Parched Earth

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At this time we’re gonna jump back to Namibia for a comparison of green because all through R&R we couldn’t get over how lush and beautiful and alive the US felt. Our hike at Custer Park was abundant with moisture; returning to Windhoek felt like a bit of a dust bowl.

Namibia is lovingly touted by the locals of German heritage as the land of sunshine and beer. There is not going to be any beer in this post. Just the water that we carry with us. That is the only liquid anywhere around, except maybe a bit of sweat that builds up under our jackets in the winter morning chill. By 8:30 am, when the jackets are shed, that too is evaporated. Namibia is parched earth.

IMG_0401Here are some photos from a winter morning walk with the dogs along some trails just on the outskirts of the city. Aside from roaming cattle, we have managed to avoid baboon and warthogs, which is not a bad thing in our opinion. Bezi wears a backpack too and helps to haul water supplies for us all.

IMG_0403Snack time always gets their attention!

Usually at the start of the hike both dogs can’t get enough of the smells — nor enough opportunities to leave a few smells behind themselves. The trails go on for miles and miles and miles and you can easily get lost if you don’t pay attention or have a decent sense of direction.

Now that we’ve hiked these dry, dusty hills a few times, the dogs know when we are heading out. Wookie has developed the habit of racing to the watering dish and loading up her bladder for the challenge and we are thrilled. Dehydration for them too is a real concern here. Being 5,600 feet above sea level complicates things a bit as well. We know of one family’s dog that is suffering epileptic seizures due to this strain on its system. They no longer hike these trails and both of us are frequently turning some of the dogs’ kibble into watery soup at meals to keep them hydrated enough.

IMG_0405Snake territory, too.

We wait now for rain that most likely won’t come for another 3 months. Everyone is hoping La Niña brings us a very wet and early summer. Since these photos were taken 6 weeks back, the earth has burnt and browned even more under Namibia’s harsh sun – it really is a new definition of dry. We still have September to get through which is typically Windhoek’s least humid month, percentages only in the teens. Temperature highs are back into the 80s – you can feel the heat climbing.

Our first fly of the season entered the house yesterday, a sure sign that winter is on its way out. In preparation I’ve been knocking down termite mounds along the fence line of our home – we don’t need to supply any additional troops for the winged swarms that will overtake the yard in the near future with the first drops from the sky. For now the dusty chunks of nest stir up in the strong winds and re-coat everything in its path with a fine layer of brown silt.

But those will be stories, I’m sure, for another day. For now I leave you pondering the story behind this, and with an urge I’m sure for a tall cool glass of delicious clear water. Drink up!

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Where the Buffalo Roam

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Very bad photo unless used to show what is a safe distance to keep from a buffalo and its buddies.

Buffalo. Bison. Bison. Buffalo. Interchangeable words; though, scientifically, it is bison. This is information you should have if your children decide it is a point of verbal contention in the middle of a loooooong series of car rides.

I wish I had much better photos but our limited packing meant no telephoto lens, which would have come in handy here. There are ‘safari’ buffalo jeep rides you can get tickets to join where they take you out into the middle of the herd, where awesome photos can safely be taken from the safety of a vehicle, but at $50.00 a pop a person it wasn’t to be.

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At least the photo I got of the pronghorn was closer and clearer.

So we drove ourselves through Custer State Park’s wildlife loop, hoping to meet up close near the roadside with one of America’s majestic wildlife animals. Overnight storms had abated and it turned out to be a gorgeous day.

P1130490Did you know that as of May of this year President Obama signed a law making the buffalo/bison our national mammal? Another President – Teddy Roosevelt – had formed the American Bison Society back in 1905, to help protect against the bison’s looming disappearance due to extensive over-hunting. When you really think about it, it’s no wonder the herds of today stay far back.

We decided to go for a walking ‘safari’ park option because there were several free (after admission) hiking trails available to choose from along ‘the loop’. Exercise and adventure are so good for the traveler’s soul, and can stop the sometimes unending questioning of ‘Are we there yet?’ from the youngest in the back seat.

P1130478We decided on this one – that lower right hand corner had all the really good information.

P1130479The poison ivy bit had me more worried than the buffalo bit. Poison Ivy was definitely there. Buffalo could be there, and could also NOT be there. After all, hubs and I had survived walking with the rhinos – and with flipflops on and a red shirt even! Bison are nearsighted, relying on their senses of smell and hearing – but they are pretty darn fast and able to wheel on a dime, plus nearly 2,000 pound big, so we set off gingerly, excited for a sighting but alert for danger.

Here we are setting off:

P1130480Spoiler alert: we never saw bison. We did encounter many buffalo chips – some looking quite fresh – that kept our hopes up as we traversed hills, mud, and a 300 meter long uphill patch of attack bugs. The wild prairie has many, many bugs. This was almost a deal breaker.

But if you can get through the bug infested welcome gauntlet (swinging, slapping, and spitting even) there are some beautiful wildflower meadows.

