A Travellerspoint blog

Kenya Part 2

Lake Nakuru, Masai Mara and Nairobi

sunny 26 °C

It was my 26th birthday and we had made our way from
Amboseli to Lake Nakuru. Once we arrived we opted for
a boat ride out to see the Hippos. We cruised the lake in a small
motor boat and spotted several groups of Hippos above the
surface as well as a variety of water birds and an island full of waterbucks.
We docked on the opposite side of the lake and got to walk
amongst the Zebras, Wildebeest and Waterbucks.

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Later that afternoon we arrived at the Lake Nakuru National Park
which is home to one hundred Rhinos and is famous for the
thousands of pink flamingos that aligne the lakes edge.

The park is smaller so you have a better chance of spotting
the animals, We saw a pride of lions, several water buffalo
and enough baboons to temporarily block off the road.

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Unfortunately we got caught in an afternoon storm and our
encounter with a rare black Rhinoceros also happened to be
during a big down pour. It had cleared up in time to admire the
flamingos and we witnessed a rainbow above Lake Nakuru.

We arrived at the Lake Nakuru lodge on dusk and I was treated
to a special birthday dinner with two fellow aussie travelers from
Perth and was surprised with a big piece of cake and a local musician
to sing me a Happy Birthday song on his guitar.

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The next day we arrived in the Masai Mara and had saved the best
till last. We checked into the Masai Mara sopa lodge and headed out
for an afternoon game drive. Our guide had spotted a lioness on the
prowl and as we followed her, she had lead us back to her pride and
we spent the rest of the day observing them.
We saw lots of lions in the Masai Mara including an infant cub and a
big male that looked every part- the king of the jungle!

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That night in the lodge we got the chance to watch the wild feeding.
The hotel staff had laid out some scraps and guests were invited to the
balcony to see who comes out to feed and on that night it happened to be
a hyena. I remember seeing it's big eyes glowing in the shadows and
watching it sneak up on the food, just the smallest noise from the guests
and the hyena ran off but after a few several attempts she had got her
food and amazed the spectators.

It was now our last day on safari and we spotted warthogs,
elephants, vultures and a very cute baby zebra, who are brown
in colour until they mature. But we were all hoping to see a cheetah
before our tour ended. They are often the hardest to find as they
hunt at night and live alone and known to be solitary, But we were
in luck and my the end of that day we had seen six including one
who was feasting on an unlucky impala.

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We also got to witness one of the the Seventh Wonder of the world,
the Wildebeest migration. This takes part every year when the herd cross
from Tanzania to Kenya in search of fresh food and water. There are over
one million wildebeest on the move. We started at the Mara River which
is the most dangerous part of their journey as they have to cross
the crocodile infested waters.

We didn't see any cross when we visited but the crocodiles were waiting
patiently on the waters edge. We followed the herd of thousands and even
traveling at 60kms in the car struggled to keep up with them. It was great
amazing to see them in such great numbers and you can't help but respect
them for their ccourageous adventure.

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The next day it was time to say baadaye (See you later) to the plains of
Africa and head back to the airport, it was sad to leave and I could have
easily stayed a few extra days. As we made our way back to Nairobi we
passed through the Raft Valley we had to pull over and clear the road whilst
the president drove by.

Once back in Nairobi we had some free time before our evening flight
so had decided to visit the Nairobi Animal Orphanage. It's home to injured
or orphaned wild animals and I thought this would be nice to see how they
have been rehabilitated but it was just depressing. It was sad to see the
animals in small confined spaces and after spending a week on Safari and
seeing how they live in the wild, this was a disappointment.

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Afterwards we stopped into the the Giraffe Centre at the famous
Giraffe Manor. It was only $7 to get in and was worth every cent.
You get the chance to get up close to these amazing creatures on a
viewing platform that takes you eye to eye with the giraffes.
Here you can pat them, hand feed them and even receive a kiss
from a giraffe which makes for a wonderful photo opp!

I really enjoyed my time in Africa, being on safari was a wonderful
experince and I would love to return again one day!

