Friday, November 14, 2008

Pureto Penasco, Mexico

Beautiful!
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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Space Age Lodge, Gila Bend, Arizona

Dinner in a 60s lodge with the Starship Enterprise in the background. Love it!

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Atlanta

In Atlanta for another conference... Great meetings at Georgia Tech. Would definitely come back to this conference next year!

Note the Yellow Jacket statues all over the Global Learning campus.


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Monday, October 27, 2008

Orlando

View from my room @ Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress
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Thursday, October 23, 2008

I love the bus in Chicago

Woman in leopard pants reading a book called " Some girls are anorexic, some take drugs and alcohol, I chose sex. Loose Girl.". See photo for proof.

Isn't culture great, in all its varieties?
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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Las Vegas

Had a conference at Caesar's for a few days and dragged Andrew along. Conference was ok... amazing to see Las Vegas with tons of cranes but no workers, a true sign of the economic decline.

Since I worked most of the time we didn't really have time for a show. We probably gambled and lost around $200 in the slots... weather was hot as usual.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Farmers Market in San Francisco

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Friday, August 29, 2008

San Francisco Day 1

View from my room
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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Rain in Montreal

Just arrived and decided to go for a walk, then it proceeded to rain. Looks like a trip to a city with no opportunity to experience the culture!

Some photos from my quick walk attached...
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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

My 40th in Murphys!

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Saugatuck, MI

Happy Birthday Andrew! Loved the weekend!!
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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More of Austin!

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Austin, TX

Wow is it hot here. High of 101 today and it is only June!

Small town, cute but haven't had much chance to see it. There is a fun little warehouse area near here where we went to a corporate sponsored party last night. Place was called Pangaea and was very swank a bit middle eastern feel.

Today I hit all of the hotel booths. This is a cool photo of me in a Austin Powers style chair that is super comfortable and has a built in speaker system and a computer. Fun! Cost: $15,000
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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Last days in Jo'burg

(posted by Andy)

Hello, it's Andrew here....I apologize for making this last email so long but we have done much in the last few days and I wanted to share the experience with you since all of you have been here the whole way thus far.
 
On Thursday we yet again went to another country called Botswana which neighbors Zambia and took about 1.5 hours to get to.  We were awakened early once more but we have gotten used to the early mornings and those damn monkeys keep me up all night awake doing whatever they are doing starting at 1 a.m.  As you already know in Zambia we did not have window only screens that surrounded our cabin/chalet so we (well I since Rhett sleeps through most of it) could hear everything that goes bump outside our cabin from crickets, hippos, monkeys, and anything else that wanders outside our door.  I sometimes just lay there awake in the dark and listen to the noises waiting for the morning to come. 
 
We were picked up by our driver who also picked up another couple, Ken and Sue from Sapporo, Japan.  Although they introduced themselves as Ken and Sue, seeing that they hardly knew a bit of English and were "very" Japanese, I think they changed their names to sound more American to avoid any uncomfortable pronounciations from others who only spoke English.    We befriended them and enjoyed their company.
 
Getting to and across the border was yet again an experience much like the movies in where you are in a third world country and you forget that it is the 20th century because hundreds of Africans from many countries were trying to cross the border...whether they were fleeing their own country or returning home, who knows.  Here you would see as you would approach the imigration office women laying on the ground that looked like they were there for days, some with children in their arms breast feeding, some with children wrapped around their papooses (much like backpacks) looking at us with eyes I will never forget.  Just hoping and waiting to get through.. we being white or people with money would just walk around them into the building just cutting in line because our guide was obviously paying someone off and/or our papers were in order versus refugees and others who had none. 
 
I suppose by now, being that we have been on the road for three weeks and have experienced this many times one would eventually get used to this chaos but I have not.  We have not built up the tolerance or the comfortness of it at all - I still get freaked out even when we have a guide to assist us. 
 
There, at the border, I could never explain enough in words the experience of what we see there but I will try.  Fumes of trucks and pollution from the exhaust and garbage that overtakes our senses, the spew from all the pollution just fills your lungs and all you want to do it get past this and go forward but you cannot until given permission and your paperwork was reviewed by someone behind the thick glass at the imigration desk.  Many people all over trying to get through, most hope to cross that day but probably will not.  Most of the trucks and their drivers may need to wait as long as several weeks in line just hoping that the next boat will take them through and that their goods were approved to cross, so they wait in line, for most, not haven taken a bath for a long period of time.  Perhaps these drivers sleep in their trucks bringing hopefully enough food to get through their own ordeals getting to the neighboring border. 
 
Once near and inside the office of immigration, the dirt and dust surrounds everthing, barb wire is evident hoping to intimidate those who think they might want to jump it.  People everywhere inside, wall to wall, back to back, as we push through to get our papers reviewed we push on.  The office is small but we manage somehow to wait and push onward with our guide following his direction as foot solders follow an officer.  Once inside the pungent odor of african sweat covers all the breathable air inside, you can never forget the smell.  It is nothing like I have ever experienced before, so strong that Rhett - and most to be honest - only allow each gasp of air into the body through your mouth to avoid it entering the nostrills....I exaggerate not a bit with these details, like I said most of the people here have probably not taken a real bath for weeks if ever and if they had, it would have been from dirty river water they had access to....very sad.
 
As we make our way through with our guide to the desk, they look at us, look at our passport, give it a loud stamp, and we are off to the other border into Botswana.   This is just the experience getting out of Zambia, now we need to enter Botswana's immigration process. This was much easier.  Getting to it was a 10 minute boat ride that takes you from Zambia to Botswana and was also an experience.  In that 10 minutes of a boat ride, the waters were shared by four contries....Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and of course Botswana.  Here we landed on shore and were greeted by another guide who would take us into Botwana for our final safari.
 
In Botswana we went to Chobe National Park on a day trip.  On Botswana's northern border lies the Kwando, Linyati and Chobe River system which forms a series of lakes, islands and floodplains and is home to the greatest concentration of game in the ENTIRE Southern African subcontinent. 
 
Chobe National Park, famous for its large elephant and buffalo herds, lies on the banks of the Chobe River (wihch flows into the Zambezi).  The park has an abundance of elephants (over 100,000 roam there) and over 460 types of beautiful and colorful birds too.   Rhett and I had a first hand viewing of these elephants and other game that were no further than 5-15 feet around us.....so close just eating and playing in the waters, rolling in the sand near the water, just as if we were not there.  They are so used to jeeps that they just go about their everyday duties ignoring the jeep and allowing us to watch their awesome size and beauty.  We also witnessed birds that flew across the river catching fish, hippos playing and swimming near by bellowing to each other chatting away.  The panoramic view was spectaular, and just when we thought we had seen it all, we had only just begun.
 
At Chobe National Park, Mother Earth consisted of sand and dunes unlike the red earth from our earlier safari adventures.  Since the watering holes were full and plentiful, the animals (unlike the ones at Kruger National Park in South Africa) were much more at ease and less agitated with the sounds of our jeep so we were able to get much, much closer.    We also got a viewing of two of of the rarest animals in all of Africa, the Sable Antelope and the Puku Antelope - both of which are almost extinct and extremely hard to find.
 
The return back into Zambia after a long day trip was less chaotic and eventually we returned back into our little cottage. 
 
