A Travellerspoint blog

Sao Paulo

Ola Brazil & Our First Steps On South American Soil

sunny 28 °C

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Back again after a short hiatus... almost approaching the end of our journey and our currently touring our 2nd maybe 3rd last country (Chile is still a maybe). But here is our first post on South America... Brazil. After a lengthy delay with our flight in Johannesburg (did I write about it yet??) we finally cleared customs and boarded our flight across the Pacific (great flight with South African Airways by the way) arriving in Sao Paulo after a short 10 hour flight lol. To be honest jet-lag didn't effect me at all this time around (maybe this was due to gaining time instead of losing it??) and we managed to navigate our way out of the airport with relative ease... that being said we took 1 bus and 3 different subways to reach our hostel lol... no biggie at this point in the journey. Let me first say this: Sao Paulo is MASSIVE!! Biggest city in South America by a long shot (rough estimate 18-20 million people) and we hadn't seen a city this massive since China. Here's our first glance of the mega-city after getting off our last train...

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Traded lions and rhinos for skyscrapers and more skyscrapers lol. That night we just took it easy, caught up on some sleep and planned our next few days out on the town. The following morning we caught a train right into the heart of the city to soak up a bit of the culture and to get a grasp of the size of the Sao Paulo beast.

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That's there main cathedral in the heart of the city (not to old actually... but quite beautiful).

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View of the square from on the steps of the church...

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Quite a lot of homeless people in the square... and the odd weirdo lol...

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I find it really fascinating that at this stage in our journey nothing can really phase us. It all really just becomes quite normal after travelling for 10+ months and arriving in a new country, let alone new continent, surrounded by 18-20 million other people that don't speak your language, is really no big deal. If I were to compare it to arriving in Tokyo last September it would be night and day different. Back then it was like 'how are we gonna do this' or 'how will we get there'... that edge is gone now and replaced with this rather calm and steadfast confidence that whatever this city will throw at us WE WILL HANDLE IT JUST FINE (so much in fact that I feel you could transplant us in 90% of the world's cities and we would be perfectly alright). However Brazil from the on slot reminded us so much like Japan. Your wondering 'What??'. Not for the culture and scenery of course but rather for the simple fact that there is a huge language barrier. Let me first set the record straight that Brazil IS NOT SPANISH... they speak Portuguese. And hardly anyone speaks a lick of english, including even most hostel staff (this can make it very difficult to plan a day or arrange transportation options). Now I know some of you may be thinking 'no shit... learn the language if you want to travel there anglophone' but seriously you try learning 10-15 different languages in a year. Good luck. We both tried the best we could to cram in our Portuguese lessons in the car in SA and honestly learned the basics... but that's really not enough. Most of the time your resorting to hand gestures and charades lol.

After a hour or so around the church and square we proceeded to grab some lunch and tour the never-ending downtown (it's all downtown as you will soon see).

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Our first tourist stop of the day was to a building modelled after the Empire States Building (only way shorter and less cool lol...) that had an observatory at the top with astounding views of the city.

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Check out the never ending city of Sao Paulo... in order this should give you a decent 360 of the entire city.

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They only allowed 5 people at a time on top so we only had about 5 minutes or so. I'm still blow away by the size of the place! Crazy big and intimidating.

Lots of bikes around town...

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Did you notice all the graffiti? Ya well it's everywhere in Brazil and I mean everywhere! Half the time you look up at a building and your like 'how the hell...'

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That tag type of shit is on everything and it's as ugly as sin. Wish I could read it lol. Next we went to take a look at a few other famous buildings downtown: the Italian building (I think tallest in Sao Paulo) and a building designed by the famous South American architect Oscar Niemeyer that looks like a 'S'.

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Once again we went to the top of the tower and got a free birds eye view of the city... unreal!

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The following day we decided to partake in something that Sao Paulo is renowned for... it's culture and museums. They claim that there are over 150 museums in the city alone and I don't think they're over estimating. Whatever Sao Paulo lacks in charm it makes up for in culture. For whatever reason the city tends to get a bad name and of course Rio seals all the international attention. But to be honest we both enjoyed the city and for its gargantuan size was relatively easy to get around thanks to its modern subway system. Our plan was to first head down to the National Art Museum which was supposed to be free that day (thanks Lonely Planet for ONCE AGAIN SHIT INFO lol)...

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Lol... an interesting building (not pictured... because it WASN"T FREE we didn't go in and because it was ridiculously expensive... so why photograph it?). Instead we opted to travel south towards two contemporary art galleries and Sao Paulo most famous park Ibirapuera Park (often compared to central park in NYC).

