Animal Roundup

Africa provided us an amazing opportunity to see wild animals up close and we saw many different species. It would have been a shame to come to Australia and not find some time to see some of their iconic marsupials before heading home.

Roos and Such

A visit to Maru Koala and Animal Park offered us a quick look to see koala, kangaroos, wallabies, kookaburra, dingos, a Tasmanian devil, red kangaroos, monitor lizards, emus, and wombats,  Marsupials make up a major part of Australia’s native fauna.  Their common characteristic is a short gestation period in the womb, then the young live off a teat in the mothers pouch for a determined period of time until the young is booted off on their own.  The animals were part of a park and food could be purchased to hand feed the kangaroos so though you were not seeing them in their natural environment, you were able to learn about their behaviors and see and touch them.  Occasionally you would see an albino roo or see a koala awake to eat eucalyptus leaves.  We were grateful to have a chat with one of the trainers who has a 2 year old dingo she was working with, teaching it to follow sit, and walk commands. Apparently dingos, more related to wolves than dogs, are temperamental,  and will only do what they want when they want.  They do not bark, they also have no smell to give away their scent while hunting, but howl with each other to communicate.

Penguins

We have been to a couple of places where seeing a penguin was on the list. Our timing was off in one way or another. So, our first penguin in the wild award goes to the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island, about a two hour drive south from Melbourne. It is what it sounds like.  Penguins spend their entire day in the water, sometimes longer, but they will return to their burrows at sunset.  Every night is different, sometimes they arrive in large groups, sometimes in smaller ones.  But they return every evening to parade across the beachhead. The adoring public waits onshore, in convenient bleachers with low lighting and icy wind and rain, trying to refrain their excitement.  The small penguins did not disappoint.  They arrived as darkness set, huddled for safety as a group, then cautiously came up the beach.  It was a low tide on the evening we were there and it made for great visibility as the groups waddled a good distance onto the banks,  The cold Antarctic wind made it an early evening for many.  It was a memorable event indeed.

 

 

Guest Recommendations

We had a nice little run of guests from Australia over the last many months and here are four different recommendations from four different guests.

The Bridge

“If you get the chance, do the bridge.” It was a wonderfully clear day with absolutely no wind and you could see for a hundred miles. Add a lovely sunset and a large cruise ship setting sail from the harbor dock below and you have what it was like for us to climb the open span of the Sydney Bridge to it’s center high point. There could be no better time to be up there.

Amazingly, neither of us experienced much in the way of vertigo or cold sweats. Yeah, we had nothing between us and the world below but a waist high railing, but somehow it felt secure and safe. Being tethered to a continuous safety cable seemed to take away the fear of falling, tripping, or having a crazed person shove you over the edge in a fit of panic.

The Opera House

“If there’s something on, You should take in a show at the Sydney Opera House!”  As it worked out, the 60th anniversary  revival of My Fair Lady was playing in the Joan Sutherland Theater at the Sydney Opera House.  We managed a couple of tickets for a matinee and tremendously enjoyed the venue and the familiar songs.  The stage direction and costumes were enhanced by a talented cast.

Being at the Sydney Opera House overlooking the harbor with the bridge  to one side and the Sydney skyline surrounding you is even more impressive.  The Opera House itself is a multi-venue facility that can hosts anything from intimate settings to the massive concert hall or even the occasional use of the entire open outside area.

The Guide

“I’d like to put you in touch with a friend of mine.” We ended up connecting with an Aboriginal elder in our efforts to get an indigenous perspective of what and how they fit into the current situation in Australia.  It was our hope to compare where Hawai’i is today and see what those common or uncommon parallels were, if any.

Les Bursill met us at the train station and took us into the Royal National Park and into the bush within the park to see Dreaming sights that were significant to the native people.  One area was a place that had rock paintings/carvings of an orca with a seal in its mouth and a shark.  Another depicted the story of two sisters – the Pleiades and another constellation having had a forbidden relationship.  This was the aboriginal creation story of how land and man came into the world.

We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to see these sights given the extremely limited presence of aboriginal culture in the life of an Australian. Les gave us insight into where Aboriginal peoples stand  within the current population of a predominantly white western view. Their situation is far more dire that the current Native Hawaiian circumstances today.  Hawai’i has done a far better job of allowing what is uniquely and culturally  Hawaiian prosper with language playing a major role in its’ success.

