KRUGER #1

Out of the Johannesburg airport, picked up a new van and overnight at a nice guest house in an upscale urban neighborhood.

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The weather turned ugly the next morning and we headed to our next destinations, Dulstroom and the Drakensberg Mountains, through rain and fog.  Obviously, this significantly affected any photography; the few opportunities we got were on a side trip down a muddy road shooting through the fog.

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One African wattled lapwing was today’s prize

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We reached our destination early at the Misty Mountain Hotel at Long Tom Pass which, on a clear day would have been outstanding, beautiful views out of the room (if the fog & rain had lifted)

The next morning was a bit better and we headed into Kruger National Park for 5 days of fantastic photography, even though the weather varied from sunny to rain.  Our guide and safari vehicle was awaiting us.

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The camps were pretty active tourist areas.  Lodging was in small very nice individual cabins and we moved from camp to camp.  Camps protected by electric fences and the gates close at 6:30 at night, open at daylight.  Monkeys and baboons have little problem in getting in, though.

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Vervet monkey checking out my camera

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So many different animals so I’ll devote the remainder of the blogs to one or more animals groups. I’ll start with the most common ones…impala, kudu, wildebeest, Cape buffalo, giraffe, & zebra.

Impala

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Kudu

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Wildebeest

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Giraffe

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Cape Buffalo

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Zebra

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The Overberg

We left the Karoo and headed back toward the coast into a more temperate area, the Overberg.  Could we actually be in California…maybe on one of my family’s trips in the 1940’s to the San Bernardino Mountains…through the vineyards in the Riverside Valley?

 

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Our lodging was at the De Wagenhuis Guest House, a converted dairy farm built in the late 1700’s.  It was the nicest place we stayed and the buffet food and good wine made it even better.

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The next day we headed to Bontebok National Park, a small park of open grassland along a river.

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Herds of bonteboks and hartebeests grazing here

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Pied crows and common fiscals were present everywhere we went.

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 Walking along the jungle of vegetation along the river we were able to find openings where we could photograph African fish eagles roosting.

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In the grassland we saw a distant black harrier, an endangered species and red-collared widowbird.

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The dense riparian zone produced pied barbet, Bokmakierie, Diderick cuckoo , and red-faced francolin.

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Traveling to a hide (the European term for a blind) at a pond near the river we were able to get close-up photos of birds including Andean flamingo, little grebe, spotted thick-knee, and hammerkop.

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…and an ostrich, that stood out in a field of yellow flowers.

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Then it was back to Cape Town and a hectic rush to the airport for an evening flight to Johannesburg.

Next time The Drakensburg to Kruger

 

 

 

 

Special Blog

Today I’m mad as Hell and the urge arises for me to exercise my editorial prerogative and say what’s on my mind as opposed to providing you with a plethora of stunning animal portraits.  But, it’s time I expressed what I’ve felt for a long time: It’s time for our society to kiss our Rambo image goodbye and join the civilized world.  In short, we need to begin by ridding our society of semi-automatic and automatic weaponry!  Oops…I just pissed a bunch of you off, but while you’ll scream that the 2nd Amendment gives you the right to own a gun more advanced than a single-shot muzzle-loading rifle, I believe the 1st Amendment gives me the right to say you’re dead wrong.

I’m certain many of you will label me as a hypocrite as, I too, have several guns and have always supported ownership of sporting arms and the right of Americans to hunt (when such activity does not endanger the continued existence of any species of wildlife).  For many years I hunted and probably would again if my shoulders would support the weight and recoil of a rifle or shotgun.  As a law enforcement officer in my early career I carried a handgun.  I still have it and another I acquired later. I believe hunting is truly an American value; part of our heritage and a tradition that can and should be maintained.  I just don’t believe killing innocent people is…never have.

In 1970 I quit my membership in the NRA when it became evident that their objective had changed from promoting hunting and rifles that were accurate enough for clean one-shot kills to increasing fire power and automatic weaponry to support a radicle militant element in our society.  As they years have passed they have evolved into a cult, complete with their own mythical threats, radical doctrine and inane excuses…and a threatening lobby.

In writing the Constitution, our founding fathers (that you may not realize many of whom supported slavery, many rights for the wealthy, and felt women had no right to vote) added the 2nd Amendment as they understood not only did the Minutemen contribute to our independence, but that much of the rural population depended on guns to provide much of their food.  What they knew about guns was that you got one carefully-placed shot, after which it took the best at least 20 seconds (and usually much more if it was rainy or windy) to reload and shoot again.  AK-47s with banana clips were not in their wildest dreams.  They also didn’t envision a government with a military comprised of jet aircraft, tanks, nuclear missiles, and serin gas.  The silliness that a group of untrained, undisciplined and unorganized guerrillas with handguns and rifles would successfully prevent the government from “taking over” is ludicrous.

