BootsnAll Travel Network

I made it home, too!!

April 13th, 2006


Actually, a couple of days ago.  But after the 30 hour voyage, I needed some recovery time.  My giraffe fortunately made it home unscathed and looked a lot better for the wear than myself by the time we reached Portland.  Long story short: 3 planes, 2 long lay-overs, 6 movies, 4 Bloody Marys, 3 security checks, 1 secondary inspection for the giraffe, a lot of strange looks (because of the giraffe), and a long drive with the worst migraine I’ve had in awhile (maybe a bad idea on the bloody marys), and I was home.

Nice to be home, but I miss Africa already!!  What a spectacular adventure! And I’m already planning the next one, just so I can keep blogging!

Oh yeah, and I did finally make it back to work!


The adventure home (for the “german” delegation)

April 11th, 2006

Going Home.jpgWell, the adventure doesn’t stop.  We enjoyed the last morning in PE, having a relaxed breakfast on the veranda overlooking the ocean, then headed on our way.  Leg 1 of the trip was easy and we successfully found Jill at Joberg airport.  The wait was eaten up by logistical activities and – of course – last minute shopping. The Africans in tow (okay, I guess I can finally let on that the Zimbabwean is a 1m Giraffe and Kami is Jill’s 1.5m Giraffe), we toured the shops and then bid our farewells at Jill’s gate.  Kevin and I were so sad to say goodbye to our adventure companion!  We then boarded our plane – totally full so I didn’t get much sleep (Kevin again taking over my seat to lay down). We wuffered a delay and then a 20 minute wait in Paris for a parking space (for crying out loud!).  Missed the connecting flight and had to wait again – turning the total trip into about 28 hours of travel. I am feeling really bad for Jill right about now, who is probably still on the road.  Also the security in Paris is ridiculous and made us check our Zimbabwe friend (as we’re boarding the flight, we get sent away to run back upstairs to check in and try to make it back in time to get on the plane – now why couldn’t they have let us know at an earlier point in the 4 hours we sat around?).  So Lucy – as Kevin has now insisted she be called – has ended up with a broken horn, compliments of security / baggage handlers. 🙁

but: we are home, the adventures were great (mostly), and I will now start working through photos and getting some posted soon! Thanks all for joining in the fun.


Tastes of South Africa

April 9th, 2006

Le Bonheur, cabernet-sauvignon ****  smooth, full bodied, plum and earthy tastes – well worth the price paid!

Hill & Dale, Dry Merlot Rose ** a dry rose, faky aromatic experience of strawberries and cassis, well-appreciated by non-rose drinkers (Jill)

Savannah, shiraz *  drinkable, fruity, tangy, (too tangy – etwas saur for the germans), cute label

Porcupine Ridge, cabernet-sauvignon **  very earthy, masculine wine, “typical” cab twang and aftertaste. Okay, not our fave.

Major’s Hill, Pinotage 2004 ***  young, fruity wine, hints of banana and smoky bouillon, lovely long okay finish (plagiarized)

Wolvendrift, cab-merlot 2004 ***  easy drinking wine, wooded fruity blend

Goedverwacht, Shiraz 2004 *** elegantly structured wine, smoky dark cherry pepper flavoers combined with mild tannins

Kumanani, Stellenboesch, Shiraz **** wonderful smooth, full bodied shiraz

Fairview, Zinfandel 2002 *** very nice, full wine, dark berries and fruits

Pongratz, Champagne *** rich golden color, luxurious fruity taste with nice oaky finish


Back in the Bush

April 9th, 2006

Alas, it is the last night of our adventure!!  And we are many days behind on our blogging as we have been on safari in the bush.  But, we’ll try to at least give an update to close out our travel blog….

So, after recovering from our adrenaline rush on Bloukrans Bridge (by the way, check out the new link for Face Adrenaline to get a good idea of our experience – as if the 5 pages weren’t enough) and after purchasing proof of our feat, we were back in the car on our way to Bushman Sands Game Reserve where we were to be hosted by Kevin and Karen, South African friends from Jaimi’s very first African Adventure.  It was about a 2.5 hour drive, with a stop in PE en route for lunch and purchases (new memory card for cameras, snacks, pharmaceuticals, and wine – of course).  Unfortunately, after our break in PE, the trip was unintentionally extended when we made a wrong turn onto the wrong highway (1 of us blamed the navigator, 1 of us blamed the driver).  But in an attempt to correct our mistake, we turned onto a regional road which would take only 10km to put us back on track.  With the sun fading, and with our hosts waiting, we learned that regional road isn’t far off from off-road.  A grumpy and blind driver cursed as our rental car not so deftly navigated potholes, ruts, and the occasional lake.  A solemn navigator kept insisting that we were getting close.  And blessedly, the frog was asleep in the back. 

