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Into Africa November/December 2011  

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Too big for one page!  Click here to go back to African Safari Part 1 Nov 15 to Nov 23

Letter to home - Nov23

Hello again, I am getting this ready because tomorrow we fly back to Kasane Airport, and there may be a chance I can send it. Tom may be able to send the next installment of our travels. We are writing and preparing them, but there is no communication in the bush. No television, no internet, no radio, just the sounds of the birds and animals. We flew out on 14 passenger Cessna Grand Caravans. The air strip only serves this camp and one other not currently in operation.

We have been staying at the Moremi Tented Camp in the Ovango Delta. It is like being in a tree house since everything is stilted. Our tents are about 150 feet from each other accessible via a boardwalk all about 4 feet off the ground. The tents are about 20x15 on a wooden floor. Each has a bathroom and shower. During the day the tent flaps are down so you can see through the screening. At night they are all closed up. They're very comfortable.

A highlight of this segment was spending a couple of hours on a channel of the Ovango in a 2 person flat-bottomed canoe with a poler to propel you along. We went as far as 8 hippos before we turned back. The late afternoon drive found lions. Our driver left the road and plunged through the bush as we hung on for dear life. We have to be especially careful to duck if an acacia whips by. The thorns could inflict major damage. It was worth it as we spotted 5 female lions just about to rouse themselves for an evening hunt.

The 14 in our group are very compatible, and we're enjoying getting to know them. We are having an unbelievable time. Can't wait to share more.

Joel and all

ps. it had been raining this morning and we have just flown from camp to Kasane. e have to fly 20 more mins to Livingston, Zambia for customs, then an hour and a half flight to our next camp.

Okavango Delta (Botswana) to Kafue (Zambia) Nov 24, 2011  (08)

Today is the day to travel from Moremi Game Camp in the Okavango Delta to Lufupa Camp in the Kafue National Park that is part of the nation of Zambia, the former Northern Rhodesia.  It is another land-locked country to the north of Botswana. 

We left camp at about 8:30 for transit/game drive via Land Rover to the airstrip which at this point serves only our camp.  It was hard raining and the staff carefully packed our duffels into plastic and stowed them aboard.  We were fairly well packed with our carryon luggage.  On the way to the air strip, we drove by a nice herd of elephants.  We arrived about the time our planes came in.  One was the 14 passenger Cessna 208B Grand Caravan like we used before and the other a six passenger Cessna 206.  We split up, climbed aboard and taxied down the runway with water spraying up as high as the windows.  Our pilot was from South Africa who had relocated to Botswana.  We landed  in Kasane, Botswana, where we exited the country and took a 25 min. flight to Livingstone, Zambia where we cleared immigration and customs. 

To Kafue, our pilot (from Bilbao, Spain) had a co-pilot since Zambiaís aviation rules are different.  Livingstone Airport is larger than Kasane and can accommodate commercial jets.  They are building a new terminal to handle all the tourists coming to Victoria Falls which is on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.  Outside the terminal was a statue to "Dr. Livingstone, I presumeÖ"  It was hot, humid and sunny.

In the waiting area, Tinashse handed us each a sack lunch (boxed juice drink and vegetable turnover.)

Our flight to Kafue was about 1.5 hours.  We were happy to arrive early enough to have a chance to relax.  The entrance to the camp was rather modest looking and did not prepare us for the magnificent vista that awaited us in the lounge.  It overlooked the confluence of the Lufupa and Kafue Rivers.  There was a deck railing with a dozen bar chairs where one can sit and watch the hippos and other river activities.  Just behind was the long dining table across from a buffet area.  We were greeted with a welcome drink and had lunch. 




At the water hole


Cape Buffalo









Thorny Acacia


Capt'n Jack found 3 remaining Impala legs


Camp gift shop



Camp laundry







Barbeque and Boma/Ka'arl Ceremony


More Lufupa Camp (Zambia) Nov 25, 2011  (09)

Our camp directors were Sophia and Wami, who took us through the drill of the camp.  "if you see a large rock, remember that we donít have large rocks here.  It is a hippo or some other large animal and you should beat a hasty retreat!"  We were then shown to our tents for a time of self-discovery, i.e. naps before meeting for high tea and a late afternoon game drive. 

