Archive for April, 2009

I’m not proud of this.

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

I was watching Best Week Ever a while back, and they had a clip of the “sing country songs” American Idol episode, where FallOutBoy Wannabe slash Unknown Sexual Orientation Guy sang “Ring of Fire”, but he sang it with an Indian twist. I’m sorry to say this, but it was kind of awesome. So I looked it up on YouTube, and indeedy, it is pretty cool, especially for Merkin Idol, which is not exactly cutting-edge.

And to keep my hard-earned street cred, here is a Ukrainian band covering “Hot ‘n’ Cold” by Katy Perry. With an accordion.

Trapezes and Baobabs.

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Sorry for the “not writing” thing. Nellie (my co-worker, it’s just the two of us in this department) went on vacation this week and everyone at work wanted a presentation or a book or a handout RIGHT NOW OMG CRAZYPANTS. So I’ve been running around with a watering can putting out fires. In the design sense. But on Friday night I got to see Cricket’s sister Mishi do her swingin’ thing with the trapeze. Mishi has been taking a class on the West Side Highway at The Trapeze School and you know how dance schools have their end-of-year recital? Well, the trapeze school does the same thing. It was free and she invited me, so I went. And it was so worth it. It’s in a big tent and one sits on mats on the floor. Then all the classes (who have dressed up in costumes, this recital’s theme was “Peter Pan,” so lots of pirates and fairies) take turns climbing the palpitation-inducing ladder and do a few swing-and-catch stuff while topic-related (in this case, “Peter Pan”) music plays in the background. It was great. The audience would cheer for everyone, even if they didn’t know them. You started rooting for complete strangers, so strong was the comraderie. Here’s some footage of Mishi practicing, so you can get an idea.

This weekend I also had a chance to work on a little painting of a baobab with a dung beetle. I was hoping to share it when it was finished, but it’s taking longer than expected (it’s HARD to draw a dung beetle, I’m on my fourth attempt), so I’m going to show it to you in bits. First, the baobab:


The colors aren’t that vivid and saturated, my scanner scans that way. And here is the dung beetle in its incompleteness:


I’m going to glue the dung beetle half on the baobab and half on the dirt below the baobab. I’m thinking of moving the dung ball up and underneath the dung beetle so the whole drawing is more compact. Dung beetles back way up on their dung balls anyway, and right now this looks too much like an Egyptian scarab necklace. But this gives you an idea of where I’m heading.

It’s spring! Spring spring spring! Tulips and restrooms, hurray!

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Hooray and yay! New York has utter dogcrap winters, so when spring comes it truly is a delight. And the plants are a-blooming. I walked past Bryant Park (my favorite park in Manhattan) and saw these incredible tulips. Not just regular tulips, but big lush tulips with vague sunset hues. And there were tons of them all over the place. It soothes the soul, I tells ya.

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However, I did notice something interesting. I happened to glance at the public bathroom on the rim of the park and noticed that there’s a pattern of animal skulls and ornate Grecian swastika-type designs.

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That is fabulous. How did I not notice this before? And why aren’t goths and neo-Nazis and Georgia O’Keefe fans hanging around there? I totally would. It’s like a mausoleum… for bodily waste. AWESOME. This became one of my favorite New York buildings.

Africa, Part 6. I think this is all of it.

Friday, April 17th, 2009

I had to hike up a mountain. Let me rephrase that. My mom made me hike up a mountain. I do not like going out into nature. The walking surfaces tend to be uneven, with unstable rocks and slippery bits and grasses obscuring ankle-breaking holes. I am clumsy. This is a bad combination. But Mom was keen on seeing these San people rock paintings, and I tried to get out of it, I really did, but she wasn’t having any of it. So I climbed the damn stupid mountain, bitching and moaning the whole way. Let’s look at pictures.

This is the view from the about a quarter-way up the mountain.


This is the view from the top of the mountain.


And this is me at the top of the mountain, where I was all sweaty and miserable. Take in the unhappiness, people.


And here’s a rock painting painted by a San medicine man. The paintings are between 3000 and 200 years old, and the reason that the dates are so far apart is because the San would paint over old paintings, so anthropologists can’t date the older stuff without scraping off the newer stuff, which they’re not going to do.


