Monday, August 25, 2014

Home is where you are loved.

Last September (21st September 2013) the terrorists in Kenya attacked and ruined my favorite shopping mall in Nairobi, several of my friends were at the mall when the attack occurred.

My parents visited me in Kenya in October and advised me, in mild but convincing tones, that it was time to come home; home meaning the U.S.A.

A very dear friend and fellow pilot left Kenya the end of 2013 and a large hole remained in my heart long after his departure.

The company that employed me in Kenya informed me that my home would have to be shared with another pilot and his young wife. This literally cut my living space in half and reduced my coveted privacy to zero.

These are but a few of the things that happened in the three months prior to my unplanned departure of the country that I thought I would never leave.  The other happenings during this time period are too unpleasant to be written at this time.

I'm  back; back in the U.S.A.

Friday, March 28, 2014

How Calistoga received it's name...

Add caption
Samuel Brannan, and early day entrepreneur, landed in San Francisco in 1846.  Brannan wanted to develop a spa north of San Francisco where the hot springs flow; similar to the Saratoga springs in New York.
The story says that during a party Samuel meant to announce, "I'll make this area the Saratoga of California!" but twitched up his words with the help of some fine local wine and instead uttered, "I'll make this area the Calistoga of Sarifornia!"   Which is how this area became known as Calistoga.
The Indian Springs Resort was opened in 1862.

….and from Wiki;
Calistoga made national headlines in 1881 when Anson Tichenor claimed that he had invented a way to extract gold from the waters of the hot springs. Tichenor's invention was soon proved to be a fraud.
In 1920, Giuseppe Musante, a soda fountain and candy store owner in Calistoga, was drilling for a cold water well at the Railway Exchange when he tapped into a hot water source. In 1924 he set up a bottling line and began selling Calistoga Sparkling Mineral Water. The company became a major player in the bottled water business after Elwood Sprenger bought the small bottling plant in 1970 known today as Calistoga water Compay.

Wine, Water and Wellness…and of course Hot Air Balloon Rides over all of this!!!  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Back in the U.S.A.

Happy the back in the USA!

I will break out my camera soon and begin taking photos of this charming little valley.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Big Five plus a few others...

I had a beautiful photo game drive this week...
 This is one of the "Cheetah Brothers" resting in the shade after a successful hunt.
 This leopard was enjoying an impala breakfast; I could see the impala fur floating out of the tree as the leopard was trying to get to the meat when I first drove up. As I watched through my camera lens the leopard looked out to see who was watching him. I love the serious expression on his face.
 Cheetah brother, the other brother, watching black flies buzz above his head. Note the very full belly.

 I love the giraffe.
This is a lion yawn. Looks like a roar doesn't it?

 It looks like this bird is an African Open Billed Stork. It looks like he's praying to the sun gods.
 Mother Rhino on left, daughter on right.
 Cape Buffalo and his ever present Red Billed Ox Peckers

Monday, April 29, 2013

iPhone withdrawal....

I traveled around Kenya for a couple of weeks.  We visited Rongo, Homa Bay, Muhoroni, Kisumu, Kericho and Nakuru.
Rongo was nice, good temperature and a lot of sugar cane being grown, although I didn't see a proper grocery store. Homa Bay is to die for gorgeous on Lake Victoria but a little too warm.  Muhoroni is pretty with sugar cane but even warmer than Homa Bay, Kisumu was stupid hot (and my iPhone was stolen there).  I fell in love with Kericho and never wanted to leave. Everything I want and need in a home exists in Kericho; lots of farm land, cooler weather, clouds, rain, grocery store, bank, hospital, beautiful trees, nice people.  Nakuru is wonderfully civilized with proper shopping, medical facilities, and an excellent coffee shop - and not too far from Kericho.
Tea Growing in Kericho
I left my iPhone plugged in and charging at the B&B we stayed at in Kisumu while we went out for dinner. As we walked out the door I took one last look at my phone in it's raspberry leather case and almost took it with me. Upon returning, the phone was gone.  The thief was kind enough to remove the paper copy of my ID card from the phone case and leave it in my suitcase.  My initial thoughts were, 'my life is in that phone'  and 'why didn't I take it with me'.   I immediately called the phone company and they blocked the sim card.  Then I changed all my passwords for my accounts.  Next was the police report and finally, buy a new phone.  I decided against another iPhone as they are way overpriced in Kenya and I bought a Samsung Galaxy III mini instead.  It does everything the iPhone did and cost less. Just as I was thinking I'm over the loss of my phone, I heard an incoming message on someone else's iPhone this morning at breakfast - I'm not over it yet.  Today I will download different ring tones and see it that helps.

