Archive for November, 2021

East Africa, Part 12: Acacia Farm Lodge.

Sunday, November 14th, 2021

Acacia Farm Lodge was the one five-star place that I actively liked. First, they grow 75% of the food they serve and they offer you a tour of their farm. There was always a massive spread of salads which delighted me. I’ve never been so psyched about cole slaw. I found two pics off the internet to show you what I mean.

Second cool thing about Acacia Farm Lodge, you get a butler. A private butler. Which, if you’re me, requires a whole lot of getting used to because I’ve always had to buttle myself. Ours was the second from the left. He had a biblical name, something like Ezekiel. We’ll go with that. This pic is pulled from the lodge website.

The butler idea is actually pretty good, you only communicate through one person. You want a wake-up call? You tell your butler and he comes to the room to wake up you in person and bring you your desired morning beverages. I needed our laundry done because it had been over a week and things were getting fragrant. I told our butler and it was done. He escorted my mother from place to place so she didn’t fall on the stairs. My personal favorite aspect was I ordered a cappuccino one night for dinner and I didn’t like it, it was bitter. Ezekiel noticed that and then next night he brought me a different drink without me asking for one and asked me to try it. It was a latte and it was lovely. I don’t need a butler ever again in my life but it was fun to feel so fancy for a few days.

Between every suite (which was a little house) there were coffee plants.

I took the private farm tour and I learned a great deal. Get ready to also learn a great deal. They do not use pesticides to keep bugs of their plants. They use a mixture of cow urine, tobacco, ashes, rosemary and mint oil. Despite the use of the urine, the plants doesn’t smell bad at all.

I noticed this tree and grew quite fond of it. It’s from Australia and it’s gray and fluffy.

In the first field I met their scarecrow and nope. That’s a hardy nope from me. Screw the birds, I wouldn’t enter that field alone for any reason.


The naturalist who was taking me around asked me to identify this plant and I couldn’t. It’s a tobacco plant.

Cabbages. Look how pretty. Aesthetic cabbages.

Bananas. They grow all year round so they are always served in the dining room. So that big thing dangling there? That’s not the flower. Those are leaves protecting the little white flowers underneath. When those purple leaves all fall off then the bananas are ready to harvest. The plant is completely cut down (it’s not a tree, it’s a very large plant) and then they plant a new one. In nine months, that one is ready to harvest. They keep that cycle going all year.


After they separate the coffee beans from the fruit, they use the leftover fruit to fertilize other plants on the property. Nothing is wasted.

Papaya trees. I liked how this one had arms. “Look, unto you I bequeath my papayas. Eat them, and you will never be bereft of beta-cartene.”

Mangos were out of season so I only saw the bushes.

I got to eat a passion fruit that had fallen that day. Lemme tell you, the passion fruit you get here in the cold Eastern side of America? It is like sawdust in your mouth. Fresh passion fruit is a slimy tart treat and I want all my desserts to incorporate it.

There was a magical tree, a candelabra tree, but very very old. I got to stand under it and it was a very Lord of the Rings moment. I waited for some aryan elves to emerge and be cryptic and off-putting.

The candelabra tree is poisonous but it doesn’t kill you. It makes you temporarily blind if you get some of the inner contents in your eye. The Maasai, who keep their animals in a circular paddock called a boma, smear the juice of the tree on the sticks that make up the fence. When carnivores come to try and kill the Maasai’s livestock, they invariably get some of that juice in their eyes, and they figure out maybe don’t try to steal those animals any more.

At dinner, instead of using flower arrangements the farm decorates with the food from their gardens.

And now began the most romantic relationship of my life. The Moomins and I came back to the room to see the coffee table decorated with flowers and leaves. Veronica the housekeeper also left us a note. It gave me tender feelings in my heart.

Next: The Ngorongoro Crater and the continuation of my romance.


East Africa, Part 11: Serengeti / Olduvai Gorge.

Tuesday, November 9th, 2021

Starting our day we checked out of the fancy-schmancy place and some Maasai tribesmen took our luggage to our vehicles. Many of them wear shoes made from bicycle tires.

As we left the Serengeti I got to see my beloved marabou storks hangin’ out in trees waiting for something to die.

