A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: debbep

Cambodia

Siem Reap

sunny 34 °C

November 11 to November 15, Days 41 to 45

We flew from Hanoi to Siem Reap in the afternoon and the arrival process was very smooth and fast for the visa on arrival. After we picked up our luggage we had an arranged pick up from Memorie D'Angkor Boutique hotel.
The staff at the hotel were wonderful and we were upgraded to a large suite which was nice.

The hotel arranged a car for us the following morning for 7AM to take us out to Banteay Srei before the heat got too intense. First stop was to get the Angkor pass. A three day pass for $62 USD good for any three days out of 10. I see Lana is anxiously waiting behind me for her pass ha ha.

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The crowds were not too bad which was nice, but it was very hot and humid even at that early hour.

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We stopped at a couple of more sites on the way back, but came back in the early afternoon for lunch and a rest in the room to read and escape the heat.

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A tuk Tuk was arranged for 8AM the following morning to visit Angkor Wat. I was feeling pretty bad from this cold so told Lana and Doug to go on without me and I just rested in the room. These are Dougs photos.

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That evening we took a Tuk Tuk to an Indian restaurant that was good and then walked around Pub Street for a bit. It was pretty crowded with lots of partiers.
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I felt a bit better the next morning so we all filed into the Tuk Tuk at 8AM and went off to Bayon temple, one of my favourites. Again the crowds were low but the heat and humidity very high. We walked around and over to the Elephant Terrace and then to Old Tom.

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Ta Prohm is my all time favourite and we arrived there just before noon. When we got there the crowds were very light, but a few smaller groups from France arrived and it got a lot busier. I love this temple.

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In the evening we took a tuk tuk to the Apsera Theatre to have dinner and watch some Cambodian folk dancing in a beautiful small theatre. The show was around an hour and a half and we really enjoyed it.

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Our short trip to see the temples of Siem Reap was over and we flew to Thailand for a few days to end our farewell to Asia trip. Thanks for following along. Until next time.....

Posted by debbep 02:04 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Vietnam

Saigon, Can Tho, Hoi An, Hue, and Hanoi

overcast 27 °C

Vietnam.
November 01 - 11
Days. 30- 40

We flew Singapore airlines from Bali to Singapore with a two hour connection to continue on to Hanoi. Great airline, wonderful staff, lots of leg room, good food and pretty much on time.

After arriving in HoChi Min city, ( Saigon) we got some cash from the ATM and grabbed a cab to Solex Hotel in district 1, not far from the airport. The hotel is not near anything but it is just a place to sleep for the night and squeaky clean, affordable and just fine with us.

The included breakfast in the morning was so,so. We arranged for a driver to pick us up at 8. He was not there by 8:20AM so I phoned and he had been sitting outside since 7:30 and not bothered to come and let us know. He did not speak English or even attempt to communicate which made for a very long 3 1/2 hour drive
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Our destination is Can Tho, in the south of Vietnam on the Mekong river at a small homestay called Green Village Mekong. The driver stopped the car and pointed to a long path and gestured that we take our luggage and walk the rest of the way.
I don’t think so buddy.
I gestured for him to call the homestay and in less than 2 minutes Thy (pronounced Tea), our hostess, was there to greet us. He ended up maneuvering the car down the small road/path to drop us in front.

Tea is the most enthusiastic bubbly woman I have ever met. Her English is perfect and her sense of humor wonderful
An ice cold glass of lime juice is there to welcome us and was so very appreciated. There is a main thatched building, two stories which houses the kitchen dining area, reception and lounge. Upstairs is their own living area I think. She has a very cute young daughter around four years old but she was not feeling well so rather unhappy. Another young boy around 7 is also there, it is a family run business.

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Our cabins are spacious, thatched roofs and walls, with a number of gaps to the outside, a veranda over the river with chairs and hammocks to relax
Rustic and charming

A lunch of fried rice and vegetables was served and then relaxing on the veranda until four when we set off down the river in a small wooden boat to explore. Another young couple from Barcelona joined us

Everyone on the water is so friendly, smiling and waving as we pass, young and old alike.

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So much garbage though. It is heartbreaking
These people are quite poor, if your house is on the water you don’t pay the taxes you pay if it’s on land.
We see people bathing in it, getting water for dishes etc , washing clothes and fishing in it. Some have gardens in the water out front of their homes growing water vegetables. Not only is there lots of garbage in the water, I wouldn’t be surprised if the sewage from these homes doesn’t go here too. Makes me feel so blessed to have been born where I was.

A gas station on the water
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We cruised for two hours and watched the sun go down
Our driver stopped at a park and got us each a freshly pressed sugar cane drink which was quite sweet but good.
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Dinner tonight was a hot pot on each table with vegetable broth and fresh vegetables to add to it. There was rice and pork on the side. Meals are included here as there is not much close by.

Our second day at 5:30AM we make our way into the boat again for our morning adventure just as the first light is showing. The couple from Barcelona joined us again

Every morning farmers come from the areas around with fair sized boats to this part of the Mekong to sell their fruits and vegetables to people on smaller boats who buy for their restaurants mostly. They hang what they are selling on a large pole.
Potatoes , oranges, pineapples,mangos and so many vegetables are in large bags waiting to be sold. They arrive at 5AM and usually sell out by around 10.
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Our boat pulled into an area where there were many other tourist boats all huddled together. We just push our way between them to get to this small boat with a young couple selling a soup to everyone for breakfast. He would make the bowls of broth, meat , noodles and vegetables and she would hand it to the patrons and then collect the money. Sometimes the bowl is passed from boat to boat to get to the customer. They do a thriving business it was very busy. I did not have any as it was a meat stock, but the others enjoyed it, somewhat.

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Next stop is on land at a rice noodle factory. It was very interesting how they made them and let us participate. Some are dyed with plants to be pink, green, purple etc.
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Last stop was a huge land market where our guide, Peter, walked us through explaining many things. Peter is a high school biology teacher who loves his job but also loves guiding a few days a week. We really enjoy his wit and incredible knowledge

There are lots of variety of meat hanging for sale, god knows what some of it is. It was a tough go for me for part of it. Lots of fish, frogs, snails snakes.
Most are alive until you want to buy them.

But lots of fruit and vegetables too, Peter bought quite a few different fruit to eat on the ride home. Some new ones for most of us and very tasty.
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It was a great morning, and we were back just after 10:30AM. We just relaxed the rest of the day. The skies opened up in the after noon so we had great timing.
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Hoi An. November 4-6. Days 33-35

The little girl liked to sit on our big suitcase while we were waiting for our transfer to the airport. When we walked out to the road to meet the car she laid on it for a ride. I said to Thy that her daughter may have to come with us. She said “ Yes please”. Ha ha. It had been a rough couple of days
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After our one and a half hour flight from Can Tho to Da Nang an arranged car was there to pick us up which worked out well. Immediately you saw a difference here, roads were better, buildings in better repair and less traffic. A large new divided highway with two lanes each way almost the entire 40 minute drive.
We had to walk a bit when we arrived as the road in front of the hotel is being redone. All streets in Hoi An are being raised a foot and a half or more as there is much flooding here every Fall. A few weeks ago they were under a couple feet of water, people took boats down the streets to get around. Typhoon Nori struck.
Another one was supposed to be here now but thankfully diverted. This part of the trip was always up in the air, weather dependant. Glad it worked out for us. Some years the water is 6 feet inside the buildings. People move everything up to the second floor.

We walked around the town, and then went for a late lunch early dinner at Morning Glory in the old town. It was just as great as I remembered it from five years ago. I had two appys, garlic eggplant and spring rolls which were very different from any I had had before. I licked the bowl.

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Dusk meant that all the lanterns were lit on the shops and the boats on the water. It is quite magical. There are many couples dressed in Vietnamese matching outfits, wedding or engagement photos being taken. We walked through to night market. Block after block of stalls selling the same things. I had to have a banana pancake as we had done this before five years ago when I was here. It wasn’t as good as I remembered it but still fun to have. A crepe with Nutella, banana and coconut flakes.
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There was a place on the river on the second floor where we had a cold drink and people watched for a half hour and then off home.
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Doug and Lana spent the day looking at some of the heritage buildings and temples in the old town. I had done this before and woke up with a nasty cold so just hung out by myself most of the day.
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There was a bit of a party in front of our hotel, lots of men eating, laughing and cheering. The residents and business on this block put on a dinner for the workers who fixed the road as a thank you. How nice is that?

We went back to Morning Glory for the same thing again for dinner

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Hue
A car picked us up and we we drove for three hours on an amazing new highway with almost no traffic. The freeway took us through the Marble Mountains and it was very beautiful.

Tonight we will stay at Hue 1962 Inn, a small quaint place not too far from the citadel which is where we want to visit. Our arrival was around 2 so we figured we had plenty of time to grab a bite to eat and then start our sightseeing.

The young man at the front desk speaks virtually no English. He said there are so many resteraunts close by and gave us directions
We walked for over an hour, we never saw one place to eat. We don’t have wifi, cos we are Canadian and it is too expensive so we tried to ask people.
Nobody spoke any English and we don’t know any Vietnamese. When we gestured they would point, but it just meant we would keep walking
I saw a couple of older tourists and asked them. “ no there really are not any restaurants here, just street food.” And coffee shops but they don’t carry any food. Not even a croissant
I am getting really frustrated now, and Hangry!
We were now lost, no google maps and no Vietnamese
Finally I spot a pizza joint! I don’t care at this point , just feed me
We were able to get on wifi but by the time we were done and heading out to the Citidel it was going to be dark in a half hour and we were not sure how to get back.
We looked very lost, arguing about what to do, and having disagreements between ourselves when a man can and asked if we wanted to have a cyclo ride to the hotel. He said he would call another guy and take us and after some arguing between us and negotiating with him we were off
Doug and I in one and Lana in the other. These are basically pedi cabs.
We were actually not that far from our hotel after all.

Hue
I did not want a repeat of yesterday so last night I booked a car and driver to take us around to all the historic sights for the day. We went to a pagoda, three different tombs and finished off at the citadel. He even found us a place to stop for lunch which was appreciated

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The buildings and architecture were amazing and the tile work and ceramics incredible. Most were from the 16 th century
We had a flight to Hanoi tonight which left on Bamboo Airlines, a new player in the Vietnam airline market. I thought they were great, but I thought all the flights we have taken have been fantastic and pretty much right on time
We arrived into Hanoi just before 10PM nd were met by our arranged transfer and then to our hotel in Old Hanoi

Hanoi November 8-11

Doug and Lana did a walking tour this afternoon. Unfortunately I am feeling very sick and so stayed back in the room. I have a terrible cold but really just feeling generally unwell. Thankfully I have done this walking tour before. I hope I am better tomorrow.

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Halong bay cruise

Jane and I did a two night three day cruise here five years ago and it was one of the highlights of Vietnam for me. We did not have the time this trip so I looked into many options and found what I think was the best. Jade sails was a full day tour that had seven hours on the water, most only had three or four
We were picked up from our hotel at 7:30AM and taken by luxury 7 passenger van on the new freeway which only took two hours. The ship holds over a hundred guests but we were only 27 today which was great for us
The dining room inside is where we met first and the ship is very new and modern with floor to ceiling windows which was great. There are two upper decks as well.
We starting cruising around 10:30 AM

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A buffet lunch was served at 11:30 and it was amazing. Lots of seafood and different delicacies but they really catered to me and another young woman who was also vegetarian bringing us lots of plates of fantastic food. I shared with Doug and Lana it was too much food but so appreciated. The staff were all young and enthusiastic and had a small amount of English language
Our ship mates are diverse in age and nationality.

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A while later we stopped and some people who lived on the water in this area came by with wooden row boats. We were joined in our boat by a couple from England and thier son who has been living in Vietnam.

