zondag 26 februari 2012

26 februari 2012 - time flies

So that was it....3 months away and in the blink of an eye we are back home again!
Since the bungy jump we headed to Knysna and spent 3 relaxed days, walking, eating and being tourists. We met up with Bex and Mustard for the best meal of the holiday, bacon wrapped scallops followed by ostrich steak and washed down with local honey flavoured beer and red wine.
From Knysna we headed west to Swellendam, ate at a restaurant where there was no menu and no prices, had a hostel room again full of mossies and then were up early to drive to Cape Town. In Cape Town we went shopping for souvenirs, had another great meal, more stunning scenery before heading back to the hostel to pack our bags.
Hoping to make the most of our last day we checked out of the hostel and drove to the Cape of Good Hope. The weather wasn't great but the mist and strong wind just made for a great atmosphere. We picnicked in the car due to baboons and bad weather.
There was then time to shower back at the hostel, catch up with Alan and then head to the airport for an 11 hour flight home.
Neither of us slept well but the sight of Martine, Ester and Vera, with homemade muffins, was enough to keep us awake until we reached Arnhem. Can't believe it's over....11 weeks of life changing experiences would do it all again tomorrow!!!

zaterdag 18 februari 2012

17 februari 2012 - bungeeeeeeeeeee

When we first started this trip we discussed what we did and didn't want to do. Remke was 110% certain that she didn't want to Bungy, i was 95% sure that i didn't.....when we arrived at Vic falls we were met with the news that the bungy had snapped a week before and that all bungys were off. Shame but that made decisions making easier.
After our sky-dive i started to think more about a bungy jump, and by the time we reached SA i was up to 70% that i wanted to do it.
After a morning birding and walking around Tsitsikamma forest (Knysna Woodpecker etc) it was time to head to Bloukrans. Maybe if i saw some people jumping it would make my mind up. I watched 4 people jump and started to have serious doubts as to whether i could or would do it. After a calming cup of coffee, no alcohol allowed, i headed to the info desk to ask how long the whole jump process would take. Not long at all i heard but i still wasn't sure and had just 2 minutes to make a decision. There were 2 Germans already waiting, and i was offered the chance to walk with them onto the bridge and decide once i was there. I jumped at that opportunity, the bridge itself was spectacular although i tried not to look down too much!
I watched the first 2 jump and made my mind up, i was going to jump as well. The guys on the bridge were great, very calming and professional. I waddled like a penguin to the edge and on their countdown i jumped, arms out and head up from 216 metres.....OH MY GOD......what i have done as i plummeted towards the ground at 120kmph, feeling the reassuring tension of the bungy, followed by 3-4 more falls, and more tension. It was amazing, different to the sharks and the skydive but my heart was racing. I hung upside down for a minute before some guy was winched down to me, to turn me upright and winch me back to the bridge.
Once on the bridge i couldn't stop smiling. So pleased i had done it and was buzzing for hours afterwards!!

woensdag 15 februari 2012

15 februari 2012 - pelagic photos

Title says it all really, im not able to crop or edit my photos so these are as they come.

15 februari - and relax

Finally time to do nothing. We are now in East London having driven (well Remke did) from Sedgefield in a day, about an 8 hour drive. We were supposed to be meeting a friend of Remkes here but he can't make it, so instead we are sitting by the pool, being treated superbly and the zebras last night were so close we could hear them grazing. We are staying on a farm/hostel type place and are the only guests. This morning i saw Knysna Turaco before breakfast and tonight they are doing a braai for us.
Anyway no photos yet but chance to put some photos from last few weeks online. All mammals, the lions weren't in the wild by the way. Pelagic photos to follow

