For those of you who know as little about US baseball as I do – Dave Stewart is an Oakland California native, who played from 1978-1995 as a key member of several championship teams, World Series Victories and all around incredible human being. Since retiring from baseball he has tirelessly worked with youth and sports organizations in the Oakland community.
The Friday Night Placard
As part of the 50th Anniversary year celebration, today’s give away was an Action figure. It was also in commemoration of the perfect game that he pitched.
Not only did he throw out the first pitch, he received a standing ovation from the crowd. To top it off, the As managed to win the game.
As it turns out, Oakland was the first location for Bark in the Park.
Said event, you are not familiar with the concept, just think of it as “Dog’s Day Out at the BallPark” complete with doggy games, costumes and prizes. Obviously it was tonight along with the Cleveland Indians being in town. (BTW – I have to admire them – along with the Chicago Blackhawks – they are keeping tradition, tacky as it is, over the current trend toward extreme political correctness).
The parade of dogs [and owners]
This was the first As game I have attended since 29 May or so given that first we were in Madagascar followed by the As leaving town for a long road trip the day we returned. George had the tackiness to remark that they seem to do better on the road where I wasn’t in attendance…
Anyway – the cameras and bid boards gave all the dog folks a lot of play between innings. It wasn’t a high scoring and there were insane moments on both sides (like the As having the bases loaded followed by Pinder’s strike out). The drum and flag group in RF 149 had a pretty good turn out.
I have included the summary pulled from YouTube if you want the 2 minute version…
During the entire time I have been back from Madagascar, the As have been on the road. That might not seem like much, but it actually has been just about a month since I have seen a baseball game live. Admittedly, the entire time they have been on the road, their record actually has been decent. Of, course, that includes their tendency to get behind then bail themselves out in the last one to two innings.
A while back for some reason I went to the ticket office at the Giants Stadium. Wait! I know why – the As are playing over at AT&T Park the weekend of the 13-15th of July. The 14th is the annual RF149 outing to play the Giants. Unfortunately it is the same day George is having his 70th birthday celebration. But I will have other baseball fans in town that weekend. I was purchasing tickets for the 13th and thought – why not? I can go to a day game as well while the As are out of town. Which is why I found myself sitting on a lovely sunny afternoon watching the batters of both the Giants and the Rockies proceed to make the pitchers very unhappy. Or something like that.
This was the view that I wished to enjoy.
Unfortunately, I had forgotten that stairs in the stands are essentially roadways that see a constant stream of fans and vendors. I am used to sitting with a group that makes a once a game run for beer. Or rather, maybe since I know them, it just doesn’t bother me. I also don’t have this problem –
as you can see – anyone heading up or down blocks my view of both the pitcher and the batter, never mind first base. Perhaps if I had chosen a seat in the middle of the road I wouldn’t have had as many people blocking my view.
But, as we were fond of saying in Madagascar – that is really a first world problem, now isn’t it?
I didn’t take any complicated handcraft to Madagascar. I wasn’t sure that cross-stitch or knitting a bus was an objective possibility. Then there is the issue of dust, stains and sudden stops which could involve a colored food or beverage item. It just seemed safe to focus on something with an extremely limited number of colors.
All of which explains why I hadn’t made a lot of progress on Lou in the last month. I pulled it back out after we returned home then couldn’t find the floss which I had carefully stored. A trip to JoAnn’s solved that problem which meant, of course, that a day later I was organizing in the bedroom and “noticed” the box sitting square in the middle of the dresser. The obvious box into which I had carefully placed floss, needles, scissors and chart. Go figure, right? But I can always use extra thread.
Any way, as of this evening, between stints of stitching and audiobook – I have come this far.
It has been a long time since I learned to drive. Shall we just leave it at having had a license for well over a half century? Or learning to drive on a tractor which means that I grew up assuming that driving and standard transmissions were the norm.
This is obviously not the case for either those who grow up in US inner cities where both cars and driving are out of reach. The same goes, but for different reasons for those who grow up in Europe. Germany, where my offspring spent most of their years increased the driving age from 16 to 18 more than two decades ago. Not that this was an issue for the average German teenager since the price of mandatory drivers education, much less the ownership of a car was out of economic reach for just about all of them. The secondary affect was that DoDDs schools stopped offering Driver’s Ed as part of the school curriculum since Status of Forces Agreement would prohibit the testing and licensure of any US family members below the age of 18. A compromise, which enabled those who already had a US Stateside license to continue driving as long as they could pass the mandatory written test enabled a few drivers at age 16. Not seeing any need for any of mine to drive, I didn’t see the need to send kids to the US over a summer just so that they could learn to drive.