Our boatman rowed us through some tunnels into a bay that was so beautiful and peaceful. He asked if anyone wanted to try to row, looking right at Doug. Not sure if he gets many takers, none of the other boats participated, but Doug did a great job and rowed us for around 20 minutes. It is not as easy as it looks and I think the boatman was very impressed and sat back and enjoyed the relaxation for a bit

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The next stop was for kayaking or swimming. Lana went kayaking for a bit but Doug and I are both now felling pretty crappy so stayed back. This was a followed by relaxation on the deck and then a cooking demonstration and participation class that Doug did well at making spring rolls. Another spread of fruit and spring rolls as we sailed back into the harbour and watched the sun set. They brought me some vegetarian ones

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All in all I don’t think we missed out on anything from only doing a one day tour. It was the perfect amount of time and we were back at our hotel at around 8PM

Hanoi. Last day. It will be a low key day, I really hope we can shake this cold before we get to Cambodia
We fly tomorrow afternoon and start Tempelling the next day.

Posted by debbep 01:09 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Our last two weeks in Bali

Amed, Sanur, Nusa Penida

sunny 29 °C

October 22 to 28. Days 19 to 25

We said good bye to our wonderful staff at Satori and met with Eka for our drive to our next location, Lipah beach in Amed.
Taking our luggage down to the parking lot by motor bike
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Sideman was a bit of a diversion but I was told how beautiful the countryside was and it did not disappoint.
We pulled off the road to walk through some ones rice field for a bit. Once again the drive was on very twisty narrow roads up and down the mountains.

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Around four hours later we checked in to Bintang beach villas, a small resort with 9 units. We had two clean, spacious rooms each with small fridge and kettle. The staff was so wonderful here. My only complaint was intermittent wifi, but that seems to be it common in a number of places. We were spoiled in Ubud.

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Right out front is a beautiful coral reef which is why I chose to stay here. Fall in the water snorkelling
Fish and coral I have never seen anywhere else, it was wonderful. The beach had black sand which was like walking on hot coals. But in the water it was white sand. We saw a number of large turtles too.

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A fellow on the beach took us out in his jukung pontoon boat around a couple of bays to where there was a sunken Japanese ship not far off shore. Cost was 500,000 IDR. These boats are quite small and unique and rather challenging getting in and out of especially for us old folks.

It was great snorkelling and a wonderful coral garden with so many amazing fish. The problem was the current was so strong we would just get swept right by it and when I tried to turn around to go back it was like a very strong lap pool, I was giving it 150% but not getting anywhere.

I finally grabbed onto the pontoons and our boat driver trolled Doug and I over to where we started and we were able to hang out there for a bit. Lana did not want to go back in at that point.

We ate at only a couple of wrungs as we enjoyed them so much. One was Wrung Indah on the beach and they had a great vegetarian curry for only $5
We really enjoyed talking to the family members who owned the place.

The other was Arung Warung, we went here twice for dinner and once for lunch. It was so good, fusion Indonesian food. The owner/ cook had perfect English so we could ask lots of questions. I had a jackfruit dish one night and then vegetable teriyaki rice bowl twice and veg spring rolls with her own siracha sauce which I could have eaten with a spoon it was so good.
And as a bonus at night her husband played music and sang covers which was great. He was a fantastic guitar player.
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We would spend our day snorkelling and swimming out front for a few hours, then reading by the pool with a dip now and then to cool off, followed by dinner and early night. It was so relaxing once again

One day we did venture out for some sightseeing. We left at 8:30AM to head for the Gates of Heaven, Lampuyang temple. We hired Wayan for the morning and he dropped us in the parking lot. We had to take a small bus up the twist and turns of the narrow road to the top of a mountain. From there we had to walk. A woman asked if we would like a motor bike ride the rest of the way for 5,000 (4.50 CDN). We said no thanks. Ten minutes later we had wished we had said yes . It was an incredibly steep hill to walk up and we were pooped by the time we got to the top but happy to be there, a sweaty breathless mess none the less.
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This is probably to most popular and famous instagramable place in Bali.
I had number 154 for a photo. We came early to beat the crowds, so we thought. It opens at 8 and we arrived just after 9. They said it would be about a two hour wait.

Problem was there were groups, so a group of eight people would have one number so it was deceiving how long the line up would be

Some young men sat in front of the gates and one would call out a number. 88. ( shit this will be a while)
You would go up to the gates after giving one of the young men your cell phone. They would yell out next pose, next pose. You were allowed a total of four, some took more. If you were a couple you had four together and four each alone. It was a process but these guys moved everyone along and did so in a very kind and caring way.

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Four hours later we were getting close. Problem is after two hours you have already invested so much time you don’t want to give up now.

We love the pictures though so in the end I guess it was all a worth it. Thankfully it was an overcast day, which meant that unfortunately you could not see the volcano in the background but it wasn’t super hot.

fruit seller on the way down. Durian really does stink even with the skin on
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Next stop Turta Ganga, Hindu water park. This was a beautiful park with lots of statues and pools with stepping stones. Fish food was sold to get that perfect photo, but that meant these were very well fed Koi and some the size of a walrus.

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We invited Wayan to join us for lunch, which is expected when you hire a driver but he was the only one who really expressed his gratitude for it.

It was in the temple grounds so far more expensive than usual but the food was good. In the end for the four of us for a good lunch and drink including tip it was $44, or $11 each. Our big splurge.
We loved Amed and the people here were all so incredibly lovely.

This is how much of the goods are transported in the smaller areas
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October 28 to Nov 01. Days 25 to 30

After six nights we hired Wayan to drive us to our last stop, Sanur. It took about four hours but we stopped on the way at an indoor market to buy some oranges. People come to sell thier local produce starting at 4AM every morning.

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We then stopped at another water park, Tasman Ujung.
Lana climbed to the top of these stairs but coming down would have been too difficult for me because there was not a handrail.

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Sanur is very busy with so many tourists compared to Amed. We have a decent room, at Besakih Beach hotel which has a pool and restaurant
located on the beach. There is a boardwalk in front that goes for quite some ways past shops and other places to eat.

On our second to last day Lana and I did a day trip to an island close by, Nusa Penida.
What an ordeal it was for me, by body does not have the flexibility it once did, the car accident a year and a half ago has really messed me up. I am glad I did it, but there will not be a repeat performance of this kind in my future I don’t think
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A van picked us up at 7AM to transfer us to the ferry terminal, which was only about a 10 minute drive. He parked quite a distance and then we walked the rest of the way, which seemed to be the way it was everywhere today.

Doug decided to stay back at the hotel and did not join us

Waiting for an hour we see the outdoor area in organized chaos as different tour groups arrived as well as individuals waiting to go to one of the islands to stay.

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Four other people from India were going to snorkel with us. None had snorkelled before and one did not even know how to swim!
A woman arrived and yelled “ok let’s go”
We have to remove our shoes at the terminal. I have very sensitive feet, riddled with arthritis so there was no way I could walk in bare feet the rest of the way so I put on my flip flops. Glad I did cos we had to wade into the water and there was lots of rocks and pieces of coral to step on.
These people must have feet of leather.
The waves were active, we lined up to wait our turn in water up to my thighs until we got to the back of the boat and now it’s my turn to board
Someone took my backpack for me, there was a small area to step on but my legs are too short, I had to kneel and then go from there. A guy on board holds out his hand, another from the other side and I hoist myself up. They took my flip flops and put them in a big bin while we found our seats.

The boat probably held close to eight hundred passengers, half being on the top deck
It was supposed to take just over a half hour, but it was an hour and a half later that we arrived.

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We did not go up to the beach like the other fast ferries for some reason and had to transfer to smaller boats which took us in. The boys on the boat had a real hard time securing it enough on the beach for us to get off, and then we had to go in, without shoes, to the beach. The waves were higher and stronger here. But I managed to do it without having to take a swim.

When we left Sanur the guide took our photo and sent it to our guide on NP so he was there to greet us and help us find our shoes and take us to the snorkel shop to get geared up.
Once again we wade out to get on another boat with 8 others to begin our snorkel tour
The guide says they did not see any Manta rays yesterday and hopes we are luckier. So do we.

The ocean is very choppy as we are slammed into the waves heading south to our first stop, Manta Bay. Other boats are heading back and the drivers are holding up fingers and doing thumbs up so I am assuming today has a good sighting.

Pulling into the bay I am not sure I will go in. This is the roughest water I have ever been in. But the Indians gear up, put on a life jacket and are excited to go. And they have never snorkelled before!

Lana gets in, which I am very proud of her as she is not a confident snorkeler even in calm waters. There’s a young guy built like Arnold Schwarzenegger travelling on his own and he jumps in without a life jacket. As I am going down the ladder to get in, he is trying to come up
“ I need a life jacket” he says.

I went in without one but it was very choppy. The others on the boat were all huddled together around the guides and some floatation rings, and the guides kept calling me over to be close to them. I stayed away, the swimmers were scary. So nervous and grouped together , getting a fin in the face if I got close. No thanks. I kept saying I was fine on my own. Lana and I kept watch over each other

Then I saw one. A manta ray about 5 or 6 feet in diameter, swimming close to the surface.

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I have snorkelled with mantas before in other places, but these were different and bigger.

Then I turned around and four were swimming straight for me, just below the surface. The first one came almost right up to my face before diving just a few inches below me, and the rest followed.
Thankfully I had the presence of mind to snap a couple of photos with my underwater camera. That was worth it right there!

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We went to three other snorkel spots , Lana and I did not got into the first one, ( I am a snorkel snob and it has to be good for me to make the effort)

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The next two were okay, but again high waves and strong current.
The last one the current was so strong that we just jumped in and the boat picked us up down the way. Didn’t even have to swim.

It was sad though the amount of plastic garbage in this area. It really took away from any beauty of the reef for me.

I spent some time talking to “Arnold” , who’s name was actually Sergio. He was around 38 I would imagine, from Brazil but now living in Australia where he has his own martial arts studio. He was kind of moping at the front of the boat so I went up to talk to him and found out he was very seasick. He was quite embarrassed I think , this big strong guy taken down by some waves. He never went in the water again. More on him later.

We showered off and our driver, Wayan took Lana and I on private tour of the island for a few hours. Every first child in Bali is named Wayan, so there are a lot of them. They also have second names but I think they must only be used by close friends and family.

If we thought the roads in Bali were narrow and twisting, Nusa Penida was wild. The car had to stop many times to let someone pass going the other way and there would be less than 1/2 inch between them. On one corner the other car scraped Wayan’s mirror. But neither of them said or did anything, just kept driving. They are all just so chill.

If a car came around the corner too fast, or too far over Wayan would comment that they were probably from Bali. Local people know how to driver there. There is a car ferry that comes once a day.
You can not rent a car on NP which is a good thing, but you can rent scooters and there were many tourists on them. Mostly young people, but then most of the people on NP and the ferry were around 30ish. Lana and I are by far older than anyone. As a matter of fact the guys working on the snorkel boat called Lana and I ‘grandma’

We stopped for an included lunch at a tourist place and saw some of our other snorkel mates. Sergio was there and having lunch and said he was feeling a bit better which is great.

Kelingking beach was our first stop, one of many very popular instagram spots. It is just gorgeous. There is a path and stairs to go down to the beach but our grandson Silas did this a few years ago and suggested, as did our guide and everyone else, not to do it. It is a dangerous path.
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Next stop Broken beach, or Manta bay which overlooks where we were snorkelling. We got vertigo just looking over the edge, and no guard rail of course. But the view again is spectacular

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Last stop is Angel Billabong, another gorgeous view. The pathways were very steep and not in great shape but Wayan took such great care of me. I am okay going up hills, it is going down that is a real challenge .

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Farming is the main industry in the island, after tourism. The rolling hills with so many tropical trees is just breathtaking. Wayans family farms corn and other crops. There is not enough water to grow rice here. He said monkeys are a problem for them though. Their farm is near the jungle and the monkeys come in a steal bananas and mangos. Like our deer and rabbits to some degree
There are so many monkeys in Bali
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The people of Bali really rely on tourism, for many everyone in the family is involved somehow, drivers, guides, hotels and resteruants. Shop keepers as well, so two years of no tourists due to the pandemic really took its toll on folks here. They are all just so happy and grateful to have us back again.

