Tsavo National Park is composed of two parks, East and West, and is one of the oldest parks in Kenya. Tsavo East is located southeast of the town of Voi and covers 13,747 square kilometers. Tsavo West is slightly smaller at 9,065 square kilometers.
Tsavo East Is comprised of semi-arid grasslands and savannas, and is the home to more than 500 bird species and 100 mammals, including lions, elephants, leopards, zebras, and giraffes. Other species include the black rhino, cape buffalo, yellow baboons, and gazelles. The park is visited by over 75,000 per year and is managed by a trust which works to preserve the diverse wildlife found in the park.
The most popular features of the park in addition to the wildlife are the Yatta plateau, Lugard Falls, Aruba Dam, and Mudanda Rock.
One of the major draws for this park is its remote location. There are relatively few camps especially in the East, meaning you could drive for hours, see all sorts of wildlife, but never run across another vehicle. From pods of hippos lounging near the Muranda Rock to the short-maned lions named for the park, this is one of the best places to experience Kenya.
Karlov Most (Charles Bridge) is one of the most iconic sights in Prague. One of several bridges that unite the portions of Prague east and west of the Vltava River, the bridge dates back to 1402 and is lined with 30 statues which were added in the 1700's (although the current statues are replicas of the originals).
Until 1841, this bridge was the only means of crossing the Vltava from Old Town to the Prague Castle. The bridge is guarded by three towers, two on the Lesser Quarter side of the river and two on the Old Town side. According to Czech legend, King Charles IV, the first King of Bohemia to become Holy Roman Emperor, laid the first stone in the bridge at 5:31am on July 9, 1357. The precise time noted in the legend was significant because Charles IV was a follower of numerology and the exact time formed a palindrome, which the king believed would imbue the bridge with strength.
This history of the bridge includes some dark moments. In June of 1621, 27 leaders of an anti-Hapsburg revolt were executed and their heads displayed on the bridge as a deterrent to future rebels. In 1648, toward the end of the Thirty Years' War, the Swedes took the west bank and tried to advance across the the bridge to take Old Town. Fighting on the bridge damaged the tower on the Old Town side of the bridge and the statuary on the bridge had to be removed. The bridge has also been damaged many times over the centuries by flooding, with the most recent renovations taking place within the past ten years. Since the mid 1970's the bridge has been closed to all but pedestrian traffic. Vendors line the bridge selling artwork and crafts to the crowds of tourists who visit the bridge each year.
A sing-sing is a festival in Papua New Guinea where tribes gather to celebrate and demonstrate tribal songs and dances to share their traditions and promote peace between their tribes. Mount Hagen, the third largest city in PNG, with over 40,000 inhabitants, is home to the largest and most famous such festival.
Hundreds of tribes gather, painted and dressed in traditional regalia which features face paints in vibrant colors made from natural materials, plumage from native birds, seashells, and palm branches. The festivals began when PNG was under Australian rule in 1957. Australian officials staged the first such festival as a competition among tribes in Goroka, capital of the Eastern Highlands Province, in an effort to determine how the regions were organized.
Papua New Guinea gained its independence from Australia in 1975, but the festivals had already become a popular tradition, drawing tribes from around the country and tourists from around the globe. Although competition is still an element of the festivals, for most spectators the show is about gaining a better understanding of tribes that were unknown to the Western world prior to the 20th Century.
The tribes perform war-dances, share ancestral songs and stories, and use musical instruments created by hand from the resources in their region. The festivals include demonstrations of tribal funeral rituals, courtship dances, and male initiation rites.
Hell's Gate National Park was established in 1984 south of Lake Naivasha and northwest of the capitol, Nairobi. Named for a narrow fissure in the cliffs, the park is home to a wide variety of wildlife. It's also known for the magnificent scenery of Fischer's Tower and Central Tower, which are also favorites among rock climbing fans.
The park Is small by African standards, just 26 square miles, but Is home to lions, leopards, cheetahs, zebras, hyraxes, African buffalos, gazelles, hyenas, and baboons. It's also home to over 103 species of birds, including the rare lammergeyer vulture.