Eventually we did get there and were graciously welcomed by Kevin and Karen with a braai dinner at their home on the game reserve.  The pleasant evening, however, turned into a maddening night, when we were awoken at 3 am by a deafeningly loud chirping noise.  Jaimi turned into a lunatic, moving clothes, luggage, bags trying to find the source, and finally revealed 1 cricket.  Before we could get at it, it escaped under the bed, and we had to endure the rest of the night yelling at it to be quiet.  We certainly were happy to be greeted by South Africa Kevin the next morning with coffee and a promise to exterminate for us.

As if being awake all night wasn’t bad enough, however, the morning coffee arrived at 6 in the morning – why oh why did we agree to the early morning game drive?  But we made it out of bed and into the land rover, and it was worth it!  Kevin laughed his head off and sang songs about the bumpy roads. Jill was pretty shocked by some of the roads (okay, a 20 degree grade over stones is not an easy feat!), but not nearly as shocked as she looked during the coffee break, and when pouring from the thermos out came water!  have we mentioned yet that there are approximately 3 coffee machines in all of south africa, and the rest is instant!?  Tough living conditions for a couple of Seattle-ites.

Our ranger for the day was good, driving straight across fields (and over bushes and small trees) to get us within 2 meters of 3 white rhino.  We also saw a herd of elephants, complete with baby.  About midday, winter hit south africa.  It became cold and rainy, meaning itinerary was modified and we mostly hung out and then cooked as a team a gourmet dinner at Kevin and Karen’s place. So made the most of it anyway.

The next day started out bleak with downpour and everyone bundling up in layers of clothes. But we stuck to the itinerary and headed to Shamwari, hoping for the best. We got it! Our South Africa Kevin guided safari started out cold. But like a true ranger, Kev came prepared to ensure his guests get what they need – including blankets and large ponchos – and then topped it all off with fantastic sightings!

It was just like you thought, Tracy! We saw a whole pride of lions munching on a warthog carcass. Little Kevin took it amazingly well, and after watching for a while said “I wish those three eating would get out of the way. I want to see how much of the warthog is gone!”  We also did some major hunting, including major off roading in search of a leopard.  Which we finally found, dragging her kill into a tree.  At that point, we agreed the champagne would be opened – Jill and little Kevin had successfully seen the big 5. 

We spent the evening and night at a guest cottage on Shamwari, and then did (oh horror!) another early morning game drive today.  Since the day before was so successful, big Kevin was easy on us and only required a 6:30 wake up (and he once again delivered coffee to help!).  The best thing about our last day in Africa is that winter gave us a reprieve before settling in – we had blazing sunshine and clear skies!  What a great last safari day! Black rhino, white rhino and close up elephants were the “catch” of the day. Watching the rhino run most impressive – would you believe these huge creatures literally bounce along, light as a feather on their feet?

We came back to PE in the afternoon, and booked a very nice hotel room for our last night before the long trip home.  A short pool visit (how to get 2 weeks’ worth of tan in 45 minutes?!), and now blogging before dinner.

It has been a great adventure.  South Africa is magical and we hate to leave, but we look forward to returning to our homes and loved ones. And to ease the pain, we made a pact that in 2 years, we’ll hit Kenya and climb Kilamanjaro (jaim’s long time dream, since jill got the bungy jump this time).  Sista #1, we are counting on you to join for that one, so it is truly complete!!!  Thanks to all of you for sharing in our adventure – we hope you’ve had some fun, too!


Bloukrans Bridge – the second half

April 9th, 2006


having finally found an internet connectin again, I can continue the story…

I join Kevin in bouncing about (helps release some of the nervous energy) and we hover as close to the retrieval site as possible, waiting for Jill to come up over the edge again.  After a moment I start to hear my name circulating among the staff “jaim’s next” “where’s jaimi” “JAIMI!”  I meekly call attention to myself and they send me over to the tie up area. After a minute, Jacque appears and starts the same procedure I’d watched with Jill. After enduring a few minutes of small talk and laughing all the time (what other option do I have when I’m this nervous?!), I finally asked one of the questions that’s been plagueing me: “am I going to puke my guts out?”  “NO! No, no, no. You’re going to fly like an angel.”

