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Posts Tagged ‘hippos’

 An educated person is one who has learned that information almost always turns out to be at best incomplete and very often false, misleading, fictitious, mendacious – just dead wrong.” – Russell Baker

Did You Know?

It was Fred and Wilma Flintstone who were the first television couple to be shown together in the same bed. I didn’t know that. Did you.

It’s my goal to learn something new every day, whether it is learn-worthy or not. These facts I came across either amazed me or tickled my funny bone. So I thought I would share.

1. The first toilet tank ever seen on television was on “Leave it to Beaver.” I think I missed that.

2. In Singapore, it is illegal to sell or own chewing gum. because people disposed of it in public places, like under tables or chairs. No problem, I don’t chew gum.

3. To burn off the calories from one M&M candy, you need to walk the full length of a football field. Oops. Problem here. My guess is there are not enough football fields in the world for this chocoholic.

That’s a lot of football fields to be walked.

4. But at least, a Harvard studys says chocolate eaters live longer.

5. Pepsi Cola was originally called Brad’s Drink. Interesting, but I prefer Coke — and I want to know why the Coke I drank in Africa tasted better than it does in this country. My best guess is that it was because it came in a class bottle and contained real sugar instead of corn syrup.

6. A baby has 300 bones, but an adult only has 206. Huh?

Anybody else out there think these are gooseberries? — Photo by Pat Bean

7. The first couple to be shown in bed together on prime time television was Fred and Wilma Flintstone. I thought it was the Bradys.

8. A hippopotamus can run faster than a human – no one told me that when I was in Africa and a hippo was roaming around our tent.

Oh, and by the way. I think my unidentified berries ( June 28 blog) are gooseberries. A reader identified them as such, and after looking at photos I agreed. Do you?

Bean’s Pat: Meat and Potatoes of Life http://tinyurl.com/bs6ckop How to catch a crab. I thought I’d keep to the theme of learning something new. And please keep laughing. I think it’s even better for your health than chocolate.

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  “Than indecision brings its own delays, and days are lost lamenting o’er lost days. Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute; What you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

My travel book would include details about my search for Mother Nature in places like the New Hampshire woods where I came across this peaceful creek. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Too Many Unfinished Projects

Writing a first draft of a 50,000 word novel in 30 days has given me confidence for the old-broad writing days that still remain to me. There’s no question that I will write, for doing so is for me the same as breathing. I was fortunate that I found a way as a journalist to do it almost daily and get paid for it for 37 years.

When I retired from the job, however, I never saw myself retiring as a writer. I thought I would continue as a free-lance writer of travel and birding articles.

The Internet changed all that, however. The sources I had, including writing for my own former newspaper, dried up after a couple of years.

Suddenly it was a whole new world out there, and I faced either changing or being satisfied with writing only for myself. But it’s never worked that way for me. I both want to be read and to be paid for my writing as a way of personal validation

 

The photo of this hippo I took while on my African safari appears in Fodor's recently released "African Safari Guidebook." -- Photo by Pat Bean

The other change in the world of writing has been that self-publication is no longer considered a vanity, as it was during earlier days. In fact, many writing guides and teachers are encouraging wanna-be authors to go this route.

I’m seriously considering the possibility.

My immediate problem, however, is which project should I tackle first. Until NaNo, I failed to complete any major projects that didn’t have a pay-off deadline. The reasons are many, beginning with my own self doubts about a project’s worth. As former NaNo winners predicted, this inner questioning hit during my second week of the novel challenge. Working past it felt great.

 

The bear at Lake Walcott State Park in Idaho -- Photo by Pat Bean

So, with this said, let me explain my options – at least as I see them. Actually, I think I’m writing this blog as a way to get my own head straight.

First, there is the NaNo novel, which my ego says has good possibilities. Ever since I was a teenager reading Nancy Drew, I’ve wanted to write a mystery. The NaNo one is my second. The first is one of those uncompleted projects that never went beyond the first draft.

Then there’s the travel book I’ve already written, which needs a bit of rewriting. It has been read by critics who gave it mostly thumbs up, although all said it needed my voice. I now think I’ve developed my voice.

