Tag Archives: Africa

Day 4 – Karatu, shopping, and the Masai Village

Karatu – Had a really good sleep best one of the trip. However, upon waking I remember that packing for our day and night at the Masai village needed to happen – I kept asking myself, how can I possibly bring all the things / clothes I will need for a stay in a Masai village? Wasn’t easy but I got it all into my small bag. I mean, how can you pack for a sort of unknown, known? Anyway, I did it. As I tend to always say, ‘if you don’t have it, you don’t need it.’

At breakfast later today as we had a more relaxed start. We headed back east again seeing what we didn’t see in the dark. Stopped in one spot for a few shots of the first baboons we saw. Stopped again at an overlook to Lake Manyara and got assaulted by the trinket sales guys. I made a mistake and didn’t bring any money, very dumb on my part.

After some great long wide landscapes of the Rift valley, the lake, and distant flocks of storks, pulled off at a very large open-air market, somewhat hot, dry and dusty, this market was filled with a throng of locals buying and selling stuff. We were quickly the subject of a great deal of attention and I again had to explain over and over, I don’t have any money! Everyone wants to be your new best friend. Met a guy ‘Emanuel,’ who followed me around through the whole walk. When he realized that I really didn’t have money, he was mostly happy to give me a running narrative on the market and stuff there. It’s only on Thursdays, it tends to be organized into places for common stuff like say shoes or fabric. Of course my new best friend was more interested in selling me something but we talked about a lot of different topics. One spot was the ‘Masai Shoe’ area. These shoes are pieces of tires with the sidewalls cut off and the sole just left to curve up on both ends. Men’s versions are plain with limited decorations, while women’s are highly decorated and a bit on the lighter side. Kinda reminded me of things I saw in Mexico a long time ago but these shoes were different as they were curved. After about a 30-minute walk through the market, we ended up at the cars and the high pressure vendors. Julie bought some stuff at high prices but really not much. Managed to get away. Sorry no photos there as we were warned that these folk might not be so receptive to this.

Back on the road to the Masai School (the entrance off road sign is above). Got there mid-day. Were mobbed by kids of course. We met the teachers there and then were cut loose to wander. There were only 7 classrooms, grades 1-7, and of the 7 teachers working there only 5 were available. We got an orientation from one of the teachers and we met the principal as well. Soon after this, the kids spilled out of the classrooms and it was a good thing we’d had training at the school in Moshi for this experience. TGL/kids/cameras/fun it all happened until around our lunchtime.

Here is a short video of the kids singing: IMGP0615

At lunchtime, we headed above the school to where our support team had set up shop. On folding metal tables with table cloth, we were served a fine meal of Tanzanian pizza hard to describe the topping but it had carrots and other things on it. It was delicious as was the deep-fried chicken and other stuff. Very cool to have your own cooks along on a Safari like this. After lunch, we had some more time with the school kids and then began the short ¼ mile walk over the hill to the village.

The first order of business was to meet with the chief of the village and request his approval for both our stay with them and the overnight stay in a boma. By now we’d learned the appropriate Swahili greetings but we had to get some coaching on greeting the Chief in Masai language. Also, women had to be 45 or older to shake the hand of the Chief. Anyway, the Chief, reported to be 105 year old or so (he’d been the Chief for the past 70 years or so, was very gracious and funny. He then asked Godloove to explain the Masai history and how they come to live in the village. Here is a short portion of this discussion. IMGP9502, the Chief is on the right seated. Formalities over, we were allowed the freedom of the village upon which we began to move around and explore the area.

Daniel and the Cheif’s son discussing issues.

There were two large baobab trees in the village and for me, those became prominent landmarks. Near dusk, we went back over the hill to a sit down bush dinner again provided by our support team, wow. Much later we were issued sleeping bags and we grabbed our overnight gear + camera stuff heading back to three bomas which had been prepared for us…not sure what that consisted of but killing cockroaches was part of the equation for sure. The plan was to try to do some astrophotography as it was REALLY dark there before we retired to our bomas. Now keep in mind that although the Masai live traditionally, they have headlamps, cell phones, and some other modern stuff. However, the bomas a mud walled wood reinforced circular structure which has a small fire pit in the center and is kept in near darkness, have no lights and not much ventilation either. More about that in Day 5’s post. Regardless, we headed up to one of the baobab trees for some light painting / star shots. The weather was not cooperating as a partial cloud cover obscured the sky. I did some light painting with my head lamp and helped some others get familiar with this quasi art form. Wasn’t overly happy with the results but it was instructive to some of the group regardless.

