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Out of Africa


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Friday and Saturday, Feb 8 & 9

Currently 20,000 feet up just outside of Paris, we are on the final flight of our journey. It all began about 28 hours ago when we woke up in Zimbabwe. It’s hard to believe we are this close to the end. I know I’ve said it before, but this really was the trip of a lifetime...even though I am already pondering where I should go next in Africa 🤷🏽‍♀️😉😀 We’ve gotten so many tips and ideas and stories from fellow travelers, I can’t help but start to fantasize about all the possibilities.

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But back to the beginning of this two day ordeal. We took our time getting to breakfast Friday, and enjoyed having the veranda all to ourselves. Having heard such glowing reviews of the Victoria Falls Bridge the night before, I was really pulling hard for us to get there. Thankfully Brenda agreed and our hotel clerk said it was only a short cab ride followed by like a 500m walk to the middle of the bridge, so we should have plenty of time before our 10:55 airport transfer pickup.

We quickly finished packing while a taxi was called for us. And would you believe our luck to end our Zimbabwean taxi adventures the same way we began them: with Clever 😀 We gave him the scoop on what we’d all done, filled him in on our long journey home, and devised a plan for him to meet us a half hour later to whisk us back to the hotel. He was so funny when we told him how different the weather would be and he started asking about what snow is like and how we could possibly live where it’s that cold (oh Clever, I am asking myself that very same thing right about now 🤦🏽‍♀️🙈). Brenda had him laughing when she said “it’s like in your freezer, only on the ground.”

So he had to drop us off outside the border patrol zone. He gave us strict instructions to just show our passports, ask for a bridge pass and don’t pay any money. He would be right back there waiting for us around 10:15. And off we went. Yet again the immigration officials saw our blue passport covers and had absolutely no interest in looking any closer. They shoved a stamped piece of paper at Brenda and we headed toward the bridge.

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Ya know how it is when you’re in a hurry and not sure where you’re going and it seems to be taking forever?! Well that’s exactly what it was like. And then we became oh so interesting to two of the guys on the bridge trying to sell us jewelry. Not thinking, I said we were Americans and that made them even more interested and wanted to talk about Obamaland. Finally Brenda got rid of them by saying we were just trying to enjoy our walk to the middle of the bridge and we are NOT buying anything.

Whew...dodged that pair only to be picked up by the guys trying to convince people to do the bridge jump/swing thing. That would be a big NO from us. Unlike Cape Town’s milk money beggar though, these guys all listened and left us alone, which was very nice.

And then we got to the middle and I went into full on photog mode cause it was incredible!! You can see straight into the middle of the gorge and really see the height of the Falls. Plus from that vantage point the mist isn’t overpowering so you don’t have a hazy, clouded view. I am super duper glad we ran into those two couples and got the inspiration to get over there. Had I gotten home and realized it after the fact, it would’ve been a repeat of the Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair incident from Sydney, and I would’ve been oh so bummed and ticked off.

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Naturally we had to snap photos with both the “Welcome to Zambia” and “Welcome to Zimbabwe” signs, standing with one foot in each country. And kudos to Brenda for spotting the crossover spot so we could take a look down the river on the side opposite the Falls. And double kudos for her quick thinking and telling the next guys to ask: that we were Canadians, from Manitoba. Yep, that confused and shut them up quickly 😝🤣

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A quick glance at my watch and we knew we needed to hightail it back. As soon as we stepped out of the immigration office, I could immediately see Clever’s big smile as he furiously waved to make sure we spotted him. Now that is some mighty fine door to door service right there. He said we need to come back and visit or send all our friends there so he can drive them around (take note Julianne, and tell him HI from us if you see him in June 😀).

Back at the hotel we headed to the room to cool off in our a/c for a few minutes. We hadn’t quite thought through our humidity filled dash at the start of our long journey (oops...and thanks again Brenda, I know I owe you for that one 😉). Cooled off and ready to go, housekeeping showed up just in time to offer to carry our bags and we headed to reception to wait. In no time at all we were on the road to Victoria Falls Airport, bidding a fond farewell to Batonka and Zimbabwe.

With some time to kill at the airport, there were a few cute shops to look in and we each picked up a little something (I mean we didn’t come all this way to not have physical proof of it). Yet again South African Air wins the day by one lady hustling through a meal service on a flight that lasted about an hour and a half. We landed in Johannesburg with over 5 hours before our flight to Paris. The only logical thing to do is shop and eat of course!! And now that we’re back to rand and a foreign currency, it all feels like more of a bargain. The shops are just so bright and colorful and draw you right in. Not to mention this airport is like one giant mall. Purely by chance, we both liked the same tee shirt and bought it (with no plans to wear them at the same time of course 🙊). I also couldn’t resist a little stuffed giraffe keychain with a butt tag that says “Made in Africa,” and who has subsequently been named Sabi to honor all the giraffes we saw in Sabi Sands. Next order of business was dessert for dinner - banana chocolate fudge ice cream cone for me and a double chocolate muffin for Brenda.

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By that point, our carryons were getting heavy so we headed to the gate to stake out a seat. Good thing we did as we discovered our plane to Paris was one of thee largest double decker jumbo jets, with a capacity of 516 passengers. We’re not sure if there were that many people on board, but it was pretty dang full. Regardless, they did a great job of organizing and boarding all of us (quite possibly better than our flight to Chicago, which is half the size).

