Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Day 3 : Shira 2 Camp to Barranco Camp

I slept so-so last night, I woke up at 02:00 and couldn't get back to sleep for a couple of hours and I'm not sure if it was because I went to bed too early or if the altitude is starting to kick in.  I felt a bit hot so I opened the sleeping bag up and when I awoke again at 06:00 I was just a little bit cold.  The ear plugs really work wonders and I will never go camping without them again.

We had breakfast of maltabella porridge and onion omelette which tasted just great.  I'm sure that if I was in an actual hotel I would be turning my nose up at this fare but just at the moment, it is great.

By 08:30 we were off and trudging up a very long gentle slope that seemed interminable.  It wasn't long after we left that Arthur started walking slower and slower and finally stopped altogether and decided that enough was enough and that he was going down to the same exit point that Marita and Petrie had used last night.  I think that he had just run out of energy and it was very sudden, one moment he was fine  if slow the next he was heading back down so suddenly there were only five of us.  As it turned out, it was just as well because the hill only finally ended at 4600m which is a vertical ascent of 800m in a single hill.

The point of no return for Arthur.

By the time we reached the lunch spot just below Lava Tower at about 4600m Andre had a thunderous headache and Cronje was nauseous and was walking very slowly.  The rest of us were a little breathless and not feeling 100% but not quite sure how to describe it.  Dizzy is close but it didn't feel like I was going to fall down.  Shirley was very worried about Cronje so it was really nice to be able to get everyone out of the biting wind into the lunch tent and Simon playing pappa bear and making sure that everyone eats and drinks sufficiently.  Andre ate a little but not enough in my opinion whereas Cronje seemed to eat well and looked better for having a rest and some food.  He still didn't feel too well so Shirley and Cronje started straight down towards Barranco Camp while Andre, Simon and myself headed up a little bit to Lava Tower which is a relatively impressive chunk of rock.  In the picture below you can see the path leading up to Lava Tower which at low altitude would be a doddle.  At 4500m, it is a bit of an effort.

There is actually a campsite at Lava Tower which I am very happy not to be sleeping in because it is very exposed to the wind which howls through the saddle between Lava Tower and the Kilmanjaro mountain proper.

From Lava Tower it was all downhill all the way to Barranco Camp which really hurt all three of us and we finally made it into Camp at 17:30 expecting to find Shirley and Cronje already there but they were nowhere to be seen which isn't a good sign.

I solved the lack of vegetation problem for a sponge bath by temporarily evicting the toilet from the toilet tent and changing it into a shower house which worked splendidly well.  There is nothing that feels as good as being clean after a hard days slog and because Arthur hadn't arrived, there were four tents available which meant that each of us had a tent to ourselves.  What luxury!  When I opened my tent Arthurs bag was in it so I really hope that he made it off the mountain before night fall.  Spending a night up here without a sleeping bag would not be any fun at all.

Shirley and Cronje finally wandered into camp after dark, I didn't look at the time but I think that it was at about 19:00, with Cronje very much worse for wear.  The camp 'doctor' arrived to check and did a blood oxygen test and Cronje was apparently fine as far as altitude sickness was concerned.  The diagnosis was a touch of the sun as well as a bit of exhaustion so was sent to bed with a cocktail of ibuprofen, gaviscon and some diamox just in case.  We are all keeping our fingers crossed that he feels better tomorrow.  Andre also wasn't feeling too well and struggled to eat and I think he has a lighter touch of the same thing.  I am feeling quite fine as is Simon, tiny bit of a headache but nothing to speak of so I am having a disprin just for good measure.

We were sitting in the mess tent having supper listening to the party going on next door wondering where they get the energy from.  I think that the 20 years that they have on us has something to do with it but in the end they went to bed at the same time as us so maybe they were actually just as tired, just noisier.

The statistics for the day are:
Distance : 10km
Altitude : 200m climbed camp to camp.
kcal : 3300
heartrate : 110 average
walking time : 9 hours

The group is really starting to gel and the concern that Shirley is showing for Cronje is quite touching.  We were laughing a bit at lunch and a few tears came out which Shirley noticed; I said it was the wind but I'm not sure she believed me.  Andre reckons that this is the tiredest that he has ever been.  Simon is quite a star, in spite of being quite tired himself he never stops helping and making or at least trying to make them feel as good as possible.  There is lots I can learn from him.

