Archive for the ‘DPF’ Category

The mystery of Edwin Drood

March 31st, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Mystery of Edwin Drood is one of the largest productions I have seen at Circa, with 34 members of the cast (and one dog!).

It is a globally successful musical that has won five Tony Awards, and had long runs at West End and Broadway.

The name of the play, and its basis, come from Charles Dickens. It was his final novel, and he died before he finished it. Playwright Rupert Holmes turned it into a musical with a twist – the audience decided how it ends.

It is what you could call a meta-show – a show within a show. The New Zealand cast play a music hall cast performing the Dickens play.

There are 11 principal parts, being:

  • Chairman of the Music Hall Royale – Gavin Rutherford
  • Edwin Drood, murder victim – Awhimai Fraser
  • Rosa Bud, betrothed of Drood – Barbara Graham
  • John Jasper, uncle of Drood with a crush on Bud – Jack Buchanan
  • The Princess Puffer, opium den matron – Jude Gibson
  • Rev Septimus Crisparkle – Lloyd Scott
  • Neville Landless, a suitor for Bud – Ben Paterson
  • Helena Landless, sister of Neville – Flora Lloyd
  • Bazzard – Alan Palmer
  • Durdles – Andy Gartrell
  • The Deputy – Frankie Cur

I thought the entire cast performed very well. Barbara Graham has an exceptional singing voice and excelled. Awhimai Fraser also stood out with her performance as Edwin Drood. But all the principals performed both acting and singing well.

Also worth a mention was the 20 strong ensemble. They gave the performance a real cabaret feel, and many of them spent almost the whole performance on stage, responding to the events of the play.

The directing, music, set and lighting were all done very well, combining to create a very captivating production.

The audience participation is a highlight – ranging from the characters introducing themselves before the play starts, to voting on how the play ends, with members of the ensemble tallying up the votes from different parts of the audience.

You get to vote on how the mystery detective is, who the killer is, and which two characters should have a romantic ending. I won’t reveal who our audience voted but I will will reveal who I voted for – which was Helena to be the detective, Rosa to be the killer and the romantic couple to be Neville and Helena (heh).

I often get restless if a play goes on for more than 90 minutes or so. This production is 140 minutes long (with an interval), but not once did I feel it was dragging on. The plot advances at a brisk rate, and the songs are so enjoyable, time flies. You could tell the entire audience was loving the performance, and there was a huge ovation at the end.

Highly recommended for an entertaining evening out.

Tags: ,

Rakiura Track Day 3

March 26th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

RAK0030

Off just after 8 am for an 11 km hike out to the end of the track. We started with a bit of a climb.

RAK0031

Lovely views of the ocean and hills in the mist.

RAK0032

Another stream to cross.

RAK0033

And just great views down by the water.

RAK0034

We were so lucky with the weather. Was around 17 degrees and sunny.

RAK0035

You stay close to the water for around two thirds of the final day.

RAK0036

Good old NZ native bush.

RAK0037

The final section of the track.

RAK0039

And we’re out. It’s then a 2 km walk to Oban, but we were lucky that we got picked up on the way.

RAK0038

hanging up in the property next to the end of the track.

RAK0041

We had around three hours to spare Sunday afternoon so went to the South Sea Hotel for oysters, drinks and lunch. Then we flew out, and you can see Oban below us.

A really enjoyable three day hike. The easiest of the great walks to date. Was genuinely surprised by the beaches and beautiful bays. Definitely worth doing.

 

Tags: , ,

Rakiura Track Day 2

March 24th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

RAK0020

Saturday is a 13 km inland walk from Port William to North Arm.

RAK0021

Around an hour into it, there is a site which has two old log hauling machines at it. They were abandoned around 100 years ago.

RAK0022

One of the downwards sections on the track. Not much walking on the flat, but nothing too steep. Maximum climb in any one section is 200 metres.

RAK0023

Crossing a stream.

RAK0024

The halfway tree is where we stopped for lunch.

RAK0025

The woods reminded me of the movie “Into the Woods” I saw in January.

RAK0028

The back balcony for North Arm Hut.

RAK0026

The main entrance. Two bunkrooms and a dining area.

RAK0027

And once again a spectacular view from outside the hut. We got there around 2 pm (five and a half hours) so enjoyed several hours in the sun. The only hassle was the bumble bees!

 

Tags: , ,

Rakiura Track Day 1

March 23rd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

RAK0010

Flew over to Stewart Island the Friday before last to do my 4th of nine Great Walk – the Rakiura Track. A very bumpy flight at times, but we made it there safely despite Auckland Girl being in the co-pilot seat.

RAK0011

Three of the four of us at the start of the Track at Lee Bay. This is five kms from Oban. As we only landed at 2.30 pm, we grabbed a shuttle over there, but you can walk to it.

