29 January 2011

Campsite Animals

On a 73 day trip we camped at roughly 32 campsites, a handful of which were bush camps. At the regular sites, amenities ranged from nice grass and hot showers to thick red mud and a cold trickle in a bug infested stall. We never knew what we would get next. But one feature every campsite shared was animals.

Nearly every place had at least one dog. Sometimes a friendly chap like this Namibian fella, sometimes a handful of chubby big guys, looking for a free handout.

Goats were fairly common.

But only Red Chili campsite in Uganda had a giant naughty pig who pulled clean shirts down from the washing line...

...but who turned into a big mush when at the receiving end of a nice rub.

Even bush camps had their share of animals. Our first one was at the Naboth family's cow farm in Uganda. Check out the horns on these bad larrys.

Yes, I am wearing a mustache, but that's a different blog post. The kitty didn't seem to mind, and it was a treat to find a creature worthy of a cuddle.

Not every campsite animal we came across was domesticated. Our first campsite in Kenya was on the shores of Lake Naivasha and was home to some hungry hungry hippos. We could see them in the water during the daylight hours and they came out onto the banks to feed at night. Have you ever fallen asleep to the bellowing of hippos?

There was no shortage of wild mixing with tame. Semi-wild? Semi-tame? Above are zebras mixing with the camp owner's horses at Bird park in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Speaking of Bird Park, they had a whole aviary dedicated to birds of every feather. Some rescued, some bred, some slotted for release back into the wild and others destined to stay due to injury. We met rescued eagle chicks, hunting hawks, one-eyed owls and an oddball ostrich. Bird Park wasn't the only campsite dedicated to the rescue, rehab and preservation of one species. There was Snake Park in Arusha, Tanzania. I think you can guess what they specialized in.

Let's not forget the ever present monkeys. Though they were nearly as common as dogs,
I never got tired of watching them play. Above is a colobus monkey that makes a burping sound. Below are the ubiquitous blue-testicled vervet monkeys. Both in Kenya.

At Antelope Park in Zimbabwe we were lucky enough to have tame elephants roaming the
campsite. As I type the word tame I am reminded of how I was able to meet one, feed it and sit atop its back and thinking at the time, tame or not, this thing is HUGE, powerful, super cool and a little scary.

Not quite as scary and not nearly tame, we had a family of warthogs that roamed another Zim campsite. This time at Vic Falls. Momma warthog forages amongst the tents...

...while her babies take a nap.

Look how cute! A sleeping baby warthog. Awwwww.

Of course there weren't always animals to marvel over, cuddle, entertain or run way from, but there were always bugs.


p.s. I'd be remiss not to mention in at least one of these Africa blog posts that I do occasionally borrow a photo from one of my fellow travelers' facebook albums when I don't have a good enough pic of my own. Anyone interested in individual photo credits should speak to the management.

p.p.s. Since we're doing the addendum thing here, I might as well mention that most of the Africa photos and videos look much better when viewed full screen. In future posts I may insist you click on certain photos to get the full picture, so to speak. Hope you don't mind being bossed around now and then.

I Don't Get It

What business does a tiger have in an advert for an aquarium?


28 January 2011

To the Manor Born

Welcome to Giraffe Manor.

This is Helen

She wants to know if you have any food.

This is Patrick, he's hungry too.

They'll slurp it right outta your hand, using their long, grey, slimy tongues. But it's cool, cause their saliva is a natural antiseptic.

They live here, with a bunch of their friends. It's called Giraffe Manor and it's a super posh hotel built in the 1930's and modeled after a Scottish country home. You can stay there and the giraffes will keep you company as you breakfast on the back veranda.

Or you can just come with a truck full of overland travelers on a budget. Then you get to admire the giraffes, feed them handfuls of food, learn about their brethren in Africa, wash your hands and return to your campsite in Nairobi.

...where you'll be thinking of Helen and Patrick and wishing you were sleeping at their manor house.


24 January 2011

I kick ass, I take names

I can't remember exactly which sistah is responsible for me having these kick-ass Harley Davidson boots, but I wanted to say thanks. I love them. Though I'm not quite sure how it worked, some combination of Katie, Maryanne & Laura may have been involved. Thanks again ladies.


17 January 2011

Diamonds on the Soles of my Shoes

I've been finding it interesting to look back not only on my recent trip but on the preparations and expectations leading up to it. (Recent travels being three months in Africa in case some poor slob has stumbled across this blog and decided to keep reading for some strange reason. The other fourteen of you reading this should know all about my trip because there is a 50% chance you are my sister.)

