LAPC: Landscapes

I found another cool photography challenge in my WordPress reader. This one is by the Lens-Artists. They have a challenge every Saturday. The topic for this week is Landscapes.

I don’t usually take a whole lot of ‘landscape’ photos. If anything I take ‘seascapes’. I take more photos of ‘things’. Like animals, or plants, or flowers, or boats, or even people (tho I’m not real comfortable taking photos of people yet).

I recently took a long trip overseas. Part of it was a week long photo safari in Tanzania. The animals were amazing, but I have to admit I was equally impressed by the landscape. It was just so wide open. Miles and miles of nothing but the tall grass waving in the wind. Maybe a lone tree on the horizon. Or a herd of buffalo slowly making their way across a river.

I loved how everything seemed so wide open. There were so many miles of space with no sign of mankind (even tho of course we did see towns and villages full of people while passing through). The landscapes sometimes seemed empty, but if you looked harder there was always some sign of life. Maybe an ostrich popped up from under that lone tree. Or a lioness wandering by a herd of wildebeest, or a bird hiding in the grass or basking in a far off lake.

I don’t get to see so many wide open and interesting spaces around here. Even tho Texas probably has more of them than most. My neighborhood is on the wide coastal plains but full of homes and businesses (mostly chemical plants).

I do have some wildlife around my house: raccoons, opossums, owls, squirrels, bats, rats, etc. We even see an occasional coyote around the beach. Somehow it’s not the same. Compared to the African landscape, the one around here is pretty boring. 😉

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Safari!

Ever since I went on my first photography safari with GEP in November 2016, I’ve been saving up and hoping to go on another. I just returned from a fantastic long vacation and my second GEP safari was the catalyst for the entire trip.

If I hadn’t made the decision to go on the safari, I wouldn’t have stopped in Paris on the way over. Or Bangkok on the way home. Or gone to the travel writing workshop in Hoi An, Vietnam.

I tried again to make sure that I was ready for the safari. Awake and alert from the beginning. Last time I did a layover in Istanbul, so I could avoid flying direct to Arusha and getting no sleep for 2 days. This time, I did the layover in Paris. I even flew into Arusha a day early so I could rest up. It helped a lot. I was only up for 24 hours beforehand instead of 48+. I felt much better for the first couple of days of the safari, before the early mornings started to get to me.

We started out from the Lake Duluti Serena lodge, about an hour outside Arusha. It was a beautiful place, with flowers and gardens everywhere. My flight from Paris arrived at 0600 on November 15th. I had been up for over 24 hours, so I spent most of my time there sleeping. If I had more time, I would’ve taken them up on some of their suggestions for things to do like hike around the lake, or have a spa treatment. Instead, I just spent the day chillin’.

I met up with the GEP group over breakfast on the 16th when the safari trip actually started. We even met our first wild little visitors who wanted to join us for coffee and biscuits. 🙂

We had our first official meeting from 0800-1000, for introductions and orientation, then loaded up the jeeps and took off for Tarangire National Park. We sped along the highways, passing small towns and farms. Beautiful Mt Meru (continued on page 2)…

Tanzania to Thailand

Every day during my Tanzanian African safari I meant to catch up and write, but each day was just so packed with cool things to see and do. I didn’t want to miss anything at all. Some of the people I was with were smarter than me. They took advantage of the amazing camps/lodges we stayed at and took much needed breaks from our daily adventures.

I, on the other hand, pushed myself until I was pretty much totally exhausted. Four of the 8 days of the trip were “early” days. We had to be up, dressed, packed and in the jeeps by 0545. The other days we got a break and had until 0700 until things got started. I haven’t got many photos online yet, so I’ll write all that up later.

We all flew out of the Serenera airstrip at around 1000 on the 23rd. Flew into Arusha and had a last lunch together before we all went our separate ways. We had a really nice lunch at “George’s”. A nice Greek restaurant none of us expected to find in the middle of a fairly small city in Africa. I had a huge pork gyro with properly cooked french fries. Others had the calamari and loved it. The stuffed avocados were bigger than grapefruit.

A few of us had the early flight out of Arusha, so we left the rest of the group having lunch and took off for the airport. My flight left at 1710. After a layover in Doha, Qatar I arrived in Bangkok at 1200 on the 24th.

I was so tired, I didn’t really want to deal with anything but a big air-conditioned bed. I took a cab from the airport to my hotel in Chinatown (500 baht ~ $15 with tip), had a little lunch in their bar/restaurant and passed out by 1600. I slept in til around 0930 the next day and felt SO much better!

