Dreams are the wings of my life - My Kruger story

Tell us about your breathtaking experiences in the parks
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Unread post by Ludwig »

Hello Ashley,

so now it is a little bit time to come back to your questions and to go more in detail:

I don’t want to change the subject of this forum but I got so many questions like yours via mails. So I think it’s something that is interesting for some more readers.

At this trip I used a Canon 5D with a Canon 24-105 IS and a Canon 100-400 IS - - and sometimes a 1.5x Kenco Converter. I also had a flashlight (Canon EX580) that I used very often especially at front light, bad light and during the day when the sun was very bright to reduce shadows.
All this sounds very complicated but is only a matter of practice.

I would recommend buying a book written by Richard du Toit or Nigel Dennis. That’s what I did and then go trough it as often as possible by reading parallel the manual of your camera.
And practice it at home to see the results on a big screen before leaving!

My recommendation from my personnel view and what we did already: I would buy a Canon 400D with a lens 24 – 80 or 100 and a Canon tele lens 75 – 300, a converter of 2.0x and a good flashlight. And a tripod that fits in your suit.

The first thing I do is to go very, very close and sometimes taking the risk of getting attacked. I do not recommend doing this because the possibility to get the car damaged or getting hurt is sometimes quite high.
Second is to have the right equipment and you can handle it. As you can read in my report it is sometimes not easy to do this.
Then you have to choose the right shutter speed. Less than 1/60 doesn’t work as I have experienced. It makes no sense to try to get pictures with 1/20 or 1/30 at ISO100 and being first satisfied by looking at the picture on the small camera display and find out later on the bigger screen it is blurred.
If possible use a beanbag to stabilize the camera at the door or window but if you do so switch off the engine because of the vibrations. But be aware if you have to leave it takes time to start the car! Time you need to escape.

Hope I can post the next part tonight or tomorrow.
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Unread post by blasian »

Hi Ludwig,

Thank you for posting that information - much appreciated.

Perhaps you wouldn't mind looking at my post in the photography section here: http://www.sanparks.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=18527

I'm thinking of buying off eBay and getting:
Canon 40D
EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM (apparently the equiv of a 28-135mm)
EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM

I'll downgrade to the 400D if people don't think the 40D is worth the money for a complete DSLR newbie, but it is just such a good price on eBay to buy the 40D.

Anyway, thank you for posting this and look forward to the next instalment! :)

"I'm always travelIing, I love being free, and so I keep leaving the sun and the sea, but my heart lies waiting over the foam, I still call Australia home."
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Unread post by Ludwig »

It’s not so much but at least something:

June 23rd, Fifteenth day, Cornered . . ., Saturday – Part 1

I wake up at 3 a.m. and delete pictures from the hard drive.
Although I have a capacity of more than 130 GB with me I’m afraid it will be not enough and so I’m deleting pictures of low quality whenever there is time for it.
Go up shortly after 5 a.m., take a shower and go out.

Today is the last full day and I’m starting slowly.
Before I leave I take some pictures of the old railway bridge in the early light.
But I’m lazy and don’t use my tripod and get the corresponding result.
All pictures are blurred.

I’m at the gate right in time and one of the first to leave.

I’m more successful in photographing a few minutes later when I take some pictures of trees in the foreground of the soon rising sun. Some Marabous are standing on branches waiting for the sun and an eventful day.
Finally three out of eight pictures are worth to be stored. It is not really going to be my day.

When I come to my favorite bridge crossing the Sabie River I take some pictures too.

A Bushbuck ram is feeding on an island and I will wait till the sun is high enough to get him in the best light.
But I am making already some pictures in a wise foresight now.
Once he is very concentrated in one direction but calms down soon and is feeding again.

A Tawny eagle is coming flying directly in my direction and I miss the shoot.
It lands on the banister some paces in front of me and I miss it again.
Then it flies down below the bridge.
A few minutes later an African fish-eagle that I have heard some minutes before is flying close by . . . and I miss it too. :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
What a beautiful morning! :mrgreen:

Trying to get these birds I moved away.
When I come back to the Bushbuck that is now in the light I was waiting for another car is standing right there where I should be to take the picture I was waiting for. :tongue:
When they leave the Bushbuck is already moving behind some bushes and I can’t get the pictures I was waiting for so long.
I’m a little bit disappointed.
Only a little bit: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

What do you think happens with the Common duiker I see next?
You are right: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
This morning becomes my friend. My very good friend! :imsmilin:

Partly disappointed I drive the H4-1 towards Lower Sabie.
In life it is much easier to come from the sunny side to the shady one then to come back. Africa can be different.
After a few minutes everything chances and I can take nice pictures of a White-throated robin-chat, an Impala and after crossing the dry riverbed of the Awunagama a Brown-hooded kingfisher.

I’m following a car and when it branches off into the causeway I take the same road.
Six eyes will see more then two I think when I follow them in a short distance. And I’m right.
They discover a Tawny eagle I would never have seen.
I spend some time trying to take some pictures then I drive on and I’m soon joining the H4-1 again.

I approach slowly.
My thoughts tell me if I’m not fast enough what ever it is it may be gone till I arrive.
The passengers of the other car will tell me that I have missed a leopard, lions or just a francolin.
Finally I try to do something in the middle and I hope it will be still there when I arrive.
I’m awaiting a very special sight.
When I come closer and I can’t see what the occupants of the other cars are looking at I focus on their heads trying to find out in what direction they go.
Then I adjust your look trying to find what they are watching.
Finally I will find out it is an Impala, a Warthog . . . . . or maybe the desired lion or leopard.

When I come around the next curve I see brake lights too.
Not two or four only. No.
Twenty, thirty or more and there would be much more if they would not be hidden by other cars.
It’s a traffic jam.
I would say thirty or more cars are blocking every lane of the road and the only possibility to pass is beside the road using the shoulder as temporary lane.
But soon this lane is occupied too by some other cars that are coming in my direction.

