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Day Eight: Hwange, Zimbabwe

Posted on September 24th, 2014

Dave!The biggest difference between the Ruckomechi camp I was at previously and the Davison's camp I'm at now is the size. The concession granted by Hwange National Park here is massive. And it kind of has to be, because the animals are much more spread out. At Ruckomechi, you were just five minutes away from all kinds of animals, and would routinely see bunches of animals quite near to each other. At Davison's, you can dive for 30 minutes or more and not see a thing.

But when you do...

Ooh. I'm getting ahead of myself here.

After breakfast a group of us headed out into the grasslands to see what we could see. At the far end of the concession, there's a grassy plain where herds of animals are usually hanging out, so off we went.

Along the way I saw my first jackal, which is an animal I love...

Hwange Black-Backed Jackal

This black-backed jackal, which, according to Wikipedia is "the most lightly built jackal and is considered to be the oldest living member of the genus Canis. It is the most aggressive of the jackals, being known to attack animal prey many times its own weight, and it has more quarrelsome intrapack relationships." Jackals are fascinating creatures in that they form monogamous pairs. The male and female will mark out a territory where they'll live, hunt, and raise pups together. Once the pups are old enough, they'll head out to find their mates and establish their own territory.

Thirty minutes after our jackal sighting, we arrived at the plains... which were pretty much empty. There were small herds of animals way, way off in the distance that I could kinda spot at maximum zoom, but that was it...

Hwange Plains

A bit disappointing, so we turned into the forrest where we had a little better luck...

Hwange Animals

Hwange Animals

And then... just as I was accepting that we wouldn't be seeing any lions today, vultures were spotted circling low nearby. As we headed in their direction, we started noticing that all the trees were filled with vultures. Dozens and dozens of them...

Hwange Vultures

Hwange Vultures

And then, sure enough, a downed water buffalo was spotted. The vultures were already there in full force, which meant the predator(s) which killed it were long gone...

Hwange Vultures on a Water Buffalo

After a bit of searching, bingo, three lions were found nearby, chillin in the shade after their lunch...

Hwange Lions

When I zoomed in, I noticed their faces were stained pink and flies were piled on... apparently attracted to the blood...

Hwange Lions

Hwange Lions

After that bit of excitement, it was time to head back to camp for lunch and an afternoon siesta. Not far from the lions was a lone buffalo, probably looking for his missing friend...

Hwange Giraffe

I also got to see my first giraffes since arriving in Africa...

Hwange Giraffe

Hwange Giraffe

As they age, giraffes lose their color. Our guide mentioned that this giraffe must be getting quite old because its sides are nearly white...

Hwange Giraffe

And then it was time for my favorite shot I got of the day...

Hwange Giraffe

Isn't she amazing?

Back through the plains...

Hwange Plains

Testing the limits of my telephoto lens with this beautiful green bird here. I was running out of space on my memory card, and ended up shooting the last twenty shots of the drive in JPEG. This would have been a much cleaner image when cropped at 100% if I had gone RAW, but oh well...

Hwange Bird

After a nice long shower followed by a restless nap amidst the screeching baboons outside my door, it was time for the evening game drive...

Room with a View

Like Ruckomechi, Davison's also features a "Loo with a View" that I had to check out...

Loo with a View

Loo with a View

There were some guests that didn't get to see the lions, so I was asked if I minded heading back to the spot we found them this morning. Naturally, I didn't mind at all, so off we went.

The lions had moved, but were still in the vicinity of their kill...

Hwange Lions

Game was a lot more scarce this time around, but we did get to see more jackals, zebras, giraffes, and some warthogs.

Our sundowner snack was at a watering hole our guide liked, providing one of the most amazing sunsets I've seen yet...

Hwange Sunset

That's right out of my Sony A7s when set to "sunset" scene mode! Beautiful, isn't it?

Once the sun had disappeared, it was time to head back to camp. just like the previous night's drive, we ran across some lions... this time with cubs!

