AFRICA!! (finally....)

September 24, 2007 - Shangani, Zimbabwe

I am back in New Zealand after lots of travelling... well I have been back for a bit, but things have been a little crazy trying to adjust to the time difference and getting back on track with classes... Here are the things I have been up to since my last post!

It was a stressful week of school before graham and I headed off to Africa... both of us spent a few nights staying up all night to finish assignments... so we were pretty tired when we finally took off!!

Wednesday August 8th:
After finishing up all of our school work and turning it in... we were officially packed and ready to go to the airport! Of course, after we got halfway to the airport...I forgot a few things that I laid out to take, so we turned around and headed back to campus!! On our second attempt... we got ALL THE WAY THERE!! We both got pulled aside for a random search and yellow wand metal detector test... I got blamed for that one... We boarded the airplane... and got 3 seats to ourselves.. and flew for about 14 hours.. it was terrible because the movies that I watched on the flights to/from the states were the same!! Once we landed in Singapore, we changed into warm weather clothes because it was 80 degrees and SOOOO HOT! I loved it though... although my straightened hair decided to turn into a giant puffy mess... We took a bus over to a place called Suntec City walked around, and then went over to the Singapore Zoo to the Night Safari. We got to watch a creatures of the night show, go on a few walks, and an awesome tram ride.... I dont have very many pictures from that night because i couldnt use my flash because of all of the nocturnal animals. It was very awesome though! We caught a cab back to the airport...fell asleep on the way... then went to one of the airport lounges and had a shower before the next leg of our flight.

Thursday August 9th

We boarded and took off from Singapore at 2am and headed out for Johannesburg... this flight was around 11 hours I think... and by that time we were both pretty tired...but excited to finally get there. When we landed in South Africa, we had to separate for a bit so that I could get a visa...and then we got our bags and headed out to the arrival area to meet Paul and Caity who were coming there to pick us up! Paul is Graham's best friend from home and Caity is Paul's girlfriend. It was really nice because she is a pre-vet student too, so we had lots to chat about on the long drive from SA to Zim! We drove from the airport to Paul's flat in Pretoria and met Paul's brother and dad, and then headed off for the 8 hour drive to the border. We stopped for gas... and our bill came to 500 rand. that is almost 100US.... just for 1 tank of gas... so i think its time for everyone at home to stop complaining about gas prices... because it is ALOT worse anywhere else in the world you go!!!! We stopped and had food at a place called the Ranch... then drove on to the last town before the border called Messina (or Mussina?). We had to do some shopping there since there is no food in Zim right now. Look up Zim on yahoo news and read a bit about what is going on in the country... it is terrible. We bought about 10 loaves of bread and bulk of any items we could find... We saw one of the entrances to one of DeBeers diamond mines too... We made it to the border...and luckily it only took us an hour and a half to get through... usually it takes up to 5 hours!!! We were very lucky. We had to go through the South African side... then we drove over and repeated the same process on the Zimbabwe side. I got a visa for Zim... then we got in the car ocne again and drove across the bridge into Zim...we saw a crocodile swimming in the river below, and monkies and baboons hopping the fence (which i thought was awesome!) The police stopped us on the other side and asked if we had anything for them.. some people give them candy or cigarettes...and so he was not impressed that we had nothing for him! We headed 45 minutes from the border to Beitbridge...on a pretty bumpy dirt road! There were donkeys all over the place... people use them to get around... we drove over a dried river bed to get up to Paul's house (it was really dark) and then had dinner with Paul and his family. Pauls dad brian is an amazing cook. They own a citrus farm... and we got to drink fresh orange juice every morning!!! They had a crazy bird that self-mutilates... it rips out its own tail... but its funny because he can imitate Paul's moms voice, and he calls the garden boy all the time, who comes running and looks around because he doesnt see anyone.

