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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

PEARL'S ASHES: Chapter 8 African Safari

Pearl's Ashes #12 occurred on the third and fourth of November 2010.  She always wanted to go on a safari, but I never got around to honoring her wishes, until she passed away.  

There were, actually, five different ceremonies throughout Kenya, with the first being at the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club, founded by William Holden, where in the past Ava Gardner downed gimlets to forget her failed marriage to Frank Sinatra, or where Ernest Hemingway told tall tales.  The equator crosses the hotel property, and this was an obvious site for one of the ceremonies.

We then went on to the Fairmont Mara Safari Club, at the time the third best hotel in the world...and it was a collection of luxury tents.  Armed guards escorted us to our room at night, for the grounds were open to wildlife, and there had been incidents.

The most exciting part of the safari was a small hike to view the white rhinoceros.  They look just like black rhinos, and both are of the same brown color.  The difference has to do with the shape of their mouth.  The danger was that if they attacked, the jeep was a hundred yards away, and there were no trees.  I thought this was an ideal spot to drop Pearl's Ashes, having something to do with bravery.

Next, I quote from my diary:

Today, we were awakened at 4:30AM for a hot air balloon ride.  My knowledge of these contraptions is to hop into a small basket, not unlike in Around the world in 80 Days.  Not so! Our rectangular basket with four compartments (each capable of holding up to three) began horizontal, we had to crawl in and hang on for the balloon to inflate, springing us vertical, then, with a discombobulative whoosing sound (the butane burner was deafening) and concern, we suddenly are off the ground exactly at sunrise.  Up we go, but not fast enough, as our basket crashes into the top of a tree, but we do barely clear the area.  After that, if you blocked out the sporadic noise, the ride was serene and spectacular.

Over tens of thousands of wildebeest, I tossed a capsule.

After we landed, I noticed growing close-by, those sunbursts Pearl cultivated.  This is the flower with Pearl on the back cover of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS Essays, the compilation of my Huffington Post articles I dedicated to her.  It was a spot decision to lay a capsule at the base of one of these flowers.

Animals abounded:  parades of elephants and prides of lions.  Just like those rhinos, the lead elephant can be dangerous.  The hippopotamus, however, is the most lethal animal in Africa.

And, of my, what a life it is for the head lion.  I just can't repeat it here, but click on THIS to read about survival in the jungle.  There is very little sympathetic in nature.  

There was something about sunset and twilight that evoked a calmness and sentimentality in her.  Here, at Masai Mara I dropped off the final ash capsule for the continent of Africa.

Next week Pearl's Ashes on Kauai.  However, the rest of this round the world trip was extraordinary.  Why I did not drop off her ashes is only because I was then focused on specific sites.  To summarize:
  • Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is about as terrible as an airport can be.  I was glad to be out of Africa.  To quote:
I have widely travelled most of my life, so much so that I enjoy most staying at home, where I have total control over my life, don’t have to wonder about the history of the pillow I am using and am not regularly shocked.  For example, today, I get dropped off at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, not the most comfortable place to be.  The Qatar Airways counter is still closed.  After a wait, I check in my two normal suitcases and am told my baggage is overweight.  No problem, as what is $25.  But, aha, I am 15 (33 pounds) kilograms over and need to go to another office to pay the bill.  This seems unusual to me, but I do, and am told the charge is $353.  Great!  What can you do?  I pay the exorbitant penalty and now worry about my Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Oslo, which is almost three times the distance, a factor in the fine.  $1000? 

  • United allows me three 72 pound bags, but non-Star Alliance companies can do whatever they want, especially in Nairobi.  But I arrive in Doha, Qatar:
I was led to a Ritz-Carlton Mercedes limousine, and although it was night, the sparkle (as opposed to Nairobi) of everything, awe-inspiring architecture and swarms of construction cranes were impressive.  The Ritz-Carlton itself is fabulous, the internet is as fast as South Korea and all this will be covered by the Qatar Foundation.  I made a quick internet check and a room costs $500/night.  The Four Seasons is a few dollars less, W Hotel for $300 and Sheraton $275.  The St. Regis opens next year.
Their business class lounge is the largest I’ve ever seen anywhere.  There are two buffet restaurants, plus a bakery with service.  The coffee bar has attendants to make whatever fancy drinks you want.  They serve Laurent Perrier 2000 champagne.  Mind you, we are still in Qatar, and it is not yet 6 AM.  There is a large glassed-in smoking area with no smoke because the venting must be good.  Shower facilities.  Everything looks new and sparkling.  And this whole airport will be replaced with a more luxurious one next year.
  • My next stop was Oslo, and here is where I experienced my first high tech arrival and departure.  Remember, this was 2010.  I also had my best dinner on this trip.  Here halibut with a Barolo, and the chef serving me, Patrick O'Toole...of Minnesota.
  • Next Rome, where I had my Roman Holiday walk and enjoyed my best lunch ever.  Since then, Quadri in Venice gained #1 status.  But La Terrazzo del-Eden, all of 120 years old, is certainly #2.  Located next to the Spanish Steps, their White Truffles Risotto was spectacular.
  • This was one of those trips where I stayed with friends.  Back to the USA, into DC, I spent a couple of nights with the Patils, colleagues from the University of Hawaii.  Whenever I get into the District, I have my regular gatherings with Gloria/Joe and Judy/Cliff, as we will again when get there in April on my next world journey.
  • On to Austin, where I spent some time with Maria and John (who is taking this photo above).  They went straight from college into the Peace Corps to the Philippines, where they adopted two babies, now grown up.  While at Stanford, John (on the right to the right), who lived in Hollywood (and lived a Hollywood life) picked me up in Oxnard on the way back to the campus, and back during holidays.  Pat, Jim and John at our graduation.  Jim was my freshman roommate, who I joined with his friends in Kona last month.
  • Spent Thanksgiving in Las Vegas with my brother, Dan, and his family.  We also went to L&L BBQ.
You would think I should also have dropped Pearl's ashes in the Middle East, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, DC, Austin and Las Vegas, for many of these locations were memorable to her.  Maybe I'll plan a future Around the World to cover many of these sites.

The Dow Jones Industrials rose 32 points to 20.755, setting its all-time high for the ninth straight session.


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