Knowing your local place intimately – the bike trail

Knowing your local place intimately – the bike trail

View of Melbourne City from Seaholme

It is into the 4th month of lockdown in Melbourne, Australia.

Movement is very restricted but lucky for me the Bay is near at hand.

One of the activities, one of places that soothes me is an evening ride along the Williamstown to Altona.

I have learnt to watch the colours of the sky, and know the spots to get the best views intimately.

Might have been my years of sailing that makes me such an avid weather watcher.

Early sunset from Altona Coastal Park

I can tell as the sun slowly sets that there is going to be a beautiful show tonight.

The early stages of of the sunset reaches across the bay and lights up the CBD.

City view from Altona Coastal Park

There is the perfect moment when the sun reflects of the city’s glass towers making it glow before the cities artificial lights try to steal the show.

Its hard to believe from this angle that the metropolis is quiet and largely deserted as it sparkles in the sunset.

Its a short ride over a little ford to my favourite viewing point to see the birdlife on Koroit Creek

This night it is the swans gliding and feeding on the creek up near the ford, under the reddening sky

By the the time I reach the estuary end of the creek the fiery sunset is reflected in the still water

At the Jawbone Marine Sanctuary the last minutes of the suns day is an orange smudge across the sky

Gotta say in these difficult times, to be able to be in and rejoice the natural beauty nearby is a special tonic.

I check the lights on my cycle and head home.

Lockdown Reflection 9 – The big beasts of the Masai Mara, Kenya

Lockdown Reflection 9 – The big beasts of the Masai Mara, Kenya

The Elephants are the biggest of the beasts of the Masai plains

You really appreciate how big when you get up close

This huge animal was slowly walking slowly sideways

Our driver creeping forward forward just as slowly

Keeping the elephant the back corner of the van

The driver said that the elephant was trying to get into a position to charge

I think it was just moving us away slowly from its family

The Masai Giraffe is the largest of all the giraffe types

These huge animals are quite a lot larger with darker and more pronounced markings that the Rothschild Giraffes at Lake Nakuru.

Unfortunately, like many of the great wild animals the Masai Giraffe in endangered.

My final big beast of the Masai Mara in the Hippopotamus

A huge beast who has the reputation as the deadliest large land mammal.

These huge beasts weigh around 2,250kg

But it is rare to see more that their head

Moonrise Sunset

Moonrise Sunset

There is a little place I go

A peaceful place that juts all so slightly, out into the bay

At the right time of the year

On the the night of a full moon

On a still cloudless night

When the water of the bay is smooth like the surface of a mirror

I can watch the moonrise

I can watch the sunset

Simultaneously

Look to the east and the moon makes its ascent

At first pale in the twilight

She creeps higher and higher slowly asserting her power over the night sky

Its her night

Once a month she fills the sky

As she rises its as if she is pushing the big red globe of the sun below the horizon

The sun as if in anger fills the sky with orange red

As if unwilling to leave the sky stage for the moons solo performance

Casting a pinkish reflected glow in the moons direction

But the suns end is inevitable

Soon the moon dominates the sky

less pale, more bright

casting her silver beam across the water.

The vapour pale of a jet

A rare sight in the Melbourne lockdown

Like a knife slash across the sunset sky.

Its a warm evening

Early spring

The first full moon of the spring equinox here in the southern hemisphere

I cycle around the peninsula

To catch the moon as she reaches her full glory

Spirit of Tasmania leaving port under a full moon

And there she is filling the sky with her soft silver light

Her glow sparkling on the water.

Lockdown reflections 7 – Birds in the Masai mara, Kenya

Lockdown reflections 7 – Birds in the Masai mara, Kenya

The Ostrich the largest bird in the world (followed by the Cassowary and Emu found in my home Australia)wanders the plains grassy planes of Africa including the Masai mara.

A flightless bird it sometimes crosses path with the Secretarybird

While a flighted bird it spends most of its time on the ground hunting. Unfortunately this unique bird is disappearing and is listed as vulnerable. The Secretarybird gets its name from the spikey head quills that are, I’m told, likened to the pencils that secretaries used to place behind their ear.

The Secretarybird has a featherless face and predators beak like a vulture.

The vultures featherless head and long featherless neck though is specially designed for this carrion eater.

But is was the colourful birds this I were one of the highlights of the Masai mara for me.

The brightly coloured Rollers.

And finally the most beautiful of all, the Crowned Crane.

Lockdown Reflections 6 – The Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya , the Masai

Lockdown Reflections 6 – The Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya , the Masai

The Masai Mara richly deserves its reputation as one of the great natural reserves in the world

Here one finds the living culture of the Masai people,

The amazing landscape of the the norther Serengeti Plane, and

Most notable the array of unique and amazing African wild life

The Masai are reputed to be warrior tribe but traditionally they have been primarily nomadic pastoralists roaming the grassy planes of what was once known as Masailand.

