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Heading across the Atlantic

August 30th, 2015 1 comment

Well, here I am – back on the Serenade of the Seas.

the route

the route

and the schedule

ITINERARY

DAY DATE PORT ARRIVE   DEPART
Sun Aug 30 Copenhagen, Denmark 4:30pm
Mon Aug 31 Oslo, Norway 10:00am 7:00pm
Tue Sep 1 Kristiansand, Norway 10:00am 6:00pm
Wed Sep 2 At Sea
Thu Sep 3 Klaksvik, Faroe Islands, Denmark 8:00am 5:00pm
Fri Sep 4 At Sea
Sat Sep 5 Reykjavik, Iceland 8:00am
Sun Sep 6 Reykjavik, Iceland 1:00pm
Mon Sep 7 Akureyri, Iceland 10:00am 8:00pm
Tue Sep 8 At Sea
Wed Sep 9 At Sea
Thu Sep 10 At Sea
Fri Sep 11 At Sea
Sat Sep 12 At Sea
Sun Sep 13 Halifax, NS, Canada 8:00am 5:00pm
Mon Sep 14 At Sea
Tue Sep 15 Bayonne, NJ 6:00am

Other than Iceland – I don’t have a lot planned. I want to head back to the waterfalls but other than that – I am going to relax and otherwise read, study, knit and deal with files if I can get Internet access on the ship with out it bankrupting me.

Probably the only really bad stop is the end in NJ. My plan there is simply to go to the airport – hang out and send Miriam a post card since she says she has never received a post card from NJ. Go figure.

 

Categories: Travel Tags:

Kastrup

August 29th, 2015 No comments

Which is not a food, article of clothing or disease but the name of the Copenhagen Airport.It was where I arrived late morning after running through the following:

  • taking out the garbage
  • hauling suitcases down to the garage
  • hiking to the train station (forgot till this morning that I didn’t have any Euros which meant neither cab nor street car). I went via the overpass rather than heading under the bridge and past where various homeless sleep. Not before 0515 in the morning when it is still a bit dark
  • taking the train (which of course had swapped the 1st and 2nd class ends of the train such that everyone was running along the platform bound for the other end, Did I mention small kids towing suitcases which they were bouncing off everyone’s ankles
  • dropping off another FORTY (40) books at the USO. Now they need thrillers and SciFi – I have those too.
  • catching my plane.
  • I’m boarding the Serenade of the Seas tomorrow for a 16 night Northern Route TransAtlantic Crossing. Details will post here tomorrow.

 

Books

1525+40= 1565. There are a number of out dated school books in the garage which will be gone by the time I get back. I didn’t count them (and won’t) since they didn’t start out in the Studio Box pile….

Categories: Travel Tags:

made it home

August 25th, 2015 No comments

It took actually less than 36 hours in real time but it seems like a whole lot longer. Maybe it is because I left Spokane on Sunday and it is now Tues. And I really can’t ignore the 9 hours of time zone change that is trying to wipe me out.

The flight wasn’t that bad. Unfortunately I didn’t pick a seat up stairs while there were still some which meant being within a few rows of the unhappy toddler. Her parents actively tried to keep her occupied; the little one was just bored. And, of course, fast asleep about 90 minutes before the plane landed….

After coffee in the arrivals lounge I made the 0953 train without problems followed by the connection in Mannheim.

I even had enough money for a cab (I don’t mind walking to the train station – it is downhill followed by flat) since uphill with luggage when I am tired is just not going to happen.

Nap. Yes, a nap sounds really good right about now….

Categories: home, Travel Tags:

Journey home – day 2 – not the United Lounge

August 24th, 2015 No comments

Picking up where we left off (somewhere around sound asleep) I woke to the nasty surprise that the particular Doubletree doesn’t have free coffee in the lobby early in the morning. Yes, they have the stupid little coffee makes in the rooms, but no coffee in the lobby. I understand completely that the container should vanish the minutes they have a shop open which can take cash. But this hotel is the contract hotel for American Airlines and I suspect Delta as well. How do they expect aircrews headed out when it is dark to manage without coffee?

I trundled back upstairs after explaining to the desk clerk that other Doubletrees do have coffee. Then my keycard refused to open the room in retribution for me having a negative opinion of the management. Back downstairs. New keycard, across the lobby through the ballroom area and back to the Tower elevators. This time I was able to gain sulky access to my room and make dispenser coffee.

Shuttle, check-in, Lounge. Not the United Lounge!  Several of the non-US carriers have banded together and have a lounge in the S terminal. Some are Star Alliance, some are not. But the important thing is that United doesn’t run the lounge. Instead of cheese, crackers and carrots there is good soup, a full line of beverages without costs and a rotating supply of munchies ranging from jelly beans through wasabi peas and good trail mix to a variety of cookies and crisps.

Here I sit with incredibly fast Wifi (good enough to download Dr Who Season 8 which I haven’t seen in less than 30 minutes) and a full view of one of the jet ways. I now know that SEATAC paints cross bars perpendicular to the pull-in line clearly labeled for each make of aircraft. Makes positioning properly for fast hook ups that much easier.

My flight is at 1340 if everything is on time. I arrive in the morning which means technically it takes 3 days to get home…..

Categories: Travel Tags:

heading home – day 1

August 23rd, 2015 No comments

Which should give you the basic idea that it is not as simple as it sounds. Today is the last day of WorldCon. Noah and I helped set up Registration this morning. It was quickly obvious that we had more people than we needed. There wasn’t anything on the program that really caught my attention so we headed back to the Staff Den and pitched in.

