Friday, May 31, 2013


Nothing like happy kids to brighten up a day, especially a Photo Friday (which doesn't always have to be glowing sunsets and such).

The crazy kids above, whose classroom we were painting (more on that next week), decided it was time for recess. Then they decided we had to take photos with them and they would put on their happy faces. 

Hard to argue with a room full of grinning nine-yr-olds. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Liz and Kip woman assembling bicycle
A mom assembles her first bike as a curious boy looks on.
When is a bicycle not just a bicycle? 

If you're a mother of four who lives miles from the nearest school, church, or hospital, a bike can transform itself in seconds into a school bus, church van, taxi or even an ambulance, when necessary.

Through the work of two incredible non profit organizations, World Bicycle Relief, and Light Gives Heat, along with the inspiration of two bicycle enthusiasts, we witnessed firsthand the joy that a bicycle can bring to a group of working moms in Uganda.

Liz excels at distracting kids, which, after helping to load and unload the bikes, became our primary role,
while the moms learned to assemble and repair their new modes of transport.
Our day began in Jinja, home to the not for profit Light Gives Heat, an organization started by two of Liz's friends from Grand Junction (CO), Morgan, whom Liz has known since kindergarten, and her husband Dave. 

The story of Light Gives Heat is an incredible one, as are the stories of all the women and families whose lives have been touched by this its amazing founders. It is certainly worth your time to check out the trailer for their award winning film Moving On.

The kids had never seen bubble wrap. The logo on the bike seats is for Buffalo Bikes. They're tough like water buffalo.
This particular day was a special day for the Suubi women, as this was the day they would finally receive their long awaited bicycles, which are the primary modes of transport for many Ugandans (if they can actually afford one). 

Through an innovative savings program set up through LGH, the suubi women were able to set aside money from each paycheck towards the purchase of a bicycle.  Those who signed up for the program raised half of the funds, and the other half was paid for through fundraising efforts of LGH and friends.

A bicycle recipient poses proudly with her bike.
Kip in kid-distraction mode.

The bicycles were purchased from World Bicycle Relief, and organization dedicated to improving lives in Africa by providing durable bicycles made for the rugged terrain of Africa. 

And we felt so fortunate for the opportunity to see just a fraction of the work they do, firsthand. Empowerment in action is a beautiful thing.

Kip helps unload bikes, which were shipped in from Kenya. regional HQ for World Bicycle Relief.

If you are interested in supporting either of these incredible organizations, here are some ways you can help:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Kabira, the Southern White Rhino, happy in her habitat at the Ugandan Wildlife Education Centre.
We will admit, our knowledge of rhinoceroses was limited. Up until this particular day, we had only glimpsed one from afar (as in, really afar, looking like a speck through binoculars) on our recent trip to Serengeti National Park

But, we happened to find ourselves with several days in the small Ugandan town of Entebbe, famous for being the staging area for all United Nations vehicles for peacekeeping missions in Central Africa, as well as being the location of a rescue mission of a hijacked Air France plane in 1976.  Perhaps not as well known, the city also happens to have a Wildlife Centre, with a rhino.

Yes, it was time for Liz Dolittle to commune with the animals again, as she's done so often on this trip.

A rhino shows Kip his best side.
In addition to the two Southern White Rhinos, the Ugandan Wildlife Education Centre is also home to giraffes, a baby elephant, lions, chimps, ostriches, and more. But really, as evidenced in the photo at right, we were here for the rhino, which was clearly not having any of Kip's usual antics.

Having no previous rhino knowledge or experience, and just coming off of a close encounter with a semi-aggressive gorilla with a not-so-funny sense of humor, we got a little spooked when this rhino Kip had been harassing walked calmly away, then turned and charged at the fence. Or so we thought.

Clearly we had never heard about Rupert the Rhino, or this family, or Jessica the hippo.

