Namibian Wonders (Part II)

 

Excellent Food, Animals, Scenery, and Incredibly Nice People

Beautiful aerial view of the Hoanib river, the river we camped next to.
Beautiful aerial view of the Hoanib river, the river we camped next to.
Flying along the coast to reach Sesfontein
Flying along the coast to reach Sesfontein

We flew to Sesfontein with a great pilot, Shannon, who previously flew long-hauls from Jo’burg to Washington D.C. and NYC. But we rarely got above 1000 feet! And what was amazing is that we saw tens, maybe even hundreds, of humpbacks and dolphins on that flight,  and I was thinking, ‘maybe we might have even more good luck in this new place’. It was a two-and-a-half hour flight in a Cessna 210 and a lot of it was over sand dunes and hills, so it was quite turbulent, and everybody felt quite sick except Nesi (who falls asleep within 10 minutes on these Cessnas), Dada and Shannon. I have a weak stomach in terms of motion sickness.

Outside the plane we took to Sesfontein
Outside the plane we took to Sesfontein
Nesi is asleep within ten minutes on these small planes
Nesi is asleep within ten minutes on these small planes

When we landed on the gravel-sand-grass runway, we met our guide, Tarry. He’s a wonderful guide and a wonderful person. Nesi went crazy for this period of time – she had so much fun and virtually talked from dawn to dusk. We got into Tarry’s 4×4 Specialised Land Cruiser and headed into the ‘huge metropolis’ of Sesfontein. We stopped under the shade of a huge tree for a nice ‘camping’ (more like glamping) lunch, complete with a table, chairs, excellent food, and wildlife. Unfortunately, I was still feeling a bit queasy, but after some sugar (lemonade), I felt fine. When we met him, he said he loves birds and was an avid birdwatcher. For some reason, from that point on I have also been an avid birdwatcher. After lunch we watched some Pearl-Spotted Owlets fly by (tiny things), and took the two-hour drive to the camp next to the Hoanib River. It was really amazing to see so many animals on the drive there – we saw our first wild giraffes, and what is staggering is that we saw a Honey Badger (an African equivalent to a Wolverine), and they are extremely hard to see.

Us having lunch just outside Sesfontein
Us having lunch just outside Sesfontein
Hoanib river - Biggest flash flood for years just came through
Hoanib river – Biggest flash flood for years just came through

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Our first giraffes
Our first giraffes

When we arrived we were greeted by a few other people at the camp. The main guides we met were Jason, a really nice guy who was the camp manager, and Jimmy, the excellent cook. We had a campfire every night after dinner and we helped make it with all the wood around the campsite. We used solar-powered lamps to  light the outside. And we had an actual toilet and shower. The toilet dropped down to a hole in the ground, and the shower was a large canvas bucket with a shower head protruding out of it. We showered brilliantly but in open air. We heated water up with a fire and mixed cold and hot water to get the right temperature. The first day at ‘Tarry’s camp’ as Nesi calls it, was brilliant.

Our tents
Our tents
Me going for a quick walk
Me going for a quick walk
Making bread rolls on the fire
Making bread rolls on the fire
Our tents - far left mummy's and daddy's, far right is the loo. The middle is ours
Our tents – far left mummy’s and daddy’s, far right is the loo. The middle is ours.
The mess where we had meals
The mess where we had meals

The next day we all woke up feeling very happy about the situation we were in. We jumped out of bed and used the ‘loo with the view’ (Jason’s name for the loo – it was an incredible sight to look at whilst sitting on the throne). We all had bacon and eggs for brekky and discussed what we were going to do today with Tarry (he ate with us). He took us for a normal game drive. We saw a lot of Oryx (Gemsbok), heaps of Chacma Baboons, lots of Springbok, and heaps of birds. Tarry was such a good guide, even the smallest bird he stopped for and told us about it. We stopped for tea and biscuits at an entrance to the Skeleton Coast National Park — but nobody is actually allowed in. After a typical ‘camp’ lunch, but much better, we had a talk with Tarry about past experiences. I really liked these conversations we had with  him. We talked about everything from planes to school. We kept talking and relaxing for most of that afternoon, because we had a hike later in the afternoon. The walk was brilliant. We left around 4:30, to try and avoid the midday heat. It was beautiful – look. And this is just the beginning of the walk, just in front of the ‘loo with the view’. We walked for a while, looking for anything interesting, but nothing in particular. We found an Ant Lion – an ant eating insect that makes a trap by making a hole gradually down to itself, like a crater. When an ant walks into the hole, it can’t get back up – the sand slips to make it fall back down. Once sand slips, the Ant Lion leaps out of the bottom of the hole and eats the ant. We finished the walk in high spirits. I hit the shower after that. Dinner was again, brilliant – we had roast chicken cooked in the coals of a fire. After another campfire, we went to bed. Tomorrow we would be moving the camp further north, and, not knowing it, we would be seeing our first lions as well.

Nesi having a sleep-in
Nesi having a sleep-in
Finally coming out around 9 am
Finally coming out around 9 am
Beautiful Hoanib river
Beautiful Hoanib river
Lone Springbok
Lone Springbok

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Sprinbok feeding
Sprinbok feeding

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Nesi making bread rolls with Jason
Nesi making bread rolls with Jason
On the afternoon walk
On the afternoon walk
Making sand sculptures
Making sand sculptures
This rarely happens
This rarely happens (Nesi not stuck on mummy or dada)
Our campfire
Our campfire
Dusk at the camp
Dusk at the camp

The next day we woke up, jumped out of bed, had a quick brekky, and started to help pack up camp. Nicky and I helped to take down the tents, while Nesi sat on the ground making sand sculptures (the sand was like a soft rock). We left before the rest of the gang, hoping to find the Five Musketeers, five male desert lions critical to the survival of the badly endangered subspecies.  We set of on the long drive to a camp near the village of Purros. We drove on and on, occasionally going up a hill to use as a look-out. We drove through this beautiful and desolate valley, occasionally seeing a baboon, and we also saw two Lappet-Faced Vultures, an absolutely huge vulture – most other birds get out of its way. They are like kings.

Packing up
Packing up
The car is Jason and the rest heading to set up camp while we go looking for lions
The car is Jason and the rest heading to set up camp while we go looking for lions
Me in the middle of nowhere on the drive to Purros
Me in the middle of nowhere on the drive to Purros

When we got out of the valley we got a stroke of luck – fresh lion footprints. We drove 16 km tracking them down – this is another reason why we loved this experience – no radio work, just pure skill. We had just lost the trail when the car jerked suddenly to a stop and reversed back. We had found the Five Musketeers. Tarry gave us a little speech on the facts of these guys. He told us to stay quiet, but we were so dumbstruck he probably didn’t need to tell us that. We stayed just there, in front of them about twenty metres away, for an hour and a half. They are beautiful creatures. The desert lions are collared by Dr. Flip – a brilliant-sounding man who is the godfather of Jason, our camp manager. There are roughly 120 of these desert lions left, but thanks to Dr. Flip, the population is very, very, very slowly rising. The main problem is that they kill the villagers’ livestock, making the villagers kill them. Even with Flip, the desert lions are still in trouble. It was amazing watching them not move a muscle while we were there. And because there are not many trees around,  there was one lion literally lying on top of another to get more shade from the small tree. They are males, and pretty much the only males left that can mate. After a really long time, we left in extremely high spirits. The drive after that was pretty quiet.

