Day 20: Tuesday December 8th, 2015
Today we are leaving Ngepi. But oh how I love this place! The hippie vibes, the beautiful scenery, but most of all the work this lodge is doing to be sustainable and help out the local surrounding villages. Ngepi runs completely on solar power, all of their water is pumped from the river, they employ almost all of their staff from the once nomadic surrounding villages, they only serve wild game (no large domesticated animals), and they offer an incentive program to locals to plant trees and maintain them so as to ease the camps ecological footprint. The place is filled with adorable wooden signs reminding you to do your part. And the bathrooms! They were hands down the best I’ve come across in my travels. The walls were made of lanky sticks fashioned together into a six foot high fence, the showers were all fenced in with the same stick work (with no roof of course so you could look up to the heavens as you showered with the river water). Trees and vegetation covered the walls all over the shower section, creeping in from the surrounding vegetation. The shower platform itself was just a cute little dipped cement oval with a hippo carving at one end, and the shower head just floated above your head with the plumbing all hidden from view in a tangle of vegetation. It was like taking a rain shower in nature heaven! In the toilets you only had three stick fence walls – two on your side and one behind you – the front wall being left out so you sat and looked out into the thick tangle of forest while doing your business – as nature intended! Continue reading
Day 19: Monday December 7, 2015
How sweet is the day when one sleeps until nearly 8am! I rejoiced when I looked at my phone to see the time. It was stifling hot when I went to bed last night and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to sleep, but sleep I did! I awoke with the predawn glow at 5:30 with a full bladder, and it being semi-light out, wasn’t terrified to make the trip to the bathroom. I lazed about in the tent after Rug got up, enjoying the coolness of the day and starfishing a while. Our adventure (and what an adventure it would be!) for the day wasn’t until 4pm so I had all day to do as I pleased. I went to the lounge to do a little internetting and then Rug and I decided to order breakfast as it was only $5. After living on camp fare for so long, a little break now and then was needed. And let me tell you – the home bread was absolutely to die for! Continue reading
Day 16: Friday, December 4, 2015
Sleeping in until 7:30 was absolutely glorious and much needed after so many days of rising at dawn. Today was mostly a driving day as we had another 450km of road to cover to pass through the whole Caprivi strip to our next camp – Mazambala, near the border of Zambia and as close to Victoria falls as we would get, unfortunately. Next time… because we absolutely know there will be a next time! The rains came again and joined us for much of our drive, this time accompanied by massive rakes of lightning and rumbles of thunder.
Mazambala was situated on the Okavango river, surrounded by marshlands. The camp is actually on an island on the river, but because the rains were only just starting, it was still connected to land. The campsites were 2km away from the lodge on the ‘mainland’, but we could take a boat over to the lodge whenever we wanted. We drove over to check in and check the place out and book a game drive for the following day. This was the part of the country where we were hoping to see hippos, crocs and water buffalo. After setting up camp, as night fell, the warning from the lodge host ruminated in my head: “Don’t stray far from your camp, the hippos will be about, you’ll likely hear them.” Continue reading
Day 14: Wednesday, December 12, 2015
5:30am came in the blink of an eye. I ripped out my ear plugs, shot up in bed and smacked Rug.
“Lions”, I said.
We sat stock still for a moment and listened as their raucous roars filled the quiet morning. No other words were spoken as we grabbed our knife (the security of this water hole was questionable at best in our minds!), head lamps and cameras and marched to the waterhole. In the distance, two male lions and two females could be seen. The smaller male was off and to the left, alone, clearly not welcome to enjoy the feminine joys of the other male lions domain. The big male stretched and roared and sniffed at the females, nuzzling their heads. They each slowly rose from the ground where they lay and lethargically made their way to the waterhole. The predawn light was dull and muted so I wasn’t able to get any good pictures. Instead I just sat and watched them interact among each other and listened to those frightening roars that had kept me awake all the night before. When they all began to move off back into the bush, we set out back for our camp and packed up quickly and hit the road to see what else sunrise had brought with it as we made our way towards our next and last camp. Continue reading
Day 9: Friday, November 27, 2015
The plan was to sleep in, but Rug awoke at 730am and thanks to FOMO I couldn’t stay in bed. So instead of lounging in our gloriously comfortable beds, we had a yummy breakfast, teas, showers and took our laundry in to be done. I had connected with Leah Von Hagen and she invited us out to lunch that day, so we met at Bojo’s cafe at noon. It was so nice to see the Von Hagen’s, and it was great to touch base as I was going to be staying with them for a week at the end of my Namibia adventure. Kern, Rug and I were all sold on the waitresses suggestion of the waffle with bacon, banana and cheese – and a solid choice it was! We sat talking about life, travel and Yellowknife for hours before Leah had to head back to work. Kern kindly offered to show us around the town and take us out to Walvis Bay as we missed it coming in and Leah suggested ordering Indian food for dinner and invited us over. Once again, the outstanding generosity of people always touches my heart so deeply. They don’t just offer you information on the town, which is what I had originally asked for – they take you for lunch, drive you all over the city and the neighbouring city whilst giving you a full detailed tour – and they invite you over for dinner – giving up their entire Friday evening for two long lost faces from Yellowknife. The generosity and hospitality that I’ve received on the road from beautiful people like the Von Hagen’s is what I will remember the most about this journey. It’s the people- it always is ❤ Continue reading
Day 7: Wednesday, November 25th 2015
I had the most terrible time falling asleep last night. I just couldn’t quiet my mind. I was excited about my sudden change of plans to stay another ten days in Namibia and I was crazy excited for our sunrise adventure in just a few hours. Finally, around 1am I drifted off only to awaken an hour later needing to pee. The moon was so full and bright, I didn’t even need my head lamp as I trudged half asleep across the dirt road to the bathroom. I fell back asleep quickly, but 445am came all too soon. Up we rose and within 20 minutes we had the tent all packed up, were dressed, made bathroom stops and boom – we were on the road! I was impressed with our efficiency – we were getting damn good at packing up camp in a hurry! We were third in line to get to the gate and only had to wait for five minutes before they opened it and let us through. You could feel the excitement rippling through the line of vehicles waiting, it was like the line to get in to Disney World or something; I didn’t know people could collectively muster that much excitement at 5am! Rug and I blasted Macklemore’s Downtown to get us even more pumped up.
