Explore Where You Live.

When you travel, it is not just the sights that you take in, but the sounds, smells and tastes of a place. I will forever remember the smells of the Market in Charleston, the sounds of the call to prayer in Cairo and the tastes of Italy which seem to hang permanently in the air.

It is interesting how we spend years in a town and sometimes do not explore it as we do other places when we travel. We don’t try the local recommended dive-y spots for food, or visit our local museums en masse. We tend to frequent spots we know well, find favorites and become regulars there.

The other day on a beautiful hike through the Great Smoky Mountain Park, a friend and I decided that we needed to explore where we live. We decided to pull up Trip Advisor and see the Top 10 Places to visit in Knoxville. As adventurers and long time residents of Knoxville, we had been many of the top places as suggested on Trip Advisor. However, there were a few places that we had missed.lakeshorepark

As a part of the Artist’s Way journey, I am asked by the author to take myself on an artist ‘date’ every week. It is a part of the journey of exploring creativity and being an artist. This week, I went to Lakeshore Park, a park that friends of mine go to regularly, but I had never been to until today. I circumvented the two miles of concrete trail among construction, twice. The skies were gray and the wind blew heavily, but it was a refreshing wind and a renewing wind. As I walked, I read a book the entire time. It was a little dizzying, but fun to walk and read, something that I love to do and used to do in college. It was a small new exploration, but an exploration none the less. It is a simple park, but I felt a renewal nonetheless.

I hope to attend the Museum of East Tennessee History soon and write about it, as it is a part of my current culture and where I currently dwell. For years, I only wanted to explore places in foreign countries or big cities. I loved tossing out how many places I had traveled, foods I had tried and countries I know well. While all the while, there were new places to explore right at my feet.

Stratton Bald, overnight.

A few weekends ago, we joined with a group of close friends to hike to Stratton Bald, North Carolina, for an overnight, winter backpacking trip. The idea started in October, when we were all too busy working to get outside; we knew if something was on the calendar, we would make it happen.

Immediately, I started to regret our happy-outdoorsy decision as I thought about sub 30 temps and how I would survive. I am by nature warm blooded.

I remembered somewhat post panic-attack that this, too, would be an adventure.

THE TREK – Stratton Bald from Naked Ground at Joyce Kilmer
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One story says that this area is where Bob Stratton would hang out and hike, especially in the cold. He loved the remoteness of the trail.This is the former domain of Bob Stratton, he liked cool weather and loved the remote location. He would hike through the bald saying “Hey oh, Hey oh” and that is how the “Haoe Lead” trail at the top was named.
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I planned the trek for this trip and I was very nervous doing so for our group. I am happy planning trips for Chad and I, but a group of us made me a bit nervous (especially to areas that I do not know). I started my research with Backpacker Magazine routes, which is how we found our Peru backpacking trek as well. In my planning, I found this loop online, which provided the most detail on a reasonable Stratton Bald hike. Here is another site, with photos, and a bit of info on the cons (one con-the trail is NOT well marked at the top, and washout makes it difficult to find…we did hike off the trail once, as it is a tricky trail to follow).Part of the trail is literally through a creek (or a small creek had formed on the trial due to the copious amount of rainfall we have received in this area) and water is plentiful for the trip. Another site talks about how it is 5.7 miles to Stratton Bald, and mentions the turns that are needed to be made on the trip; very useful! Here is one more site, again saying the trip is about 5.7 miles up to the bald. The trip is steep and the last portion, right before you reach the top is almost vertical, requiring us to climb, on the trail. We trekked with two dogs, who did superbly on this trip, also. The Naked Ground trail, starting to the right past Joyce Kilmer Forest, says it is only 4.3 miles. However, the elevation gain in that relatively short distance is almost 4,000 feet. Once we joyfully reached the top, we hiked another mile or so to the Stratton Bald camping area. The area is ideal and super remote. On our walk from the top to the camping area, we were not convinced that we were at a bald, we kept joking “it’s just around the corner” as we had no idea exactly where we were going nor how long it was going to take. Again, I should have reminded us again and again that it was remote and the trails were not well-marked. A friend said she knew the area, so I trusted her entirely. Honestly, by the time we trekked up and made it to the bald, we were so impressed with the 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains and the wide open spaces, that no one cared much how difficult the hike had become. We pitched our tents, made fires, cooked our meals, hung our food and settled in with stories and drinks around the campfire.
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I will also say that when you hike a trail for the first time, especially a difficult one, it plays with your mind-I end up thinking it is way longer and harder than it actually is.