First I get a place behind a micro bus and the only success I have is to be told there are some lions.
They seem to be towards the Sabie River because everyone in front of me tries to move its car closer to this side most of them are just hoping to catch a glimpse of the lions.
There is still no chance for me to get a place where I can see the lions and so I try to drive on.
I come forward a few meters by squeezing through between two existing lines of cars making a third one where is only space for two. When I’m passing some cars I can see a lioness between some bushes.

I try to take some pictures to have at least something.
After taking one picture another car drives into my field of view.
Now it becomes too silly to me.
I drive on again pass all the cars using the far outside shoulder because in the meantime the “normal shoulder-lane” is closed too.
When I have passed the last car I drive to the Sabie River side and stop.
No other car is standing next to me but there are also no lions.
Meanwhile I have been told by a woman two obviously inexperienced lionesses have tried to kill a Giraffe.
When the first car arrived the Giraffe was crossing the road with the lionesses hanging on its back.
The Giraffe shall have bled.

I have parked next to a small clearing inclining towards the river.
That would be the best place to watch the lions if they were here or would come.
But the only one who is standing here is me.
Looking backwards I can see the Giraffes head above the bushes but I can’t detect any lioness.
I start writing my diary, a picture postcard and I do what I have done so often during these days:
Waiting. :whistle:

To be continued . . . .
Last edited by Ludwig on Wed Nov 21, 2007 7:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post by Ludwig »

Hi blasian,

even if this road the H3 is only called a good road I had also excellent sightings there. I remember my first pack Wild dogs that was remaining next to the car for quite a while some years ago close to Afsaal.

And the Pangolin sighting at the last trip was also there as you can find at the third day of this report.
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Unread post by Ludwig »

June 23rd, Fifteenth day, Cornered . . ., Saturday – Part 2

A 4x4 coming from Lower Sabie stops and I’m asked for the reason for this road block some paces behind me and why I’m standing aside.
I tell them of the lions and that I’m parking here because I hope the Giraffe and the lions will come exactly to this clearing to give me the chance to take pictures of them.
They remain next to me and soon I can see some movement of all the other cars in our direction.
They are all following the Giraffe and the lions.
Hope is one thing but now it seems to become reality.
Closer and closer they come as I can see following the moving head of the Giraffe.
Then the Giraffe goes back some meters - away from me.
The passengers of the 4x4 are talking to me.
Their car has the funny plate “Hello – GP”.
It’s easy for them to overlook my car but there is nothing to see as long as the lions don’t come to the clearing.
I’m trying to convince them the lions will come but after half an hour they decide to go back to Lower Sabie.
I tell them I will report how the lions get the Giraffe right in front of me.
First they consider staying.
But breakfast is waiting for them.
Everyone has its own priorities.
Mine are different.
But breakfast would be fine too I think and start eating some dry worst.

I continue writing my diary keeping always one eye one the Giraffe.
I can’t see the lions but the behavior of the Giraffe shows me they are close by.

Then things change quickly.
The Giraffe comes much closer and all the cars are soon next to and around me and then the lions and the Giraffe too.
They are exactly at the clearing and I’m the one at the best place.
Just luck? :dance: :dance: :dance:

Soon every lane next to me is blocked even the shoulders are occupied by cars again.
But there is no space between me and the soft slope where a car can drive in.
On the other hand I’m cornered like the Giraffe and there will be no way out.

I concentrate on the lions and the Giraffe now.
Through my binocular I see the Giraffe is hurt.
Some small streams of blood flow down were the lion’s claws get hold at the attack and at the back of its left hind leg is a big bloody part around its heel.
The wet red of the blood intensifies the dramatic of the scene.

The Giraffe is very afraid as I can see on the way it is moving.
Wide open eyes and the nervous movements show the animals fear of death.
The lions are lying down and then sneak up from both sides.
But when one of the lionesses comes closer the Giraffe is kicking against it with its forelegs.
This makes the lioness jumping or running back and then it sneaks up from another direction.

The Giraffe is trying to move away but it is stopped by the lionesses.
All three opponents are still remaining on the clearing right in front of me.
All the time I take pictures or video recordings.
It is not the best light but if I have a chance like this I can’t resist doing so.
Following the dark fur, the polished horns and the many scars at the head and body it is an old and experienced bull and he obviously will be more than a match for the lions.
His torn left ear tells us from many previous fights.

Now the lions try it for the umpteenth time but they are chased away by the Giraffe again.
This continues for the next half an hour and the events on the road become more interesting too.
Obviously some loose their nerves when they can’t see anything and drive closer whereas others try to leave or pass.
Many arguments from car to car arise and sometimes I think they are close to go out of the cars and start fighting.
Will consider joining them. . .

Later a worker from the park service tries to regulate the traffic.
But finally he is lost between all these cars.
Most of the drivers are not interested to dissolve the blocking.
They will come closer to the lions and follow-up when they get the Giraffe.
But nothing happens in both sides.
They can’t come closer to the lions and the lions can’t come closer to the Giraffe.

To some it becomes too dull and thus a driver switches on a CD with lion's howling.
This irritates the giraffe and one can observe like it is anxiously looking out for the other lions.

In the meantime somehow I support the giraffe.
On the other hand a kill directly in front of me weren't bad either.
Finally I follow my heart and support the Giraffe.

By writing these lines I remember an evening in Etosha.
We were sitting at the waterhole in Okaukuejo watching the movements around.
Many animals came to drink and left again.
But then a lonely lioness came and tried to approach a Giraffe that was next to the water trying to drink.
First the Giraffe wasn’t aware of the stalking lioness but then it recognised the danger.
I had my camera running and I was sure to get a kill. Soon the Giraffe seemed to be quite nervous feeling the danger.
Whenever the Giraffe took down its head to drink the lioness came closer using every rock and bush to hide.
Minutes passed by and my camera was still running.
Then it seemed the Giraffe had detected the lioness because it was looking most of the time to the place where we saw the lioness last.
From this moment the Giraffe obviously was not longer interested in drinking and it went off.
Slowly it walked exactly in the direction where the lioness was waiting.
My pulse went faster and I had a last look for my camera to make sure what ever will happen it would be in the right focus.
When the Giraffe was next to the lioness it stopped and my heart beat run to a high level. Now!
Yes now it happened.
The Giraffe bended forward to the lioness and . . . . . . . .