This seemingly dangerous rhino didn't charge the fence. She just ran up to it like an adorable puppy and stuck her horn through for a little scratch. The gorillas were nice, but who knew a rhino in a zoo could be the highlight of our Uganda trip? 
It turns out, this particular rhino, who we have learned is named Kabria, was brought to this wildlife center in 2001 as part of a program to re-introduce rhinos to Uganda, where they became extinct in 1984.  Programs like the one at this centre, and at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary are leading the charge for re-population, with some recent success, no small feat considering the White Rhino only re-produces once every three to five years.
Kip gives her a good scratch behind the ears, which she loved. 
Unfortunately, Uganda will never be able to recover the population of the extinct Northern White Rhino, and there is still a demand from China and other Asian countries, who believe that the horn is of medicinal value and will purchase the horns for $1400 an ounce, meaning these animals can be worth more dead than alive. 

We can only hope that wildlife sanctuaries like this one can ensure that the population of the Southern White Rhino, like Kabira, can make a comeback.

And maybe, when Liz wins the lottery and comes up with $37,000 she'll be able to buy one of her very own to keep for a pet
Rhino toes...almost as big as the camel toe we saw in India.

Monday, May 27, 2013


Ugliest. Baby. Ever.
Really? Someone actually thought painting a man child with red lipstick, bad hair and a loin cloth on a bus station wall was a good way to sell any product at all. 

And whose idea was it to let these two yay-hooos dress up like junior park rangers, anyway? 

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Us volunteering at the Pink Tie Party of the DC Cherry Blossom Festival. Not bad after 12 months on the road.
Volunteering doesn't always have to be difficult and dirty. Sometimes, depending on the gig, you might even have to get dressed up for the occasion. 

On our recent stop back home in DC (okay, so we're behind a bit on the updates!), we had the opportunity to shower regularly and wear clothes that had not been wadded up in a backpack for months. Kip even managed to locate a razor. 

Liz working the gift bag table.
In addition to the long overdue personal maintenance, we also had the opportunity to volunteer with one of the greatest events in DC, the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Thanks to the efforts of a great volunteer coordinator (hey, Ruby!) we were lucky enough to assist with the Opening Day Press Conference and Pink Tie Party, as well as the Taste of Japan Saki Tasting

We could never have afforded the ticket prices to attend all of these events on our own. But as free labor, we were sometimes allowed to eat, drink, and be merry with the paying guests once all the work was done (and we promised not to misbehave). 

Even better, we had the chance to refresh our event planning skills while seeing firsthand how a team of real pros put together high-profile receptions that included the Mayor of DC, a couple of ambassadors, tons of media and even the 2013 Cherry Blossom Princess. We felt almost as honored as the time our elementary school-aged nieces invited us to their "House Party." 

Since we were working, we didn't have a lot of time for photos at the events, other than the few seen here. 

In honor of the most beautiful festival in Washington, further below we present to you a few of the photos we took down on the Tidal Basin as the thousands of cherry trees were in full bloom. 

Ever wonder how to gain free entry into a VIP or high-priced event without getting arrested? 

Try volunteering.
Kip with the volunteer crew at the Cherry Blossom Fest Opening Day press conference.  


Friday, May 24, 2013


Someone's feeling a bit inadequate today. 

Flanked by two of Uganda's famous Ankole-Watusi longhorns, whose pointy headgear can reach up to eight feet from tip to tip, this regular old short-horned cow in the middle of the photo above didn't have on her happy face as her 10-yr-old herdsman guided her and her cattle friends to grazing ground just down the road. 

Or maybe she just wasn't used to having a camera pointed at her face, what with the bad lighting and all. 

Good news for her one's going to cut off her horns to make a bracelet or a necklace or a keychain anytime soon.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Liz got a little too close to this seemingly docile silverback. Then they made eye contact. Then Liz ran. Quickly.
Liz can run. Fast. 

For some of us...that was the biggest shock of our trek into the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in southwestern Uganda, where we'd come in hopes of getting within spitting distance of a troop of the biggest primates on the planet.

