• Day8

    My First Camp

    May 24, 2019 in South Africa ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    I say my first camp because tonight is the first time I've actually put up the tent AND cooked dinner under the stars. My previous camping experience would probably fall more under the glamping category. Yurts in Whistler, pre-set camps in Peru and Patagonia...yup, this time I brought my own sleeping bag and learned how to not only set up a tent but roast a marshmallow properly.

    Roasting marshmallows you say? There's a trick to it apparently, and oh, it's sacrilegious to eat marshmallows "raw" when you have a bonfire. Anyhows, don't be afraid to burn your marshmallow. It's part of the best part. The way I was told, you need to roll your marshmallow in the flame and when it's done, you should be able to slip off the outermost layer like an onion. Then you put the fluffy treat back in and repeat to get a second layer.

    The perfect marshmallow though slides right off, oozing...of course it would take me to the next campsite to perfect this.

    One of the joys of camping I find is being in the middle of nowhere, and the skies are dark enough to dark photos of the starry sky. I'm no expert, but I do google the basic settings. For anyone interested, start with an ISO of either 1600 or 3200. Set your focus to infinity, your aperture as wide as possible, and the shutter speed to 20-30 seconds and go from there. As usual I didn't bring a tripod, but we made do with a stepladder and a headlamp to angle the camera up.
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    Leona Heraty

    I'm so glad you got to set up a camp for the first time! Yeay, Rita! :-)

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  • Day8

    Elephants, Lions, Antelopes and more!

    May 24, 2019 in South Africa ⋅ ☀️ 11 °C

    Our first safari day. Some would call it a game drive. It is a bit of a game based on skill and luck. Does your driver and guide know where to go? And sometimes you just have to be plain lucky. Today, we were.

    I think the first animal we spotted was the elephant, we are in the Addo Elephant National Park after all. Of course the cameras clicked and clicked as we ooh'ed and aah'ed. Then we remembered to put down the camera and just watch, be in the moment. This is probably the most important thing when enjoying a safari, as well as life in general, sometimes we need to stop and just sit back.

    We drive on, and our driver spots 2 lions in the bushes just off the path. It's only the 2nd time he's ever found lions, and we were close to these napping cats, only meters away. Just like that, we've ticked off 2 of the big 5. Then came zebras, warthogs galore, a mangoose and water buffalos! That's #3. All in all a very good day before we headed to make camp for the night. Or as our driver would say a very ding dong day =) Sounds jolly doesn't it?
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  • Day7

    Tsitsikamma National Park

    May 23, 2019 in South Africa ⋅ ☀️ 13 °C

    There's a fair number of national parks on this tour, and today we headed to the Tsitsikamma National Park, located right off the Indian Ocean. The path starts off fairly easy along a boarded pathway, and then we crossed the suspension bridge and began to climb and climb. Like what we've seen so far, the scenery is simply beautiful and peaceful. We're here in low season, the African winter. For us North Americans and Europeans though, this weather is just right. And there's plenty of sun to boost. It rains here in the African summer which is our winter. Strange huh, I'm still trying to wrap my head about it.

    We didn't cross paths with many animals on our walk, but did come head to head with a baboon on the way back. What does one do when faced with said baboon? Well, we kind of froze and stood still, before yours truly whips out the camera for a photo and proceeds to follow the baboon with my GoPro after he passes. He moves quick enough that I don't catch a close shot. Of course, that might be for the best.

    Lunch was a funny affair as most of our group ordered a beet root salad. It was delicious and appropriately light while dining by the ocean. As we waited, I headed outside to take some photos of the high waves.

    A relaxing afternoon by the pool while others went kayaking. I've never been a watersport person, maybe it's because I know I'm not a good swimmer. Maybe one day, it would be nice to explore nature more deeply along the water.
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  • Day6

    Journey inside the Cango Caves

    May 22, 2019 in South Africa ⋅ ☀️ 10 °C

    A few optional activities on offer today: Cango Caves, Ostrich Farm and a bungee jump off the Bloukrans Bridge. Me? Taking it east and just exploring the caves - which I think are the best I've ever visited.

