Today my Dad got recognized for his service in Vietnam. The Vietnam War was controversial and the soldiers were not treated with the respect they deserve when they returned home. Today I was happy to join my family and my Dad in recognizing their service to our country. Support our troops no matter what. These soldiers were not treated with the respect they deserve when they returned home, or after the war. It was a great experience to be able to join these brave men and women with the recognition they deserve. Thank you for your service. It was a good day today! Thanks Dad!!!! I'm so happy I could be a part of the ceremony today. All branches of the military were represented. Thank you for your service.
About a week ago I went to the Dominican Republic with my friends Ben and Kasha. We went for my birthday!!! We did fun photo projects. But, mostly we just hung out on the beach and had some cocktails and read and napped. It was an amazing 6 days in paradise!! I'm so thankful that my two great friends would come along with me to help celebrate my birthday. It was fun. Ben had photo projects in mind. I had a few too. Ben brought along an old CD and we did reflection photos. He also had the idea of taking photos underwater in the pool. That was fun! I really wanted to get some night photos at the beach and we made that happen too. It was a fun birthday and I can't wait to go back!
In September I went to a lights festival with my Sister, Mom and a friend of my Mom's. It was probably one of the most worst produced festivals I've ever been to. But, in the end, when everyone lit their lanterns and sent them off, it was kind of magical. I don't think I will go to another one, but it was a fun experience in the end. We waited in the cold for the lantern business. There was a magician and a harp player. Ugh. We waited in line for almost an hour for some crappy food. But, again, the ending was pretty cool!
A couple of weeks ago, my friend Ben and I, set out on a Great Adventure to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA)! This is an annual trip for us. Usually there are three of us, but our buddy Brian couldn't make it this year. Sadness. He went to Europe for 3 weeks instead. I guess I would make that choice too! We had a great time, but missed him. I actually journaled while there, so here is a daily account of our adventure!!! I hope you enjoy...
DAY 1...TUESDAY, AUGUST 15, 2017
Ben arrived at my place on Monday evening. After going through our gear, for the week, we went to Bear and Bottle for a quick dinner and back to my house for a sauna (this has become tradition before we leave) and a movie. Early bedtime since we would be getting up and on the road early.
Tuesday morning we hit the road at about 8:15a.m. We made a few stops, the Hyvee for booze for the week, and a quick breakfast at the usual McDonalds in Dane. After the stops we started the over 8 hour drive to our outfitter, Tuscarora, at the end of the Gunflint Trail outside of Grand Marais, MN. A long drive to Superior and a stop for lunch, then back on the road to Grand Marais. We stopped in town for a bit and did some last minute shopping and had a beer on a rooftop deck overlooking Lake Superior. After a couple of hours in town, we drove another hour on the Gunflint Trail to Tuscarora. The office was closed when we arrived, around 8:00p.m., but they left a sign up for our bunkhouse. We loaded our gear in the bunkhouse for the night and drove back down the Gunflint Trail to the Gunflint Lodge for dinner and some drinks. That last dinner before heading out into the wilderness always tastes so good. After dinner, we made our way back to Tuscarora. Organized a bit more, then about 10:00 went to bed for another early rise the next day.
DAY 2...WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 16, 2017
Time to head out!!! Exciting and nervous day. Exciting for the adventure that awaited, also some nervousness for the same reason. We woke up at about 6:00a.m. and did some final packing and went for breakfast of french toast at 7:00 at the dining hall. After breakfast we went to the office to watch the required BWCA regulations video (boring, but I understand necessary) and met with Andy (the owner of the outfitter) to go over our food and gear packs and to talk about our route. He's lived up there his whole life so it's great to get suggestions for campsites and things to see. After some time talking we went back to our bunkhouse and did a final gear pack up. One of the guys who works there, Nate, came and picked us up at our bunkhouse and we loaded the gear and canoe and left for about a 20 minute drive to Saganaga Lake, which would be our entry point. A little bit about Nate. He's such a cool guy! He was working at Tuscarora for the summer and just got his first teaching job! What a great way to spend your summer. It was great to talk with him on the drive. We decided to have a tow to American Point and back. This would save us hours, maybe even a whole day, of paddling. Saganaga is a huge lake and motors are allowed on some of it. Anything West of American Point, no motors allowed. So we loaded the gear and canoe on a motor boat and shuttled to American Point. We unloaded our gear and Nate left us. We moved across the point, got the canoe in the water and loaded it up. Time to head out! Our final destination would be Cherry Lake. We paddled down Saganaga Lake and had to check our bearings a couple of times. I was steering and my map reading skills were not the best this day. Not a good combo. After a couple wrong turns (there would be a few this day) we were on the right track and came to our first portage into Swamp Lake. It was a 5 rod portage, about 80 feet. So we basically unloaded most of the gear and carried the canoe over together. Easiest and shortest portage of the day. We paddled across Swamp Lake to our next portage and met a guy traveling solo. Had a little small talk with him and waited for him to complete the portage. This portage is called Monument Portage. It has 3 monuments on it marking the Canadian and US border. One side of the monument and you're in Canada, the other you're in the US. The trail was in excellent shape and would prove to be the easiest of the "longer" portages of the day. The portage goes from Swamp Lake into Ottertrack Lake. An 80 rod portage. We had to double portage every portage. Meaning, either Ben or I would take the canoe and a lighter pack over, and the other would take hand carried items and our heavier packs. Then we would both have to go back to the beginning and grab the last 2 packs to complete every portage. So really the portages tripled in length, so this one was actually 240 rods, just under a mile. Anyway, we made this portage happen and we were on Ottertrack Lake for a short time until we came to our next portage in to Esther Lake. Another 80 rod portage one way. This trail was higher in elevation and muddy. Much more difficult than the first two portages. I carried the canoe on Monument Portage so Ben carried it this time. I felt bad that I got the easiest of portages all day, but it turned out that way. After this difficult portage we were on Esther Lake. We paddled down Esther and were able to paddle into Hansen Lake. Around the middle of Hansen Lake, we found our last portage of the day into Cherry Lake, where we would make our home for 4 nights. It was around 4:30 when we started this portage and it was the worst of the day. 110 rods, pretty much straight up, then straight down with rocks and mud. Ben carried the canoe again, I was so thankful for that. I was spent by this time. We had two options for campsites on Cherry Lake. If neither were available we would've either had to backtrack to Esther (that same horrible portage) or a smaller 45 rod portage to Topaz Lake. The weather was starting to turn for the worse so we moved pretty fast as it was also after 5:00, sundown at 8:00. We came to the first site and it was open. Phew. I checked it out and it wasn't my favorite. The tent site was pretty far from the fire grate area. The view was amazing though. So we left Ben's bag there and paddled down to the other campsite which was open as well. I personally liked it better and I think Ben reluctantly agreed, but it was starting to rain and we were tired so he went with it. We paddled back down to the first campsite, picked up Ben's bag and headed back to our home. We quickly set up the tent and put our bedding and clothes in so they wouldn't get wet, and set up the tarp. I was showing Ben how the center pole worked and it poked through the tarp. Of course. Ben had some great tape and he basically fixed it. Good enough since it was raining. We got our gear under the tarp, unpacked a bit more and made dinner of cheese and sausage bagels. After dinner and dishes, we hung the food pack on the bear rope. There were reports of problem bears in this area so we always had to hang the food at night and take it with us when we left camp. We had some whiskey before heading to bed. We were both pretty tired from the 7 hour, 15 miles of paddling and double portaging so it was good to get in the tent and crash. I bought a Goal Zero solar charger for the trip and it came with a little fan. What a luxury to have that noise and airflow to go to sleep to! Sleep time...
DAY 3...THURSDAY, AUGUST 17, 2017
Last night it rained so heavily and it didn't let up all night and into this morning. Finally, around 10:30a.m. it let up a bit, so we got up and made some coffee and hung out under the tarp. This is where we would remain all day. We had whiskey, beef jerky, grilled cheese and soup for breakfast/lunch and played cribbage and drank whiskey all day. Nothing else to do since it was raining pretty heavily all day. We talked the day before about all the animals in the forest and their roles if it was a courtroom or meeting and discussed it further this day. We decided the Eagle would hold court, the chipmunks and squirrels would be the reporters since they are chattering all the time. The bears would be like the bailiffs, the fox and wolves would be the defense attorneys, the beavers are the prosecuting attorneys, and the loons are the police. We talked about a lot of things this day since the weather was bad and we were having a couple drinks. It was a good day despite the weather. Our camp is pretty awesome. We have a great canoe landing and cooking area around the fire grate. Our tent spot is right near the fire and tarp and a larger opening where the tarp lived. There are big granite "steps" leading down to the lake. Perfect for fishing from and getting into the water. Cherry Lake itself is a very cool lake. Smaller with enormous granite cliffs. It's really a beautiful lake. Later in the evening, the rain stopped so we were able to go out from the tarp. Ben took some photos and I did a little fishing before the sun went down. We made some dinner of mac and cheese with turkey hot dogs and ate under the tarp. Later, Ben built a fire with some wood we kept dry and we sat around the fire and maybe had a bit more whiskey. Went to bed.
DAY 4...FRIDAY, AUGUST 18, 2017
I woke up at around 9:00 this morning to sunshine and warm temperatures!! I pooped, then started some coffee. Ben got up a few minutes later and joined me for some coffee. Ben put our boots and some clothes in the sun to dry. At about 11:00 we had breakfast of bagels with sausage, eggs and cheese. It was magical!!! After breakfast and lounging around camp organizing some things we went out for some fishing and exploring of Cherry Lake. We went to the South of our campsite to the end of at the lake and found a bay with downed trees and threw our lines in. I used a green Johnson Silver Minnow and Ben was using a red and white one. After no bites, Ben changed it up to a gold Mepps spinner. He caught a bass!!! Ben has a bit of an aversion to fish, but he got it off the line himself and caught the first fish of the trip!! So proud of him!!! That was probably the highlight of the day. We floated around a point a bit more and ben changed back to the red and white and caught another bass!!! So cool that he was able to overcome his fears and handle the fish. We kept fishing until about 6:30 and came back to camp. I didn't catch anything. When we got back to camp it was beautiful light in the twilight hour before the sun was down. So, we spent a bunch of time taking photos, Ben did some time lapse of the clouds and lake. We took photos and hung out until about 8:30. Then it was dinner time of beef stroganoff with peas. Delicious. Ben made a fire and we had some whiskey and took photos of the stars. It was so fun to work on a photo project together. We both got some amazing photos of the stars with the firelight lighting the trees and some light painting with our headlamps. I've never seen so many stars and the milky way was so clear. So cool. We hung out at the fire for a bit and went to bed around 1:00a.m. I was super tired so I went to sleep and Ben stayed up for a bit writing. Lights out for an early start the next day...