To make what could be a long story short:
The Giraffe went down with its head to have a better lock.
Just to see the lioness at a shorter distance in an expression that told the lioness:”I have just come to have a look whether you feel well”. Pry it was looking to the lioness for some time bending its head halfway down and remaining motionless.
Then it returned to the water where it was spreading its legs.
It bent down again and drank relaxed by showing no concern regarding the lioness.
Later it left by passing the big cat giving it only a short look.
When I stopped my camera more then twenty minutes were recorded and I was left behind with an absolutely unexpected experience.

But let’s come back again to today’s spectacle close to the Sabie River.
The face of the Giraffe bull shows no cognizable expression of his fear and maybe pain but following his look I know he is searching for a way out.
If there would be no cars he would come up to the road and try to escape into this flat bush area on the opposite.
But the road is totally blocked and there is no possibility for him to go where he wants to go.

Now there is some movement on the road.
At least the shoulder in the direction to Skukuza can be used for the trough traffic again.

I’m still waiting and anyway there would be no chance for me to leave.
I’m totally cornered and all the cars around me are also not able to move.
It’s 10.30 am and I’m still waiting.
Waiting for the Lion kill?
The escape of the Giraffe? Or to be able to leave?
In the meantime I don’t know it any more.

Ten minutes to eleven o’clock.
I’m still waiting and the scene with the lions and Giraffe hasn’t changed.
Babies and small children are crying and new arguments start now and then and the whole scene becomes macabre.
But there is still no chance for me to leave.

Even if it is very hot now I avoid drinking too much because I don’t know when I will able to leave.
I wouldn’t be afraid to go out of the car because of the lions but there are so many people around with cameras and I’m not going to be famous in this way.

And then exactly at 11 am.
Someone is passing.
What do you think who is passing?

It’s boorgatspook in his silver Ford and as I can see on the expression on his face he is not very amused.
It seems his only target is to come out of this situation.
He does not note me.
But maybe we will meet in Skukuza this evening.
Before leaving home he has invited me for a braii.

For me it’s clear the two lionesses will never manage to get the Giraffe during daytime.
They are too inexperienced and the Giraffe is the opposite.
Then it seems the whole situation becomes to the lionesses boring too.
They lay down and one of them is taking a short nap and when it awakes again is showing an intensive yawn.

I will leave now but there is no gap between the other cars giving me the chance to escape.
Finally I have to wait till noon before I’m aloud to move away.

When I see a chance for me to leave I drive on.
I have spent three hours here and finally I’m happy to leave all this cars behind me.

What I will find out later the first pictures I could take of one lioness will be some of the “best” and most of the others will be of a low quality only.

To be continued . . . .
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Unread post by Ludwig »

To post at least something on this special day:

June 23rd, Fifteenth day, Cornered . . ., Saturday – Part 3

When I see a chance for me to leave I drive on.
I have spent three hours here and finally I’m happy to leave all this cars behind me.

What I will find out later the first pictures I could take of the lionesses will be some of the “best” and most of the others will be of a low quality only.

After one kilometer another car is parked and the driver is trying to take pictures of a Bateleur that is soaring above us and I join him trying also to get some pics.
His wife on the passenger’s seat has a baby in her arms.
It’s obviously only some weeks old – first visit to Kruger and a new forumite for the future.
We (the driver and I, not the baby) talk about the lionesses and the Giraffe and he thinks there will nothing happen till the lions have the Giraffe “out-tired”.
This will take a lot of time and nothing will happen before dark.

I pass my lion rock on my way to Sunset dam.
Again: No lions or leopards here. But one day . . .

An older Mercedes is parked at Sunset dam.
On the passenger’s seat is the girl that looks like Kim Clijsters and that I met yesterday at Lake Panic.
As our cars are standing close we can chat for a while.
She is studying nature conservation and will have finished soon and then she will work at a private nature reserve in the Sabie-Sand-Area not so far from Kruger Park.
We agree she has to invite me and my girlfriend and then we will go on a bush walk.

Her mother tells me this time she is visiting Kruger to the 42cd time.
She is also a nature enthusiastic and it seems her daughter has inherited it from her.
I show them the pictures of the Giraffe and lionesses because they drove down to Lower Sabie via the Salitje Road and didn’t see it and the pictures of the Cheetahs in the tree from many days before.

After taking some pictures of a Grey heron we say goodbye and I drive towards Skukuza.
I will be at Lake Panic at two o’clock to take pictures in the beautiful afternoon light.
But there is no chance because of the distance and the way I drive.

I come to the road block again but can pass without delay.
I’m not interested anymore what is going on there.
This part of Kruger is the worst one. . .

When I drive into a loop next to the Sabie River I see a car standing there.
I can’t see what they are looking for but when I ask them the driver tells me: “We just watch this Bushbuck that is waiting to be ambushed by a leopard.”
As I’m not so interested in a later coming leopard I drive on. :D

There are no sightings for the next kilometers but then I meet some Vervet monkeys and later some kudus.

When I come to the Sabie Bridge I can see a Cormorant in the river drying its plumage.
But when he has a look at me he chances his mind and goes to the water edge and puts his head in.
I suppose he is looking for a fish or trying to look as beauty as I because I took a shower today, I am combed and shaved.

Not really interested in getting a wrong answer to this question I drive to the other side of the bridge where I see some hippos.

Then there is nothing for a while and I am gratefully as I meet a Crested francolin and can take some nice pictures.

A few minutes later a road block again.
But this time a herd of Elephants is crossing the road in quite a hurry.
They are on their way to the Sabie River.
As I’m the latecomer I’m at the end of the rows.
At least for a few moments.
I really improve my situation when I see a gap but now I’m very close to a cow that shows me I am at the limit.
As there is no way back or out I stay and take some pictures of a youngster that is a latecomer too and on the run to catch its mother. Luckily the cow is tolerating this.

A few minutes and some paces later a lot of cars in front of me again.
There fortunately is a little loop and I can come closer to the next group of Elephants.
By driving some more meters I can manage to have the right ankle and the Elephants are in good light.

