Stacey Carter (Wlodarek) - African Adventure

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Photos and Comments provided by Stacey Carter ( Wlodarek )

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Best   of     Shamwari

01/10/2009

Hello Everyone!!
 
I love this place already, the accommodation and food are basic but I wasn't expecting anymore. I was part of a new shipment of people to arrive at Shamwari Game Reserve on Monday, there were 9 of us in total plus 8 orginals so there is quite a big group now. I have already been on a game drive on Tuesday, and a game count on Wednesday. Have already seen white and black rhino, giraffe, zebra, lots of warthogs, impala, and cheetah. No lions yet but will hopefully see them soon. I spent last night in the animal hospital as we are looking after a baby elephant and zebra so had to play mummy and wake up thru the night to feed the zebra. Her name is Kahlua because her stripes are brown. She is sooo gorgeous, when standing upright she comes up to about my belly. And so soft, her nose is like velvet! The little elephant is about shoulder height, very cheeky but gorgeous!
Today we are staying in as it's raining and very cold. Yesterday was nice weather but still very cold out on the vehicle all day, as there are no windows.
Not sure when I am going into town so at the moment just on the computer at the reserve which opens up one window per half hour, so slow! So I have to keep this short, but wanted to let you all know I'm safe and happy!
 
08/10/2009

Hello again!!
 
Boy do I have news for you! I had one of the best weekends of my life last weekend....I'll try not to write as much as I talk, and keep it relatively short. A group of us booked to go to a place called Addo Elephant Park and on the way went to a Cheetah Breeding Centre and I got to cuddle a fully grown 3 year old cheetah named Ola. She was sooo beautiful, she was purring the whole time and licking my finger (her tongue was like sandpaper but I didn't tell her that). I then got to play with two 3 month old lion cubs named Shiloh and Pax (Brangelina inspired much??), they were brother and sister and as you can imagine the cutest little munchkins Iíve ever seen!! It was quite hot on Saturday so they were getting a little restless and don't realise the power they've got already, some of us walked out with scratches. Their paws are nearly bigger than their heads! I wanted to steal them. After that we went to a reptile park and I got snake venom spat at my face by a snake called the Rhinkals (spelling may be wrong), it's one of the 5 most dangerous in South Africa and rears up like a Cobra but is in a separate family to Cobra. I was taking a picture, through the glass, then the guide opened the door so I could get a better shot and it spat at me! haha. Got me all over the mouth...I looked at the guide to see if she was panicking and she wasn't so I didn't, just wiped it off but stayed a little nervous for a couple of hours that my face might swell up but it didn't. A couple of times I licked my lips and it tasted like poison. I think Steve Irwin would be proud!


Sunday I got to ride an elephant, properly on it's back, not on a chair on it's back. It's really not comfortable and with my bony bum probably worse! But a great experience, they are so huge and beautiful! Got to do other cool stuff too but Iíd be writing for days.
We are doing manual labour, the other day we had to cut down Acasia bush which have huge needle like thorns on them, and use them to block roads we don't want driven on anymore. I got some lovely scratches and splinters. Today we started building a nursery. My muscles will be even more massive when I get home ;-)
 
Thank you for your e-mails back to me, I'm happy to hear about everything that's happening at home and glad you're all well. I'll try and send some personal e-mails this weekend, I'm going to Jeffreys Bay and they may have a little more speedy internet service!
I'm being summoned to dinner now...talk/write as soon as I can!
 

15/10/2009

Hello everyone,
 
Well as you can tell from my subject line (Lions & Bungee!) it's been another eventful week for me! Last Thursday we saw the northern pride of lions here, it was the most amazing thing to see, to watch them knowing they are wild and free, doesn't even come close in comparison to the feeling you get when you see them behind a cage. I was in awe! The pride consists of one male, two females and two cubs, one year old and a male & female. They are both already big but have young faces and the male's mane is just starting to develop. We even saw a couple of failed attempts at the large male mating with the female, but she didn't even open her eyes for it, not interested at all! He looked over at us as if to say "she does like me, I promise!" haha.
Today we managed to stumble across the southern pride which are quite rare to see, they seem to disappear for days at a time! This pride has a dominant male (who was the only one absent today), one female and five cubs, also about 1 year old, four males and one female. So the dynamics of this group will be interesting in the next 1 to 2 years!
 
