A Travellerspoint blog

Europe, Summer 2013

Macedonia

10th/11th/12th June
Work finished, 8 weeks stretching ahead. No better time in the year than the beginning of June. Marsha and I hung around Manila for a few days before hopping aboard a plane bound for Hong Kong, Istanbul and finally Skopje in Macedonia on Monday 10th June. Sadly, the plane was delayed and despite still having a good half hour to catch the connecting flight in Hong Kong, Turkish Airlines and Cathay Pacific obviously preferred to protect their punctuality statistics above our needs and we were housed in the Marriot for 24 hours.

So, 24 hours later than we'd hoped, we arrived in Skopje, greeted by a cold breeze and light rain. We joined Andy and Kris at the bus station and immediately headed for gorgeous Lake Ohrid in the south. We stayed at lakeside Rosana's. Having justifed a drink by walking through the old town and by the lake for an hour or so we all parked up by the water and did just that. Lovely - but cold.

Old town Ohrid is a maze of winding cobbled streets meandering between ancient churches and wobbly walled buildings. A castle looked over the town from above like a grandfather. Pizza parlours dominated the local cuisine, although we found a backstreet retaurant later that evening and enjoyed local beer and local flavours for next to nothing.

13th June
Sun shining, warm day, shorts on. Beautiful. Breakfast by the glistening lake. All was well.
However, Half-hearted notions of a swim were abruptly abandoned on spotting a snake gliding through the water. Over the next 3 days we'd see another 3 snakes, none more than a yard or 2 from where we sat. Apparently these 'lake snakes' were harmless, but even so...

Marsha and I went walking for the morning after breakfast, firstly along the water and up the hill to the old castle.

Then down to the ancient theatre. From there we passed several churches and other old buildings, a fruit market with fantastic peaches, a terrible kebab house and finally arrived back at our small homestay. Lunch by the water with some wine necessitated a nap afterwards - ahh, holidays are great.
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Dinner was a short walk from where we stayed, with a great sunset from an old church and a couple of drinks by the lake beforehand.

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14th June
Breakfast by the lake – another beautiful day – not a cloud in the sky. In fact, writing this 2 weeks later, I can say that we have barely seen a cloud since our arrival into Skopje. We bid farewell to Andy and Kris who were travelling to Albania. We then hopped on a bus to St. Naum Monastery further down the shores of the lake on the recommendation of our hosts who described it as the most beautiful place in Macedonia. They may not have been wrong. Peacocks strutted around the lakeside ancient church in which St. Naum himself is said to be buried nearly 1000 years previously. The setting was superb and the interior of the tiny church with its many painted walls was stunning.
Afterwards we caught a taxi to the little village of Elshani. The tiny square had a freshwater fountain from which we filled our bottles. From there we then walked 3 hours pretty much straight uphill to the summit of Chuka Peak. From there it was possible to see Lake Prespa over the other side of the ridge as well as Lake Ohrid. A signpost at the top told us we had climbed to over 1800 metres. The lakes were over 1000 metres below. Snow speckled peaks further on tempted Marsha to pursue the very top but fortunately sanity prevailed and we journeyed home in time to catch a bus back to Ohrid arriving in town shortly before dark.
We celebrated our busy day with a bottle of surprisingly good Macedonian wine and a pizza. As we sipped the wine we learnt that in fact wine had been made there for centuries and the busy Tikleves wine region housed a thriving industry.
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The walk:

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15th June
The water was like glass on the lake, glistening in the rising sun behind the snowy hills. We jumped in a taxi and the driver quickly convinced us to hire him for the day. He took us toward Lake Prespa and up to a skiing region from where we went on a hike for nearly 4 hours up to a look-out over the valley below. On our return to the beginning of the walk we learnt that we had taken a wrong turning shortly after setting off, but no matter, the walk was good.
From there we went to the 2nd biggest town of Macedonia – Bitola. Mosques and churches competed for space in the centre of town – although the locals were more interested in the numerous cafes and bars spilling into the main street meandering through the town. We joined them and each had a ridiculously big pancake with mars bars and milky ways and huge amounts of cream – all a bit sickly and unnecessary actually.
We returned to catch the sunset from a little church nearby in Ohrid then had a meal at an overpriced, touristy place serving really quite unpleasant food. Won’t make that mistake again.
Bitola:
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16th June
Reluctantly we said farewell to Lake Ohrid. It had been a perfect setting for a relaxing and peaceful start to the holiday. A couple of snakes came to the edge of the lake to also say good bye which made leaving ever so slightly easier.
A bus to the capital – Skopje. We checked into the new Unity Hostel – a fine place with lovely owners. Skopje is a crazy place. It is a city literally rising from the ashes. Huge buildings and statues tower above wastelands. There cannot be another city in the world with as many statues. The owners at the hostel said that some mornings they have woken to find another 30 or 40 statues erected. There were simply hundreds of them, some huge, crammed into a tiny area. We wandered around, ate in the old bazzar, marvelled at the huge structures overlooking the river and wondered as to what the city would look like in a few years.
We found a riverside bar and sat until dark. Wandering home later we came across a busking fair. The crowds were huge which was astonishing considering the standard of the performers. One fella was dancing to Gangham style in front of hundreds of awe-struck spectators and another woman was simply performing handstands and press-ups in front of a wide-eyed appreciative audience. Slightly underwhelmed we went home.
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17th June
A quick coffee in Skopje and a brief look around the centre to see if anymore statues had turned up overnight – there weren’t. Then, a bus across the border to the capital of Kosovo – Pristina.