I can take many pictures till a 4x4 comes and the driver asks me in Afrikaans why I take pictures of the Elephants only and not take any pictures of him.
And here he is.

Between a loop and the road are some kudus.
I can drive into the loop and take some pictures where they look as if they are some kind of traffic control.

To be continued . . . .
Last edited by Ludwig on Tue Nov 27, 2007 9:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post by Ludwig »

I suppose most of you readers of my Kruger story are responsible that I have won the Award Competition of “Predator Sighting of the Year”. :bdaysmile:

So I will say thank you to you for your votes.
Thank you!

This honour will keep me going and give a chance to finalize my Kruger story . .
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Unread post by Ludwig »

June 23rd, Fifteenth day, Cornered . . ., Saturday – Part 4

When I come to Lake Panic at around 3 pm and enter the tunnel to the hide I see a woodpecker.
Is it a Bearded woodpecker?
It is a little bit dark here and the flashlight is switch on to weakly. But I get it.

The hide is rather quit today.
No other visitor and animal life is also less. But when I scan around I detect a snake or a monitor on a branch at the opposite bank.
Even with my binocular I can’t see what it is and so I take some pictures to find it out later.
I enjoy being alone after these morning experiences at the lions.
A Water thick-knee, some Pied kingfishers and a Purple heron give me the chance for some pictures.
When I see something swimming in front of the hide I find out it is a pen.
It remembers me to be very careful when I have to change the card of my camera a few moments later.

Another photographer is coming to the hide.
He has an impressively equipment.
It seems he uses the kind of equipment I have just as standby. :hmz:
But this makes me to raise my strains.
I will never know whether my pictures will be better than his because I don’t know his.

It’s Saturday and we are alone!
Then I remember the Springboks are playing the All Blacks.

When I leave I see the photographers’ car with French plates.
How can one get a car from France to South Africa?
Pumbaa do you have an explanation?
That would be our solution: Putting all our gear in our car taking a nap at the back seat and arrive wide awake in South Africa.
No waiting for the rented car and no problems with weight and volume of our equipment.
Just dreaming . . . .

Where a closed road branches off a Police car and a sedan are standing next to each other.
I slow down and see they have had an accident and both cars are badly damaged.
The total event becomes funny a few hundred meters later where I detect a radar trap.
Obviously the guy at the trap is calling the colleague with the Police car when a speeding car or animal has passed his trap.
The Police man then stops the speeder and will him or her fine.
What about if a speeding Cheetah doesn’t have enough many?
Anyway it seems this afternoon speeding will be for free.

Passing Skukuza I go the H1-2 crossing the Sabie and Sand River via the low water bridges.
There I can’t resist taking some pics of the Sabie again.

A short while later I see a Common duiker.
How many times have I seen duikers during these weeks and didn’t get one good picture till now.
And now I still have the small telelens on the camera.
So I stop far away change the lens and drive on.
The duiker is still waiting for me and I can take many pictures in the beautiful light of the late afternoon. :dance: :dance: :dance:

When it leaves I drive on and soon branch off into Marula Loop were I take some pics of a pair of Dark-capped bulbuls that remembers me I’m alone on my way. . .

I drive back towards Skukuza but stop at the Sabie River again to take some pictures of this beautiful river in the warm light of the setting sun.
Then I follow the small loop running parallel to the H4-1 where I see a Hooded vulture.

A few kilometers down and up the H4-1 bring no sightings and so I take pictures of some dead trees against the evening sky.

At the H11 ahead the gate the every evening present Marabous are waiting for me to be photograph for a last time.

When I come back to camp I remember the invitation by boorgatspook.
But as I didn’t see him in the afternoon again and don’t know the bungalow he is staying in I can’t visit him.
I always keep an eye for his car when I drive around but can’t find his silver Ford with the yellow ribbon and so I will spend the evening by my own.

When I arrive at my bungalow I take a last picture of the evening sky behind the Sabie River.

The last night in Kruger or any place in the wild is special.
All this sadness because I have to leave . . . . . . . and I do not really know whether and when I come back . . . . . . . . . and what will happen in the future . . . I never know.

For me it is always more then leaving a special place.
I also have to leave the part of the world I like most: Southern Africa.

Sometimes I think I’m mad about the bush and African Savannah and in former years when I was telling very enthusiastically my colleagues from Cape Town regarding “their” African wilderness and all the beauties I have seen there they called me "the bushman".
And that is what I feel like.

And even still being here on the last evening there is already such a yearning, such a desire for Africa, I sometimes belief it will break my heart.

I’m disturbed in my sadness by my stomach.
I’m very hungry but I can’t eat despite I have a lot of food with me.
have some problems with my gums.
That probably comes from eating too many dryworsts.
This problem followed me the whole day and now I try to eat at least some meatballs with rolls.
The rolls I have bought three days ago and they do not really taste so well.

I save my pictures by copying it to the hard drive.
Whisky-Coke is a good compensation to the poor food.
Going through the result of the day I write the afternoon-part of my diary.

Out of nowhere I get stomach-ache.
Is it from the cold Whisky-Coke?
Even it is not so warm I start sweating.
From one minute to another I feel terrible.
Instinctively I drink some milk hoping to reduce the pain.
After a few minutes it is gone and I relax by writing down my most resent feelings.

I can not eat nor drink and I have to leave my Africa tomorrow.
Things are really going well :cry: :| :x .

By a marks shattering cry from the direction of the bridge I am broken out of my deep thoughts.
There will be no sunrise for a young Baboon tomorrow.

My favourite of the day:

To be continued . . . .
Last edited by Ludwig on Tue Feb 26, 2008 4:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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June 24th, Lions, lions everywhere . . . and?, Sunday – Part 1

I wake up very early again.
At 3 am I start deleting pictures for nearly an hour then I pack my things up and write my diary.
I can hear hyenas.
The sound is coming from the riverside.
There is still some time and I write down my plans for the next Kruger visit.

Today I have to leave and the most unpleasant part of this journey is coming now.

In total Skukuza didn’t fulfill my expectations.
No Leopard during three days in this area.

