Lions & Tigers & Fun OH MY!!!

Trip Start Sep 07, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Kwantu Private Game Reserve

Flag of South Africa  , Eastern Cape,
Monday, October 5, 2009

After killing some time waiting for our ride by writing postcards, we finally saw our pick up sign for Kwantu.  We walked to the vehicle and as soon as we saw it was a seven passenger van, it was already so much different than African Dawn, no one had to sit in the trunk with all the luggage!!  It was about an hours drive before we finally arrived at Kwantu Game Reserve, but before we even arrived we had seen Giraffe from the side of the road...already an improvement on the mammal part and we were in the car!!
Getting to Kwantu finally and driving to our accommodation was exciting.  It turns out the game reserve used to be a small town, which has remained in tact for the most part.  There were two churches that are still used a few times a month by surrounding townships, a grocery store/post office, a school and then of course accommodation for staff, volunteeers, and the 5 star hotel for guests.  We were dropped off at our new 'home' called, the Kubs 1/4's.  As the three of us walked in the door, I think all of our jaws hit the was GORGEOUS!!  A large kitchen, large table for everyone to eat at, 3 different sitting areas all with brand new couches and chairs, one with a wood burning fireplace and one with a flat screen tv with satellite and dvd player.  We no longer have to hang out in our beds after dinner (which lead to falling asleep super early).  Next stop, our rooms, separate rooms for guys and girls this time.  Girls on the left side of the building, guys on the right, or should I say Alex on the right (he was the only guy volunteering while we were there).  16 beds in each room, grouped in two's, each set of two separated by a wall partition.  Definitely alot more privacy here than at African Dawn and alot more of the feeling you had your own space.  Each section had a dresser with storage, 2 drawers under the bed, a lockable storage trunk at the foot of the bed & a head board with shelves to put your stuff on.  We had a bathroom for all the girls to share that had three showers and three toilets in our more going outside to the washroom in the middle of the night and fearing Sabrina the emu was going to attack you!  So we unpacked, got settled and then Fortune took us on a tour of Kwantu.  He took us to the hotel, we saw the rooms, which were gorgeous, showed us the store, the workshop, everything.  It seemed massive compared to African Dawn, but as time went on it definitely didn't seem big at all.  We then had a little time to finish getting settled, spent some time chatting with Chidg (a girl who has been at Kwantu for 4 weeks already).
Then finally it was time for our first meal, where we met Alex & Henny (who is kind of in charge of the volunteers while we're working).  We were served food from the hotel because the lady who normally cooks for the volunteers, Mamma Lydia, was away.  We learned after the first meal that we definitely would be eating better than we do at home.  We had hotel food for the next couple days, which we thought was great, until Chidg & Alex raved about Mamma Lydia's cooking, especially the homemade bread, EVERYDAY!!  And then just like at African Dawn we were in bed early, resting up for our first day of work....EXCITING!!!

