Lord’s Cricket Ground

It is World Cup Cricket time in the UK at the moment and we (me and my 3 children) had tickets to the SA v Pakistan game. It was my birthday present to myself and what made it special was having all 3 of my kids come along with me. As it turned out it was another poor SA performance but it was a still a nice day because watching cricket for a day generally beats doing anything else. And watching cricket at Lord’s Cricket ground is also always special.

What made the defeat hard to swallow was the ridiculous amount of support for the Pakistan team at the ground. It felt like it was a home game for Pakistan. Besides an SA supporter sitting next to us, we were surrounded by Pakistan supporters who cheered every run, jumped up and signaled 4 or 6 every time they hit a boundary and constantly were chanting “Pakistan, Pakistan”. They even played some Pakistan song over the loudspeakers on a regular basis which got the whole crowd singing along. Really did feel a little biased towards Pakistan and unfortunately the SA cricket team contributed with their poor performance to the celebrating Pakistani’s.

The other three all went their own ways yesterday (none of them wanted to come to cricket). H went to All Souls Church, O went to listen to hear her Dad at St Simon Zelotes (https://www.stsimonzelotes.com/) where he was guest preaching and K toured across London and visited the V&A Museum of Childhood Victoria and Albert Museum and Freud Museum (https://www.freud.org.uk/) which apparently is in his home.

We then all had a birthday celebratory dinner together at the flat afterwards. I figured given we are likely to be eating out a lot over the next few weeks we should rather have a home cooked meal on our last night in London.

We fly later today to the US. Besides me, everyone else had trouble checking in for the flight. I eventually managed to sort out H & C (they are on the same booking) and got them checked in. We also discovered that the other 4 of them didn’t have ticket numbers in their bookings and on calling BA it turned out that their tickets had actually never been issued! Helen had already spent about an hour trying to solve S&K’s ticket issue so we have no idea why it wasn’t resolved the first time. M&O though had exactly the same issue. O spent an hour sorting out their tickets on the phone to BA and then S spent about the same time doing that as well. We finally got them resolved at about 8pm last night but we still struggled to get everyone checked in. O managed to check in but M couldn’t and S&K couldn’t at all either. I decided to move the car pick up earlier so we could resolve at Heathrow but then suddenly this AM we discovered that BA must have checked S&K in (because they were checked in) and then I managed after multiple attempts to get M checked in. You just have to wonder at the BA systems!

Until tomorrow (when we will hopefully be in the US) …

P, M (because he stayed with me until I was ready to leave the cricket), S (because he left after C), C (because she came to cricket), H (because she was the only one to give me a gift yesterday), O (because she spent an hour on the phone with BA), K (sorry … she did navigate herself around London yesterday but someone has to be last!)

Finally all in London

We are all finally in London together. Unfortunately it didn’t all go to plan though. On Friday I finished the conference in Montreal and as I had nothing to do in the afternoon I headed for the airport. While I was in the taxi heading for the airport, S & K were boarding their plane to London. They left on time and so we due to land in London at around 6:30am. The plan was that I would meet up with them at the airport as my flight from Montreal was due in also at 6:30am.

By the time I had cleared security, I had about 5 hours to wile away at the airport. My plan was to do some work as it was my last working afternoon before I started my leave. The set up in the Air Canada lounge though wasn’t ideal for working though I did manage to do some emails at least. I was constantly checking that all was still on time with my flight and at about 4pm it actually updated saying we would arrive at 6:15am so all seemed on track. Then suddenly at 5pm I got a notification that the flight was delayed and arriving now departing at 8pm (instead of 6:50pm) and then a few minutes later another one saying 8:35pm and then another one a few minutes after that saying 9:35pm. At about 8:45pm it updated then to a 9:50pm departure and I started to doubt I was ever going to leave Montreal.

There is a limited amount of time you can spend in a lounge in an airport and I was fast approaching that limit especially since the last 3 hours were unplanned. I had eaten everything there was to eat and watched enough Netflix and now wanted to actually get on a plane and leave. The added irritation was that I had specifically kept myself in UK time and with the 5 hour time difference it really did feel like 2am in the morning for me and I really wanted to go to sleep. I was now starting to have my doubts we were going anywhere that night. It didn’t help then when we were queuing to board (this was now at 9:30pm and I was starting to doubt the 9:50pm departure time), the two guys behind me were giving a running commentary on how stressed the gate departure staff were looking. Each time the leader got a call they would make up the conversation between the two of them like “I’m not telling these people that we are further delayed” or “You come down here yourself and tell them the flight is cancelled” or “What did you say – there’s a technical problem we can’t fix”.

