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Thirteen Favorite Animal Encounters

Thursday Thirteen

Regular visitors to my blog will know how much I enjoy travel. When the travel is combined with seeing animals in their natural habitat, I’m there because there is something very special about viewing animals on their home turf.

Here are some of my favorite animal encounters:

Thirteen Favorite and Memorable Animal Encounters

1. Camel – I like camels, and I’ve met quite a few during my travels through the Middle East and Asia, but my favorite meeting was in Egypt. We met up with a herd of camels consisting of mothers and juveniles. Once we mounted our camels, we ambled along with the rest of the herd. It was fun and relaxing. This juvenile camel was very curious and wanted to investigate me at close quarters.

Shell's Camel, Egypt 

2. Giraffe – During a visit to Kenya we visited a giraffe reserve, not far from Nairobi. There you can feed the giraffes and observe them at close quarters. I’ll never forget their abrasive tongues and the feel of giraffe slobber. It was a fun visit!

Giraffe_nairobi

3. Whale – I’ve been whale watching in lots of different locations including Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Alaska and Maine. These huge creatures are majestic, and it’s always thrilling to see them in person. This photo of a sperm whale was taken near Kaikoura in New Zealand.

Sperm Whale

4. Baboon – We stayed in cabins in Uganda, and they had a small shop where they sold chocolate including Mars bars. The local kids selling slingshots at the gate should have clued us in. Those baboons went around in gangs, and the animals actually mugged some of the people in our group and stole their Mars bars.

5. Dolphin – I went for a day trip from Auckland to dolphin watch. Once we found the dolphins we spent ages watching them play and surf the bow water.

6. Alpaca – These guys just have so much character. I’d love to own one of these. I guess I need to get some land first.

ChattyAlpaca

7. Moose – Hubby and I came across a queue of cars when we were driving through the Grand Teton area. They had stopped to check out this bull moose that was calmly grazing while tourists clicked photos.

GrandTeton_moose

8. Rhino – When we visited Chitwan National Park in Nepal, we were privileged to see this rhino and baby. It was worth crawling out of our beds early in the morning.

Rhino & baby, Chitwan National Park

9. Snake – We don’t have snakes in New Zealand so any encounter is memorable. Hubby was playing a round of golf on Lindeman Island, which is in the Whitsunday group in Australia. We’d been told there were no snakes on the island. Someone should have told the snake I almost stood on while striding down the fairway! I started looking where I was walking after that.

10. Takahe – It was thought the takahe, one of New Zealand’s native flightless birds was extinct but they were rediscovered in 1945. They’re still very endangered, and are now mostly on offshore islands, which are pest free.

Takahe

11. Elephants – we’ve seen elephants in Africa and also in Asia. They’re such cool creatures. This photo of the baby elephant was taken in Kenya.

Baby elephant, kenya

12. Panda – We visited China two years ago. I wanted  to walk on the Great Wall, see the terracotta soldiers and visit the panda. Not only did I see the panda, I got to hold one. The money raised from tourists goes back into the care and research of pandas. It was worth every dollar.

Panda Shelley

13. Gorilla – My number one animal encounter was with gorillas in Rwanda. I cannot begin to express how magical this was but can still feel the awe and excitement as I watched these animals in the wild. I have an essay about our gorilla encounter on my website.

Gorilla, Rwanda

Do you have a memorable animal encounter to share?

The Holiday That Doesn’t Live Up to Expectations

Diamond Princess, Sydney

At some stage during most of the cruises we’ve taken, the cruise director will read out a list of the top ten complaints/questions they receive from passengers. Here are three for your amusement:

1. The passenger with an inside cabin who complained because they didn’t have a view and wanted the cruise staff to cut a porthole for them.

2. The passenger who complained because the sea was keeping him awake.

3. The passenger who complained because he didn’t get a suntan. He was cruising in Alaska.

This made me think of our past holidays and the things that have gone wrong. Luckily, to date, we haven’t experienced any huge dramas, merely minor irritations.

