Week 4, IPR

Day 22 – The Lion Park!
Day off today with Neil, Lauren, Bryony, Liam and Ollie! Waking up at the lovely time of 6:30am for a 7:00am departure, together we ventured off to Hammaskraal and managed to stick together as a group travelling all the way to Pretoria. The driver of the combi was incredibly helpful, taking us to Hammaskraal then driving us all together to Pretoria without us having to change buses. Upon arrival, we set off to the Tourist Information Centre, hoping to get a vague idea of how we could continue our journey to The Lion Park.
After general mix of luck, Liam’s sociability skills with the Tourist clerk and a bit of negotiation, we managed to secure two taxi’s, both agreeing to wait for us while there, for a return cost of 270 rand each!

Dividing into two groups of 3 with one guy and two girls in each, we set off for an hours drive to the Lion Park! We laughed at the quirky toilets on arrival, and purchased entry tickets for 195 rand (£19.00).

Lion Park Arrival!

‘Lion’ toilets 

The taxi journey there 🙂

 A really fun and chilled out day followed:
– Stroking absolutely beautiful lion cubs.
– Having a drive through tour of the Park with lions, cheetahs, zebras, antelopes and wild dogs.
– Burger for lunch!
– Taxi back, quick visit to the craft market in Pretoria and the bus back to Kromdraai 🙂

Lion cubs ❤

Liam, Bryony and Lauren on tour 🙂

MEERKATS

Lion Park Tour

Cheetahs too 🙂

Only downside of the day really was that I still didn’t have my voice back! Oh poor taxi driver. Trying to make conversation with me. I tried making vague attempts of sounding at least half normal. I bet he thought I was a 1000 a day chain smoker or something. Dam westerners and their health habits :P.
We arrived back home to a crowded braai area with the accumulated number of volunteers at the sanctuary. Me and Neil washed all the monkey bowls the night before, all ready for a lightening fast morning feed at 05:30am the next day :).

Day 23 and 24 – Morning Feed, Best night in decision ever and a Monkey licking my face. 
The beginnings of day 23, 05:30am morning feed! I set my phone on vibrate for 5:15am as a means of trying not to disturb anyone as I left (10+ people in our dorms now!). Strangely enough, this morning feed I wake up 5:10am, without any aid of a alarm. Such a brilliant psychological phenomenon right? Mentally preparing for waking up before we doze off, then waking up at a utterly convenient time.

 Me, Neil and Jax all set off for morning feed, finishing it very quickly, seeing as bowl washing was completed the night before. Together we helped with the house chores alongside morning feed, then I spent the rest of the morning happily seated in the holey hammock, with a warm cat on my lap and a book in my hand. The sanctuary was beautifully quiet and the sun rose around 6:30am, no-one wondering about, no loud conversations, just peace and quiet. I remember feeling really content, hardly worth going to bed :).

After breakfast of peanut butter and jam on toast, 9:00am duty commerces with checking for holes in enclosures and blocking them. Day 23 saw the first time we were given pizza for lunch which was a nice treat!  Beats the frozen soup by a good margin 🙂

Typical lunch of vegetable soup 🙂
Rest of the day:
– Volunteer duties of course! 1:00pm Top-ups with Tracey, Clothing enrichment of cages and 3:00pm pellet time.
– Everyone having a good old chat lying around in the dormitory, examining the new addition of the ‘bunkbed of death’ seeing as it was extremely narrow with no ladder, and no railings. 
– My voice began to regain normality from today! Sounding normal but just a bit deeper then usual.
– Cut my foot quite bad on some stray spiky branch or brambles or whatever they were. (put a plaster on it, but it was still wins the prize of ‘Dirtiest Cut Ever.’ 
– Ate a baked caterpillar, compliments of Didler (happy & hard working French guy married to Louise). It was spiky and excessively chewy, didn’t taste of anything and made me gag a little. Wouldn’t want to eat one again, but try everything once as I always say :). 
– Potato Bake for dinner made by Auri 🙂
and Day 24?? Began the day with waking up EXTREMELY cold. I didn’t take off my hat, scarf and gloves all day. 9:00am was observations of little Mai Tai, his behaviour slightly erratic and wiring in yet another trapdoor, this time for Goblin and Hope. It was extremely hard to shut them off in the feeding area! Basically involving endless temptation of marshmallow in an attempt to get them to shift. 
My last monkey time………….went in with the lovely Chimera and Kermit! Chimera kept licking my face (probably the sun-cream) which was extremely ticklish! 
Face licking LOL

