OnSafari: Ndutu

OnSafari: Ndutu

We were ready to leave the crater at the end of the game drive when Tumaini noticed far away near the down road a huge group of wilde running down the side of the escarpment.

We stopped and turned around and with my binocs I could swear I was in the western corridor watching a couple thousand frantic animals in their endless search for better grass. But we were far, far away from that place.

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OnSafari: Crater

OnSafari: Crater

Breakfast in the crater.
Our family safari plowed through the tse-tse of Tarangire, had a really quick picnic game drive in Manyara and settled into the crater for a fantastic day.

Tarangire was much wetter than usual but cold as usual. The odd combination kept the tse-tse somewhat at bay but really reduced our finding the transitory elephant in the southern half of the park. The northern half was chock-a-block full of elephant as always, and that’s where the most productive game viewing was.

On the way to our Sopa Lodge we passed elephant fighting on the rim and arrived just before dark.

The day in the crater was wonderful. I love these margins of the season, when the tourist rush hasn’t yet totally clogged out the crater and a drizzle every now keep the beautiful yellow biden-biden blooming so that the veld is covered in yellow.

When we went down there weren’t many wildebeest. We saw lots of zebra and quite a few lion – all fat and sassy from previous kills – but as we ended the morning a long line of wilde ran down the side along the down road.

They were kicking and blarting and the males were still actively rutting, which should have already come to an end. I couldn’t figure out why so much commotion and such clear migratory behavior in these 400 or so wilde, since they were headed in the wrong direction!

But that’s … nature! With so many beasts there isn’t an uniform movement, and for some reason this group – totally healthy and enthusiastic – either got turned around by a bee or the smell of new grass on the crater floor.

Whatever it was it was great fun to watch them. I’m having a particularly wonderful time, since this is my family. I guide a family safari every ten years. This was the 4th one!

From here it’s on to my favorite place in the world, the Serengeti. Stay tuned.

[Apologies from the bush. My laptop is having serious problems, and I’m going to great lengths to post blogs. Will do my best!]

OnSafari: Tarangire

OnSafari: Tarangire

The night was as still as a ghost but inside the mess tent there was almost riotous laughter as the millenials recounted a recent wedding gone awry, the old folks proudly compared whose child was eating the most barbecue and poor Charles, our waiter, searched the back pantries for still another bottle of Spier shiraz.

I stepped briefly outside the warm solar lit canvas box into a crisp Tarangire night. It was a half moon. The thick overcast which begrudgingly was giving way to a long dry season momentarily cleared. Every star in the firmament twinkled. It was so still that the terrifying screeching of an elephant fight made its way all the up from the distant river almost like a far away old-time radio trying to catch its signal.

I’d hardly walked to the camp fire, maybe 15 meters from the dinner party, when the rhythmic groans of a couple lionesses triumphantly walking the main park road back to their cubs announced to any who cared that their kill was over: At least for this night there was no further need to hide.

Tarangire in this cold end of the rainy season is like an old man at the bar. The struggles under massive thunderstorms whose rain nary touches the ground because it’s so hot, the new acacias swept away by flash floods, the endless fighting of the elephant in muskh and the thousands and thousands of open-bill, white and other migratory storks all vying for a piece of the great Silale swamp was over, now. It was time to sit on a quiet stool in the corner and look fondly at your beer as the foamed slowly dies away.

Africa is a cycle of death and rebirth like no other place. It bans our anxieties over the next election, the dumphesses who think they can control the planet and the ticket clerks who can’t find our luggage into some uncertain but undeniable future.

They’ll be another day. The droll almost-hoot of the Verreaux’s Eagle Owl insists (blink). Just rock a little in your chair and let the morning wind warm you up.

OnSafari: China in Africa

OnSafari: China in Africa

There are few places in the world as diverse as the Addis Ababa airport. Ethiopian Airlines is Africa’s most connected carrier. It’s a hub for the entire continent and the panoply of nationalities crowding its terminal is mind-boggling.

It’s been the same for my nearly half century traveling through Africa, with the important difference it’s now so much bigger and there’s so many more people from virtually every part of the world. There is one additional noticeable difference, though:

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Stripped Away

Stripped Away

When the cat’s away, the mice will play… If you’ve used the popular Breckenridge siding for your house or renovation, you’re a part of a horribly malicious global scheme run by the Chinese, facilitated by the American wood companies Roseburg, Evergreen and Cornerstone, and given a wink and a nod by the Trump administration.

As a result Gabon has lost much of its precious rainforest, the very rare okoumé (Aucoumea klaineana) timber in particular.

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Memorial Day

Memorial Day

memorialweekendToday is America’s Memorial Day holiday.

The holiday is intended to honor the memories of U.S. soldiers who died in action. It’s similar to the Remembrance Days celebrated in many parts of Africa, and like in South Africa created primarily to honor the freedom fighters for independence.

But America’s Memorial Day has grown to honor all fallen soldiers not just those who fought in the 18th century revolution. In fact it wasn’t started until after the Civil War when it was first called “Decoration Day,” following a petition by recently freed slaves (most who came from Africa) to honor the Union soldiers who had freed them.

After World War I it was changed to “Memorial Day” and extended as an honor to all soldiers in all conflicts.

As a young boy it was a big red-white-and-blue festival. School got out early Friday so we could decorate our little red wagons and bikes for the big Monday parade, just as we would hardly a month later for the July 4th Independence Day Holiday.

Since then my own personal regards for Memorial Day has diminished. The numerous wars my country began during my life time have mostly been unfair and unjust. The end of conscription — which happened when I was in university — changed the military so radically that it is no longer a people’s army: It no longer represents society as a whole.

Today the military is composed either of young men who can’t get any other kind of job or who need the benefits once their service is finished, or avowed militarists.

I do stop during the day and think of my relatives in the Great Wars. I think of the way the country ultimately came together to fight world tyranny. But in my life time there is little in America’s wars to be proud of. They are mostly memories I wish we didn’t have.

Social Snuffs

Social Snuffs

In our morose and combative world it’s such a struggle to consume the minimum amount of news to keep a sense of reality. It’s very easy to slip out of this challenge and thereby decay into fodder for all things evil.

One very difficult task is to contrast social with political issues. Yes, Roe-v-Wade seems more vulnerable than ever, but it stands and it stands while freedom of sexual orientation, gender and pay equality actually move forward progressively. Who’s among the top 3 or 4 democratic candidates right now?

A perfect example of how this struggle is global can be found with feminist Stella Nyanzi in Uganda.

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Gorillas Sweating

Gorillas Sweating

I saw my first gorilla in 1977. It was an eastern lowland gorilla in Kahuzi-Biega national park in The Congo, a species of gorilla (graueri) that’s still going extinct. I watched several Italians throw tomatoes at them. There were no guides then. You just climbed into mountain jungles and threw things at fur. It was an improvement over shooting.

In November the most celebrated of the four gorilla species, the mountain gorilla (berengei), was moved OFF the critically endangered to just the endangered list. I was exhausted and exhilarated learning this. And nobody partied. No ticker tape parades. The world’s just too damned complicated at the moment.

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