The end result of all of this is that the Eldest got her license (stateside) at age 26 but really didn’t do any significant driving till around age 30. None of the younger three have ever gotten a license.
All of which goes to explain why, at 0600 on a Sunday morning I was at the North Berkeley BART Station as a passenger to Daughter #2 while we did the Bunny Hop around the parking lot. The two choices for early on a weekend morning fall into public lots and mall lots. Since the BART station was closer, that is where we went.
I did mention that our small VW hatch back has a standard transmission?
It makes for a much steeper learning curve than I remembered. But then, a tractor which creeps along towing the hay flatbed for days on end is not exactly a high pressure environment and one can stay in first gear for a long long time. A parking lot which turns out, as much of the land here does, to have a slight slant means using clutch, break and gas peddle from the beginning. A parking lot also doesn’t require extensive use of turn signals, a real advantage.
Unlike on our way to Madagascar, I knew exactly what we were getting into with two 13+ hour flights (not counting the hours in the Istanbul Lounge between flights). It was going to be two extremely long flights punctuated by meals, beverages and attempts to sleep. Business Class on Turkish Airlines includes the Wifi Access, but really – who can’t do without internet connection for a few hours?
There are two lounges in Tana – one for Air France and one for all the other airlines. It wasn’t much of a lounge, just a few seating areas, a bar and a vertical cooler with a variety of drinks. It did provide me with an opportunity to insure that my electronics were charged, just in case there were outlet problems on the flight. I did no shopping; we used our last bit of cash to buy one more candy bar. Should have purchased outside the airport, of course where things were much, much cheaper.
tBoarding consisted of hiking along the barriers, across the tarmac and up the steps onto the flight.
Oh, wait! I forgot the fun of the other couple leaving the same time as us! Ann and Phillip were booked through Ethiopian Air. Arriving at the airport, they were informed that their flights were Sunday. Excuse me? Our printed reservation says today. And around and around they went. The manager said they could make the change for the small upgrade fee of $1000. It was at this point that they went and got Alain – our in-country group leader. Suddenly, the reservation seemed to be today without an extra charge. But there was this small issue of luggage. Can’t check luggage through when the connecting flight is tomorrow. Hello? They have two hours between flights in Addis Ababa. No reason why they can’t check the luggage through. But the second flight is on a different date…. and around they went till someone in management took over (not the same person who attempted the shakedown) and their luggage was checked.
Made our hours in the Turkish Airlines Lounge seem simple by comparison. Plenty of food, olives, beverages and places to plug in electronics if you looked closely enough. Boarding the connecting flight included a bit of confusion since we wound up leaving almost an hour late. Again, plenty of food, a bit of beverage plus my realization that I still had my Adia cloth but had left the pouch with threads, needles and the like on the first flight. Ah, well, sleep and solitaire on the iPad were good enough.
I was through immigration, customs and had the luggage before George made it through the line. If you are a US passport holder/permanent resident and haven’t downloaded MobilePass – I strongly recommend you do so. Faster than Global Entry and doesn’t cost a thing.
This morning, drive back to Antananarivo. En route, visit Lemur’s Park, created in 2000 to increase public awareness of the importance of protecting the lemur species of Madagascar. Nine different species can be observed roaming freely here. Have lunch onsite then continue to Antananarivo for our final farewell dinner and a day room to freshen up before our late evening transfer to the airport for departure flights. Overnight at Relais Des Plateaux.
Let me see, we got up and enjoyed plenty of coffee before hitting the road. I have no clue to what happened to Lemur Park but there was nothing like that on the trip. Instead we saw traffic, more traffic and plenty of zebu. The stop on the way back was at a “pizza” place. Then of course there was the stop at the high end (used by the foreigners) shopping center followed by the tourist market where mot of the rest of the bus exited to shop while I ignored all the tapping on the window.
At the end we wound up back at the same hotel as where we started. There was a lecture from one of the local botany types. Partnership between Kew Gardens (UK) and one of the reserves here.
I was more than ready to sleep by the end of the day.
This morning, have breakfast while listening to the peculiar call of the endangered Indri, the largest living lemurs, reaching up to three feet tall! Andasibe is an ideal place to observe the Indri, as there are some Indri families there who have been habituated to humans. Considered a sacred animal in Madagascar, the Indri is the focus of several origin myths. In addition to the Indri, 13 lemur species can also be seen: woody lemur, grey bamboo lemur, diademed sifaka, brown lemur, red mouse lemur, red-bellied lemur, black-and-white ruffed lemur, and aye-aye. These forests are also home to 15 other mammal species, more than 100 types of birds, 50 species of reptiles, and 80 amphibian species. Overnight at Vakona Forest Lodge.
