Namibia From The Air

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Last October I joined the Schoeman family on one of the fly-in safaris they have been operating in Namibia’s Skeleton Coast region since the 1970s. Words won’t do justice to what was a real adventure, but hopefully this provides just a taster of the experience.

These incredible safaris began when Windhoek based lawyer, Louw Schoeman, realised the potential in this wilderness area for flying in small numbers of guests and giving them a ‘desert experience’. Over the years, his name became synonymous with the Skeleton Coast and his safaris became known in the international travel circles as a   unique  wilderness experience. In the late 1980s his sons Andre and Bertus became part of the team as pilot guides. They have now been joined by youngest brother, Henk, and latterly by Bertus’ wife Helga.

Today the family members take groups of up to eight guests into this beautiful and remote region. My three night, four day trip was hosted by husband and wife team Bertus and Helga, and even though John had raved about a similar trip a couple of years ago, I had no inkling of the experience to come.

Having already seen the majestic Sossusvlei Dunes and had a quick look around the Wolwedans Nature reserve which is also pretty special, I wasn’t sure the scenery could get any better. I was wrong – very wrong!

Our two planes set off from Wolwedans heading towards the coast with Helga and Bertus giving a running commentary on what was unfolding below us. We flew over the Sossusvlei dunes – almost more spectacular from the air than the ground – before turning north to fly along the Atlantic shoreline. Dropping down onto a deserted beach for lunch we had a chance to experience at first hand the howling wind and wild sea that caused misery to many ships in the past. Flying further up the coast during the afternoon was wonderful – just sitting back and watching the sea whiz past about 100 feet beneath us. Every now and then we’d swoop inland to look at a shipwreck, abandoned mining post or a seal colony before heading back out to skim the clear blue sea.

Around mid-afternoon we turned inland, flying over the spectacular grey/brown Ugab formations. After a couple of exhilarating circuits flying just above the peaks, we landed on a makeshift runway on a valley floor. After a brief walk to examine the extraordinary geology of the region we set off again for the short hop to the first night’s camp, leaving the planes parked for the night like two very lost large birds. After 20 minutes drive through a remote desert landscape we rounded a corner to be greeted by a small thatched mess tent with sundowners all ready. The camp was simple, but given the logistics of getting things to these remote wilderness areas this was not surprising, and the twin-bedded tents were perfectly comfortable with everything you need for the night.

Early morning coastal fog means flying tends to start around lunchtime, so our second morning was vehicle based, exploring the strange moonscape features of the area. Round each corner there was something different to look at, from ancient cave paintings and weirdly wonderful rock formations to welwitschia plants, a distant relative of the fir tree that lives for up to 2,000 years. Fascinating, and unlike anything I’ve seen before.

The highlight of the second afternoon’s flight was flamingo spotting. With no warning – the Schoemans love to surprise their guests – we flew over some man made salt pans and startled huge flocks of flamingos into the air with us. With cameras clicking like crazy, it was spectacular watching these graceful birds flying just below.

After another beach landing we set off into the coastal dunes of the Skeleton Coast National Park which were every bit as spectacular as Sossusvlei and far better for the fact that there was no one else around. We spent a wonderful couple of hours revelling in the sand but I can’t say more as it would spoil the surprises for anyone intending to do the trip themselves!

We arrived at Purros, the second night’s camp, as the sun was setting. Situated in the heart of the Kaokoland region – one of the last strongholds of the Himba tribes and home to the elusive desert elephant – the camp is idyllically located in a pretty, tree-lined sandy river bed with stunning views to the distant mountains.

There is more game in this area, but we got off to a shaky start the next morning when Bertus and his team had to add a large stone and a stick to the components under the bonnet of our game vehicle. The logistics of keeping mechanical things working in this environment must be enormous but they are all first-class mechanics, so we were soon moving again.

Among the things that really stick in my mind from this morning – apart from more glorious scenery – were the enormous flocks of ostrich we saw: 40, 50 and more, just wandering across the vast empty planes. Bertus knows the whole area like the back of his hand and was determined to find desert elephant: after some searching, he succeeded. A lone bull to begin with and then a few females. Taller and thinner than their non-desert counterparts, they have evolved over the years so that they can scratch out a living in this arid area. They don’t get many visitors but seemed quite content for us to sit and watch for a while.

