Navigation Menu
Graceful, I Am Not

Graceful, I Am Not

on Apr 25, 2014

My middle name definitely is not Grace. I often wonder how I ever managed all those years skating on a quarter of an inch of steel and avoided any serious injury, outside of the compulsory stitches in my chin. These days, basic activities like riding a bike, walking a bike and simply walking have all left me with a few unexpected aches, pains, and bruises! I don’t ever remember so clumsy! Walking My Bike Yesterday, we arrived on the third largest island of the Seychelles, La Digue. The island only has a handful of cars and thus the best mode of transportation for both locals and tourists is bicycle. Nearly everyone traverses the island on a bike. It is almost like a mini Copenhagen. After spending the day at the beach, we stopped at the store for a few basic necessities before returning to our accommodation. We secured our purchases into the grocery-like baskets on the back of our bikes. It was a short ride back and Kevin informed me that I was carrying the most precious cargo: the Seybrews for happy hour on the patio. About 100 yards from our accommodation, the road was closed due to construction. I choose to apply my breaks and dismount my bike to walk around the construction zone. I quickly realized that I had now become an additional road block for the locals who saw no difficulty in “off-roading” on the shoulder though the road block. I apologized to one local as he applied his breaks and swerved to miss me. I scurried through the construction zone, looked back to assess the situation and in doing so, lost control of my bike! It is all a blur now, but I found myself holding on for dear life to the bike handles and supporting part of the weight of my bike with the inside of my right calf. I called out to Kevin to help. If I would have let go, then our precious cargo would have tumbled onto the pavement. All I could think of as I held on for dear life was shattering beer bottles in the middle of the road…and it would have all be my fault. As Kevin got...

Read More
Duct Tape: Use #911

Duct Tape: Use #911

on Apr 4, 2014

Another day, another use for duct tape. As we concluded our sand boarding session in South Africa, we made one final run down the “Dragon Dune” lying flat on our stomach clinging to a plastic belly board. The guide instructed us that it was best to use bare feet to steer and slow down. So we proceeded to take off our shoes and socks in preparation for the ride down the 240 meter run. The steep course combined with ideal sand conditions allowed us to pick up ample speed as we torpedoed down the hill. Our guide cautioned us about the bend in the course about two-thirds of the way down the hill. He instructed us to drag our right foot to help steer through the bend and then added that we had to dig both feet into the sand to slow ourselves down at least 10 meters before reaching the end of the course. If we didn’t stop, we’d have an unfortunate encounter with rocks. Based upon our sand boarding experience in New Zealand, I knew exactly how to drag my feet and legs to control my speed. So, I laid down on my board and the guide gave me a little push to get started. The slope was steep and the curve was approaching so I almost immediately started to drag my feet to slow down. I made it easily through the bend and remembered the advice from our guide to apply breaks early. So, I started to dig by feet in even more. I did not feel my pace slowing, so I instinctively dug in even deeper and, of course, managed to stop with plenty of room to spare. Relieved that I had completed the run safely, I jumped up and celebrated! Barefoot Was a Bad Idea As I started to make the long, steep climb back up the hill, I felt a burning and stinging sensation on the top of my feet. I looked down to identify the source. Not only were my feet covered in sand, but the nail polish was missing from my big toes. That is when I also noticed the blood soaked sand on the top of my left foot and...

Read More
Riding the Dragon

Riding the Dragon

on Apr 3, 2014

One of my favorite activities during our month long stay on the North Island of New Zealand was “riding the sand” at the Te Paki Sand Dunes. Thus, when I saw another opportunity to sand board in South Africa, I immediately added it to the top of our list of things to do.