About midnight we found ourselves back at our assigned boma, ready to bed down for the night. What a day…

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Day 3 – TGL Tanzania – Home visits and Ride to Karatu

Our day started with the usual wake ups and breakfast at the big table in Twiga House – the plan for the morning was our final visit to the school and then visits to several homes of our EEF students. The clear point was to enable us to better understand the issues faced by our kids. We arrived back at school to say goodbyes to the teachers and headmaster.

Some very nice words were said by the school staff, Sara, and Michael as well. Really had a warm feeling as we piled back into our bus with about 9 or so EEF students.

After a drive around somewhere near the school, down dirt roads, and surrounding fields, we stopped at a side road and walked a bit to the home of Yasin. We met his grandfather, brother Yafari, and baby Karim, father and mother. The small house, chicken coup, and surrounding banana trees made up their simple home. As we have learned greetings are very important in this culture and we greeted the family members. I hung back a bit as I really felt that I with my camera was intruding in their home. I know this wasn’t the case and they were clearly proud of their home, but I felt this none the less. Yasin was happy to show how he could use our cameras and we also did a family portrait for TGL and EEF.

I introduced myself to the Babu (grandfather) and told him in my limited Swahili that I was a grandfather too. He said I was too young but I took off my cap to show him my grey hair or the lack of it, he smiled and agreed I was a grandfather too…cool.

Then next home a short walk further down the same road was the home of Edward. He is an orphan and lives with his grandfather and grandmother. This couple looked very despondent and as Sara briefed us on their situation, we began to understand why. While they have some land with banana trees etc., they appear to have nothing. Sara explained that they may not be fully cognizant, i.e., likely some dementia I suspect. The grandfather explained through Sara that they had had seven children who all died, and Edward’s parents were either dead or gone as were his siblings. I mentioned that I too had lost my son this year and that I could perhaps understand their pain (could I really? I think so). When we did our formal greetings, the grandfather put his hands on my head and said some words I didn’t understand but took to mean something empathetic. I was touched then and now. We took our formal family pictures and what was really cool was that the grandparents brightened up to see their images on several of our LCD screens.

Edward (as was Yasin) was given his new backpack with school supplies – which is part of the EEF support – which was clearly a hit. We then went some further distance to the last home of Hosiane. She lives with her grandmother Kathrine in a sort of Masai boma behind a nicer home also surrounded by banana trees and farm.

Kathrine is not well and has breathing issues, however the closeness of the boma and interior fire do not help this situation. I was reluctant again to enter their home but Sara encouraged me to do so as she said, ‘Kathrine wants to show it to us,’ so in I went.

Humble surroundings. My goodness. Elizabeth (right in the image above) was very interested in Katherine’s situation. We again presented Hosiane with EEF school supplies, as we did the rest of the EEF kids along with us, and again, took a formal family portrait.

We piled back into the bus and drove quite a way to a stop on a main road where Sara took little Brenda (my student from they day before, across the road where she took off like a shot towards home. Sara explained that she was only half way home (she is like 5km from the school, wow). After we dropped off Brenda we returned home to Twiga House for a late lunch, then it was finishing the packing for Safari – it was tough to figure out what to take or leave. I managed to get everything into one bag though by dumping my camera bag, dumped my second night in Honey Badger Lodge for a return to Twiga House next week, left laundry, then all piled into our Toyota Land Cruisers – 8 of us and 6 in the second one to begin the Safari. In my Land Cruiser it was the cool and calm driver -Godloove and our guide Daniel up front. Then Julie the bubbly funny woman (an emergency PA) from New Hampshire who had been to Tanzania before years ago (Canon), then her friend Carol from Hew Hampshire who saw Tanzania last year (Sony), young quiet Cat from Toronto (shooting Nikon and a Pentax film camera [shoulda brought mine too…]), then Kerry our emergency doc from Perth (Nikon) and Nichole from Melbourne (also Nikon), and me (Pentax of course).

