Always looking for animals

Sam, Katy, and Noggs in Africa


Actual walls

This week we have been house- and dog-sitting for Oldrich and Judy (thanks!) while they were away on holiday in Botswana and Zimbabwe.  Although we really enjoy living in our tent it has been great staying at their amazing house (which is also on Lajuma).  It has a number of luxuries including electricity, internet, a mobile phone aerial, a washing machine, a functional fridge/freezer and actual walls!

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Unlike our tent, their house is set away from the cliffs, so its really sunny and warm here, and we have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to have sundowners in the garden each afternoon.



The dogs (Megan and Hazel) were great, and Hazel especially enjoyed keeping Katy warm in the evenings, although the two of them often had to fight for control of the blanket!




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Look out!

Today we went on a hike with our assistants Andrew and Naiara, and we thought we would share the view from a lookout point.  See if you can spot our tent and some of the camps and houses on Lajuma.


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Our jobs involve running the Durham University research project on predators and primates, but also working with groups of Earthwatch volunteers that come out every so often for 12 days at a time to help with the project (see here).  Our first group of Earthwatch volunteers left today, and all 6 of them seemed to have a great time.  While they were here they helped with a range of activities including collecting in the memory cards from the camera traps, sorting through the resulting 10,000 images that were taken since the cameras were set up a few weeks ago, identifying each species and individual leopards, setting up new camera trap stations (Jane was an amazing leopard impersonator), collecting leopard and brown hyena scats for later dietary analysis, conducting a carnivore sign transect, collecting observations of primate behaviour, and mapping out all the fruiting and flowering trees along a phrenology trail.  They also had days out hearing about human-wildlife conflict from community members and Tash at the Blouberg Nature Reserve, and took a day off to visit Mapungubwe National Park.  And everyone fell in love with Bushy, the resident bushbaby that visits our garden every night.


Thanks to everyone for your help and hope you have a safe trip back to the US and to England!


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Help my krap winkel

Hi everyone! All is going well in Lajuma – the sun is shining, baboons are foraging in our garden and our first Earthwatch group is enjoying their experience here.


Every Monday we have the opportunity to leave the mountain and go to the exciting metropolis of Louis Trichardt to forage in Pick N’ Pay supermarket, Prima Slaghuis (the butchery) and in Ocean Basket, our favourite restaurant in the world! We buy food for the week which we cook either on our 2 ring gas powered hob or over a braai (barbeque).


Louis Trichardt is about an hour’s drive from Lajuma. It’s really not that far though – half of that time is taken up by the rocky rough drive down the mountain. We are still amazed that our local town has just about anything you could want to buy. The picture below on the left shows just how well stocked the supermarkets are. This is compared to Bulawayo (below right) which barely had any food or anything for that matter when we lived there. However on this note…we waited for ages in this long long queue to post some cards at the post office. The line did not move. Eventually an Afrikaans lady came and told us about a much shorter line that was for stamps. We queued again. An hour after we entered the post office we got to the front of the line only to be told in an apologetic manner that they had run out of stamps. Argh. Only in Africa.






While wandering around Louis Trichardt we saw this sign which implores passerbys to ‘help my krap winkel’. This made us laugh – winkel means shop but I’m yet to ascertain whether krap has the same meaning in Afrikaans as it does in English. Also note the person wearing the blanket. Africans love to wear blankets all the time. They wear them as clothes and also use them as baby carriers. 


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The best thing about going to town is Ocean Basket. This is the best seafood chain ever and they only have it in southern African countries and Cyprus for some bizarre reason. We had been dreaming about it for ages and I was worried that the reality might be a let down. I shouldn’t have worried. It was as good as ever! We had a platter for two which had heaps of prawns, mussels, chips, fish and calamari. Sam also enjoyed the local lager, Castle.


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Finally here’s a picture of Dr Vickey’s abortion flier. It’s just another one of the interesting sights to be seen in Louis Trichardt.


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The Durham magnet

It’s Katy here! We have spent the week settling into Lajuma and into our tent. We’ve been pretty busy learning about camera trapping and setting out our first cameras (hopefully we’ll get some good pics of leopards!!). Yesterday we had a crash course in the leopards of Lajuma and today we went out watching Samango monkeys.

Here’s a pic of one of the monkeys from today. There will be much better quality ones coming soon.


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Our friend from Durham, Natasha, is doing her PhD research nearby and she came to stay for 2 nights. Lajuma seems to have a mystical magnet deep within its mountainous core that draws people from Durham’s anthropology department here. Two more of our friends who we know from Durham will be back here soon too. We weren’t that surprised that we were invited to work here as it was our turn for the magnet to draw us here.

Tash took us for a walk down to a nearby waterfall. Here are some pics from our hike. Thankfully we took them before I hiked back up the mountain because my face turned as bright red as my top!


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