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TRAVEL TRIPS

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HUGH BEARD Botswana & Nambia

DOUG BONDE'S Spain and Portugal

TRAVEL TRIPS by HUGH BEARD.
Posted September 9th, 2018.
Hugh and Debra – Botswana and Namibia Road Trip September 2017

Last September, at age seventy-six, I undertook
the most challenging and arduous road trip of my life.

Debra and I rented a 4x4 camping truck, with a
flip up tent on top.

Starting in Johannesburg, we self-drove without
a guide through game reserves in Botswana
and Namibia. We had a GPS navigation system and a satellite phone.

The first day, our truck GPS wasn’t working correctly and we got hopelessly lost. At that point, I was wondering if we were taking on too much – was this all a big mistake. Distressed, I stayed up late into the night trying to get the GPS working. Finally, it ran out of power and shut off. I didn’t get much sleep that night. The next morning, when I plugged it in, it rebooted and worked just fine! The adventure began.

The following morning, which was the first time we slept in our roof top tent, we unzipped the door and looked down at all the birds and animals in our camp. They were curious about our cooking appliances and had no fear of us at all. At that wonderful sight, all my anxieties faded. It was like they were saying ‘Welcome to Africa’.  At that moment, we knew this trip was going to be special.

                 

While making breakfast, Debra asked, “Hugh, did you eat all the cheese?”

September is a good time of year to travel to Botswana and Namibia for a number of reasons. It’s cool in the evening, and hot during the day, but not the scorching temperatures of October and November.

The most important reason is because it’s the end of dry season and thirsty animals migrate to the waterholes, so you sit in your air-conditioned truck and wait for some amazing encounters.

Over the next 30 days we drove more than 5,000 kilometres. The driving was amazing, often in deep sand, where we had to lower the tire pressure for traction.  It became a daily activity. 30 psi for highways, 20 psi for gravel roads, 17 psi for track roads, 14 psi for sand and 10 psi for deep sand. We crossed rivers on rickety narrow wooden bridges, drove through water crossing. One of the memorable events was driving onto a one vehicle ferry.

We got totally stuck once in a very remote area. As our truck sank in the clay we wondered how many days before some help comes along. We weren’t too worried as we had food and water for several days and could sleep in our roof tent, and if we had to, we could call for help on our satellite phone. Then unexpectedly, a large game-drive truck came along full of tourists. The driver got out and waded through the water to us. I said, “We’re stuck!” He looked at the situation and said, “Yep. You’re totally stuck.” Without a word, he turned and waded back to his vehicle. For a moment, I thought he was going to leave as he started to drive around us. But, he was only moving to a better position to pull us out with his tow rope. Some Botswana humour! Took several tries before we finally broke free.

In Botswana, the campsites are not fenced so animals wander in. You can hear animal sounds during the night. In the morning, we’d see animal tracks around our truck.

The first elephant to visit us stayed for about three hours. In the photo with me standing in our campsite with her, on the right is our truck, on the left the camp barbeque.

That night, as our campfire burned down, we turned off the lights to watch the amazing stars. A while later we heard something moving in the bush at the back of the campsite. Of course, at that moment your imagination runs wild. What kind of animal was it? Then in the darkness, our visiting elephant walked past our camper truck to leave the campsite for the second time. We hadn’t realized that she had been resting under the trees at the back of our large camp site.

Early one morning, while making coffee, one of the game drivers stopped to warn us to be cautious. He told us there were two lions in the bush across the road from our camp and two more down the road. Of course, we immediately broke camp and went searching for them.

We would be up at five a.m.
for a coffee then break camp
and begin our game driving,
eating breakfast on the way.
The nights were cold but the
daytime scorching hot. The
truck had air conditioning but
a lot of times at waterholes we
had the windows down for
shooting photos and video.

We game drove in the early morning and late afternoon, a time when animals were out and the best light for photography. In the evening, we cooked ourdinner over the open fire. Then exhausted we’d climb up the ladder to our cozy tent and within minutes be fast asleep. The elephants along the Chobe river, were an amazing sight.

