Saturday, May 23, 2015

Namibia

executive summary by darmansjah

Southern Africa’s youngest nation is well known for its vast windswept deserts—the inland Kalahari and the coastal Namib—so it’s no wonder that the country’s first conservation area (established in 1907) is named for the “place of dry water.”

Etosha National Park is a wildlife sanctuary in far northern Namibia centered on Etosha Pan, a 75-mile-long (120-kilometer-long) mineral lakebed. During the June to November dry season, large numbers of elephants, giraffes, black rhinos, lions, and other game are drawn to the park’s natural and manmade watering holes. During the rains, huge numbers of flamingos arrive to feed and breed. In addition to unsurpassed big game viewing, the nearly 8,494-square-mile (22,000-square-kilometer) preserve includes numerous lodging options ranging from rustic guest farms to luxury retreats. For more intimate game viewing, head about two hours south to Mundulea Nature Reserve. Guests at the privately owned nature reserve in the Otavi Mountains encounter antelopes, leopards, hyenas, and other resident game on daylong, guided bush treks.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Mountains of the Moon, Uganda

Central Circuit, Ruwenzori Range

Executive summary by darmansjah

Round-Trip: 38 miles, 6 to 7 days

When to Go: December to March, the “dry” season. Go with guides and porters; they know the way and are not expensive.

When approaching high-altitude glaciers, you don't often hear locals say, “There are elephants here.” But everything about the Ruwenzori Range, Ptolemy's legendary Mountains of the Moon, is unexpected. Looming on the Uganda-Congo border, these peaks make up the highest range in Africa, rising to 16,765 feet at the Margherita summit of Mount Stanley. (Kilimanjaro and Kenya are taller, but they aren’t ranges.) You’ll hike three days through two 14,000-foot passes and mind-bending forests of giant groundsel and giant lobelias to get to the Bujuku Hut, base camp for those wanting to climb Mount Speke. Hike one more day to Elena Hut, base camp for those who want to climb the glaciers, and try for the summit of Mount Stanley for its unique views of the Congo Basin. Two more trail days take you over Scott Elliot Pass, the highest on the circuit at 14,344 feet, and back to the starting point for your eventual return to Kampala.

Insider Tip: Bring a pair of indestructible camp shoes impervious to moisture, such as Crocs. The circuit can be a muddy mess. Walking in the creek beds often makes for the best progress. It is essential to be able to change into something dry and reasonably comfortable for your feet at day's end.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bodnant Garden

Woodland garden at Bodnant

Bodnant Garden Executive summary by darmansjah

Bodnant Garden (Welsh: Gardd Bodnant) is a National Trust property near Tal-y-Cafn, in the county borough of Conwy, Wales. Bodnant Garden is situated above the River Conwy and overlooks the Conwy valley towards the Carneddau range of mountains.

History

This important garden occupies an area of 32 hectares (80 acres) surrounding Bodnant House, most of which was first laid out by Henry Davis Pochin, a successful industrial chemist, from 1874 onwards until his death in 1895. Bodnant House had been built in 1792 but was remodelled by Pochin and on his death it was inherited by his daughter (whose husband became the first Baron Aberconway in 1911). The garden, but not the House or other parts of the estate, was presented to the National Trust, with an endowment, in 1949. The House was the home of the late Lord Aberconway, and members of his family continue to be actively involved in the management of the garden, its tea pavilion and car parks on behalf of the National Trust.


Attractions

The gardens are varied and include formal gardens bounded by clipped box hedges, ornamental ponds and pools and formal herbaceous borders, an enclosed laburnum arch and many rose gardens. However, Bodnant is most famous for its breeding programme, especially of varieties of Rhododendrons and azaleas examples of which are now grown throughout the world. Also noted are the collections of Magnolia, Camellia, Clematis and Hydrangea.

Origins

Begun in 1875, it is the creation of four generations of Aberconways and is divided into two parts: the upper level (around the house) features huge Italianate terraces, specimen trees and formal lawns, with paths descending to at lower level "The Dell" with a wooded valley, stream and wild garden below. Included within the Dell are the Old Mill, the mill pond with the mill race and an attractive spillway waterfall into the River Hiraethlyn, to give the delightful babbling brook through the Dell its proper name.


Of the many specimen trees within the Dell and the Woodland, notable are several Californian Redwoods. One giant redwood (sequoiadendron giganteum) measured 47.2 metres (155 ft) in height. Another tree from the western United States, the Oregon Douglas Fir Pseudotsuga menziesii was 48 metres (157 ft). From China about 1949 came the Dawn Redwood, previously known only from fossils and believed to have been extinct.

Above the Dell is "The Poem", the family mausoleum from which a network of paths leads through shrubberies and the Rosemary garden to the front lawn (separated from the old park by a ha-ha) and across the lawn to the Round garden.