Holidays and absences [3]

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Post by Lancebloke Wed Sep 07, 2022 6:47 pm

I did Kili about 10 years ago so no need for that. Hopefully we get to see it as it is quite the sight.
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Post by halfwise Wed Sep 07, 2022 7:24 pm

I did it a half dozen years ago, as none of our group wanted to risk waiting for retirement. The snow is disappearing fast!

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Post by Lancebloke Wed Sep 07, 2022 8:49 pm

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Post by halfwise Wed Sep 07, 2022 9:11 pm

Wow, you got up there fast to make the sunrise! (or woke up early) I think our crew made it up top a couple hours after sunrise.

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Post by Lancebloke Wed Sep 07, 2022 10:34 pm

We went about 11pm and we were are Gilman's point in about 5 hours. Uhuru and heading back to Gilman's was about 6.5 hours so sunrise as we were heading back. By the time we were descending properly again it was daylight.

I think the below was from Gilman's looking towards Mawenzi peak as we were heading back down.

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Post by halfwise Wed Sep 07, 2022 11:18 pm

Oh, we started ascending at 3 am I think. I don't remember anything about a Gilman's point, may have been coming up a different face.

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Post by Lancebloke Fri Sep 16, 2022 9:34 pm

Just about to go on another adventure. Catch you all in a couple of weeks!
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Post by Forest Shepherd Fri Sep 16, 2022 10:41 pm

Enjoy! We who are about to stay at home and do nothing very exciting salute you.

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Post by halfwise Mon Oct 03, 2022 3:56 am

Since Lance will soon be planning his music tour down into the southern states, I thought I'd post what I knew of New Orleans and Austin, both of which I know well. The high temperatures in Austin have been 35 C or above for the most of this summer, but now that I'm here visiting Austin they just came down to a pleasant 30-35 C with low humidity. New Orleans is closer to the gulf, so a bit cooler if more humid.

One thing to know about music venues is that they will either have a cover charge (varying widely) or a food/drink minimum per set. Bars that only have drinks will happily charge you as much as a beer for a simple pepsi. Think of it as paying for the music. Sets average about an hour long with length varying by band and venue.

New Orleans

Throughout the French Quarter if you buy a drink and want to take it with you out on the street after a set, ask the bartender for a "go cup" and you'll be handed an empty plastic cup to dump your drink into.

Music

If you take my advice and stay at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel, you'll have live blues-leaning music every night in the gloriously designed bar. And directly across the street from it is Fritzel's, my favorite music venue of all time. They'll start playing old school music around 6 pm. After dinner it may get packed so I'd suggest the earlier times.

Bourbon street has a seedy but very active and brightly lit end, and the quieter end down by Fritzel's. If you continue away from the noise (to the right when exiting the hotel) you'll go through a dark patch, but will see a flickering light down to the left. This is Lafitte's Blacksmith shop, a piano bar. Pick up a drink and go straight to the piano - there's stools around it and you put your drink directly on the piano itself. Music starts at 8 pm I believe and I suggest getting there right around then. They do pop music and jazz standards, and if you suggest something the piano player doesn't know, they'll listen on the phone for a few minutes then start playing. The midweek pianists are a bit sketchy, but the weekend players may fly in from around the country and can do anything.

Don't miss the Preservation Hall jazz band on St Peter's street half a block down from Bourbon. There'll be a line and a hefty cover charge, but it's worth it, especially for the weekend band. Classic New Orleans jazz only. You can request the big classics (like St James Infirmary) for $10; the Saint's Go Marching In will cost you $20.

You MUST go to Frenchman street. Wander the two blocks between Decator and Washington Square, and whenever you hear something you like, go in. I've been told by a local musician that the best music is in Snug Harbor, but it's second floor in the back or something, so you won't hear it from the street. You may need to make a reservation.

Going further afield, the same guy recommended Tipitina's in the Garden District. You'll want reservations, and will want to take your rental car since it's a long walk from the streetcar.

