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    Africa Travel

    Dilemma and Delight in Diani Beach Kenya

    Location: Diani Beach Kenya

    Diani Beach Kenya – It’s been a year since the deadly Nairobi hotel terrorism attack that took 21 lives. Kenya has had its share of terrorism over the past decade, mostly attributed to Al Shabab, an African Islamic group associated with Al Qaeda.

    Diani Beach Kenya
    Diani Beach at sunrise

    During this same year 40000 people died in the United States from gun-related violence.

    I share this comparison not to advocate against guns but to make a point; media accounts of violence around the world create a fear of faraway places, even while violence at home is often just as severe.

    It’s a dilemma to decide how to travel safely around the globe. And though we take our personal safety seriously, we do not believe we are in any more danger in Kenya, with its history of terrorist hits, than in the USA, with its history of domestic and international terrorism as well as rampant gun violence.

    Sheldrick Falls Kenya
    Sheldrick Falls

    And so we came to Kenya – specifically Diani Beach Kenya.

    Diani Beach Kenya is both a dilemma and a delight. This beautiful coastal town on the Indian Ocean has seen its own share of violence including murder and bombings.

    Camels on the Beach Kenya
    Diani Beach from The Edge Restaurant

    The larger image of Kenya as a violent place over the past decade has been disastrous for the tourism industry, especially in Diani. Like other places we have visited (Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and Central America), war, coups, violent crimes and terrorism – and the media accounts of these- can devastate tourism overnight, and the damage takes decades to recover.

    Think about it.

    Abandoned Diani Beach hotel
    Abandoned Hotel Diani Beach

    But what of places like Paris, Las Vegas, London or Boston? All places that have had terrorism attacks over the past few years but visitors still flock there. Why do we feel safer from terrorism in a “western” culture?

    Abandoned Diani Beach Park
    Entrance to abandoned amusement park

    Diani Beach Kenya, touted as the most beautiful beach in Africa, deserves a chance to rebuild its tourism program. Within the 17 mile stretch of white sandy beach sit several abandoned hotels, bars and even an amusement park – places unable to hold on when the tourists stopped coming.

    Abandoned swimming pool Kenya
    Abandoned hotel pool, Diani Beach

    Today, and particularly during the holiday season when we were visiting, tourism is on an uptick. Europeans from Germany, Scandinavia and Britain were abundant on the beach, in restaurants and bars and in the shopping areas.

    Abandoned Diani Beach Bar
    Abandoned beach bar “40 Thieves”

    Convincing Americans to travel here will take more time, and hopefully there will be no more attacks. Meanwhile we feel safe and happy to have enjoyed this beautiful, affordable and incredibly friendly place.

    We want the best for the Kenyan people and our new friends in Diani Beach. Hardworking people who for the most part want jobs to support their families and have a good life. Tourism is the vehicle for that and they want it to thrive once again.

    The Sands at Nomad Restaurant
    Dinner at the beautiful Sands at Nomad

    So here are some recommendations from our three weeks in Diani, for you to consider when planning your Kenyan adventure.

    Where to stay – Frangipani Cottages – very affordable, beautiful pool and 700 meters to the beach.

    Frangipani Cottages Diani Beach
    We loved our three weeks at Frangipani Cottages

    Our favorite bars and restaurants – Tiki Bar, Havana Bar, The Edge, Nomad Bar and Restaurant, Kokkos, Java House, Oasis Bar, Salty Squid, Piri Piri.

    Favorite Activities – Shimba Hills and Sheldrick Waterfall Hike, Wasini Snorkel trip, Swahili Cooking Class.

    Traditional Dhow boat Diani Beach
    Boat to Wasini Snorkle

    There are MANY other activities in and around Diani that we did not do such as multi-day safari, Colobus Monkey Reserve, slave caves and fishing. Learn more here.

    Next stop for us the island of Mauritius out in the Indian Ocean! Don’t miss our ANNUAL WORLD TRAVEL AWARDS 2019 blog coming on January 17th.

    Thanks for your support this past year. Please share our blog. Happy New Year!

    Africa Travel

    Highlights of Cairo

    Ancient Egypt’s Most Famous City

    Location: Cairo Egypt

    Egypt gets a bad rap.  Sure there are some things you need to be wary of.  But this is true for anywhere you travel in the world.  We have wanted to go to Egypt for years, and Cairo (its largest and most famous city) was worth the wait. And so we want to share with you our highlights of Cairo.

    Something Old

    Highlights of Cairo

    Morning in Giza

    We saw many things on our Nile cruise that were so ancient it boggled the mind.  And then we come to Cairo and see things that are 1500-2000 years older.  Construction on the oldest pyramid in Giza started around 2589 BC.

    Highlights of Cairo


    When I was in fifth grade we studied Egypt.  It was as early as this, and even earlier, that I knew I had the travel bug.  My love for history and cultural studies began early.  And finally at age 58 I stood at, touched, climbed and admired these overwhelming structures.

    Highlights of Cairo

    Camels and the pyramids go together

    The best known pyramids in Egypt are the three in Giza, a suburb of Cairo.  The three Egyptian pyramids known as the Giza Pyramids are Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure. Khufu is one of the largest structures ever built and is the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still in existence. Egyptologists believe the pyramid was built as a tomb for the Fourth Dynasty Egyptian pharaoh Khufu.  There are a total of 138 pyramids throughout Egypt, most built as tombs.

    Highlights of Cairo

    Camel ride

    There was no city here when the pyramids were built.  The city has risen up and is now a congested metropolis of 30 million people (and nearly that many cars).  The city spreads far and wide and right up to the gates of the UNESCO site. Most photos don’t show the city because the pyramid site sits up on a hill.  But the city and its traffic are within a few hundred meters of the pyramids.

