Monday, 30 December 2013

Last weekend of the year - Thursday to Sunday in the Lowveld

Thursday 26 December 

Cloudy and overcast. Maybe some rain will come.

After a slow start to the day (I was up early but was slow in serving breakfast) we decided to slow completely down and enjoy a morning of relaxation at the house. 

This gave for plenty time to play rummy kub and yes, I won again. 3 rounds in a row. Mom is determined to beat me but just like her scrabble strategy beats my strategy, I think that my rummy kub strategy just works better than hers. Ok, and I know where the jokers are! They are in the corner and weigh 0.000001 grams heavier than the others so I can feel which ones are the jokers.

After my winning streak, we got down to the serious business of reading our books. I have been reading 3 books at once and was determined to finish the one and just after lunch I succeeded. I finished reading Riaan Manser's Around Madagascar on my Kayak. His first book, "Around Africa on my Bicycle" spurred me on as an adventurer and is why I got off my couch all those years ago and did Tour de Tuli. Now I am feeling revved up to do another adventure. 

Obviously one tends to think of previous trips when here. Obviously the elephant charge weekend comes up with all its fun and games and of course people with fun habits. One particular one we are all missing (no names mentioned) is a certain person who has a pea-sized bladder. Drives seem to have less stopping for "I need a wee" without him here. Lion sightings are longer and we are definitely not going to have a shortage of Coke as a result of his not being here! Mr Coke, we are actually missing your company (especially for your raptor identifying) and promise to bring you a single Coke back.

Back to the trip: The evening drive included the start of the rain. Was so awesome to have a light drizzle after an insanely hot day and this drizzle definitely didn't stop the drive!! Due to the rain however, game was scarce but we were treated to a herd of elephant at a dam as well as a few more birds to bring the sightings to 60. 

Lions eluded us but were seen at a dam that we had driven past! But, tonight we were treated to seeing that we have a golden orb spider on the deck! I have named her "Harriet" and have taken to feeding her by shining a torch on her web and attracting insects for her to catch. After Harriet's last feeding session, I shone the light below the deck and we were treated to a sighting of a civet - haven't seen them in a while so that's a mega treat!!!

Friday December 27 

Woke up this morning to rain! Yay!!!!  Last night as I was reading the frogs were going nuts so knew it was definitely coming but the real treat for me was hearing lions roaring in the distance. There is just something magical about hearing the king of the jungle roar. 

After my ritual of doing the dishes and making coffee, I crawled into bed to read for an hour or 2 before my folks woke up. I then read for another hour or so before actually getting up and showering in the rain. Yep, you read right. I showered in the outside shower, in the rain! It was quite cool. 

The morning was spent relaxing with our books and scrabble (I finally beat mom in a rather tight game that I only won as a result of a sneaky move). 

This evening we headed out for a game drive and although sightings weren't great, we were treated to really nice light and the sight of animals clearly refreshed from the rains. Only notable sightings were of elephant in thick bush and another civet.

Am so full from eating snacks on the drive that I skipped dinner. 

And if by now you are jealous of my being here, don't be: the stink bugs have arrived!!! As I type this blog insects are bashing into the closed window, desperate to get to my light. And I dare not open my window because the tiny stink bugs will overwhelm my room!! I will open the windows after the lights are off and have been off for a while.

Interesting point from today: we are struggling with our spotlights again so I am now pretty much permanently using my cycling light as a spot light and its actually pretty good as one. It doesn't shine terribly far into the bush as its only 900 lumen but is perfect for thick bush! Mom actually made a comment that they should maybe invest in one or 2 as backups. Personally, I think 2 strong +2000 lumen ones with big batteries could replace the need for big spotlights.

Hoping for a nice storm in the night and some more rain tomorrow.

Saturday 28 December

Day was so humid!!! Drats it was hot. Spent the morning relaxing with books and scrabble and then went out for a short drive in the afternoon along the river. Not much of a day. Added some birds to the list and are now equal to dads friend. Elephant on the other side. Stink bugs are insane tonight and not fun.


Seriously restless night! Then, at around 4:30 I heard the frogs go noisier and the soft patter of rain began on the roof. It was so lovely and gentle for an hour that unless you were awake you would not have noticed it. Then it started bucketing down so I ran outside and pulled the chairs under cover and crawled back into bed to enjoy the rain. I ended up chilling in bed for a longer than normal time before getting up and enjoying an amazing shower in the outside shower. Yes, I had lost the plot but it was awesome having a hot shower with a thin perspex roof that leaks and drips icy cold rain water on you whilst looking out over the Olifants river. 

We spent the day in the lounge and only ventured out of there if we needed something from our rooms or if we needed the loo. (Due to the design of our bush house, you get a little wet when moving between sections of the house.) We had egg on toast for breakfast and then played a game of scrabble. Mom and I are getting quite good and she no longer whips my butt in this game of spelling and tough words. I won yesterday's game and it was purely thanks to one good word because for the rest of the game she had me sweating. We are also starting to use up the whole board which earlier in the week we just couldn't do.

After hours of being cooped up in the lounge, we had a restaurant worthy lunch of fish and chips before I snuck away for a nap. Honestly: I am going to struggle when I get back to work because I have become so reliant on my naps!!! I woke up from my nap to dad walking on the deck and saw it had stopped raining. We took the gap and went for a drive.

Was a fairly uneventful drive with no big game being spotted. However, we did see plenty impala and other general game and the bird sightings were great! We managed to add another 3 birds to our list - including a spotted eagle owl - which now brings our list up to 69 which we had thought was a new record but I found a recording in our visitors book where we had recorded 95 birds one weekend in April 1990. It's amazing how we could have done that since that would have been an Easter weekend but I do actually remember that weekend because we were stopping every few meters for birds and us kids were getting super bored. Additionally, we had a really good border with us and I suspect that April may actually be a better birding time than December but I will have to test this theory out when I am here in April.

The one but of adrenalin pumping action that happened last night was that one of the units here saw a guy running across the road near 2 of our dams. He called it in on the radio and our ranger and his dog were dispatched. We have not heard anything further, other than one unit reporting that it could be an anti-poaching team member. Odd though cause a few days ago we spotted a non-reserve vehicle not far from there with a guy just sitting on the roof of the bakkie. Mom and dad said they were sure it was nothing and was likely some guy waiting for one of our rangers or something whilst I said it looked dodge. Hmm.... I still smell a stinky rat! And my stinky rat feeling is because the river is full so the ratbag poachers can't get through from that side so surely they will find other avenues of entry? We are going to the office tomorrow so we will ask if it was ProTrack or poachers. 

Last thing before I head off into dreamland: mom has finally cottoned on to my eating habits! With just the 3 of us here we don't cook most nights so we sort ourselves out and for most of you who know me well, you will know that if I am not hungry I won't eat dinner or I will have something random like chocolate. I have been doing this here as well and it's purely because I am just not hungry. Why eat if one is still full from lunch? 

Off to dream about tomorrow mornings breakfast....

Thursday, 26 December 2013

The chocolate diaries... I mean: bush diaries 3 more days of fun

Monday 23

Today was super chilled! Instead of the usual breakfast and get ready for a drive, we had croissants (chocolate of course) and the. Spent the morning relaxing with our various books. This gave me the perfect time to do some photography learning and of course to play with my camera.

With this in mind, I have had my camera for a good few years and have never really bonded with it in the same way i had with my film camera yet when I got it I had thought my photography would go to the next level - well, it did, just in the opposite direction! This book I am reading has helped me to learn how to use my camera's meter (which I had heard of but never actually discovered), learn how to really harness aperture an speed and to generally just get the whole digital photography thing. And... Having my old camera here, I have been playing with the same techniques on it as I have played with some film. I have also braved the world of RAW mode and even started only taking pictures in manual setting!! Scary stuff but hopefully it all pays off - thus far I am quite happy with what I have seen on my LCD. The only thing I could really do with is a longer telephoto lens!! It's really irritating when basic cameras which don't take so long with mathematical calculations can zoom in with their digital zoom. Oh and that's another thing: working in manual setting means suddenly one has to stop and think about what you want in focus, how much you want in focus, how bright you want it... The list goes on!! And when photographing animals or when on a game viewing vehicle with people with fully automatic cameras, you are pressed to do your calculations fast!!

