Birds of South Africa, the North West Province

On a trip to South Africa in 2008, one of our stops included several days at a wonderful safari lodge in the North West. Needless to say, the abundant animal life had my camera (including a 300mm lens) at my side and I constantly snapped anything that moved…no matter how big…or how small.

Elephant at Madikwe National Park

Elephant at Madikwe Game Reserve

Armored Ground Crickets

Armored Ground Crickets

I live in Florida, where birds are a common part of the landscape. I discovered this province quite similar in flora and the number of unique birds. I’m not a bird expert (they are simply fun to watch), but took photos of many I saw and then attempted to properly identify them. While I have a book of Bushveld birds and a list of birds our guide rattled off during our trips in the bush, the task has left a few photos without proper identification. It didn’t help that I went through my notes at the end of the day with a Springbok (drink made with layers of kahlua, peppermint liquor, and Amarula cream) or a sweet Jerepico aperitif (loved it, but can’t find it in the US). If you recognize a bird, or find one I’ve mislabeled, please let me know.

The Lilac-breasted Roller.

The Lilac-breasted Roller. Small, but pretty. The colors are so perfect on this bird, it almost doesn’t look real.

Not wishing to have the pretty ones take center stage a Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill moved into the picture.

Not wishing to have the pretty ones take center stage a Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill moved into the picture.

The vulture. Big, ugly, and a necessary scavenger. I can’t tell from its position and this photo what type. African White-backed or maybe Hooded Vulture?

The vulture. Big, ugly, and a necessary scavenger. I can’t tell from its position and this photo what type. African White-backed or maybe Hooded Vulture?

The long wispy tail of this Shaft-tailed Whydah is rather unique.

The long wispy tail of this Shaft-tailed Whydah is rather unique.

A Pale Chanting Goshawk. Note the orange beak and legs.

A Pale Chanting Goshawk. Note the orange beak and legs.

Starlings are found around the world, but this one certainly had a beautiful blue. Burchell’s Starling.

Starlings are found around the world, but this one certainly had a beautiful blue. Burchell’s Starling.

Helmeted Guinefowl. Love the blue and red head.

Helmeted Guinefowl. Love the blue and red head.

Birds of a feather flock together. Helmeted Guinefowl.

Birds of a feather flock together. Helmeted Guinefowl.

Kori Bustard. Not the best photo, but it shows their rather “prehistoric” head and body shape.

Kori Bustard. Not the best photo, but it shows their rather “prehistoric” head and body shape.

Bee-eater. Tiny, beautiful, and hard to see as it blended in perfectly.

Bee-eater. Tiny, beautiful, and hard to see as it blended in perfectly.

These were some nests I encountered.

This one I believe belonged to a Weaver of some type.

This one I believe belonged to a Weaver of some type.

These two photos show a remarkable collection of giant nests from a bird I can’t identify. Someday I’ll have to contact the lodge where we stayed and ask, as they have it posted in their website gallery from a bunch of photos I left behind after our visit.

Nest2

The head is not clearly seen in this photo (or another taken at the same time), but it appears almost completely black (unlike ospreys). Its body size is that of a large bird like an eagle.

A larger angle showing the entire tree and multiple nests.

A larger angle showing the entire tree and multiple nests. The bird’s head is also twisted forward while preening and again appears all black.

I think hubby found my photo taking a bit amusing and snapped this photo with his pocket-sized digital.

Sandy at Madikwe National Park. A kid in a photo candy store.

Sandy at Madikwe National Park. A kid in a photo candy store.

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Sandy is starting in January 2013 a monthly drawing taken from those who comment on her blogs. Comment and your name will go into a drawing for a free ebook of Repossessed by Sandy Parks or one of author Julie Moffett’s Lexi series. You’ll have a month after names are pulled to check back and see if you are a winner. Good luck and  hope to hear from you.

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Ever been fumigated on a plane before?

Hunting through plane photos, I came across one I hadn’t added to my collection of travel aircraft. Part of what I like in traveling is to check out planes of other countries and the often unique towers at airports. On this particular adventure, it wasn’t the planes or airports that were memorable, it was the process.

