I am alive

Hi there faithful long neglected readers 🙂

I thought that I should drop you a line to let you know that I am still alive. I do realise I left you in “deepest darkest Africa” in my last blog where I was filling you in on my adventures in Kenya.

The lack of continuing posts is not a reflection on my lack of interest or anything similar. The unthinkable happened – I got a job!!!!

I have taken on a position as the food and beverage manager of the Ramada Couran Cove Island Resort on South Stradbroke Island just near the Queensland Gold Coast. My employment was completely unexpected and as with many things a happenstance occasion.

I went to a party where the owners of the resort (people I know and that I now call close friends) were in attendance. There was conversation that basically went along the lines of… Them – “yeah, we’re looking for a new food and beverage manager. We need someone to come and sort out some stuff”… Me – “oh, I could do that for you” … Them – “Can you do X, Y, Z”… Me – “yeah, no problem”… Them –  “Great can you come for an interview on Wednesday” … Me –  “Yeah, sure” and voila!!!

The management team on the island said “yes, we’ll take you” and I started less than a week after the initial conversation.

In real terms what that has meant is long days of lots of challenging work and not much (read almost no) down time, thus no blogging. It is an awesome job and I am loving the challenges and the interaction with staff and guests. It is so stimulating!!! Tough but fun.

So, now that the Christmas/New Years madness has passed and I am starting to get my head above water there will be time to get in and start blogging again so I promise, I have not forgotten about you and that there is still a bit more Africa to come and probably a bit of South Stradbroke Island to follow.

This place is heaven on a stick. It is a really natural environment with plenty of photographic opportunity. I am looking forward to getting properly settled in and taking some down time with camera in hand to get out and take some shots.

Just to give you an idea of what it is like I have included a few iphone shots that I have grabbed along the way so that you can see how lovely this place is. Nothing fancy but just a little something.

I will catch you again soon and start blogging properly. In the mean time I wish you health, wealth and happiness and endless love and joy for 2015.


The island has a healthy population of wallabies. This little dude was snacking on mango outside my room one morning.


On Spa Island is our poolside restaurant. I wish I could count the number of times I have crossed this bridge in the last month 🙂


The lagoon surrounding Spa Island is used by kids swimming and lots of kayakers. It is wayyyy cool. Often times guests sit on their balconies with an esky of beers and fish the day away. Some apparently even catch something 😉


In the mornings if I am walking to work I travel along a raised walkway through the “rainforest”. It is simply gorgeous. And as an added bonus, if Dave is here I get him to escort me at night (if I can’t get a lift to my “house”) and the forest is full of bio luminescent fungi. Just waiting for photography here.

IMG_1483The dude who runs the sightseeing plane flights over the island and Gold Coast had a spare seat and invited me for joy flight. Woohooo!!! Great fun but this is a bad areal photo of the resort. My areas are where the swimming pool is (Poolside Restaurant) and a cafe and restaurant where all the boats are parked.

All in all, not a bad place to work. I am living in the treed area at the bottom in a studio apartment and in the evenings I sit and listen to the curlews call and watch these crazy birds run up and down outside on the road. I am looking forward to sharing these sights and sounds with you over the next little while. Could be an interesting journey. Cheers for now (which I think is a remarkably apt end from a food and beverage manager hehehe).

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The stripey one – zebras

I read a lovely book recently about the adventures of a safari guide (Whatever you do don’t run). In it he describes guests trying to take photos of zebras. He describes zebras as “notorious bum flashers”. The bottom line with zebras is that just when you have everything lined up for the perfect shot they all seem to catch that camera vibe and universally all turn tail and all you are left with is a line up of striped backsides. That can be fun but not ideal photographically.

During our week in the Mara it was where the zebra earned a new name. They went from “oh wow, zebras” with excitement in my voice to becoming “pah, bloody zebras” as they’d turn tail and show me the backside of Africa.

That said, they are pretty awesome animals. The babies are super long legged so that they can fit happily behind mum and stay out of sight of predators. They are lovely and fluffy with their stripes standing up above their backs. Mum’s would always put themselves between us and their precious babies. The bigger zebras are certainly wary of everything. Unlike the lions that really didn’t care about the car, zebras always cared. As soon as we came across a herd they would turn tail and either run or walk to a safe distance where they would resume their constant eating. I guess when you are on the menu for every big predator then you rightfully get a little twitchy.

I did have a win one day though when we came across a herd that must have seen a big cat on the periphery. They all stood to attention with their gaze firmly fixed ahead to keep the threat in sight. Finally a bunch of zebras that had more on their minds than avoiding the camera.

The other great zebra times were when we came upon them heading down to the river for a drink. They were still super skittish which made for a great deal of amusement as they would routinely scare each other away from the waters edge and racing up the bank. I did manage to get a couple of shots off though which was pleasing.

When we got to the Laikipia reserve we met a different type of zebra. The ones we saw on the Mara were all Plains Zebras whereas around Mt Kenya they have the much rarer Grevys Zebra. They had huge floppy ears and much wider stripes that didn’t meet over the back or under their belly and unlike the plains zebras these guys don’t hang out in herds. They seem to shun company and just wander on their own until it is time to find a love match. After seeing so many plains zebras at the Mara it was kind of weird to see so few of the beautiful Grevys. It is sad to think that these abundant animals that were so plentiful are now endangered. I guess their beautiful pattern made them an ideal carpet for some folks.