It would be the quickest project to finish. It’s called “Travels With Maggie.” I said in an earlier hunt for an agent that I thought it would fit nicely on the book shelf between Steinbeck’s “Travels With Charley” and Kuralt’s “On the Road” with a little bit of Tim Cahill thrown in and written with a feminine voice. .

Then there is the African safari travel/picture book that I started and which now begs to be finished.

Then there is a commitment to put together a nature book about Lake Walcott State Park in Idaho, where I spent last summer as a campground host and where I will return again this coming summer.

And finally there is a the memoir that is beginning to demand I write. It would be a story of a high school honor roll student who dropped out of school at 16 to get married and who had four children by the time she was 21, and who went on to become a reporter, city editor and finally associate editor of a 66,000 circulation newspaper. There’s a lot of skeletons, heartache, joys and growing up in between.

I’m giving myself a break until Monday to come up with an answer, after which I’m counting on the discipline of NaNo to help keep me to whatever deadline I set for myself.

I’m leaning toward the travel book as my next project.. What do you think? I really want to know.

 

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 “Most of us don’t need a psychiatric therapist as much as a friend to be silly with.” – Robert Brault.

 

Sharp-eyed Kim spotted this serval in the bush. It was a rare daytime find. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

African Safari: The Rest of the Day

Joseph picked us up after the hot air balloon ride for yet another exciting Safari day. Right off Kim spotted a cheetah – No, we quickly saw it was a serval, a rare daytime find, said Joseph, who quickly followed it off the road to give us a better look before it slunk off.

Then we watched a river full of crocodiles dining on a dead hippo, the same dead one we had seen them guarding the day before. Joseph had told us that hippos’ thick hides were too tough for the crocs to eat, and that they were waiting for it to rot a bit so they could tear it apart.

I thought you might enjoy this picture of a live hippo enjoying its spa day better than the one of the dead hippo being chomped up by crocodiles. -- Photo by Pat Bean

And that’s exactly what they were doing. Several toothy snouts had hold of it and were twisting their bodies in circles to tear off chunks. Really gruesome to watch, but Kim and I were fascinated.

Our big event for the day was to watch wildebeest on migration cross the Mara River. We watched for hours but it never happened. All it would take is for one wildebeest to start across and the all the rest would follow in a mad dash. Such a crossing is prime dinner time for the Nile crocodiles, but the mass swim allows most of the wildebeest to survive the day.

The animals make the crossing twice a year.

Today's wildebeest preferred dry land to water -- Photo by Kim Perrin

But this day, despite many a wildebeest approach right up to the river, they all skittishly turned back.

Finally Joseph gave up, as disappointed as Bilal was at not finding rhinos for us to watch, and went in search of lions and cheetahs for us to watch. He always found them, and watching their feline ways was never disappointing.

It was a wise choice because we heard over dinner that night the wildebeest never did get up the nerve this day to cross the river. The cat-watching, meanwhile had been great, Among other things, we got a glimpse of a hyena that was stalking a cheetah that was stalking a tommy.

The gazelle ran, the cheetah slinked away, and the hyena decided there might be easier prey around and trotted off as well.

Pink-backed pelican -- Wikipedia poto

Toward the evening, Joseph lingered in a swampy area of the park, where birds were plentiful.

I spotted what I thought was a pink-backed pelican, which would be a lifer for me. Joseph, however, thought it might be a white pelican, which would have been a lifer for him.

So off we went for a closer view. While I felt sorry for Joseph, I’m glad my identification proved right. It would be one of only two lifers I would get this day, the other being a black-chested snake eagle. I was still happy, however. We saw lots of birds I had seen earlier and it was becoming easier for me to recognize the common ones.

Back in camp, Kim and I bemoaned that our African Safari was coming to an end. We only had one more wildlife drive with Joseph in the morning and then we would be flying back to Nairobi, and from there home to the United States. .

We made it a two Jack and Coke night, celebrating both the adventure and the fact that our friendship had survived over two weeks of 24-hour togetherness. Given how quirky and different from each otherwe are, that was as important to celebrate as was our fantastic safari.

