"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Monday, May 22, 2023

I know. I'm AWOL.

 Yes, I know it's been a long time since I posted the last chapter of the Africa. Journals.    I have most of the photos ready and am just waiting for an opportune time to complete them with one last post.   That means a very rainy day when I am confined to the house.

This is a quickly assembled post and there might be typos and auto-correct blunders in it.   I'll fix them later.

In the meantime, I've been busy cleaning up litter along the Seward Highway.   So far, 5-1/2 miles.   I've also found three golf balls and a shredded dollar bill.

I've also been giddy about the migratory birds returning to Alaska.   Here are a few photos.

This is an American dipper, formerly called a water ouzel, which is a much cooler name.   It has a billful of bugs and is flying to the nest.   Hard to believe they have hatchlings already.   It is my favorite Alaska bird.,

I took a photo of this Barrow's goldeneye for ID purposes.    It was really a long way away but when I saw the reflections in the water of the nearby shoreline brush, I settled down and made a picture.

The red-necked grebes have a nest that is close enough to the highway that I can see it while driving past.    This day, I saw an egg in it that looked as large as a gold ball.   These are small birds to lay such huge eggs.

Here are the two grebes with two eggs.    They are such good parents.   Each grebe takes turns incubating the eggs and tending to the young.   I love watching them.

I have also had a prolonged episode of carpet shampooing.    My old carpet machine was giving me fits.   It works, but leaves the carpet with a brownish tinge.    I bought bottled water, thinking is was my well water.   That helped, but not much.

No, my carpet wasn't this dirty.   The photo shows the tinge the old carpet machine left and the lighter spot is after cleaning it with a new machine.

I discovered the brushes weren't turning, so I ordered a new belt and removed 18 screws to change the belt when it arrived after two weeks.    After I re-assembled it, I only had one screw leftover.   Not much improvement.

So, I made a quick 200 mile trip to the nearest Home Depot and bought a new machine.


Dining room furniture and the Dreadmill (aka treadmill) moved into the living room so I can clean the DR.    The LR is done and dry.

More furniture moved.

CLeaning in process.   See the brown "old cleaned spot?"

I was so pleased with the results, I cleaned every ACRE of carpet in the whole house

Coming up, another activity to keep me busy.   I have several cords of firewood to split, load, and stack.

I actually like doing this chore.

Keep checking in.   I'll be back someday.

Monday, May 1, 2023

The 2022 Africa Journal's, Chapter 36: The Orphans

 Chapter 36:

The Orphans

"The only good cage is an empty cage."

--Lawrence Anthony, The Elephant Whisperer

I adopted an orphan today.    It was a spur of the moment decision.

I mean, we, as a group, toured an orphanage in Nairobi and I fell in love with all those sweet little faces.   I selected the smallest, the newest, the youngest.

What was I thinking?   How am I going to get her home?   Think of all the arrangements I'd have to make.

Besides, I'd have to fight my friend Jason Fernandes for custody.

Here's my baby:     Her name is Nayambeni.

Here's Jason with "our" baby.   Can you see how much he loves her.   Can you imagine what a custody battle that would be?

Jason would probably win.   He's probably got quite a track record with the orphanage already.   Besides, he lives in India and he could smuggle Nyambeni overland.

Me?   She definitely won't fit in my luggage.   And even thought my status with Alaska Airlines allows me two free checked bags, I think and elephant in my luggage would be pushing things.

Ah, well.   It's all a pipe dream anyway.   He current keepers wouldn't part with her.

Jason, by the way, owns and operates Wilderness Uncut with his partner.   They arrange safaris in Africa and India.   I have traveled with him two or three times.

The orphanage in Nairobi is owned and operated by the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.  It has a long history of aiding wildlife, including rescuing elephants orphaned by a mother's death, by abandonment, by human-wildlife conflicts.   A myriad of circumstances cause an elephant baby to be orphaned.

Animals in the wild benefit from the trust's activities in providing veterinary services.   They patch up wounded lions and other animals, removes snares, spears, arrows, etc.

The men in the green smocks are keepers at the elephant orphanage.   The wheelbarrows are full of bottles of a special milk supplement developed by Dame Daphne Sheldrick.

I could go into pages and pages of the origins of the Sheldrick Trust and the many good things it does, but you can Google it and read it online.

We were there for a private visitation of the orphans and right now they are hurrying down the path through the forest to get their bottles.   Usually the orphanage is open to the public for only an hour a day, with visitors standing on a raised rock platform.  By selecting and paying for a private visit, we get to be right down in the dirt with them.   And touch them.

