Botswana and Victoria Falls

Dearest Reader:
During the “big” trips I keep a diary for the entire group – what we did, what we saw, the jokes, the things that went wrong, the things that went right. I refuse to pretend that everything always goes smoothly on all of my trips, but we always learn and we always have a good time. Skim through this synopsis – blemishes and all – it isn’t sanitized but I think it will give you a flavor of my trips and the wonderful people who go on them.
Michael Ellis

Botswana and Victoria Falls

Michael Ellis and Friends

September 6 to 21, 2007

Thursday, September 6:
Most of us (except Katie, Mike and Paul who are already cavorting in Joberg and Jeff and Pat in London) leave our home towns heading for Joberg. 7 of us on the same plane from SFO to NYC to Dakar to Joberg. Good food, good service and not a bit crowded. We cruise into the next day…………..

Friday, September 7:
Our airbus 340 arrives more or less on time. We make it through customs. Met by Michele and then to The Garden Court right near the airport. Johannesburg is a megalopolis of 4 million, 30 miles across. The Guetang Province generates 10% of the entire African continents GNP. Everyone is at the hotel except the Wrights who have been exploring Joberg for a few days. Tomorrow the big adventure begins!

Saturday, September 8.
Bags out at 7:30, we leave on the shuttle at 745. We are a great group. Store bags. I leave early to file a police report because my checked bag was broken into and things stolen. Check in, and then I give you a brief orientation about our upcoming trip at Gate A 30. Finally we begin boarding at 930. Hop on bus. Onto a 77 PAX BA 140 plane a jet for our 1 hr 20-minute flight to Maun. We travel 1200K, right over the Kalahari Desert. The Boteti River is full and many intermittent streams are flowing this year. Much rain in Angola and none in the Kalahari. Fairly smooth ride and then we land at Maun international (2nd busiest airport in Africa, so they say). Enter Botswana officially. Loaded onto two Cessna Grand Caravans. And took off. Well the second plane had to circle back because the control tower saw something that should have been lifted up off the tail of the plane but was not. Aardvark diggings and ostriches are seen from the air as we fly over Africa’s second largest desert. To Jack’s Camp on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Pans, the largest salt pan in the world and land on a dirt runway, the first of many.

Met by Cyrus (meercat expert, half Persian and the rest is mutt but good-looking), Kevin (Aussie/South African/Zimbabwe and Masters in fruit bats) and my old friend Super (17 years here and full of local knowledge) whisked over to Jacks Island. On the way: Lilac breasted rollers, black korhann, rattling cistacolas, fork tailed Drongo, anteating chats (black and white little birds sitting onto termite mounds where they sleep and nest in communal groups), water acacias beginning to bloom bright yellow flowers. Met by young Vilma (Holland) and cute Lynda (Zimbabwe who is married to the chef). Very hot this PM and the landscape is thirsty.
Ralph’s museum and a snack waiting for us in the luxurious tent. Great bones and displays. Common birds: yellow billed hornbill, Cape turtledoves, and pied crow. We are escorted to our tents. How very lovely and private. Whatta view. Now I feel like we are in Africa== somehow the Garden Court in Joberg just didn’t do it. Rest time. Two yellow mongooses – in monogamous pairs, not large groups. seen around the tents.

Lions have come back into the area so we need an evening escort to our tents. The commiphora (Frankincense) trees are about. Dense communal spider webs. Palms, wonderful Ilala palms. Elevation here is 900 m. Teatime at 4 30 and the guides introduce themselves. Story of Jack (Tanzanian of Brit descent): left his pregnant wife in 1962 in Tanzania to go to the most remote place in Bots where only an “idiot” would go, Ralph his son born. Jack was a famous Croc hunter but changed his ways here became more conservation oriented. Loved the bush. He died in a 1992 plane crash (flown by his son). This same son built our lodge in his honor.

I show you our first ant lion larvae – one of the little five. Then off on our first game drive at 5. Ilala palms, red necked falcon, ostriches, kori bustards, more black korhanns, white backed vultures, steenboks (totally desert adapted antelope). 17k zebras through here; after the Serengeti the largest Z migration. Last year there was water in all the pans that lasted for 8 months. This year = nada. Kalahari means great thirst land. Female steenbok (Bushman say they have magic, arrows miss them). They can live in a very dry environment with no access to water. Can allow their temp to rise very high.

Out in the middle of nothing there are chairs about and drinks waiting for us. Lions tracks a few days old are there. We are at Lion Island named because they are often seen here. The red ball of the sun is setting at 609. Super suggests 5” of quiet time just taking in the environment. We drink and laugh and take pictures. This is gonna be fun. We have a nice talk by our guides that helps us understand the big geologic and geographic picture of the Ok Delta and this desert.

Here are some of my notes.
Makad is the largest salt pan in the world = to Switzerland. Botswana = Texas but only 1.6 million folks (3 million cows). Botswana is a mixture of San, Bantu and Zulus. Kept it stable. Only part of the region that wasn’t a colony- but a protectorate. 40k in Maun. 400K in Gaborone. 80% is made up of the arid Kalahari Desert. Sometimes get 2-400 mm yr but only in a couple of months. 3 1/2 billion-yr. old granite underlies the entire region- old rock. 100-140 MYA Africa split from S Amer. Immense quantities of lava (basalt) poured out and elevated the entire southern part of Africa. Basically the Great Rift Valley ends at Duma Tau. Kalahari formed 60 MYA, one big sandy basin (300 m of sand all blown in). At 7 million yrs one river drained the region and emptied into the Indian Ocean. A flurry of tectonic activity lifted highland areas and prevented the river from draining. It back flowed into the basin and created a huge lake 3X as big as Victoria! 20.000 yrs ago there was a lot more faulting. Victoria Falls created at this time. Remnant of that lake is Mak salt pan, the concentrated salts of this once immense lake. A geologist from DeBeers found a kimberlite pipe, which yielded millions of dollars in diamonds and has totally energized the economy of Botswana. Fortunately the diamonds were found one year after independence though the rumor is that it was actually five years before independence!

We head back with the spotlights. Hoping against hope for looks at spring hares! Yes we only see 120 of these rats that bounce like kangaroos.. But also see the African wildcat and the Cape Hare (a real rabbit) and all the vehicles get to see the Aardwolf. The most highly adapted of the hyenas. Specializes in eating termites. A small spotted genet cat is seen by our vehicle right near camp.
Back for a great dinner, some get a look at Jupiter’s moons and then to bed. Rustling ilala palm leaves sound like rain in our African dreams.

Sunday, September 09, 2007.
We are awakened at 630 AM with coffee delivered right to our rooms. At 7 group B heads off to join the Meercat family and have their breakfast out on the plain. Group A eats and then goes walking with the five local Bushmen from a distant village, which still retains much of the knowledge of hunting and traditional ways. They see scorpions dug out of holes, baboon spider out of hole, watched the Bushman play games, make bird trap, pointed out tracks and spoor, making fire so they can have a cigarette break. Walked about a mile or so.

We are off to see the suricates or meercats= a very social mongooses. Red capped larks, two banded coursers, red crested korhanns, red eyed bulbuls. Jacks Camp has a hired a local villager to keep track of the family unit of 22 meercats. The dominant female gave birth to 6 recently even though a puff adder destroyed one of her nipples. We drive over to the local guide and then get to follow these endearing little creatures all morning. 9.9999 on the cute scale. Super promises that he will have them all sitting on our heads before noon and while that doesn’t happen we all have a mighty fine time getting very close to these remarkable critters. We do see some interesting interactions between the pregnant alpha female and another subordinate pregnant female. It warms up but the wind keeps it quite nice. We are waiting for an eagle to fly over and then all the meercats dive into holes. When they emerge they will crawl up on the highest areas available to watch for the predators. The plan is that will be our heads.

Alas, only vultures and one lanner falcon fly over so we give up and head for Chapman’s Baobab. We cross the old Missionary Road, one of only 2 major roads that cross the country. The nearest other Baobab is 10k away next is 20k. Mystery can only grow where there is underground water. This one may between 3 1/2 and 5 k years old! But since there are no growth rings it is hard to tell. Let us pretend that it is older that pyramids, Stonehenge, way before the Bantus even came here, alive for 2 thousand yrs. at time of Christ. Biggest one I have ever seen, maybe the 2nd largest in Africa. 7 sisters, ie trunks. 50-75% is water. It has actually shrunk since measured by David Livingston in 1850’s. So it is drying out and losing water. Flowers only open for 12 hours. Cream of tartar commercially from fruit. Roots and leaves can be boiled and eaten. Wood good for paper making only, not lumber. Now protected by law. Hole was used for letterbox, heading south you took the letters home. Other hollow was carved by Bushmen to keep bees. Thomas Baine- painter with Livingston and with Chapman. David Livingston was a millionaire missionary who encouraged and supplied other missionaries. Carved into tree Helmore (with wife and 7 kids) and Pearce (pregnant wife) 1859. All but 3 died, mostly of malaria, they converted no one.

Scars on tree show that bushman cut out bark to make rope with Stone Age methods not that long ago. Jack died in 1992 carved into tree as 1990 by the local people in his honor. This is a power spot. Portuguese script indicates first European were Portuguese traders (slaves) here in 1780’s not the British. Tree is highest pt in 1000’s of sq. miles. Many stories about baobabs. Hyenas and baboons stuck with each other. God threw the tree upside down; Barn owl lives in hollowed out tree. You can follow one of the roots way out. very very extension root system. 80 meters. BTW our visit here supports the guides who (except for Super) are doing research on the critters of the Kalahari. Diamonds, cows and ecotourism are the sources of foreign revenue. Tourism recently replaced cattle in the number 2 position.

We drive back for a late lunch and there is the Tawny eagle we were waiting for, back at camp. Then siesta, showers etc. Outdoor showers are great. Hot in the tents, but nice in the mess tent!

Miscellaneous information about this area that some of us got some of the time:
Historical routes through this area are defined by the Real fan palm. Elephants eat the common real fan palm and poop the seeds out distribute the palms and the trees mark the migration route of these magnificent animals. Palm is Hyphaenae, called Real Fan Palm or Ilala in Zimbabwe. S. Flowering acacia = A. mebrownia. It grows on a special rock called calcrete (sedimentary calcium carbonate) that stops water from draining away and allows trees to grow. Unlike the majority of the Kalahari, which is sand and the water just pours right on through. Small termite mounds are from the snouted harvester termite that eats grass seeds not wood. These are diurnal therefore not white. Fungus growing ants and termites rule the world. Large termite mounds from grass harvesters that grow fungus. 4X the nitrogen in the immediate area results in abundant bushes and trees. Always point to the west, the bush compass. due to wind from east. Silcrete is a metamorphic rock and much older than the calcite.

Mozambique harvester ants are the nocturnal ones who leave little piles of dirt in the middle of the road. Many aardvark (earth pig) burrows. three kinds- small foraging holes, bigger feeding holes and very large sleeping, mating burrows. Can weigh 170 lb and have a tongue that is 3 feet long. This tongue is actually attached at pelvis and is pulled through stomach to, which has tight muscles that close around it to pull the termites off. They may eat 300K of termites each night

We meet a 430 in the mess tent for our next grand adventure. And I know something you don’t know! We finally have official introductions even though we have already really gotten to know each other already. A short drive takes us over to the Quads. We learn the proper way to wrap our heads in the kikoi. Lawrence of Arabia or Florence of Arabia as the case may be. We are looking good and feeling great. Fortunately my red underwear (with holes in the back thank you Katie for pointing that out) matches my pink bag and kikoi. Pictures on You Tube next month. 9 bikes roar off, some of us are better at this than others! I think most of us enjoy the noisy experience that enables us to get out onto the salt pan with minimal impact. At least that is what we believe is the reason for the bikes. We stopped just before sunset for beer. Crunch crunch crunch, we walk away and then sit for 5 minutes. The quiet of the area is profound and moving. Next our guides arrange to have us attempt to walk straight into the desert blindfolded. All the Wrights and most of the women do very well. Bob, Roger and I better not be leading groups of people into the Kalahari. Though the other two at least circled back to be near the drinks! Next we are off to the end of the road where we stop and learn a few of the constellations. Jupiter is in Scorpio. Sagittarius is the teapot. Milky Way overhead and bright. Coal Sack Nebula. Southern Cross, Alpha (our closest neighbor and clearly a binary star but in reality a 3 star system, 4 ½ light years away) and Beta Centauri, Northern Cross (asterism in Cygnus the Swan), Altair in Aquila, Vega in Lyra, Arcturus the keeper of the Bear. We cannot see the North Star from 19 degrees south but we do see the South “Space.”

So it is time to head back or so you think! Cyrus tells us that some illegal campers are ahead of us. Hook, line and sinker! The first of a few surprises this evening. The fire feels good and drinks are waiting. The party gets really going early. Many of you are thinking …. Wouldn’t it be great to have dinner out here? But soon it’s time to head back to camp. HA! Grab those chairs and walk over to the entire dining table that is set out in the salt pan. Dinner! how amazing! We thought the drink setup was great. We all get a load of hot coals under our chair that warms our buttocks just fine. “Hot cross buns” says Jennifer. We are really roughing it in the wilds of the Kalahari. The group gets even louder and louder and louder, much to the chagrin of our guides. Toasts are made. Mark sings us a song by the Coasters that the next day at breakfast he denies singing. Scotch effect.
But what other surprise can possibly be waiting for us??

We sit around the fire for awhile and Kevin continues the wonderful overview of the Kalahari region. Then we are lead over to see our final sight of the evening- bones of the giant hippo left over from the Pleistocene mega fauna. Yea, right!! The skeptics yell. But there we go in the total darkness – eyes open this time – walking in the Kalahari. What do you know? There is a bed sitting out in the salt pan which Katie and Patricia immediately jump in and you can tell they will be reluctant to give it up. But do not worry, there is Feng shui – on a north south axis, all of the beds are sitting out in a row, right out in the middle of the plains with toothbrushes and hot water bottle waiting. Cozy and very warm blankets. The stars are out; the moon is almost new so we do not see it this night. Most of us sleep a wondrous sleep. My roommate Paul snoring contentedly, though he denies it later.

Monday, September 10, 2007
In the morning, Venus is very bright in the East, right through our feet. Orion, Sirius, Mars all shining brightly. Sunrise at 620 with the red rubber ball making another fast appearance straight up here near the equator. The night was pleasant, the wind blows just before sunrise. Mike and Paul reluctantly get out of bed and join us at the coffee circle.

Cyrus then takes us out a bit and we walk radiating out for 30 minutes or so collecting artifacts. Ours are middle stone age 50K to 250K ago. Bulb of percussion, 42 diff tool types, mostly scavenging tools, not weapons. Bigger the chief bigger the tool. Silcrete is the rock type. Source is 8 K away.

Back on the quads roaring off in the dust to camp and brunch. Yummy. Then a tour of the Ralph Museum and then R and R. Cathy not feeling too well and is attended by Dr. Tom and Nurse Kay. Much thanks to both of you. We decide that Cathy needs a medivac to Maun and maybe Joberg. Tom, Kevin, Bob, Cathy and I get to the airstrip. You have tea and then head off to the hyenas. Paul apparently is a good spotter of brown hyenas. We join you and all of us get very good looks at the two 13 month old youngsters.
Sundowners and the red rubber ball drops down again. We see the Zodiacal light; which is very visible at this latitude and time. Then back to the mess tent and Glyn Maude (brownhyaena@info.bw) gives us a nice talk around the campfire. BH have an anal gland that secretes 2 scents and marks the grass twice. The upper one lasts up to a month, the lower perhaps a week (at least to humans). The lower indicates to other clam members that this area has been searched for food and therefore to continue somewhere else. The upper one marks terr against other clans. musty smell. There must be 200,000 of these marks in one large territory. this rare animal numbers only 5-7000 and are very shy. Hyenas have powerful jaws – the pressure is equal to a bull elephant in stiletto heels – that is one great image. We donate some $$$$ to his work. I read you a poem right before dinner….

The Silence of the Stars by David Wagoner

When Laurens van der Post one night
In the Kalahari Desert told the Bushmen
He couldn’t hear the stars
Singing, they didn’t believe him. They looked at him,
Half-smiling. They examined his face
To see whether he was joking
Or deceiving them. Then two of those small men
Who plant nothing, who have almost
Nothing to hunt, who live
On almost nothing and with no one
But themselves, led him away
From the crackling thorn-scrub fire
And stood with him under the night sky
And listened. One of them whispered,
Do you not hear them now?
And van der Post listened, not wanting
To disbelieve, but had to answer,
No. They walked him slowly
Like a sick man to the small dim
Circle of firelight and told him
They were terribly sorry,
And he felt even sorrier
For himself and blamed his ancestors
For their strange loss of hearing,
Which was his loss now.

We get our escort to our tents and pack for our early wake up call tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 11.
Wake up call at 530 for the Meercaters. I show most of you crescent Venus through the scope. Bushman walkers eat breakfast and then off. Group A has a fine time with those cute animals and even see a caracal. This sighting apparently causes all the meercats to gather around the local man who follows them. That must have looked great.

We have a great time with three Bushman. The usual stuff – baboon spider, trapdoor spider, making fire, playing the game, trap for birds, smoking rabbit poop. Salt grass can live in soil that is 40-50% salt. tough. Only the springhare can eat it, the roots. We all meet at the airstrip around 11 for the flight to Xigera. We give our tip to our three very good looking and smart guides. There is something special about this place…

Two planes come to get us – the same two Cessnas and we fly for 1′ 10″ to Xigera. From the air- Baines Baobabs, elephants, hippos, ostriches. We are met by KD, Phet and Ndebo and travel the very short distance to Xigera (the sound the pied kingfisher makes) where we are met by the entire staff singing a song for us. Francoise- a South African man who does not speak French and uses the word “guys” about 100 times in his orientation is the head manager. Helped by Karen, Nicki and Kago.

It is so nice to be near water!! We get a welcome drink, refreshing towel and an orientation – a nice overview of the delta, the lodge and our activities for the next few days. An elephant is right near our first “loo with the view”. Then to our rooms for R and R. Elephants galore.
The camp is situated on “Paradise Island” within the Moremi Wildlife Reserve, close to its western boundary. Xigera lies in an area, which has permanent water all year round, yet there are lots of large islands in the area which hold good concentrations of animals. It is the perfect land-and-water activity camp — in fact, it is one of the only Okavango camps which offers game drives, mokoros and boating trips. Sausage tree blossoms are on the walkway- beautiful maroon pollinated by fruit bats, open only for 24 hrs. The one bridge to the Island often has animals that use it to cross over into the island. They smooth the sand overnight so they can see who came over to visit.
To our rooms. Incredible view and ambiance. we could get used to this!. Tea at 330ish then we all head out in the mokoros. Mokoros were used for hundreds of years by the BaYei tribe – the so-called river bushman. The mokoros seem a bit tippy but we get used to it. Mokoros made from the sausage tree (ours are fiberglass so they save the tress), poles are made from Terminalia trees. We all go on a very peaceful float, going in the right rhythm of this place. Day water lilies in full flower. African tree squirrels around the lodge. Not a true desert, more than 10″ of rain – a semi-arid zone. 1000′ of sand. no rocks. Dry season is wet with floods and many animals (August, September). Flood season is wet with rain and very few animals (December). 100 miles and 120′ drop. Hippos make channels. The OK delta is only 30k yrs old. 98% lost by evaporation or transpiration.

Mokoro- Ndebo, Moses, Chris, KD, Phet, Orbet, Matt. We wind our way through myriad waterways. so many birds- Black collared barbets, Afr jacana, Squacco heron, little egret, cattle egret, rufous bellied heron, Africa anhinga or darter, reed cormorant, red-faced mousebird, Meyer parrot, African fishing eagle, ring necked dove, red-eyed dove, gray go away bird, Little bee eater, dark eyed and red eyed Bulbul, Palm swift, swamp boubou, red-billed woodcreeper, saddle-billed stork, pied kingfisher, malachite kingfisher, burchell’s glossy startling, pygmy goose, yellow-billed teal, fork-tailed Drongo, black crake, swamp reed warbler, coppery tailed coucal, tawny flanked prinia, wattled starlings, bearded wood pecker, banded martin, arrow marked babbler, hadada ibis, fiery necked night jar, golden weaver, green backed heron, chirping cisticola, coppery tailed coucal. glossy ibis, stone chat, crested barbet, carmine bee-eater, lbr, purple heron, black winged stilt, black backed cisticola, lesser striped swallow, common waxbill, African marsh harrier, whiskered tern, red billed teal, black shouldered kite, open billed stork, lesser jacana.
Three giraffes!! We must be in Africa. Good looks at African Fish eagles.

We make our way to the sundowners…gee this is grand …even champagne. A flowering Sausage tree above us with beautiful maroon flowers that are only open for a day. Back to camp and our rooms. Pick us all up at 730 for our escort back for dinner. A bit more formal here and the food is very good. The ambiance is nice and I think you are all very very happy. Epilated fruit bats with high pitched squeaks. Frogs as well. Escorted by to tents. The warm night, the smell of the flowers of the potato bush which open right at sunset (Phyllanthus in the Euphob family). Paul has broken up with me and got his own tent…sigh. Scops owl and fiery necked nightjar singing this night.

Wednesday, September 12.
Ellie visits Bill and Jennifer’s cabin, tears down a tree next to them and shakes their room. Fun fun fun. Hippos vocalizing, frogs, and a great dawn chorus of birds. Wake up call at 6, breakfast 630 off at 730 for all day boat ride. Plants that are here -sage, leadwood, sausage tree, knob thorn acacia, mopane, hibiscus, knot weed, wild basil, poison apple, toothbrush plant, python climber, baobabs, jackal berry (persimmon or ebony family), buffalo thorn. African mangosteen, sycamore fig. We check the tracks on the sand and sure enough hyena and small spotted genet. Baboon troop crosses the bridge while we are having breakfast.
Off in two motor boats with Father (KD) and son (Phet). Cool in the am but it sure won’t be later. Papyrus every where – some is rooted and some floats. Creates soil and therefore Islands. Ellies love to eat them but hippos don’t. Crocodile or swamp fern is all along the channels as is Phragmites australis – the common reed. Its biological claim to fame is that it has the greatest altitudinal range of any plant in the world – from below sea level to 19000’ on the Tibetan Plateau. We reach the main channel = the freeway called Jao-Boro River. There are many first sightings on this trip- Nile crocs, Cape buffalo (injured one with right horn missing), impala, Blue wildebeests and our first Zebras. More giraffes and baby elephants. An elephant is in the channel blocking our progress, he finally leaves and the second boat sees his partially erect penis (26 kg at full glory). Many white faced tree ducks and a lot of the same birds we saw yesterday. A partial list – greater blue eared starling, whiskered tern, goliath heron, sacred ibis, red winged prantincole, gabar goshawk, little grebe, open billed stork, black chested snake eagle, brown snake eagle, CARMINE BEEEATERS!!!!!, yellow billed stork, African white pelican, African spoonbills.
One pee stop, then for a bit of tea and shade at 1130. Hot hot hot === looking at zebras, wild beasts, spoonbills sitting across the channel from us. We get to the end of the water at Chiefs Island and see large troop of baboons and our first impalas. 2 male impalas play/fight in front of us. The Chief at Maun used to get his game from this Island hence the name. It is an uplifted island and not created by biological processes (termite mounds, peat etc). There are very large trees including baobabs and we see tire tracks as well from the Miomba Camp (the really expensive WS one).
We get stuck in the mud for a little while before we make it to our lunch spot. It is under a huge Jackal berry tree (member of the Ebony family named because of the dark wood- which was just as valuable as ivory in the old days) with plenty of shade and tiny bit of welcome breeze. Three of the staff have brought quite a spread for us including some freshly grilled veggies that are heavenly. We are spoiled and loving it. After lunch we do our species list…. I start out with all 14 attentive listeners but by the time we are done I am down to a mere 4 dedicated listers. Then it is R and R until 4 when we start back. The temperature is finally cooling. The water is dropping and we have a bit of trouble getting out. This may be the last trip to the Island this year. I had never been because of lack of water.
We had a brief stop all together at a pool full of hippos. I share a little about their communication strategies – in air via ears and underwater via lower jaws into ears. My personal highlight on the way back were the two giraffes. One very pale blonde, the other finely reticulated with more than 25 oxpeckers all over him.
Very nice shower had by all and our escorts come to get us. At dinner I cannot seem to explain the phenomenon of Burning Man. Tongue tied I am for once. At mid speech a hyena whoops very close to us. This night the sound of frogs, crickets, hippos, nightjars.

Thursday, September 13, 2007.
Leopard tracks left in the “newspaper” as they call it here. Sandy Times headline is

LEOPARD ENTERS PARADISE ISLAND
STILL THERE ALL DAY,
AMERICAN TOURISTS STAY CALM

We opt for a late breakfast but the memo did not get through to the staff and we get our 6 am wake up call. oh well. Elephant family walks right by our rooms, quietly and a bit nervous. Great looks through the scope at the African green pigeon eating the ripe figs on the Sycamore Fig tree. Off on the Mokoros at 830. Going downstream just a bit to the next island. Off for a brief walk amid ellie tracks and dung and the evidence of male hippo dung slinging and the gentle pooping of female hippos. KD goes ahead and manages to find the Pel’s fishing owl and scares it back right above our heads in an ilala palm. Superb looks through the scope and great photos are taken. I give a little overview of owls. And then we get back on the boats to look for frogs. Only see one the painted reed frog. Cute though. To the next island downstream for tea and biscuits. gee it has been so long since food. There is another pair of owls here as well. Phet gives a brief talk about the bicarbonate soda (trona) on the ground and the reason many of the islands are salty in the middle.

Back for brunch at 11 and then the highlight of the day (so far) – White Men Can Pole!
Mike, Mark, Jeff, Bill and I try our hand at it. Not too shabby!!! We end up in the water (on purpose — we swear). All wet except for I-Can’t-Swim Mark…we’ll get him later. Then more shopping and rest and reading. Nice to have some down time. Strong breeze blows through to keep it cool.

At 330 tea we meet for a little talk on mammals and ungulates and the story of the fig tree. And then off at 4 on a game drive. Three vehicles with a very nice roof. Bushbuck – a very shy small antelope. Great leopard tracks in the road next to hyena. Yellow throated sand grouse. African hoopoe. Our first greater kudus – only females and young the males are off out of the area (only the Eland is larger and Kudus have the largest horns of any antelope almost 6 feet!). Mole rat tunnels. Movie to see – Fast Loose and Out of Control. Off road into the bush we go. Great impalas, one group sees a baby zebra. Baobabs. African tree squirrels. 4 warthogs, one reed buck, several tsseebbe (topi), striped kingfisher. And then we rendezvous at a termite mound as it is getting dark and see one of the spotted hyenas out of the den. We stop for our sundowners and Roger refers to yours truly as a RED BUTTED DUNG EATING TOUR GUIDE. The moon is a fine crescent with Mercury right close by. A short quiet time while we listen to an ellie shake an ilala palms for the fruits just as it gets real dark. Back on the bumpy route to the lodge by 725. More yummy food and good conversation. Lucky this is a congenial group says Cappie.

Friday, September 14.
Late breakfast!! Hurray. Word from Bob and Cathy – they are in Kruger for the next three days right now enjoying cooler temperatures. WS and Bert from the US are helping out. Cathy is stable but needs to stay cool. More shopping especially for the baskets made by the ladies here. Golden weaver is weaving a nest nearby. Another perfect day. Off in the two motor boats on our last excursion at a water camp. To the nesting rookeries of open billed storks, reed cormorants and African darters. Good look at Nile croc sunning himself and he does not move into the water. Our first Crane – the wattled – highly endangered and very rare.

Then we cross the Bora River and continue to the nesting site. Not sure how these guides find their way but they do. Of course KD was raised here. Good photo ops of all the birds. Roger ids every single one of the African fish eagles for our boat! Back to the lodge at 1035. Then half of us go for a walk with KD on the grounds of the Lodge. Whoops! now we know why we are not to wear white. The ellies can see us easily. We do walk fairly close to one guy shaking palm trees. Then we are back for lunch and afterward the other 7 go walking. Pay our bills and gather at 1 ish for my talk on termites, legumes, African geology and the formation of the Delta. Only Anne goes to sleep. Species list folks stay a bit behind to catch the later plane. Over 110+ species of birds so far.

All are off around 215 flying low toward the southeast to Chitabe (Place of the Zebras). Great views from the plane. we been down there!!! 35 minutes or so and then touch down. Met by Phinley, Ebs et al around 3. Thirty minutes at least to camp. Knobthorn acacias dead from the ellie girdling them. Many impala and elles. Crimson breasted shrike. Check in and intro by quiet speaking Ryan and then off on our first game drive at 430. Side striped jackals seen moving at least two of their young to another den. Then Ebs spots a leopard’s tail hanging down. We are all impressed. We watch as an elephant moves right over to him or her and shakes the palm but good. We radio you all to join us. You do and we can breathe easier because leopards are sometimes hard to see. Not here though as we will find out. We move off and 2 vehicles stay to watch her come on down and walk right by the lrs….. very cool.

Sundowners as usual. Mercury and the crescent moon. I finally convince you all to look at Alpha Centauri. More side striped jackals seen and one lr sees some banded mongooses. Back for dinner and Paul has a scorpion in his room = thank god that wasn’t Roger. More good food and some singing for us.

Saturday, September 15, 2007.
Gunshot heard…nope that was an accidentally discharged bear banger by Ebs. That could have been serious. We wake up at 530. Light breakfast at 6 off at 630ish. Basically all this morning were leopard events. Everyone saw three of the resident ones and some of us got some good action. Stalking, one nearly getting an impala, we heard two fighting and screaming, up a tree, down a tree, walking, running, sitting on a termite mound.. It was quite cool in the am but heated up nicely. We also saw a cheetah – young male. We also saw a ratel or honey badger. Ratels are the toughest animals pound for pound probably in the world. They eat poisonous snakes, will attack at lion, buffalo, hyena, man in the scrotum. 3 of them were seen to take a kill away from 6 lions!!!!!! Don’t mess with those little guys. They have wonderful bounding gait and the ability to dig only second to aardvarks. very cool weasel family member.

Wonderful landscape. Bateleur and martial eagles. White crowned shrike, white browed sparrow weaver. We ended the morning at a water hole very near the camp watching giraffes bend down and drink. And there were baboons, ellies, warthogs, impalas, a hammerkop. We agree that life is very good right now. Back for lunch and then a rest.

At 330 we reconvene all except Bill and Katie who are stuck on the trail because an elephant mom and calf are near the board walk. Ryan rescues them for the brief talk by me on “why giraffes don’t get dropsy”. Also a very brief overview on the Felidae family.