I’m at the gate at opening time.
I will go to Mathekenyane or like it was called in the past Granokop and there I will be waiting for the sunrise.
I cannot say whether I have seen animals till I arrive there.
I am deep in my thoughts and sad.
I call my soul to wake up and sing for a last time.
But again only sadness is its answer.

At Mathekenyane I arrive before sunrise.
First I notice a warning.
A leopard is seen here repeatedly.
Just hope I will see it too.
I go out of the car and wander around.
What a feeling to be here alone in the dawn.
To feel some kind of danger and to see, feel and smell my Africa for a last time.
Melancholy comes and almost a couple of tears too.
I have not left but the longing for my beloved Africa takes already hold of me.

I frightened by a sudden noise next to me.
Still in the dark a dove is coming and lands a few meters away.
You cannot imagine how loud the flapping of its wings sound in this absolute silence.
We both are alone on this koppie and I talk to it.
Interested it comes closer and together we wait for the sun.

Soon with the first faint light a Yellow-billed hornbill joins us and sitting on a dry branch it is waiting with us and listening too.

When the sun rises I go in its direction and take many pictures as if this will help me to adhere the time.
Let me stay – dreaming with you.
But the sun rises and time is going on.
So I turn around and go to the rocky plates on the opposite to have the sun behind me.

This last sunrise in Africa is some kind of special.
A soft golden appearance that seems to include a promise.
A promise of meeting here at this place again.

And here it is. As far as my eyes could reach it spreads.
The golden light is touching every tree and bush and dips them into a magical gleam. Here it is . . .

I spread my arms to touch and enclose my beloved Africa for a last time hopping my dreams will become wings and I will become airborne and remain here for ever.

The softly blowing wind pulls on my hair and is gently stroking my cheeks.
It‘s cold again this morning and maybe I’m freezing but I don’t feel it.
Every feeling is overlaid by fascination and the pain I have to say goodbye.
The deep melancholy catches hold of me.
I'm so sad and I can feel my eyes become wet.
It nearly breaks my heart and deep inside something tells me:
Home is where it hurts if you have to leave. My home is here . . .

I fetch my camera pull it down and take a photo of myself sitting here sad and dreaming, dreaming I can stay . . . and my Africa answers with the roaring of a leopard somewhere down on my right hand side not far away.
I can't see it but its call goes directly into my heart to be kept here for ever.

And I promise myself and I promise “my Africa”: I will return.

I'm going to my car to get out my tripod to take some pics for a panoramic photo but stop and put back the gear.
I will leave this for next time.
I will remember me and see it in my fantasy like I do these pictures when I'm back.

Another car comes and soon I leave still with a very sad heart.

But it’s not over until it’s over.
There are still some hours to go.
So I will go to Renosterkoppies Dam next.
A few hundred meters ahead the T-junction H3/H1-1 I see some impalas and stop.
They do not move in the right direction to get it in front of a koppie and I only loose time.

So I drive on and will take some pictures of this koppie when I’m standing at the junction.

Another car comes and the driver tells me something in Afrikaans.
I do not understand so much but what I understand is “leeu!”.
Then he explains me in English there are some lions two kilometers behind the branch off to Transport Dam.
They have something caught but he doesn’t know what it is.

What is next I do?
Yes, I postpone my plans to go to Renosterkoppies Dam and drive the H1-1 towards Pretoriuskop.
At the junction to the dam I look on the tachometer and start searching for the lions after one kilometre.
Two kilometres, now they should come.
But nothing is to see.
Three kilometres, did I understand him right?
Or was he telling me the lions are two kilometres behind the junction in the direction to Transport Dam?
Four kilometres, . . . Maybe this guy was just kidding me. :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
There will come no lions anymore.
I only have lost time again. :mrgreen:

It is already almost five kilometres now and I decide: ”After the next rounded hilltop I will turn over!”. . . .

To be continued . . . .
Last edited by Ludwig on Sat Dec 08, 2007 10:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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June 24th, Last day, Lions, lions everywhere . . . and?, Sunday – Part 2

It is already almost five kilometres now and I decide: ”After the next rounded hilltop I will turn over!”. . . .

But when I’m on this hilltop I can see it!

A lioness is walking in the road followed by some cars.
Then a second lioness comes out of the sparse bush.
All the other cars are driving in my direction and I’m the only one the lionesses are walking to.
I make use of it mercilessly.
I turn and let the first lioness walk beside my car.
More lions come and soon I’m right in the middle of this pride.

Eight, ten or more lions.

I can’t count them: Lions, lions are everywhere.

Between them are some youngsters.
I take picture after picture and often the lions are very close and their heads are only centimetres away from my open windows.

Lions, lions everywhere . . . . . Beautiful they are walking in the morning light.
Just beautiful! :dance: :dance: :dance:

I take so many pictures that makes the camera too busy to store it.
Another car comes in front of me but soon I’m at the best place again - wherever it will be.
I don’t know how long this lasts but I estimate I have taken more then hundred pictures of the lions already.

In the meantime there is no time to take care whether my arm and shoulder are inside or outside the window.
When will I ever get a chance like this again?
No, not to loose an arm!
To get a chance to be between a lion pride so close?
Maybe never.
Still I take picture after picture and very often the camera is not working because the lion in the focus is within a two meters range which is to close for the camera.

Then a car comes from behind and drives exactly between me and the lion I will photograph right now.
First I'm not very disappointed about that.
But when the lady in the passenger seat sees my lack of understanding and asks me very arrogant, "So what?” an argument starts. :naughty:
Can this really have been a lady?
Maybe this would have last for hours but it ends when I focus my camera in her direction to take a photo of this very special Kruger species. :cam:

Fast she closes her window and it seems she starts an argument with her husband that makes him lacking in concentration.
I use my advantage and force me through. I’m at the best place again. :lol:

Soon my card is full and I have to change it.
It lasts only seconds and the camera is ready again.
Ready to store some more pictures, many more.

From time to time the wind brings in the smell of the lions.
Another smell of Africa: Wild, intensive and terrible.
A mixture of urine, excrements and rotten meat. I would say enjoyable and pleasant . . . . Yes, enjoyable and pleasant are just the opposite.

