Tag Archives: travel

Downtown LA in the Gloom

Work took me to Los Angeles a couple of times early in 2024.  On neither occasion did the weather do me many favors.  The second trip was very wet but the first was more gloomy than anything else.  As I was walking back to the hotel one evening after we had finished our work, I was taken by the way in which the skyscrapers were disappearing into the mist.  I only had my phone with me, but it does a decent job in lower light conditions.

Propping Up Poulsbo’s Shoreline

An elevated walkway has been built along the shoreline in Poulsbo.  It runs from one of the parks in the center of town along the water to another park.  We went along it during one of our visits on a delightful, sunny, spring morning.  The hillside beside the water climbs up quite rapidly and there were many logs lying up the slope all well aligned with each other.  It was hard to tell whether they were integral to the stability of the slope because they weren’t deeply embedded.  However, their position seemed to suggest more of a motive, so I wonder if they are reinforcing the slope.

Owls in the California Desert

I have been getting photos of owls a bit recently with the shorties making their winter stay up in Skagit County.  However, when Mark and I headed to El Centro, it was planes rather than owls that we were after.  I knew that they were around there because other friends have posted shots of them in the past, but they weren’t something I was thinking about.  However, as Mark was driving us along a dirt road near the base, I saw one sitting ride by the road.

Trying not to spook it, Mark was able to grab my camera from the back seat and pass it to me so I could shoot out of the window.  The owl seemed unimpressed and stayed exactly where it was.  After a few shots we moved on but there was another a short distance away.  Same result as it wasn’t too bothered by the car.  A bit further still and another one.  This one was either standing on one leg with the other tucked up or just only had the one leg.  I can’t tell.  Again, it obliged as I took some shots.  Three owls in a short distance seemed like a pretty lucky run of things.

Market in Tanzania

Our travels did include some opportunities to experience life beyond just the protected areas in which the wildlife lived.  When you are on an organized trip, you know that any experience you are given has an element of artificiality about it, but you do hope to see something of the real lives of people.  We stopped for a visit in the town of Mto wa Mbu.  We took a tuk tuk ride into the town through the streets as people went about their business.  In many of the previous towns we had passed through, I felt very unwilling to photograph people as I zipped through their home.  However, this visit was an organized event and involved a contribution to the community, so I felt slightly more relaxed about taking images.

We left our vehicles and were led through the market.  The stalls were stacked with goods and there did seem to be people that were there shopping as our group meandered through the narrow alleyways.  We stopped at a couple of places to learn more about the various commodities that were being traded.  There were certain approaches that would not sit well with people with western sensibilities, particularly when it came to the meat, but everywhere has their own way of doing things.  It might have been a bit of a prepared version for the tourists, but it was still good to see something a little closer to real life for people.

Into the Clouds Approaching LAX

I have had a couple of work trips that took me to LA in the recent past (how recent may depend on when this gets posted), and the weather has not been great for either of them.  The second one coincided with some pretty horrendous weather for the region and our approach to LAX was a pretty bumpy one.  We actually landed from the ocean side which is pretty unusual for LAX.  The crew prepared the cabin for landing early and I decided the view of the cloud tops from the storm were worthy of video rather than stills.  Here is the resulting video of our approach.

Some of My Rides on Safari

We took three internal flights while we were in Kenya and Tanzania and all three were interesting aircraft.  Better still, they were all different types.  One was a new one for me to fly on, but you might be surprised as to which that was.  Our first trip was on a Let 410.  It took us from the Serengeti to a short strip just short of the border with Kenya.  This wasn’t my first ride in a 410 but it was my first landing.  Previously I jumped out of one as part of a tandem skydive.  This one had far more comfortable seating.

Once we crossed the border, we took another flight into the Maasai Mara.  This was on a type that is ubiquitous in the area – the Cessna 208B Grand Caravan.  I have never been on one of these.  They were very densely configured and getting through the cabin to a seat was quite an effort.  I don’t care to think what getting out in a hurry might be like!  We saw so many of these with different operators over the course of our visit.

The last type we flew was a Dash 8 100 Series.  A far larger type than the others, this flies some heavier routes, and these might involve multiple stops along the way picking up and dropping off customers.  Ours picked us up in the Mara and took us direct to Nairobi.  No intermediate stops for us.  It has been a long time since I flew in an early generation Dash 8, and I hadn’t thought of them as doing rough field ops.  However, supporting remote communities is part of their history so of course they are fine on these strips.  Unfortunately, heavy rains at the strip 90 seconds from our camp meant we had to drive for forty minutes to another strip to make this flight.  It was a good trip, though.  This part of the world was great for people like me that like close up encounters with aviation!

Can Pictures Explain the Space Appropriately?

When I was first explaining to Nancy how amazing Yosemite was before we went there, we looked at pictures, but it was not possible for her to appreciate the scale of the place until she saw it for herself.  I think the same is true of our trip to Kenya and Tanzania.  The wildlife was a wonderful part of the trip and the reason for being there, but I should not avoid pointing out how wonderful the scenery was too.  The vast expanses of open plains, the mountains in the distance, the hills surrounding where we stayed – all of these were quite breathtaking.

