How Did That Happen?

October 9, 2017

I hinted in my last post about the slightly scary feeling that time has been speeding up.  This time warp experience was confirmed in August when it was noticed that we have been married for fifty years.  How can all that time have passed so quickly?  Anyway it was time to celebrate.  I believe in making celebrations last as long as possible so we started with a superb little dinner party at Two Fat Ladies at the Buttery in Glasgow – the food was exquisite, a bit different from gammon steak and pineapple half a century ago at our wedding reception.

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The ladies have moved on from a wee sweet sherry to exotic cocktails.

A few days later was our main party at the Kingarth Hotel on Bute.

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Founder members of the newly formed ‘Stripy Gang’

It was a great night filled with laughter, food, champagne and good friends.

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“On behalf of my husband and myself ……”

As a wonderful gift to us, our two children, plus wife and partner, arranged a family weekend away crammed with very carefully chosen activities to fit with individual and collective tastes and interests.

We were booked into the Devonshire Arms at Bolton Abbey near Skipton – equidistant for the journeys for both the Scottish and English travellers.  It was a beautiful sunny afternoon when we arrived and a joy to stroll down to the ruined abbey.

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The late afternoon sunshine was pouring through the stained glass windows onto the ancient stonework.

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The weather on Saturday was mixed but we managed to avoid the heaviest of the showers and enjoy the sunny spells.  The day’s activities started with a visit to Ingrow Loco Museum & Workshop.  An interesting little place absolutely crammed with steam trains and artefacts and jolly volunteers.

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You are never too old to dream of being a train driver.

Of course the next step had to be a ride on a steam train – on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway from Ingrow to Haworth.

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I think Jane was the most excited of us all, as, strangely, she had never been on a steam train before.

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Hanging out the window in the smoke.

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Very evocative sounds and smells.

Our destination had also been carefully chosen – this one very specifically for me, a visit to the Bronte Parsonage Museum at Haworth.

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The tour group at Haworth Parsonage

The family were very kind and waited quite patiently while I went a lot more slowly than them, soaking up a perfect mixture of history and literature.

Back at the hotel this was the idyllic view from our room as we changed for dinner.  Colin and Keith went out and watched for a bit – a change from a muddy shinty pitch.

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Our meal  in the hotel on Saturday night was an amazing ‘tasting menu’.  Counting in various amuse bouche, it ran to about ten courses, all of them quite small quantities so that we did not feel stuffed.  Similarly the accompanying different wines for each plateful were only a couple of mouthfuls so no one ended up legless.  We are all interested in food and cooking so it was great fun.

Saturday was a whole day activity and a totally new experience for us – a trip to York Races.  We had tickets for the County Stand and in advance had discussions about what to wear – did the ladies need hats a la Ladies Day at Ascot?  Fortunately it was Family Day so the dress code was relaxed a bit.  We all scrubbed up well, with the girls in frocks and high heels but no headgear, and the boys with smart casual jackets but no ties.  It was quite a cool blustery day with a few showers which caused all the scantily clad young race goers to stick closely to the bars inside.  Some of the outfits were astounding!

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Studying the Odds

I enjoyed learning a new ‘skill’ and having betting explained to me but I found it all a bit tense, as if I was sitting a test all the time – there was not a lot of time to relax between races.  It was fun but I am too mean to get carried away – I don’t like handing out money and getting nothing back!  I preferred to watch the assorted people and the beautiful horses, and drink more champagne.

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I would have been better off simply choosing my favourite colour than trying to work out odds, starting prices and all the other information available.  It was fun and exciting at times but I am clearly not a natural punter.

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The thunder of hooves.

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First Past the Post

Our Golden Wedding celebrations were all wonderful in their different ways.  We are so blessed  to be surrounded by such loving, caring, and thoughtful family and friends and to have had each other for such a long time no matter how fast or slow time passed.

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More Spanish Cities

July 2, 2017

Seville was a new adventure for us and had just as much wow factor as Barcelona and Cordoba.  We were quickly becoming immersed in the juxtaposition of Moorish architecture, middle ages Christian additions and adaptations, and the pomp and bling of Catholic Christianity.  This can be epitomised by the Moorish entry into Seville Cathedral.