Posted by Patrick H. 23:31 Archived in Macedonia Comments (0)

African Adventure - Zambia and Zimbabwe

7th July

We reluctantly left Chobe National Park and Botswana and crossed a very dodgy ferry into Zambia. Pirates approached the ferry as we crossed the Zambezi and promptly removed several crates of beer from the back of the boat and departed quickly again. That makes it sound far more dangerous than it actually was - as I think the driver of the boat may have been in on the tax evading scam as we crossed no-man's-land.

So, through to Zambia and the town of Livingston - named after the doctor that 'discovered' Victoria Falls about 150 years ago. We arrived in camp and relaxed for the remainder of the day.

8th July

Helicopter flight over the might Victoria Falls. Wow! Elephants and hippos sighted from the air as well as the falls.
Then we visited them from the ground. A notice outside described how they were not nearly the highest in the world, far from the widest and did not carry as much water as others, but, still managed to go on and stake the claim to being the largest waterfall in the world! They were tremendous - we got soaked as we watched in awe. A couple of hours later having walked the length we returned to camp and then in to town for lunch. Later we joined everyone else from the tour on a sunset cruise along the Zambezi river - again a couple of hippos put in an appearance for good measure.

9th July

To Zimbabwe and the small town of Victoria Falls. The town is as populated by humans as it is warthogs and baboons. The rumour was that lions occasionally emerged from the trees and strolled the town as well. We visited the falls again from the Zimbabwe side and appreciated how much bigger they were than we'd seen from the Zambian side on the ground. Again we were soaked. Later we met up with friends and had high tea at the famous Victoria Falls Hotel - built for Queen Victoria. As we walked along the path a wild elephant appeared to our right.

10th July

Marsha and I spent the morning walking with a couple of lions. Patting, stroking and walking with these creatures at the Lion Encounter Centre was a great experience. We then visited the huge curio market in town - avoiding where possible the baboons as they fought in the streets. Later we returned to the Victoria Falls Hotel for dinner.

Photos of Zambia and Zimbabwe so far.....
Us in the chopper

Us in the chopper


Victoria Falls from the helicopter

Victoria Falls from the helicopter


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Victoria Falls from the helicopter

Victoria Falls from the helicopter


Elephants from the helicopter at Victoria Falls

Elephants from the helicopter at Victoria Falls


At Victoria Falls

At Victoria Falls


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on the sunset cruise

on the sunset cruise


Sunset on the sunset cruise

Sunset on the sunset cruise


Vic Falls from Zimbabwe

Vic Falls from Zimbabwe


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Vic Falls from Zimbabwe

Vic Falls from Zimbabwe


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Vic Falls from Zimbabwe

Vic Falls from Zimbabwe


Warthog in town...

Warthog in town...


High Tea!

High Tea!


Marsha at the Vic Falls Hotel

Marsha at the Vic Falls Hotel


On the 'Lion walk'

On the 'Lion walk'


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On the 'Lion walk'

On the 'Lion walk'


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On the 'Lion walk'

On the 'Lion walk'


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Dance at the Vic Falls Hotel during dinner

Dance at the Vic Falls Hotel during dinner

Posted by Patrick H. 03:20 Archived in Zambia Comments (2)

African Adventure - Botswana

July 2nd/3rd/4th

Okavango Delta: Through customs into Botswana and the Okavango Delta.
The Okavango Delta is famous for its Hippos and elephants and Crocs that make the watery landsacpe their home. We spent the 3 days exploring the delta - mostly by boat (either kayaks that were punted around by our guides or by 'speedboat'. Drifting through the reeds on a kayak watching as elephants and hippos lazily slipped through the water was truly an unforgettable experience. At our first campground by a swamp we watched as a hippo bared its teeth in the water. At our next we were informed that at night 2 hippos had wandered through our campground. There were also crocs and antelope and monkeys.

