Monday, November 25, 2013

Kenya Adventure - Day 13

Before I start on what we have done today let me first show you around the camp, a really beautiful tented camp, so close to nature you can almost feel yourself being stitched into the canvas. The camp is called Nkorombo Tented Camp, located on the rivers edge, so close to the hippo and the crocs which live in their watery home. It is a temporary camp, dismantled and re-erected twice a year with one large, elongated tent in the middle and smaller but wonderfully equipped sleeping tents to the side. One other feature is the metal hippo. Now, this hippo has a story, he is really a BBQ :)

The real hippo residents don’t know he is a BBQ and although I don’t know when it happened, one day one of the real hippo decided to attack. Hippo are very territorial and I guess the real hippo had a blocked nose that day and didn't realise the guy he was attacking was metal (or maybe there had just been a BBQ and he was smelling of sausages and steak lol)

One of Metal Hippo’s war wounds.

The view of the river from our tent

What our tent looks like inside, kicking myself because I forgot to take a pic of the bathroom - yes a bathroom, complete with shower and flushing loo lol. The shower is a bucket type, hot water poured into the bucket from the outside and inside a shower head with valve. Having a shower at the end of the day is heavenly but water is an expensive commodity. Unlike your house, where you go to the tap and water comes out, fed through pipes running round the country, here, as in nearly all camps (unless they have a bore hole or under gourd spring nearby) water is delivered by bowser and stored in containers and is very, very expensive. In Saudi, the water is more expensive per litre than the fuel for the car!!!!!! Makes you think doesn’t it - wonder what we are going to do when the fresh water runs out because we waste so much today - which area of the world will be able to hold others to ransom for this vital part of survival. Right, back to my shower, the bucket holds 20 litres, I know from experience Alan and I can both shower in that, wash hair, rinse hair, condition hair and rinse hair again and still have water left over. On out trips round Oz we used a solar shower which we filled with water in the morning and allowed the sun to work her magic, this was then hung from a tree etc and through gravity and the small shower head at the end of the pipe attached to the solar bag became a shower. Yep - still go the knack - both if us showered and hair washed with our one bucket of water. The guys are waiting close by with a second bucket, we don’t need it, they are amazed, so often it is the complaint that there is not enough water. You know it is so simple to conserve the water in this situation, stand under shower head, turn on valve, get lovely and wet, turn off valve, soap up, turn on valve, rinse soap off - finished. Just by turning the valve off while you put soap on means your water goes so much further, why on earth do you leave the shower running when you put soap on anyway, it just washes it off before it has done its work - a bit pointless really!!!

View looking into our tent

Location of our tent

Main tent

Looking down through the main tent where there is a charging area for cameras and laptops etc. sitting area then the dining area, very luxurious camping compared to our silly tent and basic canvas camp chairs we are used to :) :) :) This is more like a house I could live in - yep two camps I have offered to swap my house with this one or Saruni (the place we stayed in the Samburu area) - somehow I don’t think it will happen do you? :) :)

Now it is a bit of a bummer having to go back to your tent for the loo so a general loo has been erected closer to the main tent - here it is - this is so posh for me - I am used to a spade and dig my own hole when camping …

And what a view - I think I at last understand how folks can take a book to the loo and sit there to read, it is one place the family will leave you alone, for that all important ‘me time’.  - NOTE - apologies for the photos, taken really quickly, last minute shots before I forgot to do them :)

Time for a game drive - what did we see?????

