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They were in front of us from the airport and we didn’t even notice. Several days went by and we still didn’t notice but finally we realized they were there. And it continued even more times. Plus, no one anywhere informed us that they would be in front of us.  Finally a clue surfaced that made us suspect what was going on because it didn’t look normal.

We were following a plain car in front of us and when it turned right, we turned right. And when it turned left, we turned left. And this happened over and over and that’s when we started asking questions of our first guide SiDi. “Is that car leading us around Algiers,” we asked and he replied, “Yes. And then I asked, “Why?” And he replied “They want to make sure you are safe during this brief presidential situation and to get us through traffic jams.
So with that knowledge, we learned we would be escorted around Algiers, Algeria everywhere we went from daylight to dark. And we were. And we began to like it and to enjoy the good looking Algerian policemen who were protecting us for our visit as a tourist everywhere we went in Algeria. Each time they began to escort us, they came and told us “Hello.”
Plus they would start out each day discussing with Yazid, our driver, where we were going and what route we would take because the policemen sometimes had a different route than Yazid did because of traffic safety. So we followed them where they took us and we thanked every one of them for their service several times each day.
If we wanted to buy a souvenir of Algeria, Billel, our second guide, told the police. The next thing we knew, we were at a souvenir shop and the policemen even came in the shop and helped us find just the turbo head wrap and began to show us how to wrap it around the head until the shop keeper, Smati, finished the wrap on our guide’s head. It fit Billel just right so I bought it as my first souvenir.

If our tour called for a visit to the outstanding Mosaic Museum or Archeological Museum or ancient ruins from the Phoenicians, Romans, Turkey, Byzantine, Arab, Spain, French and Berber periods that have occupied Algeria since B.C. times, our police escort was there ready to lead us through the city. And then the police escort waited for us until we left the exhibit and then escorted us to the next place on our itinerary.

When we stopped for lunch, the police escort stopped for lunch in the same restaurant where we were eating. We ate at our own table with our guide, Billel. Sometimes, the police escort changed shifts at lunch time so we had different police escorts after lunch. And when we went from city to city, the escort policemen changed. Each Algerian state we were in or passed through provided us a police or military escort in their state.

A customer showed me the 18″ high wooded “V” shaped container from which they eat a traditional food called Zviti. It is called a Mehraz. The police are at the table behind us.

So we drove through several states, from Cherchell, Tipaza, Annaba, Constantine, Timgad, Lambaesis, to Batna, and Bou Saada and we pulled over to the side of the road and there was a policemen  or a military policeman waiting to take us on our journey through their state. We had policemen on motorcycle, in an SUV for police or a olive-colored pick-up that the military police used to guard us. Some vehicles were marked police and some were unmarked.

Several times in our escorted journey, the police escort encountered traffic jams and some vehicles traveling in convoy formation. So when the police escort saw there was no way to get us through the bottle neck, they put on the flashing lights and the siren to tell motorists we were coming through.

And the drivers moved to the side of the road, allowing our van to proceed. And every time, a policeman in the passenger side had his arm out the window to direct traffic as we passed through.  It told the drivers something else was following him.

This was our van the police escorted for the entire time we were in Algeria.

This is our van that the police escorted for the 10 days we were in Algeria.

And several times, we had a police escort at the front and back of us when there was a lot of congestion. One time, a stretch of 2-lane highway was so clogged with traffic that we had 2 police cars leading us and one following. Watching them maneuver around the traffic was the work of artists and professionals. One police car was 5-6 cars ahead of us and our police escort. When it was time to do the pass maneuver and the way was clear, the lead car would pull out into the opposing lane with lights flashing and siren sounding. Then our police escort would follow with our van and the rear escort following. They performed this maneuver when there was room enough for vehicles to move to the side of the road.

And the policeman in the passenger seat had his right arm out the window directing traffic and signaling someone was following him. Vehicles moved to the shoulder and everything each time went perfect with no problems.  It was so artistic watching the maneuver like a well rehearsed dance, but watching it also was nerve racking and suspenseful for we had never seen or experienced anything like it.

Our guide SiDi told us that the policemen escorting us are educated and trained to be escorts and they certainly have learned their training well for their excellent performance for the 10 days we were in Algeria. So when we went back to the airport to catch our next flight to Mauritania, there was the police escort for our final ride and a salute to us. And we saluted them and the Algerian government in each state for all the great work they did for us. This time, we knew they were leading and following us.

Photo Copy © 2018 carolyntravels.com

As we went from Algerian city to city, we enjoyed the beautiful landscape and different colored and types of flowers.

We also saw the storks in their nests all along the northern part of Algeria. Every year the male and female meet in nests all over Africa and then fly to the northern countries in Europe to hatch their babies in their nests there. In all locations, places for the storks to nest are provided for them because it is believed that they bring good luck.

On our last day in Algeria, we saw this scenery and thought it was a peaceful and wonderful end to an awesome visit in Algeria, a country loaded with antiquities from BC time.

The first indication we had of what was to come was driving down the highway and noticing sand being blown on the road in stripes and then a white out. And it continued and continued making us realize we couldn’t do anything outside or we would be bombarded by sand in a strong wind. And we were.

In one hotel, June just couldn’t stand the sand anymore because the floor and bathroom were covered in sand. So she requested a broom, mop and dustpan from the hotel and began to clean. But When Mohamed saw her cleaning, he took the broom from her hands and started sweeping the entire room. She asked him where he placed the pile of sand he got from the room and he replied “behind the toilet.” We both died laughing.