Beautiful animals
Beautiful animals

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When we did arrive, Jason and the others had already set up camp, and a snack was waiting for us. For some reason, we pretended to not have seen the Five Musketeers around Jason. I found it hilarious – Jason seriously believed us. And then finally, after stuffing our mouths with biltong (Southern Africa’s brilliant version of jerky) I told him, and he was super amazed. He actually hadn’t seen the 5 since last November, so six months, and his godfather is the amazing Flip! It really is an incredible sight to see lions. Especially desert lions for some reason. I guess just because you know that there are only very few left. I have dubbed that day ‘one of the seven best days of the trip’.

Our tents in Purros
Our tents in Purros

Unfortunately the next day was the last full day with Tarry. We went elephant tracking. We found footprints so fresh it was actually a bit scary. And then we found dung so fresh it was freaky. So we followed the dung and footprints to a small stream, and from there on we had absolutely no luck whatsoever. We didn’t find any more dung or footprints, and even when we went up on the highest hill there (not including the mountains) we couldn’t see or hear the elephant. We even got stuck in some mud. So in the end we just went back to camp without that experience of finding an elephant. What we didn’t know at that time is that we would be seeing quite literally hundreds of elephants in two days time. We got back for lunch, and Tarry discussed what we would do in the afternoon. We agreed on going to visit a nearby Himba tribe. In the time from lunch to 4-5 ish we did one thing we haven’t done for a really long time: relax, read, have a nap, whatever you want to do.

Southern Yellow Billed Hornbill
Southern Yellow Billed Hornbill
Trying to find the elephant from a hill
Trying to find the elephant from a hill
Trying to make a fire
Trying to make a fire
I made this fire
I made this fire

When it was time to go to the Himba village we jumped into the truck and started driving to the village. When we got to the perimeter of the village, Tarry told us to stay in the car till we have permission to enter. As expected, they said yes, and the 20+ children went wild. You see, the village rarely gets – or maybe has never gotten – children visitors. They seemed like wonderful children, and I played with them, even if they spoke an entirely different language (OtjiHimba), and I was two years older than the oldest one there. We had a lot of fun, we got a tour of the village by the villagers themselves. We bought a Himba headdress, and a Himba necklace.

The Himba village
The Himba village
Inside the Himba village
Inside the Himba village
Himba lady
Himba lady
Me with the kids at the village
Me with the kids at the village

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After that we went up a hill for a last-night sundowner. It was Mummy and Daddy’s 11th wedding  anniversary, and a surprise awaited us on the top of the hill. Instead of just a drink with Tarry, the whole party was up there as well! They were singing and one guy, Francois, was playing his guitar. It was so much fun, with the popcorn, the ‘special drinks’, and the home-made music. One of my favourite songs they sang was when they sang “I hope you enjoy your anniversary the lion sleeps tonight” to the tune of a song from ‘The Lion King’. Dinner that night after the sundowner was also brilliant. Especially dessert – banana boat (mint chocolate in a banana, roasted over the fire). Tarry said that that was the first time they had done anything like the sundowner party.

The party
The party

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Nicky and I with Tarry
Nicky and I with Tarry

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Nesi with Jason (she really likes Jason but was shy for this photo)
Nesi with Jason (she really likes Jason but was shy for this photo)
Sunset from the hill. Hoarosib river below
Sunset from the hill. Hoarosib river below

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Tarry, Nicky, and I organised a bird watching walk in the morning, before we left. It was a really wonderful time just watching the birds. Tarry has this app that has all the birds in southern Africa, along with a soundtrack for each that plays the sound that it makes. So Tarry made a Pearl-Spotted owlet sound, and you would expect that most birds would fly away at the sound of a predator, right? Well, turns out they will actually go to the sight of the predator and investigate, so we had hundreds of birds flying into the tree next to us, and I remember that moment well. It really was a spectacular way to finish off the time we had with Tarry and the others. After that we drove off to the airstrip, but then the plane wasn’t arriving, and I was thinking, YES!, but in the end a guy came and said to follow him, and he led us to another airstrip about 5 minutes away. There we met Andy, a really nice, young pilot who told us that there are 3 airstrips in Purros, which has a population of about 200. So, quite a lot of airstrips for such a small town.

Aerial view of mountains on the way to Etosha
Aerial view of mountains on the way to Etosha
A salt pan in Etosha
A salt pan in Etosha

We said our sad good-byes and then hopped into ‘Andy’s Aeroplane’  as Nesi calls it. It was a two hour flight to Etosha National Park, and very scenic. Andy told us that he would be staying at Mushara, a lodge just outside Etosha National Park, with us: it would be much easier to stay than to go and come back for us. We arrived and retired to the couches in the huge Family Villa. We then took a trip to the pool to get all the dust off us from camping. It had been a brilliant week.

We all preferred camping in tents!
We all preferred camping in tents!
In the pool
In the pool 

The next day we were up really early to go for a sunrise game drive in the park. We left, and on the road to the entrance to the park we saw a double rainbow, and we were thinking, hmm, an omen of good luck maybe? And good luck it was. As soon as we got into the park the guide got a radio call (now radios, not tracking) and she said there was a cat somewhere, so we started driving as fast as we can toward the clump of trucks (whenever you see a clump of trucks here you know there is something good there). It was a leopard. It really is good luck even if you see only one leopard and nothing else. They are just so elusive. Unfortunately leopards are really shy, so it was leaving by the time we got there. Next we saw 6 lions, which, apparently, are quite common in Etosha. And then we saw over 150 elephants, which is really rare in Etosha. After that, we actually saw two Black Rhino. So it was only about 9:30 and we had got the big 5. Oh, except buffalo, because there are no buffalo in Etosha. That was a great day, but not quite as good as the days we had in complete wilderness. Here there are tens of lodges, some tarmac roads, and heaps of cars. And again, in the afternoon we just jumped in the pool and relaxed. The next day was a pretty nothing day: all we saw were herbivores (excluding Hyenas), and no elephants, but 1 rhino.

Omen of good luck in Etosha
Omen of good luck in Etosha
The leopard
The leopard
Shy animals, they are
Shy animals, they are
Beautiful lion
Beautiful lion
Lazy lion
Lazy lion
Huge bull
Huge bull

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'Elephant crossing'
‘Elephant crossing’
Lone male Impala
Lone male Impala
Elephants having a drink
Elephants having a drink
"we've got major traffic in the middle of nowhere"
“we’ve got major traffic in the middle of nowhere”
Curious baby Warthog
Curious baby Warthog
Black-Backed Jackal
Black-Backed Jackal
Ugly Blue Wildebeest
Ugly Blue Wildebeest
Grandma elephant with two babies.
Grandma elephant with two babies.
Giraffe's favourite food is acacia leaves
Giraffe’s favourite food is acacia leaves
Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk looking very proud
Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk looking very proud
Damara dik-dik, quite a small animal indeed
Damara dik-dik, quite a small animal indeed

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damara dik-dik
damara dik-dik
Warthog family having a mud wallop.
Warthog family having a mud wallop.
Zebras with moon over head
Zebras with moon over head

The next day we left the wilderness back into civilization and pretty much ended our safari except for one thing, one thing that will stay with me along with all those other friends I look to when I feel like thinking happy thoughts. What I’m talking about is a wonderful sanctuary in Windhoek with various animals. We saw African Wild Dogs there, which are incredibly rare. We also saw 3 more lions, and baboons. But the best part about this place was the cheetahs. Did you know that cheetahs are the only big cat that you can domesticate? Our guide called their names and they came running. They were so cute, just like a cat, including the purring, but super loud purring. It was so wonderful playing with them. We all had so much fun, and I can tell my mates I have been scratched by a cheetah.

