Bush wedding in Africa: Yes, we got married!

Ok, so we might be jumping ahead a few stories here, but thought this’d be an important update to share in case you haven’t seen our facebook pages. I proposed to Sandra during our canoeing excursion to an island in Ross Lake, Northern Cascades in August and well, at this juncture, you can already guess that she said yes! That trip didn’t quite go as smooth as I’d planned in my head as I forgot most of our food in the excitement of deciding how to propose. After a meal of 2-3 plain tortillas filled with some grape tomatoes and a full bottle of wine, I proposed to her in front of the campfire, and the milky way danced overhead in the clear night sky. The wine might have had something to do with the way we remember it, but still, it turned out how I pictured after all!

Now, we always wanted to have a simple wedding in Africa (And no, there’s no such thing as a simple wedding!) So we decided to have a small wedding when we visited Kenya in November-December timeframe. My ultra-excited parents already started making arrangements which I kinda helped with when I got to Kenya before Sandra. Ok I was mostly indulging in pre-wedding treats, but hey, it counts as someone had to decide the menu y’know.

And here’s a toast to all our amazing friends and family who made it down to Kenya on such a short notice. We got married in Kigio Wildlife Camp located in the Great Rift Valley, we really couldn’t have imagined a better place for us. Here’s a few selected shots from our wedding: they’re taken by Christophe Viseux who is a friend and a great photographer:

You can see the full album here:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=592331&id=524275244&l=e5c2970ed6

Yosemite: a tale of a land that inspired Ansel Adams, John Muir, and traffic jams

One could say that Yosemite has it all: be it one of the grandest works of nature’s paintbrush or the towering rocks jutting out to the blue sky or the out-of-place million city-smart tourists that contribute to the parking-lot like traffic jams that are not uncommon here mid-day on a Wednesday in summer!

Half Dome, the quintessential Yosemite icon

Half Dome, the quintessential Yosemite icon

Fortunately for us, before we were utterly turned off by the overcrowded valley, we entered the park through the beautiful east entrance which is in Tuolumne Meadows where John Muir worked as a shepherd before he was inspired to write for nature. And rightfully so: the High Sierras, of which Tuolumne Meadows is part of, are truly a sight to behold. White washed granite rocks lined with dark green foliage mingled with abundant rivers, falls, and lakes.

High Sierras near Glen Aulin

High Sierras near Glen Aulin

After a not-so-fun car camping experience in one of Yosemite’s campgrounds, (did I mention loud Mexican music and football were commonplace?) we made a quick drive through the valley, or so we had planned.

The “quick” drive took a few hours as we inched our way through the valley traffic shouting and honking so as not to be left out by our neighbors, and headed back out to the relative solitude of the High Sierras.

Tuolomne Meadows, High Sierras of Yosemite

Tuolomne Meadows, High Sierras of Yosemite

Needless to say, we headed out to the woods soon as we could get our hands on trail permits which can be hard to come by in mid-summer.

My Rock! Sandra staking her claim

My Rock! Sandra staking her claim

As our pick ‘Glen Aulin’ trail was out of quota, we entered through the Murphy Creek trailhead just a couple miles down the road which turned out to be the better choice as there were much fewer hikers on the trail and we camped on a beautiful ridge about a mile south of Glen Aulin overlooking a small valley and surrounded by mountains.

Camping on a ridge: windy but beautiful!

Camping on a ridge: windy but beautiful!

You’re allowed to camp anywhere in the High Sierras so we decided to make the most out of it and stay away from the overused Glen Aulin itself.

Sandra stakign a claim... again!

Sandra stakign a claim... again!

The vistas around our camp were enough to inspire even the most stoic, we sat around our little fire ring atop the mountain ridge for hours just gazing up at the canopy of stars, the crystal-clear milky way, and shooting stars that we got tired of making wishes upon.

stargazing by the fire

stargazing by the fire

Slowly as the logs turned to amber in the firepit, we crawled into our tent and fell asleep by the sounds of nature.

Reluctantly, we doswed the fire

Reluctantly, we doswed the fire

And then, onwards we went, on the road again! We made our way to San Francisco and then up the California and Oregon coast to get to North Cascades which I’ll show you in the next post. A final word on Yosemite: it’s as beautiful as it gets BUT be prepared for gazillion tourists if you go in summer and plan in advance!