Time to get back on the boat. Even more wave action now, I have to step up onto this small step beside the engine that is hip height. Try as I might I could not do it, my hips are just so screwed up from the accident.

All of a sudden someone from behind lifts me up and places me the boat! I found out it was Sergio, to my rescue. Rather demoralizing but I was grateful none the less.

It was after 6PM when we finally got back to the hotel, exhausted. A quick change and Doug joined us for dinner, once again across the street at Mona Lisa. And again it was amazing food and service.

Today is Monday, October 31. They don’t celebrate Halloween here that we can see, maybe some tourist places but it’s not a Hindu or Balinese thing.

Today we are just relaxing and packing up. Our Bali holiday has come to an end.

Reflections:
The people of Bali are the kindest, happiest and most chill of any place I have been. I never heard a harsh word or raised voice while I was here. And I think it must rub off on the tourists too, as almost everyone of them is also very laid back.

The countryside is spectacular with its rice fields, rolling hills and tropical vegetation.

Hindu temples everywhere, but different from India’s. Very beautiful.

The food is so delicious. It’s not often as a vegetarian/ vegan I can enjoy such a variety of incredible food. In one month I only had one meal that was not great.

Inexpensive. Holy cow. I wish I lived closer. I can see why the Australians are here so often, for some it is just a four or five hour flight. Apparently it is more expensive than it was pre pandemic because like everywhere else the prices of fuel and everything else has gone up, but still so affordable

Sanur, and I imagine Changu and anything close to Denpasar, the capital, are quite a bit more expensive than the other places we went. But still, affordable holiday for sure.
Bali has been incredible, and we are so glad we came. Having close to a month here really made us feel like we have been to Bali.
Tomorrow we start the Vietnam portion of our trip.

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Posted by debbep 05:06 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Bali part 3

Ubud week two

rain 28 °C

October 14 -17 days 11 to 14

Our second week in Ubud we did a lot of relaxing, swimming, reading etc. Sometimes we would walk into town now and then and go for another amazing lunch somewhere. We did a bit of shopping but I pretty much just bought some jewelry. Most of the tourists here are between the ages of 20-30 and size zero. Earrings always fit.

One day Lana and I decided to head to the Ubud Aloha Swing which is where you sit on a swing and they push you out high over the Telleganan rice fields. You have probably seen young girls and their instagram posts of this but we decided to have some fun and do it as well. We did the full meal deal with the dress and flower crown and all. Doug was very patiently waiting with Eka our driver.

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Kumulilir coffee plantation was our next stop. We had a tour of all the plants and herbs grown and learned how the coffee is roasted in the small villages. They grow arabica beans but they also have a small animal, a Kopi Luwuk who eats the coffee bean, partially digests the outer part and then poops out the bean. This bean ends up being roasted and is the most expensive coffee in the world. You may have seen the movie ‘The Bucket List’ with jack nicholson playing a millionaire enjoying his special coffee when Morgan Freeman tells him it’s Poop Coffee. (Great movie if you haven’t seen it).
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Doug tried a cup and said it was not that special. Maybe even kinda shitty. Ha ha

We had a tasting tray of teas and coffees. We each ended up buying some tea. We enjoyed lunch but it was the spiciest meal we have ever had.

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The next couple of days were very rainy, torrential. We hung around at home, I read a book in two days, we watched the Earth Chanel, documentaries and did not much of anything else, there were rain warnings . Looking at all the beautiful photos of home and the great weather on the island right now makes it harder to take.
Apparently the weather has never been this bad here in October
I did go next door for an amazing massage. 1/2 hour for 70,000 IDR ( $6.50 CDN)

Tuesday October 18, day 15
Another rainy day. We went off to the Puri Lukisan museum to see some paintings and art, some dating back to the 13 th century. Very sad though, the buildings are not in great repair and I don’t know how this art survives the high humidity.

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We were in the last building and going to head for the restaurant when the skies really opened. I have never seen rain like that before. We waited inside the building for about 45 minutes and then decided to go anyhow. The water on the sidewalk was mid calf so we walked barefoot, the water rushing and pouring down the stairs. We are drenched, our small travel umbrellas not offering much cover

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Lunch and warm tea were welcomed while we waited it out. Eventually the water receded and the rain was just a normal medium downpour.
We had hoped to go to the grocery store but the main road was blocked off, we saw a fire truck and front end loader heading down the street to deal with a landslide close by at a school. A wall collapsed. We heard that no one was hurt. It was a soggy walk home, stopping off for take out dinner on the way.

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Wednesday October 19, day 16

Breakfast was prepared for us this morning by Wayan and Putu again and is was delicious as usual. The weather was good so we took advantage of it by swimming in the pool for a few hours and reading our books.

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The skies opened at 2PM but only for an hour.
The farmer next door is plowing up all the fields. He does it barefoot as it is so muddy. The white egrets and ducks follow after him looking for the good stuff he is churning up. The fields are planted twice a year. It doesn’t matter the season, just every six months .

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We have lots of critters around and in the evening a few come inside the house, frogs, toads, lizards and geckos. That we know of. Could be Others.
The other morning I woke to a very loud “OhOh. OhOh”. Not sure what that was, I think a gecko of some kind but it was in our bathroom for a while.

Doug went to a sound and meditation session and Lana and I walked over to Sweet Orange again for some late lunch and take out dinner, trying to avoid the rains. It was a lovely late afternoon

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Doug really enjoyed his sound and meditation.

October 20, day 17

Lana and I headed down the hill at 8am as our little area was just waking up. We were picked up by our transfer in front of Starbucks at 8:30AM and there was another woman in the front from Amsterdam. She was around our age and we were all off to spend the day doing batik. I had booked this the night before to take a class at a place called Five Art Studio which was located twenty minutes out of the centre of Ubud in a beautiful rural area.
We were joined by another couple our age from the US, a younger woman from France and a young Japanese couple. None of us had any batik experience so we were all novices ready to learn and there were five young men ready to help us.

We each chose a drawing that we liked and then traced it onto cotton fabric.

Now came the hard part. A small utensil was used with a well for hot wax and a sharp end to paint the lines. You had to hold both the pen and the design at a 45 degree angle or you would drips large blobs of wax on to your cloth.

There were lots of happy accidents that ended up being part of the design.

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When that was done we went downstairs to apply the dye and paint our picture. The studio was located in such a beautiful setting with orchids and wonderful vegetaion everywhere.

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After the wax was removed by the heat of the sun, the fabric was sealed with a glue and we were all finished. The entire process took about four hours and was a lot of fun.

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Lana and I asked to be dropped off near the palace and walked to Sami’s Warung for some of the fabulous jackfruit tacos we enjoyed so much a few days ago. Doug was there waiting for us.

Lana bought another pair of pants and a dress and I bought some pants and a carving of a flying angel who will grace my office.

The rain held off but OMG it was so humid I was melting. We could not get into the pool fast enough. Kasey, the owner of our villa, came by for a couple of hours and we had wonderful visit. She has been everywhere in the world and so she was a lot of fun to talk to.

October 21, day 18. Our last day in Ubud.
This morning was clear and offered a decent sunrise. I sat on our deck at 6 Am for an hour or more.

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Putu and Wayan made us our last breakfast as we leave Ubud tomorrow. It is going to be hard to get used to a regular place without a private pool and staff. We have been so spoiled.

The morning was a spent at Kasey’s, the owner of our villa and five others close by. She is in a four bedroom unit , villa banana, a short walk from us and it is stunning.

The rains came again this afternoon, we had hoped to go for a hike but it was a no go, but at 4PM they stopped so we were able to head into town and go for dinner to Lazy Cats Cafe, a vegetarian resteraunt. The food was amazing. I am turning into one of those people who takes photos of their food 😁🍵🍔🥗

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Across the street was Pura Dalem Temple where we watched a Kecak Fire and dance show. It was great and very different from the other show we saw.
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At the end a fellow was running into the burning embers and flames of the burning coconut husks. It was quite a performance.

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The rain held off all evening and we even had a dry walk home. The last time we need to walk up that steep narrow path dodging the scooters.
Tomorrow morning we will make our way east to the beaches of Amed. Ubud was a wonderful and relaxing two week stay, but now on to the next chapter.

Posted by debbep 13:23 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Bali, Ubud

semi-overcast 27 °C

October 9 day 5

We are sad to pack up and leave this morning but excited to see what new adventure await us.

Our new driver Bandi arrived to pick us up at 11 AM and we set off south through the twist and turns of the mountains. It was a very lush and picturesque drive, but I was sitting in the back seat and after a couple of hours had to switch to the front. The roads are extremely narrow with hairpin curves every few minutes. I don’t get motion sickness often, but this was just too much for me.
I am not sure how any foreigner can drive here, even the motor scooters which are the most popular mode of transportation zipping in and out of traffic look so scary to me. Dogs wandering on the sides of the road all seem to have such great road sense. I cringed a few times thinking we might hit one or two
But we aren’t going that fast, traffic is quite often gridlocked.

I had arranged a couple of stops for our long drive to Ubud and the first one was Handera Gate, which a Hindu temple gate and a very popular instagram photo stop. There was a line up and we watched all this beautiful young women with their lovely gowns posing for the iPhone. We realized we should have dressed up for this photo shoot.

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Most of Bali is Hindu and the majority of sights and temples are all Hindu temples, Ganesh seems to be the fan favorite seeing the little elephant everywhere. A lot of Buddha faces and statues as well. Christians and muslims are on the island and all the religions live in harmony they say.

Bandi pulled off to the side of road to give us a view of Beratan lake. There were quite a few people at this rest stop enjoying refreshments from small cafes (warungs) nearby. There were three men, 2 of them very well dressed in Balinese outfits, one black and one white. We were told the one in white was a was a holy man. He really took to Doug and I, wanting lots of photos taken, he kept putting his arm around us and getting very close. He did not speak English but the others did and said he was 70 years old and had travelled to England, Canada, USA and many other places. They were going to a wedding that we had passed in the next town. It was hard to tear away from these guys, they became our new best friends
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There was also a couple of guys at this pull off with a python and flying fox (Bats) to have photos taken with. I was convinced by him to hold the bat and have my photo taken which I am surprised that I did.

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Our next stop was Ulun Danu Beratan which is a Hindu temple located on Beratan Lake. It was very busy with bus loads of people, many Muslim groups as well as others. It was a beautiful setting and we spent about an hour walking around the gardens, but now we are starving.

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Bandi took us to a big restaurant but I didn’t like it, it was a Buffet with tour groups which I hate, so we found a very small Warung on the side of the road overlooking some fields and had a great lunch.

Arrival in Ubud was through a bunch of back roads which was very scenic and avoided a lot of the gridlock. Ubud looks very busy, many shops and cafes everywhere and lots of people. We finally arrived at a small parking lot and there were three people waiting for us with scooters. Our villa is up a a narrow winding path that is not wide enough for cars so we now travel the rest of the way by scooter.
As I got on the bike the skies opened. I said let’s go anyhow, the rest went under cover. Our suitcases were in a wagon at the back of one of the bikes and stayed under cover
The ride up the path was a bit hair raising, the rain got heavier and heavier. When I finally arrived at Satori villas I was dripping wet
Our villas is lovely, overlooking rice paddies and on the path to a famous walk called Kajeng rice field. We have the entire villa to ourselves , living room kitchen and huge outdoor deck with dining area. The second floor has two bedrooms with private bath and another deck overlooking the rice fields where we can watch the ducks and geese take care of the pests for the farmers

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We have a private pool and a little casita with another king bedroom and private bath, outdoor shower, but we won’t be needing that
Doug Lana and our luggage arrived when the rain slowed down. Our three staff, Ketut, Wynan and Putu can’t do enough for us but left us to settle in.
The weather went from bad to worse. Thunder and lightning and torrential rain like I have never seen. It was so loud and the sky stayed lit the lighting was so constant.

We had a bit of fruit and chips that we brought with us and that would have to do for dinner because we were not going anywhere
Tried to have an early night but the thunder was so loud it was not possible for a while. When it stopped we had major fireworks happening close by for over half an hour and then very loud electronic music, boom boom boom until around 1AM or so.
One of the Kings children just got married and this is day three of celebrations. I didn’t mind, I kind of liked it remembering when I was younger and loved to dance to disco music
I did finally get to sleep.

