The Big Five

In African big game hunting the five most dangerous and difficult animals to hunt are are Cape Buffalo, Elephant, Rhinoceros, Lion and Leopard. For the photo safari enthusiast these are also the favorites to look for. If you are in African wildlife reserves it is reasonably easy to see the herbivores. Lions are also plentiful and relatively lazy so they can be seen resting or on the move. In our, albeit limit, experience the Leopard may be the most difficult to get a sighting of. Four years ago in Tanzania the only sighting we had of a leopard was sleeping in a tree way off on the distance with its kill.

In our game drives at Thornybush Reserve we saw all of the big five in our first two game drives. The picture of the Leopard I posted a couple of days ago was taken in the first couple of hours of our first drive. In the course of six game drives we have had the great joy to see all of these animals repeatedly. This morning during our game drive shortened to 2 hours to get us to our plane later in the morning, we first went looking for lions which we had heard calling during our wake up calls. Eventually we saw this lioness moving steadily through the brush

She crossed the road right in front of our truck

 and paused before resuming her trek to catch up with her pride.

As the lioness continued into the brush we relinquished our position in the viewing group (no more than two trucks at a time) and set out in search of leopards to cap the drive. First Dan and John (Ranger/Drive and Tracker) found markings of a leopard dragging a kill. Leaving us on the truck they set off to locate the animal and see if we could get into position in the truck. Eventually they returned and told us they had indeed located it, but there was no way to get the truck in position and without a rifle they could not lead us in on foot. They then heard reports of leopards being heard calling and determined they would chase down the lead. What we found was a female attempting to drive off a male from the den where her cubs were. There was plenty of noise and although we saw both cats, this was the only useful picture I could get.

The Waterside Lodge in Thornybush is an amazing place, made that way in large measure by wonderful staff, lead by Liam and his wife, dedicated to making the experience wonderful. The food was excellent, the accommodations superb and the sense of being in Africa was enhanced by a relatively open campus with all kinds of animals drifting through. On our first night, as I may have mentioned, we had to detour around a Hippo while walking from the dining area to our cabin. Each night the dinner was set in a different area of the grounds. The last night was in a Booma, a round area surrounded by upright stakes to keep out animals, wind other people with a sand floor. The barbecue was great and we had a fine time. I would recommend that anyone planning a trip to the Kruger area of South Africa ought to consider Waterside Lodge in Thornybush as a must stop. If you can only take three days for Safari this is the place. Our tracking team were wonderful and they poured a mean Gin and Tonic in the bush during the Sun Downers (not the kind we experience with people with dementia).
We are at an airport hotel near Johannesburg and the connection is good so far. Tomorrow Botswana.

Day 3 Thornybush Private Reserve

It is a bit hard to write. I am sitting looking over a lagoon from then Waterside Lodge after eating my third meal of the day, lunch at 1 PM. We started with a game drive at 6 AM. The highlight was following a leopard through the brush on a harrowing ride. Naturally he did not follow the road so

Dan, our Ranger/Diver followed him though the brush. We drove over small trees and brush and through gullies staying near the leopard while another safari car paced us on his other side. He seemed totally oblivious to these two vehicles so close to him as he made his way to his destination. 
After uploading that image it is clear there will be fewer pictures than you or I might like. The upload speed is very slow. 
We did see elephants again, also at close range. My favorite picture is this big guy giving himself a dust bath:
The first meal was coffee and biscuits before the drive. The second was breakfast after the drive and the third was lunch about 3 hours later. No we don’t have to eat again until after our evening game drive which will get us back about 6:30.
The lodge grounds are open to game. We have nyala wandering the grounds most of the time:
Last night we learned why we are not permitted to walk outdoors unescorted. We had to detour around a hippopotamus that was browsing in the gardens between the public areas and our cabins. No pictures, it was dark and flash is very bad form. Naturally there are monkeys and many birds, not to mention several varieties of antelope beside the nyala. 
I will try to post again from here as I have no idea what we will find for connectivity as we go. Our group of 10 seems very compatible and fun to be with. 

Lots of Social Activity and preliminary packing well under way

I am writing this on my Surface Windows 10 computer which I bought for travel. It is more adaptable and flexible than the Samsung Tablet I have been using. We will see how I like writing on the cute little keyboard. It has more key “feel” than you might expect looking at it. Enough about the instrument.

