“This is a very strange onion soup,” I said. “It has crispy crunchy onions on top, but it has mushrooms in it.” Mushroom soup was the special soup for the day, but I had ordered onion.
We have wanted to try the Hideaway ever since we got to Sedona, and today is the day. We have to look to find it, it really is hidden away. It is at the end of a little strip/court mall, with a difficult entrance. You are supposed to enter at one place and exit at another. I say this with authority, because we did it the other way, LOL.
As soon as we found the Hideaway, we knew it was for us. It overlooks a vast wadi full of trees and brush and a creek. It reminds us of places we’ve stayed in Botswana, you can almost hear the elephants crashing through the trees if you listen hard enough. We are sitting out on the verandah, looking at the menus, and everything on the menu sounds really good, a little different from the norm, very creative.
This is the view above the tree line:
There is a large seating area inside, too, but the day is so gorgeous, everyone wants to sit outside.
I ordered the onion soup and a bacon, lettuce and avocado sandwich. AdventureMan orders a salad and a pizza.
AdventureMan is eating his salad, listening to me discuss how odd this “onion soup” is. “Mushroom soup is the soup of the day,” he reminded me. “They probably just made a mistake. Send it back!”
I can’t send it back. It isn’t the onion soup I ordered, I’m pretty sure, but I can’t stop eating it. It is unbelievably delicious.
AdventureMan says this is one of the best pizzas he has eaten in his life, ever, and we have had a goodly number of pizzas 🙂
My salad and my Bacon, Lettuce and Avocado were delicious, but paled in comparison to that soup. I loved the freshness and variety of the greens, and the fresh taste of the sandwich, which was way too much food after that exquisite soup.
AdventureMan had a beer, I had a red wine. Both local, both very very good. We don’t drink so much anymore, but we enjoy it more.
When the bill came, at the end of the meal, there it was, as clear as could be:
I didn’t even make a squeak. I didn’t even tell the server she had made a mistake. That mistake was so delicious. This was probably one of the best overall meals of our trip. Wonderful environment, fabulous views, tasty food in copious amounts, good beer and good local wine, great service and reasonable price – life is sweet.
Once a year I get to troll the internet looking for cakes. It is so much fun. I had no idea there is so much creativity out there, so much daring. I found a wedding cake that is tilted! Something in me loved it, loved the spirit of a woman who would marry knowing life is often off-kilter and messy.
I love white roses, so this year I have sent some to myself:
Come on by, have some virtual cake with me to celebrate seven years of blogging:
And here, an elegant combination of cake and white roses:
Seven years ago in Kuwait, I started blogging. There was a wild blogging scene in Kuwait, a lively community. Blogs were candid, and many were substantial, dealing (carefully) with political and economic issues in Kuwait. I remember reading and learning, and finally gathering up my courage to write my very first entry, and it has been a recurring theme, cross-cultural communication. I learned so much from my life in the Middle East, Tunisia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait. I made the most amazing friends. It changed my life and my perceptions utterly.
Of the three Kuwait female bloggers who inspired me to start blogging, Jewaira has gone private, 1001 Nights is a good friend, a mother, and an author 🙂 and Desert Girl is still going strong. Mark, at 2:48 a.m. is also still going strong, so strong that he has been able to leave his full time employment and operate on a consultant basis.
Of course, as any blogger will, I sometimes think of quitting. There are days I find myself with nothing to say, nothing in my life so interesting that I think it is worth sharing, not even a news story worth noting. So I’ve had to ask myself why I continue.
I do it for myself. When I started, I had a reason and that reason still stands. I forget things. This isn’t age-related, it’s busy-life busy-world related; we forget the details.
My Mother saved all my letters from Tunisia. I remember reading them and laughing because at three, my son’s best friend in his day school was a boy he called Cutlet. I know his real name is Khalid, but Cutlet was as close as this little American boy in a French-Tunisian school could get. I had totally forgotten, until I read the letter. So my primary reason for continuing to blog is documentary – just plain record keeping, like an old fashioned diary. Noting things in my daily life or the life around me.
