Welcome to My Blog! When I travel I will try to share a few of my stories and photos while on the road. If I'm not travelling I will probably be processing photos and will post them as I complete them. So hop on the DEW Train, check out my most recent photos, or browse some of my Galleries while you're here. Hope you enjoy! I always love to hear from you too, so drop a note in my Guestbook! Thanks for stopping by!
Well a road trip to Newfoundland is finally a reality. The camping gear is packed in a new Thule Pod on the roof of my Subaru Outback. I ‘practiced camped’ last year, to see if I could make this a camping trip. And throughout the summer and fall, I honed the sleeping arrangements to make it tolerable to the old bones! A cot seemed to do the trick after all was said and done, and now I am more than ready!
The pod held more than I thought it would, and that left lots of room in the car for cameras and photography paraphernalia, the cooler and a few other comforts and essentials. I haven’t driven long distances for a while, so not sure how that will go, but have given myself lots of time to make the trip there.
The pod held more than I thought it would, and that left lots of room in the car for cameras and photography paraphernalia, the cooler and a few other comforts and essentials. I haven’t driven long distances for a while, so not sure how that will go, but have given myself lots of time to make the trip there.
My plan is to meet up with ‘Kevin Pepper Photography’ for a photo workshop - June 5 to June 12, 2018
The Viking Trail and Iceberg Alley
Do icebergs captivate you? Imagine an up close and personal viewing of some of the largest tabular and cathedral icebergs at the entrance to the world famous iceberg alley.
This is the perfect trip for the photographer that loves photographing by the ocean in and around old abandoned fishing villages, icebergs, and lighthouses, with a backdrop of stunning golden hour... and we can't forget the Humpback whales that are migrating north as the icebergs are travelling south.”
The workshop is starting at Deer Lake Newfoundland and ends in Quirpon on the edge of ‘Iceberg Alley”. Exploring the west coast of “The Rock”.
Before the workshop, i hope to start my adventure in the SW corner of the island, right off the ferry. A few days of camping, birding in the Codroy Valley, and reaquainting myself with the ocean!
After the workshop, I will head back to Deer Lake to pick up my car and gear, and head out on my own again with the goal to circumnavigate the island. Wildlife, landscapes, people, seafood, local arts and artists and, what I am really looking forward to….the Ocean! After living on the west coast for many years, the Ocean became part of my soul, and it will feel good to smell the sea air, wander the rocks and tidepools at low tide, and just sit while the waves wash up on the shore. Ahhhhhn! And of course there are Puffins! Doesn’t get much better than that!
So visit my blog, over the next month or so, and join me on my new adventure! I am sure it will be a fun time! I will update you on the fun and foibles of my adventure, when I can. See you soon!
Friday morning May 25
At 6 am, I hit the road east from London Ontario. Packing went smoothly- which for me, is a miracle! All the preps for my car - ‘Boo’ - tune up, snow tires off, summer tires on (that might have been a mistake!), gassed up, and all cleaned out of all but necessary stuff for the trip. And for me – hair cut, bills paid, apartment cleaned - well sort of. 😬 and all those other things like fridge cleaned out, dishes done, plants all gathered together, for my awesome sister-in-law to take care of, and fresh sugar water, grape jelly and oranges out for the humming birds and my Baltimore Oriole family.
But packing was easier this time, as I had lots of room to pack. The Thule Pod on the roof of the Subaru, held way more than I thought it would, which was nice. So all the camping gear and a bit more went up there. Coolers, camera gear, suitcases, food and dishes on the lower level!
I was a little worried though, as I had to leave Boo all packed – except camera gear and fridge food - and parked outside! With the Pod on top, it would not fit into my underground garage spot! But hey I just had to have faith! And with the help of my guardian angels, all was just fine.
My travel partner ‘Ookie the Ookpik’ raced me to the car! And was as excited as I was to get on the road! Hey all, meet Ookie!.Ookie was adopted at Expo 67, and at the last minute, he popped up to say he wanted to go with me! I figure a road trip is way more fun with a buddy, so I agreed whole-heartedly!
I was a little tired - didn’t sleep that last night as good as I’d liked to have, but I stopped for a couple rest stop naps along the way, and I made it to the east side of Montreal the first day. A few hiccups that day. First there was Toronto rush hour. Man that is a wicked mess! Then just before Kingston, there had been a terrible accident, unfortunately with fatalities. that resulted in the 401 eastbound being closed!
Saturday May 26
Woke early and on the road again the next morning by 6 am. Today it was smooth sailing. Motored along, and no need for naps today either! I am sure I saw a bear high up in a tree on the side of the road, along the way, but a semi was on my right ( yep I was passing him - Go Boo Go!)so there was no stopping to confirm or try to get a shot of it. Dagnammit! I am going to Newfoundland! No detours!
But I was not in a hurry, so found a cute little motel for the night.The Hillside. Lakesh the owner was a really nice fellow and we had a good chat. (Hmmm, going to have to start learning the Atlantic & Newfoundland lingo, so I can sound local! I don’t think Chat is a word!) unloaded the camera gear and the overnight bag, and headed out for my walk. Gotta get those 10000 steps in! And I need that stretch after such a long drive. (One thing I tried to do at all my stops, was park in the farthest spot away from the rest stop facilities. It gave me a stretch at each stop.)
Today is a much shorter day of driving, even with the detour from yesterday. Maybe 6-7 hours. Easy-peasy! I could take the overnight ferry to Newfoundland Sunday night, but I love being on the water and especially on the ocean! So I booked myself for the Monday morning sailing. And had a nice little sleep in!
Monday May 28
Nice and relaxing wander, that is until I was surrounded by security! I guess I was out of bounds! Well not exactly surrounded, but approached and asked to “step into the truck Mam”. Radio announcements –“yep I got her”! But nice guy all said and done, and I got a nice tour of the shipyards and he took me to where I could get a good shot of the ferry. Heehee!
And then I was taken back to my car. None too soon either, as they started to board pretty quick. I am sure it was early! Wasn’t supposed to leave till 11:45 am. We were well on our way by 11:30. And the skies were blue and the waves small, and although it was a bit cool, wandering the deck with Ookie was great fun. Checking for whales and dolphins, but no luck yet.
But Ookie was going on and on, about wanting to go up to the bridge and see the Captain. So we asked the Senior Chief Steward, if Ookie could have a picture taken with the captain. Sue Holmes, the Senior Chief Steward, arranged it with the Captain, and off we went up to the bridge. Apparently no one had ever asked to take their Ookpik to the bridge, so Ookie was quite the star. He got to read the charts, sit in the Captains chair, be the lookout for icebergs, and a few other neat things. Unfortunately the Captain had been called away, so Sue took a picture of me and Ookie together. It was fun. Got lots of laughs! And Ookie was ever so pleased!
Well the rain started that night, and it poured and poured. But lucky for me there were no leaks and I slept just fine.
Tuesday May 29
And then I awoke to more rain, pouring rain, never ending rain! So I had my camper’s Lazyboy ( my camp chair) in the tent, and I sat and read and watched the rain. Eventually I got a little antsy, so I donned all my rain gear and headed out to go for a walk. Walked to a lovely little water falls just over the bridge, the set off to the beach. A 2km walk by the road. It rained, and slowed to a shower, then a mist. Then it rained again. I still enjoyed it and after arriving on the beach, walk for an hour or so along it. The sound of the waves cancelled out the rain in my mind, and it slowed again to a shower then a mist. But once again, the clouds opened, and I headed back.
Lucky me though, the rained stopped long enough for me to heat up my dinner (leftover pork chop and veggie stirfry) and then i quicky ran into the tent to eat, when the rain started again. Whew just in time before it poured again. (I love my guardian angels!) Had set myself up good for staying in the tent. Had all I needed. But the wind was picking up now, and it was getting pretty dang cold. Calling for frost, maybe snow! Yikes. So all the clothes – long johns and fleece and toque and gloves – stayed on, and I snuggled under my down comforter on my cot, and read for awhile. The wind was loud and so was the rain, so I popped in earplugs. And slept pretty fine again. All was well in my little nest……that is, until morning!
Wednesday May 30
Well the tent was rocking, and it wasn’t me! I took out the earplugs and the wind was howlin’! First things first. Outhouse across the road. Then next was to try to get my tent fly tied down tighter as it was lifting like a parachute, and pulling all those half in pegs out! Right into the wind it was! I was trying to pull it down to tighten and noticed it had ripped some of the attachments right off as well! It was a hell of a Nor-Wester! There was no way I was pulling this down. It had to come off. I was grateful that it had dawned a blue sky day!
Well it was a chore and I had not planned on trying Parachuting for the first time with a tent fly, and I was pretty dang close to lifting off a couple times! But with some crazy finagling, I managed to get it unattached and in the tent. Really nice that it was a blue sky day as the top of the tent is screen! Exhausted I sat in my chair, seriously considering motelling it across Newfoundland! “I am to old for this”, I screamed!
And the thought of packing it all up was first in line of thoughts! But I sat, and caught my breath, and calmed down. And tried to consider the other thoughts vying for attention. I went for a walk, around the campsite. Virtually empty, except for a few other folks with nice warm campers, but I spied a site, that was out of the really wicked wind. And it was all grass. And still on the water. I went back and took one of the tent pegs already out of the ground, my hatchet, and went to see I could get the pegs in there. I think that was the first deciding factor. They went in with ease! So a possibility to relaunch. But could the fly be fixed? A Ranger was trying to find and recover all the garbage cans and recycle boxes that had blown everywhere in the wind! He laughed saying ‘you sure were in the wrong place with that wind! No protection there!’ I laughed too, with tears in my eyes.
Well off to the ranger station, to see if I could move to that site. All was cool there. Then the next, was moving it all – another strong vote for motelling raised it’s hand! But all was done by noon. And with that roll of duck tape I brought along, and the door and fly opening facing into the hill alongside, and out of catching the wind, I decided I could weather another day or two.
While I sat, for a breather, I thought “I want a friggin drink”! But a little early for this girl, so instead I packed up a snack, water, got the binoculars and the camera, and decided I was taking the Smokey Cape trail to the ocean today. Brian the Ranger at the park had suggested it. Said there were great views. I had also asked Brian about other wildlife in the area, and if they ever see moose in the park. He said not too much. And havent really seen a moose in the park for a long time.
So hopes dashed for a moose at my campsite I headed out. And the sun was shining, still a little cool, but not bad. A couple layers did the trick, with my rain jacket tied around my waist I set off.
Thank you Brian! It was a beautiful trail, and I turned back Into a happy human being! The landscape was wonderful, and the views to die for! I am not sure how long the trail was but it was lots of ups and downs, and steps, and rocks, and view after view! Then up high on the rocks, the bays leading to the campsite and the rivers ocean bound, and ocean, appeared. Such a sight! I sat and soaked it up for awhile. Then on towards the ocean I headed.
This time I had binoculars and my camera, and I hoped to see the piping plovers that are nesting there.
Then Brian and Arlene, another ranger drove by and stopped to talk. Laughing about my ordeal at the campsite. I thanked Brian for the recommendation of the trail and how beautiful it was. We went our separate ways. Ack at the campsite, I decided I was lazy to cook tonight. So an avocado, cheese, tomato, and onion sandwich was the order! And a glass of wine! Sigh! The wind was still pretty strong, not in your face strong, but I had had enough for the day, and moved my chair into the tent, and read for awhile. One thing with the cooler weather, there are no bugs yet – one vote for camping! So I could leave my door open and keep an eye outside. The birds are singing all around. Lots of robins everywhere! And I heard and saw a kingfisher today too.
Early to bed for this cowgirl. I think I put on near 25 km with all my moving and hiking. Hunkered down under the down comforter, on my lovely cot, I read a bit more and was sawing logs in no time.
Thursday May 31
Thursday dawned a lovely day. A nice slow start, coffee, eggs and toast, and watching the water run by my campsite. Yellow-rumped warblers in the trees over my head! Brian the Ranger stopped by this morning too. Apparently there was a moose in the campsite! Very close to where I was. He said, he had hoped to get a picture of-it with my tent in the background, and send it to me, ‘while you were sleeping’! but the moose deeked into the trees and he wasn’t able to. Maybe tonight I will hear him and get a glimpse. I have seen a beautiful coyote, and a couple rabbits, and along with the birds, that is all the wildlife I have seen so far.
I forgot to mention one thing, in regards to the morning I almost parachuted back to the mainland. One trick I tried was to move Boo to block the wind to make it easier to get the fly down. It didn’t work. But Boo has now been initiated into the “first scratch club”! Those back up screens are awesome, but you still need to use those side mirrors! The fire pit (which is a metal box, on a stand with a grate on top) managed to sneak into my route. Nothing terrible, just a wee scratch. Boo feels like a grown-up now!
So after my lazy start, I jumped in Boo, and headed to the Codroy Valley. There was a trail I found on the rainy day, when I went out for a drive on the backroads, after my rainy walk. That day it was really just to get in the car and get warmed up, but the drive was nice too. For those that know me well, you will laugh when I tell you, I had the heat jacked up, blower on high and seat heaters on! Oh but it felt nice!
Anyway I headed to a Wetlands trail I found. I was hoping that there might be a fallout of birds after the big wind. It was a beautiful walk/trail along an estuary. Camera and binoculars in tow, I saw magnolia warblers, black & white warblers, yellow warblers,yellow rumped warblers, and swainsen thrushes. They seem to be plentiful everywhere this spring. Also some ring necked ducks, a pair of american wigeons, a blue heron, and another bunch of ducks flying, that I think were pintails. And the cutest red squirrels who for awhile posed for me, but then I must have outstayed my welcome as they started yelling at me! So on I went. It was a slow cruise today. A break from the bigger hiking day yesterday. Ookie seems to love getting out in nature! The little bugger tried hiding on me in the marsh marigolds, but I finally found him! Ever since he wangled his way to the bridge on the ferry, he also seems to like getting into all sorts of mischief!
Friday June 1
Well Friday I got everything packed up and was on the road North. Rangers Arlene and Bryan dropped by to see me off! Told me to make sure I go to the Kitchen Party in Rocky Harbour! I stopped and filled up with gas and a few supples, just north of The Campground. It was one of the old fashioned non automated pump! Been awhile since I saw one of those. And they did all the work too! Nice!
The drive towards Gros Morne had some beautiful scenery! Stopped for a couple shots along the way. (I will post some photos in the “Newfoundland or Bust Image Galleryon my website when I get good wiFi) And at last to Berry Hill Campground! Thanks Arni Stinson from Orillia for the tip. Great spot! Close to Rocky Harbour for the kitchen party too! Woohoo!
Gros Morne is a National Park. Lots of snow still on the mountains here! Probably partly from the snow storm they had a week ago. I am not sure what the elevation is here, but I definitely was heading uphill on the way.
Got a nice site, and cursed my tent up. Almost got the cot fully together too this time, but I was tired of cursing, so let one last bar be. Why the heck do things have to be so hard to put together? I think I would have needed a winch to enable me to get that last bar in place. Sheeeshhh! Ah well isnt really necessary, so the heck with it! It hasn’t collapsed yet!
The night before I left Cheesman Park, I briefly me a lady from Ottawa. We met up again here at Berry Hill. She has one of those little teardrop campers you pull behind your car. Pretty cool…..or maybe I should say pretty warm! It has a furnace/heater. The back flips up to a built in kitchen area. The side door opens to a small space with cupboards, a bed, and a port-a- potty!
All luxuries – when you are living in a tent! And wearing your long-johns, toque, socks and mitts to bed!
o a lighthouse close by, in Rocky Harbour. Not sure of the name, but a good chance it was the Rocky Harbour Lighthouse! Walked a few short trails, and headed down to the rocky beach.for a bit. Then to a meadow where there was a good chance for moose. No luck. Saw two pretty big jack rabbits munching on the grass. Quite the size they are!
A little fishing village For sunset. Beautiful sunset. Not so much for colour, it was a golden glow, but the rocks and the reflections were pretty wonderful.
Saturday June 2
Had a great walk today around the “Beaver Pond trail”. It is about a two km hike around the little lake. It was supposed to rain, so I had put on all the rain gear, and got the camera’s in its rain gear-too. It didn’t rain. But I’m not complaining!
Saw a couple warblers – black throated green and yellow rumped. Swainsons thrushes. And toads. And Peeper frogs! The must have been a convention for peeper frogs! I have never been able to see them before. They always seem to stop peeping when I approach. But today they were everywhere, lolling and peeping on the top of the water, outstretched to the max. Feeling just like I was I guess.
I had a lovely sit on a rock by the water with another rock to lean back on. Watched the peepers float and scoot, float and scoot. A couple gulls carried on quite a conversation, on a rock across the way. There was a little sun so I soaked it up-for a good while. Sigh.
Once back at the campsite I cooked me up some Turkey thighs and veggies for dinner. Lit up my first camp fire, and settled into my camp chair, wrapped up in my blanket (inherited from Gert, my mother-in-law. She’s still taking good care of me! Jessie came over to join me. So we had laugh fest till all the wood went to ashes and then into the tent for the night!
Sunday June 3
Well lo and behold if there was a lovely sight to see in the morning! Opened the tent door to make my morning dash, everything was white! Yikes! I thought it was cold last night. Pretty - but friggin cold!
Today was a day to tour in the car – with the seat heaters on! Jessie was thinking the same thing, so we decided to go together. My turn to drive. We did a full day tour. Trout River, Woody Point, the Tablelands. Met some great folks! A side road off the Trans Canada with Woody Point our first stop. We were in the shop – ‘Hunky Dory, Folk Art and Things’. How could you not stop at a place called that spent some time looking at the local arts and crafts, and talking to the Artist there that did some interesting wood art. His wife did rug hooking. Lots of her own local patterns that were very Newfoundlandish. Got some photos of her work Joyce!
Mentioned I was in a tent. We all had a good laugh! He left and another artist came in to take over. All of a sudden the door opens a bit, a head pokes in, and this burly voice yells, ‘You the Lady in the Tent?’ He proceeded to tell me that he had a trailer out back. It has heat, power! I replied, so you figure you could make an easy sell huh? No, No he said. I don’t want to sell it! My Second thought (which I did not say out loud), was oh my! Well I probably don’t have to even tell you, you can guess what I thought! But all that got cleared up quickly when it was made clear that I was just welcome to use it if I wanted out of my tent and a warm place to sleep! The stories are true, they are so friendly and kind!
