Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Hiking Africa



If you saw the movie, Out of Africa, the travelogue I went to this week would have caught your attention from the first few slides. They were of the plantation where Meryle Streep and Robert Redford roamed around while filming the movie and where the woman who wrote the memoir it’s loosely based on lived. She was a Danish woman who ran a 4,000 acre coffee plantation in Nairobi between 1914 and 1931. Our travelogue narrator says the place hasn’t changed much since the movie was made and you can even picnic in the exact same places as Streep and Redford did for a couple of scenes, high up on Kenya’s Oloololo Escarpment looking out at spectacular, panoramic views. I used to love that movie. I loved those views and so did movie goers. The movie won the 1986 Academy Award for Best Cinematography.

That was the only civilized place the travelogue covered. It was the starting point to a hiking safaris called The Great Walk of Africa. It’s a trademarked travel adventure tour that covers a 100 miles of hiking 3 to 6 hours a day, for 11 days covering 9 to 15 miles a day. Daytime temperatures: 80 to 90 degrees and at night it was cold enough to need hot water bottles in their cots to take off the chill. There are eight paying guests on each tour paying $7,000 each, plus you pay your own way to get to Nairobi. Along with the guests are four guides---two armed with guns, two with spears, plus fifteen others who move the camps each day and do the cooking and who mostly stay out of sight. The tour group walks in single file, five feet apart and you’re not allowed to talk which makes it easier to sneak up on the wildlife and to enjoy the smells, sounds, sights and feel of Africa as they follow the game trails first along the Tsavo River, then the Galana River in Kenya. It also makes it easier for the guides to protect the guests from danger if they’re not spread out and are paying attention to hand signals.

The speaker, a woman in her forties who lives very close by me, says she’s always had an incurable wanderlust and she’s gone on seven hiking tours like this around the world and this one, she said, was one of the greatest experiences of her life. She’s a paramedic as were a couple of her companions which would take some fear out of being off the grid. Even so, I can’t imagine me---even in my younger years---doing a trip like that. I’d be the one who’d have to go with a medical box full of allergy pills and potions for insect bites and hives and I’d still come back with malaria because mosquitoes love me. The company who does these hiking safaris’---Tropical-Ice---has been doing them since 1987 and they’ve only had one client charged and injured badly by an animal, a rhinoceros, and they’ve never had to kill an animal. A shot in the air usually keeps them from getting too close. The scariest part, our speaker said, was crossing crocodile infested water and they’d group up as close as they could, holding on to the person in front of them, hoping to fool the crocs into thinking they are a large elephant splashing across the river. Rhinos, though, are considered to be the most dangerous of the animals in Africa. They are “grumpy” and let humans know their presence isn’t appreciated.

I will never leave the country to take a trip like that. I will probably never even leave the state. Heck, I’ve even passed on several great day trips planned for this summer through the senior hall. But this speaker was inspiring none the less. “There is nothing better than enjoying the world when you leave your devices behind,” she said, “get out and walk around the block if you can’t go anywhere else.” And I learned that elephant dung is not gross or smelly, looks like a pile of bread loaves and is mostly grass. You never know when information like that will come in handy. She told about coming upon a dead elephant and a pride of lions was waiting in the bush to feed on it, none too pleased to have their meal interrupted. They concluded the elephant had died of natural causes and they called it into the wildlife people who flew in to harvest the tusks to take back and burn as part of their effort to stop the ivory trade. She said they were so heavy she couldn’t even lift one off the ground. One of the ladies in the audience said she thought that was so wasteful to burn that ivory when it’s worth so much. She got booed by several people to which she retorted rather loudly, "Well, it IS wasteful!"