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The Moorish horse shoe shaped arch flanked with Christian saints and angels.

The cathedral was started in 1401 on the site of an earlier mosque and took a century to complete (Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is simply following the long building pattern).  My guidebook says “… in sheer cubic vastness [this] is the largest Christian church in the world … the vast Gothic arches that line the nave inside the cathedral are so high that the space within the building is said to have its own independent climate”

The piece de resistance has to be the immense  golden Retable Mayor built between 1482 – 1564 and now reputedly the largest altarpiece in the world.  Again I was glad of my binoculars for closer inspection.

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Attached to the cathedral is another piece of ‘recycled’ history – La Girelda, the symbol of Seville.  This was originally a minaret of the mosque built in 1198.  In the 14th century the bronze spheres on top were replaced with Christian symbols and the final ornate design we see today was completed in 1568.  We climbed to the top to enjoy the amazing views over the old city.  Intriguingly it wasn’t steps we had to negotiate but gently sloping ramps from floor to floor – much easier on the knees during the descent.

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After the Cathedral we moved on to Seville’s most iconic building – the Reales Alcazares.  Again I find it easiest to quote from my guidebook – saves me overloading on the word ‘awesome’.  “This extensive complex embodies a series of palatial rooms and spaces from various ages.  The front towers and walls are the oldest surviving section, dating from AD 913 and built by the Emir of Cordoba, Abd ar-Rahman III , most likely on the ruins of Roman barracks.  A succession of caliphs added their dazzling architectural statements over the ensuing centuries.  Then came the Christian kings, particularly Pedro I in the 14th century, and finally the rather perfunctory 16th century apartments of Carlos V.”

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The mosaic tiling on the lower walls in places was very delicate and very beautiful.  In the following photograph you can also see some of the intricately carved wooden doors.

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Wandering through courtyards and rooms, everywhere we turned there were yet more stunningly beautiful things to see.

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The refurbishment of this part has replicated the original bright colours.

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At times the beauty around us was almost overwhelming but away from the iconic tourist sights we found Seville to be a warm, friendly destination.  When surrounded by such amazing architecture and decoration even our hotel got in the act – viz the lift doors in the main lobby.

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The weather was mostly sunny and very hot – but you will know the phrase ‘The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain …’.  Well it certainly did in Seville one afternoon when we had two 10 minute monsoons.  This turned out to be a very friendly experience as the cafe pavement sunshades became refuges for every passerby including us.

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Our last awesome Spanish city was Granada  – where, of course, the Alhambra dominates.  This is the best preserved mediaeval Arab palace in the world and had long been on my wish list for a visit, and it certainly did not disappoint.

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The Alhambra, Granada

Seen from across the valley the Alhambra looks a quite austere, regular, defensive palace but once you start to wander around the inside it is an almost overwhelming visual feast.   There was not the layers of Muslim and Christian worship we had grown accustomed to in our other three Spanish cities – this was purely residential, luxurious and oozing power and wealth.

From the guidebook – “A magical use of space, light, water and decoration characterises this most sensual piece of architecture.  It was built under Ismail I, Yusuf I and Muhammad V, caliphs when the Nasrid dynasty ruled Granada.  Seeking to belie an image of waning power, they created their idea of paradise on earth.  Modest materials were used (plaster, timber and tiles), but they were superbly worked.  Although the Alhambra suffered pillage and decay, including an attempt by Napoleon’s troops to blow it up, in recent times it has undergone extensive restoration and its delicate craftsmanship still dazzles the eye.

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 Patio del Mexuar

This council chamber, completed in 1365, was where the reigning sultan listened to the petitions of his subjects and held meetings with his ministers.

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The temperature in Granada was in the mid 30s – a wee bit hot for we fair skinned Scots so we found the exquisitely decorated surrounds of various pools and patios particularly welcoming.

