Month: May 2017

Our Neighbor Namibia

5 Cape Cross Seal Reserve hanging out

Never thought we would say the words- Going on a road trip to Namibia. Ok- before PC, we probably couldn’t have told you where Namibia was, much less what we might find there. But, many other volunteers have gone and told us how wonderful it was so off we went during the Easter holiday. Two PC friends joined us- Bethany and Joiwyn- they were also part of our Tuli Block adventure last September. Took way less pictures (except of Seals) as Teresa is learning that too many pictures makes blog posting hard and long with slow Internet for uploading)

We rented a car from a person who works a lot with PCVs and has a travel business. Gary is getting really good at driving on the “wrong” side. Not sure what is going to happen when we get home.  We divided our time between camping and Airbnb. Camping is ok but we greatly preferred the “bed” experiences. This is our second campsite- no picture of the first. Hard to believe but there is actually a giraffe in one of these pictures. Where’s Waldo anyone?

First night was Upington, South Africa which was basically a stopping point on our way to Fish River Canyon (FRC). FRC is the largest canyon in Africa and all the guide books said it was a must do.  We thought it the second largest in the world after the Grand Canyon but researching canyons when we got back, it gets very confusing with no definitive answers- Let’s just say it is up there with the “most breathtaking” in the world:

In any case, we were not able to hike down into it- that is only possible if you do the whole thing over at least 5 days. From our campsite we were able to walk a little bit up into it and then had to settle for going to the other end where there were various overlooks. We were most impressed with the lack of people which made it very nice. Our campground had a large swimming pool which was actually a hot spring so it was more like a giant hot tub. We got in before Gary and he asked us if it was cold and we said- it’s not bad. The look on his face was priceless when he put his foot in.  Unfortunately, we were in the pool so no camera.

Our next stop was Sessriem Canyon and the Sossuslvei Sand Dunes.  But getting there a semi had jack knifed and his bed was blocking the road. Going to steal from Bethany’s  blog as she described how they solved the problem. There is no AAA, Highway Patrol or cell service!

“A pickup truck was backed up to the back of the flatbed with a pole running from       the tow hitch to the side of the flatbed, and the flatbed was raised on a crank and some rocks. The pickup would slowly back up until the flatbed shifted enough it was pushed off the rocks and stopped. Then they would set up again and start over. The flatbed moved about 6 inches at a time and a little over an hour later, enough room was made for the (now 6) cars to pass through.”

Gary, of course, is doing what he does best.

We were behind a tour bus full of German tourists. We ran into them in every place we went after that. But we did learn from their tour guide that the nests on the poles that we saw everywhere are Social Weaver nests.  Some of these were bigger complexes than condos on Miami Beach.Notice there is a second utility pole. The weavers’ nest must have made the original one unusable as we saw this a lot. How they keep them from doing it all over again on the new pole, is beyond us.

social weaver nest

Teresa and Bethany climbed one of the dunes- part way- it was SOOOOO windy and was narrowing out so much we were (at least Teresa was) scared to go any higher.

One of the highlights was a short hike into Sessriem Canyon itself. Reminds us of slot canyons in the US West.

After two nights there, on to Swakopmund with a stop in Walvis Bay on our way. This leg had its own excitement. About 30k from Walvis Bay- middle of nowwhere- about 95 degrees Fahrenheit and no cell coverage, a warning indicator light came on. So, Gary pulled over and turned off the car. When he tried to turn it on again- nothing- absolutely nothing. We looked and didn’t see anything. So, we took stock- we had tents, food and water so knew we were not in any imminent danger. We put the hood up and flagged down the next car which came which was actually very soon. A very nice Namibian man (did not get his name) stopped and looked. He didn’t see anything at first but then noticed that one of the battery leads was not attached to the battery. The washboard dirt road (all but a couple of roads in Namibia are dirt- usually very nice packed dirt but still…). We reattached the wire, he tightened it with a wrench he had and we were back in business.

Had lunch in Walvis Bay then went to see the large flock of flamingos that hang out there.  We learned flamingos don’t photograph well- they seem to wash out, all the pink/whitish dots are flamingos- trust us! (and there really was a giraffe at the campsite- yes- off in the distance but there nonetheless)

On to Swakopmund where we had a beautiful apartment with a WASHING MACHINE- the highlight of the trip. (The dryer broke the first day but that didn’t stop us-oh no- not at all- we WASHED EVERYTHING we had with us- blankets, towels, etc. And there was a dishwasher- we used dishes just so we could fill the dishwasher.  Had great food in Swakopmund and found a delightful German bakery. (Namibia’s history is German and Afrikaans- South Africa as well as British in addition to the native tribes which did not fare so well in the  days of  colonialism).

