Edge of the World

DSC_0540.jpgYeah, yeah, I know.  I’ve been swamped and it is so easy to forget how to blog (the new way).  Tomorrow, Sierran and I leave for Arizona.  I’ve had to cut snippets here and there, abbreviate, take short cuts, do whatever will get me back to Maryland by May 15th.  Why, you might ask.  Because I am a terrible procrastinator; I sleep too late into the morning, I take long walks, I read, I chat on the phone too much, I watch the Warriors, etc, etc.  I would like to say it is a shameless behavior, but that makes it sound almost noble, like there is a choice involved.  The truth is, I have been too whipped to even be active.  But now the next trip is upon me and I’ve given a time that I would be back East AND worse yet, I went and forgot that I had given a date.  So now I am apologizing to everyone and trying to step it into high gear.

But by procrastinating, Sierran’s procrastinating has intersected with my own.  And, at the last moment, opportunity presented itself, and I bought a used, though very nice, Ford pick up F-150 for a more-than-fair, price.  All the planets lined up splendidly for the perfect procrastination.  In the meantime, I’ve fallen behind.

It’s the same thing now: Sierran has shown up at the house, we’ve gone to get beer, changed locations and went to get something to eat, then went for a fairly long walk into the night down Christmas Tree Lane.  I did the walk earlier this morning to keep things moving and decided to do it again tonight so I could say I’ve done 28 days in a row (tonight representing tomorrow’s walk).  In any case, tonight’s walk takes me up to 7 miles of walking today.

I wanted to talk about the armed guard that went with the blog earlier tonight, but I’ve run out of time.  He went with our hike to find the Gelata Baboons in Ethiopia.  At first he made me a little uncomfortable, for lack of humor—he seemed to take his business seriously, but it turned out, he was a kind soul.  I wasn’t sure why we needed him, but he was required company and he went through every nook and cranny that I went through looking for Gelatas on the edge of the Great Rift.  This wasn’t a great view of the depth as the cliffs ran as high as maybe 3,000 feet, but it gave kind of an idea of the drop off.  It was pretty vacant and wild country.  At night, the Gelata Baboons climbed their way over the ledge and found security going where their predators would not go.  I am still playing with all the photos I tried to take, so hopefully will start posting more photos as I figure things out.  Be patient with me.

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Edge of the World

Crossing Muddy Rivers

Who said I couldn’t do three blogs in a row! I’ve tried blogging on a couple of trips and realized, it wasn’t going to be easy, that there is a certain amount of self-discipline that goes into the blogging (that I used to take for granted, especially as when diving).  I tried on my third trip to the Philippines and I thought I would succeed in Africa, but not so.  It is a much more delicate matter than I would have ever guessed.  It takes commitment, like taking a walk every day.  So now I practice…as I watch myself get better, millimeter by millimeter, month by month (as opposed to day by day as I originally suspected).

Yes, it is true that I have tons to do by the time I leave Tuesday for the East Coast via a most circuitous route.  Yes, I want to go by Lake Isabella and see what the houses are like an hour or two east of Bakersfield.  I already know it is the perfect climate, not high enough to get too much snow in the winter and yet still low enough to be above the blankets of overcast the same time of year.  And it’s high enough to beat the Valley heat in the summer.  And it is the best way to work my way east to Death Valley, over the mountains via Walker Pass, and into the extreme heat and isolated high island peaks of Southeastern California.  I love that neck of the high desert.

From there I will head south to Tucson, to Green Valley where I will see my Mom.  She is  in an Alzheimer home, one that seems to give her lots of personal care.  According to my sisters, she has her good days.  She still recognizes her children and calls them by name.  Unfortunately, she forgets you’ve been there the same day you left.  It’s tough being recognized only in the present.  I would like to spend a few days in her presence, visit family friends, and see my youngest sister, Suzie, and her husband, Bob, before pushing on to Colorado.

This is not a trip quite like a year or two back when I took my time moving East, especially through good ol’ Kentucky, a state I had never been to when I met Bill and we went through upstate New York and across eastern Canada all the way to New Foundland.  Bill is hoping I’ll be there by mid May.  All I can say is good luck.