Then he disappears and I see him welcoming Jill back on the platform! She is smiling, which I’m delighted to see.  I have a hundred questions, but only have time for a quick how was it, a smile and nod from her, a kiss for bravery from Kevin (who whispers that he doesn’t want to jump now, after all – I assure him he doesn’t have to) and I’m hopping over to the “exit” with Jacque and the other guy.  Has my stomach EVER clamped so tight before?  I get to the edge and take about 4 deep breaths – very deep!  Jacque glances at me “you doin’ okay?”  I nod, and he tells me 3 times to take one more hop closer to the edge, before I comprehend (what difference those last 2 cm make I couldn’t figure out).  The coutdown starts.  “5…4… like an angel!” he shouts.  I squeeze my eyes shut for a split second, think “what am I DOING?!” and then I’m off!

I open my eyes as I take off: the air rushes past and I am really flying. The silence is intimidating, the valley below coming nearer, everything turning upside down as my swan dive turns over.  I can see it all, and it is happening so amazingly slowly. When will I feel the tension? why haven’t I yet?  And then there it is, a slow increase as the bungy stretches and I finally scream – exhilerating! I feel the fall bottoming out (beautiful! I never thought it would be beautiful!), and then I realize, “oh, no, here I go again!” as I bounce up and start the next fall. 

Eventually, I am just hanging, turning there below the bridge and thankfully still somewhat above the valley floor, twisting in space as I survey the trees, the birds, the ocean.  And still this incredible silence, into which I call softly “yes!”  I wonder when “spiderman” is going to crawl down and fetch me, and feel my feet being sweaty. It feels like they will simply slip through the restraints and I’ll tumble down – hope he gets here soon.  When he does, I am anxious to grab onto something; a bit ridiculous after almost 7 minutes of free fall, bouncing, and hanging! On the way up, I hear Kevin call “Mama!” and look up to see he and Jill leaning over the edge (behind rails and netting – no worries!); they had gotten placed in a special spot so he could see me coming up. 

Once there, hugs all around.  Hug Jill, hug Kevin, hug Jacque, hugs for the family again, smiles and laughter and little shouts.  The other jumpers hovering about, wanting to ask about it, but mostly not asking. Holding hands and jumping up and down in excitement: if we were worried about getting old, the jump proved us wrong – we looked like two 14 year old girls who have just gotten asked out by the cutest guys in school!  It was incredible.  At which point Kevin proclaims: “actually, I want to jump too!”

We watched a couple other jumps (from a special viewing spot given to us by Jacque, so we could see them all the way down and how far the fall was that we’d just made), and then made the hike back across the catwalk.  We loved watching our video (which we then just HAD to purchase – but negotiated a good deal); hard to believe that’s us! But we are still so giddy that it’s clear we DID just do what we’re seeing ourselves do.

Incredible. Exhilerating. A once-in-a-lifetime kind of moment. I understand why the company operating this sight is called “Face adrenaline”: the motto is “face your fear” and the rush of adrenaline is unbelieveable.  Two days later, when we couldn’t sleep, we layed in bed and relived the jump.  And when discussing careers with our friends and someone asked Kevin what he wants to do when he grows up, his answer was “Bungy.”  So yes, kind of a life-changing event.

Blounkrans Bridge: been there, jumped that!


Bloukrans Bridge

April 7th, 2006

Bloukrans Bridge

A breaktaking view of the lush canyon below and the surrounding tsitsikamma mountains. A few moments of silence as the air rushes past, a feeling of slow motion as utter peace descends…until you start to scream! Not of fear, of pure exhileration. The fear part is gone and now it’s just the sheer thrill and intense feeling of being alive.

We did it!! The highest bungy jump in the world!!!

So…we had actually been talking about it since we picked up a brochure earlier in the week showing that it was right by where we were going in the tsitsikamma. And we knew we would be driving over this bridge on our way to monkeyland. So, we thought we would at least check it out…

Even looking at the bridge, our stomachs tied up in knots, but we still got out to ask some questions. After telling us the cost and some logistics, the girl we were talking to went on to say, “After you jump, if you come back, you can look at photos and videos to decide if you want to purchase them..” Jaimi and I looked at each other and in unison said, “IF we come back???” “Yeah, if you come back…no, no, I mean WHEN, of course you will come back.” We weren’t so sure. Then we sheepishly asked, “and if we chicken out, if we don’t jump?” “oh no,” she replied, “if you pay and go out there, you WILL jump.”