DAY 5...SATURDAY, AUGUST 19, 2017
Ugh. Today I woke up at 6:00a.m. to see if there was fog on the lake for some photo opportunities. Nothing spectacular but I had horrible diarrhea this morning. Having diarrhea in the wilderness is not fun. I think I pooped 3 times before going back to bed and woke up again at 9:30. I woke Ben up and we got up to another sunny and warm day! Today was close to 80 degrees. We spent time ion the morning drinking coffee, talking about things, and our plans for the day. I still had diarrhea. We had breakfast around 10:30 of oatmeal and fruit leather and used the french press for more coffee. We did the dishes and then I took a swim and cleaned off a bit. Naked in nature!!! The best!!! Ben did some photos of me jumping and diving into the lake (swimsuit on, duh). But I had to have one more opportunity to go skinny dipping. So, while I was doing that, Ben was on the search for arrowheads and cool rocks at camp and setting up for another time lapse. I finally got dressed and we organized camp a bit. Ben then did some laundry and we hung out some more. By this time it was 2:00p.m. Our original plan was to go on a day trip to Lake Of The Clouds and do some exploring and fishing. But, since it was so late we both decided that it wasn't in the cards for the day so we decided to explore the North end of Cherry Lake. We wanted to get closer to the epic cliffs and do some fishing. We loaded up with the food pack and fishing and camera gear and made our way back to the first campsite. It was still open, so I dropped ben off on shore and he set up for a time lapse of the clouds against the amazing cliffs on Cherry Lake. After he was set, we spent some time fishing in a bay and saw some snails, a snake swimming across the water and went down the cliff shore to see the cliffs closer up and see a waterfall we passed on the way in. Lots of photos and fishing this afternoon. After fishing and exploring, we went back to shore and picked up Ben's camera gear and paddled around a bit more, taking photos and fishing. Nothing caught this day. We headed back to our camp about 5:30. The light was beautiful. I was writing in my journal and Ben washed some rocks that he found. All of a sudden Ben demand that I come to the lake right now! I stood up and saw what I thought was a human arm floating on the rocks by our granite steps. After a few seconds I realized that it was attached to the biggest snapping turtle I've ever seen! We both freaked out a bit, then scrambled to get some photos. We got some great photos of our friend we named Sam, The Snaggletooth Turtle. He was harmless, but big! I wrote in my journal a bit more and Ben took some sunset photos, washed some more rocks, and split some wood for the fire that night. He was finally about to sit down and relax and do some writing but the sunset photos keep on keeping him away from it. I had to take some photos too. Beautiful! I took some product photos of my Bedrock Sandals and Goal Zero and did then some sunset photos. He did a lot of chores when when we got back so I thought it was only fair that I make dinner this night while he hopefully relaxes. He didn't. He kept chopping wood and building a fire. I appreciate that since it's for my photos of camp tonight. This night's dinner is chicken and dumplings. It's really hard to make. So, I decided to make chicken and rice and green beans. Ben finally relaxed and did some writing for his Anniversary present to Kasha. I'm so glad he did. After dinner and dishes, we paddled across from our campsite to an island. I did some photos of our camp at night. Something I've wanted to do forever. So glad Ben helped out with this and hung out in the canoe while I was perched on a rock taking photos. He's the best. We got back to camp and Ben set up his camera for another time lapse. While that was happening, we made some s'mores. Ben got some awesome shots of the firelight lighting up the trees and satellites streaming across the sky. So cool. We are supposed to get up at sunrise tomorrow morning, but it was about 2:30a.m. when we went to bed so that's not really realistic. But, we both got some great photos this night and was so great to work on them together! Time for bed...long day tomorrow heading back to our exit point.
DAY 6...SUNDAY, AUGUST 20, 2017
Today we planned on getting up early for the sunrise. But last night we stayed up until 2:30 hanging around the fire, eating s'mores and taking photos. So, a later night meant that we slept in a bit until around 9:00a.m.. We dragged around camp a bit making breakfast and just avoiding packing up. Around noon we got our act together and packed up and were on the water at 1:11p.m. Good time to leave, but a bit later than we expected. We paddled South on Cherry Lake to our first portage into Topaz Lake. A 5 rod portage. We decided to paddle more this day and avoid the longer and more difficult portages. Once on Topaz Lake we paddled across to our 2nd portage of the day into Amoeber Lake, a 20 rod portage. It was a beautiful portage and spent some time looking for rocks and arrowheads at the portage end. It was kind of a long day and we got moving after an hour or two and got to our 3rd portage into Knife Lake. A small 5 rod portage. We stopped and had lunch and looked for more arrowheads and rocks here. After the break we paddled down Knife Lake and came to our 4th portage a small 5 rod portage into Ottertrack Lake. It was getting late so we thought about stopping at Ottertrack and making camp for 2 days, but decided to press on into Saganaga Lake to get closer to our exit point on Tuesday. We made it to our 5th portage into Swamp Lake. Monument Portage again, 80 rod portage. A straight paddle across Swamp Lake and we came to our 6th and final portage of the day into Saganaga Lake. By this time it was around 7:30-7:45. The sun goes down at 8:00 so we were getting a bit nervous about finding a campsite on the American side of the lake. There was a campsite right by the small 5 rod portage into Saganaga, but it was taken. Bad news. We paddled on and came to the next recommended campsite and it was open. This would be home for a couple days. Good news since it was getting dark and we were getting really nervous! We set up camp with the bear rope first, then the tent and our personal gear. Ben made a fire and I cooked dinner. We had some whiskey to calm down from the rough day and sat by the fire until about 11:00. Went to bed. Ben read for a while and I went to sleep. It was a quiet night. But we were on Saganaga, about 30 minutes from our exit point and feeling good about that.
DAY 7...MONDAY, AUGUST 21, 2017
Today we slept in until about 10:00. Spirits seemed to be good! Had some coffee and got the food pack off the bear rope and had some breakfast of granola and french press coffee. We decided to fish from our campsite this morning. I caught my first fish of the trip!! A tiny northern. Ben was getting his camera gear to take a photo and the knot on my line came undone and he got away. Thankfully he left the lure right at shore so I didn't lose that. But, no photo of the only fish I got. Bummer. It was super cloudy today. We were so excited to be in the BWCA for the eclipse, but it really wasn't able to be seen. It got a bit darker, but that was about it. Later in the day we decided to go out fishing. As soon as we got in the canoe it started raining. That didn't stop us! We are die hards! We went fishing around a couple of weed beds and points. Ben caught another fish! 4 total for him this trip! A little northern. I didn't catch anything so it was a bit disappointing, but the trip was great. It was getting cold and it was raining hard so we headed back to camp. We sought shelter in the tent and Ben read some while I caught up on my journal. Ben fell asleep and then I laid down and took a nap too. I think we finally got out of the tent at 8:00 and made a quick dinner of Louisiana Red Beans and Rice with Keilbasa. So good! Lemon pudding for dessert. We hung out by a smoldering fire for a bit and after dishes decided to go to bed to get up early for our exit paddle the next day. We played 3 games of Mancala. Ben beat me 2 out of the 3. It's such a fun game though. Then lights out for an early wake up.
DAY 8...TUESDAY, AUGUST 22, 2017
This morning we got up at 6:30, made some coffee and had some breakfast of bagels with cream cheese and beef sticks. After avoiding the inevitable we started packing up camp so we wouldn't be late for our pickup at American Point. We packed up and loaded the canoe and we were off. It was a sunnier day, but the winds were strong. Saganaga Lake is a very big lake and we had to paddle about a mile or two to get to American Point. We stayed close to the shore since the waves were about 1.5-2 feet high. Kind of dangerous. We probably should've had our life vests on. I think about that now. At the time it didn't cross my mind. We made it to American Point about 5 minutes late, but our tow was waiting. We were picked up by John, Andy's uncle. He's a very interesting guy. He said he would've waited about 1.5 hours for us. Then come back the next day if we didn't show on the first day. Then after 2 days, they would call out a search for us. So glad we were only about 5 minutes late!!! We got loaded into the tow boat and headed for the dock. It was a rough ride back. Then, we loaded up the Suburban with our gear and John loaded the canoe and made our way back to Tuscarora. John had all kinds of stories to tell us about Ada and Andy and life on the Gunflint Trail and in Grand Marais. So interesting to hear. We got back to Tuscarora and unloaded our gear and organized it and got it loaded in the car. Then a shower!!! Felt so good to get clean after 7 days!!! We went back to the office and talked a bit with Andy and Ada then we hit the road for home. We stopped at our usual spot of the Windigo Lodge, but it was closed. So we stopped at another bar on the Gunflint Trail and had burgers and beers. Next stop Grand Marais. We stopped and did a bit more shopping and had a beer at the local brewery, and back on the road for home. Stopped in Superior for our usual Culver's dinner and made the long trek back to my place. We got to my house about 10:30 and unloaded our gear. We walked to the Tip Top Tavern for a couple end of night beers and headed back home for bed. Ben had to leave earlier rather than later the next day. Kevin (my cat) was crazy. I tried to have some quality time with him at the end of the night but he was too crazy so I went to bed.
DAY 9...WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 23, 2017
Slept in until about 9:00. So tired and drained from the trip. Ben and I got up and went to Ogden's for breakfast. Back to my place and Ben was packed up and ready to go at about 11:00. After he left, I dug in and set up the tent, and cleaned off the tent tarp, groundcloth, the regular tarp and all my gear that I brought. Finally about 1:00 I was done with that and took a nap. At about 3:30 I packed up all the clean gear, did some laundry and crashed in front of the TV. It's so sad to be back from the wilderness. But, I look back on my time there and it was such a fun trip. We got photo projects done and had some super fun times! I love this trip. I will do it next year. Until then, the next great adventure is in October to the Dominican Republic! BWCA will ALWAYS hold a special place in my heart from childhood and continuing trips with friends in adulthood. Such a special place.
***ADDENDUM TO THIS BLOG POST. IT HAS BEEN BROUGHT TO MY ATTENTION THAT THE JURY WAS NEVER NAMED IN THIS BLOG. VERONY, THANK YOU FOR POINTING THIS OUT. BEN, I HOPE YOU AGREE WITH MY COMMENTS...I LOVE THIS SO MUCH!!!!!! THANKS VERONY! THE BEST!
Today was a beautiful day! It was raining some of the time, but we saw some of the best scenery I've ever seen. We started today in Riobamba, and left the hotel at 6:00. Our first stop was the oldest church in Ecuador. We stopped and took a couple photos and were lucky because the clouds hadn't rolled in yet so we were able to get a good view of the Chimborazo Volcano. After a quick stop and a couple of photos, we headed towards a small town and the train station. The train took us deep into a valley in the Andes to the Devils Nose mountain. I couldn't see a nose, but it was really beautiful to be in the lush green landscape with the clouds hanging over the tops of the mountains. We spent about an hour in the valley watching traditional dancers. Mostly we just walked around and took photos of the amazing landscape. Then we boarded the train and headed back up the mountain to the train staton. That was probably my favorite part of today.