Mohamed showed we how to wrap the turban so sand won’t get into any holes or crevices.

We had sand in every crevice or crack or bend or hole in our body. Everywhere we walked, we walked on sand and sat on sand and ate sand and any other thing you could do with sand. It made us respect the camel more because it had eyes, a nose and ears that could be closed in a sand storm. Closing ours didn’t help. They still had sand in them.

We had sand everywhere. And it lasted for the 4 days June and I were in the Sahara Desert of Mauritania following a caravan route in a pickup truck.

In that truck was our guide and driver, Mohamed, our cook, Mounir (Moo-near) and June and I. We were following a caravan route in northern Mauritania because I could not walk for the 44 days that a normal walking caravan takes with camels. Instead of camels carrying supplies, our truck was packed with food, water and our luggage and any other thing we needed for 4 days for the mini caravan. Our custom designed mini-caravan had us staying in the best available hotels possible in the villages closest to the caravan route instead of staying with nomads and in tents.

These hotels did not serve food or provide anything except a plain room with toilet facilities. They were basic and they worked for us. But they didn’t provide any food so Mounir and Mohamed unloaded our food supplies from the truck and spread a fabric cover on the floor of our room and provided us a meal, picnic style. We had mixed vegetables from cans sometimes with tuna fish and olives and dates and a long loaf of uncovered bread from the market that he bought out of a wheelbarrow that probably was covered with sand.

So half way to our final destination, we stopped at a hotel of bungalows with a bed and natural toilet inside. And inside that room, Mounir fixed our first meal. Mounir wanted to cook meat inside our room but I told him I could not breathe smoke or any pollutants. She he cooked outside on a small portable cooker and bought a chicken for us at the local market. It was meaty and delicious and so were the mixed vegetables from cans.

On this day, we were going to see the Oasis in the desert. So, I figured it would be a short ride to get to it. I had seen one oasis city in the desert in United Arab Emirates so I was looking forward to seeing this one.

Mohamed found a little path and turned onto it from the paved highway into the Sahara Desert and headed toward the Oasis. We were following a caravan trail and the ride was smooth, bumpy, enjoyable and adventurous. We were amazed that trees and bushes and shrubs were in the desert and they were living. Mohamed and Mounir both agreed it was normal for a desert to have some greenery.

The caravan route was not straight, and we turned right and left many times. And every turn was a different and beautiful scene. One turn we made, we came upon the oasis. There was a pond of water in the middle of nowhere that was about 50 feet long and 20 feet wide. And sitting beside it were 6 cows. I was shocked and amazed that a desert would have cows deep inside it. We also saw several camels as we progressed along the way.

But to my amazement, this was not the oasis we were going to see. So we continued on the trail and on and on. We saw huts and little villages as we proceeded deeper into the Sahara Desert. People actually lived in the desert and seem to be surviving just fine. I never dreamed people could live in the desert. But now I know they can.

We were into the Sahara Desert for almost an hour and a half now and finally we began to ask “Are we there yet?” And finally, Mohamed indicated we were near. But we kept driving and driving through villages and trees. Finally we parked after 2 hours of driving in the sand and we walked up to the oasis. And we walked and we climbed up the hill and the terrain was natural and not a smooth sidewalk. I was so tired from the day before that I could barely make the climb.

But with the help of Mohamed and Mounir, I finally made it to the oasis. It was a wall of different layers of dirt/rock/sand with water drops falling down into the stream below. It was a silent beauty. A large fabric cover was on the ground for us to rest on and to have a picnic. So Mohamed and Mounir brought up our food supplies from the truck and prepared our dish of mixed vegetables from various cans. It tasted good as we rested from the long bumpy ride through the Sahara Desert.

It was so relaxing to watch the drops of water quietly fall into the stream below and to wonder in amazement how this could exist in the middle of a dry desert. And it was refreshing to just see water and learn that this can and does exist in the Sahara Desert. But the enjoyment and rest soon ended.

We made it back down the hill to the truck and continued driving/riding further into the desert. I was getting real thirsty after another long drive so I took a bottle of water and began to drink it.  And just then, Mohamed stopped the truck that was bumping, and rocking and rolling along the desert path so I could drink without spilling the water or cutting my lip on the container. Oh, the water tasted so good and I finally finished so we could proceed further into the Sahara Desert.

But there was one problem.  The truck wouldn’t move because it was stuck in the sand. And we were in the middle of nowhere. And I didn’t know if anyone knew where we were. I quietly became worried if we would ever be found as Mohamed and Mounir tried to get us unstuck.  First, they tried digging out the sand from the front wheels. That didn’t work. Then they tried putting bark and limbs from nearby trees under the tires and that didn’t work. Then they tried letting air out of the tires and that didn’t work. Then they tried digging out more sand and rocking the vehicle back and forth. Nothing worked. Thirty minutes had passed as they tried endlessly to get the truck unstuck.

Then, they tried everything they tried before and added Mounir‘s pushing power and the truck slowly began to move and we slowly became unstuck and moving again. June and I thanked them and thanked them for successfully getting us unstuck. So then we headed straight to a car repair shop in a small village in the desert where we could get air to refill the tires. It was a glorious moment when we were back safe and sound and moving again.

 

Mounir went to local markets when they were available several times to buy meat for our meals. He wore his bou-bou (boo-boo) men’s traditional attire.

 

These 2 girls watched us the entire time we were having air put back in our tires at the auto repair shop in the desert.

