Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Cape Town, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Kruger National Park

19 June 2008 Thursday
This evening a group of us headed to Mama Africa to celebrate our last days in Cape Town. It was also a good excuse to start celebrating Bec's birthday a little early. We were treated to some great music by Afro-Fiesta.

20 June 2008 Friday

It was the day to say goodbye to everyone at Blossom Street Primary. I feel so fortunate to have meet so many great people, which of course made it hard to say goodbye. That afternoon I packed and got ready for the last night out in Cape Town and the celebrating of Bec's birthday. The birthday celebration was so much fun, it made saying goodbye to everyone from the house that much easier. We all headed to The Africa Cafe for a "communal feast" of 16 different dinner plates. After that we made our way down to Long Street to continue the celebration. At a much later point in the evening it was time for me to take a cab back because I was being picked up at 4AM to head to the airport for the next part of my trip.

21 June 2008 Saturday
I left Cape Town to arrive in Jo'berg at 8 AM. I then headed from Jo'berg to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, and landed right around 11AM. After a quick stop to drop off my things at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, I headed to see one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls.

It spans the width of the Zambezi river and it know locally as "Mosi-Oa-Tunya" or the "Smoke That Thunders". The falls themselves separate Zimbabwe from Zambia, are over a mile wide and 300 feet high. After leaving the falls, I continued to be amazed as I made it back to the lodge to watch all sorts of animals come for a drink at the watering hole with a beautiful sunset background.

It was then off to The Boma, a traditional Ndebele dinning experience. I was able to try warthog and kudo, but stayed away from the mopane worm in peanut butter.

22 June 2008 Sunday
I got up early to head out for the whitewater rafting adventure. After a good 20 minute hike down the gorge we were at the start of Rapid 11, Overland Truck Eater, on the Zambezi river. We all had a great trip down the river and even managed to flip the boat at Rapid 21. That made for some exciting swimming!

That afternoon I then headed off for an elephant back safari at the Wild Horizons Wildlife Sanctuary and Orphanage. In addition to the adult elephant, which I was able to ride, they sanctuary also has 3 little elephants that got to come along for the walk!

23 June 2008 Monday

It was time to leave Zimbabwe and head across the border for Zambia. I started the time in Zambia with another view of the falls. While you can not see as much of the falls landscape from this side you are much closer and really get quite a shower! The Zam side also offered a great view of the Victoria Falls Bridge was built in 1905. Cecil Rhode's built the bridge over the Zambezi, 360 ft below, to continue the Cape-to-Cairo rail line.

Next was a stop at the Livingstone Museum, which is Zambia's oldest and largest museum.

The last stop was to Songwe Village where I was spending the night. I was the only guest for the evening and was treated to an quite an experience. The evening started with a sunset bath overlooking the Zambezi river. It was then followed by a great dinner, conversation and star watching.

24 June 2008 Tuesday
A great way to start the day is definitely a sunrise bath overlooking the Zambezi river! It was then time for a quick trip to the Mukuni Village which gave insight into the life and culture of the 700 year old African Village.

The people of the village also benefit from visitors because some of the proceeds go into a Community Development Trust, which works in conjunction with schools, community health, and infrastructure developments. It was then a bumpy car trip, also called an "African massage", down to my transfer to Botswana.
As not to be outdone from previous border crossings, the transfer from Zambia to Botswana is done in a small power boat.

After arriving at the Chobe Safari Lodge, it was time for the first safari in the Chobe National Park in Botswana. Chobe is know for their great elephant herds which call home to the 7,440 square mile park. We were in Land Rovers that had "movie theater" style seats which made for excellent views.

25 June 2008 Wednesday

The day started at 6 am with a morning safari which was a cold way to start the day. We were able to spot 2 female lions as well as many more elephants, African buffalo, birds, and baboons. After getting back to the lodge around 9 am we had a quick breakfast,and then jumped into a boat to take the 15 minute trip to the Caprivi Strip in Namibia.

We walked from the boat to a small village with one of the largest baobab trees I have ever seen.

We then headed back to Botswana for our afternoon/evening river trip down the Chobe River. It was totally different seeing the animals from the water!