On Saturday I threw myself off a bridge! Bloukrans Bridge at Storms River stands at 216m tall with a free falls of between 140m - 160m. It was without a doubt the craziest thing I've ever done! The feeling was indescribable! When I jumped I let out an excited 'Woooooooo' but about half way down all the wind gets knocked out of you and you can't make a sound if you try! On the DVD I've got it looks like i'm being thrown around like a rag doll when you reach the extension of the rope and come back up, but it feels much smoother than that. I think I was left hanging there for about 40 seconds waiting for someone to be lowered down to get me, that is the time you become very aware you are only being held by a rope around your feet and your mind starts playing all sorts of tricks on you! I was just looking at the ground which was still about 70m below me and I could feel the rope move toward my feet. I know it would never in a million years come off, but I was ready to come up! It was so awesome, I still have to keep telling myself I did it cos I can't believe it! So Dad you can cross this one off the list of things you need to worry about because it's done. Mum is extremely relieved also!
 
Jeffreys Bay on the weekend was great, but the weather was quite miserable and because I did the bungee also, which is another 2 hrs out of J-Bay, I didn't get much time to look around (and no time on the internet, sorry). The town is full of surf shops and a great Billabong Factory shop where I got 2 hoodies for about $85. Our hostel for the night was called Island Vibe and was one big party place. Saturday night was a lot of fun, drinks are cheap and the fishbowls they have here, don't even compare to our Taco's drinks! I didn't have one, just shared someone elses. I wouldn't still be standing now if I had a whole one to myself....getting too old! haha
 
We've done a night game drive but didn't see as much as I'd hoped, so I hope we get to do another one at some stage. Mustn't have been the night for wildlife. We went Rhino tracking today and I have some great video footage of a little baby rhino having a mud bath in a puddle right infront of our vehicle. So gorgeous! Tomorrow we are doing a bush camp out so that will be interesting, I hope it doesn't rain as I think we have to make our own tents somehow.
 
My only complaint is that time is going too fast! I'm already half way thru my 3rd week :-(
 
Ok this is a bit of a novel, I'm sorry (you should see my journal), so I better sign off. Missing you all and sending my love, till the next oneÖ

25/10/2009

Hey everyone,
 
Where to start..?? Well I've seen a leopard now so the Big 5 is complete! Yay!! He was sedated last week as his tracking collar's battery had died so the vets needed to replace it. We were allowed to watch him be released, but they sedated him again before release so he could wake up alone without a million pairs of eyes on him. He was in a big box on the back of one of the vehicles, we couldn't see him at this stage but he let out a very loud growl and the sound went straight thru me! It was the most amazing and powerful sound. I think if you were walking along alone in the woods and suddenly heard that you would immediately die of shock and fright! He was a big boy, about 90kg which is 20kg more than an average wild leopard. When he was sleeping again we were able to go and touch him and he was really really soft. I expected him to be a little more coarse. He was beautiful!
 
Last weekend was great also. A few other girls and myself went horse riding. Gail you will probably appreciate this story the most. It's taken me 25 years to get on the back of a horse but I finally did it and wow what a first experience! We went to a place called Kenton On Sea and the trail took us all along the sand dunes and along the beach. It was gorgeous! My horse was Abbey, she was very relaxed but she thought everything was a race and liked to be up front. Honestly I thought the first time I ride a horse would be on the back of a pony tied to a pole walking around in circles...at least I thought that's all I'd be capable of anyway. But no, we started off walking, started to trot, got in to a steady canter, then it was just a full blown gallop! Ok so probably not as fast paced as a Melbourne Cup, but pretty quick! And I actually stayed on. It was so cool, and I picked it up pretty quickly, but afterwards I felt like Iíd done 20 rounds with Mike Tyson and was walking like John Wayne for about 2 days. It took about 4 days for my muscles to recover. I don't know why, the poor horse was doing all the work. The trail in total was about 20kms so we were out for 3 or so hours. It was amazing!
Sunday we went whale watching in Port Elizabeth. We saw more dolphins than anything but did see one Southern Right Whale which was about 14m long and about 40 tonne! When he'd come up and blow air thru his blow hole it sounded like a huge roar! The boat got within 20 or so metres of him so that was good. We were hoping to see a few more as it is mating season but unfortunately we couldn't find the others. Still something I've never seen before though so I was happy.
 