It was extremely interesting, and I probably would have found it fascinating if there was a cable car, but there was not, so I spent the whole time looking at the paintings while grumbling with a thundercloud drawn over my head, like a Charlie Brown character.

Eventually we trekked back to the surface of earth, where the foliage is amazing. If I was doing another Lord of the Rings, I would do it there. It’s very cinematic.

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Two other things that were interesting KwaZulu Natal:

Outside our cottage there was a tree. I learned in Africa that lichen only grows on the north side of a tree (I forgot the reason, though), so if you’re lost, you can look at the trees and figure which way north is. On this particular tree the delineation is very apparent.


Since he was doing all the driving, Cricket HATED signs like this. There are all over KZN. This might have been his favorite.


Here are some random pics from Africa that didn’t fit into any other categories. The first bunch is a random collection of bug pictures. The insects there can be enormous. Like, if they fly around and land on you, they are heavy and you go “uh” from the surprise of the weight. It’s astonishing. This is cricket in Kruger on a ranger’s fingers.


This is a millipede on my arm. I like the way their tiny feetsies feel, little hooklike toes moving like synchronized swimmers.


A praying mantis I saw in a restroom. I tried to pick it up and move it outside to take a picture of it, but it started chewing on me, so I dropped it and screamed. Apparently, a man came running out of the men’s room all concerned and asked one of our traveling companions what was wrong. Our companion said, “She’s American,” and the man said, “Oh, it figures,” like all Americans go into the bathroom and shriek. No mention of the mammoth bug chowing down on my finger. No, no, us Americans, we’re all fat and stupid and scream when we pee. It’s just how we are.


This is a female golden orb spider. She’s a big lady, about three inches. See that small brown thing? That’s her husband. She’ll eat him eventually. I walked face-first into one of those webs (about two feet across), and then flailed around like an alien was trying to emerge from my chest while clawing at my hair for giant freaky spiders. Me and nature, we don’t get along so well.


And here’s one eating a big grasshopper. They have no mouth to speak of, so they fill their food with an acid that turns it into soup, then they drink their kill. Mmmm. Slurpy pre-digested grasshopper.


Three other miscellaneous monster insects.

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This is a license plate that I liked. It has a baobab tree on it. I heart baobabs. And British-Empire-looking crests. Also, note that this is a BMW. South Africa makes all the wrong-side-of-the-car BMWs for the rest of the world. All the heads of state in Africa drive around in them. They’re all over the place.


Okay, a holdover from the British is a deep love of all things chutney. They have chutney-flavored chips and meat products and everything. They also make a chutney powder for your popcorn. I do not know what Aromat is. I’m guessing it’s like Mrs. Dash, a festive mixture of random herbs and spices.


Has anyone been following the news? Did anyone hear how the Dalai Lama was not allowed to come to South Africa for a peace conference because South Africa has a big love affair going on with China? Really smooth, South Africa. Excellent PR on your part. Anyway, shortly after that news broke, I saw this worker in the airport.


Yeah, whatever. If you were so enlightened you would have let the freakin’ Dalai Lama in. BTW, does anyone know what “enlightened security” even means? Do they prevent terrorist attacks by flying off the walls and treading on the tops of bamboo like in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? I’m curious about this.

And finally, South Africa is gearing up for the FIFA world soccor/footbal thingie. It’s a great big hairy deal, like the Olympics. They’re building stadiums in a bunch of cities. There are billboards all over. And these clocks scattered here and there:


Cricket found these fabulous. Every time we had some downtime, he would say, “Hey, we could go watch the FIFA countdown clocks. They might have changed since the last time we saw them.” Me thinks perhaps he pokes fun at the FIFA people.

Alright, there’s my whole Africa trip. Hope you enjoyed it.

Africa, Part 5.

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Next destination was the KwaZulu-Natal Province. Here is a helpful map of South Africa to tell you where KZN is.


It is an extremely beautiful area, all farmlands and photogenic countryside. My mom called it “England in Africa”, and she was right. It was settled by the English (no Africaans spoken there) and it looks like something out of Pride and Prejudice. The particular artist colony my mother came to study was a place called Ardmore. They make fine-art pottery that gets auctioned off at Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Every farm in the area has a cottage or two that they rent out to guests for extra money. This is Ardmore’s cottage.


This is Ardmore’s gallery where art dealers come to look at the art and meet the artists and make purchases.


