A Travellerspoint blog

Wild Zambia

Raging rapids to roaring animals

sunny 70 °F
View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

Lioness in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia.

Lioness in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia.


Zambia is a country of pot holed dirt roads linking little villages of thatch roof mud huts. It hasn't had any major conflict and we immediately noticed the cultural contrast with South Africa. In the country's capital, Lusaka, we noticed a sense of equality among people of all races. Like most of Africa there is a lot of poverty. Most of the population lives on less than one or two dollars a day. HIV infection rates are also very high.

It's difficult for us to imagine living in one of these mud huts.

It's difficult for us to imagine living in one of these mud huts.


LIVINGSTONE - We started our journey through Zambia in Livingstone on the crocodile and hippo filled banks of the Zambezi River. Livingstone is also home to Victoria Falls.

Victoria Falls is stunningly beautiful. It's the largest falls in the world at 5,600 feet wide and 360 feet high.

Victoria Falls is stunningly beautiful. It's the largest falls in the world at 5,600 feet wide and 360 feet high.


The indigenous people call the falls Mosi-oa-Tunya (the Smoke that Thunders).

The indigenous people call the falls Mosi-oa-Tunya (the Smoke that Thunders).


We got our adrenaline flowing by jumping into a raft at the base of the falls.

IMG_9459-1.jpg

It's one of the most challenging rafting trips in the world as there are several level five rapids (as well as one level six that we got out and walked around). On these rapids there was a 50/50 chance that we'd flip over. Thankfully, out of four rafts we were the only lucky ones that stayed upright!

It's one of the most challenging rafting trips in the world as there are several level five rapids (as well as one level six that we got out and walked around). On these rapids there was a 50/50 chance that we'd flip over. Thankfully, out of four rafts we were the only lucky ones that stayed upright!


Notice the faceless orange helmet two from the back. Underneath is Elizabeth. She stayed in this position and missed most of the rapids. Apparently she mistook the "get down" command from the guide to mean there are snipers on the shoreline that you need to hide from.

Notice the faceless orange helmet two from the back. Underneath is Elizabeth. She stayed in this position and missed most of the rapids. Apparently she mistook the "get down" command from the guide to mean there are snipers on the shoreline that you need to hide from.


CHIPATA - On our way to South Luangwa National Park we stopped at the border town of Chipata, where we shopped at a local market with lots of friendly vendors.

large_IMG_4804-96.jpg

large_IMG_4757-90.jpg

large_IMG_4792-94.jpg

large_IMG_4798-95.jpg

At one of our lunch stops on the road I struck up a little football challenge. I wasn't much of a match for this little Zambian!

At one of our lunch stops on the road I struck up a little football challenge. I wasn't much of a match for this little Zambian!


SOUTH LUANGWA NATIONAL PARK - We then headed for the remote South Luangwa National Park. The owner of the campground welcomed us by explaining that we were in a zoo and living inside the cage with the animals. We were warned not to wear bright colors. You don't want to startle one of the elephants, hippos or giraffes that might greet you at any time of day.

As you can imagine, several people in our group (ELIZABETH) were a bit nervous about this. Luckily our cloths are far from bright anymore. Never-the-less, we enjoyed the beautiful campground. We spent our free time relaxing while watching crocodiles, hippos, zebras, buffalo and impalas across the river that separated the campground from the national park.

On our first morning we were awoken by our guide's call, "Breakfast is ready! Be careful of the elephant!" The day before an elephant had actually gotten stuck in the campground swimming pool and destroyed a water pump.

On our first morning we were awoken by our guide's call, "Breakfast is ready! Be careful of the elephant!" The day before an elephant had actually gotten stuck in the campground swimming pool and destroyed a water pump.


The elephants then crossed the river treating us to a beautiful sunrise vista.

The elephants then crossed the river treating us to a beautiful sunrise vista.


Monkeys were all over camp. It was a struggle to keep these little guys from stealing our food! One got away with a bottle of garlic, but dropped it out of a tree once they realized the meal would make them an outcast.

Monkeys were all over camp. It was a struggle to keep these little guys from stealing our food! One got away with a bottle of garlic, but dropped it out of a tree once they realized the meal would make them an outcast.


Thankfully, on our first game drive, we realized the carnivorous animals aren't really interested in humans.

These lionesses could have easily jumped into our doorless and windowless truck and eaten a few people, but they didn't want us.

These lionesses could have easily jumped into our doorless and windowless truck and eaten a few people, but they didn't want us.


large_6DSC_0081-110.jpg

large_DSC_0023-99.jpg

large_DSC_0042-102.jpg

large_DSC_0045-104.jpg

large_DSC_0132-115.jpg

large_6DSC_0063-108.jpg

large_1DSC_0059-107.jpg

We went on a night time game drive too, to see some nocturnal animals on the move.

large_1DSC_0122-114.jpg

large_DSC_0172-118.jpg

large_DSC_0195-119.jpg

We're now en route to the Serengeti and Mount Kilimanjaro (which I'm going to attempt to climb.) We just wrapped up more than a week in Malawi and relaxing in Zanzibar, Tanzania. More on those adventures soon!

- Dave

Posted by daveliz 03:59 Archived in Zambia Comments (3)

Bulungula Experience, plus South Africa's countryside

Immersion into a Xhosa Village

semi-overcast 65 °F
View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

Taking a stroll through the rolling hills of Ngileni, South Africa.

Taking a stroll through the rolling hills of Ngileni, South Africa.

It wasn't an easy task to get to the Bulungula Lodge in the Ngileni Village (Wild Coast south of Coffee Bay), but we are so pleased we made the trek as it was the highlight of our trip through South Africa. In the back of a four by four pick up truck with no shocks or seat belts we held on for dear life for about an hour drive through farmers' fields, rivers and rolling hills to get to our rondavel, a traditional mud round house for the next three nights.

A typical rondavel.

A typical rondavel.

The rondavels of Bulungula Lodge.

The rondavels of Bulungula Lodge.

As soon as we entered our home we said 'oh shit' and looked at the bottom of our sneakers and wheel bags to see if we accidentally rolled through some manure on the way in (cattle roam freely throughout the village.) The smell was rancid. Our host chuckled and told us how the floors of these homes are tiled in cow dung, because it is easy to clean. Although we built up immunity to the smell, we'll leave this practice in South Africa.

