After another stop at a souvenir shop we ended our day at Gibbs Farm, a working coffee plantation with a delightful bed-and-breakfast nestled in the lush greenery along the hillside. Like the RiverTrees, it is structured as a set of individual cottages, each sleeping two or four, each with large sitting areas, luxurious porches, and individual fireplaces. Lush gardens of greenery and flowers line the paths and bushbabies scamper among the trees overhead. The main lodge houses an outstanding restaurant – easily the best food we had on the whole trip, and that’s really saying something because we had delicious food at every meal. More than 90% of the food they serve is grown on their own farm, from the vegetables to the eggs and meat, and the chef is outstanding. This was our base for exploring Ngorogoro crater, although Gibbs has its own series of activities (watch the bread-making operation, tour the farms, help pick the vegies for the evening dinner, or listen to a local church choir sing) that made the place a truly fun place to stay. Continue reading “Ngorogoro”
At the entrance to Tarangire National Park we settled in for a picnic lunch while Robert took care of the paperwork. (This would become a regular routine, as there seem to be plenty of fees and paperwork to enter each of the parks.) I have to say, the facilities at the parks we visited were generally excellent, with well-maintained picnic sites and flush restrooms available here and there.
We spent the afternoon driving slowly into the park, stopping to view and photograph all manner of wildlife. There seemed to be a maze of narrow dirt tracks criss-crossing the park, through open scrub on the higher elevations and some along the brushy tree-lined shores of the Tarangire river and its tributaries. Most intersections were well marked, but Robert and Freddy clearly know this place like the back of their hands, and they knew particular locations where one might have a good opportunity to view elephants or lions or birds. Continue reading “Tarangire and Manyara”
I awoke at dawn, despite seven hours of jetlag, to the sounds of the morning call to prayer at a nearby mosque and to the pre-sunrise chorus of birds in the surrounding trees. These sounds – and the mosquito netting hanging from the four-posted bed in this B&B cottage – quickly reminded me of our late-night arrival in East Africa. Barely three degrees south of the equator, and nearly in sight of Mount Kilimanjaro, we were nestled into the delightfully lush greenery of the RiverTrees Hotel outside Arusha, Tanzania. Today would begin our ten-person ten-day family safari with Thomson Safaris. Four of us had taken very nearly the same trip 18 years earlier, and were now back with the next generation along for the ride. The weather was dry and slightly cool and our aim for the day was to explore the highlands of Arusha National Park in the foothills of Mount Meru, one of several volcanic neighbors of Kilimanjaro.
I had the pleasure of visiting Florence, Italy — my first time to this beautiful city. I was there to attend the International Conference on Mobile Systems, Applications, and Services (MobiSys), but built in an extra day for exploring the sights and smells of Florence. The weather was beautiful and sunny, most of the time, leading to many wonderful photographs.
Despite attending most of the sessions of the conference, I had enough time to hike around town and see the highlights of the most interesting or significant museums, all within about 72 hours:
- Piazza della Signoria – the plaza outside Palazzo Vecchio, with its own stunning set of sculptures and a crossroads for tourists from all nations.
Galleria dell’Accademia – with Michelangelo’s stunning statue of David.
- Museo Nazionale del Bargello – with some nice Michelangelo sculptures.
- Galleria degli Uffizi – the largest museum, with an incredible array of artwork and sculpture, too much to absorb in a few hours.
- Mercato Centrale – packed with a dizzying array of produce, meats, fish, and other delectables.
- Duomo’s Cupola – with a claustrophobic climb between the interior and exterior layers of the dome and grand scenic views across all of Florence.
- Duomo’s Campanile di Giotto – a steep climb of the bell-tower next to Duomo, with great views of the Duomo and the whole city.
- Duomo’s Battistero di San Giovanni – despite being wrapped in scaffolding, the exterior doors and interior artwork are stunning.
- Basilica of Santa Croce – a grand cathedral with interior memorials to notable scientists like Galileo, Fermi, Marconi, and Leonardo da Vinci… and some lesser-known guys like Michelangelo, Dante, and Machiavelli.
- Museo Galileo – with incredible scientific instruments and artifacts, including Galileo’s finger.
- Ponte Vecchio – a bridge with gold and jewelry shops cantilevered off either side and hundreds of pedestrians strolling up the middle.
- Forte Belvedere – with great sunset views of the city from across the River Arno.
- Fortezza da Basso – the largest fortress in the city and now the site of a conference center where MobiSys and WWW were being held.
There were thousands of other tourists (mostly American college students beginning their summer travel); long lines and crowded museums seemed inevitable. I purchased the Firenze Card – 72 euros for 72 hours of free access to nearly all the important sites and museums in Florence. Totally worthwhile if you’re going to visit more than two or three museums. Plus, the card gives you priority entry – meaning you might wait only 5-30 minutes in line instead of two hours!
Although I took over 700 photos, most are of famous pieces of art you’ve already seen; so my photo gallery tries to explore the little things and capture the scenic views from the towers I climbed.