Liz, moments before her "escape."
In truth, there were more amazing moments, like crouching, completely terrified within a few feet of an animal that could use your head as a soccer ball if he felt the need.

But seeing Liz at mach speed -- knocking aside an armed guard, toppling over small trees, running like she was being chased by a wild animal...that's a natural wonder even the world's largest primate might stop and take notice of.

Two hours before Liz's speed test, we had arrived at base camp in Mgahinga with our travel buddies Dougie and Amanda (top-quality Aussies we'd met in Zanzibar weeks before). Former wild animal volunteers in South America, they were even more pumped to get started on the gorilla hunt than we were. 

But first, a friendly, camo-clad park ranger in his early thirties sat us all down for a safety briefing.

L to R: Kip, Liz, Ranger, Dougie and Amanda
First rule: "Don't make eye contact with the gorillas. They will see that as a sign of aggression and could charge." Spoiler: Yes, sadly, if you saw the lovely lady gorilla from Photo Friday last week, you know we didn't do so well with this rule.

Rule two: "If a gorilla charges or makes an aggressive move toward you, DO NOT RUN." The ranger repeated this last bit again, stressing, "Do NOT run. Never run. This may anger the gorillas. Crouch down, and the gorilla will run past you."

"Wait, are you serious, Mr. Ranger?" Yes, he was.

OK, got it. No eye contact. No running. Check. 

Satisfied that we were going to be good rule followers, the ranger radios his trackers, who are somewhere in the mountains above. Good news. They have located the gorilla troop (birds fly in flocks, gorillas roll in troops) only an hour away through dense forest. 

Off we go. The trek started on a fairly well maintained dirt and rock path, dropping briefly below treeline into acres of potato fields (lots of sweet potato production in Uganda) and finally back up underneath the shadows of the jungle canopy, where the trail quickly disappeared. 
Liz, Dougie and Amanda cross sweet potato fields en route to find the gorillas. 

Some 30 minutes later, all of us sweating from following our bushwacking guide up a mountain, we heard what sounded like a large tree falling not far ahead. We stopped short. 

"The gorillas are close," our guide said. "Come, follow me."

Wait, that falling tree was a gorilla? Insert expletive here. 

The gorillas of Mgahinga roam freely, spending part of their year across the border in the Congo and part of it here in Uganda. There are no cages. No feeding times. No schedules.  They are wild, although thanks to years of deliberate and tightly-regulated exposure to humans, they aren't supposed to charge or flee when camera-toting tourists approach.
Liz takes photos of a female from a safe distance.
Tell that to Liz. 

As we near our 60-minute limit with the gorillas (troops receive one tourist group per day for one hour, no exceptions), one of the guards motions us up toward his position, where a silverback is eating at the base of a tree just below. 

Dougie and Amanda go first, staring wide eyed at what has to be one of the most awesome wildlife experiences on the planet. The gorilla ignores them, as he rips off piles of young leaves and shoves them in his mouth. 

Then it's our turn. We ease up cautiously, not wanting to interrupt the breakfast of a 400+ pound primate. Liz leans in to get a closer look, even taking a chance to snap a closeup photo. 

A sudden rustle of bushes. A guttural growl from the gorilla below as he lunges forward. And Liz is gone. Way gone. 

In a twig's snap, she's already passed the machine gun-toting guard, far behind Dougie and Amanda, not even looking back to see if she's being pursued. 

Meanwhile, the guard crouches slowly, putting out his arms palms down, alerting those of us who remain that we should follow his lead. We watch the silverback. We're all short of breath and trying not to urinate. No one moves. 

After a second, the guard stands up slowly, looks at us and then he smiles. 

"Hey, haha, where did your friend go? She run fast! The gorilla is only making a joke. No danger. He's just having fun with the tourist, no charging. Not to worry!"

