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Messages - Shunts

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General Discussion / Re: Private Pilot's License
« on: January 08, 2017, 01:02:49 AM »
In the recent past, I began the process of obtaining my PPL. Once I slowly realized the long term associated costs with general aviation, such as club membership, aircraft rental etc, I instead elected to take advantage of FAA Part 103.

It essentially allows an individual to operate, albeit with a strict set of guidelines, an ultralight vehicle without any required licensing or certifications. Sure, it can only carry a single occupant and isn't allowed fly into controlled airports and has other limitations. But it will certainly satiate my appetite to fly.

So I went ahead and purchased a kit to build a wooden and cloth airplane! Iím currently building the fuselage section and hope to have the entire project complete within a few months.

Just Shmooze / Re: Netflix Recommendations
« on: December 24, 2015, 01:40:52 PM »
The recently released Netflix Original, Making a Murderer, is an incredible series.

Trip Reports / Re: Kenya Safari TR
« on: September 08, 2015, 08:03:24 PM »
Thank you!

It really was an incredible trip.

For the most part I just used the pre-configured settings on the camera wheel. Towards the end, I tinkered more with the settings.

General Discussion / Re: Private Pilot's License
« on: July 29, 2015, 10:58:13 AM »
Thank you for all the helpful information thus far.
I am looking for a flight school in Northern California and came across multiple options. Is there a criteria you use other than price and distance to choose a school? Below are the two I am looking into.

Trip Reports / Re: Kenya Safari TR
« on: July 27, 2015, 06:16:14 PM »
Great TR!
Any chance we can see a breakdown of costs?

We used 75k Starwood for 100k Alaskan outbound and 80k UA inbound. For hotels, we used cash and points. This came out to be the most economical as the price increased with each additional person and we were a group of three. We used 12k + $62 and 28k + $84 for Nairobi and Conrad respectively. As far as the Safari itself goes, it wasn't cheap, but was worth every penny!

Trip Reports / Re: Kenya Safari TR
« on: July 23, 2015, 09:09:28 PM »
Part 5

As life has it, all awesome things must come to an end. Our safari would be no different. We had a departure time of 8:45AM from the Olseki airstrip to Wilson Airport, a forty five minute flight. From there we would be driven to Nairobi for our flight to ADD.

Here are some photos at the camp Encounter Mara.

Yes, very important to see

Bucket shower

General lounge area

We asked to leave to the airstrip a bit earlier so that we can take advantage of the extra time and perhaps get to see some more wildlife along the way. This worked out nicely as we got to see a lioness with her cubs, a wandering leopard and a flock of vultures consuming the carcass of a zebra.

It is safe to say that the most frightening part of this trip was flying on this aircraft whose last maintenance check is still unknown. Upon arrival at Wilson, we met our driver for the 20 minute transfer to NBO.

The airstrip terminal

I felt a bit safer with two engines

At NBO. Perhaps practicing for the presidentís arrival?

When we arrived at the airport we asked if we can be placed on the earlier flight to ADD which wasnít open at the time of booking. After speaking with a manager who allowed it, we attempted to check in. After an hour of failed attempts, they proclaimed that their computers were hacked and were shutting down. We panicked. If we werenít going to make this flight, we were ready to purchase a ticket on any flight that would get us out of there.

They finally said they would be issuing handwritten boarding passes. When we finally got ours we headed to the lounge.

Lounge in Nairobi

And that is why I donít fly Kenya Airways

The flight was better than expected. We didnít have a kosher meal because we took the earlier flight. I didnít at all mind the trade-off.

We had a long layover in ADD. We initially wanted to leave the airport. But it was dark, we were tired and we would need to purchase a visa, so we scrapped that idea.

The lounge in ADD

These were great!

A new 787 to LHR

When looking to book a safari, there are many factors which influence price, such as time of year, location, duration and level of luxury. The place we chose was all inclusive. Additionally, in Mara, there was no cell reception, Wi-Fi or swimming pool. There are those locations with more amenities but arenít as exclusive.

I also want to point out that we never went hungry. We packed a large bag of provisions. Such as bread, peanut butter, granola bars, instant soups etc. We also had our freezer bag and had hot meals in the evenings.

Although not required to enter Kenya, we did get yellow fever and typhoid vaccinations. We also took malaria pills.

A visa for US passport holders is $50 which you can get on arrival.

I would like to thank Platinum for all his help booking this trip.

Thank you all for reading, I hope you enjoyed!

Trip Reports / Re: Kenya Safari TR
« on: July 23, 2015, 09:45:20 AM »
Did you approach the EK Chauffeur desk when you arrived in DXB and asked them for a car and they turned you down cause you were on the AK award?.

Yes. They do not rely on the F or J marking on the boarding pass. They check the computer.