Tuesday we got to play with guns. 5 rounds in a 12 gauge shot gun and 4 rounds in a 223 semi automatic. I managed to hit 5 out of 5 targets with the shot gun, all bottles and cans and scored the highest out of everyone with the semi. 35 points out of a possible 40. I think I may have been a sniper in a past life...?? The guy teaching us said there's an opening with the APU (Anti Poaching Unit) if I'm interested but when I asked where do I sign, he didn't answer, so I don't think it was a serious job offer.
 
Got to look after Kahlua the baby zebra again on Wednesday night and I think I will definitely kid nap her...or zebra nap, whatever it's called. She's so beautiful!
Friday we did a controlled burn of quite a large area on the reserve and that wasn't so enjoyable, especially when the winds changed and our lungs filled up with smoke. We didn't have any protective eye wear or anything covering our faces so it was pretty rough but once we had the containment line sorted it was pretty cool to watch it all burn back on itself. It all went well, we all thoroughly stunk afterwards and couldn't wait to scrub off but you can't get away from the smoke smell once it's in your hair! It was so hot here on Friday also!
 
This weekend has been pretty quiet, finally get to have a rest day! I'm losing my room mate tomorrow so that will be sad, but I may have the room to myself after that so that will be good.
 
I have to hurry the end of this as my time is running out, but I'm thinking of you all and can't wait to hear from you! Hope you are all well and happy!!
 
Lots of love, Stace XXXX

04/11/2009

Hey Guys,
 
I thought I would wait until today to send you the next update so I could put something cool in the subject line (Rhino Tracking) hehe. Monday we had an early start of 4:45am to go out and try and find and capture 3 black rhino as they had been sold to another reserve as our rhino population is doing very well. We were stationed on one of the lookout points for 2 hours and saw about 6 white rhino but no black...they hide away in the thick scrub a lot more than the white. The vets, conservation team and film crew were all at different spots trying to find them but eventually they sent the chopper up thinking that would be much quicker. Of course within minutes they had darted the first rhino, a female. It was so cool to watch all the vehicles then race down to the location like a huge cavalry, and us in the vehicles flying around like on a rally track trying to keep up.. The process is quite quick, the eyes are covered and cotton wool put in the ears and then everyone gets in position and a large crate is placed infront of the rhino so hopefully when it wakes up its instinct is to go forward (it has turned dangerous a few times so we had to stay in the vehicles :-( but we were within 10 meters or so, so still good). The vets then give the rhino a reverse injection to wake it up and get ready to push! All went well but when she was released into the holding boma she was very angry and ready to kill anyone or anything that came her way! Black rhino are a lot more aggressive than white. The second capture was just as smooth, almost. When she was darted and went down, the team rushed to her to get in position and she decided to get back up and keep trying to run! She looked so cute the poor little thing, trying so hard to fight the drug, but she was just able to prance up and down like a show horse, then flop on her side! When she was woken up again and went into the crate, she was so upset at being captured she broke the side of the crate! All were a little nervous that she may break thru, but more concerned that she would damage her horn. She was ok and we didnít go and watch her release into the boma so as not to stress her out more. The 3rd rhino we wanted a male and he took about 3 hours to find. When he was finally darted he decided to run right in the middle of the bushes so it was quite an effort to get to him and make enough room for the vehicles. But he was very well behaved after that. It was a fantastic day and very interesting but very long!

Last Tuesday we did another night game drive with the hopes it would be much more successful than the first, and it was! We found the male lion of the southern pride. He was sitting alone, he doesnít tend to hang out with the rest of the pride that often, or maybe all the females were out hunting and he was just waiting for his mealÖtypical.. Haha. He suddenly started calling out to the others and WOW! It was in between and growl and a roar and the most amazing sound! I was so happy, that is one of the main things I wanted to experience here, even if I couldnít see them at the time, just to hear the lions in the night. It was so beautiful.

