Africa, part three, Cape Town

I think I'm done editing all my photos, finally! I'm going to create a book with blurb this weekend and I can't wait to see them printed and all together. So now, on to Cape Town. 

We took a two-hour flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town. We were there for five days, so I won't bore you with a day-by-day travelogue, just a few highlights. We did a lot of touristy things while we were there, but it struck me as also the kind of place you could go to just relax as well. It's a beautiful area, with gorgeous beaches, vineyards, wild life, and a lively city. We stayed south of the city in a B&B in Muizenberg. I loved the colorful beach huts at the nearby beach.

image from www.flickr.com

The skies, as always, were dramatic and beautiful. A little further south, just outside of Simon's Town, we stopped at Boulder Beach to see the penguins. 

image from www.flickr.com

This little guy was just strolling through the brush near the beach. Most of the penguins were dozing on the beach. 

image from www.flickr.com

The coastline reminded me so much of California, and the climate was similar too. It felt very much like home. 

image from www.flickr.com

image from www.flickr.com

Of course, we went to the Cape of Good Hope. 

image from www.flickr.com

Much of the Cape is a nature reserve. We searched in vain for the baboons, but saw these baby ostriches! They were tiny, maybe 12-18 inches tall, and just the cutest. 

image from www.flickr.com

The English and Dutch architecture was pretty, although most houses are hidden behind high walls. That was something I found a little sad throughout the country, there is a lot of fear of crime, so there are lots of walls with razor wire or electric fences on top. Still, I did get glimpses of some lovely homes and buildings.

image from www.flickr.com

Table Mountain looms over the city, and it's just a short gondola ride to the top.

image from www.flickr.com

The fog kept rolling in while we were up there, but we still caught glimpses of the beautiful views.

image from www.flickr.com

The whole set is here on Flickr. I recommend viewing them as a slideshow. We also went to Robben Island, but I think that deserves it's own post. 

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unsolicited advice, or how to survive 20 hours in an airplane

I think I might have mentioned before that I am pretty free with the unsolicited advice. It's the oldest child in me, I'm just a little bossy and have to tell people what I think they should do. Hardly anyone listens, of course, but I don't let that little inconvenience stop me. 

As you may have imagined, getting from California to Africa and back again involved quite a lot of time in airplanes (two ten-hour flights to get there and a sixteen hour flight and a five hour flight to get home). I was ridiculously concerned about my own comfort, and prepared accordingly. I have to say, I did pretty well and learned a few things too. I thought I'd pass on a few tips so you can be prepared for your next transatlantic flight (or even just a little jaunt across the country). This is for us economy class travelers, you first-class passengers can just move along and enjoy your fold-out beds and fine china and endless leg room. Whatever. 

Okay, now you know you get two carry on bags. Remember that you have to drag those things all over the airport and try not to over do it. I have your standard little black roller suitcase and then I also carry a big purse. I recently found the messenger bag pictured here at TJMaxx (it's from Fossil, but seems to be discontinued), and I absolutely love it. It's big, but not too big, and has tons of pockets to keep everything organized. It also has an adjustable strap, so I can shorten it and wear it over my shoulder or lengthen it and wear it across my body. Also, it's pretty cute. 

image from www.flickr.com
The black roller bag is going to go in the overhead bin, so I use it for the stuff I want to have in case my checked bag gets lost, but not necessarily anything I'll need to access during the flight. Pulling your bag down is a hassle and will only annoy the passengers around you. I usually put all my camera stuff in there, the body and lenses wrapped in a change of clothes and some pajamas to protect them. I'll also have some basic toiletries in a ziploc bag. My messenger bag can then go under the seat in front of me, so I have easy access to it throughout the flight. It took about half the space, so I could still slide my feet under there now and then when I needed to stretch a little. 

So what should you bring? I made a handy numbered list for you. Click the photo to view it large on flickr.

image from www.flickr.com01. Don't forget your passport! That would just ruin your whole trip. Place it in a secure pocket inside your bag so that you can also access easily but it also stays safe.

02. Phone. A smartphone is nice, it can also provide entertainment. Be sure to add some good music, a favorite movie or TV show, maybe an audiobook or download some podcasts, and some good games (I am addicted to Plants vs. Zombies and Card Shark is an excellent solataire app). 

03. Hand lotion. I would stick with a light scent so as not to annoy other passengers. I was absolutely parched on my flights and I hate having dry hands. My neighbor on one of my flights just lit up when she saw me pull that out of my bag, she was feeling like a raisin too. Make sure you have a full tube so you can share!

