Day 5: Wednesday July 24th 2019
My early morning call wakes me at 6:00am. I have woken a couple of times, but slept much more comfortably than the night before, confident that all our students are safe and being well looked after.
I shower, pack and check out before going in for breakfast at 6:45am. Standard fare for me – fresh fruit and yoghurt followed by ham, cheese and onion omelette. Many of the staff have similar. Miss Vaughan, not normally a breakfast person has a ham, cheese and mushroom omelette and enjoys it so much she has a second one.
We are on the coach by 7:20am and arrive at school by 7:35am. Virtually all our young people are present, a little bleary eyed but happy both with their experience of last evening and looking forward to the game lodge later today.
Cases loaded, we hop on the buses and settle in ready for the journey ahead. Oh dear! Mr Thomas has a problem – he can’t find his group’s passports…! We search his bags but it’s confirmed, they must have been left at the hotel. Bus 2 will go back to the hotel to pick them up and then follow on to meet us where we stop halfway.
Bus 2 makes good time and passes us enroute. Following Mr Thomas’s drama with the passports there are mutterings that Mrs O’Sullivan should be put in charge – a potential mutiny in the ranks on bus 2! Mr Mason says he has full confidence in Mr Thomas – anyone can forget the passports!
We re-group at the stop at 10:00am. Mr Thomas reluctantly organises the third Donkey of the Day vote, fearing he may well be in the running for this one. As usual there are no shortage of notable contenders:
1. Kian Webb – for rubbing hair wax all over his face thinking it was moisturiser.
2. Joe Hawkins-Cole – for buying two pan pipes at penguin beach, one for a cost of 400 rand, and then selling it for 170 rand a short time later.
3. Mabon Kaniewski – for knocking over a display shelf in the shop in Sheila’s restaurant and subsequently breaking everything on it. He also later fell off the chair while arm wrestling one of the PV lads.
4. Mr Thomas – for his little incident with the passports. “I didn’t lose them, they were exactly where I left them!” pleaded Mr Thomas, similarly to Dr Hughes in 2013 who ‘mislaid’ the school camera. There is a serious move amongst the students for them to be put in charge of the teachers – “We’re more responsible than they are!” one was anonymously quoted as saying.
5. James Northey – for breaking the tap off the shower in his host’s house and trying to cover it up by putting it back on.
6. Jacob Purcell – for getting himself locked in a toilet and having to climb out of the window.
Votes are counted and the winner is……Mabon! With 42 votes to his name he is handed the t-shirt. However Mr Thomas is not allowed to escape from his earlier mishap and is also made to don a donkey of the day t-shirt.
We arrive at the game lodge on time at 12:30pm. The excitement is bubbling as we can see two elephants about half a mile away as we drive through the gate. There are also Impala, Zebra and Springboks as we make our way up the drive.
We have a pre-paid lunch of pasta and tomato sauce and garlic bread. We pay for two drinks for each tourist from the central tour fund.
After lunch we are taken to our rooms. Some of the girls are lucky enough to have been allocated the luxury deluxe rooms which feature a Jacuzzi and outdoor showers. Mr Meredith looks online at the price of a room, and if you were to book one for a night next week it would cost £700!
I am in one of the chalets. The view from the verandah is stunning and as I look down the hill I can see a giraffe and antelope at the waterhole-wow!!
We have two hours to relax before our first game drive at 4.30pm. Most of our students change into the swim wear and go to the large outside pools-the water is a little cold but that’s not going to stop them and the energetic ones enjoy an hour expending some energy while those who are less energised spend time relaxing and enjoying the warmth. However, news has reached us that the UK is gripped in a heat wave with temperatures in the mid to high 30s. We all agreed that that would be much too hot for us!!!!!
I return to my chalet and switch the TV on. South African TV is covering the test match back in the UK. I settle down to enjoy a little. It is just after lunch and Ireland are 35 for 1. They have either been making slow progress or it rained before lunch. Then ‘Bumble’ comes on-“What a dramatic day we’ve had, England bowled out for 85 before lunch”-WHAT, I can’t believe it. The scorecard comes up and it’s true. The Ashes test series against Australia starts on August 1st, while we are away and I’ve brought my England World Cup winning polo shirt that was a birthday present from my sons, to wear while we are away-it could be staying in the bottom of my case!!!