We have been getting out a lot seeing many people who we haven’t seen in a year. Yesterday we went with Joyce and Victor and Sandy and Neil to Sonnenberg Gardens for an Art Festival and tour of the Mansion. Sonnenberg is a “summer cottage” in Canandaigua NY about 45 minutes from Rochester. The house and gardens are really grand and since the state stepped up with preservation funds in 2004 it is well maintained and has regular hours open to the public. If you coming into the Finger Lakes this would be a must stop if you are into gardens. For the festival there were many crafts people and artists showing there work. Carol and I have been to many festivals and other than the people we find very little of interest to us. It may be that not having a spare square inch for anything new also reduces our desire to shop. We had a grand time dodging the rainstorms and after a stop at the
Culinary Center for a glass of wine we headed to Branca for dinner and then on to the Memorial Art Gallery for the opening of their show which includes War Rugs. Very disturbing knotted rugs from Afghanistan depicting the weapons the craftspeople see in their daily lives, tanks, helicopters, drones, Kalashnikovs and more. This combined with images from the civil war printed on leaves was really a downer. WE adjourned to the other end of the gallery where the Dady Brothers were performing music from the 60’s on a variety of folk instruments. What joy and we all felt restored from hearing the performance.

Tonight we are going to Barbara and Robert’s house for dessert and many more friends we haven’t seen yet. I have skipped over many other events to avoid spending the whole day writing.

Packing. We have a 44 pound limit total. So I started packing today to be sure I would get under the limit and have everything I need. I hope those are not incompatible goals. We will be traveling on small planes in Africa and the limit is the ability to fly safely not an arbitrary number to force paying an added fee. I already found one medicine I had forgotten to refill. I have the clothes I need and electrical adapters so we can plug in everything when electricity is available. Also a camera and binoculars. I hope to be able to post pictures as we go. Like the inside of a lion’s mouth 🙂 We will see how we do for connectivity. I am depending on provided wifi and not planning on getting a SIM for my phone – 4 countries in 27 days makes that seem pointless and much of the time we won’t have cell service either.

The writing has been easy and I hope it makes sense as well. Next post should be from South Africa, our first stop. We land there on the 26th.

and on!

We are still racking up the miles even though we are in our apartment and the coach is waiting for the estimate so the reconstruction can begin. We decided that none of the new coaches we were looking at had as useful floor plans for us as what we already have. The time to repair is about equal to the time to order new. We have little to lose by rebuilding and setting out in GeeWhiz. If everything works well, we will be in our happy home, if not we can always make a trade for something else. Stay tuned.

The miles included a trip to Hamilton Ontario as I mentioned in the last post for aunt Dorothy’s birthday. Her sons Mitch and Joel Harvey were there as were Marilyn and Al and cousin David (you don’t know these people anyhow so complete names are not included). We had a marvelous time over lunch at Dragon Court Chinese and then adjourned to Aunt Dorothy’s apartment to continue the celebration until we had to leave for the long drive back to Rochester. We stayed put on Saturday, mostly. Walked to the Park Ave Festival and strolled from Alexander to Berkeley St in the crowds. Eventually we decided the walk back would be a bit much so we walked to East Ave and caught a bus back to the apartment. Having the terminal right next to our apartment building is really convenient and the senior fare is $.50 each off rush hour.

Having sat still for a day, on Sunday we picked up cousin Ellie at the Canandaigua Wegman’s and continued on to Fox Run Vineyard on Seneca Lake for their annual Garlic Festival. Carol has covered that nicely in her blog Message in a Minute. Our most recent excitement was a call from grandson Josh wondering if he could see us on Monday night and last night we went to dinner with June  at Hose 22 and then walked the Charlotte Pier on a perfect, warm and humid evening. We elected not to stop for Abbot’s Custard as we were still full from the nice dinner.

and on . . .

and Life Goes On

Since the last post we have been very busy. Two trips to Colton RV to get our belongings off GeeWhiz and understand that we will not travel in that coach again have been difficult. We have at least one more trip, this time with a rental van to finish the job of clearing our belongings out and storing them temporarily in a spare store room provided by our wonderful property manager at 80 St Paul St.

We have been shopping and looking and trying to decide what we really want and need. The current Phaeton 36 foot floor plan does not meet our needs. Newmar Dutchstar 36 foot floor plan is close, but there are too many other compromises and the price is much more. We are currently looking at a 40 foot Phaeton that meets most of our needs and the price is only marginally more than the 36. In the mean time we are waiting for the insurance company to agree with the repair shop on an estimate or decision to total. Soon, I hope.

We have not stood still while this has gone on. We drove to Syracuse to visit with my uncle after our stop at the RV show at Turning Stone. We had a delightful couple of hours conversation and a lovely dinner out. It felt good to see him, especially since my aunt had died less than 2 months ago and he is still recovering. On this Friday we will drive to Hamilton ON to celebrate Carol’s aunt’s birthday, although we can’t call it that because she doesn’t like to be reminded.

Looking ahead, we leave for our Africa trip on August 24, fly to JFK and depart for Johannesburg on the morning of the 25th. Return to Rochester on September 19. I will write and add pictures as we go. Will post when we get someplace with internet connection. There are still 22 days until departure and we will need to firm up the motorhome decision and stuff like that before we go. I am sure there will be at least one more post before we leave.