A Travellerspoint blog

Photos/Revised 8/24

Finally

Hi everybody

Well I finally figured out how to work the photo gallery, posting camera thing! However, it seem that some people can link to the gallery while others cannot. So, if you fall into the cannot group this is what you can do to see them.

1. go to www.travellerspoint.com (with two l's and an s)
2. click on Photography (left side of the page)
3. in the request bar type mackenzie
4. when all the mackenzie related items come up, click on any one by macscott (click the macscott highlighted word, not the photo itself)and that will take you to our gallery where you can see all that we have posted so far.

  • **revision

try cutting and pasting the link. Travellerspoint seems to be quite fickle.
http://www.travellerspoint.com/photos/gallery/users/macscott/

Sorry to say that the disks for Eastern Africa and Egypt have been sent home, so we are unable to post anything. A big disappointment (and we all hate dissapointment) as this area was a highlight of our trip. Sorry, we will just have to post them when we get home. Also, things are in the order I uploaded them in (first ones loaded at the bottom, just like the blog), this means there are a few that are out of order. My new Tech stills have yet to figure out how to fix this problem!

Anyway, we are having a wonderful time and I will try to be better about posting the pic's. Miss you all!

Posted by macscott 09:23 Comments (1)

Morocco, I make good price for you my friend!

Morocco. Morocco is much like the rest of Africa, you love it, you hate, it confounds you, and it redeams itself, all in the same instant! This country is one of the best examples of what Africa has to offer in the way diversity. Apart from the incredible people, the country has among one of the most varied landscapes in North Africa. The expatriot community is still as vibrant as it apparently was during the Viet Nam War era. Archaeological evidence suggests that coastal regions of this landmass were settled around 750,000 years ago. The Berber people arrived between 4000 and 2000 BC from southern climes in Africa and settled in and around the Haute Atlas range. This spine of mountains transits the entire country from south to north and terminates at the Rif Range and the Mediteranean Sea . The Rif are the clumps of amazing mountains you see from Andalucia in Espana and form the trecherous Straits of Gibraltar with Tarifa, Spain forming the northern bank. According to the Greeks, one of Hercules' Great Feats was to push the landmasses apart to open the Med. to the Atlantic thus separating Africa from Europe. So, back to the Berbers. They still inhabit the region, but are sadly fading away as life in the big cities draws the younger Berbers away from the nomadic, sheep herding lifestyle. In the past, the usual cast of Mediteranean characters invaded like the Phoenicians, and of course the Romans.
Morocco acheived stability after Islam spread west to this region in approximately 669 AD. The Berber tribes ruled the area effectively until about 1400 when the Europeans had the bright idea to explore this area and eventually pushed south to Sub-Saharan Africa to exploit the locals as slaves and export the rich reserves of minerals, etc. The Portuguese were among the first followed by the Spanish. The Moors, as the North Africans were called, fought with the Iberians constantly through the Middle Ages in Africa and on the Iberian penninsula. After many centuries of bloody battles, both sides were still unable to rid one another of their presences. As of 1662, a contingent of Spanish controlled the northern coast, the English controlled Tangier and the French were starting to get interested in the region as well. France finally invaded after a battle in Isly in 1844 and turned the Kingdom into a colony in 1912 after the death of the ruling Sultan. Morocco became a French protectorate, the north coast fell under Spanish rule, and Tangier was governed by a European council.
In 1921, a rebel army fought the Spanish on the north coast and defeated them but were later driven back as far south as Fez a few years later. The Nationalist Movement began around 1944 and Morocco was finally on the road to independance from France. Morocco gained full independance in 1977 and established a constitutional monarchy. The official language in Morocco is French, but Arabic is also spoken as Qur'anic schools are where young children begin their education.
A few important notes about Islam and I'll get into out adventures. Islam is probably one of the most misunderstood religions in the world. The people practicing Islam are probably the most misunderstood people in the world as well. It has been in my experiences that the more Muslims I meet, the more I understand them, and the more I grow to appreciate them. Islam was founded by the Arab prophet Mohammed in 622 AD after being informed of his prophetic calling by the angel Gabriel. Muslims believe that Mohammed was the end of a long string of visionaries that included Abraham, Moses, Elijah, and believe it or not, Jesus! Mohammed led his followers through triumph and exile in the land now known as Saudi Arabia. He was born and preached in Mecca until he was thrown out. Mecca is one of the forbidden cities that non-Muslims cannot enter as well as Medina were he fled after his expulsion from Mecca, and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem were he left on his night journey (death) to paradise. These cities are considered sacred to Muslims for obvious reasons. There is much being left out here, I know. Mohammed had 2 sons, and 1 daughter. The daughter's name was Fatima. A likeness of her right hand can be seen hanging in brass from most every Moroccan door. It is thought that her right hand symbolizes rightousness and protects the bearers from ill fortune.
After Mohammed died in 632, his sayings were recorded in the Sunna (Qur'an), or examples of Mohammed. Fatima's husband and her two brothers differed in the way they practiced Islam and recited it. Consequently, two types of Islam were thus created.... Sunni and Shi'a. The Sunni Muslims wanted Mohammed's successor chosen from a group of mennot related to Mohammed, for they believe in God's (Allah) will and predestination. The Shi'ites believe in free will and insist on his successor being a blood relative. Undoubtably, it is well known that Fatima's husband believed in the Sunni ways while Mohammed's sons believed in the Shi'a teachings. That is why it is speculated that most Muslims of the world practice the Sunni teachings because it's more plausable than trying to determine who is a blood relative after all this time has passed.
The very word, Islam, means submission and Mohammed's original teachings explicitly encouraged peace and good will unto all men, unless an occasion calls for retaliation or justice... this is open for interpretation obviously. All practicing Muslims believe in complete and total submission to Allah's will. "Sh'a Allah", meaning "God willing" is heard in conversation at times when the destiny of the works and wills of mortal men is unknown. The Qur'an, or Koran as we know it, is the official rule book of Islam and is considered by Muslims to be a miracle- perfect, undiputable, absolute, and untranslatable. It replaces all earlier books and is considered the final definative form of Allah's word. Practicing Muslims must adhere to the Five Pillars of Faith of Islam. 1. The formal profession of one's faith in Islam and Allah. 2. Prayer towards Mecca five times daily. 3. The giving of Alms. 4. Fasting during the month of Ramadan. 5. If possible, a pilgrimage to Mecca once in your life. Ramadam is the holy month in which Mohammed is believed to have received the Qur'an. Muslims fast from sun up to sundown and no food or water may pass their lips, they may not have sex, or smoke (all the stuff that makes life fun!!). Fasting is meant to teach Muslims to resist temptation and control urges. They read the Qur'an by daylight and feast at night. This Pillar inspires a sense of community, makes them give thanks for the food that so many others cannot obtain and teaches self control. The major religions of the Middle East are so similar in many ways. Maybe we should try to be less cynical about people we don't know.
The Odyssey. It started in Tangier and continued for a month. Asilah on the coast was actually our first stop. We found out that there are petite taxis and grande taxis. Petite taxis travel within the cities and grande taxis transit between cities. You can pay for a seat in the grande taxi and wait until it fills up or you can pay for all 6 seats. Think about it, a normal Mercedes sedan holds 3 in back and three in a pinch up front comfortably. Now add one more to the back seat, 4 total and 3 up front. Typically, physically mature men and women take up a sizable space in a car seat, and to sit with 3 women in the back, wide hips and all, is something of an experience in itself, let alone finding a position of comfort for two hours while your lower trunk falls asleep. To top it all off, Moroccans believe that the windows must be rolled up at all times because "the breeze makes you ill". I'm sorry, but it's the summer solstice, 250 miles from the Tropic of Cancer, 100 miles from the Sahara Desert, the car has no air conditioning, it's nearly 100 degrees out, the guy next to you believes in showering once every two weeks, and you have the windows up?!?! Come on!
We stayed in Asilah for two days. It was largely unremarkable. World Cup frenzy reaches wherever there is satellite TV. We left Asilah and headed to Meknes, an Imperial city of the past. Meknes was a depot of sorts to dispatch travellers to various points north and south. We hired a guide in the souq and ended up buying some kilim carpets there that were about 30 years old. After a few days in Meknes, we hired a grande taxi to take us to Fez. We stopped to look at the oldest Roman ruins in Morocco complete with frescos still intact on the floor. We also visited a medina on a cliffside that recently allowed non-Muslim visitors to walk around. They boast having the only round mineret in the Islamic world. The mineret was cool, it had Arabic writing around it the full length in tile. So the Arabic scrawl actually looked like it was writtrn digitally, but over a couple hundred years ago. On to Fez. Fez was a great town. It's medina is ancient and was once the capitol of Morocco. It's one of those places you see in the Indiana Jones movies. Tight passagways, crowded with people and donkeys. We ended up hiring a guide named Max, and his sidekick/driver named Mohammed (Mohammed is as popular as Mike is in the US). They picked us up from the Grande Taxi and shuffled us along to go eat. They said to eat and they will go pick up a lady named Marium. As we were sitting at the restaurant watching their black Mercedes pull away, I could'nt help but wonder if we would ever see them or our luggage again....
Well, they came back with Marium and she brought us to her families Riad. A riad is a three or so story house with the middle taken out all the way up. So it looks like a Spanish style mansion with a courtyard inside but really tall. The riads courtyard was actually the dining area with a small garden and fountain. The opening at the top was covered by a wood grate to keep the weather out. It was beautiful and built in the 14th century. We stayed there two nights and toured the medina and souq with Max's friend Ibrhim. He was a political writer for the local newspaper and had some intersting views of the western world. He showed us alot of great things incuding the tannery were the animal hides are tanned using natural products like pidgeon droppings, blood, fats, and acids. The jobs there are held by men only who pass their positions along to their sons. The span of a tannery workers career is realativly short due to onset a reumatism from standing in cold liquids all day, every day of their working lives. The smell of decaying body fluids and acids from the tannery could be smelled from blocks away. We went to a loom were they were making some fabric, Mac enjoyed that. Perhaps the most memorable experience was the carpet sale. We stopped to look at carpets made by Berber women and ended up having way too much mint tea and looking at hundreds of carpets. Three hours later, we were the proud owners of a few really old dowry carpets, and a realativly new mosaic pattern carpet. It is believed by Mac that we will resell these when we get home at a great profit. I hope my wife is a prophet to know we will be able to resell these!!!
We left Fez with many good memories. Our next stop was Ifrane, a little college town in the foothills that the rich Moroccans send their kids to learn about the western world of business without all the western monkey business. It was a nice little town. We spent a few days there recovering from a nonpure drinking water episode that kept us close to the facilities. Recovered, we hopped an epic train ride from Meknes to Merrakech. It was nearly 9 hours of ethnic stimulus with the locals in our car, who were all delightful people, and stunning terrain. Merrakech is a whole other chapter, and jammed packed with vacationing French.

