Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 3

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November 5, 2015 – 6:50A

Rough night’s sleep with the first two hours of tossing and turning.  My mind was buzzing with curiosity over what our game drives would be like and what would camp and our “tents” be like.   From all the pictures I saw they had hardwood floors and you could stand up in them and move around but beyond that was a mystery.  Finally, I put in some ear plugs and that (slowly) did the trick of helping me get to sleep.  Now I’m gonna grab a much needed shower and then it’s off to breakfast downstairs with Aryn, her mom and her sister.

Note after breakfast:  Don’t eat the Marmite.  It’s a British food spread, dark brown in color and thicker than molasses but extremely salty.  I dabbed a bit of it on a corner of my toast just to try and Yuck!  Never again!

Our breakfast table at Protea Hotel in Johannesburg, SA

Our breakfast table at Protea Hotel in Johannesburg, SA

 

Johannesburg Airport

Johannesburg Airport

11:16A

On a plane from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe where we are meeting our trip leader, Vitalis, and catching a chartered bus to cross the boarder into Botswana.  Did some minor shopping at the Out of Africa store in Johannesburg Airport (a 4 pack of beaded Christmas tree ornaments and a Christmas CD of traditional holiday songs set to African music).  Very excited to listen to that this December!  Wifi was spotty at the airport so I had trouble sending texts to Aaron and my mom.

7:05P

When we arrived in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe we stood in line with other international travels to purchase a double-entry Visa (since we will be returning to Zimbabwe for our final days of the trip).  Outside the Victoria Falls airport was a group of tribally-dressed guys singing what seemed to be a welcome song in their native language.  One of the ladies from our trip, Nora (from Wisconsin) joined in and danced with them).  Our trip leader is so funny.  When we boarded the chartered bus he introduced us to the driver and said that “he had been waiting there for us since last night.”   haha!  Funny guy!  Glad he has a sense of humor.  He graciously welcomed us to Africa and proceeded to brief our group on what we can expect on this adventure.

There are certain moments in my life that are unforgettable:  the first time I saw the Colosseum, my first sighting of the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Eiffel Tower and today as we were driving down the road in our minibus we spotted an enormous elephant on the right (the side of the bus Aryn and I were sitting on).  He was among the trees and walking towards the road.  It happened too fast for me to grab my camera but this creatures presence made such an impression on me and filled me with so much intrigue that I will never forget that moment.  Maybe another twenty minutes or so down the road we spotted a few zebra (including a mama with her baby).

Two Zebras

Mama and baby zebra along the side of the road in Zimbabwe.

Later we passed more elephants.  I thought to myself: “I hope we see some giraffes and wouldn’t you know it, two appeared among the trees!  Vitalis had the driver stop so we could open our windows and take pictures.  Wow!  I was so excited to actually see these beautiful creatures in their natural environment.  As we continued on we saw impalas, a steenbok and some warthogs.   Oh and I almost forgot – baboons!

Road-side Giraffes

My first giraffe sighting in Africa!!! Two along the side of the road.

As we crossed the boarder into Botswana we saw a couple of warthogs strolling through the Customs parking lot. “Pumbas” as Vitalis calls them.  Before exiting the bus to get our passports stamped, Vitalis explained the exact procedures of what we needed to do to go through customs in Botswana.  This was very helpful so we weren’t exiting the bus like lost puppies trying to navigate our way in an strange new world.  Part of the entry procedure was to walk across this screened pad that disinfected our shoes.  This was to avoid disease and germs crossing country boarders.  From there we boarded a different bus and continued to our camp.

Arrived in Cabin 9 at Baobab Lodge just outside Chobe National Park in Botswana.   The main lodge was beautiful and overlooked huge yellow grassy planes that were inhabited by a variety of different antelope and a handful of zebra.  Up near the lodge wall was a lone elephant drinking from a small trough of water.

Thirsty Elephant

Looking down at thirsty elephant from the main lodge.

The staff welcomed us in song and handed us a champaign glass with a red and yellow layered sweet drink.  We gathered on the comfortable sofas in the main lodge from some quick introductions of the staff before they wanted to show us to our “tents.”   Leaving the lodge we were immediately blocked by 9 elephants traipsing through our camp.  One walked right up the stairs to the front door of one of the “tents” (which look more like lodges but with canvas walls and roof).  The staff threw rocks at the elephants and clapped their hands to get them to move on and finally up the hill they went behind the “tents” and we were able to proceed to our rooms.  As Aryn and I arrived at our camp there was one remaining elephant eating the leaves off a tree just beside our “tent.”  Hilariously intimidating.