RAK0012

There was a bit of rain for the first half hour hence the jackets and pack covers, but after that only sunshine.

RAK0007

 

Lovely track.

RAK0001

Quite diverse tracks on Day 1. It’s an 8 km hike to Port William.

RAK0002

I didn’t realise how beautiful Stewart Island is. You tend to associate it with the rough Foveaux Strait, not sandy beaches and calm blue waters.

RAK0003

After a while the canopy opens up.

RAK0004

There are two sections that go along the beach. This is Maori Beach, which is also a campsite. I like being in huts, not tents, but was almost jealous of the campers for their location.

RAK0013

As you can see it looks like it could be in the Coromandel.

RAK0005

A bridge at the end of the beach.

RAK0014

Me heading across.

RAK0006

A good shot of the water.

RAK0015

And a happy duck.

RAK0008

The final beach at Port William.

RAK0009

Port William Hut. Sleeps 24.

RAK0016

And the view from outside the hut. Again quite stunning and not what I was expecting.

A fairly easy day. We made the hut in three hours, arriving around 6 pm.

 

Tags: , ,

Pi

March 16th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Over the weekend Five Thirty Eight reported:

Today is Pi Day — the day each year, March 14, that follows the first three digits of pi (3.14). And this year’s Pi Day is a special one: Since — in the U.S. — the date is represented as 3/14/15, we have the first five digits of pi on the calendar.

And at 9:26:53 am it is 3/14/15 9:26:53 which covers the first 10 digits.

That’s news for some people. When it comes to how many digits of pi people know by heart, the majority only know 3.14. Which is fine! Unless you’re building a bridge, that’s the most you will really need to know.

I asked SurveyMonkey Audience to put out a poll to see how far people could get reciting the infinite digits of pi. Of 941 respondents, 836 attempted to name the digits after the decimal point. This is how far they got:

10% could cite 3.1415926 and 5% 3.141592653

NASA employees can probably get away with knowing only the first six digits after the decimal point. Also, we have calculators for when we need a few more digits, TI-89s for when those calculators are insufficient and Wolfram Alpha for when we reduce those calculators to a smoking, melted mess.

My party trick at school and university was being able to recite pi to 15 decimal places. I thought this would impress the girls. I was wrong :-)

 

Tags:

DPF away

March 13th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

I’m on Stewart Island until late Sunday, tramping the Rakiura Track. There will be some pre-timed blog posts, but won’t be online to catch breaking news. See you all Monday.

Tags:

The Pianist

March 12th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

I loved this show.

Thomas Monckton was like a combination of Mr Bean and Jim Carrey. it was great, and he was hilarious.

Mockton plays a pianist who wants to make a triumphant appearance and then perform on the piano. But over the next hour everything that can go wrong does go wrong.

You don’t even see him for the first few minutes as you just see the figure trying to break through the curtain. You’re laughing out loud at the clawing motions you can see.

Then when he finally gets out, watch out for the chandelier, the piano legs, the cover, the lighting – well just about everything.

Monckton doesn’t speak the entire play. His antics and facial expressions are more than enough to keep you amused – along with his somewhat spiky hair.

The sound and lighting combine with great timing to make the show spectacular. And the lighting operator even plays a part more directly in the show – which was one of my favourite parts.

The audience also get involved at various stages.

It is the funniest show I have seen for years. You really don’t stop laughing. It was nice to have such simple uncomplicated physical humour. A great way to unwind after work or at the weekend.

I really can’t imagine anyone, whether aged 10 or 80, not enjoying this show.  It’s been performed in Edinburgh and London and is now back in NZ.

Tags: , ,

Yep, Still Got It

March 2nd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Yep, Still Got It is on at Circa Two until Saturday 21 March.

It’s a one person show by Jane Keller, who delights and excites the audience for 75 minutes.

Keller is facing retirement and unsure what to do, so she decides to hire a life coach. After her life coach recommends various unsatisfactory options such as being a phone sex operator, Keller decides to become a life coach herself – a job anyone can do with no training!

The rest of the show is spent with Keller playing herself as life coach and her various clients. It is a great mixture of dialogue and singing. Keller is fantastically talented as she sings risque lyrics, combined with facial expressions that have you laughing almost non stop.

Michael Nicholas Williams accompanies Keller on the piano, to his normal excellent standard.

Keller is a master of comical delivery. Not only does she deliver 75 minutes of laughs,but she has to memorise a huge number of songs and verses. Only once during a very long song did she falter, but her grace in asking Williams for a reminder was so smooth, it detracted nothing from the show.

My only complaint is that so many of the problems we heard from clients were so funny and interesting, I would have liked to hear more about what her advice would have been. Regardless a very funny show, that appeals to young and old.

Tags: ,

Wake Up Tomorrow

February 23rd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Wake Up Tomorrow is on for a week at Circa as part of the Fringe Festival. It is far removed from traditional theatre, as you might expect from the Fringe Festival.