The flight again was long and the food was the worst we had on any flight. I ended up in a middle seat with a rather interesting Frenchman on the aisle next to me (and not in a good way 🙊). After 10 or 11 hours, however long it finally took, we were so ready to be off that thing. Five hours in Paris was enough time just to eat something, walk around some and get a few of these posted. And at long last we boarded our final flight to Chicago, aka the crying room 😝 We don’t have an official count as to how many tiny ankle biters are on here, but enough to make quite the chorus of crying as we waited on the tarmac. No matter the nationality, the high pitched squeal and screeching seems to be the same in any language 🤷🏽‍♀️ The poor flight attendants were basically herding cats as people en mass were attempting to move seats. But alas we are surrounded. Thankfully it got better once we were in the air...scratch that as here they go again 🙉🙉🙉

And now we are two hours in to yet another almost 10 hour flight. I am so NOT looking forward to the weather in Chicago (nor sitting in a car for another 3 hours), but a shower and good nights sleep in my own bed does sound delightful. I’ve basically only napped a few hours intermittently since this day began what, 30 hours ago?! The not so glamorous part of travel. But I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat for the incredible experiences we’ve had.

7 flights...5 hotels...3 countries...2 friends spending 2 amazing weeks in Africa 😀🐧🦒🦓🐆🦏🐵🐘🦁🌳🐛🐍🦎🌍😎

Saturday, Feb. 23

And here we are, two weeks post Africa, and I figure it’s about time I wrap up this final blog post.

As a quick recap, we arrived fine and on time in snowy, cold, cruel Chicago. Brenda’s friend Kyle was ready and waiting as soon as we got through customs and grabbed our suitcases. The drive back went well and amazingly we both stayed awake (well until I started dozing off at the very end when they were talking about work stuff that I had no clue about). I think having someone else asking us questions and commenting on the trip was the only reason we looked alive. If we had been left to our own devices to drive home, I think we would’ve been in a world of hurt. So thanks again for the driving services Angie and Kyle!!

Basically they dropped me off at 6:30, I dumped my stuff just inside the door, showered, brushed my teeth (twice for good measure 🙊) and by 7:15 I was out cold for the next 12 hours 😳😴 And that kicked off an entire week full of exhaustion and intestinal and germ issues. In all the trips I’ve taken, I’ve never been hit quite so hard by the jet lag as this one. But I finally got through it, as did Brenda with her not sleeping issues, and now it’s time to sort through the pictures and videos and purchases. And for me at least: start planning the next adventure 🌍🌎🌏 Thanks for coming along and partaking in my ramblings, and here’s hoping you join me in the future. Have passport...must travel 😀 🛩 😍

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Posted by JackiesJourneys 12:00 Archived in Zimbabwe Tagged africa safari zimbabwe victoria_falls jet_lag Comments (0)

“Circle of Life”

Our final game drive 😭


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Tuesday, February 5

This morning started out pretty rough, but by the end of the day I was literally dancing and squealing, having had an absolutely amazing time. I may have spoken too soon yesterday when I said the Nottens game drive probably wouldn’t live up to Kwa Mbili 🙊 Different sights, different sounds, different crew and different guests, but both top notch and phenomenal experiences.

Monday night’s deluge provided a lovely pitter patter for sleeping. However come Tuesday morning when the rain continued as a fairly steady drizzle, it was not so lovely. But when you’ve traveled all this way, you’re not about to let a little rain keep you from what you came for. So 5am wake up and off to the Jeep by 5:30. Once Veronique joined us, everyone was on board looking oh so chic in our ponchos, and we were off.

I don’t even recall a lot of that morning drive as it was so rainy and I was getting increasingly chillier and chillier. Sandals and short sleeves under my poncho may not have been the smartest option. And by the end, I was shivering under what felt like a wet blanket thankful when Riaan would blast the heater for a minute or two. I didn’t even bring my camera out the entire first half and really wouldn’t have minded just cutting the whole thing short.

But thankfully we didn’t cut it short, but actually stayed out longer than anyone else, bonding our crazy little group and getting some phenomenal shots in the process. The first thing to warrant a wet camera was the zebras and giraffes (those giraffes get me every time). Eventually we took off hot on the trail of a leopard tip. There was a large male hanging out on a rock just chilling. It was pretty cool, but I was having issues seeing him and getting the camera to work right. So mental photos it was. But not to worry as there was yet another leopard waiting for us.

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Thankfully by this point the rain had pretty much ended and we got an ideal parking spot to observe this leopard, with his kill, up in the crook of this fabulous tree. I have no idea how they are able to get the kill up there with them, but it was mind blowing to see (even if all we could see of the other animal were his poor little limp, dangly legs). Sometimes the light worked just right to perfectly spot the leopard in all his spotted glory, and other times he’s just this perfect silhouette against the sky. Riaan figures he may have had another kill on the ground as he leapt down from the tree at one point and was hidden in the long grass feverishly doing something. But that’s when we realized we were the last Jeep out and still a decent distance from Nottens. So time to hightail it back.

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Upon our return we trudged to breakfast. It was yet another over the top display of anything and everything you could ever want, and that was just the stuff sitting on the buffet. Each table had a hot breakfast menu for you to order from too. I really think I’m going to need bigger pants before I leave this place 🙊🤣

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Brenda and I opted to forego the bush walk (along with pretty much everyone else it turns out). Having spent several hours already cold and wet, plus the fact that we did two heart stopping bush walks out at Kwa Mbili, we didn’t feel the need for another. Turns out that was a good decision as Julia and Zack said they didn’t see a whole lot anyway. And possibly most important of all, Brenda and I still had our bottle of Muratie’s Amber Forever dessert wine to drink. There was no way we were packing that thing for another flight, so drink it we must.

