Wanderlust – St. Petersburg

 

Dear Family and Friends,

it is almost 3 months ago since my friend Gudrun and I visited the city of St Petersburg in Russia. I have been back in Australia for more than 2 months but have been busy been involved with other things. So this a “ belated diary” of the time we spent in the beautiful city of St Petersburg.

St Petersburg Diary (11th September to 16th September)

On Sunday the 11. September Gudrun and I boarded a flight with Aeroflot from Hamburg to St Petersburg. We had booked a 5 day city tour. After 2.5 hours we arrived in the 5 million city located along the river Neva on the Baltic Sea. In 1703 Tsar Peter I. founded the city in a wetland area to have access to the Baltic Sea. The city stretches over 600square kilometres and was built on 44 islands which are connected by bridges. St Petersburg has the nickname “The Venice of the North”. To build fortresses, churches, cathedrals, palaces and other administration buildings the Tsar used forced labourers and “Leibeigene” (serfs). Today most of these buildings are used as museums or for public purposes.

At the airport the pick up service took us to our accommodation The Petro Palace, a hotel right in the city in walking distance to most the attractions.There we met our guide Nina who gave us a short introduction into the itinerary of the next days. She had lived and worked in Germany as an “Au Pair” and spoke perfectly German.

Later in the afternoon – sunny day and 20 degrees Celsius – we walked for 2 hours to explore the neighbourhood of our hotel. That Sunday afternoon we saw lots of Russian families enjoying themselves in the parks and strolling along the river.

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On Monday we and the rest of the group (the other two people) were picked up from our hotel at 9 am. Juri the driver of the mini bus we boarded drove us around the sights of the city. We crossed the river Neva several times and stopped on the so called “Rabbit Island” to visit the Peter & Paul Fortress. Inside the fortress is the Peter – Paul – Cathedral where since the 18th century most of the Tsars are buried. In 1998 the members of the last Tsar’ s family who were murdered in 1918 after the revolution were put to rest here as well.

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We had our lunch in a Russian restaurant and learnt that it is quite common in Russia to have soup three times a day with every meal. Our lunch w glass of Vodka as a starter and then Bortsch the national food originally from the Ukraine, not Russia. In the afternoon we visited the city of Puschkin 30 km south of St Petersburg. Puschkin, is named after the poet and novelist Alexander Puschkin. The Catherine Palace is a Rococo palace located in the town. It was the residence of the Russian Tsars. Starting in 1743, the building was reconstructed by four different architects, before Bartholomeo Rastrelli, chief architect of the Imperial Court, was instructed to completely redesign the building on a scale to rival Versailles.

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Hords of tourists, including us two, come here every year to see the legendary Amber Room.To create this extraordinary chamber, Rastrelli used the panels of amber mosaic originally destined for an Amber Cabinet at Konigsberg Castle.The room was completed in 1770. Due to the fragility of the materials used, a caretaker was employed constantly to maintain and repair the decorations, and major restoration was undertaken three times in the 19th century. The room was used to house a substantial collection of amber-work and Chinese porcelain. In 1941, when German troops took the city Puschkin, the Amber Room was dismantled in 36 hours, and shipped to Konigsberg . As the Nazi war machine crumbled, the panels were crated up and moved out of danger, but their eventual fate is unknown.

In 1982, the order was given to begin the recreation of the Amber Room, a process that took over 20 years and cost more than $12 million. Opened in 2003 by President Vladimir Putin and then Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the restored Amber Room is a truly unique monument, and a testament to the painstaking care of the craftsmen who worked on it.No photos were allowed to be taken inside the chamber. We spent almost 4 hours in and around the palace before our driver took us back to the hotel.

On Tuesday we went for a ride on the Metro.The trains are popular, running almost every 3 minutes and packed during rush hour. The main attraction apart from the cheap fares are the Metro Stations themselves. St. Petersburg’s metro is one of the most elegant in the world as well as one of the deepest, which makes it worth a visit even if you don’t really need to move around the city a lot. Each of the old stations looks different.The escalators in some stations go down to the platform as deep as 40 metres.

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The rest of the morning we spent at Peterhof the summer residence of Tsar Peter the Great. The Grand Palace at Peterhof was designed to be the centrepiece of Peter the Great’s “Russian Versailles” with more than 140 fountains and water cascades in a giant park on the waterfront of the Baltic Sea. Tsar Peter himself was very much involved in the design and construction of the building.The long, narrow palace, which was built in the last decade in baroque style has minimal decoration. Beige and white in colour, the palace is majestic without being overwhelming, and provides a perfect backdrop both to the elegantly formal Upper Garden, and to the spectacular Grand Cascade.

