Magnificent Mountains of Springdale Utah and # Vegas Strong in Nevada

What to say about about Springdale, Utah? A small town in the shadow of the giant mountain ranges of Zion National Park it was originally settled in 1862 by Mormon farming communities fleeing flooding in nearby Northrop. It was they who named the canyon Zion.  At last count (2016) it had a population of 570.  Continue reading “Magnificent Mountains of Springdale Utah and # Vegas Strong in Nevada”

Colorado: Alpine Perfection and Dining in Denver

This part of the world couldn’t be more different to New York! The people are chatty and friendly, joshing one another and new arrivals equally. It all started with the train ride from the plane to luggage collection…yes, this airport is so huge you have to take a bus to get to luggage collection, and then, if you are hiring a car you get another bus that takes you put to the car hire section. In terms of size it’s the largest in the States 33,531 acres to be exact. It also has some cool conspiracy theories attached to it https://www.buzzfeed.com/rickysans/the-mysterious-conspiracy-theories-surrounding-the-denver-ai?utm_term=.bc0KA1pRw#.ahzZal2Bq  but sadly I didn’t get to see any of the creepy murals.

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Two Sonambulists in The City that Never Sleeps

Shortly before setting off to the States I read an article on alleviating jetlag. They suggest adjusting to the new time zone up to two weeks in advance, waking up at the destinations morning time, eating your meals at what would equate to breakfast, lunch and dinner times in the new time zone….riiiiight….I am going to start getting up at midnight and eating breakfast at one am…and can you imagine “sure Mr Jones, I have an appointment for you at 3pm NY time see you at 9pm Thursday then…?”

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Journey to Greener Eating

Some of my friends and acquaintances have begun to express an interest in switching to a vegetarian diet. Of course I am thrilled ‘ save the animals, save the planet, heck save yourselves’ my inner voice sings. Another part of me feels this is such an important change,not only for the individual but a change with such global impact beyond the individual that it is important to be honest and balanced in providing information to those who are considering this transformation.

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Serendipity and Heaven

We woke early on the morning of the chimp trek because ideally one wants to be on the trail early, around 6am. Unlike Gorilla’s, whose sheer size and weight makes spending the night in a tree unlikely if not fatal (we heard of one Silverback who’d died falling out of a tree) the chimps build themselves nests high up in the branches and spend the afternoons in the tree tops sunning themselves, so the best time to see them closer to the ground is in the mornings when they come down to forage. We’d just got on the road when our guides Sam and Moses got a call to say the Chimp guide, a gent by the lofty name of Everest, was stuck. He’d been going to ride with another two tourists but he’d just discovered that their car had broken down the night before. We turned around immediately and about half a mile down the road we picked up Everest, Cyril and Yang.  Everest was born and raised in Rwanda, Cyril was from the States now working for a few months in Rwanda and Yang is Chinese but studying and working in the States for the last couple of years.

So we set out, 3 couples in the group, following Everest who was talking to trackers ahead. We’d come to find chimp’s in the trees but, what we didn’t expect was the sheer colour and variety of the flora and fauna that nestled beneath the tree canopy.  Brilliantly coloured fungi clung to rocks, beautiful orchids peeped between branches or nestled in valleys, butterflies flitted past while we stepped carefully around dark streams of giant ants…I felt like Alice through the looking glass, peering at one rather bold caterpillar I found myself looking for his pipe.  Everest had to plead with us “come, we need to find the chimps. Pictures later.”

 

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Rwanda: Gorilla trekking

We set out bright and early for our Gorilla trek, first congregating at the lodge for some coffee and our briefing. We were treated to a traditional dance while we downed coffee and then broke into groups. For the sake of the Gorillas parties cannot exceed 8 tourists. In our group it was ourselves, a Swedish couple,  a single American lass down in Rwanda for a wedding and just taking the gap to see the Gorilla’s and finally a beautiful Nigerian couple who sounded totally American. The conservation is very cleverly managed and contributes greatly to the welfare of the people as well as that of the Gorillas. The whopping $750 cost for the trek covers training and salaries for the trackers, rangers and porters, maintenance of the park and conservation education. They also pay a good part of it over to the government who in turn use it to build schools in the region and pay the soldiers who patrol the nature reserve.

We set out our party of 8 tourists, Bernice our guide, 3 porters and and a chap with a rifle…just in case we unintentionally frightened a buffalo. Apparently coming across a bunch of them would be fine since they would feel safe but one lone one might not and attack us. We started just outside the park in a very little village who seem to survive by selling a few curios and growing crops of wheat, fruit, vegetables and fields and fields of snowy white Pyrethrum flowers which they pick and dry to be used as insect repellant. We walked up the hill towards the stone fence marking the boundary of the park. It’s fairly steep but we have all been given a walking stick and Pierre and I soon find ourselves at the entrance.

Many fields of Pyrethrum before entering the park.

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Rwanda : no easy answers

Before this trip all I knew about Rwanda was that there had been a horrendous genocide years ago and, they had silver back gorillas. I vividly recall watching with horror the “ethnic civil war” that erupted in this beautiful country. The simplified media view at the time was ethnic tensions that had exploded….I thought to myself , how can a country or its people ever recover from this ??? Impossible!

The scale of the genocide, the way in which ordinary people,  neighbours, co workers and even friends slaughtered one another was (and remains largely) inconceivable to me. So when our guide collected us from Kigali airport around 1pm and suggested we first stop at The Memorial Remembrance and Learning Centre in Kigali I jumped at the opportunity to try to better understand what happened in 1994. http://www.kgm.rw

It’s a beautiful memorial reminiscent of the Holocaust Museum in Nuremberg in that it serves not only to show respect for those murdered but also implores us not to forget, to learn from our past atrocities. Entrance is free and they offer audio tours, books etc, the cost of which goes towards maintaining the centre and of course they welcome donations.  Interned here are the bodies of 250 000 victims of the genocide, allowing them a final resting place and those who mourn them a place to find what solace they can.  The children’s room tries to pay its respects by giving a personal face to some of the children slaughtered placing their photos above information such as name, age, favourite foods and playthings. The Memorial rightly places this atrocity in the greater context of world events and shares other acts of genocide and politicides that have occurred in history. Continue reading “Rwanda : no easy answers”

Berlin: Sony Centre, The Berlin Wall and The Tiergarten

3 days is definitely not long enough to really experience a city with as much history and as complex and cosmopolitan as Berlin but it was enough time to make me keen to go back for more. Our accommodation was perfect. We were staying in Potsdamer Platz on the 12th floor (an elevator, no stairs thank goodness!) in one of seven blocks making up the Sony Centre with its beautifully designed buildings, a mix of residential apartments and offices tower above with The Sony store; Starbucks etc below along with a plethora of pubs and restaurants their table and chairs spilling out to encircle a little fountain.   This is all enclosed with a domed roof of steel and glass, open above the buildings and on the sides but covering the centre courtyard itself. Continue reading “Berlin: Sony Centre, The Berlin Wall and The Tiergarten”

Cologne: Cathedrals and Chocolate

A 5 hour trip by train transports us from Munich to Cologne. This time our apartment was far more what I am familiar with when staying in Europe. An old building with a narrow winding staircase. Puff puff, pant pant, we lugged our luggage up, assisted by some kindly German chap who noticed us struggling to get into, as it turns out, the wrong apartment. Continue reading “Cologne: Cathedrals and Chocolate”

The English Gardens and Mullings on Munich

Saturday in Munich dawned bright and beautiful, perfect for a run through The English Gardens. Created in 1789 and with an area of 3.7 km2 it is larger than Central Park ! Continue reading “The English Gardens and Mullings on Munich”