Category Archives: Africa

Southern Africa Snapshots, Part IV

South Africa, Swaziland & Zimbabwe wrap-up.

My early posts from this trip each contained just one or two captioned images. The end of trip involved more travel time and fewer sites, so I am posting several images from each. By this time, the end was in sight, and I was not ready to come home. Then again, much as I love my husband and my home and my town and my cat, I want each trip to last just a bit longer.

Day 11 – Zambezi River (Botsawana)

Photos follow from a  “sunset cruise” (i.e., boat ride) on the tranquil Zambezi River before it plunges down the canyons and cataracts of Victoria Falls.

Welcome dancers at riverside where the boats leave from.
The river’s namesake in a can.
Calm waters.
Enormous elephant browsing on the bank.
Hippos in the stream.
Many boats on the river, including this one that strangely but inaccurately reminds me of “The African Queen.” The boat in the romantic adventure film had no canopy.
The main event.

Day 12 – Victoria Falls

Like Kruger National Park, Victoria Falls merits more a longer visit.  I enjoyed the scheduled half-day visit (pix below)  but I ended up not visiting a village in the afternoon. Too blazing hot.

English gets second billing on Zimbabwe park signs.
Thirty-eight wet stone steps to the first designated lookout over the massive falls.
Statue of Scottish explorer Dr. David Livingtone, the first European to see these falls.
“Thunder smoke” is what Africans call the falls.
Roiling waters.
Wide falls dropping from a broad basalt shelf.
Canyon cascade.
Some of the offerings at the Sinathanayu Market on the fringes of Victoria Falls Village.
The Victoria Falls Hotel feeds threatened vultures every day. These large scavengers are not agile and perish on power lines or by eating poisoned carrion.
Fortune teller holds forth in a staw hut within the cavernous BOM A Restaurant where w cultural show and gut-busting buffet take place.

Day 13 – Victoria Falls Hotel

Last morning in Africa. I could (and probably should have) taken the opportunity to interact with orphaned lions that have been habituated to humans, but I just wanted to stay at the Victoria Falls Hotel to contemplate, pack and steel myself for the three-flight return to Colorado. I hung out on a hotel terrace for a time and watched the birds.  No wildlife came to drink and no dramatic sunrise showed itself, but I still reveled the quite time of morning.

Then it was time to say farewell to our wonderful guide, Anni Hennup.
No airport images from Botswana because some fool on my inbound. flight caused trouble by taking disembarkation photos. Major but totally avoidable hassle. Landed in Cape Town on a rainy afternoon with beautiful light and even a farewell rainbow.

Looking forward to another trip to Africa sometime in the future.

Southern Africa Snapshots, Part III

South Africa, Swaziland & Zimbabwe wrap-up.

More places. More wildlife. More connection with the noble battle against Apartheid. More experiences to tuck into my memory bank. And more images to post here, starting with Kruger National Park that by itself is the reason that many international  travelers visit South Africa. Scroll back for previous days’ thumbnail reports, and watch for more to come until I post about my final day.

Day 8 – Kruger National Park

One of the nine gates into humongous Kruger National Park, one of Africa’s largest game reserves, covers an area of 7,523 square miles. It was first protected by the government in 1898, becoming South Africa’s first national park in 1926. To the north is Zimbabwe and to the east Mozambique. It is part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, an international peace park and also part of the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere area designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

And below are some uncaptioned images from the too-short time in his enormous park. We visited for less than a day. Sigh.

The visitor center’s “sightings board” indicates what was seen where. Rhinos are not listed because of the ongoing poaching problem.

Continue reading Southern Africa Snapshots, Part III

Southern Africa Snapshots, Part II

South Africa, Swaziland & Zimbabwe wrap-up.

Continuing words and images of a two-week trip to southern Africa north from Cape Town. This series includes the parks of northern South Africa and a brief (and in my view, unnecessary incursion into Swaziland). This impoverished kingdom has an unemployment rate of more than 90%, high even for sub-Sahara Africa.