CATS esp lions

40 mya by 24 my we had all the modern cats. Worldwide except Ant, Austr, Madagscar and oceanic islands. 36 species of cat.
4 genera-Felis- slit pupils, purr not roar, domestic cat
Panthera- roaring, round pupils = jaguar, lion, leopard
Chetah – all alone
Neofelis – clouded leopard from Burma

Puma most widespread in NA and greatest longitudinal range. Leopard greatest latitudinal range in the rest of the world. Lion- Largest African carnivore. Males 485 lb. 575 lb 10 yrs. Fem 270 lb. 350 lbs. 12-14 yrs.
Range- Cape to Medit except for Sahara and rain forest, all the way across Near East to India (a few remain inthe Gir Forest). Lion in fountains from the Nile flooding. MGM lion and all the zoo lions Barbary taken from Algeria now extinct.
Most numourous carn after S. Hyan. Cooperative hunters though individ can bring down prey 4x size (CB, ad giraf).
Social- territorial (by fem), matriarchal, communal care. Sister grps. Male coalitions.
Pride aver #13 with 2 males, 5 fem and cubs and yearlings. To #40. Stable through time. Females are all related- sisters, moms, daughters, cousins. Emigrants do occur if full, 2 yr old fem leave.
Sex dimorphism- size and mane (which is disadvantage in hunting). Brothers 2 or 3 often emigrate together at age 3 due to male pressure. Male tenure is usually only 2 yrs 4 at most. Only survive 18 months after losing tenure. Prime age 5-9, peak 5-6. Will kill cubs so fem into estrous. Females are in sync and cross suckle. 3000 mating before pregancy.
Spend 20-21 hrs resting. 33 mph for 100 m. Skill, patience, judgement. Charge within 30 m. Lions share, males take. Cubs suffer in food shortage. Greeting ceremony. Females all the time. Common smell to group. Cubs and Fem to male but males only to coalition partner.
Breed at age 4, 3 1/2 mo gestation. 3 cubs, interval of 2 yrs.
1000 lions died in Serengeti due to distemper in 96. Hyan are afraid of male lions but not females. Feed every 3-4 days.

Our game drive sees the same side striped jackal again. Also the same solitary male cheetah that has not caught anything all day. Sharp-eyed Katie sees two giraffes staring at something and sees the cheetah attempting to hunt. All of us see the young female leopard eating a young baboon she caught in the afternoon. Yummy. Bill gets a great shot of the primate’s eyeball. anyone care to look at it?? We watch two ellie males play fight. Magpie shrike. Sunset at 615. Big bush fire on Chiefs Island near Miombo (means peat fire in Setswana). Two vehicles join for sundowners. Ebs is off looking at the fourth — yes fourth– leopard of the day!!!! A spotted hyena comes near us just after sunset very close looking at us. We spotlight him and get good looks.

Back for dinner and more good food. Jupiter’s moon all on the left side now (Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto). The moon is setting and turns a very red smiley face due to the smoke from the fire. We get the lowdown on tomorrow with 7 of us going on the sleep out.

Sunday, September 16, 2007.
Loud hyenas, lions roaring in the distance, ellies trumpeting, frogs a chorusing. Off right on time at 630 for our walk. In two groups of 7. One LR goes to the hide to retrieve the gun. They see the folks that stayed there and Mike says they looked rather beat…hmmmmm. Three Cape buffaloes right by the lodge in the beautiful rising sun. yellow billed duck in the water hole. We see the young female leopard that was eating the baboon but she is very skittish and runs off. Lai is our follow-up guide today. We stop the LR and begin our walk and see 22 + giraffes in one group. A jenny or a tower of jerries. Off at 735 but we linger for quite a while watching two giant spotted eagle owls. Very good looks. The other group is on plan B because plan A had Cape buffaloes there. Good choice. Hooded vultures with a small bill – scientific names name means monk pulling at corpse.
Both groups get a very nice overview of the plants growing here at Chitabe and some of their medicinal uses. Mother in law tongue, Matebele ants, magic gewia bush with wavy leaves, social spiders, Mopane trees, camelthorn acacia with the ear like fruits, tawny eagle, blue waxbill, baby giraffe, giraffe skeleton, greater kudu males, impalas, sand grouse, sour plum etc. Getting hot we get back to the LR at 1015. Then to lodge before 11 and lunch is delayed because there is a large male ellie called Tsunami who is blocking the trail. Dawson has a conversation with him and eventually he gets out of the way. Another fine lunch and then r and r.

At 330 we have a little talk on the evolution of life on the planet= photosynthesis and then a bit about birds which culminated with my rap song about birds. Keep my day job? This is my day job…

You were all very impressed and little did you know at the next camp I would be crowned CHIEF!

PHOTOSYNTHESIS

Ok, so here’s the bottom biological line currently running on the planet Earth. There are these miracle molecules called chlorophyll, which are present in all green plants. They trap photons, particles of energy streaming from the sun and use this light energy to convert water and Carbon dioxide into a C6H12O6, which we all know as glucose – a kind of sugar. Given off from this chemical reaction is some water and Oxygen, which is released into the atmosphere.

The first living things to photosynthesize 3 1/2 billion years ago were blue green algae. The ancient atmosphere of the earth did not have an Ozone layer. This protective shield as you know keeps the extremely damaging ultraviolet light from penetrating down to the surface. UV radiation causes mutations in DNA replication and is very harmful to all living organisms. When these first green plants began emitting oxygen as a by-product, the O2 changed into O3 or Ozone. By actually modifying the atmosphere, the plants changed the Earth into a more hospitable place for life.

Now animals survive by basically eating green plants or eating other animals that eat green plants. Now the chemical reaction of photosynthesis basically runs backwards. Animals take the glucose from plants, in the presence of oxygen and water, they free that trapped solar energy and use that energy to live, thrive and build more animal tissue. This is called respiration and the by-product of this, as we all know when we exhale and pee, is carbon dioxide and water.

So to recapitulate- sunlight plus green plants in the presence of carbon dioxide and water makes sugar and gives off more water and oxygen. Animals eat plants, breathe in oxygen and use this chemical to get energy out of the sugar and then emit carbon dioxide and water. Presto there you have it – the simple but elegant miracle of life on our planet.

Baboon troop is here, ellies shaking ilala palms. 93 degrees in my tent. A hooded vulture is nesting near cabin 4; only the 5th recorded nest in Botswana. Off we go – Dickenson kestrel and we all see another female leopard 2 yrs old. I get as close as I ever have to this beautiful animal as she walks right below our lr. We will end with a total of 5 different leopards and the best sightings I have ever had. Another red ball setting sun in wondrous landscape of cool trees..ho hum. On our way to our sundowner we get word that Ebs found a female lion with her 3 young cubs and an older cub from her recently killed sister. They are up in a tree. They come down just as it is getting very dark. Nursing and way cute in our spotlights and undisturbed by us. The lioness is full; apparently she is an excellent hunter and can take down buffalo alone!!! African wild cat also seen.

Next we have a surprise for you. Over to the sleep out hide for a bush dinner. The fire is hot, the drinks are cool, the conversation is loud and we have a grand time. A hippo comes out of the water and serenades us. Pat, Jeff, Bill, Jenny, Cappie, Tom, Dawson and I spend the night. Hippos and frogs and maybe a mystery noise nearby. Jeff thinks he hears Dawson cock the rifle but actually he doesn’t do that. We enjoyed it a lot and it is good to be on the ground in Africa.

Monday, September 17, 2007.
We hear male lions roaring over toward the camp. So we leave soon to find them. Phinley tracks them down- the two males sleeping by a termite mound. We all watch them sleep for a while which is the typical lion sighting. Phinley gets a flat tire. Highlights for us- dwarf mongoose, yellow mongoose, more ellies, giraffes, martial eagle. We all drive to the far eastern edge of the concession along the river for our teatime. Water birds here and red lechwes. Back for lunch and a talk on elephants at 1. The group is very hot and sleepy; and my talk is not listened to with rapt attention. Then to the airstrip into 2 planes but one plane takes 10 of us to the Chobe Airstrip about 40” away. The other four are thinking that we have left them. Never!! Flying over fossil river beds, we see the fires, large group of buffaloes and a devastated mopane landscape of over browsing by ellies.

Everyone arrives by 325. Met by Ronald, Ollie, Oats, Master, and Brian (husband of Chantelle the manager). We go straight to a game drive through the Mopane woodland. Hot and dusty with a soft, sandy road in many spots. We see our first rocks in a very long time!! I impress you all by finding an African Scops owl sleeping in a tree as we drive along. That was definitely my best sighting of the trip. Then there is another one on the other side of the road easier to see. We pass the Savuti Camp with many elephants milling about waiting for water at an artificial water hole. The dust is intense. We see kudu, black backed jackals, impala, warthogs, elephants, giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, banded and dwarf mongoose, bush squirrels in this (ahem) desolate landscape. We more or less follow the Savuti channel heading toward the Linyanti River. Red crested korhanns, Wahlbergs eagles eating a snake. greater blue-eared glossy starling, red-billed francolin, double banded sand grouse, wattled crane, helmeted guinea fowl, red-billed, ground and gray hornbill, red-billed and yellow-billed oxpecker, cape turtle dove, green pigeon, saddle billed stork. . Trees- Mopane (with the butterfly leaves), leadwood, mangosteen, Kalahari apple-leaf (favors the sandy soil of fossil riverbeds), sycamore fig, purple-podded Termanalia, knob thorn acacia, flowering knobby combretum are in full flower.
Vasco (one of the guides) tells us about a vervet monkey here who has been accepted into a local troop of baboons. He has been seen on several occasions copulating with female baboons!! This is really weird behavior but perhaps a new species will arise – BABETTES or VerBoons. Not really it cannot happen.

There are 8 ecosystems in the Delta. The lodge is in the riverine one with an interlocking canopy of mangosteen trees. The camp is situated close to the confluence of the Savuti Channel and the Linyanti River. Open loosely spaced trees with an understory of bushes and grass is Savannah woodland. According to a previous guide the national animal of Botswana is the zebra, the tree is mopane, the bird = the lilac breasted roller. Setswana for giraffe is thu-twa.

To a very large hide with an artificial waterhole for tea etc. Large groups of elephants and zebras are getting drinks while we get a drink as well. To our final lodge in the bush Duma Tau (lions roar). Met by Brian and Chantelle just as the sun is setting. We hear about George the very large elephant this is here and some of the hazards we face. Cabin 6 (lucky Fains) have a pair of aggressive wood owls that attack anything walking by at night. An umbrella is necessary to stem the birds off!!!! We are feted in the Kgotla or Boma and are serenaded by the staff. I record it and make a cd for them. I am chosen Chief with my advisors – Roger and Katie. I am not get over this one watch out.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007.
Leopard eyes seen by Pat last night outside her active tent. Active only outside not inside as Jeff assures me. Four ladies opt to stay back have a yoga meeting lead by Jenny. We go off in 2 lrs along the Linyanti River and have good sightings of elephants, carmine beeeaters, kudus, warthogs, lechwes and the usual stuff. Nice to be in the early morning light along the river. WE find a male ellie in mustch, dripping urine and we get a whiff of the scent. Strong! An African hawk eagle is seen, new for the list. Kudus and all the usual mammal suspects.

Back for a good lunch and we meet Bryce and Nicola the other managers. Then at 1230 seven of us take the boat ride on the river. Windy but free of dust. We are lucky to see a breeding herd of 22 elephants cross the river. Way cool. Nice temp but windy. A very large croc and many hippos. A large group of trees to the east is in Namibia. We are close to the border. Many elephants are crossing back and forth without passports.

I introduce the group to Theba, who was my guide many times before. I saw my first aardvark with him. At 330 teatime Brian gives us an overview of the water/elephant scene here. We are in a different river system than the delta right now. Still from the Angola Highlands and takes 7 months to reach here but flows to the Indian Ocean via the Cuando, Linyanti, Zambezi. Govt. says there are 120k ellies in Botswana. That number may be high but the largest concentration left on the planet is certainly in northern Botswana. 1857-1957 was good flow in Savuti Channel. Started back up and then quit for good in 1982. Flowed 7 k up in 2005 and went 4 k up this year. WS may have to maintain 6 bore holes as per their agreement with the govt. but it is clear the artificial holes are not good for the area. 5 species of birds have disappeared and all but one baobab. Landscape is devastated and elephants are suffering but continuing to increase. There is a plan for an international park between Angola, Botswana, Zambia; Zimbabwe that may help relieves some of the pressure. But Brian’s opinion is that some sort of culling will eventually have to take place. This is a really tough issue for all concerned and not a simple solution.

And then off on the afternoon game drive. Highlights: bat hawk, find another hooded vulture nest (6th in Botswana) hundreds of carmine bee eaters and a mud bank full of nesting ones, water monitor seen by one lr, many elephants crossing into Namibia, steppe buzzard, white fronted bee eaters. We head north east along the river. Then setting sun sundowners and a group photo is taken but alas without Roger. We have a quiet drive back but I think the other LR sees two AFRICAN wildcats – they must be mating- and some scrub hares.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007.
Hyena whooping this am right before wake up call. Elephants in camp and will be all day. We are off. 2 lrs go up the Savurti Channel. Ollie et al head north to find the lions. They do find tracks and go way off road looking and find a killed Zebra thoroughly eaten but no cats. Next they find some wild dogs tracks but no wild dogs. But they have a grand adventure which is what life is all about. Offroading!! We see roan antelopes, another honey badger, crested francolin, several spotted hyena including one who shows us her masculinized genitalia, steenbok, three kori bustards. Then we hear reports of a leopard that killed an impala that was stolen by lions. The cat is walking our way and the two lrs do a fine job of tracking it through the bush. We see a pearl spotted owlet but no leopard. Good look at an African wildcat – we sure have seen a bunch of those this trip.
We stop and have a lot of trouble leaving a quietly feeding troop of baboons. They are eating combretum seeds and mangostteen flowers that have fallen on the ground. There is one particular new born baby that we cannot stop watching. He is sooooooooooooooooooooo cute. But we must make it to lunch.
Alas not only is our old friend George in camp there is one big fellow right outside the dinning area. I do mean right outside. His trunk could reach in to the table. Photo ops galore and while this is entertainment for us, the big animals knock down the boardwalks and fences. We need elephant escorts to get to our tents.

The motor boat people have a fine time watching elephants cross the water. Also African rail and dikkop seen. We meet at 330 for our closing circle. We all share what a fine time we have had and our personal highlights. We are a very very fine group of nice folks if we do say so ourselves!

Off on our final game drive. Highlights= warthogs in hole, kori bustard, hyenas, pearl spotted owlet very close to lr, juvenile giant eagle owl, baboon troop, kudus etc. Meet for our final sundowner and a group photo is taken just as the red rubber ball is plunging down again.

I know something you don’t. Our final bush dinner as well. Great singing by the staff and the last OPEN bar. Tom and I sing them a song in return. I suspect they will not forget this Chief. A breeding herd of elephants is close by our party. Yet another African wild cat (the original house cat domesticated by the Egyptians). Home to sleep, serenaded all night on this end by the baboon troop, a coughing leopard, ellies eating trees, hippos munching and Cappie coughing.

Thursday, September 20, 2007.
We get to sleep in a bit this am and enjoy this camp. George is blocking Tom and Cappie from their cabin. The wood owl actually dove at me last night. Hot and quick drive to the strip. Off at 10 for two planes= Paul and I on the first and you all follow shortly. A 50′ flight to Kasane last looks at the magnificent Botswana landscape. You can see the parallel trails down by the ellies heading straight toward the Chobe River. They would have done great looking for the daypack on the Pan. We arrive at “JKF”, tarmac, air conditioning and water fountains. We are in civilization. Reminds me how remote we have been and how wonderful to have such a private experience in the bush.

We all get in a big bus (several other fellow Americans have joined us) with Reason heading to Zimbabwe relatively painlessly. The country is a mess. No products in the stores, no gas at the Shell station for the last 5 years. Poverty and unemployment of 80%. No violent crime however. Cross the border and pay $30 for ZIm visa and travel 80K to Vic Falls to the Ilala Hotel. We orient you a bit and then you are off on your own. Shopping adventures are had; visits to the Old Vic for tea, and of course a look at magnificent Victoria Falls. Warthogs, bushbucks, Trumpeter hornbill, red-winged starling, African wagtails, tawny-flanked prinia, baboon, vervet monkeys, grey and banded mongooses, Heuglins robins and friendly warthogs. Will Mark actually bungee jump tomorrow???? That is the big question.

Very few tourists in town because of all the trouble in the country. But don’t talk about it; big brother Mugabe is listening. We all head over to the Boma for dinner 730. Put on our skirts, get a dot painted on our face, beat the drums, eat Eland and no one tries the Mopane worms. Back to the hotel by 10. Internet works here. Back to our comfortable hotel room with a great shower.

Friday, September 21, 2007.
Some of you get going early and have the park all to yourselves. Very few tourists are there. 9 30 AM pick for helicopter flight for 6 (we wanted 10 but they were sold out—no waiting for jumping off the bridge however.)

Ishmael comes at 11150 for our short trip to the airport. Flying in to Joberg it is easy to see the corrugated landscape that created the falls. Cracks caused when the basalt cooled filled w/ soft sediments. Joberg is surrounded by huge gold mining pits. We say goodbye to the Garretts and the Fains (yea right! They keep following us) and we go off on our new adventure!!! Until we meet again. We were a great group!!

Capetown, South Africa

Dearest Reader:
During the “big” trips I keep a diary for the entire group – what we did, what we saw, the jokes, the things that went wrong, the things that went right. I refuse to pretend that everything always goes smoothly on all of my trips, but we always learn and we always have a good time. Skim through this synopsis – blemishes and all – it isn’t sanitized but I think it will give you a flavor of my trips and the wonderful people who go on them.
Michael Ellis

THE CAPE EXTENSION
Friday, September 21 to 28, 2007

Michael Ellis, Andrew and Mario

Friday, September 21, 2007.
Whoa what a time getting from Zimbabwe to Cape Town. Two hour delayed flight rebooked on BA, long luggage delay at Joberg, frantic rush to BA counter, hassle hassle hassle. All but Bill, Jenny and me make the 700 pm plane. There are however three seats for us that remain unclaimed. Some folks have been waiting since 10 am for a flight to CT! Andrew Brink and Mario take you to the guest house. And then Andrew comes back to get me. I met him 9 yrs ago on my first visit here and he now has a 7 yr. old, Alexander. We also meet our driver Mario and drive the 25′ to our home for the next three nights – the Wegelegen Guest House, 6 Stephen St, Gardens… Nice place right off Kloof Street. Only one American has been known to properly pronounce this name and her mother was Dutch. We area at the same latitude as Atlanta and LA — 34 degrees.

Saturday, September 22, 2007.
Hadada ibises our wake up call. Surprise!!! Cathy and Bob are here and can join us for the day. Marcia and Neil have also joined our group and fit right in immediately. The other Americans from the plane from Vic Falls are here as well. Table Mountain is cloaked in clouds. Signal hill is above us where we head off to at 9. Lions Head sandstone. Table Mt rises 1800 meters and is in the cloud this day so to plan B…

Cape Town (Kaapstad) was the refueling stop between Holland and the East Indies. Castle of Good Hope. 4.5 million in greater Cape area and growing. Perfect perfect perfect. 2600 sp. of plants just on Table Mt. Rock hyrax, rock kestrel, At least 5 endemic families found only in the fynbos (fine bush). Many proteas and heather and composites in flower. . Diaz here in 1488, just went a bit past the Cape and turned around and went home. About 10 yrs later Vasco de Gama came and made it to India. Khoisan here and attached de Gama. 150 yrs later the Dutch came in 1652. Jan van Reibeck. Company Garden. 1806 English took over.

WE cross over to the rich section of town- Camps Bay and see Hartlaubs and Kelp gulls, Egy geese, swift terns, eur starlings, red winged starlings, crowned plover, Cape Cormorants, mouse birds, Afr oystercatchers. Easy to see the granite at the base of the 12 Apostles (actually 18 buttresses visible). 400-600 my old. Sea is 48, which explains lack of swimmers. Constantia is the first settlement outside of Cape Town, vineyards. This is the town Princess Diana’s brother lives in. Our first right whale seen blowing! 1938 South Africa was the first nation to ban whaling!!
Then back to the middle of town and a walk through the Company Gardens into the South African Nat Histo Museum for a toilet stop past the Presidents house and Parliament. Legislative capital here and executive in Pretoria. Eastern Gray squirrels from the USA brought by Rhodes. Bishop Desmond Tutu church. At Greenmarket we get to witness a wedding. That was way cool and colorful. Big rugby games going on right now. All over the SSA planes are springboks. They look like Thomson’s gazelles and are the National animal of SA and the name of the national team.

Around to the back side of Table Mountain and stop at the Rhodes Monument. 49 steps, he died at age 49. Tremendous influence on this part of Africa. Boers founded 2 republics to escape the British – Transvaal and the Orange Free State. But gold discovered and Cecil Rhodes and others instituted the Anglo-Boer War and in 1910 the Union of South Africa was formed. 4 states- the two Boer, Cape and Natal. In 1948 the Nationalist Party took power and formalized apartheid. 1994 were the first free elections and Nelson Mandela became the President. Then to Kirstenbosch Gardens for a very nice lunch followed by a tour led by Ian. Delightful!! Three things that define the fynbos – Ericas, Restios, and Proteas. Birds: red-winged starlings, red eyed pigeon, hadada ibises, Egy geese, H. guinea fowl, white necked raven, Malachite sunbird, Lesser double-collared sunbird, cape Robin, dark eyed bulbul, spotted prinia. We run into to our old friends – the Garretts and Fains. You would have thought we had not seen them in years. We missed them already!! National tree is Yellowwood – podocarpus.
Back to Guest House by 5 and rest until 630. We leave the Guest House at 630 by 650 we are in the huge Mall – the V and A waterfront — and doing a bit of shopping. Then to a mighty fine seafood dinner at Paia. Our waiter had an impressive voice.

Sunday, September 23, 2007.
At breakfast I take an orange and give you a talk on the Tropics, solstice, equinox etc. Goodbye to Cathy and Bob and we are off at 815. We decide to head right south and do Table Mt. later we are off on time we get to Hout Bay bounded by Sentinel Peak at 331 m and board the Drumbeat II for a quick trip around the corner to Duiker Island. Named “darter” for the local name for cormorants. Full of French tourists. The rain really pounds us just as we are boarding. The swells are pretty big but at least the rain does stop. Good views of the Cape Fur seal bachelor herd. No breeding here. Birds- Hartlaub and black-backed (Kelp) gulls, mostly Cape but a few White-breasted cormorants, swift terns. Back and then we drive a bit on Chapmans highway for a view (the road is recently closed)
We have to drive around and into the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve (1800 sp. of plants). Port Jackson is the yellow flowering acacia. It is from Aust and quite a weed. We have a brief stop to look at some Shona sculpture like we saw in VF. A bontebok (colorful buck) is seen on the way, endemic to the Cape and very nearly went extinct. We turn right and go to the real Cape of Good Hope for photos. Geez what a crowd. Cape Gannets and a right whale right offshore. Then to Cape Point (#1 tourist attraction) we take the Funicular and to very fine views on a perfectly clearing day. Really good looks at a whale right below the light. Many flowers in bloom. Here is where the 2 oceans are supposed to meet but the actual southern most point is far far away, Pt. Argüelles. We walk out the lower trail all the way to the end overlooking the lighthouse. Rock kestrel. The first lighthouse was built too high, just like our very own Ft. Point.
Cape of Good Hope Preserve: In the fynbos is the greatest species diversity per hectare in world. 8k higher plants, 68% are endemic.
There was a recent controlled burn that got out of hand. Other birds that we have seen and not mentioned are – red-winged starlings, red eyed pigeon, spotted prinia, Cape wagtail, yellow billed kite, pied crow. To Simon’s Town at False Bay. Strong NWerstelies drove the boats into shore. Whoops wrong bay. SA Navytown. Was the largest Naval Station for the Royal Navy outside GB. It is 230 and we are HUNGRY!! To the Seaforth for our late lunch. First pair of penguins spotted on the beach. There will be more, I promise. A very large fat man with butt cleavage and tattoos in his nether regions (no Pat I am NOT going to get my binoculars to look) is swimming right below us. Some of us therefore decide to forgo dessert. Not me, it was real good!
All of these bird names begin with the word Cape – petrel, bunting, siskin, sparrow, weaver, francolin, bulbul, and gannet!

Quick walk from the restaurant over to Boulders African (Jackass) penguin colony. Started in 1984 and has been expanding ever since. 9.8 on the cute scale. One of 4 colonies in the Region. Population was 1.5 millions in 1900, now 150,000 and threatened. There was a big oil spill in 2000. It is very crowded with mostly European tourists and they have built a boardwalk and a visitor center since I was here last. We watch an oiled penguin get captured by the park staff. We also get to watch some mating activities (of penguins). We keep running into the Fains and Garretts…are they following us? I suspect they stole my itinerary!

Off to Table Mountain== it looks like we can make it. We all take a little nappy poo on the drive around, up, over and up. We fly right up in 4 minutes to the top. Colder up there but not too bad. Great views and clouds and rain in the ocean. Guess who is also here?? We walk around clockwise for the views. No dassies (hyrax) today, too cold. Decide to go down soon but alas the cable car was not going anywhere for a while. They finally fixed it after a long wait (Kay is getting real nervous –she is our designated worrier) and down we went. Back to the Guest House and many drank port, ate peanuts and listened to Mark tell jokes. He is a good storyteller (long) but what do you expect from an Irish man???? There were many good laughs.

Monday, September 24, 2007
Off right on time whatta group!! First stop is the Cape Malay section of town, right near us. Delightfully brightly colored houses. Those folks are the descendents of slaves brought from Indonesia. The original coloreds. Then we go north up the coast heading for the West Coast National Park. Photo stop looking back at Table Mt from Blue Mountain Strand. We pass the only Nuclear Power plant in the country but they are planning on building some more. Today is Heritage Day and a holiday for many folks. Traffic is light. Turn left to The WCNP – this park is situated around the Langebaan Lagoon. The flowers are really blooming in the sandveld. We enter a private area called Postberg where some animals have been repatriated like Ostrich, bonebok, eland, and the Cape Mt. Zebra. Road stop for an angulated tortoise. This was the place where a very old footprint of a hominoid was found recently. We stop at the end of the road to take in the wildflowers, walk on the beach and just enjoy the world. It is gorgeous. Andrew tells us about the Alabama. Confederate ship Alabama chased by the Yanks to Cape Town. Some folk songs in South African culture about the ship, especially sung by minstrels (Coon Carnival players).

CSS Alabama was a screw sloop-of-war built for the Confederacy in 1862 by John Laird Sons and Company, Liverpool, England. Launched as Enrica, it was fitted out as a cruiser and commissioned 24 August 1862 as CSS Alabama. Under Captain Raphael Semmes, Alabama spent the next two months capturing and burning ships in the North Atlantic and intercepting American grain ships bound for Europe. Continuing the path of destruction through the West Indies, Alabama sank USS Hatteras along the Texas coast and captured her crew. After a visit to Cape Town, South Africa, Alabama sailed for the East Indies where the ship spent six months cruising, destroying seven more ships before redoubling the Cape en route to Europe
On 11 June 1864, Alabama arrived in Cherbourg, France and Captain Semmes requested permission to dock and overhaul his ship. Pursuing the raider, the American sloop-of-war USS Kearsarge arrived three days later and took up a patrol just outside the harbor. On 19 June, Alabama sailed out to meet Kearsarge. As Kearsarge turned to meet its opponent, Alabama opened fire. Kearsarge waited patiently until the range had closed to less than 1,000 yards. According to survivors, the two ships steamed on opposite courses moving around in circles as each commander tried to cross the bow of his opponent to deliver a heavy raking fire. The battle quickly turned against Alabama because of the poor quality of its powder and shells, while Kearsarge benefited from the additional protection of chain cables along its sides. A little more than an hour after the first shot was fired, Alabama was reduced to a sinking wreck, causing Semmes to strike his colors and send a boat to surrender. According to witnesses, Alabama fired 150 rounds at its adversary, while Kearsarge fired 100. When a shell fired by Kearsarge tore open a section at Alabama’s waterline, the water quickly rushed through the cruiser, forcing it to the bottom. While Kearsarge rescued most of Alabama’s survivors, Semmes and 41 others were picked up by the British yacht Deerhound and escaped to England. During its two-year career as a commerce raider, Alabama caused disorder and devastation across the globe for United States merchant shipping. The Confederate cruiser claimed more than 60 prizes valued at nearly $6,000,000At about 1pm on 5th August 1863, as thousands of locals gathered to witness her arrival, the Alabama met and captured a Federal barque, the Sea Bride, just off Green Point. This caused great excitement in a town, which at the time was described as being dull and dismal
If songs composed during the American civil war were soon incorporated in Cape Town singers’ repertoire, it is quite unlikely that members of the crew on board the notorious Confederate raider The Alabama could have brought them to South Africa, since a majority of these sailors had been recruited at Liverpool. The popular song “Daar Kom Die Alabama” (Here Comes The Alabama), with its peculiar structure, is definitely a Cape invention (Rosenthal 1938:133-139; Winberg 1992).

Sleepy time for most of us as we drive north. I spy a pond with the National Bird of South Africa – BLUE CRANE. And there are avocets, bs plover, Egy geese, cattle egret. We also see a few flamingoes and white pelicans. Past much cultivated land – alfalfa, cows, rape (mustard), sheep, and wheat. This really doesn’t look like the imagined Africa but more like Illinois with distant mountains. Our packed Lunch is had by the side of the road in Elandsbraii. Right whale comes by, great flowers in the strand. Bright blue sunny and windy. Little swifts, Drankwinkel – liquor store. Police Station is guarded by private security company! Next Lamberts Bay but first a major washboard road. Katie gets lunch on her head.

The Cape Gannett colony is mind-blowing WOWOWOWOWOOWOWOW. Walking out the breakwater to the viewing area for some sky pointed, bill clacking and nape biting while copulating. Gannets are in the same group as pelicans, boobies and cormorants with 4 webbed toes. We missed Potato World (sorry Kay) but there is a processing plant for both taters and fish. Fish n Chips. There are not many places along the coast but Lambert Bay where the fisherman can bring in their catch. Also there are some diamond collecting boats that go out and “fish” for diamonds with huge vacuums where the Orange River has been dumping them in the sea for millions of years. Andrew worked on one when he was younger.