So, the internal debate continued. Are we too old for this? are we that crazy? Is it irresponsible (as a mother)? Will Kevin be traumatized? And even the thought of doing it made us feel a little bick sickish…

In the end…it was an opportunity we just couldn’t pass up. Here we are on this adventure, and we are getting old, and this may very well be the last time we would get a chance and even remotely want to do something so crazy. And it is the world’s highest bungy jump, only a few kilometers from where we are staying. And what a great thing to be able to blog! Also, bungy jumping is something I’ve always wanted to try, and 10 years ago Jaimi told me she would take me. Nothing like following through on a promise!

Our resolve made, we woke up this morning a little queasy. I joined Jaimi at breakfast and noted, “You’re not eating much.” She said, “No, I’m not eating much.” We then packed up, checked out of the Armagh and headed west to the Bloukrans Bridge and to the Face Adrenalin bungy site.

Upon arrival, first stop…bathroom. Then on to registration, signing of the disclaimer (of course), and getting wieghed in (we were not too happy to see our weights get written on our hands, however). Then on to harness fitting. As little Kevin got his harness on (to walk onto the bridge jump site), we got many inquiries: “Is he going to jump?!” (Kevin himself kept stating that he also wanted to jump, fortunately his being underweight made it a non issue – not that his mom would ever have let him jupm, of course!). Then we had to wait and watch from the lookout as some other jumpers made the plunge. And thought, Are we REALLY going to do that?

Finally, we were met by Jacque, who escorted our group down the trail and onto the bridge. He gave us some info regarding the bridge and the bungy and on how to jump (to look good for the camera). I’m sure that was on the forefront of everyone’s mind! He also stated that hesitation would be our worst enemy, but iuf need be, they would help, illiciting a nervous laugh from the rest of us. He went on, “no, I won’t push – but I can alter gravity.”

Onto the catwalk which would lead us to the jump site at the center of the bridge, we started to get a good idea of how high up we really were. As we got closer, we could hear loud, funky music up ahead. At the jump site, half a dozen staff workers danced around as they readied cables, harnesses, etc. Jacque went through everyone’s stats and announced the line-up. “Jill is first, then Jaimi…” I didn’t really hear much after that.

A few moments later, they are ready for me. (Gulp.) Jacque leads me to a seat just a couple feet in front of what they call ” the main exit,” sits me down and starts attaching padding around my ankles. Then he secures the knot, explaining that it was simple but worked. And I think, ‘yeah, it looks a lot like one of the konts Kevin tied around my legges the other night when we were playting cheetahs.’ I am mostly in a daze as they explain safety measures, check my harness, doublecheck knots, and documents everything with photos. And I am thinking, ‘Am I REALLY going to do this?’ then Jacque helps me up and helps me hop out towards the edge. As I approach the lip, I ask, “wait, is my bungy on?” “Yep,” and then I see it; and I think, ‘Am I REALLY going to do this?’ Then I am standing on the very edge with Jacque on one side of me, another guy on my other side, sort of holding me (sort of getting ready to throw me off??) and they start to count down.

“3..” And there is nothing in fornt of me but an open expande..”2..” And very far below a river and lots of trees. ‘Am I REALLY going to do this?’ “1…, Bungy!!!!” ‘Arms out, head up, look good for the camera, am i REALLY going to…’ And I jump (or excuse me, “exit”)…

As Jill goes over the edge, I scream from the sidelines – I’m still not sure if it is out of exhileration for her, fear for what’s happening, or a precluse of what I’m about to do myself (Am I REALLY going to do this?). But down she goes and I know I’m not far behind. Kevin is bouncing about, I’m fretting, the music is pumping. How is she? How is it? I have to go next?!!?

…and now the internet is leaving and the story will have to be continued..

But long story short: Bloukrans Bridge: Been there, jumped that!


Get that monkey off my back!

April 5th, 2006

Actually, it was a bird.  A parrot, to be a bit more exact, and he was bound and determined to ride along on Jill’s shoulder while eating her clothes away; the Birds of Eden aviary has never been so exciting. Which is not so surprising, as it’s only been open for 3 months – a brand new, beautifully landscaped bird refuge so enormous in scope that you forget entirely that it’s all enclosed.

