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, Pixel 3. 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...

Saturday, September 30, 1995

Africa Journal - Cave Paintings - Malaki's Law


September 30, 1995

Man Astonished at Snake with Impala Head



Malaki’s Law


The guidebook says this is the place to see cave paintings, so we opt out of the game drive for a historical tour. Malaki, a local Ndebele, is our guide. He sets the tone immediately by requesting that we not point at any of the hills. Some of the hills are sacred to the Ndebele, and to point shows lack of respect. Malaki impresses us with his depth of knowledge and deep respect for the traditions of the area and his people.


We begin with a short history lesson at a historical marker commemorating an Ndebele victory over a British expedition sent to quell rebellious tribes. We then climb a steep grade, clamoring over rocks, to a cave with a spectacular view of the valley below. 

The inside of the cave is covered with paintings thousands of years old. Malaki lectures with a quiet authority for almost an hour, about the cave, it’s history, the traditions, theories about the paintings and the rituals that surrounded them. By the time we go back down the hill, we are convinced that the failure to respect the traditions and ceremonies of the cave are the reason for the drought.



He takes us to the home of a man who has built a hut using the traditional materials and the ‘old ways’, which rapidly accelerating disappearance he laments. Then into a very small but bustling village where Sigrid takes photographs of the local people and their activities. She always asks permission to take their photos. A few ask for money, so she does not shoot them, but more are simply pleased to be asked, or ask to have a copy of the photos. We agree to send copies back to Malaki to distribute.


Back to the lodge for lunch and shelter from the afternoon sun. We rejoin Malaki’s tour at 3:00, but interrupt the historical narrative for a little rhino hunting. Malaki’s technique is to climb a strategically located hill, scan the valley for the rhinos, then drive/hike to them. Armin and I climb the first hill with Malaki, and search the valley until the car horn below tells us that Sigrid and the LA couple in the land-rover are impatient. The second hill Malaki climbs himself. He appears to run straight up the the side of the hill. A short while later he runs straight back down. From the bottom, it looks like the kind of physics defying maneuver you might see in a cartoon.


Still no rhinos, so we view more cave paintings, then finish the day with a sunset tour of Cecil Rhodes grave at the place Rhodes called World’s View. The spectacular 360 degree view of Zimbabwe is overwhelming. It is clear why a man of Rhodes ambition loved the spot and requested to be buried there. From there he must have felt the master of all he could see. 

Rhodes Grave

That night we dine with Malaki, Armin - a German living in South Africa, a couple comprised of a Brit married to a French woman living in Switzerland, and a couple from southern California. A very enjoyable dinner filled with good wine, good humor and storytelling. During dinner it became clear to me that Japanese tourists are bringing the world closer together. We feel a real sense of camaraderie with all except the California couple, which of course is due to the lack of any commonality of life experience or any other real basis for communication.

Malaki does not drink the wine but a concoction of his own invention: half Castle Beer / half Coca-Cola. Should you ever want to order one of these, you should do so by ordering it under the name given by it’s inventor - The Malaki Special. He deserves it.

Someone asks what I do for a living, and when I say software, the Europeans want to talk about Bill Gates. Well, he is  not my favorite subject, but he is a tremendous American sucess story, and it is important to be sure the Europeans understand just how great his accomplishments really are, so I express my admiration for all he has accomplished despite being only four foot six inches tall. I am astonished to find that they are completely unaware of this fact. The french woman mumbles something in French about Napoleon, and I agree. We all drink a toast to Bill.

We also spend some time discussing the logistics of managing multiple wives, one of the traditional ‘Old Ways’ staunchly defended by Malaki, who has two. He sums it up by proclaiming what will henceforth be known as:
 
Malaki’s Law: 
"One wife - many problems. Two wives - no problems."

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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, September 29, 1995

Africa Journal - Matobo Hills - Tracking with Jeffrey


September 29, 1995


Matobo Hills - Tracking with Jeffrey

We leave Water Wilderness to Adrian and Cicely and catch the Trislander at Bumi Hills for the flight over the lake to Kariba Airport. There we must disembark and unload the luggage, check in with Air Zimbabwe, then reboard and reload the luggage back on to the exact same plane with the exact same pilot for the flight to Bulawayo. The Trislander loses much of it’s charm over the course of the 90 minute flight to Bulowayo.