Wake Up Tomorrow is primarily set on a plane and and a large cast entertains you with multiple scenes and plot threads. Some of them are related, and some are just there for fun.

The production is in collaboration with Active, a service for youth with an intellectual impairment. They provided the ideas for the plot, and make up the vast majority of the cast.

The 60 minute show was very heart warming, with many moments of laughter. The central plot was focused on whether Agent 009 would identify Spyfox before he could cause harm.

The show was a bit disjointed. While probably deliberate, some scenes did not seem to mesh well with others. This was probably a creative tension between letting the cast explore what they could do, but it did somewhat diminish the viewing experience. In the end it wasn’t so much a show with a plot, but rather a show about imagination. The Olympics scene at the end I found especially amusing, due to its ridiculousness.

All of the cast did well in bringing their vitality to the stage, and pulling off a show that both they and the audience enjoyed. Janiece Pollock, who played Bella and Kwame Williams-Accra as Spyfox were especially good.

The show also made good use of four dancers who performed dual roles in moving props on the stage, and helping move the show along.

Overall it was a cute and inspiring performance which I’m glad I got to see.

Tags: , ,

Caption Contest

February 12th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

ph

Enter your captions below. As always, funny not nasty. Especially this time :-)

Tags:

The Demolition of the Century

February 3rd, 2015 at 6:06 pm by David Farrar

The Demolition of the Century is a clever but frustrating play at Circa. It’s a cabaret style experience with a neat mixture of narration and singing.

The play is created by Duncan Sarkies who also is one of the two performers. Sarkies reads out a series of extracts or vigenettes from his novel of the same title. They are followed or sometimes blended with nine musical numbers performed with excellence by Joe Blossom (Sean O’Brien).

The novel is about Tom, who we are told is an insurance investigator who seems to have lost his job, his ex-wife, his socks and his 10 year-old son. The first extract pricks your curiosity as a dead horse becomes part of the mystery.

Blossom composed three of the nine songs he performed, and used a mixture of an electronic keyboard and various guitars. He’s a great performer and you enjoy the music, even if you struggle to relate at it times to the narration.

Just as we struggled at times with how the music fits in, it was also a challenge to work out how the different extracts all relate to each other. The final extract does help close the loop to some degree, but for much of the play I was in a state of mild confusion.

This was not accidental. Sarkies said “Yes, it’s all part of a much larger jigsaw puzzle, but I won’t be giving you enough pieces to work it out, so just relax and enjoy the mystery.”

For me though, not being able to work it out did detract from the otherwise excellent productions values, set, acting, and music. My partner commented that you want a play to be greater than the sum of its parts, and in this case it wasn’t.

The play did make me want to buy the novel (on sale for $30) as the plot sounded intriguing from the parts I worked out. As an advertisement for the novel, the play was successful. But as an evening’s entertainment, I’m afraid it was less so for me. That may be a reflection of my inability to catch onto some of the subtler aspects of the play, and certainly it got a great reception from most in the audience.

Tags: ,

Mt Kilimanjaro Day 6

January 26th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

KIL0070

It’s the final day and in around seven hours we rediscover the joys of showers. Despite being at 3,700 metres it is sunny and warm, so we’re in shorts and just one or two layers.

KIL0071

Saying farewell to Horombo.

KIL0077

And also goodbye to my favourite trees.

KIL0072

It is a relatively easy day, going downhill. However we still will be hiking almost 20 kms, which will take a bit over six hours.

KIL0073

Nice to be back under bush for the final three hours.

KIL0074

And near the end some monkeys again.

KIL0075

Finally we’re back to where we started. Over six days we have climbed around 4,600 metres and descended the same.

KIL0078

We get back to the Marangu Hotel around 3 pm.

KIL0076

And have drinks and photos with our team – the four of us, three guides, a chef and assistant, and seven porters.

Overall the toughest physical challenge I’ve done to date, but hugely satisfying. If you’re fit and slightly masochistic, I can recommend giving it a go. But not something to do casually!

This was the end of the African trip – gorillas in Rwanda, safari in Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. All very different experiences. I’m already missing the place, and looking forward to my next trip to the continent – sadly at least a couple of years away.

 

Tags: , , ,

Mt Kilimanjaro Day 5

January 25th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

We set off around midnight and the weather seemed perfect – no wind, and a clear night. The Southern Cross and Milky Way Galaxy were prominent in the sky.

It was however very cold. Going uphill with so many layers of gear on is exhausting work, especially when you have much less oxygen to breathe compared to normal.

The main challenge is to climb around 950 metres to Gilmans Point. Then after that it is a further 60 metres or so to Stella Point at 5,739 and finally Uhuru Peak at 5,895 metres – around 1,200 metres up from Kibo Hut.