A Tawny Eagle

This next picture is an oddity - a mishap of nature. This female Impala should not have horns but she does, It certainly does not bother her being different from the 'general norm’ and it does not bother all the other impala in the herd either. How come in our society, people who do not fit the mould are singled out even by just using the label ‘handicapped’, ‘disadvantaged’ etc. we are obsessed with labels and boxes to put thing in, even to the point of squashing it into the wrong box to make it fit, to use the label to our own advantage. I hate the labels, especially when searched out by parents to be given to their children, so often in my eye, as an excuse for their bad behaviour (thinking of ADHD here - brought on by bad, irresponsible parents in the first place), who then get special preference in school, extra social money to help with expenses etc. Then we have the middle of the road person, not top of the pile so not lots of encouragement and praise, no instant gratification, not bottom of the pile so not always in trouble and again instant gratification, all be it negative in the form of punishment - it is still instant gratification and better than going un-noticed. The middle one is the steady one in my eye, the one who learns that you have to work for what you have, not spoilt by parents trying to impress their kids with the latest clothes or gadgets to be seen as successful, that you do something now and get the reward later, that you save now and buy later (not on credit), these are the ones in life that learn balance, have accepted delayed gratification as the way forward, no need to have this instant but can wait till the right time. The rock of human nature that also appear to be a dying breed.

Back to our lady who is different, she does not know it, her group do not notice it, therefore does it matter? I guess the only issue is the gene that cause this. OK, is the gene going to weaken the strength of the heard with breeding (bit like we have done in human society!!) or not. I ask Pete and he suspects she will be sterile, not able to pass on this genetic defect to future generations. Nature is wonderful though, if there is a genetic problem with young, and it happens, they allow nature to take the natural course, they keep their species naturally strong, naturally able to survive with no need of medication until man interferes.

Another DIk-DIk - this is a Kirk's Dik-Dik, different from the one in Samburu who had, what I called, an ant-eater type nose, this wee soul has the deer like nose :)

Yellow Billed Stork

Just a general photos of the Africa Plain and the mixed herds often seen.

A couple of Egyptian Geese

What’s up Wildebeest - what you seen?

Morning hyena - how you doing today? :) - hyena make me smile whenever I see them :) :) :)

Today is our last day at Nkorombo, our bags are all packed. After this drive we will head back, have lunch then move onto another camp - Serian Camp, in the Mara North Conservancy for our last couple of nights.  

An incredible thing has just happened in the last couple of days - really unusual. The migration has turned tail and come back. By now the animals should have made their way to lush grass in the Serengeti having been acting like combine harvesters on their journey south. But here they are, back in the Mara. The only thing we can think of is that Serengeti burns its grass and the rains are late this year (it is the rainy season and we have only had a couple of times when rain has delayed something we planned to do for a little while - nothing like it should be). With burnt grass and no rain there is nothing to eat in the Serengeti.

Before I show you some pics and a wee video to give you an idea of what the migration looks like there is something I want to mention. You know on the likes of Animal Planet when you watch the migration across the river, with wildebeest and zebra along with a few others, their lives like a lottery - be eaten by croc or survive to the other side. Yep - that does happen but I wonder how many of you know the animals do not need to cross the river in this way, they can go by a place called Sand River, a shallow river with no crocs, most of the water is under the sand. How come I don’t know this, I have seen so may TV programs on the migration but this is an unknown fact to me. Why does the media only show the extreme and not the balance, no wonder as a society we are so de-sensitised to war and violence, allowing it into our homes through news, documentaries and films, showing our children this is the norm in the world - wrong, not the norm, the extreme, the instant gratification. OK - I know the answer - got to sell the program, got to make money even if not in an honest way, got to give the public what they want - extreme. Then I am back to my plastic society again - fake, unbalanced, untrue, getting worse and worse. Oh dear - time to climb back in my box and find some normality.

A quick movie showing the wildebeest grazing, they go on for miles and miles, far into the distance, way beyond the camera lens, to our left, to our right, behind us and in front of us - the land looks like it is crawling with ants on the hunt for the sugar bowl.

