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July through September, 2015

Into and Out of Africa
The End of an Era

This has been a very busy quarter for us. We began with a six-week trip to Africa and England then entertained guests from Japan and Canada for two weeks. That left us a little over 5 weeks of “free time” at home.

Gary, Kendal and Arthur left on July 2, arriving in Tanzania on July 3 to begin their climb up Mount Kilimanjaro via the Machame Route. Getting up the 19,341' (5,895 meter) peak and back down required 7 days and 6 nights of hiking and camping. Gary and Arthur have the advantage of living at 5,000' and Kendal spent a week in Bozeman doing several training hikes before we left. They all coped well with the altitude, although Arthur may have had a sinus infection and experienced some difficulties during the climb. The final part of the ascent is done in the dark; the goal is to be at or near the summit at sunrise. At the summit Gary and Kendal sealed empty disposable water bottles so they could take fresh air from the summit down to friends at sea level and show them what they missed. It's a good way to demonstrate what one is breathing at the summit (where the air pressure is less than 50% of sea level).

See drafts of our Kilimanjaro pictures and videos at Gary's YouTube Channel. There is also a rather lengthy prose entry in Gary's Climbing Diary.

After Kilimanjaro, Gary, Kendal and Arthur met Pauline and others in Durban, South Africa, then took a 7-hour shuttle ride to rustic Mbotyi River Lodge on the Wild Coast of South Africa on the Indian Ocean. The geology of the Wild Coast and the consequent lack of roads makes travel up and down the coast very difficult. Even hiking the rugged 174 mile coast takes a strong hiker 25 days.

While the divers took in the Greatest Shoal on Earth, we toured some of the many waterfalls in the area; pictured here is Waterfall Bluff. Arthur (yellow) and Kendal (orange) along with Brandon and friend Evan can be seen on the ledges near the bottom of the falls. We also took a flight in a microlight to see some of the falls from the air.

From Mbotyi, we travelled to Sabi Sabi, where we stayed at the luxurious Selati Camp. Sabi Sabi is a private game reserve that borders Kruger National Park. Through an agreement with Kruger NP, there is no fence between the park and the game reserve, so animals wander freely between the two; under this agreement, the animals in Sabi Sabi receive similar protections to those in the park. On the safaris we saw a rare “Royal Big 5,” which is the Big 5 (elephant, rhinoceros, leopard, lion and cape buffalo) including both the white and black rhinoceros.

One of the many exciting moments was when we accidentally surprised a group of elephants. The matriarch of the herd appeared to take exception to our intrusion. The ranger told us “Don't move!” The spotter sitting on the left fender of the safari vehicle would have been the first to feel her wrath, but did a good job of looking non-threatening. She ultimately decided we were not a threat, calmed down and rejoined her herd.

After Sabi Sabi, we parted ways with the others and began our own tour, starting with 5 days in Cape Town. There was a beautiful view of Table Mountain out our hotel window at the Victoria and Alfred Hotel. The mountain is often covered with its own cloud, called the Table Cloth, even when skies are clear. We finally made it to the top (via cable car) on the last day of our stay, all other days being either too cloudy or too windy for it to open. Our tour included Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned), Kirstenbosch Gardens, the Cape of Good Hope, and the Stellenbosch wine region.

From Cape Town, we boarded Rovos Rail for a 7 day train journey to Victoria Falls. The Rovos train recreates the luxury of Edwardian England (viz. the years leading up to Downton Abbey). Each couple has their own private room and bath, and must “dress for dinner.” On the way we made several scheduled stops, inluding the Kimberly Diamond Mine and game parks in Botswana and Zimbabwe. Hwange Park in Zimbabwe was much in the news both before and after our visit.

We stayed several days at Victoria Falls on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. Since news from home had many stories of forest fires we were concerned to see what appeared to be a large forest fire miles up the rail line as we approached our terminus. It soon occurred to us we were actually seeing the mist from Victoria Falls. The falls is over one mile across, so it is difficult to appreciate the magnitude of it except from high in the air. Unlike most falls, one does not view it from the bottom since it falls into a deep, narrow chasm. Therefore one views it from across the chasm at the same level as the top. For most of the year it would be suicidal to enter the chasm; the remainder of the year it would unpleasant at best.

After 4 weeks in Africa (5 for Gary), we travelled to England to spend 10 days with family. We spent several days on The Broads and two days in Cambridge. We were both more than ready to go home, in spite of the good time we had.

On August 26 Gary let Rosie out at 7:05am and she immediately started barking. Looking to see what she might be barking at, he saw that a house belonging to Bob and DeeDee Rasmus was completely engulfed in flames. An emergency vehicle was controlling traffic below so someone had already called 911. Bob had maintained defensible space around the house. However, that space is intended to protect the house from the trees, not vice-versa. Fortunately there was no wind to speak of. Eight fire departments from the area soon arrived and started making sure the fire did not spread into the forest (since the house was already a total loss). People in surrounding homes prepared to evacuate. The fire soon subsided and no further damage was done.

Bob and DeeDee were awakened by their dogs once the house was well involved and just managed to escape in their pajamas with the dogs, sustaining some minor burns. They had no money, credit cards, driver's license, cars, clothing, .... The source of the fire is under investigation. It appears the fire started on wooden decks outside the house and did not set off indoor fire alarms until it had encompassed much of the house.

Among our visitors were our friends Hiro and Akemi from Japan. They had visited us before in 2007 and 2004. In 2012, they hosted us during our 10 day trip to Japan. We took them over the Beartooth Highway to Cody, Wyoming, then to Yellowstone and Grand Teton Parks. In this picture they are sampling a cowboy delicacy: Rocky Mountain Oysters at the restaurant in the Irma Hotel.


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