Friday, July 28, 2006


WARNING: This blog entry contains graphic pictures of awesome stuff, including blood and things dying. Don't look at them if you don't want to see cute animals getting killed by other cute animals.

But first things first. I just got back from the Masai Mara national park for a two-day safari. Here's how it all went down:

Right now the great migration is going on. The zebras started a few weeks ago, and are still moving through the area, and are currently being joined by the buffalo. This is pretty impressive to see, because there are something like 250,000 wildebeast moving through the area right now. That almost makes up for how ugly they are (but now quite). There are still tens of thousands of zebras around as well.

We got there in time for the evening game drive on Wednesday night. We were able to find a lioness and a cub. They're beautiful and everything, but they don't make for exciting viewing in the evening. We watched them sit there and yawn for about 20 minutes. Unfortunately, there were about 50,000 tourists just like this one surrounding them, so it was difficult to get a decent picture of them without a van behind them. I did manage to get this one though.

That was about all we saw that evening. The next morning, we got a sluggish start. Our guides told us we didn't need to get going until 8:00. I'm still not sure why they did that, but nobody complained because it meant we got to sleep, and considering that we just finished finals, nobody complained much. Unfortunately, the big predators do most of their hunting in the morning. So we missed the prime part of the day.

We did spot a bunch of vultures circling around, so we headed over. On the way, our driver spotted the cheetahs. There were three of them, and they still had blood on their faces. They just kind of hung out there before walking right past our vans. It was pretty cool to see how little fear they had of getting close to the vans.

This turned out to be a lot cooler of a picture than I thought it might be. Just goes to show that you never know which ones are going to be the really cool ones.

We were headed to the River Mara, where the wildebeast cross every morning. Owing to our late start, and our van bending an axle on a bump, we got to the river after the wildebeast had crossed it for the day. That was unfortunate because there are a lot of crocodiles in the river, and they take out wildebeast fairly regularly there, and I was really, really hoping to see one of those ugly suckers get taken down. So we missed all that action. But we did see about 40 hippos there.

There are a couple of points of interest. One, the hippos. Two, the prolific amount of bubbles coming up about 1.5 meters behind the head of the hippo. Fortunately nobody lit a match then. It could have been catastrophic. The other cool thing is the two crocodiles behind the hippos sunning themselves. The more obvious one was probably around 12 feet long. The one that looks like a log was huge. They didn't move a bit the whole time, so we never got to see how long the big one was, but it had to be around 18-20 feet long. It was amazing. I would have loved to see one of those chomp a wildebeast. Oh well...

At this point, we were in the middle of a very hot day, and the animals don't move around much when it's hot, so we headed back to eat lunch while the animals were lying down to get out of the sun, and come back out in the evening when they're more active. This marked the river crossing. I thought it was kind of a cool shot.

This is what happens if you put sunscreen on, and then stand up in a safari vehicle on a dusty road behind another vehicle.

This one is one of my most prized photographs from the whole summer. It's of a guy we named Herman the German. He had a blossoming spikey mullet. It was choice. I thought it was funny, so I decided to take a picture of him as our van drivers below us were talking to each other. What I didn't anticipate was my flash going off in his face. He gave me a dirty look after taking the picture, and everyone in our van laughed.

Later on, we caught up to a couple of males hanging out on a huge rock outcropping. It was awesome to sit and watch them, but it was overcast, and nearing twilight, and we were looking into the sun, so it was difficult to get the light to cooperate with us. I managed to get a couple of OK photos, but nothing to scream about.

There were killer skylines everywhere you looked. It was seriously amazing.

So the next morning, we got out and on the road at 6:30. Some of our group had to catch a plane later on that afternoon, so we didn't have a lot of time to deal with, but it was a last ditch effort to see something get killed. We saw a ton of buffalo, but no word of anything getting killed. Then, as our driver was heading in to take the people to the airport, a call came in on the CB, and he flipped around and started driving like a mad man. He didn't tell us what was going on, but when he drove probably 45 miles an hour over a wash board road, I figured there was something worth seeing.

This was the first thing I saw when I got there. There were about 15 lions that I saw in total. The older lionesses had wounded the zebra, and were letting the younger lions hone their hunting skills on it. That allowed the zebra to stay standing for a lot longer than usual, and allowed us to see a kill in process.

They had taken a pretty sizeable chunk out of its hind quarter. Half of the time the younger lions were trying to eat more than they were trying to kill it. Zebras have it rough. Particularly this one.

Unfortunately, my battery died right after I took this photo. There was lots more cool stuff going on, but I didn't have any battery left to get it. I did get some decent video footage, and maybe once I'm back in the states with a decent intronet connection, I'll put the video on here. Until then, trust me when I say it was awesome.

