Africa – there and back.

Recently we took a trip to Africa. The primary goal was to kayak the Okavango Delta, for our next volume of Scenes From A Kayak. But while we were taking the time to get there (43 hours’ travel time, one way), we thought we should also take a ground safari, to get extra photos.

I’ve shared these photos on Facebook, but for those who don’t have Facebook, or haven’t seen the images, I’ve brought them into this blog, along with our descriptions. These aren’t all the photos I shared on Facebook, but are, in my opinion, the important highlights. I’ll let Jeremy share his own photos in a separate post, if he wants.

Our flight path was Reno-L.A.-Doha-Johannesburg-Maun. Despite many challenges along the way, we didn’t experience any cancellations or lost luggage on our way to Maun.

Jeremy took pics out the window as we landed in Qatar.

Sunset in Qatar as we headed to Johannesburg, South Africa.

When we landed in Johannesburg (4:30 a.m.-ish), we didn’t have boarding passes for Maun, so we had to wait for the ticket counter to open. We took some time to get a nice breakfast and then found ourselves 2nd in line. With as many challenges as we’d experienced so far with the airlines, we were really nervous, but we were soon about to be issued boarding passes, so we were breathing easy – until the printer for the passes broke down. The result was that we boarded the plane a few hours later with something that I bet not many people have ever experienced: handwritten boarding passes.

Air Botswana turned out to be, well, somewhat of a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants kinda deal. We never really knew when the flight was going to leave, from what gate, or what route it was going to take.

Eventually, we made it to Maun, via Kasane. Our hotel (Cresta Rileys) had a transport van waiting for us, and our hotel room was air conditioned and comfortable.

This is the actual bungalow we’re staying in. Ours is the far right bottom unit. So far weather here (their spring) is similar to our fall. Cool nights, moderate to warm days. Dry. Windy. Turns out the hotel we are staying at is in more of the residential side of Maun, as opposed to the touristy area, which is just fine by us! It’s quiet, and full of friendly people. About a 3-5 minute walk to the local grocery. We’re sitting outside, under a shady umbrella, just enjoying the breeze and scenery. Usually there’s a river, but this year it’s dry, so we’re just seeing cattle, horses, and donkeys. Again, petty much just like home. Jeremy got up fairly early and let me sleep in a bit, which was decadent. Then we had a huge breakfast (buffet, British style) and met with the man who has been helping us coordinate almost everything over here, answering all my questions, etc. That was a treat, because we weren’t sure we’d be able to meet up at all. Glad his schedule changed. The local people here are so nice! We’ve not met one disagreeable person, and everyone has been very understanding of anything we do wrong. Strangers on the street say hello, and while some aren’t overly smiley, everyone is kind in response when we speak to them. It seems to be very appreciated that we learned some local Setswana phrases, only when I used them at the customs station, the lady continued beyond just hello, and I found myself lost. Ha. She, too, was very kind about it. Just loving it here!

We quickly found a nearby pizza place, called Debonair’s Pizza. We had a delicious dinner, from a unique company.

We arrived in Maun on Monday afternoon, and on Wednesday morning we left on our ground safari. It was extremely amazing!

This first upload is from August 21, our trip from Maun to Khwai, and everything we saw along the way.

Our guide and camp chef/manager met us at Old Bridge Backpacker’s in Shorobe, and then we drove for hours on washboard and deeply-rutted soft-sand/dirt roads. Dry, dusty, bouncy … and beautiful!

Along the way, our guide stopped to buy something at a roadside stand. There was a little boy there who couldn’t have been much more than 4 or 5. When he turned around and saw us in the safari vehicle, the look on his face was priceless as he started hollering, “Motto mosweu!!” (“White people!!”) haha. He wanted to make sure everyone was fairly warned of the imminent danger. After that we saw increasingly fewer people and increasingly more animals.

Many of the animals shown here, in the first upload, might have been photographed better in subsequent days, but I wanted to at least show how wonderfully our guide did as these were all photographed before our first camp site was even set up. I’ve identified all the animals to the best of my abilities, but it’s possible I may get something wrong.

The drive was amazing and each photo has further information or stories.

