Friday, June 22, 2018

Our first day of traveled took us along the coastline with a couple of rest stops along the way.  Our overnight stop was a very tiny spot called Sandend on the beach. 20 or so houses nestled into a tiny little bay - perfect!  When we left, I schedule in a stop on Black Island, for some birding and seashore spots.  When we got to Fortress the tide was way out, no birds in site, and certainly no one was taking their boat out!

A local out enjoying the surf!
Our stop in Alness is for Gordon to do some genealogy research.  His father was born here.  He had basic information, that had been handed down from other family members and Tom’s sister, who is a super whiz at this stuff and  and ancestry fanatic, helped him with some background stuff to get him started.
Fortrose in Black Island at very low tide!

We found one of the three churches in town, thinking that was a good place to start.  Lucky for us, it was the one we had hoped to find first! They were just getting ready to hold a meeting of the elders, so we three became quite the talk as we inquired about the locals and if any one knew of Gordons surname. After being given directions, we headed off to the Heritage Center.  

The ladies there were full of ideas, but nothing really concrete.  As we were about to head to the library, a guy, Mike, came down and asked if he could help.  We followed him upstairs to a very crowded room of old equipment and lots of boxes. 

Along one wall he had a microfiche machine and a drawer full of historic documents.  He claimed that he’d only used the machine once, yesterday, he was more than willing to accept help. It's been many years since I last used a microfiche machine back in high school, but we got it figured out and working!

Long story short, I stepped in to help with the microfiche and we were able to find Dad’s family listed in the 1901 census report!  Confirmation! With copies in hand and a copied page from the local phone book we headed out.  But wait, there’s more!

A local woman walking by had noticed Tom’s shirt, Focus on Feathers, as she walked past.  She waited around outside to ask about it and then offered Tom all kinds of local knowledge on where to find the ‘good stuff’! I even got some tips about local food, and markets – her other passion!

So, tonight we did housekeeping, laundry and dinner.  These botanical shots are some that I took at the reserve gardens while Tom was off searching for the next mark on the year list!

Tomorrow Gordie is off to find a cousin or two, or at least narrow the search. Tom’s having a successful time with his bird count and will most likely go track down more.  I may just go wander and see what pops up in front of me.  Right now, it’s raining pretty hard and I’ve got a brand-new book……could just be a quiet day – me and my book and a pot of tea!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Dunnottar Castle at Stonehaven, or what's left of it.
Our hosts I Doha, Carol and Livia, were kind enough to delay the start of their vacation by two days to have a chance to see us.  WE LOVE YOU GUYS!!!!  They are off on a paragliding training vacation/class in Turkey.  Their flight left Doha at 3:45 am and ours left at 7:35, so we all headed to the airport together.  We had a few hours extra to wait, but everyone was happy and relaxed knowing that, a) we were at the airport, and b) their house was closed up and secure as they wanted it.   Hamad International airport is a busy airport at 2am!  One can even get a seated massage at that time!  We didn’t, but you can.

Five hours on uncomfortable airport seats later, (Gordie opted for a quiet piece of floor), we were on our last Qatar ( Caht-ar) airline headed for Edinbrough Scotland!  7 hours later we arrived to another queue of 200 or so people!  If you’re going to travel be sure you have an e-passport to allow you quick and easy entry without the hours of standing in lines.

 We got a taxi to the RV depot, picked up the RV and headed out of town.  A stop for groceries, some adult beverages, for the traditional ‘landing rum’ and we were good to go find a campsite.  Noah’s Ark Caravan Park was our home for the next 2 nights.  We did grilled tuna sandwiches and a cup of soup and headed for bed.

 After a good night of sleep, we finally rolled out of bed at 1 in the afternoon!  We were exhausted but managed to rally.  A short walk to the local bus took us into the town/village of Perthshire to get some lunch and a couple of needed items.  

We asked a couple of locals for assistance and once we got across the language barriers, we had no problem finding what we needed.  The folks here, when you ask for directions or assistance, rather than pointing or describing, will just take your elbow and walk you down the street to the shop you’re looking for!  

We had an early night although it’s hard to go to bed at 10:30 or so when it’s still very light out. And, sunrise is 4:30!  We’re talking long days about 19 hours of daylight, and we’ve got solstice in a few days.

As far as the language goes, the Scotsmen we’ve talked with think we have the ‘funniest’ sounding accents. We, on the other hand, think they’ve got marbles in their mouths!
I asked someone to day about birds.  All I got was blank looks…. Then one of the ladies exclaimed, “ Oh, you mean ‘bairds’…. Oh aye, we’ve got bairds! Whaat’ll ye be looooken far?
The check out girl at the grocery – “Dinya wannabahg?” ( did you want a bag?)  

It’s a pretty country and we’ve just started to explore, but so far the people have been pretty fun!

