Thursday, August 29, 2019

Countries and Territories Visited

Czech Republic | Kenya | Tanzania and Malawi | Zambia | Zimbabwe 

At this point, we have just completed our third year...and what a time it has been.  Here is a current list of where we have been and the major highlight(s) for us in each location.

No.   Date   Countries/Regions/Territories   Special Events or Memories
1   08/01/16   USA    46 States, Key West, Thanksgiving in Houston, Christmas in Ft. Lauderdale.  Time with family and friends.
2   12/01/16   Cuba   Time with Becky and Leo.
3   07/05/17   Canada   Calgary and that brand new airport…and long layover.
4   07/05/17   Iceland   The beginning of our six months with George.
5   07/20/17   Wales   Amazing scenery and grand BnBs.
6   07/27/17   England   Time with John.
7   08/05/17   Scotland   The beginning of our five months with Andi.
8   08/24/17   France   Special time with Ivan.  The club joined us.  Rick and Susy.
9   09/01/17   Belgium   We stepped out of the train to plant a foot.
10   09/01/17   Netherlands   Amersterdam.
11   09/06/17   Germany   Berlin
12   09/10/17   Denmark   Copenhagen
13   09/14/17   Norway   Special time with Kristin
14   09/18/17   Sweden   The Vada
15   09/22/17   Finland   Helsinki and the prison hotel
16   10/03/17   Russia   Special time with Don, Dianna, and Aleana
17   10/16/17   Tartarstan   Kazan
18   10/22/17   Baiyut Republic   Irkutsk and Ulan Ude
19   11/01/17   Korea   Seoul and that amazing road trip
20   12/15/17   Japan   Sapporo, Tokyo and Osaka
21   03/13/18   Australia   Amazing time with Jane and Louise, spectacular drive up the west coast to Darwin.
22   05/13/18   Bali   Mother temple, monkey temple and that great apartment with the pool
23   05/20/18   Indonesia   Jakarta - the smog, the heat, and the noise.
24   05/26/17   Malaysia   Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru
25   06/05/18   Singapore   The city itself, the heat, and the Botanical Gardens
26   06/09/18   Macau   The long ferry ride
27   06/09/18   Hong Kong   Kowloon and the Big Buddha Park
28   06/22/18   China   All of it!!!!
29   08/07/18   Tibet   Portola Palace
30   08/12/18   Nepal   Great Neapl Treks
31   09/18/18   India   People, Dragoman
32   10/19/18   Uzbekistan   People, Bukhara
33   11/02/18   Kazahkstan   Amaty.  Beautiful city.  Good rest.
34   11/07/18   Georgia   Those crazy drivers.
35   11/28/18   Turkey   Flight delayed.  Bought visa.  Stayed the night.
36   11/29/18   Bulgaria   Quaint historic cities…the graffiti is amazing!
37   12/19/18   Romania   Christmas with the kids!
38   01/03/19   Greece   Wonderful walks visiting sites.
39   01/09/19   Albania   Quiet apartment and city center.
40   01/17/19   Macedonia   That bus transfer.  Stylish apt.
41   01/25/19   Serbia   That amazing transfer day
42   02/04/19   Bosnia Herzegovina   Sad Sarajevo
43   02/11/19   Republic of Srpska   Long bus ride to Croatia, quick border crossing.
44   02/11/19   Croatia   Andi!!!
45   02/19/19   Hungary   Budapest and wonderful architecture.
46   02/23/19   Slovakia   Bratislava river front, old town and castle.
47   02/27/19   Austria   Vienna!!!
48   03/03/19   Slovenia   Lubljana!!!
49   03/06/19   Italy   Venice.  Andi's broken leg.
50   04/02/19   Ireland   It's so GREEN.
51   04/22/19   Northern Ireland   Giant's Gauseway
52   05/01/19   Scotland - AGAIN   Neolithic Antiquities - Shetland Orkney Islands
54   05/27/19   England - AGAIN   Finally a bright and sunny day…
55   06/05/19   Norway - AGAIN   Special time with Kristin and Bjorn
56   06/18/19   Estonia   Tallinn, Tartu, and that amazing island….
57   06/25/19   Latvia   Riga.  Art Nouveau buildings.
58   06/29/19   Lithuania   Hill of Crosses
59   07/03/19   Republic of U┼żupis   Surprize Country
60   07/05/19   Poland   Warsaw Ghetto, Auschwitz, Great Guides
61   07/11/19   Czech Republic   Rick and Susy join us again.
62   07/16/19   Qatar   First time in Dubai
63   07/16/19   Kenya   Camping Safari…the look on Rick's face when he say lions and elephants in the wild.
64   07/26/19   Tanzania   My fourth Drago, Bobbie second.
65   08/05/19   Zanzibar   The beaches and the reefs
66   08/10/19   Milawei   The people
67   08/20/19   Zambia   The Zambezi River canoe trip…the hippos and crocs.
68   08/23/19   Zimbabwe   The falls, Matapos, and Harare

