Viewing World Cup Soccer as we traveled

It ended in Crete, Greece. We walked a few meters down our alley to the neighborhood bistro, Olga Gusto. Not our usual activity at 10pm. The owner waved to us with a smile and beckoned us to take front row seats. The final game of the World Cup had just started.

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Chania, Crete

We watched, ate a pizza, sipped a beer and a tonic water, and then, just as overtime play started, the owner apologized to the patrons. He’d stayed open an hour later than his usual closing time, but he now had to close as he needed to return the next morning before the 7am opening. So sorry. After all, who knew the game would go into overtime? So, we customers all said we understood and thanked him for staying open so late. We trudged back to our little studio and went to bed. Our last thoughts before falling asleep: who won? Germany or Argentina?

Watching games throughout the tournament has had its challenges. Our World Cup viewing had begun a month earlier in a different country, on a different continent. Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. We knew the World Cup was to begin, but how would we be able see the first match? Our hotel room had a TV, but the time and day difference between Brazil and Tanzania confused us. No problem. One of the hotel staff gave us his timetable for games (thank you!) and told us the channel to tune in…and we did.

A few days later, we were off to the beautiful island of Zanzibar. Beautiful or not, would it have TV reception? That day a TV was installed at our little hotel’s dining room just for the World Cup. We gathered with other guests to watch that night as best we could. Reception was hit or miss. Just as a team was ready to strike the picture went blank. A minute later it was back up. What had happened? And so it went…

On to our camping safari, we were far away from World Cup until the last night. We stayed at a German-owned lodge outside Ngorongoro Crater, and their TV room near the bar played to a full house. Magic! We watched with guest from many different countries, rooting for opposing teams.

Next stop on our trip was Istanbul, Turkey. Our first night we watched in a restaurant and another night in a little dessert café near our hotel.

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Istanbul, Turkey

World Cup was heating up, and the airport in Athens was filled with monitors so we travelers wouldn’t miss any of the action.

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Athens, Greece

We did manage to see a game at the Music Café Bar on the harbor in Chania, Crete – a spectacular setting for viewing.

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Chania, Greece

Beer (for Joe) and chocolate milkshake (for Beth) provided the perfect refreshment. When action waned we could look to our left for this view of the water.

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The view from the cafe in Chania

From start to finish we watched World Cup in 3 countries; on islands and on safari; in hotels, restaurants, bistros, and an airport.  The World Cup definitely had the world – and us – watching.

July 2014

 

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The entry sign said “Kindness is a Language…”

We eagerly stepped in. Dazzling strings of beads arched the entryway to the shaded courtyard in Arusha.

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Emmanuel stepped forward to greet us and to show us around Shanga, whose mission is to recycle materials into beautiful craft objects. It had all started with beads.

Emmanuel walked us through the process.

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Start with glass for recycling. 

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The glass is put through a clever machine made with a bicycle wheel and an electric motor to pulverize old glass into tiny bits.

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The tiny bits of glass are melted down and poured into little clay molds.

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Beads, the product of recycled glass.

Shanga’s artisans use glass in many ways. We especially liked these little lantern and votive candle-holders.

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It may have started with glass, but we loved the other cycled crafts as well – including little elephant pillows, hand-painted plaques, furniture, and woven mats.

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Shanga’s mission, “Be Kind and Recycle” took a twist we hadn’t expected. Many of their workers are disabled. One wall of the workshop was painted with “Kindness is a language which blind people see and which deaf people hear.”

NOTE: We had stopped here on our way to the airport in Arusha after our safari. It’s definitely worth a visit to the workshop and café. Can’t go yourself? You can always take a virtual visit to the shop. 

June 2014

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Friends stepped in

The possibility of pulling off a safari on our own was zero.  We needed a group if we were going to do it the way we wanted.  Mark Thornton Safaris was featured in an article in “The New York Times” several years ago and we wanted to go with him. So, friends stepped in.