Hwange Lions at Night

Hwange Lions at Night

Hwange Lions at Night

Hwange Lions at Night

Hwange Lions at Night

Not a bad way to end the day.

Not bad at all.

   

Day Seven: Hwange, Zimbabwe

Posted on September 23rd, 2014

Dave!And so the time I had been dreading since the minute I stepped foot in Ruckomechi has come... it's time to leave. All morning I've been fretting over needing just one more day here to make sure I've gotten the most from my visit to Mana Pools National Park.

Just one. More. Day... that's all I need.

Which is pure fantasy, of course. If I had stayed four nights I would have wanted a fifth. If I had stayed five nights I would have wanted a sixth. The truth is that my visit would always be too short, because the magic here is something you just can't get enough of.

I debated over going on a morning game drive, but ultimately decided against it. Being able to sleep for another hour... being able to pack without being in a rush... and having time to look around the campsite a bit... it was all too compelling.

Besides, I could have a game drive without leaving my tent because I had an elephant out my front window...

Elephants at my Tent!

And my back window...

Elephants at my Tent!

And my side window...

Elephants at my Tent!

And even more elephants on the path to the dining room for breakfast...

Elephants at my Tent!

I had already tried the "Bath with a View" yesterday... Ruckomechi also has a "Loo with a View"...

Loo with a View!

When I went back to my tent to pack, a troop of baboons were wandering around my porch... including a mother and baby, which is always an entertaining sight...

Baboons!

How the babies have the strength to hold on like that all day long I don't know. But they somehow manage, even with their mother is in a full run.

After saying goodbye to the amazing Ruckomechi staff, I was off to the airstrip for a flight to the next camp. This time I got to be the co-pilot, which was pretty awesome...

Flight Cockpit

We didn't have enough fuel for the entire flight, so we ended up stopping in Kariba. I always try to take photos of airports I visit, but the pilot warned me not to take a picture of the control tower, as they get pretty upset when people do that. So I zoomed in on the passenger terminal sign in the hopes I wouldn't get shot or or have my camera confiscated or whatever. Kariba's airport, while small, is actually kind of nice. They planted a flower garden out front to look at and the staff was friendly, so I had no complaints...

Kariba Airport

The city of Kariba sits on the shore of beautiful Lake Kariba and is very near Kariba Dam, which is said to be in danger of collapsing...

Kariba

I noticed that some of the small islands in the lake were inhabited, which makes me wonder what would happen to them if the dam breaks and the lake drains...

Spurwing Island

I'm guessing this really cool splotchy island would no longer be an island. At the very least, the size of their beach would increase dramatically.

UPDATE: Now that I'm back, I used Google Maps to find out this is called "Spurwing Island," and looks to be home to a very nice resort property.

The final hop of my flight wasn't very exciting... but there was an occasional watering hole to break the monotony. Like this one, where a heard of elephants was just leaving. You can spot a jeep on the opposite side of the hole, so there must be civilization around here somewhere...

Zimbabwe Watering Hole

After landing at the Linkwasha airstrip in Hwange National Park, it was time to take the hour drive to Davison's Camp (named for the first park warden at Hwange, Ted Davison). At first the drive looked like it was going to be pretty boring...

Hwange Grasslands

But looks can be deceiving. Within five minutes, our guide spotter some really pretty antelope...

Hwange Antelope

Then zebra just minutes after that...

Hwange Zebra

Turns out there were all kinds of animals to look at on the drive, and it ended up being anything but boring.

One of the species we spotted was lions, which means I have been lucky enough to see them every day I've been in Zimbabwe. That's pretty amazing...

Hwange Lion

And then there was this guy, who was rolling around in the grass like a kitten...

Hwange Lion

As I mentioned when arriving at Ruckomechi, Wilderness Safari camps are divided into Premiere, Classic, and Adventure categories. Ruckomechi was a "Classic" property... whereas Davison's Camp is a notch lower, and considered to be an "Adventure" property. I had prepared myself for a drastic step down in quality, so you can imagine my surprise when I was shown to my "tent"...