We have been visiting the local orphanage of a Friday morning to spend time with the kiddies there. You canít imagine so many beautiful little faces looking up at you when you go into the classrooms. Then when the teachers tell them they can go outside, they use each of us as their own personal jungle gyms, especially the taller boys, they have up to 5 kids dangling from them at once. They love the attention and interaction, they are so sweet and innocent! We canít understand them, nor they us, but they have somehow learned to song ďI like to move it, move it, I like to move it, move it, yeah like to move it!Ē and thatís all they sing, so cute!
 

Last week we did quite a lot of work around the reserve and on our nursery that weíve built from scratch, so I donít have many other awesome tales, but I think I have made this one long enough anyway. Oh, we had a beautiful day here on Saturday so it was a good opportunity to even up the tan lines, as I was starting to look like a real tradie with singlet and shorts lines. Haha. I hear back home is having great weather also, early summer.

Just hope no fires.
 

 


 

Photos and Comments provided by Stacey Wlodarek

 

24/11/2009

Hey guys,
 
 Eeek! Time is flying by! So it's ok I haven't been eated by a lion yet.


Today I had to leave Shamwari, 8 weeks already up  I had mixed feelings while packing last night, I'm sad to leave because I love the reserve so much, it's beautiful and would go back in a second, but I'm ready to leave the whole student program side of it, and being referred to as "Gaps" whenever we're out in public.
I would be much more sad if I were coming home already because I'm not ready for that yet, I'm so excited about heading up to Kenya on Friday! Just want this trip to slow the hell down. I am going to be constantly thinking about what I'm missing out on back at Shamwari though, I never like to miss anything (my mum would tell you that), but I think I got a pretty good deal while there, got to see and do so much. The Friday before last was magic, we got to see both prides of lions in one morning, 13 all up, and that's very rare cause they love hiding. Then we got to see 3 cheetah, a mummy and her 2 cubs, but the cubs are 18 months old so already the same size as mummy. One of the security guys pulled up next to our vehicle while we were looking at them and we were quite far away, no roads went closer, so he offered to walk us up to them. They were very curious but not threatened, we had to walk up to them on a diagonal so we didn't look as though we were charging towards them and they just kept an eye on us but weren't fussed. They got up and walked further away if they felt we got in their personal space. So that was really really cool. Wish we could do that with the lions, but I think there would be no more emails coming from me if we did! We'd actually been lion monitoring a few times as the vets wanted to put a temporary contraceptive in the older females of the prides so there would be no more cubs for a little while. With 7 cubs at the moment already growing fast, they have to wait and see what it will do to the dynamics of the prides before letting more little ones come in. Unfortunately they were never in a suitable darting position (except on a Wednesday night and then a Saturday so we didn't get called out to watch), so we didn't get a chance to see the procedure...that will be one thing I miss out on. There is still one female that needs doing.
We did another Rhino capture also, trying to find a big bull black rhino that is fighting with the others. In the last 3 weeks we lost 2 black rhino, one to poachers which sucks, but they didn't get the horn so must've been disturbed, makes it even more of a waste! The other was killed we think from fighting with the bull. Both were females and one had a calf, already a year and a half so weaned off her mum's milk, but perhaps not big enough to fend for herself yet. We didn't find the aggressive male but we did find the baby which was good, she was still in good health despite the fact her mum had died over a week ago. The vets wanted her captured just so they could keep an eye on her and make sure she's strong enough to be out alone. The 3 rhino we caught in my last e-mail are still being held, the reserve that has purchased them are having trouble getting permits to transport them. The young calf went in the holding boma next to the highly strung female and she didn't like the extra company! They were pacing up and down the fence snorting at each other, then the big female charged into the fence and broke one of the poles. So then she had to be darted so the guys could go in and fix her enclosure. Don't blame her for being restless though, it would suck being in there for as long as they have been, if Shamwari had've known it would take this long to move them, there's no way they would've captured them as early as they did. We went back to visit the rhino a couple of days ago and there didn't seem to be anymore confrontation between the female and the calf so that's good.
 