    Highlights of Cairo

    Sunset behind the UNESCO site

    Highlights of Cairo


    Because the pyramids are such a huge tourism draw, while visiting you are subjected to a lot of people trying to sell you, guide you or take you on a tour.  The government should do a better job controlling this – it takes away from the experience. Having our guide from Memphis Tours eliminated much of the hassle of dealing with the nuisance.

    Something New

    Highlights of Cairo

    Museum of Egyptian Antiquities

    However the government is working on some infrastructure to relieve congestion, as well as a brand new $550 million dollar Grand Egyptian Museum scheduled to open in 2019.  This spectacular museum will be home to all of the antiquities including the Tutankhamen relics (many of which have never been on
    display) and will replace the 100-year-old (and somewhat dowdy, disorganized, and not particularly clean) Museum of Egyptian Antiquities.

    This new museum alone is worth a return visit to Cairo.

    A Sphinx All To Myself

    Highlights of Cairo

    Alone at the Sphinx

    Our Cairo highlights tour also included the Sphinx of course, a fantastic antiquity in itself. The Great Sphinx built in approximately 2500 BC for the pharaoh Khafra, the builder of the Second Pyramid at Giza. The sphinx was carved into the bedrock of the plateau, which also served as a quarry for the stone for the pyramid. It is 70 meters long and 20 meters high.  Luckily we were there early and had the sphinx all to ourselves for our visit.  What a special treat that was.


    Cairo Life

    Highlights of Cairo

    Coptic Church

    We made a brief stop in the Coptic Cairo neighborhood, an ancient christian stronghold of Cairo before the Islamic era.

    Highlights of Cairo

    At the market

    A visit to Key of Life Papyrus Institute taught us the ancient Egyptian paper making process from papyrus (a reed-like plant), and gave us an opportunity to purchase a Christmas gift.

    We also visited a local market and had a delicious Egyptian lunch at Abu Shakra, a favorite of tour guides because of the remarkable view of he pyramids and the sphinx.

    Hire a Tour Guide

    Highlights of Cairo

    Paper making

    I highly recommend you hire a guide and driver if you are coming to Cairo (Memphis Tours was outstanding) to help you maneuver this congested city as well as help you mitigate the numerous people trying to sell to you and guide you.  It is well worth booking a guide service.

    Highlights of Cairo

    Thank you Egypt for a great time

    I would come here again in a heartbeat.  In fact I’d love to come back in five years and see the new museum and see if they have been able to make some improvements to the Giza area, which is in much need of some TLC.

    Thank you Egypt and Cairo for your outstanding hospitality.  We loved it all.  Next stop Jordan!


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    Africa Travel

    Cruising the Nile River

    Aboard Alexander the Great Nile River Cruise

    Our ten-day visit to the incredible countries of Egypt  and Jordan included four days on the Nile River, aboard the beautiful Alexander the Great river boat.  Spectacular, both boat and scenery, we are in awe of our surroundings. Here is how we spent our Nile River Cruise;

    Day One

    Nile River Cruise

    Our Ship Alexander the Great

    We left Cairo and flew an hour and twenty minutes south to Aswan where we met a representative of Memphis Tours, the company we have hired to manage our visit to Egypt.  I can’t say enough good things about Memphis Tours.  They do not miss a single detail.

    We were escorted to our boat, and our beautiful lodgings on board.  The ship can hold about 60 passengers, but since it is just the start of the tourism season here in Egypt, we were on board with only thirteen other people.  There were probably more staff than guests.  And the staff is incredible.

    After checking into our room we relaxed before enjoying a remarkable six-course lunch of Egyptian specialties.  After lunch our Memphis Tours guide Azab escorted us to four wonderful sites for the afternoon.

    Unfinished Obelisk 

    Nile River Cruise

    Unfinished Obelisk

    The unfinished obelisk dates to about 1500 BC is nearly one-third larger than any ancient Egyptian obelisk ever erected. It measures around 42 m (approximately 137 feet) and would have weighed nearly 1,090 metric tons (1,200 tons).

    The obelisk’s creators began to carve it directly out of bedrock but cracks appeared in the granite and the project was abandoned. The bottom side of the obelisk is still attached to the bedrock. Seeing this quarry and the unfinished obelisk was a window into the incredible stone work of the ancient Egyptians and their talent and craftsmanship.

    Aswan Dam 

    Usually referred to as the High Dam, this dam was built on the Nile beginning in 1960 and completed in 1970 and signified a turning point in Egypt’s modernization by providing electricity for industry and agriculture, it brought Egypt into the 20th century.  The dam was partially funded by the Soviet Union.

    Temple of Philae

    Nile River Cruise

    Temple of Philae

    This stunning temple served both as a worship site as well as a center of commerce. Originally on an island near the expansive first cataract of the upper Nile, the temple flooded when the first Aswan Dam was built in 1902.  It remained underwater until 1972 when conservations excavated and moved it to the current site as part of the UNESCO Nubia project.  Today it’s hard to imagine how anyone could flood this beautiful and stately temple which has seen thousands of years of history including pharaohs and kings, British rule, Christian disfigurement, and the ravages of the Nile River.

    Essence of Life Perfume Factory

    At first I really didn’t want to go here.  Because of my sinus issues I don’t wear fragrances and I can’t abide being around anyone who is too liberal with their perfume or cologne.  But I’m glad we made the visit.  We learned they create essense from the petals of many flowers as well as leaves, resin, and bark from trees.  Essence is an oil, which then perfume manufacturers mix with other ingredients (mainly alcohol) to create the highly lucrative perfumes for sale around the world.