Definitely wander through the seedy end of Bourbon street, I'm just pointing out the sure things to you.

MOST definitely walk along Royal street on a nice day (the prettiest street in the French Quarter), especially on weekends for the street musicians. Nowhere in the world will you find more amazing street musicians than in New Orleans.

Food

My first recommendation is to go to the Court of Two Sisters, which has a garden stretching between Bourbon and Royal streets, but they'll close the garden if there's any hint of rain, so check the weather. At noon they add lunch food to the breakfast buffet; all New Orleans classic cooking, so get there around noon to enjoy a jazz trio under the grapevines with unlimited trips to the buffet.

Cafe Amelia on Royal street also has a nice garden, but it can get filled up. I suggest an early dinner there to avoid the rush; perhaps get reservations.

Two of the most memororable meals in my life were at Cochon in the warehouse district, a reasonable walk from the French Quarter. If there's a large meeting at the conference center this place will be packed for lunch, so go on off hours. Be sure to go to Cochon proper, not Cochon Butcher which is a sandwich shop around the back. It's not a fancy place, but the food is just incredible.

Of course you have to get coffee and beignet's at Cafe Dumonde. Central Grocery is famous for it's Muffeleta sandwich (cold cuts, cheese, drenched in an olive tapinade) but they won't heat them up; Danny's Po-Boys will. Have one grilled and take it to a park to eat. Plenty enough for two.

Antoine's on St Louis St in the French Quarter is the oldest continuously operated restaurant in the US, the inventer of Oyster's Rockefellar. I haven't been blown away by the food to be honest, it's simply decent. You can get the same food in the attached bar area as in the restaurant proper, with no need for reservations or dress up.

Some places I haven't been but are famous are Brennan's and Galatoire's in the French Quarter, and Commander's Palace in the Garden District. All probably require reservations.

The Petite Grocery in the Garden District has fabulous food, but if you go during dinner time you'll see empty tables and they'll tell you they are reserved. I was taken there by the local musician who gave the other recommendations above, and they did that to us; but when he mentioned he was from the neighborhood we were seated immediately. They are trying to keep the local gems from being overrun with tourists. I suspect you may have better luck at lunch time. BTW this place is close to Tipitina's mentioned above.

Cafe Degas is a lovely garden cafe with amazing food which may give you the same treatment above, but worth a try, and there's other garden cafes adjoining. May want to drive and try your luck. Again, lunch would be the easiest time to get a table.

Day Trips

The music happens at night (except for street musicians on Royal Street: don't miss!) so what do you do during the day?

I highly recommend taking a street car into the garden district. When I was there a couple years ago flooding had destroyed the tracks, but they should be repaired by now. I suggest riding the St Charles Ave car until you see the scenic Tacos and Beer; hop off and walk into the neighborhood. Walk along Magazine street for the cute shops and cafes (a good hour's exercise). This is where you may give La Petite Grocery a try, or of course Commander's Palace. Visit the parks, hop off and on the street car. Lots of music and food venues if you look for them and wander off the route.

You can rent bikes and ride up to City Park, when you may also check out Cafe Degas mentioned above. There is a bike trail from the French Quarter that starts along Basin Street. A street car line also gets you close.

~ Sorry to say that the only beach bar/restaurant I can find between NOLA and Austin is the Tipsy Turtle near Galveston, with reviews equally mixed between hot and freezing cold. ~

Austin

Since half my family lives in or near Austin, I don't treat it as a tourist destination the way I do New Orleans, so this write-up may be a little skimpy in comparison, but not to be missed. What I refer to as "the river" will be called lake Austin on the maps. The locals are obviously deluded: that's a damn river.

Music

If you take my suggestion of reserving the Driskill Hotel, it will be the genteel start of your evening, with music in the bar area starting around 7 (or 8?) but most other music venues don't start hopping until 9. Sit in the finely upholstered chairs surrounded by trophy heads, have a bite to eat and something to sip until it's time to go get crazy.

