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Tales from Tinga: A Safaritalkers Safari to Zakouma

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@Atravelynn the truce didn't last long! :D


Awesome pics @pault!  I'm enjoying reliving this -- and your pics are much sharper than mine!

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Inspired by Safaritalk. Organized and guided by Safaritalkers. Six Safaritalkers going to Chad together. Recipe for a wonderful, unforgettable trip - or disaster?   Find out with us as we tr

Our plan for a (relatively) timely lunch did not quite work out. After all, can you really drive by a scene like this?     This, for me, was pure magic, and one of my most cherishe

On to day 2:   Phew, Doug is running a very tight ship indeed, our night was short and departure early but we were all eager to see what Zakouma would give us today.   One of the t

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I have never wanted more to be on someone else’s trip. A murmuring of STers, Doug Mc and the mythical Zakouma. Why it could make a girl swoon. 


Awesome trip report. Anyone fancy the 100 mile walk across Tsavo in about 3 years? 

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Hello all! My colleagues have covered the first day and night quite well - great porcupine video Joel! And I'm afraid I don't have any photos of the first night of anything the others haven’t already shared – but I bet Michael will! I do have a few photos I'll share below.


Paul is correct, I did manage to find the Zakouma manager, Leon, and make friends with him on the bus that was taking us out to the plane to N’djamena! I noticed a tall man wearing a shirt with African Parks emblem on it get onto the bus after us. Me being me, I’m a social person and I struck up a conversation with him. I asked what do you do for African Parks and he said “I’m the manager.” I said oh wow, great! Then we all chatted on the bus and more on the plane as we were seated close together. (Well all except Paul and Nam Wan, as they were up front in first class!) It was great to get to talk to him and pick his brain about African Parks and Zakouma. We learned he’d also be on our plane from N’djamena to Zakouma the following day.


Our first dinner at the hotel in N’djamena made it clear that we were all going to get along well (and as Michael mentioned it was still all polite!), and Nam Wan really endeared herself to us all right away with her lovely gift to each of us. Michael posted a photo of us all wearing them but here is a close-up:




and a few other photos from our first day (noticing how many of these are avian - @michael-ibk might have started to have a little influence on me already even on day 1!)










I really do think sometimes Zakouma shows itself off better in video than still photos, because it is so darn hard to show the abundance in one photo.  Here's a brief video at the end of the day at Riguek just to show how many of one mammal you might see at once: 



Keep in mind that while seeing all these lovely sights, we were the only vehicle. Our first day was pretty spectacular, and made it easy for us to see why Zakouma has become such a popular destination.

Edited by SafariChick
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Welcome on board Jane.    Arrrgh.... Leon, not Rian (former director?) There is simply no excuse for that as we met him 3-4 times and he was very friendly and quite chatty. 


I think part of the reason you have so many bird photos may be because we were stopping for a lot of birds first couple of days while Michael got his lists ticked.


Nice photo of your Thailand-made souvenir!

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7 hours ago, ld1 said:

I have never wanted more to be on someone else’s trip. A murmuring of STers, Doug Mc and the mythical Zakouma. Why it could make a girl swoon. 


Awesome trip report. Anyone fancy the 100 mile walk across Tsavo in about 3 years? 


Who does a 100-mile walk across Tsavo? (just out of interest - not an expression of serious interest :D)

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I'm not sure if that is testament to his incompetence or to his good nature - helping ease my disappointment. Probably the former, although he'll deny it.


I deny it. B)



And I will stop baiting Michael now... or I will try.  He can have one more strike back, but this could get messy if we don't rein it in. 


No need to strike back Paul, you are doing quite an excellent job of taking care of yourself yourself, Mr. "Rian". :P


11 hours ago, pault said:

I think part of the reason you have so many bird photos may be because we were stopping for a lot of birds first couple of days while Michael got his lists ticked.


Oh, just admit now everybody that you just loved looking at all my feathered friends and finally saw the birding light. Our next trip together will be fun, then we´ll get serious and do some thorough and entertaining Lark, Pipit and Cisticola hunting.