Anyway, I am learning plenty and the below pictures hopefully proves it.

After a nice braai and an amazing nap (I am not sleeping well so naps are crucial to my day), we headed off into the bush to find stuff. We saw the usual animals and were also spoilt rotten by seeing 6 white rhino! This is always a major highlight for us. 

Drinky time arrived and my mom accidentally poured dads drink into my glass which rendered my glass out of action. Unfortunately whiskey is one of those drinks you can't just rinse out of a metal glass - you have to wash it with soap and water. So I had to resort to a foldable glass. Ja... Red wine in one of these is like a shooter glass with a hole in it!! I eventually gave up after messing a fair chunk of glass number 2 on myself.

Another entertainment for me was how my cycling light was stronger than the spotlight I was using so I ended up just using my cycling light. 

At the one dam, we met up with a family we had consistently kept meeting up with. Turns out that they know my moms sisters and have had a house here since the early 90's!! Was nice to go back in time as we chatted about the old days with other people who can be classified as "the old crowd" here. The old crowd here are just different to the new crowd. 

Shortly after we departed from them, they radioed in a lion sighting. They had cubs suckling on a mommy so we turned around and quickly went to where there were! Unfortunately a bunch of other vehicles also descended on the scene and the poor lioness was clearly unsettled as she tried to find a new spot to feed her young cubs. She eventually did find a spot and we left her in peace.

On our way home, we spotted a young civet on the steep concrete road and then an older one at the house.

The highlight of my day however was getting an update from a friend about my dog and what K had been up to that evening. The pictures of my sweet dog child were way better as what's app profile pictures than any awesome bush sighting!! Thanks Carla for the messages and pictures. And thank you Putty and Simone for looking after my little guy.

Dinner was leftovers but I wasn't hungry so had a chocolate.

Tuesday 24 December 

Woke up early again today. Seriously wish I could sleep late!! 

It's funny how every morning starts the same: when I wake up, the sky is clear and not a cloud in sight. Then, after reading or napping, it clouds up and looks like we are going to get rain. Then, as the day progresses the clouds disappear and it gets hot - into the 30s hot. Then, the evenings cool down again and I reach for a thin jersey - although my family think I am nuts cause they are still hot! The evenings are cool and pleasant but can get a bit humid. Accuweather is predicting rain for the weekend so we will see.

After a slow start to the morning as well as bacon and eggs on toast, we were on our way for a drive. At the dam near the house, we saw an elephant just chilling and drinking water. We then headed towards the dams where we heard reports of lion at a dam so we headed off and saw the 6 lion before driving around to try find stuff. In general there is plenty game and the bush is green with a fair bit of water around.

We are seeing plenty birds and I will update the number of birds species sighted thus far tomorrow. (Technically since I am writing this "tomorrow" I could actually say but that would just seem creepy and future-predicting like so I won't...)

The rest of the day was spent milling about with burgers for lunch (I cooked), followed by more being lazy, followed by lazily watching elephant across the river from the deck followed by a nice braai and then bed.

During this chilling, mom and I played some RummyKub and Scrabble. The 3 games of rummy were easily won by me (although the last one was a tad stressful for me because I knew mom had few tiles left and I still had a chunk and had both jokers). The game of scrabble was a different story with mom beating me so bad we didn't even count the scores after! That said, it was still a tough game for both of us.

Wednesday 25

3am and I was wide awake! Not cool and because I was due to wake up in an hour, I decided not to take painkillers and read and catch up on Facebook. (Signal from my bed is fairly awesome if you consider  2 bar edge as awesome.) at 4:15 I crawled out of bed and put the kettle on and got the cooler ready for an early morning drive.

By 5am we were on our way for a nice relaxed game drive. Sightings this morning were quite scarce in general with the exception of the bird life! The morning was cool and was the same as all other mornings - clearl, cloudy, clear - with the exception that the clouds cleared a lot faster than other mornings!!! It was going to be a HOT day. 

After our drive we sat on the deck and chilled in the scorching heat and by 9am we recorded a temp of 28 degrees Celsius on the deck. 

We spent some time going through our bird list and counted that thus far we are sitting at 58 bird species spotted. The birding is getting tough now since we are having to make an effort to identify the little brown jobs (lbjs) which is actually not that hard. That said, we have been fortunate in seeing some pretty amazing birds.

The 3am wake up caught up to me and I found myself nodding off on the hammock whilst attempting to read. Was quite nice chilling despite the growing heat. By lunchtime it was 35 degrees and for all of us, that much needed afternoon nap ended up being a battle between the need to sleep and the need to escape the heat.

Just before we headed out on our game drive I checked the ants and saw that they were closing up their holes - a sure sign that rain is coming - so I optimistically packed my raincoat and jersey for the drive. The drive itself was nice because moving meant less heat. 

You could feel the tension in the air with the animals - they could also smell the rain. Just before warthog pan, we encountered an elephant in a dry river bed which we fortunately saw in time - had we been approaching from the other side, we would only have seen him when we were a few meters from him! We reversed and took another route through the dip. At warthog pan we got to see the herd of elephant, including a mommy with her little one.

Animals were scarce on this drive but steenbok and klipspringers were plentiful which was a nice change.

Sunset drinks were spent watching impala and the sunset whilst sitting on a plain. Noteworthy here is that I had packed a really nice bottle of vino (a 2010 Vergelegen) and had packed an opener but someone had unpacked the opener... (No names but I suspect it was subconscious act of revenge for my accidental breaking of a bottle of gin.) I attempted to open it with my leatherman but ended up deciding that it was a bad way to open a good wine so I opted for my fruit juice instead.

Drive home was uneventful with the exception of an elephant in the road - clearly the elephant are back - and a road that was blocked by a fallen tree so we had to turn around.

Dinner was leftovers and in my case: a roll with chocolate spread.

Hoping for some rain or cooler weather tomorrow.

Monday, 23 December 2013

After the whirlwind....

After the whirlwind 24 hours, things calmed down here a but. That night we went on a drive but didn't find much excitement other than the usual game and some elephant. The drive was still amazing and we had fun nonetheless. 

After a dinner of jaffles, we settled down to watch some stars - literally! I pulled out my old film camera, set it on a tripod and we settled down for 40mins of watching the stars as my camera allowed the stars to gather in light from the celestial bodies in the hope that I will get a picture of star trails. Watching stars is quite an amazing thing cause you really cannot help be in awe of creation as you stare out into the galaxies.

Yesterday morning started with me making jaffles for breakfast and then is heading out to the main camp so I could charge my laptop and iPad. Dad decided to sit with a book and read at the pool whilst my gadgets charged and whilst mom and I went for a drive.

The drive was another goodie! We came across a black rhino. Then we headed off to the general area of where a leopard had been seen the night before but knowing that leopards have a large range we weren't expecting much. Mom drove nice and slow past the area it had been seen but it was clearly not there. A few hundred meters down the road, I saw it! In the bush was a spotted face and I had to concentrate to see it. I told mom to stop. She thought I was joking until she too managed to decipher the spotted camouflage from the grass. We watched this graceful cat as it moved off into the veld, in amazement that we had seen it so relatively clearly in the day!!

We then moved on to a dam which is about 300m from where we saw the leopard as we had heard that there were lions there. We watched the so called King of the Jungle for a but before moving on - lions are cool but they are so lazy!! We were guaranteed to see them later again.