These days like many of the tribes in North East Africa the Masai way of life is in a battle to adapt to evolving life in Africa.

The nomadic life is more constrained due to population, land use and the desire to remain close to schools and education for the next generation.

Over the next few posts I will look at the amazing wild like of the Masaimara,

Lockdown Reflections 5 – Lake Nakuru – Kenya

Lockdown Reflections 5 – Lake Nakuru – Kenya

Looking down from Baboon Cliff you can see why it is famous for its flamingos as the thick line of pink runs along the shoreline.

Lake Nakura sits in the south west of Kenya and is one of the many Rift Valley Lakes such as the Ethiopian lakes in my previous post.

But it’s when you get down to the lake edge that you really appreciate the beauty and number of the flamingos at Lake Nakuru.

Though the Flamingos are the main attraction as a RAMSAR site the birdlife is extensive. With:

Eagles

Marabou Stork

African Pelicans

And sitting by the Rhino’s ear the Oxpecker

The Oxpecker is the Rhino’s best mate. The bright eyed warning siren for the sleeping short sighted rhino. The Oxpecker keeps an eye out for the rhino’s predators as it feeds on the parasites in the Rhino’s hard hide.

The muddy shores of the lake is also a welcome home fpt Water Buffalo

In the forests surrounding the lake the are baboons;

Rothschild giraffes;

Waterbuck;

and cute little Deseys.

Lake Nakura is about 160km WNW of Nairobi.

This visit was over 15 years ago and from what I have read the park has been enlarged. It certainly a place that stays in one’s mind.

Lockdown Reflections 4 – Rift Valley Lakes, Ethiopia

Lockdown Reflections 4 – Rift Valley Lakes, Ethiopia

Hippo in Lake Chamo

Lake Chamo

South of Addis Ababa, running down from Ethiopia’s central plateau is the Rift Valley

Near the city of Arba Minch is Lake Chamo the last of 8 lakes in the Rift Valley running south from Addis Ababa.

From points in Abar Minch you can look over Lake Chamo and Lake Abaya

Abar Minch is a great stepping off point to explore the tribal south of Ethiopia and the Bale mountains.

But a boat ride on Lake Chamo is a must before heading south.

To see the Nile Crocodile nursery

To see the African Pelicans. These birds migrate up into the Danube Delta in Romania for the European summer (see Danube Delta blog under Romania in the menu).

See the fishermen casting for Nile Perch just around the corner from the crocodile nursery

Till the sun starts to set on the beautiful lake.

Lake Awasa

Awassa and its lake are approximately 290 km south of Addis Ababa and a well serviced tourist destination.

At a bit over 1,700 meters above sea level Awasa retains the mild temperatures that are a feature of Ethiopia’s Central Plateau.

The colourful fishing boats and fish market is an attraction of Lake Awasa

As is the wild life in particular the Marabou Stalk, particularly in and around the fish market (see above)

But also:

Sea Eagles

King Fishers large and small,

Jacana and

Colobus monkeys on the lake shoreline.

The area around Awasa is very productive

With abundant fresh fruits

And lots of coffee being grown dried and sorted in the region.

Because Ethiopia is the home of coffee.

The Awasa Valley is also where Lucy the skeletal remains of a 3.2 million year old hominin were found.

The reconstructed skeleton of Lucy is on display in the National Museum of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia is an amazing country. One of a handful of countries never to be colonised by a European power. (Though there has been significant European presence and influence).

Unfortunately political tensions have again arisen which hopefully be resolved.

I leave my lockdown reflections of Ethiopia now.

Next reflections in Africa will be in Kenya and the amazing wildlife there.

For those wanting to find out more about Ethiopia I recommend the above book amazing research text and images.

Lockdown Reflections 3 – Ethiopia’s Tribal South

Lockdown Reflections 3 – Ethiopia’s Tribal South

The Omo River valley is the centre of the tribal area of Ethiopia

The south east of Ethiopia near where the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan meet is home to a group of mainly nomadic tribes

It is largely a very traditional part of Ethiopia with numerous tribes, mainly nomadic, living in the highlands and valleys surrounding the Omo River

If visiting the part of the Ethiopia the South Omo Research Centre Museum, Which is a German/Ethiopian collaboration provides awonderful introduction to the tribes and their cultures in the Region

Outside the museum

Not far from Jinka along one of the dirt roads that connect villages

Roads which the walking paths through the landscape

Is the small market village of K’ey Afer which on market day is abuzz with colour and activity

Selling spices and earthenware

And cattle and sheep

K’ey Afer is n the Hamar tribal area

Each tribe is distinctive in clothing hairstyle and custom. Some tribes are less welcoming to tourists that others.