We had an interesting discussion comparing France with South Africa and the contrast between sophistication and utilitarian and I resolved to make a French meal when I get home where everyone has to prepare something for the meal but in the same kitchen when I get back.

I have been carrying my camera over my one shoulder and it has gone into spasm which Simon sorted out with a great massage but I'm going to have to swap shoulders tomorrow.  The view from Barranco Camp which is in a gorge is quite spectacular and I spent about 30 minutes just sitting and looking out over the clouds.  Incredibly serene.

I finished the evening by taking some moonlit shots of the snow covered peaks above us.  It was a really tough day but one that I really enjoyed and at the end of the day, Prosper told us the names that the staff and porters had assigned to us.

Andre - Elephant - Tembo
Cronje - Buffalo - Nyati
Shirley - Leopard - Chui
Simon - Lion - Simba
Roland - Rhino - Kifaru

Time for bed since everyone else is asleep and even the youngsters next door are not talking anymore.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Day 2 : Machame Camp to Shira 2 Camp

I woke up at 06:00 because I had forgotten to reset my alarm from yesterday but as it turned out, it was just as well because I just made it in time to start walking with the others.  I had brought a filter to pump water through but this proved to be very awkward to manage trying to hold it as well as the bladder from the camelbak at the same time.

I found today quite difficult, it felt like we started off on a steep hill and it just kept on going from there for the whole day.  By lunch time I wasn't feeling so great with a bit of a headache but after some food (cucumber soup with spaghetti) and some water I started feeling much better.  Marita on the other hand was really struggling by lunchtime and just kept on getting worse.  I don't think that it was the altitude, I think she is just exhausted which is not a good place to be on day two.

After lunch the pace just got slower and slower as Marita struggled along until after a while one of the guides took her pack and Simon, Andre and myself took turns to carry Petrie's pack so that he was able to help Marita more easily.  The pace was still very slow but faster with Marita not carrying a pack.

As a result of the really easy pace, I could keep my heart rate very low and it allowed me to take loads of photographs but I'm not sure that any of them will capture the magnificent views which we are experiencing.  Talk also turned to food which I consider to be the first sign of homesickness and both Shirley and myself are determined to get Simons recipe for French onion soup out of him before the end of the hike.

We arrived quite late at Shira 2 Camp and after an hour or twos vascillation, Marita decided to call it quits which meant that Petrie would be abandoning the climb as well.  Marita was a bit emotional as one would expect having come so far and then having to abort.  I wasn't so sure that they were making the correct decision, I think a nights sleep, some food and water and Marita may have felt quite different tomorrow morning but their decision is their decision and I'm not a doctor either.  We all felt quite sorry for Petrie who wasn't struggling at all and was still having to come to terms with abandoning the climb.  I don't think I would have been quite so equanimous if I had been in his boots but be that as it may they started walking to a nearby pickup point at sunset and our party shrank from eight to six people.

That is the top of kilinamjaro in the distance behind the campsite which is a pretty barren place.

For some reason Simon had forgotten to bring a hat and got quite sun burnt while I had a low level dull headache most likely from the altitiude.  Andre crawled into his tent and had a sleep soon after arrival so I think that the day took it out of him as well.

I tried to take some photographs as the sun went down as well as in the moonlight with moderate success but I have taken 200 photographs in two days so I had better start watching out that I don't run out of space on my memory card.

Supper was a little subdued with the departure of Marita and Petrie but the banter and innuendo continued unabated nonetheless.  Arthur also didn't feel too great and had thrown up earlier and I hope that this isn't the beginning of the end for Arthur as well.  This is his second attempt and last time he got to within a few hundred metres of the top before giving up.  Shirley for some reason seems to regard me as the hiking guru when, in fact, it is probably Simon that she should be asking questions of.

Simon really came to the fore today with helping Marita and Pietrie, a kind heart beneath the black desert ninja suit of his exterior.

I really enjoyed having some time on my own sitting still and watching the sun descend over the horizon.  I particularly enjoyed my bath behind a bush away from the camp but I have a feeling that there are no more bushes in any of the other camps so I'll have to make another plan for tomorrow night.

After supper I sat writing up my diary by candlelight and I could see the steam on my breath although it didn't feel that cold.  I wasn't feeling very sleepy but everyone else had already turned in so I followed suite.