But time is passing. We head due east and cross the Oliphant (elephant) river valley, We have a brief pee stop in Clanwilliam, of citrus growing fame and then we enter the Cederberg Mts. More rough road over Pakhuis pass. Sandstone (same as Table MT) sculptures everywhere; it looks like the American West. The light is perfect. Turn right and still have to go to 6 Ks to Bushmanskloof. “This is a superb lodge built in the foothills of the spectacular Cedarberg Mountains on the edge of the Great Karoo. It is an area of striking natural beauty and a diversity of fauna and flora of the Cedarberg Wilderness area.” YEP! At 5 we arrive and get into our puny and very austere rooms and then we meet for a game drive. Guides are Zettie and Seppie. Yes, that is their names. Cape weavers doing their magic on the Euke tree; a spotted eagle owl (not seen)… Malachite sunbirds. A huge Natal fig tree planted 130 yrs ago. Highlights – Cape Mountain Zebra, Springboks, ostriches, bonteboks, banded swallows, shelducks, fiscal shrike, red knobbed coots, red eyed doves, Cape turtle doves, yellow billed ducks, diggings from the Golden Mole. Getting colder as the sun sets; so back to the Lodge for our sundowners. Nice dinner and the moon is getting pretty darn big now!

September 25, 2007 Tuesday.
I get up early for a bike ride, Andrew catches up with me and off we go. We do not actually get lost on our way back, just misplaced for awhile. We are off at 8 for a short drive. We have our light breakfast overlooking the small lake. Visited by very cute round eared elephant shrews, Cape Buntings, Mountain chat, little swifts, Cape bulbul, and Karoo prinia. Then we begin our walk to the San paintings. Flowers everywhere. many geophytes = earth plants bulbs like iris, Lilly, gladiolas, hyacinth, euphorbias, bright magenta pelargonium. Kay and Marks anniversary – Pat wants to see tongue on that kiss under the mistletoe. Jewell beetle. Leopard spoor. Same rocks as Table Mountain here and covered with colorful lichens. Creek stops flowing in the dry season but plenty of subsurface water. snouted harvester termite mounds. Butter tree is large succulent crassula. Porcupine and water mongoose tracks, baboon cabbage, much iris family. It is beautiful = the eroded sandstone, the colorful lichens, pelargonium. We are in heaven as we head toward our first bushman painting. Nice Smiths red rock rabbit middens (means dung heap) – a rare species. Pat gets yet another poop photo for her collection. We learn what copraphage means. Good recycling for those hind gut digesters. To the paintings at Fallen Rock. One of the largest of the sacred sites (135 in all here).

Here is Seppies talk combined with some other notes I took from the last two times I was here. There are some additions and some differences between the guides from different years.

Bushman considered wild animals by Europeans therefore couldn’t have “art”. Hunters received permits to hunt bushman, weren’t considered people. from 1739 and by 1904 basically extinct as a people and culture. Paintings hard to date but between 2-6K yrs. Ago.

Sickle shaped heads bec. the white and yellow pigment of the faces came off through time. Four colors – Red and Yellow from hematite. White from feces or egg shells. Black from manganese oxide. All from out of the area. Didn’t draw the face details because that would be capturing the essence of that person. Male and female rites of passage, healing areas. Quivers are painted above their heads. Keep high so children did not get into them. Evil spirit repr by the lion (people of the west where the darkness starts). Word for trance = word for death. Shaman would bite the sick one and take the lion out, then sniff buchu (Agathosma crenulata- a Rutaceae- citrus family) and sneeze out the evil. Lions are shamans who failed to return. Most of the information comes from work done in the 1880’s on three bushman released to some anthropologist from the Breakwater prison- studied them for 10 yrs.
Figure show hunting elephant- no way in their dreams. Bushman ladies = elephants. Elands are the totem animals. People were people but not yet people. Caracal dating the springbok but Aardvark laid down the law. Aardvark Laws. The newly initiated young men are drawn with exaggerated genitalia.
! Xan bushmen didn’t bath but rubbed themselves with animal fat and blood to “become” more with the animals. This group followed plants not game. Females gathered, males hunted (hyraxes, small antelope not big things). They compared themselves to the eland, which also broke into small family groups when the food got scarce and came together in bigger groups in time of plenty. Their god was MANTIS- a trickster who also took other animal forms- name was Kaggan. Humans were first a small animal, then human and will become eland. 4’10”. The cushion of hair on the forehead of the eland was where Kaggan sometimes sat. Koi people = Hottentots (a derag name). Shamans in this group reached the high state by physically means, not ingesting a plant. These guys spun in circles for 9 hours. The Kung took drugs to get to the same place. 1st stage was flashing lights and hemorrhaging nose 2nd to connect to elands repres by zigzag lines in paintings. 3rd. gains the power of the animal, often in an unconscious state repres by half human/animal figures. Used hematite in these priceless pristine rock paintings of the San that lived here some 6000 years ago. Fixed with hyrax urine, other pigments have faded. Male initiation rite had to get Eland first (shoot it and then track it for 3-4 days until it fell) or settle for smaller animal. Under played size of it when reporting back to the other men. Laid in the skin. The rock is a thin veil that separates one world from the next. Females have large brown fat deposits in buttocks and thigh. Indicate good breeder. Shamans left their body and their soul traveled to lead elephant, slit its throat and when the blood drips down it would rain. Dated at 2800 and 640 yrs ago (previous guide said this). Wall is the boundary between the spiritual and the material world.

Wow all of this makes my own perception of the natural world seem infantile and feebly unimaginative. A helicopter flies over; they are capturing some Cape Mt. Zebras which they will trade for stallions from Cape Mountain National Park. There were only 8-10 left in the world so they are highly inbred. We have our ten minutes of silence. Listening to the creek run and Cape buntings sing. The same exact sounds that were heard by our fellow humans who drew these paintings thousands of years ago.

We walk back and see a great fat grasshopper, Southern rock agama, rock martin, yellow rumped widow, pied crow. To the lodge for Brunch. Very good. Friendly yellow billed ducks and a common moorhen seen with a bunch of babies. R and R or hikes or spa treatments. Pat and Jeff add to our species list – rock hyrax (dassie).

Tea at 330 and around 4ish I give a brief talk on human origins. And we are off at 430 for our final (sniff, sniff) game drive. Red hartebeest, gray rhebok, bontebok babies, three banded plover, rock kestrel. Sundowners and we are all celebrating the 27 years of total matrimonial bliss of Kay and Mark. That might actually be true. It is also Andrews’s birthday but he has sworn me to secrecy. The moon is nearly full now and I begin a long winded “moon talk” but realize we are late for the lecture. Off we go.

Talk by the resident archeologist, PhD candidate named Siyakha. Very informative but a little challenging to understand and it goes on a bit long.

“They were men who had died and now lived in rivers and were spoilt at the same time as the elands and by the dancers of which you have seen paintings……..” this by the San guide named Qing.

The San people had an incredible world view that we can only imagine. There are many ways to experience this world. Just as long as you fully live in YOUR moments.

Champaign at dinner for the happy couple and another fine meal. Tomorrow the wine country!! Happy Anniversary and Happy Birthday (Andrew relents and admits that it is his birthday as I toast him; 52 years today).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007.
Venus still in the East and another beautiful day, though it will get a bit cloudy. Off right on time at 930. What a timely group. 550 meters here. Potatoes were grown on this farm until 1992, land is still recovering. Back on that rough road. First stop is gravesite of Louis Leopoldt, a famous Africaan writer who lived in Clanwilliam. He wrote poetry especially emphasizing his hatred of the British. Remember 30k women and children died in their concentration camps during the Boer War. They invented that atrocity..hmm our allies in everything. We pass Roosibos tea fields and do a u turn to see some elands. Back to Clanwilliams. Founded by some English settlers who shipwrecked before making it to Cape Town in 1808 and they all said “This will do.” We turn south and travel on N (National) Rd #7. The yellow rapeseed and wheat and stark mountains. There is no rural sprawl, each town is well contained surrounded by productive farmland and tethered by a church to the earth. Many Cape Colored working in the fields and packing houses. The whole area seems prosperous. Is it for everyone?
We stop for gas and toilet stop at Peiterberg and then continue to Malmesbury, the center of wheat country, where we turn left. Swartzland means black land – the soil is fertile. We see some blue cranes, African white pelicans. We can see Table Mt. all the way to the SSW. Ostriches- their brains are smaller than their eyeballs! Why am I thinking of George Bush? The area is so reminiscent of many places, so cultivated. Imagine this world of 500 years ago, nearly every large mammal and more and all the birds we saw in Botswana would be thriving here. I felt the ghosts of those elephants as we came down the Oliphant Valley.

Wine #1 industry and then tourism. We turn inland to explore the Cape’s wine route towns. There are 12 wine appellations in SA. We will visit four of them – Swatzland, Paarl, Stellenbosch and Hermanus. Before Paarl we stop at our first winery – Fairview Winery or Goatshed. There are some goats in a small tower and nice gardens. Lunch is fun. Then 6 glasses and mixed with excellent cheese tasting. Katie and Mike upgrade. Neal and I pretend we can read the subtle flavors of each glass – barnyard, dirt, peach, tannins, overlay, spring time, tobacco, urinal etc. European oaks planted for the wine barrels but they grow too fast here and leak. Entering Paarl (Pearl) named for the granite monoliths (second in size to Ayers Rock in Aust) that reminded the early Dutch of pearls glittering in the sun. Our next winery is Plasir de Merle – the Pleasure of the Blackbirds. Named because when the black birds start eating the grapes, they are full of sugar and it is time to pick them. It is the name of the original town of the Huguenots. Helmet, the young fast talker gives us the low down on the wine. He instructs Roger that he CAN have more than two glasses of the Cab. Mr. Poore is thrilled!!
We next drive up the Afrikaners language monument on top of the hill for a grand view. Really a nice monument, too bad about what it represents. Paarl was the center of the language and the place it was first written down in 1924. We next head straight for Roggeland – an Old Dutch Manor converted to a guesthouse. Once again we suffer our rooms. Only one night!!! How very very cruel! 4 course dinner tonight with wine at every course. We had to eat it. Wine producing nations France, Spain, Italy, US in that order. But Andrew says SA is fourth.

Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre
Political rivalry between Roman Catholics and French Protestants (known as Huguenots) led to the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day in 1572, depicted here in a 16th-century engraving. King Charles IX of France and his mother, Catherine de Médicis, feared the growing power of the Huguenots. In late August they arranged to have a number of Huguenot leaders murdered. The massacre began on August 24 in Paris—where many Huguenots had gathered for the wedding of their leader, Henry of Navarre, to Catherine’s daughter Margaret of Valois. It then spread to the French provinces.

Thursday, September 26, 2007.
Foggy when we awake, just like home. It will burn off. Up for a nice breakfast and then off to the first of three wineries today. Ernie Els, the famous SA Golfer. I never heard of him but Mike tells me he is known as the Big Easy because of his easy going ways and the Americans love him. Great view and OK wines but I get the impression no one in our group is extremely impressed. We drink a wine early like “killing a baby”. Photo op on the way out for scare crows in a strawberry patch. Then to the University town of Stellenbosch; the second oldest town in the country- founded only 40 yrs after Cape Town along the first river the Boers came to. Driving along Dorp Street with its beautiful Cape Dutch houses to visit the Oom Samie Se Winkel. (Uncle Sam’s Shop). Come on I do take you to some pretty cool stores. Nearly everyone buys something – books, Roisbos. Andrew hates this stop. Next up on the hill overlooking the Franschoek Valley; we pull into the Thelema Winery. At 1230 we finally leave and head into the Franschoek (French Corner) nestled in the “Valley of the Huguenots” where the French first settled in 1688. They were required by the Dutch not to all settle in one area and to learn Dutch in one year. Totally assimilated, it worked. No evidence of the French language at all except for last names.
To lovely Le Petite Ferme overlooking the other side of the valley. Lunch is good but takes a long long time. Then we head more or less due south. Passing some groups of Blue Cranes and intensely cultivated land- much wheat and sheep. The roads are very high quality and well marked. Just before we get to picturesque village of Hermanus, we turn inland to the Hamilton-Russell winery. Now this wine is very good. Several folks buy some for tonight’s dinner. I want to go see some whales.

Into Hermanus the little town that has really grown and gotten very busy since I was last here. We are here during the whale festival. Off for a stroll along the cliff looking for close right whales. I give you a brief talk on the evolution and physiology of them. Sperm competition with each testicle weighing one half ton. We see some whales breach, blow, fluke etc. Rock hyraxes on the rocks- fat and habituated ones. The wind is blowing a bit. There is a Whale Crier who blows a kelp horn when whales are spotted. I guess he is off duty today. We walk to our rooms at the Auberge Burgundy Guest House. WIfi available! Times have changed.
Free time until we meet at 745 for a short drive over to Rock Harbor Restaurant. This place is hopping and loud and good and the service is pretty slow. Oh well what else do we have to do? More laughs at our last dinner together.. a great group we are. The moon is full; shinning on the sea. Very pretty and we are waiting for whales to breach in the moonlight.

Friday, September 28, 2007
Another blue day on our last day in the African paradise and this is the beginning of a very long day for everyone but me. I am staying on for another week to explore and play and drive on the wrong side of the road. The early morning is spent looking very closely at the whales and the friendly rock hyrax. Off at 10 even earlier. The wind is blowing from the northwest; this one can bring rain. We have a nice overview of Hermanus from the top of a fynbos covered hillside. We finish our species list.. I am now down to 3 who are keeping score.

Kay is getting worried about missing the planes so we head directly to the airport. Passing the shanty town called Khayelitsha”- our town. It stretches for miles and miles. To the airport and you say goodbye to Mario, Andrew, Neal, Marcia and me. Long way to SFO via Dakar and NYC. Well those Montana people go a different way. I miss you already. I do manage to drive right back to the W Guest House on the wrong side of the road. It is not that hard.

See you later………….

Pantanal and the Atlantic Rain Forest

The Pantanal, Mato Grosso and the Atlantic Rain Forest
October 8 -22, 2005 with Michael and Paulo

Saturday, October. 8.
We begin converging from various points – Michigan, Florida and the Bay area. We meet in the Miami airport for our TAM flight to Sao Paulo. Great clouds outside and a long wait inside. This is a very long day for most of us. On the plane and heading south, way south for our long flight. We go from this day into the next.

Sunday, October 9.
Land at Sao Paulo. City of 20 million, supposedly the largest in Western Hemisphere even bigger than Mexico City. However I went to http://www.citymayors.com/features/largest_cities.html and found this information.

Rank Area Country Category Population
1 New York (NY) USA Urban area 21,199,000
2 MEXICO CITY Mexico Urban area 20,267,000
3 Los Angeles (CA) USA Urban area 16,373,000
4 Mumbai (Bombay) India Urban area 16,368,000
5 Kolkata (Calcutta) India Urban area 13,217,000
6 Delhi India Urban area 12,791,000
7 TOKYO Japan Urban area 12,059,000
8 BUENOS AIRES Argentina Urban area 11,298,000
9 SEOUL South Korea City 10,231,000
10 Sao Paulo Brazil City 10,009,000
11 JAKARTA Indonesia City 9,373,000
12 Karachi Pakistan City 9,339,000
13 PARIS France Urban area 9,319,000
14 Chicago (IL) USA Urban area 9,158,000

The airport is crowded, everything takes a long time but we do manage to get on our flight to Cuiba. No one knows what time it is. At Campo Grande for quick stop then fly directly north right over the Pantanal to Cuiba we land at 11ish. Whoops we lost another hour. Paulo, Marluca (wife of Paulo), Marques, Noam and the King TUT bus is waiting for us. Is this all the room we have? Cuiba has 800 K but we only see Varzea Grande where the airport is and Paulo lives. Many colors of people here. Brazil encouraged immigration about 20 yrs ago and the pop. increased dramatically. Mango trees everywhere and just getting ripe. Heading toward Pecone, a village about 60 miles away. Driving west on BR 070 toward Bolivia through the Cerrado vegetation (Cerrado is a type of Savannah). The soil is too poor for growing crops because it lacks nutrients and is full of iron but perfect for native vegetation. Mato Grosso has 1/4 of the entire land mass of Brazil! Paulo claims it is the same size as the continental US. with 2 million folks. However I checked that out. The state of Mato Grosso is a bit less than ½ half the size of the Continental USA, still one big place! In 1971 they started building the Transpantaneira Highway to connect the beef-growing region to the southern market. When they divided the Province into 2 in 1976, they stopped building it half way. So now it remains the Transpantaneira Cul-de-Sac. MG is number one in soy, cows and cotton.

60 miles of pavement. We get to Pocone, the last village along the route. Celebrating 224 years (where did they get that number?). 20 K people. Began as gold mining and they brought slaves in to work the claims. We saw some current mine tailings. Next stop, lunch at a “churrascaria” called the Panteneiro Restaurant. Only the first of several of this kind of eating establishments we shall visit. Rufous horneros. Beef, pork, chicken etc cut for us right at the table. Cashews trees leaden with fruit in the backyard. We ate cashew apple for dessert. Back on King Tut and around 3 we officially begin the “road”. NO PAIN NO GAIN says our local guide for the first but not last time. Transpantaneira Highway is dirt with 40 bridges (only 2 are concrete). The highway is built above the field level because of seasonal flooding during the wet season (Nov – March). Stop for Brazilian teals, red-crested cardinals, bl-collared hawk, fork-tailed flycatcher, white headed marsh tyrant, limpkins who like to eat the flat snails. Photo-op at entrance sign, we take our group photo early! Silver beaked tanagers, caimens. Jabiru storks!!! the emblem of the Pantanal. Our first capybaras. Zebu cattle, water buffalo!

Zebu is a term which is synonymous with “Bos Indicus,” the scientific name for the humped cattle of the world. The major Zebu cattle breeds of the world include Gyr, Guzerat, Indu-Brazilian, Nelore, and Brahman. They originated in India, and are thought to be the world’s oldest domesticated cattle. They were introduced into the United States as early as 1849. In general zebu cattle (Bos indicus) are known to have descended from the secondary cattle domestication in the arid areas of the ‘Fertile Crescent’ about 5000 BP (Payne and Wilson, 1999), and that they are the most recent types of cattle to be introduced into Africa. Recent molecular genetic as well as archaeological evidences (Hanotte et al., 2002; Marshall, 2000) also showed that the introduction of Zebu cattle into Africa centred in East Africa rather than though the land connection between Egypt and the Near East. Zebu are known to be better than the Humpless cattle in regulating body temperature (hence lower body water requirements). Their hardened hooves and lighter bones enable them to endure long migrations. These adaptive attributes have facilitated their importation and spread by Indian and Arabian merchants across the Red Sea to drier agro-ecological regions of the Horn of Africa (Loftus and Cunningham, 2000). The word ‘zebu’ is derived from the Tibetan word ‘ceba’, which means ‘hump’. Zebus, like European domestic cattle, are descended from the aurochs. The earliest bones found with typical Zebu characteristics date back to the third millenium BC. It appears that they were developed in the Middle East soon after cattle were domesticated. Their area of distribution subsequently extended from China to West Africa. Zebus are adapted to tropical and sub-tropical conditions. For this reason they are now kept in similar regions of America.

99% of the Pantanal is in private hands, mostly large cattle ranches. We take our first stroll. I get the scope out and non-birders are starting to get hooked. Our first caimans babies= so cute says Lil, crested caracara, striated heron, great kiskadee, cattle tyrant, red capped cardinal, white winged swallow, white-necked heron, bl-capped donicubus. Capybara is the largest rodent in the world – to 150 lbs.! Light is fading, sun has set 5:45 and we still have a long way to go but first- Marsh deer (the largest in the Western Hemisphere). Snail kites, muscovy and more marsh deer. In the dark we finally cross the Rio Pixain and make it to our lodge -Mato Grosso – Hotel Pantanal right on the River. After blessed showers we meet for dinner at 730. That is followed by an official beginning and orientation. We have seen a lot and this was one long day…….tired but happy we head off to AC and bed.

Monday, October 10.
Paulo and Marques are busy catching piranha to feed the birds and caimans later. sunrise (5:23). Kinda loud in the early am with the dawn bird chorus and humans but Millie sleeps right through it. FEEDER BIRDS and other moochers: Saffron finch, yellow billed cardinal, shiny cowbird, giant cowbird, purplish jays, bay winged cowbird, scaled dove, great white egret (Louisa) and white necked heron, southern crested cara cara, black vultures, many welfare caimans.

Off on our boat trip all in one boat. At 715. Life jackets for all. Fiddler crab holes in bank. Heading west downstream. We feed several black collared hawks with silver fish with Hyacinth stems through the gills for added weight. Our boat operator is Peixinho (little fish), who will serenade us later. The temperature is perfect, light breeze, the world is right. We motor very slowly down river. Anhinga (AKA snake birds), gray necked wood rail skulking along the shore, well seen sun bittern, Ringed, green and Amazon Kingfisher, Purplish jays, savannah hawk with very long legs, greater black hawk (not interested in our fish), Green ibis, greater and lesser kiskadee (onomapoetic). Nice stop at a colony of yellow rumped cacique nests. Frank Sinatra’s blue eyes. Silver beaked tanagers wow! We passed the Hotel Santa Teresa where we were supposed to stay. Now the hyacinth is stating to get pretty thick, we back up and take a running start to plow right through it. Though this is native to the area it still can be a pain. This plant is considered to be one of the worst escaped, introduced plants on the earth.

The Water Hyacinth was introduced from its native home in South America to various countries by well-meaning people as an ornamental plant; to the US in the 1880’s; to Africa in the 1950’s spreading to the Congo, the Nile and Lake Victoria; also in India.

The fast-growing Water Hyacinth soon becomes a noxious weed outside its native habitat. Plants interlock in such a dense mass that a person could walk on a floating mat of them from one bank of a river to the other. The presence of Water Hyacinth disrupts all life on the water. They clog waterways preventing river travel, block irrigation canals, destroy rice fields, ruin fishing grounds. By shading the water, these plants deprived native aquatic plants of sunlight and animals of oxygenated water. As the mats decay, there is a sharp increase in nutrient levels in the water, which spark off algal growths that further reduces oxygen levels.

Water Hyacinths are difficult (if not impossible) to destroy. In the US, arsenic was used on a large scale which only partially cleared the weeds but poisoned the ecosystem. Fire and explosives were also attempted, but the plants reproduce rapidly even from the tiniest fragment and simply grew back. The most effective measures are biological controls, hundreds of which have been studied for this purpose. Two weevils, a moth and two types of fungi have been introduced to successfully control the plant.

Other common floating plant is Soldenia which is a fern and really sheds water. The jacana turn it over to look for invertebrates to eat. They can walk right on it hence the other common name for this bird – lily trotter. Many beautiful rufouscent tiger herons in this section. We are finally where the giant river otters are supposed to be but they are not here. Oh well, later maybe. We sit for a while and learn the origin of the name for the river- Pixiam. Means in Portuguese the curly hair that Africans have. The story involves a long story about a wild cow. I tell you a few details about the Pantanal and Piranha.
Legendary Myth of Piranha Revealed
by Frank Magallanes, OPEFE
The legend started with President Theodore Roosevelt (circa 1914). While President of the United States, Roosevelt decided to explore South America. The Brazilians were excited about the impending visit by this famous American president. They also knew he liked the thrill of the adventure. So they arranged a spectacular tour of their country through the Amazon rain forest. They also found a river that President Roosevelt could “discover” himself (later called Rio Theodore Roosevelt). This river is actually nothing more than an arm of another tributary, the Rio Aripuana.

President Roosevelt was accompanied by a hundred journalists, many whom never had been in the jungle before. When the Brazilian’s took Roosevelt to “discover” the Rio Theodore Roosevelt, the Brazilians were already prepared. They had isolated a hundred yards of that river with nets.
For weeks fishermen caught piranha with hook and line, throwing the fish into this netted off area. Then the Brazilian instigated piranha myth began. The Brazilians told Roosevelt and his group not to venture into the water of this river because they would be immediately be attacked and eaten by piranhas. Roosevelt was skeptical, how could any fish be this dangerous. This played right into the Brazilians hands and their sense of humor. To validate their point, they took a cow, slit her udder, and drove her bleeding into a seething mass of starving, trapped piranhas.
The cow, needless to say, was immediately attacked and stripped to the bone in short order. The piranhas were in fact, so starved they literally leaped out of the water with mouthful of flesh which added more credibility to this setup situation. The President and the journalists stared in amazement at this scene just 10 feet from shore.
Newspapers around the world carried the story, even embellishing it more by saying anyone entering the water in any South American river would be immediately attacked and devoured by these small fearsome fish. “The terrible piranhas” have since been feared by unknowing people, conservationists and the news media.
Hollywood filmmakers later began creating a few horror cinemas of flying piranhas with wings biting people in the face with long, gruesome-looking teeth!

We begin our return trip and encounter a solitary La Plata or southern river otter. Much smaller than the giant and is usually found alone not in the family groups like this one.
Five minutes of silent floating in a slight breeze a small morpho butterfly flits by. And then a pair of large billed terns. Bare-faced curassow both male and female on river left. I get a quick glimpse of a capuchin monkey but we cannot spot it. Paulo promises us this monkey later. We shall see.

Back at 950. A brief breakfast for those who missed it. And very comfortable seats on the Verandah (Port. for railing – my very cool palm pilot dictionary tells us). And then it is feed-the-cara caras-time. We get photos but it is a little wierd to me this feeding of animals for the tourists. I understand the reason and I paticipate but ultmately I think it is wrong. Next to our friend the caimans- trained to respond to the humans on cue or is it vice versa? But we do get some good photos. A brief rest and then lunch Yummy. Afternoon is hot and time for the siesta and or the pool; I go for a bike ride then nap. Siestas are had by many.
A three we are off again. Paulo assures us that it will cool off by 4 pm. HA! Heading south on the Transpanterio RD. We stop for a walk on the road. Helmeted Manikin called in by Paulo’s I pod. Great looks in scopes. Curassows crossing road but tapir tracks are closer. Scaly headed parrot pair and squirrel cuckoo. Still hot so back in King Tut. We see very cute capybara family on our right. We learn a little about their social structure. The Venezuelans petioned Rome to allow the eating of them on Friday because these rats (also called barking mice) spend so much time in the water. WOW the capped heron with occipital plumes. Greater black hawk, snail kite up from Argentina. Solitary black caciques. It is now 430 and stll pretty hot. Skeeters are about. Rufus cachalote and black backed marsh tyrant. “For the record” we don’t see any jaguars that were earlier seen on this part of the road. The first of many Cecropia tree identified.
The cecropia trees are large thin trees with large umbrella like lobed leaves. They are mostly abundant at disturbed sites because they are an early successional or gap species, meaning they require abundant light to grow. Their seeds can remain viable in the soil for at least two years waiting for a sufficient size gap to occur. When the opportunity arises cecropias grow quickly, as much as eight feet in year. This is necessary as they are intolerant to shade so they must attempt to grow more quickly than surrounding vines and shrubs less their light source become obstructed. There is never a shortage of seeds waiting to seize the moment as a single female tree can produce over 900,000 seeds every time it fruits, which is often. The average height of a cecropia is less than 60 feet (18 m) although some emergent cecropias have been recorded at 130 feet (40 m) tall. The life span of a cecropia is relatively short. One would be considered old should it live to be 30 years. The trunks of cecropias are hollow, probably an adaptation to allow the tree to expend more energy in gaining height rather than in producing wood. The hollow trunk provides a home for biting ants (Azteca spp.). The ants feed on nectar produced by the tree; the ants in turn help to eliminate vines and epiphytes from the cecropia by clipping them off… another example of rainforest mutualism.
Another stop for the field with scarlet headed blackbirds, two Jabiru storks in a tree, russet backed ant wren and a pair of displaying Black capped Donicubus. They put on quite a show. Still has not cooled off. About 15 K from the lodge we do a U-turn at a huge ranch- Rio Alegra. Teddy Roosevelt visited here when he was on an exploration trip. To the north a river was renamed in his honor. Pretty amazing ex pres. In 40 more miles we would reach the Cuiba River and the end of the road and the border with MG do Sul. The bridges apparently really get bad.

Back as the sun is sinking. We stop just as the red ball drops through the clouds and have our 5 ? Minutes of quiet. More like 3 minutes before Paulo has to talk about the tinamou that we are hearing. I think I will keep time for now on. Back in the dark, uneventful, though there are fireflies. Dinner at 7 tonight. Just after dinner we do our introductions. Who and why the Pantanal. Doug took early retirement just to do this trip. The sisters- Mary Ann and Nancy took a freighter once to Brazil many years ago and married the second and third mate. Diana was emptying bed pans at age 13. Millie likes to do trips with me. Anthony comes from the middle class section of England – Surrey.

Then our boat driver – Peixinho (little fish) serenades us. He is very passionate entertainer. Can’t play the geetar very well but he sings about fish and women right nice. I take an evening solitary walk to record the frogs. The lawn crew of Capybaras comes up from the river to do a little trimming, Anthony records it digitally. Giant unicorn beetles (the one who attacked Trudy at our orientation) are attracted to the lights. The AC sort of works, the fans spin, we sleep.

Tuesday, October 11.
Noam goes to wake us up but does not do a very good job. He is too gentle. The day is beautiful. Breakfast outside by the feeder – giant cowbird and shiny cowbird. We are off at 7 am sharp. Thanks! what a great group. There are a few colds in the group and Millie stays back to recoup. We head back north, the road we came in on in the dark. First stop is Jabiru on the nest. Photos through the scope. Small tody flycatcher. Very cute. Then we see the greater rhea one of three species of rheas in S America. The others are the lesser and dia rheas. Yuck yuck but Mary Ann doesn’t get the joke- we have to explain it but she missed her coffee this AM thanks to Noam.
Grayish saltador singing. We stop for the termite story- the fungus farmers. The alletes, the reproductives come to lights and spin around them. This is also a Brazilian dance called Siriri. Noam tells about how the termites affect the Pantanal environment by creating essentially islands of more solid and higher ground. Great stop for MR. And Mrs. Muscovy duck with a campo flicker by his hole in a termite mound. We learn about the two common species of palms. One is a fan palm Copernica alba with very very very very very hard fruits that the Hyacinth macaws prefer to eat. They can get through the shells. Panama hats are made from the fibers of the leaves. It is the emblem of the Pantanal. Also prefers salty water. Rusty collared seed eater flitting around in the background.
The other palm is a pinnate leaved like date palm. Acromia sclerocarpus. Common name = Bocaiva. Very thorny, the natives used them for needles. This palm grows on dry, not flooded soils that are poor in nutrients. All palms must tap into underground aquifers. Next stop for young male marsh deer and the purplish jay show. The bird is gleaning just like the oxpeckers of Africa. Mesmerized deer, now parasite unloaded. Good photos.

