Monday, September 28, 2015

Hiking Piegan Pass in Glacier National Park

We got a bit of a late start for our first day after having traveled over to the west side of the park, and I was determined to do a more substantial hike given that the first hike of the day was likely to be our only hike that day, and I felt that my leg would be up to a greater test.  Our selection was the hike top Piegan Pass, which I had overheard a park ranger suggesting the day before to another inquirer ahead of me on the line to get advice.  This meant that we would have to drive back past Logan Pass into the eastern half of the Going to the Sun Road, to the Siyeh Bend parking area; it proved to be a good choice for the day.

We began by passing the “confluence of two streams” where we had briefly strolled the previous day; after that the trail began to climb steadily, but not steeply, through a pine forest. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Driving and hiking along Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park

This morning we woke up and drove up to Babb, Montana, to try breakfast at Glacier’s Edge Café; it was a good choice (and was closing for the season in just two more days). I had a filling omelette, not so large as the morning before at Johnson’s but tastier, with good hashed-brown potatoes.  On the way up and back, we grabbed some nice photos of the increasingly yellow-filled hillsides across the road in the National Park.

We headed back to the Red Eagle Motel, packed up and checked out, heading into the park with a quick stop at the Visitors Center for a quick consult on the day’s hiking.  Our first choices for walking that morning were to see the Sunrift Gorge and hike to Virginia Falls, but the entire area on both sides of the road had been closed because of a recent forest fire; the area was considered to be substantially unsafe because of the risk that more trees would fall.  So, a quick change of plans – we decided to hike the Gunsight Pass trail to some falls that would come in the first mile or two, then hike to Hidden Lake from Logan Pass.  As we drive along St. Mary Lake, we saw tiny Wild Goat Island in the middle of the water

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Our visit to Glacier National Park – two days on the east side

Nancy and I decided to seize the occasion of my trip to Portland for the annual September gathering of Reed alumni activists, and my aunt Essie’s 90th birthday party in Seattle the following weekend, for a week’s trip to Glacier National Park in Montana.  Nancy flew out to Portland on Sunday, scheduled to arrive early afternoon.  I figured we could make a good start on the very long drive to Glacier; as it was, her plane was late and we stopped for lunch at the Mekong Bistro, where I am always happy to return; it was 4 PM before we finally hit the road toward Montana.

We chugged along on I-84 through the length of the Columbia Gorge and then central Oregon – across the Columbia in Washington the ridges were lined with with mills.

the walls above us on the Oregon side were also striking

Monday, September 7, 2015

Tour of Soweto

On June 25, 2010, we drove into Johannesburg where Ilan Ossendryver, a local photographer who is the brother of a former client, gave us a tour of Soweto, including the Apartheid Museum and Nelson Mandela's home.

As we approached the city, the layer of pollution hanging over the city was apparent (as well as the fun advertising signs)

The vendors along the roads selling scarves and other national team paraphernalia were as in many other places we went

Here is a view from the highway of downtown Johannesburg

The Apartheid Museum was extremely moving, and we all felt much more powerful that DC's Holocaust Museum in both the harrowing detail and the extent of the story portrayed. 

As at the Holocaust Museum, visitors begin with passes that put them in the position of denizens of an apartheid regime - each visitor gets a laminated car "white"or "non-white", and begin their trip through the museum on separate tracks.  

 There is both a "temporary" exhibition of a detailed account of Mandela's life and times, and a permanent exhibition that describes the initiation of and reasons for the apartheid system and, as the same time, a portrayal of the struggle against apartheid, culminating in the negotiations and conflict leading up to the 1994 elections and their aftermath.  We concluded by walking into the veld garden

From there we proceeded to the tiny house where the Mandela family lived from the late 1940's onward. 

Our host Ilan recounted his visit to the house for the press conference after Mandela was released from prison, of taking photos of Mandela and having the chance to chat with him for 10-15 minutes as a reward for having been so slow to pack up his equipment because the journalists were gone before he was ready to leave.

Ilan was determined to take us to a local shebeen, a well-known place called Wandie's, but his GPS was acting up and we ended up wandering through some back roads (see photos of corrugated metal shanties, blocks of what might be government housing, and a Brazilian chicken place). 

We passed a primary school, one of the first we have seen, but could not visit because the local schools have taken an extended holiday for the World Cup. Sam's comment was the rural poverty of Guatemala, where he works regularly with the Adams-Morgan based Hoops Sagrado program,  is much more dire than the urban version that he was seeing in Soweto.

The reaction of the local populace to our presence seemed largely friendly - friendly waves and comments. Note the local girl who wanted to pose with us for a family photo. 

We have heard that in other times, white folks passing through Soweto often receive a hostile reception. The spirit of national pride and unity around the hosting of the World Cup seems to have made a difference. (Although we have read about angry dissent over the parceling out of world Cup largesse and spending on stadiums and roads for visitors instead of schools and health facilities -- a familiar debate for a DC resident!)