The other thing I noticed was that zebras are cranky buggers. It seemed that every time we came across a large herd inevitably a fight would break out. The stallions would slash their teeth aiming for each other’s legs. They were brutal in their battles. It did however make for an awesome spectacle with the flying dust turning spectacle into spectacular.

While I did get some photos that I am quite happy with I did have one on the wish list that I just didn’t nab. I really wanted that classic shot of a face on zebra up close. The great thing about not nabbing all the shots on the list means I just have to go back and try again 🙂

Plains zebraTypical zebra view 🙂

Plains zebraYou looking at me???

Plains zebra

Drinking and looking and looking and drinking.

Plains zebraA dazzle of zebra (that is the real plural 🙂 )

Plains zebra

Dusk light

Plains zebra

Fluffy baby.

Grevys zebra

Rare Grevys Zebra

Plains zebra

Getting into it.

Plains zebra

Tuck those legs in boys.

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Impala vs Lioness

Our first day on safari was almost over. It had been an absolute cracker! We had seen some awesome animals as we were tripping all over the Maasai Mara, and seen a wildebeest crossing, and I had had my amazing Mohican experience. I was happy and exhausted.

Dusk was falling as we were heading back to the conservancy from the main park when we came across two male impala engaged in a heavy war. These guys run a harem of dozens of females and as such there is a lot of competition as to who is the top guy. Only one male rules at a time so fights for dominance break out among the males.

It was an amazing sight and sound. The dust was flying up from their hooves each time they lowered their horns and came in for another round. We could hear the clash of their horns as they struck each other again and again, levering to try to get a better grappling point again their opponent.

One of the surprising things for me was how close we were (a constant surprise) with only 5-6 meters separating us from their fight. They were so immersed in each other that they just didn’t see us at all. And we were not alone. There would have been another 3 vehicles parked around them watching the action. As it turned out though it was not just us these valiant warriors did not see. They also missed the approaching lioness!

With it being dusk I couldn’t take any photos any further (my camera and I were having issues when the sun went down regarding taking good pictures) but I could video. The video capabilities of the EM1 were really very good in low light (dusk) so I had switched into video mode and was recording the fight.

So I’m madly filming the clash of the titans when Charles (our guide) says quietly “there is a lioness coming in”! The excitement level in the car went up to level 10 with this news. I just kept pointing the camera at the impala and bang! in she came!

It was amazing. She barrelled into the two males and grabbed one by the throat, dragging it to the ground. The other male raced off to stand about 15-20m away and stood stamping and snorting his surprise and distress. She held the impala on the ground while her sister came in for a look. Then the sister calls with a couple of low whuffing sounds and out of the bushes came three cubs. When they got close the first lioness let the stunned impala go and as it bounced up the cubs then swarmed it in an effort to “re-capture” it. Incredible to watch (sadly I missed the bit where it got up on the video). Over the next little bit we watched as the adults held the imapla and the cubs were given the chance to hone their food preparation skills.

It was gruesome, and awesome, and scary, and heartbreaking and so many other things all in one incredible scene. We were all quite shocked and amazed. What had begun as an interesting imapala battle where we certainly hadn’t expected any death and destruction had turned into a family feast for lions. I guess that the bottom line is that if animals don’t get killed then no one lives and certainly I had seen plenty of killings on various tv nature shows but there is something quite brutal about the reality of watching it unfold in front of your eye.

One thing I can say for sure, between having Mohican look into me and then watching the way these lions attacked the imapala I have a whole new respect for the reality of these animals. They may just look like big lazy pussy cats as they lay around resting but once they get up and into action – boy oh boy! They sure are a force to be reckoned with.

I have no still photos of the event but I have worked out how to embed a video into the blog (yay for me) so I have included it here. It is not super gruesome (as in not flying blood and guts stuff) so if you think it of interest please have a watch. I was rather proud to have it added to the Kicheche Bush Camp “sighting of the week” on their website. Made me feel that what we had seen and captured on video was something a bit special.


She might look relaxed and vague – but she isn’t!


A harem of impala females.


  An impala attack

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I want to start this with an apology. I realise it has been a little while since I last reached out and wrote a blog. Life has been a little challenging of late. We are no longer on the road but have returned back to Brisbane, Australia for a quick sorting out. Coming home when you have no home can present it’s own challenges and as we are not back permanently but only for a quick stop I have been busily finding us a suitable place to live and getting us a little bit organised. With all of this messing about I have found it hard to get in blog writing frame of mind so I apologise for the lack of posts.

So what happens to the blog now that we are home? A heap of good stuff. I now have time to get in and write a little something and I still have plenty to tell. You have barely heard anything of our trip to Africa and there are a few little travel tales from the rest of our journey that didn’t make it in the first time around. So this little travel break will be a time for me to catch you up on some of the fun things that we did and to do a little work on the back-side of the blog (hopefully without breaking it).