Even now, sometimes I see a post written long ago, usually one of our Africa trips, Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Zambia – will start getting a rush of stats. It thrills my heart. It makes it all worthwhile, knowing something I have put out there is helping others, even years later. Perhaps one day, I will quit blogging, but leave the blog up, with these informational articles.
My stats make no sense at all, one of my biggest stat gainers this year was a news article I tossed off about the prank on the South Korean pilot names after the plane crash landed in San Francisco. It just made me giggle, and I couldn’t resist printing it. It ended up with a life of its own, as many entries do – and you just never know. Someone pins an image and you get a million (ok hyperbole here) hits you never expected.
In the end, I believe that those who keep blogging do it because as Martin Luther once said, “I cannot other.” We do it because something within needs to be expressed, even if it is just some kind of daily record. I know it’s why I blog.
Some mornings, I am astonished at how wonderful it is to live in a place where we have the luxury to set aside wide tracts of lands to preserve our natural heritage. St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge evokes that response in me. It’s even more astonishing that because a couple years ago I bought a lifetime Senior Pass, getting into the national parks is free – for the rest of my life. What a great country we live in. 🙂
It is a cold and frosty morning as we load up to head out to St. Marks for some serious bird watching and photographing. Serious, that is, for AdventureMan, who actually does birding trips with other serious birders. I am a bird-appreciator, as in I know what a cardinal is, and a blue jay. I can pretty well recognize a buzzard. Hey, show me a painting and I can probably tell you who painted it, but birds . . . not so much.
I love being outdoors in Florida on a wonderful clear cool day with fabulous conditions for taking photos. I love just wandering along some of the birding trails and seeing what we can see. It’s an amazing place; in some of the areas where we stopped to wander, it reminded me of places we like to go in Africa, of Zambia, of Namibia, of Botswana . . . some of the habitat is so alike, I can almost hear those tectonic plates creaking apart, drifting, and wonder how much of the flora is directly related to African flora.
We had these in Tunisia; we called them Prickly Pear, and the Tunisians used them for borders to separate their lands. They also made jam with the prickly pears, and they skinned the leaves and fried up the meat from inside the thick prickly pear leaves. I think what a great border they would make in Pensacola, but a very unfriendly border. Good for keeping away thieves and burglers, but not very attractive, and not very welcoming . . . but very very African:
Some fishermen, probably setting some crab traps near the shore:
The St. Mark’s lighthouse:
Every now and then you have a lucky moment, and I happened to shoot this heron just as he had a wiggling sparkly fish in his beak, just before he swallowed it. I admit it, I wasn’t trying. If I had been trying, I could never have gotten it just at the right moment:
Some very clever park person went around and made all the deer crossing signs into Rudolph signs, LOL!
The park is full of very serious-faced people carrying HUGE lenses on cameras attached to seriously sturdy tripods, lenses meant to capture the details of the pinfeathers, cameras to document a rare sighting. These people don’t talk about ducks, they talk about Merganzers and Koots, and the rarely seen such-and-such, and I just listen and keep my mouth shut while my head spins.
For me, it’s enough to see these wonderful creatures, free of fear, safe in their migrations. It’s enough to have a cool day, a great day for walking, and NO mosquitos. It’s a great day for my kind of birding, which is very non-serious to be sure.
This brand new book in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series could not have come at a better time for me. Sorting through, giving away, selling my car – it all takes a toll. It’s a little like dying, this moving. I know I will be “resurrected” in another life, but in the meanwhile, I have so much grief, and I just stuff it away and keep going. These books are my carrots; they are my reward at the end of the day.
I have a stack of books and I am going through them like a locomotive – just chugging along.
