'Round the World with David and Ron
The Boys are Abroad!
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12/04/07
Kenya - Ron cleans up
Filed under: Africa
Posted by: @ 12:17 am

Hey there,

I’m in the Schiphol Airport in Holland waiting to fly home…I’m flying business class (Yippee! so I get to use the special lounge and have little sandwiches and free drinks, I had a bloody Mary, yummy.)

Like David said, too many countries in too little time. I’m not sure I’d change anything though. Next time I think we’ll try just one locale (or at the least one country) and then day trips. It’s been a bit of a grind, packing up and moving everyday. Especially when changing languages, cultures, and driving etiquette.

Kenya was astonishing. The time that we spent with Kakuta and his family will be by far the most memorable portion of this trip. The Maasai are a people whose way of life (except for everyone having cell phones) has changed little in generations(okay, it’s probably changing faster than they’d like.) Staying with them was a little unbelievable. Then add the trip to Amboseli National Park and all the wildlife…over the top. You can see why we were on overload once we hit Istanbul. It’s like our life just went “tilt.” (for you who haven’t a clue to that cultural reference, it’s as if someone hit the pinball machine too hard and the whole system comes to a halt…at least temporarily.)

So here are the pics. (I need to thank Rob, my roommate for turning me onto this camera. It’s a Canon 710A IS. It’s been great. I’ve dropped it a few times and it has a dent on the top. We stopped at a camera shop in South Africa to borrow a small screw driver set to put the case back together after a particularly spectacular fall…off the tips of the fingers quarter back fumble fall…)

We arrived in Nairobi a bit weary after South Africa. We had been on the move everyday; we were thinking maybe we can just relax in Nairobi. Well this is a city with a similar reputation to Johannesburg: In your face with crime, poverty, and all the harsh realities of a major metropolitan African city. Its other name, according to the travel book, is Nairobbery. We didn’t have any problems with crime while we were there, but we had been forewarned so were cautious. Needless to say, we didn’t get to relax much in Nairobi.

Given all the pics I’ve taken (about 2300,) I don’t have that many from here.

The Maasai market was jam packed with everyone wanting once again to be our best friend, “we are like brothers!”


This woman caught my eye and I had to get a picture: she sounded british, inappropriately dressed for an outdoor market, in fake Zebra print and fake designer bag. (the Maasai woman in the foreground was not happy about my taking her picture, she wanted me to pay, but I didn’t even know she was in the pic…I walked away when she didn’t understand I wasn’t taking her picture…I guess I was.)

These shady characters

found us in the local fish market

and convinced us to follow them across town to a place they were selling older beaded, carved, and traditional work. We almost turned around a number of times because they looked somewhat nefarious. But in the end we saw some really good and unique work. It all was too much to take in and the process to purchase just a few items was convoluted as well. You don’t want to be carrying hundreds of dollars worth of Kenyan Shillings on you. It took multiple trips to the ATM and half the time the ATMs would refuse our card…again the things we normally take for granted.

The last image we have from Nairobi (I took this as we were leaving for Maasai land, he was seated outside a grocery store.)

David has already described our trip to Simba Camp. I’ve never been on roads quite like that before. I was amazed that the van stayed together. A few pics from Simba Camp

(We are standing on a mound of decaying mud and cow dung bricks that were never fired.)


We took a walk with the warriors to a slight rise that got us above all the surrounding area and gave us the vista to really appreciate the sunset. On this trip we encountered the thorns of the Acacia: it has an evolutionary edge over all the other plants. Those thorns are sharp and some varieties don’t let go.

The next day was our trip to Amboseli.
This park is known for it’s large African Elephants. And there are lots of them.


(notice the unique way the mother carries the infant elephant?)


Yellow Baboon.


Malibu Stork: Ugly Bird and not afraid of me! Look at that beak.


These are unattached bachelor water buffalo. They reminded me of Tom, David and myself: Getting older and cantankerous. Water Buffalo kill more tourists every year than any other animal in Africa.

One of the things I really wanted to see on this trip was Mount Kilimanjaro “rising like an empress above the Serengeti….”

