Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Tanzania diary, day 9

Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Saturday, 7 July, 2018. 17:32

I slept poorly, tossing and turning for much of the night, for no apparent reason. With the lights off, the tent was pitch black – no difference whatsoever with eyes closed or open. I used my torch to navigate to the toilet a couple of times during the night. M. woke a bit before our alarm and we got up at 06:00. We were ready for breakfast about 06:20 and wandered over, with the morning rather cloudy and still quite dim. A staff member met us partway there to escort us.

Two of the fellow Aussies were there at one end of the table and the staff suggested we leave five spaces for their fellow party members, and take the next seats opposite one another. They had a small buffet with cereals, watermelon and pineapple, small pastries, and toast. We chose the muesli, which was similar to what we’d had in other places, and yoghurt. Then we could order hot breakfast, and I chose bacon and fried eggs, but M. decided to just have some toast with peanut butter, which was dark and roasty.

After we ate, we returned to our tent to prepare for our day out. We were ready earlier than 07:30 and surprised Timba by showing up at the car early for once. We loaded up and drove out, heading further north on the road around the rim. It veered downhill into the crater after a while, descending a slope to the floor of the caldera. The view was amazing, with a few spots of rain enough to create a full, bright rainbow over the crater, with patches of cloud and sunlight creating a gorgeous pattern on the landscape. The crater looked small from this distance, but Timba said it was 13 by 19 kilometres, so it’s actually very large, much larger than it looks.

Rainbow in Ngorongoro
Descending into Ngorongoro crater

We began driving around inside the crater, seeing large herds of zebra and wildebeest, more concentrated than we’d seen in Serengeti. The first new animal of the day was a pair of black-backed jackals. We saw a few more of them later in the day too. I’d expected that lions would be easy to see in the crater, but we only spotted one all day, and in fact I was the one who spotted it. I saw it in the distance as we were driving and yelled at Timba to stop the car, saying I thought I could see a lion. Before I could focus my camera on it to see at magnification, Timba said it was a male lion. It was several hundred metres away, but we could see it surveying the land, and I got a decent shot of its face as it turned to look at us.
Read more: Lots of birds, rare black rhinoceroses, and cape buffalo

One hundredth bird photo

Tuesday, 27 November, 2018

I’ve been photographing birds for a few years now. The title may be a bit misleading, I haven’t photographed my one hundredth bird… I’ve photographed my one hundredth bird within a single country. And oddly enough, it’s not Australia.

Despite living here, I’ve so far only managed to photograph 94 different Australian bird species. But on my recent trip to Tanzania, I spent about five days looking at wildlife, and I took a lot of photos of birds. I still haven’t inspected all of the photos to identify the species, but last night I identified the one hundredth species from the photos I took on that trip. So I now have 100 species of birds photographed in on country: Tanzania.

Here’s the lucky 100th: a male Abyssinian wheatear:

Abyssian wheatear

Germany diary, day 6

Wednesday, 21 November, 2018

Wednesday, 3 October, 2018

We woke up a bit early and prepared for the day, having showers and getting dressed for the chilly weather. M. had bought a puffy down jacket and vest and wanted to cut the tags off so she could wear then, so I went to reception and asked to borrow a pair of scissors.

After preparing for the day, we set out, intending to visit some of the museums, as they would be just about the only things open on the German Reunification Day public holiday. But some bakeries and cafes were open, fortunately, so we were able to get food and drink throughout the day.

Our first stop was a place that M. had found on her wanderings the past two days: Cafe Rico, out past the western side of the Neumarkt plaza. We entered to find nearly all the tables reserved, presumably for people wanting to book a nice breakfast out on the holiday. A waiter showed us to one of only two small bar-style tables with tall stool that were available. M. had a slice of apfelstreusel cake and a latte macchiato. I had some Florentiner-kirsch, which was an almondy cake with lots of cherries in it. I asked for apfelstreusel, but they brought a slice of apple strudel. When I said no, streusel, it took the waiter a second, and then he went, “Oh, strOYsel!” So now I know how to pronounce that properly and avoid confusion in the future.

