Three Days in South Africa

Recap: It was time to go to Africa, again, and Namibia was my first choice. My travel agent, Ian, from the Africa Adventure Company helped with the arrangements for the 16 Day Great Namibian Journey. It was originally scheduled for May and I got sick, so I after receiving my refund from Travel Guard Insurance, I was able to reschedule in August of this year.  As a change to the trip, I had the option to include three days in South Africa. After Ian suggested a cage dive with the great white sharks, it was confirmed.

I arrived in Cape Town and picked up my Budget rental car which had been upgraded to an Audi. NICE!

This was my first time driving a vehicle on the other side of the road and I’d been doing my best to think the process through. In other words, I was a nervous. I had spent a long time worrying about something that wasn’t such a big deal. I’m sure the rush of adrenaline that hit after I climbed off the airplane in Cape Town helped. I couldn’t stop smiling as I followed the other cars down Highway N2. I did get a bit lost as I turned off onto the dirt road, but I turned perfectly into the “other” lane.

This milk wood tree graces the entrance of the Mosaic Sanctuary lodge area. It was a welcome and beautiful sight.

Milkwood Tree at Mosaic Sanctuary South Africa

I loved everything about the lodge including my suite, the food and the people who made my stay so special.

Here is how Simone describes the Mosaic Santuary in one of her poems. She and her husband Marcelino are the sanctuary managers who live there.

” At Mosaic the sun rise can set your soul on fire, the mountains witness to a life time past, the Milk wood leaves moving to the rhythm of the wind. At Mosaic the fish eagle will call your heart to listen, your senses coming alive, at Mosaic a smile cross borders, at Mosaic the nightjar sings to the symphony in the sky. MOSAIC is a place of majestic beauty.”

I saw the fish eagles and the incredible beauty. It was a perfect place to begin my travels. I stepped off the deck of my suite to see this view of the Hermanus Lagoon.

Mosaic Sanctuary Panoramic Photo

My biggest disappointment was that the cage dive with the great white sharks had been cancelled due to weather. The wind was blowing and it was raining on and off. Still, I couldn’t have been happier with the location and the activities. Another trip back to South Africa for my appointment with the sharks doesn’t break my heart. I think I’ll probably be back a number of times, God willing.

So, instead I quad-biked with Vitalis. What a blast!

I’d never done it before, so it was a great adventure and I saw more really beautiful sights.

Mosaic Sanctuary, South Africa

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What’s a visit to South Africa without a wine tasting?

Creation Wines

So the next day, I was treated to a tasting at a local vineyard. Creation Wines had some fabulous options and treats to go with each of them. If I could have added a few bottles to my luggage, I’d be sipping on a glass right now. Hopefully, I’ll be able to find it locally.

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Then it was a quick trip to Hermanus. I’ve shared some photos already, but I needed to add one more for good measure.

Hermanus, South Africa

The crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean were magnificent. There was still one final visit to make and that was the beach near the Mosaic Sanctuary. I needed to step into the ocean just like the first time when I visited South Africa in 2004.

Atlantic Ocean

The wind was blowing and it was chilly, but still amazingly beautiful.

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The ocean was C-O-L-D! I was freezing and trying to keep the hair out of my face. Vitalis and I were laughing so hard, it’s amazing that we got a photo. Just looking at it makes me giggle.

While I was looking forward to leaving for the airport the next day and beginning my journey to Namibia, I was still sad at leaving such a magical place and the wonderful people I’d met along the way. I had another great dinner, joined by Marcelino. He’s originally from Namibia, so it was good to talk to him about what to expect.

Marcelino told me that with all the contrasts in Namibia, I couldn’t take a bad picture. I wasn’t sure that was true, especially in my case, but I was still excited to test out his theory.

I headed back to my suite and on my last night at the Mosaic Sanctuary, dreamed about Africa.

Maine- Acadia National Park

Back to the sisters’ New England adventure in Maine.

We may have only seen a small part of Acadia National Park the day we visited, but what we saw was beautiful. The leaves have just started changing into the glorious fall colors.  I hope to return when I have at least a few days to spend exploring this amazing place.