As soon as we entered our home we said 'oh shit' and looked at the bottom of our sneakers and wheel bags to see if we accidentally rolled through some manure on the way in (cattle roam freely throughout the village.) The smell was rancid. Our host chuckled and told us how the floors of these homes are tiled in cow dung, because it is easy to clean. Although we built up immunity to the smell, we'll leave this practice in South Africa.

The Bulungula Lodge, created and co-owned by world traveler Dave Martins, is really unique. We're told he bought the property overlooking the most untouched piece of oceanfront under the condition that the Nqileni village owns 40% of the lodge and is an integral part of its daily life. Bulungula seems to have found the right balance between improving the lives of the tribal people with education and employment, without losing their local traditions.

DSC_0191-43.jpg

DSC_0113-33.jpg

Those living in the village are part of the Xhosa tribe (one of several native tribes in South Africa.) Nelson Mandela is Xhosa and grew up in a neighboring village. The Xhosa's have clung to ancient traditions even with western influences all around. The coming of age ceremony for teenage boys is something you read about in National Geographic... painted faces, circumcision without anesthesia and isolation. The language is also fascinating with the use of a click. Xhosa is actually pronounced <click>hosa.

DSC_0135-37.jpg

Many in the village have started their own businesses under Dave's guidance; one man leads canoe trips through the local river, an herbalist leads a walk through the woods to showcase natural remedies and women make cloths for sale.

DSC_0182-41.jpg

IMG_4595-30.jpg

Others cook meals for guests throughout the day and we got a special tour to learn about daily life in the village.

Kalula teaches us to carry water on our heads.

Kalula teaches us to carry water on our heads.

Dave crashes into me as we carry fire wood up to the house.

Dave crashes into me as we carry fire wood up to the house.

Kalula's home. She lives with her mom, brother and son. Her sister lives with her husband's family.

Kalula's home. She lives with her mom, brother and son. Her sister lives with her husband's family.

Kalula's kitchen.

Kalula's kitchen.

Dave eats a traditional meal of maize, a thick corn meal ball that resembles Elmers.

Dave eats a traditional meal of maize, a thick corn meal ball that resembles Elmers.

After some hard labor I rest on the hillside. I am wearing a head scarf to represent I am married. The face base is to repel the sun. The dots would be painted on during a celebratory time.

After some hard labor I rest on the hillside. I am wearing a head scarf to represent I am married. The face base is to repel the sun. The dots would be painted on during a celebratory time.

Bulungula's laundry service.

Bulungula's laundry service.

The Bulungula Lodge also uses profits to run HIV awareness programs, teach organic farming practices and nutrition, and to build a new pre-school, which we were lucky to visit on the first day of class. In lieu of tuition-free education, parents of students have to volunteer twice a month. Teachers are all from the local village and have been paired with a trained teacher. They will work together for two years with the hope the local teacher will be able to train future teachers from the village.

9IMG_4532-15.jpg

I jumped in to teach the kids a song.

I jumped in to teach the kids a song.

My favorite lesson was going on in this classroom. The teacher was showing them how to use tissue for runny noses, instead of sleeves or snorting.

My favorite lesson was going on in this classroom. The teacher was showing them how to use tissue for runny noses, instead of sleeves or snorting.

The best part of being at Bulungula was interacting with locals, playing with kids and just watching Xhosa life from a distance. Here are a few of our favorite photos.

DSC_0180-40.jpg

DSC_0163-39.jpg

During a hike we communicated with some local children on a hill across from us using a common language - dance!

During a hike we communicated with some local children on a hill across from us using a common language - dance!

IMG_4593-29.jpg

IMG_4591-28.jpg

IMG_4590-27.jpg

DSC_0155-38.jpg

5IMG_4514-9.jpg

9IMG_4513-8.jpg

DSC_0228-49.jpg

After teaching the kids how to use a camera they put it to use.

After teaching the kids how to use a camera they put it to use.

Another photo opp!

Another photo opp!

Beach side happiness!

Beach side happiness!

We really hope Bulungula Lodge acts as a model for other hostels and communities around South Africa and in other struggling nations.

A beautiful sunset at Bulungula Lodge, a place where there is certainly a ray of hope!

A beautiful sunset at Bulungula Lodge, a place where there is certainly a ray of hope!

Bulungula was just one stop on a three week road trip around the country. Here are some highlights as we travelled through the Garden Route, Sunshine and Wild coasts, as well as inland to the mountains.

TSITSIKAMMA NATIONAL PARK - It was worth the wait. After sitting inside during three days of rain, we finally got to the beautiful Tsitsikamma. The half-day hike we did was stunning.

7DSC_0049-7.jpg

6DSC_0042-4.jpg

6DSC_0036-3.jpg

2DSC_0011-2.jpg

Boa Duiker looks like a donkey-deer.

Boa Duiker looks like a donkey-deer.

WILDERNESS NATIONAL PARK - This park wasn't as exciting as Tsitsikamma, but we did a great walk leading to a much talked about waterfall, that literally could fit into the palm of Dave's hand.

DSC_0115-32.jpg

DSC_0116-33.jpg

View from our hostel window at the Wildnerness Beach House.

View from our hostel window at the Wildnerness Beach House.

DRAKENSBERG MOUNTAIN RANGE - The Drakensberg Mountains lie between South Africa and Lesotho, which is a country completely surrounded by South Africa. Dave and I took a bumpy ride to cross the border via the Sani Pass to get one more stamp on our passport and to learn about the country we had never heard about. Lesotho has natural security as it is completely surrounded by mountains.

Sani Pass through the Drakensberg Mountains.

Sani Pass through the Drakensberg Mountains.

We made it! The first village we came upon in Lesotho.

We made it! The first village we came upon in Lesotho.

Village store at the Lesotho border. The highest bar in Africa is located here.

Village store at the Lesotho border. The highest bar in Africa is located here.

A toilet with some privacy! Lesotho is one of the most barren places I have seen.

A toilet with some privacy! Lesotho is one of the most barren places I have seen.

Boys in their teens and twenties get sent to these remote areas to shepherd sheep.

Boys in their teens and twenties get sent to these remote areas to shepherd sheep.