If Only

“Let us know what day you arrive” Sadly, it was the night of the big AFL game, too late to join in on the fun. Australian Rules Football is a big thing and we would have loved to be able to catch a game. We thought we might be able to see a game in Melbourne during the first week of the Finals Series, but they implemented a bye week, so the first games will happen after we have gone. “No worries mate. The Storms at Amy.” Which is how we ended up attending our first professional rugby game featuring the Melbourne Storm at Melbourne’s AAMI park.

Rita and Tony

The people you meet when traveling

Rita the bus driver

We chose to  head to Manly and Palm Beach on our second day in Sydney. We expected it to be an adventure via ferry and various bus transfers without any expectations beyond getting to our destination.  An Australian resident on our previous days’ BridgeClimb mentioned that Palm Beach was a beautiful beach along the coast worth a visit.  Tidbits of encounters with people you meet often influence what you do when traveling.  The ferry was a brief 30 minute ride to Manly wharf and we transferred onto a bus then transferred again onto the L80 which did a loop to Palm Beach.  Halfway through our bus ride our driver exited the bus, an apparent shift change,  and Rita boarded and became our new driver.  We continued on to Palm Beach to discover a film crew working on an auto parts commercial at the beach.

Before we set foot off the bus we asked the driver about what to do and see now that we had found our destination. Rita gave us details of where to get coffee-that it would be expensive, what to do at this beach – not much since the water was cold, how to go back to Manly- this same bus does a loop, and where to eat -very few choices here.

As we talked, the film crew, by now annoyed by the bus sitting at their film shoot maybe 4-6 minutes now, asked if we would be long. Rita assured them she was simply answering the questions her visitors from Hawaii were asking and that she was going to finish up with us shortly. She was very sweet to us. As Rita and her bus moved along, we set off on foot to survey Palm Beach. Kenny went down to touch the water, something we try to do when we come across the ocean in other places than home. We checked out the beautiful beach, noted no one was in the water today on this beautiful beach and wandered off.

As we meandered towards the far end looking at the different houses on the cliff sides, we figured that might be plenty for our visit to Palm Beach. About then, an L90 bus came up the road and stopped. It was Rita. She had just finished up a little break and was headed back the way we came. So, having discovered there was no place to eat and we were likely not going swimming today, we chose Rita. She gave us information on which bus to get back to Manly wharf and then to Manly beach. Most importantly, she was just as sweet going as she was coming.

Interlude

After we left Rita, we made our way back to the wharf and caught a bus for a brief ride from Manly wharf to Manly Beach. What attracts people to it? Manly is an expensive community to live in.  It is a little bit of a drive to get to from Sydney but the ferry is quick and efficient.  The beach attracts surfers and beach goers, and it has that trendy cool energy.  It was easy to imagine it during the spring and summer months when the temperatures are warmer.

Tony on the Ferry

Having made the most of our time and met our beach goals it was time to return home. We just made the 5:15 ferry and headed into the front cabin as the ferry set out across the bay. The ferry wasn’t so crowded, but it seemed like every five ten seat row had two people at the end looking out he window….except for Tony…. who sat alone in a row. We asked if we might join him and he was most gracious in allowing us to take up the window seats.

It turns out he is a regular passenger who was on his way home from work, so he was happy to give up some space. A 21 year old university student of asian decent, Tony was combining a degree in business with I.T. training. We imagine that must be what most students are doing these days. Kenny had a ever so brief discussion about using HTML and CSS to build our website, acknowledging the amazing help he had to fix all the stuff he goofed up.

In the end, Tony hung with us as we made our slow exit before bidding us a found farewell. Somewhere in all that was the invitation for him to visit Hawaii. TTFN

Three Words for Hong Kong

Kilohana says:

Symbolic, Bustling, Orderly

 

The trains are busy all hours of the day.  There are rules. It is a bustling chaos in motion restrained by the order of lines on the sidewalks, arrows in the stairwells, green lights or red x’s at turnstiles, stanchions merging entrance lanes,  flashing lights, and directionals on the subway car maps. Add easy to find customer information booths, strict rules about eating on a train, and station personnel to aid passengers in need and you have a human beehive. Hong Kong has been legally turned over to China almost twenty years now yet Hong Kong remains a symbol of success and a haven of free expression for native Hong Kong residents. It is curious to see this symbol of independent expression as China makes the effort for it to be more Chinese and less of its’ previous and perhaps still current self.

