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  • Postcards 14
Here we are back in Kenya - our journey out here at the end of January was somewhat fraught, with an accident on the M4 meaning that we only caught our plane with about 20 minutes to spare and then a massive blow-out of a tyre on the really stony road about an hour away from home here.  We were of course really heavily laden with a month’s supply of food and wine and all of our luggage! 

Got out the air-jack, up it went – and down it came – tried it again – same thing – so got out the hi-lift jack which was thick with dust and didn’t want to lock on.  We were getting there when, after about half an hour, a truck came the other way so we flagged it down and asked for help.   They were fantastic – even to digging rocks out of the road to get the new wheel on – we gave them both a tip which was probably the equivalent of a week’s wages – they were very happy and so were we.    Later discovered that the problem with the air-jack was operator error and that the valve was in the wrong position – but it must be at least 2 years since we have had to change a wheel and quite frankly we had forgotten how to do it! 

We have been on a few game drives – there are thousands of zebra and wildebeest coming from the north – it’s like a mini-migration.   The wildebeest are calving which means the cattle move out as there is something in the after-birth which causes malignant catarrh, a disease fatal to cows.

Robin got a Birdcam2 for Christmas – a motion sensitive and time-laps camera – we have had hours of innocent fun getting it set up in a tree – high enough that the hyenas can’t get it, but close enough to the bird table to find out what it is that drinks the water in the night !    The answer is mostly impala but we have captured other nocturnal visitors – bush-babies and white tailed mongoose.

We had a fantastic experience being able to join Rob and Sarah (the Conservancy Managers) and the wildlife vet in darting a huge bull elephant to remove a spear from him.  The beast fell onto the wrong side so had to be turned over – amazing the strength of a Landcruiser !   It was incredible to get so close to such a wild animal.  It was all very professionally done and he was up and moving in less than half an hour – albeit a bit wobbly.   Photos are on the website.

Sarah has unwittingly become ‘Mom’ to an orphan zebra stallion – his mother is presumed killed – he was found all alone at about 3 days old.     He is now firmly attached to her and feeding on baby formula – we have been privileged to take him out for walks with her, trying to get him to meet wild zebra and hopefully to know who he really is.    All the accounts you read of hand reared zebra say the males turn really, really nasty particularly to anything else male that might be construed as competition for his females – so Rob and Robin had better be careful !

The OOC Trust has set up computer training facilities for schools in a couple of mobile containers – these will initially be used to train the teachers, then the pupils but will also be used for Power Point presentations to the community to show films on the values of grassland management, stock improvement, re-forestation etc.

I have at last learnt how to make decent bread – and rye crackers - and just can’t stop – a baking frenzy has broken out in the Mara !  

The Mara is so completely different from when we left it in November – then it was all short green lush grass – now the grass is 3ft high and golden – it has been hot, hot, hot and oh so dry – only in the last couple of days have we had any rain – and miraculously the grass in the garden went from dry, crackly brown to soft green in two days !   Gorgeous now, cool – black skies and big thunderstorms in the late afternoons – all quite dramatic.

We will be back in the UK for April, May and June – starting the search for a house to buy.  Yes, we are giving up the nomadic lifestyle after nearly 4 years – but that doesn’t mean we won’t be coming back here regularly – starting with this July, August and September for the Migration – so get your reservations for visits to Kanga Cottage in quick !

Do let us have all your news and gossip.

Don’t forget to look at the new photos on www.tricia-robin.com !

Lots of love

Tricia and Robin x

 


  • Postcard 13

           Hello again, it’s been months and months since Postcard No12 – and have we ever been busy.

We got back to England at the beginning of April to commence a tour of the homeland – it’s amazing how we all rush off abroad on holiday and never look around our own back yard !   We had a week in Canterbury and a look around the Kent coast – lovely Cathedral, great lunch in Whitstable …

Off up north – stayed just outside Beverley where there is a beautiful Minster (not a Cathedral ?) with it’s history displayed by way of tapestry cushions all the way around the nave.  Then to a little cottage in West Tanfield about 10 miles north of Ripon where we explored the Dales – you may remember that April in the UK was the most fabulous month – wall to wall sunshine - it was glorious.

After a relaxing stay in Edinburgh we set off for a month in France where we ate far too much, drank far too much and didn’t see enough of the culture as we always arrived somewhere when it was closed !

One highlight was that I celebrated a big birthday with friends at Villa de Mazamet – (a 5* B&B owned by Peter and Mark and I can’t recommend it highly enough – do go there and make sure you note the quality of the soft furnishings !)

For the first two weeks of June we rented an amazing little house in Hampton – sort of Arts and Crafts meets Shakespeare (see it at www.thestudiohampton.com) – we loved it !

Of course in between all these jaunts we have the luxury of staying in the Annex at Patrick and Dietmar’s in East Sheen who kindly let us wander in and out and store our stuff there !

Back out to Kenya at the end of June – via Dubai for a spot of shopping …. or rather not shopping – we were hoping for a quality pair of binoculars but the only ones available in Dubai were about £400 more expensive than if we had bought them in London.  However if you are ever there are on a Friday we recommend the Friday Brunch at the Atlantis Palm – apart from a stunning array of food in an outrageous hotel – the people watching is just something else - all the bright young things in their designer frocks out on the pull !

Back to the sanity of the Maasai Mara – all lush and green – the Migration arrived about 10 days after we did – followed by a steady stream of visitors – Lindsay came with her family to celebrate her big birthday – Mark and Miranda brought their young daughters for a first taste of the bush (we now know all the words to the Gnu song !) and Judy and Jim came for a flying visit.    As usual the game was the star – lions were plentiful, everyone got a leopard, and we even had a close up of two rhinos.  Sadly because of the lack of rain on this side of the Reserve the migration itself moved South again quite quickly so the large herds were not around for long and river crossings were not to be seen after mid-August.  However they are back now – about 20,000 massing to cross today – but they didn’t !

There is still plenty of game coming through the garden, the Loita wildebeest are moving through and the lions still roar through the night – so all is well in the bush.

Oh and we snuck in a week to the Seychelles in September – well, even we need a holiday ! In reality we would have needed to leave the country as our 90-day visa would have expired – we had booked the trip before obtaining Kenya Residency - stayed in a lovely apartment right on the Beau Vallon beach on Mahe (www.clefdesiles.com).

When we get back to the UK in mid-November we will start to look for a house to rent – three years of living out of a suitcase is enough – I seem to remember we set off ‘giving it a year’ so we have decided to find somewhere permanent to live where we can have our own stuff around us – but we will still come back here for July, August and September (bookings are now open for visitors 2012 !)  If you know of any stunning properties available for rent do let us know – we don’t mind where – it will be the house that decides it.

Although we now have Residency status, the car does not so we will back here at the end of January to take a trip to Tanzania to switch the carnets and get a new road tax – we might even spend a little while watching the Migration at that end – after all it will be the calving season !

 Tough, this retirement …………..

Hope to see many of you when we are back – but do let us have your news and gossip – a few new photos are on the website –www.tricia-robin.com – click on Photo Album – Postcard 13.

Lots of love

Tricia and Robin xxx

 
  • Postcards 12 

    Got back to London in November just in time to hear Jackson speaking at a Tusk Trust event at the Royal Geographic Society - hardly got to speak to him as he had a huge fan club surrounding him.    However we made up for that when we met for walks in Richmond Park and supper – walking in the freezing cold in thousand-milers and shukas not such a great idea even for a Maasai ! (Thousand-milers being those African sandals made out of old car tyres.)

     I went on a two-day travel writing course the first weekend back – maybe you can spot the difference !

     Christmas in London in the snow !    We were house-sitting for some friends just by Richmond Park – so really home from home for us – Robin was looking after their racing pigeons who live in a very palatial loft !    I had the easier job of two cats.

