Thursday, July 31, 2008

Africa #11: Japanese Highway

Wildebeast, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

OK, that was not good. Someone at reception got their 12s and 12As mixed up, phoning us at 6 am for a wake-up call we never requested. Fair enough, mistakes get made. Let’s order some coffee and watch the sun rise. Over an hour later and still no signs of the order actually showing up. Hmm. This is starting to feel like a pattern. And it goes without saying, of course, that the coffee finally did arrive just as we were heading out the door for breakfast. Bummer.

Today we head southeastwards out of the crater and towards our next stop, Lake Manyara. Do a brief run into the crater first to see what we might see before heading back for lunch and then setting off. The good news is that we see a rhino! Bad news is that it’s about half a mile away, asleep and hiding in the long grass. Still, we can legitimately claim this one as “Seen” and check the appropriate box on the big 5 list.

We did see some flamingoes on the lake but it was far from the carpeting that apparently it gets at certain times of the year like, shall we say, last week? Oh well, we came close! Turns out we also missed the real migration of the wildebeest too, that taking place further north than where we’ve been exploring in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro. Different rain patterns change both the migration route and timing, and this year we were out of synch with nature.

Heading out we stopped with another couple of vehicles to watch something off to the side of the road. Probably an ostrich, but hard to tell. S then won the game spotter of the day award by looking forwards instead of sideways to see a pride of seven lions strolling down the road towards us!

Lunch, and then time to hit the open road. And amazingly enough, an open road that’s been surfaced! Turns out that a (the?) Japanese princess visited Ngorongoro a few years back and spurned the idea of flying out after her tour, preferring instead to go by road. She was so appalled by the merciless pummeling this resulted in that when she got back she poked at the Japanese government and made them donate a road to the Tanzanians! Wonder if she’d accept an offer to try my driveway any time soon?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Africa #10: Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

Time to move on. It took us something like three and a half hours to drive from the central Serengeti to the Ngorongoro crater. Our guide/driver said that he’d keep the top of the safari vehicle closed because this was a “main road”. As it turned out, our two world-views of what that meant didn’t really overlap much. What he actually should have said was “ a wider rock strewn path than we’ve used so far” rather than implying we’d be using something that had ever seen a layer of Mr. Macadam’s finest. Still, I like these long drives, and the bumps weren’t too bad except for one heavily wash-boarded section that they were in the process of resurfacing ... after a fashion, at least. Picture a couple of big earth-moving machines, each adorned with two rows of large metal claws and therefore looking like Iron Man’s garden rake, which basically drive along at 5 mph ploughing up the surface of the “road”. Fair enough, just the start of the process, right? Wrong. That’s about it. They move on, leaving piles of rock for passing vehicles to flatten back down all over again as the years click by. Not seen this tried on the M25 or US101, but given the state of the latter then they may just as well give it a go because it would still be an improvement on some sections around the Bay Area.

The Ngorogoro crater is a spectacular sight. You enter on a single-track dirt road curving down from the crater rim and looking out over the central lake. Unsurprisingly, time of year determines the size of the lake but for us here in July it was still a reasonable stretch of water and with the added bonus of being ringed by an edging of brilliant white salts. This is because the lake itself is very alkaline thanks to it being a captive body of water and hence continually absorbing dust from the volcanic explosion that caused it to come into being some half-million years ago. This alkalinity also causes certain algae to bloom on the surface of the lake that in turn attracts the flamingoes who like to feed on it; it also turns them pink, a lesson surely for all of us who eat too many Cheetos.

That night we stayed at the most expensive hotel we have ever stayed at: the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. All-in, close to $1,000 per night each! This better be good….

And it was … mostly. A quite remarkable room with spectacular views across the crater, complete with added foreground interest from their resident herd of zebras and a lone Cape buffalo. Dinner was included, as were drinks, and we also made sure to avail ourselves of the services of the butler assigned to cater for our every whim. However, having said all that, the food, whilst being very good, was not on a par with the price, and overall the service was a bit, err, variable shall we say. More on this tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Africa #9: Taking To The Air

Good news: we get to go up in what is billed as an instance of the world’s third largest hot air balloon. Bad news: the wake-up call for said trip is at 4 am. Still, we struggled up and made it on time for the off, leaving the hotel around 4:45 am for a 50 minute drive to the take-off site. Bumping down yet another dirt road we suddenly slowed and through the windscreen saw a hippo lumbering into view, presumably off foraging for grass. Seems they prefer to feed when its cooler, hence the preference for mud pools during the day and grass munching by night. Glad to see the bloke driving was on the ball because having a collision with a 2 ton, hungry, hungry hippo would doubtless dent even a Land Cruiser’s bodywork. And piss -off the hippo to boot …

