A Travellerspoint blog

March 2009

Coastal Adventure :)

15 March 2009

overcast 45 °F

Today we had scheduled a day trip with Coastal Adventures.
Lucky for us we found the pick up spot and before long were headed to a lookout on the cliffs over Howth.
A photo stop was made with views of the lighthouse.
Howth harbor was the next stop – we were promised seals but I didn’t see anything but boats and seagulls.
It was still nice to be out of the city and near the ocean.
From here you can see the Irish eye which our guide explains is a small island that is usually the first thing people see when they fly in to town.
After the Harbor we are taken to Malahide castle for lunch and a tour. The castle area has a big park with flowers and gorgeous trees.
The castle tour took us thru several rooms with gorgeous wall carvings and medieval furniture. It was owned for 800 years by the Talbot family.
During the battle of the boyne all 14 in the family died after breakfast that day.
Beautiful daffodils in park near castle.
Trees on outskirts of park.
This was a lead into our visit to the Battle of the Boyne. This is one of the hugest battles in the history of Ireland. We had a brief walk on the battlefield and a movie, light show and walk around the exhibits.
We were back in town by 1630 and decided to see Marley and Me at the movies. If forgot this was a book about a dog and his family. OF course the movie doesn’t end well for the dog and I was streaming tears. Not really my goal for the movies.
Dinner was at a…..pub again! O’Shea’s was only a block away from our room and served decent enough food. By the time we left they had a band playing Irish music. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay long because we had to be at the airport very early.

Posted by ErinDriver 13:03 Archived in Ireland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Books, Beers and Rugby

14 March 2009

overcast 45 °F

Another plus with this bed and breakfast is the breakfast!! Afterwards we headed down by the pier and passed a monument to the immigrants during the potato famine.
Also along with water was a ship that was nicknamed a coffin ship because so many of the immigrants died. There was not enough food on the ship and hygiene was horrible.
Our route to Trinity college went by lots of cute doors which are famous in dublin.
The story goes that a drunken husband came home and went in the wrong door (back then they were all black). He went to bed with the wrong with whose husband came home and shot him. From then on the women painted their doors a different color so their drunk spouses could find the way home.
The book of Kells was inside the library of Trinity college and displays on 4 pages. The designs by the monks are gorgeous and its incredible how long it would take to do that on calf skin.
After checking out the book we walked around the grounds and came across a rugby game. Supposedly it was Trinity vs. a Paris school. It was fun to see the game up close and learn something about Irish sports.
Daffodils along our walk.
Trinity college
Later lunch was at the Boxty house. Boxties are pancakes with meats rolled inside with gravy. I had chicken and Curt had gaelic. They were expensive but awesome.
Temple Bar area.
Next was a walk past the Ha’Penny bridge (named because it used to cost half a penny to get across).
We walked along the River Liffy to the Guinness Storehouse.
The first few floors teach you about the brewing process and then ends with a beer at the Gravity bar on the 7th floor.
The view over Dublin is beautiful but of course the bar on the Saturday before St. Patricks day is very crowded.
The bar tenders make your guiness with a clover on top.
Unfortunately no sporting events were happening in Dublin this weekend but Ireland vs. Scotland was on tv in the pubs. We scored a table at a pub and had fish and chips which we watched Ireland go for the win.
A pub crawl was on the schedule next but where the limit is 50 people there were about 300 +. Everyone could not even get in the first pub so we gave up that idea and hit another one by ourselves.

Posted by ErinDriver 12:49 Archived in Ireland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

The Big 3-0- In Ireland

Dublin, Ireland

sunny 50 °F

Today is the day I have been dreading – I leave the 20’s and enter the 30’s. For most of today we were traveling to Dublin, Ireland. We got a Ryan Air flight from Frankfurt Hahn and arrived in Dublin airport by 1900. A short bus ride later we arrived at our bed and breakfast, The Townhouse. The place was adorable and very irish with green walls and black carpet with huge roses.
O’Connell Street is one of the main roads in Dublin and that’s where we headed for dinner at Flannagans. I had pizza and french fries to celebrate my birthday :) The place was already crazy for St. Patricks day and everyone was wearing green or St. Patricks day costumes.
Me on the Ha' Penny Bridge.

Posted by ErinDriver 12:47 Archived in Ireland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Last amazing day in South Africa!

