Posted by: travelwithcurls | July 3, 2009

Peninsula Tour- Hout Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and Simonstown

Brother and I quickly realized that each day in Africa would start early in the morning. We were up at 7am for our first day of adventures and, of course, headed straight to the Table Bay Hotel’s breakfast. It was quite an impressive spread. I had no idea what sort of food to expect while staying in Africa, but this was beyond anything I imagined. They had a huge selection of fresh fruits and an array of international foods- from sushi rolls to ham with poached egg.

 

In the van on the Peninsula tour

In the van on the Peninsula tour

 

By 8am Brother and I were in the van setting out on our Peninsula Tour. Our driver Donny drove the eight other tourists and us down the western coast of Africa to the very southernmost tip and then up the eastern coast while Mark, our guide, narrated everything we saw and answered all of our questions.

Our first stop on the tour was Hout Bay. Not too far from the Bay lies Seal Island (aka a small island of rocks jutting out of the water where seals like to sleep and take refuge from the sharks). For 60 rand (the equivalence of $7.75) tourists can take a 45-minute boat ride out to see Seal Island. Brother and I, of course, refused to pass up this opportunity until we realized that neither of us had any rand and the boat did not accept credit cards. (Tip: Always travel with at least a little bit of local currency.) Not to be deterred, Brother and I borrowed rand from Mark and clamored aboard the boat to Seal Island.

 

Hout Bay

Hout Bay

 

Me and Brother on the boat

Me and Brother on the boat

 

Hout Bay

Hout Bay

 

Riding away from Hout Bay offered a colorful view of South Africa’s cozy towns and working ports.

Unfortunately, Seal Island was not nearly as interesting as we expected. Don’t get me wrong; it was nice to see the seals in their natural habitat…for the first ten minutes. But after taking 30+ pictures of the seals sleeping (and no sign of any shark attacks), I was ready to head back. Twenty minutes later, we finally did.

 

 

Seal Island

Seal Island

 

Seal Island

Seal Island

 

Seal IslandSeal Island

Looking back I’m glad we got to see Seal Island, but it would have been better if it was shorter. 

Our next stop was the Cape of Good Hope, the most southwestern point of Africa. Brother and I walked up the path to the lighthouse at the top of the cliff to see the view. The water was bright blue and very calm, except for one spot.  Out in the mostly calm water is a spot where with constant white water due to the current breaking over shallow rocks. A Portuguese liner, the Lusitania, met her end on those rocks, prompting the lighthouse to be relocated higher up on the cliff.

 

Cape of Good Hope

Cape of Good Hope

 

 

Cape of Good Hope Lighthouse

Cape of Good Hope Lighthouse

 

 

Looking out from the Cape of Good Hope Lighthouse

Looking out from the Cape of Good Hope Lighthouse

 


On the opposite side of the lighthouse you can see inland. For miles all you can see is green grasses. I looked straight down and just a couple yards below me was a little mouse bathing in the sunlight on the rocks.  Suddenly, he scurried into a little crack in the rocks. His nimble movements reminded me of that scene from the Lion King when Scar is playing with a little mouse he intended to eat.

 

You can tell from my curls how windy it was on the lighthouse

You can tell from my curls how windy it was on the lighthouse

 

 

Look how far we are!

Look how far we are!

 

At this point our journey turned north as we made our way up the eastern coast of Africa. We stopped at a seaport called Simonstown for lunch. We ate at a local restaurant adequately named Seaforth. Everyone on the tour sat together and we enjoyed meeting our fellow tourists. Most of them were from the UK, although one woman was visiting from Bangalore. For lunch I had a bowl of vegetable soup and spring rolls along with a class of the local white wine.

After lunch we walked down to the beach to see the African penguins nesting there. Not to sound like a typical girl, but they were so cute! The baby penguins were just losing their down and were absolutely precious. I loved watching them and contemplated smuggling one of them back to the US. In the end, I decided the outlook was not good (Tip: Don’t bother trying to steal animals from foreign countries… it does not end well).

 

African penguins in Simonstown

African penguins in Simonstown

 

Africa penguins

African penguins

 

Me and Brother with the African penguins

Me and Brother with the African penguins

 

One lone penguin in me and Brother's shadows

Baby penguins!