At the moment I'm staying at a backpackers in Port Elizabeth, until my flight on Friday, so have a few days to just relax which is nice. I will try send another quick email before I fly out as I probably wont have an opportunity while on the tour. My internet time is running out now so I'll sign off, sorry again for the delay with this installment. I'm going to write as many separate e-mails as I can in these next few days so thank you for being patient with me, those of you who have written to me. I hope everyone is ok at home and at work and surviving the heat wave! Missing you lots and lots!
 
Love Stace XXXXXX

27/11/2009

Hey guys,
 
Just a quickie to let you know I'm off to Kenya tomorrow morning so if you don't hear from me in the next couple of weeks it just means I have no access. Will send an update as soon as I can. Please keep all your pinkies crossed for me that I can see the monkeys in the mountains, and I'll try not to make my next e-mail a ridiculously long novel, although I'm expecting the next 2 weeks to be pretty jam packed!
I've had a nice couple of days relaxing in Port Elizabeth, checked out both shopping malls - window shopping only :-( and went to the aquarium today which was cool, the seals were so cute, I was watching this huge one scratching right infront of me, then he lay on the rocks and started shifting from side to side scratching his belly and he looked exactly like Stevie Wonder when he sings! haha
 
Keep well and happy and I'll do the same and I'll be in touch soon!
 
Lots of love, Stace XXXXX

 

18/12/2009

Hello everyone!

I'm in Cape Town now and have 4 days to go :-( It is so beautiful here, everywhere you are in the city you have a great view of Table Mountain as the backdrop, it's gorgeous. Was able to enjoy a day at the beach yesterday, weather here has been good but the water is friggen freezing! I went up Table Mountain on Tuesday while I had a window of clear weather (it can be perfect on the ground but once up the mountain, clouds blanket it like snow and you can't see a thing!) and did the abseil down (another one to cross off the list daddy, I'm still alive!). The mountain is about 1.1km high and the abseil is only 112m, starting from the top, thank god, I don't think I could've held on to the rope for a km! It was so so cool, the view was incredible and the rockface perfectly flat. I was hoping the wind wouldn't pick up because I probably would've blown away, there was nothing to grip to. The guys who run it told me that about half way down there's a surprise and I should shout out when I get there. They had big grins on their faces so I wasn't sure how good the 'surprise' would be. Sure enough about 50m down, you  run out of rock and have to free 'dangle' to the ledge where you stop - surprise!! It was a little scary, but mostly just cool, because I started slowly rotating round in circles and got a full 360 degree view of everything. When I got to the end, I turned into the rope and got all my hair caught up in it and thought I was going to be scalped but eventually got it out and had a huge afro afterwards - tangled mess! I also got a good deal of rope burn on my side but it was all worth it! I started the hike back up just as the weather turned, icy winds picked up and could no longer see the ground, so I was very lucky. Once back in town it was hot again!

Now the tour, I don't know where to start! I will try and briefly write about the highlights cause this could take days otherwise! I'll start with the gorillas - WOW! The family I saw consisted of 9 and we had the biggest silver back of all the families. He weighed 250kg and was absolutely built like a brick shithouse - I'm sorry, that's just the best saying for him! Full of muscle. He spent time staring at all of us, looks straight into your eyes and he doesn't look away, looks like he's staring straight into the depths of your soul. I wondered what he was thinking. He was beautiful! We had a baby also, about 2 but still so small, jumping around all over mummy and even stood up and beat his tiny chest for us, although the sound was about as loud as a golf clap! I tried to steal him, but he climbed a tree and I couldn't reach :-( I took as many photo's as I could, while still giving myself time to just watch them, but pictures will never do that moment justice. I felt so lucky to be able to sit with them for an hour and just be there with them.
Another highlight was being able to camp in the middle of Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. We set up our tents on fresh hippo and buffalo tracks and could hear the hippos and lions come to our campsite at night - hippos were right outside my tent! I was very grateful I have a good bladder and didn't need to pee during the night because there was no way I was getting out of that tent! Unfortunately we had a few snorers in our group so it kind of ruined the serenity of the animal noises, but I still heard the lions so I was happy.
The Masai warriors - no I didn't marry any chief and become wife number 43. They are pretty intimidating! We saw a traditional dance which was great, they all wear really bright red and no one knows why but I guess it helps to find each other in the mountains. While driving thru Kenya you see them everywhere, spread out thru the hills with their cattle. They are the biggest tribe still around and still hold on to some strange traditions. The boys get circumsised at 14 and are then sent off to live in the bush for 5 years and in that time they are supposed to try and kill a lion. If they succeed they come back to their family after 5 years wearing the mane of the lion they killed and are known as brave. They can then choose their own wife. If they don't kill a lion, their families choose their wives! They still believe in and practice female circumsision as well, although it is not discussed as they aren't supposed to do it. I didn't really want to hear about that anyway. Their wealth is measured by how much cattle they have - as soon as they get some money, the only thing they'll buy is cattle. I didn't see any kids with X-box 360's and they still looked very happy! Amazing isn't it?!