Back in the planes, we landed briefly on the beach to search for multicoloured agate stones. This seriously challenged my 10kg baggage allowance but the stones still look every bit as lovely in their new home back in the UK. Then it was on up to Namibia’s northern border with Angola, where we turned inland to follow the Kunene River. As the coastal dunes gradually disappeared behind us we started to see the occasional crocodile in the water below.

Vehicles were waiting at the landing strip and we set off for the final camp of our trip. Just as it seemed we couldn’t be surprised by anything else, we dropped into the huge Hartmann Valley. What the early explorers must have felt when they reached this bit of land is anyone’s guess. Vast, empty, hostile and yet spectacularly beautiful. After winding along the valley floor, we climbed a hill to stop and look back. I was entranced by the seemingly endless orange/red landscape dotted with a few lone oryx, and perfectly framed by the distant Angolan mountains. Words could never do it justice, and sadly, nor do my photographs.

The following morning a gentle boat ride down the Kunene River, spotting birds and drinking in the river scenery, was the perfect way to wind down, before a final bit of excitement: prospecting for diamonds on the Angolan river shore. I felt as if I’d been away for weeks, not a couple of days, and had seen almost more than I could take in.

This doesn’t even begin to describe the adventure that is a Schoeman trip. It is by no means a luxury holiday. Accommodation and food are simple, and the packed itinerary is, at times, quite demanding. But I feel privileged to have experienced the guiding and knowledge imparted by Bertus and Helga. Bertus grew up here and his passion for all that we saw was infectious. I would be amazed if I experience another assault on my senses quite like these four days – but then I doubt there is anywhere else on earth quite like the Skeleton Coast.



http://www.aardvarksafaris.com/articles-namibia-fromtheair.htm

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Talking to Myself

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If you pull up next to me at a traffic light, you are going to see something a little unusual. It is going to appear as if I am talking to myself. I want you to know I am not really as crazy as I look. Please note, I didn’t say I wasn’t crazy, just not that crazy.

So why am I talking to myself? You see my primary learning style is Auditory. That means is I process information better if I hear it out loud. So years ago I learned to work on my presentations in my car. I never write my speeches down. I simply work through sections out loud, testing phrases and pacing, till I find something that sounds exactly right.

I have often used this same technique as a foundation of my blogging strategy. Talking through my ideas helps me write better blog posts. I often write a paragraph and read it aloud. I edit the text based on the way it sounds. This is probably why I use so many extra commas. I hear the pauses and think a comma needs to be there so everyone else will hear it as well.

About six months ago, I started recording random thoughts and ideas to use as blog post starters. It worked so well, I expanded the process and now you can often find me dictating entire posts into my iPhone as I am driving in my car. ( Thus the looking slightly crazy at traffic lights.)

I often record the post two or three times. I listen to the recording and adjusting the flow, the way other people write, edit and rewrite a post. Some people think into a keyboard, I think into a voice recorder.

There is still some editing required once I type the post, but embracing my natural work style has made blogging much easier and better. I really like many of the posts I have created in the last few months because they sound like me. They are more natural, more conversational and yet still informational.

This technique may not work for everyone, but if you are struggling with writing get a voice recorder and try using it in car. Don’t worry that others think you are talking to yourself, because the process of recording then writing will help you talk to lots of people through your blog in the long run.

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Picnic Ideas – Pack a Picnic From Your Pantry

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Summer is on the way. You need to start thinking about being prepared for picnics, especially those times when everyone, at the last minute, cries, “Let’s go on a picnic!” Oh dear. A picnic. Whatever will we take to eat?

There are some things you can do to plan ahead for a picnic. Then, with a few items stocked and a game plan to follow, going on a picnic at the drop of a straw summer hat will be a piece of cake!