Mama and baber

Hi lil guys

We all climbed back on the bus and headed back to our respective hotels. I was exhausted and completely passed out on the hour ride back to Table Bay.

That night, Brother and I hoped to visit one of the local restaurants our guide mentioned. But at the sight of the pouring rain outside, we decided to stay closer to the hotel. Instead, Brother and I wandered through the large mall connected to our hotel until we found an Italian restaurant, Melancino, that looked appetizing. Normally when I travel abroad I try to visit local restaurants that serve tradition food from that country. But, none of the restaurants in the mall seemed to fit that genre, so I let my love for pizza guide me. After dinner Brother and I explored the mall and hotel for a bit before going to bed. We had to be up early the next morning for a wine tour!

Posted by: travelwithcurls | June 30, 2009

The Adventure is Getting There

My mother always tells me, ‘the adventure is getting there.’ This trip to Africa certainly fits the bill. Because we only had two weeks to make the most of three African countries, Brother and I were constantly on the move. However, before I can start blabbing about our journey, I’ll give you the background.

To start the trip, I met Brother McGhee in Chicago where he has been living for the past two years. Obviously I had to take in as much of Chicago as possible while I had the chance. Thus, we did the one thing that tourists and lifelong Chicagoans both enjoy- devouring deep-dish pizza!

 

Me and Brother eating Chicago deep dish pizza

Me and Brother eating Chicago deep dish pizza

 

According to Brother, there are three main pizza companies in Chicago and each has its own loyal fan base. Brother prefers Lou Malnati’s, and I must admit, I am a fan as well.   

 

Lou Malnati's

Lou Malnati's

 

It was the perfect last meal before flying seven hours to Amsterdam and 12 more hours to Cape Town. By the time we landed (almost two days after we took off), Brother and I were exhausted!

 

The view from the airplane

The view from the airplane

 

But, adrenaline kicked in on our drive to the Table Bay Hotel. Our view looked out over the Victoria and Alfred waterfront. I could see the moonlight twinkling across the water and hear the water quietly lapping against the pier.  According to our itinerary we would spend the next day on a peninsula tour of South Africa. I was so excited I couldn’t sleep.

Posted by: travelwithcurls | June 12, 2009

A Taste of Africa

So I haven’t written any posts yet about my trip to Africa because I’ve spent the past two days editing all the pictures I took and considering I took over 900 of them, its been quite a challenge.  But, even though I finally finished, I don’t have time to write any posts today because I’m leaving Suburbia, OH tomorrow to move back to Washington, D.C. and have to start and finish packing! Instead of writing a post, I’m leaving you with a taste of Africa just to spark your interest. Below are just samplings, an appetizer plate (if you will), of the things I saw in Africa and will subsequently write about (if I ever manage to finish packing). Have a great day and enjoy!

 

Hout Cape

Hout Cape


 

 

 

Penguins!


Penguins!


 


South African Wineries


South African Wineries



 

Antelope


Antelope


Big Rhinocerous


Big Rhinoceros


 

Baby Rhinoceros


Baby Rhinoceros

 

 

Cape Buffalo


Cape Buffalo


 

Elephants


Elephants

 

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls


 

Giraffe

Giraffe


 

Zebra

Zebra


 

Birds

Birds


 

Hippos

Hippos


 

Reptiles

Reptiles


 

Lionesses on the Hunt

Lionesses on the Hunt


 

Lions

Lions


I hope you liked the pictures and please come back soon for my African Adventure stories. If you don’t…..

 

I'll Find You!!!

I’ll Find You!!!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: travelwithcurls | May 25, 2009

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Today is the day! I’m sad to say goodbye, but it will only be for about two weeks. I listed out our travel itinerary; I hope it helps you envision our journey!