O.K., I have had a month and a half vacation from the blog and here I am finishing Morocco while I sit next to crystal clear water in Viet Nam. What happened!?!? Well, France, China, and Tibet happened. Mac said she will write about them. If you had to wait for me to write it, we would be here for a while.
We hooked up with a tour company in Merrakech and took a bus over the Atlas to African Hollywood. A town called Ourzazate. Many movies have been made there including The Mummy, Gladiator, and MI3 to name a few. The bus ride over was the best part. We left really early in the morning and went over the Atlas Range. Great ride with crazy hairpin turns. The fun started at about noon with a clank, clank......... Then a part flys out the back of the bus. Then a loud hisssssssss...... Then a screeching halt, right at the highest pass of the range. Everyone piles off onto the road side. I knew exactly what happened. We must have hit a piece of trash on the road and it bounced up and severed the airbrake line on the left rear axle. The air line had no stop in it and the air leaked out of the tank and the rest of the line and the springs stopped the bus..... really quickly! After some convincing to the driver that I was somewhat qualified, I talked him into letting me fix this problem as opposed to sitting here until 11 at night waiting for another bus. So, I chocked the wheels and crawled under the bus. I had a screwdriver, an adjustable wrench, and one socket and driver that amazingly fit the only nut I needed it to fit on the bus!! Those where the only tools on the bus, by the way. As I lay under the bus, I tried to remember everything Sean, Bob, and Butch taught me about airbrakes.... I layed there for a loooooong time. I saw the brake line and plugged it with a stick and wired it in and doubled it back on itself. That held.... all the way to Ourzazate! Then I had to release the spring inside the wheel using the only socket and driver onboard. Good thing I chocked the wheels! This bus had 2 air systems. One controled the front axle and the damaged one controlled the rear axle, the axle with ALL the weight! The right side brakes still worked fine, but the bus also had Air Ride suspension. Which means that the bus had no shocks after the line was severed. Well, the brakes charged up fine, the bus rolls away fine, the brakes still work fine, but we have no Air Ride, no shocks. Nobody knows yet and everyone cheers as we drive away only 45 minutes after it started! The frame rode on the axles for 4 hours, over rough mountain roads and nearly broke everyones teeth out and permanantly damaged everyones kidneys. That, however was not anywhere near the biggest problem. And no one but myself was aware of it. Drivers in the third world tend to take their vehicles out of gear as they go down hills to save fuel, Its called Mexican Overdrive, or Cuban Overdrive. That depends on who you are trying to offend at the moment! We had about 6000 feet of vertical to decend over 4 hours and the bus hardly ever went back into gear after we pulled away. I was really freaking out about brake fade and flying out over some Moroccan canyon at Mach 1, but I kept it to myself and let everyone else worry about trying to find their teeth on the floor of the bus while nursing bruised spleens. Ignorance is bliss. I always thought I would free fall to my death some day. I felt that day was fast approaching by going over the edge of some chasm. Then I saw the Saharan Plain out ahead of us by about 30 minutes and then we were down. Good to go, right? Wrong. The bus continued on to FEZ!! Another 6 hours north. Good luck and good night. Luckily, we never heard of a tragic bus wreck the rest of the time we were there.
Ourzazate was fun and filthy. Dust storms everyday, but we still had a great time poking around the old ruins and markets. Its amazing how sand can get into EVERY crack and crevass of your body, even your underwear! We hired a car a few days later and drove out into the Sahara. We hired a Fiat Punto, front wheel drive. No radio. No air conditioning. No tools. We also figured out that we were in the Sahara on the summer solstice, about 100 miles north of the Tropic of Cancer. For those of you unfamiliar with this, I mean that we were in the Sahara on the longest, hottest day of the entire year only 100 miles north of the zenith, Tropic of Cancer, of the suns passage north before it heads south the very next day. So it was hot! We were at 120 degrees F, and only 5% humidity.
So, I bought a pair of pliers, some duct tape, and 3 quarts of oil and we headed into the Red abyss. We drove for hours and never saw another car. The landscape was unbelievable, almost lunar, maybe Martian. We drove to a couple of canyons on the way south and experienced some really wonderful sights. We stayed in one canyon hotel powered by solar only. The cook/maid/bartender/only employee/owner named Ari, fixed us dinner and then played his guitar for an hour or so. It was great and the stars and Milky Way were crazy bright. We drove out of canyon country and headed south again. Then the afternoon sandstorm started up. Our visibility dropped to less than 50 feet and the windows were up. So, it was really hot! We had to wear bandanas over our faces so we could breathe. Then I saw a sign that said Dunes Sables. I thought, What the hell does that mean? Before I could get to the end of that question, I quickly had another. Why are we in midair? More importantly, when and where will we come down? Well, I deduced that we hit a sand dune that drifted across the road that I couldnt see. All 4 wheels of the little car left the ground and it felt like a long time before we hit the road again. Mystery solved, thats what Dunes Sables means. It means that dummys in the desert in the miidle of a blinding sand storm will be launched into near orbit. Fine. We checked into a great kasbah that night but were unable to escape the sand. We had a small sandbox in our bed, our tub, and there was even sand in the bottom of the toilet. We spent the night watching Arabic soaps and drinking warm beer. Next norning, we hit the road to clear ORANGE skies and headed south to Erfoud where our camel safari was going to take place. We organized a trip into the dunes and left that evening at 4 pm. We watched the sun set over the desert on camelback in the middle of a light sand storm. What a great sight. We met up with another couple on the trip, Steve and Mary from California. The whole group slept out under the stars that night in the sand. We woke up to the sun rising over the dunes and headed back to Erfoud that morning for breakfast and a shower. Steve and Mary crammed there stuff in the Fiat with us and we hit the road to take the long way back to Ourzazate. Ourzazate has that Africa funk about it. Like the rest of the continent. After being in the desert, the air in Ourzazate was foul. I guess we were used to it before we left. Africa funk is a mix of sewage, a dash a trash, a barrel of diesel fuel, maybe something dead and heaps of black sooty smoke. I rather grew to like it after a while, and found I nearly started to miss it while we were in the desert. Problem solved, we were back. As I write to you from this seaside resort in Viet Nam, I can sy that Asia funk is much different in retrospect. They tend to add more fish smell than that barrel of diesel.
Anyway, we left Steve and Mary in Merrakech while we flew out to Marseilles, France. And that my friends starts the next chapter......

