Off to Nambiti!

Good Morning People =)

Yesterday was my last entire day at Lionsrock. It was a wonderful and warm day and we brought enrichment to as many cats as possible. I said goodbye to the ones I will not see anymore on Monday and it felt strange…because I did not realize that I really leave Lionsrock on Monday. After one month being here, everything has become so familiar. I can’t imagine not seeing the cats anymore for a long long time. At least I know one thing for sure: I will come back. I will come back and see whether Tarzan has finally found a female to live with, whether Andy has been brought together with another lion, so they can play and have fun together, whether Simba got better and happier, and I will see the new tiges in their big enclosure (1ha per animal), remembering how scared they were when they arrived at Lionsrock.

I will see all the lovely people here again. Elke, who is such a dedicated and sweet animal keeper. Islam, the manager of Lionsrock, who is the master of braai and always smiling. Brown, the best bar keeper in the world. John who will be married by the time I come back =) And Johannes, who works hard every day and cares so much about the animals and who has introduced me all of them on my first feeding round. I also hope to see again the people of Four Paws who make it possible that Lionsrock exists the way it does: In favour of the big cats, providing them a beautiful and appropriate home. Per (the master of Springboki) is an amazing Person who keeps alive many animal welfare and, together with his wife, Jacqueline, runs (amongst other Projects) a big hospital project in Kenia. If there were more Pers and Jacquelines in this world, it would definitely be a better one.

Uh. I have to stop being sad. Because my adventures are not over yet. And I will have time on Monday to say goodbye to Andy and Simona and the other lions at Adaption 🙂

And noooow let’s go to Nambiti (Kwazulu Natal)! Safari time! Suzanne and I have rented a car for the weekend and in one hour we will head to the Ndaka Safari Lodge. It’s about three hours from here (which is not a big distance here in South Africa). On www.ndaka.co.za you can read more about the place. Our program is simple: Lunch, Game Drive, dinner, sleep, Game Drive, breakfast. In the area of Nambiti, there are (amongst a variety of other animals) the BIG FIVE (Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo, Lion and Leopard). The term Big Five originates from the colonial area when it was heroic to shoot big animals for trophies. Trophies of the Big Five were the most wanted, because they are the most dangerous animals to hunt. Still today, some people are going crazy for trophy hunting. I hope this will stop…At least some Airlines (South African Airlines, KLM and Emirates Sky Cargo) have now banned the transport of trophies (not the Swiss Airline, sadly) and Australia has even totally banned the import of trophies. I hope many others will follow.

I’m so excited to go on Safari and I hope we will see the Big Five. To shoot them with the camera, not with guns!!!

Have a wonderful Weekend! I have to go on adventure now! 🙂

What a week!

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I’m probably the worst blogger alive. But anyway, here we are again! =)

Sooo much happened this week and as soon as I wanted to sit down in the evenings to write something for the blog, there was another party or another braai or a wonderful sundown or just something else very exciting so.. sorry for that!

This week began with the arrival of our new room mate Suzanne. She is a professional volunteer from Great Britain, living in South Africa and taking part in a variety of Animal Welfare Projects. She had been to Lionsrock before, so she knows already a lot about the cats. She just had to get used to her crazy new room mates, but it only took us one funny evening to become friends.

It was a very special week because on Thursday, 6 tigers arrived from Felida, an Animal Rescue Center in the Netherlands which was taken over by Four Paws in October 2013. It has been existing for 20 years, but the animals lived under very bad conditions. Now, Four Paws will transfer the animals which are strong and healthy enough for a transport to sanctuaries like Lionsrock, where they live a much better life. The cats which are too weak for transport will stay in Felida which has been renovated in order to provide an appropriate and ethical home for them.

So the beginning of the week consisted of doing our usual rounds and helping to get the new enclosures clean and ready for the new tigers. In the new enclosures, the animal keepers cut the trees, so we had to carry away the branches and to pick up any rubbish and pieces of iron fences left over from construction.

