Beyond the Band of Brothers Tour Day 9

Wednesday, July 24th, 2009

We left this morning at 8:30 AM and are traveling to Belgium.  This was definitely a day of riding on the bus!

We stopped at 10:15 AM for a rest stop and are still in France.  On the bus, the movie The Longest Day was shown.

Around noon we stopped for lunch at a rest plaza then we were back on the road!

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My interesting Gluten free salad.

We left France and entered Belgium about 3:30 PM.  We had a couple of traffic slow downs due to construction.

Catelyn, our tour director, shared some interesting facts about Belgium.  A few that we remember were-

  • 1,100 different beers made in Belgium with an 8-10 % alcohol content
  • Belgium is known for its chocolate, Godiva is one of the makers in the country
  • There are different types of Belgian waffles
  • French fries can be traced back to Belgium.  The American soldiers during WWI thought they were in France when they called these frites French fries because they were in the French speaking area of Belgium
  • There are 3 official languages in Belgium: Flemish (Dutch), French, and German
  • You can also hear Luxembourgish spoken in the Belgian province called Luxembourg (which borders the country of Luxembourg)
  • Belgium is within the European Union so there is no border/passport control

Our first rest stop in Belgium and our first time to pay to use the toilet.  It cost 70¢.

We arrived at our hotel around 6 PM.  Our hotel is the Vayamundo Hotel and is located in the town of Houffalize, Belgium in the Ardennes forest.

We are staying here for 3 nights and our weather is to be even warmer tomorrow, a high of 105º.  Also, no air conditioning or any fans.  It was difficult to sleep.

The picture below is looking down on the town of Houffalize, Belgium.

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Houffalize has been rebuilt since all of the Allied bombing during the Battle of the Bulge.  It was important to the Allies to cut off the Germans getting supplies and fuel because the bridges here still remained.  The pictures after the bombings show that there wasn’t much left of the town.  189 civilians from Houffalize were killed during the Allied bombing!

REFLECTIONS– As we traveled and explored the Normandy area, it amazed me how the French in this area have embraced what happened here and fly not only their flags but those of the Allies that helped to liberate them.

With this year being the 75th anniversary of D-Day, new memorials and memorial gardens, banners, etc… have been added.

It was quite moving to walk on the beaches the WWII soldiers were on and all the lives that were lost during the invasion and throughout the war.

Day 10 South Africa Adventures

Thursday, September 20th

Today we visited Victoria Falls early in the morning because the high today was going to be 100 degrees!  It was warm even leaving at 7:30 AM.  Our hotel was located close to the falls so it didn’t take long to get there. IMG_1397

Victoria Falls is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world and is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.  David Livingstone didn’t discover the falls but he spread the word to others in the Western world and he named the falls Victoria after Queen Victoria.

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David Livingstone

The picture below shows the orange path we walked as we viewed the falls.  Our walk around the various gorges and stops was over 2 miles.

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The “thunder” of the falls was incredible and the spray reached us in many places from across the gorge.  The power was incredible.

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It looks like fog but it’s the spray from the falls!
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The “thunder” of the water as it spills over the rocks and a vertical drop of about 325 feet!

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One of the rainbows that we saw as we explored the falls.
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A view of the falls from the path.

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A double rainbow.

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The water was really moving quickly.

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Look at how the water is converging!

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Employees were using these tree branch brooms to sweep the walkways.

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Below is the Victoria Falls Bridge that crosses over the Zambezi River and is built over the second gorge of the falls.  The border of Zambia and Zimbabwe is on the bridge.

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The sign on the Victoria Falls Bridge that lets you know that you are leaving Zimbabwe and entering Zambia!

When we were looking at the bridge these Vervet monkeys were playing!

Warthogs were wondering around the area.

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When we left Victoria Falls we stopped to see “The Big Tree”.  It is a Baobab tree that is thought to be between 1,000- 1,500 years old.  It is believed to be the largest in Zimbabwe.

The Big Tree is about 75 feet tall and its circumference about 59 feet.  Duncan, our guide, opened a fruit from the baobab.  We could try the fruit.  It tasted chalky and was dry.

