Sunday, January 29, 2017

Hiding In Plain Sight

sa spirit

When I went outside this morning, there was a particularly large rabbit moving across our front lawn. The instant that it became aware of my presence, it froze. Standing still in that manner made it barely visible against the background of the bushes under which it had been running, and you might say that the animal was quite literally "hiding in plain sight!" That naturally got me to wondering if there was a label for this kind of behavior, but what I found was a somewhat different perspective. Contrary to popular opinion which states that an animal's response to danger is "fight or flight," it appears that there is actually a third response, which is to "freeze!" So it is more correct to say that indeed there are three responses to perceived danger, "fight, flight or freeze."

Next week Lisa and I are finally going to put our home on the market. Like the rabbit on my front lawn, we have decided to "hide in plain sight!" By this, I mean that we will be on a cruise around South America for three weeks, during which time, we fervently hope that we will receive an offer on our home. We are not fleeing in the sense that we are going to disappear and be unreachable, rather we are going to hide in plain sight on a cruise ship where we are but a phone call away. I know that the idea of being away while we attempt to sell our home may seem a little crazy, but to anyone who has gone through the process they surely realize how stressful it can be. So we came up with this crazy idea, and we will see how it goes.

Therefore this Tuesday we will fly to Dallas where later that evening we will board an overnight flight to Santiago Chile. We will remain there for several days thus allowing plenty of time for any lost baggage to catch up with us before driving to the port city of Valparaiso on February 3rd. There we will board the largest ship in the Silversea fleet, the Silver Spirit. When I say that this is the largest ship in the fleet, it still only carries approximately 500 passengers. So by comparison to the giants offered by many other cruise lines, this is truly to be considered a small ship.
Starting at Valparaiso, we will sail southward along the South American coast eventually entering into the famous Chilean fjords. We will exit the fjords along the Beagle Channel to arrive at the most southern city in South America, Ushuaia, Argentina. From there, the ship heads Northeast to visit Stanley, capital of the Falkland Islands. After that, it is two days at sea until we reach Montevideo in Uruguay, and then just a short jaunt to our final port of call, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

After spending a day in Buenos Aires, we will board an early morning flight to Miami, and from there a direct flight back home to Kansas City. All of this will take about 21 days.
So at this point, I don't have much to write about except to tell you what lies ahead. Lisa and I have been to virtually all these locations before, but as I have learned many times, adventure can be found in the strangest places--so I am excited about what awaits us.

I hope that everyone is getting off to a good new year, and that you will enjoy once again traveling with us as we hide in plain sight.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Ruins of East Africa’s Greatest Empire

Map picture

Historically Kilwa Kisiwani was home to the Kilwa Sultanate. This medieval Sultanate reached the height of its authority in the 13th to 15th centuries A.D., and stretched the entire length of the Swahili coast. The ruins have today not only been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but also in 2008, they were placed on the list of the world’s 100 Most Endangered Sites. One of the individuals on our expedition team is apparently noted for literally having written the book on this part of the world, and to use his words: “Kilwa Kisiwani is without question the most important archaeological site in all of Eastern Africa.”

I hope I may be forgiven for admitting that I never even heard of the place! So in spite of the heat and the fact that our tour was in the late afternoon sun, I was determined to go ashore.

Our ship was able to anchor in the river close to the pier where we would land. At the time we arrived, it was low tide. Even though the local pilot was not able to reach our ship because his boat was disabled, our excellent Captain took upon himself the responsibility for navigating our vessel in the shallow waters so that we could see this amazing site. The trip ashore was quick and smooth, but upon arrival I realized that because of the tremendous tidal flows in this area of Africa, I needed to climb roughly 20 stairs in order to reach the top. The stairs were narrow and some were slimy, however my hat is off to the expedition team who managed to get me to the top safely. Once there I found myself probably 300 feet from shore and before me stretched a long concrete jetty at the end of which was a steep climb to the top of the nearby hillside – roughly 300 feet above the water. As you may imagine by the time I reached the top of the stairs, I was already hot, soaked, and winded.

Once there I was greeted with local musicians performing a dance to the beat of rhythmic African music. Scattered about were a large number of children, along with some adults, all of whom were extremely friendly and somewhat shy. The native language was Swahili, but they did respond to a smile and the words “hello.” They also responded to “Jumbo,” which in Swahili is the same thing as hello. Once assembled we set off on a walk around the local village to reach the giant ruins themselves. Here we were able to visit the great Mosque, which is the oldest standing Mosque on the East African coast. It once had 16 domed and vaulted bays, however some of them have fallen over time, but many still remain all these centuries later. We also were able to visit the Palace of Husuni Kubwa, which was largely constructed in the 14th century. Nearby stands “Husuni Ndogo,” or what is known as the “Little Fort.” This is a rectangular enclosure where on each corner stands a watchtower.

I think at this point it would be best served if I directed you to the photographs of this amazing location. The sheer size and beauty of many of the structures left me breathless. Sadly, the site appears to have no protection, and even the sign declaring it a World Heritage Site was so faded that it could barely be read. There is a native village nearby, and their animals used the abandoned ruins as their pasture. Even so if you look closely at the domes within the great Mosque you could see the remnants of the ceramic tiles that once covered the interior of this massive structure. You can only marvel at what this must’ve look like at the height of this culture.

I am truly going to try and get the photographs online this afternoon. Today will be our last day on board the ship. Tomorrow morning we begin the long trek home which will involve a two day journey. I have a feeling that we are going to be in for a temperature shock, but regardless it always feels good to go home.

I do hope that everyone has enjoyed my musings, and I want to thank all of you who have been so gracious in your responses and encouragement. So I guess what I should say is, “That’s it for now!”