Home at Last

We have been home a while and have mostly settled back into ‘normal’ activities. We can now spend time with friends that we haven’t seen for a year.

We are home…and I like it.

The Mafia Car

Today, we had a long day. We woke up at 2 am Athens time and hopped on a plane to Frankfurt. We went through that airport and then went to another gate and hopped on our second Lufthansa flight of the 34 hour day.

When we arrived in Seattle, we went though immigration and got all of our bags from baggage claim before heading to the Avis place to pick up our car. The car was gray and shaped differently than most sedans. It looked almost sinister, hence its nickname.

We drove for about 2 hours before arriving at Aunt Linda and Uncle Scott’s house. I am typing this post on the same computer that wrote several of the posts at the beginning of this trip. The parental units dropped Eryn and I off to chat, hang around, and do stuff with the relatives while they went south.

Eryn and I played games with Uncle Scott and his guide dog in training. We swept their treehouse clean and helped with dinner and had it ready by the time the parents came back. It turns out that they had gone to Sandy, OR and had bought a used Ford Escape. When they came back, we saw that it was really nice and that they had returned the Mafia Car.

That’s it for now, Folks!

Welcome Home!!!

If you are on the Pacific coast time for the US, then we woke up at 4 pm yesterday evening when we woke up Greece time at 2 am. We got onto a plane and flew to Frankfurt, and then on to Seattle. We drove down in our rental car to Aunt Linda’s house and are spending the night.

We are back in the US!

Aegean Airlines

 

Always alliteration. I seem to sometimes have knack for summarizing some of our day in my titles while making them alliterate. Not illiterate. In any case, we rode on the Aegean airlines today to get from Crete to the mainland. We didn’t even have to wake up very early to do it!!!

When we left the house, we drove for an hour along the northern coast of Crete to Heraklio. From there, we took the Aegean Airlines on their nonstop flight to Athens. When we touched down after only 40 minutes of flight time, we walked across the street to our hotel.

From Eryn and my hotel room, you can see the airport, barely 50 meters away. Tomorrow, we wake up too early to get on a plane to Frankfurt, and then another plane on to Seattle. We will spend our first night in the States in Kelso, WA to spend a night with our relatives, and then on to home!!!

That’s it for now, Folks!

Packing Day

Today was mostly spent packing. Packing is always interesting, because it gives me a reason to reorganize my suitcase, which is nice because it is usually a complete mess. The case was similar to today, where I made my suitcase and its contents be nice, organized, and folded. Maybe not sorted by color, but you get the idea.

When I woke up this morning, I had breakfast with the folks and then played Minecraft on the computer while my parents and sister went out to the doctor’s office for a follow-up appointment to the one a few days ago. When they got back, we worked on packing.

I was finished with my packing so read a mystery novel called the Whispers of the Stones. When I finished with that, I read a book that John Higham, another around-the-world traveler, recommended to me in an email. It is called Ender’s Game. When we finished doing things around the house and swimming, we went out to eat at Taverna Fantastico and ate our last dinner in Crete.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Blowing Beach

The wind has almost always been present on the southern coast of Crete. Lately, it has been there, and we have been here for a while, so that has been half a dozen times. We went back to the beach near where we had spent the night a few days ago and set up our umbrellas.

Our umbrellas have served us well during our time in Crete. This time however, my parents’ umbrella didn’t stay where they wanted it. It kept being blown inside out while the one that my sister and I were under stayed put. I was glad that we had the one that we had.

While Eryn and I stayed put, my father and mother went over and sat under a big rock. Eryn and I thought about swimming, but the water seemed cool, very cool. We eventually packed everything up and went back home in our car. When we got home, we hung out and swam in our pool before going to dinner at the place with the over-stimulated cats.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Driving Dad

My dad is the driver. In Thailand and India, he thankfully didn’t partake in any driving, but in every country since then except for Morocco, Chile, the UAE, and Chile. He has been the only one to drive on this trip except for once my mother drove for 10 minutes on an empty road in Australia.

Today was no different from regular. My father drove the car and everyone else was in their usual rotation of seating assignments. We drove out of town and to the west. We went further than we have ever gone, past the road to the lake, and got to a small town.

We turned off the E75 (the main road on Crete) and went up a hill and down the other side. We went almost to the end of the road before turning back and going towards home the way we came. We then sat around, swam, and read for the rest of the afternoon before going to our landlord’s place down in Rethymno for dinner.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Blue Beaches

The beaches themselves are never blue, but most of the time, the water is. Today, we went to the beach. We went back to Saint Paul Sandhills and sat there for 2 hours. The beach itself was the same as always, sandy and nice.

This time, however, the beach was cooler than most times, as in it was bearable to on which to walk. We chose a site for our nice umbrellas between some of the pink umbrellas that were already there and sat down. The wind picked up and made whitecaps appear. We sat around and didn’t swim because of the coolness in the air. We eventually packed up and left.

The sun had come out several times throughout our stay at the beach, but it never stayed out long. When we got home, we sat around and read books, watched videos, or played games. Then we had dinner at home of pizza, salad, and green beans before sitting down again to do stuff like right this post.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Damp Down Day

It was, according to Apple weather, supposed to rain here in Crete today. It did not, though, but it was still overcast the entire time. This morning, my parents and my sister went off to the pharmacy to get some medicine, and I stayed home and played Minecraft, rejoicing in the fact that I was finished with all of my schoolwork for the next couple of months.

When they got back, I vacated the computer so that my father could get back to working on pictures, as always. After a while, he asked Eryn and me to help him thin through a set, but after that, it was back to him again. We sat around inside most of the day.

Late in the afternoon, we deviated from our normal activities and went out to dinner. At first, we had decided to go to a place that the folks had seen when they went to the pharmacy, but after a drive-by, we decided against going. Driving around for a bit, we eventually saw a nice Tabepna (taverna) and decided to go. It was good.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Windy Wednesday

Today, when we woke up, we were (accidental alliteration again, and again) still on the southern shore of the beautiful isle of Crete. We ate breakfast and then Eryn and I played around on the computer that came with the apartment. We then packed everything into our bags and headed out the door.

After leaving the house, we got into our Hyundai car and drove down along the beach. The waves were very large so we decided not to stay at our usual spot as it was covered in water. We continued on to the next beach and set up our umbrellas on a high spot.

After finishing on the beach with our tanning, we walked back to the car and got in it to go back to Rethymno. After only a day of our vacation from our vacation from our vacation, we were back to just our vacation from our vacation. We drove back for an hour and got some bread from the bakery on the way home, along with some chocolate baklava. Then we went home. For dinner we went to Thavma and had delicious food, as always.

That’s all for now, Folks!

The South Shore

We have been to the south shore of Crete several time already. All of the beaches that we have blessed wtih our presence have been on the south shore of the beautiful isle of Crete. We are again at a beach on the southern shore, but this time for the night.

My father got the idea of spending the night on the southern shore a few days ago, and made it happen. We are staying near the Agio Fotini Taverna, and a beach on which we have spent the afternoon several times. The beach is a fairly secluded beach, with a tavern several hundred meters down the coastline.

There are at least 3 different apartment rental units along the shore, and the one in which we are staying has 6 units in it. All of the units have a computer in the deal and that is what I am using to write this post. We spent most of the day today on the beach or in this hotel room. This morning we drove here from Rethymno.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Wet Water

Water is wet, and that is a fact. I know that from countless past swims in pools, waterparks, and lakes. Today I learned that simple fact again when we went to the Acqua Plus water park on the isle of Crete. We went there today because we figured that, since school is out here in Greece and in Europe, that tourists from the mainland of Europe will be flocking to Grecian isles like the one on which we are staying to enjoy their holidays.

The park that we went to today is a large one. Eryn and I went on 15 different runs at least twice each. On the far left facing the hill, were the easiest rides, red, blue, and orange, going from left to right. The best one for me was the red one because it was the fastest. Going over to the right, there was next a blue and white slide that dumped someone into a bowl and they went around and around until splashing down into a 1.75 meter splashdown pool.

Next was the tower area. It had two blue slides and two yellow slides. The blue slides on the outsides were easy and tubular. The one on the left was only for kids ages 8-15 and had no top. The one on the far right had a full tube and was very twisty. The two yellow slides in the center of the tower were steeper and more fun. They all went down into a pool at the bottom. Going back towards the hill, there is a ‘Tsunami.’ It is a large white half pipe where a person in an inner tube goes back and forth across the course before finally drifting out.

Over to the right some more is the set of racing slides. Four orange open-topped slides right next to each other for races. Next over was the Crazy River, which was nice and fun. It consisted of 5 pools, one at the top and one at the bottom, along with 3 throughout. The pools were separated by 50m stretches of slide which one navigated by inner tube. Next over were two ‘Black Holes.’ The one on the left was better because it had more lights, but they were both fun and navigated by inner tubes, and mostly dark.

Last but not least, were the two slides at the far, far right. One of them, the one on the left, was called the Kamikaze. It wasn’t that scary at all and was really fun. The one on the far right was a green tube and went really fast for a bit. It was really, really fun. You finally splashdown in the pool at the bottom after a short ride. Eryn and I did all of those, while my mother only did some.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Beach!!!

In case you couldn’t tell by the title, today we went to a beach. We had tried to go to this beach before, but we couldn’t find it. We drove for an hour down to the south coast and the drove on a dusty road to a parking lot. We found a fairly secluded part of the beach, put of the umbrellas, and worked on our tans through the reflection on the water.

As the time went by, I waded out on some stone slabs and saw a snorkeler. Later, we saw a set of kayaks going one way and a single kayak going the other way. We eventually left, packed up our umbrellas and walked to the car. We drove back home the same way on mostly paved roads.

On our way home, we stopped at the Inka supermarket and got cherries, green beans, and strawberries. Yum, yum, yum!

That’s all for now, Folks!

We didn’t

Some people, when they are annoyed at someone, say ‘go jump in a lake!’ If someone asked us to have done it this morning, we wouldn’t have when we went to a lake this afternoon, even though we had a chance. This kind of reminds me of a poem that I had memorized a while back about a fat cat who sits that way every day just to say come out and play to the nice mice in the mouse house in the small hole by the hall floor. It is entitled, ‘I wouldn’t.’

Back to our travels, not the adventures of a fat cat: the lake that we went to today is one of the largest freshwater reserves on the whole island of Crete. Before going to the lake, we didn’t do anything except for sit around our living room staring vacantly at walls. In the afternoon, we went to the lake. In the evening, we went to dinner at Taverna Dionysos for the second time.

The lake was more than I expected. I expected a bitter cold tiny pond with icecaps in the corners and it to be snowing, even on this tropical island. Funny, right? This place was magnificent. It had a clear bottom about 8 feet down all the way around the edge and it had lots of tourists plying around in little paddle boats.  We eventually left after oohing and aahing from a taverna parking lot that, to us, doubled as a viewpoint.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Frozen Yoghurt Fun

Today we went back to the Frozen Yoghurt place in Rethymno. We woke up this morning and had a leisurely breakfast before hopping in the car (figuratively) and drove down into town. We left around 10:30 and arrived around 11. The first thing that we did was walk down a road towards a fountain.

After a few blocks, we looked at a map and saw that we had passed the fountain a long ways back. We walked back and looked at the fountain, which only had 3 lion’s heads. We looked at it for a while before going to the frozen yoghurt place.

We at lots of frozen yoghurt (over a kilogram) and sat in the colorful beanbag chairs in their sitting area. We ate our frozen yoghurt and then entertained ourselves by watching a large green lizard tied to a chair at a nearby table. It jumped around for a while and then we left.

That’s all for now, Folks!

The OmniCat

Tonight we went to Zizi’s. Eryn might have covered the last time that we went there in her post a few days ago, because I know that I didn’t cover it. In any case, we went back there today. Eryn might have mentioned cats, maybe even all 4 of them. Still, though, I will tell my own story of today.

We went back to Zizi’s and ate dinner. The title of my post isn’t exactly about dinner, it is about the entertainment of the dinner. The cats were there again, and we all commented on what my father commented on the last time that we were there; the overstimulated cats.

When I came back to my seat from a break, I saw that the cats weren’t all crowded around or table anymore. My father commented on how they were all everywhere. They were in the trees above the table, on the ground underneath the table, begging scraps from nearby tourists. They were very nice cats, if a bit skittish.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Crete Thoughts

So far we have been on Crete for almost 2 weeks. We have been to several beaches, several towns, several restaurants, and several historical sites. Of them all, we haven’t been to many of the historical sites, but I think that I have been to enough beaches to say my favorite.

Prior to our acquisition of umbrellas, I would definitely say that Saint Paul Sandhills was by far the best. However, after going there again yesterday, I think that it had too big of waves that time to keep it in the top. With our new umbrellas, most of the beaches that we have gone to would stay in the running if we went again.

The one that wouldn’t would probably be a beach near a tavern that had no sand, only rocks and a bit of surf. In all, there were several that would be good, but I think that the ‘Jelly Belly Beach’ would probably turn into my favorite if we had taken our umbrellas there.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Windy, Wavy, and Wet

Who: Eryn, Jerry, Susan, and me along with our car

What: A beach day on Crete.

When: Today for about 2-3 hours ending at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

Where: At the Paul Sandhills beach under the shade of our new umbrellas that we bought recently.

Why: We wanted something to do today and decided to go to a beach that we knew was nice. Sadly, it wasn’t as nice as we expected, due to the large waves and the wind.

From that chart, you can probably tell that we went to the Paul Sandhills Beach yet again and that it wasn’t up to expectations due to the uncouth weather and the fact that the wind made it seem way to cold for our swimming uses, even though I did swim around a bit.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Windy, Wavy, and Wet

Who: Eryn, Jerry, Susan, and me along with our car
What: A beach day on Crete.
When: Today for about 2-3 hours ending at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.
Where: At the Paul Sandhills beach under the shade of our new umbrellas that we bought recently.
Why: We wanted something to do today and decided to go to a beach that we knew was nice. Sadly, it wasn’t as nice as we expected, due to the large waves and the wind.
From that chart, you can probably tell that we went to the Paul Sandhills Beach yet again and that it wasn’t up to expectations due to the uncouth weather and the fact that the wind made it seem way to cold for our swimming uses, even though I did swim around a bit.
That’s all for now, Folks!

Rethymno Rhythms

Today we went into the town of Rethymno that is just north of where we live. The town has about 40 thousand inhabitants, plus smaller towns scattered around nearby. The city is on the ocean and is alive and bustling with a few locals and…well, tourists. We probably count as tourists, because we went to the main archeological touristic place in Rethymno, but who knows.

The fortezza is on a hill right next to the ocean and overlooks the harbor. It isn’t the biggest fort that I have seen, as some of the ones in India were very large, or at least seemed that way. The fortezza here has everything that one needs to survive for a bit, like powder magazines, gates, armories, and cavaliers.

We walked around the Fortezza before going down to the seashore and looking at a bunch of shops. We walked around for a bit and looked into a frozen yogurt place kind of like Sweetey’s in Springfield. The frozen yoghurt place was really nice and had really cool furniture of multicolor beanbags. Then we got in the car and came back home to swim.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Beach Burns

The sun is hot. Far, far away, the sun is burning. It releases heat, light, and that energy goes vast distances at the speed of light, reaching us on earth in about 17 minutes. Some of those rays are blocked by clouds, others hit people directly on.

We were some of those lucky people who got the direct sunlight. We went to a new beach this morning and sat in the sun. At the first beach, we sat on rocks and tossed smaller rocks into the ocean, and at the second beach we sat around more. The second beach had actual sand and we sat on our towels and tanned or burned. For a little bit, my father and I swam in the water.

When we left the beach, we drove home and sat around. Later, we went out to dinner at a pizza joint and had good food. When we finished with that, we went to a small market and bought two beach umbrellas for future use on beaches for shade.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Monastery Memories

Obviously I only have memories of the monastery that my family and I went to today, because we are no longer there. I think that the main documentation of our time there are the pictures that my father has yet to load onto the computer from the camera.

The monastery is old and has lasted for a long time. It was made around the 5th century, and restored in the 16th. The reason that it was restored was because, sometime a while back, the monastery was besieged. Instead of surrendering, the people of the monastery went into the storage of gunpowder and blew themselves sky-high.

When we left the monastery, its chapel, and trees with bullets still imbedded, we drove for a while before heading home. After sitting outside and reading for a while, we went out for dinner and had a good filling meal. When we left, there was still a lot left over. Oh, well.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Windy Weather

Today there was wind on the southern edge of Crete. Not so much as the wind a few days ago that come north from Africa, but there was still enough wind to make the waves be big. The beach that we went to was the Saint Paul Sandhills. It is just around the point from Saint Paul beach, but it was still nice.

At first, I went out and swam around in the 3 to 4 foot waves, and then I got out when I got tired. We all tanned for a while before Eryn and I climbed a big rock. Eryn and I then walked around the corner of the rock in the ocean and came back to the parents. After a bit of tanning again, my father and I went out and swam in the big waves.

Some of the waves were bigger than others, and my father and I stayed out farther than where the waves broke. We rode up and down, going from trough to top to trough again. Some waves broke a long ways out and were powerful. My father lost his hat in one of them, but recovered it.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Beaches in Crete

Today we went out around 9 o’clock and drove south. When arriving on the southern shore of Crete, we went to our first beach. Along the way, we went down a paved road, turned around, and then went down a badly kept gravel and rocky road.

At the bottom, we found a nicely surfaced dirt road and drove on it until it joined up with a paved road. We went down to the beach and lay out on the sand and occasionally jumped around in the waves. After about an hour of doing that, we got back in the car and found a paved road going up the hill. It came out 5 feet after the place where we had turned around the car. Oh, well.

After that  beach, we drove for several hours and looked out over lots of beaches. We decided to do the Paul Sandhills beach again tomorrow morning and then walk along the beach. When we got home, my father and I swam in the pool while my sister worked on her math test.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Wednesday Wind and Wakeup

I have (currently) one more math problem for the entire year…too bad. I will finish it before I go to bed, however. In any case, there was wind here today. It started last night about the time when I came in from playing football.

The wind was loud. My family reported that the wind howled through the night. I was too busy sleeping. I woke up this morning and had breakfast with my sleep deprived family. We then looked out the window and couldn’t see the ocean so decided not to go to the beach.

We sat inside and did schoolwork before staying inside some more and doing some things like playing Minecraft. We then went out to get some stuff from a supermarket and then got some bread from the bakery. Later, we went to dinner. After dinner, we learned that the dust came from Africa.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Crete Cherries and Castles

Some people out in my audience might not classify a palace as a castle, but it is close enough for what I wanted, which was alliteration in the title of my post.  Today we went to a castle, or palace, if you prefer it that way.

The palace was the Knossos Palace, under which is situated the labyrinth which used to house the Minotaur. Since you either know or do not care, I will not bore you with the tales of Theseus and the Minotaur; suffice to say that the first one killed the latter. The palace, going back to the original subject, is in ruins, not surprising, considering the fact that it was built around 2000 B.C.

We took the guided tour and walked around, learning about the throne room, how the queen had makeup, about the first toilet, and other interesting factoids. The palace has the oldest mosaic, throne, staircase, theatre and road in Europe. The Minoans were also the oldest civilization in Europe.

After about an hour and a half, the tour ended and we got ourselves some fresh juice. On the way home from the Iraklion area, we stopped by a store and bought their whole supply of juicy red cherries.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Beaches and Bad Roads

This morning, after a bit of breakfast, we left the house and went to beaches. The first beach that we visited was called Saint Paul Sandhills, and there was a fair amount of people in swimwear… or lack thereof. After a bit of sunbathing there, we drove for 3 hours to go 3 kilometers along the coastline. The roads were un-surfaced and bad and sometimes ended up at people’s farms. Oh, well, at least we got to where we wanted.

At this next beach, I swam around and climbed on rocks before it was time to go and we got into the car and started home. It may sound like not much, but there was a lot of driving time. On the way to the first beach, though, we did see lots and lots of grasshoppers hopping around on the road.

After staying at the house for a while, we went out to eat at a Taverna. We had lots of food and came back stuffed with deliciously delicious food. It was all good, homemade, and healthy. Well, most of it, but still, as I might have mentioned, the food was good.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Sunday Schedules…

…or lack thereof. Today was interesting. We spent most of it planning what to do on other days. We got up this morning and ate breakfast inside and then sat around, read comics, played Minecraft (only me) read books, and looked at possible beaches to which we might drive.

Around 3 pm, my parents and I went out to swim and swam for about half an hour. Eryn just sat in the poolside shade and read a kindle. When we got back inside, we read for a bit before eating dinner out on the patio. The dinner mainly consisted of rice and beans.

After dinner, Eryn and I went and played with Maria and Bobby. Before long, two boys (ages 6 and 9) came out and played with us too. We played football and then basketball and then tossed balls around. Bobby and I rode on his bike down the hill and around the road. I rode on the axels.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Basketball

Last night, after I posted yesterday’s post, Eryn and I went outside and played basketball and football. Football, in this case, means what you Americans might call soccer. I call it football. In any case, Eryn and I played with Bobby and Maria, twin 10 year olds. Before we came back in for bed, we promised to play tonight after dinner.

This morning, I went out and shot some hoops with the basketball that they had left behind and eventually, when the kids came up, played with them while Eryn stayed inside. After a day of sitting inside, we went out to eat. By the late time that we got back, the kids weren’t there and the balls were gone.

Oh, well. That is a shame. Still, though, we will have time to play again, I hope. As I was saying earlier, we did nothing very interesting today, though we did swim in the pool, which was blissfully cool in the spring heat.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Crete Pools and Water Parks

We, in case you couldn’t tell from the title, have arrived in Crete. After a good night’s sleep aboard the ship last night, we bumped against the dock this morning around 6:30. When we got off, the boat, we found our rental car and got in. After driving for a bit through Heraklion, we found a bakery and bought some pastries and pies.

We then drove for about an hour before arriving at our new house. On the way, Eryn and I looked at a map, which showed a gigantic waterpark. Sadly, it is a ways away from where we are staying, but that is okay. On the way here, we saw a much smaller waterpark, but it didn’t look as fun.

The place where we are staying has a pool. Tonight before dinner, Eryn and I both swam in the pool. It was nice to swim after months of not doing so.

That’s all for now, Folks!

The Closest Thing

In South Africa, when we were at, I believe, the Haven Hotel, I told you all out there about the changes of a woman’s life. When they are young, they want horses, when they get a bit older, they want a man, and when they get older and older, the want to go on a cruise ship. In other words, the way of a woman’s life can be summed up in one word; horsemanship…horse, man, ship.

Today my mother, who is in the 3rd stage of that cycle, probably got on to the closest thing to a cruise. The boat in which we are all riding is large. It may not be the largest boat in the harbor, but it is still very large. There are 9 decks in total as far as I can tell, and we are staying on deck 4. Our tickets may say that we are in room 4009, but I can assure you that the plaque on the outside of the door says 4033.

The levels below us are just for cars and trucks, so we are the lowest possible. The main deck from which you can feel the breeze is number 9. As I said earlier, it is a big ship, and it is big enough to even have a pool. Sadly, though, the pool wasn’t open to swimmers, so we spent a dry afternoon and evening. Tonight, after getting on the boat, we ate dinner at one of the onboard restaurants.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Changing of the Guard

In the state capital, Athens, members of the elite Evzones light infantry unit, provide a 24-hour honor guard, with an hourly guard change, at the Presidential Mansion and at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier off Syntagma Square at the foot of the Hellenic Parliament. The Changing the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in particular has become a tourist attraction, with many people marveling at the guards, who stand motionless for two 20-minute intervals, during their 1 hour shifts.

Or so says Wikipedia. We saw that changing of the Guard today in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Since you probably learned more than you wanted or needed to about the whereabouts of the Guards, and what they are, so I will go into something that my sister would enjoy…maybe.

The Evzones wore tassels hanging from the back of their hats. Those tassels were then draped over the shoulder and then hung down the front of the tan colored clothing. On the back of the tights, at about knee-height, there was a ball of black cloth fluff hanging on both legs. On top of the shoes, as well, was a puffball.

That’s all for now, Folks!

The Acropolis Area

The Acropolis area is large. In my opinion, it includes the Ancient Agora, the Acropolis, the Zeus Temple, and Hadrian’s arch, not to mention a few other things. Today we explored that area further than yesterday. Yesterday, if you didn’t read my post, we went to the Acropolis and visited the a Parthenon in warm Greek weather.

Today we explored the Ancient Agora, a nearby hill, and peeked inside the Acropolis museum. The Agora was mainly a bunch of ruins that some people thought was very interesting. The most interesting, picture-worthy, and noteworthy thing there in my opinion and a bunch of others’ was the large amount of tortoises.

Actually, the best thing in the Agora was the Temple of Hephaestus, which is the most preserved piece of ancient art in the world. We eventually left the Agora and went up to a hill. We then went and saw the Acropolis museum, to see what we missed. Sadly, photographs were not allowed to be taken for some odd reason.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Acropolis Apocalypse

The sun is hot…I am sweating. Bodies are pressing against me and stinking of sweat as I try to get through the line. I am almost to the front…almost there…

I got there. Eventually, after only a little bit of time, my family and I got to the front of the line and bought our tickets for the Acropolis. For those of you who haven’t, like me, studied archeology or anything like that, then you probably will not know that the Parthenon and the Acropolis are not the same thing, despite ‘common knowledge.’ The Acropolis is a wide field surrounding a plateau.

On that plateau, there are a bunch of ruins, the most important one being the Acropolis. The Acropolis is in ruins, now, of course, and there is a crane sticking out of the middle on ‘restoration.’ I knew that Greeks were smart, but I didn’t expect that.

That’s all for now, Folks!

 

When in Athens

When we got into the airport,
We saw a bunch of Greek,
We ate a bagful of pastries,
And tried of Greek to speak.

We failed much at this large task,
then got into a cab,
We drove for a while to our flat,
At there we saw now crabs.

Even though Athens was renowned for its navy in the Greek wars against Persia, we cannot see the ocean from our flat. So, because of that, we saw no crabs. We live inland a bit, on a 7 floor building. We are on the sixth. We arrived in Athens after a 3 hour plane ride this morning from Paris, waking up too early.

We are starting to learn the Greek alphabet, which only has 24 characters!

That’s all for now, Folks!

When in Paris Again

We drove for a long ways today. We drove all the way from Lauterbrunnen to Paris in one day in our gray Ford Focus. We started around 8 this morning and drove north. We first passed through Interlaken and then drove on the northern side of Lake Thun. We then passed through Thun and continued on our way going northwest.

We passed through Bern, the capitol of Switzerland, and then continued on our way. We eventually crossed the border and entered, low and behold, GERMANY! We went for a while on German roads before crossing a canal and arriving in France once again.

We continued on, and while I read some more of J. R. R. Tolkien, my father drove us across France. At around 6 o’clock in the evening and checked into our Hilton hotel near the Orly Airport. We eventually ate dinner in the Eastern terminal and then came back here, to our hotel.

That’s all for now, Folks!

CH Cruises

CH stands for the Confoederatio de Helvetica. In English, that means the Confederacy of the Swiss, or the Swiss Confederacy, or something along those lines. In the case of my title above, it does not mean that we went on a large ocean liner filled with people and swimming pools galore, I mean a simple cruise around a lake.

We woke up this morning and left our house around 11:15 and hopped on a ubiquitous train down to Interlaken. In Interlaken, we used our 6-day passes and got onto a boat headed around the Brienz Lake. We stopped several times around the lake before finally getting to Brienz. We stepped out for a bit and took some pictures and bought a chocolate bar and some raspberries before getting back in the boat and heading back towards Interlaken.

After we got back to Eastern Interlaken, we took the train to Grindelwald, and rode up a tramway that was included in our ticket and hadn’t yet been ridden by my family and me. We looked around on the top and stepped into the UNESCO Park before hopping back out again and catching the tram down. We went up to Bort again and Eryn and I played on the rope and wood playground while my parents ate chocolate.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Up towards Jungfraujoch

Jungfraujoch… the top of Europe, is the highest railway station in all of Europe. It is at an elevation of 11,332 feet above sea level and is only two hours’ train ride from Lauterbrunnen. Today I will be telling you how close we got and why we were only that close.

We went up towards Klein Scheidegg and changed trains there. We got on the red train going up towards Jungfraujoch and rode upwards until the first stop: Eigergletscher.  Eigergletscher is the highest train station that we can go to with our six-day passes without paying extra.

We shivered a while at Eigergletscher before riding the train back down towards Klein Scheidegg. We caught the train back down towards Lauterbrunnen, and, when we got there, my mother and I scoped out Lauterbrunnen’s recycling capabilities. It wasn’t much… only plastic bottles, glass bottles, and aluminum cans.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Miniature Golfing in Grindelwald

Again, like many a day in Cape Town, the three of us (Mother, Eryn, and I) played miniature golf. We played on a course that we had seen yesterday while walking through Grindelwald, hence the title of this particular post.

When we left this morning, we went down into Interlaken and walked around in search of something that we didn’t fully understand. We didn’t find that thing, and so we went back to the train station and rode it up to Grindelwald. In Grindelwald, we walked to the miniature golf place and paid the fee. We went through all 18 holes.

The holes were different from most; one of them was a vertical loop, another was a jump into a net, and another was a horizontal loop. They were all fun, even though I lost. When we finished playing, we found my father again and walked to the train station and took the train back to Lauterbrunnen via Klein Scheidegg.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Flying Diapers

When we woke up this morning, we didn’t know what we would see or do today. We thought about going up to Klein Scheidegg and playing in the snow, but we never imagined seeing flying diapers. Unlike the Australian Royal Flying Doctor Service, I think that the flying diapers that we saw didn’t want to do anything to help hurt people.

When we left the house, we took the train up to Klein Scheidegg and romped around a bit before heading down to Grimmelwald. From there, we took a tramway up to the ‘First’ Station. While on the way up, we saw a sign that said ‘Restez Assis’… interesting. We walked around on the top for a bit, going to a lake and seeing frogs, before coming back.

On our way back down, we saw some people riding down cables in red harnesses. We thought that that was interesting and noted it. When the people got out, the red ‘diapers’ flew back up the cables, two at a time. They were actually hooked on a rope, but it looked like the harnesses were flying.

That’s all for now, Folks!

More Snow!!!

That is what we saw today. We went up to the top station and walked around in the snow. However, that wasn’t until late in the afternoon. We first left the house around 11 o’clock, and walked for a while out to a set of waterfalls.

That set of 10 waterfalls is famous for all being inside a cliff face and not being on the outside, like a bunch of the other waterfalls in the valley. We rode up the Ascensor on the inside of the cliff and then climbed around the top 5 waterfalls. We worked our way down to the bottom waterfall and then left.

We eventually got to the train station and rode the train up to Kleine Scheidegg , which is the station at the top. We got out of the train and hiked up a ways through the snow until we found a nice viewpoint. I threw some snowballs at my family, accidently hitting my mother in the neck with one. Sadly, though, I missed most of the time.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Snow in Switzerland

In yesterday’s post, I told you that we had driven to Switzerland. Today, we did a bit of exploring around Lauterbrunnen and found some nice things. One of those nice things was snow, and in great quantity. For those of you who have been skiing high up in the Cascades of the Rockies or in any mountain range, you will have seen lots and lots of snow; we didn’t see that much.

After having breakfast and wishing Mother a happy Mother’s day, we set out to the train station and got tickets for 6 days before hopping on a train and going up. We went up until the end of the line at about 2000 meters above sea level, and found snow. Not enough snow to ski on, but still enough to make lots and lots of snowballs. I did. I never hit anybody up at the top, even though I got close.

We rode some more rails back into Lauterbrunnen and then went up the tramway. At the top, we took a train to Murren. There, I found some more snow and threw at least a dozen snowballs at the rest of my family…only a few of them found their mark. We then rode the rails back to the tram and trammed back down to Lauterbrunnen.

That’s all for now, Folks!

When in Lauterbrunnen

Lauterbrunnen means ‘louder fountain.’ We think that that is signifying the 72 waterfalls scattered about the valley of Lauterbrunnen. Lauterbrunnen is in Switzerland, and it we drove into Switzerland and from France today.

After yesterday’s French activities, today we drove. By the way, the answer to yesterday’s riddle is ‘mice.’ In any event, today we drove. We started out around 9 o’clock, and drove until we got to the French border. At a border shop, we bought a highway ticket, so we could go on the highways of Switzerland, and then we were off.

We drove through groves of yellow and green trees and mountains. We went through tunnels and on the lakeside before finally driving into Lauterbrunnen. We then found our new accommodation, which isn’t super luxurious and mansion-like, but it does the job, as we won’t be here too long.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Haiku Holidays

A River Beside,
with mighty rains coming still,
a house with flooding

Roughly describes our time during the flooding. A more peaceful haiku of our time here might go like this,

Sunlight on Flowers,
yellow in mustard fields,
the beauty of France

Shows how beautiful France can be if you come in the right season; just after the rain, and right as the flowers are blooming. Since, however, I am more into riddles and limericks; I bestow this one upon you:

Green Willow trees,
Upon some blue rivers,
Flowing to the seas,
Water it delivers

Rain clouds gather,
In the blue sky above,
Rivers lather,
Releasing the above.

And so on and so forth. I probably could go on for a while, but you get the idea.

That’s all for now, Folks!

PS:

It scurries all ‘round,
all the crumbs to eat,
it makes no sound,
To cats, MEAT!

That is a riddle that I composed today. The answer will be in tomorrows post.

Day of the Death March

Today was the Day of the Death March. Luckily for us, it did not rain today, so it was an okay walk. We first drove to a lake about 5 kilometers out of town and then parked in a nearby parking lot. We left the car (locked) and walked down to the beach to look at the water.

Seeing as though it wasn’t warm enough, there were not any people in swimsuits, only in sweat suits. We went past them all and crossed the lake on a bridge before starting to circumnavigate the lake. The lake was 12 kilometers all the way around, and we did all of it in 3 hours. Not exactly our best time, but still…

When we finished walking around the lake, we got back in the car and drove to a supermarket. After Eryn and Mother finished doing the necessary shopping for dinner, we drove back to the house. In the house, we did whatever we wanted to do until it was time for dinner. After a dinner of pasta, zucchini, and salad, we retired to the salon and read books.

That’s all for now, Folks!

I Took the Garbage out

Today was a rainy day. I mostly sat inside and read the Lord of the Rings trilogy. From time to time, I got up and had a break from my usual repertoire of sitting around, but mostly, it was the same as when it rains here.

I speak like I know the rain here. I may not know the rain, but I sure do know the chocolate bars. We have sampled countless flavors of chocolate bars, from lemon and ginger to pate de almande. We have tried so many flavors that they mostly blend together. Today, for instance, we had almond, the day before yesterday we had the lemon and ginger, and about a week ago we had the pate de almande. It is fun, eating chocolate, and I enjoy it.

Later in the evening, when it was raining a lot, I went against Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout’s example (for reference, please see link below) and took the garbage out. I took it all the way to the end of the road, but that wasn’t far, so I stayed somewhat dry without a rain coat.

http://mste.illinois.edu/courses/ci407su01/students/north/kristy/Project/K-Poem-Net.html

That’s all for now, Folks!

Biking in Burgundy

Yes. With today’s bike ride, I will have ridden a bike on 5 continents, the two exceptions being Antarctica and Africa. Africa is sadly missing, even though that is the continent on which we spent the most time. Still, though, we biked today, and it was fun.

The Burgundy canal is 150 miles long and has 189 locks for raising and lowering boats up and down the canal. We drove in the car north to Montbard and rented 4 bikes for two hours. We first got onto the bike path that ran along the edge of the canal, and then we rode away.

We rode for about an hour; passing trees, farms, forges, and houses.  When we got to the one hour mark, we turned around on the path and went back, passing over bridges and across roads. We stopped for about 20 minutes to watch a boat be lowered down in the locks.

First the lock woman opened the top gate and let the water inside the lock be brought up to the level of the upper canal. The boat drove into the lock and got shut in with the closing of the top gate. Then, the bottom gate was opened and the boat slowly went down. When it reached the level of the lower canal, the bottom gates were opened and the boat was FREE!

That’s all for now, Folks!

Heads Rolling

When most people talk about rolling heads, they usual say it in the phrase, ‘heads will roll!’ Today, though, my definition of rolling heads is a bit simpler…and less gory. My definition of rolling heads is when people nod their heads in unison to music. Maybe it is not a perfect description, but it is adequate for my uses.

Today we went out on a walk. The walk went along the river for a ways before cutting across and going along the edge of a cow field until we got onto a road, and then walking along that road back home, making a large loop. When we got home, we had dinner and then sat around reading books and generally being lazy.

We finally left the house again, this time for an organ concert. At the concert, we faced the organ and listened to several songs. At one point, the people in the row two rows in front all started to nod their heads in unison to the same beat. We finally left after an hour and a half of organ playing.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Walking Sunday

Today was Sunday, and almost everything was closed. I say ‘almost’ because the main thing that was open was the farmer’s market on the pedestrian walkway. When I went up to my father and attempted my Spanish with ‘moi carne,’ as in, much meat, and then my father went on about ‘oinki carne’ and ‘clucki carne.’

After I finished being annoyed with my father, we went back around to our house the long way. It was mother’s idea, and when we got home, she wanted to walk along the river on our bank, which we had never done before. We kept going for only a little ways before coming along to a barricade. We did not go past the barricade, instead, we walked back home.

Later, we had dinner in our house of pizza, zucchini, and other such things. I think that today was a good day.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Brownies, Brown Dogs, and Bussy

Today was spent in relative ease. We spent most of the morning inside, telling the TV news reporters that there was nothing to see, and generally just sitting around. I personally read Lord of the Rings, so I had a good time.

Eventually, we left on a quest to see the Chateau de Bussey, an old manor up in the hills. We left our house and its receding floodwaters in our car and drove to the museum. On the way from the car to the Museum entrance, my father and I both petted and scratched a nice looking dog that had looked endearingly at us over the fence with his paws stuck through the holes.

Eventually, after we finished walking through the museum and going through a maze that wasn’t amazing because there wasn’t any way to turn wrong. We then left and went back home, and when we got home I made us all some Pecan and Chocolate brownies. They were very, very good.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Evacuation Emergencies

I was thinking about titling my post ‘Wet-‘ something or other, but when I came up with the title that you see, I knew that it would be best. You have heard from previous posts recently that it is very wet this spring in France, and that was proved today a lot.