 May 25th: Fly from Suburbia to Chicago

May 26th – 27th: Fly from Chicago to Amsterdam to Cape Town (arrive on the 27th at night)

May 28th and 29th: Cape of Good Hope and surrounding area

May 30th-June 3rd: Johannesburg, Kruger National Park, and Mpumalanga

June 4th-June 6th: Victoria Falls, Zambia

June 7th-June 8th: Chobe National Park

June 9th: Fly to Atlanta then Chicago

June 10th: Fly home to Suburbia, OH

 I have no idea if we will have access to internet while in Africa, but if we do, I will post updates on my twitter: Travelwithcurls (it also updates immediately on the sidebar on the right side of this screen).

 Have a great rest of May and I’ll be in touch in June!

Posted by: travelwithcurls | May 24, 2009

What Not to Do: Pack This Poncho

My journey to Africa begins tomorrow. As in TOMORROW. I cannot explain how excited I am, but I also cannot count how many things I have left to do to prepare.

 Sooooo, to help me remember everything and keep my head from rolling off my shoulders, I made a long list of everything I still have to do. But, I thought it might be helpful if I show you some of the items I think will be most useful for this trip.

Poncho = Bad Choice

 1)   Definitely not this poncho. This falls under the What Not To Do category. Nothing will scare away animals and attract thieves who target tourists like a poncho. Think of a poncho as a bull’s-eye for mishap.

Travel-sized Umbrella

2)   Instead of an embarrassing poncho, opt for a travel-sized umbrella like this one. I won’t lie; this umbrella cost me $30. But, it was worth every penny. I used this umbrella every day that I lived in London, carried all across Europe and into Asia, and carry it to work and class every day in DC. It has held up and never let me down. I would gladly pay another $30 for an umbrella as worthwhile as this one. Here’s a tip: nothing can ruin a moment/day/trip as well as getting soaked in a rainstorm. Pack an umbrella and have it at the ready.

Everyday Bag

3)   For everyday use I purchased this bag. It’s made of alpaca wool (so I know its sturdy) and has a zipper (so slick hands can not slither their way in when I am not looking—always have a zipper on your travel bags). It has more than enough space for me to carry my camera, small notebook, wallet, sunglasses, and bug spray.

Small black bag

4)   I’m packing this smaller, black bag for times when I don’t want to carry a huge bag (aka any nightly trips to the bar). This bag looks small but manages to carry a wallet, camera, and sweater or scarf so it’s the perfect size.

Tissue T Shirt

5)   This is called a tissue shirt. I have several t-shirts and long sleeved shirts in this material. As you can see from how visible my hand is through the shirt, the material is very light, but can still keep bugs off my skin.

The Perfect Travel Scarf

6)   I bought this scarf from a market in Bologna, Italy. I love to take it when I travel because it is lightweight and rolls up very small. I use it to tie my hair back, wrap around my neck for warmth, and occasionally wipe perspiration off my forehead (women never sweat). It’s quite useful for all occasions.

My Favorite Travel Kicks

7)   As for shoes, I am packing a pair of Timberlands for hiking and a pair of leather flip flops for everyday wear. However, I’m also packing these sneakers (I bought them when I lived in London and haven’t taken them off until this photo) and this pair of cheap, rubber flip flops (to wear in the shower if needed and for water excursions).

Cheap Rubber Flip Flops


8)   I found this sun hat and thought it might be useful to help block the sun. It’s not a high quality product which is good because it’s flimsy and easy to pack!

 

Sun Hat

9)   I dug this hat out of a closet at my parents’ house in Suburbia. I have no idea where it is from, but I’m hoping Brother will think its funny enough to wear.

Silly Hat for Brother

Posted by: travelwithcurls | May 22, 2009

Ugh, Packing

So I’m about to start the pre-packing process. See here’s the thing about me; I’m a terrible packer. When I’m about to take trip I suddenly find a need for every article of clothing, accessory, and pair of shoes I have ever owned in my entire life. And I always find a reason why I absolutely need them all to come with me to wherever I am going. So, I have learned to pack in stages.

What My Room Looked Like When I First Moved Home

Stage 1: Make a pile of everything I would like to take with me.

Stage 2: The next day, I go through and cut out about half of the original pile. This is a very tricky stage because I have to think about what I will actually need and wear.

Stage 3: I pick out a duffel or rollaway bag and pack it. Then I practice carrying it around the house. This is just in case I have to carry my luggage a long distance—must make sure it’s not too heavy and that I leave tons of room for souvenirs (when I left India, I had to purchase an entire extra duffel bag just for my souvenirs, I love them!).