October 10 day 6

A lazy morning. I sat on the upstairs patio looking out over all the lush vegetation and flowers around our property. We had a video chat with our son Taylor which was great. The rain stopped and we were hungry after only having fruit to eat, so we made our way down the foot path, dodging scooters on the way, and walking past many little shops and Hindu temples on the path.

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This is an entrance to a resteraunt

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We passed a ceremony of cremation with a procession that we were allowed to take photos of. Yesterday Bandi said that many people are buried when they die but every five years a lot of villages will have mass cremations and celebrations. We assumed this was one of them.

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We met two young women from England who suggested the Lotus Cafe would be a good place to stop and they were right. It was lovely, overlooking a beautiful lotus garden with Saraswati temple in the background. This is known as Ubud water palace. Ubud is actually pronounced Eww booed.
Vegetarian food is on the menus here and so wonderful for me. I enjoyed an amazing Pumpkin spice soup ( happy Canadian Thanksgiving today ) and veg spring rolls with a lemongrass dip. The others had a chicken curry and we all had a ginger honey lemon iced tea. We will be back here for sure, it was fantastic food
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After some photo taking we made our way down the very narrow, sometimes disappearing sidewalk passing many restaurants and shops. There are a steady stream of motorcycles and cars and people,noise fumes and very humid hot weather. We are melting.
Lana and I ducked into a jewellery store, ‘ Filthy Gorgeous Accessories’ The air conditioned store was such a welcome relief but the jewellery was divine! Lana ended up buying some earrings and Doug came in and bought me a stunning set of earrings and necklace and chain as a belated birthday present.

A grocery store was needed and after walking the narrow roads trying not to die for a half hour we grabbed a ride from a guy who took us to ‘Bintang’ a large store and he waited while we bought some provisions for the villa.

On the drive back traffic on the Main Street was stopped and a policeman held up,his hand for us all to wait as some kind of ceremonial processions went by. Apparently this happens a number of times a day.
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He dropped us off at the parking lot but we were not able to reach our ‘staff’ to pick us up so we slogged the groceries up the hill which seemed to be so much further than it actually was.
The skies opened just as we got in the door, but we all put on our suits and jumped into the pool to cool down. Heavenly
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Low key night

October 11. Day 7

A lovely lazy morning included a video chat with our son Mica and grandkids. After breakfast we turned right instead of left leaving our home and walked on the footpath past many beautiful rice paddies, some almost ready for harvest . This is known as Kajeng rice fields walk .

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Eventually we came upon a popular warung called ‘Sweet Orange’ and stopped in for a cold drink and appy. Both were so delicious and we know we will be back again. It was hot but not too bad today, a bit of a breeze now and then. It’s the humidity than can take it’s toll.

When we got back home we were melting and the cool water of the pool was a very welcome sight

A nap followed by a light dinner and we set off to the Royal Palace to enjoy some traditional Balinese music and dancing. We got there very early after paying our 100,000 entrance fee ($9 Cdn). Chairs at the side, front row were scored which was great because they were covered and the skies opened to a downpour near the end of the performance. We really enjoyed the music and the dancing. We were glad for the brochure of the story of what we were watching which really helped make it much more enjoyable.
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Thankfully we packed our umbrellas as it was a wet and soggy walk home.

As we sit contemplating going to bed we are serenaded by so many critters in the fields nearby. There are these little frogs that sound like lambs bleating, cicada's, geckos , something that sounds like it has the hiccups, confused roosters and so many sounds which are un identified. It is a loud and lovely chorus 24/7.

October 12. Day 7

Putu and Wayan arrived at 7AM to cook us breakfast this morning. Such luxury! The smoothie was dragonfruit banana and ice and was divine. Cost was 150,000 for the groceries and we gave them an extra 100,000. ($22 Cdn total) and enough left over for us for a couple more days too. We will also give a big tip at the end of stay as well of course. We will probably arrange this again one morning.
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Doug and I then spent some time on a video chat with our youngest son Reese this morning who is at our house watching or dog Maggie on the first shift. All seem to be doing well.

Lana needed to find a bank or ATM so we set off to find one. It took four tries until we found one that worked, but success at last. Doug went off on his own for a bit, Lana and I went back to the jewelry store and she bought more earrings, and then we explored the Art Walk, a series of vendors down the sides of a car free road. We thought it would be artists selling their wares, but instead it was just more of the same of the road we travel every day, trinkets and clothing that is very low cost. We both bought some earrings and Lana got a couple pairs of pants.
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The humidity was very oppressive again today. Doug seems to be staying cool as a cucumber while Lana and I are puddles on the ground.
Traffic on the Main Street is crazy busy.

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We met back at The Lotus Cafe again for lunch which was again fantastic
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There was another processions on the road, police stopping traffic. This one was mostly men, not sure what it was about.

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A stop for a small gelato for the walk home was in order. The woman suggested I try matcha sesame, to which I turned up my nose but tried it anyhow. OMG. Amazing
Hot walk home up the hill so it was straight into the pool and a quiet evening once again.

October 13, Day 8

Located at the bottom of our pedestrian street is a taxi stand where we arranged a driver to take us to Tirta Empul Temple, a Hindu Balinese water temple famous for its holy spring water. This temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, God of water. The drive there was on small roads with lots of twist and turns that took us outside of the city and provided wonderful views of the countryside and small towns. We went though an area where there were so many shops selling art and home decor that looked like they would sell to other stores.

Lana and I were salivating at the shopping opportunity but only bringing a carry on suitcase saves us from ourselves.

We arrived at the temple in around half an hour or more and it is packed, tourists of course but many devotees as well. There was some kind of celebration with many people in their beautiful traditional dress and the woman with large offerings balanced on their head. Tourists could also go into the water for purification but we did not, it is really a spiritual event in my opinion and left for those of the Hindu faith.

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It was a very special place for sure. We really enjoyed being here
Everyone had to wear a sarong, and if you didn’t have one they provided it for you

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Walking the gauntlet, exit through the gift shop, we each ended up buying some articles of clothing and then met up with our driver, Eka to head for lunch. Eka is a lovely young tourism graduate, 29 years old with a great command of the English language and so enthusiastic. We took him for lunch at a small warung we found at the side of the road overlooking the rice fields of Tegalalang, which we will hike another day.

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Arriving back home we had our afternoon swim and then relaxed.
A great day once again.

Posted by debbep 11:00 Archived in Indonesia Tagged ubud Comments (0)

Bali

Arrival, Tanah lot and Pemuteran

sunny 32 °C

After two years of planning and many changes along the way we are finally in Bali.

October 1, 2022 . Our journey begins with a flight on a small float plane from Nanaimo to Vancouver airport on one of the most beautiful days of the year. Flying low we were able to see at least half a dozen humpback whales breaching and spouting which was just an added bonus to a short 20 minute but fantastic flight.
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We checked into our airport hotel and met up Lana, all of us coming a day early to make sure we were on the right side of the water for our flight tomorrow.

October 2. Our economy class flight on Japan airlines was lovely, smooth and uneventful. After 11 long hours we arrived in Tokyo to connect on JAL to Singapore. We had a 1 1/2 hour connection in Tokyo, which we needed to get to our next gate, it was a long walk
Another 7 1/2 hour flight and even though I took a sleeping pill did not get much of any kind of sleep. But again no complaints about Japan airlines.

We were very happy to arrive in Singapore just after midnight on October 4 th, losing a day in the process
While checking in for the flight in Vancouver the gate agent said we needed to download and fill in the health and Covid info app for Singapore. It was long and cumbersome but we managed to complete it just before boarding the plane so arrival in Singapore was easy. A scan of our passport and the official had all of our information in front of him, Covid vaccines etc, and in no time we were off to collect our bags.

Yotel was a very short walk located in the Jewel terminal and although each of our two rooms were very small, they were clean soundproof and the beds comfy. Money well spent
The Jewel is an area in the Singapore airport much like the blodel conservancy in Queen E park Vancouver. Lots of lush greenery and a waterfall that flows upside down but was not turned on yet. A very calming place

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Day 1. October 4. We woke after a wonderful few hours of sleep and made the short walk to terminal one to find Scoot airlines. Checkin was very slick and easy, all done electronically. A bit of a walk and another electronic security and passport check and we were off to our gate , after a short caffeine stop at Starbucks

Our gate was the very last one, quite a long walk but we made sure we had lots of time. Good thing because when we got there I went to use my phone and it was nowhere to be found.
Panic set in. I retraced my steps and ended back at the security checkpoint but naturally could not go to the other side . There was an info desk so I asked the young woman to phone and see if it was found on the other side, which she did and told me to wait ten minutes
No. Nothing fitting that description

I hoofed it back to the gate, dug out my iPad, connected to Internet and signed onto “find my phone’ which I should have done to begin with but had decided to panic instead.

The app took me back to the info desk and showed that it was actually indeed located just a three minute walk on the other side of passport control. I showed the young man, he phoned over and lo and behold it was there. Apparently the first girl was checking at a different check in point. Gotta love technology. Another young man came through security and handed my phone to me, a very relieved and grateful woman I must say
I did my best impression of a fast speed walk back to the gate and arrived just in time to board the plane, a sweaty breathless mess, but a happy one. Thank goodness I allowed an hour to check in. A good lesson there.
Our Scoot flight was on time and uneventful, arriving in Denpasar a bit early.
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Photo is of Singapore harbour

I really don’t remember the order of the series of events as they happened, but after deplaning we came to an area where many tourists were gathered around an information board about how to fill in the PenduliLindungi arrival app. We tried for about five minutes with no success, I remembered that trip advisor folks said don’t worry about it, so told my crew to just forget it and we set off and found a woman sitting at a desk with a sign that said ‘ health check’ or something. I showed her the app on my phone, she just shook her head and said to pass her my passport and copies of my vaccine. Bing bang boom, and we are good to go

Another fellow directed us to the lineup for old people and families with children to get the Visa on arrival which was great cos the other lineup was huge

I think we picked up our luggage after that, then the customs form was filled out and after just over an hour and a bit we were outside the terminal. I may have missed a step but it was not too hard to figure out in the end

I have been to many airports in the world where you see folks holding up signs as a meet and greet but nothing like Bali. There were hundreds, eight deep in a long line of smiling faces holding up small signs and the passengers arriving doing the slow walk eagerly searching to recognize their own name

I finally saw mine, “Mrs Debbe” and after a smile and nod from me a lovely young man approached us and took one of our bags and whisked us away to the car park.

I booked this transfer last week with Klook ( again thanks TA) for only 200,000 IDR, ( $18cdn)

The drive to Tanah Lot took over 3 hours, traffic was especially bad he said, but we didn’t mind as we looked out the windows enjoying our first glimpse of Bali and all the buildings and temples along the way. We were finally here!

Arriving at Tanah Lot the car was stopped by an official to have us each pay 60,000 IDR as our hotel was very close to the temple and this was the entrance fee

A lovely young woman greeted us at Natya Tanah Lot hotel with a delicious and welcome glass of cold ginger, mint and lemongrass drink.
Both of our rooms were lovely very clean, spacious and a five minute walk to the temple. It was a great decision to spend the night here.

It is now 5PM, we are starving but decided to head to the beach right away before sunset. There were many people there of course but we were in awe of how beautiful it all was and hiked around to many different vantage points to take a lot of photos and enjoy the different views. We are all just so grateful to be here.
Dinner at the hotel and then an early night

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Day 2, October 5
Woke to torrential rain so went for breakfast before heading back to the temple. This turned out to be a great decision because when we were done the rain stopped and we enjoyed the views with a different light with less people.