Regrettably, Rhett and I cannot call ourselves Paris and Nicole because those two girls would never have taken such conditions and adventures.  The Association of Gay Americans (not a real association) will probably take our gay cards away from us because most gay men would never adventure out to do some of the things we have done.  Happily Andrew and Rhett have become stronger people and have a greater appreciation of what we have so goodbye Paris and Nicole, you will be missed and farewell to you both!!
 
We are now back in Johannesburg after a crazy and another chaotic experience at the airport.  Our flight was canceled in Livingstone and the entire airport was up in arms with people everywhere trying to get depart.  We were only delayed one hour but the expeirence seemed like it lasted days. 
 
On our way out of Zambia were were told by our driver that today they were celebrating World Malaria Day and they were gettting ready to have a parade.  This day they were creating awareness about Malaria and celebrating the fact that prevention was more available to them and most of Africa.  Malaria is the number one cause of death here in Africa next to AIDS and more than one million lives have been lost due to this illness of which most have been children.  The United Nations provides more medication to them, mosquito netting that protects them at night, and replenishes the mosquito repellent.   Just like we had a net that surrounded our bed at night, most Zambian people in the past have not.  We were even told that the Princess of England was going to attend the celebration and parade as well with the local residents here in Zambia to create awareness. 
 
I am glad to have left our little cottage/chalet with no windows, just nets, and a pillow that was as thin as a couple of magaizines that once folded in many ways, became just bearable enough to lay your head.  The mattress we left behind was simply old, hard, and my back and body are feeling the repercussions of it as I type.  Although knowing that most people that were sleeping under the same african skies had it much harder than us, probably sleeping on a thinner mat or on the ground, I am still glad to have left this small dusty town and back into Johannesburg - a big city far away from there.
 
For the last few weeks Rhett and I have visited five countries (Great Britain, South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia and Botswana) most of them from the developing world and very poor where 80% of people make less than $3 a day.  The land where they live is beautiful with clear blue skies, rivers and hills, music and a history of culture, pain and sacrifice, disease and sorrow, but mostly each day they wake up and thank God and hope that today will be a better one than last.
 
Now Rhett and I are back in the lap of luxury where we are surrounded by all the amenites we nauturally enjoy.  The General Manager here has put us into a suite that is as you can imagine is just wonderful.  No more roughing it for us for sometime...  We no longer need to live with bugspray, clean our teeth and wash our mouths with bottled water to avoid water borne diseases and our mattress once again is full and restful.  We got to see how the rest of the world lives here in Africa but we are made from a different mold.  We have longed for the last four days for radio and t.v. since we had none in Zambia.  Most of the news we received was from word of mouth.  Can you imagine getting news in this manner every day?  It drove us crazy.
 
We plan to spend the next few days to relax here in Jo'Burg and start getting used to the idea that we will soon be back at home and back at work.  Here we can reflect on all that we have done and seen along the way.  We also learned about ourselves in what our comfort zones are when traveling and how safety is very important to us.  We realize that taking certain adventures are just not cut out for us.
 
I will not be writing the next few days but will send one more email from home letting you know we are safe and sound back in Chicago.  Our flight is going to last about 24 hours with a rest over in London for breakfast and a stretch of our legs. 
 
We miss our doggies, our fishies, and of course our family and friends most of all.  We hoped that you have enjoyed our travel journal email and we look foward to seeing your face soon.
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Friday, April 25, 2008

Photos of Botswana and Zambia

Me starting Botswana safari, elephants by the hundred in Chobe National Park, the Maramba river outside our lodge
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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Livingstone, Zambia - Day Three

(posted by Andy)

Today was an early morning awaking because we were picked up for our bush walk. Unlike being in the car in the bush, today we walked... we were escorted by two trackers and a gun man and spent three hours in the wild. Walking felt different than being in a jeep, we were more vulnerable walking around hoping not to get atttacked by some wild beast! Here there are no wild cats like the lion, cheetah, or leopard, but there are plenty of elephants that could kick our asses and basically kill us if we don't watch out for them and be on guard.

Today we were on the search for the white rhino here that we have already mentioned is the last of them due to poaching (killing for its horn). We followed his tracks for about an hour and then behold, this giant magnificent animal just feet away from us hiding in the bush! These guys are good when it comes to finding these animals in a very large area of land. You would think that a rhino would be easy to find as he is so huge but he blends into the trees and shadows so he can be hard to spot. We followed the tracks of his feet in the dry muddy dirt. This creature is guarded and protect 24 hours a day by a man with a rifle because he is the last white rhino in the entire country of Zambia and his horn is worth over $10,000 U.S. dollars which for people around here is like our MILLION...anyways he is and must be protected!

Rhett and I were very alert, o.k frightened, when we intially saw him because he was literally 20 feet away and stood about 13 feet tall and weighed a couple of tons....a big, big animal with a very large two horns...we have photos, will show you when we can.

Along our walk we also encountered more giraffes, zebras, hippos, monkeys, impalas and other sorts of birds. All of the creatures except the hippos were very near and very intense to see on foot.

The weather here is hot as shit (92 today?!) and very dry....we tried to lay out a bit after the bush walk but could hardly make it past 1.5 hours at the pool at our camp. The pool you would have thought to be refreshing in such weather conditions but it is as cold as Antarctica!

We learned some things from our trackers that I wanted to share. Only about 20 percent of the people here have jobs, the rest just beg and try to sell their goods on the street...very bad and very poor. Even those who have an college education find it difficult to find work and it takes sometimes as long as 5 years to find a job. That sucks! Think again how lucky we all are and even those of us who are looking currently for a job, 5 years is a very long time not to work.....stealing and prostitution is sometimes the only way.

Tomorrow we are to awake again at 6:30 a.m. to go on our final safari in another bordering country named Botswana. That would make it our 4th country visited on this trip. This experience will be much different that the other safaris beacase it will also consist of a boat trip where we will float along hippos and crocs along the way down the river prior to our jeep safari. The road trip to this country is about one hour and wish us luck getting across the border...the woman who sold us the trip said this will also be an experience getting there....hopefully not the same as our horrific experience as into Mozambique!

We nearly have run out of money here because trying to pull cash from our Master Card ATM has been an experience all of it's own. In all of the countries that Rhett and I have visited along the years, this was the hardest to withdraw, we litteraly have about $50.00 to our name and almost had to call home to do a wire transfer.

After going to almost every bank in this dusty town, our faithful cab driver Phiri took us to one final place before giving up....and as we walked in the teller was closing up and we thought we were doomed. After some pleading and showing our puppy eyes......he agreed to help us out. Good job Phiri and thanks for saving our asses! Man, talk about some luck! We now have enought to get us through the next few days.

We need money because we are always changing countries so we need currency of that country. However it is generally good *only* in that country, so we can only withdraw a certain amount needed for our stay in that particular country. It gets complicated. Anyways, we are funded and ready to continue onward and into Botswana!

Our next email may take a few days because we will be on safari all day tomorrow and then off to South Africa for our final few days prior to returing home
Zambia - Day Two

(posted by Andy)

Hello. Early today, we were picked up by our friendly cab driver who we have decided to hire anytime we need a ride. We trust him and he is very nice guy. He is a young kid with a wife and two kids; here many of the men can marry more than one wife if they wish but he can only deal (financially) with one he tells me. Here and in most of Africa we are told that women are not respected very much by the men and always get talked down to or cheated on...so all you women out there, be happy you're not barefoot and pregnant and living in Africa!

