Archive for June 1st, 2020

June 1, 2020

Lake Victoria and the Nile!

So now lets take a complete different course. Lucky me to have been to many places of our world, last count 81 countries, and hopefully still more to come. I have written briefly on my trip to Uganda on things like lodging, restos, seeing and such but the biggest thing there was left untouched. It is time for me to change that by telling you a bit on the Lake Victoria at the source of the Nile river in Uganda.

I came to Uganda. A wonderful place of many friendly people all eager to improve themselves. I landed at Entebbe airport , the unfamous name now much more peaceful in Uganda. The official page from Uganda Civil Aviation Authority is here:CAA on Entebbe airport

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I will tell my story and then a bit of history I like on both Lake Victoria and the Nile river from web sources. Just for the memories and friendship of Uganda. The Nile river which starts here around Lake Victoria. While in Jinja, I did my baptism on the Nile river , a bit late but I was here!!! Well having a jet ski waverunner and driver helps a lot but the views were spectacular and of course on the way back to harbor I fell in the water trying to go from the jet ski to a fishing boat; no big deal it was shallow and had floating jacket on, quickly out, just my clothes were soaked. An experience to remember for life. Wonderful place thought.  The Nile crocodile has almost disappeared from this region of Africa. In Lake Victoria, spawning takes place in late December and in January, in the dry season when the water goes down. The eggs are laid in the sand where they incubate for three months. As my story above goes I was glad in a way ::)

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Needless to tell you the jet ski ride was impressive going just to the border of Ripon Falls unbelievable!! A souvenir never to be forgotten, do not know when back, but this visit will stay longer than me! Let me tell you about the history from web sources to complete this post about Lake Victoria and the Nile river. Briefly….

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Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa and (depending on sources) the fourth or second in the world in area with 68,100 km2. it is bordered by Kenya to the northeast, Uganda to the north and northwest and Tanzania to the south, southwest and southeast. Occupying a depression framed by the two branches of the Great Rift Valley, it is the source of the White Nile, the longest tributary of the Nile. Rather shallow (40 m on average, 83 m maximum) and located at 1,133 m above sea level, the lake occupies a depression formed by tectonic movements and framed by the two branches of the Great Rift Valley formed there four million years ago. Roughly rectangular with 320 km in length (from north to south) and 275 km in width (from east to west), the lake has very indented banks forming numerous peninsulas, bays, capes and more than 3,000 isles. Ferries connect the main ports of Lake Victoria, Kisumu, Mwanza, Bukoba, Entebbe, Port Bell and Jinja (Uganda).

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The first source of scriptural information known to us on Lake Victoria comes from Arab merchants crossing the East African plateau from the coast in search of gold, ivory and slaves. Al Idrissi was, around 1160, the first to have drawn up a map clearly representing the lake and representing it as the source of the Nile. Europeans discovered the lake in 1858 when British explorer John Hanning Speke with Richard Francis Burton reached the south shore of Lake Nyanza. He renamed it after Queen Victoria who reigned at that time in the United Kingdom and in her colonies.  The lake was the scene of naval clashes during WWI between the British and the Germans. Faced with the disproportion of forces, the Germans had to withdraw from this area. A great write up must read by all me think is by Jules Verne, Five weeks in a balloon (Chapter XVIII is entirely devoted to Lake Victoria). It was the first title in the Voyages extraordinaires collection in 1863.

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Nice map on Lake Victoria ,me think ,and talk about the ecosystem including fishes here: African Cichilid on Lake Victoria with map

The tourist office of Uganda on Lake Victoria: Visit Uganda tourist office on Lake Victoria

The Nile river with a length of about 6,700 km, it is with the Amazon River, the longest river in the world. It comes from the meeting of the White Nile and the Blue Nile. The White Nile rises at Lake Victoria (Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania); the Blue Nile comes from Lake Tana (Ethiopia). Its two branches uniting in Khartoum, the capital of present-day Sudan, the Nile flows into the Mediterranean, forming a delta in the north of Egypt. With its two branches, the Nile crosses Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt. It also runs along Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (with lakes Victoria and Albert respectively), and its watershed also concerns Eritrea thanks to its tributary of the Tekezé.   The Nile watershed covers 3,254,555 km2, roughly 10% of the area of Africa.

