Stars in our eyes

We woke late on the second last day of 2018 with very little by way of a concrete plan. Ishbel to the rescue once again as she examined Google maps to determine where we would go today. The Xijiang River, on which our ferry had transported us here from Hong Kong, looked easily walkable from the hotel. Not only that, our route would take us through the Star Park – a park that recognises achievements in the arts by individuals from the region. Tony Leung and Chow Yun Fat were the two names that we recognised from the list of those honoured but that is probably more a reflection of our ignorance of the arts in China than anything else.

IMG_1083 2The statuary in the park was interesting, of course, but beauty can also lie in everyday items and we were both very taken by the bamboo ladder that we saw tucked away in a corner of the park.


It was just so beautifully engineered from an everyday material that we had to get a picture and share it with you.

After the park we carried on down to the river. I think I mentioned before that the cost of data charged by our mobile carrier here in China is prohibitive, so we are downloading screenshots of maps using the hotel wi-fi before we set out on these epic walks. This sometimes means we have to adjust our plans based on real world conditions without the benefit of Google maps adjusting along with us. So it was today when our planned route petered out into a dirt road before our very eyes. We improvised and carried on along the main road until we reached a turn-off that climbed steeply towards what could only be a bridge over the river. As we made our turn, Ishbel was briefly excited by a poster announcing a “River Trail”. Further reading clarified that this “trail” was in fact an eight lane highway covering 76km and costing CNY 1.44Bn. Not the scenic stroll she had initially envisioned.

We carried on down where the bridge road went up and hit the river bank as expected. The water looked very clean from our vantage point, so presumably it was perfectly safe for this chap to fish there.

DSC_0033 2We had envisaged a pleasant river bank stroll for our Sunday afternoon, but our plans were thwarted by a large container base which claimed the majority of the bank in our preferred direction. Consequently, we scurried inland and strolled in the general direction of home.

As was the case yesterday, we seemed to be the only Westerners on the street and the reactions of the locals were hitting about 8 on this device…

surprise_meterAs was also the case yesterday, we still need to remember to check the scale on Google maps. Another 7 miles completed today so, once again, it was back to the hotel and we relaxed by playing our instruments and jamming for a little while.

For dinner, we wimped out on external exploration and ate instead in the hotel restaurant. Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve for many, but it’s Hogmanay for Scottish people. It’s a cultural imperative for us to stay up until midnight and talk to friends and family early in the New Year. And to drink. We definitely need to check the map scale if we’re to stay awake until late.

Strangers in a strange land

Saturday started cold and crisp. This is the first day we’ve felt cold since leaving the UK so we wrapped up with extra layers and decided to go walking to try to get a better feel for Jiangmen.

The first thing we discovered is that they have their own local city bike program – Hellobike. We have no idea how it works as instructions are all in Chinese and there doesn’t seem to be an English language web page for it, so we won’t be using the system despite there being thousands of bicycles scattered throughout the city.

After consultation with Google Maps, we decided to walk down to Donghu Park, which is the other side of the WuYi University campus. I need to remember to check the scale on Google Maps when making these decisions. I think we have in our heads a basic assumption of how big a city block will be, based on long experience of wandering through cities. Blocks here are bigger. The primary roads are much wider than we get in UK or US cities and the distances between them are also proportionally larger, so we walked a little farther than we expected – about 3.5 miles each way.

Despite the distance walked, we didn’t spot another Western face. What we did encounter was the reaction of locals to our Western faces, which ranged from curiosity through amusement all the way up to bewilderment. We encountered the occasional frank stare but also a good number of smiles and hellos, which I suspect is the one English word many of the people here know. (I’ve worked out that thank you is “xie xie”, but that’s it so far so I’m in no position to take the linguistic moral high ground.)

It is apparent that this is not a city that gets many foreign tourists but Donghu Park was billed as a tourist destination so we were keen to see it. The map at the start of the park advised that there was a watchtower located at the top of a hill so we climbed up there to take a look.

DSC_0108 Then we climbed back down again. The park was very quiet in general but that’s only to be expected in the middle of winter. There are a couple of amusement parks with rides which are mothballed for the season but it’s no doubt a livelier place in warmer weather.

We were interested to see some graffiti in a place where we wouldn’t expect it.