Back at the room we dried out and set up our wine drinking photo shot before cracking that baby open. Then Brenda lounged and napped inside while I sat on the deck typing. Once we reconvened and realized there were snacks to be had right in our room, we polished off the rest of that bottle along with salt & vinegar Pringles. It may sound like an odd combo, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it 😀

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By the time our pre-lunch snack was over, the sun was out again so we went down by the pool and chatted with Sue and Simon for a bit. Ya gotta love a good discussion about the royals (well we do at least) 😝 And even better is one with people with more first hand accounts straight from England. Or maybe as Simon suspected, I was loopy from too much dessert wine and Pringles 🤣

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In no time at all they were setting up for afternoon tea and yet another grazing session for the humans. Seriously, I don’t know where all this food comes from or what they do with all of it that doesn’t get eaten, but I’m starting to feel a bit guilty. We had time to pop back to the room and grab our things before the afternoon (ie our final 😭) game drive. It was at that point that from the bathroom, Brenda spotted a little deer looking animal hiding in our shrubs by the outdoor shower just nibbling away on the grass and leaves. We left him to his dinner and headed back to the Jeep.

This time we were the last to arrive, taking our seats in the middle row. Like I mentioned earlier, by this point we were one big, happy, international family, ready to tell Riaan exactly what we wanted to see: lions and rhinos and a big orange sky for me. And from there it was a lot of talk and laughter and so many animals and trees and sky and stars that it just makes me smile to think about it.

I kinda wish I had a go pro documentation of the whole night just to fully capture and remember it all. There’d be numerous episodes of laughter from Surge, causing the rest of us to laugh and try to shush him. Then we’d hear Simon doing all zee accents from French to Australian, with a bit of American thrown in for good measure. There would be political and animal discussions, and of course me being mocked for my tree and sky fascination. All the while I’m not sure if Riaan knew quite what to make of all of us.

I can’t name everything we saw that drive, but I do know the prize for cutest spotting goes to the 4 little mongoose we saw right off the bat. I actually had Riaan stop the vehicle more than once for a tree photo op 🤷🏽‍♀️ But hey, hopefully he will always think of Jackie’s Jackalberry every time he passes it. There were also quite a few rare and beautiful birds he pointed out (Neil did warn us we may become bird watchers as a result of this trip). Then we came around a corner and there was one of our requests: 3 white rhinos just lumbering toward us. They really do look like some kind of prehistoric animal that doesn’t quite fit in. But oh my gosh...so cool!!

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Next up was the watering hole excitement (we really have had a lot of luck around these watering holes). Anyhoo, this time it was the cute elephant grabbing a drink in the corner. And then a big old hippo decided to get in on the action, doing one of his dislocated jaw, full on mouth open moves so Surge could get a look at his teeth. Then from the elephant corner there were suddenly two teenagers fighting and going at each other, before the adults chased them away. And that left us to hang out with the not one, but two hippos who continued to put on their mouth open show.

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The request list was moving on to lions. Riaan already had us pointed out toward their usual stomping ground, having warned us that it was quite a ways out. I was sitting back soaking in the scenery mentally belting out “The Circle of Life,” lest I sing it out loud and have them think me a complete nut job. In the midst of my rousing rendition, Brenda says, “look, there’s Prides Rock.” Guess we both had the same vibe going on. More fun trees, even some flowering ones...and you know those warranted a stop request. Then we found what we’d been looking for: three female and one male lion, just lounging by the side of the road. We admired them for a while, until the male finally opted to wander off.

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Hmmm...this afternoon is going so well, what else should we request?! 🙈 Well there is still the matter of that red African sky, but I keep being told to be patient (not one of my strong suits). Then Riaan gets this strange look on his face and stops the Jeep. He says something to AB who shakes his head yes and proceeds to pull his feet way up on to his seat. That’s when we noticed the Cape Buffalo like a foot or two from my side of the jeep, just laying in the muddy ditch. Please don’t laugh now Surge, please don’t laugh 🙊

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To celebrate surviving that, it was time for our drink stop. Riaan found thee perfect little clearing to park it with a long view of the big, open sky behind the most bee-you-tee-full line of trees. Cue the angels singing as I was at long last going to get the red African sky moment I have been hoping for for months 😍😍 The only way it could’ve gotten better is if a stray giraffe or elephant had wandered into the shot. But let’s not get greedy. Riaan did proceed to show me a bunch of shots just like that which he has had the opportunity to take (show off 😝).

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But back to my sky moment. I took well over 50 photos from almost the same spot. But you know, some of them were zoomed in and some of them were more wide shots, and with the sky continually changing colors, they’re all very different and necessary (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). I guess someone asked Brenda at one point if I was for real and she was like oh yeah, just let her be. Simon mocked me...until he realized I was the perfect height to use as a camera bipod and decided to join me. After the orange came these glorious colored cloud striations and Sue joined me for that portion. I was a bit sad to miss out on the drinks and conversation, but this is thee thing I was obsessed with seeing, so I didn’t have much time to be distracted.

