3

Kruger Adventure with Grandpa, Gran, Simon and Shan – Day 5

6 January 2018

Our day started with a bit of drama.  We were late getting into the car and were just leaving camp when I realised that my binoculars were missing.  They must be in the caravan – we must go back and so we did – but they were nowhere to be seen.  Last night I’d left my handbag on the table outside the caravan.  Nothing had been taken.  How could my binoculars be gone!   I was almost in tears as we set off without them. Then just before exiting through the gate The Earl missed his wallet.  Oh no!  We raced back to the caravan and I dashed in to retrieve it – and YES – My binoculars were hiding there too!   They were under a towel that I hadn’t noticed in my first search!

It was 6:30 and we were headed toward Tshokwane.

Simon – still in the lead with his sightings scores – did not let us down.  He kept on spotting birds and animals for an hour or so and then he began to fade.  What was wrong?  A tummy ache, I fear.  We almost turned back but he insisted that he would be okay. He would just have a sleep in the car.  The only thing that cheered him up was when we came upon a clan of hyenas on a kill. They were not easy to see because of the trees but they were close enough for us to enjoy.

Soon after that we arrived at Tshokwane and Simon ate a Greek Salad and perked up considerably for the rest of the morning.

We returned to camp at about 11:30 and the kids went swimming, Gramps had a nap and I did the laundry.  After lunch and chores were done we all went back to the pool.

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Here are the highlights of our morning.

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10 Points to Grandpa for getting me this Jacobin Cuckoo

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Little Bee-eater – A 10 for Simon

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Ellies having fun

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Ten for Shan – Goliath Heron

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Beware of the Spelling Police – a misprint on our calling card

Uh Oh -What’s an eliphant?  when you order breakfast at Tshokwane they give you an animal card and call it’s name when it’s ready.

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Cries of disgust when I told the kids that Marabou Storks pee on their legs to keep cool

They also were a tad horrified at it’s habits.   They stab flamingos in their backs then drown them before dismembering and eating them – No way, Gran!

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Klipspringers mate for life – Just like Gran and Grandp

Klipspringers mark their territory with the scent gland below its eyes.   These two are clearly a pair.   They would make sure no other of their species enter their territory.

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White backed vulture drying its wings

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On a river bridge – a lovely pied kingfisher

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Shan got me my favourite bee-eater – 10 points to her!

After cooling off in the pool, tidying the caravan and sorting out the washing we set off for a short afternoon drive.

We found frolicking zebra, plenty of impala, elephants, wildebeest and lots of birds

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A happy heffalump

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A very cute baby Vervet Monkey

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Mommy will take care of me!

We were about to turn left when we noticed some stationary cars to the right so decided to check out what they were looking at.  At first we saw nothing and asked the occupants of a car what they’d seen.  They didn’t have binoculars and said there was an animal over there!  Simon spotted it immediately.

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A lazy leopard taking an afternoon nap

After waiting 10 minutes for it to wake up we gave up and headed toward Lake Panic.   Once again we saw some stationary cars.   What can you see?

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Hyena napping under a bush.

We’ve visited Lake Panic many times before and it has always been exciting. Today I said to Shan – It’s a bit quiet here today – not much happening.  At the end of an hour she said – So this is what you call quiet!  Well if you don’t know the place ….  No – Lake Panic never disappoints.

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White faced ducks and a jacana

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Walking on water – Daddy Jacana

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Green-backed heron

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Daddy Jacana takes the chicks under his wing

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Baby Jacana

Just before entering the gate at Skukuza we spotted The Three Little Pigs trotting up the road.

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Warthogs on a mission

Because we stopped for them we noticed some lapwings – well camouflaged – and we almost dismissed them for common crowned lapwings.

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Senegal Lapwing

The weather has been really hot with temperatures getting up to 38 degrees C.  Right now it is 10 pm and I am sitting outdoors without a fleece.  It is bliss.

The past five days have been lovely but by 8 the kids are exhausted and so are we!   Tomorrow we will have a rest day!

