Posts Tagged ‘South’

From day one, my friend Kyle and I joked about being able to “blend in” during our time in Peru.  Our second day in Peru demonstrated how awesome we were at “blending in”.  When we got to the Lima Airport to go to Cusco, Kyle couldn’t figure out which trash can to throw his wrapper in.  He made a circle around three differently marked trash cans with a confused look on his face.  Like a good friend, I watched him struggle as he attempted to read and understand the Spanish writing on each trash can.  Finally, a local Peruvian had mercy and pointed where he should throw away his wrapper.

Then we went to our gate and got in line to board the plane.  When we handed the lady our ticket she said, “you two are on the next flight, not this one.” It was so ridiculous.  I have traveled for over 16 years and I speak Spanish, but couldn’t board the right plane.   We were off to a great start of not standing out.  Kyle couldn’t throw away his trash and we couldn’t board the correct flight.

When we made it to Cusco, we were a little nervous about altitude sickness.  A lot of people, both on blogs and in Peru, warned us about the impacts of altitude sickness.  At the Cusco Airport our fear increased when we saw a poster of a family at Machu Picchu with one of the family members throwing up out of the frame because of the altitude.  Directly after the poster we saw places where you could buy oxygen.  I almost ran over to the oxygen station to buy an entire oxygen tank so I wouldn’t be like the guy on the poster.  Fortunately, I realized that I was fine.  The rest of the trip we blammed everything negative on the altitude.  I feel that everyone overplayed the impact of the altitude.  Aside from feeling out of breath and watching 80 year-old Peruvian women running by me as I labored to climb a set of stairs, I didn’t notice much of a difference.  I wouldn’t worry too much about the altitude, but if you do get sick make sure to drink lots of fluids and try the coca tea.  Tourists and Peruvians swear by it.  Or you could buy an oxygen tank and carry it around with you.

Once we arrived in Cusco we found a place to stay, and wouldn’t you know it, it was the Pariwana.  We then walked around Cusco until we found the Plaza de Armas.  For anyone visiting Peru, if you ever get lost go to the Plaza de Armas.  This is the main square in every city and town.  I really enjoyed the plaza because of the old style buildings and two churches.  There were a lot of places to eat and enjoy the view of the plaza.  One place we enjoyed was Paddy Flaherty’s.  It was a small pub to the right of the Cathedral.  We enjoyed it because it had an excellent view of the plaza and they showed soccer.

We may not have blended in, but we had arrived in the heights of Cusco.

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The Results Are In

Posted: July 28, 2011 in Bucket List
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The votes are in and it looks like I am going to South America!  It was a really close competition between Asia and South America, but in the end South America won by one vote.  I would have been happy to go to either continent (I’m just glad North America didn’t win because I had some friends wanting to send me to Orem, Utah!).  Thanks to everyone who voted. 

 

Now it is time to vote which country in South America you want me to visit.  In your vote you can include cities you want me to visit, activities I should do, things I need to eat, or sites you want me to see.  Get creative because I will select a few ideas and do them.  When I do them I will include it in my blog and give you credit for the idea.  Yes, you could actually be mentioned in my amazing blog.  Imagine the fame and glory!

To vote for which country I should visit in South America leave a comment belowVoting starts today and ends at midnight on August 2nd.  Get voting and spread the word!  Send me anywhere in the world.

I recently noticed that I have not talked about food in any of my posts.  There are shows, books, and blogs dedicated to writing about the foods of different cultures.

When I arrived in South Africa I did not know what to expect food wise.  I had never heard much about South African cuisine, but after my first meal of chicken curry, I was in love.  Although South African curry is similar to Indian curry, there are slight differences.  South African curry isn’t as thick, the chicken and vegetables are cut larger, and it doesn’t use as many spices.  The coolest thing I ate was chicken curry in a bun (it’s called a fat cake).  The bun is deep fat fried dough, which allows this meal to be eaten on the go without a large mess.  It’s tasty, it’s great, it’s curry on the go!

