Toronto to Cape Town, Sunday/Monday 13/14 September

The taxi picked us up promptly at 2pm and we were wisked off to our African Adverture with the Humber Valley "Intrepids". At the airport we gathered and began socializing in the departure lounge. The flight to Amsterdam was smooth, though many of us didn't sleep. After a few hours and a brisk walk around the airport we boarded the 11-hour flight to Cape Town, SA. We certainly would fly KLM again - we were so well treated on both flights. And most of us even enjoyed the food!
Upon arrival in Cape Town we were met by our guide, Frank and his assistant and driver Massoud. The bus in roomy and comfortable so we'll travel in comfort. Then to the magnificent Mount Nelson Hotel, at the foot of Table Mountain. We had a drink in the bar and turned in, under luxurious linens at about 1:30 am. The rooms are gorgeous and very spacious.

Photos 13 Sep

Cape Town, South Africa - Tuesday, September 15

We had a 7am wake-up call and coffee delivered to the room. A great luxury to begin our first day in Africa. We met M.E. and Dave for a brisk walk to the waterfront, then back to the hotel for a great buffet breakfast with the whole Intrepid gang. We all met Frank, our guide, in the lobby at 10 and headed out.
First stop -picking up SA (rand) money - with a side trip for some "retail therapy" in one of the shops on the Victoria and Alfred waterfront.
The bus took us up the mountain to the cable car base, where we climbed aboard and rode to the top of Table Mountain. The vista was spectacular!! The cable car does full rotations as it goes up and down, so everyone gets the full effect of looking over Cape Town and into the cliff. Unfortunately it all disappeared when we got to the top - it had misted over (the "tablecloth" was on the Table Mountain. ).
From there we did a run to Signal Hill where we enjoyed watching guinea fowl for a bit, then walked along the brow of the hill admiring Cape Town spread out below.
A general tour of the city followed , the highlight of which was a saunter through the Malay Community, a neighbourhood of brightly-coloured 250 year old homes and buildings that looked like they would fit into Miami's Art Deco area seamlessly. We were back at the Mount Nelson Hotel in time for a scrumptious "High Tea". We took over most of the enclosed veranda and enjoyed great food and conversation. By then many of us were ready to have some quiet time - seems we didn't quite get our batteries fully charged on less than a night's sleep last night.
At 6pm we reassembled in the McNaughts' room ( it's the biggest after all ) for our first Hall Party. Everyone brought snacks and drinks and we had a couple of hours of music and conversation. We're getting know each other better and better. We all agree that we are very fortunate to have Frank as our guide and that we're having a great time. Some folks went for a bar dinner afterwards, but we decided that after tea and the hall party nibbles we didn't need another meal.

Photos 15 Sep

Cape Town South Africa & Cape of Good Hope - Wednesday 16 September

This was certainly a full day. We boarded the bus at 9:30 for our journey to the Cape of Good Hope. (We had already had our morning walk in the rain). We saw many kinds of landscape along the way, as well as ocean vistas.
We stopped in the late morning for a brief shopping break at a small fishing village. There was a lively market where we bought a couple of small "tin montage" paintings and I fed a seal a couple of fish. This seal was adopted by a local guy when it was a pup and it swims free every night, returning each day for the cushy life as a tourist attraction.
We continued towards the Cape of G.H., passing through the Constantia wine area, home of the rich and famous and the source of many fine wines including "Two Oceans".
As the surroundings became more wild, we began to see signs warning of baboons and that we must not feed them. Eventually, sure enough, we saw several of them cavorting on a hillside so we stopped to get some photos. They were being watched by a "baboon monitor".
We also saw many ostriches roaming free on the hills and along the edge of the ocean.
The Cape of Good Hope itself is a relatively small finger of land where the Atlantic currents meet those of the Indian Ocean. We did not climb to the top of the cape hill, but saw the waves crashing and rolling around the point.
We then proceeded to Cape Point, where there is a high lighthouse and amazing views down onto the Cape and surrounding oceans.
We had lunch at the base of the path and Larry lost part of his sandwich to an attacking starling who grabbed it on a "fly pass".
We climbed about 3/4 of the way to the lighthouse but decided that was our limit, especially since we needed to board the bus on time.
It was an amazing area, dramatic and beautiful. And who knew, when we studied the Cape of Good Hope in history and geography, that one day we would stand there?
Our trip continued with a visit to the Penguin Colony at Boulder, where we saw African penguins up close and got some great photos. They are certainly cute little guys.
On the drive back to Cape Town we passed an area of the bay where great white sharks are common. We saw non of them, but did spot whales in two different places.
Frank gave us a brief rundown on on South African history and a description of the activities tomorrow.
In the evening 12 of us walked a few blocks to the "Ocean Basket" restaurant - what a great experience that was!! Our "waitron" was Oscar, a born entertainer and very helpful person. He explained all the options and described all the unfamiliar kinds of fish. We all thoroughly enjoyed the meal to the extent that Oscar brought out the chef for our applause. And the cost was surprisingly modest. Just lovely!!