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Eight Days of Doing NOTHING in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

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Czech Republic | Kenya | Tanzania and Malawi | Zambia | Zimbabwe 


We enjoyed a REALLY lazy morning, slept in for hours, and I woke with a really bad sore throat and the beginnings of a raging cold.  My farewell gift from Zambia would have me down for a few days.  After finally packing up we said goodbye to our traveling companions, exchanged email addresses and made promises to stay in touch.  We would be in Victoria Falls for a full week.  We taxied to our Zimbabwe home where we would hide out and rejuvenate.  Our estate, thanks to Airbnb, is actually a four-plex wandering through a fully walled lot, with loads of trees and plants, a really lovely garden, and a beautiful apartment.  Our host Susan lives in South Africa and our caretaker, Collen, could not have been nicer and more accommodating.  Three bedrooms, two baths and a great room.





We quickly settled in, found a small fruit and vegetable store in the neighborhood that also offer a decent assortment of meat, canned goods, and dairy, as well as the basics...rice, flour, etc.  Less than $50 per person fed us well for the full week.  Wi-Fi was great and we had plenty of bandwidth to handle Netflix and Comcast, as well as everything else we could find to keep us entertained.

It was coolish at night and quite warm during the day.  Bobbie took a daily hike into the city center and some of the girls joined her from time to time.  It was 2KM into the tourist sector, which is pretty much all of the town, and took about 30 minutes.  Even Andi made it as far as the big grocery short and shopping center one day.  Taxis back home were less than $5 and the drivers were all pleasant and accommodating...each trying to sell a safari or other day activity...smile...ah, capitalism.

My cold expanded to a slight fever, achy body, and of course, the ever familiar diarrhea.  It too five days to get over it...a short time considering...and I used the time to catch up on correspondence, do some advance planning, and get plenty of rest.  Under the trees surrounding the house, it was cool, and afternoons could be spent enjoying the lounge furniture outside without bugs.

It is dry and sandy here and once outside of the compound things are pretty monochromatic. The town itself is pretty small and most everything commercial is happening near the falls and the border.  In the photo below you can see the falls to the far right and the city in almost its entirity.
 The main highway from the border to Bulawayo, some 300 miles to the south, is also the main street of town.  Tourist shops, and travel offices line the street for a couple of blocks.

 There is one major shopping center and except for a decent sized grocery story and a few curio shops, it is almost entirely tourism vendors.  The "falls" is their main calling card and they work it as much as possible.  Nearby Chobe and Hwange National Parks offer game viewing and we will be doing that once we rejoin the overland truck in a few weeks.




Ten minutes away from the main street, this is what the side roads look like, with local folks going about their daily chores.

We celebrated my 69th birthday here with an Afro-Mexican dinner and a key lime pie.  It was fun.  After a week of recuperating and resting up, we were ready to head off into Zimbabwe for more adventure.

No. 68 - Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

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How We Got Started | How We Do It | Countries and Territories Visited | USA Adventure | Iceland The UK Adventure | Our Travel Club Arrives in Paris | Capitols of N. Europe and Scandinavia | Russia and the Trans-Siberian Railway | South Korea | Japan | Australia | Bali & Indonesia | Malaysia | Singapore | Macau-Hong Kong | Southern China |  Zhangjiaije National Park | Central China | Terracotta Warriors | Pandas | Tibet | Nepal | India | Uzbekistan | Kazakhstan | Georgia | The Balkans | Eastern Europe | Italy | Ireland Scottish Highlands-Outer Islands | England | Norway | The Baltics | Poland
Czech Republic | Kenya | Tanzania and Malawi | Zambia


We slept in waiting for the early birds to return from their morning walk on the Zambian side of the falls, were loaded up and crossing the river in the Zimbabwe by noon.  We settled quickly into our really fine campground a few KMS from the falls.  Our local guide met us right after lunch to brief us on optional activities before set off to visit the falls.