DSC_0136A section of the park was dedicated to bamboo in its many different forms and a number of the old woody stems had Chinese characters carved into them.

After exhausting the possibilities of Donghu, we decided to head back to the hotel. We took a different route on the way back just for the variety, and passed an area of older buildings. There’s a vast quantity of recent construction and ongoing development here so this was a bit of a novelty. Also something of a novelty was this sight:

IMG_1066Someone was taking the opportunity to air dry some meat and fish from their windows.

We carried on to the hotel and, once again, got out the instruments and practised for a while. Afterwards, we headed out for dinner. There’s a recently developed street of restaurants just around the corner from us so we walked along there to see what took our fancy. The problem with them was that the restaurants were all quite shallow, so all the tables were near the door and it had grown really quite cold by now. We decided to keep walking till we reached the mall and picked a restaurant in there at random.

So we ate at a place called Three Thousand Mountain (I think) and had some very nice food there. Also, we had a conversation with the gentleman at the next table to us who could speak some English. He asked us where we came from and what we were doing in Jiangmen. It turns out he’s an anaesthetist at a local hospital and when he heard we were just visiting as tourists, he offered to arrange a tour of his hospital for us. This was wonderfully kind of him, but hospital visits aren’t really high on my list of leisure activities. We thanked him profusely but declined the offer. Again, I don’t think they get many tourists here.

After dinner we grabbed a beer to take back to the room and I watched Rangers vs Celtic on a poor quality stream. Not as poor quality as Celtic’s performance though. Oh well, we had to lose to Rangers some time, I suppose.

The challenge now is to construct some leisure time activities to keep us going here in Jiangmen. I’ll keep you all informed how that goes.

Out on the briny with the moon big and shiny

The title today is lifted from a song immortalised by Bing Crosby – Slow Boat to China. And that’s what occupied a good chunk of our Friday. Our ferry was scheduled to leave Hong Kong at 8:30 am so we were awake bright and early to make sure we were there on time and didn’t get caught up in any traffic issues. We were actually at the ferry terminal before even the Starbucks had opened so we were in plenty of time. When it did open, we had large cups of tea to set us up for the day then checked our suitcases for travel.

We boarded promptly and, because we had paid the small premium required for first class tickets, we were given seats upstairs by the window so enjoyed an unobstructed view along the journey which allowed Ishbel to take a load of photos of the huge new bridge.


Hong Kong to Jiangmen is around 120km, and we completed the journey in just over three hours. There was actually an intermediate stop, at a place called Dong Men. I panicked when we docked there and grabbed Ishbel’s dobro (which the baggage handlers hadn’t wanted to check) and rushed down the stairs. Well, I rushed about a third of the way down the stairs then surfed the rest of the distance on my behind. I’d like to say only my pride was hurt but my backside was a bit bruised as well. Anyway, no serious harm done, apart from the fright I gave the crew as a large Scotsman and a green, spangly guitar case suddenly appeared at the gangway.

We had organised Chinese visas in London so were hoping for a straightforward experience at the port of entry. It was ridiculously easy as there were only about ten people disembarking at Jiangmen, and the rest of them were all Chinese so we had the two foreigners’ lines to ourselves. We were quite closely scrutinised as we completed formalities but one lady approached us and asked if we were going on to Macau. Given that we had just arrived from Hong Kong, this would have been a very circuitous journey. She asked where we were going and, after saying the name of our hotel a few times (Wanda Realm) to no avail, I showed her the picture of the name in Chinese that I had stored on my phone. She immediately rustled up a taxi driver to take us there and off we went.

The trip from the port to the hotel was one which I had been dreading. I’ve been lucky in my travels in that I’ve always had an ear for language and have usually been able to pick up a few words to help me get by in whatever situation I’ve been in. This is the first time that I’ve felt completely out of my depth linguistically without even the benefit of being able to sound out words in hope of finding a familiar etymological root somewhere. I have become the classic Brit abroad. Speaking English slowly, pointing and attempting to act out my requirements. I don’t like it.