In no way shape or form did my experience let me down, but neither did it fulfill all my assumptions and presumptions. Let me be clear - it far exceeded all my wildest dreams and I would go back to it in a heartbeat if it were feasible. That being said - I expected to see more of this kind of stuff....

But there were only two occasions, both in Zimbabwe.

Because I dig this kind of thing I have included all four videos I took. What can I say? I'm a big fan of the Graceland album.

Above and below is the greeting party just before we boarded our boat for a sunset coast down the Zambezi River - also known as THE BOOZE CRUISE, a night that will live as legend in the hearts, minds and memories of those that were there. For the rest of you, let's just assume people had fun.

We only got to see one tribal song & dance number because the boat was getting ready to leave and...well...there was an open bar.

I shot the next two videos when I stumbled across these guys at our campground in Victoria Falls. They were just wandering around, performing for any campsite that had more than a handful of people at it. Sadly most of our folks were off getting an adrenaline fix so I didn't get an up-close performance.

Forgive the shakiness of the last one here, I heard the singing, grabbed my camera and started wandering the campsite looking for the source. They were performing for another truck and I was too shy to get any closer.

More blog posts coming on how Africa exceeded my expectations, but in the meantime - I hope you enjoyed these fellas as much as I did.


13 January 2011

Pick a Cat, Any Cat

Even before I donned safari duds and the moniker Kelly Africanus I loved big cats. Actually I like the small ones too. Leopard, lion, lynx or house cat - I'll take 'em all. I like to think that somewhere in an alternate universe I may even be Cat Woman. Fighting crime in a bad-ass leather jumpsuit by night, snuggling with my feline friends by day.

While not being able to decide my most beloved cat amongst the many species hardly qualifies as a crisis of personality, I did hope that my travels might help crystallize my preference and that I'd return home with a favorite cat firmly planted in my psyche. A spirit guide that could lead me on some kind of post-trip vision quest.
Or maybe just a favorite figure for a groovy new t-shirt.

Far be it from me to create a false sense of suspense but I'll tell you now that I WON'T be finishing this blog post by naming my new-found, best-loved feline. I will, however, take the opportunity to muse over the cheetah.

Here's one standing bloody-mouthed over her fresh kill on the Serengeti.

With her cubs nearby! Ack! I nearly passed out with the desire to grab one and run. So fluffy! So cute!

Cheetahs...nature's fastest, sure, we all know that. But did you know they have a penchant for flip-flops? I learned that salient fact at Cheetah Park in Namibia just prior to being let in to the compound wearing flip-flops to pet their three cheetahs. That's right people, I said PET CHEETAHS!

notice the bare feet

Cheetah Park is a family farm that moved from raising cattle to cheetah conservation over the years. They have three tame cheetahs that live with them and behave just like house cats, including the occasional tussle with their Jack Russell (gotta love a small dog with a big dog attitude.)

He (the Jack Russell) even thinks he is the guard dog. Isn't that cute?

But let's get back to cheetahs. They are, in a word, amazing.

In addition to having the world's coolest pets, Cheetah Park also rescues wild cheetahs from being killed by other farmers when one of them (the cheetahs not the farmers) has been a very bad boy and killed some livestock. The two brothers who own and operate Cheetah Park trap the cat instead and bring it back to live a relatively-close-to-wild life on their acreage. As the population density of cheetahs on their land is higher than normal and building and maintaining a collection of prey animals is cost prohibitive, these fellas take their trucks out most evenings and feed the wild bunch whatever meaty morsels they have laying around.

If you are staying at their campgrounds, for a small fee you can stand in the bed of their pickup while they toss donkey steaks at the crowd of twenty or so cheetahs that come melting out of the dusk the minute the gates open. These guys (the cheetahs, not the farmers) prowl and stalk and flow and fade in and out of the bush...following the truck, eager for dinner. As a passenger, you feel a bit like dinner and hope they don't mistake you as such. It is as unnerving as it is awe inspiring.

After the guys figure we've all had enough photo opportunities they start tossing the meat out. As each piece is thrown, a little skirmish erupts among the cats while they figure out who gets it. The winner takes his loot and runs while the rest growl and yip waiting for the next hunk. And all this is happening mere feet from where you stand in an open truck bed, drink in hand.

Oh yeah, the campsite has a bar too, it's a damn cool place. So if you ever find yourself in Namibia...drop in and see if the cheetah is your favorite cat.

12 January 2011

Are People Really this Dumb?

You know those big plastic bins...

...the kind you buy to store your winter clothes in?

Well you're not supposed to put your baby in them.