Sitting in the safari vehicle at Old Bridge Backpackers, in Shorobe. Our first sighting of the Lilac-Breasted Roller. 8-21-19

Southern Giraffes. 8-21-19

Impala. There are a bazillion of them in the Okavango. 8-21-19

Helmeted Guinefowl. 8-21-19

Red-Billed Spurfowl. 8-21-19

African Jacana. 8-21-19

Hadeda Ibis family – I didn’t realize while we were shooting it, but I think the one on the left had a chick beneath it! πŸ™‚ 8-21-19

Magpie Shrike. 8-21-19

Egyptian Geese. 8-21-19

Nile Crocodile. “Never smile at a crocodile …” 8-21-19

And just a couple seconds later – glancing at this scene, you wouldn’t even see the crocodile at first! Good hiders! 8-21-19

Water Thick-Knee. 8-21-19

Fighting (playing?) hippos. That thick stuff we’re in? We kayaked through that stuff and it is VERY difficult! 8-21-19

There are a lot of shots where I find myself asking, now that we’re back in the States and I’m able to go through photos, “Uh, why did I take 27 shots of that log/bush/river?” See the next photo for the “reveal” … 8-21-19

Little baby leopard cubs! There were two of them. πŸ™‚ 8-21-19

Beautiful adult female leopard. 8-21-19

Another shot of the leopard. After this she was on the hunt, so we let her be. Don’t want to interrupt that! 8-21-19

A scene that I thought was gorgeous at the beginning of our trip, and terrifying, by the end. 8-21-19

Cape Buffalo. 8-21-19

A closer view of a sleeping lioness when she woke up. I just think her face is so beautiful! 8-21-19

The rest of the pride was sacked out in the shade. So sweet looking. πŸ™‚ 8-21-19

Beautiful ellie, beautiful light! 8-21-19

These were the elephants at the beginning of our campground area. You’ll see lots more photos from here in subsequent days, as it was a very popular watering spot. Some of these elephants, when they would meet up, would “greet” each other, stand close, wrap trunks around each other, feed each other water. It was very sweet to watch. And gorgeous sunset light. 8-21-19

nd, the end of the day, when the camp was almost completely set up. This was our camp site for 3 nights in Khwai. My favorite of all the spots – just gorgeous. 8-21-19

Adding day 2, now, with game drives around Khwai. Our guide was feeling sick. He’d been taking medicine to try to help a cough, and he just looked like he was suffering, so I kept asking if he was ok, and telling him it’s ok for us to take a night off or something, so he could rest, but he kept insisting he was ok. Come to find out, the REASON he was sick … it made me so angry! The tour group he’d been leading prior to ours, apparently the bookers mistakenly thought some of the members of the group would be sharing tents, but they ended up not wanting to, so our guide and whoever was out there with him had to sleep in the frickin’ safari truck! In the OPEN, in Africa’s winter. Believe me, it was COLD. In the morning I was wearing a long-sleeve tech tee, another zip-up tech jacket, and then a fleece on top. Wool socks, long pants, and STILL needed a blanket when we were out driving around. I’m flabbergasted that anyone on one of these tours could even sleep at night, knowing this was going on. I don’t care how it worked out, I would have found some way to make sure the tour guides did NOT sleep out in the cold at night, even if it meant sharing a tent with someone I hadn’t planned on. Come on! Obviously they were all part of one group together if the bookers thought they’d be sharing tents. How could you do that and let someone suffer?? I was so pissed when I heard that. Anyway, I think maybe he kinda took me up on my offer, but instead of staying in and taking the night “off,” he took us to the watering hole at the entrance to our campground, and let us spend the evening watching the elephants interact, which was wholly fascinating. At the end of it he said, “You know, you got some unique photos that not everyone gets, because you spent the time to watch for a while.” We were thrilled, and that way he got to just sit and close his eyes for a bit, and not have to be driving around on rough roads, trying to spot some animal or another. As we told him, he’d already given us WAY more than we ever expected to see anyway, so that was awesome. The next day he seemed to feel much better, so that made me feel good. We all know what it’s like to have to work when you’re sick, but to have to work out there, in those conditions? No way.