We did eventually board at 9:45pm though and we took off at 10:30pm with the expected arrival time into London of 9:30am (3 hours late). No explanation ever given, no apology either at the gate or on the plane. Seemed like a standard thing that happens and when I tracked the on time performance of the flight I found out it is actually a regular thing. 20% of the time that particular flight is late by more than 2 hours. Air Canada were just ‘proudly’ voted number 1 airline in North America. You can just imagine how bad the rest of them are!

By the time I arrived, S & K had arrived in London, gone to the flat for a shower and already headed out with the rest of them to Natural Science Museum. I drove past the museum at 10:30am when they were touring around it. As I had slightly less than 4 hours sleep on the flight, I had had a quick nap when I arrived and Helen went off to sit in St James Park and read. As you can tell from that the weather was quite nice (which in London means not raining). In the evening we decided to have a picnic in St James Park as well and joined the numerous other people sitting on the grass doing likewise. It was nice to have the whole bunch of us together and on holiday.

I am busy typing this quietly in the lounge because M & S are sleeping in here (lack of beds for all of us) and I have been awake since 5am (not sure my body knows what timezone I am in at the moment).

Until tomorrow …

P, H (because she was only one at flat when I arrived), C (because she’s my favorite daughter), S, M, O & K

London for some, Montreal for one

M & O arrived safely into London on Wednesday morning and were in the flat at around 8:30am. After a quick shower, H, M & O headed out for breakfast at Abuelo (https://www.abuelocafe.co.uk/) which seems to be Helen’s new favourite breakfast spot in London. After breakfast they headed to Westfield Shopping Mall (which is probably London’s biggest mall – I haven’t fact checked that but I would be surprised if it wasn’t). While they were doing that I was heading to Heathrow to catch my Air Canada flight to Montreal which left at 2pm.

I arrived in Montreal at 4pm (Canadian time) which was 9pm UK time and the first thing I did was check the cricket score to find out we had now definitely been knocked out of the World Cup. I wasn’t hopeful before I climbed on the plane after seeing how slowly we were batting but I was still praying for a miracle that unfortunately never occurred. On an entirely different note, I do love Canadian immigration. You scan your own passport, answer a few questions, it prints a slip of paper and you walk over to customs who look at it, ask where you come from and off you go. From landing to being in the taxi took me only 30 minutes. I’m staying at Fairmont Queen Elizabeth (https://www.fairmont.com/queen-elizabeth-montreal/) which is in downtown Montreal. Nothing special, just like any other hotel in a downtown area. The picture is the view from my room. And yes the weather is that lousy – 16 degrees and raining.

Thanks to jetlag (and very little attempt for me to get into the Canadian time zone), I went to sleep at around 7:30pm and woke up at 3am. Same thing last night. I am hoping that (because I fly back to London tonight) I will avoid jetlag entirely as I will be back in London for the weekend. It does also mean I can answer emails and do some work before the conference starts each day. Canadians seem to love starting their conferences early. 7:45am start for the first session each day – definitely the earliest I have started a conference anywhere in the world.

While I was conferencing yesterday, the other 4 (H, C, M & O) went to Regent’s Park and then up Primrose Hill. H & C then went to Taste of London which is happening this week until Sunday in Regent’s Park. Not sure why it is called Taste of London though because from the looks of what Helen and Chloe ate there it should be called Taste of the World.

One more day of conferencing awaits me and then back to London tonight for me. S & K also leave tonight for London and if all goes well we will meet up at Heathrow tomorrow morning!

Until Saturday …

P, H, C, M & O

UK & US trip

We are just starting a family holiday to the UK and US. For a variety of reasons we are leaving SA on 4 different flights. H & C left on Saturday night, P on Sunday night and M & O are leaving tonight. S & K still to depart on Friday night. Everyone is flying into London.

