Thursday, July 20, 2017

UK visit on the way home

Flying back from Africa, we took the opportunity to spend about 10 days in the UK, mostly in Scotland.  More pics on a separate page.

First stop after landing at Heathrow was driving to Cambridge and finding a bookstore to buy a bird guidebook.  Talk about culture shock, we have not been in a bookstore like that for a long time.

Continuing north, we stop at Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland

Walking Hadrian's wall

Farne Islands, a nesting colony for many seabirds

The main attraction - puffins!

Some other good birds to be seen, razorbills, kittiwakes, and guillemots

Can't go to Scotland without having haggis.  The boys tried some for lunch in Edinburgh, and decided it was fine.

Start of our bike trip, in Oban on the western side of Scotland.  We took the Caledonian trail for 4 days, going along the west coast, and across various lochs to Inverness on the east coast.

The scenery was of course amazing, including a good number of castles along the way.

Can't be in Scotland without rain, and indeed on our longest day biking we had rain all day.  Fortunately the rain was at our back.  Here we enjoy a break on one of the two ferries across a loch.  We found out later the ferry hit a rock later that day, and so there is no longer a way to cross there!

And more rain...  We camped 2 nights on the bike route, but by luck had booked a hostel room on the day we were biking through the rain.

The next morning was beautiful sun, and a great path along the canal connecting the lochs

Lots of wonderful views of the lochs along the path

Outside Fort Augustus was a long slog up a hill to high moorland with lakes.  Again very beautiful, but quite an effort with loaded bikes.

Scotland has very open land laws, including the right to camp virtually anywhere. We found a great moss covered forest along the shore of Loch Ness and claimed a spot among the conifers for a night.

At the end of 4 days, and arrived at the other end of Scotland in Inverness, celebrating with some ice cream on a beautiful sunny warm day!

A day spend in the Cairngorms, enjoying the amazing moorland scenery

Heather in bloom

Tour of Old Trafford, stadium for Man United

Evan is our Man U fan, so we made the pilgrimage to the sacred ground in Manchester

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Leaving Kenya

Two years in Kenya are coming to an end for us.  Some final pictures of our life around Nairobi:

At camp Alex finished Lion's Pride - a challenge involving an assortment of challenges including staying up all night under the Kenyan stars without letting a fire go out.  He's only the 24th person to make it through the challenges in 17 years of Bluesky camps - way to go Alex!

MCC Kenya kids!

Boys leave with Just Connections for their last day of school at Rosslyn

One of many farewell ceremonies, this one at UDO in Machakos.  We had lots of cake in the last few weeks here.

Another cake and farewell, this in Kitui with SASOL

MCC Kenya team!

Showing off his clean water bottle at school in Mathare

Good friends (and WASH promoters) John and Brian.  We had many great times over the last few years.

One of the school pupil's parents, who practices water purification at home.  She has a business outside her house sewing.

Visiting another parent

Proudly displaying SODIS bottles, she is one of the "champion" parents in the WASH program

Soap readily available in the house for handwashing

Lunchtime at Mathare, lining up for ugale and sukuma wiki

At Mukuru, looking over the river behind the school.  This area is rapidly changing, with new buildings going up every week.  The river collects all manner of stuff washing downstream, which people them wade through and sort out anything valuable.  The dike shown does now help prevent flooding in the school's neighborhood.
Ready to head out the door from our apartment

Farewell to our askari David
One last time enjoying the amazing milkshakes at the guest house close to us.
One last post to come, as we spend a few days traveling in Scotland on our way home.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Zambia and Namibia

The boys are out of school, and time to take one last journey in Africa.  We started in Zambia, one night at the MCC guesthouse in Lusaka, then bus to Victoria Falls.

We saw a lot, here are just a few highlight pictures.  For many more pictures go to our other page of pictures, or go to the updated page with pictures of birds we've seen in Africa.  