And we were back on the paved highway on the way to our hotel nearby and the wind was blowing and streaks of sand blew again. And we were reliving the unbelievable experience we just had at an oasis and getting stuck in the Sahara Desert as we followed a caravan route. We never had food poisoning or any problems. And Mohamed and Mounir never spoke a word of our language and we never spoke a word of their language. We used the charade method until I remembered the Translate app on my iPhone. And when Mohamed heard our question in his language, he celebrated with joy. And we did also. Priceless.

For A Caravan in the Sahara Desert contact La Phare Du Desert, Mauritanie assistance, Mauritanie-Maroc-Senegal-Mali, +222 46 44 24 21 http://www.desertmauritanie.com  email info@desertmauritanie.com

Photo Copy © 2019 carolyntravels.com

     

Sharon and I decided to try it but we had no idea what it was like.  We soon learned. We screamed all the way down the hill because it was so exciting and scary and exhilarating and unique all at the same time.

It was a ride like no other we had ever done. And we had never visited the island either. The sleigh/sledge/toboggan/sled/car ride we decided to get on was on Maderia Island and it was waiting for a customer so we climbed right in. The sledge was a handmade wicker sofa basket made especially to sit on top of the sledge’s 2 runners. So we climbed into the basket seat with the help of our 2 drivers who would keep the sleigh on track from the top of the hill down 1.24 miles or 2 KM.

We had no seat belts, no rules or regulations to follow, no warnings to follow like keep the feet and arms inside the basket, no wheels, no engine, no emergency rules, nothing. We just had 2 male drivers, dressed all in white and a bowler straw hat, who were masters in driving the sled.

Our guide told us it would take about 10 minutes to complete the ride but it seemed like it took an hour. We started off just fine sliding straight down the hill and thought it would be a simple ride, but we were screaming and laughing and going 30 mph/48 KM all the way down because it was so fast.

All was normal until we came to a curve. And that is when we started sliding through the curve sideways going 30 mph/48 KM. And the screams became louder and longer. As the sliding occurred at my side, I knew the sleigh was out of control and we were in danger. I even thought we would turn over or crash into the wall. It became a bare knuckles ride that was out of control.

We could see all the way down the steep hill to Funchal as we went through this beautiful neighborhood of homes.

But what I didn’t know was that the 2 drivers had control of the sleigh. It’s just that I thought they didn’t.  I began to learn that each driver had control of the sled with a rope and their feet. The 2 men wore special leather booths with tire tread soles made especially for them so they could control the sledge by traction. And the 2 ropes were attached to the front of the sled, one on each side, that helped them control the angle of the sled from all sides as it went down the road. When the sleigh was in control, the drivers rode behind us on the runners, using their feet to make us go right, left or straight.

We didn’t slide down a dedicated tract.  No. We slid down a public road that cars drive on. And the road was shiny smooth and slick from the many times a sled has gone down the hill. At one intersection in the road, a man holding a stop side, had several cars waiting behind him for us to pass.

One time, we had to stop and move to the side of the road so a car could pass us. And to get us going again, the 2 men moved from the back of the sled to the front to pull the ropes. Then, as we started going fast again, they quickly moved to the back so they could move the toboggan to the right, left or straight to keep us on the road. And we were screaming all the time.

We later learned the drivers oiled the soft eucalyptus wood runners so they would slide easier and faster when we were stopped to let the car pass by. Then we wondered how the drivers could get traction with oil all over the road from the oiled runners. And how could the cars driving on the slick road keep from sliding down also.

We slid sideways curve after curve and curve. I nearly fell out of the basket and then Sharon nearly fell out because we were going so fast. But we didn’t. We just thought we were going to fall because the speed around the curve seemed so fast. But the men had control of the sledge and we proceeded just fine every time. But, we screamed even louder.

The sleds were coming one at a time fast after we made it to the souvenir stand.

The ride was fairly smooth. When we did come to a bump, it wasn’t a jarring hard bump. We assumed it was because of the soft eucalyptus wood the runners were riding on and they had to be changed often as the street wore them up.

The ride ended when the drivers veered the sled off to the left by pulling on the ropes from the back and dragging their feet, landing right in front of the Toboggan Souvenir Shop and Refreshments area and the man holding the photos of us taken along the way. We just had to buy the $10 photo of us screaming with hair blowing as we went down the road and a t-shirt at the souvenir shop, for we didn’t want to ever forget that exhilarating ride in Maderia.

Writer Ernest Hemingway took the ride and described the experience as one of the most hilarious in his life. We agree with his analysis.

We wondered how this ride ever was invented so we asked Delores, our guide for the tour of Maderia. Mr. Gordon, she said, used to walk down the hill every day to work. He kept noticing the sled delivering supplies down the hill that was pulled by 2 oxen. So he reasoned, it he could make it like a sleigh, he would get to work real fast.

In 1850, he began to ride to work after having a wicker basket sofa designed and attached to the sleigh runners. And he rode from the village of Monte to the Maderia capital city of Funchal in record time. Others noticed his sleigh and the ride became popular with natives and tourists alike.

Where is Maderia Island you wonder? It is a Portuguese island located in the Atlantic Ocean just off the west coast of Africa, about 300 miles from Morocco. It has become a popular tourist destination with all seasons being a great time to visit. It is often referred to as “the island of eternal spring” since the climate is outstanding.