The first day we walked around Swakopmund and did some shopping at the outdoor market. The next day we went for a 2 hour quad bike tour of the sand dunes- not one of us brought a camera or phone along so no pictures. Probably just as well because at the very end, the person in front of Teresa slowed down going up a little hill so she went to the side and at the top of the little hill, there was a drop off- no hill- she went airborne and did stop, drop and roll. Luckily helmets were required and she was no more sore than anyone else the next day or two. Oh- the quad bike was fine- thanks for asking. The guide, however, got several new grey hairs that day.  But, it was fun! This is sunset from our restaurant the first night, looking out over the Atlantic Ocean where we waved to America.

The following day, Bethany, Gary and Teresa ventured about an hour north to Cape Cross Seal Reserve. While the stench made Teresa gag and she had to breathe through her mouth with a pile of kleenex over her nose- seeing 100,000 seals with probably a third of them 3-4 month old babies was amazing. Lucky for Gary he has a limited sense of smell so he was just fine.

On the way there we stopped at a shipwreck. They call it the Skeleton Coast because it is famous for ships wrecking. Most of the wrecks are inaccessible to the public. We spoke to some friends when we got back to Botswana and the consensus is they placed the wreck conveniently where tourists could access it. Very enterprising if you ask us and the birds sure love it.

4a Shipwreck 2

On to Windhoek on one of the two paved roads.  We committed genocide on corn crickets- a very large black bug that looks like a dung beetle on steroids. Thought we had a picture but it didn’t come out. We are sure they inspired some Star Wars creature. They hang out on this particular road and get killed. Guess they aren’t the most intelligent species in the animal kingdom.  Windhoek is a very clean, well laid out city. Pictures are of Christ Church (famous for its mix of architectural styles with the result it looks like a gingerbread house and the National Museum with its hours not posted anywhere and the guide books were wrong so we only got a half hour to spend in it)

We visited several craft markets and had dinner at a famous tourist restaurant- Joe’s. It is famous for the game meat it serves. Two people had game, one had fish/seafood and one had neither. We’re sure you can all figure out who did not partake in either of the local delicacies.

The last night in Namibia we had dinner at the national culinary school called NICE (Namibia Institute of Culinary Excellence). It lived up to its name. The food and presentation were wonderful and it was a perfect ending to very relaxing and fun trip.

As soon as we entered Botswana we were welcomed by cows, donkeys and chickens in the road-  ah- to be home. We stayed the night with a fellow PCV who lives about 60k from the Namibian border and drove home the next day. The highlight for Teresa was that the PCV was taking care of another PCV’s dog and both Kyra and Charlie (the dog) needed to get to Kang the next day- we were going through Kang and despite being packed to the gills we pretended we were a combi. Charlie sat on Teresa’s lap the whole way so she got her dog fix that will need to last for several more months.

We got lots of stamps in our passports. We highly recommend traveling with young women. They make the border crossings a lot easier and way more fun. One border agent (coming from South Africa to Namibia) asked if it was ok if he courted one of our “daughters.” Fine by us.

Only one trip to go before our big trip after we close our service. Rafting the Zambezi and visiting a rhino sanctuary- that’s end of June/July so only one travelogue to go. Now it’s back to work for the last 5 months of service- lots to do and not much time to do it.

The Grand Safari Tour

vulture chobe (2)

We had the amazing opportunity to travel for over two weeks with our daughter Alisha and her fiance Josh (known as “her Josh” while our son is either “brother Josh” or “my Josh” unless it is Alisha talking then it’s the opposite but we digress).  This post is basically a travelogue for a once in a lifetime adventure.  First of all, it rained at some point every day until we left for Capetown which was blue skies the whole time. But, hey- we all know climate change isn’t real.  We even had flooding. Botswana has not had this kind of rain for years.  The Gaborone Dam is full while last year it was down to about 1%.  This did result in it being harder to see some animals but we still got to see plenty.

They arrived in Gabs on a Thursday night and after a bit of a problem with immigration- they were insisting on a street address for us which we don’t have (basically no one does) we finally were able to give them what we believe to be a plot number. Thank goodness Alisha’s phone worked in Botswana! Anyway we floated back to Gabane and spent two nights at our house.

We took them to meet people in the village including a very nice reception at Gary’s school where the pictures of their dogs on their bed created quite the stir. Simply not done here in Botswana- dogs are outside for security- no discussion- that’s it.