Posted by macscott 03:42 Comments (0)

Better Late Than Never.......?

Alright, I know what your thinking. We are very sorry (sorry indeed) that we have neglected our blog management duties for so long. There is much to write about since the last time you read about us. I guess I´ll begin in Zanzibar, Tanzania. We both loved being there. It´s an island about 25 miles east of the Tanzanian coast in the Indian Ocean. The water was an amazing menthol blue like you see on the Hall´s commercials. Tanzania was very different from Kenya in many ways but foremost in my mind was the way people lived their daily lives. I think in general, Kenyans work harder and try to please visitors more. At any rate, we spent a good deal of time in a little town on the north side of Zanzibar called Nungwei. There is a smaller settlement a little south of there called Kendwa Rocks. We ended up staying at a great place called White Sands. The owner was a Belgian expatriot named Jon (say Yon)and his German Sheppard, Jackel. We happened to run into a great family from Manchester, England. Ren, Annette, and their kids Jack, and Georgia. I have to say, I really had a great time with those kids. We sailed on Arab Dhows and dove in the clear water on the reef just offsore. It´s the kind of place you can lose yourself and forget about the rest of the world. I guess that´s why there are so many expat´s running around over there.
Zanzibar was part of the roaming range of the Massai peoples and eventually the island was discovered by sailors from Oman and Yeman. The Arabs settled here and began cultivating spices. So when you hear about the spice islands, you know someone is talking about the archipelago of islands just off the Tanzanian coast. Stone Town, or better know as Zanzibar Town, is the main port town. It is named Stone Town because of the limestone buildings that practically occupy all available space in the medina and leave just enough space to walk between them, thanks to the Portugese merchants that came later. You could walk for days and never walk the same streets on purpose.
We arrived to Zanzibar by ferry from Dar es Salaam and left by plane to Mombassa, Kenya. We instantly hopped a cab to Melindi. The ride was cheap and took about an hour. Melindi is an Italian settlement on the coast. It was largely unremarkable, except to say we spent too much time there. From Melindi, we took a terrifying flight on probably the first ATR ever manufactured, to Lamu Island. With our wing tip skimming the waters surface on final and holding our breaths until we slammed onto the runway, we still managed to enjoy a great view of the island´s surroundings. Lamu is situated on the northern coast of Kenya only 45 kilometers away from Samolia. We stayed on the Indian Ocean side of the island in another town called Shella. Lamu and Shella are very Muslim, much like all of coastal Kenya and Tanzania, and it´s common to see women dressed all in black with thier faces behind a black veil. All you can see are their eyes, hands, and 3 inch heels. The morning wake up call for prayer in the Muslim world is at 04:45, sharp. And I must say, some of the gentlemen calling others to pray are not the world´s best singers! (Especially that early) Despite what a lot of people think, the Muslim world does not shut down 5 times a day for prayer. Maybe in Saudi and Iran and some other Ìslamic States, but everyone is pretty much like you and I. They get up, get the kids to school, go to work, go to market, etc... I really enjoyed our time in Lamu. It´s the kind of place you can leave your room unlocked while your away. You have to worry about the tourists robbing your room before you think about the locals robbing it. We stayed at a new inn. It was actually an addition to a family´s home. All the architecture there is Arabic in style, with tile work everywhere. You have to take off your shoes before you go in out of respect. The owner, Omar took good care of us. In Lamu, it´s easy to lose yourself, much like Zanzibar but much easier! We stayed way too long there, but I have no regrets. I don´t think I have read so many trash novels in my life. Outside of fishing, eating, drinking, and sleeping all day, reading poses a good alternative. I had a chance to sail a dhow again there after we went fishing on the reef. The crew was so stoned that I thought we might end up in Somalia instead of Lamu. After we washed ashore, the guys cleaned our fish, or someone´s fish, and cooked it and we sat on the beach drinking beer and eating our catch. There is a lot of Arab and Massai history in Lamu. It was told to us that Lamu was again part of the wandering range of the Massai and was also settled by the Omani Arabs and again later exploited by the Portuguese. Shella people lived north of Lamu and occasionally made war with each other. As time passed, the Shella wells went dry and they were forced to make peace with the people of Lamu. The then sultan of the stone medina of Lamu gave the Shella people land on the Ocean side of the island. It was unprotected to the weather and almost entirely sand dunes. In addition, the Shella people had a great mosque that they worshipped in the old neighborhood. They were forced to dismantle it and rebuild it in Lamu town. As a provision of their "peace offering" to the Lamu people, they were allowed to worship there anytime they wanted, except.... they could not wear their footwear inside of Lamu walls. That way, a Lamu citizen would know you were the outsider and were treated as so. In the end, the Shella people made out the best because Italian tourists saw the potential there and developed Shella as a resort getaway.
From Lamu, we went with an armed escort back to Mombassa. From Mombassa, we took an "express" safari through Tsavo National Park. We passed through at about 120 kilometers per hour and saw most of the big 5 animals in under 6 hours and we never had to leave our airconditioned bus! Sammy and Joseph were nice enough to meet us at the bus stop and take us to the airport in Nairobi and we were off for London.
We managed to take off on time, and land on time thanks to British Airways. However, Iberia Air had "technical" problems and we were delayed nearly as long at Heath Row as our flight from Nairobi. Do yourself a favor, NEVER fly with Iberia. Well, we finally made our flight to Barcelona and found it a lovely city. If you go there, check out a hotel called Gat Xino. It´s right off Las Ramblas and it´s super clean and really in the middle of it all. Barcelona, Gadi, La Sagrada Familia (amazing Gadi designed cathedral), the Ham and Cheese conference (very serious about their ham and cheese there), and of course football (Chelsea vs. Barcelona, mayhem!!).
After 10 great days in Barcelona, and fulfilling our daily intake of red wine, we flew to Cairo, Egypt, with Iberia, again. The guys at work will appreciate this, the airfield in Cairo is built about 30 feet higher than the ramp. So the airplanes must take a series of switchbacks to get to the ramp or the big dip straight down. Never get in a taxi in Cairo unless you have a signed and sworn statement in the drivers blood with promise of his firstborn about an agreed price. I cant recall how many times the price changed enroute on us. We met up with a driver named Hosam. He was great. He took us all around Giza (pyramids), Cairo, Memphis, the National Museum, and introduced us to the wonderful world of kushari (Egyptian fastfood).
From there we hopped a train south along the Nile and ended up in Luxor. Luxor is the famous as the original site of Thebes, the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Temple of Hatchipsup (site of Egypt´s worst tourist massacre in the late 1980´s), and most remarkable of all- The Luxor Temple (far more impressive than many Greek and Roman ruins). We continued south along the Nile again to Aswan. Aswan is just downstream of the Aswan high dam built around the late 1950´s to supply Lower Egypt with water. It created Lake Nasar and subsiquently nearly flooded Abu Simbel, an ancient temple erected by Ramses II. UNESCO helped move it to higher ground before the chambers were flooded. Abu Simbel is about 10 kilometers north of Sudan. Neededless to say, you really cant travel around Egypt with out security clearances or an armed convoy. Egypt was probably the hardest place I have travelled simply because you are hasseled all the time. If you are out of your hotel, you are being hassled. Unless there is some monumental archelogical discovery that rocks the modern world, I really think I´ll never return to the Nile Valley.
