Barefoot in the bush: dirty feet equal happy souls

How is it almost mid September already? Where has this entire year gone to? Craziness.

I had such an incredible weekend!! Two good friends of mine from CCF (you might remember them, they visited me not long ago), Tarik and Mel got married! It is definitely something that has been in the plans for a long time now (they have a son together), but Tarik (who is South African) has been struggling to get a UK Visa to move to Wales (where Mel is from) with his family. So boom, they got married and now he can apply for a spouse visa. This was all within about two weeks worth of planning. Luckily for me they decided to have the wedding near Durban which is on the other side of South Africa and it is super cheap to fly within the country. I left Friday morning and flew in to Durban where I met up with Tairk and Mel…… and Samara!!! Woot, my Brazillian BFF from CCF. She moved to Botswana about two weeks ago and was able to fly down for the wedding too!

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We helped get things orgranised and everyone hopped in a SUV and headed up to the wedding location about 5 ½ hours north of Durban at Lake Sibaya. The wedding guest list was small and intimate – Lake Sibaya is literally in the middle of no where and we camped the weekend there. Saturday morning everyone woke up and worked together to prepare food for breakfast and for lunch after the ceremony.

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The campsite was close but still a bit of a hike to the lake so we hopped on top (literally ON TOP) of a Land Rover and drove out to the picturesque Lake Sibaya. For the ceremony everyone sat barefoot in a small circle on the sandy beach of the lake and shared stories about Tarik and Mel’s relationship and love, they exchanged their vows and were married by their dear friend, Paul. It was absolutely beautiful and such a wonderful, relaxed ceremony. Truly unique and so perfect for them. After that we ate an Ethiopian style lunch of injera (Ethiopian flat bread) with lentils, beet root, wat, tsebhi and various other veggies as music was played by portable speakers. On the opposite side of the bank you could see hippos basking in the sun (my first wild hippo sighting!!!!) The evening was spent back at the campsite dancing, sharing stories and enjoying each other’s company.

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I woke up early Sunday morning and went on a little walk barefoot through the bush with a random kitty companion who decided the join me. It was so refreshing to relax and think as I watch the sunrise. I missed being in the bush more than I realised.

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As the rest of the group started to wake up and move around we cooked breakfast over the fire and played a fun round of Kubb. Its a game from… Switzerland (I think) where basically you knock over sticks with sticks. We use to play at CCF all the time. Sam and I packed up and headed back to Durban with Yusuf and Zaheer. Zaheer took us down to the beach and gave a wonderful little tour of Durban. We even saw some hammerhead sharks that had come off the ocean and into one of the little inlet canals! I had planned to go to bed early that night, but couldn’t resist one last night of chatting and catching up with Sam. Monday morning came quick though and I had to hop on a 6am flight back to Cape Town and then made my way straight to the office just in time for a full work day. Exhausted, but completely worth it!

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I am heading back that way, just about 40km or so from the lake on Monday at a reserve called Tembe, where I will be living and conducting my field work for the next six weeks! I absolutely cannot wait. My soul longs to be back in the bush. I will have extremely limited internet access, so I may be able to do a post every now and then but there is also a chance you might not hear from me in about six weeks.

I hope you have a nice life. 😉

Pumpkin beer and spring?

Well let’s make that move… number four is it? I have nearly lost count.

My wonderful little wooded escape turned out to be beautifully scenic and convenient for walking to work, but apparently living in the middle of nowhere while still be surrounded by a major city isn’t the safest option. In less than two weeks the house was broken into three times and I learned that the dark path I walk through the woods in the morning before the sun comes up is nicknamed “the rape path.”

I have terrible luck with housing here. But it is working out. I am currently staying at Gareth’s which is a bit of a hike to get into work but luckily he also works in town so we just carpool and it all works out! We checked out a lovely wine farm this past weekend, Durbanville Hills Winery. We got a biltong and wine pairing sampler. For those that don’t know and because I do not think I have explained it on here yet, though if I did already then oh well – but biltong is the southern (I think only southern, hmmm I have to go do some research now) Africa version of jerky but a hundred times better. It is not nearly as dry as jerky and often times you can get it in all sorts of antelope varieties (kudu is my favourite). I have fallen in love with a South African signature style of wine called pinotage which is a red wine developed in the 1920s from cross between Pinot noir and Cinsaut. It is absolutely delicious! I am still learning how to be a wine connoisseur but can’t wait to learn more as I am definitely in the perfect place for wine!

