Saturday, September 19, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
Can you believe this homemade xylophone? It's made of gords, horns, wooden slats! And the sound was very good.
Below is a pic of the wart hog. He's one of my favorites. . . probably because I loved Pumba in the Lion King. When shoveling the ground looking for food, they get down on their knees and dig. Looks funny, but works.
For those that don't know me, here's a picture by the falls. The falls area at our end is called Rainbow Falls because there is always a rainbow.
The scene is from the river in Botswana. Despite being hot and dry, it was peaceful and alluring.
The internet cafe gives you an idea of what we were up against. It sure is easier to do this from home!
One of my favorite afternoons was the Monday we spent in Durban. Our guide, Shiney, is an amazing woman from London who has spent the last 30+ years of her life in South Africa. She has a love for the people and a passion for the country that are both sincere and contagious.
On this day she was able to arrange for us to take a tour of a private museum as well as have lunch at a small adjacent restaurant.. The Phansi Museum is the result of a young couple’s passion for the South African native costumes ….. of course we consider them “costumes” today, but they used to be simply their everyday clothing. The status of every person in the village – and this was true of all the different tribes – could be read by what they wore or by what they carried. The husband is an architect and by nature is drawn to the colors and shapes and structures of these pieces …….. the wife ( sadly passing some ten years ago) was a ceramicist and collected the pottery and other arts. Together they traveled and traded and listened to the stories……...they recorded the legends and the traditions and – luckily for us (and everyone) – have opened a private museum in an idyllic, quiet residential neighborhood surrounded by a few artists’ studios. The most wonderful, engaging , native women, Phumzile Nkosi is the curator and acted as our docent…..I could have easily and happily spent twice the amount of time there.!! She made the traditions sound so colorful and meaningful …….. personally, I looked down at my khakis and beige shirt and thought “what a bland, homogeneous society we have become.
Before we began the tour , we had a tasty vegetarian lunch awaiting us and , as our guide would say “The ancestors were with us” because the collector himself, Paul Mikula, just happened to stop in and he sat with us and explained how it all began and where he hopes it all will go – Amazing !
The photos are wonderful – and if you would like more information on this wonderful collection – as part of it does travel - here is the info:
Thursday, September 17, 2009
customs and check-in............................2 hrs
wait ..........................................................6 hrs
J'Burg - London ...................................11 hrs
wait ..........................................................3 hrs
London - Chicago ...................................8 hrs
wait ..........................................................5 hrs
Chicago - Madison .................................1 hr
get car/drive home................................2hrs
return trip .............................................40 hrs
African Experience ............................PRICELESS
Monday, September 14, 2009
We had the most incredible day !! - even though we had to get up at 5:45 .
We first took a drive to the Chobe River where it is the only place in the world where 4 countries come together; Zambia, Nambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. We take a small boat across the river to the Botswana border - go through immigration - take another bus to the Mowana Resort and board a boat for a 3 hr river safari. It was more than I could have dreamed - plus, I was just so happy to be on the water - wind blowing in the hair....sun shining. We saw hundreds of elephants, hippo, buffalo and crocodiles. There are islands in the middle of the delta region of the Chobe and since it hasn't rained since March....many of the animals cross over where there is food (grass).We also saw herds of Cape Buffalo grazing and beautiful birds ...... and loved the endless vistas.
After a great lunch back at the lodge, we had an afternoon game drive....you will see the photos - and I must tell you that the last two elephant encounters made my heart race. Too close for my comfort. I was teased - whatever
We flew into Livingstone and had a short drive to our resort - The Zambezi Sun. It is so wonderful to have space around us and a safe area to walk around. I took some time relax and change clothes - Twinkle and Annie took a helicopter tour of the area.........my luggage went on a trip of its own so I needed some time to regroup. Upon return - Twinkle and I went for a long, long walk - all along the great Victoria Falls
No comments needed.
( Pics are so slow in coming - may have to wait)
Friday, September 11, 2009
Well, we’ve just finished our stay in Cape Town without writing a word on the blog. Same ole, same ole…. problems getting online and very little free time.
We arrive Cape Town to find it too windy to go on the gondola up to Table Mountain. So instead we toured the area til we could check into the hotel. The placed we stayed was on Bantry Bay, a Protea hotel that was quite nice. We walked down the street the beach to see waves that averaged 10 feet. And this is during the calm springtime!
As I think I noted earlier, the next day was to be Robben Island, but still too windy. Instead we went to the Botanical Gardens. It’s a HUGE park under the mountains that made us want to stay and picnic there. Then it was over to the waterfront, the Victoria and Alfred. That is an area that has lots of shops and eateries. As always, there are lot of boats that make it fun to watch the goings on. Diiner was out to a price-fixe, which ended up quite good. There were entertainers that sang and danced their native songs along with the local food. None of the waiters, singers, or dancers at any of the restaurants were from South Africa, instead from every other African country.
