Tag Archives: travel

Cheers!

After one rather frustrating work week I am finally FREE!!!! Our baskets didn’t make it to our buyer in South Africa.  It took me several days of running around, facing the depths of bureaucracy and whining about how the process of exporting shouldn’t be this difficult – but finally I talked to our buyer and we agreed that it can wait.

And it can.  I can tackle this monster next year when everyone has less on their plate and there is time to make sure it’s done right.  Now that I’ve accepted this, I suddenly feel a great sense of relief and real excitement for the holidays.

I’m officially off to Spain to see some of my family and friends, and most especially to meet Teo, my nephew, for the first time! I’ve been counting the days since September and it’s finally here.

Since I won’t have a computer to add updates for the next few weeks, I’ll just say Happy Holidays now.  But worry not,  I’ll be back in Mozambique in January. Hope this finds all you dear readers safe and well.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

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Last Minute Adventures with Courtney & Sarah

It’s funny how eminent departures can act as catalysts, moving things forward with a sudden immediacy that often prompts the question, Why did we not do this more often!?

October was a whirlwind of activity and the 31 day countdown for Sarah and Coutney before they left Mozambique. I am (or I guess I should say was) neighbors with Sarah and Courtney,  two Peace Corps volunteers who just finish their 2 year placement, and  even though it was not me preparing to leave the country,  my weekends were spent participating in their big pre-departure adventures and events.

With a limited amount of days the desire for free-time was tossed out the window, and instead dates were scheduled, big parties were planned and opportunities to travel were taken. Not that these options hadn’t always  been available beforehand, but suddenly  it was time to fit it in all those last minute experiences.

So as the girls wrapped up their service, it offered a good opportunity for me to evaluate all the should-have, could-have and would-haves one year into my time abroad.

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This is how I spent my October…

At the beginning of the month we took a road trip to Gorongosa National Park. There we happened to meet and hang out with Gregg Carr, the American entrepreneur who has taken on the task of revitalizing the park and bring it back to it’s former pre-civil war glory. He and Vasco, the head of tourism for the park, inspired us with their passion and vision for the project.  We went on a game drive the first day then climbed Gorongosa Mountain and swam under the waterfall the next.  You can read more about Gorongosa’s interesting history and our trip on Sarah’s blog here and Coutney’s blog here.

We invited several colleagues over for a big cross-cultural taco meal and they shared their stories about Mozambican Sex Ed – a lecture that we had been curious about for some time.

Apparently,  when Mozambican females are teenagers their mothers will sit them down and give them advice on “how to keep your man” and other notes on life.  It was a hilarious and enlightening dinner conversation.

We had drinks and another bon-voyage dinner at the local backpackers hostel, Zombie Cucumber

The house next to our compound often has late night parties that keep me up at all hours of the night. Finally, I decided that if I was gonna be up, I might as well be at the party. So Sarah and I made good on their invitation to stop by. Of course, Sarah subsequently flirted, offended and then got thrown out by the host. It was pretty funny!

Also, with all the packing-jitters in the air I needed to stay busy myself,  so I finally took the opportunity to go diving at the local 2 Mile Reef and…

When the stress was just too overwhelming, I decided we all needed to take a break and a deep breath. Moreover we really needed coffee and chocolate, so we hopped in the car and wentThen early on a Saturday morning, bags packed, car loaded, pets kissed – I drove them 16 km out to Pambara and they caught the bus heading south out of town. 

Now the end of November is drawing very close and I have drug my feet in posting this blog entry. Courtney and Sarah have since moved out of their house, closed their service in Mozambique, and have headed off on their separate travel plans. Life in Vilankulos got suddenly very quiet with their departure but the pause is only momentary.  Soon a new volunteer will arrive and I will be responsible for showing her the ropes as they did for me. I will certainly miss them– their company and friendship has been invaluable since my arrival in this distant little African town.

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Last Minute Adventure in Jo’Berg

After two weeks on the road with my parents and Ingrid, we made full circle and spent our last day together in Johannesberg. We stayed with family friends, visited, repacked and did laundry.

Of course, adventure had not given up on us quite yet. Early the next morning, we loaded the car up and started off towards the airport.  I was using dad’s iphone GPS to guide us, but  somewhere along the way perhaps I got a bit confused and the map led us to a train station in downtown Johannesburg. Ooooops.  Then of course, running an hour late, the iphone battery died, the two maps were no help and no one on the street seemed to want to offer directions. 

