Tag Archives: Passport

Geographical Doppelgänger 

Portugal hardly ever seems in the news. I never gave the little country next to Spain much thought. Recently, however, a writer friend of mine and his wife first told me about Algarve, a largely undiscovered coastal region of Portugal.

I haven’t seen refugees from North Africa or the Middle East yet. However, I guess you could say my British friends – born and bred “white Kenyans” – are refugees sorts. They’ve fled Kenya’s current violence and uncertain future to establish roots in Portugal’s peaceful pastures.

Along the coastline sand dunes harbor fishing villages. Clusters of simple white-washed buildings with over-lapping terraces resemble heaps of sugar cubes. One town, has earned the nicknamed the  “The Cubist town”. The odd thing is some of these villages resemble those along the Kenya coast – especially Lamu – but not a mosque in sight.

As a colonists the Portuguese were all over the place. They famously plundered most of East Africa in the 15th century.

The Atlantic sea divides Portugal from North Africa – just 700 miles between Portugal’s capital of Lisbon and Tangier in Morocco, roughly the distance between New York City and Charleston, South Carolina.

The Romans occupied Portugal followed by the “Arabic occupation” between the 8th and 13th centuries.

The “Christian Conquest” fixed all that a few centuries later, a crusade not unlike how onward Christian soldiers today appear to be “correcting” parts of Africa endowed with oil and minerals that happen to be Islamic. Churches were built where mosques once stood.

Local travel guides – propaganda lite – strenuously emphasize that while some buildings have a Moorish influence the style had nothing to do with the “Arabic occupation”. Rather it was consequence of more recent “migratory contacts” with territories in North Africa.  

Olhao, Algarve region, Portugal

Real gypsies!


Safari to Samburu – Joy’s Camp, Shaba National Reserve, Samburu

Bet you didn’t know the “Big Five” refers to the five species of game hunters favor shooting; rhinoceros, leopard, Cape buffalo, lion, and elephant remain prey to human hunters in Tanzania and South Africa. Luckily, Kenya banned hunting in the 70s.

Didn’t see rhino (since they’re now protected by armed guards within confines of private game parks, mainly in Laikipia). Shaba National Reserve is remote and in the past been was visited by more poachers than tourists. The reserve now teems with KWS-trained armed rangers.

However, most species of game in this park, spooked by presence of vehicles, remain wary and elusive. All five lion prides supposedly padding around Shaba National Reserve seemed to elude us the two days we were there. We did see some lion spoor, however. Under the super full moon we glimpsed small herds of shy elephant and never shy Cape buffalo.

The dry environment suits gerenuk, which we saw plenty of. The Swahili term for gerenuk is “swala twiga” which means “gazelle giraffe” describing their unusually long necks. They’ve evolved to find their own niche for food by standing on hind legs and stretching their necks to eat leaves on acacia trees. No competition for food.

We stayed at Joy’s Camp, named after wildlife behavioralist, Joy Adamson. The 1966 film, Born Free, depicted her efforts raising a lion cub she named Elsa. The camp is classic old-style safari,  but with cavernous canvas tents and floaty silk curtains inside.

Somewhat creepily, Joy Adamson’s life came to a violent end in 1980 not far from where our tents sat on a bluff over-looking a spring fed water-hole.  (Hint: don’t piss off the mpishi). Her ex-husband, George Adamson, was murdered 9 years later in another national park. Legend has it that he was killed by poachers as he tried rescuing a tourist. No sign of Joy’s ghost, mercifully, only lovely photos of her on safari and meeting the Queen of England.

Ewaso Neru River
Ewaso Neru River

Joy's camp (named after Joy Adamson, wildlife behavioralist) Shaba National Game Reserve
Joy’s camp (named after Joy Adamson, wildlife behavioralist) Shaba National Game Reserve

running giraffe 3
Reticulated giraffe (unlike the more common Masai giraffe)

Lion spoor
Lion spoor

Buffalo under the "Super Moon"
Buffalo under the “Super Moon”

My friend Camilla
My friend Camilla

Favorite hat on safari
Favorite hat on safari

psychedelic Grevy's zebra. Grevy also unlike the more common zebra with thicker stripes
Psychedelic Grevy’s zebra. Grevy also unlike the more common zebra with thicker stripes

River walk
River walk

Gerenuk aka swala twiga
Gerenuk aka swala twiga

askari on walk_-2
KWS-trained ranger accompanying us on walk by the river