I’ve been to Bangkok a few times before, so didn’t feel obligated to make the rounds of the usual tourist sites- the Grand Palace, Emerald Buddha, Wat Po, Chatuchak market, etc). Instead, I decided to just wander around. I’m staying pretty near the river which is a major traffic artery here so I decided to try to follow it along.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. The streets are not all marked, they’re not formed in a grid, they wind around in different directions and the names change. I was in no hurry tho, so I just kept on walking and taking it all in.

The smells- of roasting chestnuts, seafood sizzling over charcoal fires, kim-chi, coriander, cinnamon and pepper – the sounds,- of ringing bicycle bells, trucks and tuk-tuks passing by, vendors calling out to passers-by- the sights-golden Buddhas, complicated carvings covering Chinese temples, bright red party favors, intricate tile work covering important Thai buildings, miniature spirit houses filled with daily offerings, neon lighting up the streets at night as the traffic streamed by, overflowing stalls offering intriguing fruits nuts and spices, smiling people everywhere.

I walked through the back alleys and watched people cooking and having their meals sitting at tiny plastic stools on the street. They all smiled at me tho I’m sure they were wondering what was the crazy white girl doing passing by their back doors.

At the Rachawong ferry pier, I watched the swarms of catfish along the seawall and the long-tailed boats zip by as I enjoyed the breeze off the river and took a little break. My map showed a flower market not too far away so I kept on heading towards it.

I started passing trucks unloading bunches of flowers along the street. Plastic bags of golden marigolds and dozens of roses wrapped in newspaper were stacked waist high while men with hand trucks struggled to get them to their final destination inside the market.

The market was immense. Open areas covering blocks with 30′ high ceilings, filled with rows upon rows of fresh, beautiful, sweet-smelling flowers.  Roses, marigolds, chrysanthemums, tuberoses, orchids, and so many more. I certainly can’t name them all. People were buying everything from huge bags of marigolds to individual little arrangements of orchids or bamboo.

I took a while wandering around, it turns out there was more than one market. Theres one on the river side of the road and another on the opposite side. There’re also a couple of fruit and vegetable markets. I doubt if I could identify even 1/4 of the items they had on offer. I always enjoy seeing what other people like to shop for and these Bangkok markets were really pretty interesting.

After spending most of the afternoon at the markets, I headed back towards my hotel and took a little detour through the back streets of Chinatown. My hotel is on one of the main roads (Yaowarat Road), there are all kinds of winding little back lanes all around. It’s a great place to just wander around and see what there is to see.

There is another huge market almost right across the street. People are selling everything you can imagine: clothes, food, fabric, hair ties, shoes, hardware, clocks, ribbons, Christmas decorations, handbags, tea sets, and on and on. The tiny little lanes are crowded with all kinds of people, including traveling ice-cream hawkers, blind karaoke singers, and every couple of minutes a motorcycle rider comes through.

After a while, the crowds started getting to me. It got to be downright stifling after the sun went down. Some places got so crowded it was hard to walk and I’m just not up for that. I picked up a few sticks of satay from a street vendor- one of the ones with a place to sit along the sidewalk- and had a beer to go with it for dinner.

I still wasn’t really back to normal after being so tired for so long, so I headed back to the hotel for a fairly early bedtime. I was sound asleep by midnight. 🙂

This post is running pretty long, so I’ll have to finish up on the next 2 days tomorrow. I’ll be heading to Hanoi, Vietnam tomorrow evening, so have to leave the hotel here by 1300 latest.

A Photo A Week Challenge: Crowd

I found a new photography challenge tonight (thanks to Cee for leading me to it). Nancy Merrill’s Photography blog is running the Photo a Week challenge. This week the challenge is to come up with a post using ‘crowd‘.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Each week, I’ll come up with a theme and post a photo that I think fits. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Thursday, when the next photo theme will be announced.
  2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “A Photo a Week Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag.
  3. Come back here and post a link to your image in the comments for this challenge.
  4. Follow nancy merrill photography so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements.

OK. So here goes…

A ‘dazzle’ of zebras. I was very lucky to travel to Tanzania on a photography safari last year. The scenery, the amazing animals and the beautiful people we met made the trip unforgettable.

I wish I could go back. I’m doing what I can to save up for another trip to Africa. I don’t know when I’ll be able to go, but hoping by the end of the year.

Have you ever been to Africa? On a safari?

More C’s for Cee

I posted yesterday on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge (where the post should be about a word starting with C of at least 4 letters). After I finally got it to post (very frustrating internet situation here), I was flipping through some photos and realized just how many I have that fit this particular challenge. So…

Here’s another one, I took these on a recent trip to Africa. I went on a photography safari in Tanzania with GEP. I had a great time tracking down the wildlife with a great group of fellow photographers and our local guides. Some of these photos were with on the safari. Some were afterwards, when I went solo over to Zanzibar.

 

Cooks!

