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Table Mountain

May 28, 2011

If you have ever seen a picture of Cape Town, it is almost guaranteed to have a large rock formation in the background of it.  That large rock is known as Table Mountain.  A 1,000 meter high slab of rock that is about 3 km from side to side with the top part primarily being sandstone (Table Mountain Sandstone).  So, naturally, we saw it protruding from the skyline and decided we had to climb it.

Our first major hurdle in starting our trek was to actually find the path that you take to the top.  What should have been a ten minute drive to the trailhead took over an hour and allowed us to see all different parts of the city.  Generally, we would figure out that we were going in the wrong direction when the mountain was getting smaller and smaller behind.  Then we would turn around and try again.  Not even Brad working the car’s GPS would help us.  Eventually we found where we were supposed to be and parked the car.

One thing about South Africa is that there is always a parking tout no matter where you go.  These are less fortunate individuals that have decided the best way to make money is by watching people’s cars for money.  Additionally, they also save open spots for you, help you pull or back in, or even help you navigate parallel parking.  If they didn’t get to you in enough time to help, they at least give you a thumbs up to let you know you did a good job.  Essentially you have to give them a few Rand (South African currency) just so they don’t mess up your car.  I never subscribed to giving them anything but I think they always found a sucker within my other travel companions.  All of that to say, there was one tout when we parked our car at the national park.  At the end of the day, Brad paid him with a few Rand and a bottle of mustard – he then asked my dad for more money.

The group on top of Table Mountain

After setting off on the trail, we got about 25 steps up the mountain and seriously considered if it was a good idea.  Looking to the trail ahead, it would be a pretty rough and steep climb for two hours.  We knew there was a cable car not far from where we were and I think the thought of just taking it up crossed all of our minds.  However, we decided to persevere and keep climbing.  Jen and I are getting used to climbing quite a few mountains from the Monastery at Petra to Machu Picchu and more. Luckily, in the end, this mountain did not rank as one of the harder ones we have climbed on the trip.

The views of Cape Town were great and the weather was nice for the hike up.  Actually, the weather was a tad warm at first, but then we reached the shaded part, closer to the top, it became much cooler.  The trail was very well marked and very well maintained.  We did encounter other hikers but not too many.  Some had even decided to take their small children along, which was a mistake.  One guy had to carry his son on his shoulders the entire way down and one man and his son took forever to get out of our way because they would stop in the middle of the path.

Going back to the car

Once we had made it all the way up, we stopped for a great little picnic and well deserved rest and relaxation.  We had gone to the grocery store to pick up some sandwich items and a bottle of wine.  The wine was consumed through our empty plastic water bottles and there was a great dessert that Brad bought, except that he only got three of them for the four of us.

The views were spectacular.  Like many other place we have visited, the pictures do not do it justice.  On one side of the mountain was the sprawling city of Cape Town, farther south east was where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans come together, and just past that you could see the African cape extend out into the oceans.  I figured it was an opportune time to snap some jumping pictures, which Jen captured and we also got quite a few photos of the sun beginning to go down.

Sun setting behind Lion's Head

After a good while of exploring the table, we decided to save our knees some pain and take the cable car down to the bottom.  From there it was just a 20 minute hike back to the car.  Along the way, we got to see a vending machine for soccer balls and some great views of Lion’s Head, the peak beside Table Mountain.  Upon returning to the car, Brad determined it was in good condition and paid our tout and we were off.

Next up were drinks at a very eclectic restaurant named Bombay Bicycle Club on Kloof Street and eventually a splendid dinner.  So brought to an end another day of exploring the great outdoors.

Go outside today,
Steven

 

If you click and enlarge the picture, they are much, much better….

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A South African Safari

May 26, 2011

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, we saw a ton of animals and it was amazing!  The End.

Male lion lying in wait

Jen and I got into Johannesburg early one morning after an interesting flight from Dar es Salaam.  My dad and brother, who were meeting us in South Africa, would not be in until the next morning.  So, we went to a great little bed and breakfast type place and spent all day and night there.  Literally we did pretty much nothing except for rest, watch movies, watch the travel channel, and make a great meal from scratch.  In fact, we had the entire place to ourselves because the owner was gone for the night to a wedding.

