Monday, January 31, 2011
After driving several hours on a dirt road we came to a small village where we transferred to 4WD vehicles with all our gear to go to base camp. We had a nice grassy area for our tents and this deck overlooking the delta. There were even wood fired hot showers waiting for us. That night, many miles from civilization, we sat on the deck watching the full moon rise over the water. Just before heading for bed it started to get darker. There was an eclipse of the moon. What a surreal surprise as no one knew an eclipse was coming, it was about 90% at its darkest.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Left Chobe early in the morning heading to the Delta. The Okavanga Delta of Botswana the only inland delta in the world. Its creates a large lake and wetlands that attract lots of wild life. A few hours later the truck had a problem when a stone got wedged in the rear brake and required removing the right rear wheels and brake drum, not an easy task on the road. Because we were in Elephant country we needed to stay near the truck. One small and curious elephant watched us from across the road. He was hiding behind a bush and would peak out at us, at least he probably thought he was hidden but he was bigger than the bush. Sort of a baby Elephant peek-a-boo.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Chobe can overwhelm you with all its Hippos, Lions, and Elephants but there are many other varieties of wildlife. This Eagle was watching a Crocodile eat a large fish, hoping there would be some leftovers. In addition to the crocks there were large monitor lizards, badgers, buffalo, and many types of antelopes among the other species we saw at Chobe.
Friday, January 28, 2011
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
There seemed to be Elephants everywhere, there is a reported 80,000 Elephants in the park. At one point I counted over fifty elephants at one time and even more than fifty Hippos. You could see from the waterline how deep of water they had crossed, the poor baby Elephants were all wet as the water was over there head.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
The best way to see the park in by boat, in fact, we saw more animals both in numbers and variety than anywhere in Africa. Everything from Crocodiles to Elephants up close and personal. Maybe at times too close, Later at a camp in Namibia we met up with a group that had been on the boat trip a couple days later where some Hippos had taken exception to a boat being so close and capsized it. Fortunately all had survived but one lady had her leg broken and was finishing her trip in a cast.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Sunday, January 23, 2011
We went on several game drives in the park. On a early morning drive the guide pointed out tracks of both Lions and Leopards and later we came across two Cape Buffaloes that had been killed a few hours earlier. This one Lion had been left to guard the kills and the guide later pointed out several Lions sleeping in the brush nearby. Its the first time we had see Cape Buffaloes that had been killed, they are much more difficult to bring down the Zebra that we were used to seeing and for them to get two Buffalo a few feet apart must have been some struggle.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Our first camp in Botswana was on the water at the Chobe Safari Lodge. Even camp had a lot of wildlife, Warthogs came through camp on their way to and from their favorite mud hole and there were more colorful birds than we had seen any place else. There were some very small blue birds that you would see on the grass while walking, they looked like babies but if you bent to pick them up they would fly away. Some green and yellow birds in camp would fly down and grab food right out of your hands while you were trying to eat.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Thursday, January 20, 2011
After Victoria Falls we headed to Botswana. In his book about Africa Theroux writes that airports are a deception because on most trips to Africa you will be picked up at the airport in an air conditioned car, taken to a modern hotel, then the next day go to your safari camp that has great meals and hot and cold running water. The closest you will come to seeing real Africa in when you driver stops at his cousins souvenir stand when he drives you back to the airport. He says to really see Africa you have to cross the borders on foot. Every border we crossed was like street theater or in the case of crossing into Botswana, river theater. Borders were always chaotic and time consuming as you dealt the crush of people and the paperwork and bureaucrats. At some border stops you needed to take all your shoes and summit them to a disinfectant process with a white liquid, even the truck tires got the same treatment. Once I got in trouble when they found my shower shoes untreated. At each border you needed to get a visa which was priced depending on which country you were from and as some borders you needed to have your health cards checked. Crossing into Botswana you needed to take the ferry and some smugglers had cases of beer stacked so it could be off loaded fast. Just as the ferry arrived it was loaded onto a dugout canoe and quickly paddled away to a van waiting downstream, avoiding customs.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Just down stream from the falls there is a bridge that goes from Zambia to Zimbabwe and in the middle of the bridge is the bungee jump. The view from the gorge and the height above the river makes it the best bungee sites I have ever seen but the operation has some flaws. Normally after a jump you would be lowered to a boat in the river but that is impossible here, instead you are slowly, very slowly, pulled back up to the bridge while hanging upside down the entire time. They also had a zipline that went across the gorge from a cliff in Zambia To the Zimbabwe side of the bridge. After hooking me to the harness they told me to just run and jump off the cliff. It was a great ride and they let me take my camera with me while a friend on the bridge got these shots.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Monday, January 17, 2011
The path takes you to the top of the falls and some great swimming holes. there are no fences to keep you out and lot of people go swimming in the river above the falls. With the river at this level, down a lot from the level during the rainy season, you can walk and swim from here in Zambia to the Zimbabwe side just above the falls. There are guides who will take you to small pools of water at the lip of the falls where you can get your picture taken leaning out over the falls.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
There is a lot to do at Victoria falls besides walking with the Lions. Several of our group went on white water raft trips on the Zambezi River and came back with severe bruises from contact with boulders after being thrown out of the raft. Having made several white water raft trips through the Grand Canyon, I decided that it was safer to walk with the Lions than to take a raft trip when I saw the guides and the equipment they were going to use. It seems that safety is not a priority in Africa but I did notice after our Lion walk was over that a guide with a high powered rifle was following us but keeping out of site. One thing I was looking forward to was a Flight over the falls in a microlite aircraft but with the flight operation in Zimbabwe not operating the only ones available were in Zambia and they would not allow me to take my camera defeating the purpose of a flight. Our driver had taken a flight the year before with his camera and was able to get a great view of the falls.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Friday, January 14, 2011
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
The sign at the lodge for the Lion Encounter in Zimbabwe stated we must pay with dollars, pounds, euros, or rands. It went on to say only citizens of Zimbabwe that were also residents of Zimbabwe could pay with Zimbabwe dollars.