Look at this kory bustard. A kory bustard is the largest bird in Africa that can fly. They can be 40 pounds. That’s a beefy bird.

Look at him with his neck feathers wafting in the breeze.

This day we went to the Olduvai Gorge. That’s the incorrect name. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

In 1911, the German entomologist Wilhelm Kattwinkel, while searching for butterflies, stumbled into a gorge. He asked the indigenous Maasai people what the gorge was called. They did not understand what he was saying and thought he was referring to the plants of Dracaena hanningtonii, to which they responded oldupaai. Kattwinkel misinterpreted and mispronounced what they were saying by referring to the gorge as “Olduvai Gorge”.

The oldupaai stalks that grow in the area, they look like this:

As soon as we arrived we were greeted by both male and female agamas. Always nice to see them.

This is unrelated to anything else but I liked these milkweed vines. The leaves are pretty and the pods look like hearts. Or sexy lady legs. Both are valid.

The reason one visits the Olduvai Gorge is because proto-human remains were, and still are, being found there. This map of the continent shows where remains have been found. Apparently it’s because a volcano erupted and volcanic soil preserves bones very well so that path is where the volcanic soil settled after the eruption.

Here’s the history of the place if you want to read it. In order to prevent the images advancing automatically, there’s a play / pause button at the top right. Hit that and you can read at your own pace.

They didn’t have the original bones of Lucy, the famous “missing link” between apes and humans. She was found in Ethiopia and is still there in the Paleoanthropology Laboratories of the National Museum of Ethiopia. This was a cast of the bones. Here’s why she is of such importance from this webpage:

The pelvis exhibits a number of adaptations to bipedality. The entire structure has been remodeled to accommodate an upright stance and the need to balance the trunk on only one limb with each stride. The talus, in her ankle, shows evidence for a convergent big toe, sacrificing manipulative abilities for efficiency in bipedal locomotion. The vertebrae show evidence of the spinal curvatures necessitated by a permanent upright stance.

It was still really cool to stand next to the casts of her bones. The Moomins (5′ 3″) is standing next to her to give you a sense of scale.

As we walked from exhibition to exhibition you went outside to get from room to room. That’s when I saw this male agama. Look at his turquoise leggies! So handsome!

They had fossils of animals that roamed the area. A brief summary was “You know the warthog / antelope / buffalo? They were very much bigger in the past. Hella-big.” Here was the vintage warthog. I loved the ink illustrations.

Here’s its tooth. I found the swirly pattern super-cool. It was bigger than my foot.

This skull is described as the most famous find in the Olduvai Gorge. It’s known as “Nutcracker Man.” It’s substantially larger than our skull. I can’t imagine how big the body was.

I loved this description of this pelvis chunk. I will name my band “Pelvis I of the Pit of Bones” and our album will be called “Sierra de Atapuerca.”

The thing I was most excited to see was remains of Turkana Boy. It’s not the most famous find in the Olduvai Gorge because it was found in Lake Turkana in Kenya. It’s quite complete. I loved the metal armature the museum used to display the skeleton.

These horns. I cannot convey how big they are. They just dominated the whole room. And the skull was elongated. It must have sucked for the proto-buffalo to lug around all day. Perhaps that is why the African buffalo is so ornery, the million year old memories of this neck-breaking bone assemblage haunts them.

Here’s another example of the megafauna that roamed the area. See this giraffe in the process of becoming the giraffe we know and love? You think you know how big that horn is.

Nope. Bigger that that. Massive.

They also had an exhibit on the Hazda, the last remaining hunter-gatherer tribe. They’ll probably cease to be in a few years, turning to agriculture. It’s too tempting.

They had one exhibit left over when the museum was small and crappy, before they redid it in the cool style they have now. You can appreciate how crappy it was.

For clarification, it says “Datoga women covering a skin dress with butter mixed with ochre.”

They did have a beaded piece was was really good. It’s so difficult to space the beads out so they don’t buckle and the lines are incredibly straight. I can appreciate how hard this is.

After you’ve gone through the museum you get a view of the gorge itself and it takes your breath away.