Back in Luxor we jumped on a plane to Sharm el Shiek. If you can imagine Disney World and the town of Celebration in the Middle East, but with no women working there, you have a good idea of what Sharm el Shiek is all about. The Bin Laden´s and the Prince of Bahrain are neighbors and both have giant mansions along the coast. The Red Sea and the Gulf of Aquaba converge here with Saudi Arabia looking on in the near distance. I can imagine the place being one of astounding beauty within a surreal setting before being developed. That is long gone however. I think that perhaps the reefs there are probably the best I have ever seen though. The local dive companies realise the potential there and have set permanent moorings instead of anchoring and damaging the reef. They really take good care of their natural resources in Sharm and at the same time they really exploit them heavily as well. It´s a fine balance they maintain. Never the less, it is maintained for the time being.
Trying to leave Sahrm was like that movie with Bill Murray, Groundhog Day. We kept trying to leave to St. Catherines Monestary but we were thwarted by swindling taxi drivers again and again. Then it was the weather. Apparently, it has not rained in that part of Sinai in over 10 years. Of course, it rains while we´re there and the road washes out. Finally, we get under way and take the bus up to the Monestary. We stayed two amazing nights at the Monestary. This is suposedly the place were Moses led the exiles and recieved the 10 Commandments atop Mt. Sinai. The monestary is supposedly built around the site of the original Burning Bush. We walked up Mt. Sinai (the 3500 Steps of Repentance) and took in amazing views of Mt. St. Catherine (were it just snowed the day before) and the Siani Peninsula. We took the camel trail down and then Mac broke the news to me that we would be climbing the mountain, again, at 3 am!!! So, the next morning, up we went. After wading through the mobs of Asian tourists in the pale light of our headlamps, and guys trying to sell us rocks, (Rocks! Like I had enough to carry, let alone rocks! On top of the mountain!) we had a lovely sunrise atop the mountain. Most memorable perhaps being a Japanese tourist. A middle aged gentleman sitting quietly away from the others in his tour group, trying to be courteous. As the sun started to rise, everyone went so silent you could her only the wind. He stood up in an excited semi- crouched position with his camera grasped in one hand and his binocculars in the other and exclaimed in his best English "AAAAAA, IT´S COMING UP!!!" No kidding buddy. Mac thought it was cute.
After we left St. Catherines, we headed for the coast of the Gulf of Aquaba to catch a ferry to Aquaba, Jordan. We finally managed to get tickets and clear customs and get onto the ferry. We sat with an American tour group and a guy named Porky from Jupiter, Florida. It was nice to catch up on the news from home, and I hardly noticed the ferry ride north between Saudi and Sinai. Towards the end, I managed to corner another traveller about my age. He was an Austrailian named Andre. He was travelling with his soon to be wife, Kimmy. They are both officers in the Australian Navy and they are also travelling on a similar ticket for a year. They were huddled up with two Royal Air Force (RAF) Officers who recently graduated and were enjoying a few weeks of R&R, in the Middle East?!?! Turns out their names are Nick and Steve. We all decided to hang out together for a while to help differ some of the costs. Well, I have to say, they are some of the finest travel companions anyone could hope for. And the Nick and Steve Show gave us hours of entertainment. We hired a car in Aquaba, and drove north to the Wadi Rum Desert. This is the desert were Lawrence of Arabia lived and was later filmed. We rode around in the back of a 4 wheel drive and I must admit, it is one of the most impressive landscapes I´ve seen. Giant sandstone walls and great expanses of empty space occupy the area. It had not rained or snowed in 10 years, and we encountered a sand storm and hail! Not much fun in the back of an open truck. We camped in tents that night and moved on the next morning to Petra.
According to tradition, in ca. 1200 BCE, the Petra area (but not necessarily the site itself) was populated by Edomites and the area was known as Edom ("red"). Before the Israelite incursions, the Edomites controlled the trade routes from Arabia in the south to Damascus in the north. Little is known about the Edomites at Petra itself, but as a people they were known for their wisdom, their writing, their textile industry, the excellence and fineness of their ceramics, and their skilled metal working.
The next chapter belongs to the Persian period, and it is thought that during this time the Nabataeans migrated into Edom, forcing the Edomites to move into southern Palestine. But little is known about Petra proper until about 312 BC by which time the Nabataeans, one of many Arab tribes, occupied it and made it the capital of their kingdom. At this time, during the Hellenistic rule of the Seleucids, and later, the Ptolemies, the whole area flourished with increased trade and the establishment of new towns such as Philadelphia (Rabbath 'Ammon, modern Amman) and Gerasa (modern Jerash). Infighting between the Seleucids and Ptolemies allowed the Nabataeans to gain control over the caravan routes between Arabia and Syria. Although there were struggles between the Jewish Maccabeans and the Seleucid overlords, Nabataean trade continued.
With Nabataean rule, Petra became the center for a spice trade that extended from Arabia to Aqaba and Petra, and onward either to Gaza in the northwest, or to the north through Amman to Bostra, Damascus, and finally on to Palmyra and the Syrian Desert. Nabataean Classical monuments reflect the international character of the Nabataean economy through their combination of native tradition and the classical spirit.
The Romans later occupied Petra and as history progressed, bloody battles ensued to occupy the area between the Arabs and the Jews, and the Crusader Christains and the Arabs.
When the Hashimites later came to rule, borders were erected and currently the historical sites of Jordan are protected for all religions and ethnicities to enjoy.
As a side note, you may have seen the Treasury of Petra in the closing scenes of Indian Jones and the Last Crusade. Incidentally, it´s just a façade, the inside is about as big as the inside of a modern church and completly empty.
From Petra, we let Nick and Steve head back to Britain for duty, and the remaining four of us trekked north to some great crusader castles and to the Dead Sea. In Amman, we parted with Kim and Andre and took a bus to Tel Aviv, Isreal
Tel Aviv is a lot like Miami Beach. We pulled in just in time for Passover. This threw a wrench into the works because EVERYTHING comes to a screaching halt at sunset and lasted for seven days. We managed to make it to Jerusalem before sunset, and after the sun set, the bustling streets were vacant. It was creepy, like a ghost town. We had to stock up on food for ourselves before the stores closed and we could not buy nor consume ANY bread products containing yeast. I will never eat motso again. Everything had motso. It was like Bubba from Forest Gump describing all the shrimp dishes his mother could prepare only imagine him saying motso....... even motso pizza. Someone said to us that we arrived in Isreal for the "Bombing Season". After hearing that, it was easy to see why everyone was so on edge all the time. Some dont talk about it, some talk only about it. It was hard to know where to be, literally. Jerusalem was amazing. Imagine a walled city divided into quadrants. Arab, Christain, Jewish, and Armanian. There are no dividers between the quadrants of the medina, just walkways. They all coexist there peacefully. After Passover, turns out we were just in time for Muslims Holy Day, Friday. So their shops were all closed. Then, for the weekend we were just in time for Non Greek Easter! Always a party in Jerusalem! We walked the stations of the Cross, stopped at the Western (Wailing) Wall, walked around the Temple Mount, and layed eyes only on the Temple. One of Islam´s pilgrimage sites. It´s supposedly where Mohammed took his night journey to heaven to be with Allah. Picture if you can, a giant fortress surrounded on 4 sides by high walls. The Muslim temple way up on top, and armed soldiers everywhere. The western facing wall is sacred to Jews because it is the last remaining original wall of King Soloman´s Temple. The Muslims who occupied the city threw the Jews out, tore down Soloman´s Temple and erected a mosque over the sacred rock that Mohammed departed from. Only recently in modern history have Jews been allowed to pray at the Wall.
From Jerusalem, we went to Haifa by bus. We hired a car and drove around the Golan Heights, stolen from Syria in the late 1970´s and patrolled by UN Peacekeepers. We travelled north to the Lebanese border and east to the Syrian border all inside Isreal. It´s beautiful country but treacherous from all the unexploded landmines and inexperienced Israli children cum warriors. We enjoyed the countryside and the history of the region, but we both couldnt wait to hop that big old jet airliner to Greece!

