MW Mobile Blog

For friends, family and the random search engine visitor. This blog started as an experiment in mobile blogging from my Palm TREO 600 700 Prē HTC Evo,Samsung 5. Now it serves as a simple repository of favorite activities. Expect bad golf, good fishing, great sailing, eating, drinking, adventure travel, occasional politics and anything else I find interesting along the way including, but not limited to, any of the labels listed here...

Wednesday, October 18, 1995

Africa Journal - South Africa => London => Home


Tuesday, October 17 - Wednesday, October 18, 1995



London Afterword

We break up the long flight home with two days in London. On the flight I sleep some, Sigrid does not. We visit galleries in the neighborhood of the Ritz Hotel, shop for books on Africa, and have an excellent Thai meal at the Blue Elephant in Chelsea.

On Wednesday, we attend Africa, The Art of Continent, a wide ranging exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. In the exhibition we find one of the eight carved soapstone birds found at Great Zimbabwe. It’s provenance is in the show catalog: "1889, removed from the Eastern Enclosure of the Hill Ruin, Great Zimbabwe; sold by W. Posselt to Cecil John Rhodes."


Looking at the bird in the exhibit we come full circle and are transported back to the beginning of our trip, touring Great Zimbabwe. There, our guide, Prospah showed us replicas of the birds and taking us to the empty pedestals where the birds were found. Sigrid remembers Prospah lamenting that fact that most of the birds had been taken from the country, and his hopes that they will eventually be returned. "Not bloody likely." I think.


We may see this bird again, when the exhibition moves to the Guggenhiem in New York next year. Prospah will probably never see it.

=================

NOTE FROM THE FUTURE:
 This is a back-post / cross-post from my first on-line journal/blogging effort - a journal of our Southern Africa Tour in 1995. Originally posted to an abandoned domain (NetSnake.com), the term "blog" had not yet entered the parlance. I am migrating the original posts to this blog. Links to the original journal Date Index or Africa Tour Home Page will likely eventually disappear. The images from the original post were graphics and screen caps from video which I am leaving in it's low-rez glory for historical integrity. My intent is to also add some of Sigrid's higher quality scanned photos to these blog back-posts.  The difference in images should be obvious.

Monday, October 16, 1995

Africa Journal - Cape Town (and EssEff)


Sunday, October 14 - Monday, October 16, 1995


"All I wanted to do now was get back to Africa. We had not left it, yet, but when I would wake in the night I would lie, listening, homesick for it already... I felt at home, and where a man feels at home, outside of where he’s born, is where he’s meant to go."

Ernest Hemingway - Green Hills of Africa

Cape Town 
(and San Francisco)

Well, old Ernie’s comments notwithstanding, I’m ready to go home. Home to San Francisco. I wasn’t born in San Francisco, but I've lived there for the last dozen years, and San Francisco is where I feel at home. So, according to Ernie, that's where I'm meant to go. It has been a great trip, maybe our best ever, but now I'm homesick and there are still five more fun-filled days in Herr Travelmeister Sigrid’s itinerary. We press on.

The SAA flight is an hour late into Cape Town. We are met by Renata, representing GRS Safaris, who will be our guide for the next two days. We load our bags into the GRS Volkswagen bus, and head to the Bay Hotel. Our room is next to an inviting pool overlooking a beautiful rocky beach. Everything about the Bay Hotel speaks to me in soothing whispers of rest and relaxation. It is exactly what I need. We meet in the cafe to review the agenda and I savor the best cup of java I’ve had since leaving San Francisco.


There is something very likable about Renata. She is a self-styled sixties flower child, an enthusiastic booster of Cape Town, a student of it’s history, and overflowing with ideas of what we must see while we are here. She chides us for not leaving enough time in our trip for the area and laments that there too much to see for the time we have. Because of the late start, she explains, we will not even get to everything listed in Andrea’s itinerary. While I sip my expresso and gaze longingly at the pool, Sigrid and Renata start plotting how to pack as much as possible into the next three days, including starting earlier on Sunday and adding a Monday morning tour. It suddenly strikes me, that after four weeks of bouncing along in the back of various Safari trucks, the notion of three days of bouncing along in the back of a Volkswagen bus is pretty damn close to the very last thing on earth I want to do. I bring the two of them back to reality, and we scale back the tour plans, leaving some significant pool time for me.