     Managed to get up to (and back from) Edinburgh to see Joyce on the two days that the airport was open but totally unable to move when there because of the heavy snow.    We had intended to drive up but that became a no-no so we booked ourselves on the same flight that Joyce was taking after her trip around the Med – a certain surprise on her face when she saw us sitting at the departure gate !

     Had a wonderful Christmas day with friends Jim and Judy, with the family either side of that.    Lots and lots of shopping (not only for us !) and came back to Nairobi absolutely laden.

     We had to make a dash to the border the day after we landed as the road tax on the car had expired – so it was off to Arusha in Tanzania for the night – just a 6 hour drive in each direction with some very bureaucratic Customs men on the Tanzanian side.    Then we shopped some more in Nairobi – this time for provisions for our stay back here in Kanga Cottage on the edge of the Maasai Mara.   We were exhausted by the time we got here but managed to stay awake for the champagne and friends that greeted us.

     It was dry here in the Mara and very, very hot in the afternoons – completely different to the place we had left 3 months before.  The wildebeest had gone, but the zebras, topi, impala and tommie are still here.  We have had all of them in the garden as well as elephant, giraffe, buffalo and wart hogs.    Plenty of new birds around now as well – we have what we think is a Rufous Tailed Rock Thrush (photo on the web) – birders amongst you may tell us otherwise !

     Pauline (Mrs Landlord) and I have been learning Italian with Anna (French lady who manages Kicheche Camp just behind us) – it has been hilarious – but works !   Pauline is now in Italy visiting her sister and getting more fluent by the day.  Anna and I have lapsed – I’ve got her speaking French to me now in preparation for our month in France in May.

     Whilst Pauline was away, Ron (Mr Landlord), Anna, Robin and I took off for the coast.    We were joined at the beginning by Rob and Sarah (Conservancy Managers) at Delta Dunes at the mouth of the Tana River Delta (Rob’s Dad had built it originally) and we had a fabulous time.  They did forget to tell us that we would have to climb up 200 steps at least twice a day to get from the beach up to the rooms/bar/pool !    But the stunning 40km of deserted beach, mangrove swamps, mud baths, water ski-ing and sand-yachting made it all worthwhile.

     Rob and Sarah came back to the Conservancy whilst the rest of us went on to the house at Watamu we stayed in last year.  The guys went fishing (delicious fresh tuna) whilst Anna and I looked after the pool.  We feasted on fish, fish, prawns and fish – and wonderful Italian ice-cream !

     A bit of politicking going on in the Conservancy with a few landowners getting stroppy and letting their cows graze where they shouldn’t – mostly it all happened whilst we were away and Rob and Sarah had it all cleared up by the time we got back.

     Have just had about 4 days with rain showers in the evenings – this made for some great thunder storms and spectacular skies.  The other evening the sky was divided into four very different quarters – the fires of Mordor to the right of the setting sun, celestial clouds a la Sistene Chapel to the left, the deep blue of an English summer behind on one side with a grey haze, tinged purple on the other – yes all at the same time !    

     The rain had been heavier a bit further up country and the roads are all mud and the rivers swollen – a couple of vehicles had tried to cross and had water up over their bonnets and in through their windows – but 2 days with no rain and all is beginning to dry out and rivers subside.    Of course this means that the grass is all green again and the trees are all in bud – temperature is wonderful and all just like Spring.

     So from an African Spring to and English one – we will be home in a couple of weeks – going to France for May – back to London until late June when we shall come back for the Migration.

     We already have visitors booked for the end of July, end of August and mid September – but still space up until mid-November for any of you brave enough !

    Hopefully see many of you whilst we are home – but keep the news coming.

     Lots of love

    Tricia and Robin xxxx

     Some new pics on the website www.tricia-robin.com – go to photo album Postcard 12

  • Postcard 11 

    Awoke this morning to most glorious, flamboyant sunrise outside our little house on the edge of the Maasai Mara Reserve.   Kanga Cottage is about as close to our dream home as we could get.     We always wanted a comfortable house in a wildlife area – and here it is !

    When we arrived in mid-August the annual migration was in full swing – there were thousands of wildebeest and zebra around – every morning we would wake up with the garden full of animals.

     To be woken in the night by the lions roaring around and see a zebra leaning against your bedroom window !    Have morning coffee and watch the elephants feeding. Have breakfast and the giraffe will parade past.  We just didn’t need to drive into the Reserve – we had a constant wildlife documentary rolling right in front of us !

     We did however go into the Reserve proper when my nephew Martin and his girlfriend came to stay – we had 5 amazing days of full-on safari – saw everything – river crossings, lions a-plenty – cheetahs with cubs hunting - everything except rhino and leopard.  We even had one day with Jackson guiding us – he took us over to the far side of the Reserve where the massive herds had congregated – quite phenomenal to see so many beasts in one place.    We saw 27 lions with him that day – including the two young males who are starring in the new Disney film – see them on the website !

     The following week (sadly after our visitors had left) those herds all moved over to this side of the Reserve and stayed for weeks.  One morning I sat in bed with my coffee and hundreds of wildebeest were running in front of the cottage to the west, they ran past the window at the end of the house and back past the window on the back to the east – it was like sitting in the middle of the Pallio – or a shoal of herring whizzing round – bizarre !

    A lot of activity happens in the night when we are safely tucked up – we often find lion and hyena prints – we currently have a hippo visiting – and a porcupine ate the pot plants on our verandah !

     The wildebeest have moved on now – mostly back to Tanzania but a few of the northern (Loita) migration are still here.  The topi and impala are foaling – there are babies everywhere and as I write the zebra are grazing in front.

     Once a month we need to make the 5-hour trip back to Nairobi for supplies.  Apart from a few local vegetables nothing is available here – but with good freezers and Robin’s ever growing wine cellar we cope ! 

    Our landlord, Ron Beaton, was the instigator of the Olare Orok Conservancy and is very involved  with the OOC Trust.  It has been fascinating to see the work being done to build schools, install clean water to those primary schools so that the children don’t have to walk 6Km a day to fetch it; and the micro-finance projects for the women which give them a source of income – beehives, solar lights,  beading, soon a water purification project and to meet the people involved.  See more about that on www.oocmara.com

     We brought a tellie down with us as Robin didn’t think he could cope with two months and only me to talk to – we had to travel nearly 2 hours to fetch the installer – but even that was a good journey and we came across an albino baboon !     However, as well as Ron and Pauline we do have a few neighbours – so not completely isolated – in fact quite a thriving social life !

     In mid-October we drove down to the coast - crossing through Tsavo East National Park where we stopped overnight at a lodge called Satao – we stopped counting the elephants at the waterhole at 47 …. all at the same time …. In the morning there were millions of quelia – a tiny bird which moves in huge flocks – they perched in two bare-branched trees giving the impression that the trees were in full leaf.  When they swooped down to the waterhole to drink, the elephants took off in fright at this great black swarm.  Another amazing display by mother nature.

    Our house at Watamu was in a wonderful position – perched just above the beach with a glorious pool – lots of fresh seafood – great walks – company from our French friend Anna - the perfect holiday from our usual holiday in the bush. 

     Then a mad dash through Tanzania to get all our permits renewed.

     We are back at Kanga Cottage now, sad to be leaving next week – but glad because we are coming back to the UK for two months, for Christmas, and will hopefully catch up with you at some point.

     However, we already have plans to come back here for February and March and then again from mid-July to October/November – so lots of opportunity for you to visit !

     New photos on the website now – www.tricia-robin.com – remember to click on Photo Album (not Photos) and then on Postcard 11.

     Let us have your news too.