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A car was arranged through our next hotel to pick us up at 11 to head north to Pemuteran. It was a very narrow twisty road through many hills with rain happening on and off throughout the journey. Seeing the many small towns and lush vegetation made the almost three hour drive very enjoyable. A welcome stop was at a small warung ( restaurant) on the way for some tea. It was located high in the hills overlooking a rice field and we took the opportunity to stretch our legs and walk on one of the terraces for a bit taking many photos
It is all so beautiful

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A couple more stops at some fruit stands to pick up papaya little bananas and mango and finally some 0 percent beer for me and regular for Lana at a small grocery store before we checked into our home for the next four nights
Amertha Bali Villas.
I had booked this almost two years ago Hard to believe it was only $128 a night

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It was just what I thought a villa in Bali should look like. We were so happy to be here
Two large bedrooms facing the private pool and patio area. There is a living room kitchen area between the bedrooms and two outdoor showers. The landscaping is gorgeous.
We were happy to spend the rest of the afternoon in the pool and lounge on our patio. Pure heaven

Dinner was at the hotel. It was okay. Not great but handy. An early night for us again

Day 3 October 6. Swam ate swam and ate again. Lunch consisted of fresh fruit, beer and taco chips. Dinner at the hotel was better tonight
A lovely relaxing day in paradise. Wifi is great. Weather was hot then wind cooled it down. It was sunny and rainy
A wonderful day
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October 7, day 3

What a great day. After breakfast we went on a snorkel tour to Menjangan island on a small motor boat with Karang divers who left from our resort There were four staff and the three of us who snorkelled with our own guide and there was also a guide for two divers who were from Germany.

We had two stops for an hour each with a break for lunch in the middle. Lots of coral, although disappointed the colors were not that bright, many colorful fish though. We also saw a few turtles and a couple of smaller sharks.

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There was a bat cave in the cliff as well with hundreds of small fruit bats who were flitting about being very vocal.
The dark fringe around the mouth of the cave are the bats hanging upside down

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It was around 1 pm when we returned and all had a nap for a couple hours this afternoon. After all that swimming we were tuckered out

Timo, one of the guys from Germany is staying at our resort so we invited him to join us for dinner at ‘Joes’ a small place close by that advertised live music on Friday nights.

The food was wonderful, great conversation and the band was fantastic. Four young Balinese men who had such a huge library of music and the lead singer had an amazing voice with incredible range. Their name was ‘Fly’ and their set was two hours or more.

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We enjoyed it so much we would have loved to stay for the second set but it was 10pm. The latest we have been up since arriving so we went home to bed.

October 8 day 4

On the beach next to our place is Biorock coral reef structures. Doug and I walked over and I snorkelled around while he swam. Interesting place. They are trying to build up the coral reef again which has been destroyed both by man but mostly by global warming. They have built a hundred metal structures and domes under the water and have them connected to electricity powered by windmill and solar. The chemical reaction to the metal is a good environment to have the coral grow. There are 16 projects in Indonesia so far and it helps keep the beaches from eroding when you have coral reefs. This is all run as an NGO and by volunteers.
This is me dressed to snorkel so I don’t get fried in the heat
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Later a lunch of fruit, ice cold zero beer, peanuts and taco chips on our patio. Yum
Followed by Swimming and relaxing at our pool.

Tonight we went with Timo to D’Buco for dinner and it was fantastic. Down some back alleys, hard to find but worth it. Appy ,main ,dessert and beer or soft drink for around $15. Tomorrow we say goodbye to this amazing villa and head off to Ubud.

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Posted by debbep 01:19 Archived in Indonesia Comments (1)

Hawaii

Kauai and Maui re visited

sunny 26 °C

My husband and I just spent three wonderful weeks in Hawaii and wanted to share our trip highlights.

Background. I was a sales rep for Aloha Airlines, and also for a short time Hawaiian Airlines out of Vancouver back in the early 80s for 15 years. I would go to the islands five or more times a year on business and holidays and my husband and I also spent our honeymoon on Maui and Kauai 37 years ago. At the end of my time with Aloha I created my dream job of taking travel agents to the islands to go on snorkel tours, helicopter rides and wine and dine them for a week. Unfortunately I got laid off 25 years ago and other than a short stop over on the way back from Tahiti we haven’t been back since. I could not afford to travel here in that style any more if we were paying for it. :). We chose to explore many other parts of the world instead.

Details: We flew WESTJET from Vancouver to Kauai on Feb. 19th and then returned Maui to Vancouver on March 11th. We flew with Hawaiian Air in the middle.

Car was booked with AVIS thorough Costco and I kept going back to check the prices as they kept falling so I would cancel and re book. By the time we left it was half of the original price. We chose a small economy car as there was only the two of us and it was great on gas, parking and negotiating the narrow roads.

Kauai

The Islander on the beach on the coconut plantation was a great place to stay for our first week in Hawaii. At night we left the patio doors open and could hear the surf breaking on the beach through the patio doors. The sun came up in an explosion of color every morning at around 6:30AM and we shared in its majesty while enjoying a cup of Kona Coffee on the patio.

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Our week was spent exploring various beaches and trails at all points on this northern most island. Each area had a different charm, the North, Hanelei and Princeville being very junglelike and green.
Poipu beach was great for a swim a couple of days, and the McBride Gardens were beautiful. We had a volunteer take us on a tour and explain the various plants to us as well as some of the history regarding the first peoples to the islands.

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Waimea canyon was just as breathtaking as I remembered from years ago. There are wild roosters and chickens everywhere, more roosters than chickens as I think the later get eaten. The roosters are very colourful and I spent a couple of afternoons trying to paint a picture of one.

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A Whale of a time in Maui

Accomodation:
Maui was a one bedroom at Kahana Villa and then Paki Maui. They were both fine but next time I want an ocean view.

Food: Because we had kitchens we made most of our own meals. Shopping was done at Safeway Lahaina and the Farmers Market in Honokowai. (which was great). I am really going to miss fresh papaya and pineapple every day :(

We did go to a couple of restaurants and those we really enjoyed were : Fork and Salad in Kihei (twice), The Flatbread Company in Paia. CJ’s Deli in Kaanapali and the Lahaina Fish Company in Lahaina.
I am a vegetarian /mostly vegan and did not have any trouble finding items on most menus.

We also went to Frieda’s in Lahaina, the most expensive and least impressive. Not much flavour or pizzaz in the food to me.

Beaches: I love to snorkel and my husband loves to swim so quite often that is what we would do. Our favourite beach was Kapalua beach and as long as we arrived before 9AM we usually found parking in the free lot or on the street without a problem. Got to swim with turtles, saw lots of colourful fish, octopus and some coral that still had colour.

We stopped at a few between Ka’anapali and Kihei just for a swim and they were good as well as the beach on Kaanapail in front of the Sheraton at Black rock. Again we went early and found parking in the free lot. I was not impressed with the snorkelling there.
But nice swimming and a beautiful beach.
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We also stopped for a swim near Wailea and noticed the water felt warmer down south .

Weather: There was a couple of days of high winds and one day that also included a lot of rain but most days we just had a gentle shower here and there. Or a short deluge which seemed to start and stop out of no where.
The temperature was great for us. We don’t like a lot of heat so the 25 C ( 80F) temps were perfect. Lots of clouds rolling in and out but that is pretty normal and it kept it cooler as well.

Tour: We only did one tour a Saturday snorkel tour to Lanai with Sail Maui. The boat held 49 but there were only 8 of us which was nice. We saw a few whales of course and the snorkelling was pretty good, but not amazing for me. The crew and the boat were great however. Next time I would opt for a whale watch with the whale foundation.
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In the early 80s I drove the road to Hana and vowed never to do it again, but I wanted to see the rainbow eucalyptus so we went. I bought and downloaded the Shaka Guide which was great. It pointed out things and where to stop and on the return gave a lot of interesting information about the history of Hawaii. Highly recommended . The road has improved immensely since then and we enjoyed the trip. Next time I would like to spend the night in Hana to have a lot of time at the park just past there. I came back to the condo with a beautiful tropical bouquet that I bought on the side of the road for only $5.

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We really enjoyed spending time in Paia town and next time want to also visit Makawao as it looks great.

We did quite a bit of driving and exploring which included the beautiful Iao Valley.

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One night we attended a slack-key performance at the Napili Kai Beach Hotel . My husband is a musician so this was a must for him and did not disappoint. Very talented and entertaining men and a couple of hula dances from a lovely woman as well.

On our last day we attended a two hour free lecture at the Humpback whale foundation in Kihei and it was fascinating. The woman giving the talk was not only informative but delivered with such humour and personality that it made it that much more enjoyable. I learned so much and have now decided that the humpback is my favourite whale.

My overall impression: It has been 25 years but to me Hawaii has not changed. I still get that feeling of Aloha here. Everyone is so nice and friendly and seem happy. I never heard a cross word or people getting angry. As a tourist I feel very welcomed.

Sitting on the beach I am not constantly saying ‘No thank you’ to beach vendors.
If someone is friendly and comes to chat with me its not because he wants me to visit his uncles carpet shop.
Not that there is anything wrong with either of the above. it just make Hawaii such an easy vacation.

And the beauty of the islands are unlike anywhere else. The many shades of blues in the water, the various kinds of palm trees, the spring flowers coming into full bloom and lets not forget the whales. Sitting on the beach and watching the whales breech and tail flap over and over again is truly magical. I can never get enough of it.

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So Maui we shall be back. Maybe even next year. I missed you and love you even more than I did before.

Aloha, Debbe.

Posted by debbep 14:37 Archived in USA Tagged maui hawaii kauai Comments (0)

British Columbia, Broughton Archipelago

Glamping with Whales

overcast 18 °C

As a group of 10 long time friends we decided that we would celebrate our 65th birthday close to home on Swanson Island. Our 60th was spent on a 7 day Alaska cruise so decided to stick with the ocean theme. All of us have been friends for at least 50 years or more.

One of our original crew, Katie, had a bad accident a week prior and couldn't come which made us all very sad. A last minute replacement was found through one of the ladies, and even though she was was a few years younger we let her come anyhow..

We overnighted on Quadra Island and had a 6PM briefing at the local hotel from our tour company, Spirit of the West Adventures

Day 1. We left our cars at the ferry terminal at 8:15 AM and then transported our luggage down the ramp to wait for our boat. I packed more for this four day trip than I did for six weeks in Africa and Europe! As there is no electricity things won't likely dry when they get wet, and the fog and ocean air will make your clothes feel damp quickly. Not to mention the possibility of capsizing your kayak.

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Our small boat arrived and we loaded on not only our own luggage and beverages, but also the food and supplies for the camp as well . Our cook Sara was joining us on the trip had a snack prepared for the journey. She was also a 1954 baby which was terrific. The weather was perfect and we enjoyed a wonderful mystical fog resting on the top of the water and islands until noon. Whales, black bears sea lions and seal spotting just added to our excitement on our three hour journey to camp.
Having 10 of us meant that we would have the camp all to ourselves.

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In the distance we can see a hot tub on an rock outcropping sheltered by Flower Island in front. Guests on the beach with their belongings are waiting for the boat to take them home after we disembark. After our captain Dave anchors we wait for the small tender to arrive and transport us to shore, taking two separate trips, followed by our luggage and supplies.

Everyone forms a human chain to pass the luggage and totes from the boat to the bottom of the trail up to camp.

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Once everything is brought up we have an orientation and then proceed to check in to our tents. Some of us have singles and some doubles. The tents are on platforms and have two twin beds with small tables inside. Solar panels provide us with lights and plug ins for recharging our camera batteries. All are nestled in the forest with ocean glimpses but close enough to hear the whales blowing during the night.

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There are two outhouses and two out door showers with hot water on demand. Creek water is used for washing, but fresh water is brought in each trip from Quadra for drinking

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Lunch was served in the dining area and then everyone , except me, went for a short kayak lesson and paddle. I had a short sleep in the room before dinner.

Happy hour was enjoyed in the Freshwater Lounge where we were served a beautiful assortment of cheese fruit and nuts with wine. My friend and I brought birthday hats and leis to start off our celebration in style.

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An amazing dinner was served, along with a birthday cake and then followed by a hot tub for some. A long but wonderful first day.

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Day two.

