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Etosha National Park, Namibia – Photos from the Waterhole

Etosha National Park in Namibia had an incredible concentration of wildlife.  We camped here three nights, and had one amazing wildlife encounter after another.  This park is enclosed by a huge electric fence, and the animals congregate around the waterholes, making them easy to spot and observe their behavior. Many animals share the waterhole at the same time - often making uneasy eyes at the others as they all try to drink.  The waterhole was like the Switzerland of bush ... a cautious truce is the unspoken rule as hyenas and jackals drank within meters of antelope and zebra.  The truce even seems to hold true for the lions ... we saw two male lions lounging back from the waterhole while their prey drank nearby.  If the females had been there, it may have been a different story.   At one waterhole we saw seven different species drinking at the same time.   The young animals have much less fear than the adults, and they interact and play with young animals from other species.  We watched a baby zebra running around kicking up its heels ... bucking in circles and trying to torment the grown up zebras.  When none of his own kind wanted to play, it ran up to a baby kudu, and started chasing it, and the two of them tore around in animal play scattering the impala in a game of interspecies tag. Spotted Hyena Many animals are extremely vulnerable to attack while drinking - especially the giraffe which is very slow to approach the water and usually posts a lookout to keep an eye out.   The oryx must either wade into the water or drop to their knees at the edge to get their heads low enough to reach the water. They are also easily attacked while drinking, and are very

More Amazing Animals: Photos from Chobe National Park, Botswana

Two young lion brothers greet each other with play and a roar.  This is one of three prides in Chobe - a park known for its lions and where lions have been known to take down elephants.This bull elephant is washing his watergrass carefully before eating it.  Elephants have molers, and when the teeth have worn down and they can no longer eat, they die.  So washing the mud off the grass extends their life.  The egret at his feet enjoys the bugs and fish the grass pulling dislodges in a symbiotic relationship.These elephants came down to the river for a long drink.  They line up and protect the young elephants in the center between the adults.The river itself is beautiful and full of fish and life - a huge estuary of shallow brown fresh water that grows grasses and flowers and makes a haven for many species of birds.  The African Spoonbill fishes in the river estuaryA bird perches on the neck of this young male giraffe eating ticks as the giraffe grazes on the treetops.Three female impala graze in the female herd.  It's breeding season, and the dominant male is frantically running around trying to impregnate his hundred or so females, and run off all the bachelor males with growls and lowered horns.  Most births happen in the span of about two weeks. A female who is impregnated late will eat a poison bush to kill the fetal impala before it is born rather than give birth too late outside the window.  The poison does not hurt the mother.  Once a year the bachelor males come back to the herd to try and take the place of the dominant male.  Typically he is replaced ... he's too tired to win the fights after all his duties of guarding

Amazing Animals – Photos from Chobe National Park, Botswana

The monkey made a break towards the open porch screen door.  A spit second later I see him running out and screeching, double-fisted with loot.  Another successful raiding mission accomplished at Chobe Safari Lodge in Kasane, Botswana.  Other monkeys took their share of the prize with squawking and hitting in a family battle.  And after the spoils were consumed and paraded around for the rest of the monkeys to admire ...  the next raid began, despite the efforts of the employee armed with the slingshot whose job is monkey deterrence.   The monkeys clearly are winning the scavenge war. Note to self ... we will be keeping the screen door closed to our room.  And no drying the laundry on the porch either as I prefer not to see a monkey trying on my undies.And with that, i knew we had arrived in the Africa of the movies and the storybooks.  We are in Kasane, a small town in northern Botswana that is primarily a gateway town for the Chobe National Park - one of the best wildlife parks in Africa known for being the home of over 80,000 really big African elephants, a large lion population and a huge diversity of other wildlife.Not that the wildlife knows where the park boundaries lie.  Besides keeping company with monkeys, warthogs and mongoose, a four foot long monitor lizard freely roams the grounds.  And the caution signs near the water warn of crocodiles and hippos - and they mean it.  Awesome.One of Mom's bucket list priorities was to visit Victoria Falls.  So we flew in to that airport in Zimbabwe, got a double entry visa, and promptly went to Botswana to spend a three days at Chobe National Park.   But we'll be back to Vic Falls before we leave.  In the interest

