Archive for the 'Africa' Category

Mar 4th
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Axum Is One Of The Holiest Christian Cities On Earth. It Is Home To The Ark Of The Covenant – The Tablets Of The Ten Commandments Held By Moses.

In Middle Ages Europe ,In The Time Of The Crusaders, there was a tale of a paradise called The Land of Prester John. A land of unimaginable riches, and home to the Holy Grail. Somewhere near Ethiopia, though the Crusaders never got beyond Jerusalem.

A Truly Ancient Land.

Egyptian emissaries erected stellae in the Fourth Century, though quite a few have fallen.

Sunrise in the Land of Prester John.

The modern Church of Maryam ( Virgin Mary ) near the Ark Of The Covenant.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church claims to possess the Ark of the Covenant, or Tabot, in Axum. The object is currently kept under guard in a treasury near the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion.( Wikipedia) Ark of the Covenant was brought to Ethiopia by Menelik I with divine assistance, while a forgery was left in the Temple in Jerusalem. ( Wikipedia.) Melenik I was the son of King Solomon and Queen Sheba.

A Peaceful Dove – An Apparition ?

An Ancient Stellae Field.

A Cantankerous Camel.

Holy Bible.

Brutal Punishments For Sinners.

Rugged Trees For the Dry Climate.Tigray only gets a few showers in the summer.

One of the best restaurants in Ethiopia – in Adrigat.

Lamb and Beef so fresh you can eat it raw.

Hot Tibs.

Hotel In Adrigat. Did not stay there.

Captured In Battle.

Ancient Scripture.

Debri Damo Monastery. Accessible only by rappelling up the cliff.

Even monks 80 or 90 years. old can do it. Once they can’t, they stay.

Two Fascinating Weeks In Ethiopia then came to an end. TotalAdventure moved on to nearby Eritrea, though it took two flights to get there. TotalAdventure would especially like to thank Awaze Tours for making our private journey possible. Also Special Thanks to our driver Engdu ! Ethiopia is not an easy country to navigate and Awaze helped make all this incredible experience possible.

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The Simian Mountains In Northern Amhara State Were Formed By Extreme Volcanoes About 40 Million Years Ago. They Tower West Of The Rift Valley, Which Runs Almost The Whole Length Of Africa.

The Highest Mountain Is 15000 Feet ( 4550 m) . Snow is known to fall in the wet season. TotalAdventure experienced below freezing temperatures in the early mornings.

A Gelada Monkey Family Forages For Dinner. Snacks from tourists are strictly forbidden.

A Guard With An AK-47 Is Mandatory , To Guard Against Hyenas In Simian Mountains National Park. Hyena jaws are so strong they can snap a femur like a small chicken bone.

GeladaMonkeys sleep on the cliffs at night, in order to be inaccessible to hyenas.

A Father is unfazed by his human cousins. They are 5 times as strong !

Sunset From 11,000 Feet ( 3384 m) at the Simian Mountain Lodge.

A Fireplace Keeps The Dining Room Warm. Outside it was 26 F ( -4 C)

Our drive out of the mountain range. Drivers must be careful, with 3000 ft. cliffs on every curve.

Feb 25th
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TImkat Epiphany In Holy Gondar. Click Video Above.

Priests Enact The Carrying of Boxes Which Carried The Ark Of The Covenant From Jerusalem To Axum, Ethiopia.

TotalAdventure, a Catholic, went to Ethiopia to explore the origins of Christianity. Dismayed by the ever increasing commercialization of Christmas throughput the world, to the point where religion is barely mentioned ,we decided to go where Christmas is not commercial at all, but a joyous occasion celebrating the arrival of Christ on Earth. Like much of the Christian Orthodox world, Christmas is on January 7th and Epiphany 12 days later on January 19th. Because this year,2020 is a Leap Year Timkat was on January 20th. In the West Epiphany is celebrated as the arrival of the 3 Kings, one from Ethiopia. In Ethiopia Timkat celebrates the Baptism of Jesus Christ. In Gondar’s Emperor Fasilides Baths. After many hours of prayer and singing, male participants will dive in , re enacting the Baptism.

