Monday, May 2, 2016

Our Little Corner of the World, visiting Singita Reserve in Kruger National Park, South Africa!!!




Early mornings are not my forte...
but when you're in Africa...an early morning Game Drive is one of the best parts of the day!!!


This is the main gathering area of Lebombo Lodge in Singita
which is a private "concession" in Kruger National Park. 
Essentially, it's a smaller, private game preserve within the National Park.
The Singita game drives are the only ones allowed on this property whereas in the rest of Kruger
it is a National Park and open to the public.  
Kruger National Park is roughly the same size as Israel. 


The Lebombo Lodge, in Singita, is spectacular! 
Now...we've stayed in some pretty nice places...but I have to say, this one out did them all!!!
Our CapeTown guide, Michael, told us it's really a 6 star lodge!  And I would agree!


Our room was essentially an African style bungalow with sleeping area, living area, bath, 
and a private deck.  Unfortunately, for as many photos as I took on this trip...
I didn't get any of our bungalow!!!
The bungalows were spread out and quite removed from the main public areas.
There were boardwalk paths from our room to the main areas which we could traverse at will
during the daylight hours...
...at night, we had to call for a guide to walk with us as you never knew what lurked in the bushes!
We never did come across anything too dramatic walking, 
although there was a Kudu by the path once.
At any rate...after a light morning snack, we took off with our guide and tracker...


Now...if you think this looks familiar, it's the same tree and birds as from the sunset the night before!
These birds rather like this spot!!!


This is Daniel...our Tracker!
He kept his eyes on the terrain, looking for animals...


Our first sighting of the day was this lone Wildebeast.


Soon...we saw giraffes...
which was an important find, because Addison,
our youngest grand daughter, loved giraffes and asked to see pictures of giraffes when we went!
Sooo...Dan took lots of photos of giraffe on his iPhone to send to Addie!





...and of course...I took lot's of giraffe pictures!!!


They're such cool animals...
if you look closely at the above two photos you might notice the gait of the giraffe while walking...
Can you tell that both legs on the same side move together?  
They're the only animal that does that!!! 


Sooo...after the giraffe...we came across this rhino and her baby!


They were quite cooperative in their posing....


Every now and then we'd come across another vehicle from the Singita drives...
...OK...
I admit it...there's a heck of a lot of lens envy in this shot!!!


Turns out this was more than just mom and her baby!


They are such awesome animals.
Very prehistoric looking, don't you think?
They are endangered because poachers like them...
the Rhino horn is considered quite valuable in traditional Chinese medicine.
Valuable to the tune of about $60,000 on the black market for a Rhino horn.
Now...I've done acupuncture for close to 30 years...yeah...really!
And my first experience was with a Korean surgeon who came to the states after the Korean war.
He was so grateful to the US for what we did for them in the war that he came to the US and 
set up practice in Garden Grove charging just a nominal fee for his services.
The wall in his office was like the library catalogue of yesteryear.
Lot's of tiny drawers, each with a different medicinal herb or product.
For all I know, he had Rhino horn in one of those drawers.
I've found Oriental medicine to be quite effective so I'm not going to argue that
there's no validity to the claim of medicinal value in the Rhino horn...
...HOWEVER... 
I am TOTALLY against poaching or any other form of hunting of these magnificent animals
that endanger their existence, for ANY reason.
They are absolutely amazing...


 For both the morning and afternoon drives we would have a short stop to stretch our legs, visit a bush, have a cup of coffee in the morning, or a glass of wine or beer in the evening. 
Our guide and tracker was an awesome team.  I remember the trackers name, well, because...
duh...it was Daniel!!!
But I'm totally blanking on our guide's name.
Each of the driver/guides were well educated in wild life, ie: Bachelor's and Master's degrees.
Daniel, our tracker, told me that he learned to track from his grandfather 
starting when he was just a little kid.  
He also told me that his goal was to become a full fledged guide.
The guides have to pass exams at several different levels.  
Daniel told me that he was on his next to last level.


 We were there in August which is the tail end of their Winter and beginning of their Spring.
It was the dry season as well.  Very different than what I was expecting!
I guess I watched too many Tarzan movies as a kid!!!
The climate and terrain was actually quite similar to California...
Actually, for game drives, the Winter season is the best time to go
as there is less water available for the animals, so they tend to congregate where there is water.


That's our row, up on the top, with a great view!!!





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Monday, April 25, 2016

Our Little Corner of the World...Getting to Singita...in Kruger National Park!




On our fourth day in South Africa, we took off for our next destination, Kruger National Park!
When we landed in Mpumalanga...
there was no one to greet us as had been promised by the travel agent.
Fortunately, the Mpumalanga airport is a small one, 
so...when TheChief set out to find the airline for our connecting flight, he found it quickly.
Well...the reason there was no one to greet us...was because our reservations had been cancelled!!!
CRAP!!!
Fortunately for us...Federal Air had Ian working that day...our savior!!!
Ian immediately got on the phone and found out our reservations had been cancelled...
apparently someone booked us twice by mistake and instead of cancelling just one booking
...yep...they cancelled both!!!
(even though the travel agent confirmed the reservations just a few weeks before we got there!)
Well Ian saved the day by calling another small airline that they often help out and vice versa.
The other airline had a plane available and they would happily get us to the Singita airstrip!


He told us it would be a small plane...


...it wasn't so small...after all...it had 5 seats...including the pilot and co-pilot seats!


I've flown in small planes before...but this one was definitely the smallest in my experience!!!


Proof positive that we actually did fly in it!!!


