Category Archives: Africa

Farewell 2012…

I can’t believe that it is New Years Eve. December 31, 2012. The year has flown by so quickly. It seems like just yesterday I was finishing my job at Buddle Findlay in Wellington, getting on the ferry to drive down to Christchurch, saying goodbye to my home for a year. Researching and preparing for my round the world trip, and then again saying goodbye to my boyfriend, my Mom, and my friends.

Little did I know, at the beginning of this year, what 2012 would bring. It exceeded all my expectations – just blew them out of the water. 2012 will probably be one of the most memorable of my life, a year I will truly cherish. Not merely due to my experiences and the places I visited, but because of the people I met along the way. When I talk about my travels, especially through Vietnam, I focus on the people I met, not what temples or museums I visited. The people. Both tourists and locals.ImageMr Tien, my motorbike driver in Hue, who drove off road through the rice paddies, past small villages, and taught me all about the culture of central Vietnam. Luna and Tom, Hanoi locals who introduced El and me to the local activity of drinking lemon tea and eating sunflower seeds by the side of the road, whilst sitting on child size plastic seats. And I will never forget Abdul, our whiskey-drinking joyful guide in Tanzania, who had a personality larger than my Dad’s personality and mine combined. I will never forget seeing a warthog at the end of our first day, me yelling out ‘Pumba!’, and Abdul driving after him, rhythmically repeating Pumba Pumba Pumba. And driving through the savannahs, listening to ‘Circle of Life’, while he taught us all about the animals, the local culture, and his experiences as a park ranger. It was my very own Lion King.

And this year really helped me realize who I am as a person. I learned a lot about myself along my travels, and became more confident and stronger. I moved to San Diego, to a brand new law school, where I didn’t know a single soul. I had never even been to San Diego – I had no idea what to expect. I thought it could be an opportunity to reinvent myself – no one knew me, so I could be anyone I wanted to! However I soon found that I was the exact same person here. Just improved. I had no constraints on my personality based on prior high school dramas. It was refreshing, and reaffirming.

And as I said above, this year has really been the best year of my life. San Diego has been, and still is, the most amazing, beautiful city to live in. I found it hard at first. My first day of law school, when I ended up crying because I couldn’t decide what to wear. Going to a law organization mixer, not knowing a single person, but leaving having met over a handful of people, one of whom has become a very close friend. Trying to hold my own in law classes, where preparation is vital, participation is mandatory, and expectations are high. I spent more time in the library this year than my previous 4 years combined. But I have met the most amazing people, and had the best American experience a 23 (now 24!) year old American-Kiwi could have hoped for.

I flew to Ohio to spend Thanksgiving with a friend’s family, and experienced true Midwest hospitality. I got to visit her college, met her college friends, and even saw her college football team play, and dominate, their rival team. I dressed up for Halloween on three different nights. I went to Disneyland, learned to play flip cup and participated in a Color Run. I took the most interesting legal courses of my law school career, and really felt like part of a community. I was adopted for Christmas, and made to feel welcome and at home amongst a family I had never met.

And all my experiences are thanks to the wonderful people I met here, who will always hold a place in my heart. I was meant to leave the USA on December 23, but I then postponed my departure until January 18. I am now staying until February 13. I don’t want to say goodbye to America, because that means I return to New Zealand, have to start work, and resume my mundane life without 3 story bars, the ocean on my doorstep and sunshine year round. However the real reason I don’t want to leave, the reason I kept delaying my departure, is that I don’t want to say goodbye. Goodbye to the wonderful people here. My amazing friends. My new family. They are the reason that despite 3 months of traveling through 13 countries, San Diego is really what made this year the best year of my life. Friends are the family you choose for yourself. And once I leave, once I return to New Zealand, I don’t know when I will see my San Diego family again. I know there will be many tears when I leave, and I may have to be dragged onto the plane against my will. Of course I am excited to return, and excited to see what 2013 brings, but I doubt any year will ever top this last year.