Morning coffee on the deck was followed by a delicious breakfast in the dining area. We suited up for a day of paddling, with a skirt, rain pants, water shoes and life jackets donned. Some of us chose doubles and others in single kayaks and off we went to explore the area. The different skill and experience levels meant that we travelled at a fairly leisurely pace with one guide in the front and the other in the rear.

The water was flat calm and after a short time the fog lifted and it was a very warm and sunny day. There have been some grizzly bears in the area so our lunch on the beach was canceled and instead we had a short snack visit on a beach and then a late lunch back at camp. Some of us switched from a double to a single kayak or vice versa after the snack. Black bears were seen close to where we had our break but all of us are used to them so were not too worried about it.

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A tradition from our 60th birthday, we wore our Fascinators for the paddle today.

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A few went out for a kayak again after our late lunch but the rest of us hung out at the hot tub and spent time socializing until dinner.

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Day three. An early kayak trip this morning was enjoyed. Once again the weather was great , around 18 C but no rain which was a bonus.

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After lunch we were picked up by another boat and a local man, Bishop, took us whale watching for a few hours. And what a trip it was!! Orcas everywhere around us. At one point we were getting sore necks trying to look in every direction at the 35 or more surrounding us. They were mostly resident but we also saw some Biggs (transient) and humpback as well. Even our guide and Bishop were getting so excited to see so many in one place. It was a real blessing for sure and so very exciting.

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Lots of babies as well.

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The scenery around us was breathtaking with all the mountains as well.

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Day four, departure day

A pre breakfast paddle was arranged, but the rain last night was so loud on the roof over the tent that I didn't get much sleep and no one else went either. Our guides boyfriend had arrived the day before so the two of them were able to get out on a romantic early morning paddle. We let her think that it was the plan all along and his idea.

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We enjoyed a leisurely morning taking in the last few hours of this island paradise. The rain had stopped and the sun was peeking through the clouds.
When the next group arrived, five couples who were college friends from the 70's, we put our leis around the neck of each of the men to welcome them which they found fun.

Once again the human chain brought all their gear in and ours went back into the boat for our journey home.

What an amazing place we live in! The weather co-operated, great food, friends , paddling and whales. What more could you ask for?

Posted by debbep 19:09 Archived in Canada Tagged whales island vancouver kayaks glamping orcas Comments (0)

Uganda

Gorillas in the mist

sunny 28 °C

Nairobi. Last day
Day 12

I had arranged for a fellow to pick us up and take us around for the day and Tony arrived a half hour early at 8:00AM. I find that all the drivers are always at least a half hour early. After breakfast we headed to the giraffe centre for the 9AM opening. This is a sanctuary where they breed the endangered Rothschild giraffes and then release the young into the wild when they are old enough. Chloe and I each fed a couple with the provided food pellets . He has a very long blue tongue and the feeding was sometimes slimy
Then we put one of the pellets in our mouth and got a “kiss” from the male. It was funny

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From here we went to the elephant sanctuary which opened at 11. There were a number of people there and we all pushed in to get a ringside view of the elephant feeding that was about to happen.

These little guys are rescued because their moms have died or for some reason they have been orphaned. When they are big enough , around 3 years or so, they are re introduced into the wild and watched until they are sure that a family of elephants will accept him or her into the group
We gave Chloe and elephant for Christmas but unfortunately for us Malika has just been released a few days earlier

We watch as the little ones come running down the trail three at a time and there are fed a bottled formula by three of the handlers. They devour it in no time. Then three more come down until all 9 are there. When they have finished their bottles they play in the mud and with each other. Some come close enough where we can pet them, they are very dirty. After some time they are released into the park for the day and a few older ones come down for the same routine. It was very informative and such a great thing these folks are doing. We can only stay an hour so at noon we make our way back to the car.

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We went to a shopping place where they have all local hand made items, some very expensive and beautiful works of art. We both bought a couple of small items.
We had lunch and then at 4 we headed back to the elephant sanctuary again. As an adoptive parent you can come back to see them put to bed. There were a lot less people tonight and it was so cute to se these guys come running in from the park to get into their beds for the night.

I complimented a young local woman on her hair braiding and we talked a minute or two
Later on I was sitting on the bench waiting for Chloe and she sat down beside me and we had a great conversation.
I found out she has an Uber business so arranged for her to pick us up at 4:30AM tomorrow morning to go to the airport.

Day 13

“Zippy” was there at 4AM to make sure we were awake for our 4:30 transfer

Our flight from Nairobi to Kigali in Rwanda left at 7:20 so we had lots of time

We arrive in Rwanda at 7:30 as there is a one hour time change. Our driver Gavis from Gorilla Trek Africa was there waiting with a sign with both our names on it.

We climbed into the Land cruiser and were on our way to the Uganda border.
Kigali is a very modern city in the downtown area and beautiful. The president runs a tight ship and seems well liked. The last Saturday of every month everyone has to do street clean up. All the stores and banks etc close until noon and everyone pitches in. It is mandatory. The city is spotless and well manicured.
The landscape outside of Kigali is breathtaking. Terraced hills of tea and trees. Lots of rice paddies, corn, and other produce. It is one of the most beautiful countries I have seen.

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We stopped in a small town so Gavis could buy a box of water bottles and left us in the car. All the towns people around stopped what they were doing and just stared at us. Blatantly.
Some even came up to the car to have a better look. I don't think many Mzungu’s , (white people ) have been here.
We arrived at the border and it has changed a lot since I was here two years ago. Much more modern and does not take as long. We have to get out of the car, go to the Rwanda immigration building to get stamped out of the country, walk a block or so, (in the very hot sun) and then get stamped into Uganda. Gavis had paperwork etc to fill out and drove to meet us on the other side

A little ways across the border Gavis stopped for us to have lunch. He left us at the small restaurant called “Manhattan’ with menus on the wall of burgers fries and pizza etc. But I think they were just for decoration. We had to go up the the food area and pick out what we wanted to eat. Rice, beans, mix Vegs and potatoes. Not the best meal we have ever had but we ate it.

We are flying in and out of Rwanda to hike in Uganda because it is a shorter drive than flying into the Uganda airport. The mountains are close to the border and people hike in either Rwanda, Uganda or the Congo to see gorillas. Not many to the Congo however as they are having ongoing problems.

The drive to our lodge was about 4 hours but the scenery was so beautiful. Everyone waved and smiled as we drove by, extremely friendly people. Especially the little kids.

The road deteriorated for the last two hours to a dirt road full of potholes and extremely bumpy and slow going.
Finally we made it to the Haven Lodge. It is a community based lodge where the employees are from the local area and the money stays in the community. It is just beautiful set about the jungle and the hills in the distance. Lana and I had stayed here two years ago as well.

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We had a rest in the room for a couple of hours and the skies opened up and boy did it every rain! The tin roof amplified the sound and it was deafening. But in just over an hour it was finished and the sun came back out. It is very humid here.

At dinner we met some other trekkers and had some interesting conversations again and then back to the room to prepare for tomorrow.

Day 14, July 4th.

I woke early and went out on the verandah to listen to the many groups of monkeys calling from the forest around me. There were many beautiful bird and jungle sounds as well.

Breakfast was at 7 and we headed off with our packed lunch at 8AM. I was able to secure two permits for Buhoma which is only a 10 minute drive from the lodge. I had to do this a year ago as it is very popular.

We were entertained by some local women dancers and singers while waiting for everyone to arrive. They were very energetic and wonderful to watch.

This is my third gorilla hike. I did one here in Uganda and one in Rwanda two years ago. Rwanda has now doubled the permit price to $1500 USD making it primarily for the rich and famous which is sad. It has impacted a lot of the local shopkeepers and operators because not as many people come now.

The Ranger came out and thanked us all for being there. Our $650USD permit fee goes partially to the community (25%) and also to the conservation of the gorillas. Many of the rangers, porters and trackers would be poaching if they had not been hired to track them for tourists instead so it has greatly increased the numbers of gorillas

Our names were called and we were divided into four groups, in front of signs with the name of the gorilla family we were going to see. Our group was Rushegura group which has about 19 members. It was the closest group which is what I wanted.

There were nine in our group of tourists (usually only 8 but being high season they sometimes fudge it a bit), four trackers with guns to scare any wild elephants or animals we may come across on the way, a ranger, two guys in training and we each hired a porter to carry our backpack and help us up the mountain. In all there was a total of 23 in our group

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We drove to the trail head and then set off. It was soon quite apparent to me that things were not going well with my breathing. My lungs have deteriorated quite a bit in the last two years. Add that to the 100 % humidity and the altitude of 8,000 ft I was gasping for breath after 10 minutes. It was a very steep hike up the mountain and even with my guy holding my hand, my walking stick and a woman porter pushing my ass up the hill I found it very challenging and pretty humiliating too. The others were looking at me with concern. My COPD was rearing it’s ugly head like a cobra ready to strike me down

About a half hour in the ranger said to me “. We have only just begun, are you going to be able to do this?”
“Yes. I will do this. I may be slow but I will do it”
Even though I wasn't sure I could and wanted to give up every 5 minutes I was also worried that Chloe would not go on without me so I persevered.
I went first, with my entourage of porters. The slowest sets the pace, and well that would be me!

Everyone was quite nice saying how well I was doing , don't worry about holding us up etc. But I was still mortified.
We were all sweating profusely, but I was pouring it out.

We were almost at the top of the mountain when the ranger got a call. How we find the gorillas is that there are three or four trackers that go ahead of us a few hours earlier and find and follow them then radio down to the ranger.
They are not far, so basically I need to pick up the pace before they leave again.

At the top of the mountain we start our decent and then go down a path that has just been cleared by machete by the trackers. Lots of vines and tripping hazards along the way but before long they tell us to leave everything we have with our porters except our cameras.

Down the trail a bit further we see them. We are so incredibly lucky. This is called the Bwindi Impenetrable forest, so quite often you will see gorillas behind thick bush and just get a glimpse here and there.

But here they are, three young ones, a Silverback, a black back and three females all lazing in an open area for all of us to get a perfect view.

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There were a couple more behind us and a another black back a bit away as he can't get too close to the silverback. The silverback, the guy in charge, thinks of the black backs, adult males, as a threat to wanting to take charge of the group and mate with the females.

The little ones were so cute playing in the trees, wrestling on the ground and tumbling about. One would beat his chest to say that he was the strongest of the three, then a few minutes later another would beat his chest.

There was a lot of farting going on by the adults.

This little guy went up to cuddle with his mom and just looked at her with such love in his eyes.
It is incredible how human like they are.

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There were lots of flies but they seemed to just stay with the gorillas and not bother us at all.

In what seemed like such a short time the ranger said our hour was almost up. Then the gorillas started getting up one by one and leaving. They knew the hour was up too.

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We were mere feet from them. They would look at us with disinterest really,

“Oh here there are again, those camera clicking humans for an hour”

They are what is called habituatied, which means that they are used to humans being with them for one hour a day. They don't want to stress them out so an hour is all we can have. They are still wild animals, and we must be careful and listen to what the ranger says, but gorillas are really very gentle giants and are usually only aggressive with other male gorillas, or if they feel threatened .

We started our climb back up the hill and then back down. The trail is very narrow, not too muddy which is a bonus, but slippery with loose gravel and rocks. My breathing was fine going down but after an hour and a half my legs got pretty wobbly from the steep descent. Chloe, Mary her porter and a few others slid and fell at least once. I fell once too but my porters were hovering so close to me that I didn’t get the chance to even hit the ground before they pulled me back up again.

Part way down we stopped for our bagged lunch. We gave our hard boiled eggs to our porters and I also gave mine the chocolate bar which he appreciated. Toasted peanut butter and banana sandwiches tasted pretty good, but I was too exhausted to eat much.

Gavis was waiting for us at the bottom and we drove back to the centre to get our gorilla certificates and we tipped all the porters ranger and trackers.

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That was the best sighting I have had of the three treks. I was so happy for Chloe to see them in such a clearing and so many together. It was a real gift.

I was exhausted. We stopped at a small shop so Chloe could buy a couple things but then back to the room where we just flaked out for the rest of the afternoon.

Shortly after the rains came again with a vengeance. I was so glad it didn't rain on our hike or that trail would have been very difficult coming down.