… the better to smell you with, my dear! 8-22-19

Plains Zebra, in profile. 8-22-19

The zebra ran off and found some friends! πŸ™‚ 8-22-19

Rim-lit Lioness. So gorgeous. 8-22-19

We didn’t take many selfies, but couldn’t resist, with this beautiful lady in the background. πŸ™‚

White-Backed Vultures, feasting on what I think, judging by the horns, is a Wildebeest, killed by lions the night before. 8-22-19

White-Backed Vultures. 8-22-19

And then, panning right, we see a Black-Backed Jackal. Our guide explained that the kill starts out with the lions, who are often chased away by hyenas, who are often chased away by/replaced by (when the hyenas have had enough) jackals. And then next come the birds – eagles and vultures, etc. 8-22-19

However, this Black-Backed Jackal was not interested in sharing just quite yet, as he chased away a group of White-Backed Vultures and what looks, to me, in the back, like a Hooded Vulture. 8-22-19

I couldn’t resist one more photo of this beautiful Black-Backed Jackal, chasing away vultures, because you can really see its beautiful coat and markings, here. 8-22-19

A pretty terrifying thing to come around the corner and see, a huge hippo! But I loved the shot. You can see his whiskers! 8-22-19

The hippo found his way to friends on the water, where they were joined by a Red-Billed Oxpecker and some Squacco Herons. Part of the reason the kayak tour had game walks in the morning and evening, was because those are the times the hippos are on the move and more dangerous. At night they get out of the water to eat and sleep, and in the day they’re back in the water. 8-22-19

Wattled Crane and an African Sacred Ibis. Sure gives you perspective on the size of the crane! 8-22-19

Coppery-Tailed Coucal. 8-22-19

African Openbill (we took a lot of photos of these guys) πŸ™‚ 8-22-19

Female Waterbuck. 8-22-19

Male and Female Waterbuck. Just look at those gorgeous horns! 8-22-19

A little closer/clearer shot of a Lilac-Breasted Roller. 8-22-19

We made a few jokes about how this shot was basically the supporting cast of The Lion King, all in one photo. πŸ™‚ Zebras, Warthogs, and Impala. 8-22-19

A very patient Tawny Eagle. In general, they were far less skittish than the Fish Eagles. 8-22-19

Male and female Tsessebe. 8-22-19

A classic African standoff between a crocodile and a hippo. My guess is the hippo was being aggressive about the croc who thought it’d be ok if he came in the water, too, so they were having a little chat about it. πŸ™‚ 8-22-19

We came across these Male Lions laying in the shade, again shooting from pretty far away. They were both lying flat and nearly impossible for us to see. Our guide played a cell phone recording of the lion sounds, and no response. Then he made a lion moaning sound himself and pop! Up came the one lion’s head as he looked around for the interloper! 8-22-19

Watching the elephants crossing the river, from camp. 8-22-19

I laid down for a short nap in the afternoon, but couldn’t resist taking a pic of the leaves reflected on the tent wall, first. 8-22-19

We spent the evening watching the huge herds of elephants come and go from the watering hole. It was a pure joy! More sweet elephant love upon greeting one another. πŸ™‚ 8-22-19

We would often catch an elephant jauntily hanging its trunk over its tusk. An elephant’s trunk has 40,000 muscles in it (the human body only has 639), so I’m betting your trunk gets tired after you use it a lot! 8-22-19

Beautiful Pied Kingfisher that we were also watching along with the elephants. I just love these little birds. 8-22-19

And how about some Pied Kingfisher with a little baby elephant butt in the background? πŸ™‚ 8-22-19

Not all elephant greetings were friendly. I was watching this drama unfold as the elephant with its back to us really wanted the other to leave, and it wouldn’t, so … (see next photo) 8-22-19

This was the breaking point – the moment the elephants ran at each other and knocked skulls! It was LOUD! The elephant with its back to us finally ended up the victor and the other elephant begrudgingly moved on. 8-22-19

The Milky Way as seen from the campfire. “When you see the Southern Cross for the first time You understand now why you came this way. ‘Cause the truth you might be runnin’ from is so small But it’s as big as the promise, the promise of a coming day.” – Crosby, Stills & Nash 8-22-19