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Posted by PhotoGlen 09.11.2011 04:10 Archived in Kenya Tagged animals lake africa safari animal centre kenya orphanage mara giraffe flamingo masai nairobi nakuru Comments (0)

Kenya Part 1

Nairobi & Ambosoil.

sunny 25 °C

Ever since I was a kid, I had always dreamed of going
on a Safari in Africa. To see all the Animals in their own
environment has been on the top of my bucket list and
during my twenty sixth birthday my dream came true!

We booked on a 8 Day Safari with Pollman's Tours which included
three of the most picturesque regions in Kenya including Ambosoil,
Lake Nakuru and The Masai Mara.

We flew into Nairobi airport and I was unsure what to expect.
But overall I was impressed with the hospitality of the locals,
everyone was so friendly and we instantly felt safe once on tour.

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On arrival we were taken to the Nairobi Safari Park Hotel,
A five star property build across 50 acres of gardens with two
swimming pools, a Casino, gift stores and five restaurants
Including African, Italian, Japanese and Chinese.
Our suite included a private balcony, ensuite and a TV.

We had a free night here before the tour started and
choose the Nyama Choma Ranch Restaurant for dinner.
We had the chance to try some local delicacies including
Camel, Goat, Lizard and Crocodile, All barbecued and served
on skewers. There was also an African culture show
that included singers, dancers & acrobatics.

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The next day we were introduced to our local guide, Martin
as well as our fellow travellers an English family of 5.
Our first stop was Ambosoli on the border of Kenya and
Tanzania. Before arriving in the national park we spotted our
first wild animal, a giraffe walking on the side of the road.

We stayed at the Sopa lodge which was located at the base
of the largest mountain in Africa- Mount Kilimanjaro that
stands 5,895 metres above sea level. We were welcomed
with cold drinks and hot towels on arrival and were allocated
to a hut styled villa that contained two large king beds and
an ensuite. There was also a swimming pool, gift shop,
Restaurant and Bar on site.

The grounds were beautiful and were surrounded
with wildlife including lots of Vervey Monkeys. A Maasai tribeman
was on hand to keep the monkeys away from the
dining room and was happy to pose for pictures with guests.

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Amboseli is home to the world's largest elephants and with
a backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro, it is one of the best game
parks in East Africa.

Whilst on Safari we would start our day with a buffet
breakfast than head out on a morning game drive.
We would have a siesta during the middle of the day as
well as a hot buffet lunch, than an afternoon game drive
until sunset before returning to the lodge for dinner.

On the first game drive, everything you see is exciting
and warrants lots of photo taking. We would stop for
every creature and spend several minutes observing them.
It was just like being in a real life documentary and our guide
told us all about them as we clicked away.

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That first drive we got really lucky and spotted Giraffe, Zebra,
Ostrich, Baboon, Elephant, Hyena and a rare silver back Jackal.
It was great to drive through the open plains and see Wildebeest,
Zebra, Gazelle and Elephants all living side by side in harmony.

That afternoon our guide followed a tip off over the radio and
was able to take us off track to get up close and personal to
two young male lion cubs. They were just as curious to watch
us as we were to watch them and this capped off the end of
a perfect day.

The next morning we couldn't wait to do it all over again,
This time we got to spend the morning observing the elephants
and got lucky as we spotted three huge elephants cross the
road in front of us and a large herd heading to the
waterhole for their morning mud bath.

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We were also given the opportunity to visit a Maasai Village to meet
the tribe and see how they live. The total population
of the Maasai people is 1.5 million and most speak both Swahili
and English.

We were greeted by a traditional welcome dance that seen the
tribe line up outside the village and chant as they jump up high
on the spot, we were also invited to join in the ritual.
Once inside we were greeted with lots of happy faces when the
children came out to play. I had came prepared with a bag of lollies.
It was a great experience and I would strongly recommend a visit!

