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SWAZILAND   DIARY 2            2015-16    

 Map + Plan

 

 

Photos   Diary 1 + 2

                   From Diary 1, the tail continues.
27/12
A slow start to the day, to give the tire-man a chance to wake up. Then I realises; it is Sunday. Through Pigg's Peak once again, and then south-east. I have not any idea of, what I will encounter, nor how the land look in this middle part, I'm going to drive through.
The first part is naturally the pine- and gum plantations, but then it turn into huge hills with more natural forest. The lower, more flat areas are farmed, but little is seen on the red soil. As the landscape descents from 500 meters to 200 or a bit lower, plantations with fruits like bananas take over, but only for a short stretch. Then the bush-savannah dominates.
A lot of people are found walking along the road. Many are dressed up in alike costumes, probably a quire on their way to church.
Despite I do a few stops from time to time, I fail to find anything interesting. At ten, I pull over for a cup of self-made tea. I have not seen anything remotely as a restaurant. In Ebuhleni, one of the royal residence are found - right behind an abandon chop-shop.
The rivers like Mpofu are bone dry, except a few billabongs. Here, car-washing have taken over for the laundry. The farm houses, scattered all the way along the road, are tiny. Many are just two rondawels and a small square hut. 
A single, rather large river is full. It must originate at a dam, way up in the hills. The water are later channelled to sugar and corn plantations, in an else real dry area. Sponsored by EC. Someone are making a lot of money that way, and to judge from the tiny huts, on the other side of the road, it is not the local workers.

Around noon, I pass through St. Phillips, and the road changes to dirt, for the next 50 kilometres. At the same time, the area turns even dryer. Here are only a few huts along the road, but the plants turn more interesting. Here are bulbs, different Euphorbias and other succulents along with flowering Raphionacme and Ipomoeas. I start the exploring with a cup of tea, then many tours through the Acacia-thorn infested roadside.
Here is dry - real dry. Many of the plants are almost dead, even some of the huge Euphorbias seems to have died. Further down the dirt and dust, a surprisingly modern city is found at a dirt-road intersection. Seems strange, till another artificial irrigation area turns up, on the other side of a huge river.
Here are not many animals. A few flies, the hole after a huge tarantella and a few beetles.
The next couple of rivers are more natural again: Bone dry. Well, it is not really supposed to be that, on this time of year, but this El Nino year, it is. Mhlatuze River have a small moist line, that is all.
From here on, it turns real dry. Most of the bushes are gone, but huge amounts of large Aloes take over. Several red dust-devils sweeps over the road, and the few other cars leave huge tails of dust.
Just as the mountain range start to be seen, I meet the sealed road. This is the south-eastern turning point for this cross-country tour, and I turn north. A sign warning for warthogs seems promising, and the surroundings are either lush, green farm-fields or red bushland, dominated by scares Acacias.
I have not seen a single lodge or camp since this morning, but after 260 kilometres, the large and fashionable Nisela Game-park offers camp. I turn in, despite it is only three o'clock. I did plan to camp way down south. They are mainly a lodge, and I have the rather run-down camp for my self. Well, until a big bus with a "hotel-trailer" turns up. At least, I get to wash my self and all my cloth before, and they park 100 meters away.
A few of them don't understand; I'm not interested in chatting, but I have 200 pictures and a diary - and do fine by my self anyway. My pans are almost dry, when I need them for dinner, and then the computer can recharge.
It is a thick menu-card, but when I reach "Oxtail", I look no further. It is almost as good as the one I make - almost. After dinner, I try to upload once again, but it still fails. Either, Swaziland have blocked something, or I have done something stupid with my program. Neither can be ruled out.
Here are a few night-active insects; some predator beetles, scorpions and a solifo along with their pray, mainly cockroaches and crickets. At the former kitchen, I sneak in on a little snake
To see something bigger, I order a game-drive tomorrow morning. If I pay for two; 300 SZL, I can have the car to my self - no brainer! They do not have the Big Five, but I settle for some giraffes. And hippos would be cool too. And elephants...