I would have loved to have gone a half hour earlier to get the full effect of sunrise, to be able to enjoy the vast array of colours as the sky shed her sapphire night gown and donned her flushed violet, copper and periwinkle ensemble. But alas, they don’t open the gates quite early enough so as to limit driving in the dark to protect the wildlife. The drive only took a half hour this time as we were following the other cars who were most definitely not obeying the speed limit! And so by the time we reached dune 45, most of the pre dawn stunning sunrise colours had already played out. But we could still at least catch the sun itself as it crested the dunes if we scrambled up this dune fast enough. Continue reading
Day 4: Sunday Nov 22, 2015
I awoke at 1:15am -as usual- to the urgent call of my bladder. Damnit. The night before it was lions I had to fear and tonight it was baboons. I ran as fast and alert as I could to relieve myself, hunkered down by a tree, holding my knife brandished in one hand, my head whipping around wildly, imagining a baboon to drop down on my head from above at any second. I scrambled back up the ladder and into the safety of my roof top tent, thankful I had eluded the baboons. But hours later, in the dead of sleep, they got me. I dreamt I woke up to the tent collapsing on top of us because a herd of baboons had jumped on it and were beating on it with their balled fists, howling as the tent began to collapse and suffocate us. I was completely paralyzed (I’ve suffered from sleep paralysis since I was a young child) and felt the impending reach of death gripping me. And then I woke up and saw sunlight on the ground and felt relief wash over me. I had evaded death by baboons this time… Continue reading
Petra was the main reason I wanted to visit Jordan, but I had met a Jose, a Puerto Rican, on my flight from South America to Europe and he highly recommended checking out Wadi Rum in the south of the country. Only having a few short days, we decided on two days with Petra, two days in Wadi Rum and our last day a stop at the Dead Sea while on our way to the airport. Jose, my friend, I cannot thank you enough for your recommendation because Wadi Rum was the absolute highlight of my short time in Jordan. There are few places in the world as breathtaking as The Valley of the Moon.
We left our Bedouin camp outside Little Petra in the early morning, a taxi arranged for us by the camp. The morning was a little frustrating as I found out later in the taxi that we had been brutally mislead about the cost of our back tour into Petra and what was supposed to be a shared taxi was now a private, much more expensive taxi. We were easily out over $100 each. The only unfortunate thing we discovered about Jordan is that sadly people will rip you off unabashedly left, right and centre. If traveling to Jordan, I can’t urge you enough to rent your own vehicle, especially if tight on time, as taxi rates are exorbitant and bus schedules intermittent and unreliable. And if you’re arranging any sort of tours or deals with local people, ensure you settle the price and pay up front so there is no confusion. It really put a sour note on my time in Jordan and made me feel quite bitter towards how the people were conniving and ripping us off so badly. But our journey into Wadi Rum all but made up for that and let me leave Jordan with warmth in my heart.
Feeling completely bagged, I touched down in Amman, Jordan, my first Middle Eastern country, with tired eyes and an excited and open mind. We decided last minute at the Dubai airport to skip spending a night in Amman and instead head straight to our Bedouin camp near Petra and stay there two nights instead. With a tight schedule, we only had about five days in Jordan, so we had to really pick and choose where to spend our time to maximize it. The last minute decision cost us a staggering 70 Dinar (that’s about $140 CAD) to get transport to our Petra camp from the airport. It was a 2.5 hours drive in a private taxi, our only option from the airport – surprisingly we weren’t even being scammed, these were set prices by the reputable taxi company at the airport, all prices were posted. Needless to say, it hurt my backpackers soul to pay that much. Continue reading
With some flight delays and missing baggage, our little jaunt across the country wasn’t entirely smooth, but we didn’t let that dampen our moods. Our first day ended up being a freebie because no one had their bags, and thus the warmer clothing needed for our tours, so we instead got the full tour of the Michelle Dream Cave Hotel. When Butch and Brenda first came to Turkey in 2002, they had no idea they would fall in love so quickly with this incredible country and end up buying a condo and spending their winters there. They also happened to make an amazing business contact and now life long friend, Ahmed. Before they knew it, they began making plans of purchasing land and building a cave hotel. If Cappadocia is known for anything, it’s the caves! The hillsides are peppered with caves. From hundreds to thousands of years ago, these caves were carved into the mountain sides as houses, refuges, stables and pigeon houses. Today they are used as storage for lemons (the temperature remains the same in the caves year round even with the changing seasons), but mostly – they are turned into cave hotels. Continue reading