E is for Elephants!

ImageElephants are big. African elephants can weigh up to about 15,000 pounds. Female elephants are called cows. Male elephants are usually found alone, while females congregate together with their young.

When I was in Africa, we saw a lot of wild elephants. Of the big five in Africa, elephants weren’t really a concern.  Everyone thinks that the lions and cheetahs might be the most dangerous.  From what I’ve heard, and especially from river rats, hippos could very well be the most dangerous animal, even worse than crocodiles!  Apparently, though, elephants can become pretty nasty if they think they’re in a bad place. Or if they’re males in heat..

 

Another little “fun fact” about elephants: they are REALLY quiet!  You would think that being 15,000 pounds, you would definitely hear an elephant coming from a distance! Or at least feel the ground tremble!  We were stopped on the road watching elephants down in a nearby watering hole.  Our jeep had an open top and we were watching and taking pictures.  Suddenly, I heard a quiet rustle in the bush behind me and turned around to see a group of elephants RIGHT THERE behind us!  We didn’t even hear them until they were right next to us!  They ignored us, crossed the street and made their way down to the pond, not even making a sound.  It was surreal!  I felt deaf!

 

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D is for Diving!

ImageWe’ll start with S.C.U.B.A. diving!  When I was in Bosnia, I got this idea in my head that I would take S.C.U.B.A. lessons.  There was a dive school in Mostar and they did trips and lessons on the Adriatic Coast. I did my lessons in Ston, Croatia, and did a couple of dives down to some old sunken ships before I got my certification with the Croatian Diving Federation.  I highly doubt that anyone in North America or Central America would recognize it, however, it turns out, physically, diving is just not for me.

I did a few more dives in various locations, but always had trouble clearing my ears. I used to get horrendous ear infections when I was a child, so bad that I would be writhing in pain and my ears would leak. One day I was diving some wrecks in Kingston, Ontario and I was having a really hard time clearing my ears.  After the dive, my ears were really bothering me and not too long later, they were bleeding. I have just come to terms with the fact that my ears just won’t allow me to dive.  The fact that I have trouble on fast ascents and descents in an airplane just reconfirms that! So now, I snorkel. Which doesn’t start with D.

My friend, Victoria, of Girl Gone Good with a really awesome and fancy website, by the way, was who introduced me to the other kind of diving. Skydiving! It was 2002, and although I really had no idea what I was in for, I took classes at Mile High Parachuting, and was finally all ready to do my first jump.  I’m not sure how many schools do this, when I went, Mile High would drop you out of the plane at something like 3,500 feet with a motorola strapped to your chest. Once the chute opened, a guide would be standing on the ground and tell you which way to turn and go in order to get back to the jump site. It was pretty cool, floating in the air all by yourself.  At first I was nervous, they told me to turn left and I’d gingerly turn left, they told me to turn right and I would weakly pull on the handle!  As soon as I landed, I had experienced all I needed. I ran back to manifest, forked out another $30 and waited to get on the plane again!  The second time heading down I was a lot more aggressive and confident.  “Turn right” WOOOSH!  “Okay, great, now I need you to turn left” SWOOSH!!  My landing?  A little ballet step on the grass and I was down.  So much fun!  Unfortunately, I was broke and leaving the country for another adventure and that was the end of my skydiving experience. $30 a jump when you’re doing something that much fun can be a drain on the pocketbook! I always wanted to do some more, but never got the opportunity.

What do you think?  S.C.U.B.A. or skydiving?  Or both?

On the road again – and a Las Vegas Virgin

After two years without a vacation trip (spending all our money on real estate upgrades), we decided to treat ourselves to a week’s vacay in Las Vegas. I had never been and it was definitely a place I wanted to experience once.

I was only here less than 24 hours before I realized that my friend Girl Gone Good was in Vegas at exactly the same time. How weird is that!?! Her blog is great. She has a plan and updates it regularly with content about health, nutrition, fitness and travel, unlike me, who only remembers once and a while that I have a blog!! Her posts have inspired me to write about my Las Vegas experience, proving that every Vegas experience can be completely different!