All of our alarms go off at 6:30am, time to roll out of bed, put our work clothes on and head out to the patio to wait for Henny to come get us at 7.  Our first stop of the day, and everyday, meet Moses (he is a ranger but works with the volunteers so we are able to go places where the wild animqls are) and the Tiger Cubs!  Everymorning at 7 and every afternoon at 4:30 we go to their enclosure to play with them and bottle feed them their formula.  They are the cutest things EVER!!!  Tikka & Masala!  If you sat down they would crawl all over you, try to bite you, they ,ade the cutest noises ever, which Alex can immitate quite well (haha), they just always made my day!  Then after the feeding was over we headed over to the predators camp, where they have the parents to Tikka and Masala, Cheetahs, Mufasa the Lion, Two wild 5and vicious) dogs, and then one enclosure of 15 or so Lions.  We walked around looking at all the 'predators', and then we got to watch William, Nicholas & Deek feed them...I think they were hungry, you know a lion is hungry when it jumps into the back of the truck to grab some meat! We then headed over to Ben's enclosure.  Ben is a tiger (the brother to the babies) and in his encloser there are also 3 other lions, 2 white lions and 1 other lion.  They are all around a year old, so they're not full grown, but they're definitely big enough to do some damage.  And yep...we went right into the enclosure with them.  The one instruction we got, was to never turn your back to Ben, because she (her real name is Jasmine) will pounce on you from behind and bring you to the ground (playing) and all the others will join in.  Then while we waited for the ground to dry up to go 'burn' we headed over to the site where they are building a big aviary (thankfully they didn't have it anywhere close to built and no frickin birds here!).  We helped Moses put basically a telephone pole into a hole in the ground, for one of the poles to the aviary.  It sounds like an easy task...but when the pole weighs a ton, and none of us are 8 feet tall it is pretty difficult, not to mention when we realize after attempt one, the hole is not deep enough.  So while Moses fixed that problem, Leanne, Harriet and I began to mix some cement.  We finally got the pole up poured in the cement and rocks to keep it in place and called it a day in the aviary.  Next task of the day, to start fires and put them out with branches, crazy right?  Its just another normal day at Kwantu.  William pulls up in his truck and we are instructed to jump into the bukky (which is the box of the truck).  So of course the tailgate doesn't come down, so you h ave to step on the tire, step on the rail and then hop over.  I learned you have to hang on for dear life, just because there's people in the back doesn't mean William slows down while driving!  The first few days my hands hurt fro, holding on so tightly, my bum hurt from leaning and bumping against the rails, but soon enough I became a pro at riding in the bukky.  We arrive in a field/valley, that stretched as far as the eye could see, and we are told that we need to burn the whole thing.  Uhhh we are handed a branch and William starts lighting the ground/brush on fire.  So apparently we have to control the fire so it burns in certain directions, at the time I thought they were crazy, I think I even asked if they were kidding, and Moses asked, how do you do it in Canada, my response 'We put out fires with water' lol.  It turns out its fairly easy to control the fire...or it was on this day anyways, you just had to smack it with the branch if you wanted to put it out.  So after a few minutes we all became pros at putting out fires.  We spent the rest of the day at the fire.  (Breakfast at 10:00-10:30, Lunch at 1:00-2:00 and then they day is done at 5 Dinner is at 6 - same routine everyday).  After having dinner and hanging out with everyone for a bit, we were all pretty exhausted so I was pretty much sleeping by 8 ish.

Woken up at 5am from the monkeys running on the roof and the lions roaring in the distance, I was wide awake and ready for another day.  It was too wet first thing in the morning to go to the fire, so after feeding the babies (Tikka and Masala) first stop the nursery.  Kwantu grows all their own herbs and plants in the nursery that they use for cooking, so we spent the first part of the morning moving pots around, and planting new plants.  It was kinda just like gardening at home, not too exciting but it was still fun.  After breakfast we headed to the Elephant Sanctuary.  Keep in mind we're in the back of a truck, flying down the gravel road, ok no problem.  But once we hit the highway, we all kind of looked at eachother as in 'are we really standing in the back of a truck on a highway??'...YEP we sure are!!  It gets pretty cold standing in the back of a truck doing 110 down a highway, just in case you didn't know.  We finally arrived at the elephant sanctuary to do some work.  Fortunately for us, the machine was broken, so instead of working, we got to ride the elephants!!  With just the trainor and a blanket on the elephant we each hoped on to our own elephants and went for a little ride around.  It was pretty cool.  I've ridden elephants before, but they had the big comfy seat with bars all the way around you, this was definitely more authentic.  In the afternoon we spent our time at the fire.  This is where it got a little out of control.  After watching the starting line and putting all that fire out Chidg and I were taken to the opposite end where the Fire was spreading to and would end.  We hoped in the truck with was only a 5 minute bukky ride but that probably was the worst 5 minutes of my life.  We were literally tosseled and almost thrown out of the back of the landrover numerous times.  I already had bruises forming when we got to our destination.  Anyways...we were waiting for the fire to get to us and were supposed to stop it at the first road, but as we were in brush trying to put the fire out with our leafless sticks the smoke became so thick I couldn't even see my hand in front of my face.  I had to yell to see if Chidg was still here and then they next thing we can feel is extreme heat.  The fire had made its way pretty much right in front of us, and the next thing we know William is yelling for us to RUN to the road.  Which way the road was we didn't know, but we started running away from the fire.  Soon we were out of the smoke and heat.  At the time it wasn't the most fun thing I've ever done, but after the fact it was a good story to tell everyone once we got back to Kubs 1/4's.  Even more funny once we heard Leanne and Harriet were taking pictures of the crazy fire, while Chidg and I were IN the crazy fire haha.  So we burned most of the field...but that would be the end of our burning days for the remainder of our stay.  Once I showered it was crazy to see how much soot and ash was on my skin and my white socks permanently grey/black.  Good times!