Our journey today was to Victoria Falls. One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, it is one of the largest and greatest waterfalls. In fact, it sends the largest volume of water of any of the world's waterfalls. Quite magnificant but with all the mist protruding out of its depths it was very difficult to see and anyone who is near it gets drenched as we did. It seems like it is raining when you are next to it and luckily we had a water bag to hide our camera and a raincoat to stay dry. Not bad for two bimbos!

We only visited the Zambia side and could not visit the Zimbabwe side due to all the problems we mentioned earlier in our past email. We are now on our way back to the lodge to hang out and chill for the rest of our day.

Last night, was very laid back since there was not much to do around the camp. We basically played rummy under our netted canopy bed.....much needed due to all the critters that buzz around here. In the middle of the night, I (Rhett slept), heard monkeys fighting in the trees above and hippos bellowing as they grazed nearby.

Very hot today and dry but better than humid anyday.

Talk to you all soon, our trip is almost at it's end....
Livingstone, Zambia - Day One

(Posted by Andy)

Well we have arived in Zambia and are located in a town called Livingston. Going through customs was another adventure...not scary, just time consuming... took about 1 hour to get us through immigration and into this country. We have been told that things move very slow around here and this place is indeed very relaxed.

I think this place was named after that famous British explorer called Mr. Stanley Livingston. Zambia has about 73 different tribes, and Livingston has about 160,000 residents. A very small town, dusty and relatively low income but lots of banks and simple commerce (grocery, money changing, etc) going on... there is little to do outside of the main things that most tourist who come here to do:

1. visit Victoria Falls, which we will do tomorrow and will let you know more.
2. adventure trips like bungee jumping or white water rafting (which we can not do due to high waters - rats!)
3. and safaris which we will do in another country called Botswana which is only an hour away from here

Our accommodations are very rustic and very basic with a chalet (like a one-room cabin) that has netting around the beds to keep out the bugs and a shower that does just what it is supposed to do. Paris and Nicole would not like this, but Andrew and Rhett will do just fine. We are located on the banks of the great Zambezi river which flows into the falls. There is a small restaurant and bar that overlooks the river. Again basic. There is no internet or t.v. there so we went into the city to find a internet cafe where I type to you right now. No wild animals around us besides a crocodile and a rhino which we have not seen yet. Hippos too! Sadly there were three rhinos last year but two were poached in the last year, the other injured and is under heavy government protection.

Strangely we have been trying to get cash from the money machines but they only accept Visa and Plus network - we only have mastercard/cirrus. So we will have to cash our dollars and rands or hook on the streets until we get enough cash... we will be fine but it is a strange problem.

We just wanted to let you all know that we have made is safe and sound and will try to communicate with you soon.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Jo'burg Day 2

Entertainers at the African Craft Market

(posting by Andy)

Hello again!   We are still in Johannesburg and it was a very nice day here today.  Our hotel is in a very safe area and we were pleased to find that today, Sunday, the biggest art & craft fair in the city was happening just a few blocks away.  We visted the "African Craft Market" which takes over literally an entire parking lot of a major mall - intense - and we were surprised to see so many vendors selling their goods...we walked around for about 5 1/2 hours where we visited little shops selling masks, paintings (we purchased one from an artist we met), and other little trinkets that we purchased during our days walk.  We also had lunch at the market (Indian food) and it was quite good and so far, neither of us have crapped our pants after eating food from the street....more good news for us!   Generally we stray away from food from street vendors, but being in a safe and nice area we decided to take the chance.   The girl that sold to me my tropical drink promised me she was using "safe" ice - meaning potable water, ready to drink.   
 
We were also entertained along the way by local African dancers, jugglers, and animal trainers that brought exotic birds (including a huge eagle if you can believe it), lizards, and snakes - snakes from America if you can believe it!  The kids were entertained as was I while Rhett was a bit bored so he continued shopping.
 
Again, the area we are in is VERY safe, almost boring, but exactly what we need right now after our experience in Mozambique.  Early tomorrow morning will be leaving South Africa again and will visit another country called Zambia.  Back into the wild bush and again surrounded by wildlife.  I hope we can continue to communicate with you but we will be in the middle of a less developed area and we do not know if the internet can be found for us. 
 
Zambia is located next to Zimbabwe where, if you have not watched recent world news (shame on you), is at the brink of civil war.   Please watch CNN for the next few days.   We will be located only six miles from the border of the country from which they are broadcasting.  Don't worry, Rhett tells me that Zambia is a very safe and stable country.  Please watch the news and look for us as we wave to the cameras in the background.  Just kidding.
 
Well, that is it for now, wish us a safe journey to yet another country.  We are about to walk around again and look for a place to eat so we can make it a early night and ready for a new flight.
 
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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Finally in Jo'burg

Rhett at Milly's in Machadodorp

(posting by Andy)

The ride out of Mozambique was very stressful and Rhett and I were very uncomfortable prior to our departing road trip.  I got very little sleep last night hoping that we would not get pulled over again and being harrased from cops on the way to the border.  We did pass police officers but we made a point to look preoccupied and busy in conversation with each other in order to prevent them from pulling us over.  It worked. 
 
We literally drove passed two road blocks and each time prayed that they would not ask us to pull over.  It has been some time since I have prayed to God to help me out and the prayer I did prior to us leaving worked...  hoping each mile closer to the border into South Africa that it would go smoothly and for the most part, it did.  Rhett would literally count the kilometers to the border but laws only allowed 80 km an hour (about 45 mph) and we were so stressed... not fast enough... it was excruciating!   But we made it.
 
This morning we made it a point to leave very early (on a weekend) and the traffic was not as congested as on the way in and there were less people.  The abject poverty we saw on the way into town was very limited today.  We felt a bit better than we did in days past.  Anyhoot, we made it to the border and we did not get hassled.
 
Through the border we bribed a gaurd with money (150 metacais, about $7) to not hassle us and they did not even go through our luggage.....we have 8 bags with us so this was a nice treat!  Paris and Nicole have way too much and have added things along the way as most of you can expect. 
 
Once out of the border and back into South Africa we took a DEEP breath, smiled and high-fived each other and gave a loud Whoo Hooo!  Although we had to continue being cautious through South Africa it was certainly comforting to be back on familar grounds. 
 
Our trusty little Toyota took us on a nine (9) hour road trip accross South Africa today (600 kilometers!).  Topography:  we went through the bush, banana plantations, forests and lakes, wine country and flat land for a LONG time.  It is much like going through California at first, and then winding up in Ohio and Illinois by the end.  VERY boring for the last 3 hours or so but this time very safe. The road trip was easy to endure because the roads were paved much like we have back at home and Rhett thinks even better.  Did I mention to you that they drive on the left side of the road here and the driver is also located opposite of what we are used to?  We are driving a stickshift and it is located on the LEFT of the driver... takes some getting used to...  Rhett has been doing a fantastic job at it and I must say, he is a pro by now!  Kuddos to Rhett! 
 
In the middle of our road trip today we stoped in a little fishing (trout) town called Machadodorp.  This was a very (!) nice surprise to both of us as we had lunch along the lake with golden rolling hills behind us and ate a "smoked trout wrap".  Sounds wierd but actually very delicious!  The sun was about 70 degrees and we loved having the African sun back on our faces.  Most enjoyable and soon afterwards, back on the road to Johannesburg. 
 