    Lots of love

    Tricia and Robin xxx

    P.S.   Jackson is giving an interview at a Tusk Trust event at the Royal Geographic Centre in London on 18th November (we will be there !) and will be appearing on the Kate Silverton breakfast show on a date around then.

  • Postcard 10
    Hello again,

    We have had such adventures!

    Judy and Jim arrived at Topi House in the Masai Mara at the beginning of June as did Jackson and the whole entourage.     We had fantastic game viewing – leopard in a tree with its kill – but hey – there were also two male lions in a bush just to the left. 

    We saw three male cheetahs drinking at a waterhole – who then went off on a hunt – eventually brought down a warthog – only to have it stolen by a hyena !   We then saw those same three males again in the evening but now they had a girl along!    She became so annoyed at being harassed by them that she jumped up onto our vehicle!   Sat right up there on the back hood – frightened the life out of Judy as she had been standing up in that spot admiring her !   She (the cat) then moved onto another vehicle behind us …. as it got dark the males became emboldened and two of them joined her on top of that car !

    That was the wildlife highlight – of course there were all the usual suspects, lions, elephants and even a few wildebeest and zebras – the very beginning of the migration.    

    Another fantastic day was spent at the graduation ceremony of the Guide School – set up to train Masai to a certain standard for guiding not only in the Masai Mara but now all over Kenya.   This was attended by all the local dignitaries and families of the students – the Masai children danced superbly and Jackson made an impassioned speech urging the parents to allow their girls to attend the school as well.    

    As we had to take our obligatory break from being in Kenya we decided to go to Uganda – somewhere new for us.    It is difficult to put into words how different this country is – the change is palpable as you cross the border – everything is softer – lusher – cleaner – smilier.  There is always a slight edge in Kenya – you lock your car doors, hold tight to your bag – that was missing in Uganda – I have never felt safer.  

    All of the people were doing things – growing, making, learning – I have never seen so many schools and there were streams of children going to and from them at each end of the day – all in their smart school uniforms – so you would get a stream of blue robed kids walking for miles in front of you – then you would reach the school and a stream of identical kids were coming towards you – suddenly they would change to pink and be heading away again then they would change to green – but there hardly ever seemed to be a break in the line.

    It is a country of many landscapes and we saw them all …. Started in Kampala which, like Rome, is built on 7 hills and which overlooks Lake Victoria.   The Nile starts its journey from Lake Victoria at Jinja and our next stop at Murchison Falls National Park follows it to where it flows into Lake Albert as the Victoria Nile and comes out as the White Nile all the way to the Mediterranean.

    At Murchison Falls this great river squeezes through a very narrow gap, producing a magnificent waterfall.     Here we started our hunt for the elusive Shoebill Stork -  a very rare and very strange bird – standing about 4ft tall with a clog for a beak ….. harder to see as it lives in swamps …. We checked from boats and took Brian into some very squishy bits but failed.

    On our way back South we stopped in the Budongo Forest where I set off looking for chimpanzees – just me and a lady ranger – had a great walk but only had a fleeting glimpse of one male chimp.

    Then to Fort Portal, the main hub in the West – sits at the edge of the Ruwenzori Mountains – the legendary Mountains of the Moon.    Met some lovely people – became honorary Dutchmen for the World Cup as the guesthouse we were in was owned by same.    Stayed at Ndali Lodge which sits perched on a ridge between two crater lakes – stunning views all round.    This whole area is so fertile I am sure that if you stuck a stick in the ground you would have a tree within a fortnight !

    Then onto Queen Elizabeth National Park where we camped for the first time – we hadn’t exactly been roughing it up till now ……  we were all of 1 Km away from the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.   We tried again for the Shoebill without success – tried also for the famous tree-climbing lions – again without success …. until …. as we left and drove down the road bordering the Park we spotted one – we snuck back into the Park (our permit was still valid !) drove round the tree, snapped her from all angles and popped back onto the road to resume our journey !  

    On a whim we then drove up into the Ruwenzori to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – home to the mountain gorillas.   I formed a queue of one in the morning at the Park entrance and was rewarded with a cancelled tracking permit – still cost $500 – but what luck !     The luck held and after walking for about 15 minutes up the main track into the forest and then 5 minutes off track up a hill – there they were !    Spent an hour with 13 gorillas – including the silverback and an 18 month old baby …. Just magic !     Did sort of feel one should have worked harder for the experience but as I am incredibly unfit I was very, very grateful that it didn’t take 5 hours.

    Robin couldn’t believe that I was back so soon – neither could the villagers – I had to walk right through and they all thought I had given up and come back early – but I was able to show my Certificate !     The shortest trek ever !

    As it was only 11.30 we packed up the car and left Bohema to drive through the Forest to Ruheja – this was a truly stunning drive through virgin forest – up and down mountains – the road varying from brilliant to horrendous – we climbed to over 8200ft – at one point it took us 2 hours to cover 17 miles.   The scenery was astounding and the trees and foliage amazing.

    The next day brought us to another scenic spectacle – Lake Bunyoni – in a cleft of the mountains just north of the border with Rwanda the lake is scattered with little islands – each inhabited – most with a red-roofed church on it’s summit – something very Italian about it. 

    An overnight stop in Lake Mburo Park then back to Kampala - one more try for the Shoebill the next morning in the Mbamba Swamp and at last success !!!!   Not one – but two !!    We got very close to one by virtue of the boatman getting out of the canoe and pushing us through the lily pads.   It really is one of the weirdest creatures !

    We found a haven of peace on the shores of Lake Victoria in Andrews Farm – a gem of a place, usually reached by boat but we needed to take the car – the last part of the road was really just up a goat track !     But there we were – just us with our own flock of pied kingfishers (about 12) as well as open bill storks, crowned cranes, a pair of resident fish eagles and the lake shore.  Heaven !

    Now we are back in Nairobi, in our little cottage in the grounds of Ian’s restaurant Talisman – it’s very nice having a wine bar and jazz club on your doorstep !    We are madly shopping and getting prepared for our two months at Kanga Cottage on the edge of the Masai Mara.     We still have space for visitors should you like to join us – we are there until 10 October – just let us know !

    Take care all,

    Lots of love

    Tricia and Robin xxxxx

  • Postcard 9
    Such a lot has happened since Postcard 8 !

    In mid-February we went off to Tanzania, arrived in Arusha in a mega-downpour – the road was literally a river – met up with Sue - a friend of my brother.   You couldn’t hope to find someone with so many contacts and such determination to sort us out – within a day she had found us a house to live in, introduced us to half of Arusha, had us round for dinner and continued to find all sorts of houses we could have long term !   A veritable whirlwind.

    Had our first theft here – whilst driving slowly in traffic and over speed bumps through the centre of town some young boy ran up my side of the car and snatched the glass out of the wing mirror !    It cost us $50 for a replacement – he probably got $1 for it - I would have given him $10 to leave it alone.  We now have tape around the edges of the mirrors…..

    Got to watch the Six Nations  Rugby in various places – tried at the local sports club – had big competition from South Africans wanting to watch the Super 14s – so they set up a screen outside for the rest of us – problem was it was raining and the wind kept blowing the screen over !    Determined to see the last day we checked in to a proper hotel, with guaranteed satellite TV and a back-up generator  to cover any power cuts (frequent in Arusha) – also had great curries from room service – so $200 well spent !           

    We tried to see as much of Northern Tanzania as the weather would allow - went to Olivers Camp in Tarangire and another serious downpour meant we couldn’t get out the next day but we only got stuck in the mud once the following day !   Day trip to Lake Manyara – lovely.   Two night trip to Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti – disaster struck when we were on the floor of the Crater – we discovered a crack in our front axle and were leaking oil badly – had to limp up the crater wall (very steep, hair pin bends etc) – called into Ngorongoro Crater Lodge where we knew they had a workshop – of course it has to be the most expensive lodge in the Park – but absolutely fabulous !   We got a special rate because of our circumstances (and the fact it was end of season and they were not full …) where they welded us back together.  However we never made it to the Serengeti – so will have to go back for that/

    Visited Dutch veg grower Yoka’s huge farm on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro with three 1950s houses in need of refurbishment, called my Mother to wish her happy Mothers Day from there – quite surreal to be standing looking at the volcano and using a mobile to speak to England !

