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The Uganda Workout (Kibale, QENP and Nkuringo)

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Sangeeta

What an amazing day this must have been. Fully agree with Lynn that it rivals the Mahale encounters (and in fact, your day 2 easily surpasses anything that at least I experienced in Mahale). I can just see and hear that conga line forming and dissolving (the baby on the mum's back photo is lovely), but I was truly and completely blown away by the chimp meeting in the forest clearing! This looks just like a village council meeting. Just incredible stuff, Paul! And you've captured both the chaos and the magic in your writing. Nothing like i have read before either.

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Sangeeta

Edited double post - sorry!

Edited by Sangeeta

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pault

Thank you all.

 

@@twaffle You are right - or at least I agree with you. A little muck and mess is good. It was charming.

 

@@Atravelynn... Thanks for that. Of course I had your trip reports as a reference and it seems as if things have changed. I suspect photo ops are just as good as at Mahale, but of course I havem't been there.

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pault

Between the two CHEX days we did both the wetlands walk and village walk in Bigodi village. These are community-organized activities rather than any kind of typical safari experience. You could do both for free without too much trouble, although homes wouldn't necessarily be open to you and you might get lost. Anyway, it helps people living near to Kibale Forest have a more positive attitude towards tourism and helps maintain a bit more habitat for the many striking monkeys and birds in this area.

 

Bigodi Wetlands are a small piece of forest and swamp bordered.on one side by the road and village and on the other by farmland. In there are seven types of monkey (they say 8 primates, but you don't need to come here to see baboons!) and many forest birds. With a local guide, from the village, you simply walk around it and then through it for a short way, seeing whatever you see on the forest edges. It is listed as a two-hour activity, but it took us three so either we were lucky with what we saw or we are more interested (or slower) that the average swamp walker. I bet some birders take longer though, although with it being cloudy we didn't see as many birds as we expected and most photos were horrible because of branches in front of birds or bright skies behind. We did see a couple of Ross's Turacos and a pair of Double-toothed Barbet, but nothing to set the birder's pulse racing.

 

Walking on the edge of the forest on a path you meet locals walking too, but more interestingly you see some nice stuff in the forest. The guide was young, but he was decently knowledgable and pleasant company.

 

Red Colobus

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L'Hoest's Monkey

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A flycatcher - grey-chested/breasted possibly but the colouring has me stumped

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Just because I am not impressed by the fact they offer baboon sightings does not mean I don't appreciate baboons and their entertaining ways..

 

Olive Baboon "hiding"

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Black and White Colobus (a camera can only do so much.... Haha)

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There was lots more to see and photograph, although it wasn't a patch on Kibale National Park forest.

 

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We also saw Grey-cheeked Mangabeys, Vervet Monkeys and Red-tailed Monkeys, but due to either obstructing trees or bright, bright skies I have better shots from elsewhere. The Black and White Colobus was only processed because my wife insisted - she wanted the tail nice and visible!

 

After lunch at the lodge I went on the Bigodi Village Walk, but my wife decided to stay in and rest before CHEX 2. Actually, I was the one who was knacked, thanks to my bruised knees, but I thought the village walk would be interesting - it was.

 

It is a potentially dull activity, as you just walk in the village, which is pretty typical for rural Uganda and relatively developed in its simple way. Nothing very interesting about it at all. You get to visit three village elders to learn about the old and new ways and your local guide translates. I had the same guide again and Remmy again accompanied me, as he was interested to see what it would be like.

 

The funds raised from these activities go into the community, for general development and to provide loans. The football pitch is presumably one of the results.

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However, from the other side you get a more typical view of a modern Ugandan village.

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The butcher... Very appetizing meat!

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... to be continued (you know I am going to have a small adventure in the village, right?)

 

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Edited by pault

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SafariChick

ah, leaving us in suspense, eh? Was it a Mentos and soda experiment? Which somehow involved a small skull?

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pault

ah, leaving us in suspense, eh? Was it a Mentos and soda experiment? Which somehow involved a small skull?

 

Haha... not intentionally. I just ran out of time as something big came up at work.It really was only a very small adventure and I didn't cast any spells.

 

 

 

 

By the way, I think the bird might be a Little Grey Flycatcher, as I just found a picture of one with similar colouring to mine... of course that picture could be misllabeled. I am way out of my depth with jungle birds. :rolleyes:

Edited by pault

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Marks

I am enjoying reading about the (sometimes literal) ups and downs of this trip. Your L'Hoest's Monkey photo is gorgeous.