No other place in the world has this kind of ride and Maderia is known as one of the 7 most unique commuter rides in the world. And we screamed and laughed all the way down on the wildest ride of our lives.

  Photo Copy © 2019 carolyntravels.com                                                        

 

Winston was waiting for us in the corner of his exhibit with his female partner, son Monroe and other family members behind him because Winston is the dominant silverback lowland gorilla at the World Famous San Diego Zoo Safari Park (SDZ Safari Park). Fernando, an anteater, just awoke from a nap and Zinvvhi (ZenVee), a giraffe, was waiting on us too. The one thing they all had in common was food. Each one clearly loved their cuisine.IMG_2275 (1) Winston gorilla 2018

For Winston, age 48 and 600 pounds, lunch included a large whole green squash. Clutching the squash in his huge plastic-like polished leather right hand, he eagerly stuck it in his big pink mouth and chomped it in half. Several chews later, he finished off the other half. Next was a huge carrot which he finished in two bites.

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The gorillas and orangutans just love these treats and they have to find them wherever they are given to them.

After several rounds of mixed whole vegetables, it was time for the grand finale, corn. It obviously was his favorite as he loudly smacked and chewed and smacked till it was gone. He hit the wall with his big right hand telling his keeper, Mandi, he wanted more corn and she gave him another corn on the cob. As he took his first bite, young Monroe could no longer maintain his composure and suddenly lunged to grab Winston’s corn. Winston lunged back at him.

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Mandi showed us one of the gorillas bedrooms. And the keepers keep it nice and clean for them so they can relax and sleep. The bedrooms are connected and the gorillas choose who they want to sleep with each day.

Winston was hitting the wall again wanting more corn. And when we left, Winston was smacking loudly eating more corn. The other seven members of the gorilla troop watched, waiting patiently for Winston to finish so they could eat their lunch at the eating station.

The San Diego Zoo in San Diego, California USA  has four Orangutans who are known as the clowns of the apes. They will keep you laughing at their funny antics.DSC_0095 Our visit coincided with their afternoon snack time. Each day, volunteers take the snacks and put them in different objects so the orangutans experience different ways of extracting food from various objects that Tanya gives them.

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Karen was peeking through a glass wall to look at the people looking at her. A glasss wall has to separate them because orangutans can get any illness a human has. So, the glass viewing wall keeps the orangutans well.

Clever and smart, orangutans quickly figure out how to get the snack from an object. Watching the discovery process is great entertainment for the zoo guests.DSC_0013

One treat was encased in a round plastic ball with several holes and each hole stuffed with excelsior. To get to the snack, each orangutan had to pull the excelsior from the ball to find the treat. It was so much fun watching each one figure out how to get to the treat of in-shell peanuts.

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Aisha, the youngest orangutan, is learning to hunt the treats.

And then watching their plastic-like polished leather hands peel the shell from the peanut and put the nut in their big pink mouth was both intriguing and fun to watch. They all were just so precious.

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Karen had finished her snack when she started rolling over and over for the guests.

Then there was Fernando, an anteater from a South America Rain Forest, who lives at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. DSC_0296.jpgDSC_0289At 10 am, Fernando had just awakened from his nap and was ready to eat. So, with a bowl of soupy tan liquid with tiny pellets in the bottom, Fernando began to slurp and slurp and slurp the liquid and suck the pellets into his mouth the same way he would slurp up ants. His tiny mouth and long skinny tongue are perfectly designed for sucking up ants, his favorite food.DSC_0290

Fernando is an “Ambassador Animal” at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. He goes around with his keeper, Ryane, for guests to pet him and learn about anteaters on an up-close-and-personal basis. He obviously loves being petted by guests.DSC_0287

Another Ambassador is Milo, a Kinkakou, a native mammal of the South American Rain Forest. His thick, short dark brown hair made him look like a live fur collar on Ryane. Goldie, a male Cockatoo, was ready to show us his tricks. Goldie is very smart and loves the attention he gets being an Ambassador. Some of his tricks included hollering like a hawk, swinging upside down and fluffing his head feathers like he is mad.DSC_0318

Zimvvhi, a giraffe, had a baby just two days before we met her. During our tour of the 1800-acre Safari Park, Zimvvhi came up to our Caravan Safari truck seeking a treat. And of course, we just happened to have her favorite leaves.DSC_0444

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Kinvvhi’s 2-day old baby

Her best friend, Mara, approached us, wanting to join Zimvvhi’s party. We loved watching their long dark tongues wrap around the long skinny leaves we were giving them. It was exactly like giraffe’s eat in the wild from Africa’s Acacia tree. And each person on the Caravan Safari gave them more and more.DSC_0561 - Copy

As we fed Mara, we spotted Kacy with her new Rhino baby, Justin, the 97th Southern White Rhino baby born at the SDZ Safari Park. Two other female Rhinos are pregnant and due in July, making the 98 and 99th baby Rhinos born at the SDZ Safari Park.DSC_0600.JPG

Rachel, our guide for the Caravan Safari, said when babies are born at a zoo or animal park it means the animals are happy and comfortable there. When no babies are born, something is wrong. The Safari Park is using in vitro fertilization to produce the almost extinct Northern White Rhinos.DSC_0605

The Safari Park’s terrain closely resembles some areas of the bush in Africa. Our very popular Caravan Safari truck came upon Maoto, a Southern White Rhinoceros, who also wanted a snack. Each person on the truck gave Maoto his most favorite leaf snack. How thrilling it was to be so close to a dangerous wild animal and have our photo taken while feeding him!