And this is the house of the owner of Ardmore, Fée (pronounced “Fay”) Halsted-Berning. Note the English rose garden.

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Mom, Cricket and I stayed at a small farm nearby at a place called Caversham Mill. We stayed in an adorable cottage made of corrugated metal.


It looks not-so-great from the outside, but the inside was all plastered and so it was nice and white with high ceilings and turn-of-the-century furniture. So airy and delightful. In the back was a porch with a stunning view. Now remember, this is a working farm, so there are animals all over. All the animals are kept in pens at night, but during the day they’re let out to stroll around and snuffle for food. It’s so very laid-back. Every sunny morning the two resident peacocks would hop up on our back porch and groom themselves. It’s a nice way to start the day.

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And then the two small black ponies would saunter around.


In front of the cottage was a chicken pen and a pig pen. Here’s Mrs. Peacock hanging out with them.


And this was the gate in front of our cottage/farm area. I became well-acquainted with this gate, since I had to get out of the car many times to open it. Me and the gate, we’re pals.


That whole area is called the Midlands Meander. Each farm does something (Caversham has a printing press and a fine restaurant, Ardmore makes high-end ceramics, another makes all kinds of cheese products, another does musuem-quality beaded wall hangings, etc.) so you drive from farm to farm and you check out what they do. It’s a very lovely experience. At one farm I saw some truly stellar, truly free-range chickens. No pen at all. Laying eggs any which place.

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This was the same farm that I saw the great shabby-chic bathroom with the chandelier.


One one of our travels to the other farms, we saw a sign that said “Gunther’s – German/Swiss Food”, and that intrigued us, so we went to Gunther’s farm. Definitely not a disappointment.


Let’s take stock here – we got the blue-and-white checked tablecloths, the giant cowbells, the two Saint Bernards, the flag decorations… and the Grand Central fiberglass cow. Don’t really know what that’s doing there, but I’m not one to judge. What you can’t appreciate from this picture is the dark wood decorations, the beer signs, and the real oom-pa-pa beer hall music playing. This was AUTHENTIC. They lady of the house (Gunther’s wife) let us try four samples of homemade wurst, which were excellent. We ended up buying the weisswurst. And gawking at the view. The view thing never got old.


Now, not everything in KZN is peachy keen. This is the place with the highest AIDS per capita of anywhere on earth – 3 in 5 people have it. The schools (which are sponsored by private companies, so many of the school signs say things like “Drink Clover Milk!” on them) look like maximum security prisons.


That school has two fences, one electrical and one with razor wire. And the “no guns, no knives, no drugs” sign is not a joke. It’s a big problem out there. So is the poverty. Many houses (if you can call them that) don’t have running water or electricity.


But people make the best of it. I liked the Pepto-Bismol painted shanties.


And we saw real cow herders walking their cows (called Nguni cows) from field to field.


They also have a bit of a problem with potholes.


Now you’re probably thinking of potholes that you’re familiar with. Don’t. These were axle-breaking horrors. They looked like there had been a dinosaur-style meteor shower, with three-foot wide flaming rocks screaming into the surface of the earth. And they were everywhere. You couldn’t avoid them. This is just a sample of the most photogenic of the potholes.


But other than that, it’s a pretty gorgeous place to visit with stunning vistas, charming farms and art, delicious food and a very relaxed and creative aura. Tomorrow, cave paintings.

This Just In: Baby Wearing Skull ‘n’ Crossbones Onesie!

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Remember the onesie I made for a pregnant co-worker? This one?

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Well, here it is on the baby. I just got the pictures. It’s all very exciting.

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Africa, Part 4: Kruger and Durban.

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Finishing up Kruger: The last night there Cricket got jiggy with the big braai-ing grill and cooked up a great big slab of meat (all this occurred during Owl Appreciation Hour and OMG did you SEE my OWL?!??) but it was very very dark out there, so he wore his headlamp the whole time. I’m telling you, that man can make a headlamp sexy.


Speaking of very very dark, the stars were AMAZING. Imagine being in a place the size of Rhode Island with less than fifteen thousand people. Seriously, you could see The Milky Way. It was phenomenal. Cricket tried desperately to take a picture of the stars (30 second exposure time, using a tripod, making everyone in the nearby housing turn their lights off, etc.) but while the picture is good, it really doesn’t capture the sheer mammothness of the night sky. But you can see The Milky Way! Those are the smudgy cloudy-looking bits. Soooo breathtaking.