Ellen and Jo, book group chums, agreed right away to join us.  Ellen added her husband, Craig.  Betsy and Jack, old friends from many years ago, hopped on some months later.  Our group formed, and — we couldn’t believe our good fortune — we got to realize our dream and take an amazing safari in Africa!

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You might wonder – what actually happened on that safari and what did our friends have to put up with?

First off, we admit to being worried how everyone would do camping.  Not everyone loves camping in the bush.  Despite hearing weird animals’ noises in the night, camping turned out to be one of the group’s favorite aspects of the safari.

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We had requested that bird watching be included in the safari.  Everyone agreed but, it turned out, Jack and Craig had no idea what that meant.  How much time could possibly be spent looking at birds?  They found out.  More than they would like. Yet, to the birder-lovers’ enjoyment, even our two non-birders learned the names of some of the birds by the end of the trip.

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We worried about weather (great, not hot, and cloudy which was good for photography); how active – or inactive – the trip would be for our group (our guides assured a happy range to suit all); the food (always very good and the homemade cookies in the Range Rovers were a hit); and would we learn enough (our guides, always knowledgeable, did a great job on filling us in on what we were seeing).

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We expected that a safari would be the experience of a lifetime for us, and it was.  Thanks to our friends and our guides Chagamba and Mika (and Mark Thornton) for making it possible!

 

June 2014

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Choosing a camera for a BIG photo opportunity (like a safari)

Capturing a wildebeest in Ngorongoro Crater

Capturing a wildebeest in Ngorongoro Crater

Our group planned the safari two years in advance, so we had ample time to think about what camera we would take with us.  We planned to do a walking safari  (best to have a lightweight camera), but we would also do game driving (where a telephoto lens would take the best animal photos).  What to do?  This was the trip-of-a-lifetime for us, and we really did want good photos.

When we all arrived in Tanzania, we compared the cameras we had chosen for the safari. What a surprise!  Two of us had compact cameras (Ellen brought a Canon SX700HS, Beth used a Sony RX100), 4 used cellphone cameras (Betsy had an iPhone 4, Jack and Joe each had an iPhone 4s, Jo used a Samsung Galaxy 5), and Craig didn’t bringing a camera.  Not one person had a DSLR.  No long or wide angle lenses for this group.

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We believe we might be at the very lowest end of the spectrum for choice of photographic equipment to take on an African safari, where telephotos appear to be the norm.

We thought you might be interested to see how our minimal photography equipment worked out on the safari, so below are images from each photographer in the group.

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Jack used an iPhone 4s

 

 

 

 

Barbaig woman's feet

Barbaig woman’s feet – photo by Jack

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Jo used a Samsung Galaxy 5

 

 

 

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Elephants in Lake Manyara National Park- photo by Jo

Stone Town + drive back Tour of Stone Town and drive back Tour of Stone Town

Ellen used a Canon SX700HS

 

 

 

 

Superb starling and hungry juvenile

Superb starling and hungry juvenile- photo by Ellen

Beth used a Sony RX100

Beth used a Sony RX100

 

 

 

Baboons on the move

Baboons on the move- photo by Beth

Joe used an iPhone 4s

Joe used an iPhone 4s

 

 

 

 

Guides with little mouse

Guides with little mouse- photo by Joe

Betsy used an iPhone 4

Betsy used an iPhone 4

 

 

 

 

Zebra portrait

Zebra portrait- photo by Betsy

We agreed at the end of the trip to share our photos on a Shutterfly group site – a bounty for everyone to see and have access to others’ photos . (Unfortunately for some of us the learning curve was steep and the process tedious.)

Understanding what a camera does well and treating light and subject matter to advantage can produce a very nice photograph.  In the end, all of us seemed happy with her or his choice of camera and had fine photos to share (some even had a video or two).  Proving, we believe, that, while the bigger and higher quality cameras get the pictures at higher quality, the little packable cameras can be a good choice too. They were for us.