We were invited to go inside one of the huts which is made up of
sticks, mud and cattle dung. Inside the hut the families eat, sleep,
and store their few possessions. The tribe leader gave us a
demonstration on how they make fire and we were encouraged
to buy something from the market which was filled with wood
& stone carvings and colourful hand made jewellery.
This is their main source of income as just $10 made can
feed the tribe for one month.

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That afternoon we walked to the top of Observation Hill
which stands 1150 meters above sea level and from the top
we spotted more elephants as well as two Hippos enjoying an
afternoon mud bath and we ticked off another Safari must do,
to watch the sun set!

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Posted by PhotoGlen 26.10.2011 22:44 Archived in Kenya Tagged elephant village africa safari animal african kenya lion maasai kilimanjaro nairobi amboseli Comments (0)

Amsterdam

sunny 27 °C

Our last stop on our tour of Europe was The Netherlands
which is also known as Holland. We stayed in Amsterdam which
is the country's largest city and has a population of 780,000 and
attracts over 3.7 million tourists a year.

The city is famous for it's many Canals that span over 100 kilometers,
There are three main canals include Keizersgracht, Singel & Prinsengracht.
They were all constructed during the 17th century which helped to transport
goods from the docks to the inner part of the city. There are 1,500 bridges
crossing the canals & have become a much loved feature of Amsterdam.

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On our way to Amsterdam our bus broke down so we were
stopped on the side of the road for 2 hours while we waited for
the mechanic. We didn't arrive till late and after dinner in the
hotel our tour group headed into the notorious Red Light District.

We wondered through the streets both excited and curious
to see what it was all about, we saw the many prostitutes standing
in the window glowing in the red light as they try to lure men in for sex.
Prostitution is Legal here and the ladies come in all shapes and sizes.
We went to see the Boob monument and took a stroll down
Skinny Street which is home to the younger and hotter models.

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I should also mention that photography in the Red Light District is
strictly banned and our tour guide told us that pimps are known to
throw tourists cameras into the canal if caught breaking that rule.
Our tour suprise including a "culture show" at the Cassa Rosso which
was a live sex show. I wont give you exact details, but it consisted of a
rotating bed, a woman with a cigarette & someone dressed in a gorilla suit!

The next day we went to a workshop to see how Clogs are made
and got to sample some local cheeses. We also took a bike ride around
the cute little town of Edam and got a close up look at a tractional windmill.
Once there a couple on our tour took this moment to propose!
I also remember crashing my bike that day haha

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Amsterdam is the most bicycle-friendly city in the world and there are over
500,000 bikes owned and rode around Amsterdam. There is also an
estimated 54,000 bicycles that have been stolen since 2006. We were told
it's better to have an expensive lock over an expensive bike here.

During some free time we took a stroll around the city, which has a
real old feel about it, There are many historic & architectural buildings
and we visited Dam Square which is home to the National Monument,
It was erected in 1956 as a memorial for the casualties of World War 2.

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We also used our free time to visit the Anne Frank House.
She is one of Amsterdam’s best-known historical figures and
her diary has become one of the world's most widely read books.

In 1942 Anne, 15 and her family went into hiding from the Nazi's
for more than two years before sadly being caught and deported to a
concentration camp in 1945. Tragically Anne Frank died that year
as a result of a typhus epidemic that plagued the camp and killed
over 30,000 victims. The camp was liberated one month later.

We lined up for close to an hour before being able to enter which
i hear is about the norm. Once inside there was a gallery of photos
and extracts from Anne's diary. You then go up to the second floor
which was an office space with a small staircase hidden behind a
book shelf that leads up inside the secret Annex, which was were
the family spent most of their time in hiding. It was hard to imagine
what it would have been like to live that way and it is easy to see
how this is one of the most visited sites in Amsterdam.

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Your not suppose to take photos inside but i found there was no
one around to enforce this so i took a few, mostly because it was
something i wanted to remember. At the end of the self guided tour
there is a museum that features the famous diary itself and you can
pick up your own copy in the gift shop if your interested but i could
recommend a visit.

