TV screens tuned to CNN and Fox News trumpeted the impending government shutdown as we made our way to our gate two Fridays ago, boarding our flight to Phoenix hours before a lapse in appropriations, which is now in its 13th day and appears to have no immediate end in sight. Our automated furlough notices arrived the next morning, as we started our second Southwest road trip with an ambitious itinerary of national and state parks in Arizona and New Mexico.
Posts tagged ‘safari’
Perhaps the saddest moment of our Kigali tour happened a couple of months before our departure, when D realized just a split second too late that he had neglected to zip up the side pocket of our camera bag. As if in slow motion, he watched with a sinking heart as the camera tumbled out and dropped several feet, the lens landing with a sickening crunch on the tiled floor.
As with our previous trips out West, one of the biggest highlights of exploring the great American wild is the opportunity to get up close and personal with the wild animals that call it home. We saw plenty of mule deer, prongorn, and smaller animals (rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks), and quite a few of the woods’ larger mammals. S and Junebug even had a terrifyingly close encounter with a bear.
As we prepare to bid adieu to Rwanda, we have been making mental notes of the things we will miss (and others that we definitely won’t). One thing high on D’s list – not just for Rwanda, but rather for the entire continent – is the region’s incredible birdlife.
Work took D to South Africa a few short weeks after we had completed our Garden Route trip, presenting an opportunity to explore a little more of what is quickly becoming one of our favorite countries in the world. The possibilities were at once numerous and difficult to execute. D only had a long weekend at his disposal before he had to report for work to the consulate in Johannesburg, and all of the destinations that had piqued his interest were at least 4-5 hours’ drive away.
The very first thing we did during our first trip to South Africa was go to see the penguins at Simon’s Town. It was our “baby moon” – a long weekend escape to Cape Town tacked onto S’s antenatal screening in Pretoria. We drove straight from the airport to Simon’s Town, arriving just as storm clouds gathered overhead. We spent enough time on the boardwalks observing the breeding penguin colony to feel that the visit had been worthwhile. Leaving as the first raindrops fell, however, we knew we would have to come back to do the Cape Peninsula justice.
After bidding adieu to the Garden Route with an oyster feast, we headed inland for a two-day stay in ostrich country. Oudtshoorn – the little town in the Karoo where we stayed – is quite literally known as the “ostrich capital of the world.” Not only is it home to the largest ostrich population anywhere on the planet, but it also hosts a number of specialized breeding farms, including a show farm that features ostrich safaris and ostrich racing.
In addition to a scenic coastline, great food and wine, and amazing hiking, the opportunity to see wild animals up close is one of South Africa’s main draws. We did not visit the world-famous Kruger National Park on this trip, a day in Addo being our only real safari of the vacation. However, upon entering the Garden Route, we discovered that we were staying in an “animal valley” of sorts, which offered a different kind of wildlife experience from the game drives we’ve come to love over the course of almost four years on the African continent.
Our first stop, after alighting in Port Elizabeth and picking up our rental car, was Avoca – an hour’s drive north into South Africa’s citrus-growing Sundays River Valley. S found a family-run farm that offered accommodation in modernized mud huts, cottages, and chalets scattered along the riverbank, which seemed like an excellent starting point for our journey.
Our brief Cape Town “babymoon” last year was our first visit to South Africa. Even as many of our friends raved about the joys of South African travel, we had put off visiting the country much like one would put off traveling to London, Paris, or New York. Big, international, destinations with airline hubs are easy to reach, so it always seemed like we would have plenty of opportunities to go. In fact, when S had suggested South Africa as a possible travel destination early into our Nairobi tour, D shrugged off the suggestion and told her that climbing Kilimanjaro and rafting the Nile were much higher priorities on his list.