We returned to the main camp where I fought with my computer for a bit whilst mom told dad of our awesome drive and then returned home for a braai and a lazy afternoon. After our braai I retired to the comfort of the new hammock where I slept and read the afternoon away, waking occasionally to the bush sounds and hopeful that I could give a monkey a fright.

As we packed the landie for our evening drive, there was an air of excitement and anticipation. Would we see the leopard again? We doubted it but knew the lions would be up there so headed up there anyway. We cruised up past the dam where it had been seen the day before and I was occasionally jabbering on what's app to friends who were sharing their news with me. Then mom gasped, dad swerved, I saw a glimpse of cat and dropped my phone. There it was again: the leopard.

We grabbed our cameras and with shaking fingers we fired off a few rounds of digital shots. After recovering from the shock of a landie disturbing its afternoon nap, the leopard moved onto a big old fallen down tree where it posed for a photoshoot. It really was amazing. We sat for ages watching this beautiful cat pose for us and we managed to get some amazing pictures.

After an eternity of watching, we headed off to see the lions. We saw them for a while but they eventually headed off into the bush - clearly tired of all the attention.

After all the adrenalin we headed home for a dinner of leftovers - and in my case a piece of chocolate - before bed.

This morning we are taking it easy and chilling so unless a herd of elephant come walking up the driveway, there's not going to be much news!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

A whirlwind 24hrs....

Early start yesterday from Jozi to the bush but we hit the dirt road and before long we saw buffalo. I must admit, they are pretty boring and I equate watching them to watching domestic cattle. Stinky and well, bovine in nature. Fortunately for me, we were in a rush to get to the house because mom had hired someone to help us unpack the car since dad can't carry the stuff with his back and I am not allowed lifting heavy stuff. 

After unpacking cooler boxes and suitcases, we settled down to watch the scenery and play with our cameras. (I will admit to having had a short snooze in my chair.) At some stage in the early evening as we sat with more adult beverages in front of us, mom said she thought she heard a leopard. Ja right... But she persisted and she got up to look through her bedroom window and there it was... A hippo grazing out of the water! Jokes aside, she kept looking based on the reaction of some impala who were clearly not phased by the mammoth mammal and her persistence paid off!! There it was: a leopard!!! Clear as day on the other side of the river!!! We watched it for what esteemed like a long time but must have only been 5 or 10 minutes before it went into a ditch and disappeared. We had seen the one cat people dream of seeing. In fact, urban legend has it that a certain well known vet from Joburg was so desperate to see this cat that for some or other bizarre reason he and his guest dressed up in tuxedos and went for a game drive!! Forunately we have never gotten that desperate.

Last night we ended the evening early and were all in bed just as the red moon was rising.

This morning after a late start, we headed to the main camp to trade in our Jozi 4x4 for our Landie and then set off to find some birds and buck. Saw plenty impala, wildebeest and zebra as well as an array of different bird species, including a bateleur. As we were slowly winding our way back, I spotted a rhino. To see one of these is really special these days as these poor animals are totally unaware of the war that has been declared on them and how much effort is taken to keep them safe. There are literally non-governmental armies that have been formed to protect them! (Not sure if one could call them mercenaries since they bear arms and fight yet are called Anti-Poaching Units but are realistically armies fighting the war against the terror of rhino slaughter? Irrespective, what the men and woman in conservation are doing to keep these majestic beasts alive is nothing short of heroic!!)

By this stage it was getting rather toasty and mom was heading us closer to home whe. Dad suddenly shouted "lion!". Brakes applied, reverse gear applied and there they were: a lion cub and 2 adults. After much clicking of cameras, we adjusted our angle to get a better view and discovered that right where we had been were more lions. Literally in the bush right next to where we had been clicking away! With the plan to return to these guys later, we headed off home....

... But not before spotting elephant! The elephants were a distance away and after watching for a bit, we drove up to see a fancy helicopter that has landed at the airstrip and then we meandered to the house where there is currently sweet little going on!

So, in our 24 hours here we had seen the Big 5. Done and dusted. Pressure is off and now the impala can go et our attention.

I know, you just want me to stop blogging now. Good news is that for this afternoon, that's it. No more. 

Ok... Just this: mom accidentally deleted all the images off her camera. She had some really good shots and was livid. But, in true over paranoid preparation, I have my laptop here and I linked up to my wifi that I set up quick (edge signal but it works) and googled the solution. If this ever happens to you, there is a software you can buy that recovers files. I have found the pictures and as soon as we get to electricity tomorrow, I will recover the images. But for now, that SD card is secured in my camera bag away from any of us so it doesn't get used. 

Reflecting on 2013

Another year down! Can hardly believe that we are on the brink of another new year. This one has been an interesting one. 

If I look at the last 12 odd months, (December last year included) it's been crazy! Last year this time I was super fit (although I thought I was unfit), was preparing for Liege and just generally lived on my bike and little else mattered in my life. Actually, my life was KD, work and bike. And the people In those circles. In December i did the Rapha Festive 500 challenge which was incredible!! Although not a race, riding 500km in 8 days was good fun and at times challenging and is a challenge I would like to do again. 

As the months edged towards Liege, my training intensified but got to a point where I stalled. My body wouldn't give me more. I got meds to boost me but I had peaked and needed rest and I could not give my body rest. I got my first sub 3, I trained hard and had fun but I was suffering badly! Liege soon came and that was one heck of an experience! Looking back, I know why I had no race steam that day but on that day I had fun. I had more fun on that ride than I have ever had on a "race". It is an amazing memory that I will never forget.

After Belgium, my body totally gave in - I had burnt all my matches and every time I tried racing afterwards, I just got worse. I had a goal and I wanted to train for it! I needed to train. But my body needed rest and it was only after my Crater Failure that I think I really accepted reality. It was time to rest. 

I doubt I will ever attain my goal of nationals because I am a bit older, wiser and well, my body isn't going to let me!! 

My priorities in life have changed this year from cycling to other things and well, I have been forced to learn a few lessons that I needed to learn! 

My lessons learnt:
* it is ok to admit you are human and aren't up to the challenge/s you have set yourself
* people want to help you and not allowing them to help is denying them the joy of doing good
* giving up something you treasure to assist a friend is the biggest gift you can give yourself (and is a gift for the other person)
* never give up on things that are important to you and never give excuses as to why you can't have those important things
* friends are often closer than family and may know you better so listen to them
* communicate with people. They want to listen and be heard. You may learn something new from people you have known a long time
* weakness is not a negative 
* find joy in everything you do. That includes work! Find the positive and have a blast. In the words of the CHOC Cows: Love Living Life
* animals know better. Just accept it, your dogs or cats are always right!! 

Upwards and onwards into a new year and with that, this blog is going to have a minor shift in focus starting now. With the exception of Belgium and the bush, this blog has been cycling focused and the focus is going to shift to more of an adventure focus. Yes, there will be cycling adventures but will now include other adventures like geocaching adventures, walking adventures, photography adventures and well, any adventure I can find!! 

Enjoy your holiday if you are going away. If you are not going away, enjoy being at home in a quieter city. 

Monday, 18 November 2013

Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge and a bit of extra adventures...

7years ago I decided to this little race called the 94.7. I had no clue what road racing was but since I wanted to do the Argus, I needed to test my legs on a ride that was apparently tougher so I entered this race. I did this ride on a mountain bike and it was the toughest race I have ever done - sadly my gran died that morning so was tough to ride 95km that morning.

Anyway over the last 7 years, I have skipped 2 (pure laziness and fear of the race). Today was my 5th 94.7 Cycle Challenge and it was special! 

Over the last few months I have not been riding much due to circumstances and I had not trained for the race at all!!! In fact, as of last night I doubted my ability to finish the race. I haven't been feeling great and was scared I would have a repeat of Crater Cruise so mentally distanced myself from the race and focused on the first part of the race which I knew I could complete.