04. Toothbrush and tooth paste. I'm not vain enough to worry about touching up my make up while flying, but it's so nice to be able to freshen up your mouth a little. 

05. Writing implements. Just in case! I had a book of crossword puzzles and I also like to keep notes on my knitting patterns while I work. Plus, you have to fill out customs forms on your way into the U.S.

06. Folder with travel documents and knitting patterns. I can be a bit anal, I like to keep my papers neat.

07. Socks. I wore the ballet flats pictured in the first photo. They're nice for traveling because they're loose, so you'll have lots of room if your feet swell up (as mine did on the second leg of my flight to Johannesberg, more on that in a minute). Also, they're easy to take off and put on. The weather in both my departure and arrival destinations was very nice, but my feet got so cold on the plane, it was nice to have my wool socks handy.

08. Wallet. Take out any non-essentials before your trip, just in case! You don't want to have to worry about credit cards or coupons that you won't be using while you're away. 

09. Ibuprofen/prescriptions/other medications. Keep them nearby, just in case! I had a pinched muscle in my neck, but I just took some ibuprofen and it didn't bother me the whole flight.

10. Tissues. The cold air on the plane might give you a runny nose.

11. Wipes. Handy for spills or just freshening up a bit. 

12. Headphones. For your iPod or to plug right into the in-flight entertainment. They do give you headphones on international flights (there was a charge on the domestic flight I took), but they're kind of crappy.

13. Snacks and chewing gum. Let's face it, airline food is never good. I'm still not eating grains, and I was able to get gluten-free meals on one leg of my trip. Of course that just meant that they gave me rice cakes with everything. I don't know what the point of a rice cake is. One of the meals on another flight was pizza with a pasta salad on the side. I was glad I had some beef jerky (I ordered from here, it was the best I've ever had, and doesn't have any weird ingredients), dried fruit, Larabars, dark chocolate and almond butter in my bag. I didn't really eat a lot of it on the flight, but it came in handy other times during the two weeks of me trip too. 

14. Nook Color and a regular book (just in case I ran out of power). eReaders are fantastic for travel, because you can carry so many books with you. My Nook is nice because I can read it in a dark plane. 

15. Knitting notions. Make sure you take out your scissors! I had a little thread cutter that made it through security just fine. 

16. A knitting project (or two). Keep it in its own bag so it doesn't get tangled up with everything else.

17. Cosmetics bag. I just have some lip balm, nail clippers and a small nail file in here. I was glad I did, since I broke a nail on my flight and it was snagging on everything. Again, dry air in the airplane means your lips will get dried out, my Kiehls lip balm was a life-saver. 

18. Wrap. I was so glad I had my Lady Eleanor wrap with me. It doubled as a pillow, a blanket, a shawl, padding for my armrest. I got it out when I sat down in my seat and used it the whole time. A pashmina or any kind of big scarf would work too. 

Not pictured: Chargers! Cell phone, iPad, eReader, whatever you have, keep them in your carry on. If you have a layover you can top off your devices. I think some airplanes even have outlets, so you can charge in-flight. I didn't see any on my flight, but I'm sure they'll become more common. 

Three more pieces of advice: 

Number one. Dress in comfortable layers. I wore an undershirt, t-shirt, and lightweight knit jacket with my most comfortable jeans. That way you can easily adjust to changing temperatures. I find that planes are often hot when you first get on, but then it gets cold. The old lady in me is not a fan of sweats and pajamas worn in public, but I suppose a nice sweat suit on a long flight could be acceptable. And like I mentioned before, my ballet flats were the perfect shoes. I took them off not long after take off and just wore my socks the whole flight.

Number two. Get an aisle seat if you can and get up and move as much as possible. On my way to Africa I was fine on the first ten hour flight, but the second ten hours I felt pretty much trapped in my window seat by sleeping neighbors and only really got up and walked around once. The last few hours my ankles got really, really swollen and uncomfortable. I had cankles! I may be chubby in some places, but I do not have cankles in every day life. It actually took a few days for the swelling to go down completely. On the 16 hour return flight I got up and walked around six or seven times and didn't have any problem at all. I like window seats, but for international flights you're usually flying overnight and so high that there's not much to see, so go for the aisle when you can.