The 2nd night we were entertained by the guides as they sang their local songs - one of which, entitled booootifal Botswana, stayed in our heads for many days to come. We reciprocated with our own national anthems - unfortunately Marsha and I being the only representitives from NZ and the UK had to sing solos - all very embarressing!

The 3rd night we stayed on a houseboat in the delta and for reasons unknown to me we all held some sort of mock wedding to entertain us as the sun set. On the last day, before leaving we had a short tour through one of the local villages

July 5th/6th

Chobe National Park:
I couldn't recommend this place enough. 2 days and nights in the park during which we almost became bored of the sheer number and proximity of countless hippos and elephants. Was the highlight watching about 40 elephants swimming across a river submerged except for their trunks waving in the air before reaching our side and passing by our vehicle on both sides? - maybe. Perhaps it was watching an elephant disperse 20 or 30 hippos on land as it passed through their community en-route to the river? - perhaps. Or was it the heaving heap of hippo flesh wallowing on the banks of the river with numerous crocodiles and birds nearby? - possibly. The pack of African Wild Dogs stalking/chasing a large sable antelope before eventually deciding it was a little too large for them? - could be. Or, the hyena as it circled the giraffe and the stand-off that then occured. It could have been the 2 lions as they chased a Water Buffalo just in front of us - the buffalo escaped to his 2 mates and the 3 of them evaded death this time....

At one point on a boat I was able to see about 15 elephants on the shore and 1 a few metres behind us in the water, countless hippos to our left, warthogs drinking from the river, a Kudu also drinking, a giraffe above the trees in the distance and far too many baboons and impala to count. It really was an extraordinary place.

Marsha and I and about 10 others paid extra for the pleasure of staying in a camp in the middle of the park - no gates, fences or anything. A strange decision perhaps but is was great to hear hyena calling in the night near to us and know that there was the possiblility of lions and leopards etc etc in the vicinity.

Here are photos of the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park:
On the Okavango Delta

On the Okavango Delta


On the Okavango Delta

On the Okavango Delta


Our truck on the Okavango Delta

Our truck on the Okavango Delta


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Don't fall out... On the Okavango Delta

Don't fall out... On the Okavango Delta


Fisher Eagle on the Okavango Delta

Fisher Eagle on the Okavango Delta


Fisher Eagle on the Okavango Delta

Fisher Eagle on the Okavango Delta


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Camping on the Okavango Delta

Camping on the Okavango Delta


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Perhaps not the best place to put up our tent....

Perhaps not the best place to put up our tent....


Elephant on the Okavango Delta

Elephant on the Okavango Delta


On the Okavango Delta

On the Okavango Delta


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Elephant bones on the Okavango Delta

Elephant bones on the Okavango Delta


Sunset on the Okavango Delta

Sunset on the Okavango Delta


Us on the Okavango Delta

Us on the Okavango Delta


After the Delta tour

After the Delta tour


Our houseboat on the Okavango Delta

Our houseboat on the Okavango Delta


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Sunset

Sunset


Chobe National Park

Chobe National Park


Hippos, Chobe National Park

Hippos, Chobe National Park


Chobe National Park

Chobe National Park


Elephants crossing the river, Chobe National Park

Elephants crossing the river, Chobe National Park


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Lions give chase, Chobe National Park

Lions give chase, Chobe National Park


That one got away.....

That one got away.....


Chobe National Park

Chobe National Park


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Water Buffalo, Chobe National Park

Water Buffalo, Chobe National Park


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Hippos, Chobe National Park

Hippos, Chobe National Park


Elephant disperses Hippos, Chobe National Park

Elephant disperses Hippos, Chobe National Park


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Monitor Lizard, Chobe National Park

Monitor Lizard, Chobe National Park


Croc and Hippo, Chobe National Park

Croc and Hippo, Chobe National Park


Croc, Chobe National Park

Croc, Chobe National Park


Elephants crossing, Chobe National Park

Elephants crossing, Chobe National Park


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Chobe National Park

Chobe National Park


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Water Buffalo, Chobe National Park

Water Buffalo, Chobe National Park


Stand-off between Sable and Wild Dog

Stand-off between Sable and Wild Dog


Sable vs Wild Dogs, Chobe National Park

Sable vs Wild Dogs, Chobe National Park


Wild Dogs in Chobe National Park

Wild Dogs in Chobe National Park


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Elephant crossing, Chobe National Park

Elephant crossing, Chobe National Park


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Chobe National Park

Chobe National Park


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Baboons in Chobe National Park

Baboons in Chobe National Park

Posted by Patrick H. 02:14 Archived in Botswana Comments (0)

African Adventure - Namibia

June 22nd

Several of us went canoeing along the Orange River after breakfast. We stopped at one point on the far bank thereby illegally entering Namibia! Back for lunch and then onto the Fish River Canyon. Along the way we spotted our first animals – ostrich scampering by the road, Springbok staring back at us and some Oryx with their huge horns. We set up camp and then made the short journey to Fish River Canyon and stayed until sunset. As always, the sheer scale and beauty could not be captured on camera. It stretched as far as we could see and the
river meandered its path over 500m below us.