Just a few photos to add for our first day:


For most of the flight the landscape was pretty barren and uninteresting but once we came closer to the park it became more conceivable that, yes, there might be stuff living down there.






A short video of our flight in:



Every time I get back to Africa I feel like a kid in a candystore. Good stuff is everywhere around waiting to be discovered and savoured, beautiful landscapes, cool mammals, that incomparable smell of the bush, the Cicadas chirring, Doves curring, alarm calls in the distance, and yes, I´ll admit it, the songs of my feathered friends. A beautiful Beautiful Sunbird was the very first bird to greet me at the airstrip.




And how cool that the very first mammal we saw was a Roan - what a good start. Not a fluke, I´ve never been to a park which delivered more sightings of this very special antelope.




And for some reason I had expected Kordofan Giraffe to be quite rare but it was also seen very soon. Nothing compared to our second afternoon though, our "Giraffe day", but we´ll get to that.




Everything in Zakouma seemed to have that slightly reddish tinge, vegetation and animals alike. A Warthog here - very common, and soon ignored by us.




I´ll cover camp and surroundings in more detail a bit later in this report since I spent more time there than the others - not completely voluntarily. Why? Who knows, maybe the others decided that they had quite enough of me and my birds and came up with a devious plan to break me and get rid of me that way. At least that´s what I suspect, and it was a good plan well executed, I felt quite broken in any case. :ph34r:


The conditions for our first Rigueik outing were actually not that bad when we arrived there.




Allowed for really nice Roller shots - this bird is such a cooperative poser.




But soon the light was as dim as already described, and I´ll have to admit I really don´t have any good shots from the rest of our afternoon there, our wonderful Tiang stampede or anything else really. Not that that´s keeping me from posting some of them. So yes, it´s incompetence, and not good nature, which should come as no surprise to you Paul. :)






Rigueik is not only Tiang central but also a Reedbuck hotspot - cannot really remember a place where I have seen more of them.




I worry I´m not posting enough birds so here´s a Collared Pratincole:




Waterbuck - the Defassa version.






This was an absolutely fantastic afternoon, it was such a thrill being  surrounded by all the antelopes but it´s one of the occassions where the experience is top but when you check your photos at home you can´t help but go "Oh...". Jane´s video really best represents the sense of abundance we were privileged enough to se at Rigueik.


Just one addition for our first night drive - a bird of course, a Black-Headed Lapwing.



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On to day 2:


Phew, Doug is running a very tight ship indeed, our night was short and departure early but we were all eager to see what Zakouma would give us today.


One of the two waterholes close to camp, always a busy place but we did not linger.




A Secretarybird on a tree in the distance. We saw this one on three different days but they always were pretty shy.




Which cannot be said about the Dark Chanting Goshawk, the default raptor in Zakouma. Everywhere!




We checked out a different waterhole, a bit North of Tinga, quite close to headquarters. All quiet but we would spend much more time here (and shoot hundreds of photos) later in the week.




Still taking pictures of Warthogs ...




My old favourite, the Hoopoe! They seem to love Zakouma, we enjoyed regular sightings of them.




Onwards and onwards, Doug was looking for lions IIRC, and I seem to imagine that he did show us tracks but I could be totally wrong. Again, sahara dust was making sure light was a bit of a problem even when the sun was "up" but fortunately the conditions would get better and better in the coming days.






Tommie? Almost, this is the Red-Fronted Gazelle, and apparently some people seem to argue that the familiar Thomson´s Gazelle is just a subspecies. Quite a shy animal only seen in small familiy units but we did encounter them quite regularly. Although most of the times they would instantly bolt.




Saddle-Billed Stork, kind of a "special" sighting pretty much anywhere. But here in Zakouma they are delightfully common.




At first I thought this Black-Bellied Bustard was in a bad state, it did not seem to be able to get out of this small waterhole but apparently that was just because it was too steep, its walk looked fine once it had managed to get to the top again.