I am not entirely sure the distance of this trail is correct, we checked our step counters, our GPS data on our watches and averaged around 6-8 miles that day, while the online sites share that it is much less. Regardless, it was an intense hike and we were well rewarded for it.

While we were at the bald, we met Walter, an avid backpacker and blogger on an 18 day trip. He told us where the spring was at the top (if you face back to the trail from the bald, walk down the hill diagonally to find the spring). Walter knew a lot of the area and was working on some trail cleaning/marking. It made for a very interesting evening all around.

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The next morning, we awoke to 17 degree weather, made a fire, ate breakfast, drank our coffee and then packed up to head out. It was very cold and crisp, but we were soon warm and shedding layers as we hiked out. We hiked to the Hangover, stashing our packs behind rocks and in mountain laurel. The views were amazing and the trip out to the Hangover was worth the 1.4 mile trek out (2.8 miles roundtrip).

In all, we hiked, as mentioned by the above sites about 14.3 miles. This is an intensely steep, not very-well marked, trail.
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GEAR

As the month approached prior to our trip, we upgraded our tent to a 3-person Tungsten from Marmot that our friends also purchased after reading the reviews. We are thrilled with this tent, and desperately needed an upgrade since our current tents had been purchased from crappy department stores and were from in our high school days; one of our tents even smelled of mold. :-/ We also chose to upgrade after my friend and I spent an overnight in Savage Gulf and a massive thunderstorm rolled through our campsite. We stayed completely dry in her tent. We went with a three person tent because Chad and I are both tall, and we wanted the extra room. (On this trip, we did end up sleeping three people in this tent and had enough room entirely.)
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We also updated sleeping bags, got a water filter and Chad finally got fitted correctly for a backpack (outfitting someone who is tall, again, sometimes is not that easy-and he has been through several backpacks, until finally we got it right for him). My original mummy bag had been purchased back in high school. My sleeping bag was still warm and in decent condition, but it was too bulky for backpacking. I upgraded to the Mountain Hardwear Laminina Z, sold only through REI. My other friend also upgraded her sleeping bag to the same one. Even though temperatures on this trip dropped to 17 at night, I stayed very warm. The sleeping bag is rated to 34 degrees, but I had a silk liner, a fleece liner and zipped next to Chad. 🙂 We were all toasty.

Disclaimer: Gear is important for a winter trip, but not essential to backpacking. We have been on many trips where we just carried our own water (including this trip to Stratton Bald) for overnights and used our old tents and sleeping bags. We are not gear-junkies (it is easy to become one!) but we had not upgraded things in 15 years.

 

 

 

South African Food

What can be said of South African food without missing something? We ate so well. Large 4-Course meals that we were unaccustomed to at home. It was fun, tasting the soup, then the starter, the main and then the dessert. In the two weeks we were eating this way, I actually lost weight!

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Kudu Steak with Chocolate Chili Sauce+ Potato

We did not choose to eat lunches many days as the full English breakfasts with the 4-Course dinners were enough.
We ate a lot of things I felt were easy to find in the UK such as various curries and fish & chips. Then, occassionally, a truly African flair would roll out. One evening, it was a la carte and Chad was thrilled! We could choose from a a variety of interesting meats: alligator, wildebeest, kudu, springbok, ostrich and of course lamb, beef and fish. Chad was in heaven! The chef would prepare each piece the way we requested. I have to admit, trying the game was difficult (as I was too in love with all of them) and I will not eat them ag

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Wildebeest, kudu and alligator

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On one of our nights in Cape Town, we ventured out to Marco’s African Place. The restaurant was decorated in African style, the waitresses were in African garb, a band performed lively African music and we tried dishes with African flair. It was quite a popular local place, and I was grateful to be in such a wonderfully African environimage

ment.

We ate a venison stew, at least twice that came served in a black cast iron pot. This dish, cooked long and infused with unique spice arrangements proved to be one of our favorites of the entire trip.

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(not my photo)

Another dish that was seemingly out of this world was cheesecake. We had about three differing versions of cheesecake, but walked away impressed every time we ate it. I came home and immediately created a recipe that my grandmother and mother had made while I was growing up, a “Cheese Pie.” It was not as good as I remember, and next I will be working towards a full blown New York style cheesecake.