We assemble at 4.15pm, split into groups of 10 and set off in different directions to see what we can spot with our guides. Our jeep is driven by Hannes who as you can expect is both knowledgeable and passionate about the wildlife and the role the reserve is playing in conservation.
Initially we see two elephants they are the first of Africa’s ‘Big five’ they are 19 and 32 years old and weigh 3 and 4 tonnes respectively. Their trunks are incredibly flexible containing over 40,000 muscles compared to the 600 in the human body.
We spot a yellow mongoose scurrying across the surface and Hannes tells us that they are very brave animals regularly challenging and killing the very venomous Cape cobra.
Next it’s Elands, the largest breed of antelope in Africa. They weigh over a ton and are similar in size to buffalo.
Three ostrich are in the road in front of us, they are the fastest animal on two legs with a top speed of 70 kms an hour. The general view was Cameron Clayfield was quicker than that.
Then we spot a White Rhino and calf, this is No. 2 of the ‘Big five’-the calf weighed 700kgs. If they charge they reach a speed of 45kms an hour. The female’s horn was over a foot long and very sharp-no one was going to annoy her. Cameron felt like taking her on in a race-we advised against it.
Next it was a herd of Wildebeest. The dominant male with around 20 females-the other males kept their distance until the next season when the strongest male would challenge the sitting incumbent for the right to accompany the females.
The Zebra form tight family units with their distinctive striping allowing the young to immediately identify their mother. The Kudu was a very timid form of antelope. We saw two bulls and a cow.
The next of the ‘Big five’ was a herd of Buffalo. When faced with a challenge the Buffalo’s strategy is not to run, but stand its ground. In fact Buffalo kill as many Lions as vice versa.
We spot a Cape Hare dart across our path and at the same time the most dangerous animal in the Southern Cape brushes past Mr Cullen’s arm. The highly venomous Cape ‘Twig’ scares brave Mr C to death “Uhhh, what was that?” he exclaims and turns ashen immediately. No sympathy from his colleagues on the jeep though-just much mirth-who needs enemies when you’ve got friends like that.
We arrive back at the Lodge at 6.30pm, enjoy a warm up around the camp fire and then go to the restaurant for dinner. After a starter of Butternut Squash soup, we are treated to another excellent buffet including Ostrich, Kudu, steak, chicken and venison sausage along with a wide variety of other dishes. A choice of 6 sweets follows and we again pay for drinks for the group from the Central Tour Fund.
After dinner, we give details of the arrangements for this evening and then for tomorrow. It is the major challenge of the tour, an arduous journey that will take over 24 hours and include three separate flights. I’m sure what awaits us in Australia will be worth the effort.
With an early rise for our morning game drive at 7.00am and a long journey ahead we set a curfew of 10.00am. No one complains.
Miss Vaughan had organised a quiz on bus 1 for the journey to the lodge from Cape Town-Cameron Clayfield and Iwan Jones were ‘Boffins of the Day’ with a score of 43 from the 46 questions. They won’t be having a sleepless night on the day before A level results. However, GCSE results day may be more of a challenge for Alex Hughes-he thought a T-Rex was one of the ‘Big Five’.
Minor ailments are starting to take hold within the group. Nia Hopkins has been suffering from a sore throat for the last 48 hours and was unable to play netball in Parel Vallei. We have been advising saltwater gargles and things to be improving. Lewis Grove appears to be starting to suffer similarly-we advise the gargles overnight and will assess in the morning.
Casey Williams sprained her ankle during the netball game against Parel Vallei. Peter Cort has been applying strapping to support it and it appears to be improving.
Finally, Miss Morgans has some unexplained bruising on her legs. We transfer her to a doctors surgery. With us only having a short time left in South Africa the Doctor suggests we get a blood test for her when we arrive in Australia-which we will do.
All are in their rooms at 10.00pm and we go to bed for an early night ourselves.
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