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Looking out to the Garden de Lindaraja

The Islamic calligraphy and arabesques around this window were superb and the garden beyond looked very peaceful and inviting.

The Alhambra is rightly a huge tourist attraction and after a few hours of sharing space with our fellow gawpers and trying to absorb everything I was seeing it was very pleasant to head next door to the Generalife, the country estate of the Nasrid kings – ‘tranquility high above the city, a little closer to heaven.

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Patio del Acequia

Looks like we had the place to ourselves!  I don’t know how I managed to take the above photograph with no other tourists in view – they were wandering about in their thousands – and I hope they enjoyed the Alhambra as much as we did.


A Tale of Four Cities

June 19, 2017

The cities in question were the four we visited last month when in Spain.  But first a little digression.  I always smile when filling in my address on an online form.  Usually there is space for two address lines and then the next one says ‘city’ – so I ‘promote’ Rothesay to city status.  Then I feel I should apologise to my fellow residents because we all chose to live here and not in a ‘city’!

Our trip to Spain was a concentrated sight seeing feast of Andalusia but we started with a short visit to Barcelona.  This was very specifically to see again the wondrous Sagrada Familia.  We last viewed it about 16 years ago and knew that much more of the building has been completed since then.

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Sagrada Familia dwarfing the surrounding city.

When we were last there it was even more of a building site, with really only the eight giants towers in place.  This time the main sanctuary is almost complete. It has been consecrated (in 2010 by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI) and is already used occasionally for worship.

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The huge, elegant, soaring pillars.

To stand inside this amazing space is to make you feel at the same time very, very small, and also in awe of the  immensity of the human brain able to design and build such an incredible building.

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Exquisite detail on the enormous doors.

Antoni Gaudi who designed the Sagrada Familia was in charge from 1883 until his death in 1926 but others have continued to bring his visions to reality.  Gaudi was very influenced by nature and passionate about conveying the teachings of the Gospels and the Christian Church so every detail whether large or small has meaning.

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Stained Glass Windows

The sun streaming through the glass simply filled the sanctuary with multi coloured light – it felt like standing inside a rainbow.  I loved the stained glass – no depictions of  saints, the Holy Family or Bible stories – all abstract, but a very carefully planned movement of colours.

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In most ways it has the form and shape of a traditional cathedral but just on an awesome scale.  Modern building technology and new materials allow for the heights both inside and outside to be greater – very clever geometry means that the supporting pillars appear slim and elegant.

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I used my binoculars frequently to look at the details and the sculptures on the two main facades – the Nativity and the Passion.  Sagrada Familia is now estimated to be completed by 2026.  I pray that I will still be fit enough to return then.

Whilst in Barcelona we made a quick return visit to another of Gaudi’s masterpieces – La Pedrera with its iconic chimneys.

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The other three cities we visited were all new to us.  In Cordoba we were introduced to another building ,equally as awesome as the Sagrada Familia but from a different era – La Mezquita, a mosque begun in AD786 which was frequently extended during the next six centuries until it had over a thousand pillars.

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Just a few of the forest of pillars.

The 10th century Mihrab in an octagonal chamber has some of the finest Byzantine mosaics in existence.

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In 1523 about 60 pillars were removed from the centre of the mosque at the behest of Emperor Carlos V and a huge Christian cathedral built inside and to this day it has been a place of Christian worship.  My guide book says “La Mezquita’s identity as a mosque is inescapable – notwithstanding the cathedral insensitively placed in its centre like a huge spider in its web.”

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Cordoba Cathedral

The next photograph shows how refurbishment work has been done in places on the outside to show how glorious it must once have looked.

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I loved the narrow streets of Cordoba – sometimes only a few feet wide, and sometimes just enough space for a car to squeeze along with its wing mirrors folded in.

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It was hot in Spain so we were very grateful for our cool hotel, housed in a series of very old buildings with a number of inviting little courtyards to relax in.

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Not sure how authentic the ‘ancient broken Roman pillar’ was but the oranges were real and were virtually falling off the trees as we watched.  As well as the ‘formal’ sightseeing at La Mezquita and other places we had the huge privilege of being in the right place at the right time.

