Thursday, July 19, 2018

New Mexico Forest Fires

The southern Rockies were very dry in June this summer. Several large forest fires in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado have been serious threats to life and livelihood as the dry brush quickly ignites.

On Tuesday a lighting strike sparked this wildfire that erupted west of Black Lake. A day later it was extinguished by the fire crews. However the smoldering smoke lingered over the area for several days. Thursday the wind  shifted and sent smoke up the Moreno valley causing everyone to stay inside or suffer.

Most people think rain and lightning go together. However lighting frequently happens in the mountains when there is no rain. With these very dry conditions, a small spark, a cigarette or lighting can cause a disaster. This area need a good drenching rain, but none is in the forecast.

Starting near Ute Park, an early June fire east of Eagle Nest burnt 34,000 acres before it was contained. Came within a mile of the foothills town of Cimarron, causing the complete evacuation of this town of 1350 residents and of Philmont, the national boy scout camp.

Through it all, people fought the fires, rescued livestock, struggled to protect their homes, offer aid and nourishment to the fire crews, finally to survive the threat and resume their daily struggle in this land of dry timber.

A new day dawns in Moreno Valley....

Ride safe my friends, every day is a new adventure.


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Story of Thunder and Lighting - African Fable

And here is the final installment of the African Fables...

The story of Thunder and Lightning 

A long time ago, both Thunder and Lightning lived among the people on this earth. Thunder was a mother sheep and her son Lightning, a ram. 

Neither one was very popular with the people, for when somebody offended the Lightning, he would fly into a furious rage and begin burning whatever he came across. This often included huts and corn bins, often damaging crops on the farms with his fire.

Occasionally he killed people who got in his way. As soon as Thunder knew her son was misbehaving this way, she would raise her voice and shout at him as loudly as she could, which was very loud indeed.

Naturally the neighbors were very upset, first at the damage caused by Lightning and then by the unbearable noise from his mother that always followed Lightning's outbursts. 

The villagers sent so many complaints to the king, that at last he sent Thunder and Lightning to live at the very edge of the village. He said that they must not come and mix with the people any more. 

However, this did no good, since Lightning could still see people as they walked about the village streets. He found it only too easy to continue picking quarrels with them. 

Once again the king sent for them, "I have given you many chances to live a better life," he said, "but I can see that it is useless. From now on, you must go away from our village and live in the wild bush. We do not want to see your faces here again." 

Thunder and Lightning had to obey the king and agreed to abide by his ruling; so they left the village.  

Angry at the villagers at being banished, Lightning would now set fire to the bush. If it was the dry season this was extremely unfortunate. The flames spread to the little farms of the people and to many of their houses as well.

 Then they would heard Thunder's mighty voice calling her son to order, but it was always after the fact.  It made very little difference in his actions.

The king called all his counsellors together and asked them what to do. After much debate they hit on a plan. "Why not banish Thunder and Lightning completely away from the earth. 
Send them to live in the sky?" 

And so the king proclaimed this order. 

Thunder and Lightning were sent away into the sky, where the people hoped they would not be able to do any more damage. 

Things did not work out quite as well as they had hoped, as Lightning still loses his temper from time to time
and cannot resist sending fire down to the earth when he is unhappy. 

Still today, we can still hear his angry mother rebuking him in her loud rumbling voice. 

We ride in all kinds of weather.
  Dress for the rain and 
don't fear the Thunder.


p.s. Thanks to the folks at Raptor Retreat, South Africa for this fable.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Newest Book: Where Oceans Collide

Just back from the printers, my tenth travel book. 
For followers of this blog, some photos you have already seen, but have now been reformatted and finished for publication.

Take a glance at some photo/comment highlights........

  Cover photo: The deep cold Atlantic Ocean barrels down the western coast of Africa...

Meeting the warm Indian Ocean at the Cape of Hope, 
where many a sailor and ship met their demise...

What the eye sees...

The Swaziland high mountain plains are drenched with rain...

The mountain peaks scrape moisture from the clouds, 
leaving parched pastures below...

And the dirt farmer ekes out another year...

Even the big and the strong fight to survive...

Using all of their strength to make it through another day...

The circle of life is a daily struggle...

with each newborn opens a new beginning...

As the population booms, the malnourished struggle to survive...

Where old customs die hard when confronting a modern prosperous society...

Resentment and distrust are bred when societies collide...

Two faces of South Africa, different lives, different cultures... with a shared destiny.

Old scars bear tales of struggles, conflicts....

Collisions reside in the struggle to nourish and thrive...

Back cover: With age comes wisdom, from wisdom... survival.

