Let me begin with our weekend trip to Louis Trichardt in South Africa. We´d left camp at 7am (nice!!) on Friday morning and drove down to the border near Alldays, which already took us about two hours. From there to Louis Trichardt it´s another two to two and a half hours drive. The reason I´m telling you this is because we were taken to South Africa in the game vehicle, which does not have windows. As you can maybe imagine it gets quite fresh and windy – or rather freezing cold – during the drive. So we were all wrapped in blankets and coats while driving. I guess it must have looked quite funny to people walking on the streets and seeing our game vehicle pass by. Anyway, the lodge we stayed at is absolutely gorgeous. As the capacity of guests is rather small in the lodge, we were more or less the only guests there and enjoyed the full range of civilization for a weekend (from soft (!) toilet paper through to super comfortable beds).
On Saturday, we went on a culture tour to see a bit of the area around and to learn about the people living in and around Louis Trichardt. We started the tour by visiting the main township, which was touching for me even though I´ve seen the townships of Cape Town two years ago, which are way bigger and way more run-down than the ones in Louis Trichardt. The township tour was followed by a pottery-shop-visit and a picnic in the front of the culture center. After that, our guide convinced us to go to one of the local markets as well… Yes. And then suddenly we found ourselves standing in the middle of a run-down, noisy, stinky, local, African market with people who, apparently, had never seen any whites in their lives before. It took two minutes for us to become the center of attention – 7 white European people! “Buy scarf! African scarf!”, “Good Rastas for you – cheap price!”, “Try termites. Freshly cooked termites – Good quality termites for blonde ladies!!”…I think you get the picture. And if it hadn´t already been primitive enough, the guide also insisted on us to try termites and, even worse, caterpillars, which can be regarded as Botswana´s national dish. So we tried some termites and also had some caterpillars as lunch-dessert. I have to say those insects do look worse than they taste. In fact, termites are not that bad at all… pretty much taste like crisps whereas caterpillars have their very own taste, which is kinda salty and insect-ish. It was an interesting experience after all – not only for us, but also for some of the mostly black citizens of Louis Trichardt, who saw white people for the first time in their lives.Moment before eating caterpillar…
On Sunday afternoon we went back to Botswana and saw a very uncommon creature standing and greeting us at the entrance to our reserve: a giraffe! We´d found a lot of giraffe-tracks within the reserve, but since they officially don´t live in this reserve, it´s fairly rare to see them.
Monday and Tuesday were normal work days including lots of walking, bird census and physical work, however, it seemed to become hotter and hotter from one hour to the next. By Tuesday afternoon the thermometer said 41°C, though, it wasn´t too hard to cope with the heat since it is very dry and not as humid as it had been in Suva/Fiji.
Wednesday was an interesting day as well. We had to leave camp at 5.30am to drive up to the reserve´s reception, where we started a 4,5 hour Adventure-Walk through the bush – across the savannah, up the kopjes (~hill), down the kopjes, through the Limpopo River, on stones, on sand, on grass, on soil, on organic-material(s)… what tells you that? Right. It´s risky. It´s risky to injure oneself…. I simply twisted on a stone and then there was this loud ‘krrrr’ sound – Apparently, I must have partly ruptured one of my exterior ligaments around my right ankle… But could´ve been worse, I guess. I´m actually pretty glad that it happened during my last week so I didn´t miss too many activities around here. Plus my last days were pretty relaxing as I was mainly given work to do in the camp such as data entries and cooking dinner for 15 people as our cook had fallen ill for a few days.
On my departure day I was picked up at the border at 10 o´clock and was driven to the Airport in Polokwane, where I had to wait for another two hours until I could board the small domestic-flight-aircraft with 19 seats. Anyways, as I said I had to kill two hours of time – without Wi-Fi, without a book, without shops, with just a few rest-Rand in my pocket and one vending machine, which didn´t seem to work. Welcome to Polokwane International (?) Airport, one of many African province-airports with one runway and only one flight to be operated (PLK-JNB-PLK). Now and then there are animals (e.g. Baboons) on the runway, which is by far the only attraction there. Oh – and there´s a viewing deck as well to see plane(s) take off and touch down, which is just the most ridiculous thing, I mean, which plane(s) can you see taking off from there? 🙂 After 40 minutes bumpy flight and another 20 minutes taxiing on Joburg´s OR Tambo Airport, I finally could purchase a new book to read while waiting for six hours for my red-eye to Germany. Touching down in Frankfurt I would have loved to immediately jump on another plane heading south. It was not spring as I´d thought. No. It was damn cold and snowy like on the day I´d left… WELCOME HOME!
PS: This is the link to my organization´s March newsletter in which you can also find some pics of me and my group during our time in and around the camp.