There was a great bar at the campsite/Canon Roadhouse with loads of old cars as decoration inside.

June 23rd

A transit day from Fish River Canyon to Namib Naukluft National Park. But, loads of Springbok, more Ostrich, a few Oryx, Bat-eared foxes, baboons and a couple of Giraffe (very surprisingly) helped to entertain us on our way. It was actually very relaxing, munching on Biltong (dried meat), admiring the desert and the mountains, stopping occasionally for animals and reading.

These campsites are great – another restaurant and bar – although we ate around the camp fire again first before adjourning to the bar for an hour or so.Later as I ambled back from the shower, a large dog-sized animal nonchalantly trotted by which hastened my pace along the sandy track to the tent. And later still, in the middle of the night, I cursed the hour at the bar as I was forced to venture out of the tent to mingle with the wild animals in search of the loo. And, it was soooo cold!

June 24th

To Sossusvlei in the National Park for sunrise. Reputed to be the oldest desert in the world and to have the highest sand dunes. We climbed the so-called Dune 45 (45km from camp) clothed in hats, gloves, thermals, jackets and half the clothes in our bag. It was freezing – actually it really was freezing according to the guide who described it as unusually cold! The view from the top was stunning. Massive, sweeping red dunes as far as we could see. Springbok and Oryx wandered about grazing at the few patches of grass to be found on the ground between the mighty dunes.

We had breakfast once we returned to the bottom, in the shadow of the dune– the sun gradually gliding upwards gently warming our icy bodies. We were then taken via 4 by 4s across the sandy floor to a walking track which ended at a salt/mud pan. Lakes many years ago had dried up leaving a crusty white surface and dead trees. The landscape was again far too dramatic to be adequately captured by my mediocre photography talents. Back to the 4 by 4s and on to a lake that did still exist. Then to lunch. On the way we passed various antelope and, well, they were beginning to be taken for granted. Still, the big animals are not too far away……

After lunch we trekked through another canyon nearby.

June 25th

Not such a cold night - only got down 5 degrees, but collapsing the tent at dawn was still a fairly chilly experience.
En-route to the town of Swakopvit we passed loads of antelope, loads of ostriches including some baby ones. We stopped for photos in the desert and came across a huge scorpion. Another stop resulted in us all buying some fantastic apple pie slices from the local shop. Outside hundereds of birds gathered. We declined the opportunity of camel rides especially as one broke free as we watched, making a mad dash for freedom - it didn't look too appealing.

Near the town we had nothing but sand dunes around us. And so, once in the hotel we booked up a Quad Biking tour for the afternoon. An amazingly good time. Hammering up, around, down and over huge sand dunes was fantastic. The massive red dunes rippled off into the distance. As far as the eye could see there was just sand. Eventually we came to the sea and we realised we'd been basically on the biggest beach in the world!

We all gathered for dinner in a nearby restaurant - I had Kudu steak (a type of antelope). Our guide was celebrating his birthday and so Marsha read something out for and from the whole group.

Great to have a hotel room and a real bed!

Photos so far.......
Illegally in Namibia!

Illegally in Namibia!


On the road in Namibia

On the road in Namibia


Our truck on the road in Namibia

Our truck on the road in Namibia


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Fish River Canyon

Fish River Canyon


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Fish River Canyon

Fish River Canyon


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The bar with the car....

The bar with the car....


Marsha in action....

Marsha in action....


Huge weaver nest

Huge weaver nest


Giraffe - if you look closely!

Giraffe - if you look closely!


Bat-Eared Foxes

Bat-Eared Foxes


Springbok

Springbok


Oryx

Oryx


The bar at Canon Roadhouse

The bar at Canon Roadhouse


Sand dunes in Namibia

Sand dunes in Namibia


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Marsha in the desert

Marsha in the desert


Marsha runs down a dune

Marsha runs down a dune


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In the dunes

In the dunes


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Oryx amid dunes

Oryx amid dunes


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The mud/salt pan in the dunes

The mud/salt pan in the dunes


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Didn't quite work...

Didn't quite work...


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Walking in the dunes

Walking in the dunes


Oryx in the desert

Oryx in the desert


The canyon

The canyon


Huge African bug

Huge African bug


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Camels during a bus stop

Camels during a bus stop


Birds outside the bakery

Birds outside the bakery


Driving in the desert

Driving in the desert


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Oryx in Namibia

Oryx in Namibia


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Into the tropics....