Several dozen scrubbed pans later, Noah moved his hands from the dish water and pitched in on packing. I turned in my towel (hand, bath, whatever was available for the moment) and helped first with the breakfast, then lunch set up.  With a flight earlier than his – I headed to the airport about noon, willing to be bored there rather than at the hotel given that there was a “business center” where I could sit out of traffic, relax and use the free wifi.

The smoke from the forest fires has played havoc on air transportation in the region. Added to the runway maintenance under way in Seattle it meant that flights were a bit delayed. Once again I was impressed by Alaska. They are organized, rapid loading of plane and we actually made up time on the way to Seattle. Even more amazing was the fact that passengers actually let those who had short connections off first. Seriously – the average plane has everyone pushing and shoving to get off. Here – people who had longer connections or were local waited till those who were panicked looking were off the plane and on their way.

Picked up my bag, headed to the van area, handed the driver the luggage and got on the van. 20 minutes later I was in bed and heading for slumber.

Categories: Cons, Travel Tags:

Interesting Hugos

August 22nd, 2015 2 comments

I have mentioned before that the Hugo’s were going to be interesting this year. (the final list is here)A controversy exploded fueled by a couple of groups who felt that the Hugo’s were being nominated and rammed through the system by “persons with agendas.”

From my point of view, I can respect the opinions of anyone who wants to write/read a certain kind of science fiction/fantasy. What I can’t respect is an unwillingness to allow others the same choice.

In reality, science fiction/fantasy is no longer the bastion of the geeky guy with “no one with cooties allowed.” The first changes literally to the face of SciFi weren’t recognized by many. They started in 1975 with the publication of Ursula Le Guin’s “The Left Hand of Darkness” which deliberately dealt with the issues of gender identification and conflict of cultures.

Since then, women have become increasingly both fans and authors. It isn’t just vampires and it is not romance. Both fantasy and hard science fiction have expanded beyond being the bastion of white males. Personally, I like having a variety of authors and perspectives from which to chose. Not everyone feels the same way and let us just leave it at that. The end result this year is that there were categories in which the nominations had been “stuffed” but when it came to the final vote, many of those entries just weren’t high enough quality to win.

Back to Discworld

Death today –

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One of the Wee Free Men got loose

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Nanny Ogg made an appearance
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and finally – the sign in front of some of the most fantastic hats I have seen in a long time….

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Categories: Cons Tags:

Discworld

August 21st, 2015 No comments

For those of you who don’t know anything about science fiction – Sir Terry Pratchett, the author of the Discworld series, died in March of this year. Not old at all he was 66. Pratchett had early onset Alzheimers. He was very open about it, made a lot of appearances and campaigned for research. The Wiki is quite good, accurate and avoids being overly fawning. I had the privilege of meeting Sir Terry at Glasgow in 2005. Unlike a certain number of authors, he was an incredibly nice human being.

One of our community (John Kentner) is in the process of producing a film which he has funded through Kickstarter to document the effect that Pratchett and Discworld have had on people’s lives.

The Discworld Exhibit is in the main hall:

where you can be greeted by Venari

where you can be greeted by Venari

learn the basics of washing things

learn the basics of washing things

Think about wearing an apron  sponsored by "Cut me own throat" Dibbler

Think about wearing an apron sponsored by “Cut me own throat” Dibbler

Death going to a party

Death going to a party

Making Money

Making Money

For the Librarians (Yes, Pat, Ann, Linda – I do mean you….)

Ook!

Ook!

The Luggage

Teeth, and feet

Teeth, and feet

the Luggage

the Luggage

Sgt Cherry

Sgt Cherry

Outside of the Exhibit – I found

Noah hanging with a dragon

Noah hanging with a dragon

And posted at all outside doors…

and reality of the outside air quality

and reality of the outside air quality

Our evening ended with the Masquerade and a concert by Tom Smith. I didn’t last till the award presentations. 2300+ is way past my bedtime on any continent.

Categories: Cons Tags:

Registration

August 20th, 2015 No comments

This morning wasn’t as insane as yesterday. We had the line cleared out by about 1100 which meant breaks were possible. I did some wandering around. No shopping and and a lot of people watching.

It was also the main day for big campaigns. Voting for the 2017 location closes 1800 tomorrow. DC in 2107 is pushing hard and had a BBQ lunch on offer. Not only did they have drinks and munchies, but they also had burgers, veggie burgers, hot dogs and items for the gluten free crowd. It was also nice to get out of the building for a short time if not to breath the smoky air.

Tomorrow I am going to bring a camera. That way I can share both costumes and the Discworld Exhibit.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Smoke gets in your eyes

August 19th, 2015 No comments
Sunrise

Sunrise

We are not all that far from the wildfires. I think most of us could give up the spectacular sunrises and sunsets in favor of thousands less burning acres of land and forest.

As this is the opening day of the Con, we expected a large number of people to show up at reg to claim their badges.

And we got hammered. The line was there at the 0900 start and it took until about 1500 before the insanity stopped. Over 2400 picked up their badges, including new registrants. With mostly six but sometimes eight computers up, it was a lot of people standing in front of me. Someone who is pre-registered takes almost no time unless they want to update everything we have on them. But a new registration requires data entry and money collection. And that takes more than a minutes or two.

But I have to admit, this is the way I get to see Mike Resnick, Connie Willis, P.C. Hodgell, Larry Niven, Michelle Sagara, Brandon Sanderson and a host of other authors.  Yes, everyone stands in line to pick up their badges. Famous authors, not so famous scribblers, artists, normal fans, lots of kids-in-tow and the occasional stuffed toy.