Local shepherds double as drug dealers trying to sell us a bag of marajuana. Not so smart as we were less than a mile from the border patrol.

Local shepherds double as drug dealers trying to sell us a bag of marajuana. Not so smart as we were less than a mile from the border patrol.

A local girl made us maize bread under hot cow dung coals. It actually tasted pretty good!

A local girl made us maize bread under hot cow dung coals. It actually tasted pretty good!

PORT ALFRED - In Port Alfred we were lucky to have another home stay. When we were in Argentina we met a fellow traveller from South Africa. Kath now lives in London, but set us up with her parents for a little TLC. They own a holiday park and gave us are own chalet for the night. They also spent a lot of time talking with us about growing up in South Africa and how it has changed. It was eye opening.

Our home at the Medolina Holiday Resort.

Our home at the Medolina Holiday Resort.

Port Alfred is a beach community with crazy sand dunes.

Port Alfred is a beach community with crazy sand dunes.

Derek gives Dave and I a tour of the local township.

Derek gives Dave and I a tour of the local township.

Like most towns we drove through, Port Alfred has a large township of ad hoc houses. It is still divided by race with blacks living on one side of the neighborhood and colored (South African term for mix race) people living in another area. You do not see any white residents.

Like most towns we drove through, Port Alfred has a large township of ad hoc houses. It is still divided by race with blacks living on one side of the neighborhood and colored (South African term for mix race) people living in another area. You do not see any white residents.

Just down the street from the township is this wealthy seaside village, with mostly white residents. Compared to Boston these houses are extremely inexpensive, but compared to the township, it is another world, which is definitely dividing the community. Dave and I can't imagine living in a home like this knowing that people a block away barely have running water, electricity, and a roof over their head.

Just down the street from the township is this wealthy seaside village, with mostly white residents. Compared to Boston these houses are extremely inexpensive, but compared to the township, it is another world, which is definitely dividing the community. Dave and I can't imagine living in a home like this knowing that people a block away barely have running water, electricity, and a roof over their head.

CAPE AGULHAS - The most southern tip of Africa doesn't offer much more than a sign where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet.

Dave at the most southern tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas, South Africa

Dave at the most southern tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas, South Africa

Flowers are starting to bloom.

Flowers are starting to bloom.

IMG_4663-70.jpg

ARNISTON - This fishing village has some colorful boats and homes.

IMG_4693-75.jpg

IMG_4679-72.jpg

IMG_4680-73.jpg

IMG_4681-74.jpg

HERMANUS - This beach side village is best known for some of the best whale watching from land and for interesting wildlife. We also caught some surfing under the most powerful and scary waves. Many people go to Hermanus to dive with great white sharks. Although we found that unappealing for several reasons, we would have liked to take a boat ride out to sea to view the sharks. Unfortunately, the water was too rough for boats to go out on the days of our visit.

We're surprised he made it out alive!

We're surprised he made it out alive!

Southern Right Whale. We saw dozens of whales. Unfortunately they weren't interested in jumping for the camera!

Southern Right Whale. We saw dozens of whales. Unfortunately they weren't interested in jumping for the camera!

DSC_0133-80.jpg

Long Tail Sugarbird

Long Tail Sugarbird

Rock Daisies

Rock Daisies

SIMONSTOWN - home to South Africa's navy and jackass penguins!
DSC_0175-82.jpg

CAPE OF GOOD HOPE NATURE RESERVE - This area is known for its coastal walks and wildlife. I will remember it for the baboon that jumped into our car. I was so freaked out that I didn't act quick enough to take a photo, which is a huge bummer, because it was quite a sight. The baboon went right for our cooler bag. When he couldn't get it, he left the car.

There was ample warning of baboons in the area, Cape Point.

There was ample warning of baboons in the area, Cape Point.

This was the baboon that was in our car.

This was the baboon that was in our car.

Cape of Good Hope.

Cape of Good Hope.

Cape Point lighthouse.

Cape Point lighthouse.

Beaches line the coastal drive between Cape Point and Cape Town. Camps Bay is on the back side of Table Mountain.

Beaches line the coastal drive between Cape Point and Cape Town. Camps Bay is on the back side of Table Mountain.

Next stop is Johannesberg. Then we're off to Victoria Falls and will embark on a three week safari through Nambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya.

In true Chernack form, I am leaving South Africa with a souvenir - tick bite fever. Google it to find out more. Let's just say it is painful, but after a week of antibiotics and pain killers I should live to tell about it ; - )

- Elizabeth

Posted by daveliz 04:41 Archived in South Africa Comments (3)

South Africa by daylight

Learning about Apartheid in Cape Town, plus a trip to the Winelands

overcast 18 °F
View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

View of downtown Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain. South Africa's landscape is full of beautiful mountains, valleys, oceanfronts and cities.

View of downtown Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain. South Africa's landscape is full of beautiful mountains, valleys, oceanfronts and cities.

Compared to most of Asia, South Africa is remarkably calm with a western feel, which initially led us to believe the country has made great strides since Apartheid ended 15 years ago. Cape Town was our first stop.

We enjoyed lunchtime music from an acapella group at the Victoria and Alfred waterfront in Cape Town.

We enjoyed lunchtime music from an acapella group at the Victoria and Alfred waterfront in Cape Town.

A monument of South Africa's Nobel Peace prize winners; William De Klerk, Bishop Desomond TuTu, Albert Luthuli, and Nelson Mandela. It is a source of tremendous pride that the country achieved freedom for all its people without civil war.

A monument of South Africa's Nobel Peace prize winners; William De Klerk, Bishop Desomond TuTu, Albert Luthuli, and Nelson Mandela. It is a source of tremendous pride that the country achieved freedom for all its people without civil war.

Unfortunately, behind the calm exterior is a sad history of oppression that has led to many current problems. For more than three decades the white South African government had a systematic plan, Apartheid (literally "apart system"), to separate its people based on race with an effort to ensure white superiority. Laws separated white, black, Indian and colored (the term used for mixed race in South Africa) neighborhoods. Non-whites were given an inferior education, stripped of all political freedoms and were forced to abide travel restrictions. As we traveled through South Africa we noticed it is still divided by race on many levels.