Into the tropics....


Us travelling through Namibia

Us travelling through Namibia


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Namibian scenery

Namibian scenery


A dassie

A dassie


Namibian scorpion

Namibian scorpion


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Quad Biking in the Namibian desert

Quad Biking in the Namibian desert


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Us in the dunes, Namibia

Us in the dunes, Namibia


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Quad Biking in the Namibian desert

Quad Biking in the Namibian desert


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In the Dunes...

In the Dunes...


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Group dinner

Group dinner


The birthday boy with his cake

The birthday boy with his cake


Marsh gives the birthday speech for our guide

Marsh gives the birthday speech for our guide

June 26th

A lazy day doing very little - wonderful and relaxing. Marsha went horse riding for a couple of hours in the desert. Same restaurant in the evening with about 10 others.

June 27th

A drive via Cape Cross up the Skeleton Coast to Spitzkoppe. At Cape Cross we stopped to take in the amazing sight and terrible smell of apparently about 100000 seals as they lazed on the beach and swam in the water. Our camp in the evning was again in the desert under the shadow of huge rocky hills. The sun setting was beautiful and we walked with a guide a few kms to a cave where some ancient art work was displayed. Rhinos and lions amongst other things depicted on the walls - each representing different things.

On the way back to the tents our guide gleefully informed us that there were leopards about. We gratefully arrived back to camp and had another great dinner cooked by the culinary genius of Sophie.

June 28th

Sun rise was impressive and Marsha and I delayed the departure with a few photos. We began to see more and more animals - antelope - the occasional giraffe - baboons - warthogs. We travelled to Otjitongwe Cheetah Park. 3 cheetahs had been raised since birth in captivity and were free to roam the gardens. We walked and played with them - but, they are big, big cats at the end of the day and one of our party had a hole bitten in her shoe. I was a little nervous when one of them made for me but then only licked my leg for a minute or so.... It was pretty incredible being around these animals.

Later we were driven into the nearby cheetah park where 18 cheetah were know to be. Parts of donkey were thrown to the cheetah that appeared - these ones not so tame! A very, very cool experience!

June 29th/30th

From the cheetah park via the African village of the Himba people to Etosha National Park where we remained for 2 days. The Himba people were interesting but I did have a few issues - the women are not allowed to wash (they have to spend hours bathing in animal fat instead - all in the name of tradition), women, once they reach the age of about 14, also have to have their bottom 4 teeth knocked out. Lastly, only a handful of the 40 children in the village are educated - the rest have to stay at home to carry on the tradition of the people. I felt that whilst tradition itself is fine - not if it impacts negatively on specific people, additionally, everyone should have the choice as to whether they can wash in perfectly good water that is provided - or perhaps not get all their teeth knocked out for example....

Etosha. Wow. Zebra as soon as we entered. Then elephants on the road. Before long we encountered a rhino sipping from a water hole. Antelope and giraffe and monkeys abound. The place was stunning. Endless photos were taken.

Near the campsite was a watering hole. We put up tents and gathered around - expecting everything. But, nothing - except a pretty amazing sunset. After dinner Marsha and I returned - but again nothing.

Next day: a morning game drive with the highlight being several lions sitting near a waterhole. We stopped and gazed for a long time.

We returned to camp and dismantled the tent. We had about 30 mins to spare - so we drifted over to the waterhole - and arrived just in time to see a huge Bull elephant bathing in the water!

On to the next camp and another impressive sunset at another waterhole. Once again our patience was rewarded when a massive elephant emerged out of the gloom.

July 1st

One of those driving days - and unfortunately the truck had some issues and we were stranded in a town for a few hours with little to do. We arrived into the camp at Bagani and most of us took the opportunity to upgrade to a chalet. We were then treated to a sit down meal of Kudu (antelope) by the company for the inconvenience of the truck not working earlier.

And some more photos of Namibia.....
Sunrise

Sunrise


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Campground in the desert

Campground in the desert


At the Cheetah park

At the Cheetah park


A little scary.....

A little scary.....


Getting licked by a cheetah!

Getting licked by a cheetah!


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At the cheetah park - wow!

At the cheetah park - wow!


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Lion King bird.....

Lion King bird.....