    Nile River Cruise

    My little perfume bottle

    My favorite part of the tour was watching the artists hand blow the glass containers used for the essence.  I didn’t buy any perfume, but I’m bringing home a beautiful four-inch high perfume bottle.

    After our busy afternoon we were ready to get back to the ship for a cold drink, as the afternoon temperatures had soared to 98 degrees fahrenheit.  Dinner was served at 8pm and again, course after course was delicious and interesting.

    I slept like a mummy.

    Day Two

    Our ship stayed in port in Aswan until 4:00am when we began a slow cruise north to our first stop of the day:

    The Kom Ombo Temple

    Nile River Cruise

    Kom Ombo Tempte

    This temple is unique because it honors two gods.  Built from 180-47 BC the double temple also has courts, halls and sanctuaries.  One side of the temple is dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek, god of fertility and creator of the world. The Northern half of the temple is dedicated to falcon god Horus.  The temple is atypical because everything is symmetrical.

    Croccodile Museum

    At first I thought we were going to a museum about crocodiles (similar to something I did in Vietnam) but I realized after visiting Kom Ombo Temple that the Crocodile museum is about Sobek the Crocodile God.  And more specifically it is about the mummified crocodiles that have been unearthed here.  The mummified crocodiles show how revered the animal was, as well as feared.  The crocodiles were given funerals and sent to heaven as a way for the crocodile god have the animals close.

    Nile River Cruise

    Kom Ombo Temple

    After just a couple of hours on shore we continued our cruise north for four hours.  We sat on deck under the shaded umbrellas and enjoyed the scenery.  It’s like a movie set.  I needed to keep reminding myself it was real.  Though the landscape is arid, brown and incredibly dry, along the river banks is an oasis of green and lush palms and tropical plants with people going about their daily lives on and in the river.

    After another amazing meal (I’m surely going to gain weight), we left the ship for our afternoon excursions;

    Edfu Temple

    Nile River Cruise

    Edfu Temple

    One of my favorite things we saw on our Nile Cruise was the Edfu Temple built around 237 BC to honor the god Horus. It is one of the best preserved shrines in Egypt. It is the second largest temple in Egypt. The inscriptions on its walls provide important information on language, myth and religion during the Hellenistic period in Egypt, as well as detail on construction, tools and techniques used.

    Day Three

    Nile River Cruise

    Sunrise balloons over the Nile

    We arrived in Luxor after cruising overnight and passing through locks on the Nile.  We had an early excursion so we were awake and looking out the window we discovered the sky full of beautiful hot air balloons at sunrise over the Nile.  A very special picture to wake to.  After breakfast on board, we took a small boat across the Nile to the East Bank where we met our driver and began our very busy tour of Luxor.

    Valley of the Kings

    One of the most significant sites in all of Egypt is the Valley of the Kings, where 62 tombs, including that of of Tutankhamen, are located.  Many of the tombs were looted in ancient times, others only discovered in the last few centuries.  Many of the artifacts, such as tombs, sarcophagi, and mummies, can now be seen in museums around the world.

    Nile River Cruise

    Inside the tombs

    So visiting Valley of the Kings is to see the actual tombs, which are dug from the soft limestone deep into the earth.  We visited three tombs; Ramses II, III and IV.  We did not visit Tutankhamen, which requires another ticket.  However my husband and I have seen the treasures of Tutankhamen twice when it has visited Seattle, and we will see this again when we return back to Cairo.

    The tombs we went to were very fascinating.  I am astounded at how they could dig these remarkable tunnels into the earth so deep without modern tools.  The tunnels are lined with fantastic artwork, well-preserved and still retaining much of its original color (unlike most of the outdoor temples).  We loved seeing this.

    Stone Workers Factory

    Nile River Cruise


    Because so many people try to sell imitation stone work in the markets and on the street, the Egyptian government maintains some authentic factories.  Here you can visit to see how the work is done, still today, using the ancient tools and colors (and after the tour buy something to take home – of course I did!).

    Temple of Hatshepsut

    Nile River Cruise

    Hatshepsut Temple

    This temple honors Hatshepsut, “Foremost of Noble Ladies”, who was the second historically-confirmed female pharaoh. She also was one of the longest reigning and most successful pharaohs.  This incredible temple was unknown and buried under the sand and lost for thousands of years.  The temple is an example of perfect symmetry predating the Parthenon.  After Hatshepsut chose this site for her mortuary temple, the nearby valley became a favored site for tombs that we now call the Valley of the Kings.  Hatshepsut also commissioned two obelisks constructed to mark her 16th year on the throne.  One of those is the uncompleted broken obelisk mentioned above on day one. This was one of my favorite sites.

    We returned to the ship for our lunch and an afternoon rest and then continued on the West Bank of the Nile in Luxor where there are two significant temples:

    Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple

    Nile River Cruise

    Columns at Karnak

    Karnak is the largest temple in Egypt and the second most visited site in this country.  It is a marvel.  The two temples (Karnak and Luxor) were once connected by a 3km road (some still visible) lined with innumerable sphinx statues.  Karnak was a sacred site, and it’s easy to see why.  Only partly restored, the towering pillars and cavernous spaces are remarkable.  There are 122 columns over 10 meters tall and 12 columns that are 21 meters tall.  Decorative architraves sit on top of these columns, each estimate to weigh 70 tons. It is so incredible to imagine how these were constructed and positioned; archeologists and physicists have marveled and studied this question for generations.

    The Luxor Temple built around 1400 BC was also buried for ages.  Partially reconstructed, with work ongoing, this religious site has been used by ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Egyptian Christians and of course is a revered site in today’s Islamic Egypt.  A Christian church was built on the site before the rest of the temple was discovered buried below.  Today after excavation, the church door is 20 feet above ground, and serves as a mosque.