On Cycle Challenge Sunday, I woke up at some daft hour and felt great!! I counted down the hours before I had to get up and ended up getting up earlier than planned and left home earlier than planned (thanks Dad for waking up so early). But, before I could leave I had to get myself ready. I put on my kit, made brekkies, sorted my amazing Ghost bike out, chilled with a cappuccino and mentally prepared myself. My brain was saying I had to race and I had to remind myself that today was a fun ride. It took a good while to reprogram my brain but by the time I got in the car I was ready to have fun.

The start was normal with once exception: this year I was starting in the same batch as Richard Harris. Now, Richard may not be a famous cyclist but when I met Richard, he was this awesome elite cyclist who did awesome times and races and I was a pleb newbie. I looked up to him as a cyclist, so to start in the same bunch as him was a personal wow moment. Richard and his wife are close friends of mine so more importantly, it was great to start with a friend! After lots of chatting, chirping and joking, we found ourselves racing off into the distance and I tried to keep on Richard's wheel - I lasted about 20m before he disappeared into the distance.

As we climbed onto the M1 highway I tried to stick to the bunch but pretty quickly I realized just how unfit I was and I popped out of the back of the bunch faster than a teenager sorts a zit out! I found myself leap frogging from straggler to straggler until I found some of the real heros of the ride: a family riding for the Chaeli Foundation. This husband and wife team rides with their little cerebral palsy kid named Nicki strapped into a special seat on the front of the husband's bike. This family not only does cycle races but they also do runs (with Nicki in a pram) and triathlons and Ironman competitions (with Nicki in a kayak)!! This trio is pretty darn inspiring!!

After riding with this family for a few kms, I decided to continue with my straggler hopping tactics as the race drew us to our first climb of the day. Going up this pretty cool climb we were entertained by St Johns school who had quirky Froome banners up (for those who don't know: Chris Froome is the guy who won the Tour de France this year and had gone to school at St Johns).

The heat was already starting up at that tender hour but onwards we went! Through town, past Ponte and then to the M2 highway where I saw the coolest place ever!! The "Bike Hospital". Unfortunately a big bunch came past me so I couldn't stop and take a picture but this is definitely a place I need to visit!!! On this stretch I came across Hardus who was also mucking about and slowed down and rode with him. On the Nelson Mandela bridge we stopped for some pics and then continued onto Jan Smuts avenue where I was planning a stop. Jan Smuts has always been my favorite section of the ride as it has beautiful trees and is lined with supporters and people out to see the mad people. Before I knew it I was at Fournos and was calling for My friend who was standing on the other side of the street. It was breakfast time!! Breakfast was an awesome bagel with bacon and eggs and 2 cappuccinos served with the great company of my awesome friend Carla and fellow nutty cyclist Hardus. The funniest part of breakfast was hearing that Richard always 14km from the finish as we were ordering the bill. (We were 64km from the finish!!) All good things must come to an end and likewise breakfast came to an end and I prepared myself for the tough bit. I plugged in my hands free earphones, fed the wire through my top and set off into the yonder! 

Ok, I didn't get far as my hands free irritated me so I moved it from inside my top and then had this result in my hands free going through my spokes on a downhill so I had to stop and untangle broken wires before I could continue. Just before the main Jan Smuts avenue climb, I came across Angy and Werner and after a quick chat I got a beer off them and did the Jan Smuts climb with a real carbohydrate drink! Was kind of fun riding up and chirping the newbies about how good beer is for cyclists and then  launching an attack and riding up to the next bunch!

My next stop was at Check Point Mulley which is where the Mulley family wait every year at half way. Mr & Mrs Mulley: every year I see you there and every year you encourage me. You have no idea how much your being there counts even though you are there for your daughter and not us randoms. This year, the coke you gave me saved me from cramps and dehydration and for that I am grateful!! Was also good to see my neighbor, Lisa, there and recovering well after her op! Hope you get better soon neighbor.

After this half way stop I cruised along Douglas drive in amazement as to how many people from my awesomely warm neighborhood come out each year to watch this race. The people of Douglasdale could actually beat the Capetonians when it comes to supporting a cycle race. Thank you fellow residents!!! After Douglas came Witkoppen with its steady climb that drains a person but is just a warning as after that came Malibongwe. 

At this stage, those around me had lost their sense of humor and although tired of encouraging, I knew that these folks needed encouragement. 7 years ago at this point in the race there was a guy riding with a friend on his second lap and "coach" got us all through this section and the rest of the race. It was my time to pay it forward. Each rider I came up to I chatted to and I encouraged and they encouraged me by their attitudes.   

The N14 which is normally the worst part of the race for everyone ended up being such a cool part for me as I was around a bunch of tired but happy people. The group chatted about random junk as we each suffered in our own ways. Personally, my quads started cramping and my juice started running out but my sense of humor remained and as long as I didn't stand up, all was good and the N14 ended in a much easier form than ever before. The next bit was the climb up to water point 8.... But just before the climb, I pulled off to say hi to some choc cows that I had met at the expo - thanks gals for the coke!! The climb itself was littered with broken cyclists either flopped on the ground or hobbling. I tried encouraging the suffering ones, telling them that there was an amazing water point up the road. 

The one guy got mif withy encouraging chirping but one lady thankede fort helping her over the last few kms - that made my slow ride so worth it!!! 

Coming up on waterpoint 8, I was excited to see my colleagues who had been at work since 3:30 and I was in dire need of liquid as my bottles were empty!! But, the team were insanely busy and I only saw 1 colleague as I stopped on the edge of the point to have the rest of the coke that he Mulleys had given me. As I pulled off, I spotted Susan! Richard's dads wife. I did a quick turn around and greeted her and then rode with her to where Rich's dad was. These two had waited for me. Despite Mr H's health and the long time between his son coming past and my going past, they waited. It meant so much to see them there that I got a bit chocked up with the hugs I got and the encouragement I received.

The next bit was just part of the motions with hills and downhills and good old heart break hill and people falling over from exhaustion. (I did stop at waterpoint 9 for coke and water though.)

Before I knew it, I was riding the last km and was riding with a woman who had only started riding within 3 months of he race! I rode in with her and as the timingat beeped, I was done with number 5.

It was a special one for me as since Liege, it hasn't been an easy time for me on the bike and I had not trained so I was forced to do a fun ride. I enjoyed the ride and the special people who I came across along he way all touched me. The Chaeli Foundation riders, Hardus, Carla, the Mulleys, the Smurfs, the cows, the un-named rider I rode to the end with and then Mr Harris and Delene who impacted me greatly. Thank you to you all!!

Since then, I have done a tiny bit of adventure. Last weekend, I rode with Raquel and her dad along the spruit. On the return journey we came across some people looking for their dog so we tried to find the dog bit couldn't find him so we continued our ride. I decided to attack the one hill and as I got to the top I saw a beautiful black Labrador who was clearly lost! I herded Harry towards Raquel and her dad and they escorted him down the hill whilst I tried to phone his owners who weren't picking up. At the bottom of the hill, I took the piece of material that was holding my spare tube to my bike off and made a make-shift lead and let Harry run next to me as we went to his family. It was so awesome seeing his mom cry with happiness at the sight of him. He was returned safe to his family and we had found him. That really was a great ride!!!!

The next adventure was today and had nothing to do with cycling. Today some of the dog park pack went off to the Lipizaner centre for a dog walk in aid of Kitty Puppy Haven (the place where I adopted KD from). After milling about for a while with K barking at the horses and chatting to our dog park friends, 9am arrived and it was time to walk the dogs! We started with the dogs on lead but not long after, some of us took our dogs off lead (as they are better behaved off lead) and the dogs had a blast! Lego and Gruffy got a bit distracted and went off on a tangent and we had to call for them to get them to find us. But they returned and all was good and Lego stuck to us like glue after that!!

Sadly for kph the route was shortened due to a gate not being opened sooner had to do 2 laps and do some exploring so the pups could explore a bit more and get more exercise. 

