Monday, November 28, 2016

Photos from Namibia and Cape Town

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Namibia and Cape Town 2016

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Any questions, I'll be happy to try to answer them.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig (no pictures)

Morning came as it does and I dreaded it. I woke at 7am and knew that the next bed I would see lay in Seattle three plane rides and four airports later. I had a light breakfast and killed time until it was time to check out and head to the airport.

At check-in for my first flight. A short two hour hop to Johannesburg the agent asked me what my seating preference was. Certainly not center because I am not that stupid. I asked for a window and she apologized that the only window seat she had available was on an Exit Row. Oh, please, please Br’er Rabbit, don’t throw me in the briar patch !! I made the – Well if that’s all you have face – and snatched that seat assignment right out of her hand. Actually I thanked her and told her that was better than perfect, because of the next two long legs of the trip.

The rest of the tip was reasonably uneventful. A paid for extra legroom seat from Johannesburg to Atlanta, for that sixteen hour flight. I’m window seat, third from the aisle because I like having the wall to lean against. My fellow passengers sometimes take offense when I start leaning on heir shoulder trying to sleep, so I’ve found the wall a good substitute. The only problem is that I sometimes need to pee and I don;t like the idea of DVT. So I try to time my extraction from coffin sized cocoon to the same time as the others closest to the aisle get up to do the same. The only problem is that I am sitting next to to people from Nevada. You know that desert state with legalized gambling. Both of them are natives of Nevada and must have evolved some sort of camel gene over the generations. He never pee’s and she is good for four hours at a time. To make matters worse, she cam sleep on the f’ing plane I think I hate her. (actually she is a very nice woman, with an interesting history).

Eventually we made it to Atlanta, almost exactly at sixteen hours. The seat of the plane I was sitting in will dry out after two or three other flights and off to Customs and Immigration. Their Global entry is down so a smooth process turns into a bit of a cluster … but eventually I am putting my luggage back into the system and standing in line for the Take Scissors Away (TSA) theater of security. It doesn’t matter that we have just flown one one plane from overseas and didn’t blow it up over the vast stretches of open ocean we are no longer sanitary, because we talked to other federal officials and they might have loaded us up with pocket knives or atomic bombs.

I look ahead and don’t see a TSA Pre-check line. I do see shoes and belts in bins, crying babies, first time fliers and big circular radiation emitters. I pull out my three bottles of soap, shampoo and hand lotion I stole from a hotel three trips ago. Undress my feet, unwrap my waist, place my computer in it’s plastic cart and send several thousands of dollars worth of my property past the unseeing eyes of minimally screened, minimally trained, and minimally paid security actors. I do tell them they can xray someone else in my place,, because I am not going to experience any more radiation that necessary. I’d just spent sixteen hours at over thirty thousand feet, getting bombarded by unfiltered gamma rays and more I don’t want. Besides it is also a bit of my rage against the machine, I know this will break up their choreography.

A nice muse sized lady walks me past the machine that they promise won’t look at your “hoo-ha” and explains in great detail how she is going to search me, with the palms of her hands on some places and the edges of the hands on other places. Come on, let’s just get this over so I can go find a seat next to my gate. She does her thing, and something about my left boob bothers her. It doesn’t feel the same as the right. Lady, everyone has boob that don’t match. Some are larger than the other, some are higher than the other, haven’t you ever been to a locker room at the gym? So she uses one of her lifelines and calls a friend. Now we three are in a small search room and there are in low tones debating my breasts. Finally I reached down and grabbed my shirt’s hem and pulled it above my questionable tits and said, Okay now? – W-w-well you didn’t have to do that ! You can go. Shit they ruined my choreography too.

The next flight was a short five hour jump from Atlanta to Seattle. The seat was a normal seat, no extra legroom or exit, but the passenger in the seat ahead of me did not recline her seat and the people next to me were not born and raised in Nevada.

Thanksgiving in the USA. Boy was I thankful to see rain and temperature in the high forty degrees. The Airporter Shuttle does not run on three days of the year and Thanksgiving is one of those days. My best friends ever have offered to drive the two hours from Bellingham to pick me up and drive me home, but they have other friends over for supper and have a meal to prepare. Besides I really an tired. The hotel shuttle picked me up and whisked me to the hotel. I hand my credit card to the clerk, she hands me a plastic key and with a press of 5 on the elevator and a short walk I can again see a bed.

Thirty nine hours between beds. A new personal best/worst. I kind of lost about ninety minutes from the movie Get Hard on the plane from Johannesburg but the rest of those hours were branded in my non functioning brain. A three hour nap left me wobbly and unfocused. I went to a nearby restaurant for the traditional Thanksgiving meal and though I think of Thanksgiving as my favorite holiday of the year, found myself uninspired to eat myself into a triptophan (sp?) coma.

Back to the hotel for a little time killing television and dropped off to sleep during Wheel of Fortune, I couldn’t even stay awake for Jeopardy. I woke a few times in the night and then had that wake up that tells you, you aren’t going to sleep any longer. Looked at the clock and it was a few minutes past 7am. Almost twelve hours later.

The bus home was smooth as silk. Bags in the belly, butt on seat and nothing to do except look at the world from a different perspective from driving the same road I’ve been driving off and on for forty years. I saw scenery I didn’t know existed. Not to mention the voyeur I got to be looking down into the passing cars. Nothing of note, a few driving texters and too many nose pickers, but there was hope for something really interesting, which went unrealized.

My friend was to pick me up when the bus arrived in Bellingham, but was a bit tardy and in a different car. Her car had a flat tire and she had to substitute. I got home and found that the elves did not come to my house while I was gone and clean it. I did find that the plants that I forget to water before leaving nearly four weeks ago, somehow did not totally die. They weren’t happy looking, but they weren’t brown and crunchy either.

So that’s it !! I’ll settle in and review my images and post the best twenty within the next week. Thanks for coming along those of you who read all these narcissistic, sarcastic, sometimes mean posts. It means a lot to me to know that you too the time to look them over.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Criminals and critters

Tuesday November 22 2016

Last full day in Cape Town. The plane leaves CPT about 2pm for a two hour flight to Johannesburg. Then a fifteen and a half hour flight to Atlanta and then a five hour flight to Seattle. Good gravy tomorrow is going to be long. I have the extra leg room seats from JNB to ATL, but was too late to snag the same type of seat from ATL to SEA. We’ll see what Delta can do. Maybe a different flight. Maybe I’ll get bumped.

Since it was my last full day and the weather was rreasonable I went to Robben Island. The infamous prison there Nelson Mandela was kept fr seventeen years. The boat was scheduled to depart at 11am so I left the hotel around nine to have time to relax a little and get a cup of coffee before.

I went to a restaurant on the waterfront that I ha had a nice lunch before. They advertised good coffee and I was tired of Starbucks instant and crappy hotel coffee. I got a cup and ordered a chocolate croissant. Things were going smoothly. Coffee was good, pastry was good and almost half eaten when one of those brown birds with the red tipped wings landed on my table, hopped over to my unguarded croissant grabbed it and tried to take off with the sucker ! The only thing that saved my breakfast from flying the coop was that it outweighed the bird and he had to drop it. First my iPhone and now my food. This country is full of thieves.

I strolled over to where the boat moored and waited in line with the rest of my boat. Boarding was smooth and I found a seat on the top deck with an unobstructed view. The ride was billed as forty-five minutes and was every bit of that. When I looked down on the harbor from Table Mountain I thought it was like Alcatraz and within swimming distance. It was almost seven miles from Cape Town. There was none of this smelling the chocolate factory on the island, like you could on Alcatraz.

