either research drive or game count that lasts until 6:00. Dinner is 6:30. We're all usually in bed by 9:00! No late nights here! Not when you're out on the vehicles at 6:00.  :)

I really like everyone we're working wi. We're a small group right now...a ton of people left the day we arrived. But small means we all are getting to know one another very well. I've uploaded as many pictures as my free half hour of wifi has allowed. :) I'll try to do more tomorrow. I'm trying to think if there is anything else I just HAVE to tell you....

Hope all is well there...

Sunday, August 18, 2013

At the airport...

Here at the airport, found our group, waiting for one more person and then we'll be off! :) Three hours drive and then we'll be there. I'm SOOOOO excited. Lots of the newbies are here for the 6 week photography program, but a couple for us. Hooray!!!!!! :)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Call out the S.W.A.T. team for the vanEijsnbergens!

Whew! What a great way to see the country, but man, those were three VEEEERRRYYY long days of driving! Arrived here in Durban, being hosted here by the family of someone my parents know back home. OMG their house is amazing, and they've been so generous. Ok, last couple days:

Wow, its been a crazy three days of driving. 9 hours, 8 hours and about 7 hours, all in a row. but we did get to see a lot of the country! Tsitsikamma is AMAZING! Our cabin was right on the water. Huge crashing waves, got to see my first rock daisies (OMG they're so cute!). Passed a lot of beautiful farmland on the way there. Reminded us a lot of Europe. After a hike to the suspension bridge, and lots of talking to the daisies, we head off to our next stop, Butterworth.

After Tsitsikamma the land started to become more arid. As the day went on, it became less and less lush farmland, more and more scrub and poorer houses. Butterworth was.....a bit overwhelming at first! It's in an area formerly called the Trans-Kei...95% black, and quite poor. We arrived at 5:00 on a Friday....huge masses of people all over the road, we had barely seen anyone in a day...overwhelming. By the guest house was fine, and the people lovely. Had a fabulous breakfast and then off for another day of driving! There's really been no stopping along the way...

Arrived in Durban, and mom wanted to go see the main square in Durban. Okaaaaay, we have no map of Durban, but mom asked some random guy and he gives us directions. Actually quite easy to find. However...our directions to where we're staying tonight were not from the center of town (Durban is SA's third largest city), but rather from the main highway. We have NO idea how to get anywhere.

Then I notice across the street from us is a SWAT team car, so mom goes over to ask for directions. She's over there a long time. Dad jokes that ha-ha mom's going to get them to take us there. OMG guess what??? Evidently they were shocked that we had no cell phone, no GPS and no map...they decide to escort us. OMG, we're being escorted on our way by the SWAT team!!!! :) I mean, who else other than the vanEijsnbergens would get an escort like that through town! :) hee hee.

Tomorrow we're going to check out the beach, then it's off to the airport to meet the others coming in this week along with us. Then a 3 hour drive to Thanda, and we're off and running! Hope I'm able to update often...but not sure what the Internet access will be.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Headed east

We're leaving Cape Town today. Heading east along the Garden Route to Tsitsikamma National Park at Storms River Mouth. From her in in, not sure what our Internet access will be like. It's been a real luxury having free wifi here in Cape Town! I will update as often as I can. Our plan is to be in Durban on the 17th, to be picked up by the volunteer organization on the 18th. We've got 3 long days of driving ahead of us! :)

I'll update and add pictures to the Flickr gallery as I can.

See us at the aquarium

The aquarium has this free picture taking thing....look and find us :)
and look for the link at the bottom, then find was around 10:45. 