That was in Woody Point. We wandered around the town for a bit cute little town. Small village with lots of character. Time for a little bite to eat. Fish and chips again! Yummm! Then on to Trout
Saw my first moose here. Had my photo taken with it, and gave it a little kiss to say thanks. Yeah yeah, it was a statue of course.
Then headed down to the wharf to see the boats and views. But on the way, something caught my eye. I made a U-turn, headed back, and sure enough my eyes did not betray me! There poking their heads out the window, of a little house, were three cows! Unfortunately their ear tags did not have a number. It just said “Beef”. Their fate had been cast already. But I figured they could use a little loving, while they were still here, so went up to the window to give them some good scratches on their heads. Well there were not 3 cows, but six! Once the first one got a good scratch, the shoving started to get their turns. Such adorable little bulls. Then their was a squeal! And another squeal, then a real out break of squeals, as three little piggies came charging on a little door in the side of the house! Too cute.i headed over to-say hi to the little guys, but then the cows got upset, so after a little nose rub for the piggies and a little scratch, I head back to the cows-making sure each one gets another scratch and an ear rub, before we started to leave.
But Wait! There’s more! Then the chickens came running across the road! We asked them why, but they wouldn’t tell us their secret. After a little encouragement, the rooster came over and posed for a few photos. Seriously! Came right over in front of me not 2 feet away, and strutted and posed this way and that. So funny! Jessie was shaking her head by this time. So had to tell her my nick name – ‘Di-Doolittle!
On the road again, to the wharf. Windy as heck, when we got out to the far edge where it opens to the bay. Looked like all the boats were in today. Pretty sure I would not want to head out on that water today either? Lobster traps, crab traps.
Then it was off to the Tablelands. An amazingly beautiful stretch of oxidized rocks. Orangey, yellow rocks. There was a great trail here, maybe 2km one way, so we headed out on a hike to the end where there was a waterfalls. Really unique landscape. Some of the trail was along boardwalks. The rest on a rocky trail. This area is famous for the uniqueness of its geology. The wind on the way back was straight on and in your face! And Cold! So the decision was, we should go for some soup. Another great little restaurant, this one in Woody Point.
it was still pretty dang cold out, and now it was about 7:30 pm. Neither one of us wanted to head back to our cold sleeping quarters, so we decided we would head to the Kitchen Party in Rocky Harbour. It was great fun! Right off the bat, Jessie had a couple from New Brunswick - Rod and Brenda, laughing (probably shaking their head at us at first, but laughing to be polite I think). But soon, they got as crazy as us and we had some good laughs together. after that we were fast friends!. Then the show started, with A Newfoundlander playing his guitar and singing, then pulling up some of the folks up to tell a story or sing a song. Then he got us all up doing a jigg. Too much fun! And then it was time for those who wished, to get ‘Screeched In’. Well I was driving so unfortunately I had to decline this time. But Rod would have none of this, so secretly he had it all arranged, that I would get screeched in and they would slip in pepsi instead of Screech! Then I learned this was the ceremony that included Kissing the Cod! Too late now, so up I went with the rest of the folk!
We had to recite “the Pledge”, dance a little jig, sing a song, throw back the screech, kiss the cod and sing oh Canada! This is not an easy feat - all this! But certified I am! Except I haven’t really Screeched yet, so I would imagine I will have to do a repeat on that part!
It was only about a ten minute drive to the campground from the Kitchen Party, and about 11:30 we headed home. I dropped Jessie off, looped around and parked the car at my little oasis, and headed to the washroom before I jumped into bed. Well by the time I made it back, and was zipped into my tent, I decided taking off any clothes would be a mistake. So I tugged my toque down over my ears, pulled my
And there was another day of adventure finished in style!
Monday June 4
Well another day dawned early, starting with the birds singing their morning songs….at 3:30 am! Sunrise is at around 5 am, so they must like to get an early start. Of course when you wake up even just a little bit, and it is cold, that friggin bladder wakes up too. But no 200 yard dash for me this time! Just get the boots on, undo the zipper (that never opens easily when you have to pee), and behind the tent I went. It was not raining or snowing, the sky was clear, the stars were out in all their glory- which translates to being it was clear, and ‘ dag-nam freezing’, and that resulted into a quick retreat back under the duvet!
Slept a little later this morning. Mostly it was too cold to get out of bed! But also because tomorrow I am heading to Deer Lake to meet up with the photo group, and I want to start off well rested!
These workshops are usually pretty exhausting as you get up early to photograph Sunrise, which is currently 5:20am and we have to get somewhere and set up for that sunrise ( which usually means leaving an hour earlier!). And we finish at about an hour after sunset – which pm. (Then we have get back home). And then all day long you find all those other neat places to explore and photograph. And somehow in there somewhere, find time to eat and sleep.
Laundry was on order. Then, clean and organize the car, and pack my bag and camera gear for the photo trip. Don’t want to have to do much more that take down the tent, and store the camping gear in my car top Thule, in the morning.
Once that was done, jessie and I headed to Western Brook around 1:30, to hike the trail back to a small lake. Just so beautiful! About an hour or so one way. Wonderful photo opportunities along the way. A lovely sit in the sun on the lake. A little snack, then the hike back.
We both headed home for dinner, then a little more packing up for us both, as Jessie is heading east tomorrow to Twillingate, and I’m off to Deer Lake. Then we got out the leftover wine, a little Kalua and Bailey’s, around one more campfire before we part ways. We really had fun together these last few days! Jessie was the best tour guide, and hiker, and loads of fun! Will miss exploring with her! Thanks Jessie, from Ottawa! It was a Blast! Travel Safe!
Tuesday June 5
Packed up the tent first thing. (another plus for the motelling plan!) frigg! it is a pain! Got everthing away, ready to head to Deer Lake. Unfortunately couldn’t get the key out of the Thule, which also translates as it wouldn’t lock. You cant take the key out until the lock is engaged. And it just would not engage!
Finally I just left the key in the dam thing, and headed out! If I couldn’t get it out, it is unlikely to fall out right? Stopped to pay the ranger for my last night. There were a few guys con-flabbing with the ranger at the park entrance, so I figured they might be a good group to challenge to get that pod locked and get my key out.
So I laid out the challenge, set up my little foot stool for them so they could reach, told them they didn’t have long as I had to make it to Deer Lake by noon! I did acknowledge, that I figured they were probably all pretty smart engineer types, so it shouldn’t take them long. I headed off with Rob the Ranger, to pay my bill, and left them to it. They were still at it when I returned. I asked them what the hold up was? And ‘ Jimminy Cricket’, if they didn’t figure it out, and pull that key out of the locked pod, toss it to me, and tell me to have a safe trip! It was awesome! Thanks guys!
Camping just got back in the books again! Mind you it does help to know I would be spending the next 8 nights in a cozy next too a warm bathroom!
Off I headed north to the meeting place – Marble Mountain Inn, just north of Deer Lake. Stopped to gas up, and made it just there just a little past noon. We couldn’t check in till 4pm. Met Kathy from Rochester New York, one of the workshop participants. Kevin Pepper – the workshop leader, and John from Albuquerque New Mexico, returned from Tim’s. Kathy left to take back her rental car. We headed in to the little breakfast nook, where I got a coffee and a couple tasty-treats, and set up to write more on my blog. Joanne from Montreal came down from her room. Soon it was time to pick up Joe from Toronto, at the Deer Lake Airport. And we all went together.
After that we headed back to the Inn and checked into our rooms. Dropped off our bags, and then met for Dinner Downstairs. We got to know each other a bit during dinner, but shortly thereafter it was off to bed, because the fun begins tomorrow morning at 4am, and we are headed out for our first sunrise shoot!
Wednesday June 6
That am alarm was a pretty rude awakening! But all were on time, and off we headed off in the dark, camera gear all stowed in the back of our van. This morning’s shoot was at a Lark Harbour. Beautiful colours and a lovely setting! Once there, the early morning woes disappeared and the colours just kept getting more beautiful by the minute. Purples and pinks and a lovely setting. After the sun rose and the colours faded, we headed off.
I had the front seat of the van today. It is a six seater with a Thule pod on te top like mine. We were heading off to the next photo site -a fishing village - when up ahead I saw a moose! I grabbed onto Kevins’s arm -our driver and workshop-leader - and yelled ‘Moose!”. Kevin slammed on the breaks and saw the moose too, then I realized it was a statue, then Kevin did, and everyone else saw it by now too. We both groaned. Then we all graoned. Out first Moose sighting and it had to be a statue. We were still all laughing about it, when the dam thing ran off! That was the one that got away! It took us awhile to stop laughing over that one!
We headed to a fishing village and tuned our eyes and cameras to capturing abstracts, well a few if us did, and of course the fisherman and their boats etc. It was a fun exercise. I said good morning to an older fisherman as he was driving by slowly. he stopped and we had a long conversation about this and that. By the end of it, I was-starting to understand what he was saying! The dialect here , especially in the fishing villages, is very musical and words are melded together! What added to the challenge of understanding, and catching the odd word, was that he only had two teeth. But he was a great guy and we had a few laughs.Then off for a little lunch in woody Point?
At And off to another location. On the way Kathy spotted a moose, and we turned around, parked, and crept up slowly taking insurance shots as we went. This big fellow was ever so accommodating! We must have had close to ½ hour with him. He continued to eat the marsh grasses, looking up at us every now and then, bit didn’t seem too stressed with us there, so we moved a little closer, closer, closer! We were probably a couple hundred yards away when we settled in to watch and shoot. It was amazing.
Then we left our buddy in peace, and headed off to Lobster Cove Lighthouse. Great trails, and perspectives for photography. Fiddle heads everywhere ripe for the picking. Sea views from atop the rocks and even a few jack rabbits. They are big! And right at the end of our time there, a Boreal Chickadee flew in and landed on a branch near me, and posed for a photo – a lifer fro me! On to Rocky Harbour, for sunset. Unfortunately, that was a bust as the clouds rolled in thick. So we headed back to the Cabins in Middle Brook. Did a little water fall photography, experimenting with shutter speeds . Then we put together a great Bbq and relaxed for the evening. Then hit the sack to be ready for another day.
Then to Lobster Cove Lighthouse. Great trails, and neat perspectives for photography. You can get all-the way down to the shore, or walk through the tuckamores ( spruce trees bent and entangled by the wind) to some incredible sea-views. There were Fiddle heads everywhere, ripe for the picking. Wonderful sea views from atop the rocks and even a few jack rabbits. They are big! I bet their feet are size 11! And right at the end of our time there, a Boreal Chickadee flew in and landed on a branch near me, and posed for a photo – a lifer for me!
Then we headed to Western Brook Pond. I did this hike with Jessie earlier, but this time I was able to focus a little more on photographing. Great tuckamores here too! “One tree Rob” ( a photo friend) you would be in your Glory! While we were there, we thought we might get a good sunset, but the clouds were moving in thick along the horizon. But a couple loons started calling and while at first they swam away, when the light was low and soft, they swam back and gave us a few opportunities to photograph them before we left.
On the way back to our cabins, we stopped again at Lobster Cove Lighthouse, and tried a little night photography and light painting. It was a Bust for me, as I have not done enough photographing in the dark to feel knowledgable of what settings I should use, etc. But I tried for awhile, then gave up and wandered back to the vehicle where Kevin, our leader, was waiting for us.
And off to bed!
Friday June 8
Sunrise wasn’t looking like it would be worth the early hour rising, so we all had a sleep in. This morning it was time to pack up once again, and start our journey north to Port Aux Chois where we will stay one night.
As we left, Kathy said to the group – whoever finds us some caribou to photograph gets a free dinner! Right around the next curve, there they stood, as if they had been expecting us! Three full size caribou, molting their white winter coats. Another large male was wandering in along side a small lake in the background. There are not a lot of places that you are able to pull off on this stretch of road, but Lo and behold – if there wasn’t a pull-out right there across the road from them. Perfect setting too! We had quite awhile with these amazing animals!
It made me pretty excited about my fall trip up north to Nunavut, for the caribou migration! And a really nice surprise is, that Kathy is also going on that trip, so we have already arranged to be roommates.
Then it was off to photograph some abandoned dories. Not really my cuppa, but I have to-say, once I put my mind to it, I really enjoyed it, and I think I might have captured a couple of nice images too.
Saturday June 9
The morning dawned again, with no sunrise, so we packed up, had breakfast at the hotel and headed up the west coast towards our next stop, Quirpon Island (pronounced Karpoon) We had to make it by 4 to catch our zodiac over to the island.
On down the road to more shores lined with pack ice and small ice bergs. One had a likeness of Daffy Duck! Newfoundland’s Disney World!
Now meals here are a blast! All those staying here ate together family style, and the lovely ladies put together a feast for us every meal! And they were so much fun too! So many fun folk met over our meals during our three days here and before and after meals as we continued our chats around the table or in the living room. It was such a wonderful atmosphere.
Sunday June 10
Back for lunch. Boy these ladies put on the spread every meal!
In the afternoon, We then got ourselves dressed up warm for our 1st of Zodiac tours off shore to get up close to the icebergs. It was amazing! We worked our way around a few good sized bergs, and then wondered if we could get out to the big one out there a ways, before our time was up. Paul, our zodiac pilot, and Trina the first mate, got us secured in the back of the zodiac holding on tight, and Paul put the pedal to the metal and we took off almost airborne, towards the behemouth out thar! It was maybe 10 km away. And wow as we got closer we realized she was even larger that first thought! Estimated at 200 feet tall, and a long journey around. Spectacular. The etchings and colours on the ice berg were so incredible. I remember how much I loved the blues of the ice and water in Antarctica, and it was so like that here. We could only get so close to these bergs today as there is always a chance for them to calve or even turn over, which could cause us lots of grief should we be too close!
It seemed Time was up way to soon, and we high-tailed it back to our island for Jiggs Dinner! It was very good!
The meal most typically consists of salt beef (or salt riblets), boiled together with potatoes, carrot, cabbage, turnip, and cabbage or turnip greens. Pease pudding and figgy duff are cooked in pudding bags immersed in the rich broth that the meat and vegetables create. Condiments are likely to include mustard pickles, pickled beets, cranberry sauce, butter, and a thin gravy made from the drippings of the roasted meat.
Apparently a polar bear had been sighted on the mainland along the shore. We were warned to not wander too far, as it would just be a quick swim for our polar friend to make to our little island.
But after dinner, there looked like a sliver of a possibility of a pretty sunset out there, so Kathy and I headed out onto the helicopter pad. Unfortunately Joanne had sprained her ankle and was taking it easy, otherwise I am sure she would be out there with us. We kept our eyes open while photographing. It turned out to be a beautiful evening with nice colours and compositions. Kathy was shooting more wide angle shots, while I used my telephoto, and picked out smaller areas for more detailed shots. One of the wonderful things about photography is everyone sees things in a different way and it opens tour eyes to trying different angles. After a couple hours we were getting pretty chilly and the colours and light was fading, so we headed in, downloaded our images, and caught up on other tasks.
Off in the distance you could hear the giggles start in the back rooms – the staff quarters. Well let me tell you, they had me laughing pretty hard hearing their stories! They thought we had all gone to bed! They were a little surprised when they saw Kathy and I still up when they came out to turn off the lights. Then we all laughed together for a bit!
Monday June 11
The girls were housed in the main building, each with our own room and washroom. So we did not have to go out unless we wanted to, just make it downstairs for our meals. Had a little relaxing time shooting around the rocks before lunch, watching the pack ice move quickly past. And focusing on little plants, and details in the rocks too.
Another fabulous lunch, then Kevin announced that anyone who wanted their sensors cleaned, could come on down to his cabin. That resulted in a comment from one of the other guests…..” So that’s what they are calling it these days!” Well that cracked me up as well as everyone else! Sensor cleaning will never be the same again! But we headed off to do just that, as I was noticing quite a few dust spots on my photos. (This is a delicate cleaning task of cleaning the parts inside the camera where dust or specks of stuff had managed to get in when changing lenses etc. They show as little spots when you are looking at your images, and result in extra work cloning them out in post processing.)
Then come around 4 pm, it was time for our second zodiac tour around the icebergs. While yesterday there were a number of large ones near enough to get to, the wind had blown them off on their way south. So today was all about the smaller ones and the details in the blues. It really was beautiful getting up close and personal with these large pieces of ice. Today I also took my telephoto and did lots of detail work on the shapes, patterns, and shades of blue. And as we were not having to worry so much about them tipping or calving, we could get really close! The hour and a half ride flew by. And we zoomed back to the island for another delicious meal and a fun gathering of travellers.
We had another great night with the other guests at dinner and after, lounging around. It is fun meeting so many great people, from different locations, when you travel. So many fun stories! And of course the makings for new tales to tell!
Tonight I tried again to clear up my confusion of the cards and downloads, but just got frustrated again! So processed a few that turned out pretty nice, and that lifted my spirits back up again. Then upstairs to pack up our things for tomorrow morning’s departure.
Thanks all of you at Quirpon! You made the days spent there so awesome!
We were the first group to head back to the mainland this morning. Paul and Trina, came with a zodiak full of supplies. After unloading that, they had to load all our luggage and camera gear. And then we said our goodbyes, a few more hugs and we were on our way. It will be a Long drive back to Deer Lake today, but we have a few things to see first. Lanse-aux-Meadows, a recreation of a viking village with people dressed in the costumes of the time and sharing the history and stories . This is a National Park and also a Unesco heritage site. Then another Viking Village. Developed by the locals. A replica of the ship that sailed here from. There were a few old Dorys there too, and we took a bit of time to photograph them as well. Then as we headed south, we had a few stops along the way to photograph icebergs, and other cool sights. Not for long though, as we had a long way to go. But we did stop at Flower Cove, for a quick grid search for my glasses. And just as we were about to give up, Kathy spotted them! Woohoo! Thanks Kathy, and everyone for helping out! We also saw our Daffy Duck iceberg again, but this time there was an arch in it. Not sure if we saw it from a different angle, or if it had melted on its journey southward. Although it is probably unlikely it melted as I don’t think it got warm enough to melt! I certainly didn’t!
But come dark we finally made it to Deer Lake and our rooms at the Marble inn. We were all pretty darn tired! We said goodbye to each other then, as a few were heading to the airport at 5 am. Then I snuggled in to my last motel room for a bit!