1. The hotel room in Egypt with mouse droppings all over the bed. The second room also had mouse droppings and I gave up. I slept with one eye open and used my sleeping bag.

2. The hotel shortage in Zanzibar. We stayed on Zanzibar for three nights with the hotels becoming worse and smaller each night. The last room was a small square box with no windows or facilities and we had to run the fan or melt. The fan was really noisy! Didn’t get much sleep that night. Oh, almost forgot. The first night our friends, who stayed in another room, had a nocturnal guest—a rat. They called the hotel desk and it was like a Greek comedy. The story and the size of the rat has grown over the years. We still chuckle about the rat story. Also, the ferry going back to the mainland broke down and we spent time drifting in the humidity while they fixed it.

3. The hotel in Greece that was really still a building site. After two nights we complained and were shifted to a new and much better hotel.

4. The camp site in Kenya. The porters asked if we’d heard any noises during the night. “No,” we said. They’d had to chase elephants away from our tent. When we didn’t believe them they showed us the footprints. They were really close to our tent!

5. The camp site in Tanzania. I was petrified about having to go to the loo in the middle of the night. Luckily I didn’t need to, but the roar of the lions kept me awake all night.

6. Camping once again, this time in Rotorua, New Zealand. It was a wild and windy night, so windy only our weight kept the tent on the ground. There was a few times when I didn’t think that would be enough to keep us earthbound. We ended up driving home at about three a.m.

Do you have any bad holiday stories to share?

13 Places to Visit in Sydney

Thursday Thirteen

In a couple of months hubby and I are visiting Sydney. It’s a great city with a gorgeous harbor and lots to do. I highly recommend a visit if you’re heading down this end of the world.

Thirteen Places to Visit While in Sydney

1. The harbor bridge. Walk across it, climb one of the pylons or if you have a head for heights, do the bridge climb.

Sydney Harbor Bridge

2. Do a tour through the Sydney Opera House.

3. Wander around Darling Harbor and have a snack or meal at one of the many restaurants.

4. Visit the Rocks area, once the home of convicts, but now full of shops selling crafts.

5. Catch a ferry and visit Manly.

Manly_The Beach

6. Wander through the botanical gardens and walk out to the point where Mrs. MacQuarie liked to sit, known locally as Mrs. MacQuarie’s Chair. It’s a bench carved out of sandstone.

Sydney Harbor View

7. Go swimming/people watching at Bondi Beach. Don’t forget to swim between the flags.

8. Visit Taronga zoo where the animals have one of the greatest views of the around.

9. Check out the art gallery or one of the museums. Lots of local artists.

10. Visit the Queen Victoria Building, an old restored building and now home to shops and restaurants.

11. Go to the Paddington Markets, which have been trading for 39 years. Open on Saturdays only and a perfect place to find that unique item of clothing or a souvenir.

12. Visit Hyde Park, the oldest park in Australia. There are loads of trees and plants for keen gardeners to exclaim over.

13. The Sydney Tower Eye, visible from most of the inner city and a great place to go for a 360 degree view of the city.

Of course, this is only a taste of the places to visit. There are lots of places outside the city such as the Blue Mountains and wildlife parks.

Which place would you visit first? If you’ve visited Sydney before what was your favorite part of the city? What would you recommend?

Fun Things to Do on the Island of Madeira

Last year one of our final stops during our cruise was the island of Madeira. We weren’t meant to visit the island, but Hurricane Sandy meant a change to our itinerary. Not such a bad thing since Madeira is beautiful.

So what can you do in Madeira?

1. Take the cable car to Monte at the top of the hill. It’s a long ride with glorious views of the city and coast.

2. Visit the tropical gardens at the top.

3. Take a ride in one of the Monte toboggan wicker baskets. Two men tow, then guide your basket down the hill. Some go faster than others. The men who do all the hard work wear a white shirt and trousers plus a straw hat.

