I never enter contests. The cynic in me says you never get something for nothing. Supermarkets want access to your buying history. Timeshares just want to sell you something you don’t need that you can’t afford. I never fill out any of those silly entry forms to be stuffed in a big box wrapped with gaudy paper. So I don’t know what possessed me to enter the $25,000 Dream Trip from Conde Nast a few months ago. Maybe it was just the millisecond of fantasy — where would I go if I could go anywhere in the world and spend $25,000 doing it? Maybe I was bored at work and was trawling through travel websites and daydreaming. Maybe my evil twin entered those photos.
I’ve always been a scrimp-and-save type person. A planner. Ultimately practical yet tenuously repressing a frivolous streak. … Read More »
Another long driving day takes us across the border into South Africa. Immediately, the difference is tangible. The roads are all paved and the landscape begins to get a little more verdant. Supermarkets are modern and shops selling cappuccino are welcomely plentiful. Food in South Africa is great as well, about 20-30% cheaper than in the States. We stop at a small farmer’s market and I pick up a 1.5 kilo bag of red plums for USD 1.50, about one tenth the cost in Cambodia where stone fruit must be imported and therefore prohibitive. I’ve been gorging on peaches, nectarines and plums.
We camp at Citrus Dal, at a small orange grove with an expansive farm house where happily there is a TV. I gleefully get my tennis fix of the Australian Open and wake up early to catch a few … Read More »
A seven hour drive takes us to Brandberg, the site of famous bushmen rock paintings dating back between two and five thousand years. Today’s lecture is on landscape photography, appropriate as we move into the ever-changing desert landscapes that Namibia has to offer. The scenery has changed dramatically, from the greenery of Etosha to much more arid plains with low scrub brush and yellowed grasses.
We’re told it hasn’t rained here since September. At places, the scene looks like a moonscape, with course sand and rubble. We stop suddenly when we notice hundreds of kites, a bird of prey, swooping and circling, riding the thermals. The sky is black with them, probably five hundred or more; none of us have seen anything like it before. We’ve stepped into a Hitchcock movie.
Tin shacks dot the landscape, some with rusty windmills standing out … Read More »
We drive four hours to the north, along the northwest border of Etosha National Park, passing giraffe, zebra and warthog. We arrive at the small town of Opuwo, where we pick up some supplies to give to the chief of the Himba village we will be visiting. There are a few Himba women in the small market and after yesterday’s debacle, I resist taking a picture of the incongruous sight – barefoot, barechested women doing their weekly shopping.
We pick up our guide, the self-named Queen Elizabeth, a Himba herself, but who now lives in the town. She is dressed in an elegant purple taffeta gown and smells a bit like barbecue sauce, a mix of leather and smoke. We soon find out why when we get the village. The Queen leads us to her village 15 km away, giving us … Read More »
A short morning’s drive takes us in Namibia (free visa), with a stop at a local clinic to pick up some malaria medication for Ebron. We camp at Ngepi, a quirky, beautiful campsite along the panhandle of the Okavango.
It’s strangely known for its unique toilets and showers, each with a different theme and catchy name, some set amidst trees and shrubs, with the shower on a raised platform. There is even a Royal Throne, a solitary toilet set on a ledge overlooking the river. Or, if you prefer, the Poop-A-Falls, a toilet two stories high, thatched and overlooking the fields. Or the Lav-a-Tree (say “lavatory” fast… get it!?) set on a mighty log.
Here, the two couples in our group go for an upgrade in treehouses, a rustic room with thatched walls, rainwater spout showers and even a device that sprays … Read More »
An incessant drizzle during the early dawn hours forces us into the truck for a quick breakfast before making our way on across a ferry over the Zambezi and over the border to Botswana (free visa). All of Botswana’s animals roam free, with no fences anywhere.
Two minutes after pulling into the town of Kasane, we see this for ourselves as a family of warthogs wanders through the local shopping center, as nonchalantly as the shoppers are to their presence. We camp for two nights on the immaculately maintained grounds of the posh Chobe Safari Lodge, 20 minutes from the famed elephants of Chobe National Park.
As we prepare dinner, another warthog and two babies impudently stomp up, sniffing around for scraps. It’s comical to see them go down on their knees to forage. When no food is forthcoming, they soon head … Read More »
We spend the better part of a week in Victoria Falls, where the first tour ends and the second half begins. The Zambezi Waterfront is a lovely campsite / hotel with two small swimming pools and a bar overlooking the mighty Zambezi River, the rising mist from Victoria Falls (locally called Mosi Oa Tunya, ‘The Smoke that Thunders’) visible in the distance.
After getting situated, we board a pontoon for a sunset (aka booze) cruise with open bar and buffet dinner lazily cruising along the river, the occasional hippo keeping us company.
There are tons of activities to do here, and the costs mount up pretty quickly.
We go on a game walk / Lion Encounter combo (USD 160). On the game walk in the national park (no carnivores), we see a four day old baby giraffe that looks exactly like those baby … Read More »
With little fanfare, we cross the border into Zambia (and another USD 50 visa). Days of inactivity have rendered us largely lethargic, and we wearily listen to George’s valiant attempt at a workshop on fill-in flash and color temperatures.
We drive by red brick huts with thatched roofs leading to the Wildlife Camp, just outside the park’s gates. The site has us mesmerized, situated right on the banks of the Luangwa River with a pod of hippos, their backs just visible in the fast flowing muddy waters, their bellows punctuating the otherwise blissful silence after the massive rumblings of the truck. The camp is wild, with no fences, and we’re warned not to wander around after dark. If nature calls, business must be taken care of next to the tent, instead of risking the 20m walk to the ablution block and … Read More »
We spend parts of the next three days driving through the Tanzanian countryside on our way to Malawi. Vendors dash after every slowing bus, eager to sell fruit, cashews and other snacks to bored passengers. The cheery sound of children calling and waving to the truck never gets old.
We spend the night at the Baobab Valley Camp where thousands of acacia and baobab trees crowd for space in the arid landscape. A few young Maasai man the camps, keeping up the fires to heat the water, but shyly refuse photographs from our group. I take them aside and through sign language and laughter draw them into conversation in halting English. They lead me through the campsite to a huge cactus and freely pose for photos away from the eyes of the group.
The bar is set on the banks of a … Read More »
We wearily rub sleep from our eyes as we set off in the dark at 5 am, having both breakfast and lunch on the road. Breakfast is a quick, uncomplicated affair, but the view of snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro energizes even the most lethargic of us. As we travel further south, the Islamic culture becomes more apparent. Some men are dressed in tunics with skullcaps and women in full burka sway in the breeze on their way to market. We have a longer lunch than planned as Wil has to MacGyver a broken seal. The repairs set us back four hours (with an impromptu roadside lesson on Composition thrown in), so after 18 hours of travel, we finally have dinner and collapse in sweaty puddles in the stifling heat by the Indian Ocean in Dar Es Salaam.
The next morning, a truck, … Read More »