Gomba

Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making he best of it.

Gilda Radner

Sitting in Kigoma airport awaiting flight back to Dar Es Salaam, then flight to Arusha. Wi-Fi has been almost nonexistent and finding it actually quite freeing. But one must eventually rejoin the world.

Kigoma international airport departure lounge

Flew into Kigoma 4 days ago (I think). Airport quite interesting as health check (I believe for Ebola and hiv consisted of taking temperature (but not looking at the reading) and hand wash. Baggage trolley pulled by hand and individually loaded to small baggage claim.

Kigoma baggage claim

Hussein , our guide, met us took us to lunch at place on beach. Food was rice and some forgotten sauce, but the spice was awesome taste. ( the last time we had spice).

Then on to the two boats for hour ride to Gombe national park. This is where Jane Goodall did her work and displayed in National Geographic in 1961, by her photographer husband. Again tent camping, no escort required to walk at night, but most definitely lock the zipper doors with provided locks, as the baboons have figured out the zippers and love to go in and remove items to somewhere outside.

Loading boats launching
Jeanne on arrival Gombe

The baboons frequented camp and were fun to watch. When camp staff did laundry (by hand) the baboons would pull it off the drying line and either lay on the sheets and roll around seemingly to play in it. One baboon sat on Dave and Cindy’s tent beneath the metal roof escaping the rain. When Dave poked a stick at tent roof other baboons came in thinking this was great fun.

Baboon on tent

Swimming in the lake was great. Apparently the longest lake in world after lake bakal in Russia. It is 660 km long (400 miles ) but where we are one can see across to democratic republic of Congo and Burundi. Famous for that and it’s fish which include many cichlids and is a source of many aquarium fish. Dave and I snorkeled about the dock (which is mostly underwater, except for handrails), amazed at the number of species. Although not as colorful , almost more interesting than the reef last week. And fresh water which was quite refreshing, as temperatures high and high humidity.

Next day Hussein crew fix breakfast and after waiting for final rain shower, off to look at chimpanzees. They have built amazing trails and the chimps use them. There are numerous researchers and Hussein kept in contact with two groups of trackers who know where the chimps are at. After a strenuous uphill climb he said just around corner. When within 10 meters one must wear a mask to prevent disease transmission to chimps. (It is not the least bit required anywhere in Tanzania for humans)

Rounded the corner and there they were, on the trail, in nests up in trees, cavorting about the trees making squirrels at home look like pedestrians versus a formula 1 car in the trees. Hang by one arm using the other to just pick fruit. Youngsters fluttering all over chasing each other, picking on siblings, flying from limb to limb occasionally crashing down when a limb broke, then scrambling back up.

We had been taught if a male approaches to hug a tree to show submission, and if around chimps get off the trail as it is the chimps trail. Thus we stood there trying desperately to get photos and view their shenanigans. Then some descended and were about us, one baby came up to Dave and began chewing on his pack strap. oh my! We had heard the stories of their occasional aggression, and being omnivores, have been known to steal and eat human babies.

Chimpanzee
Prancing around
Mmmmm
Dave Blanchett video chimps playing pester your siblings

Our allotted one hour of close proximiy viewing time quickly went by. (I timed it at 90 minutes) and we continued our climb up the ridge to “Jane’s peak” where Jane Goodall could look out over the valley to see where the chimps were. We descended a somewhat smaller trail to the waterfall. This trail gave Jeanne grief as slippery and with her new shoulder does not want to fall down or reinjure the shoulder. I got to hold her hand on way to the falls.

At the falls I walked into the falls totally soaking my clothes, but it felt so good and I knew would dry somewhat quickly. The jungle surrounded us and I kept wondering about “Tarzan” swinging through the trees vine to vine. Fascinating jungle, different than Panama or Bolivia jungle, but tropical jungle. Growth on growth on growth. Totally fascinating! One talks about alder bashing at home. That would be easy compared to attempting cross country without a trail here.

Waterfall
Jungle
Went fishing (Dave Blanchett photo) and

Back to base and an afternoon of relaxing. Power is on only from 7:30 to9:30 pm for charging phone, cameras, batteries, etc. and only one plug in tent, thus judicious planning is required and a headlamp.

Baboons playing
Baboons

Food was as Cindy described typical Tanzania. Always fish and rice but sometimes French fries, a meat sauce, peas, beans. Nothing exciting! Our group would gather at the “party barn” (Jeanne’s and my tent porch) for a pre dinner before dark get together. We were one of two tour groups, the other a couple from Germany who had been told credit cards could be used. (Unfortunately since no electricity available credit cards unusable. ). I gave the Germans 100,000 shillings (about$50.00) as they had no cash for tipping. (They transferred payment to me via PayPal).

Party barn

Second day and Jeanne opted out of todays trail. It was another strenuous climb this time more straight up by with steps in trail, although maybe a ladder a more appropriate term. Sweat was pouring from us. Then Hussein says just around corner, on go the masks and another hour of viewing. This time the chimps were more relaxing laying about making an occasional nest (tales 3-5 minutes of breaking and bending limbs). All the chimps are known to the researchers and we learned ages and histories. Gimle came down to a limb and laid out just relaxing occasionally crossing and uncrossing a leg or arm, just 4 meters from me. After maybe 10 minutes the alpha male began a call and all arose and began movement elsewhere. Gimle arose from his “lounge chair” and walked down the trunk right next to me, totally unbothered. (I have learned from the news media no one or thing much cares about my existence)

Third day and departure day. Hussein took us to north end of park and village where he grew up and lives when not guiding. (Mwongongo) let walked the village wondering if we were the ones on display. They had been preparing a traditional dance for us and it was amazing. Drums and women doing traditional dances which tell somewhat of a story. (Harvest of crops or fish, or visitors arriving from Congo or Burundi ). Fascinating phenomenal and many of the village came to see. Was quite the event.