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L to R Barbara, Sharon and Rachel showed us some of the snacks we could choose. In the background is our Safari Caravan truck we rode in all over the Safari Park. It was like we were on an African Safari. Caravan Safaris offered are 2 hours or 3 1/2 hours.

And then a surprise happened just like on an African Safari. We stopped for OUR snack and restroom break half-way through the 3½-hour tour. Waiting for us right in the middle of the wild open land was a portable potty made private by a bamboo fence, and a short walk away, a covered patio with table and chairs. At the serving table displayed three large trays of all kinds of snacks, vitamin drinks and water served to us by Rachel, our guide, and Barbara, our truck driver. We were as delighted as the animals we had just visited to get OUR snacks and potty break.DSC_0486DSC_0525

Refreshed, our Caravan Safari truck came upon a herd of Somali Wild Asses, including a barely dry baby born that morning. So cute. A camel was accompanying them.

Next, we saw a Black Rhinoceros which had just arrived from Florida that morning. A Roan Antelope’s new baby was hiding motionless in the grass just like they do in the wild, to be safe while Mother is away eating grass. And we saw a beautiful Kudu with big antlers.DSC_0508DSC_0535

As we toured the big park, we learned that 9,000 pounds of food is fed to all animals per day at the Safari Park. The San Diego Zoo and Safari Park have 750,000 plants and 197 species of birds, with over a thousand specimens available for viewing. Mammals total 138 species, with 1728 specimens on view. Reptile Amphibians number 16 species with 40 specimens on view.

The 100-acre San Diego Zoo in San Diego, California and 1800 acre SDZ Safari Park in Escondido, California, 35 miles north of the Zoo, contain more than 4,000 different animals.DSC_0338

Another beautiful experience was The Bird Show at the Safari Park where we were able to see some of those bird species. Jenn, the MC and keeper of the birds, just loved those in the show and each one was presented with its attributes. We got to enjoy Gazzy, an East African Crown Crane, who flew over our heads to another keeper who had a snack. And then Gazzy flew back to another keeper and then to its perch.DSC_0347

Then, all of a sudden, a Red River Hog from Africa named Rudy, walked from one end of the stage to the other and didn’t say a word. He was so cute, colorful and so funny that everyone laughed. He made several trips back and forth on the stage and stole the show. Then a huge owl flew over our heads to a keeper with a snack and back to another keeper with one.DSC_0355

Next, it was Nelson’s turn to fly over our heads and fly he did. He was so fast, if we blinked, we missed him. Nelson, a Falcon, is known as the fastest bird in the world. And he presented a show for us to see his attributes and abilities.DSC_0401

The final bird at the Bird Show was the Secretary Bird, Aren. He was so beautiful and colorful and large. We learned why the bird is called a Secretary bird because the person who named him many years ago in Africa said “he walks like my secretary.” So, the bird was named the Secretary bird for her strutting walk. And Aren is a perfect Secretary bird.

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Twelve guests from the audience volunteered to line up side by side and hold out their arms with hands in a knot while this Hornbill walked from one person to the other. Sharon did a good job letting the hornbill pass over her arms twice.

We couldn’t leave the Safari Park without seeing the Lemurs from Madagascar at the Safari Park. DSC_0226The Ring-tail Lemurs were sunbathing themselves with their arms straight out to make sure every inch received sun. DSC_0232 Lemur 2019And this Coquerel’s Sifakas Lemur was viewing the entire area and seeing what was happening while doing a little sunbathing.

We left the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park loving each one we had a personal encounter with and agreed to return to the world’s best zoo again and again for there were hundreds more animals for us to meet. And when we left Winston, was hitting the wall again wanting more corn-on-the-cob and Monroe was still trying to grab it from him.

Photo Copy © 2019 carolyntravels.com

DSC_0241 pinl orchard 2019DSC_0394Carolyn at the Zoo 2019

When we began watching at 5 a.m., our ship was already moving slow and easy. It was windy and cold and that woke us up to see the event we had never experienced. Lights were bright and beautiful on both sides in the dark.

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This area was the first thing we saw as we began our watch at 5 a.m.

 

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Our ship, the Seabourn Ovation, as it slowly moved into the wide Suez Canal.

But, thirty minutes later, we couldn’t see a thing. It was total white out.DSC_0311 The white out continued for several hours and we didn’t think it would ever end or we would ever get to enjoy the experience we had wanted to do for a lifetime.

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We were able to see this marker in the Canal but that was all.

The white out was fog/smog/pollution and we watched our ship sail right into it as the white out covered the entire area. It was scary going into total white out because we couldn’t see where we were or get any idea of what was going on around us. We didn’t know where we were but Capitan Betten and that Suez Canal pilot on board did. Several times the Seabourn Ovation had to blow it’s horn to warn other ships of it’s position so others wouldn’t hit us during this total white out.DSC_0304

Then the white out started to slowly disappear and a sliver of our dream we thought could come true. Finally, 2 hours later, there was a beautiful blue sky, bright sun and the water appeared.DSC_0271DSC_0266

We could see our dream come true as we were transiting the Suez Canal that goes through Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea with Captain Stig Betten of Norway at the helm. But it looked like a river it was so wide (673 feet wide/205 meters).

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Capitan Sig Betten has been a captain most of his life. The glass window below shows him what is going on in the water below.