    These two temples are both within sight of the Nile River and in the center of modern-day Luxor.  Their historic significance as part of the cradle of civilization is mind-boggling.

    Nile River Cruise

    Luxor Temple

    Back to the ship we went for our final dinner and night on board.  The crew of Alexander the Great sang to us at dinner and we all danced and sang along.  We have enjoyed our time on board so much, and highly recommend this boat as well as Memphis Tours.

    We now return to Cairo, where we will spend a full day at the pyramids, sphinx, and Egyptian museum before continuing on to Jordan.

    If you have ever hesitated about visiting Egypt please stop.  It is truly remarkable, beautiful and fascinating.  With our guides we have felt safe constantly.  And the people could not be any friendlier. I am so glad we came.

    More soon from Cairo.  Fabulous! رائع


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    Africa Travel  --  Food & Drink

    The Rainbow Nation

    Colorful South Africa and it’s Colorful Cuisine

    Location: South Africa

    They call it the Rainbow Nation.  A country with an extraordinary political and social background, with a kaleidoscope of ethnic Peoples, blended into one nation.  Shaken not stirred.

    But here it is – amazing South Africa.  Hundreds and hundreds of years of slavery and oppression, colonization and apartheid but surprisingly today

    Nelson Mandela

    together.  A mere 25 years after the end of apartheid (meaning apartness in Afrikaans) people of all backgrounds seem to get along here, quit happily.

    But despite equal rights it’s clear to see the economic difference still between white South Africans, “non- whites” and colored. These terms are from the apartheid era, when every person fit into one of these three categories and laws kept groups separate in all aspects of life.  Today you’ll still find people living separately in historically separate neighborhoods such as the

    Colorful Bo Kaap

    Muslim Bo Kaap and the Black Townships, but progress is slowly changing this.

    There are nine South African native tribes who lived as hunter gatherers and pastoral people for thousands of years before the Dutch East India Company arrived 1652. As the Dutch entrenched (and later the British) they used indigenous people as slaves and began bringing in slaves from Angola, Mozambique, Madagascar, Malaysia, Indonesia and India as well as others.

    Today’s South Africa is made up of the ancestors of all of these races, a colorful mix of cultures truly

    Cooking on the Braai

    making it The Rainbow Nation.

    The gastronomic effects of such a blended nation cannot be overstated, and luckily for visitors the reward is superb.  Taking the foods of these groups and combining it with the wide variety of fresh produce, local seafood and game you get a melded and delicious South African cuisine.

    Pumpkin Pap curried cabbage

    I am no expert, but I sure like to eat, and during my time so far in South Africa I have joyfully discovered wonderful foods and flavors and also took a fun cooking class to delve even deeper.

    Let me share with you some of my favorite discoveries;

    Pap – for breakfast or anytime, pap is a staple food with a long history.  It is very much like fufou that we ate in Burkina Faso (made from plantain) and when made from maize (the most frequently used grain) it tastes much like grits or polenta. We have enjoyed pap several times and my favorite by far was the Pumpkin Pap we made together at our

    Smoked Snoek

    cooking class with Nadege Cuisine.  It was served with a curried cabbage and delicious smoked Snoek.

    Snoek – is a very popular (and very ugly) locally caught white fish that can grow very large.  It is of the mackerel family and is known as barracuda in other parts of the world.  One of the favorite ways to enjoy this fish is grilled on the Braai (see below) or smoked.  Smoked Snoek is available in grocery stores.  It tasted very much like smoked sturgeon to me.  The smokey and salty mixed with the sweet pumpkin pap was a real winner.

    Seasoning for the Braai

    Braai – the local word for BBQ is as much a social function as a food.  Most anything can be thrown on the Braai, but most meats and fish are slathered with a spicy rub mix of chili, salt and herbs.  Braais happen frequently where neighbors and friends gather to enjoy each other’s company around the Braai.  The host provides the salad and the guests bring their own meat and drink.  It’s very popular to cook Snoek on the Braai slathered in apricot jam.

    Bobotie – my favorite of all the foods I have tried so


    far, this is the unofficial national dish of South Africa.  The dish likely has its roots in Indonesia and it is a savory mix of ground spiced meat with a custard topping and usually served or combined with rice.  We had this at a famous Bo Kaap restaurant called Biesmiellah and it was fantastic.  Always served with chutney.

    Chutney – Nearly every meal in South Africa is served with chutney, a sweet preserve usually of fruits but it also can include onions or savory produce.  Mango chutney is very popular and usually served with the Bobotie.


    Breyani – we also tried this dish at Biesmiellah and it was great.  The masala spice noted the heritage of this dish as Indian or Malaysian.  It can be made with different meats, we enjoyed it with chicken.  The dish is a fragrant mix of cumin, corrrinder, cinnamon, cardamom,lentils, rice and sometimes hard-boiled eggs and is served with a yogurt sauce on the side.

    Crayfish – I ordered this item at a nice restaurant we


    went to in Cape Town called Aubergine and it was fantastic.  It’s nothing at all like what I think of as the small crayfish we sometimes eat at home.  It actually is a small lobster.  Lucky for me this appetizer dish was perfectly cooked and served with a luscious squid ink pasta.  Perfection.

    Ostrich – a very popular red meat all over the

    Nadege pan frys the ostrich

    southern parts of Africa you will find ostrich on menus and in grocery stores everywhere.  It is a very dark red meat, best prepared and served simply, and we enjoyed it flash pan-fried and medium rare at our cooking class with Nadege. Ostrich is farmed in South Africa and all parts of the animal are used including the skin for leather, the feathers for down, the beak and bones for jewelry and the egg shells for jewelry and decorative items.  It’s not as easy though to find a fresh ostrich egg.  Each egg is the equivalent of 24 chicken eggs.  I still hope to buy and cook one soon.

