Monday, July 26, 2010

The beginning of the end

This latest update finds us back in jolly old England and at the final stop of our trip around the globe.  We're spending five weeks or so in London, with a few side trips, before taking one last flight across the Atlantic back to Philadelphia...and (cue sad music) the real world.

On the bright side we've still got over a month to go before we go from world travelers to unemployed good-for-nothings so we plan to make the most of it.

First up is a trip Wales.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

On Safari

There was no way we could go all the way to South Africa without going on safari.  During the World Cup safari tours were, unsurprisingly, a bit pricey.  So, the thrifty explorers that we are we decided to wait until after the tournament had ended to book our bush adventure.

We decided to go to Pilanesberg National Park in northern South Africa, about 2 hours north of Johannesburg.  Pilanesberg is a massive park (about 220 square miles), has plenty of lodges to choose from and, most importantly, has "the BIG FIVE." Courtney found a game lodge called Pilanesberg Private Lodge (very original) which was located in the northwestern corner of the park on a private reserve called the Black Rhino Reserve.  The price was very reasonable and their website looked great so we decided to give it go.

The lodge was great. It had a main lodge building that included an outdoor deck complete with hot tub and swimming pool and five smaller buildings where guests stay.  The lodge only sleeps ten people so it's quite intimate.  Our stay was even more cozy as there was only one other person staying there during our visit so we were treated to some personal attention from the game rangers.  On our second night there we even had two private game drives.

We came across this herd of elephants heading for an early evening visit to the watering hole

This black rhino almost charged us.  Some quick thinking from our game ranger spared us from a trampling.

We interrupted this little guy's breakfast.

Enjoying a beer after a day tracking game in the bush.

We did four game drives in total and although our first outing was fairly quiet overall we were not disappointed.  We saw elephants, zebra, black rhino, white rhino, giraffe, wildebeest, impala, kudu, jackal, and steenbok.  We even saw a pair of porcupines.  Doesn't really capture the imagination like seeing a pride of lions would but apparently they are a pretty rare find.  The most exciting sighting of all though was the leopard we spotted (I had to) with a fresh kill in it's mouth...very cool.  Unfortunately we only caught a brief glimpse of it and then it vanished into the tall grass before we could get any pictures.  On our last drive we tracked a lion for a couple of hours but unfortunately he eluded us.  Overall we had an amazing time and it was a great way to end our stay in South Africa.

Monday, July 12, 2010

South Africa - World Cup 2010

So, the 2010 World Cup Finals are all done bar the shouting, Spain have been crowned World Champions for the first time ever, and England once again were crap.  And yet, still not one single blog post on the whole thing from Lee and Courtney.  We know, terrible.  We've been completely and utterly rubbish at updating the blog while in South Africa.  There's no excuse for it really.  We could tell you that we left our laptop in Joburg while we traveled around the country because we were worried about it being lost/stolen/damaged.  We could also tell you that there aren't that many internet cafes in the places we've visited and the ones we have found are a bit pricey for our backpacker budget.  We might even say that we were attacked by a group of psychotic emus and, although we managed to fight them off with our bare hands, we lost all but two of our fingers and a thumb on our left hands which has reduced our typing ability significantly and we have therefore been unable to write about what we've been up to.  Well that last one might be made up but you get the idea.

No, the truth is that we've just been having such an awesome time going to games, partying with other fans, meeting tons of great people, and exploring South Africa that we have really neglected the blog.  Having said that, we have been taking notes along the way so we don't forget anything and we've taken plenty of pictures that almost always say more than the words do.  We've been here almost 5 weeks now and with one or two notable exceptions (England's woeful performances and England and USA's early exits from the World Cup being the low points, but the less we say about that the better) we've had an amazing time.  Here are some of the highlights.

(make sure you go all the way to the first South Africa post (dated June 08, 2010) as we've sneakily back dated each post to make it look like we actually did these blog posts along the way and not all at once last night.  ssshhhhhh...)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Garden Route

The Garden Route is a popular route on the south-eastern coast of South Africa and one of the most scenic parts of the country.  We spent two days driving the route and taking in some of the scenery along the way.  We stayed overnight in Knysna before carrying on to Port Elizabeth, where we would ultimately return our rental car.  Along the way we stopped in Mossel Bay, Plettenburg Bay, The Crags, and Stormsriver.  Two days is really not enough time to see this part of the country.  There are so many things to see and do, especially outdoor activities.  The Garden Route is definitely on the list of places we need to come back to.

Indian Ocean in Knysna

Cheeky monkey at Monkeyland in The Crags

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Getting sloshed in Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch is about 30k east of Cape Town and in the middle of South Africa’s famous Winelands.  We had made arrangements to meet up with our cyclist pals once more to sample some of South Africa’s best booze.  We all stayed at a place called The Stumble Inn (how could you not stay at a place with that name in an area famous for winemaking?)  There are literally hundreds of vineyards and wineries in and around Stellenbosch and you couldn’t possibly hope to hit them all, especially if you only had one day to do it like us.  Our plan was to try and visit and do a tasting at at least four of them, a goal we were told was very doable.

To make things interesting, and as we were with some experienced cyclists, we thought it would be fun to ride bicycles to the wineries.  We set off at about 11am and headed for our first winery.  Now, Stellenbosch is not mountainous but it’s not exactly flat either.  After around 5 kilometers of cycling we rolled into our first port of call, the Kleine Zalze Country Wine Estate.  As we arrive, Courtney pulled up next to Lee and, after catching her breath, says, “That…was…INTENSE!”  As you can imagine, our friends who were on the back end of an 8,000 mile ride from Cairo found this quite funny.

In the end we only made it to two wineries!  Not on account of our lack of cycling endurance but more due to the huge amounts of wine we consumed throughout the afternoon.  The ride back was, er, a bit wobbly.

Court and cyclist Lindsey (right) showing their support for the Black Stars

Come on Ghana!

Later that same night we dropped the bikes back at Stumble Inn and proceeded on foot to the nearest pub to watch Ghana, Africa's only remaining team, take on Uruguay.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Cape Town

Chapman’s Peak Drive, Cape Point, Table Mountain, and V&A Waterfront...

...Cape Town - DONE.