DSC_0079-68.jpg
DSC_0149-81.jpg
There is a major contrast between rich and poor neighborhoods. It is common to see a complex of McMansions just down the street from a crowded township of small government built homes or tin shacks. We have not seen many middle class neighborhoods.

A few other big issues we've observed:

- Industry and jobs are scarce and the poverty rate is staggering. While in Cape Town we met many educated non-whites with jobs working hard to make a living, this isn't the case through out the country.

- Many people are wary of the current government under Jacob Zuma, a former ANC anti-Apartheid leader with minimal education and a police record.

- The government is aiming to provide every citizen with a home, but production is behind and infrastructure can't support all of the houses. In our opinion everyone would be better served if the government created jobs.

- Education is mandatory, but visibly not enforced or encouraged by many parents.

- One in four people are infected with HIV. Grants are given to people who have the disease for medications, but many use it to buy food. We're told many people are so desperate they try to get HIV so they can get the government money. Clearly the system is broken.

- Violent crime is on the rise. As a result, we've been warned to travel by daylight. We haven't witnessed anything and think there is a bit of paranoia, but we are following the wisdom of locals and stay in at night.

- Although many white people who fought for equal rights remain optimistic about the future of South Africa, many feel alienated by the current governments focus on black rights rather than equal rights.

ROBBEN ISLAND

Robben Island is where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were incarcerated for decades. The conditions were dire, but the island became known as "The University" because Mandela and other leaders were able to educate younger prisoners about their ideas for a non-racial, free and democratic South Africa. Mandela also secretly wrote most of his auto-biography, "Long Walk to Freedom," while in jail. It is a must read! His struggle to educate himself, make a living, and then fight for freedom is inspiring. The sense we have is that Mandela's message is at risk of being lost due to the difficulty people have to rise out of poverty.

Nelson Mandela's cell. He served most of his 27 years here.

Nelson Mandela's cell. He served most of his 27 years here.

Mandela's prison garden where he hid a manuscript of his auto-biography. It was discovered a few weeks later when guards built the wall. Luckily, Mandela gave another copy to a prisoner who smuggled it out in his shoes and released it to the public sharing much information about the poor treatment of blacks.

Mandela's prison garden where he hid a manuscript of his auto-biography. It was discovered a few weeks later when guards built the wall. Luckily, Mandela gave another copy to a prisoner who smuggled it out in his shoes and released it to the public sharing much information about the poor treatment of blacks.

Our Robben Island tour guide was a political prisoner on the Island for five years until all prisoners were let free.

Our Robben Island tour guide was a political prisoner on the Island for five years until all prisoners were let free.

Picture of the prisoners leaving Robben Island after a deal to free political prisoners was negotiated by Mandela (along with his political party, the African National Congress - ANC) and the Apartheid government.

Picture of the prisoners leaving Robben Island after a deal to free political prisoners was negotiated by Mandela (along with his political party, the African National Congress - ANC) and the Apartheid government.

The limestone quarry where the prisoners did hard labor was also where most of the political debates and discussions occurred among prisoners. The limestone was so bright and the dust was so thick that most prisoners have eye and lung damage from being in this environment.

The limestone quarry where the prisoners did hard labor was also where most of the political debates and discussions occurred among prisoners. The limestone was so bright and the dust was so thick that most prisoners have eye and lung damage from being in this environment.

DISTRICT SIX MUSEUM

District Six is a neighborhood in Cape Town that was forcefully "resettled" under one of the worst of the Apartheid laws, the Group Areas Act. Every non-white by law had to carry a passbook with their racial identity and they were assigned rights based on the information. The Group Areas Act permitted authorities to move black, Indian and colored people from their home into areas away from city and business centers. Former residents of District Six now lead powerful tours at the museum.

People wrote in their family name on the map where they once lived before being forcefully removed from District Six. Some of the land is now being returned to the people.

People wrote in their family name on the map where they once lived before being forcefully removed from District Six. Some of the land is now being returned to the people.

Typical sign during Apartheid.

Typical sign during Apartheid.

JEWISH MUSEUM

At the Jewish Museum in Cape Town we learned many South African Jews emigrated from Europe, mostly from Lithuania, for religious freedom and business opportunities. In fact, Johannesburg was largely built by Jews when gold and diamonds were discovered nearby. Many moved from Cape Town to the central part of the country. The museum talked about their role during the Apartheid era. Jews were often outspoken anti-apartheid supporters as they could relate to the suffering as Jews have history of being oppressed. After university, Nelson Mandela was hired into a Jewish law firm. A black man hired into a white law firm was unheard of in those days. Also, his head defense lawyer throughout the treason trials was Jewish. This gave us an unexpected and welcome sense of pride and connection to South Africa.

However, today many Jews fall into a category with many other white South Africans who are moving to other countries for better job and education opportunities. We've been told the SA government puts pressure on businesses to employ a larger percentage of non-whites and to pay them higher wages regardless of experience. This inequality has driven many away from their homeland.

BO KAAP

Colorful Bo Kaap is a Muslim neighborhood that is full of restaurants, shops and homes. South Africa has a large Muslim population that also faced Apartheid.

Colorful Bo Kaap is a Muslim neighborhood that is full of restaurants, shops and homes. South Africa has a large Muslim population that also faced Apartheid.

WORLD CUP SOCCER STADIUM

We constantly hear discussions of "2010", the year the World Cup comes to South Africa. Locals hope it will bring positive attention to the country, as well as much needed revenue.

The Cape Town stadium under construction. There are ten stadiums throughout the country being built or renovated for the cup. Currently many workers are on strike trying to get more money out of the deal.

The Cape Town stadium under construction. There are ten stadiums throughout the country being built or renovated for the cup. Currently many workers are on strike trying to get more money out of the deal.

TABLE MOUNTAIN

Table Mountain is the most well known landmark in Cape Town, getting its name from the cloud that often lies over the flat topped mountain like a table cloth.

Elizabeth hiking up Table Mountain.

Elizabeth hiking up Table Mountain.

A view of the southern Cape from Table Mountain.

A view of the southern Cape from Table Mountain.

South Africans love their wine (a good thing, because the local beer is not very good.) Just under an hour from Capetown lies the winelands in valleys beneath the area's mountains. We visited the wine towns of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl.

STELLENBOSCH

View from Ernie Ells winery in Stellenbosch.

