Friday, 27 July 2007

Whiling away an afternoon.

Bored bored bored.
Have struggled down to the post office braving the predicted gale force winds. Ok, well maybe it wasn't that bad - but this is a very windy place! At least it stopped hailing. :S On the way, in one patch of flooded green I saw several beautiful sacred Ibises (Ibi? :P), some small white egrets, two egyptian geese and three guinea fowl - not bad birding for a ten minute walk.

Anyway what with all the rain and hail and winds we've been sitting at home far too much. Already watched three films this morning before coming down here - luckily the internet is the perfect and ultimate procrastination tool as ever - more so when you've been deprived for a while! Getting on two hours now but luckily the pony-tailed guy who seems to be in charge of the post office today is also procrastinating, so all is good. :)

We've only been out once since I last wrote I think. Me and Amy went off to find the Cape Point troupe. Since Winnie has a radio collar on, we got out the antenna again and now I was in charge of trying to work out which direction the strongest signal was coming from. Hmm. The result was, at various times and from various suitably high rocks, all four compass points, and very frequently two opposite directions simultaneously. This is largely blamed on the fact that the signal won't travel through cliffs or hills but is exceptionally happy to bounce off them and pounce at you from random angles. We eventually put our amazing tracking skills to the test - we gathered excitedly round poo going 'this looks fresh!' and then followed fresh baboon footprints through the shrubland! Well not so much through shrubland as along a conveniantly earthy hiker's path. I love it when baboons follow paths. :D Paths and roads - wonderful inventions!

So anyway we located the troupe - hoorah - and set about following them. They helpfully reached a road and set off along it so Amy hiked back to the car and brought it down so we could sit inside and safely eat our lunch.Unfortunately I'd just finished my first sandwich when they all disappeared into the bushes again. Darn! So off we went. The area turned out to be full of restios - tall dry grass/reeds - that are always full of ticks. It was practically impossible to move without getting covered with them and once they get on to you they head upwards until they find somewhere warm - little buggers. Frequent stopping to brush them off seems to have done the trick though, but it does slow you up. The bushes there were so tall and dense we often couldn't see the baboons - we were just following the sounds of their crunching. The problem with that is it's not very easy to notice a sporadic sound stopping.

While I was retracing my steps to recover a dropped GPS device (I have GOT to stop losing expensive pieces of equipment! :S ) the baboons disappeared again. However we were confident that they were heading away from the road to the beach. Our plan was to race them there and wait for them to come out. This was all going fine until we hit a long strip of marsh with a tall, furry green plant growing in it. It wasn't too wet but this plant was growing densely and was over our heads. We ploughed in, alarmingly getting closer and closer to the sounds of frogs. Eventually we came to a stop, not knowing if we had made it halfway through, or if we were only metres from the end. I also had the feeling we weren't heading straight across since the easiest route always seemed to be tending to the right. Amy decided we should go back; though I hated to admit defeat I had no idea where we or the baboons were, so we followed our path back to the reassuringly short bushes we'd come from.

Once out of the marsh we were still about halfway between the road and the beach with the tick infected grasses between us and the car. It was at this point that it began to rain. Thunder rumbled ominously from black clouds on the horizon. We set off and hoped the damp would put off the ticks! We eventually made it back to the car (of course) and leapt in - I went straight for my unfinished lunch. While we sat there munching as the rain strenghthened we heard baboons barking nearby on the other side of the road. Grrrr.

We decided that we'd definitely completely lost the bloody baboons and set off home.

Which is of course where we've been since. As I said there's been lots of DVD watching and I've managed to borrow Caroline's Harry Potter (it made me happy) and am now going through some ancient 'Just William' books I've found which have turned out to be very amusing. I was considering how I should read them to my children, when I came across the word 'nigger' and decided to check through them first. :)

Speaking of which, 'coloured' is apparently a valid descriptive term here. I shall have to remember next time to enlighted you all with my completely naive and ignorant report on South Africa. I failed miserably to wiki the politics before I came. I'm hoping I can get along with 'Mandela good!'.

Till next time!