The elephant are around too, a small herd but the perfect backdrop for this pic I think :)

A wounded wildebeest, I don’t know what is wrong with it but I like it’s philosophy - no need to run to the doctor because I sneezed, I can still eat, I can still walk, I am still useful - and when my time comes I will leave this world quickly. No need to live on meds my who life, no need to suffer the pain humans do with chronic condition year after year, feeling a burden or loving the attention (usually one or the other), no sitting in waiting rooms with other sick people getting their sickness too, no worries about old age and being put in a wheelchair, wearing nappies and placed in front of a window to pass the day, no burden to family either. Yep, I know why I stay away from screening projects, mass vaccination projects etc. That end to my life is not one I desire for me or my family - I want quality of life not longevity of life - I live for today, thank today and accept what tomorrow brings without fear. To those who know me that sounds so hypocritical I know, it is medical science which has kept me mobile and as pain free as possible, allowed me to stay useful to society in my small way, but I am still a burden, I rely on those around me to help and I survive by trying to stay in denial, in nature I would be food. At this moment in time, if I were to get another illness that required organ donation to keep me alive, vicious drugs to prolong the inevitable I would refuse. I have yet to discover the strength of my conviction, maybe when the time comes I will not be able to go through with what I believe but these are my feelings now and have been for several years - quality not quantity of life.

Come on - march on - eyes front - oh such a sweetie :)

We leave the wildebeest and ellies to do their thing and head off back to camp for lunch and find a zebra foal having his/her lunch too.

And … what is a good thing to do after lunch - of course - peeeeee. This poor wee soul, I was laughing so much in-side taking this pic. His/her face just seems to say - I can't do anything, can't run to mum, can’t move till I finish peeing, why do you have to take a photo of me in this uncompromising position - sorry young-un - I could not help myself - the embarrassing moments in life are always so funny hahahahahaha 

We are on our way to Serian now, another tented camp but a permanent one this time, still one in keeping with nature - no electricity except for a charging station so blog post will be delayed again - fun stuff. .

En-route we find a pod of hippos who look like they have the perfect home - a salad bowl

William is a great photographer and takes his camera with him where ever he goes. OK - I do the same, but there the difference ends - when Williams memory card is full on his camera he then has to delete all the photos, loose the memories whereas I transfer all my image to my laptop and external drive on a daily basis, making sure I have space for tomorrow. I guess the difference between William and I is that my photos will be my triggers for memories stored to resurface whereas for William it is about the joy of capturing the moment, enjoying the moment, William knows he will be with the animals on a daily basis (well daily so long as there is land to support the animals which is vanishing at a phenomenal rate due to over population by humans, trees being removed to make way for roads, accidental fires, building, land ploughed up to be converted into shambas or in the case of light skinned or foreign imported two legged species for ranches, too many cows, sheep and goats - the local currency for trade be it a wife or something else - just to much, to much, to much - non sustainable growth).

Here we have William who just picked up my camera with the wide angle lens on it and started snapping away - I love it - thank you William :)

Been to camp now, have our sleeping area sorted, enjoyed a cool shandy and a piece of cake now time to head off out again. Not far from the camp we see a very young zebra, we stop and watch, mum and dad are well away from their baby - not drawing attention to it. It is only one day old - vulnerable, it’s only protection from the predators is that it does not give off any smell, best to stay still, stay down, gather strength. This little guy will double his/her body weight in the first month of life - rapid growth :) We keep watching and up comes the head, another photo opportunity and I could not resist :)

And then it stood up, on legs the seemed not to fit, so fragile would break with just one fall, yet so perfectly formed.

I have been trying to get a shot of these guys, you come across them sitting in mud puddles here, there and everywhere, but as soon as you stop the car they are off - bum shots is about all you get, then they turn round in the distance and look back at you as if to say ‘well, what are you going to do now hahahahahaha’. This guy was a little slower than me this time as I had my camera pointing in his direction, zoom out all the way as he was quite a long way off, F# set, spot metering on, focal point selected, only got to final focus when the car stops.

What do we find next? Ahhhh my hyena again, not in the classic mud bath pose this time but six cubs, two different litters. Mum or sister appears and sits down on an ant hill, the kids keep nodding off enjoying the last of the sun before evening falls, or having a bit of a play. They aren't very energetic but still fun to watch.

How can you not love hyena - look at this face :)

One last nursery shot and time for us to go.

So far we have seen several families of lion but here is one that is truly magical. The pride is 27 strong, a family group of all ages, all well fed, all strong. We watched nearly the whole pride emerge from the trees.