School classroom interruption by us
Dancers
Dancers and drums (note metal percussion rhythm is a broken’ propeller)

Return via boat to Kigoma and all excited for potential good hotel with Wi-Fi, aircon, and most a variety of food. But we had been warned by Cindy to not expect much. Arrival and to David Livingston museum. The guide took a liking to me as same age, but as near end of museum tour he reminded me since we were brothers to not forget a much appreciated tip. He stated he would wait for me at end of tour. Cindy gave me $5.00 US and I learned the art of passing money in a handshake. Cindy has handled all finances and tipping on this trip.

Brothers (Dave Blanchett photo)
Traditional Dance
Kigoma sunset hotel driveway
Traditional Tanzanian meal at high end restaurant?

On to some more incredible traditional dancing. Incredible. Then a delightful hotel with some Wi-Fi, air con and showers although still no hot water (not really needed) excited about dinner and Hussein took us to a supposed high end Tanzanian restaurant. Alas in our estimation it did not meet our expectations. Fish rice, a meat fish and pea sauce. The same. Dory and Di opted for ice cream and French fries from a street vendor. Actually my dinner was good. Costing 12,000 shillings (about $12.00) A great sleep and now we have arrived at Dar es Salaam, a 4 hour wait for flight to Arusha which we flew over about an hour half ago. No direct flights.

Thus today we departed in Far western Tanzania at 9 am for Dar es salaam in far eastern part. Departed Dar for Zanzibar farthest east where we were last week. Arrived here at Arusha at 5 in middle of country. Does not seem to have direct flights. Alas. Now three days of wind down in this high end hotel.

Zanzibar

To die for a religion is easier than to live it absolutely.

Jorge Louis Borges

After a delightfully relaxing 3 days at the beach, we headed to town. In this case the island is Zanzibar and stone town, established in the 1500’s, taken over by Arabs. Most famous as the official eastern port for the slave trade, finally abolished in 1876 it served Europe and Asia. Ghana on the west coast served north and South America.

Hotel Tembo
From our balcony

The first night out we went out to eat at the night market. As Cindy describes it , 4 parts entertainment and 1 part food. And I might add delicious food. Reminded me of pikes market in Seattle, but not so sedate, very active. Pikes market on steroids. I got so many hugs from the cooks and hand shakes, and was well taken care of. I finally settled on lobster and prawns with garlic chipati, all barbecued exquisite. The cook made sure I had a seat to eat at. Great fun, but one must have energy for such activity and it is hot. (Upper 30’s(low 90’s) with humidity)

Jeanne breaking sweat
Food market chefs
Evening food market

Next day began with walking tour of stone town. With markets, vendors, narrow streets, intricate doors ( each tells a story of inhabitants and history)

We walked through the meat markets fish, beef chicken. A bit smelly but delightful,with fresh fruits and spices. I did learn there are 19 essential spices of which 18 are grown on Zanzibar. (The exception is saffron).

Fish market
Stone town streets

Then the slave market, oh my humanity near its worst. We went into the room where they weeded out the weak. A closed room maybe 4 meters by 4 (13 feet). No light and no ventilation of which 50 men in chains were placed. No food or water and at the end of 3 days those left alive were sent to the whipping post. The amount you cried out determined somewhat where you went.

Slave market memorial
Great museum (this was last display describing slavery yet going on in the world )
Street side shade
Stone town doors

That afternoon we drove to a spice farm. 10 hectares and they grow numerous spices there. Afraid I was very hot and my brain absorbed minimal, but fascinating. Ginger, cloves, pepper, numerous fruits, turmeric, coriander, etc. at the end of walkabout stall set up for buying. And a demo of coconut harvest. Amazing way to climb a tree. Wraps a cord between ankles and I suppose that makes the feet hold the tree, although our demo person was a total showman removing the strap and cavorting free. When finished they treat us to fresh coconut(milk and meat), watermelon (oh so good), papaya, and of course bananas. (Not cavendish). We received crowns, and ties from banana leaves. The kids came around and are kids. We had a good time.

Coconut harvester. (They can only work between age 14 and 24 then age out. Bones do not heal as well after that)
Coconut harvest
Capturing the show
Spice market/farm
Spice market kids
Departing stone town

Flew to Dar es Salaam, the biggest city of 4 million where 5 people departed for home. There are now 8 of us including Daude going to Gombe to look at chimpanzees, in Gombe stream national park. Daude has never been there so Cindy is treating him to a new experience.

Another African sunset
Daude and J. R. (One good looking one ??)

Ngonongoro crater

Most people rush after pleasure so fast they rush right past it.

Søren Kierkegard

Quite a day. This crater is listed as a wonder of the world. Apparently 25000 animals live within its bounds. Left early at just before 7 and ip to crater rim, which was quite cloudy, but I was thorough enjoying the jungle with tall trees as be thick undergrowth. Rim is about 2250 meters ((7500 feet) and crater just over 1500 meters(5000). A plain without trees and size of crater is 960 square kilometer (360 sw miles)

Wildebeast
Ngonongoro crater

It is a nature preserve as and very well controlled. One cannot get out of car except at designated spots for any reason. We were warned our drivers can be ticketed even for emergency bathroom stop. Makes sense as these are wild animals right at car. Many photos taken with just phone camera from window. Keep in mind our vehicles you can stand up in. And two of the animals seen today are in the top ten list of dangerous animals. (Hippopotamus and Cape buffalo, sorry alaska, bears do not come close. Folks commented on the amount of exercise and calories burned showing on our fitbits and exercise recorders. Mine showed I walked 8000 steps and 7 km.