Cordoba was holding its version of Gardens Open Day – La Fiesta d Los Patios d Cordoba, and we discovered the most beautiful garden gems normally hidden from sight behind the whitewashed house walls with their lace covered, ornately barred windows and solid wooden doors.  We had a sketch map outlining a route around the neighbourhood and like many local people we popped in and out of the riotously coloured and lovingly cared for private patios.

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Hours of watering every day!

That is two of my four Spanish cities – Seville and Granada will follow soon.


The End of Another Year

December 27, 2016

It is the few quiet days between Christmas, with its weeks of anticipation and preparation, and Hogmanay with its reflections and shenanigans.  I realise I haven’t blogged as much this year and posted nothing at all in the last three months – no real reason but lots of excuses – so I will, as tradition dictates, finish 2016 with a quick review of September to December.

Three times we had ‘little’ holidays – two within a few hours driving time and one a short haul flight.  When we visit family or friends in the south of England we usually just shoot past the Lake District en route for somewhere else but in late September we stayed on Ullswater for a few days of glorious autumn sunshine.

 

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MV Balmoral

The sister ship of the PS Waverley came to visit in Rothesay, so of course we had a wee sail on a rather chilly, grey day.  A nice ship but in my eyes without the personality of her sister.

Another weekend at the end of October we had reason to visit Pitlochry for a few days  when the autumn colours of the trees was quite spectacular.

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In amongst all the trips away life on Bute continued in its fascinating way – the dwindling numbers of tourists and the starting of winter activities underlining this time of transition between the seasons.  There was a good dry spell of weather and the farmers gathered their harvest in.  We celebrated at church with a service and a scrumptious lunch.

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He didn’t have to do all the dishes by himself!

At the beginning of November we jetted off seeking some winter sun – and found it very pleasantly warm in the south of Tenerife.  The Hotel Bahia del Duque was beautiful, peaceful and with a choice of restaurants.

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The perfect terrace for breakfast and afternoon tea.

There were a number of swimming ‘pools’ scattered down the hillside, all beautifully set in the landscaped gardens.

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There never seemed to be anyone in the water when we strolled past en route for our daily amble along the esplanade to the next village along the coast.  It was a very luxurious place and we even had our own wee plunge pool – I could manage three strokes from corner to corner.

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The young lady in the next photograph had gone to a lot of trouble to get comfy whilst she sunbathed.

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This short break set us up nicely for the whirl of activities that arrive with December.  Each of the organisations we are members of holds a Christmas party or dinner ( I try to avoid turkey until Christmas day, while Colin chooses it every time) – lots of fun and laughter and good company.  There were also concerts and special church services.

The Fundraising Committee at the United Church of Bute held a Cake and Coffee morning in mid December and I helped mount a display of Nativity Sets in the sanctuary at the same time.  It was amazing – 18  depictions of the well known story but each one different and having its own story to tell (bought in different countries, some very old and some fairly new etc).

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My sister brought this set from Russia many years ago.

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Beautifully carved; hand knitted by various members of the congregation; very old.

The whole church was beautifully decorated.

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…. and even some cakes were suitably festive.

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Would I be tempting fate by making a New Year Resolution four days before 2017?  I’m not promising but I will try not to leave such long gaps between my blogs next year.

The weather has been very wild for the last ten days – storm Barbara followed swiftly by storm Connor.  The inevitable disruption to the ferry services over the whole of the west coast of Scotland has been immense.  We personally were not affected as fortunately none of our family’s comings and goings were scheduled for ‘no service’ days but many folk around us suffered  anxiety and the last minute rearranging of already complex travel arrangements.  I hope my readers have had a joyful and Happy Christmas.

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Christmas Day 2016 on Ettrick Bay


Etosha National Park, Namibia

July 23, 2016

The last section of our holiday was spent in the north of Namibia in amongst the wildlife of Etosha.  We were based at Ongava Lodge very close to one of the main entrances to Etosha.  We arrived late in the afternoon and were immediately taken out on a game drive. The rules had changed now – no more hopping in and out of the vehicle to inspect things up close, we had to stay in the car at all times; after dark we even had to be escorted from the bar / dining area to our room.