    Wonderful exhibition by Pam Carr – a Zambian artist – bought a picture of wild dogs – embroidery on silk ….. I know, we don’t have a house to put it in – but it isn’t very big so we thought we could hang it in our tent or from our front mirror !    Now of course it is in a container back home – we’ll get to see it one day !    Also tempted by some alleged originals by a Tanzanian artist TingaTinga – but Robin questioned their provenance and drew the line at those !

    We were due to fly home on the first day of the BA strike and were able to change our tickets to a week later so we headed off to the coast – first to stay in Capricorn Beach Cottages at Pangani – lovely place but not a great beach – here we bumped into a Swiss couple – Karl and Edith who teach at the University in Moshi – and whom we had met earlier at Yoka’s farm !   Then we went across the creek back to the Tides which has a wonderous beach with a local village next door – amazing to see the children walking to school and back every day along the shore.

    Back to Nairobi to leave our stuff with Ian and Sharly (they really do put up with so much from us !) and the car in storage next door where it would also be re-welded to make sure all is secure.

    Home to London – home for the last time – as we were really packing up the house and selling it to Susy …… 32 years of accumulated treasures …… very hard to dump so much – but so liberating now the deed is done !   The ‘house’ is now in a 20ft container near Salisbury, the Mercedes is in a store near Swindon with two suitcases in it – one winter, one summer european clothes and everything else is in a Landcruiser in Africa ….. that’s us, proper gypsies now !

    Had a disastrous week in the Cotswolds – weather was appalling (May Bank holiday – remember that  - 4 degrees and a north wind ?!) and the accommodation was not as expected which didn’t go well in our stressed out state.

    Hopped up to Scotland via Viv in Cheshire (lovely to see you and meet the children) – the intention was to have 10 days with Joyce in Edinburgh and travel around … then BA announced another series of strikes – our return flight fell right in the middle of it and as we had to be back here within 3 days of our potentially cancelled flight – we once again changed our dates – this time to leave before the strike started.    So we callously abandoned Joyce and our other plans, dashed back to London to stay in Patrick and Dietmar’s ‘granny flat’ – gorgeously just outside the gates of Richmond Park – so a home from home.    The Isabella Plantation in the Park was at it’s finest, bluebells, azaleas, camellias – the lot !

    Arrived back in Nairobi on 17th May without a plan other than to go to the Masai Mara on 3rd June.  They have had very heavy rains this season and it is still raining (Robin found a frog in his shoe one morning !)  Thought we might go North to Mount Kenya or West to Uganda – but the heavy rains had turned all those areas to mud – could have rented places but not have been able to go anywhere – the rains had just started at the coast so also not a good idea – so we went to Thailand for a week – like you do !!

    Stayed in fabulous pool villas at Evason Phuket and Hideaway Yao Noi (thank you John) – glorious luxury – this was just the R&R we needed – I know you all think we are permanently on holiday – but we really did need a holiday from our holiday and this was perfect ! 

    Back in Kenya now,  went down to Lake Magadi on Monday for the ‘Rhino Charge’ – a rally to raise money for a rhino fence around the Aberdare Mountains – it was incredibly hot – several of the competitors had broken down and one or two spectators had got stuck in the lake as they just couldn’t resist driving over the salt crust !

    We drove down to the Masai Mara yesterday, met up with Jackson who led us to Topi House where we stayed in February with Joyce and Audrey (see it on the web) and where I am now writing this whilst being heavily distracted by the view and Robin informing me that he can see an elephant. Jim and Judy are joining us on Sunday for a week – but that will be a whole new story !

    And after that ….??  Well, we don’t have a plan yet – but I expect we’ll make one over the next couple of weeks.

    Do write and let us have your news – we really, really to want to hear from you !

    Lots of love

    Tricia and Robin xx

     

  • Postcard 8
    It has been a very long time since Postcard No 7!

    We went back to London in November with the intention of sorting out the house for letting - but in a mad moment (later considered 
    properly) we decided to sell it!   We are selling to a friend so we know it will be well looked after - the process is underway as I write.
     
    The winter in the UK was fabulous - real snow and freezing cold.  Wonderful walks in Richmond Park, the country at a standstill - 
    although we only had about 6" at most both of our families did get snowed in.   We had great trips to Edinburgh and to Paris.
     
    When we came back to Kenya at the beginning of February it was all rush rush to get Brian back on the road.  She had been serviced 
    whilst we were away but was in need of new tyres - we had so many punctures in two of them that they were not repairable.   So we bit 
    the bullet and spent a fortune on 6 all singing, all dancing new tyres - yup - we have new wheels on our wagon!
     
    Our dear friends from Scotland, Joyce and Audrey (82 and younger) came out to join us for a safari.   We flew down to the Masai Mara where we  
    were met by Jackson (of Big 9at Diary fame) who cosseted us for 3 days in Topi House (check it out on the web).
     
    Within 10 minutes of landing we had found a leopard on the ground - after a while she very obligingly climbed a tree where the remains of 
    her kill were stashed.   This was Olive - one of the 'Jackson 5'. Towards the end of our stay we came across a new leopard - one Jackson 
    hadn't seen before - we named her Joyce!
     
    As always in the Mara there was something new and fabulous at every turn.   The ladies were overwhelmed and it was good for us to be with 
    people who found such wonder and excitement in everything as it is so easy to become blasé about the game.
     
    We then dragged them off to a house overlooking Lake Naivasha - beautiful, comfortable place called Karuru Tuu - with views across the 
    lake.   We relaxed here - they needed it - two old ladies out of  frozen Scotland travelling to Nairobi over 2 days via Dubai and  
    catapulted into the burning sun and straight into the safari routine of up at 6 - back at noon - out at 4 - back at 7 !   We were tired - 
    they were exhausted!
     
    So we relaxed with just one day trip to Nakuru National Park where we saw their famous flamingos as well as white rhino.
     
    They then left to continue their holiday in South Africa while we packed up all of our stuff and are now in Arusha in northern Tanzania.  
    We are busy checking out what's what and have a very good contact who knows everybody!    In a few days we plan to head off to the 
    Serengeti to see the migration from this side.
     
    On 27 March we'll be back in London for a month to (hopefully) finalise the sale of the house and pack up and store our stuff (over 
    30 years of accumulated stuff!).   Then we'll be homeless - and free - to go wherever the mood takes and so see what mischief we can get up 
    to!
     
    Have a look at the new photos on the website www.tricia-robin.com - the leopards and other game and even people!
     
    Let us have your news.
    Take care
    Lots of love

    Tricia and Robin xxx 

  • Postcard 7
    Sorry it’s been so long – but we have covered an enormous amount of ground since the last postcard …….

    We didn’t get the ‘lunar rainbow’ over Victoria Falls as it was thick cloud and showers – any anyway there was no water in the Zambian side of the Falls – you could actually walk across the rim !

    But whilst in Livingstone we did find ‘probably’ the best pizza in Africa – in a restaurant called Olgas – it’s run by an Italian NGO and has a real stone oven – and a real Italian pizza chef !  However Guiseppe is more than that – they run a wonderful project training orphans and disadvantaged youths – they have an enormous school taking 140 16-22 year olds – training in catering, plumbing, carpentry, tailoring, brick laying etc – all the staff at the restaurant have come through the school (a bit Jamie Oliver) and all the profits from there go to the school.    In the two weeks we were there we probably had pizza for lunch on 10 days !    (It had the added attraction of free wifi – which mostly worked !).