Cape Town, South Africa, Thursday 17 September

We were disappointed to learn at breakfast that we would not be able to go to Robben Island because of high waves. Frank made a few calls, though, and soon we were on our way to the Street Wire Project. It is a small enterprise in which unemployed people are taught the skills to create artwork from beads and wire. They'll make anything on special order and they have clients all over the world. We all shopped in the retail area.From there we drove to Kirstenbosch Gardens. It's a wonderfully peaceful, beautiful place. We particularly enjoyed seeing the "Fynbos" area -- the native species of plants. Like so many other parts of the world, South Africa is trying to cope with invasive species that drive out the native plants. These hardy natives hold ou the best hope of reclaiming the area. Plus -- good shopping in the gift shop. We continued on to the V&A Waterfront where we dispersed to find lunch. Then 8 of us continued to the District 6 Museum, where we learned about the effects of Apartheid policies that dictated separate residential areas for different racial groups and forced relocations. There were tears as we realized what it had meant for the families and individuals who had lived in this vibrant, diverse community just over 20 years ago. From there we walked to the Jewish History Museum, which was fascinating in a rather different way -- and quite beautiful. It depicts the history of the Jewish community in South Africa. We walked back to the hotel through the Company's Garden. The evening activity was dinner at the South African Gold Museum. It began with a tour of the museum's collection of gold artifacts (with a glass of bubbly) and continued with a "tapas" style African dinner in the courtyard. There was wonderful music, singing and dancing to entertain us while we ate. Afterward we had a drink with M-E and Dave to finish off the evening.

Cape Town, South Africa, Friday, 18 September

After a brisk morning walk, with just a bit of rain and breakfast, we boarded the bus and went to the docks. The crossing to Robbin Island was a bit rough but we all handled it well. We were met by a former prisoner, who gave us a tour of the prison area. He told of the many deprivations suffered by the political and criminal prisoners there over the years, particularly during the apartheid period. Blacks were treated especially badly. He also told us of the "each one, teach one" system the political prisoners had adopted to improve the level of education among prisoners, many of whom had little or no education. Eventually it was possible for many of them to obtain university degrees. We saw Nelson Mandela's cell, where he lived for 18 years before being moved to another prison. Then we boarded a bus and were driven around the island seeing the old church, lepers' cemetery, WWII buildings and defences, and native flora (arum lilies, fynbos ) and fauna ( African penguins, birds ). Back in Cape Town we dispersed for lunch and a restful afternoon.
It was interesting on the way back on the ferry we were introduced to one of the guides who was a prison guard at the time that Nelson Mandela was there. He befriended Mandela and helped him in many was and they developed an enduring relationship to the point that when Mandela went into parliament and became Prime Minister he joined him as part of the office staff and is currently writing a book about his experiences. It is to be published next year. He had many interesting anecdotes to tell.
Our evening meal was the lovely Baia Restauant in the V&A Waterfront area. It was sumptuous meal and the waiters were attentive and friendly.
Some other Canadians who were eating there stopped by for a chat and commented on how much fun we seemed to be having. We thought our waiter ( or waitron as they are known here ) looked like a younger Barak Obama ( you be the judge below).

