Elephant Poo Paper

Friday 26 June 2015

Today, we finally did something I have been very keen to learn more of and participate in!

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The making of Thailand’s Elephant Poo Paper!

This is an incredible process that allows the poorer provinces of Thailand to make money through a sustainable process- that of an Elephant passing dung! It helps them to maintain their care of the Elephants and of the dedicated Mahouts. And here’s how they do it!

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Day One in the Elephant Village

Monday 22 June

Yesterday, myself and several other volunteers travelled seven hours on the bus from Bangkok to Surin. The differences in the two places are pretty acute! Surin, while modernised with 7/11s, Big C Supermarkets, KFC and other such features, is far more peaceful and traditional than Bangkok. It’s also much, much cheaper!

After being taken to our volunteer house in Surin City, our Volunteer Leader Nam came to meet us to bring us up to speed on the project before heading there. Nam explained that, here in Surin, Elephants are considered near enough holy. That’s why there are a number of villages dedicated to buying Elephants from cities, where they’re mistreated and kept as tourist attractions, who then keep the Elephants, and dedicate themselves to ensuring the Elephants receive plenty of food, exercise and a generally happy life. As volunteers, the money we have paid to be here is the real true help. Our presence he is an opportunity for us to be involved and see a day in the life (or a few, as it were) or a Mahout- carer for the Elephants.

Nam did also make us aware that the Elephants are chained. This is due to insufficient space in the area- if this Elephants could roam then they would eat all the crops, and the village would have no food or income. If kept in the cities, the Elephants would be malnourished and mistreated. It’s a highly complex issue, and not an ideal one, but Nam emphasised strongly that the Mahouts love there Elephants dearly, and their care should never be doubted.

After this introduction, we all went to dinner at this little restaurant next door called P-Koi! I had a super fierce Shrimp Pad Thai, which I ate way too fast but it was delicious, and sampled a couple of local drinks.

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And then pootled off to bed to prepare myself for what promised to be an interesting day!

This morning we got up and all piled onto this bus ready to drive to the village of Ban Tathit.

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And then we sat there for an hour or so because, what do you know, one of the volunteers from our house had gone missing. He was there yesterday, he seemed totally keen and then *poof* gone! They investigated his room and all that remained was the guitar he bought yesterday in Bangkok, and his key to our house. After some searching, and many phonecalls made by the volunteer co-ordinators, it was established that he had actually shot off to Brazil of all places to try to win his ex-girlfriend back. No kidding! Anyway, so now I have this new guitar.

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Thebe Dawn Drive and River Safari

16 June 2015

Yesterday we arrived at Thebe, a cabin/campsite based beside the Chobe River.

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Much like Elephant Sands, this too felt like a place of discovery, my first being the local’s lager!

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Then got my Western on

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I had opted to camp here, not only to save money but also because it’s something I’ve not experienced before, so after lunch I got straight on with pitching my tent:

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Not bad!

After that, it was pretty much just a chill out day, so after a bit of shopping on the local markets (where I bought an excellent spoon for making Nshema, as advised by Berri) we all went to dinner

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And then got a reasonably early night in anticipation of this morning’s Dawn Drive through Chobe National Park!

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Elephant Sands

14 June 2015

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Elephant Sands has been an incredible experience and I would recommend it to ANYONE who wishes to experience the true wildlife of Southern Africa without compromising the animal’s dignity, personal space or safety.

The wonderment began yesterday afternoon, when we arrived to the camp site with water pipe built in an area very VERY highly populated with wild African Elephants!

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Fishing on The Zambezi

Sunday 7 June

After much charming and asking around following my vow to go fishing on the beautiful Zambezi River, today it finally happened!

A friend of Matt’s, Owen (that being his English name, rather than his Slozi name which is something that has slipped my mind but is saved on the notes on my phone which is now smashed) delivers the mud to us each day for house building, and also indulges in fishing every weekend. Not only this, but he has a reputation of being pretty damn good at it too! He kindly obliged to take me out on the river to help me catch my dinner.

I met with he and a few of his friends at 11am (we had discussed 10am, but you know Africa) and we made our first stop back at Owen’s house to pick up their things.

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The Victoria Falls

Friday 29 May

In spite of a terrible night’s sleep, today was a great day!

Every Friday, Paula needs to go to a Rotary International meeting in Livingstone. On top of this, there’s been a few flat tires recently so Dan and Matt also had to go in Livingstone in the only remaining truck to buy spares. So this meant there was no work for me today as there was no vehicle free to drive the equipment around. But what I could do was take advantage of the spare seat in the truck going to Livingstone, in order that I could use this as an opportunity to see The Victoria Falls!

I got dropped at The Jolly Boy’s Hostel, where I’d stayed before, as I had noticed they do a free minibus to The Falls for guests in the hostel, which I managed to sneak onto successfully with no questions asked! Also on board were three others; Lewis from Essex, Caroline from Germany and Denise from Ireland. Once we arrived, Lewis went in solo, but the girls and I stuck together!

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Monkey Business

17 May 2015

With one week to go, I’m pretty excited to leave Kwantu and getting going to Zambia- particularly after receiving communication about the kind of charity work I’ll be doing there and what I can expect from the itinerary!

It occurred to me that, over the two months I’ve been here, I’ve probably obtained a lot of things not all of which need to stay with me. So I used this morning as an opportunity to have a “practise pack”.

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Ah. Where to begin.

Luckily, Sofia came to the rescue halfway through this quest (which, I’m pleased to say, found success in the end) with an outrageously delicious sandwich of ham, tomato and lettuce, secured in perfect harmony with melted cheese, lightly spiced and with a smoked garlic and rosemary olive oil drizzle…

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Sofia bought these ingredients yesterday and has been excited every moment since about the prospect of a week of making herself tasty sandwiches!

All I can say is, thank goodness she got one out of it, because less than an hour later a monkey broke in and stole her precious bread!!

I couldn’t believe my eyes as she went to the extent of chasing him down the road in an attempt to get it back! But then… It was a very tasty sandwich…

Kittens and Bookworms

15 May 2015

As threatened, I spent last weekend here at Kwantu in order to prepare for my approaching Nature Guide exam, and intend to do the same this weekend! Luckily, the other students have chosen to do the same so there is company, but what helps even more are our newest residents:

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Despite their complete lack of a knowledge of boundaries, their cuteness is very welcome and works well as an excuse to have plenty of breaks from excessive studying.

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The Beauty of Nature, The Tragedy of Man

1st April 2015

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Today was another interesting and beautiful day!

It began with a walkthrough of the animals living here in the reserve rather than on the game safari.

This includes a beautiful tiger, who was bought as a pet by a family in India and then surprise surprise got harder to manage as she got older! So Kwantu swooped in for her ownership.

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There’s also a gorgeous family of lions, and two stunning cheetahs.

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