When I woke up, I walked to the boulangerie and bought the day’s supply of 1 baguette, 4 pain au Chocolat and 1 pain cereal. It was raining the whole time, and when I got back, I sat in the living room and won our monopoly game that has been sitting there for some time on the floor. I finished with 11 hotels and all the properties, un-mortgaged, of course.

Just so you know, our house is arranged on three different levels. The bottom one is directly on the river, and is Eryn and my bedroom. It is also only accessible by an outside staircase. Then there is the kitchen/dining room and salon area, where we spend most of our time, and finally there is my parents’ room on the very top with an inside access stairway.

We started seeing the water level rise a bit earlier, and Eryn and I had put all of our stuff up on our beds. When a police officer came and advised us to clear out, we took our bedding and luggage upstairs and waited. Eventually, the property caretakers came along and put the beds and everything in a storeroom above the oncoming onslaught of water, as it was flooding the room.

Safely on the top floor now, we have most of our stuff in the car in anticipation of the air raid siren to go off to signal for us to evacuate, but we hope that that doesn’t happen.

That’s all for now, Folks!

The Quest for (Colonel) Mustard

Today was spent on a quest for Mustard.  Dijon mustard is famous for its strong flavor, and we experienced some of that while trying to find some good varieties. We finally found some in a streetside shop.

Inside the shop, there was shelf after shelf of mustard bottles. There were lots of different flavors, from raspberry to blackcurrant to wine. We got a bottle for ourselves and have not yet delved into it. I think that we will, though, in the morning.

We found the mustard on our day’s excursion to Dijon. It is about an hour from our base by driving, and we walked around and saw several churches and gardens during our walking, and also ate sandwiches and pain au chocolat.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Schoolwork Studies

Today was mostly spent by me immersed in my schoolbooks so that I could get the Lord of the Rings trilogy on my kindle. My father had promised me that if I got two weeks ahead I could buy them, and this is the closest that I have ever gotten. I hope that I will make it.

When I wasn’t buried in a book with my pencil in hand, we were going outside on walks. Whenever the sun was shining, which wasn’t very often, we would go out. The first time was to go to the church, and we achieved that. The church even had nets below the ceiling to keep the pigeon poop from falling on the heads of worshipers.

The last walk out went to dinner, and we went to the place that we had been to twice. I talked several times about our family and Eryn, but no one at the table thought that it was funny, especially Eryn.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Monopoly Money Matters

Today we started another game of monopoly. So far, none of the three of us have gone bankrupt, but I feel that one bankruptcy is just around the corner.  I have one full monopoly (yellow) Eryn has the first set past go, and Mother has the railroads.

We only played for an hour, and in that hour, not much has happened, so we can’t see a clear winner. The future is foggy, and as the Artful Dodger might say, the fog is sometimes very helpful. See Terry Pratchett’s Dodger for full details.

In any case, we played monopoly today, and hope to continue tomorrow and maybe see a winner by tomorrow, and have that winner have won by the next day.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Modest Bell Tower

The modest bell tower in the title that my mother mentioned while ‘guiding’ us through a UNESCO World Heritage site seemed more of budget cut to me than being modest. The reason for that is that the bell tower was barely a tower; it barely came up above the ridgeline of the roof from which it was protruding.

We saw all of that when we were walking through an abbey this morning. The abbey is named L’Abbeye de la Fontanay, which I think means the abbey of the Fountains, which is an apt name indeed because the use of the natural supply of water to keep fish and to turn a waterwheel which in turn made a hammer hammer a block of wood to help the monks craft iron.

We first went and saw the Church, which was a traditional church with barrel arches and not much fluff. It used to have enameled tile flooring, but now the floor is only dirt. Inside the church, near the alter, are two tombstones that depict a knight and his wife, both of which are not carved ultra-well. We then walked up to the monks dormitory, which also had a dirt floor, and learned that the monks lived in close quarters, with only a small screen separating them from their comrades.

We then went outside and saw the boiler room and other rooms. We also saw two gardens with fountains in them, hence the name of the whole Abbey. We finished off by looking through the museum part, which pictured broken sculptures, video, and a shop.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Paris Impressions

Looking back upon it now, Paris seemed like a very novel place. As we have had several rainy days here, I have decided to go back in time in my mind and posts to tell my many readers what I learned about Paris and what I thought about it, besides the fact that the Eiffel Tower is really tall.

One issue that I think some people have is the expense. Paris is expensive, but I am wondering if the occupants and laborers of the city get paid respectively to the city prices, as in, they get enough to match the prices. I think that, though, one of the reasons that we were surprised by the prices was our time in countries that had currencies that were worth less, and so we were used to have a dinner be in the 100s range of that currency. In Paris, it is 40, and twice or three times as much.

Another thing that I learned about Paris was how nice the people were. They seem nicer out in the countryside, but even in the crowded city, people on the street greeted a passerby with a cheerful ‘bonjour,’ even if they had never seen the person before.

In all, I think that Paris is a great place to live, even if it is a bit expensive; the people are nice and there are enough ways to get around, aka Metro, Bus, and taxis.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Rain Relaxation

Today we lounged around inside and relaxed, as there wasn’t much that we could do with the rain pouring down outside and the river bursting its banks. And so we spent much of our time sitting around inside, playing Scrabble and working on the puzzle, which is almost finished.

Later in the day, we went out under our four umbrellas of four colors and got some ice cream. I got a good selection of two scoops of chocolate, one scoop of vanilla, covered in chocolate with a deluge of whipped cream on the top. It was very good.

I am thinking that most of us are hoping that the rain stops sometime, as the height of the waterline of the river is getting higher and higher, not to mention the fact that we have been stuck inside for two days, not counting my daily runs to a boulangerie.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Wet day in France

Today, when we woke up, it was precipitating slightly, but by the time that I left to get some items from the boulangerie, it had stopped. However, once I got back, it started again, and it hasn’t finished since. The rain came down in torrential amounts, washing the streets of debris and making the river flow higher than usual.

However, since it is spring in France, the rain is expected, so we have anticipated it with some dread. Once we get to Switzerland, though, the rain will be frozen and in the form of snow, so we will be thoroughly chilled.

Today, we mostly stayed inside, with the notable exception of going out to dinner, which we did at two restaurants. The first one was not to our culinary tastes, so we went to the place that we had gone to on our first night in Semur.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Day with Good Hair

I think that I mentioned yesterday how we saw, in a museum, a decapitated statue head that had interesting hair. Well, odd life, but we saw the real thing today. The real thing, actually is still a statue, but it is downsized some. It is in the traditional form of Gaelic looks, as in, what people thought they looked like during the reign of Napoleon III.

The form of a Gael back then looked like what we called a Viking. They wore horned helmets. That is about where the similarity ends. The statue of the defeated king in fighting with JC has long, shoulder length, unkempt hair, a face like Napoleon III, a long mustache, and a pearl necklace. All of which have been proved to be falsehoods about the Gaels.

We saw the statue near Alesia, an ancient town of ruins in eastern France, where we are now. Alesia was place number 5 on the list of our things to do. The first was a town, in which we walked, the second one was the source of the Seine river. We then went to several more towns before arriving at Alesia.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Armor Appearances

Today we went out into the village where we are now residing to explore. Eventually, we came upon the Museum and went in. It was free, which was nice, and the giant head near the door had a neat hairdo. We walked down the aisle and looked at statues.

Most of the statues had what looked like warts coming out of odd parts, and we deduced that that was for more effectual 3D imaging. When we finished looking at statues, we arrived in a room in which Eryn and I tried out a bow and felt the weight of a heavy shield.

We continued with the museum until we got to the top level, which had paintings and several other statues. When we finished, we walked back to our nice house along the riverbank.

That’s all for now, Folks!

When in Burgundy

We are now in the Burgundy region of France. Ah, the countryside at last. After a week of hectic activity in Paris, we now will wind down and warm up in this ‘quaint’ little village. We drove most of the morning today and finally arrived in the late afternoon. We got into our place and unpacked a bit before going to dinner.

At dinner, my mother and I decided to share a several dishes, and when I asked her about pizza, ‘Do you want a margarita?’ she said ,’No, we are getting tap water,’ and I replied, ‘Mother, I was talking about pizzas!’ She agreed and dinner was good.

Our house is right on the river, and from it we can see the ramparts of the city. I think it is a good location, and so did the marketers.

That’s all for now, Folks!

The Cusco Disaster

If you remember, in Cusco we had a sewer problem. Today, my family and I descended down into the sewers of Paris and experienced the same smell, though more acute. We were walking around in the underground sewer museum.

The sewer museum was built a long time ago and it still works today, though there have been a few additions. The original sewer system was designed and directed by a man of the name of Eugene Belgrand. He designed contraptions to keep the solid waste from clogging up the tunnels, including using the pressure of the water to push the sand and other buildup out of the way.

After we finished that, we took the metro to a shopping mall underneath the Louvre and looked around. I spent most of my time in the Apple store looking at iPads, iPods, and iPhones. When we finished with that, we left and went to spend some time in the Luxembourg Gardens before looking at the Pantheon.

That’s all for now, Folks!

 

Today we went to…

…Notre Dame. Again. Notre Dame means ‘My Lady’ in French, and today we climbed up the towers today. We didn’t see a hunchback, but he could have been hiding. Or he could also be dead because the ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ was written in the 19th century.  Notre Dame is, this year, celebrating its 850th anniversary, so there are lots of building and bleachers out in front with which to admire the view.

As we ascended, we went around and around a central column, like the stairs on the cathedral on the hill overlooking the City of Paris. We kept on going up and finally arrived on a balcony that connects the north and south towers. We took pictures for a while before climbing the stairs up to the top of the south tower. From there, we walked around, took pictures, and then waited to be let down the stairs.

We eventually got out into sunlight again, and had walked about statues before returning home, back to our apartment on the banks of the Seine River.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Notre Dame

Notre Dame,
Is the claim to Fame,
Of Paris,
On the River Seine

Today we,
Up and went to see,
The church,
With big pink trees

Later then,
We went there again,
To hear,
One play an organ

In other un-rhyming words, today we went to Notre Dame. We went on a tour in the afternoon, and in the evening came back to hear a man play an organ.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Art Antics and Antiques

Today we went to the Louvre. The Louvre is a timeless art museum located on the banks of the Seine River in Paris. In it are well known pieces of art, including the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa. As I already said, we went there today.

We met our guide under a small arc in the front courtyard of the museum. We went under I. M. Pei’s glass pyramid and started our tour. This wasn’t one of those ‘here are the facts about so-and-so, made in year such-and-such, and made by the great artist ______.’ This was a Louvre tour ‘dedicated’ to young teenagers, presenting a quest at the beginning of the tour, with smaller sub-quests.

Our guide, Laura, was something like Gandalf the Gray, a guide that knew its stuff. She took us through galleries upon galleries of art. She showed us the development of movement in statues, from one small step made by a bronze statue of Apollo (11). Then she showed us a statue of a man about to be flayed alive hanging by his hands, with all of his muscles stretched. He had picked up an enchanted lyre and had won in a contest in Apollo, and Apollo sentenced him to death by being flayed.

We continued, on, eventually seeing painting that showed stories, not just sculptures, and saw many, including Leonidas I at the Battle for Thermopylae. In any case, it was a fun tour that I think we all enjoyed.

That’s all for now, Folks!

French Staircases

Today we went to a major attraction in Paris. That major attraction was proved to be major by the large line that was already forming by the time that it opened. The attraction was the catacombs. The catacombs of Paris are large and extensive, and they used to serve as a quarry for limestone up until after the French Revolution.

Now, after climbing down flights upon flights of stairs, a visitor can see that there are bones galore stacked on top of each other for about six feet above the floor. There are what we think are femurs stacked for about two and a half feet, before a row of skulls, and then another set of femur stacks and another set of skulls. On the top are assorted bones, mainly mislaid skulls. There is an estimated 6,000,000 bones in all of the catacombs, unlike the catacombs in Rome, in which Eryn and I only saw a single bone.

Eventually, we left the catacombs and rode the rails to a basilica that overlooks the whole city. After going inside, we climbed up to the dome. From there, we could see the Eiffel Tower. When we got back down, we watched a guy play with a soccer ball, including making it spin on a stick, putting that in his mouth, and then climbing a lightpost.

That’s all for now, Folks!

What’s a Lens?

My sister is different. She may be absolutely brilliant in math and science, but when it comes to photography equipment, she is sometimes absolutely clueless. A prime example of that is when my father is taking a picture of Eryn and I in front of some interesting scenery (the Eiffel Tower) and he told us to look at the lens, my sister asked, ‘What is the lens???’ I answered her question, and she said, ‘Oh yes…I knew that!’

Today we went to the Arc de Triomphe, which is on the western end of the most expensive street in the world; Champs Elysses. We climbed up the spiral staircase on one side, took some pictures from the top, and climbed down the other side. On the other end of the 1.9 kilometers of Champs Elysses, we popped out of the metro system at the Plaza de Concorde. On the south end of the plaza is La Seine, the river that runs through the central of Paris.

We then went to the Eiffel Tower. After waiting in line for a while, we bought our tickets and worked our way through another line for the elevator halfway up. After we got out of the legs and about halfway up, we switched elevators to one that had four skylights and rode up. When we got off, we were on the top of the Eiffel Tower. We oohed and aahed for a while before taking the straight elevator down. My father and I took the stairs down one of the legs, while my sister and mother took the elevator. They arrived at the bottom before us.

About that time, my father started taking more pictures and Eryn asked the aforementioned question.

That’s all for now, Folks!

The Holy Hand Grenade; When in Paris

In this case, unlike in the case of Arthur and his company of brave knights trying to vanquish the rabbit in Monty Python’s Holy Grail, the ‘holy hand grenade was actually a fruit. It might not have been holy, but it fit in one’s hand and was called a grenade.

Today, we woke up early in Fez and hopped into the van with Majeed and all of our stuff. We went to the Fez airport, checked in, went through passport control and security, and waited in the departure lounge for our plane to arrive, empty, and then start to fill with passengers for the flight to Paris, with us being four of those passengers.

Eventually, we saw the orange tail of the EasyJet aircraft destined to take us to Paris without harm. We eventually arrived in Paris after several hours of flight time, some of it occupied by a screaming toddler in the seat right in front of us. When we got to the CDG airport on the northwestern corner of Paris, we hopped on the metro and rode it to the stop nearest our flat. Excusez-moi, apartments.

Later, when we went shopping for some things, mainly stores and Orange shops, we found a supermarket, and, in the fruit and veggie section, there was a fruit that said ‘Grenade’ from ‘Uran.’ We think that that means that those are grenades from Iran, but you can never be too sure.

The Holy Fruit Grenade of Uran

The Holy Fruit Grenade of Uran

That’s all for now, Folks!

Visual Volcanic Vapor, Veil, and Valley

Tonight, when we were sitting on the rooftop balcony of the Clock Café, my father and I looked out towards the west, towards the sunset, and saw an interesting hill and cloud formation. There was a purple-ish hill in the front, and then a purple-ish cloud in the background, with light orange and white wisps of cloud vapor in between.

That created the look of a large volcano caldera, with the wisps of vapor steaming up from the lava. My father commented on how it was tilted towards us, but when my sister and mother looked, they couldn’t see anything that resembled a round mountain a couple of minutes later.

Today, we mostly stayed home, though my mother and I went to her last PT. When we got back, my sister was the only one home and my father and Alami were at the PO trying to ship our packages home. When my father got back, he told the story of all the complications that were needed to be gone through in order to ship a package to the US. We then sat around some more before I went outside and played with my friends one last time, said goodbye, and then went with my family to dinner at the Clock Café.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Pockets of People

Tonight, when we were walking home from dinner, there were sections of the walking-only road that were very congested, and others that had very few people on them comparatively. I say comparatively because when my mother and I go to her PT early in the morning, there is almost no-one out there, save a few early-risers.

Anyway, the people came in pockets, and they came every 10 meters or so. For those of you using the imperial system, that is about 32’ 9.703125” using www.metric-conversions.org. So, in other words, the pockets of people were about 30 feet apart.

Today we went almost nowhere. My father and I went out and got doughnuts late in the day, and then I played soccer out in the alleyway with some of my friends. Then, I went inside and got ready to go, did some stuff on my kindle, and then we left to Tommy’s, and on the way home, we encountered the pockets of people.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Dizzying Dumps

Today we went to the Café Clock for breakfast. Three of us had the Ricotta Pancakes while my mother had scrambled eggs. We then immediately left and didn’t stop at home so that we could get to a fort on a nearby hill as soon as possible.

We first weaved our way through crowd filled streets, crossed a major one, and then started up a dirt path. We went up, headed towards the fort that was at the top of our field of vision. We kept going up until the trail ended except for a small ledge that extended about a foot before dropping off down onto some partially burned garbage some 50 feet below.

We walked along the edge, clambered up an easy slope, hopped over a small fence, and were right down the road from where we wanted to be. We walked up the road, into the place, and then found out that it was 8 minutes too late to go in, as it closed at 1200 hrs, and it was 1208 hrs. Too bad. We looked around for a while on top before descending a different way.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Trio of Trips

That is my mother’s suggested title for today’s post, and Eryn says that she (Mother) is getting illiterate. I don’t know. I just work here. Today we, excuse me, I went on three trips out of our house in Fez. The ferst one was one going to Mother’s physical torture this morning, the second one was out on a shopping expedition to get food and sweets, and the last and final one was to dinner at Le 44.

For the PT, my mother and I went, and while she hissed, I did schoolwork. Then, I went with my mother to Marjane to get some chocolate bars for deserts before hopping in a third taxi and heading back to the ancient Medina, where we stay.

For food, we went out and bought sweets, bread, eggs, oranges, and several other things that are around the house after going down to see if the doughnut place was closed. Sadly, it was, so we had to make do with sweets.

For dinner, we went to Le 44 and sat up on the roof terrace, at the farthest away possible table from the kitchen. My father says that the waitron used to be overweight, but with tourists that sit up on the roof, he has gotten skinnier.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Rock Management

For those of you who don’t know what rock management is, it is when a manager asks an employee to get them a rock, and is never satisfied with the rock that is brought to him. That is about what happened today to my father and I at the Post Maroc office today.

When we arrived, we pressed the button for a slip and it rolled out. When our number was buzzed, it stayed on for a split second before being replaced by another number held by someone else. The security guard then made us his personal project and started looking at boxes for us. The first one was too small, and the second one was too big. We finally decided on the first one. And we hope it will work.

The rest of the day was mostly filled with schoolwork, naps, car shopping, laundry, and other such things that happen on such a down day.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Buying, Bargaining, and Brass

This morning, my mother and sister went to PT, while my father and I stayed home and did techy stuff. When the women in my family came back, we sat around for a little bit before heading out on a shopping expedition. We left our house and walked down the street, turned right, then right, and then walked down the hill on the way to some stores that we had been to before.

First, we went to a scarf shop that Eryn had been to previously, and my mother bought a scarf, after bargaining of course. After we left that specific shop, we walked down the street to the brass shop that we had gone to on our second day in Fez. We looked around in both outlets of the shop, and then compared different models. If this sounds like car dealings, I have, by the way, been looking at cars as well today.

We looked at the three different sizes, outlawed one, and continued on the last two. We decided to only get the small one, and we bought it for roughly the correct price. My father then went to an ATM to extract the amount of money needed for the purchase, and we were on our way. On our way home, we bought delicious doughnuts. Yum.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Horses, Holidays, and Hawaiians

We got up early this morning and walked bare-footed across tile flooring on the roof of the hotel and watched the sun rise above the horizon. Then we went back to sleep. We did things that did or did not need to be done, and then, in the middle of the afternoon, we saddled up on our camels and rode away. We rode for about an hour on the dunes of the Sahara desert before arriving at a camp. My father and I climbed up a nearby dune, and my sister and mother followed soon thereafter, and we watched the sunset from the summit.

We then went down and ate dinner, and after dinner, Amy, Autumn, and Andrew went with Eryn and I to the top of the dune again and we sat up there while everyone else sat by the fire and listened to drumming. The three As were Americans from Italy on holiday, but soon they will move to Oahu on Hawaii. Later, we went down, got into our tent, got into our beds, and went to sleep.

The Next Day…

We woke up this morning and rode camels away after watching the sunrise from the large dune near camp. We rode back to the hotel and cleaned up to eat. Then, Eryn and I hung out with Amy, Autumn, and Andrew (ages 11, 16, and 14, respectively) and the pregnant cat. We then left in the car with Majeed.

Later, when we stopped to look over the edge, men with horses trying to get us to ride apparated on site, bring with them horses, and laying siege to us in our car. When we got back to the car, another man had appeared with his portable store, so there was a shop outside our window. That reminded us of yesterday, when we were at a lake, and out of nowhere,  8 guys appeared with wares, trying to sell us stuff.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Monkey Madness

Our driver today at first called the monkeys ‘crazy monkeys,’ but by the time that we left the place with the monkeys, he was calling them chimpanzees, which also didn’t sound right. Barbary Macaques is the correct name of the monkey, and it is also the type found on the rocks in Gibraltar where we had gone in 2004. This time, however, we saw them on the side of the road while going through the Middle Atlas Mountains while driving south from Fez to the Sahara, where we are now.

We got in the car with Majeed early this morning after breakfast, and then got into his car and drove away. After driving for a while, we got out at a monkey stop and walked around for a bit, but didn’t see any monkeys. I amused myself by punching out the ice in little bird baths by some picnic tables, before we were in the car again. Majeed had just turned the key in the ignition before he saw monkeys coming towards us. We stayed for a while and fed crackers to the monkeys and watched them nibble on them. After a while, the crowds started to arrive and a monkey hopped onto our car, and we stayed for a bit longer before the monkey got off and we left.

A bit later, we looked out the window, and right outside was a snow bank. We got out to see the snow and take pictures, and I threw a snowball. Later, we stopped to look at the beautiful scenery, with storks in the foreground and snowy mountains in the background, with a green wet field in the front.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Gardens Galore

Today we went to gardens. Well, one of them was officially a garden while the other one was debatable, as it was also a park. The first one had an attached museum that we also saw. In the museum there were old clothes, old clothes, and old weapons and instruments.

The first garden was small and not very well maintained. There were overgrow hedges and bees by the dozen. However, the fruit trees had heavy branches, laden with ripe fruit. The oranges were ripe and everything was in bloom.

The second garden was much better cared for; the fountains were running, the hedges were trimmed, and the flowers were all in rows. Sounds a lot like French garden. Not surprising considering that Morocco was a French colony, so at least it isn’t too much of a surprise. We will be able to enjoy gardens like that in the rain in France. FUN!*

That’s all for now, Folks!

*Not

No Hissing Today

On other days when there has been PT, my mother has hissed her way through the time, in an effort not to scream, cry, or in any other way embarrass herself overly. Today, however, her PT was relatively devoid of any hissing, though there was the occasional squeak from her physical therapist.

I went with my mother to her PT this morning after waking up early and having a not-warm-enough shower. After eating a small breakfast, my mother and I went out. On our way home, we swung by Marjane and got some groceries, ice cream, and cake.

When we got back, we let ourselves into the house and went around doing regular tasks, and when the rest of the family got home, we sat around some more. Eventually, I went out and played with Mohammed and his friends with a ball, while the rest of my family went on a shopping expedition. Later, we went to dinner at Le 44 and then came home and ate a chocolate bar.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Male Meat

My father read in a guide book that the people in Morocco believe that male sheep meat is more tender than female sheep meat. To prove that their meat is take from rams, the owners of butcheries have ram legs that have one testicle hanging off the end, to prove its sex.

We have seen several of those male sheep legs hanging from the knee from a rail above the counter at a butcher’s, and had always wondered what they were. Know we know, and it is an interesting tidbit of information that might be useful to pass on in stories, as it might be funny, interesting, or gross to different people.

Another thing that is sometimes displayed in meat shops is the decapitated head of a camel, complete with wet and bloody hair on the lowest bit and something throaty hanging down by a small amount of tissue. Not exactly my favorite sight.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Clock Cafe with Chocolate Cake

Today was mostly spent indispensable while we listened to the pitter-patter of rain drops in great multitude upon the roof of our Dar in Fez. As in India, this is a hot country and the rain always seems to find us. I still have a sneaking suspicion that we take rain wherever we go, something interesting in light of the episode of ‘I Dream of Jeanne, My Master the Rainmaker,’ that we watched this evening.

In any case, in between droplets, my mother and father went out for PT, while Eryn and I stayed home. Eventually, after the parents had come home, we all went to the Clock Café. Eryn and Mother shared a chocolate pudding souffle, while I had an orange and almond cake. Both were good, and when we finished, my sister and mother signed up for cooking classes tomorrow morning.

In the end, we left the Café, and my mother and I went out to get supplies for dinner. When we got home, we did some stuff for a while before getting ready for supper. After a supper of soup, bread, and strawberries, my parents and I ate the remainder of some ice cream that we had, and then we worked upstairs on finishing up what left we had to do to go to bed, including writing this post.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Souk Sales

Today we went back to the leather souk that we had gone to with our guide for our walking tour a few days back, and this time we seriously looked at the products. My father and a looked at ‘poofs’ which are like small beanbags, while my mother and sister looked at slippers and shoes. Eventually, when we were about to leave, I convinced my family to at least look at the leather jackets, even if we weren’t going to buy any.

When we got to the jacket floor, I looked through some styles and picked the one that I like the most; a black leather jacket with 5 pockets, 4 on the outside and a small one on the inside. I poked around at some other things while my mother tried on a red jacket, decided it wasn’t what she wanted, and then found one that she wanted that was also red. We didn’t feel like buying, but we just wanted to know the prices, and it was a lot.

The guy at the counter convinced my father to state a price, and they agreed to it and now our family’s wardrobe now has the accoutrements of two new leather jackets from Fez, Morocco.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Post about FOOD!

Salad: The traditional Moroccan salad, we think, is chopped up tomato, cucumber, and onion with some sort of sauce. However, we have had other types that are more about six different tapas that are shared around the table.

Bread: The traditional bread here is buns 1 inch tall and about 6-10 inches wide. The bread comes in different varieties; with grains on the top, white bread, and whole wheat, but in essence, it is mostly the same thing.

Fruits and Veggies: Mostly the same as home, though they do like to give eggplant a bit of a smoky taste when cooked.

Meals: The meals are good and cooked, and the curries are delicious. There are many varieties of tapas and falafel like things that someone can try.

Escargot: I decided to leave a section entirely for snails because there are stalls along with the street with vats full of live snails, crawling over each other in the futile quest of getting out and saving themselves.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Day of Adventure

Some of us woke up early today, some of us didn’t. I think that Eryn and I qualify to be in the last category, and my parents qualify to be in the first. Well, we woke up this morning and got out of bed, walked downstairs and put some food into our stomachs, and then continued with our tasks of getting ready to go. At 8 o’clock, we were at the post office and got into a car and drove away. And so ended our time in Fes.

We arrived at Meknes an hour later, and the first thing that we did was look at the city from a panoramic location. We then got into the car and drove to a granary and stable that housed 12000 horses at once. That is a lot of poop. They then used the poop to fertilize the ground around Meknes. We then went to a mausoleum, and then walked into the old medina of Meknes. In the medina, we went to a bakery and watched people for a while, while eating pastries, before going to the car and leaving. And so ended our time in Meknes.

We then drove in the car with our driver to Moulay-Idriss, the oldest city in Morocco. There, we walked up to a panoramic location before walking down to see a mosque, where our driver prayed. When he finished, we walked out, but on the way I bought a hunk of nougat. It was good and sugary when we ate it. And so ended our time in Moulay-Idriss.

We then drove to Volubilis, where there are some ancient Roman ruins. There was a poor section and a wealthy section, and on the floors of both parts’ dining rooms, there were beautiful mosaics of Roman gods and heroes. We took a guide and toured around; walking through and around the Triumphal Arch and standing on the edge of a baptistery. When we finally finished two hours later, we had seen and heard a lot. And so ended our time in Volubilis.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Football Friends

Football, in this case, is what Americans call soccer. I went outside our traditional house today and played football with some guys. There were also sometimes girls, but they squealed, and that was about all they did.

At the beginning, there was a guy that was older and had a California University Class of 1989 shirt on, but after a bit of playing he left. About the time that he left, another guy about my age came and played on my team that had been subtracted from with the loss of the guy that I first mentioned. This new guy played or a while, and then he went to his house and get two baby chickens and we played with them for a while.

When this friend went to return the chicks, we found a kid a bit younger than me passed out in a dark alleyway. We notified the restaurant next door and they attempted to revive him as we left to go play, with the accoutrement of another guy a bit older than me. We played with him for a while before my second friend left, and then the newest guy named Mohammad and I, along with a few others, worked on our goalie skills. Then I went inside and the group dissipated.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Day without Dogs

Well, for the first time in all of Morocco, I think, we saw a dog. As mentioned in the previous posts, the Islamic religion forbids the use of dogs as pets, and that is the main reason for getting feral dogs. Today we saw the first one, and it was sleeping.

I have mentioned to my father that in Morocco, it seems as though cats and dogs have switched places; cats are active and ubiquitous, while dogs are practically nonexistent, and when seen, are seen sleeping in the sun, as we saw today. We saw that dog while walking on a tour with Eryn as our guide. We saw a synagogue door, a palace gate, a courtyard, a market, and more gates as required by the tour.

We are starting to be orientated on our walkings around Fez, and hope to get better as time goes by.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Pigeon Poo and Partly Cloudy

Maybe full cloud. And raining. Today was a fairly miserable day, going on a tour and finding everything as far as the eye can see wet. Luckily, it cleared up eventually, but we still had gotten wet, even through our rain coats.

We went to the Medersa near our place again, and then went down through the markets to a wood museum, but didn’t go inside, because we were on a tight schedule. We kept going for a while before finally arriving at the tannery. We looked down from a lookout tower and saw vat upon vat of multi-colored liquid, from yellow to brown. We also so a white-ish liquid that is made of limestone and water to get the wool and fur off the skins.

The whole tannery smelled different because the tanners use pigeon droppings for their tanning, as it is not toxic, as other things are. The finished product doesn’t smell at all. Which is good. We did not get anything at the tannery, but who knows, we might yet.

That included some of our walking tour today with a guide.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Rain, Rain, go Away

That is what we hoped for today, but, contrary to our wishes, the rain came and came, pouring in through cracks in the ceiling and getting everything that shouldn’t get damp, damp. At least none of the electronics got wet.

However, with the rain, cold poured in, emanating off of the rain droplets and surrounding us in our quandaries and work. In the end, we just put coats on to fight the chill and settled down, huddling in the bottom of our chairs and conserving heat. The rain I think has ended now, but, luckily, we were always inside whenever there was an exceptionally bad deluge.

That is what happened today, hindering our progress in exploring the wondrous Ancient Medina of Fez. Maybe if it had been sunny, we could have seen some more coppersmiths pound away at their work.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Medersa Memories

A Medersa is a school of Islamic learning. In Christianity, it might be called seminary. In Pakistan, they are called Madrasas. There are several in the Ancient Medina of Fez, and today we went to one of them. The following are memories that I have of the Medersa.

The ceramics are detailed, colorful, and geometrical. They adorn the lower walls all around the courtyard, adding color and life to the school. There are also cedar partitions that surround most of the open spaces, rendering it hard to see through, but allowing light to shine through. There was also a lot of stucco that has been carved so that, if the arches fell on someone, it would be a most painful death, being pierced dozens of times and having the weight of a roof on top of you.

Another interesting thing about Fez is that it is cat heaven. Though they may not get the pick of fish from fish vendors on the street, they generally rule the city, causing no mischief and generally having the right of way.

That’s all for now, Folks!

When in Fez…

..do as the Fezians (?) do. I am not sure what that means exactly. Maybe it means knowing where you are in the middle of the mazes in the Ancient Medina. Maybe it means sitting behind desks trying to sell things, or maybe it means living in Fes.

At the moment we have only achieved the last one, and for that I am happy. It is fun getting lost on the confusing little streets. I guess that is why there are maps. It is also fun to talk. Everyone wants to know where you are from, what your name is, and if you would like to buy anything.  Knowing the streets is something that takes time and patience. We might have time, but mostly, we stay on the main street going down the center of the medina, housing the market.

Today we walked down the main street. After walking for a ways, we came upon the central market. We looked around at men banging copper pots with hammers and stuff like that before going on a tour at a brass lantern factory. The copper got taped with a pattern, and then a practiced artisan would cut the pattern with a coping saw. Then another man would use hammer and a pointed bit to add texture, before someone else put all the pieces together and formed some sort of lamp.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Dar Mystere

Our casa in Fez is large and different. We arrived at the casa after a 2 hour train ride from Casablanca. When we arrived, we got into the car of a guy that had held a sign with my father’s name on it before arriving in the old Medina from 789, AD. We then piled our stuff into the cart of a man and went off. He took us down the wrong street, but eventually got it correct and took us to our place. The old Medina has a maze of twisty little passages, like the streets and alleyways in Venice.

The casa is tall. When walking in the unassuming door, you see a bench with three round cloth pillows on it and a doorway off to the right. You walk through that doorway and see curtains off to the left and push your way through them and arrive in a courtyard with lit-up lanterns in the corners, and stairs off to the left. To the right, there is a doorway; to the left is a kitchen and to the right is a bathroom. Also in the courtyard is a table with 6 chairs. To the end is a living room area, and to the right from the courtyard is a small sitting area.

Up the stairs, there is a left and a right fork. To the left are my sister’s room and a balcony with a half-bath to the end. To the right of that fork is my parents’ room with en-suite full bath. Up the stairs again, you get to another fork. To the left is my room of two twin beds and to the right is a door. Sliding open the deadbolts and taking the key, one would walk out onto the roof and have the choice of sliding open the glass roof for the courtyard, and a kitchen is straight ahead, using the key to get through the padlock. Going up a set of metal chairs, you arrive on a small balcony that has no furnishings of any kind and only foot-high railing.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Mosque Myths Making Mornings Memorable

Alliteration, how interesting is that? It is not very interesting because a lot of people can do alliteration with any letter. Although ‘x’ would be hard to do, all of that making my title sentence not very memorable in the end. However, we did go to a mosque today and we did hear about a myth and it was morning and it might be memorable.

The mosque was the Mosque Hassan II that was built only twenty years ago. It is a mosque that extends out over the sea, and some guidebooks might say that there is even a glass floor that you can look through to the sea. There isn’t. As it turns out, the builders used regular building techniques to build the columns in the ocean, and then had to fix their mistake, as salt water erodes things a whole lot faster than air. In the end, though, it has turned into a fairly spectacular building.

The pillars on the inside are concrete coated in marble, along with the floor. The glass chandeliers were imported from Venice, and there is local stucco to make the elaborate arches. The women’s prayer balconies above are made of locally cut cedar trees. Underneath, there is an ablutions room where men wash in fountains, there is another somewhere else for women.

Another myth that might be mentioned is my father’s Chicken Myth from the golden arches, our first time eating there. Ever.

That’s all for now, Folks!

2 Days, 1 night, 4 Planes

Leaving in the morning,

On an okay plane,

Leave Peru with Mourning,

Silently to stay sane.

In Panama get out,

Get through the TSA,

To Newark without doubt,

In the states, you don’t say?

Climbing back through a gate,

And sitting in our seats,

Hoping we won’t be late,

More than the eye will meet.

In Lisbon out we climb,

From a gate that is prime, (41)

Now on a tiny plane,

Flying over the sea,

Going away from Spain,

Now in Morocco, you see?

That’s all for now, Folks!

 

Lima, a Colony, a Capital, and a City

Alliteration, as always, answers few questions. I imagine interesting things would happen if someone used alliteration to answer annoying askings, as an animal attacks.  Lima is a big city, crossing the city can cause crashes and collisions concerning careening cars. To stop alliteration, I will tell people more about the city of our residence for the next 5 hours.

The city is on the western side of the continent of South America, on the Pacific coast, and is on a peninsula jutting out into the sea. It is a large commercial and industrial city that has fishing boats and cargo boats cruising around its harbor, looking for anchorage so they can unload their cargo of fish or freight containers. Lima is accessible by all means of transportation except for rocket ships, maybe. We arrived and are leaving via the rather large and ostentatious airport.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Hermes

For those of you who are not up-to-snuff on your Greek mythology, Hermes is the god of travel, the road, merchants, messengers, and other sorts of things. Today we saw a bank truck that was probably full of money in the middle of Lima with the name of Hermes. I pointed out to my family that, ironically, Hermes is also the god of thieves.

Interesting.

Last night, after some time and debating, we decided to move to a different place to stay the night because of the brown stuff on the floor of our rooms and so went a couple of yards down the street to a more salubrious hotel. We spent the night and morning there, finally leaving at 11 o’clock AM.

We went to the airport in a taxi, checked in, went through security, and then got on our flight at about 12:30. We flew for about an hour and a half before landing in Lima. We got into a van and drove to our hotel, where we stepped into a VERY salubrious room. We later went to the store to get some things for dinner before coming back to the room, and on the way seeing the bank truck.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Poop, Pie, and Pools

My father has just told me not to complain about how he didn’t get me a hostel with a pool because of all of the cesspool in the main lobby. The reason for that is because of all of the rain that fell down tonight and burst the sewage system, showering the rooms with, er, things that we thought we had left behind.

We woke up this morning and had a regular morning, going to the Meeting Place Café for breakfast. When we finished with our game of Scrabble and our waffles, we left and went back to the hostel. We did stuff that we usually do on a down day; schoolwork, reading, deleting pictures, and other things. We finished up with that late in the day and went down for ice cream and pastries, including apple pie, before coming back and deleting more pictures.

We finally went to dinner and ate soup and pasta, along with a virgin strawberry daiquiri and water before coming back to our hostel. My sister was in the bathroom when suddenly I heard her hammering at the door screaming,

“HELP!!!”

I opened the door and she rushed out, quickly being pursued by the mad liquids and solids of the toilet system. The toilets bubbled, the showers squirted, and the floor drains regurgitated all that ever went in. In other words, it turned into a wet, brown mess that everyone wanted to avoid. Sadly for the hostel, the only person there was the receptionist, and his place was soon buried in a foot of water from everywhere else, ruining the computer.

Now, a bunch of people in the hall are hurriedly taking bucketsful of the stuff out to the street and letting it run away. We are wondering how we will go to the bathroom and how to sleep.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Don’t Kill Yourself…

…let the caiman do it. That was Reve’s favorite line to say during our time in the Amazon basin. He said that a lot whenever we were getting out of the boat and it was muddy outside, which was most of the time. Our cook during the trip had the name of Palta, or avocado in English, which was sometimes lengthened to Paltacha. I am not sure if that is a sobriquet or something, but it is what everyone called him.

