Tag Archives: Travels

“Second gear Papa” – to climb that dune

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Driving through the Namib desert was a great experience, an art which we as “town clowns” do not master. It does not always bring out the best in people, but when you do succeed to cross this sea of sand as a team, after getting stuck many times, it feels like quite an accomplishment. To begin with you have to be patient and take your time to decide which route to take or you might end up in a sink hole. In the glaring light it is difficult to judge depth of field. To drive up a dune in sugary soft sand can take more than a few attempts. But if you stay in the same track and prevent the wheels from spinning,  every run compacts the sand further and finally you reach the top. Then comes the drive down over nearly vertical slopes. The first time I refused to stay in the car. I walked down and watched from below. My heart nearly stopped when I saw the car going over the edge. But the sand seemed to carry it down. It made a muffled sound, like driving through fresh snow, though the temperatures were far from that. The days could be hot with more then 40 degrees Celsius and the nights cold from the winds and the fog being carried in from the ocean. The stunning landscape with its beautiful colors and shapes is full of life with creatures who have adapted to this harsh climate. Little beatles, toktoks, lizards, snakes, scorpions, they all leave their tracks to tell their story. We even spotted a few oryx and a brown hyena walked past our camp on an early morning patrol, hoping to find a few scrapes of our food, just like the crows who kept on following us.

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Adventurous drive along skeleton coast

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During our recent trip to Namibia we drove up all the way to Angola, along the Skeleton Coast. Due to the cold Benguela Current, the coastline was blanketed by mist most of the time, making the remains of the ships of the poor souls who stranded there even more eerie. Although the area is desolate, the wildlife is amazing. We saw seal colonies and predators, like jackals and brown hyena. We even spotted one of the famous desert lions who had managed to kill a porcupine. Not an easy prey, but in this environment you can’t be choosy. Some of the desert lions are monitored and are known to cover hundreds of miles to find their prey. Camping on the beach was quite an experience and the nights sleepless because of the wind and the harmless but noisy crabs trying to find a way into our tent.

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Desert Rhino camp – rocky deserts and ancient beasts

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We just returned from a great trip to Namibia. Our first stop was Desert Rhino Camp in Damaraland, where they have the largest free-ranging population of black rhino in Africa. The rhinos are well protected due to a unique conservation approach where the local community plays an important role, together with Save the Rhino Trust and the government. We hope that this model will be able to withstand the changing rules of the game, where poaching has become a multimillion dollar business. Around Desert Rhino Camp the sweeping valleys are dotted with scattered euphorbia and ancient welwitschia plants, with impressive table top mountains in the background. In the early mornings trackers will go out and try to find the rhinos, who seem to prefer the most remote areas. It is amazing that they are able to survive in this rocky desert. We were lucky to witness the last traces of the rain which had turned part of the area into a green meadow for a short time. This resulted in a concentration of mountain zebras, oryx and springbok on the grassy plains. Even a big family of lions had a feast in this short time of plenty. We enjoyed most of our meals outside, around the campfire, while listening to the staff singing songs and Chris Bakkes reciting poems. He is a noted South African writer, but also a passionate guide and conservation who has lived and worked in this area for years.

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To fly or not to fly

Bumpy days are soon to come. On our  safari we are likely to enjoy some bumpy rides among the clouds again. My stomach does not like them at all. I arm myself with travel-sickness-chewing-gum or -pills if the flights are longer. But the pills make you drowsy, and I don’t want to miss anything, meaning the stunning views and any ever so unlikely emergency. I guess traveling in these little planes is fairly safe, but landing on a bush-strip after the pilot did a fly-over to check the runway for potholes or drive away a heard of wildebeest, is still quite exciting for a town-clown like myself. The alternative, driving by car, would of course take much longer and might not be safer after all. So for us there is no question – to fly or not to fly…

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Back from the field office

We just returned from a great safari to Kenya, where we gathered exciting new raw material for future books! “5.30, good morning, tea is ready”, does not sound like holiday for many people. For us it does, but I also call it our field office. Get up early to catch the morning light. Beat the dust and bumpy roads. Be patient and wait for things to happen. Hope for animals to behave in a certain way, take pictures, download, backup, keyword, edit,… hard work, but we love it.

This trip we went to Amboseli, where we took pictures of elephant herds on the dried lakebed. We even got out of the car, to shoot from a lower angle. It makes your heart race, when the elephants do come close! In the Masai Mara we were lucky to see the migration of the wildebeest, just before they crossed the border into Tanzania, for ever following the rain. The last week was a “Big Cat Week” with Jonathan Scott and Warren Samuels. It was great to hear some of the inside stories about the different prides and to follow cats around, knowing beforehand, what they might be up to. We hope to put some pictures online soon!

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Sunset cruise with hippos and crocodiles

Thinking back … After a long day of picture-taking and beating the dust on bumpy roads, this was heaven. The guys were practicing their fly-fishing (an art, I understand) and I enjoyed my Gin & Tonic. Unfortunately swimming was not part of the deal, because the crocodiles in the Zambezi are mean. On our way out, a hippo attacked us.  Maybe it was taking a nap on the riverbed and we woke it, by driving our boat over. Never a dull moment on safari. Looking forward to the next trip, which we are busy planning…

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A bush latte with an elephant mud bath

It was time for our morning coffee-stop. We found ourselves a nice shady tree and made our bush latte. Suddenly an elephant appeared out of nowhere. We froze, the elephant came closer. He checked us out and then decided to have a mud-bath just in front of us. The picture of him throwing the mud, I used for one of the Phanhabs illustrations. I think, we were all impressed by this bush latte…

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Tree climbing lions and a flat tire

“Leopards climb trees, lions stay on the ground”, is what many safari guides will tell you. Not on the Busanga Plains, in Zambia! Our first encounter with that behavior was in 2009. We were traveling with a group of family and friends. My mother in law was still getting used to the idea of driving around wild animals in an open car. We had just been picked up from the airstrip and on the way to the camp we got a flat tire. Reluctantly she got out of the car and joked “I hope there are no lions around…”  There we were, in the middle of a wide open plain with one solitary tree, and in it, yes, a lion! We were exited about having spotted one of the famous tree climbing lions. She was not amused. A few days later we embarked on a walking safari. Tracking lions on foot was part of the deal. When I made the illustration for Phanhabs Lush Bush memories of that specific holiday were making me smile. No more safaris for my mother in law…

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The travel bug at work

InterRailing during my student days gave me the travel bugs. Together with my boyfriend – by now my husband – we traveled around the world for 6 months as soon as I finished my studies. Patagonia, hiking in the Andes, bungee jumping in New Zealand, diving on the Great Barrier Reef, banana pancakes in Indonesia, … and we have traveled since. About 15 years ago we went to see “the big zoo”, as we called it back then, for the first time. Since then we are hooked on Africa.

In the beginning we had a simple click-clack camera and stored our precious film in lead-lined film bags. By now we have more camera equipment than clothes to carry. Laptop, external hard drives, solar batteries, are just some of the gadgets we drag along to process the treasures we shoot during a day in the bush.

For me it feels great to do something with the pictures we take on our travels. The wilderness is such a precious good which we should cherish and protect for next generations. I hope to bring across some of its magic in my illustrations, especially to children. Because what we learn to love, we are likely to protect.

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