On Thursday,the tigers arrived, so in the morning we did the last cleaning round in the enclosures. We were so excited because we knew that the tigers could only be released the same evening if they would arrive at 15.30 latest. It’s winter here, so it gets dark at around 18.30 and releasing the tigers in the dark would be a big risk. But as expected, the tigers arrived late and the release was shifted to the next morning. However, two of the young tigers had to be released immediately after arrival, since one of them was in bad conditions due to the long journey from Holland to South Africa. But only the animal keepers were present so that it was possible to release them quickly and safely. On Thursday evening we went up to the Lodge and met so many interesting people from Four Paws and from Felida. We had a lot of meat and wine for dinner, so that was a really nice and funny evening.

Friday was the Big Day. We went up early and got ready, all excited. But TIA – This Is Africa – and even though we were ready at 07.00, we got picked up only 10mins before the start of the release and so as we arrived, the whole thing just started. After safety instructions, one tiger after the other was released. You may have that picture in your mind of happy tigers jumping out of their transport boxes, running into the limitless wild African Bush. Sorry for disillusioning you! But that’s not how it works. These tigers had lived in enclosures of about 250m2, they had never felt grass under their paws or seen a tree. So putting them immediately into big enclosures (1-1,5ha) would be too much for them and it is very probable that they would go crazy or start to fight. However, the release is a process, and the animals have to be monitored well especially during the first days and weeks. Also, they are first released into adaption enclosures. They are only very small (still more than double the size of their previous home!!!) so that the tigers get used to the new situation. Totally new impressions, smells and noises overwhelm them.

Friday evening we had a Gala Dinner and it was just awesome. We had African food, a couple of good drinks and danced all night long. So Saturday morning we were all quite tired, but we got our energy back just in time: for the sunset in the mountains. It was a wonderful moment watching the sun colouring the skye in deep red and disappearing at the African horizon. After the sundown, we drove down to the cave where we had a cave dinner. We sat around the fire, having a braai and drinking some wine. And oh South African skye, how beautiful you are! Covered by thousands and thousands of shiny stars. It was an amazing night without a single cloud in the skye. John showed us the Scorpion on our way to the Lodge, where we ended this perfect evening in sweet company (Springbooks mixed by Brown, the best bar keeper ever!).

On Sunday we recovered from the last few evenings and had our last NatashaSuzanneSara dinner. Natasha and also Elke left today. It was a great time with you. Thank you so much!!! I hope Elke, you get your working visa quickly, so you can come back very soon. Lucy misses you, but I’m just sitting here with her, she is snoring and seems happy to get some cuddles 🙂
And Natasha, my BFF (haha) you are the craziest girl with the craziest hair. I miss you already! Hope everything goes well in Paris! Poop poop!!

Today I planned my trip to Cape Town, which is now actually OUR trip, since Suzanne will join me. It is going to be awesome! We have planned a lot of exciting stuff, from horse riding and wine tasting to paragliding and cruzking around with our small rental car (thousand thanks and kisses for having -and BRINGING- a credit card, dear Suzanne! 😉 )

I will keep you up to date – I promise! We also have some exciting plans for the coming weekend. If everything goes fine, I will finally see the BIG 5! 😀

Hugs and kisses from Lionsrock! The lions rock!

Be aware

Hey again! =) As it happens from time to time, I didn’t make it anymore yesterday. We had a very nice girls evening with a lot of hard laughing, hardcore singing and dancing.

Yesterday was enrichment day again, so I brought paper boxes to the lions. This time, we added mixed herbs to the hay and oooh yess they loved it! They rolled around and played and had a really good time. I will never get bored watching the cats playing with their enrichment. They always look so happy =)

In the afternoon, we worked for the new tiger enclosures. The tigers will arrive so soon and it’s gonna be an awesome experience! But now, time flies and still a lot of things need to be done before they arrive. Some of the tigers that arrive next week have never felt grass under their paws or seen a tree in their lives. They stay in very small enclosures (Their indoor area is the size of two Transport boxes! Which is far too small for tigers of around 320kg each!) In their new enclosures at Lionsrock, they will feel make a whole lot of beautiful new experiences, as being able to hide between trees. Those trees were subject of our work yesterday afternoon. The animal keepers cut big branches out of the trees and we had to collect them and put them onto the tractor so they could be carried away. You may ask yourself, why cutting the branches when the tigers want to hide between the trees? Especially in the first weeks after their arrival, it’s very important to monitor them well, in order to understand their behaviour, make sure that they are well and improve their situation if they are not. So it’s important that the tigers are visible. Thus, the trees are a little bit cut now.