Friday 10th
After a great night of sleep... FINALLY! graham and I got up at 7:30 and sat outside. It was so cool to wake up and look at all of the things I missed out on since it was dark when we got there! They have a beautiful house and property... and you sit outside and all you hear is birds and animals... no traffic... basically the polar opposite of anywhere you go in the states!! We went for a drive after breakfast in an old land rover... and we picked oranges from the trees to eat. We drove over to see 2 lions named Kingey and Tara.... they were AMAZING! I got to pet both of them. There are tons of great pictures of them. We had lunch over there, and walked around and looked at their farm. The area we were in has lots of citrus farms, so it was fun to look around. Patti and Paul own the 2 lions... and also Tom the giraffe who ill talk about later. We drove from there to the Leathems place in Mazunga... they manage Charles Davys farm... who's daughter is Chelsea Davy... who is dating prince harry. crazy huh? Blondie and Katrina also have an amazing home... and tons of animals for me to play with :0) They have two pet warthogs named Paris Hilton and Wendy. We packed up a land rover and headed out onto their ranch to have a braai (BBQ)... the farm is 1 million acres... so it is massive! Blondie kept us all entertained with crazy stories about all of the things he has done... he has had quite a few lion encounters...and has been chased and had his car rammed by just about every animal you can think of!! We saw a black Rhino which was amazing. Blondie knows all of the animal calls, and called the Rhino over... black rhinos are going extinct, and blondie helped save them. Graham showed me a BBC documentary that Blondie and Grahams dad Clive were in!! There are two of them... all about saving the rhinos from poachers.. i am hoping I can find them and get them to watch! We saw tons of giraffe and zebra as we drove, and then we picked a spot to set up. We had eland steak which was amazing... and boerewors which is a popular sausage in zim and SA. Caity and I went out for a walk and we heard hyena and went rightttt back to where everyone was sitting! we packed up and drove was pretty cold!! especially on the back of the car! we saw an ant bear... which is really rare to see too!! We drove back to Paul's after that, and took a bath and went to bed.

Saturday 11th

We got up in the morning, and Graham, me, Paul, Caity, and Peter (pauls brother) drove out to a farm that is close to the botswana border called Centennal. They have 3 lions... the male is Rex...and I dont know what the other 2 females were called. Theyw ere kept behind a wire strand fence... so it didnt exactly feel very safe being close to them... i got close anyways though... you know me and kitties :0) We drove around their farm and had a picnic in a dried up river bed... the boys showed us how to identify different spores (anything that an animal leaves behind... poop...footprints...broken branches on trees....etc). It was cool to see all the elephant footprints everywhere... they have all these little cracks in their feet... and they can move all of them... so they can step on a twig and move their feet around it so that it doesnt break and make a noise! We saw tons of Baobab trees... which are amazing. there is a picture of one in my pictures... It loooks like it is growing the wrong way... and there is a legend that it was once the most beautiful tree in the land... but it was full of itself, and so the Gods turned it upside down. When you look at it, it looks like it has roots growing out of the top! We drove over to another part of the farm... and we got to see a 65 million year old dinosaur fossil. It is partially excavated...but because of the problems in ZIm...the south african university will not finish it. it is sad that it is just sitting there exposed to the elements... After that, we drove through the buffalo breeding paddock.. and then drove back to Patti and Pauls farm. we finally got to see Tom the giraffe! He was huge and so cool... we fed him grapefruit and he slobbered all over us. He is like a giant dog...and has a bunch of girlfriends and a few babies!! after a long, wonderful day...we headed back and went to sleep!

Sunday 12th

we got up and got ready... and then drove out to the turn off by the leathems farm and met up with grahams mom! we said goodbye to everyone and then started the drive to Shangani... we stopped at a farm on the way that used to be owned by my friend Wills family (my RA from last semester) but they had their land taken a few years ago. We drove through a few police checkpoints and a few little towns, and after about 5 hours, we made it to their ranch! It was nice to finally get somewhere and stay for a while! We went for a walk with Clive and Sue (his parents) out to the dams on their farm and saw different antelope around. we had buffalo boerewors for dinner... it was soo good! we got to cook it over the fire place...which I thought was great. then we had a bath and went to bed... there were lots of spiders in my room that scared me to death..and so graham scared all of them away and then stayed with me... they had bodies the size of a quarter... and legs that were a few inches long... and moved sooooo fast! so scary...

