Always looking for animals

Sam, Katy, and Noggs in Africa

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Ladies in Blouberg

Today we had a ladies day – Africa style. Myself and four other lady researchers at Lajuma went to the nearby Blouberg Nature Reserve. Sam opted out due to the dangerously high levels of oestrogen in the land rover.




We saw giraffe, blesbok, impala, warthog, baboons, vervet monkeys, squirrels, nyala, sable, gemsbok, zebra, kudu and a giant tortoise. In order to see everything we employed some unusual game viewing measures.




The giraffe and hornbills were very outgoing and I took a lot of nice photos.




We stopped at a big baobab tree which Erin climbed up like a monkey.



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And of course on the way home we stopped for ice cream. It wouldn’t be a ladies day without dessert, would it?



Tying the knot

Someone asked me on New Years Eve what I was looking forward to in 2012. The big answer is getting married! We got engaged in November last year. Sam gave me flowers and chocolates with a special message. By the way Beans is my nickname in case anyone is confused.



We will be getting married in South Africa and the date is finally set. It will be August 31st – the end of winter here. I have set up a tab on this blog which will be populated with information on the wedding for our guests.

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In South Africa people eat a lot of pap. Pap is the staple food and it is ground mielie-meal. It can be eaten in about a million ways. It’s kind of like the long shrimp dialogue in Forrest Gump – you can eat it as porridge, with chakalaka, with meat, with vegetables, for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner, you can fry it, you can feed it to babies, you can eat it at a braai, you can eat it hot, you can eat it cold, you can make it into paptert, etc…

In order to make pap one of the key things you need is arms like a wrestler. The old ladies in local villages have some serious muscles from grinding it and then stirring it as it solidifies into a substance so strong and so starched that a spoon could never fall over in. My weedy Western arms don’t stand a chance which is one reason that Sam makes the pap in our house.

We used to eat it in Zimbabwe as well. In Zim it is called sadza but it’s the same thing. Like Rudi in the Mighty Boosh, pap goes by many names including ugali, nsima, phaletshe and banku.

So the other day in the spirit of trying new African dishes Sam made paptert for lunch. It is basically like a lasagne made of pap. It has cheese, tomato and other veg layered between pap. If you want to make it yourself click here to go to the very same recipe that Sam used. Have a look at the pics below. It was super tasty and I bet the photos will make you hungry even if you weren’t hungry before. Just writing this post is making me hungry.



Better than the south

“I always have the light of my nife with a bottle of Amarula”


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Some friends (Julia & Pete), a few drinks, two tents and a Land Rover turned out to be a recipe for a fun alternative new years weekend in Kruger National Park.  But before we even arrived at the gate we were distracted by a sign.  “The home of Amarula – take the next right”.  Without a second thought Katy changed course and before we knew it we were drinking free Amarula and stocking up on essential supplies for new year’s eve.  For the uninitiated, Amarula is the South African equivalent of Baileys, but it is made from the fruit of the marula tree, so it must be better for you, right?


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Sadly the Amarula didnt survive the night.  It started with a scientific experiment at Tsendze Rustic Camp near Mopani Camp, to see if we could tell Amarula from Wild Africa. With a sample size of four (and of course multiple replicates), we concluded that it is possible to tell the difference, but both are good.


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Mopani camp is named after the mopani tree that dominates that area of the park, and at this time of year the whole place is alive with mopani worms, edible caterpillars that people collect and eat.  You have to squeeze them (alive) until their guts pop out before you can eat them, but we didn’t feel mean enough to do that ourselves, although we have eaten them before. They taste nutty!













We entered the park at Phalaborwa gate, next to the town of the same name.  The name means “better than the south”, possibly one of the best place names in the history of the world! Most of the accommodation was booked out due to the holidays, so to avoid the worst of the army of tourists we stuck to the less populated northern section of the park, although this also meant we didn’t see as many species as may have in the south.  Despite this we still spent a lot of time watching elephant and buffalo, along with zebra, giraffe, and plenty of birds (although we all know birds don’t really count).  It was nice to see lots of the southern African animals again that we used to see frequently in Zimbabwe but that don’t live up the mountain at Lajuma.  Although we didn’t see any large predators we did hear spotted hyenas, see leopard spoor, and we found a three legged baboon we named ol’ stumpy!


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To save a bit of money we bought the “hard top” Defender model, which means the back seats are of the less comfortable, inward-facing bench variety.  This worked out fine, although it turns out that in order to get the best visibility it helps to lay down.  As a consequence occupants of the back seats (usually Julia & Pete) spent most of the trip horizontal. 


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Since we have long-term visas me and Katy were able to buy a Wild Card at the local rate (75% discount).  It cost about the same as park entry fees for 3 days each as an international tourist, but with the card we can now visit almost all of South Africa’s national parks for free for the next year.  So with Mukiwa and the Wild Card, I’m sure we will be back again soon!


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