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Honeymoon and Adventures

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S: Philip and Kristi Honeymoon 2010

BC: A new adventure begins...

FC: Honeymoon & Adventures

2: Here we go! | In November we packed our bags, left Colorado, and started our honeymoon adventure. We took two months to visit family and friends in Minnesota and Wisconsin, volunteer in South Africa, stay with family in Switzerland, and move to New Zealand. What a great adventure! | COLORADO

3: Hello from Eau Claire! We started our travels on Monday and following a two-hour travel delay, we made it to our friends' Danica and Tom's house. What a beauty! It is the first time we have seen it finished and it is a fab house. Great cooking, too. The wine wasn't bad, either. We spent three days catching up, walking on their 80 acres with the dog and cats, playing legos with Keaton and Anderson (and losing a foosball game or two), and hanging out with lots of dogs at Bob's House for Dogs.

4: The Lowrys Tom, Danica, Keaton, Anderson

5: We are getting ready to hop in the car to visit my sister, Sarah, and her husband, John, and two little girls, Madeline and Grace. We are sad to go, but are really happy to have spent three great days with such good friends.

6: John, Grace Sarah, Madeline | MARTES | The Martes | MINNESOTA

7: We were lucky to be able to spend some time with Kristi's sister Sarah and her family. Madeline is almost three and Grace is eight months, and we had a blast playing together. We colored, read books, went outside, and played with stuffed animals as much as we could. We're lucky to have such awesome nieces. Sarah and John let us take over their kitchen when we visit so we got to cook as much as we wanted. It was really great spendig time with them. Next we were off to Ortonville for Thanksgiving and to visit Kristi's Mom and Dad and extended family. Grama Vi who is 94, her five kids and most of the grandkids - and even five great-grandkids - were able to spend the holiday together. The weather in Minnesota cooperated and it was in the 20s - balmy, for that time of the year! We also got to see lots of Kristi's Dad's family for coffee and rolls. It was a great time to relax and catch up with family. The time flew by and we had to head to the airport. Kristi's Aunt Sal came with us to catch a flight as well, so we got to spend some more time with her. We all met my college roommate out for dinner that night at an Indian restaurant nearby. Kristin and Kristi have known each other for 20 years, so it was fun to catch up with her.


9: Madeline made us treats at day care - what a welcome!

12: 32 hours later, we were in AFRICA! | SOUTH AFRICA

13: St Lucia is a small town situated on an estuary by the ocean and near lots of lakes. We stayed at a self-catered lodge with our own apartment. Our deck overlooked a jungle onto the ocean, making for a fantastic view. What an amazing week!

14: Our favorite day was spent in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi reserve with a hilarious guide named Rick. We woke up at 3:00am to no power and a cold and rainy day and drove into the park. One of the first things we saw was giraffes breakfasting on trees, right beside some zebras – but Rick wanted to chase the big animals so he said we wouldn’t stop for anything that looked like a striped horse until later in the day. We were in an open vehicle, and we rode through jungle, open plains, and grasslands, and crossed over rivers, in search of the Big Five (elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo, and leopard). One thing that surprised us the most was how green it was – this wasn’t the Africa we’d imagined!

15: Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve

16: Warthog | Impala | Gnu | White Rhino | Zebra | Baboon

17: Rick's African animal guide: - Impala - the preferred snack of smaller predators (they have black McDonald's Golden Arches on their butts) - Giraffe - you can tell the girls because they carry their black makeup brushes on their antlers - African buffalo - cows with attitude - White rhino - the pacifist hippie: peace, love, and fun, baby! - Waterbuck - shaggy raindeer-looking antelope found near water - A missing dungbeetle - the dung ball was there but the beetle had become birdfood - Spotted hyena - the misunderstood hunter; hunts 60% of its own food rather than purely scavenging - Savannah baboon - were used to find water by trapping them, feeding them salt, and following them to water - Nyala - males and females looking nothing alike except for their socks - Warthog - so ugly they’re cute - Lion - the most boring animal; like the domestic cat, it sleeps all day - Gnu - the Lindsay Lohan of the bush; looks funny and has no brains - Kudu - the biggest antelope, with curly antlers, weighing in at 700lb

18: Our absolute favorite was a ginormous, grrrumpy, musthy bull elephant that mock-charged us by flapping his ears, trumpeting, and running at us. We all chimed "he's coming! he's coming!" to Rick who assured us that he was just testing us. Rick revved the jeep up and mock charged back. We're pretty sure if we had been alone, We’d have raced backwards all the way out of the park.