I really hadn’t seen very many monkeys my entire trip, so I was delighted when on our last day, a troupe of vervets showed up at our house. I was the only one who was excited. They are very, very naughty beasties. They spend all their time plotting how to get into your personal space and steal your foods and valuables.





A brief stop with the plotting for foraging…


Then the continuation of the plotting…


And finally success. I heard a scream, and then a flash of gray out the door. This particular monkey got into the kitchen and stole some hot cross buns. Look at how he sat in the tree juuuuust out of reach and ate it, all cocky-like. “Yeah, I got your hot cross buns, heh heh heh.” Snotty little humanoid.


On our drive out of Kruger we drove past a large watering hole with buffalo on one side and marabou storks on the other. One marabou stork bravely ventured over to the buffalo side, but was politely but firmly forced off by a buffalo bouncer who got closer and closer with those big horns of his. Wise marabou, he got the hint.

Watering hole, buffalo side.


Watering hole, marabou side.


And that was the end of my four days in Kruger Park. Every time I go there, it’s as magical and awe-inspiring as the first time I went (when I was five.)

Cricket and I then headed to Durban, which is a major city in South Africa. There’s not much for me to say about Durban, we were only there for two or three days, and most of that time was spent chillaxing with a lot of good food, but there are a few key points I’d like to touch on. Durban still has a great deal of the nifty colonial architecture of the previous century. Say what you want about the European oppressors, they build a nice building. With lovely tin roofs and stained glass windows and intricate railings.

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Don’t you just want some tea and crumpets when you look at those? And you see those gorgeous tropical trees everywhere? Mom pointed out a particular one that was so cool. It looked like an acacia, but it had these softly fuzzy orange-to-yellow berries or flower pods on them. So incredibly beautiful. This is the tree:


And these are the berries/pods:


Another thing we noticed in Durban is that since Africa is going back to its roots, it’s getting rid of the European-named streets. However, everyone is accustomed to those street names, so they’re doing it slowly and in an interesting way.


I assume eventually after everyone has gotten used to the new names, they’ll get rid of the yellow signs, but for now it looks like this.

The final thing I wanted to mention in Durban is the beadwork. Beadwork is a big, BIG artform all over South Africa and the continent, but there was this one shop in Durban that just blew my mind. They had plants and monkeys and chandeliers and wall mirrors and things that looked like Chinese shrines, all beaded, and some with lights. I bought a small beaded baobab from them (I’m having it shipped, it was too big for my luggage, I’ll take pictures when it gets to my apartment), but I really wanted the human-sized, lightbulb-filled baobab. This is a poor picture, but trust me, if it was in a restaurant in New York, you would spend the whole meal there staring at the tree and ignoring your dinner companions. It’s an engrossing tree.


Next up: The KwaZulu-Natal province.

Africa, Part 3.

Friday, April 10th, 2009

I was lucky enough to travel with some people who were hard-core ornithology folks, so I learned lots about the various birds I saw. Sometimes the birds were more interesting than any game.

I saw about a million European Rollers. They have a bright turquoise breast and a tan back. However, I only saw two Lilac-Breasted Rollers. They are gorgeous. Also very fast. Here’s the picture I got of one:


What I saw moments before that was this stunning fella (not my pic; found on the internet):


I saw two ring-necked doves having a fight:


A tree full of vultures. I was amused that there were all these trees around with leaves on them, and the vultures chose to hang out in a creepy Addams-family dead tree. Juuuuuuuust waiting for something to die… Any minute now…


The increasingly rare Ground Hornbill. They lay their eggs in the grass without any protection of any kind, and with all this big lumpy beasts tromping around, many of the eggs get crushed. So these birds might go extinct.


Helmeted Guinea Fowl. I love these birds. They are astonishingly stupid. They don’t seem to realize that they’re fancy-lookin’ chickens, so at night they try to roost in trees. And they perpetually fail. They also run around in hysterics for no good reason with this high-stepping gait they have. I gain much mirthiness from them.


A couple of birds of prey. The first one is a goshawk, the second is a fish eagle.