We arrive at Matobo Lodge in time for the afternoon game drive/walk with Jeffrey. Jeffrey is a professional hunter, and knows all the guides that we have met on the trip. He takes us in a group of 8 into the Matobo Park Intensive Rhino protection zone.

The upper sign says "Anyone seen or suspected of POACHING ACTIVITIES will be shot on sight." 
The lower sign says "REMEMBER do not be mistaken for POACHERS". Good Advice.

There is a herd of 70 rhino in the park. They are guarded by park rangers with automatic weapons. Poachers are shot on sight, as are tourists who are mistaken for poachers. No one is allowed to walk in the park without a professional guide or hunter, and the guide must report in before entering the park.


Jeffery finds rhino tracks and leads us through a field of dried yellow grass as tall as I am. We circle the field to get downwind and, in a clearing, find a white rhino cow with her 18 month year old calf. A very exciting sighting. I carve a third notch into the camcorder, now more than halfway through the Big Five.


Jeffery does not carry a rifle, as have our guides on previous walks. I thought that it was required by law and ask him about this. He explains that there is no point to carrying a rifle into a Rhino Protection Zone, because the penalties for shooting a rhino are so severe. In other words, while Zimbabwe values its tourists, it values its rhinos even more. I can’t argue with that.

Baby Rhino


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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, September 28, 1995

Africa Journal - Tracking with Petros


Thursday, September 28, 1995


Tracking with Petros
I am awakened during the night by the sounds of the hippos. At night they come ashore to feed. When one bellows, others answer in chorus. They sound like they are directly outside the door of the houseboat. I am losing sleep, but can’t stop smiling.


At 5:30 AM we are off on a game walk with Petros. He is a professional guide, certified the same year as Iona. On the trail of a breeding herd of elephants, ws have another close encounter. Despite the massive amount of water represented by Lake Kariba, the drought is still very much in evidence. We walk through a bone dry valley that was the original site of Water Wilderness. There is a wood structure in a tree that used to be an observation deck in the middle of a bay. I don’t think you can even see the lake from it now.We hear that if the lake drops another two meters, the hydroelectric power plant will be forced to shut down.

A Photo from the book "Spirit of the Zambezi" showing the original Water Wilderness, and the same site today.

After breakfast we bid adieu to Peter and Jane, who are heading home. For a few hours we have the resort to ourselves as Petros heads out to get more guests and supplies. We wile away the mid-day hours by paddling in the canoe and watching wildlife from the deck. On the deck, I smoke a Montecristo #4, and watch two plovers try to drive off a Fish Eagle perched in the highest branch of a nearby tree. I want to fish, but Petros could produce no bait.


Petros returns with Adrian and Cecily, newlyweds from the UK. They look exhausted but are game for combination boat drive and walk. Back in the speedboat, we find more hippos, and hike up a hill where we find leopard tracks, but no leopard.


The hill overlooks the valley we walked through that morning. It is filled with game, mostly antelope and waterbucks. Sigrid then launches into the definitive photographic study of a Lake Kariba sunset.


Two rolls of film and two gin and tonics later, it is almost completely dark. Daniel somehow makes his way back through the maze of drowned trees to the houseboat in the dark.
=================

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, September 27, 1995

Africa Journal - Matusadona Water Wilderness


Wednesday, September 27 , 1995



Water Wilderness

We decide to forego any game drives from Katete and take the morning to just relax and recover. We had not realized how exhausted we had become. I use the time to try and catch up on the journal which is now getting dangerously behind. On the last dial-in, I picked up a message from Harlan complaining bitterly about my shitty HTML and lack of planning for this project. He sent me an HTML template for future transmissions, and lets me know that the web page is up. He issues a demand for a carved full-size bust of a woman’s head. I don’t know that I will have any choice but to acquiesce in this blatant extortion. I guess I should make it clear that to the extent that this web site looks good, or is even functional, is completely due to Harlan’s efforts, since I really will not be able to view it until I return.

I get a call from Rob at Chokamella. I had left my power adapter in the outlet there. He will see that it meets me two days hence at the Matobos Hills lodge. Another crisis narrowly averted. He also wants to let me know the cost of the phone calls as we had agreed. With this information, I now know just how badly I’ve been burned by the Sheraton in Harare. Almost ten times the actual charges for a comparable phone call. I’m pissed off, but will just have to deal with it when I get back.


