Monday, 9 April 2012

South Africa 2012 - Days 1 and 2

Soooo I've finally got round to typing up my journal from South Africa (when I really should be revising and finishing my research project, considering I had an awful dream last night in which it was 3 days before the deadline and I hadn't even finished my project, let alone had the thing printed and bound ready to hand in or even gone back to Cornwall...).

I'm going to post 2 days worth at a time, and I might schedule the posts to come up every 4 days or so so it's not all over in one rush. Plus that gives me time to type it all up and put lots of photos in each post :). The little notes in green are things that I've added since the trip.

(Does anyone else find Blogger's method of adding pictures to a post really time consuming and annoying? Normally it just takes forever to upload pictures and move them to where you want them to be in the post, but this time it just failed on me completely. I've had to redo this whole post because once I tried to start moving pictures around the whole thing just went blank even though apparently all the content of the post was still there when I looked at it in the HTML editor. Argh! Is there some clever way around this that I'm completely missing?!)

So without further ado, here's what I got up to on the first 2 days of my trip to South Africa. Enjoy! :)

Day 1 – Tuesday 3rd January 2012 

Got to the airport at about 2.50pm this afternoon ready to get on the plane to Africa! Luckily when I got to the airport I bumped into the lecturers so I was one of the first in the queue to check in.

The rest of the group had been upstairs in a cafĂ©, so once we’d all checked in and gone through security we headed to duty free to buy some last minute bits and some food and wait for the next few hours before we could board. 
The plane!
On the plane I sat in the middle of the middle row of the plane - definitely my least favourite place to be. The flight was 12 hours long – I tried to watch films but I couldn’t stay awake, and I tried to sleep but couldn’t sleep for long before something woke me up or I got cramp in my leg. Finding a comfortable position was really awkward!

Day 2 – Wednesday 4th January 2012

Arrived in South Africa (finally!) this morning at about 10am (8am UK time).
The amazing ostrich made from beads in the arrivals hall at Cape Town airport
After we’d been through security, collected our bags and stocked up with suncream and water, we headed out into the heat of South Africa. It was shaded in the car park and there was a nice breeze so it wasn’t as hot as I’d expected it to be. We were given lunch boxes which were really fancy – corrugated cardboard boxes tied up with ribbon, and inside there was – a spicy chicken salad wrap, biltong, brie and dates (maybe?) on a stick, red grapes, a fruit and nut mix and a chocolate brownie. I was surprised at how nice the biltong was – I’d always thought it would be disgusting!
A South African Kinder Egg, which is nothing like the Kinder Eggs we have here. When you open it it splits into two plastic halves - one half has a chocolate paste (a bit like Nutella, except you get milk chocolate and white chocolate paste) with 2 crunchy ball things on it (like the crunchy stuff in a Kinder Bueno) plus a little spatula to eat it with, and the other half has the toy in.
We then got into minibuses and headed to our first location – Stony Point penguin colony. The penguin colony was really cool, there were loads more than I was expecting and as they were moulting they were mostly just standing still because they couldn’t go in the water.
 Our “learning” for the day was about how penguin thermoregulate – they pant, and they turn their black backs to the sun as even though black absorbs the heat it doesn’t radiate the heat internally, so its organs are protected (as the organs are on the front side). We then had to think up a hypothesis for why penguins show the thermoregulatory behaviour that they do. We then tested these hypotheses in small groups – my group looked to see if there was a difference in panting/gaping between moulting and non-moulting adults – it didn’t look like there was from our results!
 We also saw a few dassies/rock hyraxes at the penguin colony. They’re pretty sweet and look like a cross between guinea pigs and cats. Virginia McKenna has one as a pet in Born Free, and I didn’t know what one was until I’d seen that film – now I’ve seen them wild! We also saw a cool blue and yellow lizard that I’ll try and identify later (it was a Southern Rock Agama).
Southern Rock Agama

After we’d been to the penguins we went on to the campsite. It’s called Paradise Park and it’s just outside Hermanus. We collected our tents and set to work putting them up. They’re all 6-man tents and they’re huge. The sleeping compartment has lots of space and then there’s another even bigger compartment that we’re keeping all of our stuff in. 4 other girls.

After we’d put up our tent we had to make a poster with a graph of our penguin experiment results on it, then we had a quick discussion about what our results showed.

After the discussion was over it was time for dinner. The food was a bit odd – we were given some meat (I think it was pork), then could choose from lots of other different things but they were all orange/yellow/beige and I had no idea what was in them. In the end I went for some bread and butter and some pasta – not the most exciting meal I’ve ever had!

Once dinner was over I was so tired that all I wanted to do was head to bed. I’m up at 6am tomorrow to be ready to leave at 7.10am to go and see some Great White Sharks! Not braving the showers tonight because even though I feel gross I don’t want to risk a cold shower and have wet hair all night as it’s fairly chilly here.

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