Sunday, April 30, 2006

Bury the Big Galoot in Africa.

Sadly, our greyhound CodyBill had to be put to sleep last week. :-(

He was no spring chicken, although we thought he had a couple of good years left in him. He had a failing heart that was unfortunately causing liver problems that in turn gave him massive seizures. We thought we had the seizures pretty much under control, but last Monday he kind of turned the corner as far as severity goes, and after three bad seizures in about 10 minutes he just never bounced back. We felt like he had given up, and frankly didn't blame him- they were hard on him and I'm sure they were, at best, puzzling for him. Thankfully, he spent the week we were on vacation in the home of a good friend who loved him and spoiled him and gave him the best second to last week of life any guy could wish for. Thank you Anna!

He was a true sweetie, and we can prove that just by the number of Ghanaians who loved him and are devastated by his loss- remember when we got here he was just BIG and FULL OF TEETH and the people who ended up loving him are the ones who were jumping fences and shutting doors just to avoid him at first. ;-)

Stephen and Duke both cried at the news, and poor Mark, who had to help get him through the last of the seizures because he was unfortunately (for Mark) handy when they started, carefully washed and dried the beach towel that we used to cool CodyBill down and cushion his head a little. He brought it to us the next day, clean and dry, and told us in his extra-shy Mark way, that he was sorry about the big dog (who has been known to shelter with Mark in the Boys' Quarters during rainstorms), and wished he didn't die. After almost a year of living with us, Mark still couldn't wrap his limited English around CodyB's name, but that wasn't necessary between friends- they shared meals, shelter, and relaxed in the heat of the day together.

Anyway, we have buried a piece of our hearts in Africa.

If you ever have room in your life for a dog, please consider rescuing a retired greyhound. Check the 'net for adoption places- there are dozens, in America, Europe, Africa, Australia- everywhere they race them. Greyhounds are incredibly zen and low maintenance- and the retired racers are eternally grateful for the new life you give them off the track. You don't have to have a big yard- they are sprinters, so can be kept very happy with nothing more than a nice walk before they collapse for a looooong nap. Every greyhound that gets adopted lowers the number of racers that die each year because homes can't be found (currently numbering in the tens of thousands).

And spare a thought for our little mutt Elliot who lost his best friend and mentor. Elliot is a little confused, and very lonely right now- he doesn't understand where the big dog is or why he gets to go out the door first now.

Here they are in happier days...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Into Africa: Appendix

And now, the last of the photos (these are from the 35mm camera), because you can never get enough of our African Safari trip, right?


Some of these are second looks at our more memorable sights- like the teenaged elephants (remember them?) who were so entertaining. Here they are closer...

...and the lions (this is his 'before mating' saunter)...

...and the giraffes whose romantic plans were interrupted by galumphing impala...

This is the family of elephants we watched bathing, then dusting themselves off with Botswana Dust dusting powder...

At one point, during our driving tour in Chobe National Park, we sat and watched a troop of baboons for quite a while. This guy (a youngish/teen type) was by turns bold and skitterish. I snapped this just before he scampered off, tripped over one hand and hit the dirt head first, rolling off into the bush. Cooper says he would buy this if it was a postcard. High praise indeed!

This tilty picture is a herd of Cape Buffalo- they will apparently give a Cheetah a good fight when attacked, but are not dangerous unless you find one alone- then they get very aggressive. Note the baby in the front center (and ignore the tilt- my 13 year old scanner assistant wasn't exactly careful loading all the photos in a straight manner).

And last but not least- HIPPOS!!! My sister has informed me that she would have had a hard time keeping a straight face if she had to inform people that I had been eaten by a hippo. Apparently she doesn't grasp the great danger I was in, practically daily. ;-) As you can see from these photos, they were stalking me and only the fact that I was always on my toes allowed me to live to tell this tale.

This concludes your tour of African wildlife. Hope you enjoyed the ride- we sure did!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Into Africa Part III

Africa for Experts!