We finally made it to the Hyatt Regency Johannesburg and we feel like we are home... well as good as it can get for two Gypsys...  God what a relief!  It is very nice here as you can imagine and are here for two days to relax for the chaos of Mozambique.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Maputo - Day Two

(posting by Andy)

Today was a much better day for both of us here in Mozambique. It's funny, we have learned during this trip what our limits are when traveling. Here things are rougher than we have ever encountered nor expected so originally we were not at ease. Unlike the bush were we had to watch out for wild animals, here we need to watch out for criminals and shady cops. Different but in a sense very similar. The point is to watch your back everywhere you go and carry little to nothing of value on you.

Although we want to blame someone for the uneasyness, when people are very poor, crime is the only thing that is left for them at the end of the day. Everyone needs to eat everyday, and since we really don't know what it's like to be this poor, we just have to deal with the punches and watch our every move when out of the comfort of the hotel.

Traveling to third world countries is much different that what I have seen on t.v. Unlike Madonna or Angelina Jolie we don't have an army of gaurds that walk around with us and protect us... you don't see that on t.v. so this is something we have learned. Us bitches arn't rich enough so until we hit the lotto, I have asked Rhett to NEVER take me to a place this remote again. I am just not cut out for it.....I didn't know that before this trip. Rhett is also uneasy and agrees. Mind to all: Lonely Planet guides are really for the pretty rough traveler. We'd be surprised if Frommer's or Fodor's even MADE a guide on Mozambique...

Today was much better because we hired a private tuk-tuk. A tuk-tuk is much like a moped that can seat two people plus the driver. This nice guy was named Simbola and he showed us around town and took us to the market where today's catch of fish, fruits and vegetables, and little trinkets are sold. The experience was very good and we felt very comfortable with him as he took us around for an hour or so.

He then dropped us for an hour to have lunch at the Hotel Polana which has colonial Portuguese architecture. Very swanky and very nice. After lunch Simbola waited for us in front and took us back to our hotel which is where I type you now.

Early tomorrow we want to get a head start out so we can have daylight travel back into South Africa where we will be in Johannesburg for two days - we changed our trip to go there a day early to ease our minds and make our vacation a bit more comfortable for us. Johannesburg is the commerical capital of the African continent and the largest city in South Africa with 7 million inhabitants. A very big city - parts are very unsafe, but we will be in the old money area and have no interest in danger (been there... done that)! We are staying at the Hyatt there so for Rhett and I, it will feel more like home as they will make sure to take care of us.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Maputo, Mozambique - Day One

(posted by Andy)

Today we have arived in Maputo, a city located in the country of Mozambique. We are no lonter in Sourth Africa and will be here for 3 days...more about that in a moment.

We have left our lap of luxury in which we have taken advantage of all the facilities here at the lodge and spa. Our stay there was very relaxing and we enjoyed walks along the river where we encountered waterfalls, butterflies, and some birds that were shy and hiding in the massively tall forest trees; a much different experience than lions and other wild animals! It felt good to be safe when walking but less adventurous as you can imagine.

Our experience getting to Mozambique was unique to say the least. We are certainly in a third world country and it shows in every corner of ones eye. Crossing the border was just like something out a movie where many people from South Africa and Mozambique line up in every from of transportation included and many by foot. It was chaotic and very difficult for me to experience because it is so different from which I am accustomed.

A young man helped Rhett and I with our passports both exiting South Africa and then entering Mozambique. Here women carry their goods on their heads and the color of most of the poeple we encountered are very dark....we are definitely two fish out of water and very easy to spot as we travel around.

Shorthly after entering Mozambique we were pulled over by a police man that asked us for our papers. Since we have all our ducks in a row we thought nothing of it....until he insisted that we had no insurance. Our paper works says different and we had to pay him off to let us go forward. Before our departure I took most of my money and put it inside my pocket and out of my wallet for this exact reason. We had to pay him evreything we had in our wallets (about $20 in odd currencies) and this was extremely uneasy. Thank goodness we had more hidden and it all went well.

Here the police offices can not be trusted to help you, we have to bribe them with money so they will let you continue on your journey. Rhett tells me it is normal and common since they get paid so little, I was very worried and was even more worried for lying to him about not having any more cash. Well, after a bit of negotiations, and after a few moments, he let us pass (we had a similar incident in Indonesia a few years ago and should have remembered)...

Please don't be worried, we made it fine and from now on will be used to such encounters should they arive. We are now in our hotel and safe and sound - the Holiday Inn (which is very much nicer than a typical Holiday Inn). Our hotel views the Indian Ocean and it is very nice.

Mozambique appears to be *very* poor and our first impression is thus. Tomorrow we will relax a bit by our pool and adventure away from the hotel as far as is safely allowed

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Londolozi Day 3 and Cybele Lodge

Photo of our swank cottage at Cybele

(posting by Andy)

I had a terrible night's sleep last night; in fact many of us at the camp had a horrible night's sleep...why?   Because the lodge was invaded throughout the night while we were asleep  by lions, hyenas, and hippos.  The rumble of noises kept me awake but Rhett slept through most of it.  It was THE talk during breakfast by all about what we heard and what was out in the dark of night.  During the night, WE CAN NOT leave our room unless escorted by a gaurd so you couldn't ever go out and see what was out there because it was literally outside our doors and terribly dangerous to explore. 
 
Today our deck was bombarded by little monkeys that if you walked close enough to the glass window they would charge you and slap the glass...little buggers are mean and have no fear of humans.  They have been more of a pest than the mosquitos believe it or not.  Unlike mosquitos there is no repllent for them, nothing but a gun that shoots air..not allowed to shoot primates here in South Africa although very tempting. 
 
Yesterday we spoke to several locals about our next trip to Swaziland and they ALL told us that it was not a good decision to drive there - in fact very dangerous.  People have been known to be stopped and have their windows broken while in the car and robbed and killed.  This is not a joke, very dangerous.  I could not bear the idea and almost felt like throwing up while they told us the stories and their warnings.  Although the ride was only going to be 4 hours long and during the day it was still very dangerous.  Had we known this when planing our trip we would have never considered it but thank God I asked around and got the information from them (we don't mean to scare you at home, I am just being honest and want to share our complete experience).  Our passports will not alow us to enter into Mozambique until Thursday (today is Tuesday) so we needed a place to stay for the following two days.  Because the hotel we were at was extremely expensive it was impossible to budget into the trip.  So a change of plans......
 
We sat down with the general manager and explained our situation and she completely understood and offered some advice.  She knew of a couple of bread and breakfast areas out of the bush for a different experience about 2 hours away and a much safer place to explore. 
 
So here we now are, unexpected but still *very* beautiful.  We have driven into the moutains and river area of South Africa at a forest lodge called Cybele.  Cybele is situated 300 miles east of Johannesburg and is 3000 feet above sea level.  Unlike the bush it is a bit cooler and less humid.  Here we can hike, explore trails, rivers and waterfalls...a much needed rest from all the days of activities under the hot sun and dust in the bush. 
 
Now that we are here, it is spectacular and quite lovely.  We are surrounded by tall forest trees and the place is very private with only 12 private chalets.  Our cottage (much like a private little house) is gorgeous with a bedroom, living room and a private yard and we are very happy we made the decision not to go to Swaziland.  We will lose the opprotunity to go whitewater rafting there but our lives are much more important and my sanity has been once again restored.  So much that Rhett and I have booked a 5 hour day spa that includes a massage, a facial, mani and pedi, and a lovely bath to boot.   Paris and Nicole are back in their element!
 
