TRAVEL MEMORIES -- Part 4 of 4
Tanzania - Zimbabwe

I decided to reminisce a little and write up some highlights from trips I've taken over the years to various countries around the world.
Some of my travels were on business, but most were for pleasure.

. . . . . . . . . . . .
Australia .....Botswana .....Brazil ........Ecuador ......France ......Germany .......India ...........Italy ..........Japan ..........Kenya .......Morocco .....Namibia ..

. . . . . . . . . . . .
Nepal ....Netherlands......Peru .....South Africa ....Spain .....Switzerland ...Tanzania ....Thailand .....Uganda ..United Kingdom ..Zambia ..Zimbabwe ..

Part 1 of 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Part 2 of 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Part 3 of 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Part 4 of 4 . . .
Australia - Germany . . . . . . . . . . . . . . India - Namibia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Nepal - Switzerland . . . . . . . . . . . Tanzania - Zimbabwe . . .

Place the cursor over any photo for a brief description. Click on the photo for an enlargement.

Posted here 4-27-09. Text and photos copyrighted by Fred Gielow

The way back home.


Wildebeest migration.  Photo from the Internet: The highlight of my two trips to Tanzania was seeing the wildebeest migration on the Serengeti and visiting Ngorongoro Crater.

The Serengeti is located in the northwestern portion of the country and encompasses over 11,000 square miles. As we drove along the dirt road, I could see thousands and thousands of wildebeests in every direction. Most were grazing, some were making moans and other wildebeest sounds, some were galloping along small or large groups.

The road seemed to pose a barrier for them. They would move toward it then stop short, as if they needed time to muster sufficient courage to cross. Then one of the braver ones would make a dash across and hundreds would follow, all in single file. Witnessing this spectacle was a treat. So many animals. The whole Serengeti, as far as I could see, was a mass of wildebeests, with a sprinkling of zebra as well.

The Ngorongoro Crater.  Photo from the Internet: On my second trip to Tanzania, the migration I witnessed was nowhere near as impressive. Nowhere near the numbers. Nowhere near the excitement or intensity. The timing during the year was different, and that no doubt made the difference.

Lions in the Ngorongoro Crater.  Photo from the Internet: Game viewing and picture taking in the crater are extraordinary.  Photo by FG. The Ngorongoro Crater is amazing. It's the world's largest unbroken, unflooded volcanic caldera, and its floor covers more than 102 square miles. The conditions there are perfect for all sorts of animals, so the crater if filled with herds of zebra, gazelle, and wildebeest, and is home to many rhinoceros, lion, leopard, elephant, and buffalo. An estimated 25,000 animals call the crater home.

Tourists stay in lodges perched on the rim of the volcano and then take game drives to the crater floor. Ngorongoro is a prize. It's a one-of-a-kind place!

P.S. Also rather memorable on my first trip to Tanzania: food poisoning. I got it on my second day in the country. Apparently a water shortage resulted in poorly-washed dishes, and I had to deal with the consequences for the rest of my trip.


This is called the Reclining Buddha.  It's over 150 feet long and is located, believe it or not, in the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.  At the right are the Buddha's toes.  Photo from the Internet: The water market was fascinating.  Many merchants and their wares on a myriad of little boats.  Photo by FG. The most memorable part of my weekend trip to Thailand was just being there. I remember getting to my hotel in Bangkok after a long flight from Tokyo. I turned on the TV and there was Brian Lamb interviewing someone on C-SPAN. It was strange: sitting in a hotel room so far from home seeing something so familiar.

I signed up for some tours and saw the sights: Buddhas, temples, the water market, elephants. There's high-intensity activity everywhere in Bangkok.

Buddha statues are all over the place.  Photo by FG. There are over 31,000 Buddhist temples in Thailand.  In Thai they are called wat.  Photo by FG. It's customary to buy tiny sheets of gold leaf and attach it to statues.  This statue is covered with the stuff.  Photo by FG. Elephants still play a large role in Thai life.  Photo by FG. A pile of hats awaiting sale is stacked on a boat.  Photo by FG.


I was thrilled to get close enough to take this picture.  Photo by FG. Gorillas are very large, powerful animals.  Photo by FG. While the sights along the Nile were thrilling, and a variety of animal encounters likewise, certainly the highlight of my trip to Uganda was a visit to the Impenetrable Forest and a hike up the steep trails to see gorillas.

The Impenetrable Forest means what it says, but a trail had been cut into the side of the mountain -- a very steep trail. A group of tourists (including brother Jim and me), some guides, some guards, and some "assistants" began the climb. The assistants proved invaluable when we negotiated washed-out sections of the path, or unusually steep sections. They coaxed, pushed, pulled, and cheered us along.

