Monday, December 5, 2011

Coming Into Arizona

Cold or not, we crawled outta bed early and cranked the old air compressor to bring the tires up to a safe pressure from their somewhat reduced pressure of the cold night air before the first rays of the sun could mess with my readings. It's not a fun task especially on a cross country run, but it's gotta be done in order to be safe! We were rewarded with the glory of the desert being caressed by the early morning light as we came down off the plateau from New Mexico and into the Arizona flats. It is always breathtaking and once you have seen it, you hold it in your mind's eye the whole trip...and are never disappointed by the first acquaintance glimpse of it.

We made a stop at perhaps our favorite roadside rest stop in America at Texas Canyon. It's in Arizona, not Texas- maybe just to add some interest- not that it needs more than it has. The photos from the stop are inadequate to show what you are about to behold as you enter the canyon which follows... enormous boulders perched delicately and seemingly unsafely atop each other high atop the cliffs on either side of the canyon. You will wonder how they got there; but you will wonder much harder at how they stay there year after year, century after century. If you pass this way, keep your camera at the ready as the scenery just gets better and better. There are small pull-offs a few places, not suitable for us when we are on a mission: tomorrow is Happy Tuesday!

We pulled into Casa Grande for the last night on the road. Tomorrow, without unforeseen problems, we shall be delivered to Brenda and Desert Gold RV - our home for the winter where we share the time with dear friends, from all over the country, but many if not most of whom share our love for not only the desert but also Alaska. So it may not be home, but it always feels like home with their company.

I wanted to go back, if I may, to the trek through Texas. I neglected to say that we had seen wolves on this trip. Not dogs. Not coyotes. Wolves. Three of them. All dead. One grey. One typically mottled, and one pure white. All three were enormous, and the white one was reminiscent to me of the white buffalo I saw in South Dakota. Sorry they were dead by the side of the road, all in proximity to the other so no doubt it was a pack that got careless and stayed by the road too long for their own good. It was not a place where pulling over to take a picture was an option...and sorry I am about that, but thought I should go back at least to mention the occasion.

Casa Grande is crawling with quail and jack rabbits like below. These are small in comparison to the sizes they can reach, and in fact we had seen one of those large ones (muy grande) dead on the road as well. That one was so big I was checking for antlers as though it were a deer until we realized what it was.

Without jinxing myself (he knocked on wood), I can tell you it has been a marvelous crossing to date, and if that luck holds up, we'll be in camp by mid-day tomorrow- two days ahead of schedule!!!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Swamp Goodies

Back in the Atchafalaya Swamp- on one of our favorite pieces of road in the country. Stopped for the night at one of our regular haunts- Frenchman's Wilderness, pretty much right in the middle of the swamp. We unhitched the tow-able chuck wagon and headed off to Pat's for an all cajun meal on the bayou just beside the levee. In order to fit this in, we had to do an early dinner, so we had the place entirely to ourselves. Tried a bunch of cajun classics and a few things we'd never had before- all very interesting. Cajun or not, we added a generous portion of Pat's local made hot sauce. Whew! Good! Think of it as Happy Tuesday - a day late!

Georgia Color and Then Some

It's no secret we were in Georgia for quite a bit over the last few months doing the prospecting thing at Loud Mine. We did find some gold- not enough to write home about (or blog about for that matter) but it was a really good time with a bunch of good people and we enjoyed our time there. Gold. They call it "color." But COLOR and the Fall makes you think of driving through New England to watch the leaves on all the trees turn color. But New England has no corner on the market for Fall Color so I though it appropriate to use this post to show you some of the "color" that Georgia has to offer. Gonna break this down into two sections- leaves and .....hogs. Hogs? Yea. It seems that Georgia has a whole hog BBQ competition every year and we took that all in....right after we drove around in the mountains to see the leaves turn gorgeous colors. Perfect bbq has a color all its own, a fragrance, an air that wafts in the smoke and makes the appetite come on strong. With all the smells and images, this was a great event, complete with our getting to meet world famous bbq chef Myron Nixon (you'll no doubt recognize him from the slide shows especially if you watch GRILLMASTERS competitions on the Cooking Channel.

Here then the images from Fall and the Pig Jig- Georgia style!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

If She Hasn't Already...