Exit onto 6th street and turn to your left. Just walk and when you hear something good, go in. The density of music is just jaw dropping, mainly blues, country and Texas rock. You can spend two nights easy on Sixth Street.

Don't miss Pete's Piano bar: I'm not sure if they invented the concept of dueling pianos, but they perfected it. College will be in session, so it will pack up late. You want the energy of a nearly full house here, but not so full you can't sit. I suggest 9:30-10 pm as a start time.

The other direction on 6th street is the Belmont, with 3 floors of music. You'll also find other venues off 6th street; the city just hums with music.

Food

We are talking BBQ, Mexican, and Southern.

Near 6th street, Stubbs and Iron Works are both decent BBQ, but the star of the show downtown would be Black's: you can take a walk across the river. I'll talk about Salt Lick in the day trips below. Franklin's BBQ is perhaps the highest rated BBQ in the WORLD, but it will be a minimum 2 hour wait to get in. And you have to be there, no reservations.

Moonshine Comfort and Cocktails will give you wonderful southern food.

Mexican is all over, you may find some of the best stuff off a food truck, don't be shy. But there's too many good ones to name. Look for outdoor seating as you research.

There's some rooftop cocktail and food bars, none of which I've been to. Zanzibar and Live Oak both look nice online, overlook the river and are highly rated.

If you feel the urge for fast food while driving around, get a Whataburger. But no reason to prefer this over a local restaurant. If you need gasoline and see a Buc-ee's, stop for a bit of an experience. By all means go inside for more than the restrooms, you'll find plenty of Texas style snack food and more.

Day Trips

The nearest day trip is renting boats on the river downtown. since you have a car I suggest you head to the boat rental on Stephen F. Austin Drive.

I strongly suggest a drive down to San Antonio to walk around and do lunch on the River Walk. Get something light on the River Walk (a bit tourist trappy), then go to a nearby Mexican place for the best food (south of river walk there's a mess of them) - if you get 4 star mexican food in San Antonio you'll be blown away. You might even consider getting a one night hotel in San Antonio, there's a couple with balconies overlooking the River Walk. On the way back to Austin stop by Gruene Hall for some music: check the schedule, pick a band, and plan around it. This will be very Texan feeling: standing room only.

You'll want to drive around the Hill country - I suggest going to Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, then drive around to the west and south. Salt Lick has an amazing outdoor area, biggest oak trees you'll ever see.

There's also a Salt Lick in Round Rock, which I've been told is a nice town to walk around in, but I've never been there. But go to Round Rock for other things; the original Salt Lick location is where you want to be.

You can do an 1.5-2 hour drive to Enchanted Rock, a huge lava dome and Texas's answer to Australia's Hanging Rock. I don't think photos can convey the feeling you get from being near and hiking up such a massive dome. Eat in Fredericksburg, which believe it or not is known for German food and beer gardens.

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Post by Lancebloke Mon Oct 03, 2022 4:35 pm

Thanks for this!!!!!!!!

We are just back home from our most recent adventure (expect pics soon) and we are about to start planning for this as flights will be available to book any time now.

Once we get those done we will be getting on with hotel bookings as I imagine any that are worth staying at will get booked up quickly so your advice will be helpful for those... just don't know dates until we know what flights are doing.

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Post by halfwise Tue Oct 04, 2022 4:06 pm

You shouldn't feel confined to my recommended hotels, in fact it might be nice to spend half your time at the ones I recommend and half your time at another you discovered that tickles your fancy.  There's some hotels in Austin that have rooftop bars/swimming pools overlooking the river, for example.  New Orleans has places (like the French Market Inn) that have nice interior courtyards, or are in the Garden District (Ponchetrain Hotel).   I'm just suggesting hotels that have character and are in the center of the music scene. I should add that you'll find nicely located B&Bs in New Orleans but not Austin, as the music and residential districts are too far apart.

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Post by Lancebloke Tue Oct 04, 2022 7:06 pm

I will definitely look at your recommendations and see how they fit in with our overall plan (when we pull it together properly).