Statue of David Livingstone crediting him with discovery of the falls.  The arrogance of not recognizing the millions of Africans who knew of it for eons really pissed us off.
 The rapids just before the falls.  Noisy and magnificent.

 The rainbows in the mist.  Stunning.



 The beginning of the mile-long curtain of water.  Remarkable.



 Folks in the natural soaking pool at the top of the falls.  Yikes.





 See the soaking pool.  Just plain crazy.

 It is the dry season now...during the wet, the falls drop over this cliff.




 The famous bridge connecting Zambia and Zimbabwe.

 After our tour we returned to camp for our farewell dinner and last night with the group.


No. 67 - Zambia - LEOPARDS and and an Amazing Zambezi River Canoe Trip - 100s of PICS

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Czech Republic | Kenya | Tanzania and Malawi | Zambia


We reached the border at Mchinji, a town/village built around the landmark.  It was the typical African border town.  Trucks loaded and parked waiting approval to cross in each direction, vendors selling foodstuffs and trinkets, produce farmers with loads of fresh tomatoes, potatoes and onions, and the usual assortment of black market money dealers and hawkers waiting for the tourist buses to arrive.  Immigration was quick, there were no lines.  $75 and a hour later we were crossing the border and heading toward the large town of Chapata in Zambia where we would enjoy a 90-minute break for lunch and some shopping at a well equipped shopping center, complete with a real, western-styled grocery store.  We had a deli lunch and loaded up on chips and cookies, chocolate bars, and Andi raided the wine and booze aisles.



It was then on to Lwanga National Park and our two-night stay.  It was a hot and dusty drive west and then north for another three hours.  We reached out upgraded campground just after dark.  "Croc Valley Tourist Camp" sits on the bank of the Lawanga River.  |It was aptly names.  The hippos were grunting loudly and things were a bit chaotic as set up camp in the dark.  Roland and Mash got the kitchen together, the cook team pitched in, and we were fed and in bed by about 9 PM.  In the early morning we got a good look at our beautiful riverside camp.  True to its claim there were dozens of hippos in the water just below us...and a fair assortment of crocodiles as well.  Falling asleep the second night would come with its share of concerns about night visitors.







Our early morning game drive was EARLY,  We were up and loaded into our open-sided safari land rovers and headed into the park just before sunrise.  We were nine to a Toyota Landcruiser and the viewing was perfect, even from the middle seats.  Right off we were met by a wide assortment of critters.  Hippos and crocodiles lined the river, Impala and water buck wandered the forest, and a large family of elephants were enjoying their morning munch of leaves and grass.  We drove away from the river and met up with a large prided of lions…the females in the lead followed by all of the cubs, and the kings bringing up the rear.  They were so close, as they passed the vehicles, we could hear their breaths.  At one point we stopped along side a large male resting at the trail.  If we had dared, we could have reached over and petted him; we were that close.
Sunrise.
A rare sight...a Kudu.
The elephant heard had just crossed the river.


This six-legged elephant got everyone's attention.  Such a proud fellow.
 Hippos grazing.
Wonderful crane.
Impala.
Big crocs.
Hippos in the river.


Zebra.

The lions.
Just a bit close and he didn't even turn his head to look at us.










Our drivers continued wandering the park and we were treated to a morning coffee and biscuit at the river’s edge.  Sipping a hot cup of brew, we watched the hippos sounding the water and saw an assortment of beautiful birds.  We returned to camp after about four hours and had a late breakfast.  We enjoyed six hours of resting and catching up with chores, laundry, and emails. 




And then came the giraffe.





Waterbuck.
Buffalo.



Warthogs.
Wonderful birds.



At 4PM we once again boarded our transports for an evening game drive.  Interesting was that there were much fewer critters than in the morning.  We only saw a couple of elephants and no lions.  The exciting part was discovering two leopards, one under a tree and hiding in the brush, and the other roaming the river bank, high above the water line.  We watched them for quite some time and then enjoyed the sunset.  