The statistics for the day are:
Distance : 5km
Altitude : 960m climbed
kcal : 2918
heartrate : 114 average, 151 maximum
walking time : 7:26 hours

It was really beautiful to see Kilimanjaro towering over us in the moonlight.  I've still go a little bit of a headache but it comes and goes and it's not too bad in any case.  Most of our meals have some onion in it somewhere which has led to an epidemic of "colonic bubbles" as Andre puts it.  His account of try to sneak them out in the thunderhut which is right next to Shirley and Cronje's tent was hilarious.

We saw the two betties again, still struggling on and I want to say manfully but it wouldn't be appropriate so womanly it has to be.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Day 1 : Machame Gate to Machame Camp

I had a good nights sleep with the fan going and earplugs in, I think the last good nights sleep I will have for a while.  Simon had a really poor nights sleep with a drunken party going on next to their room and Arthur coughing all night long.  I didn't hear a thing and I think earplugs are not an optional extra for camping, they are an absolute necessity.  We woke up at 06:00 and had what will be the last decent shower for a while before some last minute packing and then breakfast.  Breakfast consisted of maltabella and eggs on toast which went down very nicely indeed although the juice had a very strange taste to it.

The entire group met up in the courtyard and at the last moment I decided to hire one of the canvas bags that everyone else was using which proved to be a very good decision although I should have ditched my big bag altogether and left it at the hotel.  We met Prosper who was to be our guide and then later we met Arsenal who was our "official" guide which I didn't quite understand.  The party hadn't paid for the private toilet and oxygen so I paid for the toilet and I don't know who paid for the oxygen.

Back in the bus we trundled up the hills and into the mist, the driver had to use 1st gear on several occasions and if he had missed a gear change down I'm not sure we would have been able to get started again.  We finally arrived at Machame gate eager to start the days walking but we had to wait for what felt like ages while the porters were sorted out so we actually only started walking at 11:30.

The whole of day 1 was fantastic as we climbed up, into and eventually out of the rainforest. We spent most of the day in the mist which made for very cool walking which I in particular enjoyed.  When we started out, Andre, Simon and myself sauntered off ahead unintentionally; I think our natural pace is just a little bit faster but we were brought up quickly by Prosper and thereafter we trouped along behind him.  The motto that we all learned quite quickly was "pole pole" pronounce "poli poli" which means slowly, slowly in swahili and anytime anyone would speed on out front we would hear the admonition coming from Prosper.  As it turns out, Prosper's pace is perfect for me because I could stop and take photographs and still catch up easily without getting out of breath.

Note the difference between the backpacks the porters are carrying above and those that we are carrying below.  It is amazing the amount that the porters carry as well as the speed that they carry it at.

The group from left to right is Andre, Marita, Arthur, Simon, Shirley, Petrie, Prosper and Cronje.

The path itself was great, a nice gentle gradient with mostly small steps, one just needed to "hou links" (keep left) every now and then as the porters overtook us with all the camping equipment we would be using in the evening.

The whole experience was quite ethereal with the backlit mist and the trees fading away but we eventually broke through the top of the mist belt for our first glimpse of Kilimanjaro 3000m above us.  Quite an intimidating sight.

The whole party kept pace with prosper which bodes well and Simon, Andre and myself walked and chatted a bit with everyone so it looks promising on the cohesion of the part as a whole although time will tell.  The 'gay' jokes about spooning between Simon and Arthur are already starting to wear a bit thin so I hope they stop soon.

I absolutely loved the walk but I ate too much at lunch time since I felt obliged  to finish the lunch pack provided  but I won't make this mistake again.  Above the mist it was already late afternoon and with the sun scything through the rainforest it was just beautiful.

We finally arrived at Machame Camp at 17:30 to a warm bowl of water to wash with so I headed out of camp and had a sponge bath and it felt fantastic to feel clean, warm and dry.  The disposable towels that I brought as well as the cotton towels are going to work a treat and I think I have brought just enough to last the entire trek.