Today was a day off, since it was public holiday. We slept in and went on our rounds. I stayed wich Andy and Simona for pretty much the whole afternoon and it was really interesting to observe them for this long time span. Andy was very active, playing, rolling around and roaring. She is in heat now and is very restless and clinging. Simona was clamer, but as time was passing, she became more interested in what I did and she was very happy when I gave her the paper back of my note pad. She rolled around, tore it into pieces and had a lot of fun. As the sun went down, it got chilly and I went home. Now I’m sitting here with my shiny, coconutty face. I got sunburnt again – so coconut oil will turn red into brown – hopefully.

So.. I promised to tell you more about big cat issues…this part will not be so shiny and happy and playful. It’s actually incredibly sick what people are doing to those wonderful animals…Can’t imagine how someone can do such things.

A lot of the cats at Lionsrock were born in captivity, living in far too small cages and trapped on concrete floors behind iron for their entire lives. A number of them bred for breeding or worse, the most inhuman „canned hunting“ business. Too many big cats are suffering all over the world. For Paws is an Animal Welfare Organisation, originally founded in Austria, situated in 10 countries, to help suffering animals. They brought the big cats to Lionsrock, which is their Sanctuary and provides them the best environment and care possible. Many of them need to learn how it feels to walk on grass, some of them need to find a way to trust humans. All of them need our help and understanding and this means to give them back their lives and their dignity.

What is canned hunting?
There are Lion breeding farms (there you can also go to volunteer, so take care where you decide to go!!) that breed lions. The cubs are used for photo tourism, so they got as little food as possible, in order not to grow bigger fast (since tourists prefer small, cute animals to take pictures). Due to misfeeding and thus the lack of important vitamins and minerals, some lions will never get as big as a real, healthy lion. Their hind legs will forever be shorter and they suffer diseases due to the lack of calcium. When the lions get older and lose their „cuteness“, they are simply being killed or even used for canned hunting. They are sold for huge sums – well, their trophy. You can even book a guaranteed trophy online, just check it out on Google. So you go out there, with your gun and a hunter who will kill the lion if you (partially) miss your target. I think I don’t have to tell you how cruel this is. Maybe if you read this, you think „oh that’s awful“, you think shortly about how sick that is, but then..you forget. Because it’s easier that way. And because it’s so far away. Not in your world. Not existing. But people! This really exists! I will never forget it because it’s in this world! It’s hard to do anything against it, since this form of tourism is economically very interesting. Check it out online, for 20’000 Euros you can get a really pretty lion head to decorate your room with!

But…Australia for example is the first country which banned the import of trophies. That’s where we have to start! When people go to Africa to get trophies but they cannot take them home, this will certainly stop some of them! What we need are legislations that forbid the import of trophies. Of course this is not the only problem..

Zoos run out of space for their animals and still breed them (what is more attractive than having cubs and little animals in the zoo?) and so rescue centers run out of space, too. What would be needed is the cooperation between circus, zoos, vets and animal protection organisations. But that’s a long way to go…Zoos hate animal protection organisations, and the latter hate zoos. We should stop thinking in little squares and think more of the welfare of the animals.

I could write the whole night about that topic..but let’s stop here. You made it, thank you, dear reader 🙂

You find a lot of information about animal welfare, legislations, canned hunting and photo tourism online if you are interested. Just take care – what people tell you is not always the truth!

In my next blog I will tell you the stories of some of the animals here at Lionsrock. I’m glad they have made it and live here now. I see them walking on grass, roaring, playing and rolling around. And I see how humans take care of them. I admire all the workers, animal keepers and managers and all the staff here. They live for their work and they work for animals‘ lives.

Huh how sentimental! But that’s what happens when you actually see it with your own eyes =)
Good night people! And don’t forget what you’ve just red 🙂 Just don’t 🙂

Vet Day – Birthday

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Hey you! I’m back again! =) Yesterday was a busy day, in the evening I just didn’t make it anymore to write something. That’s because Elke had her birthday yesterday and we had some cake and coffee after work, followed by a really nice birthday party including vegetarian Lasagne, enrichment, wine, whiskey and sniffing pepper spray.

But also the day was really interesting.