The boat driver had the same name as his son that accompanied us on our trip. The captain got up before us and went to bed before us, but never got to sleep in the boat. I think that the sun was only along for the ride, and he usually sat behind the tarp-covered luggage on the floor. The boat helper’s name was Jonathan and he was the one that tied up the boat, pushed it from the docks, and did other such things.

Those were the main staff and helpers of the trip in the Amazon, and today we left. We started this morning in the boat and went 3 hours downriver. From there, we got into two different taxis and drove to another river, crossed that, and arrived again at the SuperVan. We drove for hours and hours in that before arriving in Cusco again.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Mayday with Macaws

I look out from my nest of branches in the Amazonian rain forest and understand for the umpteenth time why it is called the rain forest; it rains a lot. I am the Red-and-Green Macaw that everyone wants to see during their time in the Amazon. I am waiting for the rain to clear up-if it will-so that I can go out over the water and a hide to eat some clay.

The reason that we as macaws need to eat clay is that 80% of our diet is made up of unripe fruit nuts, and the trees have developed a grudge against us and have put poisons in the fruit so that we should die from eating, but we don’t because we eat clay always before we eat the unripe fruit.

Finally, after all of my cogitations, it is starting to clear up. The rain clouds are moving away and I feel like eating clay. When I get to the clay lick, I am one of the first ones there, so I sit on top of a bamboo stick and wait for something to happen. Eventually, it does, and all of us fly back and forth to see if anything is hiding. When we think it is safe, I am the first one down at the lick, eating. As soon as my two friends start to join me, a vulture flies over and we all fly away. Oh, well, at least I got some clay.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Reve wet his Pants…

…almost. The reason for that was because he might have fallen into a stream that was across the path that we were taking through the rain forest near his father’s house on our way to a clay lick that attracts tapirs and other animals to drink, snort, and bathe in the mineral rich soil. All of that, however, was after a day full of boating and other activities that mainly focused around the water.

We had an early start this morning to be ready to leave in the boat at five from the place where we had been staying for two nights. We all clambered into the blue, aluminum boat and drove downriver towards Hummingbird Lodge and the Madre de Dios river, where we had started  a couple of days prior. At first we looked for jaguars, scanning the banks with alert eyes for the flash of a twitching tail or the sight of a jaguar sun-bathing on a log. However, when it started to rain, we pulled out the tarp and hid underneath it and went to sleep, stopping at the ranger station on the way out of the park.

We finally got out of the Rio Manu, and went along the Madre de Dios River until we arrived at the town of Boca Manu, where we got some more gasoline for the boat that was almost out of the fuel. We then stopped again at Hummingbird Lodge and ate our lunch before continuing on down the river, into the rain. When we got to Reve’s father’s house, we got all of our stuff out from underneath that tarp in the back and climbed up the stairs to our quarters. Eventually, we left on the walk that included the parcel in the first paragraph before arriving at the hide for the tapir lick and sleeping for a while before walking back to the lodge to eat and sleep.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Machetes and More Mud

When one gets stuck on the edge of a muddy banked river and has a machete, what one could do was hack away at the mud for a while until there was a nice set of stairs going up the bank so that the crew and passengers could do what they wanted to do. What we wanted to do in that situation was go on a walk to see an oxbow lake from a tour and to look at a large tree.

Once we could walk up the bank, we walked on a trail to the edge of the lake and then up, up, up the tower to the top and looked out over the lake or a while, seeing birds of various varieties before heading off down again. We stopped again at a lookout over the lake and admired the beauty of the Amazonian rain forest before going on to see the big tree.

When we finished with all of that, we drove back for half-an-hour in the boat to the camp, but the dining room lights wouldn’t work. Reve yelled at the resident natives for a while and they came back with a battery that worked just fine, and it all worked out.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Calm Caiman

Getting right up close to a caiman is interesting, especially in a small wooden boat. The caiman might bolt, attack, or just sit there, waiting for something to happen. The last option was what happened to us today as we sat in a lake after dark on a catamaran.

The catamaran was something like two canoes tied together with planks laid across the top, and in the back ends, the captain and his helper paddled with large paddles while we looked for caimans and otters. We eventually saw a family of 8 Giant River Otters from our boat before docking and relaxing for a while.  That family of otters is the same one that appears in Planet Earth, that our guide, Reve, helped film. After that, we piled back onto the boat in the dark and looked for caimans.

One caiman that we saw let us come right up to us, and we got some good pictures. When we finished with all of that, we got out of the catamaran and walked along the path back to the river and got into the boat to drive back to the new camp, where we will be staying for another night before heading down river.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Tropical Tarantulas

There are only 100 days left on this trip, and we are doing some interesting things to spend those days. We are in the Amazon basin still, and have ridden a boat for most of the day. The title of today’s post is saying how tarantulas do not ever need vacation, as they live in interesting places like Columbia, Costa Rica, and most importantly: Peru.

We took a night walk tonight to use up some time, and saw 4 tarantulas of two different varieties. Averaged out, that would be two of each kind, but we saw three of one kind and one of another. The path that we were on wound its way around in the jungle, leaning around giant trees and weaving in between green thickets.

Our first tarantula was an all-black one that Reve teased out of its hole with a blade of grass. We saw another one of those before turning back, and on the way, we saw an orange and black one that never stayed long out of its hole. The final one was the child of the first one, and once we saw that, we went back to the lodge for another early start.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Mudslides and Mud

With rain, there comes mud. Not with the rain exactly, but the mud forms into its squelchy little self when rain falls from moisture in the air and wets the ground, causing it to be slippery, slimy, and sucking. On dirt roads, the rain and mud can cause mudslides, making the roads nearly or really impassable.

We rode on a road that was the former, not the latter, and were able to make it to where we are now to stay for the night. The place where we are now staying is called Bambu Lodge, built by a carpenter and his sons out of bamboo for guests that are on their way to the river. We are in the Amazon Basin, but have yet to get to any such thing as a port or dock protruding into the river that we have been following down a valley.

We left early this morning at about 5 am in a van made for at least 15 people that only had 8. At the first stop, we dropped off the uncle of our guide, Reve, at his house and then drove on. We drove past and walked though some pre-Incan burial grounds before eating breakfast on the road. We then continued on to the eastern equivalent of Ollantaytambo, before heading up to the pass. We stopped at the gate of Manu National Park but did not go in. From there we went downhill to where we are now, at about 730 meters above sea level. Tomorrow we finally get into the boat and on to the river.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Chocolate Crunches

Today was the day were we finally packed up everything into our backpacks and our small duffel bag to take down to the Amazon tomorrow morning. But first, there was an important thing to do before we left: go to the chocolate museum and make our own chocolate.

At the chocolate museum, we learned about the different stages of chocolate from bean to bar. There are three main different types of bean. Two are grown in South America, one in Africa. In Africa, the main producers are the Ivory Coast and Ghana, where there are a lot of beans grown. In South America, there is one type that is grown naturally and another that is a hybrid between the two grown in South America and Africa.

A tree usually has two seasons of harvest, one from October to March and another from June to August. The one from October to March is the larger one, averaging for about 100 pods per fully grown tree. In the other harvest season, there are only about 50 pods per tree.

The tree starts out in a shade covered nursery, growing about 8 inches tall before it is sold to tree farmers. The tree farmer should plant the tree under shade, preferably plantain or banana trees, and fertilize the plant. The plant will start producing fruit in about 2 or 3 years, but will reach full maturity at about 5 or 6 years of age. The plant needs to be tended to every week so that some fungi will not inhabit it and kill it off before it can produce any food.

After the beans get harvested, they are cut open and the white seeds are carried away to where they are dried in the sun and roasted. They then get but into bags and shipped away. The beans are eventually shelled and crushed, before getting mixed with milk powder and sugar to make the chocolate. Eventually, the chocolate gets heated at 40 degrees Celsius and then mixed and molded to form chocolate bars, which take 10 beans to make a 100g bar .

We then went to the factory to make ourselves some chocolate. We first roasted some beans in a clay pot before grinding them into a paste with mortar and pestle. We then used that paste to make several different kinds of drinks; an early Spanish hot chocolate and an early Mayan hot chocolate. The Mayan drink was a little bit spicy, but my favorite was definitely the Spanish hot chocolate.

We also learned that when the Spanish first got to the New World, they thought that the Mayan’s drink was too spicy and bitter. But when the Spanish took some of the beans home, the discovered how delectable the chocolate really is and made the first hot chocolate as we know it. They also kept the chocolate a secret from the rest of the Old World for 100 years!

Then the best part began: we got some warmed chocolate from a bowl and used a variety of molds and mix-ins to obtain chocolate. I got a mold for six chocolate bars and made each one different. There was one that had Brazil nuts, peanuts, and almonds ground up and there was another with peanut butter M&Ms with raisins. When we finished, we went back home for an hour to let the chocolate set. When we got it and tasted it, it was really, really good.

That’s all for now, Folks!

We saw Saqsaywaman, but didn’t go in…

Pronounced ‘sexy woman,’ Saqsaywaman is an Incan fortress overlooking the Incan city of Cusco. We did not go into the fortress because of the admission cost, but we did climb up and see the white Christ that is lit up at night and overlooks the city.

It was a long ways up, and looking down over the city, we realized that the city ended very abruptly. There is the main square, a small suburb, and then…nothing. The rolling fields of green, separated from time to time with sprinklings of dark green trees, went on forever over and beside the hills that formed Cusco’s geographic location.

There were not very many terraces, so the hills were smoother, but some still grew quinoa and corn to supply the city and the farmers with food. We were impressed by how serene it was, even though, when we turned around, there were the sounds of the city; the car horns, the church bells, and the din of people speaking to each other.

We finally went down the hill with alacrity; being happy that we were not climbing up the flights and flights of stairs that wound their winding way higher and higher up the hill. We were lucky to have climbed up the hill in a valley, but were climbing down the hill on the middle of the face. Later, we had dinner at another organic restaurant, and my ravioli was scrumptious!

That’s all for now, Folks!

Amazonian Anacondas

That is what we are hoping to see on our 7-day tour in the Amazon basin starting on Monday. We went to the office of the tour company this morning to be briefed on our physical fitness and to sign that we will not hold the company accountable if we get injured or killed.

Another thing that we did during our interview was try on rubber boots. When we finished with all of that, we went to the Plaza de Armas. From there, we went up the hill to our hostel and I worked on schoolwork for a long, long time before leaving for dinner.

We had a delicious dinner, and the staff was really nice and gave us a complimentary dessert, which was good. After that, we went to our hostel and bedded down for the night.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Some Smart Incas

Breaking rocks is hard. We as modern day humans are still are astonished by how the Incas could put rocks together seamlessly without mortar to survive for hundreds of years. One of the methods of cutting the rock was pounding it with harder rocks, while another was drilling holes, putting in sticks, and then soaking the wood to make it expand and crack the rock.

The moved the rocks from the quarry 50 km away using wooden rollers to go across a river and up the hill. Using alpaca and straw ropes, the dragged the rocks up the ramps. There is a giant rock that is along the roadside, and giant tractors could not even budge it from its resting place in the ground.

We learned all of that from our guide for our half day tour today in Ollantaytambo (Olly).  When we left, we drove to Cusco and there we checked into our bed and bakery before going out for dinner in town. When we finished with that, we went to a bank and extracted some money from the depths of an ATM before heading back to our B&B.

That’s all for now, Folks!

The Fountain of Eternal Diarrhea

Some people call the fountain in the ancient city of Machu Picchu the ‘Fountain of Eternal Life,’ but now, it is dirty and there is not enough oxygen in the water, so it is now the fountain of eternal diarrhea. We did not partake of that water, though we did see it a lot.

We left Aguas Calientes this morning and rode the bus up to Machu Picchu. At Machu Picchu, we immediately went across the city to the trailhead for Waynapicchu.  We walked up and down and then up some more, gripping the steel cables tightly when needed, before finally arriving at the top and seeing the view of Machu Picchu and the surrounding land.

By the time that we got back down to the bottom, it was time to go on our tour around the city. We went with 12 other people and learned about how the Incas worshiped the Spaniards when they arrived because they thought that they were gods, and then got slaughtered by the thousands. When the tour was finished, we went off by ourselves and looked at some viscachas and at how closely knit the rocks were.

When we were finished with all of that, we got back in the bus and rode back to AC, were we went to the train station to go back to Olly, where we are now.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Almost There

We are in the town that is at the end of the Sacred Valley closest to Machu Picchu. Tomorrow is the day that we will go up to the ruined Inca town and see why they lived there and see some of their buildings. We are also going to go up Wayna Picchu, which is a large hill at one end of Machu Picchu and is the hill that has the Temple of the Sun on the top.

We are going to go to everything tomorrow, and we are now in Aguas Calientes. We met our guide tonight and talked to him about what we are going to do in the morning. We take the bus around 6:30 to the ruins and then go up Wayna Picchu between 7 and 8 am.

That’s all for now, Folks!

When in Ollie

The real name of the town that we are now in is really long and complicated, but at least it starts with an ‘o.’ It is out between Cusco and Macchu Picchu, and so we are staying the night in preparation to leave in the morning for Aguas Calientes. Aguas Calientes is on the bottom of the bus route up to the Macchu Picchu area where we will go in two days’ time.

Ollie is a town in the Sacred Valley that has hills with ruins surrounding it. Today, we climbed up one of the hills to see some granaries and to look out over our town. It looks like an ear of corn with the roofs that have exactly the same pattern of reddish-brown shingles that overlap each other. The town is very small and we have walked across it several times.

When we left the hill with granaries, we went over to the bottom of the hill with the Temple of the Sun but didn’t go up because of the admission costs. At the bottom, we saw a really small kitten on some steps and declined to pay some men in traditional dress for their services of standing in front of our camera lens. Later, after we went to dinner, we got some giant brownies and came back to our lodge for the night.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Goodbye Mister Gooey

Today we said good-bye to our kind and generous benefactor, the man of the apartment, the Dr. Gooey.  He left this evening with his heavy suitcases and backpack on a taxi towards the airport. This is the last that we will see of him for at least 3½ months. We spent our last day with him going around town and into it to buy some things that were needed and not.

When we woke up this morning, we all ate breakfast and then my mother, Dr. Gooey, and I went into town and went to some local shops where my mother bought something for the table and I bought a drawing pad. We then went back to the apartment, but on the way went to a supermarket and mall to see some ice cream.

When we got back to the apartment, we puttered around for a little while before going to the ice cream shop that my mother and I had scouted out. When we finished with that, we went over to the shops and bought nothing before leaving the mall for real. When we left, we went back to the apartment, and later we went to a restaurant for dinner before saying goodbye to Uncle Richard.

That’s all for now, Folks!

An Evening with the Riddles

Though we did not meet a guy named Tom tonight, we did tell some riddles to one another in the aspiration to get the other’s brain cells to work harder. I was the main one asking questions, though several times in during dinner my father did mention the ‘What is in my pocketses?’ riddle. We did not, however, ever ask that riddle because it was not actually a riddle, just a simple guessing game where some creatures in dark mines know not of what you are speaking.
We did all of that in an Italian restaurant that was overlooking a busy street and on top of a casino. Before that, we had done several things. We left the apartment this morning and went out to a monestary where there was a large, nice, low-light library with a lot of sheepskin bound books. After we had looked around that, we went downstairs and looked at the stuffed birds and such from the Amazon and saw a lot of clay jars. When we finished, we left the monestary and the workers locked the door behind us. From there, we went over to the market where there was everything from chicken feet to flowers to linens. There was also meat of every variety. We then left and did a tour of the cathedral. Among other things, the large bell in the left tower was 5 tons in weight and it took two men to swing the clapper.
After that, we went to Creppisimo, a crepe shop, and ate some crepes. Eventually, we left, and went back to the apartment for some naps. We did some things and took naps before deciding to go out and go to the Italian restaurant. When we finished eating, we thought about riddles for some time before heading back to the flat to do this post and to go to bed.
That’s all for now, Folks!

Sensors, Seismographs, and Seismologists

After being woken up this morning in the ‘maid’s quarters,’ I ate a hurried breakfast and got into a truck with Uncle Richard, my father, and Victor, a seismologist for one of the colleges here in Arequipa. We drove out of town on a road that used to be the main throughway between Arequipa and Cusco. It is now mainly unused, so there was no traffic on our way up through the thousands of meters. We went up and up and finally arrived at the sensor housing that we were going to decommission.

The sensor was a metallic cylinder that weighed about 45 pounds and had an internal pendulum to measure quakes from different areas. It is expensive and fits into a plastic box about twice its size for shipping purposes. We officially decommissioned the sensor as soon as we had moved it from its specified corner where it had been resting for 5 years, pointing north. After we had packed everything away and taped the wires together, we rode back down the mountain.

When we got back to the flat, we messed around for a little bit before we all went with Victor to a mill, where there were llamas, and to a storage facility for the CalTech equipment. In the basement, there were several seismographs that were working while we talked. Victor turned up the amplifier for the sensor and made it look like there had been an earthquake on one of the seismographs for our amusement and we looked at the various sensors in the three rooms. When we were finished, we went back to the flat.

That’s all for now, Folks!

My Mother the Big Bird

With a yellow poncho and only one arm sticking out of the arm hole, my mother commented that she was the ‘big bird.’ We are in Arequipa now and are staying at my Uncle Richard’s apartment in downtown. We woke up this morning early in Arica and drove to the Arica international Airport. When we got there, the airport was empty. After waiting and waiting for a while.

There was finally someone at the check-in counter and we checked in and were the first people waiting upstairs for the police counter to open. We waited for a while upstairs before the police counter opened and we were able to go through that and security before waiting for a while more for the airplane to get ready.

After 35 minutes of flight time, we popped down into Arequipa and found my Uncle Richard waiting for us and reading a novel. When we got out into the parking lot, we found a taxi and all 5 of us got into a space meant for only 4 people. When we finished up with that and all of the grunting of going up 4 flights of stairs to my uncle’s flat, where we spread our stuff out for a while. When we decided to leave, we went out to get keys, Claro, and look into some museums.

We first got some keys duplicated by a streetside vendor before walking down the street for a ways and getting to a convent. We learned about how the nuns were not allowed to leave the walls and only their slaves could go out. We also learned how they were NEVER EVER allowed to see men, and even the priest for Mass was always behind a curtain.

When we finished up with that, we found that outside, it was raining, so on a street corner, we bought a poncho and an umbrella and went to a grocery store to buy some necessities. After going through the necessary steps to get a taxi back to the flat, we rode back and the new keys worked. For the rest of the evening, we have eaten See’s Candy, talked, and done things on some of the various electronics scattered around the room.

That’s all for now, Folks!

‘The Only Vegetarian Restaurant in Chile’

That is what my father called the restaurant that we went to for lunch/dinner today to try to get to bed earlier. It didn’t work. It is 9:35 PM according to my watch and I am still writing this. The reason for that is because a man name Jack from Washington (state) played the banjo while I played one of the guitars that the hostel provides.

For the sake of my readers, I will start at the beginning of our day: As we are in Arica now, we decided to sleep in to get a little bit more rest. After waking up and getting some food for breakfast in the café downstairs, we stayed inside well past 11:30 playing scrabble, labeling pictures, and reading.

When we finally left the house, we went to the restaurant mentioned above in the first paragraph and ate some vege-meat, rice, and vegetables. When we left, we decided not to buy some of the scrumptious looking pastries behind the counter at the door, even though we were still feeling a bit esurient.

After getting back home, we decided to go back to the market street and get some helado to eat. Eryn and Father shared a bowl of three flavors, while my mother and I shared another. When we finished, we went back home and I played the guitar with Jack on his banjo.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Mas Zorros

Or ‘More Foxes’

The time for us to leave was rapidly approaching when we had finished packing everything into bags into the dining room and left off in our gray car up the mountainside to where we saw the foxes yesterday. When we got up to the top, we went over to where we had seen a lot of viscachas yesterday, and low and behold, there was a fox, or zorro in Spanish.

It had what we think was a dead mouse in its mouth and it went up to a little cave and the mouse disappeared. When the fox got back out of the cave and walked along the rock-strewn hillside towards where we saw the three yesterday. When it got out of our line of site, we went across the small bridge and across the road.

Across the road, we saw some more viscachas and that was about it. After my father took several pictures of a mouse, we went back across the road to our and down the hill back to Putre to get out stuff and go down to sea-level and Arica. When we got to the bottom, we went to the place where we had stayed last time and lounged around before going to dinner.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Viscachas, Vicunas, and Zorros

Parinacota. The name is the name of a town, volcano, and province. All of which are in Chile. The town has an old church. But the guy that runs the place went on strike when a new cell phone tower went up a ways away from the church yard. The bell tower has to working bells and two without clappers. The stairs up on the inside were very short. Even I had to duck down to get up to the top and look out over the small town.

Parinacota was on our tour with Barbara today. We went out in our Nissan X-Trail up the shortcut, and almost got hit when a red mining truck came screaming around the corner. Luckily, both the driver and my father had good reflexes and while he went off the road on our side, we went over to the other side before continuing on. After driving for a while, we got to a hot spring and got out to walk for a while. On the way to the springs, we saw several viscachas sitting on rocks alongside the path. After feeling the water, we went across a bridge, and on the other side, Eryn spotted some movement. I identified them as foxes through Barbara’s scope and with my eyes, and it turned out to be 3 cubs playing around on the opposite hill.

After watching the foxes disappear and seeing some vicunas run around a bit, we went out to the other side of the rod and saw some viscachas again and then, in the distance, some rheas. After doing the necessary ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing,’ we went back to the car and drove away towards Parinacota. After Parinacota, we went back to Putre.

That’s all for now, Folks!

 

4795

The sign said 5200 m.s.n.m., which I think means 5200 meters above sea level, but according to our GPS, the highest that we went today was 4795 meters above sea level. However, I am not just writing this post to argue about what signs and electronics say, I am writing this post so that anyone out there who wants to learn more about our trip can do it without leaving the comfort of their office chairs.

We drove up the hill this morning from Putre, without guides or other people, just us. We went up on the dirt road and saw some Andean Deer eating from farmers’ terraces, but those were about the only animals that we saw for that time. After that, we turned left off of the main highway and onto a road that went up towards some snowy peaks and pinnacles, up north.

After getting up to the summit with the aforementioned sign, we started down the other side, figuratively speaking, as we were still way below the top of the mountain, barely above the desert-like plains down below us. After driving for a while, we got to a large stream, , where everybody got out to see what it was like. Eryn and I crawled through the culvert. It was fun, and we were really glad that we had been wearing hiking boots to go through it, not shoes that were for running and were made of foam.

While we drove from town to town and back on that road, we saw a lot of vicunas on either side of the road. At the end, we turned around and went back the way we came, seeing-again- lots of vicunas alongside the car. When we got back to Putre, we did some work and then ate dinner.

That’s all for now,  Folks!

Rheas, Roads, and Rain

In the morning waking up,
showering and eating food,
Drinking juice from a cup,
trying to be in a good mood.

We drive to our guide’s house,
pick her up and drive down, the road with my mom’s spouse.
Away, away, from town.

Seeing deer in numbers,
driving down the road,
trying not to slumber,
seeing fields that were sowed.

Seeing an animal,
right alongside the car
a rodent and mammal,
off of the roadside tar.

Going past the police,
Stopping for some llamas,
Seeing Andean Geese,
Alpacas and their mamas

Looking at flamingoes,
and coots of different kinds,
our time draws to a close,
a rhea we might find.

Reveling in no rain,
coming home and reading,
Wetness would be a pain,
But not at all would eating.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Cars and Camalids

Just like yesterday, Eryn and I slept through Eryn’s watch alarm, and my mother was late in trying to get us up. After taking showers, my sister and I joined our parents in the café, and just as we were getting our food, Barbara, an Alaskan and our tour guide, arrived. We chatted with her for a while about what animals we wanted to see, and then she left and we got in the car for a drive.

We went for a while on the rode that we took into town yesterday, and then, at a truck stop, took a road south. We were in the ‘zonas de curvas’ and there were a lot of very pretty flowers. From pink to blue to red, there were lots and lots of different colors that brightened up the day, unlike what would happen if there was only the usual arrangement of dead grass and cactus.

Eventually, we got to the town that we had been driving to; Belen. In Belen, we got out of the car and walked around some of the 4 churches in the central plaza. At the top of a flight of stairs, my sister and I climbed up an open bell tower and looked out over the town that was even smaller than Putre. When we got down, we all hopped into the car and started the drive back home, passing by a hydroelectric plant.

When we got back, Eryn and I worked on schoolwork while my father worked on labeling pictures. When we got bored of that, we took a walk through the rain towards town. In town, we got some fruits for tomorrow’s tour before going over to a restaurant. After the restaurant, we went to a shop, where I bought an alpaca wool scarf while Eryn and Father both bought some ice cream.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Traveling Bird

A red headed condor flies up, up, up. Being the bird of Chile, condors are protected, and Joyjon the condor knows that, but he still remembers the days when people hunted his kind and vultures for feathers. It is nearing evening, and the bird flies over the coastal town of Arica, which sees the least precipitation of all the cities in the world.

Joyjon is a well-traveled bird, having gone from the southern tip of the new world up to Peru to see his relatives and Machu Picchu. He has been to most cities, from Valparaiso to San Pedro de Atacama to Santiago. Now, he was back in his home city, Arica, where he was born on the large rock that overlooks the city.

He flies over Arica, seeing people with blue and black suitcases board onto a taxi and drive off. Joyjon decides to follow them, and follows the four people to number 602 on Chocabuco. It is a rental car place, but there is no one there, and they go off to the Arica Surf House, check in, and go out to eat dinner. When they come back, they act all festive, like it is someone’s birthday, and Joyjon goes to sleep in a park.

When Joyjon wakes up, he decides that he wants to follow the family of four from the Arica Surf house, and sees the man go back to the rental car place and get the car, and when he gets back, the others come with 30 liters of water and some food.  Then they get into the car and drive east towards Putre.

Up on the high Andes, the air is thin, but it felt good for Joyjon to be up there after so long of being around sea level, stealing some fish off of fishing boats when he became really desperate. He tracks the silver SUV up the mountains and to the little town of Putre, where they get out and check in to a lodge. Joyjon decides to see if the hunting is any good, and heads off for the night.

That’s all for now, Folks!

When in Calama

Pancho, our host in San Pedro de Atacama, told us that he would have recommended us to skip staying the night in Calama, and just take the night bus up to Arica from San Pedro de Atacama, but by then, we had already booked everything that would happen to take us into Calama and out again the next day. Pancho also said that Calama was the ‘ugliest city in Chile’ but that it would be good for us to experience that.

Today we left the hostel and went to town. My father and I rented bikes to ride for an hour, while my sister and mother went out shopping. Father and I went out towards the geysers, and then, about 40 minutes into our hour, we started coming back. Back at the bike rental shop, we got my father’s driver’s license and started towards the hostel. On the way, we stopped and chatted with our Canadian friends from yesterday’s sandboarding.

When we got back to the hostel, my mother and sister were already there, so my mother and I played a game of chess. I won. From there, I watched the Simpsons on the TV while my father chatted with the Brazilian man that went with us three days ago on the full day tour. After that, we got on a bus and went to Calama, where we checked into our hotel to spend the night.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Speeding with a Sandboard

Jen, Ted, Eryn, Mother, Father, three young women, and I went sandboarding today. Jen and Ted are backpacking around the world for six and a half months, ending up in Sydney, Australia, where they plan to live and work…For a little while at least. The three young women spoke mostly Spanish, but knew some English.

We all got in a van at the office and went off to Death Valley, where we planned to sandboard. The road was very washed out, but by going in a zig-zag line and not looking over the edge, we made it to the dunes.

The first thing that I noticed was that it was a tall dune. Tall dunes are nice when one is at sea level, but up at 7500 feet, it is less fun. We went up the dunes and got our bindings on, before I zoomed slowly down the hill. At the bottom, I climbed back up again, starting a cycle where I went down and then up, over and over again.

On my last run, I went from a high point and did spins, going down, down, down, trying not to get sand in my eyes while still trying not to slow down too much. At the bottom, we packed up the sandboards and left for the Moon Valley, for sunset.

While waiting for sunset to happen, I made a stack of rocks almost as tall as I was, testing its strength by throwing rocks at it and watching it not fall down. After sunset, when we left, I saw an annoying man tossing rocks at my beautiful tower. I hope it is still standing.

That’s all for now, Folks!

So Long, Farewell

After two days of doing almost the exact same thing, the Australians split from our schedule. Joy, the sister-in-law of David, left early this morning before we even woke up, but we saw David and Gloria, his wife, at breakfast. During breakfast, we talked about their schedule, they were leaving at two.

We spent the whole morning vegging around, poring over our electronics. My mother and I went out and did some shopping, and my mother got a table cloth at a local shop. When we got back, we talked about what to do, and in the end we voted to go on a sandboarding trip tomorrow evening, with the parents just watching the kids go sandboarding.

On our walk to our daily ice cream, we stopped at several sandboarding places and got some information about times and such before finally eating our ice cream in the plaza. When we got back to the hostel, the Australian couple was gone, and we got ready to go on a walk to an abandoned city, which we did, after a 3 km walk, and then we ate dinner, which was very delicious, with quinoa and other scrumptious items.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Isn’t it CUTE!

The baby vicuña ran down the dusty dirt road, going this way and that, trying to find a way out of the road and up the hill to where its parents were. The driver was unsympathetic, driving the baby down the road away from the others. Suddenly, out of the shadows, there rang a high-pitched voice,

“Isn’t it CUTE!!!”

The light changed and the new lighting showed that the speaker was my mother. We figured that she wasn’t talking about the driver, but we couldn’t be sure, so we kept our mouths shut. Eventually, the vicuña found a spot where it could scramble up the slope and all was well.

That is what happened during our full day tour in the Atacama Desert and Salar. We started out in a large van with the Australian man and women, another man from our hostel, a Bolivian woman, and a couple from London. We started out by going to a town where we saw some llamas and some hand knitted sweaters, blankets, and mittens. After that we went to some flamingo lakes out in the salt pans, and then went high up into the mountains.

After going far up and seeing two lagoons, we went back down, and that was where we saw what happened in the first paragraphs. Then we went down to the valley, ate lunch, and drove back to our hostel, where I played chess with David and Joy, his sister-in-law, the teacher.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Cast Cutting Cast

Jerry: Doctor, Orthopedic Surgeon, Steak Knife Wielder

Susan: Patient, Cast Owner

Ethan: Assistant Doctor, Holder of Gigantic Scissors and Steak Knife

Eryn: Media

On doctor’s orders, my father cut some of my mother’s cast off today, making her be able to bend her elbow, and she is very pleased with that. The time that we did the operation was about midday, when the sun was shining directly on us. My father got a plain old steak knife from the kitchen and I got a pair of scissors from the laundry room, before going to the operating chair, where my mother was seated and wincing in anticipation.

My father began by cutting horizontally around where he was going to make the final cut, and then did a vertical cut. With a rip, he took a chunk of the cast off, tossing it in the trash can that I had brought along. He continued on doing this until he got it close down to the first cut, and then used the scissors to cut off the final bit off cotton and cast.

After all of that was done and another few hours had slipped away, we went on a tour with some Brisbanites from Australia. They were very talkative once we got to the lagoon, and David talked about his home in Queensland. His wife and sister in law, pharmacist and teacher, respectively, were with him on an annual 4-week trip around South America. They were all very nice.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Traveling on Thursday

This morning I woke up and lay in my bed, looking down at the pillow and seeing the light spill into my room from the bathroom. I heard my sister get annoyed and heard the words ‘water’ and ‘not working.’ So I literally put one and one together and figured out that the water was not working. I didn’t get to take a shower.

After lugging all of our luggage down to the bottom of our staircase, our driver, Louis, came and picked us up to take us to the Santiago Airport. I slept the whole way, so I don’t know what happened, if anything. When we got to the airport, we got in the line and waited our way through to the check-in, where we checked our bags and got our boarding passes.

Security was fast, luckily, so when we got to the gate, they were right about to leave, and we weren’t left behind to find another way to Calama. As I said, we were right on time, and we caught our flight to Calama. Calama is a mining town, popping up when there was a mine of copper found nearby. When we touched down in Calama, we saw that it was a small airport, and when we got inside, we had no trouble locating our travel service to San Pedro de Atacama.

I, as usual, slept the whole ride, and woke up when we arrived, seeing mud and brick walls, bicycles, dogs, and people. For a population of about 1500 people, a lot of them are dedicated to the tourist industry. The hostel that we are staying in is nice, nicer than in Uluru, but not so nice as, say, the MD House. But it is okay.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Walking on Wednesday

The most interesting part of our day was spent doing something that is not very interesting; walking. When we left this afternoon to get some sandwiches for a lunch-dinner to get to bed early tonight, my mother had picked the place where she thought we should go.

Of we went…We went over to another street and then down some of the ubiquitous steps. Before we went down a set, though, my father pointed out another direction that we should go to get to where we wanted to go. We went down the hill for a while before arriving at a street. We decided that we were on the wrong street, and went down the hill to a large intersection and then up a one-way street. After following the twists and turns through a neighborhood, we decided that we were on the wrong street and that, actually, the one that we had come in on was the correct one.

Back in the intersection, we went up the one that had brought us there in the first place and up. It seemed like a more likely place to have the restaurant, but there was no restaurant in sight, even though we went up a long ways. We finally all agreed that we were on the wrong street (again!) and went back down and to the other street that went up the hill that we hadn’t been on.

About one block up, we came upon the restaurant that we had been searching for one hour. Sadly though, after all of that walking, we were barred from the entrance and shown a sign that said that it was a bar and there were no children under the age of 18 allowed, but in Spanish.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Posting and a Poet

We left around noon, as usual, and went down the hill with a large box to mail home. We talked as we walked and named a new cat, which is on the top of the list:

Name Description
Tiger Black and orange stripes, white belly
Olga Black with white feet
Azul Gray and black spots on brown with a blue collar
Rosetta Gray with a Pink collar
Pineapple Black with orange spots
Midnight Black
Bassy (short for Basket-Case) White with orange back; sleeps in a basket most of the day
Jasmine White with gray spots
Micky White with orange back, really skinny
Africa Black with orange spots, smooth fur, skinny tail
Pillar Black with orange spots, askew fur and wide tail

 

As you can see, we have named a lot, and we have also named some dogs, but I have decided not to go into that today. As I said: We were walking down the hill, and then, my father, who was carrying the large, heavy box, slid on the slippery tile work that goes down the center of the sidewalk and fell. Luckily, he never let go of the box and fell on his butt, so it wasn’t too bad, but his left leg got all bloody.

After dropping off the box at the post office, we went all the way up the hill to the house of the poet Neruda. The house looked large from the outside, but on the inside it only had one bedroom. Still, it was a cool house because each floor was smaller than the one before itself. On the very top, there was only one room, which was the poet’s study. It had a very good view.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A-rhyming Ascencors

In the morning we got out of bed,
lined up at the table to get fed.
Doing some schoolwork to get ahead,
trying not to just go back to bed.

Leaving around noon or there about,
Going to the stairs for another bout.
Walking, walking, always towards the hill,
we always seem to be staying still.

From then on we went towards the hill, finally stopping where there was a tunnel going straight into the side of the hill like a wound bleeding humans. We decided to go in and when we got to the end, we took an elevator up. The called the whole thing an Ascensor. It was probably my favorite one that we have ever rode.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Quakes, Rides, and Sugar

We left the house this morning at about noon. We first walked up and looked at a large church right up our hill that had been ringing its bells recently before going down another street until its end. The end of the road was actually just the end of where one could drive, and there were stairs going down the hill from there on. We took a staircase down and passed a cat eating leaves off a bush, though it could have just been scratching.

At the bottom of the stairs, we took a right and then took a left, heading towards the port. We passed by a plaza called Plaza Anibal Pinto where there were good looking ice cream flavors. We voted to keep going towards Cerro Concepción, a hill that we had been to a few days ago with on our walking tour, also holding the number one rated restaurant in all of Valparaiso and its 43 hills. We went over to the Ascensor Concepción and paid 300 Chilean Pesos each to go up the hill the fast way. With a lurch, we went up the hill.

We walked for a while before arriving at the door of the Baker Street Café that wasn’t on Baker Street. Inside, we ate sandwiches and brownies and drinking chocolate submarines (chocolate and hot milk), Mochachinos, and water and sugaring ourselves up before deciding to go back to the ice cream plaza and get some more sugar. Yum!

After the ice cream, we decided to go to the supermarket to buy supplies and food to eat at home tonight and to have actual cereal, not just cereal that tasted like the box it came out of.  At the market, we were buying some vegetables when suddenly, the ground lurched, and all the ceiling signs and the bananas started swinging back and forth but it stopped just as abruptly as it had started. I thought it was really fun, as it was my first earthquake, but my mother wasn’t as enthusiastic about the quake.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Swinging in a Ship

Back when we were in South Africa, in Cape Town, the reader may recall that we went to an amusement park called Ratanga Junction. There, and other places as well, there were large ship-like rides that worked like giant swings. Well, there is one here in Valparaiso that is only about US$1 to ride. It is in a park near our apartment and is very fun: I know that because I rode it.

After eating breakfast this morning, we vegged around a while on the couch doing crossword puzzles and such before finally deciding to go out on a walk to see the ocean, see the arch, look at some parks, and eat ice cream. We achieved all of those, but the part that was most interesting to me was when I went on the swinging ship.

We had walked down the hill and had completed the last thing on our list; eating ice cream, and were browsing through the parks. We went through the one that we had been by earlier and then went on to the one on the other side of a far street. There were several swings and a couple of small rides, the one that looked the most fun was the swinging ship.

I coughed up my $500 Chilean Pesos and got my token to ride. When another person got their token, she and I got to ride on opposite ends. It started up, and with a creak and a groan we started to swing higher and higher and faster and faster until we were nearly vertical. With that vertical swinging, I was very glad that there was a bar across my lap holding me down. Eventually, I was brave enough to hold my arms up for two full swings at full power before holding onto the pole again.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Waking and Walking; a day in Valparaiso

Today was a day where we got some of the exercise that the body needs every day. The reason for that is that we went up and down the long flights of stairs near our house to get away and to it 3 times throughout the course of the day when the sun was in the sky and when the first stars were starting to come out of the blanket of darkness that had settled around us, blotting out all glimpses of the sun as it continued to light other parts of the earth in our continuing circle around the star.