Time for a posing tree:




Another Roan - the very black face mask really gives them quite a different appearance than what one is used to from more classic safari areas.




This Four-Banded Sandgrouse behaved quite conspicously at first which seemed a bit weird. But then Doug pointed out that it was trying to divert our attention from the tiny chicks hiding in the sand. After a while it realized it would be better to lead her offspring away.




Another more Northern African bird - Clapperton´s Francolin.






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It was only 08.30 when we arrived at a stretch of the Salamat river which still had quite a lot of water. A very idyllic place, and we got out of the car to stretch our legs a bit.






Lots and lots of Baboons around, they certainly are doing exceptionally well in the park.






This video gives a good idea of the soundscape we enjoyed here.





Grey Heron taking off.


There was a nesting colony of the beautiful Red-Throated Bee-Eaters right next to the road but we did not really manage to make photographic advantage of that, they did not like us being around and we did not want to disturb them for too long.




This one could care less about human admiration but this photo was taken in camp, just next to the dining area. Such a beautiful bird, I was very happy to see them in such good numbers in Zakouma.




Doug decided we could do a "short" walk a bit up the river which turned out to last more than an hour. I always enjoy walking, and it was really cool ambling along the waterline with a constant parade of birds flying by, antelopes in the distance and Crocs sliding away.






Lots and lots of Crocodiles, they all interrupted their sunbathing and fled into the water when we approached. Much appreciated, we were as afraid of them as vice versa, and made sure not to get too close to the waterline which was actually not always so easy to be avoided - and we were being watched.




Though the number of crocodiles in Zakouma is quite a spectacle none of them seem to be that big - nowhere near the size of some of the monsters one can see in the Mara or Zambezi.




The entrance door to their homes. We did not knock.




Apparently it´s breeding season now for then, it was interesting to see their eggs (a first for me), and we had to be careful not to step on them.




Yellow-Billed Stork flying by.




Black-Crowned Night Heron




Spoonbill with friends:




A Grey-Headed Kingfisher watching us watching him:




It was really hot when we finally got back to the car and we were just as thirsty as these Quelea:






Note the "protective" kneepads - wussy Paul was afraid his precious wardrobe could get dirty. :P


It was already 11:00 now, and so we began to drive back to camp. Some Oribi on the way - our only sighting.




The antelope diversity in Zakouma is just astounding, so many different species there. Kob were a pretty regular fixture of our game drives.






Patas Monkeys, another Zakouma specialty, were a bit more difficult. We did see them almost every day, but these guys are very wary and not fond of humans being around.







Edited by michael-ibk
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Our plan for a (relatively) timely lunch did not quite work out. After all, can you really drive by a scene like this?




This, for me, was pure magic, and one of my most cherished experiences of this trip. We got out of the car, sat down next to the water. And just took it in. Soaked in this. Hundreds and hundreds of Pelicans and Marabous, flying over us, the wind of their powerful wings felt in our faces, then more and more of them settling again, doing their fishing thing. Bee-Eaters perching nearby, Yellow-Billed Kites fishing. Little Cordon Bleus and Firefinches coming to drink at our feet. Baboons more and more ignoring us, Waterbuck coming out of the riverine gallery. Us becoming part of it, part of the abundance of Zakouma. I will never forget it.


And like all magic it would not last - when we would pass this spot the next day it would be almost empty, most of the birds having moved off to better feeding grounds. But for one hour pure safari joy, pure Africa happiness would be ours.
































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@michael-ibk I have to jump in here and take credit for the roan. You'll recall that we all took votes on what we thought the first mammal we would see would be, and I said roan!  

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31 minutes ago, SafariChick said:

@michael-ibk I have to jump in here and take credit for the roan. You'll recall that we all took votes on what we thought the first mammal we would see would be, and I said roan!  


Do I get credit for the sable then? Or was it wild dog I said we would see first? Maybe the zebra?