Other animals seen were rhino, elephants, hyenas, jackals, lions, hare, Thompson and grants gazelles, elan, water buck, warthogs, baboons, monkeys, and those are the ones I remember. Then there are the birds oh my. Vultures, ibis, Flamingo, hawks, stilts, storks, herons, starlings, on and on. 17 new species for me today on top of 72 in past days. Both Simon and douse are excellent birders, and incredibly patient. You can ask them the name of that bird when you know you have already asked twenty times on same bird, and they as answer each time as if were the first. As Doug says “I may be old, but I am slow”

Thompson gazelle (although maybe grants)
Grey crowned crane
Cape buffalo
Spotted hyena
White headed vulture? On fresh Wildebeast carcass
Maribou Storks foraging
Jungle near rim
Yep
Wildebeast

And thus tonight we are on crater rim at 7400 feet and supposedly cold. Maybe low 30’s ( 70’s Fahrenheit) tomorrow head to oldapai Borge and history of humans then on to Serengeti for next three days. We shall see what is to come

Baboon

This is Thursday it must be Picton

“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks – on your body or on your heart – are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt”

Anthony Bourdain

Continuing on our whirlwind tour we made our way into the town center of Christchurch, to see what makes it a city where people want to live. It lies on the Canterbury plains and generally I have a problem with flat, again my bias comes out. We had heard it was and is having a hard time rebuilding after the devastating earthquakes of 2010 & 2011.

We arrived and found a beautiful park next to the Avon river with easy parking, although it took a bit to figure out how to pay via the computerized meter. Soon though I was showing the locals.

We began walking and came across what was a boarded up church hoping to be rebuilt. Apparently it suffered major damage and was built in the late 1800’s. We found the earthquake museum and headed there, again leery of tourist attractions.

This museum was great not only explaining the stories and their earthquake but why it was so bad. Again my prejudice showed and I was thinking anchorage just had a 7.0 earthquake 30 November) which is what theirs was. Christchurch earthquake was in November of 2010. It shook for 45 seconds with some damage and some injuries. But they congratulated themselves and felt ok, but the aftershocks continued. In March 2011 a 6.0 aftershock hit and numerous buildings collapsed resulting in 135 people dying and thousands injured.

Christchurch earthquake damage 2010-2011

the museum continued with great explanations not only of plate tectonics but the process of liquifaction. Christchurch is built on unstable soils, as is anchorage, and that led to a collapse of numerous buildings weakened unknowingly in first big quake.

Since then thousands of people are working on how to mitigate damages. It is an ongoing process, not only with building codes, but soil and geology work. We had heard some of the damages areas were condemned and people had to move out, but then real estate developers came in and said it was better now and charged exorbitant prices for the old land. The museum did not mention this, but it did cover how work is ongoing on mitigating the soil problems.

As per usual I may have some of the facts misconstrued but I tried to remember and learn.

Then on to city center a block away where the “world buskers festival” was taking places.

Christchurch city center damaged church background and lots of construction all over

World buskers festival

great food trucks, great street entertainment, and time to move on.

Half way between Christchurch and Picton, where we catch the ferry Friday morning, is a peninsula Kaikoura with a town. Seemed perfect and what a surprise. Great beach incredible views and a very tourist town, but not obnoxious. Stayed at. Holiday 10 as the other camper parks had really bad reviews. We have found holiday 10’s ok but definite McDonald’s like in that you know what you are getting each time generally. This one was not as crowded and felt good.

This Thursday morning went for a hike out on the point and wonderful to just see the ocean. Departing found the world famous Kaikoura BBQ and opted for the blue cod dinner and chowder although the crayfish looked great(lobster)

Kaikoura peninsula

Chili is out there somewhere

Beach walk

Limestone flats

Barbecue oh yes it was great

World famous Kaikoura bbq

And so we arrived picton completing our circumnavigation of the South Island. Time is way too short.

Beginnings of the east side

Paradise is not where you go but how you feel for one moment of your life.

Anonymous

alas, we are again feeling the pinch of time. Six weeks seemed like a long time, but now discussions cover what to miss or skip. New Zealand seems to be like Alaska; the longer you stay the longer the list of things to do grows longer. Thus far, would have been nice to spend more time at Cape Reinga, way up north, we skipped doubtful sound, and are going to skip Mt cook national park.

But on the good side, still time and just because we are skipping things does not mean we are not doing stuff.

Arrived Dunedin where a friend we had not seen in 5-6 years had gotten a job as an engineer. And Zak & Natasha were to meet us again here, as Jacob had brought some things from Alaska for them, replacing some of the items stolen earlier with their van breakin.

Arrived and discovered a royal albatross colony. Drove a delightful over the top tiny narrow road, overlooking ocean and found the colony. First sight is of the hundreds of red legged sea gulls.

Greeting committee

Red legged seagulls

Greeting committee

Signed up for a tour, which again proved awesome. Sam, our guide was passionate about his work, and giving us information. One of the first things was the red legged sea gull is threatened as the krill they eat is being forced deeper than the birds can go, due to climate change and warming oceans.