    The road to the Lower Zambezi was interesting – it took 2 days and the track we were faithfully following on our ‘Tracks 4 Africa’ GPS map suddenly wasn’t there any more – it had fallen into the river !     The camp at Chiawa was beautiful – we were thoroughly spoiled and given the best room (thank you Chris for putting in a word !)   The game was fantastic including a porcupine in broad daylight – sadly the tsetse flies were also plentiful !

    We took the lesser known route out of the park to the Mandara Gate – it took 6 hours to do 85 miles of very steep climbs and descents and we met the one other vehicle on the road on the very worst of these !    Robin drove all that bit – it only took me 1 ½ hours to do the next 100 miles on the tar road !

    Two days later we arrived in the South Luangwa National Park – our intention was to camp at Flatdogs – but they were not allowing camping until November …. their offer of a large Meru tent with en-suite (outside) bathroom pitched right on the river bank was accepted with alacrity despite costing US$100 a night rather than the $10 we had expected to pay – it also had an electric fan which clinched the deal as it was over 40 degrees in the afternoon.    The tent was shaded by a sausage tree – the fruit of which is the favourite snack of hippos – who could be heard all through the night chomping outside and watched in the dawn as they sauntered back to the river.    

    This is one of the nicest parks to drive yourself around – they do have the best guides in the area and I am sure we didn’t see half of what was there – but the joy of finding your own pride of lions, finding elephants sleeping in the afternoon and a young teenager being thoroughly scolded by a couple of bulls ……  we also spent a couple of hours watching a pride of lions who were strung out along the main road – other vehicles came and went – but we were the only ones who knew that all 9 of them had disappeared into one bush – and were still there when we came back in the evening !

    We had a very nice evening with Kate and David Wilson of Kapani Lodge together with Adrian and Gid Carr – Adrian is the son of the legendry Norman Carr who pretty much founded the South Luangwa National Park.    We were late getting there as there were elephants in the road ……   not an excuse you can use in Putney !

    We crossed into Malawi on 19 October – probably the easiest border crossing of all time – except I got into trouble for opening the border gate to allow Robin to drive through – well it was half open anyway – lots of people were walking backwards and forwards through it – I thought the Customs man had said ‘someone’ would come to open the gate and as there was no-one there I did it – what he had actually said was that ‘he’ would come to open the gate – I did suggest that Robin reversed back through to the Zambian side and that he could then open the gate for us …… I was thoroughly chastened and threatened with a fine.

    Malawi is a tiny country that has just about every kind of landscape you can imagine ….  stunning lake shore – white sand and turquoise water one day – grey waves with ‘white horses’ and spray the next !    Mountains with seriously twisty roads and the top of the Nyika Plateau could be Scotland with pine trees and wind swept hills and glens.   In between fertile, fertile ground growing coffee, tobacco, bananas and mango trees with fruits hanging like bunches of grapes.  Absolutely awesome.  It is also full of people – hardly anywhere along the road is there not some form of habitation.

    We met up with Simon Cousins in the capital Lilongwe – he had guided us many times in the South Luangwa – so got good local information from him.     We also met a young British family with four tiny children at the lakeside – he is a doctor working in Malawi – we met them again in more serious circumstances – the wheel had come off their car high on the Nyika Plateau - bolts just sheared straight through – fortunately there was a truck passing and the helpful African road gang changed the wheel for them but had to share out the bolts from their other wheels to put the spare on – we then followed them to the lodge in case any further mishap occurred.

    Crossing into Tanzania brought further surprises scenery wise – more beautiful mountain passes – more fertile abundance – glorious.  We camped on a coffee plantation just outside Mbeya - we were the only people there except for the local gospel singers who were filming a video – lots of swaying hips, tapping toes and deep voices !

    It took us an hour to drive through Mbeya in the morning – mad coach drivers, huge lorries – completely crazy.   Then we had to pull right off the highway because the President and his cavalcade were coming down the road – at least 20 Landcruisers came along, 3 abreast, some with mounted guns !!

    There were serious roadworks along this stretch of the TanZam Highway – several times we had to stop and wait half an hour for the convoy coming from the other direction – but this meant lots of fun with the local vendors trying to sell fruit, water and all sorts to us, the busses and the lorry drivers.     One section, the road up to the town of Iringa, was particularly scary – a very twisty steep incline with no barriers and no road surface …..

    We stopped at the stone age site of Isimila where (apparently) more stone age tools have been found than any other site in Africa (possibly the world…) – the guide said it would take about 40 minutes to walk the site and through the mini ‘Arizona’ – one and a half hours later we were, puffing, sweating and very red from walking in the sandy riverbed in the late morning sun …

    Stopped for a couple of nights in the Mikumi National Park – the highway goes straight through it – our lodge was only 1Km from the road.    Very good game around the waterhole, pesky tsetse flies everywhere else !      Had a nasty puncture at around 6.30 with the sunset – in the game park – had no choice but to change the tyre – but it gave us our first opportunity to use the air-jack !

    Another all-day drive took us to the coast at Pangani – we were now back at the Indian Ocean where we started (in the Maldives) in January ….. or Lamu in February if you prefer.    On the drive here we were stopped for speeding …. Yes, Brian was speeding !    Well, going over 30Km …..  we paid up but Robin made the policeman fill out all the forms before giving them the money.  We were also stopped twice more by the police on this stretch of road and it was suggested that money changed hands.   In the whole of our journey to date we had never been asked for a bribe …..  and nor have we been since – obviously a local custom.

    The road from Pangani up to Tanga and the Kenya border was really bad – dirt in most  places – as soon as we crossed into Kenya the road was tarred – the whole place more prosperous and suddenly everything was available again – including the Blackberry signal !

    After a few days at Diani – staying in a cottage at Forest Dream – which has the most magnificent swimming pool – and eating glorious seafood - we went off up the coast to Kilifi to visit Sam and Zak whom we had met in Lamu in February – we had a very relaxing time playing trains and splashing in the pool (Zak is only 4 !).

    Drove through the Tsavo West Game Park – found ourselves on a road that was closed from the bottom end (but not the top) so got the chance to practice some very off road manoeuvres in order to get back onto the main route.      Had an interesting moment when crossing the lava flow – I could hear the front tyre ‘puffing’ so got out to look and one of our plug repairs had come out – so I pressed both thumbs over the hole and yelled for Robin to get another plug – this took a while as he had to undo all of the back to get at the repair kit and it was very, very hot out there – we got it fixed and only lost about 2lb tyre pressure – which was just as well as the compressor had packed up that morning !

    On to Amboseli where we stayed at a not-yet-open lodge called Tawi – beautiful place, wonderful cottages with a view of Kilimanjaro with your morning coffee, very clever waterhole and swamp which attracts all of the game.    There has been no rain in this area for about 3 years – it is a dustbowl and what animals remain are very, very thin – one day there was rain all around us but not on us …..  it will come…. hopefully soon.

    After 20,000 miles we arrived in Nairobi, emptied Brian – filled up every corner of Ian and Sharley’s house with our stuff  – put car in storage – flew home - and here we are until beginning of February !! 

    New pics on the website www.tricia-robin.com but look in ‘Photo Album’ rather than Photos just to get the new ones.

    Send news – by phone or email – hope to see many of you whilst we are here.

    Lots of love, 

    Tricia and Robin xxxxxxx


  • Postcard 6

    Here we are again – or rather here we are somewhere else – as we are now in Zambia!