Today we go to the Okavango Delta in Botswana and get hip deep in wild Africa. :-)

Very near the Chobe Safari Lodge is the Kasane Airport- a nice little regional airport with two gates and some Air Botswana prop planes on a regular schedule. We went there to pick up our ride to Delta Camp- a little six seater single engine Cessna. We let Coop be co-pilot since it was his first time in a small airplane, and settled in for some scenic flying.

I know these could be pictures of almost anywhere from 4,000 feet, but if you look closely you will see the tiny white lines that are animal trails to water holes.

From the plane we could see a dozen trails leading to every waterhole and even see the trails left by hippos underwater in the rivers of the delta. Cooper and I saw three ostriches from the air.

We landed at Delta Camp's airstrip- a small dirt runway carved out of the bush, and were introduced to our guides, Lena and Space (don't ask me). We got the guide who trains the guides (Lena) because we had a kid with us- so, thank you Cooper!

They took our bags and loaded us into their makoros. These are handmade dugout canoes that the people in Botswana have used forever to navigate the delta. Lena made his large enough for two, so Coop and I got in with him and Ted got in with Space. These are the makoros in their parking spaces at Delta Camp. Note that Ted's (on the left) has a broken nose. He says it didn't ship water. That's Lena poling me and Coop to camp.

We were welcomed at what we called the "Clubhouse". The main building for the camp where you meet your guides each day, eat meals, sit and play chess or Scrabble, read, or just watch the Delta.

Here's Coop with the Delta behind him...

and the table set for lunch...

Then we were shown to our 'Chalet'. This is our most perfect hotel room ever. Seriously. It's camping but with wood floors, innerspring mattresses, and flush toilets. I know it doesn't look like much from the outside, but here it is (note Ted peeking and waving from the bathroom 'window').

This is Coop's bedroom (he chose the bed on the wall) just inside the door.

This is our bed...

and the view from it...

Can you believe it? Nothing between us and the African bush but some bamboo half walls- no doors, no windows, just fresh air, trees, mosquito nets and comfort. We actually blew off one of our walking safaris to spend the morning in bed and just watch the passing parade.

Elephants and baboons regularly passed right by our bed (and bath). Imagine standing in an outdoor shower concealed by bamboo walls, soaping up with handmade glycerin soap, and this walks by...

that's my towel on the left, hanging on the wall.

There were times when we couldn't head over to the clubhouse for meals because we had to wait for the elephants to go by. At night we were picked up for dinner because it was dark and we needed a guide to make sure we got there without being snake bit, elephant trampled, lion eaten, or worse! ;-)

(Whenever Lena showed up to escort us, Ted would say, "Our ride's here!")

When we were done eating and relaxing and looking at the millions and millions of stars, Lena would accompany us back to our chalet where we would go to bed and listen to the hippos (they kind of grunt and moan- REAL loud), the lions, and the baboons, accompanied by the squawks of a dozen birds we never heard before and a million different kinds of frogs.

So the first morning we were there, we got up early (at least it was light out!) and met Lena and Space in the clubhouse. We piled into the makoros and headed out for a walking safari. This is the view as you leave the makoro parking lot...

Lena had a somewhat better view, since he was standing, but then he had a much better chance of landing in the drink, too, so we stayed seated, as makoro passengers should.

He poled us out the 'driveway' and when we reached here...

we stopped for a briefing. The main point: Do NOT jump out of the makoro. The waters of the Delta are full of hippos and crocodiles and the makoro is your only hope of survival if they attack.

Of course, this, like many of the things Lena told us over the next four days, made total sense and seemed almost impossible to do. But we promised to try our best to fight the urge to jump and run- he convinced us that hippos can run in water way faster than we can swim, and we didn't even want to think about the crocs.

We moved on, headed for Chief's Island (named for the Chief of Lena's village, a place that is being ignored by the Botswana gov't. because it is in the (Chief) Moremi Game Reserve and they don't want to encourage growth- but they are wasting a valuable resource that is 100% in touch with the environment, knows the animals, the birds, what plants are edible, how they are edible, what plants can be used for dyes, to make baskets, to carve, for boats, how to cure headaches, stomachaches, diarrhea, and so much more. But they have no schools, no Doctors, and no's a lesson the U.S. learned too late and I hate seeing it repeated in this glorious country.)