Finally the lions go all to the right and soon they disappear in the dense bush in the direction to Transport Dam leaving many people behind with only one thought:
How can I overtake all the other cars to be first at Transport Dam.

I still consider whether these have been the lions I was told about at the junction and drive to the Transport Dam too.
I have a look for the pictures during driving.
They are okay but most of them are close-ups because the lions have always been so close – to close.

At Transport Dam a lot of cars is waiting for the lions.
As there is not enough time for me to wait for them too I leave for Renosterkoppies Dam.

If you think of a cat in Kruger you probably will think of a leopard first.

Yes Jubatus I know, you and Felis will not, but most of us, especially Pardus, will.
At least I do.

So following the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who once wrote: “Das Leben und dazu eine Katze, das ergibt eine unglaubliche Summe, ich schwör´s euch” what means “The life and in addition a cat, this proves an unbelievable sum, I swear it to you”, it would be tremendous to get a leopard too.

I get no leopard till now.
More then two weeks staying in Kruger and I have seen no leopard.
Wishfully I remember my first Kruger visits when I was staying on this Game farm at the bank of the Olifants.
On all three or four days when I went to Kruger I saw a leopard – everyday.
During the following years these sightings went down to a leopard within some days.
But no leopard during two weeks is unbelievable.
It has to be compensated with cheetahs in the tree!
That is like I would have seen a leopard, isn’t it? Can we agree?
You are very hard to me.

But I have heard one at Mathekenyane.
This should count as a leopard!

Okay, then let's go on.

On my way back the H1-1 and some kilometers south the H3 I’m still impressed by this beautiful experience with the lions and I don’t see so much game.

Following the S112 I meet a herd of Zebra. It is a few minutes past eight and the light is still soft and the Zebras are standing where they should stay. I take many pictures and remember I have taken very few of Zebras and Wildebeest till now.

Always when I met a herd I was thinking there will come many more during my stay and finally I missed good shots of these two species. But not today.
These beautiful wild horses of Africa remain in the best light and I only have to push the button.
Pry they look in my direction or is it only why I’m talking to them?

When I come to Renoosterkoppies Dam first I see seven Rhinos staying in and around the waterhole.

As the waterhole itself is looking so artificial I avoid taking many pictures and soon I’m concentrating on a lonely Wildebeest that is walking in the morning sun.

I pass another car and I’m told there is a lion beyond one of the bushes but I can’t see it.
A few moments later another lion is roaring somewhere.
The Wildebeest is crossing the road now and goes its way exactly in the direction I have been told the lion is waiting.
I scan the vicinity with my binocular but I still can’t find the lion.
When the Wildebeest passes the bush where I suppose the lion is waiting nothing happens.
As I find out later the lion has left when the other lion was calling and the Wildebeest is quite save on its way to the waterhole.

I leave the dam and follow for some hundred meters the S21-N’watimhiri Road towards Lower Sabie searching for the lions but can’t find them. So I turn and drive the S114 to go to Biyamiti weir for a last time.
After driving for some time “I would like to see a Giraffe now”, comes into my mind.
A few moments later at the junction S114 and H5 I take the wrong direction and what I see shortly before I make a turn is a Giraffe.
For me the Giraffe is the most typical animal of Africa.
Unique, majestic and beautiful.

I’m driving fast now because I still want to be at the Malelane gate at 11am.

But my next target is still Biyamiti Weir hoping to get a good picture of the crocodile there.
And I still hope to get my leopard somewhere.
Anyway even without a leopard this have been beautiful weeks with beautiful sights and adventures.

When I'm halfway between the Muhlambamamadvube river crossing and the weir and I go around a curve a car flashes the lights and the driver takes his arm out of the window to wave me down.
His arm? Of course his. It would be very difficult for him to take out another’s arm.
First I think it will be a nice couple who stops me to show me a *** or buffalo some hundred meters away in the dense bush.
But I’m wrong.
Everything can change in a moment and you can see the flipside of the coin.
This time it is the better one.

To be continued . . . .
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Unread post by Ludwig »

sable wrote:. . . I'm anxious to read what happens next. Did you finally see your leopard? Hope you continue soon. :wink:

Thank you sable :D,
that would have been too much for the last day. Being alone on this koppie and hearing a leopard, meeting all these lions and stay between them, and then a leopard too.
Seeing a leopard and maybe taking some pictures of it! No, that would be too much for this day, wouldn’t it? :whistle: :whistle: :whistle: :mrgreen:
Sorry! But we all will know what happens at least during the weekend.

Craig wrote:Not to mention that the Kruger lions are wild and might take your arm away with them... Biltong for a bit later. :lol:
Don't worry, I am just joking. I know what you mean! Craig

And the worst thing: This would have been the arm holding the camera. So no pictures of the lions when they leave with my arm. :mrgreen:

I think they are not as dangerous as they were years before when they get used to “human prey” resulting from easy catching the unlucky refugees coming from Mozambique during the war.
There is a tremendous story by Murray Walker, the Winning Entry in the "Prose" Writing Category 2006, regarding such an incident:
http://celtis.sanparks.org/events/2006/ ... e/pr24.php
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June 24th, Last day, Lions, lions everywhere . . . and?, Sunday – Part 3

This time it is the better one.

There is a leopard next to the road walking slowly through the bush and despite the high grass it is giving me the chance for some pics. Now I got it, finally - the long awaited leopard. :dance: :dance: :dance:

I can follow it for a while.
Then it stops next to a knoll and sits down.
There is some grass in the foreground that makes it difficult to get the camera focused.
But finally the camera works again.

When the leopard lies down a few paces away and I can see only its ears I drive back to the nice couple to say thank you.
They only have like so many I met a small camera and tell me they couldn’t take decent pictures and feel sorry about this.
We talk for a while and I give them my card, promising to send them some pics when they will email me.

When I drive back to the leopard I can’t see it.
Despite all the ways I’m searching I can’t find it.
Whatever I do to find the leopard there is no success.
It has disappeared but will be remembered for long.

Lions, *** and leopard . . . three out of the Big Five within few hours.
This will be the day of the days.
There are still some hours before I have to leave at Malelane gate and during the first days I always saw many Buffaloes and Elephants in the area I will drive through now.
That would mean all Big Five within five hours . . . .