    Mealie Bread – I love this delicious bread, similar to cornbread we make at home but lighter.  My favorite preparation I’ve had so far was at Aubergine where they added a hint of caraway.  Delicious.

    Cape Malay Curry – Sweeter than other curries I’ve had, Cape Malay curry once again uses the favorite apricot of South Africa as well as cinnamon and ginger and makes a delicious not to be missed meal.

    Game – much of the game meat is farmed and

    Malva Pudding

    available and shows up on restaurant menus including Warthog, Impala and Springbok, which is small deer-like animal we saw a lot of in Namibia.  We enjoyed the Springbok at Aubergine where it was perfectly cooked medium rare and served with a nice black mushroom sauce with a hint of walnut.

    Malva Pudding – using the word pudding in the British way for cake, Malva pudding is one of several popular dessert and sweet dishes uniquely South African.  This dark spongy cake made from butter, vanilla and apricot jam (there it is again) tastes much like a bread pudding and is usually

    Potatoe pudding with peach compote

    served with a warm custard or ice cream.

    Potato Pudding – similarly this lovely cake, also much like custard or bread pudding, is made from potatoes, coconut oil, cardamom, almond extract and condensed milk and is served with a stewed fruit sauce of dried peaches and cinnamon.  A perfect end to the meal we had at Nadege Cuisine.

    Through out the Cape Town region you will also find many offerings that reflect the British, French and Dutch population as well as other African nations.  We enjoyed a fabulous Ethiopian meal one afternoon for lunch at Madam Taitou’s and a

    Eggs Benedict

    beautiful Eggs Benedict the next day for breakfast at the historic and gorgeous British colonial hotel Mount Nelson.  However, you won’t find a restaurant calling itself a “South African” restaurant.  The cuisine is just really coming into its own as a stand alone fare, and rightfully so.  Hopefully soon, South African will be as common as Mexican or Italian.

    It certainly is just as delicious.

    Adventure Travel  --  Africa Travel

    Namibia Part II

    Oh The Places You’ll Go

    Location: Namibia

    Namib Desert

    Namibia quickly became one of my favorite countries for its varied landscape, colorful cultures and interesting history.  So although I did not see the entire country, Namibia Part II is an opportunity for me to share a bit about what I saw and learned during my fascinating ten days touring with Wild Wind Safaris.  Namibia Part II – Oh the Places You’ll Go.

    Only a few years ago Namibia never showed up in articles or blogs about travel destinations.  But then all of the sudden there it was – stunning photos of dunes and mountains, animals and oceans.  Article after article listing it as a must see destination of 2017 or an out of the way place to see before the crowds of tourists discover it.

    The furthest south latitude at which the sun is directly overhead at the solstice.

    And so, I wanted to be there.  I wanted to see what few people had yet seen.  Namibia was high on my list.

    Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of tourists, and plenty of tour operators and companies to help you find your way (check out the company we used and were so happy with: Wild Wind Safaris).  But we didn’t meet any other Americans, and 99% of the tourists we met were German.  Germans know about this place and flock here, partly because German is spoken here as is English, Afrikaans and tribal languages.

    Most visitors come to go on safari in Etosha


    National Park and it is a must of any visit to Namibia (see blog here).  Etosha is not even remotely as crowded as the safari I did seven years ago in the Serengeti with about a million other people.  Etosha was quiet and beautiful and amazing.

    Sociable Weaver nest can House up to 200 birds

    But a trip to Namibia really needs to include time to see and experience more than Etosha.  I’ve come away from the country with an even greater appreciation of the remarkable geology of our earth, and an incredible insight to the importance of preserving cultures and not just objects and nature.

    Our guide explains to Arne

    Until 1990 Namibia was part of South Africa (and from 1884 until after WWI it was a German colony).  Gaining its independence the country has embraced tourism but being such a new country it still has its share of problems.  Like many places we have been, government corruption takes much away from the average person and tribal cultures suffer.  But the roads were remarkably good (even though Namibia has the highest car accident death rate in the world) and the people we met (mostly in the service industry) were incredibly friendly both with each other and us.  In fact some of the friendliest and most genuine people we have met anywhere in our travels are the Namibians.  That really hit home.  We never felt like we were unsafe or being cheated in anyway – although warnings of pick pockets we took seriously.

    Himba women with mud hut

    Namibia has 13 ethnic groups scattered about the country and the native people identify with an ancestral tribe even if they no longer live in the region where that group is.  Our amazing tour guide “Seven” explained to us some of the differences and he could look at nearly every person and know immediately what ethnic group they were from.  Since we didn’t see the entire country we missed learning about most tribes, including the Owambo of the north, the tribe Seven is from.

    We did get to learn about two distinctive tribes – the Himba and the Damara as well as a little bit about the Herero, an offshoot of the Himba.

    Little Himba girl

    Using smoke to “wash” hair

    One of my favorite experiences of the entire ten days was our short visit to a special Himba village where we were able to meet Himba women and children.  Note the photos of these remarkable people.  These are not costumes.  This is the way they dress everyday.  The hair style is really remarkable, and a female Himba begins wearing this hairstyle at puberty.  The adornments are made partially of their real hair and animal hair and are updated every three months.  Because of the shortage of water in the north of Namibia where the Himba people are found, they do not bath with water.  Instead they daily “wash” their hair with smoke – literally holding their head as well as their underarms over a special perfumed smoke (similar to incense) that keeps bugs and (most) odor away.  They also cover their bodies daily with a mixture of butter and ochre as a cleanser and repellant, this is what lends the red tone to their skin.