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These are marabou storks. I also love them. They are called “the undertakers” because of how they look and also because they eat carrion. I might be the only person in the world who sort of likes the way they look. Cricket and I had a young girl ranger one morning who was sweetly airheaded, with giant vacant blue eyes. She referred to every animal we passed as “cute”. “Those are some cute impala. Oh, there’s a ground squirrel. Isn’t it cute?” We passed some marabou storks and she said, “These are marabou storks.” Then she paused, and said with a tinge of disgust, “I don’t like them. They are NOT cute.”

(Also, Cricket insists on calling them Malibu storks. Now I have to check myself every time I refer to them to make sure I’m calling them by the right name. Thanks a million, sweetie.)


This was an exciting spot. This is a kory bustard (I don’t name ’em, I just see ’em). This is a big bird, the third biggest in Africa (first, ostrich; second, secretary bird). They’re rare, and this guy was hanging out by the side of the road. That’s the joy of driving through the game reserve, <Forrest Gump> you nevah know what you gonna get </Forrest Gump>.


Weaver nests. Made completely with grass. No mud or spit or anything. Quite impressive.


An egyptian goose couple. They are very pretty, but they make a hell of a racket. Not surprising, them being geese an’ all. Geese are a noisy bunch.


A glossy starling. I know these guys are pretty common, but they are so pretty. And this guy got nice and close to me so I could take a good picture of him.


On the night ride with the leopard, a man sitting in front of me was hit in the face with a bird. Really. It smacked into his face, flapped around a bit and settled down in between my legs. I don’t know anything about African birds, so I didn’t pick it up, you know, just in case this one secretes poison out of its eyes or has barbed feathers or something. The guy had to reach in between my legs and fish this startled nightjar out and fling him out of the vehicle. The nightjar was pigeon-sized and looked like this:


Now here’s the piece de resistance of the whole Kruger experience for me. When we would get together for dinner every night, we could hear a “prrrrrt, prrrrrt” fairly close to us in the trees. One of the bird lovers we were travelling with identified it as a scops owl. Everyone knows how I feel about owls, so I peered in the trees for a while, but saw nothing. On our last night, I was chopping tomatoes in the kitchen when Cricket ran in and told me to get outside right now. And there was the scops owl in a low branch, maybe four feet from my head. I lost my mind like I was seeing Elvis. I almost had to be physically restrained. It’s important to know that this owl is the size of a grown man’s fist. It’s tiny. It doesn’t even eat mice. It eats moths. And without further ado, meet my scops owl.

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OMG Squeeee LOOK at the TEENY TINY OWL He’s so CUTE AHHHHHHHH *explodes*


This shot is great, because as he’s flying off, you can see him blinking his “third eyelid”, or nictitating membrane.


I would like to thank Cricket for taking these pictures while I was busy jumping up and down and squealing and generally embarrassing myself in front of our co-travelers. I… I really like owls.

Africa, Part 2.

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Let’s start today off with a baobab.

This is a very important baobab. It has a name and everything. (No, I can’t remember what it is. Something like Von Willebrand’s Baobab. Something Dutch.) Baobabs don’t grow that far south, so this guy is special. Baobabs can live to be 3,000 years old. The baby baobabs look totally different than full-grown ones, and a baobab, once dead, can completely decompose in a very short time, so the natives thought that they just fell out the sky and thumped into place, full-grown, and then disappeared in the same way. Fun baobab trivia.


This is a community spider nest. The nests are about the size of a pineapple, with all that webbing extending all around. Many teeny spiders live in the nest, and they work together getting food and maintaining the nest and all that would be lovely except every time I look at that thing I get a case of the heebie-jeebies and need to scratch non-existent itches. so moving on.


Oh my God, elephants. We saw a lot of elephants. And because elephants are the greatest things EVER, we had to take multiple pictures of every single one. Meaning I have about fifty elephant pictures. I picked out a few that I thought were pretty special. Now remember, if it looks like the elephant is right next to me, it’s because the elephant is right next to me.

Some solitary bull elephant shots:

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A bull elephant striding briskly past us and over to a cement water reservoir thing to have a drinkie-drink:

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An elephant nursery. Elephants are matriarchal, so all elephant herds are led by Big Grandmother, who has various aunties and daughters and babies with her. After a certain age, the males are booted from the group to go on their own solitary way, but the ladies stick together for their whole lives. I also learned that when you see baby elephants walking around flinging their trunk every which way, it means they are under six months old. Because the trunk is so complicated to use (40,000 muscles all braided together with two prehensile “fingers” at the end), it takes the little fella over six months to figure out how to use it.

