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Africa - Page Text Content

S: My Trip to South Africa - August, 2011

BC: Without a doubt, a pretty awesome adventure.

FC: Africa August 2011

2: Mt. Lajuma Research Centre Soutpansburg Mtns, S.A.

3: The Scientists | Katy & Sam | Olrich The one with all the stories and knowledge | Oldrich | Ian

4: Bekky from England | Claudia from England | Becky from Texas | Angie from Austria/ Belgium

5: Daniel, from America/China | Diana, from Mexico | Anna & Nebula, from China

6: Besides our own two feet, the Jeep and truck were how we got around. The ride was always very bumpy, and we had to play defense against branches (and sometimes lost). It was worth it for the fun & great photo ops. | The lecture room, dining room, and kitchen were all part of one building. We had nightly lectures from the scientists and PhD students on Lajuma. They were fascinating, and we learned so much from each person. Many of them focused on a specific animal on Lajuma.

7: Katy lecturing, our schedule for the week, and the beautiful dining room.

8: My own little "bedroom" was half of buildings next to one another. | I had two beds, my own bathroom & shower, and lots of lovely decorations.

9: The "Donkey" was our water heater, so we had to jump into showers at random times to ensure we'd all have hot water. | The fireplace inside the lecture room/dining building was our source of evening warmth.

10: is the bush baby that comes to this tree every night to eat smeared banana off of the post in front of Sam and Katy's house. | "Bushy"

11: Daily Breakfast Table Tea Time Candlelit Dinner Final Dinner

12: Lajuma is on the edge of a cliff, and we had two exceptionally foggy mornings. | Coral Tree

15: August 3: Eco-Walk

16: This leopard actually came from the mountain. He had a heart attack after being trapped to get fitted for a radio collar, and the vet wasn't able to save him. Ian had him taxidermied to be an educational tool. The middle picture is of a "butterfly" rosette between his shoulder blades. | Ilsa and Lady, Judy's two horses.

17: On the Eco-Walk, Oldrich picked this off of a seemingly dead bush. He told us to put it in water and sun, and that we'd learn why it was called the "Resurrection Plant". | ...and sure enough, within a day or so, it had opened up!

18: August 4: Camera Run

19: Camera Traps: Rechargeable batteries, a moisture-absorbing desiccator,and a chart to write down SD card numbers, pictures taken, etc... leopard walk to test aim and take funny pictures.

20: We hiked from the road, gradually up to the side of the steep cliff. | Every 15 minutes, we recorded our GPS coordinates and wrote down information about every monkey in sight. | August 5: Primate Study & Camera Images

21: These are the Samango (a.k.a. Syke's) Monkeys. The information we recorded each time included... | Male or Female Adult or Juvenile Activity - grooming, resting, moving, fighting Eating - fruits, leaves, flowers | Any vocalizations Distance to neighbor Height from ground The time recorded | The monkeys were somewhat accustomed to human presence, sometimes coming within 15 feet of us.

22: The hike to this more remote camera station was super arduous. It was alternatively steep and flat, and very hot, so we were all exhausted by the end. As you can see, we took frequent breaks. One neat thing was the leopard's claw marks on the tree near the camera station where we ate lunch before heading back. | August 6: Hike to Camera Station 12 | I had the pleasure, on this day, to pick up some quite moist leopard poo. Yum!

23: Sam and Katy stopped to show us some incredible cave paintings | It was a tiring day, but worth it to learn how to sort through the pictures....

24: Bushbuck (left) Banded Mongoose (left) Red Duiker (center) Vervet Monkey (center) | Samango Monkey Baboon Kudu | Animals of Mt. Lajuma

25: Crested Civet Brown Hyena Porcupine | Aardvark Bushpig Genet

26: All of us girls decided to visit Mapungubwe National Park on our Free Day. The lady who picked us up and took us through the park was really smart and knowledgeable, and it was great to see some African animals in real life instead of just the computer screens! | The base of this baobab, a.k.a. "upside-down" tree, towards the front entrance is scarred from elephant tusks. | August 7: Mapungubwe National Park

27: We were driving along the road when I spotted an impala out of the window opposite from me. I promise it's there. | Impalas, famously, look like they've sat on a painted toilet seat. Angie's quotable first impression, though, was "They've got quite nice behinds, haven't they?"