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pault

After walking through the newer part of the village we turned left and headed up hill to some older compounds where people generally still had a decent sized garden, planted with vegetables, fruit trees and often a small plot of corn. Our first visit was to the village's "traditional healer" and since he wasn't quite ready we had to wait outside for a few minutes.

 

 

We were finally granted entry into a very dark mud hut with traditional thatched roof, just big enough for me, my two guides and the healer and all the tools of his trade - or those we were allowed to see. After the necessary greetings (which of course takes a while when there are four) he started off by explaining how it was difficult to find boys interested in learning the ropes nowadays, as it took many years to become competent. He had been apprenticed by his farther at the age if 12 and now he was 68 and his own eldest son hadn't been interested, so he was now training another village boy who was 14, and would take over as the village's healer when he died. Quite a conversation starter, but he appeared just to be telling us rather than complaining so we all nodded along and opined that it was indeed a shame boys no longer had an interest in the dark arts. He was clearly a bit disappointed in his son, but since his eldest son was probably in his 40s by now I guessed it wasn't a fresh wound.

 

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Anyway, after discussing this for a while, I steered the conversation to what I was really interested in - what on earth were all these potions and objects on the floor? He then started picking up various bottles of orange liquid and explaining what each was for. It turned out that most of his power was from potions and the orange stuff was a kind of base into which scrapings and bits of the other, powerful objects and plants were added in the correct quantities. These objects and plants were sourced from the forest and many had been sourced in his father's time, so might not be that easy to replace, such as the baby chimpanzee skull.

 

 

One potion was for jilted husbands to recover their wives. Make them drink it and they would not be able to tear themselves away from you. Another "cure" was was for quarreling neighbours - throw some nasty looking hairy object over your neighbour's house and the next day the troublesome family would be on their way. Since it was a small village I asked him what would happen if both neighbours came to him looking for the cure. The answer was that it was first come, first served and he wouldn't serve the second neighbour. Nice to know he had a conflict of Internet policy.

 

 

Other potions would cure various ailments, including cancer, and some were drunk and others rubbed on. I was not offered and did not ask for a taste of any - to be honest I did not even dare smell them.

 

 

There was what appeared to be a big bundle of hair (but really grotty hair with bits in) hanging up on the wall. Everything else was on the floor in display to us, and when he hadn't explained It after a while my curiosity made me ask. It turned out to be the dried roots of a giant fern, and he had found that very useful. It was a cure for mental illness. I asked him how it worked and he seemed pleased by my level if interest and explained that if someone had mental problems they would come to him. He would shave their head and then tie the giant fern roots to their head, and they had to wear it until they were cured.

 

The master at work. I did ask him about his outfit as I wondered if there was a Harry Potter influence somehow, but he assured me that his robe and hat had been handed down from his father, many years before.

 

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I asked him what happened when a spell or potion didn't work. He didn't understand the question (although it was translated) so I rephrased it as "Do your potions always work?" He seemed to think this was a very, very strange question too, perhaps along the lines of "Does water quench your thirst?" but eventually we ascertained that indeed his potions were sure to work unless the user applied them wrongly.

 

 

Since I had been so interested he decided to give me a freebie. Fortunately he didn't consider me mentally I'll and I hadn't been jilted by my wife, so he asked me if I was going on a trip? Coincidentally I was! Amazing! "How did you know that?" I asked. He just smiled knowingly and got out his big bowl, into which he added a potion and then threw in some sticks. "You had some problems but you got here safely" he told me. Goodness, he was right. Surely not being picked up at the airport and meeting elephants in Kibale qualified as "problems". So he then threw some more sticks into a bowl and assured me that my upcoming journey would be safe, since the sticks had not ended up crossed - bad news for Remmy and us if it had gone the other way!

 

 

After posing with me for the picture in the previous post above, taken at Remmy's insistence, he wished us safe journeys and other pleasantries and we emerged again into the light.