In the morning, I could join Elke, as she was doing training with Tarzan, a male lion that is very insecure and whose self-confidence is very small. He gets nervous quite fast but he learns rapidly. Some weeks ago, he was very scared whenever a car or quad arrived and he would hide in a corner. So it was very hard to get him into the house inside his enclosure, since he did not trust people. In case of fire or other emergencies it’s essential to be able to get the animals into the houses. So Elke trains them with a small whistle, a target gadget and some meat. The cats learn through connecting and conditioning good experiences. It was amazing how Tarzan reacted to Elke. First of all, he did not run away or hide when we arrived. He followed us immediately and came into the small house. I observed the training and despite being a very nervous lion, he could calm down really quickly. It was an unique experience watching the training…I cannot describe it properly..You would just need to see it.. =)

After the training, I was sent to Fiona, a lioness which had been ill before. I checked if she ate her food. Since she stays together with another lioness, it’s important to check if it’s really her that eats her piece of meat. It was good to see that both lionesses ate their beef. After one hour of observing and getting sunburnt (as everyday), I went on my usual tour. Everybody was active and either eating or waiting for the food truck to come. Even the tigers were up, which is quite nice because they really are the laziest creatures I’ve ever met (besides my own cats, maybe).

After a late lunch, Marina, the vet, was coming to Lionsrock. She did some medical checks on two of the lions. It was soooooooo interesting to see what she was doing! I’m gonna be so bored watching the work of my cat’s vet after I’ve seen her working with the big cats 😉

After the vet-afternoon, Natasha and I put the presents we had bought for Elke into paper boxes, filled with hay and some toilet paper rolls. We brought the enrichment to her birthday party and I’m sure she felt like a real lioness, opening her enrichment 🙂

So that was pretty much my day…a really busy and very interesting one!

Today was far calmer. In the morning I did my usual round, just that after feeding day everybody was sooo lazy and hanging around and not caring about anything. In the afternoon we went to Bethlehem to do our weekly shopping. And now we just want to have a lazy evening.

Tomorrow I’m gonna tell you a bit more about the cats and the problems there are…Because today I was quite thoughtful when I visited Seeta. I sat beside her and felt very happy doing this job. But then I asked myself: „Why do I actually do this job? Why is it so important that people work for animal welfare organisations?“ It is because humans are able to do the most brutal and bestial things to animals. As paying thousands of Euros in order to get a guaranteed trophy. Yes. Those sick people really exist. So luckily there are also organisations like Four Paws which care about that issue.

Protect their beauty, their pride and their grace, don’t shoot them!

Freedom Day – Chiller Day

Chilling in the sun with Andy

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Today is Freedom Day.

Freedom Day is a public holiday in South Africa, celebrated every year on 27th April. On this day in 1994, the first democratic and non-racial national election was held in the country.

So we had a day off today. I started my day going on a round with Jazz and Afie, visiting some lions, carcals and tigers. I also met the horses, but Afie could not hold herself back and chased them, so it was a short encounter.

After breakfast, I grabbed some eggs and my book and went to see Andy. She came running as soon as I called her and oooh she was in a real chiller mood. She talked to me and followed me – of course she knew I would bring her some eggs. We then had a really confortable time, rolling around on the ground, eating eggs and apples, reading a book and taking a sunbath. After a while we both took a short nap.

I then left her alone and went on a bike ride with Jazz, enjoying some movement after this relaxing lazy-lion-time.
So..that was a really peaceful Freedom Day! =)

Wish you a peaceful evening now! Enjoy =)

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2 Mowglis and Jazz going on an adventure

Ooh yes, yesterday was adventure day! =D We had so much fun and quite many heart attacks. But finally, we made it home alive.

On our hangover hike, we first met really friendly and cute animals: zebras! And there was even a baby zebra! We tried to approach them, yes we even threw apples at them, but it wouldn’t help. They were scared (which was really exceptional, because yesterday it was usually us who were scared) and ran away at some point.

As our hike went on, it got darker because some huge clouds were approaching us. But they did not stop our adventure mood and we came across some dead animal. Only the Skeleton was left and the bones were scattered in the grass. We finally found the head with horns, so it must have been a wildebeest. We tried to cut the teeth out of the mouth, but we couldn’t make it. So we picked up the horn, which can now be used as enrichment for the big cats.

