Monday, September 28, 2009

Awassa (Ethiopia)

This is a picture of Fish and his girl friend in Awassa in southern Ethiopia.

It is a half days ride to Awassa. You climb up to the top of the hill until you reach the cell phone tower. Then you coast for half an hour through the fields of hay and butterflies.

Awassa is beautiful. It's prosperous. It's clean. There is a golden domed cathedral in the center. The women wear pin stripe suits and ride around on bicycles.

Awassa had electricity the whole time I was there. The ATM at Dashen Bank was functioning. The internet cafes were open and the espresso machines were operating.

On Sundays, in the evening, the whole town comes down to the lake to watch the sunset and walk home thoughtfully in the dark.

If you have read a few of these blog entries, you know they are mostly about philosophy, introspection and weird beetle bugs. Adventures and wild animals would be awesome, but the shameful truth is that I'm not hard core. I have purposely tried to avoid animals. They scare me. Because of the pointy bits.

In Botswana, I mostly slept in the forest at night. There are tons of scrubby thorn bushes everywhere. I would hide my tent in the scrub a little way off the road. The route I chose avoided elephants. People have cows and if they find a lion they call a team from Gaborone to relocate it to the game parks. Occasionally there are other small predators. You sometimes hear jackals or the odd hyena. If you sleep in a tent they won't bother you.

But one night, I woke up needing to pee when I heard something sniff just outside my tent next to my head. One idea was to scare it away by making a loud noise or spraying pepper spray out there. On the other hand, that might just make it curious or annoyed so doing nothing might be safer. The only thing I knew for sure was that I was going to need to rig an indoor toilette together using an empty can of baked beans.

For the next few hours until dawn I had my pepper spray in hand, ready to leap into action. In the morning I put all my tracker skills into practice looking for droppings and footprints. It turned out that the sound was my tent rubbing together in the breeze.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

In Namibia

So I am in Katima Mulilo, Namibia today on the banks of the Zambezi River. I can see into Zambia from my campsite. I was supposed to be in Zambia today but I'm a bit unwell. Nothing serious. Barfed a bit. Small headache.

There still is a lot of cycling to do in Zambia to reach Solwezi where Mum and Dad are.

It will mostly be on dirt roads. Very remote. With no internet access.

There are so many things I haven't written on this blog.

These last couple weeks have been fun. Watching the elephants from the camp site in the evenings. Listening to the hippos.

Hippos always sound like they are right next to you. A couple times I have cracked my tent open to look out, but I've never seen them. There aren't any tracks in the sand the next morning.


Most male animals have to fight all the other males before they can breed. Rhinos do not use that system. Instead rhinos rely on their sense of smell. A female rhino can sniff a pile of dung one time and tell how healthy and virile a male is. This is something modern science has not even come close to duplicating.

According to evolutionary theory, the first rhinos were a kind of tall gazelle. Then they developed their marvellous sense of smell. After that, there was no point in battles, the only thing that mattered was maintaining a healthy digestive system. Slowly rhinos became heavier and shorter.

Three million years of selective breeding later you get the modern rhino. Essentially it's just a minivan with a horn attached to the front. It's not beautiful. It can't jump. It can't run more than a hundred yards. It can barely see. It's kind of surly. It's kind of stupid. The only thing it's good at is digesting.

But, boy, are rhinos ever good at digesting! You can feed them old boots and car tires and what comes out is the highest grade manure. The top tulip farmers in all the world rely on rhino manure exclusively to fertilize their prize winning bulbs.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Snakes (North Mozambique)

After lunch, I was getting on my bike and two snakes fell out of the tree near me. They were thin green snakes. One was three foot and the other was four foot long.

The fall stunned them for a couple seconds but they seemed unharmed. Your guess is as good as mine what they were doing together that made them take a tumble. They slithered away for a bit and stopped.

The small one turned and looked at me. Its head was perfectly motionless but its pale underbelly waved madly from side to side as if in a strong wind. We stared at each other for a long time until I turned and got on my bike. When I looked around again they were moving in the other direction.