The balloons were lying on the ground waiting for us when we arrived, but basically were still at the “kit of parts” stage. These guys have two balloons they use for trips in the Serengeti but the company as a whole does trips across Africa as well as other places around the world.
To get the whole shooting match off the ground involved firstly sticking two petrol powered fans in front of the canopy to force an airstream into it strong enough to get the mouth of the balloon open. Secondly, once at that point the burners are fired up to now drive hot air in there and hence begin the real process of getting these things off the ground. Each basket holds 16 people in 8 compartments, two to each obviously, and the basket has to be entered while it’s still horizontal. No issue for us, more challenging for the elderly or the portly, or indeed those who were both.

Anyway, we were soon aloft and moving at some 20 knots over the Serengeti just as the sun was starting to rise – lovely stuff! While we didn’t spot that much in the way of game whilst up there, we did see hippos in the river, a couple of hyenas searching for food and drifted close to the tree-top nests of vultures perched high-up in the acacia trees. The views were magnificent, and it really was a highlight of the trip to be up there just moving slowly over the African landscape with only the occasional roar of the burner to be heard as the pilot gave us a bit more height when needed.

All too soon it was time to land, though I have to say by then I was more than ready for breakfast and the advertised glass or two of champagne. We drove a few miles away to a long table laid out with silverware, linens and stemware, all under a tree somewhere out in the bush. Breakfast was the full-up English affair, cooked on a burner from the balloon team. Sitting there, in the warming morning light of another new day, sipping a glass of champagne and tucking into sausage, bacon and eggs really was a great experience. Definitely a highlight of the trip, regardless of whatever else we might see or do. Highly recommended.

Back to the animals. We headed out in a different direction today heading towards a part of the Serengeti that is hilly and sports large rock outcrops, and is known to be a hangout for rhino and lions. However, today the animal gods decreed that we’d see neither of those, preferring instead to show us a cheetah and her cub. Behind them in the long grass was clearly visible an impala that looked to be a fresh kill. The cheetah was resting up after the exertion and taking a breather before eating. Seems they prefer to wait for dinner, but not too long because at some point the scavengers figure out there’s a meal to be had and they’ll be all over the carcass which means more hassle and less food for the cats.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

And Then There Were Three

Before you know it, you wake up one day and somehow have three dogs where previously there were only two.

This is Cara, a Border Collie from a local rescue centre. She seems to be about three years old and was found as a stray. So far she's settling in quite well, especially considering the need to find her place in the hierarchy with Shadow and Baci (at the bottom as it turns out).

Cara's a classic Border from the standpoint of her temperament. Mild, gentle and so far a little clingy, though doubtless that's just part of her settling in.

So there we have it. I've not had three dogs at once before, and I sense that we have yet to get to the bottom of this pack sorting themselves out and so may yet have some "fun" ahead of us, but at least S did get round to finding her replacement girl dog after all.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Africa #8: Central Serengeti

Look Behind You!

Today, we started off with a three hour drive eastwards towards our next stop, the central Serengeti. On the way though we were quite surprised to be chased by a Cape buffalo that thought we unfairly disturbed his mud bath by stopping to take pictures. Despite their bulk, those things can be quite quick once really ticked-off, and certainly a match over the first few yards for a ponderous diesel Land Cruiser caught in the wrong gear. However, 100 years of internal combustion engine development won out and we escaped unscathed.

Today was also the day we caught sight of our first cheetah. Alas, by the time we got there it had gone to ground, lying down in some long grass about 50 yards away. We stayed and waited for a while but ultimately gave up and decided to move on, stumbling over a price of lions instead!

This all came about as we headed off-road a distance to reach a small wooded area close to some water where the guide thought there might be game to be found. And he was right, there was, but we didn’t actually find it ourselves. Instead, and this turned out to be a pattern we repeated many times, we saw a couple of vehicles already stopped in the long grass watching something off ot the side. This was the cheetah, and they had first seen it crossing the open space just ahead of them. Said cheetah decided to hide here for a while until we all just gave up and went away, but as we started-up our vehicle to move on he/she got up and loped further into cover. We decided to go around the end of this area to see if we could find her again, only to stumble across the aforementioned lions. They seemed to care very little that we were there, other than to note that the noise of the engine seemed to be keeping a couple of them awake. Tch, neighbours, eh?

