Vanishing Act

I abandoned you guys again for a bit there. But I have a good reason this time, I swear! When I last chatted with you, I was in Cape Town furiously trying to finish up my MSc… well guess what – I DID IT!!!! I have officially finished and handed in my MSc. Which is one of the reasons I disappeared, the end was quite hectic, I was in the office until 1-2am most nights. But it is done and dusted!! Woot woot!!! Now the waiting game for the examiners to review it and then I will make the necessary corrections and after all of that then I will be able to graduate with a Masters! I am definitely going to be having a jedi party to celebrate.

Now the second reason I have been so quite is after I handed in my MSc in February, Ryno and I made the trek back to Johannesburg. I immediately had a serval meeting to attend the day after we arrived and then a wild dog meeting shortly after that which I was busy prepping for. Finally starting to settle back in at home, I went out for dinner for my birthday. Lisa made me the most incredible BB-8 birthday cake!!!

Seriously how cute is this? Lisa is so amazing!

Ryno came with me to play with Lisa and Gareth’s pup as we enjoyed a lovely time!

I arrived back at my house around 20:45 to discover that the back security gate to my house was completely ripped out of the concrete wall and my house has been burglarised.

The thieves stole both my brand new laptop along with my old laptop (which was now a backup), hard drives, my new drone, a GoPro, both of my Canon camera bodies, and both of my professional lenses along with my camera bag and various gear. A total equalling about R220 000 (~$13,000 USD worth of items. Unfortunately, insurance is not playing nice and is refusing to pay out for the items. Now for those who do not live in South Africa you must understand the security levels on houses here. My property is surrounded by a 3 meter (9.8 feet) solid concrete wall with an electric fence on top of that, the gates to the property are metal and open electrically with a remote, both the doors on my house also have locking metal security gates that are bolted into the concrete walls of the house and every window in the house has metal burglar bars. This is considered “low to medium security” in South Africa, some houses have insane security measures. Now all this does is make it so burglars have become smarter and have adapted to the latest security measures – they still break in, it just requires a little more effort on their part. Many houses also have metal security gates inside their houses to lock the bedrooms off from the main part of the house. This way, when burglars break in your house, you can lock yourself in the bedroom (or already have done so when you go to sleep) giving you a little extra time to call for help. Now calling for help is a different story. There is no 911 in South Africa, instead you have to pay for private security in your area and call on them if something happens. We did call the police after the security arrived to assess my burglary, but the did not even bother coming out, it is more just a practicality so you can have a police report. Hey. This is Africa and this is definitely one of the biggest downsides to living in the city. But I am extremely lucky that Ryno and I were not home and were not harmed. We chatted with the neighbours and pinned point down that the burglars were there sometime between just after 20:00 and when I got home at 20:45, so there was a very good possibility that I could have ran into them in the act and who knows what would have happened there! Not having a laptop made life very difficult to operate digitally and I only was able to replace my laptop 3+ weeks later thanks to Willie from the Pittsburgh Zoo who was travelling to Zimbabwe and had a layover in Joburg and was willing to bring me a new laptop with him!

I have started a raffle on Facebook, raffling off one of my photography or painting prints to raise money for a new camera. I am overwhelmed by the amount of support; I have the most incredible people out there!!! The raffle ends tonight, and I will announce the winner tomorrow!

Very long story short – it was a SUPER chaotic month.

Annnnddd now thanks to COVID-19, we are all entering a totally different version of chaos worldwide. I am riding out the storm in Karingani Game Reserve in Mozambique where we are fairly removed from everything by being in the middle of nowhere. I know South Africa just announced a country-wide lock down and everyone worldwide is panicking. Things are definitely getting serious. People are saying that this is going to change the world and, honestly, initially I thought it was just hype having seen SARS, Swine-Flu and other such pandemics have little long-lasting effects on a global level. But I see it now, this really will have global effects. I worry for the African tourism and volunteer programmes, I know many friends and conservation projects that depend on them. I think only time will tell with how COVID-19 is going to change our world and how long it will take us to get back to “normal.” But until that point, I hope that wherever you are in the world, that you are safe and have everything you need to get through this disaster!!!

Helicopter chaos

Annnd I am already failing at posting weekly. But to be fair, things are really super exciting enough right now to share much with you – especially compared to life in the bush.

My days are mostly filled with sitting at my computer in the lab writing up my dissertation, showing it to my supervisors, dying a little bit on the inside, re-running analysis I did months ago and then writing some more. Luckily, Ryno gets to come to the office with me a few times a week (he is totally my dissertation-writing emotional support dog).

