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The Sarengetti & Beyond

sunny

After 7 days of trekking a huge mountain we found ourselves doing just the opposite: sitting for days, with a little standing thrown in. So much for torching calories on Kili!

Here's the view from our wheels.

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First major sight? The migrations of zebras and the always-spooked wildebeests in Sarengetti National Park. Thousands of these animals swarmed around us, sprinkled with herds of Grants and Thompsons gazelles too. (By the end of the safari we saw many antelope which we poorly documented in a mammals of East Africa guidebook.)

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Simon, our guide, got us to all of The Big Five (lions, leopards, water buffaloes, rhinos, and elephants)

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How was he so good? Was it his eagle eyes? The binoculars?

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No. Cell phones. Guides call each other when they find something good. So if you ever safari shop, pick a company with a popular guide who have lots of friends. Here are some other points we learned on our safari:

Lions can be lazy for days unless they are protecting their cubs. See, after the female lionesses hunt down the family food and they stuff themselves silly, lions just sit around for days, tired from eating, and stay on the side of the road, on rocks or trees, or the shade of a bush.

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But do NOT mess with their cubs! Three male lions tried to attack 5 cubs. The three protective lionesses had no patience for this and we saw the ladies successfully chase the guys away (while the cubs dutifully wait and watch) with only a bit of blood in the whole process (victim unknown), and cubs and moms were reunited again. We drove off, with the three lions resting, tired, in the bushes, probably plotting their next move. Living in the wild is not easy, especially for a cub.

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What animal can you smell before you see and even when you see them you can barely see them? Hippotomaus. And boy can these animals run too*!

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Giraffes fight with their necks*, with their legs crossed in a defensive position.

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Leopards simply don't care about us safari-ing humans. But they like them tires especially if they are Chauncy and Biao's.

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At the camp site at night be careful before you get out of your tent, as you may have a new neighbor. If your tent is rustling it's a hippopautomus. If you go in the bathroom, history may repeat itself and there might again be a lion in the stall. All Dave and I saw were beady little red eyes at night, which were likely a warthog or hyena.

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Dave and I can attest that the fastest land animal in the world is the cheetah. Boy can it move! Momma cheetah was stealthfully hunting for its three cubs when, bam, out jumped at a buck. The cheetah took off while the cubs cutely huddled together on a rock. Once mom was ready, they went to the prey to chow down.

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We like bird watching a lot more than we would ever admit to our younger selves. To our defence? The birds we saw were beautiful and unique. Take a glimpse...

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The animals' version of New York City? Ngorongoro Crater. The green mamba is even there, but we didn't see one much to Dave's astute delight and my uninformed disappointment.

We did see 1% of the world's black rhinosauruses. Sadly this means we just saw 6 of these animals, which are facing extinction due to some humans' demand for their horns.

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And there are pink flamingos, if you trust my interpretation of these pink dots.

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And the Crater has every animal mentioned above and below. It is definitely a good place for one stop shopping.

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On the way to Tarangire National Park we saw more Masai, who have rejected technological development. Simon told us they are very rich as they have lots of cows.

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At this last Park we stayed in a fancy lodge, where we stayed in a huge tent with en suite bathrooms. Simon heard a lion outside his tent that night while Dave and I enjoyed the lodge's swimming pool and panoramic view of the park and its many African elephants.

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Next, we rushed off to Zanzibar.

*if you need a good laugh ask Dave or me for a video of this once we get back to the USA. Hippopautomuses running and giraffes fighting? Funny!

Posted by Equatorials 13:32 Archived in Tanzania Comments (8)

Putting in an Honest Weeks Work

Or seeing the Snows of Kilimanjaro

all seasons in one day

Ashley and I finally put in a 40 hr week on this trip. Instead of our normal lazing about seeing different old buildings or sandy beaches, we had to hike for 40 hrs over 7 days to get to the the top of Kilimanjaro. To say the least, it left us battered, bloodied, and a quite a bit dirty. ( Ashley won't let me go into more details).

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We ended up doing the Machame route up the mountain, in seven days to make sure acclimating wouldn't be a problem. We weren't alone on this hike, we had our hiking companions, Chauncey and Biao, and a team of porters and our guides Theday and August. (15 staff personnel for the four of us).

