A Travellerspoint blog

Something to Write Home About

Peace and Love


View SA 2015 on Lauriesam's travel map.

It's on my mind like breathing. You don't think about it until you can't do it.
It's something deep within like the blood in my veins. It is always there just below the surface. So necessary and so vital that life does not exist without breath or blood.
Southern Africa, from Cape Town to Johannesburg and everywhere in-between made its mark on me in ways that will never leave, I am branded forever.
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The scenic ride from Cape Town to the Cape Point with a stop to see the penguins, amazing vistas and the stunning beauty along the way on a beautiful day becomes part of the many memories to seal in my mind.
The amazing dunes of Soussevlei that change with the light from the sun as it moves swiftly across the sky resembles a jigsaw puzzle and I can recall that when I close my eyes.
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The many lovely people I met along the way touched my soul deeply.
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All this is just the tip of the iceberg and the tip is equally important as what lies below the surface. The tip of the iceberg is the warning, the chance to know there is something more just below the surface. There is always something more. In this case the amazing animals.
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The animals remind me that there is a natural order to life. They live with purpose, have a sense of family and enhance the environment.
I loved that reminder of what is right and what is good in the world and I will try to tap into that everyday, even if it is just for a few minutes.
If I can just close my eyes and recall the moments, everyday will be a better day.

Posted by Lauriesam 04:36 Archived in USA Tagged animals south africa namibia botswana Comments (0)

The Quintessential Dream

How to stay connected with nature and myself


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This is my fourth dawn at home. I come around each day the same way, listening for the sounds of animals, thinking of the dusty, foggy or misty sunrise and imagining the animals appearing out of the dark of night into the first rays of sunlight. The beautiful sunrise appears before me.
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I hold the images in my mind and replay them over and over as I become aware of my present location. The only animals here are the two dogs next to my legs and the subtle chirping of birds waking up behind the house. The birds are not loud enough.
I cannot hear the beautiful sound of being in the wilderness, nor can I smell the smells. Sage, mixing with the heaviness of the morning air.
I close my eyes again and bring back the images, the movement of the vehicle driving on the sandy trails, rocky paths, over small bushes and though the shallow water. I try to bring back the memory of the herds of elephants throwing dirt, drinking water, pulling up chunks of grass with their long trunks and stomping on whatever growth is in their way. I love their animated movements, connection to family and their ability to stay on task eating from sun up until sundown to sustain themselves. Nothing distracts them, nothing gets in their way. FFD97F3B977EB5E019F4B92A0D182B6B.jpg_LS17519.jpg_LS17529.jpg
I see the sunrising through the window. It will be a beautiful day in Africa and I will not be there.
I will cling to the memories and most of all the way it made me feel to be surrounded by the wild without interruption by anything else. The connection with nature, caring about the land, the animals and the people and nothing else matters in that moment.
Being there helped me reconnect with my self, no distractions, no decisions to be made, just an opportunity to be sensitive to the environment and the beauty of this planet in a way that is very rare at home but not impossible at home. A walk in the woods, or by a lake or on the beach will do as well. The challenge of disconnecting with the external chatter every day.
I will be looking for these opportunities so I can tap into that very feeling of being connected with something much bigger than myself.
When I look at the night sky I think about the stars in the southern hemisphere, about the night sky below the equator with the the Southern Cross shining bright. Star gazing will never be the same.
I make the coffee and let the dogs out. I listen for the birds and wish there were more of them, my lilac breasted roller..._LS17748.jpg_LS17979.jpg
I let the dogs in, smell the coffee brewing and switch on the TV, someone shot, someone hit by a car, someone wants to sell me something, I switch off the TV.
I drink my coffee and think about where I have been and how I can go back again.