Lion jumping to get a horse's head at the sanctuary
Lion jumping to get a horse’s head at the sanctuary
Me with a cheetah
Me with a cheetah

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One of my favourite photos ever
One of my favourite photos ever
Cheetahs are the only cat without retractable claws
Cheetahs are the only cat without retractable claws

I adored Namibia, and Africa in general. It was a really wonderful experience, and hopefully we will go back soon. We all loved Namibia, and anyone wanting to go somewhere jaw-dropping, Namibia is one of those places. And now I come to my conclusion: If I were to pick my favourite 3 countries (not including anywhere I have lived) Namibia would be there.

 

Ashman

Namibian Wonders (Part I)

Excellent Food, Animals, Scenery, and Incredibly Nice People

Taking in the NamibRand Nature Reserve
Taking in the NamibRand Nature Reserve

I wish I was back there. I think I fell in love with Africa. The magnificent food, the amazing animals, the wonderful people. The mind-blowing thing is that there is absolutely no one there, especially when we were with Tarry (coming up later). We saw quite literally no one for five days except ourselves. Did you know that Namibia has more seals than people? Every step I took, and not only for Namibia but for the rest of Africa, a new incredible sight greeted me. Every step I took, an animal awaited me. Every step I took, I got closer and closer to that delicious food. Even the camp food was absolutely delicious, from sandwiches to apple crumble, from pork fillet to something making me long to go back.

The second our plane touched down in Windhoek (capital of Namibia) we were launched into our three week-long safari. The first animal we saw was a warthog, which I have had a soft spot for since, even if it is in the Ugly Five (Warthog, Marabou Stork, Spotted Hyena, Lappet-Faced Vulture and Blue Wildebeest).

The first stop in Namibia was Windhoek, but only to shop up and grab a 4×4. The next day we woke up and started shopping for the following drive through Namibia. We got everything from tissue paper to a speaker, snacks to lunch. After that day, we drove eight-and-a-half hours (that’s right, incredibly long right?) to our first lodge/camp of the trip, Wolwedans Private Camp. What we found out was that in Namibia they pronounce w as v, so more like Volvedans, and Vindhoek. A lot of places have a W in them, and we often got told we were pronouncing it wrongly. But let us continue.

Writing our journals in Windhoek.
Writing our journals in Windhoek.
Our 4x4
Our 4×4
The desert road stretching behind and ahead of us
The desert road stretching behind and ahead of us
A lone male oryx along the drive
A lone male oryx along the drive

When we arrived, I didn’t know we were in the ‘private camp’ which is like an open air house just for us. We had a cook and a butler, and I had my own ‘tent’ which is code for a luxurious pavilion complete with a stargazing deck and windows made of canvas and mesh. You can decide between sleeping with the windows rolled up or down, which we thought was amazing: we had never been somewhere this wild and wonderful. The private camp also had a ‘cold tub’ which is a hot tub that is cold – quite refreshing in the heat. Oh, and the good food was another example of good food in Africa.

Basking in the sun at Wolwedans
Basking in the sun at Wolwedans
The cold tub
The cold tub
One of the magnificent views from camp
One of the magnificent views from camp
Mama and dada's private tent
Mama and dada’s tent
Sundowners
Sundowners
Sun set at our campfire. Planet Jupiter in the distance
Sun set at our campfire. Planet Jupiter in the distance
Early morning
Early morning
Nesi really loved our first camp (and all the others in Africa)
Nesi really loved our first camp (and all the others in Africa)
Our "tents". My private tent is the second structure from the right.
Our “tents”. My tent is the second structure from the right.
The animals seemed to take turns. There were more oryx waiting behind for the zebras to be at this water hole in front of our camp
The animals seemed to take turns. There were more oryx waiting behind for the zebras to be at this water hole in front of our camp
The oryx loved our cold tub and we took turns using it with them
The oryx loved our cold tub and we took turns using it with them
Our turn
Our turn
Impatient oryx coming closer
Impatient oryx coming closer
Doing a dance for the oryx
Doing a dance for the oryx
Their turn at the pool
Their turn at the pool
More oryx
More oryx

While we were here we saw Oryx. I didn’t know what they were until we got here. We saw thousands of them. We also saw Burchell’s zebras, ostriches, and various insects and arachnids. My favourite animal that was here was the Dancing White Lady, a white spider that makes a trapdoor-type web inside the light-rust coloured sand. They are the size of my palm. I’ve got a photo somewhere in our vast collection of photos that I will include.

Dancing White Lady. Its trap door is on the left with the bit of disturbed looking sand
Dancing White Lady. Its trap door is on the left with the bit of disturbed looking sand
Dung beetle!
The beetle that plays dead!
Our guide showing the girls a Dancing White Lady spider
Our guide showing the girls a Dancing White Lady spider

The next place our trip took us was a place called Sussus Dune Lodge, and in my opinion it was not the best, but if you are planning to go, apparently the Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, which is very close by, is excellent. We were supposed to go there, but it was full. But anyway, it was actually fun when we climbed the second biggest roving dune on the planet (biggest roving dune is Dune 7, also in Namibia), in the oldest desert in the world, which is the second driest desert in the world.

One of the beautiful dunes of Sossusvlei
One of the beautiful dunes of Sossusvlei

We had to wake up at 5:30am to beat the sun’s heat – once the sun came up it was scorching hot. We started climbing the near vertical dune diagonally, then mummy and I went up the rest by the ridge (dada and the girls went back down). It was so much fun, and on my left there was an incredible, almost vertical, drop to a pure white clay and salt pan. It was like walking on a side of an incredibly large volcano crater. Once we got to the top, we slid down! Except it was more of a run than a slide down, because the sand wasn’t packed firm enough. However, a few years ago, in the Atacama desert, first place for driest desert on earth, dada, Nicky, and I quite literally rolled down a pretty much vertical sand dune used by daredevil sand-boarders. I got my undies full of sand, and when I took my pants off, the bath at the lodge got clogged up! But that was a long time ago, in 2012, and not in Namibia nor this trip. Back to the nearer past. It was lots of fun – but without the sand-in-undies experience.

Getting ready for our climb up Big Daddy
Getting ready for our climb up Big Daddy
Nicky said it was easier crawling up the ridge!
Nicky said it was easier crawling up the ridge!
Making first tracks
Making first tracks
This is where the girls started their descent
This is where the girls started their descent
Mummy contemplating how much more she has to the top...
Mummy contemplating how much more she has to the top…
We made it!!!
We made it!!!
Dada too! He came back up after making sure the girls could run down safely
Dada too! He came back up after making sure the girls could run down safely
Sossus Dune Lodge
Sossus Dune Lodge

The next place was actually a town.  That’s right, a town after a week in the middle of nowhere. It was quite interesting transitioning from gravel roads to tarmac, then dunes to houses, and a civilisation of seals to a civilisation of people. Swakopmund, or in short, Swakop. We spent two nights here in a good hotel right by the ocean, called The Strand.