And so we re-start our journey from where we left off – the Maasai Mara in Kenya…

On our first full day in the Mara we saw a great many animals of all different kinds, as you would expect. And they all filled me with awe and wonder. It is amazing how sitting in a vehicle with no windows makes everything feel so close and touchable. It is a feeling of being very connected to the scene without actually being endangered by the animals. After all, even though the sides were open on the car it was not as if the animals got that close. Every time we came close to zebra or wildebeest they turned tail and ran away.

Not all animals do that though.

Lions don’t turn and run. Lions don’t do anything. They don’t even acknowledge that a vehicle has pulled up and is full of people looking at them. They are much too regal to bother with insignificant trucks and thankfully they have not worked out that the people inside could be considered edible.

That does not mean however that there is no interaction.

We came across a great big male sauntering across the plain. Mohican was his name and he really was quite spectacular. I was quite surprised that he walked across in front of the car and didn’t seem to care that we were nearby (in an effort to get better shots Charles had positioned us in front of his path). It was the closest any of the animals had come to the vehicle.

Charles then drove us around again for a second run at a series of shots with him walking towards us. I was madly shooting away with the camera firmly pressed to my eye when I realised that I couldn’t take any more shots because he was filling up the frame too much which could only mean one thing – he must be pretty close.

Close?!!!! Ah yep, you could say that!!!! When I pulled the camera away from my face there, no more than 15 feet away, was a lion casually walking toward me. Ok, he was on the ground outside the car and I was up in the vehicle but there were no windows or anything between me and him. I swear – I stopped breathing. I couldn’t look anywhere other than at this magnificent scary beast that was so close and getting closer.

He was so close in the end that he had to alter his path to get around the back of the car without hitting the corner. And just as he pulled level with me he lifted his great head and looked me straight in the eye – and then dismissed me and just kept on walking. This huge beast that was no more than 4 feet away looked straight into my soul and scoured it clean.

It would have to rate as one of the most terrifying moments of my entire life and one of the most exhilarating and life affirming and so many other things that just can’t be put on paper. I couldn’t breathe and when I finally did manage to hitch in a gasping breath I just started to cry. It was so scary and so exciting all in one.

According to my fellow car-mates all of this happened in the blink of an eye (not for me, it took ages for him to walk past us) and every moment of that emotion played on my face. Billy was laughing with sheer delight having watched me have my first ‘big’ African moment and Dave didn’t think I was that scared because I didn’t move away (mainly because I was completely frozen in place). It was certainly an experience I will never forget. I saw Mohican the lion, and Mohican the lion saw me. Does something to your heart I think. Made me love Africa even more and surely made me re-evaluate my place in the worlds food chain 😉

What an awesome way to meet the king of the beasts – face to face and eye to eye.




Nap time.


Your majesty.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy all time favourite photo from the whole trip. This one will be going up on the wall.

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The great migration

A girlfriend of mine commented that she thought it was awesome that I had had such a great time in Southern Africa. I smiled and told her “Ummm, it was actually Kenya” and she replied with an exited “yeah, so cool!”. On the basis of that alone I figured I might just post a couple of maps to give the non-geographic people (nothing wrong with that) an idea of where exactly we were as well as a bit better idea of why we went.

Below is Africa with Kenya marked. Our flight from Thailand took vaguely that path is marked by the arrow and we went straight into Nairobi.

Africa - Copy

As mentioned in my last blog we then caught a flight to the Maasai Mara National Park and began our Mara odyssey. I have marked on this map the other places we visited in Kenya as well, just for reference for the up-coming blogs 🙂

Kenya park - Copy

#1 – Maasai Mara National Reserve,  #2 – Laikipia,  #3 – Amboseli National Park

The whole reason I picked the Maasai Mara great migration experience is because I had seen so much of it on such programs as “Life On Earth” etc from Sir David Attenborough. I was thrilled with talk of wildebeest stretching from horizon to horizon from July til October as they made their way from the plains of the Serengeti in Tanzania north to the Mara then turning around in late October to follow the rains and heading back to the breeding grounds of the Serengeti for the remaining months of the year. The maps below show the general migration pattern. I most wanted to see the wildebeest crossing the Mara River as they make their way to the grazing lands but as with all wild life there was no guarantee.

Untitled-1On our first day in the main part of the Mara reserve we had let Charles (our guide) know our wish list. Julie wanted a cheetah on a mound, Billy and Dave just wanted to poke their heads out of the roof and enjoy the excitement of Africa and I had no idea really of what I wanted…. Except we all wanted to see a crossing. We wanted to watch thousands of wildebeest plunge into the Mara River, a couple fall victim to crocodiles, lions picking off the easy targets as they reached the other side, then the main herd thunder off into the distance. Not really a big ask surely?

Charles was in communication with other drivers and it seemed the wildebeest were massing at one of the crossing points and that we might be lucky enough that they decided to take the plunge and cross over. You see it is not as simple as you might first think. Just because they are all hanging around the river banks does not necessarily mean that they are actually going to cross. They seem to be incredibly indecisive creatures from my point of view. First they wander aimlessly around an open area just grazing and making gnu (the other name for wildebeest is gnu) noises. Then another distant group might see them and after a lot of milling around they might charge over and join them making the group larger.