Florentiner-kirsch
Florentiner-kirsch at Cafe Rico

While we were there, a photographer and an assistant were setting up food and drink items that were being brought out from the kitchen on one of the tables, illuminating them with an LED light panel, and taking photos of them. Presumably they were shooting new photos for the web site or something.

Read more: On my free day we visit museums, eat lots of cake, check out the cathedral again, and end with an amazing meal at a swish restaurant

Tanzania diary, day 8

Sunday, 4 November, 2018

Friday, 6 July, 2018 16:41. Lemala Camp, Ngorongoro Crater Rim

This morning we asked the question about what the staff do if a dangerous animal appears. M. thought they might wave a torch at it, because the animals would be afraid of the light. But when we asked, they said that you shouldn’t shine light at them because it provokes them. The thing to do is just back away slowly. We had visions of Lex in Jurassic Park waving a light at the T. rex and Alan Grant willing her not to. They also said that there were lions around the camp during the night and described the sound they made, a sort of extended grunting, which was the sound we’d heard but had assumed was zebras or something.

Our alarm got us up at 06:00. After dressing we emerged into the pre-dawn light, still a bit dark a few minutes earlier than we’d been the last two mornings. A staff member came to meet us with a torch and escorted us to the dining tent, answering the questions about animals in the night.

Nimali Serengeti sunrise
Sunrise at Nimali Camp

For breakfast I had the same as yesterday, the muesli and eggs benedict, while M. just had muesli and toast, although we both tried some of the pastry of the day, which was carrot bread today, with a delicious nutty top on the loaf.

After breakfast we packed our bags, double checked the room, and checked out by handing in the key and writing a message in the guest book. Timba was waiting by the car as we walked out, just a couple of minutes late. The morning wasn’t as cold as yesterday, and we drove with the safari roof down, as we were making time to our next destination, on the Ngorongoro crater rim.

Read more: sighting more animals on the drive out of Serengeti, stopping at Olduvai Gorge to see the cradle of humanity, our new camp on the Ngorongoro crater rim, and visiting a Maasai village and meeting the people

Tanzania diary, day 7

Sunday, 28 October, 2018

Thursday, 5 July, 2018. 18:02

We have just returned from our second all-day game drive. We saw less wildlife and drove a lot further today, but the main highlights were truly worth it.

We both woke up early this morning, and we could hear the sound of some sort of animal in the distance, but didn’t know what it was, possibly hyenas? When the alarm went off we got up, dressed, and walked over to the dining tent in the soft dawn light before sunrise. The dawn was cold, very noticeably colder than yesterday, and stayed a bit cooler throughout the day.

African grey flycatcher
African grey flycatcher, dawn light at the camp

Breakfast was the same choices as yesterday, but the “selection of pastries” was changed from banana bread. We said we’d have whatever the new choice was, plus muesli and yoghurt, and then today I chose the “Nimali Benedict” and M. had fried eggs with toast. The “pastries” turned out to be freshly made pikelets, which they gave us two each of. M. had honey on hers (stealing a jar from the next table) while I had butter. The benedict was a little rough, served on toasted slices of the odd bread they have here, smallish with a slightly sweet and grainy texture, almost like gluten-free bread. Perhaps it is; every time we order food they are careful to ask us if we have any allergies.

Read more: a huge day for wildlife spotting and driving across the Serengeti, ending with a relaxing dinner and magnificent sunset

Germany diary, day 5

Thursday, 25 October, 2018

Tuesday, 2 October, 2018

We woke up a bit before 04:00 this morning, and I thought it was time to get up until I looked at the time. I tried to go back to sleep but it was difficult. Eventually we got up about 06:40 and prepared for the day, eating the bread rolls M. had bought last night. They were small square rolls with large pumpkin seeds on them, and tasted great. I did some stretches and got dressed, and left soon after 07:00, walking along the river again to the Hauptbahnhof.