To be clear... I posted this photograph and NOT Marilyn- although it sure seems inspired by the sisterhood safari to South Africa and Botswana. And furthermore, the subject of the photograph is NOT Marilyn nor anyone in her party on the safari. In fact, it was a recent contest winner of a photo/caption competition:

"If She hasn't.....she will soon!"

Enlarge and study the photograph by clicking on it. It deserves to be the winner!

OUT OF AFRICA- last in a series by Marilyn

This is my last post on Africa. There are so many more thoughts and stories I would like to record to help me always remember this most wonderful adventure with my sisters. Because I am not a writer with my technical skills dismal at best, and with a mantra of "I'll do it tomorrow," when faced with any computer task I have stretched out this project much longer than originally planned. Greg who enjoys writing his posts has been very patient ,but
is getting itchy fingers and it is time to return the keyboard to his control.

The ranger was as excited as we were when he spotted the tracks . There are very few cheetahs in the preserve and are seen once in every three to four months. We were lucky enough to spend a couple of hours observing this graceful cat.

A cheetah climbs trees only to look around, checking out the grasses for prey and enemies.

The cheetah's body is designed for speed and has a very small head.

We watched this cat just dissapear into the wheat colored grasses of the savannah.

This slide shows some of the other sightings the last two days.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mokoro by Marilyn

A mokoro is a dugout canoe used by the natives of Botswana for centuries. The Okavango Delta is over six thousand square miles of waterways, lagoons, small islands and papyrus swamps making a systems of roads not possible. The mokoro was the only means of transportation linking village to village. The canoes were traditionally handmade from select African hardwood, but the ones used on our outing are exact replicas made of fiberglass due to environmental concerns and regulations.

I felt relaxed and enjoyed silently reflecting on the adventure so far. It felt good to take the time to examine the little things as we quietly glided among the reeds into the scattered open patches of clear shallow water. A small green frog clinging to a papyrus stalk, a school of fish parting quickly as we effortlessly slipped through and a dragon fly hovering over a perfectly formed water lily held my attention as intensely as the lions had earlier in the day.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Buffalo for Breakfast by Marilyn

It was a gamble, but we felt the odds were in our favor and were betting the lions seen the previous night would be feeding at the carcass of the cape buffalo. The ride was long, made even longer by twice getting stuck in the thick mud. We were not disappointed!

What follows is a slide show filmed at the distance of about 15 FEET!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Nightlife of Marilyn

Due to extensive flooding our small plane was diverted to an alternate air strip changing our original fifteen minute jeep ride to over two hours before reaching our next camp. We decided to head directly to the resort after a brief sun downer and would arrive quite late for dinner. Darkness fell and even the millions of unfamiliar stars shining so brightly in the southern sky could not illuminate the land around us. We continued on , crossing poorly constructed, half submerged log bridges and bullied our way through the thick muddy expanses on either side of the water crossings. It was slow going as we cautiously worked our way through the thick bush on narrow rutted roads traveled more by animals than vehicles.

After a call came from another ranger reporting activity at the site of a downed cape buffalo we abandoned our original plan and took a detour to check out the action. It was so tight we needed to lean to the middle of the jeep to keep from being badly scratched by the thorny acacia bushes scraping all around us. We could not see the dead buffalo, but, we knew we were close and followed our noses. We were down wind and the odor of a fifteen hundred pound cape buffalo dead for five days rotting in the bush was stomach turning. We just couldn't escape this horrible, horrible stench. After hit or miss exploring around the clumps of bushes we came upon the site and were greeted by two male spotted hyenas, larger and heavier than I imagined, standing tall and broad protecting the carcass. We were so engrossed watching the two of them taking turns eating and patrolling the area we failed at first to notice the leopard laying a short distance from the kill waiting patiently for a chance to sneak in and grab a piece of meat. A leopard is no match for a pair of hyenas and it had to be content to grab what it could. We were about forty feet from the kill and watched spellbound feeling very fortunate to have such an experience.