The track to Gilmans is incredibly tough. First of all you can’t see it. You just follow the person in front of you. You can vaguely see some ridgelines but don’t know how far away they are. After a couple of hours of trekking, we had no idea how much more we had to go. We had been told six hours is normal, but our guide had said it may take seven and a half hours to Gilmans.

The path is steep. It is a 4 km track which rises 1 km vertically. So for every four metres of track, you go up one metre approx. There are basically no flat sections, or even gentle zig zag slopes. It is just relentlessly upwards.

To make it harder, some parts of the route go over scree. That nasty stuff where you slide back 80% of the step you take.

We take a 10 to 20 second breather around every eight minutes or so (Basma is counting to 300 slowly in Arabic between pauses) and every 45 minutes or so we do a proper stop where we sit down and have some food.

After three hours or so we seem to still be leagues away from the top. We need to not only get to Gilmans, but then to the peak, and then descend 2,000 metres or so to Horombo Hut – all of which is a good eight to nine hours on top of the time it takes to get to Gilmans.

I’m on the verge of quitting half a dozen times. The reduced oxygen and five lawyers of clothes is exhausting. And even with so many layers, you’re still cold. But so long as the others keep going, I’m determined to. I do make a mental note though to learn to say no, the next time someone asks me to do anything which involves going over 4,000 metres above sea level – unless a plane is involved.

The mountain side looks like a series of fireflies with torch lights both above and below us.

I’m most fearing three things which would force me down. Around 3 am the sky clouded over and the rain may be a matter of when, not if. Trudging up in the rain for hours on end would be too much. Likewise if the wind picked up, it would get too cold. Luckily neither were eventuating yet.

My other fear was when the altitude sickness I had in the Himalayas would strike. I had headaches for around seven days, and that was ascending just 500 metres a day, while this was double that. It previously struck around 3,800 metres and we were now over 5,000 metres.  The altitude training I did with Altitude Inc paid off. I mumble thanks in my head to Hayden Wilson for recommending them, and to their director Bronwyn for arranging a portable unit I could use in my apartment right up until I left Wellington.

The pauses are becoming far more common now. For a while we were doing 10 seconds trekking, 10 seconds pause as we started to fade. It was still pitch dark, and we had no idea what the time was, and how much further to go. A guide said he thought we had around an hour to go to Gilmans.

KIL0067

Suddenly ten minutes later we come across a sign. We think it must be a sign to tell us how far to get to Gilmans, but we are at Gilmans. It’s around 5,30 am – we even got there before the sunset.

Much hugging and high fiving follows. The biggest emotion is relief. All four of us have made it to the top ridge of Kibo. We’re not at the summit, but we are at the point where the National Park will recognise you as having climbed/trekked Kilimanjaro.

It is still dark, so we decide to go to Stella to see the sunrise. Basma has had problems with her jacket and gloves and is freezing, so she decides (wisely) to start going down a bit before we make Stella.

KIL0060

The path to Stella is not too bad, after the huge climb. It is mainly through snow and takes around half an hour to get there. There is no sunrise to be seen though as it is totally clouded in. It’s cold and miserable.

We decide to head onto the summit. In theory it is a 200 metre ascent (from Gillmans to Uhuru) over a 2 km track so only a 1 in 10 rise. However this is arguably the most exhausting part. We’ve been ascending for over seven hours and our pace is slow. Even the smallest rise exhausts us. Hell, even getting your water bottle from your pack is exhausting. And the water is mainly frozen solid.

There is a great companionship though. Those on their way down from Uhuru give you support and say not far to go, They high fist bump you and say you can do it – even though many are strangers. But the time stretches on and on, and we can’t see more than a score of metres ahead, so can’t tell how far to go.

KIL0061

Finally around 7.15 am we make the summit. Trekkers and guides hug. It is freezing so we do a few quick photos. There are no beautiful sights to see, but nothing can detract from having made it. It hasn’t snowed (yet) but my scarf has frosted over, and I’m told there is ice on my eye lashes. So yes the smiles are rather forced!

Bruce and Chris have both tramped and a lot, and are very fit. They agree that the section from Stella to Uhuru was a b**ch. We have no energy left, but staying put is not an option, so we start the trek back down.

KIL0062

We get back to Gilman’s and it is now light enough for a photo.

KIL0063

Then something cool happens. The cloud lifts for around 60 seconds and we get a view of Mawenzi.

KIL0064

We also can see some glaciers a short way from where we are.

KIL0065

Now it’s time to head back down. The clouds below look like crashing waves.

The trek down to Kibo Hut is faster than the trek up, but still painful and exhausting. With three pairs of socks on, my toes are pushed up against my boot tips as we descend. I routinely let out yells of pain as my big toes get mashed. When I finally get to a hut, I discover that the blood and bruising on the toe is so much, that I may need to get the nail removed.