Okay

Does anyone get that reference? (Send me a response if you do. Miwako knew the reference and I’ve had the lyric wrong for 20 years…it rises like Olympus not an empress…she’ll always be the empress for me…)

When we arrived on the first day to Simba Camp, the empress was covered in clouds and the weather forecast didn’t look very good. Next day we got up at 5am to be on the road and have a better chance of seeing some of the larger carnivore that hide out during the middle of the day. Again the mountain was shrouded. So we kept teasing Kakuta to make the mountain appear. And as if by magic or by our teasing, it happened. She revealed herself in all her majesty.

This was one highlight, among so many.
This is the Vervet Monkey…


This little guy was a pest.

The monkey’s in Maasailand are not revered or thought highly of as in Ubud, Bali. While David was beading at the midday rest, this Vervet decided to abscond with his beading wax and climb up on the roof to eat it…Apparently it didn’t taste so go, so he threw it back. Later he tried to take David’s beads but David was ready and scared the little mischief-maker off. They have been fed by tourist so now think it’s their right to demand the sugar or left over orange juice. Apparently they aren’t nice about it…they usually bite first and ask questions later


(This is Joseph, not his given name, who took us on a bird walk. I think we saw more than a hundred different species in two hours. This is he and I with an elephant femur.)

This was one of the last images from our safari.

A lone Flat Top Acacia Tree towering over the savannah expanse. Having seen it on TV and in books doesn’t do it justice. It was just one more image to cap off our experience. After awhile the adjectives just go lacking. It was all overwhelming and somehow unbelievable.

Next day we had until about noon to visit with Kakuta’s family and give David a chance to meet with the Maasai women/beaders.


David and the women


Cattle give the Maasai their wealth and identity.


Kakuta with his mother in her home.


Kakuta’s second mother.


Lastly a child from the village.

We had an quite a visit with Kakuta and his family. I think that both David and I would like to go back and help out. We have many more stories of our very short time there but I’ve gone on and on and on about such a short time.

The trip back to Nairobi was much like the trip out except with less dust and more mud. We went from the van to the airport and on to Zurich and Istanbul…

more to come.

ron

2 comments
12/01/07
Kenya - Maasai Village Stay
Filed under: Africa
Posted by: @ 4:07 am

Oh my have we had an experience…Here is a brief version.

Flew into Nairobi, stayed for four days, three hotels, went to markets and bought lots of stuff.

Got picked up by a Van and was transported south-ish 150-km in a mini van with 14 other people… this is public transportation. The road was “under construction” which meant that this three hour journey was something akin to hitching a ride on a paint shaker or driving your car around with square tires (made out of stone).

Transferred in a small village (called Emali) to a van owned by the Maasai… had another hour journey under slightly less favorable conditions. Arrived at the Maasai village looking like I had stage make-up on (DUST). Got out of the van and stepped into a copy of National Geographic.

Very traditional village which started a visiting program in the past year or two and has been rated by National Geographic as one of the 50 best places on earth to visit. There have only been about thirty visitors so far. Hung out with Maasai warriors, and villagers who were bedecked with beads from the top of their heads to the bottom of their feet and even into there extended earlobes.

They were kind, funny, generous and good to us.

Next day went on a safari; saw more animals than I can begin to tell you. Not animals in a cage but cheetahs hunting in the savanna

and a pride of eight lions

and hyenas

and giraffes

and hippos

and then we saw more animals and then we saw them again. I probably saw 100 different varieties of birds in every imaginable color. Got home, had tea, bat landed in Ron’s tea, he screamed like a sissy and threw tea (did not hit any of the warriors).

Next day had to move on so we headed out on the paint shaker roads again except now it was raining so we took a team of Maasai warriors with us. It was still like a paint shaker experience except this time it was like we were inside a can of reddish brown paint.

We got stuck from time to time but our new friends would kind of hoop and jump out of the van and move us out of whatever sludge pit we had gotten ourselves into. I was a bit worried but they all seemed to think it was funny so it was hard not to get caught up in the camaraderie… I love those guys. Wouldn’t it be grand to have a team of Warriors always at your side just in case you got in a jam?