Through all of this to-ing and fro-ing we sat in our vehicle on the bank of the river watching to see what would happen. There were quite a number of other vehicles gathering with us and everyone was pretty sure that a crossing would take place. All we needed was for the wildebeest to get with the program. After about 45 minutes of watching nothing much we moved pozzie to get a better look at the milling and eating herd to gauge where their collective heads were at. Sadly from what we could see over the course of another 30-40 minutes the gnus were snoozing and nothing much was happening. Charles was saying that we needed the sun to come out for a longer period (it was playing hide and seek in the clouds with moments of sun then shade again). Apparently the wildebeest get agitated in the heat and are more likely to cross when in full sun. Sadly the sun was not being particularly co-operative.

With a whole bunch of nothing much happening we decided to head off into the bushes to have our lunch. If anything exciting started to happen someone would let us know on the radio.

Instead of the whole shebang lunch (table, table cloth, chairs, etc) we opted for the shortened version where we unpacked onto the bonnet of the car, loaded up our plates and kept the fuss to a minimum. And with Murphy’s Law in full operation, we had no sooner put the final spoonful of food onto our plates when the call came over the radio “it looks like they are going”!

Talk about the worlds’ fastest pack up. We had everything back in the esky and packed in the front of the car in 2 seconds flat. And so began the “Ferrari safari”. Racing along the pitted dirt tracks back to the river we each clung on for dear life with one hand while the other juggled the full lunch plate with the other. It was rather thrilling I would have to say.

Then as we approached the river we could see what felt like 100’s of other vehicles all with the best spots lined up along the bank. We were never going to be able to get a spot to see anything let along take any decent piccys. But I had underestimated our Charles. He roared up and drove straight through the throngs and we ended up being the second car along the river bank somehow and there in time to see the first gnus hit the water.

Julie and I just grabbed cameras and started banging away. Had it not been so intense it would have been funny. We knew that this might be our only crossing and we were determined to get something usable in terms of a decent photo.

The most shocking thing about the entire experience is that it was all over in a heartbeat. Literally from first photo to last it took less than 5 minutes for 2,000+ wildebeest to cross the river. After so much milling and indecision, once they decided to go they just went for it. Not hesitation and no stopping. It was amazing and while there were no crocodiles lurking and no lions feasting it was still exactly as we had hoped and I would have to say that all 4 of us were completely thrilled at the chance to see something so timeless.

One of the fun bits to top off our first crossing would be the moments after it was all said and done. The wildebeest had crossed, the photos had been taken and there was a moment to sit back down and get excited. Then we just grabbed our plates from where we had put them on the seats, took our drinks out of the seat pockets and picked up with lunch from where we had left off, much to the very vocal amusement and admiration of the people in the vehicle next to us, “wow look at that, they still have their lunch ready to go”. It was just one of those weird quirky moments that wrapped up the whole experience quite nicely.

Wildebeest crossing Maasai Mara

Some of the other vehicles at the beginning waiting for something to happen. By the time they crossed there were 20+ trucks all lined up facing across the river side-by-side on the bank edge.

Wildebeest crossing Maasai Mara

The first brave souls.

Wildebeest crossing Maasai Mara

Crossing in full strength.

Wildebeest crossing Maasai Mara

My favourite gnu photo. I developed quite a liking for these quirky fellows with their mournful cry.

Lions Maasai Mara

Potential predators (although these 2 were not there for the crossing) – just a gratuitous lion photo 😉

Nile crocodile Maasai MaraThese two were near the crossing but being late in the season they were basically so well fed that they really didn’t seem to care enough to swim up for a look or a snack. I should also add that Nile crocodiles are huge and these two were no exception. Absolutely massive!

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An introduction to safari life on the Mara – luxury!!!

Our ultimate organiser (Julie) had picked out 3 areas of Kenya to travel to, the Maasai Mara National Park for the great wildebeest (gnu) migration, Laikipia conservancy where the African Wild Dogs are to be found and Amboseli National Park to see great families of elephants. I can honestly say that I was completely unaware of where we were going right up until the day before we hit Kenya. I figured I really didn’t need to know as Julie had it all in hand and I trust her judgement all the way. When she found out that I had just been smiling and nodding at all of the suggestions and not really paying attention she was horrified. What if it was terrible? I felt pretty comfortable that it would all be fine. The one factor that I hadn’t considered was how we were getting between each of these places. Turns out it was very small planes.

Now for those that have just joined this little rodeo – I HATE small planes. As in, complete fear and sweating with the idea of getting in one. And as it turned out we had 6 flights to take in these little death traps. Of course the reward for sitting in a flying tin can for 40 minutes each time was that I would be going somewhere totally awesome so I just took my calm pills and sucked it up.

The first flight was from Wilson airport in Nairobi to the Maasai Mara and I must admit I was impressed to see that this plane was not too small. I reckon it held about 30+ passengers so apart from serious nerves I managed ok. That said, I was pretty darned excited and when we landed into this vast plain and looked out to see herds of wildebeest grazing and antelope just hanging out. It was all that I had dreamed and more.

