Monday, March 27, 2017

Tarangire - Tanzanian home of elephants

The last part of the safari is at Tarangire NP. Amboseli NP is the park most associated with elephants in Kenya. Tarangire is the equivalent in Tanzania.

Tarangire is wooded and there are tse-tse flies there. So we kept our game viewing to mornings and late afternoons when the flies are not as active. There is no insect repellent that works with these flies and they transmit sleeping sickness. Also the bites itch like crazy. We were still plagued by buffalo flies but they don't bite. They just are attracted to eyes, mouth, nose, ears, exposed skin, etc. which is annoying. I found that the scarf I used to keep dust out of my nose and mouth helped a lot with the annoyance of the buffalo flies. It was just a cheap Target scarf which I dampened with water and wrapped around lower face. I washed it every night and it was usually quite dirty from all the trapped dust. I should have taken a dust mask!

 At the entrance to Tarangire, we had to sign in and sign out. So we had a little time to stand around, take photos of signage, and chat up other tourists. We didn't often have that luxury so it was a nice break.
 We stayed at the Tarangire Safari Lodge, which was an experience in itself. We stayed in tents, with a permanently installed bathroom and shower facilities. But electricity was only turned on in the tent area from 6 pm to about 8 am. If you wanted electricity, you had to go to the common areas during the day. Food was also not allowed in the tents due to the primates (baboons mostly) who had figured out how to open zippers and get into food. We had to put monkey locks on the zippers but there was still no food allowed. Our food either stayed in the reception area or in the vehicles.

Tarangire is lowland. The NP is around the Tarangire river, which I will show you in other photos. So it was hot and humid. There were also no fans in the tents. I was able to get one for the night but it quit working the second night. We were also in the lodge in the afternoons due to the tse-tse fly situation. Therefore, this was one lodge where we actually hung around the lodge and spent time with each other as a group outside of meals.

The view above is what greeted us when we got there. it is the view from the patio outside the lounge area. It was too hot to do more when we got there around lunch time.
 But on our way in, we were greeted by the elephants who welcomed us to their home. The elephant above is stripping bark from the tree to eat it. They also bring down branches when they can't reach the higher leaves with their trunks.
 That was one of the tiniest babies we saw.

 And this one posed for a portrait.
On our afternoon safari, we first ran into ostriches. A group of them ran across the road in front of us.
 We crossed a little brook where we saw zebras and antelope.
 At Tarangire, we finally saw some signs of major rain. Previously, clouds appeared and disappeared but now we were starting to see clouds on a more regular basis. And, of course, when one sees clouds, there is always the possibility of light effects.
 Vultures seem to have staked out this tree as a chill zone.
 A baboon strolls along the road by our vehicle.
 This is the sort of cave lionesses and leopards use as dens to birth their cubs.
 Dik-diks drinking water on the patio at the lodge.
 At the river, we saw many animals feeding and drinking. I was fascinated by how hard it is for giraffes to get down to water.
 The evening light lit up these impala and made their coats turn to gold.
 Here, for the first time, we saw baobab trees. These are the trees that are emblematic of sub-Saharan Africa. In the dry season, when they lose their leaves, they look like upside-down trees. But now, in the rainy season, they look pretty normal. They have big trunks though and are a very useful part of the ecosystem.
 This is a termite nest. We saw them everywhere. But this one had some mongooses hanging around. They eat the termites so the dig down into the nests.
 A lilac-crested Roller on a branch. These are some of the most gorgeous birds I've seen. I want to dye some yarn with the colors of the bird one day.
 Two hornbills on a branch. Hornbills mate for life so you always see them in pairs.
 More elephants hanging out by the water's edge. This was a big group that we watched for a long time.
 Warthogs at their burrows. They build burrows in an area where they raise their young. It is communal living. The one with his butt in the air has his head in the burrow. I caught him going in. But it is only my guess that it is a he. Could be a she, also.
 Even giraffes can't get all the way up to the tops of trees without reaching!
 One afternoon, we caught a snake on the ground and watched as it slithered around on the branch and then went up a tree. It can really move fast. In a matter of seconds, it was gone. These were the smaller wildlife we were able to watch due to the increased downtime at the lodge.
 This is a Superb Starling. We saw many of them but I had a difficult time getting a good picture as they are always moving. You'll see this photo again below in a different context.
 Baobab trees often have these holes in them. This one is large enough for a human to sleep in. Poachers often hide out in such holes. Animals also use them for shelter.
 This is the landscape at Tarangire. Lots of trees and pretty flat.
 We came across this lion family enjoying dinner. Dinner was a wildebeest. But we realized part-way through that it was a wildebeest who was either giving birth or close to giving birth. The lion cubs are eating the baby wildebeest. Situations like these were sad to see. We saw many kills over the course of the trip but this one tugged at our heartstrings the most. However, it is the way lions feed themselves. Those two lives (the mother and baby wildebeest) sustained the 3 lives in the lion family - the mother and 2 cubs - plus the hyenas, jackals, vultures, insects and bacteria that would feed on the carcasses after the lions were done. It is part of the ecosystem. The predators keep the prey animals in check and provide food for other animals, birds and insects who feed on carrion. It is the real circle of life.
 And what is better to lift our spirits than a rainbow?
 The next morning - our last, we were rewarded by more dik-diks on the patio at breakfast.