It was a fun flight!  But given that it was kind of like driving an old beater compared to a Jaguar,
it was a bit slower than it would have been if we had caught the original flight we were booked for!
Because we were flying fairly close to the ground, I saw 3 elephants from the plane!
When we arrived at the Singita Air strip...it was just that...basically a long, straight dirt landing strip!
There was an airport structure of sorts...
...a fairly small structure with a working bathroom, a bit of shade and a table with refreshments!
We refreshed ourselves for a few minutes and were then picked up by a Guide in a shuttle bus.
Off we went to Singita Lebombo Lodge...our home for the next 3 nights.
It took us about a half hour to get to the lodge...once there we had only a few minutes to get settled...
and then off we went to meet up with our Safari Drive jeep and crew for our first Safari Drive!


Pretty exciting to see our first animal in the park...a big, beautiful, Waterbuck!


Then...the first of many Zebras!

Did you know that we pronounce Zebra as ZEE-bra here in the States, 
but it is is actually pronounced ZEB-ra in Africa!

TheChief also learned how you tell a male from a female Zebra...
...do you know?

"A male is black with white stripes,
and a female is white with black stripes..."

(yeah...I know...straight from TheChief's mouth!!!)


This gent was the first of many Wildebeast we would see as well!


I'm sure you've heard of the magic of the African sunset...


It's even more magical than you can imagine in person!


At the end of our first drive...we were taken to a remote area
for a rather gourmet camp meal!
With an open bar...


...our food being prepared there with camp lights...


...and complete with locals and guests entertainment!

A fantastic beginning to our great South African Adventure!!!


"There is something about safari life that makes you forget all your sorrows and feel as if you had drunk half a bottle of champagne-
bubbling over with heartfelt gratitude for being alive."
Karen Blixen



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Monday, April 18, 2016

Our Little Corner of the World...on Tour in South Africa!!!




On our second day with our tour guide Michael,
we headed out to Boulders Penguin Colony...


Penguins???
In Africa???
I thought they were in the Antarctic!!!


Walking out to the habitat we passed these gorgeous flowers...
You know I can't pass up a gorgeous flower!


These little "Quonset huts" are little huts for the Penguins to sleep in!


This mom and baby were some of the first that we saw...


This little guy was checking us out as we were checking him out!!!


"Let's dance!!!"


The majority of the Penguins hang out at the end of the boardwalk in Boulders.


If you look carefully...you'll see that several of these were sitting on nests...


This boardwalk was constructed to protect the Penguins...


 Another mom and her baby...


 The South African coastline is quite spectacular.


So what do you do at the end of another great day in South Africa?
 Why...visit another South African winery of course!!!


Groot Constantia is the oldest winery in South Africa...
even Napolean drank wines from this winery!


After 330 years, I guess they've got this winemaking down!!!


Empty glasses...must have been good!!!




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Friday, April 15, 2016

Our Little Corner of the World...Building a House in Tecate, Mexico!!!




Well...it's that time of year again!!!
Our annual trek down to Tecate, Mexico to build a house in a day!

This year, TheChief and Pat Hayes coordinated a combined build with the Mammoth Lakes,
Bishop,  and South Pasadena Rotary Clubs and Bishop Interact kids in conjunction with Corazon.

Sooo...we headed down to El Cajon on Friday, and on Saturday...
we met at the crack of dawn...



Some people were wide awake at that hour...


...and some of us were zombies!!!


I think Camille, George, Tony, Sherryl, and Mireyah all had plenty of caffeine that morning!!!


Tony's showing his expertise at the saw table...


...Diane tackled the paint roller...


Pat's just happy everybody made it down in one piece and 
is looking forward to those fabulous margarita's at the end of the day!!!


Sheila's got her own tool belt...she's awesome!!!


TheChief is proving once again that holding the hammer the right way works best!!!


George seems to be a bit envious of Tom's professional tool belt...
...Tom's reminding us all he's a pro at this!!!


Pat, Rich and TheChief take a break to smile for the annoying camera woman!!!


Even Ele is getting into the action!!!


As the day progressed, the walls went up...


...it's really a lot like an old fashioned barn raising!


Even the family got into the action!


...and when the painting got old...


...the action ramped up a few notches!!!

Throughout the day, we work hard, but it's a fun day full of lots of laughter and smiles...
...sometimes we forget how meaningful this is for the family that is receiving the home.
They have worked hard to qualify for their home.
They are required to take classes on Domestic violence, elder abuse, child abuse,
gardening, job skills and many more...
...they do many hours of community service...
...and they have to buy the property that the house will be built on.
This family's daughter, who works as a seamstress, bought the property  for her parents
and lives in the blue and white house next door.
It is an amazing experience...just an hour over the border from the southernmost border
of California, and the United States.


American Gothic...Rotary Interact-Tecate style!!!
It's really awesome for these teens to come down to Tecate, a world so different from our own,
and work hard to provide a home for these families.
It's truly a life changing experience!
For ALL of us!!!


Jessica is master of the tiled cook shelf...and Linda is a master at wood cutting!


Tony and Sherryl getting in the photo action...


...and Diane and Cynthia too!


Roof's DONE!!!


Rich and Diane are comparing notes at the end of the day...
Diane won the most paint on her clothes and hat award!!!


Pat hands over the keys to the Acosta Familia... 
...always an emotional end of a great day. 
(Tom let me use his 16mm Fish Eye lens for the big group shots...
haven't quite gotten the hang of the  LR adjustments
 so imagine you're looking at these through a fish bowl!!!)


All three clubs standing in front of the new home of the Acosta Familia!

A long day...and a great outcome!!!


...celebrating a great day with GIANT margaritas and Mexican food at our favorite spot
in El Cajon!  Por Favor!!!