Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Tanzania II.

12-22-15 NGORONGORO CRATER, TANZANIA: We were up before the COD for breakfast and a short van trip to Arusha Airport for a Tanganyika Flying Company hop to the Lake Manyara area where we were picked up by the &Beyond guides for the drive to Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. On the way we stopped at a craft shop where a surprising amount of stuff was bought, then it was back on the road to the crater. The Shilling is the currency of Tanzania, but we used dollars or plastic with no problems.

The road to the entrance of the Ngorongoro preserve is paved until we got to the park. We went through a town, Karatu, the biggest settlement near the park. There were small shops on wheels with tributes to Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton. I know Barack was born in neighboring Kenya, but not so for Hilary.

The roads in the park are dirt, red, crushed volcanic basalt, narrow, pot-holed with big puddles. The traffic includes big trucks because this road is the main route from Lake Victoria to Dar-es-Salaam, the local interstate. Since the driving is on the left side of the road, a sure sign of an ex-British colony, it’s scary when a truck comes flying over a hilltop or around a curve on the wrong side of the road.

We stopped at an overlook when we got to the top of the crater rim, about 7000 feet elevation and a long uphill drive from Karatu. It was a foggy morning, but we saw, with binoculars, an elephant and three rhinos and wildebeests in the misty distance. The rim road follows the top of the crater wall.

The Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is beautiful and unique. The collection of individual cabins looks like a Hobbit village in the Shire. The rooms have spectacular views of the crater and are quite luxurious. The staff of a dozen of so greeted us with a Swahili song. Lunch was at a long table in the dining hall. Everything, including booze, is included in the pre-paid tariff. It is the number one rated lodge in Tanzania.

After lunch we set off in 4x4’s for a trip to the crater floor. That road drops a few thousand feet from the crater rim to the floor and is steep, switch-backed, washed out and made the rim road seem like the Garden State Parkway.

Once we got to the bottom of the crater, the guides, all of whom were local, knowledgeable, engaging and enthusiastic, popped the top of the truck so we could stand and use cameras and binocs. We drove around the park on more dirt roads at slow speeds to see the animals. Within a few hours we saw wildebeests, zebras, cape buffaloes, elephants, ostriches, rhinos, hippos, hyenas, jackals, wart hogs, lions and many birds. It was stunning to see all of them with hardly any effort and readily available with no need to search them out.

The floor of the crater is mostly flat with some hilly areas and a few forested regions and a few marshy spots dotting a large grassy plain. The grass is close cropped by the grazers. There are several water holes in the rainy season and a large, salt lake. The salt comes from the volcanic minerals. The lake has a large flock of flamingoes. The crater is a World Heritage site.

Back at the lodge, the staff had drawn hot bubble baths for all of us, before we had a delicious dinner and then sleep after a very long day.

Arusha Coffee Lodge for over-night. Some of us wanted to stay here for the week.

Manyara Airstrip.

Tanzania flag.

Karatu - Obama shop.

Cinnamon chested bee eater.

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge - hobbitville.

Our room, that's a fireplace in the corner.

Crater dining.

In the crater...Spotted Hyena has been lying in a puddle.

Cape Buffalo and friends.

Wart Hog.

Wildebeests occupy the road.

Lion, maturing cub still has spots.

Grey Crowned Crane.

Sharing lunch.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tanzania I.

12-30-14 SHORT HILLS: We are back home after a thirty or so hour journey from the Serengeti to New Jersey. Back here in the land of WiFi, I will report on our trip to Tanzania and try to do one day of the trip each of the next several days. The pix and notes need some work, but here is a teaser….

Our first view of Ngorongoro Crater from the rim overview. There is a critter down on the floor of the crater, more than a mile away through the mist.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Arusha Coffee Lodge.

12-21-14 ARUSHA, TANZANIA: After a ten-hour flight from Amsterdam, we landed at Kilimanjaro Airport in the dark. We were greeted by &Beyond staff, but the line and the wait to get our visas took another hour. All of our luggage arrived from the U.S., and after another hour in the van, we got to the Arusha Coffee Lodge. Simply said, it’s a beautiful resort, even in the dark, but we check out in about eight hours for a flight to the Ngorongoro crater. I had my first Kilimanjaro beer at a late supper. It will be an extremely short stay at a luxe lodge. We are doing our winter solstice in the tropics - how about you?