Hwange Lion

Hwange Lion

Absolutely amazing.

What's nice is that the toilet/shower area offers a bit more privacy than the wide-open spaces in the tent I had at Ruckomechi...

Hwange Lion

As if that weren't enough... NO PAINFUL ROCKS IMBEDDED ON THE FLOOR! and... ZOMG... ELECTRICAL OUTLETS IN THE ROOMS! No more running to the dining room to charge my camera batteries!

It took me all of ten seconds to fall in love with my new home.

Since I arrived late in the day, everybody else at the camp was out on a safari game drive. This meant I got to explore the site a bit and visit with the wonderful staff at the camp. As dinner time approached, we could see the jeeps returning to Davison's, their night-red spotlights ablaze in the distance. But they all stopped short of arriving back at camp because a pride of lions showed up just a short distance away. You could kinda see the animals with your naked eye from where I was standing, but my zoom lens wasn't bright enough to photograph them...

Hwange Lion

The lion-sighting pushed dinner way, way back and I was exhausted, so I grabbed a snack and returned to my tent.

My 5:30am game-drive wake-up will be here all too soon.

   

Day Six: Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

Posted on September 22nd, 2014

Dave!Last night was much quieter so I actually managed to get some sleep, which was nice.

On this morning's game drive, our guide decided to head out to a giant tree that has a massive hole in it. I fully admit that this didn't seem like much of a destination-worthy sight, but if there's one thing I've been learning over the years, it's to trust the local guides.

And so off we went to see a hole.

But before we could get there...

We spotted some elephants destroying a tree. Usually, for a tree this size, they'll just strip the bark off the thing... but this time they decided to knock it over for some reason. Our guide said that this is unusual but, now that it's down, the elephants will keep eating it until there is nothing left...

Elephants Destroy a Tree!

And I believed it. The elephants just kept ripping off these huge strips of tree with their trunks and chowing down...

Elephants Destroy a Tree!

Maybe they knocked it down so the baby in their group could have some. He was munching away just like the adults...

Elephants Destroy a Tree!

After watching the tree carnage for a while, we headed to the tree with the hole in it... but ended up driving right on by because our guide got a call that three male lions were in the area! A quick five minutes later and one of the others in the jeep spotted them trying to escape from the sun under a bush...

Lions in the Shade

Lions in the Shade

Lions in the Shade

Lions in the Shade

Lions in the Shade

Even doing nothing, these are beautiful, beautiful animals. And how insane is it that I've been lucky enough to see them three days in a row when there are people who come and see none at all?

After staring at lions for a while, our guide decided to head back to the tree with the hole in it.

Until one of the other jeeps that showed up just as we were leaving reported that an elephant had showed up and was CHASING THE LIONS OUT OF THEIR BUSH! Insane! We pull up just in time to see the last lion get chased off...

Elephant Chasing Lions!

Then the elephant was all like "Yeah, I just made three lions my bitch! as he turned towards the jeep and gave us a sideways glance before trumpeting and wandering off... assumably to take on a heard of rhinos or something...

Elephant Chasing Lions!

Anyway... we finally made it to that tree with the hole in it...

Lions in the Shade

Kind of anti-climactic after the stuff we had just witnessed, but okay.

Then we drove around a corner and saw... CROCODILES!

Crocodiles of Zimbabwe

Crocodiles of Zimbabwe

This guy decided to be all fancy and make himself a jacket with water hyacinths...

Crocodiles of Zimbabwe

He seems happy about it too!

With all the cool animals around, it's easy to overlook the amazing birds hanging around Mana Pools but, luckily, we have a great guide to point them out...

Bird in Zimbabwe

Warthogs are everywhere, though they tend to be a bit shy so I haven't gotten many photos. This guy decided to strike a pose for me before running off, which was nice...

Bird in Zimbabwe

When they run, warthogs stick their tails straight up in the air. It looks pretty funny, so I'm definitely going to try and get a picture of that.