 

 

Next was a visit to someone just described as an old man who was going to tell us about the way the people of the village used to live. He was significantly older than the traditional healer and found it difficult to walk, but he was welcoming and offered us coffee beans, which we took to chew (a common courtesy in this area it seems) and then told us about the cycle of birth, growing up and death as it used to be and may still be in the village. He had a very strong knowledge and provided information in some detail. It was really quite interesting. When he had finished explaining what happened when somebody died, he asked me what we did after a death in my country. Since I have only attended a couple of UK death ceremonies, but many Thai ones, I decided to tell him about Thai ceremonies. He was amazed and very interested to hear that it would be at least a week and sometimes a year between the body being placed in the coffin at the temple and the cremation. You could tell he was thinking the smell must be terrible, but I re-emphasized to him that the body was sealed up and not put on display for the neighbours to come and look at like in his village. He still thought it was a bit rude not to display the body in your own house, but to kick the deceased out as soon as they stopped breathing. He also wondered if Thais cried a lot at funerals and I explained that while you couldn't generalize, generally they didn't cry as much as you might expect, and this was partially because they believed that the deceased was going to be reincarnated - born again into another body. A baby? he wondered. Well, I explained, it could be human form but it would depend upon your karma, and if you hadn't done good things you might be reborn as a bird or a dog, for example. A dog? Am I going to turn into a dog? He laughed and spluttered at that thought for quite a while, and I could tell he was going to have a good dinner with his family that evening, telling them about the strange Thais and also which creature he thought each of them would be reborn as.

 

The two mzees

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Time had flown and it was getting late, so we decided to skip the third house call and make our way back to the van.

 

 

So that is it. Nothing unusual or really eye-opening, but it was a really pleasant and interesting experience that didn't feel invasive. I felt very welcome in these men's homes and they were happy to engage in conversation, while the guide kept us on track while interpreting and any possible offence was not given or taken.

 

 

Walking through the village we were observed and even followed by children. I asked some if they wanted me to take their photo, and they did. In fact they were so keen that it was a bit difficult to get away. I even had to arrange them for group shots, as they were fighting to get in shot first, and when they saw those everyone thought everyone else looked absolutely hilarious, but that they themselves looked rather good. Few spoke any English but they were generally polite and they were not expectant of rewards (or did not let on that they were). I am sure they wouldn't have said no if I had had something sweet or fruity in my pocket, but they seemed happy just to interact and then tease each other about how funny they looked in the pictures I showed them.

 

 

Some village kids...

 

Wooden bike

 

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Pals

 

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Be quiet... mzungu is taking our picture

 

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Hello!

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Home alone

 

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Finally, to get back to what I mentioned before, there was quite a lot to see in the grounds of Primate Lodge itself. We saw four species of monkey and numerous interesting birds, insects and lizards during the short time we were actually on the premises during daylight. Certainly worth staying here for this if you are not otherwise going to visit Uganda or West Africa again. Our tent was no. 3 and we had Grey-cheeked Mangabeys and Red Colobus Monkeys feeding in the trees right above and around the tent on our first evening, baboons passing at least twice daily, a civet at night and plenty of mice and other strange sounds. We also saw some Red-tailed Monkeys feeding in the trees next to the lodge car parking area. Unfortunately monkey sightings stopped once the large and loud Scandinavian group appeared and the lizards and other creatures became more careful. I am sure this was no coincidence at all.

 

 

Around the lodge (before the tour group).

 

 

Grey-cheeked Mangabey (colour a little stylised)

 

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Red-tailed Monkey

 

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Lizards

 

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Gathering nectar

 

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TonyQ

@@pault

Your photos of the chimps are superb. The experience is really well describe by you.

It brings back memories of trying to keep up with chimps as they run through the forest.

I think one of the interesting things about a trip to Uganda is the interaction with the people - that you are not always in a bubble. You photograph this and write about it so well.

 

Your monkey pictures are really excellent!

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FlyTraveler

This TR continues as fabulous photography and writing! Thank you for sharing with us your cultural experiences and photos alongside with the wildlife ones!

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twaffle

Oh boy, I love the photos of the children and the elders, they are so evocative. I must remember this place for when I finally start arranging my Ugandan return. You have such a great eye for composition and light which is used so well in this environment which I can't see as being easy. The different monkeys are lovely. Now I wonder how I could arrange a visit without large and noisy tour groups to scare everything away.

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pault

@@TonyQ and @@Marks and @@FlyTraveler... Thank you.

 

Tony, you put it better than I would have done "not always in a bubble". Yes, that is the difference in Uganda, for better or worse.

 

@@twaffle... Thank you. Since we only came across this one large group (but THREE times - they followed us!) you should be okay. Most groups are no more than 6 and keen birders who are too busy with their binos and checklists to make noise. :)

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Atravelynn

Your swamp walk was tremendously productive, far more than I recall. You did just one swamp walk? In rereading your comments I see it is now referred to as a wetlands walk. Perhaps that accounts for all your monkey sightings! Excellent photos of those sightings, really showing the expressions of these intelligent creatures.