Like all traditional cultures though there is a challenge to of maintaining custom in the face of western society encroachment

Up in the mountains

Is the land of the Mursi, a warrior tribe and visiting without prior approval is not advised

The Omo River winds its south toward Lake Turkana which is the largest permanent desert lake and largest alkaline lake in the world.

This southern part of Ethiopia is very hot, dry and dusty a significant contrast to the cool moistness of the central plateau.

This is Dassanetch country and these nomadic herders land has traditionally spanned the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan

The simple housing reflective of the nomadic existence of the Dassanetch

There are over a dozen tribes in the South Omo Zone

Others include the Borani, Banna Surmu and others

All culturally and physical distinctive in their own ways.

It is nearly 13 years since visiting this part of Ethiopia and even then the tribal life here was under threat. – Like traditional life in all continents.

Since this time the Omo River has been dammed and resettlement from the more populous parts of Ethiopia into this Zone has accelerated.

All this presents a survival challenge for these traditional tribes , their culture and way of life

LOCKDOWN Melbourne, Australia -finding the place within.

LOCKDOWN Melbourne, Australia -finding the place within.

Jawbone marine reserve, Williamstown

In many ways a severe COVID-19 lockdown is about finding oneself

In ones own environ

Reconnecting and finding peace within

I grew up 5 or 6 km from where I live now

We were A Bunch of Ratbags

Back in the rough industrial suburb of Footscray 

And as a kid I ride my bicycle to the City of Williamstown

To look across at the City of Melbourne and dream.

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Walk along the old piers looking at the boats and dreaming of adventures in distant lands

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Now this area is my home and Im back from adventures in distant lands

And am again cycling by the waterside, sometimes dreaming and often appreciating the beauty of the place

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The mighty ships coming up the Yarra River to port the ever present reminder of modern industry

So different  to the time when the ball on the Time Ball Tower was raised and lowered so the waiting ships could set their chronometers.

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Riding along the trail over the weeks of the restrictions I see and experience the moods of the slowly changing hours, weeks and months

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Lost in the winter fogs

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Feeling stranded like the boat at low tide

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Rejoicing in the joy of a clear winters day the bear cloudless sky reflected in the still waters of the creek estuaries

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Clear but cold with the beach all but empty apart from some hardy souls walking on the sand or buying a hot coffee.

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Sometimes having to ride home hard in the cold chill of a waning day

The trail I ride is about 15km its like a meditation as my legs move to the rhythm of the trail.

The same trail but everyday different.

Lost in the place and its beauty.

Travel Vaccines and reflections of Africa – The Simien and Bale Mountains, Ethiopia

Travel Vaccines and reflections of Africa – The Simien and Bale Mountains, Ethiopia

 

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If you have travelled to Africa it is most likely you would have been required to have a yellow fever vaccination – still required in many countries

I got my Yellow Card, proof of vaccination 20 years ago on my first trip to the African Continent.

Being in the Melbourne, Australia COVID 19 lockdown it is a good chance to reflect on the need for vaccination and travel and the relationship between the two.

The Simien Mountains

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The Simien Mountains are a World Heritage alpine area in the North of Ethiopia

Its also called the water tower of East Africa providing the source for the Blue Nile

The Blue Nile provides 80% of the water that reaches Egypt, flowing through Sudan where it meets with the White Nile to form the Nile River

 

With peaks up to 4,550 metres within the vast sprawling alpine range

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A range of deep gorges, rugged peaks and waterfalls plummeting thousands of metres

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The Simiens have unique flora and fauna

Such as the Giant Lobelia

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The endemic Gelada (or bleeding heart baboon) and Olive baboons

And if you look closely a Walia Ibex

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It was a three night trek through the Simiens

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Camping in the Alps

Amazing sunsets and the high plateau

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And watching the moon rise over the cliff tops from the gorges

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The Bale Mountains

The Simien Mountains are in the North East of Ethiopia and the Bale Mountains in the South East

Almost bookends at each end of the Ethiopian Central Highlands

The Simiens in the Amhara Region and the Bale in the Oromia Region

The Bale Mountains are drier less dramatic that the northern bookend

These mountains are the catchment for the Jubba River system

Which flows across Ethiopia and Somalia to the Indian Ocean

The Bale Mountains are more easily accessed than the Simiens

Far better for catching sightings of the Ethiopian Wolf

And the amazing bird life

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Also In the Bale Provence toward the Somalian Border is are the Sof Omar Caves

Its well over a decade since I travelled in these mountains with my family.

And yes a vaccine for Yellow Fever was compulsory

Maybe compulsory vaccinations will be more widespread for travellers in the future given COVID-19