The sights and sounds of the Canal were enjoyable for the entire 120 miles through Egypt like: the call to prayer for the Muslims, a train moving down its track, a pickup truck full of workers waving and hollering at us as they passed, military outposts along the Canal, lights shining brightly through the windows of the houses in the villages,DSC_0360

DSC_0332people going about their daily chores, DSC_0335

DSC_0279.JPGchildren playing, fishermen fishing from their tiny boat close to us, a ferry carrying vehicles across the canal, and a crane worker moving sand from the Sinai Desert into a dump truck.DSC_0343DSC_0340

Due to the design of the Canal, the Seabourn Ovation had to arrive at the entrance in the Mediterranean Sea by 11p.m.the night before our transit. “When we arrived, the Suez Canal Authority told us where we could anchor and wait with all the other vessels scheduled to transit southbound with us. A group at a time goes through the Canal in convoy northbound or southbound as the Canal has one lane, then 2 lanes, then one lane and the Canal traffic cannot meet when there is only one lane,” Captain Betten explained.

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Seabourn Ovation could only go 8.6 knots speed limit for the entire 120 mile length of the Canal or be fined a hefty fee because vessels cannot meet at the one-lane sections of the Canal. And for the right to transit the Suez, ships must pay depending on the size and number of guests on board,” Captain Betten said.

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Watching our every move through the Canal was Capitan Betten and several of his first offices and the Suez Canal pilots when on board.

In 2014, a second lane was added over the central 45 mile section of the Canal. “It was severely challenging with only one lane,” the Captain complained. As a result, wider vessels can transit and the number of ships increased from 49 to 97. The expansion also reduces the transit time. It used to take the Seabourn Ovation 16-18 hours. Now, with the new improvements, it takes only 12 hours.

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We followed this container ship through the Canal and there were at least 5 ships a head of us in convoy going southbound. We saw mostly container and cargo ships in our transit.

When the Seabourn Ovation began the transit through the Canal, Captain Betten was in the bridge almost 24 hours supervising all the procedures and formalities necessary to go through the Canal. “Correct documents had to be presented and approved and if they were not, the transit would be delayed until all had met the Egyptian rules and regulations, many of which are still performed the same way as many years ago,” the captain explained.

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We are going southbound and the container ship is going northbound on the new 2-way 45-mile section of the Suez in the sand.

Seabourn Ovation took 3 Suez pilots onboard who knew the route through the Canal. “These pilots may and may not take control of the ship but the Captain is always responsible, and has absolute authority on the ship every minute. They advised our officers at the helm how to con (drive) the ship through the Canal,” Captain Bitten pointed out.

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The ship in front of us is turning left into one of the 8 major bends in the Canal. The Suez goes through 4 lakes.

The first pilot came from outside the Canal about 3:30 a.m. When he left, another pilot took the ship through Port Said and into the Canal until 10 p.m., and when he finished, a third pilot took the ship from 10 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. when it exited the Suez Canal. And when the pilot left, the Seabourn Ovation was then free to proceed on.

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Sharon took this photo of me as the container ship passed in the other lane going north while our Seabourn Ovation was going south.

Built in 1869, the Suez Canal is a sea-level waterway running north-south across the Isthmus of Suez. It is an open-cut, and, through extensive straight lengths occur, there are eight major bends. The Canal connects 4 lakes to make the Canal: Lake Manzala, Lake Timsah, Great Bitter Lake, and Little Bitter Lake. It is 79 feet deep/24 meters and 120 miles long/193.30 km.

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When we exited the Suez Canal, we counted 7 different ships waiting to transit north.

Comparing the Panama Canal and the Suez Canal is like two opposites. The Panama is controlled with locks, is organized, has tug boats to help guide each ship, has “mule” machines that pull a ship through the canal, and has pilots who take absolute control of the ship by conning the ship through the Canal. It is 48 miles long (77.1km) and locks are 110 feet wide and 1050 feet long in the original Canal. When through the last lock, the pilot releases the ship to proceed on its own. Both Canals collect billions of US dollars each year and the revenue has increased since the addition of the second Canal built parallel to the original Canal.

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Sharon and I were invited to the bridge to meet and interview Capitan Betten after we had exited the Suez Canal.

When we began watching the Seabourn Ovation at 5 a.m. go through the Suez Canal, we only could see for 30 minutes and then it was solid white and the ship was blowing its horn to show its location. But a few hours later, we were blowing our horn in total celebration of finally getting to transit it, for the experience was another outstanding one for us and our travels in this magnificent world. DSC_0306Photo Copy © 2018 carolyntravels.com Photo Copy © 2018 carolyntravels.com DSC_0252 Continue Reading »

We had just looked out the window and there they were, moving fast towards our ship and our balcony. “They don’t all look Polynesian like the other people we had seen,” Sharon and I said, as we had been to the Tahitian and Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific.IMG_4552 (1) Then, we saw them stopped next to our ship. And the next thing we knew, they were on our ship, all 33 of them. We knew who they were so we were not worried, but we had never seen or met them. IMG_4597These visitors were the Seventh generation of the 7 mutineers of the Bounty, plus wives and friends. The Bounty was a small armed British merchant ship of the Royal Navy that was on a botanical mission when the mutiny occurred. And that mission was to go to Tahiti and collect breadfruit plants and seeds and take them to the British islands in the West Indies for food for the islanders.

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There are no places to dock on this volcanic island except for small boat.

These visitors had left their island for a morning with us and to sell us their many handmade items and island products on the Crystal Symphony cruise ship. The waters were too treacherous for our ship to stop and it took several attempts and areas before we could successfully anchor hundreds of feet/meters away.