    Me with ten-year old girl

    The village we visited was a special place because all the children here are orphans.  This is a place where Himba orphans are brought to be raised in the culture of their parents rather than being adopted out of the culture.  The women here care for these children as if they are their own and there is a school here too.  The people are sustained by raising goats and cattle and they have access to a well so water is available but their bathing customs remain the same.

    Damara village

    As we visited the women let us take photos and then they wanted to look at the photos on our phones.  They seem to very much like to see themselves in a photo.  The women’s first question to us was if we had children.  When we said we had grown sons they wanted to know if we had grandchildren.  When I said not yet they wanted to know why not?  Why had we not yet chosen wives for our sons?  My answer that our sons would hopefully marry someday and have kids didn’t seem to satisfy them.  Their entire existence and culture is wrapped around family, child-bearing and daily survival.

    Once again I am reminded of how many people live every day hand to mouth.

    Dancers at Damara village

    We did not visit a Herero village but these people endured near genocide by the Germans who wanted their land and intended to eliminate the Herero race to have it and the 1904 Battle of Waterberg ensued.  Half of the total Herero population was

    Herero Women

    killed. Luckily not all were massacred and today the women have developed a very unique dress that is a unique mix of Victorian gown and petticoat and a unique cloth headpiece that is designed to resemble the horns of a cow.  Today the Herero people continue a battle in court with the German government for retribution for all they lost during the genocide period.

    Damara man building fire

    Swakopmund pier

    The Damara people, the other tribe we learned about, are the oldest tribe in Namibia.  They came from the East and settled in the middle region of the country.   This tribe was primarily hunter gatherers and pastoral, raising cattle and sheep and living off the land. The Damara have an incredibly unique language known as “click” language.  The language uses a complicated system of mouth and tongue clicks and is very musical and fun to hear. The village we visited was a reproduction of how a village would have looked hundreds of years ago.  Where the Himba live in huts made from wood, mud and cow dung, the Damara live in huts made of wood and thatch.  The Damara dress was tied to the animals they raised creating clothing from

    Damara Medicine Woman

    sheepskins.  The women use ochre on their cheeks much like we use blush today.  Music and dance and making ornamental jewelry and carvings were a big part of their culture, where the women did domestic chores and the men tended the livestock.

    Cape Cross Fur Seal colony

    Pink Flamingoes in Walvis Bay

    The geology and scenery of Namibia is as diverse as its ancient people.  The incredibly beautiful red sand dunes of the Sossusvlei region are the oldest dunes in the world and the stark beauty of these dunes is remarkable.  The turquoise blue water of the Atlantic Ocean at Swakopmund in contrast provides visitors and locals a cool get-away from the heat of the interior.  Here on the Atlantic the fog settles every day and so do thousands and thousands of fur seals, flamingoes and other shore birds.  Local seafood is a treat including the KingKlip and Kabaljou two of the most popular and most delicious fish caught locally and served everywhere.

    Welwitschia plant

    Dolerite Dike

    From the ocean heading east within minutes you are back in the arid desert where the welwitschia plant grows – the only region in the world this unusual plant is found and growing as big as ten feet across and living as much as 2000 years I was reminded of Audrey Two in Little Shop of Horrors.  The inhospitable environment has little greenery and almost no animals except birds.  The valley of the moon and eroding  mountain range are desolate yet beautiful in their own way – especially the interesting dolerite dike a natural phenomenon of black sunburnt rock that runs along the ridge of the mountains like the spine of a dragon.  This area is home to the largest Uranium mine in the world.

    Ancient rock etchings

    ANcient rock etchings

    Namibia’s storage hunter-gatherers and Bushman (San) people were nomadic and traveled the country wherever the animals were.  Their history is written on stones in several regions and we visited two fascinating sights to learn more.  The Twyfelfontein site is today a UNESCO Heritage site in the Kuene region. Guides take visitors on a walking tour of the hundreds of rock etchings estimated to be several thousands of years old.  The etchings depict animals as well as human footprints and tell a story of the nomad life and the animals they followed for substenance.  It is thought this place was both a message board and a spiritual gathering place for thousands of years.

    “The White Lady” is the pale figure on the left

    More paintings

    Even more amazing though was the preserved painting of “The White Lady” estimated to be 6000 years old.  This painting is located in a very remote region of the Brandberg Mountain, Namibia’s highest mountain.  It is a two mile hike to visit it.  Not as many people see The White Lady because the trek and the heat make it difficult.  I’m glad we endured it however in 100 degree temperatures.  Very different than the rock etchings, these paintings are preserved because they are inside a cave and out of direct sunlight.  Discovered in 1918 and now a protected heritage site, the White Lady is actually not a lady at all.  Early anthropologists believed it to be an Egyptian women, but today archeologist know it is a local tribal shaman, painted with the traditional white a shaman would have on his legs and body from dust and mud.  The painting includes other human figures and many animals all painted with ochre (red), egg, animals oils, charcoal and blood.  The painting has luckily withstood the test of time, although since its discovery humans have touched it and thrown liquid on it to try and see it better and this has deteriorated it.  Today though it is protected and can only be reached with a guide who makes sure no one does any damage to it.  It was a beautiful and remarkable world heritage site to enjoy.

    Moon landscape

    The Namibian people have a great deal to be proud of and I hope this beautiful country overcomes its problems and finds its strength in the world.  It has so much to offer, charm and beauty, history and culture.  I will never forget my time here and I can say with all seriousness it is by far my favorite African country of the seven I have been to.

    Thank you Namibia.  Thank you Wild Wind Safaris.  Thank you Seven for showing us your remarkable home.

