Thursday, March 28, 2013

The ancient ruins of Great Zimbabwe

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The Hill Complex of the Great Zimbabwe ruins near Masvingo, Zimbabwe.

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Construction of Great Zimbabwe's stone buildings began in the 11th century and lasted for over 300 years.

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The Hill Complex is the oldest part of the ruins, occupied from the 9th to the 13th centuries.

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The view from one of the entrances of the Hill Complex onto the Valley where the Great Enclosure is.

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These ruins were absolutely amazing.  I was stunned and freely admit it is one of the most amazing places I've ever visited.

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After Rhodesia gained independence in 1980 from the British,
the country's name was changed to Zimbabwe and Great Zimbabwe has been adopted as a national monument.

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It is also an UNESCO world heritage site!!

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The Hill Complex was the palace.

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The walls of Great Zimbabwe are as high as over 5 meters and are constructed without mortar.
There is literally nothing adhesive on these stones.  It is amazing and awe inspiring engineering.

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It is the largest ancient structure south of the Sahara Desert and spans over 1,800 acres.

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It was believed that the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe flourished from 1200 to 1500
although the area was settled as early as the 4th century.

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In more recent colonial times, there was great controversy surrounding the ruins in the archaeological world as archaeologists were put under political pressure by the Rhodesian Government to deny that it could have been designed and built by indigenous Africans.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A wanderlust into the snows of New England

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I love Africa, but I love to travel, a lot.

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And some good old fashioned Americana recently appeased the wanderlust in me.

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A quick trip to New England to see a best friend who humored me, bringing me to Woodstock, Vermont.

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Where it snowed the entire time we visited.  Those (lucky enough?) to know me, know one thing:
Christmas, winter, and snow bring me joy.  Maybe too much joy.  Think the joy of a five year old in a toy store.  That type of joy.

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And best friend made it happen.  Gloriously in Vermont, complete with snow sculptures!

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Vermont is known for its covered bridges----in all my wandering, I'd actually never seen a covered bridge!

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And then the icing on the cake: a beautiful snow covered tree with its Christmas lights still on it.
I think I may have spontaneously combusted from the combination of all things I love and can't find in Africa.

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And how adorable is Woodstock?
National Geographic Magazine named Woodstock one of America's Most Picturesque Villages.

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It was the perfect solution to my wanderlust.  Thank you, friend.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

...and then the lions charged!

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While visiting Antelope Park in Gweru, Zimbabwe, I hung out with these beautiful lions.

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I was soooo relieved these were not the lions I walked with because there's no way I would gotten close to these guys.
Or, more correctly: any closer to these guys than I already was...and this was definitely testing my comfort level.

Especially since our introduction to them was them CHARGING to get food placed in front of us, separated by only a thin chain-link fence.
There may have been some silent holy [insert whatever you use after this, we'll be PG] moley, crap...
Check out the charge:

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It was very clear immediately who the dominate male was as he guarded the food viciously and the
other lions circled, waiting for a chance to get some food.

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I can tell you, the food did not smell remotely good.

Here's the second charge (actually the first one I witnessed)--- you can see I involuntarily move backward as they charge and someone exclaims in amazement; you literally feel your heart drop to your toes and understand immediately the fear these beasts create in everyone and everything:

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Isn't this tail just beautiful?
Glad I noticed it so I didn't accidentally step on it; I imagine that would not have gone over well with the lion 
and I don't think that chain link fence would have done very much to protect me.

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Beautiful, just beautiful.

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Even with the terror they invoke in their speed, power, and size, it is so easy to be spell bound by their beauty.

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This male lion was dominate for an extended period, fighting off anyone who came near.

Here's one of his fights then the subsequent grunting (attempted roaring?):

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Zimbabwe Votes on a New Constitution Today!

Today Zimbabweans go to the polls to vote yes and or no to a new constitution during its constitutional referendum vote.

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Constitutional referendum posters in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Some additional information on the constitutional referendum.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Walking with Lions!!

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Recently I walked with lions in Gweru, Zimbabwe!!

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That's right. You heard me. I walked with lions.

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And it was awesome.

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These beautiful 6 month old lion cubs were my company for the afternoon.

Here's how close they walk to you (I didn't zoom for the shot!):

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This makes me laugh. Of course these two Zimbabweans aren't paying attention to the lions right next to them.
They're checking their cell phones.

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Okay, I admit it.  They were adorable and playful and so cute,

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but there was a clear moment of being terrified just prior to start walking with them.

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Just like children, the cubs paused at every sound and every noise, wanting to investigate everything.

Aren't they cute:

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I got to pet them!  So cool.  I was surprised to learn their hair is course and not soft like you'd expect.

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I was very relieved to learn that we were walking with 6 month old cubs; the 23 month old (waist high!!) cubs had been retired two days prior.
For someone who's not exactly an animal person, and had to talk myself into this afternoon walk, it was a welcome turn of events.

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For more information on where I had this little adventure, check out Antelope Park!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Till my soul is full of longing for the secret of the sea, and the heart of the great ocean sends a thrilling pulse through me.

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Oh, be still my heart, why does the entire earth not look like this?

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While on a visit to Archipelago Resort in Vilanculos, Mozambique, we visited this uninhabited gem.

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with Indian Ocean water so clear, it's unbelievable.

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Benguerra Island is just so tranquil, so beautiful.

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The foot prints of my snorkeling shoes.
It seemed a pity, even to put my feet in the water,
to leave a mark about the deserted sand.

Inspiration for the blog's title:

The Secret of the Sea
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Ah! what pleasant visions haunt me
As I gaze upon the sea!
All the old romantic legends,
All my dreams, come back to me.

Sails of silk and ropes of sandal,
Such as gleam in ancient lore;
And the singing of the sailors,
And the answer from the shore!

Most of all, the Spanish ballad
Haunts me oft, and tarries long,
Of the noble Count Arnaldos
And the sailor's mystic song.

Like the long waves on a sea-beach,
Where the sand as silver shines,
With a soft, monotonous cadence,
Flow its unrhymed lyric lines:--

Telling how the Count Arnaldos,
With his hawk upon his hand,
Saw a fair and stately galley,
Steering onward to the land;--

How he heard the ancient helmsman
Chant a song so wild and clear,
That the sailing sea-bird slowly
Poised upon the mast to hear,

Till his soul was full of longing,
And he cried, with impulse strong,--
"Helmsman! for the love of heaven, 
Teach me, too, that wondrous song!"

"Wouldst thou,"--so the helmsman answered,
"Learn the secret of the sea?
Only those who brave its dangers
Comprehend its mystery!"

In each sail that skims the horizon,
In each landward-blowing breeze,
I behold that stately galley,
Hear those mournful melodies;

Till my soul is full of longing
For the secret of the sea,
And the heart of the great ocean
Sends a thrilling pulse through me.

Text of the poem borrowed from here.

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