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We even received a stamp in our passport showing we had been admitted to Pitcairn Island and visited with its wonderful inhabitants.

And we couldn’t have docked on the island anyway because the island didn’t have a dock except for a tiny landing spot for a small boat. So, the islanders and the ship created a method by which each could meet and greet each other.
IMG_4557 (1)These visitors were from Pitcairn Island, an isolated British Overseas Territory in the eastern South Pacific, a bit larger than Monaco. It is located half way between Panama and New Zealand and the 7 mutineers and 41 others on the Bounty in January 1790 selected this 18 square mile (47 km) small volcanic mountain sitting alone in the ocean with treacherous and dangerous waters surrounding it.

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All the residents of Pitcairn Island posed for this photo

Thus, this was the reason the mutineers, under the leadership of Captain Fletcher Christian, chose this island on which to land and live.
It also, was in the wrong location on the British maps so Captain Christian knew they would never be discovered by the British. For when the British found them, they would be taken back to England and punished for the mutiny. The British finally found them in February 1808 and the mutineers had died by then.

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The Postmaster, Dennis Christian, the 7th generation of Fletcher Christian, Capitan of the Bounty and the mutineers. He has lived on Pitcairn Island all of his life.

And so, the 7th generation mutineers, along with Dennis Christian, descendant of Fletcher Christian, came to visit with us as we purchased their items in the small market they set up around the ship’s pool with Pitcairn Island visible from all angles. And while they were setting up the market, Melva Evans, Director of Tourism on Pitcairn Island, talked to us in the ship’s conference room about living on an isolated island in the South Pacific. Besides, selling Pitcairn to the outside world, she takes care of her 90-year-old Mother, a native of Pitcairn Island.
DSC_0303Evans began by telling us in 2016, Pitcairn was named a Marine Protective Ecosystem and the largest marine reserve in the world because it is pristine and almost untouched. And then she began to tick off item after item to explain what it is like to live on Pitcairn:
*●All residents of Pitcairn are Seventh Day Adventist
*●Whales come around the island May to November
●Residents have located the Bounty’s anchor and ballast and house them in the Bounty Museum
DSC_0257●The island has great fishing and every year on January 23 “Bounty Day”, the residents catch fish and have a fish fry in honor of the Bounty landing on Pitcairn. Plus, they build and watch a replica of the Bounty burn in Bounty Bay until it all disappears into the ocean just like they did when they came to Pitcairn. When the mutineers landed on Pitcairn, they unloaded everything from the Bounty and then set it on fire until it disappeared in the ocean so the British would not find them.
●All plants and animals on Pitcairn are endangered except Miss T, a Galapagos tortoise who loves everyone.
DSC_0150●When the mutineers arrived, they brought breadfruit plants and seeds with them for planting. Now they make everything with it. The mission of the Bounty was to collect breadfruit seeds and plants in Tahiti and take them to the West Indies for the people to plant.
DSC_0232●The names/areas of the villages are named after the mutineers
●Anyone who wants to live in Pitcairn is given land for a house and garden.
DSC_0130DSC_0123DSC_0132●When the mutineers arrived at Pitcairn, they immediately set up a village, complete with church, police, community center, school, medical center, post office and now internet office. The government treasurer is the bank
DSC_0162 - Copy●All residents of the island help with the sugar cane harvest and they work with the arrow root. They gather at the Community Center and make an assembly line.
DSC_0255●To celebrate Christmas, the villagers cut a tree and take it to the town square where each person decorates it with a can of food or food item, and then they have a meal using the different foods from the tree.
●Three generators provide electricity 6 am to 10 pm. and are looking into wind generators and solar panels.
●A monthly newsletter is published online or can be sent by snail mail 4 times a year for $40.
IMG_0078●Honey is produced on the island and is certified the purest in the world because there are not many pollutants there.
DSC_0137●Minor medical problems are handled on the island where residents only pay for some medications to the Doctor/Clinic. But major problems are handled in Mangareva Island, 355 miles away by boat.

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Sharon and I found several treasures from the islanders, from handmade jewelry, stamps, a handmade copy of the Bounty, wood carved items, to T-Shirts of all kinds, honey and honey soap.

●The economy is individual or family. Arts N Crafts, and government is the main source of income for the islanders.
●Islanders do not make much money so taxes are low.
●To get products, the residents order online to New Zealand and a boat arrives every 3 months with the products.
DSC_0262●Their source of water is rain and 4-5 tanks are at each house to catch that rain water.
●Around Pitcairn, there are very few sharks.

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As we shopped, we could see Pitcairn Island out the window.

●To get to Pitcairn, one must fly to Tahiti, then to Mangareva Island and then take a boat 355 miles to Pitcairn. The journey takes 30 hours and 2 nights and 1 day.
●Those wanting additional education go to New Zealand. Basic schooling is provided in a one-room school house on Pitcairn where 3 different levels of learning are offered.
DSC_0250●Meat is imported from New Zealand, but Pitcairn has goats which are pinned.
●The island does not suffer from typhoons.
●The Postmaster, Dennis Christian, does not collect taxes as income is so low
DSC_0294After the slide show and speech, it was shopping time and we all had fun getting something from Pitcairn Island.
Then it was time for them to say good bye and they did it in a grand way. DSC_0319DSC_0323All of them came to the ship’s lobby and sang their Good-Bye song for us and then returned to their awaiting long boat full of new items, less souvenirs and more cash. And then as they rode out of sight just like they came in, we waved good-bye and they waved good by and it was a win-win visit for all of us. DSC_0364And again, we looked out our window to watch them disappear to their most isolated island on Earth. And we were happy and they were happy.