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Day made (let’s be real, trip made), I was even giddier and more squirrelly on the ride back. And then I laid my head back and saw all those bright, beautiful stars doing their thing without any light pollution. Ok, time for Riaan to dazzle us with an astronomy lesson. When we finally arrived back at Nottens, the last Jeep yet again, we burst into applause. The perma grin was still squarely on my face, and would be for the rest of the night 😊 I was one very happy tree lady.

After a quick break, we all reconvened for dinner. Tonight the table was even longer, and just as packed with food and drink. Our Jeep crew sat together, continuing the laughter and good times, handing out travel advice and sharing stories. We were the last to leave, finally saying our goodbyes with hugs and talk of future visits (and Simon insisting they’d make sure to come wake us up early the next morning). Sue & Simon and Veronique & Surge had another day at the lodge, while Brenda & I were pretty jealous of that fact. More than once that next day we commented about wishing we could be in the Jeep too...but alas Victoria Falls was calling.

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Posted by JackiesJourneys 22:08 Archived in South Africa Tagged sunset africa safari sabi_sands nottens Comments (0)

Lion King


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Sunday, February 3, 2019

I am currently sitting by the pool with the little lizards during our Sunday morning break. Brenda is off napping and I think lunch will be served soon. But I’m hoping to get at least some stuff typed up about this morning’s exciting game drive and bush walk.

So as I mentioned yesterday, wake up around here is 5am. I had asked Tyrone when the sunrise was cause I want to see the red African sky. He said it would be a little before that and he could get us up in time. But wouldn’t ya know, this morning was overcast so no red sky 😢 Good thing I’ve got a few more mornings to get it 🤩 By 5:30 we're all at the Jeep and ready for the morning game drive. With it overcast, it was a little cooler than anticipated, so I’m glad I grabbed my long sleeves.

Early morning is when a lot of the animals are more active. They had actually been tracking a pride of lions yesterday before we got here, but by the time they found them they were already lying there napping and looking half dead. So that was this morning’s mission...to get a good lion sighting.

With no animals to look at, I was focused on the sky. It started to clear and get a little colorful, but we were heading in the other direction. Tom told me to just ask Tyrone to stop anytime and he would. He spun us around and I nailed it! Still hoping to do better, but this is a good start 😍

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Onward toward the lions we went when Tom spotted a leopard hiding in the trees. We were able to stop and not scare her away. Make that our number 4 of the big 5. And pretty impressive since leopards are good at hiding and there aren’t many black rhinos (we did also see white rhinos yesterday too. I have pics of both, but I’m not sure if I can actually tell them apart 🤦🏽‍♀️).

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By markings and paw prints they could tell there had been quite the gathering of cats overnight. Surprisingly, no one in our camp had heard them (they did the night before). We have an actual enclosed “chalet” with air con and a patio and a cement block bathroom, although still no actual door on the bathroom. But the other couples are staying out in the thatched roof tents. There is also a hide or observation platform that overlooks a small watering hole. Brenda & I haven’t seen anything the two times we went up there. But we did see two nyalas in camp that had wandered in to munch on the grass.

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Anyhoo, back to the big cats and our lion search. We spotted a female standing up in the distance. We had to go a little out and around to get by her, and there was the big old male just laying there minding his own business. Tyrone said that since the females and the cubs were up and moving, it was only a matter of time before the male got up and followed them too. And sure enough, there he went; first needing to spray and mark his territory, which I actually captured (score!!). Tyrone positioned our Jeep so that we could get the male walking right toward us, and at one point it looked like he was going to walk right up onto Tipple’s lap. It’s a pride of nine: 2 females (probabaly sisters), the male, and 6 cubs (3 from each female) all about 4.5 months old. We sat there a bit watching the cubs play a little. And then of course they had to go bother mom. Brenda got a great video where you can actually hear them purring...just before they walked around the car and started sharpening their claws on the tree by me. Just incredible stuff. It was time to get going when they looked to be sizing up a warthog for breakfast. But then one of the cubs mucked it up and scared him off anyway. Later on we saw the same pride in a little different spot just sprawled out sleeping. The life of a cat doesn’t change much regardless of the size 😝

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Somewhere in there we also had a little coffee stop, make that hot chocolate for us. And they had these delightful lemon poppyseed muffins to snack on. And by shortly after 9:00 we were back to the lodge and ready for our proper breakfast. We skipped the chef’s special flapjacks and just went with eggs and bacon, served with the usual mushrooms and tomatoes on the side.

Tanks refilled and not too hot out yet, we were off on a bush walk. Tyrone drove us near one of the damns and then we got out of the car to go get a better look around the water. Or that was the plan at least since you never know who or what you’ll find and how they will react to you. Rules for a walk: stay behind the rifle, keep it quiet (snap or slap your leg if you need his attention), walk in a single file line, only take pics when he says it’s safe, and do NOT run! Yeah, what can go wrong there?! 😳

He had spotted a hippo, so that’s what we were headed toward. Problem is you can’t come at them where they have a chance to run straight at you - cause that’s not a battle you’re going to win. Once the hippo picked us up, he kept moving in the water to make sure he would always know where we were. He’d go under, then ploop, he’d pop up and there were his beedy little eyes on us. So in the process of trying to get closer to the hippo (who seemed to be a mama and baby combo), we ended up coming upon a pair of cape buffaloes. Yet another animal you don’t want to tick off. And when Tyrone was like “let’s back up and just give them more space,” I think we all got a little nervous. I heard Annabel say something about her heart pounding, and I was feeling the same. He then elaborated and said if they charge, he’d have to shoot and hit just right and even then sometimes it takes 2 rifles (which we did not have). We did get to a place where he let us snap some photos. Being directionally challenged in a place that appears to look exactly the same everywhere I turn, I was looking at my watch wondering how long it was gonna take us to get back. Thankfully we were actually mere feet from the Jeep, everyone having survived!! As Tyrone pointed out, we were stalked by a hippo and avoided a Cape buffalo, so not a bad morning walk.

