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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Dune Surfing Fraser Island, Australia by Mac

On Fraser Island there are a lot of lakes and one has a big sand dune that you can roll down into the lake on.  In the car ride up we were all very anxious to get there.  When we got there, we ran to the dune, took our shirts and shoes off and jumped down the hill.


When we got to the bottom, we saw that some other people next to us had a boogie board and they slid down on that and that looked like a lot of fun, so I asked them if I could use it and they said yes.  I ran up the hill and got on the board and slid down.  I was going very fast and at the bottom I hit another board and got three feet of air.


I thought it was so fun I tried it again and this time I stood up on the board and surfed down.  When I hit the bottom I got the wind knocked out of me but I still had a lot of fun.




Levi



Wiley

After that, we gave the board back and it was time to go.




Sydney to Brisbane, Australia in an RV


After a brief stop in Dubai to see the world's tallest building and best water park (Yas Island), we headed to Australia.  Our first stop was Sydney.


From Sydney we rented an RV and headed north to Brisbane.



  We saw many creatures along the way. Most animals in Australia have large heads (wombat, koala, tawny frogmouth).


Koala


Tawny Frog-Mouth


Pelican


Kangaroo


Flying Foxes


Frilled Lizard


Drop Bear (google it)


We stopped along several surfing beaches:  One Mile Beach, Forster, South West Rocks and Byron Bay.  Two people were killed by sharks while we were in Australia.  One just yesterday at Coff's Harbour, not far from several of the beaches where we stopped to surf.  We are done surfing in Australia.





We have also stopped in the mountains and rain forests. 




Dorrigo National Park.



















Sunday, November 10, 2013

Bodyguards, Baboon for Breakfast, Runaway Wheels And Other African Experiences- hbl

Sadly, it was time to leave Africa day before yesterday.  We're now back in the northern hemisphere, in Dubai, UAE.   Africa was full of experiences that we will never forget.  I've pretty much left the blogging up to the kids lately but thought I would add some reflections on our stay in Africa.

Egypt:
    We thought seriously about cancelling our plans to go to Egypt because of the recent political unrest there.  But in the end we decided to go and we are SO glad we did.  We felt very safe there.  We arranged the trip with a tour company and they treated us like royalty all week.  We stayed in fabulous hotels both in Cairo and Luxor.  Egypt's tourism industry has been crippled by the recent protests.  Our hotel in Luxor had 400 rooms and there were only about 40 people staying there.
The captain of the little felluca we went on said we were his first customers in a month.  Egypt depends so much on tourism that its drastic decline has had devastating effects for the people there.   Wiley did a blog about Felix the donkey at the animal care center near Luxor.  The animals there exemplify the ripple effect the recent upheaval has had.  The animals are not there because they were mistreated.  They are there because their owners can no longer feed both their animals and themselves and their families yet they need the animals for what little work they have.  So it turns into a vicious circle...they keep working the animals to earn money but they can't earn enough to feed both so of course they feed themselves first and the animals end up malnourished.

Of course we benefitted from this sad state of affairs!  We got to see Egypt at rock bottom prices and in high style!  We even got a free upgrade to a flight between Cairo and Luxor instead of having to take the 12 hour train ride!  Our first day in Cairo we actually ended up with our own bodyguard!  In most foreign countries when you check into a hotel they take down your passport information and pass it on to the authorities.  In most places this is a formality....in Cairo it means the "tourist police" show up and insist that their armed guard in a black suit accompany you (because you're american) on your day of sightseeing.  Of course they then bill your tour company....clearly this is just a way to make money because we certainly never felt like we needed a bodyguard.  He turned out to be an ok guy...I caught him smiling when we were all trying to get on our camels!
We got to stay in a 5 star hotel in Cairo with a beautiful view of the Nile but just around the corner is the way the  locals live.  It is crowded and literally filled with trash....complete lack of infrastructure in this city!
But everyone we met there was gracious and welcoming!
See the guy in black?  He's our bodyguard!



TANZANIA:

We spent most of our time in Tanzania on safari.  There are rules about safaris....don't get out of the vehicle; don't walk around at night, in fact don't even venture out of your tent at night.  If you absolutely have to go to bathroom in the middle of the night shine a light outside first then only go just outside the tent, lest you get eaten by one of the various carnivores lurking in the bushes!  Now these rules were drilled into our heads from day one.  So, late one afternoon(not long before sunset), after we had been bumping along(dirt road) for hours through the Serengeti on our way to that night's camping spot, the wheel of the trailer carrying all of our supplies flew off.  By wheel, I mean the entire thing...tire, lug nuts, everything.  The kids saw all of this happening out of the window and immediately shouted "Mom the wheel came off!"  The rest of us looked in time to see it rolling along and hit an embankment which did nothing but give it momentum and we all stared as it bounced a good two or three hundred feet into the Serengeti Bush...you know, The Bush, where the lions, leopards, black mambas and any number of other creatures live...waiting for a nice dinner to come along.
 Then we all started laughing hysterically, even Malles our guide was laughing. (Later Wiley analyzed our laughter by saying "Mom, I don't know why that was so funny but it was just funny!")  When we finally pulled ourselves together we stood in silence, staring into The Bush, knowing that one of us would have to venture in to retrieve the tire,... breaking all the safari rules.  As we were  contemplating this to ourselves, another safari vehicle pulled up behind us and out jumped a group of very friendly Brazilians who offered assistance in the form of ice cold beer. I should mention that our vehicle's cooler didn't seem to work and only contained lukewarm water...perhaps you get what you pay for.  But back to the issue at hand, Gideon the cook,summoned his courage and volunteered to retrieve the wheel. So we and our new Brazilian pals watched him march off ....and I'm sure lots of other eyes were watching him too!  Luckily Gideon  found the tire and made it back. Unfortunately they couldn't get the wheel fixed. So we tied all of our gear to the top of the truck and left the trailer behind.
Later that night as Lane and I walked  from the washroom to our tent we heard a distinct low growl. The next morning we learned that it was indeed the growl of a leopard....as we were discussing this a baboon strolled into the campground and stole our breakfast toast.
No wheel

Tying up our gear

Our Brazilian buddies

Our campsite, see the baboon?


