Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Germany diary, day 7

Monday, 31 December, 2018

Thursday, 4 October, 2018. 16:28

We are sitting in Bar Tripoli in Limburg an der Lahn, enjoying a glass of wine during a rest break. There are photos of Sophia Loren on the walls, including one of her serving spaghetti from a giant bowl. M. is having a Primitivo red from Puglia, while I tried the Grillo white wine. (I later discovered that Primitivo is an alias for Zinfandel.) Mine was something like a Pinot grigio, with tart fruitiness like kiwifruit or gooseberries and a hint of minerality. The owner is Italian, and I am trying to remember enough Italian to speak with him with less difficulty than in German, but it’s difficult switching languages when my head is full of German.

The day is bright and sunny and a bit warmer than we’ve had so far on the trip. We began early, waking up before the 07:00 alarm. I did some stretching exercises while M. had a shower, and then I got ready and packed bags for our trip. We left a bit before 08:00 and set out on the walk to Köln Messe/Deutz station, where our train would leave from at 09:36. We crossed the Severinsbrücke to the eastern side of the Rhine and walked through the Deutz neighbourhood north to the station.

Departing Köln
Cologne Cathedral in the morning, from the Deutz side of the Rhine

Along the way we found a street with shops and a nice looking cafe called Saint Louis Urban Deli. We stopped here for a morning coffee for M., and I got a hot chocolate and a chocolate croissant, which was warm and rich and buttery, really very good. We sat for a while, as we had some time in hand, but eventually left to walk the remaining few blocks to the station.

Read more: the train from Cologne to Limburg, fruit and vegetable market, wandering around the medieval old town of Limburg, exploring the cathedral, getting fresh baked bread rolls for lunch, sitting in an Italian wine bar, admiring the river Lahn, flammkuchen and gelato for dinner

Tanzania diary, days 12 and 13

Tuesday, 25 December, 2018

Tuesday, 10 July, 2018. 06:53

We’re sitting at breakfast in the hotel restaurant, looking out at the activity in the beach and the boats in the ocean. Today there is a sort of aerobics class taking place on the beach, led by a women in Muslim headcloth, with five other women in coloured headcloths following her lead, plus three men. The men are standing in a group separated from the women by a few metres. Three of the women, including the leader, are wearing black robes, while the other three are in black shirts and tracks suit pants.

Morning exercise on the beach
Aerobics class on the beach

08:47

Now we’re at Zanzibar International Airport. After a breakfast of mostly cereal and bread or pastries, we returned to our room for final packing before check out. The reception desk was ready for us, with our paperwork already on the counter as we approached. The bill for the bar drinks and laundry was tallied in US dollars, but there was a conversion to shillings, and I paid in shilling notes, receiving full 1000 shilling notes as they rounded the cost down from some ridiculously uneven number.

Our driver was there already too, and we left a few minutes before the designated 08:00 pick up. This was a different driver to the other day, but he was just as talkative, telling us many of the same facts about Zanzibar. A few interesting new things were that school children all across Zanzibar wear the same uniforms: blue and yellow for primary and black and white for secondary school. And that the traffic light we passed through was one of just three traffic lights on Zanzibar. He seemed quite proud of the fact that they had traffic lights, and explained that they were solar powered, so that during the rainy season they stopped working. He also told us that although most of the population was Muslim, they don’t follow Sharia, and things like woman wearing head coverings is optional and largely determined by family custom, and that even many Christian women covered up as it was the tradition in their families. And they were a happy people on Zanzibar, because even though most people are poor, they are never hungry because of all the seafood and produce grown on the island, and that they have many holidays because everyone celebrates all the Muslim, Christian, and Hindu holidays together as a big community celebration.

Read more: three flights to get home, last views of Mount Kilimanjaro, and juggling awkward luggage packing

Tanzania diary, day 11

Sunday, 23 December, 2018

Monday, 9 July, 2018. 16:09

We are sitting in the Serena Inn bar having a break from the hot sun of the day and enjoying some cool drinks as the breeze blows through the open doors and windows. We’ve been here for a while already as I finished typing yesterday’s diary. I’ve had a gin and soda, and M. had an iced coffee, with milk, which was at first delivered without milk, and taken away again by the waiter who jokingly blamed it on the drink maker not hearing him properly. We’ve also just finished a plate of hot chips, as a snack to stave off hunger until dinner time, as we had a light lunch today.