6

Kruger Adventure with Grandpa, Gran, Simon and Shan – Day 4

5 January 2018

Yesterday’s scores were as follows – Simon in the lead with 70 points.  Grandpa has 64 and Shannon 55.  Grandpa was annoyed as at first we scored him the higher score but Si reminded us that we hadn’t entered the Walk points which pushed him ahead. Grandpa hadn’t done the whole walk but he did score for creatures he saw first before he went back to the caravan and none were scored after that!

Today we moved to Skukuza Rest Camp.  It was a beautiful day with temperatures into the thirties.   Packing up the caravan and tent was fast and efficient and we left Berg en Dal at 6:20 and made our way quickly along the tar road arriving at 8:30.  We did not stop much along the way.

Check in at Skukuza was quick and efficient.  We found a campsite next to the swimming pool and an attendant came to help us set up.   We were done quickly and then walked to the shop for ice cream.   It was really hot!  We decided to rest and swim and only to go out after 1 pm.  We were pretty sure the animals would be sleeping in the shade and not showing themselves in the middle of the day.

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Shan enjoying the water – Simon kept hiding from the camera

After the kids and I swam and Grandpa napped we set off to see what we could find.  Today turned out to have long stretches with absolutely no sightings – not even a bird!  Of course there were some interesting things and we were thrilled to get the following:

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Black shouldered kite

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White-headed Vulture

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The monkeys had the kids in fits of laughter

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The baboons behave like humans!

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Elephants are always fun

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The oddest duck ever – Knob-billed duck

Usually it’s okay to do the distance but today it was really hot and the ‘dry spells’ of no sightings began to work on the patience of the un-caged kids in the back seat.   Concentration was lost, giggling and high jinks took it’s place.   How much longer became the plaintive cry.   And then — up ahead a traffic jam.   A naughty tourist was sitting on the roof of her car – Her binoculars were trained on something in the distance.  We were next to a river with a rocky bank.  “There are supposed to be lions here,” she said.  “But I can’t see them.”   Well if from her vantage point she couldn’t, what chance would we have.  We asked some others and they too said they’re here but out of sight.

Grandpa tried to maneuver the car into a better position and then he said, “What’s that walking toward us!”

All attention went from the elusive lions to what suddenly appeared and we were the first to see him!

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The leopard was quite unconcerned about the interest paid to him by the tourists

We watched this magnificent creature of the wild nonchalantly walking past the cars.  He stopped to sniff and spray and mark his territory and the excitement caused was phenomenal. It was 15 minutes to gate closing time so once we’d absorbed the sighting we made our way quickly back to camp.  What a great way to end our day.

11

Kruger National Park – Day 2

11 November 2017 – Tsendze

How fantastic to wake to the sounds of the dawn chorus in the bush.  It was already getting light at 4:30 am and that’s when the gate opens.  But we had no intention of making such an early start.  I went to shower at the ablution block just after 5 and we were packed and ready to leave at 6:30

Our first exciting event was an encounter with  Ayres Hawk-eagle.   There were actually two.  The light was bad so the photo is not great but we found this one on a kill.

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We also got a good sighting of the common black-shouldered kite – but what a pretty bird.

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Elephants, buffalo, hippo, wildebeest and zebra were also on the menu and we got to see a lot of birdlife.   Here are a few photos that we managed to get.

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Lesser-striped swallow

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Hippo

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The uncommon yellow-billed oxpecker – grooming a zebra

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Cute little blue waxbill

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Shy steenbok

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Beautiful giraffe

 

A rarity in the park is an antelope similar to a red hartebeest – the Tsessebe – We found a few of them which was lovely.

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Time wore on and we were getting hungry.  We decided to head back toward Mopani and have something to eat there.  After a few hours of game driving you rather hope that you won’t see anything exciting as all you want is to have a break and get some strong coffee into you.  I yelled at the earl to stop with a couple of interesting birds but either I was too late or he’d lost interest because he just drove on.  Thank Goodness for that because just a few kms from camp we spotted some stationery cars – always a good sign – It has to be a leopard, I said and as we got closer I spotted a tail hanging down from the branch of a tree.  Oh joy – all thoughts of coffee and food disappeared in an instant.   There was a young leopard on a kill up in the tree.  And was she having a delightful breakfast – lucky creature.   If we’d delayed over the birds I’d called we would have missed her as after a minute she slid down the tree, washed her paws and slipped off into the bush!  Gone!  The only evidence were the remains of impala hanging in the tree!