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Inside the Grand Palace is considerably more lavish. The interiors had to be almost entirely reconstructed after World War II. We had 2 hours inside the palace and were happy to escape the indoor crowds by walking through the park while the sun was shining.

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Back in town we had some lunch to get some energy for another 4 hours walk with our tour guide Nina through the Hermitage. Nina has a diploma in art history and had spent hours and days inside the Hermitage when she was a student.

 

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The State Hermitage Museum is a museum of art and culture. One of the largest and oldest museums in the world, it was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and has been open to the public since 1852. This prestigious museum is a must-see for all first-time travellers to the city. With over 3 million items in its collection, it also definitely rewards repeat visits, and new-comers can only hope to get a brief taste of the riches on offer here, from impressionist masterpieces to fascinating oriental treasures. One estimate has it that you would need eleven years to view each exhibit on display for just one minute.

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We had approximately 4 hours of intense art viewing and at the end of the day after our dinner we had an early night.

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On Wednesday was a tour free day and we entertained ourselves with touristy stuff.

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Again it was a warm and sunny day and the two of us walked along the esplanade of the Neva river, strolled down the Nevski Prospect with its shops and cafes, stopped at the State Russian Museum to feel relieved it was closed that day and walked around the Church on the Spilled Blood. With its 80 metres high and its richly coloured onion dome is one of the most picturesque churches in the city. The Moscow – style church got its awkward name because it was built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was murdered in 1881.

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img_2360On Thursday Nina picked us up and took us to the Isaac Cathedral just a stone’s throw again from our hotel. St. Isaac’s Cathedral was originally the city’s main church and the largest cathedral in Russia. It was built between 1818 and 1858 by a French-born architect to be one of the most impressive landmarks of the Russian Imperial capital. One hundred and eighty years later the gilded dome of St. Isaac’s still dominates the skyline of St. Petersburg. With a height of 102 metres and the cupola’ s diametre of 26m it covers 4000 square metres and accommodates 14000 standing worshipers. It was closed in the early 1930s and reopened as a museum. Today, church services are held here only on major ecclesiastical occasions.

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The cathedral’s facades are decorated with sculptures and massive granite columns (made of single pieces of red granite). Inside you find numerous paintings, sculptures and mosaics by the most famous artists of their time. The walls are decorated with all kinds of marble , semi-precious stones and various minerals.

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img_2861262 steps brought us up to a viewing platform and we walked around in a circle giving us the 360 degree view of the city.

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While the weather was still ok we boarded a small boat and went on a cruise through the canals. It was a bit chilly and we wrapped a blanket around our waist and legs .The boat trip took us through a few of the canals and onto the Neva River. It was not a gondola, but with all the canals and the more than 320 major and minor bridges in the city it brought back memories of my visits to Venice.

We came back to our hotel in the afternoon in order to get ready for our big night out. We had booked to see the ballet “ The Sleeping Beauty” at the Mikhailovsky Theatre. The Mikhailovsky Theatre is one of Russia’s oldest opera and ballet houses. It was founded in 1833 and is situated in a historical building on the Arts Square in St. Petersburg.

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We enjoyed the artistic performance of the ensemble very much. Russian ballet is simply top class.

On Friday we had to say good bye to the city of St Petersburg. While our driver was taking us to the airport you could see the grey, stormy clouds in the distance and they started to open for some rain. The flight with Aeroflot took us back to Hamburg. I had arranged a rental car to drive back to Bremen.

During the 5 days we visited St Petersburg we were lucky with the good weather. The temperatures were around 22 degrees and the sun was shining. We were wondering how it must feel and look like in winter time with temperatures dropping to – 20 to 30 degrees Celsius and the Neva River covered in ice. I was very surprised about how prosperous, clean and well maintained the city looked.Thanks to our German speaking tour guide Nina communication was not a problem, but in other places we could communicate in English language without major problems. I will end the diary with a collage of fellow tourists and local people we came across.

 

 

 

Wanderlust in Africa

 

Dear family , friends and followers,

it appears that only a few of the images I have inserted into the text are getting through. I have tried the whole day to find a solution to the problem without success. I give up and will just post a text with these compromised images.  THat is the best I can do. Here is the complete diary of our tour through Zimbabwe – Botswana – Namibia

WANDERLUST – AFRICA 17. 08. to 06. 09. 2016

Zimbabwe – Botswana – Namibia
On Wednesday the 17th August Gudrun and I started our trip to Africa. We had booked a guided tour to the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia.