Happy tired travellers
Happy tired travellers
Civilisation
Civilisation
Heading out for a scenic flight along the Namibia Desert
Heading out for a scenic flight along the Namib Desert
The Strand Hotel
The Strand Hotel

On the first day we went out onto the water in a boat, and we all really enjoyed it. We took the boat from Walvis Bay, a 20 minute drive from Swakop. We got there and headed to the Mola Mola office. A Mola Mola is a sunfish, if you were wondering. We met the captain, Jacques, and headed out to the tip of a peninsula to see the lighthouse, seals, and a nearby pelican colony. Just as we were leaving we found ‘Necklace’, a rescued seal now very friendly with people – she was saved from a fishing net, leaving her with a mark around her neck, thus her name. She actually jumped onto the boat, and then Jacque got some fish from the storage compartment, and showed us how Necklace eats – if you throw the fish at her tail first, she’ll flip it so it goes head-first. Amazing, eh? Seals do it so the spines on the body and tail don’t cut them. So then we got ‘Lady Gaga’ on board – a Pelican. We also fed her some fish, and once she had flown away, we opened up the taps. Or rather, I opened up the taps. I had heaps of fun navigating, steering, etc. It really is fun to drive things. When we got to the lighthouse, an overpowering smell of salty wee and poo came (it’s the only way to describe it)! There was just so many seals, so many. You could think the ocean and sand was brown/black. And the lighthouse, in the midst of the Cape Fur Seals was like a chessboard. We learnt that black and white lighthouses are surrounded by more than one side of ocean. After the lighthouse, we went to one of the main breeding grounds for pelicans. We had lunch at sea before we headed back to dock.

Some of the millions of seals
Some of the millions of seals
Aerial of an abandoned diamond mine
Aerial of an abandoned diamond mine
Pelican, Lady Gaga, showing off her dance moves
Pelican, Lady Gaga, showing off her dance moves
Note the tail end of the fish
Note the tail end of the fish
Walvis Bay
Walvis Bay
Lighthouse on the peninsula
Lighthouse on the peninsula
Some of the millions of smelly seals
Some of the millions of smelly seals
Navigating the waters
Navigating the waters

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Necklace
Necklace

While at Swakop, we went on a ‘Living Deserts’ Tour, which is a tour were they take you out to the dunes, and look for small animals. We looked for a dune gecko, another Dancing White Lady, and a beetle that plays dead as a survival tactic. And finally, can you guess? No, not a million dollars, but a Peringuey’s adder about to give birth. A Peringuey’s adder is a small and venomous sand-coloured snake, able to kill anything that is small, like a lizard, by hiding in the sand with only its eyes sticking out. Our guide, Douglas, was saying that a birthing is so rare to see that almost nobody except an Ophiologist would see, and even then, it is only when they stumble across one. It was absolutely incredibly brilliantly wonderful. We saw the baby shed its ‘birthing sac’, a translucent white sac that makes giving birth a lot smoother. The mother was about to deliver another, but as we had disturbed it, it hid in the sand and did not give birth with us there. After that we went dune climbing in the truck. We reversed away from the dune, then went full throttle up the dune.

A Chameleon eating a worm we gave him
A Chameleon eating a worm we gave him
Looking for dune geckos - you'll see Nesi is looking for her own
Looking for dune geckos – you’ll see Nesi is looking for her own
The dune gecko - we scared the tail off it
The dune gecko – we scared the tail off it
Mummy holding the Dune Gecko
Mummy holding the Dune Gecko
Chameleon taking worm from my hand
Chameleon taking worm from my hand
Chameleon taking worm from Mummy's hand - same Chameleon as following photos
Chameleon taking worm from Mummy’s hand – same Chameleon as previous photos
The mother Peringuey's adder
The mother Peringuey’s adder
You'll see that the tail ends very abruptly - on a snake not pregnant it would end gradually
You’ll see that the tail ends very abruptly – on a snake not pregnant it would end gradually
Lower-left side of the picture the baby still shedding it's birthing sack
Lower-left side of the picture the baby still shedding it’s birthing sack

 

The next day we flew to Sesfontein, to endure some of the best days of the trip…

 

Toronto, Muskoka, and Kitchener – Eating Good Food, Tubing and Doing Nothing

13 September 2016

You should know by now that I love food. And since mummy is the best cook in the world, I have good food thrice a day. But since Canada has such a vast selection of dim sum, which we have not had for such a long time, I have been stuffing my face. One brekky in Toronto I had three charsiu baos, two bowls of porridge, about three fried fritters, and much more. I’m sorry, but unfortunately I cannot talk about food anymore or I will drool all over this computer (not that I have drooling problems).

Anyway, so Toronto was lots of fun, but incredibly hot. Everyday the temperature reached above 30 degrees celsius. We spent most of our time walking  around, while Nicky spent most of her time with Amalia (Nicky’s best friend that flew over from Mexico just to see her). My favourite part of Toronto was The Royal Ontario Museum, or ROM. It was really interesting. My favourite part of the ROM was the Chihuly Exhibit (an amazing exhibit from an American glass sculptor, Dale Chihuly). I will attach some pictures. The glass was so detailed.

With Amalia
With Amalia
Dinner with Anne, one of mummy's friends from Toronto.
Dinner with Anne, one of mummy’s friends from Toronto.
Nicky's bff Amalia
Nicky’s bff Amalia
One of the amazing Chihuly exhibits
One of the amazing Chihuly exhibits

And Muskoka was even more fun. I slept on the top bunk of one out of five bedrooms. We spent our time in Muskoka with Anna, Mummy’s friend from university, Brent, her husband, and their children, Elliot, age 6, Grace age 9 and when we got to Kitchener (their home) she turned 10. Like always, mummy made good food, but so did Anna, and Dada and Brent on the barbie (BBQ). We had a bonfire pit, and we made a fire three times, the first with Nicky and Grace putting on an ‘advertisements show’, which was hilarious – they kept on arguing on how to pronounce it. Grace said advertisement like adver-ties-ment, and Nicky said adver-tis-ment. And the second bonfire roasting marshmallows, and the third cooking hot dogs. And for the first time ever, Mummy made her own fire, and I made the first one I have ever done without help. But my favourite part was tubing. Since I am shorter then an adult, who let their legs hang of the back of the tube, I have to kneel or sit. I decided on kneeling, the only downside with this is that when you are going at a decent speed (eg. 15+ mph), it feels like 1000 people are pummelling your knees and shins, if you kneel. I reached a top speed of 22 mph, which is a fair bit of speed. Except dada went around 28 mph! When I was going at this speed, I was so afraid I was going to fall off when I was at 22 mph for an incredible (to me) 90 seconds! The only person to actually fall off the tube was Brent, but he did it because his knees were feeling raw from skimming the lake at 25 mph! Tubing was just so fun, and the boat we rented was also brilliant. 7 people capacity, 150 horsepower, and lots of fun! Oh, and by the way, if you have a good look in one of the photos of me tubing, you will see that I have my thumbs up, which means “Go Faster”. This is going at about 3-5 mph. I had a lot of fun in Muskoka, and not just tubing but pretty much everything – like fishing, where nobody except Nesi caught one, and it was smaller than the bait! But also doing nothing, which we haven’t done for a while.