Next stop was the Hippo Pool, so called because , well, it was a pool full of hippos. Never knew quite how noisy those things were, or how smelly. However, let me try an analogy: imagine a small body of water that, year round, is the primary resting place of very large creatures who eat nothing but vast amounts of vegetation which, let’s face it, has to end up somewhere. Let's further pretend that they will spend most of their waking hours wallowing around in said pool while it all, err, matures. Oh, and imagine too that this is all somewhere hot where there’s no flow to the water and 30 of the world’s most virulent diseases can be found, doubtless all transmitted by the sorts of insects that love a dirty, swampy place with lots of ordure and big tasty animals to feed upon. Yup, that’s a hippo pool.

Time to head off to the hotel, but on the way we again saw a small group of LCs caucused by the side of the road, and by now you all know what that means: something’s afoot …. apaw? In the far distance you could just about make out a set of four legs hanging over a branch high-up in a large tree. With binoculars you could see that it was a leopard and that it was happily having a siesta up there basking in the late afternoon sun. Tried a few shots but even with a 400 mm lens plus a 1.4x converter the end result was a bit small and not at all sharp. Bummer. Still, something to now aspire to finding again somewhere on the rest of the trip, but preferably a lot closer to the road.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Africa #7: Serengeti Part II

Eagle On Branch, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Actually, not much new to report here. We spent from 8 am until 4 pm on a full day of driving around the Serengeti both on- and off-road. (Actually, as pointed out elsewhere, there isn't quite the differentiation here this term usually implies.) Plenty of the usual suspects – baboons, wildebeest, Cape buffalo, hippos, giraffes, etc. – plus we saw eland, hyenas, foxes, eagles and an owl (asleep, since it was still day time). There was also evidence of a leopard being in the area when our guide spotted the remains of some impala-ish kind of animal stuck up in a tree.

Pleasant enough day, and a chance to get down-and-close with the Serengeti, but a bit disappointing that we didn’t find any of the big cats, elephants or some of the other more "exciting" of the beasties out here. Still, just goes to remind us that this is a national park and not a zoo. ‘Nuff said.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Africa #6: To The Serengeti

Departure Board, Arusha Airport, Tanzania

Another early start to catch yet another 8 am flight, this time from Arusha to an airstrip at the western end of the Serengeti. This was all a bit more haphazard and, well, African, than flights up until now. Firstly, it left from the local airstrip, not the international airport we initially flew into. And trust me, I am aggrandizing this place by calling it an airport. It really is more like a low-end local flying club would have in the US: a few huts with corrugated iron roofs, a shop run out of an old shipping container and a manual scale for weighing bags. Remarkably enough, though, they had a baggage x-ray machine in place and dutifully sent every bag, both checked and carry-on, through it before they were stowed! Global war on terror? You bet. Kudos to Arusha.

Four passengers was the entire complement for the journey, so even though the aircraft was just a single engine Cessna Caravan we had room to spread out. The other couple got out at what was literally no more than a strip cleared in the savannah with a single Land Rover waiting to pick them up; Lake Manyara (LM)I think the destination was, a place we’d return to ourselves later in the trip, albeit by road. Anyway, we then took off and had the plane to ourselves for another hour of flying westwards, most of which was done above the 8,000 feet cloud ceiling.

The Serengeti airstrip was a bit more substantial, but only in the sense it was a bit longer and had an actual building – well, hut really – at one end.

Our guide for the rest of the trip, Paul, along with about 10 other vehicles from an array of safari companies, awaited and we set of for a day-long game drive en-route to the Kirawira Camp Hotel. The terrain now was basically African savannah. A broad, flat plain dotted with trees and bushes surrounded by a range of low mountains. Think Daktari, for those of you with long memories. As we motored around we saw more giraffe, wildebeest and baboons. And trust me when I say this, we quickly concluded that there is absolutely no chance the world will run out of baboons any time soon.

Our guide mentioned that the baboons like to hang around with the impalas. Although they do help act as early warning for the impalas – baboons spending much of their time up trees feeding after all – it turns out they also like to eat the baby impalas once they are born. Nice. Makes you conclude Darwin was right: as a species, we do come directly from a bunch of sneaky, amoral carnivores that will do whatever it takes to survive and win.

Lunch! What safari experience would be complete without scoffing Chinese pork stir-fry in a tent in the middle of the African bush? Not this one, for sure. The beer was good, too ….