Globe Theatre

H & C spent Sunday walking along the South bank of the Thames and then (after a drink at a pub as one does when in the UK) spontaneously went to watch Henry V at the Globe Theatre. They did the original thing and bought a standing ticket for £5 and spent the next 3 hours standing. They said it was excellent and worth repeating. They were doing this while I was on a flight from Cape Town to London which fortunately was uneventful.

I have spent the last 2 days working while H & C have enjoyed a few days in London. Today C went to York to meet up with some friends and will spend the night up there before returning tomorrow to London. M & O arrive tomorrow morning from Johannesburg (they flew via Jhb and have just taken off). I am going to Montreal (for business) for the next 2 days and I will overlap briefly tomorrow morning with M&O before I head to Heathrow for my flight to Canada.

When you’re in London you must mention the weather. The temperature has been quite mild (around 20 degrees C) and until midday today it has been dry. At lunchtime though and most of the afternoon it has been raining and they’re predicting thundershowers for the rest of today and tomorrow as well. You can’t expect to come to London and not have it rain though!

Until I write again … won’t promise when because I don’t know when I will write given I am still working!

P, H & C … with M & O on the way

Skukuza to Home

Our flight was at 13:15 from Nelspruit Kruger airport and so we decided to leave Skukuza via the Malelane gate which meant about 70 kms of driving in the Kruger Park. It was our last  opportunity for game viewing. We left at about 7am but it was already quite warm (25 degrees C) and game viewing was quite sparse until we got further south. While the game viewing did pick up, what also picked up was the amount of cars and private game viewing operators. We stopped at Afsaal (midway between Skukuza and the exit gate) and Helen counted 24 game vehicles parked there! It is quite incredible how they dominate the whole southern part of the Kruger.

We did see about 10 white rhino on the drive down and one sighting of them at a waterhole and it was just us present for that sighting. We also saw a buck in the tree which a leopard had put there. We couldn’t see the leopard – it was further back in the bush and our view was obscured by the multiple private game trucks in front of us. You edge forward, they edge forward. It is very irritating and reminded us why we so much prefer the north of the Kruger where you see no private game vehicles at all. We did add a few more birds to the trip list which brought our final total to 152 birds with 4 lifers.

We exited the park at around 10:30am and arrived at  the airport about an hour later. Checked-in, Wimpy for lunch and then onto our flight which left on time and we arrived on time into Cape Town as well.

We had a fantastic time and it was very relaxing. We have already started to think about ‘next time’ and where we would go and how long we will spend! Highlights of the trip for me:

  1. Helen’s cheetah sighting – still have no idea how she saw it!
  2. Bird of the trip – White Stork (we saw so many!)
  3. Lifer of the trip – Long-crested Eagle (we could ID it through it’s call in flight and we got a good look at it)
  4. Best camp – Shingwedzi
  5. Best meal – Steak salad (did I mention how good that steak was?)

Until next time …

P & H

Letaba to Skukuza

160 km to travel and it was predicted to get to 36 degrees C so we decided to head out early. We left by just after 6am. About 5 kms outside Letaba our 3 day elephant curse was finally broken and the rest of the day yielded 100s of elephants (literally). They must have gone on a conference or something and came back today. We saw a reasonable amount of game and birds from Letaba to Satara when it was still relatively cool (we classify anything under 25 degrees C as cool). Some interesting sightings like a warthog family (mom, dad and 6 youngsters), a field full of maribou and white storks (no idea why they were altogether and nowhere near water – must have been 100 or more) etc.

The most interesting thing we witnessed was a KNP helicopter trying to chase a giraffe.  The giraffe had gotten itself stuck on an island in the middle of the Letaba river. It was apparently there for 3 days already and they were trying to use the helicopter to scare it off the island across the river and onto the bank. But even though they got very close to the giraffe it wasn’t going to be forced across the river. They even tried shooting into the bank to try to scare it and that didn’t work either. Eventually they landed the helicopter and were obviously going to try something else.  We guess that if it didn’t get off soon it would start to die from starvation as there was definitely no food for it on the small sandbank it found itself on. What I did find amusing was the Section Ranger from the region had his dog along for the trip. You can see he was well trained though!