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We lingered long over breakfast at Mopani as its restaurant has such a lovely view over the river.  We saw marabou storks and watched greater striped swallows take off and land back in the branches of the trees again.   There was a lot of activity.  I had a second cup of coffee while the Earl went to another section of the facility to pay accounts and send emails from his laptop.

We like to rest in camp in the middle of the day and it was now just after 11.  We just did one more loop to Mooiplaas Picnic site, spotted some birds and hippos and then did a little river loop where we saw buffalo and elephant.

We got back to camp around 1 o’clock and rested until 3:30 and then went out again.   We saw all the usual suspects and were not expecting anything too exciting.   It was nearing 6 o’clock when we were in sight of this morning’s leopard tree and gate closing is at 6:30.  And what should we see – three cars stopped at the tree.

“They’re probably looking at the carcass,” I said the Earl.

But no as we got closer I saw that the leopard was back.

But wait there’s more – “Look there,” said The Earl,  “There’s another one in the tree.”

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And then all hell broke loose as the two leopards started growling and slapping each other.

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This is my dinner – Be off with you!

 

After a brief skirmish one decided she’d better get out of there and slipped down the tree and disappeared into the bush.  The victor sat in the split in the tree for a few minutes looking for all the world like any domestic kitty cat.

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Then he climbed onto the branch where the impala carcass was and proceeded to finish his meal.

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Soon other cars appeared and in the end there were five of us watching this amazing sight.   It gets dark quickly in the Kruger and by 6:10 I had enough photographs in good light.  It was time to head quickly back to camp before the gate was locked!   We made it with 10 minutes to spare

0

Wild Adventure Chapter 11 Off to Mata Mata

13 March 2016

By 6:30 the Frend-Leighs and Grum-Peighs are packed up and ready to leave Rooiputs.  Although it had stormed in the night it kindly let up for them to pack up without getting wet.

The Frend-Leighs left first as they wanted to get a good site at Mata Mata.  Their large-lensed cameras were packed so they wouldn’t be stopping for anything but the most exciting sightings.

The Grum-Peighs were thus able to follow at a more leisurely pace.  There was a lot of water lying around and they found bokkies drinking at the puddles.  They took the dune road and found a total of 16 korhaans.

Then there was a lovely sighing  Mom and Dad Jackal with their pup.

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It was great to see giraffe on the Mata Mata road and there was plenty of game around.

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“Why are there cars parked up ahead,” called Lady G-P. They looked into the bush but couldn’t see anything.  The Lord G-P said – “Look – there in the tree – leopard!

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Wow – what a great sighting.  They were about to move on when suddenly he stood up on the branch.

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I don’t think I like this spot anymore

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Let me find a more comfortable perch

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There’s a cosy hollow here – this is where I’m staying for the rest of the day

At 10:30 they arrived at Mata Mata and set up camp.  The Frend-Leighs had found a lovely shady site.

At 4:30 the Grum-Peighs were ready for another drive but the Leighs decided not to go out. It was a long way to the waterholes but the drive was rewarding.

 

They enjoyed the  little steenbok that were about and one chose to pose beautifully.

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The highlight of the afternoon was seeing a lanner at Dalkeith – he had caught a sparrow and was devouring it on the ground.

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At 14th waterhole they were delighted to find an African harrier-hawk.

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They found the leopard in the tree again but he had moved and was difficult to see. However, they managed to point him out to two other cars who were most grateful as they had not yet seen leopard.

In the evening the Earl found some good steaks at the new improved Mata Mata shop and that is what they had on the braai for supper.