They’re still unearthing finds off to the left where the dirt is gray. That’s the volcanic soil that preserved the fossils so well. The layers of dirt are called Beds and you can appreciate some of the layers in that big stone thing called “The Castle.” Basically Beds I and II were clay and silt and have yielded some great discoveries. Bed III is that red iron which doesn’t preserve anything so no finds there. Off to the side is Bed IV, back to clay and they’ve found thousands of tools like anvils and axes.

Once we taken in this view (about twenty minutes of being awestruck), we wandered around the museum grounds. I saw two different types of weaverbird nests in one tree.

This was a memorial for Professor Bernhard Grzimek and his son Michael who devoted their lives to studying the zoology of the area and encouraging conservation of the animals and environment. Sitting on top is a juvenile… bird of prey. I’m going to look it up but no promises on the type of bird.

I’ve decided it’s an Augur Buzzard. If I’m wrong don’t come for me.

Next: The only five-star hotel I thought was worth it and the Ngorongoro Crater.

East Africa, Part 10: Serengeti.

Saturday, November 6th, 2021

This is still part of my first day in the Serengeti. Let’s start by remembering that roads are tragic, truly the worst.

The guide and I stopped a lunch area and we were greeted by hyraxes. Hyraxes are distant relatives to the elephant, though you wouldn’t know it to look at them.

The outdoor seating area had a colony of dwarf mongeese hoping someone would drop a chunk of sandwich.

Look at these guys and their intense beady eyeballs and pretty coloring.

Out back there was a leaking water pipe and a bunch of birds were hanging out near it. I am going to assume this is the male and female of the same bird.

Then they went down to a puddle and the male took a wee bath.

All while a hyrax watched, unimpressed.

As I walked back to to the open seating area there was a young hyrax in a tree. Now, this is an important moment. I got very close to take this picture. Could I have gotten closer? Sure, but this is where dumb tourists end up in the hospital because the nature in Africa doesn’t have a fence. You need to use your own good sense to know when to stop doing something and most people aren’t smart.

Euphorbia candelabrum or Candelabra Tree. You’ve seen the houseplant version a million times. They sell them at Home Depot. This is the great honkin’ big version.

That flag means this area has been treated for mosquitos to prevent the spread of disease. I saw a ton of these trees all over the place and every one of them elicited an “Ooooo” because they’re imposing.

Look at that rock. I swore it was fake and put there to make the outside eating area festive. However, there are odd rock formations all over the Serengeti and I hadn’t been paying attention.

As soon as we went back out into the bush I made a point to look for those rocks and they are everywhere, haphazardly placed everywhere. Here is someone’s house with a hartebeest loitering in the front yard and a guinea fowl in the lower left corner. Note the rocks.

Group of houses with rocks.

A warthog.

A harem of impala mommas and babies guarded by their male. When the male gets worn out constantly tending to his harem, another bachelor impala will come in and fight him. If new male impala wins, he takes over the harem. BUT old tired male impala can join a bachelor group, regain his strength, then come back and fight new tired male impala, win and take his ladies back. It’s an exciting cycle full of twists and turns.

Home of Judgmental Twins.

“I’m going to be late to work. Yeah, yeah, it’s the zebra again.”

A male and female ostrich. See how red the male is? He is HORNAY and ready for love.

Tall old male giraffe. Maybe 18 feet.

Whistling thorn acacia. It grows those round hollow orbs with a hole in it so when the wind blows by there’s a whistling sound. Biting ants live in them and protect the acacia from animals that want to eat the soft tender leaves. It’s possible the acacia grew those empty pod things to encourage the ants to protect the leaves.

Elephant standing behind a single acacia. I don’t feel like I need to say it again. Amazing.

When he swats his ears it sounds like someone flapping a large bedsheet. Loved that.

Another one emerged from behind a bit of shrubbery and got super-close to the vehicle so I got to listen to him munch the crunchy plants which I also love. Elephants are my ASMR.

Waterbuck! They are famous for having sit on a freshly painted toilet seat. Here’s a pic off the internet to explain.

Here are my pics. Stellar, as per yuge.

Momma baboons with bebbeh baboons. They were far enough away to be non-threatening. And the babies were cute as hell.