Saw some lions hunting after landing the balloon near the border, a lot of lions are around lately.
Lions playing

A young male

These lizards are Agama Lizards....I call them Superman lizards. The males are bright red and purplish blue.  The females are much smaller and brown.

Oh! and my final news for the day is that our tailless warthog, Tessa, has a new baby!

Tessa's baby is a boy and he needs a name.  A few name idea's have been submitted; Henry, Gammon, Hambone, Willie and Squirt. Any idea's?  I like Squirt so far - it really fits his personality. I am trying to get him on video chasing Mr. Biggs around the yard.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Another day in paradise...

Even before my eyes are open I know that I’ve once again woken in Kenya by the sounds of the birds singing  in the trees and the deep chuckling of the hippos echoing along the river that runs along the base of the cliff my house is perched upon. The breeze is warm and moist with a hint of newly bloomed jasmine and the mangos that have been warmed in the morning sun.

I can smell the freshly brewed coffee at the very moment I hear the dark carmel brew being poured into a mug.  Rolling over under my warm blankets I open my eyes and find that I am nose to nose with a large grinning ginger cat who silently conveys his wish for a bowl of warmed milk. I don’t know how cats do that; let you know what they want without using any words at all.

The sun is shining outside, time to get up and enjoy the day.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

High Season is over, time to explore Kenya...

It's hard to believe that it is now late October, 2012.  High Season is over, the tourists are waning and the wildebeests are heading to Tanzania until next year's high season.

This was my first high season being stationed at Mara Serena full time. I flew almost non-stop and am shocked at how fast the time flew by. Last year I was the traveling pilot and moved from base to base; wherever a second balloon was needed.

This year I enjoyed the tourists the majority of the time and only had a few exceptionally annoying experiences with rude clients.  One had unreasonable expectations of the navigational abilities of a balloon and refused to believe that a balloon cannot be 'steered' back toward the Mara river.  The other client was upset at having fellow passengers of a different race on board the balloon and wrote a rude comment in my guest book.  Not bad, and I dealt with them fairly well. 'Fairly Well' meaning that I didn't toss them overboard or verbally express my utter amazement at their lack of common sense and/or social skills.

Mid October Nick and I took a break and went to Nairobi and surrounding areas. We wanted to do 'touristy' things including visiting the Giraffe Center and Karen Blixen's House. The Giraffe Center was well done and I was thrilled to be able to feed a Giraffe by hand.  Karen Blixen's house was interesting for me to see; I've read so much of her writing and am curious about how she survived/managed/endured the farming life in Kenya 100 years ago. Farming Coffee! Living so far away from her family and home, making a new life and home near Nairobi. I like that she fell in love with the land and the people and tried so hard to make it work. I admire her.
I was surprised to feel the rough dry tongue lick the food from my fingers.

This Rothschild's Giraffe will bump you if food is not offered immediately.

Standing in side yard, heading toward the coffee processing area at Karen Blixen's house.

2012 migration has been labeled at "Late".  We didn't see many wildebeests and zebra until mid August and even then, there weren't as many as last year. Last year they came full force 1st July.

Wildebeests were THICK,  it's a good thing they move aside for the balloon to land.

Lion dragging his breakfast to some shade.

Lion takes a break from dragging his wildebeest kill into the croton brush.
Toward the end of September, it looked as if the few thousand wildebeest that finally showed up in the Mara were already heading south.  On the morning of October 2nd I had a flight, I was heading toward the Tanzania border. As we flew through the cinder cones and came up over the hills we saw thousands and thousands of animals; the ground below us was solid black with wildebeests, zebra and gazelle. The migration was over three months late!  For three weeks guests watched the animals cross the Mara river daily.  Lions, cheetah, leopards, hyena, jackals and crocodile are so fat you wouldn't think they could eat one more bite. Today it looks as if they are heading back toward the rain in Tanzania, but you never rained here last night; maybe we will have them around for a few more weeks.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A beautiful day...

Daily River Crossings

Fine Dining

Close Animal Viewing

Always Something to Watch

Vultures waiting to clean up

Hyena on the look out for the Lions

They are always near by

This lioness still had blood on her face from feeding; she's looking for a cool spot to sleep the day away.

Cheetah Morning.....

Three of the four cubs chasing after Mom.  The fourth cub was way ahead of everyone, even Mom.

See Mom's eyes? She is watching the runaway cubbie while making chirping sounds calling him back.

The adventurous one heads back to the family.

The long wispy light hairs mimic the surrounding grasses; perfect camouflage.


Friday, August 3, 2012

It was an odd day today....

These were my clients on today's flight.  I may have flown a little too high.