A fair potion of the way down is scree, and you can almost ski on this for a rapid descent. But doing so is incredibly exhausting and the descent takes around three and a half hours from Uhuru.

As we descend, and can now see, we’re amazed at how much territory we covered coming up. We decide that the reasons they send us up at night, is because if you could see the full distance you had to climb, you’d give up early on. The path down keeps stretching further and further.

KIL0066

We have a couple of breaks on the way down and then around 11 am get back to Kibo Hut – 11 hours after we left. The cloud got so thick we could only see the hut once we were 20 metres from it. In some ways the descent was more unpleasant than the ascent.

I’m freezing and jump into my sleeping bag. I appear to have some mild hypothermia as I’m shivering even in several layers of clothes, a thermal liner and a sleeping bag. Even with my Down Jacket on, I’m shivering. The problem is you lose the heat from moving, once you stop.

We learnt the rangers decided to take Basma down by gurney as she was so exhausted. She’s not alone. A total of five trekkers out of around 30 in total were evacuated by staff due to exhaustion, sickness or hypothermia.

I seriously can’t face around three hours of trekking down to Horombo Hut and consider spending the night at Kibo. But I drag myself out of my sleeping bag, grab a quick lunch (beef stew, yum) and around 1 pm we start off on another 1,000 metre descent.

The flat saddle area is pretty manageable, but the final hour is spent going down the lower track to Horombo, and it is a steep track, full of boulders and rocks like on a rover bed. It makes the decent more exhausting, and damages my toes a bit more. We get a mixture of snow, hail and rain on the way down.

With relief we hit Horombo Hut around 4 pm. We’ve been trekking for around 20 of the last 32 hours. An early dinner and we hit the hut to crash.

We’re all coughing quite a bit – presumably from the cold. Hopefully not something worse. I feel a bit feverish and take my temperature and find it elevated.  And of course our muscles are aching. My last thought as we go to sleep is that I’ll be detained at the NZ border for sure as an Ebola suspect – coming back from Africa with a fever, a cough and barely able to stand up.

My other thought is that no matter how much pain was involved, a huge sense of satisfaction to have made it. I do tell Chris B though that he shouldn’t invite me to whatever stupid idea he has for his 50th birthday :-)

Tags: , , ,

Mt Kilimanjaro Day 4

January 24th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

KIL0040

Day 4 is when it starts to get more challenging with both the cold and the altitude. The terrains gets a bit like Tongariro.

KIL0041

There is however still some brightness.

KIL0042

Day 4 is a six hour hike over 10 kms, rising from 3,705 metres to 4,730 metres.  That is 2.87 kms higher than where we started.

KIL0043

The saddle stretches on for ages and ages. We got both rain and hail at various intervals. Having to put on wet weather gear heats you up and slows you down, but the moment we took it off, it would start raining again!

KIL0044

Bruce would feed the crows and this particular crow was not into sharing. Rather than just take a couple of pieces of bread, he went around grabbing every piece he could until he had almost 10 chunks in his beak!

KIL0045

Basma trying to be a crow.

KIL0046

The saddle is a gentle uphill. The final hour is a demanding steep slog. You’re really noticing the lack of oxygen on the uphill. At this height it is 11.5% oxygen compared to 21% at sea level.

KIL0048

Our chief guide Simon on the right.

KIL0047

Kibo Hut ahead. No A frames here. Just one big stone building with four bunk rooms sleeping around 15 each.

KIL0049

Bruce at the official sign. It was near freezing here and no one went outside except to go to the toilet. As we had all been taking Diamox to help with the altitude, and drinking four litres a a day, it is fair to say we were going a lot!

Day 4 is almost a combined day with Day 5. You only sleep for around four hours from 7 pm to 11 pm before making the final ascent to the summit. From 8 am on Day 4 to 8 am on Day 5 you are on you feet for around 18 hours.

We had a huge dish of pasta to car up at 6 pm, and then crashed. Didn’t really sleep much, and around 9 pm the wind started howling. This was not a great sign. Even with perfect weather, it will be below freezing on the ascent. High winds would be a killer.

Luckily they died down around 11 pm, when we got up.

Before dinner you have a final gear check, and set it all up next to your bunk so you can quickly get into it. I was wearing 26 different items of clothing (we joked about how long it would take to play strip poker!. To make the ascent I had:

  • Boots
  • Socks (6, 3 pairs)
  • Underwear
  • Long Johns x 2
  • Ski Trousers
  • Waterproof Overtrousers
  • Merino Tops x 3
  • Fleece Jacket
  • Waterproof Jacket
  • Scarf
  • Gloves
  • Mittens
  • Balaclava

Also of course walking poles, sunglasses (for way down) and headlamp.

