Calling all music lovers! The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) has a new exhibit. The exhibit is titled, “The State of Sound: A World of Music from Illinois”, which opened on April 30th and will run through January 23, 2022. I toured the exhibit and was excited to see artifacts and history of Illinois musicians. “We are really excited to focus people’s attention on…
If there is only one other thing you do in Tulbagh besides wine tasting, it is to visit Oudekloof Wine Estate for their tractor ride up the Oudekloof pass.
We had the privilege of experiencing this on Saturday, the 20th of March 2021. The sunset tractor ride starts at 17:00 and lasts for +- 2hours. It is popular and trendy, so booking in advance is a must. The ride is also weather and wind…
We started the morning once again with Bloody Marys and coffee. This time the coffee was pre-made at J’s request. When we arrived at breakfast, Meg gave S a hard time for keeping Rob out late.
We then headed out on a drive to the river, where we were going to take a river walk. On the way, Paul delivered on his promise and got J great pictures of a family of dik-diks. We also saw a herd of elephants up close. The matriarch thought we got a little too close and gave us a warning. We thought it was a intimidating, but Paul said it was just a little show. We saw a number of other animals. On our way to the river, Paul picked up a Samburu warrior carrying an AK-47. As we were going to be walking, they wanted to ensure we had some protection if we encountered a rogue elephant. We also stopped along the way so Leuya could make us walking sticks for our bush walk.
Our walk along the river was mostly focused on animal tracks. We saw tracks for a honey badger, porcupine, leopard and crocodiles.
On our way back, we encountered the same herd of elephants. We did not realise that we separated a baby elephant from the herd. However, it soon let us know by running in front of us and trumpeting a warning. His mother then also trumpeted a warning. This was a little bit scary at first but pretty cool in the end. We also passed by some of the Francombes’ cattle. Amongst them was a giant, white bull with enormous, curved horns. He is a Brahman bull, a species that has a hump like a camel to store water. He is apparently a sacred bull, one of only four in Northern Kenya. He apparently has evaded multiple attempts to slaughter and/or steal him. He is viewed as the protector of the herd and after he passes away, his skull and horns will be placed above the entrance to the cattle pen so he can continue to watch over the herd.
When we returned to the lodge, we were informed that S’ hair beading had been arranged. No one was quite sure initially what he wanted, but Paul managed to communicate it to Chyulu, who then organised it. After lunch, we headed off to Ol Malo Lodge, where a Samburu woman in traditional clothing, Catherine, was set up to do the beading. We were told that she would prepare the beads on a string and Leuya would put them in Scott’s hair as he typically does the plaiting / braiding for the young men in his clan. We were also told that Catherine is not allowed to touch S’ hair because he is not her husband.
Chyulu was there to oversee the procedure. The beads are made out of glass and are manufactured at a family factory in the Czech Republic. This is apparently the only manufacturer in the world that knows how to produce perfectly symmetrical beads. We heard the beads are a display of wealth and can almost be used as a form of currency. J picked out the colours for the beads and S was told to sit on a cow hide, as this is the traditional Samburu way of braiding hair. The whole process took a while and Chyulu served us drinks and told us a little bit about her history. Her family are well known conservationists in Africa and have worked in many countries, including Tanzania, Kenya and the DRC. They are still very active in conservation. Chyulu was born in Kenya and her name is derived from the name of some hills in Kenya. It turns out that Chyulu went to the same school in England as our close friends, Zanda and Roly.
Once Catherine had completed stringing the beads, Leuya dipped his hands in a bowl of water and began to braid S’ hair. The beads were then sewn into S’ hair. Chyulu also added in a few shells for good luck and finished each braid off with a few more beads. Chyulu also burned the ends of the bead string with a match to seal them. The process was taking a bit of time and Catherine got frustrated. She ended up taking over from Leuya and Chyulu to complete the job. Apparently as S is an elder and married, she deemed it OK to touch his hair. Everyone loved how it turned out and Ol Malo is now talking about adding it as a possible activity. J also got a custom bracelet sewn on to her wrist and picked up a Maasai wedding cuff and kikoi (a piece of cloth men will use to tie around their waists, torso or heads, depending on the situation). J preferred the kikoi to the women’s attire, which had a busier print. J asked why the kikois we had seen tended to look like Scottish kilts, with primary colours and a plaid print. No one knew why, but we were told that this was the current trend. We also noticed that these kikoi are similar to the Maldivian male traditional dress.
