Saturday, September 27, 2008

And more Africa pictures

The circle of life was everywhere we looked.

These lions killed this Cape buffalo and would spend several days eating it. There are four lions in the picture but somewhere in the rocks are two or maybe three more. We never actually saw a lion hunt but did see several kills. Once the lions have eaten their fill the hyenas and jackals move in, followed by vultures and other scavengers. Eventually all that is left are a few scattered bones.

October and November are the Short Rains when it will rain for several hours in the afternoon. Except it seemed that the Rains started several weeks early, in September. The last four days we were there it rained every day, and our guide kept telling us how unusual that was. He said that the Long Rains in March and April are getting off schedule also and claims it's the result of global warming. It's very confusing to everybody. Once it starts raining, the Migration begins. The huge herds of wildebeest are up north for the winter. As the springlike weather moves south, the animals follow it because they know they will find lots of new growth. Because of these rains we were able to see huge herds migrating south, something not normally experienced in September.

I had to keep reminding myself that we were in the Southern Hemisphere, where September is the end of winter, the greening of Spring moves from north to south, the sun is in the northern sky (although since we were so near the equator, the sun was directly overhead), and the Tanzanians drive on the left side of the road. Oh wait...that's the result of the British influence, not the hemisphere.

There are always zebras in with the wildebeest. One guide told us that the zebra can smell the new growth and the wildebeest can smell the rain and so they have a symbiotic relationship. Also the zebra are much more alert to their surroundings and will act as crossing guards when the herds run across the roads.

In case we might have had any thoughts about feeding the animals.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

More pictures

More pictures from my African safari...

These are wildebeest, an animal that looks like it was put together by a committee who couldn't agree on anything. If you have ever seen documentaries of the Great Migration on the Serengeti Plains, these are the animals you see. There are an estimated 2 million in herds that move through the Plains in search of grass. They drop their babies during a 2 week period in March or April and then begin to head north as the Long Rains begin.

This elephant was standing next to the road by our vehicle, not more than 15 feet away. Look at the texture of his skin - I'm thinking thermofax screen for this.

These are Cape buffalo and they are as nasty as they look. Very aggressive animals - they will defend themselves against an entire pride of lions.

This beautiful animal is a female impala. The male impalas' horns have a different shape, described as 'lyre-shaped', they curve outward. One morning I heard this terrible grunting outside our tent and it turned out to be two fighting impala. I would never have thought such a horrible noise would come from such a graceful animal.

And of course, these are zebra. Those stripes are going to be in another thermofax screen, for sure. Zebra are very wary and whenever we stopped there were always some who kept their eyes on us. When they stand in a group, they often face in different directions so that nothing can sneak up on them. One day we sat an watched a huge herd approaching a river for a drink. The river was down in a gully, a perfect place for a predator to hid. The zebra slowly approached the bank, then stopped and waited. Then a little more movement until finally one brave (or foolhardy) zebra skittered down the slope to the water. Others immediately followed. They went down to the water in groups and occasionally would come bounding up because something startled them. It was fascinating to watch.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Back from Africa

We returned home on Saturday after an arduous journey on 3 different airplanes. Including layovers, the entire trip took 36 hours, way too long. But the trip was fabulous, wonderful beyond our wildest dreams. We spent hours watching the wildlife but we also had some experiences with the Tanzanians and learned a few things about their life styles. Here a just a few pictures.

One of the first things we did was to visit an elementary school in Arusha. These children are in the 2nd level, about equivalent to 2nd grade in the U.S. They sang a song for us in English - they learn English right from the very beginning of their schooling. They asked us a few questions in English, rather personal questions I thought, but they're still at a very basic level. After the 7th level they take a test to determine if they can continue with their schooling. If they don't pass, that's the end of their education and they are left with a rather dismal future.

We stayed in several tent camps and this was quite a different experience. The tents are very large and have "bathrooms" included. The bathrooms have a toilet, shower, and sink. The sides of the tents all have windows that are a mesh screening. Inside, you can roll down some canvas to cover the screen at night. Mosquitoes and malaria are an ongoing problem in Tanzania and we needed to be vigilant. This is the shower bucket. When we wanted to take a shower, the staff hauled hot water to our tent and filled this bucket. Inside the shower stall, we pulled a chain to start the water flow, got wet, stopped the water, soaped up, then started the water to rinse off. What amazed me was the fact that the young women at the camp hauled 30 liters of water, which weighs 30 kilograms or nearly 70 lbs on their heads. And we were a bit of a hike away from the water source. All over Tanzania we saw women, but not men, carrying their loads on their heads.

This is the veranda of our tent at dawn. Our morning wake up call was a cheerful "Hello Hello" and a tray with tea and biscuits.

This baboon was just in a fight with an intruding baboon. His face is scratched and bloody. It was quite a serious fight with lots of screeching and wrestling, but it was over in just seconds as the intruder wisely decided to leave.

An elephant mother and her baby. Elephants are very good mothers - they seldom loose a baby. (As opposed to the wildebeest, who lose 60% of their young.) When the herd moves, the babies are always sandwiched in between the large elephants, protected from any predators.

Warthogs are very funny looking creatures. The tusks are for digging in the dirt, not defense. Their necks are so short they have to get down on their knees to dig, which makes them very vulnerable to predators. When they run, they trot very fast and their tails stick straight up in the air, giving them a comical appearance. They nearly always ran away as our vehicle approached and seldom stood still enough to have a picture taken.

More pictures to come. As I was opening my mail after our return home, I was delighted to find a check from the Amazing Art Quilts show. My piece "Summer Solstice" was selected as one of the juror's choices. What a nice surprise!

Monday, September 01, 2008

We Are Proud!

The Olympics are over but we're not forgetting our local stars. In particular, we are anticipating the return of Michael Phelps of Rodgers Forge (renamed Rodgers Phorge), a neighborhood of row houses and big old trees. He has purchased a condo in the Fells Point (Phells Point) area of Baltimore so he won't be living nearby but his mother still is. You can see hand lettered signs all around the Forge with congratulatory words, but this one is my favorite.

It's hung over the entry way to the funeral home located at one end of the street on which Michael grew up. Thank heavens it doesn't say "Welcome".