Read More
Swimming with Sharks

Swimming with Sharks

on Apr 2, 2014

The coast of South Africa is home to one of the world’s largest populations of great white sharks. Sharks feast on seals and thus can often be sighted near one of the many seal colonies along the South Africa shores. Although the sharks are present year round, a sighting is never guaranteed. With so many sharks in South Africa, cage diving has become one of the most popular tourist activities in the Cape. While researching things to do in Cape Town, I found a highly rated outfitter offering cage diving from the marina at Simon’s Town, a small town just outside Cape Town. With minimal hesitation, I secured the only two spots available in the coming week. I was feeling lucky and a bit excited about our excursion and the prospect of seeing a great white shark up close in its natural habitat. However, I wasn’t fully committed to getting in the water  with these giant creatures. I’m not fond of any sort of fish in the water while I’m swimming, and everything that I read said the best viewing spot was from the boat! So I felt like I could go on the excursion and watch safely from the deck of the boat. Unfortunately, due to weather and adverse sea conditions our initial tour was cancelled. We re-scheduled for two days later, but unfortunately it was cancelled too. Our time in Cape Town was running short and we sadly couldn’t reschedule.  We still really wanted to see the sharks, so we had to look for an alternate plan. Mossel Bay is a popular destination on the famed Garden Route. There’s a seal colony less than one kilometer off shore which also means there’s a healthy population of great white sharks! We planned to pass through Mossel Bay on our road trip in the western cape, so we decided to make a booking. We hoped the third time would be the charm! If the trip were to be cancelled, we’d have to move on and skip shark diving altogether. When we arrived in Mossel Bay, the sky greeted us with clouds and the weather forecast called for rain. Nonetheless, we received a confirmation from the tour company that our...

Read More
Self Drive Addo Elephant National Park

Self Drive Addo Elephant National Park

on Mar 30, 2014

We read mixed reviews about Addo Elephant National Park. As a result, we heavily debated whether a visit to the game park was even worth our time and effort. We almost decided to skip it entirely since we had already booked a four night safari in Madikwe Game Reserve at the end of our time in South Africa. Ultimately, since we were so close, we decided to experience Addo for ourselves and were happy that we did. As the national park’s name suggests, elephants are the main draw. Although not guaranteed, it is highly likely to see elephants in the park and on arrival, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that dozens of other animals can be found in the park too—all endemic to the region. Most of the roads are asphalt or gravel and visitors can drive them all at their leisure to view the animals in their natural habitat. For an introduction to the park, we elected to take a “sundowner” game drive in one of the parks organized tours. Although we saw a few noteworthy animals like a water buffalo, Addo’s oversized vehicles—they seat more than 20 people—simply can’t provide the same caliber of animal viewing that we experienced in Amakhala and Shamwari. If you’ve been following our journey, Amakhala is where we had a run-in with an aggressive elephant, and that encounter left me debating whether we should even attempt to drive ourselves through Addo. There’s no way we wanted to repeat that encounter without a qualified guide. Even though Addo’s organized game drive was disappointing, the one thing it did do is put my mind at ease about what we could expect inside the park.  So, we ultimately decided to embark on our adventure and  do a self-drive the next day … and we’re now convinced this is the best way to see Addo. An Early Morning Self Drive We learned from our previous game drive in Shamwari that early mornings provide some of the best opportunities to see animals such as lions and cheetahs. So, we woke up before sunrise, equipped ourselves with binoculars, cameras, sunglasses, water and snacks and made our way into the park. Since we were staying at a lodge...

Read More
Elephant Encounter at Amakhala

Elephant Encounter at Amakhala

on Mar 29, 2014

When we left on our ’round-the-world trip, we never dreamed we’d end up in Africa. It wasn’t part of our original itinerary and as such we hadn’t prepared or packed specifically for a safari. But, since we shifted our itinerary and now found ourselves in South Africa, it would be crazy not to go “on safari”. So we prepared ourselves the best we could on arrival by researching game parks and gearing up with some new binoculars! However nothing could have prepared us for our first game drive and an unexpected encounter with an elephant. Our First Game Drive To be honest, we didn’t really know what to expect from a game drive. How close would we get to the animals? Were they really wild? How would they react to vehicles and people? We’d never really done anything like it, so we eagerly absorbed any instructions and rules from the guides. We knew the animals weren’t tame and the park made that very clear by posting indemnity signs at the front gate and by the waivers they make you sign on arrival. We basically signed away our lives should anything happen while in the park—be it from an animal, an insect or a human. After settling into our luxury tent (it had running water but no electricity) we prepared for our first game drive in Amakhala, a relatively new and small game park in the Eastern Cape. The park had most recently been farmland and the owners collaborated to reintroduce animals and turned it into a game park. Bigger Things to Come We piled into the Land Cruiser and set off for the park entrance. We immediately saw a few zebra and springbok from a distance. “Is this the first time you’ve seen zebra outside of a zoo?,” the guide asked. It was. And, to be honest, it was a bit more exciting seeing them than I anticipated. But I couldn’t act too excited about a silly zebra, right? I was holding out for the “Big Five”—lions, buffalo, leopards, rhinos and of course elephants. After about an hour driving across the upper ridges in the park and then winding our way through a meadow, we entered a valley where...

