Fellow Travellers

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Maastricht - Carnival 2010

The city of Maastricht is quite different than other Dutch cities and we found the architecture is more French inspired. The city really gets into the spirit of Carnival with festivities kicking off Sunday at noon with a grand ceremony in the square. The Prince of Carnival arrives and raises a large Dutch marionette lady as a symbolic gesture accompanied by much pomp and circumstance with the city major and policticans.

After the official kick off, there is much drinking of beer and a major 3 hour parade through the main streets. Groups respresenting different interests, marching bands and individuals parade in costume drinking and cavorting along the way. It is quite entertaining although since our toes were freezing we had to escape before the end into a little heated area of an outdoor patio to warm up.

Wij dranken bierjes (We drank small beers) and visited many rowdy crowded establishments. We finally gave into the cold at about 6 and went back to the hotel. We decided to go for dinner and managed to find an open restaurant (many are closed). We ended our night with a bottle of wine (cause we just couldn't drink anymore beer) then made our way back to our hotel to fall in bed. Very fun! Next year we hope to convince a group to go and also that the weather is much better!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Massai & Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

Dec 23, 2009

On route to the Ngorongoro Crater, we made a stop to visit the Massai people.  The Massai are a nomadic tribe known for their bright red, blue and purple tartan wraps.  They live as an extended family in smaller communities between 50 and 100 people in huts built from cow dung and earth.  They are a meat eating people who raise cattle as their source of food although their culinary choice of milk mixed with blood didn’t entice us.

The men are known to be fearsome warriors and a young man’s right of passage from boy to manhood use to involve killing a lion although now the Tanazian government discourages them.   The women raise the children and run the house.  The tribes are only recently beginning to be educated which will hopefully help to improve their standard of living.

The village we visited has been set up for tourists and the families rotate in an out of the village taking turns earning fees for entrance.  We were treated to a traditional dance performed with “some” enthusiasm and then we entered the village.  The women had made masses of beaded jewelry that were on display in the center of the huts. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lake Ndutu Tanzania 2009

Dec 20 –Olakira – Massai for “star”

Our “four” hour drive to the Olakira Tented Camp at Lake Ndutu was truly eight on mainly gravel roads leaving me car sick and exhausted.  My only highlight was the purchase of a tinga tinga painting of 3 cheetahs (which I ended up leaving at our hotel in Ngorongoro Crater so when you visit ask me why it’s on our wall!).  A wise word to those of you considering a similar trip, take the 45 min flight which is a much better use of time.  Olakira is a temporary camp and follows the migration of the animals to ensure the guests will be close to the action on game drives. 

On our arrival we were met by the manager, Pascal, and welcomed by the friendly staff with cold clothes and a delicious fruit drink.  We were whisked to the lounge tent to chat and check in.  The camp had only complete set up two nights before so and were encouraged to alert them to any problems we experienced.   Snake in your room, no problem, elephant wandering near your front door, just give us a call on the walkie talkie!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lake Manyara Tanzania 2009

Dec 19  – Lake Manyara

We transferred from Arusha a smaller city at the foot of Kilimanjaro to Lake Manyara at the outset of our safari with our capable and amiable driver guide John. This National Park is the most lush and mountainous of the 3 we visited in Tanzania.  It was established specifically to protect elephant herds but it also has a great wealth of diverse wildlife, thought not in the numbers we would encounter in the days coming.

Enroute to the lodge were our first sightings of the exotic animals through the trees that shrouded the road.  Our 4 wheel drive vehicle had a pop top roof allowing us to stand, while John was driving, to spot animals. G was an excellent spotter and brought many creatures to my attention.  Gazelle, impalas, dik dik, warthogs, baboons, giraffe, elephant and African buffalo. We were “gobsmacked” (thanks to Yvonne Segal I have the exact right word to describe this event) upon seeing a female lion lounging in a tree right above us!  All of this before lunch!