Our travels took us around the ‘main’ part of Scotland on our way to Inverness and on to Alness.  We prefer the coastal routes so we left Perth to head to Aberdeen and beyond on the Eastern shore of Scotland.  I routed us on around the coast stopping occasionally at a point of interests for all of us, or a bird or wildlife refuge for our driver.  Gordie and I usually like those stops too.  

Most of the time they are quiet, remote and located in very pretty spots. Everyone is happy and then we can continue!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Qatar- Doha

Doha city scene with a dhow on the bay.

Our flight from Cape Town had us arriving into Doha at ten minutes to midnight.  Doha is a big hub for continuing travelers and we were ushered off the plane with everyone else.  We asked several gate officials where the baggage claim was  and unfortunately got queued into the security line to do a 'connecting' flight.  After realizing that this security screening wasn't for entering the country and thoughts like " wow, they take their security seriously" , we were able to get back to the proper place and finally found our way to the immigration line... 200+ people long.  One hour and 12 minutes later, we had our passports stamped, our luggage in hand and got out to meet our friend Livia, who had graciously offered to pick us up at the late hour - now about 1:30am!

A short night later, we were all up for a lovely breakfast of homemade crepes by Carol!
Lefty making sure Carol gets the crepes done just right!  
A short day of touring was all we time for, so they gave us a whirlwind blast through town and the surrounding areas.
This is the new Desert Rose Museum right along the highway in the city.  The desert rose is a particular mineral structure formed under the right sand conditions in the desert.  The architecture is very varied all over town, and there is an amazing amount of growth. Livia noted that overtime they drive through the city, there is some new building that they hadn't noticed before. It would have been nice to wander through the CBD to see some of them, but the heat kept us inside with the AC on high.

The temperatures in the city today were in the high 40's C - that's in the 116 degree range folks!

We had to limit our time outside so we didn't get much walking around.  Carol and Livia,   sailed to Mexico from Canada and then continued to the South Pacific.  They were avid kite surfers, and still are, but have recently taken up paragliding.  One of their favorite places for either of these two activities is about 40 minutes outside of town at the 'dunes'.  Unfortunately the wind was up today, creating quite a layer of 'sandy air', so visibility was poor.  What looks like smog in the photos is actually the dust in the air.

The dunes are an extremely popular place for tours and exploration.  There are 'stations' just before you enter the dunes to deflate your tires for dune riding, then inflate them upon your return for a small fee.  Once our tires were down to 18psi, we headed off to the dunes.  Several steep dunes later, we were up and over a couple and then down to an area that is usually quite dry.  Due to extreme tides the past few days, the normally dry lagoon still had quite a bit of water and sandy mud.
Carol was able to drive us around the edges of this large lagoon before we headed back to town.  While I'm getting better about doing 4WD stuff and activities such as dune riding - i can't help but think about the getting stuck part - clear out in the boonies, or in this case a couple of km from town, in 116 degree weather on sand too hot to walk on, or touch.  Help could have been a while had we needed it.  Luckily, and as is the case most of the time, we didn't need it!  Carol did a good job of keeping his guest from having to do the digging!

And what's a trip to the desert without some camels!  The 'socks' are there noses are not for keeping the blowing sand out of their noses, but to keep them from spitting on people!

Heading back to town we stopped at the Doha version of a 'street taco' location, Habeeb, where we all had  great chicken shawarma sandwiches before continuing our tour through town.

Our next stop was the Museum of Islamic Art, or MIA.  Unfortunately, the guys were all wearing shorts which they don't allow in the building, so we briefly wandered the outside grounds going from shady tree to shady tree.

The wind blowing across the harbor felt like we were standing in front of a warm hair dryer on a low setting!

Our tour eventually took us around the harbor and back to their home, just in time for an sunset dip in the pool.  There are several places that one cannot photograph - any government or official building, any mosque, many people and in several places there are large 'no photograph' signs.

Many places there aren't any notices, but there are security cameras all over the city. I was cautioned to not even attempt photos from 'secretly inside the car! I would have loved to walk the streets looking at the different architecture and city scenes, but A) due to the heat it was not possible today, and B) I didn't want to get any of us into trouble or cause an issue by accidentally photography something off -limits.  I saw the movie 'Midnight Express' years ago in college!

Carol and Liva were gracious enough to entertain us for the day. They put off their vacation for a day to be able to meet up with us.  We're grateful that they did.  We are all heading to the airport together for a 3:45am flight, them and a 7:15 am flight - us.

This is 3 dovecotes or pigeon towers .  There are several buildings in the city of this is seen just  to the left of Carol in the previous photo. It was obvious that this is a popular shape in town.....

The traveling hats made an appearance here in the city because it was just too darn windy in the desert!