So funny. Head faked by a gorilla. The most shocking moment of the trek. Liz is fast. 
The big silverback of the group and Liz's new best friend.

Monday, May 20, 2013


No one we talked to in the small village outside Jinja, Uganda, knew the origination of the intriguing "mural" above. Or, is it a billboard, graffiti, government propaganda? 

But all the stories we were told said basically the same thing--the underlying message is about reducing the birth rate. 

Depending on who you talk to, the message "Avoid morning sex, Africa," implies that people should avoid intercourse early in the day because: 

-People are less likely to use condoms in the morning.
-People should go to work instead of having sex, increasing labor output while decreasing baby output.
-After working all day, most people will be too tired for sex, thus fewer children will be born.

Who's right, who's wrong, who knows? Maybe it's none of these at all. 

Either way though, it's strangely are so many things you see in Africa

Sunday, May 19, 2013


Some of you might remember the stand up paddling lessons we took in Myanmar, aka Burma, last year. Despite expert teachers, who included the instructor U Paw San's nine-yr-old daughter, we failed quite miserably most of the time. 

On the positive side though, we did get something good out of it--Kip's first piece for Men's Journal, which ran last week. Visit their website, or see intro text below:


Getty Images

The most technically proficient standup paddleboarders in the world may well be a group of fishermen in Myanmar who have never heard of the increasingly popular sport

These boatmen, who teach their technique in Inle Lake's reed-choked waters, stand on one leg at the back tip of their canoes while using the calf of their free leg to guide a paddle tucked under their arm for leverage. Locals accomplish this while minding their nets and wearing traditional skirts – all the more reason to embrace local knowledge on the way to better SUP form.

Lessons are taught in hand-hewn dugout canoes, which – due to their round-bottom design – are much less forgiving than the wide, buoyant paddleboards used for traditional standup. Standing still at the back of an empty boat is hard. Standing still at the back of an empty boat on one leg while paddling with the other is harder...READ FULL TEXT HERE.

Kip Patrick

Friday, May 17, 2013


Gorilla Glam Shot

Glam shots, anyone? 

While the machine-gun toting guard we were with on a gorilla trek in Uganda had ordered us not to make eye contact with the massive primates we'd encounter along the way (apparently gorillas don't like that), it was all we could do not to stare back at the gaze of the female above. 

We managed to follow orders until she rested her chin on her closed hand, a la 1990, and stared longingly into our eyes. What's a person to do but snap a few photos. If only she would've let us brush some of the twigs from her fur and put some powder on her nose, this would've been so much better. 

More on the trek next week.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


We enjoy a goat skewer, fries and Gatanu beer by the deadly Lake Kivu, just south of the Congo border. 

Wait, is overeating dangerous? 

Despite common misperceptions, Rwanda has been safe for visitors for years. Yet, in a small town at the Congo border near Lake Kivu in the far north, there are actually a few ways you could get an express ticket to the afterlife:
  • First of all, there's the lake itself. Under the deep waters of Lake Kivu a giant bubble of killer methane and carbon dioxide lurks and is expanding by the day, just waiting for the chance to escape to the surface, as a similar bubble did in 1986, killing more than 1,000 people. Lucky for us, it wasn't our day.
  • Then there's the political unrest less than a mile away in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Political instability and violence in the DRC has been threatening to slip across the invisible border into Rwanda, as it did late last year
  • And last but certainly not least, there's the active Muhavura Volcano (photo at right). It's crater has seen recent rumblings, but scientists don't expect an eruption anytime soon. Of course, aren't volcanic eruption predictions about as accurate as weather forecasts?

Either way, we made it out safe and sound, just like thousands of other visitors each year. And we did it without even choking on our skewered goat or french fries. Now there's a tale of survival. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Rwanda's capital, Kigali, sits high on a hill. In the foreground, a man in the parking lot of the Genocide Memorial,
digs through gravel in search of what, we could never find out.
For most of us what little we know of the African republic probably came from the Oscar-winning movie Hotel Rwanda. The film highlighted atrocities that took place during the bloody genocide nearly two decades ago, when over one million men, women and children were brutally murdered in three months. 