Kenny says:

Relentless, Mountainous, Packed

Upon arrival into Hong Kong, it is hard not to note the massive amount of construction going on. After arrival into the core of the city, you begin to appreciate how relentless this push is. The population and employment density in Hong Kong is the greatest in the world. While I could not find it on a list of the densest cities, this may be to the extensive underpopulated mountainous area the city of Hong Kong claims. However, in terms of block by block density, I have never seen anything that compares. Mind you, I have not visited India or mainland China, which limits my appreciation of what density looks like. What I can say, is that New York, Paris, and Tokyo seem positively mellow by my experience.

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Final Days in SA

Get Up To See It

So you want to see what the cape looks like but you don’t have all day? We jumped in a helicopter and got a spectacular view of the cape, a good look at False Bay and our first close up look at the Indian Ocean. We wrapped up with a shot right across a 2000 meter mountain top that fell away to see. 25 minutes in the air is pretty close to enough for us. Much longer leads to that queasy feeling.

A Town to Taste

It seems like Cape Town is cool enough and channels San Francisco a bit. This is a place that wants you to eat and drink. We followed the recommendations of our hosts and ate dinner at NV 80, Codfathers, and with them.

Codfather's fresh seafood selection

Codfather’s fresh seafood selection

Without a doubt, Codfathers was a runaway favorite. Absolutely loved the overall atmosphere, the fresh fish you select by the kg, and the generous portion of lightly sauteed fresh vegetables. The baby kingklip with lentils and fresh vegetables was a close second. Both places featured friendly service that carried the day.

Tasting the Winelands

Another great suggestion was heading out to Babylonstoren in the winelands. We sought out The Greenhouse at the back of the garden and joined the Saturday day trippers for a fresh feast of vegetables from their garden, including raw red and golden beets, mixed greens, and locally sourced citrus. The red cabbage and beet juice was great. Really fresh wins every time and we would suggest others that visit the region make a point of eating here.

The perfect overnighter

It was time to roll. Goodbye Cape Town, hello overnight stop in Joburg. HELLO to the Sunrock Guesthouse. We wanted a super easy, low thinking, high caring, great value place to rest our heads before our Noon flight the next day. This place covered it all. They picked us up, they provided us beverages, they fed us dinner, they fed us breakfast, and they deposited us back at the airport the next morning. Wow! We did nothing that would make our brain hurt or set off the stress-0-meter. They have really got a handle on this market and we’re glad we signed up.

 

Making Connections

Connection One

After reviewing the challenges we faced catching a connecting flight from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit we figured out that we would arrive at the same time if we drove. Seeing the countryside instead of adding a very expensive connector flight made some sense. Six hours to get there and then looping south through the park before landing in Hazyview meant about a 5 hour return. The connection in JoBurg for our flight to Cape Town required us to depart Hazyview around 7:30 am. If we return, we will likely take the much less expensive flights to Nelspruit and drive from there to where ever we are going in the greater Kruger area.

Connection Two

We arrived into Cape Town ready to wash the bush dust from our shoes.  The boutique inn we stayed at had been recommended to us by a previous guest at Kalaekilohana. The name and address was 52 de Wet. It’s located on the West end of Cape Town in Bantry Bay.  The inn is on the cliff side with spectacular views of the bay overlooking the area in a very nice neighborhood. The managers are Russell and Marnie. They property is family owned. Our guests suggested we would experience something like what we offer to our own guests. The property has 8 rooms compared to our five and they have a massive staff that allows them to pull out all the stops. The approach toward guests is quite similar. It does appear that some of their experienced staff are more than capable of creating a five star experience. They certainly did so for us.