This summer our speaker is giving another lecture about the efforts being made in elephant conservation and I signed up to go. She told us about one of their guides who had spent several decades working for Kenya’s wildlife department and had personally killed twenty-three elephant poachers which is legal there to kill them on sight. And don’t get me started on the fact that Trump quietly reversed a law Obama put into place banning big game trophy hunters from importing the spoils of their kills. The photo of his son proudly holding up an elephant’s tail he’d just cut off still disgusts me. In my book, trophy hunters are pond scum. Hiking a 100 miles across Africa and only bringing photographs back home is more “manly” than killing majestic creatures just for the “fun” of watching them die and hanging their heads on your wall. ©









31 comments:

  1. I remember watching Out of Africa and it's stars.

    I'm a city person, so travelling to the wilds of Africa has not much charm. I'm on the fence about burning the ivory, although I understand the reasoning.

    Elephant dung that looks like bread loaves!! I'd heard of people getting elephant dung as great manure from travellng circuses - makes sense.

    I had a read of the article you'd linked, and was impressed at the luxury offered to the hikers - hot showers and gourmet meals on crisp white tablecloths!

    I agree with you that its despicable to shoot defenceless animals in the wild. Gutless. I feel the same anger when I see any wanton destruction. ~ Libby

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    1. I'm content to just see travelogues about exotic places. I have in-laws who are 10 years old than me and they actually went on an African camera safaris when they were my age. Similar to this one only more jeep travel and a lot less hiking. Their tent camp was like this safaris' accommodations with great meals. It's the English influence and heritage of the country's white ruling class.

      I'm not on the fence at all about burning ivory and not allowing it to fall into the black market trade even though I have a set of six ivory elephants that are over a 150 years old that I can't legally sell on eBay or in antique stores. They need to use science to break the myths surrounding the uses of ivory, not encourage its use. If poachers can't export it out of Africa or import it into countries like the USA then the incentive to kill elephants just for their tucks drives the cost up beyond the means of only wealthy people like the Trumps. Trump changed that law about importing exotic animal parts twice since he's been in office, first reversing Obama's law but he got so much flack internationally that now it's supposedly judged on a "case-by-case" basis meaning if his sons want to bring back a white rhino head that's okay but if Joe-Shoo wants to then the law applies.

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  2. I've already signed petitions, written letters, and called congress members with regard to the reversal of the big game trophy ban. It's just one of many, many actions he has taken to childishly reverse any of President Obama's legislation that he can.

    I'm grateful that Africa is taking bold steps to protect its land and wildlife. Sadly, our country is doing none of that anymore; instead, we are opening the ANWR to oil drilling, as well as coastal waters (except where he has a country club or hotel).

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    1. Me, too. Nance. It makes me angry, the sick revenge Trump is taking to get even with Obama for making fun of him at the Press Correspondence Dinner. And cutting down the size of our national parks is disgraceful and will be hard to undo once the land is in private ownership by miners and drillers.

      Thankfully, the coastal governors are fighting the coastal water drilling but we shouldn't have to waste money on fighting the reckless decision of a president who does these kinds of things without any forethought to the environment. What he did to exempt the waters around Mar-a-Lago should be enough to show even the most ardent Trump supports that he is a self-centered prick but nothing seems to get through to them.

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  3. I suppose Big Game hunting is all right if it is controlled. It sure brings in a lot of $$$ for the parts of Africa that allow it. Deer hunting here in Michigan has been "upped" in the numbers of deer a hunter can kill. The herds had become so large that they were destroying crops, thus driving down the amount of $$$ farmer's would get for their grain crops. The hunter's I know, use their venison kill for their meat consumption--lower in calories and no cholesterol. I dare say no Big Game hunter ever uses his kill for eating.
    I think it was very rude for the people to "boo" the lady for her statement. No matter what her statement was, you can disagree without being so nasty about it.

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    1. Wildlife management here in Michigan that decides from year to year how many deers a hunter can kill is for a purpose that keeps the herds healthy and in proportion to their food supplies. It's not even in the same ballpark as the Big Five trophy hunters in Africa who go on canned hunts which is like shooting lions, tigers, elephants, rhinos and water buffalo in a zoo.