We woke up and ate the breakfast that we had bought at a supermarket last night before sitting around and reading books. After that, we arranged a tour from ‘Tours 4 Tips’ with Nacho, and then went into town to look for money to pay our guide, Benjamin. When the guide arrived and after we had gone up the flights of stairs once to get back from the bank, it turned out that he was not Benjamin, that Benjamin was busy, and that our new guide’s name was Francisco. As the tour was a walking tour, we went by foot until reaching the bottom of our hill (one of 43 in the city) and taking a trolley bus over to the port. The reason for the trolley bus, our guide had explained, was because it took a long time to get to the port by foot and he didn’t want to use up our precious time of 3 hours.

At the port, we got off the bus and looked out across the blue-green water filled with boats of all shapes and sizes, from great cruise ships, to small fishing boats, to cargo boats, almost every type of boat was accounted for. While he explained how there were a lot of poor people around begging and pickpocketing from people, a beggar came up as though top prove his point. We looked out over the Navy building, which was blue, and under one of the arches, an ornate plaque with curls said ‘Armada de Chile,’ the Armada of Chile. Out in the harbor, there were also several large, gray, metal, dull, Navy ships, sitting by the edge of the port, as if being springs, waiting for someone or something to push their luck to far and have them push them away, maybe down to Davy Jones’ locker, but who knows?

From there on, we walked along one of the streets and imagined it in its former glory, all stonework, buzzing, humming, and alive with people, sounds, smells, and sights. All normal sights, except now, instead of having people on balconies lining up their laundry on a line or listening to the radio with a beer and a friend or two, there is nothing but boarded up windows and crumbling banisters, supporting arches cracked under their weight that they have been bearing for years, not complaining as they are stone, unyielding until the end. Another house that we went into also used to be full of glory, though it had not lost as much of its grandeur. It still had green onyx steps and English oak floorboards, still carved doors and banisters and wall panels. But in the end, under it all, there was an incompleteness;  the onyx was cracked, the floorboards faded and scuffed, the carvings on doors were, in some cases, almost completely rubbed away by people touching them. The roof used to be glass, classy and in style. Now someone has replaces that style and touch with some thin corrugated material, yellow and blue and hardly held together. In the end, it was an almost pitiful display of what was once one of the richest streets in all of Latin America now reduced to shambles.

We went back out of what used to be the rich section and went up an ascencio, which is like an elevator that goes up hills on a track like a train on a very steep incline. At the top, we paused for a minute and marveled at the architecture of a building that turned out to be a free museum that we didn’t have time to go to at the moment, but planned to later. We then heard about how graffiti artists respected the street artists and if you had your house painted by a street artist, most of the ‘taggers’ wouldn’t touch your house. We walked past several up-to-date restaurants with views and a large selection of wine and immersed ourselves in learning why there were small, de-elevated sections in the middle of some alleys; they were for horses and rainwater and horse poop, to wash it all away when the rains came, letting there be a clean slate to start over again. We then walked down several streets and into a trolley car and then back up our hill, making it twice. Eventually, we went out to eat, and then down the hill for ice cream, having to come back up again to get home for the night, making it three times coming up the hill to go home.

That’s all for now, Folks!

2 Days ago, Yesterday, and Today, or an Adventure to Valparaiso

Two Days Ago:

We woke up and ate pie and fruit for breakfast before waiting outside of the hostel for the man with a tour bus to take us away from Valdivia for a day and go around to waterfalls and such. When our tour guide arrived, he was with a lady who, unlike himself, could speak some English.

We were off. Our first stop wasn’t really a stop as such, we just waited for a ferry to come to our side of the river and take us to the other. From there we went to a gravel bed in a turn of the river and climbed up past blackberry vines, eating some, to the railway bridge that spanned the bridge.

The bridge was not in use anymore, and José, our guide, and I walked along the ties, jumping from one to the next all the way across the river. Everyone else walked along the edge where there was a handrail. At the far side of the river, we went by a house and ate some apples, took pictures of flowers, and then walked back across the river on the bridge.

From there we went to several other places, not the least of which was Huilo Huilo, a waterfall that had enough mist to make a rainbow visible through a camera. Other things that we did included walking by a church, walking on the beach of the lake, kicking stones off a cliff, and eating dinner near Argentina.

Yesterday:

Yesterday we didn’t do much; we walked along the waterfront in Valdivia and tried out the regional drink-Mote con Hueslos or something along those lines- before walking to the mall for some ice cream.

After ice cream, we walked for a while before going back to the hostel, getting our stuff, and going to the bus station. At the bus station, we waited, and right on time, in one of the slots, appeared our 2130 hrs. bus to take us to Santiago. We got on the bus and went off to sleep, and when we awoke, we were in Santiago.

Today:

We waited…and waited, but our appointed driver never showed up. Eventually, he called back and said that he sent a representative for himself to take us to where we needed to go; Valparaiso.

The new driver showed up soon, and with his good English skills, began to show us around Santiago in his van and walking. After walking around for about an hour, we got back in the van and started our drive away from Santiago. Eventually, after a very long tunnel, we got some lunch-chicken legs. From there we drove all the way to Valparaiso and got checked into our apartment, where we are now.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Playing in a Park

We woke up this morning and did everything as usual right until we walked out of the electronically-opening gate. The only exception was that my mother and I walked to the laundry facilities and dropped off a load to be washed, dried, and ready to pick up at the end of the day.

We walked down the river towards the omnibus terminal where we had come in at night, and went past that a ways. When we got to a street corner, we looked at our map and there was supposed to be a tower right at that corner, but it had seemingly disappeared. We walked up this new street, and there another block up the street was a small tower that had been a dungeon.

We saw a park nearby, and presumed that it was the large park that we had seen on the map. It wasn’t. After sitting on some of the benches for a while, we saw some trees that looked like the park that we wanted and went over there, stopping on the way for some ice cream. At the large park, as it was the large park, we lounged around on the exercise equipment and the playground and did flips. Eryn was interested in hanging by the back of her knees from a bar six feet above the ground, while I preferred to climb some poles that were very tall.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Boats and Battles

I watch it through a haze, as though other thoughts cloud my vision in a way of trying to get to the forefront of my mind so I might focus on them, the sad thoughts, the proud thoughts, and the boring thoughts, all trying to get accepted. But I need to focus, everyone around is staring at the men that march in black, white, and red uniforms with an orange and red striped flag that they raise to a flagpole.

I remember what had happened for us to arrive here, and I review it unconsciously in my head while I watch what is happening. My family and I woke up and ate this morning and then sat and read for a while. I read a book called Dodger and everyone else did their own thing. We finally left for a boat tour that we had booked yesterday that had ‘no announcements and the only time that someone talked on a microphone was when questions were asked.

They were wrong. I think that as I watch the soldiers march up the stairs to where we are, the drummer tapping a steady beat on a drum, while the men hold either swords of muskets, while the man at the back only holds up his pants. When we had gotten on the boat, we were privy to loads and loads on announcements by a man who though he was funny in Spanish, but since we couldn’t understand a word of what he said, it wasn’t funny.

We had sailed for a while before docking in a town and seeing a fort before going back to the boat. From there we went across the bay to a town called Corral and went up to the fort there, where they were just about to do a show. The men now get called to arms and crowd next to the guns with their old muskets pointed down to below. Suddenly, there is a shout, and a unit of men in blue rush up the slope. As opponents and protectors of the fort that we are standing on, the men in red are bound by duty to do what they have to do to keep the fort.

There is a scuffle and suddenly, after a sedate swordfight of only four metal clangs, the men in red are standing before us, heads down, defeated. Their swords, what little of them are left, are taken away, along with flags, muskets, and a derringer from the captain.  The blue captain sheaths his broadsword and points his ceremonial sword to the top of the flagpole as the red and orange flag goes down and the Chilean flag goes up.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Message about a Market

We have gone to a market several times, and each time has been different. The market in question is the disputable fish market, disputable because it sells lots more than fish; from flowers to blueberries to lettuce. So, in theory, though it would probably be considered to be a fish market by some, I believe that it would be a public food market.

Today we went to the aforementioned market, and, like yesterday but unlike the day before, we bought something, but not before we did some other things. Those ‘other things’ are something like this: We walked through the market and watched people sell fish. Once through the open air market with the colorful roof, we continued on past the main tourist area to where there was a map of the world, well, at least a world that had only Chile and Antarctica in it. From there, we watched a silver pendulum swing back and forth on some sort of compass which we couldn’t figure out.

From there, we went to the edge of a submarine and looked at the black metal and the seal at the end before heading back to the market. At the market, we bought a kilo of cherries and a kilo of blue berries before going back to the room. The cherries and blueberries are very good.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Seals, Clinics, and Fish

S– Showering early to face the day

E– Eating breakfast, before us lay

A-Arriving home, the parents come,

L-Laying out the work to be done

S-Schoolwork for now for one and all

 

C-Cold rain feeling good to us,

L-Dad and I walk to get a bus

I-Inclined to travel, someday soon

N-North towards Peru, whistling a tune

I-Instructed by the doctor how,

C-Cut off some cast, but not right now

S-Sad that mother didn’t get cut

 

F-Following our instinct to walk

I-I go to the river and talk

S-Saying to my sister dearest

H-‘Hey, let’s go to the restaurant nearest’

News Flash!!!

‘It’s broken.”

Was what we heard at the doctor’s office in Argentina, and because of that fall, my mother now has a cast that she will probably have to wear for a long time, yet. Or not. According to the doctor that we went to today at a clinic in Valdivia, there might be some way out of that.

After arriving in Valdivia last night, we went to our hostel and checked in. After sleeping in, we woke up and went down for breakfast, where we ate fruit and bread and a little bit of fruit pie. Then, since we didn’t have much money, we decided to go to town to go to an ATM.

When we finally got to the clinic, we had figured out that no ATMs took US cards for some reason, and because we had accidently left father’s passport at the hostel, we weren’t able to go to a real live teller who might be able to give us money. Anyway, at the clinic, there were, surprisingly, a large amount of English speaking workers who helped us get to the right doctor, who told us to come in at 1920 hrs.

At 1920 hrs, we were at the clinic, and the doctor received my mother and finished diagnosing her before releasing here to us again, after extracting an 0800 hrs appt. tomorrow morning. As it turns out, the radius was actually broken in two places, once all the way through, and another time splitting that small section down the middle.

Also, here ulna had a crack in it. They said that, if the gap between the bones at the end of her radius were more than 2 millimeters apart in their CT scan, then they would do surgery and attach all the bones together with a metal plate, and then she won’t even have to have the cast any more. That is why I am hoping the gap is large.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Bariloche & Buses

We woke up yesterday tired but ready to go. After mostly packing, we went downstairs to where the breakfast area was set out for the people staying at the Villa Sofia Hotel. After eating scrumptious chocolate bread and other delicious items, we went back upstairs and finished packing.

After stuffing everything in the boot of our tiny, clunky, badly-made, red Fiat Sienna, we took off. We decided to go around until we found a place to park and then buy some chocolate from an ever present chocolate shop. The traffic, as usual, was horrible. There were no stop signs and next to zero places to park. Finally, after going past lots of full parking places, we found one on a side lane several blocks away from where we wanted to be. Oh well.

After getting our chocolate and going back to the car, my father drove my mother and me to the bus station with all of our stuff while my sister and father went out to return the car. Eventually, after an hour of waiting after the scheduled departure time, the bus arrived and we got on. The seats were surprisingly nice, but couldn’t lay back all the way, unlike the other bus that we rode to Bariloche.

We rode and rode until we got to the first border post, where they stamped our passports and had a dog sniff through our luggage, before going through about 10 kilometers of no-man’s-land. While we were driving through no-man’s-land, we noticed how there were 10 foot high walls of gravel, or pumice, we couldn’t tell which. At the end, the put a dog with our luggage and away we went.

That’s all for now, Folks!

When in San Carlos de Bariloche…again

We woke up this morning, and when we got out of bed, we inhaled a breakfast of 7 nectarines, toast, and some pastries. After that was finished, we finished up on packing our bags to leave. When my father opened the door to look outside, the gray cat, Luna, jumped on the porch and ran straight inside. She ran around inside before finally settling down on a chair cushion.

When we were just about ready, Mary-Lou came up and told us the sad news that Paz and Juan had come up to say good bye but we were not up yet then, so she got their email addresses for us. We then got in the car and left for Bariloche.

On the way to Bariloche, we decided to go on a long side-trip to a park that had a large lake in it. We paid the entrance fee and then entered. We drove for a long ways before stopping at a viewpoint and chatting with some Americans from North Carolina. Once finished with that, we continued.

At the end of the road, after several view points, we walked up a trail until we came to a stream. From there, we viewed the large mountain that looked like a large matterhorn. It had lots and lots of blue glaciers on its spires and waterfalls were coming down the sides. In the end, we went back down the trail to a restaurant and bought some food before leaving for Bariloche, where we are now eating ice cream.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Bow Broadcast

By bow in the title, I mean something like the weapon that Robin Hood used in his escapades where he took from the rich and gave to the poor. Yesterday, Juan and his father, Juan, worked on two bows, finishing one and starting on another. Today, Juan and I worked on the second one, whittling it down and sanding off the rough parts.

In the middle of all of these time using occupations, Eryn and I got invited to dine with the large family of Juan, Juan, Juan’s mother, Juan’s mother-in law, Juan’s mother-in-law’s husband, Juan’s sister, Juan’s brother, and Juan’s brother. If you want to have names entered in there instead of just relations to Juan, father and son, then the list, respectively, would be Juan-Cruz, Juan, Juan’s wife, Mary-Lou, May-Lou’s husband, Paz, Lucas, and José. After watching them all consume a pile of chicken breasts, Eryn and I consumed the delicious freshly made strawberry ice cream.

Once finished with lunch, Juan and I worked some more with the bow and strung it. While Juan worked with some strange contraption, I shot the new bow and it worked well. Once Juan gave up, and while Eryn and Paz swam in the frigid water of the recently-filled pool, Juan and I worked on making arrows. I still haven’t finished mine.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Bridging the Gap

Today, when we went outside, Juan and his father were working on making a bowstave to make a new bow for Juan. I helped them with it; shaving it with a knife before sanding it down. Sadly, right before they were about to string it to shoot it, my family threatened me into the car and we had to go to the Rio Azul…again.

At the river, we went to a place that had two bridges spanning the water from one side to the other. One of the bridges was a nice new suspension bridge with evenly placed plywood slats, while the other one was more of two cables with small logs spanning the gap in between the two cables, while two tiny cables served as handrails. It was also tilting to almost vertical. Fun, fun, fun.

Sadly, we didn’t go on that one, instead, my father and sister opted to go about an hour’s walk up the river to another bridge. Since they are the ones that have all the say in our family, my mother and I had to trudge dutifully behind. After finding a nice and pretty beach with en-suite grass patch, we entered a debate upon what we should do.

In the end, my sister and father agreed on going to the bridge, coming back to the beach, and then eating the cookies that we had brought. We did that. At the bridge, we looked at it, and it looked like a mix between the two that we saw earlier. It was made out of both plywood and logs and was made out of ½ inch cable. My father, sister, and I went across and took pictures out over the water of the blue Rio Azul before heading back.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Rafting the Rapids

Well, because of my mother’s arm issue, we couldn’t do some things today, but we could do others. We woke up this morning at about 9-10 a.m. and did everything about breakfast that needed to be done. After that, Eryn and I played with the other kids and said goodbye to two of the rowdiest kids; Phillipe and Manuel. After they both had left with their mother in their car, Juan, his father, and his mother went out to get a new bicycle tire for someone’s bike. While they were gone, I observed Eryn and Paz making bracelets.

When Juan and family got back, he and I played some more before my parents decided that it was time to leave. We went out to a local ice cream shop and bought a kilo of ice cream ‘for the road.’ In all actuality, it wasn’t for the road, it was for the time when we got to the Rio Azul.

As we had gone that way before, it seemed that we got to the campground a lot sooner than last time. When we got down to the Rio, we went right on the path and up till there was a bench, where we ate the kilo of ice cream. From there, we walked a ways before sitting on a corner of the river next to some rapids. We waded and waited there, while throwing and skipping stones across the water and under hill and over hill. Eventually, we saw a little red kayak come down the river, and the rider steered her way through the rapids quickly and expertly. On the far bank, she pulled up and got out a camera to take pictures of what was to come.

What was to come was actually three large rubber rafts. They were filled on the sides with 6-12 paddlers each. Each of the three colorful crafts made it through the rapids fine, but the last one; a blue one, made it the best, going right through the middle without hitting either bank, like the other ones had. When it was over, I wanted to raft a river.

That’s all for now, Folks!

My Mother got Plastered

We woke up and went through the motions of getting to go yet again today, but this time we had an actual place in mind as we set out at about 1300 hrs. We rode up the bumpy rode in our screechy-scratch-low-power Fiat for a while, before finally getting to the trailhead. We started walking. At the first stopping point, we chatted with an American couple that had been to Antarctica. They were lucky. If we had gone to Antarctica, we would have gone to every single continent on planet Earth.

Anyway, after that, we continued up the hill. When we reached the carved forest we just went around it and didn’t pay to go through it. At the Refugio, we went inside the small café and ordered pizzas and drinks. After getting our drinks and being told to wait for the pizza, we went back out and admired the view.

After finishing up on the top, we went back down the way that we had come to get back to the car. Eryn, my father, and I were a ways ahead of my mother when suddenly she cried out:

‘HELP, HELP!!!”

Eryn and I, in our complete adrenaline rush, ran back up the mountainside that we had been so tired on coming up. Our mother was on the ground, clutching a wrist that looked to be dislocated. My father got back up, eventually, and he helped her up. We were moving again. We took a while getting back, and finally we did get to the bottom and drove to the hospital.

At the hospital, my mother was taken in with my father and the only communication was by texting. After about an hour of standing around in the waiting room, my father came out and got us into the car and told us the story while we followed the ambulance to a private clinic. At the clinic, the looked at her x-ray and told that she couldn’t have her surgery for a while, so we got her book for her and went outside to eat, since she couldn’t. After dinner, we checked on Mother before Father drove Eryn and I home.

After having dinner with the landlords and their family, Eryn and I went up the hill to meet with my mother and father. My mother’s arm was all incased in plaster and cotton, but other than that, she seemed fairly okay.

The next Day:

Well, my mother is feeling better, which is good. Today we slept in a lot after staying up till past midnight last night, or this morning, whichever way you want it, and then woke up. Too bad. After Eryn and I made breakfast and washed the dishes after it, we went out on a drive.

After completing our drive that included the laundry place, the clinic for x-rays, and the grocery store, we came back home and relaxed some more. Eventually, we decided to go to Lago Puelo, so we set off. On the way we stopped at an ice cream shop to buy a kilo of ice cream to eat later. At the lago, we looked out over the water whenever we didn’t have our heads buried in ice cream.

By total accident, when I was walking, I heard honking, looked, and there were Juan, Paz, Lucus, Phillipe, and more riding in their cars towards the lago. I raced back to tell my folks before changing into a swimsuit and going back. When everyone got settled on the beach, Juan and I took turns pumping up a yellow rubber raft that we wanted to paddle around.

We were so slow at paddling the raft that eventually we just jumped in and pulled it, which worked, but the water was cold. After that, we went back to shore to warm up. I had observed both Paz and Eryn making bracelets that they put on a keychain, but where did they go?

I got my answer today when I saw Lucus, a blond-haired 6-ish year old selling them to other families and people on the beach. We heard that last year, Paz made almost 300 pesos worth selling her bracelets. Finally, Juan’s father changed into his swimsuit and agreed to paddle Juan and I out into Lago Puelo. As he is a much better paddler, we went out far against the current. Eventually, Juan and I jumped into the water and swam to shore from far out while Juan’s father got a luxury three person raft all to himself.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Roja, Naranja, Amarillo, Verde, y Azul

Those are the Spanish words for red, yellow, green, and blue. The one that was on our maps and minds today was the last one: blue. Well, actually, the main one that we used today was actually Azul, as in blue, and I won’t keep translating it, but remember that Azul=Blue.

Today we woke up and went through the motions of getting ready to go. After lacing up our hiking boots, we went down into town to drop off some laundry. After getting that done, we went up past our driveway again and to the trailhead of the trail to Cerro Mirador, on the top of the hill that we reside on. After walking up the trail to the top with the viewpoint, we took pictures and then moved on.

After going through, town, we went across a small stream and headed up to a viewpoint of the Rio Azul (Blue River).  From there we drove down to the river and I moved heavy rocks while everyone else in my family sat on large rocks and logs. The river was chilly, and while we were there, we watched two horses cross the blue-colored river about 50 meters downstream.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Waves that Washed over Us

Well, I made a new friend. The only boys that were about my age on this trip before were Goonpat in India on the camel safari and Marcel in Namibia. Now, however, there is another. His name is Juan-Crews but everybody just calls him Juan. This morning I finally met him, and we pretty much played all day. At the beginning, we played soccer with two younger boys and then one, then we played by ourselves for a while.

In the evening, we pumped up a raft before I got spirited away for supper. After that, when I got back, one of the younger boys was paddling the inflatable raft around in the tiny pool, so mostly he was just splashes. Since my family had decided against going to Lago Puelo, so Juan’s nice father decided to take Juan, his wife, his baby, himself, and me along with the giant inflated raft to the Lago.

When we got to the Lago, there were large waves going up and down. We finished inflating the raft and Juan and I pushed off. Because of the current, we went sideways as much as we went out. We paddled for a while before riding back in with the current. After dragging the raft back over the bumpy and annoying rocks, we arrived to where Juan’s parents had staked out their place before going out in the raft again, but this time with Juan’s father. Juan’s father was appointed the oarsman, Juan the captain, and I the first mate, as we paddled out. For fun, Juan and I back flipped off the side of the raft and into the cold water. When we got back to shore, we went for a swim before packing up and heading for home.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Lakeside Lounging and Lunging

Today we awoke from our night’s rest in Bariloche to the dawn of a new day, a couple of hours after dawn. After getting all cleaned up and somewhat packed, we went out for breakfast. Sadly, though, the breakfast area was all locked up, so we just had some of the meager amounts of food that we had brought from BA.

After checking out of our room, we went out in our bright red Fiat that was clunky and barely went backwards to the meadows and hills and lakes surrounding Bariloche.  After the grocery and chocolate store, our first stop was at a place that had ski lifts to get up to the top. We rode up to the top and looked around before riding the lift back down. After that we drove for a while before stopping at a lakeside. I went down and felt the water before deciding that it was warm enough to swim in.

After changing into my swimsuit, and lunged out into the deeper waters and lunged back out because it was so cold. However, after waiting some time, I went back out to a rock. From there, I went deeper to another rock, and so on and so forth until I was over deep-ish water and I back-flopped in from a large black rock. I stayed swimming around on my back for some time before swimming back out. Then we left and went on a drive to where we are now: El Bolson.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Bus to Bariloche

Well, for all of you who don’t know, Bariloche is famous for its chocolate. We, after 21 hours of riding a bus, have arrived in just that location. The bus services that we used were the ones by the name of Via Bariloche. They all go to Bariloche and we used one of the ones from Buenos Aires.

The bus that we rode in was a double decker bus that had little screens for each seat. What we should have guessed was that all the videos would be in Spanish. Anyway, we rode on the top of the two levels and we got the 4 seats on the right in the front two rows. The row in the front with Eryn and I had views out of the front too, so you could see where we were going. After eating the dinner that we brought, the ‘flight attendant’ came up and gave us more food. Then we went to bed.

In the morning we woke up and ate the supplied breakfast before reading until we pulled into the station. From there, we rode in a taxi to the main drag to look for the rental car place, but it was invisible to us muggles, I guess. In the end, we just had the driver drive us to our hotel and from there we got out and went down to see the chocolates. The chocolates were good and when we got back, our bright red car was sitting in the car park gleaming and just waiting for someone to drive it.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Sumo, Juice, and Parks

Today we did several things, some of them fun, some of them annoying. All of them, though, were things that took up time while we waited for this day to end and tomorrow to go half-way so that we could hop on to a bus and relax for the 20 hour journey across Argentina to a place called San Carlos de Bariloche. In one of the books that Eryn has re-read several times on this trip ‘360 Degrees Longitude’ the author describes how the streets smell like chocolate and every other shop is a chocolate one.

Today, in preparation for the long bus ride, we went to the Carrefour grocery store to buy some things. But since that wasn’t the first thing that we did, I will try to tell you the story of today from the beginning. We woke up this morning (as usual) and ate breakfast (still the usual) before heading out on a walk to check (again) if Wafles SUR is open. So far so ordinary. After that, things started to differ, though not that much. We went to the plaza of Colonel Dorrego after loitering outside of Habibi for their free wi-fi and for ordering some takeout for tomorrow. At the plaza, we just stood around outside while my father finished up some things before we decided to go to Sumo ice cream shop. When we got there, everything was barred, but the doors were wide open so we waited across the street in the park for the shop to open. Some people went inside, and we took that as a good sign and got ice cream and went home.

After waiting at home several hours, my father, mother, and I went out to the plaza again for orange juice and wi-fi before checking on Wafles SUR, which, as usual, was closed. We then went to the Carrefour Express and bought some water and stuff before returning back home, where we are now. Soon we will go to the Italian restaurant for dinner before turning in for the night.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Sitting at Starbucks

Today we did just what I mentioned in my title; we sat at Starbucks. We woke up this morning and we got out of bed, we took showers and then brushed the hair, on our heads. Wait a minute, that sounds a little bit too rhyming, so I will try it again: This morning we woke up and took showers, after that we had a breakfast of pasta, pizza, and cereal. That may seem completely loaded with carbohydrates, and it probably is, but we didn’t have all of that each, we each only got one of the items on the list that I mentioned.

After breakfast, we lounged around and did schoolwork, mainly math, before heading out to Waffles SUR to get some waffles. As it turned out, Waffles SUR was closed, as it was yesterday, so we just decided to head to Starbucks because we needed some Wi-Fi. At Starbucks, we ordered coffee and some food and checked out the Wi-Fi, which was slow. Finally, after looking around some, my father found a Wi-Fi network that worked whenever you were near a city park. We got that, and then used that for a while before my mother decided to go the local pharmacy before going back to the apartment.

While my mother and sister were off, my father and I used the park Wi-Fi to call one of his colleagues at work to talk. After he finished, we got some freshly squeezed orange juice from one of the local carts and then walked home while drinking it. When we got home, my mother and sister arrived back successful and we all just sat down and did what we thought needed to be done.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Lost by the Door

Today we went a lot of places; the Evita Museum, a small ecological reserve in the middle of town, and to a place to get money. We went first to see if Waffles Sur was open, which it wasn’t, and then we continued to the Independencia Subte (Metro) Station. When we got off at the General San Martin Estacion, we walked across the largest street in the world: the Avenue de Julio. After going up to the regular money transfer place to get a few more pesos, we got back on the Subte and rode until we got to the Italia Estacion before getting off and going into a park.

That park turned out to be the aforementioned small ecological reserve. We went in the closest door to us, and then we found a shady area with a bench and ate some cookies that we had bought at a local supermarket. To our surprise, there were resident cats, and we tried to attract their attention, but they never seemed to see us. After watching the big gray cat jump up on the bench with Eryn and then jump down, she left, and I took over. I simply distracted the cat with a straw wrapper and then caressed it. I don’t think it started purring, but it was happy.

When we got up to leave, we walked and we walked, through all possible paths and all the way around the fence line before we concluded that the entrance where we came in was actually the only one that was not chained and padlocked. After that we went to the Evita Museum before heading back home.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Tigre, a day without Tigers

There is a town up in the delta at one end of the Rio de la Plata that is called Tigre. It is a large-ish town with boats and cars. It is a little bit like Venice in the terms with the boats, but it is actually on the mainland and across the river are houses on all of the little tributaries.

We woke up this morning and got out of bed, ate breakfast then went down the road to the subway station. We rode all the way up to the end (Retiro) then got off and walked and walked and walked up to where there were ferry terminals. We got on a ferry and rode out of the port and across the ocean for a three hour tour in a boat called the Minnow. Actually, it wasn’t called the Minnow, but it was not unnamed, and we actually got only a two hour tour, but after riding across part of the giant (250 kilometers across, the largest in the world) river, when we got into the houses on the water, it got kind of repetitive.

When we pulled into Tigre, we went out on a walk to try and find the restaurants that were mentioned on the brochure that my father had got on the boat. We went to one restaurant and ordered salads and drinks, before continuing on to the number 5 bus stop. From there we rode to the end, then walked (unintentionally) in a loop before getting ice cream at McDonalds. Then we walked down to the train station and rode all of the way back to BsAs.

That’s all for now, Folks!

The Temple of Tortoni

What it was and what it is, but not quite, is what I stated in my title. It was the Scottish Temple, but now it is called the Café Tortoni. We went there today after a shopping adventure along Florida Street and looking at a courtyard that supposedly housed the escape tunnels for people of importance.

It was inaugurated in 1858, by a French man called Touan. It was named Tortoni after a coffee shop in Paris with the same name. There is a library in the large and comfortable area, along with a place in the back for playing games such as dice and billiards.

We sat in some chairs around a small table and sipped at our juices and milkshakes as we studied the surrounding architecture and wall hangings. There have been a lot of famous folk in the café, including Albert Einstein and Hillary Clinton. All in all, it is a pretty nice place.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Knife News

Today we went to the San Telmo Sunday Market at the Plaza Dorrego. There were a lot of shops, and there will probably be more of that later in this post. So I will not go in to detail right now. The Plaza is just two or three blocks down the street so we easily walked there to see what all of the talk was about.

There were a lot of shops dedicated to art at the beginning, and in between, there were some shops of screws and nails welded together to make little statuettes of rock stars and stuff. Then there was the loads full of antiques that ranged from colored glass bottles to old telephones. Finally, at the far end, were two of my favorite things that we saw there. One of them was a little stand were there were gel bags of gel that when you threw down on a hard surface, looked like they had exploded, but then morphed back into shape. The other shop that was my favorite was the one selling knives. There were old kitchen knives in some of the antique shops, but these ones were hunting knives and such. Several of them had interesting skin for the sheaths, and others were double bladed. Some were displayed stuck in sticks while others just stood alone with horn handles.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Rio de la Plata

The aforementioned river is a very large one. However, there will probably be more of that later towards the end of this post.

Buenos Aires is on the edge of a river. It is as simple as that why we would see a river, but the way that we saw it was different that just hopping on the bus and seeing it from a side window, we walked to the river. Being in the oldest part of town, the expanders expanded on all sides from San Telmo, so the wherever we walked to, it was a ways away.

We chose to go to the Ecological Reserve to view the river. It is a big reserve, but we walked through a lot of plain parks with lots of vendors. When we finally got to the reserve, we started walking through the annoyingly hot sun and down to the river bank. On the river bank, there were lots of people chilling in the shade of the many trees in benches or just on the ground. The view of the river was good, as we were on its bank. There was no end in sight of the Rio de la Plata, and there were freighter ships out in the harbor. After oohing and aahing and taking the necessary pictures of the river, we lounged under a particularly shady tree before heading back home.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Metro Madness

In most of the large cities that we have been to, there have been metro lines. In Sydney, New Delhi, Bangkok, and more, there were metro systems that could help people get places. One of the surprising facts was that there was no form of train or metro throughout the large metropolis of Cape Town.

Here in the Big Apple, there is a metro system that has five lines, A, B, C, D, H, and P. The one that we are closest to is the San Juan station on the D line. Last night, we went to check it out and to see what was needed. This morning, we got 4 one-way tickets to go anywhere for 10 pesos and headed off for the A line to see and ride the old original wooden train cars. The wooden trains come approximately every 3 trains, the others are the newer metal ones, and those were the ones that we wanted to ride. We eventually got on to a wooden train and sat down on the benches that were on each side of the train, jutting out like ribs. When we got to the end of the line, we just turned around and went back.

On the way back, we were in the front car and got to see out of the front window. The only problem with that was that everybody pushed my father and me out of the way and then kindly blocked the view. When we finally got off, we went up to the street to see the cemetery where Evita Peron is buried and the giant metal flower that is open in the day and closes at sunset for the night. In other news, I got a haircut by my father and I had to say goodbye to a lot of my hair…again.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Old Forts, New Tunnels

A long time ago, there was a fort here in Buenos Aires that had four sides and was on the riverfront. Since then, land has been placed all around it and the dirt has swallowed up where once a might river flowed. As more tourists have started coming to Buenos Aires, around 2010, they opened a museum where the lower level of the fort used to be.

Of course, with all of that filling in with dirt, the lower level of the fort is now below ground level, so to get down there, you have to go through an x-ray machine and then down three flights of stairs to arrive at the main floor of the museum. Interestingly, the outside doesn’t look to interesting, there is a steel and glass building that has x-ray machines inside.  How interesting. I liken the feeling of walking down there to walking through a tunnel. However, one of the differences in that is that there is a glass ceiling above you that lets in a lot of light.

In the displays, there are a lot of videos about the governments through the ages. There are several sashes that various presidents wore, and in one interesting panel, there was a knife with a golden handle and a squiggly blade, though sharp. There were several canes as well, and in one there were 2 army helmets. On the opposite wall, there were a several paintings.

One of them stood out because it was very complex; there was a giant woman lying on the ground with a great bloody hole in her side, and held up on her left hand, there is Evita Peron. There is also an island of bread, and in the front, there are three groups in the foreground. Those three groups are from three different time periods. In one there are just swords, in the next there is a sword and a musket, and in the last one there is a machine gun. There were also several more parts that were very confusing, but the main focus was the dead/dying women lying on the ground holding Evita Peron.

That’s all for now, Folks!

BSAS and Adventures of the Dripping Air Conditioners

BSAS is what the locals around here use in shorthand terms for Buenos Aires, using the first and last letters of each word to form a four-letter acronym that has a repetition to make it sound interesting while not too eye catching. Most cities back in the United States don’t have any shorthand terms for their names, except for maybe Washington, District of Colombia and Los Angeles.

Now that I have fulfilled telling you about part of my title, the first part, I will endeavor to tell you about the second part. I have often mentioned to the rest of my family when we walk around outside that it is raining, but whenever someone looks up, all they can see is blue sky. I write here before you to tell you that there is finally a solution to that poser that I (and the rest of my family) have come up with: Air Conditioners. It is in the heat of the searing summer that we have arrived in Argentina, and most people are inside with their air conditioning on high and just sitting around. As all of those air conditioners drip, whenever you walk under one; drip, drip, drip, it feels like there is rain in the air, though it is stifling hot and the sky is clear.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Bus Business

Today we went out and about in Buenos Aires. What we wanted to do at the beginning of the day was go to the closest information center and buy bus tickets for the yellow ‘Hop-on, Hop-off’ buses. We went out and saw the famed Plaza de Mayo before hurriedly continuing on to do what we had to do. But when we got to where the map said the information center was, lo and behold, the information center was closed. Luckily, however, they had left a sign in the window saying where the new one was and how to get there.

We left the second station to go get some cash that we had wired to ourselves. We found the place eventually, and after getting our money, we went to the store and bought a drink. When we finished drinking that, we looked at the obelisk that we had passed on the way to the money place, before finding the start of the yellow bus route. We saw the very long line and but that spot to memory before finding that they street that was under construction that housed the closed information center was actually the street that we wanted to go back up on. With that worthwhile piece of information, we started up the street to go back home.

That’s all for now, Folks!

When in Buenos Aires

For those of you who don’t know, Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina, a large country in South America. We arrived here last night after a really long day after flying west from Dubai for at least 14 hours straight. When we got through all of the paperwork at the airport, we got a taxi and drove to the apartment where we are now.

After we woke up this morning, we got up and went out walking to try and find a place to eat breakfast. We sadly weren’t able to do that because we got some pastries and then went back home with a few other groceries that we had gotten. Luckily, at home, we put together some of our new groceries to form a breakfast that was good. After that, we worked on things that we should do in BA before going out for dinner. After a nice dinner, we went on a walk, before getting back to the apartment and getting ready for bed.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Hi from Dubai

We have been in Dubai only three days, but we have done a lot in the little time that we have had. On the first day, we went skiing in the mall, on the second day, we went to Wild Wadi, and today we went somewhere else. That may sound vague, but if you read what follows, it might not sound so vague.

Today we went to the only open mosque in Dubai. The open means open to the public, and there are about 2000 other mosques in Dubai, but this one was the only open one. At the mosque, we learned about what Muslims believe. When we finished with that, we took a taxi to the Dubai Mall, one of the largest ones in the world. There, we took a snack of cupcakes, and then we went outside to the dancing fountain, which can shoot water 50 stories up into the air. From there, we looked up at the tallest building in the world and took photos, before heading back to the Hilton.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Sceirah Scariness

Today we went to Wild Wadi Water Park next to the Burj Al Arab Hotel. The Burj Al Arab is the hotel that I mentioned in yesterday’s post about being the one and only 6 Star hotel in the world. It is shaped like a boat and it is on its own island. There is a helipad up on the top floor that you can use to get to it with an extra charge. Wild Wadi is right next to it, but on the mainland. There are 7 real slide-like things along with two rivers that go round and round, a waterfall, a water playground, and  wave pool.

The slide that I am probably going to focus on the most is the Jumeirah Sceirah, a speed slide. First, the rider climbs up and up and up on a winding wooden staircase. When the rider gets through the queue, they get locked in a glass or perplex chamber with water running down their back. Then they cross their arms across their chests and cross their legs, before a feminine voice says, ‘Three, two, one.’ Then there is a pneumatic hiss and the floor beneath the feet of the rider vanishes, leaving them going down, down, down. It levels out, but that is only a calm between storms. After that, there is another downhill, but this one not as steep, before leveling out into a trough of water to slow the rider down enough for them to get out. I did that, and it was cool, though kind of freaky.

There were also some rides that were interesting; you get a bogey-board like board and jump down a wide trough where there are jets of water coming out at regular intervals that jet you back up towards the starting point. If you are good at it, you can stay on for the whole timed 90 seconds by going back and forth and avoiding the end, where there is a strong current and you get flushed out. One guy was doing it and did it wrong and lost his pants.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Skiing in the Desert

Out in the middle of the desert, several countries huddle together to form a peninsula out to the sea, Oman, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia are some of them. One of the countries is the United Arab Emirates, and in that country, there is a large city called Dubai, which we are in now. Dubai hosts the world’s tallest building, and a lot of smaller ones, too. There is a beach and a marina and several malls. We are staying in the Hilton on the beach. The largest mall in the world is here in Dubai, too, it is called the Dubai Mall.