 

2

Taking the Kids to Kruger – Pretoriouskop to Berg en Dal

FRIDAY 2 APRIL 2012

Pretoriouskop is a lovely camp and we sat outdoors and braaied our supper last night.  It was lovely to see the row of fires as our neighbours all did the same thing.  A group of loud American tourists were next door and their guide came over to apologize for the noise.  He promised it wouldn’t last long as they were all tired and would be going to bed early!  We quite enjoyed hearing them joyfully recount the events of the day – they’d clearly had a good time.

Today was our last full day in the park.   It has not been the most productive holiday game wise that we have had but we each day has had its special sightings. Earl and I are delighted that we have been able to find the Big 5 for the children and that many special creatures have been seen.  The only thing left on our wish list was Wild Dog. We really wanted to show them these beautiful animals also know as Painted Wolves and Cape Hunting Dog.  They are vulnerable and through conservation efforts have been brought back from the brink of extinction.

We took a long route via Lower Sabie to get to our final camp, Berg en Dal.  Check in time is 2 p.m. so there is not point rushing straight there.   The roads we travelled were rewarding.

Miraculously we had everyone dressed, fed and packed by 6 a.m. and Jay couldn’t resist taking a picture of the sunrise.

The periods between sightings can be long and boring for young children specially if they’re ADHD.  Jay is fine once his medication kicks in but he is a natural clown and entertained his cousins by taking their stuffed toys and pretending they were ‘out to get them’.  Poor Grandpa was very patient when Monkey appeared at his window while the kids collapsed in mirth.

But at a sighting the excitement was transferred to the real animals and they all competed for window space to get their photographs.   Jay being the oldest and at the top of the pecking order managed to get the best ones as he shoved the younger ones out of his way!

Early on in the day we found a heap of buffalo.  There were mothers with babies and young bulls fighting and the kids enjoyed watching it all happen.

Elephants also made a friendly appearance and Shannon shot this lovely shot of a young one.

And this one from Jay.

Giraffe were elegant as they browsed from the tops of trees.  Today they were in the mood for a photo shoot.

Shannon was amused to see that not only does a giraffe have a very long neck – he has a tongue to match!

It was not even half past eight when we saw a bit of a traffic jam ahead and there on a rock lay a lazy leopard – our third for this trip!  Its not often we seem more leopard than lion!

So then we had three of the big five for the day.  All we needed were lion and rhinoceros – usually this is not difficult – but today was to be different.

We stopped at Lower Sabie for toasted sandwiches and continued our drive.  We stopped when we saw interesting birds and the bee-eaters were really having a good time today.

We also found purple rollers and managed to take some good shots.

And Lilac breasted rollers are probably the most photogenic of all. Here is one with a gogga in his beak.

It was just before midday when we finally got the one animal we were hoping to see.  Grandpa was felt that his mission was successful – he’d shown his grandchildren the best that Kruger could offer.

After this excitement we stopped at one of the picnic sites for a loo break and to get some ‘slushies’, ice cream and crisps.

A fourth member of the Big Five was spotted next.  At first he refused to lift his head but finally we managed to get a good shot of him.

Other creatures we saw today brought us great joy.  We are so proud our grandchildren enjoy the smaller stuff as much or even more than the Big 5 and mega stars of the bush.   Josh is  more aware of the creatures around him and asks questions about how they survive. Simon at only seven remembers the names of all the birds he has seen.   Shannon is becoming quite a little expert and Jay is completely converted to conservation and gets mad when he sees bad behavour of other tourists in the park.

They have all enjoyed getting their pictures and here is a selection of what they captured today.

Magpie Shrike

European Bee Eater in flight

Brown Snake Eagle

Turtle in a mud puddle we nearly ran over!

European Bee-Eater

Lilac-breasted roller

We arrived at Berg en Dal at half past three.  The kids went for to the pool and returned a little later saying that Simon had vomited in the pool – I think he swallowed some pool water because he was quite fine when they brought him back.  “Jay saved me,” he declared.

We had a delicious chicken casserole that Lauren had made and frozen for us and after our ‘prize-giving’ it was early to bed.  They were all winners – Jay for the most enthusiastic spotter. Shannon for naming the most birds. Simon for patience and quick learning of bird names and Josh for spotting birds that Gran really wanted to see.  They were thrilled with the little puzzles, key rings, ‘canned lion’ and bath toys they won.   Hopefully this is a holiday they will never forget.  Grandpa and I certainly won’t.