 

Categories: Cons Tags:

Move – in

August 18th, 2015 No comments

There are two intensive work periods associated with conventions that are labor intensive but rarely seen by attendees. Affectionately or not so affectionately known by the moniker MI-MO the front half is MoveIn which means the ending half is MoveOut. World Con is entirely volunteer organized and run. That means that in the run up to a convention there is a core group of people putting in a lot of time and effort. Once the doors open at the location where the Con is to be held, the need for people drastically increases as the physical tasks start to mount up.

This morning I spent a significant time early (before the sun came up and sunrise) trying to figure out the nearest US Post Office Location. According to Google – there was one at 421 W Riverside as well as one down somewhere in the 500-600 block.

Wrong. 421 Riverside is a tattoo and piercing parlor so I think that whomever submitted those addresses really needs a new pair of glasses. Finally, I decided to believe the map I had rather than the Internet and found the main post office at – you guessed it – between 500 and 600 – on Riverside. Better yet? Even side of the street. It opened at 0800. By 0730 I was checked out of the Red Lion, luggage dropped off at the Double Tree and on my way down the sidewalk again to mail packages. New York City, Chicago and Georgia this time.

From then on, it was somewhere around madness and chaos. I put time into Registration, loading dock, and exhibits. When Noah arrived from the airport, he dropped off his luggage and came over; being put to directly to work. By about 1830 I was the walking stupid. We had opened up reg at 1500 being swamped for the next 90 minutes. Whomever thought that we wouldn’t be busy prior to the convention opening is just nuts. Why not come early, standing in line for 15 minutes or less then go on your merry way rather than take a chance of getting stuck in a line with all those poor souls who didn’t pay up front and at a lower rate?

We checked into the DoubleTree, swapped goodies (books, yarn and costuming coming my way – pantry supplies, nutella, chocolate and gummis going his), grabbed snacks from the Con Suite and I hit the bed.

After all – I had only been up since 0130. Not bad – internal time clock already starting to adjust…

Categories: Cons Tags:

SEATAC USO

August 17th, 2015 1 comment

Actually, it was a two USO day. After taking the train to Frankfurt early this morning and checking in at Lufthansa Rail-Fly I wandered to the USO. The hours changed several years ago as the number of service members stationed in Germany underwent a dramatic increase. Now open M-F 0700-1500, the hours pretty much cover the official arrival/departure times for service members and their families in transit. Imagine my surprise and delight to find it open at 0645. I was stopping to drop off 40 children’s books. (An aside – 35 more were added to the Heidelberg City Shelf on Saturday).

The flight from Frankfurt to Seattle was lovely. I was upstairs in a 474. We didn’t have small screaming/crying children or obnoxious adults. My seat-mate turned out to be an IT Systems manager for Lufthansa Systems with an area of expertise in GPS who lives and works in the Zurich area. So much for small worlds.

Arriving at Seattle – they have the Kiosks which means that my total transit time for immigration was 10 minutes which included the hike from the plane leaving plenty of opportunity to hang out at the baggage carousel for an extensive time period.

This was followed by a stop at the Seattle USO. I think the last time I came through Seattle was either 2011 or 2012 for a cruise and I don’t remember spending any significant time at the airport. This time I had over four hours between flights. The USO is amazing. For one thing – it is open 24 hours a day. There are great volunteers, food, lounge chairs in which one can sleep, a computer area, several other seating areas and a baggage holding area. The rest rooms have showers and real towels…..I managed to keep myself aware for several hours by drinking coffee and munching before heading through security to the Alaska airline gate.

Switching to Alaska Airlines for the short hop to Spokane, I was impressed. For a small airline, the service was great and friendly. Most of the local flights are prop planes with 22 rows or less of interior passenger seating which means essentially no overhead storage bins. They do plane side check of carry-ons.

I got to the hotel via shuttle after a kind fellow passenger made the call for me. There are draw backs to not having a stateside phone.

Book Count

1186+35=40= 1261 if my brain is working correctly.

Categories: Cons, Travel Tags:

Staff Chat

August 16th, 2015 No comments

As one of the registration team for Sasquan I am part of the routine “staff chat” mailing list. It makes for interesting reading most days. Few if any flames, which is more than balanced by an exuberant excess of bad, bad puns. For a while it was all about carts.

In any case, reading the dozens of messages coming through was a nice break from packing. Yep – packing as in suitcase. It didn’t take all that long to pack a week’s worth of clothes considering that no matter the weather outside – the convention center will be colder than I like. Took a bit longer to pack up some knitting. Three projects, all WIP. One I should be able to finish in the airplane.

Then there is the “stuff” for various off-spring households in the U.S. I have clothing, books, spices and …. well stuff to pass along. Did I mention nutella, chocolate and gummi bears? Leaving tomorrow for Spokane via Seattle. The first flight will be comfortable Lufthansa. The second is a quick transfer via Alaska Airways. Smaller bag which will be a carryon for the second flight is all “stuff.” 1/2 of my regular suitcase is stuff… In return Noah is bringing me a few things which I don’t think will even fill the larger suitcase.

Wait! I am going to a Con! I am sure that I can find something to buy….

Categories: Cons Tags:

A day with Shutterfly

August 9th, 2015 No comments

which started to resemble the proverbial fish without a bicycle…

Remember that Carmen and I cruised on the Star Princess this past February. From San Francisco to the Mexican Rivera and back – we enjoyed some sunshine and several days of relaxation. As it turned out, other than the day of whale watching, I wasn’t all that concerned with taking pictures which is now presenting a bit of a challenge.