After the train, we had about a one and a half hour drive to an Inca site. Some of the site was preserved. Mostly it was a bunch of rocks. We toured the site and then went to a local restaurant for lunch. We had a delicious lunch, then back in the car to go to Cuenca. I'm currently in Cuenca. The drive was very nice on the Pan American Highway, but then we took a detour on some back roads and saw villages and farms in the mountains. It was pretty incredible. We finally made it to Cuenca and went to our hotel to drop our luggage. Our guide, Wilson and driver Jamie, then dropped us off in the old part of town. We walked around a bit and saw some old churches and cathedrals. It started raining pretty hard, so we caught a cab and went back to the hotel.
I just got back from dinner, and finishing up the last blog post for the Great Adventure of 2017! I can't believe the Great Adventure is already over. Very early tomorrow morning we will fly back to Quito. Debbie and Adam will leave on Monday afternoon. I have a flight out tomorrow night, Sunday, at 11:30p.m. I'll make a stop in Atlanta in the morning, then be back to Madison by 11:30 Monday morning.
It's been a great trip, and seems to have flown by. I've seen so much wildlife and different landscapes and cities on this trip. It was great to get so much diversity in landscapes and cities. If you think you ever might want to come to Ecuador, you probably should. The people are so friendly, they use the US dollar so it's really easy. And it seems so safe here, even in the bigger cities like Quito and Cuenca. I highly recommend a trip to Ecuador. Maybe I will come back sometime. I would love to go to the Galapagos Islands. We didn't have time, or the money, on this trip. But I hear it is definitely worth seeing and experiencing. Thanks to all who have followed along on my travels for this Great Adventure! It's nice to hear from people from home when on the road. Until the next time...Cheers!!!
Today we met our guide Gabi, and driver Luis, around 8:00 and we headed out of Quito to Cotopaxi National Park. Cotopaxi is an active volcano about 2 hours outside of Quito. We stopped at an overlook of Quito on the way out of town, but it was so foggy and cloudy today that we couldn’t see much of anything.
We took the Pan American highway, South, out of Quito and about two hours later we arrived at Cotopaxi National Park. We stopped at the visitors center for some coca tea to help with the altitude, then drove through the park to a lagoon. We did about a two mile hike around the lagoon and saw many different flowers and birds. Unfortunately, Cotopaxi was covered in clouds so we didn’t have a great view while hiking. After the hike, Cotopaxi became visible for about 30 minutes so we drove closer and higher and managed to get a few photos before the clouds came back in. After checking out the volcano we went to a restaurant inside the park for some lunch. We had a view of the mountain, but never were able to see it again because of the weather.
After lunch, we went back to the visitors center and were transferred to a new guide, Wilson, and driver, Jamie. We will be with them until Sunday when we return to Quito. Wilson took us farther south to the highest volcano in Ecuador, Chimborazo. It is about 20,000 feet, and since it is located near the equator, it is the highest point on the Earth’s surface from the Earth’s center. It’s not the highest mountain, by elevation above sea level, but it is the highest point, closest to the sun since it is on the equator. We weren't able to actually see it today since the weather was bad, but hopefully we will see it tomorrow. Then we stopped at a place where a super interesting guy lives, his name is Rodrigo. He has houses made of the traditional mud used for centuries. He also is a mountain guide, and hosts climbers at his place while they acclimate to the altitude. He was a super cool guy. I would say he’s in his 60’s and has summited the highest peak of Chimborazo 42 times. He also was a producer of a documentary about a local man, in his 70’s, that climbs the mountain twice a week to about 9,000 feet to mine for ice. He climbs, digs the ice from the glacier, then loads it on his donkeys. He then walks it into the nearest town, Riobamba, and sells it to shops for smoothies and juices. Twice a week he does this! I could’ve listened to Rodrigo talk about this all day, and tell stories of climbing. Such an interesting man. After some tea with Rodrigo, we got back on the road and drove to Riobamba where we were staying for the night. We had an amazing hotel. It was old, but had some modern conveniencesWe walked around a bit and explored the hotel grounds, then we met Wilson and Jamie for dinner. Interesting conversation about Cuba at dinner. After dinner Adam and I played a couple games of pool at the hotel.
Now I’m writing the blog and am so tired. The internet keeps cutting in and out so I’m getting a little frustrated. I won’t post tonight, but should be able to tomorrow. Tomorrow we are going on a train trip in the Andes, then we will head to Cuenca for the night. On Sunday we will fly back to Quito. I will hang out in Quito for the day, then head to the airport at about 9:00P.M, to catch my flight home. The Great Adventure of 2017 is almost over! So sad. Maybe tomorrow will be my last post. Unless something exciting happens in Quito on Sunday. Later…
Today we woke up early and had a 1 1/2 hour canoe ride back to the welcoming station. Then we were put on a motorboat and had a 2 1/2 hour ride back to the dock in Coca. We waited at the dock for a while, for our ride, then we made our way to the airport. We flew into Quito this afternoon and were picked up by our ride and got to our hotel in Quito. Later this afternoon, we went to a cafe and had a snack, then went to a park and walked around for a bit. It was a lazy afternoon. Not much to report today. It was mostly a traveling day. I didn't even take one photo today. Now, I'm back in the room, publishing all the blog posts I couldn't do while in the Amazon. Later this evening we will go to dinner and then come back and Adam and I may play some cribbage. This is a super boring blog post. Super boring. But not a lot happened today, so I guess there are days like that. Now, I'm going to take a nap before dinner. To make this a little more interesting I'm adding a video of our guides paddling us in the Amazon. Exciting.
Tomorrow we will head to the Andes for two nights, then on Sunday back to Quito. I will fly out late Sunday night and get back into Madison around 11:30 Monday morning. I'll hopefully have a more exciting day tomorrow and be able to blog from our first stop.
Have a good one!
Today was a great day in the Amazon!!! It was a rainy day, all day today, but it was still a great day. The day started a bit later, 6:30a.m. We met for breakfast then we made our way to the observation deck at the lodge for some bird watching. We saw toucans, some monkeys, and a lot of different bird species. After a couple of hours of wildlife and bird viewing we went back to our rooms and got suited up in our rain gear and hopped in the canoe. We paddled down a creek for about 1/2 hour looking for wildlife along the way. It was really rainy so we didn’t see much wildlife on the creek. We paddled to a hiking trail and started about a 2 mile hike in the jungle. We saw millipedes, enormous palm trees with different root systems, a tarantula, and had explanations of the uses of some of the trees in the amazon. We came across a termite nest on one of the trees and our guide, Marco, opened a portion of the nest. The termites were all over his fingers and he ate them!! I was invited to try it, so I did. I eat termites now. They are pretty tasty. They taste a bit like cedar and smoke. I probably ate about 15 of them. We hiked in the rain, crossing rivers and muddy trails and towards the end we came across a lemon ant tree. Inside the branches are hollow pods. Marco opened one of the pods and there were so many tiny ants. I was invited to try them as well. So, I did. They were crazy!! They tasted like lemon. I put my tongue to the pod and all of a sudden there were maybe 20 ants crawling on my tongue. I eat ants now too. I’m probably only going to eat termites and ants from now on. High in protein and kind of tasty.
We hiked almost back to the lodge. We came to the end of the trail and our canoe was there waiting for us. We got on the canoe and had about a 10 minute paddle back to the lodge. Once we were back we had some lunch and then some free time until 4:00. I tried to get some photos off my phone, it wasn’t working for me. So I took a nap. My room has a jacuzzi tub on the balcony and Adam wanted to go in the tub. So he mentioned it to Marco at lunch, and he sent some staff to my room to start the bath for Adam. When we got back from lunch the guys were here filling the tub. They had candles lit for him and a nice robe. It was pretty hilarious. The tub took forever to fill, but Adam had a nice jacuzzi to himself with candles and bubble bath. The kid loves spa experiences.
At 4:00 we met on the dock and canoed down another creek to another hiking trail. It was still raining, but not as hard as it was earlier in the day. We hiked for a short while, and saw the most poisonous tiny frog in the Amazon. I didn’t touch it, or eat it, or lick it. Then we reached a tower attached to an Iron Wood tree. It had something like 300 steps up to the top of the tree. At the top there was a platform and we did some bird watching. We saw macaws, toucans, other birds, some more monkeys, and 2 different sloths. It was a great evening of wildlife viewing in the top of the trees. It was an awesome experience. Towards sunset it stopped raining and we had an amazing sunset over the rainforest. The fog was so cool. We waited until the sun went down and made our way back down the tower to the hiking trail. We hiked back to the canoe in the dark, hoping to spot some nocturnal wildlife. We didn’t see anything except for a lot of mud. It was ok though, we have seen so many different animals and birds here, it was a winner trip. We got back to the lodge by canoe, in the dark. We could see cayman eyes in the creek, with flashlights, on the way back. It was a bit eerie. Once back, we showered quickly and met everyone for dinner. It’s our last night here so we had great conversation with the couple from Washington, that have been in our group since the beginning, and Marco. We said our goodbyes to our new friends and went back to our rooms. Now, just writing up the blog for the day and I’m going to go to bed. I’m really tired tonight.
Tomorrow we leave for the airport at 6:30a.m. We canoe back to the welcome center, about 1 1/2 hours. The we board a motor boat and have a 2 1/2 hour ride back up river to the dock and we will take a taxi to the airport. We fly back to Quito tomorrow morning and should arrive in Quito at about 12:30 in the afternoon. We are going to stay at the same hotel in Quito tomorrow. No big plans for the city tomorrow. Maybe we will go to the Basilica and tour that and then some more exploring. On Friday we will head to the Andes and spend two nights at two different towns in the highlands. I may not have anything to blog for my Thursday report as we will be traveling a lot. But if we do something exciting in Quito when we get back, I’ll do one more blog post. Three in a row!!
Thanks again for checking out the blog and reading. Maybe it’s fun. I don’t know. I’m enjoying writing and posting photos of the Great Adventure of 2017! So, there’s that…
Let’s see…I left off while in Quito and we were leaving for the Amazon on Monday. Today is Tuesday, March 21, but I won’t be able to blog these photos until we get back to Quito on Thursday. There is wifi here, but it is really, really slow. I’m still amazed they have wifi, but it’s not strong enough to post. Sorry for the 3 day blog dump.
So, Monday we caught a flight from Quito to Coca. We arrived in Coca around 1:30 and made our way to baggage claim in the one room airport. The baggage was loaded into the airport off a trailer from the back of a tractor. So, needless to say, it wasn’t a very organized endeavor. We got our bags and made our way outside to our guide for the week, Marco. They loaded our bags in the back of a pickup truck, put us in a taxi and we headed to the Napo River, a tributary of the Amazon River. Once at the dock, we were loaded on to a motor boat and headed down river for about 2 1/2 hours. We arrived at the Napo Wildlife Center welcome area, and were loaded on a canoe. No motors allowed after a certain point, so we were paddled down a creek through the national park to our eco lodge in the middle of the jungle, on a lake. The Napo Wildlife Center Lodge is located inside the national park and all tourists and everything the lodge needs to operate is paddled in every day. It’s pretty amazing. While canoeing down the creek to the lodge we saw sloths, anacondas, quite a few birds, squirrel monkeys, anda caiman. We were on the canoe for about 1 1/2 hours and got a lot of wildlife viewing in!