Read More
Jiminy Crickets!

Jiminy Crickets!

on Mar 24, 2014

On our road trip along Route 62 in South Africa, our first stop was a cute little town named Montagu where we planned to spend the night. We arrived in Montagu late in the afternoon and rang the doorbell at our quaint guesthouse. Our host greeted us and showed us around the property. On the short walk between the main guesthouse and our room, our friendly host told us about the current cricket plague.

Read More
Full Power Duct Tape

Full Power Duct Tape

on Mar 13, 2014

By far, one of our most useful purchases for our world adventure has been a good, old fashioned roll of duct tape. We constantly find new and random uses for it. Here’s our latest …

Read More
Intermittent Power

Intermittent Power

on Mar 11, 2014

To say that I was a little apprehensive about our first trip to South Africa would be an understatement. For some unknown reason, I find myself worrying about little things, being cautious and feeling slightly on edge. My preliminary impressions of South Africa after only 12 hours in the country were not overly favorable. However, after a good night’s sleep and the introduction of a new day, I awoke feeling refreshed and hopeful. However, that hope was weakened before I even made it out of bed. While laying in bed, I noticed the light in our bathroom flickering. On-off-on-off-on-off. This pattern seemed to repeat itself at random intervals over the next ten to fifteen minutes. Likewise, the light on our power converter—plugged in on the opposite wall—seemed to follow the same pattern. Seriously? We are having intermittent power outages? This turn of events did nothing to ease my nerves about being in a third world country. Here we were in a five star hotel in the modern city of Cape Town and we are unable to sustain power for more than 30 seconds at a time? I started to wonder if this was a sign of things to come during our stay in South Africa. We had heard about the potential of unstable internet , but was electricity going to be an issue as well? As I laid there in bed, I thought about the potential of being stuck in the elevator or the potential of being caught in the shower with no lights (or hot water). My bubble of hope had definitely diminished. Luckily, the intermittent power outages only lasted for about an hour! Perhaps I over reacted (a little), but the thought of not having basic necessities at our disposal caused me to pause and second guess staying so long in South Africa. My first impression the day before was not great and I must say that the start of the second day was not helping to ease my...

Read More
A Leisurely Day in the Margaret River Valley

A Leisurely Day in the Margaret River Valley

on Mar 7, 2014

We decided to wrap up our time in Australia by exploring the Margaret River Valley. Located in Western Australia it is one of Australia’s premier wine regions. We couldn’t think of a better way to spend our last few days. Although the area is known for Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon wines, we soon realized that this area has more to offer than just wines! On a nearly perfect day in the valley, we enjoyed some good wine, great food and a couple of leisurely strolls along the beach. A Morning Walk Our local accommodation was a short walk from the Gnarabup Beach in Prevelly. A stay in a beach town is not complete until you have at least visited the beach, right? After climbing the small embankment to the beach, we were immediately awestruck by the size of the waves breaking off shore, and even more impressed by the surfers attempting to ride these massive waves. We walked the length of the beach, pausing to take pictures, observe the local dogs playing on the beach and watch the surf. Wine We heeded the advice of some new friends in Perth and made our way to a handful of suggested wineries. We enjoyed the beautiful weather, wonderful scenery and, of course, the large selection of wines. We even resisted the urge to purchase a bottle or two to take with us. But we did enjoy a glass over an upscale lunch at the oldest winery in area (Voyager Estate). Ice Cream We couldn’t resist the opportunity to diversify our activities for the day and thus found ourselves jumping at the opportunity to enjoy a sweet (or two) on this warm fall afternoon. As we browsed the offerings at Millers Ice Cream Farm, we could hardly resist the temptation to try a scoop of every flavor. After much deliberation, we narrowed our selections down to just four flavors, and made our way to the patio to enjoy our afternoon treat. On the way out of the parking lot I was already contemplating a second visit. Chocolate As if ice cream was not enough, we decided to add to our daily sugar intake with a visit to the Margaret River Chocolate Factory....

Read More