Number three. Drink lots and lots of water. I don't think I had more than one or two sodas or juices, but every time the flight attendants came around with water, I had some. I did actually stay pretty well hydrated, considering, and the more you drink, the more likely you will be to have to get up and use the restroom. So it will keep you moving too. 

So that's it, just a few things to keep in mind for your next long trip. What do you do on a long flight? Any other must-haves that I forgot about? Do share! 

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Africa, part two, Pilanesberg Game Reserve

image from www.flickr.com
On our way back to Johannesberg from Madikwe we stopped at another game reserve. It turns out that I don't get tired of looking at animals, especially when they are in their natural habitat. We didn't have high hopes for Pilanesberg, since we would be driving ourselves through the park (thanks Dad, for doing all that driving! On the left side of the road, no less!), and not riding in a Land Rover that could go all over the place and track down animals. We shouldn't have doubted, however. Pilanesberg was breathtakingly beautiful, and once we were a few kilometers down the first road, we started spotting all sorts of animals. 

image from www.flickr.com
The park itself is interesting because it's the site of an extinct volcano and the landscape is a series of concentric rings. So there were lots of hills and valleys and plains, and it was quite beautiful. There were lots and lots of giraffes, one of my favorite animals. As you can see, I couldn't stop photographing them. Did you know that giraffes don't typically travel in herds? They can see each other from such great distances, due to their height, that they don't need to stick close together.

Zebras posed the same problem, I just couldn't not take a picture when we saw a new herd. They're just so graphic with their black and white stripes. 

image from www.flickr.com
And who can resist a baby anything? 

image from www.flickr.com
image from www.flickr.com
There were some less attractive animals, of course, but they had their own charm. Did you know that warthogs have to kneel down to graze? 

image from www.flickr.com
I think they are so far down on the ugly scale that they've made it almost all the way back around to cute. 

And despite my earlier dung beetle trauma, when we saw this crossing the road we had to stop and watch. I won't tell you how many pictures I took of these little guys rolling their dung balls along.

image from www.flickr.com
Yes, I just totally posted a picture of poop on my blog. Here's another one: 

image from www.flickr.com
Based on Wikipedia, this was likely a mating pair, rolling their ball to softer ground where they will bury it and lay their eggs. 

I was also able to get some nice photos of my new favorite bird, the guinea fowl. Mr. Hey Lucy thinks we should get some to keep with the chickens. I am not yet sold on the idea, but they are awfully cute, don't you think? They have polka dots! And blue heads! 

image from www.flickr.com
There were also lots of wildebeasts and other types of antelope, and even a very rare hippo-out-of-water sighting.

image from www.flickr.com
Can you see it? It was quite far away, so I zoomed as close as I could. Don't worry, though, I did get to see some hippos up close, in their watering hole later at another park. You'll have to wait a few more days for those photos. 

Pilanesberg was definitely worth the day trip, we saw quite a lot in the few hours we were there. The whole set is on flicker, right here

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Africa, part one, Madikwe Game Reserve

The jet lag has finally subsided, and I've managed to wade through the 1600 photos I took and found a few worth sharing, so now I I think I can write somewhat coherently about my trip. If Africa is not on your bucket list, I highly encourage you to put it near the top, ASAP. I loved so much about my time there, it was more beautiful and heartbreaking than I could have imagined. 

image from www.flickr.comImpala

Our first stop was the Madikwe Game Reserve, where we stayed at the Mosetlha Bush Camp. The park itself is in the North West Province, right on the Botswana border. It was started in the early 1990's in response to a study done by the provincial government to determine the best economic use of the area, and is a joint effort between the state, private sector, and local communities. Our game ranger, Kgomotso, was the daughter (and one of only two black lady rangers, she was proud to tell us!) of one of the families originally displaced by the game reserve. The area was originally populated mostly with subsistence farmers, just trying to eke out a living on land ill-suited for anything but a few scrappy animals and minimal food crops. I can't imagine being told that you would have to move from your home into a nearby village and that you would ultimately benefit from the sacrifice. Kgomotso told us about how much the reserve has done for the local economy, however. Now that the economic goals have been reached, the reserve is focusing it's efforts on ecology and conservation. 

image from www.flickr.comWhite Rhino

The reserve is actually known for it's luxury lodges, but we stayed in the bush camp, right in the center of the reserve. Designed to create as little environmental impact as possible, there was no electricity, no running water, and our meals were cooked over a campfire. It was wonderful, and more comfortable than you would expect. 