Oh, something exciting did happen whilst in the office! I was in on Saturday (yes, legit, this has become life consuming, but also it is not like I have ever had normal weekends anyways)… anyways, I was in the office on Saturday and I just kept hearing helicopters. Hmm, that is odd. Maybe there was a car accident nearby and the news was reporting the traffic? Okay, no. There were multiple helicopters flying so close that my desk was vibrating. I went to the window to check it out and the helicopters had big baskets of water – there must be a fire somewhere! But wait… they are REALLY close! Is the fire on campus?? So I rushed out to go see what is going on and worry about if I needed to move my Land Cruiser or not. The fire was not on campus, but there is a big dam on campus and the helicopters were taking turns in procession dipping their baskets into the water and whisking it off just a short distance away to drop on the mountain.

Well, that was pretty cool. I must admit, I probably spent a good 45 minutes watching these helicopters fly in and out collecting water. Hey, it is definitely not something you get to see every day.

On a social side of things, Cape Town does have a lot to offer – it really is a beautiful city and always has something going on. On Sunday a bunch of us went to the Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset concert series to see a band called Good Luck. Kirstenbosch has the most picturesque setting for a concert with Table Mountain lining the background. Seriously, it is stunning! And somehow Good Luck is always playing on my yearly pilgrimage to Cape Town so seeing them has become sort of a tradition now.

But yeah, that is pretty much where I am at and have been at the past two weeks. I have not even had time to go on a proper mountain hike yet, but I do promise that will happen soon – it must!

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Rolling, rolling, rolling…

Good morning! Well it probably will not be morning by the time this actually goes live on the blog. You see, there is barely any network connection here, so I am not even going to attempt to HotSpot my phone to get this online right now. Ryno and I are currently at a campsite in the Karoo about 10-15 km away from Beaufort West called X-Ventures. It is a cute little place and Ryno absolutely adores it because there are tons of dogs running around to play with and loads of waterholes and pools he can swim in. It really is the perfect stop for us since he really has the chance to stretch his legs. Although he has completely abandoned me to go play with all the other dogs. Hehe, I guess 10 hours of my singing concerts was too much for him.

There are, however, the biggest abundance of mozzies here! Just this morning, I swear I have klaaped at least 30 while they were biting me. Mozzies absolutely LOVE me for some reason. Trust me, I have looked up every reason I can online and I gots zero clues why they like me so much. When I was in Malawi just a week plus ago I had over 79 bites at one time (Andrew and I counted)! Do mosquitos love you as well or are you one of the lucky ones that they seem to leave alone?

The Karoo is super dry, since the campsite has both green grass and water, there are wild tortoises everywhere here!!

Yesterday, we did about 10 hours of driving and about 900km. It looks like Dirkie (my Toyota Land Cruiser) is getting about 13.8 liters per 100 km. Which is something I need to know because I am hoping for some big overland trip this year and need to plan out my fuel stops and how much extra fuel I need to carry in Jerry cans.

The Karoo is endless and just so vast in every way – I LOVE it. It is such an incredibly harsh landscape. There are hardly any trees or bushes, just short dry grasses and shrubs. And it seems as if they are always in endless drought. It is amazing to me that anything can survive here. My friend, Michelle, who has done extensive camera trapping and small mammal trapping across the Karoo for her PhD (follower in on Instagram – @karoolady17) told that back in the Voortrekker days, there used to be so many springbok that when they migrated (which apparently used to be one of the biggest migrations before men put up fences, farms and killed out most of the springbok), it would take an entire day for the herd to pass by a single point. I need to look up more on where it ranks as far as land mammal migrations go, but from the tip of my memory (and this could be completely wrong), I want to say that it rivaled the Great Migration of bison in Kenya/Tanzania.

I have seen some cool birdlife during my drive so far along with farmed herds of springbok, sheep and even a big herd of Watusi cattle!! Ryno and I got a little lost and GPS had us turn a bit early trying to find the campsite yesterday evening, but the sweetest couple ever stopped to help us out and invited us to stop by the nearby airport this morning to say hi and learn about what they do there. I really think we should take them up on that!

If you have been following my Instagram, I have been trying to post more in my stories about the trip, so I hope that you have been enjoying it so far. There is a lot of videos of me just rambling and then photos of Ryno sleeping through the whole things and that is about it.

Much needed beer poolside at camp

Well, I think we are going to go ahead and pick up camp and start getting things ready to hit the road again. We have about 6 more hours worth of driving and then we will be in Cape Town!

Update: we made it to Cape Town and drove directly to the beach!!