We had no expectations about our brief time in Doha, as it was basically an extended layover.  The images of what the town looked like 30 years ago versus what it is today is mind boggling.  Not far from their home a planned 'town' is being built.  No one lives or works there yet.  There are sky scrapers, apartments and other necessary city infrastructure currently under construction.

The official language is English, and driving is done from the left side of the car on the right side of the road, just like in the states. Of the population of approximately 2 million, only 15% are Qataris, the rest are imports. Many are construction workers and service people from all over.  There is a high number of Nepalese, Malaysian, and other middle easterners. The city will be hosting the 2022 World Cup and big plans are underway; Buildings, sport complexes, a new light rail system, increased freeways - it's already a 6 lane either direction highway with one or two cars on it.  The city is safe, and people are friendly.  Traffic infractions are high - running a red light will cost you $2000 USD!!, and there are speed and intersection cameras everywhere. I'm told most food items are available here, with maple syrup being an exception. There is one store in the entire town to purchase alcohol and pork products, fondly called the 'beer and bacon' store by our friends. The exchange rate is fixed and is in the US favor.  Fuel prices are cheap, and if you eat where the locals eat food is also. The 5 of us ate a nice lunch for 25.00US.
This town is worth another visit, perhaps when it's just a bit cooler during their winter.  Rarely does the temp dip below 50... ever!  Come see it before it gets even bigger!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Africa - Final day Simon's Town to Stellenbosch

Well it was bound to happen.  We had planned to get up early to head up the coast exploring along the way to the wine area of Cape Town, Stellenbosch.

The alarm went off at 7am and  I headed for the shower before dawn had broken.  When I got out of the shower, it was still dark... and lightening and rain was happening in a BIG way!  If only it had been 10 minutes earlier I would have stayed in bed!   So, since the weather system had arrived 24 hours earlier, we had a slow morning and then said goodbye to Simon's town.

One of the places I had wanted to photograph was the beach cabanas/ houses along the waterfront in Muizenburg and St James.  These were best done early in the morning, preferably on a sunny day.  Well, we stopped at a bird wildlife refuge for Tom... and he had to battle with the high winds and rain to get 10 new birds in about an hour and a half.  He could have spent all day, but we had other places to be.. like on the beach for more beach houses!  At the two locations where there are still the beach houses, it was cloudy and rainy at both.  And, they weren't quite as impressive up close.

Luckily I was able to get some shots off in-between rain squalls but there wasn't any 
sunshine to be had.

We continued up the False Bay Coastline cutting north to Stellenbosch, one of the wine areas just 30 minutes out side of Cape Town. We stopped for a nice lunch at one of the areas wineries and spotted this castle looking house on the mist covered hill.

Unfortunately, all is not castles on the hills as we did pass through some of the shanty town areas located just outside of town.  This area, in particular, received enough rain in the one day to cause significant flooding, and the wind blew several roofs off of some of the shacks.

The dots are raindrops on the windows.  We had at least 3 occasions where the rain was coming down so hard we had to pull over and wait for it to decrease.  At one intersection, we watched the level rain in the gutters increase as the rain poured down, then slowly recede as it abated!

Our next morning had us heading to the airport for our flight to Doha in Qatar.

We have cruising friends there, Carol and Livia, whom we haven't seen for 7 years.  It was fun looking at all the destinations on the board.  Ours was the 4th one listed. We watched one more incredible squall pass by, then the sky got sunny just before we boarded the 10 hour flight.
Africa has been an amazing place.  We're sad to be leaving it, but the rest of the trip is waiting for us.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Africa-Cape of Good Hope

Cape of Good Hope
For our one full day in Simon's Town we had to head to the Cape of Good Hope, the most southerly point in Africa... well, almost.  The actual souther point is at the other end of False Bay.  Since our accommodations were in Simon's Town, this Cape will just have to do!

The Indian Ocean side of the peninsula is rather green with low scrub.  The Atlantic side looks rather moon like... very bare and desolate, yet there are a few resident animals that live there.
The Sable Antelope

The Common Eland.... I don't think there is any thing common about them!
The Cape Mountain Zebra, who differs from the Kruger Zebras in their strips don't go to their belly.

And what's a shoreline without an ostrich or two walking on it!

The views, again are spectacular on a gorgeous day like this one.
Cape Point Light House - Retired
There's a new smaller, but more powerful lighthouse located down a very narrow hill 'spine'... you'll just have to take my word for it!

The new lighthouse is located down on that point!

We are just over 1/2 way around the world at Cape Point.

The hats had to make an appearance here!

One must be careful when driving here...

This Leopard tortoise was happily munching his piece of grass.

This part of Africa is totally different in terrain and animal life.  So much so that one forgets that you are still in a land that can bite you!

Note the sign over his shoulder as he casually sits there......