Cape Town 11 Km away
The sea was dead calm, a slight breeze but a real pleasant trip. We did hit that deep ocean roll about half way there and I expected a few passengers to head for the railing, but everyone seemed to handle it just fine. Then from the other side of the boat was a roar. A whale had surfaced for them and as quickly dived again. Missed seeing it, but the boat was suddenly tipped to that side as everyone rushed over there in hopes of seeing it again.

The boat arrived and we disembarked and were loaded on buses for a tour of the island. It had been a military post, ship’s resupply point, leper colony, insane asylum and of course a prison. Well actually two prisons. One for common criminals and one for political prisoners. We saw two churches, a cemetery, dog kennels and stopped for a bathroom break.
The guide was emphatic that we had fifteen minutes only. Most took sixteen, some took twenty and one couple took twenty-five. The guide made them stand up front and told them to sing their national anthem. Well either Spain doesn’t have a national anthem or this couple didn’t know it, or care that they had wasted a bus load of people’s time, because they wouldn’t sing.

Next stop we departed the bus and entered the maximum security prison itself where we were guided through the prison by a former political prisoner. The talk was held in a very echoey room and even though he did speak English I only made out about sixty percent of his talk. He explained the conditions in the prison, from visiting policy to mail censorship. From bedding to latrine usage. Of course there was the political message as well. I felt bad for the visitors who did not have English as their first language. I can only imagine how much of the talk they were able to absorb.

Then a walk through the solitary cell area and the highlight was a glimpse into Mandela's cell. Then exit to the grounds and given directions to how to walk back to the quay and get the boat.

The boat ride back was about the same as the one out, but the weather had changed. A little windier, a little cooler and a hint of rain on the horizon. We, meaning I did see two whale tails on the way back. That was exciting. I saw a Dolphin do four leaps and a small cadre of penguins in the water. A successful day all around.

Nelson Mandela's cell for 17 years
Back at the wharf, I thought I’d get a nice seafood dinner on the wharf for my last dinner in town. A beautiful restaurant had an appetizing menu so I got a nice window seat. Ordered a glass of Chardonnay, a green salad and a delicious sounding seafood casserole.

The wine was good. My second glass of white wine served at room temperature here in South Africa. It must be the way it’s served here. I just spoke to the bartender here and he said white’s should be sold cold. The salad was good, chopped lettuce, bacon, sliced tomatoes and bug. Bug? Well this is Africa after all. Then I looked at said bug and it was a fucking roach !! Not a regular fly in bug but a dirty kitchen roach. If it had been alms any other bug I might have flipped him away and finished my salad. After all I have voluntary eaten a cricket in Cambodia. But a roach, sorry. That is a sign of a poorly maintained kitchen, and I think I’ll pass on consuming anything else here.

I called the waiter over, pointed out the offending critter and promptly canceled the remainder of my meal. The manager came over and didn’t charge me for the salad and comped me the wine. I told him I’d pay for the wine and he insisted. I just left.

Taxi back to the hotel and an evening in my room shuffling this and that from one piece of luggage to another getting ready for tomorrow’s departure.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Table Mountain doesn't

Monday November 21 2016 – Cape Town

I looked at the trees while having breakfast and they weren’t waving in the breeze. Kind of jut a slight flicking of their leaves. The sun was out Table Mountain wasn’t covered in clouds. I guess today is the day to take on on of the “New Natural Seven Wonders of the World”, none of which are in North America. Now I could walk up the three thousand plus feet of the mountain but we all know that isn’t going to happen. Instead I’ll get a taxi up to drop me off at the cable car and ride in style to the top.

The cab got here in record time an up to the ticket booth without delay. I got out sun around three times and sort of got my bearings. There was a loooong line. I guess all my friends also decided that today was the day to go to the peak. I walked to the end of the line and saw one but two lines. One for those with tickets and one for those with out tickets. I was in the without line it was longer than the with one.

The No tickets line in next to the tickets line
Wait, wait, shuffle, shuffle. The sign said “You was 60 minutes away – if you want we have free WiFi and you can buy your tickets online at”. Hey ! I still had my phone ! I logged on, put in the requested information and in the blink of an electronic eye I had a bar code and stepped from Without to With. Still there was a wait, but not a wait to get tickets and then get in line.

We crossed the road, went up a ramp and then waited for the elevator to take us up to the tram level. Then another line to get checked in and a cluster of fifty or sixty for the actual cable car. It wasn’t your normal rectangular box on a string. It was round with a man in the middle sitting on a plush chair advising us on proper protocol. We started up the line and the floor Ala Space Needle started rotating affording everyone a full 360 degree view on the way up. That was a smart bit of engineering, no jostling around the and no swinging of the car.

We got out and the view was spectacular. I am very glad I didn’t follow through and not go. One side and there was the Atlantic Ocean and a view almost to the Cape of Good Hope. Maybe on a clear day you can see it. Today there was just a hint of mist in the distance. Then a turn and there was Cape town harbor and the Indian Ocean with Robben Island in the center. Sitting like Alcatraz in the middle of the bay with the city a short boat ride or long swim away.

The top of Table Mountain is flat when viewed from the city, but once up there it is a series of small rounded rocks with cement paths laced through the rocks and brush. Lizards, birds were easy to find. I didn’t see any Springbok or Oryx up there. They probably didn’t want to wait in the Without Tickets line. It was the UN up there, most countries represented and all with their national culture brought along. Ladies with surgical masks, because at home the air isn’t safe to breathe, so it must not be safe anywhere. Selfie sticks People walking three abreast and shoving singles off the path. Tons of Excuse me’s. Millennials who walk in from of my lens and stand there while I’m trying to compose a picture. The world in miniature.

I did the big circle loop on top of the mountain and then found the toilets, restaurant and gift shop conveniently located near the top of the lift. I took advantage of to of them and thought over two dollars was too much for a simple postcard. Food here is is inexpensive. Three and a half dollars and I had a nice chicken sandwich and a medium Coke. Cripes at my local grocery store a tuna sandwich almost cos that much and to find that price at a tourists site was astounding. There were some very aggressive little brown birds begging food. They were so habituated to people that I reached out slowly to see how close I could get to it before it flew. About and inch and a half, and then it didn’t fly, it just hopped away.
After the snack I went and watched Abseil Africa. For seventy bucks they will wrap you in webbing.
Tie you to a rope and let you slowly climb down a three hundred cliff face as your feet touched the wall, your butt faced the ground and your head hung out into space. I watched this for fifteen minutes. Men and women were doing this. I’d see them step over the cliff face and disappear. I never saw them come back. I wonder.

The ride back down was the same as up, except the line was shorter and the woman behind me insisted on rubbing her breast on me, until I finally asked her to give me a break. A taxi back to the hotel and the price was not what I was expecting. Seems there is the Table Mountain taxi cartel that charges 15 per km not the usual 10. So much for saved money on food.

The cab driver did give me a good piece of advice. If I want to go to Robben Island tomorrow get my tickets today.

As soon as I hit WiFi I logged on to the Robben Island website and tried to order a ticket for tomorrow. All the sailings were not available. Rats ! I cried to the desk clerk and she tried ‘Phone a friend’ and friend wasn’t answering.

