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Thanda 6.4

This is the title because originally we were planned to go to a reserve called Thanda, but they were all booked, so Rhino River Lodge was the second option, but for the longest time we weren't sure if we were going to be able to go on the safari.

sunny 78 °F

It’s Sunday night, and I’m back at the Lodge after going on a weekend Safari at Rhino River Lodge. It was…one of the greatest experiences of my entire life. It’s impossible to capture the experience, but I’ll try to give a description of our schedule to try and give a picture of it. All in all, it was about a 24-hour experience; we left the Lodge at 11AM, arrived by 1PM, then left the next day (today) at 11. We got there and immediately were greeted with lemonade refreshments and cool towels to wipe our faces with. That’s when I first sensed this safari experience was going to be better than I imagined. The property was gorgeous. I roomed with three other people and our “Chalet”, as it was called, had two floors, bath and shower, coffee/tea/biscuits, and a huge living room with plush couches. We did have a couple of visitors being many crickets and a gecko in the bath tub – the real wildlife experience. Now, the rooms we stayed in were on the game reserve, so when night came, we had to be escorted by guards because there was a risk of wild game (which we saw impala and many warthogs). At 1:30PM we were served an amazing lunch of cheeseburgers/cheesecake and then went on our first safari at 3PM. We were on the drive for about 4 hours. I have never been so content and calm in a car for that long. When we finished I thought it had only been 30 minutes. It was nice because we stopped halfway on this grassy plain by this rock that looked like Pride Rock from The Lion King. We were given free drinks (I had a tequila mixed with Passion Fruit granita) and snacks. Our guide’s name was Stuart. We are now following each other on Instagram. He was amazing. His specialty is the Big 5, so we ended up seeing every animal from the Big 5 except a panther. My favorite favorite favorite animal we saw was a momma cheetah. She was a queen. So gorgeous. I made sure to take notes on every animal we saw as Stuart explained facts about them. When we got back, dinner was chicken or lamb and then a dessert.

This morning, we were served muffins and coffee/tea at 6AM before leaving for our morning game drive at 6:30. It was insanely cold! Right off the bat we saw a hyena, which was a big surprise because they are nocturnal. It looked mean, but it was pretty stocky, which is different than how The Lion King portrays them. We were out another four hours and our goal today was to spot a rhino. We saw momma cheetah again which was cool, but I was worried we wouldn’t see a rhino because we were heading back to the lodge and had only seen outline of two from a long distance. Suddenly, over the radio our guide got word of a White Rhino. We were lucky enough to see it! It had its horns cut to help prevent poaching. Our guide was such a daredevil. He went off the path and got way closer than they are supposed to get. Our car was full of girls and we all trusted him at that point and were like “get closer! Go Stuart!”. When we got back, we were served another huge breakfast. I swear, I could never in my wildest dreams imagine how amazing that safari was going to be. And to think, I wasn’t going to sign up to go because of the price, but all of my friends told me that if I never had the opportunity to return to South Africa, I would regret not going on one. Really, this safari was super cheap for everything that was included. I swear, if the doctor thing doesn’t work out, you’ll be able to find me on the safari being a ranger. It was a once-in-a-lifetime, beyond expectations experience that no one should miss out on.

Posted by kfkeane 09:37 Archived in South Africa Tagged sunset queen breakfast dinner safari lodge chicken drive cheetah game coffee rhino tequila volunteer cold cricket hyena golden_hour big_5 muffin Comments (2)

Welcome or Not

sunny 76 °F

Today was a pretty lazy day. Even when I got up, I felt too tired and lazy to work out. I decided to write some thank you notes to the people who wrote my recommendation letter for medical school and FaceTime my parents. I also did a little grocery shopping and searched for souvenirs. I'm doing price comparisons between different shops to get the best price.