Baobab Lodge Tent

“Tent” 9 at Baobab Lodge in Botswana. My home for the next 3 days.

Tented Camp

View from “tent” of path back to main lodge at Baobab Lodge in Botswana, Africa

The rooms seemed very comfortable with a bathroom in the back complete with a shower, flushable toilet, sink area and closet and shelf space to hang and set our clothes.  I was very excited to be calling this place “home” for the next 3 nights.

Safari Tent Interior

Interior of “tent” 9. One of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept in.

One of the trees outside our “tent was filled with baboons.  You can hear them calling out – sound like a deep bark).  They were eager to scatter as Aryn and I anytime we excited our “tent” to stand on our front porch.

The sunset is beautiful.  Heading out to walk up the dirt path to the main lodge for dinner.

9:15P

Dinner was delicious.  I particularly liked the vegetable lasagna.  Going to try and go to sleep now which should be interesting with all the mosquito netting around our beds.  Oh crap!  Aryn just screamed, okay more like a “gasp” she’s claiming.  Hold on a minute while I check out the situation.

There was a huge black, long-legged spider on the white tile wall of our shower.  I just killed it with my shoe.  To top it all off, during dinner we learned what a male lion’s mating call sounds like from one of our guides and there have been quite a few of those calls happening so far tonight.  In fact, we are hearing one right now that sounds like its un on the hill behind our “tent.”  Yikes!  Good luck getting any sleep tonight.  haha!


Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 2

November 4 – 6:30P

Arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa safely with luggage.   On the plane I watched Paper Towns (which was touching yet sad), Entourage (the movie) Antman (which I’ve been waiting to see ever since it came out) and the first half of Ted 2.  I slept on and off for maybe a total of 2.5 hours so I’m hoping to sleep well tonight.  Although the flight was 15 hours it didn’t feel as painfully long as I had expected.  Maybe I slept more than I’m calculating.

We are staying at Protea Hotels which seems to be a chain.   Accommodations are poshly modern.  Aryn and I just dropped off our luggage and are now going downstairs to meet her mother Judy and sister Katherine at the restaurant.  The room is small and the only thing separating the bedroom from the shower is half of a glass wall so we’ll have to get a bit creative with our bathroom privacy tonight.  Haha.

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8:25P – The four of us ordered a bottle of South African cabernet labeled Warwick.  It was a very nice, dry and flavorful red.  I tried the Springbok Carpaccio which was served raw.  I learned Springbok is a type of antelope common to the area.   Its color was deep red and its texture was similar to salmon in terms of soft and almost disappearing in your mouth (not chewy at all).  It was tasty and paired great with the cabernet.  However, it didn’t fill me up so I ordered chocolate cake for dessert.  The cost for all four of us to eat and drink was $50 – not bad.  Going to bed now.  Exhausted. I have my mini travel fan next to my bed and some melatonin to hopefully help calm my curious mind and help me sleep.   Very excited to see our first camp and experience my first game drive.

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Trip of A Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 1

November 3, 2015 – 2:50P

Waiting at my gate at the Akron/Canton Airport for Delta Airlines Flight 2211 to Atlanta where I will meet with long time friend Aryn Wilson, her mom Judy and sister Katherine for out trip through OAT (Overseas Adventure Travel) to Africa!  Departing at 3:21P and arriving at 5:10P.  The flight to Johannesburg, South Africa departs at 7:10P with a flight time of 15 hours (sigh).   Planning on taking some melatonin paired with plenty of red wine to help me sleep.  Lunch was a delicious Oktoberfest beer and some mediocre spring rolls at the Great Lakes Brewing Co spot in the airport.

I’m excited and a bit nervous.  I have no idea what to expect and so my mind is racing.  I’m hoping to see some giraffes!  I emailed our trip leader Vitalis and he said that three of the four parks we are visiting have giraffes!  Already missing Aaron (and Louie, the pug).