Time was passing and we knew we needed to move on. We would arrive much later than expected and we took one last look and prepared to depart. Unfortunately in the darkness the ranger miscalculated and jammed a downed tree under our jeep. We were stuck. We were stuck at night with two huge hyenas and a hungry leopard forty feet away and no amount of horse power or four wheel drive could move us. We were "dead in our tracks", words I never wanted to hear while on Safari! While our ranger was thinking about Plan B, the other ranger was still close by, heard our tires spinning and returned to help. He parked between our jeep and the kill, close enough so Julie, Bett and I could quickly and quietly climb aboard then repositioned his jeep even closer to the kill in order to provide more space for our guide to jack up the vehicle and drag the tree trunks out of the way.

We were all watching. We needed to keep track of the three animals especially the leopard and constantly scanned the grasses for any sign of movement. Being on the ground is much more dangerous than being in the jeep and we had three men on the ground! We now had a level of apprehension and concern layered over the level of excitement and awe. I admit I was nervous. Adrenaline was criss-crossing haphazardly through my body and my mind was playing the "what if" game. What if more hyenas appear? What if the pride of lions that probably took down this beast returns to claim the prize? Could there be a food frenzy free for all and we are stuck in the middle with three men on the ground?

We were finally freed and the three of us crawled back into our jeep to continue to the road on a more direct path through the tall grass. We traveled less than one hundred yards and we saw them. We didn't stop. We didn't even slow down. We were tired, stressed, cold and hungry and had enough adventure for one day. But, there they were, hiding in the grass facing the location of the carcass, at least twelve lions just waiting and watching.

Most of the pictures did not turn out. The red glow is from the filter placed over the spot light to keep the animals calm and to protect their eyes. We all shut off the flash settings on our cameras because we didn't want to draw attention to ourselves. The hyenas moved constantly and are reddish blurs on all of the pictures.

This shows how close we were to the action!
The rangers needed to jack up all four wheels before the jeep was freed.
A few of the lions in the pride watching us.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Giraffes (by Marilyn)

It was our last morning in South Africa and we opted to set out earlier than usual to get one last game drive in before starting our trip to Botswana at eleven o'clock. The air was still and "see your breath cold" and we quickly bundled up in the wool blankets provided for the ride as we settled into our favorite seats in the jeep, our much appreciated hot water bottles balanced on our laps. It was still dark, approaching grey, as the day impatiently nudged the night to give up its darkness, It was time and the red African sun lay waiting barely below the horizon. It was quiet. The birds were just beginning to think about starting their own routines and not much rustled in the grasses. The day began as expected with the sunrise as breathtaking as the previous night's sunset. I secretly wished time to stay still for just a few minutes to prolong the vibrant colors of the morning sun before it would rise too soon into a warming, but not as impressive bright spot in a cloudless blue sky. It was so perfect I hoped to savor the experience as long as possible.

All seemed quiet. The watering hole was unused and still no sign of activity in the bush until we came across a large herd of giraffes. Our road cut through the middle of the herd giving us a 360 degree view. We watch fascinated as each giraffe unfurled its lanky legs to rise awkwardly from its night time resting position to resume its lofty stance, head high in the trees enjoying the bird's eye view of the savannah.

Just waking up. A slow amble. Heading towards the acacia trees to begin the day long browsing. A giraffe needs very little sleep, as little as twenty minutes to two hours a night and needs to spend all day nibbling in order to eat the seventy pounds of leaves needed to sustain it. Because a giraffe will chew its food, swallow for processing, regurgitate the semi digested cud, chew and repeat the process several times for each mouthful so that every bit of moisture and nutrition is digested. The mouth of the giraffe is very tough to protect it from the sharp thorns of its favorite food, the acacia tree, and its eighteen to twenty inch tongue is black to protect from sunburn.
The acacia tree has a built in defense system to prevent over browsing. If too many leaves are removed from the tree, extra tanin is produced making the leaves bitter. The giraffes will move on to other trees until the leaves have regrown and the tannin levels are back to normal.

The most gentle looking face on the savannah. Hard to remember its kick can break the skull or back of a full grown male lion.

Other sightings of the morning in the following slide show. We would be sleeping in Botswana that night!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Harassing The Wildlife

"Harassing the Wildlife" was the charge printed on the arrest warrant that had me headed to jail in Cleveland, Georgia. I had always heard that the law was tough in these here parts...and now I know it to be true!