Two southern river otters are seen out of water running through the low brush. Paulo has never seen two like this before in all his guiding. Plumbeous (lead) ibis and monk parakeets colonially nesting in Jabiru stork nest. This parrot has escaped and is thriving in many parts of the world. There are many species of hyacinth in the area and we see one with white flowers that is rooted in the ground, not floating.
We turn right – west- off the Transp Highway at the Campo Largo farm owned by the same folks who own our lodge. A lesser yellow headed vulture in the road. The greater is found in the forest, both have excellent senses of smell, not like the condors or black vultures.
A couple of southern screamers – big birds. We hear them later screaming. Orange backed oriole = troupial. We stop and walk right to try for the capuchin monkeys to no avail. We shall return!

To the fendenzo (Port. For farm) for rest, hammocks, coffee, shade under the Ficus. Hyacinth macaws in distant tree, we hike in the hot sun and get the scope on all three of them. Black headed parrots and monk parrots fly in. And the usual birds hanging out- y rumped caciques, yb cardinals, rd crested cardinal, shiny cowbirds. We meet a genuine cowboy and take his and the horse’s photo. Smile Lill says. The horse responds. Mating collared lizards. A beautiful light blue bird is the sacya tanager. A large flock of Nacunda nightjars (goatsuckers) comes wheeling by and lands in the open field.
The national bird of Brazil, the rufous bellied thrush has a nest in the outdoor kitchen. We also have the national bird of Argentina, the rufous hornero here as well. Nancy forgot her “balls” but no problem. Great lunch we leave at 1230 and send Noam and me over to check on the monkeys. They are there… So we feed them papaya and great some great pictures. Of the little extended family group. Ethics of this I debate. There are at least 2 females with young, one large male and several adolescents. Black collared Hawk also known as the OLD WOMAN because of its harsh cry (not PC).
Back to lodge for rest .
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At 330 we gather for a lecture by Paulo on the history of the Pantanal which he says starts in 1500. This is when the Port. Navigators first arrived on the coast and named it Isla of the True Cruz or Vera Cruz. Then they discovery it is not an island and change the name to Land of the True Cross. Later changed for the third time to Brazil, which means live coals. The name is taken from a tree, which grows along the coast in the extensive forests, which they intensely harvest for the first major business cycle of Brazil. Now only 5% of the original forest left. Next business cycle is sugar cane that grows well in the black soil. Later emeralds and gold is discovered and slaves are imported in huge numbers, more than any other place in SA. They came to Cuiba looking to enslave the local Indians but found much gold lying around on the surface. It was a gold rush 300 yrs ago which brought the first settlers to the Pantanal region. Many settled in this isolated area that was very separate from the rest of Brazil- a 6-month journey to the coast. Pantanal is 400 x 150 miles.

In 1964 there was a military coup with many resulting changes. At this time 70% of population lived in the country, now it is 70% in the city. Military decided to build a road across the jungle to Peru, 3000 K dirt road that totally failed to attract settlers due to the impoverished soil even if they gave the land away. Manus had tax breaks to attract business, Now it’s city of 1 million that has no roads to it, only accessible by water and extremely isolated. They did develop the southern part of the Pantanal; Campo Grande and that worked. Cuiba was 50 K and now almost 1 million! THREE ecosystems overlap here Chaco, Amazonian, Cerrado. Very rich species diversity.
I made a mistake in telling you that the rubber tree was in the same family as the Ficus. It is actually in the Euphorbiacae family.
Hevea brasiliensis:The Rubber Tree
By Laura Law
During the Age of Exploration many people were sent out to seek unknown plant species that might serve as raw material, remedy, or ornament. Of all the great feats of that era of botanical discovery, none was more imposing than that of the domestication of rubber. New World inhabitants had shown rubber, which they obtained from several tropical plant species, to early explorers, including Columbus. Since it was an unstable product, it remained for more than three centuries a mere curiosity. Then, in 1839, it was found that through treatment with sulfur and heat (vulcanization), rubber’s elastic properties could be made more permanent. (1)
Hevea brasiliensis is the source of virtually all the world’s rubber production. Cutting the bark of this tree releases the latex which is then collected, preserved, and stabilized. The latex is located in the inner bark of the tree and flows in the vessels of the tree. Latex is thought to be a defense against insect predators for the tree. (1)
Hevea brasiliensis was first found in the Amazon basin. The rubber trade became a mainstay of the Brazilian economy, providing at its height almost 40 % of its export revenues. It was not long before the idea was conceived of domesticating rubber. However, Brazil was not the site of the successful commercialization of rubber. Rubber cultivation was, instead, transferred to Southeast Asia. Soon abundant and cheap, rubber was put to thousands of uses. Its reduced cost was an important factor in the emergence of a mass market of automobiles; from two-thirds to three-quarters of the demand for rubber soon came from the makers of tires and tubes for motor vehicles. (1) After tires, latex products, footwear, belts and hoses, and wire cables are the most important uses for rubber. (3) Rubber is harvested in Africa, Central and South America, and in Asia, the latter accounting for greater than 90% of production.
There are 11 species of Hevea. Hevea brasiliensis is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family (spurge family). Although not limited to the Euphorbiaceae, latex production is one of its distinguishing characteristics. (7)
At 4 15 we are off and immediately find a female tapir feeding right off the road. Great looks and photos. We have some nice quiet while watching this remarkable animal feed and slowly wander through the brush. Severely hunted everywhere, this animal is the heaviest land mammal in South America. Large billowing cumulus clouds portend some rain. But your enthusiasm hasn’t “Tapired” off. Yuck yuck. To St. Teresa. DR. Charlie Munn, the proprietor greets us as we board our boat. Please visit his website at http://tropicalnature.org/. Many southern rough winged swallows flying overhead. Off to see the otters without the hot sun beating on us. We go past some folks canoeing and find the little family group of giant river otters that everyone knows and loves. Way cool as we feed them fish and watch them cavort. Each one has a unique pattern of white on the throat for simplifying IDS. The world’s giant river otter expert, Dr. Nicole Duplaix is in the next boat with a group from SF’s Oceanic Society and her Brazilian assistant Carolina. Just as we arrive at the dock a heavy rain begins= what exquisite timing, thank you. A piping guan flies up in the tree by the lodge.

Nicole agrees to give us a little talk. 38 researchers in 13 different countries. Good ecotourism can help, bad can hinder. She recommends no boat motors over 15 hp. 50000 tourists in the last 10 years have had the otter experience we just had. Maybe 2K otters in the Pantanal. Overall they are doing very well now that hunting has ceased. There are several family groups along this river. Units consist of alpha male and female and young from 2 years. The young disperse from the family unit when they are sexually mature at age 2-3. Dangerous to move out then. Predators = jaguars, anacondas and caimans and other otters. 13 species of otters in the world. See Nicole’s website at http://www.giantotterresearch.com/

Back to lodge for piranha soup. Very tasty better to eat them, than to have them eat you. We pay our bills and get ready to get up very early. Anthony, Marques and Noam go for a night drive looking for crab eating foxes. They find them and a red brocket deer and a tarantula.

Wednesday, October 12.
Up early again, some of us go for a walk. Lynn sees a crab eating fox. We see tracks of tapir and baby, crab eating raccoon, capybaras. We hear black howler monkeys in the distance. B-fast at 530 and we are off by 615. We have all morning to go a short distance. The clouds are really amazing, opalescent. A bit cooler. We stop at the famous twisted Ipe tree with very very very many winged seeds in the pods. Bignonacae family same as turmpet creeper, princess and catalpa trees.
All the rocks for the road are brought in. Marsh deer, pampas deer, red brocket (English word for brick), gray brocket deer.
Sandpaper tree = Tacoma americana. Common tree n the Cerrado. Today Oct 12 is a national holiday for the Black Madonna.

In Brazil, in 1717, 3 fishermen found a Black Madonna in the Paraiba River in São Paulo – Our Lady Aparecida, patroness of Brazil, venerated today in the city which has her name. She is a small and beautiful black female figure supporting herself on a crescent moon. First her body was fished… then her head… and when she was made whole again, fish could be fished again in that river. Says the legend that when she was discovered, this tiny figure became extremely heavy, preventing the fisherman to take her away from that place. A small sentry-house was made for her there. Today there is a sanctuary city with Basilicas, numerous churches and the whole infra-structure of a city that has already welcomed the Pope, and which all year round receives pilgrims from the whole country in a great happy and colorful religious celebration. 8 million visit a year says Paulo.

Sting less bee hive in tree. The smooth billed ani is black twice – feathers and the skin. Next stop for Hyacinth macaw walk. Also displaying crested oropendulas, epilated orioles, and a savannah hawk on the ground hunting snakes? Golden chevroned parakeets. Turquoise fronted parakeets. Two orchids (hidden testicles) growing epiphytically on the palm.

Cowboy stop, three of them. One from yesterday and one is the Marlboro man. They are using tame cattle to help pacify the feral cows they are hoping to bring back.

Noam’s favorite- peach fronted parakeet. We stop at a large field full of the Nelore race of Zebus. We talk about cicadas and their role in nature. Nancy spots an animal so we stop and we don’t find the one she saw but we do find a capuchin monkey. Squirrel cuckoo seen very well with leaves in its mouth. Peppershrike and ruddy ground doves. It is hot in the mid day sun.

Photo stop for termite mounds. Plumbeous kites flying very high waiting to catch cicadas below. An elusive look at a collared anteater as it quickly scurries across the road far in front of us. Turn right off the main road toward Pouse allegro. Laughing falcon with party mask eats snakes.
An elusive group of black tailed marmosets are seen.

We see one Whistling heron, who actually whistles before flying away. The Ipomoea morning glory is growing every where in the Pantanal; it is toxic to cattle therefore it thrives. There are terrestrial bromeliads, cerus cactus, the amaryllis and bigger trees here. We turn left for about 4 miles heading to “Pouso Alegre” means Happy Roost, called that because the place is a roost for a flock of Hyacinth Macaws, (the biggest parrot in the world and threatened with extinction because of the high price in the illegal pet trade – $10,000.00 for a single bird!)

Two more peach fronted parakeets drinking in the middle of the road. Anthony spots a marmoset and we also see our first tuco toucan. Good in the scope. Feral pig diggings. We stop for a while to watch a colony of monk parakeets in a Jabiru nest but Paulo promises better ones. Great black hawk close to the car and above him in the distance is a male rhea with a gazillion babes – no only four. Next stop jabiru stork nest with one baby walking around on the ground. Monk parakeets again. But wait there are some different ones in there- a few white-eyed parakeets.

These low-lying areas are totally inundated in the rainy season and become a huge lake. Great looks at the barking mice rolling around in the water- these capybaras can reach 150 lbs but usually are 110, still pretty damn big for a mouse. Bare faced ibis next to cattle egret. Wow the storm blew through here with a vengeance yesterday. Many trees down, we get to our guest ranch, nice and simple. Our host Louis Vicente welcomes us. We are the only guests. No power due to the storm. A pair of hyacinth macaws grace us, collared ari-caris, and two tuco toucans. Lunch at noon. Hot and mosquitoy. We try to rest while the power is repaired in 30 minutes – hah!
I over-nap while you guys are doing the FTC. Too much information too fast but we have seen a lot of birds. Not even close to done but we call it and go on a very successful afternoon into evening game drive. We are hoping that the power is restored. The black howlers are really howling but too far away to see. Off at 410 and two coatamundis are elusively seen by some of us. We get out and visit the Jabiru stork nest again. We see many caiman farts bubbling up from the green depths. Pleasant temperate (relatively speaking). Cloud cover. We see the rufous collared seedeater. Back on the bus and we follow a nervous young male marsh deer. Great photo shots of him drinking water and then FLASH a gray brocket deer is seen well by all. A quick glimpse at an agouti to add to our rodent list. Two crab eating foxes that both pee on the same bush by raising their legs. Back on the highway and then we head toward Noam’s girlfriends lodge – Arras (macaw) Lodge. Ostensively for the sunset but we know there is a plan for Noam. Red orange ball of a sun drops through clouds and trees as peacocks screams and rufescent tiger heron sits peacefully on a snag. Frogs reported from the ladies toilet. Off at 530. Night drive back on a new road for me. RIGHT ACROSS the highway from the lodge we take the back road. Pretty crowded for a back road. But we see the first of many crab eating raccoons. And we have three minutes of blessed silence while I record the amazing tree frogs sounds.

Scanning everything with the spotlights looking for the tapetum lucidium- the shinning tapestry of light. Several rare boat billed night herons are seen. More raccoons, tons of caiman eyes and bodies, the barking rats, we hear the laughing falcon laughing (in his sleep).
And then there is the Great Pootoo sighting. Glowing eyes high in the tree = two of them. In the same family as the parenque, whippoorwill, poor will- the GOATSUCKERS. We continue our drive, some one (whose initials are MAT) starts to whine a bit sounding like the frogs. A Brazilian rabbit and a family of crab eating raccoons right near the lodge. We get back at 745 and the power is on. No one is very enthusiastic about continuing the FTC after dinner.

It is 300 feet elevation here but tomorrow we go a little bit higher with some trees and not so many mosquitoes.

Thursday, October 13.
Another early call for the hyacinth macaws. I go for a morning walk to record some sounds. Anthony sees the same coatmundis (#2) we saw yesterday. Mary Ann broke her bed last night and her sister just howled. The macaws are seen well. Streaky flycatchers. We gather to talk with Louis Vicente. 150 yrs ago his grandfather founded the farm. You can not kill animals in the Pantanal so it is hard to raise crops. He has 800 head and three cowboys, one lady in the kitchen. Takes 7-8 yrs to raise a cow on the native grass- tastes good though. He has 5 kids, two boys. In 95 highest flood in years water almost to dining room. 1000 head lost. He likes the scenery and rising cows. Antioch students come here in October for studies. Louis Vicente’s umbilical cord is buried in the door of the corral – a tradition back then. At 845 we pick up Noam with a smile on his face.

Back to the freeway and turn north leaving the Pantanal. More Jabiru storks- they mate for life live a long time, return to the same nest, lay 3 eggs and usually raise 2 very ugly chicks. The bridges have been totally rebuilt since I was here four years ago. Into Pocene for a bathroom and souvenir stop. Back onto pavement and naptime till V. Grande (large Swamp City). We stop at a fancy store to meet Marluca’s -Paulo’s wife – and shop. Most of us head straight for the liquor dept. What does that say? Some of us fellows buy Bastao de Gurana- Brazilian Viagra naturale.

In an hour or so we stop for another churrascaria lunch stop. We continue past a government resettlement area with people living in make shift tents.

Heading west and then north again all the way to Jangada Town (RAT village!). I think the Chamber of Commerce and real estate interests would change the name. The Cerrado slowly starts getting more and more tree-y. Teak plantations are passed. We turn left and continue for about 8 miles and then turn left again on a dirt road. Pass the limestone quarry on the way to our lodge in the “Serra das Araras” (Macaw Mountains) and check in at the CURUPIRA LODGE.
Everyone’s AC works. A few of us take advantage of the nice pool. Pantanal horse, zebu cattle and Royal Poinciana (native of Madagascar is a tropical legume) is in full flower.
Off at 415 looking for the largest eagle in the world the Harpy Eagle, well almost- the Philippine eagle may be a bit bigger… We pull our socks up over our pants in the most nerdy way, put on bug juice because of the chiggers. Hop on the bus and then transfer to our safari vehicle= sort of it is actually the bed of a farm truck. To the first pond for least grebes. Walk a bit, high tech communication strategies with the walkie-talkie-harpy-lookers chatting back and forth. To no avail although we see many other birds – Blue hooded, canary winged parakeets; lettered and chestnut eared aracaris, dusky headed parrots Amazon sp.
,
Originally wind spirits, the Harpies’ inital role is to carry to Hades the souls of the dead. The harpies are born from Typhon and Echinda. There are four Harpies: Aello (meaning rain-squall), Celaeno (storm-dark), Okypete (swift-flying), and Podarge (swift-foot). In later myths the Harpies are featured as winged monsters with pale female human faces with long hair and claws made of brass. Although invulnerable, they always look hungry and withered. Everything that they touch immediately becomes contaminated with an awful stench. They were afraid of only one thing: the sound of a brass instrument.

There is one magpie tanager, the biggest of the tanagers. Boat billed flycatcher. I give a brief Moon talk. Karen, Lynn and Susan walk back. A few of us take a night drive looking for pootoos and we find one. But the best is the incredible night sounds that I record. VERY strange and eerie. No way to describe it but otherworldly. I have heard the night sounds in the Amazon many times but nothing like this. High flying lightening bugs. no mammals. The smell of sulfur is everywhere from the Garlic trees but I prefer the real thing. Back for drinks and dinner. Venus is seen as half full through the scope. At dinner we guess Diana’s weight. Trudy wins. Tomorrow is another early morning from the slave drivers – P and M.

Friday Oct 14.
Wake up call at 530. Noam has it down now; he wakes everyone. The water knob on the electric shower for hot says INVERNO. (=hell).We are all ready to go at 635. Paulo is a little testy until he sees his first Harpy eagle for the trip. We repeat the same path as yesterday afternoon’s trip. Least grebes in better light. 830′ elevation. South 15.10 by West 56.61 is our position on the planet earth. Great looks at the capped heron with the blue on his bill. Orange winged parakeets.

The translation of mud flaps on our truck reads-
In order to conquer me you must be blonde because I already have a brunette.

And then we find him- the harpy eagle. Hard to see in the crotch of a tall tree. He keeps flapping his wings. What is up with that? We all get a look through the scopes. Clarence can really pull that image in. Then we move closer. He or she has a possum or what is left of it in the talons. That maybe explains the flapping motion. The eagle flies off. It was the bird born 3 years ago. We all take off on the trail through the forest. Watch for poison ivy er make that stinging nettle.
It is a bit slippery over some of the rocks to the big Ficus tree with a hole through it. Many things happen here. The fig and the wasp story, glorious butterflies, Piper plant with drip tips, the tree with the large thorns on it. Group photos. The temperature is nice, few bugs and it is great to stretch our legs. Then 9 of us take the longer hike back. The rest of you, the shorter route. On your way you have a good look at the turquoise browed motmot or was it blue capped? And you take advantage of the spring fed pool at our lodge. Swimming is delicious.
Our group sees many things – hornworm caterpillar and then a large sphinx moth. A family of black tailed marmosets much closer and easier to see than the last ones we saw along the Pantaneria Highway. Morpho butterfly that keeps landing, guess that one didn’t get the memo about constantly being in flight.
Buttress roots, heavy-duty thorns, llano galore. The bus is waiting for us just as planned around 11. Back for lunch at noon, a bit of free time then to the FTC at 2.We catch up on the birds, then do the mammals and other critters in chronological order. We have seen a lot and it ain’t over.

Off we go sans Trudy at 410. The hornworm caterpillars are all over the Plumeria. A king Vulture is spotted below…whoops! through the scope it becomes a wood stork. Brazilian ducks aka teals, spotted sandpiper in pond. We find a tegu running down the road – quite an odd gate that lizard has.
Looking for king vultures and the Harpy again.

We stop and walk left. Find a black headed trogon after a bit of work= incredible green. A Plumbeous dove singing. We walk over to the creek flowing out of a cave. You can see the stalactites and realize the roof of the cavern collapsed some time ago. Two long nosed. Bats are seen. Plumbeous kites everywhere. Back to the bus we decide to retrace our steps and see if the King Vulture we saw earlier has settled down with the other vultures. Nope, so we continue and fortuitously see an adult Harpy eagle fly into a nearby tree. Everyone gets a fine look. It has caught something that we cannot Id. DEAD for sure. We move closer for better looks but the light is rapidly fading. WOW an impressive animal to be sure. Four feet high with a seven foot wingspread. Massive talons seen well. We are all thrilled and today I had a life bird! Back down the road, as night is falling we stop the bus to listen to the evening chorus. Awesome and superb. One of the highlights for me is the acoustic landscape of the Mato Grosso. I catch a click beetle with two biolumisnce headlights.

Back to the lodge we are waiting dinner for some guests. I read to you my friend Bill Keener story of his first harpy eagle.

One Tough Bird

Meeting the unexpected in Brazil’s Mato Grosso.

by William Keener

I admit it, I’m a sucker for roadkill. After four days of birding by van in South America, it was no secret to my companions. Paulo, our guide, wasn’t surprised when I yelled “Stop!” making him turn around and head back to the large shaggy mass at the side of the road. Judging from its size and color as we sped by, it might have been a rhea, a flightless relative of the ostrich. We got out to take a closer look. It was no bird, not a feather in sight. Covered with coarse grizzled hair, the beast was six feet long and weighed about a hundred pounds. Certain that it was dead, I couldn’t resist reaching down to feel the wicked claw extending from its foreleg, fit for a velociraptor. Yet this was a toothless anteater, the first I’d ever seen. It would never again use that heavy claw to slash open the termite mounds that dotted the grassy savanna for miles around. High above, a King Vulture would soon come spiraling down, but we had no time to wait in the stifling heat of the Mato Grosso.

We continued north across the flats of the Pantanal, Brazil’s vast marshy floodplain where we had seen anaconda, caiman, capybara, otter and dense concentrations of waterbirds. Our destination was a low smudge on the horizon known as the Serra das Araras, the Macaw Mountains. At the edge of the Pantanal, these tablelands form the continental divide and the southern limit of Amazonian trees and birds, although the climate is too dry to support mature rainforest.

A few hours later we wound up the dirt road to a comfortable lodge on a spacious ranch, or fazenda. Our hostess, Maria Teresa, greeted us warmly. It was October, when spring rains begin south of the equator, and that meant low season for the lodge. The few guests included me, my birding buddy, Steve Bailey, and our guide, Paulo Boute. Steve is a Ph.D. ornithologist and a serious worldwide lister, while I gladly remain amateur. Paulo knew the terrain, and had proved it over the past few days. Of Russian descent, Paulo was fair-skinned, tall and lanky (setting him apart from the typical Brazilian), perennially in good humor, and proud of his idiomatic English. After a satisfying evening meal of barbecued beef with the ubiquitous beans and rice, Steve and I were about to leave our table for some much-needed rest when Paulo stepped up. As usual, he had a smile on his face.

“Hey, would you guys like to see a Harpy Eagle?” he asked casually.
“You betcha,” said Steve, firing back Paulo’s favorite Americanism, assuming Paulo was teasing.
“Good, because Maria Teresa just told me there’s one in this valley.” His grin widened, betraying excitement.
“Paulo, we’ve spent a lot of time chasing birds in the tropics, and never seen a Harpy,” I said. “That’s the most wanted bird on my wish list.”
“It should be,” Paulo declared. “Once, in the Amazon, I saw a Harpy Eagle in the air. I can tell you it was something special.”
“I believe you, but how can Maria Teresa be so sure she has a Harpy?” Steve asked.
“Because last week a tourist staying at the fazenda spotted one flying in the forest, and he showed her a picture in a book.”
Tantalized, I closed my eyes a moment to imagine it. A Harpy Eagle. The most charismatic bird of prey in the world. Its power is legendary. Wielding massive talons on full-speed attacks through the treetops, it tears sloths and monkeys clean off the branches without missing a wingbeat. No wonder the Amerindians respect this predator as the “jaguar of the sky.” Years earlier at the Smithsonian, an obliging curator had granted my request to examine a stuffed specimen of the Harpy. I’ll never forget how formidable it seemed. In disbelief, I measured the girth of its leg shank, at a point just above its talons, by comparing it to my wrist–side by side almost the same width. Unnerving, but I gained a physical appreciation for the bird’s immense strength.

I also knew how tough it was to observe Harpies. Critically endangered, they are restricted to the pristine rainforests of Central and South America. Everything I had read confirmed that they need large tracts of undisturbed land where they, and their prey, can survive. It seemed unlikely that one of these raptors was anywhere near this ragged margin of semi-Amazonian vegetation. Steve knew the Pantanal area bird list, and Harpy Eagle wasn’t on it. We also recalled a recent article in the American Birding Association’s newsletter, brashly titled So You Want to See a Harpy…, chronicling the hardships endured by an expedition trying to glimpse one of these birds in Panama’s Darien jungle. Wilderness is where Harpies are supposed to live, not the domesticated ranch lands around here.

Tourists could be wrong about the identification. Even if they were right, a Harpy might have been just passing through on its way to greener canopies. At that moment, Maria Teresa walked over and passed me an enormous feather. With a chill, I recognized the gray-brown mottling. It matched the pattern on the bird I had seen at the Smithsonian. In my hands, this flight feather was an undeniable eighteen inches of evidence. Probably from a Harpy, perhaps from another species of eagle. Whatever the source, it was certainly imposing and worth pursuing. Struggling in Portuguese, I tried get more information out of Maria Teresa.
“Onde?” I asked, waving the feather. Where?
“Debaixo do ninho.” Under the nest.
“The nest! Quando.” When?
“Há quatro ou cinco semanas.” Four or five weeks ago.
Amazing. An eagle’s aerie within striking distance. A month is a long time, and the birds could have left after fledging a chick. Still, there was a chance of finding them, to be the first birders at the nest. My pulse quickened, and I began to allow for the possibility that I might see a bird that seemed beyond reach, a “life bird” that could elude me all my life. When I told Paulo the feather was all the convincing I needed, he began quizzing Maria Teresa about the location of the nest. She couldn’t give us detailed directions, explaining that it was complicated, across her ranch, through some hills, and too far to go on foot. But she had a plan.

“Tomorrow I’ll have one of our vaqueiros take you to the nest. He’ll bring horses for everyone.”

The morning sky was a cloudless blue by the time our cowboy arrived, hitching a string of horses to the fence. Soft-spoken, he introduced himself as Eurides. Young and stocky, he wore a ‘Ducks Unlimited’ t-shirt, topped off by a dusty white Stetson. We mounted up, scope, tripod and all, and headed off. Well, almost. Steve had not been on horseback since a pony ride at age seven, so his horse just stood there giving him a contemptuous look. Paulo got things moving by grabbing the reins as if the horse were a pack mule, hauling Steve behind him for a while. Steve complained that he could walk just as fast on his own two legs, but it was obvious the lure of the Harpy far outweighed his discomfort.

We rode slowly across the ranch, fording a shallow stream before reaching a sign lettered PERIGO. DANGER. I facetiously asked whether it was a warning that babies could be carried off by a Harpy Eagle. “No,” Paulo answered, “it’s there to keep people away from the shed where they store dynamite for the lime quarry.” Apart from the local quarry, the hill slopes were thickly vegetated, though our trail led us through gently rolling pastures punctuated by huge trees, remnants of the climax forest that was cut years ago. I was surprised when Eurides commented that we only had a half hour ride ahead of us. It seemed too little time to bring us into the heart of healthy untouched forest, unless we were making for an overlook above the valley. I tried to relax, and patiently listened to Paulo translate his question and answer session with Eurides. What I heard had me salivating.
“Have you actually seen this eagle?” Paulo began.
“Many times,” Eurides replied matter-of-factly.
“When was the last time?”
“A few days ago. Bringing one of our lambs to the nest.”
“Lambs? How often does that happen?”
“Oh, he’s a regular customer. But he eats other things, too. Like foxes. Sometimes snakes.”

Less than thirty minutes up the trail, Eurides pushed back his brim and began to scan the trees in earnest. His vigilance increased my tension. We were about to see something. But what? Eurides halted, dismounted and told us to stay put. Motioning to a tree about 75 yards away, he assured us the nest was there. Standing unchallenged in the open grazing land was a towering jatobeiro tree. In the center of the dark foliage, at least fifty feet above the ground, we could make out a massive nest, five or six feet across and equally deep. But there was no sign of either parent bird or a chick in the nest.

Our cowboy strode off, only to crouch low next to a bush, using it for cover. “Ali está…” he whispered, tension in his voice. There he is… Instantly, I slipped off the saddle and was the first to join Eurides. He pointed to a pale shape in the leaves far to the left of the nest. My heart pounding, I held my breath and brought the binoculars to my eyes. Yes! The majestic head of a Harpy Eagle with its double-pointed crest was clearly visible. There is no other spiked crown like this in the kingdom of birds. I gave a thumbs up to Steve and Paulo, and they came running. We all stared, transfixed, euphoric in the eagle’s presence. This was the most awe-inspiring bird we had ever seen. We moved to get a clear view of the Harpy as it perched on a thick limb overlooking its nest. Setting up the scope, we took turns shouldering each other aside to see this magnificent creature. At 30-power magnification, the nearly four-foot tall raptor filled the frame, and for an hour we feasted on every stunning detail: the enormous hooked beak, the broad black collar, the fine barring on its thighs, and the unique split crown feathers that appeared to swivel independently in the light breeze. Those fearsome talons clamped on the rough bark looked every bit the efficient lamb-killers. The eagle was supremely alert, following the movement of each bird that flew through its domain. Occasionally, it would fix its fierce eyes on us, shifting its head from side to side, watching the watchers.
Eurides told us about the time he came riding around a bend in the trail and found the Harpy on the ground, wrestling a big snake. The huge bird was flapping its wings, spread over seven feet wide, as it worked to tighten its hold on the writhing reptile. The wild scene spooked his horse, so Eurides had to dismount until the battle was over. After killing the snake, the eagle stood there, its bold, penetrating stare daring Eurides to make the first move. It seemed afraid of nothing and no one. The cowboy shouted and flailed his hat in the air, to no effect. Finally, he picked up a dirt clod and heaved it at the Harpy before it flew off.

Paulo was impressed, and asked Eurides, “How long has this sort of thing been going on?”
“About five or six years.”
“What?!” This was too much for Paulo. “I’ve been leading trips here for years. Why wasn’t I told about the nest?”
“But you’re the expert who knows everything about the birds around here. We thought you knew.”

As Paulo scratched his head in chagrin, we kept a close eye on the tree. We suspected this bird had young in the nest and was standing guard while its mate was away hunting, but we never saw another adult. After it flew to the other side of the tree, almost out of sight, we decided we’d been there long enough. To minimize stress on the bird, we withdrew to the horses and mounted up. The hardest thing about leaving was giving up the opportunity to walk right up to the biological treasure-trove scattered at the foot of the tree. Better than roadkill. I had visions of monkey skulls, toucan beaks, snake skins, the remains of who-knows-what jettisoned from the nest. Had I looked, Eurides reckoned, I would have found the woven pouch-nests of Yellow-rumped Caciques, larger cousins of the Oriole. The Harpies had apparently acquired a taste for these common birds, and would sail through their breeding colonies indiscriminately snatching the hanging nests in mid-flight. Back home, the eagles would rip open the packages and eat whatever hapless birds had been trapped inside. “Harpy fast food,” Paulo quipped.