South Africa – short stories and photos

We leave the Cape of South Africa tomorrow morning for Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Chobe National Park, Botswana. The cape area of South Africa was different than I thought it would be.  And different from most of Africa. It was geographically stunning.  Sophisticated with its food and wine and art.  And racially diverse, while still feeling very separated rather than integrated.  It could have been parts of Europe or Australia or other places that feel very familiar. But we were treated universally kindly by everyone.  And had a very positive experience. I do think that many people in South Africa seem very concerned about what the world thinks of their country - and them - with all the turmoil that still leads the news over two decades after it has shifted to the New South Africa from the old.  While I heard everyone express some frustration with what was happening in the country, it's clear this is a country in the midst of an enormous metamorphosis. And from the perspective of an outsider they seem to be moving forward. I'm sharing some photos I liked with short descriptions.  This is a fascinating place - and a unique place in the world.*********************************************************************************Jeffrey's Bay:  A world class surfing site, today the beach was home to surf lessons to very enthusiastic boys rather than the 20 foot high tubes it's known for in the winter.The Protea Plant grows wild over the sides of mountains in the drier mountains of this country.  There were many dead plants and blooms due to the drought this year, but some blooms still emerged ... a florist's haven.HIV/AIDs impacts 15-20% of residents in South Africa - especially those in the black townships.  This display in the Knyssa township library reminds people of the health necessities - and the humanity - behind HIV/AIDs.

Some Photos I like from Rome

These women were part of a procession for Good Friday.  Twelve straining men carried an image of the Virgin, while eight more carried a prone wooden Jesus.  The women walked backwards facing the virgin singing.  The priests led hymns and call and response prayer.  Good Friday Procession  Pasqua is everywhere in Rome, and the city is packed with pilgrims who have come to celebrate Easter and the new Pope.Pasqua Street Performances have been my favorite part of the last few days of roaming the city.  I've seen magic, classical musicians, grey headed garage rockers covering Pink Floyd, illusionists and clever performance art meant to inspire the imagination.  This performer is taking a break - possibly pushed out of a lucrative area where thousands of visitors are crossing the bridge to the Vatican.Street performer on a breakThe fun goes on, regardless of the somber Good Friday procession that just passed.  A street performer plays and entertains.Too Much fun in the Piazza in Testeverde Narrow streets, bright colored buildings and the ever-present motorbikes mark urban living in Rome.Street View in TesteverdeAn Angel guards the bridge to the Vatican.  There is art at every turn, and the fun of roaming the city is coming across surprises.

Reflections

I’m a long way from India. I'm sitting in the sun with an incredible view of the San Juan Islands, snow capped Mount Baker and the choppy white-capped water at Guemes Island (rustic) resort off Washington’s coast.  The sun is out, and it if we are lucky it may get above 60 today… the first full day resembling what spring ought to be since I returned from India a month ago. My friends have just left for a paddle with the seals and the bald eagles and the otters while the water is still calm and the currents are still.  Sadly, I’m benched from paddling letting my shoulder finish healing. (Remember the fall off the bike two weeks into trip where I cracked the helmet?  Turns out I also separated my shoulder AC joint …NO WONDER IT HURT! So now, three weeks into PT I’m regaining mobility and strength … and trying not to be stupid and delay the recovery. Luckily biking on it for 6 weeks didn’t seem to exacerbate the damage, though the doctor did proclaim it was “very impressive” which I think is the medical equivalent of “you are an idiot”.) So instead I am using the beauty and solitude to finish this blog … I finally feel like I’ve digested this trip enough to articulate the final chapter. I could tell the story of my India trip in two ways, and they would both be technically accurate but fundamentally incomplete on their own. India trip Version 1:  Amazing people, culture and adventure Daily encounters with people who were so warm, curious and generous towards me it literally took my breath away and made me hope I behave half as well to those I meet. Lovely countryside with beautiful, empty rural landscapes completely contrary to what I was expecting in one of the world’s most

