Thursday, April 12, 2018

An Amazing Two Weeks in East Africa

March 2018, after nearly 8 years, we finally returned to Africa, this time to the east African countries of Kenya and Uganda.  Here's a brief overview: 

We first headed to the Masai Mara, visited a Masai village, then went on a game drive with a highlight of seeing a pair of giraffes "necking" 

The next day was a full 12 hour game drive where we spotted 4 cheetahs, a nest of 9 sleeping lion cubs, even more lions, antelopes of all kinds, 2 leopards, hyenas, hippos, and so much more. Highlight: coming upon that second leopard, who had been resting in tall grass right by the road. Our driver/guide momentarily thought his tail was a snake in the road. And when the large male got up and moved to a termite mound just feet away, we had him all to ourselves. 

A visit to Lake Nokuru. This used to house massive flocks of feeding flamingos, but the water level has gone up, making most of the lake too deep for feeding. But it is still easy to see quite a bit of wildlife here, and smaller flocks of flamingos. Highlight: mom and baby rhino in the far distance, lone male rhino right up close, and Rothschild's giraffes close to the road as well.

Murchison falls national park:  Cruise up the river, to see the base of this massive falls, then drive to the top for lunch.  Highlight: Chimp trekking elsewhere in the park, we found a family group and watched a juvenile strip branches of blooms. 

Nile River Sunset Cruise: Jinja. Water levels have changed here too, this time due to a dam. However, the river cruise between 2 dams proved to be fantastic birding, as we were able to see many shore, wading, and water species we hadn't seen elsewhere. Highlight, a troupe of red tailed monkeys

Lake Bunyonyi: beautiful mountain lake, smaller wildlife, and a pleasant accommodation. We even saw an otter here. A visit to the displaced pygmy village was not educational to their culture or history, however, the people depend on such visits as they appear to live in total poverty. 

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. A visit to see mountain gorillas, which you can see nowhere else in the world but this and one other park. We joined a family of 4 (silverback, 2 females, and a year old baby) for an hour. They seemed almost completely unconcerned by our presence. Beautiful, and a little smelly. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Norway is here

In between more current activities, I've been giving a photo tour of our trip to Morocco, Spain, Portugal, and Gibraltar on my Instagram, tracked by the not too creative or lyrical #MorSpaPorGib. I'm happy to announce that trip is officially done, so it's time to move on to something new, our February 2016 trip to Norway!

The main driver for this trip was seeing the northern lights, with a side of traditional Sami culture and viking history to boot. Over our 12 day trip we took in Oslo, Tromso, Bergen, Flam, and Trondheim.

We had a fantastic time. Norway has great walkable cities, even in winter. We bundled up as needed, and enjoyed seeing the old stone churches, exploring museums, and even dining outdoors thanks to sheepskin blankets and warmers. And yes, we did see the northern lights.

Follow me @desirafu on Instagram for more, at the no more creative but a little more lyrical #DesiraInNorway

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Great Outdoors

a trillium blooms in Alabama
The South's long season of warmth has returned. The woods are turning greener and more shaded by the day, while spring wildflowers are in their final throes.  Its the time of year where I feel a quickening, too. All I want to do this time of year is be outside doing anything, or nothing. It's a time for me to stretch my winter legs on the trail, get a bit of kayaking in, and spend a lot of time sitting in the yard watching birds, bees, and butterflies in addition to the usual pups.

I've been thinking a lot about a National Geographic Article from last year about the stress relieving benefits of time in nature. Mostly I've been thinking about this because reading through the Pray portion of Eat, Pray, Love (which I did in March) mostly made me think this was just a person who had not spent enough time in the the Great Outdoors. And it's made me more aware through this season just what nature really does for me. And it is a lot. I grew up in the country, and I've spent more waking hours outdoors than in, excluding the burden of education and an office job, of course.

So if you are reading this today, I suggest you get out there and find a trail this weekend; it will be Earth Day after all. This season doesn't last long. If you are in Middle Tennessee or Northern Alabama, I'll even make a suggestion. The Perimeter Trail at Sewanee, especially the section known as Shakerag Hollow, makes for some great spring hiking, with lots of wildflowers, birds, and little creeks and cascades.  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Buffalo Flow

Check out this short piece of creative non fiction I published on Medium. Let me know what you think and share your favorite National Park Service moments in honor of  #nps100 today!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Oh the Places I've Gone

This year, in celebration of the National Parks 100th anniversary, I've been digging through photos from the past decade, and sharing some of my favorite shots of National Parks, and other National Park Services properties that I've visited on  my Instagram. My goal is to share 100 photos, one per day. This week, I will hit the halfway point, and I'm feeling a bit blown away. I didn't realize how many of these places I've been to. I thought I would be revisiting some of my favorites, from which I have lots of photos, and in the end I will, but at the moment, I still have perhaps a dozen sites to go through. Here's hoping I can find pictures for them all.

A few years ago I also did a 100 happy days challenge, where I shared daily pictures of all the random things that made me happy. I mostly tried to stick to the small stuff, and the results were similarly surprising and satisfying. Rather than being a challenge, the more I looked, the more I saw. I had to restrain myself to one thing each day. It's pretty high on the feel good scale just to focus attention on the good, because there can be so much of it. And the more you look for these types of things, the more you see.

So, that's my current warm and fuzzy. So whether you've got a favorite National Park property or this really cool mug that always makes you smile, I invite you to share some of your favorite things in the comments below. Really, it's for your own good.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Experiences over Things: Film

photo by Roman Bonnefoy
 I was just perusing my calendar for next week, and I noticed that our town’s weekly summer "Movies Under the Stars" selection is Wall-e, and I got excited. I loved Wall-e when it came out. I think we originally watched it at the drive in, and I really enjoy Disney’s classic ability to blend lighthearted humor with sweet sentimentality. But I haven’t seen it since, and a quick internet search tells me that was 2008. No wonder I am excited.

I haven’t intentionally avoided it. Although I don’t really see the need to own movies any more, I know I could have rented it again. My library is sure to have it. I could have streamed it online. But there are lots of movies out there on my list that I haven’t seen, and I will probably never catch up. Which is why I love summer, and its outdoor movie screenings.

There is something great about serendipity, that turns something fairly simple into a lifelong memory. This is why it can be so fun to get lost on vacation, or run into someone you know in an unexpected place. I love seeing what films my hometown, and the cities around me are showing. They lean towards kids films, which is fine by me. And with some spare time on a road trip, I’ve been known to follow the signs for “free movie tonight”

It takes a movie and turns it into a greater experience, with the added touch of serendipity in the offerings. The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking, Jurassic Park and the Apple Dumpling Gang benefit immensely from a setting with June bugs hovering over the grass, fireflies flashing in the dark, the smell of popcorn and cotton candy floating in the cool night air.

Film can always be an event, but the nostalgia of those little home grown outdoor screenings, which, like a visit to the drive in theatre, and our time honored tradition of birthday cake ice cream to go with it, makes it all the more memorable and valuable. As for next week, I can’t wait.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Present Tense

I am pleased to announce I've had my first piece published at Entropy. I saw a call for Variations on a Theme: Music, and I knew I had a great little story to tell about one such connection between myself and Eddie Vedder. Read it here.