Keep close to mom

The next morning we met my dad and brother at the airport and hopped into a rental car.  I really feel for my dad on this one, because not only did he have to drive on the opposite side of the road but it was also a manual transmission with the stick on the left side instead of the right.  Thankfully, he did just fine and we drove about three hours north towards Botswana, to an area called Welgevonden Private Game Reserve.  When we got to the reserve, we were met at the front gate by Jacques, one of the guides, who drove us back into the property and to Makweti Safari Lodge.

The lodge was incredible.  Not only did we see numerous animals during the 30 minutes’ drive to get there but they also have a watering hole right outside one of the buildings that had zebras and warthogs sitting around enjoying the day.  Another building, where we ate all of our meals, had a great back deck that overlooked a valley of the reserve.  Inside there was a cozy fireplace, large bar, nice fish pond, and big dining table.  Our room, however, was the best.  You had to take a swinging bridge to get to it that crossed a creek that had dussie (a small animal) running around everywhere.  The front deck overlooked the water hole I already talked about, and then we had another deck with table and chairs that overlooked the bridge.  The bed was large and immensely comfortable, we had a personal fireplace, a cast iron clawfoot tub, plus indoor AND outdoor showers.  They did all of our laundry for free and put hot water bottles in our bed so they would be warm when we got in.

Here come the babies

The food was succulent.  There was a visiting chef who was there to work with the in-house cooks on ways to improve dishes.  His name was Francois and Jen absolutely loved him.  He was overly nice and shared a few recipes with her, which she adored.  His tomato soup was the best soup I have ever had in my life – I know, soup doesn’t sound that hard/great but it was fantastic (Jen got the recipe).  We continued our streak of eating unusual items on the trip with impala meat and ostrich meatballs.  There was so much food all the time that I think I gained about ten pounds in the four days we were there.  I really cannot say enough about how good the food was.  Additionally, eating on the deck outside, at the huge dining table, and in an outdoor boma just enhanced the experience and added to the fond memories.

Pumba!

Staff at Makweti were another huge plus.  Our fearless leader Tavus was the best around.  I told him when we arrived that I really wanted to see a cheetah, and for three days he hunted for them with all his might – finally we were all rewarded on our last drive with an amazing sighting.  Tavus was incredible knowledgeable and well-traveled around Africa and was simply terrific.  Jacques and Marieza were also a joy to be around and provided great insight to South African game and wonderful meal conversations.  The others were all very polite and did a fantastic job as well.  There were not many other guests during our time.  Makweti only has 5 rooms, two of which we occupied.  The first night/day it was only the four of us.  The next day, three individual couple came, all enjoying their honeymoons.  One pair form Cape Town, whom gave us many tips on where to eat and what to do, one couple from Amsterdam who were very cheerful, and one set of Italians that didn’t say very much.  All of them livened up meal time – especially after the wine came.

To give you a brief glimpse of our schedule:  we would had an early wakeup call and all meet in the lodge for coffee and muffins.  Then off on a long morning game drive that was typically pretty cold but luckily they gave us plenty of blankets, more hot water bottles, and stopped for hot tea/chocolate/coffee.  After the drive was a massive breakfast on the back patio.  Then it was either time to relax and sit around or change to go on a walking safari.  Next it was lunchtime back at the lodge, plus a little break, and off on the afternoon/evening game drive.  During this last drive, we would stop for sundowners where they would set up a table in the middle of the bush for alcoholic drinks and snacks.  Then it was another hour of spotlighting animals at night and finally back to the lodge for dinner and conversation until bedtime.

Lioness catching up with her cubs

Now, for the really interesting part, the animals.  You have already seen some of the pictures in this post but we saw just tons of them. How about I just give you a quick list of some?  Ok:  elephants, zebras, lions (and cubs), cheetahs (and cubs), giraffes, rhinos, warthogs, antelope, kudu, impala, wildebeest, owls, waterbuck, alligator, jackal, and baboon.  All were amazing to see in a natural environment and with no one else around besides us in our Jeep or on foot.