Posted by Lauriesam 03:02 Archived in Botswana Tagged #african_dream #south_africa #safari Comments (1)

Time to Come Home

Or, Shopping, Shopping and More Shopping


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Sandton City is a bustling area with all the modern conveniences of home. As we arrive in' Joburg' we can't help but notice the amazing airport, new roads and construction all around marked by large cranes and new buildings. Some of the traffic lights (robots) are not working, reminding us about the daily power outages. In Johannesburg the outages come everyday at different intervals so you don't know if it will be in the morning, afternoon or evening, but you can count on the power going out for several hours every day. The reason for this is due to poor infrastructure and lack of planning. With a growing population of 60 million people the demand is great.
Other than that the city has everything we have here in the states and more. The mall our hotel is attached to has mostly American brand stores. What is different is that you may notice that all of a sudden there is a man with a semi-automatic rifle and a bullet proof vest standing in front of you. We wondered what that was about, Allan asked if we could take a picture, he was not amused. About an hour later we walked past the same spot and he was gone. We realized after that he was standing guard at the bank where money was being picked up or dropped off via helicopter to prevent theft. He was standing guard so no one could access the bank through the mall entrance. We saw that again in the Rosebank Mall as well.
I am sure after seeing this several times a day in different parts of town it becomes ordinary and perhaps unremarkable. For us it was a little unnerving.
Monday, our last full day was Freedom day, a public holiday celebrating the election 21 years ago when everyone got to vote in the first free election in 1994 ushering in a democracy. We celebrated with a Braai at our cousins home and were made to feel so welcome it was as if we had been there many times. The warmth and love was apparent and we felt sad that we all live so far apart depending on FB for family news. We tried our best to speak with each person there to find out all about them and their life in SA. We had so many things in common and not so many differences. Day to day life is much the same in SA with a strong influence on family, friends and work.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fantastic food served at this amazing family event, the grilled meats and fish were done to perfection and the salads superb. I will write a separate blog all about the food and I am sure that won't surprise anyone that knows me!
So that is it for this amazing adventure. We spent the last day packing, shopping and we met our Aunt and Cousin for lunch at Moyo, a fantastic African restaurant in Melrose Arch for lunch. Allan had the Durban curry and he said it was outstanding. Whoo, whoo, going out with a bang!
We had a late flight (11PM ) to Amsterdam with a connection to Newark after a layover just long enough for us to do some more shopping! What did we buy, who knows, but when the unpacking begins, we will find out. I know we have to eat all the Biltong on the plane because you can not bring meat in the US.
Thank goodness for Global Entry, we sailed to the front of the line for immigrations and customs and we were off the plane and out the door in less than 30 minutes. Sweet.
Home sweet home, we had a great trip and it is good to be home, too. No complaints, no regrets.
I will have a couple more entries on the flights, the food and the people we met along the way, so stay tuned.
Unbelievably grateful and happy,
Laurie
PS. If you have been following along, please excuse spelling, grammar and punctuation. Many times I was writing a 1, 2 or 3 in the morning but it was more important to me to write from each location as much as possible so my feelings were fresh.
Hope you enjoyed this blog.

Posted by Lauriesam 05:17 Archived in USA Comments (1)