Picnic ideas– what to do to plan ahead:

  1. Pack a box or container with all the reusable, plastic dishes and utensils your family needs for a picnic. Don’t forget a knife to cut food, a pitcher for drinks, a can opener, serving utensils, etc.  In your picnic box, you could include an old bed sheet for a table cloth. Twin-size bottom sheets work very well for this, as the elastic corners help it to stay on the picnic table without blowing off. Close up this box when packed and label “picnic.” If you will be using a park BBQ to cook food while out, then pack another box for the utensils needed, including pot holders, and label it also.
  2. Pack a box or two to put in the pantry with nonperishable food items such as: juice, cookies or crackers, pork & beans, canned fruit, canned fish or meat. Tuna in foil packets works well because it doesn’t need to be drained. Chips or pretzels could be included but go easy on these as they don’t deliver much nutrition. If you go somewhere that doesn’t have drinking water available, you could either pack bottled water or take a large water canteen.
  3. Keep some reusable freezer packs in your freezer to avoid having to buy ice at the last minute. They also don’t create the mess that the melting ice does. Keep your picnic cooler clean and in a handy place. Also, freeze some water in small empty yogurt containers, which are not bigger than the mouth of your water canteen. These can be emptied into the canteen to make instant ice water to take on your picnic.

Once you have planned and packed the items above, going on a picnic at the last minute really is a piece of cake. You’ll be ready in only a few minutes to head out the door. No muss, no fuss, no going to the store.

  • Open your clean cooler and put ice packs inside.
  • Throw in whatever you can find in the fridge: apples, carrots, cheese, leftover cooked chicken, etc.
  • Place bread or buns on top.
  • Cover food with a towel and facecloth and close the lid. The towel and facecloth are for washing sticky hands later.
  • Grab your picnic box with all your utensils and dishes in it.
  • Grab your pantry box with the nonperishable food and juices in it.
  • Fill up your large water canteen with the ice cubes you made and some water.

Picnic Ideas: Brainstorm about where to go to enjoy your family picnic:

A picnic can be a fun, inexpensive family activity to do in the summertime. One thing extra you could do to be prepared is make a list of all the places you could possibly go on a picnic. Include your favorite parks and see what else the surrounding area offers. Decide how far away you are willing to travel and then make a list of all the possible picnic places within that area. One fun idea is to make a goal to visit each place once over the summer vacation. Don’t forget to encourage your family to give you input for new and exciting picnic ideas to try for next year.

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Traditional Dances Of Kenya

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The traditional dances of Kenya are some of the most diverse and popular in Africa. The various types of folk music are based on different ethnic groups that are found in the country. The culture, language, dance and music of every tribe is different from each other. The drum is the most popular musical instrument used in many dances performed around the country. Other famous instruments include; bells, horns, guitar, flutes and whistles.

The music and dance is from the rich culture of Kenya and it can be categorized into folk, traditional and international. Isikuti, a Luhya name for drum is the traditional dance for the Luhya people in Western Kenya. Paired men and women sway to the rhythm of the drums, bells, whistles and horns in their dance style.

The Masai communities have structured dances performed in different occasions. For example, the Masai Jumping Dance which is also called “Adamu” in the Masai language is a dance performed by Masai warriors. They show their strength and stamina by leaping into the air one after the other as the rest of the warriors stand in a circle while they sing. The Masai community do not use any musical instruments when performing their folk songs. Instead, women wear bells and rattles which create jiggling sound as they sing.

Both the Kamba and Chuka people are famous for their acrobatic style of dancing. They have a unique drumming style in which a long drum leans forward between the thighs. Taarab is another for of traditional music in Mombasa. It consists of African and Arabian influence. In this dance style, men, women and the Youth dance in a rhythmic way as they sing poems in Swahili. The people of Mombasa have a unique way of dressing and majority of the people talk in Swahili. Today, Taarab is still popular in the coastal region.

Traditional dance of Kenya has become more modern due to the western and foreign influence. The guitar is the most famous instrument used in the international music. Many modern forms of music have evolved such as reggae, hip-hop, jazz, rap, Afro-Fusion and the Congolese pop. All the modern form of music is very popular to the Kenyan youth especially in urban cities. Some famous modern musicians include Mighty King Kong, Eric Wainaina and Maji Maji. The spread of Christianity in Kenya has also given birth to another form of dance called gospel music, which have spread throughout all the churches.

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