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Brilliant segment of all my lost pictures Michael. Sticking the knife in, twisting it,’and then hanging your binoculars on it. I will retire for a quiet cry now and be back later to harass @gatoratlarge for his next installment (Although he has another report on the go and we should cut him some slack that’s not the kind of sloppy ship this group runs - and in any case we know now that Joel likes a nice short leash (and tight).



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7 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

Our plan for a (relatively) timely lunch did not quite work out. After all, can you really drive by a scene like this?




This, for me, was pure magic, and one of my most cherished experiences of this trip. We got out of the car, sat down next to the water. And just took it in. Soaked in this. Hundreds and hundreds of Pelicans and Marabous, flying over us, the wind of their powerful wings felt in our faces, then more and more of them settling again, doing their fishing thing. Bee-Eaters perching nearby, Yellow-Billed Kites fishing. Little Cordon Bleus and Firefinches coming to drink at our feet. Baboons more and more ignoring us, Waterbuck coming out of the riverine gallery. Us becoming part of it, part of the abundance of Zakouma. I will never forget it.





absolutely magic there, @michael-ibk . and you described it so beautifully that I was almost there in person (and wished I was!). 

I don't know if I'm wrong but the waterholes seemed fuller with water than when we were there in Feb last year. had the rains there been very good? and the dust in the air - oh wow. we were very lucky that we had clear days, but the dust sucks for photography but great for adding ambiance!


It's brilliant hearing so many different voices in the report and all that lovefest going in the group. probably a ruboff from the animals there, seeing that there are so many babies - ostrich babies, roan babies, waterbuck babies!


I can just hear Doug cracking the whip in my mind!


sorry to hear about your photos @pault but selfishly I am glad that @gatoratlarge, michael and @SafariChick were there to record the sightings in their cameras. :) 

and it looks like I have to make a trip to your neighbourhood in the future if I need a Tchadian visa!


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Wonderful photos @michael-ibk  I'm envious of your Red-throated Bee-eater pics. I tried a few times but never close enough for my little bridge camera. I love the photo of mother and baby Waterbuck surrounded by all those Marabou, surely the most miserable looking of all birds, and the expression on the youngster's face is priceless. Also the shot of the Red-fronted gazelles racing across the track is stunning.


Pleased you said the dust cleared. We were lucky with a lot of clear days but it was very bad on the day we left and I felt sorry for the folks flying in. I wonder if it gets worse as the dry season progresses? Like @Kitsafari I sooo want to go back!

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I'm loving the sharp, clear photos from my cohorts---I view my role as inserting imperfection to the TR! :D


I'll add a few of what we've already seen and and take us on into the first full day's night drive.  If it's shaky camera work you like here's those same male ostriches jogging down the road---Shaky camerawork aside---I always love seeing ostriches running as they remind me of those things in Jurassic Park---living dinosaurs for sure! here they are just until they flair up -- you can even hear @pault 's camera shutter capturing the shot! :D



We saw quelia by the thousands but as mentioned previously missed out on the millions that are possible to see in those impressive gatherings at dusk---this is not a particularly exceptional view except that I did capture a small croc at the end trying to snag a meal as they hovered for a drink (the location is where @pault had on his knee pads):



Here, in the "bad light" shows more of the abundant herds and birds:



Have you ever seen so many maribous?  Or white pelicans...add crocs, baboons, waterbuck, yellow billed storks and kites...

These may be a bit redundant but I echo the groups comments that one of those "Zakouma moments" occurred when we pulled off the track and got out of the vehicle and sat on the banks of the river watching this bird spectacle...just one of the reasons you fly half way across the globe to take in such a sight...magnificent! So at the risk of being a little redundant:



Always thought maribous take on the look of a pall bearer...