Today I learned that the beautiful red and blue birds we keep seeing are called "Carmine Bee-Eaters." Apparently they only show up in this area once a year to mate, so I consider myself lucky to have seen so many of them...

Carmine Bee-Eater in Zimbabwe

Carmine Bee-Eater in Zimbabwe

And now, for no reason at all, a baboon running with impalas while eating leaves...

A Baboon Running with Impalas While Eating Leaves

And here's the male of the group, who decided to stop and stare us down as we drove by. Isn't he beautiful?

Impala Alpha Male

AFRICAN WATER BUCK!

Impala Alpha Male

Not cool that they've evolved to have a target painted on their butt. Not cool at all.

And... we're done.

Since it's too early to take a shower when I get up at 5:00am, I've gotten in the habit of taking one when I get back to camp after the morning game drive. Today I decided to try my outdoor shower, which is attached to each tent in the camp. Not that I'm any kind of exhibitionist, but it seemed like it might be a unique experience.

So there I was, towel and shampoo in-hand, walking around the corner of my tent when... BLAM! There's an elephant in my shower.

After nearly dropping a load in my pants, I backed away slowly so I could get my camera. Who would believe it otherwise?

There's an Elephant in my Shower

After he cleared out, I was able to take a shower. If you ever have a chance to experience an outdoor shower, I highly recommend it. Not just because your dick gets to air-dry in the wind, but because of the feeling you get of becoming one with nature. Or something like that.

After a nice nap, I headed back to the dining room for lunch and the evening game drive.

You would think that the constant presence of elephants in the camp would be something you get used to... but I assure you that you do not. Especially when the babies are around, as they are one of the most adorable things you'll ever see. This little guy was walking on the path back to camp, so I patiently waited for him to wander off...

There's an Elephant in my Shower

After he left, I came across another baby almost immediately. And even though I kept my distance, momma showed up to let me know that her baby was hands-off. They are very protective that way...

There's an Elephant in my Shower

Tonight I decided to take my game drive via boat, which is a nice option to shake things up a bit.

My adventure started before I even climbed onboard, because there were some zebra, warthogs, and baboons hanging around the dock...

River Cruise Wildlife

As we headed out onto the Zambezi River, we noticed crimson bee-eaters everywhere...

Carmine Bee-Eaters

Turns out that they nest in tiny caves they carve out of the river banks...

Carmine Bee-Eaters Nesting

Carmine Bee-Eaters Nesting

HIPPO ENCOUNTER!

Hippos in the Zambezi

Hippos in the Zambezi

Hippos in the Zambezi

The river cruise was nice, as it allowed you to see animals in a different context. Elephants, for example, aren't scrubbing around the ground looking for seed pods... they're ripping up grass in big clumps to eat. What's fascinating about this is that they wash the dirt off the grass before eating it by dunking it in the water several times before slapping it on the ground to dry it off...

Elephants in the Zambezi

There were two elephants teaching a baby how to wash grass. The poor little guy was having a tough time of it, as most of the grass got washed away because he wasn't that skilled at gripping stuff yet. Still adorable...

Elephants in the Zambezi

The sunset was, as expected, glorious...

Zambezi Sunset

Not a bad way to spend my last night in Ruckomechi!

   

Day Five: Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

Posted on September 21st, 2014

Dave!Attempting to sleep while baboons, hippos, and all manner of other creatures are screeching, howling, grunting, chirping, and making a racket is no easy trick. I certainly hope I get used to it over the next week, because this is going to be a really interesting vacation if I'm sleep-impaired the whole time. I'd use earplugs, but I'm worried about missing the 5:30am wake-up for breakfast and our morning game drive.

One thing adding to the pain of my inability to sleep is having to get up for a bathroom break in the middle of the night. For reasons completely unknown, the tents at Ruckomechi have stone imbedded in the floor and, while they look pretty, they hurt like hell to walk on with bare feet. I stubbed my toe on one last night and it is still throbbing...