We took the train from Bremen to Munich Airport (that was a 7 hour drive from north to south Germany in the fast ICE train – the Inter City Express). From Munich we left at 9pm and flew with South African Airways to Johannesburg. Touch down there was at 7:30 the next morning. Another 3 hours later was our connecting flight to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. The travel time from home to our accommodation in Victoria Falls was a bit more then 29 hours. The good part was that we started and finished on the longitude and did not suffer from a massive jetlag, just a sore bum.

We had already met the rest of the small group on the airoplane and our local guide who also will be our driver for the next 20 days picked us 8 people up at the airport. It was a short trip in our 4×4 drive to our lodge the Z’Ambesi River Lodge located directly on the banks of the Zambesi River, Africa’s fourth longest river with a length of more than 2700km.

No time to rest after the arrival. We just checked in our luggage and jumped into the car again. David took us into the National Park where we spent 2 hours walking along the Victoria Falls the largest and most majestic waterfall on the planet. Since 1989 the waterfall is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The waterfall is called Mosei- oa – Tunya by the locals which means ” Thundering Smoke”

Half a million litres of water fall – per second – down a 108 m drop along a 1.7km wide strip in the Zambesi Gorge. During the wet season it is the largest water curtain on the planet. At the time of the year we were here the mist dissipated to unveil the best views and photography options from directly across the falls. We were given some rain ponchos which we didn’t need at all.

On Friday morning we had booked a 15 minute helicopter flight which allowed us a bird’s eye view over the Fall. Despite the fact that it was a fairly short trip I was happy to see the Fall from another perspective . Only from the air you could see how giant this natural wonder is.

In the afternoon we took a boat cruise on the Zambesi River. For 2 hours we sailed into the sunset overlooking the banks of the river. And we were lucky and spotted our first wildlife elephant feeding on some branches of a tree. The cruise came with catering service and while we were sipping on our third Gin & Tonic a group of hippopotamus popped up in front of the boat. We had a buffet dinner that night at our lodge and the fried crocodile tail I ate was very yummie.

Saturday morning 8:45 we left Victoria Falls and drove in our Toyata Landcruiser plus trailer a bit more than 200 km southeast to the Hwange National Park where we arrived after 3 hours. Halfway we stopped at the Painted Dog Conservation a place where people look after the endangered species of this wild dog.
The country side looked very familiar to me and reminded me on the highway west of Townsville to Charts Towers. Very brown and dry at this time of the year and instead of Gum trees we saw a lot of Teak and Bloodwood trees on the side of the road.
Our accommodation for the next 2 nights was Sable Sands where we stayed in little huts overlooking a water hole which attracted some baboons and buffalos that day.

Sunday was a big day and the wake up call was at 5:30 am . Brr, it was cold and I had to put on long pants and a jumper for breakfast which was served outside . Bacon and eggs for breaky? Of course it was Sunday!
At 8 am we started our safari and drove in an open 4×4 Toyota into the Hwange National Park. When ever we saw some animals along the way or at a waterholes we stopped and you could hear the clicking sounds of at least 6 cameras. According to our local guide Vincent we very lucky and saw buffalos, zebras, a herd of elephants, gnus, kudus, impalas,baboons of course, warthogs, giraffes, voltures and a geopard (cheetah) resting in the shade of a tree. We had lunch in the Nat. Park at Kennedy Camp where you also can stay overnight in your own tent. We were back at Sable Sands just in time for the sundowner at 5:30pm. Dinner that night was the Zambesi Bream a local fish served with vegetables and potatoes and for desert marble cake with melted chocolate.

 

Monday we left Sable Sands Lodge at 7:30am and drove back in the direction of Victoria Falls. We crossed the border Zimbabwe to Botswana where we had to desinfected the wheels of the car and our foot wear before we were allowed to enter Botswana. We had lunch in Kasana at an Indian Restaurant and an hour later we crossed the border from Botswana to Namibia. Our final destination after 310 km was Chobe Camps.

 

We arrived at 3:30 pm and the luggage boys carried our bags into the mounted tents . These tents were permanently installed 1.5 metres above the grounds and contained two king size beds under a mosquito net and a bathroom with a shower and flush toilet. The water supply for the bathroom came from the nearby Chobe River flowing in front of the tent village.
The 3 course dinner was served in a Boma an outdoor area surrounded and sheltered from the wind with wooden sticks. The noise from the wind that night woke us up several times.

