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An African elephant can make quick work of a tree and this one did while I was filming at South Africa’s Royal Malewane Game Reserve. This week when I heard the new poaching numbers that 22,000 elephants were killed last year & 25,000 the year before I thought of this encounter and how special it is to spend a day hanging out with these amazing creatures, but I also worried that this experience may be nearly impossible to enjoy in a few years if something isn’t done soon to stop the poaching. I talk about the rise in poaching this weekend on my radio show, National Geographic Weekend.
Thanksgiving in the USA, a time to talk turkey, but in Antarctica it’s the time to talk penguins which we do this weekend on my radio show National Geographic Weekend. We also talk about camping for five days while hanging off the side of a cliff on the frozen continent. Here’s some video of the penguins doing their thing backed by a little music from my friends, “Open Hands”
We had a ringside seat for what I call “Elephant Wrestlemania” at Royal Malewane Game reserve in South Africa. It was an incredible day of elephant entertainment and play fighting. Here are some video highlights.
Polar bear tours in Churchill, Canada, a fall alternative to the usual trips of going someplace to watch the leaves change colors. On National Geographic Weekend I tell the story of my Halloween with polar bears & the story of the world’s foremost expert in polar bear posteriors.
I’ve been on a rant for a few days against an NRA show that thinks killing an elephant for fun is good TV. The host of the show, an NRA lobbyist, is on a big game hunt for elephants in Botswana, Africa. The guide leads the host, Tony Makris, to a spot near where a bull elephant is calmly grazing, unaware of their presence. Some scrub bushes separate the hunter from the elephant’s line of sight.
Makris then shoots the elephant in the head three times, killing it. Later he and the guide are shown drinking a toast to their great day of elephant killing, and saying how great it is to harvest one of these big glorious creatures and bring back the ivory. The whole thing made me disgusted and angry so I finally decided to record some of my thoughts on why I found this whole program and Makris and his posturing so offensive.
I’ve also included some of the alarming facts on the rise in elephant poaching, which makes the killing of one for fun and a TV show even more reprehensible. And not that anyone needs reminding of just how charismatic and special elephants are, wait I take that back since apparently Makris and his ilk do, but I’ve also included some footage I shot of elephants at Singita Lebombo Lodge in South Africa.
I also talk about this senseless and sickening killing of an elephant this weekend on my radio show, “National Geographic Weekend.”
Shakespeare wrote, “I’ve come to bury Cesear not to praise him”, but there are tens of thousands of people every year who do just the opposite. Long after the body has been buried, they show up at the graves of various celebrities to pay tribute and by their presence, in effect, praise the life of the departed.
Most of these pilgrimages to the grave sites of famous people are conducted by folks who’ve never bothered to visit the graves of their own relatives after the funeral. And yet if they are in, say, Seattle then Jimi Hendrix fans will make an effort to locate the cemetery where he’s buried and drop by to see grave, and maybe leave some flowers or take a picture.
I was reminded of this second career as a tourist attraction that death provides for some celebrities when I recently visited the famous Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, where numerous famous people are buried, such as Oscar Wilde, Marcel Marceau, & Chopin. In fact there are so many well known persons buried there, that you need a map to help you find them all. Those maps are for sale, so we bought one and played a kind of celebrity bingo trying to find all the celebrity tombstones.
It got me wondering which celebrity graves worldwide are the most visited, and also left me with questions about why we have such a strange fascination with going to the grave sites of people we’ve never met, and often people we never even saw in person, and sometimes people who were dead before we were even born.
I went to prison & I went to church, both voluntarily, in Tallinn, Estonia. I also took in the performances of street corner musicians creating a soundtrack for a country relishing their freedom now that they are out from under the thumb of the Soviets. I may have also started a church service or caused some people to reset their clocks when I climbed a bell tower & banged on one of the bells.
Sights & sounds from Tallinn include a guy wearing a mouse ears hat and singing, “Hound Dog”, a young woman giving street corner violin concerts for spare change, a dancing shrek, and a private tour of a former Soviet run prison, that stands as a vivid reminder of what life was like here before independance.
Elvis is alive & wearing a Mariachi outfit. Make that El Vez, the Mexican Elvis. I first did a story with El Vez more than 20 yrs. ago. He’s still performing and hasn’t left the building, unlike his more famous namesake. Here’s the story of the legend of El Vez which I retell this week on NGW
I like to discover new adventures whenever I travel. When I heard the city of Ohrid, Macedonia claimed to have 365 churches, I knew I had found my next challenge. 365 churches meant you could go to a different one every day for a year, but I didn’t have a year. I didn’t have a week. I had one day. I told my guide Jane Josifovski from Macedonia Experience, to skip the usual stops and let’s just go to churches, as many as we can in one day and find out how many we can visit.
Fortunately it wasn’t a Sunday because we didn’t have time for any sermons, just a hit and run experience. Stop, grab a quick photo, go inside for a look around if possible, or in some cases just check out the exterior and move on to the next one. I soon learned that what qualifies as a church is in some cases more like a religious shrine, with no way to go inside. But there was always a cross and usually a religious image or icon, and a place to offer prayers. Some were in big buildings, some were in caves, but in none was there a place for the congregation to sit down. No pews, none. In these Eastern Orthodox Churches it’s standing room only even if they aren’t full.
This is the story of my day of church going as told on my radio show, “National Geographic Weekend” complete with a little gospel piano backup. It’s an adventure that may take care of all my church going needs for the next decade.
To borrow an old description, me trying to explore the Gornaslatinska Cave in Macedonia was like trying to push a camel through the eye of a needle. Thankfully I had some good kneepads because there was a lot of crawling under stalactites and over bat guano to squeeze through the seriously dark, wet, bat poop covered claustrophobic spaces. We talk about the adventure this week with my guide Stole Misev on my radio show National Geographic Weekend.