Albatross nests over Otago peninsula. Day 65 of 70 sitting

Then on to the albatrosses where we saw several nesting. Approximately day 65 of 70 days incubating. These are huge birds weighing at about 8 kilos with a wing span over 3 meters. When not spending their year on land raising a chick they cruise the southern ocean circling the globe never stepping on land for a year and for new birds 5-6 years; just cruising the winds. But again threatened, the krill, squid and food sources they eat puts out a chemical called DMS (short for some chemical name) albatrosses are hunters by smell, and when this chemical emits a plume the birds key in on it. Unfortunately plastic uses DMS and after a month of degradation also emits a chemical plume. The birds eat the plastic and eventually die.

One birds stomach content 52 items of plastic

After the birds Jeanne and I walked the Otago university campus which was delightful. At appointed time met our friends and had a wonderful meal. Met Zak & Natasha in am to get a bag to take home for them. (Aw the joys of traveling, trying to take the exact right thing) we were in a camper park and they were in a “freedom camp”. Dunedin had turned the carpark used during the day into a camper park at night.

Then off we went for our longest day of driving yet 350 kilometers to Christchurch. 5 1/2 hours.

we had heard about the southern alps train going from Greymouth to Christchurch. We went through Greymouth on the west coast almost two weeks ago, but discovered you could only go to Christchurch then return. To stop in Arthur’s pass would require an overnight. From Christchurch one can go to Arthur’s pass, spend 6 hours, then return Christchurch all in one day.

Somewhere along the way we read it is one of the top 5 train rides in the world. Ok I was skeptical and immediately began comparing to Alaska railroad and the scenery in Alaska. Again I was wrong. Within a few minutes of departure I realized this was a modern train, not high speed but we were cruising at 100 kph. Takes a 4 hours to cross the country here 250 kilometer. (Ok it is the narrowest point) Through the mountains, some 25 tunnels, bridges, and an elevation gain of a thousand meters. We were impressed. Cars were comfortable, with huge windows, and an outside viewing platform car.

Entering northern part southern alps

TranzAlpine rail

Viewing car

Train station

Six hours at Arthur’s pass and lots of hiking trails. We managed to exhaust ourselves trying to begin to cover them. With the walk to train station maybenanother 15 k day.

Devils Punchbowl falls 131 meters

Avalanche peak

Another delightful walk through the incredible silver beech forest hoping to see the mountain parrot (Kea) without success. back on the train to return Christ church after a remarkable day. Do not try and compare to other places, rides or experiences. This is its own incredible experience.

Reflections on cross country

I feel I need to reflect on the past 2 months of travel across north america.  (Well, almost two months, and almost cross country as never actually saw Atlantic Ocean)

When Jeanne and I started talking about the trip and we decided to do it, logistics discussions start in real quick.  It was obvious to fly to the east coast with bikes and do the trip, renting car from Albany to visit friends, then bike as we did to Washington D. C., but J. R. thought why not enjoy the area between.  Skipping over all that country just seems wasteful.  (Never mind reality) I checked on train which would be fun but several days and expensive.  Why not drive?  Jeanne immediately said no – she is not into road trips as much as I am.  But after she thought about it why not.  We could ride bikes a bit every day, and carry all our stuff ( more than we would ever carry on bike), so she said yes.

Well did not work out exactly as planned as more cold, rainy, and we forgot it gets dark early this time of year and camping would be 12 hour nights.  We are spoiled in Alaska with camping – no dark.

Now that the trip is almost over my thought is “It is easier to think about driving cross country than actually driving cross country”.  Duh!!!!

But it has been awesome.  Got to see places one would normally just fly over and not realize it is home and happiness to a lot of people. It is good to see that.  These places makes the world tick.

Biking was fun, although flat, but that presented different challenges.  Mud, rain, carrying minimal amount.  It worked.  Nice to see how other areas deal with bicycles.

and an important lesson, what you pay for a motel has nothing to do with quality. You do not always get what you pay for. Our worst was the most expensive and best was one of the cheapest. And often mom & pop motels often do not replace mattresses as often as they should.

On to the next trip

Buffalo to Lockport Day 1

“Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”

Anthony Boirdain

Successful departure. Got the car to auto storage but had to talk with owner for about an hour, retirement, cars, travels, life in general. Then same with Uber driver, although retirement was not on her list. She had lived all her life in Buffalo and wants to travel but ?.??.

I made it back to Jeanne looking sort of like a homeless camp with stuff scattered about the park. She was happily carrying on a conversation with one of local tour guides. Buffalo has and is reinvigorating itself with additions and upgrades to waterfront. Lots of concerts, activities and new buildings where people want to live. I packed as Jeanne went off in search of a bathroom.

The trail is great winding along the waterfront until turns off the Niagara River and then alongside the Erie Canal. A bit of roads but lightly traveled. Reminded me of Anchorage coastal trail except no moose. (That I saw)

Rest stop along the way for brake repair. Seems sitting on back of car for 16 days does not help.

Niagara River and river walk trail

We had hoped to get to the town of Medina about 46 miles along but we had difficulty finding if their was lodging the. Finally found a hotel but all rooms on 3rd floor and no elevator. That was enough of excuse to stay in Lockport which would make 33 miles. But I confess we were tired. Jeanne was trying to figure out why, while stating her bike was heavy. Even a partially loaded bike is different than an empty one. I assured her that as my friend Joe taught me on the great divide “3 days from now we will be in shape”

Delightful motel and outstanding dinner. Asleep by 9

The world is an amazing place.

History

Bike bridge under the peace bridge crossing Niagara River from Canada to USA

Finally on the Erie Canal bike path

East Coast Wanderings

East Coast Wanderings
People like to tell other people what to do because we all mistakenly believe we’re someone else’s expert. But what is true is regret. You don’t want to spend the rest of your years wishing you had a second chance at life.