The hotel is lovely, and check in was very smooth. However, it appears that even the concierge doesn’t speak much English, so the art of mime will be our friend for the next few days. We were running short of clothes so, cliche though it may be, we decided we needed to find a Chinese laundry. Google maps indicated there was one a couple of blocks away so we set out to try to find it. It appears the concierge here doesn’t have maps of the area. And looked at us as if we were idiots for even asking. We managed to locate the laundry without the visual aid and handed over our washing.

We relaxed back at the hotel then had an early dinner. Not exactly a cultural experience – we ate at Pizza Hut.

On Saturday we will set about exploring a little more of Jiangmen and hopefully provide a more in-depth perspective on this city.

Hong Kong Observations – and some history

We had decided that we would visit Stanley on Thursday, a fishing village and tourist attraction on the south side of Hong Kong island. Being of a curious disposition, I wanted to double check how the place got its name. Originally called Chek Chue, we Brits determined that it was a pleasant enough place to be rewarded with an English name. And so it was named in honour of the Minister for the Colonies at the time: Lord Stanley (pictured above). He also gave his name to the town in the Falkland Islands and Port Stanley, Ontario. Minister for the Colonies was a surefire way of having your name immortalised back in the day.

Anyway we set out for a quick breakfast at the ubiquitous local coffee chain here, Pacific Coffee, then headed for the bus stop. We had researched the necessary bus numbers, the 40 or 40X, but hadn’t appreciated that both of these were minibuses with a maximum capacity of 19 people. It was a fun way to cross the island.


We got off the bus at the top of the hill leading down through Stanley Market to the waterfront promenade area. We witnessed evidence that there is still fishing activity in the area: a fisherman had set up a fish-drying line on his boat.


We crossed over to the path that leads back up the hill to the Pak Tai temple which has been there since before the town was renamed.


Judging by the number of smouldering incense sticks, it’s still visited regularly by adherents. We continued to stroll around the village for a while before eventually heading back to what we now think of as our side of the island.

This was our last night in Hong Kong as we were scheduled to catch the ferry to Jiangmen in China on Friday morning so we decided to head out for early dinner and pack later this evening. We decided to eat at The Pawn, a restaurant we had already taken a good look at during our architectural heritage walk from Monday.

IMG-0911We decided to have the ash baked French chicken to share, which took ages to cook but was delicious when it arrived. They brought it out straight after the salt and charcoal crust had been broken for us to have a look at, then jointed it for us to make for easier eating.

As it’s our last day here, there are a few observations I’d like to share. This is probably all blindingly obvious to seasoned visitors but, as a first-timer, these are the things that struck me as very different from home.

Pedestrians: older Hong Kong people have a strong tendency to walk like Prince Philip, with their hands clasped behind their backs. Unless they have a phone, in which case they walk like their younger counterparts: blind to what is approaching and engrossed in the contents of their screens. Multiple near misses and a couple of robust bumps have occurred as a result.

Engineering: Hong Kong Island is simply a steep, craggy peak jutting vertically from the sea floor. Undoubtedly there was some flatter shoreline on which settlement occurred originally but the population growth has resulted in some quite astonishing hillside building. I don’t know if there’s another municipality that has a department specifically dedicated to the inspection and maintenance of the retaining walls that ensure the buildings at higher elevations stay where they were put. And on top of that they love to see a banyan tree growing out of the walls.


Taxis: the Toyota Crown Comfort is an amazingly boxy throwback car but that’s what every Hong Kong taxi is. There are 4-passenger and 5-passenger versions, the difference being whether the gear stick is on the steering column or on the floor.


But the overriding memory I have is how friendly everyone is. Almost every time we stopped to get our bearings, someone would ask where we were trying to find and help us get re-oriented. We’ve enjoyed our stay here, but it’s now time to head to China.

Christmas and Boxing Day in Hong Kong

Christmas morning dawned warm and cloudy. Never having previously visited Hong Kong, we had no real idea of what would be operating here on a public holiday. If it was anything like the UK, facilities of any sort would be few and far between. It turns out it’s nothing like the UK. As far as we could tell, everything was operating pretty much as normal.

We were awake early and, since the deal we got with the hotel did not include breakfast, I researched an appropriate venue nearby. We chose a place that offered diner-type food with a terrible punny name, The Flying Pan.