Day 4 – Winelands

Heading north out of Cape Town on the legendary N1 Road, AKA the Cape to Cairo Road, the Pan-African Highway or even the Great North Road in sub-Saharan Africa, Looks pretty ordinary here, despite its length and the exotic lands through which it travels.
Vineyard landscapes have a special beauty. I didn’t know it at the time, but near the end of the trip, I learned about the tragic fires in Napa and Sonoma, two leading California wine counties. I’m guessing we’ll be drinking more imported wines for a while — including from South Africa’s Winelands region. Cape Winelands and their cultural landscape were  listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on June 24, 2004 in the Cultural category.
In addition to the usual tasting facility (not a room, because ion warm weather it is on an outdoor patio), the Spice Route Winery has vineyards with a view, a restaurant specializing in African fa are, the CBC craft brewery and tasting room, the wonderful De Villiers chocolate tasting cellar and shop, the Red Hot Glass artisan glass shop, a kids’ playground and more.
Jewelery maker among the many arts and crafts vendors at the Franschhoek Saturday market, along with food purveyors, farmers and bocce adherents who set up a rough court one edge of the market.
Boschendal Wintery & estate is one of the Franschhoek Valley’s oldest. Tasting tables are set up under shade trees near this Dutch-inspired building.

Continue reading Southern Africa Snapshots, Part II

Southern Africa Snapshots, Part I

South Africa, Swaziland & Zimbabwe wrap-up.

I recently returned from two weeks in southern Africa, booked through Gate1Travel with incomparable Anni Hennop as a guide. The continent and the countries we visit provide a kaleidoscope of both positive memories and insights that are hopeful distressing.

Quick takeaways: Enormous income inequity. Vibrant but often violent history. Compelling scenery. Trash and litter (especially plastic bottles) despoiling the landscape. Wonderful wildlife.  Poaching remains problematic. Cultural and creative richness that sees people through and gives hope. Property crime rampant. Political corruption. Go visit and see for yourself.

Meanwhile, below find an image or two from every  place I visited and thing I saw at the beginning of the trip. Visit my Facebook page for more.

Day 1 – Arrival Afternoon

Watershed, an art and design center on Cape Town’s Victoria & Albert Harbor waterfront.

Day 2 – On the Road from Cape Town

Cape Peninsula Drive, one of the world’s most scenic highways. Parts are hacked into steep cliffs. Some stretches offer spectacular scenic views of beaches and bays. Parts lead though the fynbos, known as the smallest but richest of the six floral kingdoms on the planet with some 1,100 species of indigenous plants.
Wild seas. even during calm weather, at Cape Point where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet. Whales are commonly sighted. Seals live on rocky outcrops. Birds fly past.

Continue reading Southern Africa Snapshots, Part I

Washington’s Newest Museum

African-Americans’ struggles & triumphs shown.

The 19th and newest component of the exemplary Smithsonian Institution on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  is the National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC). Its 12 galleries contain more than 3,000 images and artifacts, plus s interactive and  oral histories.

Media who previewed it have singlee out an exhibit showing how separate and unequal life was for African Americans during segregation at the turn of the last century. Others feature a slave cabin from the Point of Pines Plantation on Edisto Island that was dismantled and painstakingly reconstructed piece by piece inside the new museum, a replica of the set of Oprah Winfrey’s television show, a room with pieces of an actual slave ship that wrecked off the coast of South Africa and an airplane used by Tuskegee Airmen, who like the Navajo code talkers in World War II, are finally getting the recognition they deserve. The NMAAHC also honors the better-known African American musicians and sports heroes.

The windows of the $540-million museum are placed to frame views of other iconic buildings around the city. The Contemplative Court is off the history galleries with glass and copper walls and a central, cascading waterfall to enable visitors to begin processing what they have seen.

Consulting chef Carla Hall, a popular Top Chef contestant and one of the country’s best-known African-American chefs of the modern era, is credited with The Sweet Home Café whose four stations serve food from four regions: the agricultural South, the Creole coast, the Northern states and the Western range.

As with all Smithsonian institutions, admission to the NMAAHC is free. Timed passes, which give visitors specific time windows for entry.

Marvelous Memoir of Extended Honeymoon

Newlyweds’ epic adventures chronicled in new book.

CrocodleLove-coverI met Josh Berman at some writers’ event a number of years ago. We went through the usual “what do you write about?”, “where are you from?”, “where do you live?” pleasantries. I learned that he had written a couple of guidebooks to Nicaragua and Belize, that he was wrapping a up a gig as a book editor and, most interestingly, that he and his wife Sutay had traveled around the world for something like two years under the auspices of the Peace Corps and American Jewish World Service. He was planning to write a book about their adventures and experiences.