At the end of lap 2, Gruffy got a bit too close to the fence and got "bitten" by the fence and went off like a baby! His big sister, Lego ran up to the fence to see what had bitten her brother but we all managed to call her off the fence before she got bitten! The rest of he pack and Lego checked up on Gruffy and made sure he was ok (humans included). All in all, it was an amazing day out with my dog park pack. Gals, thank you for being an awesome bunch of friends. Dogs: thanks kids for being the characters you are!

I am now off the bike for a few weeks but am going to use the time to contemplate the next adventure! 

But, that doesn't mean that the blog stops. Cycling isn't the only adventure one can have and I promise there will be some adventures shortly!

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Crater Failure

Last month, I headed off on a Friday after work to Parys for Crater Cruise. Crater Cruise has been on my bucket list for years and this year it was my year to do this. Although I had not trained much, I figured that I would be ok if I paced myself. I checked the profile and the number of water points and figured I could survive. Plus, it would be great 94.7 training since I haven't really been riding.

The morning before the race, I did an early morning ride on my road bike and felt pretty good so was happy that I would be ok. At work I felt a bad twinge as I packed my laptop away but I ignored it. It was nothing. The trip to Parys was uneventful and the accommodation was quite nice. Dinner was a nice Spur steak and although nervous, I was confident I could do the race.

Race morning came and after a yummy breakfast of bacon and eggs, I was ready to roll!! The first but of the race was 100% roadie was it was 13km of tar. Then came the corrugation... Was so grateful for my dual sus at this stage!!! What had been bunches, suddenly became each individual for themselves as we all scuttled for some respite from the brain shattering corrugation. Those on 29ers headed for the sand, hard tails for the far edges and the dual sussers moved from semi smooth to smooth patches, weaving across the road like drunkards. 

It was so awesome to be out there but it was hot!! But I had a plan: keep my buff around my neck and keep it wet. This plan worked like a dream and at Waterpoint 1 I had the kids there drench it with ice water. It didn't stay dry for long as at 8:45 it was closing in on 30 degrees but it did feel great! 

At Waterpoint 2, a fellow rider and myself stopped for a quick break and a quick bite to eat. This is when things started going dodge. A few kms down the road, i felt nauseas and the lovely bar was discarded from my system. But, I still felt good so I kept going. This race was mine! Personally, after months of not racing hard, I was planning for this to be my last big race. But... It was not meant to be as not long after my energy bar moment, I started having issues keeping my water down. Alarm bells started going off in my stubborn brain and I was forced to come to my senses and accept that the race may be over. At about 35km I started feeling terrible and told a fellow cyclist I may have to pull out. This was such a hard decision and was insanely hard to tell my ride buddy. I just wanted to stop for a few minutes alone and have a moment of thinking but my ride buddy insisted on riding with me. I knew they wouldn't make cut off if I stopped so I kept going, trying to persuade them to leave me. The climb was hard!! I struggled to drink, I couldn't keep it down. I rode a few meters, then stopped. Rode a few meters and stopped. That was my strategy: ride as far as I could then recover, then repeat. All the while, my ride buddy rode patiently by me, encouraging me and double checking if I was sure I wanted to pull out. Sadly I knew I had no choice.

As we came up to the top of the main part of the climb, we came across a medic station. My ride buddy asked if there were medics at the waterpoint and I seem to recall him telling them of my situation. My bike was taken from me, the medics said I must stop at them and I gave my ride buddy my full bottles and I took his empty ones. I called my parents and told them I was pulling out. I was super upset!! I knew I couldn't ride on and knew I was not feeling great and not knowing why scared me! It wasn't the heat and wasn't dehydration because I was insanely careful of that. The medics gave me rehydrat and got me in the shade. They were really great to those of us at their station: a broken collarbone dude, a bee sting dude and some lazy folks. They gave me the option of waiting for the ambulance or taking the sweep vehicle. I opted to take the sweep which I knew would be the faster way back to Parys. It was entertaining being squished on a bakkie between bikes and people whilst the vehicle went high speed along nauseating corrugation. I did not feel great!!! We passed the half way point and I saw my ride bud. Made me feel horrid that I was not riding but happy that they had best cut off!

In Parys I reported to the medical tent and was given valoid and sent on my way. Spent the next few hours waiting for my lift back to the guesthouse. My friends all made it safely back to the finish and all looked great despite the distance, heat and bad roads. To ArĂȘte, Graham, Jarek and Zandi: you all rock!!! You survived one tough ride and looked stylish. Proud of all of you. To my friends who did the shorter rides, you guys and gals also did fab! Well done to all. 

Anyway, after my visit to the medical tent, I let family and close friends know what was happening and tried to get my brain around my total failure. I was gutted!! I had pulled out of a ride....Back at the guesthouse, beers were opened and we all cleaned up and had a chilled afternoon before heading out for steaks.

Whilst at dinner a rather rude person from my complex phoned me and tried to complain about a decision my fellow trustees and I had made. She did not accept that I couldn't chat and got snotty with me. I ignored her and tried to enjoy the company and steaks. Was fun. 

The next morning I did something insane. I got back on my bike for the 13km race. My idea was just to have a slow ride with a friend but young Andrea de Waal suggested I try ride with them! I thought she was insane but as we all rolled out, my legs wanted revenge on the day before and I kept looking back at my friend until they said I should go. I raced up to the sprogs in the front and cruised with them until the neutral zone was over. After that, I tried to hang on for as long as possible but those kids are fast!!  I wanted one last glory ride to redeem myself for the day before so i watched my heart rate and made sure I was in the maximum zone without totally blowing up. It was insanely hard but it worked!! I got 21st or 22nd overall and 1st sub vet woman (ie first adult woman)!!!! I crossed the finish line knowing I had given my all. As I passed the medals table, an old friend greeted me but I was unable to speak due to exhaustion. I just lifted my hand in greeting. I exited the finish area and the De Waal family were there and offered me a pancake. It was the yummiest food I had had in ages. 

By this stage I was in agony. My kidney felt like it was going to explode. I felt horrible. I waited for my ride bud to finish and we watched the half marathon winners come in before hitting the road back to Jozi. I will admit that I was not great company. I was miserable and sore but I had just won my category in a race. And I don't care how short the race was because I know that that was all I had I me. I could gladly hang up my race number board knowing I had redeemed myself. 

The 2 races broke me and I knew it was time to admit that I am not super woman and that something was up and it is time to take some "me time" and workout what is going on. 

Since then I have done one short ride and have been working on recovery. Next Sunday is the 94.7 Cycle Challenge which I am riding and I fully accept that I am going to have to take it nice and slow and just enjoy the day out. 

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Change of opinion...

So a year or so ago, I went out riding with some friends and my one friend Delene had this new bike. Delene looked so comfy on her bike - as if the bike was made for her! In fact, I had never seen her so comfy on a bike. She was also riding a heck of a lot better than normal. I didn't really know the brand and was a sceptic, thinking that it was a Fong Kong junk brand.

However, this was the 2nd bike of this brand I had seen... My neighbor also had one. So, naturally the more of these bikes I saw the more curious I got. Especially after seeing Delene so at one with her bike! Late last year / early this year I decided to do some homework into this brand and was surprised to find that Gjost bikes are a major brand in Europe and was not Fong Kong but rather German!

Fortunately for me, I managed to get sponsored by the local distributor and was put on a Ghost Race Lector 20th Anniversary edition road bike. My first ride was amazing!! The bike is so comfortable. I can now climb a lot better and love road cycling even more than I normally do (and I love road cycling a lot)!!