Day 3. LT really wanted to try to find us wild dogs, so we went to a more dry section in the area. I am just horrible with directions, so I couldn’t tell you where it was, it was just very different from the watery spots. Along the way, we came across a spot where people were telling him there were lions. Well, we found it all right. As did a hundred other safari vehicles. When we pulled in, all you could see is that there were lions laying on the ground, in the shadows, and they were completely surrounded by vehicles. Definitely not Jeremy’s and my thing. LT was trying to maneuver us a way in to get closer to see them, and we told him nevermind, don’t bother. As we were leaving, he seemed really upset, and said, “You know, there was a kill there. And this may be your last chance to see the lions.” We both felt we already had pretty good lion photos, and just didn’t want to crowd around a couple of lions sleeping in the shade, which were already surrounded by a mob scene. From my journal the next day: “We said ‘no thanks’ and I think he was offended. I actually asked him and he said he wasn’t upset, but I still feel like he was. And it didn’t seem to improve his mood when, about 2-3 minutes after leaving that spot, we saw a beautiful lioness walking in golden light. We were thrilled!!” And later … “We set off for our evening game drive at around 4, and on the way out of the campground we saw baboons, so stopped a couple times for photos. At one point one of them barked (sounded just like a dog) and they were all looking one direction, and then we heard it – a lion groan! LT was hot on its trail, listening, watching tracks, and then, there it was! Coming out of the wooded area was a beautiful young male lion. And then, another! And then, a third! We were in photo heaven! Golden, pre-sunset light as two of them made their way to the water – the photos are amazing! LT finally seemed to have shaken off the morning. ” This was also the day the elephants were so close to camp and we got great photos of them, and the afternoon Moses took our pic with the elephants in the background.

Southern Ground Hornbill. 8-23-19

I guess the male Waterbuck didn’t like being called bullseye-bottom. πŸ˜‰ 8-23-19

Latest African punk band? Nope. The Grey Louries, or “Go Away” birds! The sound they make sounded like a baby having a temper tantrum, to me. Apparently they are notorious for making that noise when they sense danger. So I was never clear about whether they were called the “Go Away” bird because they were telling the danger to go away, or because the hunters wanted them to go away and stop giving them away. 8-23-19

Fork-Tailed Drongo. 8-23-19

Greater Kudu. I’m thinking maybe mom and youngster. 8-23-19

Male Kudu. 8-23-19

This was the scene of the first lions, that I talk about in the album description. Upon thinking further about this, it could be that LT was upset with the lady tour guide on the left. There is this kind of unspoken rule, it seems, out there, that when there’s something big, like a lion kill, the tour guides share the news with each other and then also help allow each other (and the people they’re guiding) to see as well. As it was explained to us, he was asking her if she could back up a little, so we could see, too, and she told him no, that her people weren’t done looking yet. So he had apparently “negotiated” with her to let us in after a few minutes, when they were done. But this isn’t the kind of experience Jeremy and I were looking for.

Look at the muscles on this beautiful girl! 8-23-19

Sweet little Steenbok. So very tiny and dainty! 8-23-19

Juvenile Giraffe … so dang cute. And can you see his face? His little teeth are showing and it looks like he’s smiling for the camera. 8-23-19

Warthog, digging up roots. 8-23-19

Openbill, feasting on the tasty snail he just spent like 3 minutes trying to crack open. This was right at the shoreline of our camp. 8-23-19

Elephants, photographed while sitting at camp. The little tiny guy was so fuzzy and adorable! I’ll post a detail shot next so you can really see the fuzz. 8-23-19

Fuzzy baby ellie! Detail of the prior photo. 8-23-19

Jeremy and LT, just having a chat at camp, while the elephants meander by.

Photo of us, taken by Moses.

Chacma Baboon. Look at that little baby’s ears!! So, so adorable. These were the baboons that alerted us to the presence of lions. 8-23-19

Well that’s not intimidating at all! 8-23-19

The third, and largest, brother – I called him “Scar.” He was by far my favorite. It’s not as easy to see in this photo, but I’m pretty sure, in looking at other pics, that right eye is actually completely gone. He’s seen a rough life so far, but he is gorgeous. The next three photos are of him. 8-23-19

Scar, drinking water, with a few brave remaining elephants in the background. 8-23-19

Maybe my own personal favorite photo of all I took during our ground safari. Maybe my fave of them all, I’m not sure. I love it and I think Scar is just the most beautiful lion. 8-23-19

Portrait of a cat named Scar. 8-23-19

One last sunset photo before heading back to our site for the evening.

