Into Africa

What do I do when I have time on my hands? What do you do when you have time on your hands?

Over the past three weeks, I have been waiting for a little cat to make an appearance. What should I do with my time while wishing and hoping?

The last ten days of my trip to Africa this summer I spent on a Photo Safari. Each day we would go into the bush and take photos of everything great and small. At the end of the day, it was not unusual to return with over one thousand frames shot with my trusty Canon DSLR.

Prior to Safari, I spent six weeks in Zimbabwe and South Africa traveling independently with my friend, Phyllis. Oh no more pictures. I was not taking quite that many photos per day on this part of the trip. Still, there were photos and more photos.

Do you have any idea how long it takes to delete and edit and figure out exactly what is worth keeping and what needs to be tossed? Spending time at my rig has offered me the golden opportunity to dive into all of these pictures and create some order to the madness.

For those of you who do not “do” Facebook, I decided to add my slideshow to a post on my blog. I must warn you, it is long-about twenty-eight minutes worth. I like how it turned out. It is not too professional but not one of those campy home movies.

Enjoy the show.

And no Elsie has not shown up.


Often Misunderstood-The Hyena

It is never much fun to be misunderstood. There might not be another African animal that is more misunderstood than the hyena. Yep the hyena. I have actually been told by some of my readers that they dislike the hyena. “Look at him in the Lion King.” Now come on everyone, that is a movie and play-not real life.

The hyena is dominated by female power. The females are more muscular, more aggressive, ten times heavier on average with triple the testosterone level of their male counterparts. They rule.

They are often depicted as dumb and crude. Hyenas are actually one of the most intelligent and socially complex mammals in the world. They have a developed a frontal cortex comparable to primates. Research has concluded that they are socially just as complex as primates and are able to solve equally challenging cognitive puzzles.

The spotted hyena has more than a dozen vocalizations to communicate about social status, territory, and age. They will often release a giggle-like sound after being attacked by another hyena trying to steal his or her kill.

Hyenas are  cunning hunters, killing roughly 95% of their food. Using bone-crushing jawbones (Top 10 strongest bites on the planet), hyenas work in groups to take down large mammals: buffalo, wildebeest, and zebra. In less than half an hour a pack of hyenas can attack and eat an entire zebra, bones and all.

While in the greater Kruger eco-system a guide took a group of us to a hyena den. We were able to sit and observe this matriarchal community at home. There were all ages of hyenas, from babies of all sizes, and adults. Upon first arriving at the den there appeared to be an eruption of a feud among the adults. One of them ran away screaming while others gave chase. After a few moments all seemed to be forgiven and they settled down to family living again.

Out of the animals I was able to observe in South Africa the hyena became a favorite of mine. It was eerie to hear them call at night while I was snuggled into my bed. I like the sound of the call and it gave me some comfort to know they were out there.

Before you choose to like or dislike this often misunderstood animal, do some research and if at all possible talk the opportunity to watch them as they interact with their world. Maybe, you too will decide to give this much maligned mammal a chance.








Walking In South Africa

I among others in the western world am accustomed to hopping in the car and driving to the store every day. Do I need groceries? Get in the car. Oh I forgot the flour…get in the car.

What if you don’t have a car? What if public transportation is unreliable or not there at all? You can hitch a ride, call a friend or you can walk. In Africa, people walk. They don’t just walk around the corner, they walk a long ways. Sometimes they walk with babies on their backs. Other times they are carrying huge amounts of whatever on their heads. And they push wheelbarrows. The wheelbarrows are seldom empty. It appears that they walk with their supplies for work in the wheelbarrows. Today I saw a man walking with a garbage can that had wheels on it, all his supplies were inside.

When school is out, it is not unusual to meet up with groups of waving, uniformed children as they walk up and down hill, for a distance, to get home in the afternoon. How did they arrive at school? I believe they walked.

Rarely do you see any of these people walking alone. They walk with one or more. I imagine the conversations help them move along. Once in a while they put out their hand for a passing car. The car doesn’t stop, just keep walking.

I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I have been in the middle of extremely rural Africa and there will be someone walking along the road.

They are dressed for winter. They are bundled up. If the wind is blowing and the temperatures are chilly the women are wrapped in blankets walking down the street. Their arms might be free but the colorful blankets are wrapped around their torso or waist, keeping them warm on chilly mornings.


They walk to work. They walk to the market. They walk to the medical clinics. And, often they walk to an unknown destination. I have said to my friend Phyllis, that a day would not be complete without seeing someone walking down the road. Every day we have seen someone walking. I kid  you not.

Today Phyllis and I decided to join in and walked to town.


Driving Crazy Driving

The Little Red Car That Can-Our Ride

Traveling can be challenging. Traveling in a foreign country can be a bit more challenging. Traveling in a foreign country and driving on the left side of the road is a bit more challenging still. Trying to figure out the rules of the road can be a challenge as well.