 28/12 At five, all the birds are awake, and so am I. I just listen to them for an hour, until the large company from "Das Rejsende Hotel" awakes. One of my tasks is filling the watertank, which, despite my limited use, have gone dry. It might be caused by its leaking. The hose is too short, and don't fit the tap. I kind of get it to work, but when I want to turn it off again, the tap barks! They claim the trunk is dustproof. It is not, but it is waterproof. Most of my gear get soaked in the two draws and the side boxes. At least, the computer is in the cabin.
With a start like that, the day can only improve - I so incorrectly presumed. It turns out "my" gamedrive jeep have been booked to others. Three adults, three small children. Unacceptable - and then again, I don't want to wait until ten.
The sun don't want to join in, and that affect my photos a lot. We drive through the dry and extremely grassed-down savannah, and the driver stop from time to time. Buzzard, Kingfishers, Impalas, zebras, warthogs, small hornbills, an lans, and then a lot of giraffes, at least nine. Then some guinea fouls and plastic bags with ostrich eggs. 
At a small lake, two rather "used" tortoises are bathing. At the next, rather large lake, 50 Marabou Storks walks around. Her are also a few black-hooded Herons and Crossed-billed Storks. A couple of geese can't decide if the want to flee or not. On the other side of the dam, a family group of Nyalas are grassing.
Back at camp, I tell the driver he have a great job - if it wasn't for the guests, and he break in the first smile I have seen. When the confrenciere, who take my payment, ask how it was, I tell him: It was just like McDonald: Adults chatting loud about nothing at all, while their phones go on with SMS's. Meanwhile, the kids scream and jump around and litter. The entire area is overpopulated with starving animals. He agree; he should not have asked. I make a few photos of the padding-zebra, and head off.

A few kilometres down the road, I spot a bright red sphere of a flower, and have to enter the field. It is so strange in all that dead and dry plant material and dry mud. The next stops only give a few new plants, and then the sugar cane plantations with irrigation takes over.
I do a few loops through the significantly - but tiny city of Big Bend. It is mainly the sugar fabric that make this place. And they do not have a tire-man. I turn down a minor road, but it is just endless cane fields, and I return to the main northern road.
A stop under a big tree to make tea, while I drain the car for around ten litres of water. Up a steep ascent, and most of the water runs off. Suck-up some more with a plastic bottle, and leave it. Here are a few interesting plants along the road.
At Sileki, I turn out to a minor gravelroad, which follows the ridge at the eastern border, and leading south again. That offers some great views over the valley. I even find a tire-shop. We negotiate the price, but he had a unexpected trick: He don't remove the tire at all. He just punch a short piece of string, soaked in some rubbery substance into the hole. He claim it is just as good, but the car and I are going through the Kalahari! Well, I have two spare tires, and am a bit of an adventure, right?

The road is lined with small farms, small villages and schools all the way. That make it so more difficult to botanize, but I manages a few times, without being swarmed by nosy children - and adults for that matter. One of the new plants is an Aloe, which grow flat like a fan; only to two sides. Another Aloe is small, and here are some strange succulents. Unfortunately, only underneath the densest and most thorny bushes.
The road continues at least 50 kilometres, but I turn back after 35. It is time to be serious again, and find one of the planned game parks; Hlane Royal Park. The main road leads right through part of it, and a sign warns pedestrians and cyclists about the presents of lions and elephants. I take that as a clear sign of; you are aloud to exit the car. I need that to make some photos of the huge Euphorbia trees, which now at four, have a great vertical light on them.