    There are set times for guided tours and several lengths you can choose. The adventurous can take the adventure tour and find themselves squeezing through tunnels, climbing and wading in some water I think. For most of us though, the standard though is simply out of this world. Each cavern you visit if lit, and by lit, it looks unreal, like you're on a movie set. When you first enter, there are dim path lights but once the guide flips the switch, one can't help but stare in wonder and amazement at the stalactites and stalagmites.

    I probably lack the words to adequately explain this place, pictures do it best, but even then, it's best to see it in person.

    Our stop for tonight is in the town of Stormsrivier at the Tsitsikamma Village Inn. I normally don't write about our accommodations, but this cute little complex takes you right back to colonial times. There are two rooms set in little houses. Some are decorated with the wrought iron bed frame, but each have a character just like the building they're in. The town itself is very very small (one could argue it could be a village). There's a few restaurants including a 50s diner but otherwise not much for shoppers. However, the Tsitsikamma National Park is nearby, making this a great base.
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  • Day5

    Travel Day

    May 21, 2019 in South Africa ⋅ ☀️ 5 °C

    We said goodbye to Cape Town this morning. I was one of the few without much extra time here, but I know I'll be back when I return for future Africa trips. For what I saw while I was here, was enough for this quick stop. We travel against traffic on the N1 (stay on it for 20 hours and you'll hit Johannesburg!) before switching to Route 62 through vineyards.

    The clouds from last night's rain clear and blue skies take over. Around use, the scenery of mountains are stunning. I almost wish I could film the whole trip. Lunch was quick in the town of Barryville, and later on, a wine tasting to Boplass Winery. The region is famous for port, but we tasted a variety of reds and whites as well. I have yet to buy a bottle home though as nothing jumped out at me, but there's still lots of time.
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  • Day4

    Hiking Table Mountain

    May 20, 2019 in South Africa ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Our first hike of the trip! The skies were clearing and our guides picked a safer route up Table Mountain, around the backside of the horseshoe. We would begin at Constantia Nek and return back down on foot as the cable car was not only on the other side, it was also not running due to the winds. I'd read options of what trails people took when they were here and figured this could be the hardest hike. In actuality, it was a good opening hike, we got a bit of the steps that we would've had to face a steep 3 hours of had we chosen the Platteklip Gorge route (perhaps next time), but the stunning views were all the same.

    Our local guide was knowledgeable and fun, pointing out the various flora and vegetation that we came across. For most species, the meaning of the Afrikaan name was more fun and memorable. We split into 2 groups halfway, one taking the more challenging route where you have to use your hands and forge a path up rocks in a few sections and the rest along a small jeep road. Either way, we would get to the top.

    There was little debate in my decision to join the road group. It was only the beginning of our tour and best to ease into things. We were all of similar pacing as well and just took our time taking in the views as we headed up. The sprawl of Cape Town was as wide as we could see. A motorway runs across but it still takes an hour to commute from the outskirts to the city itself. Closer to the mountain were houses of those better off, depending which side of the mountain itself you were on, you were either old money or new money, some might even say heroin or cocaine.

    At the top, we pass the caretakers cottage to take in lunch at Alexandra dam. The water level is scary low. After lunch, we walk a little further to Victoria dam where the water level is higher, there's enough a bit of a beach along the side. It turns out the dam levels are due to overflow from the previous dam.

    A beautiful place for hiking and definitely more trails to explore on future trips, I suppose a hiking fanatic could spend a week here wandering the trails.
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  • Day4

    Visiting the Bo-Kaap

    May 20, 2019 in South Africa ⋅ ☁️ 14 °C

    Due to last night's rain, our hike to Table Mountain got scheduled for the afternoon. Not wanting to waste a moment, I set off to Bo-Kaap neighborhood, its colourful houses first mentioned to my by a friend who's also an avid traveller.

    It's not too long a walk from my hotel. and gave me the chance to see Long St as well. I know I won't have done everything in Cape Town, but I'm sure I'll be back for when other tours start.

