Yeah, I know you can get burned out on too many animal pictures. One of the things I’m mixing up here to try and keep it interesting is closeups–or as I call them “The National Geographic shots”–and some wider views of the plains with the animals dotting the landscape, to give you perspective on what we saw, and reassure you this is not some open air zoo, but their homes. There is an unmistakeable vibe of peacefulness and contentment with the animals here, and though the law of the wild/circle of life still applies, the tranquility of the crater and these magnificent beasts is unmistakeable. That’s part of what makes a trip to Africa a spiritual journey of sorts. Which says a lot, since in my regular life, I’m an earthbound, pragmatic fellow in general. Moreover, if the zoos back home were hard to visit before the trip, we all agreed wed have a very tough time seeing these guys in small enclosures ever again. their spirits soared on these wide open plains, and ours with them.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) is a couple hours away from Lake Manyara, and stunningly beautiful. The NCA is home to the Ngorogoro Crater, a 13 mile diameter collapsed remains of a volcanic caldera where 25,000 animals now make their home in this lush green Babylon garden. The place was simply jaw dropping, hard to believe you were not looking at a postcard–much like the Grand Canyon, except far far greener. If you need a reason to go to Africa — this is definitely it. It also happens to be the home of the critically endangered black rhino, and rhino sightings caused hordes of Land Cruisers to converge as the guides talked on their walkie-talkies. We were very fortunate to get close sightings of a mother and her young rhino son within 50 yards. Anyhow – enjoy the simply amazing pictures of this natural wonder of the world.
Tanzanian Tourism–of which safaris are a huge part–took a 40% nose dive due to basic geographical ignorance on the part of many tourists who labeled the entire African continent with the stigma of the Ebola epidemic that broke out last fall. Never mind that Tanzania is in east Africa over 3100 miles away; to put that in perspective, it would be like canceling a trip to Key Largo, Florida because someone in Seattle got the virus. Moreover, Western Europe, including Spain, which did have Ebola cases, are closer than Tanzania to the western Africa outbreak. And the final depressing fact is that although the US and Europe reported both Ebola cases AND deaths resulting from it, Tanzania has to date reported zero (0) cases of the epidemic. The net result was that the four of us stayed in some grand old lodges all by ourselves – polished timber throwbacks to the 1800’s English hunting lodges. Amazing and a little sad. I hope Tanzania rebounds soon.
NOTE: After this initial safari post, I’ll try and keep the stories to a minimum and make the posts heavily image based, since we captured so many amazing images, they sorta speak for themselves (or through their captions).
After 9 days on Kilimanjaro with no shower and a limited change of clothing, Alex, Irina, Caryl and myself welcomed the idea of a 7 day safari standing in a Toyota Landcruiser, staying in lodges each night with–we hoped–warm water. Tanzania doesn’t really do washers & dryers, so our first night back at Iboru Safari Lodge, we walked down the road and picked up an old fashioned bar of washing soap, which we split. I’ll simply say it was both a workout and a scary amount of dirt wrung from my clothing.
We met our driver Julius Wenga (call me “Wenga”), a seasoned laid back fellow with a pleasant demeanor, packed our stuff into the 6 seat green Toyota Land Cruiser, and headed out of Arusha to Lake Manyara, the smallest of Tanzania’s national parks (40% of the country is protected reserve parkland).
Although we visited a Masai Village on the way to Lake Manyara, I’m saving that for another post. We drove for a couple hours out of Arusha, then started ascending. When we entered the park – we raised the roof, and stood up as we went pole pole–there it is again, the ubiquitous “slowly”–over a dirt road and plunged into the jungle, Irina had her binoculars, and the rest of us 3 were armed with cameras, eyes peeled. Today’s pictures are just a few of what we captured, and I’ll try & post a few each day with minimal story. Let’s just say every time we saw a new animal we’d ojnly seen in zoos before, we could barely contain our exceitement, except, as Wenga cautioned us, we had to, to avoid startling the animals. Some of the animals were indifferent and somewhat used to the many jeeps (baboons and monkeys in general), some would start running for the hills (gazelles), and some were far enough away to simply keep an eye on us and continue munching whatever they were munching. Regardless…birds, ungulates, insects, or all manners of flora and fauna..everything we saw was an exotic thrill.
Mt Tamalpais, that stalwart guardian looking down on San Francisco, so named from the indigenous Coast Miwok people of the San Francisco area to mean merely “West Hill”. I’m rediscovering its many meandering hiking trails with forest minded friends. Typically, we start in Muir Woods under canopy of towering redwoods and make our way upwards through the forest, and all along the way there are waters that gurgle and flow and fall over rocks. I’ve no capability to meditate in the way that so many do, yet I can say that my head is plenty crowded with good and happy thoughts to the physical tune of of my legs as they churn upwards. The temperature is a crisp 46-55 degrees Fahrenheit, and in the shade of these ancient and mighty forest denizens, the mist keeps a pleasant chill on our skin.
Alas, it’s been too long away from the blog, and I apologize dear readers, if there’s indeed anyone still left out there reading this. Things are winding up for a trip to Tanzania in February 2015, a climb to the roof of Africa on Mt Kilimanjaro, then a Serengeti immersion safari. In the meantime, the legs and the joints are getting their buffers built, with long haul walks across the San Francisco Peninsula head, and forested climbs up nearby mountains, such as this misty morning walk up Mt Tamulpais (Mt Tam) where sunbeams illuminated our path.
Oh, I loves me the Ray Bradbury quote that makes up this blogpost subject line. I’d like to think that the four month sabbatical I took on Saba and the months around it comprise a crossroads of sorts, and after a few discussions with my closest friends, it certainly has that possibility.
It’s not that easy to get to the dropoff in this picture, due to the dense vegetation that surrounds the occupied core of Windwardside village. You have to ramble down the winding rolling Road until you get to the English Quarter (the eastern settlement side of Windwardside), where you can make some cut throughs or paths you can take OR you have to have friends in cottages perched on the tops of the cliffs, which are many, relative to the general population. Regardless, the views from virtually anywhere in Windwardside range from the benign to the spectacular, typical of this l’il island that could.
The views from El Momo Cottages on Saba don’t suck, the price is right, it’s vegetarian fare for dinner in an Eco friendly setting. What else could you want for a vacation getaway? Maybe a cuddly penguin?
First things: On Sunday I guided a hike up to the top of Mt Scenery; I inadvertently spilled water into my waterproof backpack, where, unbeknownst to me, my digital camera swam unhappily during the descent. So she’s DOA. No pictures, no blog? I’m working through recovery options, but if blogposts get a bit less frequent, well…now you know. Gaaaaaah 😦
Lets go back in time a bit on Saba…say, . Airport? Nope. Harbor? Uh, no. How about a good old road, maybe? Nada. No, the primary way that Sabans moved goods on and off the island until The Road was completed was The Ladder, 880 stone steps rising 1000 vertical feet out of Ladder Bay to the lee of the island and up to The Bottom. Sabans were famously good sailors. The picture above shows from a 1940 National Geographic article shows Sabans moving their boat up The Ladder. The picture below it is the lower part of The Ladder today, showing the parapet style steps and how vertical they are. Frankly, The Ladder is a strenuous workout today with only a backpack; can’t imagine carrying boats, sacks, and any other basic weighty commodity up and down as part of day to day life: These Sabans are tough folks. I’ve included a
couple more pictures here of The Ladder showing its rise into the forest. It’s still steep enough to avoid if it rains, as the steps become slippy slides of lichen. The swells down at Ladder Bay are typically fierce as you can see, but the early settlers still considered the lee of the island the only place to land your boat safely. Enjoy!