Tuesday we had a sleep in and David our guide had organised a cruise on the Chobe River. From 10 am to 4 pm our captain Beewan safely navigated us downstream and later back upstream the river. In the wet season the grass land along the river is a large wetland area. August is still the dry season and the level of the river is fairly low ( our little aluminium tinny touch the muddy bottom several times).
The water attracts all the animals of the region in particular the birds but also cattle , zebras , elephants, impalas and giraffes. Well, I wish I can remember all the names of all the different birds we saw and if so it does not help because they were given to us in German languge by our guide.
Dinner again was a 3 course meal : vegetable pastry on mashed peas as an entree, antilope (oryx) steak medium done as a main and chocolate cake for desert (2 times for me because I had been good)

Wednesday our 8th day of the trip we left Chobe Camp, stopped an hour later in Katima for diesel and food and drove westwards on the Golden Highway towards the Mahango Park. We stayed for one night at the Nunda River Lodge one of these accommodations directly located on the banks of the river. 390 km of sealed road we did that day. For two hours we entered into the Bwabata National Park to watch the wildlife. We drove topless ( lifted the roof of our 4×4 vehicle so that we can stand up and point our cameras at the wild animals). We spotted lots of antilopes, zebras and a herd of giraffes. All in a sudden they all started to speed up and ran in the same direction. Was there a lion? We couldn’t spot any. We turned back to the lodge after visiting a giant Baobab Tree which is said to be 1500 to 2000 years of age.

The Thursaday morning river cruise upstream the Okavango River was not on our itinerary but came as a bonus. We navigated upstream to the rappits accompanied by small groups of hippos and baby crocodiles on the right and left hand side of the boat.
We left the lodge at 11:30am and passed again through the Bwabata NP and drove for 1.5 hours to the border of Namibia / Botswana. For another 2 hours we continued south into the Okavango Delta Area. For the last 13 km to reached our lodge we had to change our vehicle. After 160 km we arrived at 3:30 at the Gnuma Island Lodge where we stayed in permanently erected tents with private toilet and shower. That night we had a three course dinner, the main course was a yummie roast pork with vegetables accompanied by a South African Chardonnay. We had an early night and a noisy night with all the sounds from the animals around and on top of us in the trees.

Friday , day 10 of our tour, we had an early start at 8 am and our captain Focus took us on his speed boat into the Okavango Delta. This giant wetland area in Botswana streches over 16000 square kilometres and is the home to a variety of animals. Our approach was in the north west part of the wetland and with our boat we only touched the outskirts. Nevertheless we had a fantastic trip.
Focus navigated us safely through the papyrus grass, pointed and stopped whenever he saw some animal. We mainly saw baby crocodiles, comorans, fish eagles, gooses and beautiful coloured kingfishers.
Hippos and elephants walked through the wetland area and by doing so they create little pathes which become convenient to steer the mokoros, kanus made from a single tree trunk (these days made from fibreglass to save the trees). Two people can sit inside and a poler is using a long stick to keep the boat moving. For the next 2 hours we were sitting in the mokoro almost on the same level as the water and were gliding in silence through the papyrus grass touching the leaves and the flowers of water lilies. We did not came in eyesight with any hippos and elephants. They mainly come here at night times. Later that afternoon I did a special treat for myself and booked a 30 minute helicopter flight over the Okavango Delta. The bird’s eye view gave me just a small glimps of the massive delta area. I had the chance to view some hippos and elephants and an adult crocodile from the air. I showed goose bums when a fish eagle popped up next to our helicopter following our way.
At the end of the day I felt quite exhausted but also very happy.
The last ten days were the first part of the tour and we still have another ten days to go.

Saturday 27th August we left Botswana where we spent the last two days exploring part of the Okavango Delta. We reached the border to Namibia and after approximately 390 km we arrived at the Kaisosi Lodge near Rundu. There is a time difference between Botswana and Namibia and we had to set back our watches by an hour.
Our lodge was located on the banks of the Okanvango River . Here the river is the borderline between Namibia and Angola. We treated ourselves with a sundowner river cruise. The boat took us upstream on the Namibian side and we came back downstream on the Angolian side, no passport required when we ” crossed” the border. It was Saturday late afternoon and we saw lots of the local people on the river bank fishing, washing their clothes and having a bath in the river.

Sunday was a big day. We travelled a distance of 490 km from Rundu via Mururani, Grootfontein and Tsumeb the Etosha National Park. The road was sealed all the way and we arrived after 6 hours at the luxury Mokuti Lodge located 2 km from the parks entrance. Later in the afternoon we entered the Etosha National Park for our photo safari. Apart from the animals we had seen previously we were lucky and came accross a rhinozeros and some lions, they were two of the so called Big 5 Animals of Africa ( leopard, elephant, buffalo, lion, rhinozeros).
We had a buffet dinner at the lodge with a variety of local meat (springbok, gnu, elant and beef). The chilled South African wine was delicious and later we were listening to the singing of some local people supported by a single drum.