We rise early for breakfast and then enjoy a full day exploration of the Analamazaotra Special Reserve in Andasibe. The primary forests of Andasibe Mantadia contains a dense humid forest covered with lianas, moss, fern trees, and more than 100 isalo national park orchids species. Other common plants growing here are Pandanus utilis, traveler’s tree, tambourissa, bamboos and some precious wood, like palisander and ebano. Conservation of the forest is a critical challenge in this region due to the graphite mines inside the park; we will discuss conservation initiatives as it relates to natural resources. This afternoon is at leisure to explore the trails at the hotel. In the evening, there will be a talk by a local researcher followed by dinner at the lodge. Overnight at Vakona Forest Lodge.
This morning, transfer to the airport for the flight to Antananarivo, then transfer to Andasibe. En route admire the large roadside Raphia farinifera palms. Arrive at the hotel late in the afternoon and take an evening walk in the Mitsinjo Analamazaotra Forest Station. Mitsinjo is an important site, and a great place to see the extremely endangered Ravenea louvelii palm in its natural habitat. Explore the flora of the trail system and then as darkness descends, continue walking in search of nocturnal wildlife. With luck, have a chance to observe the locally endemic Goodman’s Mouse Lemur. Common encounters also include the Greater Dwarf Lemur, leaf-tailed geckos, and an impressive sample of Andasibe’s amphibian diversity such as the tree frogs Boophis viridis and Boophis pyrrhus. Return to the hotel for dinner. Overnight at Vakona Forest Lodge.
we left our hotel this morning and headed to the airport
in plenty of time for our flight. Which happened to be changed to close to 1100. This is Air Madagascar. Prop plane with one engine suspended from each wing and six very wicked looking propellor blades on each. The good thing? Obviously neither the wings nor engines interfered with anyone’s view. The sad thing? The country appeared pretty desolate in our 90+ minute flight.
leaving the coast
nearer to Tana
On arrival, we were met by new van and driver. Loaded up to drive to the hotel. It was only 87 miles but took from 1300 till after dark. We made one stop along the way –
there are some trees
most raggedy sheep I have ever seen….
at a place that had most excellent coffee which we all needed plus offered a variety of western tourist adventures (hiking, zip lining and white water rafting). We had the coffee and looked at the sheep.
It was dark when we arrived, this place is set deep into the forest if the 30 minute practically off road drive is any judge.
We rise early today for a special sunrise walk in Reniala Private Reserve, managed by a local environmental association working to develop ecotourism in the area. Hike some of the trails to explore the spiny forest, a unique ecosystem which only occurs in the southwest Madagascar. The reserve contains more than 2000 plant species, as well as impressively old baobabs – including one that is 41 feet in diameter. The reserve also has 65 species of birds; rare endemics such as the Red-capped Coua and the Blue Vanga can easily be seen. Return to the hotel for a late breakfast, and explore the beach or hotel amenities. This afternoon, return to Reniala to continue exploring the flora and the tortoise park. Enjoy a special dinner this evening under the baobab trees in the reserve. Overnight at Le Paradisier.
About half the crew got up for the sunrise walk. The rest of us relaxed and had coffee….. Morning was reserved to basic updates of tasks like – laundry which could hang out in the sun, a bit of reading, some cross stitch and an audio book.
I wandered around the camp and just relaxed. A small group went snorkeling out on the reef. The water was barely 3 meters in most places so they had a great time with fish, coral and plant life. George went to the evening meal. As did only three others. They had a lovely hike through the same portion of the spiny forest before their dinner outside in the breeze. I didn’t ask about the insects, I didn’t want to know. Lunch had been late enough that I have no clue where any of them found room for supper.
Today we venture to Zombitse National Park and witness the results of a widespread environmental problem in Madagascar: deforestation. After a long history of “slashand-burn agriculture” in the region, only a small area of protected forest remains. As a result, it is a particularly abundant with flora biodiversity; baobabs and several orchids are especially common. Time permitting, visit Antsokay Arboretum, created in 1980 by amateur Swiss biologist Hermann Petignat. The 100-acre site is dedicated to conservation of the country’s endemic fauna. Continue to the seaside town of Toliara, situated near the Tropic of Capricorn. Overnight at Le Paradisier.
Actually, another day from Hell on the bus made much better by the stop at Zombitse Park
Spend the day exploring Isalo National Park, a continental sandstone plateau dating to the Jurassic times. This trek is full of varied landscapes with different forms of sandstones, and dotted with the famous dwarf baobab. After an hour walk with short climbs, stop to rest in a spectacular valley resembling the famous Death Valley. The overlook shows miles of azure sky, rocky desert, and winding greenery. Continue to the natural pool with its white sandy bottom and tropical vibe for a swim before making the trek back to the starting point. Transfer back to the hotel for dinner. Overnight at Le Relais de la Reine.