We stumbled outside at midnightish for Day 5 and the final ascent. Sore and tried from Day 4, but adrenaline kicking in.

 

Tags: , , ,

Mt Kilimanjaro Day 3

January 24th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

KIL0030

Day 3 is a rest or more correctly an acclimatization day. We still did a five hour trek today, so it wasn’t very restful! Had a late wake up of 7 am!

KIL0031

Lots of those strange trees around camp.

KIL0032

We hiked up what they call the Upper Route towards Mawenzi.

KIL0033

These are the Zebra Rocks.

KIL0034

The natural colouring of the rocks is quite fascinating.

KIL0035

We decided to carry on up towards the ridgeline.

KIL0036

And got up to around 4,300 metres after three and a half hours. We’d been told the whole up and down would take three hours so were slightly grumpy.

KIL0037

Not as many of these here as in Nepal, but still a fair few Buddhists have been through.

KIL0038

A view down from the ridgeline. It started to cloud in going down, and then it rained. Luckily you always have the wet weather gear in the day pack, so a quick change for the final part of the descent back to Horombo.

Doing an acclimatization day was a very good idea. There seemed to be a lot more altitude sickness with groups that didn’t do it.

The weather stayed overcast, rainy and cold for the rest of the day. We had an early 6 pm dinner and then went to bed around 7 pm, as the two hardest days were to follow.

 

Tags: , , ,

Mt Kilimanjaro Day 2

January 23rd, 2015 at 5:30 pm by David Farrar

KIL0010

We got up on Day 2 at 6.30 am for breakfast. This crow was keen to join us inside.

KIL0011

Once again the weather was looking good.

KIL0012

So off we set. In the background you can see Kibo on the left (our target) and Mawenzi.

KIL0013

Today we rise 990 metres, but are still low enough down to have some great greenery.

KIL0014

Day 2 is around an 11 km trek, which isn’t huge, but the vertical gain of a km means it takes a good six and a half hours going slow.

KIL0015

At the lunch stop, there are always hungry grows.

KIL0016

An example of the plant life.

KIL0017

And another. Quite beautiful.

KIL0018

A zoom shot of Kibo as we get close to it.

KIL0019

These trees were very common from 3000 to 4000 metres are are quite spectacular.

KIL0020

Approaching Horombo Hut around 3 pm.

KIL0021

And we’re there. We’re now at 3,720 metres above sea level. For comparison the top of Mt Cook is 3,724 metres. During the day it is warm here, but once the sun goes down, gets pretty cold and you need a couple of layers to keep warm.

 

Tags: , , ,

Mt Kilimanjaro Day 1

January 23rd, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

KIL0001

 

A short while after I got back from the Himalayas, a mate (Chris) told me he wanted to summit Mt Kilimanjaro for his 40th birthday and asked if I wanted to give it a go also. After a few minutes thought (longer than usual for me) I said yes, and the planning started. We were joined by Bruce and Basma, colleagues and friends of Chris and I.

We decided to do the Marangu route and here we are looking cheerful at the Marangu gate which is 1,860 metres above sea level. In four days (plus an acclimatization day) we needed to ascend over 4,000 metres until we hopefully make the summit at almost 6 kms (5,895 metres) above sea level.

The summit is the highest point in four continents – there is no piece of land higher in Africa, Europe, Oceania or Antarctica. And while it is not a technical climb, but a trek, it is difficult.  The success rate is estimated to be between 30% and 75% depending on days taken. The combination of the steep rate of ascent and the height make it something you don’t attempt lightly, even though the first couple of days are relatively easy. The death rate is estimated to be 3 to 7 people a year.

KIL0002

Almost all of the first day is in the bush, which looks quite similar at times to NZ bush.

KIL0003

However they had monkeys!

KIL0004

We had been advised to take it slowly the first two days, as that helps with acclimatization. So we did the 8 kms and 850 metre ascent in around five easy hours. It was warm and sunny.

KIL0005

Once we got there we did an extra quick side walk, where we were lucky to see some white backed monkeys. The photo quality is poor as my normal 24x zoom camera had died on the trip, and I had a cheap 5x zoom replacement only.

KIL0006

Mt Kilimanjaro has craters all over the place, and this one was 15 minutes walk from the Mandara Hut.

KIL0007

Mandara Hut is actually a collection of A frames. They are not large as each A frame is split into two halves, each sleeping four. They do the job.

Had dinner around 6.30 pm and we crashed around 9.30 pm after a few rounds of cards. A good start to the trek. We’re all happy.

Tags: , , ,

Kenya Day 4 morning

January 14th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

KEN0110

The final drive started with more lions – or a lioness in this case. Look at the power in that body.

KEN0111

She has a good lookout there.

KEN0112

While this lion surveys his domain.

KEN0113

And then has a sleep.

KEN0114

A few of the cubs.

KEN0115

And a couple more enjoying the shade.