Acadia National Park
Otter Cliff portrait

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My favorite place was Jordon PondThere is a wonderful trail that goes around the pond, weaving in and out of the forest. Every step brought a new discovery.

Exploring Jordon Pond
Exploring Jordon Pond

Jordon Pond

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View of Bar Harbor from Cadillac Mountain.

We had dinner at The Whale’s Tooth in Lincolnville. Disappointing.

Whale's Tooth Pub

When we arrived back at our apartment, Skip and Judi met us and invited us up to their place just in time to view the foxes and raccoons out their back window. I could have sat there all night. They are such wonderful hosts.

Final Thoughts for the Day:

Acadia National Park:  I loved the park. As a photographer, I usually try to be places early in the day or later in the afternoon. It just wasn’t possible during this trip. Which means, I need to go back. I’d love to plan sunrise at Cadillac Mountain. There were also so many places we missed that I want to visit. Still, it was incredible. Sisters’ Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

The Whale’s Tooth Pub: We were looking forward to dinner after a busy day so we stopped at the Whale’s Tooth Pub in Lincolnville. It was a disappointment. The service was terrible and the food wasn’t much better. My fried clams had too much breading and little flavor. Even a hot fudge sundae wouldn’t have changed my mind. After speaking with the manager, she comped the whole meal. At least we didn’t have to pay for our disappointing meal. Sisters’ Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars

Abstract Travel Quiz – Answers

Thanks to those of you who played along on the quiz, both on Facebook and here on the blog. Check it out if you missed it yesterday.

Abstract Travel Quiz

Photo 1:

The first photo is a picture of flamingos from the air just south of Walvis Bay. Here is a closer look in a second photo I took in the same area, although they are still far away. Here’s a link to a National Geographic post about the flocks of flamingos.

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Photo 2:

I confused a couple of people who thought the second photo was from Maine based on my opening paragraph. It is actually taken in an area not too far from the flamingos in Namibia, but from the ground. The area is called Sandwich Harbor and we took a tour of the dunes on in a 4 x 4. The dunes rise up right next to the Atlantic Ocean. It was a wonderful surprise.

Here’s a picture of me standing on the dune near where I took the second photo. It was incredibly beautiful.

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Day Two- Sisters on the Loose in Maine

After arriving at our apartment very late night before last, we all slept in. Sleeping in was more about not waking to an alarm than actually sleeping late, since we were all up by 7am Maine time, which is 5am in Denver. So, when Judi stopped by with the still hot-from-the-oven blueberry muffins, we were ready. Yum! What a perfect way to start the day.

Then we were off to start our day in Camden, a beautiful sea side town just a couple miles away.

Jim Rogers, from Oklahoma helped us park and then told us where to get the best photos of the harbor. He and his wife have visited Maine 8-9 times. He especially loves Camden. Michael was just walking by with his early morning cup of coffee and agreed to take the photo for us. Thanks Jim and Michael!

Jim Rogers and the girls.

Camden Maine Harbor
Camden Harbor

Camden, Maine Harbor

Then we heard a splash, and there was little Stella in the water. I never would have guessed a dachshund would be willing to jump off a wall into the water for a ball. I wish I would have captured that shot.

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Straightening the flag
Straightening the flag

We had lunch at Cappy’s. We have mixed reviews of the food. Wendy loved her haddock chowder and I had an excellent reuben sandwich. Mary and Victoria were a little disappointed with the clam chowder and club sandwich. Our server Mark was fabulous and we had no complaints on the view.

The view from Cappy's.
The view from Cappy’s.

Then we couldn’t resist the LL Bean Flagship store in Freeport.

Mary and I next to the boot.
Mary and I next to the LL Bean boot.

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After seeing the area, I wouldn’t really call it the LL Bean store, instead an LL Bean village. The best part? They will ship our purchases at no cost and they can do it right at checkout. Thank goodness. I can’t afford all those overweight luggage charges.

So what happens on a sisters’ trip in between eating, shopping and visiting the sights? Maybe just a little bit of fun.

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What happens in Maine stays in Maine, except when you have a blog.

