Monday, December 19, 2011

Shoes Optional, Ringworm Not

Everything of substance in Malawi was either well used, exhausted, worn, or dusty. Red dust was everywhere- air, water, ground, and coating every surface imaginable. One of the most horrifying/humbling experiances I ever had- and this one isn't a story I like to tell- was when a malnorished 9 year old (9? 12?) carefully knelt down and whiped the red dust off of my pleathure, snug black tennis shoes. I felt awful. 'Never, ever, letting a thing happen like that again.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Zambia Night Safari

My 2010 or 2009 Africa trip. :) I'd kill to go back to Zambia- amazing. xD Made me realize there's a whole damn world out there.

The veiw of the death deffying road that took our little group from Malawi across the border to Zambia. Absoloutley terrifying. I have a few blurry picts of our guide's speedometer actually- about 65-70 Mph on this tiny, under-construction, gaping, charred road. A road which, may I add, included lots of locals ogling from the side lines, goats and sugarcane included. The guy in the picture was the swashbuckling young Irishman who accompanied us, swearing and smoking the whole way. Until that point, I'd never encountered an Irish/Welsh/Scottish accent. As it were, I stuck to him like a burr, the poor guy. :) Mom was aghast.

Not to get all romantic on you, but I've never seen a sky like the skies in Malawi and Zambia. Whole new constellations, no trace of pollution... beautiful. Taken at dusk before our night safari. :)

During the said night safari, our little homey clump got lucky enough to witness a lion hunt.I actually have the safari's description in the journal I kept at the time.

"We started with giraffes at 4' o' clock. I'll tell you right now, those things are absoloutley huge up close. We saw a few elephants at a distance, and bushbucks EVERYWHERE. Due to a bumpy road and bad hearing, we first called them bushbutts. And the name stuck. By the time the guide bothered to correct us, we couldn't call them anything else. Or, as our spotter (guy with the spotlight- we'd use the spotlight as it got dark.) pointed our with a cheshire cat grin, McDonalds. Sure enough, the markings on their butts form a gold "M." Also noted as fast food. (Bad joke, I know, but it wasn't mine.)
We stopped just as the sun was setting on a panoramic, breathtaking veiw of the river in front of us, plains behind us, and the red sun sinking behind the trees to our right. Our team all broke open a few bottles of soda, Andy smoked, and Mom took pictures. And then the guide announced we would only be stopping for nocturnal animals, and it got good. Mom and Ms. Witte both were starting to sound like drunk schoolgirls as we were forced to pass up hippos, giraffes, and zebras. Their main joke consisted of "Nope, can't stop now, gotta see them nocturnal animals! Stupid non-nocturnals- just majestically wandering around, stopping an arms length from the car, rolling in the dirt, you know how it goes."
But they both gave up the joke the moment at least a thousand cape buffalo stampeded across the road, obviously scared by something. I can't describe what it was like to see so many, so close, so panicked. It was five minutes before we could drive forward a little again. The buffalo were so scared they didn't give a shit about us, our car's spotlight in their eyes, or the endless paparazzi flashes from cameras. I tried to get a good picture, but there were too many, and it wasn't until thirty minutes later did I find the movie recording setting.
But I got a video of the lions. Four videos, in fact. Our first sighting was from a distance- there were at least four females on the opposing river bank. Our second was crazy as hell- we were perhaps as far away from a lone female as you would stand from a stray dog- keeping your distance, but still close enough that if you took five steps, you could pet it. She was stalking through the brush. She didn't give a damn that we were there either, which is a hella good thing, because those things are powerful. As far as size comparison, she was about as tall in the shoulder as just below my chest, and probably one and half times taller than me when she was stretched out. But it was only a glimpse. The real thrill came a few minutes later, when we saw the herd scatter and run like hell.
We lost sight of the females just before, and saw the baby buffalo and the male lion just after. After the dust had settled and the majority of the herd was across the river, one lone, stranded and confused calf was left behind, crying oput piteously and wandering back and forth behind bushes. Perhaps a few meters away was a young, male lion, just growing in a shaggy black mane. If I said the lion wandered away in ignorance and the baby safely skipped away to it's mother, I'd b e lying to the ultimate. We never saw the male take down the calf- we heard it bleat, and we never saw male nor calf again.
Our guide advised us to come back in a little while, as a lion hunt could last all night. I'm glad we did leave, both for the future's sake and Ms. Witte's stomach. I say the future because one of the animals we had been praying to see was a leopard. We found one only maybe ten minutes away from the scene of the hunt. He (She?) was absoloutley gorgeaus. There's a beautiful animal. We spotted it from behind a bush, and, to our joy, the driver pulled off the road, made us swear to not tell his boss, and drove closer. It was about the size of Nelly, no bigger. Just the size of a big dog. But it had a bushbutt at it's feet, and was busy ripping out intestines. Cameras blazing, I think we stayed for twenty or so minutes.
By then we left to give the poor cat some peace (though I really think it couldn't have cared less), and eagerly sped off (back on the road) to see the results of the hunt. We rounded the corner, pulled into a clearing, and shone the headlight's beams directly onto the squirming form of a large, assumably female cape buffalo pinned down by three, tawny, muscled female lions.
The buffalo was still alive as they tore into it's stomach.
I tell you this because I couldn't take my eyes away- the buffalo didn't stop squirming until near the end, though we could hear another one squeling from behind a bush. I told myself quite firmly that it wasn't the baby, but the cries were coming from the direction where we'd seen it being seperated, and I noticed that the male lion was mysteriously missing. I took four videos, a hundred pictures, and happily zoomed in on bloodstained patches of fur despite my stomach of tin foil. (Not steel, tin foil. ;)
After four more safari cars pulled up to watch, our land rover had to pull out and go look elsewhere. Everything paled after that, but it was still so, so surreal. I saw scorpio for the fisrt time today, as well as the southern cross. I keep telling myself to accept it's real, but I'm not getting very far. A shame, because I don't want to miss any of this.

A crappy photo, but a beautiful coat. *Whistful sigh* Not that big, but moved fast. Our guide kept yammering about leopards being nocturnal and lounging in trees while my mom and I cowered in the backseat. :)

When we were served dinner, they offered steak. I couldn't finish the last bite without remembering the smell of blood, the crack of bone, and steady slurping/smacking sound."

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Across the Border Now...

Ahhh, Canada. The nature, the wilderness, the manners, the men.... Hmmm. x) Taken back in 2010, still with my Panisonic, this time accompanied by my exuberant 80-year old Canadian born grandmother.

Beautiful lake Louise!

Banff (Below)

Our beautifully scenic bathroom break.

A choice few of the wildflowers;

Looks like Queen Anne's Lace, but not. (?)



Going a Little Farther Now...

Barn life in Potlach, Idaho. (2010)

One of the horses being borded at the barn.

Pardon my immaturity, but this one always gave off a bit of a "dark side of the moon" feel. :D The next few are still in the barn, taken with my old Panisonic. The hound is either Cooper or Hunter- pardon my lapse of memory, but there were two, practically identical. x) Both sweethearts, mind you.

Starting Close to Home

Our 110 pound Great Pyranees, Nelly.

Some of last years Christmas shots, taken with my little DMC Panasonic. The lovely model here is our family's magnificient Great Pyranees, Nell Goodman Sackett, my personal pride and joy. I almost froze my toes off for these, but it was worth it. These two shots were my best in that bout of frenzied snapshots. :)

'Looks like this the rest of the time;