We are still haunted by the stories and images we witnessed in the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. It's impossible not to be inspired by the courage and warmth of the people encountered both there and throughout the country, who've overcome so much. 

While scars both visible and otherwise remain, much progress has been made since 1994, including investment of billions of dollars in international aid. Rwanda now is considered a model for developing countries, with economic stability, a modern healthcare system, and one of the best road systems in Africa, as we experienced during a week-long visit. 
A man sells fresh loaves of bread as Liz looks on from a bus window. 
Kip gets a "Welcome in Rwanda" at the Tanzania border crossing. 

Monday, May 13, 2013


You see some crazy things in Africa (and Asia).

When the bus we had been riding on for a few hours across Tanzania left us in the dust, we saw two things that, separately, wouldn't have been so strange. But's not often one sees an ode to the heavenly father right under a photo of one of the nuttiest dictators in history

It's highly possible someone gave the bus owner a free "Gadafi" sticker, with name spelled incorrectly, for his back window. But the owner's decision to place it above his "In God We Trust" motto seems pretty odd, even for Africa. 

Friday, May 10, 2013


Observing animals in the wild, you get to see animals doing odd things. 

Until now, we never remember seeing a photo or video of a giraffe running at full gallop before. It's as uncoordinated-looking a thing as you've ever seen. But once they get their neck and flopping legs into it, they can really fly, as we observed when the adult male above sprinted across the road in front of our Landrover. 

Crazy. Wanna see some more crazy? Here's a photo Friday bonus:

Hippos use their short little tails to mark their territories by showering their fresh feces all over the place. Even when swimming with close friends. And no one seems to care. 
Elephants drink water late at night. And from the same source as people camping nearby do. 
Lions are just big, hairy cats. And they like to roll around and stretch like their domesticated cousins.
Cape buffalo skulls are huge. Camping is dangerous. Kip needs a haircut. Seriously.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


What's on the menu today? For this mother leopard in the Serengeti, it's one unlucky warthog.

The leopard, who has to feed herself and two recently-born cubs, skillfully chased down the adolescent warthog before carrying it up a tree only a few feet from where our guide Yosef had parked. 

Smiling proudly, Yosef told us we were lucky to be in the right spot to see such a rare occurrence so close to our vehicle. We couldn't have agreed more. 

But then, there sure were a lot of other fortunate folks that day who got lucky, too. Such is life on safari in the Serengeti.


By the way, in case you noticed, we're a little behind time-wise and still reporting on our travels through Africa, though we actually just passed through DC. After a few more safari pics, and a visit through Rwanda, Uganda, and Egypt, we'll be almost up to date...and our next destination...

Friday, May 3, 2013


An old Landrover, an acacia tree and the sun setting over the Serengeti. Sometimes life brings good things together. 

After spending hours taking photos from the back seat while listening to our guide tell us about all the things that could kill us if we left the vehicle (lions, leopards, snakes, hippos, rhinos, etc), Josef finally let us out to snap a quick shot at the scenic overview above. One of the best days and most beautiful sunsets of the trip.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


We're traveling today but since we love all things Zanzibar here are a few photos that didn't make it into any updates while we were there:

Kip and our new Aussie friend Dougie introduced frisbee to this group of Masai warriors who were on break from their jobs guarding a nearby hotel.

Life's tough...but not today. Yes, we braved another boat trip, but this one was fully-stocked with grilled fish, cold beer, and two motors, both of which worked. 

Zanzibar's beaches...hard to beat.

A local man transports sailfish on his bike to the Stonetown market five miles away.

A Masai welcomes us to The Rock, a famous restaurant atop a tiny outcropping of coral a few feet from the beach.

Liz enjoys the vino and the view at The Rock.