I have not written a blog post since Burford. So I felt like with the trip coming to an end soon I should try to right another and summarize what the last 100 days have been like for me.
After Burford we went to Paris, which was one of the best cities on the trip. The food was amazing, the city was cool, and other than spending an hour and a half shopping for jeans we didn't do much in the way of shopping. My dad locked us out of our apartment and I wrote a blog post for this but didn't post it because by the time I finished it we were already on the plane to Rome. I think one many of the highlights of Paris was when me and my dad went out to do some night photography all around the city.
After Paris was Apt, France which was a very productive stop for me. I took three tests and got good grades on all of them. Apt was a perfect place to get a lot of work done because we had a lot of crappy weather while we were there. On the good days we got out of the house to see the amazing hilltop towns in the area. On one of the last days in Apt we went to Chamonix to drop off our ski equipment which was cool to see the town during fall.
After Apt was Rome, which in my opinion was up near the top of the best cities we have visited. We did all of the major attractions and even saw the Pope speak (even though we couldn't understand him). The food in Rome was great and we had very nice lodging. In Rome we did more shopping because we needed to get things for the trip to Tanzania. We left Rome right before midnight on our way to Ethiopia.
Since Burford my allergies were terrible and my head would not stop hurting. We figured out that the most likely explanation was that I had a sinus infection and we had to get on a plane in 3 hours, so we ran to a pharmacy to grab some medicine.
When we got into Ethiopia I didn't feel that good and right after we stepped off of the plane there was an ebola checkpoint. While we were waiting in line I knew that I didn't have ebola but I didn't want to get pulled over for just having a fever. I made it through and we walked to the United Club to wait for our next flight.
When we made it to Tanzania we went through another ebola screening, customs, and a vaccine check. When we finally made it out of the airport I was boiling hot, sweaty, and tired. We met our safari guide and got on our way to try and get to one of the national parks to see some animals before the sun went down. The poverty of the area was insane and my mind was completely blown. The houses were tiny and you could tell that there was no running water. Right when we pulled out of the airport we saw our first animal, a cow. When we got around the national park we saw our first safari animal, a herd of giraffes. After driving through the national park for a while and seeing baboons, countless numbers of birds, zebras, wildebeest, warthogs and many more animals we turned around and headed to our camp. When we got to our camp we were amazed as it was the nicest place that I had ever stayed at. It was the night after an overnight fight so I slept like a log only to be woken up at 5:30 in the morning to get an early start.
We went into the Ngorongoro Crater and after about an hour in the park we found two female lions attacking a buffalo with their cubs. The fight was brutal, we could hear the buffalo grunting and its skin ripping. We watched until the fight was over, and then decided to have breakfast on hippo beach, where we ate and watched the hippos. About 20 minutes into our lunch a couple of elephants wandered over and decided to come and drink about 200 feet from where we were sitting. After breakfast we saw a rhino and countless other animals. If you want a complete list of the animals we saw take a look look at the safari checkpoint page.
The next day we had another early wakeup call because we were driving about 7 hours to our next camp in the Serengeti. We saw a very cool bird building a nest and some giraffe but other than that there wasn't much to see until we got into the wetter part of the serengeti. We saw a cheetah with her cub, and a hippo out of water. Both of those things are very rare, because cheetahs are endangered and hippos aren’t usually spotted out of the water during the day.
When we got to the tented camp I was blown away, because the place must have taken a week just to set up. If I go through all of the animals that we saw from the tented camp then this post will never end, so if you have not already seen it then go to the checkpoint page for the safari and it will tell you everything.
The main things that we saw were a leopard, lions hunting, and some lion cubs sitting on a rock, some elephants and buffalo wandered through our camp at night. After three days at the tented camp we headed north to La Mayi.
The second day of the La Mayi camp was my birthday. I decided that I wanted to get a reasonably early start to the game drive so we could see as much as possible. We left around 6 o’clock when we left the camp we saw a couple of giraffes walking on a ridge with the sun rising behind it, which was awesome. After I saw a leopard sitting on a rock through the camera about a quarter mile to half a mile away. This was very cool because in the past our guide Phillip had seen everything, the four of us rarely saw anything before he did. After getting right up next to the leopard with the sun lighting her up we drove and saw a big group of about 20 lions. They were lounging on the rocks surrounding a little field, we drove right into the middle of the field and were surrounded by sleeping lions. Next we went and had breakfast on on a little ridge overlooking the Mara river. We then saw some hippos and crocs.
After we went to look for a rhino but to no prevail, we turned around and drove home for lunch. After lunch and a little break we went out for another game drive. We didn't see much other than an amazing sunset and some baboons. Philip was driving very fast and I kept looking behind us to see if there was something chasing us. Then after about 10 minutes he stopped the car and said, "welcome to your new home." There was a little table with snacks and drinks set out on a rock, we sat on a rock and watched the sun dip below the horizon while sipping a Coke. I was just waiting for a couple of cameramen to pop out and tell us that they were shooting a commercial for Coke. We got back to the camp and had dinner, and I was treated to another surprise; a cake and a Tanzanian happy birthday song. All of the people in the camp eat at one big table, and about 2 days earlier the same thing happened at the tented safari camp. The staff of the camp walked out and started singing happy birthday and dancing around the table in a line. The funny thing was that I immediately thought that the cake was for me but they got the wrong date. They brought the cake to a woman on the other side of the table from me and I thought, they got the wrong person too? No, the woman on the other side of the table had her birthday two days before mine. The funny thing was that she was at the La Mayi camp with me for my birthday.
The next day was sad, we had to say goodbye to the Serengeti and Phillip. Phillip was a great guide, he had a couple guidebooks in the car with him but I think they were more for the people that he was guiding than for him. He knew almost every animal we saw even the birds without looking at the guidebook.
