Monday, September 18, 2006

Kenya Travelogue - June 22, 2006

Filling up the balloon
This weekend we also managed to get another day's journal and photos up onto the web site from our Africa trip. One June 21, we were up at 4:30 a.m. for a hot air balloon safari over the Maasai Mara. It was a huge balloon (the basket held 17 people, including the pilot). We started our ascent before sunrise. The motion was so gentle that we never would have even felt it if our eyes were shut. We watched the sunrise and were then able to see animals in the grass below us. We could see other balloons way off in the distance and the Mara River near the escarpment. The landscape was so vast. After an hour of gentle floating, we landed in the tall grass. The landing was also very gentle, and the basket stayed upright. We climbed out and were met with an authentic English bush breakfast - like you would see in "Out of Africa." We were served champagne and they were serving omelettes to order, crepes, breakfast meats, fruits, etc. We chatted with Masahiro and Haruko from Japan, and Rodolfo and Ana from Portugal while we ate our leisurely breakfast. We also chatted with the pilot, a Kiwi named Milton.

View of Maasai Mara from the balloon safari
After breakfast, we returned to the Sarova Mara Game Camp, where we were staying. After lunch and a rest, we took a nature walk around the grounds with Kelvin, a Maasai warrior who works at the camp. He taught us about the natural remedies used by the Maasai, and we really learned a lot from him.

We had dinner and really enjoyed chatting with the camp staff. They are so nice and friendly, and always have a smile for everyone.

For more details, see our full journal from this day.

Nature walk with Maasai warrior Kelvin

Sunday, September 17, 2006

If You're Ever in Guatemala...

Lake Atitlan
We got email from our friend Humberto in Panajachel, Guatemala on Friday. He took us on a volcano hike during our trip to Guatemala in 2004. We have kept in touch with him, and since our visit, he has struck out on his own and started his own guiding business called Lago Aventura (Lake Adventure). He offers tours of the Lake Atitlan area. We are the webmasters for his website and he sent us some updated information so that we could put up a Spanish version of the site. If you are planning a trip to Guatemala, we highly recommend his services. And he's a really nice guy, too!

Lago Aventura

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Happy birthday, Zurura!

Baby Elephant at Sheldrick Orphanage
Today we got our monthly email update from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi, Kenya. When we visited there on my birthday (June 19) we adopted an orphaned elephant named Zurura. He was the smallest and youngest (at 9 months) elephant in the orphanage in June. He had fallen into a ruby mine when he was 8 or 9 weeks old, and had been rescued and brought to the Wildlife Trust for care. He joined the six other orphaned elephants who were residing there. There is a 1:1 ratio of keepers and elephants there, and the keepers are with them 24 hours a day, even sleeping in the paddock with them!

As foster parents of Zurura, we get monthly updates on his well-being. He is a healthy little guy but is a bit of a mischief-maker. It is always fun to read about what he has done next. But he has a big heart, and is often doting on his injured friend Kora.

Zurura at Bedtime

The big news out of the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is that they have rescued another baby elephant, a 5-month female named Chyulu. The rescue of an elephant is always bittersweet. They are able to provide wonderfully effective care for animals which would undoubtedly have died if they had been left on their own. They successfully re-introduce them into the wild, and the elephants forever treat them as "family." But it is sad that so many elephants are orphaned. Some are from natural causes, but far too many are from poaching.

Zurura celebrated his first birthday on September 3. (Well, his ceremonial birthday, anyway. They don't know exactly when he was born.) Our little man is growing up so fast!

You can read more about our visit to the Sheldrick elephant orphanage on our web site.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Kenya Travelogue - June 21, 2006

5th grade students at Siana Maasai Boarding School
This past weekend we posted another page in our Africa travelogue. On June 21, we went for game drives in Maasai Mara and also visited the Siana Maasai Boarding School. The boarding school visit was very interesting. We met with the head teacher and visited 5th and 6th grade classrooms. The students learn English and Swahili as well as their native Maa tongue. They were very polite and had a lot of questions for us. The head teacher apologized that they were unable to perform songs and dances for us, but they were in the midst of exams. We understood; studies come first.
Lioness, Maasai Mara
After the school visit we did a game drive. We had seen a lot of animals the previous day (elephants, giraffes, zebras, gazelles, jackals, and hyenas) but so far no lions. Something told me that we were going to see lions tonight. And we did. Our guide, Patrick, was an excellent wildlife spotter. He found a lioness with three cubs, and got us close enough to see the cubs playing and skirmishing on the mother's back. We then saw several other lions (male and female). It was another amazing day in Africa.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Tom Waits Travelogue

Tom Waits at the Orpheum in Memphis
We love to combine our love of travel with our love of music. Seeing a concert can be an excellent "excuse" to take a trip. Tom Waits is one of our favorite performers, and he performs so rarely that we have taken that we have been known to build short trips around his shows. We are members of the Raindogs Email List, and have made friends with many fellow Waits fans online. We always enjoy going to shows and meeting up with our Raindog pals.

