Waking up after an hours extra sleep was pretty nice, even if it was absolutely freezing again. After being given just enough time to warm up we were straight on the jeep for another bumpy ride over to the main building where we were treated to a delicious cooked breakfast with spiced beans, scrambled eggs, mushrooms and sausages.
After making a few maintenance stops to pick up some building materials and a spare tyre, we took the bumpy twenty minute drive to the neighbouring town of Paterson, where we were to be working at the local high school for the first half of the day. When we arrived, the contrast of coming from a nice well organised established college was shocking. Litter was strewn over most of the spare floor space, broken and rusty chairs were stacked up against fences and walls in completely unusable states and most of the vegetation was overgrown and unchecked.
The main project of the day was to set up a vegetable garden in a fenced off portion of the school yard, so that the school’s “Eco-team” could plant and grow vegetables so that they could be more sustainable in the future. We set out working without hesitation, eager to fulfil the opportunity we had been given to improve the day-to-day lives of the school children. A lot of hard work shovelling, raking and digging later we had produced five fair sized vegetable gardens in a now securely fenced-off field. At first it was somewhat awkward standing around in the hot sun labouring away when all the students stood and watched the work unfolding, but once they had time to get used to us being there they pitched in as well. In fact they were far better at the manual labour than us, working as a well-oiled machine to accomplish the task at hand. After the garden was complete we set to work clearing up the rest of the yard, picking up barbed wire and litter, cutting down vines and overgrown shrubs. When the work was concluded I felt as though we had accomplished an extremely worthwhile feat, and we could all feel proud of what we had achieved.
After a quick sandwich lunch we headed straight back out to do some rhino tracking. With the prospect of rhinos, both white and black we drove off into the savannah dust once more, cameras at the ready. The drive turned out to be more than enjoyable. First of all we ran into a large herd of Eland, the largest and heaviest antelope species in the reserve. In exactly the same spot we became extremely fortunate when we were able to view a pair of nesting secretary birds in a nearby tree, once again being told all about the species behaviour by our amazing ranger, Cindy. Soon after that we came across some definite signs of rhino activity, in the form of a used scratching spot and rhino dung. Almost instantly after we encountered a group of three white rhino, an elderly mother and two younger females. After we located them we had to identify which ones we had found by looking at the notches the rhinos had on their ears, and then record their location.
A day of rhino monitoring done, we made our way back home for dinner. However, we had amazing luck when we encountered a Serval (a nocturnal cat species. Cindy informed us this was immense good luck and became breathless when the cat swaggered alongside the jeep mere feet away.
After another day of outstanding animal sightings and wholly enjoyable community work, we drove back to camp for another relaxing evening sat around the fire.
Plus, Rachel fell over, so that’s funny too.
Abingdon Witney College – Diary – Day 3