Monday, no mercy, we a to get up at 5:30am and left the lodge at 6:30 am to be able to watch the early morning activity at the first water hole in the Etosha National Park. The park in northern Namibia streches over an area of 23000 square kilometres and is completely fenced. The word “etosha” means great white place. The park was first proclaimed 1907, covered an area of approx. 80 000 square kilometres and after several reduction it was finally reduced to its present size. Inside the park you find the Etosha Pan which covers 4700 square kilometres. At its widest point it is approximately 110 km by 60 km. The pan is mostly dry except after heavy rains when it floods mainly from some rivers in the north. It reminded me very much of the Lake Eyre area back in Australia.
We entered the park at Namutoni drove 70 km to Halali ( lunch stop ) and continued 75 km to the west to Okaukuelo. I just add some pictures of the wild animals we saw on our way through the park. It we re mainly the remaining water hole which attracted the animals to come for a drink. We stopped at several of them each time finding other wild life creatures ” hanging out ” there.

We drove on dirt roads and were only slowly progressing. But the eight hours we spent in the park were worth every minute. Particular the last waterhole was the highlight. It was late afternoon and we watched some elephants having a mud bath while some lions were waiting to have their turn for a drink. Only the giraffes were a bit shy and kept some distance to the lions.
After a long day of travelling on bumpy roads and the joy of watching the animals we had an early night at the Toshari Lodge.

Tuesday was another day on the road and we traveled for 240 km. In the morning we visited a Himba village where we met some women and children from the tribe of the Himba. While the men care for herds of cattle in addition to goats and sheep the women were manufacturing small art craft for decorating their bodies and to sell to the tourists. The women in particular are famous for smearing themselves with a fragrant mixture of ochre, butter and bush herbs, which dyes their skin a burnt orange hue, and serves as a natural sunblock and insect repellent. They also use the mixture to cover their braided hair, which has an effect similar to dreadlocking.

The idea of the visit was to give us an impression of their way of life, but I felt a bit uncomfortable with the way it was presented to us.
The night we stayed in Toko Lodge a rustic place as it calls itself near Kamanjab. Just after sunset we watched a wild porcupine leaving the shelter of a bush.

Wednesday our 15th day of the tour the 450 km distance we traveled were all on dirt road and took us through some remote country and some mountain area viewing Mount Brandberg Namibia’s highest mountain ( 2573 m). We stopped for some photo shots and bought some local craft work of the Herero women selling their stuff along the road. The characteristic Herero women’s dress is derived from Victorian – era German missionaries. It cosists of an enormous crinoline worn over a series of petticoats, with a horn- shaped hat or headdress.

After 8 hours we arrived in Swakopmund a city on the Atlantic Ocean where for the first time of our trip the sun was not shining. 2 nights we stayed at the Pebble Stone Guesthouse in Swakop.

Thursday was 1st September and beginning of spring in the southern hemisphere. In the morning had the time to go on a safari tour into the dunes which surround most of Swakopmund. We were supposed to see the so called Small Five Animals which live in the harsh environment of the sand dunes. Our local guide Nick was a skilled and very entertaining guy. Him and his crew were able to find these 5 animals for us. We saw the “Sandtauchende- Schaufel -Schnauze- Eidechse” ( the Shuffle Snout Sand diving Gecko), the White Lady Spider, a Cameleon, a Snake and another Gecko I can’t remember the name of.

 

The afternoon Gudrun and I did a self guided city tour to explore a bit of the German history of this place. The water of the Atlantic Ocean was too cold and much to rough to go for a swim. We found a nice place for dinner at Kuecki’s restaurant. The medium done Oryx steak served with the South African white wine tasted absoultely delicious.

We left Swakop next morning at 8am and stopped an hour later at Wavis Bay to watch the colony of flamingo birds. Via Solitaire where we had lunch we drove the next 250 km on dirt road through the Namib Naukluft Park. Our accommodation was called the Namib Desert Lodge & Dune Star Camp in the Namib Gondwana Park.
David had arranged some cold sundowner drinks and us 8 tourits were watching the sunset in the distance sipping on some chilled South African Rose. For a very short moment we saw a leopard hiding in the shadow of a tree , but on our attempt to get closer he dissapeared into the bush.

Day 18 of the trip was the earliest wake up call we had . We had to leave at 5:30 am to reach the sand dunes of Sossusvlei in time before it gets to hot to climb the 180 m to the top of Dune 45. Here in Summer the temperatures can reach up to 48 degrees Celsius. It took an hour return to reach the summit. Exhausted but happy we had breakfast in the shadow of a tree. One hour later we walked 30 minutes through the sand and reached the Dead Vlei. There on a flat sandy plain you find dead trees surrounded by red sand dunes. The dunes are classified as parabolic and multicyclic, and are the result of variable wind patterns.