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This young male lion was purposefully leading two much younger cubs – the guide reckoned he was about 4 or 5 years old and was ‘babysitting’ the others.  The adults could be seen way up ahead heading out hunting.

The light was fading fast when we found this trio.

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Not the best quality photo but it was getting dark.  I was very surprised and  very excited when we were told we could get out and walk closer to the rhinos.  The driver of the next vehicle had a rifle and escorted a dozen of us a good bit closer.  We all took photos and the guides in whispers explained what we were seeing.  After my adrenalin rush began to subside I began to think what should I do if the rhinos charged – run, stand still, no trees to climb, could I lie down and pretend to be already dead?  Of course my fantasies were totally unnecessary – not sure how much the rifle was for show or if it would ever really be needed.

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The gun was real – but would he ever use it?

For the next two days Jeremia took us into Etosha National Park.  I am struggling to find the words to describe the awesome sights we saw.  Although I have seen countless wildlife documentaries the real thing was so much better than I expected.  Such a privilege to sit quietly and simply watch.

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Little and large

Colin unexpectedly fell in love with the giraffes – driving along we would spot a long neck  appearing above the tops of the trees and be subjected to an imperturbable gaze through those beautiful long lashes.

Beauty …………

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Steenbock

….. and the beast (literally).

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Wildebeest

Etosha covers 20,000 square kilometres of northern Namibia and is scattered with about 60 waterholes, some natural and some man made.  There are gravel roads between the waterholes and vehicles are not allowed to go off road.  This protects the animals and allows them peace while they drink and move about.  It is such a huge place and the wildlife so abundant that sometimes we would have a waterhole to ourselves or at most a couple of other vehicles.  I think the most important aspect to me was that the animals totally ignored us, never even glancing up.

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The Batchelor’s Club at Okaukuejo

This is a group of young males.  Within the park there are three ‘resorts’ – fenced areas with accommodation, restaurant, shop and administration / security offices.  The above photograph was taken from a seating area at the resort.  It is the humans who are fenced in here and the animals completely free to roam, as it should be.

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Dusk at Ongava Lodge 

When we returned to the lodge in the late afternoon it was such a pleasure to stand on the veranda with a cool beer and continue the animal watching.  The waterhole was lit at night so even a nocturnal toilet visit involved animal watching!

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I loved the mix of animals at the waterholes.  Jeremia explained how they all coexisted without any obvious strife – except for lions of course, although even then the other creatures kept a wary eye open but knew if the big cats were likely to be hunting or not.

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Springbok, ostrich and oryx.

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In the centre of Etosha is the Pan – nearly 5,000 square kilometres of totally dry, hard baked clay and salt, seemingly visible from outer space.  Driving along a bit of the edge was like any shore line with grassy, low, sandy dunes but instead of welcoming cool water beyond there was glinting hard whiteness as far as the eye could see.

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The dot in the middle is an oryx, a long way ‘offshore’.

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My new best friends.

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Rietfontein Waterhole, Etosha

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We watched this ostrich having a thoroughly good dust bath, finishing off with an exhilarating shake – just like the wee sparrows in the garden in Rothesay.

All the time we were taking photographs at Rietfontein we, and all the animals, were aware that a few hundred yards away resting in the shade of the trees were two lions.  I have debated with myself whether I would have liked to see them hunting or not – have concluded that in spite of how exciting that would have been, I would really rather not see the gory details.

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Lions in the shade.

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I have kept my promise and not shown you the ‘hundred’ photographs of elephants we took.  Our trip to Namibia was awesome, so varied in the different areas we visited and made extra special by  our very knowledgeable, friendly and caring guide Jeremia.

Well, just one more picture of a few of the elephants of Namibia –

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All Creatures Great and Small – in Namibia

July 17, 2016

I mentioned in an earlier post about how good our guide, Jeremia, was at spotting wildlife.  Driving along a dead straight, gravel road, across a featureless plain at about 50 mph he notices this.