So this week I decided to look at upgrading my mountain bike and went to look at a Ghost. I am a fussy customer because the budget is small, I know what I want and I want value for money. Despite being tempted to go to a 29er, I want the versatility of a dual sus and still want the ability to use my panniers in case I want to tour. The first bike I looked at was cool but it didn't grab me. I was then shown an amazing hard tail 29er! And I was almost sold on this until Jason showed me a women's specific dual sus 26er. Wow!!! I usually think of women's specific bikes as second grade bikes. But this bike looks stunning and is awesome to ride!! I felt it was made for me. I had flashbacks of seeing my friend on her bike.

I now have a Ghost Miss RT5100 in my lounge... I haven't ridden it yet but look forward to the first ride.

I now understand those who ride this brand of bike. These bikes are value for money, top of range amazing machines!! They are perfectly German engineered and look pretty cool as well.

Thank you to Delene, Lisa, Grems, Jason and Fraser for introducing me to this brand and showing me that a bike can look and feel as if it was made just for the rider.

If you are looking for a new bike, look at getting a Ghost. For more info on these bikes contact Ballistic Bike Trading:

Sunday, 2 June 2013

A small but sore lesson

So... I have learnt to eat healthy, I exercise and am generally pretty healthy. But, I keep getting kidney infections and have had 2 big kidney stone episodes and the big question has always been "why". I mean, I drink lots of water, don't have calcium issues or any of the usual risk factors.

The reason I am blogging about this is because the lesson I have learned is one I am sure others may also may have similar and I hope this can help other athletes.

Firstly, what does a kidney stone feel like? Well, for me it started with me getting cramps whilst out running - I am fit so this is usually a sign of something brewing. I then thought I had an intense back spasm but to be honest, I had a gut feeling that it was not (cause I was nauseas which for me is a sign of bad pain and a fever or something). But, I decided to be an optimist and I went to the Biokineticist, only to find out that, yes my upper back is still messed but where I was having pain was not messed. I then got so nauseus that just looking at food made me want to throw up (think from the pain). I eventually went to the doc and my symptoms were classic kidney stones so I I had an ultrasound. For the first time, it showed something. My left kidney was enlarged which was a sign that I had stones. I was put on meds for stones and told that if I was still in pain on the Monday I was to call the doc.

Over the weekend the pain continued and my fever got worse. On Monday, I felt awful!!! I called the doc and was referred to a specialist. This was scary! I have had kidney stones before but this time was my worst because of how long I had felt ill - by now nearly 10 days of pain and nausea and I had lost nearly 2kgs. The specialist confirmed the enlarged kidney and sent me for a ct scan - the most expensive 10min of my life!!! But, it was confirmed: a stone close to passing and one in my kidney.

I spent the rest of the day on my couch hydrating and flushing my system. It's kinda gross but I also had to strain for stones and when I had passed 2, I figured it was all over yet the next day I still felt sore and exhausted (had passed one in the early hours of the morning). That evening I had a great dinner with friends and as we finished dinner I was hit with the chills and the start of pain. By the time I got home I was in agony and my amazing little dog was by my side.

Anyone who doubts whether a dog cannot look after a human, should rethink their belief because K was literally by my side, acting like a hot water bottle and following me every time I moved. (He is not by nature a dog who cuddles so this is unusual.) He stayed glued to me until the stone had passed with a glorious plop and feeling of relief.

So... Maybe the 1 stone broke up but in the end, I had 2 sore stones and 1 that made me want to cry. People say the pain is worse than child birth. Well, I don't know what child birth feels like but I know that there are no words to describe this pain!! And, each stone has its own, unique level of gut wrenching pain.

My kidneys are still irritated (the doc says that's normal) and I having to be extra cautious of my liquid intake but, I am feeling amazing again and can't wait to get on the bike again. Am going to try fit a 30min session or 2 this week to get the legs going again.

So... What caused these little suckers? Dehydration in Europe. On race day I had only had 2.5 bottles of liquid in over 7hours, add to the international flight the day before where I am sure I dehydrated and then my not hydrating properly after my race. The timing is almost spot on for kidney stone formation. Think I have finally learnt my lesson: hydrate, hydrate and hydrate. Before, during and especially after events!

Kidney stones are not fun. So, if you are am athlete and am reading this, I know there is much literature on over hydration etc and I don't presume to know more than those doctors but I do want to warn you: if you are going to race with as little water as possible or think you are not thirsty on a cold day (my issue), please focus on hydration after your race (and no, not just beer)!!

Saturday, 11 May 2013

United by a common bond

Every day people attach leads to their best friends and take them to their special place. Us humans call it Kingfisher Dog Park, dogs call it play school.

On entering the park, the male dogs check in by a quick sniff of a pole then write their signature on the pole by a quick lift of the leg.

Then its freedom! They run in, greet their friends and play. For us humans we walk up to the mommies (and daddies) of our dog's friends and forget the stresses of the world. Human therapy time as we vent frustrations and happiness. We don't get much exercise but the dogs certainly do. Funny thing is that the humans we walk with end up becoming our closest friends. Fridays are awesome! Fridays we gather up at the top of the park, for a drink and watch the sunset. It is the perfect way to end the week and the only way to welcome in the weekend!!

A perfect example of this bond.... Last year one of our friends left on an adventure into deepest, darkest Africa.We threw 3 farewells for her (2 of which were for Belinda and her dog Peggy). They then headed off into the unknown and we were left with a gaping hole.

Let me back track a bit... A few years ago Belinda was struggling with Peggy and she had Peg on a long lead with a rope attached. Well, needless to say a good few of us got irritated with this stupid rope when we got rope burns on our ankles! We got over it and we became good friends with Belinda and our dogs became friends with Peg.

Sure people have been frustrated with me and my training of K as well! Especially when he went crazy and tried to eat big dogs. He isn't totally over that but he is better.

Back on track... So for a year us gals kept track on Belinda's blog and when she was too quiet, I was tasked with calling her Dad to ask if they had news. We missed our friend.

This week Belinda returned! It's so awesome to have our friend back. Balance has been restored to the park. The reunion was amazing and I sit here thinking how awesome a party we are going to have when both Belinda and Peggy are settled back at home.

Last night at the reunion I realized something: the park is more than just a place I go to to walk KD. It's where I go to refresh my batteries, bond with my dog and spend time with some pretty awesome friends. The park crowd are awesome and we are almost a family.

Whilst I was on holiday, I left my most precious treasure at one of the family. He was loved and adored for a week and apparently he fitted in with them. Think its largely because he knows them well and their dogs are his friends. I was able to enjoy my time in the bush without worry. Little dude lost weight from all the playing but he I can tell he was loved.

So, next time you drive past a dog park and think we are all nuts for walking whilst its snowing or raining or freezing cold, you will understand that we are not nuts.... We are there to recharge and refind ourselves in this crazy world and to bond with our 4-legged adorable children.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

A week in my favorite place

Day 1:

So yesterday I landed at OR Tambo Airport and Gareth, Danielle & I hit the road for the bush. Got to be honest, the thought of a long drive straight after a long flight was a bit tiring but, I was so tired I didn't even notice it and before I knew it, we were in Lydenburg for a quick pitstop.

At Lydenburg I quickly put my Ghost road bike together and put it back in the car, ready for a quick ride down the Strydom Pass. Bike was fast to put together and I was ready in the same time as Gareth and Danielle took to get drinks and sweets in Spar. The drive to the pass was quick and before I knew it I was mounting my bike and was cruising down the pass. It was pretty awesome racing down into the Lowveld by bicycle!! So in 2 days my bike had ridden on 2 continents - pretty darn cool!! I cruised down the road, focussing on just the road, my bike and occasionally Gareth in the car behind me. Traffic was non-existent and it felt like full road closure. Corner by corner I carved through them. Ok, small pothole, twitch left. Next corner, no cars, can go a bit harder. Next corner, small pothole but not gonna risk it, take it on the right. The road eventually flattens out and I see the target / end. That was awesome.