    We returned to Maun in Botswana at the beginning of August, back to our little cottage – it was more like going home than going home had been ……   we threw a curry lunch party on the Sunday …. lovely sitting in the garden – the tandoori chicken on the fire and lots of cold beer – oh – and a gaggle of friends and neighbours – and large sons of neighbours and their friends !     Good fun and still lots left over to go into the freezer for ‘travelling supplies’.

    Keith – the tomato man – was there and very kindly offered more tomatoes – so yet another marathon cook-up – but those pasta sauces have already come into their own !

    We got our fishing trip to Shakawe with Drew – packed up our camping gear and his boat and off we went – Robin had never towed a boat before – so another new skill learned.    Just as well I wasn’t relying on them to catch supper …. They got curry one night and pasta another !      I spent my days on the banks of the Okavango watching birds, otters, the odd crocodile and not much reading of a book.    Lovely.

    Now we have run out of time in Botswana – we have also put on hold the application for residence as the bureaucracy has gone quite mad.  (We have since learned that certain requirements have been dropped – so we may try again next year).

    Our commission to update/research the Caprivi region for the next edition of the Bradt Guide to Namibia expanded to include ‘the Triangle’ and the Etosha Regions.    We had 27 nights, staying in 25 different lodges !     We drove 2311 miles - well Robin did – I was allowed a couple of ‘goes’ !     But then I did all the typing – so a fair division of labour.     The work was more time consuming than we had anticipated – visiting 5 or 6 lodges in a day also meant editing existing book entries or – in the case of new or completely refurbished places – writing whole new entries.   By the end of the day it was all a blur …..  but once we got into the swing of it we had a lot of fun.

    We stayed at some beautiful places – notably Onguma Plains Camp – The Fort just outside Etosha National Park – where we watched lions at the waterhole from the comfort of our bed – this lodge has been built to resemble a Moorish fort – with water running through the public areas to cool it and the individual mini-fort rooms strung out either side; Susuwe Island Lodge on the Kwando River for it’s beautiful room and plunge pool set in your own deck – had elephants in the reeds just there in the morning; and the new government camp on Etosha Pan called Onkoshi – a fabulous location right on the edge of the pan – nothing but flamingos for 120km – lovely rooms – sadly marred by huge clouds of little flies (rather like beige mozzies but thankfully not of the biting kind).    There we met a very nice American family and celebrated Ruby’s 11th birthday with a whole raft of giraffe !   (I believe the proper term for a group of giraffe is a jenny.)

    Not all places were as luxurious as these – plenty of reed and thatch huts - but I think we can honestly say that we only had one disastrous night – a supposedly luxury camp – but with no sheets on the bed being only one problem – an oversight that was blamed squarely on us as we had asked to change rooms !!!!!

    Our two camping interludes were both cancelled – 3 days at Etosha because it was just soooooooo hot – we upgraded ourselves from a camping pitch to an air-conditioned room !     We were also supposed to explore a little known game reserve called Mamili – where the Kwando and Linyanti Rivers meet which is the opposite bank of one of the best game areas in Botswana – but the amount of water in the area has made the park pretty much inaccessible.   Fortunately Susuwe Lodge came to our rescue and let us have a guides room for a couple of nights.

    Etosha was a very different place from when we visited in April – then there was water everywhere – now it was dry and white – the bushes along the roads looked as if they were rimed in frost and the ground could have been covered in snow ….. but here it was fine white dust and salt !     It was so dry that there were also bush fires in places.  The only water was in the few waterholes and so the game was much more concentrated – we saw lions almost every day – and hundreds of elephants – as well as all the plains game.

    We eventually had to leave Namibia on 23 September as the town of Katima Mulilo had absolutely not one bed nor camping pitch  !  This really is a frontier town – right at the tip of the Caprivi Strip at its border with Zambia.

    So here we are now – holed up in a 3 bedroom cottage right on the banks of the Zambezi River – just 20km west of Victoria Falls – and looking after ourselves.   We are so pleased not to have to have yet another supper of butternut soup followed by kudu steak as we had at so many lodges…… not bad to start but after the 4th or 5th time …….

    Shopping in Zambia is not as easy as either Botswana or Namibia – the choice is not there and the prices are much higher – we are not sure we could live here full time – but would certainly rent this little house again.   This is the house we had originally planned to spend a month in around June – when we turned round and went back to Botswana !  

    I am sitting on the ‘stoep’ looking at the river, surrounded by birds and listening to the strains of the English Patient - Robin is off fishing so having a ball - and this weekend is a full moon – so we will go down to the Falls and hope to see a ‘lunar rainbow’ ….

    We have then booked ourselves 3 nights in Chiawa a lovely lodge in the Lower Zambezi National Park as a treat before setting off on the very long journey up to South Luangwa and on into Malawi, Tanzania and eventually Kenya – only 6 months later than planned !  More about that next time ….

    New pics are on the web now – www.tricia-robin.com – have a look – and keep your news coming back this way please !

    Lots of love

    Tricia and Robin xxx

    P.S.   He’s back from fishing and has caught a beautiful 3kg bream – perfect for supper …… sorry Drew, wish you were here !!!!

    P.P.S  Had heavy rain last night – only the third time it has rained since we left home !

  • Postcard 5
    For most of the time since our last postcard we have been living in Maun – the town servicing the safari industry in the Okavango Delta – a town which

    appears to be full of the kindest most helpful people in Africa!

    We arrived with an introduction to Drew and Marylin and were immediately invited to stay - we took advantage of their hospitality for 10 days so I offered to cook their supper each evening - it became a bit of a challenge to come up with meals that they could not have conceivably have eaten in Maun– convincing them that loin of pork braised in milk was actually going to be delicious was a hard one- I have to say Drew was pretty keen for us to stay on as the cooking reverted to him!

    Part of Drew’s land has been given over to a tomato farmer and it was thought that it would be a good idea to let me have all the mis-shapen or soft toms – have you ever tried finding things to do with 20 Kilos of tomatoes all at once ?!    All the freezers are now full of pasta sauces and curries.

    But they have taken us under their wing and Drew seems to know absolutely everybody and so has been a huge help.  We are very much looking forward to going up to Shakawe with him on our return to go fishing – well Robin is very much looking forward – I shall be cooking again!

    Since we couldn’t stay there for ever we have found a lovely little one bedroom cottage on the outskirts of Maun which is owned by Shane and Ann Catrin – a delightful couple – Shane is very into his veggie garden and into cooking – so we have access to wonderful fresh salads and herbs and I am busy exchanging recipes with him.

    The day we moved into the cottage was the first day of a rare event of heavy rain and cold in June …… the most rain to fall for 88 years ….. and it was really cold – a bit like March in London.    Thankfully it only lasted about 4 days and we now have the sunshine back – but it did leave the roads in a bit of a mess.

    We filled our time by doing some research for the Bradt Guide – we know Chris McIntyre who writes the guides and had reported back to him some new information found on our own travels so he and his editor (also Tricia) had us track down such vital information as the price of a hamburger and a taxi in Maun but then sent us back up the Panhandle to check out that side.  It was great fun – we got into places we would not normally have visited – little nooks and crannies.

    We also got to go to Guma Lagoon – a place we had tried to visit on our way back into Botswana but there was so much water it was almost inaccessible and the fishing was reported to be lousy.   This time there was still a lot of water – Brian got his first swimming lessons (although Robin says it was only a paddle really) and the route was interesting to put it mildly!  

    The major coup was finding the mystical Lake Ngami!   This lake is quite clearly marked as a large blue area on all of the Botswana maps but there are no signposts or roads leading to it.   Editor Tricia had tried to find it earlier in the year without success – the denizens of Maun told us you can’t find it – it’s just acres of thistles encased by impenetrable thorn trees.     Not to be deterred – and having been informed by the existing guide book that the south side of the lake was good for birding we set off to find the south shore ……. checked and back-tracked town several tracks until we found one that appeared to be heading in the right direction – however after about an hour that turned further south and away from where the lake should be.     After another hour we found ourselves in the town of Sehithwa on the north shore!    