We finally got to the lodge as the sun was setting, about 6:00. We got checked in and got to our open air rooms and had time to change quick for dinner. We didn’t arrive at the lodge until after 6:00. So, the first day was a lot of boat rides, which were awesome, and some amazing wildlife viewing. After dinner we went back to our rooms. Adam and I played some Yahtzee, then it was time for bed as we had a 4:30a.m. wake up call.
Today we had a 4:30 wake up call, which I missed. But, I did make it to breakfast in time to eat, just a few minutes late. After a quick breakfast, we went to the dock and got in our canoe and were on our way at 5:30. It was an eerie experience paddling through the jungle in the dark while the howler monkeys were screaming. But it was pretty cool to be there when the sun came up. We canoed down the creek back to the welcome center and were loaded back on the motorboats. The first stop was a clay lick where the parrots hang out to get nutrients. It was cool to see all those parrots in one place at the same time. I took some photos, but they didn’t do the place justice. After a while there we made our way to the local village where the women of the village explained life in the Amazon and cultural routines. It was very interesting. After the presentation and shopping for handicrafts that the women made, we went back to the boat and motored back down river to a hiking trail. We got off the boat and did a short hike through the jungle to a watering hole. We weren’t sure what animals and birds we would see, or how long it would take. So after sitting for an hour I started to nod off. 4:30 is an early wake up call. Finally there was the sound of a shit ton of birds and they started flying into the trees above the water. Then it seemed like all at once there were maybe 20 or more parakeets at the water. We watched them and took photos until something spooked them and they all took off and flew through the viewing area. It was like a scene out of the movie, The Birds. Since they weren’t coming back, we hiked back to the boat and went back to the village for lunch, which was delicious.
After lunch, we were loaded back on to the motorboat and taken back to our canoe. We spent the rest of the day canoeing back to the lodge while seeing howler monkeys, owls, a lot more birds, another anaconda, and that same caiman. I think maybe it was the same anaconda, as yesterday, too. Our guide, Marco, and the guys paddling the canoe are amazing at spotting wildlife! They would say things like “Monkey!!” and we would stop. I have no idea how they could spot monkeys in the tallest of trees through all the vegetation, but they sure did. The owls were in the jungle and they spotted them. I couldn’t even see the tree they were in. That was a pretty cool part of today as they pulled the canoe on the bank and we were able to get out and hike to the owls to get some better photos. So cool. We arrived back at the lodge at about 5:00 in the evening. While paddling across the lake, we saw 5 river otters right by the lodge. So we got off the boat really quickly and went to a bridge area to get some awesome photos of the otters. They are super fun!! We watched them for about 20 minutes while they ate fish and swam around. Probably the highlight of today. That and seeing the howler monkeys.
The otter watching was over so we went back to the canoe to grab our stuff and we had a couple of free hours until dinner. We went to the bar and had a beer and then went to the top of the viewing tower at the lodge, which is about 900 feet tall. Took some photos and headed back to the room for some photo editing and a Lightroom lesson for Adam before dinner.
Dinner was great, really good conversation with our guide, Marco, and a couple from Washington who have been in our group on the excursions since we got here. Now, I’m back in my room, did some editing of photos with Adam, and typing up the blog post for the past couple of days.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, is our last day here. We leave early Thursday morning. Tomorrow the wake up call isn’t until 6:00! I’m excited to sleep in a bit. We will be going on more hikes tomorrow and explore a different area of the creek. I have been wanting to hike, so I’m excited about tomorrow. One hike will be a night hike. Can’t wait for that!
I better get some sleep. It’s 10:45p.m. and I’m a happy exhausted from the day. It is so hot and humid here, it seems to drain my energy. But, hey, it’s an amazing experience!!! I will not complain. I’ll blog on Thursday, but probably have another blog for tomorrow that I will post when I get back to civilization. Thanks for reading and checking out the photos…if you are. Thursday…that will be the day of the blog dump! Take care…
The Great Adventure of 2017 has begun!!! This time the Great Adventure brings me to Ecuador! I'm also traveling with my Sister and Nephew (Debbie and Adam) on this trip, so it's a shared great adventure. Most of the time I go on these trips by myself, but my Sister had this trip planned for my Nephew's spring break, so I decided to tag along with them.
This Great Adventure began on Saturday morning, March 18th. I flew out of Madison and had a connection in Atlanta. Since the trip to Africa last year, and a couple other trips, I have achieved status with Delta, so free upgrades and admission to the Sky Club. I took advantage of that with a 3 hour layover in Atlanta. Free booze and wi-fi, and comfy seats. I was happy. After a layover in Atlanta, I boarded my flight to Quito, Ecuador. Upgrade to first class!! Yeah!! I was winning on Saturday. I arrived in Quito at 10:30p.m., made my way through immigration, baggage and customs and met my ride to the hotel where I met up with Debbie and Adam. It was pretty late when I arrived, so I said hello to them and went to bed.
Yesterday, Sunday, we met up with a guide and driver and explored Quito. First stop was the equator. There is a fake equator and a real one. Apparently the French discovered the fake equator a very long time ago and in 1979, the Ecuadorian government built a monument, and then it was discovered that the true equator was a few hundred feet to the north, so the land owners built a museum and painted another line marking the true equator. We went to the real one, not the fake one. It was pretty cool. They gave interesting facts about indigenous people of the Amazon and the Andes, then it was time to check out the equator. After a few photos by the sign, the guide had us balance an egg on a nail. Apparently since there is no magnetic draw, it is easy to balance the raw egg on the head of a nail. I didn't try it, but Adam did. He wasn't able to do it, but other people on the tour were. Then it was time to walk the equator, with our eyes closed, heel to toe. I made it a few steps before I almost fell over. Now, my balance is pretty bad anyway, but even Debbie and Adam had a difficult time with it. Not sure what that's about, but it was fun. Then we stood about 5 feet North and South of the equator and clasped our hands together and raised them above our shoulders while someone else tried to pull your arms down, while you were resisting. North and South, it was impossible to pull arms down. Then we were to stand on the equator and try again. It was crazy! Everyone's arms were pulled down like nothing. I don't know if it's some sort of power of suggestion thing, but it was pretty cool and strange.
After the visit to the equator, we made our way to Old Town in Quito. Quito is a really beautiful city. It is surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. It's also very high in altitude, I think about 9,000 feet above sea level. There is a newer part of the city with high rises and commercial buildings and then there is an older part with a ton of churches, the presidential palace, and different heritage sites and squares. Since it was Sunday, the Old Town was extremely busy. People there selling things and street food, and a lot of people in Quito spend their Sunday's in the squares enjoying music and food. It was perfect. I could've spent all day there just hanging out and watching people. We visited quite a few churches and squares, and the presidential palace. It was great!
After Old Town, our guide and driver dropped us off at a restaurant owned by a mother and daughter team that Debbie had been talking with on Facebook before we left. A friend of Debbie's, son, was born with hearing difficulties and had a surgery so he can hear now. Debbie's friend met the daughter, who lives in Quito, in L.A. who had surgery by the same surgeon as well. So she asked if we would meet up with her. So, we got to the restaurant they own and then we went for lunch at a beautiful place with traditional Ecuadorian food. It was heavy, but really delicious. After lunch with the mother and daughter, we got a taxi and made our way back to the hotel. We dropped some things off in our rooms and then we walked a few blocks to a handicraft market. Lots of people selling the same things, t-shirts, sweaters, blankets, jewelry, food, and handmade items. It was great to be in a market like that again. I love markets like that! After a few purchases, we went back to the hotel and I taught Adam how to play cribbage. Then dinner at the hotel because almost everything near our hotel was closed on Sundays. After dinner we played 3 games of Yahtzee. Yeah, I won all 3 games! Now, I'm just in my room editing photos and blogging.
Today, Monday, we are heading to the Amazon. We will take a short flight, then we will be taken on a 4 hour boat and canoe trip down river to an eco lodge in the rain forest. We will spend 3 nights in the Amazon and head back to Quito. I'm excited for this trip, but then I think about all the monkeys and snakes and I get creeped out. I hate monkeys. And snakes. Mostly monkeys though. They steal from you. I probably won't wear my hat because I don't want any of those monkeys stealing my shit.
I will try to blog while in the Amazon. The lodge says there is wi-fi, but I kind of find that hard to believe since we will be traveling to the middle of nowhere, only accessible by boat. But hey, maybe it will happen. So, until next time, thanks for reading!!! Hopefully I'll have some good news from the Amazon. Monkey and snake free...
Last month I went on a Mexico adventure with Ben and Kasha!! We went to a place between Cancun and Playa Del Carmen, in Riviera Maya. We mostly took some photos, and did some relaxing and swimming. We did portraits on the beach one morning during the sunrise. This is what I got. It was magical!!
A couple of weeks ago I went on a Great Adventure with a couple of friends. We went to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA). We started this trip last year, and it seems like we are going to try to make it an annual trip. Nothing like being in the solitude of the wilderness to "reset".
The trip started on Friday, August 12, 2016. The guys came up from Chicago and crashed at my place in Madison, so we could get an early start on our trip on Saturday. Saturday morning, we left Madison and made the 8, or so, hour drive to Tuscarora Canoe Outfitters. They are located on the Gunflint Trail near Grand Marais, MN. We arrived at Tuscarora and got our permit, and went over food and some gear, and then talked about our route. Since it was late August we knew it would be busy in the BWCA so we decided to take a route less traveled. It is less traveled because it has the 3rd longest portage in the BWCA. After going over everything we headed to our bunkhouse and then to the Gunflint Lodge for a last dinner and some drinks. We had some great food and drinks and then went back to Tuscarora to get some sleep.
Sunday morning started with a french toast breakfast at the outfitter. We got the rest of our gear together and we were ready to go. We got our food and canoe and loaded up. A quick selfie, then we were on the water. We had 4 portages this day. The first was 142 rods (about 1/2 mile). I was struggling with the food pack on the front of my body because I couldn't see the trail. I also had my backpack on my back. Brian had the gear pack and his pack, and Ben took the canoe and his pack. After the first portage, we had a short paddle on Missing Link Lake to our longest portage of the trip. A 452 rod portage to Tuscarora Lake. We loaded up, same packs as before, and headed out. I really struggled with this portage. I couldn't see the trail and twisted my ankle and fell a couple of times. I decided to leave my pack, at about the halfway point, and come back for it. It took a while, but we all made it. Brian and Ben did great, I seemed to be the only one struggling. And at this point, my ankle was starting to swell so I was glad the hard portage was over. We decided to stop for lunch after that portage and take a break. Then, time to move on. After a short portage into Owl Lake, we had one more for the day. Another short portage into Crooked Lake where we would set up camp. We came across a great site and left Brian, in case the others were taken. Ben and I paddled to a couple other sites and they were taken, so we went back to Brian and made that campsite our home for 5 nights. It was a great site. We set up camp and took some photos and had some dinner, then a fire. I think it was an early night, everyone was pretty tired.
