Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Lion Kings.....by Marilyn

They say "a picture is worth a thousand words", but it just can't truly convey the intensity of being there. A picture can't describe the deafening roar of lions prowling a mere fifteen feet away, or the quiet padding of a cheetah's feet in the dry grass. A picture can't describe the sickening tearing and crunching sounds made by hungry hyenas devouring the carcass of a downed cape buffalo. It can't describe the alarmed trumpeting of a protective mother elephant warning us to keep more distance from her baby.

A picture can't describe the stench of being downwind of a fully grown cape buffalo, five days dead, rotting in the bush, or the unforgettable odor of a male lion marking it's territory. A picture can't describe the spicy fragrance of fields upon fields of wild sage growing as far as the eye can see in Botswana or the clean fresh scent of clear water flowing slowly through the hundreds of acres of papyrus making channels through the Delta.

All these sights, sounds, scents and emotions are locked forever in my heart and mind; only my pictures can be shared.

We knew these lions were on the hunt. We could hear them a short distance away as we cautiously snaked our way through the thick brush. The moon was near full, but, it was still very dark and our excitement was high....our eyes eagerly following the beam of the spot light as it scanned for any sign of action left and right of the jeep. We were already pumped up from the afternoon game drive, but, we wanted more!

We were looking for "The Boys", the oldest and largest pair of lions in the preserve. They are brothers both wearing the scars of battling with each other on a regular basis to claim the much sought after title of King. They have been inseparable since birth whether hunting or relaxing. They are massive, handsome, and strong - forces to be feared and respected. They were elusive as well on this particular night.

We returned the next afternoon and tracked them to a small tree where they were still resting from the previous nights activities. We knew we would be rewarded for our patience and watched and waited over an hour. It was only a matter of time as the sun set and the air cooled before the first of the two stretched, yawned and walked directly in-front of the jeep to settle down in the road about fifteen feet to our left. Lions are very social and sleep close together, often draping a paw over the face or back of another. When the second lion awoke alone, not knowing where his brother was, he started a series of locating grunts that increasing got louder and louder and were answered with the same intensity. The grunts turned into a roaring duet between the two while we sat in the middle . It was amazing. It made the hair on my neck stiffen and I could almost feel the vibration in the air. It was chilling, awe inspiring and unforgettable.

We were fortunate enough to have a repeat performance two more times then learned from the ranger that he felt the days were numbered for the pair. They are twelve years old and will soon not be able to defend themselves against the younger males that are getting stronger and bolder. It is only a matter time before they will be challenged, beaten and killed, probably by one of their own sons, and the cycle will continue as it has for years.

The four following pictures were snapped as darkness fell, explaining the somewhat eerie look of the pictures...

Birthday Crab(cake)

Yes, there is much more to come from Safari-land. But it is coming slowly as working with sooooo many photos is a daunting challenge for Marilyn, as she is not accustomed to this here blog thing. So meanwhile, I'll put up a mini bit about our two week stay on the Chesapeake, where we got a chance to celebrate Marilyn's birthday. Those of you who know her well know she eats her much beloved chocolate, sweets and treats ONLY on a Sunday. Way more discipline than I have, so more power to her. While there is only one day a week to eat the specialty items, every day is open season for her most favorite of all food groups- CRAB. And the main thing to do around here, maybe not the only thing, but close to it, is to go crabbing. So we got us a long handle net, a couple of hand lines, some chicken necks (bait!) and a bucket to put what we catch in until we get around to cooking it and eating it. And in truth we did catch a lot of crabs- blue crabs. But there is a size limit on crabs here, and we couldn't seem to catch any that "fit" the crab gauge which had to have to check whether the crabs are "legal" or not. In two full days of crabbing, we only caught one that measured up. Disappointing, yes, but still a lot of fun and we met a bunch of nice people hanging out on the dock. What do they say? A bad day crabbing is better than a good day at work? Or something like that!

So as it became evident we were not about to catch our own birthday feast, we decided to drive in to West Point where there is a fresh crab dealer and we met the boat coming in. Blue crabs are sorted by size and sex. Males in one basket, females in another. Then the male crabs, called jimmies, are sorted by size, numbers 1, 2 and 3, with size 1 being the largest. Price wise, #1 crabs were twice as much as #2 crabs, but after looking them over we went with the largest of the lot and selected a half bushel of #1 jimmies to take home for "Crabaganza." For one thing it is easier to clean the larger crabs. And once we finished eating our fill, and picking out the rest of the crabs- of which there were many- we wound up with two and a half pounds of picked out lump crab meat- which sells in the market for way more than we paid for the half bushel. So not only did we have an all you can eat crab feast- we came out ahead (well, sort of).