Mma Precious Ramotswe and her totally different world in Botswana sweep me away totally. I love the sweetness of the way she thinks, her love for her country, and her tolerance. In Tea Time for the Traditionally Built, several things are going on at once, not the least of which is that she, also, must part with her dearly loved little white van, which has gone as far as it can go, and can go no further. The engine cannot be revived, not even one more time, by her dear husband, mechanic J.L.B. Matekoni.
Just in time, just when they need a new customer, comes Mr. Molofololo, the owner and manager of the Kalahari Swoopers, who hires Mma Ramotswe to find the traitor who is causing the Swoopers to lose their games.
Last, but not least, Mma Makutsi’s fiancee (she is the Assistant Detective now, remember?) Phuti Radiphuti, is being assaulted by Makutsi’s old rival from the secretarial school, Violet Sephotho, who is looking for a rich husband, and would love to steal Grace’s fiancee away, for all the worst reasons. How can plain Grace, with her big glasses and her unfortunate complexion, compete with the glamorous and seductive Violet? Can Phuti resist her wiles?
When I reached the last ten pages of the book, none of these crises had been resolved, and I thought “Oh no! How can the book end with all these loose ends out there?” but in a deft drawing together, McCall vanquishes the devils, finds simple solutions, and leaves us with Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi having tea together at the President Hotel.
This book is a great way to end the day with a smile on your face. 🙂 I bought this book for $21 in a bookstore, but Amazon has it for $14.37 plus shipping. I don’t buy a lot of hardcover books, but this one was worth every penny.
Our trip started at the Grumeti River Camp and continued on the the Serengeti Tent Camps. We have filled our eyes and ears with the sights and sounds of the Great Migration, and have had the thrills of elephants, giraffes, lions, hyenas, alligators and vultures in addition. Now it is time to head north, to the Klein’s Wilderness Camp, located near Klein’s Wilderness Lodge.
The “airport” at Serengeti, from where we are flying, is a busy little place with one open-to-the-air little cafe and a toilet down a path with two stalls. It’s the bring-your-own paper kind of place, but it’s nice there is that convenience. The landing strip itself is just a cleared piece of ground where the little two engine planes land and take off.
Our flight is larger than most we have taken, maybe 20-something people, most on the way home or to Zanzibar. First, they are dropping us off at Kleins, a short flight away. The landing field at Klein’s has a little antelope running across it when we get there, so the pilot circles and lands on the lush green landing strip. There is no one there. We wait, it is inevitable that a car come roaring around the curve any moment now, but no car comes. The pilot comes on the microphone and asks who the passengers are for Klein’s, and we raise our hands.
“I can’t leave you here,” he says.
We totally understand. There are lions around. This is a wild country.
“I have to take you to Arusha with us,” he says, “and I will bring you back on the next flight.”
I am not entirely unhappy. In the tiny little airport in Arusha, I found a vendor who is selling Masai textiles and raw gems at very good prices. He is Moslem, and astounded that I speak some Arabic. When I come back to his shop, he is delighted to see me again. (or maybe I paid too much the first time, ya think?)
I pick up a few more momentos, and head back for the airline departure desk, where there is a very loud argument going on over the telephone about who is to blame about our not being picked up at Klein’s Wilderness Camp. The Camp says the airlines never told them. The airlines say they did. It’s on our itinerary, which we have had for months, and we landed exactly when they said we would, but in Africa, you have to stay flexible, flight schedules change depending on where customers need to be dropped off. It doesn’t pay to get angry or aggressive, you learn to just go with the flow. Things will work out.
A short time later, the pilot takes us to the plane for the flight back, and whoa! We fly right over an active volcano!
This time, when we get to Klein’s, a car is waiting and the arguement between Klein’s and the airlines continues. On the way to Klein’s, we are told that they were never told when we would be arriving.
Don’t you hate it when people refuse to take any responsibility? The airlines treated us so well, the pilot said he didn’t think it was their fault but he went out of his way to make sure we felt well taken care of. This is the only time at CCAfrica that we felt the camp was not well managed, and part of that feeling came from this continual message of “it’s not our fault.” We later learned that the previous camp manager had just been fired and a new manager was starting, and there was a lot of work going on to try to get the camp back on track.