 That was stop #2 today; well, actually #3, but since the first stop was to scope out tomorrow’s potential highlight, it hardly counts. (the excitement builds…) Stop #1 (or #2, whatever) was an absolute hit: Monkeyland. And no, David – it’s not just a clever name. Mission accomplished: we lucked out on the lemurs! They even sang for us, and we convinced Kevin that if we had lemur ears, it would sound like “I like to move it move it…” We actually even saw 2 types of native Madagascar lemurs, in addition to gibbons, vervet monkeys, squirrel… oh, look at the sightings list. In parts of the park, everything seemed to be in constant movement there were so many monkeys around. And we walked the world’s longest foot suspension bridge. This was maybe the best-spent 100 rand/person yet!

On the way back form Monkeyland/Birds of Eden, we stopped along the roadside and picked up two new African passengers, one from Zimbabwe, I didn’t quite get where the other was from. In fact, these guys will be accompanying us to the far corners of the globe: one returning via Frankfurt to Goldendale, the other via Paris to Boeblingen. Can’t wait for you all to meet them!

We made a short stop at the beach and built sand creatures this afternoon (Jill a great leopard tortoise replica, Kevin a handsome spider) and are now headed to dinner and our obligatory bottle of local wine. The “Tastes of South Africa” category coming soon… 🙂



April 5th, 2006

Today’s start saw us flying between trees, up to 30m off the ground.  We practiced monkey noises (and bird calls), took lessons in the flora & fauna of the indigenous forest, and had screaming competitions as we raced down cables from on platform to another.  Welcome to the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour!  A total of 10 slides, the longest one a full 91m; the day could hardly have had a more exhilerating beginning.  Jill & Kevin’s first trip into the treetops, both of them mastering the jumping and braking (or lack thereof) with remarkable ease, was fun for all (guides included – though I can’t quite figure out if they were laughing at their jokes or at us!)

After our adventurous morning, we went for a moderate hike in the Tsitsikamma National Park along the coast and through jungle vines.  It was a beautiful trail, and we are continuously impressed by how well planned and maintained everything here is, as well as how friendly the people are.  Upon leaving the park, however, we were bewildered by a sign indicating curves and trees in either direction.  ???

Successfully outwitting both the curve and trees, we made it back “home” and enjoyed an extended relax-and-shower period.  Kevin has been playing cheetah for 2 days and today added lion to the repertoire – complete with a cage and requirements to keep him tied up.

We had a leisurely dinner here in the restaurant, with Jill & Kevin heading back to our room while I waited for the waitress, so I could borrow a corkscrew (you’re probably impressed we’ve made it this long without one.)  As I entered the room a few minutes later, Jill informed me “well, it ended just like any other date; we walked in the room and he said: so, you wanted to tie me up?”

Sure enough they proceeded to take turns tying each other up…cheetahs and lions, beware!


An apology

April 5th, 2006

First of all, my apologies for those of you who got stuck in my waiting for moderation file. I did not realize…  David, read on…


Updated list of sightings

April 4th, 2006

Truckful of Africans
Impala Herd
Warthog & Piglets
Leopard Tortoise
African Penguins? (We’ve been told these are not on the mainland, but faith is an amazing thing)
Wildebeest (Blue)
Spiders of Unusual Size (Rain Spiders)
Small, Squiggly Snake (brown in color, really no bigger than a very large worm)
Two weirdos sitting in face masks
Rhino (White)
Domestic Dogs of Varying Breed
   (Jaimi opposes this entry; however she included the worm size snake)
Praying Mantis
Grasshopper of Unusual Size
Something of Unusual Size That Landed on Me While Writing
Rock Dassie
Vervet Monkeys
Capucin Monkeys
Black & White Lemur
Ring-tailed Lemur
Squirrel Monkey
Baboon Troupe in the middle of the Road
Spider Monkey
A Lot of Birds
Howler Monkey
Burchill Straling (shiny blue birds)
Orange Dragonflies
Black Rhino
Lion (Entire Pride: Male, female, & cubs)
Black-backed Jackal
Cute Ranger
Ground Hornbill
Loudly Chirping Cricket all Night Long
Red Hartebeest
Half-eaten Warthog

and still: no Dik-Dik
   (sorry Marianne, who doesn’t want to be mentioned in conjunction with the dik-dik)