28: Mapungubwe is in northeastern South Africa, and these viewpoints overlook Botswana and Zimbabwe.

29: Botswana is between the dried river and the nearer, smaller, flowing one. | Zimbabwe is the land directly across from the dried river.

30: The first animal besides impala that we saw were giraffe. There were three quite young ones all by themselves. Since giraffes barely sleep for a few hours a day, it was rare to see one stand up and join his brothers.

31: Baboons crossing the road? No biggie in South Africa | Young baboon | The viewing platform where we ate lunch. | The awesome tree whose seeds fall into cracks of boulders & force the rocks open as they grow. | Zebras

32: The Tree Walk was really cool. We walked down to the river that separates S.A. & Botswana. There was a female bushbuck out, which was a rare sighting. We also saw lots of other great wildlife. My favorites were the vervet monkeys, of course.

34: More Scenery in Mapungubwe | The "Kudu" leaf - shaped like a kudu's hoof print

35: Driving took some getting used to when I was directly behind the driver. In Mapungubwe, the speed limit signs say "Speed Kills". | Our first of the Big Five was this Cape Buffalo, in a game reserve

36: ID Pics of Known Leopards | CC | Helmut | These "ID" pictures helped us to identify leopards whose photographs we collected from the camera traps. Through the cameras where certain leopards are photographed, the scientists (especially Oldrich) actually keep track of their individual territories. These pictures are just examples of the many ID'd leopards living on Mount Lajuma.

37: Caesar | Farfalla | We were able to identify particular leopards by their rosettes. These ID cards show particularly unique rosettes that can help us confirm a positive match. | For example... CC has a paw print on her right side, Farfalla has a clover on her right hindquarter and a horseshoe on her left side; Caesar has a question mark on his right side and a backwards "C" on his left side, etc.

38: Who's that beautiful young leopard? | A young female hanging out with one of the males that we noticed when sorting through camera trap pictures. Hopefully they'll end up mates! Since Bekky and I were the ones to positively ID her as a new leopard, we got to name her. We pulled ourselves a Brangelina, and she is officially Bexi! | We got to create Bexi's ID pictures. She's covered in hearts!

39: Caesar's scratching post "Participatory Observation" | Helmut, Bexi's boyfriend

40: August 9: Transect Day | We had charts to match up the print with the animal, and wrote down the GPS and measurement info each time. | We'd drive down the roads, then stop and walk 200 meters to document any and all prints. Most of the prints we found were of hyenas & spotted mongoose.

41: To the right is the tool we used for measurement, & the tiniest print we found. If there were consecutive prints, we measured the stride as well. Oldrich could tell which leopard it was by the stride & our location. We had to walk on the road's edges to look for prints, which were often hard to see.

42: During the transect walk day, we also got to set up a new camera station. We made a clearing on either side of the road and fastened the cameras to the posts. After using sticks to adjust the angle, we checked that it worked with the "Leopard Walk", and called it complete!

43: Each time we collected leopard poo, we wrote down our GPS coordinates and the date. The scientists dry it out, then dissect it and analyze what comprises their diet. The piece of grass with red and white stuff on it? That's hyena anal paste that they mark their territory with. Sam and I noticed the white first, and I grabbed onto the leaf and my fingers got sticky with the red before we realized what it was.... yeah, gross, I know. Who else can say they've touched hyena anal paste though? The thorn is called the "Wag-'n-bietje", or "Wait-a-bit". It's namesake comes from how easy it is to get caught in its thorns: the top ones are curved in one direction, but the bottom ones are straight and angled the opposite direction.