Once on the island, we stopped in a clearing for another briefing.

Pay attention.

-If we are surprised by a lion, stand still and stare at its eyes. Make your eyes as big as possible. The lion will not attack unless you turn and run. (Oh, okay. Let me just stand here and wet my pants.)

-If we are surprised by a leopard, do NOT stare at it. It will not attack unless you challenge it and stare. (Oh, okay. Let me try to remember which big giant cat with teeth and claws to stare at and which one NOT to stare at while I wet my pants.)

-If you are bitten by a python, it will most likely be in the ankle. Use a knife to cut its throat, and move away from it rapidly so it can't wrap around you. If you don't have a knife you can use your shoelace to strangle it. (Oh, okay. Excuse me, giant snake? Can you wait a sec while I unlace my sneaker and wrap it around your neck?)

-While you unlace your sneaker, lay down to keep the python from climbing your body. (Uh, no. Well, okay, if fainting counts.)

-If we are charged by a Cape Buffalo, elephant, or hippo, we must climb a tree. Do not climb Acacia trees, they have big, sharp, thorns. Do not try to climb a palm- they are too slippery and have no branches. Lena and Space will try to point out useful climbing trees. (Oh, okay. At this point Ted and I are both thinking of the old joke about running from a predator- "I don't have to run fast, just faster than YOU!" We are hoping in vain that we are not the two slowest runners. And eyeing each other to decide which of us is slower...).
Okey doke!

Briefing over, we set off, on foot into the home of some of the most dangerous animals on earth.

Please don't let us see anything, please don't let us see anything, please don't let us see anything...

Lena pointed out all kinds of stuff that was interesting and non lethal- plants that we could eat if he died and left us all alone. Even one that we could use (as they do in his village) to make a really plump fluffy pillow.

He pointed out birds that shimmer in five or six colors (including this guy- the National Bird of Botswana)

and two endangered Wattled Cranes (picture in other camera!).

We saw impala by the hundreds, a few warthogs, some Kudus, a couple of distant elephants, a bunch of baboons, and footprints.

The one on the left is an elephant, the right is a lion. We also saw hoofprints for Zebra. Which is apparently what the lion was stalking.

This tree is the baobab tree that you read so much about, especially in Botswana. They are huge and old and often provide the only shade in the less wet parts of Botswana (like the Kalahari desert). This one is not very old, according to Lena- only about 50 or so. They live as long as the giant Redwoods.

Our heart stopping encounters were not on foot, but in the makoros. We would be gliding along through hundreds of lily pads and day lilies enjoying the scenery and the fresh air and suddenly Lena would stop.

The first time it was to sit absolutely still while four bull elephants crossed the delta from one island to another. We were upwind of them and one of them stopped and swung toward us (we were partially hidden by the tall grasses, but not invisible by any means). After two heart stopping minutes, he decided we weren't threatening enough to charge and moved on to catch up to his buddies. Resume breathing.

The second time was on the way home from one of our walking safaris. We crossed the main channel and saw a baby hippo climbing on his mother's back. Great sight, bad situation. Hippos are aggressive and mother hippos are double trouble. Lena pointed them out and then poled like crazy to get us out of the channel and into the reeds before she took it into her head to charge us.

The third time was as we were leaving Delta Camp to go to the airstrip to come home. We had been zooming along for about 20 minutes and were within site of the strip when Lena suddenly stopped our forward movement. As the makoro quivered from the effort of stopping us and reversing as fast as he could make his muscles do it, I heard, to the left AND the right, the sound of water being expelled rapidly from nostrils. Hippo nostrils. Gah! Stayintheboat, stayintheboat, stayintheboat...

Lena backed us out of the area really really fast and then said, quietly, "Hippos. Three of them." They were between us and the air strip and we had to turn around and go all the way back to Delta Camp to be picked up by 4WD and bumped across the island that way in order to make our flight.