What the heck. I wasn’t doing anything this afternoon anyway. Caught a cab to the waterfront where the boats eave daily for Robben Island. The ticket office was easy to find, no line just walk up. Do you have any tickets for tomorrow? Sure, what time, they are all available? The online said there weren’t any available. We limit those. How about 11 tomorrow? Here’s your ticket, be here at ten thirty.
Well that was simple and fast, now what? Might as well and hang out with my favorite several thousand closest friends. I found Haagen Daz sat on a bench and watched the world roll by as I actively avoided getting ice cream drips n my hand. Watched the same bands play as last time. Even bought their CD. The mime was new. He was the walk behind someone and imitate their walk type of mime, not the locked in the invisible type. I bought a cigarette from a resting chef and generally just hung out and enjoyed the waterfront from non jaded tourist eyes.

Taxi to the hotel and the invariable where are you from and what do you think about the presidential election results. The taxi drivers here are more interested in US politics than most of my friends at home.

Everywhere philosophy even atop Table Mountain

The Cape of Good Hope blows

Sunday November 20, 2016 – Cape Town

Woke up this morning and no wind! No wind!! Do you know what that means? The tram may be open! Heck Cape Point might not be hurricane lethal ! But first breakfast.

Coffee is almost impossible to come by in this hotel. That is, if you can find a cup and saucer. I really am not sure how it came to pass, but after asking another table where the coffee came from, I found a passing busboy and got a (I think) clean cup. I put my coffee on the table and a glass of orange juice and left my eBook in search of actual food.

I returned with a plate covered in bacon, eggs and some sort of bread to find a man sitting at my table. I pulled out my chair, put down the plate said Hi and sat down. He looked up and said Hi and went back to eating. I sat down and ate my breakfast and we never exchanged another word. Just like Sunday breakfast with my parents.

I have been on cable trams in several countries, especially when skiing. I’ve never been to the end of a continent before, so the decision was made. I tabled Table Mountain for a later date.

I asked the desk clerk to call me a regular cab and not the hotel cab. In a flash I was comfortably sitting next to the driver on my way to the train station. This time my iPhone is staying in my pocket and my camera wrapped tourniquet like around my wrist I fund the train, but it didn’t leave for another 30 minutes. At first I sat outside and watched people walking by. Pulling my camera closer as some younger men walked near. I decided to sit on the train and wait for it to pull out of the station. Instead of sitting near a door like last time. This time I’m in the middle of the car. I hate, hate, hate this feeling of being hyper-aware of my surroundings. Thinking everyone wants t steal my property. It is not fun.

Just like last time the train turned into a bus and drove us two stops to the correct station. I found a waiting car and asked the driver how much he wanted to go to Cape Point. He gave me a price, that was high, but it is a long way from Simonstown and h said he’d give me plenty of time at the point. In the big scheme of things it was fine with me. We drove for a half hour or more and then turned off the road to enter the park and stopped. The line of cars was a least a mile long, so we waited.

Eventually we made it to the ticket booth and even though he was driving a taxi and a local they wanted full entrance fee for him. That explained part of the reason the price was a little high, because he had his share out ready to pay. I told him to give me a few Rand to round out the bill for two and paid his entrance fee.. I’d struck the deal with him assuming I was paying for the car and his time and he wasn’t going to be charged the entrance fee. I’ll look at it as his tip.
Once inside we drove anther fifteen minutes to the parking lot for Cape Point. The place was jammed with tour buses, limo vans, taxis and cars. That really brought home it was a summer’s Sunday. Except it didn’t feel exactly like a summer. Well maybe summer in a typhoon. The nice calm day I left behind in Cape Town had evolved into gale force winds at the Cape. I could see the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean and still get blown backwards I tied to get up to the lighthouse and the wind kicked my ass.

I made it back to the car and told him I was a wimp. He suggested a different location and I voted a big Yes. We drove back the way we came and then turned off the main road and down a long grade to The Cape Of Good Hope. The traffic was as bad as it was at the point and the winds might have been worse. Trying to get a picture of the sign was a chore Worse than getting a shot at the Taj Mahal. The best thing about all those people is that they sort of broke the wind for you. It was colder here too. Enough of this fun. I fought the wind and the wind won. It was probably gusting to forty and it just wasn’t worth it. If I want to be at the end of another continent I think I’ll try Key West.

I got back in the car and safety. Told him it had beat me. He said that the day I had been looking at the penguins it was blowing at 65 knots. Which Google says is a hair under 75 miles and hour. So today it wasn’t even really blowing that hard. Ya, sez you buddy.

I thought about walking Simonstown but it is your typical seaside town that caters to tourist. Lots of pastel colors, car shops, t-shirt stores, dress shops, spelled Shoppe. I do almost no shopping and the wind was blowing here too. Back to the train station please.

The train left the station and not a bus. This was weird as it was last time. Th car I was in was a first class car, you could tell because there was a piece of fabric on the hard plastic and not just plastic. As we stopped at the stations the car began to fill up with everyday people, not the tourist or suit and tie type who would pay for a first class ticket. Then burned out drunk r junkie white guy got on the train and started playing his guitar and singing. He was so bad, I wanted to pay him to leave out car. He had his hat on the floor t collect tips and some idiot put coin in it. This only made his sing louder and a second and third song Some young women got on from a day at the beach and were laughing their asses off at him and then clapping exuberantly which only kept him going. You’d think that his empty hat would give him a clue, but t was not so. Finally the Gods interceded and he broke his G string, and peace was again in the world.

The car was packed t standing room only and a troupe of kids came in dressed like Zulu warriors accompanied by an adult playing the drum. They were doing really nicely and then the Transit Police entered the car and suddenly we were left with an empty car. Another African magic trick.

Train arrived at Cape town, I still had my iPhone and camera. I found a beat up taxi and knew he wouldn’t know where my hotel was, asked if he knew it. He nodded yes. Really? Yes. Okay, I was prepared for a tour of the city again. One left, another left a long straight a left and a quick right and we were at my hotel. Unbelievable.

Just finished my vodka tonic. Think I’ll go back to that Mexican restaurant again. Ciao!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

..... And still more tourists !!

Saturday November 19th 2016, Cape Town

The party at the Mexican restaurant below my room was going full blast when I had lights out around ten thirty. I expected to toss and turn until two am. It didn’t happen that was. I had the best sleep I’d since getting to Cape Town.
I did the morning water thing and had a mug of Starbucks instant before emerging from my room. Breakfast was included in the price of the stay. Had a croissant and coffee at a local bakery on the hotel’s dime. Checked out, caught a cab and dropped things off at me new/old hotel, before heading over t the Bo Kaap section of town. Former Muslim section of town. There is at east one and possibly two mosques that I saw. The area is known more for it multi colored homes. Every home was a different pastel and all in wonderful condition. I took several snapshots of the streets, tried to stay out of the way of other people with their camera glued to their eye and watched seventy-five percent of them shooting into the sun, not with the sun to their backs. Then they wonder why their faces are so dark and the background is so bright.

I stopped it to a small local coffee shop and had a pretty good Americano. There was one sign that grabbed my attention.

Taxis were hard to find, so I resorted to walking into a hotel and asking if they would call a cab for me. Without a blink of an eye they did and then sent security to stand with me as I waited for the car.

The driver suggested The Old Biscuit Factory. They are a weekend thing. It was not what I had expected. It was supposed to be a weekly local market. Turns out that everyone who was V&A a few days ago was at the Old Biscuit Factory today, including the Yuppie with the sweater tied around his neck. Did my best to navigate through the throngs without bumping into too many people or getting an elbow to the boobs. I needed some peace and quiet and found a small restaurant in the corner of the facility that advertised the best burger in Cape Town. I ordered it and though I have nothing to compare it to in Cape Town it was a very, very good burger. So good I took a picture of it.


The crowds eventually overwhelmed my and I caught a taxi back to my new/old hotel. Got a room without a view of the mountain, barely larger than my previous room’s bathroom and TV viewing area, with almost no WiFi reception. Maybe I’ll take a nap and chant for something different.

Too many tourists and too few bathrooms

Friday November 18th 2016 – Cape Town

No calamities in the last two days. It’s been so, so boring.

Breakfast in the 17th and then a short walk from the hotel to the District 6, museum. District 6 in now a combination suburbs, retail and municipal. Prior to 1966 District 6 was a reasonable cosmopolitan blacks area. But since it was close to the white center of town, Apartheid said the racial mixing would cause disharmony so the blacks had to go. Still a segregated country the resident of Division 6 were forced to move and then their homes were demolished by bulldozers. It reminded me of my own country’s relocation of U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry in the early 1940’s. Similarly both groups were paid pennies on the dollar/Rand or their property loss. I wandered to halls and looked at the pictures and read some of the stories of the former residents. Nothing really new, same stories, different dates and different locations. I left knowing more, but not particularly more educated.

Earlier I has eschewed an offering of a city map by the hotel, but soon realized I had no idea what was where or what for that matter.

The map gave me a few ideas on where to go and since it cost me nothing also in HUGE letters and primary colors, where to buy the best gemstones. I saw a large star shaped object called The Castle. It looked similar to the footprint of forts used in the American civil war. It looked close so, why not ?

I did find it after crossing several busy streets. Always with the traffic light with the little green man brightly lit. I still haven’t gotten used to looking left when stepping off the curb and right when in the middle of the street. Its been close a time or two. I found the Castle with no problem and began to walk around it to find the entrance. There was a road leading to what appeared to be employee parking, so I continued along. Around a corner and down a long block. Around another corner and then the sidewalk began a slight incline. Soon I was on an overpass overlooking the Castle and no way down. Hey must have been hiding the entrance from me. Winston Churchill said “When going trough Hell, keep going”. I certainly wasn’t in Hell, but I kept going anyway. Next to me were dozens of railroad tracks, so I must be near the train station, then up ahead a large lot full of shared mini vans. Yes, the train station, now I know that one !

I passed by all the mini vans and saw the sign for the train station. Inside it was completely different from yesterday. There were a few ticket kiosks and several placed to enter the tracks and no one was there. I mean no one. A huge empty cavern of a place and no one was there. Slowly I realized I was one floor above the main floor. Piece of cake, all I need to do is find the stairs down to the main floor.

I walked up to the first open ticket seller and asked her how to get downstairs. She said I could go outside and get knocked around be the wind on the pedestrian overpass and go down there. Or I could go back the way I came passed the piss smelling corners and mini vans. AND, I shouldn’t be there alone, she’d call and get me a security escort. I told he no thank you. She insisted. I mean I had just walked through the winos and street sleepers and their pee’d in corners to get here, surely I didn’t need an escort in an empty chrome and marble transit hub. I thanked her for her advice and went and forded the pedestrian overpass. Once on the street with fingers turning white holding my camera close to my body and head swiveling like a bobble head I made my way through the crowd with my best “Don’t F with me” walk.

Finally a taxi. He knew where my next destination was, the Victoria and Albert dock area. The guy was from Zimbabwe, like yesterday’s meandering taxi driver. This was not starting out on a good note. Not to worry, the V&A is a huge tourist area and everyone knows where it is. Along the way I hear how poor things are in Zimbabwe. How he does a bank transfer to his mother and the bank in Zimbabwe doesn’t have any cash to give her. Then we need t stop for gas because he doesn’t know if we’ll make it to V&A. Once gassed up we are driving along and the car coughs and shudders to a stop. He gets out and opens the trunk to get the key that unlocks the hood and does what everyone does. He unscrews some caps, bangs on something, shrugs his shoulders, closes the hood, puts the key back n the trunk, gets back in and starts the car and we drive off. Somehow nothing else go in our way and we did make it to V&A.

What a tourist trap. All I saw was tan pants, yellow shirts and whit sweaters tied jauntily around the men’s necks, all the women were in clothes with designer’s names or initials on them. Thousands of faces and none of them black or even mocha. Well there were some, bu they were all carrying trays, taking orders or selling something. The remainder were whiter than a bag of marshmallows. Not a piece of paper on the streets, glass and chrome everywhere. This was not what came to Africa for. I was about to run away from this mass of consumer insanity and then the sign – Life is too short for bad coffee – beckoned.

I had an iced tea (in a can) and a chicken burger Both were surprisingly tasty. The sweet potato chips (fries) were soggy, but the burger was near perfection. Due to my post safari promise I left half behind. Paid and left a US. Percentage tip, waved to the waitress and left. Twenty feet later the manager ran me down and handed me a doggie bag of the rest of my meal. I’m staying in a hotel, I don’t do leftovers.

A taxi got me to my hotel and then to the new hotel. Then the new hotel had the nerve, the nerve to tell me my reservations were for the next day and they had no rooms available. What the nerve of them manipulating the calendar that way ?!

They did manage to find me a place nearby for the night. I’ll be back, tomorrow.

The new hotel is a Marriott brand and is clean and big. It is not impersonal though. Room secured, Wi-Fi abysmal in the room, but great in the bar. What a bonus. I sent out like seven or eight days worth of blog entries and then had dinner. A nice hotel dinner. Nothing special, but it was palatable.

Morning came a long hot shower and Starbucks instant got the world off to a great start. Big hotel breakfast. Not a big breakfast, but the same breakfast you see in big hotels. Egg station and a mile of hot dishes and half a mile of cold dishes.

The woman at the front desk said the tram to Table Mountain was probably not running due to the continued winds. As an alternative suggested the botanical gardens and a lunch spot with a view. Sounded good to me. She called a taxi for me,, and the darned thing came with the hotel’s logo on the side. There goes and additional 30%. The gardens were nice. Established a hundred years ago and many of the plants had a sign telling if it was over a hundred. A free walking tour was starting in fifteen minutes. The presenter was a volunteer who was plant crazy. I suppose you don’t take a volunteer job giving free tours if you weren’t crazy about whatever your topic was. I enjoyed the tour and the time I spent there. The high point for me was the Boomslang (named after one of Africa’s poisonous snakes) walkway. A long twisty walkway in the tree tops that is supported at noth ends but the center is unsupported and maintains it’s integrity through he way is is built in a series of S’s. It was a little wiggly in the middle buut that only added to it’s magic. Finding a toilet was a bit of a chore and full of directions like a general direction hand wave or an “Over there”. Astronaut diapers would have come in handy here.

Information flagged a taxi down for me and I told the driver my destination. He’d never heard of it Phone a friend time. A sentence or two we were on the road. Me hoping the friend wasn’t from Zimbabwe. We arrived at the Cecil Rhodes memorial of Rhodesia (AKA Zimbabwe and Zambia) and colonization of southern Africa. Way, way up a hill in a quiet park. I got out, closed the taxi door and heard it drive away – thinking how the heck am I going to get back? Guess that’s something to worry about later.

Found good old Cecil’s bust. I’m not too sure, but maybe the pee stains and his nose broken off says something abut how well some of the citizens of Cape Town think of him. The view was stunning. Overlooking the entire city with the Indian ocean to the left with bright white beaches and breakers. The cafe that the desk clerk suggested was a short walk uphill. Good food, great view, canned iced tea. What the heck, this used to be owned by the British, can’t they make tea, water it down and toss in an ice cube ? This time at least they asked if I wanted a doggie bag and didn’t just pack one up without asking.

The cafe was able to call for a taxi for me. While waiting for the taxi I heard the call of a bird. I don’t know what it’s name is, but I recognize it’s call. Some say it is calling ‘Work harder” and some think it is “Drink lager’. A ride to the old hotel to get my luggage and to the new hotel. The new hotel’s room is twice as large as any I’ve been in this trip. It is huge, balcony. There is a bar below but I haven’t tried to sleep yet, it might not be too bad.

Dinner at a Mexican restaurant that was as good as any American Mexican restaurant. Even a decent Margarita. The house was mad. It was like Free Drinks night at Azteca. The only place t sit was at the bar. I have had “Mexican’ in other countries and it never came close to what I was used to. This one lived up to and exceeded my expectations. It was like they had Star Trek transferred a Los Angeles Mexican eatery and stuck it on a hill in Cape Town. I broke me ‘only eat half’ and Hoovered up everything.

Now nine pm, time to shut this down.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Great Train Robbery of 2016

Wednesday November16, 6pm – Cape Town

After breakfast and decided tummy bummer or no tummy bummer I was going to see the penguins.

The front desk suggested that I take the train. Cool ! I like trains. Go out to the corner turn right and walk till you hit the station. Simple as that. Walked up to the ticket counter and had two choices. One way or round trip? First class or cattle class. Heck I’m on vacation, First Class, round trip please. Okay that will be $2.25. Shit I knew I should have gone economy.

The train was on time and my seat was comfy. As we were pulling out of the station and rolling slowly along everything was topped with barbed wire. I thought the west was won with barbed wire, but South Africa has kept it alive. Since that was such a good line I thought I’d better make a note of it on my phone since my sieve memory is working overtime with all these new experiences and senses. With a minor case of ADD if I don’t write it down it might get lost, don’tcha know?

I got as far as ‘Barbed wire tamed the wesr’ when a pair of black hands grabbed for my phone. Since I am not a thumb texter I had a good hold on the phone, so pulled back, he pulled his way harder and like Penn and Teller my phone was gone. I saw the guy run out the door as I sweetly called “You Mother Fucker!!!!”. He was hightailing it to the gate and people started after him. Like a Springbok he leaps the turnstile gate and was gone down the street. I’m thinking, crap, now I have to change all my passwords what a pain that is going to be. I have travel insurance and homeowners insurance, I wasn’t so worried about the actual phone. I was about to re-board the train with an expensive lesson learned when some of thee people said ‘They got him !’ The Transit Police had him cuffed behind his back and he had blood on his face and as he was walked trough the crowd people were still swearing at him and hitting him.

They handed me my phone back and asked if I was hurt, did he cut me? I had a cut on my thumb, probably from a finger nail and my adrenalin was high, but otherwise I was good, the phone was good and Mr. Smith wasn’t so good.

The lady Transit Police officer asked me if I wanted to make a police report. I didn’t really think it was necessary. Mr. Smith probably got what he deserved and except of a small cut and blood on my phone I was as good as new. Then I thought, the worked really hard catching this guy for me, and if I said no, there would be no paper trail showing their efforts. I asked her “Do you want me to make a report?”, she said yes.

We all got back on the train, Mr. Smith probably had his first First Class train ride that he had ever been allowed, but he did have to sit on the floor surrounded by blue. I kind of felt sorry for him, when he ran with my phone he dropped his goody bag full of other purloined goods, I mean he really didn’t strike me as the French Press coffee maker type or someone who carries around his cable TV box. E got the snot kicked out of him. He was sitting on the floor crying and his nose running. I thought about handing him a tissue but it wouldn’t have done much good with his hands behind him.

Everyone on the train was curious as to what happened, if I was injured. I really felt genuine concern from them not just idle curiosity. One lady was getting off and handed me two pieces of Halls throat lozenge.

The lady Transit Police filled out her notebook and several stops we go off to go to the actual Police, police department. I couldn’t have been treated better. I was orally interviewed by A Warrant Officer (sorry I forgot his name. Over??) and then the dreaded written statement. The officer explained since I would be unavailable to testify in court, the guy would probably go free, but perhaps with the Warrant Officer’s telling of my statement in court that might hold up. I felt “No harm, no foul”. He got smacked around, he cried, he’ll get a day or two in jail before he get out of his own recognizance. That should be enough for a failed snatch and grab.

I left the police station to get my train on to the penguins. On the way I gave a taxi driver about fifty cents for a cigarette. If any day is a cigarette day it is today. Then one of the female officers called me back and said I needed to sign for receiving the evidence back, which totally made sense.

As an aside : I just got back from dinner and was telling this to the taxi driver and he said it might have been luck the Transit Police got him as quickly as they did. Sometimes mob justice takes over and the perpetrator is killed.

Back to the narrative. I got on a later train and met a very interesting man. Lots of thoughts on lots of things. He was informed and funny. He said that he hadn’t had a television in two years. He said if it was good for you, America would have banned it years ago. Near the end the train turned into a bus. Rail repair it seems Then to a shared mini bus to be dropped off close to the Boulder Beach area where the penguins reside. A walk of a few blocks down hill and I was there. The wind was absolutely howling. I had been carrying my hat since the train, when it tried to go on it’s own walkabout.

The Boulder Beach guesthouse and restaurant are conveniently located on Boulder Beach. I stopped in at the restaurant for a mid day bite. Their ‘light menu’ had fish and chips and that seemed appropriate for a windy day at the beach. The fish was huge. Half of and entire fish battered and fried. It was really good, but I’m currently only eating half the serving, except dessert, because of all the food I was served in Namibia.

Then down to the penguins. You can get real close to them at this location. The location where the tour buses disgorge their passengers are elevated wooden walkways. This one was just beach, sand, water, rocks and Penguins. Oh ! A smattering of people too. I spent an hour there watching the birds, finding a critter with babies in the bushes and hiding from the wind. I had given some thought of going to the southern most point of Africa, but it would have been a hurricane.

I trudged back up the hill to the main road. I never got hit, but I kept looking the wrong direction when crossing the road. Soon enough a city bus came by and I was whisked away resplendently out of the wind to the train station.

The tracks must have been fixed because a train arrived in fifteen minutes. Cape Town here I come.

Back in Cape Town I exited the station and headed back to the hotel, only nothing looked familiar. So I got a cab and told him the hotel’s name and the hotel’s address. The Bozo couldn’t find it, he asked other drivers who told him to buzz off, he asked at a gas station. Finally he phoned a friend, being out of all his lifelines and we drove back to almost where he picked me up and zig zagged thorough a street or two had me at my hotel. With all his screwing around the meter was by American standards, not too bad. By Cape Town standards he was robbing me. I bitched and got a somewhat discounted rate.

Back at the hotel I was informed that the elevator will be under repair from 10pm tonight and for the following thirty six hours. My room is on the seventh floor. Luckily I’m changing hotels tomorrow.

I wrote a little bit and then had the hotel call me a taxi to take me to Panama Jack’s restaurant. A shack on the shipping docks that is supposed to have the best seafood in town – and – Abalone is on the menu. They were booked solid so I had to sit at the bar. Since Abalone is sold by weight I asked the barman what a serving weighs. He left to check and came back and said they had no Abalone. Crap! I ordered the scallops appetizer and he returned fifteen minutes later and said they were out of scallops. Okay, how about the Avocado mixed seafood salad? Sure enough he came back and said the Avocados weren’t ripe. By now I’m kind of running out of options on the appetizer part of the menu. I ordered a Greek Salad, expecting him to return and say they were out of Greeks. Instead he puts the Avocado Seafood salad in front of me, minus the Avocado.

Since the Abalone was out, I asked about the grilled tuna. Was it a steak cut or a loin, knowing the loin is going to be as close to sushi grade as I’m going to get. It was loin. Great I’ll take it. It came, it was steak.

Maybe today is my Karma day for saying all those things about Doug. If so I hope I’ve reset things a little.

Tomorrow was supposed to be Table Mountain, but it might be closed. It was closed today because of the winds and it doesn’t sound weakening any as I type this. Well a little after 10pm time to bed.

Cat Trax !!! and I ain't talkin' tires

Well that last entry ended on a low note.

The lions we saw close to camp yesterday caused a bit of a concern, so even at dusk we were required to walk to and from our tents with an escort. I feel like such a baby when I need to have someone walk me home and to dinner. Such is life here, better than staying here – inside a lion.

Dinner was more of the something we’ve had almost all of the trip, an appetizer and meat and dessert. The three wine offerings sounded good, but the one sounded great, so I chose it. The lady brought it to the table uncorked it and presented me with the cork. That had never happened before. Then she poured a taste, and it wasn’t sour. Then it dawned on me. I wasn’t drinking the normal house wine, which is good enough for me, I had just ordered a bottle of the premium stuff. Everyone at the table (except Doug) who was drinking red, got a glass of the fancy assed wine.

After dinner the entire camp’’’s employees came out and sang and dance for us. Soon it was time to get escorted back to my room. Jake was next door to me so we went with the same employee. There were two ways to our tents one more open and one more bushy. We tried to tell the guy to take us the more open way so we wouldn’t be ambushed by a cat. He’s going the bushy way and suddenly comes to the bushes and I hear him say something that sounded like “Oh, shit, bushes” We made it safely back to our tents and I locked the door and promptly went to sleep.

Over coffee in the morning the camp was abuzz. After dinner as clean up was going on, two or three cats walked through the camp and the staff locked themselves in. Now that was exciting, until I walked back to my room and saw lion tracks on the path near my tent and a second set between my room and Jake’s. Now it’s all fine and good to hear about cats on the other side of the camp, but next to where I was sleeping behind a piece of canvas is a totally different thing.

After breakfast, it was time to say goodbye to the trip. Jeremiah had several maps of Namibia that he yellow highlighted out route we ad taken this trip. That was a nice touch. Then into the truck with Jake, Pat and Mike for another several hour drive to the airstrip. Jake was going to a different camp and P&M were going back to Windhoek with me.

We had the plane to ourselves, so seating was absolutely perfect. Mike got a seat with windows on both sides, Pat and I got two over the wings. The pilot said to expect a few bumps on the way into Windhoek. I know both Pat and I had them on snugly, Mike likes to move around so I’m not so sure about his seat belt. As the flight went on we stated hitting some turbulence and the little plane was tossed around, but nothing too bad. Then we hit a patch and we dropped ! I hit my head on the ceiling even though I had my seat belt snug. Pat also hit her head and I found out later so did Mike. The copilot turned around and asked if we were all okay, like he could do something if we weren’t. I pulled my belt so tight I thought my legs would go numb for the remainder of the trip.

Obviously we landed without further incident. Except to a little uneasiness when I walked and Mike having a headache and a previously weakened neck we all seemed to have survived.

Pat and Mike had changed their flight to 5pm because the were told they could miss their 3pm flight. Bert changed me flight, at additional cost from the 2pm to the 6pm flight, also which I could have made. None of us were real thrilled about that.

We hung around Wilderness’ waiting area for the A/c and the Wi-Fi for most of the afternoon. Just waiting and waiting, with the occasional foray into other parts of the airport. Flight time came and we

Rhino, cats and cats

November 14th 2016, Desert Rhino Camp

Wake up was for five so I set the alarm for four thirty. I got going and was there when Jeremiah came to wake up. I was dressed so went out with him and looked at the stars, he pointed out the Southern Cross and then to my total surprise Orion and his famous belt. The darned moon was totally full and made it impossible to get any star trails photographed. Oh, well we have stars in the states I guess.

Breakfast was what is almost always for breakfast. Cereal, yogurt, eggs, muffins, juice. I was more interested in coffee than anything else. Had a muffin and some coffee before hitting the potty before going on the game drive.

As the name of the camp suggests, today we went in search of Rhinos. The last time I went to see the rhinos it was in Victoria Falls. We hopped in the truck and drove a mile to a guard shack. Got a guard and drove another mile, got out and walked a football field and the rhinos were so close I couldn’t get my zoom lens back far enough to get the whole rhino in the shot.

The game trackers had left about a half hour before us to find the animals. We drove for what seemed forever and stumbled across some lions on the way. A female and an adult male. The were just walking through the river bed, they didn’t seem to be hunting, though I’m sure if they found some prey that they would have munched on it.

After enough photos to satisfy National Geographic for a year we were back on the trails to find the trackers and hopefully the rhinos. Soon enough there was a lot of radio chatter and we determinedly stated driving. The roads here are trails and not always good trails, many require low range four wheel drive. The trackers white Land Cruiser was up ahead with one other Toyota truck with two guests. We were briefed to stay in line, to shut up, to keep up and whatever you do don’t run.

It was near eight thirty when we started across the veldt. I really had to watch where I stepped, once because f needing to stay in line and two because the loose rocks were real potential ankle breakers. Down a long gradual slope and then up a rise and another dip and finally up a final hill where we were hand signaled to huddle up and look down into the next dry wash. There were two rhinos on female and one two and a half year old male. Not as close as the one in Zambia, but still pretty close. These had not been habituated to people and kept a close eye on us at all times. I say eye and I mean ear. Their eye sight is not great, but they have ears that can pick up a mouse fart at half a mile. I have little doubt that the shutter clicking and mirror flopping is what drew their attention.
They moved a little to our left and so we slid to the left ourselves. Things were going pretty good and then the big female took a two or three steps up the hill toward us. Then is was time for all of us to step back behind the crest of the hill and head back to the trucks. It was nine am.

We had accomplished our daily task and I was hoping to return to the camp for a slow remainder of the day. I had to pee again and didn’t want to stop and find a bush again. I’d already done that once, and more today and my tummy was still not completely happy. I was over ruled.

There was the ever present Oryx and then we ran into a male and a female lion resting under a large bush. Cameras came out and we sat and shot another few hundred images of probably the same lions we saw on the way to the rhinos. Eventually our shutter fingers for sore and needed a rest so we dove on until we found elephants and giraffes. The elephants had a baby with them that I saw. There was one other but it was hiding behind mom and I never saw or photographed it.

After what seemed like hours to my bladder we pulled under a tree with the other truck and the white Land Cruiser of the tackers. They had a very nice buffet set up on a table and real chairs. Lunch was good, which is something that should go unsaid as the food at Wilderness Safari’s camps is always good. Some better than others but always good. Then came the sales pitch, not the more money sales pitch, the we are doing so many wonderful things for the rhinos, elephants, lions, cheetahs, or what animal seems to be the animal of this particular camp, sales pitch. It was informative and I now know more about rhinoceroses that I ever knew before, so I guess that’s something.

We left lunch and headed back towards camp to be distracted by five lionesses laying under a tree 1.3km from camp. They looked happy and well fed but since they were so close to camp there is no walking around without an escort after dusk for sure tonight.

Back at camp a cool washcloth and I was back in my tent. It was really how so I stripped down to my nothing and just lay on the bed. If it wasn’t for a blankity-blank fly I would have gotten a spectacular nap in. I did get a pretty good doze in though.

We met for a sundown drive and the wind was blowing, my tum-tum is not quite 100% and Doug is going on the drive. I bagged the drive. I probably missed seeing a lion kill or an elephant jumping rope but I think I’ve had enough fun for a day. Besides if I have to hear Captain Repetition say “Nice butt shot” one more time I’ll find a gun in this gunless place.

I bid everyone adieu and they all trouped to the truck. Then Doug came back and decided not to go on the sundown drive. Fuck !!

Grit in my teeth

November 13th 2016, Desert Rhino Camp, Namibia

Five thirty after a ten hour day of driving. Great to not be on the road. A nine day safari and four game drives the remainder of the trip has been either on the road or in the air. Half the group are special and so they have special needs that the rest of us have to accommodate. And people ask me why I travel alone.

Yesterday we all met for a nosh before the Sun-downer drive. Promptly at six we all boarded the Toyota and headed out. Before leaving I looked at the anemometer readout on the wall and the wind was a steady 22 miles an hour. We drove to the riverbed to find two special trees that Jeremiah wanted t use as a backdrop for the sunset. The only problem was the wind increased and we were in the middle of a fucking sandstorm. The wind would settle a bit and then return with a vengeance. I hid in the lee the truck and still had sand in my eyes and grit in my mouth. All the while Jeremiah tried to get everyone and their camera exposed to this shit. I put the lens cap on and put it under my coat. Eventually even Jeremiah called Uncle and we went and hit in the truck and had our evening drink as the sun filtered through the blowing sand set on the day.

Dinner was dinner. Some stuff and some main stuff and some sweet stuff followed by an escorted walk back to my tent in case a lion decided to gobble me up, and went to bed after a shower.

Breakfast meeting at five thirty am, for a six departure. I set the alarm for four thirty just so I could get some time not surrounded by other people and just sip a cup of coffee and not have to make small talk. At five the walking alarm stopped by and saw I was already and at five thirty he was back.

Six am and we were on the dirt again. Down the same dry wash of yesterday. Where we saw the elephants. We ran into another group of pachyderms a young male, a female and tree immature ones. They put on a better show than yesterday. Yesterday was in the heat of the day and they were pretty much just hanging out in the shade. Today these were pulling branches the were up at trunk length. Walking around, actually being alive.

A little further down the stream bed there were giraffes and of course the Oryx’s and Springbok. The rest of the time it was drive, drive. Some nice graded roads and some off road dirt and rocks. Occasionally we would stop to see an animal and invariably they would turn away from us as soon as the cameras were raised and Captain Ass-wipe would say “Nice butt shot”

There is a game that some people play while watching the television show, Fixer Upper. Every time Jo says “Ship lap” you are supposed to take a drink. If we were playing that game with Doug and “Butt shot” I’d be too drunk to type this.

We were talking about coffee and his only input was the it was a great laxative. What a work of art that man is.

Jake is special because he is a vegetarian. Sherry and Doug are special because they are ‘No salt’ diet and must have twin beds. He also can hardly walk a half a block and that is in twenty minutes. When we arrived at camp tonight their tent was located further than mine, so I had to change tents and now I have two fucking twin beds and their welcome card, and they have either decided that they cold indeed sleep in the same bed or have had the staff go into their room and rearrange the furniture to suit them. I asked housekeeping to stick my back together when they service the room tomorrow. AND, I’ve never seen them even approach the fucking tip jar at any of the camps.

Thank heaven for Pat and Mike, they are level headed, have traveled and understand how things work. I feel like I should tip them at the end of the trip.

We are meeting at seven thirty for Rhino watching do’s and don’t’s and dinner at eight. Game drive and Rhino walking tomorrow morning. I wonder if there is a way o get a Rhino horn up someone’s ass.

Dunes, Skeletons and desert

November 9th 2016, a day of mourning. Same place as last night

Dinner last evening was at 7pm, and with German efficiency to dining room doors were opened with a flourish. The service was, what is a word that means slightly less than abysmal? None of the dishes went to the correct person unless the dish was announced and if it was understood, then it was set before the recipient. The food was good, but nothing worth remembering past the next morning.

Since the dining room didn’t open until 7am for the breakfast service we had a late start of 7:45am. I got up at 5:30am and had some instant coffee in the room, took a long shower and read the election news, which put me in a less that grand mood. Breakfast was your typical large hotel buffet, except there wasn’t anything I saw that that any heat under it. I found out later that you could order from the waitress an egg or two, but they weren’t freely and openly offered.

We met at the appointed time and drove maybe thirty minutes south. There wasn’t much in the way of conversation or description by Jeremiah. It was just a drive on a paved road past seaside condos. We pulled off the highway into a huge parking lot full of huge buses, cars and 4X4’s. We were all going on a boat tour of the bay. Our boat was a 45 foot Catamaran and perhaps thirty of us boarded the boat, along with five or six Pelicans and one Sea Lion. The boat wrangler told us to not touch the animals and if we drop our camera overboard that he wasn’t going to fish it out of the drink for us. He and some of the crew fed the Sea Lion and the Pelicans and we set sail. I had brought my purple Helly Hansen winter parka because I would need it when I got home at Thanksgiving, but had bundled it up in the bottom of my luggage, because I was going to southern Africa in their summer. Boy am I happy that I brought it. It was flipping cold on the bay.
We launched and headed out onto the bay. We six north Americans, a cadre of French, Platoon of Germans and some Chinese. Past the regular working harbor flotsam, fishing boats, pleasure craft. Some almost derelict and some well maintained. The Pelican show was going on at the bow of the boat. The sea lion was requested to depart earlier. I guess they found she didn’t have a ticket. Then the fish for the pelican ran out so they were ejected, but they didn’t like to stay away. They actually seemed to enjoy flying back to the boat, gliding in over the passengers and landing on a crew man’s head. I think they had a bit of a crush n some of them.

Past the oyster farms, that produce humpity hump gazillion pounds of oysters for the China market. Then approached the sea lion reserve on the end of one of the arms guarding the harbor. Big seals, medium seals, little seals, seals everywhere. Some happy, some spatting. Most lounging and several playing tad and running into the surf.

We left the safety of the harbor and entered the actual ocean with those long swells. It was really smooth and not much swell. We were looking fr Dolphins and Whales, but before we could find them some of our passengers were getting Mal Du Mer and we had to turn around before the decks were awash in vomit, not to mention the pelican poop.

We had a nice lunch of fresh oysters on the half shell and veggie bites - basically a full meal, Wilderness Safari style. The boat landed, we got off. Had time to go potty and then we were escorted to a very nice Range Rover and were driven up and down sand dunes while the driver cracked jokes and expounded on how good of a driver he is. Before we hit the dunes we passed a huge flock of Flamingos. The driver had us leave the vehicle to take pictures of the birds and was going to meet us further down the road. We took our share of photos and most of us met at the car. All except for Jake who was still machine gunning his camera at the poor birds. The Land Rover driver said he usually only stopped here for like 10 minutes, instead of half and hour and we would miss driving o the beach because the tide was coming in. I went down and verbally grabbed Jake by the ear and told him there were other people on the trip too. Sure as shootin’ we missed the beach drive.

Another dozen fresh oysters and ups and downs and we were back at the he parking lot with Jeremiah in the Toyota.

Back at the hotel, at and Mike decided to go to Indian food and invited me along. A nice change fro the usual hotel food. Nine pm bed time an asleep until five am.

The next morning, after breakfast we went to enter the vehicle and Pat and Mike announced we were going to play musical chairs and switch seats after each stop. Mike figured out the seating arrangement, which had us snaking our way around the cab of the truck. I thought it worked rather well. This wasn’t their first time on a trip like this. The had one where half the group wasn’t speaking to the other half of the group and one member of the group was kicked out by the tour guide.

The wind was howling the entire day. Every time we stopped I had to bundle up in my parka, before getting out. We stopped at two ship wrecks and took pictures, but not a quadrillion pictures. Hopefully enough, but not all day. Then while driving Jeremiah saw a Meerkat we stopped the vehicle and told us to wait in the car while he made like one of the lost tribes and seemed to wander in the desert. Then he waved for us to follow him and he had us sit is a semi circle around a Meerkat den and sit patiently and wait. Soon a head popped up and then another. Followed by sitting on their butt looking for trouble and the mirrors on the cameras clicked and clicked. The Kardassian's couldn’t have been honored with any more camera clicks.

(it is now 2 days later and so not at detailed as I had hoped)

We stopped for lunch on the beach. More sand to slough through and the wind was howling out of the south. I came on a Dune to Desert vacation not a vacation that needed a damn parka. The only seats for lunch were on your butt in the sand. The lunch was good though. In the German tradition a sausage sandwich and a full breaded Schnitzel. Granola bar and piece of fruit and a juice box. I guess adults drink juice boxes, but all I can picture when I get one is school lunches.

Back on the road, not nearly soon enough for me and a seat rotation. Since the seat rotation was implemented Jake is back on the island. Doug, aka Captain Obvious, or Captain Repetition, or The One Man Orchestra was proud that he now had two rolls of toilet paper, because he stole them from the hotel.

We stopped for a visit to the Lichen Field. It was slightly informative and as unexciting as it sounds. One wooden ship wreck the was a few ribs only left, but mostly driving and driving. We hit Terrace bay just at dusk and it was about as inviting as Barrow Alaska. Barren, with a few buildings scattered without and seeming plan.

My room was as inviting as the exterior. It was barren, it was plain, it’s only saving grace was the it wasn’t outside. Advertised as Rustic, except for having electricity all the time, hotels in Ethiopia would be considered Five Star when put side by side to this place. We trudged to dinner uphill and fortunately with the wind. I ate in my parka and kept my hands tucked into the opposite sleeve Kimono style when not actively eating. The walls and ceiling were covered in graffiti by former travelers. Almost every language on the planet seemed to be represented. Then back down the hill, into the wind and a door slam and lock turn – safe and secure for the night.

I slept well as the wind howled outside and rattled the door and windows. Woke about five thirty only to find that the instant coffee in the room was all Decaf and Hell if I could find the Starbucks packets I’d brought. I was watching the surf and the crows and noticed something smoothly moving behind a low ridge, it turned out o be a Jackal with a floppy baby seal in it’s mouth and the crows were chasing and pestering him. He did drop it and head to higher ground at one point,, but eventually went back and carried it further from the beach.

I stepped outside and was surprised what a calm day it was. The wind was only blowing at about twenty five miles an hour. The ocean current runs north up the coast, bringing cold Antarctic water (same as ours in the 52 to 55 degree range) the wind also is straight from Antarctica and no hills or trees to dissipate it in any way. At least inland it blows off a desert.

I was walking to take a walk and one of the locals stopped and asked if I was in trouble. I told them I was walking and taking a picture every now and then. They said the view was great from the airstrip. The airstrip is half a mile from town, I think they were trying to get rid of me.

I met up with the truck and we were on the road again. A smelly stop at the seal colony where we watched fat mammals fight other fat mammals, some snuggle and some swim and occasionally one get a ride in the mouth of a Jackal. It was a nice stop.

Then bumping over the dirt roads unit we came to a control checkpoint that had porcelain and a small museum. Everyone except Captain No Class used it, he used the side of the building. We carried on over some dunes and down a cliff to our third and last ship wreck. Nearly forty years old it was now just big chunks of rusted metal. About the only thing that I could recognize it as once being a ship was a crane arm laying in the sand. This is where we had out lunch. A grilled Salami and cheese sandwich (they must get their supplies from that German town we left the previous day) and a huge hunk of steak.

I wish I could tell you ore about the rest of the drive yesterday, but all I remember is dirt, sand, dust, birds, bushes and more of the same. We did make one stop at the Booming Sands. All the able bodied climbed to the top of a dune and slid down at one point the sand mixed with the air in the dune and it sounded exactly like a four engined air plane overhead. It was the weirdest thing. I am disappointed in myself for not going. I thought it was another dune climb, but it was just a walk, because up the back was hard pan and not sand. Oh, well another missed opportunity.

As the sun was starting to lower to get that nice long light, Mike said “Lions!”. Sure enough there were three younger lions on a rock over the dirt track looking into the distance. They must have been keeping a watch for their lioness to return and take them hunting this evening. Magnificent animals, great lighting I think the Meerkats might have last their first place for number of shutters pressed now.

We pulled into camp just at seven pm. Ten hours on the road to go 50km from the ocean. We passed three cars all day.

Camp is fantastic. What I have come t expect from Wideness Safaris, and then some. Huge almost suite sized room and if there is a bed larger than King Sized it is is in my room. Safe and shampoo, soft towels French Press coffee maker and makings. The entire north side is glass overlooking the watering hole. A covered veranda area with a large sectional, metal Papasan chair and picnic table. Plus a fully stocked mini fridge.

We hit the rooms, washed and toileted and then met back at the dining area for dinner. I don’t remember what we had for dinner. I’m sure it was good, because if it wasn’t I would have remembered. I was a tuckered cowgirl after ten hours of rough off roading and all I really wanted was to find out how firm the bed was. I slid my chair back and stood up and must have made a sound, because Captain Never let a Thought Go Unsaid, asked me how my his were. I gave a not reply of some sort and he turned away and I flipped him off behind his back. I think and hope Jake was the only person who saw that.

The bed was indeed soft and hugged me tightly until my five thirty alarm sounded. I got up, opened the curtains, made coffee and just enjoyed sitting in a chair, all alone, no one else around and enjoy the peace and quiet as I watched the day slowly break. Ahhh paradise.

Breakfast at eight and drive at eight thirty. Today was the great pachyderm hunt. More dry river beds and more bumps and jostles. We passed a self drive 4X4 and asked if they had seen any elephants today and they pointed us in the right direction. Mike found us some Giraffe and they gt immortalized digitally. A little dustier and a little muted from the others from previous tips to Africa and the zoo.

We drove on passing Oryx and Kudu and Springbok like they were trees. We’d seen more of them than we could count, we were hunting bigger game. Then u ahead there they were. Five of them. One young near adult male, three females and a baby. We probably spent an hour there watching them elephant around. Dozing, pulling branches, munching, and sucking on mom’s teat. I still think the lions are ahead on photos taken.

Back to camp with a stop to look at a troop of baboons before getting into camp and lunch.

Now free time until five thirty when we meet for a six pm departure for Sun-downers.

Whew I am now up to date. I know I missed some things as they come back to me I’ll jot them down and add them to an errata later.