Okay, so now I can't remember the order of how all these things that we did went...but I remember everything we did at least, so I'll just randomly talk about them, and here it goes...

We spent some time in the game reserve at the site of the old Tiger enclosure.  They were taking it down as they were working on building a new enclosure.  So anytime we headed out onto the game reserve, we first of all need to be in a vehicle (usually the Land Rover, if we were going without William) and secondly we needed a ranger with us, which was usually always Moses.  So once we got to the burm (I think thats what they called it)  Moses wanted to pull the landrover into the enclosure because there was a horney elephant around which he didn't trust (so that was interesting) and then it was time to start taking the fence down.  So we started pulling the wires out so we could start rolling the wire.  While we were doing this I think Harriet asked if there could be any wild animals in here, and Moses response was, well there could be, I haven't had time to check out the whole enclosure, so just be careful (sounds pretty safe hey?! Horney Elephants, and possibly Lions all around us...haha).  We spent two different times here rolling the wire, and during this time we got to have some pretty interesting and intense conversations with Moses...some of which included evolution, do you believe in it and why haha. 

Another part of the work day we jumped into the back of the land rover and headed out to a game capture fence in the reserve.  This was a fence they put up so they could dart certain animals.  They would chase the animals into this direction and then finally it wouldn't be able to run any further, so they had a better chance of darting it.  Anyways, we had to take all the poles down, and pile them up so that we could use them in the future.  Again we had to keep our eyes and ears open for animals, since we were right in the middle of the game reserve.  But luckily we never saw a thing really.

The place where we spent most of our time working for the two weeks was the new fence enclosure.  On our first visit to the enclosure there had already been fence poles put in place, and our job was to 'Stomp' or as Moses likes to say 'Shtomp'.  This is where we basically took another pole and pounded it into the ground around the pole, packing in the earth/sand around it while making sure the pole remained straight.  Tiring work after a while, but we managed to get them all string the fence wires.  I must admit this part was my if anyone needs a fence made (more of a farm fence for animals) I can definitely help!  There's a roll of wire at one end, and someone takes the wire and starts walking it down to the other end and ties it to that pole in place (there's a pole marked with all places the strings should be).  Once the string is tied we cut the wire and use this chain thingy to pull the wire tight, and using pliers and/or strong fingers wind the wire around the pole and tie it off, then remove the chain thingy and have a wire strung!  Now only 15 more to do for that section of the fence to be finished.  After we had all the wires strung, it was time to put in the droppers.  These were just extra poles to be placed (just standing on the ground, not in the ground) for more strength.  We had to make sure they were straight and evenly spaced and then wrap tiny pieces of wire around the pole (on each strung wire) and twist it around tight with pliers.  After a while this is definitely hard work...your hands get quite a work out to say the least.  I must say though it was kind of rewarding to see the progress of our work.  It started with poles in the ground and turned into a real looking fence.  I can't imagine how long it will take to finish the entire enclosure, as we only did one part of it, but I could always go back to help!

We had only worked in the nursery twice...but the second time was definitely a lot more eventful than the first.  It was raining on this particular day, and you can't really do all that much in the rain.  So we headed to the nursery.  We were doing the same thing, moving the potted plants around and then loaded them in the tractor to be moved to a location that was a little further away.  While working, Harriet had decided she was going to put some mud on her face like war paint, and then Leanne wanted some too.  Before you know it, this started a big ol' mud fight!  I continued to work, while I watched everyone get their faced shoved, smeared and gooped up with mud by everyone.  I remained clean until Moses came a long and smushed his hands on both my cheeks (thanks a lot by the way Moses :p).  When you thought the mud fight was were wrong.  It kept going for quite some time, and Leanne and Moses got a little out of hand, mud was being put down shirts, they were falling and sitting in mud piles, Leanne's hat got filled with mud and put on her head compliments of Alex I believe, it was crazy...but FUN!  Until Simon yelled at us to get back to work...but the fun still continued.  Eventually it was time to head back for took most of us a little longer to clean up to eat.  And Leanne had to take her jacket off outside so all the mud could fall out of it, and eventually she had to clean it in the shower to get it all off.