Back at camp supper was served in a tent with tables and chairs, all of which arrived today on someone's back.  This really is luxury camping; I could get used to it.  Supper consisted of cucumber soup as a starter followed by roast potatoes, chicken and boiled cabbage and a vegetarian curry all of which was quite tasty.  Andre and Simon have decided that discretion is the better part of valour and turned vegetarian for the duration of the hike so they missed out on the chicken but I am sure that the porters made sure that there were absolutely no leftovers.  Dessert consisted of oranges, bananna and paw paw and once this was consumed everyone went off to bed.  I stayed up a while longer to write up my diary by candle light.

The statistics for the day are:
Distance : 11km
Altitude : 1210m climbed
kcal : 2638
heartrate : 120 average, 149 maximum
walking time : 6 hours

Andre is still struggling with a bit of an uncomfortable stomach or as he describes it "Air bubbles all down the colon" and I had a very mild headache but nothing to really complain of.

Although we weren't the slowest today on the walk we were very close to it but I really liked the pace we are going at and I am looking forward to tomorrow.  We met a couple of overweight british girls whom we named the two betties and whom we gave absolutely no chance  of making it to the top given the difficulty that they were having on day one.

"mzungu" is swahili for "white man" which caused a fair amount of hilarity between the porters, staff and andre.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Hey ho, hey ho, it's off to climb we go ...

Andre and I left home at 08:00 and arrived at the Gautrain station just in time to see the Gautrain depart so we had to wait for 30 minutes for the next train. Grrr, trains aren't as frequent as they are during the week.  Andre had never been on the Gautrain so I think it was a pleasant surprise for him.  We arrived at ORT, wrapped out bags with clingwrap and then met some of the other members of the party.  There was Simon, a friend of  Andre's from the UAE, Arthur from Johannesburg and Shirley and Cronje from the Freestate.  Andre obviously does this travel thing a lot because he somehow forged ahead and was through immigration way before me and ended up waiting on the other side for me to catch up.  Immigration wanted to see my yellow fever card which was a bit unusual, they normally only want to see it on entry into the country and not on exit.  I think they just wanted to make sure that I actually had one in preparation for re-entry after the holiday.

Boarding of the flight was uneventful as was the flight and before we knew it, we had arrived at Nairobi airport which I have been to several times so we whiled away the time at the java cafe and chugged back a few tusker beers which I rather enjoyed.  There was one guy at the bar that kept trying to catch my eye, who knows what for so we moved down to the gate and sat down next to a french family who were nattering away in french unaware that both Andre and Simon can speak it.

We boarded Precision Air bound for Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) after a few more tuskers, most of them consumed by Simon.  We flew past Kilimanjaro on the right as the sun set behind it which was rather picturesque.  As we were looking out at the mountain, Andre said "There's Kili" to which I replied "Nah, can't be" but it was and it is a rather impressive chunk of rock.

On landing we had to apply for a visa, get the visa issued and then have the visa checked.  That would be three separate queues which was very time consuming especially with the visa issuing official typing with two thumbs and the power failure obviously didn't help but it all worked in the end.  It was comical from my point of view looking at Andre getting more and more exasperated with the inept official but he managed to keep it in and we emerged from the arrivals with our baggage which was a relief to meet the rest of the party.  Marita and her son Petrie who had just graduated as a qualified doctor.  Lots of joking around about Arthur and Simon spooning in their hiking tent which was very amusing since Arthur is 6'7" and Simon is 5'7".

We found the bus and driver and a bumpy hour later and a few close shaves with death, we arrived at Springlands hotel which is obviously a hot spot for Trekking.   Arthur had to tell the driver to cool it at one point when we had just missed a head-on collision.  Arriving at Springlands we had a short welcome introduction before we were off to unpack before supper.  Most people didn't eat the chicken and prawns on offer because everyone was a little worried about getting sick.  Arthur dispensed Travelan which is an anti-diarrhoea pill to everyone; I think he brought enough of it for it to be his primary food source for the entire trip.

Good to have arrived at last and the temperature is great, nice and cool.  I had a bit of a headache which I think was caffeine withdrawal and once we had redone all the packing ready for walking the next day it was sleep time.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Journey back to the great rat race

Yet another early start, I'm starting to look forward to going back to work so that I can sleep in but this is my last opportunity so up I rose and ended up taking a surprising number of photographs.  The light changes so much and so quickly here that one really has to be on the top of one's game to capture it.

Caron even deigned to let me capture her on film, which is a rare occasion indeed.

