Pachi's Diary: Time to say Goodbye and Thank You
In February, the 17-year-old Maria de la Paz di Bello from Buenos Aires, Argentina - we call her "Pachi" - completes an internship at Rhulani Safari Lodge. She tells us about her experiences in a completely new environment.
Thursday, 15 February
Time to say Goodbye and Thank You
This morning, I packed up and prepared to leave. I bought a bracelet of the Endangered Wildlife Trust that contributes to the protection of wild dogs. I wanted one ever since I arrived at the lodge but I kept forgetting to buy it. I’m also taking a bunch for my friends and family. It might not make a huge difference, but it’s something!
Before leaving, I said my goodbyes to the staff and gave them caramel cookies (a sweet treat typical from my country), to thank them for taking me in while I was so far from home. They are a true family. It was my first time traveling alone, and it could have been scary but they made it so easy, and I am really grateful for that. Thank you! I will really miss you! The waitresses, the maids, the chefs, the managers, the barman, the guards, the rangers... I will remember all of you!
Wednesday, 14 February
Vow renewal in the bush on Valentine’s day
Today was my last day at Rhulani. At 12:00 I joined a couple who were celebrating their vow renewal in the bush (on Valentine’s day!), so I went earlier to help the staff set everything up for the event. It was a really nice ceremony, and the staff were all dressed in typical South African clothes and had their faces painted. They welcomed the guests singing and dancing and I played some love songs for them with my guitar. It was very romantic. I’m glad I had the chance to be there. The Tswana people have a very rich and beautiful culture, and I am happy that I got to know it up close.
In the afternoon I went on my last game drive, which was amazing because I saw the leopard for the last time. It was a great closure for all the safaris that I went on. I am going to miss the bush so much! It has been two fantastic weeks, and I have learned a lot from everyone I met. This has been a unique experience, especially at this moment in my life when I am about to begin my studies in Environmental Management, because coming to Madikwe has reassured me of how much I care about nature. I hope to help wildlife somehow in the future, in whichever way I can.
Tuesday, 13 February
Playing guitar for the guests in the bar
Today, I went on the morning drive joining my dad and his girlfriend, and it was great. He brought a professional digital camera, so now I can take better quality pictures than the ones I have been taking with my phone.
It was a quiet morning. We stopped for some coffee as usual, but then at around 8:00 the staff prepared a surprise for the guests. All three groups met in a spot at the bush, where Moses the chef and Ernie the bartender had set up some tables and were cooking crumpets to celebrate International Pancake Day.
In the afternoon, I helped the waitresses set up everything for high tea, took the guests’ orders for dinner, and got ready to leave for game drive.
At night, during dinner, I played the guitar and sang for the guests while they were having dessert. I hope they liked it!
Monday, 12 February
On our way back we ran into my dad
Today I woke up at 7:00 a.m., helped out with breakfast and left at 9:00 on a day drive with Alasdair. It was amazing! We travelled very far, all the way to the north eastern boundary of the reserve.
We saw a wide variety of animals. A herd of elephants, white rhinos, a hyena (in broad daylight!) and a tower of giraffes. We stopped by a river to have a nice picnic for lunch, and then we carried on. Pretty much by chance, we found two female cheetahs which have been in the park for only three months. They had collars on their necks, through which ecologists can monitor their health. They happened to be very close to a herd of wildebeests, and we thought that we might witness a kill, but apparently the weather was too hot for them to hunt.
On our way back to the lodge, at about 17:00, we ran into my dad. He arrived at Rhulani today, and was just leaving on his first game drive as we were coming back from ours. He is staying for three nights, and we will be leaving together this Thursday.
Tonight, the dinner venue was the Boma for the first time in all of my trip, because the weather was really nice this evening. It was beautiful! It is an outdoor space, so you can look at the stars above. The African sky is unique, it never ceases to amaze me! The traditional South African food, such as the braai, is excellent. And once again, the staff danced and sang for the guests. It was a fantastic night.