Back at Arusha, before most of our group headed out, we visited a Cultural Heritage Center where artists work and there is a shop of handicrafts. I wasn't very interested in shopping but I found this kitten hanging out among the items for sale. The mother cat was a little suspicious of my photography and was giving me the side-eye as I tried to snap photos of her adorable offspring.

We stayed on an extra night in Arusha. It was cheaper to stay the extra night than to pay for the flights back as they were very pricey on the Saturday night. It rained that last day, a solid rain that was definitely welcome by the animals and the humans. Those of us who remained went to an orphanage. Each of us brought something for the orphans. We took notebooks and some school supplies for older kids. Others brought coloring books, stuffed animals, snacks, etc. We had the joy of taking them and meeting the little kids at the orphanage. We distributed some of the items - toys, coloring books and some snacks - to the kids but kept most of the for the teacher-in-charge to distribute and use as she saw fit. It was uplifting and heart-warming to see the care the children were getting despite insufficient funding. They were clean, well-behaved and were housed in orderly but spare dormitories. The kitchen staff were butchering chickens for lunch when we were there. They have a cow for milk, chickens for eggs and meat and a farm where they grow vegetables.

And with that, we went to the airport and flew home with tons of memories, some new friends, and lots of photographs!

I've been busy on the fiber front, which is why this post is late.

See how the fiber I was spinning mimics the Superb Starling? It hit me as I was sitting there spinning, wondering why the colors in the fiber looked so familiar!
The two bobbins spun up. You can see the skinnier stripes on the second bobbin. Since I divided the second half of the braid into 3 to spin it fractally, the color stripes are much thinner in that half. 
 This is the completed skein. I am in love with it.  The fiber is an alpaca/merino/silk from Into the Whirled. The colorway is called Sentinel and it was a club colorway that I received as a gift.
 I also finished weaving the scarf made of Lorna's Laces Swirl DK. The yarn is now discontinued. I had a multi and a solid that was one of the colors in the multi. So I striped the warp with both and also the weft. I succeeded at using up all the yarn. But I have a very long scarf. I also learned how to carry yarns up the selvedge neatly. The difference between the beginning and the end is dramatic.
I had to try on the scarf to see how it looked on. It is soft but has some structure to it. I think it will soften up more with use. The finishing made a huge difference to the drape.

I am now on to another project which I will describe in more detail next time.

Friday, March 10, 2017

In the Ngorongoro crater

The crater is the caldera of an extinct volcano that must have been huge. The size is really immense. We spent the whole day in the crater and could have spent some more time, if we'd had it.

I had some misinformation about the crater. I thought the animals in the crater were there permanently and the sides were so steep that they couldn't get out. I had heard that the lion prides in the crater were inbred. I learned that the west side is pretty steep but the eastern side is more gradual and animals enter and leave on a continual basis. They might even come in in the am and leave in the evening or vice versa. However, the crater itself is greener than the surrounding landscape and therefore many animals stay there for longer periods of time. It is flat, it is green and there is water. The lake in the crater is salt water though, because it has no exit. But the streams and other small bodies of flowing water are fresh.

 We started off with a baboon sighting on the roof of one of the lodge's buildings.
 There were clouds off and on during the day, making for some spectacular lighting. This is the morning sun through the trees. January is part of the short rainy season in Tanzania but they had not had rains since December and everything was dry. We got a few showers on our trip but the rains really came the last day we were there and everyone - human and animals - were happy. But during our trip. we had days like this - with clouds at times and sunny at other times. You will see that it affects the lighting in the crater because we also have the crater rim to shade the light.
Heading down the eastern rim of the crater.