All Photos
18 Sep

Lanzerac, Stellenbosch, South Africa, Saturday, 19 September

We enjoyed a last breakfast at the Mount Nelson ("the Nellie") and bade farewell to Cape Town shortly after.
First stop - a grocery store where we all bought bags of food - milk, bread, apples, juice, baby formula, cereal and so on. Frank had suggested an outreach project to us and we were eager to get onto it - Rosie's Place - an Orphanage.
Mansur drove us to and around the area of Cape Flats known as Khayelitsha. Frank explained that this is one of the many areas where shantytowns sprang up in the wake of the lifting of the apartheid laws. Thousands of people have been living in corrigated iron shacks for as much as 20 years.
Recently, a program has been put in place to build nice, snug,attractive houses on the same space so people have decent housing and stay in their established neighbourhoods.
We drove through several streets and children waved and ran beside us -- with no expectation that we would toss them money or candy, simply for the fun of it.
We were concerned that we'd be seen as interlopers or gawkers, but Frank assured us that was not the case and everyone seemed friendly. It was clearly a lively, well-functioning community, with markets, schools, clinics and so on. But poor, very poor, In the midst of all this was our goal - Rosie's Place.
Rosie told us the story of how 9 years ago, as an unemployed single mom she came home one day to find a baby abandoned on her door step. She tried to find its family without success, and planned to hand it over to social services. Before she could do so, another child was dropped to her. She drove to the town where she could leave them but was stopped by a clear voice saying "TAKE CARE OF THESE CHILDREN". Her response was "Lord you'll have to provide because I don't have the means to feed my own child".
Soon, in her small home she was caring for more than 60 children. Now she runs an orphanage for up to 200 kids.
They even have a drop-off place for babies, because so many were victims of murder or attempted murder. ( some arrive damaged for that reason ). Many are AIDS orphans and some HIV-positive.
When we carried in our groceries, Rosie said "This is wonderful - I didn't have enough bread today for the children and didn't know how I would feed them.
The kids seemed pretty ordinary - they were playing the usual kinds of games.
It was lunch time and in one area about 20 or 25 babies under 3 were eating sitting on the floor. ( see photos ). They all watched us, some warily and some with broad smiles. I asked if I could pick one up, and it was clear she wasn't used to being held - so many children, too few arms to hug them. But she seemed OK with me, so I cuddled her until we had to go.
When I put her down she cried and it nearly broke my heart.
Rosie also has a hospice for TB and AIDS patients, and also a soup kitchen.
At the end of our visit, we sang our traditional "Go Now in Peace" and a group of the kids sang the South African national anthem and a hymn for us. Many of us had tears. We do hope we can help Rosie continue her important mission. She has started an expansion to house more children, and needs about another $100,000 Canadian to complete it. We would love to help her reach that goal.
========== Transcript of ' Dear Child' in photos =====
As long as you live in this house you will follow the rules. When you have your own house you can make you own rules. In this house we do not have a democracy. I did not campaign to be your parent. You did not vote for me. We are parent and child by the grace of God, and I accept that privilege and awesome responsibility. In accepting it I have an obligation to perform the role of a parent. I am not your pal. Our ages are too different. We can share many things but we are not pals. I am your parent. This is 100 times more than what a pal is. I am also your friend, but we are on entirely different levels. You will do, in this house what I say, and while you may ask questions, you may not question my authority!!! Please Remember!! that whatever I ask you to do is motivated by love. This will be hard for you to understand until you have a child of you own. Until then, Trust Me.

Your Parent
We drove on to Stellenbosch, and the Lanzerac Winery, where we are staying. We had a brief wine tasting. The generous buffet lunch made us feel quite guilty about Rosie's situation. After a late lunch we relaxed and walked around the grounds until time for a hall party and the bus ride to another winery for dinner. It was fun, with samples of beer and wine. Unfortunately when we boarded the bus to go back, it was mired in the mud. After more than an hour of attempts to unstick it, we were shuttled home by the folks from the restaurant/winery, in their own cars. Just to add to the evening's complexity, there was a police roadblock. Our driver told them to expect to see here a few more times as she planned to bring more loads of stranded Canadian tourists. She said these are license checks, as so many unlicensed drivers are on the roads, driving hazardously. Meanwhile, several of us had seen Mansur in conversation with a woman who seemed to be touching him and pawing at him Turned out she was a drunken German tourist. When he held her off and tried to leave, she bit his arm! We all felt terrible not to have somehow interevened. Poor guy! What a way to spend Eid!

Photos 19 Sep

Lanzerac, Stellenbosch, South Africa, Sunday, 20 September

 The good news this morning was that Frank and Mansur had successfully extricated the bus from the mud and were ready for another day. We all had a leisurely morning around the area before we gathered at noon for the day's activities. We drove through the lovely Stellenbosch area to the Moreson Winery. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at the outdoor restaurant followed by a winery tour and tasting.
It was all excellent. Next was some "retail therapy" at the town of Stellenbosch, where we could also see the imposing Dutch Reform Church which dominates ( what else? ) Chuch St.
Next stop was Spier, where we visited the Cheetah Outreach Program and met a couple of cheetahs up close and personal.
They are an endangered species and the program involves training dogs to protect herd animals by scaring off the cheetahs, so farmers won't destroy the cheetahs.
We had another wine-tasting at the Spier Wine Estate, before moving into the Moyo Restaurant for a very African dinner. We ate in a large tent and chose from a vast array of food, laid out on a 25 metre-long buffet. It was very outdoorsy and we wrapped in blankets under patio heaters.
There was a short entertainment of African music.
We all had our faces painted with tribal markings, which actually didn't show up well on our pale faces.
Then back to prepare for a very early morning departure ( 4am up depart 5am ).