We have always wanted to see swimming elephants, but were a bit concerned about how close the tourist boats drew near. But it didn’t seem to bother the elephants.  

We took an over-night trip travelling on the Zambezi River in a small house boat, with a sleeping tent on top. We had wonderful bird sightings.

 It was also a great opportunity to see hippos swimming in the river. Isaac, our captain and cook, didn’t want to get too close, as they could easily flip our small craft.

We did get very close to a twelve-foot crocodile on the shore. As we moved in, we didn’t realize it was sleeping. It suddenly woke when I said, a bit too loud, “Wow! It’s really big!”

The crock spun around quickly, coming right at us, as it splashed into the water a foot in front of our boat. At first, we thought it was attacking us, but as we backed away, we understood that we had just surprised it. 

All too soon the trip was over, but we knew we had accomplished something truly remarkable.

We are now totally hooked. This coming September we are heading back for a 37-day trip to Botswana and then travelling south through Kruger Park in South Africa.

We are already booking campsites for September 2019, for a third trip to remote areas of Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and Namibia.

  




DOUG BONDE'S TRIP TO SPAIN AND PORTUGAL

Posted July 30th 2018
9 DAYS DRIVE IN SPAIN & PORTUGAL



It was the 1st of May when we took an Air Portugal flight from London to Faro in Portugal, picking up an Opel Cadet from Avis and then we drove to sunny Lagos. That's where apparently in 1587 English pirate Sir Francis Drake attacked and damaged the city before withdrawing, but we told suspicious Portuguese that we were Canadian not English and changed the subject by asking for the recommendation of a beach and were given directions to Santa Ana on the Gulf of Cadiz where we had a nap before a dip in the waves  Our next stop was at the fishing community of Portimao, an important centre for Portugal's fish canning industry. Join me for sardines and wine anyone? 




It was a short but hot 37 degrees drive to the Portuguese/Spanish border and our destination was the Hotel Puerta de Triana in magnificent Seville, the capital of Andalusia. For history buffs like myself, Seville dates back to 205 when the Romans named it Hispalis. It was then the capital of the Vandalls (411), Visigoths (441, the Moors (712) before in 1195 Yacoub-Al-Mansur (builder of the famed Giralda (see photo), the name of the Cathedral’s belfry) won a victory over the Christians till Spain’s Ferdinand eventually expelled the Moors. The impressive Giralda Tower, once a minaret, was built in the 12th century and is 322ft. high. Recommended on the list of tourist attractions is the Cathedral of Seville, the world’s 3rd largest, after St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London. It was one of the last to be built in Gothic style but has Renaissance influences. Christopher Columbus is buried here. Seville was Christian at the time the Nasrids were building Granada’s Alhambra. And so the use of the Mudejer style (Moorish and Christian) reflects the fascination for Arab design in the city. We changed hotels on May 3rd to the Simon Hotel before getting back on the road, stopping for a picnic lunch by the medieval castle at Santa Ollala Del Cala with the temperature at 35 degrees.

Our destination was the very old city of Cordoba and it was an exceptionally beautiful drive. Along the way we noticed a peculiar sight and on a closer look we discovered it was a stork’s nest on top of a chimney pot!  Ever wondered where storks nest?  Well now you know.  Cordoba is situated at the foothills of the Sierra de Cordoba on the Rio Guadalquivar. It dates back to Iberian times and became the chief town of the Roman province of Hispania Ulterior in 152 BC. The Moors took it over in 711 but eventually it was captured by the Christians in 1236. The magnificent 14th century Alcazar Palace, built by Pedro the Cruel, is one of the oldest European palaces still in use today. Our overnight was at the Hotel El Triunfo. Below on the right is a favourrite photo of a small side street with masses of geraniums in small pots set in wrought iron holders on the white painted walls – a stunningly beautiful sight. Imagine how difficult those must be to water daily in the extreme heat!   