4000 kilometers – finished

I don’t particularly want to go home.With apologies to friends, family and the dog, it’s going to be a hard landing back in the states this time after such an intense, alive, challenging experience.  I understand how travel can be addictive… I’m already pretty far along that path … and it’s safe to say this trip has moved me further towards being a professional nomad.But tomorrow I start the long trip back after an incredible two months in India. I arrive back in Seattle late night March 23. We rolled into Kanyakumari yesterday afternoon. Indian sparkling wine was liberally sprayed. Congratulatory hugs.  The end of ride posing and shooting.  And we were done.  Pretty anticlimactic after the daily unpredictable stimulation of this journey.  And yes - it was as hot as I look in this photo.As we were lined up for our group shot (40ish cameras take a while), the Indian tourists took photos of us … and then started putting their kids and families posed in front of us. Pretty funny – they have never been shy about photos, often hanging out car windows or staked out on the side of the road with cell phone cameras. Sometimes even lining up the family for a photo with us or individually asking if they can take a photo with me.  We will be in scrapbooks all over the country as those crazy Western cyclists.  So this was an appropriate ending.The last two riding days were relatively uneventful.  A trafficky, not so interesting route from Kollam to Kovalem resulted in frantic re-scouting (thank you TDA) and a much nicer coastal route for our last 90k ride into Kanyakumari.Processing coconut hullsThe ride into Kanyakumari was full of coconut plantations, and the industry that collects and breaks down the used husks into grass. 

Learning to cook this wonderful food …

Haggling over today's catchGreen cardamom pods are better than the black ones. Never use the stuff in the spice rack labeled “curry” back home. There is such a thing as a curry plant and it can be found in the US – or at least the dried leaves are available.  Garam masala is actually the main masala (spice mix) for meat and now I’m lucky enough to have a homemade recipe.I went to a cooking class in Ft. Cochin. I love food- I organize a supper club back home and to me India is one of the world’s premier cuisines and I’ve loved tasting my way through the country.The class was nicely done – more of a demonstration than hands on except we did get to make chapatti. On the menu were all Kerala curries and style cooking (aka lots of coconut milk and coconut meat), including fish curry, fish in coconut milk, okra curry (I now know how to keep okra from getting slimy when you cook it),lentils (dal)and a veg dish. It was a great introduction to Indian cooking. The food is generally very similarly based with subtle differences that make it work for what you put into it – vegetable or meat. Garlic, shallot, ginger, turmeric, curry leaves, and mustard seeds make repeat appearances in the base sauté. Masalas vary by the dish but generally include chili powder (she like medium heat, recommends Kashmiri), turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, cumin and coriander. In India it seems most of the cooking is done at home. There are various places that have coffee or chia with baked goods or snacks. And some little restaurant you can sit down for a thali or dosas.  We were in hotels often where it’s in many ways a false scenario for eating. In tourist areas

Kochi to Allapuzza to Kollam

Yesterday we cycled 66km south along the coast to the town of Allapuzza which is an entry point to the Kerala backwaters.  Today we are on a boat all day traveling to Kollam though the canals that serve as streets and roads for the villages that line them. It’s beautiful country down here with coconut and mango trees and wetlands filled with egrets and other birds feasting in this huge estuary. Cormorants are perched with wings spread drying them in the sun. Right now I’m watching white seabirds with grey heads dive towards the water to catch little silver fish jumping on top of the water to escape.  Even saw a real kingfisher – very fun after seeing so many pictures on the bottles of Kingfisher beer that tastes so lovely after a hot riding day.Yesterday’s ride down the coast to Kollam short, easy and beautiful. We were heading through fishing villages, some with colorful boats pulled up on the beach and fisherman mending nets after being out all night with their catch laid out in the sun around the boats.  There were some lively fish markets and many folks with shrimp or fish laid out on tarps or sale.   (Only one had any ice, and some smelled a tad fishy for my comfort level). I noticed a bunch of red, orange and blue yarn drying in the sun. Turns out it was a workshop where they were weaving bright colored mats typical of Kerala on ancient hand looms after dying, spinning and spooling the yarn on equally ancient spinning wheels. I watched a man operate loom for a while – a huge ancient wooden thing strung with bright threads. He had a wooden shuttle that he loaded freshly wound blue yarn and passed it by hand back and forth

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