Photos 20 Sep

Cape Town to Livingston, Zambia - Monday, 21 September

Our phones all rang at 4 this morning. We needed to be up and about to board the bus at 5, and our flight at 7am. The hotel served us coffee at reception and sent us on our way with breakfast in a bag. It was pretty welcome.
Our flight to Johannesburg and then onward to Livingstone, Zambia was unevenful, though some of us were feeling quite unwell and Lorrie had the experience of being moved terminal to plane via the food loader truck.
Oh yes, there was an event - when we were in the departure area at Cape Town, waiting for the flight to Jo'burg, there was an announcement "would passenger Hatt please report to the desk immediately." We both rushed over, and Larry was taken outside to where his suitcase was lying on the ground. There was much commotion among the baggage handlers because his suitcase was buzzing! It was his electric shaver, the one guaranteed never to accidently go on in your luggage. So he turned it off, wrapped it in a shirt and repacked it on the tarmac. Gave everyone a bit of excitement.
A bus and driver met us at the airport and delivered us to the wonderful Royal Livingstone Hotel.
It's definitely my favourite so far!
We were greeted with ice tea on the lawn and could watch monkeys cavorting as we sipped.
Our rooms are smaller than the other places, but very comfortable. We and Lorrie have rooms off the same little alcove.
We do have to remember not to drink the water here, though.
At 4pm we left for the river, where we boarded the African Queen for a 2-hour sunset cruise.
The Zambezi is a beautiful river; sunset was glorious and we saw many hippos and some elephants through the trees.
On the hotel grounds we saw giraffes and then elephants along the road. There are many birds everywhere. Even after dark it was very warm outside.
Dinner was served on the lawns after dark whith torches for light. ( I wasn't feeling well, so went straight to bed rather than dinner. )

Photos 21 Sep    

Royal Livingstone Hotel, Livingston, Zambia - Tuesday, 22 September

Having slept most of the evening, I was up and out on our terrace by 5:40am. My reward was to get a close view of 6 zebras on the lawn off our patio! They were just stiring and starting to move off for the day. Two of them walked within 5 metres of the terrace. The monkeys were just begining to scamper about as well and I could hear many birds, though I didn't see any.
The sound of Victoria Falls is ever-present, and it's also obvious why we're told to use insect repellant. I had forgotten at first, but quickly realized my mistake and got it on.
We set out on a morning walk but in fact walked to Victoria Falls before breakfast. The low amount of water was disappointing, but the falls are still beautiful - all broken up into narrow cascades along a long cliff. This is the end of the dry season so it's at its minimum.
After a lovely, relaxed breakfast we checked out of the hotel and rode back to the beginning of the path that leads to the falls. The light was entirely different, so it looked different and we could see the edge of the main falls that one can only see frontally from the Zimbabwe side, a side which is not currently safe for tourists.
We then headed for the Botswana border. Before we got to the border post, we left our mini-bus behind and boarded a small boat to cross the river - it had made a first trip taking our luggage and a few intrepids to watch the beached luggage on the first trip.
The driver pointed out that in the middle of the river, we were in "No Man's Land" - where 4 countries (Zambia, Namibia, Botswan and Zimbabwe ) come together.
It was quite an experience sitting in the vaste wasteland and seeing probably at least 100 trucks waiting to be taken, one at a time, across the river. They often wait a day or even two for their turn. So there were people down at the river washing and drinking. It was dry, hot, and dusty.
Also while waiting on the Zambia side, it was interesting watching the ladies returning from Botswana loading unbelievable packages on their heads and then carrying heavy bags to someplace up the road in Zambia. One had a full bag of cement loaded on her head.
On the Botswana bank we were met by Chobe Game Lodge safari vehicles with high seats and open sides.
We had to get out at the border post and have our passports stamped, as well as walking through a disinfecting bath for our shoes, while the vehicles drove through a puddle of the stuff.
The ride into the Chobe Game Lodge was amazing. We saw all kinds of wildlife on the way and we hadn't even started yet! Dave Wilkes of our group said that he saw more game on the trip in than he saw on his 10 day Kenya safari that visited 4 parks.
We were too late for the afternoon game drive, so we had very late lunch and unpacked, then went for a swim and a great "Hall Party" followed.
Dinner was on the lawn with great music and dancing under torch light.
I love this place - very comfortable and peaceful with beautiful surroundings.
Cathy was shocked to encounter a wart hog on the lawn on her way to swim. We all saw it later.

