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Posts Tagged ‘animals’

Earth with a bump

Reality kicked in as the sad events of the week unfolded and news broke of the shark attack off Anse Lazio claiming the life of Briton Ian Redmond (and while I’d been in England also that of Nicolas Virolle, a French tourist). The phones went crazy and,surprisingly, quite a few UK dailies sent over reporters (no wonder the printed editions are losing money), all eager to know more. Paramount, however, was the privacy of Gemma Redmond and her family. I cannot even begin to know what it must have felt (and still feel) like. It’s only been a week, the family still grieves, but the news has moved on. The phones are quiet, the search for the shark continues and the thought remains, it can happen to any of us at any time. I’ll have that second bowl of London Dairy thank you very much and not worry too much really about anything. Live.

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Of mice and cats

Day 2 of cat being in house: cat brings in dead mouse.  The other one freaks and I put it in a dust pan and out the mouse goes.

Day 3 of cat being in house: cat brings in dead mouse.  The other one freaks and I put it in a dust pan and out the mouse goes.

Day 4 onwards: cat has got message.

Day 14: alive mouse in the house. The other one super freaks and says repetitively ‘there’s a mouse in the house’ to which he expects a reaction but perhaps not one of laughter . Come on how can you take anyone seriously saying that?  The mouse scuttles about and we go ‘aha!’ we just happen to have a cat, what a stroke of luck! Cat is located, cat is brought into kitchen, what does cat do?

NOTHING. BUGGER ALL.

‘I’ve got better things to do’  she said and sodded off.

The other one rocked himself to sleep eventually with the mouse still being in the house and all.

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Doolittle tricks

I’m trying to understand the cat.

I keep asking the other one as he’s at least had some experience in this area, though he has found it necessary to point out when I ask him how much I should feed the cat and if cats are nocturnal and if they’re tongues are really clean and where might the cat be pooing that he had a cat over 30 years ago and could I now stop obsessing about it and just because the cat  hasn’t come for her food yet doesn’t necessarily mean she’s been poisoned.

It appears she wasn't called Minx for nothing

We have lots of food to give her thanks to D and S our neighbours but I didn’t think to ask them anything else. So the first night, when the cat started meowing loudly at the door, I didn’t know what to do, let her in or not? I let her in, should stop her meowing, I thought. We shut the bedroom door and yes she did meow loudly outside it. We let her in and had a rubbish night’s sleep. Ditto the next night.

The third night, the time of my ‘where the bloody hell is she?’ panic, she stayed out and we concluded it was because it was no longer very windy, a weak hypothesis maybe but yet to be disproved.

An alternative explanation is she’s just sick of my incessant and inane chatting on at her, well that’s what the other one said and I don’t know what he was getting at. Like he said, he last had a cat 30 years ago, what does he know?

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Ahhhh pet

this isn't our cat and nor would it be smiling like this

Our neighbours dropped a little bombshell.

‘We’re going on holiday, do you mind feeing the cat’

‘No, not at all, how long?’

‘Three weeks’

‘Oh’. ‘When?’

‘Day after tomorrow’.

‘Oh.

They don’t know my track record. I’ve not had pets so much as they’ve come into my possession and left shortly after…

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I don’t like Ostriches

After a hearty breakfast, we left Route 62 for our first foray towards the Garden Route. We were advised to avoid Oudtshoorn on account of the traffic

See? (not my pic I would never get that close)

(really?!) as there was an arts festival on so we missed its nearby caves and ostriches. Still, we passed a couple of ostrich farms and I dutifully got out the car and took some snaps. It was then that I was spotted by an ostrich, which lurched towards where I was stood far more quickly than I was comfortable with, causing me to flee cowardly much to the amusement of the locals across the road. How to look like a stupid tourist. Perhaps it had found out, we’d eaten one of his feathered friends the night before (this part of the Western Cape is known for its ostrich steaks).

In case anyone is confused, I’ve decided to be a pragmatic vegetarian (if I’ve never had it before and it’s not endangered I’ll try it though that doesn’t quite explain the bacon buttie lapse).

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A Dassie. A what?