At dinner, we had the pleasure of visiting with Robert, a young man from the Netherlands, who came here with his wife Ingrid several years ago to work for Wilderness, the company that runs the camps such as we are in.  Together they manage all the camps in Kafue National Park, but are housed here.  With the nearest village two and one half hours away, it is very remote, so the logistics of keeping everything going are huge.  Supplies must come by river, road or air, all of which are affected by weather.  They love their job and donít plan to return to Europe any time soon.

We learned that Wilderness operated a variety of experiences from luxury to very basic and even own Wilderness Air which is providing our transportation.  Wilderness is devoted to protecting wildlife and the only shooting is by camera.  They have a program in which all their facilities are closed once a year to bring African children for a wilderness experience, "Children in the Wilderness.  The purpose is to create new generations who work to conserve and protect the environment.


Lufupa Camp Life on the Kafue and Lufupa Rivers


Darter or snake bird

Picnic break from river cruise

Leopard Tracks

Velvet ant (doesn't look like an ant???)  UPDATE:  Tom, Thank you for sharing your ULTIMATE AFRICA Trip with us. It was wonderful!!!! Now I don't have to guess at the names of the animals & birds that I took pictures of cuz you named them all. By the way, it is a RED VELVET MITE and not an ant. Loved the trip and enjoyed the company. Wishing you a MERRY CHRISTMAS and happy travels in the NEW YEAR. June & Dan F

Rare Finfood bird


Rainy day!

Ingrid (and husband Rob) manager the Wilderness camps in this area.


Kafue Camp, Zambia




Game viewers



Pizza Oven




Camp's Hippo mascot 


We got stuck!


Bucket (by tire) to burn elephant dung if the tsetse fly gets too bad


Kafue (Zam) to Linkwashe (Zim)  Nov. 27, 2011   (10)

We woke up early, packed our bags, grabbed breakfast and headed out for the 10 minute drive to the airstrip.  Just out of bed, Joel heard a great snorting outside, peeked through the door and saw a hippo just a few feet from the porch.  He whispered to Elaine to come quick, but before she could find her glasses and get there, it had splashed into the water and was gone.  It reminded them that it is necessary to keep alert and look side to side going down the path.

The rain stopped and we boarded the planes.  The pilots had come in the night before and were ready to go.  The 1.5 hour flight back to Livingstone was uneventful and we were taken by bus about 20 miles, crossing the border at the Victoria Falls bridge across the Zambezi gorge just south of the falls.  Here we went through Zimbabwe immigration.  The border guards can be a bit capricious, but the lady who was supposed to board our bus to double-check our visas was nowhere to be seen.  We drove to the Victoria Falls Airport for our flight to Zimbabweís largest national park, Hwange.

Zimbabwe aviation only requires one pilot.  And maybe there is no age limit because our pilot looked like he was 16 years of age!  Weather was a concern and our tour guide Tinashe was left behind so that we would have a lighter load.  He was to have flown in on a later flight, but electrical storms in Vic Falls kept him on the ground.  He had to drive for 6 hours.  The last half was in the park at a maximum speed of 30 kph (about 20 mph) over very rough roads.

Our new camp, Linkwashe, is on a very open savannah with beautiful 180 degree views.  It there hadnít been so much rain lately, more animals would be wandering around up close.  Each tent cabin has two showers: one inside and the other outside.  The latter is open to the animals, but no one else.  Anyone trying to peek at you using the outside shower would be eaten by a lion!  The power and hot water are by solar with a backup communal shower if it is too cloudy.

Although it was hot during midday, there were rain showers by evening.  We went out to see the game and came back after nightfall using a red light to spot game.  We caught the reflection of several small nocturnal mammals (hares and mongoose).


Mo changing a flat tire


Supplies (Lime vest guy filming bush pilot documentary)


Capt'n Jack says "goodbye" to Tom

Livingston Airport, Zambia

Tom Elaine, Joel Livingston Airport, Zambia



our sack lunch for the travel day


Victoria Falls Airport, Zimbabwe

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Nov 27  Hi All,  It's another transit day and we have a little time at Victoria Falls airport  before flying on to Hwange National Park and the Linkwashe Tented Camp in Zimbabwe.  We have spent the last 3 nights in Zimbabwe.  Yesterday there was a huge rainstorm with lots of thunder and lightening.  Everything felt damp this morning.  We flew to Livingstone, Zambia then 30 minutes on the bus to cross the border and get to this airport.  Got to go, plane's leaving.  Joel, Elaine and Tom

