Last Few Vacation Pics

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Dad wasn’t happy that I was perched on the edge of this cliff.

So for your enjoyment, here are a few more pics from my Dad’s visit to SA.  And then I swear I’ll update about the last month of my life.

 

 

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Cool birds at Kruger.

Rhino!  They were pretty far away from us, but it was great to see them....they are in grave danger due to poaching here.

Rhino! They were pretty far away from us, but it was great to see them….they are in grave danger due to poaching here.

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Bourke’s Luck Potholes

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Dad at the top of the world, AKA God’s Window.

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Kruger Safari Photos

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Some monkeys walking down the road in Kruger….African traffic jam. Actually this happened to us outside Kruger too.

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Dad perched on the edge of a cliff.

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Zebras always make me laugh a bit.

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Elephant herd.

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Elephant going for a walk.

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So many impala!! This was only a small section of the herd.

I might post more pictures later, if my internet cooperates.

-Jen

Kruger Safari and the Panoramic Route

After a quick visit to my village and a massive roadtrip that ended in a terrifyingly potholed road at night with semi trucks, we rolled in Lydenburg exhausted and found our guest house relatively easily, the Aqua Terra Guest House. We grabbed dinner at Spur, which cracked Dad up with its Native American themed décor, then fell asleep in our very comfortable beds. The next morning we took a walk by the “river”, had a delicious breakfast at the guest house, then headed off along the Panoramic Route to Hoedspruit.

Along the way I learned how to drive a manual in the mountains by driving through the Long Tom Pass, and we stopped for a bit at Pilgrim’s Rest and the Mac Mac Pools. Pilgrim’s Rest is a town that is probably like Williamsburg in the States. We found lots of traditional craft shops alongside the stores and museum related to the Afrikaner pilgrims who usesd to live there. The Mac Mac pools was a small waterfall with a few pretty pools set in a plateau in the mountains. Lots of people were there, including some families who came to swim. However, it wasn’t overly tourist, and when we set off along the walking trail, we saw absolutely nobody, which was peaceful.

We managed not to get horribly lost, despite the confusing signs which sparsely dot the mountainside. We had wanted to see Jessica the Hippo that night, but arrived too late. We stayed at the Loerie Guest House in Hoedspruit, which had nice rooms but not much else going for it. I arranged with the owner to be let out very early the next morning for our safari in Kruger…

…to no avail. The next morning, we stood at the gate at 5am and were stuck for almost half an hour behind the locked gate. We finally got out and had about a 45 minute drive to the Orpen Gate at Kruger. We arrived soon after 6am and began our safari!

Now, Kruger is HUGE. I mean, it’s bigger than some states. One day in Kruger really isn’t enough, and it’s certainly impossible to see the whole park in one day. Heck, I think it’s impossible to see it in a week. We were in the park essentially from opening to closing, and only drove through a few roads. But we had a blast and saw many animals.

I had previously been on a safari in Pilanesburg, so I had seen most of the animals before, but I also saw some new things. We saw wildebeests/gnu, a hyena, guinea fowl aplenty, giraffes, zebras, impalas, massive spiders, warthogs, monkeys, snakes, kudu, waterbucks, hippos, tortoises, a chameleon, buffalos, vultures, elephants, rhinos, vervet monkeys, bush babies, termites, and even a creepy cricket that flew in my window and hit me in the face. We didn’t see any cats, but the herd of 20+ elephants was amazing. And we even got terrifyingly close to a few different elephants.

By the end of the day, we were absolutely exhausted and stopped at a roadside bar and grill for burgers. We basically strolled into Hoedspruit after dark and went to bed. It was a full and amazing day of safari!

I’ll post photos later on, promise.
-Jen

Kruger Safari and the Panoramic Route

After a quick visit to my village and a massive roadtrip that ended in a terrifyingly potholed road at night with semi trucks, we rolled in Lydenburg exhausted and found our guest house relatively easily, the Aqua Terra Guest House. We grabbed dinner at Spur, which cracked Dad up with its Native American themed décor, then fell asleep in our very comfortable beds. The next morning we took a walk by the “river”, had a delicious breakfast at the guest house, then headed off along the Panoramic Route to Hoedspruit.

Along the way I learned how to drive a manual in the mountains by driving through the Long Tom Pass, and we stopped for a bit at Pilgrim’s Rest and the Mac Mac Pools. Pilgrim’s Rest is a town that is probably like Williamsburg in the States. We found lots of traditional craft shops alongside the stores and museum related to the Afrikaner pilgrims who usesd to live there. The Mac Mac pools was a small waterfall with a few pretty pools set in a plateau in the mountains. Lots of people were there, including some families who came to swim. However, it wasn’t overly tourist, and when we set off along the walking trail, we saw absolutely nobody, which was peaceful.

We managed not to get horribly lost, despite the confusing signs which sparsely dot the mountainside. We had wanted to see Jessica the Hippo that night, but arrived too late. We stayed at the Loerie Guest House in Hoedspruit, which had nice rooms but not much else going for it. I arranged with the owner to be let out very early the next morning for our safari in Kruger…

…to no avail. The next morning, we stood at the gate at 5am and were stuck for almost half an hour behind the locked gate. We finally got out and had about a 45 minute drive to the Orpen Gate at Kruger. We arrived soon after 6am and began our safari!

Now, Kruger is HUGE. I mean, it’s bigger than some states. One day in Kruger really isn’t enough, and it’s certainly impossible to see the whole park in one day. Heck, I think it’s impossible to see it in a week. We were in the park essentially from opening to closing, and only drove through a few roads. But we had a blast and saw many animals.

