Saturday, November 17, 2007

Visit to Sutter's Mill

Yesterday we went out to lunch near Coloma, then stopped by the replica of Sutter's Mill, where gold was discovered by James Marshall, starting the California Gold Rush in 1849. We also looked in the museum there, which is very interesting.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Morning Walk in Shingle Springs

The kids didn't have school yesterday, and don't today either, so that Poly can hold "parent teacher conferences."  So Erica and I came up yesterday to Sacramento / Shingle Springs to take advantage of the "4 day weekend." Tim couldn't come, because he didn't want to miss his last AYSO soccer game of the season on Saturday, and Frances had to work... (I do too, in principle, but "have laptop, will travel...". 

This morning I took a walk down Ponderosa Road, and then down Maverick road.  Here are some of the sights I saw...

From Morning Walk ...
One of Frank's horses across Ponderosa Road.  He seems to be looking for some breakfast, but I didn't have any food with me.

From Morning Walk ...
Ducks in a pond on Maverick Road.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Among the Maasai People

Thursday morning we went to visit a Maasai village. The visit was very interesting. It is strange to see people who still live more or less as their ancestors did hundreds or thousands of years ago. Their villages have no electricity, no running water, no air conditioning -- in short, none of the modern conveniences we now assume are vital for life. Instead, they live in houses made of straw and branches, sealed with cow dung.

Most of us could never live that way, but perhaps neither could they live as we do. (I asked if many of the young people leave for Nairobi or other big cities. They claimed that very few leave...)

The Maasai Mara

The Maasai Mara is one of the most famous game reserves in Kenya. It is named after the indigenous people, the "Masai." More about them later.

We saw quite a few wildebeast and zebras. Apparently they often stay together because they both like the same type of grass -- the zebra eat the tops of the stalks, and the wildebeast eat the bottoms. The wildebeast were in the midst of their annual migration, and we saw them often lined up single-file.

It is not so clear to me if the zebras were migrating too, or were just hanging around the wildebeast.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Mt. Kenya

Today we are in the mountains near Mt. Kenya, at an elevation of 7000 feet. We are staying at a lodge that is built around an animal watering hole, so there is no need to go on game drives - the animals come to us, and we can watch them from the comfort of our rooms. The watering hole has an island in the middle in the shape of Africa.

Here are Tim and Erica at a viewing window, with a stork in the background.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Game Drives

The main thing you do on a safari is go on "game drives," where you pile into a van and drive around looking for animals. The best times to do this are early in the morning, or late afternoon. It seems the animals are otherwise engaged for the rest of the day.

We have now been out 3 times, and already have seen a lot of animals, including jaguars, giraffes, baboons, monkeys, lions, elephants, water buffalo, and lots of birds. The animals are amazingly unconcerned about us or our vans. They wander around as if we weren't there. We don't feed them, nor do we shoot at them, so I suppose they have learned that we are not dangerous but also not particularly interesting.

We are not allowed to get out of the vans, since then we might get very interesting to a passing jaguar. I imagine a slow-running sedentary middle-aged American might be very tasty (if high in fat), and would require very little effort for the jaguar, compared to the fast-moving prey he usually has to chase.

Here are some pictures I took. These are all taken here at Samburu.


Monday, July 30, 2007

The Trip to Samburu

We are now at the Samburu National Game Reserve.

Just after breakfast Sunday morning we got in our vans for the long drive here to Samburu. It was approximately a 5-hour drive. We did stop once at a local craft market, mostly for a bathroom break. It was interesting to see the various hand-carved statues of zebras, lions, etc., but we weren't about to buy anything on our first day that we would have to lug around with us all week. (Actually, we hardly buy any souveniers, much to the chagrine of our kids and the local hawkers. For more information, see my posts from our China trip in January.)

Everywhere our van stopped (for gas, to enter the Samburu park, ...) we were beset by hawkers selling silver bracelets, bracelets with small dangling giraffes, and similar items. We tried to explain that we already had as many giraffe bracelets as we could possibly use (namely zero, but we left that part out), but to no avail. At one point, we resorted to pretending not to speak English. But I don't think they bought it, possibly because Frances was speaking Chinese and I was speaking German. One hawker named "Ali Baba" made me promise to buy a $1 bracelet from him when we pass by on the return. I will eitther have to buy the bracelet, or hide on the floor of the van on the way back. The problem with buying anything from them is that as soon as you do, you are beset by the entire crowd of hawkers. We witnessed this happen to other hapless tourists. Maybe Frances and the kids can tell Ali Baba I was eaten by a hungry jaguar. But I bet even this would not stop them. ("Would the lady like a beautiful bracelet for the funeral?")

Finally, we arrived in Samburu. We are at the Samburu Serena Lodge, which is very nice. We have our own detached "house" that is built in the style of local native houses. I was told that the only differerence is that our house is build of stone, has stone floors, electricty, running water, indoor toilets and showers, where their houses are built of mud and have none of the other amenities. But really, other than that, they are virtually identical...