Tuesday, 1 May 2012

South Africa 2012: Days 7 and 8

Day 7: Monday 9th January 2012

Not much to write about a today was pretty boring and repetitive, and entirely spent in the courtyard collecting data from the grasshoppers. Thankfully we got along a lot better today - there was not shutting me out, I was listened to and we had a laugh. It was quite a frustrating day as it felt like we were doing so much work and getting so few results - a lot of grasshoppers kept escaping on gusts of wind before we could even measure them, some we couldn't recapture and some we only got 2 data points for (not the 3 we needed) before they disappeared. They're really hard to spot and capture, even on the concrete, because they're surprisingly well camouflaged.

We finished data collection at 6pm and I went and had a shower before dinner at 7pm. When C and I got back to the tent we discovered we'd been babooned again - baboons came in yesterday and caused no damage other than ripping a hole in the mosquito net in the big door, but today they ripped another hole and stole A's carton of juice that she'd left on the tent floor. We found it outside with the lid off and the juice spilled everywhere.

Dinner tonight was stir fry - I'd just been saying earlier in the day how much I would love a stir fry to make a change from all the stodge we've been having since we got here!

Just realised I've forgotten to mention the species I've seen! I've seen some Cape Mountain zebras, ostriches, baboons, bontebok, eland and probably some others I've forgotten. The zebra were definitely my favourite - it's so amazing to see them in the wild where they belong, and it's finally sinking in that I'm actually in Africa!

Back to this evening... We've spent most of the evening in the dinner hall trying to do the stats for our poster and presentation tomorrow. I think we've been really over-thinking it though so we all decided to give up and try again first thing tomorrow morning. We have to have our poster finished by 12 before we go on a dune walk and for a swim in the sea, then between 4 and 5pm we have time to practice our presentation before we have to give it to the rest of the group at some point between 5 and 7pm. We're having a wine tasting afterwards which I'm really looking forward to.

There's been a wedding going on in the garden by the restaurant tonight so we've been having fun listening to the music. They've got fairy lights and spherical paper lanterns hung from the trees which looks so beautiful. The couple got married on the beach earlier on in the day. Sounds perfect - I'd love it if my own wedding was like this!

Off to bed now as yet another early start tomorrow... my body's getting used to 5am starts now so it's waking up automatically at that time :(

Day 8: Tuesday 10th January 2012

Up and in the dinner room by 6am this morning to finish the stats for our presentation about our project. The other girls in my group basically took over most of it so I had nothing to do when I'd finished the bit I was doing, so I attempted to start the poster but it sounded like they didn't agree with what I wanted to do so I gave up as I didn't want a repeat of Sunday.

We eventually got our poster and stats finished before lunch and decided to write our speeches after we got back from the beach.

We picked up lunch bags and drove down to the sand dunes.  I still can't get over how white the sand is - when we first drove in to De Hoop I thought it was snow on top of mountains! (yes, I really am that stupid sometimes...) It was so nice to be able to take my shoes and socks off and walk barefoot in the smooth, warm sand. Everyone lined up along the top of a dune and we walked along so we could have a group photo taken and be filmed for a promo video being made for the course (which is coming up in a post soon!). Somehow I ended up at the front and people were shouting instructions at me from the back of the line but I had no idea what they were saying so I think I made a bit of a fool of myself.... The next photo opportunity was making us all roll down a giant sand dune which was really fun, up until the moment when someone kicked me in the head and I ended up nearly being sick from the mouthful of sand I ended up with. I was really dizzy by the time I reached the bottom too - I was surprised how dizzy rolling down  hill sideways made me!

We then headed on to the beach where we were going to swim - it was a little sheltered pool so hopefully the sharks and jellyfish should be kept out! Lots of people got in and wan straight out, but I was quite happy to bob about in the shallows with another girl as neither of us are brilliant swimmers. There were lots of rocks in the pool so it was really difficult to stay safely in one place without risking grazing/cutting your legs or getting your foot trapped under a rock. The waves were really strong and quite a few times I got carried a good few metres towards the beach by them, and once I even got completely washed ashore by a big wave! It was a lot of fun but too soon it was time to head back to the camp for project presentations.

African Oystercatchers

We got our speeches written and headed outside to the lawn/courtyard next to the restaurant and sat under one of the huge trees to do our presentations. Thankfully the lecturers had put us into 2 big groups so we didn't have to sit through about 25 presentations! My project group went second; I'm so glad we got it out of the way as otherwise I wouldn't have been able to concentrate until it was done. I think I did quite well as I made sure I didn't just read from my script and I think I gave a good answer to the question I was asked. It was interesting seeing everyone else's projects too - a lot of people did the same or similar things on bonteboks or proteas or insect diversity in dung but I think ours was the only manipulative experimental study and the only one about grasshoppers or a single insect family.

Giving our presentation about our project. I'm on the left.
After the presentations we had a wine tasting. A couple of women from Strandveld vineyards came down, and they brought 3 white and 3 red wines for us to try. I really liked the first white wine, which was First Sighting sauvignon blanc - it was nice and fruity. The second white was way too dry for my liking, and the third was nice as it wasn't as dry but it still wasn't as nice as the first. I didn't like any of the reds - I don't think my palate is refined enough yet! (they also told us one of the reds had a chocolate taste to it, but I definitely tasted no chocolate and thought they all tasted like mud...)

After dinner I headed to bed fairly early because we've got another early start tomorrow to pack up tents ready to leave for Addo at 7am. I don't think I've had a lie in once on this trip! It's a long drive to Addo - probably 10 hours - so I'm sure I'll spend most of the journey asleep, but we'll be travelling along the Garden Route, the really picturesque coastline of southern South Africa, so I'll try my best to stay awake to make the most of the views!