      One could say the lady who got booed was the rude one for speaking out in the first place. It wasn't the kind of talk where the audience participled. Even after the speaker stopped her presentation to try to explain the reason why they burn the ivory the woman dug her heels in about her opinion.

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    2. P.S. The speaker we had ssid the money being brought in from Big Five Trophy hunting stays in the hands of a few and doesn't filter down to help the people.

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  4. This would be an exciting wondeful trip, but I couldn't and wouldn't do it either. My niece years ago was a foreign exchange student for a year and then went back later for a year. She was with a family though in Johannesburg and it was a wonderful experience for her. She met a fellow that worked at one of the large preserves and did some hiking.
    And these big game hunters.....I just hate it that people do this and it usually seems to be the rich and privileged. It disgusts me and Trumps sons are disgusting in other ways as well. All of them have no thought or concern about the natural world, habitat preservation or the environment. Pure selfish greed!

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    1. I'm reading a book now about one of the nature preserves in Kenya and it's amazing what they are doing to bring back the animals that have been nearly hunted out of existence. Your niece had a opportunity of a life time. Not for me, but I'm glad others are doing it and spreading the word that these places need the world's support.

      I didn't mean to turn this blog into a political theme but it's hard not to when talking about conservation vs trophy hunting. It boils my blood.

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  5. Jean, you are absolutely correct on your statements. In my opinion, the lady was rude and refuses to see and understand the whole picture. If they didn't burn the tusks, there'd be more incentive to kill the elephants. Same with the rhinos and their tusks and supposedly aphrodisiac power. Give 'em some viagra!

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    1. People fighting the ivory trade actually do give out free Viagra in places where they think they need ivory and animal horns to do the trick.

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  6. SMALL WORLD! The Dad of one of Kate's classmates was the guy who got gored by that rhino! He recovered fully except for some scars ... it took a long, long time ....

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    1. Wow, he had quite a story to tell! He is now the cautionary tale they tell all the guests to make them take the rhinos seriously because they can run very fast.

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  7. All I could think of was a British Arrow Awards commercial of porn stars chasing golfers across an African river like a wildebeest crossing. Hopefully doesn't derail the feel good stuff.

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    1. I learn something new every day, Dean. I didn't know about the Arrow Safari "Golf" Resorts until I just tried to google that ad. LOL

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  8. I could never go on a trip like that, but I can understand why it is so enticing to people. I'm sure it's the adventure of a lifetime for those who go. I can also understand why rhinos are so grumpy. If you were that ugly, you'd be grumpy, too.

    I am disheartened about Trump reversing the ban, too. It's awful.

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    1. Some people must like rhinos. They're so prehistoric looking. They cost more than elephants to buy for a preserve or to hunt.

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    2. Bella, I was heartbroken when your previous bloke went private and now this one too? Of course, it's your decision and I don't know what the circumstances are behind it (nor are they any of my business) and to be honest honest, I rarely if ever delurk to comment. But, dadgummit, I just love the way you write, as I do the same with Jean, and I miss you when you're not around. Hope all is well and we'll see you again soon! (Sorry, Jean for "hijacking" this comment on your post, it was the only way I could think Bella might see this as I don't have a WordPress account. Btw, I agree with you totally regarding Tru#p and I am starting to get a little more hopeful we will be able to get him out soon and be able to reverse some of the childish moves he's made. Fingers crossed.

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    3. No problem, Pippa. I would do the same if I couldn't get on Bella's new blog.

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  9. I would have taken this trip in a heartbeat...45 years ago! I got caught up in the romance of 'Out of Africa', and would love to visit that continent. There are so many countries there which plug along peacefully without the strife of Congo and Sudan. And the music! I love the gospel music of Africa.

    I admire the effort being made to protect the wildlife there also. There are many, many devoted men and women working tirelessly to protect their wildlife treasures. Anyone who would kill an animal for trophy has their head up their you know whatsky.