After our stop here to see the Big Tree, we were dropped back at our hotel.  We had a few hours of free time and some people went to visit the market in town.

Later this afternoon and into the early evening, we went on a game drive with Stanley & Livingstone Safaris and Experiences.  We were really hoping to see the black rhino because we missed them in Kruger National Park.  Below is our driver and the jeep we were riding in as we explored the area!

The first animals we saw were giraffes eating.IMG_1620IMG_1624

We saw many impalas here.

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We finally got a view of our first black rhinoceros!  Our jeep was very excited!

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This lone rhino was busy eating.

Quite a few baboons were hanging out by a water hole.

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The youngsters are having a good time playing!

A couple of water bucks were nearby.img_1650.jpg

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Look closely below and you can see a sable antelope.IMG_1651

As the sun was getting close to setting we came upon a 2 1/2 year old female rhino and as we were observing her, up walked her mother with her 2 week old male!  They were fun to watch and photograph!

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The 2 1/2 year old female.
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Up walks Mom and her 2 week old son following her.
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Older sister watches her mom with the young rhino.

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We watched a hippo go from the land into the river.

We stopped by the water to have a sunset toast and hor d’oeuvres!

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Our jeep became a cocktail bar!

It was a beautiful sunset!

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After our cocktails, it was dark as we traveled back to the entrance.  Our driver drove with a red light which was the only light around!  You can see below how dark it was as we spotted some water buffalo.  No other lights were around.

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It was quite an experience!

Day 9 South Africa Adventures

Wednesday, September 19th

Today we were up at 2:30 AM!  It was our earliest start of the trip because we needed to have our luggage on the bus and heading to Cape Town’s airport by 4:00 AM.  We checked in at the airport for about a 2 hour flight to Johannesburg.  Then we had another flight from Johannesburg to Livingstone, Zambia.  When we landed at the airport in Zambia it was a long line to get our entrance visa which cost $50.00 per person.  Once we were through the line and had claimed our luggage we met one of our guides, Duncan.  We boarded smaller buses that took us from the airport, stopped at the Zambia border checkpoint, then drove to the Zimbabwe checkpoint and had to collect our passports a second time.

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Children walking home from school. (Zambia)
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After school hanging with friends on the street corner.
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Villagers walking down the street.
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It’s quite interesting to see a sign earlier that said to watch out for elephants and then a sign leaving the area where elephants cross. We see deer crossing signs in Ohio!

The border crossings were quite interesting to see and experience.

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Our driver said these trucks wait at the borders for up to 3 days to get their papers to cross from Zambia into Zimbabwe and vice versa.
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The first time we needed to worry about mosquitoes!
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Our second border crossing.
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As we were waiting to take our bus through one of the border checkpoints, we saw baboons around!

By the time we arrived at our hotel, The Kingdom, we didn’t have much time before our scheduled sunset cruise.

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Our hotel, The Kingdom, at Victoria Falls.
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The entrance to The Kingdom
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The view from our room.
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The first time we’ve experienced a mosquito net for sleeping.

We had a great time on our sunset cruise on the Zambezi River.  We didn’t realize that we would see wildlife as we cruised down the river.  We saw elephants,

crocodiles,

hippos,

and birds.

It was a relaxing way to end our long day!IMG_1313

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Tomorrow we will visit Victoria Falls!

Day 8 South Africa Adventure

Tuesday, September 18th

We were on the bus this morning by 8:00 AM for our Cape Peninsula Tour.  It was an interesting weather day.  We experienced sun, rain, fog, and clouds.  It changed throughout the day!  Unfortunately the weather still kept us from going up Table Mountain!  (We can’t control the weather!)  Our day was still filled with many experiences.

As we drove along Chapman’s Peak road our first stop of the day was Chapman’s Peak.  The road was a twisting and turning drive that was very scenic.  This road was built into the mountain and took seven years to build. IMG_0988

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Chapman’s Peak is the mountain on the western side of Hout Bay and has some incredible views from Chapman’s Peak drive as we climb the road.  Chapman’s Peak’s highest point is 1,942 feet and there is an observation platform for picture taking.IMG_0980IMG_0982IMG_0990

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Of course we did O-H-I-O!