This time I got the S-bahn from platform 11, after stopping to buy an almond croissant from a bakery in the station. I ate it on the platform while waiting for the train. Quite a few commuters were catching the train and I stood up rather than take a seat, until we stopped at a technology park a few stops out and most of the passengers got off, at which point I sat down for the second half of the ride. I arrived at Horrem quite early again, but went straight to the Image Engineering building so I could log in and check my overnight email to see if there was any news from Canberra about the hosting of the meeting next year.

But when I arrived, the front door of the building was locked, despite me being able to see that some of the meeting attendees had arrived and were in the meeting room upstairs. So to kill time while someone came to open the door I walked around the building, noticing that several people were already working inside as I passed the ground floor windows. After a lap of the building I tried the door again and this time it opened.

The meeting today proceeded quickly, with several ad hoc technical sessions either cancelled or cut short with just a brief report due to relatively little progress since last meeting. We rearranged the agenda and tried to fit everything into today, but the first ad hoc scheduled for tomorrow might have had interested people phoning in, so we couldn’t move it without checking for sure. I emailed Bob at the War Memorial to confirm if he intended dialling in, but it was after knock off time in Australia so I didn’t think I’d get an answer in time. So we proceeded thinking that we’d have to return for at least a short time tomorrow morning. But after lunch, and after 10pm in Sydney, he replied and said he couldn’t make it, so we were free to reschedule and wrap up the meeting a day early!

For lunch today there was chicken pieces in a spicy Mexican style rice, plus chilli sin carne, made with a meat substitute for vegetarians. Both were very nice, and I enjoyed the meal better than yesterday’s lunch. Dietmar had said there would be no catering on Wednesday because of it being a public holiday in Germany, but as it turned out we ended the meeting early so didn’t need it.

Working lunch
Mexican lunch at Image Engineering

After wrapping up and saying goodbye to the various people and that we’d see each other in Yokohama next year, I left with Margaret to walk to the station. We found Scott and Ken on the platform waiting for the next express back to Cologne, but no ticket validation machine on the platform, so we all had to walk back down the tunnel beneath the platforms to the machine at the tunnel entrance. Fortunately we had a few minutes, so made it back to catch the train. We got off at Cologne Hauptbahnhof and said goodbyes until next time we meet, whenever that will be.

Read more: a lightning cathedral tour, checking out the LEGO shop, and a very traditional German dinner

Germany diary, day 4

Wednesday, 24 October, 2018

Monday, 1 October, 2018

I was awake before the alarm and got up a bit before 07:00. After quickly getting dressed and ready, I left to walk to the Hauptbahnhof to catch a train to Horrem. I needed to work out how to get a ticket for the journey, and where to catch the train from, so I wanted to be there nice and early. The sun was only just beginning to brighten the sky before rising as I walked north in the cold morning air. I decided to walk along the river bank, and it was a very pleasant walk, watching the pre-dawn light on the river and the various boats.

Cologne Cathedral, early morning
Cologne Cathedral in dawn light

At the station I went first to the information desk as it was right there as I entered. I said to the man that I wanted to catch a train to Horrem, but I was obviously pronouncing it wrong as he didn’t understand the name until I’d repeated it with slightly different inflections several times. He told me to go to the ticket office and they would help me.

Walking into the ticket office, I saw signs for long distance and local trains. I figured Horrem was close enough to be local, so went there. Again I had pronunciation problems, because when I told the lady I wanted a ticket to Horrem, she said, “Rome?! You want the long distance counter!” I only managed to make her understand after a few more attempts, at which point she said, “Oh! Horrem!” – saying it in what I thought was exactly the same way I’d been saying it all along.

It turns out there’s no such thing as a return ticket here. You buy single fares, or an all-day ticket which is about three times as much, so no good for a single return trip. But there is a ticket which is four single fares, and you can use each fare whenever you want by stamping the ticket in the validation machines four times on separate occasions. So I got one of those, plus two single fare tickets, to cover travel for three days. It cost just over 30€ in total.

The next train to leave for Horrem was a regional express at 07:47. I went up to the platform and the train was waiting there. I got on and took a seat on the upper deck. It pulled out and whisked me thought the suburbs of Cologne, stopping at Erhenfeld, then into the countryside and on to the town of Horrem.