 After the early morning stroll, it was a quick breakfast and by 10:00 we were away and on our way home.  Rob and Viv wanted to drive all the way home whereas we were content to break the drive over two days so we took it a lot easier and stopped several times on our way out.   We stopped to dig out some clay to give to Caron's mother who is a potter because I was wondering if the clay may be good for ceramics.

We also saw a grave in the middle of a pan while taking the scenic route out of the pans.  It seems like a pretty cool place to lie in repose while one becomes one with the mud.

We eventually arrived at the border at 19:00 after having to drive very carefully for the last few hours.  It seems like saturday afternoon everyone goes to the taverns that are plentiful alongside the road so there were more than a few drivers under the influence.

From the border it was a short drive to groot marico where we had a very comfortable night and the next day it was a very easy few hours drive home.

Time to change gears ready for work again tomorrow.  At least I will be able to sleep in a bit.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Idleness is over, back in the saddle

I got up really, really early at about 05:30 to take photo's of some of the baobabs we walked past either yesterday or the day before by the light of the setting moon.  The light sky is the breaking of dawn in the east.

After all the idleness of the last few days we decided to do just a little bit of driving and headed out north to explore a little bit.  While we were driving north rob spotted a dead tree which looked like it was destined for our fireplace and yes, I was aware of the irony of watching the English scavenge for wood yesterday and here we were doing the same thing albeit very far from the campsite.  Probably from the same area that the firewood that one can purchase in the campsite comes from.

The one branch looked particularly good so rob and I hooked our axes over it and pulled.  Unfortunately for me, I'm a lot shorter than rob and I ended up standing almost directly under the branch which was NOT a good place to have been standing.  When the branch broke with a loud crack it hit me right on the crown of my head and wasn't so far from knocking me unconscious.  Silly when one thinks back on it but that's hindsight for one.

We continued to drive north with the precious branch on the roof, crossed the veterinary fence and then turned east and drove out onto the pan which looks so innocuous but must be done with a fair amount of caution.

We stopped on the pan and had some fun digging holes in the pan just to see what was there.  What we found didn't fill us with a whole lot of comfort with the cars standing just metres away.  Although the pans look parched and dry as a bone, that is just a crust and less than 5cm below the crust, it is moist and by 10cm below it is decidedly wet to the touch and very soapy in texture.  I can easily imaging just how little traction a rubber tyre would have if one sank through the top 5cm.  So long as one doesn't break through the crust I think everything is fine but if one breaks through I think a whole lot of pain can follow.  I have heard of cars sinking through the crust and just keeping on sinking down into the mud to be lost forever.  In the photograph below the blade of the spade is in the mud up to the hilt and it really didn't require any effort at all to drive it in.  I think the moral of the story is, don't go there.

Once we were off the eastern pan we travelled west along the veterinary fence which, I think, goes right across the whole of botswana.  We travelled over some more pans which were a bit churned up and I could see the fine talc like dust billowing behind the car so I had to get Caron to drive up and down the pan while I tried to take a photograph of it.  She wasn't enthralled at the idea but did it anyway.

While I was busy shooting this, a small herd of horses came galloping over the pan being driven by herds boys which was quite a sight although the photo's don't really do it justice.

Arriving back at the campsite we could see the heat haze as we approached it and we ended our last full day at Kubu Island with sundowners and snacks on the rocks in front of the big baobab and watched the sun sink below the horizon.  It was quite magical.

Since it was our last night, Rob and the children slept outside under the stars.  Unlike most wilderness places in africa it is quite safe to do it here because there really aren't any animals around due to the complete absence of surface water.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Day three of idleness

Yet another lazy, lazy day.  We woke up late and lay in some more so by the time we actually emerged from our tent the day was already getting quite warm.  Today it was my turn to make bread while Viv and Caron went for a stroll together.  The bread turned out passably well as in, it was edible.

Rob and I are starting to look for 'things to do', I think the limit of the amount of time that I can spend doing nothing is rapidly approaching.  One of the nearby long drop's door hinge had broken which meant that it was impossible to close the door so Rob and I spent some time repairing it.  The hinge was pop riveted to the frame and the rivets had come adrift.  We actually had a riveter and rivets with us but unfortunately they weren't quite the right size so we ended up drilling out the remains and then sewing the hinge back onto the support with wire.  Not the way my grandfather would have done it for sure but it works and will probably hold up for a year or two.  So no more view from this particular room!  I am sure that the people in the campsite immediately in front of the long drop would appreciate the lack of a view.