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A theatre designed by Oscar Niemeyer... looks like a cheese block with a tongue lol...

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Like I've said before contemporary art galleries are interesting... but more often than not... shit lol. This time it was the later. But they're usually free and thought provoking to some extent.

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Like here's an interesting piece: it's a table with paper sail boats and behind said table is a painting of a storm... oh look the table's broken... wow lol.

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And that's it for Sao Paulo guys. We really wanted to go watch a football game (soccer North Americans lol) but it didn't quite work out. At this point we were still rather unsure about what to make of Brazil but by the time we reached Rio De Janeiro our minds were collectively made up. You'll have to wait to find out our opinion next time.... in Blair & Stacey's World Tour!!!! lol.

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Posted by ttbwarren 18:24 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

Kruger National Park

Our Run In With The "Big 5"... & Much, Much More

sunny 20 °C

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It pains me a bit to begin this one... our last South Africa post. What a memorable time it was. This last post is all to do with our safari experience in Kruger National Park which is situated in the north eastern corner of the country right along the Mozambique border. But first here is a map chronicling our time spent in SA... a lot of miles were covered. God I miss travelling by car! (I'll update you later on our recent 4 day bus ride saga across the middle of South America)


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After travelling nearly the whole way across the country in one day, we picked up our visas in Jo'burg and did a little souvenir shopping. The following day we headed off north-east again but this time to the little town of Hazyview (which is located just outside one of the parks main entrances) where we spent the night so we could enter the park the second it opened.

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I better fill you in a little on how the park operates... a safari in Kruger Park is significantly different from our previous experience in the Serengeti for one main reason alone: YOU DRIVE YOURSELF IN YOUR OWN CAR AND YOUR THE GUIDE. How cool is that? So ya, we took our little rental car into the park for two days of wildlife watching. First off the roads are light years ahead of what they were in Tanzania and taking a compact car in is perfectly fine. Most of the main roads are paved and even the gravel ones are in fairly good shape. The park is really quite large (nothing compared to the Serengeti of course) and it seems even larger because all roads are enforced with a 40-50km/hr speed limit. To give you a basic idea of the park here's a map showing the main roads and camps...

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One unfortunate thing about the park is that it is extremely popular (easy now to see why) and only so many people per day are allowed to enter. Due to our visa situation among other things we were unable to book accommodations far in advance and were left with only a few options. We really wanted to camp, but were only able to book one night in a bungalow. But get this... that only cost us $100 and our park fees for 2 days were only $30 each! Talk about a steal of a deal to see the most amazing animals on the planet. So looking at the map, Day 1 we entered from the Phabeni Gate, drove all the way down to Lower Sabie and then up to Satara where we had booked our bungalow. Day 2 we drove back down to Sukuza (Paul Kruger Gate) and then towards Numbi Gate before making our way out the way we came in. That's the play by play... on to the pictures.

Impalas first thing in the morning... (I've eaten them and they're delicious! Lions got a good thing going on lol)

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Our first encounter with a member of the Big 5... and the biggest we had seen at this point ever!

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One thing you have to remember is that we're in this little car at like 6:30 in the morning and not another living soul is around... just Stacey, me and these massive African Elephants!

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Don't get me wrong I loved cruising around in a Landcruiser hanging out the top snapping pictures, but at Kruger you get SO CLOSE to the wildlife. That and you get that extra little danger factor that the only thing protecting you is your car... and a dinky little Korean car at that lol.

Our second member of the Big 5 only a short distance after...

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The Water Buffalo. I love how their whole skull is a massive clump of horn...

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Like I've explained before I'm terrible at the bird species... but we enjoy photographing them... I believe we took over a 1000 pictures in the 2 days we were inside the park... and trust me we could have took more lol. We probably spent over a hour just trying to select which ones we thought would be good for the blog... so many gems.

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Here's one of an elephants butt... lol... damn thats a chappy ass...

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We stopped for a quick break at Sukuza Camp mid-morning (the main camps have gas stations, stores, restaurants, ATMS etc) and saw a family of warthogs just roaming around the parking lot.

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Man are they ever ugly bastards! And those tusks... I can see how they kill people. Here's a quick few shots of impalas again... damn they are sexy looking deer lol.

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By this point it was almost noon... not bad... 2 out of 5 already... and then...

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We pull up to a spot on the road where 2 other cars are parked and there right on the road is this young female lioness. Very curious about the cars too. Never in my life did I ever dream to get that close in the wild to a lion!

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Amazing!! That's Kruger in a nutshell. One minute your just driving around wishing to see a lion and then BHAM there's a lion walking on the road beside you. Never a dull moment. Of course there were also baboons...

