Friday, September 30, 2011

Road kill

"Don't try this at home".  Not being road kill, but crawling around on a national road taking photos of road kill.  Because if you're not careful you may end up like that as well.  This hare clearly didn't have a lucky rabbit's foot.  As it was the end of this poor hare this is also the end of the Mini vs Maxi 2011 posts.  Lets hold thumb that I would be asked to participate again next year as I would love to share some more of this beautiful province with you.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Giraffe tracking on foot... and breakfast after

The Mini vs Maxi trip was starting to draw to an end and we were just about done with our morning game drive at Bucklands Game Reserve.  We had one thing left to do and that we to find some giraffe to walk.  We got as close to them as it was possible with the vehicle and headed further on foot.

Along the way our ranger pointed out jackal spoor

Not long after we started to approach the giraffe.  Spot the ranger's rifle that I was firing during our firearm handling exercise.  We were approaching through an open area so we couldn't get too close.  The giraffe with their high vantage point spotted us coming a long way off.

I did get a could of photos of these long necked creatures before we had to head back to the vehicle, but anyway, I've had my giraffe close encounter during the trip already.

On our return to the lodge brunch was waiting for us out on the stoep (veranda) and by then all out tummies were rumbling.
We did all agree that a hearty brunch with this fantastic view was the perfect way to end a fantastic and memorable trip.  All that remained for us was to head back home with our photos and start telling the story. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Firearm handling

During the Mini vs Maxi trip the organisers requested Bucklands Game Reserve to give Team Mini a firearm handling demonstration.  It may have been a strange request to give to a game reserve, but it wasn't like we were going to head out and shoot at animals.  I've never handled a firearm before in my life and have no urge to go hunting, but was quite excited about the prospect of firing off a couple of shots.
The firearms that we were shown and allowed to handle are those used for conservation and farm management purposes.  The one I'm handling without the scope (please don't ask me their names and calibres cause I don't know guns and didn't make a note of that) is the rifle that rangers take along on game drives and game walks.  Judging on the kick it gave me I'm can understand why they would use it to try and stop a big animal charging guests, although I'm sure a reserve owner would happily use it on his ranger if said ranger takes down a rhino or buffalo unnecessary. <---- Said very tongue in cheek, so don't take that statement seriously.

The rifle with the scope is a hunting rifle used to control game numbers and take down the kudu and warthog used in the venison pie and warthog sausage we had for dinner and breakfast.  A word of warning though.  Don't put your eye against the scope when pulling the trigger.  Luckily it didn't give me a blue eye, but it did hit me and in the photo you can see Sisa is keeping a safe distance himself.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Walking rhinos at Bucklands

Our morning game drive (the second drive of our stay) at Bucklands Game Reserve during the Mini vs Maxi trip basically had two goals in mind.  We wanted to walk rhino as well as giraffe with rhino being first prize.  Not long into the drive we pulled over for some welcome coffee at one of the lookout spots before our search continued.  There is a bit of a private joke involved in this stop which won't be retold here to preserve some reputations.

Our search came close on a couple of occasions.  Werner, our excellent ranger, stopped at a couple of rhino toilets during the drive, always on the lookout for fresh dung.  Rhino always go back to the same spot and create dung middens to mark their territory and finding fresh dung would have meant that we were close.  

Werner picked up their tracks a few times but all a bit on the old side.  Not long afterwards the call we were waiting for came through.  The one female with her calf had been spotted and we headed straight over.