Days 4 & 5. Packed up camp right at sunrise, and headed from Khwai to Xakanaxa. Basically from wet to dry. Had we understood, when we made the arrangements for this ground safari, what was involved in setting up a camp, we would not have done the “Yeah, let’s just add one more day at a new location!” thing. *whew* So we drove, got there, set up, went on one game drive, then got up the next morning and packed up camp for the last time, and basically did a game drive out to the main road and headed back to Maun.

Spotted Hyena. I was really tickled to get a better opportunity for a photo of one, even if it wasn’t holding onto the leg of anything. They are just gorgeous! 8-24-19

You know the face you get from young kids when you tell them to smile at the camera? πŸ˜‰ 8-24-19

We watched this lioness stalk a warthog family for quite a while. I really wish I could have gotten video of her taking off once she decided to attack (she missed) but we were there for quite a while and my arm/shoulder weren’t strong enough to hold my camera up that long. It was fascinating to watch her process, though, and amazing that she could get so close without the warthogs knowing anything. 8-24-19

Vervet Monkey. 8-24-19

Southern Red-Billed Hornbill. We chased these guys quite a bit. Jeremy REALLY wanted to get a shot of one flying, but I’m not sure whether he ever did or not. We had lots of jokes about the taunting hornbills. 8-24-19

Arrow-Marked Babblers, checking out the food containers. 8-24-19

LT, Moses, Jeremy and me, at our Xakanxa camp. 8-24-19

Double-Banded Sandgrouse (male, I believe – the females don’t have such bold bands). 8-24-19

Elephants at sunset. These African sunsets and sunrises take your breath away. 8-24-19

This time we lucked out and got Juvenile Giraffes at sunset, too. 8-24-19

On the way back to camp, nearly dark, we saw a pair of Side-Striped Jackals. Tough to shoot them in the low light, but gorgeous! 8-24-19

Sunrise at our camp in Xakanaxa. 8-25-19

How in the world our guide spotted this leopard in the tree, while driving and coated in a seemingly ever-present dust cloud is beyond me. But he saw it and once I saw it too, I shot as quickly as I could. I was so grateful to have gotten a shot of a leopard up in a tree, where they spend so much time. This one was way more shy than the last one we photographed, and moved to a more remote part of the tree pretty quickly. 8-25-19

Slender Mongoose. It ran across the road we were driving on and then kindly stopped and posed for a picture. 8-25-19

My last shot on our ground safari, and the best photo I got of a Fishing Eagle the whole darn time. 8-25-19

Once in Maun, we spent one night at our hotel (Cresta Rileys – wonderful people, wonderful place!) doing laundry, buying some essentials for the next trip out, charging batteries, showering, etc. The next day, August 26, we were off once more, this time for our much-anticipated kayak portion of the trip. Since there was a pretty severe drought this year, the kayaking was moved from the western side of the Delta (where they would follow behind with a power boat, which served double-duty as equipment-hauling and hippo-scaring), to the eastern side, as all the water this year flowed to the east of Chief’s Island. This meant no power boats, and a slightly different plan of attack. Normally, as we understood it, kayakers are taken to the northernmost point and allowed a somewhat leisurely paddle down the Okavango, with the current. This year, we had to be driven an hour and a half to the starting point, and then spent the next 2.5 days paddling against the current, through some of the toughest conditions I’ve ever paddled. We were out there for 4 days, and paddled about 26 miles, which doesn’t sound much for anyone who’s an experienced kayaker, but I hope once you see some of the conditions, you might better understand some of our challenges.

The one thing we hadn’t seen with LT and Moses, that I really, really hoped we would, were the Wild Dogs. Imagine my sheer surprise and pure delight when, on our drive to our kayak spot, we came across a hunting pack! They were hunting “Eric’s goats.” Now, I don’t know who Eric is, but our driver did, so he called authorities, because Wild Dogs are very much protected, but farmers will shoot them if they threaten their herds. He wanted to make sure someone came and chased the pack elsewhere, to keep them safe. So we followed them for quite a while as they hunted and I couldn’t have been more thrilled! My gosh they are just GORGEOUS! I could fill an album up just with pictures of them, and I could have gladly shot them all day, but here’s just a smattering.

African Wild Dogs! I almost cried, they were so gorgeous. 8-26-19

I felt like this one was possibly the pack alpha. It kept itself most prominent and between us and the rest of the pack much of the time. 8-26-19

Generally when we kayak, we have time to stop, enjoy the scenery, swap lenses, if necessary, take as many photos as we want, move on.