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We ate dinner at the Taste of Maine and with one minor exception that was fixed right away, it was fabulous. The best parts were the quirky atmosphere and our waiter, Tommy. Tommy had a great sense of humor and the food was really good, especially my hot fudge sundae!!

Mary and Tommy
Mary and Tommy

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It was a late night once again, but we wouldn’t have skipped anything.

I discovered sea glass jewelry.

Only Wendy held back and didn’t buy from LL Bean.

We had delicious food all day, starting with Judi’s homemade blueberry muffins.

Final Thoughts for the Day:

Camden This is a beautiful town with fabulous small shops and a lovely waterfront. We only saw a small portion of the area, but we really enjoyed our time here. I would definitely visit again.  Sisters’ Rating- 5 out of 5 stars

Cappy’s Chowder House– The food reviews were a little mixed, but my reuben sandwich was wonderful. Wendy also loved her haddock chowder. The clam chowder was a little watery and the turkey on Mary’s club sandwich was a bit dry. The atmosphere and views are wonderful. I’d suggest a visit if you’re in town. Sisters’ Rating- 4 0ut of 5 stars

LL Bean Flagship Store Freeport was a bit of a drive from where we were staying, but it was well worth the trip. I can’t usually find my size in the local stores, but found the perfect fitting pants in a very short time. The stores are fantastic. I think the ability to ship things home at no cost could be dangerous. It’s easy to forget exactly how much you’ve bought, so be very careful. This is another place I highly recommend. Sisters’ Rating- 5 out of 5 stars

Taste of Maine– We loved the unusual atmosphere of the Taste of Maine. There were wonderful characters throughout, including some fantastic Halloween decorations. The view was nice and our food was good. The only exception was the clam chowder. I returned it because it was way too salty for me and a little too watery. But Tommy replaced it with my hot fudge sundae and I was a happy girl. We would definitely go back, especially if Tommy is working! Sisters’ Rating- 5 out of 5 stars

 

Waking Up in Maine

We interrupt the Namibia and South Africa programming to share sister related news: This morning we woke to the beauty of Maine.

Breakfast with Travis and the girls.
Breakfast with Travis and the girls in Denver.

Last spring, readers selected the New England area of the country for this year’s sisters’ trip. And…here we are. It is beautiful!

Cast of Characters:

Mary is the oldest sister currently residing in Flagstaff, Arizona. She can be bossy, but like most younger sisters, we’ve learned to ignore her. Mary’s steaming hot most of the time, but we attribute that to aging somewhat gracefully. (I think it’s a genetic hotness, because Wendy and I seem to be suffering from the same malady.)

Jennifer is the middle sister. (That’s me!) I like being in charge, so my sisters usually pretend that I am and then do what they want to anyway. They occasionally need to rescue me from approaching cars when I am singularly focused on getting that million dollar shot.

Wendy is the baby, and was always Mom’s favorite. (Don’t tell her, but she is our favorite, too.) She is frustrated by our total lack of organization, sometimes calling daily, or even multiple times a day until we’ve made our travel arrangements. This usually starts six months in advance of each trip. Her laughter stops the crowds and gives us the giggles as we walk away pretending not to know her.

Wendy working on the travel journal.
Wendy working on the travel journal.

Victoria has joined us as our adopted sister on this trip. She hasn’t traveled much, so she has entrusted us with this adventure. (I’m not sure Wendy warned her about us, so she may never travel again.) Victoria was the assigned navigator and kept arguing with Siri who was providing the directions. By the end of the night, she even started talking like Siri…kind of scary really.

Accommodations:

We are staying with Skip and Judi Moore at their over the garage apartment in Northport, Maine.  We found this home base on Homeaway.com.

SCORE!!

It’s a hidden gem in a forest just outside of Camden, Maine. Best of all, the four of us are staying here for four nights for just a little over $100 per night. That’s about $25 each for a beautiful place that includes a full kitchen and the amazing knowledge and blueberry muffins provided by our distinguished hosts.