On arrival at the sighting we hopped off the vehicle after a thorough safety briefing.  We kept to the rules.  Walk in a straight line behind the ranger.  Stay quiet.  Keep your eyes open.  And always know where the appointed "safe" spot was and the quickest way to get there.  The rhinos had moved off by the time we got there, but we weren't about to give up. 
Perserverence pays off and after a short search we found them in the bush.  Unfortunately it wasn't the most photogenic sighting, but still an awesome experience viewing one of the Big 5 on foot.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bucklands sunrise

Sunrise on the last day of the Mini vs Maxi trip, seen through the old Wild Fig tree next to the lodge at Bucklands Game Reserve.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Flowers at Bucklands

Going around Bucklands Game Reserve on our game drive I realised the impact that all the rain we received during the winter had on the surrounding landscape.  The veld is green and there are flowers everywhere.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Lodge at night

Returning from the night drive to the Bucklands Boutique Guest House, the lodge staff had a fire burning outside and dinner was being prepared in the kitchen.  Although I wanted to go and have a quick bath before dinner I decided to rather chill by the fire a little while before the meal.  The bath could wait till later.  And I think I took the better option sitting there listening to the night sounds.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Night drive at Bucklands

About three hours into our game drive at Bucklands Game Reserve, the sun started to reach out for the horizon and we headed to a spot in the reserve to enjoy the African sun setting.  

Stopping for sun dowers is the ideal opportunity to stretch your legs and chat about the experience so far.  Its also an opportunity to enjoy a couple of snacks and a drink before the last stretch of game drive.

The sun set, as we would like to believe, as it only sets in Africa. Magnificently.

After sunset the game drive lasted for another hour.  You may ask what there is to see after dark, but believe me there is a whole other world to discover.  Our ranger's powerful spotlight sought out most of the animals we saw before the sun set, but also found a number of nocturnal animals.  Amongst them we spotted a pair of Aardwolf.  Its only the second time I had seen these very interesting animals.  Although they look like a smaller version of the hyena, they only came out at night and feed on insects. 

Unfortunately I didn't get any good photos of animals in the spotlight.  I don't have a proper SLR camera and I just couldn't get my prosumer superzoom to focus in the light.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Game drive at Bucklands

During our wonderful stay at Bucklands Private Game Reserve during the Mini vs Maxi trip we had the opportunity to go on two game drives.  The first one starting at about 15:00ish (sorry, but I just can't remember the exact time) in the afternoon with the other one early the next morning.  As we were the only ones at the lodge for the night we had a game drive vehicle all to ourselves.  Our ranger, Werner, must be one of the most knowledgeable ranger I've ever had on a game drive.  He also literally went out his way to find us as much as possible during the drive and when there was nothing to see he was telling us about trees, plants and the history of the area.  Some of the game we saw on the drive included:


Burchell's Zebra




And Homo sapiens, also known as the visitors staying at the Luxury Tented Camp.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bucklands Game Reserve - Boutique Guest House

The area from Port Elizabeth eastwards is big game country and one of the new (game reserve) kids on the block is Bucklands Private Game Reserve.  After visiting them recently on the Mini vs Maxi trip I have to honestly say that calling them a kid doesn't do them justice though.  Bucklands are situated about 35 kilometers north of Grahamstown next to the 45000 hectares The Great Fish River Nature Reserve.

Bucklands was launched in 2007 by Terry and Michele Stewart and their family with the Luxury Tented Camp opening in 2009 and the Boutique Guest House in 2010.  The reserve consists of 5500 hectares and includes the properties known as Bucklands, Lower Bucklands and Schrikwaters Poort.  It was decided not to introduce lion and elephants at this stage, but the reserve does have white rhino and buffalo along with giraffe, zebra and a wide variety of antelope and smaller animals.  On our evening game drive we even saw Aardwolf which I have only seen once before, but more on that in a later post.

On our visit we stayed in the newly restored Bucklands Boutique Guest House.  The accommodation is situated in the original homestead which was erected in about 1872 by Alf Buckley.  Attached to the house is double storey fort which is thought to predate the farm house itself.  As there are now exact records on the fort, the assumption is made that it was built as part of a military outpost on the frontier defence line, serving as protection between Fort Brown and Double Drift. 