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Definitely more enchanting – and in focus – in real life.

The trail also had some lovely outlook views of hills, skyline, clouds, and trees.

No buffalo.

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We took a quick break at the top here to admire the view.

The trail went pretty much downhill from this point, as we skipped around a bit more poison ivy and a whole lot more buffalo chips. Future gift stores we would go into later would have Frisbees in the form of buffalo chips for sale – we would laugh since they really did look like the real thing. On a side note: did you know there are chip tossing championship competitions going on? Not exactly an Olympic sport… yet… but it does exist!

We eventually did see a buffalo. At a later location.

Not the herd, mind you, with the white bison that makes this area even more special. Those buffalo were off far away from people, it figures with our luck.

But this buffalo:

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Cheeky car-trapped kids.

Maybe it was a good thing we never met a real live right in front of us buffalo?:

Buffalo charges horseback riders at Custer State Park   August 6, 2016

Two injured after getting too close to bison in Custer State Park  July 1, 2016

Custer State Park visitor hurt by buffalo  May 13, 2016 “Custer County South Dakota Emergency Management said on its Facebook page: “DO NOT TRY TO PET THE BUFFALO!” (you have to check this last link out; posted by Robbie Ray on a close up encounter gone not so good)

 

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Buy A Donkey – Thank you very much

When out and about your business here in Windhoek you will often overhear or be told “baie dankie“, Afrikaans for “thank you very much”.  It’s wonderful, and quite fun actually, to have it resemble something so memorable as “Buy a Donkey!” which is what our ears hear every single time.

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Innocently grazing donkeys lure you in. Beware: you are entering the famous Begging Burro area of Custer State Park.

Passing through donkey/dankie territory while on R&R sparked the sensation of tossing out random ‘thank yous’ to the universe, quite fitting actually as we were grateful for this stumbled upon adventure. Supposedly there are up to 50 of these sweet faced bandits posing as undemanding greeters to the park. They had their approaches down to perfection too.

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You go right; I’ll take the driver’s window and we’ll disarm them with our cuteness.

The question becomes, “Do they stop traffic?” or “Does traffic stop for them?” Regardless of how you look at the scenario, you have to admit that this experience with Begging Burros is a highlight for everyone involved. Some apparently even come here just for this opportunity.

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Inspection pull-over in progress.

We were a bit hesitant at first (Kruger Park rules and predator scenarios on the foremost of our minds), but that all dissolved in seeing so many guests interacting with the burros. Thinking back to Oman’s wild burros who mostly kept to themselves when we camped we decided it felt safe enough. Although we hadn’t prepared ahead to bring something specifically for our new friend; we did find something suitable in the ‘picnic’ basket.

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Who is luring who?

As you may have guessed, if you are blessed with a visit from a roadway ambling burro and you have an apple to feed him, magical things begin to happen. Like….. your son jumps out of the car and runs over to hang out with a better view and a chance to feed him too.

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Both have perfected the begging stare, although I must say the Donkey’s is a bit more intense and hypnotic. “Give me the apple.”; “No, give me the apple to give him, Dad.”; “I want some of that apple. Hand over the apple”;  “Can’t I feed him some apple, Dad? I want to feed him.”

Although the two bonded a bit over apple extortion tactics, our son soon scooted back inside the vehicle after witnessing our new friend’s ability to bite an apple in half with a mere lazy half-chew. Additionally, and not surprisingly, there was also the issue of this donkey’s growing curiosity regarding what else we might have available on the menu for his liking.

P1130474I think he’s telling us, “baie dankie“.  At this moment, hubs was saying “Bye, Donkey” and trying to avoid a whiskery good-bye kiss. Hilariously sweet, the moment was, if I do say so myself!  And these photos provided a much needed belly laugh – to the point of having to pull over because we couldn’t see through the tears. I’m even chuckling now!

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Pucker up, buttercup! The baie dankie kiss gets them every time!

 

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Olympic Discoveries and Legacies

We arrived in Windhoek around this time last year, and, as new arrivals do, we set to making sense out of our surroundings. Without a car, and dependent on over-priced but approved private driver ‘taxis’, it took a bit for the visual variations of routes to imprint on our mental maps of the city. It’s hard to really get a sense of a city from the back seat.

Soon the Japanese 2nd hand car we imported from ‘autorec’ (really, that’s the name) arrived and with a newly purchased GPS – for the very first time – we headed out to discover Windhoek, testing our right hand drive abilities in a land of relatively no traffic.

Learning about the various sections of the city was the next challenge in understanding our new home. We discovered Kleine Kuppe will offer you the city’s green recycling area where you can dump your yard debris. There are also areas for cardboard boxes, appliances, and metal. Many times there are baboon here. And nobody else.