View from Ernie Ells winery in Stellenbosch.

FRANSCHHOEK

We met a lovely couple, Zaida and Isi, from Barcelona, Spain. They were wrapping up an 11 month cycling adventure through all of Africa. Their stories were fascinating. Now they are off to Asia to travel by bike there. We wish them luck ; - )

We met a lovely couple, Zaida and Isi, from Barcelona, Spain. They were wrapping up an 11 month cycling adventure through all of Africa. Their stories were fascinating. Now they are off to Asia to travel by bike there. We wish them luck ; - )

PAARL

Shiraz fresh from the tank at Fairview winery in Paarl.

Shiraz fresh from the tank at Fairview winery in Paarl.

Fairview winery is known for its fresh goat cheese from its mascot.

Fairview winery is known for its fresh goat cheese from its mascot.

Wrapping our hands around the magnitude of Apartheid and its affects has been a challenge, but we made it our mission during a three week drive around the country to educate ourselves by talking to locals of all races to learn more. Soon we'll share some of our stories.

We just hope this country can turn things around so its citizens can truly enjoy the freedoms they now possess!

- Dave & Elizabeth

* A little side note....while you are all enjoying summer, we have gotten our dose of winter here in South Africa where they don't believe in heat. It has been mostly cold and rainy, especially for two kids whose blood thinned in Asia and only have summer clothes with an added fleece, scarf and hat : - ( We know. The violins are playing!

Posted by daveliz 05:35 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Hong Kong - China's alter ego

A modern mecca just south of the mainland

semi-overcast 95 °F
View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

A view of Hong Kong Island at night from Victoria Peak. For 15 minutes every night the buildings light up to choreographed music. The gimmicky performance didn't wow us.

A view of Hong Kong Island at night from Victoria Peak. For 15 minutes every night the buildings light up to choreographed music. The gimmicky performance didn't wow us.

We wrapped up our four month journey through Asia in Hong Kong, a surreal city full of skyscrapers in which most of its seven million inhabitants work and live. Hong Kong is made up of hundreds of small islands, but most people congregate on Kowloon and Hong Kong. The business hub and shopping mecca is extraordinarily crowded. Hong Kong's mountainous geography has left very little room for urban sprawl, so architects have built up.

We stayed in one of Hong Kong's mansions, which are government price controlled buildings that house hostels, hotels, apartments, tailors, restaurants and other shops. The hallways were scary, but our room was ok. The building, which was surrounded by hawkers pestering us to buy watches and clothes, was under renovation. Notice the bamboo scaffolding.

We stayed in one of Hong Kong's mansions, which are government price controlled buildings that house hostels, hotels, apartments, tailors, restaurants and other shops. The hallways were scary, but our room was ok. The building, which was surrounded by hawkers pestering us to buy watches and clothes, was under renovation. Notice the bamboo scaffolding.

Hong Kong was under British control from 1842 until 1997 when it transferred sovereignty back to China. The differences between the mainland and Hong Kong are night and day, both socially and culturally. Hong Kong feels like a western country. It was clean, there was no spitting, and we even saw a public personal hygiene campaign aimed at preventing the spread of the swine flu.

Hangin' in Kowloon with cousins Pat, Ellen and Clancey. After Hong Kong they headed to Thailand for another adventure.

Hangin' in Kowloon with cousins Pat, Ellen and Clancey. After Hong Kong they headed to Thailand for another adventure.

Hong Kong Island has the world's longest escalator.

Hong Kong Island has the world's longest escalator.

It is easy to escape the chaos with just a short ferry ride to one of the rural islands or a bus ride to the mountains, which we preferred.

A view of Hong Kong Island from the Wilson Trail, a three hour hike Dave's cousin Clancey introduced us to on a very rainy day.

A view of Hong Kong Island from the Wilson Trail, a three hour hike Dave's cousin Clancey introduced us to on a very rainy day.

We went on a date on Cheung Chau Island, a quaint fishing village with no roads and no cars.

We went on a date on Cheung Chau Island, a quaint fishing village with no roads and no cars.

We explored Llama Island with local friends Patrick and Iwene, who we met at a train station in Oboke, Japan. They gave us the inside scoop on living in HK.

We explored Llama Island with local friends Patrick and Iwene, who we met at a train station in Oboke, Japan. They gave us the inside scoop on living in HK.

Patrick and Iwene told us to try the local specialty - a white bean custard. It was a bit flavorless for our liking. We'll have to introduce them to a hot fudge brownie sundae!

Patrick and Iwene told us to try the local specialty - a white bean custard. It was a bit flavorless for our liking. We'll have to introduce them to a hot fudge brownie sundae!

Llama Island's peaceful beach is a nice contrast to the busy city.

Llama Island's peaceful beach is a nice contrast to the busy city.

Our time in Asia was a great adventure for sure. By experiencing first hand places and cultures we had previously only read about, we gained some amazing insight into the area's history and our own culture.

For the next two months we'll explore Africa. We are currently recharging in Cape Town, South Africa.

- Dave & Elizabeth

Posted by daveliz 02:25 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (1)

China from the outer circle

...what our fortune cookie never told us

overcast -60 °F
View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

Patriotism is displayed in Tiananmen Square where hundreds of cameras and undercover officers watch every move.

Patriotism is displayed in Tiananmen Square where hundreds of cameras and undercover officers watch every move.

By the end of our one month journey through China we were ready to leave Asia. This is partly to blame for our long stay in this part of the world where most cultures are very different than ours. China, though, is where we experienced the most culture shock.

On one hand China is very modern. We were surprised to see how much capitalism has taken root. In many cities there are luxury malls filled with stores like Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Addidas. People drive nice cars and those on motorbikes prefer high-tech electric bikes to save on gas and lessen pollution. Roads are paved in much of the country, and road rules are followed more regularly than the rest of southeast Asia. Beijing even had a new, clean and timely subway system.

The typical electric motorbike.

The typical electric motorbike.

On the other hand, with the culture changing so rapidly for China's population of 1.2 billion people there are some obvious struggles. The country is under constant construction. Pollution is horrendous with a cloud hanging over most cities. Recent clashes between the minority Uighurin people and Han Chinese in the Xinjiang province showcase how some minority groups feel they're being left behind while others prosper. But the most apparent dichotomy to us was how the new materialistic culture is clashing with many aspects of traditional Chinese culture.