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 “You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird .. So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing – that’s what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.” Richard P. Feynman

Hippos in the Mara River -- Photo by Pat Bean

African Safari: Busy Morning

Our morning game drive with Joseph started off with a lion chase, always exciting. While I’m not exactly blood thirsty, I was rooting for the lion. The gazelle won, however, and lived to run another day. I wasn’t all that disappointed actually.

We saw our first mongoose, and over 50 hippos in the Mara River, just up a bit from where we made daily crossings to and from our tent lodge. Just how close they were to our camp we would learn later that night when several hippos left the swamp and were wandering through the tent area.

Kim snapped a photo of Dave Richards and me at the end of our bird-watching lunch. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

We were required to stay in the main lodge area, where we saw one of the guards caring a large rifle. It would be only the second gun, and the last one we saw while in Africa. Our lodge hosts said the animals were allowed to come and go and we were simply warned to stay out of their way.

Lunch, after our morning game drive, was a real treat this day. And not because of the excellent food. On checking in I had learned that the lodge had an expert ornithologist on staff and that he was sometimes available for a guided bird tour.

Sadly he was all booked up during our stay, but he had agreed to have lunch with us this day.

My copy of Dave Richard's book.

He was Dave Richards, author of “A photographic Guide to Birds of East Africa.,” which of course I had bought at the lodge’s small gift shop and studied the night before. As promised, he joined us for lunch.

Dave was a small, gray-haired older man who quickly put us at ease. He had great charisma. At one time he had been a safari guide who specialized in birds. He said he tired of that because too many people just wanted to tick off birds.

As a number ticker on this trip, I later told Kim that long-time birders always seem to distain bird listers, but that’s always after they have their achieved their own lengthy lists. Besides, I said, there’s a difference between tickers who are only interested in seeing new birds, and true birders who also enjoy looking at the same birds over and over, even sparrows. I count myself among the latter.

In fact, at this point in our safari, I was as excited to recognize a bird I had seen earlier as I was to find a new one – well almost.

Ross' turaco -- Wikipedia photo

Meanwhile, our pleasant lunch was frequently interrupted as Dave would spot a special bird in the trees or swamp around us, and he and I would go off to look. Kim, who continued her lunch, snapped a few pictures of the two of us with our binoculars pointed up one tree or another.

Our luncheon bird sightings included white-faced whistling ducks, white-browed robin (which sat on a tree right next to our table), spectacled weaver, an da Ross’s turaco.

I had seen one of Richards’ photos of this latter bird in the gift shop earlier. They are truly a magnificent sight. Ours here at the lodge was way up in a tree and without Dave’s help I’m sure I would never have spotted it.

All in all it was one of the best lunches I’ve ever not eaten.

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 “We all have our time machines. Some take us back. They’re called memories. Some take us forward. They’re called dreams.” – Jeremy Irons

Elephants on the move in Amboseli -- Photo by Pat Bean

African Safari: Amboselli

The next morning we were up early for breakfast, served family style in open air tent, and eagerly ready for a day in Amboseli National Park, which was about an hour away from our Porini camp. Our driver was Emanuel, whom I was delighted to discover was more interested in birds than Bilal. I never once had to ask him to stop when one was in sight.

Emanuel, our driver/guide for Amboseli. He was a real birder. Yea! -- Photo by Pat Bean

In fact, even before we left the camp he had pointed out a blue-naped mousebird that I had missed seeing. I knew then it was going to be a great day, like every other day I’d so far spent in Africa.

We were accompanied in the Land Rover by a husband and wife couple, whom I barely remember except that they were pleasant. Kim remembered, when I asked, that he had a lot of expensive cameras and was heavily into photography.

The other person who also accompanied us was Jackson, who was nearing the end of a five-year internship to become a guide. Jackson was a Maasai, and would be one of the very first of his tribe to become a guide.

From a distance hippos looked like big gray rocks, especially since sometimes only their backs were visible in the sunken swamps that dotted the Amboseli landscape. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

While it was an hour’s drive to the park from our Porini camp site, there was plenty to see along the way, including two, then three, cheetahs stalking a gerenuk, which escaped all of them once the pursuit race began.

