Sunday, 21 June 2009

Back to Work

I’ve been back a couple of weeks now and they have been pretty eventful to say the least!

Firstly, getting back here turned into a drama as I was booked on a flight that didn’t exist! How the hell do you do that I hear you ask? Well, I had booked my ticket from Gatwick to Windhoek a while ago but the fine people at Air Namibia failed to inform me that since my booking they had decided not to fly from the UK anymore. So on the day of my flight I went online to see if it was on time only find no trace of it, so I called Air Namibia where I was then told the news and that my only option was to fly out the next day via Frankfurt. Great. So I eventually left the UK the following day on a flight that did exist and landed in Frankfurt where I then went about using my English charm on the Air Namibia staff in the aim of getting an upgrade. My first attempt was with the check in staff, I walked past the huge que and went straight to the business class desk and told them my story and that I was unsure what class my ticket was and that I really think I deserve a business class seat. So the ladies started checking my ticket but also decided to check me in anyway and send my bag weighing 32kg straight through without charge (economy class only allows 20kg). They then told me that I didn’t have a business class seat and they didn’t have the authority to upgrade me. Which was disappointing but hey, I had beat the que and got away without paying an excess baggage fee!

My next attempt was with the lady who checked my boarding pass at the gate and I again told her my story only to be told there’s nothing she can do, HOWEVER, she told me that the head of Air Namibia Europe was on the same flight and that if I hang around she will give me a signal and let me know who he is. So that’s what I did, I sat outside the gate and kept glancing at the gate lady looking for the signal. I was sat there for ages with the clock ticking down to departure time but then I saw this well dressed man in a suit and tie come over and start talking to some other Air Namibia staff, the gate lady gave me a discreet nod of the head and I decided to pounce! I introduced myself and again told him my story and said I was planning to write a very nasty letter of complaint, but if I was upgraded then I might change my mind. However, he apologized but said they had a strict policy of not upgrading and that the flight was fully booked. Bollocks!!! So I sat back down looking sorry for myself, I was sat looking very sad for about 10 minutes when the Air Namibia head walked past, looked at me and then walked back to where he came from. Two minutes later he and another staff member approached, he said he changed his mind and handed me a new seat number….business class!!!! RESULT!! So I ended up having a very comfortable flight to Windhoek and actually managed to get some sleep. Never underestimate the power of the English charm!

I was relieved to finally land back on Namibian soil, and this time I had my visa on me and there was no 8 hour wait in customs! I picked up a rental car Kate had hired and was very proud of myself to find my way out if Windhoek and back to CCF without getting lost! It was great to get back to CCF and see everyone again and found myself feeding cheetahs within an hour of getting back! At Boskop I gave the dogs a big hug and they love the doggie treats I brought back for them, and Kate also liked her English souvenirs, however she is really not a fan of my English gentleman hat I brought back which I now like to wear just to annoy her. Ha ha
The day I came back was also the day we sadly had to say goodbye to one of our volunteers, Ashley, who has been awesome. So we took the rental car and had a nice meal at Otjibamba, one of the best restaurants in town. In getting there we must have set a new world record as we managed to cram 14 people into one car! It was a great evening. If you are reading this Ashley good luck with whatever comes next and we will miss you, you’d better come back next year!!

Feeding all the cats the next day was great, and it was especially great to see my Xena again, who greeted me in her usual loving way with hisses, spits, growls and paw slaps. She and the other 3 girls are now trained to run behind the feeding car for their meat. She is an amazing runner and looks beautiful in full flow; she really is the greatest cheetah to have ever lived!!

My first week back saw the arrival of 21 International Course participants and 7 Earthwatchers so it has been pretty crowded. However, the course people are very nice and the Earthwatchers have been great!! One of them is probably the coolest person I have ever met, his name is Dennis and he is a doctor for the movie industry and during his career he was the doctor on the set of…wait for it……BAYWATCH!!!! And you know what that means??! Yes that’s right, he has actually met the HOFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was bowled over when he told me, it has been amazing to get so close to someone who has actually been in the presence of the great man!