I do know that Peri-Peri Sauce came home with us, however, this is something that I had experienced at Nando’s in England, the summer that I spent there…although it is an African chili. We also brought home some Onyx salt from the Kalahari, that I fell absolutely in love with while in Africa.
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Lastly, for now, I will speak of Roobios tea. This tea, that I have enjoyed for many years, was a staple tea in South Africa. When you wanted a cup of tea, Roobios was served. Its deep red color and rich, earthy taste will forever remind me of the cold winter nights, listening to the zebra and exotic birds.

South Africa, its cuisine, tea, and wine! Oh! The wine! THAT will have to be another post entirely.

Day 14|The Cape

After our adventure in shark diving in Gansbaai, we continued our trek to Cape Town, where we would spend out last day. The drive took only two hours and we arrived at the President Protea hotel, which had been opened by Mandela.
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It was a glorious night of room service, and relaxing, while we sorted our massive amounts of dirty clothes and our souvenirs. The next morning, we decided to go to Table Mountain and ride the cable car up to the top, since the massive, unique cloud cover that hovers on top of the mountain was not scheduled to be present! We arrived early, in hopes to beat the crowd. The sunrise was glorious at the mountain, shroud in Cape Town in a warm, red glow.
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The panorama was breathtaking. We stood in line, having arrived 30 minutes early, as in winter the hours differ from the summer-go figure. As we stood in line, two men talked in front of us. They had arrived before us with backpacks and as it turned out they were climbers. Every weekend they abseiled/rappelled down Table Mountain and then climbed back up. Woah. That was incredible!! We took the first cable car up, with a floor that spins, so that everyone could get a view of the panorama as you rode up.
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It was dizzying to me, as I had awoke feeling badly this morning. My body was tired and my adrenaline burst yesterday had left me less than gunning for another adventure.

Admittedly, I am afraid of heights.

This has not kept me from hang-gliding, rappelling, climbing, hiking on ridiculous cliffs and zip lining over Peruvian gorges. However, this time, I could not shake my fear. This also happened in Peru, after days and days of clinging to the side of a mountain and hiking, I could not do the last hike-a perilous edge crawl around the outside of Machu Picchu. Today, I was feeling the same. Chad, however, was thrilled. Once we reached the top, photos were taken-here is a view of beautiful Camps Bay from the top!
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We spent a few minutes at the top and declared we would hike down. We left and started our two hour trek down rock stairs. It was literally just that! We stepped down giant steps for two hours. Two hours! Did I mention giant stairs? Most of the people we passed were going up, but we chose down. Let me tell you, our legs turned into shakey Jell-O molds as we descended. It was truly one insane hike.
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And…three days later, our thighs are still recovering! To quote a word I have used immensely on this teip: Unbelievable. The views of Cape Town, a city I now love came gleaming into view around every zig zag turn.
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Hiking is such a wonderful thing. I grew up hiking with my parents and still find so much joy and release in a hike. Nature is the perfect cure for whatever ails, and reminds us how very small we are; a good reminder.
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Upon reaching the bottom, our legs would not work on flat concrete! We laughed and waddled to the car. After a shower and packing up officially, we left the Protea President Hotel and it’s gorgeous views.
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Our flight was in the evening on this last day, at 11:00. We had ALL DAY. Next on our agenda was a trip to Boulder’s Beach, part of the Table Mountain section of the SAN Park system. It was time to meet the African Penguin, officially. As we drove along the beautiful coastline, I thought about penguins. They are such a funny bird! Dressed in a tux, waddling about. Truly, however, I had not paid much attention to these animals before. I have always been a big game person-fond of the big cats, giraffe, elephants. I was quite curious to see and hang with the penguins. When we areived, we were serenaded by a group of a Cappella African singers, I was thrilled! We walked towards the entrance of Boukder’s Beach, and past onto the boardwalk. It was here, on this winding boardwalk, that I met the first African Penguin.
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He was standing right at the fence. His babies were in a nest behind him and he was, I am pretty sure, more curious about me than I was about him. Or, perhaps it was mutual. He stared at me, as I spoke softly to him. His beak slid through the cage and close to my face. He was completely intrigued. I was completely intrigued. We became instantly respectful of each other. I was hooked. Onward we walked, checking out all the nesting, mating and birthing of these incredible birds.
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The endangered animals came as a pair to this beach in the mid 1980s and have been coming to breed ever since. Thankfully, strict laws have been enacted to protect these animals and the colony has grown to about 2-3 thousand birds!
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They stay here, breed, and are viewed and kept safe from humans. They come here because of the supply of cape anchovy and fish migrating along this path. An intensive article on the penguins was written here.
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After a long time of viewing and falling in love with the African Penguin, we purchased a baby stuffed animal for our very kind and loving dog-sitter who is about to have her first baby! I painted a picture of a penguin for her new daughter and have decided I will teach her about these very sweet endangered animals in South Africa.
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Next stop in our very long wait, last hurrah in the Cape area: CAPE OF GOOD HOPE!

intro music: “…it’s the end of the world as we know it…and I feel fine! “

This REM song ran theough my head the entire drive to the Cape of Good Hope, and still does when thinking about it.

