Taliesin West

Our travels took us to Taliesin West today. We had purchased tickets ahead of time since we were planning on being in Phoenix today for a family reunion. We booked the “Details Tour,” which was a two hour tour covering some of the details of the architecture. Photos are permitted on this tour, so it as a treat to capture photos with my little Sony RX100.

Frank Lloyd Wright established Taliesin West in 1937 as his winter home and school in the desert. Today it is the main campus of the School of Architecture at Taliesin. I was surprised to find that the buildings seem to be a bit rough hewn, which seems appropriate since the location was a laboratory for design and experimentation and much of the facilities were built by Frank Lloyd Wright’s students. The location was very remote at the time it was built and the design reflects Wright’s love of nature and philosophy about how design should interact with nature.

For anybody interested in architecture, design and nature this tour is a must.

 

 

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Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

 

Our outing yesterday took us to Kasha-Katuwe Ten Rocks National Monument some 35 miles south of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Part of our motivation to come to Santa Fe was the opportunities to hike. With a high fire danger though the National Forests were closed so we decided to head to the Tent Rocks for a short hike.

After a short hike through the desert Junipers we entered a slot canyon which provided a cool respite from the hot sun. We meandered through the slot canyon and then climbed up to a view point on the rim, hiking through fantastic towers and spires. These spires were formed by erosion of the volcanic ash left behind by local volcanoes millions of years ago.

Our hike covered 3.7 miles and we were happy to be done with our hike before noon, since the temperature was approaching 90 F when we returned to the car.

Santa Fe Road Trip: Day Four

We’re spending the night at Diamond Campground, near Springville, Utah. Our destination is Santa Fe. We have a week to get there. So we’ll be wandering the South West for the next few days. No WiFi here so I’m writing a short post on my iPhone. More to follow when I can sit still long enough to edit photos on the laptop. Our travels so far have brought us over the Sierra Nevada Mountains via highway 120 through Yosemite and down the east side of the Sierra to Big Pine, where our son and daughter-in-law are expecting in July. Our first grandchild. From there it was on to Great Basin National Park, and then on to Salt Lake City where we celebrated the anticipated birth of our second grandchild, due in August.

It Takes a Village to Make a Cup of Coffee

Three months have passed since our African Chagga Coffee experience and it’s still an event that’s worthy of a few words. As part of our tour of Moshi our tour guide, Sophie Angostino, arranged for a visit to the Chagga Culture and Coffee. The Chagga people are an ethnic group, and the village we visited was just outside of Moshi on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.

It’s hard to explain this experience in words. You’ll just have to imagine standing in a circle around a mortar of coffee being pounded with a wooden pestle while chanting and clapping. Music and rhythm are part of the African experience.

The coffee is pounded twice, first to break off the hulls. What results are the tan colored raw beans.

The raw beans go into an iron pot where they are roasted on a wood fire. Then they go back in the mortar to be pulverized by pounding.

The fine grounds are then brewed into coffee, using a variation on what I would call “cowboy coffee,” but somehow their method results in a rich tasting coffee free of sediment. We sipped the resulting  coffee with a great sense of community and camaraderie.

Four Wheel Camper Rally

On the afternoon of April 20 we pointed our rig towards Bodega Bay to join fellow Four  Wheel Camper owners for a weekend rally. We’ve had our camper for six months which means we are rather new to truck campers.  We were anxious to see how other people have equipped their rigs. By sundown there were 65 camper rigs parked around the grounds of Chanslor Ranch, with people gathering in a big red barn for dinner.

Saturday was a bright clear day and we took a walk around the lush green rolling hills of the ranch admiring the view and the wildflowers. Saturday afternoon provided a question and answer session with some very knowledgeable staff from Four Wheel Camper.  The hot topic seemed to be the new solar panels which prove to be lighter weight and more efficient than earlier models. With a pop-up camper any weight you put on the roof affects the effort it takes to pop the top up. The new panels are 20 pounds lighter than the previous model. We’ll stick with what we have for the time being.

We met people from all over the west; from San Diego to Whidbey Island, from Oregon and Nevada. Quite interesting to see the creative solutions people have come up with for their rigs and to see the various options and camper layouts that are possible. We also learned about a couple of website for trip planning including wanderthewest.com and expeditionportal.com. Many thanks to the folks at Four Wheel Camper and the camper owners that made the rally possible. Quite fun! The next rally will be in October near Anza Borego. We’ll be there!

Sunday morning we packed up and drove a short distance to the Pinnacle Gulch Trail. It’s a lovely walk down the trail, not quite a mile and the beach is known to be dog friendly.