© 2018 by Jan H. Daub.
The book author retains sole copyright to the words and images in this book.

Just a glimpse, however the book is not available 
for purchase at this time. Sorry.
Hope you enjoyed seeing a little of my work.

Ride safe my friends,


Monday, June 4, 2018

Why Jackal and Lion aren't friends- African Fable

Once upon a time Lion and Jackal were very good friends. They always hunted together.

One day Lion killed a big fat eland. Wanting to hunt some more to feed his big family, 
Lion asked his friend Jackal, 
 "Will you go fetch my family to carry this large animal to my home?" 

As soon as Lion left, Jackal instead gathered his own sneaky family 
and they had a fine feast of eland.

Lion tired of hunting after finding no more game. Returning home, he asked his wife: 
"What did you think of that fine eland I killed?" "What eland?" his wife snarled. 
Startled, Lion asked if Jackal didn't call them to bring the eland home. 
His angry wife replied that she hadn't seen Jackal all day.

Furious, Lion stormed to the waterhole to find Jackal with a full belly lounging there. 
Lion pounced but Jackal was too quick, diving down an empty burrow amongst 
the large roots of a tree. Lion could only grab Jackal's leg that was sticking out.

"Now I have you!" growled Lion, but the ever clever Jackal replied:

"No, no, that's not my leg, that's a tree root. 

Don't believe me? 

Why don't you find a rock and hit it? 

Then you'll see. If it is my leg, it will bleed." 

Letting go to go find a stone, Jackal instantly dashed away and climbed a mouse-skin rope 
up to his house on a rocky ledge. Angry Lion tried to follow but the rope couldn't hold 
his heavy weight, breaking, dropping Lion to the ground with a thud. 

Lion has never forgiven Jackal for stealing his eland. 
From that day on, Jackal is always wary, staying well away from any lion. 

Fortunately Lion learnt to hunt with other lions in a pride 
and never befriended the Jackal again.

Ride safe, my friends. Never steal from a lion or... turn your back on a Jackal.


p.s. Thanks to the folks at Raptor Retreat, South Africa for sharing this fable.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

How Crocodile got his ugly skin - African Fable

How Crocodile got his ugly skin

In the early world, Crocodile had a beautiful smooth golden skin. 
It stayed that way because Crocodile would spend all day in the muddy waters and only come out at night. 

During the day the other animals would come by wanting to see its beautiful golden skin. 

Crocodile became very proud of his skin and started coming out of the water to bask in the other animals' admiration, even while the sun was shining brightly

Soon he began thinking he was better than the other animals and started bossing them around. Soon, fewer and fewer animals started showing up to look at his skin. 

Every day that Crocodile exposed his skin to the hot African sun, it would get uglier, bumpier and thicker. Baking under the hot sun, Crocodile's skin transformed into what looked like rough scaly armour.

Losing his beautiful golden skin, Crocodile never recovered from this humiliating shame. 

Even today he will disappear from view when others approach. 
Leaving only his eyes and nostrils above the surface of the water.

 Too much pride is an ugly thing. 

Ride safe without pride, my friends


p.s. Thanks to the folks at Raptor Retreat for this fable.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

How the Zebra got his stripes - African Fable

African Fables, Folk Tales & Myths
Before the written language came to Africa in the late 16th century, stories or fables were carried forward verbally from one generation to the next.
Most of these stories have a moral point to them. They are used to educate, entertain or to explain animal behaviour. Sadly many fables are now quite forgotten, except for the few passed along here.

How Zebra got his stripes

In the early days when the earth was young, the land was hot and dry. Water could only be found in a few small holes scattered around the desert. At one such waterhole, Baboon stood guard. He proclaimed that he was the owner of this waterhole and no one else could drink there. He had built a bonfire close to the pool so that he could watch over it during the very cold desert nights. 

One day a white Zebra came by to quench his thirst after a very long and tiring journey. In these early days, Zebra had no stripes. He wore a dazzling coat of pure white fur. 

Seeing Zebra approach, Baboon jumped up in anger and tried to chase him away. Zebra shouted "This is not your water, you ugly monkey, it belongs to everyone!" 

Baboon was furious and told Zebra if he wanted water, he had to fight for it. Soon they were engaged in a fierce struggle. Locked in combat, they rolled around and around the waterholeFinally Zebra, with one mighty kick, sent Baboon flying high up into the rocks above the waterhole.

Baboon landed on the hard rocks on his rear-end with such a mighty thud, he has remained in the koppies (hills) ever since, nursing his bald red bottom.