Kilimanjaro beer after our late arrival at the Arusha Coffee Lodge, Lucy across the table.

Airports, Security Lines, Jet-Lag.

12-21-14 AMSTERDAM: Here we are in Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands all fourteen of us, jet-lagged, waiting for our KLM flight to Kilimanjaro Airport. We flew in over-night on Delta. Ten of us started at EWR, and four of us started at SFO. We have a twelve-hour flight to Tanzania in a few minutes.

East Coast Ten at EWR.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Tanzania Safari.

19-12-15 SHORT HILLS: We leave for Tanzania tomorrow—all 14 of us, children, children-in-law, grandchildren, for a safari. Judy set it all up and did all the heavy lifting with occasional suggestions, mostly disregarded, from me. The organizational guide is a company named & Beyond.

We fly from Newark to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro Airport, and then to the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge after an overnight in Arusha. The next stop is at the Lake Manyara Tree Lodge and finally we are on the Serengeti in a tent camp. Then back to Arusha, Amsterdam and Newark. Tanzania is on the east coast of Africa south of the Equator. We will be in and around the Rift Valley. All of us have their Yellow Fever Vaccination certificates and Malaria pills. Bring on the animals.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Dvořák and Dogs.

12-12-14 SHORT HILLS: We’ve been back in NJ for a few days. There’s been another Nor’easter for most of this week with lots of rain and wind and some snow flurries but no accumulation. It has stayed in the thirties for the most part.

Maizie the dog was sick with a gastroenteritis and conjunctivitis after the trip to VT. She had three trips to the vet for exams, X-rays and finally an ultrasound, all of which were normal. Now, on antibiotics, she is well. The other two dogs, Gus and Bally, were also off a little. While in VT, they were all feasting on frozen horse poop, poopsicles, if you will allow me that, and the vet thinks that’s the cause of their problems.

Last night we heard Antonín Dvořák’s Piano Concerto [Opus 33] and the Symphony No. 9 From the New World. Christoph von Dohnányi conducted and looked very elegant with flowing white hair. At the other end of the age spectrum, the pianist, Martin Helmchen, made his NY Phil debut. Before the concert, we had dinner with Ina and Marcel at Cafe Fiorello.

I apologize for these two pix, the usual mediocre iPhone snaps. Perhaps it’s my technique.

Lincoln Center Plaza.

Avery Fisher Hall waiting for Dvořák to start.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Feels Like Winter Is Here.

12-6-14 VERMONT: Intrepid Vermonters, Donna, Jane, Phyllis, Ken Bruce and Arnie, showed up for dinner as the snow began and the hors d’oeuvres appeared and didn’t leave until the cheesecake was gone and three inches were on the ground. It was another great meal, one of many.

This morning Judy the chef and I went to the dump in the continuing snow and then into town on errands. It’s much warmer today, in the thirties, thanks to the southerly wind that also brought the storm. Everywhere is postcard beautiful in its fresh whiteness.

When we got home, we took the dogs for a pasture walk on snowshoes for the first time this year. There are six to eight inches of snow at the moment. None of the dogs needed snowshoes. They were busy sniffing, rolling, tasting and digging holes in the snow.

A snowy green at a small New England college....

More college.

Starting to feel like winter.

Bally in the pasture.

Is there something under the snow?

Snowy pond and woods.

Southerly wind.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Dark corner of the Year.

12-4-14 VERMONT: It’s a few minutes after 4 PM, the sun just set so I would guess it was December if I didn’t know. The Winter Solstice is approaching so the days soon will be even a little shorter. We had a short snow squall with a bunch of wind this morning, and the temps have hovered in the upper twenties all day, in spite of sun in the afternoon. Tonight will be in the single digits.

When we came up yesterday, we drove through fog occasionally with enough reduced visibility to make me slow down. There are three or four inches of crusty frozen snow on the ground and an icy driveway. The pond is frozen over, but we’re not sure how thick the ice is. The small pond in the pasture is only partially frozen.

Judy is doing a dinner tomorrow for some of the local geezers so I helped with the shopping today. We also made a run to the town yard to get sand for the icy drive. You don’t get a lot done with nine hours of daylight.

A little snow on the recently mowed pasture plus a dog walker.

Foggy day.

Dog walker heads to home and fireside.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Falling Snow.