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    1. I've been binging reading non-fiction books about African animals this weekend. One book I sampled is about a conservationist who went to Baghdad to save the zoo animals in the middle of the war zone.

      I'm going to have to rent Out of Africa soon. I loved that movie and had such a crush on Robert Redford for years.

      I didn't even know there was such a thing as African Gospel. I just watched a couple YouTube videos. I can see its drawing card.

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  10. I would have loved that trip before I hit 55. Nice that I can watch movies with the scenery! Blood Diamond had some great scenes also.

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    1. I have not seen 'Blood Diamonds' but I would like to. Maybe if I was 50 years younger and went with people I thoroughly trust like Don it wouldn't have taken much to talk me into going on a trip like that.

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  11. that is not a trip I would enjoy. I do understand its appeal but it's not for me. I would love to see the animals, not hike there, and then go back to a nice hotel not a tent. I think I am a big wuss. The idea of no devices would sit fine with me. And just add this to the list of things that make me vehemently dislike that man in office. He has no soul or heart. (well brain for that matter)

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    1. They have other trips like this where they ride in land rovers but they still tent live at night. I used to love camping trips so that part wouldn't bother me at all.

      I second your thoughts on DT.

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  12. I really have trouble with much of the tourist travel in Africa. I suppose I experienced too many of the one week, "in-depth" tours that came through when I lived there. One of the funniest exchanges I ever heard was between a Liberian and an expat. The Liberian asked, in all apparent innocence, "You like Africa?" The expat said, "Why, yes. Yes, I do." The Liberian responded, "You like Africa, you don't know Africa. You know Africa, you love her or hate her." I think he was dead on.

    Of course, East, South, and West Africa are as different as Manhattan and Left Overshoe, Montana, so there's that. But between the inter-tribal conflicts, and problems in the north, and the trouble building in South Africa, you wouldn't catch me over there right now, any more than I'm going to vacation on our southern border. I've already experienced having my passport taken by soldiers with guns, and being detained at a border because I wouldn't pay a bribe. Been there, done that, and it wasn't very romantic -- not when I lived there, and not when I went back to visit.

    Phew. Ok! Had my say!

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    1. I love your input! Living in a place is always different than visiting and it's good to be reminded of that. I do think the tourist trade is the less of two evils from the country's viewpoint with the Big Five hunting camps being the other choice. I would never do a trip like that without one heck of a lot of research.

      Thanks for adding your experiences to the conversation!

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  13. A former colleague of mine did her doctoral research on wildlife tours of Africa for westerners and the way they convey stereotypes of Africa and Africans. One of my favorite stories from her dissertation was about a tourist encounter with Masai living in a National Park (I think in East Africa). These Masai had been allowed to continue living on their traditional lands when those lands were turned into a national park if they became a sort of "living history" exhibit. This particular group of tourists were talking with one of the Masai men (dressed in traditional garb) when his cell phone rang. He took it out, looked at the screen, said "Excuse me; I need to get this," and then stepped away a few feet for privacy. The tourist who told my friend about this was furious; she said it ruined the whole trip for her. -Jean P.

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    1. Your friend's story made me laugh out loud. Thanks for sharing that. It wouldn't have ruined my trip. I would have found the humor in it. Besides, those satellite phones would be a comfort, knowing they can bring in a helicopter in a medical pinch.

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  14. I'm with you. I'm not an adventure traveler...in fact traveling in general is not really my thing so much. I'm a homebody. I guess I wish I could twitch my nose like Samantha on Bewitched and just BE there, have a fabulous experience, then twitch my way back home.

    I LOVE elephants and hunting and maiming them just makes my blood boil and heart ache. I'd call those who do this much worse than "pond scum", but it's your blog. LOL

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    1. I'd love to travel Samantha style. Sleep in my own bed every night would be great.

      Trophy hunters and poachers are pond scum and I'll say it twice: THEY ARE POND SCUM!

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