Also unfortunate was that we didn't have much time because of the people that had to catch their stupid flight. We did get to watch for about 10 minutes, but then we had to head back. I'm glad I got to see what I did see, but I was in the middle of seeing one of the coolest things I've ever seen, and had to leave before it got good. 5 minutes after we left, they took it down and finished the job. 10 minutes after that, they started hunting another zebra. I don't know if that hunt was succesful or not. But our other van did get to stay back because nobody in that van had to catch a flight. I kicked myself pretty hard because I started to get on the van without people for the airport first thing in the morning, but changed my mind at the last second. So they got a front row seat to a pride of lions finishing off a zebra, and starting to eat. To say I was a little jealous would be the understatement of the year.

So those are some of the highlites. Unfortunately, those don't really begin to show how amazing of a plaze it really is. The only way to appreciate it is to see it yourself. So call your travel agent... Seriously though, if you get a chance, Masai Mara is NOT to be missed.

So my Africa trip will be over in a few days. I'll be back in the states soon, and back to not having anything all that cool to blog about, unless you like hearing about what a second year law student is studying, in which case, consult professional help.

I'll be seeing some of you soon.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Miscellaneous pictures

So stupid school has really been cramping my African vacation. I was going to try to go to Cairo last weekend, but it didn't pan out. But, as a friend of mine put it, what's Egypt got anyway? A bunch of sand, a few pyramids, mummies, sewage problems and terrible attitude toward women. So I guess I really didn't miss out much.

Also, finals are next week, so I have to do some studying. BORING!!

Anyway, I figured I'd toss a few pictures on that none of you would have seen yet. Hope you enjoy.

From my dhou trip in Lamu. The guy has to stand on the board to counterbalance, and keep the wind from blowing the sail boat over. It was good entertainment just watching the guy walk back and forth along the board.

I took this one from the top floor of this guy's house in Lamu. I stopped to ask him a question, and the next thing I knew, he took me all over the place to help me get a few pictures. It kind of gives a feel for what it looked like there.

How come donkeys always look depressed? Seriously, when they made up the Eeyore character, they hit it right on the head. Every one I saw looked like its mother had just died.

This was taken in a clandestine fashion by my friend, Chris. This German fellow was walking across part of the glacier on the top of Kilimanjaro when he fell down and smacked his head on the ice. I'm probably lucky it didn't happen to me. I only blacked out once, and I caught myself before I hit my head on a rock. Anyway, Chris got the shot, and then the girls in our group got mad at him for taking the picture. They said something about being insensitive, or something; I don't remember. I almost tried to take a picture of him, but by the time I got there, there were too many people around him to get a picture. I'm sure if the guy saw this picture, he'd be glad someone took it.

This is where we stayed the fourth night on the mountain. This spot was about 14,200 feet, or something like that. Blah blah blah--I'm like a slide show, but in written form, inflicting you with painful detail of everything going on in the shot.

This one is definitely on my list of my favorite shots I've taken this whole trip.

This was taken from the summit. I was in a total altitude-induced haze at this point. It was one of the weirdest feelings of my life. Kind of like coming out of anesthesia, but colder, and more wind. Anyway, that's another big mountain in the background (forgot what it's called). You can look at all of them on Google Earth. I checked it out the other day.

That's Chris. I just liked how this shot turned out.

And finally, I really struggled with whether or not I was going to post this shot. A few weeks ago, I let the beard go for a while, and it was getting out of control. I don't have a beard trimmer with me, so I decided to shave, but before I went to that extreme, I decided to see what the old molestache would look like on me. Judge for yourself:

Seriously, that's just scary. If I had kids, I wouldn't have allowed myself to be around them until I shaved that thing off. It still gives me a full-body shiver when I look at that picture.

OK kids, that's all for now. Next week I'll be watching the wildebeast migration. I guess there's a pretty good chance of us seeing a lion or crocodile, or something take a wildebeast down. I so hope I get to see that. So if things go well, the next post I throw on here will have some great blood and guts. Here's hoping...

Monday, July 10, 2006

Dallas: 1 Kilimanjaro: 0.

I climbed the world's tallest free-standing mountain.

Heart palpitations, heavy breathing, halucinations, light headedness, sweating profusely, vertigo, difficulty thinking clearly, stumbling over words... No, I'm not talking about my first date with Jessica Stein, I'm talking about my assault on Kilimanjaro. --Or should I say Kilimanjaro's assault on me? Let me sum it up by saying this: Coolest...Climb...EVER!

They say that even a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, so I figured I'd make the first step as dramatic as possible, especially considering that I wasn't sure if I would make it to the last step.