Thursday June 14
So for one more night, Ookie and I were warm and cosy! And as I drifted off, the wind was howling, so I was sure glad to be where I was, and had a big smile on my face knowing I did not have to curse the tent up in that wind!
The provincial park is about ½ hour out of town. Yes, I am still cursing it up! I think i need to get one of those tents that you throw in the air and it pops open and is all ready to move in when it lands! Really! I heard there is such a thing!
I really had a great visit with Cynthia. We chatted for a couple hours, enjoying the sunshine. She works from her place here in the summer months, but her home base is in Tenessee. She was fixing her home up to retire here permanently. It is a beautiful spot.
So I headed around the north twillingate back- roads and popped into Sleepy Cove. Cindy mentioned this was one of her favourite coves. And I could see why! It was a beautiful view! And the sun was still out and I think it was 17 degrees! Unheard of since I arrived here! So I just plopped myself down, and soaked it up for awhile. It was then I noticed, two huge Cell Towers up on the hill. And by golly, if I didn’t have four bars on my phone! So I could finally give a call to Donna and Eric Weiler outside Parry Sound! Had a nice chat with both Donna and Eric, and then sent a few texts to others too, to let them know I was still alive and well!
Then I took to the back roads again, pulling into the little coves along the way. Such a pretty area! Then it was time to head back to camp.
Well that sunshine with its clear skies made for a very cold night. By the time I was back to my campsite, the temp had dropped significantly. The wind was up a bit, and the air was down right cold! So I put my long-johns, fleece, toque and mitts back on, wrapped myself up in Mom’s blanket, got out the coleman stove and cooked my dinner! Brrrr! But there was a beautiful sunset, that I enjoyed after dinner, sitting on the rocks – still wrapped up in my blanket. Then it was time for bed. There was really no getting ready for bed, as I just crawled in as I was, because even the thought of taking off any layer chilled me even more than I already was!
So in my long underwear, outer layer, fleece, toque and mitts, and thick socks, I slid into the sleeping bag, pulled the toque down over my ears, and the down comforter over my head and wondered …. ‘WTF was I doing!’ Ah well it is all part of the adventure! And it is still fun…..well most of the time!
Saturday June 16
Today I was hoping to meet up with John and Julie. They were heading over to Fogo Island for the day but would return around 4. So I wandered the backroads towards the ferry terminal so I would end up there around the time they returned. On the road there,I noticed the car in front of me had stopped on the crest of the hill? I slowed right down, and inched towards him, and lo and behold there standing in the road in front of the car was a moose! He wandered back and forth in front of the car, then as the car started to very slowly move along the road, the moose kept pace for quite a way, running alongside the car! I stayed way back so as not to spook the moose, but managed to get a couple shots off through the windshield of the car and moose together. Too funny. I’ll post the pic later. Eventually the moose headed off the road and sauntered into the trees.
It was a pretty nice day again. In the 2 digit temps! I think maybe it was 12-14 degrees! It was like the tropics!
I Looked out for a place to meet up – like a pub or a restaurant, but in the tiny villages around there I guess everyone parties and eats at home! There was not even a spot at the ferry, to sit and visit, so I checked out the surrounding towns/ illages to no avail. So I invited them to scoot over to my campsite for a glass of wine or a beer. They declined saying they were not dressed for outdoors, so we would try to hook up tomorrow instead.
Lucky for them, they had declined! The temperature dropped and the wind came up and man oh man, was it cold again! Frost warnings tonight. As soon as I got home, I donned the long-johns, and three more layers, toque and mitts, and figured I would make the best of it. I thought about a fire, but even with that I could tell it was going to be just too cold. I actually sat in my car for a bit out of the cold wind! So then I set up myself in my tent, with my snacks and foods and a little nip to warm the blood, and moved into my tent, nestled into my chair, wrapped myself up in my blanket, and read for a bit.
Come time for bed, it seemed unthinkable to take even one layer off! So I just climbed into my sleeping bag with all the layers, and once again pulled the down comforter over my head, and slipped away into my arctic dreams.
Sunday June 17
And then Julie’s sister called out ‘Whales’! And there, coming into the little port, swam two whales! They swam in and swam out! Very cool to see. So we headed down to the town again, and thought we would head across the bay where the whales had come in. The road dead-ended, and it was private property, so we were about to turn around, when a fella walked around the side of the house. So I said hello and had a little chat. Then mentioned we were trying to get out to the bay where we had seen the whales. Well then the adventure was on, and he and his Buddy, showed us the overgrown path, and led us out to the rocks. There was lots of stories to be told by the two, and jokes, and more stories! Again, the friendliest folks are from Newfoundland! After a long chat, at this beautiful spot, we headed back to our cars.
Here i said goodbye to the fabulous four, and headed on my way to Bonavista.
Well I finally made it to Bonavista, maybe around 7:30 pm. The wind was pretty wild and it looked like rain, and while there was enough time to set up camp before dark, a warm bed seemed to be way more fun, so I went on a hunt for a B&B. My first call was no Vacancy, as was the second call. That call was to Puffins Landing. Keith, the owner, said, no I have no rooms, but I’ll phone around and see if I can find you a room. let me call you back! Can you see what I mean about the kindness of the people of The Rock!?
And Keith found me a room, the last one available in town apparently! Lucky me! So of I went, tucked into my room, and Ookie and I snuggled under the homemade quilts, warm for the night! And as I drifted off to sleep, I thought to myself, “I Love warm beds and no work and no wind!
And the winner is B&B and Motels!
Monday June 18
I awoke slowly, knowing that I was not going to camp if I could help it, so when I went down for Breakfast, I asked if I could stay another night. Unfortunately, they were booked up😥. But they had an opening for tomorrow night.
Now that motelling had won the competition, I really didn’t want to put up the tent, but knew it was maybe my fate.
But she called over to Keith at Puffin’s Landing B&B. Once again Keith called around. And told them to just send me over he may have a room.
So finally I get to meet Keith! He had told them he had a cancellation. In fact, there were no rooms available at any of the B&Bs in the area. But keith had called his neighbour, and they had offered me their grand-daughter’s room for a couple nights! I mean how cool is that!
Thank you so much Keith at Puffin’s Landing B&B! You will always be my first call when I plan my return! And I can see from the reviews online he has been the same kind soul to many others that have come this way!
So I Moved into Jacinda’s room! Ookie, met Miss Piggy, who shared the room with us and they hit it off right away. And I met met Gord and Rhonda, my lovely hosts! I unpacked a few things. It turned out to be a beautiful day and I didn’t want to waste a minute! Sunshine, lovely skies, and a reasonable temperature! So I headed out to see the puffin colony.
I still had my toque on, but really it had become such a permanent fixture, that I felt naked without it! (Plus my hat-hair was a just Little too wild at this point!) but the wind was still blowing and the gloves and toque were nice.
I moved from one spot to the next, and finally settled into a spot near the edge over the water. Watching them fly by and out and back. Watched their interaction and mating rituals (and a little Jiggy-jiggy!) and captured as many moments as I could from where I sat. Then I heard someone say –“ beside you! Beside you!”. I looked to my right, and there maybe 6 feet away, a puffin had landed on the edge, and was checking out whether I was a threat I guess. I slowly turned my camera towards him and while I couldn’t get him completely in the frame with my long lens on, fully extended, I captured a few great portraits of him! Then I realized I could zoom out – not in, and get him full frame! Pretty awesome! And he flew off, but returned again! So I moved back away from the edge, to give him more space and less worry, hoping he would come back and be more relaxed.
And with the few others around me, we were amazed at how amazing it was. He came back again, this time as there was more room, he came inland a bit, pulling grass for nesting material (I think that is what he was doing). And he returned again and again, pulling more grass and weeds, and then even a few dandelions! Now there was a picture!
Then a few more started landing along the edge, and interacting with each other, not too concerned about the photographers and other visitors watching. It was pretty magical!
I think I spent 3-4 hours there. Even took the gloves off at one point! The sun felt warm! Then slowly I made my way back to my car, stopping along the way as I now noticed how beautiful the scenery was of the island and the sea there. The wide angle came out, and I captured some of the vistas as I went.
Back in town, I had only a bit of light left, so headed off for a restaurant meal. Hoping for lobster maybe. I ended up at Skipper’s Restaurant. While they did have lobster, they told me it would be quite a wait. So I went with the fishermans platfer. Cod, Scallops, shrimp and…..Cod tongues! Yep I had to try them, even if I wondered what the poor cod would say about it, if they still had their tongues.
Hey here’s a newfie saying…
But dang, everything was delicious! Even the cod tongues!
Totally satisfied after a wonderful day and delicious meal, I headed back to my warm cozy home. Motelling/B&Bing, may have got the trophy, but I was the one feeling like the Winner!
I Enjoyed a glass of wine and a great visit with my hosts, then off to put ookie and myself to bed.
Tuesday June 19
Well the day did not dawn as lovely as yesterday, rainy and cold again. Sooo grateful for my sunny day yesterday, with the puffins!
So it was backroads tripping today. Visiting lots of little nooks and crannies, galleries and craft shops etween Bonavista and Trinity to the south. I had hoped to hike the skerwink trail, but the rain was coming down just too hard, so Boo and I and Ookie, just wandered some more.
Headed back to Bonavista at the end of the day, and once again headed beck to Skippers. The fishermans platter was so good last night, that I ordered it again! And oh! I forgot to mention the Scrunchies! No not the hair elastics. Scrunchies are fried pork fat bits, that are scattered over the fisherman’s platter! Good thing I am walking lots!
Visited with Gord and Rhonda again for awhile then off to bed. Sigh, so nice and easy to just crawl into a ready made bed -and in just my sleeping shirt! This is the life!
I got on the road early today from Bonavista to St. john’s. Said goodbye to my wonderful B&B hosts, Rhonda and Gord. My plan was to hike the skerwink trail on the way south. But unfortunately I took the wrong turn into the wrong cove along the way, and ended up missing it. So I arrived in St Johns around 1:30 pm.
Here I was welcomed into the home of a couple, Joanne Duff and Daniel Anstey, whom I met in Costa Rica in March of 2017 when I was there visiting with my sister in law Wendy for a few weeks. Now I have to say, that you would think the way I was welcomed, we had know each other for years! Yet in reality we spoke only a few times during the time I was there. But as I have been shown over the last month on my travels throughout this beautiful Province hospitality and friendliness is surely in the Genes of these wonderful folks!
No more camping for this girl! Woohoo! But today and the next couple days would probably have been awesome weather for it finally! Sunny and warm – dang near hot! I was fed an amazing dinner, and dessert, then we walked downtown to “The Rooms”. This is a Museum in St. john’s. It was fascinating. And to boot we all got senior rates! Sometimes getting older, has its benefits right! (Did I mention, I got my application form for my Old Age Pension before I left!)
We wandered back home, making plans for the next days adventures. Visited a little longer, and getting to know each other a bit better. It was so comfortable that you would think we had always know each other!
Then it was once again time to crawl into a comfy cozy bed. Windows open, and the ocean breezes flowing through!
Thursday June 21
Today, after a delicious breakfast, Dan and Joanne Duff toured me around St Johns. the sun was, out and the temperatures up, and we walked 15+ km! What a beautiful city! Along the waterfront, up and down the citys-centre streets, into numerous galleries , The famous George St. Bannerman park, and so much mote.And we had to stop for Moo-Moo ice cream! Yes it was warm enough to want ice-cream! With tired toggs, we headed home, where I sat back while they cooked me an awesome meal of Cod aux Gratin and fresh salad. (I could get used to this!)
But wait there's more! After dinner it was off to Cape Spear Lighthouse - the most easterly point in North America. There a Minke whale surfaced over and over again to say hello, and the gannets put on their synchronized diving show!
And a little more dessert, because we earned it with all our walking today! And down for the count after another incredible day!
Friday June 22
Today was another walking tour day. We headed out to Quidi-Vidi today. A good long walk. Down the hill from their place, around half of the lake in the downtown, and into the fishing village. First we hiked up to a lookout over the harbour. It was great weather for walking. Warm enough to wear short sleeves and no jacket, and an ocean breeze (not a gale!) to keep the sweat to a minimum. Loverly! Then down into the harbour village, heading back along the other side of the lake, towards home. I have to admit, I was starting to lag behind these two! I had brought my camera with 18-24 lens, and other photo needs. But unfortunately I had taken out the card to download the night before. So I lugged that puppy all day, with narry a photo taken – except on my iPhone!
On the climb back up we stopped a chases for Fish&chips. The with full bellies slugged our way back up the hill to home.
18+ km today!
Tonight was leftovers and a homemade Lemon pie from Chases. Yum!
And music night in the living room! Music was played, Songs were sung, dances danced and a good Newfoundland time was had by all!
October 3, 2015
It is only 9 more sleeps and I am off on another adventure! Once again I am heading to the Southern Hemisphere, but this time to the other extreme for temperature. Yes we're off to Africa!
My good friend Brenda, and I, are joining Photographer Greg Downing from Naturescapes, for a three part photography workshop expedition. The first leg of the trip will take us to Madagascar, the second to Tanzania, and the third to Uganda. This is going to be a trip of a lifetime!
Departure day is October 12th. Once again I will do my best to write about our adventure as we go, and will post here on my blog, whenever we have access to the Internet.
Stay tuned for stories from the Wild Side!
I know I was a little frazzled when we started in London, after trying to pack the whole kaboodle – probably twenty times over the last couple days – and I think I was darn near fried when we finally arrived at the destination of our first adventure in Africa!
But we made it safe and sound to Madagascar! It was a very long trip, starting in London Ontario at 3pm on October 12th. It was about 3am Madagascar time October 13th, when our heads finally hit the pillows at our hotel.
We have arrived! in the late hours of the 13th, we landed in Antananarivo, the capital of the island of Madagascar. it was an airport like many I have arrived in. two planes arriving at the same time - 11:30 pm - the small airport absolutely packed with people and no one knowing for sure. what line up to get into. well line up might be a little far-fetched! it was basically a free for all with everyone looking for what they thought was the best direction to try and hoping for the best. we managed to catch the eye of an officer? and found out which "line" we should go for as we already had our visa and then it was the hurry up and wait thing. first window we passed muster and were allowed to proceed, second window, once again we did good. then we needed to pick up our luggage. it took a long while but all arrived in tact, and we were off to go through customs. not expecting to be three times lucky, we were waved over by one of the officers, but with another flick of his wrist, he just sent us on through without a second look!
Even better our guide and driver was there to pick s up! it was now about 115 am on the 14th. We left London ON on the 12th at 3 pm from London ON. Saw his sign right a way, but not before we had 3 porters grabbing our carts despite our objections! thinking we might have a fight on our hands, we connected quickly with our driver and the 6 of us were now a close knit little group. neither Brenda or I wanting to relinquish control or possession of our things, we all held tightly to the handle of the carts! off to the exchange desk where we changed our U dollars into Madagascar Airiary. it was then we watched as our carts headed for th door! I don't know what Brenda was thinking at that moment, but my stomache flipped over! the saving grace was our guide stayd with them, and the tummy flopped back into place.
off to the hotel we headed, after one of the porters tried to tell me we needed to pay 6 euros! not funny anymore, so I quickly told them I have no euros and remained silent till the bags were all loaded in the car. passed him 5000 ariary and jumped in and shut the door! sounds like a lot, but it is only $1.75.
Ah but it was nice to get into the hotel room! we hardly said a word as we went through our own unpacking and organizing, and other than a few moans, groans and other unintelligible sounds got er done! then we opened the bottle of wine we bought in duty free, and sat and acknowledged each other, as we often do, with a salute to the beginning of our adventure. A few more things organized as we sipped, and by 3 am our heads hit the pillow and we were both probably snoring by3:01!
While the flights all worked pretty well, Both Brenda and I have had our moments leading up to the day we left London. Brenda's new Camera had to take a quick trip to Toronto Canon Emergency for a fix - covered under warranty. while she was there she dropped off our visa applications for Madagascar. at least the trip was not too bad, as the camera was covered under warranty and the visa required a trip to TO anyway. but not sure the time frame in which the camera would be fixed was a little worrisome. meanwhile I ot my laptop out to take with me and realized it would not allow upgrades and it was clear the other larger laptop, weighing in ant close to 15 lbs - -it really was old! was not going to make the trip. so it was off to get a new computer with just a few days left before we left. Meanwhile Brenda also came to the same realization. Thanks to friends" input and suggestions, I finally ended up at Canad Computers on Wellington Rd and they had just what the doctor ordered! so I said - Ill take two!!!
Ah, but they only had one.and every one of their stores were back-ordered!
so the adventure to find another was activated. and when talking to ASUS - the computer company, they couldn't ship to Canada. in the US they directed us to Amazon where there were 4 of this very computer, and the warranty was covered. but oh yes they cannot ship to Canada! of course not! thankfully we have a mail drop in Port Huron so another trip was made to pick it up. that was friday before we left! Brenda got hers hooked up readying it .for the trip when she noticed the dam thing wasn't charging. so Saturday was a trip to Canada Computers, only to find out it was a bad battery and it was pooched. but no worries, they can order in a battery and it would be here in three weeks. Right
now the call to ASUS warranty department. not much better. so for Brenda her old clunker made the trip, the rest will be dealt with when we return. so those two events along with an order Brenda was waiting for from Groupon that came in at the last minute. a lovely iPad case and an Otter case for her phone. both arrived in time. but they were the wrong order! so that was Brenda's three!
Then it was my turn. The day before while packing, I could not find my one lens. no idea where the heck it was. key to this trip of course! a mild panic began to brew. an hour or so later, I remembered lending it to Brenda to try with one of my cameras way back. I called and tentatively asked with hope in my voice. YES! yahoo. And then the night before, my packing almost done, I scooted downstairs to get my tripod out of the trunk of my car.
A more serious panic was welling up inside. where the blank was it? Again that space between the knowing and not knowing dragged on until finally I remembered I had taken it and a bunch of other things out of my trunk at the Aeolian hall to enable me to pick up 7 cellos and a couple violins. so it was at the Aeolian Hall. but it was a holiday weekend. no one answered my email that night. as early as possible in the morning, I started calling folks and final Bryan came through and me there at 10 Am. I picked it up, zipped home rearrange my suitcase to get it in and my friend picked me up at 12:30 for the Airport. a little close for me!
but wait there"s more! flight to TO was all cool. arrived and had lots of time absolutely no one at security and we breezed through. made it over to our gate sat down, ordered a drink. where was my iPad? back on the plane! want to guess what I said? Yes. over and over and over! that was my three. and to make a long story short, all worked out in the end. it was found, I needed to head down to arrivals to the lost and found to pick it up, and then back to the gate. I did not breeze through security this time. probably a couple miles long. OK with me though, as still lots of time and I was thankful - on Thanksgiving Day! but Brenda now guarding all our things was bursting at the seams! very happy to see me when I finally arrived. not that she waited to say anything to me!
So, we have both had our "Three" so I am thinking we are good to go for the rest of the trip!
Anyway, we are here, safe, content, and laying low, snoozing and organizing ourselves and our gear bags for the trip starting tomorrow - Friday - with Greg and the rest of the folks on the Madagascar leg of the trip.
Ciao for now folks! will write again soon!
We both had a fitful sleep last night. Brenda’s cold finally got the better of her, and I was just out of sync with the time. I was awake a lot but resting, but had finally got into a decent sleep around 2 am. At 3 am this incredible sound started creeping into my unconsciousness. Musical but intrusive, it finally lifted me back into consciousness, pulled out my earplugs to the realization that it was the phone. It was Not like any ring I have heard before. It might have been a lovely melodious sound, but at 3 am it was definitely not! With me half asleep and the night staffs gentle voice on the other end trying in her best English to inform me what the call was about, I thought it finally was becoming clear, that she had mistaking lay called the wrong room.
In the meantime, Brenda had been awaken by knocking on the door. As she was sleeping closer to the door, she got up to see who was there. Unwilling to open the door, she stood there on our side of the wooden barrier, questioning what the hell was going on. My call was ending now with sincere apologies from the gentle female voice, but I hear from our door, that a conversation had ensued with a stronger male voice and Brenda. I hear a tone of voice of surprise, and then a little laughter and the conversation ending. Apparently the front desk had thought someone else was in this room. Also part of this tour,” Svenda from Sveden” was looking for his roommate and was directed to #5, our room. As Brenda later explained, she finally did open the door, Svenda surprisingly said – “I Don't think I am rooming with you!”. Brenda replied in agreement with that statement, and hence the laughter.
Yesterday Brenda and I hired a local Taxi to take us on a tour of Tana,the capital city of Madagascar. The great staff of the Combava Hotel helped us find someone willing that could also speak English. At 1 pm Roman arrived to take us on our little excursion. We headed off down the road toward the city – our hotel is about 10 km out of town.
Well we made it safe and sound to Madagascar! It was a very long trip, starting in London Ontario at 3pm on October 12th. It was about 3am Madagascar time October 13th, when our heads finally hit the pillows at our hotel.
I know I was a little frazzled when we started in London, after trying to pack the whole kaboodle – probably twenty times over the last couple days – and I think I was darn near fried when we finally arrived at the destination of our first adventure in Africa!
We both had a fitful sleep last night. Brenda’s cold finally got the better of her, and I was just out of sync with the time. I was awake a lot but resting, but had finally got into a decent sleep around 2 am. At 3 am this incredible sound started creeping into my unconsciousness. Musical but intrusive, it finally lifted me back into consciousness, pulled out my earplugs to the realization that it was the phone. It was Not like any ring I have heard before. It might have been a lovely melodious sound, but at 3 am it was definitely not! With me half asleep and the night staffs gentle voice on the other end trying in her best English to inform me what the call was about, I thought it finally was becoming clear, that she had mistakingly called the wrong room.
In the meantime, Brenda had been awaken by knocking on the door. As she was sleeping closer to the door, she got up to see who was there. Unwilling to open the door, she stood there on our side of the wooden barrier, questioning what the hell was going on. My call was ending now with sincere apologies from the gentle female voice, but I hear from our door, that a conversation had ensued with a stronger male voice and Brenda. I hear a tone of voice of surprise, and then a little laughter and the conversation ending. Apparently the front desk had thought someone else was in this room. Also part of this tour,” Svanta from Sveden” was looking for his rooming roommate and was directed to #5, our room. As Brenda later explained, she finally did open the door, Svenda surprisingly said – “I Don't think I am rooming with you!”. Brenda replied in agreement with that statement, and hence the laughter. It later turned out to be Svanta from Sweden who should have been knocking on 9 not five, as he was to be sharing with Murray from New Zealand.
Yesterday Brenda and I hired a local Taxi to take us on a tour of Antanarivo or "Tana" as it is also known, the capital city of Madagascar. The great staff of the Combava Hotel helped us find someone willing that could also speak English. At 1 pm Roman arrived to take us on our little excursion. We headed off down the road toward the city – our hotel is about 10 km out of town.
We passed by the stalls and stands of the locals, regular day to day market business. To the area in the centre of town where there is a small body of water with an avenue out to an island in the middle. A statue commemorating those that lost their lives in the first and second world wars. We were not really doing a photography day, but an exploration day, just to see the city and the life of the Malagasy people. So Roman drove all the roads in and around Tana. To the Queen's Palace, to the Prime Minister's house, and through the market areas. Then up to the highest point, where we were able to have an overview of everything. It was pretty cool and we took a few photos up there.
As we were ready to go I asked Roman...'Do you celebrate Halloween?' He was not sure what that was, so I explained, that on the way up this last road, I saw decorations for the Hallowed Eve. Huge spider webs, freckled with many spiders. It was only a glance, but I asked if we could maybe just go back that way and have a look and take a shot of their decorations.
So off we went down the hill, me trying to find where I saw it. And Roman driving slowly. Again I caught a glimpse of it ahead, and told Roman to pull off ahead. There were a few Malagasy fellows visiting on the porch of the house, so I said a polite 'Salama' - the Malagasy word for hello, and looked towards the webbing strewn across the hedges in front of their place. That is when I stopped dead in my tracks with a sudden realization, that these were not decorations, but the real Effin' thing! An OMG moment! The webbing stretched for at least 20 feet above the hedges, and dotting the web were many many large spiders! The cameras came out of course, as this was definitely a sight that needed to be captured! Between Roman and the young fellows I learned that this was not a poisonous species, and their silk is extremely strong. After numerous shots, I said that I would really like to see one up close. Off ran one of the guys, and brought one back for us to photograph! He put it on the sidewalk, and we took a couple of shots. It measured approximately 4" in diameter including the legs. A fair size body too, with interesting markings.
Time to move on. The next stop was the Catholic Church, for a photo op. There was also a small chapel that was built for a Malagasy Martyr. Unfortunately not enough info to tell you more, but we peeked in to have a look see. Maybe 7 or 8 people in the small space praying, so not polite to photograph. So we backed out of the door, and I said to Brenda, I was going to try to take a shot from outside without disturbing them. Brenda's graciously stepped back out of the way. The problem with that was the step was narrow, and Brenda did a swivel twist and a desperate attempt at recovery, flying at a significant speed. She almost had it but the next step was another friggin' step and she went down. I watched as if it were slow motion, and saw her arm wrapped protectively around her camera, tucked up close to her body! After her fall she did a log roll and finally came to a stop, still cuddling her new Baby. After the shock wore off, 🎼 🎶'she got back up, brushed herself off, and started all over again!'🎶
Now, it certainly was not quite that easy, but I thought the song was a good fit, and I just had to use it!! There was a fair bit of pain involved, but nothing broken, maybe the wrist was a little sore too, and there was a surety of bruises to come! But I was so friggin' impressed at her immediate protection of her camera, without having the time invested in such a relationship! All is well, and Brenda has recovered from this incident well. Camera bruises on her arm and ribs from holding tight, have since turned from purple to a faded blue and neither of them suffered any long term damage!
That evening, Greg Downing, our leader from Maryland USA, and a few others arrived. We all got together for Dinner and met each other that night. There is Catherine and John from northern California, Kerry and Eric from Australia, as mentioned earlier, Svanta from Sweden and Murray from New Zealand. Also joining us was Ian who is Austalian but is currently living in Ecuador.
Hello again folks. Well we are currently in the air flying from Morondrova, on the coast - to the west of Antananarova of Madagascar - to Pallindreous(?) in the south.
We have had quite the adventure so far. The day we flew to Morondrova, we were invited to a village near Tana, and were allowed to photograph. It was a very interesting experience for us and them. Apparently some of the children have not seen white people before. One of them ran away scared from Ian our co-leader - but truthfully I can understand that - but they were as curious about us as we were about them. It was certainly quite the intense awareness of outer blessed place in life and home. This was a very very poor village with no more that dirt floors and straw roofs and some wooden structures. They were very self sufficient, they were making clay tiles for the roofs, and kept much of it clean. The rice paddies well maintained. I believe the kids did get to go to school too, so maybe this wasn't the poorest of villages, but the living was very basic
But the smiles were big and the kids loved seeing their photos on the back of the cameras, and soon I had a group of 10 or so all around me wherever I went. It was fun. The kids found a couple chameleons and held them on sticks so we could photograph, the families posed, the kids took us out on the paths between the rice paddies to enable us to look back and photograph their village from a distance. All the while I am taking more and more photos of the people and kids is various poses and groupings of their friends. They found me a snake and pointed to it for me to photograph, but it got away. the next thing you know, the whole troop of them were after it, splashing through the rice using a stick to flick it my way. I was later informed these snakes gave a good bite and it was not a nice one! I noticed they were careful but very determined. I also noticed one of the older boys kept a good check on the little ones, ensuring no one touched my camera. I gave no indication of it to them at all. They all wanted to see their picture on the back - or that of their friends, and when the little ones pulled down on my camera the boy quickly explained not to touch it. Pretty amazing control and politeness. When o wanted to photograph a scene I asked them to wait and not try to get in front of my camera for a minute. Then I showed them that photo and they were excited comparing it to the scene in front of us.
At one time I made the mistake of walking across a number of ceiling tiles that were laid out to dry. I though they were set up to provide a walking path. Where was my head! Luckily they were dry and didn't break.
We said our goodbyes to the village, back to the Combava to get our things for the the airport, and head off to Krindy National forest. We were off to find the Fossa - a rare cat like mammal. And the Vereaux Sifaka Lemurs. And a number of birds.
The flight left on time - considered a miracle in Madagascar - and we landed in Morondrova. A few 4x4's were waiting for us and we embarked on another adventure, into the unknown. Not bad travelling. The road was paved, the scenery and city life interesting as we drove along, past markets and cafes and other businesses. Very basic, but certainly alive with the daily activities of the locals. Tuktuks, taxis, cars - lots of Pugeos and Citrons here and many peddle cabs!
We took a left hand turn and the pavement turned to dirt, and the road was no longer smooth. In fact anything but smooth! The bumps and dips made it a challenge for our drivers, but they handled it well and even slowed down for the big holes, unlike some of the countries I've traveled to. It was 70km to our destination on this road, so it took a few hours to get there. We finally arrived - shaken not stirred - and were welcomed by the staff. Our bags were taken to our individual cabins. Brenda and I entered ours, looked around, and started to laugh. One of those OMG laughs. We were back to basics! But hey we had a flush toilet! And a shower to boot, so things couldn't be all that bad could they?
Well the OMGs continued during our three days and nights here! But it has given us many stories to tell. And I will certainly share some of them with you eventually.
But the lemurs and the birds were amazing! So fun to watch, and also curious about us, so we had many very close encounters which were awesome! Brown lemurs, red fronted brown lemurs and the Vereaux sifaka lemurs. Adults with young and others with tiny babies. A number of beautiful birds. And eventually we actually were able to see a fossa and photograph it. A beautiful and very unique animal! It was very accommodating to the multiple fires of the shutters and our closeness, although we were warned of its carnivorous tendency. And also give fair warning of the warning sound the Fossa made - which he did!
We hiked every morning before breakfast, starting at 5:30am, to photograph the early to rise species. Back to the 'Resort'😂 for breakfast about 7 am. Then out again sometimes right after breakfast, then again a little later in the day when the heat and humidity were not so intense. after dinner again and if you wanted another hike in the dark for the nocturnal species. Lots of hiking! But there really wasn't a time when there was nothing to see that was new to us! The birds were not plentiful there, but unique to us and some very colourful markings. But the lemurs, I think, were the ultimate favourite. So fun to watch their behaviours and capture their curious eyes staring back at you! Big beautiful eyes! In addition to the other lemurs I mentioned, we also saw mouse lemurs at night and brown lemurs. A few flowers. And there were also numerous spiders! Especially on the night walks! As your flashlights scan the area for any life you might be able to see, the numerous eyes reflecting the light back provided some interesting finds when investigated.
This was quite a dry area as far as vegetation went. So while there was any plants and bushes etc. there was no lushness. The one thing that was not dry mind you, was us! The humidity was incredible, and with the heat, you were often drained at the end of the day, disabling any movement whatsoever, until, some electrolytes supplies were restocked in the body along with replenishing the water supply. I am sure I drank at least a 1.5 litre bottle every hike if not more! And still I felt dehydration on the edge of developing into a monster headache. I am bad at the best of times with heat/humidity, but man oh man, this laid me flat a few times iI was soaking from the humidity so drinking had only brought me back to the basic minimum. But I didn't miss a hike thanks to a gift from my good friend Suzanne! A cooling cloth that I carried with me everywhere! It was a luxurious moment of coolness and bliss! It saved my bacon everyday! The other blessing was a tip from Another friends presentation at the London Photo Club. Paul mentioned getting some electrolyte replacement packages in the event of a n often experienced sickness when travelling in other countries. Brenda and I were able to survive with those packages added to our waters.
Unfortunately at the beginning of the trip, Brenda was developing a cold. It came and while it didn't become too intense, she was even more tired trying to maintain the pace. But it seemed to falter off quickly into a case of thick feeling throat and serious squeaky laryngitis! I knew I had a good chance of catching it too, so had been using oil of oregano thrice daily to hopefully ward it off, from becoming too serious. Brenda did finally seem to kick it while mine started to develop. The oil of Oregano was another gift from my friend Kathleen last Christmas. I had used it once before, with success, and once again it seems to have minimized the effect of the cold, and I soon passed through it. Knocking on wood here though, as Brenda's came back to give another kick last night!
So a couple of stories about our lodging at Krindy. One of the first indications this was going to be more than just a rustic experience, was the talk around the t able at our first dinner! One called out I have a frog in my toilet! Yeah well I have three, called another! Got you both beat said a third. I've got a rat in mine!
Oh yes, it was definitely a step below rustic! But they had beer and pop and they fed us! Mind you there were only a few pop that quickly disappeared, and while there seemed to be an unending supply of beer, getting one that had a least a semblance of coolness, was near impossible! Brenda and I were a little concerned that the crack we had in our toilet seat, was going to cause us major distress, sometime son if we did not get it fixed, so I headed up to ask for someone to find us another one. As I stood with the group, and our leaders, Greg and Ian, the conversation once again began a round of betters. Not many even had a toilet seat! So our concern seemed paltry in comparison! There were only two, maybe three that had a toilet seat. And then it was mentioned by Greg how he used a dry bag to do his laundry in. Sharing his procedure, he explained how he put a little clothes soap in, added hot water....... Wait? What was that? Did you say hot water?! So you have a toilet seat and hot water? We soon found out that others had hot water - not all mind you, but the hierarchy was becoming clear! The boss was getting the royal treatment!!
The whole adventure here was full of these kind of situations. We ran out of water, just as I added shampoo to my hair. The stairs along the side of the dining building, kept going with Brenda when she walked out and onto the ground to photograph a frog. Yep it was just sitting there, not anchored at all. Brenda added a few new bruises to the good collection already developing. It certainly took a chunk out of whatever energy she had left that day.
Many laughs were had, while sharing our stories around the camp. Now these turned into many ridiculous discussions as experiences like these are apt to do! And while we loved all the time we were able to spend with the lemurs etc., we were definitely looking forward to the next place of accommodation, thinking - it can only get better than this right?
So we got on the bus for our ride to the airport and our flight to Tana. There is a consistency in Madagascar that relates to flying. And that is cross your fingers and hope for the best! The goal is to get there early, and get you and your bags checked in. As once the plane is full with those that check in, the plane can leave! Also the time of the flight can change at will. You can be just starting to get evrthing together for a 10:30 flight and the flight is all of a sudden at 7:30 instead! Keeps you on you toes and packing can be a mad cram!
Here we sit in Berenty, on the front porch of our abode. It is located in desert type surroundings, with the calls of many birds, lemurs, cicadas creating a cacauphony of sound around us.
It has been a whirlwind of experiences, from place to place with hardly a good sleep had with early mornings and much travel. But in the end the travel hours were paid off with amazing captures!
Our first stop after Krindy was a hotel in Morondova. Now this was so friggin' nice! After Krindy anything would be nice, but this was heavenly! On the Ocean, beautiful white sand a lovely bar and even a little Wi Fi. And a lovely looking pool! We arrived early afternoon, headed out for a shoot after an early dinner to the Baobab trees and photographed til after dark. And we were out before we could even consider taking a swim or a walk on the beach, as we left in the wee hours of the morning to catch our flight to Tana. Dang!
Ah well it was a brief respite! The flight routine continued. First we hide our camera bags in the corner. We all have too much stuff for carry on. Then we get our big suitcases weighed and checked and our smaller carry on tagged. Then we head to our corner, pick up our camera bag and hope to get through the next access to security. We could try to slip through unnoticed, and a few of us made it through successfully. Those that didn't manage, were held up and encouraged to pay a little something something to be allowed to take our heavy overweight camera bags. Greg sweet talked our way through with a discreet payment of $21000
Airiary. Sounds like a lot but it was actually only $5 U.S.
The rest went well and we were all on the plane and on our way to Tana. In Tana we were met by our bus for the long Drive to our next shooting location – Andisabie. We arrived well after dark, and were shuttled to Chez Marie our stop and home for the next few days. This place was not so friggin' nice, to say the least. To quote Brenda, “I’ve stayed in hostels better than this and they were only $5 a night!” It was a bit of a hullabaloo but Greg took control, and worked with the neighbouring hotel and scored us some nice small bungalow that were very nice! And we finally settled in close to midnight I think it was. I am not sure if I mentioned, Ian is our guide for Madagascar. Greg had hired Ian to lead this trip. Ian has travelled here before a number of times, but this is a first for Greg. He is looking to do his own tour next year I believe. I am sure there will be a few improvements, but all in all it is Madagascar and there is always going to be lots of surprises!