I had previously been on a safari in Pilanesburg, so I had seen most of the animals before, but I also saw some new things. We saw wildebeests/gnu, a hyena, guinea fowl aplenty, giraffes, zebras, impalas, massive spiders, warthogs, monkeys, snakes, kudu, waterbucks, hippos, tortoises, a chameleon, buffalos, vultures, elephants, rhinos, vervet monkeys, bush babies, termites, and even a creepy cricket that flew in my window and hit me in the face. We didn’t see any cats, but the herd of 20+ elephants was amazing. And we even got terrifyingly close to a few different elephants.

By the end of the day, we were absolutely exhausted and stopped at a roadside bar and grill for burgers. We basically strolled into Hoedspruit after dark and went to bed. It was a full and amazing day of safari!

I’ll post photos later on, promise.
-Jen

Safari Christmas

Traffic Jam!

Traffic Jam!

So my second African Christmas holiday was quite different than Christmas 2011. It included a trip to a game reserve, good food, grilling out (braai) Christmas dinner, and a fun and beautiful early birthday celebration. Oh yeah, while chilling on the porch, we heard monkeys chattering and lions roaring in the distance. Yeah, I’m in Africa!

I decided back in November that I would spend Christmas with two South African friends I met at a permaculture workshop. Through our permaculture interests, we became fast friends, and I even attended their wedding back in October. Cajun and Sue, my friends, lived on a small piece of land outside Rustenburg, in the gorgeous foothills (near the platinum mines). I was excited to spend Christmas with my white SA “family” and truly experience Christmas in another culture. Of course, their family is a mix of different cultures and traditions, and it was pretty awesome.

The day I got there was pretty hectic. I met Sue about a block from the Rustenburg taxi rank, in a seriously sketchy part of town. Besides an unfortunate bus ride in Mexico and taking the wrong exit out of a shopping mall in Durban, this was the sketchiest place I’ve ever been to. Me, with my big bag and glaring white skin-I was a little (lot) out of place, but Sue soon pulled up and off we went to a mall. Yes, a mall in Africa 3 days before Christmas. It was insane, but we got what we needed and got out of there. By the time we arrived at their house, we were beat and spent the evening catching up, fonduing, and relaxing.

The next day we rose at a horrible hour-I was so tired I don’t even remember the time. We wanted to be at the Pilanesburg gate by around 6am, when it opened. Pilanesburg is about an hour away. You do the math. We ran a little bit late, but got to the gate before 7am, I think. We pulled into the park and BAM Kudu! The animal after which my village is named. We spent all day driving through the park and saw tons of zebra, kudu, waterbuck, wildebeest, giraffe, hippos, a croc, birds, rhinos, babies of all sorts, and elephants. It is seriously amazing to see a family of elephants walking alongside the road, or to get caught in a traffic jam caused by a herd of zebra. Though the day was dreadfully hot, we had a ton of fun, and I enjoyed my first experience in an African game reserve!

Sue setting up Christmas Eve dinner.

Sue setting up Christmas Eve dinner.

The following day, Christmas Eve, we had to go to the mall again to shop for Christmas food. It was even crazier, but despite a broken phone and keys locked in the car, all went well. We made it home in the afternoon and spent the evening making Christmas Ham and Christmas Cookies. American style cookies-that was my cultural contribution. That night we lit candles for our loved ones far away as the sun set, and stuffed ourselves full of good food and cookies.

Lighting candles for those far away.

Lighting candles for those far away.

Christmas included hilarious gifts that only a PCV would appreciate: 2 ply toilet paper (what luxury!!) and a braai grill (so I can always cook, even if the power is out). We at too much chocolate, after I was introduced to a typical chocolate candy mix whose name I’m blanking…something Sweets. Anyways, we braaied (as in, I watched) steaks and gypsy spits, which are an incredible bit of bacon-wrapped goodness, and which I shall bring back to the USA. We had potato salad, lettuce salad, and steaks for Christmas dinner….what a strange world I live in. We also roasted marshmallows, and I promised to make s’mores happen sometime in the future.

Braaimaster cajun preparing Christmas dinner.

Braaimaster cajun preparing Christmas dinner.

The next day was not my birthday, but we celebrated 3 days early, as I was leaving before my actual birthday. Sue cooked a beautiful Israeli dish whose name I also cannot remember, but involved eggs, tomatoes, and other sorts of deliciousness. I sat down to a place setting covered in beautiful flowers and herbs from the garden, each with a special meaning. We watched a lot of movies that day, as we were still tired from all the excitement from previous days. And we still ate lots of Christmas cookies, finally finishing them off at night. I made tacos for dinner, which involved handmade tortillas, which cajun helped me roll out, pico de gallo, guacamole, and seasoned beef mince…everything homemade! It was quite an effort, but so, so delicious.

I had to leave on the 27th to meet a friend in Pretoria, but on the way we stopped at the Hartesbeesport Dam. It was busy, but cool. It’s obviously a hot tourist destinations, and there are seriously fancy lakehouses (overlooking a smelly lake). We stopped at a bead/rock shop, which I spent too much time and money at. 🙂 Then off to PTA, where I had to say goodbye to my friends.
-Jen

Birthday!

Birthday!

Week in Photos (12/08-18/08)

A fellow PCV showing off the massive burger we found at Pick N Pay.

A fellow PCV showing off the massive burger we found at Pick N Pay.

Two women using grocery sacks as hats at the cross country meet.

Two women using grocery sacks as hats at the cross country meet.

A few boys waiting behind the kombi, sheltered from the crazy wind, at the meet.

A few boys waiting behind the kombi, sheltered from the crazy wind, at the meet.

Dog on mat, chicken in pot. The critters like my porch.

Dog on mat, chicken in pot. The critters like my porch.

Pieces of our new latrine waiting to be assembled!

Pieces of our new latrine waiting to be assembled!