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Day 1: 4 hrs of hiking thru the tropical rain forest from 1800 m to 3000 m of altitude. Overnight at Machame camp. When you think of Kilimanjaro you think of its snowy peak and forget it's only a few degrees from the equator. The base of the mountain is rain forest as the moist tropical air from the Indian Ocean unleashes a hellacious amount of rain when the clouds reach the mountain.
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Once we reached the first camp, we got to see our home for the next week, that green little tent, and our dining room consisting of four camping chairs, a folding table and a candle. At least we didn't have to carry the gear.
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Day 2: 8 hrs of hiking thru the moors and heather lands from 3000 m to 3840 m of altitude. Overnight at Shira Camp. A tough full day of hiking, particularly due to not being able to escape the rain during the second half of the hike it made slippery on some of the rocks. Also Ashley had her first hit of altitude sickness on this leg. Ashley putting on a brave face.
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Scenic Shira camp with the summit looming overhead.
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Day 3: 8 hrs of hiking thru the moors and heather lands with a bit of Alpine Desert from 3480 m to 3950 m with an ascent to 4600 m at the Lava Tower. Overnight at Barranco Camp. Yes, you read that right, on this tough day of hiking we got up to 4600 m, that's higher than any peak in the continental US. Not only was the altitude challenging, we kept getting that pesky precipitation. I use the technical term, because at different times it rained, hailed, and snowed on us as we were ascending to Lava Tower. Trying to figure out how to stop long enough to eat, but not get hypothermic from the cold and wet was not fun.
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Beautiful Barranco Camp. So named because of the Barranco Wall in the background. We slept well that night knowing while we had to scale over the wall, we were in for a short hiking day.
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Day 4: Only 4 hrs of hiking but it started with a scramble but the Barranco Wall. Altitude change from 3950 m to 4000 m. Overnight at Karanga Camp. It's not a good start to the morning when the guides take your hiking poles and tell you "They'll only get in the way" on the first part of the hike. They were right of course, as we had to scramble, often climbing with both hands and feet up the rock wall. In this picture you can see the people climbing up the wall,they're the multicolored line heading up the rock.
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But once over, it was an easy short hike to Karanga. Since we hadn't worked up our appetites yet, the guides had us doing small hikes from camp to work on acclimatising. All of us get hit with some altitude sickness ( headaches, loss of appetite).
You can see the peak looming in the background, we are working our way from west to east around the peak to reach the summit route.
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Day 5: Again only 4 hrs of hiking, but they know they can't wear us out. We start summitting at midnight on the end of the 5th day. Altitude change from 4000 m to 4600 m. Set up camp at Barafu. The whole landscape is this alpine desert. Few plants can grow because of the lack of rainfall and low air pressure, we mostly see some lichens and some cacti.
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Once at camp, they feed us early, and make us take a nap, kinda like I'm back in kindergarten.
At this altitude you can see the other peak of Kilimanjaro with the clouds enveloping the lower peak.
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Then dinner at 5 pm and back to bed. We need to be geared up and ready to start the final ascent by midnight.

Day 6: The final ascent, total of 16 hrs of hiking on the day. From 4600 m to 5895 m then eventually down to Mweka camp at 3100 m. . Yes, that ascent is just shy of 20,000 ft. And technically we started on Day 5, as we woke up at 11 pm got dressed and took in the final briefing. It was weird that they didn't feed us too much, prior to going up, but we soon found out why. We start the ascent just after midnight with the couple of hundred other trekkers, forming a human conga line illuminated by all of our head lamps. The first thing I notice is that my toes start to get tingly. I keep making fists with my toes to generate a little heat and keep frostbite at bay. As we keep climbing, we see the occasional person coming down, looking dejected. The altitude got em. Then we see the vomit, and realize that's why they didn't feed us after we woke up. The altitude just keeps making you nauseous. But our legs keep plodding along, "Pole-Pole" slowly-slowly in Swahili. The only thing keeping our spirits up is the portable, Bluetooth speaker we've got in the backpack, cranking out the tunes. It takes our minds off this slow death march. But even it has a point where it runs out of energy. Then as we are cold and as miserable as we have ever been, we realize the sun is rising. Hope and warmth are on their way.
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And then the summit. We made it!
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Relief and adrenaline start coursing through my veins. I finally start to take in the beauty of the summit. It seems like you can see to the end of the earth from here.
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Sadly, these are the glaciers that are losing their battle against climate change. I am honored that I got the chance to see them.

Then we still have to descend. If you climb up 1300 m of elevation change, you gotta go down it as well. We get back to camp exhausted and hungry and can't figure out whether to sleep or eat. Sleep wins out. Then you find out, it's another 4 hrs to tonight's camp. I eat just enough to have the energy to go down

Day 7: 3 hr descent from 3100 m to 1800 m through some forest. Easy last day other than the sore muscles. Then crammed back into the van and civilization.

We've done it. Back to civilization. We get our certificates
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And first showers in a week ( picture not available).

We are happy with what we accomplished and what we learned about ourselves in the process. That being said, we don't plan (or want) to head up, that mountain again.
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Posted by Scatman 20:09 Archived in Tanzania Tagged kilimanjaro Comments (3)

Dubai's $120b & Counting (Plus postcard giveaway!)