Cabin-and-door

Kgomotso woke us each morning at 5:00, and we left on our morning drive by 5:30. It was a little chilly and overcast  while we were there, so it was hard to find many animals out and about early in the drive, but as it warmed up there were more sightings. The rangers from all the lodges share information via radio, so we would always eventually find something to see. One morning, all the Land Rovers in one sector of the park were tracking a pack of wild dogs, so we went on a wild ride down all sorts of bumpy little tracks to try to find them. They were moving fast, however, so we missed them. Another driver zoomed past at one point, and we were literally eating their dust. Our poor guide really got an eyeful of dust, so in the only photo I have of her she's got terrible red eyes. 

Landrover-and-guideDuring the game drives we'd stop for tea and snacks, all laid out for us on a little fold-out table on the front of the truck. It was lovely to get out and stretch our legs and enjoy the sunrise and sunset. The skies were truly spectacular.

image from www.flickr.com

Sunset over Madikwe

Once we got back to camp, there would be a hearty breakfast waiting, and then time to shower and relax. The fact that there was no running water didn't matter, the camp owner had rigged up an ingenious little system that made for quite a pleasant bathing experience. 

  Shower-and-boiler

Cold water in the plastic bucket is ready and waiting for anyone wanting a shower. You just pour it in one side of the donkey boiler, and it displaces the warm water already inside, which then comes out the other end, into the metal bucket. That gets poured back into the plastic bucket and mixed with more cold water, if necessary. Then you just carry it over to the shower, where you lower the shower bucket, with it's nifty pulley system, and dump it in. Pull the shower bucket back up, and then use a lever to turn on your nice, warm, shower! 

image from www.flickr.comThe Dining Room

 After a shower and a nap, it was time for a late lunch, and then out for another game drive in the late afternoon. Luckily, the skies were clear and it was warmer, so we saw lots of animals on our evening drives. When we returned to camp after dark, we were greeted with the magical site of lanterns everywhere, lining the paths to our cabins and the lounge and dining area. After a hearty dinner, we could gather around the campfire to chat until it was time to head off to bed.

image from www.flickr.comThe Camp fire ring

image from www.flickr.com

Blurry, but too sweet not to share

But back to the animals! Twice we saw this pride of lions, lazing in the shade. There were four cubs, two males and four or five females. It was hard to imagine that they were more than just big house cats, or maybe I just see more of a lion in my little Lucy cat now. 

image from www.flickr.com

image from www.flickr.com

image from www.flickr.com

The elephants were impressive, it's so different seeing them in the wild, and the destruction they leave behind is disconcerting. They tear up trees and rip off the bark, they wallow in the mud, and drink enormous amounts of water. We watched one big bull elephant stand off with a rhinoceros and her baby at a watering hole one evening. He didn't do anything but stare her down, and she backed off to a safe distance while he drank his fill.

image from www.flickr.comThe Stand off

Then we spotted another elephant approaching through the trees, followed by another and another. They just kept coming, a big herd with several babies. It was amazing to watch. 

image from www.flickr.com

image from www.flickr.com
There were giraffes, zebras, various types of antelopes, a chameleon slowly crossing the road, and a flock of birds killing a snake, right in the middle of our camp. There was also an adventure involving a dung beetle that flew into the Land Rover and smacked me in the face. I jumped and screamed like a little girl. Unbeknowst to me at the time, I also knocked my phone right off the seat. It was only a few miles later when I wanted to snap a photo of the lions for my Instagram feed that I realized it was gone. My heart sank, as I realized the photos I had lost not to mention it was my means of keeping in contact with Mr. HeyLucy who was back at home. Kgmotoso retraced our steps, even though it was starting to get dark, and we scanned the roads with the beam of her spotlight. There was one other guest with us on the drive that night, and by some miracle, he spotted it and saved the day. Silly dung beetles! 

image from www.flickr.com
image from www.flickr.com
image from www.flickr.com

My whole set of photos from Madikwe is on Flickr, here. I hope you didn't mind this long, photo-heavy post! I have a few more, but there will be some other, regular posts interspersed here and there. I don't want to bore you all with my vacation photos!

 

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home

image from www.flickr.com

And now I am starting to look at and edit all my photos! I hope you don't get tired of hearing about South Africa, but there will be a few posts in the coming weeks. It's a beautiful country, with beautiful light and beautiful people, more so than I ever expected. Now that I am looking at all the pictures I took, I so wish I was a better photographer, to do it all justice. 

image from www.flickr.com

image from www.flickr.com

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