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Europe » Netherlands » South Holland » The Hague July 26th 2019

Picking up where we left off last night... We headed to Damrak 5 to board our dinner cruise. It was an open air boat, which would ordinarily be nice, but due to the extreme heat here, made things a little uncomfortable. But, we survived, and enjoyed a canal-eye view of all things Amsterdam. We saw many houseboats in varying condition and learned that no more may be sold, so they are at a premium. We saw many locals on boats and in the water seeking respite from the heat and at one point stumbled upon hundreds of boats that created a kind of "redneck yacht club" (a country song recalled by Rich). The dinner was pretty good but, universally, we all particularly liked the red pepper soup served in a cappuccino mug. Sitting at the next ... read more

Europe » Netherlands » North Holland » Amsterdam July 25th 2019

Yesterday we had our final breakfast at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge overlooking the watering hole from a slightly different angle than before (we were upstairs). Fanuel picked us up and, on the way to the airport, drove us through a neighborhood in Victoria Falls that was off the beaten path. We wish we could have seen more of "real" Africa as opposed to just the tourist sites, so we enjoyed this look into daily life. On the way to the airport, we were surprised that Fanuel was open with us about the state of politics in post-colonial Zimbabwe. We then made our way from Victoria Falls to Johannesburg on a flight that was delayed about an hour. Fortunately, our layover time of 6+ hours in Johannesburg allowed us not to fret. While in Johanesburg airport ... read more

Africa » Zimbabwe » Victoria Falls July 23rd 2019

Hello readers. We are happy to report that today was our last early wake up. We're glad we did it, though, as departing from our lodge at 6:00 meant we had the opportunity to spend some time with orphan elephants. The reserve we visited was home to ten elephants who had been orphaned. Most of their mothers died during Zimbabwe's most recent droughts. We were given information about their care and how they had been saved from certain death, but also that they had lost their fear of people, which meant they could never really succeed in the wild. Trained only with positive reinforcement, they knew their names and each other well. Our ground leader led us on a trail around the reserve and each elephant had a handler/driver who filled us in on the individual ... read more

Africa » Zimbabwe » Victoria Falls July 22nd 2019

Today we were able to sleep in enough to enjoy a buffet breakfast in Johannesburg before catching a flight on South African Air to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Victoria Falls was "discovered" by Dr. Livingstone in 1855 (we presume) after he was taken to the site by two local guides. Our driver, Fanuel (like F instead of M in Manuel), met us at the airport and we were relieved to learn he would be with us for the next three days. After checking in to our hotel, the Victoria Falls Lodge, he would take us on a personal tour of the magnificent falls. Our rooms are very nice... Two stories with a living area below and bedroom suite upstairs, along with a balcony overlooking a watering hole. On our arrival, it was mostly birds gathered. Later that ... read more

We started today at 4:30 for our final morning safari into Kruger National Park. Today's goal: rhinoceros and leopard. Today's actual hits included: elephants, hyena, cape turtle doves, emerald-spotted wood doves, duiker grey antelope, tawny eagle, battaliers, vultures, wild dogs, RHINOS on 3 occasions(!), vereaux eagle owl, warthogs, and LIONS(!). We saw so many impala (antelopes) they felt like part of the family. Though we never found the elusive leopard, today's "hunt" was very successful. The highlights were the rhinos and the pack of wild dogs. Our guide, Mary-Anne, was super excited to have found these two species for us. Though many attempts have been made to tame/domesticate the wild dogs, even those reared from birth, none have been successful. We should also mention that during our breakfast break at a picnic area, we were being ... read more

Today began epecially early, with a 4:45 wake up call. We barely had time for coffee before departing the hotel for a morning Safari. The intent today was to hunt (photo hunt) for cats. Though we did see some lions from a great distance a couple times, today was mostly the day of the kudu. Our first site of the day was the rise of the sun over Kruger Park. Think lion king. The sun came up among mostly above acacia trees and possibly some marula. Mary-Anne did an excellent job positioning our van throughout the day to get amazing shots of this picturesque scene and many others. (Visitors to Kruger Park are strictly prohibited from exiting their vehicles.) As we made our way through the park, we encountered a number of species, not limited to ... read more

Picking up from where we left off... After finishing last night's blog, everyone put a few more logs and pieces of coal on their respective fires and made their way to bed. Just as he was about to fall asleep, Jake moved his leg and felt a soft, warm thing by his foot. Panicking that there was some sort of animal in his bed, he gave it a good kicking, only to find out it was a hot water bottle that someone on the hotel staff had put in as a warm-up. It was a moment of panic and a water bottle, not a wild beast. Today we started early, with breakfast at six and on the road to Kruger National Park around seven. The drive took roughly three hours including one pit stop along the ... read more

Africa » South Africa » Mpumalanga July 18th 2019

We started off this morning, up at 5:00 a.m., in order to have an early breakfast and be on our way to Cape Town International at 7:15 a.m. We flew direct to Johannesburg via British Air and were surprised to be served another hot breakfast. After landing at Johannesburg and collecting our bags, we were met in the arrivals area by our new guide, Mary-Anne. She would be our driver and source of information for about the next four hours as we made our way to Mt. Sheba, a resort isolated in the hills of Mpumalanga. We stopped for lunch at a travel plaza that was also a nature preserve. It turns out Nando's (Peri-peri chicken) is actually a South African franchise. The Nando's in downtown Chicago, however, doesn't have views of emu, rhino, zebra, eland, ... read more
Reception Lounge
Mt. Sheba
Mt. Sheba from Above

Africa » South Africa » Western Cape » Franschhoek July 17th 2019

As the morning began, we expected to make a short tour into the Stellenbosch wine country and then visit Robben Island. Upon arrival in Stellenbosch, we took in the sight of goats frollicking at the Fairview Winery. There was a tower with a goat walk that escalated around it. We had never seen a goat playland before. This one even included a bridge over the road that led to a goat condo. The goat commune consisted of several 1-2 year olds and a goat father who was at least 15 years old. It was really something. Before actually entering Fairview we got some very unfortunate news. Due to expected high winds that would effect wave swell, our scheduled trip to Robben Island had been cancelled. This was a huge letdown as following Mandela's experience was the ... read more
Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let down your Goat
from The Long Walk to Freedom
Historic Moment in Time

Africa » South Africa » Western Cape » Cape Town July 16th 2019

Our day began with an 8:15 a.m. departure following another hearty breakfast at The Portswood. We headed south from Cape Town towards Muizenburg, which put us on the Atlantic coast. From here, it would be a series of quick and scenic stops to admire beautiful coastal views and/or wildlife. Our ultimate destination was the Cape of Good Hope/Cape Point--the southwesternmost point on the African Continent. First, the wildlife: Though we did not see any sharks or baboons, signs pointed to trouble with both species. After heading uphill from a beautiful beach, we encountered a "shark spotter" shack, looking over the swimmers and surfers to track any approaching shark dangers. Near the "shark shack," another sign warned us that baboons "are dangerous WILD animals - DO NOT FEED - Keep doors locked and windows closed." We continued ... read more

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