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

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

Slowly, Very Slowly Moving East

Zion National Park

Mojave Desert

After a beautiful drive across the Mojave Desert, last Monday, I arrived in southern Utah. I planned on a few days outside Zion National Park (ZNP) and then would be on my way east. I am here a bit longer than I expected.

A good and very long time friend, Sharon, is in need of some assistance so I am going to be here through the end of the holiday weekend and depart next Tuesday. She was in an accident and is bruised and banged up with a few fractured ribs and sternum tossed into the mix. This is what friends do for each other. They help each other out. It is my honor.

This is not a hardship. I have known the whole Hatfield family since I was a girl and I love this woman dearly. We have ample time to talk and relax in each other’s company. And when she is off to take a snooze, ZNP and surrounding areas are there for me to explore. It is amazing country out here and I never tire of walking off down a wash to see what I can find.

Sharon has a lovely yard. It is big and currently needs grooming. Since she cannot tackle it, in her current state, I am gardening for her. There is nothing I love better than getting some gardening gloves on and digging, prune the trees, pull up weeds, and get things organized. It is probably the one thing I miss, living my current lifestyle. I love the smell of dirt and loam. Earlier in the week it was raining, which brings all the smells forward. There is no other smell like it.

Elsie and I are camped in the driveway. I chose to live in my small space this time, rather than finding a bedroom to sleep in. I have gotten quite comfortable in my cozy tiny home on wheels. Miss Elsie the Cat has too. I spend my day letting Elsie out and into the rig. She has discovered the catmint in the driveway and is a happy camper lying in the midst of it. When Elsie is out, Dharma the dog is in. When Dharma wants to go outside, Elsie goes back into the rig. I am the animal monitor. Who is in and who is out. I definitely need to stay on top of this. Dharma would like to meet Elsie but Elsie is not so fond of this idea. So I remain the door monitor.

Having been to this park many times before (it is good to have friends that live so close), I have not felt a great urge to hike every trail. Instead I have wandered from Sharon’s home and explored what I can find on foot. The Virgin River is at the end of the drive. It is an easy walk. Currently there is a lot of water in the river which adds so much drama to a river visit. When not there I have wandered the town of Rockville. I have visited the cemetery and meandered the side roads. This is a delightful and quaint little town. And, how convenient that it is so near the entrance to ZNP. On Monday I may decide to explore it by bicycle. That would be a new experience for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so my adventure unfolds a bit at a time. I have rather enjoyed the slow pace yet I know that I need to move east. Africa awaits. Next stop southern Colorado.

The Flight of the Butterfly

I am slowly making my way to San Diego.

Roadtreks at a Rally

I had a wonderful couple weeks on the central coast of California. The Roadtrek Rally was a great success. It was a personal success for me. I met wonderful people. When the rally was over I left with two of the women, Mandy and Ann and met up with a third Roadtreker, Don. We camped for four nights near Morro Bay. Every day was beautiful and fun. We hiked and taked and talked and laughed. We got to know each other.  I have new friends to go on adventures with.

I gradually am working my way into San Diego. I am a bit nervous about my upcoming appointment at the Moores Cancer Center. Instead of making my way all the way there, today, I am camped for one more night on the ocean. My view is great and I can fall asleep to the sounds of the Pacific crashing below my campsite. 

Four Roadtreks at Morro Bay

The last few days I have been in Camarillo, CA staying with my good friends, Mary Jane and Jeff. Elsie and I camped in the driveway. Jeff and I are doing fiberglass repair work on my side steps. I sort of met one too many sidewalks. It will take a while to complete, yet I walk away with the knowledge that I will be able to complete the repair on my own. It is looking good at the moment. 

For the past two days I have been sitting in the middle of the Monarch Butterfly migration. It has been amazing. As soon as it warms up they are flying, up the driveway, over the roof and on north. I have heard of this phenomena yet this is the first time I have experienced it. I am not talking of one or two butterflies, I am talking more like hundreds. I finally left them behind when I arrived at the ocean, near Malibu today.

“The annual monarch life cycle and migration begins at the monarchs’ overwintering grounds in Mexico (for the eastern population) and the central to southern California coastal region (for the western population). Around March, the overwintering monarchs begin their journey north. Once migration begins, monarchs become sexually mature and mate. The females begin their search for milkweed plants on which to lay eggs. After mating and egg-laying, the adult butterflies die and the northward migration is continued by their offspring. It takes three to five generations to repopulate the rest of the United States and southern Canada until the final generation of the year hatches and does the return journey to the overwintering grounds.

The monarch migration is one of the greatest phenomena in the natural world. Monarchs know the correct direction to migrate even though the individuals that migrate have never made the journey before. They follow an internal “compass” that points them in the right direction each spring and fall. A single monarch can travel hundreds or even thousands of miles.”

I admire their perseverance. They cross ten lane freeways, mountains, Los Angeles and they still continue to fly. If it is not warm enough they lay on the ground until the sun or weather heats them up enough to fly. 

I feel honored to have witnessed this once in my life. It was amazing. I rode my bicycle to a preserve near my friends home. The butterflies were hanging on the wild mustard. It was a sight I will not soon forget. It was hard to drive because I knew that my rig was hitting them. I kept telling them to fly higher. It is hard when the industry meets nature. Often nature loses.

Tomorrow it is on to San Diego. I will remember to breath. I am hoping for a good outcome from this second opinion. As I weave my way through these next few days I will remember the amazing Monarchs and hope they help me smile.

 

What To Do When I Am Sleepless

This Friday I am scheduled, finally, for thyroid surgery. I have planned this out. I feel confident that this is the correct thing to do and yet….sleep has been sporadic this week. I go to bed and my mind is full of random thoughts. Sometimes I fall asleep only to wake a few hours later. Then I cannot return to dreamland.

Miss Elsie

I can become frustrated or I can enjoy these sleepless moments during the night. The first thing that occurs is Miss Elsie, sensing I am awake will leave her cushy bed on the front seat and come snuggle with me. These moments are pure joy and I treasure them.

Then I begin to listen and feel. Now that it is warm enough I sleep with my windows open. I can feel the gentlest of breezes coming into the van. If I listen hard enough I imagine them whispering to me, telling me the tales of the invisible presences. I imagine the wind brings Jim’s touch to me from out there. I like the coolness on my skin. Once in a while the breezes will blow in sweet smells of flowers in bloom. Sometimes the smell is not quite as pleasant, meaning there might be a skunk close by.

I am in coyote country. I guess most of us are now. They have seen them on the streets of New York City. There is something special when the pack howls in the night. It reminds me of all those spaghetti westerns-sitting by the campfire with howling in the background, just prior to the cattle stampede. The coyotes are very vocal, at night, in the hills around Santee Lakes. Their multiple voices add to the special moments in the quiet of the early morning.

If I am involved in a good book, I may  read for an hour or so before I, once again, attempt to return to sleep. If any of my computers are near-by I may play a few games. Mostly I like to lay, listen and feel and pet Miss Elsie so her purr can add to these quiet moments.

I have two nights to go. I will not be surprised to be waking in the wee hours for these next few nights. Nerves are just nerves and I am so sure they are part of a very normal process. I look forward to returning to a better night sleep next week. Although I will miss the Elsie moments.

I am the first case of the day on Friday. I enter the hospital at 5:30 A.M. and hopefully will be out of there by noon. I am holding on to the best case scenario. It is hard to ask for thoughts and prayers, these are terms that are so overused in today’s world. If you can, drop a thought my way on Friday morning. The power of others loving me can do so much to help the healing process and good, very good outcomes.

Until then I look forward to what tonight brings.