We had a couple of interesting experiences with elephants and the first was a big male that we came upon early during one game drive.  We had stopped our car on the road and were watching him and he slowly got closer and closer to us.  He was paying close attention to us while shaking his head and dumping dirt all over his body.  Eventually he was about three feet from the car and flapping his ears and starting to act like he was going to charge.  As he walked closer to the hood, Tavus slammed on the dashboard causing the elephant to freeze, give us a confused look, and slowly back away into the bush.  Not going to lie, it was somewhat frightening because he was probably about six tons to our about one ton in weight.

Walking Safari in South Africa

Another evening, right at sunset, we came into a large clearing full of animals and spotted a large male elephant with his pack of women.  Tavus read which way they were moving, drove the car into the bush, and put it in park.  Sure enough, several minutes later, all of the girls appeared with their baby elephants through the brush.  There were about nine in all that came right next to Jeep and just taking their time eating, checking us out, and going on their way.  Eventually the male came as well and we followed him for quite some time.

That same evening we decided to have our sundowners in the car since we had come up upon so many great sightings and we wanted to stay mobile and it wasn’t safe to get out.  We spent a good while sitting back watching the elephants pass, watching impala play fight in a field, rhino grazing nearby, and a wildebeest just sitting around.  It was so cool to watch nature all around and have a cold beer at the same time (the girls, Jen and Brad, had wine).

South African Night

Spotlighting at night was really hit or miss.  We would tend to see a lot of zebra, impala, etc. but not much else.  However, the first night we did come across a rhino lying in the middle of the road that refused to move as well as two elephant getting a late night snack.  This was also the time when we got to see a few owls and other birds.  Plus, one night when we were out driving around, a huge male lion made his way into our camp.  We never got to see him there, which was probably both bad and good at the same time.

The last animals I will really talk in-depth about are the best:  the big cats.  It was a pretty common occurrence to see lion prints around and we followed them quite a bit.  However, we never really saw any until finally one day we happened upon several lionesses with their three cubs walking through the bush.  They were a little far away from us but still very neat to see going by and the little cubs keeping up with their moms.  A short time after that we were driving along and spotted a large male standing in a field far away.  By the time we got closer to his position, he was lying down enjoying the day.  That is why you see him so hidden in the pictures.  Tavus would make a noise that he said indicated an injured/dying animal and you would see the lion whip his head around trying to figure out what was going on.

Cheetah cub taking a break and not afraid

On our last day at Makweti and on our last game drive we finally came across what I had been wanting to see the most, the cheetahs.  When we pulled up Tavus started pumping his fist in victory over the find.  Right in front of us, in the road, were three cheetah cubs and their mom taking a short break from hunting.  We stayed with them for about 10 or 15 minutes as they walked down the road and into the brush.  The cubs would become very interested and check out the car and go from one side of the road to the other.  The mom generally stayed pretty far ahead and kept looking into the bush for their next meal.  It was absolutely incredible to see!  Truly topped off a great safari and added yet another wonderful memory to a very memorable trip.

Cheetahs are quick

On our way out of the reserve we saw even more animals, including a bunch of baboons.  It was a great way to go out and also very sad.  From there it was a three hour drive back to Johannesburg for an evening flight to Cape Town.  We have already decided, the next safari will be in Botswana, where Tavus said was his favorite place to go.  Jess and Ryan, you need to go to Makweti… 

Out of the jungle,
Steven

Almost forgot to include this video that Jen took….

…and our elephant friend

Country #15: Tanzania

May 21, 2011

Meet Erin and Laura – two fantastic people that we now call friends after our trip to Tanzania.

Our AMAZING hosts Erin and Laura

As was said in a previous post, we were introduced to Erin through one of Steven’s old co-workers.  We did not know her at all but before we arrived, she gave us recommendations on places to stay and invited us to Young Life club our first day there.  Once we got in town and were hanging out, she introduced us to her roommate, Laura.  They were fantastic – they taught us the Swahili words we needed to know, gave us suggestions of things to do while we were in Tanzania, and even let us stay with them when we came back from Zanzibar!  They are awesome girls who love God and love Africa and were so fun to hang out with.  Thank you Erin and Laura!!!!