Connection Three

We travel light and that makes laundry a part of our reality. We found a great laundry service with a quick turn around. We dropped off our load and set off to see the waterfront, shop for a dinner wine, and grab some lunch before an afternoon massage for Kenny. At our nondescript Indian restaurant, two ladies adjacent to us inquired about our accent. Hawaii! Oh my! The gate opened.

They had just returned from a ‘military’ event honoring an elder of the Khoekhoe indigenous people who had assisted colonizers as a translator.   Priscilla had been asked if she would say a few words at the ceremony and declined graciously for many reasons.  She and her friend did go to the event having wished it would have been open to the public, especially the Khoekhoe and San indigenous community.

We have so many questions about the current status of the indigenous people but had not had the opportunity to ask those questions.  This chance meeting gave us that  brief opportunity.  We shared comparisons about colonization and the categorical treatment of indigenous peoples’ struggles. In some ways our paths were similar, but the overall comparison of where Hawaiians are and where the native Khoekhoe San people are revealed a vast difference.

Priscilla shared with us her perspective that although post apartheid has made improvements there is so much more that needs to happen. You still have clear divisions between those that have and those that don’t.  Although a black middle class exists, it was clear that the disparity in wealth limits how the long term benefits materialize. In some ways, the current situation in the mainland U.S. has exposed a similar challenge.

What we have commonly seen in places we have  stayed and in restaurants where we ate was that all the service workers were usually black. We later discovered that a lot of the service employees we encountered were immigrants and those at our Inn were from Malawi, willing to work for opportunity and lower wages.

Our conversation with Priscilla, including her having met Mililani Trask twelve or so years ago at a conference hosted in South Africa and a discussion about her family name, which is the same name of the street we were staying on, reminds us how interconnected we all are and how complicated things can be. We could have chatted much longer. We both had appointments to make and time was not in our favor.  We were grateful to have had an opportunity to at least ask those sensitive questions.

Kruger Roundup

Next To, In, and Near

We stayed in three different settings during our time at Kruger National Park. We started with a stay in an all-inclusive lodge next to the park that used to have fences but no longer does. We did 5 game drives and spent one afternoon at the lodge watching the waterhole. The Klaserie Reserve is one of several private reserves that abuts the park and within the reserve are a couple of lodges. The drives are both on and off road and a coordinated effort to find game via radio make it more likely that you’ll see a lot of wild animals up close.

Following that experience, we drove our own car into Kruger National Park and spent one night at two camps. We stayed in a bungalow, which is fully stocked to allow for cooking your own food. We made use of the refrigerator but otherwise relied upon the restaurants at the facility to feed us. The restaurants were actually pretty good and offered healthy choices on the menu. At the camps, we signed up for a night drive, a morning drive, and a morning walk in the bush for Kenny. The camps were quite nice and we would not hesitate to stay at them again. The view from Olifants Camp was particularly impressive and is one of the few opportunities to get above the plains and see the expanse of the park.

We concluded our visit with two nights at a friendly bed and breakfast in the vicinity of Hazyview, which is not far from one of the park entrances. While the idea was that we might go back into the park, the logistics involved being up and at the gate around 5 am in order to be able to enter the park around sunrise when game viewing is more likely. Fortunately, we had seen a lot and were able to see some things many say they never see, so it was an easy decision to focus on other things and spend a little time doing nothing. That led us to some fun discoveries.

Well Rounded

Looking back at our visit to the greater Kruger National Park area, we felt like we experienced three wonderfully diverse concepts for seeing the park. Each had a value that the others did not and in the total sum felt enriching. We would likely repeat something similar in a future visit, although we would be inclined to add an additional day in the reserve setting and a couple of extra days in the park setting.

Thanks to Ashbourne Country Estate’s recommendations for a visit to River Walk Cafe and the Summerfields Kitchen we rounded out our Kruger area visit with fresh locally sourced farm to table meals and a private tour with the owner, Ilsa.  It was a great way to bid aloha to the area.

Late Night Drama

The Leopard

Laying at a vantage point near the top edge of a river ravine, this cat had been injured, featuring a slash along its flank. Our guide pointed out that it did not look like a mortal wound and, unless the damage impaired its ability to climb, was not likely to to result in its demise.