Cats! BIG Cats!

A Cowrie (shell)

A Canoe! Catching Catfish? Or maybe Cobia? On the Coral

#fire at #beach resort on #Zanzibar

A #Catastrophe

Cute Canines

Cattle

I had a good time picking out a few of my photos for this challenge. So much, I might even come back again for more. If you want to join in the fun, just click the link at the top. Be sure to share. 🙂

One Word Photo Challenge: Giraffe

Here’s my entry for Jennifer’s One Word Photo Challenge: Giraffe.

Last November I went on a photography safari in Tanzania where I took these photos. It was fantastic! I went on safari with Great Escape Publishing, they’re great at running their trips. I always have fun and learn a lot while I’m at it. I can’t wait to go again!

Z is for Zanzibar- #AtoZChallenge

Z” is for Zanzibar. And the last post in this year’s A to Z Challenge! I can’t believe I managed to finish and post for every letter. Usually, in these long challenges, I get so far behind I just give up. I’m glad it’s over tho. It’s hard to find time to post every day.

I have to say I loved Zanzibar! I was there on vacation last November. I took a long trip for a photography safari with Great Escape Publishing. I really enjoyed the safari. We went all over the Northwest area of Tanzania. From Arusha to Lake Eyasi, the Ngorongoro Crater, the Serengeti…

It was fantastic! We got to see all kinds of animals from our jeeps. The drivers were great at finding the game. We would sit quietly and watch them do their thing while we furiously took thousands of photos. 🙂

It was a week of amazing experiences, but a week of early mornings and late nights. I was exhausted at the end of it. I was glad to have scheduled some extra time before flying all the way home to Texas.

I had thought about climbing Mt Kilimanjaro. It is on my bucket list. I just didn’t think I was up to it at that point. I wanted some rest and relaxation. I decided to head over to the nearby island of Zanzibar for a few days.

Wow! Such a gorgeous island. Stone Town is intriguing. It has an interesting history, it’s easy to imagine yourself back in the days of the Sultans as you wander the winding lanes of the old town. The people were friendly and eager to show you around town, or entice you to buy their specialty spices or colorful paintings.

   

The food was cooked with exotic local spices and served with a smile. The night market near the docks and the fort was a great place to hang out. I liked to grab a fruity drink and watch the sun go down before wandering around and choosing a cook for my dinner.

 

After a couple of days in the city, I headed up North to relax on the beautiful white sand beaches. I spent a few blissful days relaxing under the casuarina trees, wading in the ocean, sailing on sunset cruises and SCUBA diving around the area.

 

The diving was excellent! Best I’ve seen in quite a while. I saw lots of colorful coral and all kinds of sea life. I brought my camera, but only one dive was shallow enough for me to use it. 😦

  #sea cucumber #Zanzibar

It’s a long, long way from Texas, but if I ever get the chance to visit Zanzibar again, I will definitely take it!

L is for Lion- #AtoZChallenge

“L” is for Lion. I was lucky to be able to see some of these amazing animals in the wild. I went on a photography safari with Great Escape Publishing (GEP) in November. We spent a week exploring Northwest Tanzania. We saw lots of lions and their cubs. I could have spent hours watching them, but we had to move on. So much more to see.

  

H is for Hadzabe- #AtoZChallenge

H” is for the ‘Hadzabe’, an African tribe of friendly people who have chosen to retain their traditional lifestyle. On a photography safari with Great Escape Publishing (GEP) last November, I was able to spend the day learning about how they managed to survive in today’s world.

A very early morning wakeup brought our group of photographers to spend the day with a couple of the traditional tribes of the area. First the Hadzabe, the hunters, next the Datogas, the blacksmiths. We had to meet the Hadzabe very early for a special treat, we would go on a hunt with their men!

#tribe of #Hadzabe #men

We left the beautiful Lake Eyasi Safari Lodge at 0545 and drove about 45 minutes to the Hadzabe camp. They still live a nomadic life, so we met them at one of their temporary camps. They had built scattered domed huts out of thin, flexible branches tied together in addition to their ‘rooms’ in a rocky outcrop atop a high hill.

#traditional #Hadzabe #hut made from flexible branches

When we arrived, we met the chief and through our interpreter, Joseph, we got an explanation of the basics of their lifestyle. The men brought us up to a large overhang of the rock where they had a fire going. They explained the different types of arrows they used for hunting (some were poisonous).