Riding in a bajaji - our main mode of tranportation

Steven already told you about Young Life club in Dar but I also just wanted to say how amazing it was to see club here and to see these awesome leaders pouring into kids. 

On Sunday, Erin invited us to go to church with her while we were in the city.  The service was in the outdoor gym at the school where Erin and Laura teach and the congregation consisted of a mix of locals and expats.  It was extremely hot and sweaty but Erin pointed out a guy in front of us that was wearing a scarf because it was “cool season” in Tanzania.  It was so good to be in an actual church and worshipping with other people.  Normally we just watch Frontline DC online, and usually it is absurdly late at night/really early in the morning and I tend to fall asleep.    

Masai on the beach in Zanzibar

Swahili was such a fun language to learn a few words in!  Plus, it was funny to hear words that sounded familiar because they were from the Lion King, such as “rafiki” which means friend.  Yes, we also had Lion King songs in our head constantly while we were in Tanzania.  One of my favorite words we learned was “mzungu” which basically means white person.  I know that is a weird thing for me to like but somehow it was cute when all the little kids would run up to you yelling mzungu!  Also, it was always easy to tell when someone was talking about you because they would use the word and there were very few other mzungus around.

Tanzanians waiting for the dalla dalla

You know food is always my favorite part of everywhere we go, so I have to share some of the restaurants we went to with you.  After Young Life club, Erin and Laura took us to a restaurant called Mediterraneo.  It is this awesome restaurant that is part of a hotel right on the water.  We all had pizza which was really good, the beer was so cold it had frozen chunks, and the restaraunt had a great atmosphere – including crabs fighting on the beach which Steven was constantly distracted by.  Another place we went was called T Square which was completely local Tanzanian food.  We had beef mishkaki (basically a kebap) and ugali which is a cornmeal ball that you dip into sauce.  It was all so delicious!  We craved mishkaki from that point on.  After coming back from Zanzibar, Erin and Laura took us to another one of their favorite restaurants – Addis in Dar.  They serve Ethiopian food which Steven and I had never had but we both really liked it!  Then, our last night before heading to the airport we went to dinner with Erin and Laura and their friends Ben and Mary who we had previously met at YoungLife.  I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it was nice and secluded and a good last Tanzanian meal.  A perfect chance to hang out with all of them one last time!

Bajaji passing by

While in Dar es Salaam, our main mode of transportation was a Bajaj – another thing Erin and Laura taught how to effectively use.  Bajaj’s are basically three wheel golf carts that go much faster.  You definitely have to barter for the price of the ride however that was part of the fun.  Half of the time they would break down or Steven would have to get out and help push up a steep hill.  Even still, we loved riding around in bajajis!

We spent a lot of our time in Zanzibar which you can read more about here.  And I’ll just share another picture with you so you can see how pretty it was!

The beach in Zanzibar

On our last day, our flight was not until 2:00 AM.  So, while Erin and Laura were at school, we decided to take a day trip to Bagamoyo which is about an hour north of Dar.  We hopped into a dalla dalla, which is a semi-organized bus system in which they pack out small vans with as many people as they can fit.  The dalla dalla took us the entire way to the town where Steven and I got off and just started walking around.  We definitely stuck out as the only mzungus in town and had a ton of kids run up to us.  Eventually we had a good lunch and made our way, via Bajaji, to  the Holy Ghost Catholic Mission Museum.

Cross on the beach in Bagamoyo

The museum, although not the best, was filled with artifacts and background regarding the history of the town.  We did find some errors here and there, and a few places where information presented on one side of the room did not correlate with something we would find on the other side.  Regardless, it was still interesting but just taken with a grain of salt.

