I love to travel and explore. Anything that pushes me out of my comfort zone is something worth giving a try. Although that has occasionally gotten me into tight spots, I am lucky enough to have a family that is always there. Whether it is helping me in a health crisis when I thought I had typhoid after returning from Thailand (false alarm-whew!) or sending me dozens of iMessages to come home to while I camp in Botswana, there is nothing that I am more thankful for than my infallible support system. While I was in Africa, I saw a fun idea about thank you letters to awesome parents, and decided to make one of my own. Soo… THANK YOU, MOM AND DAD, FOR GIVING ME THE WORLD!!!!!
In just over two weeks, I will be walking across the stage to accept my undergraduate diploma. I couldn’t have done it without you, love you!
Today, Keylan, Garyth and I decided to spend the day exploring Kubu Island. The camp site is pretty much an actual island, except that instead of being surrounded by water, we are surrounded by salt pans. Which is the coolest/weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.
CRAZY! Then the islands are covered in Baobab trees. Which are also some of the coolest weird things I’ve ever seen.
But these baobab trees are REALLY fun to climb, because they are smooth and slippery, and the branches are really sturdy.
So Garyth, Keylan and I head out on our exploration adventure. We came across these HUGE trees, and decided to try to climb to the top. And that is where we went wrong. I should have stopped and turned back when Garyth got stuck less that two minutes and three feet up. We should have turned back when we realized that the ground underneath the tree was essentially a bed of bushes with large painful thorns everywhere. But hey. Africa. So Keylan and I helped Garyth climb down, and the two of us continued on.
As we came to the trunk of the first tree, we quickly realized that Keylan’s legs, which are roughly the length of my whole body, could easily wrap around the thick Baobab trunk and reach the branches on the other side. I, on the other hand, needed a foothold somewhere along the middle. The only option was a small bump on the trunk, half the width and 1/4 the length of my shoe. But hey. Africa. So we did it. I realized something was wrong a split second before it happened. As I pushed off with my back leg and put my whole weight on the bump, I felt my foothold give out a little. Then it broke off entirely, leaving me hanging on with one arm to another small bump and Keylan grabbing the back of my shirt. Without hesitation, Keylan pulled me by the back of my shirt up on to the branch that had been our intended destination.
We sat there for a second, looking 30ft down at the thorny, rocky fall that I had nearly made. But we had a problem. The only way back down was the way that we had come. The way which now lacked a foothold. From the ground, Garyth told us that there was a pathway back down the opposite side of our tree that was clear of thorns. Already shaky from my near fall, Keylan and I scoped out the back side of the tree, looking for a way to get down. Again, my short little legs were an issue. The drop from the branch I was standing on to the one below was twice as long as my legs could reach.
So Keylan easily jumped down to the next branch, and we looked for a solution. In the end, it was decided that I would hang by my (very weak) arms from the branch to the left of my safety branch, monkey climb myself to be within Keylan’s reach, then let go and attempt to drop down in a spot that he could grab me to pull me onto the lower branch. But hey… Africa?
In the end, we made it down alive. Keylan and I were both shaking, while Garyth replayed his view of my near-fall from his point of view over and over on the walk back to camp.
July 11-July 13
You know the places where people come to take pictures of the amazing African sunsets? Well, Kubu Island is that place. When we arrived from Camp Itumela, we quickly set up our tents and got started with dinner prep and cooking. Then we started a fire, pulled up our chairs, cracked open a Savanna, and watched the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen.
Seriously, Botswana… Now you’re just showing off.
July 11: Camp Itumela > Kubu Island in Lekubu, Botswana
This morning we woke up and it was FREEZING. Last night was so cold that the laundry we had done was frozen to the hood of Henry, and I literally thought I was going to die. Literally. From her own rooftop tent, Hilary has declared that she now has cold induced rheumatism and we need to return to Johannesburg, pronto.
To make things even worse for poor Hilary, she stabbed her own finger on a cactus while she was brushing off a mattress (why she would be brushing off a puncturable air mattress so close to a cactus is still a mystery) and her whole hand is swollen and red.
We stood around a fire and tried to warm up, while Jarryd waited for his underwear to thaw. Yet as the sun creeped over the camp walls it was impossible, even though we were horrifically cold, to deny the wonderful beauty of the nature around us.
What a beautiful place to get rheumatism, eh Hilary? As we finally warmed up, we made some breakfast and packed up camp. We took our LAST warm showers, which was an unexpected bonus of not making it to Rhino Camp last night. We drove for about 5 more hours that day, and stopped in Lekubu to get some firewood. As we waited for a local guy to chop and package up the wood, we were swarmed with the local village children, who begged us for money and sweets.
With all the wood loaded on top of Jumbo, we continued on our way to our campsite in Kubu Island.
July 10: Johannesburg, South Africa -> Camp Itumela in Palapye, Botswana
In a rush of excitement and last minute panicked scramble, we woke up at 5am to finish our last minute packing and start our drive to Botswana. Jarryd and I were given an “amo box” to share.
Just that itty bitty little box to shove in enough clothing, shoes and hygienic things for almost TWO WEEKS of living in the bush. Needless to say, some of the hygienic things were sacrificed in the interest if having an extra jumper or a pair of sweat pants.
At last, we were ready to take off. After some slight directional challenges, Henry the Toyota Hilux caught up with Jumbo the Land Rover and we made our way out of civilIzation. We amused ourselves with some car selfies, of course, but the views outside of the car window were more than enough to keep us entertained. We made it to Botswana border crossing, and were in and out in less than 15 minutes. Our aim was Rhino Camp, but a slightly delayed start forced us to find a closer camp. So we decided to test our luck at Camp Itumela in Palapye, Botswana.
Notice the “family friendly pub”. Nice. Tomorrow we leave for Kubu Island!
At our braai last night, Hilary made us a delicious salad that she is simply calling “Salad #1”. I would have taken a picture, but it was gone before I could even go get my camera!
- Chopped red onion
- Chopped white onion
- Steamed corn (off the cob)
- Sliced grape tomato
- Lime juice
- Tobasco sauce
This salad is great because you can put as much of any ingredient as you want into it, or less of what you don’t like. We had 4 avocados, 2 ears of corn, a whole package of grape tomato, and two onions.
I ate my salad on top of a baked potato, while Jarryd piled it on top of his boerwors (which is an afrikan sausage type thing).
Sorry for the belated update, but we have arrived in South Africa! After an 8 hour layover in the Atlanta airport and a 15 hour flight, it’s wonderful to finally be here!!
When we landed in Johannesburg airport (O.R Tambo), it was 5pm local time and the sun was starting to go down. We sprinted (literally) to customs to beat the mob, and whisked through without a problem. There was a slight miscommunication as to where we were meeting our ride (Jarryd’s dad, Gary) and we stood outside while Gary wandered through the airport looking for us. The weather is pretty cold here (about 3 degrees Celsius in the morning, and getting to a high of about 12 during the day) but it is absolutely beautiful.
Gary picked us up in “Jumbo”, our beastly Land Rover that will be one home to half of our group for the two and a half weeks of camping in Botswana.
As I have mentioned before, traveling as a vegan can be a difficult task. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the options I found during my 8 hour layover in Atlanta’s airport. Just in the international area, I found 4 restaurants that offered plant based options! I tried the vegan street tacos, which had beans, pico, guacamole, peppers, and jicama in a corn tortilla. They were awesome! Other restaurants offered black bean soups, Asian rice bowls, and salads.
Overall ranking: very vegan (and gluten free!) friendly!