How the Zebra Got It’s Stripes

 

Long ago, when animals were still new on earth, the weather was very hot, and what little water there was remained in pools and pans. One of these was guarded by a boisterous baboon, who claimed that he was the ‘lord of the water’ and forbade anyone from drinking at his pool.

 

When zebra and his son came down to have a drink, the baboon, who was sitting by his fire, jumped up. ‘Go away intruders,’ he barked. ‘This is my pool and I am the lord of the water.’

‘The water is for everyone, not just for you, monkey face’, shouted back the zebra’s son.

‘If you want it, you must fight for it’, returned the baboon in a fine fury, and in a moment the two were locked in combat. Back and forth they went, until with a might kick, the zebra sent the baboon flying high up among the rocks of the cliff behind them. The baboon landed with a smack on his seat, and to this day he carries the bare patch where he landed.

 

The zebra staggered back through the baboon’s fire , which scorched him, leaving stripes across his white fur. The shock sent the zebra galloping away to the plains, where has stayed ever since. The baboon and his family, however, remain high among the rocks where they bark defiance at all strangers, and hold up their tails to ease the smarting rock-burn of their bald patched bottoms.

 

On Safari-My Way

With my traveling companion, Phyllis, I arrived in South Africa four days ago. We flew from Zimbabwe to the town of Nelspruit, a small town outside of Kruger National Park. And our adventure continues. 

Thabo picked us up at the small and nice airport in the early evening hours. He drove us the half hour drive to our lodging, Zebrina Guest House. Our first impression of this guest house was shoot, we should have stayed longer. 

Nelspruit, the capital of Mpumalanga, lies in the fertile valley of the Crocodile River and has been called the gateway to Mpumalanga and is the jumping off spot for Kruger National Park.

As I learned more about the town I think it might be of interest to stay there for a few days. Phyllis and I have time so that can be a decision to make at a future time. 

The best part of Nelspruit was our driver Thabo. He picked us up at the airport. The next morning he helped us run a few errands and then dropped us at the airport to pick up our car. In the time we spent with him he made the decision to become our big brother. He gave us rules for driving in south Africa. Do not stop for anyone, no hitch hikers, no one in an official uniform unless we see the official car of the local police or the national police. Keep your doors locked and everything in the car out of site. Then he asked if he could call us during the trip to check on us. That is kindness at its best. Of course we said yes. 

I have spent two days in Kruger National Park. Kruger National Park, in northeastern South Africa, is one of Africa’s largest game reserves. Its high density of wild animals includes the Big 5: lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalos. Hundreds of other mammals make their home here, as do diverse bird species. There are paved and unpaved roads to travel on. The terrain is mostly flat with large washes, which I am sure fill with water during their rainy season. Currently it is dry and pleasant, with warm days and cool evenings.

I have seen animals, many animals and birds. As we were driving into Satara Rest Camp, where we spent the nights, we were stopped by a lioness walking down the middle of the road. She proceeded to lay down and traffic could not go around her. We barely made it into camp before they locked the gate for the evening. 

The camp is surround by a fence, keeping us in and most of the animals out. The ones who don’t pay attention to the fence are the honey badger, baboons and vervet monkeys. From what I was told the badgers have been the largest issue as of late. Our cottage was safe and secure and comfortable. The kitchen was outside on the porch. After viewing animals all day it was pleasant to sit on the porch and enjoy dinner as the sun sank and the temperature cooled.

The density of animals in the section of the Kruger I was in was amazing. Here is the list so far. 

Lions (females and cubs), Cheetah, Elephants, Giraffes, Hippos, Baboons, Hyena, Impala, Kudu, Waterbuck, Steenbok, Zebras, Warthogs, Buffalo, Crocodile, Wildebeest, Mongoose and more that I am not currently remembering. These are just the animals.The bird sightings were numerous. Even the more common birds seen around camp were beautiful. 

 

After two days in the park we left and drove north to a private reserve, nThambo Tree Camp. Currently I am sitting on the front porch of our cottage watching baboons and birds at a nearby watering hole. Each evening we go on a driving safari to see what we can find. Elephants are prevalent here. They are everywhere. This morning we went on a hike with Issac and his gun through the preserve. In 3 miles we saw elephants and giraffes and impalas. It was pretty quiet out there this morning. Oh wait a minute did I say we saw Elephants and giraffes? 

