Monochrome Monday: Vulture

I was bored and looking at my WordPress browser and came upon this new challenge. It’s Monochrome Monday XIX from Hadd Hai Yaar. You can click on the link to see what everybody has come up with and join in. 🙂

I took this photo of a vulture in Tanzania last November, on a photo safari with GEP. There was a whole bunch of them feeding on a kill some other predator had recently finished with. There were 3 different kinds of vultures, I’m not sure what type this one is (anybody know?). It was fascinating watching how they interacted with each other. Watching and waiting for their chance to move in and get their share. Fighting over scraps and challenging newcomers to the scene.

I’m still new to photography, so I don’t know how I managed to get this shot to come out so nice. Most of the rest I took of these birds did not. I took it with a Panasonic Lumix ZS70 which I had just bought for the trip. F 6.4, ISO 1/320. I almost always leave my cameras on automatic, so pretty sure it was for this shot too. One of these days I’ll have to read the manual. 😉

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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)…

Happy New Year 2019


Well, it’s over- 2018 is done! Hard to believe isn’t it? To start 2019, I’d like to say thank you for sticking with me- I know I haven’t been very consistent on here lately. Some days I just don’t feel like doing anything. Writers block or just plain laziness? Both, I think. Last year seemed to drag on forever, but now it seems to have gone by so fast.

I have to say, I’m very thankful that 2018 was better than 2017. My computer wasn’t giving me near as much trouble (until just recently- I wonder if the bats have returned). I was able to get a little bit more work. Not enough, not nearly enough to satisfy me and get me to the point of being comfortable, but enough to survive on. I was even able to dig myself slightly out of the hole the last couple of years of basically no work had put me in.

I actually had work every month last year (except Nov-Dec when I decided to take my long planned trip instead of hope for work). It wasn’t all offshore, well paid work. Some months, the only job I had was my role player gig at Maersk Training. But even that little bit kept me from having to use up the last of my savings.

I also sold a couple of articles (with photos) and paintings. That was a real boost to my confidence (tho not so much to my bank account).

I was able to take that 2 month long trip and still come out a couple thousand dollars ahead of where I was on New Years Day 2018. 🙂

So, I’m thankful, very much, that 2018 was better than 2016 and 2017. I was able to get enough work and even to take a couple of trips (not including work). In March I went to Roy Stephenson’s travel writing/marketing class in Seattle. In September I attended GEP’s Travel Writing & Photography Workshop in Austin. I spent November and December traveling around the world, stopping in Paris, Tanzania, Bangkok, Vietnam and Cambodia.

I may be ‘greedy’, but I’m really really really hoping that 2019 turns out to be even better than 2018. I sure as hell don’t want a repeat of 2016-2017 which just sucked! I hate being broke and watching everything I’ve worked so hard for just slowly disappear.

I hope things will pick up offshore so there is more work this year and the agencies actually have more than a single job to fight over! It feels great to get 3 calls in a day from 3 different recruiters, but it really sucks once you talk to them and realize they’re all pitching the exact same job.

I don’t know what to think now. I had a job lined up before Christmas. It was supposed to start on the 3rd. Friday I asked about details and was told the job was cancelled. 😦

I got another call yesterday. It sounded like a good job, but I felt I had to turn it down. I just don’t feel confident that I could handle the particular position on offer. I’m hoping tomorrow will bring some business. There have been some hopeful signs in the news lately.

I haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions this year. I never seem able to follow through on them. They’re always the same: lose weight, clear out the house, write more. I never make any lasting progress.

Instead, I think about the things I would like to do. Top of the list this year: get residency visa for Mexico and make that first move, find a decent room-mate (which will make that move to Mexico SO much easier), take my bicycle in to get it repaired and adjusted so no more excuses not to ride, have at least one garage sale and get rid of unused stuff cluttering up my living room!

If I manage to cross those things off my list, and if I manage to find enough work to strengthen my finances a little more, I’d love to do some more traveling. Next big trip I’d like to take is a cruise to Antarctica. 🙂

How about you? Do you have any New Years resolutions? Any trips planned? Where would you most like to go and why?

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.

Rain

I am so sick of the rain! It’s pouring again!

It’s been raining every day since I’ve been at home.

I got off the ship on August 29. It had already been raining for a few days. My manager told me that 3 of my apartments were flooded from so much rain in such a short time. I’m surprised my tenants haven’t moved out yet. I guess they would if they could. Nothing we can do for them until the rain stops. 😦

I have flood insurance, but apparently ‘rain’ is not covered. 😦

I went to Austin for a week for another travel writing workshop with GEP. I got a break from the rain there. It’s a much drier climate up there, but it did rain on us a couple of days while I was there. Luckily, I spent most of my time there indoors at the workshop and missed the rain.

I do wish I had more time to explore. There’s a lot to do in Austin. It’s the “live music capital of the world” and I was hoping to find some cool, fairly quiet, new singer-songwriters to listen to. Our hotel was just off 6th Street, just packed with live music venues. I never did find any I could really enjoy. The music was good, but they were all just too loud for my taste.