This summer, Tom Waits did 9 shows in the U.S. None of them were in our area, so we chose a pair of weekend shows in Tennessee and made a long weekend out of it. We were lucky enough to get tickets. Our friends Tom and Karen would be driving up from Florida to see the shows, and our friend Kevin decided to go with us. The shows were at the Orpheum Theater in Memphis and the Ryman in Nashville.

Tom and Karen had an extra ticket to the opening night show at the Tabernacle in Atlanta. It was on a Tuesday night, and I couldn't take the time off from work. But I convinced Craig to go. We just posted his account of his solo journey on our web site. Highlights include visits to Little Five Points Pizza, Wax n Facts, Criminal Records, and a seafood dinner at Ray's in the City. The Tom Waits concert was fabulous, of course, and Craig even saw the "statue with no butt" that Tom refers to in his between-song banter. The evening was capped off with a drink with the Raindogs at the Sidebar. Matt, Helen, was a great reunion.

Then, a couple of days later, we went to Tennessee together. We flew into Nashville and spent the night there. We checked out some honky tonks and ran into Rich Gilbert, a guitarist who used to live in the Boston area. We had seen him play with Tanya Donelly before. He is pretty distinctive-looking, and we recognized him and had a nice chat. He told us to check out his band when we were back in town on Saturday night.

The next morning, we drove to Memphis. When we arrived we went to the Rendezvous for Memphis dry-rub ribs. The experience wasn't quite as good as it had been the last time we were there. The Southern hospitality was a bit lacking. Prior to the show we hung out with all of our Raindog friends at Alfred's on Beale St. The show was absolutely amazing! We were in the fourth row and had a great view. Some of his song choices were totally unexpected. "Yesterday Is Here" and "Circus" were exciting surprises. After the show we had another Raindog party at Pat O'Brien's. It was an excellent time.

Between the pre- and post-show parties, we got to hang out with Matt, Helen, Jarlath, Sarah V., Shane, Shawn, Dawn, Ben, Laurie, Ken(adian), Tom, Karen, Kevin, Ida, Rebecca, Shannon, El Rayo X, Karren, Jim and Tsyganka, Tim and Sharon, Mark, Phil and Cathie, Craig M., Mark and Jerry. It was an amazing time.

The next morning, we ate breakfast at the King's Palace Cafe. We went to the studio of photographer Ernest C. Withers, who is well-known for his photos of the Memphis music scene as well as the Civil Rights era. It was great to meet this 84 year old man. He had photographed our friend Frank back in 1955. Frank passed away last year, but he was B.B. King's bus driver for 20 years. We had seen the photograph in several books, and it was great to be able to talk to him. He signed a copy of the photo for us.

Ernest C. Withers showing Craig the photo of our friend Frank

Then we drove to Nashville and got there pretty much just in time for the show. We were in the second row of pews at the Ryman, and once again had a great view. The sound was phenomenal. The set list didn't seem as adventurous as the Memphis one, but it was still a fantastic show. I am splitting hairs here.

After the show we hung out with the Raindogs at Buffalo Billiards. Most of the same folks who went to Memphis also went to this show, with the addition of our friend Eric. A great time was had by all.

After that we headed to Layla's Bluegrass Inn to watch Rich Gilbert play. The band rocked. We had some hot dogs and a few drinks, staying until closing time.

The next morning we ate at the famous Pancake Pantry, went record shopping at The Great Escape, did a drive-by of the Nashville Parthenon, and then headed back to the airport.

For full details, see our writeup on our web site.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Hello world!

Hi! We're Steph and Craig and this is our brand new blog. We decided to start a blog mainly to notify people of updates to our web site, Travel is our favorite thing to do, and we post detailed journals and photographs from our trips on our site. On this blog, we plan to give overviews of some of our trips with links to full write-ups on our site for more details.

We are also very big music fans, so we will also probably post some concert pictures from time to time.