People in China have adopted the concept of an inner and outer circle. Those in the inner circle include family members, friends and colleagues, and they treat each other with respect and warmth. Those in the outer circle, strangers and tourists, are treated much differently. The Chinese find it odd that people in western cultures are kind to people they don't know.

As visitors, it was immediately clear we were in the outer circle. We were rarely greeted with a smile from a stranger. We had very little conversation with locals. We got pushed often as there is no such thing as a line, and when shoved there was no "excuse me", as that concept does not exist. A local told us there are too many people in China so in order to get anywhere you have to push. Never-the-less, this is an aspect of the culture we had trouble adapting to.

China instated the one child policy in 1978, with an exception to farmers. The main objective was to keep control on the population growth, but it resulted in what is being called the "emperor and empress syndrome." Many only children, excluding Elizabeth of course, don't play well with others, nor do they learn how to share from a young age.

In contrast, when we visited the villages of the Bai and Naxi minority people we were greeted with smiles and fun curiosity. A volunteer we met from the US told us most of his work is with the minority villages, because there is little interest in philanthropy from other Chinese people regardless of their need and the fact that those in need may be strangers in the outer circle.

A Chinese man stands over our friend Niamh in a train station. Yup....she's white and she has red hair....a freak of nature! It was common for locals to stare at us while intensely observing our visual differences. In fact, many times we were asked to be a part of family pictures since we were so unusual!

A Chinese man stands over our friend Niamh in a train station. Yup....she's white and she has red hair....a freak of nature! It was common for locals to stare at us while intensely observing our visual differences. In fact, many times we were asked to be a part of family pictures since we were so unusual!

The biggest culture clash for us was related to personal hygiene and sanitation. Guttural snorting and spitting is common place. Peeing and pooping on the street is not a surprise. Young children are often spotted with slitted pants so they can easily pee or poop in any location, which we saw in restaurants, at the airport and curbside. The narrow canals that run through most villages are used for everything from washing dishes to doing laundry to brushing teeth and yes, as a toilet. It is no surprise that diseases like the swine flu and sars spread so quickly through China. The government should really start a grassroots effort to change the hygiene culture and better inform people that their sanitation practices contribute to transmitting illness, instead of blaming other countries like Mexico, which they later issued an apology.

Tushies are on display everywhere.

Tushies are on display everywhere.

Men often walk around with their shirts up over their belly to cool off.

Men often walk around with their shirts up over their belly to cool off.

For three weeks we were on a tour with Gap Adventures as China is a pretty difficult country to travel around independently. We traveled with a great group of fifteen people including Dave's cousins Pat and Ellen and Dave's mom Edie.

Now for some trip high and low lights:

BEIJING

To our surprise, Beijing seemed to have a lot of order. We were expecting another Hanoi, Vietnam, but Beijing is very modern, less chaotic and thankfully no honking.

We visited a section of the Great Wall of China a couple of hours outside of Beijing. We climbed thousands of steps and experienced the Wall's girth and power, originally used to ward off Mongols.

IMG_3780-17.jpg

DSC_0097-14.jpg

Pat and Ellen take on the Great Wall.

Pat and Ellen take on the Great Wall.

Tianamen square is best known for the pro-democracy protests in 1989 that resulted in many deaths. It was interesting to hear the government's stance on the incident, that it was a necessary step (i.e. suppression of pro-democratic forces) to achieve the economic progress many citizens enjoy today. We were warned before visiting not to talk about anything sensitive since there are hundreds of cameras and microphones visible throughout and many plain clothed government agents monitoring the square.

Tiananmen Square is surrounded by government buildings and full of tourist groups.

Tiananmen Square is surrounded by government buildings and full of tourist groups.

A boy and his father smile for the camera as they enter the Forbidden City.

A boy and his father smile for the camera as they enter the Forbidden City.

The Forbidden City, at one end of the square, was constructed from 1406 to 1420. It served as a home for many Chinese emperors. It was forbidden for commoners to enter the area until the emperor system crumbled. We don't think the commoners were missing much.

The main square of the Forbidden City.

The main square of the Forbidden City.

A bridge over the first moat in the Forbidden City.

A bridge over the first moat in the Forbidden City.

I (Elizabeth) am obsessed with watching the Olympics. I can tell you every fact about every gymnast, diver and archist, so we had to check out where Michael Phelps won more than a pound of gold.

Team USA on the way to the Olympic Stadiums in Beijing.

Team USA on the way to the Olympic Stadiums in Beijing.

The Bird's Nest used for the opening and closing ceremonies was much more exquisite from the outside. Inside prep work was being done for a summer concert.

The Bird's Nest used for the opening and closing ceremonies was much more exquisite from the outside. Inside prep work was being done for a summer concert.

Aquatic Water Cube.

Aquatic Water Cube.

All diving and swimming events took place here.

All diving and swimming events took place here.

The Summer Palace was once occupied by Chinese emperors as a place to vacation. Now it is a place for everyone to picnic, take a stroll or boat ride.

A Summer Palace transport boat with the main palace in the background.

A Summer Palace transport boat with the main palace in the background.

Some other things we saw in Beijing...

Beijing's night market is popular since outside temperatures are more bearable in the evening.

Beijing's night market is popular since outside temperatures are more bearable in the evening.

Meat on a stick is the food of choice.

Meat on a stick is the food of choice.

How about some live scorpians? You'll find everything from bugs to rats to dog and starfish on a stick. Yuck!

How about some live scorpians? You'll find everything from bugs to rats to dog and starfish on a stick. Yuck!

NBA star Yao Ming is everywhere. The Chinese love NBA!

NBA star Yao Ming is everywhere. The Chinese love NBA!

Forget rugby, futbol and cricket, the Chinese like to play basketball. Chinese men and women are generally much taller and heavier than people from other Asian countries.

Forget rugby, futbol and cricket, the Chinese like to play basketball. Chinese men and women are generally much taller and heavier than people from other Asian countries.

Elizabeth enjoys this shoe statue until someone on our trip told us they saw a kid peeing in it.

Elizabeth enjoys this shoe statue until someone on our trip told us they saw a kid peeing in it.