maandag 13 februari 2012

13 februari 2012 - Sharks and Albatrosses

With several days of bad weather altering our plans it has been a hectic few days. During lunch with Remke and Jules i called Cape Town pelagics and was shocked to hear that the pelagic was going ahead. Windguru was still forecasting a swell of over 4 metres....when i arrived at Houtbaai i was pleased to see that our boat was a mighty 9ish metres....oh joy!
The ride out, 35km to the shelf, was fast, rough, bumpy, horrible, etc. The best we could manage was to hang on one handed as the boat crashed from wave to wave, sending us flying from our seats. The use of bins, legs etc was limited to say the least.
Our captain, who, like our guide, was excellent and once he honed in on a trawler on the horizon we found ourselves among hundreds of White-chinned Petrels, Wilson's and European Storm petrels, 50+ Shy Albatross, a juvenile Wandering, a couple of Atlantic Yellow-nosed (several yellow-nosed sp) and 10+ Black-browed, Subantarctic Skuas, Sabine's Gulls (maybe 50), Arctic and a single Pomarine Skua, Sootys, Cory's types and Greats. Watching the trawler bring its net in was fantastic, birds everywhere, and the swell just about bearable (others weren't so fortunate).
The photos will follow when i get chance to look through all 1600 of them. By mid afternoon the swell dropped, the sun was still shining and we even picked up a couple of Grey Phalaropes on the ride back, as well as the numerous Cape fur seals feeding in the mix.
Thoroughly drenched we dried off with coffee in the harbour (sorry about the puddle of water in the restaurant), and i couldn't stop smiling after brilliant birding and surviving at sea!
Remke picked me up and we went to fish and chips before she had the great idea to dash to table mountain as the weather was still holding, and we had a few hours before going out for Katies birthday.
Ill prepared we boarded the cable car, enjoyed the view, the cloud descended again an we headed for the cable car home. After 30minutes it became clear that there was a problem, which was confirmed, upgraded on the advice of the technician to more serious than thought and therefore we stayed on Table mountain until 2230. By then we had missed dinner, arriving home at 2300. By this time i had been up since 0500, still soaking wet, covered in salt from pelagic and now aware that my long awaited shark diving trip was leaving at 0510 in the morning. There were some 200+ other people behind us in the queue so who knows how late they were home.
Today was the shark dive. This has been a dream of mine for many years and i quite positively get some kind of emotional high from even seeing Great Whites on tv.....but i never thought i would ever see one, let alone get in the water with one (FIVE!!!)' albeit from the safety of a cage.
Thankfully my seasickness tablets worked again and i got to enjoy 10 minutes in the cage. Although exciting the views from the boat were much better and we spent 3 hours watching animals up to 3.5 metres coming to the chum. My hair stood on end, one of the real big 5 for me and a dream come true. Yet another life highlight for me and one i will never forget.
After a nice lunch, beer and watch of the dvd for sale i was picked up by Remke and we said more goodbyes. I hate saying goodbyes : ( although we missed several by being stuck up a mountain!!
This also meant that i couldn't sign as second driver for the hire car, so Remke has driven for nearly 8 hours today. Now lying in dorm bed at cool surfers hostel, fish and squid for dinner, beer brewed in Knysna, fire burning etc. Tomorrow we continue east to East London. Hostel looks great again, private room, wooded grounds, pool and chance to relax after the manic last few days.
Some shark photos below, pelagic photos when home if no time before. Just 9 full days to go now......

zaterdag 11 februari 2012

11 februari 2012 - Cape Town

Last night we headed out for dinner to celebrate Mustards birthday, before a glass of Belgian beer, and a few more beers in the Irish pub. The weather has been quite rough, at least windy, and todays pelagic was cancelled. It is now rescheduled for tomorrow.
With Table Mountain also closed due to the weather we opted for the Planetarium, and despite offering some of the rudest staff i have ever met was actually quite interesting, but.......reclining seats, darkened room, little sleep and soporific voice soon sent me to dreamland....sorry about the snoring ; )
After Remke woke me up there was time to look at some of the wildlife photo of the year entries, some quality stuff.
Called into the supermarket on the way home, bought supplies ready for tomorrow and thought i would upload a few photos of myself from Remkes camera, whilst Remke repacks her belongings. Meanwhile the fruitcakes that are the other inhabitants of our hostel sit outside discussing how great they are.

donderdag 9 februari 2012

9 februari 2012 - Southernmost tip of Africa

Im now sitting in Cape Town, one of the most beautiful places i have ever been. The sight of Table mountain, with table cloth, amazing light is just stunning.
Our last few days in Namibia were nice, with a stunning bush camp near Fish River canyon and a nice camp along the Orange river. Here we said goodbye to Brendan and Meg. We were scheduled anyway to change from Gunga to a bus, but were hoping that Brendan and Meg would still come with us to Cape Town. Understandably considering the circumstances they decided to do their own thing. So it was time for a party and good send off. Josh initiated the drinking, and the speeches, and the pile ons. It was a real testament to the groups love of Brendan, and Meg, which ended with the traditional throwing of the driver into the pool!!
The temperature by the border and in Stellenbosch was unreal. I can't remember ever feeling a heat like it, from the Gobi to the Sahara. Remkes thermometer was reading 54,8 in the sun!
In Stellenbosch i did a wine tasting which was only interesting because our guide was so bad and i saw a chameleon! After sampling 23 wines i still couldn't find one i liked....until Bex let me sample a bottle she bought for €5 for the Spar, much better! Sleeping was hard work due to the heat and the mosquitoes. Having bouht mozzie nets in Nairobi we had given them to Bex to take to Malawi when she goes there to work in the hospital after the trip.
Yesterday we went to Robben island where we were shown around by one of the most entertaining guides ever, really interesting and thankfully we survived a very rough crossing home. I also noticed a Belgian bar with Koninck on tap.....sadly they didn't allow take aways and i fell below the dress code to be served inside.
Below are a selection of photos, hopefully all self explanatory from nice views, Cape Agulhas, Remke trying to catch dinner, Remke repacking (check out how much stuff she is carrying)!