Tag Archives: Sunset

The Caprivi Strip

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As we learned in Gibralter earlier this year, sometimes a weird bit of geography – the long, thin extension of Namibia that stretches out between Angola and Botswana through to Zambia and Zimbabwe – is formed when competing governments are horse-trading land.  This happened here in Namibia, too – over what became known as the “Caprivi Strip” (recently renamed the Zambezi region).  However, history makes some sense of it.

 

 

Leo von Caprivi (pictured right) was the German politician who succeeded Bismarck as chancellor in 1890.   He struck a deal with Britain, trading the islands of Zanzibar for Heligoland, a group of islands just northwest of Hamburg.  The Germans stipulated that they wanted this little strip of land all the way down in southern Africa because it leads to the Zambezi River which they thought would give them access to the Indian Ocean.  Were they fooled!  Either they didn’t look at a map or visit the area or even consult with anyone local, because a little thing now called Victoria Falls make the Zambezi River completely unnavigable.   Bismarck huffed that the Heligoland trade had been a bust, and that Germany had traded away its entire “trousers for a button.”

Whether a strip, or a button, the Caprizi strip makes a nice path for tourists to the Falls.

Chobe River landscape, view from Caprivi Strip on Namibia Botswana border, Africa. Chobe National Park, famous wildlilfe reserve and upscale travel destination.

Looking at this pastoral, lovely countryside, it is hard to imagine that civil war raged here in the 1990’s as a local rebel group, the Caprivi Liberation Army, tried to secede from Namibia.  Life in Africa is complicated, and it is unclear whether this war was the result of side-taking during the war in nearby Congo or a carryover from the Angolan war and the seeds of socialism left by the likes of Che Guevera.

Brendan van Son is a travel blogger more intrepid than I.  Riding his motorbike across Africa, he describes his afternoon on the Caprivi Strip this way:

While driving through Bwabwata National Park, I see a herd
of elephants browsing through the shrubs in the distance.  I
stop, pull out my camera gear and photograph the scene in
awe.  As I pack up my equipment, I hear shuffling behind me.
I twist my head to see a large male elephant walking briskly
towards me.  I race to my scooter and jump on. I’ve left her
running just in case something were to come up; elephants,
zebra, antelope and even lions that can be found along the
strip.  I twist the throttle and toss my head over my shoulder
to see the big elephant is now chasing me down the highway
at full speed.  I’ve learned a couple things today.  My scooter
can outrun a male elephant – though just barely.  I drive off
again laughing hysterically.  Oh, the adventures I have!

I’d say he was lucky that elephant wasn’t an ostrich or a leopard, or he might have been in real trouble!

 The abundant rivers and water make this a green, lovely and productive agricultural area and we we saw small, traditional villages.

Mahango

We drove here on paved Hwy B8 then turned south on asphalt.  Eventually we  veered east again and drove along a sand path.  Every lodge we have come to has involved a road so rough you were sure you were going to sketchy accommdoations, and then you marvel at the beautiful lodge and wonder how it can possibly be provisioned.  This time,  we arrived at a beautiful jungly lodge on the Okahongo River.  We sat on the deck over the River and almost immediately spotted the eyes of hippos in the river and the lodge posts this sign because sometimes the hippos come up at night and eat all of the vegetation on the property.

We went on a stunning game drive this afternoon in the beautiful riverside Mahango Park.  Skulls of the animals in the park were on display at the entrance and we were to see many of the living versions.

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Puffs of clouds hung on the sky and there were beautiful vistas at every turn and we saw a magnificent Baobob tree (for context one of our group stood in front of it).

Mammals and a Reptile

We saw lots of animals, many of them new to us, some of them the most spectular in Africa:

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– The Nam Buffalo (known as “Cape Buffalo” to South Africans).  

 

– Hippos, including a mother and child:

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– the Crocodile

 

We saw many of the ugly cute Warthogs along the water.

We saw new ungulates, in order, the Common Antelope, Roan, Tsetseba and Sable:

We saw Baboons and the Mervet Monkey.  The baby had a little nursing then went into the shrubs to play.

Giraffes, Zebras and Elephants also appeared.  We are in Elephant territory now.

Birds

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– Violet-Breasted Roller

 

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– Little Bee Eater

 

 

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– Swainson’s Spurfowl

 

 

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– The enormous Spare-winged Goose

 

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– Goliath Heron (the largest heron in Africa (see how it dwarfs the ordinary heron next photo)

 

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– Grey Heron

 

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– Egret

 

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– Cape Vulture

 

 

 

 

This morning we had seen the Hammer Cock Bird, here we saw its enormous nest which is the nest for life of a pair of Hammer Cock Birds, and we saw the Jesus Bird.

African Sky

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A lightning storm hung over the sky – it was raining somewhere!

 

 

Our drive ended with a spectacular sunset.

Best,

Jan
PS. No hippos at the lodge overnight!

Olé!

🇪🇸 Did someone say Seville?  By request, this is our next stop on our armchair travel around the world.  When I was there a year ago, I wrote that once Seville is in your heart, you feel it will never leave.  A year later, and especially during the pandemic, I remember Seville wistfully and wonder when I can return.  With its friendly people, a culture all its own, and sprawling orange tree-lined plazas and boulevards, I recommend it as a Spanish destination second only, perhaps, to Barcelona.  The scent of orange blossoms hang in the air, as redolent as the scent of leather in Florence, Italy.

