The Travails of Travel

The best planned trips can hit a snag sometimes that creates a  major headache for the traveler. That’s happened to me on several international trips. Sometimes it’s been my fault–like that time in India I could not locate my passport and had to unpack my entire suitcase at the ticket counter to find it–and other times I’ve been able to put the blame elsewhere.

After nearly three weeks of smooth travel, our flight to Johannesburg, South Africa was late and we missed our connecting flight to Cape Town. The airline’s next flight out would be 12 hours later, and we only had one day to spend in Cape Town to begin. We missed checking in for the connecting flight by two minutes, and though the jet was still at the gate, there was no way to get our suitcases onboard. But it seemed an arbitrary by the airline, and I was angry and stressed.

The situation was further complicated because we had booked this ourselves as separate legs with several different airlines. Now, standing at the ticket counter, we had only minutes to decide what to do before the airline’s agent left for the night, and none of our options looked good.

So we paid the required fees for a change of flight plans, but left to find another airline’s ticket counter and hope for an earlier flight. The first agent we spoke to looked completely disinterested and told us no, but another had mercy on these two ragged travelers and we were allowed to purchase tickets on South African Airways. (That was a great experience, by the way.) It was not in our budget, but we did it anyway, losing the flight change fees we had just paid.

In the end, it all worked out. We enjoyed a great day in Cape Town, and it was well worth the extra trouble and cost it took to get there.

A brief overnight stop in Brazil didn’t end so well. After a long 15 hour flight day and arriving in Sao Paulo, the Immigration Service there would not allow us to have our luggage or clean clothes without a visa for $150 each. Our flight arrangements for Peru had gotten a bit fouled up, too. There was a lost-then-found-six-hours-later bag. There was that one sketchy hotel with no elevator and a 3rd floor room.

But I’m writing this now in Aguas Caliente, Peru, our basecamp for tomorrow’s visit to Machu Picchu. And I have luggage. I’m jet-lagged and feeling the effects of high altitude, a little tired and grumpy, yet otherwise happy and healthy. There may be an extra white hair on my head when I return home, but all in all, I have a sense of blessing greater than before my trip began. I mean, who wouldn’t feel blessed riding through the Andes mountains, eating freshly caught trout, and preparing to see one of the great historical wonders of the world? That’s been my day today.

PS: I have photos to share of these past two days in Peru, but Wifi is hardly working in my hotel tonight. Sigh. Photos later!

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South Africa

We’ve had just one day to explore Cape Town, South Africa, and I wish we had more time. It’s already a new favorite city of mine. After a few days in the grittiness of Nairobi, Cape Town feels very modern, clean and almost tropical. It’s located at the very southern tip of Africa and the sea waters are cold and clear. There’s good food and lots to see, and transportation via Uber is very cheap.

This morning we took a cable car to the top of Table Mountain, considered the oldest mountain in the world. The view from the top was stunning, as was the sunset over the ocean this evening.

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Giraffe in Kenya

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Safari 3

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Safari, 2

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On Safari in Kenya

Getting here was the hard part. After flying to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and then to Nairobi, Kenya, we have begun the central part of our journey: a photo safari in the Maasai region of Kenya. We have twice daily game drives, which means that a driver-guide escorts us around the Maasai Mara National Game Preserve and adjoining conservancies. Our goal has been to seek the “Big 5” wild animals: lion, leopard, rhinocerous, African elephant, and cape buffalo. These are among the most rare and hard to find animals. But we have an expert guide, Manfred, who was the guide for Barack and Michelle Obama when they stayed at the very camp we are enjoying.

We’re here during the great wildebeest migration, and there are thousands of them moving across the grasslands. Today we checked off the last of the Big 5 when we came suddenly within a stone’s throw of a black rhino. There are dozens of other animals we’ve encountered as well: giraffes, cheetahs, vultures, hyenas, and many types of antelope. There’s a family of warthogs living across from our tent, though one less today after we witnessed a leopard enjoying a lunch of wild pork.

Driving through the Maasai Mara is like living inside a zoo with no barriers.  It’s thrilling to happen across a family of elephants, a herd of hippos bathing in the river, or watch the zebra run with the wildebeest. God’s creation (and the divine sense of humor in creation’s design) never fails to amaze me.lionselephants

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On safari in Kenya

An hour’s flight from Nairobi, the Masai Mara National Game Preserve is home to amazing wildlife and landscape. Staying in tents on the Talek River, we are taking two game drives each day, early morning and late afternoon, when we are most likely to spot animals. The jeep hardly seems to faze the animals and we’ve had up close and personal connections with lions, wildebeests, vultures, hyenas, hippos, buffalo, antelope, monkeys, zebra, and much more. And we’re only on day 3.

 

 

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Cairo, Egypt

At the Pyramids in Giza and in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, you walk among treasures that are 5,000 years old.

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Athens, Greece

On the Acropolis near sunsetparthenon

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Iceland

blue-lagoon

With a day to spend in Iceland, we rented a car and drove to the city of Reykjavik. The day was rainy and glum, but the city–and its people–were bright and cheerful. Other drivers were especially courteous to this Yank driving a stick shift for the first time in many years and maneuvering through their many highway roundabouts.

After exploring the city, we headed to the famous Blue Lagoon for a soak in the renowned mineral waters which bubble up from the lava rock to form an eerily blue natural pool of water around 100-degrees. Just as the staff at the Blue Lagoon promised, I felt 35 years younger after the swim. Alas, the mirror tells a different story today.

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Look out, world!

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I’m about to depart for my international journey, including 17 flights in the next month. What are the chances that my luggage never gets lost?

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Gulf Coast family visit

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Spending time with extended family in Louisiana, with a few days at the Mississippi Gulf coast.

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Hawaii

sunThe islands of Hawaii are phenomenally beautiful. I expected the palm trees and pristine beaches. I didn’t expect the gorgeous mountains, winding roads, and stunning waterfalls. We arrived in Honolulu, toured Oahu’s north shore, gobbled up garlicky shrimp from a shrimp truck, visited Pearl Harbor and moved on to the island of Maui for more laid back relaxation.

This morning I’m enjoying some Kona coffee while the sun’s rising over Maui’s Ka’anapali beach. We picked up a juicy, fresh pineapple, papaya, and bagels for breakfast. Later, we’ll explore the island a bit more and try some snorkeling,

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Sabbatical begins: Los Angeles

One of the highlights of my sabbatical is the opportunity to spend time with my adult children Rob and Kate. Both live far from home, so time together is always precious. Since one is in Los Angeles and the other is in Texas, we planned a trip to meet in LA and travel together to Hawaii.

A night in The City of Angels gave us an opportunity to reconnect, do some sightseeing, and enjoy a nice dinner out. But by mid-afternoon, after a half day of travel for me and Rob, we were hungry and I was longing for a quick trip to In-N-Out Burger. Kate and her boyfriend Ryan know special off-the-menu items to create great meal, and we indulged heartily.

LA dinnerThe evening dinner was planned for a new spot in Hollywood in a rooftop restaurant. We enjoyed fantastic views there with the iconic Hollywood sign in the distant hills, but the food and service were disappointing. Nevermind though, since the afternoon burgers did the trick. One other note: though the restaurant was only 8 miles from Kate’s home, we opted to take an Uber ride since the small fare was significantly less than the cost of parking. I’m learning new things from these urbanite young adults.

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