That was not the case kayaking the Okavango, where so many things might want to kill you. As I explained above, we spent the first 2.5 days paddling UPstream, against the current, in extremely challenging conditions. It also didn’t help that I was paddling with a shoulder impingement, made worse by bursitis and a touch of arthritis. I’d tried to fix it before we came to Africa, but none of the treatments worked, and now I’m likely looking at surgery. At any rate, given how it was playing out, I knew Jeremy was shooting with the long lens, so I opted for the wide lens (which is pretty much how we shoot events, too, to make sure we get the best, most complete coverage), and therefore I believe Jeremy will have more (and better) wildlife shots from the water. Most of my wildlife was photographed while on game hikes, which would happen the first couple hours after sunrise and the last couple hours before sunset, to allow the hippos to safely come out of the water in the evenings and go back to the water in the mornings. Those would be the most dangerous times to encounter them with the kayaks. The rest of my explanations will be on the photos themselves.

Just getting started … 8-26-19

I would say about 50% of the paddling was winding our way (again, AGAINST the current for the first 2.5 days) through this stuff. When it got too tight/overgrown, we would just pull ourselves along by the weeds, and not bother trying to maneuver the paddles. At these points they were more of a bother, anyway. So, when I say we paddled 26 miles in 4 days, you can imagine that about 13 of it was through stuff like this. Thankfully, going through it WITH the current (for our trip back on the last day) was way, way easier. 8-26-19

Little Bee-Eater, at our first campsite. The technical name includes the word “Little.” 8-26-19

Termite Mounds. They are hard as rocks! You can stand on them with no damage, and it seems the only thing that actually destroys them (besides the aardvarks) is when something big, like an elephant, uses it as a scratching post. πŸ™‚ 8-26-19

We watched her, silently, for a long time, on our game walk. I was hoping she’d take a drink, but nope, after this she decided we were too scary, and went about her business. 8-26-19

Zebras and wildebeest at sunset. 8-26-19

Angry hippo, launching itself out of the water at us. Thankfully just a bluff. 8-27-19

Putting on towstraps. This vegetation was so thick, and its roots are all right along the top of the water (see the glop on my bow, which had come up with one of the strokes of my paddle). We had to get through a LOT of this and I didn’t have the upper body strength to do it quickly, so our guide threw on a tow strap and helped me out. 8-27-19

At our 2nd night’s campsite (which we kept for the 3rd night, as well), we were able to stand in the Okavango Delta and on the Kalahari Desert, simultaneously. πŸ™‚ 8-27-19

Breakfast. This is how all our meals were cooked. It was amazing what the guides could do over an open fire! 8-28-19

Jeremy, trying his hand at poling a mokoro. He did WAY better than me! 8-28-19

Me, poling the mokoro. Very awkward, and I nearly hit poor Tour a few times with the pole as I pitched forward. He was a really good sport about it. 8-28-19

A sunset mokoro selfie, at sunset. It was supposed to be a nice, relaxing ending to our kayak excursion, but in the end it was exactly the opposite.

“The” elephant. We were in the mokoro, and he was trying to decide whether or not we were a threat. In the end, we apparently were, as next thing I knew the mokoro was SHOOTING backwards and that elephant was in the water, trying to attack us. Had we been in kayaks, I don’t believe I would have been able to respond quickly enough to get away in time. This was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced. 8-28-19

There was less than 1 minute’s time between the last photo and this one, taken AFTER the elephant had charged and Tour had gotten us safely away in the mokoro (which I didn’t know could move that fast!) You can see the spray of water as the elephant charged and stomped around in it. 8-28-19

This was about half a minute later, he was still stomping, and I think at this point deciding if he wanted to keep pursuing us. We were stopped along the shoreline, and Tour then had us get out of the boat, in case we needed to take cover in the nearby trees. Thankfully, he eventually crossed the river and went on his way, suspiciously eyeing us as he went. In looking at this photo, I think this bull was in musth (basically like elks or moose being in rut), and therefore more aggressive. There is a gland behind their eyes that weeps when this happens, and it definitely looks like you can see that in this photo. 8-28-19