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So let’s get to my second leopard sighting. Cricket and I went on a night drive, where you go in a special vehicle with special lights on the side. We saw a buffalo herd and then a hippo right next to the vehicle (they come out of the water at night when it’s cooler to feed on grasses) and a porcupine… and this adolescent leopard who was wandering around marking his territory with those chin glands cats have. It was the coolest thing. The rangers riding with us were freaking out as well. This never ever happens, so it was terribly exciting.

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A super-cute thing happened one afternoon coming back to our bungalow – there was someone waiting for us.

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Look at that! A little friend right by the door. So I had to go up to it and tell it how much I loved it.


It did not really care for that. It got up and, after chewing on some itchy bug in its fur, it walked away. I was sad to see it go.


Look how pretty the design is on its front legs.


There are a whole bunch of different antelope. These are called tsessebe (tseh – seh – BEE). Every time someone said “tsessebe”, I always said “DeMille” because it sounded like the famous costume designer director Cecil B. DeMille. Am I a theater and film nerd? Yes, yes I am.


This a warthog family. Warthogs are fun to watch, and when they run, their tails go straight up in the air like antennae. It’s so the other warthogs who are running can keep track of each other, but it really looks like they’re getting signals from radio towers or UFOs on which direction to trot.


This was cool – Cricket went out one morning on an early morning walk. If you sign up, two special rangers will take a small group of people out for a walk in the park, which is strictly forbidden otherwise. Cricket was out there at 5:00 in the morning (on foot, let’s not forget that part) when he saw the extremely rare (and notoriously aggressive) black rhino.

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See how he’s looking straight at Cricket? At that point I would have soiled my undergarments and ran. Pertaining to this, I finally found out what the significance of the “Big Five” are. For years I heard about the “Big Five” – lions, leopards, buffalo, rhino, and elephant. I couldn’t get the connection of all five. Some are carnivores, some are herbivores. Some are in groups, some are solitary. Some are rare, some are common. Some are big, some not very big. Finally, I learned on this trip. When people came to Africa to hunt game and they were on foot, these were the animals that were most likely to come up to you and kill you.

(BTW, I find it interesting that the hippo isn’t in the Big Five, since that animal kills more people than any other animal. The reason why is hippos live in the river where people come to bathe and wash clothes and gather water. When the hippo comes out to graze, people sometimes collect at the banks. Then the hippos come back, and if you’re in its path, you’re dead. That’s how they rack up that kind of death toll.)

On one of our drives, we passed an elephant skeleton in a dry area. I got a great picture of its skull with its jawbone lying next to it. I think you can see a bit of spinal column off to the side.


Tomorrow, I tackle all the birds we saw.

Africa, Part 1.

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

I arrived on a Friday night, and Saturday morning I started out at 7 a.m. for Kruger Park. Kruger is humongous. It’s the same size as Rhode Island. It’s a giant game reserve with ten parks where people can stay in a variety of abodes depending on their monetary constraints (fancy guest houses with maids, wee bungalows like the one Cricket and I stayed in, or bring-your-own-tent-or-camper with communal showers and toilets for all the campers). A typical day is to get up at 5:30 a.m., drive around seeing whatever beasties happen to cross your path, then go back to your park residence, eat breakfast, and go back to bed for a few hours. Then you potter around, read a book, buy things in the gift shop, watch cricket in the communal TV hall, whatever. In the evening, you go out for another game drive (a drive lasts 3-4 hours), then you come back and grill (or “braai”) dinner, listen to a variety of animals and birds make noises, and go to bed. We did this for four days. Four awesome days. We saw everything except cheetah, which is phenomenal.

This is Cricket in front of our bungalow. The kitchen-y bits are outside, since it almost never rains there. The camp is filled with these insanely adorable redbuck and the slightly less adorable vervet monkeys, both of which we will get to later. Inside the bungalow there were three twin beds with bed frames I kept slamming my shins into, much to the mirth of Cricket, and a lovely bathroom with a great shower that just blasted you with water, nice big hot water droplets.