We were literally driving to the end of this side of the world. We were essentially closer to Antarctica than to our home in the States!
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I have to interject here and throw in a sign we saw frequently while traveling. Yes, baboons are all over the roadways and these hysterical signs mark where you just might happen to run into one..or more! There are warnings everywhere about not feeding them. It reminded us of home, at the Great Smoky Mountains, where humans feed the back bear constantly. What an adverse effect this has on the population of any animal that humans interact with by feeding them. The baboons we saw were usually running in a family unit, and always, there was a baby clinging to a protective mother’s back!

The drive to the the end of the world as we know it was alongside more breathtaking coastal roads, and the entrance to the Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope requires a fee and is also part of the Table Mountain SAN Park system. We paid and drove 15 minutes to the end. Here, you can hike or ride up to the lighthouse at the Cape Point, or drive to the Cape of Good Hope. We decided the later, since our legs were crushed and wobbly from our Table Mountain descent earlier. The crowds were gathered at the famous sign marking the CoGH, so we hiked upward a bit and took some photos of the ocean crashing the furthermore rocks.
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You felt like an explorer here. You could feel the historical accounts of arriving at this destination culminate at this very spot. The James Michener book I chose to thread while on the trip, The Covenant remarks about the Cape. I can see and feel what they meant. It truly was a place of heightened awareness at the smallness of mankind when compared with the vastness of history and the greatness of the planet we inhabit.
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We had our photos taken, took the photos for other tourists and met another traveler on his second day in South Africa from China.

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the end of the world as we know it

It was a stunning completion to a stunning trip. I think this photo specifically captures up our new generations marveling at the vastness and greatness mentioned above. We recognize the glory of travelling to such a spot. We honor the adventure.

As the sun set, we drive north to the airport to start our grueling, but safe and successful 24 hour journey home. There were and continue to remain a billion thoughts on this trip. Our honeymoon. South Africa. I am sure that I am not done writing about this country. Chad mentioned we would return. A part of my heart is and will remain Africa.

There is no proper way to end a journey such as this. Nor is there a proper way to end a writing such as this.
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em>May your heart be full and your adventures be many!
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Now bring me that horizon…

Day 13| Gansbaai + Great Whites

Our arrival in Gansbaai, South Africa was welcomed. The oceanside city, saltwater air and sound of the waves crashing felt so heavily relaxing.
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We booked a small B&B and were thrilled at the place. However, we were the first and last guests, as the owner had decided to sell this rustic getaway right on the ocean front.
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We had a wonderful couple managing the place while we were there, Dion and Linda, and it was a welcome relief to visit with them. They recommended a restraunt, Thyme at Rosemary’s, which we enjoyed and even got the opportunity to meet the owner/cook, Rosemary, herself. The food was wonderful, but again, the food of South Africa has to be another post entirely.
The reason we had trekked to Gansbaai, was that we had booked Great White Shark Cage Diving.

I woke up on the morning of our Shark Dive after a night of dreaming of great white sharks. I had the most vivid dreams! In my dreams, which are always whacky, it was greenish around the sea where I was and the sharks were super friendly and actually rubbed up against me.
Crazy, yes, but addmittedly, the dream was very comforting because I was quite nervous of the idea of diving with a Great White.
After a wonderful full breakfast, we visited the Volkswagen Marine Sanctuary and met two African penguins who had been trapped in a fisherman’s net.
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Luckily, we were told, these guys were not harmed more than a bit of dehydration and would be returned to their colony the following day.
Onward we went to the spot where our shark dive was going to take place. White Shark Diving Co. at the bottom of a route covered with many shark diving companies. We were to go out with 18 others. I was getting really, really nervous.
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After a delay, due to the governmental service that regulates boats that take out shark divers showed up and caused a skiff, we were off. The air was cool, the sun was warm, and we were going to dive!