So grab yourself a Death in the Afternoon and spend a second-time visit to Seville as I re-post my time spent among the matadors and Flamenco dancers.

Regardless of my position on the treatment of animals, I admit a romanticized appeal to the idea of the bullfight – the macho toreador, the connection between man and bull, the perfection and elegance of the movement, the danger.   And nowhere is more evocative of these themes than Seville with its magnificent-looking bullring, the Plaza de Toros.

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Ernest Hemingway also springs to mind when I think about bullfighting in Seville, especially his novel The Sun Also Rises and a non-fiction treatise on bullfighting called Death in the Afternoon.  The latter also contains a deeper contemplation on the nature of fear and courage, a theme running through many of his novels and one he frequently tested in his own life.   Being one of those unfortunates who carry a gene that often leads to suicide, I have to think his curiosity about bullfighting was more personal than intellectual.

Hemingway created a cocktail called Death in the Afternoon, which, laden with Absinthe, may be related to such contemplations about bullfighting and life and death.  But doesn’t it look lovely?

INGREDIENTS

    • 7.5 ml Absinthe
    • 15 ml Freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 7.5 ml Sugar syrup (2 sugar to 1 water)
    • Brut Champagne

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We are in Seville, a former Moorish city-state (“Taifa”) that rose in 1023.  Abu al-Qasin was the first king of Seville; his son, Al-Mu’tadid, succeded him.  Al-Mu’tadid was a great poet, and was friends with another renowned poet, Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn al-Ammar, whose claim to fame was having beaten Castilian king Alfonso VI at chess.  Al-Mu’tadid was also the lover of the married future queen Itimad.

Seville Cathedral

Later, after the Reconquista, Seville became an important Catholic centre and construction began of a magnificent Cathedral in 1401 that was completed in 1507.  The Catedral de Sevilla quite spectacularly succeeded in fulfilling the design team’s original aim to make something “so beautiful and so magnificent that those who see it will think we are mad.”

There are countless beautiful depictions of Mary:

A sliver of the 7,500 pipe organ:

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In death, as in life, the higher the ranking, the more pillows under the head.  This is the tomb of a cardinal:

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Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus) is entombed here.

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The local thinking is that, even by his standards, Colón travelled more in death than in life. When he died near Madrid, one of his sons was governor of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. The son had his father’s body buried on the Caribbean island (Colón had asked to be buried in the Americas), then his remains were transferred to Cuba and ultimately, in 1898, back to Spain.  Santo Domingo officials still believe he is buried there.  In 2006, DNA testing on the bones in Seville was compared the DNA to that of his brother, also interred in the Seville Cathedral, and they were a match.  Santo Domingo, however, dismisses the Seville tests.

Alcazar

After a sangria break, we toured the beautiful Seville Alcazar.

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Mudéjar (/muːˈdeɪhɑːr/, Arabic: مدجن‎ ) literally meaning ‘tamed; domesticated’, refers to an architecture and decoration style in (post-Moorish) Christian Iberia that was strongly influenced by Moorish taste and workmanship.  The Seville Alcazar is considered to be the finest and most beautiful example in the world.

As sometime home of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Cristóbal Colón planned three of his four trips to America, depicted in this tapestry, at the Alcazar Palace.

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The castle, a UNESCO world heritage site, was also the birthplace of Marie Antoinette.   The Alcazar was used as a set for “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Game of Thrones.”   A private section is still the royal family’s official residence in Seville.

Plaza de Espana

This complex was constructed for a 1929 World Fair which, because of the stock market crash, never happened.  The city has a lovely legacy, though, and locals can rent rowboats and float past on a diversion from the Guadalquivir River.

These three little boys were brave, they had a page and a half of questions they had to ask someone at the Plaza in English and they were very serious about their project.  They wanted a photo of me, and they returned the favour.

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And this pretty young girl celebrated her first communion:

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A few images from our wanderings around Seville, where the scent of oranges hung in the air:

Las Setas

Seville does not stand by relying on its historical architecture.   One of its finest examples of modern architecture and becoming famous in its own right is the wooden Metropol Parasol designed by German architect Jurgen Mayer.  One can see why the structure is nicknamed by locals “the Mushroom.”

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Flamenco

I have previously elaborated extensively on the dance, but it is hard not to think of Flamenco when you think of Seville.  And of course, we were seeing Flamenco tonight and it was amazing: the guitar players played beautifully, the singers were passionate and the five dancers were mezmerizing; steam seemed to rise up from the stage.  Here’s a sample from youtube.

We had a fabulous meal of many courses before the show:

What a perfect way to end the evening, a nightcap on the roof patio of our hotel, in a balmy breeze, watching the sun go down.  The only tower in Seville was in front of us, which the locals have dubbed “the Lipstick.”

 

No me ha dejado”—“It has not forsaken me

Seville’s motto is so appropriate:  once the captivating Seville is in your heart, you feel it will never leave.

Best,

Jan