When we were in need of a 'break' from hard labour, Henny & Moses took us on a game count once.  That was pretty cool.  It was the first time for us to really be on the game reserve to look at all the different animals.  We saw the typical, Giraffe, Zebra, Wildabeast, All the different 'antelope' like springbok, brizbuck, kudu, etc. and lots lots more.  We also went on a couple game drives too...all in the game drive vehicles that guests would be taken in.  Definitely a nice change from riding in the back of the bukky!

On the two Thursdays that we were at Kwantu, we actually went into a township in the area to serve them lunch.  Kwantu does this everyweek at the same school.  It was really cool to see the kids, and be able to be involved with such a good program.  You could tell the kids really appreciated it, and were glad to have food in their bellies...most of the plates would come back spotless.  The first time we went it was generally older kids probably ages 8 to 15 or so.  But the second time we went there were a lot more younger kids, which were super cute.  The girls all got us to play net ball.  Which is kind of like basketball...but when you get the ball you can't move with it.  It was a little confusing because we never knew which way we were shooting it seemed to change to whatever was convenient...but it was still an awesome time!  One of the girls names was Leanna (not spelt like that though) so once they found out Leanne's name, they were super excited.  But for the rest of the day any of us girls from Kwantu was called LEANNA! (Super cute)

Our first weekend off, we headed to Jeffrey's Bay.  We had already been there before when we were at African Dawn, but it was still good to go back, and this time we were staying at a backpackers called Island Vibe.  Definitely a party hostel, but still fun.  It was myself, Leanne, Harriet, Alex and Kerry that went, along with Fortune who had the weekend off and came with us.  We got there in the evening on Saturday, so we had the dinner they were serving there, and then Leanne and I brought out the cards and started teaching all the 'kids' drinking games.  Kinda funny because we stressed how you should pace yourself while playing, like when you have to drink, just take a sip, not drink half your drink because you will get drunk!  But of course they didn't listen to us.  We played for quite a while (Leanne Harriet and I definitely pacing ourselves) while Alex and Kerry did not.  Leanne and I were able to slip away at some point to head for bed, and left all the kiddies playing cards.  It was definitely interesting to watch them all roll into the room later that night or should I say very early the next morning.  The funniest definitely was Alex (boy).  At one point Kerry asked him to get something that had dropped under my bed, so he crawled under and ended up falling asleep.  All you could see was his legs poking out from under my bed.  I let him lay there for probably half an hour until I poked him and told him I think he should get out.  But he insisted he was comfortable and it was nice and cool down there.  Eventually I pursuaded him to come out and he did.  He would wander in and out of the room for quite some time, everytime he would come back in he'd look so lost, then he would walk around the room, using the beds as standing aids and then leave again, come back and do the same thing.  In the morning nobody could find any of their things, until I pointed out they were under the bed thanks to Alex.  One night, Alex literally slept with a beer.  He took it to bed and ended up waking up in a bed soaked with beer...ohhh boy you're too funny! haha.  We went shopping one day, most of the stores were closed unfortunately, and it was raining, but we went for lunch together and had a good day.  On our last day we headed out around 10 and went into Port Elizabeth.  We went shopping for a bit, we were on a mission to find Fortune his shoes he wanted...and we did.  Leanne and I also wanted to make pumpkin pie for everyone seeing as it was our thanksgiving at home, and no one had ever had pumpkin pie before...but we were unable to find PUMPKIN (and some other ingredients), so we settled for making the Ward's famous Chocolate Balls...definitely a hit with everyone.  I think there were probably over 100 per batch, and I think I ate 3 out of the 2 different batches, and the rest well I think Alex and Harriet consumed!  Everytime you would go into the kitchen you'd find someone stuffing their mouths, or find their hands covered in icing sugar...even Fortune was caught a few times!  They were quite a hit, we shared them with Henny and Odi, Moses, Kumblani, and the guys at the store for getting us free butter!

The last week we were there Shakir (the owner) set up a Brai for us (a BBQ) and we were able to help cook on the fire.  It was super good...all the meat you could ever dream of, it was crazy!  We had a nice dinner and chat up at the hotel, there were all us volunteers, henny, Moses, William and his son and Fortune.

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