And then to top it off there were all these open sided safari vehicles ready to accept their guests and one of those magical trucks was ours!

The camp we were staying at was supposed to be about an hour from the airstrip but being over-excited little safari-ites it took us nearly 2 ¼ hours to get there. Our poor driver kept trying to answer our questions but he was a little overwhelmed I think and just kept telling us that he was jus the driver and not a real guide. That said he did a pretty good job of keeping us well amused. I think that Darren and Emma (our hosts) were a little concerned when we had taken such a long time to make it back to camp but hey – we were excited! 🙂

Kicheche Bush Camp is this incredible patch of fabulousness in the middle of the bush on the Olare Motorogi conservancy, bordering the Maasai Mara National Park. The conservancy is an area of 35,000 acres that was once owned and used by local Maasai farmers. A deal was brokered whereby for use of the land as a game reserve and relocation of the grazing lands and villages the Maasai people would be well rewarded financially and the area available for wild animals would be  increased. There are only 94 beds available in the conservancy, unlike in the main Mara National park, and inside the conservancy the road rules are also different. We could drive offroad and there was a limit to the number of vehicles allowed at an animal sighting. For us this meant that we had flexibility as to where we positioned ourselves for our photography as well as the hope that there would not be 30 cars around a single cheetah.

Kicheche Bush Camp has only 6 tents and talk about luxury!!! Wow, wow and wow! We were shown to our tented room to refresh before lunch and I think my head nearly fell off. The tent was thick canvas with rollup blinds so that in the daytime we could see out to the bush all around us. A lovely bathroom and wardrobe area with all the mod cons you would expect in a 5 star hotel. The bed was huuuuuge and so comfortable and to finish it all off we even had our own little verandah area with a hammock strung outside for midday relaxation. We joined our hosts for lunch with them and a couple of other guests and got a run down of how camp life works. Basically during the day we could come and go as we pleased between the main lounge/dining tent and our own as long as we stayed on the paths. However in the evening an Askari (a Maasai warrior carrying a big stick and a torch) would escort us everywhere. Each day we could select how much time we wished to spend out and about and picnic meals would be provided for us to cover any times we were away from camp. Sundowner drinks would be provided for us on every afternoon game drive (!!!!!) and then in the evening dinner would be served in the dining tent.

I was thinking oh my goodness – somebody pinch me. It was awesome. And all of this came with the most delicious gourmet meals (3 course lunch, 4 course dinner) and unlimited drinks of any choice. And the coolest, most gracious hosts I could imagine. Darren and Emma are English expats who have made Kenya their home and were full of hilarious stories of travel, animals, tourists and life in general. I was seriously liking staying in Bush Camp. And we really hadn’t even gone on a game drive yet.

After lunch we went on our first ‘real’ game drive where we were introduced to our guide, Charles. This man was in charge of our safety and our adventure and was an eminently qualified silver level guide with many years of experience. It turned out he also had a brilliant sense of humour, could handle a 4WD in any conditions and knew when to put the pedal to the metal as it were.

Our vehicle was a Toyota Landcruiser that had been substantially altered. The sides of the car only came up halfway so that everyone had clear and open views of the wildlife and plains, there was a charging station of 4 powerpoints where we could charge up batteries as they died from overuse in the cameras and much to the boys excitement, the roof was completely open so that they could stand and stick their heads out as we drove along. As I think about our game drives I can’t think of too many times that either Dave or Billy were sitting down unless expressly told to. 🙂

About the only thing that was problematic for me was the temperature. I had not considered that Kenya might be cool, after all it is on the equator and it is Africa therefore it should be hot should it not? Turns out not. Turns out that the altitude of the plains (all at 1500-2200m) makes it a lot cooler than I had thought. Early morning game drives with no sides on the vehicle did make for a few shivery starts but we had waterproof ponchos with flannel lining to tuck around us and glamour was not really a concern in our car so I survived.

That first game drive was a doozy but will take too much time to tell it here so I might just leave it for next time. 😉 Catch you then heheheh.


A Maasai herdsman with his sheep and goats from the air.


Our safari link plane on the Mara airstrip.


A lone acacia tree on the Mara plains.


Dave and I with Charles, our Mara guide.


This shot is from the Kicheche webpage but shows our bedroom in the tent – NOICE!!!!!


Common zebra, otherwise known as ‘bloody zebra’ due to their ability to consistently turn their backside to the camera and/or not pose properly for photos 😉


Lilac Breasted Roller bird, also renamed. This one started out as the “Julie Bird” because after 2 safari trips Julie had fallen in love with these cute little guys and had spent a lot of time trying without success to get one in flight (the underside of the wings is stunning blue). By the end of the trip it too had fallen victim to ‘that bloody bird’ and no photos in flight were forthcoming.



There is a very strong message shown everywhere. Poachers in Kenya are shot on sight!

On a personal note I implore everyone – DO NOT BUY IVORY!!!!

If there is no market, there can be no trade.

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On safari

For the last few weeks I have been out of communication range, away from the high tech world that we consider such a part of our regular daily life, away from the internet! And it has been marvellous. Not only because I had no access to that highly addictive world of social media and instant communication but also because of the reason I was so removed. You see, I went to Africa!