We drove out of town and on to the open road, ok, well it was a road with periodic speed bumps. While we could not see Mt. Kilimanjaro, we could see Mt. Meru, another volcanic peak (yes, I know there is a power line in the image, hey they happen right?).

After about an hour we stopped at a gas station/hotel/store for a break and loading up on snacks for the next few day. Daniel found a bottle of Cachaça (my favorite brand 51) for me, I considered it but I’m not drinking on this trip so I passed up on that one. Back on the road, country changed from Moshi town, to open and flat for a long time, we finally passed through Arusha – a big town. As we drove west we learned that you can’t go fast on these roads as periodic speed bumps and strict speed enforcement limit speeds to 40 to 60 kph. Godloove, our driver was always ready to answer question about the changing scenes. We started to see a scene repeated many times on the journey to Karatu, Masai in their brightly colored wraps with stick in hand either walking somewhere or tending their heard of goats/cattle heading home for the end of their day.

Roughly half way between Arusha and Karatu, we saw from a distance my first Baobab tree. I’ve always wanted to see one and try as I might I could not get any kind of shot as we sped down the road. However, as we climbed a rise, there were two large Baobab trees just off the road. We pulled off for a quick visit and some shots.

As we headed back to the Land Cruisers, Julie came down the hill with blood running down her cheek. She had tried to get close to a Baobab tree and a thorn had scratched her face. With blood on her hands and blouse, she looked quite the mess and was mostly more embarrassed than anything else. Given that we had a ER doc with us, she managed to find a band aid, Nana had some wipes, Michael put the band aid on, I grabbed the trash… With the operation a success, we piled back in to the trucks to continue our journey. Twenty minutes later, I noticed that I was missing my rather expensive polarizer filter for my 24-70 lens. Apparently, it fell off somewhere on the stop to see the Baobab trees…I really liked that filter too. This was my first loss of equipment on this trip. I was hoping in was the last incident but as I was to learn later, this was not to be. Back on the road and running late, we saw the in the dwindling the huge Lake Manyara in distance. Just before it got really dark, Godloove pointed out our first Giraffe. We tried to get a shot but it was very hard and the big lenses were packed away in back of the Land Cruiser. I got this sad shot, it was my first giraffe in Africa, we hoped there would be more to come.

It got dark and finally after 4 hours or so on the road I slept a bit. Arrived around 7ish in Karatu at our new base the Giraffe Executive Lodge very tired.

We had a nice dinner as our guides had brought our own cooks for the entire Safari, this was to be a daily highlight of the Safari. After dinner we got our final briefing for next day’s activities in the Masai school and village. While we had the usual briefing banter, I kinda felt some concern over the next two days. How would I handle such close contact with a group of people I know so little about and spending a night in a Masai boma, what would that be like? Just wasn’t sure what to really expect: toilet situations (ok, the lack of them), food, people, and yes, people photography.
I was assigned to the Giselle room. The halls of our lodge were kinda cool with animals in it.

I got the um…well, non-western toilet room. That’s all I’ll say about that. The room was clean and nice, and the bed was more comfortable than Twiga House. That night I kept waking up and thinking about Day 4 to come, and finally woke up worried about it.


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Day 2 – TGL Tanzania

On Monday evening we had another lovely meal of simple food (some of which I’m never really sure what it is but rice and beans of some kind seem to be involved), It’s always good. Then – as I predicted more or less – it rained for quite a while.

Tuesday morning – Seems like 4am is the dog barking / call to prayer / rooster crowing hour. Could not sleep so I got up about and did my blog. My mind went back to Monday and those kids. As we were going to be at the school basically all day, there was a lot of doubt in my mind about how it would go. Elizabeth was also having sleeping issues and we both worked on images for about a hour and a half until nearly breakfast. After breakfast Michael our leader broke out the 20 donated point and shoot cameras for today’s teaching shoot with the school kids.

Packed up and loaded into our bus taking us to the school.

Upon arrival amid shouts of ‘Simba!’ (Daniel is known around here as Simba) we exited the bus onto – oh did I mention that it rained a lot – a muddy field. The kids mobbed us and already several kids wanted more jumps from me etc. It was already like a reunion. What fun.
Continue reading Day 2 – TGL Tanzania

Tanzania – Finally!

