29 Mar 2019

Santo Antão, Cape Verde 2019

350 miles off the west coast of Africa about a third of the way down lies an island country called Cape Verde, officially the Republic of Cabo Verde. It was a Portuguese colony from 1463 to 1975, when it gained its independence. We visited its island of Santo Antão.

Its volcanic landscape makes for considerable beauty. We opted to do an island drive today to take in that natural beauty.

We were high; the clouds were low, and we were in them.
Miles and miles of roads were manmade with rock done piecemeal.
In the mountains were small farm communities. It is a very tough business. Terracing is required and difficult. Water for irrigation is nonexistent meaning only dryland farming is possible. A couple crops such as potatoes and corn are possible though. Unfortunately the soil is getting farmed out losing nutrients every season.
You can imagine our surprise when we came across a former synagogue, especially since we we had already learned there were no Jewish people living here. Over the centuries, Cape Verde became a harbor of Jews fleeing European persecution or in search of economic opportunities. 
By the late 20th century what remained of the Jewish community had either left Cape Verde for Israel or assimilated into the predominately Catholic nation. 
On a beautiful day the ocean is always pretty. That is where tourists tend to congregate.
 We said howdy to a cow at our final stop.

21 Mar 2019

St. Helena 2019

St. Helena Island is one of those bucket list places for people who have been to many places already.

We are at one of the most remote inhabited places on earth. It is 1,200 miles west of Angola (the closest land mass) and 1,800 miles easy of Brazil.
They have had an airport for less than three years and even that is dicey due to extremely high winds.
Once every few weeks a ship arrives after a five day journey from Cape Town.
The town is immaculate and the people are super friendly.

 It is most famous for being the final home of Napoleon Bonaparte 200 years ago. Although he was buried on St. Helena, his remains were later returned to Paris. 
The highlight for fitness folks is Jacob's Ladder. There are 700 uneven steep steps that climb 600 feet (equivalent to a 60 story building). Of course Allyn took the climb. Apparently her foot operation in November was a success.
St Helena is the oldest  British Overseas Territory in the world other than Bermuda.
It is home to at least 40 species of plants unknown anywhere else in the world. 
Speaking of old, its most famous citizen is Jonathan, a giant 400 pound 200 year old tortoise - the world's oldest land animal. He is a permanent resident at the governor's house.

17 Mar 2019

Walvis Bay, Namibia 2019

Most African countries gained their independence by the 1960. Not so Namibia. 
South African apartheid laws were extended to Namibia and prevented black Namibians from having any political rights and most freedoms. South Africa’s plan was to exploit the mineral resources of Namibia by white South Africa.
It took 24 years of revolt and warfare with South Africa (1966- 1990) and almost 25,000 people dying before they achieved independence.
It has a population of about 2 million in a country that is twice the size of California.  Only Mongolia is less populous.
We enjoyed our day driving for miles and miles in a 4X4 to visit two lagoons. Along the way we saw miles of beautiful ocean.
 Seals are always cute.
 There are so many bird types out today. Here are some pelicans taking a swim.
Little egrets are actually a type of heron.
We even saw a grey heron.
Stopping for a picnic type snack in the middle of nowhere is always fun.
We drove and walked up and down gigantic sand dunes.
We even saw a real human skeleton in the sand.

The most beautiful birds today had to be the flamingos.

16 Mar 2019

Kolmanskop, Namibia 2019

Allyn and I visited a real ghost town today in southwest Africa,  Kolmanskop, Namibia. It is creepily quiet except for an occasional snake. 
Today was beautiful but winds and sand often blow at over 100 MPH here.
Although the Cape Town government turned down this barren, desolate region in 1885, some of the richest diamond deposits in the world were to be found in this area just a few years later.
In 1908, a railway employee shoveling drift sand from the tracks, found some interesting stones that turned out to be diamonds.
The diamonds were picked off the ground and the jars filled rapidly. One of the first discoveries was made just before nightfall, so prospecting continued long into the night, with the glimmer of stones identifiable by moonlight.
In 1912, the area produced 1 million carats or 11.7 per cent of the world’s total diamond production. 5 million karats of diamonds were extracted in the first six years of mining here.
100 years ago this is how they cooked, kept food cold, and dried clothes.
They had a bowling alley to add to their entertainment.
As usual the rich live better than the poor.The maximum population the community reached was 1,300. There was a time when Kolmanskop was the town with the highest per capita wealth in the world.
The town had the first X-ray machine in the southern hemisphere .Besiudes being used to diagnose medical issues,  It was also used to investigate and uncover any diamonds thefts.
By the early-’30s, the area was in decline. No diamonds means no town.
The last three families finally deserted the town in 1956.
Even though it is a natural park, the town is part of a 10,000 square mile forbidden area needing a visitor’s permit to visit. It is operated jointly by De Beers and the Namibian government. I guess they are afraid you might find and pick up some diamonds.

14 Mar 2019

Cape Town Ostrich Farm

It is a beautiful day in Cape Town today. Looking for something new to do we took a ride out of town to visit an ostrich farm.

On the way there we stopped for a photo of the South Africa's iconic landmark - Table Mountain.

No matter where you go in this city, you run into immense  poverty.

The ostrich brain is just the size of a marble.

For you shoppers, the way to tell real ostrich skin from fake is that the round things on the sking are bumpy, but part of the skin doesnt have the round things.
 Here are a few interesting ostrich facts. They:

*Are the world’s largest bird.
*Have three stomachs.
*Can kill a lion with one kick.
*Have eggs that are as big as 24 chicken eggs combined.
*Do not bury their heads in the sand. 
*Are the fast runners of any birds or other two-legged animals.
*Have the largest eye of any land animal. 

And one more fact you probably want/ need to know - Unlike all other living birds, the ostrich secretes urine separately from feces.

Everybody who plays scrabble knows that an emu is a word. Well, meet the emu.
I must confess that I had never heatrd of a weaver bird until today. These are their nests.