As we rode out, a herd of zebu cattle slowly plodded past us in the late morning heat. The cattle were more proof that this pair of Harpy Eagles was extraordinary. They had resisted pressures that would have forced most birds of prey to abandon a territory. Obviously, they were not bothered by cows chewing their cud in the shade of their nest tree, and they were used to humans, at least those on horseback. Every morning, at exactly 7:00 a.m., they put up with the horn blast announcing the start of the work day at the quarry. Against all odds, they had learned to co-exist, adapting to a fragmented and disturbed habitat. Our admiration for their resilience grew as Eurides told us that a few years ago a hired hand shot and killed one of the birds for its trophy talons. He was rebuked, and moved on. But the lone adult Harpy was tough enough to stay and, miraculously, it found another mate to keep the nest going. These birds were true pioneers and survivors.

As the eagle flies, it was only two miles from the nest to our air-conditioned rooms and ice-cold bottles of ‘Antarctica’ beer. Everything had unfolded so perfectly. Almost too effortlessly, I thought, riding back in a swirl of unanswerable questions. An unattainable bird had been delivered to us as a gift. Was it luck, or fate, or the simple willingness to travel that put us in the right place at the right time? So often, despite the energies we devote to quests, we fail to find our long-sought birds. Yet there are times, like this unexpected day in backcountry Brazil, when nature brings us to a state of grace.

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William Keener is a writer and environmental lawyer living in Marin County,California. His chapbook, “Three Crows Yelling,” authored in collaboration with poets Bill Noble and Michael Day, won the 1999 National Looking Glass Award sponsored by Pudding House Press. He can be reached by e-mail at crowpoets@aol.com.

I end the story just as dinner is served. The moon is nearly full; Venus is in Scorpio right near Antares. The night is pleasant. Hot showers cold beer and amusing company. We are having fun now.

Saturday Oct 15.
An optional very early morning “game” drive. At 530 we leave, drive out to the main road, turn left, drive a couple of miles and turn right into some ag land. They are growing some kind of small corn here used for animal feed. The state of Mato Grosso is an economic powerhouse fueled in main by the agricultural output. Of course at the expense of the wild things. The smell of pesticides permeates the air. Noam says this is why he is a vegetarian- there is a tremendous waste of resources to produce one pound of beef. We are heading toward the headwaters of the Paraguay River which is born in the mountains 40 miles ahead of us and flows through the Pantanal and eventually turns into the Rio de la Plata at Buenos Aires.
In spite of the Ag lands there are many burrowing owls to be seen. Campo flickers. Many rheas as well. As we drove along we note quite a contrast between a plowed developed field and the one with all the white termite mounds stretching to the distance. Our first of this family – rufous winged tinamou. Hugh flocks of Pico Azul pigeons. American kestrel from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego- appropriate name. Beautiful white woodpecker against the red soil termite mound. We stop at a little wet spot with the Murata palms trees that the red bellied macaws like to eat. Spotted sandpiper with its reflection in the cow pond. Anthony calls all the zebu over to him. IT rained a bit this AM. Black billed toucan. Everything seems far away this morning. We turn around at 710 and find a pair red-legged sieremas (= to Africa’s Secretary bird). One poses nicely. Great hair doo.

We stop at the intersection heading into the lodge to have our slowly leaking flat tire repaired. Our lodge name CURUPIRA comes from the name of a forest spirit that guards the welfare of the animals. Not doing it very well, says Doug, thinking of the destruction of the Brazilian landscape. Many butterflies flitting around. It is warm now. We start walking back and see Red shouldered and blue and yellow macaws.
Back for a late breakfast and we are off at 930 heading back up the road which goes all the way up the valley to the next Farm (owned by the former Gov of MG). There are only two farms here. The first one is owned by our lodge. We have two very fine stops for hundreds of butterflies getting salts form the middle of the road. There are at least ten different kinds. Paulo seems only interested if it has feathers. So we see the gray monjita for his sake. A drab bird – the little gray nun who eats flies. Yummy..

Back at the trailhead some of us do the hike through the forest again. We are amply rewarded. Anthony spots the harpy eagle close to us in very good light. Clarence puts his scope on it and we have an excellent view. WOW again. More great butterflies, simply nice to hike through the symphony of forest Mato Grosso sounds.

Back for lunch, which the rest of you are kind enough to wait for us. The food seems particularly good today. The cabbage is really tasty. We decide to take the afternoon off so Paulo heads home to see his little boy and lovely wife. Noam is in charge. We read, swim; catch up on our journals, nap. Tonight the time changes, we spring forward.
A few of us head off to witness the night sounds again before dinner. There is a tree below us in the pasture full of cattle egrets. Two new birds for the list- common stilt and roseate spoonbill. Just before dinner Noam tells us his family history. Born in Israel in 1966 moved to Sao Paulo 9 yrs later. Studied architecture for two years then droped out. Hung out at the beach and them moved to the chappada to be close to nature Been here ever since. We get at lesson in the national drink of Brazil- CAIPIRINHA. Lime, sugar and sugar cane brandy. Now we know what that special utensil was to squish the lime properly.

Sunday October 16.
We get a late breakfast at 8. Oh boy, it is really seven body time. AT 7 Noam takes most of us on a little walk down to the fish farms and dam. Amazon and ringed kingfisher. Southern screamer seen well and spotted by Sylvia- her first major ID! Our first white faced tree ducks. No roseate spoonbill but thre are Brazilian teals. After breakfast we try for the Ferruginous pygmy owl. We fool all the birds with the I pod except the one we want.. A hermit hummingbird is working the Heliconia. Off on time. What a great group. Laundry was very pricey here. Back on the same road to the same store. Clarence passes his beautiful Pantanal book around. Wow that guy got some good photos. We stop at the same store as before and see Marluca with Mateus, 10 months old and very cute. Paulo is happy for his conjugal visit. Do you think he conjugated?
We go through prosperous Cuiba and see the motels that charge by the hour. Mirrors on the ceiling, hidden car parking, dumb waiter to get your food and drinks, no windows. Gee what goes on in there? We now know why you don’t take the family to the Alibi Motel. There is a huge dish that NASA uses to send information about the Amazon and illegal logging so the IBAMA (the Brazilian parks association) can take action. Driving northeast up up through the Cerrado into the tablelands. Fantastic sandstone formations along the cliff face. Many of you are sleeping through this gorgeous landscape.

Finally around 1245 we arrive at the PENHASCO HOTEL (Cliff Hotel), that is, guess what? right on the edge of the cliff. Phones, TVs, civilization. We drop down past it to our restaurant for lunch. VERY nice view and a BUFFET- surprise surprise. But Lil says this place has nothing on Evelyn at previous hotel. We have little overview of the Cerrado biome and then take a nice walk down the boardwalk along the riparian forest in the shade. A blue headed motmot is seen by just a few, sorry Lynn. He kept pecking at my laser dot on the branch. We get to the edge of the red sandstone cliffs. Below is the basin that Cuiba and the Pantanal is in. We are 2400`, more or less. Gee it doesn’t feel that much cooler here. A pair of red and green macaws fly by. The bus has come down the hill to meet us so we don’t have to walk back to it. Thank god say many of us. The bus is getting a big reluctant to start. As long as it does at 330 AM tomorrow. We decide to go straight to Bridal Veil Waterfall (highest in the region: 210 ft) in the National Park of Chapada dos Guimaraes which borders on the Amazon Basin. It took us about 20 minutes passing by the second homes of the rich Cuiabanos that come up her for the coolness. Doesn’t feel very cool today however, as Paulo suggests we use our umbrellas to escape from the sun. Down the hill to the crowded park. It is Sunday and I am happy that so many people are using their National Park. Great photos of the falls from the far right side. The Swallow tanager is a big hit and violaceous euphonia, white-eyed and blue hooded parrots, chopi blackbird. The Visitor Center has some nice maps for an overview. Photos taken of the Macaw phone booth. Off at 4 and the bus has the same starting problem. HMMMM I continue to wonder.

The vegetation is very diverse here in the Cerrado- Passionflower, Cassia, Eucalypt relatives, Kapok, palms. One the way back we take a quick tour of the village of 20 k or so with a church built in by Black and Indian slaves. Then to the church de Santana built in 1779 by slaves. Remember slavery was legal for quite a while in Brazil until 1888. In the Voyage of the Beagle Darwin was particularly disturbed by the cruelty of Brazilian slave holders. That experience made Darwin a passionate advocate for emancipation of the slaves. The city of Chapada dos Guimaraes (named for a city in Portugal that is supposed to be the heart of that Country) was founded on the sugar cane industry in 1751. We drop Noam off at the town center right by our pizza restaurant. We shall return for a lot of melted cheese later. To our hotel again this time for check in. Paulo ticks off all the amenities – sauna, gift shop, internet, two swimming pools – that we do not have time to use. In our rooms for a couple of hours. Hoary Foxes are supposed to be around on the grounds.

Some of you get a great water massage at the pool. Nancy tries the internet. It is, of course, down. Several of you see the resident foxes. We meet at 630 and head to town. The full moon over the church and I think Lynn gets a good photo. Some shopping is done; no bargaining and they do not take dollars but will take charge cards for a bill that is less than $5. This drives Trudy batty. Too late to see the macaws in town. We eat at the Fiesta Pizza place. Portuguese Pizza is full of ham. We also get the 4 cheese pizza and they make a couple of special tomato and argula pizzas- yummy. We all have enough cheese to last us for a week. Some bottles of your purchased wine are opened and beer is consumed. We thank Noam Salzstein at noamcerrado@hotmail.com for all his efforts and give him his well deserved tip. What a gentle soul he is. Wish the world were full of more like him.

We decide to send Marques back to Cuiba to get another bus. Would hate for that one to fail tomorrow morning. There is a little fox by our rooms. Anthony (who else) waits for the whole family to show up. Mated pair and four offspring. To bed as early as we can.

Monday, October 17.
That wake up call comes at 3 AM. We are loaded and off in a half hour. Try to fall back asleep. To the airport by 435. Good time made. We say goodbye to Marques, give him his tip. Airport stuff is painless. We must move our watches forward one hour because we are heading back east. Nothing hot to eat on the plane just little snacky treats for breakfast- twice. To Brasilia we go and change planes. We meet a native Indian who lives near the Pantanal. Paulo is interested in maybe setting something up with his tribe in the future – that would good for my next trip.

Off to Rio we go on our Airbus 320. Paulo manages to move us to the head of the line. Thanks buddy. It is because we are so old. After we get our bags and meet Saka our 2nd generation Japanese Brazilian driver; some of us change money.
We leave the airport in a very comfortable AC bus we go just a little while and stop at a large shopping mall for lunch. Weird place to be but the food is actually good at the Pelican Grill. Most shops are closed because there is a state holiday called Commerce Day. Go figure. Heavy duty security. There is much violent crime in Brazil along the coastal areas.

We basically are heading north west from Rio on some very high speed quality roads. Paulo continues his story of this birth. High points. Father born in 1898. WW I fighter, wounded three times, never got over it. Very very very very poor. Mother had very very very very cruel father. Would not pay her way to the US and was going to leave her in Italy to fend for herself at age 12. Made kids work in the coffee fields. Paulo’s mom married widower Mark (52 yrs) at age 30. Four kids. One sister English teacher. Both brothers are pilots. Most successful family.
Stop at bus/truck stop for toilet and some ice cream. We pass a Finnish community. They were invited by the government in the 1940’s to start a fruit industry but it didn’t work. Itatiaia is a local Indian term that means pointed or very sharp stone referring to the rugged high mts in the area. Rarely there can be snow on the peaks. We turn right just before we get to a town with the same name and we enter the national Park. The first one established in Brazil in 1937. Up up we go passing a military establishment. In the park we stop for an overview and can see our hotel up on the slope. Pretty hot today but won’t be for long. Next stop is at Norma’s. She is gone but the humming bird feeders are working. We get our first tantalizing looks at the number and varieties of these magnificent new world only birds. The best one is the frilled coquette- the littlest one with a totally different flight pattern.
Check in to our hotel. We are essentially the only guests. No AC but the views are fantastic. We watch more birds at the feeder. Green headed tanager. Banaquit, red rumped cacique nests, WOW.
A very very very good dinner and then Doug gives us all a very excellent Econ 101 lecture stimulated by Susan’s curiosity. It was really fascinating and I am not kidding,

Tuesday, October 18.
Dusky legged guans walking around the grounds. Safe here from hunters. Dusky titis (a small monkey) two family groups calling in the distance. The hummingbirds and tanagers are a good thing to wake up to. Hummers: Brazilian emerald, White throated Hummer, Black Jacobin, violet capped wood nymph, scale-throated hermit, and versicolored emerald. Tanagers- Blue Dachis, green-headed, golden chevroned, Sayca, Magpie, ruby-crowned, chestnut headed….whoa. We start at 8 in front of Harold’s house and watch all these guys. Harold’s dad started the place in the 30’s really built it up in the 60’s. Ital. National Park is the oldest in Brazil since 37and is 75 sq. miles. 80% Brazilians and 20 % foreigners visit the park. We cross the street to the Orchidaria run by Norma, Harold’s sister. She sells some of us the new picture book on the Birds of Sao Paulo. Great flowers and there are three pet Red footed Tortoises in there. We walk up the hill pass the Impatiens or shameless Marys. Many epiphytic plants, giant tree ferns, Araucarias (so- called pines, monkey-puzzle), bamboo, salvias. I define endemic and species for you. Up past; the empty swimming pool and we meet Roberto who just bought the place. He has some work to do. Past the vegetable garden, birding the whole time. Rufous collared sparrows galore. Long tailed flycatcher. Hill is covered with the Hearts of Palm palm trees. This is indicative of undisturbed habitat because they are often cut down and poached.

It is the most pleasant temperature we have had on any of our hikes. Overcast and a bit cool. Rain seems to be coming. Diana’s bird book goes south down her backside heading toward her feet. Circle back by the hotel and then down the same road we came up. We stop at Christian the Australian and Brazilian wife – Tatiana’ artist’s house. We admire their art but don’t have the money to buy any. They don’t take Visa. Gilt edged tanagers, green headed tanagers, and Maroon bellied parakeets are very cooperative. Down the hill we go. Anthony finds an absolutely incredible cicada for me. Looks like the green headed tanager colors.
Blue and white swallows and two species of swifts flying around. Southern house wren singing and the rufous bellied thrush, Kiskadee calling. Several kinds of wood creepers. We scope out the beautiful peaks in the distance where the park gets it name.
Back for lunch and siesta. The desserts are very very good here says the getting fatter one. Lil “Now what was that pretty bird we saw, you know the one, the green one at the hummingbird feeder” OH yea that one.

AT 2 we meet for our update on the bird list. We are getting quite a list.

At 4 Leonardo, the artist, joins us as we gather back by Norma’s house to watch the flower kissers, a cooperative Morpho eating a banana. Scaly throated hermit with the very long tail seen. More green headed tanagers- I could never get tired of looking at that bird. Leo picks us some mulberries called mora in Brazilian. Our giant bus with Saka is following us everywhere. The rain seems close. To Vivart where the owner Dioclesio Jose (www.atelievivart.com) sells us some t shirts and tapestries. We try a new fruit – the Jaboticaba – a member of the Myrtacaeae Family aka Eucalyptus family. Good with white fleshy fruit
We hop in the bus and head downhill and take a sharp right and then back up the mountain. Sylvia spots a trogon female by the bus and then we see the male at the entrance to nesting cavity. There is native bamboo here. The larger one is an exotic from Asia. We stop at the end of the road – steep stream flowing across the granitite boulders- looks a bit like the Sierra. Anthony goes up the closed trail to a nice waterfall while the rest of us walk down the road. He finds a dipper. Climbing bamboo, bromeliads, ferns, ground pines, impatiens, and another trogon. Getting dark. Some of us hike back to the lodge along a nice trail – three saffron toucanets seen. There is a trail off to our left and in about 7 K and 3 hours it gets to Tres Picos – three peaks – . which are in the clouds right now. South 22.26 West 44.36 and 3500′ accdg to the GPS
Another nice dinner with trout and they do know how to cook potatoes. The pineapples so sweet and the lime pie is superb. Roberto has only owned this place for 18 days accdg to Leo. Mary Ann feels the very very very strong need to let Roberto know about the bat that was flying around in the restaurant earlier. I give you a little chat on the carbon cycle – the geological and the biological. We are really upsetting the stasis of the planet. BUMMER, George BUSH.

Wednesday, October 19.
Woke to rain a lot of it, started at 2 AM or so. Peaceful to sleep by. Guess no one will be hiking to tres picos today. We make our own lunch and we are off promptly at 630 – what a timely group. All except Lill who stays back today. The rain is coming down like cats and dogs or open pocket knives as they say in Brazil. Back down the hill out of the park; we check out a marsh for some birds but nada. There are many large trucks going very slowly in heavy traffic on the freeway and we go west for awhile past the town of Itatiaia. I pass around the National Geographic article on the Atlantic Rain Forest. We turn right on Brazil 354 and wind up into the Serra da Mantiqueira. Toilet stop at the pass (1669 meters) and the border between the state of Rio and the Minas Gerais. Then we turn right on a rough, narrow but paved road. There is still heavy rain as we go higher and higher.

This beat up road is the highest in Brazil that eventually deadends in the Black Needle section. WE don’t get that far. Glad we don’t meet another bus on the narrow road. When we stop the rain has stopped too and it is bit brighter. At 7300′ we begin to walk at 9. OK Paulo lied about the driving time. A female blue billed black tyrant, the males are quite a bit larger. Bay breasted warbling finch, variable ant shrike. Diademed tanager is seen but we will see it much better later. There is bamboo, Cecropia (looking like silver snow from a distance), Melastomas, and Croton with bright red leaves, native fuchsias, many bromeliads and a jeep with tourists including two birders from the US. Leo is carrying my scope. I could get used to that.

We stop at a grassy meadow adjacent to an Araucaria Forest. The Araucaria tit-Spine tail is seen, another endemic. We are in a cloud zone. It has many elements of the Andes. Ericas (heather) blooming brilliant red flowers, dodder the twining parasitic plant, mistletoe, Baccharis trimera is the medicinal plant, geranium, liverworts, ferns. I find a small tarantula under a log. The girls ahead see a greater black eagle they manage to identify er make that a cara cara. Close though. White browed warbler, brassy breasted tanager. Tree frogs are tinking. We turn right and do a loop back to the bus on a dirt trail. Nice — the forest is dripping and very thick. There can be over 400 sp of tress in a hectare (2.47 acres). It seems like that many trees right here. So many bromeliads in red flower. Berberis in yellow flower, sedges, wild strawberry, raspberry, grasses, lichens galore.
Everything feels native here. Except for those pesky cows. The National PARK is having the introduced Australian pines logged and removed.

Latin Name: Baccharis trimera, B. genistelloides, B. triptera
Brazilian Name: Carqueja
English Name:
Family: Asteraceae
Description: A perennial green herb that grows almost straight up to a height of 1.5 feet tall with creamy yellowish orange capitulate, compact flowers at the top of the plant. The bright green, flat, leafy stalks are split into three planes, each more or less of a uniform width, running down the whole stem. Many stems grow out of one base, each branch of stem being 0.5-1.5 cm wide, generally leafless. Grows in small thickets increasing in size every year. Rhizomes are short and cylindrical. Roots are fibrous.
Habitat: Found on forest edge and swampy areas throughout the Atlantic and Amazon rainforests in Brazil, Peru, and Colombia as well as tropical parts of Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. It is believed to be native to Minas Gerais.
Parts Used: Aerial parts
Key Constituents: Flavonoids – rutin (known for modulating inflammation), quercetin, saponin mixture – echinocystic acid as the major aglycone.
apigenin, camferol, carquejol, clerodane derivatives, diterpenoids, essential oils, glycosides, hispidium, hispidulin, luteolin, neptin, resins, saponins, squalene.
Therapeutic Action: Anti-inflammatory, analgesic (due to inhibition of prostoglandin biosynthesis), anthelmintic and vermifuge, antihepatotoxic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antipyretic, anti-ulcerogenic, antiviral, aperient, anti-rheumatic, depurative, digestive, diuretic, febrifuge, gastrotonic, hepatic, hepatoprotective, hepatotonic, hypoglycemic, laxative, refrigerant, stomachic, tonic, vermifuge (due to diterpenoid action), cosmetic-hair rinse, antacid and anti ulcer properties, due to ability to reduce gastric secretions and gastro intestinal hyperactivity. Hypoglycaemic action lowers blood sugar levels and so is of use in diabetes.
Indications: Intestinal worms, diarrhoea, gastroenteritis, dyspepsia, constipation, fever, anaemia following blood loss, intestinal weakness, gout, flatulence and bloating, diabetes (hypoglycaemic), general debility, gall stones, liver ailments, leprosy, mouth infection, ulcers, cough (see below for recipe) hair thinning.
Contra Indications: Should be used with caution during pregnancy. Long-term use entails a risk of allergenicity. (Cf: Professor Gilbert, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz.)
Preparation and dosage: Simple infusion of 2 cups of dried Carqueja in 1 litre of water. Dosage: one cup 3 times daily on empty stomach.
Harvesting Information: The aerial parts are collected in August. The action is strongest before flowering, at the beginning of the wet season.
Ethnobotanical Information: Used locally as a shampoo and hair rinse, decocted with Jaborandi. (Pilocarpus jaborandi). Other traditional local uses include infusing 2 Carqueja stems with 2 sprigs of mint, administered as a vermifuge, once every 3 months (Cf: Joel, Iracambi). Also used for indigestion and toxic related headaches. A local cough remedy uses 10g carqueja 10g fedegoso 4 orange leaves salt. (Cf: Carminha, Graminha.) A local recipe for equine worms uses 3 stems of carqueja, 3 leaves of café de mato, 3 parts of the bark of Cura madre and 1.5 litre of water. This is boiled in a tightly covered pan for 15 minutes and left to steep for a further 15 minutes. This should be administered on an empty stomach. The horse should be tied up for 2 hours before and 1 hour after treatment.
Propagation details: Can be grown from seed or from cuttings. Cuttings should be taken in the hottest months of the year and planted out at intervals of 0.5 m in rows of 1m spacing and intercropped with other species. Areas of bare earth between the rows produce a poorer and more contaminated harvest.
Additional Information: Carqueja’s uses in herbal medicine were first recorded in Brazil in 1931 by Pio Corrêa who wrote about an infusion of Carqueja being used for sterility in women and impotency in men. Corrêa described Carqueja with the therapeutic properties of tonic, bitter, febrifuge and stomachic with cited uses for dyspepsia, gastroenteritis, liver diseases and diarrhoea. The plant is used extensively as a slimming tea.

Back to the bus. Some are ready to eat and rest but some want to keep walking down the road. So we do. Podocarpus. Without Paulo I can only guess at the birds. But what a fine time…no rain! This is not how I thought the day was going to go earlier this morning. After a while the bus catches up with us and we all walk together. Finger of God rock – which finger? The clouds below look like a Japanese print. All of get back on the bus after superb looks at the diamede tanager through the scope. White spotted woodpecker, and of course the ubiquitous rufous collared sparrow. The rain begins again as we go down down down back to the civilized (or at least paved) world. Stop at the same toilet and then go over on the other side of the road to check out the Sao Gotardo Hotel. Nothing in the pond and not much of a view today. Oh well, the fog is thick.

Back to Tatiana town for another large jug of water and to drop Paulo at the dentist for minor dental work. Cost him 20 reals – ten bucks. When was the last time you had dental work for ten dollars??? The hotel is in the clouds but after all it is a rainforest. Peaceful and quiet time. Trudy blows a fuse drying her hair but she looks nice.
WE meet at 6 for our final Field check list. Brassy breasted tanager – a one in a million possibility.
Weather in Rio is not looking too promising; we have Nancy to blame for that. She does not have good luck in the Rio weather department. However we are going to break that jinx tomorrow.

We pay our bills and tomorrow the big city. We were going to hike up the trail to Tres Picos but now with all the rain, the trail would be very slippery.

Thursday, October 20.
This hotel has an obscenely luscious shower. Velvet blue black tyrant with white wing flashes catching bugs out side the dining room window. Cliff flycatchers too. Once again we demonstrate our timeliness as a group. I really appreciate it. We are off at 800, as scheduled. We stop at the little museum at the VC. The Harpy eagle is the best. Sword of St. George we know as mother in laws tongue are planted to keep evil spirits out of houses. There is little traffic as we head east back to Rio. One EMERGENCY pee break for Michael and we see the jack fruit. The Durian and the Jackfruit, while looking similar, are from different plant families. However breadfruit and jackfruit are related. About the smell of the Durian –
Richard Sterling (as quoted in “The Travelling Curmudgoen”) says; “..its odor is best described as pig-sh*t, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away. Despite its great local popularity, the raw fruit is forbidden from some establishments such as hotels, subways and airports, including public transportation in South East Asia.”

The jackfruit (Artocarpus heteropyllus) originated in India at the foot of the Western Ghats, and is now very popular throughout South East Asia. Elsewhere in humid tropical areas it is a common garden tree. The fruit is unusual as it is borne on the main branches and the trunks, occasionally even from surface roots of the tree. Twigs would not be strong enough; jackfruit is 350-900mm in length and 250-500mm in diameter. It is the largest edible tree-grown fruit.
Jackfruit fondness grows with familiarity. The smell of a fully ripe fruit in an enclosed space may at first be unpleasant to some although the experience cannot be compared to the durian. The fruit is covered with numerous hard points, is pale green in colour and changes to a yellowish-brown during ripening. Fruit is mature for harvest when the single small leaf above the stem withers and the first colour change occurs. Ripening continues post-harvest and with experience is ascertained by tapping the fruit. When ripe, fruit softens a little and will “give” when pushed. Ripe fruit exudes a musty, sweet aroma for a day or two before fruit is ideal for most purposes.
The breadfruit (A. altilis) and breadnut are part of South Pacific legends. They evolved in Indonesia’s Sunda Archipelago and became the staple diet for islanders throughout the tropical Pacific islands. They are one species. The breadfruit originated by chance as a seedless breadnut, and is perpetuated from root-cuttings. The breadfruit is up to 200mm in diameter and almost spherical. It can weigh up to 4kg. These fruit differ both externally and internally
Ipe the yellow flowered tree in the Bignonaceae family is the national tree of Brazil. We visit our favorite large shopping mall in Rio for lunch again. Thanks for your patience. On into Rio – oil soaked rivers look like they could catch on fire. We pass the international airport and see magnificent frigate birds again. Chicken sold in glass rotisseries are called dog TV’s because the canines just stare and watch the chickens going around and around. We stop at the Maracana Station to pick up Edison, our local guide. We pass on visiting the soccer stadium, largest in the world which once held 220K in 1969. Now is limited to 150k for safety reasons. I ask for a little talk on the music of Brazil. Samba is the West Africa Yoruba word for dance. Bossa nova is the rhythm for the Girl for Ipanema. Foho is dance from North eastern Brazil. A British company started offering a dance hall experience and they put a sing up which said FOR ALL. It got corrupted through time to foho. That is where the name for this particular form of music which did not have a name. A piranha is slang for prostitute. The girls used to hang out in the current location of the city hall area. Hmmmm.
We stop at the grandstands and private boxes for the number #1 floats to compete during Carnival. 800 meters long starts. The party starts at 9 PM ends at 6 AM. We visit the little shop were nearby and a few folks buy some goodies.

We see the Central Station from the movie of the same name. Ipanema= dangerous waters. Rio named on the first of January because they thought it was the mouth of a large river. Whoops. Citizen of Rio = cariocas (sounds like karaoke). French Antarctica. Downtown is the oldest part of the city. President Vargas was prez for 15 years and there is a big street named for him. Pass the crowded pedestrian streets called the Sahara after the original merchants of Arab and Jewish descent who are being replaced by the Chinese. 180 million 80% are Catholic. We visit San Sebastian Cathedral which they removed a hill to build. Inside it is very impressive, from the outside it looked like a bad idea of a first year architect student. 98 meters high and 102 across. Designed by a priest whose idea was that to feel like you were inside the cross. The cross at the top goes into the four stained glass windows. The French were defeated by the Portuguese here when they called on St. Sebastian to help them. He was the guy killed by all the arrows shot by the Romans. Known as the pincushion saint. 6 million people in Rio, 9 million in greater Rio. No one actually lives downtown it gets deserted at night. Past the OPERA house, the national library has the 8th largest collection of books in the world.

Heading west with the Atlantic to our left (kelp gulls, brown boobies, Neotropical cormorants, rock doves) through tunnels. . . So it looks to be clear on Sugarloaf (396 meters) so off we go to catch the tram. There are two separate trams actually. Tufted ear marmoset is a possible monkey. At the very top with great views and Christ the Redeemer hiding in the clouds. Copacabana (means Blue Water in Aymara language). The name is taken from the village of Copacabana on Lake Titicaca. A priest from there came to this region and built a church in the honor of his home and the name became associated with this place.

To the Hotel Praia Ipanema, one of the high rises right on the beach. There are 7 people per sq meter!! One of the densest concentrations in the world. Sidewalk stone work based on The Portuguese style – black, red and white stones symbolizing the racial contributions of Brazilians. Appropriately there are not too many red stones. Edison sings the Girl from Ipanema. He is in a band but plays bass.
“The Girl from Ipanema” (“Garota de Ipanema”) is considered the best-known bossa nova song ever written, and was a worldwide hit in the mid-1960s. It was written in 1962, with music by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Portuguese lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes; English lyrics were later written by Norman Gimbel.
It is often claimed to be the second-most recorded popular song in history, topped only by The Beatles’ “Yesterday”. The best-known version is that performed by Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto, from the 1963 album Getz/Gilberto. The first commercial recording was in 1962, by Pery Ribeiro.
The song was inspired by Heloísa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto (or, simply, Helô Pinheiro), an 18-year-old girl who lived on Montenegro street in the fashionable Ipanema district of Rio de Janeiro. Every day, she would stroll past the popular “Veloso” bar-cafe on the way to the beach, attracting the attention of regulars Jobim and Moraes.
The song was originally composed for a musical comedy entitled Dirigível (Blimp), which was a work in progress of Vinícius de Moraes. The original title was “Menina que Passa” (“The Girl Who Passes By”), and the famous first verse was completely different.
In Revelação: a verdadeira Garota de Ipanema (Revealed: The Real Girl from Ipanema) Moraes wrote that she was:
“o paradigma do bruto carioca; a moça dourada, misto de flor e sereia, cheia de luz e de graça mas cuja a visão é também triste, pois carrega consigo, a caminho do mar, o sentimento da que passa, da beleza que não é só nossa — é um dom da vida em seu lindo e melancólico fluir e refluir constante.”
which roughly translates to:
‘”the exemplar of the rude Carioca: a golden-tanned girl, a mixture of flower and mermaid, full of brightness and grace, but with a touch of sadness, in that she carries with her, on her route to the sea, the feeling of that which passes by, of the beauty that is not ours alone — it is a gift of life in its constant, beautiful and sad ebb and flow.”
Today, “Montenegro Street” is called “Vinícius de Moraes Street”, and the “Veloso Bar” is named “A Garota de Ipanema”. There is also a Garota de Ipanema Park in the nearby Arpoador neighborhood.
The islands we can see just off Ipanema are a home to breeding seabirds. We check into our hotel and a few – Doug, Trudy and Lynn actually go “in” the cool Atlantic Ocean. It is cloudy but not raining so we have broken the Nancy spell. Dinner at 7 at the Hotel. Fun fun time had by all. Karen asks Anthony about his interest in lemurs. She wonders why he is so enamored at little rats that jump off cliffs. Whoops that is lemmings, her amusing mistake.