4. Visit one of the many shops that sell madeira wine – not really to my taste since it was quite sweet.

5. Wander around the some of the beautiful churches.

6. Check out the markets for fruit, flowers, fish and people watching!

7. Dine at one of the restaurants. I had fresh fish with a madeira sauce, and it was delicious.

8. Try some of the traditional Madeira bread.

9. Go for a sail on the Santa Maria, a replica of Christopher Columbus’s flag ship.

10. Wander in what used to be a red light area. The area had a bad name, but the buildings were given cheaply to local artists. All they had to do in exchange was decorate their doors. These days it’s fun to wander down the alley and check out the different doors.

This is a selection of things to do in and near the township of Funchal. From what I hear the rest of the island is just as beautiful. Maybe next time!

Wine Tasting in West Auckland

Last week I took a day off writing and went on a wine tasting tour with Barry’s Wine Tours. After managing to cause a little chaos, (I got lost and went to the wrong meeting point) we headed to Kumeu, a region I’d only driven through before. Twenty minutes after leaving Central Auckland, we were in the countryside.

Our first stop was Soljans Estate Winery. This is one of our oldest wineries, and it traces its roots back to 1927 when Bartul Soljan arrived from Croatia and started his vineyard.

Pinot Noir Vines 

Most of the vines are covered with nets at present to protect the grapes from marauding birds. The roses were traditionally planted at the end of rows because they show signs of disease first, before the grape vines. They’re sort of like canaries down in a mine. The red roses signify the red grape varieties and yellow roses were planted at the head of rows of white grapes.

Pinot Gris Vines

The merlot grapes weren’t doing well, so the vineyard owner decided to graft pinot gris grapes onto the merlot vines. Experts were brought in from France to do the specialist work. Below the white tape, the grape is a merlot vine. A bud from a pinot gris (white grape) was grafted into the area and has grown into a new vine.

Stainless Wine Barrels

The business end of the vineyard. These are stainless steel casks that hold the wine.

Wine Bottling Machine

This is one of the wine bottling machines. The labels come next.

Wine Tasting Room

Tasting is the fun part of the tour. We tried six different wines, white and red. There are crackers and water to cleanse the palate between varieties of wine. Some people can be snobby about wine. My opinion – if I like the wine then it’s a good one!

Westbrook

This is a photo of West Brook Winery, the second vineyard we visited. As you can see the grounds are gorgeous and perfect to take the family for a picnic on a Sunday afternoon.

The day was lots of fun and the perfect way to recharge my writing batteries.

Where would you go if you have a day off to recharge?

A Quick Visit to Athens

The Acropolis towers over Athens, an amazing place to visit with so much history.

Acropolis, Athens, Greece

This time we didn’t queue with all the crowds, since we’d visited before. Instead we made a stop at the New Acropolis Museum. This was a modern building with lots of glass, and it holds some incredible treasures. During the excavation to build the museum, they found ruins. They’ve incorporated the ruins into the design by using glass for all the floors and allowing visitors to view them. This photo is part of the ruins that are inside and therefore not protected with glass. Just as an aside, if you ever visit, don’t wear a skirt. With the glass floors, you can look upward and see the people on the floor above…and whatever they’re wearing or not.

Museum, Athens

While wandering around Athens, the amount of graffiti surprised us.

Grafiti

It’s a real shame to see this while wandering around the city.

Evil Eyes

These are evil eyes and they’re on sale as souvenirs for tourists. The evil eyes have been around for thousands of years and are used as a talisman to ward off evil.

And this is my car… Snazzy, isn’t it? I couldn’t resist a photo.

Shells Car 

What sort of car would you like if money was no object?

Tsatsiki in Athens

One great thing about traveling is trying the local food. During our visit to Athens in Greece last year we were wandering through the Plaka area and came across Scholarhio Ouzeri Kouklis, a small traditional family restaurant. While perusing the menu we saw that chef Rick Stein recommended the restaurant and that sealed it for me. Rick Stein is one of my favorite celebrity chefs, and we decided to follow in his footsteps.