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the weirdest things I ate is called Walkie Talkies.  It is cooked chicken legs and chicken heads.  There is very little flavor because I think it is only seasoned with salt.  Although the taste wasn’t bad, the texture was a little rubbery.  What made this South African treat so weird was that the feet still had nails and the head still had the beak.  You stick the entire leg (nails and all) in your mouth and then you use your teeth to scrape off the skin and meat as you pull the leg out.

After some curry filled fat cakes and Walkie Talkies, what could be next?  How about cooked sisters?  This was my favorite South African desert.  You deep fat fry dough and then roll it in coconut flakes (for extra taste you can add sugar).  Cooked sisters taste so good, and the coconut makes it seem that you are eating healthy.  Basically it is a healthier version of donuts…maybe not healthier, but Cooked Sisters are so good!

 

Before I can even think about concluding this intro to South African cuisine I have to mention braais.  Braaing is a way of life, and a very serious custom.  You make a fire in a pit, put a grill on top and cook boerwors, sosaties, kebabs,chicken, steaks, sausages, etc.  Although the food is wonderful, it is the social aspect of this meal that was my favorite.  All the men gather around the braai and talk, while the women gather in the kitchen and prepare the side dishes.  Once the meat is cooked everyone gathers together, eats, and talks.  It was a lot of fun and reminded me of a BBQ at home.  If you go to South Africa you have to partake in curry filled fat cakes, walkie talkies, fat sisters, and a braai.

Drakensberg

Posted: February 28, 2011 in South Africa
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My trip to Drakensberg was one of the craziest trips I have ever taken.  One night I saw a picture of Drakensberg and the next day I was on the road driving nine hours to the national park.  The drive, although long, was beautiful.  It was awesome to see traditional homes, wide open grasslands, and baboons.   When I arrived just outside of Drakensberg, the real adventure began.    As I stopped to get gas, in a place I thought was close to Drakensberg, I decided to ask the gas attendant where I could stay.   He told me that I was still over an hour away from the park.  It was late by the time I arrived in the secluded area near Drakensberg.  With no street lights and poorly marked roads, I struggled to find a place to stay.  By some miracle I eventually found a hostel nestled 100 yards off the main road.  I was grateful that the stress of trying to find a place to stay was over.

The next day, I was excited to hike to the foot of the Amphitheater.  Even though I was there during the dry season, the surrounding area was beautiful.  As Macrae and I hiked, it was weird that almost the entire surrounding vegetation was a golden brown color except patches of thick green forests that overran the mountainside.  After three hours of hiking, we thought we had made it to the end of the trail, however, there was a ladder that led down to the rocky, dried up river.  Macrae decided to chill by the river while I continued on.  Thirty minutes later, I arrived at a lookout point over the Amphitheater.  The mountain range was incredible.  It looked like a set of wavy curtains, the kind you would see at a play.  I spent a long time enjoying the highest mountain range in Southern Africa.

When we finally made it back to the car it was late in the afternoon.  As we drove out of the park, Macrae and I decided to drive to Lesotho (it’s a country completely surrounded by South Africa).  The reason we decided to make the hour and a half car ride was because my grandma and I have a contest to see who can go to the most countries.  Currently she is in the lead, but Lesotho was going to make 36 countries for me, putting me eight countries away from her.  The hour and a half drive to Lesotho provided us with sights of lakes, mountains, and an amazing orange sunset.

When we arrived at the border, I excitedly handed the customs agent my passport.  That’s when things went downhill.  I forgot to bring my visa extension paperwork and the agent told me he was going to have to detain me until the morning so that he could confirm that I had the necessary paperwork.  When he repeated the threat three times I began to get nervous.  After twenty minutes of talking with him, he decided to let me go.