Before adventure though, here’s a wildlife fact. Ever heard of a Dassie? I hadn’t. This is what it looks like. It’s formal name is a Rock Hyrax.

On closer inspection a bit rodenty for my liking

It lives on Table Mountain and across Africa and the Middle East and is closely related to an elephant apparently. Go figure.

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ahhh look at them - 'the snugglers

Two km later, I saw a sign for penguin viewing and though this was our mission ignored it because it didn’t specifically say Boulders Beach and I do everything my guidebook tells me. A kilometre later and a sign for Boulders Beach (vindicated!), we turn in, park and are surprised that we have to pay an entrance fee (for a beach?), I hope that locals don’t have to.

We make for the beach cove, going through two metal gates that we have to make sure are shut so that penguins (PENGUINS HE HE!) don’t escape. Very different from beaches we are used to, everything seems ruddier – the people, the sand – more workaday and whimsical than the picture perfect Seychelles variety.

But PENGUIN ALERT! To my left by some rocks I see my first African penguin (formerly Jackass – don’t ask me why the change I don’t know, too rude?!) and so go and talk to him (it’s a habit of mine). He ignored me. I tried harder and started to follow him but he was playing hard to get, maybe he was shy I was filming him or perhaps he was just running scared from the stupid woman who walked right in front of me screeching inane comments, ruining my Attenborough moment. Grrrrrr.

Resolved to get some quality penguin time, this part of the beach clearly wasn’t harbouring the hundreds of penguins promised, we clanged back through the metal gates and hung a right along a wooden pathway that looked far more promising. It was. We stopped at least a dozen times along the shaded path, spotting penguins behind the wire fence in various forms of repose; zen penguin, on parade penguin, sleeping penguins, loved up penguins, waddling penguins, snuggled penguins, sneezing penguin and territorial penguin, I could have spent all day naming my penguin poses but the other one might have filed for divorced.

The path soon opened out to a visitor centre and another entrance; this presumably being where first sign that I’d seen on the road would lead you. We flashed our receipts and were let in and this time the path took us to vantage points on a wide expanse of beach where hundreds of the little fellas were hanging out. We hung around for a while but the wind whipping up we decided it was lunchtime.

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Our mate Alix

Receiving a package wrapped in brown paper, the other one’s curiosity was piqued. Could it be a surprise care package from the UK full of goodies like coffee, Galaxy chocolate, veggie Oxo cubes, pants even?

No. Guess again. Actually, don’t bother you’ll never get it.

It was a lion puppet.

Or more precisely, ‘a stuffed traveller’.

Posted all the way from the UK, ‘Alix’ had started his journey at Bourneville Primary School, Birmingham, where he’d been tasked with travelling round the world sending emails and postcards to class 3P to enable them to learn about different countries* (I would have kindly volunteered, though I’m not sure that being told regularly to ‘get stuffed’ is quite the same thing as being a stuffed traveller).

The poor thing had endured a long and tiring journey so far having visited Cardiff and Sheffield – I don’t think it unjust to say that his travel luck was on the up. He’d timed his arrival impeccably as it meant he could tag along with ‘MP’ round Seychelles and onward to Thailand and Laos – see, not even where Doctor Who is filmed can compete with that.  

In the end, we all fell a little bit in love with Alix, he was impeccably behaved (hardly a peep out of him) and he didn’t make a fool of himself by bagsy-ing sun loungers, sitting in the sun at the heat of the day turning beetroot red or wearing a dubious combination of Bermuda shorts and sandals. He even went into school with the other one to meet his kids where they really gave him a grilling asking if he had a girlfriend and what he did for money (not much in all honesty but his charm more than made up for it) We were very sad to see him go but a peep of his travel diary reassured us that he’d had a great time.  Just hope that ‘MP’ watch him closely in Thailand – wouldn’t want him to get stuffed with a load of drugs and carted off to some prison- not sure 3P could handle that.

*Coronation street had Derek Wilton harassed by postcards/photos that the gnome stolen from his garden sent him in classic Corrie comedy gold. Reminding me of another classic line; someone in the Rovers Return asking for a pint, said straight faced that it should have a good head as whoever it was for, liked good head…cheeky!