My mountain and hill climbing days are over, but what a great last climb to have.

That evening at dinner a woman from Spain was celebrating a birthday so the staff came out with a cake and sang to her. Her husband said to give each of us six guests a piece and the rest was for the staff. It was really good. We chatted for a while talking about our gorilla treks that day, each of us with a different family of gorillas and a different experience.
A young man found out we were Canadian and was so excited, he was around 20 and from Ontario, I think he was homesick. He and his friend went to Princeton but were doing internships in Entebbe Uganda for a while. They took a few days off for this adventure.

Last day in Africa. Day 15

After breakfast we set off on our long drive to Rwanda again. Distracted by the beautiful scenery and people smiling and waving as we passed by it wasn’t that bad of a drive. We saw some small markets in some of the smaller towns

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The border crossing was the same in reverse except this time a woman dressed as a nurse put an electronic thermometer in our ear to check our temps. Looking for Ebola I imagine.
We then headed for Kigali and the Genocide museum.

Rwandans were made up of Tutsi and Hutu people and the Hutu were encouraged to believe that they were much better than the Tutsi. In 1994 the genocide, which had started earlier, came to full force and for four months Tutsi men, women and children were brutally murdered, many by thier own Hutu friends and neighbours because of the brainwashing that they were inferior and referred to as cockroaches

In all between 500,000 and a million lost their lives and many were found in mass graves. Mans inhumanity to man once again and so many acts so horrible I cant write them here. A good movie on the subject is ‘Hotel Rwanda’ which I have seen a couple of times

The museum was very sobering and well done

The security to get in however was next level. Gavis said it was usually not like this, many solders with guns, we had to leave the truck, it was searched, we were searched.
Gavis figured a dignitary must be coming

When we left we see a the place is surrounded by men in black suits, earpieces and at the ready. Looks like a Men in Black movie set. Soldiers with dogs, many police. Crazy. Time to leave
I saw a limo with flags on the front that I recognized and later found out that it was the president of Tanzania who had come for a visit.

Airport security was even more insane. We had to get out of the truck when we approached the airport. We went through scanners. The truck was put on a conveyor system like a car wash and scanned.

At the airport we hugged and said our good byes to Gavis

More scanning of us and suitcases when we entered the airport. You are not allowed into the building until a hour and a half before your flight. More scanning. And at the gate once again our bags and we are scanned

Our flight was delayed a half hour which gave me a bit of anxiety as we were connecting in Nairobi but we finally arrived at 8PM and had 3 1/2 hours untill our flight left for London.

A long line for another health check. Temperatures were shown on a screen above as you walked by the nurse and handed in your health questionnaire
Then to immigration
Another health check
Passport control
Luggage scanning as you left the airport

Our next flight was right outside this terminal and we got into a long line for our BA flight to Heathrow. The sign says ‘flight boarding’’ which was nerve wracking but a number of us in this slow moving line were on the same flight

Another luggage scanning and search

At our gate yet another scanning , followed by the last one when the fellow asks me to open my bag

“ what are you looking for and I can tell you where it is?”

Nail clippers

After all those scans the last one detects my little nail clippers. Out they come, confiscated, and we wait for our flight in the lounge with only minutes to spare. 3 1/2 hours in Nairobi is not a lot of connection time it seems

I think Chloe and I and our luggage are all glowing from the amount of radiation in the past few hours, but we arrived in London safe and sound and that is the main thing. They take their security very seriously

I upgraded our seats to premium economy which meant that our seats reclined a bit more, we had foot rests and a bit more room which made it easier to sleep a few hours of the 8 1/2 and didn’t arrive in too bad of shape at 6:30AM

We both loved East Africa. The people were so nice and friendly. We met so many other interesting travellers from all over the world that were wonderful to talk with. And the animals! Every day was better than the last. To be so close to these magnificent animals and see them in their natural habitat was amazing.

I am pretty sure that Chloe will be back again at some point. She said she just loved it. Even though this was my third visit it was just as exciting as the first,
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Now we are back to London for a few days at the end of our journey

Posted by debbep 12:09 Archived in Uganda Tagged trek gorilla Comments (0)

Kenya

Kenya Safari

sunny 26 °C

Day 5.

After breakfast we were picked up by Allen from Gamewatchers in a safari van for our long 4 hour drive to Amboseli national park. I slept on and off the entire way finding it hard to keep my eyes open. The scenery changed from busy city to smaller towns with road side stalls and people selling lots of produce and clothing.

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In between the small towns were miles of wide open spaces, lots of baron land with only a sprinkling of trees here and there. And many many speed bumps. It was a bumpy ride but eventually we arrived at the Amboseli Sopa Lodge. We were met by a very tall Masai man in bright red checkered Masai dress and lots of jewelry who welcomed us with hot towels and fresh juice.
Our room is a round hut with three beds , very spacious and mosquito nets that unfold at night for protection.

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There are many monkeys on the grounds all hoping for a handout, which is forbidden.

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After lunch we had a rest in the room and then Allan came to pick us up to take us to the park for our safari. The top of the van pops up for better viewing. We were there for just over three hours and saw many zebra, giraffe, elephant, hyena, gazelle, wart hogs, wildebeest, a pride of lions and a pair of cheetah with a fresh kill. Not bad for the first day.

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Back for a rest again, dinner doesn’t not start until 7:30P and then a low key night to prepare for tomorrow.

Day 6.

After breakfast we headed out to the park at 7:30AM for a day of game viewing. Again we saw lots of elephants, zebra and wildebeest.

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We also saw a huge troop of baboon and some with babies. This one looked like it was just born, and really quite un attractive. They are a very social animal and many of the others came up and gave the little guy a poke or a tug to acknowledge him.

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The elephants really are the king of the jungle, not the lion according to Allen. We saw a pride of lions lounging about with the male watching over things. The elephant came close and the female lions scattered giving him room. The male held his ground however and eventually the elephant went the other direction.

The weather is not hot, even a bit on the cooler side and very overcast. Unfortunately we were not able to see the beautiful views of Mount Kilimanjaro
The elephants were still spending the day cooling off by spraying dirt on them selves and mud. At some points they could be seen in mud pools enjoying themselves
A herd was trying to cross the road and felt we were too close so started trumpeting and swaying while looking at us until Alan backed up.

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There were many young zebra, with brown stripes instead of the black of the adult ones. They travel in big herds when they can and join forces with the wildebeest as there is safety in numbers

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A number of marshy areas and small lakes with lots of flamingo and bird life. It is funny to watch them plow under the water looking for fish and algae to eat

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Hippos were wallowing neck deep in the mud but too far away to get a good look at them. Here in the park we must stick to the roads unlike the conservancies we are heading to next

A boxed lunch was taken at the top of a hill and a lookout site over the park which was beautiful. Many colourful birds hoping someone would drop a few crumbs for them

We spent the day on a washboard gravel bumpy one lane road through the park and were there for eight hours in total. Unfortunately my fatigue caught up with me today and I could not keep my eyes open. I slept through a lot of it with Chloe kicking me whenever we stopped at an animal sighting. It was very frustrating and amazing considering how bad the road was. I needed to catch up and today was the day.

After a rest and dinner we packed up for our departure tomorrow.

Rhino Camp. Day 7

At 7 AM we drove back to Nairobi arriving around 11 for our 1PM flight to Kamok airport. . Because we were early we stopped at Eka Hotel and instead of taking our box lunches to the airport to eat we had them in the restaurant there.

Wilson Airport is where all the small planes fly to the various camps and east to the beaches. We said our goodbyes to Allen and he left with our main suitcases to hold for us until our return. We are only able to take small soft sided bags on these planes. Our 12 seater left with us and two families all heading to Porini Rhino Camp. It was a non stop 40 minute flight and a bit bumpy but not too bad.

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We were met by two open sided land cruisers and taken to our home for the next two nights. It is a small camp with only 8 tents, overlooking a watering hole frequented by many of the animals. A blind is being built, finished next week unfortunately for us, where you will be able to stand very close to the animals as they drink and bathe in the pool.

Our tents have two beds and full bathroom a desk and chair. We tell them when we want our shower and they put hot water in the buckets above. This is a no footprint camp, all solar powered and instead of plastic water bottles you get a metal canteen to fill from the water cooler which is great. If they leave and tear down the camp you would never know it was here.

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The two families are from New Hampshire, one has two boys aged 11 and 13 who were in our truck and the other has a girl and three young boys. There are a couple of other guys here that we met later, one from New York who works in IT, and the other lives in Nairobi and is a journalist and Getty photographer who travels the world. He is heading to Khartoum in Sudan tomorrow to cover a big demonstration happening there.
We also have a Porini Camp director and his wife from Nairobi. The latter four are all leaving tomorrow.

David our camp manager went over the itinerary and general info about the camp after a light lunch and then after a short rest we headed out on our first game drive

We saw lots of zebra, a number of warthogs, jackals, water buffalo, and reticulated giraffe which are different from the ones we saw in Ambroselli and only seen here.

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We were disappointed not to see any rhino, but tomorrow is another day. After watching the sun set we headed back for a short rest in the tent before dinner. A Masai guide walked us to our tent and waited outside till we were ready for dinner, there is no walking around on your own here after the sun goes down. And we know why as we were sitting in our tents we heard a lion roaring right outside. There are many hippo wandering by as well. We are the last tent right in front of a small muddy creek which would be favoured by the hippos. We were glad he was there to walk us to and from the mess tent.
We sat around the fire for a bit first.
Dinner was great, they catered to our vegetarian needs, and had great conversations with everyone.

It was really hot today, but cools down incredibly at night. Chloe got under the covers and all of a sudden did a small yell
“There is something in my bed!!”
I said it was a hot water bottle and started to laugh. She pulled out this large hot water bottle with a fur cover on it.
They should warn you about these things. You could have a heart attack thinking there is some small animal in your bed. We laughed a long time about that.

As I write this we hear something very big outside our tent munching on grass or something. Maybe a buffalo or hippo perhaps. We were given a whistle to blow if we need help..........

I hope we can sleep tonight. We both have ear plugs.

Rhino Camp Day 8, Friday June 28

I slept soundly until 4AM and then just waited for our wake up call at 6. A young man quietly said hello and then asked if he could come in, unzipped the tent and put some hot chocolate for Chloe and hot water and lemon for me on the table.

We quickly got ready to be in the land cruiser by 6:30A. We had our same group with Tessa and Keith, Cameron and.Sam. The jeep stalled a number of times and then Tessa finally asked if we could please have another jeep as we didn't want to be stuck out in the middle of nowhere waiting for someone. The next jeep was the staff one so not as nice and very cramped but at least it worked.

We drove to the eastern side and saw a couple of baby hyena that were really curious and quite cute. More giraffes, zebra and buffalo of course, elephants with babies, and lots of wart hogs.

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Finally we found a rhino. He was on his own, a black rhino, and stood and posed for us. Black and White rhinos have nothing to doug with their color, White really means wide, describing the shape of the mouth.
White Rhinos are vey social and travel in groups while black are solitary and not as nice.

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We are in Ol Pejetra Conservancy which has the highest concentration of rhinos in Africa. It is set in 283,000 hectares and patrolled by many rangers willing to shoot any poachers that try to do any harm to the rhinos. The animals are all free to come and go as they please, but the rhinos are in a massive electric fenced area where they put rocks and things that rhinos don't like in the pathway so they never leave and stay safe. The rangers rake the dirt every morning and night to check the footprints to see which animals came in and left during the day.

Next to the Rhino were a bunch of Cape buffalo wallowing in the mud to keep cool and try to keep the flies down as well.

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At 9AM we went to the park for our breakfast and then Chloe and I went off to check in for our 10AM 'horseback riding with rhinos' that we had booked. Walking to the barn I was on a big pile of rock in the centre of the road when I just slipped off and landed face first on the road. Chloe and the girl leading both thought I had a a heart attack or something. One minute I was walking and the next I’m on the ground. I stayed there for a minute making sure I was okay. It was very painful on my right side and my neck, I had a big scrape on my arm too. I was quite pissed off that this happened mere meters from the barn and worried I wouldn't be able to ride.
But I went anyhow and although a bit sore didn't fall off the horse at least.