 

I would expect no less than a small adventure in the village from you. Looking forward to that next.

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michael-ibk

Great report with superb photos, but the writing is even better. Really makes it easy to imagine what this trip was like and how "bubble-light" Uganda is.

 

The chimp experience appears to be pretty demanding, and the one-hour-free-for-all quite mad, but evidently it´s all more than worth it. Love the gathering, and the baby of course. But ... "CHEX"?

 

"Lost one tourist on the way back"? Well, you can´t save the whole group. Must have been a German, you certainly seem to have a thing for them (laughing when they disappear in mud). ;)

 

Great captures of the villagers and the kids, and really love the picture of the D´Hoest´s monkey. And that blue-headed lizard puts every agama to shame.

 

Sorry you didn´t find the shoebill.

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Atravelynn

I was impressed that your guide wanted to go to the village. The traditional healer visit was really interesting; sentiments shared by the healer as well, I am sure. The b&w people photos are really touching, the color ones too. You did a good job of choosing between b&w and color. I'm glad the sticks lined up correctly. Hopefully they were correct.

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Treepol

@@pault your TR brightened up lunch at my desk today - thanks for that.

 

Shame about the shoebills at Mabamba. You certainly had some ele excitement and chimp magic.

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pault

I’m afraid the next part might be a bit dull as I sit firmly on the fence and fail to have any interesting adventures. But it has to be posted, so let’s get it done.

 

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Queen Elizabeth National Park. Queen Elizabeth National Park..... I don't know where to start. What a unique place? Man and wildlife living in uneasy harmony? A strange and slightly distasteful joke? A triumph for conservation against all odds? A dying duck quacking its last? A fascinating place? See, I don't have a shortage of words. I just really, honestly do not know what to say. I remember that .... said much in his trip report quite eloquently and I guess I would point you there if you want thoughts on QENP, rather than listening to me. TonyQ's "you’re outside the bubble" is probably the best mindset to have.

 

The park is in bits and pieces, and in places it is very pretty, while in others it is scruffy, messy bush complicated by the non-native but very prevalent candelabra. Poaching and road kills must be a terrible threat. People and rubbish and roads. But the water of the lakes is enticing and draws a great number of animals and I could happily cruise up and down the Kasinga Channel that joins them all day. The southern sector of the park is completely different and another world, but the animals do seem to prefer to fight for space with the humans in the north. Despite our expectation that the inevitable human-wildlife conflicts should bother them, the animals seem content and unstressed, minding their own business much better than opinionated tourists like me! And there was not excessive vehicle traffic. We saw other vehicles, but even at a busy sighting there were only a few there.

 

 

There, I can't do any better than that. Pictures will have to speak for the defence of QENP now, with some captions and explanations.

 

Located high above the Kasinga Channel, Bush Lodge offers nice views

 

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Queen Elizabeth Bush Lodge comprises around 12 tents on platforms with thatched roofs on one side, and a camp site in a separate area. It's really quite okay, and I feel somewhere between recommending it and finding it hard to really recommend it. If you are on a budget it is a complete no brainer - great value for money. If you are not so budget- constrained where are you going to stay instead? If you have an answer, go there. If not, might it not as well be Bush Lodge! It has cute sand toilets and outside bathrooms that are inexplicably large and so are,in places, unnecessarily close to the path and leave the bather unnecessarily far from the room. And they have an outside entrance for the convenience of staff that has no door (you cannot see in from the entrance, but it may make some feel a little exposed, so I mention it). I think so much potential kind of wasted is what makes it disappointing, certainly you could never expect better for the price. Food is good and drinks and laundry very reasonably priced (but that was the case everywhere we stayed in Uganda). If you are interested in such information, you could budget $15 pppn on top of your full board accommodation costs and you probably won't be able to spend that on laundry and drinks even if you tried.

 

One morning I had the pleasure of stalking a pair of fish eagles to within a few meters and watching them preen and call before flying out over the channel. Plenty of bushes in the way and the height seemed to make them comfortable.

 

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There are actually even more places to stay than I thought in the general park area, but I guess some of them cater mostly for locals or for groups from specific countries. Most seemed to suffer from the Thai disease of starting off construction by flattening everything in sight and then thinking "we need trees and plants here" later.

 

One new lodge put out a couple of tables and sold coffee in a very strange location on the bare rim of a crater with a salt lake in it (one of teh "crater lakes' of the area). Coffee was not so good, but the views were.