11-28-14 SHORT HILLS: Another nor’easter swept in Wednesday and hung around til Thursday. We got snow, about an inch, with a bit of wind and temps hovering around freezing. There was enough for me to shovel the driveway Wednesday night. Elsewhere in the region people got as much as a foot of snow. Many folks holiday travel plans were shredded.

Fortunately, Alison, Dan, Lily and Anna got here on Thanksgiving in the afternoon having survived Manhattan traffic congestion. Everyone ate way too much, of course, but Judy’s feast is hard to resist. I baked a pecan pie to complement Judy’s apple pie and the pumpkin pie I bought [gasp] at the bakery. I expect tonight’s dinner will feature turkey and stuffing.

It seems to me that November here is usually snowless and not terribly cold, or used to be so, but the storms just keep on coming. Is this the consequence of climate change?

Snow falling on an apple tree....

And on a burning bush and another apple....

And junipers....

and a holly and others.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

PHC on Saturday Night.

11-23-14 SHORT HILLS: We’ve been in the deep freezer for several days. Puddles and standing water were frozen, and at least one day the temps didn’t get above the freezing point. Yesterday was milder, and today was in the sixties with rain scheduled for tonight.

Yesterday we saw A Prairie Home Companion at Town Hall, near Times Square, with our usual group—Lynn and Bill and Leeza and Roger—but with the addition of Val and Steve and Anna and Gardner. Everybody loved the show. There were two female guest singers, Kate Beahen and Kat Edmondson, an appearance by Guy Noir, news from Lake Wobegon and a lot of music.

After the show we went to dinner at Lattanzi on W.46th St. The fried artichokes and ossobuco were great. I must add that in our little group, all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are definitely above average.

Above and below - Garrison Keillor and the band warm up the audience just before airtime.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Matisse in the Rain.

11-18-14 SHORT HILLS: Yesterday we had a ton of rain with flooded roads. We were in the city, more about that later. Today started in the twenties, our first hard frost of the fall, and it’s also windy and clear.

Over the weekend we went to a corner of Jersey City called Newport with our friend Alan. Newport is between the entrance to the Holland Tunnel and the Hudson River. There are high-rise apartments and offices, marinas, views of NYC across the river. Everything we saw looked clean, new and upscale. The restaurant where we ate, Battellos, was adequate, but we were PO’d that they didn’t honor the rez we had made to sit at a table with the view.

Judy and I went to MoMA yesterday, braving the rainstorm, to see Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs. We bought tickets a few weeks ago when we thought we had an evening event that got canceled. Matisse started using paper cutouts to make collage art late in life. Assistants would pin the cutouts on the wall and frequently re-arrange them at his direction. They started small, but got larger and larger as he developed the medium. The exhibit has about 100 pieces. More info is available on the website.

It was packed. To enter the exhibit there was a maze like the ones at airport security.

MoMA lets one take pix in the museum but not at this exhibit, but I took a couple in the shop where the repro mementoes were for sale. We were early for the show and after the show, we were then early for our dinner rez, so we hit most of the rest of the museum. There is so much iconic art that it’s stunning.

We had dinner at Michael’s, conveniently located a couple blocks north of the museum. It was excellent. We left the city on the tail end of rush and rain, but had no road issues.

NYC from Jersey City-Newport.

Cut-Out Show poster.

Souvenirs of the show in the shop.

Below are a few images from MoMA, perhaps you'll recognize one or two. If you haven't seen these in a while, a trip to MoMA is in order.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Wither the Weather?

11-14-14 SHORT HILLS: Remember that huge typhoon in the Pacific near Japan a few weeks ago? Well it’s here now. We went from the sixties to below freezing in two days. Tonight is predicted to be in the twenties, which would be the coldest weather of the season so far for us. The storm tracked northeastward from the western Pacific through Alaska and Canada and then south to the U.S. dumping loads of snow in the Mid-West a few days ago.

Last night we got our first snow of the season, just a dusting, but there’s still some of it here. The cold temps and gusty, northwest wind make it feel like the twenties.

So why do we have early snow in the face of global warming? The atmosphere is heating up and every year sees new records for high temps. Hotter air can hold more water and more energy—hence bigger storms, and it seems, more unpredictable events. At least we don’t need the shovels this time.

Last night snow....

Snow clearing this morning.

Again, last night...

And this morning.