Hopefully this trip allows my mind to destress from my hectic work life and free my mind to spark some creative juices flowing for my next books “Sheldon’s Falls” and “The Integrity Pie.”  Got my headphones and some music on my iPhone.  Gonna listen to some Pearl Jam.

P.S. Praying for safe travels and Aaron to be safe at home.


Overseas Adventure Travel: Ultimate Africa 2015 Pre-Trip

2015 ULTIMATE AFRICA PRE-TRIP:

Roughly 2 years ago (March 2013) my partner, Aaron and I were back in the San Fransisco Bay Area for a friend’s wedding.  During our trip we stayed a few nights with an old college friend (and the maid of honor) Aryn.  I’ll never forget this moment that sparked the trip of a lifetime: “Ultimate Africa”  The three of us were seated in Aryn’s living room of her Concord, CA apartment when I noticed a photo book placed on her coffee table.  I picked it up and paged through it amazed by all the beautiful photos of African animals.  I asked where she bought the book and she said they were her photos she had submitted through Shutterfly.  I was completely blown away.   Not only were these photos magnificent but the proximity Aryn was to these wild and roaming animals I had only ever seen in cages at various zoos.  “Oh yeah,” Aryn said, “these game drive jeeps take you right up to the lions and rhinos.”  Wow!

Aryn had mentioned that her and her mom Judy were looking to take a second trip only to a different part of Africa.  She emailed me a link to OAT (Overseas Adventure Travel) and their “Ultimate Africa:  Botswana, Zambia & Zimbabwe Safari” including an overnight in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Without hardly a second  thought, I enthusiastically said”: “Sign me up” and on November 3, 2015 Aryn, her sister Katherine, mother Judy and myself were all on a plane from Atlanta to Johannesburg.

During this trip, I kept a daily journal and I thought it would be fun to post this (day by day) on my blog.  I will begin with the first post tomorrow proceeding for the next 17 days (taking a break for the Thanksgiving Holiday and maybe Black Friday).  I will be including photos and videos that correspond with the events and sitings of each specific day along with videos of the “tents” we stayed in at each location.

8 months prior to the trip I had to get in touch with Passport Health Dept to begin my vaccinations and 2 days prior to the trip I had to begin taking my daily malaria pill (I highly recommend taking this WITH food).  Packing was very involved, I had to get a specific type of mosquito spray (Sawyer brand) to apply to my clothing – which it’s recommended to do outside and away from many contact with pets and your skin).  I also purchased 3 cans of bug spray containing, at least, 30% DEET, that I sprayed on my check, ears, and any exposed skin each morning.  I ended up only using 2 cans of the DEET so I’m returning the 3rd to Dick’ Sporting Goods tomorrow.

I also recommend packing a back-up battery for your camera.  Our tented camps provided laundry service for everything except our “smalls” (underwear), so I only packed 2 pairs of shorts, a pair of gym shorts, swimming trunks, 5 pairs of socks, a hoodie, hat and 4 shirts.  I packed enough underwear for 10 days as I was able to wash them in the bathroom sink in our tent (powered soap was provided).  I also recommend buying a cheap pair of sunglasses (don’t bring your expensive name brand pair).  Other items are sunscreen, a flashlight, an extra bag to pack souveniers and whatever toiletries you need – including Advil, DayQuil, NightQuil, Tums, Vitamin C & Zinc, extra contacts if you wear them, lotion, aloe, and see if the pharmacy will prescribe you a pill for traveller’s diarrhea.  The flight from Atlanta was 15 hours, so I recommend bringing something to read (although there were dozens of good movies to choose from, plus the essential sleep – if you’re able to sleep on a plane).  Check with your cell phone provider too about a cheap international calling or FaceTime Plan.  :)  Lastly, I highly recommend buying a pair of “zip off pants” that covert into shorts.  I bought mine online form Eddie Bauer for $40 plus shipping.  TOTALLY worth it!

OAT is great about helping you prepare for this trip and they do accept installments on your payment.  A couple weeks prior to the trip they sent me a small booklet called: Your Final Document Booklet.  This thing was incredibly informative and I was very glad I brought it with me.  It included our Day-by-Day Itinerary, Friendly Reminders and Emergency Contact Information of each place we were staying to copy & give to our loved ones at home.  I called and asked for an extra copy to leave at home with Aaron, which they gladly sent.

Hope you all enjoy my blog!