Thursday, October 25, 2012

El Gato Perezoso

I was lucky enough to have a weekend off when I went for a short work trip to Mexico City in March 2011. I spent one day at the Teotihuacan pyramids, marvelling at the construction, and another day seeing the sights of the Mexico City. I strolled through the San Angel market full of vibrant art, popcorn machines, and a concert band under a rotunda. I walked around the Museo del Carmen, which is a former convent that's been turned into a museum (complete with mummies in the crypt). My day ended with a visit to "La Casa Azul" (The Blue House) where the artist Frida Khalo made her home. It's a wonderful museum now with a lovely garden (which has its own pyramid, as you do).

I was wandering around enjoying the sunlight when I spotted this guy who'd found his own little bit of shade, and didn't look like he was in any hurry to move. A very lazy cat.

The Usual Suspects

The Nairobi National Park is about 30 minutes away from the city centre, so going for an afternoon safari is completely feasible, and a much more exciting Sunday drive than I ever went on as a kid! A couple of friends and I hired a driver (in a little hatchback) to take us to the Baby Elephant Orphanage, the Giraffe Sanctuary and the National Park one Sunday last year. We cruised around and saw wild giraffes, and antelopes and were even able to go for a little walk (escorted by an armed ranger) where we didn't see much more than monkeys and crocodiles, but it was still pretty cool to do a walking safari. 

We then drove through a large herd of zebras, all spread out and grazing in the grass, except for these four, standing equal distance apart, as if in a police line up. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Huffin and Puffin

I'm not sure where my fascination with puffins came from, but I was talking to a Scottish colleague when I was in South Sudan and she mentioned that puffins come to the Isle of Skye where she lives every year around April/May. An invitation was extended for me to visit, and as luck would have it, I had to go to the UK for work in May, so I was happily able to accept. Her neighbour captains a tourist boat, and he told me not to get my hopes up of seeing any puffins, as he hadn't spotted any for a couple of weeks and I might have left it too late. I resigned myself to having missed out, but went on a little boat trip anyway and was happy enough to spot a Golden Eagle and some seals.

After cruising around on the boat for a while, the captain suddenly cut the engine and we drifted towards three little birds bobbing in the water. I wasn't sure what I was seeing at first, but then the bright beaks became apparent and I squealed with delight. Unfortunately we couldn't get too close to them without scaring them underwater, so the photo above was digitally zoomed as far as my camera could cope. They were just so cute and expressive and I'm so glad they'd decided to stick around a little longer before their migration. Puffins!!


Wow, I really have been bad with my travel tails over the last year - and there have been so many! I'm committing myself to catching up on quite a few, they won't be in order of when they happened, I'll try to mix it up a bit. Considering I've spent much of the past 12 months in Africa you can expect quite a few exotic animals, and some less so as well.

For something different I'm including myself in one of these posts, as it's kind of the point. The Giraffe Sanctuary in Nairobi, Kenya is a wonderful, magical place because you're able to get up close and personal with these beautiful creatures. The viewing platform is elevated to (giraffe) head height and when the giraffes are a bit peckish they wander over to eat some pellets. These can be fed by hand as in the photo above, or for a really close encounter, you put a pellet between your lips and get your face slurped off by a long black tongue...there's nothing else like it in the world! I went twice to the Sanctuary during my stays in Nairobi and I can't recommend it highly enough. There are lots of educational posters, and the staff are extremely knowledgeable about all things giraffe. And the giraffes themselves are incredible up close, with their flapping ears, long eyelashes and inquisitive gazes.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Refugee Dog

I was working in Liberia a few months ago. Tens of thousands of people had fled from the Ivory Coast due to an outbreak of violence following a disputed election. One of the border crossing areas was outside a town called Zwedru, which was a 10 hour drive from the Liberian capital Monrovia. It was a bumpy, long and hot drive to Zwedru and then another hour or so to get to Dougee camp.