A couple of them showed us how they started a fire (no, not with a Bic lighter), the old fashioned way of twisting a stick until it gets hot enough to light the tinder. The Hadzabe men used the spark to light their pipes for a good long toke. A few of our troop tried it too- (lighting the fire, not smoking the weed)- but only one succeeded (just barely). It looked a lot harder when our group tried to do it. The Hadzabe made it look so easy.

starting the #fire

Similar to the Maasai, they were nomadic. But the Hadzabe were hunters, not herders. The chief also had more than 1 wife. The men spent their days hunting and preparing to hunt. They made their bows and arrows, sharpened their knives, kept the fire going, and smoked a lot of weed while they were at it. They offered some to us, but nobody was brave enough to accept.

After the demonstration, we left with the men on their daily hunt. I followed along for about 20 minutes, up and down the rocky hillsides, surrounded by thorny plants in the hot sun. The hunters were already so far ahead of me I couldn’t see what good it was doing to try to keep up with them. I was rushing- huffing and puffing- and not able to really pay attention to my surroundings and thought better about continuing on.

#Hadzabe #African #tribesmen going #hunting with #bows and arrows

I turned around and went back to camp. Joseph escorted me and a couple of others who also wanted to return, just to make sure we made it back safely.

Joseph brought us back to camp, introduced us to the women and then returned to the hunt.

#Hadzabe #woman and her #child

Like the Maasai women, the Hadzabe women stay in camp and tend to the household chores. They take care of the children, do whatever needs doing around the camp, and make items for trade. I watched as all the women and children sat together creating beautiful beadwork items (which they later showed our group- just in case anyone wanted to buy).

#Hadzabe #tribal #beadwork

It took a couple of hours for the men to return to camp- along with our group who stuck it out with them. Sorry to say, they didn’t catch anything. They’ll have to try again later. In preparation for heading out again, they practiced with their bow and arrows and a target stump a couple hundred feet down the slope. We watched as all the men (even the young boys) took their shots at the stump. They even offered to teach us how to do it.

#Hadzabe #tribesmen practice #target #shooting with #bows and #arrows

A couple of our group decided to take them up on it and took a couple of shots at the stump. No one managed to hit the target. I tried to pull the string of one of the small boys’ bow. No, I couldn’t pull it even halfway back. We all had fun, the Hadzabe had a good laugh at how awful we were.

we get to practice #target #shooting with #Hadzabe #bows and #arrows

Before we left, the tribe got together and gave us a farewell present. They put on a dance show for us and even invited us into the dance. It was a fun ending to our visit.

WPC: Dense African Herds

For this weeks photo challenge from the Daily Post, the theme is: dense. I have some great shots of the wildlife I got to see recently in Africa. I went on a photo safari in Tanzania with Great Escape Publishing (GEP) and had a fantastic trip!

We went all around Tanzania, from Arusha to Tarangire National Park, to Lake Eyasi to the Central Serengeti. We met the most interesting people and saw amazing scenery and so many (totally wild) animals every day!

We saw lion prides enjoying their kill with their cute little cubs after a hunt and herds of elephants walking slowly across the plains. It was the time of the ‘great migration’, so we saw huge herds of grazing animals- gazelles, wildebeest, giraffes, and zebras.

Here’s a good example of the density of the herds.

I loved watching those zebras! They sound almost like donkeys. That’s another one of our jeeps on the right edge of the photo. I really wish I hadn’t been so cheap! I should have brought a better camera (lens)! This is what comes from worrying about money! Skimp and save and manage to pay for the trip, but then can’t make the most out of it due to trying to cut corners. If I ever get another chance for a trip like this, I will be damn sure to get something with more than 210 mm lens!

So Many Stories

I have so many great stories to share from this safari. Tons of great photos too. Too bad the internet is so horrible here and I can’t get anything posted. I can’t even open my mail on yahoo.

I’ve spent the last week on safari in Tanzania with Great Escape Publishing. There were about 20 of us altogether- 16 ‘students’ and 4 teachers- in 4 jeeps (or land rovers).

We started and ended our safari from the African Tulip in Arusha. We had a lucky week. The weather was great, hardly any rain. We saw all of the big 5- even a rhino at the very end (but it was so far away I could hardly see it).

We saw lions, cheetahs, leopards, elephants, hippos, buffalos, gazelles, giraffes, zebras and more. What was really fantastic was seeing so many of the babies. I’ve got some fantastic photos! Not as many as I’d like, but enough that I’m still thrilled. 🙂

Even tho I bought a new lens especially for this trip, it wasn’t really what I needed and so I missed out on a lot of really great shots I could have gotten if I had spent the money for the proper equipment.

I bought a 70-300mm lens with an adapter for my Sony camera. The adapter was manual tho, so it was really hard to get it to focus. Almost all of my shots were blurry when I used that lens. I finally gave up and went back to using my old 70-210 lens where the auto focus worked.

The other problem I had was that my camera does not have an eyepiece to look through. I had to use the screen on the back of the camera and since it was so bright out, I couldn’t really see anything to focus on and just had to guess half the time.