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Walk over we drove back to camp for our midday break. And that’s how I’ve been able to get this all typed 💃🏽😎 The couple from the Netherlands left and another one showed up (he’s French and she’s Dutch and that’s where they live). Lunch was served: a barbecued beef sandwich with carmelized onions and a coleslaw type salad. Now we’re all sitting in the outdoor living room waiting to hop aboard the Jeep. Hopefully my request for giraffes and elephants will be fulfilled 🤞🏽 But considering how quickly we were able to see all of the big five, I can’t complain. 😊

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Turns out we were waiting for another pair of Germans to show up, a mother and son. So this afternoon game drive was a little cozier with 8 guests on board the Jeep. The first place we headed was back toward the lions. The heat of the day upon us, they were all lounging under trees just trying to nap. Next thing we knew, we were back in the middle of a herd of elephants. Those are some very large vegans right there!! Then there were trees to photograph (for me at least; that’s my go to when there aren’t any animals to look at). Yet more elephant sightings...this time shaking the amarula tree to grab some tasty fruits. A stop for some sundowner drinks and snacks, and then we were heading back to get ready for dinner. Wow!! Such a crazy exciting day.

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We got back to camp and were in the boma for dinner around 8:00. The fire was stoked and going strong and the staff was ready to dazzle us. It was just 6 for dinner though as the German couple were off dining alone. The meal tonight was even better than last night (Neil and Ian weren’t kidding about the abundance of food we were in for on safari). So first up was some kind of flat bread with avocado, bacon, tomato and a sauce on top. That’s a two thumbs up right there. Then the main course was yet another fresh, summery salad. This accompanied roast chicken stuffed with spinach and cheese alongside some basmati rice. And what’s an amazing meal without a delctible dessert?! That consisted of a meringue base topped with fruit and a berry sauce. After such a successful game drive, it was only right that we washed it all down with the local Savanna cider. Everyone was feeling relaxed and chatty so we hung out in the boma for a while. But finally they needed to clean up and we needed to get to bed in order to do it all over again tomorrow. How is this my life right now?! 😝😍

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Posted by JackiesJourneys 12:49 Archived in South Africa Tagged safari krueger kwa_mbili big_5 Comments (2)

🎵 Bless the rains down in Africa 🎶


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Monday, February 4

Up again at 10 to 5:00 this morning and sadly another strike out for red skies. The couple from Germany decided to sleep in as they are heading home today, so it was 6 of us on the game drive.

Ty took off from our camp like a batt outta hell, so we knew there was something exciting happening. One of the neighboring camps had a leopard there, which actually had some of their guests stuck in their rooms. But bonus for us as we got our second leopard sighting. She was trying to hide behind a stump, but eventually stood up and wandered off giving us a full view of her size and elegant movements. They can actually tell them apart by the spot formations around their eyes.

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With the big cats and lions, if they remain alive and in the area to the age of 5 or 6, then the trackers give them names. Most of the trackers, like Tipple, come from the same village. When the land was turned into private reserves, they worked with the villagers to move the entire village. As a result of this relationship, they continue to work together for the good of the animals. So when trackers are needed, the elders in the village will choose what trackers to send where. Ty was explaining there is a lot of respect and competition amongst the trackers. Tipple will put himself into what we see as dangerous situations, but where he is completely calm and composed, for the pride of being able to say he tracked a specific animal.

After the leopard, we ended up in an elephant traffic jam. There was a small herd on the road less than a football field length in front of us. And this time we got to see both adults and babies. We followed them for a bit, just watching them play and eat. Once they were used to us and didn’t care, our Jeep got pretty close...like keep your hands inside or a trunk could reach out and grab you kinda close 😀

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As they wandered further off, we changed direction and that’s when we finally got a good look at some zebras. I don’t even recall where we were headed then, but I do know that’s when we ended up smack in the middle of another herd of elephants. It’s unreal that something so massive can sneak around so quietly. I mean there was literally 4 or more full grown ones hidden in the trees. They are just the fattest, cutest little ballerinas around 🤣 But ballerinas that when playing around, can knock their tusks together so loud you would think one of them had to have broken.

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Ty heard over the radio then that there was a pair of mating leopards in the area. We were second in line to see them, so off we went. The male was sitting alongside the road when we finally saw the female coming toward him. Very interesting to finally see a side by side size comparison. But they weren’t up to mating on public display (can’t say I blame them), so off they moved into the thicker brush. Their mating is actually a 4 day process that takes place every 15 minutes and is not a pleasant experience for the female at all (let’s just say there’s ripping and bleeding involved). Our final leopard encounter was when we heard a young male had killed something but was too skittish to eat it. We briefly saw him, and then a small animal thrashing around in the grasses, so we moved on hoping he would come back and eat it. If not, the little animal will lay there and suffer for not reason.