Cason on the beach at Pinnacle Gulch Beach

African Safari: Day 1

Two weeks have passed since we returned from Africa and I’ve managed to edit my photo collection down to a few images (143 to be exact) that I think tell the story about our adventures. We’re rewinding to March 3, the first day of our Safari. Our adventures began when we boarded a small plane in Arusha for our flight into the bush.

Our flight took us to the Seronera Air Strip in the middle of Serengeti National Park, a dirt airstrip with a small terminal. We landed at 11:30 in the morning. Our guide David walked out to the plane to greet us. We spent a few minutes in the terminal while David resolved some issue regarding our park permit. Then it was off to the Land Cruiser that would be our base for game drives for the next eight days.  I’m quite thankful that we had an experienced guide. Traveling the parks in Tanzania involves paperwork. Having a guide that knew the language and the customs was quite helpful. Our destination for the next two days was the central woodlands of the Serengeti. It doesn’t take long on a game drive to appreciate how abundant wildlife is and the variety. Impala, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, and baboons were among the first animals we spotted on our drive. If feels surreal sitting in a car and watching zebras amble by.

 

For lunch we headed to the Retina pool to watch hippos, and with a picnic area there, David broke out the box lunches. We didn’t have high expectations for the food and we were surprised at how much was packed into our lunch boxes: a skewer of beef kabobs,  hard boiled egg. quiche, ground beef patty, a Kat-Kat bar and an apple. More than enough for our needs. Our guide, David, collected what we didn’t eat and gave it to the the washroom attendant. After lunch we continued our game drive adding warthogs and leopards to our list. We spent some time watching a mother leopard with her cubs playing in the grass at the base of a tree. The cats were a fair distance from us which made photography a challenge. As we watched though the mother leopard climbed up into a tree where she had stashed a wildebeest kill and I managed to capture a photo.

It’s very easy to get caught up watching wildlife; watching animals and talking with our guide about animal behavior and such. The afternoon seemed to pass quickly as we made our way towards our evenings accommodations at Seronera Sametu Camp. Not far from camp though, the road became very muddy and David started to speculate about the possibility of bushwhacking, should we become mired. Fortunately, with expert driving, slipping, sliding and mud flying, we made it to camp arriving about 6 pm, with plenty of time for a shower before dinner at 7:30. Seronera Sametu Camp is a tented camp, meaning the guests stay in tents. Camping is pretty luxurious by our standards. The tents are quite large, with queen size beds, desks, a sitting area, a private bath with flush toilet and a shower. For a shower though you have to order ahead so that the stewards can heat water and haul it up a pole for a gravity fed shower. Even so it feels like a luxury to have a hot shower in a tent.  Being that we were the only guests in camp we felt well taken care of. We were instructed to stay in our tent after dark, or call for an escort should we want to leave the tent. Walkie-talkies were available to communicate with the staff.

Our first day’s game drive covered about 45 miles. You can view a track of our route and an elevation profile here. You can also view a more extensive gallery of photos from our safari here.

Reflecting on Culture

Earlier this week I was driving down a street in my home town, Marin Avenue in Albany, California. It’s only been a few days since our return from Tanzania. There is a orderly stream of cars moving along. The street is lined with neat single-family homes. There are no people on the sidewalks, no bikes on the bike path, just an orderly stream of traffic, each car with a single occupant. Each of us in isolation. I’m struck by the the contrast to our experiences in Tanzania. Where are the people, the humanity,  the motorbikes, the thousands of small shops, the roadside vendors and the people going about business? My own neighborhood seems stark and sterile compared with vibrant throngs of people on the streets in Arusha. A stark contrast in cultures. I feel like a fish, having just returned to my fishbowl, and having a whole new perspective about water. I see my own culture as one where people are isolated, insular, each in our own carefully constructed realities, where fear, suspicion and anxiety are prevalent. I wouldn’t even notice this if it weren’t for the opportunity to step into another culture. Even a brief visit gives insights about my own insecurities and biases. As we visited with the people in Africa, I began to appreciate a people that seem less anxious, less fearful, and free to express themselves. One morning as we toured the market place in Moshi, I wanted to photograph some of the people. I had been informed to be cautious about photographing people; many people do not want to be photographed. As I worked with our guide, Sophie, I found, that while some people clearly did not want to be photographed, others were more than willing, and became quite expressive. As we passed one little butcher shop the butcher invited Joann into his shop to pose for a photo, nearly grabbing her off the sidewalk. His enthusiasm and joie de vivre were infectious and something that seemed to create a bond of friendship, transcending our cultures. I doubt that such and interaction would happen on the streets of Berkeley.  I doubt that my idea of “normal” will ever be the same having spent time in Africa. Or if life does start to look normal, that will be my cue to plan anther trip.