8 March 2009

sunny 80 °F

Elephants are the subject of the morning for us at Kwa Madwala Park where they do an interaction and ride.
The park has a boy and girl elephant that were taken from a reserve before they were killed. Their previous home had too many elephants so they were to be killed.
Instead they were trained and live out their lives making customers like us ecstatic. During the night they stay in cages like this one it is resting its leg on.
The guides showed us their keen sense of smell by having us put a shoe or hat in front of the elephant and having her return the items to the right person. The boy showed off his ability to play soccer. The guides had to teach fun games to the elephant while at the same time not getting hurt. Both elephants were teenagers so like to rough house.
THis position is not comfortable for the elephant but it is how the guides get on.
They had one of the elephants lay down so we could see their feet, touch their skin and see the mammary gland.
The animals are trained by giving them food pellets which is like candy for them. The elephants were constantly putting their trunk back for another snack.
THey only have molars to chew their food. THe guides got them to open their mouth so we could see.
Elephant ears have a lot of vasculature because it is their cooling system. They flap the ears to cool the blood.
We got to take a photo with the elephant posing.
When the little show was finished we each got on our elephant and took a ride thru the bush.
The driver guides them by kicking with their heels and a small hooked stick that pulls their skin in the correct direction. Even though the skin feels like a rock it is very sensitive.
The animals are so graceful and it is really not a bumpy ride. It has happened where people fall off which is apparently why we wear the bike helmets.
Next up is breakfast with a cultural interaction with the Swazi people at Matsamo Cultural village. The turn for their area was at the very border of Swaziland. Breakfast was continental with sausage, eggs, pap (ground corn), fruit, etc.
This dance is typical of Swazi people.
After breakfast we were shown around a traditional village where the man has two wives and 25 kids. The guides showed us some of the clothing and the inside of one of their huts.
After the tour was dancing and music. The Swazi people that performed looked as if they were having great fun. The dances included a lot of kicking their legs up past their head and stomping their feet down.
This guy especially enjoyed his part in the show.
THis drummer was taking his job seriously.
The grandfather and grandson.
Of course at the end Genie and I had to go on stage to dance with them which ended up being a good time. It was a fabulous experience. We needed a soda afterwards and just relaxed. The pond by the breakfast location had a crocodile. we were very close so I was able to get his eyes....
and hands....
My expression during the entire trip.
We went on one more drive around Marloth park and found a few elephants to watch. The trip turned out to be a life changing event and the best trip I have ever taken. Thanks to Genie and Andre Retief for a great time.
Back at the lodge we had some time to pack and organize photos before leaving tomorrow :(
One last banded mongoose showed up at their house for photos.
We are planning to check out some houses tomorrow before heading to the airport.

Posted by ErinDriver 10:52 Archived in South Africa Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Hot Air Balloons and Four Wheelers

7 March 2009

sunny 80 °F

Balloons Over Africa wanted us at their site to start the balloon ride at 0500 so it was another early day. It was possible to watch the balloon being set up while having tea and coffee. After a brief safety lesson we get in and the balloon lifts off.
The huge balloon is incredible graceful and despite feeling barely any wind it moved quickly. The birds eye view of the surroundings was magnificent while the sun was coming up.
As the balloon came over the hills it was possible to see the shadow of the balloon and get great photos.
Our expectations were for it to be chilly but it was actually quite warm with the hot air blowing.
Landing was in a nature preserve not far from ostrich, wildebeest, giraffe, and zebras. As the balloon was being repacked the passengers had champagne and dried bananas. Shortly after we were shuttled off to another lodge for a wonderful breakfast of bacon and eggs.
The place was gorgeous with flowers and palm trees.
Curt and I made a quick stop at Gecko lodge to change into our four wheel riding clothes and check out of the hotel. A quick trip into Hazyview rewarded us with some beautiful zebra lamps. They are made of strips of bamboo which is very light weight. The white in the zebra stripes is made from crushed ostrich eggs.
The next activity was to be an hour ride on four wheelers.
It was great fun to be guided thru the macadamia tree field and along streams in the forested areas. The course was difficult with lots of twists and turns but worth the effort.
The garden area also had beautiful flowers
A short drive later landed us in Graskop for lunch. The Harry’s pancake house restaurant served wonderful crepe like pancakes with fruit and ice cream folded in the center. Cinnamon and sugar topped it all off. Another 1.5 hours was spent enjoying the curio shops before driving home.
When we got home and went around the corner of the house this kudu bull was their looking at us.
He is nicknamed Mr. Beautiful and Genie fed him some carrots so we could see his "unicorn" up close.
Dinner at their house seemed to be better than any restaurant we ate in and tonight was no different. Rice topped with sweet and sour pork and pineapple with vegetables and chocolate ice cream. Every night I go to bed here stuffed to the gills.

