Riverside meanders

 The common thread today was the floodplain of the Murray River, where the red gums towered majestically in unusual shapes, depending on the way the floodwaters had shaped them. Sunlight filtered and gleamed on the trunks.  
The township of Tocumwal had been bypassed by passenger trains but the Lions members served us a classic morning tea in the station staff room. Meanwhile, a modern diesel locomotive engine stood ready to cart containers across the river and down to Port Melbourne.   
Rainbow bee eaters fluttered high in the red gums, catching insects. Three paused briefly on a branch and I managed to zoom in on their vivid colours.

 

From a bird hide on Quinn Island, we observed a friar bird attending to its nest, suspended in the shape of a Viking ship and tastefully decorated with blue twine.

  
Further upstream, we came upon a narrow bridge with a three-tonne load limit. David assured me that the Prado weighs only two tonnes, so we were all right. We carefully eased the 4WD over the wobbly planks to the other side.

   
It was the first day of the fishing season and fishers in little tinnies were trying their luck for Murray cod.

 

Kookaburras kept an eye out for edible movement. A platypus wriggled its flat tail in the snags near the riverbank, but I wasn’t quick enough to capture them on record. All about was spring activity.

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Turtle and Koala by Murray River at Cobram

  
A short-necked turtle ignored us as we tootled by, heading upstream on the paddle boat Cobba.

Riverboats don’t need a wooden helm these days. The skipper of the Cobba uses a remote control. A diesel engine drives a generator that powers each paddle wheel separately, so each paddle can be controlled independently, at different speeds or direction.

   

The Cobba paddle boat moored at beach on River Murray, Cobram. The Murray is Australia’s longest river system, defining some of the boundary between the states of Victoria and New South Wales and finally emptying into Bass Strait in South Australia.
 
A pleasant cruise from Cobram up the Murray River took us under a historic drawbridge, past houseboats, then alongside an island sanctuary where koalas looked down at us from red gums above century old post-and-rail fences.

   
Disused drawbridge on River Murray, built in the days of paddle steamers and sailing boats.

 
Koala in red gum on Quinn Island, now a sanctuary.

   
Houseboats moored at the anabranch at the end of Quinn Island.

 
Post-and-rail fence from early twentieth Century stands above eroded bank of Murray River on Quinn Island.

Capetown photo montage

 
African penguin glistens as it emerges from the sea at Boulders, Table Mountain National Park.

  
Kirstenbosch national botanical garden lights up with spring protea  display.   
 

Street performers entertain bystanders at V&A Waterfront, Capetown.
 

To reach the Constantia wine region, take the Blue route of the City Sightseeing Tour then switch to the Purple route at this corner.

 

The cold Atlantic Ocean doesn’t discourage surfers on the beaches south of Capetown, under the watchful gaze of the Twelve Apostles (peaks).
   
The Cape of Good Hope is wild and windy!

 

Kirstenbosch gardens have developed the softly coloured Nelson Mandela Strelitzia.
  
Ostrich chicks parade along the cliff top near the Cape of Good Hope.

Puppies and hyena mums play before sundown

Coming out from their culvert home beneath the Kruger access road, mothers chilled out with their young.   

The chocolate coloured pup is very young and hasn’t yet developed his spots. It was most interested in suckling.

  
But it also experimented with cutting its teeth on a stick.  

His playmate was still chilling.  
And so was Mum:

  
A zebra trotted across the savannah

  
And as the sun set behind a giraffe with elegantly long eyelashes, we felt sad that this was our last Kruger game drive.

  

Wallowing in the heat at Kruger

At a waterhole just around the corner from Jocks Lodge, we came upon three elephants cooling off by spraying themselves with water.

  

 Just as we were setting up our cameras, they scrambled out.

  The cause was two rhinos that had arrived and chased them off.

  After checking out the lie of the land, they too wandered away, leaving the muddy waterhole deserted. Estien, our guide, took the 4WD down to a larger muddy wallow, where four rhinos were placing mud packs on their delicate complexion.

  On the back of one, the red-beaked oxpicker birds were cooling off; their beaks wide open. 

   

Cute baby animals with zebras, lions and a “Tusker”!

Our guide from Jocks took us out before sunrise and what a feast for wildlife enthusiasts!

Lions by resting the waterhole were a highlight:

  
But first Estian, our guide pointed out a trio of distant zebra.

  
  
Then a family of hyenas. One cub walked under the 4WD and sniffed at the running board.

   

Then we came across a rhino family. The curious baby sniffed it’s mother’s dung.

   
 
As the sun rose higher and the day became hotter, a hippopotamus kept cool in a wallow, watched over by a bird.

  
To top the morning game drive, we rounded a corner and came across an elephant with huge tusks. Estien pointed out that such “tuskers” are now rare due to previous poaching and genetic tendencies.

  
  
The end.