At the entrance, I pay 80 SZL for two days of exploring. At the reception, additional 210 SZL for two night's of camping. To my undivided joy, the game-drive can be done alone, in my own car! I had planned to park the car, letting the low sun dry the interior, but that most wait!
It is in the late afternoon heat, but you never know, when it come to nature. The first creature is a Impala male, later a female. Not that impressive, but it is a huge park; 30.000 hectares! I'm not aloud to drive in all, and quite soon, I got a feeling of; I'm outside the reservation once again. At base-camp, around 30 cars was parked. In the park, I can't see a single, and the trails are suspicious narrow and not as warn-down, as I would have expected. But I have a great time, and I can stand the yelling.
Here are almost only dead trees, but the bushes are lush and dense. As I turn round a corner, a mud-pool with six rhinos reveals. Three old female, and almost adult calf and two tiny ones - for rhinos. I keep my distance, and they don't mind me at all. I make a few photos - and then a lot more. As they finish their baths, and seek into the bushes, I circle around "the block". A large warthog distracts me shortly, but then I'm back at the trail. I fin one of the small families, but within a small group of elephants. I let the rhinos slip away, and focus on the elephants. When they seek into the bushes, I make another tour round the next block. Then it is getting rather late, and the sun vanishes. I return to camp, but not without seeing some Blue Starlings, a big group of Guinea Fouls and a Hammerhead Heron.
My tent is up fast by now, then a tour to the restaurant to order dinner for later. While I wait, I sit there and work, while the hippos grunts in the pond in front of me. I would like to see them leave the water, but a hour and a half passes, without I remember to look op. Then it is pitch dark, and my spear-grilled Impale turns up. Still the 466 photos of the day to go through, and a bit of diary.
They want me to pay at ten, and at the same time, I'm out of battery on the computer. Back to work in the car, while the camera also charges. The deep grunts from the hippos can be heard during the dark night. My plan is to get an early drive to morrow - but at the same time finishing the photos of the day. Guess other have the same plan, quarter pass ten, and the campsite is black! Well, except my car.
The night are dominated by first the hippos, then the lions' deep roar.

29/12 I start the game-drive at half pass six, and today, the sun is ready. So are the Water Boks, the Impalas and some almost black Guinea Fouls. Until now, they have all been Helmet Guinea Fouls. A few Warthogs seem scared of the car, but I have more luck with the plants. To my big joy; I find Adenium obesum in flower. It look so strange in the else brownish landscape.
The caucus of a vulture indicate how bad the draught is - although it might have died from another cause. A few, rather small Boophane have leaves, but else, here is not much interesting. I drive through the gate to the "Endangered Wildlife", but I later get a clear feeling of, this is the big exterior with little animals in. All the big ones are gathered in the huge enclosure around the camp. I only see some Spring Boks and birds, until a two meter snake escapes through the fence. I find a small group of nicely flowering small plants, I have no idea of the grouping. Another fruit baring plant is a - to me - unknown Vitaceae. A bit later, a relative to it, is flowering.
Around 30 kilometres from camp, I meet the outer fence, following a railroad. I drive along the fence for a considerable time, and end up letting my self out of a ridicules little gate. The road soon leads through seventeen kilometres of cane plantations. The crossing roads leads through just more fields. Sponsored by EU. I got a bad feeling of, when EU stop paying the electricity for the massive pumps, it will fare from be profitable.
I get back to the park, but on the public road, leading through it. I now know, the warnings about wild animals are a PR stunt. The big fence is 30 meters in the bushes. Further more, the lions are in their own enclosure, which I still consider paying for a drive through.
I get back to the main gate, and a bit baffled guard let me in. I do several loops through the big-game-part, and see baboons, elephants, White Rhinos, Water Boks, a bunch of two species of dung beetles, even more Impalas and Guinea fouls of both types. As a special treat, I find an area with flowering Ipomoea bolusiana, which was one of my first caudiciforms. Another flowering plant are so familiar - except the name. The warthogs grassing around it, and not a frighten, and it take some time before I get a good photo. On my way back to camp, I cross path with the mother rhino with the old calf, and that causes for additional photos.

After five hours, 80 kilometres and only 106 photos, it is time for tea and a second breakfast. Then I clean the car inside, while I try to dry-out the trunk. It had a distinct humid sent, when I opened it. Despite I did not see a single car in the park, here are only a few in the camp. I sit the midday heat over in camp, and work with pictures and diary. 
Then I remember the hippos, which I would love a good photo of. Unfortunately, they are way too long from the fence, but I get some photos of them submerged, along with some rhinos. While I try to figure, how to get them a bit out of the water, a small group of elephants solve that for me. I doubt I ever again manages to make a good photo of a blue lake, savannah bushes and trees along with hippos, rhinos and elephants. Here are a large group of baboons, but too fare away. 54 photos later, I return to work... It is time to yet another slideshow; The tour,
Part 3.