We visited the 30m deep Sesriem Canyon another geological feature in that area. In the afternoon we returned to our lodge. There was enough time for a swim in the pool to ” wash of the sand”. The dinner buffet I would only give 3.5 stars.

Our last two days in Namibia have come and on Sunday morning we started driving the 280 km towards Windhoek the capital city of the country. We arrived in the early afternoon and had the time to stroll through the streets of the inner city before we checked into our accommodation the Terra Africa Guesthouse located opposite the Residence of the Namibian President. Evenning and farewell dinner was held at Joe’s Beer House a mix of African & German interior decoration which did not appeal very much to us. The food was of good quality, the Gin & Tonic a bit weak.

Monday David dropped us at the airport and we had to say good bye. Our flight with South African Airways from Windhoek to Johannesburg was on time and after 1.5 hours we arrived in Jo’burg where we faced a problem. After boarding we were told that there was a fault in the engine which could not be fixed . The flight was cancelled and we were taken to a nearby hotel where we stayed over night. Next morning we left without any problem and arrived after 10.5 hours safely back in Munich. No train to Bremen at our night arrival in Munich and we had to stay a night in a hotel . Next morning we took the train and arrived ” home” 24 hours delayed. By the way it was a sunny day in Germany 24 degrees Celsius.

We traveled almost 4000 km in our 4 x 4 Toyota Landcruiser with a trailer. The last the last 10 days of our tour we traveled mainly on dirt roads.The car did a good job and lasted well ( a few loose screws, lots of dust and sand inside, NO flat tyre but sore bums). David our guide was an experinced driver and I felt safe all the time. He looked after us very well and gave us all the information about the sights, the National Parks with its wild animals and vegetation. The accommodations we stayed in were all good and all the lodges were nicely located. The individual style and architecture of these places reflected the African way of life and some lodges were very luxurious.
The local people we met along the road, in the villages and at the lodges were very friendly and always with a smile on there face.communication in English language was not a problem at all and I could even practise my German at various places in Namibia due to the history of Namibia being a German colony in the 19th century.
One thing I found fascinating about African people was how creative and artistic the women were in regards to their hair style.

Wanderlust – Africa

Victoria Fall – Zimbabwe- Botswana- Namibia (Part IIIa)

Monday we left Sable Sands Lodge at 7:30am and drove back in the direction of Victoria Falls. We crossed the border Zimbabwe to Botswana where we had to desinfected the wheels of the car and our foot wear before we were allowed to enter Botswana.

 

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We had lunch in Kasana at an Indian Restaurant and an hour later we crossed the border from Botswana to Namibia. Our final destination after 310 km was Chobe Camps.

We arrived at 3:30 pm and the luggage boys carried our bags into the mounted tents . These tents were permanently installed 1.5 metres above the grounds and contained two king size beds under a mosquito net and a bathroom with a shower and flush toilet. The water supply for the bathroom came from the nearby Chobe River flowing in front of the tent village.

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The 3 course dinner was served in a Boma an outdoor area surrounded and sheltered from the wind with wooden sticks. The noise from the wind that night woke us up several times.

 

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Tuesday we had a sleep in and David our guide had organised a cruise on the Chobe River. From 10 am to 4 pm our captain Beewan safely navigated us downstream and later back upstream the river.

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In the wet season the grass land along the river is a large wetland area. August is still the dry season and the level of the river is fairly low ( our little aluminium tinny touch the muddy bottom several times).

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The water attracts all the animals of the region in particular the birds but also cattle , zebras , elephants, impalas and giraffes. Well, I wish I can remember all the names of all the different birds we saw and if so it does not help because they were given to us in German languge by our guide

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Dinner again was a 3 course meal : vegetable pastry on mashed peas as an entree, antilope (oryx) steak medium done as a main and chocolate cake for desert (2 times for me because I had been good)

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Wednesday our 8th day of the trip we left Chobe Camp, stopped an hour later in Katima for diesel and food and drove westwards on the Golden Highway towards the Mahango Park. We stayed for one night at the Nunda River Lodge one of these accommodations directly located on the banks of the river. 390 km of sealed road we did that day. For two hours we entered into the Bwabata National Park to watch the wildlife. We drove topless ( lifted the roof of our 4×4 vehicle so that we can stand up and point our cameras at the wild animals). We spotted lots of antilopes, zebras and a herd of giraffes.

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All in a sudden they all started to speed up and ran in the same direction. Was there a lion? We couldn’t spot any.

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We turned back to the lodge after visiting a giant Baobab Tree which is said to be 1500 to 2000 years of age.