Ruckomechi Floor Rocks

WTF?!?

Ruckomechi has a nice bar area where you can help yourself to drinks or sit and relax any time you want to escape from your room for a bit...

Ruckomechi Lounge

The tents don't have electricity outlets, but there's a power generator you can tap into in the dining room if you need to charge camera batteries and such...

Ruckomechi Recharging

After a nice continental breakfast, it was time to hit the grasslands for a game drive.

I considered myself lucky to have seen two lions on my first day, as there were people ahead of me that stayed for four nights and never saw one. Today I was even luckier, getting to see a lioness and her three young ones enjoying the sunrise right off the bat...

Ruckomechi Floor Rocks

Ruckomechi Floor Rocks

Ruckomechi Floor Rocks

After watching the lions wander around a bit, we came across a flock of helmeted guineafowl, well-known in Zimbabwe for their spotted bodies and bright blue heads...

Helmeted Guineafowl

Followed by a baboon on a termite mound...

Baboon in Zimbabwe

And... inexplicably... yet another lion sighting. This time a beautiful young male with his mane growing in pretty good...

Lion in Zimbabwe

It's rare to see hippos out of the water during daylight hours, but we managed to catch one as it made its way from a marshy refuge to the Zambezi River...

Hippo in Zimbabwe

A member of the antelope family, impalas have a rigid social structure where all the boys of the heard battle it out to determine who gets to be the dominate male each season. The winner gets to breed with the females and has the important job of managing the herd. The male is the one with horns...

Impala in Zimbabwe

Impala in Zimbabwe

The losing males form their own herd where they will practice fighting and growing stronger so they can (hopefully) be victorious the next season.

CRAAAAAANE!!!

Spooky Crane

As if I wasn't already lucky enough, we happened across a pack of wild dogs. Our guide said a group of people were in a while ago specifically to see them, but never did after a week of searching. They had just made a kill, so all thirty-two of them were sleeping in a big pile...

Wild Dogs!

Every once in a while a pup would stand up and look around, so we sat around waiting. All of them have interesting calico-type coats that must do a good job of camouflaging them in the bush...

Wild Dogs!

Wild Dogs!

The Mana Pools are home to all kinds of wildlife, and it's all fairly close to camp...

Antelope!

After four hours of wandering around the concession, it was time to head back to camp. When we got there, I was ready to go back to my tent and take a nap, but an elephant was on the path...

Elephant of Ruckomechi

I tried to go around, but another elephant was lounging by my tent...

After five minutes or so, he moved on... but not before staring me down first.

Elephant of Ruckomechi

One of the features of Ruckomechi is an outdoor bath. I haven't taken a bath in over ten years, but it was an opportunity too good to pass up...

Ruckomechi Outdoor Bath

Ruckomechi Outdoor Bath

Our evening game drive began where the lions made their kill last night. They left a heck of a mess...

Zebra Kill

A few of the lions were still in the neighborhood, which meant the vultures and hyenas were kept away...

Lions

As we drove around looking for a place to have our sundown snack, we saw some really cool birds goofing around. So many of the birds here are colorful, but these were on another level...

Ruckomechi Outdoor Bath

Eventually we found a spot next to a troop of baboons...

Baboons

Africa Sunset

Africa Sundowner Snack

The drive back to camp was fairly uneventful, but it was hard to complain given all the cool stuff I got to see today.

One more day left in Ruckomechi...

   

Day Four: Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

Posted on September 20th, 2014

Dave!My vacation was booked through a wonderful company called Ultimate Africa Safaris, an agency specializing in Africa travel. After examining a bunch of different options they came up with that fit my budget, I ended up booking with Wilderness Safaris. They operate a number of camps in Africa, and can provide door-to-door service via Wilderness Air, their internal airline.

After landing at Harare, I was met by the pilot and transferred to a 4-seater Cessna for the flight to Ruckomechi, my first camp stop at Mana Pools in northern Zimbabwe...