The next day started with some coffee. Then a swim in the lake. We were near an island and I decided to swim out to it, about 1/4 mile round trip. The next day, the guys joined me and that is pretty much how we started every morning. Most of the days we would take naps, read, eat, take more naps, maybe swim a bit. We went out fishing a few times, but mostly just hung out at camp and had a super relaxing vaca. The weather was perfect. It was in the upper 70's and mostly sunny every day, and in the 50's at night. Perfect. So, not much to report for these 5 days as it was mostly chillin at camp. We would watch the local beavers make their morning and evening commutes and watched the loons swim and hang out.
On Friday, August 19, we took down our camp and made our way back towards Tuscarora Lodge. We decided to get all but one of the portages out of the way on Friday. This would leave us with one portage and a short paddle on Saturday morning, before we would get back to the outfitter and start the drive home. Coming back the same way was a bit easier. We had lighter food and gear packs. This time I took my pack and the canoe. It was easier on my ankle. So we made it to Missing Link Lake with no additional injuries. We found a campsite (which wasn't the greatest, but it was only for 1 night) and set up camp. It was early enough so I went out in the canoe fishing while Brian hung out in his hammock, reading, and Ben went with me and read most of the time. It was a super relaxing last night in the BWCA.
Saturday morning, we woke up early and broke camp. We headed out and were at the outfitters by 9:30. After showers, and clean clothes, we talked with the outfitter a bit, about our trip. Then we headed out. We stopped at Windigo Lodge for some breakfast and celebratory drinks. Met a super interesting bartender/manager/cook of the place then we were back in the car. Made a stop in Grand Marais and Superior, then the long drive back to Madison. We got back to Madison a little before Midnight on Saturday. We had some whiskey and took a sauna, then everyone crashed for the night. The next day the guys headed back to Chicago and I prepared for the new work week and cleaning up my gear. It was over, just like that...
I love the BWCA. I think maybe everyone should try to take a trip there. Maybe it's not for everyone, but if you like canoeing, camping and wilderness solitude, you will like it there. This trip was a bit hard on me both physically and mentally at some points. I love it there so much, so I will just suck it up and make it happen again. I want to continue to go every year, so I'm hoping that it will happen again in 2017. It is a place that takes me back to some happy memories in my childhood with Boy Scouts, and the great times we had. So...until next year!
A couple of weeks ago I went to Phoenix, Arizona!! I went for a wedding of my good friend Lisa Roth (Youssef) and her now husband Eddie. It was an amazing wedding! I was so happy to be invited and able to attend. So, why not turn it into a Great Adventure Southwest Style? That's what happened. The wedding was a great opportunity to take some time off and explore the Southwest U.S. I've never been to this area before and was super excited to explore. My amazing friends Ben and Kasha were flying in on Saturday to join me in the Great Adventure. I am so lucky to have friends willing to explore with me and go on remote adventures. So, it turned into another Great Adventure camping/backpacking/hiking style. I loved it.
I arrived in Phoenix at about 11:00p.m. on May 6th. I made my way to the resort where the wedding was happening and got a good night sleep. The next morning I had some breakfast at a nearby farm to table restaurant. After an amazing breakfast, I explored Phoenix and picked up some essentials for our camping/backpacking trip to come. Obviously whiskey and camp stove fuel were the top of the list. Maybe I picked up some bananas and some Doritos. Staples, you know. I came back to the resort and went to the pool and chilled out in the sun and had a couple drinks. An amazing day. After getting a good sunburn and a little nap in the sun, I made my way back to my room and got ready for the wedding. What an amazing wedding! They had legit fireworks!! For real ones!! So cool. And, I got to sit at the Mother and Father of the Bride's table. So I knew some people. That was super nice. I liked this wedding a lot. They really had a great one. At about 10:00p.m. the wedding was winding down and heading towards the golf clubhouse. I headed to the airport to pick up Ben and Kasha. I got to the airport and met up with them and we headed back to the resort. So good to see them! We had a drink and a game of cribbage and then some sleep.
The next morning we headed out on our great adventure!! We left Phoenix about 8:00a.m. on Sunday and headed towards the Antelope Canyon. We had a 1:00p.m. tour appointment. I was kind of worried we wouldn't make it, but we did. We went on a tour of the Antelope Canyon. It was a pretty special place. A shit ton of tourists, but the tour is the only way you can see the canyon. It was worth it. I maybe took 100 photos that day. I'm only happy with a few of them, but it was beautiful. I kind of loved it. We met some tourists from Germany. They were super awesome. After talking with them we made our way back to the Grand Canyon. It was a bit of a back track to the Grand Canyon, but worth it. On the way we stopped at a lookout point. After viewing the grandness of the lookout we headed back to the car and all 3 of us proceeded to get into the wrong car. As soon as I opened the door a Chinese tourist appeared from the back seat and screamed at me "Not Your Cahhh!!" At the same time Ben and Kasha were opening the passenger doors and he screamed the same at them. Amazing!!! We found our car and were off to the Grand Canyon. I love things like that on Great Adventures. My favorite.
We got to the Grand Canyon and set up our camp at the Mather Campground, where we would camp for 2 nights. After setting up camp we made our way to a lodge for dinner and back to camp for an early night. The next day we took the shuttle to the Kaibab Trailhead for a day hike. The Grand Canyon is an amazing place. I thought it couldn't get much better than that (until we arrived in Zion). After the day hike we went back to camp for a while then decided to do a sundown hike on the Bright Angel Trail. We were hoping to make it to the Ohhh-Ahhh Plateau. But alas, we didn't make it there. We did hike back to the trail head in the dark and that was an adventure! We had head lamps so we could see, but it was different hiking back at night. Finally made it back to the trail head and back to camp where we cooked a quick dinner of ramen noodles and had some whiskey, then off to bed. Whiskey is always good at the end of a trying day.
We all got up the next morning, broke camp, and headed off towards Utah. Zion National Park was our destination. On the way we stopped at Horseshoe Bend. I saw the sign for it, asked Ben, "You wanna stop there?". Response..."Uhhh...Yeah!". So we stopped. I had heard of Horseshoe Bend before and I was happy we came across it on our way to Zion. I wasn't expecting it. A great little side trip. We all hiked up to the bend and took a bunch of photos. It's the Colorado River! It was pretty cool. There were a shit ton of tourists there, but so worth it to stop there. After our side trip to Horseshoe, we got back on the road and stopped in Page, Arizona for some food, supplies, and booze. After an hour shopping, booze buying, and McDonalds stop we were back on the road towards Zion. Another 3.5 hour drive. Beautiful vistas along the way!!! Finally got to Zion National Park. I wasn't prepared for how amazing and beautiful that area of the country is. If you ever get a chance to go to Zion, go. It is beautiful!! Better than the Grand Canyon in my opinion. Green, canyons, rivers, water, amazing. I love it.
Arrived in Zion, picked up our back country permit for the next day and made our way to the campground for the night. Great campground, great everything!! We went on a hike that late afternoon. We were hoping to make it to Scout's Lookout and Angel's Landing and we did! It was kind of a tough hike, but we did it and made it back to the shuttle stop before the last shuttle took us back to the campground. Angel's Landing should be on everyone's bucket list. Zion is maybe the most beautiful place I've seen in the USA. Go!! We got back to our campsite, picked up the car and went into Springdale for dinner. Made a plan, over dinner, for the next day'sback country adventure and made our way back to camp for the night.
The next morning we woke up early and packed up for our Back Country adventure in Zion. We were to drive our car to the Hop Valley Trail head, pick up our pre-arranged shuttle and drive to the Lee Pass Trail Head in Zion National Park in the Kolob Canyon section of the park. All went as planned for the most part. We started our back country night on the La Verkin Creek Trail. I had arranged for us to camp at campsite #2 on the trail. It was a great site but 3.5 miles from clean water. We hiked in, and set up camp and had some lunch, then set off for water. Kasha had a couple injuries so she was not into hiking for water so she and Ben handed off their water containers and headed back towards camp. I was on my own this day, get water for the team and maybe explore a bit. I found my way to the La Verkin Creek and the Hop Valley Trail Head. I was looking for a natural spring called Beatty Spring. It wasn't clearly marked on the map and not marked at all on the trail. After hiking about 1 mile longer than I needed to I made my way back towards the creek and found the water source. Filled all the water containers and headed back towards camp. All in all it was about 13 miles that day for me. I finally made it back to camp after 6 hours and was rewarded with a great welcome back to camp from Ben and Kasha. They had enjoyed their day together and I was feeling good about my day so everyone won that day. They got to spend some time together, away from me, and I got water so everyone wins on day 1! The next morning we woke up early, cooked some oatmeal and breakfast and broke camp. We had about a 9.5 mile hike to the car (or so we thought) so we got an early start. After a day off from hiking, Ben and Kasha were ready for the day! I was a bit sore, but ready to go too!
We took off. All was going according to plan, most of the day. Then we came to a marker indicating the trail went up a ridge, instead of following the clearly worn trail. So we went up the ridge. Bushwacking all the way. It was an adventure. Ben was clearing the path and I was so thankful that he he was doing that. After consulting the map and the area, Ben and I decided we needed to get back down to the trail we were originally on. After back tracking and bush wacking we made our way back to the trail. We all thought we maybe had one more mile to the car. Mistake. After that mile we realized we had another 4 miles to the car. We were out of water and it was a tough hike. I've never felt in danger before, but this time I was really, really thirsty. It was a struggle the last mile to the car to Gatorade and beers. We ultimately made it, obviously, but it was a bit scary for a while. We were all so thirsty.
We made it back to the car, finally, and downed some Gatorade and water, and finally some beers. I was never so happy to see a car in my life. This was probably one of the hardest things I've done in my life. It was a great adventure to experience a Back Country night in Zion, but it was also hard to hike 13-15 miles per day, for 2 days straight. I loved it with all my heart though. I have amazing friends and we all got through it together. I hiked ahead for some of the last day, to give Ben and Kasha some more alone time, but we finished together. I love these guys. It was a great accomplishment. Especially at my age. Ben is one of the greatest supporters ever. For both his wife Kasha, who was struggling with injuries, and myself. What great encouragement! Thanks Ben.
After making it to the car we headed back to Springdale and checked into our hotel for the night. So amazing to have a bed and shower after a few days of camping!! The Majestic View Lodge is amazing and we went to the hot tub to soak away our aches and pains from the past few days. We met a local couple and they recommended some good places to eat in Springdale. Great suggestions. After a hot tub soak and some showers all around we headed out for a great celebratory dinner! Cold drinks and hot meals. Nothing better. Headed back to the hotel and played some more cribbage and sleepy time.
The next morning we slept in a bit and headed towards Springdale for breakfast. After a great breakfast we made our 4 hour drive to Sedona where we booked a resort for the night. Kasha had a massage while Ben and I played some cribbage. Then off to an amazing Mexican dinner at one of the top rated restaurants in Sedona. Amazing dinner and margaritas and then back to the hotel for some much needed sleep. First a stop in the hot tub, after hours of course. We got a good 15 minutes in the hot tub before we were kicked out. Closing time at 10:00 and it was well after that. But the guy seemed pretty cool.