The park Is also popular among tourists for biking, hiking, motorcycling, and even camping. The Maasai Cultural Center is also located in the park and provides educational programs related to the Maasai tribe's culture and traditions.
The park has also been seen on film by hundreds of millions as It was memorialized In the original The Lion King, The canyon which was the scene of Mufasa's tragic demise was based on the slot canyon located in Hell's Gate, and the hot springs were depicted as well. In 2003, Lara Croft Tomb Raider - The Cradle of Life was shot in the park.
Those same hot springs provide geothermal power through five geothermal stations located In the park. In 2015, two years before the last two stations came online, steam from the hot springs and geysers under the park generated 47% of Kenya's power.
One of the most interesting sights I visited in Prague was the Astronomical Clock. It was built into the wall of the Old Town Hall in 1410 and tells not only the time, but the seasons, the day of the year, and the zodialogical season. In addition, it is thought to be the only clock on the planet capable of tracking Babylonian time, which adjusts the length of the hour based on the season so that an hour in summer is longer than an hour in winter. It also has dials that indicate the location in the sky of sun and moon.
The clock has many legends associated with It Including several about the clockmaker having been blinded by the King after he finished it to ensure that he could never create such a masterpiece for any other city. As the story goes, he made his way to the tower and threw himself into the clockworks, killing himself and stopping the clock. Although the clock has stopped working at various times over its 600 year history, all evidence indicates this legend is not based in fact.
The clock includes quite a few exquisitely detailed figures, most of which are set in motion when the clock strikes the hour. This spectacle draws visitors from around the world each hour to stand and watch intently for a 45-second demonstration of ancient precision and skill. Near the top of the clock are two windows. As the hour chimes, these windows open and figures representing the twelve apostles rotate past and pivot toward the open window. At the same time, several figures on the sides of the clock also move, including a skeleton representing death who turns his hourglass upside down to indicate one's life is over. Other figures represent vanity, greed, and infidelity. On the lower face, which tells the day of the year, four stationary figures representing an astronomer, a chronicler, a philosopher, and an angel appear.
For one of the best sites I found for more information on the history of the clock and how to read it, click here.
As I was writing BoliviaKnight and researching all about Bolivia's climate, culture, and history, I came across pictures of one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Salar de Uyuni is the world's largest salt flat. I know, that doesn't sound that impressive, but the reflective qualities of the salt crystals act like a mirror, reflecting the massive expanse of sky over this 4086 square miles of salt.
The reflection also causes an optical illusion that makes depth perception very difficult, leading to folks taking lots of silly pictures as well.
But the salt flat is not all fun and games. The sunlight reflecting off the salt can be blinding, the high altitude can make it hard to breath or result in altitude sickness, and the risk of driving at high speeds on the salt crust which is only a few yards thick, over a lake that is 430 feet deep, make trips across the salt flat challenging. The remote location adds to the risk of the adventure because getting help in an emergency is difficult.
Underneath the surface lies the world's largest supply of lithium, comprising 50-70% of the world's supply of this critical component for the lithium ion batteries used to power all our smart devices.
There are several islands in the midst of the salt flat and even a hotel on one of them made entirely of salt bricks. The walls, beds, chairs, and tables are all made from bricks of salt cut from the Salar. Some of the islands are home to vizcachas, a type of chinchilla, as well as Andean foxes, and flamingos, who migrate to the Salar to breed every November.
There are legends regarding the Salar as well. According to locals the three mountains that border the salt flat, Kusina, Kusku, and Tunupa, were named for gods or giants. Tunupa married Kusku, but Kusku betrayed his wife with Kusina. It is said that as she nursed her son, Tunupa's tears mixed with milk to form the Salar, and some locals say its name should be Salar de Tunupa, to honor her tears.
I love to travel. But if I can't actually leave home, I love to travel to far-off places by reading about them. Each Saturday, I'll be sharing about a specific place I've been to or someplace I've researched and added to my bucket list. Join me on the journey!