Sadly, 1600 pixels across a single image is not really going to give the true impression of these locations.  I have shots to share and here they are, but I doubt it will have a significant impression on someone looking at these versus any other shot of open space.  Indeed, wide open plains look pretty weak on a small image.  There is nothing to focus on to give you a sense of scale.  Despite this, I do think it is fair to say that the landscapes we saw were quite amazing.  They won’t have the impact the animals have on people looking at the blog but, if you do go, be ready for some stunning locations.

Baobab Tree at Lunchtime

One thing that I didn’t really get good shots of during our time on safari was the baobab trees.  There are many varieties of them and some of the most distinctive are in Madagascar, so they weren’t the ones we saw.  However, we did see a bunch of the local varieties and they were pretty cool looking.  The only one I got a good shot of was this one that someone pointed out to me behind the area where we had stopped for lunch.  It was quite a beast of a tree.  I did think about wandering closer to it but, unlike when at home, I was not so sure of the wisdom of wandering away from our guides.  There were some rather substantial predators out there somewhere.

The KF Centre of Excellence

Usually, when I go somewhere new, I have done some research on what aviation related things might be in the area should there happen to be any spare time to squeeze something in.  I had actually been checking out the layout of the airport at Kelowna before our trip since I knew that Kelowna Flightcraft had their operations and there was an Alaska Airlines paint facility.  I figured it would be worth a drive by if time allowed.

As it turned out, our planned hike got scrubbed because the snow made access to the trail, we intended to try impossible for our not off-road optimized car.  We were looking for something else to do and I asked Nancy is a quick drive by at the airport would be possible.  With nothing else in mind, so generously acquiesced.  We drove up the west side of the airport and passed a pair of Convairs up a side road with a sign saying Open to the Public.

I had no idea what this could be but, when we came back, we drove up to take a look.  Much to my surprise (and Nancy’s bemusement that I didn’t already know), we were at the KF Centre of Excellence.  This is a new museum that the owner(?) of Kelowna Flightcraft has established.  The building itself is a lovely structure.  It is loosely designed to resemble the layout of a plane with a central fuselage element and two wings which are hangars.  The external styling is very nice, and the interior is tastefully finished with lots of wood.  We paid to have a look around with the front desk being a converted nacelle.  (Much of the furnishing is aviation components that have been repurposed.  An office desk from a tailplane, nacelles that have been modified and the café seating is all old business class seats.

The center section of the museum has a lot of exhibits about flying including engines, fuselage components and even an old simulator.  It is quite informative and educational.  We enjoyed looking around.  Then it was to the hangars.  One has a Second World War vintage to it.  The largest item was a DC-3 but it was probably the least exciting.  Alongside it was a Mosquito that had only recently been flown in.  Beside that is a Hawker Tempest which is in an advanced state of restoration to flightworthy condition.  It may well be the only Tempest I have seen.  I’m not sure if I have ever seen one before.

Across to the other side and things are still quite empty.  Clearly there are plans to add more aircraft in due course.  A Staggerwing and a few floatplanes are in place but the two-seat F-104 Starfighter is definitely the most exotic.  It was airworthy until relatively recently.  Sadly, it is rather tight to the wall which made getting shots from different angles tricky.  Still cool to see it though.

I had no idea about the museum.  I had heard something about the Mosquito flying out of Vancouver to a new owner but hadn’t really pieced together what was going on so didn’t realize it was Kelowna.  The whole thing was quite a surprise.  Finding such a collection and in such a lovely building was a shock.  Oh yes, parked out front were two Convairs.  One was the old Honeywell testbed that I have shot prior to its retirement and the other is a retired water bomber.  How cool.  (As an aside, the Honeywell 757 testbed was just down the road undergoing some maintenance work.)

How I Misjudged Hyenas Before Seeing Them

There were many animals I was looking forward to seeing when we visited Kenya and Tanzania.  One that I hadn’t thought much about and, if I had, it wouldn’t have been positive, was the hyena.  They have a pretty bad image since they clean up all of the debris that is left and will also do their own hunting in the pack.  While this is no different to many other animals, they seem to have been given a more negative image.

When we arrived, we immediately saw loads of hyena.  They were out walking alone and moving in groups.  They are not the sleekest looking animal, but I found myself surprisingly interested in them.  When one would come into view carrying a trophy from a carcass, I would see this as a positive when others were focusing on the negative.  We saw one hyena limping across the road with an obvious wound on its leg.  This reminded me of just how perilous life is for everything in the wild.

Later in the trip we came across a den for the pack.  One hyena was walking back in with a wildebeest leg in its mouth.  This was going to feed some hungry mouths.  There were some cubs in the den, and we could hear them before we could see them.  They were fighting with each other between sessions suckling from their mother.  It was really fun to watch this whole pack of animals in their social setting.

I’m not expecting anyone reading this to suddenly love hyenas.  Some of the pictures will probably reinforce thoughts that yo might already have had about them.  However, I will say that I saw them in a very different light over the time I was in Kenya and Tanzania, and I will never think of them the same way again.