Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Serengeti National Park

As I mentioned in my last post, Serengeti is a Masai word that means unending plain. So while we were in Ndutu, we were still in the Serengeti. But there is also a Serengeti NP and that is where this post is going to focus. We'll pick up at the end of our Ndutu stay in the Ngorongoro conservation area and continue to Serengeti NP.

On our last morning, we went on a very early morning game drive before we left for Serengeti NP.
 Our first sight was that of a hyena, our first. Hyenas have a sort of hang-dog look and they look dejected most of the time. But I think that is because our domestic dogs have that same posture when they are guilty of something.
This is a Marabou stork. It also hangs around kills and its walk is very much like that of a funeral director. It is considered one of the ugliest animals on the planet but it is very cool. You can't see it here, but it has a large sac under its bill. Marabou storks inflate this sac before flying very high and are able to get oxygen from the air in it and so can stay up and fly higher than they could otherwise.
If you don't want to see a kill, don't click play on the video above. There is a story attached to it. When we came upon this kill, there were vultures and a jackal at the kill. Not the jackal in this video but another one. Then along came 2 other jackals to partake of the feast. The jackal at the feast chased off the other two and it was comical to see him/her chasing the other two around and around the bushes and trees. I didn't get a video of that. They all ran away - chasing and being chased. Then this jackal showed up. He/she circled the kill. The vultures had taken advantage of the jackals chasing each other and had completely taken over the kill. This jackal took his/her measure of the situation and then went in and aggressively chased the vultures away so he/she could get at the kill. In this video, you will see how aggressive the jackal is to the vultures and how the vultures take it.

We also saw a baby zebra that had received some horrendous injury to its back leg. The baby was down and couldn't get up. The mother was hovering near the baby and calling for help or calling to the baby to get up. It eventually did, but could barely walk. I don't think you want to see that. It was very moving and unbearably sad.

 The next morning as we left Ndutu for the NP, we ran into this family of giraffes slaking their thirst. It is a lot easier for a baby giraffe to get down to the water than its parent!
 You can see that never-ending plain here in Serengeti NP. In the conservation area, there are some trees but the Serengeti is flat and treeless.
 Ostriches kicking up dust. This was our first view of the big birds.
 This is a secretary bird. He looks as if he has a quill or pencil stuck behind his ear like an earnest old-timey secretary.
 A few elephants appeared as we started climbing the hills to our lodge. Trees also appear here and the area is forested.
And some Cape Buffalo. They are big!
 We came across a hippo that wandered out of a pool and started eating grass. Apparently hippos eat grass at night and hang out in pools in the daytime to keep cool and rest after their night-time eating. This guy needed a mid-sleep snack.
 Our lodge was up in the hills and had great views. You can see the balcony of the next door unit here in the early am light.
 We started to see flowering acacia trees and the baboons who like to feed on them. Baboons travel in large troops.
 If you look carefully, you can see a tiny baby next to its mother in the middle. The baby whipped back into the mother's shadow just as I clicked.
At one point, we had to stop for a wildebeest crossing. Here is a photo of them all massed by the side of the road. In the video below you can see them moving. They generally play 'follow the leader'.
We crossed a river that had more hippos in it. There is a baby in there but all you see is its back.

 I've talked about wildebeest and zebras but I've mostly shown you pictures of wildebeest. To even out the equation, here are some zebras with their wildebeest brethren.
 All these animals were spotted as we worked our way down from the lodge to the plain. That is why there are more trees here.
 A close-up of two Cape Buffalo hanging out.
 A baby elephant.
 A giraffe having breakfast.
 One baboon grooming another. Baboons groom members of the troop with higher status as a mark of deference.
 Back on the plain, we went hunting for leopard and this is the best I can do with my iPhone camera. Some of our van-mates got better pictures. I could see better with our binoculars but they can't take photos.
 This is called a sausage tree. Can you guess why?
 This is another pride of lions relaxing after a meal. Down the slope to the right, there is a zebra kill. One of the cubs was not sure if he/she was full or not so went back to get some more to eat.

