Tuesday, June 27, 2006


So this weekend I was on an island called Lamu. It's part of an archipelago along the coast of Kenya on the Indian Ocean. This picture was taken at one of the hostels where we stayed. Yes, these grounds are part of a hostel. It was amazing. Not as many frills as the one in Mombasa, but that was a 5-star resort. This place cost about 6 bucks a night. At night time I went on the roof, and you wouldn't believe how many stars you can see. I don't think I've been that far away from any major population centers too many times in my life. I got to see the southern cross again, but other than that, I really can't remember any southern hemisphere constellations.

Anyway, Lamu is a very heavily muslim island with some of the most friendly people you could imagine. Many of the non-muslims, if not most were really taking on the rastafarian lifestyle. Everyone there was super friendly. I found that they were friendly for one of two reasons: they were pretty much all really good-hearted people, and/or they were stoned out of their minds. OK, the muslim people weren't stoned out of their minds, but all of the rastafarians were. Whole lotta tokin' going on. It kept things entertaining, that's for sure. Anyway, they were some of the most mellow people I've been around. I loved it.

Anyway, it was one of the mellowest places I have been, right up there with the pacific islands. I saw two cars and three motorcycles in four days. In the same time I saw about 500 donkeys. That's how people move stuff around the island, so I quickly noticed that the acrid smell of burning garbage and diesel fumes you get used to smelling in Nairobi were replaced with the smell of donkey poo, inadequate sewage systems and rotting fish parts. But for all that, I think it was my favorite place I've been so far. There were only 15 or so other tourists there, so we were quite the novelty. It was great. It felt like turning your clock back a few thousand years. I took advantage of the time there by wandering around and doing nothing. I haven't done that for a while now. Mostly wandered the town and took photos. At one point, I asked an older guy named Hassan a few questions, and the next thing I knew, he took me to his house so I could see the view from his roof, let me take a bunch of pictures of the architecture of the place (unfortunately none of them turned out very good) and then took me to his friend's house so I could see the view from there, and answered a bunch of my questions about Islam. I really can't say enough about how nice the people there were.

There's lots of cool architecture around the place. I would have killed for a real camera and black and white film.

This is a dhou. It's a traditional muslim boat that they've been sailing through the archipelago since the 13th century, or something like that. We went on a cool ride one day. Sailing's pretty fun, even if all we did was sit and try not to get in the way of the crew that didn't speak very much english.

There are wrecked dhous all over the place. A better photographer than I would be able to get some great shots. I had to settle for mediocre ones like this.

This was the airport. When we boarded to leave, there was a guy with a lawnmower cutting the grass on the arrival/departure terminal/rest of the runway. You gotta love seeing stuff like that.

That's Lamu behind me. That's me in front of Lamu.

This was one of my favorite shots. There are tons of hagrid looking cats running around the city, climbing brick walls, and dodging the rocks that the local kids throw at them, which appeared to be one of their favorite pasttimes. Anyway, this one must not have dodged quickly enough. I came across it while combing the beach, and thought it turned out to be a cool picture.

And this one is for anyone coming here from 13 O'Clock. The one that looks like Shauna is on the front row, second one in from the left. Click the photo to enlarge it. It's pretty tough to tell from the pictures, but I've got some video of her that you can see the resemblance a lot better in. So you'll just have to trust me that the semblance was uncanny.

So that's it. My next post won't be for a while. All next week I'm going to be climbing Kilimanjaro. That one is going to take a while, but if I make it back alive, I'll throw pictures up when I can.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Samburu National Wildlife Reserve Safari

This week's adventure is brought to you by the Samburu National Wildlife Reserve. There were more animals out there than you would believe. At first, we were stopping to take pictures of everything, b/c we were amazed to see any form of African wildlife. By the second day, we were becoming much harder to impress. What? Another impala? OK. Let's move on. Funny how quickly what was previously amazing became ordinary. Anyway, we probably saw 500+ impala, 50 or more elephants, 20-30 reticulated giraffes, a bunch of zebras, a couple of secretary birds, a bunch of gazelles, common antelope, a few herds of oryx, 3 ostrich, 2 leapords, a lion, and a partridge in a pear tree. It was a lot of fun, and made all the more fun by being in such a group of goofy yahoos.

