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Welcome to Oz

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

When you sit for 16.5 hours at a stretch on a jet flying through what seems like endless night, flying with the turning of the earth such that it stays dark almost the entire time, you can do many things. First, of course, you could choose to suffer, because you're in business class wedged in with not much room to spare. But suffering is relative, and this is not real suffering, but imagined suffering. You're on a jet, coming from two weeks' safari in South Africa, for Pete's sake. You are not suffering.

Second, you could sleep. You try. No, you can't sleep, bolt upright in an aisle seat. Scratch "sleep." Let it go.

Next, you could read. You have a good book, but everyone around you is sleeping, or trying to, and it seems rude to turn on your light. Hmm.

OK. What about watching movies? Well, you could do that, but after 1.3 of them, you're done partaking, because you'd rather be doing something productive than weeping over the plight of a young Irish immigrant, or trying to figure out what's so great about The Big Lebowski (dumb guys screaming at each other, far as I could tell). Let's face it. You're not equipped to be a movie buff.

I know what. You could edit photos. You can lose yourself for the eight-hour battery life of your laptop, sifting through the incredible images grabbed and saved by your Canon 7D. Yep. That's what you'll do. This is why I lug my laptop wherever I go. It alleviates suffering. It actually makes the flight home  enjoyable!

So I'm going to try something here, picking chunks of photos winnowed in that endless night from the 2016 Zicktrip to South Africa. I'm going to try to keep it short and sweet and let the images do most of the talking. On this trip, I worked with Holbrook Travel to deliver six natural history freaks from America into the capable hands of Lawson's Birding, Wildlife and Custom Safaris for a trip none of us will ever forget.

Our guide for the Cape portion was Lawson's natural history guide Kim Wright, well-versed in flora, fauna and avifauna, and despite being native to South Africa, just as freshly agog as we were at it all. Lovely combination!

First stop for the bleary, weary group was Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens outside Cape Town. It's the perfect anodyne to dark, stressful, cramped, and colorless jet travel--well-lit, soothing, spacious and colorful. You can wander and look and wonder at will. Off we go!

I could not resist this freshly-minted human and its attentive mother doing a photoshoot. And I remembered that particular tilt of the head that says, "I'm done posing for you."

Pulling back for the whole scene...

The late-afternoon sun was setting behind Table Mountain as we staggered up to the protea gardens at the top of Kirstenbosch.

A Karoo prinia, our companion for much of the trip, gave its endless, ringing tzing tzing tzing tzing from an aloe tip.

Cape sugarbirds, a much-sought endemic that depends on protea blossoms for its insect and nectar diet, posed atop enormous protea blossoms. This is a 20" bird, with tail, if you'd like some scale.

Heather flopped down with me to dig the pink Oxalis "weeds" in the lawn. We were definitely not in Pennsylvania any more!

The flopping, which I admit starting, proved contagious, and I knew right off the bat we'd have a lot of fun as a group! Gordon, Heather, Cat and Kate, all in a row, letting their cellphone cameras make the low-angle shots.

Watsonia looks over the Cape Town vista and our very happy campers.

Helmeted guineafowl remains vigilant, and screechy.

Silvertree glows in the late light. 

But there were birds amidst the botanical splendors! Oh! Oh! What was THAT singing in the Melianthus major?

Not a southern dusky flycatcher, like this one...

Not a sleepy spotted eagle owl...

It must have been a southern double-collared sunbird!
Here, plying a fresh pincushion protea for nectar. 

 Sunbirds are rather difficult to photograph, only partly because they're quick-moving. Most of the problem is that direct sunlight creates such high contrast in their reflective plumage that it's difficult to capture their local color. Deep afternoon shade, though, proved the ticket.  This remains one of my favorite photos from the trip. Behold the southern double-collared sunbird, knocking our eyes out as it sings while flashing its rarely-seen armament--candy yellow epaulets!

No, we're not in Ohio any more, and the fun is only beginning! My soul began a joyful inner squeeee! that kept up the entire trip. I occasionally released it out of my mouth, when it all got to be too much.


Awesome! and, you are only beginning. I appreciate the sharing of your camera pictures as well as your word pictures. Thanks for taking all of us along.
Gayla H.


Posted by Gail Spratley September 13, 2016 at 11:15 AM

love the photos - and i think a 3 hour trip is miserable.

looking forward to seeing more. Never seen a pincushion proteus ! wow.

and good bird shots.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Just wonderful that you share this magic! ♥♥

Thank you for sharing your adventures. Love seeing new creatures.

I love that the sunbird looks as if it was made when nature was experimenting with color. From the sharp to the blotted. Stunning!

I think you've been bitten. Having grown up in southern Africa, I believe that Africa gets in your blood and that's it. You never want to leave, even though you must.
I remembered reading the book Out of Africa and thinking--that's it. That's why Africa is such a magnetic draw--we are all yearning for Mother Africa.
Even before I read your paragraphs, I knew the photos were of Kirstenbosch Gardens. It is a most magical park/garden/nature paradise.

Africa seems like a very beautiful place. My wife and I got married last year and would love to explore some new places before we have kids. However, we keep getting caught up in daily life that we forget to actually go out and live. These photos have inspired us to try to go out and do something new. We most likely wont be able to go to Africa, but its a start!

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