The usual scheme at safari camps is, you go on game drives at sunup and sundown, when the animals are active. Last time in Kenya we got into a bit of a competition to see who could frame wildlife in a rising or setting sun. Click ’em to make them bigger.
Snake safari, anyone?
I’ve been reading about the two year old Chinese-built Addis-Djibouti train line lately. It’s a train journey we’d hoped to make this past spring before the virus intervened, and I’m hopeful we can come back and fill in that trip later.
Although northern Ethiopia is going through a terrible period just now, it’s such a photogenic country, I really recommend it to anyone with a camera and a sense of adventure. Warm people, good food, exotic everywhere you look, what’s not to like?
There’s a whole lot going on in the world just now, eh? Here are a few all-over-the-map ideas to start the week. Housekeeping to start: I hope my brand new book, Out There, will go live on all Amazon platforms this week or next. It’s a collection of thirty essays on travel, written from and about disparate locations, Greenland to Vietnam to pandemic-ridden Cincinnati. At 360 pages, your money’s worth.
Elsewhere, one expects a Lukashenka-like, whatever it takes response, but best of luck nevertheless to the people of Uganda and Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, aka Bobbi Wine, in Thursday’s national elections. The pop singer stands against President Yoweri Museveni, who removed Presidential term limits in 2005 and has ruled the country since 1986. Time for a change there.
Whether the incoming Biden administration can restore a little spit and polish to Donald Trump’s smoldering city on the hill is an open question, but there’s no doubt the transition team has assembled a capable bunch. Today’s announcement of William J. Burns to head CIA is terrific. His memoir, The Back Channel, reads like a template for best diplomatic practices.
Who needs a quick primer on the state of Irish politics?
And finally, I took a spin around the now defunct social media site parler.com over the weekend. I’ll share what I found here shortly. Cheers, don’t get sick, and a good week to you.
To start the new year on a positive note, let’s play a game. It’s called, Imagine It’s Still Anytime in the Last Twenty Years and You Can Go Anywhere You Want. For a bold first move I pick Congo.
Once we refueled in Brazzaville, capital of Republic of Congo (separate country) but so far, the closest we’ve made it to the Democratic Republic of Congo is behind the camera in this photo of Goma, North Kivu province, taken from across Lake Kivu, at the Lake Kivu Serena Hotel, Gisenyi, Rwanda (photos).
Now comes word of a new Serena Hotel in Goma, just across the border. Goma hasn’t had much in the way of non-hostel-type accommodation up to now. Most visitors to Goma seem to be aid workers, UN personnel and journalists. Until now. You could pair your Goma visit with a visit to see the gorillas in the DRC’s Virunga National Park, staying at Mikeno Lodge.
I remember a day back around March, when we knew not much more about the virus than fright. On a walk in the park, I heard the return of birdsong and saw the first signs of coming spring. It made me realize that this may be a bad year for humans, but other life goes on without skipping a beat. It made me jealous of the squirrels.
Now today come holiday wishes via newsletter from the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park, at the foot on Mt. Kilimanjaro. It’s a reminder that life, indeed, does go on, and it’s uplifting enough to share:
In Amboseli the elephants have been doing exceptionally well. High rainfall in the first part of the year provided a rich habitat for them. The Kenya Wildlife Service, Big Life Foundation and the Olgulului game scouts have secured the ecosystem and as a result there has been no poaching of elephants this year. Life has been good for Amboseli’s elephants and for that reason we are thankful and happy. Just to make 2020 even better for the elephants, there has been the most amazing baby boom. The last baby boom was in 2012 when 201 calves were born. A more typical year we might see 50-100 births. The unusual number of births in 2012 was the result of a terrible drought in 2009. Many calves died and the females stopped breeding. When good rains came again, many of the females were available to become pregnant. We thought we would never see anything quite like it again, but this year proved us wrong. There was a drought in 2017 and once again many of the adult females became available the following year. Twenty-two months later in 2020 there has been a record-breaking baby boom. So far this year 226 calves have been born, and we are expecting at least a few more this month. We celebrate all these new little elephants in our Christmas issue with a portfolio of photos. Enjoy!
Cynthia Moss, Director, Amboseli Trust for Elephants
You can subscribe to the Amboseli Trust for Elephants newsletter by filling out this form.
Nairobi, Kenya’s capital
“Nairobi Governor Includes Hennessy In Coronavirus Care Packages, Claims it’s ‘Throat Sanitizer'”
The governor of Nairobi’s curious cocktail care packages.
Much as those who support the gorilla safari business in Rwanda and the DRC must need their jobs, it’s good to see this story in Monga Bay.
All right, all right, it really does look like we’re all going to have to enjoy spring after being dragged inside (cozier if you’re south of the equator, winter coming on). If that’s what we’re facing, here are a half dozen books I can recommend for your quarantine time:
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk • Nobel prize winner for literature, clever, engaging fiction.
The Second Sleep by Robert Harris • The latest from a brilliant writer. It’s not what you think.
Prisoner by Jason Rezaian • Memoir of the former Washington Post reporter’s time in an Iranian prison.
Death Is Hard Work by Khaled Khalifa • Tough stuff about the Syrian civil war.
The Capital by Robert Menasse • Acerbic portrait of the function, and disfunction, of the EU in Brussels.
The Salt of the Earth by Jósef Wittlin • Classic novel of a Polish peasant’s experience in World War One.
And here are a few waiting on my bookshelf. Since we were planning to be in Africa this spring, here are three books that were to be background for the trip:
A Grain of Wheat by Ngūgī Wa Thiong’o • Classic story of late colonial Kenya.
House of Stone by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma • The facts of life in modern Zimbabwe.
And one more, a new release:
Run Me to Earth by Paul Yoon • Story of three orphaned kids in 1960s Laos.
At least we can enjoy traveling the world through books this spring, while staying indoors. And not touching our faces.
If you read any of these books please send your feedback.