Last evening, we got into our plane after solving the rental car crisis that broke out because we crashed the car in the last 5 hours. We had planned to go up Table Mountain that day, but there were too many people so we turned around and went back home. At a corner, we went at the same time that someone else went another direction and collided. That was annoying. After playing putt-putt, we left and headed to the airport. From there we flew to Johannesburg and from there to Dubai on a long overnight flight where I got little sleep.

Today, after watching the sunrise from the plane window, we disembarked from the plane and went through all the necessary paperwork and such before heading to our hotel. The hotel had messed up our reservations so we had to wait an hour to get into our rooms. After a shower and a change of clothes, we went to the Mall of the Emirates, where there is the largest indoor ski resort on the planet. Eryn and I skied a lot. There were two ways of getting up the slope; one was going on a standard lift, and the other was hanging on to a metal bar connected to a moving cable and riding up-hill by being dragged. The slopes themselves were cool, at the top there was some easy stuff, and then there was a fork in the road with a café in the middle. If you went left, facing down, you would go down a blue square, or moderate difficulty, run before arriving at the bottom of the lift. At some point of time in that, you could cut off and go on the half-pipe. If you had gone right at the fork, you would go down fairly steep stuff before it leveled out and arrived back at the bottom. It was really fun. I did all that I told you, but the one thing that I didn’t do was go on a trick course because I prefer downhill skiing, not flying skiing.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Traffic Jams

Today my father was reading about things to do in Dubai, and one of the things on the list was the following:

Traffic Jams: One of the few free things to do in Dubai

Today, we had our own encounter with a traffic jam when we were trying to get up Signal Hill. There was a car parked in the middle of the road and all the people behind were stuck. The people behind couldn’t move, and blocked a bus from completing a turn, so that stopped both lanes…all because of one car. When we finally got on to the top and parked, we stared down at Cape Town and the ocean for a while, seeing several helicopters with buckets hanging down, clueing us in to the fact that there was a fire down on the ocean side of Lions Head. On the drive down from the hill, we passed near to where the fire was and saw that it was raging through a large garden of trees. I think it may be put out now, but I am not sure.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Happy New Year!

Well, today is the last day of the 12th year of the 2000th year after Christ was born. I remember how at summer camp in 2011, there were people predicting about how the world was going to be overcome by zombies and end in 2012. So far, that hasn’t happened yet, and I doubt it will.

Today the plumber was supposed to come, he was also supposed to come yesterday but didn’t. Today, however, he did come, but more of that will come later. All of us went putt-putt-ing today and we went on the blue course…again! The reason that we had to go on the blue course was because the orange course is closed for renovations in the morning. Sadly, we didn’t know that sooner, as we probably would have waited the ½ hour to play on my (and Eryn’s probably, too) favorite course, the orange one. However, as we didn’t wait, we did the blue one, for the third time for me and Eryn, and the second time for my parents. After playing that round, we went back to our apartment and waited for the plumbers to arrive. Eventually, they did, and a little bit before they left, we left for dinner at Yindee’s. Now, we have hot water, and my mother is using that water to wash almost every bit of clothing that we have.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Chapman’s Peak Driving Test

If you want to take an interesting and scenic driving test, you should go on the aforementioned drive. According to their website:

Chapman’s Peak Drive winds it way between Noordhoek and Hout Bay on the Atlantic Coast on the south-western tip of South Africa. Chapman’s Peak Drive is one of the most spectacular marine drives in the world.

The 9km route, with its 114 curves, skirts the rocky coastline of Chapman’s Peak (593m), which is the southerly extension of Constantiaberg and is a great hike for the energetically inclined.

Chapman’sPeakDrive is affectionately known as “Chappies” and is a must for anyone who is passionate about the majestic Cape Town scenery, with sheer drops to the sea below and towering mountains rising above you. The twists and curves in the road seem endless and it is a photographers dream. It is a paradise for motorists, sightseers, picnickers, runners, hikers and bikers (both the motorised and the manual varieties).

The drive offers stunning 180° views with many areas along the route where you can stop and take in the exquisite scenery or sit down for a relaxing picnic.

Today we went there. We went on the drive for the scenery, and it was fun…well, as fun as a drive can be. We drove from Hout Bay (Wood Bay) to Noordhoek (North Corner, interestingly south of Cape Town) along this drive to discover and experience the ‘must do.’ There were a lot of pull outs and we stopped at several to admire the view over Hout Bay and out over the Atlantic Ocean.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Maniacal Gelato

The gelato at Gelato Mania may not be a maniac type, but I played with the name to form my title to try to catch the eyes of the viewer. That is usually how I do my titles; I take something from my post and twist it to catch the eye of whoever is on the website. If you are reading this, there are two reasons: one; you periodically check, and two; the title caught your eye. Most of the time the answer is the first option, but I like to think that there are some people that read my posts because of the title.

There was some sort of carnival in Green Point Park today, but we didn’t go to it. We went right by it, however, on our quest to go to Gelato Mania, a gelateria that has a store in the V&A and out on the Green Point side of Sea Point. On the way to the establishment, we went right by the place where the carnival was taking place and a waterwheel. At the gelato place, we each got one or two scoops of delicious gelato before heading back to the apartment.

At the apartment, we found a problem; the hot water tank had hot water running down the side, and we didn’t know where it came from. We got a plumber and another man to come to the apartment, and they fiddled around with all the valves and switches and whatnot. Then they figured out the problem; the heater had burst, and what they were going to do about it; send someone in the morning.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Boxed Adventures

Today we went to the mall and, while the womanfolk went off to the hair salon to get their hair styled, my father and I renewed the quest to get boxes. Yesterday, we had gone to the mall, and, after looking all over the place, we couldn’t find any boxes of a big enough size. My father had, overnight it seems, decided to get two or three smaller boxes like the kind that they sold in the post office. We went there and were almost the first customers. Sadly, though, they were out of the largest boxes, the one we wanted, but told us that in CAN, we could find boxes that they had used for shipping.

At CAN, we went in, and, just like the clerk at the post office told us, there were boxes that had been delivered to CNA that we could use. What was even better was that those boxes were very durable and thick. After a round of mochas, we came back to our apartment and packed up two of the three of those boxes, using the third box as the one that we got in the post from the US. At the post office in Sea Point, not in the V&A, we wrote down all the details on a slip of paper and sent the packages off to the US.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Libraries and other Forms of Bookishness

My father has commented, on several occasions, that I am very bookish. That may be true, and is proved by the fact that today, the main things that I did consisted of reading one of the books that I got for Christmas and going to the library.

The library nearby has a lot of books, as do most libraries. I also noted that there were a lot of non-fiction and not as many fiction books. During the day, however, I was reading the book called Ivory, Apes, and Peacocks by Alan Root about his experiences filming and photographing animals in Africa. His experiences include getting such a big bite from a hippo that he can pass a Coke bottle through the hole, having a finger amputated from a puff adder bite and lots more, all just to get good movies and films.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Paragliding People

Me Paragliding with my Driver and Lions Head in the background

Me Paragliding with my Pilot, Grant, with Lions Head in the background

Today was a very nice day; there were almost no clouds, the sun was out, and most of all, I got to go paragliding. Yesterday, in a small present, I got promised a paragliding ride by whoever would take me, and finally, we agreed on Hi-5. Hi-5 is a paragliding company where you have to high-five your pilot at the end of the tandem paraglide.

We went up to Signal Hill, but the winds changed so we actually had to go to Lions Head. At Lions Head, I met my pilot, Grant, and we walked up the trail up to the first take-off point. Take-off was relatively easy, all I had to do is lift my feet up after the para-sail billowed out in the wind. On the ride, we went up, and then spiraled down slowly with a view of Camps Bay. At the end, we finished, and we got an SD card with photos and a video of the flight. I think it was really fun. There were a lot of other people flying, and the sails were very colorful. The one that I was using was red, white, and blue.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Christmas in Cape Town

Well, every time someone asks us when we are leaving, we say ‘January 2’ and then they say ‘Oh, so you’re staying for Christmas’ and then we reply ‘Yes, we are having Christmas in Cape Town.’ I think that there is also a song called ‘Christmas in Cape Town’ but I have never listened to it. Today, we had Christmas in Cape Town.

After waking up, I opened my stocking, which had candy and several pens. After my shower and breakfast, we took the normal and mandatory pictures, before going and opening the presents under the tree. My mother could have gotten table runners, joggers, and walkers, but my father just got table runners for her.  She also got chocolate, a wire basket, and two necklaces. My father got a buffalo skin drawing, chocolate, a tie, and a book. Eryn got hair things, chocolate, a book, and some other things. I got a ball that bounces on water, a book on chameleons, a book about Africa, a book on the ‘Best Wrong Test Answers,’ and chocolate. During the rest of the day, we vegged out and went for a walk. On the walk, we learned that a little girl had drowned a couple of meters down the promenade and that divers were searching for her body.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Christmas Eve

Today is just that: Christmas Eve. This is my 11th one that I have been present on, and I plan to give you, my gracious audience, an account of one of the more interesting particles of information that happened today while we were awake. However, before we get too far in this business, I will let you know that I can cook a little, and I helped with some of what follows:

Most of the day today was spent cooking in the kitchen. Eryn cooked up a storm of annoyance at me because I was always wanting to help her on the chocolate cake that she was making. I finally got to help my mother make the bread that she makes at home. We mixed all the ingredients together before braiding the dough to make good bread. When everything was finished and completed, we sat down to eat our Christmas Eve dinner. The dinner consisted of potato soup with grated cheddar cheese on the top, a salad made out of cranberry sauce, raspberry jello, and sour cream, last, but not least, we had peartizer to drink. It is kind of like Appletizer but with pears. If you don’t know what Appletizer is, it is 100% Sparkling Apple Juice. Anyway, back to the story: for dessert we had the chocolate cake that Eryn made earlier smothered in chocolate sauce. It was good.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Tomorrow we can say ‘Tomorrow is Christmas’

Eryn might have mentioned in her post for today that I keep saying what I have put in the title of this post, so I will try not to repeat it too much. The time being what it is, I will probably not have the ability or time to make this post a long one, for I cannot type fast on the keyboard that we have. Also, the time is running short, so I will probably have to-soon- go on to doing what these posts are supposed to do: tell what happened in the day so that you (the reader) can understand what is happening on this trip that is happening. Now, I think, would be a good time to continue on, but before I do, I will tell you that our Christmas tree looks the same as it did in one of the previous posts, disregarding the fact that there are now 16 presents under the tree. My father thinks that that is too many.

The days seem to grow longer, but that may be because I (and probably some other members in my family) am getting a bit anxious about Christmas. Today, though, it seemed long because, partly, it was long, and partly (the other part) it was because Eryn and I had to sit around at home waiting for the parents to come home from a shopping expedition. When they finally arrived at home, we were back in business, however, so there was a remedy to that longness. Earlier in the day, before the shopping expedition, we all went up on to Table Mountain, using our year-long valid tickets that we can use any time until the 17th of December in 2013. Where was I? Oh yeah, at the end of the shopping: When they came back, everything was remedied, and when we had putsed around or a while, I made a reservation for dinner at Posticino, a restaurant in Sea Point, where we ordered stuff in likeness to when we were last there several days ago.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Gelato and Ice Cream

We have exploited many ice cream and gelato places in the area surrounding our apartment. There is one down the street from our house called Gelatos at Newport, and the other one that is nearby is one up the street of whose name is escaping my mind right now. There are also several at the mall, and one of the we have gone to twice: it is called Gelato Mania.

Today we went to the one nearby whose name has escaped my mind up the street. We went there after going to church and, as Father calls it, putsing. The gelato place at Newport is one that we have used twice already. The scoop in the not-so-round type of scoop, so when they have chocolate, I have confided with my family that it looks like baboon poop. On the bright side, it doesn’t taste like baboon poop.

That’s all for now, Folks! (TAFNF!)

Clouds and Fog

As I am writing this, I am hearing a sound at regular intervals. That sound is the sound of the foghorn, and it is blowing because there is fog out over the harbor and some of Cape Town. Today, we went to several places, but I am going to mainly focus on the part where we went to Signal Hill for a picnic dinner.

We were going to go up Table Mountain for dinner, but the line was way too long, so we went back down and over to Signal Hill. On Signal Hill, there were a lot of people, and we were lucky to get a table to sit at. Looking down on Cape Town and all the suburbs, we couldn’t see any water at all. The reason being that there was so much cloud cover that all of the water was covered. Now, the foghorn is going because there is no way that a ship can see a lighthouse until it is too late.

That’s all for now, Folks!

If it has a Head, it probably has a Rump

A quick biology lesson for all of those out there: a regular lion has both a head and a rump. Most lion carvings have both as well. The question is if a large mass of rock called Lion’s Head has a rump. As a matter of fact, it does. Signal Hill has another name, and that name is Lion’s Rump. This useless blabber about rumps of lions is annoying, though, and is probably wasting your time.

Today we climbed/hiked/walked up Lion’s Head, also known as Leeukop, which means Lion’s head in Afrikaans. It was a lot of fun in parts, especially when the climber had to climb up a vertical rock faces. There was a point in time where there was a fork in the trail, one way going straight up and the other going to the side and up slowly. Eryn and I went up the vertical part using attached chains and pegs, while Mother and Father went the slow route. At the top of the vertical part, Eryn and I found a tree to rest under, and we did that for ten minutes until the parents finally came. From there we continued to the top of the mountain. From the top, we could see for a long ways in every direction. We could see Robben Island out in the ocean, and Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles in the opposite direction. We could also see city center and the castle. From there, we went back down the way we came up, and when we got to the bottom, we hopped in our hot car and went back to our apartment.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Cursing Cobras

I am not sure about you, but I do not believe that cobras can talk. So the title that I aforementioned is not a true one, but, in theory, I should get partial credit, because the people that ride on the Cobra roller coaster curse while they wait for the ride to drop out of the sky and spiral around and around and upside down before finally going back to the starting point.

Wait, wait, wait…you probably don’t even know what the Cobra roller coaster is, let alone Ratango Junction. I will tell you, then, so that I know that you know what I am talking about. Ratango Junction is a theme park in Cape Town near the Canal Walk shopping center. It has lots of rides that you can get wet on or stay dry on. The one that I am going to be focusing on today is the Cobra, the one that the rest of my family was too afraid to go on.  At the beginning of the queue, there were several real live cobras in cages, and then there were a lot of people waiting in line. After waiting for an hour, the rider goes forward onto the platform and gets onto the seat and buckles up. Then the ride winches you up, up, up, and then plummets down. Then there are a lot of twists and turns and upside downs, before finally arriving back at the starting point.

That’s all for now, Folks!

The first Successful Human Heart Transplant

That is what happened when Christaan Barnard and his team of professionals transplanted a heart into Louis Washkansky on the third of December in 1967. The donor of the heart, Denise Darvall, had been killed in an accident, and after five months of waiting, Barnard’s team was ready to operate.

The first thing that had to be done in the procedure was to have the kidney taken out and sent across Cape Town to another hospital where there was a ten year old boy who needed a kidney transplant. Then, they cut out the heart. They put it into a bowl of liquid that was ten degrees celsius and got it over to where Dr. Barnard was waiting with his patient, and there sewed the heart into place with silk thread, before wiring up his sternum and stitching his chest up.

In the pictures on the museum wall, there was a picture of a German Shepard that had the head of a miniature poodle grafted on to the top. That mix lived for nine days, while Louis Washkansky lived for eighteen days, surpassing the expectations of Mr. Barnard. By the way, Washkansky was ill before he got the surgery, so he probably would not have lived very long.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Tele-Pathetic-ness on Table Mountain

We made up a new word. It is tele-pathetic. Eryn was trying to say telepathic when everything got mixed up and she ended up saying tele-pathetic. I am thinking that it means something along the lines of communicating pathetic-ness. Anyway, I should probably go on to what we did today.

We went up the first cablecar early in the morning, and then we went towards Maclaers Beacon, the tallest point on the whole of the mountain. At that point, we ate some snacks and looked out as the fog, or ‘table cloth’ started covering the mountain. Right before the tablecloth came up, though, I saw a klipspringer on the rocks below and ran to tell my father, who immediately went and took pictures. Then the tablecloth came. We went hunkered down to stay away from the wind and Eryn and I read from our books while my father rested. Then we walked back to the cablecar station and went down.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Day in the Life…of a Prisoner…again

Today we went to another prison. After about three months of being free, we got forced back into the confinement of being a prisoner. Luckily, our time as prisoners was very short, for we were on a tour. What is interesting is that the tours are given by political prisoners that used to live in the Robben Island National Maximum Security Prison. That is the prison on Robben Island that is in the middle of Table Bay.

In WWII, the island was used for large guns that could shoot 50 kilometers at ships, and in sinking all enemy ships, protected the city of Cape Town and the surrounding suburbs. After that, part of it was used as a Maximum Security Prison for anit-apartheid black and colored men. The women, white, and colored people were kept on the mainland, at least 8 kilometers away. Nelson Mandela was kept in the prison, and he has been a president of South Africa since his release.

We first arrived on the island by boat, and then were quickly herded to several buses, which we promptly had to get in to, and then went off for a tour around the island. When we finished with the ride, we went inside the prison and met our guide, who spoke loudly. We first went into a large-ish cell that housed sixty people. Then we moved on and saw the courtyard, where the likes of Nelson Mandela turned big rocks into little rocks, and finally we got to see the cell where Nelson Mandela  was kept.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Plumstead and Promenade

Today we went out to the Plumstead Seventh-day Adventist Church for the service. It was a ways away, but that was fine. The church was fairly large, and had a mixed congregation. We got to sit in the second-to-front row because there were no other seats available for four people. It practically became the front row when all the people in the row ahead of us left.

Across the street and meadows from our apartment building, there is a promenade, backed with a wall that is right in front of the ocean. The evenings are a very nice time to be there as the sunsets are magnificent. Today we went on two walks along the promenade, one to get gelato from a local gelateria, and the other one to admire the sunset and the ocean. It is a very pretty ocean, and at sunset it is very nice.

That’s all for now, Folks!

War-Waging Wax

Today we all got to hold live candles at a Christmas concert at the V&A Waterfront. We went there because my mother wanted to listen to some Christmas music near Christmas. We are also going to go to another concert at a church in downtown Cape Town. I think that, in the next concert, there won’t be candles for people to hold.

When we first got to the amphitheater, it was packed. We finally found seating, and sat and read for a while, waiting for the program to start. At the start, there was a pop guy that I knew nothing about, but that is not saying much, because I know nothing about pop music. During his music, they passed out candles, and when he was done, we lit them. The wax ran down the side, and if you weren’t careful, you’re fingers got burnt. After several more songs by a choir, we left.

Earlier in the day, we had gone to the Castle of Good Hope. It once stood on the edge of the ocean, but now, it is a long ways inland, due to people carting in rock and soil to make the city of Cape Town bigger. We had decided to do the 11 o’clock tour. When we got there, it was free, which was nice, and when we got inside, we waited for our guide. Our guide arrived, and split the group into two parts: Afrikaans and English. Sadly, the English side was a lot bigger, and I again regretted not having learned Afrikaans when I had the chance. Our guide took us through an arch on a pathway made from bricks made of wood and showed us a cross that South Africans made for lost comrades.

He then took us to a pool that was green and said how the first governor chose the pool to be only for his family to swim in. Now, however, I doubt many people would want to swim in it. We then went on to see the torture chambers, where our guide told us about how the chamber was used: for holding people in awkward positions and then flogging them with a cat-o-nine tails. We then went on to see the ramparts, where there were a lot of cannon, and finally looked at the prison. Some of the doors had names of fake hotels written on them by bored prisoners being sarcastic about their miserable living conditions.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Two Oceans, One Aquarium

Today we went to the Two Oceans Aquarium in the V&A Waterfront Mall. I had been there before so I remembered some of it, but I didn’t remember all of it. That was proven true when there were things that surprised me about the aquarium, like the penguins and the jellyfish.

We started out this morning after a standard-fare breakfast: toast, cereal, and fruit. We drove in our little gray car to the mall, parked, and went on in to the aquarium. There were whale rib bones at the first exhibit, talking about whaling, and from then on, there were large tanks of fish. There were giant crabs, which freaked my mother out, small sharks, jellyfish, rockfish, etc. We saw a lot of fish swimming around. Eryn and I wondered what we would do if the entire tank on each and every tank collapsed simultaneously. We both agreed that we would go to the nearest stairs or go outside. That was proved to be a good idea later when we saw the predator exhibit, which had turtles, sharks, rays, and other colorful fish. Later, we watched the fish in the predator exhibit get fed, and African Penguins get fed. In all, it was a pretty successful day.

That’s all for now, Folks!

The Hobbit

Today was the first day that the Hobbit movie came out, and we watched it in cinemas in 3D. The sad thing about the movie is that the directors put the movie into three parts, and we only got to see the first one. The second one comes out next Christmas. It is a long time to wait. Still, however, to help use up a small fraction of that time, I will tell you what we did today.

Today we woke up, had breakfast, and jumped into our car to go to the mall. We were going to go there to find an internet café that had mochas and upload some pictures, but we couldn’t find any and gave up on that. Then we all went off by ourselves to find gifts for other people for Christmas. We did that for a long while and then rendezvoused at the cinemas at the pre-arranged time to watch the Hobbit in 3D. It was really good. When the movie finished, we got some ice cream and groceries and then went back to our apartment and had dinner.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Memorial, Garden, Ice Cream, Dinner

Those were the things that we did today; we did the Rhodes Memorial, the Kirstenbosch Gardens, had ice cream, and ate dinner. I will list them out in an orderly fashion, so that it is easier for you to read what I am about to say.

Memorial: The Rhodes Memorial is a memorial for Cecil Rhodes, the founder of Rhodesia. It has a lot of lions in it, and you can climb all over them. The problem is that they are made of metal and hold the heat, so it is hard to climb on them comfortably.

Garden: The Kirstenbosch Gardens have a lot of biodiversity and different species. There are snakes (one of which we saw) and gardens and lawns. There are, luckily, trees in the spacious and large lawns, so one can sit in the shade and take a nap, or talk with friends.

Ice Cream: There is an gelato place right down the street that actually has a flavor of gelato that they have in Italy-besides chocolate, that is-straciatella. I had it and chocolate fudge and they were very good. There was a restaurant next door, and it had a bakery and lots of tables.

Dinner: For dinner, we went to the place right next to the gelato place and had pretty good stuff. They had salads, burgers, wraps, curries, pastas, and lots besides. I myself got a salad, and it was pretty good, for a salad, that is.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Many Mini-Golfers

Today, after waking up and walking around city center for a while, we, as a family in whole, went putt-putting. I have wanted all of us to go mini golfing for some time (2 days) and finally, I convinced my father and sister and mother to come. I said that it wasn’t going to be windy. I was wrong.

That may have helped my score in the end, but it ruined other people’s scores because they didn’t take into account the wind, and therefore missed the holes. We had a lot of fun, though, and this time, unlike the time when my sister, mother, and I went, we did the blue course, not the orange course. This time, it was harder, but that was okay, and expected. Still, however, I think that my personal favorite is the blue coarse, because I got more hole-in-one’s.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Scratch Patch

Really, who would name a post ‘scratch patch’ besides me?  I guess that shows that I am original and strange, Eryn would agree with that sentiment. However, though Eryn might think it an important topic for me to discuss in my posts, I will not talk about my strangeness and my originality.

Today we woke up, and went to the V&A Mall at around 2pm. We first passed through a place where my father and I went last time we were here and looked at the Scratch Patch where I had gotten some stones in a bag. We then went to a craft center, where we looked around, before heading outdoors by the wharfs and quays. When we emerged from the building, the first thing that we heard was the sound of the Red Bull Flugtug. The point of the Flugtug is fairly simple: build a human propelled aircraft and push it off a 6 meter drop into the ocean. We never got to watch any of it, but I still think that it would have been fun if we did. What we did get to see was a giant rubber duck that was attached to a yacht and floating, I think it would be cool to have one of those.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Helderberg, a Story

Well, if you have read some of the previous chapters in my family’s saga, you will know that Helderberg is a college that is above the town of Somerset West, looking out over False Bay. You would also know that we met up with Andre and Rebecca Joubert at the college and chatted with each of them for a while.

We went today to the college of Helderberg on the slopes of the Helderberg mountain today to go to church. We went to church and got really hot and sweaty, because it was crammed with 600 people and the air was still and muggy. Once finished, we got outside, my father  chatted with some old acquaintances before we left. We then went to a Thai restaurant and ate, before come back to our flat, where we vegged for a while, viz. we sat around, sleeping or reading.

We finished the day with a walk towards the library, followed by a small dinner. In all, it was a fairly good day.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Today we Puttered around…Literally

Our Christmas Tree, Before and After

My aforementioned title is, for once, the truth. We did putter around, but probably not in the sense that you are thinking of. As I write this, I see that my hand and arm are covered in glitter, and I know how it got there. However, more of that later. Anyway, we were saying…oh, yeah, about puttering.

Now, to answer one of your probably questions, we actually did a lot of things. And though I said my title was true, it may be misleading. The reason for that is because we, as I said before, did many things, but my mother, sister, and myself all went across the street and putt-putt-ed. That was really fun. From a vantage point atop a small hill, it looks like it is an easy putt-putt course, as there aren’t any large things. However, once on the greens, it starts to be harder. There were lots of slopes, pipes, blocks, and drop-offs, all of them trying to make it more difficult for the player. However, we perservered, and finished.

We also bought a Christmas tree today. Not a live one, but a fake one. Eryn and I set it up after dinner. We also got a bunch of ornaments, and a lot of them exude glitter, so that answers why my arm is glittery.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Anti-Arctic Antarctica

A while back, I figured out why Antarctica is called what it is called. The reason: because it is the opposite of the Arctic. I actually figured that out a long, long time ago, but still, back to topic. So, in two sentences, I have described the title of my post, one actually, because the first one was just fluff. Anyway, the Antarctic is in the title of my post not because we went there, but because we heard about it. In the following paragraph I hope to tell you how we heard. All ye who have ears to hear, live long and remember.

After waking up this morning and going to the Home Office twice to get an extension for our South African visas, we went up to the top of Signal Hill. From there we could see for a long ways. Out in the ocean, there was Robben Island, which housed a prison. Directly opposite of that, there was Table Mountain. When we were looking out to sea, a man next to us on the lookout commented on how the red ship that was steadily moving away from the wharfs was the boat heading for Antarctica, and how it had his son on it. We chatted with him for a while, before leaving the hill and going back to our apartment.

That’s all for now, Folks!

When in Cape Town

Well, for the first time in all of our lives, we, as a family, are in Cape Town. Now, for those of you who don’t know, Cape Town is not actually a town, even by English standards. That aside, (the English standards, I mean) it is a city because it houses a lot of people. We were pretty lucky in choosing our apartment, as we are right on the beach next to a lighthouse. Last time I was here with my father, we stayed a little bit up the road.

We started out the day in Cape Point, which we had gone to yesterday, and where, last night, Eryn and I built a fort on the beach. We took a walk to a shipwreck and I gathered a few pieces of souvenir shipwreck. That was fun. When we got back, we got in the car, and, not seeing any baboons, we left. We then went to the de Gama Cross and the Dias Cross. If you have read your history book, you will know that Dias was the first person the round the southern tip of the continent of Africa. Vasco de Gama also rounded the tip. We then drove and drove and drove to the north, and finally arrived at the world famous V&A Waterfront Mall.

A surprising fact about the mall is that it is the most popular tourist attraction in all of Africa. What’s interesting is that people don’t know about the mall, but they do know about places such as, say, the pyramids. Anyway, we shopped for a bit and then went to our apartment, checked in, nested, then went back to the mall for dinner.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Penguin Protection Program

I am not sure if that is a real thing or not, but it is close to a real thing because it something like what they had at Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town. Boulders Beach is a beach (really?) on the edge of Simon’s Town, which is the home of South Africa’s Navy.  At Boulders Beach, here is a resident population of penguins that nest there and live there. There were a lot of penguins just standing on the beach when we were there, so it wasn’t that interesting. However, they are really interesting to watch when they are swimming, as they seem as though they have rocket propulsion.

On the other side of a chain of rocks is a shallow lagoon where little kids can play. What Eryn and I found to do there was to go through the little paths between the rocks and try to hide from our parents. It worked out great, and when I tried to find out a way to go through that Eryn hadn’t gone on, I ended up really wet. I had accidently misjudged the distance between the rock and the water, so I had to crawl on top of the water, supporting myself with my hands and toes. It was really fun. Sadly though, Eryn was following me, but wimped out and went an easier way.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Stupido Staffo

Content: A long time ago in a galaxy not far away, my father taught at a college on the continent of Africa, in the country of South Africa, in the province of Western Cape, in the city of Somerset West. That narrows down the choice to two options, one, Stellenbosch, and two, Helderberg College. The answer, and some of you out there probably already know it, is Helderberg, and he taught here as a student missionary. His field of teaching was the one of computer science, and he came to where we are now to teach.

We, by the way, are in Somerset West, and are staying at a nice guest house on a hill in the middle of town, looking out over False Bay. The reason that False Bay is called False Bay is because it is too shallow for a big ship, and they would run aground in trying. One of the byproducts of the shallowness is that the water is warm, and also that there are a lot of little boats plying the water.

We went up to the Helderberg College today, and met with several people of my father’s old acquaintance. Two of those people were married, whose names were Mr. and Mrs. Joubert (prounounced yo-beart.) The last time that I was in South Africa, my father and I came and visited with Mr. Joubert, and looked at his massive collection of stuff, including a blue whale rib bone and a lot of pinned insects. He was a really fun guy to be around, still is, as a matter of fact. What was really fun was watching my mother freak out when he produced an old oil container that now houses a very large puff adder. I think that it was really cool. Mrs. Joubert was different, but she had a lot of stuff from when my father was there, including an old staff and student directory, that, as a key to what was in the book, had a person silhouetted and two words underneath, ‘Stupido Staffo.’ It was very interesting.

The Mushroom

The Japanese ship, the Meisho Maru, is a ship that ran aground in 1982, and some of it is still there at Cape Agulhas, the Southernmost Point in Africa. Eryn fancies that the name of the ship means mushroom in Japanese, something that I wish to dispute with her. The main part that is still there is the bow of the ship, facing seawards, like it always hoped and still hopes that someday it will be able to return to the seas. If it ever goes out into deeper water, it will promptly sink, as however high the water is, it is also that high in the boat.

We went at low tide, and that was a good thing, because it meant that there are stones that are right beneath the surface of the water at that time that lead to the ship from land. Methinks that someone put them there, but you never know. Anywho, those rocks were very helpful to me because I wanted (and succeeded) to go and climb on the wreck for fun. My father got a lot of photos too. The main of the ship has a 2 inch coating of bird poo and rust, but that was okay, since you have to walk in the ocean to get to and from the wreck. The wreck even had a tower on the main deck that I climbed, sadly, though, it wasn’t that high up. If you look in the picture, you will see me climbing the poles on the top deck.

That’s all for now, Folks!

The Southernmost Point in the whole of the Continent of Africa

That is where we are now, and where we will be for two nights, including tonight. We arrived here at about 2:30 pm this afternoon, and, after checking in at reception, went to the southernmost point in Africa. It is mainly a cemented pile of stones with a plaque on it, saying that that was the southernmost point in Africa. Also, at the bottom, there was a blue sign that said, on one side, Indian Ocean, and on the other side of a line in the center, Pacific Ocean, marking the boundary between the two oceans. There is also a big lighthouse that you can climb and I think we are going to climb to the top of it tomorrow.

However, since you probably don’t know what happened before we arrived at our chalet, I will tell you what we did in the morning, skipping over most of the driving parts. We started out the day waking up in Knysna, but not to stay. We packed up and were ready to go by 9 o’clock and when we said goodbye to our hostess, we left. Our first stop was for fuel in the car, and then for a little bit of food. Those were probably the interesting things that happened during our drive.

That’s all for now, Folks!

If I was a Shark

If I was a shark, I would move to the Robberg peninsula in South Africa. That is where my family and I went today for a hike along the coast. The reason that I think that being a shark there would be a good thing is because there were a lot of seals frolicking in the water around the peninsula when we walked around it.

The walk was a fairly long one, being much longer than we expected. We started out walking and walking and walking by a cliff edge that dropped down onto seals in the sea below. The seals were surfing the waves and just having a good time, even without the beer. We walked some more and finally came to the end. On the end, there is a really good view of waves. Woohoo…not. However, there were some seals to watch play in the water. We walked along the coast at sea level for a while, going up and down several hills on the way, before coming upon the island. At the island, we went on a ‘danger zone’ before coming to the gap, where we went up and arrived back at the car. It was really fun.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Cango away from the Congo

Since we are not in the Congo, or anywhere near the Congo, there is no way that the Cango Caves connect to the Congo. However, they are in South Africa, far away, and still get visited by busloads of tourists, literally.

There were two different choices for the tours, the Standard Tour and the Adventure Tour. We chose the Adventure Tour.  The Standard Tour is, and I quote, ‘An easy walk through the first six and largest and most spectacular halls and continuing through to the “African Drum Room”. A few stairways.’ The Adventure tour, however, is different, and I quote again, ‘A challenging tour, with exciting passages and narrow chimneys, requiring a degree of fitness. For lean people only!’ I wasn’t sure if we counted as lean people, but we made it.

The first part was part of the Standard Tour, then we began doing interesting things. We went through a long, wide, and short passageway for a ways before coming out and going up a really skinny staircase. At the top, we went for a while before going up a really narrow chimney, going straight up. When we finished with that, we army crawled through a tiny hole and dropped back out at the top of the tall staircase. Then we went back the way we came.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Africa, Birds, Cats

So, the first thing on my list of three is Africa, and it’s pretty obvious that there is a reason to that, because, as you probably already know, we are in Africa. However, the other two entries on my list of three are harder to explain, and the easiest way to tell you about it is, I think, telling you the interesting parts of our day.

We woke up fairly early, had a leisurely time breaking fast, before getting into the care and heading east, towards Port Elizabeth. We arrived at the Crags, which is, I think, a small town on the N2 Road that has, near it, four different attractions. Those four attractions are Tenikwa, a cat center, Monkeyland, and Birds of Eden. Those you can probably guess the content of just by the name. We went to Tenikwa and Birds of Eden, but skipped Monkeyland because it seemed like too much money to pay. The last attraction in the Crags is an Elephant Rehabilitation Center where you can ride elephants for a large fee, and touch them for a fee. As I said, we went to Birds of Eden and Tenikwa, a bird place and a cat place.

We first went to Tenikwa, there, we went on a walk through and by the cages of cats such as the cheetah, the leopard, the serval, the African wild cat, and the caracal. Sadly though, we never got to touch them, which was a shame, but still, seeing them was pretty good too.

Birds of Eden was more than we expected it to be. There were lots of different kinds of birds free flying throughout a large mesh dome. There were birds of every kind, from the spoonbill to the parrot to the dove. It was very nice and I think that we got a lot of cool pictures.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Hairy Hike on the Heads

Today was a day in which we didn’t do much, but the main thing that we did was go to the Heads. They are the two large points of land that keep most of the waves out of the Knysna Lagoon. Since they are large and tall, with good views, they are prized property spots, and there are a lot of large houses on the East Head.

The West Head is the one that we didn’t go to and is a National Park, hence the lack of houses. However, that lack is somewhat made up for by the fact that only a little ways down the coast, there is a small town called Brenton-on-Sea. Corresponding with that, there is another small town, this one on the Knysna Lagoon that is called Brenton-on-Lake.

On the West Head, we walked to a view point at both the top and the bottom. We did the one at the bottom first. The way that we used to get to the bottom one was through a small system of caves and down a 5 foot jump. What we found out after we did that, however, that the path just continues and goes around the rock, not through it. On the top, we walked on a boardwalk to three different viewpoints; one facing the sea, one the other head, and the other facing Knysna.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Stormy Storms River

Well, it may not be stormy, but, at the mouth, it sure has a lot of big waves. I know that because I stood in the middle of the mouth of the Storms River today, even though it is 9 meters deep. I could stand in the middle because there was a suspension bridge that spanned the river. There were sadly rules against jumping up and down on the bridge, which I thought were kind of sad, but they still were interesting.

The first place that we went to today was the bridge that spans across the Storms River on the National Road, N2. The interesting thing about that bridge is that it is an arch with a flat platform that forms the road. The builders formed the arch by having the two halves and building them upright, connected to the rock with hinges, before lowering them down so that they connected.

After that, we went to a big tree, and then we continued on to the park at the mouth of the Storms River, and we went across it again, this time closer to the water. In all, we had a fairly interesting day.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Tag, We’re It…

Well, we are now (sadly) gone from the Haven. Just like in the game of tag, we are now it, meaning that we will now be the subject of beggars and street sellers, all trying ways to separate people from their money.

When we woke up there, we had breakfast, and then left, taking leave of everyone there. We drove for three hours to go forty kilometers, but now that we are on tar roads, it is much faster.

Anyway, the place that we are fast approaching to is an apartment in the city of Knysna. Tomorrow I hope to tell you more about the place.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Exciting Escapades in a Canoe

Today, unlike yesterday, I will go straight to the post after this sentence, skipping all of the unintelligent chatter that I have used lately to fill up my post with words, in short, it is kind of lame, so today, I won’t do it at all.

We woke up this morning, and after having a nice time breaking fast, we piled into the car and drove out of the boom gates of the Haven Hotel. Our destination was the mouth of the much-talked-about Mbashe River. We planned to take a canoe across the river mouth, and we did. My mother freaked out a lot because of the horror stories that we had heard from people about sharks in the river mouth. I’m happy to report that no sharks came up to us and we didn’t even see a dorsal fin. When we got to the other side, we walked a long ways along the coast until we got to a point, before turning back. We found lots of pretty shells and took some of them with us. When we got back to the canoe, we paddled in circles for a while before finally being able to go straight backwards towards the shore that had our car. When we got back to that shore, we drove back to the Haven.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Horse, man, ship, horsemanship…

My father has joked several times that, because only girls do horsemanship at the summer camp that Eryn and I go to, it shows the cycle of a girl’s life: First they are into horses, then men, and then they want to go on a cruise.

Now, some of you out there might not think that is true, and I am fine with that, and I will not argue. However, disagree as you may, I still will believe that that is true. What, you might ask, is the reason off all of this useless blabbering, when all of you probably have more important things to do that read a page on a website. I will tell you why, because I will soon disclose the main article of this post.

