Monday, February 25, 2019

ZIMBABWE, Animals of Hwange National Park, Guest Post by Karen Minkowski

Impala at Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
My friend Karen Minkowski is spending several months in Africa and sent me some of her wonderful photos taken on a trip to Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. Karen and I were on the same memorable trip to East Africa in 1971 that I wrote about in my post on May 16, 2011. Karen has been back to Africa many times since then, both for work and for pleasure. I thank her for sharing her terrific photos and observations of African wildlife with The Intrepid Tourist.

I've been coming to Zimbabwe almost yearly since 2009, and at the end of 2018 I returned, this time hoping to spend six months volunteering for a foundation, while also seeing as much wildlife and birds as I can. Not long after arriving, an unexpected opportunity came up to spend four nights at a wonderful lodge in Hwange National Park at a very special rate. Here are some of the highlights.
Young eland
The rainy season is birthing time for many antelope and gazelle  – here are some young eland from a herd of about 200, the largest eland group I've ever seen. Below, a bull; I love his velvety appearance.
Bull (male) eland
Hwange has one of the largest elephant populations in Africa, between 49 and 60 thousand.  In the dry season elephants concentrate in and around water holes. With the rains they disperse widely, as water is everywhere, and we saw elephants only once. This young teenager mock-charged our vehicle several times before rubbing his rear on a dead tree stump. As we started to drive away, he approached our vehicle, raised his trunk and trumpeted at us, convinced he was chasing us away.
Young elephant
When I go to Hwange I am accustomed to joining a walking safari. I love this way of seeing wildlife, following the tracker as he picks up the spoor of a lion or rhino. There's nothing between me and the wildlife, and ... I get to walk. On this safari we viewed everything from a vehicle, but I did appreciate that we were able to approach wildlife much closer without disturbing them and we saw more animals.

Hwange has a great diversity of ungulates (hoofed mammals.)
Resting waterbuck
The sable is one of the most beautiful of all antelopes. We saw them in the forests and on the open grasslands.
Impala are one of Africa's most common gazelles, but I never tire of seeing these elegant, graceful animals. One afternoon we watched in amazement as a group of young impala raced round and round in large circles, seemingly for the pure joy of running and kicking their legs high in the air...they continued for quite a while.
Zebras are very affectionate!
In this season of abundant food and water, the animals seemed more relaxed than during the dry months – the need to be vigilant for predators is always present, but there's also time for fun and play and socializing. Meanwhile, the black-backed jackal (below) often hangs around on the grasslands, awaiting perhaps a lion kill? The jackal scavenges but is also a predator.
While parked one very late afternoon to enjoy drinks at sundown, we heard a lion begin to roar from perhaps 1/2 a mile away; he continued and soon came into view, about 100 meters from us, roaring as he is the best sound in the universe, soothing and comforting when you know you are in a safe place.
We watched as he roared his way towards one of Africa's spectacular sunsets...

Monday, February 18, 2019

21 COLLECTIONS at the Los Angeles Public Library: Every Object Has a Story

A life-size elephant made of walnuts dominates the first room of the 21 Collections Exhibit at the Central Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library
From Tom Hanks’ typewriters to a life-size elephant made of walnuts, to bird eggs and photos of men in rows, the 21 Collections exhibit at the Central Library in downtown Los Angeles is an amazing variety of the diverse and surprising things that people collect. If you live in the Los Angeles area, and haven’t seen it, it's worth a trip to the library. Truly, every object has a story. 21 Collections will be on view until Sunday, March 24, 2019. Here is a sample of some of my favorites in the exhibit:
Typewriter, one of many in Tom Hanks typewriter collection. This is the first time the collection has been on public view.

Close-up of walnut elephant. This is a reproduction of the first walnut elephant, made by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair from 6100 pounds of large walnuts.
Eggs from the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, home of the world's largest collection of bird eggs and nests.
Anonymous vintage photographs of men in rows.
Artist Karen Collins and one of her dioramas from the African American Museum of Miniatures.
Doll hats collected by Olive Percival.
Straw horse.
Candy wrapper collection.
And these are just samples from the exhibit! They go to show that one can collect just about anything!