What this doesn’t say is hiking up a canyon, almost sliding into a creek or more ring tailed Lemurs! The quick summary is that there were a lot of lemurs who spent just about as much time looking at us as we at them. While the canyon walk was lovely, I decided that I really didn’t need to chance slipping, falling or smashing my good camera into anything.
The photos are divided more by subject than by actually sequence of taking. It will make sense (trust me?)
After breakfast, head to the Great South and Madagascar’s most visited park, Isalo National Park. The drive is along some of the best roads in the country and the scenery is breathtaking. Expect to spend most of the day driving. En route stop at Anja Community Reserve, managed by the local community and a vital example of sustainable tourism in Madagascar. The reserve boasts a diverse variety of endemic species, including several families of orchids and saxicolous plants. Explore the reserve then have lunch in a nearby restaurant. After a long day of driving, we check in to our hotel, have dinner, and relax in anticipation of Isalo National Park – over 200,000 acres of beautiful landscapes of sandstones, canyons, fauna and flora, natural swimming pools, and waterfalls. Overnight at Le Relais de la Reine.
It was an extremely long day of driving.
First – sights along the way –
zebu and cart
more human powered
bags and bags
local taxi bus
that is just a taste of what driving through a town or city will show you.
But the stars of today were ring-tailed lemurs. Trust me, they are funny, amazing and not at all concerned about humans in their habitat.
and more lemurs both in the trees where they have a tendency to move around like Rocky the Flying Squirrel
they eat the berries
There are also Zebu
and more ring tails down at the water and otherwise having an interesting time…
if you click on the picture you will get a slightly larger version. I did limit the size…
This morning, after breakfast, hike in the 102,000-acre Ranomafana National Park. Please note that hikes are moderately difficult uphill hikes on the way in. The rainforest is home to the critically endangered greater bamboo lemur, golden bamboo lemur, and 11 other lemur species, plus species of precious wood, palm trees, orchids, and carnivorous plants. This afternoon, have lunch at Centre ValBio (CVB), a world-famous research station established in 2003 and managed by Stony Brook University. Run by Dr. Patricia Wright, the accomplished American primatologist and conservationist, the CVB focuses on biodiversity, community health, environmental arts, and reforestation. After lunch is an informational presentation on the flora, fauna, and research efforts. This evening dine at a local restaurant and take a walk in search of nocturnal species on the outskirts of the national park. Overnight at Setam Lodge.
this was Lemur day – along with hiking up and down and some more up and down.
After breakfast, transfer to the mountainous Ranomafana National Park, situated on the edge of Madagascar’s High Plateau with elevations ranging from 1,640 to 4,921 feet. Ranomafana contains a variety of forest and is part of the World Heritage Site, Rainforests of the Atsinanana. Ranomafana has served as a model for subsequent parks and reserves in Madagascar and abroad. This evening we have a special traditional Tanala dinner prepared and served in a special pot, family-style. Tanala literally means “people of the forest.” Only 4% of the population of Madagascar are Tanala, so tonight’s meal is a rare treat. Overnight at Setam Lodge
Did I mention driving forever?
Yes, thought I did. The National Park is about 30 years old, give or take. It is the home to about 13 species of lemurs, six or so of which are nocturnal. I am not, so doubt that I will see any of them.
And there are a few birds, we did not see many due to the time of the day.
This morning en route to Antsirabe we visit the small town of Ambatolampy and its aluminum pot factory for a glimpse into Malagasy industry. One craftsman can make B as many as 20 of these robust pots per day! Have lunch at the Rendez-vous des Pêcheurs restaurant and then continue to Antsirabe. Check in at the lodge, a short distance from the town center, then enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight at Couleur Café.
OK. What this doesn’t say are two things:
the first you have probably already guessed. The roads were paved but barely two vehicles wide which makes for some interesting and challenging driving. Our small motor bus is well maintained but no where near new. The luggage rides in a rack on the top, under a tarp. I am just thinking Africa and am glad for the tarp. The driver or assistant stays with the vehicle at all times.
as clean as it gets
Driving out of Tana, we traveled along the river for several hours. The three main activities there are clothes washing, small dugout type canoe fishing and brick making.