The advertisement show at the bonfire
The advertisement show at the bonfire
The boat in front of the brilliant water slide
The boat in front of the brilliant water slide
Nesi and mummy in the hot tub
Nesi and mummy in the hot tub
Mummy on the kayak
Mummy on the kayak
Nesi and mummy tubing
Nesi and mummy tubing
Nesi with the only catch of the trip
Nesi with the only catch of the trip
Me fishing off the back of the boat
Me fishing off the back of the boat

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Me tubing
Me tubing
A big splash
A big splash
Anna and Brent
Anna and Brent
Nesi having the time of her life at the front of the boat going at over 30 mph
Nesi having the time of her life at the front of the boat going at over 30 mph
The boys coming in to dock
The boys coming in to dock
Mummy driving the boat
Mummy driving the boat
Me driving
Me driving
Me kayaking
Me kayaking

Next up was wonderfully hot and relaxing Kitchener. To be honest, I expected and was looking forward to Kitchener so that I could, actually, read Harry Potter 6 again – last time I read it was two and a half years ago. And I knew Grace is a keen reader, so I assumed that they did have the series. But anyway, Kitchener was great. My favourite part was being in the basement doing stuff like 3-D printing and making a circuit with Brent. On his 3-D printer we first printed two rubber-band powered rockets, then a whistle, which didn’t turn out at all. It didn’t even make a sound, and it was suppose to be 118 on the scale of sound! Thats louder then an accelerating motorbike! But instead it was as quiet as a library for a single mouse who can’t talk but only blow air. In Kitchener I also really liked the park. Quite a nice park it was, except that everybody had their phones out playing Pokemon Go! It was quite interesting actually, watching everybody on their phones. At one point I saw a group of people playing it on their bikes! And another thing that I liked was when Anna and Brent went out and came back an hour later on Grace’s birthday with a cat! Grace renamed it Cleo.

Nesi playing with Elliot
Nesi playing with Elliot

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Oh, I almost forgot, we went to Niagra Falls while in Kitchener! It was quite fun, we went on one of the boats that goes right in the middle of the Horseshoe. Luckily I remembered to bring my waterproof camera, as well as my good camera. It was really  nice going to Niagra, but personally I prefer the waterfalls in Iguasu and Iceland, but this would be in the top five. Oh, and the article on Iceland will come out very soon, I just have to add some stuff.

Photo of falls with a boat like the one we went on
Photo of falls with a boat like the one we went on
Rainbow with Niagara Falls
Rainbow with Niagara Falls
On the Hornblower
On the Hornblower

When we left  Kitchener for Toronto we were looking forward to going up the CN tower for lunch! When we arrived at the Delta Hotel we got into shirts and dresses and headed literally across the street and up. You should know that the CN tower is 553 metres high, and the Restaurant, which rotates very slowly (72 min=one round), and is about 350 metres high. When you go down three flights of stairs, you reach the glass floor, which, when you are standing on, it feels like you are falling and makes your hands go a bit tinglish. And you are afraid that you will fall, even if the floor can hold four Orcas.

View from the restaurant on top of CN Tower
View from the restaurant on top of CN Tower
CN Tower
CN Tower

The eastern part of Canada was really fun, it was the first time I have been to Canada (other than in mummy’s womb). It was a really good first experience. And I come to my conclusion: I am going to enjoy every other part of Canada except for the fact that we have to do school. And to Ma and Pa: I am incredibly excited because you are coming over in 6 days from today.

Signing off,

Ash

Wednesday, 25th May, 2016

25th – 31st May, 2016

Segera Retreat, Laikipia, Rift Valley, Kenya

If you like food, go to Segera. That is it. Full stop, the end. Oh, also if you like everything else, like animals, planes (they have the plane that is in the movie Out of Africa in their aircraft hanger), croquet, swimming, and everything else that is fun. Did I also say making beaded anythings?

Segera is an awesome place. We all agreed this place has the best food of all time. The chef is called Elizabeth, and my favourite meal here is the Peking duck. Nice crispy  skin. Nice tender meat. Makes my mouth water because it is so good. Anyway, enough with the food, it is making me hungry.

The property is really big, the land is about 50,000 acres, with the lodge in the middle. All the villas are hidden from each other, which is a 2-story huge house/villa, with a private pool as well. The main building has two floors. The lower floor is where you eat brekky, the higher level being the ‘Explorer’s Lounge’, a place with heaps of stuff from the past, including a German bible from 1730 about 1 cubit long. The main pool is where you can play croquet, and make your own pizza. We made pizza twice, and it was great.

Now to the animals. Big cats are often seen here, so  you would expect good sightings. In 6 days we saw 2 cheetahs, 11 lions, and 1 African Wild Cat. The 2 guides we had, Elvis and David, were really good. David was the ‘veteran’ of the lodge: he had already finished his guide training, which can take longer than 10 years. In total, we saw 52 Lions in Africa, which  is pretty incredible, considering  they are so rare.

While we were there, we had the most exciting quiz and treasure hunt. The quiz had 101 questions about nature, and Nicky and I got 99/101. The treasure hunt was fantastic, it consisted of 13 clues, spread out across the huge lodge, and the 13th clue led you to treasure. Our treasure was an ‘I love Kenya pin,’ pencil, notepad, and Elizabeth’s chocolate chip biscuits. It was great fun.

You can have picnics by one of the 4 rivers that runs through segera, visit a waterfall, do archery like the Masai warriors do, and so much more.

They had this building dedicated to the ‘4 C s’, called the C4C room. The C’s stand for Community, Culture, Conservation, and Commerce. This is like a sort of Museum, with a lot of cow tails and the skeleton of a Patas monkey, of which there are only 12 left in Segera. The room is also where we made the beaded anythings. And the room is nice to go to after a hot afternoon (it is cool in there).

This was the last stop in Africa, so it was a little bit sad, but Segera was a great way to leave Africa.

Ta Ta,

I will be writing about San Sebastian next week.

Ashman

Our villa in Segera
Our villa in Segera
Waiting for lunch
Waiting for lunch
Vervet monkeys checking us out when we arrived
Vervet monkeys checking us out when we arrived
Grevy's zebras. The rarest zebras in the world. Only 2000 left in the wild.
Grevy’s zebras. The rarest zebras in the world. Only 2000 left in the wild.
Whistling thorn acacia. They were everywhere on our Kenyan safaris.
Whistling thorn acacia. They were everywhere on our Kenyan safaris.
Me checking out the scene on safari
Me checking out the scene on safari
Reticulated giraffe
Reticulated giraffe
Many more reticulated giraffes. Different from the ones in Namibia
Many more reticulated giraffes. Different from the ones in Namibia
Sunset
Sunset
Sunset
Sunset
Beautiful sunset through the clouds
Beautiful sunset through the clouds
Picking up our lunch from the gardens
Picking up our lunch from the gardens
Nesi found a Nesi-sized carrot (in her left hand)
Nesi found a Nesi-sized carrot (in her left hand)

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African elephant
African elephant
Lilac-breasted roller - the National bird of Kenya
Lilac-breasted roller – the National bird of Kenya
Two juvenile giraffes play-fighting while an older male looks on
Two juvenile giraffes play-fighting while an older male looks on
Nicky on safari
Nicky on safari
Visiting the SATUBO beading group of women, made up of 3 tribes: Samburu, Turkana and Borana.
Visiting the SATUBO beading group of women, made up of 3 tribes: Samburu, Turkana and Borana.
Some of the women working at SATUBO
Some of the women working at SATUBO
At the main pool
At the main pool
Looking at Segera coming back from a game drive
Looking at Segera coming back from a game drive

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Picnic lunch at the riverside. Yummy food from Elizabeth!
Picnic lunch at the riverside. Yummy food from Elizabeth!
Elizabeth
Elizabeth
Yum!
Yum!
After lunch..
After lunch..