Two days to explore the Victoria Falls gave us time to enjoy lots of views, plus track down many new birds.

From the Zim side.  The water was still high, so plenty of opportunity to get soaked from the mist.
Camping for 11 days in Namibia, we enjoyed the clear dark southern skies every night.  The southern cross was our companion, lower middle left in this timelapse picture.  The trees around our campsite are red from the light of the camp fire.  
A 19 kilometer hike in the Naukluft mountains gave us great views of the Namibian mountain landscape.  It all reminded us of our days hiking in Arizona!

The rugged landscape is covered by an assortment of unique trees, most of which we could not identify.  Fig trees such as this one we do know - common throughout Africa and often perched in the most unlikely places.

Of course we enjoyed the birdlife.  Much of it was fearless, like this pale-winged starling that seems interested in our morning coffee.

Miles and miles of desert landscape in the clear desert sky.

Camping at Sesriem, on the edge of the huge dune fields of the Namib desert, we took an evening hike up a nearby dune.  Our clothes had some sand in them by the end... 

The late afternoon light in winter was amazing on the dunes.

In the morning near deadvlei, deeper in the dune field.  We head to the top of "big daddy", the tallest dune (about 1000ft hike up).

Nearing the top of big daddy.  

At the bottom of big daddy is deadvlei, a salt flat with dead trees that are some 500 years old.

Down near Swakopmund we take a tour in the coastal dune fields looking for desert plants and animals.  Here our guide digs for geckos, snakes, or something.  Despite the appearance, the dunes had lots of life in them.

One common inhabitant of the dunes, a gecko that was dug up from a slip face.  

Another resident, a small viper that waits in ambush in the sand.  Only the eyes and head scales are visible here, well camouflaged.

With some prodding the snake came out of the sand.  Like other snakes, it moves by side-winding, like a sidewinder rattlesnake in North America.

At Spitzkoppe, we had a campsite tucked between massive granite rock formations.  Alex starts the fire for the evening braai (grilled food), a la southern Africa.

Surveying Spitzkoppe mountain in the morning light.

Mom and son getting breakfast out in the morning.  We had our rooftop tents that easily fold up for the day's journey.

At Cape Cross we visited the well-known seal colony, estimates of which are around 100,000 seals.  Indeed, seals were visible, heard and smelled for a long distance around the site!

Seals and more seals...

Entering the Skeleton Coast national park, heading north to more and more desolate and isolated country.  

The area is known as the skeleton coats because of all the shipwrecks.  Here the remains of a fishing vessel from the 70's are still visible.

Driving inland from the skeleton coast we start to see welwetchia, well known oddities in the botanical world that only live in the Namib desert area.  They're actually conifers, living thousands of years out on the gravel fields of the desert.

Several days at Etosha National Park fulfilled our need for seeing animals.  The wildlife was slightly different than what we see in East Africa, such as the greater kudu here.

Water holes are the specialty of Etosha, as the dry season is progressing, lots of animals were visible at the many water holes.

Hornbills are some of our favorite bird sightings wherever we go in Africa.

We watched some young male lions at one water hole, who looked hungry but weren't interested in putting too much effort into actually getting the food (ahem, teenage boys...)

Water hole at one of our campsites.  Spotlights are on in the evening, which made a nice evening show for all the campers.  At this hole we were entertained by rhinos and hyenas sparring for position.

Black-faced Impala, a regional subspecies.

The good German food was also a highlight for our Namibia time.  Here I enjoy a "game wiener schnitzel" (some undefined wild game, maybe springbok, eland, kudu?).  Evan goes healthy with a salad, good for him.  The day after his birthday, he proudly wears his new Man U football jersey!

At Waterberg, we have a bittersweet last night of camping in Africa under a camelthorn tree.  One of many things we will sorely miss in only a few weeks!

Morning hike to the top of the Waterberg plateau.  Then we headed back to Windhoek to return our vehicle and catch a flight the next morning back to Nairobi.