Our stop at the above aluminum pot factory was both enlightening and appalling. The aluminum comes completely from recycling various containers, This part is good. The scary part? Completely manual labor fueled by charcoal conducted by men in shorts, t-shirts and bare feet as they shred, melt down and pour molten aluminum. Never mind goggles or hearing protection from the grinding noise. None of us noticed any significant burns which means either the men are good and careful or that an injury loses one the job.
Lunch was at a local restaurant with the ubiquitous rice + (meaning either chicken or zebu = the local species of oxen).
What followed was another several hours in the bus before we arrived at our overnight break. I skipped dinner, just wasn’t hungry. Of side note, the usual stomach upsets are starting to invade the group. So far I haven’t been blessed.
“Explore the capital city – the political, economic, and cultural heart of Madagascar. A local historian enlightens a visit to Ambohimanga, a hill and fortified royal settlement, followed by a family-style lunch with entertainment by traditional dancers and singers. This evening enjoy a welcome dinner and a talk on Madagascar’s unique biodiversity. Overnight at Relais Des Plateaux”
more to follow….
In reality, we stayed completely out of the city and went instead to what was the home of the Madagascar Royalty in the 1800s. Wooden buildings, up on the top of a high hill. Inside very English drawing room appearance complete with the kind of posed photos of Queens in English court dress that you might expect as a result of the invasion of English missionaries in the early 1800s. No photos allowed inside the building.
Inside the courtyard
It too over 90 minutes to drive the 20km from the hotel to the site. After walking the site long enough for the repetition to get to me, we headed off to lunch. Local entertainment. At least we ere told it was traditional even if there was an accordion and western dress involved.
JUNE 2 – Antananarivo Meet our guide and transfer to the hotel for needed rest after the long flight. Overnight at Relais Des Plateaux.
What I am doing is putting in place holders which will show up everyday that I am unable to get on line and edit them. Means I am probably alive, well, and, in the case of today – recovering from the flight (13.5 + 11 hours time + 7 hour wait + (?9-13more?).
Ok. You have benn informed. Any day you see just a paragraph listing the proposed activities you will immedIately know my lack of WiFi access.
Boarding began around 0050 for our flight which meant dinner served around 0300 and breakfast about 0900. As it turned out, we had a stop in Mauritainia where a large number of people deplaned and I don’t think anyone boarded. Thru passengers were requested to stay on the plane.
The above are from the window on take off. We arrived in Madagascar at 1420
There was a line for Visas, to clear immigration, to grt through customs (everthing gets xrayd) pick up. Hotel. Crash.
Before I forget – and this is being written from the Turkish Airlines Lounge in Istanbul – I just adore flying Turkish Airlines. At least in business class, no experience otherwise.
The plane itself is comfortable, they provide slippers. I don’t have a clue about their entertainment program since I enjoying watching the flight path. The service is excellent, the chefs on board prepare the food to order. The cart comes by with the starters so that you can mix and match. I never go around to desert since I decided that sleep wasn’t a bad idea at all.
But the icing on the cake? Besides the lovely lounge in the airport which is huge, open, airy with multiple snack stations and a full array of munchies, foods, drinks, teas and coffees?
salads and olives
We were parked at an outer location which meant the usual tramp and bus. There was a separate bus for business class. Not just a simple sign in the window, this was decked out with a full elegant wrap clearly distinguishing it from the ordinary white economy class. Business Class clearly emblazoned on the side, gold on chocolate brown.
Since our flight was late getting in. Oh – that was interesting. Apparently going around too many times on approach to SFO make the incoming TK 079 short on fuel. So they landed at OAK. Seriously. Refueled, took off, circled around, then landed on the SFO runway right across the bay. End result was that we were a couple hours late on departure. Fine with me since that meant a shorter time hanging out in Ataturk.
And I underestimated. Apparently the time zone different from SFO to IST is 11 hours… flip my bodies schedule on its head why don’t we.
Visit Lemur’s Park, a botanical park where nine species of lemur can be observed roaming freely.
Discover the sacred royal village of Ambohimanga, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Explore the sandstone canyons and waterfalls of Isalo National Park.
Learn about sustainability and biodiversity in Ranomafana National Park at Centre Valbio, a facility run by Dr. Patricia Wright that is now Madagascar’s leading field research center.
Experience a taste of Malagasy life while exploring Ambatolampy and visiting a pot factory which are used all throughout the island.
Investigate Madagascar’s over 12,000 plant species (up to 80% are endemic) , showcasing Madagascar, as one of the most, diverse floras in the world.
Witness extraordinary biogeography as Madagascar houses 100% of the world’s lemurs, half of the world’s chameleon populations and 6% of the world’s amphibian populations.
I will continue to think about this as we deal with yet another day underway.
SFO-IST arriving today (1 June) then early morning from here to Madagascar.