So here is my year in review. The places, and people, that shaped my year.

Yogyakarta - Borobudur, and the friends I made.

Yogyakarta – Borobudur, and the friends I made.

Siem Reap, and our wonderful tuk tuk driver, Mr Golden Stone, in Phnom Penh.

Siem Reap, and our wonderful tuk tuk driver, Mr Golden Stone, in Phnom Penh.

Hanoi and Hue - Mr Tien and I on the motorbike, Tom and El eating nam, and Mr Tien's cousin, El and me at the incense shop in Hue

Hanoi and Hue – Mr Tien and I on the motorbike, Tom and El eating nam, and Mr Tien’s cousin, El and me at the incense shop in Hue

Halong Bay Sunset

Halong Bay Sunset

Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang

Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang

Serengeti National Park

Tanzania Safari – The view from our camp in Serengeti.

Tarangire National Park

Elephants, at Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

My new brothers and sisters from PAD, at the Padres game - my first ever baseball game

My new brothers and sisters from PAD, at the Padres game – my first ever baseball game

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Cindy and Lauren after the Color Run

Nike Hoops!!!!!

Nike Hoops!!!!!

Thanksgiving with the Foleys in Mayfield, Ohio.

Thanksgiving with the Foleys in Mayfield, Ohio.

OHIO - Ohio State v Michigan Game

OHIO – Ohio State v Michigan Game

So thank you to my San Diego family. I will visit you soon. Never forget you. I love you all.

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Smaller wildlife – Zazus and Rafikis

Following on from my earlier post, Simba, Pumbaa and all their friends, here are my favorite photos of the smaller animals I encountered on safari.

Tarangire National park, Tanzania

This monkey was so cheeky. We encountered these Vervet Monkeys on day 1, at Tarangire National Park. Upon stopping for lunch at the top of a cliff with beautiful views of the Savannahs below, we had to guard our food from these clever little monkeys who tried to sneak up on us in any way possible.

The Superb Starling (above) was gorgeous in the sunlight. But I found that I actually captured more color and the full intensity of its feathers whilst in the shade.

The Red and Yellow Barbet we encountered in Serengeti National Park. It was the weirdest little bird but friendly too.

Looks spray painted right?? Wrong. Naturally pink and purple. What!?

Lake Manyara National Park

 

 

 

Simba, Pumbaa and all their friends

As most of you know, I embarked on a week-long safari in Tanzania last month. It was a breathtaking experience. I blogged about it here, but didn’t upload any photos at the time due to being in the middle of the jungle. Yes, believe it or not, they don’t have Internet access in the middle of the jungle. (That is a half lie, our first camp had both wifi and Internet, despite being a campsite where we slept in ‘tents’ and encountered a gazelle on our way to dinner). It was a great chance to experiment with my DSLR camera settings, and although I wish I’d had at least a 300 mm lens for the trip (I only had  up to 200mm) it meant that I played around a lot with the aperture and shutter speed, to try and get good shots that I would be able to zoom in on later. So, after taking over 100 photos per day, and deleting many during the editing process, here are some of my favorite photos of the trip, to help transport you to Africa. Hopefully you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed taking them. And I hope that they take your breath away just as much as they take mine away, even a month later.

Tarangire National ParkTarangire National ParkTarangire National ParkSerengeti National ParkTarangire National Park, pride of lionsLake Manyara National ParkSerengeti National Park

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Chasing Lions in Africa

The sky is breathtaking here. There are so many stars. There are the main stars you see back home. But beyond that there are so many faint  background stars that the sky seems continually lit up with no full darkness. You can even see the milky way! It is like previous generations are looking down and watching over us…just like Mufasa told Simba. The landscape reminds me exactly of the Lion King, with the tall acacia trees and  bare plains with grazing animals, and I may be singing “The Circle of Life” in my head as we drive through the wilderness. But I am sane. I am in Africa, in my own real life Lion King, so the connotations and comparisons with the Disney movie are allowed.