The others have been a pleasure to have here as well, including Swiss married couple Michael and Michaela who are one of best looking couples in history and would therefore also be one of the most annoying if they weren’t so nice. I will miss Michael especially as we have had lots of laughs and have a lot of shared interests, including an appreciation of the hoff!! For so long I have been the only one here championing the great man so it was great to meet someone else who knew the words to the classic hit ‘Looking for Freedom’ and sang along with me loud and proud! I will also be forever grateful for his suggestion of putting Amarula in custard…..liquid heaven!

It was littleC’s birthday last week and as a treat we gave him a donkey head all to himself. His pen mates Ron, Ndunge and Shunga also got one and watching them tear into their meals was very entertaining. They were still chewing on them the next morning and their bellies were huge so as we didn’t want them to explode we didn’t feed them that day.

I also had a very interesting experience with a vicious baby warthog! I was feeding Cruise with Jess, a new volunteer and some of the Earthwatchers when we heard this awful screaming coming from the silver pens where Klein, Merlot and Josie live. I ran over only to find Josie in his feeding area with a baby warthog in his mouth. I started shouting and he dropped it, only for him to pounce on it again. The little warthog fought like a demon and managed to wriggle free where I was then able to close the feeding area guillotine, separating predator and prey. Ok, now some of you are asking why I just didn’t let Josie finish him of? Well, baby warthogs are damn cute and the screaming was HORRIBLE to listen to! Most importantly Josie could have taken hours to kill the poor lil guy so I made the split decision to spare the baby warthog’s life… Ok! So the task at hand then was to try and get the warthog out, but the lil feller was psycho!!! He was attacking the fence and trying to get to Josie who was still trying to get to him through the fence and when Klein and Merlot came to investigate he charged at them too!

I fed the cats to get them out of the way and myself and Jess entered the feeding area armed with gloves and sticks. The warthog saw me and came at me full speed, with one intention….murder! I managed to get out the way but back he came for more! Jess and I tried for several minutes to herd the warthog out of the enclosure but he was having none of it, and he kept charging, biting Jess’ jeans in the process. We were left with one option, I just had to grab him and chuck him out. So Jess distracted him with the stick and I, like a Ninja, snuck up from behind and lunged forward, grabbed the warthog’s back legs and hoisted him up in the air! He screamed and wriggled as I walked out of the feeding area. I then threw him forward away from the enclosure only for him to turn straight back around and charge at me again!! I had to smack him about the face karate kid style a couple of times and make him turn around where he then realised freedom was in front of him and of he went! Phew! It was a titanic battle worthy of heroic song and maybe one day a blockbuster movie.

My interesting tales doesn’t end there though as I had one of the most amazing mornings of wildlife sightings ever. I had dropped of the volunteers at the hides in our game camp for their 12 hour waterhole count and on the way back I decided to head towards the big field and enjoy the sunrise; it was about 6.30 in the morning. I was halfway down the road heading towards the big field where I then saw something unusual sat in the middle of the road. It appeared dark and my initial thought was wow, a brown hyena?! So I crept forward and it slowly dawned on me that what I was actually looking at was a leopard cub!!! I glanced to the left and on the opposite side of the fence that was along the road was another cub! I couldn’t believe it. I turned of the engine and sat there for 15 minutes watching the cubs who didn’t seem that bothered by the huge people carrier in front of them. I took some pics which aren’t amazing but I did take a really good video but unfortunately internet here is too crap for me to upload it. The cubs eventually ran of into the bush and I continued my journey home. As I was driving along the big field I was greeted by another amazing sight, a HUGE herd of Eland. Eland are the biggest and most elusive antelope here so to see so many was awesome, they saw me and started to run. Seeing this spectacle in the light of the sunrise was pretty amazing. But it gets better!! I was almost back to CCF and I was driving past our old quarantine pen which is no more than a 100 metres from the Hot Spot (our dining area), when there, right in front me, sat in a tree was ANOTHER leopard!! I screeched the car to a halt right in front of the tree and for a few magical seconds I sat there staring right into the eyes of what appeared to be a beautiful female. I slowly reached for my camera but as I did the leopard climbed down the tree and ran of into the bush. UNBELIEVABLE! Needless to say I told everyone back at CCF what I had seen and understandably they were extremely envious!
Last night we had a party to say goodbye to the Earthwatch team and a great time was had by all, for once it is very sad to say goodbye them. I dressed up smart for the occasion and everyone agrees that my hat is super cool, everyone that is apart from Kate who still hates it! But Dennis says I looked amazing and remember, he’s met the hoff so he knows a thing or two about style!
So there we have it, a pretty interesting return to life here at CCF!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Back Home