Monday 13th

We got up the next morning and had breakfast... I finally got to check email and get ahold of mom and dad through that... we learned about the game count that would be taking place over the next few days, and then drove to the opposite side of the ranch (an hour and 15 minutes away!) to meet Nicky Oppenheimer and his family and friends. Graham and I were both given laptops and were taught how to use the game count program....and then we took them home to practice before the count. We had to memorize codes for all of the animals... it was a bit confusing at first because there were lots of animals that I had never heard of!!

Tuesday 14th

we got up at 4am... so early!! Graham brought me tea and mazoe (orange drink) in bed so that I could try to get up!! we headed over to White Kopies (the side where Nicky keeps his helicopter) and loaded up the helicopter! I got a pair of headphones and a little button to push when I needed to talk to everyone in the helicopter... I had about 5 layers of clothing on because it was freezing!! and even colder once we got up in the air because all of the doors stay open for the count... The game count takes place once a year... and you fly through grids over the farm and count all of the animals you see. It is a way to check on animal populations...and to see if the anti-poaching units are doing their job. We flew for 2 hours... and it was one of the coolest things I have ever done... the helicopter is beautiful...and painted with all african tribal paintings... and we saw soo many animals!! These are the animals we were looking for on the count: Aardwolf, baboon troops, cheetah, duiker, eland, elephant, ground hornbill, impala, jackel, kudu, leopard, steenbuck, waterbuck, bush pig, reedbuck, tssessbe, sable, warthog, bushbuck, zebra...and a few others that I cant remember right now off the top of my head!! We flew through one section in the early morning (Mahwe 1)....then went back to the Oppenheimers for breakfast... then got right back in the helicopter for the second morning part (Mahwe 2). We went back to Nicky's after that for a long break... you cant count game in the middle of the day because it is too hot and the animals are under trees and hard to see.... so you have to do 2 morning flights and 1 afternoon flight. Nicky gave us all Game Count hats with the name of the helicopter on it. For the 3rd part of the count, we did an area called Joseph Block. By the end of the day, we were exhausted... and we drove the hour and 15 back to grahams house, had dinner and went straight to bed!

Wednesday 15th
We got up at 4 am again... drove back to White Kopies for the second half of the count. We counted an area called Shangani North and saw TONS of animals on this flight. It gets hard sometimes because there are two punchers (graham and I) and 4 the two pilots who call off what they see... I was in charge of Port side... so when they saw animals out the left side of the chopper... someone would yell " 3" and I would punch it in. I had to punch quickly so that I could look out and see all of the animals!! We had breakfast at the Oppenheimers again... napped...and hung around their place until the afternoon count... then we did that count... (Shangani South) and during the laptop decided to go crazy... the whole thing shutdown in the middle and had a blue screen that said "BEGINNING DUMP OF PHYSICAL MEMORY"... I had a heart attack... we had to hover in the helicopter for 7 minutes while I tried to get it back on... 7 minutes that felt like 100... and it came back up...and by some stroke of luck, all of the numbers were still there. We finished up and headed back to Grahams, had dinner and crashed again.... I am definitely not the best morning person in the I needed some sleep!! On the way back..we saw a few HUGE wildfires on grahams farm... and their workers were up all night trying to put them out.

Thursday 16th

we slept in.... which was amazing. layed around and watched tv.... then visited the workers at the compound on grahams farm... and I got to meet their old gardener who was very sick. He was so nice to me...and was so happy to see graham. He actually passed away the week after graham and I got back to NZ... so graham was happy we got the chance to see him while we were there. Graham and I went for a walk up to some african ruins... we sat on a huge rock and watched the sun go down... and then walked for an hour to get home... It is amazing that you can walk for ages... and not see a single person or hear a car. I loved it. we had dinner with his parents... and then went to bed.