Our guides then turned on their spotlights and we went in search of nightlife.  Lwanga is one of the few parks in Africa where night viewing is allowed.  We saw hippos hauling out of the river and foraging, another grand leopard, a cevit, and several other critters. 




We returned to camp after 8PM for a really nice BBQ chicken dinner.  The fellas outdid themselves and we ate hardy.  Morning came early and we were up, packed, breakfasted, and on the road just after dawn.  It would be a long nine hours, only broken by a stop in Chapta once again for a few supplies.  Heading west on the main road, we reached the Lwanga Bridge on the border between Zambia and Mozambique late in the day, an hour before sunset, and stayed the night in a basic camp.  It was hot, dusty, and not very well maintained.  The only one like this it would turn out for the whole trip.  This spot was the halfway mark between Lwanga National Park and the lower Zambezi area and our only choice during two huge drive days.  The redemption came from an elevated lounge with a nice breeze a river view...and of course the scum and algae filled pool below...smile.




We left early for another 12 hour drive to the Zambezi river, the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.  The drive was enhanced by mountains and valleys, lots of interesting villages, and loads of charcoal vendors along the road.  We arrive at Zambezi Breezes Camp where we would spend the first night and then launch the next day for our two night canoe trip.  The camp was well shaded with a lovely lawn, nice cabana bar, and hot showers.  That night we met our river guides and got a briefing on the five dangers of the river...a lot of made of Nos. 1 & 2...and the next day we would understand why.

1 - Crocodiles
2 - Hippos
3 - Trees
4 - Sand
5 - Wind

We enjoyed a later wake up and were assembed and ready to lauch around 10AM.
Our two person canoes were well loaded with all of our gear and food, tents, and luggage.  We launched into the Great Zambezi River...a half mile wide in some places and running full and free.
Our paddle began down river with a light breeze.  We all learned the rules of left paddle, right paddle, circle paddle, back paddle, and STOP.  Nerves were high as we banged into each other, tipped our boats from side to side, and letting in a bit more water than some were ready to accept.  It all brought back memories of the years I spent coaching and teaching canoeing to adolescent boy scouts and sobbing cub scouts. I think the kids were easier.
It wasn't long before we met our first herd of hippos.  The call of STAY LEFT and STAY RIGHT became a montra as our lead guide yelled out warnings.
 Buffalo on the banks.
 We landed after two hours...with sore arms and wet feet, and enoyed a short break just 50 feet from a large herd of hippos on the beach.






 Taking off again we paddled for two more hours before pulling out for lunch.

 A two rest with lots of us napping ended with dropping back in and paddling for another three hours.  A herd of elephants met us halfway.

 We hauled out near evening, set up on an island, mid-river, and enjoyed a lovely sunset and a great dinner from Ronald's kitchen.

 Off in the near distance was a bull elephant that we all kept our eyes on.




We were up at dawn, breakfasted, and breaking camp well before 7AM.  Our second day of paddling would total 8 hours by the end of the day.
More hippos that the day before met us, many in the middle of the river in the shallows formed by sand bars.  They are extremely territorial and we spent hours paddling away from agressive males.   
And then we became aware of the crocodile warnings.  They were everywhere and one launched from the river bank just feet away from Brendan and Lisel and they crapped in their pants as they paddled for safety. 






We landed twice, once to get a close up view of an elephant herd, and then again for lunch and a two hour rest.





We reached our last night's campsite on another island shared by elephant and hippos and were warned to space our tents wide enough apart to allow each to easily pass through during the night...oh, and there also came the warning to stay away from the river banks...and no wading on the sandbars...so much for all the fun.


After setting up camp, a couple of large launches arrived and towed off our canoes.  We were now officially stranded for the night.  Our last night came with another bonfire, a steak BBQ, and a sky full of shooting stars and the Milky Way.

In the morning we loaded all of our gear and boarded a fast ferry back to the river camp and our truck
It was another 9 hours on the roads passing countless villages and charcoal vendors once again.  We reached the Livingstone at the Zambezi River well after 8PM.


By the time we set up camp it was well past our normal bedtime.  Dinner was at 10PM and there was a 5AM wake up for anyone who wanted to see the falls from the Zambian side.  Most passed on the option.