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Wanderlust in Africa

Victoria Fall –  Botswana – Namibia (Part III)

Monday we left Sable Sands Lodge at 7:30am and drove back in the direction of Victoria Falls. We crossed the border Zimbabwe to Botswana where we had to desinfected the wheels of the car and our foot wear before we were allowed to enter Botswana. We had lunch in Kasana at an Indian Restaurant and an hour later we crossed the border from Botswana to Namibia. Our final destination after 310 km was Chobe Camps.

We arrived at 3:30 pm and the luggage boys carried our bags into the mounted tents . These tents were permanently installed 1.5 metres above the grounds and contained two king size beds under a mosquito net and a bathroom with a shower and flush toilet. The water supply for the bathroom came from the nearby Chobe River flowing in front of the tent village.

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The 3 course dinner was served in a Boma an outdoor area surrounded and sheltered from the wind with wooden sticks. The noise from the wind that night woke us up several times.

Tuesday we had a sleep in and David our guide had organised a cruise on the Chobe River. From 10 am to 4 pm our captain Beewan safely navigated us downstream and later back upstream the river.

 

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In the wet season the grass land along the river is a large wetland area. August is still the dry season and the level of the river is fairly low ( our little aluminium tinny touch the muddy bottom several times).
The water attracts all the animals of the region in particular the birds but also cattle , zebras , elephants, impalas and giraffes. Well, I wish I can remember all the names of all the different birds we saw and if so it does not help because they were given to us in German languge by our guide.

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Dinner again was a 3 course meal : vegetable pastry on mashed peas as an entree, antilope (oryx) steak medium done as a main and chocolate cake for desert (2 times for me because I had been good)

Wednesday our 8th day of the trip we left Chobe Camp, stopped an hour later in Katima for diesel and food and drove westwards on the Golden Highway towards the Mahango Park. We stayed for one night at the Nunda River Lodge one of these accommodations directly located on the banks of the river. 390 km of sealed road we did that day. For two hours we entered into the Bwabata National Park to watch the wildlife. We drove topless ( lifted the roof of our 4×4 vehicle so that we can stand up and point our cameras at the wild animals). We spotted lots of antilopes, zebras and a herd of giraffes.

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All in a sudden they all started to speed up and ran in the same direction. Was there a lion? We couldn’t spot any. We turned back to the lodge after visiting a giant Baobab Tree which is said to be 1500 to 2000 years of age.

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The Thursaday morning river cruise upstream the Okavango River was not on our itinerary but came as a bonus. We navigated upstream to the rappits accompanied by small groups of hippos and baby crocodiles on the right and left hand side of the boat.

 

 

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We left the lodge at 11:30am and passed again through the Bwabata NP and drove for 1.5 hours to the border of Namibia / Botswana. For another 2 hours we continued south into the Okavango Delta Area. For the last 13 km to reached our lodge we had to change our vehicle. After 160 km we arrived at 3:30 at the Gnuma Island Lodge where we stayed in permanently erected tents with private toilet and shower. That night we had a three course dinner, the main course was a yummie roast pork with vegetables accompanied by a South African Chardonnay. We had an early night and a noisy night with all the sounds from the animals around and on top of us in the trees.

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Friday , day 10 of our tour, we had an early start at 8 am and our captain Focus took us on his speed boat into the Okavango Delta. This giant wetland area in Botswana streches over 16000 square kilometres and is the home to a variety of animals. Our approach was in the north west part of the wetland and with our boat we only touched the outskirts. Nevertheless we had a fantastic trip.
Focus navigated us safely through the papyrus grass, pointed and stopped whenever he saw some animal. We mainly saw baby crocodiles, comorans, fish eagles, gooses and beautiful coloured kingfishers.

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Hippos and elephants walked through the wetland area and by doing so they create little pathes which become convenient to steer the mokoros, kanus made from a single tree trunk (these days made from fibreglass to save the trees). Two people can sit inside and a poler is using a long stick to keep the boat moving. For the next 2 hours we were sitting in the mokoro almost on the same level as the water and were gliding in silence through the papyrus grass touching the leaves and the flowers of water lilies. We did not came in eyesight with any hippos and elephants. They mainly come here at night times.

 

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Later that afternoon I did a special treat for myself and booked a 30 minute helicopter flight over the Okavango Delta. The bird’s eye view gave me just a small glimps of the massive delta area. I had the chance to view some hippos and elephants and an adult crocodile from the air. I showed goose bums when a fish eagle popped up next to our helicopter following our way.

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At the end of the day I felt quite exhausted but also very happy.
The last ten days were the first part of the tour and we still have another ten days to go.