Our guides were in radio contact with others on the mountain, so they had a pretty good idea where the gorillas were. After a two-and-a-half-hour trek, we were close to the mountain's summit. We were also sweaty and exhausted, so we paused for a break.

Afterward, we had maybe fifty yards further to go to reach our objective: a group of six or eight gorillas. They were pretty large, at least the adults were, and they snapped twigs and nibbled on them. We were fascinated. Flies or other kinds of insects were buzzing around their heads in great abundance, but they didn't seem to bother us. We watched intently. The only sounds were the snapping of twigs and branches, and camera clicks. We were spellbound.

Jim turned away to change his film and shortly thereafter I had to fumble with my video camera to change a tape. When I looked up, the gorillas were gone. And so was everyone else! They had just disappeared!

I assumed the gorillas had simply moved along and everyone else had followed, but I didn't know in which direction. Realizing they couldn't be far off, I cautiously moved forward, and in several minutes (though it seemed like a fairly long time) I found group and resumed picture-taking.

Jim took a different approach. He, too, didn't know what happened to everyone, but he simply returned to where we had taken our break. Some of the guards and guides were waiting there.

Gorilla viewing time was limited to just one hour, which zipped by in no time, and we had to begin our descent. You'd think climbing down the mountain would be easier than climbing up, but that's not necessarily the case. It seems a completely different set of muscles is required.

It was a super experience. It truly was awesome. We had visited the gorillas and had gotten as close as ten yards from them. Wow!

United Kingdom

The Tower Bridge over the Thames.  Photo by FG. Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.  Photo by FG. I've made maybe eight trips to England and have stayed there -- I'm guessing -- 30 days total. It's so nice to visit a foreign country where the people speak . . . English! Fluently! On the other hand, I always look the wrong way when I cross a street.

I enjoyed very much sightseeing around town: The Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park, Green Park, St. James Park.

On my first visit I was able to walk along Downing Street right to Number 10 (official residence for Britain's prime ministers). Now, of course, it's all blocked off and heavily guarded.

I stayed at the Alexa Hotel during my first trip to London.  See sign at left.  Photo by FG. Colorfully attired guards Thisxxxxxxxthe plane.  Photo by FG. Number 10 Downing Street.  Photo by FG. The London Eye.  Photo from the Internet: The London Eye, also known as the Millennium Wheel, is the biggest Ferris wheel in Europe. It slowly revolves, lifting tourists some 440 feet in the air. On my last visit, I took a ride. What a spectacular view!


Our guides watch as the elephants reach the other side of the river.  Photo by FG. In 2004, brother Jim and I visited Zambia. There were great game drives and excellent animal sightings, but two experiences there were particularly memorable.

One morning we started out on a game walk. We didn't get very far before our guides became uncomfortable. They spotted three elephants coming towards us on their way to the Luangwa River. We were at the edge of the river and caught right in their path. There were no good places where we could protect ourselves should the pachyderms decide to be unfriendly to us. We crouched down on a narrow ledge of dirt. Any misstep and we would fall into the water

We watched as the elephants slowly headed our way. Fortunately, they changed course slightly and crossed the river maybe 75 yards away from us. Exciting!

But that was only the beginning of the excitement. Then we got in some canoes to get across the river ourselves. No big deal. Except that we had to paddle between two pods of hippos. Everything would be just fine, as long as the hippos didn't feel threatened. But after all, we were invading their territory.

About half way across, our canoe got caught on a sand bar. Wasn't that nice. A guide had to get out and dislodge our craft. We kept our eyes on the hippos, but they ignored us.

My ultra-light ride was fantastic!  (Another guest is passenger in this picture.)  Photo by FG. On the other side of the river, walking through tall grass (sometimes six feet high or more), we wondered if lions were watching us nearby, waiting to pounce. None did, but after our walk we had to re-enter the canoes and paddle back through the pods of hippos. Half way across the river one hippo let out a yelp, stood up on his feet, and charged. I thought he was going to ram us and smash the canoe into a thousand pieces, but apparently he was just chasing another hippo. That was a thrill!

We're ready for take off.  Photo by Jim. I am all strapped in and ready to go.  Photo by Jim. Also memorable on that trip was an ultra-light ride I took. It was in the cool of the early morning, but when we were in the air it was bitter cold. But completely exhilarating. Flying up over the terrain and looking down at the scene below. Watching a huge herd of cape buffalo peacefully graze. Banking left and right to get extra-good views. Swooping down just above the river on our approach for a landing. Oh, my goodness: unforgettable!


A great view of Victoria Falls (on the right) and the Zambezi River.  Photo from the Internet: I thoroughly enjoyed the elephant rides.  They were marvelous, a real treat!  Photo from video by FG. Jim's elephant rides were not as successful as mine.  He suffered a sore and uncomfortable bottom from bumping around in the elephant saddle.  Photo from video by FG. High on the list of highlights from my two trips to Zimbabwe are seeing Victoria Falls and riding elephants at Elephant Camp, but probably most memorable is a canoe ride I took down the Zambezi River.