20: Hippos | Fish Eagle | Weaver Bird Nests | Monitor Lizard

21: St. Lucia Greater Wetlands Park The park has 280km (175 mi) of coastline, coral reefs, beaches, coastal forests, salt and fresh water marshes, open estuarine waters of Lake St Lucia, lush coastal plains, and drier woodland areas. The protected area is home to hippopotamus, approximately 1,000 crocodiles, humpback whales, the Big Five, and over 500 different species of birds. We tried to take a whale-watching tour, but it was canceled twice, so we took a river cruise and watched hippos and crocodiles instead. Not too bad. We also tried to go for a hike on a wooded nature trail. It would have been two hours of great hiking among zebra, warthogs, and antelope, but Kristi thought she saw a lion’s rear with its tail twitching back and forth in the bush and she was OUT of there. Pronto. Did we mention that there are snakes in this region? Gaboon adders that bite and don’t let go, puff adders, spitting cobras, black mambo, etc. The likelyhood that we would have seen any of them is small, but we weren’t hanging out to find out.

22: iSimangaliso Wetland Park | Waterbuck | Kudu

23: Duiker | Vervet Monkey

24: Our room with a view | Thanda The reserve we're on is called Thanda, a 7000-ha private reserve, home to the Big Five, and fairly uniquely, wild dogs. On the road into our cabins we saw buffalo, giraffe, and impala. There's nothing quite like being greeted by these leggy creatures. The accommodation was described as basic, but our cabin is an A-frame thatched cottage with a private bathroom and deck looking out on the reserve. There are no fences, so we've been warned to expect visits from ANYONE, including lion and elephant. At the briefing we finally learned what to do if we do meet one of them: DON'T RUN.

26: Our job is to go out morning and night, starting at 4:00am and 4:00pm, to track and monitor wild dogs, one of the more reclusive endangered animals you're likely to find. We climbed into the back of a Jeep and headed for the hills, and along the way, learned how to use the telemetry and GPS equipment. Philip was first-up at that, and after a few turns, he had just said "they should be right over there" when a dozen dogs came trotting through the bush. They're thin dogs with calico-cat coloring, Mickey-Mouse ears and bushy white tails. So, nothing like pet dogs. They also don't sound anything like pet dogs, sounding more like birds. We got to hear them call to each other, yip for more food, and play tug-of-war over a dismembered impala leg. Overall a great first day.

28: Who Let the Dogs Out?

29: December 7 Tuesday, day two started ... early. By 4:30am we had eaten a haphazard combination of the available cereals and set off looking for the dogs. They had moved since we had seen them the night before, so it took a couple of telemetry measurements before we found them again. At first, they weren't doing much of anything, but suddenly we lost them to the veld and only found them again chasing a flash of a doomed impala. In their excitement, several of the dogs leaped clear over the evidently insufficient cattle / wild animal guard. Our guide Michelle deftly climbed over the fence, the one that's electrocuted enough to stop elephants from pushing it over, hauled the dismembered carcass back onto reserve land, and gave it back to the dogs. One particularly crafty dog then jumped over the guard again to get some leftover innards, so Philip also got to climb over the electrocuted-for-elephants fence and chase it back onto the property. With full bellies, the dogs rested and played for the rest of the day, until we lost them again into the distant hills in the corner of the park. We spent the lunch break (9:30am to 3:00pm!) reading and napping.