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Namaqua Chameleon

This little fellow was only 6 inches long and quietly sitting by the edge of the road absorbing the early morning sun.  After a few minutes with us watching he got up and started to move across the gravelly sand surface.  After only a few strides he looked like this –

Namibia Select 090616  - 133and when the chameleon was about two yards away the only way we could pick him out was by the tiny shadow his body was creating.  The camouflage was perfect.

Namibia Select 090616  - 136We saw lots of ostriches and learnt that several females over a period of about ten days will lay their eggs in one communal nest.  Two dominant females from the flock will then raise the entire brood – so all these funny little scuttling chicks are not brothers and sisters.

I hadn’t thought about it in advance but being in a very arid country meant that there were very few insects about – far too hot in the daytime and too cold in the evening, although in a couple of places we had mosquito nets over our bed and we took antimalarial tablets for the northern most part of our journey.  The beautiful red dragonfly was by a pool at a restaurant.

Namibia Select 090616  - 138Namibia is a very large country with a very small population.  Apart from in the two towns of Windhoek and Swapokmund the only people we saw were those working in the tourist industry.  From reading the guide books and visiting the museum in Swakopmund I knew a little of the country’s history, the European colonisation and the movements of indigenous peoples, and Jeremia was keen for us to visit two groups of local people who with support from his company were trying to improve their own lives.

Namibia Select 090616  - 142This extended family group of Himba people were making and selling beaded jewellery.  The women’s hair was utterly fascinating – many tight, narrow plaits thickly coated with ochre mud, with the ends combed out into bushy ‘tails’.

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At the Hairdresser

The woman having her hair plaited was sound asleep.  We made a donation in respect of taking photographs of the people, but with Jeremia translating for us we discovered that they had a $50 and a $10 American notes which they had no way of exchanging for Namibian dollars.  After checking the exchange rate on Jeremia’s mobile phone we were happy to help.

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The other main ethnic group were the Herero people and their appearance  was totally different.

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Buying Dolls from a Herero Woman

These ladies wore full length, very colourful cotton dresses – the Herero national costume.  The story is that the early Victorian era Portuguese settlers were unhappy with their almost naked house servants and covered them up with flowing dresses.  Today, long after the days when styles of clothes could be imposed on folk, and even after independence, the Herero people choose to continue the tradition.

As we approached the Damaraland area we started seriously looking out for elephants.

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I didn’t know that an elephant puts its back foot directly on top of its front foot print – so at first glance it could be a two legged creature.  I have also added to my skill set that I can tell how old a pile of elephant dung is!

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About 24 hours old.

Unfortunately no sightings before we reached our next accommodation at Damaraland Camp, another luxury tent.  On the first night here, all 16 guests were taken by torchlight away from the main camp to a wonderful barbecue party in a ‘boma’ out in the rocky desert.  Boma is the Afrikaans word for a stockade, and that is exactly what it was.

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Waitresses at the boma

We sat around a huge camp fire and later ate our meal by oil lamps.  The waitresses were a huge entertainment as they described each course of the meal, and the wines, firstly in English and then in the native ‘click’ language.  When a word could not be translated into click they improvised with miming and gestures – ‘lamb’ had much baaing, and if something was going to be particularly delicious there was much tummy patting and eye rolling. Great fun.

The next morning our elephant tracking practice paid off.

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Only the first of many.

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Over the next two days we saw many family groups of elephants browsing the trees in the dried up river beds.  Such a joy to simply sit and watch these magnificent creatures – they totally ignored us.  One afternoon we visited the world famous rock carvings at Twyfelfontein, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Twyfelfontein, Namibia

The animals carved on these 20 or so slabs of rock are thought to be about 5,000 years old. As well as the instantly recognisable giraffes, wildebeest etc there is a sea lion on the far right – 100 miles from the sea.

On the last morning at Damaraland we were up at 5.30am to be taken for Bush Breakfast to watch the sunrise.  This was a stunningly beautiful location but quite chilly until the sun rose from behind the mountains.

