Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Masai

It is true, white men can't jump - or at least this one can't jump like a Masai. A visit to a Boma camp during safari was a treat. These people, like many tribes in Africa, are colorful and interesting. The women build the bomas or houses out of straw, mud and cow dung! The animals come into the small huts to sleep with them at night. Pretty cramped and smelly dwellings. I was truely amazed at the great distances I saw the men walking as they strolled across the plains with their red dress and sticks. In the village, which is several bomas surrounded by an acacia "fence" of thorns, many of the men tried to trade their sticks for my cheap casio watch. What they would do with a watch, I will never know - probably just a status symbol.

In the one photo, I am standing with the son of the 95 year old chief, the incumbant. Not as tall as your typical Masai.

Tanzanian Village Near Arusha

I have reached Tanzania via Kenya. My backpack, however, toured Ethiopia by way of a brief stopover in Addis Ababa. It took three days for me to retrieve it, during which time I only had shorts and a tee shirt.

I was fortunate to visit a local village just outside Arusha on my first full day in Tanzania. It is fascinating to see how the people structure their lives in this environment. The average income here is about a dollar per day and many of the people live by barter, farming and animal raising. Families live in small mud huts that house the women, children, goats and cows. The men generally live in a separate dwelling, especially if they have more than one wife. The familys focus on shelter, agriculture, and raising their children. School is supported by the federal government, which provides the teachers. The community, with whatever aid is available, provides the buildings and food. Educational supplies are limited. AIDS is a huge problem here and fills the orphanages with parentless children.

All said, the children and most people I have seen in Tanzania are warm, friendly and joyful.

A few notes on the photos:

The second photo is a picture I have seen around the world - a black plastic bag - they are everywhere, clinging to plants, on roads - everywhere.

The lady cooking meat soup is the local village cafe where the men also drink banana beer.

The next photo is a coffee bush. There are larger coffee plantations, but the villages also grow it to provide some income.

Next is a photo of the local sawmill. Basically a pit where one man holds one end of saw while a guy on top has the other.

Then there is the photo of the PE class at the local high school - farming is their sport.

The last picture is the typical vegetable and bean market in the village. Boys, also take milk down to Arusha by bike and then ride back up - it is steep as this village is on the slopes of Mt. Meru.

There was a bus crash a few days ago. It was a bus between Arusha and Dar. Thirty three people were killed. I was going to go that day, but decided to go to Dar a day early. Unforetunately, I met some people who were going to do that day. I hope they were not on that bus.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dahab and the Red Sea

Greetings All,
After Jordan, I decided to head south, so I took a ferry to the Sinai Penninsula and ended up in Dahab Egypt. This spot has some of the best shore diving and snorkeling in the world, with deep reefs within 10 meters of shore.
Dahab is a very laid back town about an hour north of Sharm El Sheike. Sharm is an upper end vacation spot at the south end of the Gulf of Aqaba. Dahab is about midway up the Gulf and has warm clear water. It looks like the government tried to make it upscale like Sharm but failed. The concrete walk along the water has rusting streetlights and half-finished improvements, but there is a certain hippy-like charm here.
The corals are not as brilliant as some other places, but there are lots of fish, sea snakes, clear water and great snorkelling. I even went out one night with the owner of a small restaurant and searched the reef for lobster for a couple of hours. No luck on the lobsters but great sights.
I had planned to stop in Dahab for a day or two and ended up staying for six days. Rooms are cheap and food is not bad. Snorkeling and swimming are right at the doorstep to town. But after nearly a week I felt myself flowing into the boardwalk like silly putty left out too long and pryed myself loose to continue my journey. Hope you enjoy the underwater photos. I used a fairly cheap Olympus to snap them while snorkelling.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Wadi Rum

Time to explore the land of Sir Lawrence of Arabia - Wadi Rum, Jordan. I can say that there was no rum to be found. The desert is surrounded by sandstone monoliths, which probably make excellant climbing, though not for me. Wadi Rum is about two hours from Petra. The hot desert is one of my favorite environments and Wadi Rum reminds me a bit of the desert southwest of the US.

My Wadi Rum tour was easily the most disorganized operation yet, but it still did not detract from the beauty of this place that so intrigued TE Lawrence. Actually, the tour operation was so bad that it brought an element of humor to the experience. Our Sudanese driver, though a nice guy, spoke no english, The jeep was started by hotwiring and was always on the verge of not starting - not a good thing in this heat. The four wheel drive did not work, so we got stuck in the sand. I thought we would have to ride the camels out, but in the end, we were able to free the vehicle and return. The night spent under the stars was nice, though I think not comparable with the night in the dunes in Morocco. Overall it was a great experience.
I have now left Jordan and am about to leave my next country, but that will have to wait for my next posting.


Petra has certainly been high on my list of places to see, and it did not disappoint. The hostel I stayed at in Wadi Musi played Indiana Jones every night on the tele, so I was primed to walk through the canyon on the approach to the Treasury. But the most magical time was experiencing Petra at night under candles and stars and bedouin music. My favorite place was the Monestry, which is at the farthest point in Petra. The size and setting are awe inspiring.