30: Cheetahs and Rhinos, and Hyenas, Oh My! Another 4:30am start to the day to scour 17,000 acres for the wild dogs. We knew we were close because of the telltale beeps of the telemetry equipment, but the dogs were still full and tired from the impala hunt the night before so, after two hours of waiting, we decided to let them sleep and moved on. Our next task had us recording three rhino spottings. We watched a mother protect her calf and an injured bull trying to make friends with the cow by huffing and snorting. We identified them by notches in their ears. Magnificent. Not so magnificent was the next task. A neighboring lodge lost power so we loaded 100lb of melting, rotting meat into the truck, unwrapped it and threw it in several piles in the bush, hoping to attract hyenas so the vet could dart and collar them. Holy cats did it stink, splatter, and stick to our fingers! Somehow it didn't seem like a good idea to have four volunteers smelling of rotten meat driving around a game reserve in an open vehicle. We felt like bait. Here, kitty!

31: We had the priviledge of watching two male cheetah (brothers Rusty and Phil) feeding on an impala from 25 yards away. They tucked into the impala and popped up once in a while to keep watch for lion or hyena that might take their lunch away, but didn't mind us at all. Next we saw the cats again, right next to the truck, with huge distended bellies, panting heavily. They eat so much in one sitting their stomachs press up against their lungs, making it hard to breathe. Next we found the dogs playing cat-and-mouse with about 15 wildebeest and a few zebra. In response to our alarm of seeing a single puppy being chased be the herd, our guide Michelle said, "he'll just have to run fast." Who knew that in the wild the wildebeest and zebra play tag with wild dogs? Our 11 hours in the back of the truck ended in a rain shower so we headed back to do our communal cooking. It was stir fry and it was awful. We are using beat up pans, a two burner cook stove and either frozen or canned foods and no spices to speak of. Not our best work. Kind of like camping though; you do the best with what you have.

33: Lost One - B5 Bull We started the day early, heading straight for an injured rhino. We took the last shift of the night to make sure that it wouldn't fall prey to a hyena or lion. We didn't see either, so there wasn't much for us to do until the vet came at 8:00am. Sadly, the conclusion was that there was nothing that could be done for the bull. The vet explained that if a rhino lies on its side for more than an hour, it gets such strong pins and needles in its legs that it can't feel its feet and falls down again. This rhino had already been down for the entire previous day. The vet administered a strong tranquilizer so that the animal would have no memory of its pain, be comfortable, and then he put it to sleep. Although it was sad, it was for the best, because he would have suffered a slow death through the intense heat of the day. It turns out that rhinos are quite susceptible to stress, so his lack of mobility would have caused him to die before the day's end either from the stress directly or from starvation. The vet also performed an autopsy to confirm his suspicion that the bull had suffered physical trauma to his back right leg. His ultimate diagnosis was that he had probably pulled a hip ligament, causing pain and stress on the joints making him drag his foot along the ground. There was nothing that could have been done even if this diagnosis had been reached weeks ago when the injury first happened. It isn't possible to stable a rhino in an enclosure to rest the joint without causing it more intense stress. We learned a lot from the vet who took time to explain the situation to everyone involved, including the extra precautions needed because of rhino poaching.

34: It's Hot ... Africa Hot We got to sleep in for a 4:30am late start this morning. It was cool until about 8:00am, when we got to feel the real African summer. Up until now it's been cool, overcast, even jacket weather, but today it was HOT. We set off to look for the dogs and although we knew where they were from the equipment, there were no roads or tracks to take us near them. We saw them a couple of hours later after they had just hunted down another impala and were enjoying the last tasty morsels in the lush grass. The dogs laid down in a thicket to rest in the heat of the day, so we made our way to the rhino. We had hoped that the hyena would find it to make their collaring easier, but they lost out to the vultures. Talk about greedy like vultures! There were three different species for a total of around 80 birds, haggling, hissing, biting, and fighting over the rhino. They were awesome. We especially liked the Cape vulture, who lorded over all others, spreading his 5-ft wingspan from the top of the carcass, daring others to play King of the Hill with him. After an hour of trying to count the birds and taking photos, we collected firewood for a braai and headed back. There wasn't much time to rest. We headed to the office to enter the field observations data into a spreadsheet and to hook up to the internet, ever so briefly. We hopped back in the truck to find the dogs one last time before they settled in for the night. The plans for the braai were canceled due to a big thunderstorm, which (what a relief!) cooled everything down.