After talking with my parents, who are always the go-getters and can spend all day working outside and still have energy to exercise, I felt motivated to do a little something myself. One of the guys said he'd run with me as well. I'm glad I did it, but I definitely ran a little to close to eating. There is one other thing I noticed during the run. I realized that something that's been making me a bit uncomfortable during my stay here is that I don't feel welcomed in the community. Apparently it's a holiday weekend here, so everyone is out and about partying and drinking. I passed a lot of people on my runs, and 9/10 times they stare at me. I try to wave, but today I would say 0/14 people I waved at, waved back at me. So these people are staring at me, but not in a nice way. Then, 2x when I was out today, people started running beside me, laughing and mocking -- one was even a grown man. It makes me so uncomfortable, especially when they are laughing and talking to me in a language I don't understand. It honestly feels like I'm a zoo animal running through town. I can't be sure, but I'd have to say this is what it feels like to be a minority in a town...and it's not fun. You never feel at home and your guard is constantly up. It's very tiring.

Something else that is also taking some getting used to is the showers here!! It feels like they run the water through blast chiller before it comes out of the spigot! I thought I may have an asthma attack when I first put my body under the spray. The rest of the day was really great though. We had dinner, a housemate made dairy-free banana muffins, and I relaxed with some snacking, sudoku, and a movie (Avatar today!). Third week starts tomorrow ???? Happy Monday everyone!

Posted by kfkeane 11:37 Archived in USA Tagged zoo welcome run animal shower banana cold movie sunday exercise lazy mocking muffin Comments (2)

A Braai and a Purge

semi-overcast 65 °F

Today was a bit different than normal. In the Zulu community, there is a Chief who governs three villages, and then a King who is head of seven villages. The King recently died and his funeral was today. A lot of people in the Lodge went to the funeral. I decided not to go because 1) it was 7 hours long 2) all in Zulu. I am very happy with my decision. I slept in an until 7:30. Then the people who stayed home cleaned the Lodge. I decided I would sweep the floors and organize the living/dining space. It was so much fun! We had a great playlist and the company was just as great. After cleaning, a couple of us went for a run. I saw a small pack of Impala, which are kind of like South African deer, in the same place I'd seen the Zebra the day before. Also, the funniest thing happened when I finished my run. A couple of teenage African boys were walking past, and they tend to stare at white women, so of course they were basically gawking at me. All of a sudden I hear this big "thwack!". One of the boys had run into a stop sign while gawking at me and had fallen to the ground. It was hilarious. The rest of the afternoon was really enjoyable. I think today was my favorite day here yet.

After lunch, I FaceTimed my sister. It was so good to catch up with her and I loved seeing her and my dogs. My friend and I walked to the beach afterwards and as always, it was gorgeous. It was pretty chilly today, though, and my hands didn't warm up until about 9PM - mostly because when I got home I showered, and there is no hot water here, so I only became colder. The good thing is that after my shower I had dinner to look forward to. The lodge was hosting a Braai tonight, which is the South African version of a BBQ. We had chicken shish kabobs, cole slaw, grilled corn, potato salad, sausage, and drinks. It was soooo much fun! I think we are going to try and do it again the Friday before leaving. After the Braai, everyone decided to start making mixed drinks and then decided to go out to the bar. St. Lucia is popping this weekend because the Harley Davidson's of South Africa are staying across the street and are throwing quite the party. I stayed back from the bar with three others and we watched The Purge. The movie is freaky but pretty good. At one point, though, I went to get snacks and one of the friends who had stayed behind with us was drunk and decided it would be funny to get a mask and scare me...it worked. I seriously let out the most realistic, blood-curdling scream ever! I'm not sure that friend has drank much before because it felt like we were taking care of an elementary schooler the entire night. It made for good memories, though, and I'm glad I had some other people to help. Honestly, they were much better at dealing with the situation than me.

All in all, today was a great day. I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep and the Hippo and Croc tour tomorrow. Goodnight all. Sweet dreams of things not related to masks and purges.

Posted by kfkeane 13:10 Archived in South Africa Tagged water beach drink king friends sun party sleep bar relaxing bbq meat volunteer cold movie braai grill popcorn harley_davidson kabob Comments (2)

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