Thursday was spent going to Cape Point. It is a National Park at the Cape of Good Hope where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet . . . . . well supposed to meet. It’s actually a few kilometers down the road. It was a “cool” feeling knowing that one was standing at the cape. We climbed up to the lighthouse for some much needed exercise, then had to avoid the baboons. They are quite clever and can beat you into your car once you unlock it! They have workers that spend all day chasing them from the parking lot.
Further down the coast we visited the African penguins. They are small like those in the Galapolas, I guess cuz they don’t need to stay warm. Anyway, we got up close and personal so I should have some good photos. The road down to that area was beautiful interspersed with quaint seaside towns. We finally stopped for lunch at 3:30, and you’ve never seen so many people run to find a bite to eat.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
When we were visiting the District Six Museum - these angels were singing in the back schoolroom - giving thanks for their food.
Arrived to Durban in the rain. The sun came out shortly, but the wind has remained which means no Robbens Island or Table Mountain. Lots of other sites. . . . am trying to upload photos so I will write later. T
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
I want to try and take the time to give my opinion on the trip and South Africa. I must admit the trip was off to a slow start. Our guide and driver in Jozi were incompetent, nice but incompetent. She rarely told us anything, much less saying that too much was planned so we would never get to everything. Then folks got upset cuz we skipped their favorite part. Plus there was the van with its lack or room for us, much less our baggage.
You need to understand that this trip was put together by Carrolle Devonish. She owns an art gallery in Anguilla, and travels to here every couple of years. She is quite enamored with SA, and wants us to see it as she does, hence the problem. There are so many fabulous facets to this country that one can’t see them in a short time. It would be like me hauling a group to my favorite haunts . . . OK for AXA, but not a country this big. But she’s trying, and it’s incredible what we’ve seen and experienced. I hope the pictures give you a taste, since we don’t have time to adequately explain all we have done.
As for South Africa, it has many problems, just like every country, but they seem to be trying and moving forward despite a few steps backward. When the locals complain about spending outrageous amounts of money on preparation for the World Cup next year, I think of the same political graft and corruption at home. When they worry about the increase in crime, primarily thievery, I think of all the crime in Montgomery that occurs. The unemployment rate here in CT is 50%!!!! All in all, SSDC. . . the C being “country”.
Yet there are differences that I’ve noticed. The people are so friendly and polite. They don’t hound you in the outdoor markets, the dollar stretches further, and they don’t expect tips. They seem overly interested in the US since they don’t get too many visitors from there. And we got the BEST avacados ever from the outdoor market!
We have spent a lot of time on the art trail, including handicrafts. The Zulus are well known for their artistic skills whether baskets, paintings, ceramics, clothes, wood carvings, beads, wire sculpture, etc. The Cape Town area on the western coast is famous for its clever recycling skills. We have been quite fortunate in having been at the right place at the right time. We’ve met famous artists that happen to be passing through just checking on things, we got to see original collections that just got back from world tours, we met the throwers and painters from the most famous ceramic company, etc.
Our luck has been so good, I’m thinking about buying some lottery tickets. It started with the safari, seeing the big 5 in one day. We arrived in Cape Town today with the rain coming down hard. It’s been raining all week. By the time we got to out first destination, the sun was out. I hope that continues tomorrow since an outdoor day is planned. I must admit we didn’t make it to Table Mountain because of the earlier rain.
Well, I’m tired and will try to write tomorrow. Twinkle
Sunday, September 6, 2009
I know I have mentioned some of these cats before – but would like to write about them again.
We never saw a full grown male lion…and though they may be the “King of the Jungle” – the females are the backbone – they are certainly the Queens.
We saw three different prides while we were there:
The first night we saw a pride consisting of four adult females and five cubs – four female and one male. They were wandering and searching….the guide said they were “of the territory”; not staying in one place but certainly within the region. They are not named but recognizable …… the much larger male cub stands out – as does one of the adult females who has a bad hip and limps slightly as well as another with a nipped ear. With five hungry cubs - the moms are always on the hunt. The next morning we came across this pride again. We had just passed some giraffes having their breakfast when we encountered two females …….. slowly we passed another and we realized they had spread out and were watching the approaching giraffes. Motor off – we watched. Suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere appeared half dozen zebras coming right to us – only 75 yds away. It was AMAZING how all lions heads snapped simultaneously - in a nano second - to the zebras. It was surreal as we watched the cats silently stalk and surround …..…. in two seconds it was over - a snap, the pounce the flight ………it stunned us all to see every zebra escape. The cubs would go hungry awhile longer. The guide told us only 1 in 5 attempts is successful.
The next lioness we saw was alone with her single male cub. She was such a sad story; no one knows where she was raised –only that she appeared at Sandi Pitch with her three cubs last February. She is older and considered an enemy to all prides in the area . Sadly, she and her cubs are also considered fair game – in fact, I should say “were” as two have already been killed. The rangers and guides have deduced that it was hyenas that got them …..... a few act as a decoy for the mom – and because she is alone – she would have to leave her babies to hunt and the kill would be made while she was away. It is all very calculated – and very sad. They say there is little hope that either will survive. She broke our hearts.