Anyway, to give you a little background about the town of Bagamoyo, it has a long history dealing with the ivory and slave trades out of Africa. The city’s location made it a great jumping off point for Zanzibar and for transporting slaves all throughout Southeast Asia, India, and up into the Middle East.  It was the original capital of German East Africa and one of the most important trading ports in East Africa.  After David Livingstone, the famous explorer that wrote many articles on the atrocities of slavery, died in Rhodesia, he was brought through Bagamoyo and laid in the tower of an old church.  Today that tower is called Livingstone Tower in his honor and his body now rests in Westminister Abbey.  Obviously the town and its’ history were very impactful on the both of us.  For good reason, the city is now being considered to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Like most other countries, we loved our time in Tanzania and want to go back some day.  Maybe to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, go on a safari in the Serengeti, or on a mission trip – but definitely to go back to Zanzibar!

Jen

Bless the Rains Down in Zanzibar

May 19, 2011

I wanted to start with that video for 2 reasons:  1.  Back in 2008, we did a big Africa swing for work and it started in Tanzania and Recher would play that song for us.  2.  It rained a ton while we were there…guess that’s what we get for going in rainy season!

BEAUTIFUL Blue Water (and yes that girl is that burnt)

After spending a few days in Dar, we decided to head over to the island of Zanzibar by taking a ferry.  We had been told to do the first class tickets because it was only a few dollars more and you got air conditioning and they played movies, so we went for it.  The ferry ride started out good until they began handing out little plastic bags that said “Azam Marine sick bag” – at that point, we knew we were in for some rough seas.  Sure enough, it did get extremely rough and we both felt a little sick but luckily my friend Amir had warned us ahead of time, so we came prepared with Dramamine.  The movies they played were pretty interesting – we started out with The Gods Must be Crazy and then they played parts of Home Alone 1 and Home Alone 2.  For whatever reason, they wouldn’t play the whole movie, instead they just skipped from random scene to random scene.  All of this made for an entertaining 4 hour ride.

We arrived in Zanzibar pretty late at night and found our way to a great little place called Zenji Hotel.  Since it was already so late, we didn’t really start exploring until the next day when we woke up to rain.  For some time, we waited for the rain to stop but when it never did, we finally decided to venture out in it.  Unfortunately this means we have no pictures of Stone Town since we didn’t want to take our camera in the rain.  After wandering through a local market, we made our way through winding streets ducking under overhangs trying to escape the rain.

Lunch was at a place called Livingstone’s that turned out to be pretty good, and we actually ended up staying a long while to get out of the rain.  It seemed that every time the rain would let up and we would pay the bill, our change would come just in time for it to start pouring again. So then we would order another beer and keep waiting.  Eventually we got back on the streets and met several people wanting to sell us tours and bus rides.  One such person was a man who convinced us to go to his food stall that night at Forodhani Gardens.    

Where we spent our days

Forodhani Gardens is a small park along the water with a ton of food stalls selling mostly seafood.  We found our friend from earlier in the day and chose what we wanted from his stall – fish, shrimp and squid.  He took our food over to a little grill and started cooking everything.  After talking with him and watching him grill for a while, he led us over to a little table nearby and said he would bring us our food.  He brought us 2 huge plates with bread, our seafood and salad.  It was all absolutely amazing – definitely my favorite meal in Tanzania!  On top of that, we got to walk back to our hotel with our new friend and hear all about what it is like to live in Zanzibar, including some good history.

Tying up the Sail

The next morning, we got up early and headed to a beach in the north called Kendwa.  The bus ride up only took about an hour and we are so glad we went.  The beach was beautiful!  The most turquoise water either of us has ever seen and pretty, soft, white sand.  Words and pictures don’t do it justice.

That first day it rained almost all day so we didn’t get a ton of time on the beach.  Luckily, the place we were staying, Sunset Bungalows, had a nice open air restaurant on the beach that we hung out in for a lot of the day – just playing cards and reading.  During the breaks from the rain, we did manage to take a long walk and lay on some chairs on the beach. 

Working to build a new hut on the beach

There were some awesome huts right on the sand that we spent part of both days lounging under.  The second day was beautiful and we spent all day laying on the beach – of course, I wanted sun so I didn’t want to be under the hut.  After Steven convinced me how burnt I was, I took his advice and moved under the hut into the shade. 