 Cape Town and San Francisco

Still, over the next two days we cover quite a bit of ground. I feel it necessary to explain my state of mind, because it might be the reason every single thing we did and saw, in and around Cape Town, reminded me of San Francisco. Consider: Cape Town is a modern cosmopolitan city built on a rolling, hilly peninsula between a bay and an ocean, which moderates the temperature year-round - Just like San Francisco. The city center and financial district are concentrated into a relatively small sections of the city - Just like San Francisco. While Cape Town plays second fiddle to Johannesburg in terms of population size and overall economic activity, the residents are quite provincial and smug about their quality of life and wouldn’t move to Johannesburg on a bet - Exactly like San Francisco and Los Angeles. Cape Town’s Waterfront, a historical fishing wharf, has been taken over by restaurants and retail developments that cater to tourists, and are avoided by the locals - Just like San Francisco’s Fisherman's Wharf. Much of the charm and character of the city comes from it’s old Victorian homes, many of which are protected as historical landmarks - Just like San Francisco (although their Victorians look very different than our Victorians - I don’t know why).

Theirs and Ours

Cape Town has a large phallic monument to the Afrikaans language on the top of a hill with breathtaking views of the area. San Francisco has a large phallic monument to San Francisco firemen on the top of a hill with breathtaking views of the area (Theirs is bigger than ours). The coastal highway out of Capetown hangs on the edge of cliffs between breaking surf and towering rocky hills, winding through coastal communities, resorts, and seafood restaurants, all with spectacular vistas of the ocean, kelp filled coves, and wet-suited surfers plying rocky beaches - exactly like San Francisco. The premier wine growing region for the continent is an easy drive from Cape Town, with vineyards covering gently rolling hills and valleys - Just like . . . I think I’ve made my point. Anyway, we had great meals at the Black Marlin, on the coast, and the Grande Roche, in the wine country. Almost as good as you can get in San Francisco. Oh yeah, At The Bay Hotel, I finally get connected to the net and transfer entries back to Harlan. It seems that Cape Town considers itself to be the center of Internet and Multimedia activity for the entire country - just like San Francisco.

There are differences. Cape Town has no cable cars or redwoods, their mountains are bigger than our hills, but then our Wharf is much tackier than their Waterfront. On the other hand...

 Penguin at Boulder Beach and Baboon at the Cape of Good Hope

They have penguins and baboons. The only thing that we have to compare with the penguins is the Black and White Ball, and that only happens every other year. And we have nothing to compare with baboons, except... maybe this:
SF Mayor Frank Jordan
A Cape Town Postscript: Upon returning to San Francisco, I discovered another surprising connection between these two cities by the bay... It seems that in 1849, one Joshua Norton moved from Cape Town to San Francisco, where he was destined to become the only Emperor of the United States in the history of our country. To this day, the legacy of Emperor Norton continues to echo through history and shape the psyche of modern San Franciscans. Many in my adopted city, myself included, believe that most of what San Francisco is today can be attributed to this legendary Cape Town emigre'.

=================

NOTE FROM THE FUTURE:
 This is a back-post / cross-post from my first on-line journal/blogging effort - a journal of our Southern Africa Tour in 1995. Originally posted to an abandoned domain (NetSnake.com), the term "blog" had not yet entered the parlance. I am migrating the original posts to this blog. Links to the original journal Date Index or Africa Tour Home Page will likely eventually disappear. The images from the original post were graphics and screen caps from video which I am leaving in it's low-rez glory for historical integrity. My intent is to also add some of Sigrid's higher quality scanned photos to these blog back-posts.  The difference in images should be obvious.

Friday, October 13, 1995

Africa Journal - Kalahari => Maun => Johannesburg


Friday, October 13, 1995



Farewells

There is time for one more early morning drive. We are driving before the sun is up. It is cold. Edward suggested we wear jackets. I ignore his advice, and become reacquainted with the sensation of goose pimples and chattering teeth. A hot breakfast, shower and pack, and everything and everyone goes into the Beast. At the Kalahari International Airport we watch the Hemingway Air Force come in for a landing. There are campers in an island of trees next to the strip. They are astounded to discover that they almost camped on a runway. The planes are filled with provisions for the next Hemingway tour, which will be arriving two days hence. We say our good-byes to Edward. As I get on the plane I ask him again if we were the best group. He laughs and says we were the best group so far. I think we overtipped.


We fly in formation to Maun. In Maun we lunch at Rileys, then next door to Harry’s Bar, where we drink under the gaze of stuffed Buffalo and Kudu heads. It is a fitting finish for the Hemingway Tour. I pick up a paper and read that OJ had been acquitted the week before after a four hour deliberation. Welcome back to civilization.