Unlike a couple of the other photo books which I made (other companies) the book planning methods are not particularly user friendly on this site. The live chat worked wonderfully well – at which point we figured out it was my browser causing the worst of the difficulties.

Why am I going through the effort? Can you spell Free Coupon which expires the end of this month. Prepaid by Princess, it would be a real shame to waste it, now wouldn’t it?

Meanwhile – the heat wave has just broken and the thunder is booming and roaring. George got the last of the laundry in before the skies let loose.

And Stu has volunteered 7950 as a new guess in the “how many books does this insane lady have” while Cat concurs that she might need another bookcase as most don’t realize how many books can be lovingly packed into a small space.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Still clearing out

August 6th, 2015 3 comments

Seriously – take a look at your backup situation. Exactly how many CDs, hard drives, DvDs and Flash Drives do you have lying around with some of your precious data tucked within? For some of those items – do you have multiple copies? So many that you don’t have a clue which is the best one, and which are faded and tattered bare imitations of the data which is so precious? For others, you are going to be lucky if what you want isn’t stored on a 5 1/4″ floppy buried somewhere in the garage/basement/attic/store room.

Never mind that it was probably saved on a medium which you can’t read any longer since you have advanced operating systems since, oh lets say 1984, 1990 or 2002? I am not thinking about all those unaccessible email files on Eudora or those backups of years of professional drivel on Outlook. None of which are readable.

But they are all precious and can’t be discarded? Right?

I am leaving out all those CF, SD, mini-SDs that just might fit in a camera that died several years ago. Or all those battery chargers, cables, cords, keyboard from computers which have long gone to an electronic graveyard helping to grace the landfills.

Obviously, I am still working on consolidating backups fueled by a fair amount of coffee and some really spectacular nectarines.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Ok, I voted

July 30th, 2015 No comments

for the Hugos.

Hello? I don’t know where you live, but I haven’t ever lived anywhere that there is much of anything to vote for at the end of July.

Small things around home – like do I sit inside or out? Do I sit in front of the fan? Do I drink this nice cold glass of water or just pour it over my head? Important things to me but of no relevance to anyone not in my immediate vicinity or responsible for mopping up my mess.

The end of July marks the closing of the Hugo voting. For those of you who aren’t SciFi/Fantasy fans – these are the annual awards nominated and voted on by fans. Nothing to do with which books are promoted by publishers. No committee of experts deciding what book/story/graphic novel/bit of art is the best from the past year. There are other categories as well – fanzine, pro-zine, podcast, long and short forms (think TV episode & movies), as well as editors and some fan recognition awards.

Most years the nominations are about what would be expected, the voting is without controversy. At WorldCon you find out if your concept of great matches everyone else’s. Anyone who is a member of WorldCon (last year and current year) gets to vote. In recent years (say, from when eBooks became popular) those voting are also provided a link which allows downloading of a personal copy of the written material.  It isn’t actually a bad deal, provided the fiction is worth reading.

And there in lies the rub. For various reasons, this year’s nomination and voting process turned extremely ugly and political. There was a group which decided to “stuff the nominations” in order to have some less well know authors have a whack at spaceship for their mantle. In response some extremely misogynistic group got their friends together to stuff the nominations.

Two significant issues: the first is that sometimes not well know is because you just aren’t that good. Both excellent writing and some heavy duty self-promotion are required. Real world, way it goes. The second issue is that I am a liberal – I believe in the right of the totally idiotic to be able to write whatever they want.  I can chose to read it or not.

But I don’t want them to tell me what I “should” be reading. Or flame those who question or have characters in their fiction which don’t conform to someone’s 1700’s view of skin color and gender superiority.  And the solution, apparently, for the second group which really can’t write at all it is to establish one’s own publishing house. Outside the US of course since the IRS believe that electronic publishing generates income. Authors with income should pay taxes.

Where was I?

Oh, yes, marking my electronic ballot which was blessedly free of hanging chad but not of “no awards.”  Must be that I am old fashion, but an internationally recognized award means something to me. And that means quality is required. Not a statement of “I’m important and deserve it!” but writing that is interesting, gripping and carries you out of this world. This year, for the first time, I couldn’t get beyond the first couple of pages of most of the nominees before quitting in disgust.

Here’s hoping the children pack up and go home, leaving the adults to discuss minor things like plot, consistency in word building and spelling…..

Categories: Books & Tapes, Cons Tags:

Sleep

July 28th, 2015 No comments

home yesterday. no clue as to time/space continuum.

Categories: Travel Tags:

It takes a while to get home

July 27th, 2015 No comments

Picking up the tale at Midnight – security let us through to the holding area to wait for check-in. Please remember that Dar Es Salaam is somewhere between 4-6 M people. The outer portion of the airport is open to the world with a number of cafeterias, coffee shops, souvenir stands and dozens upon dozens of taxi drivers.

The inner area holds all of a dozen airline check in counter each equipped with an overhead electronic programable sign, desk, computer, personnel and a baggage scale. Unless you have checked in before, it is impossible to figure out where your airline is setting up for check in today.

Did I mention that my flight was not on the electronic overhead signs as even scheduled today? I decided not to worry since the security guy let me into the area. So we waited about 45 minutes: me, a number of obvious tourists, a few locals and an extended family party from, it turns out, the Ukraine, who were heading home after a holiday. Right after midnight they all stood up and sang happy birthday to one very embarrassed mom in the group and presented her with flowers.

This is Tanzania – just about everyone around clapped. Since we didn’t know the words – singing along wasn’t possible.