Socks, Alto, Strider, Teddy, and Rocky are the reasons that I am writing this the way I am, well, mainly Alto, Strider, Teddy, and Rocky. To further your waiting, I will just tell you that the fences around the Haven that are supposed to keep the horses in are partly electric, a fact that I learned the hard way. Anywho, I will finally continue: As I was saying, Alto, Strider, Teddy and Rocky are the main reasons that I am writing this post this way, the reason: we rode them. In this case, we is the inclusion of Eryn, my mother, and myself, and the exclusion of my father. The reason for that is that Socks, the fifth horse, is sore from some surgery and is unrideable.

We rode out the gate and onto the left of the three roads heading off in different directions. After spitting out a lot of spiderwebs that had, until recently, spanned the width of the path, we arrived out on a beach on one side of the Mbashi River Mouth. We rode up the coast for a ways, until Shark Island, before heading back and taking a shortcut back the the Haven.

That’s all for now, Folks!

P.S. Our guide’s name was Dayne, pronounced Dane.

A Haven Holiday

Ahhh… It’s good to be back at the Haven Hotel. It has had some changes since my father and I were here, but is still the same idea.

The Cafeteria/Buffet: In the main building, they have a dining hall, which seats a lot of people, but as this is the low season, not very many tables were full.

For the Kids: There is a playground and a trampoline right down the steps from the pool, and Eryn and I think that they are a lot of fun, especially the trampoline. There is also a pool which is fairly clear.

Places to Stay: There are about 31 cabins to stay in at the Haven, some of them are near the coast, some are several houses away. We are staying in the one at the corner, closest to the pool and the beach.

Horses: Right now, the Haven has 5 geldings. Their names are Socks, Teddy, Strider, Eltor, and another, of whose name I forgot. Socks just had surgery and is unrideable, so only three of us in our family can ride tomorrow with a guide. I hope on of them will be me.

Canoing: There are canoes to use in which you can paddle around in both the lagoon on the beach and also to go across the river. I think we are going to do that.

Dark, Damp, Dreary Driving Day, or When at the Haven Hotel

The Haven Hotel is a Hotel in the middle of a game reserve on the Wild Coast in South Africa. It has lots of stuff to do, from horseback riding to golfing, from cycling to canoeing. My father and I have been here before for two nights, and now we are back with the rest of our family for four nights.

We drove a lot today, and as soon as we got off of the N2, the road quality went down and down, as they say on their brochure, ‘To all those who braved The Road, A warm welcome to The Haven Hotel.’ As we have braved the road, we are now here, and are having a good time. Eryn and I are staying in the room that my father and I stayed in last time we were here, and my parents are now sleeping across the hall in the other half of the duplex.

Tomorrow I hope that we will be able to horseback ride. I hope that that will be fun. That’s all for now, Folks!

Falconry and Snakery

Now, perhaps you have heard of falconry, but you have probably not heard of snakery, the reason being that it is a word I made up just now, to describe something that happened today. However, to aptly put a definition to the word that I so thoughtfully made up, I will have to tell you the things that my family and I did today.

We woke up this morning, had breakfast, surfed the web, and then were off. The first stop was the laundry place so that my mother could have some clothes washed by the worker thereof. We then continued on to a place called Falcon Ridge, where they have raptors that they fly around and give demonstrations. When we arrived, there were already a lot of people sitting about, but we did get some seating, which was good. When it started, they flew around an eagle and several kites, and threw some chicken necks to them. From then, they flew an owl, and in that demonstration, I got to hold the owl as it came in for a landing. For the rest of the show, they flew Harris Hawks, the exotic hawks from America, a peregrine falcon, a fish eagle and others. When it was done, I got to hold the peregrine falcon, which is that fastest animal on the planet.

When we finished at Falcon Ridge, we went down to the reptile place, and there, I got to hold an alligator, since they couldn’t have crocodiles, and lots of constrictiors. It was a lot of fun, and I liked it, especially when I scared my mother with the alligator.

Drakensburg Death March

My story begins on a bright and sunny day when a tourist family of four decided to go up into the Drakensberg Mountains and take a hike. The four main people in my story have the names of Jerry, Susan, Eryn, and Ethan. They are a family of four and the parents are Jerry and Susan, who have the two others-Eryn and Ethan-as children. However, back to the story.

The family got into their Nisson X-Trail and went to the mountains. When they arrived, they paid at the front desk and started walking. The path that they chose was the one up to the Sphinx Rock. Round trip, that was 4 kilometers. When they got to the sphinx, however, they kept going, and continued up and around, until finally they arrived at a large and green meadow at the top of the mountain.

This meadow was a brilliant one, bright green grass, and bright flowers of every color that you can imagine. They kept walking, as usual, and when they got to the end of the meadow, they went down, down, down, to the valley below.

They continued at this for some time, and the only excitement was when the father saw a puff adder and Susan freaked out about that. Sadly, however, Eryn and Ethan were down below and wanted to see the puff adder. By the time that Ethan had ran back up the stairs, the adder was gone, never to be seen again.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Dreary Drakensberg, Drizzly, Dark, Damp…

Now, I don’t know if I told you yesterday, but I will tell you again; the Drakensberg Mountains are wet, and with a cloud cover, they can be very dark. Today was somewhat of an exception, but not overmuch. There were a lot of clouds above us while we drove around, in a fruitless search for something to do, but, surprisingly, it was dry.

I might as well tell you about our day, seeing as though I haven’t written much yet maybe I’ll tell you…

…and so we go.

We went out about 11 o’clock to go to the Superspar to by some groceries. We did that, and got ice cream (Magnum, of course) and when we were done, we left. The drive that followed was a fairly short one, and went through lots of villages with buildings made of thatch and cow dung. I think it would be kind of cool to live in a house like that. When we got to the End of the Road in Alaska, we pondered on going into the park and paying a few, but the womenfolk of the family vetoed it, and so begun the long drive back. Oh, and, in the last sentence, I meant Drakensberg, sorry.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Life Stories…

Eryn and I have been laughing and joking about how when we meet someone from out of the current country, we tell them our life story and about the trip. Well, usually. Today at dinner was a good example of that. We went to a place called Mistyque, which is also a lodge, and sat on the table next to an older couple from Germany. The talked to us, but after several conversations, our life story hadn’t leaked out. In the end, it did, and surprisingly, I was the one to tell it. When we left, the host, named Lee, asked about the trip, and when I was the one who informed him on everything, he called me our ‘tour guide.’ That was fine by me, though, as far I as I remember, most tour guides get paid, but I guess I get what I get…

That’s all for now, Folks!

Light Shows

When we were in India, there were lots of ads for light shows around the forts that were numerous. However, I think that the light show that I am experiencing right now, as I write this is better than any of those would ever be. It is a light show similar to the one that we saw in Graskop. To cut the suspension that you are most likely feeling right now, the light show is one of lightning. There is lots of lightning left and right. We have not attempted to take a picture yet, but we might. It is a very nice looking kind of lightning, and while lightning flashes on either side, we are driving towards the sunset.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Desolate Drive

Today, in the afternoon, we went on a drive. The sunset drive is what it was called, and there was a sunset, which was pretty, but there were few animals.

We started out by getting on the truck. Since two of the reserved people were no-shows, we waited a while, before leaving. But just as we were about to go out of the gate, the two others came and got on because they had just arrived. Finally, however, we left.

On our drive, we saw several animals, including impala, zebra, wildebeest, elephants, waterbucks, baboons, vervet monkeys, and two leopard tortoises. All of those are very common except for the leopard tortoises, but you can see those if you look hard enough. In the end, though, we saw several scrub hares in the shine of the flashlights.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Hippo Holidays

Hikipo, the hippo, was a happy hippo. He lived in the Letaba River and had lots to eat at night. His only annoyance was that Jopapi and Manolu, his friend, kept on fighting in the day. He kept telling them that someday, one of them would die from their fighting, but they didn’t listen.

One fateful day, however, everything changed. Jopapi had started another fight with Manolu, and they were snarling. Or snarling as much as two hippos can do. Their mouths were wide open when suddenly, Jopapi pierced the skin on the top of Manolu’s leg. Manolu went down like a flash, and he never got up again. Hikipo was in anguish, and he went all the way across the river and stayed there. Jopapi, however, stayed near in victory, while the hippo that he killed turned into a bloated corpse. Crocodiles were an ever-present annoyance; they kept trying to bite him to see if he was dead. When it turned into night, bugs screamed and fizzled against everything, annoying him when he was out grazing.

That may not be a true story, but the outcome is the same, and there are annoying bugs around.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Driving Day, dark, damp, dreary…

Well, on the bright side, today wasn’t all like that, but the first part of our morning drive was all that is listed above. I’ll begin this by telling you how it all started.

Tired, and hungry too, Jerry Reeder rubbed his eyes as his computer logged off. It had been a trying day, but he had finally managed to book all of the reservations for Kruger National Park away in South Africa. As it was a Sunday, he was at home, so when his children called for supper, he came readily.

10 Months and 10 Days Later…

Ethan woke to the beeping of his watch. It was 3:30 am, time to get up. He sighed, tired and hungry, missing a good chunk of the night’s sleep. Still, however, today was different, as today he was going to go on a morning drive out on the roads of Kruger before the gates opened for other people. When he got up, he went with his parents and sister to the truck, hoping for an interesting animal.

3 Hours and 5 Minutes Later…

They were back, Ethan was tired, but he was happy, and in his mind, he relayed the following episode:

Shining eyes were what they were looking for, and they found it. The first major animal was a spotted hyena, a little bit further on was a family of six cheetahs; five cubs and a mother. They all took pictures, and when they were finished, moved on. The next interesting animal that they saw in the now light bush was a lion. It was lying close to another, and moving away in the background were several wild dogs. Those were the two most interesting sightings, though the others ranged from elephant to steenbok.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Wild African Dogs

Yes, I know that they are actually called African Wild Dogs, but BBC News, in the article about the little boy being mauled to death, calls them Wild African Dogs. Anyway, today we saw our first wild dogs.

We were driving down the road in our dirt stained gray x-Trail when, after hearing several times that there were wild dogs down a ways, we came upon a plethora of cars sitting by the side of the road. After waiting a while, we finally got to pull in to the best spot on the lot, by slowly acquiring better and better spots to look at the dogs. I want one. We got some good pictures, but most will be throw-aways. But on the bright side: WE SAW AFRICAN WILD DOGS!!! When we finished, we left, and by that time it was actually noon.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Park called Kruger

Named after Paul Kruger, Kruger National Park is one of the largest game parks in Africa. It has a diverse environment, and this time of year, everything is green. Lucky for us, the grass is fairly short so you can see shorty creatures, but still, it will take a while before I can get used to spotting animals in a bright green background.

We left the Wild Forest Inn this morning, and after visiting a waterfall, we were on our way to the Kruger National Park. We went in the Numbi Gate and started driving. Contrary to what everyone else in the family thought it would be, the first animals that we saw were actually Waterbuck, not what they thought it would be; impala. We drove and got to Pretoriaskop, where we bought a book, before heading down south to Berg-in-Dal. On the way, the three most interesting things that we saw today were two honey badgers running around (sadly we didn’t get any pictures), several lionesses with 6 cubs, and a hyena mother with three cubs suckling. We saw a fourth hyena cub a little bit down the road, but we didn’t know if it was hers.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Diesel the Dog

Diesel is the dog that was at the pizza place that we went for supper. Since the place was actually a pub, there were men at the bar getting drunk and not censoring their language (which was English) in front of Eryn and I because we were children.

Anywho, we went to the pizza place because the place called the Glass House was closed on Thursdays, weird, right? We finally, after getting soaked asking questions, arrived at the pub and were greeted happily by the door by a dog with the name of Diesel.  Since it had a cut off tail, so when it was happy, its whole butt wiggled. Strange. He had a stick that was partially burnt that he kept placing in weird places like behind my butt on my chair. In the end we teased him by, when he wasn’t looking, hiding the stick.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Wonderful Weather

Weather differs throughout all of Africa; in Egypt it is hot and deserty, in Upington it is just right for people who have been to India recently, and here, in the Highveld, (pronounced high felt), it is cold and wet. It may not be too cold to Oregonians who have just come, but for us to enjoy all of this, we need to climatize some more.

When we were driving through the foggy passes, my parents commented on how it looks like Scotland. All you have to do is trade the cattle for sheep and it will look perfect, with rocky crags, small forests, and hilly meadows. If not for the fog, I think it would be the perfect place to live. The fog is like rain, without the gravity. It hangs there, and your vision is so limited that you can’t see 20 feet to either side unless the wind picks up and you can see farther because the fog clears.

That’s all for now, Folks!

What does a Fish say when it Runs in to a Concrete Wall?

There’s a joke in there, and some people think it is a bad joke. I think it is a good joke, but that could just be my opinion. The answer to that joke is ‘dam’ it could be taken as a bad word when said, but my mother would get mad at me if I wrote it here. However, that joke has no meaning to you, unless you know what we did today.

After vegging around for half the day, we left Dennis’s house for the dam. At the dam, we got out of our car with the soft tire and I swam in the lake that was formed by the dam. I wanted to swim across, but my parents stopped me, sadly. Eryn thinks that I would have drowned, but she is wrong and she knows it.

When we were finished with that, we went to the house of one of Dennis’s friends, where there were 7 dogs!!! I never heard what 6 of their names where from the owners, but the little puppy was named Blowme, and it was my favorite. I played with them all for a while while my father and Dennis and someone else changed his tire. When we were finished, we went back home.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Lion King

I like to think that there was a king of the lions that we saw today, but I’m not sure. There were lots of different colors of lions, from white to Kalahari black and gold to plain old gold. The main family that we watched had all of those colors, and there were eight of them.

We started out the day with breakfast, brekkie as they call it in Australia, as usual. Then wasted several hours with reading and stuff, though some might not call it wasting, before heading off in our car towards the lion farm. The farm was nothing like I expected, I think that I expected to see lions roaming around the bush, looking for new tourists to eat, or something like that. However, it wasn’t anything like that. There were lions in their own separate small cages, separated by kin. If we had known this, I think Eryn would not have been freaking out about us being eaten by lions. I think she was already thinking towards her will and testimony, but since she doesn’t have any of those, that would be kind of hard. We rode in the back of a bikkie to see the lions after seeing all four of their dogs and a rat. When we were finished looking at lions and them looking at Dennis’s dog, Dinkie, we went back to their house before driving back to Dennis’s house.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Warthogs, Meerkats, and Porcupines

Okay, though I said it in the series of warthogs, meerkats, and porcupines, how I am probably going to write it is in the form of porcupines, meerkats, and warthogs.

Porcupines: This afternoon, we went on a walk with Oom Dennis on his old property that he had sold. I know that sounds illegal, but we did it anyway. We walked after parking the car along a river, which anyone from Oregon would call a stream or a creek. We walked and walked away from the car, oohed and aahed at lemon trees and fig trees before crossing the river and turning around. When we were almost there, we saw and picked up two porcupince quills.

Meerkats: On our way home from Oom Dennis’s old farm, we went and turned into a private game reserve called Sable Hill, we drove up their driveway and when we got to the top, we saw that the owners had multiple pets; four dogs, several birds, an ostrich, stuff like that, but what was most exciting for me was that they had MEERKATS! In case you haven’t read the rest of my saga, I will tell you that I like meerkats as pets from the first time that I saw them at the AiAiba Lodge in Namibia. Since then, there has only been one other place that had a meerkat, and that one was unfriendly, these two, however, were nice. When we came back from our drive (paragraph 4; the next one) we found out that we were wrong and there was actually another one, this one was a male baby and tiny, being only 3 weeks old. We all got to hold it.

Warthogs: Once on our drive, the awesome people in the back (me, Eryn, my father, and the two daughters of the owner) hung on as we sped (40kph, or about 20mph) up the hill to see the sables. We saw those and when we were finished, we continued and after seeing lots of plains animals, we looked at a warthog hole. To get a closer look, we drove very close, and just as were were about to move on, there was a big thunk and were were stuck in a hole up to the chassis. To cut a long story short, we got out via a tractor and moved on with our lives.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Birdy

That’s what I’m going to call all of the birds that we cannot name. We have seen lots of those birds, so with me, Birdy is a popular name. Some of the examples of when we didn’t know the names of the birds was in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park and when we saw a woodpecker doing, guess what?, pecking wood on a dead tree to find insects in it. Another time was this morning when my father saw and took pictures of a bird in Oom Dennis’s yard, that one, however, we had a name to, but I forgot it. Nonetheless, I will try to get it for you on the morrow.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Day on a Farm, and other such Stories

Bob woke up, tired and hungry, and tried to hang on to the last moments of his dream, when he was a captain on a large sailing ship, and instead of sailing on water, they were flying. Going fast and smoothly, being on what he dubbed a man-of-sky was the best experience of his life, even though it was only in a dream. He stayed in bed and read on his kindle before being forced to take a shower by his parents. As he broke fast, he noted that Maritjie wasn’t there, and figured that she was at work. After breakfast, he went with Dennis out to see and feed the chickens, which looked like ostriches, and the tortoise.

When finished with that, Bob got into the back of Dennis’s bakkie, or truck, and went to town and the cow pasture. At first they went to the town, and got stuff at the post office and a little shop. When finished, they went out on an unpaved road for a while before, after stopping once, arriving at the cow pasture, where there were a lot of cows. After giving the cows some more food, they left and arrived back at Dennis’s house.

In case you haven’t figured out, Bob is I and I am Bob, the dream is fiction, but the rest was truth, except for the name.

Ou Oomitjie Dennis

That means old little uncle Dennis. He may not be little, but still, sometimes it just is a diminuative, though that doesn’t properly describe him either. He is a big man with a lot of hair, that I can say without any thinking. He has long hair and an even longer beard.

Well, to put it in short, we are now at his house after a very long day of driving. I have been counting down the days until coming to Dennis’s house for a long time, since Australia actually. At his house, he has several pets, including a tortoise.

The reason that we call him Oom or Oomitjie (uncle or little uncle) is because here you call respected older people Oom or Tannie (uncle or aunt, respectively).

Witsand has witsand

Afrikaans lesson for the day: Witsand literally means white sand; wit=white, sand=sand

Today we drove a lot to go from Upington to Witsand. As I said before, witsand means white sand in Afrikaans and we saw that it did, actually, have white sand. But, as you have no context, I will tell you how we got to where we are now.

We left the Waterfront Guestfarm this morning with the plan to go to Witsand and do both it and Roaring Sands (the lesser known parts in the same area) before we went to bed tonight. We drove and drove and drove after we checked out of the guestfarm in which we are staying. When we arrived several hours later, we checked in to our chalet and went immediately to Roaring Sands. There, my father amused himself by tossing me down the slope of sand. When we finished with that, Eryn and I swam in the pool before getting one sandboard and going to witsand. To get to Witsand, you have to walk down a path before getting to some small dunes with white sand, seeing in the distance the big white dunes. We stayed in the small dune area and I tried sandboarding. It was fun.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Falls ‘n Falls

Today we went to the Augrabies Falls on the Orange River and I skied. It was very hard, as I kept falling down, but in the end I prevailed and did it. The falls are very large ones and they are famous for the lizards that sit on the rocks and do pushups and other exercises.

Back to water skiing. I didn’t fall as much as I did yesterday, but as with yesterday, JJ pulled me on his jetski. There was a pattern, though; for every time that I fell, I did well one time. There are no stairs from the bottom of the canyon up to the view points, so you have to pretty much rock climb to get to the top again.

Ok, your imagination has probably gone wild by now, and that was my point. But now that I’ve had my fun, I’ll tell you the real facts. We did go to the waterfall and stayed there for a while, but we did NOT even touch the water, even though it was the same river that runs by the place in which we are staying. When we got back, I skied and did one full loop without falling three times, two times in a row, the other one was a different round.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Windy and Wet Water Skiing

Today I went water skiing. In all actuality, this was my first time, but I like to think that I’m an old hand when it comes to skiing on the water. As it happens, since today is a Monday, the water-space was clear so there was only the wake of the jet-ski that was pulling me.

When you look at a good water-skier, you see that they get up out of the water quickly and go around and around, across the wake and back, until they are done and go back to the dock. Well, it looks so easy, but I have firsthand experience saying that it is not easy. For one, you have to get your balance just right so that you don’t fall forward or backward, and two, you have to hang on.

When I started with JJ in the jet-ski, he went fast and I fell. That happened a lot before I finally learned something and got out of the water but forgot to stand up more, so I was squatting on the skis, I fell. This went on for some time before I finally got up out of the water and skied a ways before falling down again. When I finished, I had almost done a full turn.

What happens behind all of those Pictures…

If my father puts the pictures up, you will see that Eryn and I went around and around in an inner tube in the river, however, what you don’t know is what it feels like. I’ll tell you, shall I?

You are on the tube and hanging on for dear life, the boat that is pulling you seems to be going faster and faster, suddenly, you are at the corner, the most dangerous part, and hang on and try not to flip over or fall off until they finish turning. When they finish turning, you go across their wake and seemingly fly across the water in the air, before falling back down with an ear-splitting crack to the water.

That is the main thing that happens when you are in the inner tube behind the boat. Mainly, if you don’t hang on tight enough and don’t balance correctly, you fall off. Today I fell off a lot, but each time I learned something new so that I could ride for a longer period of time the next time.

That’s all for now, Folks!

The non-Orange Orange River

The river outside the Waterfront Guestfarm is called the Orange River. The problem is, it isn’t orange, it’s green. That was fine though, all said and done, because it wasn’t that cold.

We started out this day going to church, and after a service, we left and said goodbye to all of the people at the church (about a dozen) and headed back to our guestfarm. When we came back, I saw some boys going into a boat, and looked down forlornly on them, hoping that one of them would see me and invite me to go with them on the innertube that was being dragged around from the back of the boat. They didn’t do that, but when I continued looking forlornly, the son of the host invited me to ride on the back of his jetski with him. I did that, and that was fun. When I got back, as soon as I started to sit down, I got invited to ride on the back of the same boat that I saw earlier. This time, they had their sister Carly with them, and Peter, Carly, and I all rode for a while.

By the time that they had to go, Eryn had ridden (and fallen off) and I had ridden a lot and made some new friends.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Fiestas after Siestas

There was some sort of fiesta today, but since we aren’t in a Spanish speaking country, it wouldn’t be called a fiesta. Nor would siesta be called siesta…maybe nap, or rest. In any case, we went to some sort of fiesta today at the new place that at which we are staying. The place is called the Waterfront Guestfarm, and every year they host an annual party. I guess it was our luck that brought us here on that one day in a year.

After driving for 2.5 hours and taking naps for some of the time, we arrived in Upington and went to the mall. At the mall, we went to several stores to look for items of which we were in need. We bought the always-needed candy, sunglasses for Eryn and mother, and more data for the phones. After doing that, we continued to the guestfarm in which we are staying.

When we got to the parking lot, it was full of cars and we had to go around to the back to get parking space. As I said before, it was an annual event that the family hosts every year and we were lucky to come on that day. After checking in, we went to our rooms and went to dinner, which we had at the party. We ate chicken and ice cream and I drank an appletizer before we went back inside to the warmth of the rooms to go to bed.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Leopard, leopard, sitting in a tree…

We saw another leopard today, and like most of the pictures that everybody has, it was sitting in a tree. Most of the time he (or she) was laying down on a branch, but from time to time, it twitched. My father commented on how it would be fun to be a leopard; take a nap all day and tease tourists with giant cameras by being still until the tourists are about to leave and then twitching, making them try to turn back on their cameras and start shooting at the slightly different posture.

Today we also saw several lions, and tried to get pictures of some, but most of them were in the bush, way at the back. However, when we went on our routine evening drive, we saw a lioness that was sitting on the outside of a piece of bush that she was hiding in earlier that day.

As an afterthought, I would hate to half to walk across the bush all day, because lions can be 3 meters from where you are standing and still be perfectly camouflaged.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Well, we saw lions, but for bears and tigers, they were as scarce as boar feathers, if you get my drift. If not, then what I mean for you to understand is that we didn’t see any. Not at all surprising though, considering that tigers and bears don’t live in Southern Africa, or at least they didn’t when I last checked. Still, however, as I said in the first sentence, we saw lions.

In all actuality, we only saw two, but since we saw those two four different times, it seems like there were more. It was a pair of lions, male and female, and the male one wasn’t that old, so didn’t have one of those giant black manes that the lions of the Kalahari do, but still there was some dark hair in the mane. He and his female were, um, procreating, to put it one way, and stayed in that area all day.

We also saw an African Wildcat, which are about the size of a regular cat, and some people cross-breed them with normal cats. However, the one we saw was, as far as I know, pure bred. It had black stripes on its legs up to the knees, and was gray all over besides that.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Today we saw a CHEETAH!

It was running away from us at the time, but we still got some okay pictures. We were going up the side of the river when I said in a somewhat bored tone, “Oh look, there’s a cheetah.”

And my mother was like “Where, where, where, let’s take a picture!!!!!!”

But by the time the cameras were rolling, it was moving up and out.

Later that day, when we were driving back from yet another drive, having seen nothing new, really, after stopping to comment on the dead giraffe, we saw a car hailing us, saying that there was a pair of lions up one kilometer. We continued, and after only half a kilometer, we saw the pair of lions, a male and a female. The male had mane, one of the black ones that are unique to the Kalahari, and the girl looked just like all of them, female lions, that is.

That’s all for now, Folks!

This is Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park

Some of you know about this park and probably, when any of you went a while back, you knew it as the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park. Now, however, it is called the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park, being from the fact that it is in two countries, but has gates to three; Botswana, Namibia, and the Republic of South Africa.

Today we went to that park and are staying here for 4 nights; one night at Mata Mata, two nights at the Kalahari Tented Camp, and one night at Twee Riverien (two rivers).

When we legally left the Republic of Namibia, we arrived at the Mata Mata camp and turned right, going along the river road to see as many animals as possible. We saw the ever-present springbok, the gemsbok, the wildebeest, the jackal, and the vulture. What surprised us all was the quantity of vultures that was in the park, there was almost one in every tree, so many that we didn’t take too many pictures, knowing that they all would be there tomorrow in their camel-thorn trees.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Notable Notes on Notably Notable Namibia

After 25 days in Namibia, I have come up with several notes on the notably notable Namibia. Then again, having been here only 25 days, I doubt that anything that I have to say is noteworthy, but still, I will tell you what I have come across:

In Namibia, you are a park worker, a tourist, or a miner. As far as I have seen, there are lots of mines that need workers. There is also so much land mass dedicated to National Parks that there are lots of jobs available because of that. And last, in part because of that land mass, there are lots of tourists flocking to Namibia to see either dinosaur tracks, the ocean in Swakopmond, or jostling one another to get into parks such as Sossusvlei and Etosha. Indeed, as far as I can tell, there are only three other kinds of jobs that I can think of, and two of them cater to tourists. They are 1) Owning places to stay for tourists 2) Being a waiter at a restaurant, 3)Owning a farm out in the middle of nowhere and farming cattle, sheep, or goats.

That is my main note on Namibia, live long and remember, all who have ears to hear.

Walking, Running, Jumping

We are at a new place tonight and it is in the Kalahari Desert. It is a farm that farms sheep, cows, and goats. Some of the female goats are pregnant, and others have newly born kids. Of the sheep, as far as I could tell, there were no lambs, but since we were so far off, it really is hard to tell. Of the cows, we saw few, but we still saw lots of cow pies on the path.

Anyway, we went on a walk just to walk, and when we got to the first hill, I ran up it.  We continued on like that for some time, before turning around and heading back to our temporary home that has a zebra skin on the floor.

Jokes!

Once upon a time, there was a man named Joe. He was a very holy person, but didn’t get baptized until he was 21. Now it came to pass that he drank some, even though he went to church every Sunday. When he went to church and got baptized, the priest said to him, “You are now Bon. You will not drink, you will not smoke, and you will to do drugs.”

When Joe got home, he opened up his fridge, and took a bottle of wine from the shelf. He filled up a bucket with water and put the wine in it. When he finished, he then said to the wine, “You are now orange juice!”

 

How can you tell the difference between a mountain zebra (Hartmann’s) and the plains zebra (Burschells)?

The plains zebra is white with black stripes, while the mountain zebra is white with black stripes.

 

How do you make a cat bark?

You pour petrol over it, blowtorch that, and it goes WOOF!

How do you make a dog meow?

You slice it in half with a chainsaw and it goes reeeooow!

Flay the Vlei

Vlei is pronounced flay and today we went to a vlei, two vleis to be exact. Their names were Sossusvlei and Deadvlei. Since the park is a long ways away from where we are staying now, we left early in the morning to get to the park when the gates open so that we could do the dunes while it was still cool outside. When we got into the park, bought our permits and drove to the parking lot at the end of the tar road, we started walking the five kilometers to the vleis.

At first we walked along the road, moving to the side when the shuttles went by. One might ask why we didn’t us the shuttle, and the answer is because my father wanted to walk, which was fine by me. About a kilometer in, we started walking away from the main road and towards some dunes that looked big. We walked towards those and then climbed them, only to see that there were still a lot more dunes to go across. This went on for some time before we finally got to the vlei, which means marsh in Afrikaans. The first one, Sossusvlei, was, of course, dry, and we walked across it to the parking lot. From the parking lot, we went to the road and over to Deadvlei. The walk was two kilometers, but we made it. On the other side of the vlei, there were little black spots moving up a big dune. When Eryn identified those as people, we realized just how big those dunes were.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Mambas to Meerkats

Wikipedia says that: The meerkat or suricate, Suricata suricatta, is a small mammal belonging to the mongoose family. Meerkats live in all parts of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, in much of the Namib Desert in Namibia and southwestern Angola, and in South Africa. A group of meerkats is called a “mob”, “gang” or “clan”. Meerkats are primarily insectivores, but also eat lizards, snakes, scorpions, spiders, plants, eggs, small mammals, millipedes, centipedes and, more rarely, small birds. Meerkats are immune to certain types of venom, including the very strong venom of the scorpions of the Kalahari Desert, unlike humans. Meerkats are small burrowing animals, living in large underground networks with multiple entrances which they leave only during the day. They are very social, living in colonies averaging 20–30 members. Animals in the same group regularly groom each other to strengthen social bonds.

In case you haven’t guessed, there are meerkats where we are staying right now. Well, actually, there were meerkats, now there is just one meerkat living in the maze of twisty little passages, or twisty little maze of passages, or little maze of twisty passages, or- you get the point. It lives in a maze of tunnels in the shade of a small acacia tree in the middle of the driveway. As I was saying earlier, there used to be more, as in one more, but it died at nine years of age, leaving the one year old to fend for itself in the world of humans.

Tonight when we were having dinner, our host told us to be careful about snakes and scorpions around our house, which is half a kilometer away from the main building. The reason being that since there aren’t meerkats to eat all the bad things, the bad things like it there. As an afterthought, meerkats even eat mambas!

That’s all for now, Folks!

Wakey, Wakey, Eggs and Snakeys!

Today we saw a lot of snakes; from boomslang (tree snake, literally) to black mambas to zebra snakes. All of those are deadly poisonous, but luckily, none of us got bitten because there was a wall of glass seperating us from the snakes. How, one might ask, and the answer is ‘We were at a snake farm.’

As you heard from the first paragraph, we went to a snake farm. That snake farm had more than snakes, though, it had lizards and scorpions too. However, snakes were what they had most of.

After paying the admission fees, we went in side and turned left, going into the left wing of the complex. In there were snakes that I had never heard of before, so I skimmed through that before going to the middle part, where there were boomslang and zebra snakes. I looked at those for a while, quietly laughing when the boomslang tried to go through the glass, before moving on to the right wing. In the right wing, there were two black mambas, several scorpians, and several pythons. Both of the black mambas had shed recently, so there were skins on their floors. When we finished that, we left, sadly not paying the money to hold Dodo the python

Quad Biking: Not for the Quesy of Stomach

Today, after lots of work on my part, Erym, Father, and I went quad biking on the dunes to the south of Swakopmond. The retailer that we used was Outback Explorers, and we went for an hour and a half. The first thing that we did was get our helmets. Since they obviously didn’t want us to get our hair on the inside of the helmets, they made us put little orange hair nets around our heads to protect the coating on the inside of the helmets. My father was the first one to get his helmet, and it was blue. I was next and got a dark gray one with a retractable visor since I didn’t have sunglasses with me. Eryn got the same style of helment as mine, but hers was bright orange. Once helmeted, we walked over to the large assortment of quad bikes. There were blue, red, and dark green. The dark green and blue ones were Yamaha Grizzly quads, and they had automatic shifting. The red ones had manual shifting and none of us wanted to go on those. Since this was our first time on quads, we got the three blue quads in the front of the garage while our guide went in a red quad.

We left in a large cloud of red dust, our wheels spinning to find purchase on the slippery sand. We followed our leader and drove up the dunes towards the biggest ones that we could see. Them being the closest, they also blocked out everything behind them, so saying that we went towards the biggest dunes that we could see isn’t that hard. We went for forty-five minutes before stopping and the guide took Eryn and I both on joy-rides while he made Father follow behind him. Lucky.

We rode back in silence, save for the roar of the engines and the sound of squeeky brakes. We went across the river again and when we got back, we were all glad that we had quad biked.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Dune 7

Wikipedia says that: Dune 7, which is the highest dune in the world, not Big Daddy, as it’s the seventh dune past the Tsauchab river before dune 45 on your right handside toward Sossusvlei (note that this should not be confused with another “Dune 7” found in Namibia, near Walvis Bay

We didn’t go to the big dune 7, but we did go to the other Dune 7 just east of Walvis Bay, which is south of Swakopmond. We drove the 45 minutes to get there, and when we got within sight and saw tiny dots moving slowly up the side, the people with the sharper eyes identified those as humans, and then we started thinking of the long climb ahead of us.

Gravity was against us, when we were going up, what with slippery sand and all, for every two feet that we went up, we went down one. That was very tiring. Unless it has been really windy or a lot of people have gone up the part that my father and mother went up, you can see their zigzags as they went up the mountain. As I was the first one going up the slope and was about a third of the way up the slow climb when the others started. Since it is a lot faster going along the top, I went up to the tallest point, which is pretty high, stood there, and walked almost all the way back to where I started when I met Eryn coming up. My father came up too, and we started what you might call rough-housing, as in I would try to push him off to one side, but he always succeeded in pushing me over.

When we went back down, I decided to do something really fun to get down: rolling. If any of you ever feel the urge to roll down the side of a tall sand dune, resist the urge. It is most uncomfortable and you get sand in places that shouldn’t get sand in them. Needless to say, I got down eventually, walked back to the car, and we were off.

You’ve got Gas!!

You probably do, but since my mother says that that is inappropriate, so I won’t talk about your flatulence. However, I will talk about gas, or fuel, to be biologically correct.

We left our flat to go towards Henties Bay, which is north of Swakopmond. On our way, we stopped at a Shell station to fuel up and top off the tank. When we got there, Lots of servers wanted us to go to their pumps, and my father chose the one that he thought would be the fastest. When we pulled up behind an old gray car, their hood was put up and the attendants started dinking around with the engine. While they were doing that, other people appeared and surrounded our car and started washing the windows and pouring water over the car itself. We sat through that, and when we finally pulled up, our car was almost spotless. While the tank was filling, they attendants asked if they should do stuff with the engine, and this time, we declined. When my father got out to pay, the gathered attendants tried to guess where we were from, and when he said yes to America, they started singing the national anthem.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Stories, Stories, Stories

A lighthouse is supposed to provide light for the passing ships to show that there is land there. Today we went to a lot of places and there are many stories that I could tell. What follows is but one of the great multitude that should be voiced:

Ethan woke up, freezing cold. Why had he been so careless the night before and not put the covers on straightly and correctly. He turned, and saw Eryn sleeping there so peacefully in the other bed, so opposite of how she was when she was awake, before going back to sleep.

When Ethan woke up for good, it was several hours later and he was well rested, seemingly ready for whatever the day might throw out at him. After taking a shower and, of course, styling his newly cut hair, he left the bathroom and hurried towards the dining room from which delicious smells were coming. He ate breakfast hurriedly, pausing only to laugh at some weird jokes that his father told him, before going back to his book that he was reading.

He read and read, and when he looked up, he saw (and heard) that his parents weren’t home, and gleaned from Eryn that they were at the Laundromat, doing laundry. Since it was freezing cold again and since his jeans were being washed, Ethan curled up on the couch and did his homework like a good little child, waiting for his parents to get home.

When they did get home, they doled out all the clothes to their rightful owners before the whole family left to see flamingoes at the head of the Swakop River. They stood there and watched flamingoes for a time, before going to the Fruits and Vegies Market on the main road to restock on food. There, they got candy and soda, fresh loaves and apples, and anything else that they needed. They finished that and got home only to unpack the groceries and leave again for dinner, going to a lighthouse that was somewhat Italian with a lot of seafood. When they were done, they left and went back home.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Crystal Clear

There are lots of different kinds of crystals, and today, we saw a lot of them; the reason being that we went to the Krystal Gallery in Swakopmond. The Krystal Gallery is a large building that houses lots and lots of crystals, ranging in size from the size of a fingernail to ten times my size. Today we saw mainly the larger ones.

We got buzzed in to the gallery and paid the N$64.00 to get in before heading off into the ‘cave’ that was supposedly an exact replica of the one in which the largest crystal formation was found. It was a long passage. A twisty little maze of passages, or a maze of twisty little passages, or a little twisty maze-
you get the point. When we got out, the first thing that we saw was a giant crystal formation about ten times my size and it was green. It was sitting there and we took several pictures of it before looking around the cavernous hall some more. In the center, there was another large crystal formation sitting on a pedestal in the middle of a small fountain, and right beside it, there was a carving made out of emerald and something else that was black, making it very pretty. There were more crystals throughout, and upstairs were displays of the nicer looking specimens, like pyrite, black tourmaline, and watermelon tourmaline. When we finished up there, we went back downstairs and Eryn and I got some small tumbled rocks before we all left and went back to the car to drive away.

That’s all for now, Folks

Cat Scratch Fever

A song and a sickness. Today I only worried about the fever. There are two cats where we are staying, and the male one, the one with the fluffy tail, likes to scratch me. Luckily, the fever is not very harmful, so I don’t have to worry. Anyway the point of this paragraph is that there are two cats here.

The two cats are black cats, and one of them is like my cousin’s cat named Jade; the reason being that they both are black and follow people around everywhere and love to be rubbed. Today I saw and rubbed both of the cats a lot, though the male one scratched me and drew blood twice. My favorite is the female, for when we go inside, she waits patiently by the door until one of us goes back out again, or until it is dark.