When we first got to where this leopard was, the leopard was in the middle of this huge snag of a dead tree, where he was almost impossible to see. It took me a few minutes to figure out what everyone was looking at. One of my friends mused, "Wow, I wonder how they spotted him..." I responded, "They're actually born that way." Oh! Man alive. How can you handle wit like that? You can't, that's how.

Pretty sad that I'm still re-living my witty comment a few days later.

Our guide told us the calf appeared to be about 4-5 weeks old. The day before this, we had been charged by an elephant. I have video of it. Anyway, having been charged by an animal that probably outweighed our vehicle just the day before, I was a little nervous about getting that close to a mother and child. But they really didn't seem to mind our being there too much. It was pretty cool to be that close to an animal that outweighed our vehicle easily, and could probably throw it a few yards without much effort, and watch it graze along and take care of its calf.

This is a reticulated giraffe. I think the only difference between this and other giraffes is that this type has a different spotting pattern. I learned that giraffes don't do much anything other than eat. It's also really funny to watch them drink b/c it's not easy to get that wicked long neck down to the water. Other than that, they don't do much.


This is what the front of the monkey from above looks like. It's a vervet. They're crafty little devils. Our last day there, they tried to break into our tent twice. They untied a knot, and unzipped the tent and snuck in, but forgot to hold the zipper still, b/c when it started jingling, I woke up and chased them out. Our friends in the next tent over were sleeping a little heavier than I on account of copious amounts of alcohol they consumed the night before, so vervets got in their tent, stole all their room service cookies, sugar packets, one guy's perscription sunglasses, and who knows what else. Naughty little monkey.

These are oryx. Both males and females have horns, and both males and females are known to initiate mating, which makes them unusual in the animal world on two accounts.

We had to do some hard looking, but we were able to track down a lion (I make it sound like I had something to do with it). As soon as we found the lion and our driver sent out the word of where she was, the cavalry decended in a frenzy of dust, diesel fumes, SUV's, camera clicks, gasps of awe, and admonitions from tourists-turned-African-wildife-experts to be quiet so you wouldn't scare it. (Because I'm sure she couldn't hear or smell or see the 10 diesel engines within 30 feet of her carrying stinky, noisy tourists through the brush and sticks of the area...) It was crazy. In a way, it reminded me of combat fishing in Alaska ;) Drivers jockeying for position so their people could get good pictures. Kind of comical, really. In the blink of an eye, there were more pasty-white Euro tourists snapping pictures of her than you can imagine. (For some reason I've convinced myself that I don't look anywhere near as much like a tourist as the Euros do).

And one final note: Ashleigh, you're gonna LOSE.

So that's Samburu at a glance. Gorgeous place. We also visited a Samburu village, and got to spend a little time there, and got the white-tourist-eye-view of what life is like in the village. I mostly took videos there, so I can't post much of that.

Anyway, I'm not sure when my next adventure is going to be, but I'm working on putting together a trip this weekend to an island called Lamu. It's part of an archipelago that people just kind of hang out and sail around in. Transport on this one is proving difficult, so it might not happen. If not, it might be a while before I have good pictures up again. I'll do my best not to disappoint both of the people who check in frequently though.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

They really have all those weird looking animals in Africa!

So this weekend's adventure was heading out to Lake Naivasha. We stayed in a nice Country Club place. This is up north of Nairobi, and kind of in higher land than what we've seen so far. There were actually a lot of places that reminded me of Utah in the high Uintas. Really heavily wooded areas on steep hills. It was pretty cool. Anyway, we went walking out on a big peninsula on the lake which is where they filmed most of Out of Africa, for those old farts reading the blog. For the younger crowd, they also filmed part of Tomb Raider II there. When they were filming Out of Africa, they brought a bunch of plains animals there that weren't there naturally for effect, and they decided to maintain the herds there b/c dumb tourists such as yours truly will pay money to walk around looking at zebras, wildebeasts, giraffes, gazelles and such without having to worry about lions or cheetahs, or whatever. As long as I'm the top of the food chain, I'm happy.