More random driving around followed in the afternoon. Yes, the guides really do just drive back and forth hoping to see stuff, though to be fair they all have a common radio system and will exchange information on what can be found where. In our case, that meant lion! Lying under a tree close to a dirt road – the only kind available, in fact - was a male lion that at first sight appeared to be dead. Turned out he was just having a cat nap, something that not even three Land Cruisers parked 10 feet away was going to interrupt. We hung around for a while before heading off to see something more active, like a rock for example. Or hippos. OK, bad example. Yes, we found hippos. Nope, they weren’t doing much either, other than lying in a very muddy pond and bobbing up and down.

Back, then, to the lion to see if he had woken up and decided to eat a tourist or two. “Yes” to the first question, “no” to the second was the answer, with a very good photo-op being the overall result. And that turned out to be about it for the day so we headed back to the hotel for dinner.

I have to say that for a collection of tents stuck up a hillside then the food at the Kirawira was pretty damn good. Dinner was a full 5 course affair, if you were up for it. Salad or seafood cocktail to start, followed by choice of soup. Mains included duck, steak and fish, with desserts covering apple and rhubarb pie, Grand Marnier soufflĂ© and something else I can’t now remember. Cheese and biscuits was the final option for those who by then weren’t totally stuffed and hence likely to be easy prey when waddling back to one’s tent.

(And yes, I will post more of our animal pictures here over time too, complete with link-backs to the post so you will have some idea where they were taken along the timeline of this trip.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Africa #5: Finally, Animals!

Colobus monkey, Arusha, Tanzania

Today was a day to be spent in the Arusha National Park, situated just about 30 minutes drive from the hotel. It was grey, misty and lightly raining when we got up, and stayed that way until early afternoon. Still, the wildlife didn’t seem to notice too much, nor did the Tanzanians who were all piling into the local market on what was a Saturday morning.

Arusha NP is quite hilly and lush in parts, drier in others. Entering from the gate we did (south east) then right away we saw a few giraffes, some Cape buffalo and a herd of zebras, all happily co-existing on a lightly tree-dotted area off to the north. Naturally, we took pictures, ignoring the little voice in our heads that was saying “they are a long way away still and you are here for another 9 days – chill out”. In a day spent bumping around the park, we also added to that total an entire herd of giraffes, comprising more than 25 animals ranged across the hillside (and no, I don’t know if herd is the correct collective noun for giraffes, OK?) and a number of birds including egrets and other stuff the names of which now completely escapes me. Hmm, should buy a book: “Ladybird Book of Tanzanian Wildlife You Have Specifically Seen”, would do the trick.

Lunch was a picnic which we ate sat alongside a lake where some other tourists were out in canoes. It didn’t escape my notice that a pamphlet at the park entrance said there were hippos in this particular lake and therefore “some caution was advised”. Nope, not sure canoes and hippos are a good mix myself but hey, what’s travel without a little risk, eh, especially if I am not the one taking them?

Highlight of the day would have to be several sightings of colobus monkeys high up in the trees. These are beautiful black and white creatures that are a couple of feet long from head-to-toe, but with seemingly oversized white tails. Very graceful-seeming creatures, happily tucked up there eating bits of trees and really not paying much notice to the sounds of an idling diesel Land Cruiser parked below. However, they are a bit tricky to photograph a) because they are smallish and like to hide in trees and b) are black-and-white and have to be shot against a bright grey sky. The above is about the best I could manage, given the selection we had to choose from!

Back to the hotel for dinner, memory dump (camera’s, not mine) and sleep. All-in-all, a good way to begin.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Africa #4 Pt II: Settling-In

Bit of a chill-out day today, but then we are in upside-down land where summer is winter and stuff you eat actually does grow on trees. We arrived into the hotel in Arusha (Mountain Village Lodge) around 11 am and since there’s nothing planned until tomorrow we have some time to kill and a chance to recover from the journey. Decide to walk round the grounds and dig out the camera to get used to it. Big mistake. Big expensive mistake ….

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m renting a body and using my own lenses. So far, so good. Alas, it turns out that whoever put the camera strap on that body was a complete moron and only did half the job. Yup, it came adrift. Yup, I was on a concrete path at the time. Yup, the entire ensemble made a very sickening THUMP-bounce-thump noise as it hit the ground. And yup, the lens, a 70-200m 2.8L, is completely knackered. It no longer zooms at all, and trying to autofocus just makes the thing hunt. I’m too pissed-off to be pissed-off, if that makes sense? I can predict that several very stiff drinks are in my immediate future, along with S repeating endlessly “I can’t believe you didn’t check that”. The lens bore the brunt of it, which I suppose is good news in some sort of perverse way since at least it’s mine and not a rental, but really, couldn’t this have happened on the last day and not the first??