The Masai Mara National Park was great, saw some lions and lots of buffalo, then got to walk along the banks of the Mara river meters away from hippos. That's where I got one of the photo's I was hoping so much to get while here - the hippo yawn! My goodness their mouths are huge! I think I could've dived right in and they wouldn't feel a thing! We stood at the point where all the wildebeest and zebra cross from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara every year during the great migration. The river is full of crocs and hippos, I can't imagine it would be a very relaxing journey for those animals migrating!


I took a boat ride on Lake Naivasha in Kenya, in a very small wooden boat that looked like it had been around for quite some time and perhaps not very sturdy. That lake has about 2000 hippos in it. This is probably the most nervous I've been during my whole time in Africa. All that is going on in my head is "hippos kill more people than any other animal...". We saw about 80 of the hippos during the boat trip which left me to wonder where the other 1920 were and at what point are they going to tip our boat over! Our captain kept hitting a plastic bottle on the side of the boat to get their attention when we were near, and they'd look up at us, snort, wiggle their ears, then disappear under the water. While all trying to remain calm we all had the same expressions on our faces..."shit get me out of here!" On the plus side, there were also hundreds of flamingos around too and they're pretty, especially when they fly away, the underside of their wings is hot pink and black.


Lake Nakuru National Park was great too, more hippos and our best chance to see a leopard. We did, for about 30 seconds. Our driver missed him because we had to look behind us to find him, so by the time we backed up, he started slowly disappearing behind a rock so we couldn't see him anymore, cheeky bugger! I got one photo, and not very clear, but it's still my wild leopard! Not exactly the 'leopard sitting in a tree eating a gazelle' moment I had fantasized in my head, but you can't have everything!


All 3 countries I visited were all so beautiful, the hills and landscape all so green and lush, especiallly Uganda & Rwanda! Our tour only had 13 people on it and mostly Aussie's. It was great to have a small group. We all got 2 seats to ourselves on the truck, so nice for the times we had to get up and leave camp at 4:30am. We had a tour leader, Chris, and cook, Eunice, and our driver, Magic Johnson. They were a great crew, we were lucky to have them. Eunice was an amazing cook and Dad guess what? It only took my 25 years but I put on weight! Go me. You will see me and ask where I'm sure, but scales don't lie ;-). The crew gave me a Kenyan name and everyone was calling me Wanjiko for the tour. They said I'd make a good Kenyan woman, only because I was helping out with the cooking and cleaning. Now in Cape Town everyone just calls me Stace and it's kind of boring, I think Wanjiko suits me better! haha.

Oh geez I just scrolled up and saw how much I wrote, sorry guys but it's really hard to pack 3 weeks worth of stuff in, and this is just the tip of the iceburg. I tried my best.
I will go now and give you 5 days to process this before I come home and start rambling at a million miles an hour.
I'm hoping everyone is doing well, only 3 days more work for most of you which I'm sure is a relief! I'm missing you all lots and lots and can't wait to get home and show you all my new warrior tattoos and peircings...this plate in my lip is kinda uncomfy but they told me I'd get used to it! hehehe only kidding.

Lots of Love,
Wanjiko XXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

 

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