Today finds me in the Zurich airport waiting for Istanbul…

David

3 comments
Kenyan Haircut - Nairobi
Filed under: Africa
Posted by: @ 3:21 am

Ok, so I was in Nairobi Kenya the other day and I need a haircut so I am out and about and I see this place that seems to specialize in that so I go in there. Once I was in there I felt obliged to follow through but I may have been the only pink face to have darkened that door ever and I don’t thing they had ever seen hair like mine on there floor. They ended up doing a good job and couldn’t have been nicer but I think the poor guy guy was kind of nervous about it and I think he cut it about three times trying to get it short enough to cover a miscalculation. I have never had a haircut that did not involve scissors… all clippers.


(David with his clipper cut at the Maasai market in Nairobi)

comments (0)
11/26/07
South Africa: ron speaks
Filed under: Africa
Posted by: @ 3:50 pm

South Africa, part 2

We experienced so much in South Africa. It is so much bigger than I thought. When I planned this trip and then suggested we drive from Jberg to Cape Town by way of Durbin, I was thinking about a three-day journey with lots of time to explore. It took us five days, a car accident, and a good many miles on the odometer. To do it again…who can say. So like I’ve done in other blogs, I picked the images that are cool and let that narrate the rest of the blog.


Johannesburg has a reputation that doesn’t lend itself to tourists strolling the streets of downtown. There was the recent car jacking death of reggae legend Lucky Dube, it is the home of a good portion of Africa’s mercenary activity, and the razor wire/ten foot wall/electric fence aesthetic all working to give the place a really bad name.

We left Joberg without really seeing it. David’s tummy and recovery from India to blame. We contemplated going to Krueger Nat’l Park and then to Cape Town but decided instead on seeing the Drakensburg region and the south coast.


(I’m not sure I’d be able to get my animals to hold still while I tied them up. But if you look closely, you’ll see there is no room in the back for them…)


It was easy to drive there even if it’s on the wrong side of the road. By that time I has been driven on the right in Australia, Singapore, Bali and India and rented a car to drive all over New Zealand. We got pretty good at the wrong side driving, if not for the roads…
Here’s what happened:
We were on this stretch of Highway in the middle of nowhere. All you see is Acacia scrub with these wicked long thorns, sky and sun.

The roads are in mediocre condition but this stretch pictured above had a nasty shoulder with a six-inch drop in places. Across from where we landed where three crosses where someone else wasn’t as fortunate. The roadsides were littered with auto parts from lots of prior accidents. Not a nice part of the highway. So David is driving and veers off the road (as ya do), we think the tires blew trying to get back onto the road, he lost control of the steering and ended up driving on the embankment for a while thru said acacia and then we hit a ditch barely missing the huge rock! Neither the front nor the side airbags went off, despite the fact that the car ended up on it’s side with David crumpled up on his door which is now the floor…

Thankfully we were both okay, shook but alright. The police were there within 10 minutes and then stayed with us in the blazing African Sun until the rental car company finally showed up three hours after they said they would. We stood out in that sun for 3 1/2 hours; we were cooked lobsters by the time they showed. Thankfully we had a bottle of water that survived the crash. But it only gets better, the rental car place that brought us this new car towed it the wrong direction and screwed up the transmission. So we had a nice new car that didn’t move. At least we were able to get out of the sun and into air-conditioning. We spent a 6 hours waiting to be back on the road. oh well, at least we were in one piece.

As it turns out, we were only ten minutes from a great little diner, where we got some great “Mom” energy. Thea Swart (pictured with her husband Hendrik) gave us some of the best fish and chips I’ve ever eaten and then told us all the cool places we needed to see between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. Thanks for all the TLC!


Here are some of the Highlights from our trip to Cape Town:


Kidd’s Beach in the early morning before breakfast. One of our great beach walks.


This is the Stormriver Gorge. Vertigo and way cool. We spent the night at Stormriver and got up early the next morning and when for a 7Km hike on boulders to a falls at the Tsitsikamma Nat’l Park.


hiking on the boulders. We were sore the next day. Notice the orange on orange?


This is a rock dassie or Hyrax. The dassie is the African elephant’s closest living relative, in spite of the size difference. This close evolutionary relationship is deduced from similarities in the structure of the feet and teeth.


Big grasshopper huh?