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After about half a day of scanning the bush for action you start to develop pretty good ranger-like abilities and a keen eye lol. Believe what you want to but I spied this little guy as we were driving... a Banded Mongoose.

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If your feeling adventures punch in "Mongoose Vs King Cobra" on YouTube and see what comes up. I still can't believe that those little weasels can kill huge snakes. Incredible.

This next guy is NOT a member of the Big 5... not sure why exactly or who came up with the Big 5... if a Water Buffalo can make the list then surely a Hippo should be on it lol...

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Here's a picture of an eagle... not a bald eagle but very similar...

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Number 4 of the Big 5... the leopard!

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That was the best shot we could get of him/her due to the tree cover. They aren't usually very active during the heat of the day so we figured we shouldn't waste too much time trying to get a photo of something that won't happen. Besides we were already extremely blessed to spot one in Tanzania and got some great photos. To be honest with you the only animals that were must sees on our list were the ones we hadn't already seen... let's call it Blair & Stacey's Big 3 - Rhino, Cheetah, and Hyena. All unfortunately extremely rare and difficult to spot... but we held out hope and continued on to a popuar watering hole.

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That was all in one small area! We just parked the car and enjoyed. Some people sat and had lunch. Nature puts on a pretty amazing show at times. Just to give you a better idea of what I'm talking about look at this next picture and see how many different species you can count.

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Did you notice the Croc swimming in the water? There were several on the banks too and the other animals really didn't shy away from them too much. Who would have thought?

You can visit Kruger Park year round but like anywhere in the world it has its seasons. We showed up during the dry season which is an excellent time to spot game because water is relatively scarce and the vegetation not as thick. Therefore if you travel towards areas with a constant source of water you have an exceptional chance of spotting almost anything.

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Shortly after leaving the watering hole we spied some Hornbills (can't remember their name off hand). But they're massive and they can't fly so they just walk along the roadside minding their own business. We both kind of found it creepy how human their eyes look, eyelashes and all. Almost as if it's a person trapped inside a birds body lol.

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After making our way down to Lower Sabie we turned around and went north towards our camp. Not long afterwards we spotted this beast up ahead on the road.

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By far the biggest we have ever seen and still holds the record to date! Look at all that ivory!

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Here is one of our top pics of the trip...

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He was raising his ears at us because we were too close lol. Not gonna lie... got a bit scared at that point... dinky Korean car and all lol.

Brief stop at a look-out point to stretch the legs.

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Here's one you don't see everyday... a Kudu... which also taste delicious lol.

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Look at that rack! Every Canadian hunters wet dream lol.

Just another everyday sight at Kruger...

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That picture really does a good job of summing up the beauty of the place. I mean you don't even have to be paying attention our looking around. The wildlife is just so abundant that they literally come right to you. Truly an amazing spectacle to behold.

Here's a view of our neighbourhood of bungalows. It's literally like the lake in Canada... people book cabins for weeks at a time, set up there little area and go game watching everyday. Talk about a great vacation.

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That night we had ourselves a braai like the rest of our neighbours... but we saved our scraps. Okay, now this next bit is slightly controversial because I know we broke the rules and were being completely selfish and unfair... but they were on our list and after a few beers we both just couldn't resist. BACKGROUND: so the previous night in Hazyview we met a couple that worked as rangers at an adjoining game reserve next to Kruger. We told them about what we had seen and hadn't seen before and they gave us tips on where to go and what to expect. As you know Hyenas are on our Big 3 list and we explained this to the couple. What they in turn explained to us was that it is nearly impossible to spot a Hyena in Kruger Park. This is simply because Hyenas are nocturnal and by 6pm you have to be back in your camp which is surrounded by a massive fence and only unlocked at 6am the following morning (huge fines if your caught outside of these times). BUT what they also explained to us was that if we kept our dinner scraps, threw them over the fence and waited... we could expect some impressive results. This is not our proudest moment and again I know this is terribly wrong... sorry.

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So we waited... and sure enough within 5 minutes we heard noise in the grass as something was approaching us.

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I still can't believe their noses! He could smell out exactly where everything was. Remarkable. He didn't make much noise... just intensive sniffing around. This next pic will give you an idea of just how close we were.

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His eyes completely glowed in the dark... how terrifying would that be being trapped outside the fence and seeing those eyes!

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Remarkable creatures! Such a unique body design. The way their back slants almost looks similar to a giraffe. Honestly it was an experience both of us will remember for the rest of our lives.

