Tuesday, August 5, 2014

From Russia with Love

Coming back home after a long trip to pick up a regular, much more mundane life, is always hard.  It is even much harder if you are returning from Africa, the most wonderful and exotic continent with most unexpected adventures.

Coming back home has its treats, though - the family is getting back together. My daughter returned from Russia - healthy but very thin, mixing Russian words, and more mature and confident than when she left.  She brought a bit of Russia with her, just as I tried to bring back a bit of Africa with me.

Matryoshka, Russian nesting dolls - there are ten of them - can you see the smallest one?

 My new Russian kitchen decoration - the board on the right side is painted by my daughter.
 Cheburashka - a character in children's literature  - not clear if it is a bear or a mouse, but very much beloved, and so cute - check its song.

My daughter loved her necklace from South Africa. Thanks to Effie who helped me find and select it, and my other team mates for accompanying us.

Looking from the front porch, a quiet evening in my street where you can hear only crickets.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Out of Africa

This is the last day in Johannesburg, we are heading back home in the evening.  We used the day to visit Lion Park, basically a zoo, near Jo'burg, to cuddle lion cubs.  It was strange to see animals caged, after so many visits to parks where they are free roaming.   Lion cubs were very cute!  We saw rare white lions.

We used the last few hours in South Africa to head towards Pretoria. Our way there led us next to a shantytown. 

We visited the Voortrekker Monument - a monument to Afrikaner - Dutch pioneers who colonized Southern Africa, and to their leader Pretorius.  The monument also offers a superb view of Pretoria.

And then, it was time to board the plane.  Almost two months ago, I boarded a plane to ZA uncertain about what lay ahead.  Now, I am boarding the plane back to New York, and feel sad to leave Africa behind.  One last sunset at the airport...

Monday, July 28, 2014

In Zambia

We crossed the border to Zambia, and arrived in Livingstone on Sunday evening, being very tired after the rafting trip.  We had a delicious meal of Kenyan-style T bone steak and Zambian goat in Cafe Zambezi.

In the afternoon, we were flying to Johannesburg.  Still, there was a bit of time to visit the Victoria Falls from the Zambian side.  This side of the falls is MUCH wetter than the Zimbabwean side, and we were completely soaked in no time!  We were also able to come close to the ridge of the falls, and were rewarded with many rainbows.

Later that day, we arrived to Jo'burg - I realized that that was my fifth arrival to Jo'burg during this trip, 3 of those by air.  Being almost regular visitors, we hopped in a rental car and headed to the city, finishing the day with a steak at The Grill House - one last time this trip.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Exploring the canyons of Zambezi

The Zambezi river is the fifth largest river in Africa. After the Victoria falls, the quiet river has rapids at the bottom of 100m deep gorge.  This is the number one destination for white water rafting in the world, with fast and turbulent rapids. Having traveled all the way to the heart of Africa and the Zambezi river, it was hard to resist this opportunity to get off the beaten track and experience nature away from the crowds.  And what a great ride through the canyons of the Zambezi it was.  The sheer force of water had created deep gorges through which the Zambezi found its way to the Indian Ocean.

An almost philosophical lesson learnt from white water rafting:  You cannot hide from a rapid or a wave - if you try, you will fail. If you paddle into the middle of a rapid with all your strength, you can go over the wave and you will be able to smile and wave to the camera at the end, no matter what category a rapid is classified as.

Our team paddled fiercely, nobody fell off the boat, the boat was not turned upside down, and we were able to cheer for the camera at the end!  The views were gorgeous and we had a great time close up with nature at its best.