Ah, Greece! Steve, Dave, and Andre, we have a ******* emergency here!
Oh yea, we were just in time for Greek Easter! We met up with her brother Dave and her Mom in Athens and stayed with Dave´s friends Petros, Vaso, and little Stela. We need to say thank you to that family very much for your hospitality and warmth. Thank you. After Uncle Dave and Aunt Polly showed up, we left for the small island south of Athens in the Aegean Sea. Dave has done extensive archological work in this area and was an amazing organizer, host, Conlin cat herder, and all around glue that kept it together for the rest of us. Hats off to you, Thank You. Hydra is an amazing little island. You can take day walks everyday of your life and never be bored there. Steve, Louise, Maddy, and Taft showed up a week into it to complete the gathering. Polly and Dave chartered a sailboat for a few days that was some of the best sailing I have done, thanks to you both. By the way, I think Maddy and Taft have salt water in their veins, good job sailing you guys!! Then Kim and Andre showed up from Jordan!

Then it was on to Madrid to see my Mom and Dad who flew in to hang out with us for two weeks. We hired a car and we were off to see what Spain has to offer. After a few snags with hotels, we worked out the kinks and we had a great time wandering around. We hit, Madrid, Cordoba, Granada, Gibraltar, Tarifa, and Sevilla. Perhaps we had too much Sherry in Jerez, but we had such a great time with them. The sites in Spain are very picturesque. I think what I will always remember the most was the fun we shared just bouncing around the country and hanging out. Thanks so much for coming to see us. It has been a long time since Mac and I have hung out with Mom and Dad, and it really was great that they pushed hard and made it over. Hats off to you guys too.

After Mom and Dad left, we spent some more time in Tarifa were the wind blows a steady 30 knots, always. It´s the windsurfing capitol of Europe. Tarifa got it´s name from the pirates that patrolled the area charging a "tarrif" to pass through the Straits of Gibraltar.
We decided to put off Morocco for a week or two to go explore Portugal. So far, it has been my favorite country. I really like Portugal and the Portuguese, and their food! We have had nothing but warm welcomes and giant helpings of really good local fare and great wine. We stayed in Baja the first night and ran into a Canadian expatriot named Carl. He was an interesting study. He is a proffessional photographer and sells his prints locally. Anyway, he showed us where to go and what to do. The second night, we stayed in Montseraz. Portugal is number 6 in the world as wine producing goes and Monteraz is right in the middle of it. Apparently, Portugals wine is mostly consumed before export so that is why there is little exported in the first place. We had two great days there exploring the countryside and drinking the wine. After that we trekked on to Manteigas. It´s a mountain town in the Estrella Naturale Parque. I almost didny leave here, it was so nice. Then on to Lisbon, and south to Costa del Luz the a quick left along the Algarves coast. The nicest part of that coast was a town called Sagres. It rivaled Mantegas in beauty. It had amazing cliffs over 45 meters tall and the sea was always unsettled. It is a great place for surfing and may be the best in Europe. I didnt want to leave there either. We finally ended up in Morocco and having only spent 4 days here so far, I think I might need to start a new chapter. Mac keeps saying that photos are going to be posted, but we have heard her say that before.................

Posted by macscott 09:37 Comments (0)

Africa: Safari

Mac's Perspective

Well hello everyone! Finally a few minutes to sit down and collect my thoughts on the 1st phase of our African Adventure.....Safari!