It’s a perfect backdrop for our sisters’ get-together. Plenty of room to relax and catch up. Check it out:

Day 1 Script 

We flew in to Boston yesterday afternoon and after renting our car, pulled out onto the road. We stopped in Portsmouth, New Hampshire for dinner. It’s always funny trying to figure out how to pronounce the names of new places. Is it Ports Mouth, like you eat with your mouth? No. Our waiter, Jeff, let us know it’s actually pronounced like Port Smith.

When we first arrived in Portsmouth, we headed to the waterfront and meandered around looking for a restaurant. After about twenty minutes of exploring, I finally asked a couple local guys who suggested Jumping Jays. It’s always a good sign if people leaving a restaurant are talking about the amazing food. They were right. While the menu options are somewhat limited, the food was fabulous!

Jumping Jays in Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Jumping Jays in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Then it was back on the road for a few more hours. Unfortunately, we were driving through some really quaint small towns after dark. We plan to revisit them during daylight hours. The drive was long and it was so nice to pull into the long driveway and to see all the lights on at our vacation rental. Skip and Judi met us as we pulled in and helped us carry our luggage up the stairs.

A Few Highlights:

We flew on Southwest Airlines and had a flight attendant with a wonderful sense of humor. As she was making final announcements after arrival in Boston, she wished “the sisters a wonderful trip”. Wow! We are famous!!

It was Ryan’s birthday. He was assisting people with getting on the bus to the rental car area. We sang happy birthday to him on the curbside. Other people in the crowd joined in. The smile on his face was huge.

After a good night’s sleep, we are off on today’s adventure. Wish us luck!!

Selecting Namibia for My Travel Destination

travel destination deadvlei in Namibia
Thank you for sharing this photo, Aravind.

When I told my friends and family members I was traveling to Namibia, the normal response was, “What?”, then “Where?” They had never heard of the country which is north of South Africa on the Atlantic Ocean side of the African continent. Then, people would ask me to spell it for them. “N-A-M-I-B-I-A”.

If you would have asked me a couple years ago, I would have probably said the exact same thing. So, why did I travel to Namibia?

With so many destinations in the world, how did I narrow down the choices to this special country? That’s easy. I was looking at photos on National Geographic online and did a double-triple-quadruple take on one of them. Yes, I was looking at a photo and no, it was not a painting. I had to look at it so many times because I couldn’t believe this place actually existed. So, one amazing photograph was all it took to entice me to fly 12,000+ miles to visit Deadvlei in Namibia.

Thank you Frans Lanting!

Click here for the original photo by Frans Lanting.

Here are a few of mine inspired by Mr. Lanting.

deadvlei in sossusvlei, Namibia

deadvlei in sossusvlei, namibia

That’s why I traveled to Namibia. Not only did I get to see, experience and photograph Deadvlei, my adventure included a lot more unexpected surprises. 

Why did you choose your last travel destination?

Panorama Preview of Namibia

I’ve been home from my trip since September 5th and frankly, I’m still so overwhelmed with how amazing Namibia was that I’m having a hard time condensing all my thoughts down into legible and concise thoughts. And…of course processing several thousand photos takes time.

So, here is a brief glimpse of what’s to come:

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Can you tell I love panorama compositions?

Enjoy!

Hermanus Shoreline, South Africa

While I didn’t spend much more than an hour or two in Hermanus, South Africa, waiting to catch a view of the whales, I still appreciated the beauty of the area and the power of the Atlantic Ocean. The weather had been unpredictable with rain and wind, but I was lucky enough to catch some blue sky. This is a place I wouldn’t mind visiting again someday.

Hermanus Shoreline, South Africa

Black Headed Heron, South Africa – Re-Cropped

After my last post, I kept returning to my photograph of the Black Headed Heron taking off. It’s one of my favorite photos from the trip, despite the fact that it is far from perfect. The bird lifted off much more quickly than I expected so I missed getting the perfect composition and had to resort to cropping the image. There’s no way to fix the fact that the tip of the wing was slightly cut off, but I just wasn’t happy with the cropping I’d done.

Luckily, I always save the unprocessed original, so here’s my second attempt, along with another photo of the heron as it flew away in the distance.

black headed heron in South Africa

 

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Much better…