We started out below the rain forest area. We hiked through a few villages, complete with kids coming out and asking us for candy. Before long, we got into the rain forest area, which felt incredible. Perfect temperature with a hint of humidity. It was even greener than New York. Even the trees have plants growing on them. At one point I counted 4 different types of plants growing on the branch of a tree.

The first few days were actually not all that difficult. We made it to this camp site on the second day. We had our guide, Victor, up front setting the pace the whole way, and we pretty much poked along at a snail's pace. It was pretty aggravating for a while, but then I realized that I should probably listen to Victor, considering that he's the expert on the mountain and all. Anyway, the slow pace gave me lots of chances to take some cool pictures, and not be totally sore the next day, so I have no complaints.

By the fourth day, we were at pretty serious altitude. We were around 14,200 feet above sea level, which was an all-time high for me. By the time we made it to this camp, one girl from our group had dropped out due to altitude sickness. She puked 20+ times during the night before, and that morning. This picture is at the camp, where someone from another group was also suffering from altitude sickness, so the guides pulled out some type of portable hyperbaric tent, or some such thing. Our guide tried to explain what it did, but I never understood him completely. I think it might just concentrate the oxygen enough to help someone recover from hypoxia. Anyway, they had the guy in there for about 4 hours before they let him out, and then they took him back down to lower altitude.

The camping spots were incredible, as were the stars. You can see the Southern Cross in this shot, which comes to The Dally News courtesy of my friend, Brittany (Britney, Brittney, or however you spell it.)

The fifth day is where the mountain really upped the ante. It got cold, and really windy, which meant that the Chacos had to come off, or face the possibility of frostbite. The hike to Kibo Hut was a lot rougher than it looked like it should be. We stayed the fifth night at Kibo Hut, which sits at 15,615 feet above sea level. (That's almost 2,100 feet higher than King's Peak, the highest peak in Utah, for those of you keeping score.) You can't really see Kibo Hut in this picture, but it's there. We had to walk across the saddle behind me to the foot of the mountain, which sounds pretty easy. But once we hit even the slightest uphill climb, we had to move at about .5 feet a second. It was the most frustrating thing ever, because if you moved any faster, you would feel like passing out almost instantly. I lost count of how many heart palpitations I had. The wind was also blowing at around 40 mph across the area, so it wasn't comfortable.

We got into Kibo Hut at about 2:00. We took a break for a few hours, and during that time, the girl that they had to take down earlier due to altitude sickness came waltzing into camp. Apparently they got her down to the first camp, and she felt a lot better, so she talked the porters and the rangers into letting her try again. She climbed almost 7,000 vertical feet to catch back up to us before we attempted to summit. Pretty incredible, considering how difficult it was just to make it to the base of the mountain.

Summit day actually started at 11:00 PM of the same day that we made it to Kibo Hut. We got up, ate a little, and then started to climb at midnight. It was well below freezing, and the higher we got, the worse the wind got. At about 1/3 of the way up, one of our party just collapsed without warning. He was pretty loopy, but came to quickly. He decided it would be best to head down b/c he was walking like he was drunk, and we were getting into the steep part of the mountain. Not long after he headed down, I started feeling vertigo pretty badly when I held still, and felt like my heart was going to explode when I was moving.

We made it to Gilman's point, the first part of the rim of the crater you reach, by about 6:00, just as the sun was rising. Orion was just setting, which was cool, because it's my favorite constellation, and I haven't ever seen it in July before. It was also amazingly beautiful, which was a big bonus. Meanwhile, I was delerious, freezing, suffering from altitude sickness, and otherwise not in the mood for taking pictures, which is why once again, this photo is courtesy of Brittany. Like a jerk, I didn't take that many pictures from the top of the mountain. Fortunately I have friends who did.

Pretty much everywhere you looked on the top of the mountain was gorgeous. I don't think there are too many other glaciers this close to the equator. Unfortunately, at the rate things appear to be going, this one might not be around too much longer. The glacier has been shrinking dramatically over the last 10 years. Most people attribute it to global warming.

5895 meters = 19,453 feet. That's really high. So were the three porters who, while this picture was being taken, were smoking pot immediately to my left.

When we got to the bottom of the mountain and left the national park, I found a fellow cougar. I thought it was awesome, especially when I noticed how stoned he was. Seriously, check out the dude's eyes. That made the moment all the cooler. Go cougs!

So that is a glance at Kilimanjaro. It ruled. I've climbed it. You haven't.

So my time in Africa is drawing to a close. Not too many adventures ahead of me, and then I'll be back to having a lame blog. But in the meantime, I've got one more cool trip for sure in a few weeks, and possibly a trip to Cairo, Egypt in the meantime. As usual, I'll keep you posted.
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