A beautiful sunset closed a fantastic day in Botswana!

26 June 2008 Thursday
I transferred back by boat from Botswana to Zambia. Then it was a land transfer to the Livingstone airport, followed by a plane ride to Jo'berg. It was exciting arriving back in South Africa. I stayed in a part of Jo'berg called Sandton where I did a little shopping a bought a new camera for the last part of my trip!

27 June 2008 Friday
Another early morning to head back to the Jo'berg airport to fly to Mpumalanga, an airport close to Kruger National Park.

I arrived at Sabi Sabi, which is a game reserve within the southern section of Kruger National Park. As I was having lunch two female lions came down to the water hole for a drink!

The afternoon continued with similar good fortune. We were able to see rhinos, African buffalo, and a male lion! Dinner was fantastic, and the evening ended with my first Amarula cream drink. The Amarula is an alcohol that comes from the fruit of a Murula tree. It is also called the elephant fruit, because elephants are very fond of the fruit.

28 June 2008 Saturday
The ranger knocked on the door at 5:30 am for the morning safari. Again it was an amazing trip. African buffalo, zebras, a mother and calf rhino, an elephant all filled the three hours.

Then just as we were about to head home, the spotter, Phios, saw in the distance a pride of lions.

There was one male with a couple females, and made for a spectacular finish to the morning.

After some resting and a nice outdoor shower, it was time for the afternoon game drive. Again the proximity at which we were to the animals was amazing! We were able to see 2 female cheetahs and a couple of hyenas.

We were a little late heading back for dinner so we took a short cut which put us almost on top of two male lions resting along the side of the road!

29 June 2008 Sunday
Another early morning wake up call for my last game drive in South Africa. Not to be outdone from the previous days, we headed for the private Sabi Sabi airstrip where 5 lions were resting after a Wildabeast kill from a couple days past. There were 2 males and three females laying right along the landing strip!

After leaving the pride of lions, we stopped to watch a couple hyneas taking advantage of a previous day kill. A hippo and an elephant were our last spottings for the day.

I headed back to the Mpumalanga airport where I started my trip back home. I arrived into Jo'berg at 1:25 pm. I left Jo'berg at 8:15 pm and arrived in London around 6:20 am Monday morning. Similar to the trip out I had about 6 hours until my departure to Denver. I jumped on the Underground and went back to the familiar Westminster station. I did a little walking and shopping. It was sunny and about 75, which made for a great break from the airport.

It was time for the last plane ride, back to Denver. Eric picked me up from the airport around 7 pm with some beautiful flowers, and we then headed home to a squeaking and toy carrying Cortez.

Phew, that is it! It is such an amazing experience to travel. If any of you ever want to make the journey to Southern Africa I would be more than happy to answer any questions! Hope this finds you all well and I can't wait to catch up soon!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

South Africa Part 3

9 June 2008 Monday

After our placements today 4 of us were able to hike up Table Mountain. We took the Platteklip Gorge trail to the 1000m top point. We had fantastic weather and therefore had beautiful views up and down. It is winter here so the sun sets around 6:00. We were still hiking down close to the sun set which made for great night views of the city, but I was about to pull out my headlamp.. We got down and picked up one of the last cabs back to town and had a great dinner at Mojo's.

10 June 2008 Tuesday

Today at Blossom Street I was able to talk more with Teacher Adams and we picked out a subject area that I could teach. We decided a phonics lesson would helpful for the learners. I went home that evening and planned for the lesson, trying to keep in mind a stellar teaching point for the kids, but also something that could help hold the kids accountable for their own learning. It was strange to plan for a lesson with my trusty Fountas and Pinnell books close by!

11 June 2008 Wednesday

I was excited to get ready for school knowing I was going to teach a lesson. The lesson went well and I used an ice cream cone rubric to help the learners gauge their level of working.
The ice cream cone rubric went over so well, the next day Teacher Adams came to school with her very own ice cream cone rubric that she called the, "Katie Cone." That afternoon three of us from the house went on a ride to see some sights south of Cape Town.

We started out of Cape Town and headed south down the M6. Our first stop was Sandy Bay Beach, which is where the picture of Bec, Erin and I was taken. We then continued to Hout Bay and over the Chapman's Peak drive, which has been closed in the past due to rock falls.