This is the cub with the kill.
In this next video he is walking back to the group.
 In case you didn't have your fill of zebras, here are some more...
 Lots of them.
 We had a boxed lunch at the visitor's center in the park. People had apparently been feeding these mongooses because they came up to us and had no fear. It was almost as if they were expecting a handout.
 That is a hyrax or a klipschliefer as one very nice German man told us.  We actually were calling it klipschliefer till our guide told us the English name. They look like rodents but are related to elephants. Go figure.
 We were supposed to take a short walk to the top of the rock below to get a view across the plain. But guess what? We found the way barred with this hand-written note. In Africa, you believe such notes and stay away from rocks with lions.
 So we ate our lunch and left, without our little walk.
 A beautiful blue heron. So graceful.
 More Marabou storks hanging out.

We also had more zebra and wildebeest running across the road.
We came across another leopard snoozing in a tree. Fortunately, he was sleeping with the light on hims so I got a better photo. None of them were on trees close to the road. Unlike in Nbutu, we have to stick to the roads in Serengeti National Park.
 This is a topi. One of the many antelope we saw on the trip. What makes the topi unusual is the splash of indigo on its thigh. Our guide called it 'blue jeans' because it does look like the color of blue jeans.
 Do you know what those are up in the tree?
 Yup. Two lionesses. Who said lions can't climb trees?
 If you are chased by a lion, don't think climbing a tree will save you. They look quite comfortable there.
 More elephants as we head back into the hills for the evening.
 Sunrise the next morning..
 casting a glow over the view.
The pool in our hotel that we never even found till it was time to check out. We were so busy with game.

And now on to the usual things happening here.
 I was going to knit Cross Pockets in Rowan Calmer in the Garnet color. But I'm not getting row gauge with either a US size 7 or 8. So I decided to do a basic raglan but make it a zippered hoodie with pockets a la Cross Pockets. The pattern name is Giorgia and the color this time is Carnation. It reminds me that spring is around the corner.
 I started and finished spinning some Corriedale that I dyed at Rhinebeck in my dyeing class.  You can see the fiber in the back in this photo. And here are the two bobbins with the singles on them. I still need to ply it.
I think the green has too much blue in it for the other colors but I'm pretty happy with the way it spun up. If I had been more careful about applying the colors, I think I could have madd self-striping yarn.
I blocked Shleeves and tried it on. It looks quite nice. It will be a nice shawl to wear on top of a sari in the cooler weather. 

And lastly, I started weaving the scarf that I warped over New Year's. The selvedges aren't very nice as I am learning how to manage carrying the second color up the side. They should get better as I progress and I've learned that the finishing fixes many problems. 

The next post will get us to Ngorongoro again but a different part of the huge area.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ndutu - photo and video heavy

Our safari began when we drove from Arusha to Ndutu. Ndutu is in the Ngorongoro conservation area, which is a mixed use area. Masai can live there and herd their sheep, goats and cattle there and coexist with the wildlife. Traditionally the Masai don't kill game and have coexisted with these animals for centuries. Hunting game is prohibited.

 A village along the way with a termite mound in front of the buildings. We found these mounds everywhere.
 Lake Manyara in the horizon. Taken from a view point along the road.
 Another view showing the scenery as we head up to the conservation area.
 Entrance to the conservation area.
These are the vehicles we practically lived in for the safari. Toyota Land Cruisers with 4WD and very good shocks. Outfitted with a cooler in between the last 2 seats that held our supply of bottled water.
 There is a Masai herder with his flock. The herders are always male. The women don't usually leave the village except to get water.
 Acacia trees are everywhere. They are thorny with BiG thorns. But they were in bloom later and the baboons like the flowers. The giraffes and elephants eat the branches, thorns and all.
 Our first view of zebras. We saw hundreds, maybe even thousands more. But our first sight was exciting and we were jumping up and down in our seats.
 You can see the dust being created by the zebras running away. It was very dusty. There is normally a short rainy season in Dec-Feb but it had not rained so everything was very dry. On our trip we had a few small showers and then, on the day we left, it rained hard and was cloudy so we are hoping that the rains finally came.

These photos also show the Serengeti - a vast treeless plain. It is a Masai word that means exactly that - a flat, endless, plain.
 An early view of wildebeest. They are always walking in straight line unless they are not walking. Zebras and wildebeest hang out together because the zebras see well and the wildebeest hear well so together they can sense predators better than alone.
 A Masai herd. We learned early that the black and white dots in the distance were Masai sheep and goats, not game.
 These are Thomson's gazelles. We also learned to identify various types of gazelles and antelope along the way. The Thomson's are quite small. There are millions of them, or so it seems.
 Zebra babies are born year-round so we saw many young ones of various sizes. Wildebeest on the other hand, calve all at the same time within a 2 week period that shifts between Feb and March. We saw the earliest babies born towards the end of our trip.