Another photo about to be taken and this vehicle bounces up, far to fast and stops right in front of the lens - yep - just about right - not a thought in the world for others around - pure selfish - and yes he was spoken to for his incompetence. When we see another vehicle, and we have not see the 72 vehicles round any animal that can be found during the migration/top season we watch to see what they are doing, where have they positioned their cameras and either move to an area out of their lens way or wait till they finish and move off. It is enjoyable to be polite and caring and the instant gratification of the thank you as the response if more than enough. Notice how few people say please and thank you these days!!

They the lion ambled down the road to the ant-hill were some took their place.

Others walked a little further before settling down, you could see how they were choosing different locations at watching posts.  

I have taken this one with my wide angle lens to try to get as many of the lion in as possible.

OK folks, the end of the day for me. With the daylight going to bed it is time to head back for a shower, shandy and supper the 3 S’s - and then transfer all the photos from today to my laptop and try to work out what to put in the blog - (the above being the end result :) )

Night night all, sleep tight and dream beautiful dreams.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Kenya Adventure - Day 12

Plans for today, exactly the same as yesterday, how easy is that :) Tea at 5:00 a.m., head out to find what surprises nature has in store for us today around 6:00 a.m, breakfast somewhere around 9:00 a.m, or whenever we feel a bit peckish, back to camp somewhere around 12:00 ish, then back out at around 4:00 p.m. for another couple of hours before dinner and bed. So that is the structure of our day, and apart from that we go with the flow. We don’t go looking for a particular animal, no ‘Pete please find ???? for us today', we just head off in a different direction to the one we went a previous day and see what nature brings to us. When we find something of interest it is not a case of taking the picture so we can say - right seen that move on (we do in some cases, just because the animal happens to be in the perfect, picture postcard pose and the light is just right - what we call a happy snap), but stay with the animals, watch they behaviour, meld into their world and take away from the experience far more than just a vision, we take away acceptance and respect too.

So today, with our system in place we head off out and what did we see, what did we experience :) Well, lets start of with the sun popping round the horizon to bring us natural light and natural warmth. On the hill in the distance a herd of buffalo awake from their sleep just in time for our cameras to capture their silhouette.

Once the sun appears with her orange glow setting the sky on fire you have to stop and watch, real eye candy I call it. It is the time of day when I understand how fast thing happen, different every second and how much I miss in regular life by also rushing here, there and everywhere.

It is hard taking a decent photo of a wildebeest, in ordinary light they seem to meld into the landscape but catch the right light on their coat and oh WOW, how beautiful. Yep, we really must learn to see things from all angles to appreciate.

Bearded Wildebeest

A small area of water, surrounded by shrub and this wee choppy sitting waiting patiently to be capture by my lens.

Striped Kingfisher

Yellow Throated Long Claw - this bird has a very long back claw and shuffles along when walking on the ground - but so far we don’t know why.

William and Pete are glassing again, scanning the landscape, reading the environment and somewhere in the distance another MGM lion is spotted. Why MGM, not the Latin name, not real name but a fun name given to the beautiful Black Maned Lion who looks like the one used by the MGM film company. What a beautiful boy he is, I take a picture and have a look to see what it is like, zoom in, did I get him in focus and what else do I see, he is covered in flies, so many flies and my first thought were - crap - I can’t use this for my card making, nobody will want to see this beautiful creature covered in flies. Oh dear! but see, even though I harp on like I do, I too am part of the plastic, look pretty society :) I carry on taking photos of him but they are my photos, I really don’t care about the flies. I ask Pete about the flies and find out they are called Lion Flies, they love lion, they live with lion, therefore they must have a purpose in the circle, take them away and the balance is gone.

Blacked Maned Lion

From under the bush Mrs. Lion appears and she, with her hubby, saunter off to another location just a few feet he settles down again.