Monday, 23 July 2007

Brief update

Hi guys!
Gale force winds today - hoorah!
Yesterday was a complete baboon-oriented waster-day at the park. After helping Tali and Simon locate Kanonkop (they keep turning up at crazy new sleeping sites!) me and Caroline went off to look for Cape Point. Winnie, an adult female, is wearing a collar so we were going all over in the car waving a radio antenna about looking for them. We eventually decided they were in some thick bushes we didn't want to go into (the same impenetrable ones I forced my way through just before realising I'd lost baboons, a walkie-talkie and Simon last week). So we decided to have a nap in the car instead. :) One hour later there was still no sign of them and since it was already 2/3pm we eventually gave up and went off to be touristy! We went to cape point proper with all the crowds of tourists and we even went into the gift shop! Then we went to a nice beach and found pretty shiny shell things that look kind of like mother-of-pearl but more blue. Caroline calls it 'aboloni' or something. :S Then we got a call from Tali saying she'd lost Simon. Hehe. So we went off and helped her found him and generally lazed about until he'd finished all his data collection. For the sake of not being too wastery I did climb the same painful hill twice. Go me!
Am hoping to be super-fit by the end of this. Kanonkop in particular helps by travelling 10km in a day, and they all make you climb ridiculous hills. Chile will be lots of walking too - and probably less days off.
I don't know if any of this baboon babbling makes any sense to you guys but this is what I'm up to!
Cool animals I've seen:
Puff Adder; small snakes and lizards; a small stripey frog; tiny tortoise; frickin enourmous tortoise; eland; 'bontabok'(?); grysbok (?); chacma baboons; a lone zebra; ostriches; sacred ibis; other weird ibis; endangered black oystercatchers; sunbirds; sugarbirds; some sort of awesome eagle with a white head; some cool beetles.
That should keep my dad happy!

P.S. This post was actually from two days ago - monday - managed not to actually post it - sorry! Will try to re-update you soon! :)

What I learnt from University

Going to Cambridge has taught me that things will always be easy;
It's taught me how to love new kinds of people,
to make new families,
and that these will be the best years of my life.

Cambridge has taught me that being the best is all that matters;
I've learnt to hate new kinds of people,
that home is temporary,
and that real friends are not.

Leaving Cambridge has taught me that life isn't an exam;
Now I know which people matter,
to never say goodbye,
and that this
is only the beginning.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Week number two!

I am now in the very small local post office which I managed to walk to from the house - which means as much time as I want - wohoo! There is a rather cute dog in here too which is distracting me some what.

A whole 'nother week without a post - I'm sorry - there has been much baboon following you see. And it'll be a while more again, weather dependant. Luckily we don't go out when it's raining or gale force winds like yesterday as we would get washed/blown off the mountains. Today babooning has been called off due to an inability to find the baboons!

Have been out with three different troupes this week: Kanonkop, Buffel's Bay and Cape Point. They all have slightly different home ranges within the Cape of Good Hope reserve.

The Kanonkop troupe is huge - with about 40 adults, and they also have a huge range which means finding them is a real pain if you didn't follow them the day before to find out where they were sleeping. The first day they went out they never found them all day but last Sat I went out with Tali (the PhD student/organiser) and managed to spot them in the early morning sunning themselves on a tower of rocks which we now know is one of their sleeping sites. Following them is tricky because they're not accustomed to humans, plus they spread way out rather than sticking together so you never know which ones to follow and where the rest are! Fortunately most of their range is quite flat with low vegetation. It looks a bit like a rock garden sometimes - all low shrubs! We saw a puff adder that day - it was big and orange and entirely the wrong shape for a snake, moving more like a caterpillar.

I've worked Cape Point quite a lot this week. These are the guys which have the moniters chasing them and like to jump into cars. Just the other day they led us straight up the most appalling thick-bush-covered mountain. Ouch ouch ouch.
A couple of days before that while partner Simon had gone off to fetch the car, the moniters chased them into tall bushes that I had already been warned were impenetrable. Ok, I thought, I'll stick really close and follow their paths. This sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. :S However, I inevitably lost all sight of any of them though I could still hear the moniters whistling behind me so I decided to forge ahead and get to the road on the other side at the same time as the baboons. Oh so not a good plan. Tho I did manage to get through it! Just.
So I finally make it to the road absolutely exhausted and scratched to bits where I realise the walkie-talkie is no longer in my pocket. Sh*t. I could go back in, but there is no sign of Simon and I have no phone. So I wait, and I wait. Helpfully the baboons turn up. Great - one less lost thing! While sitting around waiting for Simon I realise that one of the females is carrying something that looks vaguely like meat or leather. It turns out to be a dead baby that appears to have been born prematurely. Not good. I grab my camera, leave my bag and stick and go over for a better look. I really should have known better. Brutus, the dominant male, goes straight for my bag and proceeds to take everything out and gnaw at my (luckily empty) sandwhich box. So I just stand there while all the tourists who've stopped along the road watch. Man do I look stupid! Brutus eventually got bored and left, I eventually located Simon, and we came back the next day and managed to find the walkie-talkie pretty easily. So that was ok!