Christianity arrived in Ethiopia by the 4th Century. Traditions and mystical celebrations changed little by the time Ethiopia was effectively cut off from Europe and the Holy Land by the 12th Century. The ceremonies we see here, especially in the video above, are the closest to Original Christianity.

As darkness falls on Timkat Eve, the momentum builds, with prayer, chanting and singing.

Another palace of Gondar.

The Three Kings.

TotalAdventure returned to the Fasilides compound by 5 AM. The Faithful were fervently at prayer.

Monks Sing Around The Baths as they have all night.

Dawn Approaches.

Sahle-Work Zewde, the President of Ethiopia, Came From Addis Ababa To Take Part In The Ceremonies.

Blaine Zuver, Director of TotalAdventure, Is Interviewed For the Ethiopia Herald. Story Here.

Part of The President’s Security Unit. Many soldiers were on patrol as well.

At last , after sunrise, the clarions blow and joyful adherents of The Lord re enact The Baptism.

Timkat 2012 ! (2020) The Ethiopian Calendar is 8 Years Behind The Western Calendar.

A Very Unfortunate Incident Occurred At Timkat. Bamboo bleachers are constructed each year so the crowds can get a view above the walls surrounding the Holy Pool. They are built to accommodate perhaps 200 or 300 people.

Just before sunrise the overloaded structure collapsed. Ten people were killed. More than 200 went to the hospital, some paralyzed for life. The ceremony was disrupted for about an hour, then went on.

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Countryside Scenes In Ethiopia. Click On The Video Above.

As Timkat approaches, the entire country gets into celebration mode. We leave Lalibela on. Saturday – 2 days before. Roadside markets are busting, as people stock up on food for the large family feasts after a 24 hour fast.

A music man in the Highlands playing his masinko. Watch him play on the video above.

Coffee beans growing on the side of the road. Ethiopian Coffee is amongst the best in the world !

A boy brings coffee to market. Rural children work for their families, but not for others as far as we could tell. It’s a necessity that armchair moralists of the West may not understand.

All food is very fresh.

Two sisters off to market.

Restaurant Mountain Vista.

A colorful Injera lunch.Various meats and vegetables, mostly cold.

Injera “flour”

United States help is much appreciated. With 109 million people in a mostly desert country , extra supplies are needed.

A cold Saturday morning, everyone on the way to buy and sell.

Drying grain.

Spices are abundant.

Spices Are Abundant.

Inside a market bar. TotalAdventure was obliged to try some of the local firewater – made from fermented fruit that still had seeds floating in it. Powerful ! Though it was only 9 AM, music was blasting.

Bamboo for sale.

Approaching Gondar.

Feb 24th
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In The Holy City of Lalibela. Click Above To Watch.

In The Twelfth Century King Lalibela Decreed A Holy City Known As New Jerusalem – To Be Built From Solid Rock. Above Is Beti Gyorgis – St.George ,One Of Eleven Churches Carved From The Earth.

The Light of Jesus Shines Upon A Monk.

Days Spent In Prayer Unchanged From The Fourth Century.

Very Little Restoration Has Taken Place. Due To The Arid Climate And Solid Rock Construction, Lalibela Remains Much Intact.

Envy Of The Crusaders Who Sought Ethiopia, But Couldn’t Find It.

There Are 2 Masses Per Day, At Dawn And At Noon,Each For Two Hours. No Eating Or Drinking Is Permitted Beforehand ,Not Even Water.

While Ethiopia is being “Discovered ” there are few crowds.

Rock Church From Above.

An Approach To Church.

Circular Compound.

Exterior of Compound.

Light Of Jesus.

Outside Lalibela- A Church Built In A Cave.

Guard’s Rifle.

St.George From Below.