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Mummy and daddy went elephant tracking with David and Elvis on foot while we stayed at the picnic
Mama and dada went elephant tracking with David and Elvis on foot while we stayed at the picnic
Found some elephants
Found some elephants
Found 5 elephants.
Found 5 elephants.

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Explorer's Lounge
Explorer’s Lounge
Sunrise game drive
Sunrise game drive
Sunrise
Sunrise
With Andrew, David and Elvis
With Andrew, David and Elvis
Nesi on safari
Nesi on safari
"Carry both!"
“Carry both!”
Good shot!
Good shot!
Robert made me a bow and some arrows
Robert made me a bow and some arrows

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View of Mount Kenya at breakfast
View of Mount Kenya at breakfast
Dada with his giraffe friend
Dada with his giraffe friend
Napenda Afrika!
Napenda Afrika!
Speke's weavers everywhere making their nests
Speke’s weavers everywhere making their nests
The original plane from the movie Out of Africa
The original plane from the movie Out of Africa
The Segera people who looked after us. Our plane at the back waiting to fly us back to Nairobi
The Segera people who looked after us. Our plane at the back waiting to fly us back to Nairobi
One of the main buildings - used to be stables. Now converted into bar, restaurant, art gallery
One of the main buildings – used to be stables. Now converted into bar, restaurant, art gallery

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Making pizza
Making pizza

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Dada with the same giraffe friend every morning
Dada with the same giraffe friend every morning
Mama trying to make a fire with wood and elephant dung
Mama trying to make a fire with wood and elephant dung
My fire!
My fire!

Week 15 (April 11 – 17, 2016)

We needed some off time so mummy got a recommendation: Grootbos. The place with Great whites, shrubs and trees, and Xbox. The most unusual mix.

Grootbos is an awesome place. Grootbos is an Afrikaans word that translates to Big bush. The staff are so kid-friendly, sorry, the whole place is so kid friendly. The drive was a bit boring, apart from the beautiful scenery along the ocean road. We took the ocean road there and the slightly shorter one through the mountains to get back home. The first day, the day we drove to Grootbos (2 h 30m-3h), was a particularly relaxing day, and we had a nice lunch outside. In the afternoon we had a 1 and a half hours 4×4 drive around the reserve and Fynbos. Fynbos is another Afrikaans word that translates to little bush. The guide talked to us about the plants, and the ecosystems etc. We got to the room just before dinner, and guess what? It had an Xbox 360!

The next day we spent a wonderful lunch on the beach, we played around in the freezing water (4 degrees celsius-max 20 degrees celsius), played with a ball they packed and ate great food. In the afternoon I played xbox. Too bad mummy is feeling sick. Steak and chips in front of the movieTurbo, about this snail who falls in a racing car’s engine and accidentally gulps down nitrous oxide. The result is winning the Indy 500.

Mummy is still incredibly sick. We were supposed to go cage diving with the great whites, but we didn’t go with mummy throwing up throughout the night. Oh, and it’s daddy’s birthday today! We went to the stables about 3 times, just to check on the rabbits and brush the horses and scratch the pigs. Yummy pork belly for lunch. I played xbox with Nicky most of the time in the afternoon.

Today we went shark diving. We saw maybe 5 sharks reaching a maximum of 5 meters many times. But I threw up on the boat, so enough talk about that. We drove home the shorter route through the mountains, and I am still a bit sick after that ride.

Sunday MA arrived! Lots of fun! Picking platter for lunch, presents after lunch. I got Pictionary and Pokemon! Really good pulls. Afternoon relaxing, Sausages and Chook for dinner.

And on the day before we went to Grootbos we climbed Lion’s Head! Wonderful experience. We did it in about 4 h 27 m (up and down), and we will try and beat if we go up again. Nesi climbed all the way by herself!

Really wonderful week, with ma arriving and Grootbos and all the barbecues daddy has cooked so far have been awesome.

Signing off for now,

Ash

DSCN0465 DSCN0453 DSCN0452Nicky was the only kid there that went cage diving that day

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Me feeling seasick and then throwing up
Me feeling seasick and then throwing up

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Boat we went shark cage diving on
Boat we went shark cage diving on – it had 1000 horsepower!

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On the beach near Grootbos
On the beach near Grootbos
The fat pigs on the farm
The fat pigs on the farm
Nesi riding on Dapper
Nesi riding on Dapper
Deadly puff adder
Deadly puff adder
At the peak of Lions Head
At the top of Lions Head

23rd – 27th February, 2016. Pantanal, Brazil

23rd February, Anavilhanas – Manaus – Campo Grande

8am departure to Manaus.

2.5 hour road trip.

Quick tour of Manaus:

– Opera House (photos accidentally deleted)

– Local food market

– Meeting of Rio Negro and Rio Solimoes
Lunch at regional restaurant

16:10 JJ3435 Manaus to Brasilia

21:16 JJ 3591 Brasilia to Campo Grande

Hotel DeVille

(Rain in Manaus)


24th February, Campo Grande to Pantanal

Breakfast at hotel.

10am to airport.

Cessna 210 to Pantanal.

Fazenda Barra Mansa. Only guests. Middle of very wet season.

All meals at lodge.

Afternoon boat ride along Rio Negro. Caimans, caipiberas, otters, loads of birds.

Dinner at lodge. Lodge is very basic. Hardest beds in the world! We had a guide, Luis, with us the whole time.

(Rain in morning, clearing)


25th February

Morning boat trip to Vasante or flood plain.

Lunch – wild pig!

Afternoon explore by tractor

– anteaters, macaws, deer, birds

Dinner at lodge.

(Clearing in morning. Lunch shower)


26th February

Breakfast at lodge. Typical Brazilian.

Piranha fishing in morning. No one caught anything!

Lunch at lodge.

Lazy afternoon then short horse ride at 4:30pm.

Dinner at lodge. Rice, beans, chicken, salad.

(Mostly sunny but rain showers)


27th February

Morning trip to salt lake. Ash’s tummy no good again.

Late afternoon horse ride.

Dinner – dorado soup, fried piranha and pacu.

(Mostly sunny, some showers. Hot and humid)


Aerial view coming into the Pantanal
Aerial view coming into the Pantanal
First aerial view of Barra Mansa, our "holiday house" in the Pantanal
First aerial view of Barra Mansa, our “holiday house” in the Pantanal
Our landing strip in the world's largest tropical wetlands
Our landing strip in the world’s largest tropical wetlands
Getting an overview of our route
Getting an overview of our route
Getting ready for a boat trip with our guide, Luis. Girls giving resident dog, Polaca, a pet.
Getting ready for a boat trip with our guide, Luis. Girls giving resident dog, Polaca, a pet.
Chaminé checking us out. Our boats await in the distance. Rivers have risen more than usual this year. There is a bench under the tree on the left which is 5m under at this moment.
Chaminé checking us out. Our boats await in the distance. Rivers have risen more than usual this year. There is a bench under the tree on the left which is 5m under at this moment.
Resident feral pig who thinks its a dog. Shaman was orphaned at birth and adopted by Polaca (resident dog), who started lactating with Chaminé's arrival!
Resident feral pig who thinks its a dog. Chaminé was orphaned at birth and adopted by Polaca (resident dog), who started lactating with Chaminé’s arrival!