The Buffel's bay troupe are smaller with a very small territory. These are the real menaces as they have no moniters and a visitors centre and picnic site in the bay - these are the guys that raided the picnic and went for me and Lily last week. A few days ago BB King, the dominant male, and Elvis, a sub-adult male, went for some kids at the visitors centre. By which I mean they threw two small boys to the ground. Not good. It may be that one of the kids had a sweet or something - the parents came in and stood between them and the males backed off. So not good. I think the park want to rubber-bullet them to try and scare them a bit - they're far too tame.
Not just tame - they're mean. Simon and I went without researcher jackets with Al once. Britney, a pregnant female, was getting left behind. She finally passes us whereupon she stops, looks carefully at Simon and I and starts screaming. Not in pain or panic, but calling the others. We didn't even have backpacks on at this point, but the all came running up and surrounding us. We pointed our sticks at them till they went away. They did it to me again a bit later, just coming up looking far too interested - it's possible that they thought the camera I was holding was food. Anyway they're clearly used to preying on tourists!
We went to watch some University of Cape Town (UCT) people darting them with darts that fall out containing a small flesh sample. The first time it was Britney that got hit, she ran off screaming and BB King was straight in there at the guy with the blow pipe thing. After that he got a bit more nervous though and gave up charging. The guy decided darting him without the safety of a car was maybe not such a good idea though. I kept WELL out of the way while all this was going on!

Ok, I think this is probably enough of a mega-long uber post to keep you going for a while! I think I shall go back to the house and watch some more Prison Break DVDs. :D

Friday, 13 July 2007

First *proper* post from South Africa

Aiaiai that last one was close. Just as I clicked 'publish post' my time ran out - I didn't think it had gone through - phew! Once again I'm running short on time - today because Caroline's on cooking duty - so how about a quick recap?

One week ago: Managed to avoid Dr Who spoilers until literally my last hour on British soil - *echoes adam's sentiments less rudely* : Aw man!
One week ago 2 hours later: Damnit - can't take off due to a technical fault. Luckily a team of skilled engineers are working on fixing the toilets.
Day 1: Arrive in Cape Town (Thank you Pratibha!). Manage not to get mugged. Leave Cape Town. Arrive in beautiful house on the beach full of biologists - awesome! Play poker with a South African and an American - it's good to know that gambling crosses cultural boundaries. Lose all raw macaroni to American due to ridiculous string of aces on his part. Think it might be fun to learn to surf.
Day 2: First day in the field - off to Cape of Good Hope Park. Or something. There's a cape there anyway. There are also ostriches. Climbed enormous hill to locate baboons. There are no trees in South Africa. Followed baboons aaaalllll day. Baboons raid picnic -> Researchers appear too interested in large loaf of bread being consumed -> Suddenly confronted by two faces full of sharp white teeth screaming at us -> Back off pretty damn quick. Go to bed as soon after dinner as is polite, completely unprepared for yet another 6am alarm.
Day 3: Follow different baboons. They don't have trees but they have many bushes here making finding aforementioned baboons very difficult. The bushes are also prickly and contain ticks. Mmm. Saw four tortoises. Lose baboons. Decide it might be painful to learn to surf.
Day 4: Have the morning off -> Sleep 13 hours. Follow Lily following baboons down sheer cliff. Get stuck in bush at bottom. Almost lose walkie-talkie to over-interested female. Film baboons eating grass in front of beautiful waves and Cape Point.
Oh by the way, it's not just following that we do. There is also looking. And writing. Things like "BB King eating bread" and "Adult female foraging on leaves". These things are written down every 20 minutes along with the GPS position. This is very important for researchy things.
Saw bontabok. (deer things).
Day 5 and 6: Days off due to gale force winds - hoorah! Go wine tasting. Less hoorah. Do not taste wine. Go shopping -> Fail to avoid being talked into buying things in market -> Succeed in new skill of bartering! Woo!
Today: Back to work. Find abandond Ostrich egg. Lose use of pronouns. Steal Adam's jokes.