 

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This somehow reminds me of a scene from Monty Python or one of its spin-offs. A very 20th century Briish scene, certainly, although we should have tea and cakes and better china!

 

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I wanted to see Ugandan Kob, so Remmy took us to the Kob area (Kasyeni?) where there were many females and young and a few accompanying males. Herds or groups were not huge (not more than 100-150) but there were a number of herds, so we got our fill.

 

The Ugandan Kob

 

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We visited a Lek site while there, and one male decided to make a sudden, violent but eventually unsuccessful, move for the spot of another. Other kobs were testing each other out and "walking erect" (which is how the book describes it, but I previously understood referred to the way they held their neck - I still think it means that, but now am less sure) but there was only the one actual fight.

 

 

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Engaged

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Disengaged

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Waterbuck and warthog were common sightings and we saw the occasional jackal and elephant. Game densities weren't great overall, but there would be the odd sizable herd of buffalo or elephants keep us interested and we didn't spend as long driving as we could have done. The weather wasn't the best and so there was little point in leaving at dawn. It was strange to see no giraffes or gazelles.

 

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We did see a few hippos out and about of course.

 

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Our planned visit to the volcanic crater lakes was cancelled due to a combination of low cloud, rain and my wife's wish to get her boots fixed (thank goodness for no typo there!). Those boots, purchased in Swakopmund, Namibia in 2006, were finally separating from their soles, so the plan was originally to try to find somewhere we could buy new ones. However, Remmy suggested we try to get them fixed, and the local cobbler did an excellent job. However, it left us short of time and without any guarantee that we would even see anything for cloud we decided to scrap the crater drive planned. A disappointment, but something to save for next time.

 

Another day we saw a few of the famous tree-climbing lions. This was in the northern sector and Remmy told us such behavior seemed to be more and more common, possibly (in his opinion and only possibly) because of lions moving up from the south..They were certainly relaxed and they certainly were't up for action. Out highlight (apart from the spectacle itself of course) was a lion getting out of the tree and moving, although we couldn't follow since off-roading is not allowed. With the remaining lions highly likely to stay in the trees for hours, we left them to it. This was our third sighting of flat lions in the park.

 

Down

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Up.... (two)

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Another in another tree - easier to spot, even if not much easier to photograph!

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I'll continue with the rest, including everyone's favorite bit of QENP, later.

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TonyQ

@@pault

Far from dull! (I am not sure you could write "dull" if you tried)

Interesting to hear your perspective on the park and some great pictures, including the battling Kob.

I think the tartan table-cloths also win a prize.

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twaffle

How strange the coffee tables look, all alone in a field. I think the fighting kobs look great.

 

I put all my typos down to 'auto correct' having just typed 'kobs' 4 times before auto correct stopped changing it to 'jobs'. :wacko:

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graceland

So, I go away for a few days (say 18).. and I come back to this.....

 

Can I just follow you around the world?

 

Perfect.

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pault

Thank you all and that applies to @@Treepol, @@Atravelynn and @@michael-ibk too, who I rudely forgot to respond to before starting the latest installment.

 

@graceland Yes, you can follow us but will you start a crowdfunding thing to pay for it? And Bibi has to come.

 

twaffle and ToinyQ... glad you enjoyed the coffee picture. I forgot to credit Remmy for this, and he had to walk quite a long way to get it as I had the telephoto on the camera and I was not keen to change lens in a strong wind near to a saltworks!

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Kitsafari

"Our planned visit to the volcanic crater lakes was cancelled due to a combination of low cloud, rain and my wife's wish to get her boots fixed (thank goodness for no typo there!)."

 

you had me bursting out with laughter there!!

Edited by Kitsafari

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Kitsafari

i had expected from your report lots of humour, funny anecdotes, interesting bits of the people living there. and you haven't disappointed. yet another brilliant, sincere and so funny report. so well worth the wait.

 

lovely pix of the children, and i'm much persuaded by your reasoning that visiting people living there reinforces their positive views of tourism and wildlife.

 

sorry about that crowding for the one-hour session. i would have put on a really sour face. but it's not really their fault is it, well except for the noise and selfies....

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Marks

I'd say QENP still counts as an interesting adventure so far, at least from where I'm sitting! Stellar pictures as usual, and I'm looking forward to learning more about the park through your eyes.

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pault

I am reconstructing my computer, my network and reinstalling all my programs on a snail's-pace internet connection. Hopefully I am will be more or less finished by the weekend.

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