When we arrived 9km out where our cage had been left, in hopes to get the sharks comfortable with it, we were instructed to get into wetsuits. As usual, they were akward, and we were freezing. Immediately, they called for people to volunteer, as the crew of the ship had spotted a Great White. No time to think, a gal from Canada and I volunteered. I have learned not to think too much when something frightens me, but to just do it.
As soon as we hit the water and scooted down the cages, we were filled with massive amounts of nervous excitement. Prior to leaving shore, we were briefed on where to put your hands and feet, and where not to, never touch the shark, go down into the water when instructed and pay attention. Canada and I chattered as the other girls got in and we all reviewed where to put our feet, hands, etc. Then, the crew members yelled, “Down! Down! Down!,” and we took a breath, and under we went.
The water was calm and the great white, about 16 feet long swam right by us.

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Un. Be. Lievable!!!!!!!

In no words can I describe to you the awe of being this close to an animal so easily feared and misunderstood. We all were amazed.
Chad went next and while he did, the girls and I tried to capture photos, warm up and explain how we felt. Mostly, I heard the word, ‘awesome.’ While Chad was in the water, one of the five sharks got a little animated.
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Woah!?!?!?
The shark, we learned, are not fed, just thrown chum and a giant tuna head which they jerk away at the last moment.

Cray-zee!!!!
On our second dive, we were hussled in to see the shark, as the guides knew the shark were getting disinterested. While we were in the cage the second time, the great white decided to whip his body through the water and he struck the cage with his tail. This maneuver elicited a roar of screams and for a few very brief seconds, I wanted to reach out and touch him as he swam by so closely. THIS was crazy-thinking and totally against policy and would cause everyone to lose the opportunity to dive. It was a very fleeting thought, but it was after that moment that I realized and am forever convinced that Great White Shark are beautiful, magnificent creatures. In fact, this instant reminded me of my dream.

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I am amazed by humans and our at times seemingly negative impact on animals and the stupid things we do for a treasure or an experience {such as shark fin soup, rhino and elephant poaching-all of which we have been told tragic stories of these weeks}. I am grateful that educating people works and that being aware and conservative is hopefully an ideal we are successful on sharing to our future generations.
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Our main guide had moved to South Africa from the States just to work with the shark. That day, he said we observed five different shark, which was very lucky. So lucky in fact, that after we all got our two dives, the captain called another dive boat to come over.
This experience, due to the adrenaline expenditure, left us with a massive calm and was one of the most rewarding of our entire trip!
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Day 12| A Cross Cape Drive and Reflections

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Today we headed from Addo Elephant Park in the Eastern Cape and drove to Gansbaai, in the Western Cape. It is interesting to note that these areas are unique, as I imagine northern South Africa to be as well. On this trip we did not make it to the north, there just is not enough time in this gorgeous country!
When one takes a long drive, unless filled with a car of chatting people, it is a great reflection time. I always feel that travel, as well, evokes clear musings. Chad drove the entire time, and that gave me even more opportunity to think freely, as an explorer does-with nothing but the wide open road ahead. Upon summarizing these reflections, I have a few firm beliefs now instilled in me from this trip:

1. Life is short. Live well. I have the tendency to worry. I worry about things that are completely out of my control. It is a debilitating worry, that has rendered me sick on numerous occassions. I am realizing that anxiety and fears are seen as weakness in my culture and this creates even a bigger problem, for often times I have opened myself up fully to people around me about how I process the world {as a feeler of all things} and it does not do me justice. Life is too f☆☆☆ing short for a time and health waster/consumer such as worry and anxiety. It must stop. And, it stops now. Over our trip, when the young American woman was attacked by the lion, I had a slew of people email, write notes and do research to see if I was okay. Remembering this incident reminds me that life is short, and beautiful and should be lived well. My husband is a brilliant reminder, and advocate of this policy, so thankfully it will be easier to remind myself of this-with him around. Live well, dear reader, for it is your life, and as far as I know, perhaps we just get this one opportunity. Love boldly. Laugh! Have fun! Endulge every now and then! Guilt and worry are a waste of time. There are promises of goodness all around us. I do believe in a God that brings good things forth…
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2. Live the life you’ve imagined. Thoreau said this and I received it from a very creative student while I was student teaching. I feel that in The States, we have gotten very caught up in appearances and getting ahead {other places see this as well}. But truly, life should be full, beautiful and lived carefree. Especially those of us in the lucky state that most of us live in! We have everything! Driving through South Africa, many of townships truly are metal walls, metal roofs and mud floors. The people who live there often travel far away daily to work. Yet, we were met with smiles and ‘I am doing so excellent today, thank you!.’ Life is excellent-we are alive, we are able to take it in daily. What would happen if we truly did the following:

3. Live as if your on vacation. We saw many South Africans happy, smiling and taking the time to truly talk and listen to you. We saw work being performed and yet relationships were valued. I, for one, work hard…but rush around doing it-as if there is no time, too much work to do. When I look back on my life, the work I did does not compare to the people I was alongside.