Steve Alaniz &Francesco Marciuliano ( Sally Forth comics)

It is about time for another bike ride. Have barely ridden much in past months with variety of excuses. Hence we are off to ride the Erie Canal going between Buffalo, New York, then a week visiting friends and then to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Washington D.C. via the Allegheny trail and C & O Towpath.

The cheap, smart and easy way would be to fly with the bikes, but the idea hit me why not drive cross country. Jeanne, who is not very keen on road trips, was at first a definite no, but then warmed to the idea if we camped and rode our bikes at least an hour every day. Ok, sounds good, google shows 4200 miles (6750 kilometres), thus 300 miles a day should be allow plenty of time to bike explore, rest, and enjoy.

Departed Anchorage 4 September, a tuesday with Tok in our sites. alas a late start meant late into Tok and it was a bit of rain. Got a motel. Who wants to put up a tent in rain or take it down in rain, and cooking is another story. Motel and restaurant were in order. Morning was still a bit of rain, but OK. We enjoyed the morning reading news, getting mad at world, because it does not conform to us, going to breakfast and finally departing about 10-11 am.

Made it to Takhini Hot Springs near Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory. It has become a mandatory stop since our first time in January of 1991 when at -20 degrees the ducks had found the only remaining open water, to be shared by us. It was raining again, hence to the hostel.

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Takhini Hot Springs water temp about 85-104 (29-40C)

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Yukon river at Whitehorse

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Watson Lake sign forest started about 1946 soon after the Alaska Highway was created

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Side pool landscape at liars Hot Spring water about 39 degrees C here

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Liard Hot Springs a provincial park of British Columbia-delightful

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Jeanne on boardwalk to Liard hot springs.

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Woodland Buffalo along the Alaska Highway

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Alberta Wheat fields and oil

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Edmonton, Alberta

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rest stop in Riding Mountain National Park an amazing park which includes 3 distinct areas, the rocky uplift of metamorphic rocks, the boreal forest of higher elevations and latitudes here, and the last preserved grasslands of the plains. (Apparently only 5% of the original plains remain and 3% are here.)

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rest day in our one camp

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Crossing the Continental Divide separating Atlantic and Arctic Oceans

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Fall Colors

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Lake Superior coastline (Ojibwa name is Gichi Gamiing) Pictographs on the walls. Lake Superior is an amazing place.

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Walking to the pictographs

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forest walk at picnic area. So many species of trees. Phenomenal to go from boreal forest to the temperate forests of mid latitudes.

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Inuksuk a rock cairn built by Inupiats in the arctic to guide one through the flatlands. There are numerous ones all along the roadways of Ontario. This one stood nearly two meters high.

It is now the finish of day 14, and we are but 3 hours from Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York where we begin riding. We have had the bikes off the car once, in Edmonton where we did not trust the security of the locks on the car and I rode them inside the motel. 30 meters. It has rained a little every day except today, even snowing for a few minutes over a pass. We did stop for a rest day at Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba and visited friends driving from Nova Scotia back to California, having been gone 6 months. It was a great day and we camped for 2 nights, although ate dinner out and I made us breakfasts.

The amazing thing is we have felt rushed. Google maps says it involves 2 days and 18 hours of driving. But what of the questions and feeling the area, talking with people along the way, We wanted to cross Canada and see Canada. But how much time is enough. We talked with a ranger at Riding Mountain who had worked all over Canada (a huge country) but seemed to always return to Manitoba, as “there is so much to explore”. One can spend a lifetime in a place and still not know it.

I had thought Saskatchewan and Manitoba would just be flat boring landscape. I was very wrong, they are exciting: the country is always changing- which fields are cut, which are piled with brush for what purpose – with geese always seeming to be flying about preparing for routes south, or blackbird flocks hopping out of the cattails, the Iskootuk landmarks along the granite cliffs of Ontario (Inupiaq rock cairns marking the way) . Sandhill Cranes. And as I have noted before in flat places there are no mountains blocking the view.

I realized I wanted to be on the bicycle. That way one can feel the hills, smells the fields, experience the vastness. But that will come in a few days. Being in a car one still sees that horizon and wonders what is over it, but on a bicycle one can feel it and one works to get there, although I must admit my gas pedal foot is tired.

We now begin our transfer from sitting and driving to bicycling. Still sightseeing, questioning, exploring and trying to figure out how we fit in this scheme.

and again for a different view check out Jeanne’s blog at jeannemolitor.wordpress.com

Sometimes Jeanne and I view things quite differently and seems to be interesting that her views are sometimes very different than mine.

Canada has been awesome. Not everything is perfect, but they do have a sense of taking care of themselves and others, very little trash, great roads, frequent rest areas, provincial parks and national parks galore. No wonder Canadians are proud of their country, they have every right to be proud.

I did notice that throughout Canada everyone has driven civilly with almost all going the speed limit which makes driving much easier, but as we near Toronto I notice there are those who maintain and then those which are in a hurry to get somewhere. Begin to ramble.

 

Spring time travels

The more you travel, the more you discover that the world is beautiful everywhere.

Eric Ripert

Off yet again being a tourist, just looking around, poking about and seeing new and old things. This time to visit the United States capital – Washington D.C. As a friend said, everyone should visit their capital at least once just to see the physical place in which our nation’s primary workings are determined. Maybe not the primary working, that would be out with the results, people working and the land in which government rules. But government being a necessary entity with which our species survives, has to have a place for people to meet and determine how they will get along. In the United States that is Washington D. C.