KEN0116

A passing elephant.

KEN0117

And then the rest of the family turns up.

KEN0118

I adore the small baby elephants. So cute.

KEN0119

This Topi standing guard.

KEN0120

A panoramic shot in the area they shot Out of Africa.

KEN0121

Me enjoying the tree shade.

KEN0122

Some startled antelopes.

KEN0123

On the way home we see some new lions – three youngish brothers. They will have to leave the area soon as they grow up.

KEN0124

And hard to see any detail, but a multicoloured lizard on the rock. Sadly my camera died during the trip, so photos have been from the iPhone only which has limited zoom.

That was the last safari drive, and am now back in Nairobi.

 

Tags: , ,

Kenya Day 3 afternoon

January 14th, 2015 at 12:03 am by David Farrar

KEN0100

Some baboons nearby as we set off.

KEN0101

Antelopes running away.

KEN0102

Then we saw our friend the cheetah again. Looking hungry after being robbed in the morning.

KEN0103

This is a view of our campsite, from the plains. Such a great location and views.

KEN0104

A lion sleeping on its back.

KEN0105

An Eland, which is the largest type of antelope.

KEN0106

A few Zebras.

KEN0107

A giraffe walking in front of us.

KEN0108

One of the things I love here is how most of the different animals just mingle together and are often in the same area.

KEN0109

Nice of them to look at the camera.

Didn’t see too much this afternoon, but you can’t always get drives chock full of action like the morning one was.

 

Tags: , ,

Kenya Day 3 morning

January 13th, 2015 at 12:49 am by David Farrar

KEN0070

This morning’s ride was possibly the best yet in terms of variety. We saw cheetahs, hyenas and lions all battling over a kill bye cheetahs.

First though we saw some zebras.

KEN0071

Then a group of hyenas.

KEN0072

The buffaloes are too big to be worried by the hyenas.

KEN0073

And these two buffaloes were too busy PDAing to notice the hyenas. Incidentally they’re both boys!

KEN0074

The hyenas found some hippo skin, left over from a hippo killed by a lion.

KEN0075

A group of banded mongooses.

KEN0076

This was an amazing sight. An elephant standing on hand legs only, reaching into a tree. It looks like he is trying to climb the tree!

KEN0077

A couple of young bucks fighting.

KEN0078

A zebra crossing.

KEN0079

The normal pride of lions.

KEN0080

We saw the pair of cheetahs again.

KEN0081

And standing up.

KEN0082

A wandering giraffe.

KEN0083

A couple of crocodiles down at the river.

KEN0084

The river, which is full of hippos and crocodiles.

KEN0085

Having a morning coffee with the crocodiles behind me.

KEN0086

A hyena lying in a pool. The mud suffocates the ticks.

KEN0087

Then we saw the cheetahs hunting prey.

KEN0088

And they caught a warthog.

KEN0089

But then the hyenas turned up wanting to have it, even though the cheetahs caught it.

KEN0090

Sadly the socialist hyenas won, and took it off the productive cheetahs

KEN0091

But then a lion turned up and decided it was his, and charged the hyenas – which barely escaped.

KEN0092

The lion then came towards the cheetahs and charged them. He was hungry and would have happily eaten cheetah instead. Luckily for them, they managed to just out-run the lion, who then sat down  and glared at them.

 

Tags: , ,

Kenya Day 2 afternoon

January 12th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

KEN0050

After lunch we discovered a congress of baboons just outside our tent.

KEN0051

Then out on safari drive again and saw lost of antelopes.

KEN0052

Buffaloes with some Great White Egrits on them.

KEN0053

And Yellow-billed Oxpeckers on them also.

KEN0054

A buffalo enjoying his mud pool.

KEN0055

Antelopes also with birds around them to clean them.

KEN0056

Two Southern Ground Hornbills

KEN0057

We were fortunate enough to see a lion kill two afternoons in a row. The same pride caught another warthog. Here is a lioness just afterwards joining the others.

KEN0058

Two Waterbucks having a public display of affection.

KEN0059

An elephant just next to a bridge we passed over.

KEN0060

Another great African sunset.

KEN0061

Got back to the tent to see two giraffes just a couple of score metres away, just by the boundary fence,

KEN0062

And then for good measure a hippo walked past also. Amazing to not just go out looking for animals, but to have them wander past your tent.

 

Tags: , ,

Kenya Day 2 morning

January 11th, 2015 at 11:54 pm by David Farrar

KEN0025

A gory start to the day. A Martial Eagle had killed and was eating this baby impala. The eagle flew off and had a pretty huge wing span.

KEN0026

A Yellow-throated Sandgrouse.

KEN0027

Give way to the elephant! An adult can easily tip the jeep over. They weigh twice as much.

KEN0028

A couple of buffaloes giving us the stare.