The International waiting room at the Maun airport is a Quonset hut with overstuffed chairs and electric fans. The fans are not much help as the temperature approaches 50 degrees C. (122 F.). The Air Botswana flight to Johannesburg is a fifty seat ATR 42 turboprop. This is the same plane that crashed in Indiana because of icing problems. Nobody is worried.

Maun
In Johannesburg we say our good-byes to Manfred and Emy, who connect to Durban for a week on the Indian Ocean, and then to Wayne and Kathy who are connecting through New York to home.

Tonight we stay at the Airport Holiday Inn. In the morning we fly to Capetown. I decide to try and get back into the net. I don’t have the correct connector for the phone in the room. No adapters are available. Bruce at the front desk is very helpful and suggests that the phone line behind the Concierge desk might work. It does have the right physical connection, and I am able to dial into the local CompuServe line, but it has a different log-in script, and I cannot get the PPP connection to work. I am unwilling to take the economic risk of another long call back into the US, as I now have quite a backlog of entries to send in. Another failed attempt. Maybe Cape Town.

=================

NOTE FROM THE FUTURE:
 This is a back-post / cross-post from my first on-line journal/blogging effort - a journal of our Southern Africa Tour in 1995. Originally posted to an abandoned domain (NetSnake.com), the term "blog" had not yet entered the parlance. I am migrating the original posts to this blog. Links to the original journal Date Index or Africa Tour Home Page will likely eventually disappear. The images from the original post were graphics and screen caps from video which I am leaving in it's low-rez glory for historical integrity. My intent is to also add some of Sigrid's higher quality scanned photos to these blog back-posts.  The difference in images should be obvious.

Thursday, October 12, 1995

Africa Journal - Kalahari


Thursday, October 12, 1995



"They Look So Clean!"

Our last full day on safari. A day in the desert. The Kalahari is Edward’s favorite camp. Fewer safari trucks. Fewer campers. Fewer people. This is where Edward goes on holiday. He drives out to the Kalahari alone in The Beast to camp. He used to sleep in the cab, with his head and feet hanging out the doors. One night he woke to find lion staring at his head. Now he sleeps on the canvas top over the back of the truck.

Oryx

The wildlife here are not as accustomed to the trucks and do not let us approach as closely. Nevertheless we have a great spotting day, including animals we had not seen before. We see Oryx, honey badger, desert squirrels, and barking geckos. We see ostrich doing a mating dance, and a jackal digging in a burrow for squirrels. We see a cheetah in the far distance, but it does not let us get close.

Barking Gecko
Familiarity with the heat does not make it more tolerable. In the afternoon everyone showers and wears wet towels. As we head out on the afternoon drive we encounter another Afro-Ventures safari truck going the other way. It is what Afro-Ventures calls a participation tour, which is distinguished from the Hemingway Tour by the fact that the campers actually participate in the camp work. They are also larger groups. Edward converses briefly with their guide, and as they pull away we hear one of the campers say wistfully "They look so clean." Apparently they don’t get as much water on that tour.



We watch the sunset at Deception Pan. During the rainy season, the pan is covered with a meter of water over several square kilometers. Thousands of flamingos and other birds flock here on their migrations. Now the pan is dry, desolate and empty. Mineral salts cause the sand/soil to dry into crumbly grey nodules that crunch into dust under your feet. It is the color of wet ground, and as you approach the pan you expect to find water. From a short distance away, you can see the water. But there is no water.


The sun is an orange ball rolling off the edge of the Pan. As the light fades the air is filled with the staccato clap of barking geckos. There are places where the wonder of nature’s quilt is woven from the overwhelming beauty of the fabric, and there are places where the wonder is spun out of the unexplainable strangeness in the thread. That is Deception Pan.



It is our last night in Botswana. At dinner, Manfred delivers a wonderful toast for Edward that eloquently expresses our admiration and appreciation. After dinner the entire staff joins us around the campfire for champagne, and I toast the staff. I offer up the last of my Montecristos. Only Alfred, the chef, accepts and joins me in a smoke. He makes a theatrical show out of sniffing, lighting, and puffing the cigar, to the great amusement of Edward and the staff. We exchange stories on our favorite parts of the trip.


I jokingly ask Edward if we were the best group he ever had on tour. He says he'll tell us in the morning. Alfred says we were the best. Everyone laughs.

I am the last to leave the campfire. It's quiet. I sip brandy, and slowly finish the cigar.