Sugar ring doughnut treats 🙂

Monkey Time buddies – Lauren and Neil

Me, Vicky and Katie spent the afternoon going down to Petronella (the local supermarket) to pick up food goodies and other stuff people craved too. Everyone was getting hyped up yet another night out at Hatfield, which I didn’t put myself down due to being quite illl, general lack of interest and no money! The taxi arrived for everyone at 8:00pm (one hour late again), which turns out to be a rather large car/small van for 14 people to cram into. The day after, people complain of the taxi getting lost, the sitting on other people’s laps and generally being squished in like sardines.
That night with just me, Vicky and Katie on site (and Intrajit in bed), the lack of people being quite a relief. I took advantage of a extremely long shower (without people turning the taps on!), spent the evening roasting marshmallows together and chatting, then stargazing in sleeping bags, lying down on the picnic bench, nearly falling asleep! South African night sky = beautiful. There is no light pollution, no cloud, no horrible tall buildings that entail civilization, just a stunning backdrop of stars glowing absolutely everywhere. Best decision I made staying in that night rather then conforming socially and going out to very typical western setting of bars/clubs :).

Day 25 and 26 – Spreading the ‘Illness love’, More Volunteers??
Day 25, er journal wise, is about four bullet points lol. Day 25 saw the departure of Lauren, and the addition of Nikki and Gabrielle. Two really lovely people that I got to know in my last week of volunteering. I nicked Lauren’s bed (bottom bunk), wanting to have a dog in my bed (6 dogs on site, 2 of them tend to sleep with volunteers).
I had Hoolio night 26! Basically the only male dog on site with the reputation of ‘slut’, moving around the girl’s dorm, sleeping in various beds on different nights. He was absolutely beautiful. Basically this warm and incredibly lovable dog who loves sleeping next to you, under the duvet.
I earned the reputation as a crazy cat lady too, basically picking up kitties (Rufus, Noir, Squidge, and Tilly), and putting them in the dormitory. It was so comfortable/lovely sleeping with cats, especially Noir who had the tendency to sleep on you, and lovely Rufus, who climbed up on my bed and would wait there. I really can’t wait to have a cat or dog. I love them so much =)!!
and the daytime, day 26? I had a rubbish day off! Hardly anyone had a day off to, hence the boredom. However, I spent the afternoon with Vicky, taking a combi van to Hammaskraal and browsing around the small shopping complex there. This day I apparently give poor Bryony my illness. Although I really think it’s inevitable to be ill at IPR at some point! Living in a moudly room does have its cons :\.

Hoolio!

Day 27, 28 and 29 – FIRE, Invasion of IPR, Bed boxes, feeling up people and just pure gloominess when I realise that the end is near…..
In all honesty, I did not have any daily journal entries for these days. There was this crazy lingering fear of leaving, and writing the dates in my journal only made it too real. On my last day, I wrote very roughly the happenings of day 27, day 28 and day 29. All of which, were very eventful!

Day 27? A massive, massive bush fire! Apparently reaching incredibly close to the sanctuary itself. Where was I? I was out dogwalking with Tracey! I’m away for just 30 minutes from the sanctuary, and a fire occurs….>.<
Farmers typically slash and burn their land as a means of improving cultivation. South Africa being so dry, fire can quickly become out of control. Volunteers described the craziness of beating the flames back, the awful heat when one got too close, the speed of which the flames spreaded and the ash absolutely everywhere. The fire invoked team spirit. Nearly everyone worked together. Carrying water, beating back fire with tree branches and just about every physical effort possible to prevent the spread. Poor April got walloped on the head, Clyde got burnt on the forearm and breathing for quite a few volunteers was laboured due to ash inhalation. I still can’t believe I missed this, away for just 30 MINUTES. Although I must say, a beautiful and congratulatory effort for everyone involved, illustrating the care and dedication of volunteers at IPR.

Day 27 duty wise, me and April spent the morning speedily doing bed boxes. Basically going through a obstacle of a enclosure, standing on a table and using a big stick to knock the bed boxes down into our hands. Take out old blankets, wipe with bleach, replace with new blankets x 20.

April crawling through a full enclosure with our reaching stick.