What does $120 billion in annual oil revenue buy? Anything you want. Well, hear me out....

- Burj Khalifa - The tallest building in the world, which looks great from its Bellagio-related water show and also has great views from its 104th floor.

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- Burj Al Arab - The most luxurious hotel in the world, and the lone hotel on the globe rated at 7 stars. (Also serving as a staging grounds for Maid Of Honor requests)

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- The biggest mall in the world, and its 3 am operating hours, as we were to be there during their rare month long shopping festival, letting us see ice skaters at 1 am before our 4:30 am flight.

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-Oh and in the smaller "Mall of the Emirates" you can ski IN the mall, & watch the local penguins. (Done, all while dreaming of my annual winter snowboarding pass to Sierra-at-Tahoe.)

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(Here's the outdoor architecture of the slopes. Not quite Tahoe.)

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- Dream of buying gold at the Gold Market. (& en route you can buy pashminas, which, it seems, must be required to be hawked in every country per some kind of law.)

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- Ogle the cityscape along the waterfront, which, in this Muslim country, had no drinking establishments (I've never been so 'thirsty') but plenty of hookah bars.

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Get dizzy from the streets' endless stream of Bentleys, Lamborghinis, Ferraris and infinite Mercedes, made possible from the reported USD $120k average annual salary for nationals

And of course, hoard up on wifi & 49ers viewing before losing it all in Tanzania for 2 weeks. (Don't get me wrong; I've found that the limited window of the African continent that I have had, actually has the best, fastest internet available of anywhere we've travelled, when Internet is to be found. When you see internet available, it is real. No teasing here!)

And you can stalk random pop boy bands at the small mall. Postcard for the first person who can name this group, groupie.

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Posted by Equatorials 13:45 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

Discovering Camels

sunny

Do you know anything about camels? Uh, I knew like, um nothing. We took a risk and spent 3 days on a camel safari, meaning we relied on camels, our guide and the stars (under which we slept on the dunes, leaving sand everywhere & necessitating full coverage).

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Camels turn out to be fun and stinky (Ada: this is apparently a good description for lots of our trip!). Riding them was a breeze for us (tho I know others don't always like it) but bracing was necessary for the standing up and sitting down three-part-process on these TALL animals (complete with lots of joints).

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Stinky? Dave arranged for his camel to SNEEZE on me. Nothing like some camel snot on your pants. Thank you David. But their burps and their farts were beyond the pale, the first of which was more understandable when you accidentally looked down its mouth. (Try to avoid this; the green bits are unattractive!)

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The one thing I knew about camels was that they had long legs and I had no interest in them walking their way to Pakistan. They did not oblige, edging their way 60 miles away from the border, where we slept.

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Lucky for us these mammals know how to stand guard. Dave woke up in the middle of the night and saw one looming above his head. Nothing spooky about that.

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Camels are popular, and so they bring people together. See our (double) new Delhi friends, some of who we met up with later in their city.

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Posted by Equatorials 12:12 Archived in India Comments (1)

Comedy is all about timing

sunny 92 °F

Sorry about the last post, it was only supposed to be up for a couple of days as a small tease before showing you the beauty of the Maldives. But we ended up starting our Kilimanjaro trek once we got to Moshi and then the Safari right after. It kinda took us out of Wifi range for two weeks.

Anyway, onto the Maldives.....

I got religion in the Maldives. I've decided to become a Buddhist after my visit which is kinda weird since the Maldives are a Muslim country. I've decided I need to be reincarnated as a Trans Maldivian Airways pilot. They ferry people from the main airport to all the small islands that make up the country.
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They fly those sea planes you see in the background behind Ashley.
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This is the terminal building where we waited for the flight. Now here comes the fun part.
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The shorts and short sleeve shirts are the standard issue uniforms, and these guys literally fly barefoot as evidenced in the picture. Those are his work flip flops by the rudder pedals. And what do these guys get to look at all day?

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Not a bad gig, eh. Now I've gotta go pray to Buddha to be reincarnated as what I want.

Oh yeah, here is what paradise looks like in my mind as displayed on this tiny atoll in the Indian Ocean.

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This is the view from the sea plane as it touched down.
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Google maps is pretty good! The blue dot is exactly on our water bungalow.
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Here is what our bungalow over the water looked like.
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The view as we walked in from the seaplane.
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Us being a bunch of poseurs.
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Paradise apparently involves some underwater fun with stingrays and eels.
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The inside of the bungalow has a glass floor to look at the fish go by. We were the most action it got during out stay.

Hopefully this brings a bit of joy for those of you in the northern hemisphere enjoying winter. My tan has yet to leave. :)

Posted by Scatman 12:03 Archived in Maldives Republic Comments (3)

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