=================

NOTE FROM THE FUTURE:
 This is a back-post / cross-post from my first on-line journal/blogging effort - a journal of our Southern Africa Tour in 1995. Originally posted to an abandoned domain (NetSnake.com), the term "blog" had not yet entered the parlance. I am migrating the original posts to this blog. Links to the original journal Date Index or Africa Tour Home Page will likely eventually disappear. The images from the original post were graphics and screen caps from video which I am leaving in it's low-rez glory for historical integrity. My intent is to also add some of Sigrid's higher quality scanned photos to these blog back-posts.  The difference in images should be obvious.

Wednesday, October 11, 1995

Africa Journal - Okavango => Kalahari


Wednesday, October 11, 1995



Kalahari

"How hot is it?" I asked the pilot. "I shudder to think." He replies. I tap the dial thermometer in the window of the Cessna Centurion. It twitches and settles at a little over 50 degrees Celsius. No one knows the conversion to Fahrenheit. "We’re probably better off not knowing." Wayne says.

We are the on the ground now, at what we are calling the Kalahari International Airport, nothing more than a stretch of cleared dirt next to a an island of scrubby trees. The tree island was the campsite of the couple that wrote Cry of the Kalahari before they were kicked out of Botswana. This was their landing strip, now used primarily by safari operators to ferry campers in and out of the area.

We are standing next to our bags, under the little shade afforded by dry trees. The pilots are conferring next to the two Cessnas sitting improbably on the sand. One walks over to us. "Look, we do this all the time." He pulls off his cap and wipes his brow. "I’m sure Eddy will be here in a few minutes, but we’ve got to take off now." He turns and walks back to the plane. The other pilot has already fired up the engine of the first Cessna. As our pilot climbs back into his plane he shouts back at us. "We’ll buzz his campsite on the way out." They wave, and they’re gone.

We’re alone now, the six of us under a tree pretending it provides shade in the mid-day sun. With the planes gone, there is nothing to distinguish the landing strip from the rest of the Kalahari. I look at Sigrid. She looks away. We chose October to travel to escape the worst of the summer heat. We have since learned that October is the last month before the rains start, and is generally the hottest month of the year. They call it suicide month. And we are sitting on our bags, in the middle of nowhere, on the hottest day, of the hottest month, in the middle of the Kalahari desert. Wayne is obsessing over the Fahrenheit calculation. He thinks he knows the formula, and soon announces that it is 125 degrees Fahrenheit. No one believes him. He was right.


"What if something happened to Edward?" Sigrid asks "What if he doesn’t come?" I don’t answer. I walk out into the sun and kick over a rock. A small, sand colored lizard scurries out and runs from me into an open area. It is looking desperately for another rock. it crosses an area of dark sand and starts to jump straight into the air. It jumps until it lands on its back then twists slowly and stops. I imagine I can hear a small sizzling sound.


Perspiration from my hatband drips into my eyes. I squint into the distance. There. I think I see something on the horizon. I watch a small dot, wavering in the heat. I am afraid to say anything, not sure if it is a trick of the sand.


The dot grows. "It’s Edward." I say. Everyone stands and looks where I am pointing. He is walking toward us out of the desert. "Where’s the truck?" Manfred asks. No one answers. As his shape takes form, I can see he is carrying a black bag over his shoulder. His smile is gone.


"I had two blowouts in the heat." He throws the bag on the ground. It is filled with soft drinks and water from the cooler. "We must walk to the camp." He says. "Leave everything, we will carry only water." Amy starts to cry.


Okay. None of this actually happened. Well, some of it is true. October really is called suicide month, and it really was 52 degrees Celsius and the pilot really did say "I shudder to think." and we really were in the Kalahari and I really did kick over a rock. But, Edward and The Beast were there to meet us when we landed, and the lizard immediately scurried safely under another rock. You see, I had this great series of images of Edward walking out of the desert, and I really wanted to use them, so I got carried away.

This is what really happened: Edward had to run down the Cessna before it took off, because it still had Wayne’s bag in it. I videotaped him walking back with the bag.



That morning, before flying out of Okavango Camp, we had time for one last game drive in the boat and Letto took us for a spin. The motor died as we drifted toward a pod of hippos, which provided some real excitement that morning. The motor fired and we escaped without incident.


The chartered Cessnas landed on the island to take us to our last camp in the Kalahari. We dub the two planes The Hemingway Air Force. In the air we watch the green watery vistas of the delta transition to the dry, dusty, browns of the desert.