The next stop is Biyamiti weir.
How often have I been here during the last few weeks?
This time the big croc is next to the water and the always present young Nile monitor is also at his special place.
The croc lying in the high grass and relaxing in the sun is showing me more the tail and back.
Not really the position to get a nice picture.
But that's nature and anyway I will take a picture, maybe only to remember this so often visited place.
When I focus the camera the crocodile gets notice of me and is spinning around in a sudden strike and I get it.
When its head comes in my direction I can push the trigger.
I shoot off getting it directly in action.
What a day! :thumbs_up:

Soon the crocodile disappears in the water leaving the scene behind as there would have been no crocodile before.
But I know close to me hidden in the muddy water it is lurking.

I look around and my eyes catch the surroundings for a last time.
The dry area below the weir filled with all these rocks placed in the riverbed, framed by sandy patches and separated by bushes of every size.
The big shady trees at the northern end of the crossing where I spent my time together with this herd of buffaloes in a late afternoon at one of the first days of this journey.
The small parking lot next to these rocks on top of the slope from where I can overlook the whole area above the weir.

This parking lot is also where I stop next.
Then I go back to the weir
to look for the crocodile for a last time.
I can see the crocs head.
As it is not in a good light I mount the flashlight after having taken some pictures without it.
But this takes too long and when I have finished the crocodile is gone and I drive on.

Going far more to the south I’m mostly focused on Elephants and Buffaloes – but with no success till now.
It’s a silly thing to do so instead of enjoying the last Kruger hour.
I really don’t know what I miss till I join the H3 north of the Crocodile River.

There is some time left and so I decide to drive the gravel part of S110 till the Matjulu water hole.
But today this road is not very productive and I have to wait till the Matjulu water hole to meet some kudus and spend a few minutes with them till I get some pictures.

I drive on heading for the tarred part of the S110.
After some hundred meters a car is parked and I stop too.
Two elderly ladies are in the car and I ask them whether they have seen Buffaloes or Elephants but they don’t.
On my way I’m passing Berg-en-Dal for the last time and soon I come to some cars.
The passengers are looking for rhinos that can be seen far away at the mountain slope.
I think these are the same rhinos that I saw at my arriving day more then two weeks ago.
Still hoping to get my Big Five today I search the area around by driving my way towards Malelane gate.

A safari vehicle is parked and I follow the look of the passengers.
In a valley on the right hand side I see two Elephants.
Far away but they are counting for my Big Five.
I ask the passengers whether they have seen buffaloes today.
They tell me there have been many along the Biyamiti road.
Unfortunately I was driving the S114 coming to the south and so I have missed these buffaloes.

When I come to the H3 I go to the right just seeing some Impalas till I arrive at the gate.

It’s all over now.
But at my partly desperate search for the buffaloes, the missing part of my Big Five, there is not so much time to complain that I have to leave now.

Many cars stop at the bridge crossing the Crocodile River.
Here it was where we saw the “Big Feeding” of the crocodiles at night.
But I don’t stop.
I will keep this bridge in my mind like it was when I was here last time being on the night drive with Lourens.

I will stop when I come back.
Just hoping I can stop here very soon . . . .

To be continued . . . .
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June 24th, Last day, Lions, lions everywhere . . . and?, Sunday – Part 4

Goodbye Kruger, I will keep you in my heart.

There are not so many interesting things during driving back to Johannesburg.
And I can’t tell you what I feel when I’m crossing the Olifants for the last time on my way back home. . . . .

When I will fill up my car and branch off to the same filling station like some years ago by chance memories come back.
And when I join the N12 again I have to stop at some kind of my second birthplace.

At that time when I wanted to drive back joining the main road again I was lacking in concentration and had forgotten there is driving on the left here.
As in the case of driving on the right, first I looked to the right of the opposite lane then to the left following the lane lying directly in front of me.

As there is no car on these driving lanes I drive off - slowly.
Suddenly a gigantic shadow appears hardly a meter in front of me, coming from the right in full speed and passes with a thundering noise. A tanker.
Overlooked by me since I have concentrated on the wrong lanes.
For braking it would have been too late.
If I would have driven off a second earlier. . . .no chance would be left to be eaten by a lion or crocodile one day. :wink: :thumbs_up:
To be serious.
This is not my target but still a possibility.

I’m not highly sensitive and there have been many very dangerous situations in my life I laugh about today.

And even if I live more according to the principle: "Don't be afraid of the death, be afraid of an unlived life", this memory still brings me some discomfort.

So maybe I was not really alone on this journey.
At least my Guardian Angel was travelling with and taking care of me.

Today I’m very concentrated when I join the freeway again.

I arrive at Johannesburg Airport right in time.
The guys from the car rental inspect the car and tell me regarding the damage.
Shit happens . . .
I do not have so much time for discussions because there is another urgent business to do.
But where?

When I come to the rental office I ask the security guard.
He tells me there are toilets just some paces down the floor outside the office.
But what shall I do with all my stuff?
There is not so much time to consider and I ask the security guy to take care of it.

Can you believe? I leave my whole stuff including camera with him but not without telling him he has to fight for it with his life.
He promises he will do this and I hope he will.
I can’t say the next few minutes are relaxing one and soon I’m back.
Glad to see my language still in place guarded by this nice guy.
I say thank you and give him a tip.
Now he is glad too.
We say goodbye and I move on for the airport.

At the check-in to Paris there is a long queuing line.
Some women next to me are having a lot of luggage.
It’s unbelievable they will be aloud to take this heavy load to the same flight.
The two are teachers coming from the United States.
Jealously I watch their many suits.
And I have to take care not to have more than twenty kilograms.
Anyway talking to them only increases my jealousy.
There are school holidays for some three months and they use most of them to travel around.
A feeling I always have now becomes true: I definitely have the wrong job!