The next morning we had some breakfast at the resort and headed towards Phoenix and the airport for our flights home. I checked into my flight first as it was leaving 3 hours before Ben and Kasha's. After checking in, we checked into their flight and made our way to the terminal for some food and drinks. After a couple of drinks with Ben and Kasha I was super sad to leave them, but made my way back to my terminal and gate for my connecting flight in Minneapolis. I was super depressed to leave them. But as I was sitting in the terminal, waiting for my flight to board and looking at photos on my phone, I heard my name. It was Nick Berard and his wife Tina and their son Max!!! They were coming to Phoenix for Max's first birthday!! Tina's Mom and Sister live in Phoenix. So, that helped bring my mood up. Max is awesome. After our brief conversation I boarded my flight to Minneapolis and then to Madison. Arrived about 11:00p.m. in Madison. I hate when awesome adventures like this come to an end, but they must.
If you ever want to go to Zion, you should. If you ever want to go to Antelope Canyon, you should. If you ever want to go to The Grand Canyon, you should. What an amazing thing, our National Park System, is. Go visit these areas!! You will not be disappointed. Thanks for a great vaca Ben and Kasha. Love you guys.
This morning I woke up early to my usual wake up call of coffee. Then I went to breakfast and it was just Bigfish and I at breakfast. Monnie and Lizzy were there and Monnie kept telling me how much she was going to miss me. I was really sad. After a leisurely breakfast I went to my room and packed up my stuff and headed back to the lobby. Monnie and Lizzy were there and kept giving me hugs goodbye. They are 2 of the sweetest ladies I’ve ever met. They take care of their guests as friends and they seem sincere. I bought a basket from Monnie that she weaved from palm leaves. I always try to buy a piece of local art when I travel. This time it is a truly special piece since I met the artist. She is really talented. After some long goodbyes it was time to load up in the truck with Bigfish and go for a final game drive. There was only one other guest at the hotel today so it was a very slow day for them. So, they told me I was welcome to sleep in or have another game drive in the morning since my bush plane flight wasn’t leaving until 11:30, I had plenty of time. So I decided on the game drive and Bigfish was all about it.
So, we headed off. We have been tracking a mother leopard and her 2 cubs for a couple days now. Everyone seems to see them except us, so the goal of the morning was to try to find those leopard cubs. We stopped at one point to look at a herd of Impala, and when we went around a corner just a few feet ahead, there they were! Both cubs playing and wrestling in the road. They are probably the cutest things ever. The mother was not around. Bigfish said she was still out hunting. So we took some photos and just watched the cubs play and attack each other and have a great time. It was super funny. It was a really uplifting thing to see after the very first thing we saw this morning. We saw some other trucks parked so we decided to go and check out what they were looking at. We thought it was the leopard cubs at first. Then we a saw a huge female elephant with a little tiny baby. Another guide told Bigfish that the baby had been born in the night and the Hyenas had gotten to it and ripped it’s trunk off and injured it very badly. It was still standing under it’s mother and the mother was just rocking and pacing back and forth. The Hyenas were still in the area, sitting around waiting for the baby to die so they could go in and grab their prey. It was super sad. So, it was nice to see playing leopard cubs just a few minutes later. Lightened the mood for sure. We drove around and saw a bunch of other animals, and went back to where we saw the cubs but they were gone. The mother had moved on with them. So lucky to have seen them though. So, we just drove around looking at the landscape the the wildlife. It was a beautiful morning. At about 11:15 we made our way to the airstrip to wait for my flight to the Maun airport. The flight came in and just as he was about to land a bunch of Warthogs ran onto the air strip. So the pilot pulled up and had to circle around and try the landing again. Stupid Warthogs. I said my sad goodbye to Bigfish and got in the plane and got the co-pilot seat again. The we took off for the Maun Airport. I checked in for my flight to Johannesburg and waited around. We left 30 minutes late and I only had 2.5 hours in Johannesburg to make my connecting flight and recheck my bag. My travel dude arranged for an airport escort, so we got to jump a couple lines and made it through getting my bag, checking in for my flight to Paris, immigration and security in less than an hour. I’m not sure I would’ve made the flight if I had done it on my own. So, I am currently at my gate waiting for the first of 3 more flights to board. I’ll fly from Johannesburg to Paris. Have a 5 hour layover in Paris, then fly to Detroit from Paris. A 2 hour layover (I hope we are on time), and thenshort flight to Madison. It’s currently 5:45p.m. on Friday in Johannesburg and I will arrive in Madison at 4:50p.m. on Saturday. It’s going to be a long, long journey. Especially since I’ve been up since 6:00 this morning having fun times. Whateves.
I think I said it yesterday. This has probably been the greatest adventure of all the Great Adventures so far. I was alone and in the middle of nowhere in Namibia, then Botswana was so lush and green and the landscape and the animals were so beautiful. It didn’t hurt that the lodge I stayed at was super awesome and the people were even more awesome. It was an experience I will never forget. There have been some stressful times along the journey, but it wouldn’t be a Great Adventure if there wasn’t a range of things happening. Mostly it has been smooth sailing and I’ve been able to relax and really enjoy myself. I am usually ready to go home from a long Great Adventure but I would stay another week if I could. I really am sad to leave. Anyone want to come back with me next year?
Thanks for reading everyone!!! I appreciate everyone taking time to read my stupid adventures. I enjoy writing the blog when I travel and when people actually read it, that makes it even better.
Until the next Great Adventure!!!!!
Today is my last night of my Great Adventure 2016-Africa Edition. Sadly tomorrow I will have to head home. I do not want to leave. This has been a trip of a lifetime. I don’t want to leave Africa. I have met so many nice, warm, inviting people here. It has been one of the best Great Adventures ever. I think maybe this trip is at the top of the list. It used to be Chile and Patagonia, but now Africa has won. For sure.
This morning started with the usual wake up call at 6:00 with coffee. Then I went to breakfast, said goodbye to the Austrians, and headed out on a game drive with Bigfish and the the newlywed couple from South Africa. We went to a new habitat today hoping to spot a cheetah. We didn’t come across a cheetah, but did see many zebra, ostrich, wildebeest, giraffes, elephants, and of course many varieties of antelope. The day was amazing as usual. How can you not be happy when you are driving around and seeing these animals in their natural habitat. It is always a good day on safari. I am just so happy to be here so if we didn’t see any animals today, that would’ve been fine with me. The landscape is enough. We drove around looking for animals, crossing some rivers, and just hanging out. Then we stopped for coffee under a nice shade tree, then headed back to the camp for lunch. Monnie was gone yesterday, but when I came back for lunch she was here. She is the most inviting, warm person I have met on this trip. She told me today she will cry when I leave because now I am a friend and she will miss me. I think I love her. She is a basket weaver and she showed me all of her creations. One of my main goals of every trip is to buy a piece of artwork from a local artist. Today I bought one of Monnie’s baskets. Well sort of, she picked out the one she wanted me to have and I'll pay for it tomorrow. It is a piece of art, and knowing who it came from makes it even more special. Monnie and her team of servers and staff are the kindest people. They truly want to make this experience special and they work hard in doing so. I appreciate everything they do. Sincerely this is the most special place I have ever been in my life. The gratitude is immense.
After lunch it was siesta time until high tea at 3:00. I will never get used to that. High tea. I think everyone should have high tea every day. It’s one of those things that you experience and say to yourself, “yes, this is how life should be”. Then it was time for a boat ride in the delta with BIgfish and the honeymooners. They seem really nice. I kind of feel bad that they are on their honeymoon and I am the third wheel, but that’s the way it goes. Nothing I can do about it. We went on the boat and saw some beautiful scenery and some birds. Not a lot of wildlife happening on the delta, but it was nice to be on the water. We made our way to one point in the delta and turned around, headed back towards camp. About 10 minutes from camp we stopped the boat and had gin and tonic sundowners. Watched the sun go down, and relaxed and then started up the boat and headed to camp. We arrived just after the sun set and the honeymooners asked me to stay and have a drink with them and the staff at the fire before I headed back to my room for a shower. I gladly accepted and had a nice glass of whiskey around the fire and great conversation with everyone. I’m usually very introverted so it was really nice of them to ask me to join them. I hung out for a bit and finished my whiskey and headed back to my room for a shower.
After a quick shower, I went back to the fire and joined in the conversation again. Sort of . I mostly listened to people talking. That is the great thing here, Bigfish is clearly an introvert as well, but as a guide he is required to have dinner and fire time and drinks with us. It is nice to have someone else who is quiet and can just listen to the conversation. He’s a cool dude. So after listening to other views on the world and travel stories it was time for dinner. They had set up a special dinner for the couple at the edge of camp so it was a very small dinner of 5 tonight. A new lady showed up from Austria today. She seems a bit old and crabby, but the guys here are helping to soften that. After an amazing dinner we had some more fire time and drinks. I learned about a ton of stuff about life in Botswana and the every day things that happen here. I am so honored to hear about how other people and cultures live their daily lives. After some fire and drinks time, Icould tell Bigfish was feeling awkward. So I excused myself to my room so he could go home to his room. Plus I wanted to get the last blog in tonight. What an amazing trip.
Tomorrow my bush plane doesn’t leave until 11:30, so Bigfish and I are going on a game drive in the morning. We are really, really hoping to spot the leopard and her cubs tomorrow. It would be the cherry on top of this great adventure if that happened. We have been trying to spot them for 2 days. After the game drive, I will go to the air strip and meet the bush plane for the flight to Maun. I will fly from Maun, Botswana to Johannesburg, South Africa from 1:350-3:50. I have a 3 hour layover in Jo-Burg (that’s what we call it here), then at 6:50p.m. I will board my plane for Paris. After a 10 hour flight to Paris I have a 5 hour layover there. Then I get on my flight to Detroit. Another 10 hours or so, then a 2 hour layover in Detroit and then my flight to Madison. I will leave the Moremi Game Preserve at 11:30 tomorrow (Friday) and finally arrive home (Madison) at 4:50p.m. on Saturday. It’s going to be a long day. Excited for another game drive tomorrow though!!!
This may be the last post of the Great Adventure of 2016. Sadly. But, maybe we will see some leopard and cubs tomorrow so I will do the final post tomorrow. It’s going to be blog overload soon. I don’t have internet connection here in Botswana, so I am writing the blog and will have to publish when I get to Paris. I’m hoping to get in the Air France lounge since I have 5 hours in Paris. Plenty of time to update the blog and post some photos. So, if there are 3-4 new blog postings tomorrow, or whenever Paris time is, I apologize. Thanks for reading though. It has been a truly great adventure and I may cry when I leave Africa tomorrow. What an experience….