Flight from Harare to Mana Pools

There's not a lot to look at after you pass the outskirts of the city...

Flight from Harare to Mana Pools

After a noisy 1-hour 40-minute flight, we landed near Mana Pools for the drive to Ruckomechi Camp...

Drive to Mana Pools and Ruckomechi Camp

My adventure began before I even got to camp, as I saw impala, warthogs, and zebra along the way...

Mana Pools Zebra

Wilderness Safari camps are divided into Premiere, Classic, and Adventure categories. Ruckomechi is considered a "Classic Camp," which is surprisingly luxurious for not being one of the top-shelf properties. My tent was more like a nice hotel room than any tent I've ever stayed in...

Ruckomechi Camp Tent

Ruckomechi Camp Tent

Ruckomechi Camp Tent

Ooh! A visitor wanders by...

Ruckomechi Camp Tent

Ruckomechi Camp Tent

If you're traveling with somebody, prepare to get to know them a lot better. The shower and toilet are wide open into the main room with not so much as a curtain to separate them...

Ruckomechi Camp Tent

The staff wastes no time in getting you started on your safari adventure. After a welcome drink and a run-through of the camp features and rules, A guide whisked me out to the grasslands to look for game as the sun started to set...

Mana Pools Game Drive

Minutes later I saw my first lion...

Mana Pools Game Drive

And then another...

Mana Pools Game Drive

The animals are fairly close to your jeep, but it helps to have a long lens so you can zoom in on the action. This young male is just starting to have his mane grow in...

Mana Pools Game Drive

Across the Zambezi River is Zambia, which apparently sets half the country on fire every year before the wet season to clear out dead brush. This really sucks ass, because all that smoke drifts into Zimbabwe and fills the sky with smoke. On the up-side, this makes for beautiful sunsets...

Zimbabwe Sunset

On evening game drives, your guide will set up a "sundowner" where you get assorted drinks and snacks. Tonight was home-made potato chips with honey-pepper dip (amazing) and cheese & olive spears...

Zimbabwe Sunset

Ruckomechi is known as "the elephants' favourite camp" because they hang around the place all the time. A big reason for that is the albida trees that drop tasty seed pods that elephants just love...

Zimbabwe Sunset

After the sun went down, it was time to return to camp for dinner...

Zimbabwe Sunset

Which is an impressive affair. Dinner tonight was served buffet-style with fantastic vegetarian options since there were a couple of us staying at Ruckomechi...

Ruckomechi Dining Room

Shortly after dinner was concluding, word came that the lions had made a kill just minutes away. Everybody poured into jeeps to go take a look. At night the guides use red spotlights to find animals because it doesn't hurt their eyes...

Ruckomechi Dining Room

Sure enough, the lions had gotten a zebra. Unfortunately I only had my pocket camera with me, so I didn't get very good shots of the carnage that ensued...

Ruckomechi Dining Room

Delicious zebra rump roast!

And, just like that, my first day of safari was over.

   

Day Four: JNB->HRE

Posted on September 20th, 2014

Dave!And... away we go...

BRB.


DaveToon: Lil' Dave and Bad Monkey going on a safari.

   

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Day Three: Johannesburg

Posted on September 19th, 2014

Dave!And so here I am in Johannesburg, South Africa.

I added a full day layover in the city to recover from the long-ass 30-1/2 hours of travel I put in yesterday. Originally I was going to fly into Cape Town, but they don't have a Hard Rock Cafe there anymore, so Johannesburg it was.

The property is of the new-style "hipster cafe" variety. Usually I hate the cold and impersonal approach of these Hard Rocks, but this one is not so bad. It has a nice assortment of memorabilia, at least (even if it's not as big as it could be)...

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

The Hard Rock is located in the district of Sandton on Nelson Mandella Square, where they have a very nice statue of him...

Nelson Mandella Square in Johannesburg

And so... after posting this I'm off to bed with hopes of getting some sleep before a rather busy day tomorrow. Though I doubt I'll get to update my blog because the hotel internet is utter shit...