We passed a beautiful white sand beach!  It was raining when we passed it.IMG_0995

Our next stop was Table Mountain National Park, Cape of Good Hope.  As we pulled up to enter, the information sign stated that today’s exit time was 18:36!  Talk about being precise!  The Cape of Good Hope is the southwesterly point of the Cape Peninsula.  It was once named the Cape of Storms, by Bartolomew Dias in 1488.  The current name was given by the King of Portugal.  Has was more positive and he saw it as a new route to India.  The Cape of Good Hope is exposed to gale-force winds.  The vegetation here is very limited.  We were told you often see baboons around but it was chilly when we were visiting so we didn’t see any!  We did see ostriches and eland as we drove up to the Cape.

Amazing views could be seen from Cape Point by taking the “Flying Dutchman” funicular  and then the steps up to the old lighthouse.

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The steps up to the old lighthouse.

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The old lighthouse at Cape Point.

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Diaz Beach

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We also saw some whales playing in the ocean but didn’t capture any pictures.

The new lighthouse at Cape Point.  It is located in a better location to keep the ships safe as they come around the point.

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The current lighthouse at Cape Point.
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You can see the tip of the current lighthouse.
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Gorgeous views!

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Our next stop was Simon’s Town which is located in False Bay and is also the base for the S. African Navy since 1957.  As we were driving along we saw signs to watch out for Baboons and when we approached Simon’s Town there were signs to watch for penguins!IMG_1078

When we arrived, we went for lunch.  The rest of our bus went to a seafood restaurant on the bay but we ate lunch with the Dritz’s at the Lighthouse Cafe.

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Simon’s Town was a mixed race town that got along and coexisted without any problems until 1967 when there were Forced Removals under the Group Areas Act as part of the Apartheid government.  September 24th will commemorate the 51st year when Forced Removals occurred.  IMG_1099

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A view of a few of the buildings along Simon’s Town’s main street.

After lunch we visited Boulders Beach where we found a South African penguin colony!  These South African penguins or they are sometimes called the Jackass penguin because of the braying sound they make, are endangered!  There has been a rapid decline in their population mainly due to a lack of food because of commercial fisheries.IMG_1108IMG_1120IMG_1123IMG_1126IMG_3011IMG_3016IMG_3030IMG_3033IMG_3037IMG_3038IMG_3043IMG_3064IMG_3077IMG_3082

We passed the Pollsmoor maximum security prison where Nelson Mandela was a prisoner from 1982-1988.

Our next stop was the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.  It is a world-renowned garden that covers 2 square miles, 7% is cultivated and 90% is covered by natural fynbos (natural shrubland or vegetation) and forest.  We had an hour to explore but you could easily spend a day!  We walked quickly around to see the fragrance garden, the Centenary tree canopy walkway, and anything else that was along the paths we walked!IMG_1166

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Protea flowers
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Pincushion flowers
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Cannomois virgata, also known as cannomois grandis.
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Cannomois virgata, also known as cannomois grandis.

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Hard Pear tree fruit
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Suurberg Cushion Bush
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Lemon Flame Flower

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Castle Rock

 

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Eastern slope of Table Mountain

For dinner the ten of us that traveled together went to MAMA AFRICA.  We experienced African music and order from a menu filled with authentic African cuisine.

It was another day full of adventures in and around Cape Town!

Day 7 South Africa Adventure

Monday, September 17th

Today we were up at 4:00 AM to get ready to leave our hotel near Stellenbosch and head toward Cape Town.  Our first stop was the wharf where we were to catch our ferry to visit Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.  Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate.  It was very windy and the boats didn’t run.  Since we couldn’t visit Robben Island we went to Camps Bay which is known for its white sand, natural rock swimming pool and views of the Twelve Apostles (a series of mountains named after Jesus’ disciples).

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The Twelve Apostles are in the clouds!
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Camps Bay

We were also going to take a cable car up Table Top mountain and again the weather didn’t cooperate.  It was too windy and the mountain was covered in clouds so the visibility was zero.  Our motorcoach then drove to Haut Bay where we stopped and had a ferry ride out to see many Cape Fur seals.IMG_0868

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Our boat.
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Cape Fur Seals
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Cape Fur Seals

We also drove to the top of Signal Hill which is flat topped in Cape Town.  We had foggy views of Cape Town from Signal Hill which is between Lion’s Head and Table Mountain which were both covered by clouds!  Below are views from the “Hill”.