And those quelia---I was fascinated:









And lastly what looks to me like a bird wearing those Groucho Marx glasses:




Edited by gatoratlarge
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After the "bird-apalooza" just before lunch we ate, napped and were right back at it with Doug determined there would be "no slacking on his watch" we aimed back for the Regueik pan to try to see the massive flocks of quelia...but instead of quantities of quelia, we got gobs of giraffes!  The sub-species of Kordofan giraffes are some of the most beautiful I've seen---seemingly a bit smaller than their other cousins around the continent they have long black tails and often pale markings although now and again there was a dark one.  The most prominent difference perhaps is the third horn in the middle of its forehead.  At any rate we were overwhelmed at the number of giraffes at the pan making their way to drink....45 were in view at one time.  A quick scan and the number across the pan was near 100!  






Here's the extra horn:



I loved the ghostly surreal scene on the edge of the pan---a journey of giraffes coming to drink:29541398_10156704972203488_7864372629550836198_n.jpg.721109c79d83257c9908a7c101df3906.jpg29541931_10156704972053488_3189286394429933962_n.jpg.bacb2c94cf5f8963ba0592b4ab6cd942.jpg29543014_10156704972563488_7895445078897339769_n.jpg.2df1aec59f4a5526c381be3a4210d72d.jpg29542009_10156704972823488_3358051667834356577_n.jpg.957ceef342dcfe667d1c96c25f509c42.jpg29543159_10156704972408488_3360420227410361478_n.jpg.c785e4dbc28a39b43d7213e8361f21a7.jpg




Edited by gatoratlarge
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Then we had a good time watching these three boys (check out their black socks! :)) just goofing around, sparring with each other---one day it'll be serious:






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Last post and I'll pass the torch to the others for a while--- as the cranes flew overhead to roost for the evening and busy spoonbills tried to use the remaining light to their advantage, we enjoyed the scene with sun downers...all of us anxious to get out the spotlight and see what we could see on the way back to camp.  One of the top sightings I had hoped to see was the serval cat...15 trips to Africa and this not uncommon to see cat had eluded me each time...I had heard Zakouma was a good place for serval but I was trying not to get my hopes up.  Five minutes in to the night drive we had spotted a serval!  I was ecstatic!  FINALLY!!!  I had almost a sense of relief come over me,,,my one target animal was in the bag...we watched it for a while and decided to let it get on with its hunting... as we drove away something darted across our path---pale fox??  But then to our left on a path down toward the pan, a lioness!  And then a cub!  And the "Pale fox" was actually another serval!!!  We hardly knew which direction to head!  It was an embarassment of riches!


Before the ride was to conclude, we added a white tailed mongoose, another civet cat, a spotted genet and another African wild cat this time with a rodent kill....we returned to camp under a bevy of stars and a stunning moon.


My first SERVAL!!!



Better view :D


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I will add a little more of what we saw on this second afternoon and evening

Actually, this first one is from the morning but it's more birds and I know @michael-ibk will be pleased to see more birds in the report!




and this from the a.m. must be included because it shows all the guys hard at work!




From the afternoon, I have to include this as waterbucks are one of my favorites:




and wouldn't you know it, another bird!  




I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. Demille:




a rare moment at Riguek of seeing just one mammal in the frame, this cutie:




and some blurry buffalo:





Edited by SafariChick
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Joel has given a preview of the night's drive but I will fill it out with a few more photos.  When Joel asked for serval, the universe really delivered!  And we were quite surprised to run into a lioness and cub. We only saw them briefly because we dashed off the see the "pale fox" we thought had gone across our path, which turned out to be a second serval, and by the time we went back, the lioness and cub had moved and it was hard to get any more photos as we only saw them again for a short time. I'm not a great photographer and my night shots mostly didn't turn out well but here are a few that were halfway decent.









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I just get glummer and glummer seeing all these photos. :angry:  Stop it!!!


There! That's my contribution for day 2. 

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Sorry @pault - but I will be back soon with day 3 and then you get to really properly join the report!