We took three overnight trains in China. The amenities leave something to be desired with bunk beds three stories high and some rather slippery squat toilets.

En route to Xi'an. It was a first time experience for Edie who lessened the pain with shots of rice wine!

En route to Xi'an. It was a first time experience for Edie who lessened the pain with shots of rice wine!

XI'AN

An army of terracotta warriors, chariots and horses was discovered below the ground in 1974 by a farmer digging a well. A major excavation, which continues today, uncovered thousands of statues that had been buried for more than 2000 years after being destroyed by invaders. The statues were created to protect the tomb of Emperor Shi Huang Di and provide him an army to rule his empire in the afterlife. The terracotta army is actually only a small part of the whole tomb which covers many square kilometers. We don't understand how an army made of clay was supposed to help the emperor, but who are we to judge?

This is one of three massive buildings filled with Terracotta Warriors that have been unveiled and pieced together.

This is one of three massive buildings filled with Terracotta Warriors that have been unveiled and pieced together.

Broken Terracotta Warriors are recreated by archeologists.

Broken Terracotta Warriors are recreated by archeologists.

Like many cities in China, the new and old city of Xi'an is divided by a wall. Some of what we saw inside and out ...

Used in early times to keep danger out, Xi'an's wall now divides the new and old city. Bikers and walkers can go on top, or there is a path around the outside.

Used in early times to keep danger out, Xi'an's wall now divides the new and old city. Bikers and walkers can go on top, or there is a path around the outside.

Morning Ti Chi in Xi'an.

Morning Ti Chi in Xi'an.

Cha Cha in Xi'an.

Cha Cha in Xi'an.

Xi'an has an active Muslim quarter with restaurants and nick knack shops.

Xi'an has an active Muslim quarter with restaurants and nick knack shops.

Xi'an's ancient bell tower and drum tower light up nicely at night, especially against the uber new neon mall signs and McD's. Ah, the signs of progress.

Xi'an's ancient bell tower and drum tower light up nicely at night, especially against the uber new neon mall signs and McD's. Ah, the signs of progress.

CHENGDU

Scientists at the Giant Panda Breeding Research Center are studying and nurturing the endangered Giant and Red Panda Bears. They are studying the animals, helping them reproduce and training them to be reintroduced back into the wild.

Giant Panda Bears are very gentle animals. They spend most of their day eating bamboo and resting.

Giant Panda Bears are very gentle animals. They spend most of their day eating bamboo and resting.

DSC_0225-39.jpg

Red Pandas.

Red Pandas.

Chengdu, a city with nearly 12 million people, is home to the People's Park, which was the most engaging place we encountered in China. Every afternoon, senior citizens and local artists and athletes take their talents to the park. There is group dance, singing and badminton. It was fun to see the local men and women reach out to us foreigners to participate. With that said, it was a little creepy with all of the music circa 1950 war time and all of the video cameras hidden (not so well) in the trees.

Edie gets her groove on at the People's Park in Chengdu.

Edie gets her groove on at the People's Park in Chengdu.

A locally made flute sold at a Chengdu market.

A locally made flute sold at a Chengdu market.

It is common to see women holding hands in China. It is a sign of comfort.

It is common to see women holding hands in China. It is a sign of comfort.

We were told that the Chinese were masters in foot reflexology, so we went to a clinic only to be faced with a menu written entirely in Chinese. In typical Chernack/Greenstein form we selected the cheapest item on the menu, luckily resulting in an hour and a half foot and body massage, plus foot exfoliation, for a grand total of $15. There was only one touch and go moment when the ladies came into the room with a foot scraper that looked like a foot long knife and put a blow torch to it to sterilize it. Yikes!

Our feet get the royal treatment.

Our feet get the royal treatment.

Chengdu has a large population from Tibet, so we tried some Tibetan food, which was extremely filling. Elizabeth enjoyed the potato pie and Dave liked the Yak pie and tea. We were curious about their take on the Dali Lama and Tibet situation, but were afraid to bring up any sensitive questions. The Chinese take on the situation, which we eventually got the courage to discuss with some locals in private, is very different from information we have acquired from the western media, books and interviews.

LESHAN

Dafo the Grand Buddha in Leshan, China, was constructed more than 1200 years ago to look over the safety of boaters in the dangerous waters below where three rivers merge together. People flock to see him like it is Mickey Mouse at Disneyland. The long line and man with a bullhorn screaming at us to move faster did not fair well for the Big Daddy.

Dafo Grand Buddha, Leshan

Dafo Grand Buddha, Leshan

Look at the line. It was a circus!

Look at the line. It was a circus!

EMEISHAN

To regain some serenity and peace we spent two nights at a monastery, but this house of worship wasn't the sanctuary we were looking for. We were constantly awoken by the echos of snorting and spitting as well as prayer gongs starting at 4 a.m. Since we were up, we observed the two hour morning religious session, which was quite interesting.

Early morning prayers.

Early morning prayers.

Monk with his gong.

Monk with his gong.

We climbed to the top of Mt. Emei, via hundreds of steep steps to reach a Buddha shrine overlooking the mountains which are famous for having a sea of clouds hanging over the top.

View from the top of Mt. Emei.

View from the top of Mt. Emei.

Buddha at top of Mt. Emei.

Buddha at top of Mt. Emei.

Lazy people take a short cut to the the top.

Lazy people take a short cut to the the top.

Local lovers put love locks on the railing at the top of Mt. Emei and then throw the key over the mountain to showcase their love for each other. We'll lock our love in other ways as the locks were way overpriced. We're so cheap!

Local lovers put love locks on the railing at the top of Mt. Emei and then throw the key over the mountain to showcase their love for each other. We'll lock our love in other ways as the locks were way overpriced. We're so cheap!

It is common to see livestock outside of restaurants. Before our meal there were two rabbits in this cage. Who ordered that?!

It is common to see livestock outside of restaurants. Before our meal there were two rabbits in this cage. Who ordered that?!

DALI

The ancient town of Dali, which is surrounded by walls and gates, was the most pleasurable town we visited. The downtown is full of fun bars and restaurants, as well as the usual cheesy souvenir shops.

Along with Ellen, Pat and our GAP tour mate Lenore, we rented bikes to explore the outlying areas, which are home to people from the Bai minority group. They smiled, waved to us and giggled when we rolled by trying to correctly say 'ni-hao' - hello in Mandarin.