As I sit here on my last day in East Africa, I must say that it makes me sad to leave. Not that I am not excited to see what lies ahead, it is just that perhaps I feel I am not finished here. Of course, East Africa would require a lifetime to really understand. It is so beautiful, yet maybe confused..... so many different people, religons, ex rulers and crossed paths, sad and epic problems. I can only imagine how hard it must be to find solid cultural ground, especially while trying to unite and forge your way into the modern world as one country. These are thoughts and problems that I could (and will) pounder for a lifetime. I'm sure, not all that interesting to anyone else......so down to the fun stuff!

Safari......for anyone that has ever thought about this type of adventure...do it! I had set up our safari via the internet with a company that was recomended by Catherine Wall, a friend of Scott's. After what seemed like several hundered e-mails, we sealed the deal with a money transfer. As these things go........I worried, "there goes our money out into cyberspace, will they actually be there to pick us up at the airport???". The anwser was of course, yes. Tired and sleepy, Scott and I stumbled off the plane to the welcoming grins of Sammy and Joseph. And we were off! Joseph (the worlds best guide!)would lead us on our Kenya portion of our Safari. Our first stop was the Mountain Lodge at Mt.Kenya. A rustic, yet very refined lodge build around a waterhole. The service is so 'la-te-da' that you select what animals you would like to view at the waterhole should they show up that night. When they arrive, you recieve a knock on your door to wake you so you can walk out onto your private balcony and view your selected animals! So civilized!!! And I thought we had booked a budget safari. In the morning we rose just as the sky was starting to glow so we could watch the sun rise over Mt.Kenya. This was a truely moving sight! The summit was cloud free as the sun changed the mountain from black to gray to pink to yellow and then again to gray. The only disapointment to this section of our trip, was that Joseph was not allowed to dine with us. Still not sure why, but a disapointment none the less!

Next, we trekked to Lake Nakuru. This is the time of year that Kenya plays host East Africas Pink Flamingos. And the shallow salt lake was teaming with with the beauties. Besides the bird life, there were animals everywhere! Rhinos, Zebras, Baboons, Giraffes etc. However, it was the Buffalo that gave us a run for our money, literally. Joseph kept saying 'the single Buffalo are very dangerous'. Turns out they were....very dangerous, very large and dispite their size, very fast! Lucky for us Joesph pulled a high speed spin out in our trusty minivan and zoomed us to safety. Nothing like being chased by a huge, mean beast to get your heart pumping! Sorry to say, I was much too distracted to snap a photo.

Joseph had told us that the road to the Mara was 'very very bad' and as with the Buffalo, Joseph was right. The roads in Kenya are very, very bad! The only good section of road is being sponsored by the European Union, and under never ending construction. Once off the bad road....Joesph made up a road to get us to our lodge. I still find it amazing that he just knows where to go! And then, out of the blue, we were at the Livingston Lodge. A beautiful lodge right on the Mara River. As it turns out, we were the only people to drive in (in our trusty van). The lodge has their own airstrip and all of the more civilized guests flew in! This section of the river is home to a family(?) of hippos that entertained us with their grunts and groans, and every once in a while a massive burst of activity. The sad side to all the beauty of the Mara is the drought. There have been no real rains for over a year, maybe longer. Sadly, many animals have died, including several Hippo. That's Nature.....and in the end we really have no control. No rain, no water, no grass, no food, no life. Not just for animals, but the people as well. Everything in East Africa depends on the rain.

The next few days were spent exploring the Masai Mara. A place with extreme beauty and an aire of mystery. Joseph drove us far and wide until we had seen all of the big five. The last was the leopard. It was one of those experiences that I keep reviewing in my head. It was very exciting to see a leopard. Before we were done there must have been 20 trucks (except us in our trusty van!) full of people, all looking for the same experience as us. Some of the guides kept their distance, others were storming around trying to get the best view for their clients. In the end I felt sorry for the poor animal, and angry at myself for having particpated in the maddness. A fine example of loving it to death!

For me, the Mara was more about the people we met along the way. The animals are beautiful and amazing, but it is the people that really bring the place to life. The Maasai in this region are very good business people and seem to be able to sell just enough of their culture to keep it alive. This I mean with the upmost respect. How do you maintain a way of life that is being squeezed from all directions? They live in mud huts, yet they carry cell phones, or they may be your waiter at night (Maasai Joseph). But when they get time off, the waiter uniform is replaced with the traditional red robes. Their knowledge of the local plants and animals is sold to the few tourists that are interested enough to get out of their cars and learn. They stand guard (Maasai Edward) while you dine because all the monkeys need to see is the red robes and they know to stay away! As Edward would say...."No Monkeys!!!". One day Maasai David showed us the way to the lions. As you have read from Scott, this was an adventure not really suited for a van (don't worry Sammy, Joseph was very very careful). With our own variety of four wheel drive, (of the Maasai(David)/Kikuyu (Joseph)/American (you know who) varity) we made it to the top and were rewarded with several females and a very large male. Whom shall we say, had other things on his mind! But it was really getting to the top of the stoney hill that was all the fun!!

All to soon we were saying goodbye to Joseph and heading off to the Tanzanian portion of our Safari. For me, this was very hard! Joseph had been such a wonderful and knowledgeable guide. We spent our days viewing animals and our evenings talking about whatever came up. Our understanding of Kenya and being Kenyan was greatly expanded (though still woely lacking). In the end, the person who started out as our guide became our friend. I can only hope that our paths will cross again!

The next few days were a bit of a whirl wind tour of Ngorongoro and Serengeti. We transfered down to Arusha with Sammy to meet our new guide Ronald. Ronald, so different from Joseph, is also a wonderful guide as well. A little shy a first, but very knowledgeable of the animals and birds. This time we had a 'proper' safari vehicle, a 4x4 with the pop top, two gas tanks, two radios, and raised seats. Dad would have loved it! (though, I do have to say not as comfy as the van). Speaking of cars that Dad would love...we passed a red Toyota Landcruiser, just like Dads, all tricked out in safari gear and just plain old tough looking! I couldn't help but shed a little tear. It's strange the things that make you remember! Anyway, the Ngorongoro Crater is one of those places that really lives up to it's reputation. You climb and climb, then all of a sudden you top the rim.....and there it is. One of the largest calderas in the world. Green and teaming with life (just like the brochure says). We decended and spent the day viewing the animals. The sheer number of animals is just amazing! All different types, from lions to elephants (no Giraffes because their legs are not suited to the steep entry). It is like something from Jurassic Park! Everyone has to leave the crater by 6:00 (best hope you get your $200 worth by then!). So up we went to our lodge, the Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge. A 2 star hotel with a five star view. In an effort to make the most of the view, we found ourselves two sunset seats front and center, and we watched...the clouds drifted by, a few drops of rain fell....and then, right as mother nature had planned it, the rainbow!!! Magic!