Linkwashe Game Park, Zimbabwe Nov. 28, 2011    (11)

As we were finishing breakfast at 6:30 AM, we looked out and saw a pride of about 20 lions strolling by.  We watched them for a while then headed out to get closer.  We were able to drive up fairly close and get some good pictures.  They looked very healthy with the male lion fully in charge.  A few years ago, he deposed the former male leader, killed the cubs so the females could mate again quickly and he would have his own bloodline established.  There were a number of offspring a year or two old and 4 or so cubs that were about 3 months old.  Of course, they stole the show.  There was a water buck nearby and although he was given chase, he got away.  If they were seriously hunting, they would triangulate and set a trap.

Hwange National Park established in 1928 years ago, is the largest park in Zimbabwe but it has no river.  The genius of the first park superintendent was to dig a 70 some wells.  Water is pumped into water holes during the dry season.  They have tried solar and windmills, but have fallen back on diesel.  Game is drawn to the waterhole making easy pickings for the lions probably accounting for their looking so healthy.

We had morning and evening game drives but we didn't see that many animals.  It has been overcast to some degree while weíve been in Africa so we havenít seen the spectacular sunsets of the dry season.  The areas of our game camps are flat as a pancake and the sky looks huge.  We could see stars tonight, and they were spectacular.

The  evening game drive did turned up a herd of about 40 elephants with lots of babies.  After they moved on we received word that the lions were near camp, so we rushed back to see them.  They and the elephants had come very close to our huts.

Arrival/"Terminal" at Kafue, Zimbabwe

Public areas at camp


More animals

Ground lilies everywhere

Our tent cabins

Outdoor Shower!

More lions

The Fire Ball Lily

Windmill abandoned in favor of diesel engine

Our water hole

Public lounge

Re-thatching the roof

Surfing the viewing deck

High tea on the savannah

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Thanks Tom. Looks like you are having a great time and are being well cared for. Makes me want to go back to Africa to do this again.  Hi, Jambo, or whatever, to everyone.  Jon S.

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I waited until today to spend a couple of hours viewing all your logs and photos...they are incredible! How lucky I am to be on your mail-outs....and what a phenomenal experience "y'all" seem to be having. Saw the Leopard Tortoise photo. I have a couple of African succulents in the garden for Russell to munch on...I had read about the plants when planning good eats around the yard, because the African tortoises and the south Texas variety eat pretty much the same from what I have read. All the food, wildlife, culture...your life now has yet another dimension. Thank you, Tom. Be safe. Love your photos, and will view again with Buck! Tremendous vacation you are having.   xxoo Sandra B.   P.S. Wish you lived closer..you would be a great presentation at the monthly Audubon society meeting....we all love to see the trips and the birds & etc. Sandra B.


A Day in the Life, November 29, 2011    (12)


Our travel organization, Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) and parent travel company Grand Circle Foundation, schedules one day to visit and interact with a local village and school.  Our visit was to the Ziga Primary School and to the Headmanís compound in the adjacent village.  We loaded into our safari vehicles and traveled for about an hour and a half. 


Along the way, we came to the park boundary which consists of a very stout cabled fence and gate.  It was placed there because hoof and mouth disease is a problem in Zimbabwe.  We never left single lane dirt roads except for a clearing where there were about 6 lanes, no doubt formed by travelers looking for the smoothest path.  I donít remember if we have mentioned before, but Joel and Elaine brought air cushions with them that they feel saved their backs from the "African Massage".  At least there has been something soft to land on in addition to the upholstered seat.


We reached the school about 9 oíclock and were greeted by a class of uniformed 4th graders who came out, sang to us and then came to us shaking our hands and asking our names.  They had rehearsed some questions.  Zimbabwe schools teach English starting with the first grade so the children were able converse with us.  "Where do you come from?"  (We think our answers didnít mean much.)  "What is your favourite food?"  (One girl said she liked spaghetti, which surprised us.) 


This was followed by a presentation from two teachers telling us about their school.  They showed us the old roofless building that brought earlier OAT visitors to tears.  Then they pointed out the new buildings, including a kitchen and housing for the staff.  All were painted sky blue.  We asked about the color and were told that it was the school motto to reach for the sky.  The teachers appreciated the regular visits of OAT travelers since the children got used to interacting with white people and could ask about careers other than teaching.