Below is another extraordinary geranium photo and Spain has a lot of them. Flowering profusely, these are growing in the cracks between the rock face at Castro Del Rio! The date is May 5th and we are driving towards Granada with a detour to Jaen, a Carthagenian walled town (there on the other side of the river) where we stayed at the Parador Nacional Del Castillo de Santa Catalina, very expensive and hugely disappointing, with the bread wrapped in cellophane and no soup spoons!  Spain's paradores are a network of over 90 state-run Spanish hotels, supposedly providing luxury accommodation in Castles, Palaces, Fortresses, Convents, Monasteries and other historic buildings. I had looked forward to staying at any one of them and so this was such a let down.  By the way, Jaen is known as the world capital of olive oil.




One of my favourite locations in my European travels is Granada, largely  because of the exotic Moorish Alhambra. I’ve visited it 4 times over the years and each time I have been impressed. In AD 711 Granada fell into the hands of the Arabs who built a castle on the Alhambra Hills. It reached the heights of its glory when Muslims from Cordoba, which fell to the Christians in 1236, sought refuge here. For the next 2 ½ centuries the kingdom of Granada flourished with magnificent buildings like the Alhambra. Then in 1492 Christian monarchs conquered Granada which brought 781 years of Moorish domination of Spain to an end. Incidentally, Granada is conveniently just an hour's drive to the popular Costa de la Luz on the Andalusian coast by the larger and busier year-round tourists' favourite Costa Del Sol.

The National Palace was built around two courtyards in the 4th century, the Patio de Los Arraynes and the Patio de Los Lones. The Lions courtyard was built by Mohammed V and is in the centre of the second palace, the permanent residence of Spain’s Catholic Royal family. In 1492 they would be King Ferdinand 11 of Castille and Queen Isabella 1 of Aragon.  It was here that year Christopher Columbus requested royal endorsement for his westward expedition.

 

 

And now onto something totally different!  I have always been fascinated with caves and I love exploring them. On May 6th, imagine my luck while heading for the Mediterranean coast in coming across the spectacular Caves of Nerja, a series of caverns stretching for about 5 kilometres. One of Spain's major attractions, it costs 400 pts to enter, but look at the dimensions: the lower gallery is 880 yards long, the upper gallery 2200 yards long. Just one pillar is 200ft high and 60ft in diameter!!!  Neanderthal cave paintings from the Paleolithic and post-Paleolithic eras dated in 42,000 years have been discovered in the caves. They could be the oldest paintings of humanity. Needless to say, I was esctatic !

With time running out, we bypassed touristy Malaga and Marbella on the coast and stopped for the night of Friday May 6th at the Hotel Santa Maria in Estepona. There was a neat little antique shop Antiguedades Cavon close by in Guadalmina where I managed to purchase some old coins, my hobby!  Then it was on to Gibraltar. How big is it?  How about 6.5 sq kilometres by 2 ½ square miles and with a population of 30,000. The Rock and its counterpart Mt Abyla were known as the Pillars of Hercules.  It was transferred as an Islamic citadel after the Moors invaded in AD711 and built as castle on it, naming it Tarik’s Rock after its conqueror. But it was recaptured by the Spanish in 1642. During the War of the Spanish Succession, Anglo-Dutch forces captured the Rock in 1704 and it was ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Now Spain wants it back!  Perhaps they’ve trained these Barbary apes, the only monkeys living wild in Europe, to annoy and chase the Brits off the Rock?




So endeth our history lesson and our visit to Portugal and Spain with a return flight to London on May 9th.   I had driven 1,168 kms in the 9 days and I was exhausted but exhilarated!   Sorry, I'm too tired to pose for a bio photo.  Viva Espana!!! 
 

In 1989 Doug Bonde joined CBC Vancouver as a mail clerk and during his 2 ½ years there he eventually ended up as a production assistant in the TV News and Variety departments.  He left CBC and rejoined Mountain West Studios for a year as photography manager. Then for 15 years he was with BC Ferries, starting as a ticket agent and progressing to the position of Second Officer. He formed his own general contracting business, High Maintenance Contracting, employing around a dozen for 12 years, and is currently running a solar energy business called Synrg Renewal. Doug is married and he and Claire have 2 children, Tavish and Kaley, and they live happily in Squamish with their cats.