This is the first time I have ever had to get behind the wheel on the right side of the car and drive on the left side of the street. Whoa. I am glad I had time to practice in Kruger National Park before I began to drive on the busier roads outside the park. My driving mantra is stay left, remember to always stay left, even when I turn right.🙃

When driving in the cities, no matter the size, it is crazy. When I am driving I look at Phyllis, grab the wheel with both hands and say “I’m going in”. People walk anywhere they want, between cars, along the side of the road. They carry food on their heads and babies on their backs (tied with a blanket) and plastic bags loaded with stuff in every hand available. They chat and laugh and are easy with all the congestion going on around them.

Cars move all over the road in the city centers. They sometimes stop in the middle of the road and the other cars drive around them so normally. I need to be a bit aggressive to drive in the city centers. No one seems to mind when I drive on the wrong side of the street. It is the norm to swerve around people, the occasional goat or cow. I don’t relax until we are out the other side.

Taxi station








Taxis or buses are everywhere. They stop at pull offs, the side of the road or anywhere else they see fit. If they are too full, never fear, a pickup truck may stop and give you a lift. Often the back of the pickup will be filled with people of all sizes.

It is not unusual to encounter, cows, goats, pigs and sheep along almost any road we have traveled on. The cars coming towards us flash their headlights on and off and then we know there is something in the road up ahead.

All small towns have speed bumps. Most are marked but there are the few that surprise us, a brief few seconds before we encounter them. There are single speed bumps, small ones and multiples of four. Along with the speed bumps are the pot holes, big pot holes, small pot holes-pot holes of every size. I have found that it is best to drive behind the taxi’s or small buses. The drivers are very familiar with the conditions of the road. If they slow down, I slow down. If they swerve to the other side of the road I anticipate that I will need to do the same. Some of these pot holes are serious and deep.

There have also been some unusual experiences on the road. As I was driving toward the Paul Kruger Gate on this small road, all of a sudden there were large rocks, small boulders and crushed glass all over the road. Thankfully there was a taxi in front of me and I followed him onto the dirt along the side of the road, turned down another dirt road and followed him into a gas station. It turns out that the locals were protesting the lack of water in their community. It was a bit scary and overwhelming. He suggested we turn around and head back. He would lead the way. So I did.

That wasn’t the end of the story. Once we got back out of that mess he stopped and wanted us to follow him on an alternative route. He wanted money for gas. We were both smart enough to say no. We went on out to the main road and found another entrance into the National Park. These kind of events lead me to exhaustion at the end of the day.

A beautiful view on the Road Less Taken

One day we were heading for Underberg, South Africa. About an hour after we left the main road, all the cars coming towards us were flashing their lights and waving their hands. We had no idea what they wanted. Soon we discovered that there was another protest. A community wanted to get paved or tar roads. There was a long line of cars and trucks waiting. People were walking around outside their vehicles trying to get cell reception. I finally asked someone what was going on. This is when we learned that the wait could be very long. With the directions of one man, I turned around and took an alternative route. This young man told us to turn at a certain intersection to get back to the road we needed to be on. The road that went straight looked appealing to me and Phyllis, so we stayed on that road. Soon we discovered why the local communities wanted tar roads. The paved road ended and we tackled quite a few miles on a dirt road that was sometime good and sometimes not so good. We made it and it was a spectacular if not long drive.

After tackling a wet and muddy road this morning, followed by more potholes I have successfully completed another day of travel. Driving will remain one of the major challenges of this trip. It is fun, tiring and exhausting. Tomorrow I imagine I will have another chance to grab the wheel look at Phyllis and say, “I’m going in”.



A National Geographic Moment

There are moments in travel that are exciting. There are moments in travel that are amazing. There are moments in travel that are a bit stressful and overwhelming. Then there are moments in travel that may become a National Geographic moment.

The last three days of our visit to Krueger National Park were spent in a private reserve that borders the National Park. One of the nice things about private reserves is that the morning and afternoon Safaris are included with the price of your stay. They sometimes offer hikes through the bush with an armed guide and tracker.

The last evening started quietly, driving out in the late afternoon, sitting a bit high off the ground so we could get a better view of the action that was soon to impart. The first half hour was quiet. Ah a Cape Buffalo herd sighting started the action late that afternoon. The herd was large about seventy five in all. There were new calves within the herd.

The driver and guide stopped and shut the engines off so we could observe quietly. After watching the herd for a short time we continued on our way. As we came up a hill off to the left we saw  a pride of lions. They were quietly walking forward one by one in a line. There were 12 – 15 lions.

What amazes me is that these animals will come fairly close to us in our vehicle and they will totally ignore us. Our guide turned the vehicle and we drove back towards the buffalo herd. He positioned us on a small hill so we could watch the action unfold from a distance.