Our first sighting in the park was a large herd of female elephants migrating across the landscape with a lot of young ones in tow. Following behind was one huge male with a huge desire to sire yet another one.

Amboseli is a Maasai word for salty dust, and refers to the volcanic ash from past Mount Kilmanjaro eruptions. Snow melt flowing down into the landscape here from the mountain makes it an excellent habitat for wildlife, and rarely were we out of sight of the four-legged and winged creatures that call Amboseli home.

Saddle-billed stork catching a fish -- Wikipedia photo

Looking across the savannah, we often saw what at first glance were big gray rocks. In reality they were hippos lazing in the swamp areas of the park. 

Among our more fun bird-watching experiences was watching a saddle-backed stork fight with a snake. The stork won.

We also saw an African jacana walking on lily pads, a jewel colored malachite kingfisher and a squacco heron, which looked an awfully lot like our American bittern.

 Lots of memories were made this day.

Bird Log of new lifers: Lizard buzzard, red-billed hornbill, August 28, 2007,  during the drive to Porini; crested francolin, blue-naped mousebird, crested bustard, black-faced sandgrouse, Fischer’s starling, plain-backed pipit, Fischer’s sparrow -lark, grassland pipit, saddle-billed stork, long-toed plover, common greenshank, malachite kingfisher, African jacana, squacco heron, eastern pale chanting goshawk, pied kingfisher. August 29, 2011, Amboseli National Park. We also saw a sandwich tern, which is a common bird along the Texas Gulf Coast.

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My mind's eye saw this young Maasai girl as one who will face the future unafraid. --Photo by Pat Bean

“A good question is never answered. It is not a bolt to be tightened into place but a seed to be planted and to bear more seed toward the hope of greening the landscape of idea.” – John Ciardi.

African Safari: A Conversation With Bilal

Kim asked Bilal if there were any female guides.

“Some of the other guides do, but I don’t,” he said.

“Huh?” Kim replied.

It seems Bilal thought she had asked him if he ever “visited” girls in the local villages in the evenings when he wasn’t driving us around Tanzania.

His answer when he finally understood the actual question was: “Oh no. They would be too afraid.”

Both replies were telling, I thought.

Our conversations with Bilal revealed a lot more about Africa than what could be seen with the eyes. Of course, we two “uppity” women tried to open Bilal’s eyes as well.

I suspected we were unsuccessful when he laughed in disbelief after Kim told him about our friend, Janice, and my daughter-in-law, Karen – two American women who both hold martial arts’ black belts.

Of course, there are things in life to be afraid of, like hippos that are at the top of the list of Africa's most dangerous mammals. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

“Now those are two women who could even kick your butt,” Kim had said.

But while respectful of our opinions, and us, we could see that Bilal didn’t believe her.

Later, when we were in Kenya, we visited a local Maasai tribe where a couple of the men demonstrated a game played with stones. This time I asked the question: “Do women also play the game?”

The stone game -- played only by men. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

“Oh no. They can’t understand it,” was the response given through our Swahili translator.

My tongue hurt from biting back the retort. We were, after all, guests in another country.

It wasn’t until the Maasai men were demonstrating to us how high they could jump from a standing position that I could once again smile.

A gaggle of young boys were imitating the men – as was one young girl.

She was with the women off to the side, and jumping despite the gentle hand on her shoulder, laid there by one of the women to try to get her to desist.

Perhaps, I thought, she will grow up to be a guide. There was certainly no look of fear in her face.

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The Mara River in Kenya was a favorite hangout for hippos, which are considered one of the most dangerous to life and limb in Africa. This photo was taken from an overview of the river from the safety of a Land Rover.

Photo by Pat Bean

 While in Kenya, I crossed these exotic and potentially dangerous waters, several times daily during a four-day stay at Governor’s Lodge.  Shown here, my friend, Kim, and the boatman, wait for me to come on board before crossing to the other side, where Kim and I will be met by a guard to escort us to our luxury tent accommodations.

Photo by Pat Bean

 The tents come equipped with a large tile shower, another form of water. In the morning, we had to wait for another guard to escort us to breakfast.

One night, we were forced to wait out a couple of hippos who had come to visit our tent site before we could return to it.

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