This morning I woke up to zebras and wildebeests grazing on my doorstep. We slept in a tented camp site, where the rooms were actually villas on stilts, with hardwood floors, permanent furniture and bathroom facilities, but the walls were completely canvas, like a tent. We were escorted to dinner last night in case we encountered any animals, which we did – a female impala on the footpath to the outdoor restaurant. So far after 2 full days and 3 nights, I am in love with this place. Tanzania is a wonderful country. The people are friendly and kind and very welcoming. “You are most welcome” or “Karibu” are the most common phrases you hear, whether you are arriving at a hotel, being shown your rooms, saying good night or arriving at a museum – they say it before you even have a chance to say “hello” or “thank you”. It is all rather formal but it does transport you back to the time when Hemingway and others came to this country to hunt.

And it is yet to set in that I am even here, in the middle of Africa, in a tent, on a safari trip. Transportation is so easy now, you don’t have time to prepare or transition into your new surroundings. I flew into England at 6am Friday, and left at 6:30pm Saturday. 5:30pm London time on Sunday, 23 hours later, I am in Africa. Even today and yesterday, driving around Manyara and Tarangite National Parks, I feel I will wake up soon and be in bed in New Zealand.

I am not complaining, it is just an odd feeling. Because it is such a different world here. It is fantastic. We have been to Tarangire National Park, my first safari experience, where we drove in a land cruiser with a pop up top, seeing zebras, giraffes and impalas. The first animal we saw were monkeys, which weren’t overly exciting, as they were in the entrance parking area for registration. Then we saw Zebras. Zebras, in the distance, hiding behind a bush. Zebra specks. But still, zebras! One of my favorite African animals. So off I went taking photo after photo. Little did I know, that we would see plenty more, including herds, both up close and in the distance, and little baby zebras. Even after day 2 I no longer squeal “zebra” when I see one due to seeing so many. I do squeal though when I see a baby zebra, because they are adorable. But I am trying to make a conscious decision to be as excited as I was the first time I saw an animal on safari, every time I see another one. Because it is easy to get complacent, and think “oh giraffe, I saw heaps yesterday…keep driving.” I don’t want to get like that.

All the animals, no matter how few or distant, are exquisite. They truly are. Interacting with one another, feeding, resting, fighting. Who knew that wildebeest and zebra always stick together, as zebras are good at spotting predators, and wildebeest can smell water more than 5km away. Further, baboons will eat leopard. Sneak up on them resting and tear them apart. Savage.

So yes on day 1 we saw zebras, elephants, wildebeest, verval monkeys, waterbucks, impalas, cranes and other various birds. We even chased a lion and later on we chased a pumbaa. I saw the warthog in the distance and yelled to Dad, “pumbaa!” Our driver Abdul knew what I meant right away, and started calling out “here pumbaa” and made pumbaa grunting noises. When it started running, and we drove after it, Abdul couldn’t stop laughing, in a very Lion King Pumbaa laugh. Day 2 involved Manyara National Park, a completely different experience altogether. Where Tangire was very dry and open, Manyara began with a rainforest, lush and green.

We saw blue monkeys, baboons and various butterflies. It then suddenly changed to a harsh barren landscape, which was the pattern throughout in Manyara – varying ecosystems, with very rapid transitions. It was not as impressive a park, because so much wildlife was hidden in the forest, but also because it was more distant than our first day. We saw hippos in the hippo pool, bathing in the water then coming up to bake in the sun. Nearby were thousands of birds – pelicans, cranes, Egyptian ducks and others, coming to wash in the fresh water, then dry their wings in the sun. They would then take flight and circle overhead, testing their wings to see if they were dry enough to fly on.

Now we have 2 parks left, Ngorogoro and Serengeti. Then soon it will all come to an end, and I will leave as quickly as we arrived, with my time in San Diego looming ever closer. I will have to find an apartment and prepare for my classes. But until then, I have more animals to look forward to, including leopards cheetahs and rhinos. And of course many more zebras, wildebeests and elephants. Can’t wait!!