Africa …

and here’s a map just to prove it …

If you drop a line from the Libyan/Egyptian border and come down about half way to the Cape of Good Hope, cast your eyes a little to the right you’re here …

and in a few days so will I be.

The largest lake, at the intersection of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania is Lake Victoria. The chain of lakes to the west of it lie in the western branch of the East African Rift Sytem. The most northerly lake in the chain is Lake Albert and this part of the rift system is often called the Albertine Rift. The rift system is not only of great interest to the geologist, there are 41 species of bird found only along the Albertine rift.

Uganda made its first real impact on my life in 1972. I was studying at Sheffield University when Idi Amin expelled Uganda’s Asian community.

We are determined to make the ordinary Ugandan master of his own destiny, and above all to see that he enjoys the wealth of his country. Our deliberate policy is to transfer the economic control of Uganda into the hands of Ugandans, for the first time in our country’s history.

Said Idi, accompanied by the veiled threat that any remaining Asians would face a Hitlerian final solution. About 80,000 people, more than a quarter of whom were Ugandan citizens, had 90 days to leave the country. Most of those displaced came to England. I played basketball with a young man who had played for the Ugandan national team. The enterprises and personal goods left behind were distributed among ethnic Ugandans. The economy nose-dived (and basketball languished – it wasn’t until 2015 that Uganda took part in the African Championships finishing 15th.)

Rwanda provided even greater drama in 1994 as the news of the genocide slowly percolated into the consciousness of western nations. In about 100 days the majority Hutu population fell upon the Tutsi minority and the even smaller population of Batwa people resulting in the death of about 750,000 people (perhaps more). The United Nations distinguished itself by standing idly by  just as it would in Srebenica.

At the time everyone carried an ID card with their ethnic affiliation on it. Checking IDs at roadblocks followed by summary execution with a machete was just one of the strategies utilised in the carnage.

Just something to ponder in Australia as we consider inserting ethnicity into our constitution. In post conflict Rwanda it is illegal to talk about one’s ethnic affiliation.

I shall also be visiting the Democratic Republic of the Congo, often called Congo Kinshasa to distinguish it from the Republic of the Congo or Congo Brazzaville. The DRC was formerly called Zaire.

I hope to come back with photos of Chimpanzees and Gorillas, Shoebills and many other birds and even some of a seething red-hot lake of volcanic lava. I hope to share the experience with you … see you in about five weeks.


Mount Mitta Mitta …

AKA Mt Mittamatite is a little over 1000 metres and has its very own web page. Dogs are welcome on a lead and fires are permitted in the fireplaces provided. Camping is possible at the summit and at Emberys Lookout. There are no bookings and no fees. There is an aircraft navigation facility on top.

The view from Emberys (above) is impressive, it is a popular launching site for the hang gliding fraternity. You have to work a bit harder for a view at the summit.

I was hoping for more mist and less cloud. I’ll have to go back.

The weather was closing in with a vengeance. Yesterday’s snow was the start of a southerly outbreak which was only going to get worse. Time to head for home.

From Here to Victoria …

Here being Merimbula, NSW.

As an aside, when we Victorians see NSW on a number plate we wonder if it stands for No Sense Whatever. In outback New South Wales they are fully aware that it stands for Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong which is where the government expenditure goes.

The route takes us through Bega where the cheese in our lunch comes from, then Wyndham and the Robbie Burns Hotel, founded 1848 (by Robbie himself, I believe, and that’s his ute parked outside) …

On to Adaminaby and then over the hill. Given that the ski season is rapidly approaching my forward planning involved the lowest route available. As we ate our cheese sandwiches however, the navigatrix declared that a shorter route existed.

photo GHD

It was an instance when the shortest route proved to be simultaneously the road less traveled, the scenic route and the one that took the longest time. It did give us the opportunity to let the dog have her first encounter with snow. She was unimpressed … but I was. The Great Dividing Range at its greatest.

Victoria at last, we found our way to our intended campsite in the Mitta Mitta Regional Park … the Embery lookout perched high above the bright lights of Corryong.

And the first thing we did was light a nice campfire.

Merimbula …

Jewel of the Sapphire Coast, or so would have you believe. It certainly is pretty, lots of beach, a lake. It’s surrounded by national parks. It has an aquarium. It has grown apace in recent years.

I was on the rocks at the end of Short Point as the sun prepared to rise out of the sea.

Then a long walk by the lake and around the town …

Little Wattlebird
Red Wattlebird

The red flowers of this tree which I believe is Erythrina fusca, were extremely attractive to the local nectar eaters.

Rainbow Lorikeet

Cabbages …

The subdued early light shows off the plumage of this heron to perfection.

White-faced Heron

Today we wake in the Lake Tyers Forest Park. Tonight we will be in Merimbula. The population density in the intervening country could easily be the lowest in coastal south east Australia. We will be passing some of my favorite places, the Croajingalong and Ben Boyd National Parks. These are denied to us today because we have the dog.

One spot than we can visit is the Cabbage Tree Flora Reserve. Baron Ferdinand Jakob Heinrich von Muller is credited with discovering this isolated pocket of palms in 1854. It is said to be the only patch in Victoria and it is the most southerly occurrence of any Australian native palm.

Livistona australis

They grow quite tall, 20+ metres, along the creek surrounded by the wet forest .

As well as being scenically splendid this place is usually a birding hot spot. Not this day, the only creatures flying around were the mosquitoes.

The next port of call was Eden, watch out for the snakes, the first place of note in New South Wales. There is an old joke about spending a week in Adelaide one Sunday, you can do it in a Saturday afternoon in Eden. It does, though, have a very fine harbour.

We arrived in Merimbula just in time to catch the sunset.

Merimbula, NSW


A Jaunt to the East …

Living in western Victoria there is some splendid countryside in easy reach but it’s nice occasionally to have a little variety.  My home is just on the inland side of the Great Dividing Range. Great it is, but in length rather than height. It sweeps off to the east and then heads north. Its highest point is in southeastern New South Wales at Mount Kosciuszko which stands 2,228 metres (7,310 ft) tall. From there it continues north to the tip of Cape York in Queensland. It’s total length exceeds 3,500 kilometres (2,175 miles).

Whereas my part of the world is pretty dry, the Great Dividing Range catches a lot of rain.  East of Melbourne, especially, it supports a lot of forest and that means a very different suite of birds.

I took the wife, the dog and my trusty camper trailer and spent a few days making a circuit of South East Australia.

We spent a couple of days in Melbourne at each end of the trip, in between we covered about 1400km in five days.

On day one we stopped for lunch in Sale. At a picnic spot by the lake the local avifauna consisted of an unruly mob of mostly rejected pets. They were quite happy to provide a close encounter so I sat down with a little bread and tried for a wide-angle close-up. It was hard getting them to pose nicely, their manners were appalling …

Whilst this guy was peering down at me I noticed that there were some much better behaved ducks on the water. Just a few feet away there were half a dozen Freckled Duck , not at least interested in the feeding frenzy nor all that bothered by my presence.  They are Australia’s rarest waterfowl. A photo opportunity not to be missed …

Freckled Duck

Our camp site that night would be in the Lake Tyers Forest Park. A beautiful spot where the dog is legal and so is a campfire.

There are several designated camp sites reached by Tyers House Road just east of Nowa Nowa.It was a crisp and starry night.