The source of the Nile is considered to be Lake Victoria, but the lake is fed by rivers of considerable size. The longest river which flows into Lake Victoria, and which is therefore the most distant source, emerges from the Nyungwe forest in Rwanda, via the Rukarara, which flows into the Mwogo, then Nyabarongo and finally Kagera, before joining Lake Victoria in Tanzania near the city of Bukoba. The Nile leaves Lake Victoria at Ripon Falls, near Jinja, Uganda (where I drove a jet ski!). The Nile was at the heart of the civilization of ancient Egypt. The majority of the population and all the cities of Egypt occupied the banks of the Nile north of Aswan; and has been the backbone of Egyptian culture since the Stone Age. The Nile had a spiritual dimension; meaning so much in the lives of the Egyptians, that they created a god consecrated to the well-being brought about by the annual flooding of the Nile. The name of this god was Hâpy and both he and the Pharaoh were supposed to control the flood of the Nile.

Although James Bruce claimed to have been the first European to have seen the source, modern authors consider that the first is rather the Jesuit father Pedro Páez. Europeans had settled in Ethiopia since the end of the 15C, and it is possible that they explored the river as close as possible to its source, but they could not envisage its course beyond Ethiopia. It was ultimately the British explorer Henry Morton Stanley who confirmed the truth of the discovery of Speke, by sailing around Lake Victoria and realizing the existence of the Ripon Falls on the north shore of the lake. It is during this trip that it is said that Stanley would have greeted the British explorer with the famous words “Dr Livingstone, I presume?” By discovering the sick and discouraged Scotsman in his camp at Ujiji on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.

The White Nile expedition, led by the South African Hendri Coetzee, was the first to sail the entire length of the Nile. He left the source of the Nile in Uganda on January 17, 2004 and arrived at the Mediterranean Sea in Rosette, four months and two weeks later. National Geographic presented a film on the expedition at the end of 2005: The Longest River.

A fascinating river alright and glad could see its eyes or mouth of the Nile river from Lake Victoria Uganda side. A must to see for all.

A bit more on the Nile river and Uganda part in specific from geosciences here :Geo Sciences on the Nile River

Hope you enjoy the post and my most adventurous trip at the time, all worth it me think. Remember, natures of the best Lake Victoria and the Nile river!

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

June 1, 2020

Gander, Canada!!

Another one out of the old cabinet, vault whatever, this is way from the beginning of visiting France with my now dear lafe wife Martine from Florida. Always looking for a inexpensive way to travel with the whole family and do so every year since 1990 to 2002 when finally came to live permanently in France in 2003 as already French citizens. Memories forever!! Hope you like the story as we do.

We were registered at the French consulate in Miami as French citizens and partipated in its activities thru Miami Accueil. One of the niceties of belonging is that French families living there (about 8K in all of Florida) looking for ways to visit the country the least expensive possible as the goings and comings were frequent. One of the ideas was to charter a flight by the group and passed on the good prices to us. So therefore we got on Rich International airlines (now gone) and took a charter flight to Paris Orly airport at less than 400 dollars per person!!! The trick it landed for refueling at Gander, Canada. Sot here is the story of this spot on earth, I can call it I WAS HERE!

By the way for any French reader of this post, the Miami Accueil is still there! Here is the webpage: Miami Accueil Miami Florida

Gander is a town located in the northeast of the island of Newfoundland in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador,Canada; about 40 km south of Gander Bay.  The territory of the city is home to the Gander International Airport, a former major stopover for the refueling of transatlantic flights and still houses a military air base, as well as an air control center, attached to the Gander Oceanic Control Center. The activity of the city is very linked to this airport which was created in the 1930s .