Practically killed by hippos, we were. :-)

Over breakfast on our last day, just before our hippo encounter, Lena had admitted under close questioning that he has had to stare down lions before with guests, and that one of his guides had been snatched from a makoro by a 15 foot crocodile (He solemnly informed us that they had "killed the crocodile"). Ooh. Eek. Glad to have seen only foot prints, please remain the biggest target on the makoro.

Sissies on Safari. What can I say?

Meanwhile, back at the chalet. We were lazing around before dinner one night and a huge troop of baboons came crashing through the bush, screeching and yelling and running over each other. The babies all headed for the tree tops and the large males spent a lot of time smacking each other around.

Two large males stopped just outside our doorway and while one of them screamed bloody murder, the other sat on him and poked him in the chest occasionally. After about 3 minutes, the Chest Poker got up and let him scramble away, still screaming. Then Chest Poker took off after a smaller male who had been watching from a fallen tree and everyone scrambled for higher perches on their trees to avoid the scuffle. It was a hoot. This picture shows some of the troop sitting and watching just outside our bedroom, waiting to see if they need to get scarce...

Which brings us to the Marula tree. The elephants like Delta Camp because it has bunches of this kind of tree. And on this tree is a nut.

Humans make Amarulla Cream liquor out of it. Elephants just eat the fruit of the Marula tree and get drunk, then poop out the nuts.

Lena said he saw a drunk elephant head butt a palm tree (normal behavior to loosen coconuts) and knock out three baboons (they usually check for baboons first, since the fall will kill them). Our Hostess said she had a drunk elephant outside her quarters most nights, laying down, snoring, sleeping it off. We hoped for a drunk elephant to lay down outside our house, too.

One day, we had to delay going to lunch because of this guy...

Note the dark line behind his eye on his cheek. It's a mating musk that he will ooze to attract elephant women until they succumb to his charms. He wandered past our bedroom and followed the path to the clubhouse. When it was safe to follow (meaning he was way gone), we headed down the path and found a present he had left for us.

Full of Marula nuts.

Cooper bravely sacrificed himself to provide size perspective. Elephant poop is BIG. And this elephant was, at best, tipsy.

This view of a makoro highway was taken off the porch of the clubhouse by Ted.

You can't see them, but there are tons of hippos and some crocs in that picture. You can't hear them, but hippos are grunting, and the baboons are screeching. We have rarely been so happy as we were to lay in bed on a cool African morning (we slept under a heavy duvet- nights on the Delta are nicely chilly!) and listen to things roar and grunt and hoot and screech. It was a once in a lifetime experience that we are so grateful to have had.

And this is the living end...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Into Africa: Part II

On to the second part of our trip- Intermediate Africa!

We left Zimbabwe in a 4WD vehicle with a driver and headed for Botswana. The drive was fairly short, and the border is a lonely outpost in the African Bush with a few cinder block buildings separated by chain link fencing topped with razor wire. We passed through Zimbabwe immigration, picked up a different vehicle and driver, and entered Botswana, where we passed through their immigration. Then we immediately stopped at a short drive-through pit where we got out and wiped our feet on a liquid soaked mat while the driver took the 4WD through the liquid filled pit- all to ensure we didn't bring in Hoof and Mouth disease to Botswana.

A quick 20 minute drive deposited us at the Chobe Safari Lodge. It sits smack on the banks of the Chobe River, and our room, while still for sissies (nicely walled in, with doors and windows and air conditioning), looked out on the wild landscape. Before we headed out on our first "Boat Safari" we were treated to this view taken from the porch of our room:

He is laying on top of a nice mud hole that he dug for himself, and returned to each day.

We snuck out the other door of our room to avoid those tusks, and then we were off down the river on a big flat party boat with about 20 other people to find some wildlife.

About 4 minutes into the trip, our driver drove the front of the boat straight into the shore and we all got to meet this guy...

Our first elephant! Up close and personal! It was a seriously fun thing to be that close to a bull elephant in his own home. Whooot! I am standing on the front of the boat, looking him right in the eye from about 3 meters away. What a rush!