The Himba people

The Himba people


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Rhino sighting! in Etosha

Rhino sighting! in Etosha


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in Etosha

in Etosha


Antelope in Etosha

Antelope in Etosha


water hole in Etosha campground

water hole in Etosha campground


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Elephant approaches in Etosha

Elephant approaches in Etosha


Wilderbeest in Etosha

Wilderbeest in Etosha


Lion in Etosha

Lion in Etosha


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Zebra and bird in Etosha

Zebra and bird in Etosha


Zebra drinking at a water hole in Etosha

Zebra drinking at a water hole in Etosha


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Springbok in Etosha

Springbok in Etosha


Ostrich in Etosha

Ostrich in Etosha


Secretary bird in Etosha

Secretary bird in Etosha


The elephant at the campground water hole in Etosha

The elephant at the campground water hole in Etosha


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Turtle at the campground water hole in Etosha

Turtle at the campground water hole in Etosha


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Baboob appears at the water hole in Etosha campground

Baboob appears at the water hole in Etosha campground


Antelope in Etosha

Antelope in Etosha


Giraffe drinking at a water hole in Etosha

Giraffe drinking at a water hole in Etosha


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Vultures in Etosha

Vultures in Etosha


Giraffe drinking in Etosha

Giraffe drinking in Etosha


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Wilderbeest in Etosha

Wilderbeest in Etosha


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Jackal in Etosha

Jackal in Etosha

Posted by Patrick H. 07:41 Archived in Namibia Comments (0)

African Adventure - South Africa

Summer holiday 2011

It was busy at work throughout the year. Too many late nights, too many days stuck in front of the computer and not enough sunshine and fun. Or, at least, that's how it felt by the end of the year. And so, Marsha and I were very ready for our African Adventure. This time last year we were in the Amazon - I knew this because I checked out the blog that I wrote back then. On reading it I realised there were far too many words. I must have had a lot of time on my hands....!

So, this will document our little African adventure but will be mostly filled with photos this time around. No lengthy rants or monotinous, unending paragraphs inadequately attempting to describe sunsets etc etc.....

11th/12th June 2011

Manila to Doha, Qatar. We flew with the very hopeless Qatar Airways who were unable to provide any inflight entertainment for 9 hours. Letters will be written.....
We stayed 2 days with friends who hosted us fabulously and we met up with several more friends over drinks in the evenings. Great to catch up and to experience mid 40s Celsius again.

13th June 2011

Doha to Cape Town. An improved Qatar Airways landed a few minutes ahead of schedule and we soon whisked through customs and were in a van bound for Simon's Town a little down the coast from Cape Town. We checked into the lovely and recently opened Simon's Town Guesthouse with the sound of the ocean crashing about a few hundred metres away. Dinner at Dixies - well, a bottle of wine and dessert anyhow (Marsha reckoned all dinners should be such).

14th June 2011

A beautiful sunset across the bay welcomed in the day. We spent well over an hour on the patio eating breakfast soaking up the sun and chatting to the owners. No rush - we had 6 weeks stretching in front of us.....
Eventually we caught the train down the coast to Muizenburg and walked back to Kalk Bay along the beach dipping into cafes, bookshps and art/craft places along the way. Very relaxing.

Then the train to Simon's Town itself and to the penguins. These small birds occupy a small section of the coast. We traced their inelegant waddles up and down the beach. Once in water they soon disappeared on the hunt at speeds of up to 20km/h in search of food. We spent a long time marvelling over these creatures and how close we were able to get. The coastline was also stunning.

Back to Dixies for dinner - this time having something a little more substantial (steak for me and fish for Marsha) and of course a bottle of cheap, but very good South African wine.

15th June 2011

Another late start. Another long breakfast.
It was raining and the wind was howling. Marsha had a few things to catch up on from work and I read a book. As the weather cleared we at last ventured out and visited Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. The southern most tip - or south westerly tip of Africa or something like that. Either way, it was a peninsula and although it was dry the wind was gusting hard. We walked to the lighthouse and stared out to where the Pacific and Atlantic oceans collided. As you might imagine it looked fairly cold and inhospitable out there. The little museum told of the very very many boats and ships that have perished over the years just off the Cape.

As we wandered back we came upon a bunch of baboons who were actually behaving themselves pretty much and not living up to their reputations as depicted on the multiple signs around the place warning us of them. In the distance we also spotted our first antelope - Eland. We read that they were rarely seen at the Cape - good portents we thought.....

Back to the Guesthouse, some down time, reading, this, work for Marsha and another fine meal at Dixies.

16th June 2011

As we checked out of the Guesthouse our hosts pointed out a Southern Right Whale splashing about in the bay. We watched as it breached a couple of times. Not a bad view from your hotel room....

Train to Cape Town. After much deliberation we decided upon checking into the Grand Daddy Hotel which has been persuading people for many years now to part with large wads of cash for the privelege of staying in one of the old caravans parked on the roof of the building. An odd decision by us perhaps - still it did have views of Table Mountain and I was able to stand upright in it without bending my neck at 90 degrees unlike most caravans.

