Mosi-oa-Tunya, Thunder Smoke, Victoria Falls, Zambia

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Explorer David Livingstone is said to have first seen the splendor of Victoria Falls, a massive waterfall at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe in southern Africa from a tree. This tree has since been outfitted with steps and a platform where visitors can climb up for their own view of the falls. Different seasons yield different views, often only the “smoke” (mist) of the falls can be seen.

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The local name for the falls, Mosi-oa-Tunya literally translates to Thunder Smoke. The roar of the falls sounds as loud as thunder and the Zambezi River water that ricochets back looks like a giant smoke cloud. Crossing the Knife Edge bridge at the falls, it can be hard to see from one end to the other with all of the water raining and re-raining back down when water is in high season, February-June.

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The drive from Zambia’s capital Lusaka to Livingstone is about 6-7 hours. This takes you nearly 500km along the T1 two lane highway, which is paved. Speed bumps and potholes are the biggest dangers as you pass through multiple small roadside towns and villages. There are also a few larger cities on the way, Kafue, Mazabuka, Choma, and several random police checkpoints with radar to make sure drivers aren’t flying at twice the posted limit.

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Whether you’re hunting for rainbows or monkeys, you’re likely to find them at Mosi-oa-Tunya. A short hike down to the boiling pot yields a picturesque view of the bridge to Zimbabwe, wildlife and jungle-like green plants thriving in from the mist of the falls. If you forget to bring your raincoat, you can rent a poncho or crocs before exploring because with high waters, you’re sure to get wet.

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Book Review | Perimeter : A Contemporary Portrait of Lake Michigan by Kevin J. Miyazaki

book cover Perimeter by Kevin J. MiyazakiI wish I had been fortunate enough to see the exhibit at Marquette’s Haggerty Museum of Art that is encompassed by Kevin J. Miyazaki’s artistic book Perimeter. As Miyazaki traveled nearly 1800 miles around the shores of Lake Michigan through Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, he photographed the people he encountered and the Lake along the way. The book is a compilation of the waterscapes, the portraits and the stories behind them. From surfers and scientists to fishermen and families, portraits and prose highlight both the differences and similarities of those who’ve made Lake Michigan a part of their lives.

This was an impressive book, and as I mentioned, it would have been great to see the exhibit. The portable photo booth that Miyazaki constructed from PVC pipe and other supplies provided for exceedingly crisp and clean images. I read a color copy of the ebook and am sure the printed book would prove even more intriguing. Hearing so many different perspectives of the value of the Lake lends the reader increased awareness about what an important resource it is. If you love Lake Michigan or haven’t yet had a chance to visit, or if you’re just a fan of great photos, check out Perimeter from a library near you.

Stockholm | From Sweden to Italy : Through Eastern Europe on Ferries, Busses, Planes & Trains

Stockholm bike share

Stockholm bike share

Series Background: I spent October traveling from Stockholm, Sweden to Rome, Italy. Though I’d been to Italy before, I hadn’t been to the other eight countries I explored – Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Hungary and Croatia. I’ll try to keep it brief, sticking to the cities I stayed in, their highlights and foods, and how I got around. And maybe a few photos… <Here’s Part 1, all about Stockholm.>

I flew into Stockholm – Arlanda (very nice restrooms). The airport is far from downtown, so a cab or train is needed. The train is inexpensive and fairly quick. I checked into my hotel on the Nybroviken bay, a few blocks from the Dramaten (Royal Dramatic Theatre). It was a quick 10 minute walk to Nalen Restaurant for dinner. The food and service were excellent. I tried local reindeer, a Swedish appetizer sampler with some amazing cheese pie, and fresh caught fish.

Next Day: explored Gamla Stan (Old Town), the Royal Palace, the island of Djurgården, the Vasa Museum and the Östermalm neighborhood. The massive wooden ship in the Vasa Museum from the 1620’s is more than 95% original and was preserved underwater for over 300 years. I spent most of the day walking. If the weather is good, the local bike rental would be a great option to cover more ground quicker. There were also street cars on Djurgården. Dinner at Prinsen tasted good, but was a bit stuffy and expensive.