After Tanzania we went to South Africa. Our days in the small town of Kommetjie were occupied by school, surfing and a couple games of capture the flag. It was a very relaxing couple of weeks. The only thing that we didn't like about it was the severe poverty. The townships are just a five minute drive from beautiful beach front properties. Townships are big areas of immense poverty, the local people are crammed into the townships while people are living in houses worth millions of dollars 10 miles away.
After South Africa was Montalcino, Italy. We flew overnight from Cape Town to Istanbul then from Istanbul to Rome. When we got to our house in Montalcino we were happy, because it was the perfect place to spend Christmas. I was a little bummed because we would not be enjoying a white Christmas like we normally do. We also spent my dads birthday and my sisters birthday exploring the area. The area consisted of awesome hill towns. I spent a lot of time working because I wanted to finish one of my classes before we got to Chamonix.
After Montalcino was Poland. We stayed in a town called Krakow; the food was great and the town was very cool. Most of the towns in Poland were heavily bombed in World War II, but Krakow was spared. I was dreading this stop because the main reason that we came to Krakow was to see Auschwitz and Birkenau. Auschwitz was better than Birkenau because Auschwitz was a concentration camp for most of the war. The barracks were turned into museums so you could not see where people lived. The worst part was walking through the gas chamber and furnace room. Birkenau was a death camp and it was awful. We were there in the middle of winter, I was there freezing in four layers, they had one. The barracks were awful, people crammed in like they were junk. When we were leaving Birkenau, I was crossing the street and almost got hit by a car. If you ever find yourself in Poland, the polish drivers don't stop, or even slow for people crossing the street.
After Poland was Prague. To get to Prague we took an overnight train, it was a very cool experience but the sleep was not great, and the night before we were up late because there was a New Year’s party in our hotel. When we got to Prague we were all tired and just wanted to be at our hotel, but we had to get there first. We tried to find a taxi but taxis are sparse in Prague at 5:30 in the morning. We walked from the train station to an internet cafe, bought a coffee and figured out a way home. This would have been a big deal if we were in the beginning of the trip but now we were used to it. We found our way to the hotel and were informed that our rooms were not ready. So we went for a walk, we walked around the city in the rain and found one of the best things ever. They are called Trde Lnks and are basically a role of fire baked dough with a ton of cinnamon on them, they were amazing. After getting into the hotel we fell into bed and slept for a while. We only had one real day in Prague and we spent it on an audio walking tour around the city.
After Prague was Chamonix! We had already been to Chamonix before but we were super excited to ski. When we got into Geneva we got a ride to Chamonix via Mountain Drop-Offs and I was so tired that I actually slept on the drive. I had managed to take my semester tests in the hotel rooms of Poland and Prague, I was super excited to be done with one class. When we were dropped off at our house in Chamonix it was go time. We managed to get our skis and boots, get our pass, get our ski bag and work out some stuff with the house all in about 2 and a half hours. I was super excited to ski and the next morning we got to. It was awesome, the mountains here are so big compared to back in Idaho. When we got our first snow of the stay I was super excited to ski, but about 3 runs into the day my ski broke. The company that we rented from was super cool about it and said that they would give us a discounted rate to rent a pair of skis for me. It was about 100 dollars to rent a pair for 4 weeks, I got a pair of Dynastars and the next day we were going out with a guide/ski instructor. I didn't like the skis as much as I thought I would so that day we went and exchanged the ski for a pair of Black Crows, which is a popular ski brand in Europe but not in the US. I LOVED the skis. We skied the rest of the stay exploring the mountains around the area. I skied almost everyday, the only days I didn’t ski were because my knee was acting up and we couldn’t see anything outside of our house. The mountains there are so different, there are so many rocks and cliffs to drop, it was an awesome stay.
After Chamonix was Auckland. Getting from Chamonix to Auckland, New Zealand is easier said than done. it took about 36 hours of travel, two 10 hour overnight flights, and one 2 hour flight. After the 2 hour flight we got screwed by Cathay Pacific! They canceled our flight so we got bumped to a Virgin Atlantic flight but were stuck with middle seats. Once we got to Hong Kong we had a 4 hour layover so we spent our time in the United Club. When it was time to leave we walked down to the gate to find out that they gave away our seats. Apparently they didn't think that 4 hours would be enough time to get from one gate to another. I could have hopped on one foot and still gotten there in time. Me and my sister were put in an exit row and my mom and dad got stuck with middle seats again. When we finally made it to Auckland we stayed awake for as long as we could then collapsed into bed. The next day was our only day to see the city, so we spent most of the day shopping.
After Auckland was Queenstown. We had a 2 hour flight from Auckland to Queenstown, it was about 5:30 in the morning and the airport was empty except for the 100+ people at the Jet Star counter, which of course was the company that we were going to fly. The problem was a system wide IT failure so the people working there had to right write everything down. We finally took off at about 10:30, our flight was scheduled to take off at around 7:00. When we got to Queenstown we were immediately in awe, we joked that it looked kinda like Chamonix would in the summer, minus the lake. We found our awesome house and settled in. Fast forward about 2 weeks, I am waiting in line to jump off of a 140 foot bridge. I kept telling myself that it was going to be awesome but for some reason I kept getting more nervous. Then I saw my dad jump and I was thinking, well now I have to jump! When I got up to the platform, I peered over the edge only to figure out that a drop looks a lot bigger when there is no barrier to protect you. I got up to the edge and jumped. My eyes were open the whole way down, just taking it all in, and it really was awesome.
The last 100 days have been awesome and I hope that next 80 days will be just as good.