    Adventure Travel  --  Africa Travel

    Namibia Part I

    The Lion Sleeps Tonight

    Location: Namibia

    Once again I am astounded.  Astounded by a place I knew so little about.  I am so thankful we came to Namibia.  Incredible

    Good morning


    I know only three people who have been to this country.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was open to the adventure I thought it would provide.  And I was not disappointed.  Only lightly touched by tourism, Namibia is an astonishingly beautiful place and if you have the means you should see it now – because it will change.  It always does.

    This is an Oryx

    There is so much to share about our ten days here, so I’ve decided two blogs are in order and I am starting with the most obvious and most well-known topic of Namibia – the Etosha National Park and the safari we did there.

    Why did the giraffe cross the road?

    I did a safari seven years ago in Tanzania with my son and sister, but this was a first for Arne and I really worried he might not get to see all the “big game” safaris are known for; elephants, zebras, lions, giraffes, rhinoceros.  I needn’t have worried.  Yes, we saw all of those and much, much more.

    I booked our tour of Namibia with Wild Wind Safaris about six months ago.  The tour was $4500 for the two of us for ten days.  We could have seen Namibia on our own without a tour guide, the roads (although often gravel) are very good and easy to get around.  But our guide “Seven” (a childhood nickname from his football number) provided us with what we learned to call “African eyes”, and the value of that can not be understated.  He knew the answer to all of my endless questions and if he didn’t, he found the answer and got back to me within in minutes.  He described

    With our guide Seven

    plants and geology, politics and population, and of course knew facts about animals and wildlife I would never possibly have known.  I highly recommend both Seven and Wild Wind Safaris if you want a great experience in Namibia.

    So this tour was an anniversary gift to ourselves and although definitely more than our usual $200 a day budget, it was worth every penny.

    At the watering hole

    The animals in Etosha National Park are varied and abundant.  The park has  supplemented the natural watering holes around Etosha with some manmade ones, providing constant water in this arid and hot environment.  This way the animals stay within the park boundaries and are protected and visible to the guests.

    There are still problems with poachers, who specifically target both the black and white rhinoceros in the park.  They kill the animals and then cut off their

    The beautiful and endangered black Rhinoceros

    horns which are then smuggled and sold in the Chinese market.  Although this is entirely illegal it is still a problem Namibia struggles with.  In fact park officials regularly sedate and cut off the horns of the animals to keep the poachers from killing them.  The horns grow back and are made of a material similar to fingernails so it doesn’t cause the animal pain.

    Hunting is against the law throughout Namibia (except on some private game hunting reserves), which has changed the culture of many hunter-gatherer tribes and some of the people are extremely poor.  But game is also farmed in Namibia and you will often find farmed

    Springbok are abundant

    game on the menu.  Oryx is very popular and tastes just like beef.

    With Seven’s guidance we spent our early morning searching for animals – a great time of day for successful sightings.  We then would return to the lodge and relax, maybe take a nap or lay around the pool, before heading out again for a late afternoon game drive.  You are not allowed to get out of the vehicle for any reason within the park, so having just Arne and I in the vehicle with Seven gave us lots of ability to view the wildlife and go everywhere in the park.

    Zebra is the favorite meal for the lions

    My photos tell the story of all the incredible creatures we encountered – but only to a point.  It’s hard to describe the thrill of moment and how sudden and spontaneous and unplanned it all can be.  So often it would just take your breath away.  Let me tell you about a few of my favorite moments;

    Our first early morning drive we set out with Seven feeling confident we would find lions.  We had been out for about two hours and with his “African Eyes” he spotted the three “boys” he knew were often in the area.  These lions cubs were about five months old, still young and cub-like but looking full-grown.  We watched them from a distance of about 200 yards trot and gallop purposefully across a field,

    Lion reunion

    ignoring all the animals they usually hunt in the area.  They were intent on one thing.  Mom.  She lay about 30 yards ahead of us on the road.  We positioned ourselves and watched in anticipation as the playful and loving reunion took place.  The boys happy to be back from whatever adventure they had been on – back with mommy.

    This same family we saw several times after that with the magnificent full-maned father (shown in the title photo) proudly watching over his pride.  We watched the mating process (in fact got it on video) and these animals truly seemed like a family.

    One of the five month old boys

    We saw many lions during the rest of our visit but other “cats” were elusive, until one afternoon.

    We were exploring several of the water holes in the car but hadn’t seen very many animals.  But we noticed that at one water hole the giraffes seemed a bit on alert, staring off into the brush.  We watched for a long time but nothing happened so just as we were rolling forward to turn around and leave I spotted a rhino coming out of the trees.  So Seven parked the car at an angle where I could get some good photos and we watched.  The rhino walked down to the water hole, but never drank – he turned and walked back to the woods.  This seemed curious and just then I noticed a lion alone on the other side of the waterhole.  “Seven there is a lion” I said.  He looked and nearly jumped for

    Hard to see from a distance but this is our leopard

    joy!  “That’s a leopard!” he nearly yelled.  “Oh my god a leopard and we are the only ones here at the watering hole!”  What a great moment that was.  The leopard, though too far to get a really good photo of, was so well camouflaged I couldn’t believe it.  He took his time drinking his fill and then quietly disappeared back into the brush.  Only then did the rhino return to enjoy his own cool drink.  A very rare sighting indeed.

    Spotting the endangered Black Rhino was one of my goals as this animal had eluded me when I was in Tanzania.  We actually saw many rhinos during our time in Etosha and they are huge, magnificent and very pre-historic looking creatures.  But two special moments stand out.

    As we were leaving the watering hole and chatting excitedly about our leopard encounter we came around a corner on the dusty gravel road and startled a lone

    The beautiful black Rhino at the watering hole after dark

    rhino very close to the road.  He didn’t like being surprised and he charged our car.  I’ll never forget the look on that gigantic creatures face as he lowered his head and charged, while Seven put the car in reverse and I fumbled to get my seatbelt on.  He snorted and stared us down but never actually hit the car.  Not an animal you want to mess with.  Seven told us because he had his head down and was feeding as we came around the corner we had frightened him.  Also, because of the poachers these intelligent animals have learned to be wary of vehicles and being snuck up on.

