Duck in Orange

I have just woken up on day 5 of 9 (if you count weekends) of a week off work that I’m sharing with Charlotte. Sometimes, between her being a rugby-playing-therapist and me being a two-jobs-Joe, we’re a bit like ships in the night and don’t really get much time together. So this week is all about doing nothing, together!… Or, almost nothing!..

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Good News and Goodbyes

24 May 2015

Well, I’ll start with the news about my Nature Guide exam!

I passed my practical!

It was actually an incredible drive, down more to luck than anything else. As soon as I entered the reserve, I found a pack of six lions hunting. I followed them all the way to the watering hole of Kwantu’s only hippo, who we could see peeking out the water. “He’s fine” I thought “He can see the lions. He won’t put himself in any sort of danger.”

Then, to my amazement, the hippo got out the water, marched right up to the lions and chased them all away with their tails between their legs! I mean, I knew hippos were territorial but… Wow! It gave me plenty to talk about!

Next we saw some rhinos, but didn’t stick around for long as the examiner was keen to see me do some tracking…

We finally found some droppings which I stopped to take a look at and, just my luck, I’d never seen such a type before! I used my guiding and tracking tools (in other words, a book about poo) and although it took some time and very careful examination I finally (and correctly!) identified them as Eland!

It wrapped up with a beautiful view in the valleys and a few teas and coffees!

That afternoon was my practical exam which, if I’m honest, I felt less than prepared for… I’ll find out the results in a couple of weeks but to be honest, I feel more than satisfied following that practical!

After the exam, Densely took us students on one last unforgettable Game Drive

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Before dropping us off at dinner, where they recognised me on the Kwantu register by my recent CORRECT title!

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Thank god I did that “practise pack” on Sunday though, because after an early morning three hour drive and the adrenaline of a two hour written exam I was ready to drop, and frankly good for nothing. So the next morning, I got up a little earlier to pack my bags and say my goodbyes to the Kwantu staff that had really made my time there as enjoyable as could be!

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Cape Town Day 3: Mzoli’s!!

03 May 2015

Today, we had a cheerio with Lena who (after 9 months of travelling!!) is finally returning to her family in Luxembourg. So for our final activity, we went on a Free Tour of Cape Town.

As we had already discovered in the Slavery Museum yesterday, Cape Town has a dark and fascinating history and has made significant social growth in the short time since apartheid rule has thankfully been defeated. I was particularly interested in the benches outside the Cape Town courthouse

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I’ll never be able to comprehend the logic (or lack, thereof) that was applied here.

Finally though, after wishing Lena a fond farewell, Sofia, Tilly and I ventured out to a Cape Town Township of Guguleta to visit a whispered about area for lunch called Mzoli’s.

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Cape Town Day 2: Neighbourgoods, Chocolate, Slavery and Beer

02 May 2015

This was a great GREAT day, not only for the foodie in me, but also for that little girl with lots of questions that never quite left me as I got older.

First, the food!

We jumped out of bed in the morning and skipping breakfast intentionally, as we heading down to the Cape Town Neigbourgoods Market- and awesome gigantic Food Market, with what I like to call a “things market” on the side.

Frankly, this was just ridiculous. My stomach was crying out with a painful hunger that got worse the more I looked around! There was just too much damned choice!

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Lauren and Sofia’s Grand Day Out

30 April 2015

Today was a very exciting day indeed! The day of the night that we travel to Cape Town!

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As our bus was not due to leave until 21:30, selected with the intention to sleep more or less the entire journey, Sofia and I decided it wise to fill the day with lots of eating and walking around- the best way to get sleepy. What better place for this than Port Elizabeth’s Green Acres Mall!

We began with a very hearty lunch at Mugg & Bean, a lovely Restaurant/Café chaining starting up here. They provided us with delicious iced teas and coffees

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GOODBYE SARAH!

26 April 2015

This weekend was Sarah’s final weekend in Port Elizabeth! She is due to fly back to Germany tomorrow afternoon and I think I can speak for everyone when I say we’re going to miss her greatly, but what an excellent last weekend in PE we showed her!