After dessert we head up the 16th floor for our closing circle and to drink the Amurula so kindly bought for us by Doug and Lil. Nice view and perfect temperature.
So it is time to share our memories, highlights etc. of our brief time together. Here are some of our thoughts and comments.

Sylvia being comfortable enough to take her wig off – we are family now. Soundscapes, Howler monkey sounding like a Verdi Opera. Black collared hawks. Louis Vicente’s fezanda and generously opening his home. People of Brazil are so kind and generous. Birds are awesome. Everyday so much learning. Music of the night = sounds of the universe. Great group, no complaining. Hummingbirds. Exhausting to watch. Paulo is a great leader. Harpy harpy eagle. Hoary foxes. Watching mammals. Had a great time. Paulo has great patience. Gorgeous birds. Motmot, trogons. Amazing birding place. Watching humming birds. Caciques and their nesting activities close to Humans. Both boat trips were great – seeing giant otters and birds diving after fish. The Tapir was a highlight (spotted leopard). We are on the right side of the grass. Big swimming pool at Serra de Arrass. Lunch spot at the hammocks.

We had a wonderful trip and now to retire to our delightful rooms.

Friday, October 21.
Lynn gets up early and goes swimming. She estimates about 72 or so. Invigorating. I find a nice vegetable market nearby. On Friday it is located at Visconde de Piraja and Maria Quiteria. Next to the Everest Hotel is a great handcraft store. Indian almonds are the common tree gracing the street. Ripe mangoes for breakfast. At nine we are ready to ‘rock and roll’ as Paulo says. Edison has been replaced by his friend Hannibal, cannibal or animal- your choice. He says he is the best tour guide in Rio and the most modest one as well. He is quite a talker and his English is pretty good. He is a carioca, born and raised and still lives in a favela that we will pass on our way to lunch.

There seems to be no hard and fast reason as to why they are called favelas, but possible origins include:
1. Named after the flowers which blanket the steep slopes
2. Military encampment called Favela, named for a local cactus, that was razed in the war of 1897 between the rebels and soldiers of the new Brazilian republic. The survivors were made homeless and moved south to add to the great immigration to the cities. Favela lent its name to the shantytowns which sprang up around the great cities of Brazil (10 of which are millionaire cities (which doesn’t mean, as some of my students thought, that every person living there is a millionaire)
3. Named after a honeycomb, because they are a warren of small dwellings all linked together which grows organically over a period of time. The Brazilian name for honeycomb is very similar to favela.

Heading back past Copacabana. Already the beach scene is happening. Can see the sand sculptures that are created. 2 reals to photograph them. Economics are bad. There is now a new class of people= the miserable class. Many people migrate from the Northeast area of Brazil where it is dry and not much economic activity to Rio and Sao Paulo Although according to Hannibal the spirit of Rio is hard to keep suppressed. The people are full of joy. Just need the beach, a beer and a pretty girl to watch. Hannibal’s father migrated into the favela from the northeast. He raised 3 kids, all of whom still live in the house he built. Hannibal was trained as a lawyer but claims he was too honest for that work. He has a wife and three yr old little girl.
Through the Botofoco area we go. Nudity is illegal in Brazil but during carnival the rules are different. The governor of Rio State is a woman- little rose. We arrive at the Tram Station for Corcovado. It is VERY crowded because it is an absolutely glorious blue clear day. Perfect for Christ the Redeemer. It is 10 but we only could get tickets for the 11 AM tram. So plan B is go up the hill on the bus through the Tijuca Forest- the largest urban forest in the world.
Jack fruit trees feed the Capuchin monkeys, marmosets, three toed sloths. 500 sp of birds. Jack Fruit also means a fat person in Rio. The Train was built in 1820 but fortunately has been updated sine then. Most recently 4 yrs ago.

Brazil’s flag is a deep green banner with a yellow diamond enclosing a night-blue, star-studded Southern Hemisphere sky. The color green stands for the lush fields and forests of Brazil. The color yellow represents its wealth in gold. The sky depicts 27 white, five-pointed stars (one for each state and the Federal District); the stars are arranged in the pattern of the night sky over Rio de Janeiro on November 15, 1889 (this is the date when the last Emperor of Brazil, Dom Pedro II, was deposed, and the republic was proclaimed). The stars in view include the constellations Southern Cross (also called Crux), Scorpius, Canis Major and others. A banner across the sky reads, “ORDEM E PROGRESSO,” which means “order and progress” .

We can see Christ the Redeemer. It was built from 1926 to 1931 and is covered with soapstone. The French built the hands and head. He is looking over Rio from the top of Corcovado (hunchbacked) Hill. All these peaks of Rio are granitic domes like in our Sierra.
We drive up to the next train station and take a walk along the road while waiting for our 1115 train to pick us up. Morpho and great large white butterflies. One squirrel cuckoo spotted by Karen, a first for her. The rest of us however have seen it before. Exploding Impatient pods. Dancing to the SAMBA band. Hop on our tram and the right side has a very dramatic view looking right down on the lagoon and Ipanema Beach. We finally get to the top and have about 40 minutes. It is crowded. One group, the Chans discover, are some Chinese from Inner Mongolia- go figure.

Wait in a long line for the tram heading down. Get to our faithful bus and driver – SAKA. Then down down down through a bunch of tunnels past Hannibal’s favela through more tunnels into the Barra (pronounced Baja) section. Upper Middle Class for sure. To our restaurant – the BIG Bull. Loud loud loud full of the local crowd having a grand time. Our last Churracharia. This is, if you recall, the first kind of restaurant we ate in in the Pantanal. The Circle is complete.

After lunch we say goodbye to the Iguaçu Girls and we head back to our hotel. Some of us enjoy our free time and others join Hannibal roaming the town and listening to him yak. At 430 we say goodbye to Susan who is staying RIO for a few days and then heading off to Bahia . We say farewell to Sylvia at the airport who is heading off to see her sister in Brasila. The group is now tiny. We have a smooth check in and then a late flight to Sao Paulo, make our connection in heavy heavy rain and lightening and then sit on the ground waiting for the air traffic above to improve so we can fly to Miami.

And we all have a very long travel day that goes into

Saturday, October 22.
When those six of us that are left, fly on different flights to SFO and HOME SWEET HOME.

Peru and Bolivia

Peru and Bolivia Trip with Michael Ellis

June 26 to July 7, 2001

Tuesday, June 26.

Here we go, earthquake or not. Mina from NYC decides to cancel so we are now 11. Alex, Loralee, Linda, John, Elin, Grace, Liko, Jean and me fly to Dallas. I meet David Moore from Adventure Associates and we rendezvous with our KC friends- Kala and Donna. Off to Lima where we are met just outside customs and whisked to our hotel – San Antonio in The fashionable district of Miraflores. Whew to bed after long day of travel.

Wednesday, June 27.

Our first breakfast. Lima is overcast with high fog and smoggy. Manual and Luis show up and introduce us to Betty- The one with 3 kids. First thing she tells us are the two most important phrases in Peru are – mañana and mas o menos. We begin our city tour with a drive through the fashionable residential district of Miraflores. It began as a beach resort for wealthy Limians or lemmings or lemons or whatever they are called. Great view of the Pacific and the beaches. 43 districts in Lima with 43 mayors! 8 million inhabitants (40% who live in shantytowns). 24 million in the country. Lima founded in a desert. La Paz Street is full of antique and jewelry stores. Betty gives the whole soap opera run down of Fujimora, Alan Garcia, Alexandra Toleda (indigenous, shoeshine boy, Stanford, Harvard, World Bank) and the “CIA- like buddy of Fujïmora – Montecino. He just returned to the country with the help of the FBI from Venezuela! WOW who could invent that story? First stop is Casa de Aliaga, a most impressive colonial mansion occupied by the same family since 1535. Oldest private home in the Western Hemisphere, built on an Incan temple site by a good buddy of Pizarro. 15 generations here and they drive a Volvo. The wood of the house is from Central America. Lima the most important city in SA for 300 yrs. Viceroy of Peru run by Spanish until revolution of 1824. We see examples of the Lima School of painting (more Europe and done by the Creoles) contrasted with the Cusco School (similar to the Quito School) uses gold. Sons of gentry in Spain – 1st inherited property, 2nd joined the military, 3rd became a priest. We cross through The Plaza de Armas (new name Major Plaza) to the National or Lima Cathedral built on the site of the Inca Sun temple in 1535 by Pizarro. A quake in 1746 destroyed the ceiling, which was rebuilt using bamboo. In 1974 the last big quake exposed the real remains of Pizarro. A sanctuary built in 1925 was celebrating the wrong mummy. Great carved chairs. Church = power= death= slavery=gold. 160 men and 130 horses defeated 8 million Incas.

Next we walk to the San Francisco Monastery past the train station with no trains. Police, military tanks and water cannons abound, setting the tone for things to come in Bolivia. School children are here on field trips. Down to 30 Franciscan monks from 300, where did the other 270 go?, that is the question. Built in 1546 great paintings cover up even greater frescoes (from the Italian literally means fresh- to paint directly into plaster) In 1947 The catacombs were ‘discovered”, though The monks knew about them. Maybe 50 K common people buried here, and down we go into the depths. Weird bones stacked by anthropologists. Be here now, ashes to ashes, we all end up dead eventually. Elin’s therapist philo. for the last couple of years has been to just show up and you are where you need to be. Up out of the darkness and stuffiness to light and good air and back to the bus. Next we head north to the Larco Herrerra Museum we quickly travel through 3,000 years of the history of Peruvian cultures.

Totally cool and especially overwhelming is the warehouse full of ceramics we stroll through. Grace and others are falling asleep standing up. And finally a very quick unguided tour through the world famous erotic pottery collection, with hundreds of ceramic pieces on display. The uptight text was the best- the “solitary vice” was a hit for Donna. In the ceramic pieces no one looks like they are having too much fun. It is 2 already and we haven’t eaten so off for lunch at Brujas de Caciche. Loralee and Alex defy me and have a Pisco Sour. The food is (yummy!)

And next the remarkable Gold Museum of Peru, a private collection belonging to Mr. Miguel Mujica Gallo- a very old rich man who has collected all his life. The most visited museum in Lima. The exhibit has gold pieces of the Pre-Inca cultures, especially Mocha, Chimu and Nazca. On the 30 ‘ drive back to the hotel I give you a brief overview of the trip and then we decide to forego a big Welcome Dinner and meet at 7 on the second floor for introductions and a quick, lighter dinner. Too bed early, a big day tomorrow!!

Thursday, June 28.

After breakfast Luis and Manuel come to take us for our flight to Cusco. Whoops Donna lost her ticket, nearly karma for being 10′ late while fiddling with the internet for our gathering last night. And she didn’t make a copy of her ticket – bad girl – but at least she gets on the flight albeit $120 later. 55′ to Cusco smooth and easy on a 737. Transfer to Posada del Inca. We move slowly to adjust to the altitude (11,000′ !) and drink some coca tea. Elin rapidly recovers and goes on the first of many shopping sprees. After lunch we begin our tour with Maria Nunez and Wilbur, our driver. Cradled in a high Andean Valley, Cusco (pop 300K) seems to surge up from the earth. Houses made of orange-hued adobe bricks with pottery shingles (bulls on the roofs) match the deep red clay tones of the soil; Cusco means bellybutton and was the center of the Inca Empire. Up we go to a hill overlooking The City, to the monumental Sacsayhuaman (literally means satisfied falcon but we all remember as sexywoman) fortress. Called fortress by the Spanish, it was actually a temple- The Plaza of Happiness. The conquerors tried to destroy it and sent many rocks tumbling down below into Cusco used to build the church we will see later. Incas are here by 12th century, no one knows from whence they came. 800 BC Chavin Civ, then Nazca, then Mochi. Oldest man found is 20K old. 1100 AD Cusco founded. Polylepis trees are here, members of the rose family and they grow at a higher altitude than any other tree in the Andes. Budlejas are also growing here. Broom eukes, lupines, and pampas grass. gee it looks familiar. Linda feels the altitude but adjusts quickly for the rest of trip. Cusco shaped like Puma, the sacred animal of the Incas. Alpacas and one llama arrive. They shear them to get the wool; OK they don’t kill the babies for your nice sweaters. Vicuna wool now being sold, very expensive. I looked at a scarf for $1800!
3 is a special number. We live on 2nd level when we die our soul goes to 3rd and our body goes to 1st. Repeat the cycle. Pachya= world or dimensions. At peak, greater Cusco had 200k. The royalty had the best spots and the people living in the surrounding area supported them.

Next stop Blanco Cristo- given to the people of Cusco by Christian Palestinians who lived here from 1925 to 45 and then left (Whoops they thought they had a Homeland). Someone needs to pee so we stop at a shop that Maria knows and the shopping begins anew. Whew altitude certainly doesn’t slow this group down. At Q’enko we see the phallus site buried by the embarrassed Spanish and just uncovered in 1935. Down into the temple of the Earth where the preparation of mummies took place. Big gold reflecting circle, long gone plundered by guess who? and melted down and shipped over the Atlantic. We leave and wind down the narrow, cobblestone streets to the cathedral of Cusco. One main Church and two chapels on each side. It’s being restored right now. On the right is The Church of Christ and Mary with School of Cusco painting, then main cathedral with major restoration work being done. Highlight was the large painting of The Last Supper with guinea pig as the main course and chicha (corn likker, as we say back home). Carved furniture with pregnant Indian women showing the Church and the future what those fine Spaniards were doing with the local women. Finally the Church of Triumph with the Black Christ- Patron Saint of Cusco. Supposed to be a native but looked more Moorish. Major e-quakes about every 300 yrs, in 1650 this place was hit hard.

Off we go for a brief look at Temple of the Virgins, now a nunnery and restaurant/bar. Then to the most important building in Cusco- the Temple of the SUN. The Dominican Church was built on this site. Until 1950 no one knew that the original Incan walls were hidden under the plasterwork of the Spaniards. Great architecture. What engineering. 6000 k of gold was removed from here by the conquerors, they reported that it was even better than their fantasy. Gold = The sweat of the sun, Silver = The tears of the moon. This place was also an astronomical observatory. Three tenants of Incan rule- don’t lie, don’t steal and don’t be lazy. And, yep just as Betty our Lima guide said, we passed right by the Sacrifice Room with Maria not mentioning anything about it. And they didn’t have slaves either! We stare through several windows by standing on a rock (all except John who doesn’t need to). Whoa another long day back at the Hotel at 5:45 or so.
Dinner on your own, many go to the Piatitti for the Andean music and good food and an exposed Incan wall. Lotsa activities on the streets, the rainbow Inca flags everywhere because tomorrow is a holiday.

Friday, June 29.

Today is the Festival of St Peter and Paul. School is out and some things are closed. We are off at 8 after some very successful shopping. There is a blip upward in the Peruvian GNP. I am looking for Condors, The Incan Messenger of the Gods, from upper world to lower. The Puma was at our level (2nd) and the snake at the lower- associated with wisdom. Incas had 25,000 kilometers of roads but no wheel. We stop briefly and stay in the bus, looking at one of the 4 gates that controlled access to the City. You had to remove your sandals and walk in barefoot. It is called Puca Pucara means red fortress. Next stop is the Temple to Water, for ceremonial bathing. The water just springs to the surface, faces east. Birds- Andean Lapwing, white browed chat, Giant thrush, Peruvian sierra finch, mystery hawk (puna hawk?), rufous collared sparrow, Andean swift. We continue on the same winding curvy road toward Pisac and The Sacred Valley of the Incas this valley of Urubamba (9170’) was where the wealthiest Incan families had their country estates. Terraced fields cling to the mountain slopes as Wilbur does a fine job on the road. We stop for a quick look at the Quinoa plant. Quechua words we now use in the English language – cocoa, condor, gaucho, guanaco, guano, Inca, jerky, llama, maté (tea made from cocoa leaves), pampa, puma, quinine, totora, vicuna. See http://www.krysstal.com/borrow.html.

Cruising along the Urubamba River we stop at Colonial Pisac for a pee and market stop. Large flame tree (not Ceiba!) in the middle of the market is festooned with Spanish Moss which isn’t Spanish and isn’t moss. Bakeries are id-ed by baskets hanging in front. We drive up to the Pisac Astronomical Observatory and go for a long walk, more or less downhill hill. Haunting flute music flows through the valley, timeless. Many butterflies out- painted ladies, sulfurs, bluets and others. Mormon tea (Ephreda), many members of the composite flower group. I give a brief talk on Lichens and solstice celebrations. Across the hillside were many buried Incas who appeared to have died at the same time, maybe from small pox. Tombs looted nothing but bones. Great look at 2 American Kestrels- one snags a lizard. Sundial with Phallus destroyed by those uptight Conquerors. Pisac means Tinamou and the overall shape is that of the bird’s head. There is a parade and marching band in the village below. We see the National Flower of Peru, Cantuta or Cantua buxifolia – A bush of 13 feet high. Its red or yellow flower is the National Flower of Peru. It grows between 7,540 and 12,460 feet a.s.l. It is not commonly found in the countryside but can be appreciated as an ornament in city squares and gardens. This flower was dedicated to the Sun God. The Incas used the pattern of this flower on their pottery, textiles and ceremonial vases.
Back to The bus at 12:50. Good hike, puff puff. Heading toward lunch, 1 hour away. We go down through the small village that was having the parade, colorful costumes and whirling dancers.

In 1968 a military coup leaning left, broke up the large haciendas and redistributed the land among the peasants, it was partial success. Casa Orihuela beat the military to the punch and did it early therefore they got to keep their hacienda and we have a delicsio lunch there. YUMMY and what a garden. Chez panisse of The Sacred Valley. In defiance of my warning – pisco sours abound and no illness. 40 minutes away is the village and the ‘fortress’ of Ollantaytambo. We pass right by our Posada del Inca in Yucay. The bags hanging at the end of long poles indicate that chichi is for sale. We parallel the unused RR track, which parallels the River, and down the magnificent deep, deep valley we go. The weather is perfect. The sky blue. We are now 2,600 feet lower than Cusco and well on the way on Macchu Picchu. But first this unfinished temple in the most remote and difficult corner of the Incan Empire. We just missed the reenactment of a 16th century European- inspired play. Much chichi is being drunk on the street. And there are more steps for us to climb. We see the granaries perched high on the opposite hill. The Spanish conquered this area last. It was easy for the Incas to defend but eventually they ran out of food and had to retreat to Villacumba. They used a different road, hiding the road to Machu Picchu, so the Spanish never found that ruin. In 1572 the last Inca was killed in Cusco. The officials of Incan royalty were married into the Royal families of the Spanish. At the height of the Empire here were 16 million people, at the end there were 6 million. This is one of my favorite ruins. Maybe because it is unfinished and you can see how it was constructed. Maybe because of the difficulty of getting the granite rocks from the quarry on the opposite side of the River up this large hill. Maybe it just because the Incas were so very sophisticated. The idea of crop research, not putting houses on the rich Ag land, ensuring all citizens have enough food, charting complicated astronomical events, They were remarkable. Sunset is glorious and we all buy little bags for 1 sol from the persevering little boy, Andres, who followed us the entire time. Donna loses her Travelers Checks here but she assures me this is not normal behavior for her.

We backtrack to Yucay to another Posada del Inca. We can get used to this comfort.
Another great dinner, poor little alpaca eaten by some, but she doesn’t feel the least guilty. After dinner we view a few sky objects- the bright Mars, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Alpha Centauri (Proxima Centuri, one of the three stars in this star system, is closest to us at 4 light yr.), Vega, Altair, Arcturus but the half moon and Hostel lights make it hard to see more.

Saturday, June 30.

After breakfast we finally have our gold and Andes origin talk in the dining area. You need coffee to take all this info in. Then it is off to the train station at Ollantaytambo station for train (about 1 hour 10′) trip down to Machu Picchu (varies from 6500′ at the river to 9000′ at the Gate of the Sun). Train built by Brits beginning in 1915, finished in 1930. Our one car tourist “train” left promptly at 930 arrived 1040. Great vistas and plenty of room on the train to move around. Had food/beverage service!! Veronica Mountain on left side rising to 17k ‘, called Weeping Mountain by Incas. Torrent ducks, white capped dippers, tropical kingbirds, oropendulas, pale eyed thrushes, blue and white swallows. The vegetation gets lusher and lusher as we approach the upper Amazon basin. Flame trees (Erthyina sp.) are blooming. More bromeliads in the trails. We see the Inca trail and ruins on the opposite side of the sacred river. Just before arriving at the Aguas Caliente station we pass the hydroelectric project. We arrive and begin to peel off our clothing. Hop on the bus and journey, up up up up the winding road climbing high above the dramatic jungle covered granite spires. WOW what scenery. Oh and a peregrine falcon with a bird in its talons.

To our delightful hotel for check and rest. They try to put Alex and me into a matrimonial but we will have none of it and kick poor Linda and John out of their nice room. Another Jimmy Buffet lunch and we meet Maria for a full afternoon of exploring. We are off at 1. Wow is it crowded! What are all these other people doing here? I prepare you with the following reading –

“To visit MP you must prepare your soul and sharpen your senses. Forget for some minutes, the small and transcendental problems of our lives, of tormented modern man; and with its vision and its example, come back to our world to shape it, freeing the human being, that is the future of the people and of human fulfillment.
Fascinating, kaleidoscopic, gigantic chaos, apocalyptic, impossible place, chilling, drunk with transcendental vertigo, with cosmic ecstasy, raised upon the mountain as though to capture the essence of the Cosmos.”
By Napoleon Polo Leon (Maria’s teacher)

Hiram Bigham from Yale University “discovered” The “lost city of the Incas” but a nine yr. old boy led him there so of course most of the Indian residents knew about the site and it wasn’t lost just overgrown. He thought it was pre-Inca. Wrong, he was wrong alot. MP was a flourishing ceremonial, astronomical and religious site built by the 9th Inca ruler. His name meant “he who transforms the earth” and under his guidance the Empire flourished. 1450 AD MP was built it was especially important for growing coca, which was only used by the privileged Incan royal family and priests. Spiny whorltail lizard doing pushups. MP means Old Mt, Huayna Picchu means young mt, back to that duality thing. Probably the gateway to the jungle outposts of the Empire. We look to the east and see The Gate of the Sun, the main entrance to MP. At the summer solstice the sun rises right there and shines in The temple of the Sun. At its peak 800 people lived there, though Alex’s book says less than half that. Due to civil war and the ravages of diseases from the Spaniards, the City was abandoned. The virgins of the Sun were brought here from Cusco with only a few male guards. When Bigham excavated he found 160 skeletons and 90% were female. He didn’t find any gold, where did it go? The big fire in 99 that burned all around but not on the site, is hard to even see now. It grew back quickly.

At the temple of the Sun we see how the sun at the Winter solstice shines directly into the lower area- representing mother Earth. That male and female essence mingling again. Great one holer bathroom in the Royal House. Blue and white swallows flying around. Veronica the big Mt is visible. A corner of the Sundial was damaged by the making of a beer commercial – Cusqueno. I will protest by not drinking of it when I get to Santa Rosa. There is the rock monument of the Southern Cruz. When the one in the sky is aligned with this one it is time to harvest. That is in May. You say that it is better than my drawing- ha. We have fun talking to the windows in the temple of Resonance. What more steps?? We keep climbing and it keeps getting better, The vistas and the crowds are thinning. Can see the Valley of the Turbines, The sacred generation of electric power. 2 yrs ago a major avalanche wiped out the train tracks below the turbines so that is now the end of the line for the train. The llamas finally get out of the guardhouse, we take our postcard photographs and then we have some free time until dinner at 730

Sunday, July 1.

Rise and shine or sleep in. Alex, Kala, Linda, John and me (escorted partway by Donna) leave at 630 for Huanapicchua. Possum tracks. Into the gate at 650, first on the register. up up up we go. Steep but worth it. Many flowers. Alex and I arrive in 50′, John shortly after and Kala and Linda are the sweeps. We have 10 minutes of blessed silence before the next wave of trekkers arrives. On the way down we stop and visit another ruin near the top for some more quiet time. Bromeliads clinging to the cliffs. We go slowly back down looking a flowers and birds. Violet ear hummer.
Meanwhile Elin is quietly meditating by the temple of the Sun. And the female expedition led by Maria including Loralee, Grace, Jean, Liko are ascending the Inca Trail to the Gate of the Sun. They actually get higher than we do!!! They see an Andean guan among other delights. Poor Maria has to hightail down for lunch so we have our meal tickets.

Afternoon – some rest, some write, some hike. There is some weather coming in, the peaks are covered with clouds. It is cooler, not so many people as yesterday. Many go to the Inca drawbridge, more jungly over There. The fire caused a family of spectacled bears (mom, dad and cub) to move into the area. They now live at little HP, Maria has seen them! A very rare event because they are so shy.
At 6 PM we all gather for our foray into the ruin at night. We pay our $5 but alas there is no guard to pay and the gate is open. Oh well, so in we go. Scatter into the site and make plans to reconvene at 730. Alas the guard tells us that we haven’t paid enough money and he wants to kick us out. It takes a while to find all of us so we manage to get in just about the same amount of time as planned. Maria feels bad but we don’t. It was beautiful.

Monday, July 2.

Some are up early; others [me] sleep in. Last looks at this amazing place. Donna says it is the most beautiful place she has ever been. Hard to argue with that! At 10 we board the bus, down we go with a yg boy following us down. He expects to get paid, but the teachers among us want to know why he’s not in school. Into town, half go shopping, half walk down the tracks [our highlight is a russetbacked oropendla, theirs are placemats]. We meet at 1130 for our stroll through the gardens of The El Pueblo hotel. That is where I stayed before and would be a good 2nd choice. Great hummers at feeders and a male Andean cock-of-the-rock lands right above our head for a perfect look by all, even the onithologically-challenged. Blessed are those who wait.
We lunch at the hotel and listen to nice live Andean music. Then free time until 145 for more shopping. We meet at train station for our 1 1/2-hr. ride to Ollantaytambo. But where are John, Linda and Grace??? Waiting at the other train station!! But they arrive in the nick of time. Off we go at 205 and get to Ollantaytambo, where Wilbur is waiting by 335 we are heading to Cusco. Giving a few others a ride. We turn right (south) at the city of Urubamba going back a different way. Red volcanic tuff lining our curving path. We stop for a photo op of Chacon at 16K’ mountain. Veronica at 18k is in the clouds. Through the highlands we go. Over a 13k’ pass. Red red dirt. Wheat has been harvested, burros are threshing, and beans are drying in the sun. Best tater-growing place in the area. Most of the work is still done by hand or bull. Timeless scenes of people working, or calmly sitting in the fields watching The livestock, timeless, circle, goes on forever. Then through Chinchera, an ancient Inca village and pass the lake that supplied and still supplies the water for Cusco. Down down down we go through the “young towns”, which actually look pretty good for squatters to me. Back to our same hotel. We say goodbye to Maria or at least some of us do, others she leads on a jewelry shopping frenzy. Including me. Maria Antoineta Nunez, POB 1041, Cusco, Peru. 51 84223886. amt@terra.com.pe. We like Maria.

Tuesday, July 3.

At 830 we leave with Wilbur and Edgar to the Airport. We do the wait-in-the-bus-and-not-pee EST thing. Edgar handles the confusion for us. 10 bucks to get out. The nearly full 727 take 50′ to get to LaPaz. We arrive and make it though customs. And there is Marcel waiting for us with an Adventure Associates sign which no one recognizes but I. It takes a while to get the van loaded (what’s this plastic for?). Finally with our military escort to protect us from the striking farmers we leave in convoy 2 vans and 1 bus on plan B. Fortunately while we see the evidence, the soldiers have secured the road and cleared it of debris. Normally my sympathies are with the lower classes but in this case I am glad the military is with us. Gregory is our driver. 13300 highest pass. We pass through El Alto, a suburb by the airport with 800 K people. ugly ugly ugly. Mt. Illimani, 22285 dominant peak over LaPaz. Quinoa, taters, corn, barley, alfalfa, favas grown here. 35-40 people per sq. mile. one million Bolivians live in Argentina. 8 Million in Country. 70% INDIG, 25% MESTIZO, 5% EUROPEAN. Mt Caracara, Andean lapwing, Andean flicker. Aymara= 2 million, Ques = 2 million, Huan less 1/2 million. Total distance we will travel is 125 miles today. We pass by the village of Laja off to the left which was the first LaPaz but they moved it three days- too cold and windy. We pass through a military camp right here and pay a toll. Some black ibises “distract” me and birds are wont to do to birdwatchers. Ahem. Lago Titicaca = Puerto Rico. We are on the Pan American hiway,. Average ht is 21200 of the Royal Range to the east, The other range is west in Peru and we are in the middle great valley. In 1953 there was a major land reform, that sort of worked.

Get to Guaque, once a major port, as we pass the 9th cent ruin Tiawanku off to the right. We will return on Thursday and visit it (Ha! no we won’t) The ‘port’ obviously has seen better times. They exported tin from here but the market collapsed in the early 80’s. Also soya now taken by trucks. Bolivia 6th exporter in the world now of soybeans. #1 export is Nat gas. Rusting hulks, steam locomotives, cranes. Through locked gates in abandoned buildings- would make a good Hollywood set for a future world collapsed – we go, still escorted by the truck full of soldiers and guns. The type A’s carefully have organized the extra food, which we give to the soldiers. Onto the Hydrofoil with the Travelcoa group and a few others.

LT is 120 X 50 miles= to Puerto Rico. 891′ deep. Pleistocene lake 1 million yrs. 2X normal salinity of fresh water. NW 65% in Peru, SE 35% in Bolivia. Largest lake in SA, 12th in world. 60 temp in summer, 38 in winter. 46-50 Ave, never freezes. 2 ‘lakes’, big and small. Big = 891′, Ave. 353-400, little 125′, 20-30 ave. Lake rises 5′ in summer. Arch sites under lake. Source of water- 5% snowmelt, 45% rain, the rest is springs or streams. 5% flows to SW to another lake which is saltier, no outlet for this one.
Giant frog dwells on bottom, breathes through gills, 20″ long!. Introduced fish- rainbow, salmon trout, kingfish [pejerrey] by Peru and US. 3 native SP- small catfish, 2 small others. Have to farm trout because kingfish eat the young.