At 2:30 we are picked up and driven to the lake shore. Charles, the driver, chides us for not going on a game drive and claims that we missed seeing two rhinos. We later discover that he may have deliberately confused the dates of that sighting. At the shore we are met by Petros, who will be our guide at Water Wilderness, and are off on a high speed run across lake Kariba in a massively overpowered speedboat.


Petros briefs us about the resort over tea on the "mother" houseboat. He warns us about staying clear of the hippos. The day before, the chef had been fishing too close to shore, and a hippo came up from underneath and bit through the canoe. Then he gives Sigrid and I our canoe, and we paddle over to the houseboat that will be our home for the next two nights.


The facilities are a little primitive, but the setting is incredible. We are moored in a forest of drowned trees. From our deck on the boat we hear fish splash, and watch elephants and buffalo drinking on the shore. The bellow of hippos compete with the songs of birds.


After getting settled, we paddle back to the motherboat, and are off with Petros and the only other guests, Peter and Jan from Australia, on a game drive in the speedboat. I get some great video of hippos and a crocodile.


Then to a rocky deserted island for sundowners and yet another spectacular sunset. Peter explains that the quinine in tonic water will help ward off malaria, and that I am making a mistake drinking Zambezis.

  

 Despite the fact that there are no mosquitoes, I decide that his logic is irrefutable and switch to gin and tonic.
=================

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, September 26, 1995

Africa Journal - Katete Lodge - Lake Kariba


Wednesday, September 26, 1995


Katete Lodge, Lake Kariba


Up at 4:30 to pack and head for the airport. Before heading out, I am able to get connected and send Harlan journal entries through 9/24. Rob and Shirley are fascinated by the Toshiba and the process. They ask for advice on Windows 95. I tell them to wait for the next release.

We sadly leave Chokamella Lodge. We were very impressed with every aspect of the Masuwe and Chokamella Lodges, which are both owned by the Landella Group. They work very hard to make your stay enjoyable and memorable. Well run, good food, and personalized service on the game drives. They don’t know how to say no. They’ll be hard to top.


An Air Zimbabwe Fokker 50 to Kariba Airport, and we connect on a charter across the lake to Bumi Hills. The charter is a Britton Lee Trislander with 14 seats, three engines, four doors and picture windows. It looks like it flew right out of a 1930’s era newsreel. Every seat filled, with inadequate ventilation, but still a fun 30 minute flight over the lake.


The lake is huge. Formed when the dam was built in the fifties, it is populated with crocodiles and hippos. We spot elephants and buffalo from the plane. The runway at Bumi Hills is gravel, but the landing was smoother than many I’ve experienced at SFO.

It is hot. Really hot. We are riding in a open top jeep, under the blazing sun, up a rough dusty road to the Katete Lodge. I mean it is really, really hot.


At the lodge, we find that we have landed in the lap of luxury. We enjoy a very nice lunch with salad, gazpacho, and several glasses of white wine. In a heat and wine induced stupor, we float down the walkway to our room.


The room is beautiful. White mesh mosquito nets cascade from the tall thatched roof to form a canopy over the beds. Dark wood furniture and colonial style accents complete the romantic picture. Sigrid takes one look and says we are never leaving. We drink in the view of the lake and wildlife from our balcony, and collapse until sunset. Drag ourselves out of bed to photograph the sunset. Dinner and back to bed. There are no mosquitoes this time of year, but we use the nets anyway.

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

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, September 25, 1995

Africa Journal - Tracking with Iona


Monday, September 25, 1995


Tracking with Iona
Meet Iona. She will be our guide on the morning game walk and the afternoon game drive. I am grateful for the change, as it was just getting too weird having an LJE lookalike as our nature guide. I was experiencing Oracle flashbacks.


Iona is a professional guide. They take this term very seriously in Zimbabwe, where they have the most rigorous guide certification policy in Africa. To become a professional guide requires written tests, a two year apprenticeship to a certified professional guide or hunter, and an invitation to take the final exam. The final exam is a seven day practical in the bush that makes "hell week" at the Citadel look like a stroll in the park. All in all, about a four year process. Last year there were exactly six professional guides certified in all of Zimbabwe. One of them was Iona. She is 22 years old. Now Iona will be the first to tell you that she made some mistakes in the final. As a result, her certification is contingent upon her completing some additional tasks. One of those assigned tasks was to kill an elephant. She has completed that task.

