A quick reminder:
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14 July -
Annika and I definitely have colds so look at what we're going to try taking this morning (with a cup of hot water):
I will say - the cinnamon oil makes it taste nice...and strips away your taste buds at the same time! (as I'm typing this post in October I've got a nasty head cold and I think I'll crack open the bottle I brought back from SA.)
13 July -
Today we're heading off to Stellenbosch (very well known for its vineyards). We finished our lovely breakfast at the rooibos farm and now it's time to say good bye to our hosts, Annette and Chris.
On the drive to Stellenbosch we had to drive through several road construction sites (and stops because of the road construction). At one such stop a small passenger came screaming in front of us and to a sudden halt. One of the passengers from that truck stumbled out of the truck and somehow managed to crater into and fall over a barrel standing next to the road. The other passengers and driver in the vehicle didn't get out of their truck to help but drivers and passengers from other other vehicles got out to help this man. It looked like he was VERY drunk. Extremely drunk. With some help he got back into his truck and they drove off. WEIRD!
Views from the road:
Driving to Stellenbosch we close to a town called Ceres. I've heard of this name before as it is a brand of fruit juices we can buy here in China. (The Ceres brand juices ARE from Ceres, South Africa and they're some of the best juices out there).
Croydon helping Juandre climb through the fence to get a sample of one of the plants:
We made it to Stellenbosch. According to the GPS our guest house is just down this road:
At Groenvlei Guest Farm:
Lovely green yard for Ava to run on (that's our rental house Ava is running towards):
Very pretty rooms and decor. There is only one space heater available and sadly there is no central heating system here (just as we've seen in other places in SA). It's a little chilly but at least the beds have heavy, warm blankets on them).
Here's Annika standing in the car park...our little rental house is on the left:
Debbie and I went grocery shopping at the local supermarket for breakfast supplies and I picked up some cough and cold medicine for Annika and me.
Check out this bag of charcoal I saw in the store:
We've decided to go out to dinner tonight. Just in case I haven't been clear - today is Sunday. As we're driving around Stellenbosch (it's getting dark now) we're realizing that very little is open. We found ONE restaurant open. Why oh why are things shut down on Sunday???? Does that make sense?
Here's a quick peek at part of the menu. Have you ever heard of Dros sauces....how about monkey glands???
No, we did NOT jump into the ocean. I'd rather not have that numb feeling that comes from being too cold.
Croydon took this photo of us at the beach....in the dark...because we could!:
It was a great day! It's time to call it a night and crawl under our warm blankets. Tomorrow we're heading up to Table Mountain. Yippeeeeee!!!!!!
12 July -
Wow. Today is such a mix of emotions. On the one hand, Mark is flying back home to China, so we will miss him. On the other hand, we are very excited that the rest of us get to head out on an exciting new adventure to Cape Town.
It's early morning when we say good bye to Mark (I sure hope he has an excellent flight home!). We're heading the Johannesburg airport to catch our flight on Mango...yes, you read that correctly....Mango. As in the fruit. It's also the name of an airline in South Africa. Cool beans!
So...check in at the airport was a little amusing- remember how Croydon's wallet was stolen? The credit card he used to purchased our plane tickets was also stolen. Unfortunately, you need to show the credit card you used to make the purchase the plane tickets at check-in. It took a while and a few phone calls but at last they let us check in.
That was a quick flight to Cape Town!
Today we're packing up and heading back to Jo-burg...but we'll go on a four-hour hike first and get some dinner on the road before we get there.
That house served us well!
First stop this beautiful crisp morning is at the Sabie Valley Coffee Company. Mark and I really want coffee!
We bought several bags of coffee to take back home with us.
Time to set out on the Matumi Hiking Trail...off we go!:
Hi! Remember me? I know it's been a *cough, cough* looooong time since my last post but I'm back. For now anyway. ;-)
I'd like to continue sharing with you photos from our incredible trip to South Africa. I still continue to be amazed at the fact that we actually went to Africa!
Today we're driving into Kruger National Park in Debbie's van. For some reason I had it in my head that the only way to visit Kruger was through a special safari company and in safari trucks. NOT TRUE. It's like most national parks in the USA - you can drive on the roads in your own vehicle (you do have to pay an entrance fee). The one advantage to those safari trucks is that you're sitting up high- and you can see out above the tall grasses.