    Later that night Arne and I went to the watering hole near our lodge.  This hole is designed with night vision lighting that does not bother the animals, but allows people to view the animals from seats at a distance.  Every night we went to see what was happening at the watering hole, and on this special night a mama rhino arrived with a teeny little baby.

    Giraffe taking a sip

    Watching the two of them, never more than a few inches from each other, was a special sight.

    For as important as water is to all these animals, watching the effort it takes a giraffe to have a long cool drink is astonishing.  Giraffes cannot hold their head down for very long because it cuts off their blood flow.  It also puts them in a very vulnerable position to predators, so a giraffe takes a long time to consider its surrounding before finally spreading its long and skinny legs wide and dipping its camel-like face into the water.  What a strange and beautiful beast.

    Speaking of strange and beautiful, I have saved my favorite animal for last.  We saw every animal from Impala to Zebra, Ostrich to Wildebeast, Jackal to Hyena, Warthog to


    Tortoise and hundreds of birds.  But my favorite always is the intelligent, magnificent, domestic and loving elephant.  And we saw so many and have many memorable moments:

    The elephant throws mud on itself in an effort to keep cool and keep off the insects.  This creates what is known either as a white elephant or a black elephant depending on the mud.  We watched as elephants sprayed the mud and played in the water.  We saw elephants nearly pure white amongst the green leaves, we saw

    My favorite photo of this bull at sunset

    white elephants as the sun set looking just like a white concrete statue.

    The younger male elephants (bachelors) roam together while the older males usually are associated with a matriarchal group, but don’t spend time together.  The matriarchal group is made up of females and babies and “teenagers”.  The male teens leave the group at about 15 years. The female elephants spend all their life together.  Once again the watering hole provided us a spectacular venue to witness

    Elephant parade

    these family ties.

    One evening we arrived at the watering hole to find two males – one much older than the other.  We watched as the younger male began vocalizing as the matriarchal group made its way out of the trees.  The older male took this as his cue to exit right, while the younger male greeted both vocally and physically each female as she came near the water hole.  The younger male, clearly part of this family, then left the females and youngsters to enjoy the water as he went on his way.


    On another evening at the watering  hole we watched a small fox running across the sand directly towards a giant elephant drinking.  As the fox neared the feet of the elephant he reared up and sprayed water all over the fox – clearly showing who is the boss.  The poor little fox scampered away.

    The morning we were leaving the park, we had already checked out of our room and only gone about 100 yards down the road and Seven spotted elephants in the distance – with a brand

    Our final sighting. Perfect.

    new baby in tow.  We turned immediately around and headed back to the lodge and the watering hole where we watched for twenty minutes as this new mother, another small male and this itsy bitsy newborn, no more that two or three days old, drank.  The baby wanted to wallow around and the mama kept him near to her and out of the mud.  Seven told us this was a young female, younger than usually reproduce, probably about ten years old.  But she seemed to have a good maternal instinct and watching this

    A front row seat

    little group was a joyful and satisfying way to end our time in Etosha.

    This blog was long, but we had such a great experience in Etosha and in Namibia.  I hope you enjoyed reading about it.  I’ll be writing more soon, about the people and places of this unique country,  but in the meantime, the lion sleeps tonight.






    Africa Travel

    Some days the Grand Adventure just isn’t grand

    A rough start in Namibia

    Location: Namibia

    It was a tough travel day. Maybe as I’m getting older those days are getting harder?  Long travel days can take a toll, and some days on the Grand Adventure just aren’t Grand.

    No flights direct to Namibia from Morocco. We flew from Casablanca to Doha Qatar. The nine-hour flight was fine. Full plane but 787 is a nice plane so comfortable.  Three hour layover in Doha was fine.  Eleven hour flight from Doha to Windhoek Namibia, also a 787, was strangely empty. So we

    Welcome to Namibia

    could stretch out and sleep. But then Arne started to feel poorly, and then really sick.

    My husband never gets sick – it’s always me.

    Landed in very hot Windhoek and began the six-hour drive on gravel road to our desert lodge.  When we arrived at the beautiful lodge Arne immediately went to bed. Where he stayed for the next 24 hours.

    Meanwhile I go to dinner with our guide (whose name is Seven)and the two other guests who are with us for only the first three days.  We enjoyed

    Our cabin at the beautiful Agama River lodge

    dinner and a lovely native song and dance by the staff.

    Woke up at 5:00am for our tour to the UNESCO site of the Namib Desert dunes but Arne was still sick. So I head off on the tour. About an hour down the road I am hit with a wave of nausea, cold sweat and shakes.  We pull over and I dash behind a bush. Ugh.

    Seven decides to take me a half an hour back to a clinic so I can rest there while they continue with

    At the clinic

    the tour. I felt bad and didn’t want the other guests to miss the tour so this seemed like a good solution. We were lucky to be near this clinic as the next one was hundreds of miles away.

    I was the only person at the clinic where I was given some drugs for stomach virus and tucked into bed where I slept for nearly six hours before being retrieved by Seven and returned to the lodge.  I found Arne still in bed but awake.

    Now that we are feeling better, looking forward to seeing lots of wildlife

    So we did not get to see the famous dunes, the world’s oldest.  And we did not get to celebrate our wedding anniversary. But sometimes shit happens.  We are still both not 100% but are eating again and back on the tour.  Lots more to see in  the next week so happy to be on the mend.

    Mama said there would be days like this.  Welcome to Namibia!