Wednesday, July 25, 2007

South Africa - Zulu Nyala

42 hours is a long time to fly. In fact, as mentioned previously, it is about as long as we could expect to fly to anywhere from Seattle, Oh sure, much of that time (about 1/2) was spent in airports, waiting for flights, or rebooking from missed flights (thanks alot, British Airways...) the net elapsed time from when we left our house, until we were at Zulu Nyala in South Africa was 42 hours. So we slept.

On Tuesday morning, we went out on our first safari ride around the grounds of Zulu Nyala. We stopped at our first sighting of warthogs and we were snapping away. Our guide told us that soon, we would be seeing warthogs and thinking, "oh... just another warthog" but for those first few minutes, these were some cool, armed pigs. We went out for about 3 hour rides in the morning and in the afternoon for each of the first two days and had some amazing opportunities to view warthogs, nyala, impala, giraffes, zebras, cape buffalo, wildebeest, monkeys, rhinos, hippos and a couple of somewhat obscured views of the elephants on site.

The best way to sum it up has been "WOW!" I mean, here are these animals you've seen in zoos many times, but it is totally different when you see them on their own home turf, roaming freely. They are all simply gorgeous to watch and learn about. The terrain here is mostly rolling hills and we were driving in safari vehicles with the driver up front and eight of us in the back, either two or three to a seat. As we bounce along the roads, knowing that there are all sorts of amazing animals nearby but just out of site, we all turn into novice trackers, looking for clues as to where the buffalo have gotten to, or where the elephants are today. If only I had the beast tracking ability that my hunter in WoW has - man that would rock!

Oh, and the rides are bumpy! Leslie and I were riding in the front seat of the vehicle (behind the driver) and I was holding my camera in my left hand wrapped around the base of my Canon 70-200L 2.8 IS lens. We hit a particularly deep hole in the road (dug by a warthog for protection) and the lens banged against one of the metal support poles on the truck, well it would have had my hand not been sitting between the lens and the pole. More accurately, my wedding ring was between the lens and the pole and it was squished between then into more of a thin oval than its traditional ring shape -- while still on my finger. It took a few minutes of work with a Leatherman to get the ring back into a shape that would let me take it off of my finger. When we get back home, we'll need to do some work to make it round again, though it seems to me that if I can get a small hammer and a rhino that will hold still for a while, I could probably fix it here...

The sunsets here have been stunning -- probably due to all of the dust in the air. Each night around 5:30, the sun turns wonderful shades of orange and progress to pink and red as it slides behind the hills. We shoot photo after photo, hoping to find the right way to capture the amazing colors and vistas though I'm not sure that digital photos can quite do it yet, or maybe it's just me...

This is George. He is very tall :)

Next up: Hluhluwe National Park and the Elephant Encounter...

btw, posting from South Africa is quite slow, so it might be a while between posts. More pictures will come when we make it to London.

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