The next morning we were off to the Serengeti. It is amazing to me that after spending day after day looking at animals, I still get excited to see even the most common of the plains residents (especially the warthogs!! So odd looking they are cute!). The thing this time of year that seperates the Mara from the Serengeti (same plain really) is the concentration of animals. It's not so much that we were seeing anything new, except for the Crowned Crane, a truely magestic bird. There were animals everywhere! Huge herds of Wildebeest and Zebra as far as the eye could see. At one point we were very lucky to sit and watch a group of Lioness' hunt..stalking the Zebra through the tall grass. The herds knew something was up, they shifted and moved as one group. Running to and from the waterhole, alerted to every noise. In the end, the herds were tipped off by a red buck (whom we thought for sure was to be lunch) and it was all over. No Zebra would lose its life on this afternoon. The drama was so tense, exciting... we sat on the roof bitting our nails. Our day ended at the Lobo Lodge. Really a fantastic lodge! Built right into the huge stone slabs. Stone, glass and wood, what a wildlife lodge should be. Great views, and hardly a soul there. Except, of course someone from Boulder!

All to soon it was time for the long drive back to Arusha. Kind of a creepy little town really, but Ronald was kind enough to drive us around until we found someplace that we weren't grossed out by. It seems we had been a little too spoiled with all lodge accomodations on our safari! And that's that. It was over, and we were on our own! The safari gave us a great introduction to both countries. The parks in Kenya are a little more wild. You don't feel there is someone watching over you at all times. It's good because you can get out of the car and walk a little if safety permits. And bad for the same reason because there aren't enough people to watch and therefore protect the parks. People were friendlier and happy to share their way of life (no pictures please) and the service was far superior. Maybe a bit more like the wild west. In Tanzania there seemed to be someone watching, especially in the crater. You could almost feel the rangers spying on you from the rim. I was sure if we stepped one foot out of the car they would swoop down on us. I got the feeling that the people here were only interested in our money and that we should give it to them just for fun, but not everyone of course. We met many wonderful people in Tanzania, including Ronald, but overall I felt less welcome.

Well, that is it for now. More African adventures to come. Right now we are off to catch our plane.

Posted by macscott 03:27 Comments (0)

Jambo!

Some things I left out..........Starting in London, we took the Tube (subway) to Sevenoaks like I said and met up with Byron. We had some looks from the locals getting there. They were on their way to work and we were on our way to bed! We certainly looked strange I'm sure with large packs and nylon clothes! The Londoners are alot like New Yorkers to me, they avoid eye contact at all costs but are quick to help you should you need it. So, with little sleep and fading patience, we made it to Sevenoaks. Were we met Byron Brown. He is a most hospitable person with a big heart and a bigger interest in preserving steam locomotives, vintage railways, and the steam railroader's way of life. Byron drove us around the Sevenoaks countryside in his new Peugeot wagon. No reflection on his driving, which was excellent, but I think the white line that divides us from on coming traffic was more of a vague suggestion than a rule! Incidentally, did you know why the Brtish drive right handed vehicles? The Romans first settled the island, and they all had the usual family chariot. When they went to war though, the reins were held in the left hand, leaving the right to weald a weapon (as most people are right handed) leaving your enemy to your right side. I guess it just stuck. That night we ate dinner with Marion, a good friend of Byron's and he tried to talk me into a game of Poker. I had the feeling that our holiday money would soon be gone if I gave in! We had this habit instantly and every night after dinner to lose track of time. Often, I would look at the clock and suddenly it was 1 am!! We had many great things to talk about and much, way too much wine. Byron often said that the U.S. and England were two countries separated by the same language. The 2 countries are very similar in so many ways, except they all drive on the wrong side! The next day he drove us to Sussex. We visited the white cliffs there, much like the one's in Dover only 20 minutes from our location. They are chalky and filled with flint rocks. It's the old sea bed from 25 million years ago. We could see the French shore from where we stood. I think it's possible to have a walking only hoilday here and walk entirely accross the whole island. What a great adventure that would be! After that, we drove to 'Rye. 'Rye was first settled by the Romans before Christ. They started a wall that went way out in the shallow esturary, almost out of sight of land. Through time, as new settlers came in the wall was completed and water was removed to expose the seabed. Itr was filled and farmed and still farmed to this day. It all happened over a period of 1800 years. The surrounding marsh is named Romley. In 'Rye, we went to high tea, as opposed to just tea with Byron. We had "Cream Tea" which was simply scones, clotted cream and jam with a delightful tea. I know now why the Engish drink so much tea, "Because it's so bloody cold here!" We went back to his home for another 3 bottles of wine and another 1 am night.
The next day we walked the Knole Estate, it's part of their national trust. It's an amazing tract of land with deer everywhere. We must have walked for 3 hours and still did not cover half of it. There were so many people out walking of all ages. It was delightful.
The next day, Byron took us to the Bluebell Railway. It's a working steam railway that is being preserved. They do a marvelous job at the preservation. There are steam locomotives of all sizes and horsepower. The words I write here hardly do it justice. I hope they perservere for many years.
The next morning we departed for Kenya. Our representative, Sammy Mailu and our guide, Joseph Ndugi aka "The Proffessor" met us at the airport. They whisked us away to the Panafric Hotel and briefed us on the safari. Sammy's company, Quest Wildwood East African Safaris is a first class operation run entirely by Kenyans. The next day, the Proffessor showed us around Nairobi, (called Nairobbery by the tourists). We stopped at the Kenyan National Museum and went to the Herpatorium. We saw many varieties of reptiles ther including the cobra, green and black mambas and the puff adder to name a few, all residents of the Kenyan Bush! In short, I think it's safe to say that if it moves in Kenya, it can kill you! Joseph knows his city well and his country's history. I think he is quite proud to be a Kenyan. There are 42 languages spoken in Kenya, but Swahili and English are the primaries. Nairobi's older history is rarely spoken of because of British rule. Like Mackenzie says, "History books are written by the winners". Joseph said Kenya won it's independance on June 1, 1963. I think things are changing for the better here.
The next day we went to Mt. Kenya National Park. We stayed at the Mountain Lodge, another first class operation. We took the nature walk, a 3 hour walk through the jungle with guides who carried AK 47's for protection against the Cape Buffalo. Like I always say, "You don't have to be the fastest runner in your group, you just don't want to be the slowest!" Mt. Kenya is Africa's second highest peak, after Kilimanjaro. It was worshipped by locals until the Christian missioaries arrived. Mt. Kenya was named that after a missionary spoke to local tribes and found that is what they called it. What he didn't know was that he miss spelled it. It was pronounced Kiinya (say keenyah). It meant, "ostrich". It is the only mountain so close to the equator with snow, that is rapidly dissapearing. On our way to Lake Nakuru, we passed over the equator, 4 times. The first time we stopped and took photos and was shown an experiment by a 3 toothed man named Amos, he also claimed to be a proffessor, funny that. He poured water through a funnel 20 meters North of the equator and of course it spiraled down to the right. Next we went 20 meters South of the Line, and of course it spiraled left. Then he took us on top of the line, and profoundly enough, it went straight down. And this great lesson only cost me $5 U.S. Sorry Dad, you could have saved a lot of money!! We crossed through the Rift Valley. It spans from Mozambique to Jordan, and is claimed to be the Cradle of Humanity. It's be proven that hominids existed here 3.5 million years ago. The Rift Valley is a zone of divergence. Meaning in terms of plate techtonics, the two giant plates are drifting apart from one another by forces so great, we have no idea.
We ended up at Lake Nakuru. It's a wonderful place, a biosphere in many ways. We saw so many varieties of wildlife, I don't know where to begin. The Lake is alkali, meaning it's slightly caustic and salty. It supports many varities of alagae that the millions of flamingos eat. This in turn gives them the pink color. The next day we drove to Maasai Mara National Park. The roads were unreal. Read about Maasai Mara in the last entry. From there we drove all day to Nairobi then on to Arusha. The shuttle bus to Arusha was interesting. Before we left, a rather shadey looking guy gets on the bus with a green hand bag. He acted so bizarre, he was sweating profusely, more than any other native East African should and he held that bag like his very life was in it. After we crossed the Kenyan/Tanzanian border, I noticed he wasn't on the bus but his bag still was. Sammy, who rode down with us said he was a Muslim from West Africa, as he spoke to him because he was Sammy's seat mate. I started to get a little suspious of the bag and I passed a note to Mac to see what she thought. We decided to eather chuck the bag out the window or open it. Sammy said to open it. I half expected too see a timer and C4 but it was just some papers in Arabic and French. Needless to say, my suspicions had the best of me and my heart was in my troat as I opened the bag. I think I'll avoid suspicious mini busses from now on, I'm not getting paid to do that anymore! Arusha is your typical third world city. It spans the spectrum of wealth and poverty. We left for Ngorogoro Crater the next day with our wonderful guide Ronald. Again, it is it's own biospere. The animals there were numerous and healthy. We have been very lucky with both of our guides, in that they seem to know the names(both in English and Swahili) of all the birds and animals, not just the 'big five'. It was a delight to be there. We witnessed the most wonderful sunset that night, with stars that went all the way to the ground. The next morning, Mackenzie saw an amazing sunrise over the crater rim. I highly suggest visiting this place. The original volcano rose to over 12,000 feet and blew it's top one day. The rim settled at about 4200 feet and that's where our lodge was situated. When it blew, it threw ash and rock west onto the Ngorogoro Plain, and the Serengeti Plain, nearly 200 miles away total. We left to the Serengeti that morning. Serengeti is Maasai for endless plain. It certainly was endless. There was grass plain as far as you could see in all directions. It is populated by the usual suspects, antelope, buffalo, wildebeasts (bewilderdbeasts), zebras, and of course lions. They were perhaps the laziest lions I've seen yet! We stayed at the Lobo Lodge and saw yet another amazing sunset, this time over the Serengeti. We drove back to Arusha the next day and here we all are. Moshi and Kilimanjaro in the morning and on to Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. We'll write to you in Zanzibar. Hope you are all well.