There are also two ducks here; one female and one male. The female one is brown (ugly) and has a cut-off wing so she seems lopsided in everything she does, including chasing the male. The male one is prettier, and seems to tolerate having the female chase him, though at times, he has to run away and jump into the pool for an escape route when the female gets too vicious.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Mitjie

Mitjie is a young meerkat that is a pet at the AiAiba Lodge in Namibia. We first met him when we went into the lodge and saw him lying on his stomach on the gray concrete flooring of the lapa. Opposite of my mother’s directions, I sat down, and it came to me. Right as the employee said ‘Don’t worry, it doesn’t bite’ guess what, it came up and bit me on the leg. Not very hard of course, but still enough to be a surprise. As it turns out, its open mouth seems to go before everything that it does, and his little teeth bite into whatever moves. It never broke the skin, so it was pretty harmless. When my father sat down, it ran to him and sank its jaws into his skin, taking off maybe the first of seven layers of skin. We both played with him, before heading off on a walk to see the bushman drawings that the lodge is famous for. Right before we left, though, some warthogs went across the yard, and the meerkat, since it is a baby, started suckling on a warthog. When it bit the warthog on the nose, the all ran off, and we did too, but in a different direction, towards the hike.

When we came back, the meerkat was nowhere to be seen, but when we looked around after ice cream, there it was, digging holes in the ground. It came to us and we petted it, while it bit us. By the time we left, I wanted a meerkat for a pet.

Tracks in Rocks

Eryn figured out what makes an Australian accent an Australian accent; make all the vowels into a long ‘i’ sound, so the title of this post would be pronounced something like ‘trikes ine rikes’ or something like that. I don’t know why, but Eryn was saying stuff like g’day mate or other such phrases in her new and weird attempt at an Australian accent tonight at dinner.

Today we went to see the dinosaur tracks that the farm is famous for. There are two main places where tracks are visible. One of them just has several sets of small tracks, and the other has a lot of big tracks. When we went this morning, we first stopped at the little tracks, to see what they were about. They are about three inches long from the tip of the largest of the three toes to the heel, and their stride is about one foot. After looking at those tracks in the sandstone, we continued up the tilted rock and came upon the big tracks, which are maybe a foot from the tip of the largest of three toes to the heel with a stride of about one yard. There were also several other sets of prints, or ‘spoors’ as our host calls them, and we sat up there and looked, while also using the phone reception that was so scant and spotty in the valley. In the evening, we went up there again and our host told us more about the sandstone and the ceratosaurus tracks.

Snakes, snakes, snakes…there are lots of snakes. Though only about 25% of the snakes in southern Africa are poisonous to people, there are still a lot of those type. Most of the ones that aren’t poisonous to people are pythons or small snakes. Our hosts have encountered snakes on various occasions, and the following are just some of those adventures:

In the campsites, there are some showers with water, along with toilets. Sometimes, when people leave those places, they don’t close the doors all the way. There was a woman who either did that, or someone in her party did that who went in to take a shower. Now, in the shower there is a big stone block that you can put your feet upon to scrub your leg without having to double over. This woman was taking a shower, when suddenly, out from under the rock, came a millipede. Now, of course, this woman probably had been stressing about snakes, and the sight of something coming out from under the rock was too much for her. She screamed ‘SNAKE’. At the house, Reinhold, our host, heard that scream and grabbed his revolver to go and shoot the snake. But when he got there, all he saw was a millipede.

We had a good laugh about that one, my family and I, remembering the first time that we had gone to Costa Rica and the parents had stressed to us about how there were lots of poisonous snakes there and if we saw one, we should get them. What happened was this; on our first day, we stayed in a treehouse. Eryn and I were playing down on the forest floor, when, suddenly, Eryn saw a millipede at the bottom of a small trench. The same thing happened for my father as it did Reinhold, and we have remembered it ever since.

Before dinner, Reinhold showed us a picture of a python coiled up in the grass and said, “Mary, the python” we laughed at that, and then he went on to tell us that Mary was a python that was shedding, and since they shed over their eyes, too, Mary stayed by water all the while. He told us that she sat there by the dam for a week before she finished shedding and left, never to be seen again.

Once, in the house, Reinhold and Adele thought that they heard a snake under the couch. Adele got down on her stomach by the china cabinet and proceeded to shine a light under the couch. The snake, however, was actually under the china cabinet, and when she got down, it spit it’s venom into her face. She immediately washed her face, and then they started to chase it out of the house. They chased and chased, and when it got near a big battery, it accidently touched both terminals at once and caused an explosion, blowing itself to kingdom-come while it was at it.

The black mamba is one of the most poisonous snakes in all of Africa. Once upon a time, there was a black mamba. It wanted shelter, so it went into the dog box by the screen door to the house. The owners heard the noise, but when they looked, the dog was in the box too, so it might have hurt the dog. After getting the dog out slowly and carefully, they took a shot, and that mamba didn’t see another day.

Those are four of Reinhold’s snake stories, I would bet that if I asked him, I would learn more, but then I might bore you with all of the stories.

That’s all for now folks!

Dinosaurs

Some people say that dinosaurs did exist, some people don’t, but nonetheless, there is some evidence that they did indeed exist, along with the fossils that have been dug up and put into museums. The evidence are merely tracks, made a long time ago by something walking across Namibia, though I doubt that the area that we call Namibia was actually called Namibia. Anyway, that place is called Dinosaur Tracks Farm, and rightly so, for it is a farm that has tracks that are like no others that there are today.

We left Etosha National Park this morning and went south from Okaukuejo Rest Camp towards the Andersson Gate. We, after stopping twice, once at a watering hole and once to take pictures of two hyenas by the road, arrived at the gate and left the park, on the road south. As the drive was no great distance, we arrived at a reasonably good time; one o’clock. We met with our hosts, a tall, old man and his wife, before settling into our rooms, reading, and napping. Tonight we had a good dinner of macaroni with cheese and tomato sauce and a salad. When we got back to our two rooms on the block of four rooms, we got ready to go to bed. Tomorrow we will go and see the dinosaur tracks and probably take a lot of pictures.

Wolfs an’ Lions

Of course, there aren’t wolves here, but what I’m talking about here is a watering hole called Wolfsnes. But sadly, we didn’t see any mammals there; only birds. However, we did see a lot of mammals at another waterhole, called Okondeka.

When we first got there, the only animals that we could see were zebra, wildabeeste, springbok, and ostiches. Then, suddenly, out of the bush, a lion springs up, and all the animals run and flee as it stands, only to sit back down again and the plain falls back into its usual sounds and sights. But no, it is not to be, for right as everything gets settled down, another lion pops up, this tme, right in the middle of all of the animals, scaring them off in all directions. Then the lion lays back down and all returns to normal, this time to stay. The lions seem to be asleep, but no, when we pull up a little, there, right beside the first spotted lion, is a cub, just sitting there. When we look right, there are three more lions sitting under a tree and napping. Since those are far away and hard to take pictures of, we head back to the camp.

That is the end of that tale, hear and remember.

Rhinos Roaring Rapidly, Racing, Running, Raging

Did you know that rhinos can roar and growl? I didn’t, but tonight I got proved wrong at the Okaukuejo Watering Hole. Okaukuejo is a camp situated in about the middle of the park going east to west, but it is just south of the middle going north to south. We are staying here for two nights, just as we stayed at Halali two nights. It seems to be a bigger waterhole, but the pool is a bit smaller.

Anyway, back to the rhinos…we had seen none at all today when we arrived at the Okaukuejo Camp. We ‘nested’ and Eryn and I swam in the three small pools. When we were done and got back, Mother had a meal cooked and ready for us. We ate that and then hurried to the watering hole for sunset, but NEVER forgetting Magnum Bars in our haste. When we got to the water, we saw several giraffes, a gemsbok, some springbok, and some jackals. We then sat down to watch and wait to see what would happen when it got dark. An hour later, three rhinos were around the watering hole, two of them were fighting, and the other was taking a drink. The fighting ones were growling and roaring at each other, and then, when the little one charged, the big one fled, but came back and beat the little one and got the rights of the watering hole.

You will never guess what WE saw today!!!

Guess what!! we saw a LEOPARD!!! It was sitting on the ground near a watering hole trying to figure out what to do with its kill, a kudu, which was five times its size and bulky, too. We watched it for nigh on two hours, and what it succeeded in doing at long last was dragging the kudu behing the tree, eating the entrails, and leaving. Though that was the only new thing that we saw today, we did see other animals, such as gemsbok, springbok, impala, zebras, kudu, elephants, giraffes, and rhinos.Most of them were just sitting under trees, but some of them, like the elephants, were playing in the water, which was mostly mud.

When we got back from our drive, Eryn and I swam, ate burgers, and then went to the watering hole to sit through three hours of sitting and seeing only a couple rhinos and jackals. While we were sitting out there, we heard thunder, saw lightning, and felt a little rain, but other than that, it was a regular night by the watering hole.

When in Etosha National Park

As I have said before, Etosha was the biggest game park in the world before it shrank. Still, though, even now there is a fair amount of land; 22,912 square kilometers. Thus far, we haven’t seen much of it.

We started out the day at Onguma Bush Camp and left pretty early, set on getting in the gates soon. We got in the gates fairly quickly and the first animals that we saw were Damara Dik-Diks. We saw a bunch of those before moving up on the size a couple of times. We saw a giraffe! Not that they’re that rare, but seeing on is still kind of nice. We then went in to a rest camp to try to pay for the park and when we came back, there were banded mongooses in the grill of our car. They got scared by us and ran off, but not before we could get some pictures.The next place that we went to that was exciting was a watering hole that had zebras, kudu, gemsbok, impala, springbok, warthogs, wildabeest, giraffes, and even lions! We took pictures and waited to see if the lions would do anything, but they just sat in the shade of an acacia tree. For the rest of the day, we drove around, trying to find something to take pictures of. For the rest of the time, the only new animals that we saw were red hartebeeste. When we got to Halali Rest Camp, we ‘nested’ and swam in the big pool before eating dinner and going to the water hole, and only seeing jackels, rhinos, and impala. What made it even more annoying was the fact that the spot lights kept getting turned on and off, so some of the pictures turned out badly.

When at Onguma

So, we’re almost to Etosha National Park. It was the biggest game park in the world at 100,000 sq kilometers, but now it isn’t, because it shrank down to only 22,912 sq kilometers. Anyway…we are at Onguma Bush Camp and Eryn and I just swam in their pool, which actually wasn’t that cold. Onguma is situated just outside of Etosha and tonight we’re going to go on a game drive on this side of the big fence.
Later that day:
We went on our game drive, and we were the only ones on it. We got in a big truck that seats eleven passengers and went out the protection gate that keeps the animals out of the campsites and started driving. The first animals that we saw were some zebras that were standing in the middle of the road. Our guide didn’t stop for those, but instead opted for stopping to look at bushbabies. We saw those and moved on, seeing only a bat eared fox and some springbok in the remaining time. It got pretty cold, and Eryn and I pulled on the blankets that were provided. When we got back, we were really tired and went straight to bed.

Skipping Stones

My post is about skipping stones, well, not all of it, but some of it. If you try to skip a stone the wrong way, it rolls, which would turn it into a Rolling Stone. Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to get off topic. Anyway, today I learned how to skip a stone. ‘Where?’ one might ask, ‘When’ another might ask, and another might ask ‘How?’ I will be answering all of those questions, but you have to sit through the whole thing. This is the way of it:

We had gone to the Waterberg National Park, which is a large plateau that is taller than everything around it for a long ways so you can see for miles. We had done that and were back at the guest farm after Eryn and I swam when I finally found the oldest of the three sons of Nadia, the owner’s daughter (or daughter in law.) I found him on the back of a truck with a knife in one hand and a stick in the other. He was whittling and trying to hollow out the center of the stick, and that wasn’t working. Just then, Mark, Nadia’s husband, drove up in his truck and asked us if we wanted to go with him to clean the road grater. We all said yes and climbed into the back of his truck and we drove to the house by the lake and started power washing the grater. We did that for a while and then got invited inside for some Coke and chips. Marsel (the oldest boy) and I took our cokes and went down to the lake. There, he taught me how to skip stones on water. The most that I could ever do was one skip, but he could do four or five. When we came back, we finished our cokes and got back into the truck for the ride back to the farm. When we got back, it was 7:00 PM.

Driving on Dirt

In Namibia, there is a lot of dirt. It’s in the desert, so that’s understandable. Most of the roads are dirt, too. In our past travels here, we have been on the paved roads, and that allowed us to go quickly. Today, however, we drove on dirt.

I’m not sure if I wanted it, or even if I didn’t want it, but it still happened. We drove around on dirt roads for two hours this evening. It was a beautiful day, the sky was blue, the sun was bright, and the clouds were few. All of those things made it a good day. We had been waiting at the front building when Alex drove up in his white truck. He told us to get in the bed of the truck and to stand up so we could see all the animals. At first, we saw none, and even though we looked in every direction, we could not see a single animal. We saw lots of signs that animals had been there, like the bark scratched off the bottom of an acacia tree by a porcupine and several large warthog holes. But it was not to stay that way. The first animals that we say were some klipspringers, which are about the size of a jackrabbit. Then, after driving some more, we saw some hartebeest. Several minutes later, we saw some gemsbok, stopped, took some pictures, and when it left, moved on. Later we saw a rabbit.

Aside from birds, those were the only wildlife that we saw on our drive, though we drove around a lot more. When we got back, we had dinner and went back to our cabins to go to bed.

When at Weavers Rock

Weavers Rock is a guest farm in northern Namibia. We are staying here for four nights, and we have already spent one. But since the last time I wrote was in Botswana, I’ll try to catch you up to where we are now.

Yesterday we started out early and went to the Botswana/Namibia Border to get across. We got across and passed through several small towns before arriving in Windhoek, the capitol. In Windhoek, we got sim chips for the phones before heading off again, this time north. After two hours of driving, we arrived at Weavers Rock Guest Farm, and got greeted by Alex, the owner, and his medium sized dog Bonzo. We ate dinner by the pool and when I went to feel the water, I got startled by the light brown giant-of-a-dog, Tasso. He started growling, but after more time, I have come to think that it was snoring. During the rest of dinner, three dogs ran past, two of them stopping. The three dogs were Bonzo, Lille, and Nala. Nala and Lille stopped, and let us pet them. Then we went to our cabins and proceeded to go to bed.

The next day, when we woke up, we had showers and then went outside for breakfast. After that, we went back down towards the pool, and saw the four dogs on the way; Bonzo, Lille, Tasso, and Nala. I played around with them and then found a puppy named Choc, as in chocolate, who is the son of Tasso and a very cute puppy. I played around with those until I found a six year old boy named Dominic. We played around for a while, in the pool and otherwise, before I got forced to go to the water hole. We went, and when we got back, I jumped in the pool a couple of times before giving that up and going in.

Watering Hole Poem

 

Waking up early by day,
to look at animals, they say.
But when you see no movement,
you are not afraid to comment,
that there is nothing there.
When eating breakfast later,
and seeing the metal ‘gator.
Eating scrambled eggs and toast,
hoping it is not warthog roast,
all of which they offer.
Seeing movement by the pond,
running back, so quick to respond.
Seeing some animals drinking,
knowing what they should be thinking,
that is time to move on.
That is pretty much how our day went, because the only other animals we saw were a couple of kudu, and even then, only their fleeing backsides.

A Gnu Waterhole

 

A wildebeest is a gnu, a gnu is a wildebeest. For some of you who watched the Adventures of Harriet Hamilton, you might remember the line about how the new gnu knew. Just for the record, I wasn’t there, as I was in South Africa, looking at real live gnus. We saw one gnu today at a waterhole, and even then, it was mostly in the dark. We had been eating supper and looking at the passing springbok drinking from he waterhole when the guard gestured towards the hole at one of the darker sections. I saw the gnu when it moved; a great roiling mass of bone and muscle that moved towards the light, scaring all the springbok while at it.
For those of you who have recently latched on to this saga, we are in Botswana, a country right above South Africa. We have driven from the capitol, Gaborone, and are now at a place called Thakadu Bush Camp. Its central focus is on the watering hole, and people sit around it all day.
Today Eryn and I called ECA (Emerald Christian Academy) to tell our classmates our website. The only ones that actually talked into the phone (yelled, more like) were Destiny, Emma, and Krista. Then, because of some error in the connection, the line disconnected, and after Eryn tried several different tones of ‘hello’ and got me to say ‘yo’ she ended the call.

Presedential Tea Time

Though we aren’t English and don’t drink tea regularly, and weren’t in the company of a president, we nevertheless had a presidential tea time. How we had that, is something that is better told with a back-ground.

On our second full day in Gaborone, we decided to go to the Cresta President Hotel (mentioned in the Number One Ladies Detective Agency) for tea after seeing the sign yesterday that said, on the balcony, Mma Ramotswe Tea Corner. That had caught our eye and we had decided to go. Around three o’clock pm, we left our hotel and started the three minute journey by car the the Cresta President Hotel. Once there, we went upstairs to the resturaunt and got some rooibos (red bush) tea and some chocolate cake to eat and drink. We did that and gazed down at the empty mall below, where, yesterday, there was a formidable array of shops and stalls. But then again, that’s what happens on a Sunday afternoon.

Exploring Gaborone

Gaborone isn’t a big city, about 250,000 residents. But still it seems to be a pretty big city. Today we have seen a lot of it, but not all. To tell where we went, I will tell you what we did.

We woke up late this morning and finished breakfast at around 11 o’clock. By noon, we were gone on a drive towards the President Hotel to look around and see the mall behind it. The mall was a large one on a street between other shops. There were lots of wooden products that were carvings and other things like that that were for sale by street vendors. There were even people selling CDs, and to make people notice, they blasted the music out of speakers, and since there were a couple of those, it created a large and uncomely din. Once finished, we went to Zebra Way and looked around, seeing as though that was the closest thing to Zebra Drive, which has a role in the series The Number One Ladies Detective Agency. We did that and then went to Kgali Hill, a hill at the edge of town. After chasing baboons with the car, we looked, but couldn’t find a way to get up the hill, and in the end just gave up and went back to town. In town again, we went to the President’s Office and looked at it, before going back to our hotel. We sat around there and then went to an Indian restaurant called Embassy for supper before going back to our hotel room to go to bed.

When in Gaborone

The waiting game is a long one. Sometimes people never show up and others keep waiting the rest of their lives, and others people are just gone a really long time. Today I had two examples of the waiting game happen to me; one was at the border crossing between South Africa and Botswana and the other one was waiting for the rental car in the Johannesburg International Airport.

How we got to that airport is probably a mystery for you. Because of that, I will tell the story. Last night we went to the airport in Perth. We waited in the lounge and then boarded a plane towards South Africa. 12 hours later, we were in South Africa. We got some mochas, some sim chips, and then headed toward the Budget Rental Car office on the other side of the airport. They had a car for us, but then decide to give us a taller car. With that upgrade in mind, they worked on it for an hour and twenty minutes, and finally finished and let us get the car. We left.

We drove 5 hours to get to the South African/Botswana border. Once there, we sat around in line for a while on the ZA (South Africa) side before heading over to the Botswana side. The main wait was when we were trying to find money we didn’t have, but eventually just remembered that we had spent it. We changed the number and then drove to Gaborone, where we are now.

Parking in Parklands

Unlike at all the other places that we have been to in Perth, Kings Park had free parking and was very big. We parked and got out at least five times, and all the way through, there was no fee. Anyway, we went to the park around noon. The car entered the park and we went down the road until we reached a playground, where Eryn and I ran off and played. The playground wasn’t like any that I have been to before. It was wooden platforms with ladders and poles off to either side and slides at each end. Not at all what I expected, but still okay. We then moved on and stopped at a lookout and a garden on our way up to another playground, which was a little bit less than we thought it would be. We parked and walked toward the playground. The main part which Eryn and I wanted to use was the Space Net, one of those pyramids made of rope that you could climb. We used that for a little while before we got bored and went off to find other ways to have fun. We found some ziplines (metal, of course) and used those one handed and backwards till we got bored with that and left. Before leaving the park, we did two other things, one of those was a DNA tower that you could climb (it wasn’t that interesting) and a playground, which had a plastic tire swing, and that was about it. Then we left.

Sensationalizing SciTech

 

Today we went to SciTech. SciTech is a science museum much like the OMSI in Oregon. There were lots of exhibits, from trivia machines to simulated helicopter flying, they had a lot.  When we first entered, Eryn and I went to the trivia machine. It asked questions like ‘what is the largest organ in the body?’ the answer ‘skin’. Then we moved deeper into the area. There was a ball exhibit where you pumped a crank to get a ball to go on a roller coaster-type ride, and there was one where you peddled as fast as you could to see how high you could get a ball. Moving on, there was a simulated helicopter ride, two racing rides, and a soccer (or should I say football??) kick. In one of the racing games, you peddled as fast as you could to move your little icon around the fake track and get to the finish line faster than the other person. In the second racing game, it was like one in an arcade, pedals, steering wheel, and computerized races. On the helicopter ride, you controlled the helicopter around a Google Earth simulated projection with animated cars, trying to do something. Those were probably the most fun of the exhibits, but there were lots of others that probably would have been more fun if we were younger.

A day in the Life…of a Prisoner

 

Today we went to prison. The reason: Eryn was caught shoplifting. Actually, she wasn’t, we went because we stopped in a no stopping zone…even that isn’t the truth, though we did stop in a no stopping zone. No, the truth is, we went so that we could look around the World Heritage Site.
The Fremantle Prison is situated on a hill in what used to be the outskirts of Fremantle. Now, however, after years of growth and development, what used to be a prison away from everything turned into what it is now: a jail in the City Center. It is a large prison and has lasted for over a century, but was recently closed in 1991. The Reason: There was no sanitation, in each 7 ft by 4 ft room, there was a bunk bed, a desk, and a bucket. The bucket was used as a toilet. With 16 hours a day locked in a cell with another person, think of how bad that bucket would smell. On that happy note, let’s go back to talking about the prison.
The prison was built in the 1800s by the convicts. The original building is made of limestone blocks, cut and quarried on the site by other convicts. In the back, there are the ‘yards’ which are exercise places in which the prisoners exercise. There is also the kitchen, in which the best job is, getting paid $37 a week, no holidays, 7 days a week. That is more than three times the amount you would be getting if you were a cleaner, a bleary $11 per week.

When in Perth

We are in Perth. Perth is a big city; not as big as, say, Bangkok, but a whole lot bigger than Eugene. We are now staying in an apartment in Perth and have most of our stuff laid across our rooms. The reason: someone lost two cords, one for the GPS and one for the MP3 player. We unpacked everything, but after all of that, there were no cords to be found. On the bright side, we were able to re-fold everything in our suitcases.

We drove to Perth from Jurien Bay today. It wasn’t too long of a drive, but still, it took a while. When we started to see buildings again, we drove for another 30+ kilometers before turning on a tiny street that only has a street sign on the right side of the road. We went to Coles, afterwards, and bought some food for dinner before eating dinner and arriving where we are now.

A Post about Animals

Today I will write about animals. There are a lot of animals here, from alpacas to chickens to rabbits. When talking with the owners, Anne and Dennis, we have figured out most of the following about  the domestic animals:

  1. Rabbits: There are two rabbits, one is white with brown, and the other is white with black. The black one is named Peter and the brown one is named Mr. Splotch or something like that. In day they can be seen wandering around in their small oval enclosure; either in their bucket or eating grass from the ground. At night they can be found in their pen that looks like it was supposed to be a chicken coop, but it accommodates them anyway. Peter is fairly small and active around his enclosure and has laid back ears (my father commented that everything about them was laid back). Mr. Splotch, however, sits around in one spot with ears off to either side and around his fat head. He is very fat. They both like to be picked up, but only if they feel secure will they not scratch you.
  2. Dogs: There are also two dogs, named Millie and Sandy. Millie is an old gray dog (about 12 years old) and sits inside on her pillow most of the day. She isn’t very active most of the time, but when it is very sunny and warm, she will sit out in the grass and lie there until it gets to warm and then go sit on the concrete until she gets to cold and then goes back out to the grass to get warm again. Her fur is light gray and a bit curly in spots and she growls at people if she doesn’t know them. Her tail is very short and doesn’t wag much, if at all. Sandy, on the other hand, is completely different. She is an active 3-year-old dog about Border Collie color and size but is a sheep dog by birth. She has a long attention span and can sit all day in front of the rabbit enclosure watching them move about. I had fun with that early in the day when my sister and father were playing with Peter the rabbit and he was watching them, I stood in front of her face and when she moved her head, I would lean over that way and vice versa. Sandy goes all around the property and is an outside dog, and enjoys that. She is very nice and her long tail thumps hard against your legs when you pet her.
  3. Chucks (chickens, pronounced chooks): There are about a dozen chickens in a pen down the road from the homestead. When I went down this morning, there were eight eggs in the nest. The chickens are very active and are great fox bait. Not that Anne and Dennis want them to be. They are all different colors and they are pretty big.
  4. Sheep: There are two sheep that hang around with the cattle. Dennis got them for Anne a while back because she likes animals.
  5. Alpacas: There are two furry alpacas that follow the sheep and cattle around; they were also from Dennis to Anne a while back. As you can see from this list, she likes animals.
  6. Cattle: The station now has about 900 head of cattle on their 7000 acres of land, they used to have more, but they sold them and now predict that it will probably get smaller.

Deceased: Anne said that she used to have geese and turkeys, but they all got eaten by foxes and she doesn’t want to give more food to the foxes, which are considered

A Day of Lesueur

 

The parent’s room is called Lesueur, there is a park named Lesueur, and even a mountain in the park. Everything is called Lesueur after a topographical painter and the the natural history artist on the expedition on the French vessel the Naturaliste. The people on the boat (Frenchmen) decided to name the two prominent hills that they could see from the coast Mt Lesueur and Mt Peron.

We have traveled a long ways since I last wrote. The GPS says that we traveled 750 kilometers since Gnaraloo. We drove a whole days worth yesterday, and today we went to a park.
We went to Lesueur National Park and saw lots of flowers, from Kangaroo Paws to Yellow Lilies. We took a long walk up to the top of Mt Lesueur and from there went on another loop around a small hill.
Now we are staying at the Amble Inn B&B. Sounds like Ambalindum, or Anne Boleyn. Now all we need is King Henry the 8th and then we’ll all be dead.  : )

Skelatal Beach

Yes, skeletons, on a beach. Some are old, and some are new, but they all have one thing in common, they are dead. Today when we were walking along the beach, we saw bones, and lots of them. Here is how it was (or how I would like to tell it):

After a long day of sitting and playing on the beach, Eryn and I, along with our parents, went back to the station homestead and went to our cabin. Now it came to pass that every night, we have gone out on the beach to walk along the dunes and on the beach. Tonight we did that, but we saw some very different things. At first the walk was like all the other ones, walk down the hill, go through the gate, go down the road, and then climb up the dune. Every other time, we had gone to the right or straight to the beach, but today we went down and to the left. I immediately left them and went and hid in the bushes, moving even with them but staying out of sight. On my side, I saw several deposits of bones but thought nothing about them. Eventually, I ran down the side of the dune and enlisted Eryn as a partner in the business of staying out of sight, and we both crept back out of sight. We did this for some time before the parents turned around while we were resting and startled us. We ran to the first bone deposit that we found and made a skull and cross bones with a skull and crossed bones. We ran some more and when we got to the next one, I took two jawbones and laid them on the beach on a rock, trying to be sure that the parents would see them. Eryn and I had agreed that she would lay another skull and crossbones on the beach at the first deposit of bones that I had found, but when we got there, the bones looked fresh and grisly and Eryn didn’t want to touch them. When we got to the top of the dune, my father ran up behind Eryn and gave her a start before we all got back to the big dune and made way for home.

Lump

 

Today the E&E Exploration Team (EEET for short) built a Lump. At the beginning, when I was building by myself, I just made it a round wall to protect a little hole in the middle against the incoming tide. When Eryn came and started helping, I came up with the idea of filling it in and making a tall tower. Eryn thought that that was stupid, but agreed to do it to humor me. We got it about two feet high and Eryn but a piece of coral on top, but in the onslaught of incoming waves, it fell, along with half of the Lump. Not the lump, thEE Lump. The Lump turned out to be a flop, literally, and most of it fell to the sea, but not before Eryn and I spent a lot of time and energy trying to fix it.

Let’s go to the Beach

Today we went to the beach. It was called the Gnaraloo Bay and it had warm water. When we first arrived, I saw a whale breaching but no one else believed me. Eryn and I immediately went to the water and dug holes. Well, it was more like I dug a hole and Eryn waded in the water and complained about how cold it was. I dug a small hole and built a small wall around it and then dug a moat complete with its own wall. Eventually, I gave up on the middle part and just focused on another hole in the moat that needed a wall around it. Eryn showed up about then and found herself a hole adjacent to mine and did the same thing. She built a big corner and a tiny wall that kept getting washed out by the incoming tide. After watching mine flood a couple dozen times, I aided Eryn on hers and built up a decent wall. We got bored with that and walked away. 20 minutes later, when we came back, the only part that looked the same was Eryn’s original corner. After bearing Eryn bragging about that, I built a wall that went all the way around the center and dug out the middle. Then we left in the car for Gnaraloo Station.

When in Gnaraloo

 

Gnaraloo, a place of comfort, sheep, and sand. Everywhere you look, there are sheep or there is lots of sand. In the distance, there is the glittering ocean with waves that have sea snakes and poisonous octopi in them, and knowing that there are so many poisonous things around. There are bones everywhere and you can only wonder what brought upon such a death.

We arrived in Gnaraloo and went to the beach after getting settled in our to room. At the beach, we didn’t see any sea snakes or octopi, but Eryn still was too afraid to wade in the inch deep water, even though the rest of us were doing it. On the way back, we saw no sheep, but we did see lots of sand and a LOT of sheep poop.

Pelican Post

Being on in a seaside town has its advantages and disadvantages, and pelicans are in one of the categories, but I don’t know which?

Today we had pelicans involved in our activities, mainly, Pelican Point. Pelican Point is a point out on an island in Shark Bay, west Australia. We could have driven out to the point, but since the car has such low clearance, we probably would have gotten stuck. On the point, there are lots of pelicans and they seem to be okay with humans around them, but I guess that that is from so many people being in the beach and feeding them. On the beach, we walked for awhile before heading back to the car and driving away into the sunset.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t the sunset, but there sure was sun involved.

Roadside Recreation

Animals, animals, so many animals that my father says that I have missed. From emus to lizards he says that I have been oblivious. I haven’t, cause I’m always on the wrong side of the car to see them. The only animals that I have seen are a crow, a goat, three sheep, and an emu. However, this nine hour drive hasn’t been off a waste, for we have gone a long ways up the coast and are still heading for Carnarvan.

Later that day….
We have arrived in Carnarvan and are at a house called Fish Tales. The decoration is mainly fish, because of the name (or vise versa). The house has a living room, a kitchen, two bedrooms, and two bathrooms.
After moving into the house when we arrived, we went to Woolworth’s and then  to the Old Post Office, a restaurant in town. There we had a supper of pizza and salad before going back to our house to go to bed.

We will, we will, rock you

Today was a day that had big rocks involved. Mainly, Ayers Rock. Ayers Rock is a big rock out in the middle of nowhere and is very red. People can climb the rock, but today it was closed…too bad. We did two walks today, and luckily for us, they were very short. One of them was a  walk to a waterhole,  which actually had some water in it, and the other one was to another waterhole, but this one was guided. The guide seemed to know a lot, and we walked a ways before the group broke up to leave.

Fiery Fun

We drove from Alice Springs to Ayres Rock today, and on our way, we saw something interesting. We saw a big cloud and knew that it was a fire but thought that it was just a regular small bush fire away from the road. It wasn’t. When we passed a rest stop, we saw a man shaking his head at us as we passed, we passed more cars with the same response. Finally, when we were almost to the flames, a couple flashed their lights at us and we pulled up and they told us that they had made it through and to just be careful. We took their advise and went through carefully, going fast past the worst bit and using high beams to see through the smoke and haze. All the time that we were in the smoke, Eryn was gripping my arm so hard that afterwards, I said that I would probably have bruises all up and down my arm where she had gripped me so hard.

Didgeridoo Day

A didgeridoo is an instrument that is used by Aboriginal Australians.

Wikipedia says that the didgeridoo (also known as a didjeridu or didge) is a wind instrument developed by indigenous Australians of northern Australia around 1,500 years ago and still in widespread use today both in Australia and around the world. It is sometimes described as a natural wooden trumpet or “drone pipe”. Musicologists classify it as a brass aerophone.

Quoted from Wikipedia.

Today I learned how to play a didgeridoo at the Sounds of Starlight Theatre in the Todd Mall. There were lots of didgeridoos and I got to pick which one I got to learn how to play. I choose one that was unpainted but looked regular other then that and then got to ‘toot my own horn’ for a while. Every now and then, the instructor/owner would come over and offer some more tips, which were helpful. In the end, I learned how to play a little bit, but since I don’t have a didgeridoo, I can’t ever use that skill…too bad.

When in Alice Springs

Today we drove to Alice from the Old Ambalindum Homestead. It wasn’t a very long drive, but it took up a while of our day.

We woke up this morning to another clear day…We ate breakfast and got packed, and when we were all done, we left, bidding farewell to Dave as we did so. After a long drive, we arrived at Trephina Gorge, which, quoting my sister, was gorgeous. We took a loop around the rim then got back to the car and left.

Now in Alice Springs, we are staying at somewhere called Kathy’s Place and have eaten and are getting ready to go to bed.

A Day with Dave

Dave is one of the workers here at the Old Ambalindum Station, and he has some interesting things. He feeds a magpie a lot and it is called ‘Fatso’. On his porch, he has lots of rocks, like rubies and zircon. There were some rocks that were nicely polished and engraved with something that looked like an ‘R’. The interesting thing was, all of these rocks were found on the property. But then again, it isn’t that hard to say that with about 3000 square miles of land in which to look for rocks.

When we were done with that, we went over to the workshop and looked at all the things that he had. There were cow horns that were nice and shiny and smooth that where multi-colored and all polished. He also had some hooves that he was doing the same thing to, and he had one that was partially polished. On one of the boards, he had a skull hanging, and it was a saber-toothed tiger skull. Not really, though, it was a horse skull backwards with cow horns glued on either side of the neck bone.

I’m a TV Star!!

In the heat of the day in Australia, life seems to move at a slower pace. Despite a few trials, such as snakes, dehydration, and fights among my men, I have been enjoying myself in Australia immensely. I can only hope my men benefit from it as much as I. Each day, I see everyone start to relax a bit more, even in the fear of Aboriginal people attacking; which I think a silly fear… everyone we have met on this journey has been of the friendly sort, not the attacking, contrary to my men’s imagined Australians… the nature is beautiful. There is a whole moon tonight and the sunset was magnificent. The animals are bountiful: kangaroos and wallabys and lizards and brightly-colored birds abound… it is so pleasant here that, had I my family and childhood friends with me, I would undoubtedly stay for the remainder of my life.

Extracted from A Record of My Experience in the Great Land; Australia by Geoffrey Allen Reid

 

That excerpt from Reid’s book is in relation to what happened today. After a relaxing sleep of about ten-and-a-half hours, I woke up to the beautiful light streaming in through the crack in my window shade.  I got up and went to breakfast before going out and looking around the Old Ambalindum Homestead premises and learning about the shearing shed and the Bushcamp, which are old dormitories that people stayed in a while ago. After that, my dad went outside and went on a walk to the Ambalindum Lake, which actually held water, though it is the dry season and on his way back saw a kangaroo. When he came back, we went in the car up to the lookout, and though we couldn’t see the station, it was a magnificent view. On the way back, we kept our eyes peeled for any sign of wildlife, but all we saw was little green budgies in flocks of thousands.  When we arrived at the station, we found that a TV crew was there and that they were filming an ad for the homestead and that they wanted us in it. Since then, we have watched horses come galloping in to the yard, damper (bread) getting cooked on the campfire, and marshmallows getting roasted (by Eryn and I). And all of it was on camera.

When in/at the Old Ambalindum Homestead

The Old Ambalindum Homestead is a cattle station out in the bush north-east of Alice Springs. We got there this evening after a full day’s drive from Tennant Creek, which is on the highway from Darwin to Alice Springs.

On the way, we stopped at Devil’s Marbles, a site where there are lots of round rocks. We saw a brown snake, but it moved away. In one cluster of rocks, there is a base rock that has three big rocks on top of it and a little room around those rocks on the shelf of rock. My father and I found a way to get to the other side of the rock by going through a crack that looks like it dead-ends but actually, it turns and goes to the other side. When we were done with that, we kept driving for a long time, stopping only to get fuel for the car until Alice Springs.

In Alice Springs, we went to a Woolworths and got some food for the rest of the week because the Homestead is self-contained and the closest town (Alice Springs) is a two hour drive away. After the long drive, we had luckily not seen any kangaroos in our headlights, and we arrived safe and sound (but a bit jostled) at the Old Ambalindum Homestead.

When in Katherine. And Elliot. And Tennant Creek.

Today I shall tell you what we did today and how we came to be in all three cities.

We started out this morning at around 7:20 am and left our apartment and started on a long day of driving. At first we were all looking around, eyes wide in excitement for being on the road and looking for kangaroos. We passed a couple of dead ones before Mother finally said that she had seen one, but it was too late to go back so we kept going past the corpses that were practically piled up on the side of the road. Since it was more boring than expected, I went to sleep. I was only asleep about half an hour but almost as soon as I got up I saw a kangaroo.

Those were the only two kangaroos which we saw alive today, but we saw lots of dead ones, from empty brown skins to full kangaroos that seemed like they had just been hit. Mother said that she saw some cows, and since she is a truthful mother, we have to take her word for it. We passed through lots of towns, but the only ones we stopped at were Katherine and Elliot to get fuel for the car.

Now we are in Tennant Creek in the Eldorado Motel and are getting ready for bed.

Berry Springs without the Berries

Today we went to a spring out in the Australian Bush and swam around, doing something that goes along with the following:

When we got to the springs, we went up to the top pool (about 3.5 feet deep) and got used to the water for a while before going downstream to the main pool (very deep) where we just swam across and went down a little creek to the next pool, which was deserted. But then when we came, lots of other people came but it still wasn’t crowded.

I humored myself be going off a little ledge and going down feet first to the bottom but it wasn’t that deep so it was easy. Then we went downstream. It is a fairly large river by then and you have to swim or find a rock to stand on out in the middle, where it is very deep.

When we were headed back upstream, I found a rock and tried to get to the bottom but it was too deep and even after five tries, I still couldn’t make it and just kept going upstream until we reached our stuff at the first pool.