South African Airways

South African Airways

This is the South African Airways plane we took to Johannesburg from New York several years back. Aircraft in the background are an Emirates, a blue KLM, a Swiss, an Air India, and a conga line of aircraft either taxing for takeoff or heading for the terminal. On average, the flight takes around 18 hours to South Africa. While the trip is long, the airline catered to the passengers as well as most overseas flights, and we did our best to stretch our legs and maintain the blood flow. The jaunt required a refueling stop in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, Africa (where a few passengers would deplane, too). Once on the ground in Senegal, our hopes for a break to stand were crushed. The crew informed us to remain seated for the entire stopover.

We soon discovered they had a good reason for this. Down each aisle flight attendants strolled with little canisters held high. From them sprayed a rather foul white mist. It took a minute for my brain to register they were fumigating the air in plane (and us along with it).  Evidently the Senegalese worried about tiny creatures (flies and mosquitoes) invading their airspace. Needless to say they didn’t inform the uninitiated like us before the trip. Not that I wouldn’t have gone, but sheesh, at least I would have been prepared for it. On the return trip I covered my head with a blanket- it helped some, but hubby thought I looked silly. So he might have been right (for once), but can I help it if I have a sensitive nose?

By the way, we loved South Africa and would go back in a heartbeat (once we’ve been to the other gazillion places on our bucket list)…but telling about that country will be for another post.

I’ve heard airlines no longer fumigate, but if anyone knows differently or has experienced it, please shout out. :  ) I’ve also heard a good number of airlines now have direct flights to South Africa and no longer stop in Dakar. If anyone else has weird flying experiences to share, click on the comment tag near the title above.

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Sandy is starting in January a monthly drawing taken from those who comment on her blogs. Comment and your name will go into a drawing for a free ebook of Repossessed by Sandy Parks or one of author Julie Moffett’s Lexi series. You’ll have a month after names are pulled to check back and see if you are a winner. Good luck and we hope to hear from you.

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Lights of Morocco

In a country with sunshine aplenty, I found the indoor lighting to be purposefully subdued. Intricate lanterns with detailed metal work hung from ceilings or were fastened to the walls. My first photograph is from the Riad Kalaa in Rabat. We had a two-story room and this lantern hung in the stairwell to the first floor. Note the beautiful wood beams on the ceiling.

RoomLight

The more rounded lanterns hung beneath the arches of the walkway along the courtyard. The arch is a bit unusual. The tooth-like design is made of local sandstone.

Hanging lanterns with stone arch

Hanging lanterns with stone arch

Also in the Riad Kalaa courtyard, long brass lanterns hung from curved arms attached to sandstone columns. The door in the picture is an excellent example of the two door system you find everywhere in Morocco. You can see the smaller door, that when open by itself has a keyhole shape, is now attached to the larger door.

Long brass lantern on arm

Long brass lantern on arm

The ultimate sky light was this open decorative metal arch constructed over the riad courtyard.

Riad Kalaa Courtyard

Riad Kalaa Courtyard

Across the roof terrace you can see my husband relaxing along a wall with two long, glass covered lanterns. I believe those are papyrus growing in the tall pot. I included two closer looks so can see how the lanterns are hung, note the opaque glass, and see the detailing in the brass.

Riad Kalaa

Riad Kalaa

CloseupHangingClear

Closeup2Longlantern

The next lantern, in a night setting, hung in the courtyard at another beautiful riad we stayed at in Marrakesh.

Brass Sconce

Brass Sconce

The following photos are from mosques, schools, and famous riads in Morocco.

MosqueCandleabra

RoundSetLanterns

SpookyLight

This intricate ceiling has beautiful skylights to let in natural sunlight.

Intricate Sky Light

Intricate Sky Light

Street lights from the medina in Fez (Americans spell Fez with a “z” while in Morocco we saw it spelled with an “s”) or the streets near the market in Marrakesh.