Refreshed after breakfast, we noticed that we had already walked halfway to the Peak Tram, so we decided to carry on and make the ascent. We arrived at the tram terminus before 10am and there was a queue of about 40-50 people. We joined the queue but were informed that we didn’t need to queue for tickets if we had an Octopus card (the equivalent of London’s Oyster cards). Luckily, we had acquired the cards the previous day so we were straight through the barriers and on to the next tram. The ride up is amazingly steep and it becomes obvious why all of the seats face up the slope.

At the top terminus, most of our fellow passengers headed for the Sky Terrace, but we decided to head further up the hill. The tram reaches an elevation of 396m and a series of escalators to the Sky Terrace ascend to 428m. Our hillside walk would take us to the top of Victoria Peak (which, confusingly, is also called Mount Austin) at an elevation of 552m so a good distance above the Sky Terrace.

IMG_0941The overcast weather made for hazy views down over the harbour. On the way up, we shared Christmas greetings with a family who were out to walk their dog. The father identified our accents. He was from Stirling. He insisted that we take a stairway, marked Private Property, and speak to the security guard, Mr. Wong, to say that Andrew sent us to get a photo from the terrace, which we duly did.

After the excursion to the peak, we headed back down to sea level and back to the hotel. By this time, we had walked quite a distance and done a lot of climbing so decided to rest up in advance of going out for Christmas dinner. We had managed to get a last minute booking for a tasting menu at a place called The Optimist, which was very nice. After dinner, we took the opportunity to call family back home to wish them a Merry Christmas.

Boxing Day started bright and sunny and we had set ourselves some tasks to accomplish for the day. We are due to travel to Jiangmen in China on the 28th, but hadn’t yet organised tickets and were struggling to achieve this through the ferry operator’s online booking engine. We decided to go across to Kowloon and visit them in person at the Hong Kong China Ferry Terminal. We were able to buy tickets very easily in person, so we strolled out on the pier at the terminal to get a look at the harbour from the Kowloon side.

IMG_3031 2Although much brighter than the previous day, there’s still a haze evident in the photos. After a wander through Kowloon Park, we took the subway back to Wan Chai and returned to the hotel.

Wednesday night in Hong Kong means “Happy Wednesdays“. The horse race meeting at Happy Valley Racecourse takes place every Wednesday evening with the first race at 7:15pm, so we decided we should experience that. We checked with the hotel concierge how we should set about getting tickets. He immediately provided us with vouchers for complimentary admission and a free beer each!

We ate dinner at a traditional Chinese restaurant. We knew it was traditional as the first four pages of the menu offered different preparations of shark fin. Ishbel had pork and I had chicken. After dinner, we walked round to Happy Valley and arrived in good time for the first race. And Ishbel picked the winner.


That was a nice start to the evening. We had each bet HKD 50, and Ishbel won HKD 245, so we were immediately ahead. Neither of us won in the next two races so we were behind again but Ishbel again picked a winner in the fourth for a win of HKD 375 so overall we were HKD 200 ahead – about £20.

IMG_3032 Hapy Valley is enormous with multi-storey grandstands and plenty of action in the general admission section where we were. Hong Kong obviously loves its racing.

We left after the fourth race as Ishbel had agreed to indulge my desire to watch Celtic vs Aberdeen in a local sports bar. We took the tram along to Bar 109 in Lockhart Road and I was able to enjoy a 4-3 victory for Celtic. As the only Celtic supporter in the bar, I was grateful to them for putting it on to one of the TVs, especially when competing against a full card of English Premier League matches.

We have had a very different Christmas period to our usual experience, but have enjoyed it enormously.

Another flight, a new continent

We were awake early on Sunday morning and, after a quick breakfast at the hotel, we loaded up the rental car and headed or the airport. As was the case in Cape Town, there was a petrol station right next to the car rental return point so it was easy to fill up before handing the car over to Avis.

Our first two flights were with BA and I wasn’t enamoured of their seat allocation and check-in process. The flight to Hong Kong was operated by Cathay Pacific and everything about the experience was better than BA. I had been able to reserve seats online a month ago, at no extra charge, so I knew where we would be sitting. Online check-in opened 48 hours before flight time and was easy. As for the flight itself, Cathay’s Business Class is vastly superior to BA. We had flown on a 777 to Cape Town from London and the seats were arranged 2-4-2 across the plane. Cathay’s 777 seating arrangement was 1-2-1 giving a huge amount of extra room for storage and stretching out. The entertainment system was also better.