Unfortunately Zebra kicked Baboon so hard that he lost his balance, falling into the fire. The hot fire left black scorch marks all over Zebra's fine white coat. Hurt and frightened, Zebra galloped to the plains where he has remained ever since. 

Ride safe when looking for water, my friends


p.s. Thanks to the folks at Raptor Retreat for this fable.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

African Post: Raptor Retreat - Day of the Lions

Our third and final day here at Raptor Retreat felt great. Mood is up beat. With a full moon last night, I thought the animals should be moving around today. If they are moving, the more opportunities we will have to see them.

Leaving the lodge we turn right on the main road and head for the far end of the preserve. By the time we get there, a call comes over, "Lions Spotted".  Where?  Near our Lodge! What?

Quickly we turn the rig around and race back to the lodge. Arriving we find the safari rig who placed the call watching two lions resting on the roadway at the entrance to Raptor Retreat.

 If we had turned left instead to right this morning, we would have run over them.

Searching the long grass and brush, we locate three more lions, a pride of five in all are traveling together.  We stay photographing them until they wander off into the bush.

This is the battle scarred female of the pride.
 A history of fierce struggles, wisdom and character are etched in that face.

Am surprised how nonchalant they are with us busily snapping photos and whispering.  
They don't see us as a threat and...  thankfully nor as food.

After a period of time they started getting restless. moving about, some wandering off. 
Finally the others follow. 

The largest male was the last to leave.

To give you an idea how close we were to them,  a lion crosses directly behind a safari rig. He then proceeded to get closer and smell the tire of the truck. The people inside were freaking out, paralyzed with fear.  Satisfied there was nothing to eat, he turned and walked off. 

Note that there are no sides or top on this rig. If that lion had wanted to jump in, there was nothing to stop him. This is what is called an adventure. A story for your grandchildren.

After all of that high tension excitement, here is a dull photo. 

A tall termite mound towers over twice my height. 
One sees termite mounds everywhere in the bush, most are not this tall.

Returning back to the far corners of the preserve, we encountered a large bachelor herd of Impalas. 
A lot of jealous males here as only a few of the males have gathered up 
all the available females into harems. Sorry guys. maybe next year.

With the morning drive complete, we return to lodge for a siesta. 
No lions near the entrance..., that we can see.

Going out for the final animal drive this afternoon, only the elusive leopard remains to be photographed. Arina takes us to a known leopard area, but no sign of movement. They may be only moving at night as there has been a bright full moon this week.

During my few days here, no leopard sightings have been reported by the other guides 
or by the game warden.

We watch as a huge flock of small birds called the Cape Wagtail swoop thru the treetops, alighting here and there for a minute or two then on to the next tree. They are clearing the bush of insects and larvas that can strip a tree of its new growth, killing it.

Is impressive to see these birds work together in a flock of hundreds. 

A dark wave suddenly appears as if it is one large dark shape-shifting mist before you realize it is hundred of these birds flying together. The cloud rolls across the terrain at treetop level, in the trees, then back out of them. Rising, falling, down to water's edge and aloft again. Hundreds of birds in flight while hundreds more have landed on branches and twigs to grab an insect or a larva for lunch. Impressive in numbers alone, there seems to be no leader of the flock. The flock is its leader, a group activity, safety in numbers for survival.

Back to driving the dirt roads, we spot a lonely Impala buck.
 He may have lost his harem to a bigger stronger male. 
Hey buddy, there is always next year. Practice and grow strong.

A male Kudu still has his harem. If you are wondering why so many animal harems are seen, this is the time of year for breeding in the Kruger. The animals normally mate during the rut or breeding season when the females are in heat. The strongest males will fight off the other males in order to pass on the best and strongest genes. That is how nature works,. The strongest survives. Only the healthiest and strongest reproduces. Passing on their genes ensures the survival of the species. 

Late in the afternoon we get a call that the pride of lions we saw this morning have killed an impala. Once again they are near the entrance to our lodge. We race back to see them. 

The light is fading fast and this is the only decent shot I could get. The lioness is holding the leg of the Impala under her paw.  We can hear the breaking of bone as she bites down on it.

Reality sets in. We now realize why Yolande was so adamant about our safety in and around the lodge. These lions have been hanging around this spot all day, maybe last night too. 
Where they made the impala kill is only a hundred yards or so from where we are sleeping. 

The Raptor Retreat Lodge really is in the middle of Big Five country.

Just before racing back to see the lions, I captured another elephant image. 
Shading his eyes from the sun, looks like he needs some Ray-Bans.

and thus concludes my African Photo Safari.