We stopped at Satara for breakfast and then at Tshokwane to use the bathrooms and buy some drinks. Helen saw the notice about the coffee availability … one of those classic signs! We then drove to Skukuza and arrived at 1:15pm and fortunately were able to get into our hut immediately. It has a beautiful view over the river and while neither Helen nor I generally like Skukuza (it is very big and busy), this accommodation might be worth repeating.

We only added one new bird to the trip list today (taking us to 150 birds) and we only added Grey Duiker to the animals list (which we saw from the bench in front of our hut at Skukuza!). The drive from Tshokwane to Skukuza was particularly poor – we hardly saw any game as I think it was just too hot already at that point (33 degrees C).

We had dinner at the Cattle Baron at Skukuza (moved our anniversary dinner until tonight). That was a good decision.  The food was good and it was a beautiful evening to sit outside. It has struck us that above Satara you don’t find any tourists – all the visitors are South African – but below Satara the majority of the people seem to be foreigners. Besides the ranger at one table with his guests, Helen and I reckon we were the only locals at the restaurant tonight.

Unfortunately only tomorrow AM left of our 2 weeks …

P & H


We had elected to spend 4 nights at Letaba because it was Helen and my favourite camp. You might notice I used the past tense in that sentence.  While Letaba remains one of our favourite camps, Helen and I think Shingwedzi has now clearly surpassed it.  One of the reasons is that the game viewing has not been great.  We have had 2 full days in which we did not see any of the big 5 – not even one elephant. For those of you who have been to Letaba you might know that the area is known for its large tuskers but they were nowhere to be seen.  The whole of Monday and Tuesday was pretty much limited to birding. Helen said yesterday evening “I’ve given up looking for game, I’m now only looking for birds”. The birding has been excellent though. We are now up to 149 birds for the trip and we added another lifer today – Long-crested Eagle – which takes my lifers to 437.

The other reason that Letaba has gone down on our list is the quantity of insects we seem to attract especially at night when we are eating. The light on the balcony seems to pull them in and by the end of the evening the floor is crawling with them. We moved the table last night to try to mitigate against the insects – it did help but still not enough.

We did finally have a good sighting of a cheetah this morning. It walked along the road for almost a kilometer. It was marking out its territory as it stopped on a no-entry sign and urinated against that and then it crossed the road and headed off into the bush. We got some good shots with my proper camera so the one you see here was just a quick iPhone snap.

It has been a relaxing time though at Letaba.  We have generally done a morning drive and then a short evening drive. Today though we decided to skip the evening drive as we have a long-drive tomorrow. The evening drives have also generally been less fruitful as it is quite hot still. For instance at the moment it is still well over 30 degrees and it is 5:45pm.

Today is actually a special day for us though the children all seem to have forgotten that they might not have been in existence if it hadn’t been for this day 26 years ago. I’ve spent the afternoon revising my will and watching cricket.

Helen and I have remarked on how many bushbuck there are in the Letaba camp.  The place is almost overrun with them. I actually said that they surely need to remove some of them as there is over-population happening. Then this afternoon, sure enough the rangers are around darting the bushbuck and loading them into the back of the bakkie. The tranquilizer takes about 10 minutes to take full effect. The ranger said if he shot one of us with it, it would be fatal. He said it would be seconds before we were out and we would die shortly afterwards … reminder not to stand near the bushbuck in the camp when they’re darting them! The ranger said that there isn’t actually enough food in the camp for them and one was in very poor condition so they had to put it down. They take them and release them far from the camp. Helen asked whether they could adapt being out of the safety of the camp and he said their instincts were undiminished. They only removed ones that weren’t suckling young. They were very gentle with the buck and held their heads up to ensure they didn’t damage themselves in any way before putting them into the bakkie. It was quite an interesting discussion and thing to watch.

Until tomorrow

P & H

Shingwedzi to Letaba

It rained most of last night and at times quite heavily. It must have somehow affected the electricity at the camp as it tripped out a number of times during the night (we know because the aircon went off and on each time). When I woke and ventured out the water was making mini-dams inside the camp.  It clearly had rained quite a lot and as the soil is pretty hard, it wasn’t soaking in at all.  It made us wonder what the rivers were going to look like.

