Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Trusted Out

Bodiam Castle
Originally uploaded by agypsy.
Just spent a week frantically checking out National Trust properties here in the "old country" and still find it hard to get my head around the ages of these buildings. Some of them have been around since the 1300s and what's more are still standing. Admittedly - there has been lots of renovations over the years, but they are still standing.
Thank goodness my house owners - Kathy and Mike are good citizens and have paid their annual family subs for membership of the Trust - otherwise - forget it - there's no way I could have visited the 10 or so properties. Things here in the UK certainly don't come in at the cheap end of the spending scale!

Anyway the reason I did it all in a week is that the end of October signals the end of the season and the properties close for the winter months. Here daylight saving also began last weekend, but it works the opposite way and means a little daylight at get up time in the morning, but dark at 4.30 in the pm - a little SAD to say the least. So I am completely "Trusted" out and need time to catch up with just sitting around, reading and generally chilling for a day or so before I head out on the next leg. I have loaded up some photos and they can be found on Flickr at www.flickr.com/photos/barbhagger

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Meerkat Magic

A 3.00am start in Buffalo Bay, on a rather brisk morning,followed by a 2 hour drive over the mountain range to the town of Oudtshorn, central South Africa was worth every moment when that first little head popped out of the burrow and surveyed his surroundings. Grant Mc Illrath - the Meerkat Man promises a magical experience and that it certainly is. We were to meet him at 5.50 exactly - which we did, can't say the same for the tour operator and his group of 4,(he is that happy smiling face -not- in the centre of the group,) but finally we all got going out to the Meerkat's home turf. Grant never stops talking, LITERALLY to both his human audience, and in a language known only to him and these furry creatures, as he reassures them the whole time we are with them that we are just more objects in their territory and not likely to be a danger to them.
It was a cold morning, with ice on the chairs as we set up to watch these magical creatures, the Ungulungu Wild Meerkat at home. A very passionate Grant explains everything about the subjects of his 12 year research as we all wait patiently for the first to emerge from the burrow. As it is a cold morning, this takes a little longer and there are moments when I am sure we all doubt the possibility, but then suddenly there is Impi - the first out of bed. We had been asked to remain perfectly still as the first one emerges, but Grant continues to move around the burrow, making his "re-assuring" noises and hand gestures and talking all the time, and sure enough Impi seems to look straight through us as he checks the area for dangers. Once this is done and he has warmed himself 3 more of these wonderful animals emerge, warm themselves and then groom themselves ready for the day, then it's off foraging for breakfast and we get to go too!
Off they go, heads down and tails up at quite a pace and we follow along behind. That particular morning they did the rounds of the outer "bolt holes", safe havens from the predators and old burrows to check them out and scent mark everything as their are several other troups in the area. Impi was also on the lookout for other females and actually left the group that morning, don't know if he came back! We spent quite a few hours out there watching, and I really can't describe what a magical experience it was.

You can check out Grant's website at http://www.meerkatmagic.com these are his photos and there are lots more and so much information on the site. Sheer Magic!!