The next morning...crack of dawn... 10 feet outside the park gate... a massive herd of Water Buffalos! You see this is why this place is so amazing! The car wasn't even warm yet lol.

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Most of the big guys had a few little guys tagging along on there backs. If you ever get poop in your hair just get a little bird to take care of it. Teamwork.

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Another massive herd of elephants first thing in the morning. You honestly get spoilt after awhile... 'More elephants? Really? I want to see a Cheetah' Lol not really but once you get a taste for the action you want to see everything all the time.

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Our next encounter of the morning was with a family of giraffes. Probably the most inquisitive of all the animals in the park as they will just stand there and watch you while they eat. For awhile we were the only car around as we were travelling on a gravel road... they crossed right in front of us.

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Our favourite little bird again... there were lots of these little guys along side the roads...

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Next we stopped at another waterhole that they have strategically around the park. At most water holes it looked as though the park built large concrete reservoirs so these important water sources don't run dry. This also have great parking and look out points. At the bigger ones you can always spy a few of these.

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Someone got a chunk of his tail... By this point we were really quite happy with what we had seen throughout our day and a half inside the park and to be honest we weren't really holding out much hope to see the last 2 of our Big 3. But we decided to head south-west towards where there are supposed to be rhino sightings daily. On the way there we had quite a different but unforgettable experience.

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Three lions (2 male & 1 female) had just killed a giraffe, had finished eating and decided to rest their bellies right on the road. One other car had seen them before us so we literally parked right across from them and just watched in amazement. We had both never seen a male lion before. You can tell these guys were quite young though as their manes were not fully grown in yet.

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Life is pretty good after you take down a giraffe lol. I can't believe those teeth. The two males were both rolling around in the grass very happily stretching out their bellies. The lone female however was on tourist watch and wasn't quite ready to doze off.

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You wanna see fitness and strength... look at these arms!! Now that's jacked!!

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We probably sat there watching them for a good 45 minutes. What a blessing it was to see these creatures just completely relaxed in their own environment. That moment is something we will both never forget and just another reason why this park is so magical. It was pretty hard to be sad about not spotting a cheetah after you see something like that... and that close. Honestly we couldn't have been more then 6-7 feet away from them. When we finally drove away I could have literally high-fived the female as we drove off. Unreal. But we did have to leave... :(

Saw another Kudu shortly after...

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And then this other type of antelope....

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Our drive continued on for quite some time and we didn't see anything for roughly a hour or so (boo-woo right lol). We saw a few Zebras on the road...

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At this point I really had to pee and no one was around so I decided to see just how tame they are because when your in your car they are quite conditioned to it and don't run away. Getting out is a different story and the closest I could come to them was about 50 yards or so.

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By this point it was around 2pm or so and we only had about another 4 hours inside the park. No rhinos, no cheetahs... Stacey was driving and suddenly spotted these birds in the trees. I thought see was joking because no lie, sitting right behind them was two huge black rhinos!! I still can't believe our luck!

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It's actually quite hard to tell the difference between black and white rhinos as they are both grey in colour. Apparently black rhinos are smaller and have hooked shaped mouths. I know that Kruger park has both species and I'm merely guessing that the two pictured above are black based on their size. I base the assumption on our other sightings. What? Yep... we got even luckier cause we saw this huge guy shortly after (I'm assuming it's a White Rhino).

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Look at that horn! Can you believe that horn is worth more per gram than gold. Really China?? Do you think an animals horn is gonna make your dick hard? It's called Viagra and its quite a bit cheaper then gold. I actually read that scientists in South Africa are trying to genetically modify the rhino horn to make it toxic so anyone taking the stuff will die. That great! Hope they're successful. There is no excuse for slaughtering and wiping out an entire species because of crack-pot medicine... and limp little wieners lol.

We continued on enjoying the scenery even though both our sets of eyes were getting quite tired from constantly scanning the bush for activity.

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Here we arrived a little too late for some action...

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But once again we were blessed and got another remarkable rhino sighting... our third and final one of our safari.

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He never came out the road but he did walk along beside it for a good long time. He started to come a bit closer and we were wondering if we should take off. He let us know pretty quick that we were too close and started stamping his feet and did a mock charge! Talk about kick starting your heart! Pretty sure that horn could penetrate our little tin can car lol.

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That was a long one guys but it was the only way I felt I could do our 2 day safari justice. I hope you enjoyed all the great pictures, not only these ones but our entire South African adventure. I'll save the love affair rant for another time because by this point your all aware how much we loved/love the country. Do you understand now why? Never a dull moment. GO to South Africa people because you'll be glad you did. We never saw our cheetah and that's a good as excuse as any for our return.

