Brushing your teeth with tap water and being able to fill a glass from any faucet dramatically simplifies your life, and it is a rare privilege around the world.
In related news, changing all of the accidentally held-over currency from our adventure (well, except for money from Ghana, Egypt, and Tanzania, which couldn’t be changed) covered breakfast at Dulles airport and one round of cocktails in Denver.
Though we are home, we plan to continue updating the blog for some time as we catch up with drafts that we haven’t gotten published, so stay tuned for more travel stories and tips.
There are far too many thoughts, to really ever sum up our safari in one post. I am sure we will make a couple posts over time about specific parts of the trip, or reviewing G adventures whom we did the trip with. In the end though, there is an overwhelming amount of feelings and thoughts that you have over a 24-day overland Africa trip. I won’t begin to try to cover it here, but I did want to write out a few thoughts before they fade from memory. (From Erin — the long and short of it is that it is awesome and you can totally hang. [Even we totally hung, and if you ask around, you will find that I am not low maintenance.] If you are thinking of doing a 24-day overland African safari…just do it…it will be amazing. Sure, sometimes you will be uncomfortable, but mostly, it will be just fine. We had a good time on our G Adventures tour — one awesome guide and one fine guide. We are guessing that other operators do it just fine too. Find an operator with a sale going on, and just book it.)
1. A safari is like a really long unedited version of Discovery channel.
Seriously, all the things you see on animal planet are real, and common — not even that hard to find. You can find a sleeping lion next to it’s kill with baboons taunting it for fun, while a jackal tries to creep in and steal some loose meat from the kill.
2. You will appreciate zoos a bit more
I am not talking about sad zoos that mistreat animals. I am talking about ones with breeding programs for endangered animals. Ones that are helping study animal behavior in responsible ways. Even things like Disney’s animal kingdom, which is massive, and really simulates open wild game parks. There are tons of animals in the wild having their habitats split up and destroyed in ways that will decimate the animal populations. Without study and intervention, some species will die because we don’t understand their migration patterns and we destroyed a part of it.
Some of the breeding programs are the best bets to help some animals survive. Also, when an environment is built really well it can help study animal behavior in less invasive and destructive ways than completely invading the space of the few remaining wild groups of animals.
Finally, having seen some animals in a zoo and as a child, I thought the animals just laid around boring like that because they are in captivity — so not true. Free and wild lions will sleep 20 hours a day, and really don’t give a crap about tourists or most other animals if they aren’t hungry at the moment. So, what you see in a good zoo is a pretty accurate sample of their lifestyle. If you are at a humane zoo, you can see real animals behavior without hours in a hot truck. I am not saying that zoos are the same as safaris, or that we don’t need protected parks if we have zoos, I am just saying that good zoos can be part of the overall solution to protect and fund habitats for the planet’s animal population.
3. Everything is 50/50 in Africa.
Is it going to rain? 50/50
Will we reach camp before sunset? 50/50
Does the campsite have hot water? 50/50
Will we be chased by hyenas when we try to make it to the bathroom in the middle of the night? 50/50
4. After the Safari I have come to appreciate some things much more than I used to, a few examples below:
hooks (particularly in bathroom showers)
showers that don’t electrocute you (we ran into slightly electrocuting water faucets at two different campsites)
flush-able toilets (although I will still take the “long drop” over a flush-able squat toilet)
a back-lit kindle
good headlamps or lanterns
a real bed
non-instant coffee (thanks Joel, for the coffee pot filter trick)
5. You will watch something amazingly beautiful and brutal at the same time
Probably the most interesting thing we watched on safari was a leopard that carried it’s Red Buck kill across the road and then up into a tree. It was pretty incredible to watch and it seemed a bit odd to so casually watch the rawness of life.
“When you see a herd of animals with a predator nearby, you always cheer for the prey. ‘You can do it, run, run…stay together… ‘ but once it is obvious that the predator is going in for the kill, you begin to cheer for the predator, ‘kill, kill,’ because you realize that the lion is hungry… and you want to see it happen.” -Erin
TIA — This is Africa. Sometimes abbreviated TIFA. Our power has been spotty and our internet has been slow, so it has taken some time to get our Thanksgiving post together. But, in honor of my favorite holiday (a whole day focused on family, friends, and food), here it is:
We are thankful for all of the awkward restaurant experiences in China, for the chance to see the Great Wall, and for all of the delicious food and the buzzing culture of Vietnam. We are thankful for getting to see mountain gorillas, paddle boarding on the Nile, watching a leopard drag its kill up a tree, and getting to see the Great Pyramids of Giza. We are grateful for friends who have hosted us in their apartments, taught us about soldier stew, invited us over for a harvest festival dinner, joined us for parts of our journey, and showed us around their new homes in new countries. We are thankful for the amazing people we met on the roads of Africa and who joined us for a not-so-traditional Thanksgiving dinner at a pizzeria on Zanzibar. And we are thankful for our family and friends back home who have promised us some turkey and mashed potatoes in early 2015.
The streets of Vietnam buzz with motorbikes.
Our students in Vietnam.
A mama gorilla with a baby on her back (baby not shown).
One of the evenings we were in Zanzibar, we walked over to a neighboring resort that was hosting a local jam night. After dinner, drinks, and a few dances, we walked back through the village towards our hotel. As we arrived at the hotel, we discovered that the driveway was filled with sleeping goats. (It would be a driveway, anyway, if it was paved and located directly in front of the hotel.)
Me: Why are all of the goats sleeping here?
Masai night guard: Because it is night time and sometimes goats get tired.
Me: No, I understand why they are sleeping…but why are they all sleeping here?
Guard: Well, sometimes when people come into town for the music, the houses fill up and so the goats don’t have their rooms anymore.
Our last stop in Malaysia was Malacca, so we could see something outside of the big city. We had delicious food for next to nothing, and learned some history. The port at Malacca was so important to early trade that it was considered the capital of the world. It lead to some of the first maritime laws, harbor masters, and usages of multiple currencies. The strait of Malacca, now often called the strait of Malaysia, still sees 120,000 ships pass by. No ships really doc with Malacca anymore as Penang and Singapore have long since surpassed this old port town. Now the river leading to the ocean has tour boats and is surrounded by lovely restaurants for tourists, both local and foreign alike.
The Malacca church needs to be straightened out a bit (picture doesn’t show it too well, but it is like the leaning tower of Pisa).
The once famous river that had the largest market in the world, now home of cute cafes, and good Indian food.
Erin tries a mystery egg and sausage stick, got to eat something odd at the night market. The melting honey pastries were the best.
The most delicious food in Malacca, red pork noodles… The locals wait in lines for over an hour to eat these $1.50 noodles… apparently no one has thought to just raise the price 😉
Food is very popular here both locals and tourists line up for hours at the favorite spots. Both the famous chicken rice balls and city satay had over hour long waits… Sadly neither of those was worth the wait, but the red pork noodles mentioned above was easily worth the wait. Duck noodles below had no wait at all and were pretty outstanding as well.