We traipsed through the rain to the V & A waterfront to buy a rainjacket amongst other things. A quiet afternoon. Dinner at a nearby place on the balcony overlooking Long St that was unusually quiet.

17th June 2011

9.00am pick up at the hotel with Wine Flies wine tours. This company has only been going a few weeks but we had a great day. 6 of us were driven around various wineries from the Durbanville area to Stellenbosch. We were treated to lunch, some Biltong, a cheese tasting, various historical and wine making commentaries and tours as well as, of course, wine tasting. Best place was the Brit and Boer! Although, as the sun set over the ocean and we sat in the garden and watched as Table Mountain and other hills turned a golden red colour, the last winery was also hard to beat.

We were invited back to a large balcony to listen to some live music where we met the owner of the wine tour company. Marsha got chatting to some fella who a little later on got up and was the star attraction singer song writer person who apparently had been playing in front of 8000 people the previous weekend!

18th June

Out of the caravan and into the Cape Diamond Hotel supposedly to meet up with our tour - except we got the dates wrong and were 1 day too early! Ah well, up Table Mountain instead. We took the easy way up - cable car. Beautiful from the top. Views of the bay, Robben Island, the Cape of Good Hope and loads of rock badgers (I very much doubt that's actually what they're called) that scuttled about the rocks. After wandering a while we returned, boarded a bus for Camps Bay and had lunch on the beach. A stunning sandy beach so close to the city! En route to the waterfront Marsha's camera started having issues which, later, the fella in the camera shop fixed in an embarressingly quick and simple way.

Feeling a little jaded after the excesses of yesterday still and so a quiet evening.

Actually popped into a Middle Eastern eating hall type place. Usually pictures of food outside restaurants make the food look bigger and better than it really is - not this place. Misguided by an image of a small plate with a feeble looking curry perched on the side we ended up ordering at least 3 times as much as we needed.

19th June

A late start - we made the most of having a real bed to sleep in! We'll be in tents soon enough...
Then a bus out into the outskirts of Cape Town. A countryside gardens place complete with cream teas, a couple of wineries and some more spectacular coastlines and before we knew it we were back in Cape Town and due for a meeting with our fellow tour members. 15 of us along with 3 guides start tomorrow morning. Next stop Namibia and following that Botswana. Don't know when we'll have internet access again. But, when we do I'll update. Tried putting photos on here but no joy. I was actually quite surprised the old machine sat in front of me was able to access the internet and so uploading photos was always going to be a bit of a stretch!

June 20th

Breakfast and then the tour bus departed with 15 tourists on board- mostly from Oz. A chef, a guide and the driver came with us too. First stop was Langa Township a few kms outside of Cape Town. An interesting tour took in a primary school, some workshops, some homes of very very varying standard and a ‘bar’. One small room about the size of our spare room slept 16 people (3 families). The ‘bar’ was a bucket of vinegary beer from which men only were allowed to sip. As I explained to Marsha later, she really wasn’t missing much.

From the township we travelled up on the Namibian Highway. Great views all around especially at lunch. We rolled up at Highlanders Campsite (and Winery) just as it grew dark which meant the first tent putting up effort was a little chaotic. Our reward though was another wine tasting session with our host and a decent dinner round a camp fire afterwards.

June 21st

Up early and after almost successfully stuffing our tent into the bag we joined everyone else for breakfast. Then on our way to the Orange River and the border with Namibia. Again beautiful scenery along the way. We stopped off for a while in Springbok and also for lunch before reaching Fiddler Creek camp by early afternoon. The camp was by the Orange River which acted as the border between South Africa and Namibia. A lovely bar occupied us for some time before dinner and the camp fire afterwards.

South Africa photos...1st morning in South Africa

1st morning in South Africa


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African Penguins near Simon's Town, Cape Town

African Penguins near Simon's Town, Cape Town


African Penguins near Simon's Town, Cape Town

African Penguins near Simon's Town, Cape Town


African Penguin near Simon's Town, Cape Town

African Penguin near Simon's Town, Cape Town


African Penguin near Simon's Town, Cape Town

African Penguin near Simon's Town, Cape Town


African Penguin near Simon's Town, Cape Town

African Penguin near Simon's Town, Cape Town


African Penguins near Simon's Town, Cape Town

African Penguins near Simon's Town, Cape Town


African Penguin near Simon's Town, Cape Town

African Penguin near Simon's Town, Cape Town


African Penguin near Simon's Town, Cape Town

African Penguin near Simon's Town, Cape Town


dassie in Simon's Town

dassie in Simon's Town


African Penguin near Simon's Town, Cape Town

African Penguin near Simon's Town, Cape Town


African Penguin near Simon's Town, Cape Town

African Penguin near Simon's Town, Cape Town


Which way?