Holy Waters – A Bit Stagnant.

No Assembly – Just Carving !

Church Exterior.

Lalibela Houses. Only Recently Did The Town Receive Electricity.

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The two day 500 KM journey from Addis Ababa to Lalibela is rugged and fascinating. Ethiopia is a land harkening to Biblical times, with a few modern twists like cars and smartphones.

The two day

On the first night , TotalAdventure stayed in Kombolcha and posted for the first time to the Magazine. After that , the voyage became too bsuy, exploring and traveling until well past sundown, meals with locals, and slow internet made daily contributions difficult. The next morning, before leaving the city, we passed through a market on the main street.

People walk for miles from the countryside to sell. their wares in the market.

Ethiopian markets have many spices In the US this would be sold in tiny packets for many times the price.

Salt , perhaps from Danakil .

Outside town, Gelada monkeys also shopped for food, asking passerby in cars. While many think the climate must be hot, as Ethiopia in in Africa, we were almost always between 7500 and 11000 feet – 2300m -3400m. In January daytime temperatures were generally in the low 70s F( 21C) to about 40 F at night ( 4C ).

Ethiopia is 33% Islamic and 62%. ( mostly Orthodox) Christian. In general there are no conflicts over religion.

Wheat is pulverized into fine powder by the hooves of oxen.

The powder is used to bake inerja – the ubiquitous bread that accompanies almost every meal in Ethiopia.

What appears to be a towel is the inerja. You use it to scoop up the meat and eat everything.

Evening in Kombolcha.

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After many delays and thirty hours flying time via Dubai, I finally arrived in Addis Ababa late Monday night. Tuesday morning we started out on our two day road journey to Lalibela. The bandwidth is very low, it took me all night o upload the camel video. Just a few pictures today.

Gelada Monkeys, Known as the Bleeding Heart Baboon. They are not baboons, however.

At A Roadside Donkey Market.Or A Hay Market ?

Impalas Or Gazelles Join Us For Lunch.

Strong Coffee Is Served !

A Troop Of Geladas.

Trying To Learn Some Amharic.

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In 1993, the Victoria Zoo became the Limbe Wildlife Centre through the partnership of the Pandrillus Foundation and the Cameroonian Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife. The LWC is a wildlife rehabilitation and conservation education center. The animals there were orphaned as a result of human-wildlife conflicts such as bushmeat hunting or the pet trade. These are major issues in Cameroon and throughout Africa. Animals are often killed both legally and illegally for meat in unsustainable ways, and the infants are kept as pets in unfit living conditions for wild species. When they are rescued by authorities and brought the LWC, the animals are treated by their veterinary team and the rehabilitation process starts as they are integrated into conspecific groups and monitored by their team of specialists. Their mission is based not only on rehabilitation and release, but on educating the population to change views and opinions on wildlife and conservation so that these animals will be safe in the wild for as long as possible.

LWC information about the pet trade
LWC entrance art

To accomplish this mission, the LWC is open to the public for visits. Most of the visitors to the Centre are locals bringing their families to see the animals, but occasionally international tourists such as myself pop in, and there is so much for us to be impressed by.

Upon entering the sanctuary, every person greets you with warm hellos, hugs, handshakes, and smiles. Once paying at the entrance, viewers can begin walking the tourist trail and viewing animals. The first visible animals are 3 family groups of gorillas and their impressively giant silverback males. They were the show stealer in my ape-loving heart, but there were so many other amazing animals as well.

Approaching gorillas!
Male silverback and his family

Past the gorillas are two huge groups of chimpanzees (totaling 44 individuals). They are the liveliness of the LWC, shrieking, chasing, playing, and grooming. Just sitting in their presence could keep someone engaged for hours. There were many groups of guenons and mangabeys throughout the sanctuary, mostly plotting on how to steal small items such as food or toys from onlookers.