Sunday, 11 February
A banana cake and a huge storm
On Sunday, I woke up early again to go on a morning game drive. We found a lioness and followed her all the way to a zebra kill that she had made during the night.
Back at the lodge, I made banana pancakes for breakfast and took a long nap to reload energy for the afternoon drive.
We got to see two male cheetahs, but a huge storm broke out all of a sudden, so we got soaked and headed back to the lodge to dry up. We set off once again, and saw two beautiful lionesses, mother and daughter, lying down in the shade. On our way back, Sean spotted a baby chameleon in a branch. It was really cute.
Saturday, 10 February
I finally saw the wild dogs!
Today, I woke up very early, had some quick breakfast and set off on my first morning game drive with Alasdair at 5:15 a.m. I was finally able to check all animals off my wish list. We spotted a steenbok, a group of helmeted guinea fowls running from a black backed jackal, a couple of Kudus, a red hartebeest, plenty of zebras and blue wildebeests, and a warthog with her piglets (one of which we almost run over accidentally!).
We were headed a long way from the lodge because we were determined to find the wild dogs (my favourite animal in the bush, and currently the most endangered species in South Africa). On the way, we run across three young male lions and two sleepy rhinos who were woken up by the sound of the jeep’s engine. The greatest highlight was that we got to see an African sunrise, which was even more breathtaking than yesterday’s sunset.
We finally found the wild dog’s hiding spot, and the sight was worth the long journey. I had been longing to see them since my first day at Madikwe! Three of the dogs were operated on yesterday because of some injuries, and they seem to be recovering pretty well. It is a lovely pack, with lots of puppies.
Having accomplished our goal, we headed back to the lodge, and on the way we encountered a group of elephant cows and their calves bathing in a waterhole. Further ahead we saw some giraffes, and I learned that when fully grown they can be as tall as 7 metres! Unbelievable!
We made a stop at around 8:00 a.m., to stretch our legs and to drink a hot cup of Amarula coffee, which was just what I needed because mornings can get really cold at Madikwe. Tomorrow I will be taking a blanket. We headed back to Rhulani, and when we thought the safari couldn’t get any better we came across an old buffalo bull! Now I can say that I have seen all of the Big Five. It was the most exciting game drive ever!
Back at the lodge, I prepared for a day of housekeeping. I helped Valencia tidy a room for some guests who are checking in today, and Moises showed me everything that has to be double checked to make sure that a room is ready.
Friday, 9 February
Guests from my home country Argentina
Today, Friday 9th, was an incredible day. This afternoon I went on a game drive with Tsholo, one of Rhulani’s rangers, and to my surprise, the guests that joined us were from Argentina! My home country! I realized this as soon as I heard them speak in Spanish because I recognized the accent immediately. I was so thrilled! I told them all about my internship and what a unique experience it has been so far.
As for the game drive, it was spectacular, as usual. We got to see lots of impalas and blue wildebeests, as well as zebras, elephants and a spotted hyena, and also a pride of lionesses resting in the shade with their eight-month-old cubs. It was a sight to behold. We stopped for a snack at about 18:30 and contemplated the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen. Beyond description! As we were heading back, Tsholo stopped to help a ranger from another lodge who had got a flat tyre and didn’t have a jack.
Back at Rhulani, I changed into my night uniform and met with Ernie at the bar, where we made some Mojitos. I talked with some of the guests about their game drives, and they were all very pleased. Clearly, each drive has a charm of its own. During dinner, the staff danced and sang happy birthday to one of the Argentinian guests, who was celebrating his birthday. It was wonderful. I love it when they sing.
Ah, I forgot to add that at today's game drive I also saw a lilac breasted roller (tho most colorful bird in the world!!).
Tomorrow I’m rising early because I am going on my first morning drive! I am really looking forward to it!