Next Day: checked out the neighborhoods of Norrmalm and Vasastan, Sergels torg (new town Square), the Stockholm Public Library, the Kungsträdgården park and a farmers’ market showcasing Chanterelles outside the Royal Swedish Opera House (Kungliga Operan). The library’s reading room is completely round with book shelves that curve 360° around the inner walls, very unique. In the afternoon it was time to hop on the ferry through the Åland Islands (more than 6700 of them!) for the overnight ride to Helsinki. <Check out the next installment about Helsinki, Finland.>

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<Next post: Helsinki, Finland.>

Film Review | Una Noche (One Night) by Lucy Mulloy

una noche dvd coverInspired by a true story, Una Noche is a beautiful and moving film that takes place in Havana. Elio and Lila are twins and best friends. Their relationship changes when Elio meets Raul while working in a hotel kitchen. Lila sees Elio less often and suspects he may be up to something. When she follows him, she discovers that he is building a raft to head for Miami. Shocked that he would leave her, she convinces him to let her join. Sailing at first is smooth, but of course the winds change course.

Featuring Cuban rhythms and music and shots of Havana, Una Noche offers a view into present day life in Cuba. While the main event of the film is the escape on the raft, many other parts of day to day life and struggle are shown before departure. Lila mentions that the stores may be empty, but that everything in Havana is for sale if you just know where to get it. The acting is good, the relationships are realistic and the tension is palpable. It’s a good movie (only a few slow spots) that lets you visit Havana despite the travel ban.

Film Review | All Is Lost starring Robert Redford

movie poster for all is lostAfter watching the trailer for All Is Lost, the title went directly onto my list of upcoming films to see. I enjoy films about sailing and the ocean and have nothing against Robert Redford, though this movie did sound a bit like Life of Pi. While the premise of being stuck at sea is the same, these movies are very different. Plot: Redford is solo sailing the Indian Ocean. His boat sustains damage/ a hole to the hull when it crashes into a shipping container. He attempts repair, but is unable to weather the coming storms which turtle his vessel and snap the mast. The film chronicles his fight to survive.

From the opening scene, I was rapt. I stopped eating my popcorn and stared at the screen. The shots were brilliant with a great color balance. The large picture and surround sound of the theatre really enhanced the experience as sounds on a boat do come from every direction. Redford is the only character and he rarely speaks. Generally the lack of speech would be an issue for me, but it really worked in this instance, giving the viewer the ability to process all of the information about what’s going on without superfluous words. Though some parts were a bit unrealistic and I wasn’t particularly fond of the ending, I would definitely say I enjoyed the film and recommend it to others with similar interests.

What’s Net-Zero Water?

Bertschi School - solar panels, green living roofNet-zero water is a concept that entails separating your water system from the rest of the grid. When it rains, the water you collect in your rain barrels or on your roof will be the water that allows you to wash dishes in the sink or flush your toilet. Your used water will be treated on-site which allows for re-use several times. Water is divided into three categories: rainwater, graywater, and blackwater, depending on the level of pathogens. Both rainwater and graywater (water from sinks and showers) can be treated to be used later as potable water, but blackwater (dispoal or wastewater) cannot be made potable.

One recent example of a building working toward net-zero water is the Bertschi School in Seattle.  This article explains how the school is working to accomplish net-zero water including a composting toilet and a wall of plants. As water continues to be one of the most important and limited resources, net-zero water is getting more attention. While the standard may be too challenging for many, it’s always helpful to think of ways to help conserve water. This list offers 100 suggestions for water conservation.

How do you use your 68? : Drinking Water Week

The first week of May every year has hosted the celebration of National Drinking Water Week since the Reagan years. The purpose is to raise awareness and educate people about public and private drinking water issues. The American Water Works Association (AWWA) is one of the main entities responsible for disseminating information about Drinking Water Week.

Locally, Madison Water Utility will be holding an open house on May 7th where they will explain some of the ways they interact with water in the process of supplying it to the community. There will also be other water-related displays and exhibits. An average Madison resident uses 68 gallons of water per day. Additional information about the open house and local statistics can be found in the City of Madison news release.

The EPA offers some helpful ideas about what you can do to help protect drinking water. View our recommended reading list on drinking water quality.

Photo credit: Portland Fountain by Amy De Simone