We then went off to visit a local ‘manyatta’ or homestead. This homestead belonged to Leuya’s cousin and his four wives. A number of young Samburu warriors were present and they were engaged in a traditional Samburu jumping contest to impress the girls (some of these guys should consider pursuing a career in the NBA). They then started a dancing ritual, which S and Leuya joined (see picture below).
We visited one of the wives’ mud huts and learned a bit about local customs. Apparently the Samburu diet is primarily meat, cow’s blood and milk / yoghurt. Occasionally they will also get a fruit or vegetable, but not normally. They have chickens but don’t believe in eating the chickens or their eggs and sell them to the market. There were separate pens for the adult and baby livestock, which we found quite interesting. J loved the little children, who were crowding around her to see her phone.
We left the homestead and went for sundowners by a lake. Our car had a weak parking break and nearly rolled into the lake. Paul and Leuya saved it by putting rocks in front of the tires. We saw a few birds and S saw a shooting star among all the other stars. The sky was littered with stars. It was a great opportunity to ask Leuya and Paul more questions about their community.
By now Leuya was one of our best mates. We invited him to dinner, but the dinner was chicken curry and he wouldn’t have been able to eat it. Before we headed down to dinner, S changed into the tie-dyed man dress that he bought in Nairobi. We later learned ‘kanzu’ is the proper Swahili name for the man dress. When we arrived, Paul, Meg, Rob and the server were in shock. S came in with his walking stick, beaded hair and kanzu and declared himself the village elder. Meg also shared pictures of S with the Francombe family and asked S’ permission to use the photos in their marketing materials. S and Paul gave Rob a hard time for being dressed like a city boy. Rob promised to wear a traditional garment the next morning.
The chicken curry was great. J in particular loves their hot sauce and thinks they should sell it. It is made with Scotch bonnet peppers and is slightly sweet. It is served with every meal and goes with everything. We finished the night with Meg and Rob drinking wine and whisky. J took over the Bluetooth speakers and played a lot of country music. Rob was shattered from the two previous nights, so Meg and Rob begged off and left us with a bottle of Rosé and drinks. We enjoyed our final night at Ol Malo and made it safely back to our room.
We got to sleep in a bit today as we are heading off to our next safari lodge. We had a nice breakfast and final conversation with Sophie, Nick and Suzy. Nick arranged a fly by with one of his locust dusters as a send off (see video above). We said good bye to everyone and then Rufus drove us to the airstrip. This was a pretty cool thing of Nick to do. When we approached a bridge, there was a tower of at least 10 giraffes blocking the road. They were not interested in moving out of the way and stood their ground for at least 10 minutes. We got to see them up close. Eventually, they decided to move on and let us pass.
When we got to the airstrip, our plane, a 4-seat Cesna, was waiting for us. J got to sit up front next to the pilot. It was only a 20-minute flight and J was able to see some animals as we did not fly that high. The pilot was a friendly Kenyan chap who did his best to make our flight interesting.
We arrived at Ol Malo airstrip and were greeted by Rob, a South African chap who helps to manage Ol Malo for the owners, and Paul, a native Kenyan. Paul owns his own safari lodge but it only has four rooms and has shut down during COVID.
We were taken back to the lodge, where we met Rob’s wife Meg, who also helps manage the place. We were given a refreshing drink and a brief tour of the lodge. Meg gave us our choice of 3 different rooms. We chose the Crocodile room (see pictures below, which explain why it is called the Crocodile room). It has a crocodile-shaped bathtub. The bathroom is accessible through a wooden walkway, which is separate from the main bedroom.
After relaxing and getting cleaned up, we then went to lunch, where we spent time talking to Paul. It is very clear that they asked Paul to take personal care of us during our stay as it appears that Paul may end up working here for a while until things return to normal. As we are learning, Paul is one of the most interesting people we’ve ever met. He spent the first 14 years of his life roaming the bush with his grandfather, where he achieved his rite of passage and became a Maasai warrior. He then cut off his warrior locks and went to school after his grandfather passed away. In addition to being a businessman, he is a trained guide and has an eagle eye for spotting wildlife.