Hence back in October my wife Jeanne, got us tickets to go to Washington. The average spring cherry blossoms peak apparently 2 March and that seemed perfect. (Originally I wrote April but corrected it.now). She has never been to Washington and I have been there only once, in 1965, riding my bike for a month about the area starting in Philadelphia and ending in Washington. It was an amazing trip, 10 kids ages 15-17 and our 21 year old leader. I became hooked on bicycling.

My memories of Washington D.C. consist of riding my bike along a delightful gravel paths alongside the Potomac river. I believe it was the B & O towpath. It was designed apparently as a horse path to tow the barges along the river in the 17 and 1800’s. This section was a great ride as we went from hostel to hostel. As I was riding through the lush forest one of the others in my group yelled out to stop as we were to exit here. I mentioned we were heading to the city, and this was still forest. They said we should climb the stairs and exit here, which we did. Wow, at the top of the climb out of the river valley, we exited the forest and there stood the Washington monument, instantly recognized. My ideas of the east coast being totally developed were being erased, as I realized the forest behind us, easily hid the city. We arrived at our hotel and prepared for 3 days of walking and sightseeing, within the city.

The next morning we first hit the local White Castle hamburger place for breakfast, downing as I remember 5 burgers. (Which in those days were much smaller being about 2-4 bites, and costing usually a nickel). Then on to the Washington monument where we all ran up the stairs, to enjoy the view about the city. Back down and my stomach was not happy and proceeded to vomit a large quantity all over the sidewalk at the base of the monument. Somewhere along the line I had gotten a bug and spent the next days resting in the hotel, while the others explored without me. I did venture out to do a bit of walking, seeing the Roosevelt memorial, which always impressed me. It was not a big thing , just a small life size statue of him, his dog, in the wheelchair. Then on to the natural history museum and wondrous dioramas. And somewhere in there I got a tour of the capital building. That is my memory of the city.

The surrounding area did impress me, with its historical sites.Harpers ferry, Gettysburg, Shenandoah National Park and a day hike along the Appalachian trail climbing Mt. Hawksbill – the highest point in the area, all of about 4700 feet (1400 meters). Back to Washington where I boarded the train for the 2-3 day trip back to Utah. (Trains in the U.S. aren’t much faster today)

Fast forward to 2018 and I am returning. Alas even with the best laid plans things change. Neither Jeanne or I like to have everything perfectly laid out with every stop and moment choreographed to fill ones time with all one wants to see and do. But to me that is just sightseeing and one does not get the feel. I tend to forego the reviews, and much prefer to “wing it”. Yes it is nice to have recommendations, but to feel a place one has to slow down and let it come into you. Talk to the people, experience what they do. Yes one cannot see all there is and you will miss stuff, but one can see what the place is about. I believe it was Anthony Bourdain, the food critic, who told the story of going into a foreign restaurant, not having a clue about the language, and just pointing to the meal someone else had ordered, which looked good.

And so it is with this trip. When we told people where we were going, those who had been there all said we had to go see (insert museum, memorial, home or whatever). In the 7 days we are there we have a list of things which would occupy years. I suspect those that live there have not seen it all. I have told people my goal is to sit on the steps of Lincoln memorial and just soak it in, watching the world go by, and I would like to see the air & space museum. But whatever comes along will be great. I suspect a few more people than 1965 when one just walked up and enjoyed. We shall see.

It was mentioned am I going to try and give a piece of my mind to those who like to set the rules of government. I do write numerous letters to our illustrious representatives and always seem to receive a letter back thanking me for my letter and proceeding to ramble on about something only vaguely resembling what I write about, never answering the questions I ask. Why should I waste my time visiting someone who is going to dismiss me categorically. I will continue to vote trying to get them out of office and replaced with someone whobelieves it is for more than just a well paying job of which they have to accomplish nothing. And I will continue to write letters stating my ideas, fully expecting them to write back with their drivel. Several said a tour of the White House, where the president lives is awesome. I do not want to even be associated with the current residents there. There is a tiny remote chance they might be present. There philosophies are not my vision of the world.

One thing we wanted to do was participate in the “gun march on Washington”. Certainly was not scheduled when we made arrangements for the trip but stuff happens. As noted above our illustrious representatives refuse to listen to the masses and prefer the big organizations, which represent the big organizations. Thus after yet another shooting in the United States and the representatives giving their thoughts and prayers and moving on, finally the youth are speaking. We want to show our support, plus I have never been in a protest with 500,000 people. It must be something.

Alas, travel is a risky proposition. We departed Tuesday planning on staying a short night in Seattle. I am finding I do not do as well as I used to, and flying all day and night arriving exhausted has better options. One can fly cross country in a day but why. Thus I convinced Jeanne to spend a night in Seattle and then fly during the day arriving at a reasonable hour, still tired, but not totally out of it, requiring several days to recover. Sometimes that is unavoidable but I find it much nicer if one can to take a bit more time.

Thus arrived Seattle, checked into motel across the street from airport, and hopped on train for trip to visit our nephew and his girlfriend. It was a delightful visit, not having seen them in about a year. And along the way stopped at some fabric stores which are unavailable in anchorage, for supplies for ski jumping suit repair, which Jeanne performs for the anchorage ski jumping club. A great use of time, and got to see Seattle from the train , rapidly going from airport to downtown Seattle in minutes without a hassle.

Back to motel and up early for 8am plane departure, keeping an eye on weather back east. The 4th big snowstorm in a couple weeks was expected to hit on Wednesday, our flight day.

Off for the day

Off for the day in Seattle U of W quad cherry trees. Cherry Blossoms at U of W quad.