We then went to a classroom to interact with the students.  They were really anxious to have us take their pictures and then look at them on the screen.  We understood in advance that we would be encouraged to print their photos when we got home and send them back to our tour leader so he could deliver them to the kids.  They rarely would have seen pictures of themselves


The teacher had the children sing to us and then ask us to get up in front to say something.  We sang two songs, "Home on the Range" and "America the Beautiful."  We had had some practice so we didnít sound half bad.  We wondered what the children thought, but they applauded enthusiastically at the end.


The teacher then asked the students to teach us a few words in Mdebele, their language.  The first one was qoqoda.  We tried to pronounce it, but the little heads shook "no".  They pronounced it with a "click" at the beginning.  We found we could make the click sound, but not in a word!  We had a hard time understanding that it meant "knock", even though the kids were knocking on the table.  It was a lot of fun.


Next on the agenda was to ride over to the compound or homestead, as they put it, of the headman.  He happened to be away working in town, wherever that was, and his wife, children, grandchildren, and some aunties, were there.  We were ushered into the indoor kitchen which is used when the weather is bad and they canít be outside.   It also serves as the formal receiving place.  The women were asked to sit on one side on mats, and the men sat on a built-in bench on the other.  We made formal introductions, then spent about an hour answering each otherís questions.  When asked about the aspirations for their children, they were emphatic that they wanted them to get an education and have a better life.  The older women had never been to school, didnít speak English and had to rely on the young women who translated.  The bowl and pitcher was offered to each one to wash his hands, and then juice, cookies and groundnuts (peanuts) were served.


We were taken outside to tour the compound.   There are buildings for the boys, girls and the parents to sleep.  Those are usually very private, but we were allowed to go into the boys' room.  They are all round structures made of clay from the termite mounds and have a smooth floor that is given frequent new coats of fresh cow dung and water.  It dries with a sheen such as you would have if you painted and waxed it.  The boys had modern beds.


Most of us had brought gifts to present to the family followed by a walk to where the villagers had set up booths so we could shop for local craft items.  Grand Circle has made this possible, and it accounts for some of the cash the village would have.  It was quite an extensive marketplace just for the 14 of us.  Christmas is coming.


Soon it was time to leave for our drive back.  We all left feeling like this had been one of the best days of our lives.   I think we all vowed to look for more ways to give those in need a leg up. 


Giant millipede

At the village well

Dung beetle burying eggs in elephant dung ball


The village

Six lane road!!!

Kalahari Ferrari!

Grand Circle

  Ziga Primary School

In the class room.

"What is your name?"

Tom's pix taken by pupil

Cattle in the Kra'al

Women of floor of Headman's kitchen/multipurpose room


Ngamo - another Grand Circle supported school

At the marketplace

Three boys play hookey! 

Linkwashe, Zim to Victoria Falls Ė November 30, 2011   (13)


A word about these messages:  Joel usually starts with a rough draft which is edited by Elaine and Tom.  Tom chooses and captions the pictures from all we have taken, and pushes it out to everyone.  We are getting down toward the end now, so there wonít be too many more.  We return to San Francisco on Dec. 7, and Joel & Elaine will be flying home on Dec. 8.


Our last day was a bright sunny one and after we had our showers (Joel & Elaine al fresco with the animals, donít linger on the image), we were ready for a morning activity.  We three were in the group that was to go for a walk in the wilds.  Our guide,  Themba, drove us to an area only to discover he had forgotten to bring his rifle.  We could not walk in the woods without it!  All was not lost as he radioed for someone to drive out and meet us. 


We were instructed to walk single file silently through the bush keeping our eyes peeled for any wildlife.  We learned how to approach the hole of a burrow, dug by an anteater and used later by a wart hog (evidenced by the tracks).  You always stand on the other side of the dirt from the hole.  This way, you are out of range of danger (a spitting cobra for example).  We could use this hole for shelter if we were stranded in the forest .  We would break off an acacia branch with big thorns and pull in after us.  Natives believe the smell from the acacia roots and branch ward off snakes.  We kept our eyes glued on  Themba in order not to get left behind.  If he were picked off by a wild animal, told us the keys were under the seat.  (If only we could remember where the vehicle was and which direction was our camp!!!.