I was also able to enjoy dining in several wonderful restaurants – mostly little Trattoria with delightful pasta and house wines from Tuscany. Perhaps my favorite meals, though, were the simple lunches assembled from sliced sausage, cheese, and bread.
I stayed in the lovely Hotel Tornabuonio Beacci, an elegant old hotel with a beautiful terrace for sunset views with afternoon drinks, in a convenient location just a few blocks from the Duomo or Ponte Vecchio. Highly recommended!
Alright, I finally need to admit it. Winter is over. Although many folks in the northeast are tired of winter and are glad to see signs of spring, I have been relishing every last opportunity to enjoy the incredible winter conditions Nature delivered to us this season. I’ve been out hiking the past three Sundays, and for a week prior I was out skiing nearly every day, soaking up the beautiful scenery, outstanding ski conditions, and incredible hiking. I brought my camera along for many outings this winter. Here’s a quick recap.
January 2: hiking Moosilauke with son Andy and with friends (Lelia, Jen, and Lars) in a snowstorm. Cold temps, fierce winds, and blowing snow led Andy to bundle up and exclaim “I feel invincible!” as we climbed the summit cone. [more photos]
February 28: Mark and I skied up and down the Carriage Road on an intensely sunny day, catching the powder before it softened and with noontime views from the summit. [more photos]
March 14: hiking Moosilauke again with son Andy and his friend Sam, plus friends from Thetford. We made it to South Peak but were socked in by clouds. [more photos]
March 22: A bitterly cold morning on Cummings Pond, one of the last good mornings for skiing. A day later I had the chance to ski at sunset, and completed my longest-ever loop on that trail network. [more photos]
April 5: Easter hike up Mount Moosilauke; a fresh early-morning snowfall was followed by a brilliantly sunny day. The deep snowpack was decorated by a soft covering of fresh powder, and the summit lent me great views of the Franconia and Presidential ranges. [more photos]
April 12: a sunny jaunt up North Kinsman with close-up views of Franconia Range and awesome butt-sliding back down the Fishin’ Jimmy trail. [more photos]
Finally, April 19, an awe-inspiring morning in the northern Presidentials, freshly dusted by snow and rime ice, capped by a deep blue sky and bathed in intense spring sunshine. I was up Madison and Adams before noon. Incredible day. [more photos]
It’s now time for the trails to rest. Meanwhile the ice on the river is out and I’m looking forward to boating season!
Last week I returned to Bangalore for my annual visit to the NetHealth workshop, which is always a fascinating combination of academic research and real-world insights from Indian health-care and public-health experts. Unfortunately my visit was constrained by other commitments so I was in India for 72 hours (at the cost of 54 hours to get there and back).
As we drove toward Mount Moosilauke on New Year’s day, we caught a glimpse of its summit, brilliant white under the high cloud deck, and thought eagerly of our plans to hike to that summit the next day. Lelia and Andy and I hiked in past the Ravine Lodge, finding the going easy on a shallow but firm snow cover, with the last of the deep-pink sunset fading as we reached John Rand cabin. In a couple of hours the cabin was cozy and warm and we welcomed the arrival of friends Jen and Lars. After a wonderful pasta dinner and conversation, we settled in for a cozy first night of the new year; all in all, a great foundation for a big hike the next day.
Another busy and exciting year for us, with lots of travel. David traveled to India in January, Andy toured the Galapagos with his grandparents, Pam spoke at a medical conference in Hyderabad (India), John sang with his quartet at Harmony University, and the whole family paddled for four days on the Connecticut River. The big family trip, though, was to raft the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, then explore some of the beautiful National Parks in that region (read the posts beginning here, and check out the photos and an exciting nine-minute video). We spent lots of time outdoors in both New Hampshire and South Carolina. I hope you enjoy the year-end slideshow of highlights, including some of my favorite photos from 2014.
This morning I rowed through pink cotton candy. Sculling at dawn on the Connecticut River, as I passed the mouth of Grant Brook and the sun rose over the shoulder of Smarts Mountain to the east and lit up the first fall colors on the hills to the west, the first warm rays of the sun lifted fog off the surface of the river and turned it pink. I rowed through these pink clouds, and as I headed home the clouds turned orange as the sun rose further. With fingers chilled by the 40-degree morning, I was glad to be out on such a beautiful day.
We just returned from our third annual Connecticut River canoe trip [photos]. Two years ago we began at the Canadian border, visiting the river’s headwaters and the four Connecticut lakes; we put in at North Stratford (skipping the lakes and 60 miles of the river’s life as a shallow stream), and paddled for two days. Last year we put in where we left off, and paddled for four days, ending at the Gilman Dam. This year we launched below the dam and paddled for four days to Bedell Bridge State Park. Next year we hope to reach home! The trip gets better every year, as the Connecticut River Paddlers’ Trail expands its network of campsites and published an outstanding new map. Read on!