Monday, January 10, 2011
It used to be that when you went to Victoria Falls you stayed in Zimbabwe but that was before Robert Mugumbe destroyed the economy. The month we arrived in the area the inflation was more than two hundred million percent for the month. A few weeks later the government cut eight zeros off the currency then later the summer they took off ten more zeros before abandoning there currency altogether. A few years earlier, before Mugabe's "land reform", Zimbabwe was Africa's biggest exporter of food and now it had to rely on food aid from other countries to feed it's people.
A few of us still wanted to go to Zimbabwe to visit the Lion Encounter, a project set up to breed Lions to return to the wild to replace the dwindling population. To raise money for the project they have a Lion walk, This is where you can pay to have an up close experience with Lions in the wild. These are Lions up to the age of eighteen months as they get too dangerous as they got older. Our camp in Zambia arranged the trip and we went by van to the Zambia border. After clearing the border another van took us across the bridge to the Zimbabwe border then handed us off to a van with guards that took us into Zimbabwe. You could tell that at one time the the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe was the tourist center for the Falls but now with the political situation Livingston, where we stayed in Zambia, was the new center for tourism. Victoria Falls had large hotels with big lawns and many upscale shops but now looked like a ghost town. I wanted to buy a hat so our driver stopped in town on the way back to the border and sent two guards with me to a shop. As we walked past what were once upscale shops you could see they were mostly empty. When we got back to the van, it was surrounded by people trying to sell carvings and baskets, maybe their only chance to get any money that had value.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
The entrance to the falls was opened at 10 AM but the best time for photographs was much earlier. Our cab driver Festus showed us how to get into the parking lot early. He wouldn't go in with his cab but he showed us that the gate was only locked with a nail stuck in the hasp, no padlock. We could then walk in and while the entrance to the park was locked we found a friendly guard that would let us in. We always stopped at the ticket booth and paid on the way out, we promised the guard we would. The lady at the ticket booth always looked puzzled when came through the ticket booth the wrong way and bought a ticket to leave the park.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Victoria Falls was one of the most spectacular stops on the trip. We were able to spend several days there as this was the midpoint of the trip and several people left here and a couple new photographers joined. Our camp was along the river upstream from the falls and a couple miles by road from the falls and town. We weren't supposed to walk out of camp as Elephants were active in the area but with the shortage of taxis I did walk to town a couple of times. After a couple of days found a cab driver, Festus, with a cell phone that would pick us up at camp and take us to town or the falls. That's right, his name was Festus, and not the only African I met with that name. Wasn't Festus a character on "Gunsmoke".
Friday, January 7, 2011
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
The first wild animal I saw in Africa was the Zebra only a few miles from the airport in Kenya. We would see many more, at one point hundreds went by our camp on the way to a waterhole while we were eating breakfast. At one waterhole we sat in the watching hundreds of zebras converge on it from three directions. Then while we were watching a couple Elephant stormed up to the waterhole chasing the Zebras away. There were hundreds of them behind out truck barking. Yes, barking, they make a sound just like a dog and when there are this many they really got noisy. The Elephants then left as fast as they came without even taking a drink.
Monday, January 3, 2011
It's the desert and not the high desert as we are only a little more than 400 feet above sea level. This weekend, however, we did get snow on our mountain. At only about 3000 feet high, it's not much of a mountain but it's all we have. In Kingman, sixty miles to the east, there was so much snow that highway 40 was closed for over 250 miles.
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Saturday, January 1, 2011
Wishing everyone a happy New Year, hope you all have some great Photographs in this coming year. Just realized when typing this that today is 1/1/11, must mean something as at the New Years Eve party in town this morning a couple got married at eleven minutes past one.
There are three Lions in this shot, one which is taking interest in us. There were actually seven lions in this group including a couple very young ones. It always seemed amazing that you can be in a vehicle only a few feet away and they do not take alarm. The guide warned us never set one foot out of the vehicle as they would be up in an instant. He told of one Japanese tourist that dropped a lens cap and set one foot on the ground to retrieve it. Even though he was on the far side of the vehicle he caused an uproar as the lions all jumped up. earlier that year a park ranger had been killed by a Lion in this park.