Stage 4: If the bag is too heavy, I remove as much as possible (I usually try to take out extra sweats because really there’s no shame in wearing a pair of sweatpants several times on vacation. It’s not like I’m trying to impress anyone).

Stage 5: Double check that my luggage isn’t too heavy for the last time and then add a luggage tag on it. I recommend a luggage tag that isn’t too flashy, but one that stands out. I have a bright pink luggage tag in the shape of a large raindrop- it helps me decipher my bag from all those other bags.

Stage 6: Make sure I packed at least one bathing suit. They only take up a little room, but they can make or break your trip!

Stage 7: Pull out several important items and leave them to put in my carry on bag (just in case my bags get lost).

Posted by: travelwithcurls | May 20, 2009

My Care Pack

There are several items that every traveler should instinctively know to pack (I mean besides clean underwear of course). However, traveling to third world countries is a little bit different.  Today I compiled what I call my travel care pack. I’ve listed out the items I recommend. If you have any additional travel care items, feel free to add them in the comments section.

My Care Pack

 1)   Band-Aids in case of a cut or open wound. I don’t particularly like band-aids, but they can help protect against parasites and disease which spread through open wounds. They are also good for blisters!

2)   A spray on antiseptic is also a good idea to kill germs. I use this one from Gold Bond because it also has pain and itch reliever. Of course brands don’t make any difference, but I like that this one.

3)   Sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun. This is very important! I recommend one that is water and sweat resistant, at least SPF 15, rubs in quickly and protects form UVA and UVB rays.

4)   Hand sanitizer wipes are nice because they don’t take up too much space and are cheap. I know some people who prefer Purell or antibacterial gels, but there is something about wiping off the germs that makes me feel cleaner.

5)   For this trip I’m packing disposable cameras (one for me and one for Brother) just in case something happens to our digital cameras. My digital camera runs on a chargeable battery. I know Brother and I will be doing some camping in tents and I’m not quite sure my battery will last if I can’t charge it at the campsite. I’m about 87% sure I would just cry my little eyes out if I missed a photo opportunity because I couldn’t charge my battery.

6)   I always include a large bottle of Advil (I swear by the round, coated kind). Advil brings down fever and swelling and of course works as a pain reliever. I absolutely could not live without it.

7)   An over the counter sleep aid like Simply Sleep or Tylenol PM can be beneficial, especially for long plane rides. But, I highly urge you to experiment with a sleep aid on a weekend, at your home before traveling. The first time I took a sleep aid was on my flight to London. I hallucinated the entire plane ride. It was terrible. (I have used that same sleeping aid several times since that flight and never again had a problem with it. I think my body was unused to the drug and was reacting to my high level of stress). Every body works differently, and while you may not react the same way, it’s a good idea to understand how chemicals react in your body in a safe place. There is nothing worse than being unable to function in a country where you do not speak the language because of some drug you took.

8)   I was able to round up my old outlet adaptor. Then I made sure that my camera charger properly fits in the adaptor. Be warned, not all electronic devices work correctly with an adaptor. Most computer chargers are safe to use with adaptors. But, outlets in other countries have different voltage outputs and can short out your electrical device. I’m lucky because I don’t use a hairdryer for my curls. But, most US hairdryers don’t work in other countries. You can either buy one at a convenience store in your destination city, or purchase a specially made hairdryer from a specialty travel store in your area.

9)   A quality chap stick (notice: not lip gloss or lipstick) is a travel essential. I love Burt’s Bees, but once again, brands don’t matter, just try to get one with an SPF and make sure it moisturizes.

10) Since we will be camping out, I’m definitely bringing a flashlight.  I have no idea if there will be an outhouse or something, but having a small flashlight handy certainly can’t hurt!

11) I tend to be a bit clumsy. Actually, I’m very very clumsy. I usually have a little sewing kit with me at all times and this trip is no different. Somehow I always manage to rip my clothes on branches, doorknobs, or other people so having a sewing kit with safety pins and extra buttons is a huge help for me. It’s especially useful when I travel since I only have a limited supply of clothing.