"You got it all wrong, Sheriff! I'm innocent. I swear..." (well occasionally, anyhow, but not around my mother who would wash my mouth out with soap for sure).

"Hear me out!"

There I was. Minding my own business and that of the 60 or so high-bankers that my partner, Orange Larry and I were "crewing" for at the Fall outing at Loud Mine under the auspices of Lost Dutchman's Mining Association and the Gold Prospector's Association of America at their gold camp in Cleveland, Georgia. We had our first "shift" of thirty or so workers up and running six machines quite nicely. The water was flowing perfectly through the sluices. The rate at which we were shoveling material into the hoppers was just about perfect. We were telling stories, giving pointers and laughing and learning together- exactly what these outings are set up to accomplish. So when that first flock of geese flew over the settling pond headed right for us out of the early morning fog, I called their attention to my "team" and put my shovel, yes, my shovel up to my shoulder as though getting ready to shoot a shot gun just as they got close and were sure to fly over......low! I'll never forget that beautiful new bright orange shirt I was wearing so those assigned to the shift could pick me out in a hurry if they needed any help with any matters having to do with running a high-banker. I took careful aim with the handle of my yellow-handled #2 spade and..... Bang. Bang. Bang! Of course we are hunting for gold- not geese and so the flock kept on coming- right at me. It was a thing of beauty. A magical moment....

But as the geese flew over, the lead goose took a shot or two of his own, and with all the high-bank shift watching, he scored a direct hit on the back of my hand. Splat! I had been hit! Bombed. Wounded! Publicly humiliated in front of all my charges. I laughed with them. EEEwwww! And as to minimize matters I removed my hat and checked it for "further damage." It was clean. I had not been "hit" on the head, which I have always heard is a goose's (and a sea gulls') favorite target. I turned to the crowd. I declared, "Never fear" he missed my new hat!" I washed my hand under the waterfall at the end of the nearest power sluice and went back to work! That was fun.

But a few minutes later I again heard the tell tale honking of a second flock of geese on exactly the same flight path. Not again. The chances of getting dive bombed twice by a flock of geese has to be way less that the chances of lightening striking twice, so again I called to my comrades, raised my shovel to my shoulder and readied to "fire." Bang. Bang. Bang! I turned back to crew. I laughed. They laughed. And then pointed out that I had been hit yet again... and this time right smack dab mid chest on my beautiful, new, perfectly clean, bright if not fluorescent, orange shirt. A direct hit.

Now running a high banker is fun in its own right. But running one with a big group of friends while you have an ongoing series of "live entertainments" is even better. We all laughed so hard it actually became difficult to shovel there for a moment in time. And within minutes of the end of the first shift of the day, most of the camp had "heard tell" of the goose hunt that went wrong at the far end of the settling pond.

Some things you do in this life are simply not worth denying. The truth will out! And so I told my second shift what had happened earlier and they too had a good laugh with me as we set about to find some Georgia gold.

I reported for breakfast and morning meetings at 7 AM the following morning with the rest of the crew members. There was a warrant for my arrest waiting for me! Not a real one from a real sheriff, but one from the club's sheriff who, upon the filing of an arrest warrant by another member gets the perpetrator "locked up" in the camp jail until you can raise whatever bail has been set. This is a fund raiser for the local camp so everyone plays along. Three dollars may not sound like a lot of money to raise for bail on a charge of "Harassing The Wildlife", but trying to raise it before first light when no one is yet up and moving about is no easy matter. There for a while it looked like I would have to apply for "work release" so I could run my morning shift, but eventually even our sheriff had a soft heart and coughed up the last two bucks to "spring" me. Good old boy!

Those of you who are followers of our adventures via these posts may well remember that back in 2009 when we spent a season working at Chicken Gold Camp in Chicken, Alaska, I actually ran a contest to try to come up with a "gold" nickname to put on my engraved GPAA name badge. We had hundreds of "entries" but none powerful enough to stick. That is to say until now.

My full name is Gregory Samuel (as in my father's first name) Gundy. That would be G.S. Gundy. So some made the leap to "Goose" for my new nickname and some took it one step further, assigning names to both initials as in Goose Sh-- Gundy, which I suppose is no worse than the suggestion made by my dear wife back in 2009- that would be "dirt bag," which she still calls me, affectionately of course, to this day on occasion.