Sorority the next few days we photographed in the national park here. Following Sifaka, white footed Brown and other species of lemurs. Maurice and Cristoph were our guides through the parks and trails around this area.they found s so many interesting creatures as well as the lemurs. Giraffe beetle, White Browed Owl, and spiders and unique plants. Always so interesting. For three days we trekked early morning, late morning, afternoon and evening, with the odd night shoot for the nocturnal species. A third guide Marcella was always busy with the other two, spotting ahead of us. Here we did trails, and not quite trails! A little bushwalking to find the special species. A good workout every day. The food was pretty good here and they even were able to provide cold drinks. Remember orange fanta? we have found it here as a good thirst quencher. It was a great area for us, made nice with the greatly improved accommodations that were pulled out of the hat the last minute by Greg and Ian. There was a little Wifi but hard to get things to post as you may have noticed. Very slow. For some reason my post went for the 14th and 20th, but the 16 th was somehow encoded and could not be found.later we found the 20th could not be seen on the blog page. It ended up a Long long way down the page, if you keep scrolling you Wil see it. I will hopefully be able to repair it when we get to the next wi fi accessible location.
And now about Berenty. This has turned out to be a really great spot. The cabin Brenda and I were given, was very nice. Well in Malagasy standards anyway. We had a front porch which turned out t be a spot favoured by the Ringtail Lemurs! Beautiful little lemurs that are maybe the size of a small house cat with longer legs and a very long striped tail. The cutest little lemurs! Some carrying their babies on their back or tucked under their belly nursing. We have a number of visits from them and we started saving our fruit from our meals to provides treats for them. There was a large tree to the side of our cabin. The lemurs would come from another tree, jump on our roof with a huge thump, run across it and into this tree. They made a heck of a racket for little guys! We were actually able to have them take the fruit from our hands! They were adorable. And I am sure you can guess how thrilled I was to have this close encounter!
This was also the home of the running Sifaka lemurs. Larger than the Ringtails. White with black faces and darker bellies. These too carried their tiny babies on their back or belly. And these are the ones we are hoping to photograph running and dancing along the open spaces until they can get a tree to climb. It is a comical vision watching them run! They look like a ballerina doing a Plie, toes pointed and crossed as they jump up,with arms raised high, then a sumo wrestler when they land in a squat position, with knees pointing outward. They stride and plie over and over. I. Will try to add photos soon but it seems the Internet is just not up to par to upload photos, let alone text! Will see how we do.
Madagascar Post script!
Berenty was one of our favourite places to stay. It was in a beautiful setting. Again we hiked and drove to different areas each day to find different species. But did not travel as far, always returning for lunch and a break between outings. The area around the camp was nicely planted with native plants. Numerous succulents grow here. So many different kinds of thorn trees! Birds too. And always on the hunt for different insects and bugs and beetles. Heard a cicada really loud on the path one afternoon. I was able to locate it on a lower branch just before it went quiet. Unfortunately I came to realize the silence was caused by a large wasp which had killed it! Crazy!
Nov. 8 2015
Hi again! It has been awhile since I last wrote. The days have been long, the wildlife plentiful, photography great, all in all – Awesome! The only thing is you are exhausted at the end of the day, and the most you can do is eat, shower, sleep. The mornings have been mostly up at 4:15, breakfast 5-5:30, and on safari by 6am! We more often than not, take a boxed lunch, and do not return home til 6 or 7pm! And then, as I said, eat shower sleep!
This has been a wonderful adventure! The wildlife we have seen is phenomenal! I only wish I could send a photo or two, but this is the first time we have had Internet and it is only for an hour. Our last safari today, before we headed to our chartered plane was full to the brim. We had 7 elephants on a kojpie-a pile of rocks that was formed from lava seeping out of the earth. Two were huge and the rest of varying size. One hollered to get the other smaller one out of the way! What a sound. Then we had a leopard on another Kojpie. She was hidden in behind branches. We watched for awhile. Then she exited out the back way. We were able to see her on the other side. She stood majestically, surrounded by greenery, and Sussed us out. While we sat watching and shooting she went back in but to our surprise,returned with her two new Cubs, maybe a month old. The two played and played all over the mom and themselves. It was an amazing gift to receive on our last morning. I must admit it brought tears to my eyes. After giving us a half hour maybe, she led her cubs back into the bushes. We moved on, still in awe of what we saw.
Yesterday I was also blessed with an intimate few minutes with a mother giraffe and her new baby – less than one month we were told, as it still had the umbilical cord protruding from its belly. They met up with another mom and babe and the two tiny giraffe ran around the trees back and forth and all around having a blast with each other. So gangly yet so beautiful. Then one of the mothers stopped her baby and began to lick its neck and face and ears and body. The baby was in heaven and his/her facial expressions made it clear how wonderful it thought this was. It was such a moment to be present for. Seeing wildlife is one thing, witnessing such intimacy with them it way over the top of any of our expectations.
The guides have been great with Arnold being most of ours favourite. He taught us so much about the animals as well as knew exactly where to place the vehicle for us to get the best shots in the best light. Greg has Brenda and I learning something new every day. We have lots and lots of photos! I am up to a total of 25000 images so far! Yikes! Brenda is doing pretty good too!
But I must go to catch out plane to Nairobi then Entebbe Uganda. We should arrive at Round midnight tonight. And the we begin with three days of following Chimpanzees through the bush for three days with a research team? Then a day break and three days of looking for and spending our slotted time with the Gorillas. Will write again when I can. We are both happy and healthy. We have a few bruises from the rough rods and all, but oh my it was worth it!
Talk to you soon!
Tomorrow will be one month for Brenda and I on this adventure. Two trips done now and we are heading to Uganda today.
In the Arusha Airport we met a young man who was wearing a poppy. Brenda commented on it and we had a chance to talk to him for a few minutes. He was just going on leave after six months in South Sudan. He mentioned how messed up the country really is. It would have been interesting to talk more with hi to understand the situation better.
So, Yesterday and today are travel days. We left Tanzania yesterday. After our last morning Safari, which as I told you how awesome it was, we hopped on our chartered plane a and flew the. Hour flight back to Arusha. We had driven north initially to Tarangiers, then on to Ngorongoro NP, then on to the Serengeti. After all the driving on rough roads, we had a break from what would have been at least a 10 hour drive!
We h ad started our Tanzanian adventure here in Arusha, and met up with the three guides – Thompson, Billy and Arnold from Unique safaris. An early start as we packed all of our gear into our 3 land rovers and headed to Tarangiers National Park, which was approximately a two hour drive from Arusha to the gate of the park. On this trip there was one couple –John and Sherry from Montana and Dallas, john is apparently a world renowned Plastic Surgeon who has specialized in the connecting of tissue from one area of the body to another, and connecting the vessels to the new place to ensure circulation. Svanta from Sweden – worked in the Defence field, stayed on from the Madagascar trip, Karen a systems Engineer from Minnesota, Vallerie from US, and Dennis from Dallas Texas. Dennis was a doctor of Chiropractic medicine and also did a number of years teaching.
We spent two days in Tarangiers at the Maramboi tented camp, driving safaris starting early early morning – wake up at 4:15 and on the road by 5:30am. This park is known for large herds of elephants, and we were not disappointed! Elephants number close to 6500 here, And the birds number at 550 recorded species.
This camp was huge, 40 tents in all. Like a 4 star tented camp. Luxury bungalows, with electricity and Nice tent accommodations. Dinner served in outside restaurant, and it had a nice outside bar, and relaxing areas. We have always been escorted from our tents to the dining area after dark as the animals are all around us. The accommodations have certainly been a cut above Madagascar! Not only is there hot showers, a bucket filled on request with heated water, flush toilets – yeah not sure we're it flushes to, but hey there were no rats or frogs in these ones! And comfy beds. The humidity was not present here as we experienced in Madagascar, which for me is a blessing for me for sure! And ICE!
We were not disappointed on our safaris. The number of elephants was incredible. But as I am writing now, on our last day in Uganda, as we sit by the pool at the “2Friends hotel”, it is hard to remember specifics about Tanzania, as so much has happened since then!
But I think this is where we gifted with witnessing an Impala Antelope being born! I just happened to catch out to the corner of my eye, two little hoofs poking out, and we settled in to watch the magic. It was incredible, as the mother, would stand up take a few steps, sometimes even eat a wee bit of grass, than lay down again under the watchful eye of a fellow female Impala who was soon to give birth as well. Each time the mom stood up again, the legs were just a little further out, and soon we saw the head, and finally the baby was born. It might have been just 20 minutes later, after the mom had cleaner her newborn, it finally began its efforts to get up, faltering many times before it finally able to stand on its wobbling legs. And soon after it was moving around slowly but unsurely, it hooked up with another very young Impala, and the two new friends explored a small area together. Female impala so break away from the herd when they are ready to give birth. They do so in small groups, and will rejoin the herd when the young are able to keep up.
The antelopes, wildebeest, zebra, lions and leopards, filled us with moments to remember.
The third day was again an early Safari on the way to Ngorongoro National Park, via Lake Manyara. On my last trip Lake Manyara was teeming with wildlife and birds and the water level was significant. This time however, the rains had not come yet, and the lake was virtually dry so not much happening. We did however, see in the distance, a flock of lesser flamingos moving back and forth in the puddle that was there. It was quite pretty to see, but disappointing not to have that time there. Last time was in February, so a different time altogether.
So we kept on to the Nongorongoro National Park, where we waited while papers had to be signed to provide us entry into the park. There was a small shop, so Brenda and I made our way there. There were a few little art creations as well as some good wildlife and bird books. I found, actually Brenda found it for me, the bird book I have been looking since my last trip to Tanzania! A lucky find! The shop keeper was a real hoot and we had fun with him. He characterized the tourist well with his high pitched….” It’s Adoooooorrrable” comment about each piece we brought to him to ask the price. The rest of time was full of laughs. After a while in the shop, we headed out to our land rovers and watched the circus of many baboons entertaining the tourists with their antics, and enraging the drivers and staff as they attempted to get into any vehicle they could, in search of food goodies. One large baboon jumped in one of the many vehicles there, and stole a bag of snickers from the person in it and ran off triumphantly. Another jumped into one of our vehicles with Svante in it , but Svante scared it out again. Or really to clarify, svante threw up his hands and yelled in surprise and the baboon ran back out!
I watched the drivers scare them away from our vehicles and took my turn when he went to the washroom. I copied the drivers demonstrations of controlling them and keeping them away from our vehicle – and took a serious stomp towards one big male coming too close. He took offence to the subordinate ”female” stomp I guess, and charged me, and gave me what's for with a loud screech! Thankfully his was also a mock stomp!
Finally after a very long time for papers to be signed we were on our way into the park and we're now able to open the roof, being out of the Baboon circus, and start our Safari. We would eventually head up to the rim of the Crater and to the eastern rim to arrive at Lion’s Paw Camp in the late afternoon in time for showers, a "sun-downer", campfire, and dinner. The benefit of being accommodated on the eastern rim of the Crater is a shorter and easier access to the Crater floor. Lion’s Paw is a mere 10 minutes from the Crater floor. The camp is only 7 permanent tents set in the Crater Highlands.
we had some amazing safaris in the crater! And the wildlife was plentiful to see and photograph, and awesome to watch behaviours. Like the “Ding Dong” Parade!Maybe I will save that story For the photo!
A beautiful leopard in a tree that we were photographing, was not too accommodating and while we did not bother him for long, when I apologized for disturbing home as we left, he moved forward on his haunches and growled like he was very pissed off. Brenda translated the meaning quickly and sat down and leaned back as did the tour leader Greg and myself. We were all thinking he was about to jump into the truck, and the adrenaline certainly pumped up a notch!
From Ngorongoro Crater, to the Serengheti, to the Mara River, we were blessed with incredible experiences! We watched as a young giraffe, with umbilical cord still attached, ran after its mom. The two then met up with another mom and baby of the same age – less than one month old. The two young gangley giraffes chased each other around trees, and over clear areas having so much fun, it made me just laugh out loud and giggle at the cuteness. But the best was yet to come, when the one mom stopped her baby and licked and loved it, covering its long neck with her kisses, while the young one, soaked it up with postures and looks of pure bliss and love, leaning into its mom. It was blissful just to watch and photograph.
There were many antics and behaviours to see and watch. Brenda and I even had a hippo outside our tent – thankfully we had just left for our safari when they called us back to see!
We saw lions with Cubs, leopards with Cubs, jackal siblings playing with a dung ball and having a great time! Even watched a dung beetle rolling a dung ball many many sizes larger than itself. It would run up the side of the dung, scoot down to the ground till its front legs were on the ground and and back legs on the ball, pushing it along the dirt path.
We saw the Massi boys with their faces painted for their celebration of reaching manhood. They would soon attend their circumcision celebration. Warrior status would be granted on their ability to not show any indication of the pain they would endure during the event. No antiseptic at all.
The migration of wildebeests and zebras was early this year. We had hoped to see a crossing a the Mara River where we were to spend the last few nights in Tanzania, but as we traveled through the crater, we could the hundreds of thousands of wildebeests that had already made it past, and we realized that was not likely to happen for us.
But as we were on the second last day of our Safari near the Mara River, we got a call that there was one last herd that was gathering and may cross the river. It was not far from where we were, so the run was on, in our safari vehicle we rushed over the extremely rough roads to the river. The herd began to cross, but backed off, and we were all crestfallen as they backed up and the herd began to leave. There may have been a thousand, maybe more in the herd. But we followed for a while and all of a sudden they looked like they would try to cross again. We hid our vehicles behind the bushes and waited. If they saw us, they would not cross, but once the first ones entered the water, the herd would not stop. We waited, and waited as they checked out the spot. All of a sudden, a few made the plunge and our vehicles zoomed into place to photograph this amazing spectacle! And it really was truly amazing. I am very grateful that the crocodiles on the sandbar just down the river were either too lazy or too small to take on the wildebeests. And they all made a safe crossing.
After our last morning safari we boarded our chartered bush flight to Arusha. A quick shower in a day room and then Brenda, Greg Karen and I headed on to Nairobi, then Entebbe Uganda. We arrived around 2 am. The next morning we were on the road again to our first camp. It was about a 7 hour drive, but the roads were not as bad as Madagascar! We would spend 4 nights here and spend three days tracking with the chimps.
This camp – Primate Lodge, has originally been a tented camp, but since Greg,s last time here, they had built bungalows. Cute little brick buildings with their own yard. Our bungalow was about a five minute walk through the jungle along a path, from the restaurant, social areas and courtyard. We settled in, had a shower, and headed back the path for dinner. We had hot water, but I think we were one of the only ones. Our cabin seemed to be off to the other side from everyone else. We had our dinner together, but we were pretty tired from the travelling and headed to bed right after. It has been our usual schedule, we are often in bed by 8 pm! Down with the sun. We ready our cameras and packs for the next day, and rise again with the sun.
Our first day of Chimp tracking was quite the experience. Starting in the wee hours, we left from our Camp and hiked into the jungle looking for the chimps. They create nests in the trees at night, and make quite a racket when they wake up in the morning. So as we trekked, we listened, and pushed our way through the underbrush and vines, sometimes along paths, sometimes breaking trail to where the guide thought he heard them, or sometimes his fellow guides, radio them to let us know where they were found. Once we arrived at their night nest area, we waited till they came down from the trees. They would descend and move among us, most often as if we weren't even there. We watched the interactions with each other. The young playing, the adults, eating, watching and the big males fighting over the one or maybe two females that were in heat. There were screaming fights over these females! What a ruckus! Their antics were so humourous. There was a definite hierarchy. And everyone knew their place. That doesn't mean they always followed the rules, and that was when the behaviours became interesting!
But as the chimps moved, so did we. All I can say is I am so glad we had porters for our camera bags! It was hard slogging! The first day, a few of us headed back at around 2 pm and hiked out, hot and exhausted. The others returned back about 4:30.
The second day, Brenda and I took the day off as we were feeling pretty exhausted. We instead took a walk around the community conservation area for the two hour walk to see birds and monkeys. As we have now learned, Africans have no real sense of time and the two hour hike turned into a 4 hour excursion, and while we had great encounters with 4 different species of monkeys, the heat at the middle of the day took a chunk out of us. Our afternoon snooze to recover our energy for the third day of Chimp trekking was missed. But the adventure continued and it was soon coming to an end.
That night, Brenda was first to make the evening trek to the washroom at around midnight. I tried to ignore my bladder, but it was having no part of it! So shortly thereafter, I followed suit. I used my headlamp to light my way – no electricity after 11…or whenever…! All of a sudden something bit my leg. Again and again and again! I shone my flashlight onto the floor, while slapping my legs, and what I saw was the floor moving. Yes it looked like the floor was moving, and it was with thousands of ants! I was cursing and running and slapping my way backwards. Brenda quickly awoke to my curses and screams, wondering what the You know what was happening. We both ran back wards towards our beds, Brenda arriving first screaming – “someone has to go for help” as she scooted under the covers! The walls were now covered, all the one Side of the room covered, the shoes, clothes, suitcases, everything was moving! “Well” I said, I guess that would be me!” Trying to find my pj pants, which were thankfully by the bed not yet infested with the little shits. The next problem was shoes, which were by the door which was now a solid layer. I ran in grabbed the my sandals, and ran back slapping and cursing! Once on, I knew I had to make a run for it out the door where it was thickest. Of course the door is locked, so the time it took me to get the door open with the key, they started to move up my legs and I ran, noticing on my way the ground along the whole side of the building was moving too! I ran down the path slapping and cursing and running. These suckers bit hard! I finally made it to the lodge area yelling for someone to help. The watchmen with their AK 47s (or some crazy looking guns!) came running. I told them what was happening telling them Brenda is still in there in the bed. One headed off. The other tried to help me by shining his flashlight down the back of my shirt killing the ants on my back, while I tried to kill the ones in my pants and on my leg. I told him he needed to get Brenda out of there, so he went to help the other guy. Soon Brenda showed up slapping and cursing in her nightgown and a pair of flip flops they gave her. Then the both of us ran to the can and stripped to try and kill the remaining ants on us and in our clothes. Now our concern was that all our things were covered in ants. All we had was what we had on. And we had to get our things for our trek tomorrow. Of course all of these conversations were not easy as there was the language barrier. We kept telling them they had to get our things out of there, and they kept telling us it everything would be alright in the morning. Yeah right!
