In the Middle of a Grand Vacation-Life Continues

I left on my trip to Africa on July 6. I have noticed that when I travel, the rest of my life seems to stop or hesitate, while I am exploring and adventuring. Unless the news is extreme, the headlines slip into the background and I tend to live more in the moment.

Not so, on this trip. As many of you know Jim (my former husband) and I owned land in southern Colorado. I decided a year ago to put the forty five acres on the market.One fall day,  I stood on the south end of the property and realized that I could not see the northern fence line. Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the amount of acreage I now owned, alone, I realized that I did not want to continue to manage that much property.

With very mixed feelings, the land was listed last November. Land does not move fast in southern Colorado. I thought it would sit on the market for a few years and eventually sell. Not so. Two weeks after I left for Africa, I received a bid on my property. I decided to move forward. With the help of my two realtors, Robin and Rebecca and my real estate lawyer, Christina, September twelfth, I closed on the property.

A young, local couple bought the property and are planning to build their first home. I am happy about this. I knew that when I sold it, I would prefer to try to sell it to local people. Many of the local families in southwestern Colorado cannot afford to buy in this area. As southwest Colorado has become a destination area for many, the property prices have risen and often has driven the local ranchers out of the buying market. I knew it was a right thing to do.

Here is the reality of trying to sell property when one is nowhere nearby: It is difficult and I would not recommend it. In hindsight, to decrease my stress level, taking it off the market while I was out and wandering would have been a much better choice for me. There were several stressful moments regarding this sale.  I found it hard to manage everything while being so far away. Having meetings over the phone or on WhatsApp was difficult. I had to rely on people to be honest and truthful with me. I had to let people, I did not know well, manage most of the complexities of the sale. They did a fine job.

I am thankful for my traveling friend, Phyllis, who was willing to listen and support me through this process. She also, graciously disappeared when I had phone meetings. I am thankful for my sister, Ginny, who talked and texted with me. I am thankful for all the support.

Now that it is done my feelings are mixed. The property was Jim’s and my hope for our retirement and future. We were planning to build a home that was unique and different. Instead he died early and the land that once represented hope, now became a dream and a wish unfulfilled. Jim wanted to sell the property when he was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. After much discussion we held onto the property. It represented hope and a future that was yet defined. I told him if the worse should happen, I could handle it. Well the worse happened, and I became the sole caretaker for the property.

We made friends with Ron and Miss Carrie, who leased the property for their horses and mules and they have continued to support and help me manage the property. I hope they know how much I appreciate their caring and support.

Each time I release a part of me and Jim, I wonder if I by letting something go, Jim will move further and further away from my life. That makes me feel sad. He and I were a team for twenty one years. I miss him when I have news to share. I miss him when a big event, such as this occurs. I miss him when I travel. He and I were a delightful and close couple that shared everything. I know I need to move on yet I want to carry him and our time together, forward with me. My time with him, enriched and fulfilled my life. So I wonder…..

Seeing the land go on to the next owner, is important to my own healing. As the closing day came and went I have found that I am sleeping deeper and longer. My breath is easier. I feel a step or two lighter. My stress level is certainly relieved. I hope life will be just a wee bit easier.

I am getting ready to head west (currently in New Jersey). I have more personal issues to address and I have an appointment in San Diego at the end of October. It is time to stretch, yet again and get ready to return to my small RV life. Miss Elsie the cat, of course, returns to the adventure.

I know I will reflect on this whole summer in so many different ways, as I travel west. And, it may be good to travel down to southwest Colorado, visit friends and see the Aspen change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Review of 6 Weeks in South Africa

My journey comes to an end in South Africa in two days. The adventure is not over yet. Next up Kenya and a photo safari. Oh good more animals.

With Phyllis (a good and true friend), we have been on the road since July 6. After three nights and enjoying Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe – the road trip began.

Kruger National Park was amazing. Both of us enjoyed it so much, we extended our visit for a second week. I have seen the Big Five (elephants, cape buffalo, leopard, rhino, lions), the Ugly Five (wildebeest, warthog, hyena, marabou stork, vulture)and some of the Shy Five (porcupine, bat-eared fox, aardvark, meerkat, aardwolf) and the Small Five (elephant shrew, leopard tortoise, ant lion, rhino beetle, buffalo weaver). That is quite a list, don’t you think?