Athens Outside Plaka Restaurant

Athens_Restaurant

This is one of the restaurant owners. He brought out a tray of all their offerings, and we were able to choose five different dishes. Our meal also came with a glass of wine or beer, bread, mineral water and a dessert.

Kitchen and the cook

Hubby went into the kitchen and took a close up of all the dishes.

Shell_Athens

I loved the food. If I concentrate I can recall the intense flavors and textures. It was one of the most memorable meals we’ve had recently. See my frown of concentration? My brain is saying, Yummy food! Yummy food!

One of the dishes we selected was Tsatsiki, a yoghurt dip that some of you have probably eaten. We’ve made it before at home, but it never tasted like this—thick and creamy and full of flavor.

When we arrived home we decided we’d try again to make some in the hope of duplicating the dish we had in the Plaka. After discussion we decided we’d amend our recipe to make our Tsatsiki thicker.

Recipe for Tsatsiki

Ingredients

1 cucumber

salt

ground black pepper

one large tub of natural yoghurt, preferably Greek

4 Tablespoons chopped mint

1 garlic clove, crushed.

Method

1. Our Greek yoghurt isn’t as thick as it is in Greece, so the first thing we do is to drain some of the liquid out of the yoghurt. We use a coffee filter and a funnel and sit it in a beer mug until some of the liquid drains out. About 1 – 2 hours should do it.

Yoghurt

2. Deseed the cucumber and discard the seeds. Cube the cucumber flesh.

3. Mix the cucumber with the drained yoghurt. Add chopped mint leaves and crushed garlic and salt and pepper to taste.

4. Place in a shallow dish and serve with chunks of fresh bread. Perfect with drinks on a hot day.

Tzaziki

Do you have memories of a particularly delicious meal?

Thirteen Places On Shelley’s Visit Wish List

Thursday Thirteen

Regular visitors will know how much I love to travel. In fact on my last travel post several of you commented – “Where haven’t you been?”

This TT proves I still have plenty of places on my wish list.

Thirteen Places on Shelley’s Wishlist

1. Antarctica

2. Nelson, New Zealand (South Island)

3. Stewart Island, New Zealand (the island at the bottom of the South Island)

4. Broome, Australia (want to go camel riding)

5. Machu Picchu

6. Texas – one state I haven’t visited yet

7. Madagascar – would love to see the lemurs.

8. Vietnam

9. Darwin, Australia

10. Falkland Islands

11. River cruise down the Amazon

12. Chile

13. Scandinavia

Which place is top of your list?

Xmas Day in Lahaina, Hawaii

I took a load of photos over Christmas, photos of the different Hawaiian islands we visited plus shipboard shots. Unfortunately disaster struck and hubby managed to delete every single photo on my digital card. There was much cursing and swearing on his part and I have to confess that a few mutters emerged from me too. Sigh. On the positive side we have visited Hawaii before and we still have hubby’s photos, but they weren’t as good as mine. Devil I lost all the Christmas day photos, although I did visit Hilo Hatties in Lahaina and had my photo taken with Santa Claus. He was the most talkative Santa I’ve ever met. When he heard I was from New Zealand we had a discussion about the movie Once Were Warriors.

xmas_Lahaina, Hawaii 2012

I love his Hawaiian shirt and the fact his beard was real. We had a lovely day in Lahaina. My highlight was getting up to watch the sunrise. We watched the pilot boat from the cruise ship and saw it stop suddenly. A humpback whale breached right in front of it and as we watched the whale breached three more times. It was a magical start to the day. This was the first time I’ve ever spent part of Christmas day on the beach. Unfortunately the photos to prove it are lost.

If you’d ever like a warm Christmas I highly recommend Hawaii as a destination.

For The Dogs

Hollywood Plastic Surgery for Dogs

I can’t decide if this is for real or not. But then anything is possible in LA.

What do you think?