36: Day Off We have one day off a week and honestly, we were looking forward to sleeping in. Even the possibility of missing out on lion and cheetah was no match for sleeping in past 3:30am. We managed to sleep until the late hour of 5:45am and spent a good part of the morning reading and relaxing in our hut. The kitchen is quite basic but includes a mini-oven, so we gave in to our sweet tooth by baking some cookies. We played a game | of Canasta (or Kick-Your-Asta, as we call it) while they baked. It was perfect weather sitting on the porch; just the right temperature and overcast. We didn't totally miss out on wildlife; we watched warthogs, wildebeest, and impala right in camp.

40: Hyena and Electricity 12/13: On Monday, while trying to find the dogs, Philip spotted a hyena walking toward us. He was a young one (the hyena) and kept getting closer and closer, until he was too close to photograph. He looked at us, smelled us, and even bit the tires to find out what we were. When he determined that we weren't anything he could eat, he ambled away down the path looking for something better to do. Tuesday we had an even more intimate encounter. We saw three youngsters, biting, chasing, humping, and generally roughhousing on the road. That was about 20 ft away, then they came closer. One of them bit the tires (do truck tires look like buffalo?) and then all three passed right along the vehicle, smelling for the rotten meat we'd had in the back a few days ago. When Kristi looked over the side, she found herself eye-to-eye and nose-to-snout with this incredible creature. They were inquisitive, but it might have been that they just wanted that meat from the back. One of the youngsters looked like he was about to put his paws up on the tailgate and look inside. The irony is, we have been tracking and baiting them all week, without finding them, but now we could have just leaned over and put the tracking collar on them. Except, of course, they're wild, making this one of the most memorable experiences we've had in the park.

41: On Monday afternoon we had an African experience of another kind. We were atop one of the highest hills of the reserve, tracking the dogs, when a storm came up. It was soon shooting lightning bolts across the sky and we figured holding up a metal antenna into the sky was no longer such a genius idea. We skittered down the slippery rocks on Rocky Road (every road here has a name) watching the storm as it built up. By now there was more lightning, more rain, more drama. It was our night to cook, so we had prepared spaghetti impala-bolognese at lunch time. We were re-heating it just as the power went out. We nearly made it, but didn't quite finish dinner, so by candle-light and headlamps, we had a lukewarm bolognese with semi-cooked noodles, salad, and cold garlic bread. It was just like camping, and man, was it a beatiful lightning show around us! We may have eaten a few moths that flew into the sauce, but it was a fun night and a bonding experience with the group.

43: We headed off to bed expecting the power to come back on overnight. It didn't. Neither did it come back the next morning, or afternoon, or night. We were racking our brains for a meal that would work in a single pot over a campfire when Michelle saved us by suggesting the local bar/restaurant 20 minutes away. Whew! We had a good meal, light and no moths in our food. It was a nice change and when we got home at 10:30pm, we had power again. Our day wasn't quite finished, however. We still had to take more rotten meat out to a new spot to attract the hyena. Philip was shot from another 3:30am daily start and stayed behind, but Kristi was fascinated by hyena and wanted to see if we could call them in. We had threaded two lamb shanks with heavy wire and needed to tie them to a tree in long grass. I was getting pretty sure that there weren't any snakes to worry about in the bush, but we had seen a Mozambique Spitting Cobra crossing the road the day before. We learned that they hear footsteps and flee so I stomped on the ground as hard as I could and clapped loudly to scare any slitherers away. I'm pretty sure I looked the crazy tourist that people could tell stories on later, but the peace of mind is worth it. We got to the tree with nothing spitting venom into our eyes (I'm pretty sure it was because I clapped like a fool) and got the meat tied up. We then fired up a computer which seemed totally out of place in the black of night in the bush to play a CD of animal noises to attract the hyena. One was a buffalo calf that sounded like it was calling for its mother and the other was a warthog piglet that sounded like it was being lifted up and didn't like it at all. It might have worked for the hyena, but, wow, what an awful sound! We played the screeching and bawling for a half an hour with no luck, so headed home. By then it was 12:30am. Kristi couldn't face another 11 hour day on three hours' sleep, so we decided to shut the alarm off and sleep in. What a luxury to get 7-1/2 hours of sleep rather than four or five!