Themba told us he was the youngest of 21 sons and several daughters.  His father had 3 wives.   Themba didnít know until he was fairly well grown which one was his birthmother.  He has several children of his own and from what we could understand, his children and those of his brothers move sometimes and stay with uncles.  At Christmas, his whole family is coming home to the compound where he grew up.  Many live in other countries such as Australia and South Africa.


The evening before we left this camp, as we were dancing around the campfire, we were treated to fried Mopane worms.  Our guide had stopped and got some at the grocery store and had the camp chef prepare them for us.  They come from the Mopane tree certain times of the year and are a delicacy.  They were fried and crunchy.  Tom couldnít bring himself to declare them a vegetable, but Joel and Elaine discretely looked for a small one to try.  Not bad, didnít taste quite like chicken.


We made it back safely in time for an hourís game drive to the airstrip for our flight to Victoria Falls.  We had been keeping an eye on the sky and were a little nervous since the incoming planes were late.  They arrived and brought in a new group of explorers, and we were off.


We were charmed to see our Vic Falls hotel for the first time.  It is a beautiful lodge up on a hill with a stunning view.  All our rooms have a little balcony, and wooden shutters on the outside instead of drapes.  Our meals were all in the dining room, and especially for breakfasts, you could look out and see a variety of animals.  Joel & Elaine chose wart hog for the evening entrťe.  Very good!!



With Themba on game walk

Grading the roadway

Lions saying "good-bye"



Kinkwasha Airstrip


Victoria Falls Airport


Victoria Falls Safari Lodge



Farewell Photo of our group

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Thank you Joel, Elaine and Tom, for sharing your marvelous trip! It's always such a treat to read what you're doing and to see the photos!   Love, Nancy D.

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Loved reading the e-mails (journals of the trip) and seeing the pictures. It is such an adventure!   See you soon!   ...  Randy H.

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Tom, Thank you for having me on your list. I'm not a traveler anymore but really enjoy the vicarious adventure and peek into other very different parts of the world your reporting gives me. Thanks so much.  Sarah D.

Vic Falls, Zimbabwe, December 1, 2011  (14)


Several days before, Tinashe had asked us to sign up for optional excursions and activities so he could make the necessary bookings.  The choices ranged from animal explorations to whitewater rafting on the Zambezi  to bungee jumping from the bridge over the gorge.  We had just over a day to get these in.


Elaine and Joel left the hotel at 6:00 AM for the riding of an elephant.  They were driven out to a game park where they keep a number of elephants trained to allow riders.  You ride in a saddle that holds three, the driver and 2 passengers.  There is a mounting platform and straps to hang on with.  As you move away, you put your feet in stirrups.  I think we walked about a mile with an armed man in front and a video man to capture forever your brave feat. 


Then they went on to "Walk with the Lions."  This activity run by a foundation that works in several countries to rescue lions and prepare them to release into the wild.  At this compound, the lions are used in an educational program and canít be released since they have become too used to humans.  Although the pictures look like Joel and Elaine were cavorting with them by themselves, there were about 8 people around, one armed and others to give us instructions about where to be, and to take your camera for pictures.  "Don't get too close to its head!"


At the same time, Tom arose at a leisurely 10:00 AM and was picked up for the "Bridge Slide", otherwise known as a Zip Line.  This was over the  gorge at the Victoria Bridge (the tallest bridge in the world when it was built in 1905).  Tom went through Immigration to be able to walk across the bridge and along the high bank to where the zip line was attached.  He wasn't afraid until he was roughly shoved out into space for a scary ride to the other side!


The Zambezi Gorge averages 200 feet and is downstream from the falls.  One of our travel mates, Paul, spent the morning white water rafting.  It can only be done at this time of year when the water is low.  Some trip leaders tried it in high water and several drowned.  This part of the river is safe since the walls are too steep for crocodiles.  Those that wash over the falls in high water would surely be dashed to an untimely death.


We all met for lunch at the hotel.  The dining room faces a open space with scrub trees, a water hole.  The Zambezi River and Zambia in the distance.  At 1 PM we were treated to the awesome sight of feeding the vultures.  We looked out and noticed that a tall tree were becoming filled with the large vultures.  Someone came out to the edge of this area and started throwing out hunks of meat.  The birds have learned to come every day and there were so many.  There are low bushes screening them, but what you could see looked like the earth was moving.  In a few minutes

it was over.