Keepers waiting with wheelbarrows full of milk bottles.

And here they come.

The greens on the ground don't grow there.   The keepers cut them for the ellies.

The keepers hold the bottles but some ellies have gained enough mastery of the some 40,000 muscles in their trunks that they can hold the bottles by themselves.

Absolutely blessed.

The rock pavilion is where the crowds of guests stand when they come to the daily viewing.   It's for an hour.  We paid extra for a private viewing and walked among the elephants.   I set my camera down on the platform and an Ellie made right for it.   One of the keepers rescued it before it became an elephant toy.

The rock wall makes a good scratching place.

When the weather is hot, the ellies will wade into the water and splash around.   Then, they throw dirt all over themselves.  This is to protect their hides from sunburn and insects and it also cools them.

Your thought elephants were gray, didn't you?   Well, they are.   Because elephants roll in or cover themselves with dirt, they take on the color of that dirt.   Due to the iron oxides in much of  Kenya, the dirt is reddish.

Thisi Ellie is smelling Shelly's feet.   They are so observant.   This one recognized something different about her footwear.

This is a video of  ellies I took a couple years ago when they were playing in the water.   There is fresh water for drinking in the tub.  If any of the babies are wearing blankets, they are part of the "blanket brigade" --those babies that need a bit of extra warmth.  

Each Ellie has its own bedroom, or stable.   It's complete with nice soft straw,  some lucerne (alfalfa), and a keeper who stays with the younger ones all night to make sure they get their milk every four hours and are comforted by the company.   The keeper has a bunk where he can rest.

This is Maxwell, a black rhino who was abandoned shortly after his birth because he is blind.   You can touch him!   He's very much a part of the ellie orphanage.   Every morning when the elephants are let out of their "bedrooms" they walk by Maxwell's digs to say good morning.   Sometimes they touch him or drape their trunks on him.

Randy, right, and Jason with Maxwell.


It costs $50 to adopt an elephant orphan.   WIth that, you receive a monthly newsletter by e-mail with photos, videos, keepers diaries, and special notes on your baby.   Plus a sweet watercolor that you can download.

Watercolor by Angela Sheldrick.

You will hear of new rescues, something that is occurring a lot due to the severe drought in Kenya.  You will learn how the elephants form their own mini-herds and learn behaviors for the future.

Here is one paragraph from a longer report from the keepers's diaries about my baby:  Returning to the mud bath mid-morning, the first group of younger orphans downed their bottles of milk and tiptoed over the slippery ground to have a dip in the mud bath. The edge was too slippery for walking, but this did not pose a problem for the babies as it was perfect for sliding. Nyambeni was the first to slide on her belly into the muddy water, little legs out to the side and trunk aloft. 

These elephants are NOT bound for zoos or game farms.   At a certain age, they will be transported to one of several  "reintegration" sites that the trust runs.   There they will have the opportunity to interact with wild elephants and eventually return to the wild themselves.

The real joy is when a reintegrated female returns to show the keepers her new calf.

 This is a report about one elephant who went AWOL for a few days and  then returned to the reintegration site and eventually gave birth:

However, there was one hiccup in Murera’s entree into motherhood. Perhaps because of the hip and leg injuries she sustained as a calf, she found it difficult to stand still and in the proper position for baby Mwana to suckle. The first days are pivotal for any newborn elephant, and the Keepers worried that her daughter was not getting the all-important colostrum and milk she needed to thrive. So, they stepped in and began milking Murera, then bottle-feeding Mwana. In an incredible display of trust, Murera accepted these measures without any reservations.

This continued, night and day, for more than a week.Then, on the 11th day, we finally had a breakthrough. Without preamble, Murera propped her leg forward and allowed Mwana to suckle. From that moment forward, she nursed her like an old pro. Again, the Keepers were so very proud of their matriarch.

Currently, the Nairobi site has 30 Ellies and there are 120 keeper-dependent elephants at their five other reintegration sites, plus another black rhino, a giraffe, some antelope, etc.

Here's a link to my baby's story:    https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/orphans?q%5Bspecies.slug%5D=&q%5Bage%5D=&q%5Bgender%5D=&q%5Brescued.environ%5D=&q%5Blocation.slug%5D=&q%5Bname%5D=Nyambeni&filter_grid=2&q%5Balive%5D=true#orphan_search

Thus far, Sheldrick Wildlife trust has successfully raised 316 orphaned elephants, attended 10,473 veterinary cases, and supports 25 anti-poaching teams.