The original plan was to have a quick morning drive and then come back for breakfast, pack up and head for Letaba.  However, Helen groaned half-asleep that she wanted to sleep more and skip the morning drive especially as it was still raining. So we did just that. We had a leisurely breakfast and eventually left the camp at around 9am. We had decided to drive the dirt road along the Shingwedzi river as we had plenty of time to get to Letaba (check in is only at 2pm). It was probably one the nicest drives we have done in the Kruger. The game was plentiful and the terrain is absolutely beautiful. It is the road that lies the furthest to the east in the Kruger and basically runs along the Mozambique border. We didn’t see in predators but we saw tons of other animals and birds. Our bird list is up to 137 species now.

There is also a bird hide on the road which, the author in a book we own on the Kruger roads, said is worth spending an hour at. He was right. The birding was very good and we added a number of new birds for the trip while sitting there. We had been there about 10 minutes when we heard voices. Helen and I couldn’t believe it. You’re in the middle of nowhere (nearest camp was probably 50 kms away) and right next to the Mozambique border. When we got out of the car at the hide there was a big sign up saying you should report poachers and the telephone was displayed who to call. The first thought through our minds was poachers.  The second was illegal immigrants from Mozambique.  Neither filled us with joy and so we high-tailed it back to the car. Just as we got into the car, two men appeared in army uniforms with rifles slung over their shoulders. They waved and greeted us. Phew … SA Army or anti-poaching! It really did make us wonder where they came from and how they got there in the first place until we were about 1km down the road and came across their bakkie parked in the bush. Our heart rates had declined to normal levels by that point. I was having thoughts of being hijacked by poachers and Helen and I having to spend nights in the hide waiting for someone to find us!

We stopped at Mopani for lunch as we both felt like toasted sandwiches and then we were back on the road to Letaba (which was still 47 kms away). The dirt road took us longer to drive than expected because of the amount of wildlife and the beauty. It was also very muddy and slippery in places so I had to drive cautiously at times. The rain had also caused rivers to flow where there weren’t rivers before and some of the causeways we crossed were under water as well. But we weren’t complaining because it was relatively cool (so much so that we had jerseys on – 22 degrees C) and it was a really enjoyable drive (have I said that before?).

About 10 kms from Letaba a leopard just appeared in front of the car. It came from my side (right side) and I called out ‘Oh my word’ and Helen replied ‘What?’ and I said ‘Leopard’ and she said ‘Where?’ and I said ‘in the road right in front of us’.  She was admittedly looking intently out the left side that she just didn’t think to look in the middle of the road. It was incredible timing as the leopard (without any concern for us at all), just ambled over the road and wandered off into the bush.  A minute later we wouldn’t have seen it.  A minute earlier we wouldn’t have seen it. But God’s timing is perfect  and we saw it!

The drive wasn’t finished rewarding us yet as about a kilometer before Letaba we also had a really good sighting of a caracal. They are nocturnal and so generally not seen during the day but we again had an excellent view of it before it headed into the bushes. We spent the balance of the day in the camp and just relaxed. We could hardly beat that day for excitement and interest!

Until next time …

P & H


We had three nights at Shingwedzi and after the first evening drive of seeing the 4 cheetah we remembered why we like it so much.  There is significant game around the camp and the drives along the river always seem to yield a variety that you just don’t see elsewhere.  There are also very few people so you are often by yourself at sightings.

The last 2 mornings we have driven on the road heading north to Punda Maria also along the river. Both mornings did not disappoint. The drive was filled with game and birds. On the first morning we saw hyena (only predator) but we did see tssebee and nyala both of which are quite rare in the park. There are only roughly 300 nyala in the KNP (and only 120 cheetah by the way) so they are generally pretty hard to see. There was also an interesting sighting of numerous white-backed vultures (even a Sanparks research team had stopped to watch those). On the 2nd morning we saw Eland (there are only 460 of those in the KNP and generally only found in the north).

Helen moans at me if I don’t pull into every pull off that runs along the river as she says she might miss something if I don’t so I have been dutifully doing that for each drive we do. As I did that yesterday on one occasion, Helen and both simultaneously saw a lion in the riverbed. It turned out to be 4 lions (one young male with 3 females). We watched them for about 30 minutes and no other cars joined us. They were active in that they went up the river bank, lay up there for a while and then came down again, lay on top of each other, got up walked a bit further, checked us out intently etc. Eventually they got up and walked into, under and behind a large tree and you could no longer see them at all. If you were driving past then you would not know that there were 4 lions there. It made us wonder how often we drive past lion, leopard etc.