I’m glad I got to make the trip, but it’s a shame I was so concerned about money that I skimped on the camera gear. If I ever get a chance to come back over here, I’ll try to get a better lens. It makes so much of a difference.

Horrible Internet

I’ve been trying for hours to get a post uploaded. It’s still not working. 😦

I’m traveling around a gorgeous island. I hate to spend so much time trying to stay connected instead of enjoying the beauty around me.

If I can’t manage to get anything done tonight, I’m signing off til I get home (or at least to the airport where the internet works).

Hunting With the Hadzabe

Another very early morning wakeup brought us to spending the day with a couple of the traditional tribes of the area. First the Hadzabe, the hunters, next the Datogas, the blacksmiths. We had to meet the Hadzabe very early for a special treat, we would go on a hunt with their men!

#tribe of #Hadzabe #men

We left the beautiful Lake Eyasi Safari Lodge at 0545 and drove about 45 minutes to the Hadzabe camp. They still live a nomadic life, so we met them at one of their temporary camps. They had built scattered domed huts out of thin, flexible branches tied together in addition to their ‘rooms’ in a rocky outcrop atop a high hill.

#traditional #Hadzabe #hut made from flexible branches

When we arrived, we met the chief and through our interpreter, Joseph, he explained the basics of their lifestyle. The men brought us up to a large overhang of the rock where they had a fire going. They explained the different types of arrows they used for hunting (some were poisonous).

A couple of them showed us how they started a fire (no, not with a Bic lighter), the old fashioned way of twisting a stick until it gets hot enough to light the tinder. The Hadzabe men used the spark to light their pipes for a good long toke. A few of our troop tried it too- (lighting the fire, not smoking the weed)- but only one succeeded (just barely). It looked a lot harder when our group tried to do it. The Hadzabe made it look so easy.

starting the #fire

Similar to the Maasai, they were nomadic. But the Hadzabe were hunters, not herders. The chief also had more than 1 wife. The men spent their days hunting and preparing to hunt. They made their bows and arrows, sharpened their knives, kept the fire going, and smoked a lot of weed while they were at it. They offered some to us, but nobody was brave enough to accept.

After the demonstration, we left with the men on their daily hunt. I followed along for about 20 minutes, up and down the rocky hillsides, surrounded by thorny plants in the hot sun. The hunters were already so far ahead of me I couldn’t see what good it was doing to try to keep up with them. I was rushing- huffing and puffing- and not able to really pay attention to my surroundings and thought better about continuing on.

#Hadzabe #African #tribesmen going #hunting with #bows and arrows

I turned around and went back to camp. Joseph escorted me and a couple of others who also wanted to return, just to make sure we made it back safely.

Joseph brought us back to camp, introduced us to the women and then returned to the hunt.

#Hadzabe #woman and her #child

Like the Maasai, the Hadzabe women stay in camp and tend to the household chores. They take care of the children, do whatever needs doing around the camp, and make items for trade. I watched as all the women and children sat together creating beautiful beadwork items (which they later showed our group- just in case anyone wanted to buy).

#Hadzabe #tribal #beadwork

It took a couple of hours for the men to return to camp- along with our group who stuck it out with them. Sorry to say, they didn’t catch anything. They’ll have to try again later. In preparation for heading out again, they practiced with their bow and arrows and a target stump a couple hundred feet down the slope. We watched as all the men (even the young boys) took their shots at the stump. They even offered to teach us how to do it.

#Hadzabe #tribesmen practice #target #shooting with #bows and #arrows

A couple of our group decided to take them up on it and took a couple of shots at the stump. No one managed to hit the target. I tried to pull the string of one of the small boys’ bow. No, I couldn’t pull it even halfway back. We all had fun, the Hadzabe had a good laugh at how awful we were.

we get to practice #target #shooting with #Hadzabe #bows and #arrows

Before we left, the tribe got together and gave us a farewell present. They put on a dance show for us and even invited us into the dance. It was a fun ending to our visit.

I’ll update this post with the video as soon as I can get somewhere with decent internet.

Meeting the Maasai

This afternoon, after our last visit to Tarangire National Park, we got to visit with the Maasai tribe. A real highlight of our safari so far.

The chief met us on arrival at his village. A tall man, dressed in the traditional red robes of his tribe, he spoke very good English as he explained daily life in his village.

We watched as a couple of ladies built a new house out of long, thin sticks. They had stuck them in the ground to make a circle about 8-10 ft in diameter. When we arrived, they were circling the structure with more thin sticks and then tying them together every few inches.

The chief explained that they would cover this framework with cow dung mixed with mud and water to insulate the home (and keep the termites out). Then they would roof it with palm fronds.