Now Zimbabwe is not generally considered to be at the forefront of feminism. The country stands on the two legs of Shona tribal custom (women walk behind the men and do all the domestic work so the men can hunt and fight wars) and white Rhodesian colonial patriarchy (women are deferential and do all the domestic work so the men can hunt and fight wars). Between them, there is not much room for young female professional guides. Which makes Iona’s accomplishment even more impressive. There is a very good story to be told here, but you will have to come to Zimbabwe and hear it from Iona herself.

Our morning game walk was with a couple from the U.K. who, like us, were celebrating their wedding anniversary. It was their thirtieth and our third. We dubbed the walk the Anniversary walk. Iona loads her rifle (required by law when a Professional Guide takes a client on a walk in the bush), and we are off. We saw antelope, baboons, many birds, and spoor for what Iona called a "damn big leopard". The tracks were from the previous night. She tracks the leopard back through our camp where we find the leopard had walked within two meters of Iona’s door, and seven meters of ours.

As the heat begins to build for the day, Sigrid and I go back to our lodge to wait out the afternoon sun. I go for a dip in the pool, work on the journal and relax. We hear a snorting shuffling noise outside the room. I look out the door and see nothing. Sigrid suggests that it sounds like someone dragging furniture on concrete. I agree and go back inside. These are tracking instincts deeply rooted in city life.

A few minutes later, we hear Iona outside the lodge "Mike, Sigrid, Come quick. There are elephants at the pool." The pool is directly behind our lodge. I grab the camcorder and jump out, but can already hear Ray at the pool shouting and clapping. As I arrive the elephants are disappearing into the bush. There had been six of them. Ray was apologetic, but was not interested in refilling and cleaning the pool, as had happened when one of the elephants decided to take a bath last week.


It is time for the afternoon game drive. It will be only Sigrid and I with Iona. Iona has a glint in her eye. "Would you like to go find those elephants?" she asks. Soon we are off in the Landcruiser, tearing around the dirt roads that circumnavigate the property.

Iona finds spoor where they crossed the road. We jump out. Iona loads the rife, Sigrid loads the Canon, I load the camcorder. We are tracking on foot. We don’t speak. Iona moves quickly and quietly. Sigrid and I move less quickly and less quietly. We are trying to get downwind of the elephant's path. Iona stops and crouches, and motions us to do the same. She listens intently, and points. The only sound is the soft humming of the camcorder. In a few seconds, they are crunching through the woods directly in front of us.


A bachelor herd, six in the group. We are up and moving again, trying to stay downwind. We stop and crouch behind a tree on the bank of a dry river bed. Iona thinks they will come this way. Again we hear them. The lead elephant is just on the other side of the tree. The wind swirls and they stop. They smelled us. We wait. They wait. They know we are around, can’t see us, and don’t like the fact that we are hiding. Iona stands, and motions us back. The elephants start to move. I stop to shoot video. A big bull elephant moves past the tree, turns and looks directly at me. He is maybe 20 meters away, maybe less. There we are, eye to eye - or, more accurately, I’m looking him in the eye, he’s looking me in the camcorder. Iona starts talking softly to the elephant, or maybe she’s talking to me " Easy big guy. Easy".

It is just as he turns and starts walking away that I notice STBY in the corner of the viewfinder. I was not recording. Ok, so I got a great shot of an elephant turning and walking away. In a few steps the herd has moved up the opposite river bed and completely disappeared.


It is like a magic trick. Now you see them. Now you don’t.

 Back in the Landcruiser where we follow a trail that ends at the remains of an elephant killed in a hunt.


Bleached skull and bones, dried skin. Iona is distressed. It was probably a licensed trophy kill, but the hunters did not take everything as they should. Meat was left to rot. It should have been carried out and given to the local people, who are not permitted to hunt elephant.


Finally, back to the waterhole, where Iona produces a bottle of champagne and glasses. As the sun sets, we all drink a toast to our anniversary with the champagne. All except the elephant at the waterhole, who chose to drink water. I think I love this place.


That night, dinner is served under the stars in the Buma, a circular corral of wood stakes.


 The tables are set up as a concentric circle inside the corral, and a small campfire burns in the middle. Dinner is grilled beef and chicken, with a variety of barbeque sauces, sudza, vegetables, salads and a red South African wine. Everything is delicious.


 Rob Clifford stands to toast the anniversary couples at dinner. They also baked us a cake.



To cap the night, we have Larry, I mean Ray, take us on one last night game drive.


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

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.