The lions would casually walk along, lay down and then a few minutes later they would move again. As they got near the buffalo herd they separated going in different directions to quietly surround the herd of buffalo. At the precise moment, and I am not sure when that was, they attacked the herd of buffalo. A stampede of sorts ensued. the calves were pushed to the middle of the herd and the buffalo counter attacked the lions. The stampede headed in our direction and for a moment in time all of us were pretty sure the buffalo were going to stampede our vehicle. The adrenalin rushed. And then it was over. No calves were taken. The lions went off to lay down. The buffalo resumed grazing and other activities.


Our guide told us that as the sun set the lions would attack again. Cape Buffalo cannot see well in the dark. The lions know this and they will wait until the opportune moment to strike. What we saw was probably one of several attempts they had made on this herd over the course of the day.

For those of us that felt we were in the middle of the action, it was “The Attempt” that mattered. It was just one more National Geographic moment in my life. It was thrilling, absolutely thrilling.

Lessons Always Lessons to be Learned

I have been having a wonderful time in Kruger National Park, South Africa. I have seen the “Big Five” and more. We were planning on spending a week in the park. It is now going on two weeks. We took a brief break and drove part of the Panorama Route near the town of Graskop. After two days we returned to Kruger and more animal observation. 

There are certain repetitive lessons in my life. Some I have mentioned in previous blog posts. Two lessons have shown up again on this trip to South Africa and Kruger National Park. 

When I was much younger I studied the writings of Shakti Gwain. She wrote this small book about asking for what you need in this lifetime. There were many different ways that you could ask for things. What you ask for can be personal or universal. It is OK to be selfish. For example I once asked for a positive, growing relationship. Boy did I get that in spades. It was a brief relationship with a very nice man. It was a struggle from the get go. When it was over I had certainly grown, just not how I had expected to.

Leopard leg on the left…Impala in crook of tree

Since arriving at Kruger I have been telling my friend, Phyllis I want to see a leopard in a tree, with an impala. We have joked and laughed about it, until….a few days ago we sighted a leopard on a river bank. Not too far away was a large green tree. And yes there was an impala carcass in the tree. After observing for a while, the leopard got up and climbed the tree and laid down on a branch. Now I had the leopard in the tree, the impala close by. I realized then that my request to see all this never had said anything about the leopard eating the impala carcass in the tree. So I have changed my request and hopefully I will see this iconic picture in my mind play out correctly. There are lessons here. 

  • One must be very specific when asking the universe or God or whoever you speak to, for help or specific requests.  If you aren’t specific, situations may not be what you expect them to be. 
  • Be careful what you ask for, you just may receive it. 

One morning late last week we were watching a pride of lions near a watering hole in the northern part of the park. There were several lions, adults and cubs resting in the grass. There were also wildebeests and zebras in the area. Like all park visitors we were waiting to see the lions do something. One of the adult lions took off and started to come back towards a lone wildebeest. She would lay low in the grasses, then rise up and skulk forward and lay down again. I was so busy watching this whole even unfold through binoculars. I was intent on this event. I put down the binoculars just as a bull elephant was walking right by the car. He was huge. He was silent. And he was very, very close. It was an eye to eye moment. I was so excited and I said to Phyllis elephant. She was busy watching the lion event unfold, turned to say something to me and there was that moment of surprise when she saw this huge creature right next to the passenger front window.

  • Pay attention. Pay attention. Pay attention.
  • Expect the unexpected. 
  • Be aware of all my surroundings.

I am enjoying my time in the park and am finding it hard to leave. Today we said goodby to Kruger and are slowly beginning to wind our way south to the east coast of south Africa.  There are a few more stories I will share with you about Kruger National Park in the next few days. It has been an amazing start to our visit to South Africa.

How the Zebra Got It’s Stripes


Long ago, when animals were still new on earth, the weather was very hot, and what little water there was remained in pools and pans. One of these was guarded by a boisterous baboon, who claimed that he was the ‘lord of the water’ and forbade anyone from drinking at his pool.


When zebra and his son came down to have a drink, the baboon, who was sitting by his fire, jumped up. ‘Go away intruders,’ he barked. ‘This is my pool and I am the lord of the water.’

‘The water is for everyone, not just for you, monkey face’, shouted back the zebra’s son.

‘If you want it, you must fight for it’, returned the baboon in a fine fury, and in a moment the two were locked in combat. Back and forth they went, until with a might kick, the zebra sent the baboon flying high up among the rocks of the cliff behind them. The baboon landed with a smack on his seat, and to this day he carries the bare patch where he landed.


The zebra staggered back through the baboon’s fire , which scorched him, leaving stripes across his white fur. The shock sent the zebra galloping away to the plains, where has stayed ever since. The baboon and his family, however, remain high among the rocks where they bark defiance at all strangers, and hold up their tails to ease the smarting rock-burn of their bald patched bottoms.