Archive for February, 2010

bang!

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

I never thought I’d say this, but I am really sick and tired of fireworks. They let them off here for New Year’s, both January 1 and Chinese New Year, which would be fine. Great, in fact. I’ve always loved watching fireworks. But then they don’t stop.

And they let them off in the riverside park and sometimes the empty lot near our house, so we can hear them all too clearly (sometimes we can even see them from our apartment).

When we came back from Africa, the weekend after Chinese New Year, they were letting them off pretty much all night. We had to wear earplugs. And they’re still letting them off – as late as midnight last night, all evening so far tonight (and some really big, loud ones). These are not the kind of things Americans can let off in the driveway in some states; these are the big ones, as big as the ones we used to see in the local park on July 4 when I was a kid. And tonight I saw them being let off in at least three places in the park, all about 5 minutes’ walk from here. Of course, whenever I go to the window to watch them, either that volley is just ending or else they’re hidden behind a building.

It surprises me a bit to realize, but I think fireworks are one of those things that are best in their right place – which would be, not when I’m ready to go to sleep.

I’ve taken to yelling in their general direction, “Yes, we know your culture invented gunpowder! Get over it already!” Given that I’m inside my apartment and not speaking Chinese, this doesn’t do any good, of course, but it makes me feel a little better.

Tomorrow: off to the Netherlands, whence Ted is already gone. The most exciting thing about this trip is that I get to scope out my new apartment! Also, breathing cleaner air. And no fireworks!

South Africa: Madikwe, Day 4

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

On our last day, we finally got to see something we’d been hoping for: adult male lions We’d seen a couple of adolescents, but they didn’t have manes yet. This pride had two females and a bunch of cubs, with two males that spent time with both them and another nearby pride. We also spotted a black rhino, which is much rarer than the white rhinos we’d been seeing. (They’re nearly the same color – one ranger told us that the “white” in white rhinos is a corruption of “wide” – they were originally called “weidt mond” or “wide mouth” rhinos (I have no idea how the Afrikaans is spelled).

The other thing we saw a lot in Madikwe was the wild dog pack; there are two there, two of the biggest in South Africa.

Note: All photos copyright 2010 by Ted and Paula. All of the photos in this slideshow have been posted as taken, with no photo-editing except to resize them appropriately for this page.

South Africa: Madikwe, Day 3

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Our first few days at Madikwe, a lot of the animals were staying hidden due to the rain. We never did see leopards there. On the other hand we saw a bunch of rarer, smaller animals: a jackal and a wild cat (no pictures of either) and the very rare caracal cat – the picture here isn’t great but you can see the characteristic ear tufts. I don’t think ostrchesare rare at all there (they farm and eat them) but this was the only day we saw any in the wild. We also got to see a couple of half-grown lion cubs wondering if they should be stalking an old male buffalo that our ranger said was “way out of their league”.

Note: All photos copyright 2010 by Ted and Paula. All of the photos in this slideshow have been posted as taken, with no photo-editing except to resize them appropriately for this page.

South Africa: moving to Madikwe

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

We enjoyed talking to our pilot over dinner, but we didn’t actually get to fly with him the next day – there were some low clouds in the area and his plane wasn’t IFR-equipped. Too bad, because we’d been looking forward to flying in a small plane from the local airstrip. We did get to see his plane, though, and so did the local animals. Instead, we were driven to the Kruger Mpumalanga airport, about 3 hours away. From there we flew to Johannesberg, then transferred to a Cessna Caravan to fly out to Madikwe. We arrived just as another storm was beginning – thunderstorms turn back on our game drives that evening and the next afternoon, so I’ve combined the photos from February 14 and 15. The indoor photos are of the main lodge and of our bathrooms – the baths in our rooms at all three of our lodges were nicer than in any house I’ve lived in!

Note: All photos copyright 2010 by Ted and Paula. All of the photos in this slideshow have been posted as taken, with no photo-editing except to resize them appropriately for this page.

South Africa: Simbambili Lodge, Day 3 and 4

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

February 12 was probably our best day of leopard sightings. The weather started getting very hot, and on Feb. 13 I skipped the afternoon drive – too hot for me! (They later told us it got up to 43C – that’s nearly 110 F.) But a thunderstorm came in that night and broke the heat, and we had cool weather and rain for the rest of our trip. The night of Feb 13, dinner was in the boma (a round enclosure open to the sky) so we got to talk more to the other guests who had arrived, and to the pilot who’d come in to fly us out the next day.

Feb 12:

Feb 13:

I’ll post more entries tomorrow with the photos from our time in Madikwe Game reserve. It takes a long time to sort through all of these!

Note: All photos copyright 2010 by Ted and Paula. All of the photos in this slideshow have been posted as taken, with no photo-editing except to resize them appropriately for this page.