We were so close.  All I wanted to do was stick my foot across the border.  Since I almost got detained, but we decided it was best to cut our losses and head back to the hostel.  Disappointment quickly turned into fear as we drove back.  While driving up a canyon pass, I came around a corner and hit a huge pothole.   The frame of the tire bent and caused the tire to deflate.  The great thing about South Africa is that they spend money to put up signs that say “Beware of Potholes” instead of using that money to repair the potholes.  Changing the flat tire was an adventure  on the canyon pass.  Since we were on a hill, the car kept rolling back as I jacked it up.  It took three tries to finally jack the car up and change the tire.

After an exhausting trip of getting lost, trying to find a place to stay, hiking, almost getting detained, and having a flat tire Macrae and I were ready to go to our room and get some sleep.  Even this simple desire did not work out.  When we got to our room we found our stuff on the floor and people in our beds.  All I could do was laugh (as a small tear rolled down my cheek).  The front desk apologized and moved us to a new room.

Everything that could go wrong did.  To most people this trip would appear to be a an expensively disastrous trip, but to me, this is what traveling is all about. Every moment provided a new and challenging experience.  I learned.  I grew.  And I got to enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery in Southern Africa.  Success!

Why do you travel?

Hogsback

Posted: January 31, 2011 in South Africa
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Valda (my South African mom) invited me to go to Hogsback for a weekend getaway with her family.  Since I had been working so hard (surfing, safaris, and such), I decided it would be a great opportunity to get away from the stress of my research project.

Even though the three hour drive from East London seemed to take forever, I had my eager face on the entire way.  I was so excited to go hiking and enjoy another amazing part of South Africa.  When we arrived, I was caught off guard by the fact that we were staying in an authentic cottage in the forest.  I thought we were just going to stay at a random bed and breakfast.  The cottage reminded me of something out of Oregon Trail.  It had a covered straw roof, big wooden beams, and an old school bathtub.  That night my manhood was tested when everyone asked me to make a fire.  As expected, I passed! To celebrate my coming into manhood, I had a big hot cup of Milo, the greatest drink in the world.

Hogsback is an amazing place to go hiking.  It offers excellent trails through the forest and incredible mountain vistas.  During my hike, I weaved my way in a thick forest, took a cold shower under a waterfall, crawled under and over fallen trees, crossed a river, climbed a vine, got covered in spiderwebs, and sat in a bathtub at the edge of a mountain.  Now that’s what I call a successful trip.

Not surprisingly I got lost during my hike.  I am going to blame it on the fact that some of the trails were not clearly marked, and not on my horrific sense of direction.  It only took me 30 minutes of hiking in the wrong direction for me to realize that I needed to turn around (talk about an awesome sense of direction).  Even though it took me an hour longer than it should have, the view at the top of the mountain was worth all of the sweat (and trust me, there was a lot).

I spent a long time enjoying the view of the three mountains known as Hogsback.  This will come as a surprise, but they are called Hogsback because each mountain resembles the back of a hog.  From the top of the mountain I could see forests, lakes, and villages situated on the surrounding mountain sides.

The best part of the whole experience was being alone in nature.  There is something about nature that has always helped me reconnect with my true self.  I am able to think clearly and feel at peace.  With no distractions, I could truly connect with South Africa and enjoy the beauty she has to offer.  People’s pessimistic view of South Africa because of crime, poverty, and pollution disappeared.  I saw nothing but beauty, and felt nothing but love for the country.  For this reason, the outdoors has always appealed to me.

Where is your favorite place to get away from it all?

This weeks travel tip is specifically for South Africa.

If you are planning on going to South Africa, you have to go to Kruger National Park!  South Africa has many reserves, and although I have not been to all of them, Kruger is the best.  I saw every animal I wanted to see, including all of the big five.  It is also huge.  I spent two weeks there and I only saw half of the park.  Rumor has it that Mozambique and Zimbabwe are going to open the border around their parks to make Kruger one giant park.  Hopefully that happens soon.