We continued on the river, beaching the boat (but staying on board!) whenever animals were spotted. We watched hippos feeding and watched an elephant herd with some very small babies get cooled off in the water and then throw dirt and dust on their backs.

We watched this crocodile for a good while. And yes, his mouth is open (go ahead, make the picture bigger- I dare ya!).

We took our pictures with a digital camera and a Nikon 35mm, but the 35mm photos are still being developed. Apparently all our hippos are in that batch of photos. Never fear, though- Ted has informed me that I'm leaving stuff out, so there will be an appendix to these first posts and I will include pictures from the Nikon there!

Anyhoo, the boat trip lasted about three hours and we were exhilarated and exhausted by the time it was finished. We cruised back to the lodge at dusk (everyone comes off the water at dusk- the hippos start to leave the water for land and they are VERY aggressive) and returned to our room after dinner, in the dark, over a bridge and across the river-fronted lawn holding our dinky flashlight on signs that said "Caution! Watch for hippos!" and "Beware of Crocodiles!". Okey doke. Will do!

Early in the morning, and I mean early - it was still dark out, we forced ourselves out of bed, got dressed and piled into a Safari truck (three rows of three seats in a stadium type arrangement- the back higher than the middle which is higher than the front...) with five other people and off we went into Chobe National Park. As we arrived, it was just starting to get light. The roads through the park are all single track sand paths that go every which way. There were other vehicles entering the park with us, but we only saw other people once or twice for the whole three hour trip. Our first spotting...

A whole family of wart hogs, grazing and ignoring us completely. There were about four more of them that I didn't get in the picture. they were very quiet and totally unconcerned about our presence. Tusks and a rep for being mean make you confident, I guess.

Not too long afterward, the driver stopped the truck and said, quietly, "Lion.", pointing to the side of the road. After
waaaaay too long, I finally saw a female lion in the grass peering out at us (I believe my career as a game spotter is a non-starter). While I was fumbling with my camera (Ted got her picture with the 35mm I think), her husband/boyfriend/significant other came ambling out from behind the tree she was under.

Ha! Can't sneak up on me!

Unless you're trying to.

Then it's apparently all too easy.

At least by that time I had my camera ready, and got this...

We were all very excited as they paired up and ambled by us, and they seemed to disappear into the scrub so we all took a collective breath and tried to get our adrenalin under control. Ted and I switched cameras and somebody said "Hey, look!" and pointed behind us.

We all turned and saw the lions back on the track making a noise somewhere between a purr and a growl. Both of them. They rubbed heads for a second and then she turned her back on him and we all figured out at the same moment that they were getting ready to mate.

Amid the flurry of cameras being sorted out and our common disbelief that this could be happening just for us, we all tried our best to intrude upon their private relationship. :-)

Ted, in a fit of "I Can't Miss This Shot!"-ness accidentally hit the OFF button on the digital and listened with dismay as the camera closed its lens at the crucial moment. Ha! I don't know if I squeezed off a 35mm shot at the right time- we'll all wait and see together next week, I suspect.

Thankfully, Ted got his lens opened again in time to shoot this touching moment when they were done, as she rolled over on her back and tried to entice him to hang out with her as he stood casually wondering what was on the National Geographic channel tonight...

Meanwhile, Cooper is sitting between Ted and I spouting some of his (heretofore unknown to us) extensive wildlife knowledge, apparently acquired from the Discovery Channel. According to Cooper, and I think I quote:

"This is the mating season for lions and they will have sex as much as once an hour for a week!" Our fellow passengers were gratified to possess this new knowledge, and it certainly explained the willingness of our happy couple to do it in the road while we all gawked at them. :-)

So after three hours and lots of other wild folk (these impalas for instance)...

...we were whisked back to the lodge for a 9AM breakfast.

We still had to book some prepaid activities and decided that we had really liked that truck safari and signed up for the afternoon round that started at 3:30 and lasted until dusk.