Eros is another neighborhood, where the Mediclinic Hospital is located. Avis is out where the damn is located – walking and biking trails and a place for your dog to run free, but beware poisonous snakes and frequent robberies. Heinitzburg Hotel is a converted castle that was commissioned 102 years ago in the Luxury Hill burb. Katutura is the suburb township where apartheid’s ghost still lingers. Klein Windhoek is the oldest part of town.

Other names include Hakahana, Ludwigsdorf, Otjomuise (one of the two original names for the city of Windhoek), Southern Industrial, and Hochland Park. They are among many more districts to be found here in the capital city of Windhoek.  Some names are intuitive, such as the Academia suburb where you can find the University of Namibia.

That brings me to the suburb of Olympia. You want to find the public swimming pool? The canoe club? Paintball and go-carting? The city stadiums? This is your part of town! You can find these places on Tennis Street, Rugby Street, Netball Street, Stadion Street, Softball Street, Cricket Street…. are you seeing a theme here? A main artery road in the area, though, is Frankie Fredericks. One day, on a whim, I googled him.

Meet Windhoek, Namibia’s native son: Olympic winner, Mr. Frank “Frankie” Fredericks.

Frankie Fredericks is the first, and to date he is still, Namibia’s only Olympic medalist. He is a track and field athlete – running in the 100m and 200 m where he earned two silver medals in the Olympics in Barcelona in 1992 (Namibia’s first participation in an Olympics) and two silvers again in Atlanta in 1996.

I found out that back in 1987  he earned a scholarship to Brigham Young University where he earned a degree in Computer Science, and then later an MBA – plus earning athletic accolades while there – three years before Namibia would gain independence and he would be able to compete internationally for the first time out from under the shadow of apartheid. Can you even imagine?

In learning more about him, I discovered a soft-spoken man who is widely respected, a multiple record setter, a several gold medals winner and bronze, who encourages the next up-coming generations to pursue their dreams in sport through the Frank Fredericks Foundation and through his involvement in international athletic organizations, including as a member of both the International Olympic Committee and the Champions for Peace club.

He carried the torch in Rio on part of its journey to open the 2016 Olympics –  his presence and accomplishments I’m sure inspiring Namibia’s 10 athlete competitors in track and field, boxing, cycling (road and mountain) and shooting. Who doesn’t dream of representing their country and earning a medal to boot!?

https://www.google.com/search?q=namibia+2016+olympic&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b#mie=oly%2C%5B%22%2Fm%2F0135y9n9%22%2C3%2C%22o%22%2C1%2Cnull%2Cnull%2Cnull%2Cnull%2Cnull%2Cnull%2Cnull%2Cnull%2Cnull%2Cnull%2Cnull%2Cnull%2Cnull%2Cnull%2Cnull%2C14%5D

The hopefuls — Team Namibia — Olympic Opening Ceremonies Rio 2016 photo from google

Now we are several days into the competitions. The marathon event has happened already for Namibian runners Beata Naigambo, Helalia Johannes and Alina Armas.  Although no medals were earned, my total respect to these ladies for qualifying and representing. What an amazing accomplishment! Maybe we will see them again in 2020!?!!

Five athletes have not passed on in their competitions – 2 in boxing, one in shooting, and 2 more in cycling, but Namibia still has two more athletes who will soon compete for a chance at the gold. August 20th will see cyclist Michelle Vorster in the cross-country and on August 21st Mynhardt Kauanivi competing in the men’s marathon.

Perhaps Namibia will have another Olympic medalist? And through that, quite possibly, a newly named street out in Olympia. For now, though, every time I turn on to Frankie Fredericks Drive, I think of the man who is truly a great ambassador for his country and an Olympic legend of hardwork, talent, and class. A true winner.

 

 

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The Gambol Of Travel

I wanted to get a photo of the one baggage claim belt at the Frankfurt airport that looked like this below. But after the three hour pre-flight arrival, the 10 1/2 hours of flying from Windhoek, de-boarding, lines, and the next flight lined up in another so many more hours, I didn’t bother to dig for my camera, betting that the internet would have it to borrow and show you. (Different airport; same carousel maker)

When travel can feel truly like you are gambling against the clock, against news alerts, and against maintaining your happy place, it’s nice to have an unexpected chuckle and even sweeter to have all your in-tact luggage come spinning off the belt the at very first — which left us gamboling off to customs and yet another airline security line and another gate for another long-haul flight. Photographic evidence of that cozy send off can be seen here. Good thing our many destination stops involved a lot of movement, play, family and friends – the gamble and the gambol of travel was well-worth-it. Thank goodness were still young enough!

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You Know You’re In Trouble When

one of your long-haul flights starts off with this much leg room and no foot room due to the anchors of the seats in front of you. IMG_0424This is also when the knowledge of ‘human’ class can make you cry.

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Birds

I took most of these photos of birds in the back yard back in December and January when it was summer here. The few rains we had greened it up. Do you have a favorite?

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IMG_2976weaver (5)IMG_2378

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lovebird (1)red bird (4)

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