They took us to another room where we both tried to get some sleep. They woke us at 4:30 am, and took us back to our bungalow. As we approached, one of the guards told us to jump. We looked where he was pointing, and there in front of us was a moving line of ants and was about 2 inches or more wide, and we could not see the end of the line.
Once inside our room, other than a dead ants here and there, everything was back to normal. ‘Safari Ants’ they said, they come and then they go. But it was good we woke up when we did. Might not have been just a few bites!
We had to pack everything up now as they were moving us to another room. We asked if they would come back – as they were just moving us next cabin over. “No” they said “probably not”! Like that filled us with confidence. When we left about an hour later, the line of ants was still moving, and we could see neither the start or the end of the line!
The next morning we arrive late to breakfast for our last chimp trek. A few teasing remarks were thrown about, but when our usual numerous responses didn't spring back, a silence descended. We told them our story. On the trek that day, one of the guides told us a dead animal can be cleaned thoroughly by these safari ants in 24-48 hours, with nothing but bones left. Thanks for the friggin nightmares buddy!
But putting this all behind us, the next day we were heading on to our final adventure. Trekking with the mountain Gorillas.
But I will leave that story for the last chapter. Tomorrow as we fly from Entebbe Uganda, to Addis Ababa, to Frankfurt, to London England, to Toronto, to London Ontario. Arriving home hopefully on Saturday around 5 pm. One last adventure!
Wish us luck!
Diane and Brenda
Coming soon! October 12 to November 11, 2014
Looking forward to sharing my journey south in October/November - With additional stops in Buenos Aires, Puerto Madryn and Ushuaia Argentina.
Departing October 12th. Check back then
Below is a little History of "Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance". an Epic Journey!
A documentary on Shackleton's trip to reach the south pole: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyQRHHHXntc
The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914–17), also known as the Endurance Expedition, is considered the last major expedition of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. Conceived by Sir Ernest Shackleton, the expedition was an attempt to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent. After the conquest of the South Pole by Roald Amundsen in 1911, this crossing from sea to sea remained, in Shackleton's words, the "one great main object of Antarctic journeyings" The expedition failed to accomplish this objective, but became recognised instead as an epic feat of endurance.
Voyage of Endurance
Drift of Endurance in pack
Ice drift after Endurance sinks
Voyage of James Caird
Planned transcontinental route
Voyage of Aurora to Antarctica
Drift and retreat of Aurora
Supply depot route
October 12, 2014
🎼. Well the bags are packed (too heavy again)🎶
🎶 I'm ready to go,
I'll be standing soon outside my door 🎧
🎵I have to grab my 📷 camera And say goodbye 🎵
🎼. I'm leaving on a jet plane
Don't know when I'll be back again!🎶
Dam song is stuck in my head now!
Well actually I do know that! And it is almost a month away, so too soon to go there. Have me a maple leaf lounge free pass for the airport, so going in style this time. Of course that will change drastically when I get into that wee seat in economy! But I will enjoy the lounge for a few hours!
Anyway, I say, Adios Amigos! I will hopefully be able to share the journey here on my blog while I'm away. Check back now and then for updates!r
October 22 2014. Port Staley Falkland Island.
hi all, a quick copy paste of what I have written so far. But Internet is difficult on the ship so am taking quick advantage of internet today. Am having an absolutely fabulous time! The wildlife and scenery is beautiful! I have a great roommate, and the people on board are great, friendly and well travelled, so very interesting. More on that the next time. For now here is the trip so far!
It took me forever to get to this page to enable an update! So I have copied and pasted every thing again as it was the quickest way to update in case I lose connections!
This post covers up till yesterday Oct 31, but not complete the last couple days. More to come as we journey on through very rough seas! My noggin is also a tough bugger, as I found out last night when trying to hit the bed with my butt, I butted my head with the port-hole window sill! But I am till kicking and having a great time!
The flight left on time from Toronto. It was a nice stay in the Maple Leaf Lounge, But all good things must come to an end, sigh. Met up with the expedition leader at the boarding gate. Flight was long, but without incident, which is always a good thing. That's what we pay the big bucks for! We arrived in BA (Buenos Aries) around 2 pm the next afternoon, after a brief stop at Satiago Chile. I pulled a 'Stupid' at the airport. My bag came quickly, so I joined Dave German and headed off to customs. We were going to share a taxi to the hotel. Nice and early in the line, and pretty proud of ourselves. I was next in line. I looked down and for some reason, along side the Canadian flag tag on my suitcase, it said George? I just didn't understand? A second later it dawns on me I have the wrong suitcase! Shit! So back I scurry, with the stolen suitcase to the carrousel, thinking I am going to find a panicked "George" madly scurrying around. But he sees me coming, and thankfully instead of scowl, there is a huge smile! Our suitcases were not your regular suitcases, so I had not expected to see another one like mine, worn and thread barren like mine and with a Canadian flag to boot! So we laughed together, hugged and kissed, and all was right with the world again.......except now I am at the end of the long customs line! But that went relatively quickly and was painless.
Well Buenos Aries was lots of fun. Buenos Aires, is called the Paris of South America.
Walked lots over the ~ 3 days here. There was lots to see and do, but I didn't accomplish my whole list of to-dos. But I was lucky enough to head out for a walk on the Monday, late afternoon after we arrived and headed to the Recoleta Barrio. Well actually I headed out in the wrong direction and happened to arrive at Ricoletta - Instead of where I thought I was going. But it was a good mistake as the park was alive with activity. Usually a Monday would not have this activity, but it was Columbus Day here, and there were many interesting things going on. First I came upon and amazing group of Jazz musicians. With a collection is of instruments and musicians, including Sax, keyboard? Banjo - yes banjo! And a concertina I believe, guitar and drums. I will have to refer to my photos, but at this time am unable to. (Another story there, but hopefully all is well with the help of John from Canmore)
It was great music. But then there was also an artisans market, another show of talent at the other end of the park, and great people watching. The other talent show I watched was acrobatic abilities, including a fellow that balanced and rolled a soccer ball for a very long time without it touching the ground. The crowd loved it! I found myself a rhodochrosite pendant, a beautiful pink striated Argentinian stone. They have another stone particular to here, a Blue Onyx. And in the North they also mine aquamarine.
That evening I met with Dave and Keith and we headed out for dinner. A restaurant, recommended by many, and the night to sink our teeth into some Argentinian beef! It started off well with a lovely bottle of Argentinian Malbec, and plates of complimentary appetizers. Smoked salmon (Atlantic), mushroom pate, a sweet potato taster and something else. Dave also ordered sweetbreads, intestines and some other disgusting part of the cow. Of course we ate it all and enjoyed it. The wine was very very good! Then our main enter arrived, med rare tender steaks. Mmmmmm good! No dessert thank you, but the restaurants arrived with a little after dinner treat of 'lemon jello' and an anise tasting liquid. Both were meant to be drank, and were served to settle the stomach after so much meat. And so down the hatch it went, followed by a gasp!. Son of a B! Wicked! Turned out to be grappa and grappa! It was a tasty treat and I certainly felt I was a little lighter leaving than arriving. Not that the steak and all the food wasn't a good size meal, but the head was certainly light! It was a great evening, and a wonderful way to spend the first night of my adventure.
The next day I left the hotel about 9:30 and headed towards Microcentro and Plaza de Mayo square, seeing the Casa Rosado - the pink house where the president holds meetings. Also visited the Cathedral Metropolitana church built in 1836. Then on to San Telmo where I had a little lunch at another famous restaurant - . This is the heart of colonial BA. Cobblestone streets, colonial houses, Spanish churches and antique stores. First inhabited by the elite who fled in 1871, because of a yellow fever outbreak. The immigrants from Europe took over the mansions and they served as tenement houses, and the area became a melting pot of cultures.
The area has an amazing array of doors, of which I photographed many. I ventured into the market there, but unfortunately it was siesta time again! Frig! So much for that plan, so I decided to head off now to the area called la Boca. An area that from the photos I've seen, remind me of the coloured houses of Cuba. But as it was no close to 4 pm, my waitress suggested I wait till tomorrow, if I was to go by myself. I knew there were some issues in the area, and had planned to take a taxi to the specific area which was apparently fine, but took her advise, and headed back to the hotel. Had hoped to stop at the local theatre, which has some amazing architecture, but by the time I had walked there the tours were over. Maybe when I return at the end of my trip.
So I headed back to the hotel for a wee nap before the Tango Show which was on my agenda for the evening. Unfortunately the wee nap turned into a major sleep which put a kibosh on the Tango show. They start things late here! Up all night party till dawn and have siestas in the afternoon. I like the siestas in the afternoon part, but this last birthday has put a damper on the staying up all night! I am up at dawn just not till dawn!
I had walked pretty much everywhere since I arrived and The feet were feeling it, as were my legs. But I had another day before I caught my next flight, so I headed off early in the morning, after I had checked out and stored my luggage with the hotel. Headed first to the Japanese gardens, at the far end of the route I had planned for today. Back then to the Recoleta area, where I headed to the first day upon arrival. This time I had lunch on a patio and then on to the Cemetario de la Recoleta. An amazing cemetery! Ok maybe you are thinking, this woman is warped getting excited about a cemetery? Well yes maybe I am, regardless, but this was very unique. It is full of history, and is an amazing photography adventure. Yes I know, photographers photograph the oddest stuff! But if I could send a photo, I think you might understand. In the case, googling -"cemetery Buenos Aries" will provide you with photos of this place.
But let me tell you, this cemetary is the place to go - when you GO! It is for all the big wigs, special people, important people, writers, poets, generals, ie the elite, and anyone that is anyone since the mid 19th century. It is also the resting place of Eva Perone - Evita. These are not your ordinary graves. Each one is like a mausoleum, and depending on the year it was built, it can be an extremely ornate piece of art. There are numerous styles of architecture too, like greek temples, Egyptian pyramids and art nouveau vaults. And depending on their importance, some are very large. You travel through a labyrinth of streets, and narrow passageways. There is narry a space between the tombs, new mixed with old crumbling and decaying tombs and coffins.
I had planned to attach images for my blog, but emailing, uploading and downloading, is all done via satellite, and the cost is per megabyte. I direct you to do a Google search if you are interested in looking a little further into the details. I will add photos when I return home, but for now I will try to paint a picture the best I can.
Later that evening, I headed on to Puerto Madryn, flying first to Trewlew, arriving late in the evening and then an hour ride to PM. By the time I arrived at my hotel, I was pooped, but managed to arrange a guide and Driver, for a day of birding the next afternoon.
In the morning I walked the beach in this beautiful city. Tide was out and the seaweed was strewn along the beach. I was off to capture some of the shore birds and also any other site I came across. I decided after walking a ways that I should head down to the shore. This proved to be a hike that brought me to my knees! No sooner had I taken my first step, i found my self sunk up to my knees in seaweed quicksand! With cameras held high, I realized I was very stuck. The suction on the feet was pretty strong! My first attempt almost keeled me over, but I managed to keep upright with the cameras still safe. A lady who spoke only Spanish happened by and tried to direct me out of it, but that did not turn out to be the right direction and I sank a little lower. By now I was giggling nervously, thinking I would have to somehow, get one of the tractors that took the boats down to the waters edge, to wrap a chain around me and pull me out! Quite the picture that generated in my head. The giggling turned quickly to what might have been described as an hysterical laugh. But, I am still holding those cameras high so I had not totally lost it yet! The next plan of attack was, instead of trying to pull feet out of their suction holes, I tried pushing the legs through the muck a little at a time, in the reverse direction, eventually turning 180 degrees and very slowly but with a extreme gratefulness, walked out of the trap! None the worse for wear, except that maybe Now of course I stank to high heaven! But covered in muck and green slime, I continued on my way down the beach. The saving grace was that I was wearing zip-offs, so I zipped off the bottoms. And managed in the next half hour to find a way to the shore via a safer route and walked my stinking runners right into the sea! Rinsed off the pan legs, and hung the to dry on my pack in the wind. I spent another couple hours photographing, some birds, and other things along the shore, ships in the distance, and a rusty old shipwreck at the end of the beach.
I headed back to the hotel and arriving around 1:30 pm, handed off the runners and socks to the hotel laundry, with a grave warning that it was very bad, and readied myself for the tour I had arranged for myself with Carol and the driver.
It was a great afternoon! Our driver Adrian found the craziest of back roads through sand dunes and God knows where else, but we had some great luck and lots of birds and great scenery. Returned back to the hotel around six as Carol had to meet some people at the plane, but then Adrian took me out to see if we could find cliff dwelling parrots. We found one, on a wire at the cliff area, but everyone else must have gone to town. It was fun all the same with us both trying to communicate, with my pigeon Spanish and his a little better English. We tracked through tussock grass and thorny bushed hunting for tinnemon or another aviary species, since the parrots weren't home. And the parrot on the friggin wire mocked us the whole time! Adrian and I cursed him often in our respective languages, which we both understood! And we had great fun flipping the parrot the bird and every other crazy thing we could do to one up each other.
I was back to the hotel in time to join a few of the folks for dinner.
The next day was the first of the antarctic tour. And we headed off to go on a boat whale watching tour.
Well to pick up where I left off, we headed out from our hotel in Puerto Madryn on the 17th for a whale watching boat tour out of the town of Puerto Pyramides on the Peninsula Valdes. Along the way we spotted Guanacos, meres and tinamou. Guanacos are the llama like animals of the Falkland Islands. They are wild, and usually run in herds. All males herds and then other times all females. At breeding time I am sure all hell breaks loose! The Meres are large rabbit like mammals, that also look some what like a small kangaroo. They have much shorter ears that the rabbits we know. Tinamou are a type of bird I think I might have described already. The boat trip out to see the right whales, was spectacular. They were lots around and they were pretty feisty! Close to the boat often! Then to top that, we went to a beach not that far away. The tide was high, and mere meters from shore, the right whales were cavorting and playing in the water, slapping their fins and tails, lying on their back and lolling or scratching their backs on the gravel, the babies with their moms porpoising along from one end of the beach to the other.
It was quite amazing and exciting. Some jumped and jumped and jumped out of the water. Of course it was always at the other end of the beach from where we were that they were the most feisty! After that we headed back to the hotel. It was the night of the group dinner at the Placido restaurant. It was a great night of fun and introductions. John (know it all) Leonn, Dave (chipper skipper) German. And my room mate Sandra Kapetan. Well it was a two bottle of wine night, and a very good start to the adventure. Home to bed and to get things ready for the next afternoon's boarding of the Sea Adventurer.
The next morning Sandra and I did a quick readying of our suitcases and put them out for pick-up, and headed out to do a bit of shopping. I needed to find a snow globe, a pair of sunglasses, and a book on the local birds and animals at the book store. After a nice long walk and a few stores we all headed to the ship. That evening we headed into the dining room and we were on our way to the first landing on the Falkland Island, a two day sail away.
We had good seas all the way to the Falkland Islands, and made great timing. Travelling at 12 knots I think I heard, There were numerous presentations along the way. Good fun dining with different people at every meal. This is a well travelled bunch, with many great stories to tell. So much fun.
having so many widely travelled folks, who have amazing stories to tell, and inspiring lives, to talk to every day, is certainly a gift. An I believe many new friends are being made daily. I thought I had done very well with my travels, but my adventures seem few in comparison!
Dave Hahn one of our crew, is an amazing man, he has successfully summitted Everest 14 times, and holds the record for the number of times summitted without Sherpas. I believe the record number of summits is 21. He was also part of the team whose goal it was to search for Mallory and Irving, two British climbers from 1920’s who were never found after an attempt at the summit . The were able to recover Mallory's body, but unfortunately, after numerous attempts, Irving lay somewhere in the arms of the mountain that took his life. He has climbed with many very famous climbers, including Conrad and John Krakauer
Rob Reader, is the ship's historian and weaves amazing tales sharing with us the voyages of the past, when the original explorers crossed the ocean from Europe to find the 'Terra Australis Incognitos' - the unknown Southern continent or Antarctic as we now know it. Once they learned the earth was round there was a collective belief that there must be a southern continent. And once the northern Arctic was discovered the belief was that much stronger, feeling there must be a balancing land mass to the south. So through Rob's tales we explored with the early explorers and learned of their hardships, their failures and their successes. Not only Shackleton's voyages and the story of him and his crew upon the ship Endurance, but those of earlier explorers many years before.
Rob is from Midland Ontario, and owns a restaurant there that is called the Explorer's Cafe. Definitely a road trip when I return!
On the afternoon of the 20th was Our first landing on the Falkland Islands, on South Falkland specifically, and at Steeple Jason Island. The island is 6 miles long and 3 miles wide. Here we hiked a ways to an amazing black browed albatross colony or rookery, that would knock your socks off! There were something in the neighbourhood of 250,000 nesting pairs here, and they seemed to stretch as far as you could see in both directions. The actual size is approximately 200 meters wide by 5 km long. There were also rock hopper penguins nesting here among the albatross, in numbers reaching maybe 100,000 pairs in between. To get closer to the nesting areas, we had to hike between over and through the clumps of tussock grass mounds, which were higher than most of us, and very difficult to maneuver through. Sitting in these grasses mere feet away from the birds fills you with awe. We are trying our best to be silent, but the sounds from this colony were astounding and I doubt they would be startled by any sound we could produce. We were within touching distance, and the black browned albatross have a very soft, touchable look to them. It was an amazing experience. I pushed my way through the tussoc grass, which was exhausting, but I managed to make it to the middle of the colony which enabled a better view of the colony on both sides and I hopefully managed a video to share the incredibleness of the time we had, and capture the vocalization. I have not figured out the video on my camera, and most scenes I have filmed, already seem to be staggered and broken, but I still have captured the essence of the moments while there.
Today we were off to West Point Island, where we met Theis and Kiki, who were the caretakers of the island. The day was quite dense with fog, but it created a lovely mood. I was amazed at the yellow Lichen on the rocks, and how they seemed to brightened the valleys, especially when the sun shone. I was lolly gagging along, and just enjoying the different birds, linens, and plants I came across, shooting as I went of course. I walked to the other side of the island, finally catching up with the rest, who were now ready to head back! Here was a smaller rookery of black browed albatross and numerous rock hopper Penguins. Here you were mere inches from the birds and an it was another incredible moment.