Read more: A lesson in German cheese pronunciation, technical meetings and photo labs, and a traditional home-style dinner

Germany diary, day 3

Wednesday, 24 October, 2018

Sunday, 30 September, 2018 17:00

We are resting at our hotel for a little bit before heading out for a drink somewhere before our dinner appointment this evening with the two guys from Canon in Japan.

We slept reasonably well. We woke up around 03:00 and M. had one of the pretzels as a snack. I feared we’d be awake from then on, but we both fell back to sleep, and when I woke again it was just before 07:00, giving me almost ten hours sleep.

We prepared slowly to leave the hotel, being in no rush as we knew nothing much would be open before 10:00, and in fact most shops would be closed for Sunday. We showered and got dressed, and I did some stretches earlier before M. woke up. Then we had the remaining pretzel and I had an apple. By the time we left the hotel, it was about 09:30. We stopped at the reception to ask about what would be open, both today and on the public holiday on Wednesday. The guy there basically said shops would be closed both days, but museums and restaurants would be open.

We walked across to Hohestrasse and passed an open bakery that looked decent, but M. wanted to find the Espresso Perfetto place we’d passed yesterday. We went down a side street and did a bit of a loop to find it, but it was closed Sundays. So we walked back the three blocks to the first bakery, as another one we ran across didn’t look as good.

M. got a slice of Apfeltorte and a cappuccino, while I got a Mandelhörnchen and a hot chocolate. The hörnchen was full of almond paste and had slivered almonds all over it, and the ends were dipped in chocolate. The hot chocolate was pretty good too. M. said the apple cake was nice.

Apfeltorte
Apfeltorte for second breakfast

After this, we walked north to the cathedral and went inside briefly, but there was a Sunday service in progress so we couldn’t walk around very far. Then we went across the square to the tourist information place, and got info about museums that would be open on Wednesday for M. We also looked at the souvenirs for sale and bought a calico bag to carry snacks and other things in while we walk around.

Read more: We stumble across a Sunday market, with vegetarian food! And a flea market, and see tons of love locks, and have a fancy dinner

Tanzania diary, day 6

Tuesday, 23 October, 2018

Wednesday, 4 July, 2018. 18:16

I woke around 05:00, by the sound of animals just outside the tent. I realised it was zebras by the clopping and snorting. They grazed around for a bit, then suddenly they bolted away and it was quiet again. Later at breakfast the people at the other table were telling the staff that they heard zebras and also lions during the night!

We got up with the alarm and got ready for breakfast at 06:30. The menu was a choice of fresh fruit or muesli, plus pastries, and a hot choice of either banana pancakes, eggs benedict, or a full English breakfast. We both chose the muesli with natural yoghurt, and the pancakes. We also asked what pastries were available and the guy said banana bread, so we tried a thin slice of that each too.

Breakfast pancakes
Banana pancakes for breakfast, at Nimali Central Serengeti camp

After quickly returning to our room for a toilet break, we emerged to meet Timba a few minutes late. We sprayed ourselves with insect repellent for the tsetse flies, climbed aboard, and set off. Leaving the camp area we saw plenty of zebras. Over breakfast a staff member had told us they like being in the camp area as it’s safe for them.

We started off sighting some interesting birds on the drive away from the camp: a lappet-faced vulture perched high in a tree, waiting for the sun to climb into the sky so it could ride the thermals. A red-billed hornbill, with its impressively large and colourful red beak. And some chestnut-bellied sandgrouse, puttering around on the grass of the plain.

Read more: lots of wildlife: birds, lions, elephants, leopard, heaps more, and the vast expanse of the Serengeti plain

Cheetah

Sunday, 21 October, 2018

On my trip to Tanzania back in July, I saw three different big cats: lions, leopards… both of which I’ve posted photos of before today.

But the most exciting was the third, which our guide had to drive us a long way across the Serengeti to find, devoting a full half a day to tracking one down for us.

I present my first photo upload of the third cat, the cheetah:

Cheetah alert