Archive for the ‘Journal Entry’ category

San Francisco to Johannesburg

September 13, 2008

My 6:00 a.m. departure from SFO to NYC was replaced with a 7:30am departure.  That doesn’t leave me much time to make my connecting flight in NYC to Jo’burg.  I tried changing it to the red eye the night before, but you don’t have many options when you are flying on Frequent Flier Miles!

 

I’m bringing lots of used clothing to handout on my trip…clothing that co-workers and friends have donated.  I have 3 check-in bags full of them and I didn’t want to leave any behind because they are needed desperately.  On the United Website it said excess bags were $100.00 each…so I figured I’d swallow that cost because I didn’t have my act together to ask for monetary donations to cover that cost…come to find out that the international price is $180 per bag!  Yikes!  I could live off that for 2 weeks in Africa!

 

I get to the gate early expecting trouble and of course the thunderstorms in New York were causing delays…my flight was going to be delayed for at least one hour…I put on the puppy dog face for the supervisor at the United counter and she moved me to a United flight leaving soon to Wash DC and getting a connecting flight that would get me into Joburg almost two hours early…nice!  She called up and had my bags transferred over to the new flight.

 

I avoided the storm by flying into DC and not NY and arrived early…but international flights board much earlier, so by the time I grabbed a bite and made my way to the check-in counter they were ready to let me on the plane!  Everyone one the plane had a row of seats to themselves…plenty of room to stretch out for the 15 hour flight to Joburg, South Africa!

Zambezi 2008 – San Francisco to Africa

September 13, 2008

Africa 2008!!!

 

So another Daring Journey has begun!  This one is a solo recon trip.  I’ll have friends and vendors meeting me along my Journey to assist me in making this trip happen.

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My trip back from Cape Town, South Africa

October 12, 2007

My flight from Cape Town to Jo’berg was uneventful.  But, I did had delay, on top of delay, from Jo’burg – on to the States that caused me to miss my connection at JFK.  

The first delay was because a person on board the plane was sick and needed to be evaluated for travel, so we had to wait until someone on board our plane volunteer their qualifications as a medical doctor and evaluate the ill passenger to determine their travel worthiness.  When it was determined that they couldn’t travel, the baggage handlers had to then go into the cargo hold to retrieve their bags. That took about 45 minutes. 

Then while that was transpiring this guy on the plane (he looked Nigerian or West African) started acting weird…walking around the plane sitting in different seats…wondering thru Business Class…and then he started wearing a plastic bag on his head…the bag that your headset for music and movie listening comes in.  I knew this wasn’t good…I knew this would be trouble! 

So the pilot noticed this behavior as he was tending to the ill passenger and after interviewing a few people and his staff, decided that it was too much of a risk to have this guy on the plane, so FAA officials attempted to remove him from the plane.  The guy wasn’t too happy about this (who would be?) and when he finally cooperated and stormed off the plane, he left without his bags (this was another 20 minutes of delay). 

 So because he left without his bags we had to all reclaim our overhead luggage so the security team could scour the whole plane and remove any unclaimed bags…never know if he left a bomb on the plane…but how would he have gotten it past all those incoming security checks?????  So this took another 30 minutes to clear all our bags in the overhead compartments.

I assumed the pilot would make up the time in the air on our way to Dakar, Senegal.

Upon arriving into JFK the fog was as thick as thieves so we had to fly a pattern for 30 minutes to determine whether or not we were going to have to land in Boston!!!!!  Although Boston is my hometown and my family is still there….I was ready to be home…NOW!!!!

After about 30 minutes, we finally were able to land in JFK.  Not sure how the pilot could see anything.  The fog was very low lying and as we descended we could see the top floors of all the skyscrapers poking out!  I’ve made it back to the US!  But of course I missed my flight by 10 to 15 minutes to SFO.  United was able to put me on another direct flight that left two hours later.  

Sorry the story isn’t over.  

Normally I’m falling asleep by the time we take off and was just nodding off when the plane accelerated down the runway to take off…just before it was to lift off the ground the pilot slams on the brakes and we all get thrown forward in our seats and smoke was pouring in throughout the cabin!  The pilot apparently saw smoke as we were taking off and aborted take off.  The cabin was filled with smoke, but it wasn’t the kind to thick smoke that would choke you…but was obviously an indication that something was wrong…very wrong!  We were then told we had to sit still one the runway while the emergency staff checked out our plane for possible immediate evacuation.  After a few moments we were told that we were heading back to the gate to investigate the smoke and we were escorted by 7 emergency vehicles on the left of us and about 5 to 7 vehicles on the right of us — Fire engines, ambulances, bomb squad, police cars…all flashing their emergency lights and doing a good job of parading us back down the runway–as well as scaring the shit out of us all!