After about an 8-hour, two flight journey, we arrived in Las Vegas just before midnight, local time, which put our bodies at about 3am!

We were going to just take a taxi to our hotel, but at that time in the night, the shuttle was just as fast and a little bit cheaper ($15.00 for both of us).

We failed in finding food and finally crashed, not really sure of our relative location on the strip, or any of our plans for the week.

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The 32 year old bear, Cuddly Crocket, who was thrown in the garbage by a VIA Rail porter on the last adventure (another story that’s still ongoing) came with us in spirit, as he appeared after we boarded the plane as a photo bookmark. He would have loved this trip!

Amazing Africa – Part 1: The decision to go

I was in much need of a break from my overseas work, and we’re entitled to two 2-week vacations during our 10-months away from home.  Since I was already halfway around the world, it didn’t make sense for me to go back to Canada when I could see so much more on the other side of the Atlantic!  Where to go?  I looked at Seychelles, I thought about Thailand, I even considered Turkey.  Dean, a longtime friend of mine mentioned it has always been his dream to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, so I started googling.  I learned that Kili was a mountain that anyone in ‘reasonable physical condition’ could handle, and I thought: I’m in reasonable physical condition!  So on the spur of the moment, I searched around, emailed some travel companies and finally came up with a plan of what I wanted to do and see in Tanzania!
I finally settled on a combination of Kili climb, Serengeti Game Drive and R&R in Zanzibar.  As soon as my trip was booked, I ordered everything I would need for hot and cold weather and mountain climbing from Mountain Equipment Co-op and prayed that my order would make it from Canada to the southwest asia on time!
I departed Dubai on the 28th of August.  My gate didn’t open until about 1045pm, so I had about 40 minutes to wait before I could check in my bag.  I was amazed at how smooth and quick the check-in process at the Dubai Airport is compared to Canada.  Security was a breeze.  The clerk at the check-in asked me where I got my PacSafe locking wire mesh I had on my backpack and told me it was good that I have it for this flight.  This made me a little nervous.  I had never been to Africa and was travelling on my own.  I managed to pack everything I would need for a mountain climb and another week and a half of adventure into one hiking rucksack.  What an adventure this is going to be!
The flight to Nairobi was very nice, and the Precision Air flight to Kilimanjaro was nice and short. We flew right between Kili and Meru (I think). I have put myself in a bit of a pickle. I was only able to get Dirhams and then hoped to get $$ in Nairobi, but time was a bit tight and I didn’t get any. I didn’t have enough U.S. Dollars for my visa when I arrived and I had to change Dirhams at such an outrageous exchange rate. 100DH = $14US. I’ve been hosed. Now I have no idea where to get any money.
There were three others on the ride from the airport to Springlands Hotel. Danilo and Chris are brothers from Brazil who were celebrating Chris’s 40th birthday by climbing together, and Beth a young British girl, who, like me decided 3 weeks ago to climb a mountain. We hired a local, whom we nicknamed Shingo and he took us into Moshi. We went to the bus station, police station, all the markets and walked back on the railroad tracks and through a tiny village between Moshi and the hotel.
One of the things that really impressed me about Tanzania so far was in an area of the world where religion truly divides, the mosques and churches sat across the same town and for the most part, Moshi and I would soon learn the rest of Tanzania is relatively peaceful.  The people in the town I spoke to were rather proud of this fact.
While the others were shopping, I asked Shingo about school He told me that school is very expensive and to go for two months it costs $50. He wants to go back to school to learn more English. I told him ‘practice makes perfect’ and he knew that phrase! It suddenly dawned on me, watching every Kenyan on that flight from Dubai try to open the plane bathroom door but unable to read the instructions. They may make enough $$ to fly, but they are illiterate in both English and Swahili.
As we were wandering around Moshi, guys all over the place were trying to sell us stuff. One guy made a comment about buying from the shops vice the ‘community stores’ and supporting drug lords etc. It makes one stop and wonder: where is any of the $ spent here REALLY going? Who is benefitting from my visit here? Uneducated, illiterate men? Or something bigger?
Taking a walk along the tracks through Moshi Town
 
The hub of Moshi Town (approx 145,000 pop)