Blog Problems

Dear family, friends and followers,

It seems to be that there are problems with the pictures I place in my blog, they do not show up but the text seems to be readible.The only explanation I do have that the data of the pictures cannot be ” processed” by the servers here in remote Namibian area. So please be patient. Once I am back in Germany (8.9) I will hopefully have a more powerful intenet connection.

Thanks Wolfgang still wandeing and “lustig”.

Wanderlust in Africa

Victoria Fall – Zimbabwe – Botswana – Namibia (Part II)

On Friday morning we had booked a 15 minute helicopter flight which allowed us a bird’s eye view over the Fall. Despite the fact that it was a fairly short trip I was happy to see the Fall from another perspective . Only from the air you could see how giant this natural wonder is.

 

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Victoria Fall

In the afternoon we took a boat cruise on the Zambesi River. For 2 hours we sailed into the sunset overlooking the banks of the river. And we were lucky and spotted our first wildlife elephant feeding on some branches of a tree. The cruise came with catering service and while we were sipping on our third Gin & Tonic a group of hippopotamus popped up in front of the boat.

 

 

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Hippopotamus

African elephant

African elephant

We had a buffet dinner that night at our lodge and the fried crocodile tail I ate was very yummie.

Saturday morning 8:45 we left Victoria Falls and drove in our Toyata Landcruiser plus trailer a bit more than 200 km southeast to the Hwange National Park where we arrived after 3 hours.

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Toyota Landcruiser

Halfeay we stopped at the Painted Dog Conservation a place where people look after the endangered species of this wild dog.
The country side looked very familiar to me and reminded me on the highway west of Townsville to Charts Towers. Very brown and dry at this time of the year and instead of Gum trees we saw a lot of Teak and Bloodwood trees on the side of the road.
Our accommodation for the next 2 nights was Sable Sands where we stayed in little huts overlooking a water hole which attracted some baboons and buffalos that day.

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Sable Sand Lodge

Sunday was a big day and the wake up call was at 5:30 am . Brr, it was cold and I had to put on long pants and a jumper for breakfast which was served outside . Bacon and eggs for breaky? Of course it was Sunday!
At 8 am we started our safari and drove in an open 4×4 Toyota into the Hwange National Park. When ever we saw some animals along the way or at a waterholes we stopped and you could hear the clicking sounds of at least 6 cameras. According to our local guide Vincent we very lucky and saw buffalos, zebras, a herd of elephants, gnus, kudus, impalas,baboons of course, warthogs, giraffes, voltures and a geopard (cheetah) resting in the shade of a tree.

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Zebra

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Leopard ( Cheetah)

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Buffalos

We had lunch in the Nat. Park at Kennedy Camp where you also can stay overnight in your own tent. We were back at Sable Sands just in time for the sundowner at 5:30pm.

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Dinning area at Sable Samd Lodge

Dinner that night was the Zambesi Bream a local fish served with vegetables and potatoes and for desert marble cake with melted chocolate.

Wanderlust in Africa- Victoria Falls & Simbabwe

 

WANDERLUST – AFRICA 17. 08. to 06. 09. 2016

Zimbabwe – Botswana – Namibia (Part I)
On Wednesday the 17th August Gudrun and I started our trip to Africa. We had booked a guided tour to the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia.

We took the train from Bremen to Munich Airport (a 7 hour drive from north to south Germany in the fast ICE train – the Inter City Express). From Munich we left at 9pm and flew with South African Airways to Johannesburg. Touch down there was at 7:30 the next morning. Another 3 hours later was our connecting flight to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

 

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The travel time from home to our accommodation in Victoria Falls was a bit more then 29 hours. The good part was that we started and finished on the longitude and did not suffer from a massive jetlag, just a sore bum.

We had already met the rest of the small group on the airoplane and our local guide (who also will be our driver for the next 20 days) picked us 8 people up at the airport. It was a short trip in our 4×4 drive to our lodge the Z’Ambesi River Lodge located directly on the banks of the Zambesi River, Africa’s fourth longest river with a length of more than 2700km.

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No time to rest after the arrival. We just checked in our luggage and jumped into the car again. David took us into the National Park where we spent 2 hours walking along the Victoria Falls the largest and most majestic waterfall on the planet. Since 1989 the waterfall is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The waterfall is called Mosei- oa – Tunya by the locals which means ” Thundering Smoke”

 

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Half a million litres of water fall – per second – down a 108 m drop along a 1.7km wide strip in the Zambesi Gorge. During the wet season it is the largest water curtain on the planet. At the time of the year we were here the mist dissipated to unveil the best views and photography options from directly across the falls. We were given some rain ponchos which we didn’t need at all.

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Other tourist visiting the fall