Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Chinese Fortune Cookies

Somebody brought today to the lab beautiful, home-made fortune cookies. The one that I chose read: You are open and honest in your philosophy of love. I find it amazing that they always make so much more sense after you add to them "in bed": You are open and honest in your philosophy of love in bed. :)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Kristina's B-day Party

Wig Night!!!

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Dorian Gray

Surely all of you read Oscar Wild's masterpiece "The Picture of Dorian Gray" (if not, you can download it from here), but probably not all of you met such character in real life.

I did. And it was a very bizarre experience. Even though the guy was unquestionably handsome, successful and smart, still I found him extremely repelling as his major life concern seemed to be finding a way of staying young (and beautiful, presumably) forever.

That was a very interesting lesson to me. Some time ago I realized that I overestimate the physical beauty of the people that I find internally beautiful, but until meeting this guy I had not known that it would also work in the other direction, that objectively beautiful people can become unbearably ugly in my eyes when I find their life values/character repelling (I honestly found it impossible to look at the guy without showing disgust on my face, so all the time throughout our date I was focusing my attention on the wine glass that I kept in my hand... And as you can imagine it was also one of the longest hours in my life... An hour that I will never get back - if he would only understand that it is not about how long we live/are young but how well we use the time that we have. I guess he was not that smart after all.)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

31: petrified forest

From Twyfelfontein we drove in the direction of the Petrified Forest, which is located in the heart of Damaraland, 45km away from Khorixas. At this site there are trunks of 280 million years old fossilized trees belonging to the Cordaites family (a gymnospermopsida, an ancient ancestor of today's ferns and conifers).

Tourists are not allowed to walk within the main part of petrified forest by themselves, so to be able to get to the bigger pieces of trees we needed to hire a guide. Of course our guide was as useless as all other guides that we ever had in Africa and was not able to answer almost any of our questions. She was not even able to explain to us properly how this particular petrified forest was formed (if you want to know that go here).

Still, we did not regret stopping there, as keeping in your hand a piece of petrified wood is a very interesting experience. Those pieces are so dense, and therefore heavy, that it is difficult to believe that they are not regular stones. Moreover, many of these "wood-stones" have beautiful patterns, which were formed as a result of the presence of minerals giving them all possible colors.

Gecko warming up in the sun on pieces of petrified wood:

Minerals trapped within the trunk give it rich and varied colors:

The biggest of the trees found on this site reach over 30 meters:

29: Organ Pipes

After spending three days admiring rock paintings on Brandberg we started heading north to Twyfelfontein to investigate local rock engravings. On the way there we made several short stops. One of them was at The Valley of The Organ Pipes.

The Organ Pipes is the name given to the rock formation consisting of hundreds of tall angular columns of dolorite. This formation is thought to have formed about 120 millions years ago when the ancient continent of Gondwanaland was breaking up into todays Africa and South America (more info here).

Roads in Namibia are very well maintained and there is hardly any traffic on them:

Our car:

Surprisingly green Ugab River Valley:

Ever-changing landscape with more and more interesting rock formations:

Colorful Organ Pipes:

African Star-Chestnut Tree clinging to the rocks:

28: Burnt Mountain

After visiting The Organ Pipes, we drove few kilometers further east to see the Burnt Mountain. It was formed around the same time as The Organ Pipes as a result of volcanic activity associated with separation of Gondwanaland into Africa and South America (more info here).

Seen in the late afternoon light The Burnt Mountain glows with a startling rainbow of colors, almost as if it would be on fire:

After visiting the mountain we stopped for a night at Aba-Huab Community Campsite, from where we observed the sun setting down above the Huab River and the moon rising above nearby mountains:

On the picnic table next to our tent I drew this beautiful zebra :). I hope it will still be there in a few years...

Friday, February 22, 2008

34: The Epupa waterfalls

Northern-western part of Namibia is known as Kaokoland and it is home to the Herero and Himba people. In the north, the Kunene River with its impressive system of waterfalls and cataracts separates it from Angola. The biggest of the Kunene River (and Namibia's) waterfalls is called "Epupa", which in local Herero and Himba language means "falling water". The Epupa falls might not seem impressive in size (they are only 35m), but you should remember that they occur in an extremely arid region. If you take that into account, they are actually pretty spectacular.

The Kunene River separates Namibia (located on the south rim of the river) from Angola (located on the north rim of the river):

The Epupa falls:

One of many baobabs balancing on rocks above the chasm:

At Epupa the river widens to accommodate a few small islands and to form its own little ecosystem, which dominant feature is presence of Makalani palms:

Not more than 30 meters away from the river the land reverts to typical Kaokoveld's semi-desert:

27: Namibian road signs

Some of the Namibian road signs were so interesting that I decided to photograph them. Below are few of my favorites.

Be aware of elephants!

Be aware of Kudus!

Yes, we also have cows:

And they often block the road:

In Swakopmund: do not drown your keys in the cocktail ;)

Be aware of oryxes:

And zebras:

And giraffes:

But most importantly, do not drive into the ocean...