If you would care to see how to tell the crabs one from the other, CLICK HERE for a really good identification chart.

On our walks around the area we took some interesting photos and same is true when we went driving around the bay area to see what there was to see. Following is a still or two and then a slide show from our stay here. Have to put this place of the "Definitely Would Come Back" list.

Now let's all sing the second verse of the birthday song: "How old are you now, how old are you now....."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Into Africa......Marilyn's post

Where did the dream begin??? Was the seed planted fifty-plus years ago while three little girls played for hours with the collections of plastic jungle animals lovingly given to them by their grandmother? Was it the hours spent watching Merlin Perkins on Animal Kingdom? Or was the x-tra special treat of going to the movies to see Tarzan the catalyst? I don't know. Bett remembers always wanting to go on safari to Africa since childhood. I don't ever remember needing to go on safari but I do have a love of animals and nature and locate every zoo, wildlife park, and national park on my RV travels with Greg.

Julie has traveled the world and rated her safari in Tanzania as " the best of the best" and wanted to share the experience with her sisters. She proposed, planned and made possible the most perfect adventure always to be appreciate and never to be forgotten-a celebration of life and sisterhood and the perfect way to celebrate HER 59th birthday. Truly: one of the best twelve experiences of my life!

I don't especially like flying and the trip was long---fifteen hours non stop from New York to Johannesburg and five smaller planes to get to the remote lodges, then a return trip of over sixteen hours to return to JFK. To be honest, the flights were smooth and I had a really great time with the girls. Did you know the drinks are free on an international flight? By the way, I did break my long standing "no pee on the plane" rule.
The planes did get smaller. Julie actually became the co-pilot. No drinks were served. I went back to my " no pee on the plane " rule!

These are pictures of my hut and the lodge at Madikwe Safari Lodge in South Africa. The three lodges were totally different in design, but were all remote and very intimate with only eight to fifteen private huts or tents. Don't let the term "tent" fool you! Even the tents were huge and luxurious with a king size bed, beautiful African wood furniture, animal skin rugs and bed spreads and en-suite bathroom with flush toilets. Believe it or not, we were really in the middle of the game preserves with nothing else around us but bush and animals!

Each of the huts had a small plunge pool on the deck. Because this area is much drier and many of the watering holes dry up later in the winter, often the elephants wander onto the lodge property and drink from the pools.
Stay tuned for more of the safari....

Monday, July 4, 2011

Misty Mountain

From our Fourth of July headquarters at Misty Mountain in Greenwood, Virginia we took advantage of a break in the stormy weather and drove through part of the Shenandoah Valley to the Blue Ridge Parkway- a twisty, windy scenic road that literally runs along the ridge of the mountain range and looks out over the Shenandoah Valley. We'd been on parts of the parkway in other states but this was our first foray in Virginia. Very scenic. Very pretty, albeit a hot and hazy and foggy day owing to the thunder storms that have plagued us since we arrived. Each time it rains, the coach is nestled in a couple of inches of standing water- no danger of flooding as the water gets carried away by the stream that flows through camp. But wet, none-the-less.

Admittedly I was hesitant about taking pictures and working them up for the blog today. Not that I don't like taking pictures and working with them, but Marilyn returned home from South Africa and Botswana with something on the order of two thousand digital images that we are editing for later use- and let me tell you - that is a whole lot of images to work with. Still, we found some nice material at the ridge life farm museum at the visitors center up on the parkway, so here come a few images from the today's jaunt....

The old farm house had some locals playing ridge music on the porch. Inside we got a first hand look at what it took to survive the ridge in the winter in the "old days."

The barn was made of native logs and hand cut wood shakes- hayloft and all....
And here, Marilyn stands by the "bear proof razorback hog pen" used to hold the hogs over winter or before slaughter after they had been allowed to range in the woods over summer.

And more scenes from the "working" farm museum....including root cellar, spring house, lye filter and more.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Fire In The Hole....

A five hour run found us in Virginia for the the Fourth of July weekend. Good to be pointed in a direction other than sitting still again. All in all it was a smooth trip (hurray for that) but we saw a couple things along the way that made us realize the wide range of experiences different people have on the same road we travel. One guy drove down the road with his passenger's bare feet sticking out the window catching the breeze, even though it was a mighty warm one. Another guy's car broke down and was picked up by a roll back truck, which promptly blew a tire- catching three surrounding vehicles on fire and, although we managed to pass by before the emergency vehicles arrived on the limited access Rt 81 it was still a bit of a touch and go situation. In case you are wondering- all vehicles not involved in the fire one way or another had to continue on in order that the emergency vehicles could reach the scene. In the 94 degree heat along the way today- no one needed that along the highway camp fire at all!