You can see the full album here:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=546277&id=524275244&l=cd6fe4641f

Pilgrimage through the fire: the unholy trek from Sin City to Yosemite

You might just have guessed it (or so I had hoped), Sin City refers to Las Vegas and it’s one of their self-claimed “praises”. With high hopes of making a quick fortune, we urged Jamhuri down from the beautiful oasis of the Grand Canyon North Rim towards the heart of the fire in the Lightropolis of Nevada.

As in a prelude to a torturous execution of a sinner, the breezy weather slowly gave way to intense heat beyond my craziest imagination. The closer we got to Las Vegas on the I-15, no amount of airing or sticking head out the window helped anymore to cool my by-now-frying brain. I turned on the little fan we’d bought after much debate but even the air from that was just hot hot hot and did nothing but exacerbate the situation. It came to a point that I started hallucinating while driving (it’s not the first time, ask Sandra) and saw a smiling polar bear beaconing to me as he sipped… uh, is that a coke? Well, maybe it wasn’t a hallucination and just a passing Coke truck, but I felt like I was in a haze!

Paris, Las Vegas

Paris, Las Vegas

So we cut short the drive at Mesquite, Nevada and got an AC room at the beautiful Falcon Ridge Hotel and we cooled in their pool till mid night and then drifted off to a blissful sleep in the gazillion-thread count sheets and I saw more polar bears in my sleep, this time just chilling around killing seals. No more coke business here!

Stratosphere Tower at Night

Stratosphere Tower at Night

Next day, after much persuasion from Sandra and liters of ice tea, we made it to Las Vegas amidst 48 degrees Celsius heat! No you didn’t just imagine that, I said 48 DEGREES Celsius heat!!! Right away we checked into the Hotel we’d booked, the Stratosphere tower, at a deal of just 30 bucks a night and hibernated until sundown like the rest of the city. Next couple of nights we strolled through the famous “Strip” of Las Vegas, trying our luck at some of the dozens of casinos that dot the street.

View of the strip close to New York, Las Vegas

View of the strip close to New York, Las Vegas

Most of the photos of Vegas were taken by Sandra as I’m not much into cityscape photography, yet! We watched the very entertaining ‘Vegas the Show’ at the Planet Hollywood complex and of course, had to watch the Bellagio Fountains. We wondered through most of the big casinos such as MGM, Bellagio, Treasure Island and more.

Treasure Island Sirens ship

Treasure Island Sirens ship

Also toured some of the replicas for which Vegas is famous such as New York, Venice, Paris etc. One word of advice though: just walk the street if you can and avoid the public transit in the evening, if it makes it to you at all, gonna take longer than walking to destinations!

Sandra in front of Bellagio's tropical rainforest

Sandra in front of Bellagio's tropical rainforest

Vegas basically seemed like a huge hotel place with casinos attached to them, or might be the other way around. We’d basically picked the hostelworld.com city guide for Vegas and covered most of the attractions. In a way, it was our vacation from a vacation since this was unlike anything else we did on the trip: stay in hotels, walk around a city, gamble, and so on. At the end of it all though, we basically left Vegas $3 richer, yayyyyy!

We’d seen enough of the heat to know not to travel daytime anymore and left for Yosemite late night from Vegas and decided to go through Death Valley to get there. All was well on the remote night drive and we made it to Death Valley by midnight. It was kinda hot but not unbearable and we slept in, um, or so we thought till like 7am when the blazing sun heated the van like an oven and we took to the road again. Turned out, its named Death Valley for a reason and temperatures can go up to 50-55 Celsius in summer and the rangers don’t recommend staying out long in summer.

Sandra enjoying Death Valley dunes

Sandra enjoying Death Valley dunes

Sandra took to the heat very nonchalantly as you can tell in the pic above even when we were at the aptly named “furnace creek”, but I stayed put with my new found ally, a small battery-operated mist fan, whew!

Me and my best friend Misty

Me and my best friend Misty

We finally made it to Yosemite late that evening and we entered through the beautiful east entrance which is in Tuolumne Meadows. Yosemite deserves a whole post to itself but here’s sneak pic of this beautiful land:

sunset on a small lake in tuolomne meadows

sunset on a small lake in tuolomne meadows

Until next time!