Anyways, we wanted to let you know that our environment has changed and that our plans have as well.  We will be here for two days and then off to Maputo, Mozambique to continue with our original plans in which we will keep you posted. 

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Londolozi Day 2 Afternoon

Photo of leopard on safari, only feet away from us

Posting by Andy

Yesterday afternoon we visited a local village that was set up for the employees of Londolozi (visit www.londolozi.co.za <http://www.londolozi.co.za> ).   The employees work 6 weeks on and get two weeks off.   The village consists of one room buildings that house each employee... if they have families, the families live outside of this village but can stay with them in the one room huts.   The Londolozi village has a clinic and daycare/school to care for not only the employee but also the families when they visit.   It is very simple and appears poor, but their roots are even poorer.  On the site of this village is the original village made of straw huts...  so there is an improvement.    The school/day care teacher also sung in the choir for us earlier in the week!   A little boy followed us along they way that was facinated by us, perhaps because we were stangers or perhaps because of the color of our skin. He was about 4 years old and very cute and very outgoing...and stayed with us until we left the village. 
 
Later that night we went on our night time safari.  Last we spoke we were on the hunt for the spotted leopard and boy did we find him.  Our tracker has been searching for the spotted leopard and last night, during our night safari after about an hour, there he was, this magnificent animal just laying on the grass as we drove on by.  At first, amazed to finally see one in the wild, all of us in the jeep were speechless and hoped that he would not run long enough for us to take a photo or two.  Well, it was amazing folks, he was more beautiful than I could amagine with a coat of spots and eyes that were so wonderful to look at.  We pulled over and just stared at him as he drank from a puddle of freshly rained water.   He didn't run, nor did he care that we were looking at him.  Soon after he started to walk along the road and we followed him to his next stopping place....a place were he sat and calmly examined the lay of the land.  Shortly afterwards, we noticed a couple of zebras, and so did he!  He could care less about the jeep we were in and focused solely on his next hopeful meal...the zebras.  I have seen an animal hunt many times on television but to see the art in which an animal do so in real life is beyond words.  Patiently he waited as the zebras grazed on the grass about 100 feet beyond us, we waited for about an hour for him to make his move and so he did.  He did not catch the zebra that night, but being there watching him stalk the animal was just phenominal.  Again, much more intense than just watching it on t.v. to the point that you hold your breath waiting to see his next move.  This animal is truly beautiful and also very dangerous to be around without a rifle and protection as we were.
 
We are now seeking the buffallo which is part of the "Big Five" animals here.  They are elephants, rhinos, lions, giraffes, and now the buffalo.  We spent so much time with the leopard that it grew dark and we had to return to our village to have dinner.  Dinners here are fantastic, we have a private chef who cooks something different every night and make sure we never have the same thing twice.  Rhett and I tried the ostrich and although I was a bit wierded out by it....it tasted like meat and I just made sure I did not think it was ostrich...not bad, but I would not seek it in the states. 
 
Today we were again awakened at 5:30 a.m. for our morning safari and once again, not disapointed with our find.  Our guide/trapper heard of the male lion some ways away and we were off to see if we could find him.  After about 40 minutes or so along the bush, there he was, the king of the bush, with two lioness nesting on a rock, viewing his land in which he protects with his life.  Should he see another male lion who is not part of his pack, he will kill it without hesitation and the villagers are not so happy with him because he also will kill the little cubs should he find them.  Sad but this is the law of the bush, he wants to make sure that other males, wether cubs or lions, never compete for his land nor his lionesses. 
 
Soon after we also encountered crocs, monitor lizards, hippos and many more that we have seen days past. 
 
When we returned to our village or camp, we then took a bush walk with Foster our safari guide and also a great nature guide.  He walked us around and told us that his parents were medicine doctors who used all of the herbs and trees for medicine. These people believe so strong in herbs for medicine, mainly because they can not afford medicine, that they rely on witch doctors to treat them and use herbs to help their sickness.  He swears it works but I still question how it can be so.  The walk was extremely inciteful and he was so much full of knowledge of how everything around us, from bushes to trees and grasses, can be used for food, medicine and even afrodesiacs (our Viagra!).  We all learned a great deal from this man and he has come to be our friend and our guide throughout our stay here at camp. 
 
Oh, we were also asked if they could move our room to another room as an upgrade, I don't know why but boy was it an upgrade.  I think it was because we are so friendly with everyone but they picked us and the room is even more spectacular.  The cost per night is around $8,000 and Rhett tells me that it is the best room he has ever been in which as we all know, says a great deal.  It is an adult treehouse that is nestled up in the trees with a glorious living room that views the land and a bedroom fit for two queens!  A shower that is both indoors and also one that is outdoors too that feels like you are taking a private shower in the forest.  We thought we had the setup here, but now we really have the set up! 
 
I am going to take an afternoon nap now since I have been up so early and then ready for another night time safari and dinner.  Tommorrow we leave this wonderful place and all the animals to drive about 4 hours (wish us luck) to central Swaziland, a small country nestled next to South Africa where we hope to see more indigenous African people and we also planned a white water rafting trip which should be supurb.
 
Until our next opportunity to write you......our adventure continues and our expectations of this safari have been surpassed and amazing to see.

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Londolozi - Day 2 Morning

Posting by Andy

The morning started with a pounding on our door at 5:30 a.m. by one of the gaurds waking us up for our first day's safari....as you can imagine waking up at this time is not for most, but once up and out of our hut, we gathered with our group and jumped into a jeep and out into the bush. 
 
Let me explain the jeep (actually a Land Rover), no top, just sides, so the view is completely unobstructed so the animals are right there in front of you...we have two guides that are with us, one that drives, and the other sits in front and looks for animal tracks and droppings on the ground and we follow them to whatever animal is around.  When we first arived we just didn't know if and what animals we would see and how close we would get to them...the answer....very close.  When I say very I mean we were about 2-5 feet away from a pack of 11 lions - 3 femals and 8 cubs - with no protection around us but a jeep.     We were so amazed we sat there for a good 30 to 45 minutes watching them play and sleep and go potty.
 
The animals, although extremely wild, are very familar with the jeeps since they have seen them drive around since their birth.  They are not afraid of them, nor do they want to harm us...unless we step out.  Two rules:  1) don't stand up, because the animals are used to the shape of the jeep and standing up changes the shape and alarms the animals, so they may charge, and 2) no making calling noises to them because they do not understand what you are doing.. basically you don't want to cause any attention to yourself, just look, take photos and enjoy them. 
 
After that we were overwhelmed with a group of elephants that towered over us and were extremely intimidating to look at because among most of the animals here they will charge if provoked and the last thing you want to do to a wild elephant is provoke it because it will tumble the jeep and will tear you apart if feels threatened....oh my.  These giant creatures are everywhere from big ones to babies which are quite cute.   We noticed that they eventually surrounded us and the only way out was to just wait until they faded back into the bush, which we did.     
 
Next... of course, we have to stop in the middle of the bush and have coffee, tea, cocoa and biscotti.   Roughing it, aren't we?!      FYI - 'the bush' is not just a plant!   The topography of the landscape - slight rolling hills with shrubbery, lots of dirt and the occasional short twisted tree - is 'the bush.'  
 