About a year and a half ago a girlfriend of mine returned from safari in Africa (her second) and just looked and at me and said “that’s it, I’m going back in 2014” and my response… “count me in, we’re coming too!”. After much discussion we decided that the great migration from the Serengeti of Tanzania to the Masai Mara Plains of Kenya was the destination and September/October was the time.

Fortunately for us my friend Julie loves to research. She says that the planning and research stage before departure means that the holiday lasts for a whole lot longer. It was terrific. She would scour forums and reviews of all of the different camps and safari companies in the Masai Mara and send me little “what do you think of this place” emails. Got to say – they all looked great to me J Very high end and lux (although it turns out that they were officially middle of the road and there was a lot more serious lux to be had with some companies).

In the end decisions were made, bookings made and deposits paid. It was locked in and all we had to do was wait 18 months for the departure date to roll around. As you guys would know from reading this ongoing story, Dave and I went overseas and travelled around while we waited for Africa to come up on the horizon.         And then it did.         After so long of waiting and planning (well Julie planned, I just nodded in mute excitement) it was finally here.

Our trip was 3 separate safari experiences in 3 parks in Kenya. Masai Mara, Laikipia and Amboseli.

The first port of call however was Nairobi, Kenya’s capital and a city that has seen its share of unrest and strife in the last few years. Frankly we were nervous about being in Nairobi but it turned out our fears were groundless. The whole posh safari thing kicked in and we were picked up at the airport by our driver who took us to this delightful hotel (right next to the Israeli Embassy – great security).

I, of course, was completely beside myself. As a kid I was always fascinated by ‘deepest, darkest Africa’ and as an adult Sir David Attenborough and others had kept me fascinated about this amazing place – and here I was. Ok, so small ridiculous admission time… as we left the airport I saw an Acacia tree, that classic African symbol of the bush, and huge tears welled up and my throat closed tight. I truly couldn’t believe it. I was quite overwhelmed by the fact that we really were here! Great start I figured. If an acacia tree got me crying what would happen when I saw the animals 😉

Then as we drove down the road toward the hotel the driver was narrating what we were seeing and there was a huge group of trees roadside with a crown of Marabou storks (the garbage disposal system of birdlife in Kenya). The storks had taken up residence and were quite happily living off the human rubbish. They were huge and as we drove towards them one of the birds decided to take a walk across the road. Unfortunately it didn’t make it. A big truck cleaned it up. My last vision of said Marabou was a cloud of feathers pouring out from under a speeding truck and the sounds of our driver decrying the carelessness of drivers. Ok, so that circle of life stuff started before we even got out to the bush but that’s animals and vehicles so….

After a bit of a nap at the new plush digs (remember we have been backpacking for months and this place was lovely) we got the word that our fellow travellers had arrived. Billy and Julie had come via Johannesburg and when I raced into the lobby there were even more tears and much jumping up and down. Both of us had so been looking forward to this grand adventure and here we were – ready and roaring to go 🙂

So, the next few blogs, ok the next many blogs, are going to be about Africa. About what we did, saw and felt and what it was like to be in one of the most amazing places on earth for one of natures most awe inspiring spectacles. I can’t wait to bring you a little bit of Africa.

I figured that I would leave this here with a few photos just to tease you and leave you wanting more. And there is plenty more to come 😉


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Vietnamese weird food

For those that don’t know my eating habits I am not unreasonable with my eating but by the same token I am not super adventurous. Dave is the one who will order things with no idea what is in it whereas I tend to stick to chicken, pork or beef and play it fairly safe. In Vietnam that is fairly easy, the biggest hurdle is to ensure that the chicken that I have ordered it not gizzards or something similar (they really like offal here). That said, for the adventurous eater there is a world of weird food out there to be eaten.

Unlike Thailand where insects are the main form of bizarre food, Vietnamese cuisine seems to encompass just about everything that moves. Indeed I have heard stories of specialist snake menus where you literally eat every part of the snake right down to the bile and heart in a shot of spirit – blech!!! Definitely not my idea of gastronomy. I had broken out of the norm one night by being bold enough to order deep fried frogs legs which I would chalk up as a big why bother. They were like fiddly chicken wings with less meat and just not that great to justify the hassle. Even so I was pretty proud of myself for being so adventurous.

However, that said our Vietnam journey would not have been complete had we not taken a food tour (every city has one) so with encouragement from the NZ couple who had joined us on the Can Tho river cruise we booked in to Mekong Tours Can Tho Food Tour.

It was a walking tour where a young gentleman, Thoai (T-why), took us to 6 of his favourite restaurants to sample the local specialities. The price was right; free but a $5 tip if you enjoyed it and the cost of whatever you ate, and the night was fine so off we went.

Wow, what a night. We began with a duck hotpot in a restaurant famous in Can Tho for this speciality dish. It had been in business for over 20 years and I can see why. The food was really good. Basically a big boiling pot of duck soup is delivered to the table with a heap of noodles, vegetables, herbs all of which you add to the pot and serve into individual bowls. Well it was all good until I hit the side dish of “Vietnamese cheese”. Turns out this little delicacy is tofu marinated (?) in alcohol. I didn’t find out the serving instructions for this lovely little gift and tipped my whole bowl into my soup. Ooops!! Turns out you only add a little at a time because it is so strong. I would equate it to strong blue cheese and as a consequence I think I might have wrecked my duck hotpot as all I could taste was strong old socks 🙂 but it was still a new flavour and something to be aware of for future eats.