It was a very happy reunion for Pauline and Tim Carr with Thies and Kiki. There were many stories told and experiences shared between them and us, and it was interesting to hear their stories. Theis and Kiki will be staying here on this island for a year, on their own, managing the small farm of sheep, cows and a few other animals as well as the island itself.
The second landing of the day was Carcass Island. I watched maggellenic penguins landing on the white sand beaches, as well as a steamer duck, a flightless duck, barreling across the the top of the water towards shore. It looked like it was doing an incredibly fast butterfly stroke, with its wings, and on a very desperate mission to make land! The magellenic penguins nest under ground and there were numerous nesting holes alongside the shore. A newly hatched oyster catcher baby was being protected by its parents, but occasionally popped out for a stroll, a feeding and a few photos!
Our goal here was to walk to the other side of the island for tea and cakes! Now here we are northwest of the Falkland Island archipelagos, far from society, and heading to a place for tea and cakes! A true British island we all thought. And as we reached the destination, we saw the huge flagpole flushing the Union Jack! And when we walked into the parlour of those that had invited us, there was a table that filled the room, with so many 'sweeties' that my teeth hurt just looking at it! It was a delight! I then spent some time talking to the baker, who was from Chile, near Santiago, and they spend 6 months here on this island baking for the likes of us, and 6 months at home. It was a fun talk, and as he headed back to the kitchen, he whispered in my ear, to make sure I put a couple I my pocket as I left! Which I did of course!
Today we landed at Port Stanley on the Falklands and had a free morning to shop, visit the museum, walk through town, and have a beer at the
local pub. Visited the pub on the way back to the ship, as most of us knew that that might be our last stop as well as our first if we weren't careful!
It was a fun morning. Pretty strange though, on this archipelago of islands, to be paying in pounds, and hearing English accents!
22, 23, 24
The rest of the 22nd and the next 2 days we were at sea. And in pretty doggone rough conditions I might add. The 23, I was quietly copying and backing up my photos to my computer and hard drives, and every so often, I would have to grab for everything to keep it from sliding off the table! On one occasion though the wave was so large, that I was thrown from my chair and as the chair continued flying through the air, I saw my laptop - mid air - coming directly at my head!
Now let me take a moment here to tell you about my computer. It is my old workhorse, one of those tougher than nails Toshiba laptops, born in the previous century. It was by no means a Mac-Book Air! Weighing in at about 8 lbs! Needless to say, in that split second, I was very concerned!
Luckily my reactions were quick enough to ward the big friggin lug off to the side with my arms that came up to protect my head, along with the vinegar & oil, and the salt&pepper, which followed it in quick succession. Altogether it was quite a mess on the floor! I stayed put, as I was not sure what the heck was going to happen next. What I heard though was a humongous crash, and then more crashes one after the other in quick succession.
It is a very very sad story that I am about to tell, and I apologize for sharing this in my blog. But to give you the whole picture of how rough it was, and how dangerous the seas can be here in these southern most waters, I feel the need to complete the picture for you.
So initially the first news received back from the Boss - our 'Chipper Skipper', as he has come to be known as ( more on that later) - was that the many crashes one after the other were all the dishes from our lovely laid tables. Understandably, dinner would be a little late. But the worst news came at dinner when it was announced there had been a tragedy aboard our ship. A whole table of incredibly lovely bottles of Argentinian, Chilean and other fine wines had been demolished. There were a few moments of silence in respect, and many tears shed. $2500 worth of wine....and tears. Be still my heart.
As it were, I was helped up, the dishes were cleared up and there was still a few bottles still in the pantry, so all was still ok and we have continued to imbibe, with fervour!
Well today was to be a day for a couple landings. Our first on South Georgia Island. A great effort was made by Dave and the Captain, but the winds were so high - upwards of 90 knots -'that the possibilities waned and we were ship bound for the day. Regardless the great staff provided wonderful presentations. Pauline and Tim on Their 14 years living on Soouth Georgia Island and setting up the Museum while living aboard their small sail boat, the Curlee. After 8 years they finally scored accommodations on Land. Dennis the photographer, reviewed the types, behaviours and information on the seals around the world and the ones we will be seeing here. Dave German gave us a run down on the details pursued today to attempt finding a place to land. These are th highest winds they have had apparently, someone seeing + 100 knots on the bridge today.
This morning we had a landing before Breakfast, to Right Whale Bay. After two and a half sea days and then the high winds causing yesterday's skunking, it was a very exciting moment to finally be going ashore. Dave arranged for us to have a make up landing before breakfast, so we were out the door and into the zodiacs by 6:30 am. And it was so amazing! To greet us were a few king penguins, waltzing along the beach, as curious about us as we were about them. As we walked towards the other end of the beach, more amazing sight unfolded, fur seals, then elephant seals, then more and more King Penguins. Then a whole rookery of elephant seals! Lots of noise, with the elephant like noses bellowing out their roared warnings.
A little fur seal zoomed by, seeming to be on a mission. He stopped and had a look at me, and decided the group of king penguins porpoising in the sea with a bee-line to the shore, was much more to his liking, and off he went. The Penguins washed onto the shore on a big wave, and formed their usual line towards their rookery area. No sooner had they started their waddle forward, then the fur seal made his charge, scattering them in all directions. Made no catch and off he tore up the beach further to torment some baby seals. Miserable little shit!
It was so special, being so close to the various inhabitants of this location. A couple times I got a little too close to the fur seals, and on two occasions i was charged. Amazingly I can still move quickly! Even at this ripe old age!
There were skeletal remains of a whale on the beach. The tail bones and the spine laid out covered in the light dusting of snow that fell before our arrival. And the vertebrae that scattered the beach were humongous!
At this point on the journey along right whale bay, I started to see the white sheathbills. But the coup de Gras was at the far end of the beach. It was a king penguin rookery that stretched as far as you could see, back towards the mountains and up the sides of the lower slopes. Thousands! In the distance you could see the patches of brown which were the young ones still in their baby down. Numerous of the Penguins were also molting which was very interesting.
After 2-2.5 hours we were called back to the zodiacs for the return to the ship. And to our awaiting breakfast. The snow and wind picked up a bit towards the end of the beach and felt like little daggers on the skin of the face - the only exposed skin!
But I must run for now as the anchor was just lowered and it sounds like the weather is holding for us to have another landing! We are at Prion Island, one of the places where the Wandering Albatross nests, in 2-3 weeks this island will be closed to visitors. There is a boardwalk here to protect the island with railings and platforms where you can got to and look over the area. Only 50 people on shore at a time to minimize the effect on the environment here.
Later - 3:00 pm
Well Prion Island was spectacular. Firstly we travelled along the shore with Big Bob, the captain of our Zodiak puttering us along the shores of the island, to see what we could find. There were kelp gulls swimming, antarctic Terns, diving for food, rock cormorants, posing on craggy points and Gentoo penguins porpoising through the water alongside the Zodiak.
Once on shore there was a small rookery of fur seals, lots of Gentoo penguins, coming and going, from the water and along the beach, some speckled teals feeding in the kelp, and the antarctic Pipit - the southern-most songbird in the world just motoring everywhere, catching bugs in the kelp And that was on the beach when we landed. Then we headed up the boardwalk to see the nests that were holding the Wandering Albatross Chicks. While they are "Chicks" the word really is deceiving, as they are very large! The Wandering Albatross has a wing span of around 12 feet, and these chicks are close to full grown in size. They just don't have all their flight feathers yet. And the downy, gangly, scruffy looking birds were stretching their wings and exercising the wing muscles for their upcoming fledge time. As I have heard, the parents are with the chick for 8 months, feeding them what they can find locally, but when they are needing more and more food, they are required to travel farther distances to find krill, squid and fish. This could be hundreds or thousands of miles, and sometimes as far as Brazil. The chick are left alone on the nest while the parents fly to pick up some Takeout. A long way to go for food! And when they return, they may only be home briefly, before they are off again to Search for more food.? Far fetched I know, and I will certainly have to check the facts, but there is a number of birds here that have an amazing journey sometimes to be able to get food for themselves and their chicks. One of the main foods for many birds, as well as for whales, is Krill. And there is no one place where the krill is, and they need to fly to find it which is often great distances away.
The food chain here is pretty simple. Phyto plankton is the basis of the food chain. These are little plants that rise to the surface during the day or night. The krill, which are Zo Plankton, feed off the phyto plankton. So the krill would also come up to the surface to feed. The birds and penguins also feed on krill, so non diving birds are able to get a fill at the surface. And the food chain expands as the Penguins eat the krill, some seals eat the Penguins, etc etc.
So to bring this back to the wandering albatross, they eat, krill, fish and squid. And they have to travel to find these colonies of krill at the surface as well as fish and small squid, (which also comes to the surface) the albatross can travel hundreds or thousands of miles for food. Sometimes as far as Brazil from South Georgia. The chicks will wait as much as 6 weeks till the parents come back.
Now on a short break as we wait for the next possible landing at Salsbury Plane, a short distance away on the mainland.
Michigan Trip June 2014
well it was a scattered first day. Got on the road a little later that I had wanted to -7am- but that was just fine. It seems no matter how well organized you are there is always something you forget to do! But I Picked up a cup and a thermos of Starbucks dark roast and dialed the Sirius Satellite radio to the coffee house for the early morning acoustic music, set my trusty friend(my camera) on the seat beside me, and hit the road!
roads were quiet and the border was empty of cars so I sailed right through! The sky was looking a little grey and a few drops were hitting the windshield, so I stopped at Walgreens to pick up some apparently very good seasickness medication for my fall trip. I have a pretty strong stomach, but they say there is this one crossing that is bound to get you! then into Walmart to pick up a couple things. Of course I found a few other things! A cooler for the road trip to have snacks handy, and a cool watch on sale! Big numbers, glow in the dark. A nice one for these old eyes! But back on the road pretty quick!
solo road trips are fun, cause if you see a neat looking antique shop, you can just spin around and go have a look-see! Hee-hee! Ah yes I remember it well, by the time you ask if the other person(s) in the party would like to stop, you are so far gone and past, you can never convince them to go back! so there was the antique shop, and then there was the fruit stand for some apples, and peanuts, and a lime ( for the later refreshments), which was the next stop. The great American truck stop! Just like our truck stops right. A little of everything. There is all the snack food, and the possible needs you might need on the road, like toiletries etc. And of course cold pop and juice and bread and milk. And woo-Hoo! The ice cream cones were huge with lots of flavours! One Stop Shop! Oh yes I forgot to mention the beer, wine, and liquor! Yep picked up some coolers to go with the lime of course! And then.......I suddenly stopped in my tracks. It is a little hard for me to comprehend what I was seeing. And well, a little hard to express what I was feeling when I scanned my eyes along the one side of the truck stop. Partly because by jaw had loosened and dropped to my chest. I lifted my iPhone to take a picture. You know, a picture is worth a thousand words right. Well as I clicked the shutter, this huge, heavily tattooed guy stepped out in front of me and I captured him in the shot. I stammered and stuttered ( still not able to speak clearly) and told him I would immediately delete it. He glared at me and agreed that would be a good idea. Yikes. Well I did take a few more shots. And when you see the photos below, you'll better understand why I quickly offered to delete! But wait! There'a more! A whole section of perfume! Ah yes, but with a catch.... There was moose piss, deer musk, to name just a couple...but get this, there must have been over 40 different "scents"! If you hide in the forest..can anyone smell you?
oh boy! Then they had a wall of fame, or as I call it a wall of 'Shame'! No words. This picture tells many stories.
ok, so I walked out of there with no ice cream (this is a very unusual occurrance)! I was down the road still reeling from it, but laughing an the insanity of it all. Well It seemed so for this wildlife loving Canadian girl!
at first my decision was to travel up the Saginaw bay eastern coast, but midstream I changed my mind ( a true woman here!) and headed overland to East Tawas. According to Nat Geo Birding Spots book, Tawas State Park was a great birding hotspot. So that is where I set my GPS to and arrived around 6:00 pm. Headed out to the State park to check what birds are there and see where the best trails were. The ranger there, Matt, was great! A birder himself he gave me all sorts of info of where and what for the local aviary population. And then proceeded to say if I wanted he would take me around to the local sites in the area to just give me an orientation of the best spots! What a great deal. He also recommended the Bambi Motel. Cute, clean, and only $55a night!
Matt was also waiting for a fellow from Conneticut who was coming in the next day, who he was also a birder. So the two of us hooked up with Matt after we wandered through the Tawas State park in the morning. I wandered from 6:30 am till 9:30 am. Great spot, orchard orioles, Baltimore orioles, cedar waxwings, sandpipers, yellow warblers, redstarts, a hobbling skunk, and a few others I cannot think of at this time. I was heading out to the shore where the piping plover was nesting, but did not get there before it was time to head off. I then headed north to meet up with them. We spent 4 hours stopping at different sites including Tuttle Marsh, and grasslands by an old airport, and air museum, that also looks like a fun shoot - not just for birds, the planes and museum too! Backroads everywhere! I GPS saved all the locations for a future time. Will have to return! The dust was crazy but it was a fun time. I returned to Tuttle marsh and wandered along the marshes and lagoons. Dragonflies were so abundant and they're were some Big Ones! So covered in a thin layer of dust I felt dirty and happy. Once a Tom Boy, Always a Tom Boy!
Headed back to my lovely motel room at the Bambi Motel at about 7:30 pm. A good day. For my birding friends...osprey, American "Bittern, (Sora), Pie-Billed Grebe on nest, (Conneticut warbler, Golden Winged Warbler, Kirkland Warbler), brewers Blackbird, Bobolinks, spotted sandpipers, (Virginia Rails) , and more. Brackets are around those I didn't see but were a possibility in the area.
A snack in my room and a cool glass of Mike's hard lemonade and a good sleep. On the road North now and over to my Photo Workshop at Nettie Lake with Chales Glatzer.
hope all is well in Ontariariario! Will write again soon. Must tell you about the Party Store!
My good deed for the day! found this guy in the middle of the road and helped him to the other side. actually i helped a few of them this trip.
This is my surprise find at the truck stop. a little of anything or should i say a Lot!
Nothing like a Zombie to practice on! I like the pink gun! or even the pink with camo!
But wait! There' s'more! So many to choose from. And this is just at a truck stop in the middle of nowhere! What would they have at a gun store?
June 10th Arrival at Nettie Lake
my side of the duplex!
and then my view of the lake....
June 11, 2014
So now you know what I mean about the truck stop! Crazy eh! It was just so weird! But anyway on with the trip.
And I just remembered I have to tell you about the Party store! Well it looked pretty normal on first perusal. The snacks, the pop, the booze (booze is everywhere!). But as I wandered up and down the aisles, checking out what surprises I could find, this old hippie/redneck ( I know, strange combination, but it is all I can think of to explain the character he portrayed. Like long white straggly ponytail, greasy old ball cap, easy going, but in a a way kind like the guys we once met in Tennessee. He was a 'simple' sort of fellow.) anyway we struck up a conversation, about the different booze and weird stuff on the shelves. Then he said to me..'have you seen our smoke shop?' "Why No"! I replied. And off I followed my new friend to the other end of the building, where low and behold, there is the smoke shop! First glance around, caused me to utter a 'Holy Smokes'! "Ha-Ha" he says, that's what we call the place, and he reaches over the counter and passes me a box of matches. And sure enough, it is called 'Holy Smokes'!
So to my left are 1 pound bags of rolling tobacco. Looking further to the left is the bulk bin, with the 5 lb bags. Really! Not just a couple bags either. No! It was a whole wall of huge bags of tobacco. And then to the other extreme, there behind me is an exceptional cedar lined humidor room, that covered another whole wall. It was filled with cigars from all over the world, and it all looked and smelled exquisite! With the smell of cedar still lingering in my nostrils, I reluctantly exited, and my buddy closed the door behind us.
But we have not yet served all of the people that would most certainly stop by 'Holy Smokes'! And there, centre stage was the piece de resistance. Every hooka, pipe, vaporizer, water pipe, electronic cigarette, and all the rest of the parafanalia that goes with this society of the smoking public! It was hilarious. This was no small store! It was huge! I really want to go back and take a few more photos. Maybe I am easily amused, but it was fun. We had a few laughs, and checked out some of the parafanalia and I left with my purchases.....hee-hee! No nothing exotic, just chocolate!
Had my chocolate treat, packed up my things, and hit the sack. Visions of loons, hooka pipes and guns, danced in my head! Oh my.
The next day, I did a road trip day on my way to Nettiebay Lodge. Down this road and that, stopping in the coffee shop in ________ with a welcome called out with a strong baritone voice from the table of three old guys as I entered. A wander through the 'Moosetails" store, and a long chat with John who along with his wife own the two stores, one in East Tawas and one here in _______. He linked me up with a local wildlife photographer in the neighbourhood. We will probably touch base later. Great shop too.
Then a stop at Applebee's for lunch, and finally on to my next adventure, here at Nettiebay Lodge.
So I am now in my little cabin on the Lake. Nestled up in my bed for the second night here. The first evening was mostly just settling in. We drove into town.... Well it was sort of a town- a gas station 2 restaurants and umm I think that was all? the one restaurant was closed but thankfully the other was open and 5 of us who jumped in my car, for the 10 minute ride, shared a meal and a few jokes and got to know each other. Then off to the Gas station. For gas?......NOT! For booze and ice cream...but of course!
Back to the lodge for orientation and setting up for our next day's shoot. A lesson in manual shooting, which is to be our mode this week! Yikes! But for good reason, as we learned because of the loon's white chest, and black head, exposure is difficult to set up for quickly depending on if they are sideways or front on with their white chest.
It actually worked well today and we were able to change settings very quickly for the opportunities as we floated with the loons, as they preened, rinsed, and then wing-flapped to reset all their feathers. They would stay close to us most of the time, and all the time we're lying on our bellies, shooting with our shorter lenses at distances from 3 feet to 15-20 feet. Used the big Kahuna for some portraits of the loons though and it was very cool. But I am getting ahead of myself. Need to back track.....
Tuesday night, after all the discussions and lessons were over and the shooting schedules set. I headed back to my little cabin, poured a glass of wine and went out to the dock to await the calling of the loons. It is a sound I have not heard for quite awhile, and I was so excited to finally listen to the calls. It was so peaceful........ Sigh.....