Street Light

Street Light

Lanterns in Fez

Lanterns in Fez

MarrakeshStreetLight2

Street Light in Marrakesh

The last photo is a candle and rose on our dinner table as we ate in the courtyard of our quiet and beautiful riad. Photo taken with my cell phone. Stay tuned for future blogs on more aspects of Morocco and other countries.

Candle and Rose

Candle and Rose

I hope you enjoyed the pictures I put together. COMMENT on this blog (Comment tag is at start of the blog near title) and your name will go into the hat for a drawing (ending mid-night Dec 11) of an eBook by REPOSSESSED by Sandy Parks or NO ONE LIVES TWICE by Julie Moffett (both award-winning authors). I’ll post the winning name later this week, so you’ll have to check back. Thanks for dropping in.

Cats in Morocco

After my trip to Morocco when I sat down to go through photos, I realized the things I saw the most…I photographed the least. One of those things was sheep. The other cats. In Fez and Marrakesh in particular, felines huddled in the protection of doorways safe from the feet of tourists and locals, and the hooves of burdened mules. They skirted rooftops and lazily lounged on ledges, roofs, and in shady nooks and crannies. Honestly, cats were everywhere. My subconscious must have picked up that fact, which accounts for the few feline photos that did make it home. Quality photos they are not! Click to make them larger.

BlackCatIn the Atlas Mountains, the cats played at dusk in the shrubs and wild flowers at the kasbah. This black cat maneuvered from bush to bush, blending in well. Its gorgeous yellow eyes matched the yellow of leaves and flowers (right).

ClimbingCatIn a narrow residential lane in Rabat, we encountered a gray tabby moving from its over-the-door perch and down a steep wall (left). The landing turned out to be quite dramatic. Good thing cats have nine lives. It made us wonder why the cat chose to jump instead of use the oleander next to it, which is most likely the way it climbed up.

DoorCat

This doorway cat is a smaller version of mine. It even shares a similar perturbed expression(right).

While this fountain is no longer functioning in the medina, I can imagine that at one time the drizzle of water would have been the perfect Fez drinking and gathering place for felines (below).

FountainCat

LeatherShopKitAs we stood inside a leather shop in Fez that overlooked the leather vats, a tiny kitten played on a bench near us (left).

WellCatOn an old wooden wheel in Rabat, a cat nestled in the shade (right).

Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco

Imagine a hotel so remote a mule carries your luggage up a mountainside from the nearby “big” town. Welcome to the Kasbah du Toubkal.

Kasbah du Toubkal

Our driver dropped us off at the hotel “office” in a town at the bottom of steep hills in the High Atlas Mountains. The door was carved from local wood and the stones fronting the building are from the mountains that surrounded us. You can’t see my hiking boots, but I’m about to need them.

Checking into the Kasbah in the High Atlas Mountains

The tiny main street has vendors that collect supplies from vans, cars, or mules. One vendor stands outside his shop, wearing a djelaba (pronounced without the “d” sound at start of word) over his clothes.

Town near Kasbah du Toubkal

Once we “checked in,” they flagged down a passing donkey (or mule) and loaded up our suitcases (we traveled with bigger bags for the extended vacation and varied climates- no more backpacking as in younger days). A note here about mules and donkeys. In Morocco, they were about the same size, whereas my husband remembers from his grandfather’s farm in Georgia, that the mules there were substantially larger than donkeys.

Loading luggage for the trek up to the kasbah.

We followed the backside. . .ahem. . .we followed our luggage up a winding street and continued as it turned into a rocky trail up a hillside.

Bell Boy (?)

Eventually we reached the Kasbah du Toubkal clinging to the mountainside. A wide wooden gate was opened and our luggage offloaded. Berber kasbah staff carried it into a courtyard of stones steps amid a tiny oasis of wildflowers and lawn.

Kasbah du Toubkal Courtyard

The evening we arrived, a cool fog hung over the mountains and draped into the valley.

Evening view from rooftop terrace of kasbah

Our small but comfortable room is beneath the large pot you see on the roof. The very thick mud walls would keep anyone warm or cool no matter the weather.

Our room off the rooftop deck of kasbah.