 

June 2014

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Walking vs Driving?

We always prefer walking to driving – but how about on a safari?  A walking safari was an appealing option offered by Mark Thornton Safaris.  We emailed back and forth with Mark and decided our safari would be long enough to do both.

Driving

We drove in Land Rovers, with canvas tops that could be rolled open, so that we could stand up in the vehicle to better see animals.  Only game driving is allowed in Ngorongoro Crater.  We’re glad we didn’t miss it.

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Jack, Chagamba, and Ellen spotting animals all around us.

In vehicles, we got quite close to some of the animals — safely.  At one point, Chagamba shooed away a baby elephant that didn’t yet know enough to have fear of humans.

Sometimes our guides looked out in the far distance and saw grasses moving in just a certain way.  We drove closer and had a look at a lion or other cat that only our guides could see or knew were there.

Walking

We walked in single-file with our guide in front carrying a rifle and a Maasai in the rear holding his spear.

Walking with a park guide in Arusha National Park.

Walking with a park guide in Arusha National Park.

We thought we’d see the landscape more than animals on a walking safari.  We were wrong.  On one of our first walks, we saw a herd of oryx, not so easily seen in this area.  We regularly saw zebras, wart hogs, wildebeest, African buffalo, hartebeest, and various gazelles on our walks.

Binoculars are up spying 2 warthogs.

Binoculars are up spying 2 warthogs.

The big advantage of walking was in the many other things we saw.

Our guide swooped up this little critter near a harvester ants nest.

Our guide swooped up this little critter near a harvester ants nest.

Standing in an elephant footprint.

Standing in an elephant footprint.

Coming across a plover nest.

Coming across a plover nest.

Ellen walking in the Maasai Steppe Wilderness.

Ellen walking in the Maasai Steppe Wilderness.

So, which was better?  We think everyone in our group agreed – you really need to do both.

 

June 2014

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Photography from afar (with a compact camera)

Why did we think that we might not see many animals in Africa, and why did we worry we would be too far away to take photographs when we did see them?

We truly wanted to see the environment we were in – landscape, plants, trees, insects, and yes, animals too.  We were confident that we’d see everything, but snapping wild animal photos from a distance wouldn’t be easy.

Over nine days and with a lot of opportunities (thanks to our guides, Chagamba and Mika), we managed to enjoy watching a great number of animals and even to get a few photographs.

Olive baboons

Olive baboons

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A dazzle of zebra

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Hyena

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Lion

Impala

Impala

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Elephant suckling two young, one presumably hers and other was another elephant’s juvenile

Giraffe

Giraffe

June 2014

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Little findings

When we travel, we’re looking for the little things that tell us the story of the new place we’re in. If we told you we were in Africa for a safari, you might think we came to see the Big Five (African elephant, rhino, leopard, lion, African buffalo). Sure, that would be nice, but our goal was to see the little things too.

We scheduled time for some walking on our safari and our guides – Mika, Chagamba, and the Maasai – knew just where to help us look.

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Our Maasai guide climbed a termite mound and with his spear, broke away a small section of the mound for us to see. These mounds can be active up to 70-80 years. Dwarf mongoose colonies choose abandoned termite mounds for their homes. It’s all about recycling.

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Maasai guide by termite mound

Among other insects that we saw were harvester ants, ant lions, numerous grasshoppers, and (new to us) funnel-web spiders.

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Funnel spider web

We had asked to see birds as well as animals on the safari – a request more common than we realized. In our 9-day safari, we saw over 170 species.

Lilac breasted roller

Lilac breasted roller

Two-banded courser

Two-banded courser

Fan-tailed widow bird

Fan-tailed widow bird

When we asked Chagamba how many people come to Africa to see the Big Five, he also told us about Africa’s “Little Five”: elephant shrew, rhinoceros beetle, leopard tortoise, ant lion, and buffalo weaver. We saw three of those five. Not bad!

 

June 2014

 

 

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