The Hyena

Looking every bit the aggressor, this doglike cat moved back and forth in an arc, pressing in closer with each return. Actually in its own family of three species, the hyena looked intense and formidable. It smelled blood and our guide suggested it was most likely hoping to chase the leopard off what it believed was a kill.

The Clowns

Piled into an open air Isuzu jeep with seating for 16, this predator was busy demonstrating why it no longer needed to hear, see, or sense like most other animals in the kingdom. Rumbling up in a huge tin can and armed with flood lights, we humans were able to catch about 60 seconds of action between two animals that had not evolved similarly. We gave up a lot to get these big brains!

The End

The leopard slipped down the ravine to our left. The hyena immediately went to where the leopard had been, took a few whiffs and slipped down the ravine to our right. We clowns turned our clumsy spot lights forward, fired up the tin can, and lumbered off into the darkness. The action would continue into the night without us.

Who’s really the boss?

Some of the players

Senalala offered us the advantage of being off the main roads and our time on game drives was sensational.  On our first drive we were able to see rather quickly African Buffalo, a white rhino, giraffes and elephants.  At an elephant carcass we hoped to find lions and instead found hyenas and vultures.

The King?

Having heard that a couple of lions had been sighted we  started the first morning game drive in cruisin’ the general area. We came upon two female lionesses who were chillin’ at the edge of some denser bush where it was broken by a strip of large open area. On the other side of the strip stood a herd of african buffalo. The fascinating confrontation featured the bulls of the buffalo herd as they kept the young and the cows safely in back while they asserted their authority against the two lions. The bulls took turns moving forward to within just a few feet of the lions.

The Opportunist

We watched from a distance as one lioness casually sat unperturbed while the second lay out of sight as each decided their advantage or disadvantage.   The aggressive buffalo snorting and head shaking, the stomping of hooves, males coming round to support the effort, and a herd that did not run contrasted with lions that seemed indifferent and unaffected, believing that was on their side and that the right opportunity would come.  The buffalo held their own and the lions, perhaps because of our presence, left.  Watching it all happen in front of you reminds you that the will to survive is ever present.

The Quiet One

As we moved away from the lions we surprised a leopard sunning on a termite mound. When she realized we had spotted her she moved tucked under a dead tree trunk. When that didn’t prove effective against 14 prying eyes, she retreated gracefully through the bush. Our guide had not seen one in the area for awhile, so it was one of those chance moments.  All of these animals, large and small, are designed with purpose. How easily they blend into the environment and how obviously we didn’t.

Today’s Bush

The Set Up

We’re staying at a mid-level bush lodge. It’s set up with an electric fence around it, an area where you can sit and look out on a dry riverbed and across to a concrete watering hole that the lodge supplies water to. There are four concrete buildings, each housing two units that look out towards the riverbed. You can not leave the compound for safety reasons. There is no cell phone service and there is wi-fi available in the common area.

The Schedule

You rise at 6 am, have a cup of coffee, and leave on a morning game drive. You return at around 9 am and have breakfast. After breakfast, you have the option of sitting on the veranda or going to your room. Occasionally some animals come to the waterhole, but often it is quiet. Lunch is served at 2 pm followed by a game drive at 3:30 pm. You return from the drive just after dark and dinner is served about an hour later. You can visit with other guests after dinner outside.

The Blog Challenge

Like so many things and so many places, technology has become part of the bush. At this particular lodge, the only option for using wi-fi is to gather in the common area. If you want to blog and publish your work, you run the risk of becoming the stereotypical caricature that our host lamented upon seeing us stationed there. IF only we could have gone to our room.

The Reality

As we have mentioned in previous blogs, we have happily embraced the option of being connected while being engaged with the culture or the setting that we find ourselves in. It allows us to provide insight to our own guests of our travel experience using technology. It also helps us avoid work pile ups and greatly reduces stress.  The reality is that technology is now an integral part of everyone’s daily lives. It should be able to co-exist with and actually enhance today’s bush experience.

The Irony

With a blog on the blocks and our time time at Senalala at an end, we headed out to Kruger National Park for our two nights in the park itself, expecting to publish this blog upon arrival. Surprise. There was neither wi-fi or cell service. It turns out that it has been curtailed to help address animal poaching. Too sweet our just desserts.