All up and down the beach were a ton of people selling things – to which we would quickly respond “hapana asantay” or “no, thank you”.  Most would realize we weren’t interested in buying anything and would move along, but one really nice guy named Frederick came by several times and would stick around to give us language lessons!  We didn’t learn too much Swahili but it was fun talking to him.  My favorite thing he taught us to say was “Poa kichizi kama ndizi dan ya frigi” – “cool as a banana in the fridge”.

Masai on the Beach

Our last day, we got up and had breakfast at our hotel and headed back to Stone Town after one last stroll on the beach.  In Stone Town, our last lunch was at a restaurant called Freddy’s, named after Freddy Mercury of the band Queen.  Turns out he was from Zanzibar and they are very proud of him.  Then it was back on the ferry for our trek back to Dar es Salaam and some more Home Alone.

Overall, we both loved Zanzibar!  It was beautiful and relaxing.  As much as we have been traveling, we haven’t spent much time on the beach so this was a nice little trip!

Schwari,
Jen

YL Africa

May 14, 2011

So, when Jen and I first decided to go on this trip and purchased our tickets back in January, we had a very tentative schedule laid out.  Lauren, one of my co-workers at DRC noticed on that schedule that we were planning to make it to Tanzania.  Coincidently, she knew a girl in the country that was teaching at a local school and also serving YoungLife (the ministry that Jen and I are involved with back in Texas).  Knowing that we were really involved too, Lauren introduced us through Facebook.  For this, we are really thankful to her because we got to meet our new friend Erin.

The day we arrived in Dar es Salaam also just so happened to be the same day that they were holding Wyldlife Club, which only occurs once a month, awesome.  Erin asked if we wanted to come and naturally we said yes.  Even luckier for us, we were staying literally two doors down from the house where it took place (actually it probably wasn’t that much luck because we also used Erin’s recommendation on where to stay).  This beautiful house is situated across the street from Mbezi beach in Northern Dar es Salaam and pretty much serves as the African headquarters for YoungLife.  There is a wonderful husband and wife who, along with their kids, live in the house and welcome in leaders from all over the continent for training.  They are also the same couple that started YoungLife Africa over eleven years ago when they were living in Ethiopia.  Now, over 100,000 kids have been reached in 16 different countries.

When we got to the house, it seemed pretty empty and like not much was going on, but then after waiting at the gate for a little while a bus full of kids and leaders pulled up followed by more cars with kids.  Then, just like Wyldlife in Dallas at Lake Highlands, all the boys ran around for an hour or so playing soccer, volleyball, or jumping on the trampoline and the girls formed circles and talked with one another.  Popcorn and snacks were served and eventually boxes of pizzas were handed out for dinner (we weren’t exactly expecting pizza in Tanzania).

It was funny sitting there watching all of the kids interact with one another and run around like crazy. After a while Jen and I would start picking up glimpses of their personalities and we would sit back, point, and say, “that one reminds me of Seth…  She is like Claudia… He is like Tyler… They are like Maggie and Kate” and so on.  Which just goes to show you that kids, even half way around the world, are just kids.  They play, laugh, gossip, eat, and everything, the same way.  Obviously it made us miss our kids even more and reminded us of some great stories and memories.

Soon enough, club got underway.  Just like back in the US, club in Tanzania follows the same pattern.  They started off with a few games such as musical ladders.  The kids got in a big circle and had to walk around passing under two ladders.  If the music stopped and you were under the ladder, you got a cup full of water on your head.  Next was the eight-legged race.  Obviously pretty much everyone fell down at some point.  After that was, my favorite, who can eat the Nutella covered apple the fastest – yes, normally it is with caramel, but that is a little harder to come by in Dar.  This game might not sound that fun but when you sabotage two of the apples and replace them with onions, everyone has fun.  Everyone except for the two that took big bites of onion that is (try to guess who they are in the picture below).

Following games was a skit put on by the student leaders.  It was pretty funny and, just like in Dallas, it is great to see the older kids pour into the younger ones and come to club.  After the skit was a testimony given by one of the female student leaders that was immensely moving, and you could tell it really meant a lot to her to be up there giving it.  Then it was time for a couple of songs and finally came “the talk” which was beautifully given by Ben, one of the staff leaders.  He spoke a lot about his days backpacking, which related to us quite a bit, and was great in communicating the message very effectively and in a short amount of time.