Amsterdam has over fifty great museums including the Rijksmuseum,
Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum. We caught a taxi
over to the Rijks to see the "I Amsterdam" sign and then went to a
museum of another kind, the Sex Museum!

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This is the world's first and oldest sex museum.
It was silly but good for a laugh, The exhibits are split over 3 floors
and includes alot of erotic photographs, some interesting statues &
a booth featuring prerecorded phone sex haha.
Funny enough they do allow photos inside so go for your life.

The night ended with a farewell tour dinner in Volendam,
which is small fishing village outside the city. This was our last meal
together and was a good time to reflect on our Euro adventure!

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(Above- The Natonial Monument)

Posted by PhotoGlen 02:02 Archived in Netherlands Tagged canals the amsterdam museum windmill netherlands holland europe district sex frank anne eden cheese clogs photoglen redlight Comments (0)

Switzerland

sunny 25 °C

Switzerland has became one of my faviourite countries.
It offers breathtaking scenery and amazing natural
beauty everywhere you look, from the gorgeous Swiss Alps
to it's many beautiful lakes. The four national languages of
Switzerland are German, French, Italian & Romansh and whilst
visiting you will use the Swiss Franc as your currency which
at the time was equal in value to the Australian dollar.

We stayed in Lucerne which is located in the centre of Switzerland
and the city was recently voted the fifth most popular tourist
destination in the world. Once we arrived we headed to the
city centre for some sightseeing, Standing on the shore of the
Ruess River you can spot Switzerland's most famous sights including
the Chaple Bridge, The old Water tower and the white swans all
with Mount Pilatus in the background, Talk about a photo opp!

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The Chaple Bridge is 204 meters long and is the oldest covered
wooden bridge in Europe. It was completed in 1333 and inside the
bridge features paintings of Lucerne's history which date back to
the 17th century. Unfortently parts of the bridge were badly
damaged during a fire in 1993 but has since been restored.

Adjoining the bridge is the octagon Water Tower, it stands 43 meters
and has been many things over the decades including a prison,
torture chamber, watchtower and a treasury but today the tower can
be hired out for private functions. The tower and the bridge are the
most photographed monuments in the country.

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We also visited the Lion Monument, the memorial represents the
700 Swiss guards who were killed while defending the palace
during the French Revolution in 1792. The sculpture was carved in
a sandstone cliff during 1820 and shows a lion being killed whilst
protecting the coat of arm shields of Switzerland and France.
It was sculptered by Bertel Thorvaldsen who was not paid in full for
his masterpiece, So before he completed it the artist changed the
shape of the cave to resemble a pig as a private protest.
It was very moving and i would recommend paying it a visit.

We took a stoll around the city and we were in town during the
Blue Balls Festival so had a look around the food stalls and live
stages. We also stopped off to buy an authenic Swiss army
knife as a souvineer. They even engrave your name on it while you wait.

We took a closer look at The Baroque Jesuit Church on the left bank
of the river. It is a beauiful church that dates back to the 16th century
and later stumbled across the Collegial Church of St Leodegar Hofkirche.

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Switzerland is also known as one of the world's top chocolate stops
and it was here where the tobelorone chocolate bar originated from.
The triangular shape chocolate bar represents the mountains of the
Swiss Alps and huge bars can be found in gift shops all around Lucerne.

That afternoon we took a walk along the medieval City Walls, they
were completed in 1386 to defend the city and still remain mostly
intact today. There are eight towers that run between the walls and
we climbed up the top of the Schirmurturm Tower which offers fantastic
views back over the city.

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The next day we visited Mount Pilatus which is 2,128 meters above
sea level. The top can be reached by the Pilatus Railway which is
the steepest cogwheel railway in the world. But we rode to the top
firstly in a aerial cablecar that holds four adults and then in a large
panorama gondola that holds 30 people and is standing room only.

The ride up is half the fun and as you incline you can watch the
skiiers ride down the slopes and listen to the bells ring around the
cow's necks. Also keep your eyes out for the liltte church perched
on the side of the mountain.
If your lucky you may even spot a Swiss horn blower.