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The staff singing a farewell song after breakfast.

On our way north we visited a petrified forest in the Aba-Huab Valley.  The trees are calculated to be about 260 million years old and are so perfectly preserved they look as though they were felled only a few years ago, and they are very, very big – over 30 metres long.

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You can even see the bark in places.

Dotted in amongst the fossilised trees were many Welwitschia plants, probably the strangest plant I have ever seen.  They grow in the most inhospitable place and some are thought to be as old as 2,000 years.

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Welwitschia plant

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Termite Mounds

In this post I have deliberately not included the many other animals we saw in these few days but instead concentrated on some of the other things we saw and experienced.  The final post of the Namibia adventure will be wall to wall animals, which is exactly what it was like in Etosha National Park.

To be continued ……


Where are the Elephants then?

July 8, 2016

It was to be a few more days and many more amazing sights before we saw any pachyderms – and then from an unusual angle.

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The only sound was the bubbles in the tonic popping.

The next morning we headed off early to drive all the way to Swakopmund, with many stops on the way to admire the changing scenery.

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Hot Air Balloons at Dawn

I would love to do that but Colin is not so keen and we didn’t really have any time to spare. Jeremia, our guide and driver, was constantly on the look out for anything interesting to show us.  We stopped at a small town called Solitaire for coffee and fuel,  a fascinating place.

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Rainfall Statistics

Only 6mm of rain in the whole of April and very little in the first three months of the year. The very unusual 479mm in 2011 caused some amazing sights with flash floods and ‘permanently’ dried up river beds having water in them for the first time in living memory.  Would love to have seen that.

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An Austin Eight in need of just a little TLC

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Jeremia, as well as being proud of his country, was also very proud of the company he works for – Wilderness Safaris.  He was very keen to take photographs of Colin and I together and would spend time getting us arranged in the perfect spot with the logo on the Landcruiser in prominent view.

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Gaub Pass, Namibia

That little patch of blue was the only open water  we saw, apart from the waterholes in Etosha.  It was in this area that two young German geologists hid, and lived off the land during the first few years of WWII – highly recommend the book The Sheltering Desert by Henno Martin. We gradually turned towards the coast.

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near Walvis Bay

This beautiful view was a lagoon at the edge of an industrial site at Walvis Bay.  While staying in Swakopmund, a delightful holiday resort, we had two special trips.  Firstly a mini cruise to see the huge Fur seal colony – thousands of them, all strung out along the water’s edge.

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Swakopmund’s German roots are still evident.

We changed transport mode for our second trip.

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I was so excited I could have flapped my arms and taken off without the plane!  This was such a privilege – soaring like a bird for a couple of hours over the amazing landscape.

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Swakopmund golf course

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Dried river beds

The pattern of the scrubby bushes, seen above, clearly show the route of this dried river and all its tributaries.  Being photographed from above creates the impression that the ground was flat.  It is a smooth rock surface but with higher ground between the dried water courses.

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This is the way to learn about geology.

We flew down a part of the infamous Skeleton Coast – hundreds of miles, dead straight, huge Atlantic rollers crashing onto the wide strip of sand which just morphed into the never ending desert.

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Skeleton Coast, Namibia 

The name, of course, comes from the fact that many, many ships have foundered on this inhospitable coastline.  I was intrigued to learn that the vast majority of seamen who have lost their lives here died of thirst rather than drowning.

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The Zeila foundered in 2008

Due to modern navigational and weather forecasting aids shipwrecks are rare today.  The next day we drove up the coast and had difficulty finding the Zeila again because of an atmospheric great fog bank drifting on and off shore.

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Zeila shrouded in fog.

Earlier I mentioned our first sighting of elephants  – can you spot them in the slightly out of focus photograph below?  I was being joogled about in the wee plane and shaking with excitement.

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There is a mother and baby elephant just below and to the left of the white vehicle and five more off to the right.  We took hundreds more photographs of elephants – much better ones to follow, but this was the first.

…. to be continued.