In the afternoon we were taken by our leader to the tropical forest park to walk the mile-long trail along the falls.  The Zambezi Rivers is Africaís fourth longest beginning in Angola becoming the borders of Namibia, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe before flowing through Mozambique and into the Indian Ocean.  Itís most spectacular feature is Victoria Falls that twice as high as Niagara, stretching for over a mile.  It looks like a wide delta on top before it flows over the escarpment into a gorge.  It was named for Queen Victoria by Dr. David Livingstone and had been known locally as the "smoke that thunders."  During high water, the spray can be seen 60 miles away. 


This time of year when the water is low, it is broken into a number of parts.  The spray is not so big and it is possible to see it all.  In high water, it is often not possible to see the falls.  Although we were across the gorge looking at the falls, we did get dampened by spray.  Walking along the path, one was in a tropical rain forest because of all the moisture.  We didnít worry about getting wet since it was very hot, we dried out quickly.  We all agreed it was truly an awesome sight and worthy of being one of the top wonders of the world.


Our evening meal contained a choice of crocodile for an appetizer; of course, it was chosen by Joel and Elaine.

The ride to the Elephant Ride


Walk with the lions


Victoria Falls




Victoria Falls Bridge

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Didn't you do any bungee jumping?  Dick D.

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Thanks for the update Tom. Sound like all of you are thoroughly enjoying the adventure.  Jon

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Tom - the falls are break taking and indeed I can imagine those ghoulish vultures.  Peggy M

Vic Falls (Zim) to Cape Town (S.A.) Ė Dec. 2-4   (15)

Our last day in Zimbabwe began with a short ride to the helipad so Tom, Joel and Elaine could take a helicopter rider over the falls. It was a beautiful morning and we were strapped in and ascended almost before we knew what was going on. Tom sat in front with the pilot, and J & E in the back with three others, not entirely by choice. There is a weight limit for the front seat. Fortunately we all were by windows for photo taking. The flight lasts about 13 minutes, but that is plenty of time to circle around several times.

We had no idea of the scope d context aof the falls until we were up in the air. Itís hard to describe, but both the falls and the facing side are at the same level. The water falls off into a gorge that is parallel to the face of the falls. This was caused by a huge rift/fault that runs through the area.  Rainbows are always present.

Victoria Safari Lodge from helicopter

It was soon time to settle up and make our way to the airport for an 1 Ĺ hour flight to Johannesburg. It was time to say goodbye to most all the new friends from across the U.S. Traveling the way we did, up close and personal, gave us a chance in 15 days to get well acquainted. It was bittersweet since our paths will probably not cross again. We enjoyed each other so much. We all had new flights to catch in J-burg, all but 5 going home. We and Linda and Susan from Lincoln, Neb. had a 2 hour flight to catch for Cape Town, S.A. for a 4-night extension. An aside: why is it that we make workers in the U.S. work so much harder than in most parts of the world? At the check-in desk at the airport, the attendants are always seated, just as they are in grocery stores, etc. They can reach around and put on baggage labels just fine. Another: Whenís the last time you got a hot meal on a 2 hour domestic flight that also served complementary beer & wine?

Johannesburg Airport

At Cape Town we were met by our tour guide, Francois, who drove us to our hotel on Green Market Square, a block from Long St. in the downtown area. We learned (heard) the next morning why it is ďmarketĒ as we heard them setting up all the booths for African crafts. They are open every day and it takes a couple hours to set it up and tear it down. Our window has a nice view of Table Mountain if there are no clouds.

Green Square Market, before and after setup

Francois picked us up early for an excursion to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. It is famous for its wide diversity of plants, especially protea which is native to this area. It used to be shipped all over the world, but now it also comes from Australia and Hawaii. After a city tour, we came back to the hotel for a bit of a lie-down before going out to walk along Long St., a Bohemian, jumping place, to look for some place to eat.

Cape Town Art 

Kirstenbosch Gardens

Proteas at Kirstenbosch

Colorful "Malay" neighborhood

Lunch at the Waterfront


At the Waterfront

The next day turned out to be perfect for a ride up the tram to the top of Table Mountain. Often at this time of year, it is too windy and is shut down. Joel and Tom had picked up some sort of bug (food poisoning?) and were maneuvering cautiously, but didnít want to miss this. It provides spectacular views of the city and the beaches going around toward the cape. Joel had to beg out of the rest of the trip and spent the rest of the day in bed, but the others continued on.