Mrs. Lion, has a bee in her bonnet and plays around for a bit and through the magic of the camera lens I caught this comical expression. I have to admit, I love the expressions of the some of the wildlife I am seeing, not just what they look like but their personalities too, each an individual in their own right.

One last image of Mr. Lion in all his glory before leaving this couple to continue on their journey.

The one animal I so desperately wanted to see on this trip was cheetah having never seen one before. I saw leopard many years ago and one the other day, I have seen many lion but until now never the Black Maned Lion and yes, my first cheetah in Lewa. Chatting to Pete I told him that there really was nothing else my eyes wanted to see for themselves, everything is now a bonus, seeing the cheetah the other evening going through all the motions of hunting was incredible, it gave me another perspective but if I hadn't seen it, no worries. Yes I am so content. Don’t you just love it, when out of nowhere, magic happens, I know I do, and look what happened after the Black Maned Lion and his wife. A leopard, out in the open, not hunting, not hiding, just doing his thing and I felt we were almost being invited to share part of his mission with him. There must have been a female around and he had one thing on his mind, to find her. Hunger, sleep, us, were all non existent in his single vision of a bit of nookie. Seen that in the human world rather a lot hahahahahahaha. We stayed with the leopard for about a hour, I must have taken well over 200 hundred photos, so here you are, without me chatting, a very small selection so I can share with you what I saw.

William is over the moon, he knew we had experienced something very special and I think he also appreciated that we tried to understand not just take the picture and move on but absorb the whole picture.

After all the excitement of the morning and having totally forgotten about breakfast our tummies started to remind us that bacon, sausages, pancakes and fruit along with tea and coffee were sitting there ready to be enjoyed. Time to find a location and catch out breaths.

Here we have Alan doing his reptile act, warming his body temperature or is he trying to be a bird - I have no idea but I love to see adults remembering how to be children, not a care who is watching them, not afraid to be seen as silly, just having fun and enjoying life.

Our breakfast location, by the river.

And, joining us for breakfast several Ruppell’s Long-Tailed Starlings who, when the light catches them are the most incredible colour.

Ruppell’s Long-Tailed Starling

A few happy snaps to set the picture for you, now add to this hot coffee, bacon, sausages etc. - a little bit of heaven.

Now odd some things that happen are. Flamingo don’t live in the Mara, but here we have a flamingo who must be lost, all alone, no buddies, no structure. I wonder what is going on in his/her mind. We love of structure but when things don’t go to plan we so often can’t deal with it, get angry, get frustrated, get all tied up in knots. I too like structure, it helps keep the flow going but I do my upmost to avoid the panic, I call it flex planning, have the plan, if it changes no worries just step back and go with the flow. I remember some time ago when I was seeing a psychologist to get me over my fear of needles (I have arthritis as was at a point where I was having to face injecting myself weekly with the medication - now that was a hard road to travel) and we were talking about people who are late for appointments etc, all part of the being in control stuff. I had to travel for an hour to get to my appointments and told her, that I do my upmost never to be late for anything, I was brought up to be five minutes early for everything and as it bugs me when somebody is not responsible enough to be on time and therefore waste my time, I don’t do it to others. She then asked me what I would do if I broke down and was late for my appointment with her. My answer was - tough, not my fault, I would not be upset or start to panic about letting her down, I was assume I had already proved I was responsible and therefore there was a good reason for my lateness which she would find out when it was convenient, it certainly wouldn't be my priority to get a message to her to apologise - life is to short for that. There was another instance, when Alan was working in the UAE and I was having my first visit. My flight from Newcastle-upon-Tyne was an hour late in departing which meant I missed my Air France connection from Charles du Gaul to Abu Dhabi. Nothing nice to say about Air France so I won’t go there apart from saying I needed their help to get a message to Alan. Wonderful, they gave me a phone card that was for local phone calls only and nothing else. Right, missed flight, no way of letting Alan know, totally out of my control. I could panic and get uppity or I could see it as an adventure - seeing it as an adventure sounded much more fun. I am lucky, Alan has the go with the flow philosophy. I knew he would be at the airport to meet me and then discover I was not on the plane, from there he would just wait for me to contact him when I could. Now the weather was still dreadful in Europe, many flight cancelled, people all trying to get a particular location and ending up somewhere else. I ended up on a standby flight to Dubai flying with Vietnam Airways. The guy behind me made some comment about the airline I had been put on to me along the lines of how third class etc. it was, my response, haven't heard of the airline mentioned in the news therefore their planes don't crash, that is fine for me’. He looked at me as if I came from another planet. I made the flight and once in Dubai was bundled into a taxi to take me to Abu Dhabi. Between the Gulf Air staff in Dubai (not the Air France - they were dreadful) and the taxi driver I had several chats with Alan who now knew where I was and would have the kettle on as I arrived at his apartment - no hassle, no panic, a new experience, a story to tell - I did nothing but go with the flow. I am a great believer everything happens for a reason in its own time, if you want something and it is hard to organise then you are not meant to have it yet, it will only bring you disappointment and trouble in the long run, if it is meant to be it will all fall into place. Leaning to embrace something that seems so bad at a time and turning it into a positive is the key for me. Being told at the age of 17 when the arthritis beat me up that I would be in a wheelchair by the time I was in my 40’s didn't give me a rosy future. Who the heck wanted to walk beside me in my journey, a sad and hard time for me but, I ended up going to Kenya with my folks to recuperate when I was 18, met Alan, my other half. If I hadn't got arthritis I would never have met Alan, I would not be the person I am. So arthritis and I are buddies, every cloud has a silver lining :) :) :) - So back to the flamingo 