Last year when we stayed at Shingwedzi, a honey badger came visiting at night and the same thing happened again the first 2 evenings. They are pretty aggressive and feisty and have been known to attack lion even. They are pretty much unkillable as they even have an immune system that can handle almost all snake venom. It came right onto our patio and I was able to take a photo of it though it was growling at me. It then did run away when it realised I was not going to feed it (or become food for it!). We have also had a squirrel visit us and a red-billed hornbill keeps coming and pecking at its reflection in the microwave glass!

It wasn’t a great day for birding yesterday but we did see Great White Pelicans (which I don’t remember seeing in the KNP before) so that was a pretty unique sighting. We are now up to 128 birds for the trip.

In between our game drives we have maybe to do a lot of relaxing. Helen has managed to get in some runs (she ran yesterday morning after we got back and it was 30 degrees then). We, like most people, have braaied most nights but we have kept it quite simple and eaten pretty healthily (steak salad twice so far and yesterdays steak salad was probably the best steak I have eaten in years).

Until tomorrow (or later today depending on my energy levels to blog!)

P & H

Olifants to Shingwedzi

We woke early so that we could set off by no later than 6am as we were driving from Olifants to Shingwedzi. We figured it was better to get as much of the drive in as possible before it became to hot as it was predicted to hit 37 degrees C again. It was still relatively cool at 22 degrees C when we left Olifants. The terrain is mainly Mopani trees/bushes between Olifants and Letaba and that is attractive to elephants but not a lot else.  It has been measured that more than 50% of the elephants in the Kruger Park reside between Olifants and Shingwedzi and there are 12 000 elephants in the KNP. Our sightings matched the statistics as we reckon we saw more elephant on the drive to Shingwedzi than we had the other 5 days so far in the park.

We stopped at Mopani for breakfast (we got there at around 8:30am). The view from the restaurant is over the dam. It is a beautiful view with elephants having a morning bath and numerous birds around (including some right in the building – that’s a barn swallow in its nest in the photo). The staff at the restaurant are also very friendly and so it makes for a pleasant stop. We were on the road again at around 9:45am but unfortunately the temperature was already into the 30s by that point and so while we did see some game, most of the animals were also looking for a place to shelter from the heat of the day.

We arrived at Shingwedzi at 12pm and unfortunately our accommodation wasn’t available yet as they were still cleaning it. So we decided to have ‘lunch’ at the restaurant.  Helen had a lime milkshake and I had a waffle & ice cream.  Healthy lunch as you can see! We were able to get into the hut at 1pm and so we relaxed for the balance of the heat of the afternoon.

We decided to go for a short drive at 5pm before the gates closed. There are numerous loops and roads around the camp and we did our favourite one that runs along the river. The river is not really flowing but there are patches of water (enough for hippos even).  The bush is very lush around the river and the game seem to like it too as the drive was just teaming with game.  Giraffe, waterbuck, impala were seen in abundance.  The drive brings good memories for us because last year we twice saw leopard on the drive and in previous trips we have also seen leopard on that road regularly.

We usually turn around and head back at a particular point. Just before that point Helen asked me to reverse as she thought she saw something but it might just have been logs. So I dutifully reserved about 100 meters and I saw what she saw and thought ‘yes logs’ and then Helen looked through the binoculars and said ‘cheetah’. And sure enough, when I looked, cheetah! An incredible spot as there were at least 100 meters into the bush. There was a road with a no entry sign on it and so we drove down until I was right next to the no entry sign (being law-abiding) and watched the four cheetah for about 20 minutes. Other cars drove right past and despite Helen and I trying to get their attention to show them the cheetah, they either ignored us or didn’t see us. It reminded us again why we so like Shingwedzi camp.

We have also added substantially to our bird trip list as we are now up to 123 birds for the trip including 4 lifers (which takes my tally to 436). We saw a lifer on our last drive around Olifants on Wednesday evening (Little Stint).  We also have maintained our record of seeing one of the Big 5 every day since we have been here.  In fact most days we have seen two of the Big 5 as we have generally seen buffalo and elephant everyday.

Until tomorrow (or when I feel like blogging again!)

P & H