Day 28, Morning feed with April, Gabrielle and Tracey! April’s alarm didn’t go off, (oops) but we managed to get there relatively on time. Tracey said it was the quickest morning feed she’s ever done, which was really lovely to hear :).

At 9:00am, me and Krystelle collected wheelbarrow, after wheelbarrow of clumps of grass for Dale and Howard’s new enclosure. We dug in the roots where possible, and managed to cover a fair proportion of the enclosure with what we collected. I didn’t witness the transfer of Dale and Howard, having departed IPR when it happened. However, it really was a great group effort. In the month I volunteered for, I saw the transformation from completely empty enclosure, to one enriched with the imagination and creativity of everyone involved. A great team effort and a lovely new enclosure for two marmosets (even if it did take a whole month LOL),

New enclosure with tent, tunnel, hanging hammocks, hanging  boxes, branches, ropes, balls/bowling pins and rope ladder. 
Endless clumps of grass we gathered…
The night of day 28 saw me accidentally stroking Neil’s leg under the table. Completely innocent and unintentional of course!!! Narmay (a sweet and soft large brown/gray dog) was under the table, we both stroked her together. Next thing I know, she’s gone somewhere, I reach down to stroke her. Oh this texture is a bit weird…I glance down to see a pair of legs and Neil looking a little bewildered. I actually couldn’t help but burst out laughing and publicly apologising for my actions. (Oops, living up to this ‘hussie’ reputation, stroking people’s legs under the table =L.
Poor Neil (Me teaching her capnapping)

Day 29 was just depressing. I really, really did not want to leave. I also mistaked my flight details, thinking I was flying the next day because it was ‘Next Day Arrival’. It was incredibly lucky that Tracey asked me to check my flight details when she did, or I would’ve missed my flight! I was really reluctant to check my flight times the whole week, just another delay tactic of leaving. This resulted in a crazy shock of leaving a day earlier then I anticipated, and missing out on going to the De Wildt Cheetah Park with April, Nikki and Krystelle. The night before I left, I found a letter under my pillow, with a chocolate peppermint crisp bar wrapped inside, addressed from Gabbi. She was in Johannesburg on the weekend of my departure, hence the letter for the really lovely farewell. It was so incredibly sweet and thoughtful of her to do and it still makes me smile that she made the effort to do something so considerate.
I was to depart at 2:00pm. I did top-ups at 1:00pm. Felix (the sweet capuchin) reached through the mesh and stole a glove (which I managed to get back). I hung with Liam, Bryony and Katie, helping with the installation of shade netting on Dale and Howard’s enclosure, until the end.
It was a horrible, horrible feeling to leave, I just didn’t feel ready for it, I was ready to stay another month should the opportunity arose to. Chino (who for the past few weeks has been really bitey with lots of people about) gave me a hug and made some of his little twittering noises like he knew I was going. I held onto Lulu before I went and had to say bye to everyone and all the animals I grew to know and love.

Felix and his ‘play’ face and handshaking
My favourite past time: grooming the beautiful Cassia
Little and lovable Lulu

Chubby Pixie 🙂

Yappy Poppy 🙂
1 hour drive to the airport. I was pretty mopy from leaving, hence the lacking of trying to make conversation. Amazingly Sue said she really liked my name and would love to name Gabbi’s babies (a pregnant marmoset, should she have a girl) after me.  I was soo extremely flattered by this! A baby marmoset with my name at IPR…wow!

Arrival at the airport and a hug from Sue, I’m left with a suitcase and a thirteen hour flight back to the UK. I go to Castello, for a last treat of south african rump steak (as recommended by Jax) and was served by a incredibly charming waiter, called Marvin. I sneakily hand him a 20 rand tip as I depart, unsure if he’s able to keep tips if I left it with the bill. He tells me to “keep in contact”as I leave. Eh?? I am in a airport, I’m leaving the country, mate. It was then I realised he probably left a number/email address on the back of the bill which I didn’t check. Oops.

Uneventful flight and back to civilisation. I think of the luxuries back home, internet access, meals that aren’t chicken grisle and stew and a bed with a mattress more then 1cm. Home life is appraised way too highly. Nice to have surely, but for me, it didn’t effectuate my happiness in any way shape or form. South Africa was a wonderful trip, although I didn’t get to experience much in terms of culture and exploring the area, I rediscovered my crazy love for animals and met a incredibly varied but lovely group of volunteers. 


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