Pre-check followed by check in followed by heading to the Tanzanian Lounge (used by all the airlines). It was at this point we were reminded that the flight was delayed at least an hour. Passport control (Passport, exit form, digital pix, fingerprints) and off to the lounge along with the real Nigerian Business man, a Tanzanian-Danish couple and their 10 month old baby. Food in the lounge and lots of beverages; vegetable samosas, Thai veg soup, biscuits, cakes, croissants and a lot of fruit. I settled in with Wifi, electrical outlet and grogginess to wait.

I attempted to sleep most of the flight to Istanbul. By the time it was light out, we were over the southern part of Egypt. Believe me when I saw that it was sand as far as I could see except for the rare glimpse of the Nile wending its way north. We were too high to see any man-made structures until close to Cairo where we veered off toward the north-east across the eastern portion of the Med. Circling above the Bosporus and the city of Istanbul, we were low enough to see the massive extent of the city and the spires of the mosques.

After the surprisingly small size of the Tanzanian airport, Ataturk was like being dumped in the middle of an ant hill with people swarming everywhere. Nothing was made easier by the literally hundreds of people making their way slowly along more interested in their cell phones that the affects of their towed luggage against the ankles of innocent fellow travelers.

Coffee, olives, soup, crackers and lots of turkish candy got me through the waiting time before my next flight. This time, on a Airbus 330, the seats went all the way flat. Food was good, the power outlet worked and we arrived pretty much on time in Frankfurt.

By now I have learned what to say at Passport Control – I just told the guy that my husband lived here and that I was visiting for two weeks. He just stamped my passport without running it through the computer which means he didn’t get the whole list of how often and how long I am really here.

Luggage, ran for the train (wheeled crappy duffles are no where near as fun as good 4-wheeled luggage) and George picked me up in Mannheim. Home.

Home.
Home.
Home…..

Categories: Travel Tags:

Leaving Zanzibar

July 26th, 2015 No comments

hurry up and wait for flights. Those headed to the states leave out about 2000 this evening. Or so. Me? My Turkish Airways flight doesn’t leave till 0dark330 in the mornig.

Below is what the booklet said:

Day 6 – Jul 26, 2015 Zanzibar • Optional Prison Island Tour •

Today is at leisure to make your own discoveries or join an optional Prison Island Tour. Just off the coast of Zanzibar’s Stone Town, Prison Island was originally intended to house runaway slaves, however, it was never actually used as a prison. Today this tropical island acts as a sanctuary for giant tortoises—some which are more than 100 years old. You’ll enjoy the opportunity to interact with exotic wildlife and gain insight into its unique local history as you enjoy stunning views of white sandbars and the crystal-clear water that surrounds the island.
Later this afternoon, we fly to Dar es Salaam Airport and depart on our overnight flight home, via Amsterdam, arriving the next day.

Reality: 

We left Fumba Beach about noon. After dropping our bags off for safe keeping at the Swahili House we toured the main museum.  Now open to the public, the four buildings were the interconnected residence of Sultans one-ten.

Oops. Headed to the bus for the airport. More later (and the soccer shirts all fit in the suitcase !)

23xx addition: Van to Zanzibar Airport. Small plane to the mainland. Even cooler is when you get to sit in the co-pilot seat and enjoy the view of the coast, the city, and watch the runway come up to meet you.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Spice Plantation

July 25th, 2015 No comments

None of us were sure what we expected, but the words “plantation” brought to mind historical thoughts complete with buildings, gardens and organization.

Nothing could be further from the truth. For several hours we wandered along twisting paths while learning about the various fruits and spices grown here. The plantings are totally and completely mixed. No neat rows, markers or signs of cultivations. Rather, mixed vegetation and a surprising lack of insects. We were handed various crushed leaves to smell and identify, were able to see and taste various herbs and spices in different stages of development and in general had a great time.

(and once again pictures will follow……

but for a starter we saw
coconuts, turmeric plants, star fruit, something that looked like a lemon but wasn’t, cardamon, jack fruit, bread fruit, nutmeg, mace, vanilla beans, pineapple, banana, cacao, casava, sweet potato, peppercorns, coffee, cinnamon, cinnabar, cloves, ginger, lemon grass, ylang-ylang …..

lunch back at Fumba Beach Lodge was lovely as usual.  Since none of us had signed up for any of the planned optional excursions and a sunset cruise was out of the question (both we had been on the water yesterday and the tide was going to be low to the point of wading in the water to the point of soaked in order to reach the boat) in stead we took a wander through the local countryside and villages lead by one of the gardeners from the Lodge.

Much better than a planned excursion and formal presentation – this was just a look without expectations. We did wonder at what everyone thought with this group of white folks walking past but tourism is the major local employer and we were not taking pictures without permission….

Categories: Travel Tags:

Bubble, bubble, burn

July 24th, 2015 No comments

The Plan:

Menai Bay boat cruise
Today we’ll have a full day to cruise scenic Menai Bay by traditional Zanzibari motor boat. Located off the southwestern coast of Zanzibar, Menai Bay is the islands’ largest protected marine area that is home to extensive coral reefs, mangrove forests, sea grasses, and tropical fish. While discovering small islets such as Komunda and Miwi, we may even witness pods of dolphin swimming by. We’ll have the opportunity to swim and snorkel in the warm cerulean waters before a picnic lunch is set up for us on a sand island. Later this afternoon, we’ll have leisure time to relax or explore near our hotel. Dinner is at our lodge this evening.