Monday, February 11, 2019

THE OLD GURUNG MUSEUM IN GHANDRUK, NEPAL Guest Post by Caroline Hatton at The Intrepid Tourist

Nepal. Old Gurung Museum and women wearing traditional clothing
Photo courtesy of guide Gyanendra Karki

My friend and fellow children’s book author Caroline Hatton went trekking in the Annapurna region of the Nepal Himalaya in November 2018. She took all but two of the photos in this post. For info about her books, visit

Northwest of Kathmandu, in the Himalayas, rises the mythic Annapurna mountain range. Below its snowy peaks, the verdant foothills are the homeland of the Gurung, one of many ethnic groups inhabiting Nepal. Some aspects of the Gurungculture are its own language and distinctive clothing.

Hugely popular treks such as those to the Poon Hill view point or Annapurna Base Camp and the Annapurna Circuit go through the region, which is a part the Annapurna Conservation Area, the largest national park in Nepal. Trekking here means walking up and down ancient trade routes, through villages and terraced fields, admiring magnificent scenery and a range of traditional to contemporary architecture, clothing, and technology. At lunch time, dal bhat (lentil soup and rice) comes in a traditional brass platter and bowl, and Coca-Cola in a plastic bottle.

The best glimpse I had of the daily life of long ago was at the Old Gurung Museum in Ghandruk, the second largest Gurung town. Ghandruk is also spelled Ghandrung, which can be confusing for jet lagged tourists.

The museum is inside what was once a traditional Gurung house. Its ground floor room is stuffed with a wealth of objects labeled in English with a description of their use. People exercised creativity and skill to make everything they needed from what they had—same as anywhere. Yet, I was thrilled to see the local rendition of this universal truth, from a straw basket for grain, woven tightly enough to keep mice out, to bamboo fencing strong enough to keep a buffalo in. Bamboo containers for milk were large, medium, or small, for cow, sheep, or goat milk, respectively.
Bamboo containers for milk
Bamboo was good for making cages for chickens, shelters for people, and baskets for every need: according to the label on a small one, “I use this basket to harvest the wheat and millet from the field. When it is full, I empty it into a larger basket. This way I don’t have to carry the large basket all day.”
Bamboo baskets
The shiny brass pots and pans, platters, plates, bowls, and cups, were like the ones still used today to serve dal bhat.
Brass containers
On a post hung a brass noodle maker, not to make noodles out of brass, but a brass tool used to make rice noodles, as seen in this short video:

Wool blankets had designs in some of my favorite colors, ivory, beige, and brown. Musical instruments, such as the one with a bow like a small violin, hung here and there. Wood was used to make beds, spinning and weaving tools, and all kinds of containers.
Wooden yogurt container, making me hungry.
As usual, I made all the others in our group of four trekkers, two porters, and one guide, wait outside forever, while I examined and photographed things inside. I love rustic stuff even though I grew up in fancy France, exposed to fine china and crystal and silverware. Perhaps this is because it suits my taste for natural materials and preference for minimizing the use of resources.
Gurung traditional clothing (over a contemporary jacket)
Photo courtesy of guide Gyanendra Karki
Visitors can request to try on traditional Gurung clothing, as in the top and bottom photos in this post. The patterns, colors, women’s jewelry, and men’s hats distinguish them from those of other Nepali tribes.

To experience family-style Gurung hospitality, you can request a stay at Nani’s teahouse in Tolka (see my Jan 14, 2019 post on this blog) by e-mailing English-speaking guide Gyanendra Karki at Until then, say goodbye by putting your hands together and saying, “Namaste!”

For more info:

Read about the Gurung (Tamu) Ethnographic Museum  in Pokhara, the city through which visitors come to Ghandruk. Tamu is what Gurungs call themselves in their own language.

Visiting Nepal: the essential information.
All text and photos copyright Caroline Arnold