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Not really.... . :D


First of all I have to comment on Michael's photo of me. Clearly the one taken by Jane is at the same time, but Michael has turned me into the Red Man, clearly about to burst a blood vessel! This was only Day 2 and "the sun" hadn't really come yet. True, I would shortly be almost that red, and so would Michael - we were having a competition to see who could get reddest without actually bleeding through our pores, which I think I just about won by day 6.


I mention this because you may be wondering "Why is that silly b-----r who is clearly about to expire from sunburn not wearing a hat?" And the answer to that is that I was wearing a hat much of the time, and it was a very expensively acquired hat too. The most expensive cheap Chinese-made hat I have ever owned! Nevertheless, I very nearly could have not been wearing a hat because I had somehow forgotten my hat in Bangkok, and arrived without one. However, I'd asked at the Hilton where I could get one, and they offered to take me, for a rather large price. For some reason it didn't seem that bad when they offered and I quickly said yes, but by the time we left I had worked out that I could have probably bought a rather nice wool felt fedora for a similar price - not that I would ever wear a wool felt fedora, except as part of a fancy dress outfit. 


Anyway, Nam Wan and I got to go out into the streets of N;Djamena searching for a hat, and we got lucky. In the market, amongst a pile of what I would call landfill if I were to see it anywhere else, were two stacks of broad-brimmed hats. Most of them were filthy and , worse, black or red. Black seemed like a really, really bad idea and red - well it's a bit too much of a statement (real reason of course is that it clashes with my hair colour.... or rather my former hair colour, but old habits die hard). I was about to give up and go with a green cap emblazoned with the name of a rapper I had never heard of (or maybe it was a brand of clothing I had never heard of... ) when, at the bottom of the pile I found a white one. White? Dust everywhere? I'm in. It was about 1/20 of the cost of the car and driver needed to get it.



Edited by pault
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And what was I doing without my hat, with skateboard pads on my knees despite the lack of a board or anywhere to use one? I wasn't trying to stay clean-looking, contrary to rumour - a sort of diarrhea-brown outfit like Michael's would have been better for that (took us a couple of days to realise he was filthy - probably when the maggots appeared). I was just enjoying the quelas and trying to get some photos of them. It is ironic that I have only photos of them from this day, when I have nothing else (ironic = really annoying) since this was my "try-out" day and the next day was when I put into practice what I had learned and really got some cools shots..... lost of course (all the best ones are the ones that got away... haha). But all these quela shots are cool of course.



Freeze them



Or let them blur a bit





I love the possibilities and I so regret not having the shots from the next time I tried this. Such fun to take though.


The second visit to Rigueik (Is there a harder word to spell? Even now I am not sure I spelt it right) didn't seem quite as magical as the first, but I think that was partially because I was expecting a repeat and it was completely and utterly different. No close up crane and tiang action this time - as you can see it was giraffe day! Like a convention of orange-stained John Cleese impersonators with very long necks. 


We also tried a bit of buffalo stalking that evening, but they were really nervous and even by trying to approach to around 30 meters we spooked the herd and they stopped trying to come to water - that didn't seem right and so we left them.  This was where I got my best "see the differences" shots, although to be honest I would be just as happy with two separate shots really.








The morning had been okay but not that special until we started hitting the pools in the heat of the day... then things got so spectacular. It was really nice to be able to hop out of the vehicle and walk a bit for a better view half way down a steep slope or on a dry river bed, which we could do at will (after obtaining the Headmaster's blessing of course) but didn't do too much as there was so much to see and we wanted to keep moving for now (or that's what I wanted and assumed everybody else felt the same). 


Michael posted a picture of a baboon with its penis on display above. Out of interest, here is what the grown-ups were photographing at the same time. 




Okay, that is a bit of a lie (not the bit about Michael, the penis and the grown-ups, but the bit about the same time). This was actually very early the next morning and so are the buffalo photos and even the quelas......  although the story that this was a warm up for another try is true. In fact, everything is true in substance. just not quite in true in fact!!!  


I really will be back to normal for Day 3 - well, except that.... (to be continued)

Edited by pault
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