So it was that we arrived in Hong Kong early in the morning of Christmas Eve. There was a huge queue at Immigration so it took us a while to be processed and get out to baggage reclaim. After that, it was a straightforward journey into Hong Kong itself. We are staying in Wan Chai at the Dorsett Hotel so we took the Airport Express train to Hong Kong station and then a short taxi ride to the hotel.

We were here shortly after 9am, so we weren’t particularly surprised when they informed us that our room was not yet ready. I had read about the Wan Chai Architectural Heritage trail, which was a walk around some interesting buildings in the area so we figured that would kill a couple of hours.

Thus we spent some time wandering the streets, admiring various buildings from the “Streamline Moderne” style of Wan Chai’s old market…

IMG_0898 …through the traditional style of The Blue House…

IMG_0902…on to the “Guangzhou Verandah type” shophouse…


and many more besides. Having walked quite a long way, we stopped for a coffee before heading back to the hotel in hope of getting into our room and, for the sake of everyone around us, getting the chance to shower. Luckily, a room was available for us.

The 6 hour time difference from South Africa was having an impact on us and we were feeling a little dozy but Ishbel made sure I didn’t crash completely. After relaxing a little, we went out wandering again to find a venue for an early dinner. We decided Chinese food should mark our arrival in Asia and settled on a place called Hay. Interestingly, it was right next to an enormous outdoor Christmas Tree, and it looked as if a large part of Hong Kong’s 20-something population had decided this was the place to take a selfie.

IMG_3017After dinner, we took a slow stroll back to the hotel. This is our first time here and we were fascinated by the bustling night markets and the crowds that thronged the streets. The Christmas theme is wholeheartedly embraced here, but there’s still a sense of business as usual around it all as well.

More by luck than judgement, we’ve picked an interesting place to spend our festive season

Farewell to South Africa

Saturday was our last full day in this amazing country. It was, as usual, hot. We decided to enjoy some greenery and drove over to Johannesburg Botanical Gardens. It covers a huge area, but the part we were in didn’t seem much like a botanical garden and was really more of a park. It is obviously very popular with Johannesburg’s dog lovers as we were one of the few groups walking in the park unaccompanied by a canine. One alien aspect of the dog-walking culture was that there was no attempt whatsoever at picking up dog poo. We’re so used to that being a requirement in UK parks that its absence is quite jarring to see. You also need to be careful where you step.

After our walk, we decided to take a drive down to see the FNB Stadium – formerly Soccer City and colloquially The Calabash – home of the Kaizer Chiefs and venue for the 2010 World Cup final. It’s a shame that they don’t offer tours but it is a great looking stadium.


After that we headed back to the hotel before going back over to Nelson Mandela Square for dinner at The Butcher Shop and Grill. Since it was our last night, we celebrated with a bottle of The Chocolate Block.


As we made our way home after dinner, we started to feel a few spots of rain, so quickened our pace. The storm clouds gathered as dusk fell so, of course, Ishbel needed a photo.


That photo was taken from the hotel entrance. By the time we got up to our room on the 10th floor, the thunderstorm was in full swing.

And that’s it for South Africa. Sunday will be pretty much a dead day as we fly at 12:30pm and arrive in Hong Kong at 7:05am on Monday. At twelve and a half hours, this is the longest flight of the entire trip.

We will be taking some amazing memories of South Africa with us. The safaris; Robben Island; the Cape; the penguins; the wine; the scenery; the whales; the apartheid years; Soweto and Sipho. All of this and more. Ishbel and I spent years steadfastly boycotting SA goods when we shopped, and it took an active effort for us to re-start buying them after the introduction of majority rule. We were still a little ambivalent about the country when we booked this trip. This has been a learning experience for us. There is clearly still work to be done in managing South Africa’s vast wealth and helping those who still live in abject poverty, but the vibrancy of this young democracy is obvious and exciting. We wish them well and hope to be back.

From ‘Berg to ‘Burg

I failed to mention that we had a problem with our room on Thursday. As we were heading out for our game drive at the crack of dawn, the electronic lock on our room door failed and it wouldn’t lock. We didn’t want to miss our last game drive so we told reception what had happened and they reassured us they would take care of it while we were out on our drive.