Because of flight delays in Hwange, our flight (brother Jim was with me) was late arriving in Kariba, we missed transportation to a camp on the river, and we were put up for the night in a less-than-ideal Kariba hotel. A late-evening call informed me we'd be picked up the following morning, but an additional charge was demanded. That was great, except I wasn't paying anything extra to compensate for airline schedule delays. No way!

We had been advised that some dangers might be encountered during the canoe trip, so we needed to repack. Also, canoe space constraints meant we'd have to leave some of our luggage in Kariba.

The next morning a couple of other travelers and Jim and I were picked up in a vehicle. It wasn't clear what our destination was, but off we went. When we turned onto some narrow roads and headed into some less-than-pleasant neighborhoods, I got concerned. Where were we being taken?

We jumped off the seaplane into boats for our ride the rest of the way to Ruckomechi Camp.  Photo from video by FG. At Ruckomechi, elephants surrounded our cabin.  I was very busy taking video pictures of them.  Photo from video by FG. We were being taken to the river and a dock where a seaplane was awaiting us. Wow! We got in and the pilot took off, and treated us to a great flight along the Zambezi River gorge. After a while he landed on the river and we transferred to some boats that were there to meet us. And the boats took us the Ruckomechi Camp, arriving there a little before lunch. We were allowed to use one of the cabins to freshen up before the meal.

But we had unexpected visitors. Dozens of elephants wandered into camp and began feasting on seed pods that had fallen off the camp's trees. We were trapped in the cabin and couldn't get to where lunch was being served.

But what a wonderful photo opportunity. There were elephants all over the place, some just five or ten feet from the door where I was busy taking pictures with my video camera. It was fantastic!

We paddled as much as 25 kilometers or more each day.  It was wonderful.  Photo from video by FG. After lunch we drove to the launch site and packed the canoes -- there were four of them -- and started off on the river. In our canoe I was in the bow, Jim in the stern. Sometimes it was just a leisurely paddle, since we were going with the current. But sometimes the wind blew in the opposite direction and paddling turned into hard work. We stayed in tents overnight. A crew of staff people take down all the tents and remove everything from the site, then transport all of it to the next overnight location further down the river.

We got pretty close to wild elephants.  Photo from video by FG. On foot, we tracked two lions for maybe a quarter mile.  As we got near, they strolled away from us, finally settling in the shade of a big tree.  Photo from video by FG. We stopped at one spot for breakfast, and our guides got busy with preparations: fried eggs, bacon, a complete breakfast meal. But before we could begin, a troupe of elephants approached. We had to abandon the site and race to the river for cover. A rifle was loaded, just in case. Then we had to retreat even further. The elephants marched leisurely into our camp, sniffed around briefly, then moved on. The bacon and eggs were a little overcooked, but otherwise untouched.

During the afternoon paddle, one of the guides spotted some lions a short distance from the river. We beached the canoes and started off in their direction. Fortunately, they decided not to have a meeting, and they wandered off to the south. Our little band of eight followed them, hiding behind a termite mound to observe them as they flopped down for a rest maybe a hundred yards in front of us. At one point I wondered if all this was wise, but there were no dangerous, up-close encounters. Thank goodness! But it's sort of nifty to have tracked lions on foot.

At one spot along the way, one of the other paddlers lost his balance when we saw several elephants by the edge of the water, and he fell into the water, tipping over the canoe in the process. His personal belongings, including an expensive camera and GPS device were drenched. Our guides said they had witnessed only one other tip-over incident in their four years of canoe trips.

Our last day on the river was also exciting. We had almost reached our campsite when we came upon a very large pod of hippos. It wouldn't be possible to paddle by without them charging, because they'd feel threatened. There was clear concern of the face of each guide. We stopped some distance away from the pod, then our guides cautiously maneuvered each canoe, one by one, right along the shore until it was a hundred feet or so past the danger. Very exciting!

On our last evening by the river, we had a delicious dinner, as usual, but were invaded by a swarm of flying insects. We had to retreat to our tents avoid them. The prior evenings we had had no insects at all. (Although we did see a hyena prowling along the edge of the camp, looking in our direction.)

There are more stories to tell and memories to recall from travels to other countries, but I think I should conclude this walk down memory lane. And besides, highlights from trips to Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, the Scandinavian countries, and a few others just don't measure up to the memories described above.

Part 1 of 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Part 2 of 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Part 3 of 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Part 4 of 4 . . .
Australia - Germany . . . . . . . . . . . . . . India - Namibia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Nepal - Switzerland . . . . . . . . . . . Tanzania - Zimbabwe . . .
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The way back home.