One of the sites is caring for an orphaned giraffe named Twiggy.

It is such a worthwhile cause and you can give an adoption to someone as a gift.   No extra baggage allowance required.

Pale flycatcher.   A bird that was perched on one of the posts at the orphanage.

Friday, April 21, 2023

The 2022 Africa Journals, Chapter 35: Six Wives Africa

 Chapter 35:

Six Wives Africa

Polygamy:   Am endeavor to get more out of life than there is.

--Elbert Hubbard

A few days ago, Shelly suggested that we have a Facebook group page where we can share photos taken on this trip for the enjoyment of our travel group.   Later, she announced the name of the Facebook Group.  I burst out laughing and exclaimed the brilliance of  her chosen title:   Six Wives Africa 2022!

The joke goes back to our arrival in Nairobi at the trip's beginning.  Somehow, the staff at the Tamarind Tree Hotel thought Randy, the only male in this seven-person group, and I were married and assigned us to the same room.   I was not privy to the conversation that corrected this, but suddenly I was known as Randy's wife and it became a running joke.   We each had our own rooms.

 In 2014, Kenya legalized the traditional custom of polygamy and did not limit the number of wives a man could acquire, that is, if a man could afford to pay  dowry of livestock to the bride's family.    The Maasai value their cattle, so the dowry is not inexpensive.

Marg checking her messages on our last day at Great Plains Expedition camp.

We began asking our driver/guides if they had more than one wife.   Many did, and no, the  wives do not live in the same house or hut, but in separate dwellings.  Smart men.

So, keeping the culture of Kenya and the Maasai in mind, it was not long before we six woman were jokingly calling ourselves  "Randy's wives."   I often wonder what the villagers thought when we visited.   Did they look upon Randy as an enormously rich man for having six wives? 

Having six wives can spell trouble for any man as shown in the photo below when Randy tries to get all his wives heading in the same direction.

Slowly, at their own pace, and showing no sense of urgency, they begin to wander in the correct direction.

Waiting for us in the acacia grove are staff and a potted tree.   Great Plains endeavors to plant a number of trees every year and guests are invited to help.   I'm all in favor of giving the bushbabies more room to leap from tree to tree.

Randy jumps in to help put the tree in the ground.

And then each of his wives takes a shovelful of dirt and spills it in the hole.




Sylvia, also known as Slyvia or Slyv for short,  due to a typo in those same hotel reservations that created Six Wives.

Staff takes over to finish the job.

Our finished tree.

One of the staff stops to show us the hole of a baboon spider.   He uses a piece of grass to entice it to show itself, but apparently the spider is camera shy.

The baboon spider, so-called because the coloring on its legs resembles baboon fingers, can have a leg span of three to four inches.   They are related to tarantulas.

The public restroom at GP

If you want privacy, you lean the spear across the opening in the tent.

There's no game drive this morning as we have to be at an airtstrip to catch the plane back to Nairobi.   It's also the day we part company with Marg and Virginia, who are going to Naboisho Conservancy.  They original air reservations for the trip home were changed by the airlines and that gave them more days in Africa.

For the five of us remaining, it's off to Nairobi and a very special afternoon.

A topi with her calf and a wildebeest.

Hamerkop in a puddle.   

Yes, this is the track to the airstrip and it's a good example of the tracks through the Mara and the conservancies.

Hyena in a puddle.

Impala stag and a gazelle stag (L) at sunrise.

And here's our airplane.   Larger than many we fly.   We were treated to the high-pitched screams of a very excited young girl for most of the trip.  There was a basket of hard mints upon boarding and she couldn't believe she could have as many as she wanted.

 I removed my hearing aids and inserted ear plugs.

By the time we reached Nairobi, we were all hungry so our driver took us to a food court at a mall.   We had a hard time deciding where to eat, and wound up at Subway where our vegan and dairy-allergic friends could be accommodated.

The Kenyan shilling roughly translates to the USD by adding decimal points, i.e., the turkey breast sandwich at 525 shillings if $5.25 USD.

Then, we were off to the Palacina Hotel to check in and get ready for this afternoon's adventure.

As you can see, this whole trip is based in southern Kenya.   There's Tsavo on the lower right, Amboselli moving left, and the Maasai Mara Reserve where Enkewa camp is.   Also in the area was Great Plains Expedition, our last camp.   Now, we go back to Nairobi.

The adventure isn’t over yet!