Thursday, December 24, 2009

Beaune

Still sunburned from Africa, L and I returned to the Low Countries and snow. Thoroughly tired, we totally forgot that we signed up with work colleagues for a wine tour in Burgundy, France that weekend. Still marveling at how we could go from eating local ugali in East Africa to sipping le vin de Bourgogne in two days, L and I managed to enjoy ourselves. All we had to do was hop into a mini van with six other winos after all.

Our Gite was in the little village of Beaune, which was beautiful. The winter light gave it an eerie quality, and though I expect this place would be glorious in the summertime, I wouldn't mind going back here again next winter. Here are some pictures I took during the wine tour (pretty good haul - three wineries and 20 bottles, including some Cremant for the holidays):











We also visited the local Hospices de Beaune, a perfectly preserved hospital from the Middle Ages:






Uganda

We really had fun here, but I don't have any pictures to show for it.

The highlight of the trip was white water rafting through Jinja Falls - also known as the source of the White Nile.  No cameras allowed on the boats, of course, so I waited two weeks for the DVD they promised of our spectacular spills and falls through six (6!) Grade 5 rapids along the Nile.

Smart of them though, as the DVD appears to be copy protected. In any case, you can imagine us being the people in these pictures, since we did pretty much the same crazy things they did (I prefer my day job).

Oh, one picture featuring Kampala - a pretty enough city except for these gigantic, scary looking birds, which are the local pigeons:


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lake Manyara

After a great safari day, L and I woke up the next morning to the sound of really loud breathing. We opened the balcony doors and saw this right below:



Not at all the kind of buffalo that I'm used to, which are of the gentle, docile variety.

We left Ngorongoro Crater after breakfast and made our way down to Lake Manyara, a smaller national park. Unlike Ngorongoro, where all the animals were concentrated in the center and almost posing for pictures, visiting Lake Manyara was probably more like a proper safari: we had to search for the animals.

It was a good thirty minutes or so before we saw them. First, the graceful impalas:



Nearby were baboons, who stay close to the impalas as a natural protection against predators like cheetahs and leopards:



This park had A LOT of giraffes, and it was my favorite animal to look at:







There were also many, many elephants. One gave us quite a scare, as it bounded towards our vehicle and swerved only at the last moment:



The others were not as scary:



There were also a lot of hippos:



And monkeys:







We unfortunately had to catch an early flight to Kampala the next day, so we had to leave the park after only a few hours. We spent the night at Arusha Coffee Lodge in Arusha, and as its name suggests, it is in the middle of a coffee plantation:






Monday, December 14, 2009

Ngorongoro Crater

This was the game changer.

Before this, Tanzania (and East Africa in general) was just one of the places you had to check off your list of places to visit. The day we went down to the Crater has changed the way we want to travel. Historical monuments, cultural artifacts, works of art, idyllic beach resorts and gastronomic delights are all wonderful, but being out in the bush, in an environment that has hardly changed for thousands of years, is something that everyone should experience.

We made our way from our Lodge down to the Crater in the early morning:





Going down into the Crater was a revelation  - the tranquil views afforded at the rim gives you little to imagine about what to see below.





And as we got to the bottom, we saw thousands of animals, glorious, incredible, amazing. We saw many exotic birds:










Zebras and Wildebeest:











different species of Antelope:





Elephants:







Ostriches:







Warthogs (and baby warthogs):







Lions:









The highly endangered black rhino:







Hundreds of baboons:





And so much more than what this one blog entry can handle.

After eight hours on the dusty safari road, we made our way back to our Lodge, still in a slight daze. I am by no means an environmentalist, nor do I have an extraordinary love for animals, but seeing all this has made me want to do something to ensure that every person living and every person still to be born will see this, as it is.

On our way back to the Lodge, we had one last look at the crater as we ascended to the rim, and already it had transformed back into the tranquil scene that belied the presence of its teeming mass of inhabitants:



When we got back, I was greeted with some happy news. This was a very, very good day.