But not for friggin long! The bombers noted a new source of blood and were dive-bombing like they hadn't eaten for weeks. Dam near lost all my wine, swatting at the buzzing bastards! So I make a mad dash back to the cabin, for hat, coat, bug spray, and of course more wine. Sprayed the best I could to cover most of the prime locations, and determined, I returned to the lake side and sat in an adirondack chair sipping a nice glass of Malbec waiting for the warbling cries of an asylum of loons! ( maybe this is where 'Crazy as a Loon' came from?)
it was all worth it. They started to call. And call. And call. It was wonderful! The BBs, were still a friggin nuisance so once the wine was done I retreated to ensure I had enough blood left for the next day. But I left all the shutters open on the screened windows. And Cozy in my bed, the loons called off and on. Then the Whippoorwills pitched in, whippoorwilling over and over and over. And then papa Bard Owl, sang base. It was a lovely lullaby! Lasting quite awhile. I fell asleep with a smile on my face.
Did you know that the record number of continuous whippoorwill calls by a single bird is 1,088! Not sure who was the poor sucker was that had to listen and count them, but they say it is a fact!
But that's it for today! More about Wednesday when next I get a chance. For now good night.
To be continued....
Here are a few shots from my first morning shoot. unfortunately we were only out for about and hour as the rain set in. but t is a start!
Cape Churchill Manitoba November 2013
November 17 blog:
Awaiting the arrival of others on the tour. We will be getting together for a welcoming dinner tonight. Unfortunately the lead photographer - John Marriott - will not be coming. John's dad was admitted to hospital in Salmon Arm with a life threatening septic infection. I am sure there will be other experienced photographers to learn from, but I will miss meeting and working with John Marriott.
See John's web site:
We will forge ahead though, keeping John and his Dad in our thoughts.
We are going to photograph the Polar Bears!!! And the list decided at dinner tonight by Roberta ( and agreed to by all) also includes gyr falcon, arctic fox, ptarmigan and caribou! In the non wildlife area, we hope to shoot the northern lights. It will be an adventure what ever happens.
Over the next 11 days, we will work at getting some great shots during our time in the arctic. Tomorrow morning we fly to Churchill and have a town tour and experience life in the northern community. We will stay overnight in Churchill, then the next day, slowly make our way out to Cape Churchill. We apparently will be heading to where the lodge is now located, then it will be disassembled and moved to the Cape, where we will "park our parkas" for the week. Speaking of parkas, they have provided parkas for us. Lovely goose-down parkas! No doubt we will keep warm! 😁 Maybe not such a big problem for me.😄 and to-boot they are blue!( my favourite colour)
Got the Sorrell boots out ready for the morning and all the other arctic-wear required to prevent frostbite, or worse yet, losing all feeling and becoming "stiff and inflexible"! Not a good thing on an adventure expedition. We really must remain flexible! 😜
So will travel in a convoy out to the cape. I could take 6-8 hours. Hopefully lots of wildlife on the way. Mind you, tomorrow there are a few of us that are, weather permitting, and a guaranteed window seat, may also take a helicopter out for some aerial photography! This is a big thing for me. I Looooovvvvve helicopters! And it is one of those thing that I like to do when I can see something spectacular. While I have spent some time in the Arctic over the years, this will probably be a unique experience. We'll see how it all turns out.
Hopefully this new way of communicating to you about my adventures will work better than the emails. Once you have the link, you should be able to follow along (if I am doing it right? All new to me as well).
Please feel free to share the blog address if you like. I will try to add some photos when I can.
But of course there is the possibility that we won't always have access to the internet -if at all. If that is the case, I will send them out when I get home one day at a time.
Hello from Churchill Manitoba!
Wanted to let you know we made it to Churchill safe and sound. A couple photos from earlier...Pretty much all iPhone pics).
What do you think this is?
Hayley our guide has been awesome!! A transplanted Kiwi, who has done incredible outdoor adventures, and guided many places, and has even written a book! Great personality and very efficient!
And now for the rest of the story.....
While they were working on the plane, they brought in a bus and took us to the Winnipeg Zoo for lunch! Nothing fancy, but they had also arranged for tour guides and the took us on tour through some of the areas to visit the animals. And yes, we saw our first live polar bear - "Hudson"! You can read Hudson's story here...
As we wondered around - in our very warm, but very bulky parkas, we looked like a herd? Flock?....whatever.... of penguins shuffling along in the snow! And hey who ever thought we would see snow leopards on this trip? A adult pair with two young. What an incredibly beautiful animal!
And I think it was also the first time a "herd of parkas" wondered into the South American exhibit! It was a little warm for all. After a short while wandering with two great zoo guides, we boarded our bus again to return to the hanger. The plane mechanics had given it their best to make the necessary repairs, but the tour company ended up chartering another plane from "Calm Air" to take us to Churchill. We left Winnipeg about 4:30 and arrived here about 7:30 pm.
There are about thirty people in all. Our small group has 9 photographers. California, Florida, Kelowna, Vancouver, Lively Ontario, Canmore Alberta, Mosley Ont, one more I can't remember, and London Ont...Me! In the other groups, there is a gentleman from India, the UK and numerous US states.
They had dinner dinner options sent to us on the plane. We made our choices and relayed back to Churchill. (My dinner was Arctic char, with wild rice risotto, and it was delicious! )
The tour company team Frontier North, and Polar Bears International (PBI), did a fabulous job making the most of a day full of conundrums! Get this....because we were not able to pick up supplies in Churchill as a result of our late arrival, they even took a liquor store order! Where else but in the north would this happen!
Check out their links!
Now I'm ready to sleep. Our plans have changed again. We will have the morning in Churchill and leave on tundra buggies to the Tundra Buggy Lodge at ~1:00 pm. We are going to spend the night there and break camp the next morning. Don't know about the chopper ride yet.
On a last note. On our way from the airport, we saw 2 arctic foxes. Coming out from dinner and crossing the street back to our hotel,I said out loud, "ok how about another arctic fox before bed? Where are you Buddy?" Not 20 seconds later one crossed the road not more than 30 yards away! I just have a way with animals! Actually, we were told this is a huge year for the foxes. Regardless, they were beautiful pure white with lovely big bushy tails!
And as a last last note.... The northern light were faintly flickering in the sky as we headed to our home at the Tundra Inn.
This may be the last blog till I get home. Not even cell service in Churchill!
Good night all. I will write and send when/if I can.
Diane ( the fox whisperer)
Ok now...so where did I leave off?
Right now we are moving overland, camp in tow. Now this is no easy feat on a regular day! But today happens to be a hell of a day for this.
But I am getting ahead of myself and I should bring you up to date on what has happened since arriving in Churchill.
November 18 Update:
Unfortunately John's father passed away and he will not be joining us. We have all been thinking of him and missing him, and hope he and his family are doing OK.
there is a great group and we are already having fun! We boarded the plane to Churchill at 7:30 am and headed up to Churchill. After flying half an hour, the pilot tells us a gauge isn't working and we have to return to Winnipeg. About 10 minutes my seat mate and I noticed the prop on our side was just slowly blowing in the wind! But our pilot got us back on the other engine fine and landed like we were a feather. Awesome job. Then we notice that all the fire engines were waiting to meet us! Quite a reception! So now they are working on the engine, while we relax in the pilots lounge. We hope to still get there today. The skies are starting to show blue, so I think it will be a good day! The adventure has begun!
First thing this morning we headed over to the restaurant for breakfast.haley came to a few of us that had shown an interest in a helicopter tour. We all being photographers had not wanted to pay the price if we did not have a window seat so we could photograph. The answers were back and there were window seats for Five.! Alrighty then! Roberta and I from our group and three others, Joel ( Chief Counsel for India and south-east Asia) Gary a civil engineer from somewhere, and Dorthy from Pittsburg.
It was a beautiful clear sky morning, sunrise colours lighting the eastern skies as the skis lifted from the tarmack. Off we swerved towards Hudson Bay. The ice on the bay had formed two weeks early this year. The patterns of the windswept snow and in the ice were beautiful.The small trees growing on the land before we reached the taiga, had long shadows cast by low magic morning light. Awestruck we continued, looking,of course, for the elusive, white on white, Ursus maritimus, the sea bear, most commonly known as the Polar Bear!
And there she was! A mom with a young cub sauntering along. The shutters had certainly been clicking before, but now the rapid fire of multiple cameras and the oohs and ahhhs of the photographers, clearly indicated something special was in our sights! The pilot turns the chopper on its left side and then it's right to give all an opportunity to have a good view. And then off we went to continue looking for more...a large male curled up in a bed of kelp he had dug up for himself...another mom and cub curled up behind a hillock of dirt or snow with a large male approaching - this had potential to be an event as the mother started towards the male leaving the cub behind her. All ended peacefully.
A huge dark grey cloud bank was developing over the open waters of Hudson Bay. That beautiful deep blue grey hue contrasting with the clear deepening blue sky north of the 69th, still had a hint of soft sunrise pink.
And then we have to turn around. An hour sure goes by fast. But a wonderful start to the day.
Back in Churchill with a few hours to explore before we had to head to the launch point. I dropped off one of my cameras, dressed up warm and headed out on the town! I think I forgot to tell you how cold it was. It was that cold that as soon as you step outside, the moisture on the hairs inside your nose freeze and the freezing air sends a tingling current to your cheeks, numbing them almost immediately. There was hoar frost on every thing visible. Quite beautiful! Pressing the shutter as I went I captured a few images around the town. I stopped in at the museum, which was very interesting, unfortunately not enough time to really do it justice. Ther were also wonderful carvings and artwork from northern artists.
As I left the museum, there was this sweet pup waiting for its owner. Welcoming a puppy fix, I felt it necessary to warm the poor little fellow. So we had a little lovin' which he and I both enjoyed!
Next stop was the grocery store to stock up on chocolate, ( I do have my priorities) the a couple galleries and then back for lunch. I quickly gobbled my lunch realizing that I hadn't yet had my passport stamped at the Post Office (nice to know they still have some business eh!), and also another forgotten priority - the liquor store! While they had taken everyone's order yesterday, it was decided since we had the morning free after all, we could shop ourselves.
That done, I headed back, grabbed my camera gear and hopped on the bus to the Tundra buggy launch.
We are finally on the road to our camp!
The tundra buggies are assigned to their groups. John Marriott's crew is on Buggy 10. Until now we had all been milled together for the flights, tours and meals. Now we had time to get to know each other, but not before all the camera gear was readied for the journey ahead!
So we we off in a little "Buggy Convoy" to our home for the next night. As we got close to our destination we finally spotted a polar bear, sleeping in the willows on the side of the road. We crowded out to back deck - not before dawning a layer or two, to see and try to capture a shot in the low light. Very hard to spot cream on white in a distance, especially in fading light of dusk. And a moment later there's an arctic fox running along side our buggy - more white on white. Getting close to camp now, we put the cameras away. We have arrived! Home for only one night but home all the same. It was a fair trek today and we were ready to stop.
So this is a big day. The camp has to be packed up, broken down, and hooked up to the tundra buggies for the move from this site, to our final destination of Cape Churchill. So it is a pretty early start. We must Ensure all your gear is stowed safely. Nothing on the shelves or loose in the bunk house. There are two bunkhouse. The have up and down bunks on both sides of the aisle. The bunkhouses will be towed by tundra buggies today, as will the kitchen car,the lounge car and all the rest. It is a long process getting everything ready. It requires many workers on the ground, which in this location is pretty dangerous. So many workers are guards with rifles as lookouts for any bears approaching, and the guests are put on the tundra buggy, doing circle rounds around the camp base area to make the camp aware of any bears in the outer areas that might head their way. Once the camp was ready, the tundra buggys backed into their loads , hooked up, and at about 11:15 am, the convoy was on the road....well not a road exactly....over the tundra and the taiga on the routes that have been used before. These are not easy roads! Boulders everywhere, the odd place the ice is not real solid. But it is only 32 km, so it shouldn't be too bad right? 😱
I don't know what speed we drove at but it was not fast. Then along the way, our buggy caught a boulder and the drive shaft broke and then punctured the oil pan. Oh yeah baby, the adventure continues! Then we passed over a soft are. Our driver, Buggy Bob, felt it starting to sink and gunned it and made it out ok. Unfortunately the buggy behind us did not. And it took a couple or three hours to pull it out. The water here is not deep at all, but it was not an easy feat to get them out of it. I have to say also that the speed they managed to repair a broken driveshaft and punctured oil pan, gives Jiffy Lube a run for their money! These guys are amazing.
So stop and go, a slow slow go, and finally about 11 pm we arrived at Cape Churchill in Wapusk National Park. Yes 32 km , and 12 hours to cover the distance. But wait there' s'more. we are here yes, but now the camp has to be set up! We were fed lunch and soup and coffee and such on the way. Now to appease the restless natives, ( who had no idea what all this involved ) they brought out the wine and cheese for a happy hour! I don't think I mentioned, but, each buggy is like a school bus, but it has a bathroom in the back and a propane stove to curl up to when it gets cold...😳. That day we were in the centre of a blizzard. No visibility, snow horizon, and colllllldddddd!
So the crew had the worst conditions to do a tear down, but for us photographers, the day lost was a day we probably would not have had much to shoot, so not as big of a loss as it could have been. But the temperature with windchill was certainly at the very most -30, but I think it was colder. The wind that day would numb the fingers so fast that pushing the shutter next to impossible.
So it took from 11 till 2:30 am to set up camp. We were captured in our tundra buggies thill they were done, but the wine helpedLasagna was served at 3 am , and finally to bed. Up again in the morning at 7 am to head out again, and the day dawned cold and foggy, with very little visibility. But it did clear up and it ended up to be not a bad shooting day. But I must save that for another email, as it is now time for dinner.
Stay tuned for some more adventures and some magical moments! Hopefully I will have time to process some photographs to show you more than iPhone shots. Hope you are well.
Thinking about you John and hoping you are doing ok.
Lots of love for now,
Ps. Today -19- with the wind chill -27
Just got in (11pm) and am trying to thaw out! I think you are right Sue, it sure felt like it was colder than -19...however you look at it, it is dang cold!
The Northern lights appeared tonight and a few of us were out on the decks photographing them. The sky is clear but the wind wicked! Tomorrow is supposed to be -40 with the wind chill factor. Anyway, i cannot get ahead of myself here. Just wanted to send a few more photos I could get from my iPhone tonight. It is the first we have had internet since we arrived.
Stay tuned for ....."The Rest of the Story!"
Chatter chatter .... shiver shiver!
PS thanks for your emails! Nice to hear from you too!
Me on the Back Deck leaning into the Wind!
The wind was wicked! Shooting out on the back deck of the buggy. We are out in our buggy from before sunrise to after sunset. (8am to 3:30 pm)Sometimes shooting off the back deck, sometimes out the window with cameras set on beanbags on the window sill to steady. As I was shooting off the back deck Thursday, my bean bag fell off. We were shooting a mom and probably a two year old cub at the time. Fortunately they didn't notice and we were able to retrieve once the two left.
FYI we are not allowed to get off the buggy at any time nor set foot on the ground. Last night a huge male was ........oh heck you'll have to wait for that story! I need to get some sleep!
November 21, 22, 23, 24
I had a few more shots than the others, but then he was even too close for my lens, so I stopped shooting to just watch. He came towards me on the back deck, stood on hind legs, paws against the side of the buggy and with only two feet maybe between us, we had eye connection. It is impossible to explain the feeling. But it was like a gift to have this moment with this bear. A moment of buggy love, and it was all mine!
The photos are not good quality here, but it looks like there might be some great shots in there somewhere. And these are actually pretty sharp in the camera. I can only hope for the same on the big screen when I get home. Hopefully you will drop by my website once I get home and am able to process and upload a few of the good ones. It will take me a week or two to get some up probably!
We have had amazing photo opps. Two days in a row of sunshine ( which I am hearing is a very unusual occurrence here) and wonderful magic hour colours. And today, while it had snowed like crazy all night, and the day dawned dark and dreary, a little light poked through at opportune moments. We would have a period of fairly nice shooting conditions, and before you could say "Wapusk" we were in the midst of a whiteout. Then the sky would open up, a little light would shine through. Then there was horizontal snow that turned into another white out, and again a little light. But then it closed in and stayed that way from one pm on. But we did end up shooting some amazing things today. We watched and photographed some amazing animal behaviour with foxes. Some photos will probably not be for everyone, and some were incredibly adorable. And a couple of polar bears as well.
Followed two arctic foxes for awhile, watching they searched for food, then digging a small impression in the snow, curling up, and having a snooze. Always with one eye peeking out to check for danger. That was the fun and adorable part. The second part of the day we observed a red fox with a kill. Some witnessed the chase and the kill, while our buggy arrived just after. The prey was one of those adorable arctic foxes we had just been watching. But it was very interesting to watch him as he buried food for later and made the most of every bit of the food he had captured.
This is certainly the arctic. Unpredictable from one moment to the next. But there are other more serious issues that need to be shared too. Remember the mom and cub I mentioned, that was so thin? It is a long time from when the cubs are born and the mom and cub come out of the den. During that time, the mom does not eat. Sometimes it can be six months until she eats. The main diet of polar bears is ring seal. They must have access to the ice to enable them to hunt the seals. But that ice has been receding steadily (global warming). Take a look at the polar bears international site at the video that shows how the ice has decreased in size over the last number of years. And as a result of this and other factors, In 2008, in the US, polar bears have been identified as threatened under the endangered species list and In Canada as a species of special concern. Check out this video on the Polar Bears International (PBI) site, showing how the polar ice has declined. Pretty shocking!
Polar bears international has a great website with invaluable information about polar bears. I think you would find it interesting. Great info for kids too.
Well breakfast is being served! I must eat and then we are off for our last day of shooting. Tomorrow we head back to Churchill to get our flight to Winnipeg. Overnight there and home on Thursday. Will take some time to absorb all that I have seen and experienced here at Cape Churchill. Today snow again this morning but maybe clearing by noon. Fingers crossed for a good day of shooting.
May not be blogging again till I get to Winnipeg or even home. I think a bit of a party tonight! But I will be I touch again when I can. Til then take care, check out the PBI site. There were some web cams too!
Ciao for now from the arctic!
Well that's it folks. It was fun sharing my adventure with you! Hopefully before too long I will manage to get some photos up on my website ( www.dewphoto.zenfolio.com ), and I hope you enjoy seeing the awesome wildlife we saw as well!
© Diane E Weiler