I went straight from Austin to Orange. I was teaching Tankerman PIC again. I only had one student, so it went pretty good. They recently passed their USCG audit and they’re looking to get more courses approved.

I got home Sept 22 and it has rained every single day since! It’s getting depressing. I don’t want to go out anywhere. I don’t feel like doing anything. It’s only 15:30 and looks like it should at 20:30 instead. Dark and dreary (and very wet) outside. 😦

My yard is flooded. I’m starting to worry about it coming into my house. I’ve been really lucky so far with all the weather disasters we’ve had around here. I even made it through Harvey without much damage to my house (my apartments did flood and roofs leaked- same as happening again now).

We don’t have a hurricane nearby. I’m wondering how much longer can this go on?

Natchez

I was in New Orleans last September for a travel writing workshop with GEP. I’ve been to a few workshops with them, both for writing and for photography. Boston, Chicago, Miami, Korea, Costa Rico, the photography safari last November (wow, a year’s gone by already), and the one in New Orleans. I always have a great time, learn a lot and look forward to the next one. 🙂

During this workshop we were assigned to come up with story ideas, then actually write a story. We had help on making them more interesting and salable. One of the great things about travel writing and photography is that doing it gives you a focus and incentive to get out there and do all kinds of things.

You may not know it, but I’m actually pretty shy. Focusing on a story gives me the courage to talk to people. Without the story, I’d be way too nervous to do more than say ‘hi, how’re you doing’. With a story in mind, I’ll ask them all kinds of questions since now I have an ‘excuse’. 😉

Before I left for the trip to New Orleans, I asked around for some help and the nice people at the CVB sent me on a riverboat cruise. Specifically- a jazz dinner cruise on the historic Steamboat Natchez. I wrote a story about it, and was supposed to have it published on the website of the company that set up the whole deal with the CVB. Sadly, they shut down before my story ever got published and I haven’t been able to find another spot for it yet (tho I am still trying, in between job hunting and all the other things on my plate).

Here’s the first draft, please give it a read and let me know what you think. I could use the critiques. 😉

Steamboat Natchez (www.steamboatnatchez.com) docks where Toulouse Street dead ends at the Mississippi River, in the French Quarter. You walk up the gangway to take a trip back in time as you slowly steam your way down the Great Mississippi River. You’ll be transported back to the 1800’s, when these boats ruled the river. From only 20 in the 1810s, to over 1200 in 1833. They carried passengers and freight from as far away as Pittsburg, Cincinnati, Chicago, Minneapolis, Little Rock, and further out the Missouri, Arkansas and Red Rivers down the Mississippi River to New Orleans.

Steamboats were built of wood, shallow draft (1-5’ loaded), with the main deck close to the water and used for cargo. Wood burning boilers were placed midships, with the engines aft, shafts turning the paddle wheels. Some added 2-3 decks above that for passengers. Most were simple workboats, but some became quite ornate. For those carrying upper class passengers, they were richly decorated: delicate filagreed railings, large mirrors reflecting gilded highlights, coffered ceilings, velvet upholstery, plush carpets. Fine food, liquor and gambling helped pass the time during the voyage of up to 2 weeks.

Though she was built in 1975- the ninth iteration of the series to carry the name, Steamboat Natchez follows in this tradition and offers daily Mississippi River cruises. She’s a 265’ long 46’ wide stern paddle wheeler, with 3 decks. She’s furnished in the manner of a high class passenger vessel of the mid-1800’s. In only a couple of hours, you can soak in the atmosphere and get a taste of what it was like in the heyday of the Mississippi River steamships. You can go for dinner, Sunday brunch, or just a harbor cruise with no meal served.

I went for a dinner jazz cruise with the Dukes of Dixieland aboard. As I stepped aboard from the gangway, the hostess informed me of the procedure for dinner. Since I had chosen the 1st seating, I was led to my reserved table in the dining room. The setting was impressive, a large room running almost the full length of the vessel. It had large picture windows all the way around, decorative moulded ceiling tiles filling the white coffered overheads, wall to wall carpet, and nicely set tables filling the space.

My table was set for 4 (tho I was by myself). There was a salad already dressed (iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, croutons, vinaigrette), along with silverware and plates, but no water. The waiter soon came by to take drink orders. It took him a while since he had at least a dozen full tables. As the room filled up, another couple was seated at my table, but we still had one seat open. Good, since the tables were tightly packed and it was crowded. My neighbor had to get up every time I needed to get out of my seat. The dinner was buffet style, so I did have to get up a few times.

There were two long buffet tables, one on either side of the room. The servers dressed in chef’s whites  stood behind the chafing dishes to answer any questions and help if you needed it. They had classic Southern recipes like red beans & rice, blackened fish, gumbo, greens, and more ‘mainstream’ dinner classics like pork loin and roast beef. It was all made onboard, hot and fresh. It was OK, but nothing spectacular. For a city as famous for its food as New Orleans, I really expected better of them.

The lights were too low to read by but bright enough to see your food. We were able to have a conversation even with the music in the background since we were at the very back of the room.  The band was set up in front. There was another playing jazz and dixieland outside on the upper deck, I spent most of my time up there. I enjoyed watching the scenery go by, being able to smoke, drink, and still listen to the music.