    We headed back up the main road towards Maun and remembered that somebody had mentioned a white car door hanging in a tree on this road and that if you turned right there you would find the ‘lake’.     Sure enough after about 1 Km down a track we found acres of thistles ….. but no water.      Over the next 3 weeks and the unseasonal rain the water started coming, heading towards the lake – so we went back again and yes – there is water in Lake Ngami for the first time in years!

    Another little side trip was made to the Makgadikgadi Pans – these are some of the largest salt pans in the world and have no landmarks other than a couple of giant baobab trees for miles – a really awesome spectacle.    We met up with Delia and Don (our B&B landlady from Johannesburg) and stayed at Planet Boabab – a rather disneyfied lodge with the most appalling food.     Thank goodness for the majesty of the pans and the sweetness of the Meer cats – the latter would have been more fun if they hadn’t been sitting in a cloud of the most vicious mosquitoes!

    We have been investigating the possibility of getting residence in Botswana and finding somewhere to live in the Maun area - neither of which are getting very far but we will get our application in soon!

    On 13th July we came home!!!     Mostly to take the house back from our sitters who have returned to the States (thank you Paul and Rosemary for looking after the house) and partly to collect documents required to make the above application.      We go back on 31st   (Apologies to anybody we didn’t manage to see – we’ll make up for it at the end of the year.)    We were taken aback at how green everything is here after the sandy colours of Botswana – Richmond Park is a delight. July which is just as well as we seem to have had lunch or dinner with friends and family every day – sometimes both – and we desperately need to stop eating and drinking so much!

    When we get back we will only have about 4 weeks left of our allotted 90 days in Botswana so will have to leave the country – but we will go back into Namibia to do some more research for Bradt on the Caprivi Strip before heading off into Zambia and back on our northbound journey.

    Give Jean a couple of days to get all of the new photographs uploaded then have a look at the website www.tricia-robin.com.

    We are still loving it and would still love to hear your news – however uninteresting you might think it is – it’s nectar to us out there on our lonesomes!

    Lots of love Tricia and Robin xxxxx

  • Postcard 4
    Have we ever been around since our last postcard ....... so this is a ong one !

    Before heading off to Etosha we had long discussions about camping. The roof tent is a wonderful thing but a pain in the butt if you are in a game park since you want to get up early and head off for a game drive at around sunrise. If you have a roof tent you have to get up at about 5.00 am so that you can pack it (and everything else) away. So we gave in and bought a dome tent as well - then we got a bit carried away and bought an extension to the tent. Now we have two 
    bedrooms, living room and almost a fully fitted kitchen ! But this does mean that we can fall out of bed and into the car easily.

    Etosha was incredible - it is supposed to be a desolate, dry place but because of the recent floods in the area it was a lake ! There were huge herds of springbok and zebra large groups of giraffes and lots and lots of ducks and herons - some bits looked like Norfolk ! We did however also see several black rhino - 5 at the camp waterhole one evening and a very unusual pied rhino one day (see photo on the website)! He had been wallowing in one particular pan which was full of very fine sand and clay - we watched an elephant here the previous day and he appeared silvery - could have been china clay ! There were also the rare black faced impala - apparently only around 2000 exist and I think we saw at least half of them.

    We were in the Etosha Park for about 10 days and had decided not to rush from pan to pan as everyone else was doing - but just to sit at one waterhole for ours and see what came by - we were rewarded by all sorts of interesting behaviour - gemsbok fighting, kudu mating, male impala fluffing up their tails and pronking around, kori bustards coming to drink with their knees bending backwards ...... at one time we had 17 eland, a kudu bull, 2 springbok, 3 impala, 2 giraffes, 2 
    wildebeast, 4 zebra and a family of warthogs all drinking at the same time !

    The campsites were varied - Halali had only one really decent pitch which was occupied when we arrived but we managed to 'move house' into it the next day ... a couple of South African families were moving into it as we were packing up to leave ! I doubt that it was ever empty for more than 10 minutes !

    We then drove across to the Caprivi Strip and Popa Falls (which is not a waterfall but a set of rapids). We had to fill up with fuel at Divundu and it was one of those really slow pumps - which if the guy squeezes too tight will cut out - bear in mind that we were taking on around 200 litres of diesel you will understand that we were there for an hour ! Nearly caused a riot as they only had two pump attendants and we had one of them !

    We spent a couple of nights around there and were rewarded by magnificent sunsets (photo on web).

    We crossed seamlessly into Botswana - having eaten or disguised all our meat as you can' take it cross border - however we only had a cursory inspection - although we had no red meat on board by then.

    En route to Maun we spent the night Tsodilo Hills - the home of the Gods according to the Bushmen - we were the only people there and there is a really serene feeling about the place - it was a full moon and it was quite special as it came up over the Male Hill - so bright you could read a book. We had a guide come to us at 7 in the morning so that we could see the rock paintings on the Female Hill in the cool of the morning.

    In Maun we stayed at the house of Dave and Petra who very kindly offered it us as they were working in Scotland. It was lovely being in a 'normal' situation - with a real bed, cooker and washing machine and even a pair of soppy labradors for company. Thank you Dave and Petra !

    Did all the maintenance things - hair cuts - car serviced - found a secret stash of real Parmesan and now know that you can get risotto rice in Maun !

    Then we set off on safari again this time to Moremi National Park which is in the Okavanga Delta - it was wet ! The game was scattered but it is such a beautiful place - we almost came unstuck whilst staying at Xakanaxa as the route I had planned back from our evening game drive was blocked about 2Km from home by deep water - so was the next track - and the next - the sun was already setting so we had to turn round and retrace our route (about 10 Km on sand tracks) in the dark. Thank goodness for the GPS. At least we were better off than our Dutch neighbours who had tried to go through the water in the afternoon and got well and truly stuck - apparently so did the next two vehicles who tried it !

    We saw good game on our route from Moremi to Chobe National Park - lots of elephants in the river at Kwai - a lion with a zebra for lunch ! The road here was also covered in water and we couldn't find a way round - fortunately a CC Africa safari vehicle hove into view and the guide showed us the safe route.

    Savuti Camp site has not improved since were last there - it really is a mucky place - but then with elephants wandering through all the time it can't be helped !

    We had the interesting phenomenon of the dance of the head torches here ! Because we were relatively close to the ablution block (the only place there is good shade ...) we were treated to cyclops looming out of the bushes from all directions - usually in pairs - and although always on target on the inbound journey. The return was often erratic as they lost sense of direction !

    My birthday was spent driving 200 Kms from Savuti to the Chobe River - the northern border of Botswana with Namibia. We were prepared for a tough day driving in deep sand - but thanks to a tip about a side route (thank you Brian Gibson) and the fact we set off very early whilst the sand is cold and more compact - we actually did the journey to the Ngoma Gate in 3 hours !

    My birthday cake was our last three squares of Toblerone ! But we followed that with a very nice bottle of rose and another fabulous sunset ..... a tasty plate of pasta (with that Parmesan) and a mixed salad (iceberg comes into its own at this stage !)

    The plain in front of the campsite was once again a lake - although it did recede about 10 metres whilst we were there.It was so cold at night with the wind oming across the water that we slipped into Kasane the next day (about 50 Kms) to buy fleecy pyjamas - OK trackie bottoms - this is Kasane after all !

    The game was either everywhere or nowhere .... lots of elephants (40000 in this park!) and we had an amazing sighting of the very elusive sable - a pair with calf. We even had elephants and a warthog in our campsite !