From The Wilderness to Johannesburg

Danger can be anywhere


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It was so sad to leave the most natural environment I have ever experienced with my mind, body and soul. Wilderness Safari prides itself on conservation, community, commerce and culture and they do an excellent job. The lack of connection with the outside world alone is worth the trip, the way they interact and nurture the environment enjoying all of nature's gifts along the way is just beautiful. Imagine very little ambient light, no city sounds, no TV, no telephone and no internet, what an amazing way to settle down and see how you really feel. It's a rare experience and I hope to be able to close my eyes from time to time and get that feeling back.
So here is how the day went, 5:30 wake up, 6:00 coffee and light breakfast and again we climb up onto the vehicle for the game drive with the amazing ST, Allan,Clive, Tee and Penny. It was a cool morning as they are heading into winter. ST was in search of Cheetah and Leopard but we did not see them before it was time to depart from the drive. The camp sent a vehicle to pick us up right in the middle of what seemed like no place in particular to me, but apparently our guide and the guide who picked us up were excellent at recognizing, trees, pans and the different sandy or wet roadways. Allan and I said good bye to Clive, Tee, Penny and ST, it was very sad, but we had such a wonderful time we were going with the full experience and a peaceful feeling deep inside. We got back to the camp to wash up and to grab our bags and we were then escorted to the airstrip. Several of the managers came out to say good bye and they sent us a boxed lunch for the plane with a little note on each one. Waving good bye we knew we would come back again.
The small plane picked us up along with half a dozen other people for the short flight to Chitabe where we landed and did a quick drop off and pick up with the engine running. Less than 10 minutes later we were back in the air heading for Maun the fourth largest city in Botswana. We had to go through security and customs as we were leaving the country and then we proceeded to the little un air-conditioned departure lounge. Much to our shock CNN was reporting about the massive earthquake in Nepal from the day before. We had no idea that it happened. It made us think about what else we may have missed and I think I can speak for both Allan and myself when I say a small part of us wished we were back in the bush.
We soon boarded the South African Airways Air Link Jet to Johannesburg OR Tambo airport. After they closed the doors they spray the plane with bug spray which is required by South Africa on all aircraft coming from abroad. Yikes, no place to go, so we covered our faces and held our breath till we could not hold it anymore. It reminded me of when I was little in Miami and they came by with the mosquito fog, we would hide in the cars until we couldn't stand it and then run into the nearest house.
The two hour flight was uneventful and after the little planes this medium sized AVRO RJ 85 seemed huge, it takes about 100 passengers. We hardly noticed the take off and landing. Gotta love it!
So now for the urban jungle... Johannesburg is not the safest place on the planet and we were mindful of that everywhere we went. We stayed in Sandton City which is near our relatives and the area Allan grew up. We drove past his old house, school, sports fields and more, it was fun watching him remember where things used to be and what streets we were driving on. Always cautious, we used a car service and never brought a big camera along. We used the cell phone camera to take pictures from the car and made sure we weren't obvious when at a stoplight (robot) or if a car was next to us.
In addition to going out to do some souvenir shopping we also visited with family. We had an amazing time and loved every minute with them all. But I couldn't help but notice the heavy security that they live with, walls around the house, barbed wire and or spikes on top of the walls, electric gates and cameras all around with a monitor to view them placed somewhere prominent in the house. No one complains, but many people we know have had major robberies at gun point. The thugs usually follow them in their yard as the electric gate opens, with guns to their heads they are told to open the safe . Fortunately those we know who have had this experience have no physical wounds, but I can tell the psychological wounds are deep.
With rolling black outs I wondered if people are even more vulnerable than ever, I was told that many people have back up generators. My cousins mother and father in law came to the Braai, (BBQ) and she said she heard reports of people stealing the generators so you have to attach them to a pole in the ground. It is not an easy life in Johannesburg.
The reasons for this are complicated and I know there is hope for the future here. The driver that took us to the airport told us that the future of South Africa is dependent on eduction and both his boys have gone to college; one is an accountant the other in med school. This gentleman had an interesting story. His father was german and his mother black, she was a domestic in the home of his fathers parents. I would say his grandparents, but I doubt he ever met them. The couple had six children and the dad supported them all. His parents had to meet in secret as this was during apartheid and it was illegal to walk down the street together, live together or meet in any public place. Steven (our driver) said that his father did visit from time to time, and when he did they always said he was the milk man. I asked him if felt resentment or anger and he said no, and I am paraphrasing this, " There is no purpose for anger or resentment, I thought it was normal to grow up the way I did and my parents died before the laws changed."
Steven studied political science and economics in college and had a keen knowledge of current events and South African politics. We asked him about everything from xenophobia to rolling black outs and he had such an amazing perspective on things that I asked him why he didn't run for a political office. He said, " My skin is the wrong color." It's complicated.
The irony of all this is that when we left the states for SA, people asked if we were worried about so many things from Ebola, Boca Harem and the dangerous city of Johannesburg, and here we are on the last day in Johannesburg and major violence is happening in the streets of Baltimore. What a sad state of affairs and again, it's complicated. We are sad for all those affected by the violence and in addition to that our son lives in Baltimore so we are concerned for him and all of the people we know there through him as well.
The reality about safety is a delicate matter and it can change in a heartbeat.

Posted by Lauriesam 10:33 Archived in South Africa Tagged johannesburg Comments (1)

The Southern Cross

The joy of traveling is never knowing what will happen next!

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View SA 2015 on Lauriesam's travel map.