The first floor of the fort is taken up by one of the four bedrooms at the lodge while the ground floor is used as a sitting room away from the formal lounge.  Some of the interesting features of the fort section of the lodge are the thick fortified walls with the original gun slits in them.

The lodge itself is stylishly furnished and decorated using very dark wood and leather.  The one thing that really impressed me was that it wasn't over done as you often find at lodges, so it didn't look "plastic" Africa.  It had a colonial, yet modern kinda simplistic feel.  Homely in many ways.  You weren't afraid to sit down and get comfortable without somebody looking at you with a raised eyebrow. 

The four luxury en-suite bedrooms are all individually furnished with the honeymoon suite having a four poster bed.  I'm not sure about the other rooms, but mine had a clawed bath in it which the Damselfly would have loved had she been there.  Returning from dinner, which included homemade venison pie, I even had a warm water bottle in my bed.  And that is exactly where I spent the rest of the evening relaxing, listening to the jackals calling in the distance.

More posts about Bucklands coming over the next couple of days...  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Breakfast at Lavender Blue

On the morning of Day 3 of the Mini vs Maxi Adventure across the Eastern Cape, Team Mini stopped at Lavender Blue outside East London for breakfast.  Apparently we weren't the only ones with the idea of filling up on bacon and eggs as the place was packed with locals and visitors alike enjoying their famous breakfasts.

Lavender Blue is a farmers market and restaurant and according to the locals is THE place around East London to have a hearty breakfast, specially over weekends.  On entering you browse the menu up on the black board and decided what you want.  You then mosey over to the casher, put in your order and pay for it before joining the dish up line.  The method works very well as each station is manned and the staff dish up your breakfast very quickly and efficiently.

Farmstyle Breakfast and orange juice. 'Nuff said.

Lavender Blue also has a fruit and veg section with most of the products sold there sourced locally and being organic, healthy and natural produce.  On the weekends there are also a number of stallholders selling things like jams & preserves, olive oil, ginger beer, sweet & savoury muffins and much more.  I kinda wish we had a place like this in Port Elizabeth...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Ama Zing–Zing Skywalk Trail

The Mini vs Maxi Adventure across the Eastern Cape took Team Mini to Areena Riverside Resort on Day 2 for a quad bike game drive.  When owner Ed Rathbone asked the question "How much time do you have?" we knew though that he had more in mind for us than just quad biking.  We were kitted out in harnesses before our quad ride and on arrival on top of the hill overlooking Areena Valley we were informed that we will be doing Areena's new Ama Zing-Zing zipline experience.

The zipline experience that officially opened a week after our visit, consists of of 10 ziplines up, down and across a couple of valleys with the longest being 153m and the highest 70m.  Once you go on the first zipline you suddenly realise why its called Ama Zing-Zing.  The mechanism go "ziiiiiiinnnnnggggg" as you fly down the cable towards your destination.

Its not easy describing the feeling of ziplining, specially when you, like myself, afraid of heights .  You are slightly nervous when you get clipped onto the first cable.  Your heart starts beating faster and you really only hear the essentials of what the guide tells you before putting your weight onto the cable.  Deep breath... push off... and ... absolute freedom as you glide across the valley.  Once you have done the first one the fear and nervousness are gone and you can't wait to get onto the next slide.  Absolute awesomeness.

Ed showing off a little, but this photo really describes the freedom you experience while ziplining best.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Smack on the lips

On my quad biking experience at Areena Riverside Resort during the Mini vs Maxi experience I met Abby.  Not being very tall myself, I've never really been into tall girls.  Not that I disapprove of their long legs and lanky bodies, just that I always preferred somebody about my length. 

When we encountered Abby she seemed to take a liking in me and immediately came closer.   Ed, Areena's owner, suggested that I blow in her nose and, thinking that its a way to deter her, I did so.  Deter her, it did not. She nuzzled me and planted a kiss smack on my lips.

With her big eyes and sexy eye lashes, who can resist this face?  Her nose is a bit big though, but I'm not judging. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011