After my quick ride, I took control of the car and we were soon out of civilization and in the bush. I had decided to drive for 2 reasons, firstly I knew the road to the house my parents wanted us to take and secondly, I needed to stay awake! I was shattered and I was not going to admit it.

Was awesome arriving at the house and pretty quickly we were unpacked and sitting having a drink on the deck. (Mom had made my bed.) Oh wait.. First we unpacked my beers. I honestly just wanted to continue the adventure and as for the other stuff, well, that's local stuff that's cool. Kinda like if a tourist from here takes Amarula home, I had to get Peke and Raki. Anyway, I caught the family up on my trip, and we had a traditional braai around the fire for our first night.

After dinner I started nodding off but insisted I was still awake but soon I found myself in bed and next thing I remember was the sunlight peeking through my window.

This morning started nice and slow with a stunning shower in the outside bathroom followed by a breakfast which obviously included my chocolate spread I had bought! That stuff is amazing!!

We then hit the road to go find animals and we were not disappointed!! Herds of impala, zebra, warthog and giraffe greeted us as we drove. We even saw a beautiful elephant bull (he was fortunately not very close)! It's amazing how big they are, even from afar. Then we were greeted by an animal which sadly will go extinct if the dumb people don't stop poaching them - rhino. The one was a bit antsy and gave us a nice rev! My poor brother swears it was aiming at him and to be honest, I think he is right since my bro was wearing a blue bulls shirt and naturally anyone wearing that team's kit should be punished for that sin. (I am really not a bulls fan so no apologies to fans.) I think an animal of that size would do some mega damage to a landie! But, this dude was not aiming at a real charge but rather he just wanted us to go away. After the sports, we started to meander home and were treated by a sighting of a black rhino as well. Sadly we didn't see the elusive cheetah we had been wanting to see but I think the other animals more than made up for it!

At home I attempted to fix a light whilst Mom and Danielle prepared lunch. Sadly the light was bust and needed replacing. Lunch was yummy cold meats, rolls and salads and was followed by me washing dishes. Then came my favorite bush past time: reading my book on my bed - or so I thought! I lay down and fell instantly asleep and was woken up in time for us to leave for our game drive.

And once again, we were not disappointed! We saw lions on this drive. Ok, fine, they were deep in the bush but we did see them. Just just. Other than that, we just saw the usual stuff until not far from the house on a river road when we came across a hippo. Hippos are notorious for being aggressive when out of the water so the idea of driving past this guy on a narrow road where he had nowhere to go on the one side (the side of the road where he was just had rocks) was not an option. Driving past him would have just been stupid and we would not only have been charged but the vehicle would most definitely have been damaged! So, we turned around and went another way home. I am brave and its the one animal I won't mess with.

Hoping to see buffalo tomorrow or even a better elephant sighting. But first, time to play a practical joke on Gareth and Danielle....

Day 2:

Before I go into today, the practical joke went off quite ok. Had put a walkie talkie under my brothers bed and waited for him to fall asleep before making it crackle. He knew instantly what it was and apparently grumbled about me doing that - mission accomplished!

Anyway, today was a bit of a slower day fortunately with us kids taking the landie out for a spin. Headed out in the general direction of no where and waited for the inevitable call to say where the lions were and we were not disappointed! But first we were treated to a sighting of bataleurs that cannot be beaten!! 2 of them in a tree right by the landie. It's not often you get to see them that close let alone for so long so we felt honored to be allowed this sighting of these beautiful birds. It was here my camera died and couldnt be resurrected. We then had big herds of impala greet us with their grunts before we got the radio call: lions at a spot. I upped the pace of my driving but before we could get there they had moved out of sight. So, I just adjusted my route and we headed elsewhere. We had a pleasant trip with some good general stuff and lots of signs of elephant. Them we got the call. Lions that were relaxed by a dam. I pulled a quick left and motored there, ignoring the breeding herd of elephant on the left. And we were not disappointed!

Ok, first we had to negotiate tjops who think parking in the middle of the road is cool and one tjop who said I stole his spot yet he had been in the road and I pulled off the road. Anyway, I got us a great spot and we watched the 2 flop around until we got bored and moved on and returned for breakfast.

Brekkies was nice! We had a brunch with bacon, eggs, sausage, toast and tomato. Then I retired to read (ok, sleep) whilst my poor brother had to wash all the dishes and admittedly a few extra that I dirtied just for him.

Then came evening drive time! We headed to where we had seen the lion earlier but alas, nothing but we heard reports of cheetah so we high tailed it up to that area and in the mean time got to see 2 biggish herds of buffalo. We didn't see the cheetah and after a while we headed off again, only to respond to the next lion call.

And this time we were spoilt!! About 8 young lions and 1 mature adult in clear view!!! We watched them cuddle and walk around for ages whilst we got to bond as a family too. We joked and laughed at my brother's insane need to mark his territory! We also had a good few laughs at some other people who were at the sighting. After sitting there for ages, we moved off and headed home to a yummy meal, a warm fire and warm beds.

Tomorrow is up early for an early game drive.

Day 3:

Argh!!! Stupid alarm.. It's too blinking early. It's dark outside. Ok get up, put kettle on, pack tea, coffee, sugar, milk and rusks. Ok, rest of family are up and somehow I am behind the wheel and we are on the move.

Day started with the most amazing sight of 8 cubs / young adults and 1 adult walking in the road for a good 400 - 500m. Best was little tiny cub who who kept sneaking into the bush and sneaking up on teenager cub (who was bringing up the rear) and pouncing on him. Was so cute! Actually felt sorry for teen cub and you could almost see him saying that enough is enough little brat. Was one of best sights I have seen in the bush. But, all fun and games end and babysitter lion took them off the road and into the bush and we moved on in search of other elusive animals. And we were not disappointed! And those who you don't see anything on morning drives had to admit they were wrong...

Aside from the usual impala and other animals (which were plentiful) we lucked upon the hens tooth of animals!! 2 cheetah. The viewing couldn't haven't have lasted more than 3 or 4 minutes but it was spectacular with them walking carefully through the plain and occasionally stopping on a mound to survey their kingdom. Sadly they moved off into the veld and we lost them.

But, in our search to find them again, we stumbled upon the herd of buffalo from yesterday but quite a bit closer.

Rest of the drive was fairly uneventful but pretty stunning nonetheless.

After the drive at home, I got to my hard work of making scones. Such hard work! Crack a few eggs, add some milk, add some oil, mix it into premix, split it into the scone pans, bake and serve. And since my brother said I must make it just like Dad used to make it, I even bashed on the pans a little bit... Just like Dad used to do.

After brekkies, it was time to get serious and open my book and read whilst the others fiddled with the landie or built a puzzle. I decided to let them struggle with the puzzle. I needed to finish the book I had borrowed 8 months ago. Serious stuff....

Then came lunch and we had an amazing macaroni and cheese! Am gonna miss Mom's food whilst they are still here on the farm. And then came snooze, read and puzzle time. I opted to read on the deck for a change until it was just Mom doing the puzzle. That's when I took my gap and jumped in to help and make a real dent in the puzzle. You see, I am a covert puzzle builder. I don't admit to having a knack for these things but come when needed. And today I was needed!

Then came more reading followed by a short drive with Mom where we didn't see much. Ok, other than the usual game, crocodiles and some odd people drinking European beers.

The evening ended with dinner around the fire and reminiscing about school and youth.

Tomorrow we are planning a quieter day with a later sleep....

Day 4:

Got to sleep late this morning (6:30) and then spend some time reading in bed before getting up for some tea and rusks followed by more reading and muffins for breakfast.

After brekkies, we loaded rubbish into the landie and we headed to the camp to get fuel, ice and obviously get rid of the accumulated refuse. We also got the one battery sorted for the spot lights whilst there. (Turned out to be a loose wire that we had all not spotted.) After that we headed to a dam to sit and read... I mean, watch for game. Sat there for about about an hour watching hippos and also had some fun watching 2 plovers chase a baboon. Other than that, the only noise was impalas rutting and the sound of Gareth and Danielle's Samsung tablets bleeping and chirping. (Think they were playing bird calls.) As much as I was enjoying my book, I realized nothing much was happening at the dam so moved on.

