A Travellerspoint blog

VICTORIA FALLS/Zambia and Zimbabwe

Saying good-bye to Africa

Dear Readers,
This will be my last blog about Africa. I realize it took a while to finish this up, but the truth is, this was such a rich experience for both of us that I didn't want to just pass it by. Thanks so much for hanging in with me.

Victoria Falls is neither the highest or the widest water fall on the planet, but it is the largest---considering it's 5,604 feet wide and 354 feet high---well, that's a whole lot of water. It is twice the height of Niagara. Iguassu is wider but not higher. But all those numbers don't mean anything---truth is, it's just plain friggin' amazing. The river is the Zambezi and it borders the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe. We spent several days exploring the falls from both countries. Like so much in Africa, the colonial names given to lands have undergone a change from the anglicized Victoria Falls to
Mosi-oa-Tunya—"the smoke that thunders". It's OK to use either name.

Probably the most famous person connected to these falls is Dr Livingstone, of " I presume" fame. He first viewed them in November,1855 from what is now known as Livingstone Island, one of two land masses in the middle of the river.

We were told not to come here in the rainy season as the thundering water produces so much spray that you can't see the falls, and likewise not to come in the dry season as it is a ghost of its former self. We were there after the height of the rains and here's how it looked:
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kissing by the falls

kissing by the falls

Don't jump!

Don't jump!

priests in the mist

priests in the mist

perspective

perspective

However, it's best to see it from above---and that means taking a tiny Ultralight over the falls (think of a motor the size of a Honda with a fan).
It was fabulous! The aerial pictures come from a camera mounted on the tip of the wing:
Rick taking off

Rick taking off

Zambezi River before it goes over the falls

Zambezi River before it goes over the falls


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long way down

long way down

hippos and crocodiles below

hippos and crocodiles below

back to Zambia

back to Zambia

Many of you know that I love bizarre signs---this one made the laugh:
In_case_you_forget____.jpg

But it'a also great to see the falls directly from the edge. To accomplish that, you first get in a boat and travel to Livingstone island which is right at the edge. The river is wide and deceptively lazy---until you notice the mist coming from the drop off right ahead.
boat ride to the edge

boat ride to the edge

Once you set foot on the small island, you prepare to wade/swim in the water to the edge. I'm happy to report that we all made it back safely to the island. It was a thrill!
Rainbow Brain

Rainbow Brain

Looking over

Looking over

Almost on the edge!

Almost on the edge!

relaxing by the falls--ha!

relaxing by the falls--ha!

Two other final photos---one of me with an elephant skull (just another way to appreciate how huge these wonderful animals are) and the other of a lovely African waitress in her local dress.
elephant skull

elephant skull

Pretty waitress

Pretty waitress

So there you have it--- a tiny taste from our month in Africa. Our connections to people, to animals and to spectacular nature will always leave me in awe of this place. We never got sick; we never got robbed; we never felt threatened. In fact the people were simply wonderful. It was a joy.

We are now in Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, our home for 5 months. I may continue this blog with those adventures, but I'm not sure yet. Since I wrote a blog about Bhutan the first time we lived here in 2013-14, I'm not sure I need to do that again. But we'll see! I am, after all, somewhat a lady of leisure here. Or maybe I'll just bake brownies and get fat.

Thank you from my heart for reading these blogs about Africa. It is my way of keeping my connection to you, which is ever important.
Hugs, Phyllis

Posted by pebergman 23:37 Archived in Zambia Comments (1)

Licked by a giraffe!

Plus: the World Cup of Wildlife

The most recent in my series of up-close-and-personal-encounters-with-wild-animals happened in the sprawling city of Nairobi, a most unlikely place. The Giraffe Centre (http://giraffecenter.org/) is dedicated to preserving the Rothschild giraffe, an endangered animal. Just for the price of admission you can get close to these animals and even feed them!

I am here to tell you that giraffes have very long tongues. Perhaps they are the French kissers of the Savannah. But they also like to head butt, so best to not get too intimate. Here is proof:

Contact!

Contact!

cute face

cute face

Rothchilds giraffes

Rothchilds giraffes

Rick and long necked friend

Rick and long necked friend

school children waiting to get in

school children waiting to get in

handsome whiskered warthog

handsome whiskered warthog

No one calls warthogs handsome, but I think they're kind of cute. Wouldn't want to mess with one, though.

Our Africa travel blogs are almost at an end. I will send you one more blog about Victoria Falls. But before I leave Kenya, there is just one addendum: the wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara. Labeled as the the Worlds Most Spectacular Migration (or sometimes called The World Cup of Wildlife) we decided it was worth hanging out to see it. From the day we first arrived in the Mara, the wildebeest were everywhere---I mean over a million of them! In huge herds! I mean everywhere! Oh, and all the predators (including our beloved hyenas) were ecstatic to see this Fast Food of the Savannah return. The weak and the young are easy pickings for hungry predators. Wild nature, as much as I love it, is not warm and fuzzy.