44: Rhino Capture By the second week on Thanda, we'd settled into a routine of anticipating unplanned things to crop up on any day, at any time. A large part of the last several days revolved around C1: A white rhino cow that we needed to find, dart, and load into a truck to be transported to another reserve. Wait, what?! We need to load a rhino into a truck? Isn't that ... difficult?

45: It turns out that finding a rhino isn't easy, despite it being the largest animal on the park after the elephant. They like grazing in the bushveld where they disappear into thin air behind bushes that are, oddly, almost exactly the same size as the rhino. We drove around the park a lot. Six hours one morning, four hours that night. Every once in a while we'd find a rhino or two, but not the one we wanted, as identified by ear markings. We'd rattle along the dirt road, spot a hulking shadow in the distance, screech to a halt, and kill the engine. Then get out the binoculars and strain through the scrub in the fading light, waiting for the rhino to turn his or her head just so, so that we could see both ears at the same time. The only thing that made it easier was that our cow was most likely to be hanging out with another cow, but since they were neither mother-daughter nor sisters, that wasn't guaranteed either.

46: Right at dusk we found her (and her buddy). We drove home happy that we had at least a vague idea of where to start looking the next morning. The morning was grey and heavy, and it had rained at night, so we packed our rain gear. But it was no match for the day. We found our rhino and radioed her location and waited for the game capture crew to roll up with their transport truck. And we waited. And waited. The rain poured on, the rhino grazed its way through the thickets, and we sat on the truck in the rain, keeping a keen eye on the rhino so as not to lose her. It rained, we waited. For hours. We got occasional updates from the others, murmurs of delays, and the truck getting stuck. To shelter us, Michelle parked the truck under an acacia tree just by the side of the road, so we waited in slightly less rain, in the cold, and watched little white worms dropping down into the truck and onto us. By this time, we were over this rhino thing and ready to go home, but we'd waited so long that we didn't want to miss the action when it happened. It was only when the crew radioed that their truck had got stuck that Michelle finally threw in the towel and called off the operation. She's a tough cookie, that girl.

47: So, the exercise of finding C1 started all over again the next day. We briefly looked for the dogs, established a rough location for them, and started driving around the park again. Today it was unbearably hot, the sun beating down from a clear blue sky. We drove all day, with four trucks all looking for her by the afternoon, racing the clock to try to capture her that day. The sun lowered to the horizon, shadows lengthened. No sign of the rhino. It was pretty clear to us that unless she were right on the road, we had almost no chance of spotting her. We also had no idea which part of the park she'd be in, since they can cover a lot of ground in a day. The sky turned red, the sun went down, we went home. On our final pass-by of the water holes, we saw the lion, and a short while later, we squealed in surprise as we saw a leopard leap across the road! Full brakes, kill the engine. The leopard had already disappeared into the grass, but we patiently waited, in complete silence, for her to calm down after her shock of seeing us. Eventually, gingerly, she lifted her head just above the grass and eyed us cautiously. They're super shy animals, so we were unbelievably fortunate to have spotted her.

48: The rhino capture was starting to cost the park and they decided that if we couldn't find her by the next morning, they'd call in a helicopter crew to find her. We were on the road at 3:30am, even earlier than usual, to start searching at absolute first light. | Prepared for another super-long day, we'd packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (again) to augment our peanut butter and jelly toast breakfast (again). In the way of these things: C1 was right on the road. We could have driven into her. What luck!

49: With teamwork and Michelle's excellent knowledge of the roads and tracks, the capture team (a team including a vet and specialists in wild game transfers) finally darted her. | We radioed the crews and waited (again). C1 isn't a cow that hangs around, so she and her buddy started their on-the-move grazing (again) and we tried to follow her, but we lost her and found her again many times through the thickets. By this time, another three vehicles showed up to help.