Full of adrenaline and pre-flight jitters, dad displayed  some heroic traffic maneuvering and got us back on the right track.

Airport goodbyes are always hard, especially when you don’t know when you’ll see your family next.  Christmas? Maybe, but probably not (good thing we celebrated in July).  There is no graceful way to express the depth of my love and appreciation for my parents,  and absolutely no possibility of maintaining any composure when faced with the acknowledgement of eminent distance.  So, with teary eyes, a few big hugs and too much to say – dad pushed me through to security and on my way back to Vilankulo. 

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2 Up & 1 Down

Two highlights and one instant-sad from Mashatu

First, I found a porcupine quill! Some people go on safari on search of leopards or big majestic game. I however, was desperately looking for a nocturnal porcupine. This quill was like finding a clue that the illusive creature really exists. 

The next highlight was our stop at the main lodge for the… The Discovery Center”. It offered a great excuse to geek out over the giant animal bones.

 I could only dream about taking them home with me.

Plus, it was winter and we didn’t get a chance to see any crocodiles or snakes in the wilderness. While I definitely think it’s cheating since they were kept in a mote, we did get to see

Then Tragedy Struck!  I was so concerned about loosing my precious quill that I tucked it away. When we finally made it back to the border post, I hopped out, grabbed my backpack and walked away. 


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Mashatu

At the south eastern corner of Botswana lies the Mashatu Game Reserve, a privately owned chunk of land. We made it safely across the river and were picked up at the border, loaded into a big jeep and brought to our next camp.

Perhaps not as fancy or plush as our last stop (which will forever be hard to beat), Mashatu offers incredible wildlife and honestly, better game drives.  The driver and tracker actually look for tracks and there is no walky-talky noise to distract or pollute the quietness.  There is a great sense of vastness and space in Mashatu. 

Even the animal behavior was different than in Timbavati, where we would see isolated animals or groups of the same animal together. However at Mashatu, the animals’ would comingle and mix.  There would be wart hogs close to the car, a stoic male Kudu a few meters away, then zebra, giraffe, impala and wildebeests all grazing in the same vista. 

Elephants roam the area too. At one point we saw two big families of almost a hundred elephants and twenty or so babies emerging from the forest. Even now writing about it makes me swell with emotion.  It is incredible to find yourself in the company of such huge creatures – each with a unique personality and aura of dignity.

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Botswana Border Cross

We made it to the Botswana border and temporarily left Ingrid under a big tree full of monkeys.  This is where we found our next adventure.

I think the space between two border posts is very an interesting and curious phenomena. Normally there is just a gate or fence that separates two countries’ official border posts, but sometimes there is a gap of land a kilometer or so between passport stamping stations.

Where are you officially in that time/space paradigm? Are you the responsibility of where you just came from or of where you’re heading?

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Anyway, the space between the border posts at Pontdrift was particularly worthy of note. First we abandoned our car under a tree outside of the South African border post but we were not quite in Botswana yet. Then we walked to unimpressive corrugated structure  where an old rusty cable car (the size and shape of a cage) awaited.  Luggage went first, trusting that someone on the other side is going to protect it for us.  Then when the next cage showed up, we hopped in, clanged the door shut and floated across a brown muddy river (imagining crocs just waiting underneath for an easy meal). 

Then we were in Botswana. 

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Thanda Tula means Love the Quiet

After venturing over the mountain pass we finally

We were so well taken care of at Thanda Thula. Our mornings started early with game drives with our guide Kenneth.

We saw all of the Big Five, including one particular

After a veritable breakfast feast and we’d go for a bush walk. Kenneth, armed with a big riffle, would lead us around pointing out different plants and tracks.  I can’t say that we’d be well equipped to survive in the wilderness alone, but it did stir the embers of adventure. 

There are so many facts to learn and I often feel that perhaps I missed my calling as a naturalist or at least an eccentric museum tour guide. However, I shamefully admit that I am the type of person who wants to touch and collect all the stones, bones and feathers I find.

There was one particular

All of the staff was incredibly gracious. When I was clumsily attempting to learn a few greetings in the local language Shangaan, Nomsa wrote up a list of words and expressions I might want. I can’t say I ever had a proper opportunity to say “Another elephant please!” but with Nomsa’s list, I could if I needed. 

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After three days it was time to move on to the next stop. We loaded up the car at 4:30 AM and drove north to the Botwana border (avoiding all scenic mountain passes).

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