Having never been to any of these places, even an idea of what is available and what to expect is super helpful!
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Post by Lancebloke Tue Oct 04, 2022 7:35 pm

So, my recent trip was a return to Africa for me and a first time for my better half. I am going to split this in to a few posts just because of time putting together... hope someone finds it interesting.

So, stop 1 was Uganda and the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest located in the south west of the country and on the borders of Congo and Rwanda.

Our main goal was to trek in to the mountain forests and find some gorillas!!

First though, a little bit about the area. We came in on a small plane and landed on a little airstrip which already made you feel like you were in another world (travelling to Europe or the US feels both similar and different... Africa just feels different!!).

We then travelled on a main road which is tarmac. And that is unusual! We weren't on it for very long before then a mix of dirt and stones for the rest of the journey.

The general quality of buildings and houses was probably as you would expect. Some newer buildings dotted about but mainly small places built from bricks carved out of local mud (shaped, dried, baked) and then either a roof of corrugated metal or vegetation (some form of leaves... I can't remember the plants name).

People walk miles. And then more miles. Kids to school, adults to buy or sell goods. People going to see family. Often that would be 2, 3 or 4 hours each direction! Taxis are generally motorbikes and often had 3 or 4 people, or 2 people and a live pig/goat on!!

And the kids, we spent most of out trip waving to them as they came running to the road to see the white people (they literally shout 'mzungu' as they wave to you!!)

Eventually got to our lodge in the forest where we spent some time doing other things outside of the main goal: visited a waterfall, a local tribe that used to live in the mountains, a women's empowerment project and some other bits.

But, then the main day.

We trekked as a group of 6, plus porters, guide and security (in case of aggressive wildlife or poachers) for about 2 hours up the mountain. I think we were at about 2400m so a few people felt the altitude but we all made it and eventually found the trackers that literally spend all day with the gorillas until 6pm, they camp in the forest (away from the animals) and then pick up tracks the next day.

Well, we found them and then had an hour before we had to leave them to the rest of their day.

The family that allowed us to share the forest with them was called Marumbe and was 4 adults females, 4 babies and the big silverback.

The trackers were very conscious about both us getting to share some time with them but also the gorillas themselves. The silverback had clearly had enough after about 15 mins at which point we were asked to move back so he could go where he wanted after which we didn't bother him again.

The others were very relaxed including the babies who were very interested in us, although we had to keep our distance even if they approached us (including the one that fell out of a tree trying to get closed.... it was fine and promptly rolled back down the hill to its mum!!)

So... some pictures?

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Seeing them in nature was amazing and made our trip worth it even if we did nothing else afterwards. I would highly recommend if nothing else because the tourism helps keep these beautiful animals safe. The rangers clearly care very much about them too!!!!
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Post by halfwise Tue Oct 04, 2022 8:11 pm

I always wanted to see the gorillas! Uganda kind of swings back and forth between safe to visit and not, so getting the timing right is hard.

Yep, when I was in Africa for a couple years I spent so much time hanging on for dear life to public transportation vehicles that it took a while to realize that most people walked the same trips that I was making. And the roads are so bad it only took them about twice as long!

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Post by Mrs Figg Wed Oct 05, 2022 7:20 pm

wow fantastic adventure Lance. Razz That baby gorilla is adorable.
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Post by halfwise Wed Oct 05, 2022 9:14 pm

How come nearly all other animals always have perfect fur, yet unless we set to with a comb or brush we look disreputable? Mad You never see a cat or a dog or even a skunk with morning hair. It ain't fair.

Sort of like how 12 year old kids and under always have perfect all-body tans, and once you're over the age of 30 a "tan" is just a series of superimposed blotches. The kids are closer to wild perfection. Civilization ruins it.

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Post by Forest Shepherd Wed Oct 05, 2022 9:22 pm

Pedo vibes from that last comment Halfy.