He explained how his family functioned. He had 3 wives. The first one got to pick the rest of them out. They all had to get along. He had to have so many head of cattle before he could marry. The more cows, the more wives he could have.

The men spent their days tending their herds, the women were responsible for everything else: raising the children, cooking, taking care of the house (and even building it). The women also spent time making items to trade (and sell to any tourists that came by).

After the chief answered our questions, he brought us to the corral where they kept their animals at night. Built of thorny branches in a thick layer, it kept out the predators. Inside, we were treated to a dance put on by most of the tribe. The women on one side and the men on the other.

The women wore large beaded collars around their necks. One or two would move from the ends towards each other in the center of their line- bowing their upper bodies and chanting. The men stayed on their side of the corral, humming and chanting in low voices. Every so often they would jump straight up with their spears, as high as they could.

When the dance finished up to a round of applause, the women spread out their creations for our inspection (and hopefully a sale).

It was a little gross, walking through all the cow patties, etc. But when it comes to shopping (and getting good photos), nothing would stop us. 😉

They made beautiful beaded jewelry- necklaces, rings, bracelets and earrings. They made carved and painted animal figures, bowls and boxes. They had a pretty good day by the time we left.

Yes we contributed to their commercialization. Their lives have already been corrupted by modernity no matter how much they try to retain their traditional culture. I’m glad I got to meet them, before they get too homogenized. I hope they can improve their lives and somehow keep their culture strong too.

Warthog River

We loaded up our (4) jeeps right after breakfast where we were introduced and got a short run down of the plan for the week. By 1000, we left behind the African Tulip and were on our way to our first safari, at Tarangire National Park.

It was about a 2 hour drive. On arrival, we had a picnic lunch (and bathroom break) while we waited for the paperwork (entrance permits, fees, etc) to be completed.

We had sandwiches, salads, yogurt, popcorn and fruit while we watched a nearby herd of elephants slowly foraging their way through the area. I also spotted a nursing warthog under some trees. A troop of mongooses paraded through our picnic too. It was a good omen for the rest of the day.

Which was to prove prescient. We found more elephants, 2 groups of lions- one females- one young males. We saw lots of wildebeest, warthogs (with babies), some giraffes, gazelles, water bucks, dik-diks, zebras, and even a leopard!

What a great start to our safari!

We finished up before sunset and were off to our next lodge- Lake Eyasi Safari Lodge. By the time we got there, it was already getting dark. All of us were tired and ready for dinner and bed.

The lodge was very spread out. They sent guides with spears to escort us to and from our rooms. I wondered what they’d do if a lion rushed us (but not enough to really see it happen). 😉

There were all sorts of wild animals around (it was still a wildlife conservation area, even tho outside the national park). I heard wildebeest grunting through the night outside my cabin. We saw zebras right up close as we were eating dinner. So cool!

The ‘tents’ were very nice. Large and comfortable. Mine had 2 beds (with mosquito netting), a large shower, separate toilet, and sink in the middle. Screened windows all around for a fantastic view (with curtains you could close for privacy). There was no AC, but 2 fans and a nice breeze kept it a nice cool temperature. I could only find one plug near the sink to charge all my electronics but it was enough once I figured out how to do it.

In the morning  we were able to appreciate the beauty of the landscape. The lake was about a quarter mile away. I could just make out the large flocks of flamingos out there. There were herds of zebras and wildebeests grazing. An occasional ostrich passed by. So peaceful and beautiful. 🙂

I wish we’d gotten in earlier the night before so we could have a little time to see the sunset and explore the grounds. But then we would have had to cut our time in the park short. 😦

Tarangire: Preview

This is the first halfway decent internet we’ve had since we left the African Tulip on Monday. We’ve been covering a lot of ground since then.

Tonight we’re staying at the beautiful Sopa Lodge on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater. This place is really something! I only wish they had internet available in the rooms, but actually happy to have it even in the main lodge. 🙂

Here’s a little preview of the sort of things I’ve been seeing the last couple of days.

Hopefully, I’ll have a chance to post again tomorrow night. If not, hang in there, I’ll get to it as soon as I can get decent internet again. 🙂

African Tulip

I had planned a long layover in Istanbul on the way to Tanzania in order to ensure that I wasn’t jet lagged for the photography safari I was joining. I enjoyed spending almost 2 weeks in Turkey, but I was still completely exhausted when I arrived in Arusha to meet the rest of the group I’d joined up with.

I’ve joined quite a few events with Great Escape Publishing (ex: AWAI). I’ve done writing and/or photography workshops in Boston (where I learned how to start my blog), Miami, Chicago, New Orleans, and Korea. They’re always great. I meet interesting people, learn a lot, and get to explore new places. I’ve been looking forward to this photography safari for a long time.