Anyway, onwards to make your own rice paper rolls. These were delicious and we have tried them quite a few times already. It is a fun process and the fillings vary enormously. On the tour it was slices of locally made pork sausage and heaps of herbs and leaves. Absolutely delicious and fun to watch those less experienced than us wrestle with the rice papers.

Next was a local delicacy made in only one restaurant, a special kind of “muffin” with pork mince, bean paste and a prawn on top. At this point I decided to give it a miss (I was worried I’d be too full if I had one) but Dave raved about it.

Then came the moment I was dreading. At the start of the tour Thoai had told us where he would take us and what we would be eating and I knew it was coming… field mouse. Yep, you read that right. Mouse!!! One of the other girls on the tour felt much the same as I did (squeamish to say the least) so we made a pact that we would both have a go at it, “I’ll do it if you do it…” heheh

Shock!!!! It was terrific. Apparently there is only one restaurant in the whole city that does field mouse well and we were there. We were delivered a mouse divided into 6 portions and while it was definitely bony it was very tasty. Seemingly these mice are only found in the rice paddies and are highly prized. The whole group had a taste and in the end we even ordered seconds! Who would have thought.

Our next culinary stop was to try snake. Well, why else take a tour if not be adventurous. The snake was ok at best and not something I would line up to try again. It was a little tough and being crumbed and deep fried was not especially tasty. More sort of chewy and blah. Not unpleasant but not great.

To finish off our night we stopped at a roadside seller of dessert – sticky rice. She had a big pot with 4 different kinds of rice that she popped into a little paper cone. It was sweet and hot and really good. The black rice was my favourite as it had been cooked in coconut. Delicious.

So, there you have it. This unadventurous eater has now eaten frogs legs, field mouse and snake. Never would have believed it. Sometimes it is good to break out. I mean seriously – how bad can it be 😉 heheheheh.


Duck hot pot – the little bowls in front were the “Vietnamese cheese”.


Thoai teaching everyone how to make the rice paper rolls.


Field mouse. Sorry about the blurry photo. Not a great shot but it will show you what it looked like when we were served it.


Snake. The colours are a bit weird but we were on the street in the dark where the only light was a yellow street light. This was as close as I could get to what it really looked like.




Sticky rice seller.


Field mice – before 😉


Frogs legs – before 😉


Everywhere on the streets are great bowls of seafood. It is super fresh, caught that morning.


We will be away from the internet for the next couple of weeks so the next blog won’t happen soon (sorry for those that like a regular read). As soon as we are back online I’ll bring you up to date on our adventures. Got some exciting things happening 😉


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Mekong Delta

Can Tho is a mid sized trading town in the delta of the mighty Mekong river and was one of our little side trips out of Ho Chi Minh City. It is only about 4 hours by bus and the journey was quite a surprise for us. We had expected to be travelling through lots of rice paddies and agricultural fields but pretty much all the way was towns and villages making the most of the access of the main road network.

The main point of interest in Can Tho was the tours along the river system taking in the local markets. Unlike many tourist places in Sth East Asia the markets here are still used by locals to do their produce selling and are not just a touristic collection of a few rubbish souvenir sellers. The river system through the delta has been used for hundreds of years to transport produce to the major centres. Now with the introduction of major highways and bridges it is becoming a lot more road driven however at a local level the river is still a big part of everyday life.

We took a 7 hour boat ride starting at dawn that was to take in 2 local markets and a few of the smaller creeks and local industries. The morning dawned well which was neat as the afternoon before the heavens had opened with a colossal thunder storm. We had stood on the rooftop of our hotel and watched the lightning striking a few streets away (terrifying moment for me) and were a bit worried about the weather for our little boat trip but all was well.

We had another couple join us on the trip, a young couple from New Zealand and they were great company along the way. Our first port of call was Cai Rang market, the largest in the Mekong delta. It was awesome. So many boats all selling a variety of produce. To demonstrate what their specialty was they would hang samples from a long bamboo pole at the back of the boat. Some had only a pineapple on their pole and the entire boat would be packed to the brim inside and out with pineapples. Others sold a variety of fruits and vegetables and their poles would be festooned with all manner of produce. Smaller boats wound their way through the bigger boats doing their buying. It was a well ordered affair and certainly enjoyable to watch.

Next we meandered a bit further down the river until we came to Phong Dien market and this one had a totally different feel. Whereas Cai Rang was large motorised boats that seemed more like wholesalers with large amounts of produce the Phong Dien market was smaller boats with a focus more on domestic purchases. We saw people selling fruit and vegetables like in the other market but here they also sold clothes, takeaway cooked food for dinner and lunch, meat, fish, you name it, they sold it. And the people doing the buying here were not bulk buying but were on smaller hand rowed craft and seemed to be doing more of the daily shopping. It was completely different to the bigger commercial market.