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The beautiful protea

4. Conserve. At Botlierskop Game Reserve, I was struck by the amount of thought that the original owner, Dr. Neethling had put into sustainability within the part. The owners and staff were well-informed and each one played a gigantic role in this effort. It reminded me of the community that I live in and how it important and valuable conserving what I have seen and been given for future generations. {Especially the animal life! It is easy to want get involved with wanting to protect and sustain animal life, especially when you stand among the rhino and the lion!}
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5. Travel. Be adventurous! At this point, my family and friends have identified my need and desire for these two things. In fact, my mom is telling me to stop! 😉 However, I will not, and I blame her for teaching me the love of both travel and adventure. I learn more about life, myself and others travelling than I do anywhere else. I learn more IN GENERAL travelling. I also learn more and more about the limits {or lackbthereof} that I have as a human being…and pushing these limits only makes my soul fuller and happier. Do it. Do that thing that you have wanted to do. You will never regret it. It will be scary, frightening and perhaps dangerous…but do it anyway. The rewards will fill your soul and cause you to practically levitate!

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freedom & joy {and a love for saltwater}

Day 11| Tree Dassie Trail & Indian Ocean Encounter

Today we set off to hike the 7km Dassie Trail of the Woody Cape Section at Add National Park. After out typical English Breakfadt, we drove an hour to reach another section of the SANS  Park. Add is broken into several differing areas, not just the Main Camp, with the animal safari. We wanted to hike again as the hike the day before had proven to be a much needed adventure.
Upon arriving, we found that the coastal trial, 26 km Alexandria, was closed due to maintenence , so we stuck with the original plan of hiking the Tree Dassie trail. It should be noted that a Dassie is a small, shy mammal, which we never did encounter. Nor did we encounter any monkey, or snake, but a ton of spiderwebs, which we cleared out successfully for the next hikers.

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The trail is well marked, mostly, we small Dassie signs and the map we received from the reception proved pretty accurate. The trail was an easy two hour hike and we felt very refreshed afterwards. We did spot a Knysna Track with its funny hat on, but were unable to capture a photo of him as he took off when we arrived.

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After the hike, we decided to explore more, as I was dying to get to the Indian Ocean. This girl loves the saltwater and sand!
After a confusing set of directions and an accidental  drive through a dairy farm, we arrived at what we hoped was the entrance to reach the beach and the dunes, still a part of Addo National Park.

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We packed up sandwiches and water and hiked for an unsure fifteen minutes next to the sound of the waves, with sand underfoot. Surely this was the way to the shore, we both optimistically commented again and again.

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Finally, an upward set of Trex stairs led us to this breathtaking view of this solitary beach.

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We were stoked. I was completely excited beyond words, as it was out first trip to the Indian Ocean. We ate our lunch and then ran barefoot down the dunes to the water.

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The water, though freezing, felt incredible and we were rejuvenated being in this coastal environment. Seriously breathtaking, solitude.

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We played on the shore, walking, digging, rolling on the dunes {well, I did}

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and talking. Over the course of the past few days, I have come to really cherish this quality time I have shared with my new husband on our honeymoon. We have had many adventures, many fabulous conversations, laughed a lot and just been really relaxed. It has been just what we have needed.
We walked along the shore for over an hour and then came upon the vertebrae of a whale!

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It was just our amazing luck! It was huge and we felt quite in awe of the idea that a whale had died and been washed ashore here. Or, had washed ashore and died here. Either way, we felt, as usual, that the stars constantly align to tell our story. Every little thing truly is perfect.

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dunes at Woody Cape

As we headed out, the trail’s gate was closed {we could open it, however} and the farm had also locked their gates, as they moved cattle from one part of the farm to another. We had to move a couple of fences to get out. It made it feel a bit as if we were tresspassing, but we waved and smiled at the farmer and all seemed okay.