South Africa: Simbambili Lodge, Day 2

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Our first full day. Those 5AM wakeup calls were rough, since dinner didn’t finish until 9:30 or so – we definitely needed those afternoon naps. There were a couple others along on the morning drive on February 11, but after that we had Matt and Doc to ourselves for a few days.

Feb 11:

Note: All photos copyright 2010 by Ted and Paula. All of the photos in this slideshow have been posted as taken, with no photo-editing except to resize them appropriately for this page.

South Africa: Simbambili Lodge, Day 1

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

We weren’t actually at Kruger, but in the adjoining Sabi Sands Game Reserve. The private lodges have concessions in the reserve, and they have a lo more freedom to go off-road and get closer to the animals than in the National Park. (Check out the Feb 13 entry to see how close; there’s a picture of Doc, the tracker in front of our Land Rover, with an elephant behind him.)

When we arrived at Simbambili, we were introduced to our ‘butler’, Reinas, and our ranger and tracker, Matt and Doctor. We had lunch, time to rest, then went on the evening game drive – each day after that we were woken up at 5AM for the morning drive, had breakfast, then hung out in our room, resting, using our private (!) plunge pool or reading until lunch at 2 and the evening game drive at 4. Dinner was at about 8, and the food was amazing.

Feb 10:

Note: All photos copyright 2010 by Ted and Paula. All of the photos in this slideshow have been posted as taken, with no photo-editing except to resize them appropriately for this page.

South Africa: along the Panorama route

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

We flew into Johannesberg, stayed there a night, and then spent a couple of days driving along the Panorama Route to Kruger National Park. These photos are from along the drive, and Oliver’s Lodge where we stayed one night.

I was sort of hoping to choose 20 photos or so and just have one slideshow, but there’s no good way to winnow 2700+ photos down that far – there are too many I can’t bear to cut. Instead, I’ll have to do a slideshow for each day. I’llput them in separate entries, so they upload faster.

Note: All photos copyright 2010 by Ted and Paula. All of the photos in this slideshow have been posted as taken, with no photo-editing except to resize them appropriately for this page.

Home again, for the nonce

Friday, February 19th, 2010

This was one of our best trips ever. Hopefully I’ll get some photos posted sometime this weekend; by actual count (iPhoto’s, not mine) we took something like 2700 photos. But really, what else can you do when there’s a giant male lion swatting down the cubs trying to climb his tail, about 20′ away from you? Or an elephant refusing to get out of the road you’re trying to drive on? Though actually the rarest animals we saw were some of the smaller ones, the African wild cat, caracal and jackal.

This was one of our more expensive trips, but it was pretty obvious why. Someone met us at the airport and took us to a nearby hotel for the first night. In the morning a guide picked us up and then spent a day and a half driving us along the Panorama Route – beautiful country. We spent four nights at Simbambili Game Lodge in Sabi Sands Game Reserve, where we had our own plunge pool, our own butler, and for some of those days our own ranger and tracker – we were the only ones there for a couple of days. One night they served us dinner (amazing food) on our private back deck. Then a pilot came out to fly us off to our next stop, but there were some storms in the area so we had a transfer by road instead to Kruger Mpumalonga Airport, thence a flight to Johannesberg, then a smaller flight (Cessna Caravan) to Madikwe Game Reserve.

At Madikwe we stayed at Impodimo Game Lodge. It was interesting comparing the two. Simbambili focused on privacy; we were mostly seated by ourselves and we even had the game drives to ourselves several times, though that was mostly just because they happened not to be full then. We had our own pool and an outdoor day bed for napping in the afternoons between game drives. Impodimo was nearly as luxurious and we certainly had our privacy – we had an outdoor shower as well as the indoor one – but at meals we sat with the other guests, there were a number of families with children (spring break week in England and some of Europe) and the most comfortable seating was in the main lodge instead of in our private area.

Both places at similar schedules, with game drives very early in the morning and late in the afternoon early evening, so you spent the day making up on sleep. One more difference: at Simbambili we had vervet monkeys peering in our windows, while at Impodimo elephants came and drank out of the pool – and startled the daylights out of a Swedish family who were sunbathing there at the time! We had expert rangers driving us at both places, and got to see all of the ‘big 5’ (lions, leopards, elephants, rhino, buffalo) as well as giraffes, zebra, kudu, impala, nyala, bushbok, waterbok, jackal, caracal, wild cats, wild dogs, hyenas, hippos, hornbills, eagles, hawks, buzzards, bustards, vultures, owls, lizards, tortoise, mongoose, ibis, giant spiders, a puff adder, and a dung beetle (rolling a ball of dung, as advertised). I’m probably forgetting something. It’s amazing what you can do and see in a Land Rover!

teaser

Friday, February 12th, 2010

If you guys were impressed last year when we posted photos of elephants and tigers ….. just wait.

Though except for looking forward to uploading our photos, going home will be hard because we’re being thoroughly spoiled. We’ve never seen luxury like this – we have our own private small pool, last night we were the only guests here so they set up a table and served dinner on our private deck.