I nearly had my hand on door to walk out of motel and Jeanne says flight is cancelled. Ok stay in motel, call airline and find options are a flight that afternoon to San Francisco and an all night flight arriving in Washington DC at 5:30 am. That is what we were trying to avoid. Or a flight on Saturday. At first we decided to cancel whole thing, get a refund on air tickets, but we would give up our B & B without refund of $750. We needed coffee and called another friend taking the train to her place where we drove to a delightful breakfast place and caffeinated ourselves. Thus we decided to wait for Saturday and spend 3 of our 7 days in Seattle. We have numerous friends and relatives and there are multitudes of things to do.

Seattle is a delightful city although it has grown way too big way too fast. Like many things the time to do things is before they need to be done, because when they are necessary it is often much harder to do. We borrowed a friends car and experienced the traffic nightmares of Seattle. That was only one day, and from then on we took the train to our motel back at the airport, walked, took the bus, and Uber. (Uber drivers are awesome to converse with as they live and feel the city)

The homeless problem is ongoing in Seattle with tents and camps scattered about sometimes just out on sidewalk. Apparently Seattle is trying but because it is so expensive to live there, the homeless population is increasing faster than solutions can be created.

But we visited friends on a one to one basis, caught up, reminisced, planned new ideas, and conversed.

And we visited the zoo which for a zoo is very good, seeing animals I would never get to see, and when I have seen them in their natural wild environment, lamenting how awful it is for an animal to be in a zoo.

Laughing kookaburra

Laughing Kookaburra Komodo dragon

young Komodo dragon searching out food (maybe 4 feet long)gorillaWe visited the aquarium which has always been one of the best. The information presented is prodigious and would take a long time to process and absorb it all. Continue reading

Buenos Aires

Let go of the past, let go of the future.

Buddha

Has been an interesting week.  The one thing we really wanted to do was go to Iguazu falls, a world heritage sight and one of the wonders of the natural world.  We had been having trouble piecemealing a trip together and decided to get to a travel agent in buenos aires.

On arrival caught a taxi to the airbnb we had rented, nearly leaving my computer on cart at airport.  Uh oh,  traveling always is risky. Had to wait a bit as they needed to clean  the apartment after the last tenants.  Went to local parilla restaurant (barbecue) and did the usual ordering with a nice sounding name which I had no idea what it was.  I ended up with blood sausage which was good, but Jeanne could not eat.  Never ask what is in your food, just do you like it.  Called on arrival so they could let us into the apartment and told them we were out front.  Alas an hour later they came down wondering why we had not rung the bell.  We did not know apartment number hence could not ring.  More language misinterpretation.

Then began walking to the supposed tourist area of Florida street which had lots of street vendors but proved difficult to find a travel agent.   Finally one was hidden away and only caught our attention when a vendor outside wanted to know if we wanted to travel somewhere.  The office was right there we just could not see it.

No air tickets to Iguazu falls as christmas time and everyone traveling.  Could get a pickup at airport to falls and hotel but no tour available and no flights.    Burned again by traveling at christmas time.

But made arrangements to go to a Tango show and for a day trip to Colonia, Uruguay, across the river.  Thus we have six days in Buenos Aires which was supposed to be three in Buenos Aires and three at falls,  so OK go with the flow.

Saturday headed off to the number one tourist attraction in Buenos Aires, and the Cementerio de la Recoleta, the cemetery. Evita Duarte remains there. The places for caskets was quite impressive, many larger than actual homes.

Cementerio de la Recoleta

Street dancers in crocs

 

Then shopping at the vendors and a street tango performance.  I went to tip them as their performance was incredible.  They thanked me and inquired if I would like a picture.  Hence the tango dancer in crocs.  My sister noted the crocs foot ware and probably the only person to see there is a guy in the picture.  I still can’t see him when I look at picture.

That evening we had arranged for a tango show of which there are numerous in Buenos Aires.  Dinner including wine beer, and delicious carne.  (What else is there in Argentina?) along with a small salad and a wondrous desert.  Then the show for an hour and half the dancers, musicians, and singers exhibited their skills.  Quite the athletes.  Amazing skill, I suspect acquired over years of training.

Sunday we heard there is a great street market where they close the road and vendors exhibit their wares.  As per usual though a few problems:  it was raining, the vendors were mostly of antiques, and not the artisan jewelery Jeanne was looking for.  But walking along did see Greg and Liz from Australia who were on the expedition to Antarctica with us.  A town of 4 million and we come across someone we know.  I am still amazed at how that works.

Purchased another umbrella as had not brought ours along for the day and walked back to apartment.  A nice walk through the city.

Monday

Exciting day as we were going to Colonia, Uruguay.  Cross another country off the list, whoopee!  A less than exciting ferry ride across the river which here measures 65 kilometers across.  As near as I can tell this is second widest river in the world, second only to the amazon at 215 kilometers across.  The ferry ride was less than exciting being more a cattle call than a boat ride.  No place to even go outside and upstairs was for vip’s only.

Colonia a delightful place to just wander.  Long clean beach along the river (I tested the water and fresh as expected) the city itself is a world heritage site and is nearly 500 years old.  Interesting history with Spanish and Portuguese invaders.  Spanish wanted to conquer, exploit and declare it theirs.  Portugal just wanted commerce, hence often the Portuguese were just along the coast but eventually had choice of leave or be killed, and Spanish language resulted.  Another case of I am better than you and will kill either you or myself to prove it.


A wondrous lunch of beer and squid looking out over the beach and water and sun.  Umbrella handy today for sun.