Soon after we witnesed a herd of giraffes, tall and lean with a stylish motion to their walk, very elegant and very sweet as they nibbled on the branches of the African trees.  Then off to the hippos, waddling in the large pond to keep their skin cool.   If you don't know already they are quite dangerous and will absolutely kill you even when not threatened.  They tell us they are the main human killers here because sometimes, when the women are out in the morning collecting water from the rivers, they rush the people and kill them without any hesitation.  All throughout, we were in search for the spotted leopard which we were told is magnificent to see.....along the search, we saw zebras, impalas (which they call the McDonalds of the bush beacause they are everwhere), wildebeast, warthogs, lizards, birds, and other big and small creatures of which I am forgetting the names.  If you have seen the movie "The Lion King", this is it and this is where all of those animals live.  Very cool, very cool indeed.
 
We arived back at camp around 10 a.m and were greeted by an amazing farmstand breakfast; cold items such as berry compote for fresh cereals and yoghurts, with freshly baked croissants and incredible cold meats and cheeses.   The breakfast ended with we  a hot breakfast to order - Rhett had poached eggs (obviously picked from the hen that morning) , and I had an omelette filled with scrumptious ham and cheddar cheese.   OMG yum.    They take very good care of us here and although we know we paid well to be here, we still appriciate it and feel most comfortable here. 
 
They biggest problem thus far with animals has been the monkeys that have overtaken the place and are constantly stealing guest's food from the tables and just are trouble makers in the eyes of the workers...I will say though, very cute.  One was not so happy with Rhett and threw a berry at him....how rude!
 
We are now relaxed and waiting for our next night safari in search again for the spotted leopard and what ever else comes are way.  Anyhow, although Paris and Nicole are completely out of their comfort zone and with no Prada, Gucci, and Kenneth Cole, we are doing well and want to send our love to all of you and wish you were here to witness what we are seeing for yourselves.  We have taken photos and will share them with you when the opportunity arises.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Londolozi, Kruger National Park, South Africa - Day 1

(photo of view from our private plunge pool, Room 1, Londolozi Varty Camp)

Posting by Andy

Today I am typing you from a little hut in the Londolozi camp.  We got here via airplane from Cape Town which took about 2 hours and then to our camp with a car that we rented.  The ride from the airport was about two hours and the location of our camp is literally in the middle of the bush where animals such as lions, zebras, elephants, and more surround us. On the drive into the camp, just as Rhett and I were complaining about not seeing any animals thus far, we were greated by giraffes and zebras...we were so shocked we literally just opened the window to our car and started taking photos in awe.  "Can you belive what we are seeing we kept asking ourselves"...and yes, here we are in the middle of the bush. 
 
Check this out, we have animals all around us but we are protected by personal guards that walk us around with guns to protect us from the animals at night; during the day we are free to roam by ourselves within the Londolozi camp.  Once we dropped our suitcases in our room (the camp has only 30 chalets), we were then taken on a safari where we encountered all sorts of animals such as wildebeast, zebras, impalas, hyenas, and other wild game.  Later during the same outing, we encountered a couple of lionesses with cubs right in front of our jeep, OH MY GOD! 
 
As I type, a lizzard just wizzed passed me on the wall, and we have monkeys all around us that we were warned to watch out for since they love to steal anything they can get their hands on..to the employees a nuisance, to us, very, very cool. 
 
We just completed a wonderful South African meal here at Londolozi that consisted of springbok (like a deer) and other crazy stuff I didn't even ask what it was...it was good so I just kept eating it.  After our dinner, we were entertained by the local womens choir, dressed in similar red, white and black African design garments and head sarves.   They sounded so authentic and beautiful with songs of the African culture as they danced and sang around the firepit.  There are no electrical lights out tonight, all candles and lanterns that guide us around.  Although rustic in appearance, this place is 5 star and for $1,500 a night well worth it.  Our room views the river and the bush with a private pool in a setting that is spectacular!  Wowsie.
 
We are to be awakened at 5:30 a.m. for another safari outing in which we will likely see elephants, rhinos, and more giraffes and who knows what...so stay tuned.  The place is just like the movies people....and just what we expected.  We are kinda freaked out that we need to be chaparoned around by a guard, but it is for our safety.  We certainly don't want to be a lion's dinner tonight nor any other night here.
 
Good night from us, and looking forward to another day in Africa tomorrow.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Cape Town - Days 3 and 4

(photo in Franschhoek)

This email will be much lighter in spirit and will consist of yesterday and today....I type you now from a internet cafe located in the Victoria and Alfred waterfront.  Our surroundings are much different than the last cafe...nice restaurants, shops, galleries, and most of the things that tourist look for when on holiday.  The working harbor and shoping entertainment development that has become South Africa's most visited man made attraction.
 
Now for yesterday. It started with the ingestion of our first serious of Malaria and Vitamin B pills for our next adventure.  From now on, we will be taking the medication provided because after Cape Town, the next places are more remote and more adventerous and the opportunity for us to become ill due to water or bug bites are greater. 
 
Off to the Winelands....the ride begins with a view of the ghetto where most homes were built by tin and whatever the residence could find to put over their heads and in some cases, plastic.. too dangerous for us to enter but quiet shocking to see from afar.  It's always amazing to us to see how poor some people are and how lucky we are not to have known this type of life.  They are so poor that they make the southside ghetto look like Lincoln Park and most of the electricity (if they even have it) is shared or stolen among many from the government. 
 
The rest of the ride from there was spectacular!   About most of the views we have encountered...just when we think we have seen true, untouched beauty of the land, the next day surprises us with even more beauty with mountains throughout the land from one side to the other, and valleys and rivers and lakes with creatures that wander along the way.  Not the big game we are about the experience soon (where is it?!), but quail, and birds, rabbits and other small creatures that inhabit the land.  Most of the landscape has been untouched by man since the beginning so you can imagine how wonderful it is to us not to see buildings and the congestion of man...just simple beauty.  Mother Earth here is red, very similar to the Brazilian jungle (due to iron) and boulders and rocks as far as our eyes can see.  Shrubs cover the land and from time to time, river beds and creeks that water the animals and people who live in the towns. Water is seen running through some streets in canals that flows from the tops of the mountains....fresh, cool, and free for those who live near it.
 
The main attraction was the wine country.  We went to a town called Franschhoek that was a mixture of Sonoma and Napa but the views simply blow them away.  The landscape that surrounded this town was yet again spectacular and some of the most expensive real estate located in the Cape Town area.  Here we found little shops that more upscale and some of the best restaurants than in the city.  We met artist and crafters, farmers and farmworkers, adventurers and ordinary friendly, hospitable people.  The town is famous for its Cape Dutch architecture, extensive wine estates and oak lined streets.  It was a lazy town and perfect for what we wanted to do.
 
Last night ended with a dinner at "Mama Africa" where one could find true South African cuisine and an atmosphere that felt hippy and authentic.  The walls were fully covered with bamboo and the ceilings as well.  The bar was shaped like a snake, with tapestries and African art work displayed throughout.  Here they served alligator, ostorich, springbok, kudu and humans...o.k., not humans but almost anything else that they could hunt.  I had curry chicken, and Rhett had a stew with sprinbok and kudu...yuck for me, yummy for him. We were entertained by a band from the Congo that echoed throughout the restaurant...a very cool experience and just what the doctor ordered.    
 