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Exciting morning by 7:15, it was time for our coffee stop. And that didn’t get any less exciting...although not in a good way. All was fine and well as we chatted and watched the warthogs. Everyone was close to finishing up when I heard a snoring noise and thought the German lady had fallen asleep. That’s when her son saw her and ran over by her. Luckily she had just sat down in the front of the Jeep, because she was now having some sort of seizure or fainting spell. She came out of it quickly, but still very scary to see. The Dutch lady is a doctor, but without any equipment, she couldn’t have done a whole lot either. Later on Ty said he was concerned that she may have been bitten by something. Regardless, break over and time to head straight back to the lodge to get her checked out. A bit down the road, we saw white rhino, but no time for that as she got sick when he stopped the car for a minute.

Once back to the lodge, she and her son went off to their room and the rest of us waited for breakfast. That actually gave Brenda and I just enough time to get all our things packed up, and Shayna was able to prepare our bill while we ate. With our pickup time not until 11:00, Ty said we had plenty of time for a bush walk with the French and Dutch contingent.

This bush walk ended up being one of the coolest things...yet Brenda and I agree still having some heart racing moments. We went back to the same dam we walked around yesterday, and the mama and baby hippo were still there. Only this time she had other more pressing matters to keep her occupied...like the herd of Cape buffalo drinking on one side and the herd of elephants splashing around in the water on the other. At one point we were crouched between trees with a view of all three at the same time. Then the buffalo took off and we moved on so we could get closer to the swimming elephants. Oh man were they cute and entertaining: shooting water, jumping on each other, holding the other’s head under water. So basically like any family reunion at the pool 🤣🐘

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We kept making our way around the water and got a better viewing of the hippo today. Since everything was calm, Ty was also able to point out a bunch of little flowers and plants. Here I am trying to walk all gingerly so as not to disturb anything. And then you turn around and see a big old bull elephant just smooshing things down left and right or ripping apart trees and grasses. Yeah, I guess it really doesn’t matter how gingerly I walk.

After our loop around the water, it was time to hop back in the Jeep and head to Kwa Mbili (meaning “place of two”) for the last time 😢 Just as we pulled in the drive, our transport van was right behind us. When Tipple came to get our luggage, we warned him to warm up his smile for some photos. Pictures taken and hugs handed out, we were now in the hands of Benett to get us to our next destination.

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This is the portion where I wasn’t quite sure we were going to make it out alive 🙈 We thought the off roading in the Jeep was bumpy, but it had nothing on the potholed trip we were about to embark on. The roads in these small villages and townships are horrible. If you’re not in a pothole, you’re probably going over a speed bump. And to avoid the potholes, everyone just maneuvers their car where they want. So basically lanes are just suggestions and you may be passed at a moment on any and every side. I finally just had to pull out my phone and start typing all of this, as looking through the window was far too frightening. The few times I did look up though, it was crazy to see all the people along the road either walking or sitting or selling things (like the ladies making amarulo fruit beer and selling it in plastic Coca Cola bottles - I don’t foresee us trying any of that).

It took a good 2 hours I think before we pulled into the Sabi Sands game reserve and finally into the Nottens driveway. From the minute we rolled up, we knew we had landed in the luxury realm (for us at least, not necessarily for our fellow travelers). It was a gorgeous, hot, sunny day and numerous people were lounging by the lap pool (no small, murky plunge pool around here). The lodge is huge with the entire back length of it being open overlooking a big watering hole. And then there are all the high ceilings and beams and shwanky furniture and what we quickly discovered is the bar with an endless supply of alcohol.

But anyway, Desmond greeted us and helped get our luggage down to room 7. Ours is one of the last rooms, meaning we must be escorted to and fro after dark so we don’t encounter any wild animals on our own. There’s a little walkie talkie system with someone on duty at all times. Walking in to our sitting room area my eyes got big and continued to get bigger at every turn. We actually have our own giant deck (with room enough for 3 tables and 6 chairs 😳 - which is actually where I’m sitting right now, taking in all the bug and bird noises, hoping some animals may yet stroll on by). Then there’s the bathroom where we may have found our best discovery: a door on both the shower and the bathroom 💃🏽😝 It’s the little things that get us excited 😆 We also have an outdoor shower, but since that can’t be used at night, there may not be time for either of us to try it out. And speaking of night, there are minimal lights and most things are done by candle, lantern or torch (flashlight).

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We had some time before afternoon tea to get settled and have a look around. That’s when we scoped out the lodge and went down by the pool. At 3:00 we discovered “tea” is actually code for a gourmet lunch feast to get you ready for the afternoon game drive.

So at 4:00 it was time to find our Jeep, ranger and guide, as well as meet our fellow riders. The ranger is Rian and his tracker has some long name but goes by AB. Having done 2 drives with them now, it’s gone well and they are very nice...but they’re no Ty and Tipple combo like we’re used to. The whole vibe of this camp is just completely different from where we came. I mean I absolutely love the accommodations at Nottens, but I miss that small camp personalized feel we had before. The workers are all very nice and accommodating and willing to do anything, but they will never top the game drive experience of Kwa Mbili.

Speaking of the game drive, Brenda and I hopped into the back 2 seats. Up front were Sue & Simon, a couple from London who are a lot of fun. We were waiting on 2 more but why wait by the lodge when we can drive around by the watering hole and sit smack in the middle of 20 or 30 elephants?!? It was amazing yet again and especially the couple month old baby who still looked a bit wobbly with his legs and trunk.

