Thursday, April 24, 2014

Garden Route Beauty

Plettenburg, South Africa
Robberg Island

The Garden Route is a famous stretch of the coast of South Africa that is a popular road trip among tourists due to its breathtaking beauty.  It's often compared to the PCH in California, but after driving along it we can say with confidence that the PCH is the ugly stepsister of the Garden Route.

Storm's River suspension bridge
Tsitsikamma National Park

As you drive down highway N2, you are sandwiched between the beautiful coast on one side and mountain ranges on the other.  It's impossible to say which bay was the prettiest because they all looked like they should be on a postcard.

Plett South Africa
Plettenberg Bay

Our favorite area of the Garden Route was in Plettenberg Bay (or "Plett," as the locals call it).  We planned to stay two nights and ending up forcing ourselves to move on after four nights.

Plett, Garden Route
This view from our hostel is part of why we doubled our original planned days in Plett.

While we weren't able to experience the whale watching that this coast is famous for, we still found plenty to do.  There are wineries, hiking trails, beaches and so much more.  Each night after watching the sunset we would sit around one of the many fireplaces at our hostel sipping wine and recounting our day before heading to bed exhausted.

Plettenberg, South Africa
Hiking Robberg Island on Yemi's birthday
After the safaris in Kruger National Park and driving along the Garden Route for a few days, we both agreed South Africa was going down as one of our favorite countries on this trip.

Plettenberg, South Africa, Plennenburg
Robberg Island

South Africa Garden Route
Storm's River

Plettenburg Bay, Plett, Plettenberg Bay
Robberg Island
South Africa Garden Route
Beach time at Plettenberg Bay

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Epic Photograph

Professional photographers will tell you that they never go to scenic overlooks because the view has been captured too many times.  It's something we wholeheartedly agree with.  We tend to climb fences, jump over creeks and run through sand dunes in search of the "money shot," as Yemi calls it.

Three Rondavels at Blyde River Canyon
This sign is essentially directing us to guaranteed unobstructed views - the last thing you want distracting from the beauty of a photo is a safety railing! 

Some days while exploring you get lucky and find a needle in a haystack a rock in a canyon that can't be passed up.  We found that at the Three Rondavels in Blyde River Canyon, South Africa.

After recording his last will and testament, Yemi climbed to the ledge for the "money shot."  The other tourists watching from behind the safety fence thought he was insane and awesome at the same time.  This is what travel insurance is for, right?!

Three Rondavels at Blyde River Canyon
Yemi was calm as he sat on the ledge swinging his feet and laughing. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Great White Shark Encounter

"Did you notice the top 12 inches of the cage don't have bars?!  Doesn't that seem like too much?" Jan nervously asked Yemi as we watched the crew prepare for our dive.

Yemi was excited for his close encounter with a Great White, the ocean's most feared shark. Jan was a bit anxious and getting more sea sick with each lapping wave.  But considering this activity was on her bucket list, there was no way she was backing out!

The crew mixing the "chum" that attracted the Great White Sharks

The chum attracted sharks in about 10 minutes. Yemi went down into the cage with the second group. Right away, he had a thrilling experience when the massive Great White repeatedly attacked the corner of the cage mere feet from his position. The coldness of the arctic waters were the last thing on his mind as he plunged under the water when each beast would swim by trailing the bait.

The shark kept attacking the cage!  Yemi was about three feet from the corner of this cage.
Jan went in the next group and if the thrilling screams Yemi heard from the deck are good indications, she had an equally exciting experience. The first pass of the shark she experienced was when it came straight toward her in the cage and turned at the last minute, so close that its side fin actually entered the cage as it passed. A few minutes later a Great White leaped out of the water and snatched the floating seal decoy about five feet in front of Jan, prompting her scream that had the crew laughing.

Jan was directly in front of this shark!

Being so close to such a beast of nature is something we won't soon forget.  It felt like we were living our our "Shark Week" dreams.

Seasickness had taken its toll on Jan.  We had different attitudes during debarkation.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Eyes In the Wild

Hippos are the deadliest of the "big 5" animals to humans.

There's nothing sadder than seeing an elephant perform in a circus once you are educated on the brutal training they've endured to be there. And while zoos play an important role in conserving endangered species, it's still disheartening to see a tiger or lion pacing along a 20 foot corridor in its cage.

Our visit to Kruger National Park in South Africa allowed us to see all of these animals in the wild.  It was an experience we will never forget.

There are no words to describe how it feels to be 10 feet from a pack of lions that just returned from a hunt...or the excitement of hearing the male let out a long roar followed by a yawn.

Kruger lion lying down

There are no words to describe the excitement in your stomach when a giraffe walks down the middle of the road toward you, navigating around a herd of 50+ zebras...all of which are ignoring you as they graze and flip the flies off their backs with their tails.

Kruger animals

There are no words to describe the adrenaline you feel as you zip your car into reverse so a family of giant African elephants can cross the road where your car just stood. 

African elephants crossing road in Kruger

There are no words to describe the anticipation you feel of what lies around the corner as you see literally HUNDREDS of impala eyes reflecting in the beam of your spotlight on a 4:30am drive. It was such a liberating feeling to be a guest in their world.

Note all of the eyes on the right side of the photo.  They are impala, zebras & wildebeests.

There really are no words to adequately describe the amazing safaris we experienced during our two short days in Kruger National Park. Luckily, pictures are worth a thousand words so we will give it a shot.

The lions weren't the only ones hunting at sunrise.  This 4:30am safari was our favorite.

We saw a leopard!  They are very elusive - this one ran out of the tree as soon as we stopped.
From reptiles to birds & mammals, Kruger National Park had something to see around every corner.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Month #5 - Jan's Homesickness & Yemi's Fernweh

Cape Town South Africa couple overlooking bay
Taking it all in...
Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa

Jan managed to leave an all-you-can-eat BBQ hungry because she passed so much of her food through the fence to the stray dogs lining the sidewalk in Iguazu, Argentina. She has a way of adopting stray dogs in each town. When they see her coming down the street, they run to her to see what leftovers she has secured. As happy as she is to put food in a stray dog's belly, the truth is that she is really missing our four-legged boys. While she is truly enjoying our travels, she has finally reached the point where she can't wait to get back home where she has no leg room in bed, is awakened at 6:30am to a cold nose reminding her it's breakfast time, and has a daily two mile walk scheduled, rain or shine.


Yemi is another story. "Fernweh" is how Yemi describes it. It's a word he learned while living in Germany that has no direct translation to English but is essentially the opposite of homesick. His only concern during our final weeks is that we live each moment to the fullest. He doesn't want to find himself sitting at his work desk four months from now wishing he had taken more advantage of each of our days on the road. He could easily travel another 3+ months by his estimate before he has a desire to return home.

We have started talking to recruiters in hopes of getting some job leads before we return to the States, but it's almost impossible to secure interviews without being there so we are just doing our best to network. We are also starting to organize things like short term health coverage and temporary housing. We plan to have everything done soon so that we can just enjoy the last month. It's going to fly by!

Oh, what a feeling, out on the run
Drinking up the rain, soaking up the sun
Laughing a little bit more with every mile. 
Oh, what a freedom, like your sailing the wind
Not looking back, not forgetting where I've been,
Smiling as I watch the years roll by. 
I'm learning how to take it day by day...
On my highway. 
-On My Highway by Jason Aldean

We love the motto on this t-shirt!