This is the roof inside the bungalow. A great many houses in South Africa have thatch roofs. We saw signs all over for things like, “The Thatchery – for all your thatching needs.”


This was the sign on the door. It explains why the monkeys are slightly less adorable.


Cricket loved that line, “the problem is receiving our full attention.” How, precisely? Are you sending the monkeys to classes? Also, I’m not liking the “Welcome to Letaba Restcamp” font at all. I think I would have liked it better if it was both upper and lower case, but not as all caps. Hell, at least they didn’t use Papyrus or Comic Sans.

This was the fusebox in our bungalow.


Earth leakage! Hee hee! Where I’m from, that’s called “lava”, Buster, and it’s going to take more than the flick of a switch to fix that. JSYK, “geyser” is what they call a hot-water heater. Apparently they’ve had a lot of bad hot water experiences when they compare it to a boiling sulfuric water shooting out of the ground. Ours worked swell, though. See above shower comment.

These were our nightly companions. They liked the moths that hung around our bungalow light. They’re translucent!

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Okay, game animals. We saw mad crazy herbivores, yo. It got to the point where we didn’t stop for zebra or impala, and if the elephant wasn’t ten yards or less away from the car, we weren’t stopping. Something you should also know, if it looks like the animal is really close, it’s because the animal is really close. They get right up near the vehicle. We were attacked by a male baboon and the driver almost rode into a ditch to get away from him. And more than once we had to back up – slowly – to get away from a bull elephant who was walking towards us. The animals just go about their daily business, and if you’re lucky, they do it near the road and you get to see it. However, South Africa has been getting a great deal of rain recently, so the grass was very high and that prevented us from seeing some stuff. We saw plenty, though, so I’m not complaining.

A giraffe we saw upon entering. Doesn’t it look just like a fashion model? So glamorous.


Some wildebeest. Kruger only has blue wildebeest. The one you see on nature programs in gigantic herds crossing rivers and getting eaten by crocodiles in slow motion, those are black wildebeest, also known as gnus. So, to recap, these are blue wildebeest.

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Some female lions chillin’. We also saw a male lion, but he was far away and the pictures of him look like a wee brown lump near some bushes, so I will not be posting those.


A zebra giving us a stare-down. Not a very intimidating guy, but he’s doing his best.


This was big – it’s a leopard sleeping in a tree. You never see leopards, they’re very secretive. We saw two. I’ll get to the other one in a bit. In the meantime, napping leopard in trees.

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Male impala play-fighting. Their horns make a interesting “clackity clack” noise when they smack them together. These aren’t full-grown adults. The horns are about six inches longer when they’re fully grown.

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A group of impala crossing the street. There are 125,000 impala in Kruger Park. You see a lot of them.


A male impala surrounded by all his wimmen. Look at him, thinking he’s all that. He doesn’t realize he’s going to be eaten by a big hairy thing with sharp pointy teeth eventually.


This is one of my favorites. A buffalo eating while oxpeckers clean the ticks and fleas out of his hide. I’ve always called those birds “tickpickers”. It’s fun to say. Tickpicker tickpicker tickpicker.


A baboon scratchin’ his butt. I expected him to burp and pick up a remote after. (He did not.)


Some hippos. Whenever I see them, I think of eggplants. A group of hippos is called a pod, but a guy we were travelling with called it a splodge of hippos, because he thought it sounded more appropriate. I think I agree.


Hippos in the river being all stealthy and whatnot. Did you know hippos can’t swim? They run on the bottom of the river. I think that’s why they got the name hippopotamus (“river horse”).


This was our big crocodile sighting. I think we saw one laying out on a bank, but it was way far away. And it could have been a log. Crocodiles are not terribly animated.


A puff adder crossing the street. They move almost in a straight line, which is unusual. This one also fell into the ditch off the edge of the road. I was like, “How did you just fall into that ditch? You’re on the ground already! There’s no where to fall! Silly guy whose venom causes necrotic tissue wounds!”

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While we’re on the topic of reptiles, here’s a sweet little terrapin I met on the road.


And here’s a leopard tortoise. I also saw a black mamba, but they are FAST. They are the fastest-moving land snake. Also, they are not called the black mamba because of their exterior coloring. They’re kind of a french gray. No, they’re called the black mamba because the inside of their mouths are an inky black, which might be the most creepy thing ever.