Some titbits of information gathered from the town’s webpage which I like as history is good to know are

Nearly all of Gander’s streets are named for famous aviators, from the Wright brothers, Alcock and Brown, Lindbergh and Earhart, to more modern pioneers like Canadian astronauts Marc Garneau, Roberta Bondar and Chris Hadfield. It hosted early experiments in aerial refuelling in the late 1930s. The decidedly low-tech system of the day required some brave soul to lean out of the target plane with a large hook and try to snag a fuel line dangling from a tanker flying in close formation overhead. In the early years of the supersonic transport Concorde, while most nations still refused to allow the futuristic craft into their airspace, Gander successfully lobbied to host cold-weather avionics testing. Two prototypes were based at Gander International two years before Concorde’s first commercial flight!.  The runways at Gander International Airport routinely handle the world’s largest, fastest and heaviest aircraft, up to and including the Russian Antonov An-225. Due to its strategic location and runway capacity, Gander was a designated alternate landing site for NASA’s Space Shuttle program! At the time of its completion in 1938, the then ‘Newfoundland Airport’ was the largest airfield on the planet, with four huge paved runways covering a combined area of one square mile.

Gander is the site of North America’s only Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery as well as a nice museum would love to visit the North Atlantic Aviation Museum: where you learn all about Gander’s strategic role in the world of aviation and its important role in WWII and beyond. More here: North Atlantic Aviation Museum

The Gander International Airport Authority Inc. is the official authority of the airport main office at 1000 James Boulevard P.O. Box 400 Gander, NL, Canada.  According to their site there are only four airlines such as Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing Airlines and Pal Airlines. More info here: Gander International Airport

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Gander International Airport (IATA: YQX, ICAO: CYQX) is the official name of the airport, and is operated by the Gander International Airport Authority. Canadian Forces Base Gander shares the airfield but is a separate entity from the airport. Construction of the airport began in 1936 and it was opened in 1938. Within a few years it had four runways and was the largest airport in the world. Its official name until 1949 was Newfoundland Airport.

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The Canadian federal government changed the name to Gander Airport after Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949. It opened the current passenger terminal in 1959. On 16 September 1945 the first transatlantic proving flight, a Pan Am (I worked for them in Miami!) DC-4, departed Gander for Shannon in western Ireland On 24 October 1945, the first scheduled commercial flight, an American (my school chairman was co founder in 1934) Overseas Airlines DC-4, passed through Gander. Gander is near the great circle route between North America and Europe. Starting in the 1940s it was a refueling stop for transatlantic flights and continued in this role through the early 1960s and in some cases into the 1990s.

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With the advent of jets with longer range in the 1960s, most flights no longer needed to refuel. Gander has decreased in importance, but it remains the home of Gander Control, one of the two air traffic control centrers (the other being Shanwick Oceanic Control in western Ireland) which direct the high-level airways of the North Atlantic. Most aircraft travelling to and from Europe or North America must talk to at least one of these air traffic controls.

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During the Cold War, Gander was notable for the number of persons from the former Warsaw Pact (I was part of it young boy) nations who defected there including Soviet chess player and pianist Igor Vasilyevich Ivanov, Cuban Olympic swimmer Rafael Polinario and the Vietnamese woman famously photographed as a naked girl fleeing a napalmed village, Phan Thi Kim Phuc. It was one of the few refueling points where airplanes could stop en route from Eastern Europe or the Soviet Union to Cuba.

On September 11, 2001, with United States airspace closed because of the terrorist attacks, Gander International played host to 38 airliners, as part of Operation Yellow Ribbon. Gander International received more flights than any other Canadian airport involved in the operation apart from Halifax.

Officials at Gander International Airport have stated that the future for the airport is grim unless the Canadian Federal government provides funding to cover costs. Over 50% of all aircraft operating from the air field are military, and do not pay landing fees The terminal building built in the 1950s and noted for its modernist design and heritage architecture still includes many of its original furnishings and fixtures. In 2017, the airport announced the existing terminal would instead be renovated and downsized .