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It was another perfect South African day. Tomorrow, we take an eight hour drive back towards Cape Town, stopping in Gansbaai for our last big adventure…which I shall post on after it occurs. 🙂

Day 10|Elephant Encounters, Not Eaten by a Lion and a Long Trek in the Woods

Today, our goal was to head through the Main Camp at Addo to another park of the Park, called the Woody Cape, for a nice hike through the coastal section of the park. We took off around 9 in the morning and felt confident in our journey. The sun was out again and it was clearing up from the rain of yesterday.

As we traveled these past days, a news bulletin came out that a young American female tourist was killed by a lion in Johannesburg. She was 22. Many friends and family were worried. But we were not hurt. Thankfully.

As we drive, we spotted many zebra, wart hog, colorful birds and kudu. What we weren’t expecting was to encounter an elephant…right BEHIND OUR CAR.

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We had stopped to watch a family of elephant somberly eating the bushes, when out strolled this magnificent, stumning, HUGE animal. I was in awe.

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Perhaps it was a but dangerous to stay put and let him walk around us, but I could not resist! I begged Chad to stay put. This guy kept his eyes focused right on us as he walked around the back of the car, and then down the road!

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The exhilaration on seeing him in this way speeds up my heart rate even now, while writing this some nine hours later!
We drive down the road, as it was where we were heading, and he just kept walking the same way. There was no way we would pass him, even though he did speed up.

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He seemed to be looking for a way into the bush. He was beautiful and graceful. When you look into the eyes of these wild creatures, you feel peace. Eventually, he found the route he wanted to take, and off he went. We drove on, past zebra, hartebeest, ans kudu warming in the sun after the  rains.

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It was at the end of the main camp that we discovered that our drive to the hike would be another hour, just to get there, and it was about one in the afternoon. We would not have time to drive to Woody Camp and endure in the long hike. Instead, we decided to head to the Zuurberg Mountain Inn, where we knew some trails were. An hour later, we left our car and decided to hike the three hou, Doringnek Loop Trail at Zuurberg.

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The trail went through a section of Addo Park that was sage to hike. We went down a large mountain into the valley, where a river was flowing.

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It looked as though a dirt bike race had just gone through here, as we saw signs of a race and dirt bike tires. The trial was filled with spiderwebs and we crossed the creek many times. We were so thankful to be walking in the woods, however, and it felt great to be moving. We had admittedly needed this!!

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Towards the end of the hike, we walked up, up, up! It was incredible!!!! We just imagined riding a horse or being a gazelle through this steep part…as it would have been nice to experience a break! We had, however, cut our time close, as the gates to Addo Main Camp closed at six, and we had to be on our way by five p.m.

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We started hiking at 2 on the dot. And we finished sharply at 5:00. We had hiked fast and hard, and really only stopped once, for a group photo.

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We highly recommended this hike as a way to truly get into the mountains of Addo and the Eastern Cape of South Africa. However, we feel we are in decent shape and definitely needed the  entire three hours for this hike, so plan accordingly! What breathtaking views and fun we had.

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{There are no roaming wild animals besides the hartebeest, kudu, and small animals on this hike, as it is in a different section from the Main Camp at Addo.}

 

Day 6 1/2 p.m. Horseback Ride Through Botlierskop

{Due to some sort of a glitch, the entirety of this original post was lost, this is a secondary post, sadly.}
The second half of our sixth day at Botlierskop consisted of a three hour horseback riding trek through Botlierskop Private Game Reserve.

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We saddled up with Eben, our horse wrangler around 2:30 and took off at a trot. Immediately, Eben told us that the difference between an experienced ride and a beginner ride was that the experienced riders do not get pampered. I was stoked! I had not ridden horses this way since I was about 15 years old and it felt amazing to be off on a horse in the wide open. Chad was also an experienced horseback rider, when he was younger. Even more amazing was the fact that we were surrounded by acres filled with bontebok, rhinoceros, ostrich, zebra and kudu!

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Spotting ostrich at the top!

The views were amazing! We even got to head off with Eben and help corral two young horses that had jumped a small fence near an enclosure. It was a wild time!

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As we rode, we talked with Eben about South Africa, how it looks a lot like California and it feels familiar. He opened up to us about the country’s political and economical situations, being quite candid {we felt fortunate to experience his openness-I am sure that happens out on the open range, so to speak}. The horses we rode, Victor and Stein looked quite similar but Victor had something unique about him. He had a different gait that had been taught to him-a gait that was between a trot and a canter and was super smooth. I got the first hand experience with this gait and was thrilled! {Chad later got to try it as well.} Eben told us that there can be five different gaits in a horse, three gaits being the most common {trot, canter and run}. The other two gaits are taught to the horses as they grow up.