Trip Reports / Re: Kenya Safari TR
« on: July 22, 2015, 09:41:45 PM »
Part 4

At the conclusion of Shabbos, we met our guide who would take us out for an evening drive. The spotter uses a spotlight with a red filter to scan the brush for the reflective eyes of the animals. It is now and early morning when predators are most active.
After about an hour of driving around without much activity, our excitement began to taper.  It was when we were beginning to think that we wouldnít see anything that a handful of lions came into view. It was a bit difficult to see clearly and I wasnít catching much on my camera. But I did manage to capture on video an incredible roar from the male lion calling out to its pride. We were just feet away.

Our drive had to be wrapped up as vehicles not allowed out after 10:00PM

We were up early on Sunday for an all day safari which would take us to the Mara River. We were really hoping to catch the Serengeti wildebeest migration which follows the abundant grasslands to the Mara. The animals are required to cross the crocodile infested waters of the Mara River which is a spectacular sight. But because of the plentiful rains and food, their arrival is delayed until August.
In the mid afternoon heat, we looked for a shady spot to stop for lunch. We noticed a nice tree in a clearing and decided to stop. We were mere feet from the tree when our guide suddenly braked. Pointing up, he asked if we were able to see the animal resting in its branches. Indeed we were. It was a leopard and its baby. Needless to say we ate lunch somewhere else.


A cheetah


Check out his wound

Resting in the shade

Her hubby not too far away


The Mara River

The unsuspecting tree

She finally came down from the tree


A jackal

A spotted hyena

We got a flat tire. At least is wasn't at night

I will conclude in my next post!

Trip Reports / Re: Kenya Safari TR
« on: July 21, 2015, 11:27:20 PM »
Thank you! I actually purchased the camera, a Sony DSC-HX400V right before the trip. I don't know anything about photography. I figured I'd learn along the way.

Trip Reports / Re: Kenya Safari TR
« on: July 21, 2015, 09:50:34 PM »
Part 3

We had to be up early on Friday to catch our flight out from the Loldia Naivasha airstrip which is about a two hours drive away from camp. The first part of the drive was done on the same roads we used a day earlier to get to the lake. We then turned right and went off-roading. Iíve never experienced such a violent drive in my life. It was bumpier than a camelís back. Thankfully thought, it only lasted half an hour.

We arrived at the airstrip and waited for our plane to arrive. Our scheduled departure time of 10:15 came and went and there was still no plane in sight. We were in Africa after all, and thus the realization that the possibility of the plane not showing up at all was real and that we may be forced to develop alternative Plans for Shabbos.

Our fears evaporated when a few minutes later a gleaming airplane came in for a landing. Flying time would be twenty five minutes to the Masai Mara Oleski airstrip. It was nice to experience a plane making a special pickup just for you. The gate was locked, so we had to wait for the gate keeper who arrived by bike to open the airport.

Our gate

First class lounge

He loved his toy

Our ride


Upon arrival in Masai Mara, we were greeted by our safari driver, Scentura, who would drive us the 45 minutes to the grounds of Encounter Mara where we will spend the duration of our trip. We chose this camp because of its location and size; there are only 10 tents. It sits in the Mara Naboisho conservancy. They only allow a select amount of people and vehicles visit a day in order to preserve the wildlife. This allows for the guides to get really up close to the animals and give you the best experience, whereas other safaris are simply congested with traffic. Additionally, the moment you leave the camp you are already in the wild. Some of the other options we looked at would have required a 25 minute drive just to exit their premises and reach the perimeter fence.

Our guide on the inside and spotter on the outside

After dropping off our things, we went out for an afternoon drive. We let our guide know that we needed to be back by 5:00, so our drive would a bit limited. We were pleasantly suprised by how much we would get to see. Our guide was exceptionally knowledgeable and had great skill in finding the animals.



Lappet faced vulture

We let the staff know that we would not be able to go out on a drive the next day, but we happily took up on their offer to go out with an armed guard for a walking safari. They obviously steered us clear of any wildlife which wasnít a bird. We learned a lot about the environment and the culture.

We gave them a pan of food to warm up before Shabbos. I even brought a bottle of wine with me which I totally though would break en route. They set up a table right outside our tent with a warm fire. There are no words to describe how amazing and beautiful our Shabbos was.

We met a very nice non Jewish family on Shabbos afternoon. They were very knowledgeable and knew a lot about Judaism from growing up and we spent many hours discussing various topics.
I am not yet done!

Trip Reports / Re: Kenya Safari TR
« on: July 20, 2015, 10:47:25 PM »
Wow, so this is a live TR?
It isn't. It recently concluded. Just my peculiar writing style.

Trip Reports / Re: Kenya Safari TR
« on: July 20, 2015, 09:44:09 PM »
Part 2

We were up at 8:00am on Thursday to meet our driver, Nick, with whom we will spend the next day with.  After retrieving our precious freezer bag from the hotel staff which were kind enough to store it for us, we loaded up and headed to Lake Nakuru National Park. The drive takes about four hours traversing through many small towns. There is great elevation and the occasional nice view.