The Reality was even better. The local boats are Dhow, hand built single mast sailing vessels that have come into the current century only by adding an outboard motor (with wooden tiller) to the back. The instructors, crew, boat, gear and lunch were all provided by the lodge. All that was required of us was to have a good time. You can see the Dhow, the group and the general good time. I’m not posting how everyone looked soaked from diving, snorkeling or wading in from the boat (out to the boat, to the beach, from the beach, to the shore – each just far enough apart to get dry between).

Dolphins –

humpback dolphin

humpback dolphin

Blue Bottle Jellies

this guy

this guy

does this

does this

Our beach where we had lunch

the beach

the beach

looking out from the beach

looking out from the beach

the view from the Dhow

the view from the Dhow

small sand crab

small sand crab

Loading up to come back – and arrival

Categories: Travel Tags:

Fumba Beach

July 23rd, 2015 No comments

Leaving Stone town, we headed toward one of the nature reserves. Would you believe Red Colobus monkeys (Zanzibar) ? Blue Monkeys? How about Mangroves?

How about all of the above with a side of mahogany tree?

As we arrived, there was a blue sykes monkey – so now I have a decent photo…

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found in the forest

the monkey forest

the monkey forest

Red Colubus Monkeys – Zanzibar subspecies

and a mangrove swamp with white, red and black mangroves whose water varies from cms to a meter deep depending on the tides. The water is still and the reflections are amazing…

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Then there was the seaweed farm located on the coast

 

 

which included a wonderful hike out to the beds in the shallow but always covered portion of a particular Indian Ocean beach flanked on both sides by dozens of kite surfers.

 

to make the day complete we arrived in plenty of time for briefings, snacks, dinner and bush babies.

 

Bushbaby

Bushbaby

and yes, they are primates

and yes, they are primates

 

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Stone Town

July 22nd, 2015 No comments

located on the biggest island in the Zanzibar Archipelago, is old. Very old as in evidence of human habitation going back 20,000 years, give or take. So it wasn’t young when the Arabs arrived, nor when the Portuguese identified it as a great shipping point. But what did change with the arrival of all those from Europe and the Mid-East was the name and the construction of the buildings.

Did I forget to mention those from Asia? Sorry about that.

Rather than temporary homes, limestone became the main building material. Zangi (black people) became Zanzibar and the area became known as the Spice Islands. Think pepper, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon. Today it is the home of tourism, some spice, a World Heritage Site and a lot of people. Not so much on the spice although there is plenty for sale, both raw and spice mixes, in the markets.

This morning we walked through the narrow twisted streets of Stone Town where pedestrians, bikes, scooters and hand pushed heavy wooden wheeled carts are the only possible forms of transportation. Looking at old buildings, interesting doorways, and stores tucked behind wooden barred facades,

yes, that is yarn (acrylic) in the bottom of the display case

yes, that is yarn (acrylic) in the bottom of the display case

the calls to prayer were an ongoing reminder that the population is 95% Muslim. That and the women’s dress made it pretty obvious.

The Old Slave Market over which was built an Episcopal Church (which became a guest house after a new church was built.

original church built over 8+ underground slave chambers.

original church built over 8+ underground slave chambers.

the fish market,


vegetables,

spices –

all indicative of that which was was easily bought and sold.

This afternoon’s adventure was headed up by Bonita, the hotel manager on a rare afternoon off. Visiting fabric sources, stores in front of stores on the narrow streets and opportunity to add to my spice collection made for a lovely afternoon. We ended at Livingston’s on the beach where we relaxed, unfortunately a month too early for the Jazz Festival.

Dhow's on the water

Dhow’s on the water

sunset from the roof

sunset from the roof

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And on to Zanzibar

July 21st, 2015 No comments

And today it got complicated since 10 of the group area heading home on KLM via Amsterdam this evening.

Me? I’m off to Zanzibar….

According to the brochure:

After breakfast this morning, we’ll depart for Arusha, where we’ll enjoy lunch and bid farewell to those travel companions who are returning home today. Then, we transfer to Arusha Airport to board our flight to Zanzibar Island, known as Unguja to the locals. Upon arrival, we’ll check into our hotel. This evening dinner will be on our own.

 

Lunch was at a restaurant close to the airport. Not bad at all, but we have had better, especially the food at the Serengeti Camp.  Farewells were said to those heading home then the five of us (plus our tour leader) headed to the airport. For those that have been in Africa, it wasn’t as large as Livingston but had a full share of  shops….  It was also our lucky day – there were enough people wanting to fly to Zanzibar that we took a much bigger plane than originally scheduled (and me with my extremely heavy backpack).

leaving Arusha

leaving Arusha

The distance isn’t large – 16-30 miles from the coast (the nearest most distant point of the largest island)

 

 

Chaos ensued at the arrival airport – but we managed to get our luggage and out of there in a reasonable time. Our Hotel is called the Swahili House. Built in the 1800s, it transitioned from private ownership to public hotel via revolution and political change.  In any case the view from the roof dining area is amazing – and the architecture is amazing ….

and the sunset was pretty impressive from the roof top

looking toward Africa

looking toward Africa

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Ngorongoro Farm House Valley Lodge

July 20th, 2015 No comments

Discover Ngorongoro Highlands

Today we’ll have the opportunity to explore the surrounding village of Karatu and the Ngorongoro Highlands for a day of Learning and Discovery with our Trip Leader. We gather for a Farewell Dinner this evening. Day 12 will include A Day
in the Life experience at an Iraqw village and local school.