    Then we had my birthday treat - a visit to Ichingo on Impalila Island at the confluence of the Chobe and Zambezi rivers where Botswana Zimbabwe Zambia and Namibia all meet. We have been several times before and know it well - Robin went fishing (one good tiger fish) and I spent the day lounging on a soft squishy sofa watching the birds and otters and reading my book - having had a delicious hot shower and equally delicious lunch !

    We spent the next day and night on their house boat - a luxurious tub that even has a pool on deck ! It cruises up the Chobe river and because it is Namibian it can moore up opposite the Chobe National Park overnight - so whilst all the sunset watchers have to go home we had the river to ourselves (well plus the four other people on the 
    boat) !

    The drive from Kasane back to Maun has to be on the worst road in Botswana - OK for the first 100Km - then it's potholes all the way - with one stretch literally being potholes with an intricate tracery of tarmac holding them together ...... fortunately the next 300 Km across the Makgadikgadi Pans is an excellent road.

    So here we are back in Maun - checking out the housing scene. Will let you know how it goes !

    Take care - let us have your news - we'd love to hear from you !

    Don't forget to look at the new photographs on the website 
    www.tricia-robin.com
    Lots of love
    Tricia and Robin xxx

  • Postcard 3
    Hello - an awful lot has happened since our last missive .....    we carried on shopping in Johannesburg - poor Delia at Rutland House almost had to give us a bigger room to accommodate all our stuff ! We  

    had to buy everything - it was just like setting up home again.
     
    We eventually got the car from Baillies Off Road on 2nd April (we thought collecting it on 1st April was tempting fate too much even if appropriate !).   That wasn't quite it as we had to go back twice for 
    small niggles - fuel feeder hose leaking - diffs not working - but Stuart did his usual - got out a hammer and hit it and lo .... it all works !
     
    Went down to Stoney Ridge near Ladysmith (300 miles)for a two day course to learn how to drive the beast off road - we discovered that the car knows much more than we do - but we have now learnt how best 
    to use it - as long as you point her right she can do almost anything (thank you John Rich !).
     
    We have christened the car Brian - those of you who are of an age to have followed the Magic Roundabout will understand - Brian is a snail as is our car - it has out home on its back and lumbers along steadily 
    - we did get the Swahili for snail from our mate Jackson in the Masai Mara - it is Konokon - so we alternate depending on how we feel about her at the time !
     
    Now we were ready to start the big journey .....  off we went to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park - a wedge of South Africa between Namibia and Botswana - for our first spot of camping and game watching.      
    The game is there - but as you can only travel along the two main - heavily corrugated - gravel roads your chances of seeing anything are slim - however we did manage to get the main plains game of Gemsbok 
    and Springbok as well as half a dozen cheetahs (not all at once) !  As well as some lovely small stuff (see pics on the website).
     
    Camping is good - the tent is very comfortable - if a little chilly at this time of the year - however that's just an excuse for a cuddle ....   cooking is interesting - I refuse to compromise and am serving 
    up dinners as if we were at home much to the amusement of our fellow campers who have never seen grilled vegetables with Morrocan lamb and couscous,  not to mention grilled tiger prawns with saffron rice, lime 
    chilli and garlic - not to mention the mushroom risotto - but then I haven't mastered the use of the braii !!!
     
    We came through the tiny border crosing at Mata Mata into Namibia without any problems. We are astounded by the scenery in Namibia - can't believe the 
    contrasting terrain we have crossed - from craggy mountain passes to absolutely barren deserts and those stunning red dunes.  We are now here at Swakopmund on the Atlantic Coast where it has been cold and 
    mizzly - just like England.  But yes - this does mean that we have driven right across southern Africa from Durban on the Indian Ocean to here - so now we will start going North starting with Etosha.
     
    Have a look at the improved website (thank you Jean) - there are lots of new photographs - do leave your comments, suggestions and news in the guestbook - we will check it regularly as we can't get emails on 
    the Blackberry here so can only communicate when we can access the web  - which is anytime now that we have a Wideye Sabre satellite phone and internet connection !
     
    Lots of love
    Tricia and Robin xx
       

  • Postcard 2
    Thought we would send an update in case you forget we exist !

    The Landcruiser eventually arrived in Durban on 1st March (a Sunday) - we were like a couple of kids at Christmas - watching the ship come in and unload - sadly that was all the excitement as we then had to wait for 3.5 days for it to clear Customs ! But Durban is a very laid back place and we had a very nice B&B (Bon Ami on 9th).

    Then to Johannesburg - without any air conditioning in the car as it is shot to hell (not something we were able to test when we bought it at the beginning of December in Stockton-on-Tees !). We checked out all of the people who do the safari conversions and have given it to Baillies Off Road who specialise in Landcruisers. Stuart Baillie actually does the work himself and is passionate about it - it is very difficult stopping him putting in storage (in the drop down boot door !) And extra water tanks under the running boards ("the water gets nice and hot there so you can get a shower if you have one of these pumps") as it is we are putting a huge fuel tank which will give us nearly 300 litres ! As well as a 60 litre water tank, fridge/freezer, roof tent, bull bars, two spare wheels on hinged gates at the back - not to forget the awning that rolls out from the side of the vehicle and the exterior lights ! We"ll try to send a photo when it's done which should be mid to end next week !Naturally all this is costing more than budget - but not that much more when you include the air conditioning and a couple of other mechanical bits.

    So whilst we waited for the work we shot off across to the other site of the country (in a hire car) where we met up with our dear friend Joyce (80 years old from Edinburgh !) and her sister Cathy who lives here. We stayed at Augrabies Falls The worlds 4th largest waterfall ? - quite spectacular and then went into Namibia to see the Fish River Canyon (worlds 2nd largest canyon) - quite majestic - but unbearably hot - we stayed at the Canyon Road House (look it up very quirky) - lovely spot but no aircon and truly awful food - so we made our escape ..... We had lots of fun with J and C.Now we are back in Jo!urg (Rutland House in Craighall Park. - very nice) and madly shopping for all the stuff for the car - so far we have 2 chairs, a duvet and a few pots - so quite a way to go !So a bit later than anticipated (and just in time for the school holidays !) We should be ready to go this time next week !

    Hoping that all is well with you - do let us have your news .....

  • Postcard 1
    Hello - just thought we would let you know what we have been doing during our first month away.

    The Maldives were gorgeous as usual but it was very windy and the visibility not great for snorkelling - however we were spoilt rotten on Soneva Fushi !

    We left there a few days early so that we could meet up in Nairobi with the owner of a couple of bush camps that needed managing later this year.

    That all went a bit pear shaped because Robin had an accident which resulted in a very deep gash just above the heel. Had to take him to hospital for stitching - two rows - one inside one out. All stitches out now and wound 95% healed.

    We did get to visit the bush camp in the Masai Mara (in the mud - not having great luck with the weather !). Whilst there we did get to have lunch with Jackson - our Masai friend of Big Cat Dairy Live fame which was lovely. The job situation however is still hanging in the air until the bookings pick up - so we still don't know.

    We are however also talking to a company who hire out safari camping vehicles who want someone to return the vehicles to base after they have been on a one way trip say from Windhoek in Namibia to Livingstone in Zambia.

    We still have an option on renting a cottage on the Zambezi for one month or three if we want !

    Our Landcruiser is due to leave Southampton today so should be in Durban by the end of the month.

    So here we are in Lamu, a small island off the North Kenya coast - muslim/swahili - tiny narrow alleys only wide enough for 2 donkeys to pass - no vehicles - all very sruffy - very grubby - but so, so laid back ! Look it up on the web - we are using my brother's rooftop flat about 4 minutes walk from the Peponi Hotel ......... It's great for the breeze to keep us cool in the 80 odd degree heat !

     

  • Cras interdum
    sed placerat scelerisque magna