Finally, we reached Wandie's for a late lunch. Wandie's is apparently an obligatory stopping place for well-known foreigners who visit Johannesburg (note the autographs on the wall in the upper for the two photos below).  The menu is much more extensive than the normal shebeen.

Here is a view of two nuclear cooling towers from within Johannesburg, then near them on the highway

Then we raced off, Ilan to prepare shabat dinner for his son's birthday, and the boys hoping to catch the second half of the Brazil / Portugal and Ivory Coast / North Korea games.  More disappointment, as the African team avoided disgrace but still failed to advance.

DeWildt Cheetah Center

On June 24, 2010, the day after the United States’ triumph over Algeria, we drove out toward Hartbeesport to visit the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre in DeWildt, which devotes itself to raising cheetah and wild dog cubs for release into the wild (or into nature conservation areas), and to raising consciousness about the need to protect these and other threatened species.  We learned about the fascinating social structure of the wild dogs, which take care of their pups and their aging population by bringing back food from every kill.

In addition to educating tourists, the center works to educate farmers about ways to avoid killing endangered predators - they raise a certain kind of guard dogs that bond with livestock and chase off cheetahs instead of farmers having to kill them to protect their livelihood.   We saw the cheetahs

 (as well as some close encounters with ostrich and male nyala).

  The final part of the tour presented the opportunity to "stroke a cheetah,"so Sam and Joe and I posed for the obligatory photo.

The purr sounded like a growl, but the animal was lying peacefully.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

United States v. Algeria

We headed back to Pretoria from Pilanesberg National Park and went straight to the US Embassy to attend a barbecue and pep rally for the US team, with the players' families all in attendance.  As we arrived, Shona was working on the face painting operation; we watched her do Drew Carey's face and took their photo together.  We chanted some DC United cheers for his benefit, but also expressed thanks for the fine example of community support that his Sounders have provided for the league.

Sam and Joe painted each other's faces, then collaborated to do mine.

Our trip to Pilanesberg National Park

Although Sam not yet recovered from jet lag, on June 21 we drove off to Pilanesberg National Park, north of Rustenberg, for another period of wildlife viewing.    (It is close enough to Rustenberg that some fans were using it as accommodations while attending games there: some Uruguayan fans had this vehicle decked out:.

Maybe it would have made sense to have stayed there to avoid the dreadful traffic between Rustenberg and Pretoria).  I had written to reserve a four-person self-catering chalet at the Manyane Resort just outside the park back in November, but never heard back from them. Then, last spring, after FIFA began releasing rooms as it scaled back its expectations for fan attendance, the owner of Manyane suddenly wrote to confirm our booking.  Having failed to confirm any other wildlife opportunity for this period, I accepted their offer.

Our experience in Pilanesberg was very different from our walking safari in Pafuri.  The chalet was barely heated, but it was nice to have bathrooms in our accommodations.  Although the restaurant had a menu, the menu was usually not available; instead, usually only the buffet was running, and generally the food on the buffet was not very good (it was terrific in Pafuri). 

A building near our lodge had the rather powerful no-smoking sign

Pilanesberg is much smaller than Kruger; the available game are much more condensed.  And, of course, we were driving and not mostly walking.  Paradoxically, in most cases we were able to get much closer to many animals driving than walking; thinking back to what we had heard from Walter and Frazier, animals tend to be more nervous about human intentions when we are on foot than when we are in vehicles.  The vehicles also give US some feeling of security from predators albeit not the larger animals that could easily crush a car. 

Although game drives on 15 or 25 seater jeeps are available, most of the game viewing is by self-drive with no guides.   And, in fact, although we tried a night drive, which produced a couple of memorable sights, we found the self-drives to be most effective.  We finally saw giraffes close up


and several new kinds of antelope as well as many impala.  

One evening as we were heading back toward our chalet we had the sweet experience of a family of three rhinoceros sauntering along beside the road

sadly, all my photos were too blurry. 

The next day we encountered a more disturbing sight involving rhino - game officials had taken one down with a tranquilizing dart, but seemed to have no difficulty allowing a busload of tourists to walk up and pose with and manipulate the drowsy beast

We were pleased not to participate in this abuse.

On one of our drives, we passed a herd of roughly a dozen elephants; later, as we stopped in a nearby hide, we were able to watch as they came up to the waterside to drink

While at the hide, we heard some lions roaring in the distance; and as we drove on, one of the lions sauntered across the road in front of us

then looked back at us from the grassland


We noticed a jackal crossing the road

enjoyed the rare sight of hippos feeding the land (albeit near a lake)

and saw many zebra up close

and more kinds of birds

and this doesn’t include the many birds viewed in an aviary in the park!

By the time we were through, we reviewed our game listings and concluded that, between Pafuri and Pilanesberg, we had seen almost all of the different kinds of antelope, not to speak of all of the "big five" apart from the leopard.  So, we were ready to see other aspects of South Africa.