My Reality

The setting is peaceful, the greenery lush, and the wifi is free. Did I also mention that the food is excellent along with being way too available. After excellent food, but not much appetite in the Kilimanjaro Highlands I have the feeling that those pounds that vanished are bent on returning. The cuisine is a mix of local African dishes and western style offerings. So there is porridge in the morning, but it is oatmeal here rather than maize. There are eggs to order and meats. But there are wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables.

Today the majority of the group went off on cultural activities. Visiting a family, a market, dropping off food at an orphanage. Perhaps stopped by a school – I wasn’t too clear since it is so not my thing. (all of which is a long discussion related to too much seen in too many countries and not needing to go there anymore).

Instead – I posted the pictures from the last five days, took a few of the lodge.

Found that the Wifi worked well enough to download books from amazon but not to update Apps.

Other wise, checked out the gift shops, bought napkins.

Tomorrow five of us head to Zanzibar and the other ten back to the US so it is farewell dinner time….

Oh – there was a Maribo Stork refusing to leave the vegetable garden

looking for a free lunch

looking for a free lunch

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Ngorongoro Caldera

July 19th, 2015 No comments

Ok, haul that geology out of its resting place. Caldera – that central area of the volcano that collapses with the eruption. So you will see this particular feature (the Ngorongoro Caldera/Crater) listed both ways on maps.

The Blurb provided by OAT –

Early this morning, we drive to Ngorongoro Crater. We descend to the floor of Ngorongoro for some game-viewing. The caldera of Ngorongoro marks the ancient walls of a collapsed volcano, which was probably once the size of Mount Kilimanjaro. The circular crater is some twelve miles across, with steep walls of more than 2,000 feet. The crater’s rim is 7,500 feet above sea level, the highest altitude we reach on our trip. Because of a permanent supply of water and a precise balance of predator and prey, most of the wildlife remains here year-round. The forest areas are home to herds of bull elephant, including some large, old “tuskers.” There are several prides of lion, and many packs of hyena and jackal. If lucky, you may spot a bat-eared fox or a pair of cheetah. These predators stalk the numerous wildebeest, gazelle, and zebra. Here thrives a stable population of rhino, as well as herds of buffalo and groups of hippo. The birdlife is equally diverse, ranging from the scavenging vulture and bustard to the magnificent eagle and crested crane.

Apparently what happens is that animals wander down, the eating is good and they don’t leave. But, since there are few trees, you don’t find young elephants or any giraffes at all. Because of the amount of recreational traffic (read here safari vehicles) most of the animals and birds don’t seem to be bothered. This is a conservation area: no one lives here but Maasai are allowed to graze a small portion on one end. That area is grazed down to practically the soil.

Packing and leaving out of the camp this morning

 

On the way

Vistas
looking into the caldera and across

we saw
and the reason for being able to see all the hyenas and jackels had to do with the lions having lunch

at the end of the day we stayed at Ngorongono Valley Lodge

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Full Day on the Serengeti

July 18th, 2015 No comments
sunrise

sunrise

Game-viewing drives

(and I am sparing you the rhetoric. Hey, we went out, saw a lot of animals, swatted at the flies and had a great time…) Seriously – we headed to the Western side of the park on the rumor that there were a lot of wildebeasts… Incredibly true. Once I am home hopefully I can get Dani to take the video and turn it into something worth watching. Nothing like seeing thousands of animals suddenly appear from across a riverbed, thunder down within a hundred meters of where you are sitting before changing direction, picking up speed and heading across the plain.

Pictures today are in the order taken….

and ignoring flat tire #3 (same vehicle, same tire, third day in a row.) since the guys are pretty speedy, especially with a leopard hunting in the area

tour leader and the other two drivers

tour leader and the other two drivers

But then we came to the Wildebeasts ….

To top off the day – there were lions…
personally I think he is pretty scruffy, but I suppose youth is an excuse.

and then, we saw their potential supper on the way back

Grant's Gazelle

Grant’s Gazelle

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Big Cat Day

July 17th, 2015 No comments

Explore Serengeti National Park

The cabins - front sleeping room and back section with shower and toilet

The cabins – front sleeping room and back section with shower and toilet

You will rejoin the group after breakfast for a morning game-viewing drive. The Serengeti stretches over 5,700 square miles of plains, riverine bush, and acacia woodland, with a dominant environment of acacia grassland. But from the comfort of our bush camp, there is never a rush: We go where the animals are. We can return to a promising area, or range further afield.

As it turned out, this was the day of the cat. Lions, leopards, cheetah were all out and about in spite of the temperature. And more importantly in spite of the tsetse flies. Day biters, these nasty flies are mostly found in brush areas or those with large numbers of herbivores.

I have divided up the pictures, but there are a lot of them…and not all in the order in which we saw/photographed them…

Secretary Bird
Which nest rather messily on top of acacias (one of the 43 species of this tree any way). So the pair – taking off, taking a hike, and crossing the road – after all – there may be snakes on the other side…

Those animals which you expect to see
include wildebeast (gnu), zebras, & elephants

and the antelopes
skipping the Thompson’s, Grants, Impalas, water buck and bush bucks…

More birds
(especially for Linda and Alison)

Cheetah’s


which are incredibly shy, hard to photo. Even in the park they are quite endangered (killed off by leopards, lions, hyenas…) but apparently willing to have a discussion with Gnus..

Mother Leopard
who hangs out in her own tree – stomach full.

sleeping cat

sleeping cat

but makes a couple of trips up and down while we watch. Note that she stores “lunch” up in the tree on both sides. Don’t enlarge the pictures with dangling antelope legs if it will bother you

Leopard Cub
guestimated to be about 4 months old. Mom is hanging out in the larder tree. Way too many vehicles and tourists for the young one who woke up, got bothered and took off….