Francois drove us down the Cape, along beautiful seaside towns and gorgeous beaches.  The weather was perfect ... sunny and clear.  The first stop was to take a short boat trip out to the mouth of the costal town harbor to see (and smell) the seals that laze about on the rocks.  Tom's stomach would not allow this extension to the excursion.

Further along, we stopped for lunch at the Black Marlin Restaurant, again overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  Broiled hake was served on skewers mounted on a frame in front of the diner.

The furthermost point on the SW corner of Africa is the Cape of Good Hope.  Here they stopped and took photos and rode the nearby funicular up to the lighthouse.  It was still clear, but very windy.

Cable car up to Table Mountain Cape Town

Joel and Elaine on Table Mountain

Panorama of Cape Town

The Seals

Lunch at the Black Marlin

At the Cape of Good Hope

Ride up to the Light house

Mother grooming baby baboon

On the return, they stopped at Simon Town at the Boulders to walk out and view the penguins who have made a home there.

The Jackass Penguins

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Tom- I'm so glad that you took the helicopter ride over the falls. I was surprised and somewhat disappointed that only four of our group did this. I'm certainly glad that I did. What a beautiful experience.  Dick D

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Dear Tom, Joel & Elaine, On balance, your African trip seems to have be quite smashing! Very much enjoyed reading and viewing Tom's reports. A friend from California and I did a similar trip several years ago, and your reports brought back many fine memories.

All well in NY. I spent 7 weeks this past summer at the home in Spokane, and I couldn't be more pleased with the results of what turned out to be a nearly 2-year restoration of the place. Think I'll spend the summers there for the the foreseeable future. The summer weather in Spokane certainly beats that anywhere in New York.

Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous 2012. Mick M.

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Hi Tommy: Thank you for all your wonderful photos/stories about or from your trip(s) but....JUST HOW DO YOU FIND THE TIME TO ENJOY YOUR TRIP AND YET, E-MAIL ALL THOSE WONDERFUL PHOTOGRAPHS? ca

Man, when I am abroad, I hardly have any time to narrate my tour of the places I visit let alone, to download all those photos!   In any case, I great deal of gratitude to you and my best wishes for you to enjoy all your trips!  lv,  Jose R.

Cape Town - Last Day - Good-bye, So Long, Sayanara - Dec 5, 2011  (16)

Today, our last full day in Africa, Joel, Tom and Elaine caught a cab to the waterfront area to board a boat for an excursion to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela and countless others spent so much time as political prisoners. When we reached the island, we boarded buses for a guided tour. Our narrator was quite a character. ďOh, youíre from Germany. Youíre the ones who got fought us in the war. But thatís ok, you bought us all these nice buses. Iíll have a story to tell about you later.Ē ďOh, youíre from Australia. I should put you off the bus right now. You sent all the eucalyptus trees that use so much water. Iíll have a story to tell about you later,Ē and so on. Our guide on the walking tour of the prison was a former prisoner. It was very moving to be a part of such a diverse group of people of all races and nationalities coming to pay homage to the freedom fighters who eventually brought down a brutal system.

At the clock tower before Robben Island tour

Robben Island

Guide on tour bus

View back to Cape Town

In prison

Nelson Mandela's cell

We spent some time after the tour walking around the Waterfront area which has very interesting architecture and 100ís of shops and restaurants. It is Monday here, but it seemed everyone was out enjoying the day. Prices here are pretty good for Americans, a lot better than the British Pound or Euro. They use the Rand and there are about 8 to the dollar.

  Swinging bridge (opens to let boats pass)

More at the waterfront

Santa is coming

In the evening we were picked up by Freddie to take us for a home-hosted with a family in a northern suburb. There we met Reggie and Hazel. They refer to themselves as ďcoloredĒ and assured us that is still an accepted term for anyone of mixed race in South Africa. They were very proud that the US had elected Obama, but they didnít understand why he wasnít referred to as colored rather than black. They consider themselves to be working class and are children of parents and grandparents who worked in the houses and fields of whites. Afrikaans, a mainly Dutch language, was their first language since they worked for Afrikaners. They sent their children to English school so they would learn English and have more opportunities. Reggie cooked for us and managed to impart a lot of history in the short time we had together. It was a most enjoyable and informative evening.