Surprisingly there is no wind in the PM, LT is flat calm. Giant and white fronted coots, Andean gulls, ruddy ducks, Puna teal, grebe sp. [large one]. The nearly full moon rising at 5 PM over the glaciers in the Royal Range and the Lake goes into sky with no boundary. At 515 we arrive at Huatajata. Our hotel Inca Utama is right on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Quite a complex w/ few tourists. Good for us, bad for Bolivia. After quick check-in, we meet for a tour of their local museums. First one is a Walkman tour of the pre-Incan [Tiwanacu], Inca to Colonial and modern times. Ekeko is the God of Abundance with all the ‘stuff’ to make you happy. Next – a 15′ slide show about coca healers, shamans AKA the Kallawaya [word means that they carry medicine on their back]. And then a visit into the museum dedicated to them. The men collect many botanical plants as they wander through all of Bolivia’s different ecosystems. Hard to find them at home except during Festivals. Traveling medicine men.
Pachamama = time-nature. Titicaca= ocelot poop. SHOWMANS vs. SHAMENS. Which do we get tonight? We exit through the tin mine with the excited devil alter. The final visit is with Tata Lorenzo, a mystic healer. I ask him if I will be a father again. And Grace asks if she will get married. We aren’t sure what he really said because it was interpreted by Marcel. But I will be a father again and Grace will get married. So there you have it. It could have been the Astrology Hot Line.
Ok, so dinner is next. There are a few headaches and a couple of oxygen hits helps. After dinner, it ain’t over. To the astron observatory for a slide show of Andean and Greek constellations. Then the roof slides back. Wow! way cool. In fact some of you are quite cold. Through the telescope we see the binary stars of Alpha Centaurus [eyes of the llama], Mars [nothing to see] and most cool – the moon. Back to our cozy, warm rooms. Some of us are disturbed by barking dogs.

Wednesday, July 4.

Happy Birthday USA! Another perfect day. Linda is out taking photos in the golden light. We visit the brothers who helped Thor Hey. build Ra II and we see their handiwork and buy some examples. We are promptly off at 830 as scheduled. Through the Strait of Tiquina, the narrowest pt in the lake, 1/2 mile across. We stop opposite St. Peter Village where the Bolivian Navy (with 20 Admirals) has a HQ. We blow our sirens, they lower the flag to half-mast and back up and then we proceed. Guess everyone needs a job in the “Navy”. Now we are entering the big part of the Lake and it looks like the ocean. Little Lake is called Lago Winaymarka. Marcel is droning on and one with only our group interested. We pass the Isla de la Luna. and after about 45′ total we arrive at Sun Island, birthplace of the Incas or so we were told. We all get off for about a half-hour and learn a bit about the pre-Incan/Incan edge. Which this “palace” represents. We get Marcelo and Augusto the other guide arguing, boring and very unprofessional (where’s Maria?) Off the Island at 1040 and then to Copacabana (means viewpoint of Lake?). It is very quiet due to the blockade. Normally there is alot of tourist and commerce moving from Peru to Bolivia passing through but it has been very quiet for about 2 weeks now. There are daily car blessings in front of the church. The priest comes out with Holy Water and blesses the engine, the owner, his friends and relatives. Beautiful Moorish influence on this structure. We go to the popcorn market for some sugar pops and to buy yet some more goodies. Very inexpensive here. Grace looks good in her new red sweater.

Back to Isla del Sol for our soft trek with Llamas. Your overnight bag stays on the boat and we just go with our daypack with llamas. Also oxygen if you like. It’s high. Off we go slowly slowly. There are burros too, just for Grace to ride but she declines. Cute baby llama with cute little boy. It looks like the Meditterean Sea except for those pesky large mountains in the distance. Group photo by power lines with Juan and friends. Andean flicker, Sierra finch, Andean gulls, rc sparrow, White winged dove, giant hummingbird, hornitos, flower piercer. Check in to the Posada del Inca, nice place- an old hacienda. Then a late lunch. Rest for a couple of hours then 5 of us go with Marcel to the very top of the Island for the sunset and moonrise (very close to full). At 13,150′ we watch the sun set at 618. Moon rises over Isla de la Luna. Twilight goes quickly at this latitude. A little girl has lost a lamb and is very upset. Dinner in the cold room and we go to Plan B again tomorrow. Waiting for our military escort at 2 PM. 40 degrees Fahrenheit at 8 PM. and no wind.

Thursday, July 5.

Sleep in. Breakfast at 8, a Continental one and we walk down the boat at 9. Bar winged cincloides, flower piercer. As we travel 10′ to Isla de La Luna we get blessed with water from Lake Titicaca dripping from the National Flower of Bolivia, the Cantuta, and we repeat the Aymara words for Don’t lie, Don’t cheat and Don’t be Lazy. We take the moving sidewalk on a rail to get to the dock and immediately have more opportunities to buy stuff from the few ladies who live on this island. Up the hill we go to the site of a very ancient ruin of the Tiawankun. The foundation was built in 370 AD and later added to by the Incas. In the 1930’s it became a Bolivia concentration camp for political prisoners known as Devil Island. They destroyed the Incan walls to build a prison. In 1971 in a soccer game ploy, 89 prisoners managed to escape to Cuba. The Tiawankun Empire peaked in 900 AD, expanded and then for reasons unknown collapsed in the 1300’s, like many other civilizations throughout the world…. Abrupt climate change?? More buying, I even get some placemats at $1 a piece that Elin paid $1.20 for, so I feel good about beating the ace shopper. Off at 1040 and we get our shoe-fly drink. No ice in it, so I have one, pretty good. Our plan is to go to Isla Kala Huta. and have lunch and then meet our military escort at 2 PM. There is a bit more trouble on the road we came in on. We heard a gunshot last night from the lighthouse at the top of the Island. Disturbing.
16% of Bolivia is the altiplano, and 65% is the Amazon, Tropical Lowlands, and Chaco (hot dry). 84 ecosystems. Poorest of the poor are in the Southwest where the economy was mining, now gone and they can only grow quinoa and a few taters. Mostly self sufficient in and around Lake Titicaca. 9 states in Bolivia.

We arrive at Isla Kala Huta via a small boat because it is so shallow. Through the reeds we go Puna teals, white fronted coots, gallinule, puna ibis, white tufted grebe, Andean swallows, Ruddy (Andean) Duck. The site had 280 houses and a bunch of mortuary towers where they buried their mummified dead. Lived here 1300-1400 AD.1300 people lived here. Great birding- American Kestrel, Red-backed hawk, Andean lapwing, eared dove, harrier ?, Black siskins. Great lunch laid out on a blanket- old-dried taters (called chuna remember not to order them), good chicken, cheese, and fava beans Alex is squirting all over. John is continuing to eat his quota of eggs for the next 2 years. Back on boat by 230 and then a 20′ boat ride to Puerto Perez and climb on another small boat to go to shore. The wind is actually finally beginning to blow a bit. A dreary depressed town as we wait for our military escort to arrive. We go back a more direct route, one hour and 15 minutes to LaPaz.

The bus arrives with tourists heading out and the escort arrives as well. Transfer of goodies, luggage and people goes well. Alex takes my photograph up on the truck holding 2 rifles surrounded by army guys. We left at 334, drive through another poor community, Batallas. Many mountain cara-caras scavenging around the towns. Puna ibises. Soldiers are all along the road. We see many people stepping on the potatoes. Just before we enter El Alto we see many men riding bicycles toward us. The farmers often ride them, they are going to some sort of gathering. We witness a disturbing site of a soldier in our escort tossing an empty coke bottle and hitting a man on a bike. A convoy of about 6 tanks comes toward us as well. Something bad is going on in Bolivia and I am glad we are not part of it.

We join the Pan American Hiway and then begin our descent into LaPaz. One stop for an overview there are clouds on Illliman so we won’t see the full moon of July rise over it. Dropping 1500′ down to 11800′ in the City. We get to our Gran Paris hotel right on the Main Plaza (don’t ask for The Plaza de Armas). Fine old lady of a hotel. Everyone scatters for dinner on his or her own.

Friday, July 6.

Hey nice hotel and we have it to ourselves. It rained last night. City tour begins at 9. We are churched-out and ruined. We drive to the Miraflores section where there is the “outdoor” museum with a 28′ monolith taken from Tiawanka. Pigeons are pooping on it, no respect for the past. Built of sandstone, 500-900 AD. Winding down to the southern part of the City where the rich folks live (warmer and easier to breathe). Poor average $60/ month, high govt. get $8000/month. Democracy (sort of) since 1982. Town of Santa Cruz has 1 million, leading the country in exporting Natural gas. Has pop of 1 million people. A tour through the rich area, similar to Miraflowers in Lima. Then to the Mts. of the Moon for nice flute music and a brief walk through the badlands. A highly eroded old lakebed??? Part of it was illegally sold by one of the mayors and many houses were built. Bummer. Pecano or Pecana is a citizen of La Paz. We then move back up hill to The Radisson for a pee stop. Thank you Marcel. Then a sweep up through the market area. Past the witches market with the llama fetuses, past all the vegetables, past all the things for sale that everyone needs to survive on small little roads with a big bus. Green tents sell coca leaves. They sell by the pound not kilos. We are released into the market for more buying frenzy. Back to the Hotel and then lunch on our own and many walked back and spent the afternoon in the market trying to improve the Bolivian Economy. The challenge is trying to get all this stuff in our bags! We meet at the Hotel in a private room for dinner and wine at 730. What a timely group. We all share what the highlights of the trip with each other. It was a great trip with a fine bunch of folks. Now to bed.

Saturday, July 7.

Wake up call at 4 AM!! But don’t whine the guys who made our breakfast had to get up earlier. Off at 5 to a long line at the American Airlines. Our plane is late and Donna and Kala already miss their plane in Miami and we haven’t left. The men in the group get patted down but we finally make it through. Plane flies to Santa Cruz for one hour and then we continue to Miami. Many kids on the plane. Movie is Thirteen Days; Kevin Costner wasn’t so bad. The KC ladies make their connection and all the SFO’s get home safely. Until we meet again.. adios amoebas.

Tanzania – the Serengeti

Dearest Reader:

During the “big” trips I keep a diary for the entire group – what we did, what we saw, the jokes, the things that went wrong, the things that went right. I refuse to pretend that everything always goes smoothly on all of my trips, but we always learn and we always have a good time. Skim through this synopsis – blemishes and all – it isn’t sanitized but I think it will give you a flavor of my trips and the wonderful people who go on them.

Michael Ellis

ADVENTURES WITH MICHAEL IN TANZANIA

February 9 to 26, 2009

Featuring special guests Kumbi, Mustafa and Phanuel
Supporting cast – thousands of hairy and feathered beings

Sunday, February 8
I am in Amsterdam

Monday, February 9
The rest of you leave SFO and overnight 10 hour flight.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Arrive and fun in Amsterdam. Kind of cold, wet and miserable here. We are 52 degrees north..

Wednesday, February 11
We begin convening at Gate 43. We have a mini-orientation at 9 and we are off on time (more or less) for out 8 hr flight. There is 2 hr time difference in Tanzania and it is a world apart. We fly over the Alps, backbone of Italy, the Sahara, and the Sudd and arrive at JRO at 820 PM. Finally get through immigration with our bags (well actually Anne has someone else’s bag!). 86 = 30 Celsius. Kumbi, Phanuel and Mustafa waiting for us. Into our three land rovers (lrs) that will be our homes for the next two weeks. Head west toward Arusha town and turn right off the main road for the Arusha National Park. They now take Visa at the park entrance. We see several giraffes and a nighthawk on the way in. The gibbous waning moon lights up Meru and a bit of the snow on Kili. Upon arrival we get to our rooms then back out for a little snack and then some star gazing. Power off at midnight. Welcome to East Africa!

Thursday, February 12
Water being heated with wood for our morning showers. Up early to the new sounds and smells of Tanzania. Red winged starlings are our wake up call. Giraffes are waiting as promised. Mt. Meru is clear and Kilimanjaro is there; still with snow.. Baglaflect Weaver (subspecies Reichnows), red winged starling, speckled dove, palm swifts. We are at 1500 m, and Mt. Meru is higher than Mt Whitney. Mount Meru is an extinct volcano about 68 km (42 mi) west of Kilimanjaro. After Kilimanjaro, it is the second highest mountain in Tanzania at 4,565 m (14,900 ft).
Coffee is ready at 630 sort of! Breakfast at 700 er 730. We have a brief orientation and we are off. Fiscal shrikes. Stopping of course for the Twigas – the national animal of Tanzania. At the park we pick up our park ranger – Freddy – armed for our hike. I give the rangers warm wool hats I brought from knitted by the Happy Hookers – a church group. We see the entire side of Meru has been blown out, 8K years ago. I tell you about lahars. There was one Lahar that went north from Shasta.
Lahar is an Indonesian term that describes a hot or cold mixture of water and rock fragments flowing down the slopes of a volcano and (or) river valleys. When moving, a lahar looks like a mass of wet concrete that carries rock debris ranging in size from clay to boulders more than 10 m in diameter. Lahars vary in size and speed. Small lahars less than a few meters wide and several centimeters deep may flow a few meters per second. Large lahars hundreds of meters wide and tens of meters deep can flow several tens of meters per second–much too fast for people to outrun.

As a lahar rushes downstream from a volcano, its size, speed, and the amount of water and rock debris it carries constantly change. The beginning surge of water and rock debris often erodes rocks and vegetation from the side of a volcano and along the river valley it enters. This initial flow can also incorporate water from melting snow and ice (if present) and the river it overruns. By eroding rock debris and incorporating additional water, lahars can easily grow to more than 10 times their initial size. But as a lahar moves farther away from a volcano, it will eventually begin to lose its heavy load of sediment and decrease in size.

We are blessed it is not too hot. Today is a day of many firsts – Cape buffaloes, they are always in a bad mood, warthogs – naked swine of the savannas, giraffes, water bucks, baboons, augur buzzard (looks a red tailed hawk), plain martins, Sodom’s apple, jasmine bush, strangler fig, fever trees (AKA yellow barked acacia), variable sunbirds Male and Female. Sunbirds are the ecological equivalents of hummingbirds in Africa but they can’t fly backwards. We see the middens of dik diks and their scent markings as well. White fronted bee eaters and a wondrous look at a saddle billed stork. Banded mongoose and spotted hyena tracks. Tropical boubous dueting. Cisticola singing from the top of a tree.

Enjoy this walk; there will not be many of them. To the waterfall. Bracken fern, fig tree, roots and stems flat up against the rocks. Very cool and refreshing. More baboons and warthogs as we work our way back. At 1130 we say a big Asante Sana to our guide.

We head toward Mikindu Pt overlooking Ngurdtoto Crater and hope to see monkeys on the way and boy do we succeed. Bush buck male and female, a black kite carrying a snake. Very fine looks at the Black and White Colobus monkeys who fill the same ecological niche as the Howlers of the New World– eating nothing but leaves and move slowly, the cow-monkey. Skunks in the trees. Colobus means maimed because they have an underdeveloped thumb.

Most apes and monkeys eat a range of plant-based foods, but a few specialize in eating leaves. South American howler monkeys and African Colobus monkeys eat the leaves of many different trees, but the proboscis monkey on the island of Borneo is more selective, surviving largely on the leaves of mangroves. These leaf-eating monkeys have modified digestive systems, similar to cows, which enable them to break down food that few other monkeys can digest.

Blue monkeys are seen just as well. Long long non-prehensile tail. Both are unimale troops. Cicadas singing, many butterflies flitting through the forest. We see our first big dik diks (please do not call them little dik diks)… and then to the Crater er make that caldera for our lunch. Got it all to ourselves. A pair of crowned cranes below with the buffaloes and more baboons. An elusive look at Hartlaubs Turaco. African hawk eagle flies by. Off at 130 and we retrace our road and more blue monkeys on the ground feeding. Tres bien! As we head circle Momela Lakes we see fireball lilies (in Maasai called Laetoli), red duiker, bush bucks, common waterbucks, zebras, more warthogs, Egyptian geese, red billed and Cape teals, papyrus, little grebe, house martins down from Europe, black winged stilts, gray heron, more cape buffaloes, Bagleflect weavers. And we see our first hippo out there in the water. Giant euphorbias called candelabra trees. Charles is happy he likes succulents. We are all feeling kind of sleepy but happy and excited. On the way home we have more great and close giraffe looks and then back to lodge by 430 for recoup shower etc. Both big mountains have been in an out of clouds all day. Jetlag is hitting. The first dinner together, hasn’t this trip been going for a while??

What can possibly top this day??? Well let us see Hillary fell into a cesspool, Sally and Ina tried to get in the wrong room and their key broke, Anne left her bag at the airport and took someone elses, there are bees in Charles bathroom, Momela tried to put 4 ladies and in a room with 2 beds. AHHH, well ….

We are bushed by the bush. Then actual hot showers for all of us! The movie Hatari (Kiswahili for ‘danger’) was filmed here. John Wayne is on the dining wall. Tomorrow the kids at the school, Arusha, Tarangire, elephants and baobabs.

Friday, February 13.
Woke up to another gorgeous day, good for going to a lower elevation at Tarangire. Kilimanjaro is visible again. The eggs were ordered in advance actually worked. Sunrise is 635. BFast 700!

We are off at 745. Kumbi and Anne head out to airport to retrieve the bag and see a leopard on their way out! We go back out through “Giraffic” Park. Drove out and stop at the gate to see the well done exhibits, friendly giraffes and use the toilet.

Down that bumpy road past bananas, coffee, rice, silver oaks (not a real oak but a Protea), back onto the hiway and right. Heading west again toward Arusha Town we turn left off the road and visit a school. Very high cute factor and very crowded. They sing us songs. A worthy stop and thanks for bringing the school supplies most appreciated. Please send me some photos.

Lrs stop for fuel. Arusha has grown exponentially in the past several years, up to a million and half souls now. We head west and then south on the great north road as it is called. Maasai land here full of bright red, purple, black, goats, cows and bomas.

We drop down a couple of thousand feet so it is hotter here. First baobabs. Tarangire is about 75 miles from Arusha. There is a great, fairly new visitor center helped by aid from the US. Yellow collared lovebirds seen well. I offer a beer for the first elephant (ellie). First impala, superb starlings, red billed hornbill, ostriches, cordon blues, helmeted guinea fowl. Magpie shrikes, white-headed buffalo weavers, white crowned shrike, banded mongooses, vervet monkeys, impalas, tawny eagle, waterbucks and ashy starlings (unique to this region). It is a bit warmer than Amsterdam but there is a nice breeze. .

Charles sees the first elephant. We arrive at 1225. Our rooms are on the right side mostly. Great African scene below ellies, twigas, waterbucks, impalas, marabou storks, vultures, tawny eagles!!!!! The river is not too big this year. The whole scene looks painted on. Eddie is our waiter for our stay – yummy food but be careful. Then to rest, bird or swim. Meet at 330 poolside for official introductions. Why this trip?? And what do we want? And who are we?? Dwarf mongooses, African ground squirrels, vervets, baboons and dik dik on the Lodge grounds. Off we go

Lilac Breasted ROLLERS (LBR’S), European rollers (a roller derby? asks (brown shoes) Hillary). More yellow collared lovebirds, red billed buffalo weavers, red necked and yellow throated spur fowl, white crowned shrike. Tarangire gets 27″ of rain a year and the Baobabs are leafed out. Two years ago the river was flooded, so we could not cross it. Our first ostriches.

White bellied go away bird looks like a huge jay and loud as well == we see it feeding two babies.Hammerkop nest. The clouds are puffy and white and big, the temperature pleasant. Sausage trees in full fruited glory. Our first hyraxes (rock of course). Three reed bucks. Greenshanks, black smith plovers. We watched a large family of ellies with many young pass right by us in the road. Our LR is very quiet and we hear the deep rumbling of the ellies and one small trumpet. Borassus palms against the blue sky. Palm swifts nest in them and we see many white backed vultures roosting in them. Gneiss is the underlying rock.

Gneiss is a high grade metamorphic rock. This means that gneiss has been subjected to more heat and pressure than schist. Gneiss is coarser than schist and has distinct banding. This banding has alternating layers that are composed of different minerals. The minerals that compose gneiss are the same as granite. Feldspar is the most important mineral that makes up gneiss along with mica and quartz. Gneiss can be formed from a sedimentary rock such as sandstone or shale, or it can be formed from the metamorphism of the igneous rock granite.
We are seeing many termite mounds and watch a large troop of baboons walk, eat, play, fight, nurse by us. Jesus rays at sunset. Back to the lodge for drinks, and a very good dinner. To our wonderful simple tents for sleep. Stars are out == this was a very nice day indeed…

Saturday, February 14
HAPPY VALENTINES DAY
An important communal Roman religious celebration was the Lupercalia, held annually on February 15. The ceremony took place at the Lupercal, a small cave on the slopes of Rome’s Palatine Hill, where the Romans believed that Romulus and Remus had been suckled by the she-wolf. During the ceremony, two groups of young men sacrificed goats and a dog and then cut the goatskins into strips. Clothed only in these strips, the young men then ran a race along a specified course, tapping female bystanders with the strips of their goatskin garments as they passed. This rowdy festival was so popular that it was not abandoned until AD 494, well into the Christian era, when Pope Gelasius I replaced it with the Christian Feast of the Purification of the Virgin. The same pope also made the day before the celebration (February 14) the feast day of two 3rd century Roman martyrs named Saint Valentine, creating the basis for Saint Valentine’s Day. The modern holiday retains some of the fertility aspects of the ancient Lupercalia by its association with romance and courtship.

In the early morning the hyenas, eagle owl and pearl spotted owlets (orgasm bird) were vocalizing. Coffee delivered. Wow. Off we go a half an hour late …oh well. 730. Highlights of the morning game drive — Jennifer spotted a cheetah, nice big male which we see very well. The two other land rovers went right past him. Steenboks, reed bucks, many dik diks, impalas, water bucks, Kongonis, We saw hundreds of elephants including many babies, our first Secretary Birds, yellow billed storks, Hammerkops!!! Yea for Hilary. woodland kingfisher wow what blue. Hornbill list – Van der Deckens, gray, red billed, yellow billed, ground. Three banded plover, spoonbills, striated heron, great egret, go away birds – white bellied and bare faced.

More elephants as we get close to Tarangire hill (the highest point around), red and yellow barbet. One termite mound with a family of dwarf mongooses. Back down by the river for a red chested cuckoo with a classic African savannah three note call. Sausage trees are very aptly named. We see both Brown and Orange bellied parrots= the largest parrots we will see.

Cloudy skies, not too hot. And few tsetses. An immature Bateleur eagles, rock hyraxes and then back to the lodge after 1230.

Rest and ….Meet at 330 for a little talk on elephants. Here are some notes for you.

Elephants:

Evolution- 24 mya – 5 mya modern ones and more than 600 sp. Mastodon, wooly mammoth to 10k lbs. Now 2 sp Afr and Asian.

Largest land mammal, Changes env more except for HB. Former paths now hiways. South of Sahara to n. Africa in historic times.

Males to 12′ 10K Fem to 7′-8′, 6500 lbs. 1 check tooth. . 6 sets of teeth. upper incisors (tusks) grow thru life. 4 nails in front, 3 hind. Genitalia opens downward in both sexes. Temporal glands in males to 3 kg. 2 teats between forelegs. 60yrs.
Eat anything- grasses, herbs, in rainy season.. trees in dry.
2 prs of molars- forward and back.. Can reach 20′. eats 4-6% of weight in a day.

Social:

Matriarch. 9-11 herd size. herds, bond groups, clans. Males in sep herds. Menopause. Next oldest takes over. Stay within 50 m of each other. Bond groups within 1 k of each other.

They aggregate in large grps 200+ may be assoc with mating bec males are with them.
Males leave at age 12-13, 2-14 typical male herd. Mustch.

Spend 16 hrs a day feeding. 3-5 dung bolas every 1.5 hrs- sleep 4-5 hrs. Can go without water for days, walk 80 k away.
Mineral licks
can outrun a man at 30 kph!

4 kind of vocalizations:
rumbling
trumpeting
squealing (distress from yg.)
screaming

Reproduction- conception at 10-11 yrs, 4-9 yrs between calves. 22 mo. gestation. Mustch. Weaning at 1-2 yrs as late as 4. Related cows suckle each other’s young.

Trunk is cojooined upper lip and snout w/ 2 nostrils running parallel. 2.7 gallons per siphon. 40K muscles. 150 K including small ones.

Predators lions and hyena on young

Maasai legend. the great one made 2 of every kind- big and little. Hyrax, sea cows and ellies related. 50 mya
teats between forelegs, placenta/womb simil. internal testes, penis recurves to rear, plantigrade with claws not hooves

Vocalizations at 14-35 hertz.(sim to volcanoes, e-quakes, weather, waves) can travel at least 2 1/2 miles. Fem in estrous “sing”

When some of the old matriarch were born there were 1.9 million in 1979 down to 400-600 K by 89 endangered, Ivory at $100/lb.

Off just after 415. WE stop for a little chat about those magnificent baobabs. Here are some of the things we saw as we drove in the northern part of the park on the other side of the river. Black faced and yellow throated sand grouse, giraffes with both red billed and yellow billed oxpeckers. Wonderful landscape, pleasant temperature and many birds. Back at 645 for showers, more good food and a heck of a lodge. The stars are out so I do a bit of star talking for you with my handy dandy fancy pantsy illegal laser pointer.

Sunday, February 15th
Hyena yelling right near our tents at about 3 am. Elevation here is about 3000’; this evening we will be at 5000. We gave Eddie his tip. Charles can’t find his bag!!!! oh yea here it is – in the Land Rover…. imagine that? Off at 8ish for our longest drive of the trip. Out of the park and back into the cultivated land. Recently there was a huge piece of land – the Lake Manyara ranch – which was purchased as a wildlife corridor and it seems to be working; the animals can move to Lake Manyara. We go through Mosquito Village; full of crops (esp rice) because of the water popping out at the base of the escarpment. Then up and up up up say goodbye to the baobabs. Moving up the 2000’ escarpment I give you a brief overview of the geology of East Africa rift zone. Iraqw people where Tanzania’s marathon runners come from. Go through corn, sorghum, beans, wheat, and sisal; actually the fields seem to be plowed and ready for planting. The rains did not come in November and the crops did not really get started. We get fueled up in Karatu; some quick shopping occurs. We will return here later to Gibbs Farm and it will have rained a lot.

Stop at gate and visitor center to Ngorongoro Conservation area. Where I give you an overview of the NCA and the Serengeti ecosystem and a bit about the geology and human history. And show you our upcoming route for the next 10 days.

The difference between the Park and the Conservation Area is that humans can be in the latter. The Maasai may be compatible with the wildlife. Are not supposed to farm but do.

Boundaries determ by wildebeest migration. Wind from the Indian Ocean brings the rains- monsoon.
Lake Victoria is 2 largest lake in world. Lake Superior is the largest. It influences the weather (local) Nov to May is rain
West side gets 2x due to L Vict. High mts. around craters block the rains
Volcanic ash rich in minerals good for soil and therefore grasses grow. gets wetter toward L Vict= WB, tommies, Zebra and Elands
Zebras only have one stomach
Wildebeest calf not to swamp predators but bc the best grass high in calcium and phosphorus for milk production
Ser. is where we all began 3 1/3 my. Man has been interacting with these animals long before lodges, clothing, guns.

First look at the crater I find two rhinitos out of 20 or so that are there. You will get a closer look, I am sure. Many cbs, gnus, zebras below. Incredible place 10 miles across, 2k’ deep. In Maasai country we see our first herds of cows and goats and the men dressed in red and black. Women carrying loads of firewood on their back. They do all the work..and the problem???

Lunch at Nyati (Kiswahili for Cape Buffalo) picnic site…watch out for the black kites. We eat in the lrs. Dropping down into the Malanja Depression for out first wildebeests (Wbs) and elands. Out into the Serengeti Ecosystem proper — Tommies, Grants, more wbs. The gnus have already dropped their babies. Herds of Thomson Gazelles and a few Grants, zebras. Kori bustards. Our first simbas – a male and female probably in courtship. Nubian vultures.

Our first but not last stop at Naabi Hill for official check in and fee payment. We walk up the hill to the overview. Good looks at tyrant agama lizards. I do some push ups and he loses a bit of his color. The rain is off to the west but mostly it is pretty dry. There are two lions with a kill right near the road after we leave Naabi. Our tops are down… The light and clouds are fantastic. Kongonis aka Cokes Hartebeests.

We turn left off the main road and head toward Moru. On our way to camp we find a very cute family of bat eared foxes. Just what Diane wanted to see.

We arrive at our camp – Moru #6. . No we aren’t in the pup tents. Mbesi aka Emmanuel is the camp manager. He gives us an orientation and introduces the staff. He mumbles but does a good job.

We can get used to this kind of camping. It costs more and worth it. Showers are had by all, campfire, peanuts, popcorn. Truly a beautiful panorama stretches out from us in all directions.

Then dinner… amazing what those guys can do in that outdoor kitchen. The night sky is perfect full of stars so I do a follow up star gazing lesson. We never know if we have another clear night. Followed by lala salama and night sounds of Hyenas, Scops owls and some toads. Zipperwills are also heard during the night.

Monday, February 16
Jambo jambo with some nice hot water to wash with. Nice clouds this am, going to keep it coolish today. We like that and so do the animals. Jennifer of the great eyes spots a rhino right near camp while brushing her teeth. Grand way to start the day. WE watch him spray a few bushes; this is his territory, certainly not ours.

Off at 800 heading south but first we take a better look at MAMA MORU. Laughing doves, rufous napped lark, augur buzzard, secretary birds, green pigeons, day flower. Toilet tissue flower. Then to Maasai paintings and next the Gong Rock show. We have 10 minutes of blessed silence before the other tour groups show up big time and it gets crowded and loud. Quite nice.

Gray backed shrikes, gorgeous pair of crowed cranes. Hippos jammed in the feeder stream to Lake Magadi. We cruise by the little river looking and thoroughly enjoying the Moru Kopje landscape. We see a predator jam because of 5 lion cubs, one male simba and a very frightened leopard high up in an acacia tree. The latter was very challenging to see but we finally manage. Even the scope does not help too much. Ellen is NOT counting that as her first leopard sighting. Don’t worry we will have plenty more. Then to Lake Magadi — we lead the way and the other two lrs get to watch a female lion poop – oh well we missed that. Shit happens.

At Lake Magadi (Soda in Maasai) we get out and stretch our legs and check the tires. Egyptian geese, Ruff with orange legs, Kittlitz plover, Hippo skeleton, Black winged stilts, little grebes (dabchicks). The clouds are really nice and dramatic. Good look a crowned cranes on the way back. Rufous napped larks singing away. Reedbuck. Kongonis, Giraffes, gray backed shrikes, white backed vultures, and buffalos. This is a good day to be alive I think.