What I have learned:

  • The people have been very kind and helpful. It makes traveling and driving easier and more relaxed. 
  • I have to remind myself I am no longer in the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park. These animals are out and wandering as they please. I am in their home. It is the wild. 
  • After getting over my fear of driving on the other side of the road, it is easy. I just remind myself to be attentive. The rule of thumb I repeat to myself is “keep left, always keep left”. 
  • The roads are well kept up. 
  • I like it here. It is dry, maybe even drier than San Diego. 
  • If you light elephant dung and then blow it out and inhale the smoke it will take care of headaches. 
  • If you light elephant dung in your room it will keep mosquitos away. 
  • Elephant dung has little odor.  Thank goodness. 
  • There is a tree out here that if you touch the white sap and then touch your eye you will become blind. If you ingest it, it will make you intestinally sick. Stay away from this tree.
  • Hyena poop is white because of all the calcium they ingest by eating bones. 
  • If giraffes are low on calcium they will pick up an animal bone and suck on it so they ingest more calcium. They spit it out when they are done. 

After a late lunch we will be off on Safari again this afternoon. I am still waiting to see a jaguar in a tree eating an impala. Isn’t that the classic pic everyone sees in their mind when they think of being on Safari in Africa?

DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU CAN CLICK ON ANY OF THE PHOTOS AND IT WILL ENLARGE THEM?

Into Africa!!!!

Victoria Falls

I am in Africa!!!! The last few days I have been in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. I am in Africa!!! How cool is that?

All the flights were easy. British Airways gets an A for effort. I have learned to really like business class. The food was good, I had a bed to lay down to sleep. I also had time to catch up on movies. I don’t watch many in my RV lifestyle. Captain Marvel was great (I am a Marvel movie fan). Flying Solo is a documentary about a young man who free climbs Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. It was a great movie. Aquaman was just so-so. Two out of three isn’t bad. 

It has been an easy entry into the third world. Our guesthouse, Pennywise Cottages,  was delightfully tucked into a neighborhood quiet and clean. We could easily access downtown Victoria and walk to Victoria Falls National Park. Since Zimbabwe has very little money we were able to use US dollars for any financial interactions in town.

Victoria Falls, Mosi-oa-Tunya (The Smoke That Thunders) is one of the three largest waterfalls in the world. (Niagra Falls & Iguazu Falls being the other two) The Zambezi River feeds the falls.The falls highest point is 355 ft. It consist of eight points where the water drops. The volume depends on the season. Currently it has a pretty good flow moving over the top of it. Once in a while when a hippo or crocodile get to close to the lip of the falls the current can push them over the edge. 

Tricky Monkey

We entered the park around mid-morning and spent the rest of the day hiking close to six miles to view different areas of the falls. We hiked from a rainforest into a semi-arid desert. Along the way we met up with Baboons, Vevert Monkeys, Warthogs, Bush Bucks, and more. Then there were the birds….And the camera went wild. Not all was incident free. My friend Mary (Zee), warned us of the baboons but forgot to mention those pesky monkeys. My friend, Phyllis, who I am traveling with had her desert stolen away as we sat at an outside table in the National Park, enjoying, well, trying to enjoy a snack. 

The following day we hired a driver and continue to sightsee in the area.The Big Tree was first on the list. It is one of the largest Baobab trees in the world and is guessed to be 500 years or older. This is a big tree. I first learned of Baobab Trees for the book, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and have always wanted to experience one in person. This tree was large, very large. As I circumnavigated the tree I could not help but notice that I had to walk around Elephant dung. Elephant dung!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

“The ground on the planet was infested with baobab seeds. And if we do not remove a baobab seed on time, it will never be possible to be free of it. It will obstruct the whole planet. It drills through it with its roots. And if the planet is too small and the baobabs become large, they will make it shatter.”

The Little Prince

 

Later in the morning as we were driving to our next destination  a herd of Impalas walked in front of the car, Impalas! Imagine that? I have been delighted with all the wild life. There are new birds to add to my list, and it was pretty amazing to see animals I have only seen in a zoo or wild animal park. When we ask the local people about the animals they often don’t even acknowledge them. I guess it is similar to me saying “there goes another coyote.” Although I do like coyotes. 