The kasbah was rebuilt on a caid’s old home site in a joint venture between Europeans and the local Berber village. From the kasbah terrace outside our room, you can see the Berber village over my husband’s shoulder. Note the satellite dishes on the village dwellings. Electricity reaches almost everywhere in Morocco now. I can tell you the most watched programs are the “football” games. Before we arrived in Morocco the state soccer team had been playing poorly. Our driver claimed they were “cats” not the “lions” as they were known. Before we left, they had a big victory and were once again worthy of being called lions.

Berber village next to kasbah.

Stay tuned for the next blog on how to do a picnic “Berber style” in the mountains.

How to Bake Bread in Fez, Morocco

After winding on foot through the medina in Fez, where streets were so narrow a laden mule hardly had clearance, we stopped in at a bread bakery. Different areas of the medina each have a shop with a large oven for locals to bring in their raw dough.

Baker standing in front of his oven.

The baker then filled his oven, lining up each customer’s dough in long rows. Even if the finished loaves became scrambled, he claimed to know which loaf belonged to which customer by its finished appearance. Bread Baking in open oven
When done, the baker takes it out with a very long paddle capable of reaching to the back of the deep oven.

Pulling out the bread with a long flat paddle

He proudly displays the rounded loaves on the floor (don’t think the bakery would pass US food inspection considering we stood on the floor and had just stepped inside from the narrow mule trodden passages through the medina).
The finished bread is then stacked on shelves waiting for the customer to collect.

Bread on the Shelves awaiting the owners

Flight to Morocco Part II:

In my last post, our aircraft to Paris was turning back to Atlanta Hartsfield while dumping fuel. (Check out the previous True Airspeed Morocco blog if you missed the first part to the story.) I expected fire trucks would escort us to the gate, but ongoing events promised more.

Hubby settled back in the “comfy” economy seats and closed his eyes, probably hoping to fall back into dreamland knowing it was an hour back to Atlanta and predicting nothing exciting would happen until then.
My insatiable curiosity, however, kept me awake and attuned to anything that might garner more details about the plane’s situation. While I expected the flight attendants to be ready to answer passengers’ questions, the ones in economy were nowhere to be found.
When they reappeared coming from business class, one attendant inquired, in a subdued voice, if we had a doctor in our section.
Sheesh, had a pilot become overwhelmed by fumes?
A doctor with his church contingent from the Midwest raised his hand. The attendant signaled him to follow. Another attendant whisked past our position and headed aft.
With the curtains open between sections, I noticed the attendant and doctor stopped at a row in business class. Although sorry for the stricken passenger, I felt a modicum of relief the person in distress wasn’t one of our pilots and thus a sign of more dire circumstances for the plane. The other attendant hustled past our seats again with some kind of kit in hand.
I gently nudged my hubby. “I think somebody’s a little uneasy with us turning around.”
“Huh?”
I pointed up to business class and explained what had happened.
“Doesn’t take much to raise a passenger’s blood pressure,” hubby said.
“The attendant brought up something from the back. A defibrillator?”
“Could be, or communication gear. When there’s a medical emergency the pilots contact a medical service. The cockpit then patches through to the flight attendants for info on the passenger.”
A flight attendant reappeared. “Any one happen to be a nurse,” she asked.
“Pediatric,” one gal said as she raised a hand. The nurse quickly hustled off to assist.
“What do you think?” I asked my hubby.
“That there will be an ambulance waiting for us, too.” He smiled. “At least we should have priority for landing.”

“How long do you think it will take to fix the plane?”
“Depends on whether maintenance can reproduce the smell on the ground so they know what to fix.”
“If they can’t?”
“Airplane change.”
Five hours later, with a new airplane, pilots, and the baggage moved from the old to a new plane, they boarded us for Paris. From my seat I could see our old plane and noticed a catering truck pulling up to it. Hmm. Maybe we weren’t quite ready to take off.
The pilot announced that in the shuffle and unexpected return, catering had been delayed (ie. forgotten). So we waited another forty-five minutes and finally took off for an uneventful flight to Paris where, of course, we had long missed our connection to Casablanca. : )