African Big Five
LION - check
LEOPARD - ______

Four out of five is not bad. I knew before going in that the leopard would be the most elusive of all the Big Five. During the time there, no calls came in of a leopard sighting.  Well, all the more reason to return to Africa another day.

And so ends my African story. In the morning I fly to Johannesburg to catch a flight to the States, arriving back home in Texas the day after tomorrow.

When you make your trip to Raptor Retreat, say Hello to Arina, Yolande, Sharmaine and Keith from me. Their warm hospitality will make you feel special, then...
 they'll show you the awesome Big Five of Africa.

The End.

Ride safe my friends, 
Riding life's horizon really is an adventure 
if you are willing to brave it.


Thursday, May 3, 2018

African Post: Raptor Retreat - Day of the Buffalo

The Mexican Mariachi music on my iPhone alarm awakens me at 5:30.  A quick teeth brushing and off we go in the dark to see what we will see.

A dozing jackal is first spotted by Robbert from Holland.  The light is still dim, foreground weeds throw off the auto-focusing on the camera, but a shot is captured.

Here is a typical scene where an elephant has recently toppled a tree. So recent, the elephant dung in the middle of the road is still wet with urine. Look at the diameter of the broken tree and think about the force an elephant must use to snap a tree of that size, just to eat a few leaves.

Not all the roads we are driving are gravel. Am glad it has not been raining, 
because this road would be a muddy mess if it had.

A breeding herd of Impala are spotted hiding in the bush.  A nice trophy buck with tall horns works hard to keep his harem intact. Can you spot him?

If one is thinking about wandering around a bit on foot in the bush, reconsider it!  There are many thorns, long and short, on the bushes that one must navigate. Arina warned us to not try and push away any branch that might swing into the rig when we pass by as most have sharp thorns. She was right, as a small sharp thorn snatched my hat off in an instant.

Mid-morning we make a rest stop at an overlook for bush coffee. The coffee is brewed then Amarula, an African liquor made from the fruit of the Marula tree is added. There are tales even videos about elephants or other animals getting drunk on the fermented marula fruit. Arina says those are staged events. An animal could not eat enough fermented marula fruit in the wild to get drunk. 

Today the three honeymoon couples on the drive are from New York, Holland and Italy. Raptor Retreat is an popular honeymoon getaway. Small, warm personal attention, isolated location with luxury decor deep in the Big Five country. 

Three Zebra refuse to come out into the open, checking us out as we snap their portrait.

A large Elephant herd crosses an opening then disappears into the bush. 
Can you spot the baby in the group? 
It is absolutely amazing how these huge animals can quickly fade away into the bush.

The two oxpecker birds at work cleaning the giraffe's hide of ticks and insects. Oxpeckers can be seen on every big animal here that tolerates the birds riding on their backs. 
In reality these birds are very beneficial to their host animal.

A shy Steenbok forest deer is spotted. No horns so is a female.

Back at the lodge, the warthogs are roaming, rooting for food.

What a luxurious mane of hair with such an ugly face.

On the other hand, anyone know a good barber?

Now at the lodge, we take a siesta before heading back out for the afternoon drive

First turn out of the lodge this afternoon, Arina points out a
Dark Chanting Goshawk perched high in a dead tree.
Not sleeping, but searching for his next meal.

A baby giraffe dozes while mother keeps watch. Notice the change in pattern shapes on the adult giraffe's hide. The shapes on the hind quarters and legs look more like leaves than the larger patches on its back and neck. Better to blend in with the shorter vegetation while she feeds. 
Nature's evolution in camouflage.

Now up, even a toddler Giraffe stands taller than my two meters.

Captured a photo our first and only Waterbuck hiding in the bush. 
Not with any females, so he has no harem.

We drive to visit a remote watering hole to see if anything has come in.  
Michelle from Holland once again spots an animal before anyone else. This afternoon she has seen the most animals before Robbert, her new husband or I can spot them. 
She is a high school english teacher so has experience spotting students texting in class. 

A herd of thirsty Cape Buffalo make their way single file down a dusty trail to the watering hole. 
Nothing will stop their quest for water when thirsty.

Boys, did you hear the one about two giraffes and a zebra walk into a bar?

Another brilliant African sunset reflects off the Olilfants River.

A fading sun silhouettes a Giraffe

On the road back to the lodge, a Mama with two baby elephants are caught in the spotlight. Arina says elephants don't normally have twins, so either this is very unusual or...
the other mama is back in the bush.

Thus concludes the second day of Big Game photography. 
One day remains to capture images of the final two of the Big Five.

African Big Five

 Sleep well tonight, tomorrow we drive again.