We were told to wait a few hours to see what the deal was with our plane and that we may have to be put up in hotels for the night because all remaining flights where booked.

Six hours later they fixed and tested the plane and they began the boarding process again…”so are we really taking the same plane again???…hmmmmmmmm!!!!”

I was due in at SFO at noon on Saturday and got there around 8:30 p.m.

That was my trip home!

Cape Town Journey (Sunday)

October 12, 2007

Sept. 30th 

Township Tour & Simons Town (as written by Mirabai)

Today we loaded ourselves into an oversized van, with Crosby as our guide, and headed off on our Township Tour.  We drove through District Six and past the museum which was closed because it was Sunday.  District Six began in 1867 as a community filled with families of diverse origins, yet by 1982, the life of the community was over and 60,000 people had been forcibly removed, because of the color of their skin, and relocated to a barren outlying area known as the Cape Flats.  We left District Six and headed out of town toward our first township, called Langa.  Crosby still lives here today.  He spoke much of the history of living here during the apartheid, giving us a first-hand impression of the trials and tribulations of that time.  Visibly now, the community has turned the once “men only” quarters into homes for their families.  There were many coming or going from church as any Sunday at home, but there still remains a vast difference from the township and central Cape Town.   We then traveled to an art center where many local artists displayed their wares.  We shopped for jewelry, sand paintings and ceramics.  The premises house a ceramics school and/or business, where we were graciously invited in for a tour of the process.   Back in the bus and off for an excursion to the next township.  We moved from a small, bustling community and art center to the whole lot of us, shoulder to shoulder in a metal-corrugated shanty. Here we were offered to try their local beer.   With an alcohol level well below anything to get you inebriated, I myself still chose to decline this local specialty.  It was explained that this was made only by women and served only by women as well.  Interestingly enough, the women didn’t drink it!  The shanties had no indoor plumbing and the toilets were found lined up along the street for almost a block.  Amazingly enough, the backdrop to all of this was a breathtaking view of Table Mountain.  Once again, this served as a clear reminder of the vast differences between inner and outer Cape Town. Next we traveled to the township of Khayelitsha.  As far as you could see across the horizon, lay a shanty town consisting of 1.2 million people.  Here live masses of people, being coaxed into believing that a new “free” building will replace their tin-roofed shanties.  I couldn’t help but think of our Native Americans, displaced and yet told they were receiving a gift, when they were shuffled off to a reservation.  It was hard to witness these conditions and moreover difficult when we were privileged to visit a complex which housed a family in a home not yet renovated, followed by one that had been renovated.   In every case, the people remained gracious and inviting as they opened their front doors to our group.  But the truth remains, as with most bureaucracies, the only time anything is really done…is during an election. We drove through the township seeing that most of the businesses are built in shipping containers.  There are street bar-b-ques displaying goat’s heads, small open-air markets, with grocery stores and gas stations filling in the corners.  Somewhere on a small street, in the midst of all of this, there stood Vicky’s Bed and Breakfast.  Vicky, a sharp, young black women decided to open the only B&B in the township, in order to give visitors a first-hand experience in the area.  She invited us in, gave us a tour and told us of her venture.  She proudly exhibits the only two-story building in the area and I’m sure will continue to spread the word of her township through her ingenuity and bright smile.   We ended our township tour with a visit to one of the local churches, where we delighted in song, dance and God.  What a perfect ending to an experience filled with so much emotion. In our high-stress world, with its emphasis on material wealth and instant gratification, it is important to take a moment to get back to basics—especially if the basics are as profoundly rewarding as the real people of Africa.  Back to the lodge, we gathered ourselves once again, filling the two rental vans and we were off to Simons Town and the Penguins.  Yes, that’s right Penguins in Africa!  What a lovely site, nestled in a sheltered cove between Simon’s Town and Cape Point, The Boulders is a world famous spot for a thriving colony of African Penguins.    We walked along the boardwalk, in close range of the birds, with some of us witnessing even more than “just a snuggle.” 

We ended the evening, in the harbor, with a group dinner at Bertha’s.