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Posted by ttbwarren 11:04 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Cape Town

Greatest City On Earth??

sunny 20 °C

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Okay... Cape Town... been looking forward to sharing this one with you guys for a long time now. As you will soon see Cape Town is quite possibly the greatest city on earth! Everything you could ever want is here (except hockey lol), so let me take a walk down memory-lane and recap our magnificent stay in this majestic city.

Cape Town is South Africa's second largest city with an estimated population of around 4 million inhabitants (but probably way more people are unaccounted for in the townships and suburbs) and is often cited as one of the most ethnically diverse cities on the planet. It boasts terrific weather year round (in my opinion) and is also home to numerous different vegetation types, some of which are endemic to the city and found no where else in the world. Our tour started in the heart of the city as we opted to stay on Long Street which is known for its bars, pubs and general party scene.

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We wound up going out a few nights as there was quite an array of live music happening every night... and besides who can resist happy hour when your retired at 30 lol. No pics of all this though as we never really trust taking our camera along with us at night. Although we felt relatively safe everywhere in South Africa it's hard to deny it's crime statistics, so you can never be too safe especially at night.

Our first day we spent touring the downtown area and as it turned out there was a great park and modern art gallery right behind our hostel.

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We've both really begun to enjoy modern/contemporary art galleries this year. I find them fascinating because even though a lot of what's inside is usually crap lol, it still makes you think and question 'what is art?' and it's really interesting to see what Stacey likes or just plain laughs at (we've seen some weird shit lol). After our morning cultural activities we drove down to Cape Town's harbour/wharf area which features restaurants, shopping malls, a ferris wheel and some exhilarating views of the city.

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Me with my biltong (South Africa's equivalent to beef jerky)... I think I tried ostrich, impala and something else... oh and beef. These were the dry kind and to be honest I didn't enjoy them. The moist stuff is much better.

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Some views at sunset... Stacey feeding my biltong to the birds lol.

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Robben Island off in the distance...

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And of course Table Mountain....

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Oh and I finally got a wedding ring! South African gold and titanium...

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Fun Fact: during the Johannesburg gold rush (gold was discovered in 1886) the city produced 27% of the worlds gold.

Our last day in Cape Town was a big one! The plan was to finally climb to the top of Table Mountain (weather permitting) and we finally got a beautiful clear sunny day (remember due to the rain we fled to Stellenbosch). But before we made the big hike up we drove out to one of the city's beaches to size up our very admirable opponent.

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Such an unbelievable view! Table Mountain just makes the city what it is. The city itself is great with the fantastic coast line, but there's just something about the table-top mountain lurking in the background like some massive protector god. At times there is even this weird phenomenon where the clouds sift over top of the mountain and create what is often referred to as the table cloth.

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Like I explained before there are hundreds if not thousands of shipwrecks along the cape... I still can't tell if these are a few examples.

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To start our hike we drove up to the cable car station located at the proper base of the mountain. From here you can either take the cable car to the top or hike 3+ hours up. Guess which option we chose?

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That's the Lions Head in the background which you are also able to climb... unfortunately we ran out of time due to the rain factor and were unable to make the ascent. Quite a shame because it's supposed to offer up the best view of the city. But our views weren't too shabby... you be the judge.

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And that's at the base lol. Let the hiking begin!

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I mentioned earlier that Cape Town is home to several unique species of plant that are found nowhere else in the world. Here are a few examples of those... no names though... I'm not a very good biologist... you'll just have to Google them if your interested.

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Pretty amazing stuff. So get this... our initial plan was to climb the mountain, stay up top for sunset and then catch the last cable car down. Well as it turned out halfway up the mountain other climbers notified us that the cable car was actually closed for maintenance and the only reason we saw it in action was because workers are using it to do renovations on the restaurant located at the top. This meant that because we had started our climb at roughly 1:30pm we would have to ascend, walk around the top and then descend all in approximately 4-5 hours. Let me tell you... THIS IS NOT EASY! Table Mountain is a challenge! It's steep and the steps are massive. By far the hardest climb we've done to date! It starts off nice (to lure you in lol) and then it gets nasty.

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Here are the steps I'm talking about...

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Try doing those for 2 hours straight! And the worst was that we couldn't barely even stop for a break. If we did we ran the risk of getting caught up on the mountain after dark. Trust me... you DO NOT want to be doing those steps in the dark!! But we did manage to stop to snap a few pics of the views which was the only thing bearable about the hike... it was hard.

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But we did it!! And what a relief it was!! All worth it for the breathtaking views of the city.