Thursday, 8 February
Rhulani's Pimm’s Cocktail
Today, I worked at the bar with Ernie once again. He taught me how to make a variety of cocktails, such as Bloody Mary, Caipirinha, Irish Coffee and the lodge’s own special drink: Rhulani Pimm’s Cocktail, with Pimm’s No. 1, lemonade, cucumber, apple and strawberry. Amazing! In the evening, we prepared a couple of gin and tonics ordered by two of our guests.
I am really enjoying my time at Rhulani, and the staff have received me with such warmth that I barely feel homesick at all. One of the girls, Lenah, has been particularly friendly to me, and she taught me a song about Rhulani’s values: “Respect, Heart, Uniform, Legendary, Accountability, Never say no and Impress”. She is going on leave today, and I will miss her!
One of the guests, to whom I had sent some elephant pictures that I took at a game drive, was so grateful that he gave me a chocolate as a present, before checking out. It was so nice of him!
Wednesday, 7 February
My first day at the bar with Ernie
Today I was working in the bar area for the first time, with the lodge's barman, Ernie. He is teaching me how to make the different coffees and cocktails. in the morning I made my first cappuccino!
In the afternoon I went on safari again, and I kept learning a lot about animals. The guides are incredible, and they do not get tired of answering all my questions, which are many. What I like the most about being at Rhulani is undoubtedly having the opportunity to be surrounded by animals, because they are my passion.
Later in the afternoon we received the guests when they arrived from the game drive with welcoming drinks, and at night we offered each table a wine list so they could choose the one they most liked. During dinner, the staff members sang and danced for the guests. They all really love it! I filmed everything.
Tomorrow, Ernie is going to tell me a little bit more about the wines of South Africa, the temperature at which they are kept and how to serve the wine properly.
Tuesday, 6 February
Preparing a "Romantic Turndown"
Today I helped prepare breakfast. I can do that already very well: I took the orders and passed them to Mavis, our chef. When all the guests finished breakfast, I had a rest until 5:00 pm.
Then I set about preparing rooms for the guests returning from game drive. This is called "turndown service". After arranging room 9, I prepared a "romantic turndown" for the couple in room 6, who are on their honeymoon. A few minutes before the guests returned, we took the champagne to the room, lit the candles and filled the bathtub with water and foam. I am very proud, as it all looked very pretty.
Monday, 5 February
I dared to take the orders for the main course
It's my third day and everything is going very well. Again I learned new things from serving staff. The girls showed me how to fold napkins into different shapes.I helped with breakfast and high tea, and this time I dared to take orders for the main course of the dinner.
At 4:30p.m., Alasdair proposed to go to a game drive with some guests who had just checked in - and I could join. We saw everything! Antelopes, dung beetles, the remains of a zebra, a leopard, a herd of elephants, rhinos (a mother and her baby), giraffes, a turtoise and finally a family of lions, with puppies! Nothing was missing, and all this in just 3 hours.
When we returned from the safari, I changed to evening clothes, and I worked with the girls again at dinner, which was inside because there was a strong storm coming. One of the guests who had been with me on safari, asked me to send him the photos I had taken with my cell phone of the elephants we had seen! He loved them. It was a very good day.
Sunday, 4 February
We all sang "Happy birthday"
Today, on my second day, I worked in the kitchen again, but this time as a chef. It was real fun! I was taught how to make vegetable wraps for high tea, smoked salmon rolls for the dinner entrance, Mexican flan for dessert, and a blue velvet cake for a guest who was celebrating his birthday today. In the morning, during breakfast, we presented the cake with candles and we all sang “happy birthday”. I love how the staff dances and sings! I think tomorrow I will be working as a waitress again.
Saturday, 3 February
My first day in the kitchen
Today was my first day working here in the lodge. I am very comfortable and happy. At 7:30 a.m. we all got together, and I loved hearing how all staff pray singing in the morning. Very nice way to start the day! I got my uniform for the day and for the night. I started working in the kitchen, preparing tables for breakfast, high tea and dinner. I served dishes and cleared them again, and put everything in order afterwards. I saw an elephant at the waterhole!! The food cooked by the chef is delicious indeed.