Return on even more unimpressive ferry.  They make a boat very unexciting.  On return to Buenos Aires, tried to figure out cabs but taxi stand seemed only for VIP passengers so we started walking again, this time along the canal, and it proved delightful. People just strolling along in the evening.  Stopped for some beers and to sit and people watch, finally about 8 pm decided it was time for dinner.  Again only ones on arrival but when we left at 10:15 place was half full.

The colors across the canal as the sun descended were amazing reflecting off the glass on buildings on other side.  Pinks, reds, blues, magentas- not the clouds but buildings as sunset progressed.

Tuesday 20 December

After a busy few days it was time for a rest and lounged about apartment until noon when stomach growling began and off to the neighborhood perilla 50 meters away for lunch.  No sausage this time but veal and wine.

Off to the evita museum although cab driver did not know where it was and even with address insisted on taking us to the nearby art museum.  We just walked the kilometer to evita museum, with a stop for a Starbucks frappuchino to combat the heat.

The museum itself is built in a building evita used as a shelter for homeless, abused or similar circumstances of women.  Her story is a bit different than that of the musical:  they did not cover the use of charity to increase their own fortunes.  Here they covered labor reforms, voting rights for women, and the buildup of social programs many of which are still being fought about in the United States.  And this was in the forties.  Way ahead of her time and obviously a go getter.  But stil the rich and powerful fought her, although in this case the people supported her.  Although never holding a political office she has pictures on posters and buildings about town.

Back to the canal where I attempted to photograph the previous evenings sunset without success.  The colors did not develop as the previous evening but still magnificent.  Technical camera issues ensued, but Jeanne patiently sat at a nearby restaurant.  The waiter from Italy spoke 5 languages and loved travelling.  He loves Buenos Aires for its liveliness and comfortable atmosphere.  He said he works til about 1 am when restaurants tend to close and the bars and clubs begin to open.

Wednesday 21 December and the sun is high over the Tropic of Capricorn, meaning it is winter solstice.  Here there is about 13.5 hours of sunshine, in anchorage about 5.5.  It begins to reverse with here losing light every day and up north they gain light daily for another six months when the annual rotation about the sun again changes again.

We celebrated by going on yet another tourist activity.  This entailed a 2 hour bus ride out to the estancia (ranch).  In the states we would call this a dude ranch.  On arrival they met us with wine and empanadas which were delightful at 11 am.

Then for the horse rides.  One should definitely ride a horse at least once a century, and I have now met my quota.  Took me 5 times to get up onto the horse, as I seemed to have difficulty using the mane as a handle.  The saddles here are not western saddles and do not have the handle in front. (Yes I know that is not the purpose). After a kilometer I was sore. I can ride a bicycle thousands of miles without being sore but a horse ride does me in.

Then a carriage ride and as with the horse ride the best part was the birds: burrowing owl, cara cara, herons and a bunch I could not identify.

Lunch was a 5-6 course meal of numerous meats, a small salad, and desert.  Along with beer and wine, plus coffee after.  Then the musical show and dancing.  Songs by a “gaucho” then tango dance demo again very artistic and athletic.  Some gaucho dances with bolos and delightful along with some of us in crowd getting up and dancing.

After the show off to the fields where the gaucho horse show began.  Not your usual cowboy harassing cows in a variety of ways, but a high speed run with a tiny stick about the size of a finger which you had to spear a ring hanging down.  Most runs they succeeded after which they rode up to the crowd and gave a lady the ring, along with a kiss.  Jeanne’s’ ring fit nicely over her middle finger.

On return to the city our guide said demonstrations were taking place and would be difficult to get us back where they picked us up.  Our pickup point was not necessarily near our apartment, but planned on another cab ride.  The guide advised against a cab ride due to demonstrations as we would just sit in traffic.  Ok we would walk which was acceptable as only about two kilometers, although finding walking on cement is harder than on regular trails.  Along the way we saw no signs of demonstrations as we know them but power out occasionally but not an issue. ( think, traffic lights).  Traffic although it appears quite crazy, is rather civilized once you figure it out.  Not one incident of road rage or rushing, was rather pleasant and great fun to drive about and see the city.

And I think I love Argentina.  Having ridden the Andes trail and spent several months in the country, it has such wonderful varied sites. Mountains, deserts, glaciers, beaches, oceans, and a people who are friendly and proud of their country, as they should be.  As per usual the people are just here making a living where they are born.  The government is often as separate entity.

In 1967 I was an exchange student in Germany.  I had been taught that the United States was the greatest country in the world, but I found perhaps there were other places that are great too.  I had been taught of the atrocities committed by Germany, but discovered it came from both sides.  Perhaps we think our home is the best because we understand it.  Again I am better than you thoughts prevail. But maybe that is not so, maybe just different and that can be exciting.  Embrace the diversity.  Just because we are different does not make us better or worse.

 

Gaucho horsemanship

The object is to put the stick through the ring while at high speed

Cowgirl extraordinaire

Gaucho furniture

Buenos Aires sunset (actually looking east)

Defensa street Sunday market pouring rain

 

And I wrote this enroute from Buenos Aires to Santiago Chile. On arrival I attempted to save and everything except pictures was erased.  Internet at airport is very slow, frustrating, and intermittent.  I have what is called a sky roam which connects me to internet via cellular network but it seems similar to airport wifi.  Ugh.  I think I will try and post and edit more when arrive in Dallas in 12 hours.  Well go figure as I posted this at Santiago airport wifi pictures would not show and writing was sporadic, but I look here in Dallas on arrival and shows up, so there you go.