Crappy internet connection error

Good preparation for when I have no internet at all real soon now.

That'll be interesting.

   

Day Two: AMS->JNB

Posted on September 18th, 2014

Dave!A three-hour drive to Seattle.

A three-hour wait for my flight.

A nine-and-one-half hour flight to Amsterdam.

A two-hour layover at Schiphol.

A ten-and-one-half hour flight to Johannesburg (on which KLM had internet! Unbelievable!).

A half-hour wait to collect my suitcase and get through Passport Control.

A two-hour wait to catch the hotel shuttle, stand in line at reception, get checked-in, find out I have the wrong room, stand in line at reception again, get sent back to the room, wait for housekeeping, and a thirty-minute wait for them to make-up my room.

That's a thirty-and-one-half-hour day in two days.

I'm beat.

But I'm in South Africa.

At long last.

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Day Eight: Tunisia

Posted on September 11th, 2010

Dave!And here I am back in Africa... this time in beautiful Tunisia.

The first stop was in ancient Carthage, which was a major city back in its heyday. There are a number of ruins around, but the tour I had focused on the colosseum and Roman baths... both in pretty bad shape, but still very interesting...

Colosseum at Carthage

Roman Baths at Carthage

Roman Baths at Carthage

From there it was a quick stop at The Bardo Museum, which was something I was very much looking forward to (and the only criteria I had for picking a shore excursion package). Their collection of mosaics is fantastic, and to be able to see them in person is like a dream come true. In many ways, mosaic is somewhat like the early days of computer pixel art, and I've always been fascinated with the stuff...

Bardo Museum Mosaic

Bardo Museum Mosaic Detail

Bardo Museum Mosaic Four-Panel

Bardo Museum Mosaic Tree Man

Bardo Museum Mosaic

I could have easily spent a full day here, but with a mere 40 minutes I just pushed my way through as many rooms as possible before heading off to the Tunis Medina. Much of the Medina market was closed, which ended up being a total blessing. With many of the side-streets vacated, I was left with photographic opportunities literally too good to be true, but still had some excitement to experience down the main passages...

Tunis Medina

Busy Main Passage at the Medina Market

Medina Lighting Seller

Medina Empty Alley

Medina Market Toys

Medina Market Door

Medina Market Wiring

Roof View of the Medina

Time for a lunch break...

Arabic Coca-Cola!

Since the tour group consisted mostly of Americans, the guide was kind enough to then drive us through the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial, where soldiers from World War II are buried. As it was 9-11, the flag was flying at half-mast...

Tunis American Cemetery

Flag Half-Mast at the Tunis American Cemetery

The final stop on the tour was the beautiful blue-and-white city of Sidi Bou Said (sid-dee boo sigh-eed). Much like Santorini, all the buildings are colored to compliment the sea and sky. I could have stayed here for days just photographing the amazing doors that permeate the city...

Mosque of Sidi Bou Said

Blue Doors

Blue Doors

Blue Doors

Blue Doors

Many of the doors have beautiful decorative nails pounded into them. The guide explained that Muslim houses are typically very plain on the outside so you can't tell what's inside. To illustrate how wealthy a person was, they used to decorate their door with ornate silver and gemstone patterns. Now-a-days, of course, any such valuables would be stolen immediately, so the painted nails are used as a symbolic expression of how the decorations used to be.

After an exhaustive day running around Northern Tunisia, it was back to the ship for dinner and one amazing sunset at sea off the African coast...

Africa Sunset

And that's the joy and hurt of a cruise... they allow you to see so many wonderful places in a single journey, but only for a very short time. As I boarded the ship I wanted nothing more to run back to the dock and lose myself in Tunis again but, alas, I'm off to new places and new adventures...

   

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Thrice Fiction Magazine - March, 2011 - THE END
I'm co-founder of Thrice Fiction magazine. Come check us out!
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