The third pride we encountered was the largest …….
We watched this group for awhile, followed for a bit - photos were taken and then moved on. Later in the evening – on our second drive of the day we learned that there had been a successful kill and we drove to the area to find a giraffe being devoured by the pride. For some reason, seeing this happen in the wild is not so upsetting and all makes sense. …… and this is coming from one who cries every time Sarah MacLachlan sings on the t.v. ads for stranded hurt animals. Go Figure.
The leopards are the opposite of the lions - they are completely solitary..... well almost. It was very unusual for us to see a male and female together. BUT - it's all about food. The female had a successful kill the night before and the male moved in and took over. The group before us witnessed all this - and watched as the male actually pulled the impala UP A TREE and wedged it between two limbs - eventually allowing the lady to have some dinner as well,
And I already wrote about dear Sahara - a true story of survival.
That's all - I was just so impressed with these incredible woman and they're skills - had to write one more time.
Friday, September 4, 2009
I need to try and catch up on everything, but we have little free time and even less computer time, yet I shall try.
The safari was truly phenomenal. We saw the “big five” as noted before, and so much more. The only other animal I wanted to see was the hyena. Sure enough, they were hanging around the dead giraffe, waiting to challenge the lions. They reminded me of the Lion King complete with a weird shriek and a shit-eating grin, which is about all that will be left of that giraffe by the time they get it. We did not see great herds on the plains, but maybe Botswana. I think we traded the masses of animals in the vastness for “up close and personal”.
We all gathered to leave at 10:00 for Graskop. The next 4 hours - yes count them four- were spent waiting for the van. (They went to the wrong part of the Park) Then they didn’t bring a trailer big enough for our luggage hence the picture of them tying it on. Fortunately Bill, Mr. Fixit, help secure everything, for they were clueless. Needless to say we missed all the sites on the way to G. along with any lunch. Fortunately the Graskop Hotel was fabulous. Each room was designed and decorated by a different artist, much better than the Madonna Inn! The town was cozy and safe. It was the first time we could walk around without being worried of lions, hyenas, elephants, or humans. The time there was much too short. We had 1 ½ hours to shop at the silk store, etc. which left many of us upset.
Yesterday was a travel day. The same van to the airport, fighting with the airline to check more luggage- it’s 44lbs. per person, not per bag, and carry on only 15lbs… . . . heck my back pack weighs 30lbs!! We arrived in Jozi to pick up a different guide, Shiney, who seems to be a god-send, though she’s hampered by Simon our bus driver who seems quite old and dotty. But you read right--- we have a small BUS rather than a van, what a difference it makes. It’s a good thing for we spent 5 hours on it yesterday driving to Clarens, and will have 5-6 to Durban; plus stops.
The landscape has been huge farms, with narry a sole in sight. Reminds me of west Texas. But Clarens is nestled at the base of the Golden Gate park. No, no bridge anywhere, just 2 mountain ranges that look like gates. We are going there at sunset to see the colors. Will pass on pictures.
All in all it’s been a busy, inspiring trip complete with some of the best FUBARs possible. Whenever the lack of forethought pops up, they mutter TIA. . . . . this is Africa. I’m beginning to understand that Banana Republics have nothing on this place. Twinkle
Today, Friday, (we have to keep asking each other what day it is….) was lovely. We SLEPT IN !!! until 7:15. Had a wonderful breakfast with a view of the mountains just out the window and then hit the streets . We had four hours to wander this small artist colony and everyone loved it. Purchases were made in many of the galleries and I know that many of the group will have wonderful memories of this town.
We boarded the bus in the early afternoon and headed for the Basotho Cultural Village. This was a double treat – the village itself was really well done and we learned a great deal about the people from the 17th century to the present …..and several local schools were also visiting and we loved watching the kids running around, being naughty, hiding out in the bathrooms and basically – behaving the way all our kids did !! Some things are just so universal!
The drive there and back was beautiful – because it was dark when we arrived last night, we didn’t see the incredible vistas. This is farm and ranch land as Twinkle said. There are large grazing areas, and huge burn areas. They routinely have controlled burns and the new vegetation becomes the next pasture. We also saw Spring Bok which is a cousin to those in the bush – as well as a fair herd of mountain zebra. Twinkle and I were also the only ones to see the HUGE ostriches strolling through the grass – HEY – you snooze you lose !!
We had a wonderful dinner with our friend Annie in a tiny bistro – it was wonderful – we are happy – life is goodGood Night Mary
a quick petro stop and some fruit and the absolute BEST avocados ever take us through to dinner.
no words needed
how wonderful are these ladies - obviously very used to having their photo taken. They are selling freshly roasted macadamia nuts . YUM
We have seen so many wonderful South African women like this - carrying the babies on their backs with baskets of food etc on their heads. Unfortunately the bus is moving too fast to get many photos