We’d had this master plan to go to the EP Kings Rugby Game and follow it up with dinner at Cubata (after all, I did vow to return, and what better weekend than this to introduce everyone to their meatlicious delights?)

Unfortunately, some genius got the kick-off time wrong, and mistook 15:00 for 5:00… So, everyone missed the game, but we also had quite the adventure negotiating a set of tickets from a touter, realising our error and hastily recruiting a member of the Mandela Bay security to get our money back for us! A close call, a good story and a lesson learned!

Most people had been more keen to see the Mandela Bay Stadium itself rather than any kind of game, so I made up for the mix up with 24/12 hour clock with a charming little line for security

“Excuse, I’ve come all this way with this tour group, who are obviously a bit upset about missing the game. Most of them were just keen to see the stadium, can we please have 5 minutes just to look around?”

They very kindly obliged, and I led my tour group inside.

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Welcome to Paradise.

Sunday 22nd March

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Goa is a wonderful place! The people are more friendly, it’s more diverse and extremely hot! We’ve had a welcome weekend to be as lazy as we like (no temples, no mountain climbs, nothing!!) so have been spending almost 24 hours a day on Majorda Beach eating at Mishmar’s. The food here is delicious, and I’ve been particularly impressed by all the variety of fish caught right here each morning!

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 Talk about fresh!

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So far I’ve indulged in a variety of delights

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The famous and coveted Goan Fish Curry is something I’ve been excited to try for a while, and it didn’t disappoint! I loved every mouthful!

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Now to work on charming the recipe out of them.

Tomorrow begins our volunteering. We’re all going separate ways on different projects this time, and I will be working in The Fisherman’s Village in Colva, teaching the children while the parents work. I’m a little nervous after my last experience of this in Jaipur, but let’s see how it goes!

Flowers and Waterfalls

15 March 2015

 As though yesterdays mountain climb hadn’t been enough exercise, today we walked to see the Bhagsu Nag Waterfall here in McLeod Ganj. This is formed from all the snow at the top of the mountain melting downwards. There are also pipes in place, laid out by the locals, which lead to tap at various points in Bhagsu village, creating a free and communal water service!

It was only a 15 minute walk, but all up hill!

Once we got there… I have to say, it wasn’t exactly a wow of a waterfall, but it did make for a fun photo op.

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I’m Ariel!!

 We’re now on our way back to our accommodation in Palampur. During yesterdays treck, I was shown a flower growing on trees in the mountains that is indigenous to this State and only bloom from January to March. It’s called the Rhododendron. They’re edible, and our guide explained to me that the locals use them for two things. The first, making a jam that is bought and sold here. The other for making a spicy chutney. “Where can I buy the chutney?” I asked. “You can’t” I was told, “it’s only made in the homes of local people. Perhaps if you take some back with you the Palampur, someone working in the hostel can help you?”

A brilliant idea! So, I’m now clutching a bag bursting with Rhododendron, ready to try my luck in Palampur, and crossing my fingers that I might just get the opportunity to try something completely different…

The Taj Mahal

11 March 2015

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Yesterday, we visited the extraordinary Taj Mahal in Agra, which overlooks the River Ganjes is quite honestly even more beautiful in person than I could have imagined! Built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a loving gesture for his wife who sadly died when giving birth before construction was completed, it now houses their tomb.

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To consider this was all done by hand is really hard to get your head around! It’s absolutely flawless, with perfect symmetry everywhere you look!

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Had to be done.

 We’re now heading back up to Delhi where we’ll be catching the overnight train 9 hours all the way up to Palampur, and have stopped for lunch on the way where I found this

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Uttapam!

Just like my sister and I had together in the Thali Dahl in Bristol just before I left!

It was delicious! I just wish she had been here to enjoy it with me.

I also managed to find somewhere to stop and get some post out!

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Keep an eye on your doormat!