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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

PEARL'S ASHES: #11--the Heart of Africa

In college, one of the books we read was the Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, now a FREE e-book.  There was a made for TV movie in 1994 with Tim Roth and John Malkovich, not a particularly good film, but the only existing effort.  This was an equally depressing novella dealing with colonialism, racism, savagery and civilization down the Congo River.  While my journey through Africa was not quite so dark, I could envision a worst case scenario, and this no doubt gave me caution in thinking about a safari through this continent.

From part 10, you will recall that I had flown into Nairobi, Kenya, then to Tanzania.  The Tauck Tour I was with took us to the Nogorongoro Serena, a hotel that reminded me of the Volcano House on the Big Island.  However, the view here from my room was much more spectacular:

Here is where I spread Pearl's ashes.

Germans in 1892 were the first Europeans to set foot in the Ngorongoro Crater, which is 1000 feet deep and a 100 square miles.  The Masai were caught in a policy dispute between the United Kingdom dominating the Serengeti National Park and Germany having a foothold in this particular conservation area.  Germany controlled Tanzania and the UK occupied Kenya.  This general region is where the wildebeest and zebra migrate.  25,000 large animals--rhinoceros, hippopotamus--live in this caldera.

My personal problem was that on 28October2010 I contracted severe diarrhea at 1:30 AM, went to the bathroom half a dozen times, and was looking to just sleep today.  Unfortunately, this was not possible, as we were moving hotels from the Ngorongoro Serena to the Serengeti Serena.  Worse, this was to be the bumpiest, dustiest and longest day.  So I asked my body to perform a miracle.  My frontal lobe took total control, and I made it through without incident.  As this is the second miracle, I will think about nominating my brain for sainthood, for during Pearl's illness, how many times did I think I was coming down with a cold or flu, but my body kept resisting, and helped me make it through the period, and in the process engineered a loss of 11 pounds.  Of course, I have a weird idea about the concept of miracles.

The Oldupai (this once was spelled and pronounced Olduvai) Gorge stop was both disappointing and exciting.  I had a good chat with Curator Sambeta Ikayo.  The negatives were that the exhibit itself was a pale shadow of what it should and could be.  I can think of a dozen ways to make it much better.  All they need is a rich person to provide the funds.  Read about the story of the Leakeys.  If this gorge was supervised by the British, I suspect their museum mentality would have long ago spruced up the exhibit.  Lucy was found in Ethiopia by Donald Johanson, an American, and three others.

Human life started here twice.  First, the transition from some type of champanzee 5 million years ago, then, around 70,000 BC, Mount Toba in Indonesia erupted, throwing so much ash into the atmosphere that the world got very cold, and only10,000 or so people survived, purportedly in East Africa, and possible the Oldupai Gorge.  Thus, this is where Homo Sapiens re-began and expanded.  A similar theory is that pockets of life made it through, giving us the diversity we have today.

I probably took a thousand photos of animals, and will later show some of them.  But for now, here is the eye of a giraffe.

Mount Kilimanjaro is 19,298 feet  high and the highest point in Africa.  While dormant for a third of a millennium, it is suspected that magma sits at the 18,000 foot level.  Just before I caught the plane, at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, I placed Pearl's ashes next to a flowery green area.  This is day five, and I have yet to see Mount Kilimanjaro, which, a surprise to me, is two miles south of the equator.  Here is another shot of this most symbolic of natural wonders to Pearl, courtesy of Arturo Gonzalez:

The photo in Part 10 was actually taken on the way back to Kenya.  At least I finally saw Mount Kilimanjaro.  Next time a climb to the top.  Sure.  I wonder if a helicopter can get there?  Well, there was a controversial helicopter landing on top of Mount Everest, which is about 10,000 feet higher, so, maybe someday.


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