All the excuses for more fire power in the hands of individuals are (excuse me) pure crap!  The concept that the more fire power you have, the safer you will be is insanity.  Please tell me how many people you know, or have even heard of (excepting law enforcement and the military), who have been involved in a private gunfight where dozens of shots were necessary to protect their lives or the lives of others.  The only multiple-shot shootings I know of were in Columbine, Aurora and now, Newtown and didn’t involve self-protection, they involved killing unarmed children.  Most gun fatalities involve a single shot being fired…in the US an average of 75,000 a year (Hey…isn’t that about 25X more than died in 9/11?).

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Here is my automatic handgun.  I will willingly and gladly donate it to the foundry that can melt it down with all the other semi-automatic and automatic weapons if our society will prevent the sale, trade and ownership of such weapons.  Sure, there will always be some in the hands of the criminal element just as Al Capone had tommy guns.  But, Al Capone didn’t kill a bunch of school children…he primarily killed other criminals.

 I’m sure that some of you will say, “Mr. Carrier, you protest too much!”  Be that as it may, I’ve grown weary of living in a society that worships the Americanism of Wyatt Earp and Dirty Harry over that of Martin Luther King and Dr. Seuss; I’m tired of seeing a bumper sticker “God, Guts and Guns Made America Great” on a huge 4WD that’s been 6 feet off my bumper as I’m driving 60mph in a 55mph zone and now passing me at 80, the driver flipping me the bird as he goes by (I dislike aggressive people, anyway, anywhere);  I’m tired of Grand Theft Auto and Dead Island being our children’s choice in video games where the objective is to kill as many humans as possible; I’m tired of Hank Williams Jr. and Ted Nugent  thinking they’re the icons of “real” America; and I’m just tired of violence as our country’s claim to fame.

Yes, I’m sure some of you will be offended at my attitude, even call e a Commie or a Nazi.  But, as Dante Aligieri wrote over 700 years ago, “The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality.”  Have a nice day…there’s a bunch of people in Newtown, Connecticut that won’t, probably for the rest of their lives.

South Africa-The Karoo

The Great Karoo is a large arid ecosystem in western central portion of South Africa.  Just as Cape Town so resembles Santa Barbara, the Karoo looks much like the Basin and Range country in California and Nevada.  Close your eyes and open them again and you were on I-80 heading towards Salt Lake City.

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Some of the most spectacular sedimentary rock formations…unfortunately the other member of the tour weren’t too keen on scenic photography so we didn’t stop much.

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Mammals such as hyrax, eland, bushbuck and clipspringer

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Every few miles there would be a tortoise crossing the road….

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…and every rocky area had a population of agama lizards.

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There were lots of birds.  Fairy flycatcher, white-backed mousebird, rufous-eared warbler, rock kestrel, and (my favorite) the pale chanting goshawk.

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Even the insects were unique.

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We stayed for 2 days in a quaint B&B run by a German and his wife.  Water heated by solar and the generator was shut off at 9:00 each night but as we were usually up by 4:30 and not back until 6:00, ate and went to bed.  By then I was so tired I didn’t care.

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A nearby river crossing produced red and yellow bishops and a black rail

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The next destination were the mountains and to Bontebok National Park.  See you then!

 

South Africa-Western Coast

Cape Town, South Africa…a long way from California (especially with the re-routes taken to circumvent Hurricane Sandy).  A country as big as the entire US west of the Rocky Mountains and with at least as much diversity.  Here, in Cape Town in the shadow of Table Mountain, we began our tour covering an area about the size of California from coast to desert to savannah, focusing on photography of the varied wildlife species.  So many species…so many clicks of the camera (close to 10,000 in 15 days).  This will be the first in a series as I go through and edit/delete/file.

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The Cape of Good Hope is a headland in South Africa, near Cape Town, traditionally regarded as marking the turning point between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. The Cape of Good Hope was first rounded by Portuguese navigator Bartolomeu Dias in 1488, who named it “Cape of Storms” (Cabo das Tormentas).  Bucking the winds there, I could see why he named it that.

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Fynbos, meaning “fine bush” are the most common category of plant life found here and many of the species are unique to the Cape peninsula.

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Bonteboks, once reduced to about 30 animals, are recovering and are native to the fynbos at the cape.

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Cape sugarbirds, double-collared and orange-breasted sunbirds, Cape eagle owls, and Cape Canaries…so many birds.

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African penguins, an endangered species.  These are in a thriving colony at Boulders beach and now increasing in several other areas.

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Mongooses try to sneak in and steal a chick (but this one had caught a lizard).

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Up the west coast to Lambert’s Bay we visited a Cape gannet colony and the rocky coast.

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The beaches here are littered with mussel shells over a foot deep.

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Next time…The Karoo