Then came a few gigs as a fixer for Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain filming in Nicaragua, a book about the Maya calendar that “predicted” the end of the world in 2012 and a transition to teaching Spanish — and he and Sutay, a nurse, childbirth educator and doula, had three little girls. Hop ahead to the end of 2014, when the book came out. It is called Crocodile Love: Travel Tales from an Extended Honeymoon, and it is a very good and lively read about the couple’s experiences in Asia and Africa.

Highlights include Sutay’s unique family legacy in Pakistan that opened many strange and unexpected doors, experiencing the world’s great religions through a traveler’s lens, three months of volunteering on a tea plantation in India, two months with the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana and most poignantly, their unannounced arrival in the mud-hut Gambian village where Sutay had lived as a Peace Corps Volunteer ten years earlier.

I couldn’t wait to read it, so I wove it into the busy holiday period, but it is also the kind of book I like to read when traveling.  The short chapters are further divided into sections, which means it is easy to start, put down and restart without losing the thread. The inspiration for the unusual title doesn’t come until the end, and it’s worth waiting for. I hope you read the book, so I won’t spoil it for you.

A Visit to Harman’s House

‘Cowboy artist’ remembered in Poncha Springs museum.

026My son started attending Fort Lewis College in 2001, and he has lived in Durango ever since. I haven’t counted how many times I’ve traveled U.S. 160, but the last time, my husband and I finally stopped to visit the Fred Harman Art Museum. In my/our defense, it is open six days a week (10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.) in the warm months and open only by appointment in winter, and that schedule doesn’t usually coincide with our travel itinerary.

Volunteer docent shares stories of  Fred Harmon's life and points out important and interesting pieces
Volunteer docent shares stories from Fred Harmon’s life and points out important and interesting pieces

The Harman is one of those fascinating little museums that is too often bypassed. Fred Harman was a gifted self-taught artist who at one time entered into a short-lived, failed film partnership with Walt Disney in Kansas City. Disney went to Hollywood, and Harman  returned to his native Colorado to ranch and make art, working with oils, watercolors, pen-and-ink and bronze. He is best known as the creator of the Red Ryder comic strip, which at its height was syndicated to more than 750 newspapers on three continents.

The museum was Fred Harmon's home and studio.
The museum was Fred Harmon’s home and studio.
Harmon always depicted Native Americans accurately and respectfully, not to be taken for granted. The museum features works by Native artists, and he was made an honorary member of the Navajo Nation.
Harmon always depicted Native Americans accurately and respectfully, not to be taken for granted. The museum features works by Native artists, and he was made an honorary member of the Navajo Nation.

Having finally visited and been captivated by the modest museum and its contents, I am putting it on my recommended list for anyone traveling that way. The address is 85 Harman Park Drive, but you really can’t miss it if you follow the signs on the south side of U.S. 160, just west of downtown Pagosa Springs. The phone number is 970-731-5785. And admission is just $3.

Sweet Amenities at Brown Palace

BrownPalace-logoIs there anyone who hasn’t liberated a little in-room hotel amenity bottles of shampoo or body lotion from the hotel bathroom? I certainly have — mostly a little bar of fine soap or a bottle of body lotion that I haven’t used up. If I were staying at Denver’s Brown Palace Hotel and Spa, some of the new Rooftop Honey Amenity Line of facial and bath soap, bath gel, shampoo, conditioner and hand and body lotion would be coming home with me. The products are made with real honey – in fact, with honey produced on the rooftop of the hotel. It’s thought to be the only hotel amenity line in the country to be made with a hotel’s own honey.

Back in 2010, The Brown Palace began to nurture a colony of bees on the rooftop, intending to use the honey at the hotel’s signature Afternoon Tea. The hotel even began producing a specialty craft beer served in the Ship’s Tavern. Now come the beauty and skin products since honey is known to moisturize, work as an anti-aging agent and fight bacteria. The sweet smelling, paraben-free Bee Royalty Honey Amenity Line is created with natural essences and honey harvested from the hotel’s rooftop beehives, and is also used in The Brown Palace Spa.

Guests who fall in love with the line can purchase more exclusively at the hotel’s spa. FoMoInfo: 303-312-8940.