The drama of the migration comes when the wildebeest cross the Mara river. They gather by the thousands and stand around on the banks until, for some unknown reason, they all of a sudden rush, fall, tumble and slide down the banks into the river below and swim as fast as they can to cross it. Crocodiles and hippos await... and take down ones that get separated. It is definitely a time of red tooth and claw.

But if you are expecting some of that drama in this blog, you'd best see the migration on Animal Planet---because the crossings we saw were, yes chaotic and dusty, but SAFE. All of them made it across. Sigh of relief. (I suspect the crocs and the hippos were full.)

lone wildebest

lone wildebest

A proper lookout

A proper lookout

swimming across

swimming across


wildebeest-migration-serengeti-masai-mara.jpg

I wish I could tell you I took the above picture---but it reflects what we saw but were too slow to get.

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And this was taken by some lucky person in a balloon.

And if you want to see more, check out this time lapse video of the migration, only takes one minute and has some cool music. It's the only one I saw on line that gives you a sense of the immensity of this event. My puny little camera could not do it justice.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gvpk8fpyVY...

Next and last blog about Africa: Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe and Zambia). Stay tuned!

Posted by pebergman 22:51 Archived in Kenya Comments (1)

A Heart Opening Experience

meeting Syrus, a success story

We all have those moments---a time when you just feel your heart open.
It could be a especially spectacular sunset, or an awe inspiring vista, or just the touch of someone you love.

I had such an experience in one of the worst slums in the world.

Many years ago, Rick's relative Gary Cohen suggested I might want to contribute to a charity that he has funded for years.
It's called AmericaShares. (AmShare for short). They are an NGO whose goal is to improve the lives of vulnerable children and women in the Mukuru slum near Nairobi. They offer a sustainable program of education, community outreach and economic empowerment.

So I signed up. This was YEARS ago! My monthly contributions went to support a specific child, in this case a young boy named Syrus Tama. I got hand written letters from him several times a year. Sometimes they came with pictures he had drawn and at other just times the letters were full of wishful thinking, things any boy of that age might dream about. His parents had died and he was being raised by his elderly grandmother in one of the worst slums in the world. However, once he was selected by AmericaShare and had a sponsor, he was introduced into an oasis in the heart of this slum---a place with a library and running water and classrooms and helpful adults. And even some trees and grass!

But it's not enough to just be selected---once you're in, you have to work hard and that's exactly what Syrus did.

So I arranged a time and place for us to meet while I was in Kenya. I had no idea what that meeting would be like--and had some trepidation about it....would we understand each other? Would he want to meet me? What would we talk about? Could we bridge the wide cultural gap?

I needn't have worried---in walks this amazing, confident, handsome young man, full of fun and intelligence, with an easy way about him. With him is Christina,a beautiful young Kenyan woman, also a beneficiary of AmShare, now graduated from the program and working for it. We laughed, we joked, we ate KFC,I told stories, they told me about their lives. I was able to embarrass Syrus with his cute drawings plus a small valentine he made for me years ago. Now he is in his third year at a good local University, working on a BSC in Integrated Forestry, and will most certainly be a leader in preserving environmental resources in Kenya. Here is his wonderful smiling face, taken at the AmShare oasis in the middle of Mukuru slum:
Syrus smile

Syrus smile

And both of them:
Syrus and Christina

Syrus and Christina

But just to give you some perspective, here are pictures of where he lives, the Makuru slum in Nairobi:
SlumGirlSmall.jpg
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images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTNvUBsO96HszMfVnfP8IF_a609yrYOHh-e7mXCQH8qCKbEnjChimages?q=tbn:ANd9GcSB8Qy5egjUcdLPLdmY796aomxFgkBi_iANA8nc-3BYNzzF1uF1

Meeting Syrus and Christina gave me such hope. The pictures tell the joy we all felt:
Syrus Phyllis Christina

Syrus Phyllis Christina

Rick Syrus Phyllis

Rick Syrus Phyllis

I recently asked Syrus to write little bit about himself. Here's what he wrote:

My name is Syrus Tama. I can’t for sure put it in words the impact Amshare has had in my life. I mean, where would I even be? Being part of Amshare has been one of the greatest opportunities in my life so far. What’s more important than having a chance in education? There are not many kids from Mukuru Kwanjenga who can relate to what I have had at my disposal.
Eventually, I want to own a company based on green energy especially here in Kenya and maybe in the whole of the African continent, who knows??Sometimes my dreams scare me but as a friend once told me, one starfish at a time. So for now I think what’s important to me is graduating with good honours.
Dear Phyllis, thank you so much for the believing in my dreams even before I had a chance to dream. I wouldn’t trade such love for anything.
Tama syrus
Natural resources consultant

Check out AmericaShares website: https://www.americashare.org/

There are so many of you out there who contribute to the good of the world. Most of the time your good works and your money just drift out there, and you never quite know what happens to it. This was one of those rare times when another hand reaches out to hold the one you have offered.
And we are both lifted.

Next Blog: Licked by a Giraffe.

