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Tag Archives: africa

High on a dune at sunset over the Sahara, at a spot where salt caravans have been unloading their cargo for centuries, Oumar sits on a crest of sand as fine as powdered sugar and prepares a charcoal fire within the bowl of a delicate brass stove.  His turban is crafted with indigo dyed cotton, a deep Taureg blue.  Blue is the signature color of his nomadic tribe, one that predominates in the ancient city of Timbuktu and is responsible for the independence of Mali.  In fact, there is still Taureg unrest simmering across the Sahara which includes the kidnapping of tourists but tonight hospitality is in order.  We have just concluded a camel ride accompanied by a thicket of children (as well as thickets of ticks covering the camels) and turbaned Tauregs, winding our way through small villages and encampments as the sun sinks slowly over the hazy horizon.

The tea is brewed from mint leaves and other spices added to a small tea pot of boiling water allowed to steep for a minute or so before decanting.  The pot is held high above small glasses by the host and poured with an up and down motion suspended over the glass which creates heavy foam.  Women are served first.  In this tradition the first brewed cup is bitter, like death, the second is strong, like life, and the third, served with copious sugar, is sweet, like love!  Glasses are often shared in this lovely communion of spirit. All conversation stops as the host presides over this ancient celebration.  The dream like atmosphere totally enraptured me as I sat curled under my long skirt; bare legs tucked beneath me buried in the grains of warm, soft sand listening to story after story incanted by Oumar, his mesmerizing words spun out like sugar drops against the melting sky. 

I noticed that Michael was standing before me (his blue turban unwinding slowly in the breeze) but his face was frozen, his back toward the sun, his camera slack against his chest.  “Come, sit with me” I implored, smoothing the sand into a nest for him; such an incredible moment to share together.  I could not fathom why we were apart.  “Ummm…that’s ok, I’ll just stay right here!” was his surprising response.  Of course, I didn’t accept his answer and gave him the LOOK just when he collapsed into laughter.  I’ll let him tell the rest of the story:

Also sitting on the desert just a short distance behind Jenni and Oumar is Mohammad, our driver. Just before Jenni invited me to join them on the sand Mohammad leaped to his feet and was dancing around jumping from one foot to the other while pulling off his pants. So what does it take for a devout Muslim to shed his pants in front of a foreign woman, you ask? How about a scorpion. I didn’t want to ruin the moment. Jenni was mesmerized by Oumar, his tales and intoxicating tea ceremony. When I eventually responded to the LOOK, my reward for not ruining the moment was a totally undeserved whack on the head with her camera bag.

And so it goes here on the edge of the end of the universe in Timbuktu, were nobody knows your name.

While on safari in Masai Mara, Kenya, we were intrigued by a colony of baboons nesting in a large tree on the banks of the river running through our camp. Each night, one by one, they slowly ambled toward a clearing on the savannah and settled into the equivalent of primate lotus positions to view the setting of the sun.


Normally gregarious, boisterous and aggressive, they would remain passive, alone as if in trance until the sun dropped below the horizon and night began to fall. Read More »

Our driver slows the SUV, he sees something off in the distance to the right. Soon we are aware that it’s a lioness and we see that she is followed, in single file, by eight more girls, each spaced about ten feet apart. They cross the road before us and continue into a field dotted with hillocks and termite mounds. As they gather into three or four tawny furred groups, they gaze around like chiseled periscopes in their sea of grass. The alpha female remains alone at the front of the pride. Off again to the right we see two adult female warthogs with a baby. Many of her siblings have perished. One of the adults perches atop the road tailings for a better view across the road. “See the lions!” we scream silently, “Run!”

They cross the road, again one adult perching atop the tailing. She seems to notice the alpha lioness, but what about the others? To our horror, she leads the other female and the baby directly into a path through the lions, tails held high, unknowingly headed into danger. In a flash, the lions are in motion. They trap the adults and isolate the baby. She is grabbed instantly, feet wiggling, screaming in the jaws of the great cat. They let the adult warthogs run off. “She’s gone” says the driver. But she is not gone. The lioness holds her clenched firmly in her mouth for minutes as the baby squeals and tries to struggle free. We want it to be over. Read More »

Bridge climber, latest addition to my resume

The first leg of this journey starting in San Francisco includes New Zealand, Thailand, Kenya, Egypt, England, Ireland, and New York for the holidays (2009), ending the trip while beginning the New Year back in San Francisco.

This is the first time that Kaze has had an opportunity to take an extended vacation with me. He has wanted to go to New Zealand for years and I have wanted to take him on safari but his work has prevented him from taking time off. Jon and Inge have wanted to go on safari, but like Kaze have not had the time. Jenni just loves going to Africa. A new member of our group is Mr Flat Stanley. Read More »

We were pleased to visit the imbali visual literacy project store located in the Museum Africa building in Johannesburg. Most items are made from simple or recycled materials. The originality, fine craft, and design of the wares are superb! We were shocked at the elegance, capriciousness, and quality of the items featured which are shown in Michael’s photos. Read More »

Hello from Jenni! Picture the tawny rolling grassy hills of South Africa, strains of Ladysmith Black Mombasa playing in the background and a dozen five month old lion cubs, half of them white, with their massive paws around your neck, licking up and down your arms, nibbling on your skirt and you have an idea of the glorious endowment provided us as we were welcomed into this vast and gracious country. Read More »

A Zambezi Sunset

I’m starting these notes on a different river, the Zambezi, it is at a higher elevation with more lush vegetation then the Letaba River in Kruger Park noticeably fewer animals. I’m about 8 miles upstream from the Victoria Falls and the town of Livingston (Zambia).

I flew into Livingston, Zambia from Johannesburg and was met at the airport by Nick, a very outback kind of Afrikaner guy. Nick has recently returned from London with Amanda, his very British bride. Amanda is still trying to figure out where she is and what’s the attraction to this place.

As we walked out of the airport terminal Nick offered two options for getting to our destination, Thorntree Riverside Resort, a drive through the town of Livingston in an air-conditioned van or a short cut through the game park in the back of a Land Rover modified for safaring.

Having spent the better part of the day sitting on a plane I opted for the bush ride. Nick’s rye tone let on this option would be some sort of rights-of-passage, and it was, including a motorized form of Rolfing. Nick and Amanda sat up front. I sat on a narrow bench cantilevered off the back of the Land Rover. Read More »

The Hippopotami

After breakfast I said my goodbyes to Amanda and Nick at the Thorntree Riverside Resort in Zambia. I took a van to the banks of the Zambezi, cleared Customs then caught a ferry across to Kasane, Botswana. I was met on the other side by Sue from the Elephant Valley Lodge.

Ron and Sue are what Nick and Amanda will be like in 20 years time. Ron loves the jungle lifestyle and Sue is hanging in there thinking next year Ron will get tired of all the fresh air, come to his senses and move to London. They are economic refugees from Zimbabwe. Elephant Valley Lodge is a tent resort located on the banks of a dry river bed running through a valley that define Botswana on one slope and Zimbabwe on the facing slope. The tree canopy is populated with vultures. Read More »