Around midday a party of English, as in from the UK, people arrived and started to set up camp pretty much inside our campsite and we had to shoe them away to the next campsite.  They are clearly not used to camping judging from the antics that we watched with amusement while they set up camp.  They had just finished when we saw the two boys that they had with them scavenging for firewood amongst the already sparse vegetation.  Rob said that the last time that he had been at Kubu island one could walk through the thickets they were so thick so it seems that a decade of ill-behaved campers is having a very detrimental affect on the vegetation which isn't such great news.

Although the English may have been irresponsible from an environmental point of view they were at least friendly and came over for a chat and the kids ended up spending most of the afternoon playing together.

Being very allergic to bees, I now keep a careful eye on them and they seem to scout the campsite for anything interesting about twice a day and if they find anything then their buddies arrive en-masse which is not so good for me.  Still doing my very environmentally unfriendly trash burning exercise, distasteful as it is.

We had a treat after lunch when Caron brought out the ice cream she had been hiding from me from the bottom of the freezer.  Hot day, sitting in the shade wolfing down ice cream in the middle of a the Makgadikgadi pans.  What is not to like about that picture.

In the late afternoon, I convinced everyone to walk far out onto the salt pans to pose for some family portraits which worked out really well.

I continued taking photographs into the sunset and early evening of baobabs at night using a torch and, as luck would have it, a passing cars headlights.

Nightly burning of the rubbish which is a really distasteful task for everyone even if it was only me doing the actual burning.  Rob continues to bite back some remark about how bad it is for the environment and I agree with him but I think that it would be a disaster if I was stung by a bee and not just for me; it would ruin everyone's holiday.  The trick to burning rubbish is to have a very hot fire with plenty of flame so that the rubbish itself catches alight quickly and even the vegetable matter dries out quickly and then burns.  The cans quickly clean themselves and when these are crushed with the mallet when they are cool it leaves very little waste for us to take with us.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Day two of the great idle

I had a very early start, out taking photos by 06:00.  It is strange how 06:00 is a normal even late start to the day when working but on holiday it feels really, really early.  Being out this early meant that I was working my way around the north shore of the island before the sun actually rose which made for some great photographs.

 The 'sun' in the following photographs is actually the setting moon.

I didn't quite make it around the whole island and ended up cutting across the middle to make it back in time for breakfast which consisted of pan cakes making a change from the normal muesli and yoghurt.  Sitting under the trees in the cool of the morning, eating delicious pan cakes with old friends; life is just great.

Rob made more bread, I think I am going to have to travel with the Dalgleishes more; I could get very used to a daily supply of fresh bread for lunch.  I helped Rob put up his awning in the morning which was very simple consisting simply of shade cloth and six poles with guy ropes.  The big advantage of this is that it is quite high and allows any wind to blow through beneath the awning which makes it very cool to sit under.  Much cooler than the one that we have which although the shade is deeper is less cool to sit under.  Definitely food for thought when designing my own awning in the future. I am amazed at just how much gear Rob manages to pack into his bakkie, he even had room for a volleyball net and court which we also put up for the kids to use.  Playing volleyball in the kalahari has got to be a special place to play it.

The Steenkamps packed up and started their journey back to the big smoke and even though they were with us for only a few days, it was nice to have met them.  Watching them leave I was very happy not to have been departing with them, I am really starting to get into the swing of things and just idling away the time doing pretty much nothing.

In the afternoon we played boules with the dalgleishes and it turns out, I am worse than useless at the game so I was very happy when we all decided to walk around the southern shore of the island going past what is left of what used to be a huge baobab that used to give shade to campsite #1.  I'm not sure why it died, I think it was just very old.  The carcass of the tree was very interesting because it isn't like a normal tree which even while dead maintains it's structural integrity.  Baobabs literally disintegrate into pulp, it was very weird to see.

On the return trip along the spine of the island to the northern point where we were camped we climbed up to the trig beacon to have a look at the view from there and I spent most of the rest of the afternoon wandering around with the camera minding my own business.  I tried some fill-in flash pictures of the moon rise which sort of worked.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Day one of idleness

We were up and about early, for holiday that is, before 07:00 so that I could catch the morning light. Rob and Viv had already moved over to the eastern side of the island to greet the day so we weren't actually that early.

