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. 🙂