Around Cape Town

And around and around! :) Today we took the "red bus", a hop on and off tour bus. Goes all over, all the places we wanted to go. For just 15 each, all day we could get on and off at 18 different stops. First stop for us, the Two Oceans called cause this is where the Indian and Atlantic meet. Very cool aquarium. Right in the world-famous V & A Waterfront (Victoria & Alfred). Awesome place. I wish we had more time. Ok, and I wish the weather was better so we could get to Robben Island

Got back on and went to basically town center. Had a fabulous sushi lunch then walked it off looking for a couple other things before getting back on the bus to go to the Castle of Good Hope. Got off there and looked around. Awesome lime trees and lavender bushes. The bus then went up Signal Hill. Amazing views of the city all around. Incredible wind too! Could see Robben Island, all the neighborhoods....well, everything. The back bay areas are obviously the richest - Camps End, Bantry Bay. Incredible houses and these apartments built right against the hill BELOW the road. The roofs of the buildings, which are at street level, are the parking lots. So in this case, the penthouse/top apartment is NOT the one you want! :)

So tomorrow we head out of Cape Town. East along the coast to the Tsitsikamma National Park (which was evidently part of the inspiration for Tolkein's landscapes in Lord of the Rings. We stay there overnight then continue on. Not sure how long the drive will be, but I'm hoping we get to stop at stuff along the way. Uploaded more pics, check out the blog link below. :)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Boulder Beach and the Cape

Was a fabulous day! I was exhausted last night, couldn't blog. We headed out after a leisurely breakfast to explore the Cape. First, figuring out all the. Left sided driving! :) Dad did great...but truly, SA drivers are CRAZY!!! It's 40 km and they're going 100! It's kinda insanity!

Started off at Boulder Beach penguin colony. They were mostly offshore so rally only saw about 10 of them, but still worth it. It's so beautiful. The rocks are this great smooth rounded, and despite the weather out in the open, here it was calm in places and crystal clear!

Then we headed down the Cape, via the....lets see if I can remember...the M6. Through Simon's Town and other cute-as-a-button ocean towns on the east side of the Cape. Arrived at the Cape park...I cannot describe adequately how beautiful it is! And OMG the wind! Craziness. Take Hood River and multiply the wind times...well, a lot! :) On our way back we returned to Cape Town on the west side of the Cape. Went over Chapman's Pass with insanely narrow lanes, huge drop off and jaw-dropping views.

Loaded some pictures on Flickr...still can't figure out how to get them on here on my stupid iPad. Doesn't give me the correct options. :) Ocean is still too rough to for Robben Island or sharks, so I'll have to satisfy myself with the Two Oceans Aquarium and maybe the Slave Lodge Museum. Well, I'm off to breakfast! :)


So all my planning is for naught! :( I think I will be sorely disappointing both myself and my favorite niece Mia. The weather is not good here, swells are too big, both the ferry to Robben island, and more importantly, the shark diving operations are cancelled!!!! :( Very sad. Oh well. Today we're off to drive down the Cape of Good Hope, see the penguin colonies etc. Tomorrow....well, we'll see how the weather is, but most likely the sea will still be too rough, so we'll content ourselves with the aquarium (which I'm actually really excited about!) and some other "inside" stuff. Sigh.... It'll still be great...but I was SO looking forward to Robben Island and the sharks....

Monday, August 12, 2013

Hello from Cape Town!!!

I'm so excited to be here!!! Can't believe it's already the 12th!!! Craziness. It was quit an eventful trip...and long. The flight from JFK to Johannesburg was 15 hours! I mean, watch 2 movies, eat dinner, take a nice sleep, watch a sitcom or two, then ask the flight attendant how much long...5 hours!!!! OMG. :) The place were in here in Cape Town is fabulous! Olaf's Guesthouse, highly recommend it.

Anywho, just wanted to say hi and let y'all know I'm here safely. For the next day or so I have good Internet access while we're staying here. Added a couple pictures to my Flickr site. My ipad will not copy the photo urls correctly....I'll have to work on that! :) But for now go here:  Gallery for this trip

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Grounded in Medford....

So we had to make an emergency diversion to Medford to fix a mechanical. Good thing I have an 8 hour layover in San Francisco! :) I'd rather it takes longer than be flying in a plane with issues! Auspicious start? What do you think? :)

Here I go....

Huh, that was odd. For the past couple days I couldn't write a post! Anyway, managed to get it to work. Well...I'm off! :) Here at the Redmond airport. I fly from here to San Francisco, wait 8 hours, then fly to JFK then on to Johannesburg. From there just a quick flight to Cape Town and the flying is all done for a couple weeks! :) I arrive in Cape Town late afternoon of the 12th! They're 9 hours ahead of us here on the west coast. I'm so excited!!!!