Charlotte Coales

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In 2012, I took a 6 month career break to travel to New Zealand, Africa and Madagascar.  This is a record of some of my adventures, big and small......

By coales, Jul 20 2012 01:00PM

Hot water, flushing toilets, we're certainly not roughing it out here! The only problem with the toilet/shower block is that it's situated down a winding path about 100m from my tent. Not a problem during the day, but during the night who knows what might be lurking in the bushes on either side!


For the first few nights in camp I dreaded the thought of having to use the toilet in the middle of the night. I would wake up in the wee small hours and sleepily peer out of my tent. Pitch darkness would greet me; the lanterns having either been blown out or run low on oil. Then, with my heart in my mouth, I would begin the perilous route to the toilets. Swinging my torch wildly in very direction I would wince at the slightest sound of moving leaves or breaking branches. I would long to run, but desperately resisted knowing 'only dinner runs in the bush'. So instead, I would painstakingly walk along the path, giddily relieved when I made it to the toilets in one piece.


I mentioned my nightly terror to others in the camp and most of them sympathised with me. Except for Ally, who proudly admitted that she just peeed outside her tent! A far safer and quicker venture. Upon consideration and following another night of heart-stopping toilet exploration, I followed Ally's advice and felt much the better for it!


By coales, Jul 19 2012 02:10PM

......a Trachylepis striata also known as an African Striped Skink.


Useful to have around as they like eating insects! Curiously they're also able to lose their tail if attacked by a predator.....and are then able to regenerate a new one. Very cool!

By coales, Jul 19 2012 01:43PM

So, here I am, in the South African Bush - my home for the next month. The private reserve where I'm staying isn't far from Kruger National Park, and we more or less have the place to ourselves. A group of farmers own the area and there are several volunteers who monitor the local pride of lions, but other than that we haven't seen another sole - it really does feel very remote.


This is my tent, and it's pretty comfy. No holes or torn material, which hopefully means no unwanted critters inside! I have a resident African Striped Skink who I hear dashing across the canvas overhead or sometimes glimpse silhouetted against the sun outside. It's nice to have a neighbour!


Inside the tent is a mattress and mosquito net - fortunately we're at the end of summer and the wet season, which means there aren't many mosquitoes around, but that doesn’t stop me applying repellent just incase!




By coales, Jul 5 2012 03:34PM

After a whistle-stop visit to a very wet and rainy Sydney, I climbed onboard a 14 hour flight to Johannesburg.


I had heard various stories about South Africa, some good, some terrifying. Having been advised to use the train rather than other forms of transport in Johannesburg because ‘it has armed guards’ and equipped with a well hidden money belt and numerous copies of my passport and insurance details, I had braced myself for the worst!


Aware of higher than average crime rates in Johannesburg, I chose a guesthouse with a complementary pick-up from the airport, no need for armed guards on this occasion! Driving through the city it was clear that things were different from the UK – tall walls and gates surrounded almost every house, garnished with barbed wire on top and signs informing you that the owners were protected by an ‘armed response’ security firm. Despite all this, people remained friendly and sincere, and (taking the necessary precautions of not walking around on my own at night etc) I felt pretty comfortable in my new surroundings.


I had come to Johannesburg to begin an experience that would test my nerves and, amongst other things, put my fear of spiders to rest! I was embarking upon a course to become a Field Guide for Southern Africa and would finally have the opportunity to appreciate what it’s like to live in the African Bush. To say I was excited would be an understatement!




By coales, Mar 4 2012 02:00PM

An eventful morning.

6am - dark and pouring with rain. I tumble out of bed and pack up my things. Make my way to catch the bus to the airport in Christchurch. Stand waiting at bus-stop in rain for over half an hour. Two buses fail to turn up (despite seeing them running in the opposite direction).

Try to hail a cab - realise that although their sign is lit up, they are carrying people and not available!

Try calling a cab on mobile phone, number not recognised.

Now in mild state of panic, I stumble into a nearby petrol station shop and ask if they have the number for a taxi - they offer to call for me - I gratefully accept their offer of help. Silence as they are on hold waiting for taxi firm to answer. 'Busy morning' says the petrol guy, 'everyone's looking for a taxi in this weather.' I manage a half-hearted smile.

Rashly ask random man standing next to me in queue if he's driving near the airport. He is not.

Petrol guy trys another number. My heart sinks as I glance at the clock and realise my flight departs in less than an hour.

Petrol guy gets through to the taxi company, they are sending a car straight round. The next five minutes feel like hours. Car arrives, pile my bags in and explain the situation. 'Should be alright' he says. I hold out little hope, it is now 50 minutes until my plane departs. I know the bus takes 30 minutes to the airport, I hope the taxi is quicker!

Not moving. Stuck in traffic. 'Roads are terrible since the earthquake' my driver muses, 'worse time of day to travel, rush hour.' Yes, thankyou, I'd realised that!

Taxi driver takes a few short cuts. I am grateful but we're still moving slowly.

8am news comes on the radio.

Sat still at traffic lights. Car rocks slightly. 'Did you feel that?' asks taxi driver. Yes. 'Tremor....aftershock.' Wow! My first. He tells me there have been thousands since the quake a year ago and recounts his own experience of the February earthquake and the effect it had. Momentarily, I forget my haste and sit in wonder.

8.15am, arrive at airport. Overpay driver because I am just so grateful to finally be there!

Plane leaves at 8.40am. I am resigned to the fact that I will have to pay for a new flight and may miss my connection. That's what Barclaycard is for.

Hurry into terminal, and with small glimmer of hope, glance up at departures board.

My flight is still open!

Within 15 minutes I am caterpulted from taxi cab, to check-in desk, past security, through my gate, and into my plane seat. That would never be possible at Heathrow!

With ten minutes to spare until the plane takes off, I sink into my seat and let out a grateful sigh of relief.


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