Sunday, 7 January 2018

Testing new technology

These are a few photos from our trip to Nepal in October.

Not the best photo of Everest but just testing our new method of blogging.

Tuk tuk in Bangkok - before we got ripped off.

We travelled up the river in these canoes. Interesting - they are not terribly stable.

Saw a lot of these interesting 'vehicles' in Bhaktapur.

I've been toying with ipad vs android tablet for some time in the hope of reducing the amount/weight of all this technology stuff and cables etc that we travel with. It adds up to quite a few kilos so hopefully the tablet will reduce this load.

Finally decided on a samsung tablet after solving the issue of downloading photos from camera and then backing up to usb flash drive. Problems solved with a $3.80 micro usb to usb connector.

And I've found an app to resize a batch of photos.

Lets see how this goes.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

The sun sets on Africa

Sunday 14th August

Well, we are home, or almost. Just a final post from our holiday and then I guess the blog will go into hibernation until the next time.

Our last game drive was Thursday night and it was also very quiet. Just the usual game – zebra, giraffe, buffalo, impala, elephant. We stopped at sunset for the usual sundowner drinks and snacks. Just one final sunset in Africa and I think this one was the most colourful with quite a bit of cloud in the sky picking up the colour. All was not lost with game though – on the way back to the hotel in the dark we spotted one rhino, and coming around a corner we were greeted with a big elephant standing right in the middle of the road. It was a bit of a Mexican standoff for a couple of minutes until the elephant decided to move off and give us the road.

One final giraffe.

...and a wildebeest.

Jackal - one of the pair that we spotted. Hard to photograph - they moved quickly and were good at putting a tree between them and the camera.

Our final African sunset.

We enjoyed a final dinner at the lodge – we ate every meal out on the deck though this night was probably the coldest, and I needed a rug as the warmth of the fire didn’t extend out to the dinner table. For our final dinner Rob had ostrich steak and I had duck. The meals at the lodge were very nice. The lodge consisted of only 6 rooms so a maximum of 12 guests at a time. It seems like most guests were there 3 nights as we were and there was someone coming and going every day. They ran 2 safari vehicles from the lodge at a time so there were only ever 6 people in each vehicle. The rooms were very comfortable with split system aircon, ensuite (with outdoor shower) and a king king bed. It was lovely to go to bed after dinner where the bed had been turned down and there were chocolates on the pillow.
There were a lot of wispy clouds in the sky on our last day - I think the skies had been clear every other day.

Friday morning at 8am began our long journey home. In our transport to the airport there was one of the guides travelling back to Johannesburg on his days off so we had quite a chat with him on the drive. It was like having our own private game drive as we talked about the animals and the park. We passed one car on the drive out who stopped and told us about a cheetah sighting along the road. And they were still there – a breeding pair of cheetah probably on the hunt the guide told us. They seemed to be totally unfazed as we stopped and took photos. Then there was one final sighting of rhino as we continued to leave the park. This was a great end to our game drives in Kruger National park.
The cheetah were just moseying along down the road.

Another zebra crossing.

Our hope was to see rhino in Kruger - and we weren't disappointed. Eight rhino over the 3 days.

Drakensburg Mountains

The trip home was long with a 1 hour flight to Johannesburg, 7 hours wait in Johannesburg, 10 ½ hour flight to Sydney, short wait in Sydney, then flight to Melbourne. We arrived at Matthews in Bacchus Marsh around 7.30 last night – about 28 hours after leaving Kruger. 
Sunset with the Drakensburg mountains in the background.

Kruger - the big five.

Thursday 11th August

We said our goodbyes at the airport to our safari group and the guide and driver. Our trip to Johannesburg was uneventful though took all day by the time we checked in 3hr before our flight, the flight time, and waiting for a pickup at the airport, so by the time we got to our hotel it was 5pm.

We did alright with our hotel choice – they did dinner so we didn’t have to go out again, the staff was really nice, the room was nice and big and the price was right. We only stayed the one night but if we ever go back to Johannesburg this place will be on the list.

Tuesday we flew from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit which is the closest airport to the southern end of Kruger where we are staying. Only 50 minute flight so we were there before we could get too comfortable. The airport at Hoedspruit is very small and we waited on the footpath out the front for the luggage to be unloaded. The drive from the airport to the lodge was 2 ½ hours and along the way (on the highway) we saw quite a few animals in the private game reserve near the airport. It was 1 hour to Orpen Gate which was the entry to Kruger. Once we entered the park the speed was much slower and the driver pointed out wildlife as we went along. Our primary objective in Kruger was to see the rhino and we saw 2 along the drive. How good was that?
Was wonderful to see these on the way to the resort from the hotel - sadly they were moving away from us so no head shots.

Hoyo Hoyo Safari Lodge - the pool was too cold for swimming.

We arrived at the lodge just before 3 and were quickly greeted with a ‘hurry, hurry, quickly have high tea, and you are on a game drive at 3.30). No time to check out the room, just grab warm gear and jump in the 4wd. A great game drive – more rhino, and the usual elephant, zebra, giraffe, impala, and finally lions – 2 mothers and 5 cubs. Could have watched them for hours and as we went to leave another lioness and her 3 (younger) cubs arrived. Fantastic to watch the cubs play, just like kittens.

Starling - there were lots of these around and in the sun they were a lovely iridescent blue.

The lion family - in the end 3 mums and 8 cubs. Three of the cubs were only about 3 months old, the other 5 a few months older.

Another beautiful African sunset.