Alpacas on the Move

Opheus, our driver took us on a tour of where he and his family live. There are 15 people living in a 5 room house. We met his wife and youngest daughter. It was a good insight into how the local people live and survive.

I ended the trip walking across the bridge that connects Zimbabwe to Zambia. There was a moment on the bridge when I stepped into No Man’s Land, about two steps wide that is owned by neither country. Near mid-span I was offered the opportunity to bungee jump or swing into the deep gorge. No Thank You! It was fun to watch others take off and experience a thrill I am sure like no other.

Now I am in transit, it is a flying day. I am heading to South Africa for the next five weeks.Travel days are quiet days. Days of waiting and practicing mindfulness and patience. 

Zimbabwe was an interesting visit. The country is bankrupt. They have no money. The head of the country is corrupt and it is hoped after this year that things will get better. The local every day people are not so sure this will happen. People wait over a year for a passport to travel. There is not enough money to buy the paper and ink that is needed to stamp a passport and fill out the paperwork. The type of money can change every day. It’s worth can change several times a day. The local people pay for very little, with cash. It is all done with cards. The poorer areas of Zimbabwe have had no electricity since 2010. While I was there we went a day without electricity. The hotel manager told us sometimes it is off for an hour and sometimes for days. There is a minimum amount of gasoline and our driver gets up at 5:30 a.m. to wait in a cue to be sure to get gas before the station runs out. 

As I walked around the town and into the park it felt a bit awkward to know I had enough money for almost anything I wanted. I could sit down to eat at a cafe or restaurant. Foods on the menu might not be available because of cost. I just order something else. I don’t have to worry about whether the money I am holding is worth anything now or in a few hours. When I said no to a street artist trying to sell his wares, even the few dollars might affect his family and his life for the next day. I could endure twenty-four hours of no electricity. It was a novelty. For the locals it is a reality they live with. 

My introduction to the third world issues, I am sure, is just beginning. I believe that travel is a good way to become aware on a local day to day level how life is lived no matter where I travel. I hope this awareness moves me toward compassion for others and for myself. 

As I move into South Africa I hope to carry the things I learned in Zimbabwe with me. I will be seeing amazing things and I know the political issues will surface again. I truly like the idea of journeying to see the wonderful and to create a more global perspective in my own life.

 

Into Africa

I am going to Africa. Saturday morning my friend, Phyllis and I board a plane at JFK International Airport and we are off.

How did I get to this point? First I agreed to go on this adventure. Early in March I moved into Phyllis’s condo for a couple weeks and we planned. Each morning after breakfast we moved to our computers and began to put this trip together. First we started with the photo safari and then moved on from there.

Pangolin Photo Safaris ended up being our Safari of choice. We will be traveling with professional photographers. I am excited to be able to learn from them. I am excited to see animals and birds  and learn how to photograph them better. I am excited. Our tour includes a hot air balloon ride. That excites me too. Kenya and this safari is the climax of this trip.

It was Phyllis who said “If I am traveling that distance, I want to see as much as I can”. We extended our stay to one month. Then we decided two months would be better. We got input from good friends who planned their own independent trip to Africa (thank you Mary Z) and decided we could do this as well.

Several blogs helped guide us to figure out routes, places to stay and things to do. With the ten hour time difference it took a while to put the trip together. I did have a few late nights so I could contact places when they were open.

And then in the middle of all the planning, I had surgery to remove my right thyroid for what everyone thought would be a benign nodule. Instead it came back positive for cancer. After a few shed tears and oh my God moments, I had discussions with my surgeon and endocrinologist and a second opinion at UCSD Moores Cancer Center. Everyone said go to Africa and so I am. I was started on Synthroid to keep my numbers low. The rest of the treatment is on hold until fall. I am turning the cancer shingle to the wall for the summer and am off on a grand adventure. I know that sounds easy yet, in reality I have to keep my anxiety at bay. It is good to do research but not too much.

Tuesday I picked Phyllis up at the airport in New Jersey. She came to stay at the lake for a few days. In the wee hours of Saturday morning we are climbing aboard British Air and flying off into the wild blue yonder.

Here is our tentative itinerary in a nutshell.