I usually never plan my trips, but I would strongly suggest that you make bookings in the park as far in advanced as possible.  It is a popular reserve for both tourists and citizens.  The best place to do make reservations and find information about the park is Kruger’s actual website.

If you are going through the park for the first time, I recommend that you do a walking, sunset, and night safari.  I did all three, and each were unique and amazing.  The sunset and walking safari are a must.  You should stay at Lower Sabe at least one night, more if possible.  Anyone who has gone to Kruger will tell you that it is one of the best places to see animals.  If you have several days in the park, then I would recommend driving yourself around the park and doing a few safaris at the different campsites.  This allows you to go at your own pace and watch animals for as long as you like.

My last suggestion is if you are planning on camping in Kruger, make sure you bring a mat.  The ground is harder in South Africa than most places.  Ok, that might not be true, but I didn’t bring a mat and the ground felt harder than any other ground I have ever slept on.

When I was 5, I received a South Africa special edition of Zoo Life, and a dream was born.  Trust me, it was the most amazing edition of Zoo Life ever.  Ever since then, I have wanted to go on a safari in South Africa and see a cheetah.  It was an astonishing coincidence that I “had” to go to South Africa to finish my degree by researching South Africa’s welfare system.  What was even more of a coincidence was that the World Cup was being held in South Africa and I happened to have tickets.  Since South Africa is a little dangerous, the university did not want me to travel in the country or go to any World Cup matches.  Little did they know I would be taking two weeks off at the beginning of my research to go on a safari and two and a half weeks off to watch the World Cup.  I just figured they’d understand.

The very first thing I did when I landed in Johannesburg was drive to Kruger National Park.  Nothing was going to stop me from fulfilling my Zoo Life fantasy!  This was the first thing ever on my bucket list and I was more excited than a little schoolgirl on Christmas Day to fulfill that dream.

The park was incredible because animals would walk right next to your car.  They’d get so close that you could reach out and touch them, which was tempting (even when considering the fact that I could lose my arm).  I’m not going to lie, when some of the animals got really close, I got a little scared.  One day, I was watching a pack of lions cross the road, when all of a sudden, they turned and headed towards my car.

I was so excited that I began snapping pictures as fast as my huge thumb could click (ask anyone that knows me, I have oversized thumbs.  But you know what they say about guys with big thumbs…).  One of the lions stopped and sat down right next to my car.  At that moment I realized that my windows were rolled down!  I immediately pictured the lion jumping in through the opened window and eating me alive!  As I pictured the lion tearing me apart, I stopped breathing.  I decided not to make any sudden movements, but somehow my whale like thumb kept snapping pictures during my panic attack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

By my second to last day I had seen every animal that I had ever wanted to see, except a cheetah.  That afternoon, I was going on a sunset safari.  Before we set out on the safari, I prayed that I would see a cheetah because that was the reason I had come to South Africa…I mean I really went to do my research and graduate college. As we began driving the guide asked what everyone wanted to see.  I yelled out, “a cheetah!” Although he told me we were unlikely to see one, he said he would try to find some.  When it got dark we turned on big flashlights to spot animals.  The guide pointed out white horned rhinos and some other smaller animals, but I was more interested in looking out for a cheetah.

Right after we had passed the rhinos, the guide slammed on his breaks.  He told everyone that he saw what looked to be a jackal headed down the road.  Everyone got excited.  He turned off all the lights so the animal would continue down the road and not get scared off by any lights.  After a minute he turned the front lights on and said, “No, it’s a cheetah!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

I immediately got up and sprinted to the front of the truck.  Everyone was laughing as they saw my bag and lens cap go flying to the floor.  The cheetah was an awesome sight.  The coolest part was as we followed the cheetah, we found a second cheetah.  We must have spent thirty minutes watching the cheetahs try to find one another.  This was one of the happiest moments of my life.  After 21 years of waiting, I could finally cross off the first item on my bucket list!