It is three months since Natalie and I returned from the MyCOE/SERVIR programme in Nairobi. Since then Natalie has started the new academic year – her Honours year – and I have started six months sabbatical leave. But we have been busy with the research programme: acquiring and analysing Landsat, SPOT and Ikonos data for her study area which is high in the foothills of the Transkei Drakensberg. Last week was our first opportunity to visit the area. Bennie van der Waal was already there doing river and sediment surveys for his PhD assisted by his friend (and ex Rhodes Geography student) Dylan Weyr. We travelled up with Kate direct from the Honours weekend at Ford Fordyce and spending a night at Tsitsa Falls before arriving at Zamuxolo where we shared a (waterless) house behind the police station. There was plenty of power, however, thanks to the banks of solar panels.
We spent the next three days driving and hiking around the Vuvu and Phiri catchments examining how, and whether, our remote sensed imagery matched the situation on the ground. So we needed to visit each of the eight land cover categories we had defined – this was quite tiring work as we were often at the road head and had to walk up the deep valleys to around 2000 metres. But the scenery was spectacular, the light was superb for photographs and we were well prepared for the task with maps, GPS and clinometer. It was sometimes hot (one day our cheese sandwiches melted in our back packs!) with big thunder storms every afternoon.
Back home at Rhodes we have been busy interpreting the mapping so as to get on with the next step which is setting up the time series to see how land cover has changed in time.