    It was a charming time just wandering and taking photos. I even found a lady who sells koeksisters (South African doughtnuts) and bought one to try. It's not fully my thing, but the coconut topped back good has it's charms.
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    Leona Heraty

    Hi Rita! I'm so glad you're getting to travel again, this time to South Africa, how cool!

    Leona Heraty

    Also, the "donut" sounds interesting! :-)

  • Day3

    Hit the Ground Running

    May 19, 2019 in South Africa ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    After the 1st flight got delayed, I still arrived on schedule into Cape Town. While I've been to Africa geographically (Morocco and Egypt), this trip marks the 1st time I feel it's actually Africa. Incidentally, South Africa is country #60!

    I arrived at my hotel around noon, it's set in a bit of a residential area. You would walk to Bo-Kaap in maybe 20 minutes, and I've heard that 45 min on foot would get you to the waterfront. The receptionist told me about a half day West Cape tour, which I of course signed up, leaving in an hour.

    It was probably one I shouldn't have done, out of fatigue. We drove around mostly, and had two stops, one at the Cape of Good Hope and the other on Boulder's Beach to see the penguins. I'm glad I did it though as I wouldn't have had time the next day (you'll see).

    Our stay at the Cape of Good Hope was only 30 minutes due to another group being late and not showing up. Do not buy the funicular ticket as it's not worth it to go up and come right back around. It took about 20 min just to get the ticket and go up. There are viewpoints lower down you can take in the views, or just plan to spend more time there.

    We missed the entrance to Boulders Beach by just a few minutes. Fortunately our guide new of another spot nearby we can visit (and free). It was quite the same as seeing them all together on the beach, but hey, you get to see the penguins
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    Leona Heraty

    Did you get to see the penguins at the other free beach?

  • Day1

    The Journey To

    May 17, 2019 in Canada ⋅ 🌧 17 °C

    A bit of a spontaneous go at this one. With the end of work looming and the next one unconfirmed back just back in April, I stumbled across this tour as a last minute deal. I haven't done much planning, so it's a bit of a fly by the seat of one's pants.

    My flight options were either through Amsterdam to Cape Town on KLM or through Hong Kong on Cathay. Price difference aside, I figured it would be nice to have a long layover in HK on the way back.

    The flights themselves were fine, 12 hours to HK with an empty middle seat, 12 hours to Johannesburg and then 1.5hr on a barely occupied plane to Cape Town. I had the entire row to myself! The fatigue of this journey would kick in later, barely sleeping on the plane, watched too much tv, I tried, I did. I had the thought that with 2 12 hour flights, as long as I slept on the second, I'd be fine.
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    Leona Heraty

    Sometimes in life, you just gotta roll with it, and it sounds like your last-minute trip to South Africa is a wonderful idea! Way to go, Rita! Have a blast! :-)

  • Day49

    Selcuk Explorations

    February 26, 2019 in Turkey ⋅ ⛅ 6 °C

    This morning, we hopped into taxi's to visit the House of the Virgin Mary. According to the Bible and other writings, it was believed that she moved to then Ephesus with St John the apostle. There's an entrance fee and it actually goes to the town of Selcuk, so we made donations and lit candles to help with the upkeep of the site. St John himself is buried in the basilica named after him in today's Selcuk itself.

    From Mary's house, we drove back passing the Cave of the Seven Sleepers, where legend has it that several Christians were trapped in a cave because the ruler wanted to silence them for their religion, but they fell asleep instead and years later when the rock to the cave entrance was removed, they awoke and didn't realize time had passed.

    We got dropped off at St John's Basilica, I didn't realize it was ruins, thinking it was an actual basilica. The locals really loved St John, and it's said that had there not been geographic limitations, the basilica would've been even larger.

    Just steps down the road is the Isa Bey Mosque. There weren't a lot of visitors so we mostly had it to ourselves. Outside an older gentlemen and his son run 2 souvenir stands. The older gentlemen worked for the mosque for many years and told us about its transformations over the years.

    Back in town, we grabbed an early lunch before meeting our group for our afternoon Ephesus tour.
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