Early Saturday morning we left for Elephant Sands, our stop overnight on our way to Kasane. From it’s name, you will know why we picked it. Alisha really wanted elephants and all our Peace Corps friends raved about the elephants being right there outside your chalet at the watering hole. Well, who needs a watering hole when the whole country has turned into one big watering hole. Nice chalet (tent camp) but NO ELEPHANTS.  So the highlight of Day One was getting stopped at a routine police stop and getting slapped with a P300 (US $30) fine because Alisha was in the back seat with her seat belt off while we were stopped.  We were very careful thereafter as there were several police stops. Instead of patrolling and coming up behind you, in Botswana they are stationary and pull you over based on radar or just because they have roadblocks set up- kind of like our sobriety checkpoints. The concrete pointing things are to prevent elephants from walking there.


Undaunted and with promises about elephants made, we kept heading north and arrived at Senyati Lodge after seeing elephants and giraffes along the side of the road! phew! Was a bit nervous for a while there. We tried to tell Alisha and Josh that by the end of the trip they wouldn’t bother stopping for elephants unless they were doing something interesting.  They didn’t believe us at the time but do now. So we don’t have a picture of their first elephant.


First Giraffe

Our chalet at Senyati Lodge looked out on an open area where many animals came to graze. We had this hornbill who thought he was a peeping tom but the highlight was the plethora of elephants who marched by regularly on their way to the watering hole in front of the bar area. You could sit up high or low (or on our front stoop) and watch them. Or, you could brave the enclosed dank dark space known as a “blind” and be under the ground looking up at the elephants up close and very personal. Teresa went in once and made her fear of spiders subordinate to her love of elephants.

On our first day at Senyati, we went on a late afternoon river cruise on the Chobe- primarily hippos and crocs but of course, a million birds,  and various “deer” types on the side plus cape buffalo.  For those of you keeping score- two of the big five so far- elephant and cape buffalo.



fish eagle chobe
Fish Eagle drying its wings

When we got back we decided to eat in Kasane not thinking about it getting dark and us not knowing our way back very well. When it gets dark in Africa, it gets VERY dark. The road to our lodge is fine in normal weather (dirt but packed and drive-able) but with all the rain, it was potholed, waterholed (a new word), pitted, washboarded- you name it and very convoluted. So, we are driving along and spot an elephant half in our road. So we stop of course- not wise to mess with the big guys- so we sit there until Mr Elephant decides to turn around and come charging towards us. The three of us YELLED at Gary to step on it as we saw a chance to get by him (he was coming from the side more than from the front). Luckily Gary heard us (he was focused on the rutty road) and reacted quickly and we got by. Then a few feet on our right was an entire heard of female elephants (remember it is pitch black) calmly eating. They let us pass without paying us any attention.  We then vowed to not stay out after dark (as PC has warned us numerous times). (obviously no pictures possible so this is a similar encounter but from a safari vehicle with a trained guide)


The next day we went on a game drive in Chobe Park. Pictures attached.  Lots of animals but   no elephants all day until we were leaving then tons of them (literally and figuratively) actually outside the official park and doing interesting behavior which Josh and Alisha were now beginning to appreciate.  Warthogs, zebra, kudu, impalas, giraffes, cape buffalo, etc but no lions or leopards. We knew we wouldn’t see rhinos as there are none left in Chobe.



A peaceful evening watching our elephant parade.

P1020210 - Copy

The next day we went to Victoria Falls and had a lovely day on the Zimbabwe side. Lunch overlooking the Falls and tea time/dessert from the Victoria Falls Hotel also looking at the Falls from a different perspective. (Side Note: We will be going to Livingstone on the Zambia side of the Falls in July and will be rafting down the Zambezi for a day- How cool is that?)

Fourth day in Kasane- another game drive on the hunt for lions which was unsuccessful- the rain was keeping them all away from the river- they don’t need to get to the river to drink as there is so much water in the hills they don’t need to show themselves).  Got pretty wet on this drive despite the ponchos provided for us but no pain no gain. More amazing elephants, warthogs having a fight (or playing- not sure which), more buffalo, tons of impalas and jackals.


Remember our earlier police stops. Well, the one just outside Kasane took the cake. An army guy in full regalia and weapon and two police officers stopped us and wanted us to open the back of the car which was piled high with stuff. On the very top were wooden napkin rings that we had bought that morning at our lodge. They demanded a receipt which we did not have. I said they could call the lodge which they said they would do (they did not) and said they weren’t accusing us of stealing. If not, then why a receipt. They claimed the wood was illegal and we would have to follow them to the police station. Teresa immediately said she would have to call the Peace Corps Security Officer. They said it wasn’t necessary and she said it was standard procedure per Peace Corps volunteer policy. They accepted that. The security officer is an incredible person with contacts throughout Botswana (he is former police). He talked to the officer in charge on the highway then said he would call back. He did and said to go to the police station.  He had spoken to the station commander who is someone he knows. Together, we found a way for everyone to save face. We promised to get an export permit from the Dept of Agriculture

Finally, after about an hour’s delay, on to Maun- a full day’s drive with a stop for lunch at Planet Baobab which we had stayed at last Easter.P1020303

Arrived at Old Bridge Backpackers and settled in. Next day went for a mokoro ride in the Delta. Not as wonderful as our boat trip last July but despite the rain, there is not enough water this time of year for a full boat. Only the canoe can go. Very relaxing with a bush walk but few animals seen.