Took a slow, meandering drive past some dams before aiming in the direction of home. But, before getting home Gareth needed the loo and that fell right into my evil plan! At the river I hooked a left down to the river road and found the "perfect spot" for him. A nice section with trees. I switched off the engine (which I never do when he needs the loo), let him get off and then casually said to Danielle (as the liquid started to hit the ground) "do you see that?" She responded with a gasp, I quickly switched on the engine and whilst doing so I shouted to Gareth "get on the vehicle now!!" Well, he did. Within seconds he was on the landie and Danielle and I were doubled with laughter. Needless to say, we were not popular and he was allowed to return to his spot behind the landie.

Once home it was puzzle building time followed by a yummy braai. We then got to the serious task of looking at my holiday pictures which ended when the laptop battery died. Mom and I then continued building puzzle whilst the others slept and we made great progress on the puzzle!

Then came the evening drive where we headed to a dam and waited for the elusive leopard but it was not to be and after a while we moved on and went I search of other animals. Fortunately we spotted a hyaena but it moved off fairly quickly and we lost it. Then we spotted it again! And since it was so close to a herd of impala we were certain it would kill. After about 15 to 20 mins however it had not moved so we moved for a better view, only to discover the second sighting was an impala. Argh. But, we did get to hear lions roaring in the distance which was cool.

After this failed sighting we moved off to where we were to enjoy our dinner in the bush. We get to the spot, everyone gets off the landie and starts to get things out when we hear a roar that is a little too close for comfort so we packed everything up and got back on. I was still happy o eat there based on how far away it seemed but i was out voted. Everyone else said they weren't hungry so I was left to finish off a bag of pretzels to curb my starvation (in my defense, I do have a fairly fast metabolism so get hungry often and admittedly get grumpy when hungry. So off we went in search of the lion and we were not disappointed! Just down the hill from us, here he was. I had guessed his distance wrong. We followed him, watched him drink and then followed him to where he lay down (obviously switching off when he roared to listen). He wasn't a huge boy but he was big nonetheless. We also called the sighting in and were able to share it with 2 other units.

Then my hunger kicked in again and I grabbed the mielies out of the basket and polished off 2 in quick succession. This lead to us opening up the rest of the containers and having dinner right there. Although not the most comfortable of places to eat, it was pretty cool and the left overs just as nice as when they were made.

After dinner meandered home and we all crawled into bed, thus ending yet another awesome day in the bush.

Day 5:

The morning started a bit later after a late sleep and read in bed. I then gate crashed Gareth and Danielle's little solo game drive. Was not a bad drive, we saw lots of general game and a few interesting birds. Just wonder why Gareth stops for every Lilac Breasted Roller!

The rest of the day went well. Had a great lunch, a fantastic nap and then we went out in the veld where we saw a stunning sighting of cheetah. Ah man, so wish I had my camera!!! We then stopped for a drink and watched the remains of the sunset before heading on and seeing something none of us had ever seen! A crocodile at night out of the water. Pretty darn awesome. He or she must have been a good 2m or so long. After doing some reading, it turns out that they do go out of the water at night to hunt.

Then, as we turned a corner to go left, I spotted cubby and his family once again on the right. So after some maneuvering, we turned and pursued them. The cubs were going to greet mommy lion with big licks and kisses. Dad commented that she must have killed. He was right cause off they walked along the railway line, right to where she had killed 2 animals - one for her and one for them! We watched them have dinner. Was such a cool sound! I then realized my sunglasses had come off. My lovely new Oakleys that I had just gotten from the insurance. Kind of a suck way to end the day. We did find them (family insisted on hunting for them) but they were crushed. The family has various opinions on what happened and Mom's guess is that she had killed and when they came back to the plain she killed a second impala opportunistically. I am starting to come around to her theory.

Not gonna lie, I was rather irritated at myself for having another pair gone. But, on the positive we had had an exceptionally good night of sightings so it wasn't all bad...

Day 6:

Another lazy start to the day with a yum breakfast of poached eggs on toast. Then headed to main camp to dump the rubbish and get a few things from the shop followed by a short game drive where we found 2 of the big 5. Silly leopard still eludes us though!!

Rest of the day was spent relaxing on the deck with good food, some reading and of course the game rummikub (which I am the current reigning champ in here). You see, it's not just a game of strategy but also about reading your competition because then you know what they have on their board.

Whilst playing 3 elephant came to visit the house. Really nice to have them so close!! They stuck around for quite a while and left sometime whilst we were in the lapa.

Dinner was jaffles filled with leftovers which I attempted to make (wasn't a bad attempt considering none of us had made jaffles on a fire before - we usually make them on the stove).

Was perhaps our quietest day thus far but had included 3 of the big 5 so from a sightings perspective it was quite good!

Day 7:

Save the best for last.... And this morning was no exception! I woke up just after 6am and dozed a bit, enjoying the rising sun through my window. Just before 7 I read through my planned blog entries and by just before 7:30 I was up making tea and sitting in my lounge enjoying my book to the sound of the hippos at the river.

At some stage Dad came in to make Moms coffee before heading back to bed. Eventually Mom emerged and started making the best thing ever! Scones. And Mom doesn't cheat by using premix!!! She mixes everything herself. Whilst they were in the oven, I had a shower outside and had the view of the hippos in the river and a hornbill in the tree. Honestly, things could be worse!

We enjoyed brekkies which included my putting chocolate spread on a scone and everyone else being normal. We then all got ready and hit the road for our drive.

Our first stop was the office where Danielle and I schemed with the receptionist about us paying the bills for the week without my folks knowing.

The drive itself was good. Saw the usual and a member of the big 5 before cruising slowly home.

At home I set about packing and getting my self organized for the sad return home. I packed my awesome road bike (my Ghost which I cant wait to ride again) and my bags. At least most of my stuff sorted. But! I have just been reminded that when we got home, we had 2 elephants in front of the house who swam and played in the river. The older one even got quite irritated with the youngster and pushed it and trumpeted at it, even blowing water bubbles at it!

Then came a lifer!! Well, for us. Dad came to tell us about a croc eating a fish, a few minutes later we had 6 crocs on an animal. Twisting and turning to tear off a juicy piece of yummy meat. Some of these crocs were enormous!! I mean, over 2m long and super fat!!!! We tried to workout what buck it was bit the crocs were not letting on what they had killed. Eventually, we got a sighting of the underside of the face and we could work out that it was a nyala bull. Poor dude had probably been at the river to have a drink and was taken quickly and silently, not knowing anything. We certainly didn't hear anything. Can imagine him dreaming of the lovely green reeds he was about to munch on then snap! No more thoughts and a few hungry crocs with full tummies.

We watched for ages, as they twisted and turned, ripping off meat and limbs. The one massive dinosaur croc ripped off an entire leg and then swallowing it with a SNAP as a bone was broken so it could fit in the mouth.

Eventually they were all fat and full, resting their heads on the remaining carcass before them eventual sneaking off bits and taking it to their underwater pantries for snacking later....

We then packed drinks and snacks and headed into the veld for our last drive. And naturally once again no disappointment! Cubby's family in a dry river bed. And of course young Cubby was biting someone's leg. I swear that cub is gonna be a super hunter. Such a cute cub. We then moved on to find the big male who was spotted at a local dam. We found him but where we were told he was but he was super lazy and didn't even lift his head when Gareth sneezed. We moved on quickly cause he was boring. Drive was cut a bit short because the landie's gauge was showing the vehicle was running hot but, it was an awesome drive nonetheless!!

We ended the night bonding around the fire. A great end to the trip....

(Have included a few random pics from the trip.)