Photos 22 Sep

Chobe Game Lodge, Botswana - Wednesday, 23 September

Wake up calls at 5:30 followed by coffee and snacks before we loaded up the safari vehicles for the morning excursion. What an amazing number of animals and birds we saw - elephants (100s), giraffes (dozens), cape buffalo ( dozens ), impales (many 100s), kudus ( dozens ), hippos ( dozen ), a mongoose (one kind, and then a herd of a second kind), a genet, a jackal, many zebras, many warthogs, hundreds of baboons, many buzzards, cormorants, African Fish Eagles, Tawny Eagle, Kites, Guinea Fowl (so many they are known locally as Chobe Chickens ) and, most exciting, a pack of 15 wild dogs which passed within feet of our vehicle. Our guide, Mr. Bean, told us that they only see them once or twice a month.
I'm sure there were others but we lost track. It was exciting just to see them. Back to the lodge for breakfast, then onto boats for a Chobe River safari.
Once again - totally amazing, Elephants and impala (cautiously)drinking from the river near crocodiles lazing on the bank. Even more birds and animals including most of those we saw in the morning, plus swallows, storkes, louries, ibisis, etc.
A large number of elephants crossed the river to Namibia while we watched close by. Elephants without Borders, says Mr. Bean.
After lunch, a brief rest, re-application of sunscreen and insect repellant and back to the safari vehicles.
Wow! what an afternoon! I can't begin to give a complete list, but there were lots of birds - the most beautiful was the Lilac Breasted Rolleo, and then there were Maribou Storks, Vultures, Black Stilts, African spoonbills, Egyptian Geese, Openbilled Stork, and so on.
Of course thousands of guinea hens, many many elephants, lots of giraffes and baboons, warthogs, kudus, impala, pukus, Chobe Bushbuck and Ta Da, Ta Da... a lioness.
I chose that moment to mess up my camera settings, but Larry was able to fix them, and get a great photo, even at about 100 metres across the water.
Mr. Bean had been about to serve us wine and appies on the sunset beach when he got a call about the lion, and so we raced westward to the vantage point.
What a thrill!
So we missed the sunset party but were more than amply rewarded.
Then back to the lodge for dinner and bed.

Chobe Game Lodge, Botswana - Thursday, September 24

Today Mary Ellen said "How many times can you say WOW?!" That was just the kind of day it was. It got off to a roaring start (:-)) when we saw two lionesses at their leisure in a field beside the road. We watched them for awhile, and then continued on our way. I had decided that I'd taken pictures of everything I'd seen, and that I was going to use binoculars today, and only the small camera, while Larry enjoyed himself with the bigger new one. I also continued to quiz Mr. Bean, our guide, about the many birds we saw, and tried to learn a few of their names. I took along the hotel's checklist of local flora and fauna and checked off everything we saw. The list is far too long to reproduce here, but suffice it to say that it was amazing! Many of the same things as yesterday of course, but a few new ones, including those lionesses. We did a drive this morning, followed by a boat trip, in the opposite direction from yesterday. We were in the midst of many hippos at one point on the river, and spent a lot of time in the midst of families of elephants, watching how they moved and especially the relationships between a
dults and calves. It was really fun. After lunch was time for a short swim (in the pool of course, not in the river!) and then an afternoon drive. We began with a juvenile hyena, who gave us quite a show by the river. It drank and peed at the same time, then wallowed in the mud for awhile. Later we saw a jackal, and finally --- tada! the icing on the cake -- those same two lionesses and their three cubs! But wait! Wait! There's more -- if you phone now -- we saw the lion just at dusk, and from a distance, so we got no viable photos, but we really really did see him! What luck we've had. We saw everything significant here except the leopard. It was tough saying good bye to Mr Bean, though I think we'll see him before we leave in the morning. We had a good time in the bar, then a nice bbq type dinner, like at the Manchurian bbq in China, where we filled our plates with the makings, and they were grilled to order for us. Yum. Then a bit more bar time and off to bed.

Chobe, Botswana to Johannesburg, RSA - Friday, 25 September

We slept in until 7 today and then packed up for a day of travel to Johannesburg, RSA.
Lorrie hitched a ride by plane with Elsie, Brock and Sally-Jo. They had a spectacular view of Victoria Falls as they came into Livingstone, Zambia. So we all await the photos.
The rest of us rode back to the river crossing in safari vehicles.
Larry and I crossed the Chobe River from Botswana to Zambia first with the Wilkes and all the luggage, to guard it while the little ferry went back for everyone else.
While we waited, we talked with the porters, who were also selling carved animals and other things. We gave one of them my Canada pin and bought a few things.
They told us they were from an artisan's village that had been established after their own village was washed away in a flood. They like Canadians because Canada was instrumental in rebuilding the village. One guy wanted us to pay for our purchases with Canadian dollars so he could show his old grandfather what Canadian money looked like. Eventually we were loaded up, cleared the border fomalities and drove off to Livingstone airport. Along the way we were amazed by the beautiful jacaranda trees all dressed in purple blooms. Our flight to Johannesburg was uneventful.
the trip through Jo'burg Airport was interesting. First, the immigration officer extracted a promise from us that we would stay until we'd spent all our money, then come back when we had more to spend. He was hilarious.
Then a couple of clowns on unicycles gave us free packages of macadamia nuts ( promoting the duty-free shop ). Then the police stopped everyone to look at the passports of all the women.
Finally as we neared the baggage carousels, a sniffer dog and handler (Dept of Agriculture ) came up to us. The dog sniffed everything and then focused on my tote. "Have you any food?" said the handler. I had had apples, but finished them in the previous airport. The handler said that would have been what the dog smelled. The dog was amazing and clearly wanted a treat for its successful find ( and got one ).
We arrived at the hotel in time for freshening up and resting before heading out for dinner.
We saw some of the very prosperous parts of Jo'burg and entered one of the most beautiful restaurants I've ever seen - Vilamoura. Wow! Yet again!. Quite a contrast to dusty, bumpy roads and warthogs. Even better, the food was as great as the surroundings.
We celebrated Sally-Jo's birthday with a cake and then ceremonially inducted Frank as an honorary Canadian. He was gracious and funny as always. We'll miss him when we say goodbye tomorrow.