Photo Copy © 2018 carolyntravels.com

 

When we looked at them, they just stared at us with those big eyes. And the stare was constant and unrelenting like they were looking right through us. DSC_0397It was like they wanted to talk to us but they couldn’t because their lips were sealed. Some were tall and some were short and some had their hair piled on top of their head and some did not.DSC_0632
These famous UNESCO World Heritage humanlike moais statues were everywhere on Easter Island as we went on a private tour from the Crystal Symphony cruise of the South Pacific. DSC_0393Moais number more than 900 on the island and some stood alone and some were in groups of five or seven. Ahu Tongariki is the famous one with 15 standing in a row. The moais range from 33 inches tall to 40 feet tall and weigh up to hundreds of tons.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(This photo and the one below was taken by June Landrum)

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To get an idea of how massive and tall these Moai are, notice the group of people in the far right at the back of the moai.

And they were all hand carved from volcanic tuff and became the iconic Moai statues of Easter Island. Using hand chisels of basalt, the Rapa Nui people chipped the monolithic statues out of blackened cliffs of the Rano Raraku volcanic crater between 1250 and 1600. DSC_0479The moais were placed on rectangular stone platforms called ahu, which are tombs for the people that the statues represented. The moais were intentionally made with different characteristics since they were supposed to look like the person in the tomb.DSC_0525DSC_0529
As were toured the crater, we saw many Moais still standing on the crater slope and they stared at us as we stared at them. Once the moais were carved, they were rolled down the crater and lifted into a standing position so the back could be completed. When they were finished, they would be moved to an ahu platform of someone’s property.

 

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The red circle indicates where the moai were carved out of the mountain and where the famous 15-moai statue is located, called Ahu Tongariki. And the little black statues around the island indicate moais.

Before our tour began, we were told not to touch the statues, climb them or chip a stone or take any stones from them for a souvenir. But if was ok for the roaming horses and cattle to rub against them or use them to scratch on or lick. DSC_0391
After many of the moais were carved, they were placed on rectangular stone platforms called ahu, which are tombs for the people that the statues represented. The moais were intentionally made with different characteristics since they were supposed to look like the person in the tomb.DSC_0387
How the extremely heavy moais were moved from the volcano several miles to their ahu platform is a mystery with several theories. The most popular explanation seems to be that the statues “walked” to the ahu platform. Three ropes were used to move the moai: one on each side and one around the neck and pulled from the back. So, it was twisted from side to side and the rope from the back helped keep it standing. DSC_0627

The base of the moai was slightly rounded and so were the roads so it could be moved from side to side. Other theories are rolling the statue on tree trunks and moving it with a sled on round tree trunks as “wheels.”DSC_0448
All Moais we visited were placed looking inland so they could look over the ceremonial area, except Ahu Akivi. which are 7 moai facing the sea to help sailors find the island. It is also thought that they were waiting for their King. When the moai statue was placed on the ahu platform, the eyes were the last to be carved. White coral and black or red scoria stone made the pupils and the moai then begin that cold, hard stare. DSC_0414Many moais were left without the white coral eyes as it is believed the white eyes were reserved for -the prominent people.
And years later, the top knot made of red scoria stone would be added. Called pukao, the top knot added further status to the moai.DSC_0580

It is believed the Moai were traditions of religion and status and were built to honor the chieftain and ancestors. And it is believed the moais are symbols of authority and power, both political and religious and they have mana, which is charged by a magical spirit essence. And it is believed the moais were representative of ancient Polynesian ancestors. And another belief is the moais was considered one “up-man-ship” among the Rapa Nui people. With a moai, they were saying, “mine is bigger than yours.”DSC_0422DSC_0436
Then around 1550-1600, the Rapa Nui people stopped making the moais and Easter Island began declining. The Rapa Nui people began turning against each other. They fought among themselves for the fertile land that was left as their ancestors had destroyed most of it as crops failed one after the other. Some began to turn to their god Make Make or the Birdman cult. DSC_0449Competition began among them to become a member of the cult for if succeeded, food was the reward. To become a member of the birdman cult, a person had to find the first Sooty Turn egg. If a person did not succeed, the person killed himself. DSC_0649
The Birdman Cult then began rebuilding the population and sweet potatoes and other crops were now doing good. But, newcomers started coming and brought diseases, rats and cockroaches and by the turn of the century only 110 people were left.

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As the Crystal Symphony dropped anchor in the ocean, this was the view we had of Easter Island and those moais. We hurried to board a small boat to the shore so we could see those world famous UNESCO World Heritage statues up close and personal.

Then missionaries arrived and brought Christianity with them and the Rapa Nui people began ridding themselves of tattoos and many moais were toppled. And it wasn’t until recently that most were restored to their position atop ahu platforms all over Easter island.DSC_0632
The moais now stare with that unrelenting stare like they were looking right through us. It was like they wanted to talk to us but they couldn’t because their lips were sealed.IMG_2795 Some were tall and some were short and some had their hair piled on top of their head and some did not. And hopefully they will stand and stare at many people for many years to come and be enjoyed by all at this UNESCO World Heritage site.

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This moai was discovered to be really tall because most of it was below ground.

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Photo Copy © 2018 carolyntravels.com