Had Camera, Did Travel

October NSB Meeting Report

Our October meeting gave members an opportunity to learn about three very different places that fellow members had recently visited for very different reasons.

Cuba: Johanna Notley

The lure of travelling to Cuba was set by a guest speaker Johanna had heard a couple of years earlier at a ‘World Day of Prayer’ meeting. With daughter Miriam as her travelling companion, Johanna visited Cuba in January 2018 and was immediately struck by the strong nationalistic feeling, the absence of beggars, homeless people and cars outside houses, and the happiness of the people despite rationing.

They commenced with an overnight stay in Havana’s grandest hotel, Hotel Nacional, but from then on they enjoyed the hospitality of local families who, since 2011, have been able to access private finance to build Cuba’s version of Airbnb’s homestay accommodation.

Among the highlights of Johanna’s trip were visits to a tobacco farm (top, left), an orchid farm and an ecological farm (top, right), where she enjoyed a meal made from locally produced vegetables. The latter was in contrast to the many opportunities Johanna took to enjoy the cheap crayfish, which appeared to be a standard dish wherever she went. And of course, rum-based drinks were the drink of choice.

Johanna and Miriam at Cenote.png

Johanna and Miriam also visited one of Cuba’s famous cenotes —natural sinkholes resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath.

Despite its Spanish—and therefore Catholic—background and more the recent communist governments, Johanna told us she could still feel and occasionally see a hint of African spiritualism about the island.

(Compiled by Don Poynton and Johanna)

Kenya: Willy Dadour

Willy’s reason to visit Kenya was to volunteer at Gabriel’s Learning Centre in one of the slum areas of Nakuru called Kaptembwa, located about three hours’ drive from Nairobi. She first visited in 2014 and again in 2018, volunteering for about three weeks each time.

The Great Rift Valley, which extends from Israel to Mozambique, runs through Kenya. It is an area of the African tectonic plate that is diverging at about 6-7mm/year. Mt Kenya, the second highest mountain in Africa, is just one of many extinct volcanos within this rift valley. There are also a series of soda lakes, including Lake Nakuru.

Willy first met Susan Saleeba, the founder of Gabriel’s Learning Centre, in 2010 after she was asking for volunteers to travel to Nakuru. By 2014, with a lot of fundraising, Susan had built and opened her school, which includes a home stay for volunteers. In 2014 there were about 50 students in three classes, starting for 3-year-olds and going to Year 4. An orphanage was being set up at this time and a farm was also being set up.

By 2018 the school included an orphanage at the farm for 35 boys and girls staying at the school. There were many more improvements.

On both trips Willy visited Lake Nakuru National Park. New park reception buildings were already underwater in 2014 and even worse in 2018 (above), due to the lake silting up and flooding because of runoff from the town. The previously large flocks of flamingos are moving to other lakes.

The “Acacia” in Africa have been renamed, after they were found to be from a number of different lineages. Even though the Acacia type specimen was from Africa, Australian taxonomists put up an argument to keep the genus name Acacia, as we have over 900 species already named. So it was that one of the African genuses of the former Acacias is now called Vachellia.

(Compiled by Willy, with slight amendments by Don Poynton)

Scandinavia: Graham Ezzy

Graham Ezzy’s talk was a photographic journey he and Marianne took through Scandinavia, Iceland and parts of the northern islands of Scotland during July and August 2019. His presentation was titled ‘The Viking World’ as all these countries are synonymous with Viking history and mythology. However, these ‘northern people’ would never have called themselves ‘Viking’.

Travelling and holidaying are sometimes mutually exclusive, although Graham and Marianne did spend a couple of weeks in Helsinki to have a ’holiday’ and recuperate and live in the 24-hour daylight. Their journey took them through 87 tunnels across Norway (the longest was 23 kilometres), the northern areas above the Arctic Circle—home of the Sami people, the home of Santa Claus (Rovaniemi in the Lapland region of Finland), Helsinki and then on to Iceland.

Absorbing new knowledge, experiencing something unfamiliar and being exposed to new places, people and cultures are strong reasons why people love to travel. The photographs Graham used in his presentation highlight these outcomes from their journey through the six countries.

A Puffin with its catch

Reindeer could be seen throughout the northern areas of Scandinavia, but no Moose could be seen, except at Helsinki Zoo. Reindeer herding in Norway is regulated by law, which says that the right to practice reindeer husbandry in Sami reindeer grazing areas is limited to people of Sami lineage with connections to a reindeer herding family. About 3,000 people are involved in the profession in Norway. Who are the Sami? The descendants of an aboriginal, nomadic population, the Sami of today are one people spread across four countries. One of our major learning experiences was to acknowledge the similarities between the painful history of the Australian Aborigines and the Sami people. The Sami people now have their own parliament. Both peoples have a painful history, but could this be a proud future for both indigenous groups?

(Compiled by Graham)