Debbie and Croydon have suggested we stop at rest stop in the park to cook and eat our breakfast there. Sounds like a great idea!
Oh, and Croydon has given us an incentive- the first person to spot a large animal (upon entering the park) gets 20 Rand (about $2). You're on!
Hey, girls! See anything yet???
Our first animal is a........
Guess who spotted it first????
(me, me, me...that's who!)
Actually, there are TWO giraffes!
Debbie and Croydon asked the groundskeeper at the rest area to loan them a propane powered grill (with a curved basin). Debbie brought along bacon, eggs and toast for our yummy breakfast.
While some of the adults were busy making breakfast happen the kids saw wart hogs off in the distance. Naturally they tried to creep up for a closer look at these funny looking beasts:
Walk slowly and quietly towards the family of warthogs (sure hope they won't charge at us!):
Another giraffe. I never get tired of looking at these tall beautiful creatures. Oh, did I tell you what Debbie's friend asked the girls to do on the first evening we arrived in SA? She told them they HAD to find and take photos of giraffes as they're her favorite animal. The girls were adamant that we take photos of all the giraffes because Fransie had told them to do so. (on a side note, I'm very grateful to Fransie for suggesting this as it kept my girls engaged and interested in sight-seeing from the car (spending hours and hours in the car driving can be boring...especially to kids).
It felt nice to get out and stretch out our legs but it's time to get back in the car....
I sure love zebras. Debbie told us that they often travel with the giraffes. (apparently for protection)
The only thing we haven't seen yet (that I was hoping to see)...are elephants. It's nearly the end of the day and we have to be out of the park at a 5:30pm (gate closing).
After a full day of driving we're not in the mood to do any cooking for supper tonight. Debbie and Croydon have suggested we eat a restaurant called Spur. It supposedly serves "American" food. Hmm....curious to find out what American food is!
Although the logo appears to be a Native American I didn't see any Native American dishes on the menu. Doesn't matter! The food was good and we didn't have to cook or clean up after ourselves.... :-)
Tomorrow we're heading back to Johannesburg via a short hike in Hazyview. Can't wait!
15 September 2014-
This is what you get when your child goes to secondary school here: they go on a week-long trip with their class...away from family. They call it Week Without Walls.
Annika is off to Beijing to a place called "Survival Island".
This trip is supposed engage the students and encourage them to learn through team work and community building (their words, not mine) the learner profile attributes the school upholds: risk-takers, caring, communicators, thinkers and principled (again, not my words).
Hmmm....m'kay. Sounds...well..... interesting AND educational - and dare I say it? FUN!
Perhaps you can tell from my whining and crying - I'm sad that my oldest is gone for the week. It's oddly quiet here. Ava misses her, Mark misses her and I really miss her too.
However, I KNOW she's going to have a GREAT time! There are several wonderful teachers and assistants going with the students. AND...Annika has some awesome and responsible friends right beside her. She was so excited about this trip that she had her bags all packed and ready to go on Friday night (today is Monday). Yeah...she had NO PROBLEM leaving us for the week.
Buggy, have fun!!!
I wasn't there to watch the bus leave the school (I had Chinese language lessons during that time) but my sweet friend, Severine, emailed me the following two photos of Annika:
9 July 2014 -
Time for the night safari in Kruger National Park! Our safari truck is here. Load 'em up!
Thank goodness Debbie had the foresight to ask us to bring cold weather gear - hats, mittens, and warm jackets. And blankets!
Views from the road:
We're not the only guests on this tour. There are several other safari trucks (all from the same company- I think) with lots of guests from all around the world. Here is a Chinese couple taking a photo of a glass of wine (?):
Well, we HEARD a hippo bumping into a lake but sadly we didn't see it. Oh well....that's okay! It was fun to go bumping around on the safari truck and just breath in the beauty of Kruger.
The grown-ups stayed warm - drinking wine. :-)
Sadly, by the end of this day Croydon realized his wallet was missing. :-( We searched everywhere for it but we learned the following day that he had been pick pocketed while he was shopping. Grrr...Not cool!