We stopped along the highway to check out a small shop selling its wares. There was a school, I would presume on a trip, with its students looking at us as though we were from an entirely different planet. We assured them we were human and their bewildered faces adjusted.

On a side note, our guide expressed to us that people are scared to visit Africa because of Ebola, not being aware that the Ebola breakout was closer to London than it was to Kenya.

Our vehicle

View from the car

Itís sad; lots of the city looks like this

School children and shop

We regrettably had to turn down his corn

We checked in to Sarova Lion Hill Lodge and were greeted with a cold eucalyptus scented towels and fresh mango juice. It was here that we discovered that the hospitality in Kenya is incredible.
We were given a brief tour of the camp grounds and headed off for our afternoon game drive!

Our cozy cabin

From the outside

The grounds are very nice and tranquil

Bountiful occupied birdsí nests

As soon as we began the drive, a monkey came inside through the top of the roof and stole a bad of goodies. Realizing it contained nothing of interest, it dropped it on the road and took off running. What a great way to start, I thought!
I took a bunch of zebra pictures unaware that they are as common as cows in the Midwest.

Zebra, of course

There are usually more flamingo, they say

I donít know what this is

Nor what this is

Ah, yes, a rhino

We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of this guy

When we returned to camp and denied dinner, the chef requested to speak with us. He said he was expecting us and made a kosher dinner. We politely declined and attempted to explain that we keep ďreal kosherĒ and that what he made unfortunately didnít fall into that category.
He begged with us just to see what it was he made for us.
Incredibly, he procured a brand new cutting board and knife! He also had a closed bottle of olive oil and plastic-ware.
He went on to say that he had a whole fish and potatoes double wrapped in the oven. We were shocked. We passed on the fish and opted for a salad instead.

Got to work right away

Dining area

Chef Nicholas

Turndown service

Tomorrow is our flight out to Masai Mara.

Trip Reports / Kenya Safari TR
« on: July 20, 2015, 07:14:49 AM »
Part 1

An African safari was always something on my agenda. This year it actually became a reality. Due to last minute planning, we werenít lucky enough to get the flights we hoped for and were therefore forced to take any available routing.

 We would fly SFO-DXB-NBO on EK F and return NBO-ADD-LHR-SFO on ET and UA J with drives and hoppers once we were in Kenya. We wanted to do things differently, so instead of doing the typical Kruger Park etc, we opted for the more ďauthentic feelĒ and enlisted the help of a travel agency which did a phenomenal job tailoring a trip for us in Kenya.

The lounge in SFO was very empty and quiet and the flight was uneventful though the service was a bit underwhelming.

Lounge in SFO

The food was quite unappetizing, but I wasnít expecting anything edible anyways.

We landed at 7:30pm which gave us enough time to check in to the Conrad and head out for our 10:00 Burj and a chance to check out the mall. We attempted chauffeur service and was denied because the perk is no more with Alaskan bookings. An Uber would have to suffice.

Our upgraded suite

Hotel Lobby

The train was cheap and only a few stops from the Conrad, so we figured it would be a way to see more of the city. We took a cab back because we were tired from all that walking in the mall.

Our train stop

I would have loved to be at the Burj during sunset, but that obviously wasnít possible. It was fairly quiet though because of Ramadan.

Our flight out to NBO was 10:45 and I wanted to catch a morning swim, but the pool was too hot!

It looked so inviting.

We had the entire cabin to ourselves which was especially nice as there was a plane change with the updated suite configuration.

We landed in Nairobi at 4:30. We were transported by bus to immigration which is in a parking lot because the main terminal burned down in 2013. Our body temperature was checked with infrared prior to passport control - I guess this is normal practice? We were worried that our food was going to be confiscated as it contained meat. We actually had a full freezer bag which contained jerky, cold cuts and a bunch of frozen double wrapped meals that we will have heated for us at our camp. Thank you Dan for the Polar Bear bag recommendation! The items remained frozen for hours in the Dubai heat.

After our original plan to take Uber was scrapped because a lack of internet - which would have been free with T-Mobile, we took a pre paid fare to the Hilton. In hindsight, that was a much better outcome as traffic in Nairobi is from the worst in the world and Uber probably would have turned out more expensive.

We arrived at the Hilton 18km, $20 and 1.5 hours later.

We got upgraded to a suite because of our diamond status. I am genuinely concerned to know what a typical room looked like. We chose Hilton because it was the only name we recognized. It is a decrepit piece of crap.


We wanted to take a look around town and were informed to leave all valuables behind; I therefore don't have any pictures from the streets. When we asked where we should walk, the response was "don't go that way" pointing to the left; we heeded his warning. We dropped by the lounge for a quick local beer and headed out; to the right.
After a short walk we made our way back to the hotel for safety concerns.
Tomorrow we drive to Lake Nakuru.

Lounge at the Hilton


View of traffic from our room

On The Road / Re: Car Rental Corporate Codes Roundup
« on: December 29, 2014, 06:18:57 PM »
No, only this particular one when you chose you are booking the trip for business.

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