We are busy today as well! We just returned from Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was incarcorated.  For those who don't know, he was imprisoned for fighting for black rights in South Africa and later became President of free South Africa in the mid 1990s - still alive today.  He was in jail for 24 years and for 18 years in one cell no bigger than most of our bathrooms.   
 
The only way on the island was a ferry boat from the waterfront and once on, the landscape was bleak with some vegitation brought over from the Australians long ago, bunny, wild ostriches, birds o'plenty, lizards and other creatures that were brought by man.  Oh, I forgot to mention one of the largest colonies of jackass penquins too!
 
Our tourguide was a political prisoner himself.  He told us that he was imprisoned in 1986 and was senteneced to 14 years, but was released in 1990 in the third wave of political prisoner releases as apartheid fell.   It was an emotional story.   He told us he was electrocuted and tortured but he felt his story could help him heal, and he appealed to his fellow countrymen to live in peace and harmony and to think about the future, not the past.   One final note, Rhett pulled him aside and asked him about the day of his arrest.  He was very reluctant to discuss anything personal as such.   It was an interesting moment.
 
We need to go now, almost done with my time on the computer...off to Table Moutain for the rest of the day's adventure.  A cable car will take us to the top of this big mountain that has a flat top like a table (duh) and overlooks much of the city of Cape Town.  We will share more once we discover it again.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Cape Town - Day 2 - a tribute to Deena

Photo of African acapella group singing - a tribute to Deena

(posted by Andy)  
I am writing you today from a little internet cafe in the middle of a place called Green Market.  Very popular at the moment because almost all the ancient computers are being used.  This is where many backpackers and hikers send letters to their loved ones as I am also doing now...
 
Yesterday was both wonderful and also somber to both of us.  We are finally getting to the point where our jet lag is starting to go away but it is still very visable due to the late start to the day.  We have rented a cute little car that fits us perfect!  We packed it up and traveled south to the farthest tip of S. Africa, the end of the line so to speak.  More about that in a bit....
 
The first place we stopped was at Rhodes Memorial where we enjoyed the majestic views of the city and had breakfast.  This place was erected in honor of Cecil Rhodes, the man who made his fortune in diamond mines and became prime minister of the Cape in 1890.  He pretty much owned Rhodesia - or Rhodes-esia after his name which later became Zimbabwe.  Here diamonds are one of the main sources of income for the rich; the poor just work to death (literally) to dig them up from the mines.  Many people here have died in the name of furtune in diamonds....for those of you who are movie goers....see "Blood Diamonds".....your perception of diamonds may change from good (or you ladies great) to not so good.  Anyways, the memorial is an inposing granite staircase flanked by giant lions and and overlooking the Cape Flats and Table Bay.  We then had a simple English breakfast and enjoyed the view from atop and then took off. 
 
Now for some animals....of which we have see little to none so far!!  We drove about 25 miles to Boulders Beach.  Here is where we viewed the large breeding colony of jackass (African) penguins that settled here in the early 1980s.  No, I did not make up the jackass part, although I giggle evertime I think about it.  It was a main attraction and worth the drive.  Here you see hundreds of jackasses wondering the beachside, some laying on their egg, some walking about, and some just enjoying the African sun.  They are very cute, we took photos to share with you but as most of you know, being here is much different than any photo we can take.....after the visit to the penguins, sadly to say we received some horrible news from the States via text message....news that I have been waiting for and news that once received, is harder to take than one ever expects....
 
Our dear and most loved friend Deena has passed away and I still tremble typing the words because I believe I am still in denial since I am so far away.  As I was told by Rhett the news the world got very small, and I couldn't understand it and it was very hard for me to hear.  Just as I was in the middle of my somber moment and in my own solace, a group of African men started singing the most beautiful African song acapella.  The timing was such that I felt that they were singing it to us, to comfort us in our time of sadness....I sat in front of them with tears starting to fall, the words I did not understand, but in my own mind and sadness, I understood the meaning as a farewell the a good friend of ours, a friend who I will not forget and who I carry her spirit with me here at the tip of the world and in the land of South Africa.  It is impossible for us to leave for this, since we are so far and we had known of her illness prior to leaving....We did go to the hospital prior to our departure and said our farewells.  Farewell to you Deena, we love you and hope that your spirit lays in a better place.  We thank you for your friendship and for your laughter.
 
Soon afterwards, we had to leave the little town with the little jackasses and off to another place where as stated earlier, to the tip of South Africa in the Table Mountain National Park.  The place is called Cape Point and it is the end of point of Africa - only to be separated by the Atlantic Ocean (and Antarctica) finding South America.  Glorious and majestic are the views, with mountains, babboons (which we DID NOT SEE, only plenty of signs warning us), birds of plenty, and the ocean.  Here the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve is most famous for Cape Point, the farthest tip of the Cape Peninsula.  The usually windswept reserve can be pretty bleak, but the coastal views are arresting and the beaches are almost deserted.  We stayed there until the park closed and could have used a couple more hours just to take in the beauty but we had to leave as it was getting dark and we didn't want to drive back through any shanty towns.
 
Along the road tip home we did see ostriches and impalas which roamed along the landscape as we would see deer in the States.  Very cool and very "National Geographic".
 
We finally made it back to Cape Town and had dinner at this place that was suggested by our landlord called Tank.  The restaurant/bar had a giant TANK located in the middle with the ambiance of a modern color mix of blue and white.... I had pasta (shocking) and Rhett had ostrich (probally one that we had seen earlier alive along our trip - he did say YUMMMMM as we drove by them come to think of it) , even more shocking for me...but a typical meal here in South Africa.  In fact the eggs of the birds are used by the artist to paint on and sell to toursit.  I hear the egg itself is delicious but I will not explore the opportunity nor we I eat the meat.  Rhett really enjoyed it and I believe he would eat it again should he have the chance. 
 
This was a long day and now we are off to the wine country of South Africa to try some local wine and take in more sites.
 
Bye for now and wish us luck on our next journey....

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Cape Town - Day 1

(posting by Andy)

We are finally in Cape Town, South Africa!  First of all, for those of you who don't know much about Cape Town (I was certainly one!) it is the oldest city in southern Africa and is regularly heralded as one of the most beautiful on earth.  It has mountainous slopes sustaining the world's most varied botanic kingdom (like 9,000 species) and it overlooks lush green valleys carpeted with vines... the drive into Cape Town first was a modern freeway surrounded by slums but that turned into a modern city surrounding Table Mountain which kind of looks like Diamond Head in Hawaii.
 
Cape Town is physically separated from the rest of the continent by a barrier of mountains.  The look is kinda like California, but once you see the people, you know you're not in Kasas anymore!! 
 
The flight here was long, though.  Heathrow airport was easier to get out than we expected (not out of Terminal 5 for you news junkies, thank God), we did not have our bags checked and, for the most part, it was easy to get on the plane.  The 12 1/2 hour flight here was long but we made the best out of it and slept as much as possible.
 
Today in Cape Town we toured Green Market where the locals sell everything from art work, wooden sculptures (like masks), statues of warriers and other sellable goods.  At first it was really cool but then became overwhelming because the eye is so stimulated with all this stuff that after some time, we had to just walk away.  The art of negotiations is key here.  Everyone selling tells us that we are "the first customer" or they "will give us a good price".  In all a bit overwhelming and we are certainly not at Macy's nor Nordstroms any longer.
 