  • Victoria Falls is the first stop. I plan on getting wet in the mist of the falls. Did you know that elephants sometimes walk through downtown Victoria Falls? Elephants!!!!
  • Three days later we will fly to Nelspruit, South Africa and rent a car.
  • After one night in town, it will be time to explore Kruger National Park. We plan a week in the park. We hope to see the big five-buffalo, elephant, rhino, lion, and leopard. In Kruger you can rent cottages in different areas. We are staying in cottages in two different sections of the park. The other three nights we will be staying at a private reserve. Hikes and Safaris are included in our itinerary.
  • When we depart Kruger NP we plan to meander south along the east coast of south Africa. This is the most un-set part of our itinerary. We are going on a road trip.
  • It will be spring in South Africa. Flowers will be starting to bloom. I am looking forward to the gardens and the flowers and visiting National Parks as we travel.
  • Our next big stop is West Coast National Park. We will see more animals and wild flowers. We have registered for a day hike in this park and staying in Langebaan, a town just outside the park.
  • Next is Cape Town. We will be staying at the Parker House, again a recommendation. Sight unseen I have no doubt we will like our accommodations. The owners have been instrumental in helping us with some of the details of this journey, a rental car for one. It is nice to know that someone has our backs and we can touch base with them if we need to.
  • Finally we fly to Kenya and go on our official Safari. I am hoping to see many animals and birds. The Wildebeest migration is at the top of the list.

Elsie the cat and my rig are staying at my sister’s, on the lake in northern New Jersey. Ginny and my niece are taking the rig out for a weekend camping trip. We have gone through all the nuts and bolts on running the rig and turning on the house. The owners manual is close by and I told her that if she has any questions to ask on the RV Lifestyles or Roadtrek Hymer Facebook pages. People have always been helpful when questions are asked.

Here is my condensed summer adventure. I am excited and a little nervous. Hopefully I will remember to try to enjoy my journey just one day at a time. I will remember to breath and allow myself to open up to the experience.

There will be definitely more to come. I am planning to blog often and post photos, of course. I hope you will come along for the journey.

 

Miss Elsie the Cat’s Summer Vacation

Hi everyone. Here I am sitting in a house on a lake in Northern New Jersey. I am not sure I know where that is. I do know it different than where I have spent most of my life. First it is really, really green here. I mean, big trees, green grass, big flowers and more. I am very thankful that I can still find dirt to roll in. As many of you know that is one of my favorite things to do.

Janet tells me I am going to spend my summer here. Hmmm….I wonder what summer means…..hmmm…I wonder what spending my summer here means. I think I am OK with this.

You should see my room. Well I am assuming it is my room. This room is huge compared to my little home on wheels. Janet brought in my toys and blankets. This is so I am more comfortable here. I like it because there are four windows that I can sit in and watch birds and chipmunks. It is a good way to pass the day when I am not resting. Us cats need our beauty sleep. All my essentials are here. That makes me happy.

A very large water bowl

At least once a day Janet hooks me to my leash and takes me outside. This outside is very different. There is a huge water bowl when I go outside. Janet calls it a lake but I think it looks like a giant water bowl. I am a bit nervous about all that water. One night Janet had me sitting with her and she started throwing bread into the water. What the heck? All of sudden there were these pops and bumps at the top of the water and the bread disappeared. Ginny, Janet’s sister says that they are fish. Wow someone lives under the water. Imagine that? I wonder how they breath.

Kitty Lepore

There is another kitty that lives here. Her name is Kitty Lepore. She is big and round and soft. And, she has a limp. I am not sure what to make of her. She doesn’t seem to be bothered by me. I am nervous around her. I have had a few bad encounters with other kitties so I am cautious around Kitty L. I hiss at her and growl and then I run away. I am not always as brave as I appear. Kitty L just sits there and looks at me.

Ginny and Frank are Kitty L’s caretakers. They seem to be really nice people. Janet tells me that they will be taking care of me for the summer. They seem nice and let me get to know them on my terms. I like that. I get nervous when people try to approach me too quickly.

There is this rug in the living room that smells of catnip. Mmmm…I love catnip. When I am brave enough to venture down the stairs I go to that rug and roll and play with the toy that is there. The rug is my safe spot when I am brave enough to make my way downstairs. Each day I get a little braver. I am careful because I don’t want to lose any of my nine lives exploring this new place.

Janet has been telling me she is going away for a while and I am staying here. I am not sure what that means. She tells me she will be back. I sure hope so because we are a team. In the mean time I will make myself comfy and try to make the best of my summer on the lake.