Good hotel, though (Mountain Village Lodge, shown above) with a view over a local lake, a decently-stocked bar, a working cappuccino machine and … drum roll please … wireless internet access, albeit for a bit of a steep price ($5 for 30 minutes). Bliss.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Africa #4 Pt I: Nairobi to Kilimanjaro

To us, 5 o'clock seemed like an unnecessarily early start, especially given the fact that we were leaving the hotel at 6 am for an 8 am flight but at an airport that is only 30 minutes drive away. However, the efficient experience upon arriving into Nairobi the previous evening was completely reversed by what it took to get out of there again and having a couple of hours to make it to the plane turned out to be a good idea.

Queue number one was just to enter into a small, cramped terminal building, housing an odd collection of airlines. Once inside, it was hard to tell which of the two large queues facing us to get into next, but thankfully we guessed right: yup, the longer one of course. After 20 minutes we found out it was simply a make-work exercise to weigh your baggage before you get to the check-in desk where …. it all gets weighed again. No idea what happens if you fail to pass that test, but we didn’t and so earned the right to join queue number three for actual checking-in type duties.

One thing you tend to forget, but quickly remember once in transit somewhere foreign, is that wherever the British once were we somehow leave the population with an over-arching love of form-filling. In Kenya, that translates into entry forms to be filled in prior to arrival and exit forms to be submitted on departure, both of which seem to be exactly the same apart from one being white and the other yellow. You strongly suspect that nothing is ever actually done with the myriad of little forms this all produces, especially as they anyway electronically scanned our passports going in and going out.

So, now we are in the airport and duly standing at gate 5 where the monitors say we should be. Interestingly, however, although three flights are listed from the one gate, none of them happens to be ours. And of course there’s a queue, so naturally we join it. Turns out we are at the right place and it’s just, well, a mess; one gate, multiple exit points. And another queue, of course, so you can get your stuff x-rayed all over again. By the end of this trip my carry-on will glow menacingly in the dark. This laptop, for example, has now seen more radiation than a whole squad of Chernobyl road-sweepers did when the Soviet government asked them if they wouldn’t mind awfully cleaning up after a small incident that had inconveniently occurred at the local reactor site.

Ah ha – something is happening, but I’ve no idea what. Some sort of garbled announcement that I think included the word “Kilimanjaro”. Decide to believe it did in order to appear to know what the hell I’m doing. Next, an officious looking woman with a walkie-talkie comes and collects a vast, majestic herd of tourists who all proceed to sweep across the terminal without any of us having the faintest idea if this is our flight or not. Follow closely as she cuts through two other waiting areas and dumps us outside on the tarmac. I recognize the type of plane we are on so head over in that direction and hope it’s correct. Bloke next to me asks, “this is the line for Dar Es Salaam, right?” Nope, you’re screwed, and we're out of here.

Arrive into Kilimanjaro and catch a glimpse of the mountain peak as we are banking into land. Low cloud and drizzle await. Did we end up back in London by mistake? Likely not, especially since those are look to be banana trees by the side of the runway, but now there are of course more forms to fill in and more queuing to be done so best to stay alert in case there's a particularly tricky question this time around. Suspiciously, however, it seems the same information is required for Tanzania as was the case for Kenya, only this time it ends up on a pretty blue background instead. Why can’t they all just share this stuff fer chrissakes??

We have about 40 minutes drive in an old Toyota Land Cruiser/minibus with our guide, Komba (it means “bush baby”, apparently) to reach the hotel, and somehow we avoid death or injury to ourselves or other road users on the way, despite several jolly good tries towards achieving the opposite. Welcome to Africa!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Africa #2-#3: Still Getting There

Giraffe Crossing The Serengeti, Tanzania

The game-opener SFO to London flight was fine, especially as for three of the four main legs we are flying we were able to use miles to get into business class. I’d quite forgotten how infinitely more comfortable those seats are compared to the recycled deck-chairs they provide in economy, and in general how pleasant flying can be when you can board first and leave first,thereby skipping lines at both ends of the journey.