We still have not seen any animals but there is plenty of time.  For now we are in a big city but later we will adventure out and see more....the people are very nice so far. The combination of whites and dark Africans is common here in Cape Town but later we will certainly stand out in the crowd.
 
Nicole (Rhett) and I have rented a lovely apartment that is near the water and although some of the luxuries we have become accustomed to are missing, the overall experience has been worth it even with the loss of a bellman and roomservice.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Cape Town, South Africa

We made it finally! Check out the view of Table Mountain from the plane as we landed...

Weather is dry, warm, maybe 75.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Cheers from London!

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Harrods, tubes and aliens oh my!

(posting by Andy)
 
Today we were greeted with snow, something that rarely happens here they say...most of you had much better weather than we but at least we are seeing London.  Here for those of you who don't know, most everyone rides the Tube, an equivalent to the train or El.  I have been all over taking the Tube...we bought an all day pass and have used it well.  It started with a trip to Nightsbridge, where we shoped and toured Harrods, a famous shopping store that is very fancy and has everything from diamonds to an oyster bar for a light snack. The candy section looked like something out of Willy Wonka and the Chocalate Factory very cool and very colorful..along with an ice cream shop that is majestic and eye candy for children I am sure!  Anyway, it was very cool. 
 
People around here are everywhere, most people always go out and unlike Americans, the b
Brits love to hang outside no matter what the weather is like.  After our shopping experience started where the rich shopped, we then took the Tube to another area called Camden Town where the scenery completely changed!  Home to the punkrockers and hippies with plenty people watching to do!  We hooked up with our friends and had lunch and did more shopping...this time the sellables were pipes, tshirts, and a bunch of cool vintage wherables.  The place is called Camden Market where we saw a young gils shooting a music video, punkers walking around shopping for pink hairspay and shinny pants with tall ass shoes, people who look like Billy Idol.     There is even a store called CyberDog that is best explained as... a store for aliens?!   We could by an outfit to make Battlestar Galactica proud!   That is about it for now, talk to you  soon.

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

London

(post by Andy)

Hello from London! Paris and Nticole and doing well. Our flight went smoth and after 7 hours in flight we have landed. Our room, as most of you can imagine, is spectacular! Today we walked down Oxford Street, with double decker red buses, dark red phone booths, traditional black cat London taxis that are all in the shape of PT Cruisers. (fun) Later we hooked up with our fabulous friends Peter (who is insane) and Danielle (who is insane for marring him) and joned them for a late lunch at a Pub to celebrate their frinds (Byron) birthday. We arrived just as the family style meal was served, pot roast, roasted vegetables and beef - and beer, of course, lots of beer! Now we are off to two big clubs to disco the night away...yeah right we probably will pass out by midnight, but we are sure going to try! For now, I am typing you from Danielle's totally cool loft....very nice, and getting ready to go to Convent Garden to the Detroit bar and then later to Heaven...big night club that never stops bumpin until God knows when....oh my.

Cheers for now! Paris and Nicole ( Rhett & Andy)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Lunch at Decatur and Gov. Nicholls

Cloudy but warm today. Very relaxed here. I definitely needed a change of pace!

Last night we went to Snug Harbor, the Spotted Cat and more bars on Frenchmen Street. Great music and beer and everyone out having a great time. Sad to go home tomorrow.
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Saturday, March 15, 2008

New Orleans

Haven't been back since pre-Katrina. City seems the same but of course we've only hit the French Quarter.

In the first hour I met Ray Nagin and talked to him about the city. He faid the first time they got money from the feds was November 2007. He also said he was with Bill Clinton this morning and Bill wasn't overly confident for Hillary.

Tonight, dinner at Nola and some time at the casino.


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Saturday, March 08, 2008


American Airlines Sucks!



I had a 12 hour delay for my flight to Buenos Aires on my departure to South America... if you can believe it. It was so poorly handled - they apparently can't even see such delays in their system - that I didn't even have a confirmation of my departure when I arrived at the airport.

Check this out... my flight is delayed 12 hours departing Santiago back to the USA! What?! I am in disbelief... who has two 12 hour (overnight) delays in the same trip?! They (AA) can't get me on an earlier flight because I'd have to sit in Miami for 7 hours before I can get on a connection... I also heard that Condoleeza Rice was to meet the President here in Chile tomorrow and it was canceled because her staff's AA flights couldn't get to Chile!!

American sucks. One 12 hour delay is one thing, two is just unbelieveable. I lost my whole weekend and am so disappointed I can't spend at least part of the weekend with Andy and my puppies. I am very, very sad.

DON'T FLY AMERICAN AIRLINES TO SOUTH AMERICA OR RUE THE DAY YOU CHOSE IT.

Santiago

Beautiful morning after a rainy night. The mountains are full of snow if you can see... Home tomorrow!


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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Siésta en Mendoza

It is 3.30pm and check it out! This is such a quiet little town. In a few hours it will reopen; for now I think I will go down to the pool and work some until the city livens up...
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Boarding flight to Mendoza

Wow it is ontime so far with no checkin drama!

Check out how close the airport is to the city!

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Buenos Aires

Three days in Buenos Aires... what to do?

Well, I had to work so it hasn't been quite as easy as vacation. I found the first day to be tough due to the time change (4 hrs ahead of Chicago) and my flight was delayed by 12 hours. AA was just a nightmare to deal with and their customer service was rude. But at least I slept in my own bed before I left.

We had major rain on Thursday - check out the article in the Buenos Aires Herald: http://www.buenosairesherald.com/argentina/note.jsp?idContent=472500

but in Recoleta it was just wet with no flooding.

Saturday I woke up late, went shopping and then roamed around the city. Strangely I tried to exchange cash (Dollars to Pesos) -> just a little bit. But the hotel wouldn't cash it and they directed me to a place that then required my passport to exchange US$50 to A$. Sorry, but I don't carry my passport with me. I gave up and went to the Citibank on the corner. It's my bank but Citi has pretty hefty exchange fees that show up on my monthly statement. While safer than carrying cash it is more expensive. I tried to be smart and take cash this time but now I can't cash it without my passport!! Strange.

Today I am flying Aerolineas Argentinas which is a truly terrible airline. I am going to do a web checkin to hopefully speed the process at the airport. I just hope it isn't too delayed. Off to Mendoza where the weather should be much better, dry and hot like California. Today I'll just relax on the plaza and prepare for tomorrow's meetings.

Mi espanol is muy mejor que mi visito pasado. Quando hablo con la ama de casa es en espanol en total!


The Aerolineas Argentinas line at Ezeiza Airport last year. This was during the terrible weather and then subsequent flight. This year weather is better and no strike... please Lord don't let me be on this!

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cancun

This time Andy is with me in Cancun. He's been begging to go to Cancun because I go so often and yet he's never been here. So finally his curiosity is satisfied.

While I worked for two straight days he sat by the pool getting too much sun. Yesterday we swam with the dolphins and then drove down to Tulum, then shopped in Playa del Carmen and had dinner in a restaurant overlooking Qunita Avenida.

Today it is COLD - not like Chicago, where it is -4 F, but certainly cold by Cancun standards. It is only 69 F and cloudy, very windy. Not a beach day at all - but better than Chicago!

Rhett and Andy in Tulum; Sun setting on Playa del Carmen



Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Chicago

Happy New Year 2008 !