It's sleepy time for all of us (back at our A-frame rental house). Tomorrow we're going for a drive into Kruger. I wonder how many animals we'll check off our hope-to-see list! You'll just have to wait and see!!!
9 July 2014 -
Wakey wakey! Time to get up. It's a gorgeous day today!
Better eat up breakfast and then it's time to venture out to the Elephant Sanctuary just outside Hazyview.
We're on a guided tour with an elephant ride at the end of the tour. :-) Sounds like fun!
Our mini lesson on African elephants continues with real, live elephants! Our guides are also telling us about some of the differences between Asian and African elephants. The ears are one thing...anyone remember what the other differences are????
Now we each get to go up and examine the elephants in pairs. Ava and Mark are getting their turn now. The elephant trainer is showing them different parts of the elephant:
Examining the trunk.
Marko and Croydon are getting their turn now:
Ever wonder what it's like to walk an elephant? Say what??? You mean like walking a dog? Yep! That's exactly what I mean....
And that's exactly what we're doing! Here Ava and Mark are walking their elephant by holding two fingers inside their trunk and leading the way. Sometimes they get stubborn and stop but their trainers help moving them along.
Annika and Ava are first up for the elephant ride:
Well, that was loads of fun AND educational!
So... we have a few hours to kill before the night safari starts tonight. The guys mentioned that there's a reptile zoo close to the shopping area we're at right now. How about we go take a look?
Thanks for joining us this morning and afternoon! Now it's time to chill out and then we're off on the NIGHT SAFARI!!!
8 July 2014-
Just an FYI - the trip to Johannesburg was quite possibly the longest one I've been on yet! Each leg of the trip (okay, there were only two legs) was between 7 and 8 hours long...and combine that with a stop-over....yikes. Talk about feeling a little out of sorts!
I can also tell you- seeing Debbie and the boys at the Johannesburg airport was one of the sweetest sights I've seen. <3
After our arrival, Debbie took us into one of the local mobile phone carriers to pick up SIM cards for our phones. Hey, Americans! Did you know that in most countries around the world you can get cheap, pay-as-you-go SIM cards for your iPhone or any other smartphone you may be carrying? No need for those crazy expensive, year-long contracts. Seriously USA, join the rest of the world already!!!
Next stop - Debbie and Croydon's home near Johannesburg. Debbie had prepared a yummy meal and - woo hoo! - we got to meet Debbie's friend, Fransie. I've heard so many wonderful things about Fransie that I was excited to finally meet her. Fransie also told my girls that when they go visit Kruger National Park they should keep a sharp look-out for giraffes...they should photograph any giraffes they saw on their trip in SA (South Africa) as giraffes are Fransie's favorite. :-) They took her message quite to heart.
Whew! It's been a long day ....and I seriously cannot believe that I didn't take photos of our arrival. Must have been jet-lagged or something. ;-)
Since we're in the SOUTHERN hemisphere it's WINTER here. It's brisk outside but not too cold (no snow or ice) BUT here's an interesting thing we learned very quickly: there is no central heating system in the houses here! They've got small space heaters for the rooms and the rest of the house is just cool. We weren't quite prepared for that so I was extra grateful to that little space heater in our bedroom.
Nighty night! Tomorrow we're heading to Hazyview....where??? You'll just have to wait and find out!
7 July 2014 -
What can I say?
I know most of you think we're completely bonkers with all the traveling we've done. I wouldn't disagree with you! Two of the incredible blessings of being an expat are 1) meeting people from around the globe and 2) getting to travel to places you've only dreamed of or read about in "National Geographic" magazines.
And...yes, there are places in this world I still want to explore and experience.
SOUTH AFRICA is one of those places!
And guess where we're traveling to next?????
We're going to visit Debbie, Croydon, Marko and Juandre in South Africa!!!!!!
South Africa! Seriously? Did I say we're going to South A-F-R-I-C-A??????
All four of us are flying from Beijing to Johannesburg with a stop-over in Abu Dhabi on Etihad. Not only is this our first visit to the African continent it's also our first time in the Middle East. (okay..not sure if being in the airport counts)
See you in South Africa!!! Hope you'll join us for this amazing two-week journey.