Red-capped mangabey (Cercocebus torquatus)
Mona monkey (Cercopithecus mona)

Another amazing group of animals are the “Papio” group, meaning the baboons, mandrills, and drills. The members of this section became known to me as the most underrated primates. All three species are beautiful in coloring and huge in size (for monkeys). Not to mention they live in large multi-male and multi-female groups with very interesting social dynamics and rules that control everything from eating to grooming to space use.

Additionally, at the Centre there are non-primate animals native to Cameroon such as a Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus), two dwarf crocodiles (Osteolaemus tetraspis), a python (Python sebae), a bay duiker (Cephalophus dorsalis), a blue duiker (Philantomba monticola), a bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus) and an African civet (Civettictis civetta). These animals are often seen as the stars of the show, especially the crocodiles being so ancient and amazing.

African civet

Before leaving, one has the opportunity to check out the educational building to learn about the various species and the Centre’s history. There is also a great little gift shop with plenty of handmade items to help support the Centre. For lunch, there is a delicious restaurant within the Centre called Arne’s cafe. There you can get the most delicious veggie burger on the planet. It is definitely worth having a meal there.

Education center at the LWC

The LWC does a lot more than just house animals, a huge amount of their work is in educating the public through visits, school programs, and community outreach. They are leading the fight in Cameroon for conservation and animal welfare, and are worth the time to visit, volunteer, or spread the message. If you are interested in helping with conservation there, the LWC accepts donations as well as volunteers. Give some resources or time to help these animals that can’t speak for themselves!

TotalAdventure does not currently have adventures in Cameroon, but we invite Cameroon companies to apply. TotalAdventure has some great trips to South Africa

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For three weeks during the month of August 2019, I got the incredible opportunity to volunteer at the Limbe Wildlife Centre in Cameroon. The LWC initially was the Victoria Zoo until 1993 when a partnership was born between the Pandrillus Foundation and Cameroon’s Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife in an effort to protect the local biodiversity and raise awareness about conservation. The Victoria Zoo then became a wildlife center focused on wildlife rehabilitation and conservation education. The animals there were orphaned as a result of human-wildlife conflicts such as bushmeat hunting or the pet trade. These are major issues in Cameroon and throughout Africa. Animals are often killed both legally and illegally for meat in unsustainable ways, and the infants are kept as pets in unfit living conditions for wild species. When they are rescued by authorities and brought the LWC, the animals are treated by their veterinary team and the rehabilitation process starts as they are integrated into conspecific groups and monitored by their team of specialists. Their mission is based not only on rehabilitation and release, but on educating the population to change views and opinions on wildlife and conservation so that these animals will be safe in the wild for as long as possible.

LWC information on the illegal pet trade
Educative and motivational posters for visitors
Poster to educate the public on national parks

My job as a volunteer at the Centre was that of an assistant animal keeper. During my time there, I would get to assist keepers throughout the five different sections at the sanctuary: gorillas, chimpanzees, guenons and mangabeys, Papios (drills, mandrills, baboons), and quarantine. Mornings at the Centre would begin with friendly greetings, handshakes, and hugs shared with everyone nearby. Limbe is indeed the friendliest town I have ever visited.

Working giving enrichment as a volunteer; masks and gloves are very important to prevent the spreading of zoonotic diseases!

One of the Head Keepers, Jonathan or Victor would then begin the morning with a general team meeting to discuss important news, tasks for the day, and to assign sections to all keepers. Once assigned to a section, the morning consisted of feeding, providing browse, and cleaning the enclosures of all animals. This experience surely shows how each species has their own little quirks. Chimps are definitely the loudest (and debatably the messiest to clean after), the gorillas hate being stared at, and monkeys oftentimes just want to cause mischief by taking your supplies! This experience gave me an appreciation for the quirks among individuals in a species, but even more so for the distinct personality traits between individuals. We all eventually formed our opinions on favorites and developed closer bonds more with some animals than with others.

Silverback male western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and his mate

Once all of that was finished, volunteers were usually asked to help create enrichment for the day.