Dateline Moshi, Tanzania

After spending about 11 hours in Nairobi yesterday, the short 55-minute flight to Moshi, Tanzania was a relief. Nairobi was overcast which mostly stayed around all through flight. The plane broke through the cloud cover and a nice glory formed around the plane’s shadow, I had my phone off and couldn’t get a shot before it was running, however, although the image below is cell phone quality, I was able to get a shot of Mt. Kilimanjaro poking through the clouds! Very cool.

Continue reading Tanzania – Finally!

Leg 2 done waiting for Leg 3

The relatively short 5 hour flight from Dubai to Nairobi ended this morning at about 5 am, nice and dark for a flight all night – theirs – on my day time body. Had a great seat and could stretch out with a ‘dinner’ at my breakfast time. Upon arrive we walked up the jetway then down the stairs on to the tarmac into buses. A few of us transfer folk were walked through security and the airport to a desk where they nicely checked us in, insured that our luggage might be attached to us and might surface at the right airport at the right time. That’s all good for me. Just want to see it all again in Moshi.

Met a nice Scot waiting for the bus, we passed the Turkish Air lounge in the airport I’d signed up for as had he. We got real chummy and I learned that ‘John’ lives in Portugal, was in 5th Commando during the Falkand’s war, is in international security for the UN and currently spends a lot of time in Africa doing security for camps. He was headed for Entebbe and points further in the interior of Africa. I guess he’s about 5-7 years younger than I and is planning to retire in a few years. One of his goals is to drive his 1200cc BMW bike around the perimeter of Africa! Wow, I will admire that from a distance and have no desire to follow that lead, but you know…it might be, not!

Anyway, living in lounges as I am at the moment is nice, food, power, some pleasant company. Works for me. Got to use my first word in Swahili today – asante – or thank you. Also broke out the big camera today and to a couple of snaps out the window to the east, somewhere out there Kilimanjaro waits.

Here’s the view out the window today. Not a great shot but it’s with the laptop camera again. Oh, and it’s hot the best weather either… [sigh]

Tonight – Moshi, Tanzania and tommorrow, begins the TGL experience.


#TGLtanzania #thegivinglens

Leg 1 done, waiting for leg 2

Dateline Dubai International Airport, it’s 9:30 pm in this enormous airport. Friendly people and great shopping…on my return of course. The 15+ hour flight over the pole was long but good.

The screen on the flight today over the pole. Nice sea ice.

Slept ok, food good. Only issue was a annoyingly boorish women in the middle seat. Lift could be harder I guess. Anyway, thanks to Amanda’s TGL trip 3 years ago, I researched airport shower options. The Marharba lounge here is really nice with food and drink included. It’s 40+ pounds but worth it. I get to say here until midnight then take the train to my next flight at 1am local…

Next stop Nairobi…


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SFO – Waiting for leg one

Got here a bit past 1pm, checked-in very quickly, TSA Precheck again! 2 minutes from entering to exiting, no scan, shoes off, just metal screen and I’m in. Very cool.

Me beginning my blog today.

Next stop Dubai…


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Tanzania – 2

Well, two days to go before liftoff and I’m still adding and subtracting to all the photo equipment for Tanzania. Can’t even load it all into the pack yet to get the weight. Regardless, a lot of this will be used and needed on this journey. Will be working on the final clothes next.

However, have checked in for my flight and booked lounge time in Dubai for a shower etc. Less than 48-hours now to go.


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Tanzania – 9

In 9 days I’ll board a flight from SFO and begin my journey to Tanzania for 20 days in country. So much yet to do and prepare but so much already done. This trip is about photography. Got some tips tonight from another photographer who was there this February. Basically, I’m on track for the trip. Working on Swahili and customs. The Facebook list for TGL is heating up and I think we are all feeling it.

I’ll post as often as I can. When in country it may be harder but my goal is to keep it up. That’s all for tonight.


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Getting Ready for Tanzania

I’m heading to Tanzania in August this year and so as I will be on Safari for a portion of my time over there, I’ve upgraded my outfit…So here is the total camo look I’m rockin’


Hoping I don’t scare off any animals. It’s all Pentax gear of course and the lens coat is from well, lenscoat.

Thanks to my daughter Amanda for this great shot.

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