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As we rode throughout Botlierskop with the animals, Eben showed us photos of raising Rambo and Gina, the two lions we had met earlier that day in our walkabout. He also showed us a photo of a leopard spotted in the park, caught on a motion camera. The leopard is one of the most elusive animals, rarely seen out. Eben mentioned they can come into the park, hunt, and then slip out without ever being spotted {save for the camera}. We actually rode back through an area that looked as if a leopard could be hiding out…a rocky, cave-like area. However, we spotted no leopard. When we returned to the main area of the reserve, Eben rode us out to the rhinoceros family, where we sat for awhile. Then, we headed back to the stables. Our horses had been so much fun, and when we got them unsaddled and unbridled, all three of them rolled in the dirt and kicked their feet into the air.

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Victor, chilled out with his cool self

Being a horse is a wonderful thing, and these horses took great care of us that day!

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We highly recommend the horseback ride through the reserve, as well as the game drive and the Walk with the Lion. We recommend highly and without a doubt the joy of staying at Botlierskop!!

Day 7|Goodbye Botlierskop and Hello Eastern Cape!

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Today, we took off towards our next stop, Camp Fig Tree near Add Elephant Park in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. We said goodbye, admittedly with sadness, to the crew at Botlierskop. We had been treated so excellently and both were going to miss the reserve, the staff and the free range animals.

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However, we had a five hour drive ahead of us and knew more adventures lie ahead. We drove towards Port Elizabeth on what is known as the Garden Route, and enjoyed our drive immensely. The landscape was ever-changing and provided much interest.

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From the enticing Indian Ocean to the roaming ostrich, we were never short of being in awe. Prior to leaving Cape Town, I downloaded all of the episodes of the first season from a podcast called,’Serial,’ and we finished them today. We admit that the story did not end the way we had hoped, but we will just leave you, the reader, to decide what is your opinion on the season.
It might be important to share here that we ate Steers for lunch today on our trek. Steers is a fast food joint we have seen floating around South Africa, and I told Chad I would eat there over McDonald’s or KFC. It was definitely fast food. It was an adventure eating there. Probably one we will not repeat, either. But nevertheless, we tried it!

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Once entering the Eastern Cape, our GPS took us into the small town of Addo. We drove along a pothole-filled road and soon realized the trusty GPS was taking us the wrong way. We found the other Camp FigTree  and started up into the mountains. We drove down and up, up, up on a gravel road {always fun doing that} and reached the top, where we were greeted by Mike. Soon after filling out our reservation form, Mike had to leave and Simba and another porter helped us to our rooms.

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Simba, being super friendly, told us about the camp and what to expect, which was also written in a book for us. We were advised not to walk around anywhere alone {as buffalo roam the area} and that dinner was around 7:30. We were also advised that the entire area is run on generator, which turns off at 10 p.m. in the evening. It also goes off during daytime hours, which we had heard before, to conserve power. This is going on throughout the Cape, and was also mentioned at Botlierskop. Most area guest houses and resorts are combating it by using a generator during those hours. However, we were lucky, as the power came on early today and would be on for the remainder of the evening.
And then, they left. The room is quaint and has a stellar view, but we felt somewhat abanodoned…partially because we hadn’t planned on eating dinner that evening with the rest of the guests {we decided to take a break from the four course meals} and partially because we literally had nothing going on between 5 o’clock in the evening and 8 a.m. the following morning. Our rooms were also a walk from the main house and we were just a bit confused. Around 6, we walked to the restraint area and talked with one of the workers who told us two insightful tips: one, he had never seen nor heard of the Buffalo while staying at Camp FigTree and two, the rangers at Addo Elephant Park would give us great help in the park tomorrow and that we could take a really long tour tomorrow. He also mentioned he liked wrestling and John Cena, when he found out we were from the States. 🙂

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To end our evening, we dined on pb&j’s while reading and I caught up on these posts. It really has been a cosy evening and we are starting to relax a bit. I admit, we do not have activities planned, and the thought of liunging about all day around an area of sofas aounded miserable to the pair of us theill-seekign souls. Gratefully, we had wifi and donloaded maps and possible activities for our next four days in and aroind Addo Elephant Park. The beds at Camp FigTree  are ever so comfortable and we are excited to start our next days!

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