Finally check-in is behind me and all the small things like lifting the luggage a little bit during weighting work well.
After security control and coming to the international part the hunt start again.
I’m on my way to look for a big Giraffe.
Soon I’m successful.
A very large one, still having both ears and the right color is my favorite.
But at this time I don’t know how easy it would be to transport it simply by giving it to the air hostess and pick it up after landing.
This is exactly what the guy at the “Out of Africa”-shop tells me.
Finally I don’t believe him and postpone the buy till my next visit.

I wander around - just waiting.
Waiting like so often during these beautiful days. :whistle:

When I go back again towards the “Out of Africa” store I meet the “All Blacks”, the rugby team from New Zealand.
They are on their stop-over at their flight coming from Durban to Auckland via Sydney.

At the shop are so many beautiful Ostrich eggs decorated with beautiful pictures.
One is showing a pair of lions lying in front of a romantic sundown.
All the colors are so in harmony and peace.
Looking at this picture brings me back for a few moments.
The sadness I know so well comes back.
Finally I buy this special piece of Africa trying to hold and bring with me what I have to leave now . . . .

Back at the gate I take a seat and store the cards with today’s pictures.
When boarding starts the back-up is still running and I have to wait till it is finished.
As there is a very long queuing line now and I’m afraid there will be no space for my big black camera bag I stroll along the row and squeeze myself between the other passengers halfway back the line.
Okay, it’s not really a thing one should do but this is some kind of an emergency. :redface: :whistle: :dance:

Kruger is behind me now and a dangerous world with many air hostesses is waiting for me . . . But as you can imagine I survived flying back and the very long time it takes to come to the end of my story is not the result of being hurt by an air hostess again . . . . .

When I write my diary, the part of today’s lions, the plane starts.
Exactly at 8.05 pm it is hurrying along the runway.
It is going faster and faster and then it takes off.
or a last time I can see the lights of Johannesburg.
Then they are gone.
When will I see it again?

Even if I am between so many passengers I feel alone and sad.
But soon my deep thoughts are disturbed by my stomach.
I’m quite hungry but there is some turbulence that postpones dinner.

Unlike in Namibia when the plane crosses Etosha on its way to Europe this plane is not crossing Kruger to give me a last glimpse of my beloved bush through the night.

I’m following my thought and wait for the dinner. :whistle:
Closing my eyes I travel back: I’m sitting at the Olifants River . . . . . . .

My favourite of the day:

To be continued . . . .
Last edited by Ludwig on Tue Feb 26, 2008 4:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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June 25th, Back in Bavaria . . . , Monday

Unlike in Namibia when the plane crosses Etosha on its way to Europe this plane is not crossing Kruger to give me a last glimpse of my beloved bush through the night.

I following my thought and wait for the dinner. :whistle:
Closing my eyes I travel back. I’m sitting at the Olifants River . . . . . . .

There is not so much during the flight to Paris.
At least no interesting things and so most of the time I’m deleting pictures from the hard drive and follow my thoughts coming from an already deep longing for “my” Africa.
When the batteries are empty I try to sleep with not so much success.

Whenever a meal is served I keep an eye on the air hostesses to avoid being hurt by one of them again. :wink:

At Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris I have to carry my heavy camera bag to another terminal and here I just wait for the connection flight to Munich. :whistle:

All around me are members of the Jehovah witnesses on there way to a congress.
They are waiting for the flight to Munich too.
I know these people from earlier occasions and I respect them very much.
It is a pleasure for me to travel with them.

We arrive at Munich as scheduled and I’m soon picked up by my girlfriend.
The first highlight of the day.
How would I like to take her and fly back right now . . . .

When we are driving home and I start telling how it was: I’m back.
I close my eyes and I’m really back starting at the point when I enter the park:

“. . . . Then here it is! The bridge crossing the Crocodile River, the gate: I have arrived.
Arrived after less than three and a half hours drive.
No, not only arrived - there is more.
It's more intensive than the feeling I had during landing in Jo'burg.
Feeling to be at home, now really being back home.

After passing the gate it starts all over: Which will be the first animal to catch sight of? Impala, buffalo, elephant, . . . . . ?
Everything is possible.
The first animal I saw was a leopard just at the junction to S110 some years ago.
Today it is two impalas, browsing a little bit away from the road.

I stop the car watching them for a while, realising I’m alone this time, then carry on, leaving the junction to Berg-en-Dal unconsidered behind me, crossing the Matjulu River.
On the way to drive into the S110, I still remember this historian leopard as I see an elephant walking along the H-3.

I follow him for a while till he disappears into the mixed woodland and thorn thickets in the east.
Back to the crossing and driving along the Matjulu River I meet a giraffe, browsing on a knob thorn acacia tree and taking less or no notice of me . . . . . . . “

My favorite of the day:

There is no favorite picture of the day because I didn’t take one of my girlfriend. :D

But there are some of my favorites from this journey I want to show you again:

Is it over now? No, it’s not over till it’s over.

I will continue with a very last part . . . .
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cathie wrote:It's sad Ludwig, but it WAS over - as soon as you crossed the bridge. :( :(
Thanks for sharing your trip with us and congratulations for holding us spellbound over the past months. :clap: :clap: :clap:
Time to start dreaming, NEXT time in Africa..........

anne-marie wrote:It's a regal, thanks Ludwig :clap:

john n poppy wrote:A lovely report ....
I am also sad you have had to leave, you must stay longer next time, and hopefully find that wooden giraffe!

Thank you Cathie :D,
thank you anne-marie :D,
thank you John :D,
thank you Ollie :D,
it was a pleasure for me too. And in some ways for me the journey is just over right now. :( You will understand what I mean when my last part is finished.

Yes John, one day I will get this giraffe. With both ears still in place!
And following Pumbaa’s advice, I will bring it home.

john n poppy wrote:Your close up shots are superb, i hope when i go i take just one of the pictures you have achieved.

Thank you again John :D.
I’m sure you will. More then one.
There are “only” three things to do about:
First: You have to be at the right place at the right time (that includes where the sun comes from).
Second: Good equipment.
Third: Sometimes you have to be willing to take some (or some more) risk.

I will use this to show you some more pictures. Not to make you jealous.
No, just to bring you and me back for a few moments.
Last edited by Ludwig on Sat Jan 12, 2008 6:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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