But once we hook up, then things might not be so frantic.  The goal is British Columbia, Alaska, the Yukon, and maybe the Northwest Territory…cough-cough.  I say “cough-cough” because I don’t see how we can get all the way across the West and then North to Alaska, and then back again to Maryland by the end of July.  Bill and I have talked like it is possible, so we’ll go as far as we can.  I love the idea, but what are the odds.  It makes our trip to New Foundland look like a stroll down the asphalt paths at the base of Yosemite Falls.  And then on top of distance, Bill has to keep one eye on his 94 year old dad who lives on his own and doesn’t let anything slow him down at home or in the garden.  His dad’s health is as good as it gets for that age, but anything can happen at any time, so we have to be psychologically prepared to U-turn.  Last time his dad had an accident with the riding mower and we had to cut the trip short a week or maybe two.  So, we’ll do what we do.  As far as I am concerned, North America is just travel/blog practice.

I was rummaging around photos today, thanks again to Javier, and I found a photo of a monkey—the name eludes me—-leaping out of a tree, onto Don’s head.  I knew they were half tame, but not that tame.  It was hilarious.  I was playing with various photos on my iphone and happened to pull that one up.  If this monkey had grabbed Don’s glasses and darted up into the foliage, we could have had a really serious situation on our hands.

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We were headed down to a boat to go out on the lake (it was huge, in northern Ethiopia) and from there the pilot was taking us out around 10 miles where he guaranteed us hippos.  This was on our way to the Gelatas.  Bear with me as I try to locate (and then transfer photos to my main “photo bank”).  Everything is re-learning.DSC_0650.jpg

This is a photo in Kenya, enroute to Masai Mara, trying to get across some river wash.  Nobody could make it.  These guys almost made it.  Our driver gave up but we wouldn’t let him leave unless he could find us a ride the rest of the way (maybe 20-30 miles further down the mud “road”).  For $10 bucks he was relieved that somebody would attempt to take us.  It looked like an army half track, but we did make it.  As far as I could tell, we were the only vehicle that did make it.  I wasn’t sure if there were crocodiles in this river, but I knew hippos were around.

Crossing Muddy Rivers

Two in a Row!

 

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I am easing my way back into this.  I am trialing and erring.  Testing photos.  Yes, it is true that I went back to the Philippines in Oct. (w/Gordon Olson), but I abandoned that shortly after giving it what I thought was “an honest attempt”.  I just felt no purpose.  So I came home.

By mid winter, Sierran had talked Don (my ex-brother-in-law) and myself into running off to East Africa like we were a couple of lads eager to join the circus.  He was not the least bit excited about having us go with him to Lake Victoria.  But he was not opposed to meeting up with him, somewhere, if we would go check out Ethiopia first.  I thought what the hey, I’ve seen Lake Victoria, I have ventured around it, nearly was killed there at least 8 years ago, so yes, I can forego the Lake and hitch hiking around it, if it meant seeing something new and different and maybe…just maybe, safer.

I was still stinging a bit from my “failed” Philippine trip so I needed something with which to test myself.  Shame is a powerful tool.  Don and I felt we could do it though I am sure Don’s motivation was different than mine.  My mind was not grasping the vastness of Ethiopia, but like a dream, it gave me a direction.  I kept thinking of the Gelata Baboons in the Ethiopian Highlands and that this would be a real chance to see if they actually existed, as David Attenborough testified they did.

Don looked up their range.  They lived between 8,000 and 14,000 ft.  and they were up in the northeast to southeast strip of Ethiopia, on islands of highlands not too terribly distant from the Red Sea.  It was hard to grasp that Ethiopia even had peaks that extended that high—but it did.  We rented a van for 10 days, for something like $600 and proceeded.  The roads were slow, narrow, and windy, but we sallied forth like a couple of rich wayfarers into the depths of a very poor country.  In my mind there was only one road going north that was paved, and we stayed on it until the very end of the pavement, at some town we turned off on after picking up an old Arab-looking guy, silent, unshaven, and armed with an AK-47, at the end of the earth, and began our climb on hard dirt for another 20 miles.  I was never quite sure why the armed guard was with us, but he seemed faithful, forever vigilant.  I had an armed guard accompany me in Uganda 8 years ago when I just couldn’t hold pace up a 14,000 foot mountain; I think that was for unruly wildlife.

Don turned sick.  He did not want to leave the van .  I went with our “guide” and the guard.  We beat our way down a mountainside at the edge of a massive cliff, the end of the Ethiopian Highlands.  Don and the driver (I think I am forgetting a fifth person), drove down the road, guessing where we were going to reappear.  I thought I saw a troop of Gelatas on the edge of the cliff but it turned out, no such luck.