 Cape buffalo grazing in the morning light. See how the light filters through the mists at the top of the crater.
 We came upon some hyenas finishing up a buffalo kill.
 One hyena grabbed a leg and ran off with the prize, right across our vehicle's path.
 The rest of them surrounding the kill so you can't even see it. The smaller animals are jackals
 This is a Kori bustard. We spotted them all over the place. They walk around like they own the joint.
 This photo is emblematic of the crater. A vast green plain surrounded by hills and lots of animals just grazing peacefully.
 I took a lot of photos of baby zebra but this is one of the smallest that we saw.
 Two lions hanging out. I think the lion was on a date and didn't appreciate our watching him because they got up and walked away.

 Wildebeest with vultures in front of them.
 I believe these are impala.
 Wildebeest, unlike zebras, calve in a two-week period between February and March. This increases the odds of any one baby surviving as there are so many others all at the same time. We caught the beginning of the births. This is a tiny baby that was still a little wet. Probably born shortly before we saw the mother and baby.
 Hyenas hanging out in a river.
 This was one of the two rhino sightings. Those two black creatures in the middle are two rhinos. These are black rhinos. We saw another one but it was further away. I got a good look through the binoculars but this is the best I can do with the iPhone. If you zoom in, you can make them out as two rhinos.

There are elephants in the crater but they are older and the reason they come to the crater is because they are on the last of their sets of teeth. Once that set wears out, they die. The crater has lush grass and water so the vegetation is easier to eat. As a result, their teeth last longer. They are very solitary and tend to hang out by the water where the new growth is not as fibrous and woody. We saw a number of them during the day but I didn't get any really good photos.

One of the thrilling things we saw during the day was a missed hunt. I was too busy watching to take photos or videos but another member of our group did and I am linking it here for you to see. Two lionesses decided to take on a Cape buffalo but the attack was thwarted by the buffalo and his cohorts.

We also saw hippos. See the light above the crater? Just spectacular.
 The hippos had come out of this hippo pool. You should be glad you can't smell the photos. Hippo pools are seriously smelly.
 There they are. All huddled up in the pool
 There was a flock of birds around there, a very large flock, and I got some of them in the air over the pool.
 A lion acting like a big cat.
 This pool also contains a hippo. That is his snout in the water. But the location was so beautiful that I had to take a photo even though you can barely see the hippo.
 This one is a bit tricky to see. Those 3 brown blobs are a lioness with two cubs. In the bushes is their kill and they were walking around the area. I think they had eaten their fill but were hanging around, reluctant to leave it.
 Two warthogs just chilling.
 And not a pushmi-pullyu but two Cape buffalo looking as if they have one body and two heads.
 Another baby wildebeest. A little older, maybe by a day.
 They were part of this giant mass of wildebeest.
 Remember that kill with the hyenas at the beginning of the day? This is all that is left of it as we headed back. The vultures were picking the bones clean. Then the bugs start in and very soon, there is nothing but bleached bone.

After we got back to the lodge, we headed out for a hike along the rim. We had to have park rangers with rifles with us in case we ran into any animals. As we started out, we went through the service area for the lodge. Since these lodges are so far from any town or village, the staff have their own rooms and kitchen off to the side. They are there for fixed periods of time and then they get time off. Staff buses take them back to their homes. In the same area are the lodgings for the driver-guides who accompany us and provide a wealth of information. They are the best part of the trip because they are very knowledgeable and have a library of books with them. They name all the birds and animals and are also able to talk about history and culture, and fix flat tires and other mechanical glitches. They are philosophers and psychologists, knowing how to interact with all the different personalities in the tour.
 The end of our walk on the rim was celebrated by some spectacular light effects when the sun shone down through a few breaks in the clouds.

And finally, a sunset over the swimming pool of the lodge. This lodge (the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge) has a unique location and it was hard to think about leaving it the next morning.

I've been spinning and reading mostly. I am afraid my craft hobby has been eclipsed since I discovered the New York Public Library's ebook app. It is so easy to browse their catalog and borrow books.

I finished spinning the first half the of the fractal spin and am 1/3 of the way through the second half.
This is the first bobbin.

I also wove a bit more on the plaid scarf but it looks the same as it did in the beginning so new pictures are not all that interesting.

Next up is Tarangire National Park.