A post-elephant-attack calm moment. Tour had parked the mokoro to go relieve himself (and, if I were to guess, maybe to take a moment to breathe and shake out the lactic acid from his poling us away from danger). So I took a shot of little dragonfly, checking us out. In reality, I was trying to distract myself because I was still pretty shaken up, and feeling very exposed, just sitting in an open, beached, mokoro. 8-28-19

Last morning out in the Okavango. Not all the sunrises were that deep orange – some were beautiful pastels, like this! You can see our kayaks on the lower right. This is the last photo I took that day. I was still really rattled by the elephant attack, and knew we had to paddle about 11 miles out to meet our driver by 3:30 back at the starting point. I also knew we’d be going through more swampy, winding areas. My shoulder was killing me, I was tired, beaten up, nervous about the wildlife and really, just ready to be off the water and safe in a hotel room. So, my camera stayed in my dry bag the whole way back. We had a few scares with hippos, but nothing as bad as the night before. Enough stress that it affected my blood sugar, though, and I was very, very glad when we finally saw the safari vehicle, back at the starting point. I’m glad we did this kayaking portion, and I have no desire to ever do it again. Maybe, MAYBE, if it was in a non-drought year, and back on the western side of the Delta, but this was way more stress than I want when I’m out on the water. We got back to our hotel at about 5:30 or 6 that night, ordered room service burgers and beer, and relaxed. We spent the next day doing some shopping, packing, went out to a new place for lunch, and ended with another Debonair’s Pizza for dinner. The next morning we were up for breakfast, then hung out in the hotel ’til checkout, just reading, relaxing, catching up on social media. Then began the long journey home. 8-29-19

Beaten up.

As many of you who have been following our journey know, our 10-hour flight from Johannesburg, South Africa, to Doha, Qatar, was delayed due to equipment issues in Durban (where the flight was coming from). As a result, we missed our connecting 16-hour flight from Doha to L.A. There’s only one flight a day for that route, so Qatar Airways put us up for the night.

We got to our hotel at about 9 a.m., and immediately took naps. We then got up, showered, and headed out for a wonderful late Mediterranean lunch where we ate way too much, but it felt great.

Afterwards, we decided to venture out into the city to see some sights. I felt a little conspicuous and insensitive to the local culture, going out in my travel shorts, so I wore Jeremy’s pants. Not a great fit, but at least I didn’t feel like I was being rude to everyone around me.

We started out walking around Souq Waqif (open-air market/bazaar with mostly textiles and touristy stuff) and made our way to the waterfront, where we met up with a cabbie, Pradeep (from India) who gave us a 2-hour tour of the city for $50 (USD). It was 106ΒΊ F (41ΒΊ C) with 64% humidity, so the prospect of sitting in an air-conditioned car to continue our explorations was a very attractive one.

Doha was the richest, cleanest city we’ve ever seen! It’s made to look old, but in actuality has only been around in its modern style for about 45 years. Everywhere you turned, there were the highest-end shops for luxury cars, perfumes and clothing. We wouldn’t even dare walk into any of them (can only imagine what they’d think of scruffy, exhausted, relatively-poor tourists like us! haha). Everyone in the city, however, treated us SO well and with the very utmost respect. I was very impressed by everyone and everything.

A rare selfie of two tired, steamy, sweaty accidental tourists with the Qatar skyline behind. So freakin’ hot here, with way too much humidity.

The Blue Mosque (it looks more blue in person, and from the back). 9-2-19

This is a pigeon house! Right next to the mosque. I love that they treat the birds with so much regard and respect. And it was CLEAN … just like every other part of the city. 9-2-19

Cityscape of Doha, with the Museum of Islamic Art on the side. By this point it was almost 8 p.m. and we had to be up at 4 a.m. to catch our flight the next day, so we asked if Pradeep could take us back to our hotel, gave him a nice tip, and then promptly went to sleep. We’d eaten such a huge lunch, there was no need for dinner. Next morning, we were off and running again. Our luggage, however, stayed in Qatar for an extended visit. We got it 4 days after we landed in L.A.

In the end, Africa was really not like anything I expected, even though I tried very hard to keep my expectations to a minimum. It was wonderful and beautiful and terrifying and exhausting and almost everything in-between. I was very glad to be there, and I was very glad to be home. They say that’s the perfect vacation, and I can’t really argue much.

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