Leaving here we took off down one of the smaller offshoots from the river and stopped off to watch a local family make rice noodles. That was awesome. The rice slurry is smeared onto a hot plate where it is steamed then lifted off as a big disc, laid out to dry and then put through a cutter to create the noodles. The early morning light was fantastic with all the steam and people busily going about their morning routine. It was a great place to stop and appreciate the industry of local people.

We finished off the trip with a wander through a fruit garden. I don’t think it was much of a commercial project but it certainly had a vast variety of plants to demonstrate to tourists what the main varieties were.

The small arteries of the river are edged all the way with tiny homes and small plots of rice and other vegetables. I had expected large scale farming but it was much more small cropping and individual farming. The people largely used the river as a transportation corridor and every few minutes a small boat would come past carrying anything from large roofing sheets to pots and pans to fruit and meat. It was fantastic.

The Mekong is a mighty river and certainly for those living in Can Tho and surrounds it is a substantial contributor to their success and the touristic appeal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStorm front on the way in – Can Tho.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEarly morning on the Mekong River.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADoing some shopping from multi produce boats (note the variety of goods up the bamboo pole).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll the bigger boats had red eyes painted on the front to watch for obstacles in the water and keep the boat safe.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFlooding is a problem for these riverside shanty houses.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABuyer at the Phuong Dien market.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADave walking over the most rickety little bamboo bridge (I couldn’t do it so caught a lift on the boat 😉 )

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMaking rice noodles in the early morning.


How much can you fit on a scooter? LOTS!!!!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALoved the little grin on this lady. She saw me taking her piccy and instead of getting all shy or ignoring me, I was treated to this big smile 🙂

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Why I blog…

A while ago I got a comment on one of the blogs that ran “I’m not sure what motivates you or how it does but I am bloody pleased it does. Your honest, “tell them how they are” stories are so well written that we devour each episode.” – Cath.

I thought this was a lovely comment to read. Writing these little blogs is actually a lot more time consuming than most people would think. Most blogs take between 2 and 4 hours to get together. Mainly it’s because I use that time to sort through my images to find some that are either good enough to share or appropriate to the story, or hopefully both. With pretty much every photo I put them into an editing program to tidy them up a bit and give them the feel that I had while I was there. Sometimes the camera literally writes a photo of what it sees but it is not as bright as in ‘real life’ or I want to make a black and white photo or I don’t want everything that was caught in the frame so I have to crop some stuff out. Processing my images has become quite a quick and streamlined job and I generally enjoy the creative outlet.

Then once I have pulled out the photos that I want to use I sit and write the story. I always have a plan in mind of what it is that I am trying to say so the writing bit is easy. I just go with whatever comes into my head. A friend of 20 years said that “It helps because you write how you speak and I could hear you telling me like you were right here with me.” – Tracey. A few people have made much the same comment and I guess that for me that is one of the greatest compliments.

I read other peoples blogs (admittedly not many) and I admire their writing style. Most of these blogs have bazillions of followers and are of a professional quality and voice. I find them inspirational in content and I admire their writing style. But for me I just can’t find that detached travelogue information voice. I prefer to write literally what I thought, what I felt, how it was for me. I guess I want my blog to be a bit more personal.

The thing that amazes me the most is that people read it. I realise that sounds ridiculous as why else would I write it but seriously – I expected/hoped my friends and family would read it and I figured that would be about it. Turns out I have underestimated the audience. Most of my blogs have a couple of hundred readers (I literally don’t know 200 people in the whole world!) and one of them, the India blog, has had over 1000 readers!!!!!!! That is completely mind boggling to me.

It is part of what motivates me to take that time and to put out 2-3 blogs a week. I get a real kick out of the fact that people read them and that people comment on them. The last blog that I wrote, The Vietnam/American War, had one of the strongest comments for me. Unlike so many of my blogs which are just written off the cuff I had agonised over getting the history close to truth and then having an opinion that was expressed in a hopefully respectful manner but still had some fire left in it. It was such a reward for me to have someone who had lived through the political upheaval of the Vietnam War and tell me that he “Really enjoyed reading this blog posting…” – Ray. It makes me feel that my writing strikes a chord every now and then and is another reason to keep on blogging.

I think that one of the biggest reasons though is simply expressed. Sheryn said “I LOVE reading your adventures – you make me feel like I’m right there with you” and this is what I am trying to do. Not everyone can (or would want to) do what we are doing but that shouldn’t mean that they should miss out on the adventure. After all, travel is a sharing experience 🙂

Hopefully you guys will keep on reading and sharing our journey, and in the mean time – thank you from the bottom of my heart. I blog because I am inspired to and because I like it and seemingly others do too.

Vietnamese veg sellers

Herb sellers in a local market.

Vietnamese woman smoking

Cheroot smoker.

River life Vietnam

River life.

Pink Lotus

Pink lotus flower. I can’t resist photographing the lotus flowers in bloom. They are just so beautiful.

Independence Day Vietnam

Independence Day in Vietnam (2nd September) is a holiday celebration and seemingly every house has a flag outside with the Red background and the Gold star of Vietnam.

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