On television, it always showed the Gelatas knuckling their collective way down the cliff at sunset.  The cliff just dropped much like El Capitan into the lowlands where from miles above we could make out a few small villages, but I have no idea where the roads to the villages came from.  The Gelatas only real predators were these very large, wolf-like foxes that would intercept them as they came over the lip of the cliff, but once they were on the face, I am not sure anything could attack them.  It didn’t take long before I had hiked far enough and my legs were quivering in the heat and elevation.  I suspected we were not going to find the Gelatas.

After waiting 20 minutes, our van picked us up and we continued beating the road for a lead.  It was in the heat of the day, well over 8,000 feet up when we finally came across a troop of maybe 75 baboons.  The driver nestled in as close as he dared and we got out and began snapping shots.  I was very surprised that they really weren’t very threatened by us and worked around us like we were rocks in a current.  I felt like David Attenborough! All I could say to myself, was “yes, they are real, and now I can say, I have seen them!”

I

Two in a Row!

Starting Over

DSC_0029I am playing around, getting ready for a long (very long) trip—-I would like to say “journey”—-but I think “trip” is much more appropriate, I am about to take.  I have spent most of this past winter playing around, crippled, to a large degree.  I have heard rumors that Sierran, my oldest son has done me the favor of sharing with mutual friends and acquaintances that I am suffering a psychosomatic disorder, and that really, the only thing wrong with me is “in my head”.  I almost chuckle at that thought.  But in any case, I am recovering, and though my memory (for names and places) has gone much to the way side of what my memory used to be, and my vertigo (as in balance) ain’t what she used to be, I am recovering, millimeter by millimeter.  I will never ever, so I swear, try to quit all my crutches as in alcohol, painkillers, and Paxil (anti-depressant) all at once like I tried to do around a year ago.  Ugh!  So I was cross-eyed for one week straight! So my memory went the way of the tyrannosaurus (as in extinct), and my balance was similar to that of El Maestro Borracho’s—The Drunken Master’s—-I am much recovered! I will never be the same again, BUT the spirit is returning.

Much to my joy, I have established new contact with an old friend, Javier Gamboa.  He actually was a colleague of mine at West Fresno Elementary.  In fact, I think he was helping me in my room way back when.  He was a very bright, very focused kind of guy.  The only thing that gave me the edge on him was I was the teacher.  The truth is, I learned a lot more from him than he could ever learn from me, but that was generally the case with most new teachers, or perspective teachers that came our way: They were serious, bright, devoted to the cause, and I was a bit of a prankster, most interested in my own causes(s), a survivalist, always figuring out ways to last one more year teaching.  My thing was adventure (and was about teaching my students how to make adventure a part of their lives).

Javier showed me how to blog (when I retired).  Back then it seemed pretty easy.  But over at least a two year period, I have managed to screw that up, that is keep straying further and further from what Javier had taught me, and nobody seemed to understand how that blog worked, so I was more or less doomed how to use it.  Every once in a while, I would run into somebody who could set me straight on it and kind of patch up some of my bad or flawed work, and things would progress, albeit a little under a crippled spirit.  Well, that “spirit” combined with my wounded self (i.e. the absence of alcohol, pain killers, and paxil) was enough that I just simply quit blogging.

So, now I am saying, maybe…just maybe, as a blogger (and traveler), I am back.  I know I have made feeble attempts to blog and travel in this past year, but this time, I am going to hit it harder than I have thus far hit it since going cross-eyed more than a year ago.

Starting Over

Off for the Philippines

 

Sometimes words are just simply not enough.  It’s easier to let one thought turn into another without putting any energy into it.  But I will give it a try…

I had Nick Huerra, Jamie’s husband, graciously take me to the Greyhound bus from Fresno to Oakland Thursday where Gordon Olson picked me up and transported me to Ed Angle’s in Alameda Thursday afternoon.  It just turned out Gordon was available and able to give me a ride over to Ed’s for a little more than 24 hours.  Gordon was still busy running errands and packing for the Philippine trip.  

Ed and his wife, Nicky, run an fantastic Air B&B out of their luxurious Victorian home and intermittently let Daniel Trebase use it when it is available so Daniel, with his legal knowledge, can work more closely with Ed as Ed does his legal advocacy work, harassing the legal system into obeying a more consistent code of law, which the legal system will cut big corners on when given the chance.  You gotta love Ed for the passion he puts into his work, biting like an ornery gadfly every judge and lawyer who resists the rule of law for the sake of simply streamlining a somewhat corrupt system.  