The weather started to clear and we went to Boulders Beach, which is home to many African penguins. Then it was back North through Simon's Town, Fish Hoek, Kalk Bay and we stopped for a drink in St. James.

12 June 2008 Thursday

We had a great lunch at Biesmiellah. It was in the Bo-Kaap neighborhood and served Cape Malay and Indian food. We had delicious pienang curry, a beef cutlet stew prepared with bay leaves. The Bo-Kaap neighborhood was home to the city's Muslim population in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The streets have cobbled lanes and there are many colorful flat roof houses.
We then loaded the buses to head up to Noon Gun. It is a cannon fired from the lower slopes of Signal Hill. People still set their watch to the cannon fire.

Our final stop of the day was at the Slave Lodge, where we saw the Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin. The Slave Lodge is one of the oldest buildings in South Africa, dating back to 1660. The lodge was home to as many as 1000 slaves until 1811.

13 June 2008 Friday

The last full weekend here in Cape Town. Bec, Amanda, Jack, Neil and I headed out of town for the Garden Route. The Garden Route is a 208km (130 mile) stretch from Mossel Bay to Port Elizabeth. We loaded up the Nissan Tida and headed east toward our first stop, Plattenberg Bay. We spent the night at a fantastic bed and breakfast called South Cross Beach House. It was right on the water and great waking up to hear and see the ocean!

14 June 2008 Saturday
After eating breakfast leisurely we planned our activities for the day. We decided to try sea kayaking, but not before we took a cool, quick dip into the Indian Ocean!

While kayaking we were able to see lots of dolphins that swam just a couple feet from our boats.

That afternoon we went for a hike down to the Robberg Nature and Marine Protected Area. It was then time to drive to our next stop for the night, Knysna. We stayed at the Inyathi Guest Lodge which was a very different experience, it is supposed to represent a traditional African village. That evening we went out to an interesting bar called Zanzibar, which seemed to be the place for just about anyone in town regardless of age to spend their Saturday night.

15 June 2008 Sunday

Today we went for a nice 7km hike called Elephant Walk. Unfortunately there were no elephants, but we did get some exercise which was nice. After the hike it was time for the 5 hour drive home, it was my turn to drive and it took a little while to get used to driving on the "wrong" side of the road.

16 June 2008 Monday

Today was a National Holiday called Youth Day. It is a day to remember the youth killed while protesting the unfair school system set up by the apartheid government in 1976. In addition to the day off we also had the Tida rental car for one more day so Bec, Amanda and I decided to make the most of it. We got up pretty early and went to Stellenbosch for some wine tasting. After a great breakfast at Mugg and Bean, we went to our first winery, Blaauwklippen. For about 30 Rand, or $4 USD you can taste 5 wines and keep the glass. Our next stop was Kleine Zalze followed by Avontuur. Blaawklippen was our favorite by far and before we left for Cape Town, we drove back to purchase a couple bottles to bring home!

17 June 2008 Tuesday
It was back to school today, as well as the start of the final week of volunteering in Cape Town. We went to the District 6 museum after our placements. This museum was built to teach others about a multicultural neighborhood that was destroyed during the apartheid Nationalist government. Later that evening, Themba came to perform at our house. He is part of an organization called, Institute for Healing of Memories, which is a trust which, "seeks to contribute to the healing journey of individuals, communities and nations. " We were able to hear some great music which he played from a traditional African instrument made out of a gourd.

18 June 2008 Wednesday
very Wednesday at school a couple of the teachers bring food for everyone to share during the first interval, or break. We had a great meal of tuna casserole and yogurt bread.

After school, we had a great South African barbecue, or braai, at Mzoli's Meat. There was plenty of food and an African rendition of Amazing Grace!

We also made a quick trip up to the University of Cape Town this afternoon. The school is set on the base of Table Mountain and has great views. The school was pretty quite because the students are on break, but it was fun to look around.
Time goes by so fast... I am in Cape Town until early Saturday morning and then I head off for some traveling on my own, it will be quite a change after living with 17 people for the past 3 weeks. Hope you are doing well, and I love reading your comments!