This was another beautiful location, we were high up and could see forever.
Sometimes, in the mornings, or in the late afternoon, the migrating antelope came through the camp. We could sit outside and just watch them file past.
Most of our days in this camp, we would leave early in the morning, have lunch with us so we would stop somewhere in the park, and not get back until late at night. These are the vehicles we travelled in, stopped for a break
Some of the roads were barely there, were pitted, or rutted, or were raw rock:
We spent hours watching the zebra herds, and the shy antelope:
“How can you spend hours watching zebra?” you might ask. Every zebra is different. It’s particularly fun watching female zebra with their young. When they are born, the momma zebra insures that her little baby zebra sees only her coat for the first important hours of it’s life, so that the baby can recognize the momma zebra’s own unique markings:
But there were other thrills as well. The nice thing about travelling in a very small group (most of the time just AdventureMan and I and the guide) was that you can ask them to stop while you photograph a beautiful purple flower:
And if you see a leopard, you can just sit and watch him as long as you like:
We rarely ran into others from the camps, but this Masai was accompanying another group:
Among the thrills in this more northern camp were also the glorious birds. This is one of our favorites, a Lilac Breasted Roller:
I’m not sure what this bird is, probably a common starling. His fluorescent coloring attracted my eye. AdventureMan says that the fluorescent coloring happens a lot in birds which eat excrement, but he is not sure that is true, just what he thinks he remembers:
We love travelling with CCAfrica. They specialize in eco-tourism, like the Robin Pope Safari Camps we travel with in Zambia. Our all time favorite safari with them was The Hemingway, a 14 day safari through Botswana, starting in Zimbabwe at Victoria Falls, heading south to Chobe and Moremi, Savute, the Okavango and then flying into the Kalahari. It was an all-time thrill. If January is a little slow for you and you want to read about the Hemingway Safari you can click on that blue type and it will take you to the first entry – of thirteen! I wrote it up back when I was first blogging, sort of as a discipline for myself to get it all down in writing. There aren’t a lot of photos – I wasn’t digital then – but it is a very thorough description of a trip-of-a-lifetime safari.
Even though they don’t seem to offer this particular safari anymore, CCAfrica will tailor any safari you want to your specifications. What we loved about the Hemingway was that so much of it was under canvas, so we would be sleeping right out among the animals – and listening all night.
A warning – none of these safaris are for people who HATE getting up early. The game is active in early early morning and late afternoon, so most camps get you up at 5:30 – 6:00 so you can grab a quick cup of coffee and bite to eat and then run for the jeeps/vehicles that will take you out to see the game. It can be very cold on an early morning game run, but oh – the thrills! It is SO worth it! You come back late morning, have your mid-day meal, which in these camps is always amazing, and then you have quiet time in the heat of the afternoon, when you can catch up on those zzZZZZZZZzzzzz’s you missed out on in the early morning. You wake up refreshed, ready for afternoon tea and your afternoon/evening game drive. They feed you and feed you – but we never gain weight on these trips, maybe because you are rocking around over the rough roads all day.
And, when the trip is over, and you are ready for a few days of sloth and luxury before you return to the real world, there is no better spot for transitioning than the CCAfrica private island hideaway of Mnemba, a place we dream about on a cloudy dark day in Kuwait:
That is Mnemba island in the background, viewed from the beach in Zanzibar. You take a boat to get there, and when you land, you land barefoot. You never put your shoes on the entire time you are there. It is beautiful, secluded, luxurious and infinitely private. You can have all your meals in your own banda, if you wish. They have their own marine reserve, a dive shop, snorkeling equipment and it is all included. They even have internet. 🙂
View from our Mnemba banda:
Our last morning hearing “Good morning” and zip zip, as our water is delivered. The big full moon is still up as we get our coffee around the campfire, hating to go. But, all too soon, it is time to load our bags into the truck and head for the airstrip. It is cold. I have my sweater on over my dress. Both Godfrey and Paul, at separate times, admire my long Saudi dress, and tell me with approval that I look like an African woman. I am just glad that there are also blankets available in the truck, as it is really, really cold in the desert.