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Then we pulled around the corner to another watering hole by a Cape buffalo and all these crazy little yellow birds. The males make the funniest little nests that they hang upside down from. And if the female comes along and doesn’t like it, he demolishes it and starts a new nest over from scratch. Cool stuff, but Brenda and I were both like come on, let’s get this Jeep moving! Why are we just sitting here?! Turns out we were waiting for the last French couple to be brought out to us. Once they were on board, and thankfully didn’t cause the buffalo to charge in the process, then we were off.

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We saw a lot of the same smaller animals as before. It is quite a bit thicker and lusher around here and they seem to have more birds. Then we saw a bunch of zebras, and finally, shortly after I told Brenda “the trees are taller, hopefully that means this is giraffe territory” we came across a little group of them 🦒🦒 Gaaaa so cute and graceful and gangly all at the same time. And the eyelashes on most of these animals. Yikes!!

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The rest of the drive continued in much the same way. Rian is not nearly as good of an entertainer and communicator as Ty was. Like with Ty, we always knew what we were looking for or what had been spotted. Here sometimes it feels like we’re just aimlessly driving around and hopefully we’ll bump into something. Unless of course it’s the leopards. After our drinks stop, we zoomed off toward a leopard sighting near where we had stopped. And actually while we were drinking & chatting, we had seen this herd of impala start running and Simon commented about a predator in the area. Might’ve been cause that’s when we were hot on the trail of the leopard. It was getting dark and a bunch of jeeps were working together with spotlights to follow her. So we started and ended the day with a leopard 🐆...how was your Monday?! 🤷🏽‍♀️🤣

Back to the lodge where dinner is eaten on that gorgeous viewing area in one long table. There were 18 guests total I believe. Breakfast & dinner are eaten at separate tables, but dinner is one big food and beverage party to compare stories. It’s a very nice atmosphere with all the lanterns and candles. There is more food than you could ever possibly try...and it is all 5-star restaurant quality that they will cater to your needs. We had actually been seeing lightening on the way back, but didn’t know if anything would come of it. Well we got a proper African rainstorm when the skies completely opened up and started raining buckets. We tried to wait it out, but sleep was beckoning so we finally grabbed umbrellas, our torch and our escort to brave the soggy walk back to the room. Upon arrival we could do nothing but laugh as it was quite the romantic setup with all the candlelight and water in the bath and a bottle of champagne chilling. There is not nearly enough hours in the day to consume all the alcohol provided 🤷🏽‍♀️

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Posted by JackiesJourneys 03:52 Archived in South Africa Tagged safari sabi_sands Comments (0)

Hakuna Matata


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Saturday, February 2, 2019

6:20 wake up call this morning so we could grab some breakfast and get to the lobby in time. Sadly they didn’t get the sausage out there quick enough, but I think I’ll survive anyway 🙈 By 7:30 we were all ready to get loaded up in Ian’s minibus and head for the airport (Which we arrived at faster than anticipated, and where I’m currently sitting and typing this as we have 2 hours till our flight. Oh yes, and not to mention security is nowhere near what we endure in the states. You wanna just walk in the airport with a full bottle of wine in your carryon?! Go right ahead, the plane is that way...no worries 😀).

Right away we mentioned to Ian that a friend on FB thought he was William Shatner. He just laughed...but now that she mentioned it, I gotta agree there is a resemblance 😀 Along the way, he continued to give us the full touring treatment. For any Netflix viewers, we drove by this giant ship sitting kinda just along the highway. I guess there’s some show called “Black Sails” that is set in the Caribbean, but actually filmed right here in Cape Town. Just gotta be sure to keep that pesky Table Mountain out of any background footage 🤷🏽‍♀️

I also finally learned what ANC stands for...African National Congress 🤦🏽‍♀️ Guess I should’ve just asked or googled days ago when I first started hearing it. Oops...my bad. Anyhoo, driving into Cape Town we began to see all these metal shacks and dilapidated little buildings, as well as people actually running and exercising right along the motorway. This shackland houses people from all over Africa that poured into the area thinking they would get housing and jobs. Instead they ended up here, and hopefully one day qualify for the government housing in the townships they border. But it’s pretty unreal to see these structures go on for miles and miles. Sadly this is probably more of what the average American pictures the whole of Africa to look like.

Currently the Western Cape is ruled by the opposition party, and it sounds like they are better off for it. The next election is coming up in May and yet again the ANC is promising jobs, but at what cost?! It might be the first time I ever think to scope out an African election...so thanks yet again to Ian. It also explains the “Register to Vote” signs I photographed yesterday in Stellenbosch. Which reminds me about the language thing I never mentioned. South Africa has 11 official languages: Afrikaans (which comes from what used to be “kitchen Dutch”), English, and 9 tribal languages. For convenience, signs are generally only in English, but I think most people do speak Afrikaans as well. All these interesting little things I had no idea about. But just imagine: 11 official languages and that’s just in one small area of Africa 😳

Pulling into the airport, we discovered just how nice of a place it is. Turns out it underwent some major renovations for the 2010 World Cup. And then it was time to unload and say our goodbyes to Ian 😢 Thanks for all the tips and info and laughs. You helped make our stay in Cape Town and Stellenbosch an unforgettable one 😊

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But I suppose, I’ve already said/typed far more than I planned to this morning 🙊 So I’ll be off and check back in later from our safari camp!