Some of these baboons really are terrors - they're really not afraid of people. As Matt commented they will happily leap into cars (and restaurants according to Jayames) and raid innocent picnickers. Everyday we have to search for distant rocks to hide behind before opening our back packs and having lunch; which is fine if you can then locate the baboons again afterwards. The park employs two 'moniters' for one troupe who follow them around chasing them away from the tourist areas at the point - which means the occasional bout of running as we try to keep up with baboons being chased into think bush.

I've been filming and taking a very few dodgy camera pics but I'm not going to be doin any uploading I'm afraid [P] as this would involve too much hard work and memory sticks and installing of software. :( However my plan is to make a shaky documentary which you can all see (when I get around to it)! What I wouldn't give for a magical tripod.

Voila! Actually that took quite a while but it's ok as Caroline is still fiddling around trying to book plane tickets - and it's a good job she needed to, coz she drove me to the mall and otherwise I would have had adam yelling at me for lack of posts again!

Thanks for reading guys - and to those ppl who commented. :) As I said, about once a week is likely for posts - but maybe more. This may not satisfy those who need work-avoidance procrastination but I'm a busy person you know! Anyway, I'm having a good (if exhausting) time here so I'll catch you all later!

P.S.(Not bad for a 'quick' post!)

P.P.S. Day 7: Log off. Leave Mall.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

First post from South Africa.

Time remaining: 4 minutes.
Frell frell frell.
Which means I've spent the rest of my paid for hour emailing and faceooking and have failed to leave satisfactory blogging time. Belgium! Not to mention the fact that I haven't posted anything since I left which some ppl seem to be a tad frustrated by...

"Shamini post something. Anything. Seriously, update already, there's only so much time I can waste at workwithout it becoming obvious."

2 minutes left. I'll come back another day ok? Oh I'm gonna be in so much trouble. Maybe not tomorrow as we're out in the field, i.e. tomorrow I have to follow baboons around all day.


Friday, 6 July 2007

Hermes Webmail

Err...still haven't started packing yet...pantspantspants. :S

Anyway, here's a song for the cambridge graduates to keep you entertained.

Every night in my dreams
I check you, I read you
That is how I know you go on

Far across the distance
And e-space between us
In Cambridge I know you go on

Near, far, wherever you are
I believe that my webmail goes on
Once more you open my inbox
And you're here in my bookmarks
And my hermes will go on and on

Email was when I had you
One true time I hold to
Still it’s so hard not to log on

Webmail is an addiction
And a life time’s procrastination,
And we can’t let go once it’s gone

Near, far, wherever you are
I believe that my hermes goes on
Once more you open your pages
And you're here on my homepage
And my hermes will go on and on

Thursday, 5 July 2007


Right, I'm off tomorrow. Still haven't packed. Oops. :S

The idea of this blog now is so I can keep you all updated about what I'm doing when I do have internet access! So, for those of you who don't know what you need updating about: I'm going to the cape of good hope, South Africa to follow baboons around and then to Robinson Crusoe Island off Chile to look at hummingbirds in the cold. These are entirely voluntary research assistant positions on zoology projects from various universities. Yay! I can't be bothered to give you any more details - we'll just have to see as we go along. :)

I'm hoping you will enjoy reading my 'explorer logs' and will forgive me for lack of details in personal emails! Please leave comments too!

Wednesday, 4 July 2007


I have come to realise that everyone is screwed up when it comes to their parents.

Maybe it's who you are with everyone else that's important.

Monday, 2 July 2007


Ok, an explanation of the trauma:
Having to leave all her friends, return 'home' indefinitely and be unemployed makes Antimini sad and highly combustable.
Getting two jobs within a few days and the beginning of an actual future makes Antimini happy!

Happy enough to have been able to repress the unbearability of goodbyes right away - 'see you soon' is far preferable and the prospect has enabled me to remain above the waterline for most of the post-exam period and have a great time. Too many good times to record, and so happy I shouldn't need to.

So, this blog is soon to become public property! Available to all anyway- as a useful means of avoiding numerous individual emails, clogging inboxes of those who don't care, updating those who do of goings on and generally communicating with the outside world despite limited internetconnectedness from the wrong hemisphere/remote islands etc.

As such my next post must be to explain all my plans, and my next job must be to 'publicise' the site. *sigh* Just coz I have a whole week doesn't mean I can be bothered to get anything done! :)