At about 3PM, the skies opened. In the pouring rain, with our cameras carefully cuddled under our sweatshirts, we headed for the main drive where another couple was waiting for the same driving safari. Our guide checked with the front desk and found out the other people who had signed up were declining to come out in the rain. Okay! More space for us! As the people who came with us said, "We can get dry at home!"

We all piled into the truck (Cooper, Ted and I taking the highest back seats) and set off in the rain, sitting on lodge-supplied ponchos and only getting kind of wet. By the time we reached the Park (about ten minutes), it had stopped raining and was gloriously cool and comfy. The animals thought so too, and came out to meet us in the hundreds.

Until now we had seen no elephants from land, but that changed right away with this guy...

He was the first of a couple dozen elephants we saw that afternoon. All large, all nearby, and thankfully all interested in things other than us. These teenagers (about 12-14 years old and still immature) played right in front of us for a half hour while we sat on the bank of the river. They were typical teens, pushing each other's heads under water, standing on each other's backs, smacking each other with their trunks- it was very entertaining.

When we left the elephant antics, we came upon two giraffes way off in the bush- our first free giraffes ever!

We couldn't get any closer, but we were awed enough just to see them at this distance. They, too, were getting frisky and had been canoodling pretty seriously, but just as they decided to go for it, two impala males decided to have a knock down drag out fight and started crashing through the bush all around us, disturbing the love birds and foiling our chance to see how skyscraper mammals mate. The frustrated giraffes cast disgusted looks at the impala and wandered off away from our view.

Our grand finale for the day was a troop of about a hundred baboons who were lounging on the sand track as we came through on our way out...they were doing all the things baboons do, and they were all ages from tiny babies clinging to their mothers bellies as they walked to very old very large males who went around smacking other, smaller males and baring their teeth just to show who was boss. We sat and watched them for a while and got this guy with the digital (and a bunch more with the 35mm).

We had to scurry out of the park at dusk (Africans try to be nowhere the animals are after dark- that's when they suddenly develop an interest in all the peoples), and saw a lot of animals getting pretty active as we zoomed down the tracks- we had to stop for a herd of elephants who were crossing the road and one small male, about 5 or 6 years old got annoyed with us and charged the truck. We were all laughing at him (while desperately hoping his Mom and Dad wouldn't decide we were doing something to him!) when he decided that retreat was the smarter move and joined his family and friends across the road so we could hurry past and out of the park for the night.

Next time, hold on to your hats for the final leg of our adventure, Africa for Experts!, wherein things get way more juicy and perfectly frightening!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Into Africa: Part I

The big gap in postings is due to another trip, but this time we didn't leave Africa, we went even deeper into it!

I scarcely know where to start sharing what we experienced on this amazing continent so I guess I'll just begin at the beginning and move on from there in what will probably be days of postings about our trip to the center of Africa.

We (mostly accidentally) went from here to Africa Lite, then on to Intermediate Africa, finishing up in Africa for Experts (although the experts were our hosts and certainly not us!). We left Ghana after midnight and flew to Johannesburg, South Africa where we never left the International Terminal- just caught our next flight to Zimbabwe and arrived just after lunch.

Our purpose in Zimbabwe was to stop and see Victoria Falls on our way to see Africa in the wild. Victoria Falls is where Stanley met Livingston, and it's an astonishing sight. Feast your eyes:

The Zambesi river flows up to the edge of this huge precipice and just zooms over the edge down hundreds of feet where it hits with such volume and force that it sprays back up and drenches the gawkers on the other side. You can see the cloud of mist and spray from everywhere in the town- it hangs above the falls like a beacon in an otherwise cloudless sky...

We stayed in a very nice place called The Kingdom Hotel- strictly for sissies (which is what we often become on vacation). We didn't even have to turn our hot water on like we do here at home! There was a drawer with candles and matches though, just in case, so we felt more at home once we discovered those. :-)

The man who introduced us to our room proudly showed us our balcony (very nice, with comfy chairs) overlooking the hotel's lagoon, complete with signs warning parents to keep small children from the water due to the crocodiles who live there, and then told us to please remember to shut our sliding glass door when we weren't in the room or we would return to find it inhabited by baboons!