Posted by ErinDriver 10:32 Archived in South Africa Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Another day in paradise!

6 March 2009

sunny 80 °F

Another beautiful day at Kruger Park shows us the best it has to offer. The most memorable things for today in the park was a couple of rhino, more lions, fruit bats, a heron with babies and a kingfisher eating his fish.
At our first rest stop one of Genie’s fellow guides told us about some lions that had taken down a giraffe earlier in the day and were by the roadside having breakfast.
We hopped in the vehicle and got there as fast as possible. Of course everyone else had the same idea causing a traffic jam.
Luckily for us the jam stopped us right next to a lion on the opposite side of the road.
For at least 20 minutes we sat a few feet away from a tired lion. As we drove past you could see the abdomen of the giraffe was empty and its stomach was intact on the road. It was quite a sight to see.
The lion looks so intense.
He looked at us for awhile and Genie told Curt to put his window up a bit.
Another sighting was a couple of rhino coming out of the bush directly in front of us.
One had a puncture hole in his side, probably from a fight with another rhino. This time their feet were visible and looks like their nails are painted black.
At our lunch stop Genie took us to a veranda where approximately 100 fruit bats were hanging from the ceiling.
Some were asleep but some were busy cleaning their wings or swinging from side to side.
I think this will be my screen saver at halloween!
One of the bird watching areas also delivered for us. A heron was trying to coax its babies out of the nest. They waddled along the branch for a few steps and then rushed back to the nest.
The lily pads looked so peaceful.
THe African Jacana has very long toes so it can walk on the lily pads.
Even the insects here are beautiful.
A kingfisher fed its baby a small fish and we watched as he tossed it around and then swallowed.
A brown snake eagle was hanging out in a tree.
This giraffe was snacking while watching us.
A kudu female was trying to cross the road in front of us.
On one of the rest stops we saw this statue of 2 kudu bulls with their horns stuck together. This sometimes happens with fights. The males get stuck together and both die because they can't eat.
The park is so magical and it is never the same from day to day. It is worth the money to have a guide like Genie who knows the animals and can give you a greater chance to see them. Her love for the animals and her job is evident.
When we were done at the park we took a little road trip to Hazyview to stay at the Gecko Lodge. This was to be closer to our hot air balloon ride the next day. The lodge was adorable and rustic. The scenery was full of plants and flowers. It appeared more like a jungle. Dinner was here with haloumi cheese, pasta for me and steak for Curt. For dessert we shared an apple tart that was to die for. The lodge seems to be taken over by frogs and the night sounds were amazing.

Posted by ErinDriver 11:42 Archived in South Africa Tagged animal Comments (0)

Thursday is the day of the lion!

5 March 2009

sunny 80 °F

The day started with a beautiful sunrise.
It made for beautiful silhoutte photos.
For the rest of my life Thursday will be known as the day of the lions.
I was so excited my hands were shaking when we turned a corner and saw 3 lions near the road. They were in the tall grasses but we were still able to watch them at a close distance and get some photos.
This young male watched us closely before getting up to joing his family.
It was magnificent and a beautiful day.
Today was certainly our lucky day. I also saw my elephant I had been hoping for. In fact he followed us down the road for quite a while.
I think he was a little angry at us for disturbing his snack.
We had to keep backing up the van as he walked toward us
I loved this photo of a bird flying out of the fountain.
Another rarity happened today when we saw six hyenas walking down the road together.
He stopped right next to the van for photos.
This one was curious about us too.
We followed them for a good distance as well.
A tree we passed was full of vultures. They hang out on the dead trees for better viewing.
This picture shows how easily a huge elephant can get lost in the bush.
Zebras often show affection to each other.
Genie took us to a hippo hang out where many were gathered in the river.
One opened his mouth to show his huge teeth and tell the others he was in charge.
After the big one swam away a smaller one tried to imitate him.
Another one rolled over and had his stubby legs out of the water for a second.
Thursday is also elephant day and several showed themselves for photos.
Buffalo is part of the big 5. (Lion, rhino, leopard, buffalo and elephant. The leopard was the only one that alluded us.
We thought these "blonde" warthogs looked funny.
Some more zebras posed for us.
The blue on this lizard was so colorful.
The rhino looked really fat from the front.
We came across a family of elephants at the end of the drive.
On the way home in Marloth Park a family of giraffe crossed the road to chow.
Here was father....
with child.