Lunch was outstanding. S deemed it the best we’ve had on this trip. S even went back for seconds. Like Lewa House, Ol Malo grows their own food for the most part. The beef is from their own slaughtered cattle. Lunch was thin strips of beef, beetroot salad and a vegetable curry. They also served Brown’s cheese for dessert. This is the cheese that is made by Sophie at Lewa House’s family. During lunch you have a great view of the pool and we even saw a mongoose drink from the pool.
We spent hours after lunch chatting with Paul before going back to hang out in our room for a while. Our room is extremely comfortable, spacious and beautifully decorated. It’s built on an escarpment and they use natural materials to build the rooms, eg salvaged wood from the bush.
Tonight’s activity was a bush walk. We headed out from the lodge on foot with Paul and our bush guide, Leuya, who like Paul is Samburu. We saw a number of animals, such as impala, giraffe and both kinds of zebra. We also found a cobra skin and learned how to tell what animals had been in the area based on their tracks and scat. J got pretty good at identifying certain types of scat (cow and impala). At one point they told J that you can tell whether the scat was left by a male or female impala based on the scat’s taste. They said it’s known as ‘bush candy’ and offered it to us to taste. S called them on it and said this is just a prank on the foreigners and they laughed and admitted it. The joke was pretty funny. We were surprised to end our bush walk with Rob waiting for us in a semicircle of rocks with a firepit and griddle for our ‘sundowners’. They served us our sundowners (Gin & Tonics and wine). We were sitting around the fire when Rob brought out a huge slab of beef. The beef was cooked over the fire. After a minute, J told Rob to flip S’ beef. He was a bit taken aback by this, but obliged. After another minute, J told him to take S’ beef off the grill. It was perfectly ‘blue’ and S loved it. Rob then informed us that this is the least-cooked piece of beef he’s ever served. The joke was that J’s well-done beef took another 20 minutes to cook. It was also excellent. However, amusingly, we had to eat with our hands on shared plates. Because of his ability to eat raw meat and shaggy mane of hair, Paul and Leuya have now nicknamed him ‘the Lion’.
We then headed back to the lodge for dinner. It was just Rob and us for dinner as Meg had to stay with her daughter and Paul was called away and the Francombes had a prior engagement that evening. The food at dinner was fantastic and we stayed up late drinking wine and whisky with Rob. We also learned that there is only one other couple staying here but they weren’t at dinner. We stayed up until around 11pm chatting with Rob and then headed back to our room.
A Grumman KA-6D Intruder of Marine All-Weather Attack Squadron 224 (VMA(AW)-224) "Bengals" refuels two McDonnell F-4B Phantom II of Fighter Squadron 111 (VF-111) "Sundowners" over Vietnam, circa in 1972.
Robert Mitchum emerged, already cooler than cool, from his mother’s womb 103 years ago. A few thing he did.
Lt. Walker in The Story of GI Joe. D: William Wellman (1945). Mitchum won and Oscar for this story of WWII grunts slogging their way through North Africa, based on the Pulitzer-winning correspondence of Ernie Pyle (Burgess Meredith). As an officer he’s tough, fair and respected but in an interview with Pyle we see that behind his cool, guilt over sending men to their deaths is killing him.
Harry Powell in Night of the Hunter. D: Charles Laughton (1955). A signature role and one of the great villains because he preys on the helplessness of childhood. You can see this fake reverend conning the pious small-town adults while the boy who is on to him can only look on warily. Mitchum’s “love/hate” sermon (he has both tattooed on his knuckles) is a misdirection – he’s psychotically beyond both concepts. And his chase across a country of nightmares (singing hymns all the way) leads the boy to shudder in fear “Don’t he never sleep?”
Paddy Carmody in The Sundowners. D: Fred Zinneman (1960). Mitchum is a Australian migrant sheep drover in this down-under family saga about the pressure his wife (Deborah Kerr) starts to put on him to settle down. Mitchum is exasperatingly charming as a man who can’t keep a dollar in his pocket or his feet off the road and can’t imagine living another way.