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The soccer stadium which co-hosted the last World Cup.

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A better view of Robben Island (Robben Island was of course home to the infamous prison that housed Nelson Mandela and other South African political prisoners).

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Lions Head and more views of the city from up top...

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(you can kind of see the trail that spirals all the way up to the top)

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What a view! It was a total shame that we couldn't spend more time on the top because it's massive and there are loads of trails that wind along the cliffs offering up views in every direction. Here's the view off towards the Cape Of Good Hope...

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And out to the Atlantic...

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The restaurant on top.... damn renos...

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Believe it or not some scientists say that this mountain range is among the oldest in the world and at one point would have even been taller then the Himalayas but due to wind erosion over billions of years all we're left with today is 1084m (3558 ft).... but maybe it's just a male scientist trying to prove that size doesn't matter.

On to our descent just before dusk. By far the hardest part! Both our sets of calves were sore for a week after this one. The steps were just too large and we had to motor down so we didn't get trapped in total darkness. The views down however were out of this world and we found ourselves lagging lots to take pictures.

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This crevasse is where we ascended up...

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And this is part of the trail that winded up to the top...

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Nightfall came really fast and we found ourselves climbing down in darkest. This is terribly difficult and dangerous with only an iPhone light. Could have broken an ankle numerous times... but it was all worth it for the pictures and the view.

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We made it down completely gutted! What an exhausting but rewarding day. Always do your homework and planning before taking on a hike like that. We learnt the hard way and barely pulled it off. Good thing we're both in pretty good shape because it would have be hard to explain to our insurance why we needed to get recused from on top of Table Mountain lol.

The next morning we woke at the crack of dawn (4am actually... and after that hell of a hike too), packed the car and started our 16 hour drive (1400+ km) back to Johannesburg. This was a deadline that we absolutely had to make because not only did we have lodgings and a safari booked (next post :) ) but we also had to finally pick up our passports from the Brazilian Embassy in Pretoria where they remained for the past month so we could get our Brazil Visa. That morning we drove back through wine country and I couldn't resist stopping the car to get a few more pics...

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And look... snow!!

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It is winter there after all lol. Not quite a Canadian winter... come on global warming lol. That's all I got for now. One of my favourite cities of all time and I would be hard pressed not to say that it is my #1. Cape Town has everything... wine, oceans, wildlife & wilderness, beaches, history, great weather, great food, amazing people and the list goes on and on and on. Definitely one of the worlds most liveable cities. Can you tell that we fell in love with South Africa yet lol? My heart is still there and we still both talk about it all the time... it usually goes something like 'I wish we were still in South Africa' lol. But we'll be back... so if anyone wants to buy us plane tickets for a wedding present South Africa would make a great honeymoon lol... we still get a honeymoon after all this right??

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Posted by ttbwarren 17:31 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Stellenbosch

The Heart Of South African Wine Country

rain 16 °C

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To keep this blog flowing nicely I've taken the liberty of mixing up the posts a little bit so technically everything isn't 100% accurate as far as dates are concerned. For example we actually spent time in Cape Town before seeing the Cape Of Good Hope and even before that we saw Stellenbosch... this post. But instead of showing you a little of this and that I thought it would be best to write posts based on location rather than an outline of where we went and when. Not a big a deal... just thought you should know in case in one pic I'm wearing different pants from the last... that doesn't mean I crapped my pants... although after a long night of drinking that has been know to happen... not to me but to Stacey of course lol.

Previous to this post we spent spent several days in Cape Town and had planned to climb Table Mountain among other things but due to the rainy weather we had to improvise and decided to head out west to wine country. The Cape wine region consists of quite a few different locals, the most famous of which are Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl. Stellenbosch is probably the most famous of the three, not necessarily because of its wine but rather because it is the second oldest European settlement in the province next to Cape Town and because it is home to Stellenbosch University (one the country's leading institutions with a history dating back to 1863).

To give you a better idea of Stellenbosch's geography, I lifted a pic from the internet...

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We decided to make Stellenbosch home base for our stay in wine country because we heard nothing but good things about it (to be fair every town we saw in wine country looked fabulous i.e.. perfectly well kept and clean with loads of great old pubs and restaurants), and because it's a university town with a bit of party reputation aside from its fantastic wine and restaurants.

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Most of those pics were from the downtown region... as you can see just a great little town to stroll around and relax. Once again another terrific South African town that I would have no problem settling down in. We ended up checked into a hostel called, appropriately enough, "The Stumble Inn" which was a great little place that also offered wine tours at a discounted rate. So we booked the tour for the following day and spent the remainder of our day tooling around sampling the local wine and cuisine.