Cape Town Journey (Saturday)

October 12, 2007

Sept. 29th 

Robben Island (as written by Marsha McNairy) 

We arrived at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront for an 11:00 departure time to Robben Island.  The group was led through the Nelson Mandela Gateway to board the ferry.  The ferry ride over to the island was anything but calm, white capped waves all the way!!  It was almost like an amusement park ride!  Those hearty and brave souls that chose to stay top-side whooped and held-on tight to the rails so as not to be pitched overboard!  Once we arrived at the island, there were guides to meet and give us a brief history of the island before giving us the tour of the island by bus. Robben Island was, of course, the home of Nelson Mandela for many years.  Once the bus tour was over, we had a walking tour led by a former inmate of the prison.  Most of what we learned from our walking guide were things he experienced personally while incarcerated on Robben Island.  We were schooled on the history of extreme prejudice toward political prisoners (freedom fighters) and blacks in general.  If you were “colored” (which is described as anything other than black), you made out a little better than you would if you were “Bantu” which basically meant Black African.  Not to say that either group was treated with respect or dignity while housed on Robben Island.  At one time, there were also what they called “common prisoners” housed on Robben Island.  These common prisoners were better treated than those who were imprisoned for political reasons.  The common prisoners were actually taught skills, such as brick-laying and the like, while political prisoners were made to do “hard labor” in the lime quarries.  The limestone of the quarries was so bright; it often impaired their vision forever.  Robben Island was a sad history lesson for me, but it also did my heart good to know that Nelson Mandela survived Robben Island and brought non-violent peace and dignity to a people who had not experienced either emotion for quite a while.  It now serves as a symbol of freedom and liberation.

 

Once we returned from Robben Island, some of us hung out at the picturesque Victoria and Alfred Waterfront for lunch and a leisurely day of and shopping.  It was a beautiful day and there was music in the air played by live musicians!!  Another day in Africa, another adventure!!

Cape Town Journey (Friday)

October 12, 2007

Sept. 28th

Time to say goodbye to Victoria Falls!

 

All 16 of us need to get to the Livingstone Airport this afternoon and check-in at our respective airlines and fly about 1 hour and 15 minutes to Johannesburg, South Africa…from there we then have to hustle to the several airline carriers that we are booked on and fly about 2 more hours on to Cape Town, South Africa.  Someone referred to the task of getting everyone to this final destination as herding cats!  Hmmmm…that’s a really good comparison!  A few of us are riding different airlines with names such as Kulula Air, 1time, South African Air and British Air.  What a scene as we are all scurry trying to make our different connections.

 

Most of us start arriving into Cape Town International around 7:00p.m.  Mike and Donna Holstrom missed their flight by minutes but were able to get on the next available flight.  Amanda Miller had several hoops she had to jump through, but also made it to us that evening.  We rented a few 8 passenger vans from Avis and after reviewing how to drive on the “wrong” side of the road while sitting on the “wrong” side of the vehicle and shifting with the “wrong” hand we made our way to Ashanti Lodge near City Center in Cape Town.

Zambezi Sun

October 2, 2007

Our last two days in the Victoria Falls area was spent at the majestic Zambezi Sun Hotel.   The group spent the last two days doing some curio shopping and getting some last peeks at the Falls.  We did take some time to visit Mukuni Village.  Our tour ended at the elementary school with hundreds of kids peering out of their classroom windows eager to meet their new visitors.   A few classrooms came together and performed a few songs and dance routines for us.  We ended our visit by donating clothing to the teachers and Daring Journey frisbees and soccer balls to their PE department.  Our visit was too short, but we made a few friends and left many a smile on a face.

Chobe Safari

October 2, 2007

We only spent 24 hours in Kasane, Botswana at Chobe National Park, but I think it was well worth it!  We had beautiful accommodations at Chobe Marina Lodge.  The last game drive that the group took the morning of our departure was full of life long memories and amazing photo opportunities!  The group saw lions with their cubs so close you could practically touch them!   A herd of male Kudu with their impressive antlers and other evasive creatures were seen to top off an amazing tour of some of the finest national parks Zimbabwe and Botswana have to offer!

Update — Zambezi 2007

September 25, 2007

The Mighty Zambezi! 

We survived the Mighty Zambezi River!  13 of us started from Rapid #1 and rafted 6 days down river to the Matesi takeout which is about a 65 mile trip.  Quite a number of people came down with that 24 hour bug (traveler’s sickness) that I like to call Nyami-nyami’s Revenge.  We believe it is from not practicing strict sanitary procedures when it came to food prep and toilet procedures.  A veteran in the rafting community says it is periodic pollution being dumped into the Zambezi River.

 Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe 

After we finished the rafting portion of the trip we met up with 3 more members of our group…Laura, Nancy & Marsha who decided rafting just wasn’t their gig.  Hwange National Park was our next stop for 2 nights.  We stayed in Sable Lodge which butts up against the National Park.  There was lots of wildlife to be viewed and photographed.  Lion and Hyena were spotted.  But the highlight of our drive was an encounter with a herd of about 20 elephants that practically brushed up against one of our trucks then stopped our drive for about 10 minutes when they all decided to drink from a road side water hole that was created by a leaking water pipe.

 Birthday Bonanza 

6 people will celebrate their birthday on this trip.  The first birthday was Mike Sigler. Who turned 72 on our last day on river!  Mine was the following day spent at Sable Lodge in Hwange National Park.  The group talked our chefs into whipping up a rich chocolate cake!  Two days later Nancy Miller celebrated her 60th birthday on the upper Zambezi River during a river boat dinner cruise…of course a good reason to have more chocolate cake!  Have you noticed how I revealed everyone else’s age except mine!  I turned 48 on Sept. 20th. 

 4 Days in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe 

Back in Victoria Falls and we are staying at the lovely Lokuthula Lodge which has many warthogs on the property doing a great job of maintaining the lawns!  We are here for 4 nights. 

Day 1:  The group gathered at the Boma Restaurant which serves traditional African food including the meat of all the local wildlife.  We were treated to Shona dancers and singers which was then followed by a magnificent drumming group.  Drums were handed out to the whole audience and we were taught drumming rhythms and then played short compositions with back up from the professionals.  What an amazing experience!

Day 2:  Elephant Back Safari at an elephant rescue reserve!  What a treat viewing wildlife from the back of an elephant as we travel through the Bush!  That night a riverboat cruise on the upper Zambezi with dinner and open bar.

Day 3:  Service Project with the Elderly in Chinotimba Township.  What an indescribable experience to helping the elderly in this community who depend solely on donations.  We repaired 71 broken window panes in their living quarters; drilled and hung curtains in about 32 windows; and removed all the furniture from each of their rooms and scrubbed the floors and walls from top to bottom as well as washed by hand the clothes and bedding of as many residents as possible.  One of the elderly was so sick she lay on the floor the whole time we were there.  In order to hand the curtains and clean the room we had to work around her…but left her with a clean room.  The following day we found out that she had passed away.  Many of us will never forget the experience and emotions from this service project.

Day 4:  Free Day!   Shop…do other activities like the Lion Walk, Visit Victoria Falls National Park and experience High Tea at the Victoria Falls Hotel.  That evening we had a big Thank You Party for Shearwater, the rafting company who took care of our rafting trip.  Not only did we invite the raft guides, but also the porters responsible from humping all the gear down the steep gorge (barefoot) every day running up and down many trips until all the gear is where it belongs.  We also invited the drivers who transport the clients, staff and supplies and the front office who sell the trips.  We watched a video of our raft trip, and much food and drink was consumed.  We ended the evening by presenting everyone with monetary tips and gave a lot of the Shearwater staff our personal river gear as gifts.

 Chobe National Park, Botswana 

We are now in Kasane, Botswana for 24 hours.  We are staying at the lush and scenic Chobe Marina Lodge.  We took a breathtaking riverboat cruise along the banks of the Chobe River which was teaming with wildlife!  What an educational experience we received from our knowledgeable guide Labo.  Tomorrow we have an early morning wildlife drive thru the National Park, then off to Zambezi Sun Hotel in Livingstone Zambia. We also have another birthday to celebrate in our group…Laura Miller (54).

Go Big…Or Go Home!

September 12, 2007

The upper section of the Zambezi was run today.  Rapids 1 thru 1o.  Lots of action today with a dump-truck in Rapid No. 5 aka Stairway to Heaven…Stairway to Hell.  Some say it is the biggest commercially run Class V in the world!  There were also swimmers in Rapid No. 7 which some say is the longest commercially run rapid in the world!  Tomorrow is a rest day where we pack and prepare for our 6-day expedition trip which will take us down to the village of Matetsi.  From there we will head to Hwange National Park and stay at Sable Lodge.  The Queen herself slept at this lodge many years ago.