Always looking for animals

Sam, Katy, and Noggs in Africa

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Mistletoe and wine

On Christmas eve we used NORAD to track Santa. When we looked he was dropping pressies on Turkmenistan. As this is somewhere eastish we knew he was on his way! Christmas eve was also a time for cheesy xmas movies on telly. Have you ever heard of ‘Call me Claus’? Whoopi Goldberg is recruited as the new santa and if she doesn’t accept the position the north pole will melt, the world will flood and everyone will die. Intense for a kids film. Don’t worry though it all works out – Whoopi finds the spirit of Christmas and becomes Santa.  Phew!


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On Christmas we had a jolly time opening pressies. We got lots of lovely things including the littlest hobo box set, a Japan travel guide, balloons, lots of sweets, t-shirts and a bag with a land rover defender on it. Sam also received the most lovely gift from his dad – a free Daily Mail CD of Christmas with Cliff Richards. This provoked long conversations over dinner about the song ‘Mistletoe and wine’. Does he put logs on the tree or kids on the fire or gifts on the tree? None of the options made much sense.



Dinner was immense. Here’s Sam-ta preparing some delicious foods!


We were joined by Julia, Pete (who’s a bit camera shy), Sarah and about 70 baboons in the garden. We wished the baboons a merry Christmas and they all went on their way wearing their Christmas jumpers (I wish). We all ate way too much and enjoyed the stinkest cheese known to man. We missed our families but were glad for good food, good friends and baboons.




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You can go faster but I can go anywhere

Recently Katy achieved one of her lifetime ambitions: she bought her own Land Rover Defender.  Its a bit bigger than the Ford Ka she drove in Durham, and a lot heavier on the diesel, but that’s not the point.  In Zimbabwe we missed out on a lot of the wilder places that we always wanted to visit because we didn’t have our own 4×4.  Now we don’t have to miss out. A popular sticker on the back of 4x4s says “you can go faster but i can go anywhere”.  We have always enjoyed exploring remote places and watching wildlife, and now the Landy will allow us to do just that.  We used to drive Defenders for work in Zimbabwe, so its great to finally have one of our own.

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Dad would be impressed with the cargo space and roof rack – imagine how much timber and foam you could carry dad!

In southern Africa there is a big rivalry between owners of the different types of off-road vehicle. Although often referred to as the vehicle that tamed Africa, today Land Rover owners are in the minority and they get a bit of a tough time. We became the butt of a few jokes before we collected the vehicle. But Defender owners are a passionate bunch – we always get a wave from other Defender drivers, and one guy we met said

if you cut my veins, little defenders come out!

Since our Landy is white we christened it Mukiwa, which is a term used to refer to white people in Africa (plus the title of a good book). It was derived from the word originally used by Africans to refer to Europeans explorers, and translated literally means “aimless wanderer”.  We thought it was a good name for the Landy.  That plus its going to get very mucky!

We will be testing out Mukiwa on a camping trip to Kruger National Park over New Year with Julia and Pete.  A Defender is overkill for Kruger, with its tar roads, restaurants, shops, bank, post office and golf course (!), but it is nearby and has great game viewing.  Hopefully we will be able to avoid the worst of the crowds by staying on the gravel roads and sticking to the less populated north of the Park.  Stay tuned for (hopefully) pictures of lions, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, crocodiles, hippos, elephants, rhinos, impala, giraffe and zebra, all gnawing on each other/humping!  Or, more likely, a few shots of us braaing and looking hungover.

Kruger itinerary

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Sam and Katy out of Africa

The past two weeks we’ve been leading an Earthwatch team so I haven’t had time to write about all the exciting things that have happened over the past month. Let’s start with November…we were out of Africa and jetsetting.

We went back to the UK to get our proper visas so we can stay in South Africa for 3 years and also for Sam’s PhD viva (which went amazingly well!!). In order to get the visas you have to drop off your applications  in London and come back a few weeks later.

England in November is cold, dark and expensive. I decided that my backpacking skills were a bit rusty and should be honed again so I went to Thailand and Laos for 2.5 weeks with my friend Sally. When I got back I picked up our visas and we flew back to South Africa.

In Bangkok we shopped on Khao San Road, ate lots of pad thai, saw the reclining buddha and went to a 4D cinema to see Puss in Boots.


We were also lucky enough to be there for Loy Krathong – the festival of lights. We went up to the Golden Mount with thousands of locals to be blessed by monks and ring gongs. Then we floated flower arrangements in the water. Normally they are floated in the river but because of the flooding it was only in designated closed in areas.



We took the sleeper train to Vientiane in Laos, did a bike ride around the city and enjoyed the view from the top of their version of the arc d’triomphe.



After that we went to Vang Vieng to go rafting and Luang Prabang to enjoy the culture. While there we also rode elephants and bathed them in the Mekong River. I had the most fantastic disco bunk bed at the hostel too.




Our final stop before heading back to Bangkok was Phonsavan where we did a 2 day hike through the countryside and saw the Plain of Jars. We stayed in a local village homestay.



All in all it was a great trip but it’s good to be back at Lajuma now and getting ready for Christmas in the bush.

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The Primate and Predator Project has wheels! This week we got a quad bike. As our current camera trapping grid covers 60 square kilometres, the quad bike will be extremely useful for checking camera traps which are too far to walk out to.

Yesterday Sam, Marine and I had a test drive around camp. It’s quite fun and zippy. There is a very steep road with lots of rocks on it called Spike Road on the western side of the mountain range. It’s going to be interesting to see how the quad copes with it.

For our parents who read this blog…we have helmets to wear so have no fear.


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