Late lunch at 130. r and r. and it rains. A little talk at 345 on Cranes, what it means to be a species (an organism that is reproductively isolated from another) and Rock and Bush Hyraxes. The smaller Bush has a 6 cm penis, which is bigger than the larger Rocks wanger. That keeps them apart sexually though they seem to be very good friends. Off at 420. a bit of rain but it stops. We retrace our steps and have a very pleasant game drive. See 3 female lions and 2 cubs on a kopje right near some Cape Buffaloes.

A large troop of baboons 66+ up clamber up on a kopje to spend the night. They are very good climbers, scrambling right up the rock face. More LBRs, gray backed shrikes, Ruppells long tailed starlings are quite iridescent. At camp a baboon troop has moved up in the kopje above us. Dinner at 730 and more social bonding. Cloudy, glad we had the star talk last night.

Tuesday, February 17
The baboons were not so loud; they can be like a fraternity party at night. We heard hyenas and some lions in the am. There is a nice dawn chorus of all the birds waking up. We make our own lunch and are off at 745. OK I did say 8 but I changed my mind. IT is cool and nicely overcast at this 5000′ elevation. Our serrated terrapin is there in the little pond filled with floating duckweed. Later this afternoon there will be 6 of them stacked on top of each other and very wary.

Out onto the plain looking for cheetahs. We have an official bathroom stop on a small hill. Not so nice in the official one but the bushes are mighty fine. Ipomeas aka morning glory in full bloom and a composite called Aspilla mozambiqueus that is everywhere in flower right now. We see a pin tailed whydah male …why dah long tail. Yuck yuck yet another lame joke from your American guide.

Heading north toward the middle of the park at Serenera. WBacked Vultures and a few marabou storks (with an 11 1/2 foot wingspan!!!) Cruising by the Phoenix palms (WILD DATE PALMS) with giraffes, vervets, baboons, and mighty fine looks at ellie families very close. Black smith plovers, more warthogs. Continuing north toward Kenya at a fork in the road we go straight, left goes to Lake Victoria. Down that road a piece we do turn left toward the Retima Hippo Pool.

There are many impalas, some CB and Giraffes. It is not too hot here and very few other tour groups. In fact we havbe the place to ourselves for a while. I give a little overview of hippo sociology and Crocs. They have dung slinging on social inferiors. Social humans only do that metaphorically.

Then directly back to the Visitor Center for lunch. It is very very crowded here. Unbelievable. There are photo ops for the 2 kinds of hyrax – bush and rock, dwarf mongooses, and numerous little birdies. After lunch we guide ourselves through the very well done exhibits. Rock hyraxes in tree, bush hyraxes on rocks and no tree hyraxes. The candelabra tree, the termite fungus story, the hidden rock paintings, the CLOCKWISE migration route, hyraxes. These displays are very well done. In the final building we reach the human evolution section but it has all been changed because of fundamental Christians.

We head back toward Moru and then turn left on the highway. We have been told about some leopards by other guides and sure enough we all have great looks at a mom in the tree. The youngster is hidden down in the bushes. She comes down once and then back up the tree; very nice looks especially through the scope. The feline embodiment of stealth, strength and beauty according to Estes. We are in a minor leopard jam; Bohor reed bucks.

ON the way back we see the wonderful bat eared fox family again. Back for showers and our clean laundry. . Another mighty fine dinner and I tell you a bit about Crocs after dessert. Tomorrow to Kasini – a new place for me. … Sad to say good bye to camping however we shall return. ..

Wednesday, February 18
Hyenas whooping and lions roaring in the early am. Some of us go up on the big kopje a
A little tricky to climb. Bye bye to our camp staff. WE will see them in two days. Off at 9. and soon see 3 lionesses up on a kopje sleeping. We are heading more or less south toward Kasini (which means south in Maasai). Across the plain with very short grass and then into the Acacia/Commiphora woodland

We stop to watch 3 marabou storks and Ann R spies a leopard skulking in the bushes. Good looks as she runs quickly to the left and back into the thick bushes. Starting to see some of the gnus and zebras now. Past the new Simuyu Ranger post. Out into the plain to learn a bit about Termites and we see our first dung beetle that is rolling dung. I sing my song but I think you all are unimpressed. We have fun watching him fight with another male and try to bury his carefully rolled and perfectly round dung ball. We are easily entertained.

DUNG BEETLE SONG (sung to Rawhide theme)

Roll em roll em roll em
Keep them dung balls rolling
And the gnus keep coming,
Raw dungggggggggggggg

Soil with sun its raining
Keeps the short grass growing
Zebras Tommies munching,
more dungggggg

Cut it out, roll it up, pack it down, lay an egg.
Roll it up, pack it down, lay an egg.
Keep it rolling, really rolling, never stop till its round,
never stop…..raw dunggggggggggggg

Now the ball is buried
Soon the egg is hatching
Big fat grub is eating raw dung
Then the grub transforming into pupa waiting,
now the bug is flying toward dungggggggggggggg

Cut it out, roll it up, pack it down, lay an egg.
Roll it up, pack it down, lay an egg.
Keep it rolling, really rolling, never stop till its round,
never stop…..raw dunggggggggggggg
We pass our turn to the camp and head out into the plain. We soon are into the “migration” there are quite a few gnus, zebras, and a few Grants. European or white storks are standing in the grassland. Many gnu new babies and mixed herds horizon to horizon animals!!! A few black winged terns fly by. There are Ruppell’s Griffons, white back vultures and the undertakers (Marabous) standing around. A cheetah and her female cub are found resting in the shade. The cub plays with a stick and tries to climb a tree.
Back track to Kasini Road and see some klipspringers well up on the rocks. Then to Kasini met by Mark and Cornelia. Check into our delightful tented rooms and remeet for lunch at 130. Free time until 345 when we meet for a short talk about rinderpest, human population explosion and why the very big animals in the Americas disappeared.
The idea that Clovis people were big-game hunters could help explain an unsolved puzzle of the Americas in the late Pleistocene: the catastrophic extinction of dozens of species of large animals. Across the Americas millions of large animals—known as mega fauna—disappeared. These animals included the mammoth, mastodon, and the giant ground sloth, as well as the horse, the camel, and many other herbivores. Some very large and formidable carnivores also died out, including the American lion, the saber-toothed tiger, and the giant short-faced bear. These extinctions were thought to coincide with the arrival of Clovis groups, a chronological coincidence that led University of Arizona ecologist Paul Martin to propose the hypothesis of Pleistocene overkill. This hypothesis, first put forward in 1967, contends that Clovis big-game hunters caused the extinctions. Martin suggested that overkill was especially likely—even inevitable—if Clovis groups were the first Americans. For if the mega fauna had never before faced human hunters, they would have been especially vulnerable prey to this new, dangerous, two-legged predator.
Clovis Point
Clovis spear points, such as this one from northeastern Utah, are among the oldest stone tools known in the Americas. The oldest Clovis spear points in North America date to about 11,500 years ago. Native Americans attached such points to shafts, making spears that could either be thrust directly at animal prey or thrown using atlatls (spear-throwers). Archaeologists believe the spear points were also used as multipurpose cutting tools.

Off at 415 heading out on the same road as this AM but farther out into the plain. WOW there are quite a few animals out here> Ho hum more lions – one male next to a wb kill another male sleeping and three females way the distance. One spotted hyena in the mud. And we see the same female and cub cheetah. A wattle on the wattled starling indicates breeding male. Just before camp we pass a very alert herd of ellies bunched close together. We are trumpeted at… they are nervous. Another smaller herd is also passed and they seem anxious as well. Back to Kasini for showers and nice camp fire.

Gnus are everywhere around us and it sounds like frogs croaking. Only 11 tents here; so we are the dominant group. Social bonding at dinner. Saturn rings seen nearly by all in my scopel. Stars are out. The kopje is available for us to walk up. Quite nice. Zebras barking. We like this place. Many animal sounds this evening – ellie trumpeting, lions roaring Cape buffalo snorting, zebras barking gnu gnuing. Tres bien

Thursday, February 19, 2009.
Coffee etc delivered to our tents.. we can adapt to this level of treatment easily. Very attentive staff and the postcards are already stamped- what a treat! Off at 730 right on time. Out out out onto the vast plain of the Serengeti… flatter than Kansas and has Montana’s big sky beat up and down. You can really imagine the ash falls creating such a flat landscape. Past the airstrip and then head toward Ndutu until we get to the park boundary and then we take the road parallel to the NCA and SNP marked by barrels until we get to the THREE TREES for lunch. Actually there are only two trees now.

Along that trip in the morning we saw (not in order) —- Steenbok ( a bit bigger than a dik dik with sharper horns), spotted thick knee, 3 lion cubs and a large male lion on a kopje (the female is there but hidden from us; the reserved or just plain rude Wisconsin photographers are there), little bee eater, a hunter sunbird nest, beautiful sunbird, nice cool weather, flies from the migration, yellow throated sand grouse, white winged terns flying about, many cattle egrets, our first big group of white or European storks. There are our first Abdim’s storks around and Eurasian Rollers. We stop witness a WB calf being born but she pulls him back in, female lion with kill and many vultures around several kills as we bounce along the road. A and K driving off road, our first golden jackals, Fred peeing off the lr. Nubian (aka lappet faced) is the big dominant one. Ruppells Griffon with the ivory beak and speckled back. The commonest vulture in the Serengeti is the white backed vulture. The plains are very green and there are animals as far as we can see. Picnic is well done… sets a high standard. Off at 130 and see a nice group of ostrich, more kills, returning the same route. Hilary finds us a crowned plover sitting on one egg. Back at 3 for R and R and gift shop invasion. Up on the Kopje at 630 for sundowners and a great sunset. Venus is a crescent just like the moon. Everyone sees it well through the scope. Much roaring from the lions early in the evening. Hard rain falls in the night. Good for all living things.

Friday, February 20
I am up early and see Jupiter bright in the eastern sky with crescent moon in Sagittarius. Blue sky. Late breakfast. The day is bright; since we don’t have far to go, we leave at nine. Heading the same direction as yesterday. Backtracking and we see a slender mongoose and its tan juvenile young. Long crested eagle and a stop for another dung beetle rolling and the whistling thorn acacia story. We do hear it.

Common Name: Whistling Thorn, Swollen Thorn Acacia
Genus: Acacia
Species: dreparalobium
The whistling thorn is an acacia tree commonly seen on the savannas of equatorial East Africa, particularly the Serengeti plain. This acacia can grow about 18 feet tall, but is often stunted in its growth. The whistling thorn acacia protects itself with pairs of long thorns up to 3 inches long. Interspersed with these are modified thorns, called stipular spines, which are joined at the base by hollow bulbous swellings about 1 inch in diameter. These are home to four different kinds of stinging ants who pierce these swollen thorns with tiny holes. When the wind blows it turns old and abandoned spines into tiny whistling flutes, which gives the tree its name. It isn’t clear yet whether the relationship
with ants is a symbiotic or parasitic one. This particular acacia doesn’t have the toxic chemicals that ward off insects and browsers like other species of acacias do. The stinging ants protect the tree by swarming out of their nests and attacking an intruder at the smallest movement. Giraffes and other browsers are thought to be able to detect the pheromones the ants give off, and leave the tree alone.
However, some ant species, like Crematogaster nigriceps , will prune the branches and flowers of their whistling thorn so that enemy ant colonies on other trees can’t get to their tree. This pruning stimulates the acacia to produce a sugary secretion at the ends of their leaflets which feeds the ants. Unfortunately, it also kills the tree’s growth tips and effectively sterilizes it so it can’t propagate itself.
It is believed that the ants have developed the habit of living in trees because the soil of the savanna turns spongy in the rainy season and dries out and cracks in the dry season. This makes it very difficult for ant to build nests under ground.
The whistling thorn acacia, like other acacias, has developed several ways to survive the severely hot and dry climate in which it lives. Because of the heat the tree must find ways to conserve moisture. Their leaves have evolved into many tiny leaflets (pinnae) which can turn to absorb sunlight, or avoid it and reduce transpiration. The many leaflets are also beneficial when animals graze on them. Some will be left behind to continue the vital task of photosynthesis.
During the dry season on the savanna, the whistling thorn acacia will drop its leaves to conserve water. At the beginning of the rainy season fragrant creamy-white flowers bloom before the leaves grow back. The flowers look like little puffballs and resemble those of the cultivated mimosa tree, which are in the same family. Long seed pods develop, whose seeds are very nutritious and a favorite of many animals, including humans.

Thousands of wbeess and zebras moving through the woodland. We watch them all crossing the litte stream in a great line. The little ones keeping up. NO crocs to eat them here. Pretty durn cool. We stop and listen to the sounds of the wooded savannah full of thousands of animals. IT does not get better than this. A little sparrowhawk or immature pale chanting goshawk. Not sure. What do you think, Kumbi??

Topis out on the plain and Phanuel spies a tree full of lions. 6 lionesses, one juvenile and a little bitty baby in the crotch of the tree. We arrive at the familiar green tents and our guys are waiting at 1245. It is hot here. We have had very good weather on this trip so far but now you see how it could be.
At 330 the mammal and ungulate talk and a bit about the gnus. Then we are off for a fairly quiet game drive. Juvenile martial eagle sitting mighty pretty, white crowned shrikes, African cuckoos, impala, guinea hens, dik dik, Montague harriers, larks singing, pin tailed whydah, red billed buffalo weavers, speckled fronted weavers, Drongo, isabelline shrike, Fishers love birds, giraffes. Many birds seen overcast and a bit cool.

Home for showers and our usual social dinner. It really is great to be alive. Today was the day Janice shared her colonoscopy story with the whole table. Now I know how to get a group to quiet down!

Saturday, February 21
Off at 8 retracing our path toward Serenera. There are hundreds of lesser kestrels hunting over the plain. Find some topis with a young one on the left side of the road – they have blue jeans on and in the same family as WBs and Kongonis. Cruise around a marshy drainage to the right – Red billed and Hottentot teals. Our game drive starts off peaceful-like. But by the river near Serenera we see a leopard up in a sausage tree at 1010. Nice looks and not too many lrs. Head on down the road and in a short distance Sally spots a second leopard; this one eating a reed buck. We can hear some crunching== way cool. Phanuel notes that we have seen 5 leopards – 6 if you count the one that Anne saw in Arusha. Some trips do not have a single leopard sighting!!

A fuel stop and then slowly make our way back through the empty plain full of termite mounds but not much else. The Sea of grass goes on forever. Back for lunch rest and then the Homo talk. .

Here are some notes from previous talks.

Human Origin
Primate order:
1) Prosimians (almost monkeys eg bushbaby, lemurs)
2) New world monkeys
3) Old world monkeys
4) homonoids

They may be an ancient group, around since 65 mya. Most live in the trees in the tropic very few have moved down into the savannah. Only man and gorillas sleep on the ground, the rest depend on cliffs or trees for protection.

Hominoids =apes and early humanlike. 20 mya were apes. Split into 4 grps – gorillas, chimps, bonobos, humans.
6 mya humans, gorillas and chimps split. Share 98% of our genome. . All great apes need at least 8 yrs of parental education.

Connected all the way back into time with all the mothers and fathers that weren’t like humans but apes and all the way back to the beginning of time.

6 my ago we split from Chimps. Not direct line from chimps.

Hominoid = standing upright
Why did they stand upright and where? Stood upright in the forest not necessarily only in the savannah. Maybe stand up to have your hands free. Man – manipulate.

First one had little brain with long arms. Forward facing eyes and hands.

Hominids- fireball lily Laoetil. 3.6 mya. footprints. upright! = Lucy
Australopithecine= southern ape 2 mya at bottom of gorge is basalt.

At Oldv are 2 hominids – big guy= Zin (Australpith)) man. = nutcracker man. ate roots and nuts and hard things with big teeth.
Took them 27 yrs to find the first bones.

Much more like us with smaller face and bigger brain- Homo habilis = handy man
then came H. erectus one and half million migrated out of Africa to Asia and then Europe. Pretty much people by now. = Cro-Magnon, Neanderthal and Java man. No voice box, no bows or spears. But had fire and then could cook things that kept them from disease and could make rough things easier to digest. Might have started hunting more to feed bigger brain.

The ones left behind in Africa evolved into Homo sapiens 150-200,000 yrs ago. Used rock shelters, burial sites, rock tools.

50 k great leap forward out of Africa. May have only been 100-500 people spread all over Europe and Asia, Indonesia wiping out erectus and large animals of all sorts.

What did sapiens have that erectus didn’t have? Language may have been the key.
Could have used language in mate selection may have caused the great leap forward.
All 4 language groups still exist in Tanz at Lake Eyasi.

The genetic and languages differences are greater within Africa that any other place on earth. People have been here longer.

People in modern Ethiopia apparently were returned Africans.
Evolved white skin the northern latitudes to get more sun to make Vit. d 3 (used for absorbing calcium for our skeleton) and k but too much sun causes lose of foliate (vit b complex). Dark skin evolved 1.5 mya in Africa. Zone 1 is tropical, dark skin. Zone 2 moderately pigmented skin can alter their skin tone increase melanin to prevent foliate loss and lighten in winter to create Vit d. Zone 3 Eat Vit d rich food.

Language is substitute for group grooming therefore can create and maintain stability in numbers greater than 50 (the upper limit in Chimp and Gorilla groups)

Light skin folic acid- high UV destroys. VIt d e. tanning etc.

Off to the rhino post = there are 20 now in the area. Very good news indeed. We all donate a bit of $$ for the rangers. Back for showers and some of us get to go up on the kopje again. No baboons or leopards only a mighty fine view and some squawking hyraxes. Many stars out tonight. Southern Cross will rise later.

Sunday, February 22
Lions in the distance and hyenas as well. Our last morning at Moru. The morning sky is very clear with Jupiter and Venus in the east, the big and little dipper in the north and the Southern Cross and Alpha Centauri in the south. The dawn chorus loud.

WHOA!!! Whatta morning for Charles and Hilary with Safari ants all over their tent. Next door Janice is laughing at their misery. But soon there was some “ROUGH JUSTICE” to quote Hilary and the ants invaded Janice’s bed! Yeech. Meanwhile May and Fred just let the safari ants pass through and undisturbed. A lesson??

We pack our lunches and say our thanks to the great crew and give them their well deserved tip. Cyncium aka Kleenex plant is in full bloom everywhere. Kumbi has a flat tire which the guides fix very quickly – they have done this before. Taking the same route back to the main highway that we took when we came in to Moru on our first day so long ago in the Serengeti. There is an elephant group that just happens to cross the main road when we do. A very nice encounter for us. And the littlest baby we have yet seen. Giraffes again we have seen them every day so far. Beginning to see Tommies, Grants, kongonis, topis, Montague harriers, Kori bustards, BB bustard,

Crossing into the NCA we now see assorted Maasai goats, sheep and cows. We turn off to the left and head on a very rough road to Olduvai. The visitor center is mighty improved thanks to the Getty’s. There are quite a few vehicles there. We have our boxed lunch while looking at the bright yellow Speke’s weaver, Vitelline masked weaver, speckle fronted weaver, yellow vented bulbul, variable sunbird, beautiful sunbird, slate colored boubou, social weaver, English sparrow. We have a brief overview at the overlook by our official archeological tour guide, Joseph a Maasai. Rrrrroling his r’s. We visit the museum which Hillary and Chelsea visited in March 97. Personally I can relate to the footprints, better than a bone. I walk upright therefore I am HOMO. HUMANS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN HERE! We all (Asian, Caucasian, Negro) go back to our roots in the Serengeti. Sally also feels that powerful response to the footprints.

Up we go leaving the Serengeti and the rain begins a bit. Goodbye Serengeti… Passing the Malanja depression; Cooler and cooler, in fact it is right cold. We can see rain down in the crater as we go down the Descent Road. ON the crater floor at 230. Tops go up. I appreciate that many of you appreciate the diverse bird life in Northern Tanzania and no has regretted the cost of good binoculars. Maasai cattle in crater, only in day for watering twice per week. 5200′ on floor, 7200′ on rim. There are four animals that are NOT found in the crater – Topi, Impala, Giraffe and female elephants and their young.

So what did we see?? Beautiful flamingos, Kittlitz banded plover, golden jackals, a female rhino and baby (20 adults + 2 babies now), many elands. The ox in antelope clothing. One ton and the young ones can jump 10′ high. Good to eat and heavily poached. Abdim’s storks and many sacred ibis. Spur winged geese, many crowned cranes in a group, .Now it is actually hot and the clouds are only above the rim. Nice cumulus. Warthogs and not shy. I told you things would be close in the crater. The zebras and even the black smith plovers just stay right buy the LR. 6 lions, 5 black backed jackals, a passel of vultures and a lion killed wildebeest. As we meander toward our new camp we pass thousands (?) of new born gnus. They are everywhere.

Then up the Sopa Road though the flat topped acacia forest. Then to Tembo A camp. . In the acacia trees and very different than where we have been. There are 6 other people here Cooler here and we have a Maasai guard who stays all night and guards us against other Maasai according to previous guides I have had here.

Safire is the camp manager and we really do like our new tents. They are upscale; the toilet and shower right in the cabin. Solar lights that work all the time. This camp is a semi-permanent one that Thomson puts up for the season here so it can be a bit better for us. Close together though (not good for honeymooners) and they are out of gin and Vodka!!!
Monday, February 23
Lions roaring down by the Munge River nearly all night. A fantastic rain storm pounded us. Word from my wife in CA is that it is raining there as well. Up early at 5, breakfast is ready, we are loaded and ready to roll at 555. TO gate in a short time but have to wait until 608 for the rangers but (TA DA!!!) we are the first down. Down we go into the crater (more properly, a caldera).
Dawn broke on us and here is what we saw by 815. 2 hyenas kill and eat a baby wb. A family of jackals chases a poor little African wildcat as does a hyena. Tens of elands. A pride of lions – 2 females and 5 cubs playing with last nights kill. Dawn light on breeding herd of wbs all clumped together. Fog rising on the rim and sitting over Lake Magadi. Hundreds of crowned cranes flying in. spur winged geese, hyenas galore, jackals, nice male ellie with dripping urine (in mustch), birthday girl May, many cbs with attendant cattle egrets. Fred and I pee too far from the lr and get Kumbi in trouble. Oh brother!!! Friendly warthogs and zebras, some jackals harassing a young hyena (no doubt a male- they are the lowest of the low in the hyena social structure). Flamingoes in the background really add to the scene. Zebras – the original bar code animal of GOD. Many Kori Bustards. And black bellied bustards are displaying but alas not a female to be seen.

Hundreds of Abdim’s storks. See why you do not come to the crater first?? Everything is easy to photograph. I am surprised that there are so few vehicles here but maybe because of the economy. We cut across the plain and see the first of 7 rhinos in this day. Spur winged geese- Africa’s heaviest waterfowl. There are yellow wagtails about the feet of many of the hoofed animals today. They eat the insects disturbed by the movement through the grass. The white flowers of Cyncium are in full glory stretching out across the grassland in all directions.

A baby hippo and mom out of the water but alas we must rush past because someone in our lr really needs to pee. I will not tell you who it is but she is really cute and the youngest member of our little tribe. We enter the Lerai forest (means yellow barked acacia in Maasai) it is strikingly beautiful. It is one of only two forests in the crater because there is permanent water here. We pass into it and stop at one of the two official areas for bathroom breaks. This is the place I got attacked by a male Vervet monkey while taking his photo 3 years and broke my lens on his nose. We see another pair of rhinos and maybe two more large solitary ones or the same one twice. They are consummate browsers and usually do not graze. Ellies are all around munching on the yellow barked acacias. Vervets are here but eating way up in the tree and do not bother us. White headed barbet, olive pigeons, Cisticola singing, yellow bishops, Marabou stork in the scope, tawny eagles seem to be everywhere this am. We sing May happy birthday. One bull ellie stands up on his hind legs to reach some high leaves. Was it worth it>?

Off continuing through the Lerai Forest past families of vervets and troops of baboons. A mighty fine DeFassa’s waterbuck male poses right near our lrs. Out of the forest we find some more lions with some babies stashed under the culvert. The light is great on the flamingoes.

Heading toward Ngoitokitok – the lunch spot- on the way we do see two more rhinos (the scope views are nice) and three lionesses on our left sleeping in the grass. What ELSE do they do? There are not as many vehicles for lunch here as usual. I am pleasantly surprised. Black kites diving for food. We pass friendly guinea fowl (Kiswahili word is Kanga which also refers to the beautiful cloth that the TZ women wear). But we continue past and take a winding muddy road into the other forest of yellow barked acacia and see that the Serena Lodge has set up an entire lunch in the bush just for us!! We like it!! The kites cannot get the necessary space to dive bomb here and steal the food. Well they have been learning since last year. This lunch and this crater and this group and our guides are definitely mambo poa (Kiswahili for cool). About the time of dessert the skies open up and POUR on us. Ina is stuck in toilet but rescued by her good friend Sally. Janice was concerned for us and I have a picture to prove it. That was a short but very powerful storm as we flee into the lrs. One vehicle stays back for coffee and reports the kites got pretty aggressive.

Widow birds, Africa jacanas, pied kingfishers. Off across to the opposite side – perfect light for photos of tommies and grants and cbs. A rhino and baby seen. We find a golden jackal family with a tiny baby – sooooo cuteeeee.

To the other hippo pool. Great birds – Hottentot teals, moorhens, Jackson widow birds, Squacco heron, Black crowned night heroin, cattle egrets, long toed plovers, BS plovers, northern shoveler female… and more hippos with some babies. Meandering back toward our ascent road and a lion jam with 12 vehicles or so. A courting lion pair but no action. This is the same pride we saw in the am. Close to the same spot. We see both males of this group. Then up we go through some rain and back to our camp and very nice hot showers.

May gets a real; fine birthday cake and the staff come out and sing and dance for her. Kumbi gets right up and joins in. It was a right nice event. Hearts are beginning to turn toward home.

Tuesday, February 24
We had a heck of a rain storm all night long. IT was intense and the tents held up! Off at 755 after giving the staff their well deserved tip. Along the perimeter road we go in the fog and clouds. The road is in good shape mostly and I think we shall not be able to see down the crater but lo and behold it clears. We stop and have one last look at the crater. This is at the first place we saw it 10 days ago. A stop at the NCA VC to review all the places and things we saw. And then it is back out into the world of the cultivators and paved road. We get to civilized Gibbs farm (1700 meters). Ah bliss. Rick and Judy Thomson owned this since 2004 and Dale from Washington State is the manager.

The walk is delayed due to the slippery trails so we wait around and have some tea and coffee and shop and watch birds. Lunch is simply amazing. We can eat everything and a lot of it!! .And then to our very nice accommodations. There has been quite a remodeling job for the last three years and all of us are quite pleased with our rooms. If only they were a bit bigger!!! Outdoor and indoor shower, large bathtub etc.

Then we gather in the very relaxed and peaceful garden for our closing circle. This is a good way for all of us to remember the trip and the highlights and have a forum to share with others some thoughts and feelings. WE all had sweet things to say about the trip, the guides, the people of Tanzania, the wildlife sightings we had and each other. My thanks and appreciation to all of you; this was a great safari.

Serengeti by Mary Oliver

When he comes
walking under the baobab
awash with sun, or flecked
with patches of shadows–

his curled lip, under the long hair
as rough as a crib of hay,
dappled with black flies–
when he comes,

at night, floating along the edges
of the waterholes–
when he snuffles the ground, and opens
the wet tunnel of his throat, and roars–

I think of the heavy-browed, crouched fishermen
how they stood at dusk
at the rim of the cave and listened
until it came to them

for the first time–
the teror and the awe
of the swinging, golden foot
that waits in the darkness.

Can anyone doubt that the lion of the Serengeti
is part of the idea of God?
Can anyone doubt that, for those first, almost-upright bodies
in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro,

In the lush gardens of Africa
in the continuatiion of everything beyond each individual thing,
the lion
was both the flower of life and the winch of death–

the bone-breaker
and the agent of transformation?
No doubt, in the beginning,
he rose out of the grass

like a fire–
as now he rises out of the grass,
like a fire,
gleaming and unapproachable,

and notices me,
and fixes me with his large,
almost fatherly eyes,
and flexes his shoulders.

I don’t know
anything so beautiful as the sunlight
in his rough hair
I don’t know

where I have seen such power before —
except perhaps in the chapel
where Michelangelo’s God,
tawny and muscular,

tears the land from the firmament
and places the sun in the sky
so that we may live
on the earth,

among the amazements ,
and the lion
runs softly through the dust,
and his eyes, under the thick, animal lashes,

are almost tender,
and I don’t know when I have been
so frightened,
or so happy.

Mary Oliver
House of Light

Leonard aka Mr. Tanzanite shows his wares in Sally and Ina’s room. Too pricey for most of us.

At 315 half of us take the long walk to the Elephant Cave and Waterfall and the other half takes a nice tour of the gardens. Pascalie is the leader to the waterfall and is knowledgeable and speaks English very well.

Great birds here (Paradise flycatcher). The ambiance and peace of Gibbs Farm is good preparation for our journey home.

We gather around the feeding platform around 7 for the welfare fed greater bush babies. They appear and we get some good looks . Dinner is great as usual. Charles gets his birthday cake and a song (not quite as good as the Thomson staff). Bush babies crying and avocados falling with a loud bang on the tin roofs. There a powerful rain storm that hits and the power goes on and off. Epilated fruit bats call all night.

Wednesday, February 25th
Rain last night. The power went off intermittedly I had avocados dropping on my roof all night. The bush babies also cried a little bit.

Today will be a very long day indeed. It ends tomorrow in the USA for all of us but me. Off at 830 first stop is at the T shirt shack. Good buys. Then on retracing our path dropping down into the rift valley (one last look) and back to baobabs. Stop at the Maasai Gallery to shop shop shop. Then lunch at the River House. Lala is our hostess at the place for the blind and the deaf to make handicrafts for sale. The food is good and better shopping. One lr heads to Kia Lodge by the airport and the rest of you to the Cultural Heritage mega-mall.

Back through Arusha Town and out due east, just before the airport a left turn to Kia Lodge. It was exactly two weeks ago when we first arrived. A lot can happen in a fortnight huh? A small amount of free time to repack. An early dinner at 530 and then we tip our great guides. They did a mighty fine job. I say goodbye and you are off to the airport I will head there a bit later to meet Carolyn. Asante sana..that was a good safari. You are off to Dar; stop for an hour and then north to Europe through the night most try to sleep.…

Thursday, February 26

to Amsterdam. Then Home Sweet Home. See you later….

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