And finally, on our drive back there was a black mamba sunning itself on the road. Luckily our guide screeched to a halt. It was loooong fella.

I find black mambas absolutely terrifying. As we moved forward, the mamba turned around and looked me dead in the face before slithering away quickly. My blood got real chilly and I neglected to photograph it. I got a brief picture as it headed off into the underbrush.

These are the houses we stayed in at this particular lodge. Look at that sky.

Next post: Olduvai Gorge.

East Africa, Part 9: Serengeti.

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021

The Moomins was feeling under the weather which is totally justified because she’s an 85yo woman trekking across the worst roads in the world after flying 20 hours, she’s entitled to feel unwell. She took the day off and I headed into the bush.

We started our day with some zebra.

And then we caught a momma vervet with her day-old baby!

You can hear me in this pic saying “No, don’t go!”

Luckily, she didn’t go far and I could still squee in the vehicle at the cuteness for a little white longer before they split.

Secretary bird! This is what, number four? And there were five in total? One more to go.

Egyptian geese. They always hang out in pairs.

I didn’t take this picture for them. I took it for the palm trees. Palm trees are as out of place in the Serengeti as a big ole oak would be. According to our guide, they washed down during intense rains from the upper part of Africa and found the occasional watering hole and that’s where they hang out.

I believe these are reedbuck.

Look at this tree’s bark! It’s so amazing.

That’s called a fever tree and it’s because it’s always around stagnant pools of water where malaria mosquitos prosper. People drew a correlation between the tree and the disease versus the stagnant water / mosquitos. Hence, fever tree.

Baboon being a guard so the rest of the troop can forage in peace.

A small group of lions making afternoon nappies! Normally I would have been delighted by this sighting but I had seen The Awesomeness a few days back so this was just regular terrific.

There were two types of weaverbirds’ nests in one thorn acacia tree.

A watering hole with the palms and a large quantity of hippos. This was the closest I got to hippos on my trip.

There was one with a janky canine tooth and if you know anything about me, I wanted that tooth. Like, I WANTED that tooth.

Another angle of tooth ‘n’ group.

They have cute widdle pink ears.

After watching their societal workings for a while (alpha males extremely slowly intimidating other males away from the ladies) we drove to another watering hole where we saw all the herons. Like, all the herons. Here were herons in a tree.

Those herons were in tree because there was no more room on the ground. Here’s the watering hole.

And here’s all the herons I circled before I got tired and moved on with my life.

This is kind of awesome. There is an enormous field of thompson’s gazelles. And under the tree on the left there is a hyena. Why aren’t the gazelle running away? Well, the gazelle are very small and very fast so they’re a terrible prey for hyenas. Hyenas can’t run fast and one gazelle doesn’t have the amount of calories that the hyena needs. So the hyena doesn’t chase them, ever.

Okay, this was a big deal. There was an adult and a teenage leopard sleeping a tree. A rare find. Only problem – it was really far away. This far.

So my pictures looked like this.

We hung out there for a while, then declared it a lost cause and drove on.

A male thompson’s gazelle came right up next to the vehicle so I could take some pics of him, he was a cutie.

I took this picture because I grew up watching Nature on PBS and that’s the kind of tree in their logo. It was like seeing a celebrity at the supermarket.

Old male giraffe. You can tell because he’s so dark.

Ugh, this was another thing. I guess if I hadn’t seen the cheetah brothers on my first two days in Kenya I would have been super-psyched to see these five cheetahs. But you know where they were? In another zip code. I mean, what am I supposed to do with this?

Here is my photo of them. Try to contain yourself.

*sniff* So beautiful.

Dik-dik near the vehik-hik! This is a male and I wanted you to see his teeny hornlets.

We circled around back to the tree with the leopards and I decided to hold the guide’s binoculars to the lens of my iPhone and try to get a shot.

This was vastly more difficult than the first time I tried the binoc technique. These were crappy binoculars so I had to balance them on my leg, point them at the tree, hold my iPhone lens near the ocular part but not touching, make sure they were the correct distance from each other and the binocular was focused, then click it as I caught the leopards on the branch. It took about fifteen solid minutes and I got a violent cramp in my arm but dammit, I got it.

Next post: More Serengeti.