A BBC Video showing Gander passed world leaders and celebraties of our world interesting me think: BBC video on people faces at Gander

The city of Gander on its history here: City of Gander on its history

And there you go folks ,another corner of the world yours truly has partake; never amazes me our wonderful world. We find ways where there is none and continue to enjoy travel as a free men, Gander is an example of it thru the years and hosting a family wishing to reach France inexpensively and together. Gander is for the memories, never forgotten. The pictures are old from paper photos maybe blurry but worth a million showing my family in flight. Hope you enjoy the post on Gander, Newfoundland, Canada!

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

June 1, 2020

The Virgin Islands, US and UK!

Well going back deep into my vault, times require me to put in my blog my life’s history and so I am doing just that. Many posts many spots on our wonderful Earth over the years and still keep going strong like duracell commercial lol! Well here I am going down to my roots, the Caribbean , that wonderful sea. After all nothing comes close for a water, beach activity. And I have been to plenty everywhere.

I have mentioned in a previous post about my sailing adventures in the Caribbean area last done in my blog was March 2019. However, the islands are more than sailings so here is a bit more on the US and British Virgin Islands, the one for the thousand virgins!

Saint-Thomas is an island which constitutes with those of Saint John and Sainte-Croix the Virgin Islands of the United States, it is also one of the three districts of this territory. The island has an area of 81 km2. The main city is Charlotte-Amélie, capital of the archipelago. Saint-Thomas was once one of the haunts of privateers, pirates and buccaneers and it is a customs and tax free zone which makes it one of the tax havens of the United States

The Dutch West India Company established a post on St. Thomas in 1657. The Danes conquered the island in 1666, and in 1672 established their control over the whole island through the Danish West India Company and Guinea. In 1685, the Brandenburg African company took control of the slave trade to St. Thomas, and rented the island to the Danes, and for some time the island became the largest slave market in the world. The island was finally bought in 1917 by the Americans from Denmark. A great deal again.

The capital city is Charlotte Amalie founded in 1666 as Taphus (meaning “beer house”]). In 1691, the town was renamed to Charlotte Amalie after Charlotte Amalie of Hesse-Kassel queen consort to King Christian V of Denmark-Norway.  When American tourists were barred from Cuba in 1960, some began visiting Charlotte Amalie instead. As an unincorporated territory of the United States, it’s been a haven for mainland United States citizens seeking luxury vacations or a second home in the Caribbean.

St Thomas

I happened to spent time here on my crossing between the US and UK Virgin Islands and connecting flights to the USA. Still many memories and recall the name very well of the Galleon House Hotel very high overlooking the harbor and Main Street. It has a sweet water pool with a terrace! . You are within 5 minutes on foot of the market. The hotel house was built in 1852. It has AC rooms with all the trimming and a wonderful breakfast on the veranda . The sights of the Fort Christian is only about 500 meters and the airport  Cyril E. King is only about 10 minutes by car. Love the experience still. More info here. Galleon House Hotel

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Another nice sides to see here are the Blackbeard castle, the wonderful beach area of Magens Bay, and the Coral World Ocean Park.

The tourist office to the US Virgin Islands :Visit US Virgin Islands at St Thomas

Saint Thomas things to do and seeVisit US Virgin Island St Thomas things to do

Now always my final destination were the British Virgin Islands and their wonderful beaches and sailing ambiance.

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The British Virgin Islands are an archipelago of the Caribbean and an overseas territory of the United Kingdom. The British Virgin Islands are a tax haven. The Virgin Islands were discovered by Christopher Columbus during his second trip in 1493, who would have named the islands in honor of Saint Ursula, known in the legend of the eleven thousand virgins. Abandoned by the Spaniards who preferred the wealthier regions, the archipelago became the ideal haunt of the pirates English, French and Dutch buccaneers who plied the Caribbean Sea to carry out their raids against the Spanish Armada. Colonized in 1648 by the Dutch and annexed by the English in 1672,

The British Virgin Islands are a group of around fifty islands that are part of the West Indies, of which only 16 are inhabited. The main island, Tortola, is separated from Saint John, in the Virgin Islands of the United States, by only 2.3 km. The main inhabited islands are Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, Jost Van Dyke, Peter Island and Salt Island . Road Town, the territorial capital is located on Tortola. Glad to write I have been to all the previously name islands.!