Yesterday we did 2 game drives. The hightlights of the morning were 2 more rhino, a leopard which we followed for a little bit, and then a cheetah. The cheetah is a beautiful animal – to see her moving she seems to just flow across the ground, and appears to be so light and supple. Then on last night’s game drive we saw another 4 leopard, all separate sightings. The first one we only got a glimpse of before it disappeared into the scrub, the second we were able to sit and watch for a bit. This one was a young male, less than a year old, whose mother wasn’t a very good one so he was out on his own fending for himself. He was having monkey for dinner – we didn’t see him catch it. The third leopard we just got a brief look at him as it was nearly dark. The final leopard was right at the entrance to the lodge – we had arrived back at the lodge and were ready to get out of the 4wd when the guide heard about the one at the entrance so we went back and got to see that one also.

This leopard was just wandering around but the guide said he had a kill somewhere nearby that he was keeping an eye on.

Cheetah - a beautiful animal.

The view from the lodge deck - they have a man made waterhole on the far bank of the river that runs along the front edge of the resort. At this time of the year the river is dry so the animals use the waterhole.

Like most young ones, the baby loves the water and is right in it.
I asked our guide how the private concessions work and he said the area is part of Kruger NP and is leased. The only vehicles allowed there are the concession owner’s vehicles and for this concession there could be up to 8 out at once. They keep in touch via radio and all travel different routes each game drive. When something special is found they only have 3 vehicles there at once and if it is for example a lion with cubs, then it is only one vehicle. It seems to work well – they allow you to get a good look and then make way for the next vehicle.

Our game drive this morning was very quiet – it was colder this morning so the guide thinks that kept the animals from being out and about. Only the usual game – no leopard, lion, cheetah or rhino.
This buffalo also came to the waterhole.
We have one more game drive this afternoon so fingers crossed for something special. Tomorrow after breakfast it is back to the airport and then the long trek home. I’ll be posting this from home because we have no wifi here, and we don’t have phone service either.

Monday, 8 August 2016

The end is nigh.

Monday 8th August

Today sees the end of our tour and it will be sad to part from our fellow travellers who have all been such fun to be with.

Saturday was a day spent in Chobe National Park. We started the day with an early morning game drive – at the park gates at 6am. It was just before sunrise and we couldn’t really see anything as it was still too dark. We stopped to watch the sunrise but still saw no animals. We did see lion and leopard tracks along the road but the guide said they were headed away from us. The only animal we saw before morning tea was a sable antelope so we were feeling a little disappointed however things picked up when we were on the move again and we heard about a pride of lions along our route.  Our guide hurried along so they were still there when we arrived. There were 5 lions near a herd of buffalo – not sure if they had planned a buffalo breakfast, but the buffalo knew they were there and a couple of them ran at the lions and pushed them away.
Sunrise in Chobe National Park

Sable antelope - again. Beautiful animal.
Morning tea stop in the park. It was a freezing morning and was finally warming up.
Just 2 of the lions - the 5 of them never grouped together for a photo shoot. 

The buffalo are in the background and are very aware that the lions are looking for breakfast. The guide said the lions were hungry and he could tell that by their depressed stomachs.
Further along we came across a herd of elephant. I never get sick of watching the elephants and we took lots more photos as they crossed the road in front of and behind the car. I love watching how the babies are protected by the herd – the elephants are so huge but you never see them run into or trip over the babies. We were all pretty happy with our game drive after that and had plenty to talk about over breakfast back at the hotel.

The baby was having a great time rolling around in the mud.
Up close and personal.

We had a few hours spare in the middle of the day so wandered into the town of Kasane and did a little fabric shopping. I’m not too sure that the fabric is 100% cotton but I am sure I will find a use for it anyway.

A little bit of the colours of Africa.
Our afternoon game drive was a cruise on the Chobe River. It is obviously the thing to do in the afternoons as there were lots of boats on the river. They don’t seem to fuss the animals though as they all still come down to the water. We saw lots of hippo, buffalo, puku, crocs, elephants and lots of birds. A great way to end our game drives as we sat on the boat in the river and watched another spectacular sunset.

The bird on the buffaloes eye is picking off the insects. The buffalo didn't seem too fussed.

This elephant was crossing from the river bank to the island in the middle This was as deep as this part of the river got - note the snorkel trunk.

This was another sort of 'deer' - a puku.

A pied kingfisher - there were a lot of them on the dead wood along the river bank and they were hard to pick until you got your eye in. We also saw another tiny and very colourful kingfisher but were too slow for a photo. We saw a lot of different birds on our river cruise.

A purple crested roller - when these birds fly they have beautiful blue wings - apparently many shades of blue in the wings.

Spoonbill heron.
Another stunning African sunset - with a snake bird drying its wings.

Yesterday we travelled from Botswana back into Zimbabwe and to Victoria Falls. Our guide took us on a walking tour of the falls. They span Zimbabwe and Zambia and at this time of the year the Zimbabwean side is the more spectacular – the Zambian side gradually dries up over the winter and is dry by the time the rains start. The roar of the water is quite deafening in some places and as you walk to some of the viewing spots you get quite wet. We had ponchos for the ‘rain’ but didn’t really need them except for keeping the cameras dry.
Victoria Falls - all these photos are of the Zimbabwe end of the falls.

Livingstone I presume!

The afternoon was shopping time – how am I going to get this stuff into the suitcase? Last night was our final dinner together as a group. I think we are all flying out today back to Johannesburg. We will stay tonight in Johannesburg then tomorrow we fly up to Kruger National Park for 3 nights. We are hoping to see rhino there – and any of the big cats would be a bonus.