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A view from Signal Hill
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Another view from Signal Hill.
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From Signal Hill you can see the Cape Town Stadium that was built in 2010 for the FIFA World Cup.
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Another view from Signal Hill of Cape Town and the Atlantic Ocean.

These Guinea hens were spotted all around South Africa.

We drove around Cape Town on our way to the hotel.

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downtown Cape Town
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Cape Town’s City Hall
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The Castle of Good Hope and part of its wall.

This evening we had a lecture by Christo Brand who wrote a book about Nelson Mandela.  Christo was Mandela’s prison guard.  His book is called, Doing Life with Mandela, My Prisoner, My Friend.  Based on his interesting discussion and stories he shared with us, I look forward to reading his book.IMG_2605 copy

Tomorrow is our Cape Peninsula tour!

Day 6 South Africa Adventure

Sunday, September 16th, 2018

This morning we visited Stellenbosch, part of the Cape Winelands region and is located about 31 miles east of Cape Town.IMG_0636

We were met by Simone, our guide for the morning and she works for “Bites and Sites”, cultural food tours!IMG_0651

It was a wonderful way to experience the history and flavors of the city.  It was a walking tour of the old town center along with stops for sampling food and drink and then lunch was provided at the end of the tour.IMG_0650

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Cape Dutch style
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Notice the thatched roof!

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One of our stops was at a bakery to pick up breadsticks to try.

It was the perfect day for a walk around this beautiful city!

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Oom Samie Se Winkel which means “Uncle Sammy’s shop. It is a popular tourist stop because of some of the unusual items it sells. We walked through the store. Eyes only!
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This sculpture was created by South African artist Dylan Lewis. His inspiration comes from the wilderness and he has focused on cats.

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Stellenbosch town hall
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The design consists of iron silhouettes of Mandela’s face applied to two sides of a wall. We only saw the eastern side which shows Mandela’s face and a map of the important places in Mandela’s life!

Our walk consisted of wine tasting and gourmet chocolates paired with the wine at Brampton’s Wine studio.IMG_0702IMG_0696IMG_0699IMG_0703

The chocolates were SO good!  IMG_2256

Our lunch was served in the dining room of the Oude Werf Hotel.  We were served salad, meat, cheeses, red and white wine!

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Dave’s dessert
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Kay’s GF fruit sticks dessert

After lunch we had some free time to visit some of the shops.

This afternoon we went to a beautiful winery, Vergelegen, for some wine tasting and we also had time to walk through the estate’s beautiful grounds.IMG_0771

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It was a busy but fun day!

Day 5 South Africa Adventure

Saturday, September 15th

Our wake up call this morning was 3:30 AM! Ugh!  We departed from the hotel at 5:00 AM for our motorcoach ride from Hazyview to Johannesburg.

At a rest stop on our drive to Johannesburg.  We encountered this giant moth that was at least 6 inches in width!  It was a type of emperor moth.IMG_2214

We had a flight that left in the early afternoon and arrived in Cape Town around 4:00 PM.  We boarded another motorcoach that transported us to our hotel, NH The Lord Charles, outside of the city.  It was beautiful weather when we arrived!

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Today was a long day of sitting!  We had read about the water shortage in South Africa.  We noticed a lot of public restrooms that had the water turned off in the faucets and instead had hand sanitizer or some had a light spray from the faucet or only one sink that worked.  This hotel had a sand timer in the shower and they asked that you use it and only take a two minute shower.  We saw this sign a lot.IMG_2252

After claiming our luggage, the ten of us eventually met and walked from the hotel over to a restaurant across the street.IMG_2250

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Our delicious chocolate after dinner drink! Yummy!

It was an excellent meal with wonderful traveling companions!