A leopard
Speaking of baboons.... Levi did a blog about hunting with the Hadzabe tribe near Lake Eyasi.  This was an amazing experience.  The Hadzabe  are the last hunter-gatherer tribe in Tanzania and one of only a few left in the whole world.  They speak in a clicking language.  They make their own bows and arrows.  They eat every bit of what they kill and they eat it fast!  They cook it just long enough to burn the fur off and eat it it all including crushing the hands and eating those too, bones and all.  They were ecstatic about killing the baboons, it meant that they would eat substantially that day and it is their favorite food.  They shared a slice of baboon liver with us.  This  is now the standard by which we compare all food...."how's your dinner?" " Well, it's better than baboon liver."

We also spent time with the Maasai tribe.  We hiked over 12 miles across the the Highland to reach the Bulati school, a primary school for the Maasai children.  It's in the middle of nowhere.  The school officials allow travelers to camp next to the school.  We were the only ones there though.  They charge a small fee which helps the school.  The Maasai have more contact with the rest of society than the Hadzabe.  They are an agricultural tribe, raising cattle and goats and growing grain and vegetables.  They live in villages comprised of huts made with mud and cow dung.
They are in great physical condition because they walk so much and they are long lived,  heart disease is non existent among the Maasai who continue to live in the traditional culture.

Our boys were able to spend a couple of days interacting with the children.  The Maasai kids were fascinated by Mac, Levi and Wiley.  Mac made an  observation about the Maasai and the Hadzabe:  He said they are very happy people even though they live in mud huts because they are so free.  And he is right.
Our hike to the Maasai school

Our dirty feet after the hike...it was very dusty!  Yes we were wearing shoes 

Our tent near the Maasai school.  You can see a Maasai village in the background.

Mac playing soccer with the kids


Inside the school
SOUTH AFRICA

Wow what an absolutely beautiful place!  We really loved it in Cape Town.  We rented a nice little house near Kalk Bay where we could enjoy the mountains and the ocean.  The kids especially enjoyed surfing at Surfer's Corner in Muizenburg.  The effects of apartheid are still prevalent though.  It's shocking to see the massive shanty towns all around  this beautiful city.
Headed up Table Mountain

Surfing at Surfer's corner

Our Friends Brad and Mai who live in New Zealand were in Cape Town for a seminar. We enjoyed spending time with them.


Kalk Bay

Cape of Good Hope

African penguins

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Mac's Great White Shark Diving Blog by Mac

Before we got into Cape Town my Dad really wanted to go on a Great White shark tour where you go out on a giant boat with a big metal cage.  You drop the metal cage in the water and it has floating buoys around it so the cage floats a little above the water so you can go up to the surface and breathe.  When my Dad said this I decided I really wanted to go too and Mom and Dad said I could go.  The next day after we got to Cape Town we woke up at 7 in the morning.  The drive to get to shark tour was two hours long but it was a very pretty drive so we enjoyed it.  When we got there I was surprised at how many people were there, there were about 20 people there!  When I walked into the building there was coffee and tea and a nice breakfast waiting for us.  I raced over to get as many chocolate cookies as I could!
After we ate they played a video of all the rules then we headed to the boat.  It was gigantic.  The ride was very short to get out to the spot where we wanted to go.  They told us this was their winter spot.  While we were at the winter spot we did not see any sharks so we moved to a different spot.  We saw other boats there that had sharks by them.  I really liked the drive to the next area because along the way we saw many whales and seals.  At the second spot we waited about 30 minutes.  Our chum master mixed up dead fish in a big bucket with a shovel and other people had giant tuna heads tied to a big piece of rope.  They would throw it out to sea hoping a shark would come to get it.  After a while the first shark came.  It was humongous!!  It was the biggest shark I've ever seen.  It was Great White over 10 feet long.  After we saw the shark they called over about 7 people to get wetsuits, goggles and weight belts.  After we got all this on we hopped into the cage.  The guy threw out the giant tuna head then yank it back toward the cage to get the shark closer.

Here are some pictures and a video:






My Dad and I had a great time swimming with the sharks.  If you ever go to Cape Town I recommend that you do it too!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Hunting with the Hadzabe tribe in Tanzania by Levi

Two weeks ago, while we were in Tanzania, we went hunting with a tribe called the Hadzabe tribe.  Their favorite food is baboon.  They killed the baboon with a bow and arrow.  They first saw its tracks, then followed the tracks which led up a tree and they shot it and there was a baby with it too.  And they brought it back and cooked it by burning all its hair off in a fire and then they took it off and sliced it open.  They also ate the baby baboon. At first the baby baboon was still alive but they whacked its head on a rock and then threw it on the fire.



Here is a picture of me eating baboon liver.
I liked going hunting with the tribe but it was weird and shocking!

 Here is the tribe chief  straightening his arrow.

Tanzania Safari by Mac

On our safari we saw a lot of animals.  These are some of the animals that we saw:


Velvet monkey


African elephant


Warthog


Zebra


Lion


Hippo


Rhino


Ostrich


Cheetah


Baboon


Leopard


Hyena



Wildebeests


Watering hole


Lunch


Agama lizard


African buffalo


Giraffe


Mongoose


Lilac Breasted Roller


Kingfisher


Monitor Lizard


Tree Hyrax


Crown Crane


Pink Flamingos