Friday 17th

we slept in again.... and then watched the BBC documentaries on the black rhinos that blondie and clive are in! It was so cool to see...but sad too because of what people did to the rhinos. we laid out in the sun because it was a beautiful day out... and the view from their yard is wonderful. Then we went for a walk down to the river and I tried to sneak up on some Zebra... then we had dinner...watched a few tv shows...and then went to bed...

Saturday 18th

We woke up at 4am... and drove over to the other side of the ranch for the bird shoot. I was pretty shocked by all the birds dropping out of the sky and flying at me... and even more shocked when a bird would survive being shot... and then have its neck snapped by the gun-bearers!! Hunting is not exactly my thing. we had breakfast out on the ranch... continued the bird shoot... had lunch... then bird shoot.. and this time I shot a gun... it felt like someone punched me in the shoulder... I have never even held a gun before.. and they gave me a shotgun. smart move. at least everyone around me survived... and I officially retired from shooting after one shot... my ear had a really high pitched ring in it. We drove all the birds over to be plucked and skinned... had drinks... and listened to Nicky and Colin give speeches to thank all of the workers, gun bearers, and shooters for the day. All of the workers sang and danced and I got a few great videos that I will put up soon! We said our goodbyes to Nicky and his friends... and then headed back to grahams.

Sunday 19th

We got up and had a yummy brunch... eggs and bacon and toast and tomatoes... it was sooo good! graham and I watched some tv and relaxed... and then had lunch outside in the sun. we went for another long walk and then went up to a huge rock out by grahams house and had sundowners (drinks while the sun goes down) it was beautiful... but I am a bit sad that my camera couldnt capture them the way I wanted it too... I dont think anything will ever compare to the sunsets I saw while I was there.

Monday 20th

We got up and sat in the sun.... graham went out and massacred (sp?) a bunch of vervet monkies... they steal from their vegetable garden and are pests... but I was still sad... we went for another walk...and relaxed in the evening before heading off to bed.

Tuesday 21st

We got up at 6am and drove out to Gweru to get grahams passport stamped with another residency permit. He holds a South African passport since it is easier to travel with... so he needs to get a Zim permit once a year. we drove from there to bulawayo and shopped at all the curio shops. I sent home all the gifts... we had chicken pies for lunch... which cost 100,000 dollars each...and we couldnt find something to drink in any of the stores... a little can of soda costs almost 300,000 dollars!!! We had a good time looking around and seeing more of Zim. It was hard to see all of the people waiting in lines to get bread. They have to do that every single day just to have food. People are starving in Zim right now.. and it is hard to actually be there and see it. We drove back to the ranch and had a nice dinner with his parents...and then went to bed.

Wednesday 22nd

Graham and I took one of the austrian game driving vehicles and went out to the Shangani side of the ranch to go for a game drive. we drove for a few hours... I got stabbed thru the foot by an acacia tree... they have these HUGE needles that pierce your skin sooo easily. We were trying to move a tree that an elephant had knocked down... they LOVE knocking stuff down and rolling around in it! We saw a dead elephant too which was sad. Colin (who manages the shangani side) keeps track of the carcasses... and then goes out and collects their tusks so that poachers cant have them. I got to see the collection of them... they weight SOOOO MUCH! Grahams farm has bachelor heards of elephants... almost 300 of them... ALL MALE. so they are real destructive. We had a picnic in a river bed that had dried up...and there wasnt a sound for miles. It was beautiful. Then we drove back to his place adn relaxed again (something I was starting to reallyyyy enjoy!!)

