Mt Meru and Mt Kilimanjaro viewed from Arusha, Tanzania

Mt Meru (L) and Kilimanjaro (R) viewed from Moivaro near Arusha. Click for bigger view.

I’m looking at two huge dormant volcanoes that grew out of the stretched and splitting rift valley floor. This is the view from above the house where I’m staying with friends just outside Arusha  – known as the safari capital of Tanzania. Mt. Meru rises steeply above the city and Mt Kilmanjaro dominates the land 50 miles to the east.

These two mighty mountains impress me with their majesty and moods. We get to see them frequently because the international airport was built halfway between them in order to avoid their massive effect on wind and weather. We got to know these two while writing guidebooks about them for Tanzania National Parks  years ago. In addition to their uplifting views and challenging climbs they shared secrets too, their shy wildlife like bushbucks and plume-tailed colobus monkeys, their forests, canyons, ponds, streams and falls of butterflies as well as water.

Jeannette gazes at Mt Meru from a house near Arusha

Mt Meru looms in the distance with “parasitic cones” in the foreground.

I’m especially fond of Mt. Meru, a blown out cone (similar to Mt. St. Helens) almost 15,000 ft high and very steep. You can just make out the torn side at the right of the mountain in the picture. Mt. Kilimanjaro is more bulky and going bald in the warming climate, its ice cap melting. Kili is Africa’s highest and the world’s highest free-standing mountain at 19,340 feet above sea level. Kili is actually composed of three cones –  broad-shouldered Shira, the eroded peak of Mawenzi and indented top of Kibo with its crater and ice-fields.

I’m not a lover of hikes in high cold places. However, the plant and animal life on these rift valley mountains is abundant and extremely attractive. Here are some pictures to give you glimpses of life on the mountains.

Jeannette stands among Giant Senecio trees on Kilimanjaro

I’m in a Giant Senecio grove on Shira Plateau, Kilimanjaro

A red balsam flower found only on Kilimanjaro

A red balsam flower, Impatiens kilimanjari, endemic to the forests of Kilimanjaro

A Black-and-white Colobus monkey rests in a tree in Arusha National Park

A Black-and-white Colobus monkey rests in a tree in Arusha National Park


Panorama of San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Panorama of San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Can’t afford a safari to Africa? Easy solution, go to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. We just spent a whole day there, at a fraction of the cost of a day on safari in Africa. And what a lot we saw: wildlife galore, maybe not in its natural habitat but in great variety and totally visible and easy to photograph. We were especially charmed by the mother cheetah and her four cubs, two of the last living northern white rhinos, gazelles, giraffes, oryx, warthogs, elephants and other typical animals of the African plains. Moreover, we saw animals that you would not see on most safaris, rare forest dwellers such as lowland gorillas and okapi,  and so many kinds of birds and forest creatures from the world’s tropics – all healthy and housed in spacious enclosures in ‘natural’ social groupings.

gorilla at San Diego Zoo

Gorilla at San Diego Zoo

Safari clients often say to us, “Don’t you hate to see animals in captivity? I could never go to a zoo after this.” We say, We LOVE zoos, especially now when zoos are so involved in conservation and captive breeding. While at the Safari Park we also visited the research institute, and were impressed by all the work going on; saving the egg-cells of old rhinos, freezing tissue samples of rare animals, breeding 165 endangered species, and supporting field research in over 35 countries.

The park was packed with families, riding the trains and the safari trucks or just strolling the grounds; a wonderful learning experience for kids. David’s childhood visits to a local zoo were the most exciting and memorable events in his young life. Zoos help fuel young minds for learning and caring more about animals.

Check out this amazing zoo and its older relative, the downtown San Diego Zoo, a bit commercialized, but both state-of-the-art facilities whose well-treated captives are ambassadors for the natural world.

view of Ruby ghost town Arizona

Ruby town view looking east.

“Any fool can be uncomfortable in the bush,” explained Howard, as he prepared delicious margarita drinks.  “Personally, I always travel with the necessities.” We presumed that meant not only his margarita mixing skills but his little coffee press among other things. Howard was indeed a world traveler – an American raised in Australia,  a wildlife biologist in Tanzania, where we met him.

“Are you really moving to Tucson Arizona?” he asked us. “Yes, we’ve bought into an intentional community there.” “Well then” said Howard, “you must meet my parents and visit Ruby, our ghost town.” And thus with taste and ease he created a bridge between our Tanzanian past and our American future.

Not long after we landed in Arizona we met Howard’s parents and visited Ruby. Love at first sight; we were hooked.

Ruby is an abandoned mining area being reclaimed by wildlife. We can camp by a shriveled or full lake near the sand dunes of the former tailing piles. These days the ghosts of Ruby are silent at night. From our campfire we hear only the owls and poorwills and the songs of coyotes. The stars have the sky to themselves and it’s the silence, the beauty and the wildlife that has made Ruby ghost town so important to our own survival. Here we come to free our shuttered senses from the assaults of urban ugliness, traffic, phones and the internet. At Ruby we soak in the subtler pleasures of nature and experience, that joy that only fools comfortable in the bush can claim.

Photos – the beauty of Ruby

We launch our new website with something unique about Arizona – Tucson’s annual ALL SOULS PROCESSION. The 25th event took place on 9th November. David was mingling in the crowd taking photos. Jeannette contributes a few words of explanation about this event.

Costumed participants in All Souls Procession march through Tucson

Participants in the All Souls procession


The All Souls Procession is a do-it-yourself tradition, a yearly celebration of those we have lost. Over 100,000 participants dress in all sorts of outfits, wearing masks or painted faces, pushing odd contraptions, but all walking solemnly through downtown Tucson on a two-mile long route following the central object, a great Urn. The urn is escorted by specially prepared attendants who play music and collect the slips of paper that have the hopes, offerings and prayers of the public. The procession ends in an elaborate and inspiring finale – with special music, dancing, lighting, trapeze and stilt artists, and the burning of the commemorative Urn.

fire-dancers, stilt walkers, drummers and other performers.

All Souls procession – the finale




The Procession began in 1990, inspired by Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos holiday and one woman’s tribute to her father. Over time the parade has become one of the most authentic public ceremonies in North America.

It takes a large part of the year before the event, to create the art, altars, workshops, performer costumes, themes and sequences. It’s a big enterprise supported by donations. We Tucsonians value the All Souls Procession because it allows community members from all walks of life to mourn and reflect on the universal experience of Death by celebrating with Life.

This year we lost our friends Geza, Peter and MaryLou, and David placed their names in the urn.

The metal urn rests on a stand and the messages placed inside it are burnt.

The messages, pictures and prayers which mourners placed in the urn are burnt during the finale.





More of our photos for 2014 can be seen here, and photos from 2008 here.