At two, I'm ready for more live experiences. First, I walk the fence around the camp, but that does not revealing anything interesting, except a Red Throated Sunbird and a skink. Then I head into "the dull zone", but the waterhole do sound entreating. When I finally find it, it have dried out, and only a group of Marabou Storks and vultures find the last mud pole interesting.
My plan was to return to "the big enclosure", but I end up driving 20 kilometres on a road without options. At least, I see some Blue Wildebeests, and a lot of semi-dry but rather unspoiled nature. 
When I finally make it back to camp, I make a cup of tea and have a short brake. Despite I have seen none in the wild, the camp is empty too. Here are only some day-visitors, waiting for their drive through the lion-enclosure.
Time for the big guys. Within long, I find a rhino, who is walking several rounds around my car. Then a smaller, but equal interesting animal crosses the trail; a Rock Monitor, Varanus albigularis - or at least something looking that way.
At a pool, the local Marabou Stork takes off, and circles me in deep discontent. I circle around too, to get a better picture, but the path is blocked by four rhinos on the move. I throw the car into the side, and they passes real close, on the road. So close, I fail to get a picture of all four at once. They are all covered in fresh mud, and just around the corner, a mud-hole with additionally two rhinos are found.
Despite they are given quite some time, they just stay put. Ox-pickers and a Hammerhead Heron walk around on them, but they relax. That give me no choice, but photo them as they are, underneath a tree, decorated with weaver's nests.

Around a few more bends on the road, and I get to most rare motive so fare: A car! Despite I am unprepared, I manages to get a shot, almost without the rhino is blocking the view. The sun hides behind a rather dark cloud, and I realises, the clock have passed six. Another day with 60 kilometres of game-drive, and a total of 370 photos. The campers next to me look like experienced South Africans, and I ask them regarding my fixed tire. "Use it in the rear, don't extend 120 km/t, and you be fine". Just what I wanted to hear. Then I ask about Mozambique, and now they tell me, it might be even worse than I thought. Obey all rules, get a stack of certified copies of your driving-license - they don't give your original back for less than 2000 DKK / 300. There are "meat-control-points", where they take what they want, and you can drive on with the rest. If I was not to pick-up my co-driver in Mozambique, I would seriously consider skipping it.

Rush over to the restaurant to get my pre-ordered Swazi Mixed Grill with Kudu sausage and Wildebeest beef. By accident, I get to order a really great chocolate muss. Then it is time to go through the last 200 photos of the day. At least, most are Rhinos. I ask how many they have, but "only the wild-inspectors know". Their giraffes should apparently be around the picnic site, and I plan to give it a try tomorrow. Then it is time to head on to Mlawula National Reserve and its 1000 species of plants.
Eventually, I end up with 75 real good rhino photos - and then what? I got to face it; I got a way too happy trigger-finger.
It sounds like they have forgotten to feet the lions again.  I skipped seeing them; there have to be something to look forward to in Zimbabwe. Sitting in Denmark, 350 SZL does not sound like much, but that is more than park entry and campsite in two days around here.
At half pass nine, I'm the only one awake - except the lions, it seems. I try to wrap up fast, and at eleven, I hit the tent after yet another great day with sightings of the wild Africa.

30/12 The giraffes have still eluded me, and at six, I set out to find them. Rather systematic, I drive down trail by trail, and here are a lot of rhinos. At one point, I realises; I don't bother to photo them, when I have to stop, because they block the road. A single tortoise get me out of the car, but else, it is only Impalas and numerous rhinos. The giraffes are still gone, and at nine, I give up.
Back at camp for a quick cup of tea, while I watch two blue finches: They are most likely Blue-headed Waxbills; Uraeginthus cyanocephalus. Then to the nearest police station in Simuńye. They are willing to certify some copies of my driving licence (to give to the bandits in uniform in Mozambique). I just have to get the copies made somewhere else. A few kilometres away from this isolated station, a huge mall and a tiny, but modern city is found. They even have a gas station, and I fill the truck. The copy-shop seems to have a day off, but I'm told the postal office can copy too. I check the Boxet, but they are out of 5L water bottles, and I'm down to the last.