So that night Ed, Nicky, and myself went into downtown Oakland, which has been completely restored by then mayor Jerry Brown, and now seems more like San Francisco than the old East Bay, a decrepit, rundown, ghetto of immense proportion.  The restaurants now are natural foods, unique, and I hate to say it, but sort of upper middle class variety that one can find just about any desirable food on the market.  Being that it was my birthday, Ed treated me to my meal, not that he wouldn’t have offered to do so anyway.  I always sort of feel like I am with my father when it comes to his generosity.  

It was interesting that the same day, Kerry Thur called me on the phone and we were talking when he mentioned that he saw a program that highlighted Ed and his work on the 9-11 research proposing the conspiracy theory, that 9-11 was actually an inside government job.  I knew Ed and some other engineers from around the U.S. had done quite a bit of work trying to prove that the collapse of the twin towers could not have happened the way it was said to have happened, that there had to have been some help for everything to have happened the way it did.  Nevertheless, it was an interesting theory, and I was not a bit surprised that the theory made one of the networks on TV.  It was very typical of Ed’s work and whether one believes his theory or not, he presents some intriguing evidence how it could have happened.   

The next day, Ed, Daniel Trebase, and myself went out to the edge of Oakland where Alameda and Oakland meet, to some park that nobody has ever heard of.  It has an observation tower where Oakland and Alameda end at the estuary and the bay takes over with a terrific view of San Francisco.  Ed wanted to go out there to see if the park was ever completed.  Interesting. It was a park few people ever heard about.  Call it an inner city park.  It was surrounded by massive cranes and maybe miles of docks built for unloading ships of their cargo containers in stacks high enough to look like ultra modern pieces of sculpture artwork.  Strange place.  I guess after unloading, rearranging, dredging up, and transporting 50 bi-jillion tons of cement rock for the docks and wildlife preserve, they had a fairly large chunk of land left over for something—who knows what—-so they turned it into a “park”.   

Around dark we headed back to Alameda, via the Park street Bridge, and had an evening of Viet Nam food on the estuary.  Nice little surprise.  Then we headed back to Ed’s and met up with Gordon and his friend David, who we visited with for 30 minutes before David hauled the two of us to the BART station, back in Oakland, where Gordon and I began our journey to the Philippines.   

Off for the Philippines

Oregon

Should I feel excited about travel? Maybe it is a good sign that there is a certain anticipation to travel rather than doubt and anxiety.  Maybe it is just the changing of the seasons and I happen to be hitting blue sky, cirrus clouds, and moderate temperatures, while in Ore-ee–gone, no less.  But then maybe it is because I’ve committed to another go at the Philippines only this time I am traveling on the same flight as Gordon Olson and we have nearly two weeks of travel together planned, before we break off and go our own separate ways.  I think it is all of the above, PLUS, my body seems to be healing, very slowly, but nevertheless, moving in the right direction!

I have spent nearly four weeks up in Oregon, with no plans, hanging with kids, seeing friends, and family for that matter.  Oregon is a special place.  I take my metaphorical hat off to anyone who appreciates rain, storm clouds, sudden drops in temperature, unpredictability, and anything else that might prove to be Oregon-like, including mountains, fir and oak trees, a long and glorious coastline punctuated with streams, rivers, miles of beaches and small towns.  Oregon is truly a holy place, but put it under a sunny day, and I don’t know if there are many states in the union quite so special.  And of course it is not just north and south that define its rugged, wild, and hues of green land, but east and west as well.  To the extreme west you have the stormy coast line, whereas extreme east you have miles and miles of rolling wheat land surrounding islands of magnificent and remote mountain ranges no one has ever heard off.  Oregon is Oregon.  And it changes like a kaleidoscope with the weather and the seasons.  

So I have to say it was nice coming up here and letting the self just heal as is meant to be, doing nothing in particular but being very unpushed by those around me who are on a schedule, whether their schedule be self imposed or work required because they are on a wage.  Now it is time to return to California.  I have a few days to get ready for my excursion into the Far East and the Unknown despite my having already spent the better part of a year in the Philippines.  As Gordon says, maybe the trip will be short, two months at best, but then maybe it won’t.  It is possible that it might be longer than it has ever been.  The bottom line is, I have no plan.  If I return in December, then so it is.  I’ll figure it out when time requires it.

Oregon