When we got back to the hotel later that day, they had taken care of it by stationing a security guard outside our door. It certainly resolved the immediate problem by ensuring the security of the room while we were out, but wasn’t really a long-term fix. We contacted reception again and they immediately said they would move us. The day shift seemed a little more switched on than the overnight crew. They got us a vacant room just across the corridor from where we were, so we had a different aspect looking out over a pond.

So it was that, when Friday dawned – literally at daybreak – we were roused by a vast number of frogs who had taken possession of that pond. Frog love was in the air and they were loudly announcing it. Ishbel, of course, had to get a photo.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were awake anyway, so we once again packed away all of our gear and headed down for our last breakfast in Pilanesberg. I think the waiting staff have been surprised all week at our capacity for tea consumption in the mornings but today we were kept topped up appropriately.

We got everything into the car – which is always a bit of a jigsaw puzzle with the instruments involved – and checked out before hitting the road to Johannesburg. Ishbel has been navigating throughout the trip so far. We decided not to pay extra for data in South Africa (it’s not included in Three mobile’s “Feel at Home” program) so we had included Avis’s mobile data option for the Johannesburg car rental. It has been cost efficient and has come in very handy for getting us around the place.

One interesting thing we got stuck behind on the road was this vehicle:

DSC_0129 2 We couldn’t help speculating that it originally just said “Horses in Transit” until people complained to them that it was cruel to move horses around in such a tiny horsebox, and that’s why “Miniature” is in a different font.

We had an easy journey into the Sandton district of Johannesburg. We are spending our last two nights in South Africa at the Radisson Blu here. After the range of places we’ve stayed, this is definitely higher end but, at the same time, it lacks the soul and authenticity of our other stays.

On the way to the hotel, we decided it was time to find another laundry so dropped off quite a large percentage of our clothes there. We had very little left to unpack. After completing our daily practise on the instruments, we walked up the road to Nelson Mandela Square which is a huge retail and entertainment centre. We keep forgetting how close it is to Christmas, but were reminded by the show that the mall had laid on in the open square.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASince we were in that area anyway, we decided to have an early dinner. Friday night is traditionally pizza night for us back home, so we had pizza at Septimo, an Italian restaurant overlooking the square.

After that we had a fairly early night. I think we’re getting ready for the switch to Hong Kong time.

The last safari – and some geek info

Thursday morning rolled around and we were back on the truck at 5:30am for our last safari in Pilanesberg. We had a sighting of a new animal very early on in this drive – a crocodile.

DSC_0360 2He was hard to spot at first but once you saw him, he was unmistakably not a floating log.

We encountered the black backed jackal again, this time in a family group.

DSC_0373Plus, of course, repeat sightings and photos of many of the animals we had seen previously. Then our guide got a message over the radio: a leopard had been sighted and he had just made a kill. We were going to drive straight over to his location, stopping for nothing. I mentioned previously that we had just about managed to glimpse a leopard but we would certainly appreciate being able to photograph one. And we did!

DSC_0501And if you ever wondered how effective the leopard’s spots are as camouflage on a rocky hillside, see how easy it is to make out his face in this one…

DSC_0517I was asked what kind of camera Ishbel was using for her wildlife photos, so thought I’d provide a full catalogue of the optical equipment in use over the last few days.

Camera Equipment (1)1. Nikon D5100 DSLR Camera Body

2. Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5 – 6.3 Di G2 Lens

3. Olympus Tough TG-5 Compact Camera (My leaving gift from work colleagues – Thanks, guys!)

4. Pentax 6.5×21 Papilio II Binoculars

5. Nikkon DX 18-135mm F/3.5 – 5.6G ED-IF AF-S Lens

6. An iPhone – just in case

7. Apple lightning SD card reader – this gets all the day’s photos onto the iPad for review and editing.

So, that was our last game drive of our stay at Kwa Maritane. We finished the day off with a lovely dinner and a nice bottle of Franschhoek red wine – Anthonij Rupert Optima. We have had a great stay here and would recommend it to anyone looking for a safari experience without breaking the bank.

We’re off back to Johannesburg in the morning for our last couple of days in South Africa before heading on to the next leg, flying to Hong Kong on Sunday.

