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OFF TO AFRICA!

April 03, 2016  •  1 Comment

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.

October 14th

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.

Not there.

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!

 
October 16
 
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!
 
October 16
 
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.
 
 
 
 
October 20
 
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!
 
October 24
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
Tanzania
 
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!
Hugs,
Diane
 
 
November 11
Remembrance Day
 
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!
 
Nov. 19
 
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
 

 


Comments

Don Rycroft(non-registered)
Diane, nice to see you off on another great adventure. Last minute scrambles are not pleasant but looks like you managed to get all in, just in time. Have fun and can't wait to see your images.
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