Jo'burg RSA to Arusha, Tanzania - Saturday, 26 September

We were off to the airport in good time as several people were claiming VAT refunds. That proved to be quite a hassle for them, and in many cases they re ceived almost nothing for their efforts. We had bought so little that we didn't bother and were glad we hadn't.
We spent our last few Rand at the airport and hugged Frank one last time. What a sweet heart he is, besides being a terrific guide!
In Nairobi we found an airport that harkened back to Toronto International of 50 years ago. Lots of stores seemed to have been added along a curved corridor and the gate was between a cafe and a shop.
We had beers and soft drinks, pretty well taking over the seating space, then walked across hot tarmac to the smallish plane (Bombardier - made in Canada).
We had good views of Kenya and Tanzania on the flight, and Mt. Kilimanjaro and its sister mountain were dramatic in the sunset. Kilimanjaro airport is small and it took us awhile to complete health forms for H1N1 symptoms, show our yellow fever certificates, complete immigration formalities and find luggage.
Unfortunately 3 people in our group were missing bags. Worse still, several students, here to climb Kilimanjaro, were missing theirs as well.
Finally, we were met by our new guide, Jane, and welcomed to Tanzania.
After a long wait to file claims for the luggage, a small bus pulled up, our suitcases were hoisted to the roof and tied on, and we were on our way.
The road was very rough and the night was black as pitch. Other vehicles were either speeding along with horns blowing, or crawling and being towed.
There were people walking and bicycling beside the road, and lots places where parties seemed to be underway.
finally we arrived at the Arusha Hotel and after a nice but very late dinner crawled under mosquito nets to sleep. We were all very tired.

Photos 26 Sep

Arusha to Lake Manyara Serena Lodge, Tanzania - Sunday, 27 September

After a leisurely breadfast we chatted with the head gardener of the Arusha Hotel. He told us his father was a faarmer who would not send him to school. When his father died, he sent his younger brother to school and leared from him how to read and write. A very admirable man. He worked for English-speaking families as a grdener and caddy
and als9o learned to play golf and tennis.
Our luggage was loaded and we climbed into 4 land-rover safari wagons for the ride to Lake Manyara.
Lorrie, Cathy, Dave, Larry and I rode with Boniface. He told us that the last 2 years and especially this past year, the wet season hasn't provided enough water, and so the Masai are particularly in trouble. The cattle are dying from lack of food and water and cattle are their livelihood.
Part way along the road, Boniface got a call that the 3 missing suit cases were on their way. Cathy, Gail and Elsie were delighted to learn that.
We stopped at a very large Curio shop to wait for the cases and shopped until they arrived.
I've already expanded my suitcase; I think Larry will have to do so as well.
Along the highway we saw many Masai villages. Some houses are round and made of thatch and sticks, while others are brick or cement block and iron. The latter apparantly belong to those who've gone to the city and have some cash.
We saw heards of cattle and goats and many many beautiful, graceful people walking or riking bikes.
they all wore brightly-coloured clothing - either kangas or western dress.
The landscape looks completely dessicated and we saw swirls of dust everywhere.
There were some larger towns where shops and market were concentrated.
Eventually we turned and drove up a long mountain road to the Lake Manyara Serena Lodge.
We could see Lake Manyara stretched out below as we climbed. The lake is greatly reduced in size with salt deposits over large areas that used to be lake. As a result, the flamingos have left.
After a quick lunch, we had a safari in the Lake Manyara National Park. Boniface pointed out some of the wildlife, but we've become pretty good spotters ourselves.
We saw giraffes, Vervet monkeys, olive baboons, wildebeest ( by the hundreds ), an elephant and many hippos.
The park is lovely and green and fresh compared to what we saw along the road.
We had another bit of bad luck with a vehicle today, when we had a flat tire in front of the hippo viewing area. The drivers of all the vehicles from the Lodge pitched and changed it quickly.
Before dinner we enjoyed the singing of a cho8ir by the pool. A great African sound with 15 or so singers and a keyboarder.
For dinner we trekked though the dark to an open area set up for our dinner. One of the guides showed us some of the constellations of the southern hemisphere and then explained our location here on the western edged of the eastern brach of the Great Rift Valley.
It's an interesting place. We were the freturn to the first to decide to return to the lodge and a guard with a stick for a weapon and flashlight walked us to our lodging.
A long, lovely, but tiring day.