I am even more glad for the blanket a couple hours later, when Godfrey slows the truck, and then stops. In the middle of the road, not 100 yards away, are two lions. Big young male lions. They show no fear, and, in fact, one starts walking purposefully toward the truck. He eventually turns back, but as we begin to leave, he turns back for another look. Now, there are three of them. The biggest keeps walking toward us, and walks to the side of the truck, the side where I am sitting. Godfrey tells us just to keep still, and all that he has taught us about lions goes through my mind. Sit still, look him in they eye so he will know you are dominant and not afraid.
We’ve seen lions before, in Chobe, in Moremi, and in these more heavily travelled game parks, I think the animals know you aren’t a threat. Most of the time, they just tolerate you presence, or slowly walk away. And, my friends, I am looking this lion in the eye. He is four feet from me. And I know sees me. And I don’t think he thinks I am a part of the diesel and rubber smell, he looks amused, and intrigued, and . . .hungry.
I have seen my cats look at little mice the same way. And I am aware that we have no gun, and no real weapon. There is a shovel, but it is attached to the front bumper. The jack is on the rear bumper. There are thermoses, but they are in the wicker baskets. I am sitting her with nothing but a blanket and a camera, and this big interested looking lion is within pouncing distance. And he doesn’t think I am dominant. And he is very, very close. “Godfrey, DRIVE” I say, and I can hear AH and Angela breathe again; we’ve all been holding our breaths. Godfrey drives, very slowly, and the three young males lope along behind us.
I will add, that while I was sitting motionless with terror, eye to eye with the Kalihari lion, my husband was sitting just behind me, shooting photos over my shoulder.
What if we had had the flat tire in the middle of all this, we wonder? How would we change a tire? Godfrey says, you just wait until they go away. Waiting out a lion could take a LONG time, and it would seem even longer.
Then, out in front of the truck steps a female, and she has wounds. Godfrey drives very slowly, very carefully, for a wounded lion is a far less predictable lion. We are nearly giddy with relief when we finally get free of the lions, who lope along behind us for quite a while. The road is sand, and we can’t drive very fast.
My Adored Husband is totally annoyed that he ran out of film in the middle of the episode; I had film but I didn’t want to shoot while I was busy maintaining eye contact with the lion. (As it turns out, he did get one really good shot of the lion, a very beautiful shot, the lion is light gold against the white wheat of the background, and I love the shot.) The adreneline is still pumping. We made it to the airstrip just in time, in spite of the time we spent with the Kalihari lions.
Time to say goodbye to Godfrey, climb aboard our last little Cessna and leave the bush. What a way to go! Our flight to Maun is uneventful. Maun is a funny little airport, very small. We find a couple gift shops – we haven’t been spending anything out in the bush – and we deliver a message to Afro-Ventures from Godfrey, telling them he needs more information on his next safari. He has a full contingent of seven for the safari, a reverse of ours, starting in the Kalihari, just hours after we leave. They promise they will radio him the information.
We are not the same people as before we went to Botswana. We miss our camp. We loved this trip. You have to be able to endure the bumps and lumps of the overland drive to handle this particular trip, Afro Ventures’ Botswana a la Hemingway, but there are other ways, there are trips where you fly from destination to destination, and stay mostly in lodges. You would still experience much of what we experienced, just not the camping portion.
AfroVentures and CCAfrica merged, and we don’t think you can get a better combination of knowledgeable guides and gracious accomodations. Every single day of our journey exceeded expectations. It was a grand adventure. Thanks for coming along.
This lion is actually a Grumeti lion from Tanzania, but I wasn’t digital yet when we travelled Botswana.