Once that was over, some kids started a spontaneous dance party, while others ran around the yard more.  Slowly a carpool line formed and almost everyone was picked up, but just like back home again, there were several with no rides that had to be figured out.  After that, the leaders had a quick meeting and it was all over for the night.  Erin and her roommate, Laura, both went to dinner with Jen and I where we got a chance to learn even more about Tanzania, their lives in Africa, the culture, the language, and much more.

One of the things we did get to talk about was YoungLife camp in Africa and what all that involves.  Anyone who has even been involved with YL knows that camp is a big deal.  At Lake Highlands, over 100 junior high kids go each summer and in fact, they will be there in not too long from now.  That’s just 8th and 9th graders from one school.  In Africa, there are even more kids that want to go (around 12,000 this year) and what is even better is that in Africa it only cost $60 to send one child to camp!  However, the bad thing is that it is Africa, and there is not much money to go around.  So HERE is a link, and if you feel so inclined to send a kid to camp for a week, please click on it.  You could even send only half or a quarter of a kid if you want.  Go ahead, make a difference in a kid’s life…  you could even just pray for them.

Steven

P.S.  This year will be the first time for them to have a camp in Zanzibar – a place that is 99% muslim.

Housekeeping

May 13, 2011

Well, dear reader, Jen and I feel that we owe you an apology – to all five of you.  Obviously we have been terrible about updating the blog recently.  There are numerous excuses from lack of internet to elephants tearing up communication lines.  However I think it might just all come down to us enjoying the trip so much that we have been too tired to type.

The Culprits

Don’t you worry though and get ready, because now we are all rested up and geared up to type and post lots of pictures (be honest, you never really read anything, you just look at the photos).  Hopefully numerous new posts will be going up soon including Tanzania, South Africa, Hong Kong, and Nepal.

We will be back dating them just because it is easier for us.  Sorry again if you don’t like that but that is just how it is going to be.

Thanks for checking in!
Housekeeping

Country #14: United Kingdom

May 12, 2011

Last time I was in London was for work in 2008 as part of a great European swing.  It was during that trip that I had one of my most memorable travel moments: getting to have a meeting in 10 Downing Street.  The meeting itself was quite eventful and had some interesting moments but that is a story for another time.  Also, I would put up a picture of my goofy self outside of the front door but I can’t find it right now, sorry.

This time around there was no visit to #10 (no motorcade either, which would have been nice) but Jen and I had a good visit for the short stay.  I say short because we had to push our train from Paris to London back a little while.  Apparently when we booked the ticket something went wrong and we had to re-book, plus both Jen and Jack got food poisoning and so we stayed in France a little longer than expected.

Big Ben, Little Girl

One day in London, as Jen already wrote, we had a great meal at Chipotle and after that set off on foot to explore the city.  We took in some great sights, such as the London Eye (which is ridiculously expensive to ride – hence why we only have pictures of it and not on it).  Others included a stop by Waterloo Station, views of Parliament from the river, Trafalgar Square, and numerous phone booths.  Unfortunately there was no time to explore the National Portrait Gallery and we missed the Tower Bridge, but those will be for another trip one day.

Then, the next day we met up to go on a ride with Fat Tire Bike Tours London.  Much like our excursion in Paris, we had a great time riding around the city and seeing the sights.  Once again, it was so great to have someone that would give you the full history of the city and go into in-depth explanations.  It really enhances the experience and gives you a deeper appreciation for where you are.  We passed the typical places such as Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Hyde Park, and so on.  Plus, we got to stop in a pub for fish n’ chips and a cold pint – bloody brilliant.

The only bad part about London was the price.  Everything is pretty steep, especially rooms.  We ended up staying in a pretty nice place but that is just because we used some of Jen’s old Marriott points.  Not to mention the conversion rate from Dollars to Pounds is pretty brutal.  It’s probably a good thing we were not there for too long but certainly enjoyed our brief stay.

London Calling,
Steven