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We had lots of boat trips and saw an amazing array of birds
We had lots of boat trips and saw an amazing array of birds
Seedy looking caiman.
Seedy looking caiman.
Capybaras
Capybaras

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Horse riding in the late afternoon
Horse riding in the late afternoon
Beautiful sisters
Beautiful sisters
Chilling out
Chilling out
Fishing for piranhas
Fishing for piranhas
Mealtimes revolved around this hut
Mealtimes revolved around this hut
Gorgeous Nicky
Gorgeous Nicky
Kids' bedroom
Kids’ bedroom
Ash with tummy woes and staying home with his kindle
Ash with tummy woes and staying home with his kindle

 

21st February, 2016. Amazon

Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge, Amazon, Brazil

From Cartagena to Manaus on our way into the Amazon
From Cartagena to Manaus on our way into the Amazon

Three weeks into our journey today. Tomorrow marks the beginning of the longest period of time we have travelled away from home as a family of five, and the “firsts” will just keep coming. Ash and Nicky have always been incredible travellers, so we waited to see if Nesi would come into her own. She has travelled extensively and always with high drama since birth. It’s only been six flights into our Big Trip, but all within a short period of time. Already she seems to have cottoned on that there is no point to fussing on a travel day, now that traveling is part of “normal”. Getting from Cartagena to our lodge in the Amazon took 3 car transfers, 2 flights, a 1 night stay in an absolutely no frills hotel in Manaus, and involved 0 tantrums. A first for a traveling day, and gives us high hopes for the rest of 2016.

On one of our many boat rides through the Amazon. Just stunning.
On one of our many boat rides through the Amazon. Just stunning.

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First boat ride out on the Rio Negro
First boat ride out on the Rio Negro

Sunday at Anavilhanas Lodge. First rains since we arrived 3 days ago. Locals tell us that the water levels of the river have not risen as they usually do this year, which is highly unusual. In fact, they rose a little at the start of the rainy season, but then fell again. There are huge ecological impacts involved, but for our family at this point in time, it has meant navigating up many steps numerous times a day to get to the river for all our excursions as well as our daily bath in the Rio Negro. By the middle of the rainy season in 2015, there were just three steps from boat to land. This evening we walked over a hundred to get to our “holiday house”.

Etchings show the water level of the river in that particular year. This year the water levels have not risen, which is a real concern (and also meant a much longer climb for us).
Etchings show the water level of the river in that particular year. This year the water levels have not risen, which is a real concern (and also meant a much longer climb for us).

The kids refer to all our accommodations as holiday houses. Since we left Tres Picos in Mexico City, we have had six holiday houses. We try as much as possible to choose places where we are able to have private spaces (rental apartments or family rooms within a lodge work the best) and not have to remind our kids to keep a lid on it as we are pretty much living in public this year. This is something I never thought about before the trip – how not having enough private spaces can affect us. Kids being too noisy, wanting to come to breakfast in pjs (we generally let the kids, but sometimes adults need that too!), someone being sick in bed, someone else needing quiet time, bickering, a good old fashioned tantrum over nothing at all to release the stress of being on the go. A certain amount of adrenaline takes over when we go on holiday and this helps with the stress of traveling. In the past when we return home, adrenaline levels go down and thus the immune system also takes a hit. It was not unusual for someone in the family to be down with a cold or a tummy bug soon after a holiday. At this stage, three weeks into our travels, I remember waiting for the other shoe to drop – who is going to get sick? Thankfully we stayed healthy in the jungle.

Wild pink river dolphins who are on to a good thing
Wild pink river dolphins who are on to a good thing
Our "pool". The Rio Negro was about 32 degrees celsius and it was amazing to jump in for a bath! Kids got away with no showers after. The water is fresh and clean although it is black (something about the incomplete breakdown of vegetation falling into the water).
Our “pool”. The Rio Negro was about 32 degrees celsius and it was amazing to jump in for a bath! Kids got away with no showers after. The water is fresh and clean although it is black (something about the incomplete breakdown of vegetation falling into the water).
Swimming in the Rio Negro. 30 degrees celsius!
Swimming in the Rio Negro. 30 degrees celsius!
Paddle boarding on the still warm waters.
Paddle boarding on the still warm waters.
Walking in the jungle...
Walking through the jungle…
Ness riding in her "house". She couldn't walk as no boot gaiters would fit her and there are snakes about.
Ness riding in her “house”. She couldn’t walk as there were no boot gaiters that fit her and snakes were about…

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Kayaking along the Rio Negro
Kayaking along the Rio Negro
Meeting of the waters in Manaus. Cloudy day, but you can still see the white and black parts. They do not mix due to different temperatures, density and flow of the two different rivers, Rio Negro and Solimoes.
Meeting of the waters in Manaus. Cloudy day, but you can still see the white and black parts. They do not mix due to different temperatures, density and flow of the two different rivers, Rio Negro and Solimoes.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Campi ya Kanzi, Chyulu Hills, Kenya

 

I cannot remember the number of times I have thought about picking up my computer to post a new blog. The last entry from either Sparx or myself was just after Cartagena, and I feel incredibly humbled, yet privileged, to consider the places that have left a mark on us since. I am almost resistant to write an account as it forces me to acknowledge that time is passing by. And really, there is no contest between getting out my laptop to check in, and getting out there to check it all out.

I am sitting in one of our “tents” (inverted commas being necessary as one cannot truly call it a tent – the accompanying image is rather far from our current experience!) in Campi ya Kanzi, Kenya, looking at Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance, with the Chyulu Hills behind me. We have just over a week left in Africa before heading off on the European leg of our Big Trip. Outside the birds and insects are chattering. At the moment, the watering hole in front of me is full of impalas, and every now and then I can hear a noisy male trying to assert his dominance within the group. I do not have words to describe the stillness beside the constant activity. I am not ready to leave Africa!

These past few months have been a contradiction in so many ways. How can one stand the constant excitement of discovery and experience? I’ve been thinking of how to explain this feeling – it’s almost like the night before Christmas or a birthday, so full of expectation, except you know what you are going to unwrap, and know it is going to be fabulous. In a way it is even better than the presents being a surprise. There is this short period of time just before we head off to a new place, where it almost feels hard to breathe – my heart is just so full of excitement. I feel like rushing into all the experiences on offer, yet am constantly reminding myself it is perhaps better to let the experiences happen to me.

More on Africa much later as I try to play catch up now. I write as I want to have a written account of our trip. Some family and friends are kept up to date through our iCloud Photo-sharing, but it would be wonderful to get all these pages printed and collated into our book of memories when real life comes back to bite…

Week 13

This week was a return back to “school”, and it is actually quite nice that we are settling down for a while, as we have been on the move a lot the past 6.5 weeks, around Amazon and Pantanal in Brazil as well as on safari in Namibia. I really liked Franschhoek (beautiful wine country 1.5 hours from Cape Town), and again, it was really nice to just relax and just stay put for a while. So we left Franschhoek at 11ish, drove for a while then stopped at a restaurant, where I had Scrumptious Lamb Chops with Roast Spuds. It was a really nice area, with lush green fields where we could play and run around. So after lunch we drove the 40 minutes back to Cape Town. The house we got is really nice, and literally on the rocks, about 5 metres away from the closest part of the ocean. 3 bedroom house, with a hot tub. So the next day we really just stayed home and did nothing. The rest of the week was a blur of schoolwork and Fun. We got back into school work the 2nd day in CT, and we have decided weekend is Monday and Tuesday, so museums and cinemas and shops etc. are not as crowded. We have a barbecue, so dada cooked a barbecue multiple times, including hamburgers on a cloudless day outside. We have been going to a place called Baked every single day so far, for coffee and snacks, and it is really good. It is really good and fun here, and just relaxing after 2 months of travel feels really good.