The trip to Kruger NP was a highlight of this trip. I had the opportunity to stay in rest camps in the park and private Safari lodges on the border of the park. Each had their benefits. All of them allowed me to see so much more than I ever expected. Our upcoming Kenya Safari is going to have a lot to live up to.

Since departing the park the trip has been varied. After spending three days in the town of Nelspruit, exploring the Lowveld National Botanical Gardens and driving into the mountains on a day trip to the wild horse town of Kaapesehoop, yes, the horses just meandered through town at will, we began the slow driving, meander through South Africa.

Along the way I discovered the delight of staying on farms. There were two farm visits. The owners and other guests were delightful. I will treasure the evening we spent with Tessa and Carine, two lovely women who call South Africa home, sitting by the fire and chatting like long time friends. They were instrumental in helping us plan the “next part” of the trip. It is good to meet others that I immediately feel so comfortable with.

The other farm was amazing. We spent two nights at the Flitwick Ranch. This was a delightful place, in the middle of nowhere. The owner was a third generation owner of this pretty interesting and amazing ranch. By staying two nights on this farm we were able to go on a long day hike and discover the beauty of this surrounding country. I also met up with the local horses. I love horses. We learned a bit about the white perspective on this country. It was an Interesting conversation with this ranch woman.

In between our two farm stays, we drove to the Drakensberg Mountains, which is a section of the Great Escarpment. The mountains range in height from 6000 to over 10,000 feet. These are very rugged mountains and many of the trails are straight up. Driving into them was an experience and the hiking was rugged and rewarding. Although it is winter in South Africa the weather does not reflect the visualization of winter. The winter weather reminds me of San Diego. It has never gotten very cold here and it is t-shirt hiking weather.

Hole in the Wall

After a visit to Coffee Bay and Hole in the Wall we made our way to the Garden Route on the West Coast of South Africa.

There are two types of lodging I have come to enjoy on this trip. Many of the National Parks have rest camps or lodges in them. We were lucky to be traveling at a “down” time (winter) so were able to snag reservations at three of them at the last minute. The first one was Kruger National Park. The second one was Storm Rivers Mouth. From our deck we had a front seat view of the very rugged Indian Ocean. The third one was at Cape Agulhas. This rest camp was isolated out along a strand of beach near where the Indian and Atlantic Ocean join. Hiking always seems to be a part of our visits to the National Parks. My favorite activity of Agulhas was beach combing. I saw so many different types of sponges and shells.

Each place we have explored on this trip deserves a blog post of its own. My first intention was to blog about each one. My days got busy and I put off blogging after busy days of exploring each area. I can tell you most nights, bed comes early.

After several days of driving the Garden Route, we left it to visit another part of the Great Escarpment in the town of Oudtshoorn. This town is known for it’s ostriches. They used to be the ostrich capital of the world at a time when the feathers were in high demand by European and American women. Oudtshoorn now relies on the tourism industry. The ostrich farms are still there, it is not a source of great income any more. Once again I was amazed by the mountains. They are rugged and wild and jaw dropping beautiful.

A local recommended our visit to the Dylan Lewis Sculpture Gardens in Stellenbosch, a town just north of Cape Town. After our visit to the Sculpture Gardens, we went to West Coast National Park to see the wild flowers. Spring has certainly arrived and flowers were blooming. We hiked to a plateau, stopping to take those all too frequent photos of each wild flower that we saw. This is a beautiful National Park with a lot to explore. Bird watching took over when we had enough of the wild flowers. I saw flamingos and Ibis along with a multitude of ducks and other water fowl.

Cape Town is the final destination in South Africa.  I arrived on August 20 and am here for a few more days. On Tuesday I will fly to Kenya for the Photo Safari. Ooh I can hardly wait.

Cape Town is a large modern port city on South Africa’s southwest coast. It sits on a peninsula below Table Mountain. Table Mountain National Park stretches down the peninsula to the south. I have been busy here. It is fun to be a tourist and combine that with some hiking and walking. “Among the have to do’s ” when visiting this city, we spent an incredible day driving down the peninsula to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope, our day ended with a perfect sunset while driving over Chapman Pass. Whoa that is a very cool road to drive. It is comparable to the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado.

Tomorrow is the last full day here. Until this afternoon, we have had no rain. Todays rain was not much but like southern California this area needs every bit of moisture it can receive. We have been blessed with sunshine and delightful temperatures.

South Africa is a land of contrast. It is a land of contradiction. It is a place of wonderful people. It is a place of struggle. It is a place I would certainly visit again.

 

 

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.