This is at the end of Africa. Cape Agulhas is the southern most point in Africa. There’s a sign that says one side Indian Ocean and the other side Atlantic Ocean…both look the same…


again we miscalculated to vastness of the country. Many hours diving through country like this.

Finally we got to Cape Town: a great city and we had the best tour guides while there.


Christel and her girlfriend Corne were great to us, taking us all over and entertaining and feeding us. They even let us get our dog fix.


This is choppie. He’s great and we fell in love.

Cape Town is an amazing city that I’m sure we’ll visit again. Table Mountain is a treasure and eye popping experience not to be missed!


We also saw some amazing coastline and natural sites while in Cape Town:


The African Penguin


A basking whale


We were sad to say goodbye to Cape Town but Kenya was calling us…

2 comments
11/20/07
South Africa: Joberg to Port Elizabeth
Filed under: Africa
Posted by: @ 9:46 am

South Africa, part 1
As we learned in my last entry, Johannesburg was a great comfort to me but I can’t tell you as much about the city as I can tell you about the plumbing in the place we stayed. One of the most enduring images I have is of neighborhoods of nice homes surrounded by big fences which were topped with razor wire . It looks like a fine place to live as long as you don’t mind living behind a gate. Our gate opener wouldn’t work one day and so we couldn’t leave. It was a little strange and it makes me wonder if this is the direction our world is going in. The further away you get from the city the less you see of people living in compound arrangements but high fences with razor wire is an aesthetic that South Africa seems to have grown accustomed to. I hope they get it all worked out, but the “apart” portion of “apartheid” still seems to have a place here.

Once we left Jberg, we were treated to some of the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen, and I have seen my portion.

It is always hard to imagine the largeness of a place until you go there and see great distances.

We were full of awe as we traveled through the Drakensberg Region.

Mountains and valleys surrounded by more mountains and valleys.

There are not that many places where one can see so much at once.

The closer we got to the shore the more population increased. We saw some communities that I had no reference for. They were kind of shantytowns but not really (OK, so some were “really”).

I know there are problems here with AIDS, and violence and poverty but everywhere I look I see proud people working. It bodes well for the future. This seems like such a rich country, I hope there comes a day when the dreams of men like Nelson Mandela can blossom into reality. SA, I am rooting for you!

If I had to summarize my impression of this continent in one word, I think it would be, vast. It is vast in terms of space; it has large expanses of landscapes that would rival anything you might find in Montana or Wyoming. It is also vast in terms of the many different ways that people experience life here. I tried to talk with our friends Christel, who lives in Cape Town part time (and Madagascar the other) and Corne about what kind of political climate has created this place. I know only what I have heard from the American Press and they only talk about it when they don’t have a good Anna Nicole Smith scandal to cover. It is terribly complex and though there has been progress, there are problems that make American politics seem like Romper Room. It is too big for me to get my head around but I hope for a day when everyone is able to partake in the abundance that seems to exist here and that people don’t feel like they have to live behind razor wire.

The south coast of Africa was another visual treat and again I was interested to see how people live. I saw rural communities made up of tiny but loved homes painted in a broad palet of crayon box colors. A lot of the homes were round with thatch roofs.

I remember seeing a house like that on the cover of a book that my father had and thinking how strange and foreign it looked.

We underestimated the amount of time it would take us to get were we needed to go so saw a lot, but much of it was from our car window. Oh, and there was a day spent standing by the side of the road waiting for a tow truck and a new rental car…

yeah, I tipped a rental car but Ron is more interested in talking about that than I am. He got it all documented and I am sure will have plenty to say in his entry. You will all be happy to know that my teeth are fine.

I may write more about it once I figure out why it was really Ron’s fault (though I was the one driving). Ok, I will say one more thing… I got out of my newly tipped car, and looked at the gravel under my feet and what did I find, but an orange bread bag closure device (bread tab). If you don’t already know it, orange is important to me and bread tabs remind me of Mom. She saved them to the point of irrationality and I teased her about it but when she died, I couldn’t throw her collection away and now I can’t pass one on the street without picking it up and thinking of her… orange bread tabs are very rare so, thanks Mom for being there and looking out for us.

3 comments