London was its usual damp, summer self and so rather than doing anything outdoors to while away the afternoon we decided instead to head to that old standby, the British Museum. Alas, we were about three weeks too early to see the soon-to-be-open exhibit on Emperor Hadrian but since there’s always something to be found there you somehow missed on previous visits there are few places I’d rather while away a few hours in.

Quick dinner at the Frontline and then back to the Paddington Hilton, where the air conditioning just wasn’t able to drop the room temperature down enough to make sleeping much of an option. Rabbit warren hotels don’t lend themselves to easy ventilation and cooling, it seems?

Yet another day, yet another flight: Heathrow to Nairobi on an aging 777. I couldn’t summon up any enthusiasm to watch the same films again so I ended up sleeping for three of the 8 + hours it took to get there. No complaints, though, as that was 3 hours more than I’d managed the night before.

When we landed, a helpful flight attendant came on and without a hint of irony said “those of you wanting to go on to Entebbe should see the transfer agent for a message, have a nice day”. I’ve got a message for them: didn’t you see the film? Turn around and go back. No good will come of it.

Hurdle number one on this trip, getting from Nairobi airport to the Hilton hotel. (And yes, there is a pattern here. I’m using BA air miles for the flights and Hilton Honours points for the in-transit hotels.) With great forethought and planning, I’d actually got round to calling the hotel ahead of time on the off-chance that the advertised transfer service needed a reservation. It did, so I made one. Perhaps even more remarkably, there actually was a man there clutching a board with our names on right as we exited the customers are. Bliss. Except … it turned out that they also had to wait for some other people who were now delayed, and though there was a bus leaving soon it was a crew bus and we couldn’t travel on it so would we mind taking a cab instead? Actually, that turned out to be a reasonable deal and we had the Hilton man negotiate the rate so it was cheaper than the hotel would have charged. (For those with inquiring minds, the cab fare was $22 US from the airport to downtown Nairobi where the Intercontinental and Hilton hotels live.) From touch-down to being in our room took under an hour which is a much better result than you’d find when exiting many major US airports.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Heading Back

Ah yes, back again at Heathrow's Terminal 5 waiting for the SFO flight. Not so much deja vu but rather "here we go again". One day I really must sit down and try and calculate how many times I've done this particular journey. Perhaps BA will name a plane after me? Probably not. "Fed up with LHR to SFO" isn't really an inspiring message for the world's favourite airline to carry around stamped on a 747.

Speaking of aeroplanes, saw a Singapore Airlines A380 parked at a gate as we transferred from T4 to T5, and there was certainly no missing it. That thing is huge, dwarfing even the long-range 747 parked at the stand next door.

As promised, we took a lot of shots whilst in Tanzania, amassing something over 35 Gbytes worth of images between the two of us. After some heavy culling I'd expect to end up with maybe 5 to 10 that are really worthwhile from the ones I took, but more of that as I get round to writing things up and preparing some for posting.

So long as you discount the getting there and getting home parts, it's been a great trip and one we have thoroughly enjoyed. We did manage to see all of the big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo) even if in a couple of cases only through binoculars. Here's a small taster of a lioness strolling about her 'hood, caring not a jot that nicely fattened tourists were but a few feet away and conveniently delivered to her door. Thankfully, they weren't on the hunt when we found them, though it's some small solace that they'd probably decide I wasn't worth the effort of eating; too mch skin and bone, not enough nice juicy meat to be worthwhile unless you happen upon a lion following a diet plan.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Bloody Amazing

No, I don't mean the hot baboon sex pictured here but rather the fact that I'm typing this on the veranda of the Kirawira hotel on the slopes of the hills surrounding the Serengeti. This place runs purely on generators and the wireless connection must, I guess, be satellite-based but it seems to work fine, albeit a little slowly.

The world keeps getting smaller.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Time To Go: Africa #1

Now the Q is over, it's time to go and do the Marlon Brando thing and head into darkest Africa to see what we may see. I doubt it will include sight of either Martin Sheen or the iconic Bell Huey 'choppers but we might see a ceiling fan or two though.

The second quarter ended up OK. We had one deal that we thought we could get done but it seems certain government agencies are slow-rolling some project work as we head into election season here in the USA so that piece of business ended up slipping into Q3. Still, we did close several very good deals and enter into summer with a really strong pipeline. Indeed, getting a couple of weeks break now is probably good timing for all sorts of reasons, a full pipeline to close up ASAP not being the least of them.

First leg of SFO to LHR coming up. Let's see if we can get through Terminal 5 unscathed, shall we?