Photos 27 Sep

Lake Manyara Lodge & Ngorongora Crater - Monday, 28 September

This was certainly another Wow day!!
After delicious breakfast a the Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge, we got aboard the Land Cruisers and headed for the Ngorongoro Crater. We traveled through several small communities and one or two larger ones. There were people on little motor bikes, bicycles, minibuses and mostly on foot traveling along the highway. Maasai were leading their flocks and kids were gathered at schools.
Many of the Maasai have come down from northern Tanzania where the drought is even worse than here and so are looking for grazing land.
We also saw workers digging volcanic rock to mend the roads.
As we approached the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, we saw new apartment buildings under construction - most unusual structures for this area. The Conservation Area has been recently expanded and people will be moved off conservation land and into these new homes.
The road into Ngorongoro is amazingly bad. It has deep ruts and potholes, bumps and rocks. It is steep and clings to the sides of the mountain. It took nearly 3 hours to get to the floor of the crater and when we stopped for lunch one of the vehicles had a flat tire ( 2nd so far on trip, obviously the roads are bad bad ).
Along the way we had amazing views over both the crater and the Rift Valley. In some limited areas there are green forest and vegetation, but the crater itself is very dry.
We were unable to see flamingos or rhinos, both usually common, because of the dry conditions. We did see lots of wildebeests, gazelles and ostriches, as well as vervet monkeys ( who worked hard trying to steal our lunches ) and 2 kinds of baboons.
We watched a black kite soaring overhead and saw many buzzards.
After lunch, we were fortunate to find and a cheetah (rare). It was at quite a distance, well-camouflaged under a tree, but the guides picked it out and managed to get us to see it and photograph it with the new camera.
Soon after, we saw a lion and three lionesses, also at a bit of a distance.
I'm very glad for my new camera for these shots( none other would do it!).
The last big spotting was a Corey Bustard, heaviest of the flying birds.
Then another very rough ride out and back to the lodge. We all rushed to the swimming pool to cool off, and enjoyed floating and looking out over the Rift Valley from the "infinity edge" pool for a while before dinner.
I missed the entertainment when I went for a shower, but I could hear the singing and it sounded good. We all enjoyed dinner together, and turned in fairly early.
It will be an early morning and long day tomorrow.

Photos 28 Sep

Manyara NP, Tanzania to Nairobi, Kenya - Tuesday, 29 September

It was a travel day, so we had an early breakfast and boarded the Land Cruisers.
We stopped for a spot of shopping at the big curio place, then on to a terrific place for a delicious lunch at the Arush Serina Hotel.
The airport experience that followed was a bit of a nightmare - it was crowed and we were shunted around several times,then most of us got into a wrong line for immigration.
Finally, though, we got onto the airplane and found it was unannounced "open seating" and as well there was little luggage space ( Larry found a nun in his seat and moved on ), and as well there was little luggage space in the Canadian Bombardier aircraft.
Several people in the group sat and chatted with returning Kilimanjaro climbers and heard some good stories. The mountain itself was shrouded in clouds, so we couldn't really see it. When we arrived in Nairobi, we had to complete health and immigration forms and line up, but the formalities were simple.
Marilyn's bag was very late appearing on the conveyor belt, so we all had our fingers crossed that it wasn't another lost bag.
We were duly met and loaded into 4 safari vehicles.
We crawled through rush-hour traffic to The Carnivore restaurant. That was a fun experience with various 5 foot skewers of meat delivered with great regularity, but we were tired by the time it was done.
We received the news that we'd been bumped from the Nairobi Serina Hotel to a "5 Star" Holiday Inn with disappointment. However were all very glad to find our way to beds.

Photos 29 Sep

Nairobi, Kenya - Wednesday, 30 September

The Holiday Inn, Nairobi certainly redeemed itself today! We had a lovely relaxing day by the pool, with food and drinks delivered on request.
Some of the group did a bus tour of the city, some took a taxi to the museum, others had a shopping excursion, and the rest stayed put poolside. Larry went to the closest shopping area with Janet, Barry and Donna. He spotted warthog carving that was exactly what he wanted for the carved menagerie he's been acquiring, but didn't have cash in his pocket to pay for it. So he brought the vendor, Douglas, back to the hotel with him and he paid $5 + some pens and some airplane earphones for it. The guy was interested to see how we were living but we assured him it's not like this at home.
Larry brought the Magicjack/Netbook/Hotel phone setup out to the pool and everyone called home or kids or friends ( certainly the max showoff event of the trip! )
It was fun for most, but we were dismayed to learn that Sarah was in the hospital.
M-E and Dave were glad they'd decided to go straight home on Thursday.
Eventually, we reluctantly packed up and boarded the bus for the airport.
We hated to bid farewell to Africa but the Nairobi traffic jams and drivers were less difficult to see the last of.
This was also the moment that we said a sad goodbye to Bob and Carol who were taking a different flight and route home.