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Taking the Kids to Kruger – Berg en Dal

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Last night we were all exhausted.   We unpacked the entire car so we could get sorted for comfortable travelling in the park.  Lauren had cooked us two meals and froze them so as nobody felt like waiting for a braai we quickly cooked the savoury mince and had it with rice.  Earl was so tired that he couldn’t even eat!   Shannon mislaid her asthma pump which caused a bit of an upset but after turning everything upside down and searching under the seats of the car she found it where she’d put it in the first place.

This morning we were up and out of the cottage by 5:45.  We arranged seating in the caravelle so that nobody sat at the back where the windows don’t open.  So I had Simon up front with me and Shannon and Josh shared a seat.  It worked very well and after brunch Shannon and Simon swapped places.

Each child has his/her own binoculars.  Simon has my very first digital camera – a 3.1 mega pixel, 3x optical zoom which when it was bought 10 years ago cost R7000!   Josh has my first super zoon – a 12x optical zoom Canon Powershot, Jay has the 20x optical zoom Canon and Shannon has her dad’s superzoom Nikon.

I usually make careful notes when we travel in the park but with four children to supervise it was quite impossible and I must admit it was great to just relax and enjoy them enjoying themselves.  They loved having cameras and once the novelty of clicking wore off they became more selective about when they would and would not capture a moment.

Our first bird shoot gave us a red-backed shrike.

Red-backed shrike

All the children were dying to see elephant – but I don’t think they were quite prepared for their first encounter – a young bull came towards us, felt threatened and began to ‘charge’ us while resting his trunk on his tusks!   Lauren had just phoned to check on her children when this little incident began and I relayed to her what was happening – “Tell Grandpa to reverse quickly,” she demanded.  But we were in no danger and once he found a safe place to escape us the elephant went into the bush and started browsing on the juicy leaves of a roadside tree.

Another great sighting was a lone rhino lying next to a muddy puddle. Clearly he had just had a ‘refreshing’ bath and was enjoying a well-earned rest.

Warthogs appeared and gave the kids a giggle, they delighted over being the first to spot birds and we were pleased to see that although they were dying to see the big stuff they appreciated all the little things too.   Simon at seven did ask, “when will we see a lion?” but when we saw buffalo  he was back with the programme again.

Red-billed buffalo weaver

Burchell's Starling

European bee-eater

Double-banded sandgrouse

We stopped at a hide which provided an opportunity to stretch legs and get rid of some wriggles.

Woodland's Kingfisher

Our brunch stop was at Afsaal where we had toasted sandwiches, looked at the resident scops owl and enjoyed an encounter with at friendly bushbuck.  Simon used his pocket money to buy a photographic book on Kruger and then we were back on the road again.

Earlier this morning we caught a brief glimpse of a leopard as it walked off into the bush – basically it was its tail and a distant back view.  Shannon remembering this said, “I really want to see a leopard properly – not in a tree but walking along the road close to the car.”  Grandpa said, “Well – put in your order then!”  Not five minutes later what should we see but a young leopard walking toward us followed closely by a single motor car.

Shannon ordered Leopard

We could not believe our luck and Shan was thrilled that she got her ‘order.’  We turned around to follow the creature and soon other cars were behind and ahead reversing as it approached.   Some impala on the left barked a warning.  A wildebeest appeared on the right and the leopard crouched down on the road as it leapt across in front of it – but it did not give chase.  We found that the most exciting moment.   After a few minutes we decided to let the cars behind us get ahead and then turned around to continue our journey.  Wow – what a wonderful sighting.

We continued to have some lovely bird and animal encounters and then returned to camp at 1 o’clock.  The kids went to the pool and Earl and I had a nap.  At 4 o’clock Earl and Jay went out for a brief drive and saw lovely game – rhino, buffalo and other things.  The younger ones did not want to go again but found a parrot and a purple crested turacco in the trees

Brown-headed parrot

Purple-crested turacco

We braaied for supper and everyone was in bed by 8:30.