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Chimp trek

Not great in the morning – tucking into a lacklustre Spanish omelette and coffee, my stomach turned over and then again just before we were about to go chimp trekking. The other one sorts out payment ($120 each) for the trek while I’m hotfooting it to the nearest loo – fantastic timing. Worried about not passing anything on to the chimps as well, I fess up to the park ranger bloke that I don’t feel too well but he seems unworried and reckoning that it’s just something I ate, I valiantly pledge to pursue those chimps…

Our guide asks if we have raincoats, heeding the lesson from Murchison Falls, the other one goes grab them and we feel smug no more than twenty minutes later when the rain starts really hard.

Trekking through the undergrowth, rain lashing and the chance of chimp sighting deteriorating (being harder to hear them and they look for shelter out of the rain), despondency sets in. Kibale is the most expensive place to trek chimps allegedly because there is a 90% chance of seeing them – my luck would usually dictate that I’d be that forsaken 10%.

Our guide Gerald though was brilliant and suddenly we found ourselves lunging through the foliage in a big rush to get somewhere. Some minutes later and pointing into the branches of a nearby tree, Gerald presents the President of the chimp group (nicknamed Obama), squatting on the branch, surveying his kingdom. Unfortunately, as I wasn’t wearing contact lenses, nor did I have little windscreen wipers for my steaming, dripping glasses, I could see hardly bugger all.

Another group of trekkers joined us (some of whom seemed to forget that we had paid to see and hear chimps and not stupid versions of the human species – I don’t need to travel to do that). Those of us still interested, stood expectantly, hearing the rustle of branches overhead and chimps calling to one another – spotting a mother with baby chimp was a highlight ( especially as the rain had stopped and I could actually see).  

We were given more than our allotted hour with the chimps but eventually had to tear ourselves away from the cheeky chappies – a shame as I’d like to have stayed for a chat and cup of PG Tips. Oh well.

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Rhino nasty

Maybe she was just auditioning to be a presenter

Among the dry grasses of the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, a group of western European travellers look on bemused as for the 6th or 7th time, a woman TV presenter fluffs her lines describing the white rhinos lying behind her, the guide interjecting again that they are two of only eight southern white rhinos left in Uganda. The travellers wait impatiently for her to get it right so that they can get a look at the rhinos themselves. Finally, the presenter cracks it and leaves, so the first group of four travellers shuffle in for their view and then the next.

The groups are extra careful to be quiet, not wanting to scare the rhino, especially as each of them has completed a waiver form that absolves the sanctuary of any blame if injury or death should tragically y result from their trip.

Suddenly, the silence is pierced by a sound more familiar to the London high street than the northern wilds of Uganda. ‘Diddle uh der, diddle uh der, diddle ur der de rang the mobile phone. Mobile phone? The travellers stare askance at each other, who would be stupid enough?

The guide with the gun.

Sheepishly, he fiddles with the phone and puts it back in his pocket.

‘Diddle uh der, diddle uh der, diddle ur der der’.

One of the Swedes shoots a look that could kill at the guide while two rhinos

that can kill (capable of charging at 40mph) are perhaps considering this a possibility as, on guard, they draw themselves to standing.

The guide instructs the first group to move backwards quickly towards the

"Cora, lie dowm"

trees, then changes his mind and tells them to stay stock still. One of the British travellers, who lives in the Seychelles, takes no chances freezing like a child playing musical statues simultaneously grimacing at the boy Swede trying to take a picture of an agitated Rhino. Her heart thumping, she looks over at her partner which isn’t very helpful as he looks petrified.

The guide starts talking to the rhinos like you would a dog ‘Cora calm down, Cora calm down, lie down’.

Not wholly convinced by this form of animal control, the British female traveller fearfully realises it’s her best hope given that the recommended safety advice is to either climb a tree or hide behind one – pretty useless when all that is visible are knee high shrubs.

‘Cora calm down, Cora calm down, lie down’ the guide continues unabashed and finally, amazingly, the creature lies down thankfully followed by her protective partner.

A collective sigh of relief ripples through the travellers and a faint whiff of ammonia hangs in the air.

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