Photos 30 Sep

Amsterdam, Netherlands - Thursday, 1 October

After a very tiring over-night flight we arrived early in Amsterdam.
We found a place to sit and a bar that was to open at 5:45am where we bought outrageously expensive coffee and juice.
We said goodbye to the half of us that was going to Toronto today and they went off to a more comfortable lounge to spend the morning until the flight.
Our guide, Ben, arrived around 6:30 as promised and herded the straggly bunch of us to a lovely big bus - pure luxury after the safari vehecles of Kenya, Tanzania, etc.
Sadly for Ben we were a rather inattentive bunch - read: we kept falling asleep as he guided us through the countryside around Amsterdam to the island town of Marken.
Very interesting place - old fishing village in the Zuider Zee which seems to have gone somewhat yuppie after being the poorest town in the country some years ago.
We walked though it to the harbour in a chilly drizzle, and were back to the bus in record time. It did wake us up a bit.
Ben kept up a very interesting stream of history, culture, geography, etc. We all wished for more capacity to absorb it, but what we heard certainly improved our understanding of the Netherlands.
By 9am we were at the windmill village, where we really enjoyed hot chocolate and delicious pastries, and a walk by the canal and views of the windmills. The sun even shone a little bit.
We toured one working windmill that is used to produce oils from peanuts, grape seeds etc. We sampled and bought some cheeses, then carried on back to the city for a short bus tour.
That was followed by a canal boat tour - reminiscent of the ones in Suzhou and St. Petersburg.
Amsterdam is a pretty canal city, just showing the first signs of autumn.
Lunch followed at a terrific restaurant whose name entirely escapes me, but was recommended by our agent and friend Marijke( thank you! ).
After lunch we were bussed to our quaint hotel where most of us chose to nap.
Some hardy souls visited the Anne Frank house and the Rijksmuseum. They said both were wonderful. I would have loved to go to both, but completely lacked the stamina.
In the evening Brock and Elsie got a recommendation for a good pub-style restaurant and 8 of us enjoyed a delicious Dutch meal ( & quite a bit of beer ) there.
Then we walked through the thronging streets back to the hotel and our welcoming beds.

Photos 1 Oct

Amsterdam to Toronto - Friday, 2 October

We were up in good time to go for a stroll after breakfast. We chose a street beside one of the nearby canals and soon mastered the sidewalk protocol - the red pavement is reserved for bicyclists and pedestrians must stay off it!!
They really travel quickly on those bides and there are hundreds or even thousands of them. People of all ages whizzed by.
We enjoyed the fresh air, the views of canal boats, ducks, floating houses and the architecture.
Back at the hotel it was time to wrestle the luggage to the lobby on the tiny elevator and check out.
Because of street construction, the bus couldn't come to the hotel, so we formed quite a caravan, schlepping our luggage the 2 or 3 blocks to the main street.
Because Elsie and Brock were stuck in the elevator the bus had to do a loop before we all arrived to board, then the 4 of us dodged rush hour traffic to get to where he'd been able to stop.
The trip from there on was unsurprising, the usual airport stresses and then a crowed flight. KLM does a great job of food and service, but a terrible job of seat assignment. Larry and I were 6 rows apart on opposite sides of the plane and Heather and Dennis were 40 rows apart and both in middle seats. Marilyn didn't get her requested window seat, etc.
So there was some negotiation with other people and a few swaps. Not everyone's needs could be met though.

Photos 2 Oct

The Intrepids African Safari Trip - Reflection

So that's the end of a wonderful adventure. We're so glad to have gone with the Intrepids on this trip. What a great gang of folks! Everyone helped each other along the way with encouragement, support, supplies of medication, shared laughter, tears and photos, toting, fetching, advising, comforting. We're grateful to all of you. Especially we than M-E, Dave, Sally-Jo and Lorrie for so closely sharing the adventure and of course, as always - Cathy and Dave for being the consummate group leaders! To Gabriella, Claudia and Marijke at Exotic Destinations - bravo for the arrangements!
Everyone - thanks for the memories.
We look forward to sharing all those great photos online. We must adventure together again!

Click to link to Video of Chobe National Park Safaris by Intrepids