Me again, this time from midair. We took off on time and were afforded some phenomenal views of Table Mountain, with the tablecloth (clouds) partially set. Now we’re just about ready to get our complimentary lunch service on a flight that isn’t even 2.5 hours long 🤔 Aaaaaand the flight attendants just keep walking right on in to the cockpit 😳 Oh yeah, definitely not in the states. We may even be in a time warp 😆

Lunch consisted of boxed lunches with potato salad, chicken (or roast beef) and some chocolate mousse. Not too shabby. Then a quick cleanup and we were making our decent into Hoedspruit airport. As we taxied around, the “terminal” came into view...basically a thatched roof hut with an outdoor waiting room. Then there were the warthogs standing off to the side next to the fuel truck. And finally a tractor rolled a cart around with luggage in and just kinda parked it on the curb 😀 The trickiest thing was navigating the queue for the toilets.

We were met by Jimmy, the water chemist by trade who now runs airport transfers as a side gig so he can live close to his grandchildren. He had us grab our cameras cause ya just never know when you’ll encounter something. Then we were off down the sand road (“African back massager” as he referred to it) on our way to our safari lodge. We did end up seeing impalas (the African version of our deer), a Cape buffalo at a watering hole, monkeys crossing the road, and who knows what else that I missed. But it was too fast and bumpy for any photos.

Pulling into Kwa Mbili Game Lodge, we were greeted by a bunch of the staff. The guys quickly tackled our luggage, and we followed Shayna to the reception area to hear some rules, sign releases, and be handed a sundowner drink before being shown to our room. Rule of the room is shut the doors at all times as they don’t want and snakes, spiders, monkeys, or anything else wandering in. If anything does show up, inside or on our patio, we actually have an air horn to blow to summon help 😳 And they recently had a leopard on a patio and in the kitchen, so it’s not out of the ordinary. Oh yeah, the camp is a private reserve located in Thorny Bush, which is a region of the Krueger National Park. There are no fences (aside from a high wire to keep out elephants and giraffes), so the animals are the ones in charge around here.

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They were just starting lunch, so we made our way to dining hut area and met the other 4 guests...Thomas & Caroline from Germany and Tom & Annabel from the Netherlands. We had chicken Caesar salad and this tomato pie thing, both of which were delicious. Then it was time to get ready for the afternoon game drive. It was a very hot, sunny afternoon, well in the 90s I believe, and we're basically cruising around in an open air tank. And by cruising I really mean bumping along as we drive over trees and through bushes and in and out of holes. I quickly realized how Thorny Bush got its name when I didn’t duck and almost lost a clump of hair to the branches we were driving through. Note to self: pay better attention!!

My first question was how on earth do I get into that Jeep?! Luckily there are steps built around the tires, so it wasn’t as tricky as I had imagined. Our ranger, the guy who drives the car, is Tyrone and the tracker, the guy sitting precariously in a seat on the hood of the car, is Tipple. It’s just incredible watching and listening to them communicate. They both have ear pieces in as well, listening to reports from other rangers on animal sightings. And there’s the giant hedge clippers to clear paths and the rifle on the dashboard. And the instruction to never stand up in the vehicle and never get out unless they tell you to.

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In Africa, they have the Big Five for animals: lions, leopards, elephants, Cape buffalo and rhinos (more specifically black rhinos). Since the other four people had been there already, the goal was to finish up their big five sightings while we would be starting ours. So for instance we got to one watering hole and there was an elephant splashing around in it, but then we quickly high tailed it out of there. I was like what the heck, I barely got to see him. But turns out there was a rare black rhino sighting and we had to move quick to catch it. Tyrone said we can pretty easily find more elephants, but if that rhino is seen today, he may disappear for the next couple days. When we got to the spot, there were 2 black rhinos just munching on dinner. Unreal!!

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The other thing about being on safari is it’s a lot of driving around chasing after things and hoping to find them...sometimes ya do and sometimes ya don’t. But I am really enjoying just sitting back and taking in all the random sights and sounds along the way.

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I am trying to remember what we all saw on that first drive, as it’s pretty much a blur. I was still trying to figure out my sister’s camera, trying not to continue oohing and ahing at every turn, all while the Lion King soundtrack is playing on loop in my head 🙈🙊 Not to mention I am typing this after we already did our Sunday morning drive, so that one is fresher in my memory. It was wonderful, amazing, picturesque, awe inspiring and any other superlative you can think of. Between Brenda on video duty and me pretending I’m a National Geographic wildlife photographer, I think we are getting a lot of very cool videos and photos. But with how large the photo files are, I don’t know if I can get many actually loaded so I may have to leave you in suspense.

During the game drive, we also take a refreshments break. Last night it was cocktail time in the bush 🍹 The other couple nice thing about these private reserves is they like to have no more than 2 vehicles near the animals at any one time and we are able to stay out a little later passed sundown. Upon arrival, we're met by someone with a basket of wash cloths to wipe the road dust and dirt off.

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When we got back last night we had a braai (bbq) dinner in the boma, round open air enclosure where there was a bit of a camp fire going. There were lamb chops and chicken and salads and chocolate mousse. Not a bad way to end a long day. We were off to bed around 10:00 as the morning wake up call (someone beating on your wall) happens around 5:00.

Posted by JackiesJourneys 02:30 Archived in South Africa Tagged safari krueger kwa_mbili thorny_bush Comments (0)

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