Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Journey to Serowe: Khama Rhino Sanctuary

Last weekend half of our group went down to spend the weekend in Johannesburg, South Africa while I ventured North to Serowe with the rest of the group. Serowe houses a beautiful stretch of small villages and is home to the wonderful Khama Rhino Sanctuary. We left UB around 11am on Friday morning and drove about 5 hours to reach Serowe. Although the ride was pretty uneventful, I must devote some time to talk about our bus driver Brian. Brian consistently blasted, and I mean BLASTED his own music throughout the entire drive up to Serowe. And no, the music was not our favorite. It ranged from odd gospel soul music to very thumpy bumpy I can't tell what the actual melody is to this song type of music. He also proceeded to make little pit stops when ever he pleased in order to pick himself up some snacks at a few side vendors we passed but wouldn't let us out of the bus so we just had to stay on the bus with his music. Oiy! Oh and also, even before we got on the main road to Serowe, Brian took us to the parking lot of a nearby mall called SquareMart because he claimed that he had to get cash for the journey. Why he didn't get cash before he picked us up that morning, don't ask me. And of course he took is jolly old time walking too and from the bank and talking to his friends on his blackberry so we ended up getting to our lunch place about an hour behind schedule. AND THEN he decides he needs to fill up the bus with gas (again, why didn't he do this earlier?) and leaves us stranded at the restaurant for about 20 minutes until we realize that the gas station he is at is the one right next to the restaurant. At this point I was ready to give him a stern talking about how to be on time, but soon enough he came back to the bus and we began our journey to Serowe.

The view driving up to Serowe
We arrived in at the Rhino Sanctuary just in time to check into our lodging for the night and headed to dinner. As we drove up to the lovely dinner spot, the power immediately went out (no surprise there) and so we had our dinner by candlelight. Let me just say, the food was FANTASTIC. I would recommend the Oxtail to anyone who can find it in the States. We all gorged ourselves on the fresh and lightly cooked veggies because cookies and crackers have become our best snacking friends back home in Gaborone, although we did manage to save room for the cake they served at the end of our meal. Yum.

Then we proceeded to our Night Game Drive where we drove in caravans around the reserve. The group was split into two caravans and my group saw a group of Rhinos REALLY up close in our caravan and although none of us could really get any great pictures because of how dark it was, just their immense shape was really cool to see. I did manage to get a video though, somehow it was able to work even though my camera couldn't capture them? Oh technology.

Ready to go on the Game Drive!

My giggling buddy in Serowe!

One of our awesome Volunteers! We huddled together to keep warm.
 After that we had s'mores and assorted local beers and ciders while enjoying the heat of the fire after being startled by the cold wind (we didn't expect it to be so cold) during our game drive. My bunk mates and I didn't stay up very late because we had a 5:45am wakeup call the next morning to go Rhino Tracking!
Getting warm after the night drive.
What does Rhino Tracking entail you may ask? Well, first off, Rhino Tracking calls for many, many, many layers. I'm talking Snowboarding in Jackson Hole when there isn't a cloud in the sky layers. In addition to that, we all used our wonderfully warm bright red comforters from our beds the previous night to bundle ourselves up for the driving portion of the Rhino Tracking that morning. It was quite a sight to see. As we drove in the reserve in the early hours of the morning, our drivers kept a flashlight on the ground in search of Rhino footprints which we hoped would eventually lead us on a path to find a pack of Rhinos up close! After driving for a while we got out and began tracking a set of Rhino footprints. However, it seems that my group have may been a little too loud, because our guides kept shushing us and telling us to walk softer so I think we may have scared that initial group of Rhinos away. Fear not though. We got back in our caravans and drove to the other side of the reserve when we learned the other group had spotted some Rhinos crossing the road just minutes after we were there. While we were doing all this driving we spotted Giraffes, Zebras, Impalas and teeny tiny Kangaroos called Springhares! Then we set out on foot again and after only 5 or so minutes we came to find Rhinos in the distance! We got as close to them as we safely good and got so many great pictures! It really is amazing to think how close we were to such a large--and yes, dangerous--animal!
A tad tired and very cold, but ready to Rhino Track!
Teeny Kangaroos in the distance.

In my blanket cocoon.
Look at those stripes!

My favorite Zebra couple!

After taking all the obligatory "look at the Rhinos behind me!" pictures, we headed back to our lodging site for a yummy and hearty breakfast and set off back to Gaborone in the late morning.

Rhinos on Rhinos on Rhinos.
Smiling Girl in Africa!
In other news, I'm at a rather slow clinic this week called Extension 2. It's the first clinic I've seen with an actual lab but they don't have any Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV Programs, Child Welfare Programs, or ARV services which seems very strange to me. I was also reminded that the IRB process in the U.S. is still in progress...oh the joys of conducting research half way across the world.

We are headed to Kanye this Sunday for our weeklong home stay in a more rural village setting. We will also be working in the clinics there. I hope I get a family with kiddies! :)

I now present to you my bungee-jumping adventure pictures!
Just flying.

Hanging over the Zambezi River!

The Daredevil Group!

Taking flight!

Nothing else like it!

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