We were able to go into an enclosure where no one else can go and were very close to a mom and baby rhino only a month old. We saw a number of rhinos, the large Eland which look like caribou, so many wart hogs and other gazelles. It was just great. Chloe got to canter a bit but there were so many holes in the field it was not safe to do much.

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We had just over an hour and so glad we did this. On the way out we saw Barack, the blind rhino and then back in the jeep with everyone for more game viewing. They had been out and seen many rhinos and a baby giraffe and mom.

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We found more rhinos and various other animals and then back to the camp for lunch, a shower and rest until 4PM. We were going to have a walk with the Masai Warriors but the sky opened up and it rained very hard. We climbed into the trucks and went for a game drive, eventually the rain stopped enough to take the top off again.

We came across a very large male lion with a fresh buffalo kill. We discovered that he had two brothers with him as well. It would be hard for one lion to take down a buffalo but three would succeed, and did.

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The three were in different areas and were very tired from the kill, the buffalo had not been eaten at all. We sat for a couple off hours and just watched the three of them, all sleeping, looking around and watching in different areas.
Finally the lion furthest away walked over to the buffalo and started tearing it apart, you could hear the flesh being ripped and then the smell hit you. It was gross and fascinating all at the same time. We felt so lucky to have all seen this.

Sitting by the fire for a bit before dinner I then said my goodbyes to people as we leave tomorrow.

All in all this camp was great and we really enjoyed it.

Lion Camp. Day 9

We were able to sleep in until 7:30 this morning and had the camp to ourselves as everyone else was out on a game drive. Breakfast at 8 and off to the air strip at 9 for our 9:15 flight to the Mara.

We were once again on a 12 passenger prop plane and it took just about an hour, with one stop on the way. The scenery was great.

Our drivers Chris and Wilfred met us and we did a slow drive to the camp looking for various game on the way.

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The camp has changed since I was here two years ago, more tents and a few other changes. Our drivers from before are at different camps and there is a new manager, Silas.
After our welcome cold towel and juice we had an orientation from Silas and met the kitchen staff. Two of them remembered me from two years ago, most of the others are all new.

James is a waiter and Daniel is the head waiter and remembered so many details of when I was here with Lana, even where I was from. He mentioned the elephant being born outside our tent on our last night and the lions waiting on our veranda roaring all night.
He is such a joker and a lot of fun. It was great to be remembered after all this time with all the guests that have come and gone since then.

We had lunch , did laundry, had a rest and shower

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We are off for a game drive and were joined by two other women, sisters from the US who both seem quite nice. Anna and Katherine . There are only four in our truck and these one have much bigger viewing areas.

“What do you want to see? “

Leopards was pretty much the unanimous answer.

"Okay".
We drove for a while and then crossed a small stream. I said I could smell a kill, ( I have a very good sense of smell) and sure enough we found a fresh kill of a Topi, which is from the antelope family. It was at the bottom of a tree almost untouched, so we knew that she wasn't far from here. We could already see jackels and hyena in the distance and it wouldn't be long before they came to have their share.

A couple of other trucks were also looking in the area as they all radio each other, but being in the conservancy the only trucks allowed in here are those from the camps in the area so there were only four or five.
Finally we found her, resting on a branch of a tree, panting as she was tired from all the work of killing that huge Topi.

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Fig is the leopard that Lana and I saw last time we were here and I knew she had a daughter in September so anxious to see her as well. Chloe spotted her in the same tree, they camouflage so well. We sat and watched for a while and then the younger one, Farrah, came down and went to the creek. Eventually Fig came down as well and walked over to the Topi, but decided instead to run past and go into different bushes.

Our truck went around and watched the young one for a while and then back to see Fig trying to drag the Topi. Leopards usually put their kill up in the tree to keep it from other predators, but this Topi is way too big and heavy. She gave up and went over to Farrah to think about a plan I imagine.

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It was such a gift to see a leopard at all as they can be quite elusive , but this was amazing.

Eventually we headed off , all very happy with the sighting and anything now was just going to be a bonus.

A pride of lions was our next big sighting. One lioness with two really young cubs and a bunch of others of various ages. She would be taking care of all of them while the other lions went out to hunt.

They were so funny. Playing, wresting, curious about us, but much more intent on playing and tumbling about . We had our ‘sundowner’ there in front of the lions which could not have been more perfect.

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I even had a glass of red wine, seeing as how the other two women did. We also had some snacks as well. I got quite drunk on one glass seeing as how I rarely drink. Everyone was making fun of me about it. The sun went down and we headed back to camp.

When we got to dinner both of the big tables were full so Daniel said we had to sit at a small table for two. We were joking that we were at the ‘kids table’

Daniel came with our soup and then asked about what we wanted for a main course. He was a bit hard to understand, but we agreed with stir fry. He was making fun of the fact we were vegetarian, even though he remembers that from last time.

Then we were taking about age and he said Chloe looked 12 and I looked 40
I said “ you can alway tell an older women she looks younger, but an younger women want to look older”. He would not agree with Chloe that she was 17 and kept insisting she was 12.
Chloe was just about crying she was laughing so hard. He is such a joker but we noticed he is very serious with everyone else. I guess he figures we can take it, especially because he has Chloe in stitches the entire time.

When it came to dessert I found the only fork I had left on the table was a massive meat carving fork. Chloe was dying with laughter by this time. We called him over and held up the two forks, one big one and the regular one.

He feigned innocence and said “oh that’s a meat fork. Who put that there?”

It made for a very entertaining dinner and I cant wait to see what he will do tomorrow.

We hear the hippos grunting outside our tent

Lion Camp day 10

I woke at 3:30 to hear a hippo just outside my tent eating grass, very loudly. I was still awake at 5:45A when we got our tray of hot chocolate for Chloe, hot water and lemon for me and 4 biscuits delivered by our guy into our tent. I wish I could be woken up like that at home every morning.

At 6:15 we were on our way for our full day to the Masai Mara to witness the wildebeest crossing. It was very cold and windy in the open sided jeep but we bundled up in provided ponchos with flannel linings to keep us warm. On the way to the Mara we saw many animals of course, but a few males lions and lioness who were on their honeymoon, which is where they leave the pride for a week to try and conceive. They will mate as many as 4 times an hour.

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Then we came upon a bunch of young lions, two males under 2 and some females. When the males are three they must leave the pride to go off on their own to start their own pride or remain bachelors.

All of a sudden the lions are all looking into the distance , and getting a bit agitated , standing up and looking ready. It’s then we notice there are actually 7 lions, a few more in the distance. They start to approach a lone clueless warthog. Apparently wart hogs have very short memories. He will see the lions and then a few minutes later forget, which is what happened here, and he walked right towards them

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We were all at the edge of our seat as we see the lions at the ready, and one of the farthest ones gets into chase to guide the warthog into the others. The wart hog started running, and man could he run fast. I don’t think he even knew he could run that fast. Eventually the lion gave up, the warthog is not that big a meal to feed that many anyhow. A lucky little poomba but he will probably forget the whole thing soon anyhow.

The roads on this side are just terrible. Well they aren’t really roads just tire tracks in the grass that everyone follows. You are not supposed to go off the road here like you can in our Conservancy. There has been a lot of rain, the grass is high and very green, but the roads and grounds and very wet and muddy. We were slipping and sliding quite a few times. The Land cruiser will and does go everywhere. Over rocks, through deep mud and rivers and rocks. It is a very jostling and bumpy ride, you need to hang on and feel like you will be thrown out at times. Chris is a very skilled and careful driver though and a few times will get out of the jeep to assess the road before continuing or finding another route.
Chloe just loved it . It was like a ride at Disneyland and safari all rolled into one.
Through the river we go.
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We had to take a different route because of this and went through a small town on the way which was interesting. No women to speak of were seen but lots of young men out and about. On the way back we saw lots of kids and teens walking home from school.

There are so many more trucks over here. If we see a lion or something of interest there will be almost a dozen trucks there vying for the best view. We saw a lone tree that was in an area of less mud and Chris and Wilfred decided this would be a great place to have our breakfast. Another truck also saw it but Christ stepped on the gas and got there first. The other truck pulled up and they all laughed about it. The drivers from all the company’s all work so well together and help each other with sighting information etc. It is great to see.

Our breakfast was wonderful sitting on our little chairs under the tree looking at the the wildebeest in the field.

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There was a fly problem however. And it only got worse as the day went on. Millions of flies and they would go in your ears, eyes all over your face. We covered up as much as we could but it was so annoying . With so many wildebeest and zebra and all the mud it is the season for flys. I saw a truck of other tourists in a jeep and the two drivers were talking as we all were waving our hands to keep the flies off our face and I joked.
“It is the Kenyan wave”

Not much further on we came to a small river and saw thousands of wildebeest and zebra on the other side. Waiting. and waiting. So we waited too, a bit out of sight so as not to spook them. Us and a dozen other trucks.
Every Spring the wildebeest travel from Tanzania to Kenya because there is more to eat. In the Fall they go back to Tanzania so there are two crossing times in the year.

Eventually one brave soul made the move to go down the hill into the river and they all followed. We raced down to the edge and watched as around 1500 of them came charging through. It was quite something. We had no idea how many were there until they started.

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And then just like that someone decides to stop and they all run in the other direction and the crossing stops.

We waited around for about another hour and then saw that they were going to start again down the river. They like to cross in an area where there are not many trees as that is where the predators lie in wait for them. It is now super hot out and the flys are unbearable But we wait.

There are a half dozen zebra on our side and they go down to the edge of the river, probably for a drink, but they came back up and the zebra on the other side followed and then the wildebeest after them. It was around another 1500 or so. It is an amazing thing to watch, and how lucky for us to have seen two crossings.

We stopped for a picnic lunch on the Mara river which was full of hippos grunting and spouting water. It was just perfect.

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Driving away after lunch Wilfred asks “ ok, now what do you want to see?’

I said a baby giraffe. Never really expecting it, but in less than half an hour there it was. A couple of them and a few adults in a field of beautiful long grass. A tower of giraffes.

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"What next?" they ask

A cheetah.

In less than half an hour we came across a mom and very young cheetah on the side of the road.

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We had an amazingly lucky day, but the guide and driver we had last time was the same. The Porini drivers are able to show us everything that we want to see which is incredible. The animal population is so much higher here than the last two parks, which is why I saved the best for last.

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We passed a huge number of vultures devouring a hippo who must have just died. We passed again three hours later and there was almost nothing left

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It was a very long but fulfilling day, we arrived back just after 5 so we had 11 hours in total. A rest shower and then back to the mess tent for dinner. We got to sit at the adult table tonight and met some interesting people from Australia and had some great conversations.

One of the guests was having her 30th birthday so all the staff came out and did some Masai Warrior dancing and singing which was wonderful. We all sang happy birthday and shared some cake before retiring for the night.

Day 11, July 01 st

Another 6:15AM departure for a game drive. We saw a few lions hiding in the grass and one in a ditch waiting for an ambush.

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A lone cheetah who looked very pregnant

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We saw a hippo and I said, “ I haven’t gotten a picture of a hippo yawning yet", and as if on cue he yawned .

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Some cute tiny Dik Diks , the smallest of the antelope family

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A lion on his way to get out of the heat and sleep in the bush. All the Topi were on alert but he must not have been hungry

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We had breakfast overlooking the beautiful scenery and had some great conversations for close to an hour
Then we met with another truck for Anna and Catherine to go to the airport and fly to Rwanda for their gorilla hike.
We slowly drove back to the camp, stopping in to check on the leopards and saw Farrah by herself

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A rest, pack up and then lunch with some new arrivals and more great conversations

We said our good byes to the staff and were really sorry to leave. This was our favourite camp and overall a fantastic safari trip.

It was an hour drive to the airstrip and we arrived back in Nairobi at 5PM and back to the Saab hotel.

We have a day here tomorrow and then we fly to Uganda for our gorilla hike.

Posted by debbep 11:51 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

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