Tuesday, April 07, 2009
on the road in south africa
I first met Hitesh back in 2007, after having a few phone calls when a friend put us in touch to talk about conservation issues in Kenya. He'd already started writing his forthcoming book, Authentic Ecolodges, and our paths crossed one evening in Kampala as he was wrapping up visits to an ecolodge in Zanzibar. Hitesh is a Kenyan citizen, and a trained architect and landscape architect, with all the fervor of an avid environmentalist. He's the world's leading expert on ecolodges, and walks the walk more than anyone I've ever met. I've always been interested in ecotourism, more as a tourist than anything else, but this time our crossing paths was more strategic than originally intended.
The Ohio State architecture program kicked off its spring Uganda studio at the same time Hitesh and I were traversing the South African landscape. 14 students began researching building materials, climate issues and culture in northern Uganda, in the attempts to collaborate with One Mango Tree tailors to design a green, off-the-grid production facility. Over our four days in Madikwe, Hitesh and I discussed community ownership models (visiting Buffalo Ridge, an ecolodge in the reserve fully-owned by the local community), ventilation improved pit toilets, water-heating methods, alternative energy models, and site planning. Who knew that an ecolodge, meant for a traveler's enjoyment, could so fully inform the design of a production facility? We stayed at Mosetlha Bush Camp, a fine example of how people can (and do) coexist with ecosystems without destroying them. I can't wait for Hitesh to share his insight and experiences in East Africa with the Ohio State students.
On our way back to Jo'burg we got a bit lost in the yellow hills so close to Botswana, listening to Habib Koite and planning our next journey. At OR Tambo the next morning, Hitesh headed off to a full moon-lit massage at an ecolodge in Namibia, and I back to Kampala. Home.