Thursday 23rd

Graham and I took the game car out to the Shangangwe side of the ranch for a game drive... we saw a bunch of animals... and I got shocked by a massive electric fence that I was trying to open so that the car could get through!! we left the car for a bit and walked out to another dam and sat for a while... then we walked to another set of african ruins. They think the ruins are from an old trading post... because the designs on the rocks signify all of the different tribes. We went home, went for nother walk on the ranch, and then had sundowners on the rock again for our last night at Debshan. Mom was able to get ahold of me on the phone which was great... the power had gone out for a while... and she managed to get thru 2 minutes after it came back on!!

Friday 24th

We got up really early and drove to the edge of the farm. We loaded up the cars and Sue, Claire (colins wife), graham and i got ready to start the drive back down. We said goodbye to Clive and Colin and their daughter Leigh... and then took off. We stopped in Bulawayo to run a few errands...and then headed to The Leathems to stay with them for a night. We had lunch with them... and then took the car out for a game drive. Once again blondie told us fantastic stories...and we saw a white rhino this time!! I learned how to tell the two types of rhinos apart... and we saw tons of giraffe and wildebeest and zebra... i sat on the back of the car pretty quiet because I was so amazed at everything I was seeing. You dont exactly see giraffes or monkies sprint out in front of your car in California! We picked a spot for sundowners and had a good time talking and playing with their dogs. We went home after that...watched some tv, had dinner, and then went to bed. We stayed in a thatch-roofed guest house.. and it was a bit tough to sleep because it gets loud when the wind kicks up!

Saturday 25th

We got up early and started the drive to the border... we got thru in 45 minutes this time... we were shocked!! Then we drove and had a few pit stops in South Africa until we finally made it to Paul's place in Pretoria again! We ready...and then headed out to meet up with some of their friends from Zim to watch rugby and have dinner! We were there for ages... everyone was trying to explain rugby to me... I get some of it now... but im not great with it! We went out to a few places after that, and then headed home to go to bed.

Sunday 26th

We got up...packed... and then headed off to the airport. I was not looking forward to the flight again!! We boarded and took off for another 11 hours back to singapore.

Monday 27th

We landed at 4am and it was 85 degrees...and sooo humid!! We were we rented a room for a few hours to sleep since there wasnt much to do in singapore at 4am. we got up... had some breakfast... then booked a tour around singapore... it was sad because the boat tour was booked all day so we missed that... but we had a good time on the other tour. They are building this massive ferris wheel thing... and it is almost finished... the first 3 months are completely booked out once it does open. After that we headed back to the airport... bought some sleeping pills...and got on the plane. Unfortunitely the sleeping pills didnt work for either of us and we were up the whole flight... i watched a few movies a couple times... and then we finally landed in New Zealand. We had to go thru a big inspection since we came from africa. They checked all of our shoes and went thru all of my gifts... but after that we went thru and a bunch of friends were waiting for us outside of customs.

Since we have been back... ew have both been struggling to get back into school... we had our halls ball and got to dress up really nice... we celebrated a friends birthday.... and did a bunch of other things!

Just this past weekend... we got to go to our friend Adam's farm again... and I got ot hold lambs and bottle feed them. we helped them tail the babies.... and I got to vaccinate over 100 lambs. It was really fun. I got to drive a quad too...with their farm doggies hanging out on the back of it with me.

We had a BBQ the other day and went into town... I made lasagna on Sunday...

Coming up.... we have the garden party... which is out on the lawn... everyone dresses up like on Halloween...and you are locked into an area from 11am-4pm... basically it is for everyone to get drunk and have fun before finals... they have pass out tents that are monitored by nurses... it should bea good time.. I still dont know what I am going to be!

I have all of my africa pictures up on from Zim... I couldnt post them on this because there are wayyyy to many! If you want to look at them and have a costco account, leave a comment with your email... if not... I set up a fake accoun that only has the Zim pictures on it....

PASSWORD: zimbabwe

You log in on and go to photos.... Hope you enjoy them!!

love and miss everyone!!!


kell and me
will, kell, me, lisa, iylia
me and graham

1 Comment

October 26, 2008
You really had a nice time in Zimbabwe,is there any Lodge in the Shangani Farm, I would like to go for game drive
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