Day 4 South Africa Adventure

Friday, September 14th

We were up at 4:00 AM and then boarded our motor coach by 5:00 AM to travel to Kruger National Park.  The park opens at 6:00 AM. and we were in line to get to our jeeps to begin our tour.  By 6:15 we were exploring the park.  It was chilly in the morning riding around!IMG_2715

We took a 50 minute break at 9:00 AM for breakfast, then back in the jeep until almost 1:00 and then ate lunch and we had an hour.  After lunch we were back out looking for animals until 3:30ish!

We saw zebras throughout the day!IMG_2722

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A male lion with his kill, a kudo, and he had eaten most of it!

The lion’s kill.

“The King of the jungle”

You don’t want tangle with the Cape Buffalo. They are known as being very dangerous animals. They are one of the Big 5!

It was amazing to see elephants roaming around.  They were busy eating, drinking, and walking along the river bank.

Giraffes were spotted many times.  Some of them were alone and sometimes we saw several together.

Impalas are like the deer in Ohio, they are abundant and we saw quite a few!

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Notice the birds on the impala.  They are getting the ticks off of them.

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We really noticed how difficult it was to spot the animals.  Their camouflage really does help them to blend into their environment.  We saw several leopards.  The one was in action and we watched him go after an animal that we couldn’t see in the distance but we watched him pounce!

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Look closely or you won’t find the leopard!

Besides the male lion protecting his kill we saw another male resting and also two females.  Again you have to be looking closely to see them!

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There were crocodiles!  We spotted some in the water and some were sunning themselves on the shore.IMG_2845IMG_2838

Vervet Monkeys were in the trees and running around.  It was difficult to get a clear picture of them in Kruger.IMG_0617IMG_2850

Below are just a few of the birds that we saw in Kruger.

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Cape Glossy Starling
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Saddle-billed Stork
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A brown snake eagle

This mongoose ran in front of our jeep as we were traveling through the park.

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A mongoose

It looks like a target is on this Waterbuck‘s behind!

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A Waterbuck

We saw one of Timon and Simba’s friends from The Lion King, Pumbaa the warthog!

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Warthog

It was a day to remember in Kruger!  We saw more on our safari than we could capture.  Memories that we will treasure forever!See the source image

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Day 3 South African Adventure

Thursday, September 13th

It was an early start to our day as we left Johannesburg to board our motor coach for a tour of the area.

Below is a picture of the FNB Stadium, also known as “Soccer City”.  The 2010 Fifa World Cup was held here.  This stadium is a calabash shape and seats 95,000!

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FNB Stadium

We saw Nelson Mandela’s home and Desmond Tutu’s home which are found in the town of Soweto which is a township in Gauteng. We saw quite a variety of homes as we drove through this area.

We saw trash everywhere!

There would be trash just dumped everywhere and people looking through it!

We visited the Orlando Children’s Home. They house 60 residents. We toured the facility and had a chance to interact with some of the orphans that were younger than school age. The older children were in school. They try to find parents to adopt and foster the children so they can take in another child in need of a care giver.

The director of the Home.
Our gifts for the home to use!

Our next stop, Hazyview where we will spend tonight and tomorrow night. It was a LONG ride on the bus to arrive there. It gets dark a little after 6 so we couldn’t see too much of the surrounding area. Tomorrow we explore Kruger National Park!

Day 2 South African Adventure

Wednesday, September 12th

After leaving Columbus to Washington on 9/11, it was a somber flight for many of us.  We were thinking of those who lost their lives.  We are grateful for their courage.  We left Washington on 9/11 and flew over the ocean and refueled in Occra, Ghana.  It was around 3:00 AM EST when the cabin lights came on and it was followed by breakfast being served!  Many of the passengers got off the plane in Occra.  They also “cleaned” the plane before new passengers boarded.  Those of us continuing on were not allowed off the plane!  We wanted to move but needed to stay out of the way of the cleaning staff!

We left Ghana with many new passengers and had a flight of over 5 hours to arrive in Johannesburg, S. Africa.  We arrived a little late but met our tour guide David and boarded our bus that took us to our hotel the Radisson Blu.  It was a very nice hotel but it was a short time spent there.  Our room was on the 21st floor!

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The view out our hotel room.
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Our hotel.
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Our hotel.
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Our hotel.
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Our bus to take us from Johannesburg to Hazyview!