The great part about traveling is the adventure. Even if you plan a trip for a year and pick out your activities and meal plans or even which room you prefer, there are still variables that are the things that make your trip unique.
On our trip the things that made it unique were the unpredictability of the environment, the people that worked in the camps, the other travelers along the way and the surprises planned by the camp staff.
Our days in Botswana were amazing, the weather was fantastic and we had great animal viewings. On the third day we caught up again with our family and friend who we started with in Cape Town. We welcomed them as they arrived and the camp manager let Allan do the initial briefing. Upon arrival at these remote places you have to sit down and get the rules and regs and sign that you heard them all and if you get eaten by a lion, well, cie la vie!
Any way, safety is their main concern and you are informed that you can not move about at night without an escort ( who would?) and they also tell you to use all your senses while in this area even when you are moving about during the day.
Allan reviewed all this with Clive, Tee and Penny and then we went to the delta for a Mokoro ride. A mokoro is a boat carved out of a tree trunk used by the local people to navigate the water. We were worried about the hippos and the crocs and the sun was setting so were really weren't going to get that far anyway and so we decided to give it a try. Beautiful and peaceful are words that are not worthy of the scene. The lighting due to the setting sun was phenomenal lighting up the clouds in the eastern sky.
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We heard some hippos and Clive and Tee raced back to shore, we all came back soon after and had a drink to celebrate the day on the shore line with our guide and some other guests. We listened to the frogs and watched the sun go down and thought how lucky we were not to have ended up in the delta.
The next day we hunted lions with our guide ST, none of us thought we would find them, but he knew where they were from listening to them calling the night before. We still didn't believe it would happen as we drove for about an hour and saw nothing then all of a sudden there they were on the side of the road. One male, three females and five male cubs, we spent the morning watching them and what a treat it was. Their behavior is so interesting, if anyone of the lions got up they went over to the male to greet him. They were usually pushed away with a big paw or were subjected to a low growl, yawn and if lucky a lovely lion lick! All the lion pictures I have posted or will add are from that morning.
For the afternoon game drive ST wanted to find these rare sable antelope, I never heard of them and we saw many other animals along the way and stopped for viewing and thousands of photographs. ST never gave up on the Antelope and late in the afternoon he started the search through very tall grass and low and behold we got to a clearing under a tree and there they were. We thought it was a set up! Of course it was't.
So now the sun is setting and we have missed our sundowner and we all agree it's better to just go back to the camp and get ready for dinner. ST took a strange wrong turn as we got close to the camp and he said it was a short cut... no, it was the best bonfire, BBQ and dinner party in the bush you have ever seen. Long table with white table cloth set for 16 and chairs around the fire and a bar set up behind that, this was an amazing site. As we arrived the staff sang a welcome song which I hope to be able to put on the slide show I will be making soon.
Several vehicles arrived behind us and I think we were eleven guests all together plus our guides and some of the camp staff. (Our camp had occupancy for only 12 people and the other half of the camp could accommodate 24).
After we got our refreshments and sat down around the fire, our camp manager made a formal welcome and informed us that we had some special guests in our group. First Lemi, then Ant the head guide and then Pat an astronomy professor from Ann Arbor Michigan.
Demi gave us a brief description of the constellations we could see with our eyes including the southern cross, the big dipper ( which is upside down), Orion's belt, Scorpio and more. We were all thrilled for this description, then Ant introduced the professor who gave us a little more info about things that were not so obvious and let us know that after dinner we could view some of these amazing sites with the telescopes set up in the field! We looked at the jewel box which if I remember correctly is near one of the stars in the southern cross and that is where stars are born. Pat reminded us that the light we saw reflecting off the stars was old light and if the stars were not there anymore we would only know that three, four or more years from now when the light arrives here for us to see. Some of the concepts were hard to wrap my brain around, but looking at Saturn with it's rings was easy to appriciate. It looked like what you might think a flying saucer looks like and I will keep that picture and moment in my mind forever.
Wow, what a night. I sat with Pat and his wife Pat and their guide Ono, at dinner and we had the best time. Pat (the wife, they are both Pat ) and I connected right away and exchanged email addresses. The are traveling with Ono for 15 days and had just come from the Kalahari. They went for a night walk with the bushman of the Kalahari and it sounded amazing, I want to do that on our next trip. Yes, of course there must be a next trip!
This lovely night went on until late, we ate amazing food hot off the grill with lovely people and stargazing to top it all off, this was indeed a night to remember.
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Posted by Lauriesam 02:19 Archived in Botswana Comments (0)

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