The next day was Moremi Game Reserve and our last chance to see lions. It was about a 2 hour drive from Maun and our guide was making time regardless of the gazillion (yes, we counted) mini lakes we had to pass through/around to get there (remember earlier about the rain).  But, it was well worth it. Besides the millions of impala (only slightly less than the gazillion potholes), thousands of elephants and hundreds of giraffee, Cape Buffalo, warthogs, baboons, birds, etc we got to see lions.  The tracks on the dirt road were unmistakable (advantage to rain is mud holds footprints better). We followed them and were rewarded by this group hanging out right in the open. Josh then said he would love to see an adult male lion. We told him to be thankful he got this 🙂


Late in the day we were startled when a mature male lion walked out from under a bush right in front of us. No time for a picture. He was startled too and ran back under the trees/thick bush and then we saw what he was up to. There was a female lion in there with him and they were, shall we say, enjoying themselves- at least he was- she vocalized a sound that distinctly sounded like- not now dear, I have a headache. But, he really didn’t care. Pictures aren’t great but Alisha has it on video (as best we could get). Apparently lions can pair up like this for weeks at a time with mating taking place at 15 minute intervals. Josh got his male lion.

Great elephants  as well. Throughout the trip there were tons of babies (going to make a “baby” series one of these days). In Moremi, we encountered the tiniest baby elephant of the trip. But, the matriarch was determined we would not get to see it. She gave some command, apparently there is a sound she makes that instructs the other adult females to circle around the baby. This is exactly what they did and every now and then we got a glimpse and finally a picture.

Overall, lots more animals- zebra and wildebeest hanging out together- one has a good sense of sight and the other hearing so they warn each other of impending danger. Baboon playing king of the termite mound and our last giraffes.

Next stop- Ghanzi where we hoped to visit the Kuru Art Centre in D’kar but Teresa didn’t figure in we would get there on a Sunday so it was closed. But we stayed at a San Lodge- we were the only guests. Nicest pool of the trip. Too bad it was pouring rain. The road in is fine for two wheel drive- about 7k of dirt road. No problem. Remember the rain we’ve been having. Well now it was Gary’s turn to drive the one after another potholes/mini lakes except we weren’t in a big 4wd safari vehicle. But, we were in a Subaru- should have been a commercial for Subaru. It was amazing.

At the lodge we went on a bush walk (between storms- sort of) with two San people- husband and wife.They were lovely and informative. We got to sample a “bush potato” freshly dug up from some plant in the middle of the bush. We had a lovely dinner and returned to Gabs the next day.


Back home to Gabane for a night to regroup and repack and to return the car. One last glimpse of wildlife though between Ghanzi and Kang.

ostrich ghanzi kang

On to Capetown where we got hopelessly lost on our way to our Airbnb in Muizenberg but since we made it back, we must have found our way eventually. Teresa seems to have lost the pictures she took of Capetown so will need to get them from Alisha some day.

  • Day One: Cable car up (and down) Table Mountain after getting lost getting there but taking a beautiful drive.  Then lunch at a Taqueria (may not mean much to most of you but after two years in Bots- most welcome). Then off to see penguins except we got stuck in  two hour traffic jam. We did get to see penguins just not at the Cape of Good Hope
  • Day Two: Shark Cage Diving- about a 2 hour drive then a relatively short boat ride to Shark Alley but someone told them Teresa was coming so not a shark in site. A very playful seal amused us except that Teresa is not amused when it comes to non-moving boats. All the drugs in the world didn’t help. She spent most of the time in the shark cage sort of watching the seal as it was slightly better than being on the boat. Everyone else went back on board at some point to avoid hypothermia but hypothermia was preferable to the swaying back and forth. We did get a 50% refund. This was the big thing Josh wanted to see and do- here’s hoping the lion encounter made up for it.
  • Day Three: Robben Island-  probably the most poorly organized museum tour any of us had been on. And, a minor miracle that Teresa agreed to get back on a boat. Despite the poor execution of the tour, it was still a moving experience having just finished reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long walk to freedom.

But despite the disappointments we really enjoyed Capetown- weather was great, food was incredible, and Capetown is just a beautiful city nestled between mountains and ocean.

On our last day, we traveled together to Johannesburg where Josh and Alisha flew home to Phoenix and we flew back to our 2 year home in Botswana. If you made it this far- thank you for reading/watching and you are hereby excused from the endless slide show that will occur when we get home.