Posted by pebergman 09:01 Archived in Kenya Comments (5)

The Kenyan Beach

R and R in Kalife

opps---slight change in the next blog. Bear with me, I will try and tell you about my heart opening experience next time.

This time I want to tell you about going to the Beach. As much as we loved our time in The Mara, it got cold there at night (yes, really!) so some time to be a beach bum in the Kenyan sun was appealing. We choose the small town of Kalife, just north of Mombasa. There are lots of Kenyan beach resorts but this one sounded not so crowded and also had the advantage of being on a river as well as the ocean.

Does a mud hut with a high thatched roof, big bed with mosquito netting and a good restaurant sound appealing to you? Then, check out our home for 5 days:
our_lovely_hut.jpg
our bed with mosquito netting

our bed with mosquito netting

Three really amazing things happened to us in our time there. First, a day sail with some crazy Rasta guys in a traditional wooden dhow sailing boat.
(BTW, these guys love to give themselves "cool" names, so one guy called himself BlackMan and another Moses.)
the dhow

the dhow

happy sailors having fun

happy sailors having fun

happy sailors and selfie

happy sailors and selfie

our captain

our captain

who later sailed us unto a tree branch, but no matter, we survived.
saying good bye

saying good bye

The second delightful adventure involved being invited for dinner in a local village by a staff member at the hostel where we were staying. His wife runs a private elementary school (the govt schools are considered the last resort). Whatever idea you have of "private school" toss that idea out the window. It was overcrowded and chaotic, but nevertheless the children welcomed us with open arms and singing voices. We responded by teaching them the hokey-pokey, so they now know what its all about.
Kindergarten

Kindergarten

Learning the hokey pokey

Learning the hokey pokey

what a sweet face!

what a sweet face!

Moms waiting for kids

Moms waiting for kids

Cooking dinner in the kitchen

Cooking dinner in the kitchen

The third amazing thing that happened to us was a walk through a local near by village, with one of the men who lived there. Sure enough, as soon as we appeared, we were surrounded by all the village kids, who are so eager for something different to do that hanging around foreigners-without-a-clue was fun for them, as for us. Here are a few shots from that adventure:
a typical house

a typical house

a typical kitchen

a typical kitchen

roasting cashews for us

roasting cashews for us

Women carrying firewood

Women carrying firewood

boy with homemade soccar ball

boy with homemade soccar ball

a pretty girl

a pretty girl

village kids

village kids

This village is known for its huge sacred baobab tree. First, we asked permission from an ancient elder. We were told to take off our shoes and approach it reverently. The local people bring bottles of rose scented water, which they spread around the tree, encouraging benevolent spirits to come. The tree is so huge that it's impossible to take a picture of its entirety---so when you see the picture, double that in your mind's eye.
It's true..there is something really special about these trees. The Little Prince agrees, of course.
sacred baobob tree 2

sacred baobob tree 2

Just before we left the village we came upon a group of women making ugali, a maize-based dough that is Kenya's staple food. It is essentially tasteless but it fills your stomach which is important here. There had been a death in the village and the entire village was gathering for 5 days for that, so lots of ugali is made. The funeral service went late into the night, with booming speakers, music and preaching.
women making ugali for a funeral

women making ugali for a funeral

Rick and I both loved this slice of country Kenyan life. Everywhere we went, the Kenyans we met were kind and helpful. It's a challenge for us to always stick out so much--(no fly on the wall experience here) , but I think, as a result, we are determined to be cheerful and respectful. So by-and-large, we get that response in return. I completely believe that if you visit a new place expecting good things to happen to you, they usually do!
It's my #1 rule of travel.

I'd love to hear some of your rules of travel---share them with me!

Love and hugs, Phyllis

Posted by pebergman 01:16 Archived in Kenya Comments (1)

The African DO

Amazing people and amazing hair

I have spoken a lot about the animals we saw in Africa...but I need to say that the people are just as amazing.

In fact, we found most Africans to be very helpful and nice to us. (Can't say this is true for the drivers, but that's another story).

I was not only struck by their politeness (even in Nairobi) but also their beauty. The women especially. They have developed quite an art form with how they braid their hair. I began to collect some pictures just to show you. In every case, the women gave me permission to take their photograph and seemed quite delighted that I so liked their do's. And, as you will see with the Masai people, the level of beaded decoration and earrings is quite elaborate. Like the sunsets, the pictures just explain themselves. Enjoy.

A well dressed and coiffed Masai

A well dressed and coiffed Masai

Masai ear adornment

Masai ear adornment


Differerent view

Differerent view


Need a haircut

Need a haircut


The shaved style

The shaved style


Looks like it hurts

Looks like it hurts

Masai men

Masai men

Good place for a haircut

Good place for a haircut

Pretty fancy

Pretty fancy

A silver Do

A silver Do

Lips match her dress

Lips match her dress

The lady at the gas pump

The lady at the gas pump

NEXT BLOG:

A HEART-OPENING EXPERIENCE--meeting Syrus

Posted by pebergman 05:36 Archived in Kenya Comments (1)

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