The first day

From 24th July

I’ve had my first full day here in South Africa, and crikey, already there is so much to tell. I shall attempt to keep it brief and focussed on the main events, though I may occasionally go off on a tangent.

The first evening here was a great reintroduction to SA. Five of us (myself, the researchers and two of their friends) had a braai out on the back verandah. And what better way to get back into the culture of SA than a braai. Pork fillet and chicken sizzled, whilst a mix of tasty vegetables were cooked up. As an exhausted and weary traveller, I was excused from helping out though of course, I still offered to. I sat on the outdoor sofa, snuggled under the spare duvet and generally enjoyed life. The sound of the SA accent was music to my ears, and I thoroughly enjoyed the squeaky accompaniment of bats as they swooped through the verandah in search of a very different type of meal.

Bed was a welcome affair and I believe that I zonked out fairly quickly. After catching up on some sleep, it was into Heodspruit quickly to stock up on food and essentials. For me, this immediately meant two things – chocolate and biscuits. Now this sounds rather sad I admit, but I’ll explain these specific ones aren’t available in the UK.

I feel I should share something that made me chuckle. As we drove into Heodspruit, we passed a road sign. You’ll know the type I mean – triangular with a red border with a simple black picture inside, it may be related to the road or another warning. This one contained a picture of an animal. Now, the last one of these animal signs that I’d seen had been in the UK, near the RSPB Ynys-hir Reserve, and it had been a frog (or toad? Hard to tell from a simple picture!). This had amused me in itself as I’d not soon one like that before. So imagine my delight and amusement to see an elephant warning sign on the road. Somewhat different! Luckily (in terms of driving safety), I was assured that the elephants are quite rare to see on the road.

The journey back to the reserve also provided something new – a vervet monkey ambling across the road, seemingly uncaring to a car hurtling towards it. Of course, we drove around it, though it didn’t seem to even notice that it had been in our path.

So to the work reserve, where almost immediately I saw my first few impala as they dashed across the road in front of the car. They bring back fond memories of my first visit to SA as they were a frequent sighting during my stalking of zebras (there will definitely be a later post about zebras, I am slightly obsessed). Once in the reserve, we set off on foot to find the study animal – dwarf mongoose. Instead our first sighting was something rather larger – a female kudu off in the trees. Now these are fab animals, such delicate features.

We did manage to find the dwarf mongoose, but I shan’t go into details as they will fill a number of future blog posts, being the main study animal and all. Suffice to say, I was introduced to the habituation process and I fell in love with them, they are such endearing little mammals.

On the way back out of the reserve we drove past another animal that contrasted to the small dwarf mongoose – a giraffe. And a very placid one at that, it just stood there, munching away and calmly gazing at us. A certain two people reading this blog are likely to be very jealous of this close run-in, and I won’t lie when I say that my heart skipped in excitement. Two years since my last wild giraffe, then one on my first day and so close!

It has been a great start, and what I’ve written here is just skimming the surface of what I could write, but I’m trying not to bore you with the ALL the details. One other thing, dinner is being cooked currently (taken in turns each night) and it is cottage pie. Except, it is with ostrich rather than beef. So, I don’t know what kind of pie it is … but it’ll be delicious that’s for sure.

I’ve not learnt any Afrikaans or other local languages yet, so I’ll just say, so long and thanks for all the fish!

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