Which way?


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Cape of Good Hope

Cape of Good Hope


Cape Point

Cape Point


The Cape Point Lighthouse

The Cape Point Lighthouse


Wine tasting around Cape Town

Wine tasting around Cape Town


Our room in Cape Town

Our room in Cape Town


On Table Mountain

On Table Mountain


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Statue in the gardens under Table Mountain

Statue in the gardens under Table Mountain


Marsha on the bus!

Marsha on the bus!


Constantia winery

Constantia winery


Music in the township

Music in the township


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Mural in the Langa Township

Mural in the Langa Township


One of sixteen occupants of this small room

One of sixteen occupants of this small room


Township outside Cape Town

Township outside Cape Town


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Marsha making friends

Marsha making friends


Township kids

Township kids


Table Mountain, Cape Town

Table Mountain, Cape Town


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Sunset at Fiddler Creek

Sunset at Fiddler Creek


Sunrise at Fiddler Creek

Sunrise at Fiddler Creek


Fiddler Creek camp

Fiddler Creek camp


Marsha kayaking

Marsha kayaking


Kayaking between borders

Kayaking between borders

June 22nd

Several of us went canoeing along the Orange River after breakfast. We stopped at one point on the far bank thereby illegally entering Namibia! Back for lunch and then onto the Fish River Canyon. Along the way we spotted our first animals – ostrich scampering by the road, Springbok staring back at us and some Oryx with their huge horns. We set up camp and then made the short journey to Fish River Canyon and stayed until sunset. As always, the sheer scale and beauty could not be captured on camera. It stretched as far as we could see and the
river meandered its path over 500m below us.

There was a great bar at the campsite/Canon Roadhouse with loads of old cars as decoration inside.

June 23rd

A transit day from Fish River Canyon to Namib Naukluft National Park. But, loads of Springbok, more Ostrich, a few Oryx, Bat-eared foxes, baboons and a couple of Giraffe (very surprisingly) helped to entertain us on our way. It was actually very relaxing, munching on Biltong (dried meat), admiring the desert and the mountains, stopping occasionally for animals and reading.

These campsites are great – another restaurant and bar – although we ate around the camp fire again first before adjourning to the bar for an hour or so.Later as I ambled back from the shower, a large dog-sized animal nonchalantly trotted by which hastened my pace along the sandy track to the tent. And later still, in the middle of the night, I cursed the hour at the bar as I was forced to venture out of the tent to mingle with the wild animals in search of the loo. And, it was soooo cold!

June 24th

To Sossusvlei in the National Park for sunrise. Reputed to be the oldest desert in the world and to have the highest sand dunes. We climbed the so-called Dune 45 (45km from camp) clothed in hats, gloves, thermals, jackets and half the clothes in our bag. It was freezing – actually it really was freezing according to the guide who described it as unusually cold! The view from the top was stunning. Massive, sweeping red dunes as far as we could see. Springbok and Oryx wandered about grazing at the few patches of grass to be found on the ground between the mighty dunes.

We had breakfast once we returned to the bottom, in the shadow of the dune– the sun gradually gliding upwards gently warming our icy bodies. We were then taken via 4 by 4s across the sandy floor to a walking track which ended at a salt/mud pan. Lakes many years ago had dried up leaving a crusty white surface and dead trees. The landscape was again far too dramatic to be adequately captured by my mediocre photography talents. Back to the 4 by 4s and on to a lake that did still exist. Then to lunch. On the way we passed various antelope and, well, they were beginning to be taken for granted. Still, the big animals are not too far away……

After lunch we trekked through another canyon nearby.

June 25th

Not such a cold night - only got down 5 degrees, but collapsing the tent at dawn was still a fairly chilly experience.
En-route to the town of Swakopvit we passed loads of antelope, loads of ostriches including some baby ones. We stopped for photos in the desert and came across a huge scorpion. Another stop resulted in us all buying some fantastic apple pie slices from the local shop. Outside hundereds of birds gathered. We declined the opportunity of camel rides especially as one broke free as we watched, making a mad dash for freedom - it didn't look too appealing.

Near the town we had nothing but sand dunes around us. And so, once in the hotel we booked up a Quad Biking tour for the afternoon. An amazingly good time. Hammering up, around, down and over huge sand dunes was fantastic. The massive red dunes rippled off into the distance. As far as the eye could see there was just sand. Eventually we came to the sea and we realised we'd been basically on the biggest beach in the world!

We all gathered for dinner in a nearby restaurant - I had Kudu steak (a type of antelope). Our guide was celebrating his birthday and so Marsha read something out for and from the whole group.

Great to have a hotel room and a real bed!

Posted by Patrick H. 07:43 Archived in South Africa Comments (3)

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