Our goal was climbing on Lionsrock and so we were heading towards it. We found two long sticks which we could use to smash on the ground to avoid any encounter with snakes. The grass got taller and the ground underneath it was now covered with rocks. Jazz was suddenly not running in front of us anymore, he preferred staying behind us. We startled a big bird, and we almost pissed our pants when it took off in front of us. It could have been some crazy wild animal. But ok. It was just a bird. Lucky us!

We went on and as it got darker, it got steeper. It wasn’t a long way to go now. I smashed my stick on the ground and then I heard a hissing sound. I screamed and turned around, hearing Natasha screaming „Oh Jesus!“ and we ran back. We had walked straight into two Puff Adders! Huh our hearts were going crazy. We went back to take some pictures and we noticed how big the snakes were. A fully grown Puff Adder has enough venum to kill 4-6 people. They are not aggressive, but they will attack you if you come too close or if you step on them. We were scared as hell, but lucky us!

We did not know whether we should go on..it got steeper and steeper, the grass was really tall and there were soo many rocks. And now we were really scared of meeting other snakes. It also got darker and we thought the thunder storm was not that far away anymore. We had to calm down, so we decided to have a pick nick. We ate some crackers and cheese and then we decided not to go on anymore. We climbed down the mountain, scared of every movement we saw. But finally, we met our friends- three really friendly lions. We had some good cat talk and finally walked home, laughing about what we had experienced on our hike – probably the best and most exciting hike I’ve ever had 😀

Today was a somewhat more relaxing day. With Islam and Elke, we drove to Clarens to go shopping. We ended up in the Clarens Brewery, where we tasted beer and had some lunch.
And guess what we are doing now – yessss, BBQ again! 🙂

Enjoy the evening people! Hugs and kisses from South Africa – it’s wonderful here!

Feeding Day

Hungry catSome beefCoda before getting some beefSoo here I am again…I have to catch up a little, since yesterday evening I didn’t make it anymore…There was a BBQ for the workers who build the new tiger enclosure (on May 8th, six new tigers are arriving, this is gonna be awesome!) and Natasha and I were invited too.  It got a little late and after eating pap and sauce with sausages, Natasha, Elke, Islam and I sat down at the fire and had some glasses of wine and a really nice talk. That’s how my day ended…Now let me tell you how it started.

Friday is feeding day, so Johannes and two other animal keepers picked me up to go to the workshop. I have never seen so much beef at once! A Lion eats 35-40 kg beef per week, whereas for example Martin, the Sibirian Tiger, eats 50kg per week. Most of the meat is donated by local farmers. The dead animals are brought to lionsrock, where they are cut at the workshop. And that’s where I met the cows yesterday morning. Heads and legs and ribs and stuff. Huh that smelled pretty bad. The animal keepers put predator powder on the meat, which contains vitamins and minerals. Free big cats get them when they eat organs such as the heart or liver of their prey. Since on Lionsrock, the cats don’t get to eat those organs, they need the powder.

The guys loaded the meat on the pick up and we drove to the different enclosures. After having put the meat into the feeding enclosures, one animal keeper opens the drop gate and the big cats jump at the meat. It’s so impressive to see those powerful cats running into the enclosure and getting their piece of meat! I could watch them eating all day…

We did the adaption enclosures, the big prides, the tigers and the special care unit and then we had lunch. I was really hungry after having seen the cats eating the whole morning. After lunch, we also fed the leopards, caracals, hyenas and some more lions and tigers.

Well, yesterday was a real meat day. Beef for the lions during the day – BBQ in the evening for us.

 

Enrichment day – happy cats :)

Simba and Pregan  being happyAndy and her boxFirst of all – I woke up this morning because the lions were roaring so loudly aaand the sun was out! Yesss!

And secondly… You can acutally stop reading my blog because I will probably bore you, telling you everyday how awesome, cute, powerful, gorgeous and lovely those big cats are, just using different words.
Anyway, if you have some minutes left, you’re very welcome to read on 🙂

Today was enrichment day and thus, I saw lots and lots of happy cats. They go crazy for the paper boxes filled with straw and they love to lick and hug the boxes, to carry them away and tear them into peaces. In the morning, I went on my usual tour, bringing enrichment to Andy, Seeta and Nora. I also visited the other lios on my tour. Most of them (such as Andy and Seeta) stay in adaption enclosures. Those are enclosures that are not as huge as the others are and the cats are alone in there. They stay in those smaller enclosures because they are new on Lionsrock or got kicked out of their prides, so they need to be adapted to other cats. This is not as easy as it sounds, because if they are put together and don’t get on well, they could even kill each other. So the adaption process is very important and the lions need to be monitored well during that stage. If they get on well with their neighbours, they can be put together after a while. The volunteer’s job is to observe their behaviour and reactions to the lions that stay next to them.