Today I am still in Botswana!! No shit…this morning at about 1:30a.m. I woke up to the sounds of a HUGE animal right outside my deck. I peeked through the curtains and it was a hippo grazing on the grass. I bet it was no more than 20 feet from the edge of my deck. I watched him or her for a while then it moved on. It may have saw me in my underwear’s and ran. I went back to bed and slept like a baby.
This morning I got my wake up call at 6:00 with a pitcher of coffee and a warm good morning from Monnie. I got up and got ready for the day. Today’s agenda was a game drive in the morning, then come back to the camp for lunch and a siesta, then another game drive in the afternoon. Not a bad way to spend the day.
This morning after breakfast, Bigfish and I set out for the day. Just the two of us. We drove for a long time and saw the usual Impala. It’s funny that I am so bored by the Impala now. I guess since they are so frequently seen and the population is high, they are old news. Before long, Bigfish and I came upon a pride of lions. There were 3 males and 1 female. They were super lazy! They had full bellies, so it showed that they had eaten the night before, so that would explain the laziness. Although, Bigfish said the lions are so lazy all the time. They can spend the entire day in one spot. So I took a ton of photos of the lions being lazy, then they got up and moved to the shade. So, it was nice to see them a bit active. That is where they stayed the entire day. After the lions, we drove around and saw giraffes (a group of 5 of them), a bunch of Warthogs, Impala, Kudu, and birds. It is a truly special place, the Moremi Game Preserve. After a couple hours of driving around, we stopped under a tree and watched some Warthogs and Zebra and had some more coffee. Bigfish set up a sweet spread of cookies and coffee. So, we hung out for a bit and then continued the drive. We saw more game and some Impala’s playing. Watched that for a while. Then I saw a huge elephant. We drove closer and as I was trying to take a photo of it, disaster struck. Well, not really disaster, but my 70-300 zoom lens broke. I knew it was having problems focusing because I dropped it in Sossusvlei. But it had been working ok up until this point. Just when the elephant was looking at me. Bummer. So, I don’t have a zoom lens for the drive tomorrow. Luckily I packed my little Nikon point and shoot and that has a decent zoom on it. So, I will use that tomorrow. After the morning game drive we came back to camp for lunch. Lunch was amazing. Had some great food and a beer, then I was informed that it was siesta time. From about 1:00-3:00 everyone takes naps. I updated some photos and wrote day 1 of the blog and then took a 45 minute nap. After siesta time, it was time for high tea. Well, yes, don’t we all have high tea at 3:00? This is a new experience for me. Basically it was iced tea and cake. Although they have a fully stocked bar and fridge here and you can help yourself at any time. The Austrians that are here are doing a fine job of that. I just had some iced tea and cake.
After lunch, the siesta, and high tea it was time for another game drive. A new couple came into camp this afternoon and Bigfish was assigned as their guide. Which means I have to share the ride and the drive for tomorrow with them. They seem super nice though. Both originally from South Africa. Here on their honeymoon. Seem like nice people. The dude, Rudy, is super into finding a Leopard. So most of the afternoon game drive was spent driving around looking for the Leopard. We did see more Elephants, Lions, Wild Dogs, Kudu, Impala, Water Bock, Antelope, Warthogs, Monkeys, etc.. but, no Leopard. At the end of the drive we stopped by a small lake and saw a HUGE crocodile and some hippos in the water. This is where we had our sundowners. I LOVE sundowners. The S.A. couple took the gin, so I had a beer. So, that’s cool. We made our way back to camp as the sun was down. It was a magical sunset. Maybe because I’m in Africa, but it seems different. So beautiful.
We got back to camp at about 6:45. I took a quick shower, in my outdoor shower of luxury of course. Then it was fire time and drinks. We sat at the fire and had a drink before dinner and then the staff entered the fire area and all 25 of them began singing and dancing. It was one of the most special experiences ever. They truly were amazing and you could tell they were sincere in every word they were singing and dancing to. It wasn’t just a show for the dumb tourists, they were enjoying themselves. I didn’t understand most of it because it was in the traditional Botswana language, but it brought a smile to everyones face. It was so great. Dinner was great. There is a group of 4 Austrian guys here. They go on a vaca together every year. Just the guys. This year is Africa. I was talking a lot with one of them and he told me that in Vienna, the Madison Symphony Orchestra is very, very famous. They love the Madison Symphony there. Who knew?? The things you learn about your home town when you travel. Then we had more drinks by the fire. I’m feeling a bit buzzed right now. I had a couple drinks. But not too many!
Tomorrow is a game drive in the morning, and then in the afternoon we will take the boat down river into the delta and explore that. The Austrian’s were telling me the scenery is amazing. So, I’m looking forward to that. Until tomorrow… time for bed. Early morning again tomorrow and it’s 11:00…
I left off on my last day in Namibia, on 4/19. I got up really early on the 19th, at about 3:00a.m. to catch my ride to the airport at 4:00a.m. I flew from Windohek to Johannesburg, then on to Maun, Botswana. My flight arrived in Maun at about 1:15. After clearing immigration and customs I made my way to the main lobby of the airport. I found the representative for the camp that I’m staying in. I gave her my bigger luggage as I had to take a bush plane to get to the camp and had to pack a smaller duffle bag for that flight. I waited around for another 45 minutes before the others on my flight finally cleared immigration and customs and then we were off. It was a plane that could seat 9 including the pilot. Since I was alone, the pilot required me to sit up in the co-pilot seat. That was amazing!!! I got a front and side view of the amazing scenery. It was about a 30 minute flight to the first air strip. We landed and dropped off all of the other passengers, and then took off again and had another 10-15 minute flight to my air strip where I was met by a guide from the camp. Camp Okuti.
My guide’s name is Bigfish. I like that. I loaded into the truck and we hung out for a minute while I filled out some paperwork. Then we were on our way to the Moremi Game Preserve in the Okovango Delta. Bigfish said since I didn’t get in until about 3:30 we had two options. First option was to go directly to camp and hang out, or we could start our game drive right away. I chose option 2. I was super excited to get this started. So we drove off into the game preserve. It is a national park here, so after filling out some more paperwork at that office we could start the drive. It is amazing here. So lush and green, and then there are open plains areas with taller grasses. It was really nice to see some green after spending all that time in the desert of Namibia. We drove around, off roading when we would see an animal. First thing, I saw some wild dogs. They are exclusive to Botswana, and apparently a bit elusive. But they were just hanging out under a tree. Having a nap. We drove around for another hour and then went towards camp where we picked up a lady who works in the office for the camp, in Maun. She was here training, to see how the camp operates and how the guides work. After picking her up we drove all over, going off road, and just hanging out looking at the animals. First day and we already saw Wild Dog, Zebra, Baboons (these ones seemed nice, sort of) Hippo, Impala, and a Crocodile. At about 6:15 while the sun was going down we drove to Camp Okuti.
I arrived at Camp Okuti in the dark, so I wasn’t really able to see how amazing this property was. I was met by Tibbi (the manager) and another lady (I can't remember her name) and they were waving and yelling welcome to me as we pulled up. They grabbed my bag and showed me to my room. Wow. This place is definitely the nicest place I have EVER been to in my life. A bit too luxury for me, but I’ll take it. I can’t believe this exists in the middle of the delta. My room is huge. I’m guessing it is as big or bigger than my house. The bed is two double beds pushed together with mosquito netting all around. I have an indoor and and outdoor shower, and a porch overlooking the river. I still can’t believe this place. It has basically a roof made of canvas, covered by twigs and is all open air. There is mosquito netting where the open parts are. I love it. I had a minute to take a shower and change my clothes, then it was time for dinner.
I went to the main dining area of the hotel and there is a fire pit with chairs all around. All the staff and other guests were there having drinks and sitting by the fire. Monnie(pronounced money) was waiting for me at the entrance and ready to fix me a drink. She is probably one of the nicest, happiest people I’ve met. I got a gin and tonic and went to the fire and met some of the other staff members. Then the staff gathered and started singing that it was time for dinner. They should really go on the road with their act because the voices were all amazing. So, we went to the table. The guests and staff sit at one big table for meals so you can meet other people and talk to the staff about Botswana and life in Botswana. I met a family from Germany and I thought the Father was going to cry when he was talking about this place. It is truly a special place. The environment is spectacular, but the staff are really what makes this place special. The friendliest and most sincere group of people. The dinner was like a 6 course dinner. Now, this part was a bit awkward for me. I feel like this place is for the super rich. I’m not super rich. So, it was a bit formal with cheese courses and desert wine courses. But, it still felt relaxed and nice, but a bit too formal. During dinner Tandy asked what I would like for my wake up call. I was confused. She explained that Monnie would come to my door at 6:00 for the wake up call and would bring either tea or coffee and wake me up. What?!?!?! A personal wake up service. Wow. After dinner we all sat by the fire and had another drink. At about 9:30 I was really tired, so I went back to my room and climbed in bed and read until I fell asleep. It was a good day. Right now is siesta time in the afternoon on the 2nd day. Oh, from about 1:00-3:00 is nap time. Seriously. Then at 3:00 is tea time, and 3:30 the afternoon game drive begins. I’m not sure when I’m going to be able to update the blog, so I’ll break it up into days. Even though I’m writing this on the 2nd Day.
I am so fortunate to be here….
Today is my last day in Namibia. Sadness. Tomorrow on to Botswana for 4 days.
Today was kind of a late start. I actually got more than 8 hours of sleep last night. First time it has happened since I arrived. I didn't hit the road until 9:45. I went to the Sossusvlei Lodge for breakfast, and headed back to camp to pack up and check out. I was kind of lazy this morning since I knew I only had to drive to Windohek. It was a 6 hour drive.
So I got on the road and took a few gravel roads which led me to another gravel road and a mountain pass. It was the Remhoogte Mountain Pass. It was really a mountain pass. I had to drive through rivers, and could only drive about 50km per hour which is about 30mph (thanks Google). It was super fun and exciting and a little scary at the same time. I loved being alone on the roads and this one I definitely was alone. I saw one other car while driving on the mountain pass. So, if anything happened, I was on my own. But some beautiful scenery. I only stopped once to take photos because it was mostly blind corners, driving through water, and narrow passes. I didn't want to cause a wreck. Especially since Doris had been so good to me this trip and we were in the home stretch. Oh, and then I came across a herd of cattle in the middle of the road. I honked. Nothing. So I got out and started yelling at them, "MOVE COWS". One cow got up and ran down a hill but the others just stared. I had just enough room to get around them so I did. They all stared at me as I drove past. Cows. So, after driving through the awesome pass, I made it through and the road widened and then the rain started. Funny thing is the gravel roads become way more smooth when they are wet. I could do 80kmh! Then it happened. I came to a pothole in the road. It had filled with water. I just kept driving at 80 and that water covered Doris from top to bottom. Not my smartest move. I couldn't see anything but muddy water for about 10 seconds. It was ok. I guess thinking about it now it wasn't that exciting. But at the time it was. I drove through a puddle! I'm dumb. I made it to the tar road, the B1, and that took me all the way to Windohek. I arrived in Windohek and of course my Google maps on my phone wasn't working so I had to use the regular map. I missed my turn. Of course I did. So I kept driving as I needed to fill up Doris before I got to the guesthouse anyway, and couldn't find a gas station. Well I'm so dumb I just followed the signs to city center. What a mistake! They have traffic lights here, but they don't use them. They were off. I was driving in extremely heavy traffic, going through traffic lights that weren't working and looking for gas. I decided to ditch the idea. I found a side road and made a right turn and then turned around and found my way back to the B1. I knew if I could get back to the B1 I could follow the map to the guesthouse and figure out my turn off from there. I FINALLY made it back to the B1 and I flew right by my turn again. So I went to a roundabout and went all the way around and came back to my turn. Finally made it. Then I found the main street that the guesthouse is right off of. But then I missed the turn for that. I'm horrible. I finally made it to Villa Vista Guesthouse. But I decided I needed to be brave and get gas so I went exploring again. I drove a bunch of streets and found 2 gas stations but the lines were insane. So I made my way back to Villa Vista and decided they could take the refueling fee out of my deposit. It's going to be all of $35.00. I should've just avoided the hassle in the first place. Oh, I put exactly 2100km on Doris on this trip which is about 1,300 miles. That's a lot of driving. It's like driving from Madison to Salt Lake City.