A minority woman works in Dali.

A minority woman works in Dali.

Chickens to dogs are sold at the morning meat market.

Chickens to dogs are sold at the morning meat market.

Dali is known for its Three Pagodas, which are supposed to have a phallic resemblance.

Dali is known for its Three Pagodas, which are supposed to have a phallic resemblance.

Ellen makes friends with others on the street.

Ellen makes friends with others on the street.

Marble workers on the side of the road.

Marble workers on the side of the road.

A Bai village gate.

A Bai village gate.

We no longer feel bad about our big travel backpacks.

We no longer feel bad about our big travel backpacks.

A local farmer transports his wife. Who needs a Civic?

A local farmer transports his wife. Who needs a Civic?

Happy bikers taking a drink break.

Happy bikers taking a drink break.

LIJIANG

The old town of Lijiang is a World Heritage Site and home to the Naxi minority. It is also a maze of small cobblestone alleys lined with shops. At night the streets light up with neon lights and are filled shoulder to shoulder with tourists, primarily from China. Every five stores either sold dried meat, combs, canvas sandals, junk jewelry or tea. We should mention that all of the quality products we buy at home that are 'Made in China' are not sold in China for discounted prices. In fact you either can't find them at all, or they are much higher in price due to strict exporting laws and agreements set in place between the government and companies.

Water wheels mark the entry into Lijiang's ancient city.

Water wheels mark the entry into Lijiang's ancient city.

Lijiang is situated in a valley with many stores and homes built along the surrounding hills. The architecture and rooftops are amazing.

Lijiang is situated in a valley with many stores and homes built along the surrounding hills. The architecture and rooftops are amazing.

Women often carry the heavy loads.

Women often carry the heavy loads.

Lijiang has the right idea but the rule is seldom followed by locals.

Lijiang has the right idea but the rule is seldom followed by locals.

Lijiang lights up at night.

Lijiang lights up at night.

TIGER LEAPING GORGE

DSC_0128-91.jpg

The Yangtse River rushes powerfully through the Tiger Leaping Gorge. It is believed that in its narrowest section a tiger jumped across the gorge escaping capture by local hunters.

A tiger statue marks the area of the alleged jump.

A tiger statue marks the area of the alleged jump.

The gorge is one of the deepest in the world. We did a two day hike along the ridge of one of the mountains. When the clouds cleared the mountain views were extraordinarily lush and green.

DSC_0144-93.jpg

One of our trip mates Alex of England hiked with his guitar. Dave took some nice shots of the young Paul McCartney for his CD cover.

One of our trip mates Alex of England hiked with his guitar. Dave took some nice shots of the young Paul McCartney for his CD cover.

A mule helped Edie up 28 bends on the first day of the hike. She powered through challenging day number two by foot.

A mule helped Edie up 28 bends on the first day of the hike. She powered through challenging day number two by foot.

YANGSHUO

We spent a couple of days exploring by bike the beautiful town of Yangshuo. The city is known for it's limestone karst mountains and the peaceful Li Rivers that run through them. Biking was a phenomenal way to see the picturesque farming villages and meet some of the locals.

Cycling through the back roads of Yangshuo is fabulous!

Cycling through the back roads of Yangshuo is fabulous!

Edie opts for a motor scooter ride to lead the way.

Edie opts for a motor scooter ride to lead the way.

Buffalo road block.

Buffalo road block.

The karsts reflecting in a rice paddy.

The karsts reflecting in a rice paddy.

Bamboo rafts are another popular way to see the river.

Bamboo rafts are another popular way to see the river.

Children swim in the murky river to cool off.

Children swim in the murky river to cool off.

Dinner. China just passed it's first animal rights law while we were visiting. Sadly, a little late for these geese.

Dinner. China just passed it's first animal rights law while we were visiting. Sadly, a little late for these geese.

We stopped at a farmer's house to eat some fresh watermelon. It was the juiciest and sweetest watermelon we'd ever tasted!

We stopped at a farmer's house to eat some fresh watermelon. It was the juiciest and sweetest watermelon we'd ever tasted!

Hangin' in the farmhouse.

Hangin' in the farmhouse.

A clothes line outside the farm house.

A clothes line outside the farm house.

Our bike group.

Our bike group.

Real bikers get dirty!

Real bikers get dirty!

On a rainy day in Yangshuo we took a Chinese calligraphy class and created some artwork to bring home. We learned how to write three important words: LOVE, HAPPINESS and TRAVEL!

Elizabeth at work.

Elizabeth at work.

Throughout China we would see menu items that didn't bode well with most, especially vegetarian and animal lover Pat.

Fried dog, snake and rat don't make our mouths water.

Fried dog, snake and rat don't make our mouths water.

Instead, we ate more boxed noodles than we ate in college.

Instead, we ate more boxed noodles than we ate in college.

FINAL THOUGHTS

While our time in China was extremely eye opening we likely won't return anytime soon. Maybe one day the wall between the inner and outer circles will be torn down, but unless that happens there is little incentive for us to visit China again as we tend to embrace cultures that embrace us.

Oddly, we didn't find one fortune cookie in China, but if we had, it would likely say something like this, "DON'T TAKE FOR GRANTED THE FREEDOMS YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN."

Fortunately, we had a great group of people to travel with, especially Pat, Ellen and Edie. Pat and Ellen had more energy than the twenty year olds on our trip! We didn't quite brace Edie (mom) for the rugged adventure, but we're proud of her many travel accomplishments from climbing a mountain to mastering an open viewing squat trough toilet.

And as a tribute to Pat, a funny story. Her pink underwear and a shirt went missing in the laundry. The shirt showed up in Alex's laundry, so she assumed he stole her undies too. For three weeks we kept a careful eye on young Alex, and at the end he helped us play a good practical joke on Pat. He wore nice satin pink panties on the last overnight train and did a stretch to the third tier bunk Pat will never forget!

Alex looks good in pink!

Alex looks good in pink!

- Elizabeth and Dave

Posted by daveliz 15:52 Archived in China Comments (3)

(Entries 16 - 20 of 48) « Page 1 2 3 [4] 5 6 7 8 9 10 »