A bit further down the road, the private Mbuluzi Game Reserve is found. It is right next to Hlane, but they do not have the Big Five (neither did Hlane; no buffalos). But they have 1600 hectare with 54 kilometre of roads and many more footpaths, winding their way through 1000 species of plants. The also have most gazelles, even the tall ones; giraffes. No restaurant, only a campsite, but two real well-spoken rangers in the entrance, and a brilliant map.
After 200 meters, I see the first giraffe, and after 100 meters more, nine more giraffes are found, right next to the road. A big herd of Blue Wildebeest and some zebras joins in.
After the camp, a huge horse-shoe with a ridge in the middle, form one part of the reserve. I drive slowly out on it, stopping when I see some interesting plants. A real huge tick draws attention with the deep humming-tone it have, when it flies. Besides from that, here are not really the plants I'm after. Here are many familiar, but I concentrate on the new ones.
The view over part of the river, on the other hand, is absolutely astonishing. I consider walking down there, but recon the camp is actually closer, and in same level. A bedrock top look interesting, and it sure is! Some astonishing huge Pachypodiums saundersii sit on the barren rock, looking way more fresh than anything else. They even flowers. I have never dreamed about they could grow this big, and I have to update my page about them. An absolutely brilliant finding for me!
While I photo them, two types of real big lizards runs around on the cliffs. One is the blue-tailed one, but even bigger here, the other one is the real flat one with orange, spiny tail. They are both immense fast! At the same rocks, but not doing that good, are some Vitaceaes and bulbs. A Asclepiadaceae, looking exactly like the stick-euphorbia, but with fruits, tall spiny Aloes and some rather small, smooth ones. Here are also two types of Jatrophas, one with seedpods.
Once again, I find one of the huge snail encasings. It must be a real bad year for them. Even the more succulent plants are sleeping due to draught. The fake grass-trees are all completely yellow.
At two, I head back to camp. The wind feels like a fhn-drier, and the temperature are way over 40C. Just as the huge loop, leading round the horse-shoe are about to reconnect, a big tree have fallen across the road. I don't feel for returning, and get the axe from the trunk. That teaches it. After that exercise, I get a fast shower at the camp. Then a cup of tea and work in the car, parked in the shadows. It turns out, the inner section of the kitchen department also had its part of the flooding, and I have some dishwashing and sorting to do. It must have soaked in after I checked the first time.
At four, I go for a long walk. It seems like this end of the reserve in not that popular among the animals, but the plants don't mind. The views are also favoured. A footpath leads down to some huge rocks, which again leads down to the river. Many small falls are found in-between the pools. I serious thing about a skin-dip, until I remember all the warnings about crocodiles, I have seen other places. Not worth it, I think.
The rocks look like they have been formed by sand, not water. I have never seen this at a river, but it must be the water.
Many of the bushes are flowering, normally synchronised with the rain, but not this year. A rather small, but adult tortoise is found in the edge of the camp, but the light is too faint. The sun is almost gone, and I better get back and use the last daylight. The camp is without electricity, but a solar-water-heater from "The Sun Pays" and a black tank over a potential bonfire supply the hot shower.
Cooking is the easy way; rice, half a bag powder to Beef Stroganoff and half a can brown beans, tasted with salt and soya. Not bad for a fifteen minutes cooking, while I at the same time work with photos. Realising how little water I have left, cooking and tea is made from the huge tank, only cold drinking water from the 5L bottle.
At half pass seven, it is pitch dark, and I retire to the car with a cup of tea. I guess I will have this park to my self the next two days, New Year coming up. Well, almost alone. Somehow, the misquotes have a way to get into the car, but at least not into the tent. I am glad I got the computer and photos to work with, else, the nights would have been long! Finish with even back-up at ten, and not much more to do without internet.

31/12 The sun won't play today, despite I wait till eight. I start with a drive, but do many walks, when I se something interesting. I would have expected to see quite some gazelles, but no a single one crosses my path. Reptilians, on the other hand, are numerous. Skinks, Blue Tailed Lizards, two different species of tortoises and two Rock Monitors. They are unfortunately only one meter from their den, and reach it faster, than I can make a photo. The tortoises are easier.
Down at the river, a two meter crocodile is a bit too fast for me, and I only manages to get the rings in the water. But here were crocodiles, and with one on two meters, here can easily be larger ones. I keep that in mind, when I walk along the waters edge. 
Two dung beetles are rolling a ball - well, the female is, the male just sit on it for the ride. Here are many insects, especially in the flowering bushes. Big beetles, wasps, butterflies, wide ticks and normal flies. The Bird-hide next to the dam is an expected disappointment. The pond is dry, and only a single bird is found here. I watch it for some time, just in good order.
Then I seek up higher, to see if I can found some more interesting plants among the boulders. Here are a lot of dry Selaginellas, minute fake grass trees and a few bulbs. One of them is flowering, but despite it is only four centimetres high, I think it is one of those, normally fifteen centimetres high. Drought is taking its toe around here.
The spider, on the other hand, is a well-grown size. It is the Golden Orb Spider, and it measure around five centimetres.
Pass noon, I drive around the entrance, and again, the large mammals are found here. Blue Wildebeest, zebras and Impalas. It is most likely the pond that draws them here. Above the pond, a large tree is decorated with a large number of the Social Weaver's nests. A bit further down the trail, a non-social weaver have made its nest.