THis giraffe is very old. They get more bumps on their face with age.
Other sightings were crocodile, squirrel, kudu bull, wildebeest, kingfisher bird and vultures. The day was completed with a rainbow as we arrived home.
Dinner was a traditional South African meal called bobotie. This is a curried beef bake over rice with peas. I couldn’t stop looking at the 352 photos I took throughout the day.

Posted by ErinDriver 09:17 Archived in South Africa Tagged animal Comments (0)

Kruger National Park, South Africa

4 March 2009

sunny 80 °F

The first full day here starts at 0430 but its okay because we’re not at work, we’re on SAFARI!!! Today we go to Kruger National Park in the van. On the way in the dark we see a magnificent giraffe standing in the road. The day was spent driving around the park looking for animals. There are camps around where you can get snacks, drinks, bathrooms and little souvenirs.
One of the stops had an African Scops Owl.
Another had a walkway by the water where we saw another hippo and crocodile floating along.
This monkey looked Curt up and down.
This baby vervet monkey was contemplating how to follow mom over these wires. Eventually she came back to get him.
This giraffe was one of the first animals we saw this morning.
zebra and rhino hanging out together in the shade.
Impalas are concidered the fast food of Kruger park and the M on their backside looks like McDonalds.
It looked like these zebras were kissing.
We visited a busy water hole.
This impala was ready to bolt.
This rhino was wandering thru the bush so we spent some time observing him.
Genie picked out tons of birds including this European Roller.
We had lunch here with the monkeys before moving on for some more wildlife spotting. All in all we ended the day with zebras, Impalas, giraffes, elephants (but not close), rhinos, kudu bull, wildebeest, a leopard turtle, monkeys, crocodile, hippos, and zebras. On the bird side of the house we saw a brown snake eagle, Burchell’s Starling, European rollers, a southern ground hornbill, and saddle billed stork to name a few.

Posted by ErinDriver 08:43 Archived in South Africa Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Marloth Park, South Africa

3 March 2009

sunny 80 °F

So three flights and a day later we arrive at Kruger National Park airport and get picked up by Genie Retief and our driver Frank. She quickly takes us home to their lodge in the bush of Marloth Park. This park borders Kruger National Park. Before we finished the hour drive we had already seen a Kudu bull, buffalo and a giraffe. I love Africa!!!!
Genie had a snack for us waiting of an apple tart and koek sisters which were like hard donuts. A friendly neighborhood warthog came to see if we had any for him. I love Africa!!!!
Before we sat down for too long she had a different Frank there with an open vehicle to do a quick run thru Marloth Park. It was the afternoon but we still saw impala, wildebeest, zebras, giraffe and a few elephants in the distance.

Genie is a birder so she also pointed out lots of beautiful birds.
Zebras roll in the dirt to get rid of parasites and insects.
It is summer so lots of bush and water help the animals stay healthy.
I think the animals are as interested in us as we are them.
Insects can really get on their nerves. This zebra was flicking one off his ear.
We saw these vervet monkeys on our drive thru the park.
As we waited for dinner we were entertained by the Lesser Bushbabies.
The little guys only move around at night and come to the house for their banana dinner.
They are amazing jumpers and grab a banana and hop off before you realize what happened.
After the drive we had a BBQ dinner (braai) which her husband, Andre, prepared on their outside grill. First was little sausages which were amazing even after coming from Germany. I will not be losing weight on this trip because next came a broccoli salad, pork chops and sausages with potatoes. The alcohol continued to flow too – did I mention she had beer and wine on the safari ride! Genie is brilliant! We went to bed fat and happy although I was too excited to sleep!!! :)

Posted by ErinDriver 08:11 Archived in South Africa Tagged animal Comments (0)

From Igloo to Africa

2 March 2009

snow 23 °F

The sleeping bags provide plenty of warmth for a good nights sleep and you wake up to one of the guides giving you a cup of hot tea.
There are toilets there but really no bathroom so brushing teeth and hair would have to wait. Thirty minutes later we were on the final cable car to get to the very peak of the zugspitze for breakfast.
Of course the last 2 days had been warm and beautiful but today was white out conditions. Supposedly from this point you can see into 4 countries but today you couldn’t see the next building over. After a german breakfast we took the gondola back to the train station, the train station back to Garmisch and drove back home. After a couple hours at home for a shower and repacking we were on our way to the Nurnberg airport for our overnight flight to Kruger National Park, AFRICA!!!!!

Posted by ErinDriver 06:17 Archived in Germany Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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