Thursday, June 30, 2011

Road Trip! - My Blended Family (Part 2)

aOne of the joys of not planning a trip, is that everything feels like a surprise. While Rebecca had diligently planned the trip and sent us great itineraries, I didn't really always know what to expect. I might know where we were going, but not what was there. Port Elizabeth was the beginning of our Road Trip, making our way (over 4 days) along the Garden Route to Cape Town! (I mapped it in google maps if you want to check it out!)

First stop: Schotia Safari Game Reserve. I was giddy! I was about to see real live giraffes and lions and warthogs! We got there at 3 in the afternoon on a chilly, overcast day. Given the weather we wisely chose the safari truck with windows, rather than totally open. Simon was snugly attached to my chest on the Ergo, where he couldn't move around but he could see everything that was going on, including the animals. Our drive started off a bit slow, although we didn't really know it. We saw a water buffalo (probably not a water buffalo, but that's what I'm calling it) and we all took tons of photos of this one single animal. We thought it was really cool. Gradually we saw big groups of different animals, antelope types, and that was more exciting. We saw some warthogs with their little warthog babies and they were so cute! Maybe it's the Lion King effect, but I really loved them. We saw some zebras - now it was starting to feel a bit more exotic! Then we stopped for dinner and had a great meal and warmed ourselves by the big, open fire.

Back into our safari truck for our night drive. Our driver had the beam flashing, and Mary with her incredible eye for animals spotted some giraffes in the dark. It was exciting, but of course in the dark we couldn't really see that much. Simon quickly fell asleep on my chest, so I was relieved not to have to worry about a screaming child disturbing everyone's safari - or the animals. Things quickly got exciting when we saw a lion lounging by the side of the road. It was soooo close, and just sat there, totally unphased by our huge beam light. We watched for a while, and then moved on to find mama lion with her 5 cubs chewing on a warthog head. It was AMAZING!! Totally unbelievable. The next morning got even better with clear blue skies and sunlight - we saw it all. A lion regally perched on a hillside roaring his morning roar. We found mama and the cubs still dragging around that poor warthog head. We saw lions and zebras hanging out. And we saw rhinos!! And by 10 o'clock the next morning, we were moving on.

We checked out elephants at Addo National Park, and then moved on to Storms River where we took a hike at Tsitsikamma National Park. We continued along the coast to the town of Wilderness, where we stayed at a beautiful B&B and wished we had longer to explore. However, Cape Town was next and we had a long drive ahead of us.

Our big stop on the way was passing through Oudtshoorn which is famous for its ostrich farms. I was not convinced that I was going to ride one, until I saw the look on Marie's face when the ostrich took off with her on its back. She was laughing so hard at the pure preposterousness of the situation that I knew I couldn't miss out. And it really was a highlight of the trip because it was so ridiculous and you felt so precarious with your legs tucked under their wings and it just running around in circles...You must try if you get the chance. (And Simon was really cute because he cried as soon as he saw me get on and stopped when I got off - he was worried about his mama!)

Yup. Riding an ostrich.

We arrived late in Cape Town to a beautiful house right on the water. We spent the next five days at Table Mountain, Cape Point, visiting the African Penguins in Simons Town, touring South African vineyards, and grilling LOTS of meat at our house. (If you know the Mazwi's, you get the idea.)

By the end of our trip, we really were a blended family. We have fantastic memories - and more importantly relationships - that will last a lifetime. Mike and Simon are even planning on grabbing a drink on Simon's 21st birthday (we won't mention how old Mike will be). We hope to make this into something we can do regularly all over the globe!

My Blended Family (Part 1)

You might be wondering, how did this great trip to Mozambique and South Africa come about? Well, it comes down to my blended family. My sister Marie's husband Khiza is originally from Zimbabwe. A close family friend from Zim was getting married in Mozambique, so the Mazwi clan decided to make into a big, blended family trip! All families were invited (i.e. - sister of sister-in-law) relational distinctions are unimportant - we're all family! I have tried to illustrate it below.

Simon was so excited to see his Aunt Marie and Uncle Khiza - whom he hadn't seen in just over a year - since he was just an itty bitty guy. We all reunited in the Jo'berg airport and managed to get everyone and all our luggage checked through to Mozambique. Let the adventures begin!

We spent 5 days in Vilanculos at Archipelago Resort. It was winter there, so the days were short, and the weather was pleasant but not too warm. The Mazwi's reconnected with old friends from Zim, and the rest of us made new friends. The highlight was definitely the boat ride to some of the big, sandy islands in Bazaruto National Park. On board were 2 babies and no life jackets, but the waters inside the reef weren't too rough, and the rocking waters and humming motors lulled the little ones to sleep. Some opted for a snorkeling trip (including 5 month-old-Hanna), which turned out to be a bigger (and not so welcome) adventure. We headed out to large swells at 2 mile reef, and when the driver said "hop in," we did, but quickly realized this was not the safest situation. Marie and I agreed to just hold hands the whole time, if not we would lose each other within 10 seconds. We often couldn't find the boat among the large swells, and were relieved when they rounded us all up and headed back to the island.

So while the snorkel trip was a bit of a bust, the following picnic lunch was not. I would show you pics, but I lost my camera on the last day of the whole trip. :(

The day after the wedding (we were there for a wedding - Mazwi family friends) we headed back to the airport for a full day of travel to get to Port Elizabeth, where our South Africa adventures began. (See next post.)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Castles along the Rhein

One of the best things about living in Düsseldorf is its central location in Europe. Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Berlin - they're all just around the corner. This weekend we took advantage of a long weekend to explore a beautiful part of Germany known as the Mittelrhein, a UNESCO world heritage site covering 45 miles of the Rhein valley. Around each bend it seems another stunning castle appears, and below a quaint German village.

View from above Boppard.
We stayed in the small village of Boppard, and spent the first day hiking through the hills and taking a chair lift to a scenic overlook. Pappa was definitely more nervous on the chairlift than Simon. The next day we took a 2 hour boat ride along the Rhein, from Bacharach to Boppard, and got to see the castles from the river and enjoy some beautiful sunshine! Simon was sick the whole trip - but he didn't let that get in the way. We were home by 5:30 on Saturday - it was just an overnight trip, but it was perfect!

Family photo!
Pics here.