Finally made it to Villa Vista and got to my room. Unpacked everything and repacked for my trip to Botswana tomorrow. I can only bring a small duffle bag since I will be traveling to the safari camp by bush plane. I repacked everything and loaded up the duffle and made sure it would fit in my regular suitcase so I can leave my other luggage at the Maun airport office and just take the small duffle. So, interesting this blog. I'm talking about packing. Geez. Enough.
Tomorrow I go to Botswana. I'm getting picked up at 4:00a.m. for a 6:35 flight to Johannesburg. I have a 2 hour layover in Johannesburg, then I get my flight to Maun, Botswana. I will arrive in Botswana at about 1:15. Drop my luggage at the safari camp's office, and then get on the bush plane for a 45 minute flight to the camp. I'm super stoked about that. I will be in Botswana until Friday when I start the journey home. Flights from Botswana to South Africa, then to Paris, Detroit and finally Madison. I should be home by 5:00p.m. on Saturday.
This actually may be the last time I update the blog from Africa. I would be super surprised if they have wi-fi at the safari camp. But then again, I was really surprised where they had wi-fi in Namibia. So maybe I will post again. If not, I have a 5 hour layover in Paris so I need something to do. I will blog then.
Thanks again for reading, everyone!! I'm sad this is my last post from Namibia. It has been an amazing experience. Very introspective. Being alone on a road trip in the desert will do that to you. Especially when you have limited human contact for 9 days. It's been a trip I will never forget. Maybe it's not over yet...Botswana is coming!
Today I went to Sossusvlei! Then I went to the Sesriem Canyon. I am still at Desert Camp about 5km from the entrance of Sossusvlei. Sossusvlei is a National Park. It is famous for the huge sand dunes and Dead Vlei. Big Daddy being the biggest sand dune. It is about 1300 feet tall. So, here's how today went...
Man, I wanted to get into the park when the gates opened. They opened at 6:00a.m. So, I set my alarm for 5:00. Got up, got dressed and headed to the Sossusvel Lodge for breakfast. They obviously weren't ready for people. They didn't have much to choose from. So I had a bowl of yogurt, some fruit and coffee. Left hungry, but wanted to get in. I joined the line of cars at the entrance. I am definitely at a tourist spot. It is also the weekend, so I'm sure that made it busy as well. I got through the gates and followed the line of cars. People were passing each other. Seems like a lot of jerks. I think they all wanted to be first for something. Still not sure what. But I took my sweet time, pulled over a few times and got some photos of the sunrise, and the beautiful light hitting the dunes. It was cloudy this morning so the light was coming between the clouds. It was really awesome. I finally got to the first dune you can climb. Dune 45. Well, that's not true. I think you can climb any of the dunes, this one just happens to be close to the road, so people stop. Otherwise you would have about a 3 mile walk to the rest of the dunes (other than Big Daddy, that's about 1 mile). It is named Dune 45 because it is at the 45km mark from the park entrance. So, I pulled in, parked my car next to the tour buses, guide services and all the other individuals that came to the park today. It was crazy how many people were there. I am definitely not alone in the desert anymore. I miss that. People are rude. I liked being the only one around for miles. Anyway, I climbed Dune 45 and took some photos. Then I climbed back down, which was much easier by the way, and made my way to the shuttle point for Big Daddy and Dead Vlei.
Big Daddy is the biggest dune ever. Maybe that's according to Wikipedia and things I heard today, but it is huge. When I was in the Fish River Canyon, I was telling Frans that I was coming here. He challenged me to climb Big Daddy. I was going to take him up on his challenge, until I got there. I got to the parking lot, and instead of driving in myself, I decided to take the shuttle for about $8.00. So happy I did that. The sand is so deep and unless you know what you're doing and let air out of your tires, you are stuck. Once on the shuttle we had to stop 2 times to help stuck tourists. So happy I wasn't one of them. Finally got to Big Daddy and Dead Vlei. Side note: Dead Vlei is a dried marsh area. At one point a river flooded the area and it was a marshy area full of trees and green. Then the sand took over and cut off the river. The area dried up and whatever trees were there died and the area became a pan. The dead trees are still at Dead Vlei, thus the name. Ok, back to the Big Daddy situation. So I arrived and it was about a 1 mile walk through the sand to Dead Vlei and the base of Big Daddy. It was only about 9:30 at this point, but I bet the temperature was already at 95 and the clouds had dissipated and the sun was out. It was HOT! So, I decided not to climb Big Daddy. I probably would've died. I just went with the rest of the hordes of people and explored Dead Vlei. Dead Vlei was one reason I wanted to come to Namibia. I had seen photos in the past and thought it was amazing. I had to see it in person. It definitely did not disappoint. Just like almost everything else in Namibia. No disappointments. I walked around for maybe and hour and a half, took a shit ton of photos, then walked back through the desert to the shuttle point. There were so many tourists and not enough shuttles. So, one of the drivers decided to air up the tire on a trailer with seats and use a tractor to shuttle us back to the parking area. While we were waiting, I met a cool Spanish guy and his friend from France. I didn't catch either of their names, but they were cool. We talked a bit. The Spanish guy is living in Namibia and whenever he has friends come to town he take them to Sossusvlei. He explained a lot about the area to me and other parts of Namibia. His French buddy asked which state I was from. Told him, and he said Oh sure, I know. I couldn't believe that he knew Wisconsin. Turns out his brother went to UW-Platteville for a semester and he visited. He knew all about beer and cheese. Yes, across the world, that is what we are famous for. Anyway, we talked about travel on the way back and the Spanish guy's life in Namibia. Apparently, it is VERY boring here. Unless you get out of Windohek. Then it is amazing, but Windohek is boring. Interesting. On the way back he was telling me I should check out a canyon about 4km to the right of the entrance of Sossusvlei. I was hot and tired, but I told him I would. I didn't think I would. We parted ways and I drove back to the entrance. You have to get a permit for the day on your way out. So I stopped in the permit area and found they have a restaurant. I was starving. So I sat at a table and waited. And waited. And waited. I finally flagged down the waiter, told him 1 person and I wanted a beer and a menu. Ok. 30 minutes and I flag him down again. He just stared at me and walked away. I got up and left. Went to the gas station and got an ice cream and went to the canyon. I'm glad I did. It was a super hot afternoon and I was the only one there. I got to the bottom of the canyon and explored for an hour. I was so hot and tired, I needed to get back to my room. I stopped and grabbed some waterand some gas at the gas station and made my way back to Desert Camp.
Once back, I rewarded myself with a beer and headed to the pool. The wi-fi at the pool was amazing. I checked emails, Facebook, and updated some photos on Instagram. Oh, and I swam too. Went back to my room and worked on photos and took a little 30 minute nap. Now I am back at the lodge. It's after dinner and I'm sitting in the bar having a drink and blogging yo.
Tomorrow is my last real day in Namibia. The great road trip adventure comes to an end tomorrow. I think I have a 4-5 hour drive back to Windohek, and the same guest house that I stayed at in the beginning. The car people will come there and pick up the car, so I say goodbye to Doris tomorrow. Fingers crossed all goes well tomorrow, but she's been good to me this trip. I may blog tomorrow if I come across anything interesting on the road tomorrow. Otherwise it is a travel day. I have an overnight in Windohek, and get picked up at 4:00a.m. on Tuesday to go to the airport to catch my 6:35a.m. flight to Botswana. The great safari adventure starts!!
Today I hit the road sort of early. About 9:30a.m. After a quick stop in the town of Aus for some gas, I started my journey to Sesriem near the Sossusvlei park and sand dunes. I'm super glad I stopped for gas this time as I was going to be out in the middle of the desert all day and only had 2 opportunities for fuel. So, a full tank, some water, and I was ready to go.
Today was a day of all gravel and sand roads. I took a main gravel road for about 20km and came to a secondary road called the D707. In the information I got from the tour company, when they dropped off my map and stuff, it said that this is one of the most beautiful drives in all of Namibia and I should consider taking it if I have the time. If I took this road it would be the same distance as staying on the main gravel road, but take an extra hour because it was a secondary road and not well maintained. Which means slower speeds. I was a bit nervous, but decided to take a chance and do it. I'm super glad that I did. I only saw 3 other vehicles while on this road. It made it's way through some dunes, into the mountains, and back down. There was one point where the sand had taken over the road and I thought for sure I was going to get stuck. But I just put old Doris (that's what I'm calling my car) into 1st gear, the 4 wheel drive started up and I powered through. It did make me a bit nervous though. After that, it was a super bumpy, but amazing drive.
I arrived in the town of Sesriem at about 3:00 and checked into my room for the night. It is a place called Desert Camp. They are concrete on the bottom and a canvas tent on the top. They have electricity and a bathroom, but otherwise very basic. It's actually pretty cool. It is a sister property to the Sossusvlei Lodge (where I am right now). The Soussusvlei Lodge is a really luxury place. I bet they have air conditioning in the rooms. I do not. I'll be eating my meals here, breakfast and dinner. I just had dinner and had Ostrich and Impala. Both tasted a bit like beef, but leaner. Really good.
I'm kind of tired tonight. It's only about 8:00, but I may just go back to my room and read for a while. I have to get up early. I want to be back at the lodge at 5:30 for a super quick breakfast, then into the Sossusvlei Park by 6:30ish. It gets dangerously hot here, so the earlier the better and the park opens at 6:00 for sunrise. An early morning. The plan is to hang out at the park tomorrow for most of the day. Then head back to the Desert Camp and chill out by the pool in the afternoon maybe. Tomorrow is my last real day in Namibia. On Monday I drive back to Windohek and turn in my car. I have an overnight on Monday night and catch a 6:35 flight to Botswana on Tuesday. So, tomorrow may be the last blog post from Namibia. Maybe I will blog on Monday. I'm not sure. If anything good happens I will....