KEN0029

The Grey crowned Crane.

KEN0030

A giraffe strolling along.

KEN0031

An African Fish-Eagle.

KEN0032

Yay, a proper sighting of a rhino. This one is only four years old.

KEN0033

Some elephants being followed by their attending birds.

KEN0034

A solitary Topi.

KEN0035

A couple of warthogs obviously lost a game of Truth or Dare and are advancing on a sleeping lion to see how close they can get!

KEN0036

The sleeping lion. They get more adventurous later in the day.

KEN0037

A pool of hippos.

KEN0038

A close up.

KEN0039

You only see how big they are out of the water.

KEN0040

A lioness.

KEN0042

A giraffe having a feed.

KEN0043

Two common ostriches.

KEN0044

Down in the river a couple of crocodiles.

KEN0045

Look closely here and from right to left there is a hippo, a submerged crocodile and then two cros on the bank.

KEN0046

Half the rocks here are actually hippos!

KEN0047

A couple of giraffes necking.

KEN0048

This may look cute, but this is how they fight for dominance. Very polite. They take turns until one gives up.

KEN0049

A baby elephant struggling to get out of the mud.

A long drive this morning, around four and a half hours. We saw a lot in that time though.

 

Tags: , ,

Kenya Day 1 afternoon

January 11th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

KEN0013

Went out for the first proper safari drive this afternoon. Passed this monkey on the way to the jeep.

KEN0014

Cheetahs are my favourite big cat are quite rare to spot, but we had a stroke of luck spotting two cheetahs just five minutes into the drive.

KEN0015

They are the fastest land mammal.

KEN0016

Then a few minutes later we saw a lion catch a warthog.

KEN0017

Before long there were a dozen lions there, including eight cubs. The poor warthog was still alive and making noises for 10 minutes or so, as the adults allowed the cubs to try and kill it.

KEN0018

The cubs didn’t manage it, so one of the adults then took off with it.

KEN0019

Next was a family of 40 to 50 elephants.

KEN0020

At a water hole there were a couple of grey crowned cranes.

KEN0021

The elephants on the move, including the babies.

KEN0022

Can’t see them well but that’s three rhinos in the grass.

KEN0023

And then we headed back to camp at sunset.

 

Tags: , ,

Kenya Day 1

January 11th, 2015 at 12:38 am by David Farrar

Am spending three nights at the Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp in the Masai Mara. We flew in a small plane to the jungle strip, and as we came down to land we could see around the landing strip a giraffe, dozens of antelopes, scores of baboons, some buffaloes and zebras.

KEN0001

 

These buffaloes were just by the landing strip. We then had a 15 minute drive to the camp.

KEN0002

We weren’t expecting to see much until this evening, when we have a proper game drive, but a few hundred metres from the camp were four lions, two of which you can see here.

KEN0003

That’s how I like to sleep!

KEN0004

Then we saw a couple of elephants.

KEN0005

One of them started to advance on the jeep, so we hit reverse fairly quickly! If you want to know why, look at this video.

KEN0007

Lots of birds here as well as beasts.

KEN0008

The “tent” I’m in.

KEN0009

The view from the tent. Have already seen zebras, antelopes, warthogs, and a mongoose pass by!

KEN0010

A  path at the camp. Best to keep to them due to the scorpions and snakes.

KEN0011

 

A wart hog by the swimming pool. Looks like he has been using it!

KEN0012

And a monkey in the dining room.

Been three years since my last trip to Africa, and had forgotten quite how amazing it is.

 

Tags: , ,

Gorillas in Rwanda

January 9th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

RAW0007

 

Just had an amazing experience in the Rwanda jungle, getting up close to a group of 19 gorillas. We spent around 75 minutes with them.

RAW0011

The larger ones are incredibly powerful.

RAW0008

 

 

You have to trek in and up the mountain to the jungle to get to them, but we were lucky and had a group relatively close by.

RAW0009

 

You’re meant to stay 20 feet or so from them,but they often get very close to you.

RAW0006

The massive one with his back to me is Guhonda, who is the oldest and largest gorilla of all the groups in Rwanda. He is 44 years old. He may be the largest mountain gorilla in the world, weighing 225 kgs.

RAW0001

Guhonda sitting down.

RAW0002

This is Guhonda’s son, who will take over as alpha male from him. This photo is his strutting just after he decided to assert his dominance and charged towards our group, growling loudly. We’d been taught not to run, but just to crouch down which I did. Fair to say I was crapping myself, as this huge gorilla is charging towards me, and stopped less than a metre away. He then did his strutting, at which point we slowly backed away.

RAW0003

Some smaller ones.

RAW0004

These young ones were playfighting in the trees.

RAW0005

And this silverback was keeping an eye on us from the bush.

One of the many video clips I shot. Again you see how close they get.

Tags: , ,