Posted by macscott 04:37 Comments (1)

On the Road Again...

Grettings from Arusha! We are safe and still going. We arrived in London and made our way to Sevenoaks. We stayed with a great guy named Byron Brown. He warmly welcomed us into his home and showed us the amazing English countryside. We even went on a real, restored steam train ride. We have photos that will be uploaded to this site soon! Thanks Byron, we owe you big time! We then flew on to Naorobi (Nairobbery, Africa's most dangerous city apparently), were we met our guide, Joseph of Quest Wildwood East African Safaris)at the airport. He showed us so many great things and people in Kenya on our way through the safari. We went to Mt. Kenya, Lake Nakuru, Maasai Mara, then on to Tanzania to see the Ngorogoro Crater, and finally the Serengetti. We are awaiting our bus ride (dodgey at best) to Moshi at the base of Kilimanjaro in the morning and then we are on to Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar for some much needed rest after the 9 hour Land Crusier rides every day. I have never experienced roads (roads? what roads?) like these. It's no wonder the vehicle of choice here is a 4 wheel drive one! I can't begin to write how incredible the people in Kenya are. They are very warm and pass out smiles and 'JAMBO!' like it's going out of style. The Maasai people are an experience all of their own that everyone who comes to Kenya will get. The Maasai are warm and welcoming but very smart and independant. Perhaps the vision that I recall most was picking up David, a local Maasai at Maasai Mara. He took us to the base of a hill were lions were located. He and I must have moved 2 tons of stones so the safari vehicle could make it up the hill. Of course we saw lions but later that day we saw him in full red Maasai garb, complete with Acacia Club, steel sword and spear riding an old bike (much like the bikes you see loaded on the ships in the Miami River) across the savanah while talking on his CELL PHONE!! In the middle of the savanah! I believe we have a photo of that as well. We are having a little difficulty with our technology at the moment. Please be patient and we'll get the pictures posted soon. We hope all of you are well. We will write more from Zanzibar.

Posted by macscott 02:58 Comments (0)

Jolly Olde England

Well, we finally made it out of town! So far we have been running nonstop and have had many adverntures. Our early arrivel in London promted our first adventure, public transportation! We managed to find out way to Sevenoaks where our wonderful host, Bryon, picked us up at the station. What was going to be our time in London turned into a wonderful holiday in the country. Bryon showed us all the charm of England in the winter, driving us through small towns and rolling hills. We spent one late afternoon having cream tea in Rye. Warming ourselfs in front of the fire and enjoying great conversation. Our evenings were full of great food, wine and the company of Marion, Katy, Richard and of course Bryon. All and all we conculde that the highlight of our time in the Country was our day riding the rails with Bryon. We spent a great afternoon chugging along the antique rails of the Bluebell Railway. A beautiful restored train, complete with a beautifully restored station. Shipping wine and beer while gently bobbing back and forth. What a wonderful time. Our many thanks to our wonderfull hosts and we very much look forward to seeing them again!

Posted by macscott 01:59 Comments (0)

Our Itnerary.....

Subject to change....

Well, after much humming and hahing we finally bought the tickets. Ouch! But that's O.K. what's a few bucks for the adventure of a life time? So, the trip should follow a path that looks something like this.........
JAN 10, 2006-First stop, get our chill on in London. Just five days in January should be plenty.
JAN 15, 2006-Off to Africa. Kenya is the jumping off point, and where our very exciting 10 day Safari departs from. After the Safari we follow our feet where they take us, Zanzibar, Uganda, South Africa??
MARCH 4, 2006-Barcalona for 10 days of the Western World.
MARCH 12, 2006-Egypt. From Cairo we will make our way around Egypt, Jordon and Isreal.
APRIL 24 or so-Make our way to a well deserved rest with the Conlin Family in Greece.
MAY 9, 2006- Spain, for some wine tasting with the Jackson family.
MAY 20, 2006-Morroco and a camel safari!
JUNE, JULY, AUGUST, and SEPTEMBER fancy free in Europe and Turkey.
SEPT-From Istanbul to Hong Kong (via London!!!)
From this point on, we don't really have much in the way of dates, but our adventures will take us to China, India, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapor, Australia and possibly a South Pacific island or two, New Zealand for Christmas and finally home Jan 10, 2007!

Posted by macscott 12:48 Comments (0)

Dearly beloved.....

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Hi Everyone,
We hope that everyone will want to do a little armchair travel with the aid of our new blog. Our plan is to keep you all updated with our current location, photos (keeping in mind that computer whizes we are not!) and notes of our day to day, or more likely week to week travels. Our departure date is Jan. 10th 2006, first stop Africa, via London. Last stop New Zealand, via the rest of the World. Returning to the States Jan. 10th 2007. Stay tuned!

Posted by macscott 13:22 Comments (0)

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