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Once at the top you can walk up to the very tip of the mountain
and the pamaramic views are just spectacular with 73 peaks and
6 lakes below. There is a resturant and a gift shop on top as well
as a hiking trail that offers more amazing viewing opportunities.

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After heading back to the half way point you can even have the
option of taking a ride on a Toboggan that runs 1,350 meters down
the slope. This runs during summer only but can be closed in bad
weather, but luckily for us it was opened when i was there
and it was as fun as it looks!

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We also opted for a scenic cruise along Lake Lucerne,
It was a one hour boat ride around the lake and
another chance to see even more of the beautiful scenery.

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Later that day we crossed the border to visit the small country of
Liechtenstein which is the sixth smallest country in the world and it's
area covers 160 km. We made a stop in the capital, Vaduz.
This is home to the Vaduz Castle which is the palace and official
residence of the Prince of Liechtenstein.

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One day i would love to return to Switzerland in winter to see
the Alps completly covered in snow and even go skiing!

Posted by PhotoGlen 04:42 Archived in Switzerland Tagged pilatus mount church lake bridge castle europe switzerland lion swans lucerne liechtenstein vaduz photoglen monumont chaple Comments (0)

Germany

Munich and St Goar

rain 20 °C

Guten Tag! Beer or wine? That pretty much sums up
Germany during our visit. Our first stop was Munich, the
third largest city in Germany. It rained during our stay,
but that didn't dampen our spirits!

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We started with a walking tour of the city centre,
starting in the Marienplatz which is Munich's city square.
It's here you will find the Town Hall and more importantly,
the Glockenspiel clock. It dates back to 1908 and at 11am
daily the clock comes to life with 32 life sized figures & 43 bells.

The top half of the Glockenspiel celebrates the marriage of
Duke Wilhelm V, In honour of the couple there is a joust with
knights on horseback. The bottom half tells the story of the
Schäfflerstanz dance, which was performed after the city
recovered from a plague during the 16th century.

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We also took a closer look at the Frauenkirche Cathedral.
It is easy to spot due to it's two large towers that stand
98.57 meters above the city. The church was built during the
12th century and was restored after bombings in World War 2.

But our best memory took place in Hofbräuhaus, Munich’s oldest
beer hall. Once inside we had to walk a few laps of the room
before we were able to find room on one of the large communal
tables but most of the locals were friendly & happy to make room.
There is a great atmosphere inside & the beer is flowing freely,
traditionally severed in a 1 litre glass Stein.

The beer is world famous and was even used to save the city
from annihilation. When King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden invaded
in 1632, he threatened to burn down the entire city of Munich.
He agreed to leave the city in peace if the citizens surrendered
hostages and provided 600,000 barrels of Hofbräuhaus beer
and the rest is history!

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You can wash down all that beer with a large pretzel and check
out the live orchestra who play German folk music including
"oans, zwoa, g'suffa" ("one, two, drink") which is the country's
famous drinking song. It was a fun night out and a must do!

We took a drive up the Autobahn freeway and stopped off
at St Goar, a small river side village in the Rhine Valley.
This is Germany's world famous wine region and is also home
to the largest free standing outdoor cuckoo clock in the world!

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During our visit we went to see how authentic German beer
steins are made and took a scenic cruise along the river.
The scenery was great and the valley was dotted with countless
castles and vineyards.

We passed by Loreley Rock, which is a statue of a young lady who
legend has it, she died after jumping into the river because of an
unfaithful lover. Her ghost was said haunt sailors and crash their
boats into the banks of the Rhine.

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That afternoon we went wine tasting in a cellar that dates back
to the 16th century. We tried many of the region's most popular
wines including a special dessert Ice wine (Eiswein) It was so nice!
It's made from frozen grapes that are harvested at -8 °C and are
frozen until pressed. It takes six times as many grapes to produce
one bottle. We also bought some for a relative back home.

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Posted by PhotoGlen 01:40 Archived in Germany Tagged beer germany valley wine europe st goar munich rhine münchen photoglen sankt Comments (0)

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