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Post by halfwise Wed Oct 05, 2022 10:20 pm

If I'm annoyed with them is it pedo? Mad The little monsters don't deserve what they got.

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Post by Forest Shepherd Thu Oct 06, 2022 7:20 am

Less so then Razz

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Post by Lancebloke Thu Oct 06, 2022 7:51 am

So, second part of the trip was in Tanzania. I will split pics by type of animal rather than destination on the trip.

I am going to post pics in groups of animals rather than where they were as it makes things a little easier for me posting this on the train.

Our first stop was in the northern Serengeti. We arrived after hopping around on a little plane between various airstrip and made our way on to a game drive immediately.

At this time of year, the rains are supposed to be in southern Kenya and with the rains the herds of grazing animals usually following in their millions until they get to the Masai Mara where they wait for the rains to move south again.

Well, in this case the rains had been doing all sorts of things which meant the herds of wildebeest and accompanying zebra l, impala etc were all very confused as to where they should be.

Bonus for us as that meant we got to see one of the craziest events in the natural world.... a mass wildebeest river crossing.

Also, bonus for the crocodiles who were getting plenty to eat when they would normally be starting to get hungry.

So:

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We saw plenty of other things too, but I will get on to them in my next post.

So to finish this off, we stayed the next 3 nights in camps in the Serengeti with the animals. We heard all sorts of stuff but our closest encounter was overnight as we heard the animals grazing right outside the tent door. Not much like hearing a zebra tearing the grass up and chewing it while you are in bed!!!
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Post by halfwise Thu Oct 06, 2022 1:46 pm

Wow, a wildebeast crossing is like a National Geographic Special! Must only happen a couple days each year. What amazing luck!

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Post by Lancebloke Sun Oct 09, 2022 7:13 pm

After the Serengeti, we moved down to the Ngorongoro Crater which is quite spectacular itself and none of my photos do it any justice (a bit like the Grand Canyon or anything huge with no useful visual reference point). This is where we hoped to tick off the last of the big 5 with a black rhino or two, however we weren't able to spot one. Plenty of other stuff going on there too including our closest lion encounter.

For this post, I am going to focus on the cats!

Leopards

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Sneaky cheetah

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And many lions (the last one walked right up to our truck to say hello!!)

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This was my first time seeing any of the big cats out in the wild and marked off 2 of the big 5 (lion and leopard).
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Post by Mrs Figg Sun Oct 09, 2022 10:42 pm

wow! Shocked great photos! Razz cat poor zebra pale
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Post by Pettytyrant101 Mon Oct 10, 2022 5:17 pm

{{ Fantastic pictures Lance. You expect to see that abundance of stuff, the herds fording and stuff in wildlife docs that have spent two years sitting in a hide in the bush waiting on stuff to happen, and you seem to have got the lot in one go! And I am sure photos dont begin to do the spectacle and sense of being there any real justice amazing as they are. }}

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Post by Lancebloke Sun Oct 16, 2022 1:02 pm

So we finished our time in that part of Tanzania with a visit to Lake Manyara National Park. Unfortunately something has caused the lake waters have overflows resulting in a lot of the park being flooded with a huge amount of tress having been lost and much of it still under water.

We did get to see some wildlife there, a pride of lions and the tiniest elephant. But before getting in to elephant pictures, here are a few others.

Warthog. Saw lots of these running about!

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One of many vultures. In flight they are very majestic, if only they could swap their heads with an eagle or something.

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Lilac-breasted roller. Lots of pretty birds around but this was the best shot I took of any.

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A monkey troupe visited us in the mountains of Uganda a few times. This was taken from our room.

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Hornbill in the trees at Lake Manyara. Quite prehistoric looking face!

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Hyena looking for scraps.

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Buffalo.

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Baby baboon playing. It fell off shortly after this.

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Giraffe crossing the road in front of us. Always fun to watch how they walk as they do both left or right legs at the same time!

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Blue monkey having a snack.

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Will finish up with some elephants soon!
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