I was so glad I stopped over in Turkey first. It’s such a fascinating country. The history alone would be enough to convince me to visit. But the people really make it special. I had such a wonderful time there and hope I get to go back soon.

On the day of departure, I spent a leisurely morning at the hotel, slept til 0900, had a nice breakfast, packed, checked out late (1300) and enjoyed chatting with Genghis at the front desk for an hour or so waiting for my ride to the airport.

I spent my time after checking in at the Turkish Airlines lounge. Wow! I’ve been in quite a few airport lounges and I’ve never seen anything like it!

They had everything from a library, to a pool table, to a movie theatre (with fresh hot popcorn). They had all kinds of food and drinks, serve yourself bars scattered around the 2 floors of the lounge. They had a chef cooking up turkish pizzas (pides) and another making fresh omelettes, another grilling beef, chicken, pork, and another doing stir fry.

They had separate stations for bar snacks (various nuts, pretzels, chips, etc), salad bars, dessert bars, even an olive bar.

They had plenty of comfortable chairs to relax in, they even had suites (if your connection met certain pre-requisites). They had massage chairs and even a couple of real, roving masseuses!

I have to say, I was relaxed and ready for the rest of my trip.

Too bad the rest of it wasn’t nearly as nice.

The flight was full. Nothing new there. It’s been that way since 9-11. Planes stuffed full, overcrowded like a South American chicken bus. It was hot as hell. For some reason they refused to turn the AC on. I was sweating to death the entire 6+ hours. So were my seat mates (from Austria). Unbelievable, but some people were actually wearing jackets. Where were they from? The Amazon jungle???

We had a pretty decent flight other than the heat, the crowding and the fact that they ran out of alcohol early in the flight so had no help in trying to sleep. After 6+ hours, we arrived in Kilimanjaro airport.

I was one of the first ones off the plane since they opened both doors and I was near the back. I had my form filled out that they gave us on the plane, so I figured I lucked out when there was only 1 other person in line in front of me. When I got to the visa desk, I found out I had to go get another form (the exact same information but on a smaller page) and then come back. Wondering why if they gave us one form on the plane, they couldn’t give us both? It would have saved a major hassle on landing.

I went back, filled out the second form, got back in the visa line. Then I was allowed to pay my $100 US (must be new bill) for the visa. I cleared customs (there was no one there) and met my driver outside the luggage area.

Then I had to wait for 90 minutes for the rest of the group to come out. 😦

Once everyone was sorted out, we left for the drive to our hotel in Arusha- another hours drive.

We arrived exhausted at around 0500. I finally made it to sleep at 0600.

Slept in til noon. Got up for lunch (should have slept through it). Went right back to sleep since I was still totally exhausted. Finally woke up fairly refreshed in time for dinner at around 0700 where I met the rest of the group.

I hate that I had to waste an entire day in a foreign country sleeping! Still glad for the stop over in Turkey, I would have been much worse of after 2+ days traveling then only the 6 hour flight from Istanbul.

Turkey to Tanzania

I’ve been on the move the last couple of days and too tired to post. I spent all day yesterday traveling- flew out of Istanbul and arrived at the Kilimanjaro airport around 2 am.

We got to the beautiful African Tulip hotel in Arusha at around 5:30 am and all I could do was pass out in bed. I woke up around noon for lunch, walked down the street to an ATM, then took a nap.

Woke up in time to sit out by the pool for a little bit before dinner. Met most of the group I’ll be spending the next week with over dinner and now falling asleep again.

We will get up early for breakfast by 0730. We need to have our bags packed and be checked out by the time class starts at 0800. We leave here for the start of our safari right after class.

Straight from the emailed schedule…

Following your first presentation, we’ll make our way to Tarangire National Park, which boasts an amazing array of diverse wildlife, but is best known for its incredible concentration of elephants. In the late afternoon we’ll head back to our lodge and rest before tomorrow’s visit with the Maasai tribe.

I’m really looking forward to it! I’ll try to keep you posted and hoping to have some great photos to add. I’m not sure about internet access once we leave here in the morning. I may not be able to get online again for a week. 😦

Movie Review: Tarzan

I went to see the latest Tarzan movie, “The Legend of Tarzan“, the other day. I liked it. I pretty much always like Tarzan movies. I used to watch Tarzan every Saturday morning when I was growing up. I used to wish I could live like that- wild, in the jungle, friends with all the animals.

I’ve always loved animals. All kinds. Growing up we had cats, dogs, lizards, turtles, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, birds (parakeets, cockatiels, myna birds), fish and even a kinkajou for a while.

I got an animal encyclopedia one year for a present and read through each book, cover to cover. I was fascinated by all the beautiful creatures, all the glorious diversity. I wanted to be a scientist, studying how to save the animals. Or a vet.