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Lol... yep we found a bar that had shisha. Stacey also tried this South African cider drink that rocked...

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It almost tasted like a slightly sweeter Corona. That night we dined at a restaurant called the Apprentice which was a local restaurant run by the culinary students at the university. Great food and even better wine!

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Another "bucky" pic... I'm telling you they're everywhere in SA... I've even spotted a few here in Brazil...

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The following morning we quickly grabbed breakfast and were picked up at our hotel by the Easy Rider Wine Tour Company and set off for a day of touring and tasting at 4 different vineyards and wine cellars.

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We couldn't help laughing that our tour operator was a total dick and looked and sounded exactly like Andy Dick (we both wanted to punch him by the end of the day) and before we even reached the first farm this happened...

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Thank God we were only 500m away lol. Sometimes you just have to laugh at the bad and make the best of it!

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Obviously it's winter in SA so the growing season is over but here are a few shots of the vines on our walk...

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At the first vineyard we got a tour of their facilities and learnt about the winemaking process...

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Quite a lot involved in the process (different grapes/wines require different processing etc) and I literally knew zero about it before the tour other than wine was made from grapes lol. At this particular vineyard (can't remember its name) they told us that they even imported special trees from France to grow on the farm just for the making of their corks.

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The corks are made from the bark of these trees and that's exactly what the big chunk of bark on display felt like... a big cork (that sounds so stupid and obvious to write but it's just one of those dumb little things I never thought about before). After all that intensive learning it was on to the tasting... my favourite part :) ... even at 10:30am lol

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My serious connoisseur face lol. I'm telling you guys these vineyards were gorgeous! Every one had these stunning big dining halls inside (like fancy bars or pubs) decked out to the nines (usually with their own restaurant attached or close by), and you can basically just show up, buy a tasting ticket (maybe $5) and sit there all day trying basically any wine you want.

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That was stop number one... before number two Andy Dick took us on a quick safari detour... luckily we didn't get anymore flat tires lol.

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Stop number two was at our absolute favourite... Fairview Wine & Cheese Paarl Winery.

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This is a absolute must stop detour on any tour. Not only was their wine magnificent (all sorts of different accents, flavours and varieties) but their cheese was to die for! Never thought I could ever get into the whole wine and cheese tasting thing (always thought of it as very yuppie-like) but I'm way past that now... it's the BOMB! They had so many terrific varieties of cheese that I think we both over dosed a little bit before our lunch. Ended up buying about three or four different flavours before we left (Mom you still probably got us beat... usually 4-6 varieties in her fridge... 10+ at Xmas lol).

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Fairview had quite the eccentric interior... I loved this couch!

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We were both sad to leave Fairview (met some great South African locals there) but it was time to move on to the next one. It kind of sucked the weather was so drab but I suppose tasting doesn't really require sunshine... great way to spend time indoors!

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At the previous two vineyards you were able to select your wines from a huge list and then have the bartender? explain/romance each wine to you. It's a lot easier to smell and taste something when your told it's a ingredient. I never knew before wine had hints/smells of things like pepper or coffee... taking your first wine tour definitely gives you a lot of respect for the whole wine making process. At this next winery they had already pre-selected our wines... all we had to do was drink.

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We ended up making one last stop (by this point things were a little blurry lol... just kidding) but I can't remember the name of the vineyard... but the grounds were gorgeous.

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And that concludes our amazing wine tour! Once again we had found ourselves another fantastic South African destination that was completely unique and absolutely a place that we would live in a heartbeat. Our only regret was that we were unable to spend more time in the region... there are literally 100's of winery's in the surrounding area. Besides, not only were the tastings cheap but so was the wine (in supermarkets we were paying $3 for a nice local bottle!!) Combine that with cheap grade A beef and you got a place this Saskatchewan couple could call home! And their Pilsner is pretty damn good too lol. Cheers!!

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Posted by ttbwarren 17:06 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

The Cape Of Good Hope

Travelling Towards Africa's Most South-Western Point

semi-overcast 18 °C

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Back again and writing to you for the first time in South America! Sao Paulo, Brazil to be exact and my gosh is this city massive!! By looking at the city's skyline I'd guess that we were back in Asia. Our time here is short lived however and soon (as in tomorrow) we will be moving on to the infamous Rio De Janeiro... can't wait. We also very recently found out some unexpected and super exciting news that my cousin Cassandra and her husband John will be meeting up with us in Cusco, Peru in September! How cool is that! Machu Pichu will be amazing no doubt... perfect way to finish off our trip... besides that little thing called a wedding in the Dominican of course lol.