An early start and a missed day

There was no blog post yesterday as a direct result of the unique nature of South African electrical outlets. We don’t have an adaptor that works directly in the three round pin sockets that they have here, but everywhere else we’ve been so far there have been adaptors that allowed the use of a European style 2-pin adaptor. Not here. My clever attempt at recharging the laptop using the shaver point in the bathroom fell foul of gravity as the combined weight of plug and adaptor fell straight out and into the bathroom sink. Reception has now supplied an adaptor so we’re back in action.

Having gone on the evening game drive on Monday, we were booked for the early version on Tuesday. This meant being up and ready for a 5:30am start. The first day had been exciting enough that we had no problem getting ourselves organised in anticipation of another day of wildlife wonder.

We were on the truck and on the way out towards the main drive when we stopped for a look at some roadkill. At some point during the night, someone had driven over a Mozambican Spitting Cobra, which our driver Sean was kind enough to pick up on a stick and teach us how to recognise if we encounter one in the future. We’re hopeful that situation doesn’t arise.

On to the drive and, once again, we had a full day of animal viewing. There was a lot of repeat viewings, which is only to be expected, but we saw giraffe in daylight for the first time. If you looked at the slideshow from the previous day, you’ll have noticed that the giraffe picture was taken after nightfall. This time, we saw various giraffe in daylight and learned how to distinguish males and females. Apart from the obvious.DSC_0482DSC_0602The male has thicker horns that splay outward and are bald on top. Females have thinner horns which point inwards and have hairs on top. Easy!

DSC_0529 We got some great shots of rhinos and spotted a pod of hippos in a waterhole.


We also heard that there was a  leopard visible so we drove over to where it had been sighted (I had originally typed “spotted” there, then realised the awful pun). We got there just in time. Well, just in time to see a distant leopard shape ascend some rocks and move into deep cover. We have no photographic evidence, but we’re ticking it off in our catalogue of sightings.

We went straight to breakfast after getting back from the drive. The dining room overlooks a waterhole and we were treated to the sight of a couple of elephants having a drink, then stirring up the mud at the bottom of the pool and having a mudbath.

The day got progressively hotter and we were delighted to have chosen the early drive. Especially when the heavens opened about 10 minutes after the evening drive went out. While we were at dinner, we saw some of the people returning from that and they were absolutely drenched.

For Wednesday, we had initially been booked on the early drive again but when we checked in, we were advised to go on the evening drive so that we could participate in the Bush Braai that is a regular feature of Wednesday nights here. However, we were up at the same time as the early game drive was leaving so we decided to use the hide which is available here. It is at the end of a 180m long underground tunnel which leads to a waterhole where you can sit quietly and wait to see what arrives. Early morning is, theoretically, the best time to see animals there. We didn’t get much by way of mammals, but we were greeted by a large frog who had obviously hopped in to the hide overnight. We did see a number of birds that we hadn’t previously encountered, the strangest one being the Hamerkop.

DSC_0749 2We spent an hour and a half in the hide then decided to get cleaned up and have breakfast. The rest of the day was fairly relaxing until we headed out for the game drive and the braai.

The first new animal of the day today was the tsessebe; another type of antelope and one with which we had not been previously familiar.


We also spotted for the first time a black backed jackal.

DSC_0161But it’s the time of plenty in southern Africa as the rains bring plentiful food. And plentiful food means babies.

DSC_0269DSC_0364These two elephants were with a larger herd. Shortly after they crossed our path, the rain started. We were caught in an almighty thunderstorm. Our driver had to stop the truck and help us lower all the tarpaulins around the side, so that was the end of wildlife viewing for the day.

Well, not quite. The rain abated as we were driving towards the exit, but the air was quite a lot cooler than it had been earlier in the evening. Cooler air means predators are more willing to expend energy in a hunt. As the rain stopped, a lion ran across the road in front of our truck and stopped just off to the side. It was pretty dark by this time, but we rolled up the tarpaulins again as quietly as we could and Ishbel managed this shot using her phone. IMG_0797 It’s a little grainy but worth including.

That was a nice end to the evening. Just a pity that the rain had completely washed out the braai, so dinner in the restaurant when we got back.