My grandparents were pharmacists and wanted me to be a doctor, but I didn’t really like people that much. Especially not sick people! I think I would have made a great vet tho!

I still think we have too many people running around. I thought that way back then and of course since we have WAY more people (and all the problems that causes), I think it much more strongly now. Even with all the improvements we’ve made and increased standards of living for so many, we’re still destroying the planet and wiping out other species at increasing rates.

I think everything on this planet has just as much ‘right’ to be here as we do. I really object to the position so many people take that we have the right to do whatever the hell we want to with whatever we can. Still acting like cave men (which might have been alright back then with only a few hundred thousand people on the planet), it’s definitely not OK now with over 7 BILLION people here (projected to be over 11 BILLION by 2100)!

I don’t think it’s a good idea to just cover the planet with people. More and more and more people! Our cities, our towns, our farms, OURS, to use and abuse as we see fit. What about all the OTHER species we’re supposed to SHARE this planet with?

I love how Tarzan was able to co-exist with the animals. He was always a protector of the land. He lived in the jungle and knew how to use it’s resources without abusing them. He didn’t have a bunch of kids (who would each have a bunch more, etc).

I love how he was always able to keep ‘his’ forests safe from the greedy men who came to rape the wilderness. For diamonds, for oil, for hides, for tusks, for whatever they could take.

This latest movie sets the scene in the Congo during the time of King Leopold II of Belgium. He was really awful, you should check out the book “King Leopold’s Ghost“. I read it a while ago and it’s a pretty good story (tho pretty sad history).

Leopold has basically been raping the Congo. Gobbling up resources and enslaving the people. His henchman- slick, suited Mr Rom (Christoph Waltz) makes a deal to trade diamonds for Tarzan with a tribal leader with a major grudge.

Tarzan gets lured back to Africa by American George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), who convinces him to accept the Kings invitation- to verify rumors of slavery and destruction of his beloved home in the jungle.

I loved watching Tarzan swing through the trees (do gorillas really do that?). Such a great way to travel! He always finds such freedom, joy and wonder to share. Alexander Skarsgard plays the part well. He doesn’t say much, but he does a great job with the character (and he’s nice to watch with his shirt off). In this movie version Jane (Margot Robbie) plays a pretty big part. She does a good job as a ‘damsel in distress’, you really wind up rooting for Tarzan to come and save her.

The Legend of Tarzan was a fun way to spend a couple of hours. The movie had it all- adventure, gorgeous scenery, great looking actors, romance, action, wildlife, history. I was cheering for the animals in a few places and hoping the despicable Mr Rom got ripped apart in a few more. I really enjoyed it. I might even go see it again. Or hope for a sequel.

If you go for a matinee and skip the popcorn, it’s only $5.51!

Long Time Lost (Luggage)

In case you’re wondering, this is not a repeat of my earlier post(s) about my lost luggage. 😦

This trip to work was also totally screwed up. It started in Houston. The original flight was so late getting to London that I missed all my connections. I had tried to make arrangements while still in Houston to make the rest of the trip go smoothly but that effort did not bear fruit.

You can read more about that disastrous trip to get here in an earlier post here.

I arrived in Luanda early in the morning of August 14. I was promised that my luggage would arrive on the next Air France flight into Luanda and the latest would be Tuesday the 19th. I have had a claim out since I arrived. I have been checking online every day for a week now and STILL no trace of my bag!

It’s been missing for a total of 2 weeks now. I really would like to see it again before I have to leave here to go home again in 2 more weeks.

I have been trying for the last couple of days to find a phone number to call so I can talk to a real person (rather than file a form on the computer that refuses to accept the information I need to input).

I finally succeeded in finding a phone number last night and tried to call but the first time there was an estimated waiting period of 20 minutes. The second time the waiting period was 30 minutes. Since I am at work on the ship, I really can not sit on the phone and WAIT for 20+ minutes.

Tonight the wait was ‘only’ estimated at 13 minutes so I took a chance and hung on the line. After listening to the same insipid elevator music repeat for 18 minutes a real live person finally came on the line. 🙂

Unfortunately, since my luggage has now been missing for almost 2 weeks, she could not help me at all since it didn’t show up in her system any more. 😦

All I could get out of her was that my luggage was ‘scheduled’ to go on a Lufthansa flight on August 14th. WHY Lufthansa? It was supposed to follow me on the next Air France flight!

She couldn’t even tell me where that Lufthansa flight was going to, or where my luggage was supposed to go after it got there, or if it was eventually going to go to Luanda, or even if they had put a new baggage tag on it so I could trace it or if everyone was looking for a no longer in existence baggage tag?

So, what do I do now?