The live jazz band adds to the atmosphere onboard. It was casual and relaxing. I enjoyed having drinks on the deck, watching the river rolling by, snapping photos of the New Orleans skyline and passing ships. It was easy to imagine myself drifting back to an earlier time. There’s a real sense of history aboard.

Steamers have all but disappeared from the worlds waterways, due to many factors. They usually had a short lifetime (there were many boiler explosions), competition with railroads back in action after the Civil War, displaced by competition with diesel tugs and barges.  The Natchez is one of only 2 true steam paddle wheelers left on the Mississippi River today.

Her engines were originally built for the sternwheeler “Clairton” in 1925. They were recovered when the Clairton was retired and placed in the Natchez, where they are still going strong. Anyone interested in how things work will enjoy wandering around the Natchez. You’re free to take a look in the engine room. Check out the engines (with posted explanations) and the boilers “Thelma” and “Louise” next door. The engineers are rightly proud of their gleaming domain.

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The entire crew seemed to love their job, their ship and it showed. They did their job well and took pride in that fact. From the Mate who welcomed me aboard, the engineers, the hostess who showed me to my table, the servers at dinner, to the deckhands who secured the ship back to the dock. Everyone was friendly, polite and answered my questions with a smile.

A cruise on the Steamboat Natchez is a New Orleans experience you just can’t get anywhere else. From the magnificently maintained historical vessel, to the lively jazz bands, to the delicious Southern style cooking (don’t miss the white chocolate bread pudding), to the mighty Mississippi itself. It all adds up to a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours next time you visit New Orleans.

PS- This post is for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Letter N. Join in, all it takes is to come up with a post starting with the letter N. 🙂

CFFC: Letter L

Joining in on another of Cee’s great photo challenges. Here’s what she has to say about this one

This week is Letter L – Needs to start with the letter L and have at least two syllables (lollipop, label, luxury, lighthouse, lumber, letter, lilac, etc.).   Let’s see how creative you can we can be on this challenge.  Have fun with this week’s challenge.

Yep, the point is to have fun. Look through old photos and bring back good memories. Take a look at what everyone else is doing. I think it’s fun so here’s my entry. 🙂

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!

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.

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. 😦

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.

To Work- or Not to Work?

That was the question…

I’m scheduled to work tomorrow and Tuesday this week. If I’m lucky I will get to work both days. Nothing else on the schedule for me for the entire month. 😦

The training center where I’ve been working has also been struggling to survive since the downturn in the oil markets. They have very few students, so very few classes, so not much work for me. 😦

I have a long planned trip coming up the 1st of November. It’s super expensive and something I’ve wanted to do since the 1st time I watched Tarzan on TV when I was a kid. A real bucket list trip. A photography safari!

Friday, I got a call for a possible job. The first real job since last September. I had to give it a pass.

Why does it always seem to work like that?

A to Z: Korea

Korea is a very interesting place. I spent about a month there right around this time last year. My excuse for going was to attend the travel writing and photography workshop in Seoul put on by GEP.

I wanted to do some exploration before and after the workshop, so I flew in early and spent some time in Incheon. I went to Jayu Park, Wolmi Island, the fish markets.

I always got a kick out of the locals wanting to take their picture with me. Turn around is fair play, I’m usually taking plenty of pictures of the locals. They loved it. 😉

I took the train down to Okpo, on Geoje Island. I was hoping to visit an old friend I used to work with. He still worked for the same company but they had been keeping him in Korea for 2-3 years. I wanted to try to find something similar myself. Turns out he was out of town, but I had a good time exploring around town and talking to some of the other expats there.

I made my way back up to Busan. I met an online friend through a meetup group and we met for dinner. She showed me around town and even to tour her ship at the Maritime Academy. I got to meet some of the students and was very impressed with their organization there.

I used to work as a captain of a tuna boat and it turns out the company we worked for had their home office right around the corner from where I was staying. I tried to meetup with some of the guys I used to work for, but they were pretty busy and we never did make it happen. I spent my time in Busan wandering around taking pictures of the harbor, the markets, the parks.

The train back to Seoul was clean, efficient and cheap. I was ready to meet my fellow travel writers the next day.

I had a blast wandering around the city with the group. We were there for the Lotus Lantern Festival and the photos we got were great! We went to the old castle, to a talk about tea, on a food tour, we even got to go visit the tunnels to North Korea!

Seoul Korea for the travel writing workshop

Seoul Korea for the travel writing workshop

I really didn’t want to leave, there was still so much to see and do. The people were so friendly and helpful, most spoke at least some English so I had no real problems with communication or finding my way around. The scenery was gorgeous! Very green, with a rocky mountainous coastline. Everything was very clean and well maintained. The food was fresh, healthy and cheap (and plenty of it). It was easy to get around and really pretty affordable (I stayed in local hotels not the fancy ones for foreigners). I would love a chance to go back again. 🙂

*Another post for the A to Z Challenge. 🙂