More talk next week,

Asher

Cartagena

OK so I was cut off pretty quickly last post. Just confirming that we are in Cartagena, Colombia. We are staying in a VRBO house in Getsemani which is the poorer, artier part of the old town. It’s hot, colourful, and old here. Nice walled city, plenty of character, completely different to the formality of Bogota. Back into Spanish after Grand Cayman too of course. It was also nice to get back to Latin America and directed to the front of the immigration queue as we had kids.

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It’s currently Saturday afternoon. Ash continues to have tummy problems, the poor fella, so we are having a quiet day today. I get more and more worried about his tummy. He had an endoscope in Mexico before we left which fortunately found nothing, but unfortunately found nothing that could be cured.

This week we have tried to get into some sort of routine with school work for the kids. I don’t think we have done too well, but at least we have started. Kids are willing and able, but parents probably need to get a bit more organized. We have maths and English books from Singapore which are now used pretty universally which we will get through but that won’t be enough. Big kids will read heaps of course and we are sending book reviews back to school. Science and project work can come from where we are travelling (Africa, ancient Rome, global warming when we see the polar bears in Manitoba, etc).  The teachers from Humanitree in Mexico City have been hugely supportive.

School’s in!

Ash also did a “Mystery Skype” this week dialing into his class in Mexico. The kids had to ask questions to work out where he is. Was lots of fun. Thanks Mr Ben!

Mystery Skype
Mystery Skype

Yesterday was Nesi’s 3rd birthday! We had the morning at home with pancakes with hundreds and thousands, then went out into town for a walk around and some pasta. She was particularly happy with her new Frozen sandals and mobile phone. Happy girl. The highlight for me was the two of us having a long afternoon snooze in the hammock. As she had such a long sleep we went for a nice evening walk around town which was really nice – much cooler than during the day and a lot livelier.

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Interesting comparing Nesi with Nicky at this age. We had Nicky’s birthday lunch at Betty’s Teahouse in York just before we moved to Chile. Very different kids!

MRT

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Frozen sandals!
Frozen sandals!
I'm 3!
I’m 3!
New phone!
New phone!

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Cake exactly as she ordered. Lots of colours and lollies on top.
Cake exactly as she ordered. Lots of colours and lollies on top.
Look at that smile
Look at that smile
Speechless over her new phone
Speechless over her new phone
Birthday outfit for a traveling girl
Birthday outfit for a traveling girl

I Am A Certified Diver!

 

I am so Happy I can dive! I am going to go Scuba diving not often, but every now and then. The last 2 dives we did on the 7, it was really choppy and there was quite a lot of swells. I enjoyed the dives we did on the last day, but the water was really rough and getting out two guys at the Riviera had to lift us out of the water,  with our equipment on. Diving was an incredible experience, and I loved it.

Asher

Grand Cayman

We have now left Grand Cayman, but I cannot say where we are yet as Ash has a mystery Skype into his class back in Mexico this week and I don’t want to give anything away. We flew here from Grand Cayman via Miami.

Grand Cayman – didn’t think too much of the place to be honest. Obviously amazing diving (I am told), the ocean was incredibly clear, but above water it was nothing too great. It lacked character, felt a bit like Surfers Paradise might have been 40 years ago, was really expensive, and seemed to sort of live for the massive cruise ships that pulled in each day. It was, however, a good place to start the trip – nice to sit on the beach and do nothing for a week after the mayhem of packing up in Mexico.

MRT with IPC

And I am super proud of Ash and Princess getting their open water diving certificates. There is a lot to study and be tested on before they let you dive and then 3 days of pool and ocean diving, The last dive they did was in particularly choppy conditions and not for the faint hearted. I wonder where their next dive will be.

Ashman at 6m
Ashman at 6m
ash and mama
Ash and Mama

 

Pedro

A few folks have asked about Pedro. With the short trigger for heading off, we couldn’t get him organised to comply with either Singapore or Australian quarantine regulations. So the lucky fella is enjoying an extended stay in Mexico. That is him below, thinking he is invisible on the rug.

Hiding on the rug
Hiding on the rug

He is staying with friends Jono and Claire. Jono is not a bad bloke, although a bit obsessed with buying new running shoes on his weekly trips to New York. He is also a kiwi, but then Pedro is all black after all…….(sorry I couldn’t resist).  Claire is lovely, not a kiwi, and grew up with labs, and we are super thrilled that Pedro is actually having a great time with them staying in Condesa. He will head to Sabrina’s folks in Singapore in a few months’ time. We miss him terribly and I am sure he misses Nesi’s full body “cuddles”. Photo below is him mountain biking today.

Mountain biking!
Mountain biking!

Day 35 – 37 by Asher

Scuba Diving

This week was full of excitements, just because of the SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) diving. I enjoyed diving at the Riviera, and I saw many, many cool things, including a barracuda the size of me and a moray eel! I also saw many beautiful angel fish and parrot fish. Swimming at the beach was also so exciting.

At the pool in our apartment place I made the most amazing catch, one handed, jumping, and leaning back a lot!

Asher

Setting up my equipment
Suiting up
Getting in the water
Getting my BCD (buoyancy control device) on
Ready for descent!

 

 

Out in the Sea – Annick

First I was scared to go out to sea. My brother encouraged me to so I did it and I loved it! My favourite part was when the waves came and we shouted “wasabi!” as it took us along with it.

Getting ready to make a splash!

I went to the turtle farm but the turtles there were big but the people said they were tiny. They were big to me because I saw some this small!!!

The size of a baby turtle
The size of a baby turtle

in Cuixmala, Mexico, that I helped to hatch!!!

My Blog – Annick

Welcome to 3 Bags Full. My name is Annick. I want to say that I am having a great time 🙂

I am missing my friends from school so much.

Life in the Cayman Islands is hot.

I love it here.

DSCN0125

How are you going, my friends? I was really sad when I was leaving so I had a sleepover at Cami and Amalia’s house and I felt better. 🙂

Day 1 – Day 35 by Asher

The Experiences 

I had lots of fun towards the end of the time at Mexico and some sad experiences as well. I enjoyed the farewell party I had at school with my friends. The cake of Mewtwo and Rayquaza was sick as well, and the sleepover I had with my friend Luigi really helped me to feel a bit better leaving Mexico

This first week of February is so far super awesome. We are in the Grand Cayman Islands, and I have nearly gotten my SCUBA certification for diving. I have found my experiences very fun, and quite funny. My instructor is quite hilarious too, and diving is so fun! My second dive was in open water, and I saw a barracuda the size of Fede! I also saw a moray eel!  SO MUCH FUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The training involves what to do in an emergency, what to do if your mask gets flooded, and what to if you lose your Regulator. (The mouthpiece you breath from).

For anybody who plays Pokemon: I found M Gyarados EX Full Art – ON THE STREET.
ASHER