We left Hermanus with a thirst for sharks... God I'd love to go again... and kept heading west along the coast towards Cape Town. We had already seen the southern most point of Africa, but this time we were headed towards the most south-west point... the Cape Of Good Hope. The first European to reach the cape was the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias in 1488, who named it the "Cape of Storms" (actually trying to learn Portuguese right now lol). It was later renamed the "Cape of Good Hope" because of the great optimism engendered by the opening of a sea route to India and the East. Our map showed dozens of ships wrecks just off the coast and I can't even imagine how many more there were off the map... the seas here are treacherous... the should have kept the name as it was originally... it's not as sexy though lol. On the way to our destination the drive was pleasant as always...

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And we managed to find ourselves a completely unique pitstop along the way... one of the only coastal breeding grounds of the African Penguin!

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The fee to get in was minimal and there was a catwalk that went right overtop of their nesting grounds. Quite the curious little guys... I just loved the way they waddled around lol.

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They'd see you walking and some would scamper away under the boardwalk while others would just lay there and sleep or stare right back at you like you were the main attraction and not them.

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Posted information said that the babies were only about 3-4 months old. They were almost finished losing their fluff.

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They get the tuxedo colourings when they reach full adulthood. They're really good swimmers too and seemed to just love playing in the water. I also couldn't believe how good they were at navigating the rocks. Those little buggers can jump pretty high!

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We probably spent a good hour or so just hanging out and watching their living habits. They got quite a good little set-up for them there and there was literally no one else around.

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They even had themselves a good network of little roads and paths craved out amongst the nests (they had holes dug for their nests or they would hide their babies in the shrubs). It was funny to see them strolling around in packs... they would actually wait for one another too if one fell behind.

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Oh ya... finally snapped a pic of one of these there...

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In South Africa they call them "buckeys" and they're everywhere. They're basically 1.4-1.6 litre 4 cylinder little cars with truck boxes... the modern version of our El Camino lol. They actually grew on me by the end of the trip and I started wondering why we don't have those at home? Why not? The perfect little service vehicle. Snapped this next pic leaving the parking lot... cute but sad...

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After the penguin detour we headed back out on the road towards the Cape Of Good Hope. Probably our top drive of the trip... the views were out of this world.

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We saw so many motorcycles on the way... pretty sure I saw a few tears glistening in Stacey's eye lol... it would have been a great road to ride.

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After a while we had reached the outlining townships of Cape Town...

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We past those and a few beaches before finally making it to the park (The Cape Of Good Hope is a national park with a lot of great hiking trails and look out points).

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As you can see we did a little hike as soon as we entered the park (the scenery was just too tempting) before continuing our drive towards the south-western most tip.

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Believe it our not there were actually both Ostrich's and Zebras in the park... a safari on the coast lol. The road eventually reaches a parking-lot and a restaurant/souvenir shop where you can take a cable car to Cape Point (great look out point), or where you can hike about a hour towards the Cape Of Good Hope which is what we chose.

We grabbed a quick snack at the restaurant first to get some energy and to also feed these veteran birds. I call them old vets because we were literally throwing bits of bun and the would catch it mid-air EVERY SINGLE TIME. Couldn't resist snapping a shot.

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On to the hike....

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That's it... the point off in the distance of that last pic. Encountered this guy on the way guarding eggs... could hardly see her in the bush... great camouflage.

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As always in South Africa the views were stunning, the air was fresh and the seas seemed turbulent.

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This next pic is it. Where you see the cars they have a sign planted where people get there picture taken with the "South Western Most Tip Of Africa"... you can basically just drive right in, snap the pic and leave.... but man are you ever missing out if you do.

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We never went down there because it would have been a hell of a climb... plus our views were better.

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Here was our little kiss to send us off... the perfect end to a brilliant day.

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Once again that's it thats all for this one. There was never a dull moment in SA guys and I hope your all starting to understand why we both fell madly in love with this magnificent place. Writing these posts makes my heart ache cause I miss it so much already and I'm not being dramatic. I believe everyone as one of these places in their lifetime... a place you feel attached to and your just not sure why, whether it's SA or your backyard. Home is where the heart is as they say and right now my heart is stuck in SA. We have been to some amazing places and for this we both feel truly blessed... but it's something about staring off those cliffs out into the abbess... it really makes you feel glad to be alive and in the present... and not stuck in the desert heat or in a Kenyan hospital with a catheter shoved up your wang (great ending Blair...lol very reflective and heartfelt).

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Posted by ttbwarren 16:29 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

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