Heh. Being the immature people we are, it was a struggle to obey his request. We really wanted the baboons to come in and play, but fear of destroying hotel property and the reluctant realization that baboons are wild animals kept us from "accidentally" leaving the door open...

We settled in, took a nap to recover from our red-eye flight, and then headed to the main part of the hotel for dinner. We stepped from our room into the outdoor hallway and had just begun to walk when Cooper said, very quietly, "Hakuna Matata." We looked at him, followed his gaze to the lawn outside the hallway, and saw, peacefully grazing on their knees, three big, bristly, black, fanged Warthogs.

Whoot! Our first seriously dangerous wildlife. :-)

In the morning, we left the hotel with an extreme adventure operator who offers all kinds of really suicidal experiences in the Zambesi river gorge. Ted and I used the high cost of the activities as our excuse for not flinging ourselves off cliffs into the whitewater abyss, but we told Cooper he could have ONE activity of his choice from the list of:

Flying Fox (run off the cliff in a harness, fly across the gorge, get hauled back)
Gorge Swing (jump off the cliff on purpose, free fall for 70 meters(!) then swing free)
Abseil (rapelling down the cliff face 120 meters)
Zip Line (using a harness to hang from a wire and zoom 425 meters across the gorge)

He chose the Zip Line- 90% on the brochure's "Adreno Meter" (exceeded only by the 100% rush from the Gorge Swing!).

Ted and I stayed on the viewing platform, in the shade, overlooking the gorge and the raging Zambesi as Cooper and his fellow adrenalin junkies (all people in their late 20s and early 30s except him) hiked over a little ways to feed their addiction. While they were waiting their turns, they were entertained by a troop of baboons who wandered through their group and thankfully came all the way over to the platform where we were waiting and watching.

When Cooper's turn came, he just walked to the edge of the platform, jumped off and whizzed down the zip line at 80 miles an hour. No joke- 110 kilometers an hour. In mid air. On one of the longest zip lines in the world. They allow the to reach the end of the line, coast back, coast forward, etc. until they come to a stop in the center. That is when I took this picture...

Then a guy comes hand over hand harnessed to a different line and hooks the customer up to a pulley and they are both hauled back to the cliff edge. We couldn't slap the smile off Cooper's face.

After lunch, we hiked from the hotel to Victoria Falls and got thoroughly wet just trying to see into the gorge. The thundering power of the Falls is unbelievable. They stretch on for hundreds of yards- just tons and tons of fast moving water racing over the edge and crashing into a river bed that is completely obscured by the spray of so much water being forced to stop its downward movement all at once. We walked and clicked and walked and clicked and here are a couple of pictures that only begin to describe the experience.

Ted thought, when he stood real still, that he could feel the vibrations in the ground. Cooper and I tried, and failed, to feel what he felt, but given that Ted is not into flights of fancy, we'll give it a chance of being true. Certainly those tons of rushing water had the capability of moving the earth even just a little.

The final amusing bit of Victoria Falls was our hike to and from the hotel to see the Falls. The pathway is lined with vendors, much like streets in Accra. They know tourists will use the path and wait there with all sorts of crafts and items of use (water, raincoats) hoping to make a sale. We were limited to 25 kilos of luggage in soft bags because of the small aircraft parts of our trip, and had no space for doo-dads (which is fine since we can get swell doo-dads right here in Ghana!), and kept walking doggedly through the gauntlet saying "No, thanks. Nope, but thanks." The new twist here was that Cooper (in black high top Converse sneakers) and I (in plain old white Reeboks) both got an offer, to wit: "I like your shoes! I will give you...(fill in the blank) for them." Ha! We didn't ask what we were supposed to do for shoes if we traded ours, but smiled bigger as we repeated "Nope, but thanks." and continued on our way. Ted still wants to know what's wrong with HIS sneakers.

Stay tuned for the next part of our trip: Intermediate Africa- Wild and At Our Feet!