44: The two left pictures are of right when we would drive out from the jungle and onto the savanna. The lower right picture that I took at the top of Mt. Lajuma is of the same area - you can see the road and little pond. We went through that area regularly, to reach camera stations and do our transects. | On another note, Lajuma has its very own Swan Lake!

46: August 11: Blouberg & Eco-Schools Day | Highlights of Blouberg Nature Reserve included a glimpse of a very rare sable and an encounter with a giraffe that took us all by surprise - we were driving along when, hidden just 20 ft away, he started cantering off. | (we all hugged the tree)

47: Blouberg Nature Reserve's Vulture Restaurant

48: Judy Van Schalkwyk, Oldrich's wife, facilitates the Eco-Schools Program in eleven schools in the area. She took us with her to play an educational game with the children at Pokanong Primary School, which is very rural and has 413 children.

49: Judy gifted to the principal a few pens and a book for their library | The teachers involved with the Eco-Schools program had set up a classroom to greet us & tell us about their school.

50: The purpose of the educational game we played with the older children was to teach them how to solve problems (caused by either human or natural forces) that are relevant to their own area. Two teams each had the same selection of picture cards. We described what was on each card, and the first team whose member raced the correct one to Nebula won that round. The cards depicted either a problem or its solution, and formed one composite image which Judy discussed with them after.

51: Angie & Diana each had a team | Bekky & Anna placed the cards onto the board | Becky, Claudia, & I read out the card clues (opposite page) | Diana's team won, but Angie's were all good sports.

52: After the game with the older kids, the preschoolers got out and came running over. They were eating apples, though, so high fives were getting sticky. I taught them all how to fist bump complete with the "pssssh!" at the end instead (which they loved!), and later Nebula taught the littlest ones how to make hearts. They loved having their pictures taken (see Bekky showing them?), and Daniel gave this coolest little guy his sunglasses.

54: As we walked by the classrooms, we paused briefly to take pictures of all of the students rushing to the windows. In the picture to the left, note the little guy doing "macho man" and the kid running across desks! | The kids milling around after class. | Here's a tree they planted, an example of gardening techniques Judy teaches them through Eco-Schools. | They were all shouting excitedly, and really wanted their pictures taken.

55: Their classrooms are very barren, and Diana caught a glimpse of their library - she said it only had a few shelves with dilapidated books. | The kids would have been happy to all day just look at you and see pictures of themselves. | Some of the children had created a Welcome sign inside the classroom for us. | The older kids then sang songs for all of us. For one song, they incorporated each of our names individually!

56: August 12: Climbing Mt. Lajuma

57: The climb to the top of Mt. Lajuma was alternatively flat and grassy versus steep and rocky. When we took our "Victory" picture at the top, we raised our arms as a dare to each other... it was that intense of a workout, and definitely worth it!

58: On the night of the Africa Pub Quiz, Claudia, Anna, and I (Team Gunterinas) won! The gummy worms were our prize, but we shared. Amarula is a delicious liquor made from the Merula tree that we all sipped on the evenings that we watched The Lion King and Tangled. We collected the Toy Story figurines from the boxes that snacks we took on hikes came in. Lastly, Bekky and I often worked into the evening sorting pictures.

59: Gunter was Ian's St. Bernard puppy. We found him to be the cutest thing ever, and like true girls squealed and cooed over him every time we got to see him. He'll grow up to be huge, just look at those paws. Also, Lajuma's trails were each named after animals, so the signs indicating each trail were really cool.

61: Termite Mound Acacia Tree Aardvark Hole Civet Marking Leopard Tortoise Leopard Print

62: The Lion Park Johannesburg

63: Giraffe, Springbok, wild dog, | cheetah, zebra, & meerkat

65: After I returned, I began collecting school supplies -pens, pencils- and received donations to start sending boxes back for Judy to distribute through her Eco-Schools. First box went to Pokanong Primary! | Pens for Pokanong

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Alexis Barton
  • By: Alexis B.
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  • Title: Africa
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  • Started: almost 7 years ago
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