Uh Oh-Camping Trip Interrupted

After a brief visit with my Ohio sister, Ruth and my great nephew, Ward, my New Jersey sister, Ginny,  and I left for a camping trip to the east coast and her home.

Well that camping trip did not last long. We camped for one night on a beautiful reservoir that border Ohio and Pennsylvania and then…..being sick happened. I was hit first. We instantly made a decision to head to I-80 and head for home.

 

Here is what I know today.

  • I love my sister, for doing the five plus hours of driving. She never flinched, just got behind the wheel and rolled. (80 on 80 she says). I don’t even want to know.
  • I love the fact I was in an RV. I disappeared to the back and was able to crash on a comfy bed.
  • I love the fact that said RV has a bathroom.
  • I love rest stops on the interstate.

A day later Ginny succumbed. By then we were home and she could retreat to her comfy bed. Then a day later her husband, Frank, succumbed. Ay yi yi. We are all in recovery mode and life is looking a little brighter. Food is beginning to look and taste good and we have survived another sickly adventure in life.

Being sick is no fun. Listening to what my body needs, takes a little attention and agreeing that I don’t need to be strong. There are times that the best thing I can do is crawl into bed and feel sorry for myself and sleep it off. Sometimes it is OK to let others help you out. As a proud and independent person, this is not always easy to admit.

A good thing about family is that we can push past the barriers that one sets for oneself and help each other out. Ginny helped me when I was at my worst. Frank and I helped Ginny when she was at her worst. And the two sisters were there for Frank when he was at his worst.

The real bottom line, here, is IT IS NO FUN BEING SICK. Yet when it does happen it is good to have family and friends close by who are more than willing to jump in and help out.

Hmm, I am getting hungry.😋

Sisters

Traveling solo in my RV can, at times, be a lonely existence. There are days that I grow weary of my own company. I miss companionship. I have discovered over the past few years how fun it is to travel with others. There is more laughter and definitely more talking. I have enjoyed the times when I have traveled with others.

I am on my way to northern New Jersey, to my sister’s home. Miss Elsie the Cat and the rig are going to spend the summer there, while I travel to South Africa. Miss El and I know how fortunate we are to have a place that is safe and secure and loving to go to. 

A week ago I texted my New Jersey sister, Ginny, and suggested that she fly to Ohio, where my other sister, Ruth and my niece and her family live. She could then ride back to New Jersey with me. I totally expected her to say no. And, I would have understood. It was a last minute kind of thing. 

You know what she said? “I am already packed!” Woo Hoo! I was immediately surprised, excited and happy. We are going on a road trip. Ginny and I have done road trips together before. There was that time in Maine when we got so mad at each other, we had to pull off the road so we could yell at each other. By dinner we were friends again. 

We have explored the West Coast, the Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce together. One of our last trips was to western Massachusetts and New York State. I was doing a “Fam” trip (familiarization trip). I was exploring the area before I took a tour group into the area. We have discovered interesting places together. Near St Johnsbury, VT we were guided by a local retailer to seek out the Dog Chapel at Dog Mountain.

Dog Mountain is set on 150 acres on a private mountaintop spot. The grounds are always open to people and their dogs. Stephen Huneck and his wife, Gwen, bought the property in 1995. They turned the barn into studio space. Stephen was a hand wood carver. During a serious illness Stephen had a vision to create a space for dogs including The Dog Chapel. What an interesting find. the whole area on the top of a mountain is dedicated to dogs. Inside the chapel the walls were covered with photos of dogs who have passed over, others that were sick. We added a picture of one of our favorite kitties, Wally. It is important to encourage diversity. Stephen and his wife, Gwen, have both died. A foundation continues to run and manage Dog Mountain.  There are hiking trails and a dog agility park. All dogs and their humans are welcome. Yes I would encourage you to explore this unique find when you are in the are

Tomorrow, all three of us sisters will be reunited, however briefly near Columbus Ohio. I look forward to seeing both of my sisters and my great nephew, Ward. My niece and her husband are out of town. After a good visit, Ginny and I will get in EmmyLou the RV with Miss Elsie the Cat and we will venture the backroads to northern NJ. I am looking forward to the company. I am looking forward to what we might discover.

Hopefully this will be the beginning of others, and you know who you are, joining me for long or short trips in my RV. I will treasure the company. My world appears to be expanding.