Nora, on the other hand, stays in a special care enclosure. She got kicked out of the big pride and her enclosure is very close to where she stayed before – so she still remains in touch with her former pride. Whenever lions feel that a cat is too old or too weak – so that it won’t be in favour of the pride anymore – they kick that one out. Only after being kicked out, Nora was diagnosed of a tumor. It was not a maligne one, and it was removed, but her former pride will not welcome her back anymore, since they feel her weakness.
Nora needs more attention now, because it’s quite hard to be alone after having been together with a big group of lions. But hopefully, she will get on well with another lion that’s alone and they can be put together.

So now you know why some of the cats have smaller enclosures or are alone. Especially those cats really need the attention of people. Not every cat loves the contact to people. But every cat loves the enrichment that people bring along. As you can see on the pictures 🙂

Good night everybody! =)

Wednesday – Shopping day

Wednesday is shopping day for the volunteers. That means driving to Bethlehem, getting food for the whole next week (which turned out to be a little bit challenging – but we made it!) and getting impressions of the life in the city.

But lets start from the beginning.
This morning I went on my tour to spend time with Andy, Seeta, the tigers, Nora and Simba. I did this by bike since the distances are just too long to come home on time walking. I grabbed some curry powder (since the cats like that smell), which I put on the enrichment. The enrichment consisted of cardboard boxes filled with straw. I put some raw eggs into the pockets of my jumper and hoped not to lose them or to fall down on the bumpy drive. Afie was joining me and she just enjoyed running and chasing birds. Oh and I saw ostriches for the first time in my life. They looked impressive and ran very fast. Not so elegant, though.

First stop: Andy
Andy is a handraised lioness. Thus she loves humans and she was excited when I arrived. We had a nice cat talk and I gave her an egg. She loved it and it took this enormous animal like 15 minutes to eat the tiny egg. I don’t know how she did this…I would probably eat 20 eggs in the time she ate that one. But well. She reallly enjoyed it =)

Second stop: Seeta
Seeta is in a special enclosure since she should be brought together with two males. Now she stays in a smaller feeding enclosure next to those two guys in order to get used to them. Since she’s alone in there, she really needs the contact with people. When I arrived, she was very intrested. She followed me and as I sat down she laid down next to me – on the other side of the fence of course, which was better for me, because it seemed to me that sometimes she took me for her prey, or at least she wanted to play with me. Even though this sounds fun and cute, I think I would probably be the weaker one in that game. So it was actually ok to have a fence between me and her. I also gave her an egg – which she ignored. But she loved the enrichment and started playing with it.

Third stop: The invisible tigers
Yesterday was feeding day. So apparently all the cats were a little tired and lazy today. But the tigers are truly the most lazy ones. They did not even show up. At least they made me have a really nice bike ride with Afie. Maybe see you tomorrow, tigers! If you’re awake by then.

Last stop: Nora and Simba
Nora and Simba are at the special care enclosure since that’s what they need- special care. They were both quite lazy and did not react to me telling them I had eggs with me and throwing enrichment in their enclosure. They were like: „Seriously? I’d rather not move, eat your eggs yourself“. So I went home with one egg left and ate a banana.

At noon, John took Natasha and me to Bethlehem for the weekly grocery shopping. On our way we saw zebras and ostriches and plenty of wildebeests! We went to a really big mall and we bought pretty much everything they had. I think they had to close the store after we had left. We have food for one month now, but working with the big cats makes us hungry I guess. After shopping, we had some delicious lunch at a Café and afterwards, John picked us up. The pickup was stuffed with food since John had done some shopping for the lodge as well.

Now I’m laying here, listening to the rain. Yes, to the rain! The weather goes crazy tonight. I just hope I can say hello to the sun tomorrow morning. But I don’t know…That rain seems pretty violent to me.