Back at the camp, I park the car, and go for a walk along the river. It is a real wide area, with barren bedrock and ponds, scattered on both sides of the river. It seems like it is always easier to walk on the other side, but real tricky to cross - crocodiles in mind.
After some time, my legs have gotten enough sun for one day - and after additional an hour, I return to camp. I start to work, but the computer literarily burns my legs, and I  figure it better get a rest. I go for another drive, but not before I have done a bit of laundry and discovered a small gecko in the only building on site.
This drive does not really result in any new discoveries. One more of the medium tortoises, some Sansevierias and Aloes but no larger animals. That, I have to go pass the entrance for. But first, I got to have a cup of tea.
Here, I find three rather large geckos. Two sitting behind the same door, and they are the not same species. This is probably their day room.
The entrance area with the pond don't disappoint me. I even see see water-hens. Around the corner, the large group of giraffes are sleeping the hot afternoon away. Two of them even lying down. Around the next corner, the two smallest fouls, I ever seen, try to sneak off unattended. Next living creature is a praying manta, who I have to follow up a tree.

The sun is getting low, and I have had my share of wildlife for one day. Back to work, then cook my New Year dinner: Pasta with Beef Stroganoff powder, brown beans and adjusted with salt and soya. Guess someone else will get some more fancy... Work till nine, and go to tent before the fireworks.

2016! The reserve have another part, on the other side of the public road. The two guys at the entrance have a buzzer for the gate on the other side, and while I get it, we talk about the things I have seen. I end up showing then a bunch of pictures, and use their internet to check emails. When they see the striped leaf frog, they say they have one like it at the office. It is another species of leaffrog, sitting on the plug to the printer. It have done so for several days.
The other side of the park is different, but it is the same river, winding its way through. At one place, the most beautiful views over the river is found. I drive around the entire area, but I only find some fig fruits, dragonflies and some flowering Adenium boehmianum
swazicum , a subspecies which only live in Swaziland.

At eleven, I have seen nature enough for now, and I'm out of water. I drive north-west, towards the South African border. Near Mananga, I find an open Boxer, which have water and milk. No muesli, but I have a bit left still. While I now am this close to South Africa, I will try to connect to CellC's wireless internet, and see if I can upload. I get a real good connection, but I am still not aloud to upload, just download from my server. Either, it is the setup on my computer or on the server.
I make a break along the road for a cup of tea, and while the kettle is on, I spot a flowering parasitic plant in the tree above me. Then the two South African trucks I know from one of the recent parks passes bye.
This de-tour of 70 kilometres have been botanical real unchallenging. 95% is just endless cane fields. The bit that isn't is made up by bush savannah, and a real dry one. Here are a city for each 30 kilometres, next to the sugar factory. Modern cities with guards at the entrance, a huge mall and little else. In-between these satellite cities are only cane - not a single rondawel.
That changes the last ten kilometres before the Lomahasha border to Mozambique. In a slightly more green area, numerous small rondawels and tiny fields are found. The area is significantly more hilly, and perhaps not suited for irrigation? Then the valley opens up, and a patchwork of small fields fills it. They don't benefit from artificial watering, and are just dark red squares.
The border station is a fancy building, and real effective. Soon, I'm in the hands of the Mozambique crew - but more about that in MOZAMBIQUE.

Despite I have zigzagged the country on the long stretch, I have only driven around 1150 kilometres. I have taken 3000 photos, and seen a lot of interesting plants and animals. A friendly people with much to offer - I just hope they get some rain soon.
 

SWAZILAND EXPENSES
1/6 of flight 1.046  
9 day 4x4 4.302  
Food 850  
Hotels 800  
1/6 gadgets 1.100  
Diesel 600  
Entrees 275  
DKK 8.973 1200

                    

   Diary 1 + 2  Map + Plan  Photos