Namibia’s Black Rhinos in the Wild & in Preserves

West African country protects highly threatened species & other wildlife

Namibia-mapSome 15 years ago, my husband, my son, a friend and I ventured to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. After the thrilling climb, we and a local Arusha guide set off to see wildlife. We visited four national parks and preserves and saw many, many elephants, giraffes, lions, cheetahs, wildebeest, zebras, Cape buffalo,  dik-diks, springbok, baboons, hyenas, warthogs and even a handful of hippos at closer range than we could have imagined. In a sense, our most thrilling sighting was in Ngorongoro Crater, where off in the distance, slowly rising from the high tawny grass were two long, dark shapes — identifiable only through strong binoculars or with a very long camera lens. Black rhinos, our guide told us, among the last in the country. We thrilled to see them and mourned what seemed like extinction in the not-too-distant future.

Two black rhinos in Tanzania's Ngorgoro Crater in 1997.
Two black rhinos in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater in 1997. The rhinos are in the center of the picture. The black shapes on the right are something else.

According to Save the Rhino, an international species conservation organization, “At the beginning of the 20th century there were 500,000 rhinos across Africa and Asia; in 1970 there were 70,000; today, there are fewer than 29,000 rhinos  surviving in the wild. Between 1970 and 1992, large-scale poaching  caused a dramatic 96% collapse in numbers of the Critically Endangered  black rhino. 95% of all the rhinos in the world have now been killed.”

The organization believes that there are now 20,165 white rhinos and just 4,880 black rhinos in Africa. According to a chart compiled in late 2010, Namibia is home to some 1,750 of these rare animals, second only to South Africa. In the all of Tanzania, only 113 black rhinos remained. In fact, it boasts the largest free-roaming population of black rhinos and cheetahs in the world and is the only country with an expanding population of free-roaming lions. That, to me is a signal to move Namibia way up on my bucket list.

Conservation: It’s the Law

Namibia was the first African country to incorporate protection of the environment into its constitution, and the government has reinforced this by giving its communities the opportunity and rights to manage their wildlife through communal conservancies. After Independence in 1990, visionary conservationists in the field and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism enacted policies that allowed rural communities to benefit from wildlife by forming conservancies.  In 1998, the first four conservancies were registered. Today, 65 registered conservancies embrace one in four rural Namibians. A sense of ownership over wildlife and other resources is encouraging people to use their resources sustainably. Wildlife is now embraced as a complimentary land use method to agriculture and livestock herding. More than 40 percent of Namibia’s surface area is under conservation management — national parks and reserves, communal and commercial conservancies, community forests and private nature reserves. Continue reading Namibia’s Black Rhinos in the Wild & in Preserves

Most Ethical Destinations Cited

 Best practices + superb scenic and cultural attractions = ethical travel destinations

EthicalTraveler-logoEthical Traveler’s annual survey of the world’s most ethical tourism destinations highlights 10 countries  in the developing world that have all demonstrated a clear and continuing commitment to environmental protection, human rights and social welfare. They are places you can visit with a clear conscience that you are supporting destinations that exhibit best practices and also offer great scenery and cultural attractions. This year’s 2013 top ethical destinations, in alphabetical order, are Barbados, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Ghana, Latvia, Lithuania, Mauritius, Palau, Samoa and Uruguay. 

“This year’s winners are doing a great job showing the world that you can have a successful tourism industry along with sustainability and social justice,” said Ethical Traveler Executive Director Jeff Greenwald. “With the number of international arrivals expected to top the 1 billion mark in 2013, travelers have more power than ever. Every dollar we spend is a statement about which countries and governments we choose to support. By visiting the countries on our list, savvy travelers can have great vacations and promote the values we all share.”

Ethical Traveler used publicly available data to evaluate destinations on a broad spectrum of criteria including ecosystem support, natural and cultural attractions, political rights, press freedom, women’s equality, commitment to LGBT rights, and— the survey’s newest indicator— terrestrial and marine area protection.

Among the three examples of best practices: “Ghana maintains a high degree of freedom of the press, has a stable democracy which just re-elected a pro-environment President; about 15 percent of its territory is environmentally protected in some form. Latvia is well-rated for human rights and press freedom; it was also the most-improved country on the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) Environmental Performance Index (EPI). In Uruguay, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights and women’s rights are among the best in the region.”

This year’s report also includes a section recognizing “Destinations of Interest” for the coming year.  While not part of the 10 Best Ethical Destinations, Ethical Traveler encourages potential tourists to peer behind the “media curtain” and explore controversial countries like Burma, Cuba and Namibia that are in the midst of dramatic social changes.”