Tortola  largest and most populated of the four main Islands, is a lush mountainous Island which was formed by volcanic activity. Crowning Tortola is the tallest peak, Sage Mountain National Park, at 1716 feet (great views over the bay it can be climbed!), which exhibits the characteristics of a tropical rain forest. Beef Island, an island in the British Virgin Island, is located to the east of Tortola, and the two islands are connected by the Queen Elizabeth Bridge. Beef Island is the site of the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport the main commercial airport that serves Tortola and the rest of the British Virgin Islands. Adjacent to it is sailboat-filled Trellis Bay, a unique cultural village with craft shops and restaurants, awesome indeed at least from I remember.

Tortola

Tortola

Virgin Gorda is the third largest island of the four main islands The capital of Virgin Gorda is Spanish Town.  The Baths  (heavens for me) is located on the southern end of Virgin Gorda. This tourist attraction shows evidence of the island’s volcanic origins as huge granite boulders lie in piles on the beach, forming scenic grottoes that are open to the sea (and you can swim inside of them and between them!)  The Baths, a geological wonder comprised of awe-inspiring granite boulders, which form sheltered sea pools on the beach’s edge. The protected area also includes Devil’s Bay, which can be reached from The Baths by a series of ladders scaling the boulders ,yes indeed a wonderful thing to do!. Just north of The Baths, Spring Bay is reached by a separate road and includes a lovely white sand beach but smallish.

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Named Anegada or the “Drowned Land” by the Spanish, Anegada is the only coral island in the Virgin Islands’ volcanic chain. Anegada is known for miles of white sand beaches and the 29 km (18 miles) long Horseshoe Reef, the largest barrier coral reef in the Caribbean, and the fourth largest on earth.  Indeed this is awesome and a must visit.

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Jost Van Dyke is the smallest of the four main islands of the British Virgin Islands. Jost Van Dyke, named after a famous Dutch pirate, has been a sailor’s mecca for years. Like many of the neighbouring islands, it is volcanic in origin and mountainous. Captain ‘Joost van Dyk’ was a 17C Dutch pirate who used its harbours as a safe hideout and to attack ships passing North of the island on way to Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, and Cuba. Great Harbour, the main port of entry, is always bobbing with sailboats and sailors coming ashore to the charming West Indian village that lines the beach with gift shops and restaurants. Since the late 1960s, Foxy’s Bar in Great Harbor has been a popular stop for Caribbean boaters. Indeed Foxy’s is the talk of the islands and a must for a cold beer and great storytelling for all.

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And one not mention in tourist brochures because it is private but you can go as part of a group cruising trip as I was, singles and it was party time galore! Peter Island is a 720 hectare (1,779 acre)  private island located in the British Virgin Islands. It is about 5 miles (8 km) south-west  from Road Town, Tortola.  The island was named after Pieter Adriensen nicknamed The Commander who was the brother of  Abraham Adriensen  Patron of Tortola under the Dutch West India Company in the early 17C. Pieter Adriensen and Joos van Dyk built a fort and slave pens at Great Harbour on Peter Island to facilitate privateering and the nascent trade in slaves from Angola. Right now there is a coconut trees shaded semicircular beach which is heavens on earth.  A world  famoust resort is right on it, more here fyi ; Peter Island Resort

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Hope you enjoy the tour with me in my memory lane of younger wild days, and still fond of  a lot. Never the youth out of me; hope you too can enjoy this heavens on earth, the US and UK Virgin Islands. All pictures copies of paper photos.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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