I cannot believe it is nearly the end of August already! Where has this past year gone?! I am getting closer to my field work survey and am getting excited for it! I am still working on the whole visa fiasco, but I think I am FINALLY actually making some progress (fingers crossed anyways.) Oh that reminds me, in South Africa they don’t say “fingers crossed” instead they say “holding thumbs.” *shrugs* NO idea where that one came from, but it’s fun to learn the little differences like that.

Joy and her husband, Sterling are in Cape Town on holiday all the way from Poolesville. She was super kind and brought a whole suitcase for me of little odds and ends that I left back home, new Playstation games (I HAVE LITTLE BIG PLANET 3!!!!!!), PUMPKIN BEER!! and lots of American sweeties like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Lifesavers for the office. It’s nice getting an extra large care package from home and dad did a great job getting everything together. Plus my fruitcake, Alice, sent the sweetest shirts, fun socks and new toys for Ryno (which he was ecstatic over)!!! Such a wonderful surprise! Thank you everyone! ❤ ❤ xoxo

I think the weather here is starting to warm up, we are having more and more warm days. I also noticed some buds on a tree the other day – spring is coming!! I am super excited for summer here, I cannot wait to go lay out on the beach and enjoy the warm summer sun. Apparently it doesn’t even get humid here either. This place is so perfect.

Well I have some camera trap photos to classify, so I best be going. But for now, enjoy some of my favourites from a study site I am working on in Southeast Asia!

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Life is good.

Move number three since I have been in South Africa complete. Have I mentioned how much I HATE moving? This house is absolutely incredible though, minus no WiFi and bad phone service, but it is definitely a trade off. Ryno and I went on a 5k run and hike afterwards of our new “backyard.” It feels so amazing to be surrounded by nature and to be reminded of how beautiful Cape Town’s wilderness is. Though I am not sure how long I will be in this house for, I just cannot wait to find somewhere to actually settle into and not have to keep moving every month.

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View from my bed!

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I have no posted on here yet, but if you follow my Facebook, I am sure you are in the knowhow, but I have met the most incredible man. His name is Gareth and we have been dating for near a month now and everything seems to just fit into place so perfectly with him. I have never experienced a connection like this before and he makes me so truly happy in every aspect. 🙂

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Ryno is getting HUGE! He has gone into his monster, “terrible twos” stage now. We have now added “paw” to his list of skills/tricks. Paw is most definitely his favourite though, he gets so excited when you ask him for it. He walks wonderful both on and off leash. I think moving to Newlands Forest is really good for him, it’s a great way to work on our off leash skills, get some good exercise in and play with all the other dogs out hiking about the forest.

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My new roommates have two dogs a Boston terrier named Max and a little chihuahua mix named Minnie. Minnie is already over Ryno’s puppy antics and Max wants nothing more than to chase and hump Ryno all day. Hopefully (fingers crossed) those dynamics change and it all works out. Only time will tell. Having him makes all the difference for me though, my hikes and just daily life is so much better knowing that I have him to join in on everything with me. He absolutely adores Gareth too! Things are finally starting to fall into place in my life.

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Well, most things. I am still struggling with the whole visa process, but have a couple options that I am pursuing right now. Currently though, it looks like I will be back in the States just after Thanksgiving for anywhere from a couple of weeks up to a month or two. I will try to make plans to see everyone, but it all depends on how long I am around for. My new nephew will be born by then and I cannot wait to meet him! It is so weird to not be apart of my sister’s baby shower or to know that I won’t be able to be at the hospital when he is born. Thank goodness for the internet and all the millions of ways to stay in touch. I would be absolutely lost without being able to chat with Becca or Andrew on a daily basis.

Work is going really well. This week I have been going through images of leopards and identifying individuals based on spot patterns. This allows us to get a census population count as well as track the overall movements and health quality of individuals. I have fallen in love with one male in particular and think he is absolutely stunning! I get excited everytime a photo comes up of him. It is a lot of fun to track these guys. I will be heading to my field sites in about a month or so and then will be spending around 6-7 weeks out working in the bush setting up my own camera survey. Of course I am really excited to see more of the country and to spend time in the bush again. I really do have the best of both worlds here with Panthera.

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Basically, I just wanted to update yall on all that is happening and let you know that life is good. 🙂

Have a wonderful day!