This was a younger giraffe. Our tour guide told us a bunch of information about it, but I forgot it all. It was hard to get a shot of one of the giraffes b/c there were about 25 other dumb tourists trying to get a picture of them too. I'm surprised they don't get mad and charge. It was pretty cool watching them run. They can actually move pretty quickly.

Another giraffe. Probably young. Our guide probably told me something about it, but I probably forgot it all.

Despite the fact that I think the wildebeast may very well be the ugliest mammal on the planet, this picture wound up looking OK. If you look at the mountain in the background, that's Mount Olongonot. We climbed that today. It's a former volcano that blew out a crater about 1.5 miles across and probably 500+ feet deep. I got to the top and found out that I had taken too many videos of the giraffes and my camera battery was dead. So I didn't get any pictures of the volcano. Hopefully someone has some I can borrow. Anyway, I thought that even though the wildebeast is kind of stupid looking, this is a decent shot.

We also saw a few hippos. They didn't seem too thrilled that we were taking their pictures. They mostly just sunk under the water as soon as they saw us, but I did manage to get this shot of 5 of them.

This was almost a really cool shot. I'm not sure what it needed to make it a really good shot. But I thought I'd toss it on there. It was a lot of fun.

Oops! Looks like the rain really is down in Africa. It just started raining, so I guess I'd better get my laptop back inside.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Africa is pretty cool.

Just got back from four days in the most incredible resort hotel I've ever seen. Graduate students have no business in the world staying in a place this nice. It was amazing. We were by far the youngest people there that weren't with their parents. We were also the only group whose males were not wearing speedos. Crazy Euros. Dudes in Speedos... I don't think I'll ever get used to that. At least I hope I never do.

Anyway, on the way there, we saw some African wildlife. This is the only cool picture I got. We saw a few giraffes too, but they were too far off the road to try to take pictures. And we were in a bit of a crazy spot on the road. Getting smashed by an 18-wheeler is not something I want to do anytime soon, so we kept moving. But I can check wild zebras and wild giraffe off my list. We saw tons of monkeys too. I can't remember what kind they were, but they're a lot bigger than I expected. They're everywhere on the coast. The girls in the room next to ours had room service at one point, and left their dishes sitting outside of their room. I walked out later that day, and there was a monkey sitting there cleaning up after them. I tried to get my camera, but he was gone before I could get a picture.

In other wildlife news, there are geckos everywhere. We've seen a few in our apartment back in Nairobi. So far, I don't think they're the kind that makes noise at night, so I'm completely cool with having them around. It's kind of cool to have something scurry across the wall and have it not be a cockroach, or anything else nasty.

I also got to do some deep sea fishing. I was hoping to catch a dorado or two (a.k.a. mahi mahi, a.k.a. dolphin fish), or maybe a tuna, but that wasn't in the cards. We tried for them for about 2 hours, and didn't see anything other than one of the most intense rain storms I've ever seen. At one point you couldn't really even see the swells on the ocean because there was so much water splashing with the rain falling. Thankfully we were in a cab cruiser b/c I wasn't in the mood to get soaked, and I didn't take my rain jacket.

This one had already been dead for a while when I took the picture. I really wanted to get a picture of it when it was alive b/c they look so much better in pictures when they're alive. But the guides insisted that they were too dangerous to pick up. What they didn't know, and didn't understand when I tried to explain to them was that I have handled this type of fish before, and am no greenhorn when it comes to handling fish, and I frankly don't care if I get stung or bitten a little bit. Anything for a good picture.

This is what they look like when they're alive. I waited for the guides to turn their backs, and picked it up for the picture. I got cut up a little, but nothing too bad. It was worth it.

This one got attacked by a big barracuda as my buddy was reeling it in. I was really hoping to get to catch a big barracuda, but it didn't happen. Any fish that can do this to another fish with one speeding pass is cool in my book.

So anyway, this is my first Africa post. I'll try to do them every so often, but it's difficult b/c the internet is so painfully slow and inconsistent here. But I'll do my best.
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