Our day began as the sunlight began creeping into the sky, waking us up naturally without an alarm. We took our time getting ready for breakfast and then went down to the hotel restaurant, where the usual buffet style breakfast was in progress. For drinks, they had wide selection of juices in pitchers, including hibiscus, as well as fresh coconuts with a hole tapped in them and straws so you could drink the juice inside. They also had a cook doing eggs to order. But no muesli, so I started with a bowl of bran flakes, topped with peanuts, sultanas, and natural yoghurt. M. went for the varied pastry selection, trying four different things. She declared the pain au chocolat dry, but the croissant acceptable. For hot food, there was some sort of fish in a spicy sauce, as well as the usual staples. Seafood is clearly a local thing, Zanzibar being an island and all, so I tried the fish, which was very nice. I had it with some corn, mushrooms, a beef sausage, and grilled tomato. We both finished with some fresh fruit.

Serena Inn breakfast
Breakfast at the Serena Inn

As we ate, we could see interesting boats passing by on the ocean outside, including a dhow, and several boats with outboards full of fishermen, with nets and long poles. There was also a lone guy pushing a small boat with a couple of lobster traps on it, using a pole to push against the sand near the shore. It looked exhausting and slow. And a lot of people were out either walking or jogging along the beach. It seemed to be the thing to do. After a while I went back up to the room to grab my camera to take some photos of the interesting boats, but by the time I returned the boat traffic had virtually stopped. Presumably because it was now after 09:00 and rush hour was over, and everyone was at work now.

Read more: walking around Stone Town in the hot weather, checking out various markets, taking breaks in a coffee house and by the hotel pool, seeing the Fort again, and dinner at a fancy place by the beach

Tanzania diary, day 10

Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Sunday, 8 July, 2018. 06:49

Monkey spent the whole night in the lounge next to the bar! Probably drinking Amarula.

We woke with the alarm at 06:00, dressed and party, packed our bags before breakfast. Most people from dinner last night had gone already, departing at 06:00 for various things. A few stragglers were there but left by the time we’d had a few bites. The morning was cold, but not as cold as yesterday, and the sky was more overcast. We had the muesli again and I had bacon and eggs while M. just had some toast.

We were packed and ready to go before 07:30, so hit the road a bit early. The drive was back along roads we’d travelled before, circling clockwise around the Ngorongoro crater rim until we hit the entrance road, then turning onto that and heading down towards Karatu. When we left the camp the sky was overcast, and as we circled the crater the cloud descended until we were driving in fog. This vanished soon after we turned onto the descending road.

Departing Ngorongoro
Driving through the fog on the crater rim

There was a brief stop at the Ngorongoro entrance gate for Timba to file exit papers, and then we were back on paved road for the first time in five days. From here it was a long drive back through Karatu and to Arusha. At Karatu we stopped so I could use an ATM to get some cash out, which we needed to make up our tip for Timba, having spent some of the money we’d set aside for that.

During the drive, as we passed Lake Manyara, I asked Timba if the animals in Lake Manyara National Park were isolated or if they could move to other areas. He said that they used to migrate to Tarangire National Park, but they can’t any more because the area in between is now populated with people. Further on down the road I asked Timba what wood the Maasai used to make the sticks that the men used to herd cattle. He said ebony was preferred, as it was heavy and hard, but they also used some types of acacia wood that was also hard. Ebony trees grew on the area we were driving through, but it was hard to see one as they are quickly cut down for wood as it’s so useful.

Read more: lunch at Arusha, saying goodbye to Timba, flying to Zanzibar, walking around Stone Town, watching the sun set over the Indian Ocean, a market, and dinner by the sea

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, a picnic lunch among the wildlife, and an African drink!

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