Well, its time for me to head back to CCF tomorrow which is just as well as my tan is fading and my tummy is growing rapidly due to all the food I've been chucking down my throat! Its been really great seeing family and friends again, especially my mum, sis and Nan who I do miss quite a lot.

It felt very strange being back and the weather was not what I have become used to! Granted the fact that I walked out of the airport in shorts, t-shirt and flip flops didn't help but boy was it cold!!! I arrived home and discovered that the house looked rather different with a new front door, new windows, a new sofa and I also found that my bedroom had been converted into a computer room. So i have been sleeping in the loft which has been pretty cosy and the first day I was able to sleep in was GLORIOUS!!!! One day I am proud to say, I did not emerge from my bed until 3pm!! I haven't spent all my time sleeping however, during my first week back I went to London with my sis with the aim of meeting up with CCF vet tech Rachael, who was catching a connecting flight at Heathrow, however the airport staff wouldn't allow her to enter the check in area and so we were unable to see her :( This was bad enough but considering we had had to leave early in the morning at peak time the train tickets cost us £55 each!!! So me and sis decided to have breakfast at the airport and I had one of the nicest full English breakfasts I've ever had! Just look how happy I am in the pic below!

Seeing as our trip to London had already cost us £110 collectively we decided to make a day of it and we went to the Tower of London and then onto Covent Garden where we had a nice Italian. It was a great day but boy were we exhausted when we got home.

One of the things i'v missed the most is going to the movies and I have been to see quite a few since being back and here are my verdicts: Angels and Demons - pretty average, not as exciting as the book and Tom Hanks just isn't right in the role. Wolverine - Lots of nice explosions but that's about it, pretty disappointing. Drag Me to Hell - One of the best horror movies ever made! Thoroughly enjoyed it. Star Trek - AMAZING! You do NOT have to be a trekkie to enjoy this, honest!! I'm also going to see the new Terminator film tomorrow just before leaving for the airport, very excited!

Another thing or should I say things I've missed have been my cats!! Sadly Saffie passed away a couple of months ago but it was great seeing our two ginger boys Sam and Robbie and it took me a while to become accustomed to just how small they were as I'm used to the bigger variety these days! When I first went to say hello they ran a mile from me which made me a bit sad but they soon remembered who I was and it was just like old times and Sam often kept me company on my bed at night :)

I'v tried to meet up with as many friends as I can but sadly due to one reason or another its not been possible to meet up with everyone. If you are wondering why I have no pics of said friends then thats because I was a total idiot and left my bag containing my camera on a train and it has never been seen again, so I hope the bastard who took it and didn't hand it in is enjoying their new toy.

I've spent quite a bit of time with the family and had some really nice days out including a day at the coast in Bournemouth where I picked up some super cool sunglasses and had an English cream tea and a proper English fish and chips! oh yeah!! We also went to see my grandad in his new home and was glad to find him well and happy.

It was my birthday on the 28th of May and I am now two years away from 30 which is a pretty scary thought!! To mark this glorious event I had almost the whole family come round for a BBQ (by this point the weather had significantly improved) and a jolly time was had by all with Mum doing her usual great job with the barbecuing. Although I did miss a tasty bit of Oryx! One of my birthday treats was to go to London with Mum and sis and see the Lion King musical which was fantastic! I don't usually like musicals as the songs usually suck but this had great, catchy tunes so I loved it and it made me pine for Africa.

So thats about it, I've enjoyed my holiday and I will be sad saying goodbye to my family tommorow but I'm looking forward to getting back as I miss the cats, especially my Xena! :)
So cheerio England, i'm heading back to my African adventure!