Enrichment is environmental stimuli (often nutritional and structural) designed to improve the wellbeing of sanctuary animals by keeping them mentally and physically engaged and stimulating natural behavior they would be doing in the wild. For enrichment, we often made “leaf packs” (snacks wrapped in leaves and twine that primates must unpack to eat), as well as re-used and washed plastic bottles filled with browse and other nutritional supplements, boxes, and other variations. Some days the chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are given sticks to remove honey from crevices on a termite mount, to practice their tool use, or are given ice blocks with treats to try to break and melt. The idea is to induce critical thinking and problem-solving. At noon, everyone at the Centre breaks for lunch. A local Cameroonian dish is served in the meeting hall every day for volunteers and staff. This varies daily but sticks to a few main ingredients: rice and beans are popular, fish (as Limbe is a fishing town), oils, spices, and a traditional African meal fufu was very common. Fufu has multiple variations depending on what it is made with, but it is basically a dough-like food used to fill stomachs when food is scarce. The Cameroonian lunches were not my favorite part of the experience, but I was so grateful for people to share with me their food and culture.

Typical Cameroonian lunches, featuring fufu

In the afternoons, keepers were tasked with observing their animals for monitoring, which freed up time for volunteers to work on maintenance projects around the Centre with the construction team. During the time I was there, the LWC was working on building a new rehabilitation aviary for the rescued African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus) in their care. So, my afternoons mostly consisted of helping in construction and painting. Other options included harvesting browse for animals, preparing food, etc. At one point, I was even offered the opportunity to help with observations. The LWC is dedicated to being knowledgeable about the specific animals in their care and providing the best possible care, so I was able to watch a group of guenons consisting of two species, mona monkeys (Cercopithecus mona) and putty-nosed guenons (Cercopithecus nictitans), to try to problem-solve some social issues they were having. Close observation and research are the best ways to learn about animals to make adaptations to their environments or social groups for their benefit. This gave me practice for my future career in primate research and helped them prevent monkey injuries due to conflict. If you are a long-term volunteer with the LWC, you have the option to start your own research project based on the observation of animals in their care.

Red-capped mangabey (Cercocebus torquatus)
Mona monkey (Cercopithecus mona)

After work was always pleasant, returning to the volunteer house to shower, eat, and rest. Of course, it was different from my luxurious life in the US in almost every way. Shower water had to be warmed on the stove, and mosquito nets hung over the bed, but it truly brought one back to a simpler place in time.

Volunteer room
Volunteer house pets

Overall the work was hard and the days long but working at the sanctuary gave one a sense of pride in their work and a sense of meaning. Coming back to the house at the end of the night has a sense of camaraderie and belonging. All the little outside worries that exist in western society seemed to fade and no longer matter. With upbeat Cameroon music and delicious grilled chicken smell, and the extreme friendliness of locals in the air, it could truly make one rethink the meaning of home.

TotalAdventure does not currently have adventures in Cameroon, but we invite Cameroon companies to apply. TotalAdventure has some great trips to South Africa

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Lucky for me, my birthday fell within this trip to Cameroon. To celebrate, some of the sanctuary staff took me to Tsaben Beach. About a half hour from the town of Limbe, Tsaben Beach was the antithesis of polluted Down Beach. In fact, it is among the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen in my life. Black volcanic sand and rocks line the crystal blue water, and lush greenery is ever present. A row of pavilions provides a shady spot to down some beers and play cards.

Our visit took place during the rainy season in Cameroon, so tide was too high and rough to swim, and the sky was too cloudy to see the rumored breath-taking sunset. According to the locals, it was a flop of a beach day, but I think it was the most beautiful beach and best birthday I’ve ever experienced.

Tsaben Beach view
Beach pavilions
Staircase to the ocean
Beach sunset
Riding home with fellow volunteers

TotalAdventure does not currently have adventures in Cameroon, but we invite Cameroon companies to apply. TotalAdventure has some great trips to South Africa