Now if the story ended there, I suppose the ending could be part comedy, part tragedy. Oh, but it didn't. Because you see at our outings we have a category drawing called "The Redemption Drawing." All persons who are incarcerated for whatever reason and who go to the Loud Jail to pay their debt to the society of gold miners in attendance at the outing are therefore entered in the redemption drawing for a gold nugget. And on this occasion, and as if I had not already had a wonderful time with old and new friends alike- my name was picked out of the gold pan and I won the redemption nugget- which looked very much, for lack of a better description, like a corn flake!

When asked to stand before the crowd gathered for closing ceremonies and explain what I had learned from my time imprisoned, I retold the story and then explained what I believe to be the MORAL OF THE STORY:

To Wit- Sometimes if you are just willing to put up with a little "crap" now and then, so long as you keep laughing, good things will always come of it!

What follows is a slide show of the pictures I had time to take while not running the high banking shifts and/or goose hunting with a shovel. I must have had a few moisture problems keeping my camera on the quad through the rain showers and I had a few pictures just not usable- so apologies if I pointed the camera at you during the outing and you do not appear in the slide show.

A final wildlife was actually harmed during the filming of this slide show! And furthermore, no wildlife, stream habitat, or negative environmental impact is ever made by responsible recreational miners. We leave our camps cleaner than we find them. We remove hazards, trash and even mercury from any streams we work in. Fish are downright happy to play in the water even right where we may be working to see what we might stir up that they would like to munch on. As our founder George "Buzzard" Massey, always reminds us- If you have it, and you didn't grow it- you ought to thank a miner for it!

Maybe they'll drop that "S" part and I can just be Greg "Goose" Gundy. I'm cool with that!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Last Day In Marilyn

Our last full day in Madikwe is one of my favorite memories. It was the day we celebrated Julie's birthday. When we first arrived at the lodge I mentioned her birthday and hoped they would be able to make a cake to celebrate the occasion, but it turned out to be way more than expected!

It was an exciting day with very active game drives, tracking animals off road, and a flat tire at last light right before our festive sun-downer in the bush. We were looking forward to dinner being served outdoors under the southern skies and were surprised when the staff entertained us with traditional songs and dance.. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day, especially when the chorus started chanting " Happy Birthday, Julie" and escorted her to join them for a celebration dance. A birthday cake was presented and a good time was had by all.

Some of the sights from the day (slide show follows):

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


The call came over the private channel on the radio that a large rhino was spotted in the area and I carefully scanned the fields and bush in the distance not wanting to miss seeing it, thinking we would have only a glimpse at best because of the distance we would need to maintain for safety concerns. The rhino is one of the most dangerous and unpredictable animals to encounter and belongs, along with the lion, leopard, elephant and cape buffalo in the Big Five. Safari hunters prized this exclusive group because of the extreme danger associated with the hunt.

As the jeep turned a bend in the road, I saw it. Right there. Close up. On my side, with only forty feet and a piece of metal separating us. My first impression was how close we were and how huge a rhino is. The ranger assured us that this was a very relaxed animal so we stopped to observe as it grazed.

When we approached, the rhino lifted his head, listened and sniffed the air. Having an excellent sense of hearing and smell compensates for the extremely poor sense of sight. A rhino will charge blindly at thirty miles per hour if startled or aggravated.
This rhino is gray in color, but is called a white rhino - it's name derived from the Dutch word "weit" meaning wide in reference to it's wide, square muzzle with a mouth adapted for grazing, cropping short the grasses on the plains where it lives in small herds of less than a dozen.
Even though there are bushes available, the white rhino can not nibble on them because of the mouth and teeth structure.
There is caked mud on the back which acts as a sun screen and bug repellent.
The white rhino can be five feet high at the shoulder and weigh two tons.
The horn can grow up to five feet long.
We were very still for thirty minutes enjoying this animal that didn't seem to mind our presence.
We were lucky enough to meet this animal close up another day and ended the day having cocktails at sunset watching his herd of eight to ten before the darkness covered them.

We would explore the thicker bush another time in search of the black rhino, a much smaller leaf eater who prefers a solitary life and has a shorter temper and more prone to charge.

Each day was such an adventure! Other sightings that day: