Welcome to our Adventure!

Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Homer, Alaska

Saturday, February 19, 2011

5 Weeks to go!

Well, we were back to work this week after being off for 2 weeks. We did get tons of work accomplished during the 2 weeks in the house, so I am satisfied with that. The house is ready for the painters on Monday, and we will be shopping for the new appliances during this president's weekend holiday..good sales! If we could only get the sale of the business finalized, my stress level would be so reduced....just take a deep breath, all will be well!

Today I will take you on a picture tour of our morning boat safari back in February 2008...for those people just joining, I had decided it was waaay too boring to keep writing about cleaning my house and packing, so I am re-living the memories of our "trip of a lifetime" and telling you all about it! When I left off last time, we were waiting for our camp escort to arrive and bring us down to the lake for our boat safari. We met the rest of our group at the office, and headed off down to the lakefront to board our boats.
As you can see, they were very small, only 4 passengers to a boat and it had very low sides. I wonder how close to the animals we will get in these?? As we marched down the path, we could here a low grunting noise..huh, huh, huh, and blowing noises. Our guide Arnold asked if we knew what that was..of course, NO! It was a group of hippos nearby...oh my! Now, hippos are one of the most dangerous animals, not because they will eat you, they are not carnivorous, but the sheer size and weight, and teeth which you'll see later, will cause them to crush a man completely, especially if they feel threatened when out of the water. We were told NEVER come between a hippo and the path to water..OK, no problem!

We climbed into our boat, joined by 2 Canadian sisters, Brenda and Broda. The driver started the engine, and we slowly putted into the lake, passing by the back of our camp:

This was our tent with the couch and writing table on the veranda facing the lake. Awesome!

We drifted close to the hippos: It was so interesting to watch them on their own level. As the slowly bobbed up and down, it reminded me of the carnival game, Whack-a-Mole :-).

We left the hippos to continue their games, and floated past the shore. One thing we had heard about the Selous was that there was abundant birdlife there. Not being birders at this point, I was like, whatever, birds are ok, but I want to see the animals. Well, let me tell you, this trip also changed our outlook on that as well, and yes, now we love birdwatching. Below are pictures of the extraordinary birds we saw as we floated on the lake.

Fishing Eagle

European Bee-eater
Golden Weaver...these birds weave nests that hang from tree branches. They make several of them in one tree, using them as decoys so that predators can't tell which nest has the young in it.
Goliath heron...this dude was really very tall, unfortunately there's nothing in the picture to give a size comparison.
And for the "circle of life" photo...yes, these
Malachite Kingfishers are doing what you think they are :-). I was so very fortunate to get this photo, they are tiny and move very fast. I was stunned upon reviewing the photos at how clear and focused it is.

We continued down the lake, cruising past beautiful, unusual scenery ( to our eyes, anyway) and some impala grazing along the shore.

As we turned to head back in, we came across this guy lying in the sun. As we got closer, he moved, very swiftly, slipping into the water and completely disappearing. I think the only think more unnerving than seeing a crocodile is not KNOWING where the crocodile is!

Nile Crocodile

As we wound up our cruise, it was with a feeling of disbelief...48 hours previously, I was back home on Long Island, waiting breathlessly to board my plane, wondering what on earth I had gotten myself into. Now, here, I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to experience this. And, I still have 9 1/2 days left!

After returning to dock, we were taken to the dining "tent" for lunch:
The tents were on stilts, I'm not quite sure why, but it did give us a spectacular view of the lake during our meals. The room on the left is the bar/lounge area, where we would meet before dinner each night, and Arnold would explain the next day's itinerary and we could share pictures and stories over a drink. The room on the right is the dining room. The kitchen is actually off to the far left, away from the eating area. The kitchen and wait staff would be cooking and running the food in between the two areas. Amazing! This was to keep the heat away from the dining area,making it more comfortable for the guests.

Note the beautiful painting on the wall, the statues in the corner, how nicely the tables are made up. Incredibly civilized, eh?
After a delicious lunch of cold gazpacho soup, and barbecued chicken with roasted potatoes, we were taken back to our tents for afternoon siesta. It was very hot and humid this far south, and the break was designed to give you time to take a nap, have a shower, or write about your adventures so far! I could get used to a siesta :-). At 3PM we would be brought back to the office, and go out on our afternoon jeep safari. And that will be my next tale! Thanks so much for reading, and see you soon!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Dodged it this time!

The last 2 storms were not so bad here....no more new snow accumulation, and right now it is raining, with thunder and lightening earlier! It's still a real mess out there, though, the roads are so narrow here in North Haven from the previous plowings that 2 cars cannot pass! It's a relatively balmy 34 degrees out though, woohoo!

Being home all week, we have made significant progress in the cleaning/purging process. My rooms upstairs are pretty much down to boxes packed for storage, yard sale boxes, and what we need for the next 7 weeks. I have a pile to go into the Cougar, and I think it's going to be warm and nice enough tomorrow to shovel a path to it and open it up. That will be nice :-). It's suppose to get cold again by Tuesday night, so I need to take advantage of these relatively mild temps. Al's fishing buddy Greg has been an invaluable help to us this week; he's lent a hand the past several days doing some construction projects in the house, and helping Al get the garage cleaned out. He's even a pro at packing the dumpster to get the most stuff in there possible! Thank Greg, even though I know you don't want to hear me say it! I also need to give a huge thanks to my bro Bill for fixing Al's sister's heating problems...not a good thing to have here in February!

Last time I left you concerning the safari, we were about to land in the Selous Game Reserve. This was our first stop on our 4 park itinerary. We were working on about 4 hours sleep at this point, but the adrenaline was so high, it didn't matter. As we circled around the runway, and I use that term loosely :-), we saw 2 jeeps at the end waiting for us. Otherwise, there was nothing else but the wide open reserve. Luckily, there were no animals crossing the runway, so we were able to land the first time :-). We disembarked, the bags we tossed into the back of the jeeps, and we all clambered in.
This was the jeep we were going to call home for the next 2 days! Thank goodness it had a canopy, as it was HOT when the sun was out...heck, it was hot when it was cloudy :-). Very humid also here, this being the southernmost park in Tanzania we were going to. Our Tanzanian guide, Arnold, in the white shirt, was in the other jeep for our ride to the camp. He told us it was about a 20 minute ride to the Selous Safai Camp, but be sure to keep our cameras out, as one never knew what we might see along the way. Sure enough, about 50 feet down the road, our first on the ground sighting...impala!

 This was a young male. Impala, unknown to us at this particular moment, are as common as squirrels are around here. They are the most common type of antelope found in Africa, with females and young forming herds of up to 200 individuals. There may be a few males dominant in the herd, but all other males when of age are forced away, forming bachelor herds. Of course, the males are always being challenged for leadership of their herds. 
After feasting our eyes on the impala, (little knowing that within 2 days we'd be saying "oh, it's only impala, keep going!), we drove on around another turn, and then giraffe!!
It's always cool seeing them in the zoos and wildlife parks, but it was awesome to know he was living here on his own terms! Absolutely cool! As we passed by the giraffe, we came to a sign pointing us to our camp:

Karibu is swahili for "welcome"! The excitement was palpable knowing we'd see our camp very soon. However, as we came around a sharp turn, our driver slammed on his brakes, hard! A cloud of dust swirled up, and he turned and announced "traffic jam". This was what was in the road:

Seems elephant have the right of way around here! Well, who's going to argue with them? They milled around the road, tearing leaves off the brush alongside the road and slowly moving along, but never quite getting out of the way. I would say we were delayed about 15 minutes waiting for the jam to clear!

Onced they moved far enough of the road for us to safely pass by, we continued into camp. The drive circled around in front of a small office, and almost every staff member was standing outside, lined up to greet us. It was so nice! Heading into the verandah area, there were couches and chairs set up, with tall glasses of lemonade ready for us, and wet washcloths to clean our habds and faces with after the dusty ride. Our hostess went over some of the rules of the camp with us: individual tents for each couple, each tent was assigned a houseman who would see that whatever we needed was brought to us, whistles in each tent to call for help in the event of an emergency (no telephones, and no, animals outside of your tent are NOT considered an emergency!), and NO ONE was to walk around the camp unattended. There were Maasai warriors in camp to come take us to the dining tent for meals, and escort us back to our tents afterwards. Wow! And yes, they were traditionally dressed in their plaid blankets and sandals, with a spear as protection. It was not uncommon to encounter animals in camp, but they acted as escorts to be a buffer between us and the animals, and also most importantly, to keep someone from bolting suddenly...that was the most provacation to an animal. Generally, they were able to lead us away from anything that might be in the area. It was quite interesting all in all!

The entrance to our tent

The back porch of the tent. The fencing curving around the side on the left encloses the outside shower. Yes, we had hot and cold running water! There is a generator on property that charges the solar panels, so we had lights and a ceiling fan during the evening.

The view from our back porch, of Lake Nzerakera.

Inside our tent, looking across the bedroom through the washroom, to the outdoor shower area. And what exactly were you thinking when I was talking about staying in a tent?? :-)

So, we were taken by our houseman to our tent, and given about 20 minutes to settle in, wash up, and then he would take us down to the lake, as we were going on a boat safari first ting, before lunch! Yes, it is only about 10:30AM at this point. All this excitement and we still have a whole day ahead of us! And the boat safari will be my next installment.

Thank you so much for reading this; it really brings back the memories and excitement as I go through the journal and pictures. It does help alleviate some of my anxiety about the sale of the business, and packing up to head out on the road. I hope everyone enjoys my memories!