Greater Flamingo

Warthogs - so hard to get a picture of these guys, they sit in mud puddles, lounge around, but you stop the car and they show you their butt then run off.

A baby Impala

Rock Agama

Amazing crocodile - so pre historic - no need to evolve any more, unchanged, natures success.

One hippo feeling a little peeved :)

The two headed Masai Giraffe :)

Ahhh - family reunion

And then - a cheetah, eating. She had just made a kill, something small which we think was rabbit. She didn’t gobble her food, just took her time with an occasional look our way.

Or sitting up to check what was going on before settling down again to chew on a few bones.

When she had eaten enough she picked herself up and walked away. Within seconds a Tawny Eagle swooped down to finish off what she had left behind.

We followed her to an ant hill where she took the classic pose :)

After all the a need for liquid to wash down her dinner. What a privilege to be allowed to enter her world.

The sun is on her way to bed, time to head back to camp and out pops the Silver Backed Jackals, mum, dad and four cubs - precious. These we guys are so hard to capture, as soon as you get your camera on them they are off, great bum shots but not often their beautiful faces.

So close to a sunset now and Pete spots a great view for a photo, the blue and orange sky with an Acacia tree for the silhouette. The vehicle in position, Alan about to hop out the car to remove excess water from his system and I look to the right. In the bushes, about 12 metres was another ‘MGM’ Black Maned Lion - this one was a real ‘King of the Jungle’ - oh so beautiful, so proud, so knowing. He sat a while watching us, got up, stretched, walked towards us and then settled down again so close. Another couple of hundred photos taken here, go to have a least one good shot.

Time to move again, not far, something has caught his attention.

As he comes even closer to use, licking his lips, I am wondering if he thinks we might be a rather nice snack (not really :) lol) something far more interesting than us has caught his attention.

He settles himself down on an ant hill and gazes off into the distance. From the bushes in his line of sight appears his wife, she is in no hurry, then wife #2 appears and four adolescence.

A big yawn, does he now know his ‘me time’ is over and it is now time to be sociable?

As wife #1 draws close he stands up to welcome her home.

She comes up to him to greet him, something each lion will do in turn of importance in rank. He must love her as he seemed to enjoy this greeting.

When wife #2 did the same thing there was a bit of argy bargy and when the adolescence greeting him it was very much a - case of ‘OK - enough is enough’. He then turned tail and headed off with his family behind him.

What a truly magnificent day, wonderful photography, wonderful experiences, wonderful memories.