At the mobile camp, I take a shower to cool off, drape a soaked towel over my head, and endure the wait until the afternoon game drive.


 On the afternoon drive we come across a family of Meerkat, and have a great time watching them pop in and out of their burrows.

We finish the day at an artificial waterhole. Edward tells us that it has not been pumped in weeks. He had driven to town for diesel and started it himself yesterday. There are a few animal tracks, some bones, and lizards under rocks.

=================

NOTE FROM THE FUTURE:
 This is a back-post / cross-post from my first on-line journal/blogging effort - a journal of our Southern Africa Tour in 1995. Originally posted to an abandoned domain (NetSnake.com), the term "blog" had not yet entered the parlance. I am migrating the original posts to this blog. Links to the original journal Date Index or Africa Tour Home Page will likely eventually disappear. The images from the original post were graphics and screen caps from video which I am leaving in it's low-rez glory for historical integrity. My intent is to also add some of Sigrid's higher quality scanned photos to these blog back-posts.  The difference in images should be obvious.

Tuesday, October 10, 1995

Africa Journal - Power Lunch


Tuesday, October 10, 1995



Power Lunch


 At breakfast, Bigfoot shows up at the pool and does some pruning of the trees and foliage in the immediate area. Manfred takes pictures of Amy at this end of the pool while Bigfoot is on the other. Bigfoot stops eating to pose for the picture. It is a very small pool.


We take a morning walk with Francis as our guide. Boat ride to an island, and a 2 hour walk. Sights include: elephants, red lechwes, bleached buffalo bones, and a pair of lions at 100 yards.


Our first lion sighting on foot. It feels good to actually get some exercise, but by the end of the walk the heat is oppressive.


Bigfoot joins us for lunch, tromping through the garden at the end of the table, and pulling down the branches from a nearby tree to munch. A dozen bats fly out of the tree Bigfoot is attacking to settle in the tree directly above our table. Manfred (at far end of table on the left) does not miss a bite.


That afternoon we go canoeing with Wayne, Cathy and the two Spanish couples. At one time the canoes at the camp were dugouts, but today they are fiberglass complete with seats & backrests.


Our guide is Letto. He stands in the back of the canoe with a cooler at his feet and a long pole in his hand. He pushes Sigrid and I through the shallows and marshes at a leisurely pace. Wayne calls it Venice in Africa. Not quite, no one is singing O Solo Mio.


Tiny multicolored frogs cling to the grasses poking out of the water. Many beautiful birds. When asked to identify a bird, Leto hands me a South African birding guide (Newman’s) and before I can open it, he tells me the correct page number from memory. This goes on for a while, before I finally stump him on a Sacred Ibis (page 46). A relaxing afternoon.


A couple of Abelours neat before dinner, and more red wine with dinner. During dinner I hear a pompous, arrogant voice holding court on a variety of topics, and am stunned to find that it is not mine. Wondering who is horning in on my customary dinnertime role, I listen as Sarel, the camp manager, lectures on: Emergency medical procedures he could conduct in the bush; The electrfied fence he is building for Bigfoot; The dearth of American culture; How America has wasted a billion dollars on an unused airbase in Botswana; and Why America needs to stop interfering in other country's business. Now, I don’t actually disagree with anything he says, but still feel compelled to retake some of the conversational high ground. I ask Sarel if he is Botswanan, and when he says that he is South African, I assert that one would be hard pressed to find any country that has interfered more with Botswanan affairs than South Africa. I further point out that America spent billions of dollars on an airbase in Saudi Arabia that was unused for years, but that eventually was put to pretty good use and someday, just maybe, Botswana could be as happy as Kuwait to have an American airbase in the neighborhood. That slowed him down a little. The conversation took some strange turns from there, not all of which I remember, as I had switched back to scotch. I do recall people starting to leave the table. Later I offered a Montecristo #4 to Sarel, which he accepted, then put in his pocket to smoke later.

=================

NOTE FROM THE FUTURE:
 This is a back-post / cross-post from my first on-line journal/blogging effort - a journal of our Southern Africa Tour in 1995. Originally posted to an abandoned domain (NetSnake.com), the term "blog" had not yet entered the parlance. I am migrating the original posts to this blog. Links to the original journal Date Index or Africa Tour Home Page will likely eventually disappear. The images from the original post were graphics and screen caps from video which I am leaving in it's low-rez glory for historical integrity. My intent is to also add some of Sigrid's higher quality scanned photos to these blog back-posts.  The difference in images should be obvious.