12) I also keep a travel tissue pack with me ever since my trip to Israel. We spent a night in a Bedouin campsite and they had run out of toilet paper. I certainly learned my lesson.

13) If I could, I would walk around barefoot all day, every day. But, I know I’m going to do some hiking in Africa so bare feet are not an option. To prepare for days in sneakers, I bought a couple pairs of socks. You can never have too many socks! It’s always a smart idea to refresh your sock collection if you are going hiking. Nothing creates blisters like worn out socks.

14) I’ve included in this care pack an environmentally friendly bag that rolls up to the size of my cell phone. I got this particular bag from National Geographic, but they are available in a variety of locations. I love how small it rolls and how useful it can be.

15) Lastly, I’ve obviously included my South Africa guidebook which I discussed in this post.

 One of the most important items I am bringing is this yellow sheet of paper:

International Certificate of Vaccination

While it may look small, this piece of paper could determine if I make it into Africa or not. I got this booklet from my doctor who administered the vaccinations I need for Africa. I got four: Yellow Fever, Typhoid Fever, Hepatitis A, and a Polio booster. (Naturally, I’ve had many more shots, but these are the ones I got specifically for this trip).  I might have to show this paper at the border patrol to enter Africa, in between countries in Africa, and to get back into the US to prove I was protected before leaving the US. Additionally, I got prescriptions for Malaria, diarrhea, and the flu. A Malaria prescription is an absolute must, but the other two are just for prevention.

Get ready for tomorrow’s post, it’s about packing!

Posted by: travelwithcurls | May 19, 2009

Word to the Wise

So today is the 19th. I leave Suburbia on the 25th to fly to Chicago (where I meet Brother) and from Chicago we fly to Amsterdam and then Cape Town.  I’ve been pretty lazy with planning this trip. Actually, very lazy. So, today I started contemplating what to pack for this trip and decided it might be a good idea to look up the weather this time of year in South Africa. All of a sudden this link for vaccinations and medicines popped up and a red light went off in my head. Immediately I went into a frenzy and called all the health centers and pharmacists I could think of to find out what I have to take before this trip.

 Obviously I’m a little behind, but I have to get a Yellow Fever shot and prescriptions for malaria and diarrhea.  So, a word to the wise, always think about any possible medicines and/or vaccinations you need before you go somewhere.

I just want to add that the company who ended up helping me with my vaccinations is Passport Health.

I usually try to include at least one photo for each post, but I don’t think there are any particularly attractive photos to go along with today’s post, sorry!

Posted by: travelwithcurls | May 17, 2009

Passport Preparations

PassportOne of the most important parts of preparing for an international trip is double-checking your passport. Here are a couple items to inspect before you go:

1)   Date of Expiration: On the inside cover of your passport, next to your picture is a line that states the expiration date of your passport. I recommend that your expiration date is at least two years after your expected date of re-entry into your home country. Perhaps that seems a bit over-the-top, but you never know what happens when traveling. You might meet the person of your dreams and decide to stick around for a bit. Or maybe you encounter an unexpected delay in returning to your home country or next destination. Additionally, most visa applications require your passport to be valid for at least one year after your expected return date.

Inside Flap

2)   Name: Make sure the name on your passport matches the name on your airline ticket and credit cards. If your passport does not match your ticket, you will not be allowed on the plane. So, if you are recently married or changed your name, just make sure all of your official documents match.

3)   Signature: Make sure you sign your passport! It’s a simple thing to do and an even easier task to forget. But, your passport is not valid until it is signed. The signature line is also on the inside flap of your passport.

4)   Blank Pages: Its important to have at least two blank visa/entry stamp pages available (pages 8-21 in most US passports). If you have less space than that, it’s time to order some new ones! Pages 22 and above are reserved for amendments and endorsements and do not count as blank visa or entry stamp pages.

Blank Visa and Entry Stamp Pages

5)   Past Visas or Entry Stamps: It’s always a good idea to review the visa and/or entry stamps you already have in your passports. Some countries are strict about letting visitors with specific travel histories into their country. For example, I have entry and departure stamps from my trip to Israel. Some places like Dubai, Egypt, Iran, etc. are not always accommodating to people with stamps from Israel. If you have a similar predicament, I recommend either getting a new passport, or getting a letter from your senator or other state representative ensuring safe passage.