Construction on the camps for the refugees had begun quickly, and the organisation I work for was responsible for installing water and sanitation systems to provide the newly arrived refugees with not only clean, safe water, but also clean hygiene facilities to prevent the outbreak of disease.

This little guy was obviously hungry and poking around the tents for morsels of food. I don't know whether he was a refugee himself, or a local opportunitic dog, but unfortunately for him the refugees didn't have much food to share and he was shooed off from one tent to the next.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Donkey Double

I apologise, it's been so long since I put up any travel tails. There really haven't been too many in recent months, so I'm giving you a double! I'm working in Islamabad, Pakistan and there are a few creatures around the place, but I'm not allowed to get out very much to see them. But I've seen monkeys by the side of the road that leads up into some hills (apparently if you walk up the tracks you can see more of them), and foxes that run across the road at night. And I'd even seen a few donkeys pulling carts along the side of the road. Of course cruising past in a 4WD does not a good photo make.

I noticed these donkeys from the roof of our office, helping with a construction site that has apparently been going on forever. There are about six donkeys that cart dirt up from the big hole in the ground to a spot behind a brick fence. If you stand there long enough and watch them (which I do when I need a break from my computer) it becomes obvious that the donkeys are pretty cool. They stroll down the ramp unassisted to where the labourers are picking away at the dirt, and wait patiently to be loaded up. Then the donkey totters back towards the ramp and makes it about half way up. It just stands there for a while, not sure of what to do next, and the labourers are so busy with their shovels that they don't notice it hasn't quite made it. Eventually one guy will walk up behind it and give it a slap on the rump, and off it will go. It becomes more amusing when there's a donkey pileup on the ramp.
Perhaps now they've brought the donkeys in the building might actually get finished!!

After my wonderful safari in Kenya I spent a week on the island of Lamu, at the far end in a quiet little village called Shela. There is apparently one car on the whole island, but by far the most popular form of transport is the donkey. The walk between Shela and Lamu town takes about 40 minutes, and during the stroll you get passed by men riding donkeys at break neck speed (all calling out a very helpful "excuse me ma'am" just in time to allow you to get out of the way) and other donkeys that are laden with all sorts of food items.
The streets of Shela are narrow and mostly sandy, and around almost any corner there are donkeys. I liked the little ones.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Jambo Junior

The travel tails have been a bit light on of late, but I've got enough saved up to last a lifetime after my last trip. I went on safari in Kenya to three different parks, the Masaai Mara, Lake Nakuru, and Samburu. The 5 days we actually spent safari-ing were some of the best of my life, it truly was a magnificent experience, and I certainly didn't get "animal-ed out" as I had been warned!! Our guide was a man named Justice, who'd been a safari guide for 45 years, and I jokingly demanded that he find me a rhino and baby, along with basically every other baby animal I could rattle off. I'd been joking about all of them (of course, secretly hoping to catch a glimpse of the Big 5) but Justice delivered.

We'd been roaming around Lake Nakuru, marvelling at the sight of the pink flamingos in the lake, and keeping an eye on a distant buffalo. Justice had driven us far enough away from the buffalo so we could get out and walk around a bit, but he was still wary. We got back in the van as the clouds began to darken and the wind picked up. It was after a pack of babboons that we came across our first rhino. It was absolutely huge, and covered in mud, and seemed completely oblivious to our van parked not 10 metres away.

Justice spotted a "crash" of rhinos (I just googled the collective noun for rhinos and this is it!) further on, and as we approached I spotted this baby, and my heart melted. While the older members of his crash paid no attention to us, little Junior was not impressed. He twice attempted to charge us, the sight of his fat little legs propelling him made us laugh, but he'd chicken out and veer off before he got too close. I could have watched him for the rest of the afternoon, but the rain had other plans for us.

Here's a first for Travel Tails, video!

The photos of more amazing animals can be found on my photo site.