Two Lion Prides
The first was hanging out in the sun under a tree – or rather – he was while watching his five ladies look for a snack. Before turning an irritated look our way

the second pride was a bit more scattered with one young male feeling lonely, a couple of lionesses at look out and the king off on a seduction walk

Monkeys behaving badly

And days end
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Serengeti National Park

July 16th, 2015 No comments

Explore Serengeti National Park

Today, we explore the vast expanse of the Serengeti, where the wildlife
sightings are typically at their peak in the early mornings and late afternoons, when the temperature cools. Serengeti, in fact, is the Maasai word that means “endless plain.”

Our mobile tented camps are set up based on the animals’ seasonal migration patterns and are in place before you arrive. Each is outfitted with camp beds, complete with linens, blankets, pillows, and en suite facilities (shower and flush toilets) with hot water. You have your own verandah with wash basin and two director’s chairs. There is a dining tent with tables and chairs. Spend the night listening to the sounds of the animals in the distance.

That last one is a misnomer. The sounds are not at a distance; more like right between the cabins and sloshing around in the water reservoir. I don’t hold with elephants being all that bright – but they certainly are cunning. We were also warned about leaving shoes outside to dry – seems like they make good hyena toys.

General sights

And the Leopard ….
She was up in the tree, stocking her larder. Nature is what it is and I refuse to feel sorry for the gazelles who wind up being dinner…

from a distance she is hard to see

from a distance she is hard to see

but there she is

but there she is

dragging another Thompson's up for later

dragging another Thompson’s up for later

then headed back down

then headed back down

to find a nice place to nap

to find a nice place to nap

since a full stomach can make you sleepy

since a full stomach can make you sleepy

"tree of death" three gazelles and one leopard.

“tree of death” three gazelles and one leopard.

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Ngororngoro Conservation Area – Serengeti

July 15th, 2015 No comments

Discover Oldupai Gorge • Travel to Serengeti camp

Morning

Oldupai Gorge where , in 1959, Louis and Mary Leakey discovered fossil fragments, which led to a new understanding of human evolution. Oldupai Gorge was home to Homo habilis, a race of early humans to probably become the ancestors of homo sapien. Visit the small museum, which explains the Leakeys’ methods and findings. After a picnic lunch, we travel to our camp in the Serengeti.
 

Map of the area

Map of the area

The Museum is tiny and reflective of most private (in this case foundation supported) museums in the not wealthy area of the world. There is a replica of the footprints found in the Laetoi area on display, maps of the area, skulls and bones from many of the pre-historic animals and photos from the excavation. I’m not showing it – but there is also a monument to the Japanese scientist who started near Terra del Fuego and hiked what is thought to be the human migration pattern backwards from Argentina all the way to the Oldupai Gorge….

the gorge with all the moving plates

the gorge with all the moving plates

the area known as the Castle where the gorge splits

the area known as the Castle where the gorge splits

side cliff with Maasai Herder

side cliff with Maasai Herder

Looking up toward where the Leahy's worked

Looking up toward where the Leahy’s worked

footprint replica - the originals were preserved in volcanic ash

footprint replica – the originals were preserved in volcanic ash

 

 

Afternoon

Gateway to amazing sights

Gateway to amazing sights

We left the entry area (Kaapi Hill) to drive toward the tented camp where we stayed the next four nights. Following are just a few of our spottings along the way. As always – clicking will make them larger….

and leopards this time….

look closely

look closely

snoozing

snoozing

(I am sparing you the remains of the gazelle....

(I am sparing you the remains of the gazelle….

 

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A real Coffee Table

July 14th, 2015 3 comments

This morning was cultural experience followed by a stop at wood carvers before we arrived at our overnight location about 1300.

Ngorongoro Farm is a working farm, coffee plantation and (in my opinion) a multiple star location.  Obviously we are not the only safari group coming through – this lodge is also highly popular with many of the German travel companies.

The Grounds:

Since coffee is a significant issue (9 acres of coffee and all served is their own)

But what was most surprising were the accommodations since they didn’t look like all that much from the outside.

the front of Mwewe (Eagle/Adler)

the front of Mwewe (Eagle/Adler)

But inside they are huge

And when I was sitting outside looking at the extensive gardens-

I almost forgot about the coffee table

The Coffee Table

The Coffee Table

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Zebra Day – Tarangeri Park

July 13th, 2015 1 comment
the lounge

the lounge

my tent...

my tent…

Today we experience Tarangire’s diversity on a morning game-viewing
drive, during which we’ll pause to enjoy a picnic breakfast in the
bush.
The variety of wildlife here is excellent, from lion, cheetah, and
buffalo to a wealth of birdlife. Elephant are plentiful here, traveling
in large herds that are not often seen elsewhere in Africa. Each of
our driver-guides has extensive knowledge of behavior of these great
animals.
We will return to our lodge in time for a relaxing lunch. In the
afternoon, we’ll have time to take an optional nature walk in the
Lake Burunge area. After, we enjoy dinner together at our camp.

Ok – Reality: (grin) which might even have been better.

We were up and about by 0530 this morning and basically on the road before 0700. The park doesn’t open till 0600 so there is about zero chance of crashing around in the dark. We did the usual mix up people and vehicles again which means new day, new friends, new driver.

Now I will stop the natter and present you with pictures……

all of which we saw within the first hour.

After which there were birds, more birds…..

Other animals and scenery

and finally – the Zebras

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