 Stamps from Israel

Making these simple passport preparations can reduce stress and anxiety when traveling abroad. If you have any additional questions, you can contact a representative at the embassy of your destination.

Posted by: travelwithcurls | May 15, 2009

Preparing for Travel

Brother and I booked our trip to Africa yesterday, very exciting. (By the way we ended up booking independent of any travel organization- not with Kensington Tours- due to our time restraints). So, now begins the harrowing part of traveling—preparing for it. First, I call everyone I know who has ever been to Africa to ask them what the weather and food are like. Then I demand that they list the top best things to pack. Then I read. I always try to read a book (fiction or nonfiction) that describes the scenery of the place I am going. It provides a first hand account of what someone else thinks of that destination which helps me envision it so I can successfully pack. Here are the books I’ve read that helped me through my journeys in the past:


 On my flight to London I read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I am in no way a hopeless romantic, but I knew that this book would provide an authentic backdrop to what my life would be like living in London. Although Pride and Prejudice is set in a completely different time period, most of the more historic sites remain similar to Austen’s descriptions in the books. While exploring London and its surrounding areas, I often visited places I read about in Pride and Prejudice which made them feel familiar. Regardless of your preference toward love stories, I highly recommend this book before heading to London.

 While in London, I took advantage of the fabulous Oxtail store situated near my office. Oxtails are hand-me-down stores (sort of like the Salvation Army, only fancier- it is London after all) which sell anything from furniture to clothing to CDs to books. And this particular Oxtail had an awesome collection of the most amazing books! Knowing that I was about to move to Rome, I immediately purchased The Ides of March by Thornton Wilder. Although it is a quick read, it portrays the life of Julius Caesar through different forms of communication. Wilder uses love letters, diaries, graffiti, gossip, dinner invitations, and legislation to set the scene in Ancient Rome. Since Rome was basically constructed around the ruins built in Caesar’s time, this book offered an excellent description of Rome- I basically had a map of the historic city in my head before I even got to Italy.

 While living in Rome, my friends and I took a trip to Paris, Prague, and Budapest. One of my travel companions urged me to read Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast on our way. She lent me her copy, and after reading it, I had to buy it for myself. Hemingway explains his tour through Paris including its buildings, people, and food. Arriving in Paris, I understood how the city’s roads connected and the right food to order.

 After Paris, we flew to Budapest. I discovered a secondhand English bookstore on a side street near our hostel. I was immediately drawn to a small, nondescript book that was falling apart, The Travels of Marco Polo. In truth, this account of Polo’s journey was not nearly as riveting as I had hoped, but it did provide an interesting account of Europe and Asia- it helped provide a foray into India which was useful since that was my next big trip after Rome.

 Since Polo wasn’t exactly what I had hoped to read, I tried The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri in hopes of rounding out my India preparations. Unfortunately, The Namesake is almost entirely set in the US, and its few description of India was not as enlightening as I would prefer. But, it did describe customs and traditions which helped prepare me for life in India.

 Now that Africa is less than two weeks away, its time to start preparing. Thus, I’ve decided to start Ernest Hemingway’s True at First Light. Ernest’s son Patrick published this book after Ernest died in 1961. Although the Hemingway’s were on safari in Kenya and we will be in South Africa, I think it will certainly help me picture the landscape and safari lifestyle. I love Hemingway’s simple yet poignant descriptions and how he captures mere moments and transforms them into memories. I can’t wait to start this memoir.

 It’s also a good idea to read through a guidebook before going. Our family friends lent me a copy of their Frommer’s South Africa to use as a research tool. I don’t always love to use big guidebooks from well-established companies like Frommer’s since they have such a set style and systematic way of looking at travel. I usually like to pick up a smaller guidebook that is short enough to read right before landing in my destination city. But, since this trip to Africa is quickly approaching, I think Frommer’s can help provide beneficial tips. I think Brother is a little nervous about this trip (he’s a bit more cautious than I) so I am sure he will appreciate Frommer’s.

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