50: They radioed us where she'd stopped running in her half-daze, and we rolled up to help with the second part, loading into the truck. When she was down, she was much bigger than the B5 bull we'd worked with the previous week. This girl was huge. | The dart crew brought her half-back to awareness and instructed us to help push her back to her feet and help her walk toward the truck.

51: A final push up the ramp, and she was in. What a morning! It wasn't even 9:00am o'clock yet. | Surprisingly, this worked. With a rope tied to her horn guiding her direction, cattle prods (ouch) making her move forward, and four people on each side to stop her from falling over, we got her to the truck.

52: We had one more surprise the next day on our final drive before we left the park in the afternoon. We were lucky enough to have it be just the two of us and Michelle. The weather was perfect, and we were soaking in the atmosphere of the park, enjoying every minute of it. On other drives they had seen the big male lion who is really special for his big black mane. Kristi was dying to see him. Along the drive, she spotted the head of a female lion, and on pulling off the road, we discovered that she was lounging - with the male! There aren't that many lions with black manes, as they come from a specific part of Africa, and man, was he majestic! She was snoozing, he was gazing royally into the distance, looking like the king of the jungle.

53: Goodbye Africa | After our fabulous two weeks on Thanda we decided to treat ourselves to a fancy hotel near the airport with an awesome hot shower, a huge white bed, and no gecko poops. We watched a movie, ordered room service burgers with a fresh salad, and enjoyed being clean. What a honeymoon!

54: CHRISTMAS | We left summer in Africa to visit family in Switzerland in winter. We had a | big Christmas Eve dinner and the snow falling and watching candles on the Christmas tree made for a wonderful day. Several of Philip's cousins and aunts and uncles invited us over for dinners and lunches and it was great catching up and meeting family. It was pretty wintery and during our visit to Erlach, Aunt Vreni broke her ankle when she slipped and fell on black ice - not good! She needed urgent surgery and couldn't walk on it for the next six weeks. Poor thing. | SWITZERLAND

56: Kristi's friend Addison was living in Spain and was able to come over for a visit over New Year. She and Kristi explored Bern for a day, doing a cathedral tour, a walking tour, and visiting the history museum.

57: Sightseeing in Bern

58: Rail Trip!

59: The next day, Philip, Addison and Kristi hopped on a train for a loop trip around central Switzerland. We hoped to see the famous mountains, but had fog for most of the way. We stopped in Lucerne (a quaint town on a lake) and tried to visit a glass-blowing factory, but missed out because it closed early for New Year's Eve. The highlight was the train that climbed up through the fog and opened up to bright sunny skies and snow-capped mountains. Wow. After a half an hour at the top, we descended into the fog again, to stop at Interlaken; a town where you can see the Eiger, Moench and Jungfrau mountains. Kristi was excited to see it again because her sister and she had visited 20 years ago. After eating lunch, we hopped back on the train and headed back to Bern.

60: Swiss Food!

61: The food we ate was fantastic! Here's a list of our favorites: Züpfe: A rich milk-butter bread eaten with butter or cheese or jam, or anything. It's yummy. Rosti: A kind of thick, crispy hash-brown potato dish. Fondue: You know what it is, but no-one does it like the Swiss! We must have eaten a half-pound of cheese each. Yum! Raclette: A special cheese, melted under a specific cheese griller. Get it hot and bubbly, add some garlic and onion, and eat it over baked potatoes.

62: It's hard to believe we're at the end of our trip, but tomorrow we'll be on a plane to New Zealand. The long way... We stop in Dubai, Bankok, Sydney, Christchurch, and finally, Dunedin. 36 hours later, hopefully, we'll be back in summer. We're looking forward to being in New Zealand and looking for a place to live. We've really enjoyed the road, but we're now ready to start settling down again. | Our Car

63: Our View | Rental House | Living Room

65: The Crib & Stewart Island | We spent a great few days "down south" in Philip's parents' crib. We hung out, ate great food, went to the beach, and relaxed. Grosi, Esther, Kevin, Philip and Kristi took a day trip to Stewart Island for a bit of nature and walking. What a fun trip all around! With all the settling in we've been doing, it was good to get away with good company and extend our honeymoon just a little longer.

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  • Title: Honeymoon and Adventures
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