Tomorrow we must get packed and ready to head home. Although we must be out of the hotel at 10 AM, our flight is not until 9 pm.  We can store our luggage in the hotel and go out and do some things before we get picked up at 5. We will have two eleven hour flights to (Cape Town to London and London to SFO), then Elaine and Joel will go on to Portland the next day. If we counted correctly, on this trip Tom will have flown 14 segments and Joel and Elaine 16.

ďUltimate AfricaĒ was certainly a trip of a lifetime. We feel so lucky that we had this opportunity to meet all kinds of new people, experience unimaginable things and leave behind many of the cares of the world for a time. Everyone made us feel so welcome. We would recommend this trip to anyone who likes the spirit of adventure.


  Home hosted dinner by Reggie and Hazel, a colored family in the northern Suburbs.

Tom, Susan and Joel at the dining table

Reggie and Hazel

Linda, Susan, Joel, Elaine, Tom, Hazel, Reggie

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Cape Town, one of my favorite cities. Looks like you saw the essential during your extension. Makes me want to turn in my text books for a plane ticket to the RSA.  Jon S.

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Tom, I had the same guide on Robben Island! Glad you had a wonderful trip. Sounds like I might be back in SF when I finish teaching in January. Have good flights!  Jon S.

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Welcome home travelers. I really enjoyed hearing and seeing your wonderful adventures. Tom, call when you are settled and stationary!!! ...Jo S.

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I am so going to miss these messages.  Amazing and remarkable stories! Amazing and remarkable photos!! Amazing and remarkable travelers!!!  Jude K.

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Robben Island was an unforgettable experience.  Dick D.

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WOW..an end to a fabulous journey. Thanks for taking us along. Sandra B.

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Hi dear travelers, Canít tell you how much I am enjoying reliving my trip to South Africa vicariously through your adventure. I loved the Cape and driving along the Garden route, stopping at ostrich farms and swimming in the sea at gorgeous beaches along the way. We went to Kruger Natíl Park on a safari and saw an amazing array of wild animals. It was a great trip. My relatives lived near Joíburg, so we had an inside view of life in that apart of the world. Canít wait to see you, Tom, to hear more. sounds like it was a wonderful adventure for one and all. Love,  Sylvia S.

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Welcome home Tommy-  so enjoyed following your travelling footsteps. What a wonderful adventure-who takes all those fab photos. Did you do much shopping??   Played any evening bridge games-you don't want to get too rusty while away. Thanks for sharing your wonderful travels Hope you're in town long enough for a visit tho with the holidays you just might be on the move again. Barbara K.

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Hi Tom, It was great touring with you. Most of the things you did, we have done and it brought back many memories, Hope you survive the long haul home Cheers Ian & Don (Melbourne)

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Tom,  We got your postcard today. Thanks for that. And I've just now caught up with the travel reports. Some lovely photos and interesting experiences. You got a terrific shot of the whole group at the end, too.

Looking forward to greeting the weary travellers.  Cheers and qoqoda, Charles B

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What a experience!  Are you all still alive?  Thanks for sharing your wonderful trip with me.  Trudy

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Dear Joel and Elaine, Dear Tom,   Thank you very much for 14 messages with wonderful pictures from your voyage through Africa.  And thank your for the big work you had with the long reports. I never was in South-Africa. It must be a very versatile area. In November this year I was in Israel , Palestine and Jordanian, and visited there a few German schools and a lot of antique towns and objects.

My family wish you an the whole family merry Christmas and a happy new year.   Greetings Helmut E.

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Tom, Elaine, and Joel,  I have followed your wonderful trip with great enthusiasm! What a great experience!!

When you have time, let me know how you actually arranged it. I am familiar with OAT as I have a friend that has used that tour company, and she went to Africa with them. But, she didn't have nearly this type of trip--just maybe 10 days or something like that.

I sure envy you this experience and hope to see you again sometime.

Claire F.

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Dear Joel, Elaine, and Tom:  This time we were all ready to receive your e-mails, since we "finally" got high speed internet service.   We greatly enjoyed the pictures and the descriptions of what you saw and what you did. It's good of you all to include us in your travels.   I'm glad you got through all the challenges and are now "home safe". Welcome back.

Thank you for the good communicating.  Sincerely, Allen

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This site was last updated 12/11/11