The view from the top of kubu is amazing looking out over the salt pans which don't end for as far as the eye can see.  Although it is called an island, kubu island has no water around it at all.  This apparently changes during the wet season when there is up to knee deep water on the pans and kubu island is, at least more or less, actually an island surrounded by water.

We put up our new awning in the morning because, although we are in shade, it isn't deep shade and I need something to hide under.  The awning was a rushed purchase where one isn't quite sure what one actually wants but one runs out of time to make a decision and, as is normally the case, the decision turns out to be less than optimal.  There are so many awning designs available so clearly, nobody has actually aced it and I'm going to have to work out something for myself.

We took a midday walk far out into the pan which is cracked and quite firm but it would be a big mistake to take the seeming uniformity of how it looks for uniformity of what lies underneath.  Even just walking on the surface one can feel the sponginess of some sections in comparison to other sections.  We followed some tracks far out into the pan and could clearly see where some people had tried to turn around only to get all four wheels stuck; that must have preceeded some really frantic digging to extricate themselves.

Back at the camp Rob made some home made bread which we all enjoyed but other than that it was a very quiet day.  Perfect.

Ethene and Lize homeschool their children which led to a bit of a discussion about homeschooling but we restrained ourselves and didn't wade in.

We really enjoyed the relaxed pace particularly after the driving for the last three days.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Kubu Island at last

We were up at 06:30 and ready to roll at 07:45 having winkeled the rest out of their hidey holes.  Teegan had been sick during the night so Rob and Viv hadn't had much sleep and were looking a little bit bleary eyed.  We only saw number 6  & 7 this morning and were very grateful that we had taken #8 quite by luck.

I drove at a steady 105-115km per hour because I just didn't feel comfortable at higher speeds given the weights I'm carrying and the roads.  The problem with the roads is not that they are bad but that they are really quite good with the odd bad patch which is very difficult to see sometimes so it is just much easier to drive a bit slowly and then not have to worry so much.  The signs are a little sporadic and sometimes they are missing so one ends up guessing some of the time just what speed one should be doing.  The rule of thumb is to slow down to 80 if there is any sign of habitation next to the road even if there wasn't a sign to indicate 80.  Also, having left a patch of habitation behind and not having seen a sign indicating that one can resume 120 doesn't necessarily mean that you shouldn't speed up.  You could end up driving 100km at 80km/hr so one really does need to keep track of what is happening.

We finally turned off the tar and onto the dirt after 3 days of driving and I promptly let my tyres down.  Rob and Ethene didn't bother and, as it turned out,  didn't need but being the cautious fellow that I am, down they went.  I had some fun descending a steep technical section where the shore of the mega lake used to be while rob and ethene went around on the chicken run.  From there it was a simple drive over the grass and salt pans and finally to arrive at kubu island.  The tracks can sometimes be a bit confusing but one just has to basically follow one's nose and one will find the way quite easily.  The problem is that 'the road' isn't one path, it consists of several that constantly stray over each other as one or the other becomes impassable in the wet season.

We finally arrived at the main campsite which is pretty awesome, no facilities other than long drops.  That means, no water, no electricity and not even much in the way of shade.  Our campsite was huge, we could have doubled the size of the party and still had space to spare.  We wanted to move where we had the fire but they weren't having any of that and we had to arrange the campsite around where they had located the fire.  Not ideal but really not too bad.

We had just set up camp and there were already bees congregating around the dustbin so I told rob that I was going to burn all the trash.  He wasn't enamoured with the idea, mind you neither was I but it really does make a difference and keeps the campsite very clean and bee-free.  I think that someone with an eco-conscience would have taken me to task for burning everything but at the risk of being stung again, I am willing to take some abuse.

While the rest of the adults were finishing setting up camp, I took all the kids up to a huge baobab which they just had to try and climb which they eventually accomplished.  It was a lot harder than it looks like in the photograph and once they were up, they couldn't get down and Rob eventually came up with a climbing rope which we used to lower them all safely to the ground.  No more climbing of baobab trees!

As the day started to cool off we went for a stroll around the island, it has to be one of the most photogenic places on the planet.  It seems that no matter where you point your camera, there is a great picture waiting for you.

A fantastic start to the weeks camping ...