Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Out of Africa Day 5

our FastJet plane
We had a 6:30 AM pickup time for our van ride from Karongwe to the Nelspruit Airport. It took about three hours to get to the airport. Once there we boarded a FastJet plane, which is a local airline servicing Africa. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but we had a great experience with them. It took a little over 2 hours to fly to the Victoria Falls Airport.

on the way to Victoria Falls Airport
The terrain definitely got more mountainous on the way to our destination. Because Victoria Falls is in Zimbabwe we had to go through Immigration and Customs when we arrived. The lines moved okay, and we also had to purchase a VISA as we were going to travel to Botswana as well. We ended up meeting a couple of other people from the Charlotte area as we were standing in line, which is pretty crazy.

We were met at the airport by our local guide, Mehluli. He took great care of us during our time in Zimbabwe and Botswana. He took us to the Shearwater Explorers Village lodge, where we stayed for the next three nights. After checking in, we relaxed a bit before having dinner at the lodge. We had another full day coming up, beginning at 8:15 AM, so we turned in early.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Out of Africa Days 3 & 4

Karongwe Private Game Reserve
The next two days had pretty much the same itinerary. We would be awakened by a 5:30 AM knock on our door. After getting ready for the morning, we met the rest of reserve guests near the restaurant for coffee/tea. The guides arrived shortly before 6:00, and we all headed out to our respective vehicles. Gilbert, our driver, has been doing this for 20 years. He told me that it was his dream as a child to be out in the bush, and he has been living his dream. His wife also works at the Shiduli Lodge in the restaurant. Their schedule is 21 days on (when they stay on-site) and 7 days off (when they go back home to their village). 

After an hour and a half or so Gilbert would pull over and set up a snack for us. It was coffee and tea and a little something to eat. Then we would return to the vehicle for another hour or so. Once back at the lodge we would have breakfast. We had free time until lunch, and then we all met again for tea at 2:30. At 3:00 all the vehicles took off for an additional three hour safari, again breaking halfway through for drinks and snacks.

Then there was a short amount of time to get cleaned up before dinner. Our group went to bed pretty early each night due to the early wake up call. I spent most of my off time going through photos and posting on Facebook. The Internet signal wasn't stellar at the lodge, but I was able to get the job done.

Everything was included at the lodge, with the exception of alcoholic beverages with meals or at the bar. They did have offer a small drink on return to the lodge after the afternoon safari, and each afternoon at our break you could have water, a soda, a glass of wine or a beer. I have nothing but good things to say about the Shiduli Private Game Lodge, and the Karongwe Private Game Reserve. During our time there we were able to see the Big Five - lion, leopard, black rhinoceros, African bush elephant and African buffalo. The lion was behind dense brush, and we could only see his tail swishing. We did hear him growl and roar, though, and that was magnificent!

safari animals

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Out of Africa Days 1 & 2

We just returned from our first major trip since BC - before Covid. We traveled with our good friends to Africa. We had high expectations for the trip, and they were all exceeded! First we had to take a short flight from here to Atlanta, where we met up with Kathy and Paul. From there we boarded the plane to Johannesburg, with a flight duration of over fifteen hours. I'm not going to lie, that was no fun despite being in the Delta Premium Comfort Class. I never sleep well on planes, so I maybe got an hour or so of sleep.

Once we landed and cleared customs we were met by a representative from the travel agency that we used. He took us on the short walk to our hotel, which was attached to the airport. Once we checked in, he told us where to meet at 7:30 the next morning to catch our shuttle to the Karongwe Private Reserve. We dropped our things in our rooms and went to enjoy a cold beverage by the pool before having dinner.

Following breakfast the next morning we met our shuttle driver. Unfortunately one of the other people using his services showed up a half hour late, which was incredibly rude to the rest of us. The drive to the reserve was a long six hours, considering we were quite jet-lagged. It was interesting scenery along the way, so that helped pass the time.

from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit, South Africa

Upon arrival at the Shiduli Private Game Lodge, we were greeted by resort manager Shauna and taken to our rooms. It is a small resort and very private as it is in the middle of a 9,000 hectare private reserve. We quickly dropped off our stuff and went to grab a late lunch before being met by our driver for a 3:00 4x4 trek our into the wilderness.

Our driver was Gilbert and our tracker was Johnson, and we remained with them for the next three days. There were two other couples in our vehicle - one from Holland and one from Brazil. They were both very nice, and interesting to talk with.

They have had a lot of rain in the area, and some of their roads were inaccessible. Luckily they have lots to choose from. The couple from Brazil said they were originally staying in Kruger National Park, but they had so much water that they cancelled their safaris. So that's how they ended up at our resort.

We saw quite a number of animals, birds and plants on our first time out. It was simply amazing! After three hours they took us back to the lodge, where we were met with a cool cloth and a beverage. We cleaned up, ate dinner then hit the sack. The next morning would come early with a 5:30 AM knock on the door.

a few photos from our first safari

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Oh, My Corona

magnolia in bloom
Coronavirus. Are we still talking about this? Why yes, yes we are. Ugh! We have some travel plans coming up, and we are locking ourselves down even more than usual to hopefully avoid getting sick. Jim and I have not had the virus yet, which is kind of a mixed blessing I suppose. We have had all the shots, including the boosters, so I'm sure that has helped. But in some ways it feels like we are waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

World-wide, this virus shows no signs of abating. The latest statistics are: North Carolina has had 3.44 million cases and 29,279 deaths. In the United States there have been 102 million cases and 1.1 million deaths. (That statistic is down from the 1.5 million I last reported, though I use the same website for the statistics each time. Makes me wonder what someone is doing with the stats.) Worldwide there have been over 672 million cases and 6.85 million deaths. The number of cases is no doubt vastly underreported since so many people are taking home tests and those results do not need to be reported. I also think that the health care systems have changed their reporting habits regarding Covid as well, due to a lessoning of federal reporting guidelines. Regardless, the numbers remain staggering.

Spring is around the corner, and we saw magnolias and daffodils in bloom on our bike ride today. Perhaps once people spend more time outdoors, the virus numbers will once again be on the decline. We will have to wait and see. In the meantime, I am always so grateful for where we live and the beauty that surrounds us as we navigate these challenging times.

this morning's sunrise