A short video showing how close the giraffe is to one of our vehicles. In the Ndutu area, there are no roads or tracks. Vehicles can go anywhere because it is flat and pretty tree less.

 We wandered by this family of cheetahs. A mother with 4 cubs who are pretty big. That is the mother with her legs towards us and the cubs. You can see that one cub is bored and gets up and bothers his brother.
 Here you can see all their faces. They are lazing around in the heat of the day, with full bellies. We will see them again the next morning, when they are more active.
 Another cat lying around in the heat of the day with a full belly.
 This lioness is at a kill. You can see how close we are again - that is the tail end of another of our vehicles.

 The next morning we spent a lot of time watching the cheetah family hunt and eat. This video shows how well they blend into the landscape and how the 4 cubs stay close to their mother.
 A jackal was hanging around because he/she sensed that there might be a kill. We had to go for breakfast at this time so we missed the actual kill. However, as you can see, the mother isn't eating very much in this video. That is because she is looking for something to supplement the gazelle. It wasn't enough for her and the 4 cubs.

 Here she heads off looking for prey and finds a baby gazelle. At first she stuns it and brings it back to help teach the cubs to hunt. But the baby escaped and in re-catching it, the mother cheetah kills it. After she brings it back, she also sits down to eat. I have many more photos and videos of this as we watched them for a long time. But I am not sure how many of you want to see "nature red in tooth and claw" so I am posting only a few that aren't too bad.
More lionesses.
 Here's a shot of wildebeest hanging out.

 The king of the jungle.
 A lioness in close up.
 They were under this tree in the shade. Lionesses and a lion hang out in a pride. There are young males but only one leader.
 A change from the mammals. Two vultures on a tree.

Giraffes also hang out in the shade but they move from tree to tree.

 Lions chilling.

 You aren't sick of lions yet, are you? Because there are going to be more photos and videos.
 Late in the day we ran into these two cheetah brothers. Generally cheetahs are solitary, except for mothers with cubs. But sometimes brothers hang out together and hunt after they are adult.
See how the two cheetahs are practically invisible in the grass?

 More lionesses. "What big teeth you have!"

 Remember the mother with the 4 cubs? Here they are again in the evening. We actually ran into them during the day also.
And I'm going to end here. With a shot of a black-backed or silver-backed jackal with the setting sun in the distance.

I want to add a couple of scenic shots to set the mood of the blue skies and then clouds and then blue skies again. With sunsets and sunrises.

All this was over the course of a day and a half. The vehicles were set up so the roofs pop open for game drives and can be closed for road driving. There are roll bars all around. We can stand in the vehicles to see what is going on. But if you are like me and short, the roof line hits you at eye level and you can't see anything. So I stood on the seats and sometimes hung on while we moved but mostly tried to sit down as it was hard hanging on due to the bumpy terrain. I managed to get bruised and scraped the first day and shortly after learned to slide down the back of the seat and end up quickly in a squatting position from which I could get my feet back on the floor!

And now on knitting. I finished up this shawl which has been giving me a lot of problems with tangles, edge treatments not being neat, having the wrong type of needles for the slippery silk, etc. In fact I had a needle crisis this weekend when I started on the sleeves. I had a long circular and was trying to do magic loop. But the transitions between the two sides was stretching and I wasn't sure how the silk would handle that. So I switched to two circulars but it was slow going.

I texted my wonderful yarn store owner who had the correct size of double points in stock in wood. And she dropped them off at home on her way home. Is that service, or is that service? I want to shout out to Out of the Loop Yarn Store for helping me out in my time of need! :-)
 Unblocked with ends hanging out.
Blocked. Waiting to unpin and try it on. I am glad to see the end of this. I think I started it 3 times and then had to untangle giant amounts of yarn. Then, when I was doing the lace edging, my needle came apart and tens of sts fell off. I had to rip to the beginning of the lace edging and start over. That was a lot of sts to unravel and pick up and count.

Now I can move on to new projects.