A Bicycle Built for Two, or one

Tonight, I got a bike out and rode it around the beach area around our apartment. I rode for a long ways one way and turned off on a bumpy road. Then I turned around and turned right and went across a bridge to the other side of the stream. The bridge was yellow and very narrow so I went slowly as to not crash into people. On the far side of the bridge, there was a road leading of into the Federal Reserve of Nightcliff or something like that and I didn’t want to go there so I turned around and went back over the bridge. On the other side of the bridge, I passed playgrounds and water fountains while heading back to the picnic table where everyone else was having dinner. When I had finished with my dinner, I went the other way through the parks and got to a point before going back to the picnic table. When I got back, I found out that the table was deserted but luckily found my father a little ways away and went with him across the street.

Crocs in the City

is one of the names for the Crocosaurus Park in Darwin. In that park, there are lots of things, from crocs to snakes, to sting rays. We saw all of them and enjoyed it, so I’ll go into the details:

There are at least 6 fully grown crocs, 5 male, 1 female. There are also hundreds of babies and you can fish for them with pieces of meat (and let them go. I did that) or just look at them through glass or hold them and get your picture taken. One of the things that you could also do was take the cage of death, a round cylinder that they lowered into crocodile water. We didn’t do it because it was over a hundred dollars per person. There is also a reptile farm and we got to see them feed an olive python and then I got to hold another python and some lizards. In one of the corners, there was a glass square that had a metal crocodile mouth in it and it chomped down to show how powerful the bite was on just a block of ice. In the shop, there were lots of expensive items, like whole crocodile skins or crocodile wallets. All in all, I think we had a good time at the Crocasaurus Park.

Silence at Sunset

Have you ever been out on a beach at sunset, feeling the sand slide beteween your bare feet? It feels nice, and I know that lots of people have felt it and enjoy it. My story will start out when a family left home after supper. There were four of them and their names were Eryn, Ethan, Susan, and Jerry.

They left their apartment a little bit after 6:30 pm and where on the beach a few minutes later. After wading across a small creek, Eryn kicked off her sandals and called out to Ethan, “I’ll race you to the ocean!” and they took off, leaving their parents, Jerry and Susan behind. When they got to the ocean, Ethan tried his hand at telling a story about how feet came to be, about a giant foot who went around (by flying, of course) giving people the wisdom of the foot. The result didn’t turn out to well and he went off, abashed by Eryn laughing at his efforts. Susan and Jerry walked around before also heading away from the ocean and back to the park and from there back to the apartment.

Darwin Day

A day in Darwin sounds more appropriate, but you can’t be too picky, so I will leave it at that for now.

Okay, so, today we woke up. If you can call it that; more like I got jolted into counciousness when I heard my mother and Eryn conversing in hushed (loud) voices. I immediately was up and started reading (rereading to be exact) the Magician’s Nephew, until later when I took a shower and got dressed. We had breakfast and then went to the Defense of Darwin war museum, which was very interesting. There is a theatre with a multimedia experiance where I sat and watched and listened while the stroble lights flashed, the speakers boomed machine gun noises, and planes flew across the screen bombing a small Darwin. It was kind of sad though, listening to all of the stories that they had recorded and you could see where those people were on a big screen.

Then we went to the Leanyer Recreational Park (run by the YMCA) and Eryn and I had fun having water dumped on us while the parents sat in the shade. There was a big pool, two long body slides, one long, dark, inner-tube slide (for two people at a time), and a playground that had a bucket that dumped on people below. We had fun and got wet.

When in Darwin

Yesterday, when I didn’t write a post, we went to the mountains. We boarded a train around 11:22 and rode for one hour and forty-eight minutes before arriving in the Blue Mountain town of Katoomba. We got there and walked down the street to the shop called the Hattery, which sells hats. In that shop, there are hundreds of Akubra hats, lining the walls of the building. Surprisingly, there weren’t that many customers and I was the only one trying on Akubras for most of the time. In the end, I got an olive green ‘Tablelands’ hat, with a wide brim and a kangaroo leather strap.

When we finished with that, we went to a French bread shop and a ‘Go-Lo’ shop to get food and water for the day before heading down the street to Echo Point. At Echo Point, we had our snacks and looked over the edge. It was a very long ways down. Once finished, we went down a path and crossed on a wooden bride a span between to rocks of about ten feet. That wasn’t very interesting and we left after taking some pictures of me in my new hat.

I know that probably you are shifting around in your seats, trying to telepathically go into the past and tell me to hurry up and get to Darwin, so I will.

After waking up this morning after our last night at Andre and Sabrina’s guesthouse, we went to the airport and waited for our plane. When we got on our plane, we sat down and started reading to pass the time while the plane taxied around for what seemed like hours before taking off.

Once in Darwin, we proceeded immediately to the Hertz rental car place and got our car and went to our apartment. There, we put our stuff down before immediately heading off for a supermarket, where we bought ice cream and the other necessities of life. Then we had a supper of pasta, broccoli, salad, and some ice cream and did our own things.

Playground Post!!!!!e!

Yes, my post is about playgrounds.

Eryn and I have played on many playgrounds this trip, and here are some of them and a description:

Park in the Olympic Grounds: A big park on the riverside, this park offers everything from rope webs to wooden towers to swings. You can take a zipline or try your balance on the round balance beam. And since those are just a few of the things, you’re bound to find something that you like.

Park at Watsons Bay: This park is small and so is the amount of equipment, but some of them are very fun. There is a seesaw that spins and goes really high and some monkey bars that are curved upwards.

Other Park in the Olympic Grounds: This one was more like a jungle gym, but is still fun. There are lots of bars to climb and slide down. There is also a ‘climbing wall’ that kids can climb on.

Also, at our house, there is no electric heating and it gets down to 55 degrees farhanheit. Luckily, however, there is a wood stove that heats up the whole living room.

I went loony at Luna Park

Luna Park, a place of fun, dizziness, and music.

We went to Luna Park today and we all had fun. After waiting for about half an hour while my father bought Eryn and I unlimited tickets for the whole park. Eryn and I went on the ferris wheel before I had to go back to the counter to get a new entrence  pass because the old one was too loose. Then we went on to the Tango Train, a really fast wheel with cars on the end.

While riding and getting squished I thought there was music like We Will Rock You.

When we were done with that, we went to the Wild Mouse, a really fast roller coaster that is kind of because you go straight towards the ocean edge and then abruptly turn off to the right before doing that again and again.

After that, Eryn and I went to Coney Island. Coney Island is a large building that houses  twelve different things that you can do, seven of them just being different slides that all look the same. There is also a maze of mirrors that is just boring and a couple of moving walkways that go in circles. There are also two circles that go around in different directions. Then there is a place with moving boards underfoot and you have to try to get across. Then there is a spinning thing, people sit in the center and try to stay on the middle as long as they can while the circle is spinning quickly.

Later, I went on three different rides that spun around called the Music Ride, the Moon Ranger, and the Flying Saucer.

 

Oh! I almost forgot…….When in Sydney

Public transport, trains, ferries, buses.

We needed those things today, but instead of using them, Eryn and I decided to walk (and drag my mother along too) to a ferry wharf that was a long ways away from where we wanted to be, a big park. When we got to that wharf, we called father to see where he was and it turned out that he was where we had wanted to go and he wanted us to join him there. We saw a sign that said ‘Park: 2700 meters’ and walked for 2.7 kilometers.

What we now wish we had known was that where we wanted to go actually wasn’t that far, but we thought that it was closer to the wharf than it was and went the wrong way. On the way back, we rode a bus that took us right where we needed to be, when we needed to be.

However, nobody died or anything like that so I thought that it was a good waste of time.

……and lovin it!

 

Yes, that’s what we are doing now in Sydney, Australia. We are loving being in a place that doesn’t have cow poo everywhere and you have to watch where you step every second of the day.

We left the India international airport two days ago. Since then, we have ridden two planes and spent one night in Sydney. It is cold here, and we have finally dug the down jackets out of our suitcases.
Our harbor cruise today proved nice, and the sea was a new change.

Kite

Yes, kite.

Today we came on the train into Old Delhi to see: kites!!! Lots of these colorful flying pieces of paper adorned the bright blue sky as children gathered below to control the kites. Many a time, we saw kites on the ground, broken and useless. Yet still their little owners found ways to be happy on this year’s Independence Day, celebrating the 65th year of independence.

The Indian people use kite flying to show how they feel about their independence from Britain. Most people have kites and they use them in games to cut one another’s string and for contests of duration and height.

Jaisalmer Blues

Today was our last day in Jaisalmer, and we spent it staying around home and doing work (reading and schoolwork). We went on a shopping trip (we being Eryn, my mother, and I) to use up my money and for Eryn to look at patchwork things. The first shop that we went to didn’t have much, but the second shop was more interesting to Eryn, as she saw a pillow case that she liked. We walked down the street to a small table that had miniature auto rickshaws-tuk-tuks- (Eryn: ‘CUTE!’) and small elephants. I bought an elephant and something else while Eryn bought nothing. We went back to Bobbi’s place to look at pillow covers before heading back to the second place to get the pillow cover that Eryn liked at the beginning. I went on another motorcycle ride with Raj before heading back to the hotel in the middle of a storm. Now, there is water in the streets and people are happy for more rain.

My Mansion

We went to a mansion today and it was made of stone. It had lots of stone. And lots of bats. And lots of guano, too.

Despite all of that, it was a cool (by which I mean hot) house, with at least four floors and a rooftop with towers jutting out. Eryn and I spent most of our time on the towers watching the parents go around and around on the lower levels, and when the reached the top, we went down. We did that for a while before going to the next house over and discoving that it was the one that was so important, because it actually had no bats and someone who cleaned it. I liked the other one better. At the second one we went up and down the stairs, looking at the exhibits of locks and musical intruments before going to the resturaunt at the bottom of the stairs. While there, we got some cool drinks before heading back towards the hotel.

Tea, a Drink with Jam and Bread (or honey)

Tea, a drink with Jam and Bread

Yes, my post is about tea. Today I will tell you how to read tea leaves to tell your fortune. Actually, I’m not. I’m going to tell you what happened in a poem.
Here it goes:

Mom put the teapot over cup,
She pressed the handle and tea went up.
It sprayed all over clothes and the floor,
And then breakfast wasn’t such a bore.

We sat silently, numb with shock,
and then began to laugh and talk.
The waiter asked if he could help,
Right as Mother began to yelp.

The tea had burned Mom on the arm,
But for us, the tea did no harm.
The tea then poured so easily,
What was lost was very measly.

I said it would be in this post,
and then the waiters came with toast.
Eryn’s toast had lots of gold honey,
But to me, it was too runny.

8 Bottles of Beer?

was one of my questions last night on our camel safari. There were five guides, but none of them drank anything. You’re probably wondering if I’m going to talk about anything but beer, and the answer is yes.

Yesterday, I went on a ride with Raj on his motorcycle around the fort. First, we went to the gate and had glasses of fresh juice. Then, we went around the city for about ten minutes before heading up to the main square, where we drank chai and talked with some of Raj’s friends. When we were finished with our cups, we got back on his motorcycle and went down the street. After a brief stop at the hotel, we continued our ride down to a Nokia phone shop, where we talked to some more of Raj’s friends. When we were finished there, we went to the fort and drove around before going back to the square for more chai and a passenger to take to the train station. We were there for a little bit before going back to the hotel for the final time.

Now for the camel ride. We left around two o’clock and rode in a jeep for about two hours to get to a village. At the village, we had a cup (or bowl) of chai tea before getting on our camels and riding off into the sunset. We rode for about one hour before getting to camp on the dunes. We all played around on the dunes a bit before supper was prepared on a fire. It was Indian food cooked to perfection with a little bit of smoke flavor. We looked at the stars for a while before lying down. But sleep would come to none of us. Finally, at about midnight, I drifted off and awoke the next morning covered in sand. We had breakfast and mounted our camels for a long ride.

After about two hours, we were finished and said goodbye to the guides (one of them was eleven) before riding off in a jeep.

French Bakeries without French Bakers

Yes, we found a French bakery, but as you can see from the title, there are no French bakers. More of that later, though. Yesterday I had ended my post with an explanation of the hotel in which we are staying. Now, I will try to give a summary of what happened today, with the interesting bits left in.

We woke up (early, early, early) at 7:30 am to go to breakfast while it was still cool. Again, I ordered something with so-called chocolate (a banana-chocolate pancake), which always turns out to taste like hot chocolate mix mixed with milk. We ordered a cup of tea and drank most of it before heading down so we could leave in the next hour. When we headed out (finally) we had in mind to go and visit two temples and a palace. But then again, days don’t always go the way they are planned.

We went to two temples and then walked down the street a little ways until we saw a sign that said boulangerie. We went down that side street and met a cook who said the restaurant was at the top of the building. We went up there and got some cool drinks and heard that the French chef was out because of his paternal leave. The cook also said that he likes Obama, and that our president was communist because he cared a lot about the country and not that much about the people. We left, went to two more temples and went back to the hotel. At the hotel, I did my schoolwork and went up with my father to the to the outside restaurant on the top floor to see if Raj was there to talk about the camel riding. When we got up we saw that all the cushions were set away in the alcove. We looked to see approaching rain clouds, the first in about a year. The rain started softly, but by the time we had gotten down to our rooms to get the cushions off of our balconies, it was pouring with very fast winds.

My room was almost soaked and I finally got a towel at the bottom of the window to stop the worst leak. The rain continued for about 10 minutes and then settled down to a steady sprinkle. We went up to the top and drank tea with Raj before we headed down to buy clothes for the desert tomorrow.

For supper tonight, we went to the same place that we had the cool drinks at noon. Most of the time we were waiting for our food, Eryn was trying to take pictures of lightning. It didn’t work too well.

When in Jaisalmer: Another Fort?

Yes, we are in another ‘J’ city. And yes, we are in another fort. However, this time, we are actually living in the fort in a hotel called the Surja Hotel. We have three rooms in the wall; one for me, one for the parental units, and one for Eryn. We are in the Jaisalmer Fort and are a long ways away from the gate, but luckily, we have our own balconies. The balconies are hardly worth mentioning, as they are pretty much window boxes without the flowers or dirt. They stick out of the wall and I like to just sit in one and look out at the city.

The parent’s room has air conditioning, a small balcony, two different beds, and a large bathroom. Eryn’s room is also air conditioned, but it has no balcony, being on the inside of the wall. It has a largeish bathroom and one bed. My room is the only one without air conditioning. It is on the wall and has a balcony, one bed, and a tiny bathroom.

The Surja Hotel has the rooftop as well and has made it into a restruant. There are three tables and each of them has two chairs and a small balcony going out over the side. For supper today, my father and I sat on the balcony overlooking the city and my sister and mother sat on the chairs.

I Got Offered Opium

If you lived out in the countryside, what are the few things that you would need?

Today we went out to the countryside and saw how Indians lived with very little.

Cooking: In the countryside there isn’t time to go into town and buy food to cook, so they grow their own grain in the fields surrounding their houses. Each family has their own fields and harvests everything so that they have millet to make chapatis. We watched a woman make some of those by the following steps: mix water with the flour-like millet, knead the gray dough until it becomes soft, roll it into a ball and then flatten, put on the fire and let it cook. My mother experimented with that and found that it is harder than it looks.

Opium: For those of you who don’t know, opium is an illegal drug, but today we saw some of it in the house of a village tribesman. He said (via translation) that at festivals, they mashed up opium with water and everyone drank. He offered me some, but I declined.

Down Day Disappears, despite Donuts

Despite what the title said, we did not have donuts today, but the day did go on, and it was also a down day. It was a warmish day today and we spent most of it outside in the shade of the hanging swing, reading and writing to catch up with all of our emails and pictures. The Internet was down (again) but my father got it to work just long enough so that we have tickets to get home on June 19, 2013. Home being Seattle, but it’s at least on the right side (or is it left?) of the continent. Nonetheless, it is good to know that we are going home, as up until now, we didn’t know if or when we were coming back. Knowing that, it puts an even brighter look on the future of this trip.

When in Jodhur: Part Two: A Picture Perfect Post

‘Can I take a picture with you?’ A common question that people have asked about 1001 times since we left, and it is very different than at home, where we see tourists and move on.

In one of my earlier posts, I commented on the fact that some people always wanted to take pictures with us because they wanted to practice their English. Here, however, I think that they do it to show off to their friends. On the bright side, it makes me seem like a movie star, so it has mixed feelings.

Even today, at the fort, there was a large group that all wanted to take their picture with us, and even by ourselves.

When in Jodphur: Part One

Yes, that’s right, we finally arrived in Jodphur today. By train, of course. Our new place is a little ways outside of town. It is called the Mandore Guesthouse and it has 16 roundavels, most of the, with private balconies. We got two of those, and we spent the rest of the day lounging around outside in the late afternoon sun. There are lots of trees and places to sit in the lawn, and it is all very nice. No pool, though.

We had an Indian (obviously) supper and ate till we were full, and then washed it down with tankards of banana lassie. It was good and I think we all enjoyed it.

Cobra Charmers Catching Crowds

Today was another interesting day and here are some of the things that I personally found interesting:

Rhaki: A rhaki is kind of like a braclet and oday was National Brothers’ Day with some Hindi traditions that go along with that. The sister is supposed to by a rhaki for her brother and tie it onto his hand. Then, the brother is supposed to give the sister a present, and is supposed to protect the sister for the rest of his/her life. Eryn got me a rhaki and I got her a gift today. She got me a rhaki with red and silver beads, gold finish, and a red thread. It is very shiny. I got her a box full of biscuits (cookies) after supper tonight.

Observatory: The king had built four observetories before the on in the Pink City, and all of those had flaws. This one, however, has almost no flaws and is the largest stone observatory on planet earth. There are two large sundials and the largest is the largest on earth.

Cobras: On the walk from the observatory, we passed some snake charmers on the street. There were two of them and each of them had a basket in front of them with a live cobra in it. The touched and patted the cobra and it acted accordingly. They also let people from the crowd come and touch the cobras. I did that, and when I went up, I got a turban and got to hold a cobra. It was actually kind of soft, in a snakelike sort of way.

Amber Fort: A Story

We woke up today to a warm morning, the almost worst time to do sightseeing out in the sun, or so we thought. As we approached the fort, we saw that it was a very big fort, with walls a long ways away. When we entered, we all thought that it was going to be another boring old fort, but, as it turns out, we couldn’t have been farther from being wrong.

The fort is very old and it has lots of passage ways and chambers, making it easy to get lost. There are at least four levels and a very large area of rooms, stairs, tunnels, and courtyards. I commented a lot on how it would be an interesting place to play hide n seek. Inside, there was a room that had a large contraption that was supposed to bring water up from the lake below.

We had gotten audio guides, but they were very long and we skipped around a lot because of all the stairs and tunnels.

When in Jaipur: an Introduction to the Devi Niketan Hotel

Right now I am sitting in a room on the second floor of an old building with wall paintings and marble floors. It is called the Devi Niketan Hotel and it is run by Madhvendra Singh, an admiral that was in the Indian Navy a while ago. All along the walls by the stairs, there are certificates and plaques that are commemorated to him, and they are from a lot of different places like Vietnam, Australia, and the United States.

As you probably don’t know, we got off of the nice train last night and found an man waiting for us to take us to our hotel. We got into a car with him and got driven to the Devi Niketan Hotel, which, luckily, is right by the train station. Once there we had a refreshing glass of pepsi and went right up to our rooms, which are right next to each other and each open up onto a patio. Most of us slept well, and by later that day, those select few (me included) were well rested. The breakfast served there is somewhat like what you would expect from an American Hotel-eggs, cornflakes, and toast-so it was a little bit bland, but we all got through it and decided to see the admiral about things to do in Jaipur.

After he advised us a bit, we went back up to our rooms for about two hours before heading down to the heavily clorinated pool. It hurt my eyes. Then we went on a walk down the road to an ice cream shoppe and a couple of malls. That was boring, except for the ice cream, that is.

When we finally went for supper, we were all pretty tired and went to the bank before heading down the road some more to a restaurant called Four Seasons, which had very good food. On the way back, we took a tuk-tuk called the Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.

The Monsoon found us Today

Yep, that’s right, it found us, and most of us were NOT happy campers today when we visited three different monuments in the hills around Agra. It wasn’t helpful either that we all wore our sandals. Anyway, back to the topic: The rain found us yesterday afternoon, but it only started to bother us this morning when we could hear it because our air conditioning stopped making noise due to a nationwide power outage that cut off all power. When we left the N Home Stay, it was still raining and there was so much water that, in some places, the streets were under about one foot of water.  Some people that were on bicycles had a hard time going through that, but some kids enjoyed the water on the edge of the road where it was deeper and they could take a small bath.

When in New Delhi and When in Agra

Okay, so, last time I posted, I was in Bangkok the night before we took the plane to New Delhi. Since then, we have done a lot of things, and I will do my best to catch everyone up on the details.

When we woke up on the morning of the flight, we all took showers and went in the shuttle to the airport. At the airport, we got our tickets, went through security and passport control to get to our gate by the United Lounge.

When we finally got to New Delhi, I had watched a movie and taken a nap. In the airport, we sat around and drank coffee (mochas for all!) for about two hours before heading to a taxi to get to the train station. The station was very crowded and loud, and since our train hadn’t arrived yet, we had to stand around by someone’s underwear for about an hour!!! The underwear was on the railing of a balcony, and we think that it was out to dry.

On the train, however, we had reserved some seats so we got to have our own private sections, one for the girls and one for the boys. The train was called an express, but it stopped about ten times before finally reaching Agra. At the train station, we found a taxi driver that was supposed to pick us up and we drove to the N Home Stay.

The N Home Stay is a four story building with about three rooms on each floor, minus the bottom floor, where the landlords sleep. To Eryn’s sadness, there is no pool, but on the bright side, we sweat so much that it is like being in a pool all to yourself!

Today we went to the Taj Mahal, the Agra Red Fort, the garden across from the Taj, and the miniature Taj. I am going to focus on the Taj Mahal because it was my favorite.

The Taj Mahal is an old building that was built by an emperor for his third wife after she died. It took twenty years to build, and the emporer himself was buried alongside his beloved (third) wife in the marble building along the river. It has multiple gates, and today we had people who wanted to be our guides everywhere, following us for a while. However, as soon as we started walking up the steps, they disappeared. Hmmmmm, strange.

Last time on the BTS……..

In case you hadn’t read from everybody else’s posts, the BTS is an elevated skytrain that goes across Bangkok. There are three cars on a train, and each train car has four sliding doors on each side.

The ads on the sides of the train are very interesting. My favorite is the train with Swenson’s ads all over the side, but that’s just me. There is also one with a Canon ad on the side.

And that is all that I have to say about the BTS.

This is my last post from Bangkok, or Thailand for that matter. So Bye.

Heated Toilet Seats? By Toshiba?

Yeah, well, even if you are wondering about that, they are really out there. YesterdaOy I experienced one of them in the Terminal 21 mall in Bangkok while we were waiting to go to the visa place.

Before that, we had gone to a park right down the street and had some magnum bars after I tried out some very weird exercise equipment. One of them was an excercise twister with handles up above. It was so weird that I gave up on the twister thing and just hung from the circles above.

Okay. By now you probably want to know about the toilet seats that I encountered in the mall. It was kind of weird, there was a toilet seat with what looked like a remote to the right side. On the remote, you could choose lots of settings, like how warm the water was, or how warm the seat was. You could also move the nozzle for the bidet back and forth. And that part even had a drying feature.

A Very Vivid, Venomous, and Victorious post of Vientiane

On our vivacious visit to Vientiane, I noticed that what stood out to me was the Americanization and the people of Laos.

Americanization: Laos was established as a French colony, but today, there aren’t many things that are French anymore. There several bakeries (both French AND Scandinavian,) but for the most part, the whole of Vientiane was very western. There were many cafés, and we went to some of them and they had a lot of American dishes that we have at home; pancakes, waffles, and French (haha) toast. Also, instead of the signs being in French of even Lao, they are almost all in English. A tuk-tuk driver sitting at a corner knows English, and everyone else does, and that is why I think that it has a lot of American Culture.

People:  The Lao People are very much like the Thai people; they smile a lot and they are very kind to tourists. There, however, there aren’t students coming up to you and asking to take their picture with you to practice their English, but still, a lot of people say ‘hello’ and stuff like that just to practice. The kids seem to stay to themselves more than the ones in Thailand, yet they still find ways to amuse themselves. An example of that was on the promenade by the big statue; there was a little boy with a beer box, putting it on his head and hopping around in it. He also had a broken umbrella that he used as a toy going upwind with it trailing out behind him. You can see him with his beer box on his head in one of our pictures. However, when he picked up the umbrella, his box flew away in the wind. Too bad for him.

I hope that that was a very vivid and vibrant description of Vientiane.

By the way, do you like my vocabulary?

A Laundry List without the Laundry

We had to get up early this morning so we could go on a 2 hour trek through the jungle to get to a waterfall. But before we could do that, my mother had to take some laundry to the laundry place right down the street from our guesthouse. She took about twenty minutes, and by that time, the driver to take us to our trekking place was there in his blue pick-up truck. My mother finally came out of the laundry place, carrying all three bags of laundry back to us, and she then told me to carry them up to my room where we could leave the until we came back that evening.

After taking a fourty minute boat ride and a two hour hike, we finally arrived at the waterfall with the rest of our group. There were two girls from Canada, a girl from Vietnam (and an Australia accent), and the four of us, Ethan, Eryn, Jerry, and Susan.
We, the only vegetarians, had our own lunch on a rock a little bit below the big rock where everyone else was and had to sit out in the rain. When we finished eating, the Vietnamese girl went immediately to change into her swimsuit and had done a couple of laps (back and forth from land to the waterfall) before the darker-haired girl from Canada joined her. My dad got in and I quickly joined him.

When I first felt the water, I thought it would be really cold and that I would be shivering underwater, but when I got up to my shoulders as I swam from rock to rock, I noticed that it didn’t seem that cold. I swam to where my dad was standing on a rock about twenty yards away from the bottom of watefall and we both swam underneath a rock shelf that protruded from the waterfall. After that, we decided to go downstream a little ways, and just floated downstream to the place where you got out, and we did that, before heading up, back to the truck.

Bicycle, Bicycle, Bicycle, I want to ride my Bicycle

In case you don’t know that song, it is a song (called Bicycle) that Queen played. The also played ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘Another One Bites the Dust.’

Anyway, today we went to the Scandinavian Bakery for breakfast, they had lots of pastries, including some that look like glow-sticks. We all ordered some version of the Continental Breakfast. I don’t know how it got that name, considering there are either Danish Buns of Croissants to go with it, and that I have never had anything like that before, so I don’t know where in the world the ‘continental’ part came in, so don’t ask me. While we were eating on the balcony, we were really annoyed by the fact that there was a really loud bird that seemed intent on driving us crazy with its incessant squawking.

After that, we went to the ‘Place of the Squawking Bird’ (a nickname for a bike shop that I just made up) and saw that to rent their bikes, you paid 20,000 Kip and had to return it a 6:00 pm. My mother said to wait, so we went down the street to a tour place, where we learned about a tour service into the national park nearby.

We decided on going back home, getting our swimsuits, and heading to yet another bike shop (this one only 10,000 kip) to get bikes to go to the water park on the other side of town. We didn’t find it. Well, we found the bike rental place, where we rented four bikes, but we didn’t find the water park. Too bad.

Another Lovely (and hot) day in Laos

Today was a very hot day and we spent much of it looking at four of the most visited tourist sites (or sights) by a tuk-tuk, which here, is more commonly known by the name Jumbo.

A Jumbo is pretty big, and it is a lot more comfortable than a tuk-tuk: tuk-tuks, have one row facing forward, while Jumbos have bench seats in what looks like the back of a small pick-up truck.

Sights at Sites: We went to four sites: the Ho Phra Keo Museum, the Sisaket Museum, the Phra That Laung Museum, and the Patuxai Arch. The ones that I will focus on are the Ho Phra Keo Museum and the Pha That Laung Museum.

The Ho Phra Keo Museum was a temple that held the Emerald Buddha after taking it from Chiang Mai, but then Siamese (Thai) people came and took it back to Siam (Thailand) and now the Buddha resides in Wat Phra Keo, Bangkok. The temple, however, due to the Siamese forces razing Vientiane thrice, has had to be rebuilt three times, the last being in the 1920’s.

The Pha That Laung Museum is the Great Stupa, the symbol of the Lao people and the most important monument in Laos. It has been moved and reconstructed (faultily) and then reconstructed correctly in the 1930’s.

When in Vientiane (Laos)

Are you starting to see my series of posts called ‘When in {insert city name}’ yet? If you have or haven’t, it is true, there is a method to my (increasing) madness. At any rate, there is new news; we have finally figured out what to do while the Indian Embassy people get us our visas; we will go to Laos. We figured that out last night, and now are in Laos, in our new guesthouse.

Laos:
Laos is a country wedged in between Thailand and Vietnam, with Cambodia at the bottom. Its capitol is Vientiane and that is where we are staying for the next four days. It is very much like Thailand, except for the food, which is (in my opinion) better. Also, their currency is a Kip, and $1 US is worth about 8,000 Kip.

How we got to Laos is something along these lines:

We woke up around 8:00 and got ready to go to the airport so we could catch our flight after going through passport control and security before leaving the country and 11:45. Today was different from yesterday, we actually got our tickets and checked our bags. That was a major improvement. Then we wandered around the big airport in search of the post office, which Eryn insisted was on the 4th floor, but as it turns out, it was on the 6th floor (like the signs said)…..

Once we got that done, we went out and to security on the 5th floor, and my mother insisted (unknowingly) that we should go through the full-body scanner. That was interesting. Then we went on to go to passport control, at passport control, they did nothing very interesting, and we moved on to the 4th floor again (this time on the other side of security) and found our gate, D1. There was a Star Alliance Lounge right down the hall, so we sat in there, eating pastries and drinking hot chocolate, until it was time for our flight.

The flight was supposed to take an hour, but I think it took less than that, but that may be just me. When we got to Laos, we went through immigration and stuff like that, grabbed our baggage, got money (kip) at the ATM, and hopped on a taxi to get to the Vayakorn Guesthouse.

Visas are NOT credit cards

That is what everyone should know if they are traveling to another county. Today we woke up waaaaay too early ( but still layer than we were supposed to) to go to the airport. Here is what happened with visas today: say (just for an example of what happened today) India. So, we had read on a website that India doesn’t need a visa for American citizens, but at the check-in desk, we heard differently……… Apparently you have to have a tourist (or other type of) visa to get into India if you are an American. Since we didn’t have one, we missed our flight to New Delhi, where we had multiple reservations, one of which was a driver that picked us up at the airport to take us to our place. Since we weren’t there, he had to stand there all morning, holding a sign that said “Jerry Reeder” on it. Too bad.

Since we had nothing left to do at the airport, we went out to try and find the Indian embassy in Bangkok. We found it eventually, but not after taking several wrong turns through the torrential rain. When we got there, we hadn’t even filled out most of our forms and we needed them to finish our work on the 15th floor of the Glass Haus. But since my mom’s phone had died, and it could give us the Internet we needed to fillnout the forms on the iPad via bluetooth. So, because of that, Eryn stood by one of the four elevators and used the outlet in the wall to charge my mother’s phone while the rest of us read off details from our passports. After about an hour, we were finally done and we went in to the waiting area and filled out some more forms before finally getting called up and getting our applications approved.

At least we can now go to India.

Rain, Rain, go away, come again some other Day.

Preferably when we aren’t there looking areopen air temples up on the hills surrounding our faithful city of Chiang Mai. The rain is good in Thailand, so it bearable.

If I was the rain, I would probably do the same thing that the rain did today, though, but still, why did it have to be on the one day that we went up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and Doi Kom.

With rain up on Doi Kom, there are a lot of dogs just sitting underneath cars, but it was still so hot that there were then two good reasons to sit under a car; shade and shelter from the rain. After that, we got on a plane and went off to Bangkok to spend the night at a hotel before getting up early tomorrow morning to catch our flight into New Delhi.

Fun ‘n Games

Today was our last day in Chiang Mai, here is what we did:

 

Today we went out early to try to find Good Morning Chiang Mai again. We found it, and we ate breakfast there. After that, we walked to the park at the far corner of the inner city of Chiang Mai (remember it)? At the park, my father gave me 20 baht and I got us two mats so we would have something to sit on besides benches. My dad and I shared a mat and I took a nap, because we had had to get up early to get to Good Morning Chiang Mai. After I took a nap, I took my dad’s phone and did a couple of games of sudoku (perfectly) before moving over to Eryn’s mat and playing Train with her. Train is a word game where you have to say a word starting with the letter that your opponent’s word ended in, and the game always has to start with the word “train”. We did a couple (two) of rounds, the first one was one where it had to relate to Thailand, but that got to be too hard so we just skipped that rule, and Eryn won, I got second, and my mother got third. We played a second game that had to be animals, that was pretty hard as well, but we kept to the rules that time and I lost, my mother came in second, and Eryn won (again). After that, I returned the mats to their owners and off we went, away from the park, never to see it again.

And that is what happened in our last full day in Chiang Mai.

Smoothies!

Today, in the afternoon, we went to the fruit market. There was more than fruit, though, there were fish, clothing and vegetebles. Eryn and I crossed the street and found that there were fruit smoothies as well. For only 20 Thai Baht, I could get a pineapple smoothie which I did. For 40 Thai Baht, Eryn got a banana and mango smoothie. They were really good, and they were so good that Eryn and I were still drinking them half an hour later.

The fish there varied a lot, there were fish dead, fish alive, and fish fried. We didn’t get any, but we saw a lot. And they smelled a lot too.

Mista Boon

Today we got up early (again) to go on a ride with Mr. Boon to the Boatong Waterfall. Once there, we changed into our swimsuits and took off down the steps to one of the lower levels in the warm-ish water. But, since you don’t know what in the world I am talking about, I will describe the waterfall:

The waterfall is made up of four levels, level 1, level 2, level 3, and one that I made up…….Kind of. The top level (1) is the one that you first see when you drive up to park, it is made of limestone and it is surprisingly not slippery. The next level down (2) is about 80 meters down the hill and you take steps to go down to it. There, there are some ankle-deep pools that you can wade in and you can climb the waterfall up to the first level or go down to the third. On the third level down, there is a tall and steep face of the waterfall, but it is still easy to go down, and there are some more ankle-deep pools below it. The level that I made up was the one at the very bottom and it had some deep-ish pools that you could jump into if you decided you wanted to go down some more rocks (or steps, the steps go all the way down).

What we did was skip level 1 because there were a lot of people there, but we stopped at level 2. While at level 2, we climbed up a little and then went down the other side, then waded in the litlle pools before Eryn and I went down the waterfall to level 3 (our parents took the stairs). At level three, I climbed the face a couple of times, and in between, some college age girls wanted their picture with me for some reason. Then we went down to the level that I made up and saw a family jumping in of the edge of a ledge and into a deeper part. I decided to do that and it was a bit colder than in the shallower area. Then Eryn joined me and we both jumped in half a dozen+ times into the water. We (being my father, Eryn, and I) decided that it would be fun to go up, actually, Eryn and I decided, but my dad just followed us. We climbed up steep limestone walls and through shallow pools before reaching the top, where Eryn scraped her toes and started to bleed.

When we arrived at the top, we found my mother sitting there with all of our stuff and we put on our flip-flops and walked up some more stairs to the spring of the stream that created the waterfall. The spring was crystal clear and there were little fish in it. There were also buckets attached to bamboo poles that you could dip into the water and pour on each others heads. We tried out the dippers, and as it turns out, a quart sized amount of water can seem really heavy at the end of a piece of grass.

When we got back to the parking lot area, we saw that a lot more people had come, so we decided to grab ice cream and leave.

Bonjour

Jump, Splash, Scream

That is what happened when Eryn and I jumped into the little pool from the jacuzzi above when it was surrounded by college-aged girls who screamed and had to redo their makeup. It was very entertaining…….

We swam for only 20 minutes, but in that time, we scared away some girls, had races, and timed the time we could stay underwater. I noticed that one of the girls was reading Catching Fire and had an iPhone 4 or 4s. I think she put away her book as soon as we started jumping, but weirdly, she took out her iPhone and started doing something on it. Maybe texting her boyfriend, if she has one.

For the races, we put our legs into the lotus position and then proceeded to see who could go from one end of the pool to the other and back (while staying in the lotus position) the fastest. I won the race, but when we continued on to a breath holding contest, I only got 23 seconds while she got 29. Too bad.

The last time that we had swam in that pool, we had noticed that there had been a lot of water bugs and tadpoles due to unchlorinated water. This time, however, when we swam we saw almost no tadpoles, and the one that we saw was very much dead. It was very good to know that we wouldn’t have to be worried at swallowing a live tadpole, but then again, we had to be worried about swallowing a dead tadpole…….Yuk.

Good Morning Chiang Mai

Today we woke up early at about 7:00 am to get out the door at 7:30 am to get to a restraunt called Good Morning Chiang Mai, which is a little bit south of the M.D. House. We walked for a while, then when we, according to TripAdvisor, were supposed to be there, we weren’t….

So we walked a little ways down the street, still couldn’t find it, and then just decided to go to a cafe with internet that was right next to us. When we got done with the food (which wasn’t very good) we watched the original Hawaii Five-O on the screen in the cafe before heading back to the M.D. House, but not before looking for the Good Morning Chiang Mai which we never found. And that was how we got to be annoyed at how TripAdvisor is always wrong on its maps.

Conversational Monk

Yes, we went to another temple today. Actully, we just went up to Doi Suthep to see the veiw and just hang around in the outer courtyard. After an interesting ride made up of 2 different songtows, we finally got up to the top on empty stomachs, which is probably the right thing, considering that we skipped breakfast in the morning, we walked up the great multitude of stairs to get to the outer courtyard that had a bunch of bells and large gongs (about 6 feet in diameter for one of the larger ones).

After walking around a little ways, we were looking at the veiw that wasn’t that much of a veiw, and a monk approached us, and with his somewhat limited English, began to tell us that he had come from an island in the south and showed us a map (in English!) of the island on which he lived. He also asked how old Eryn and I were and we replied in turn. It was a very interesting conversation because some of us thought that he was trying to get us to buy a tour boat service around the island that he lived on, but who knows??
Still, though, it was an interesting conversation.

Open Casket Burial at Sea

Yes, I know that we aren’t at sea, but there was a water burial today, and it was my hair……….So sad. Since Eryn and my mother were gone at a cooking class most of the day, my father took it into his hands to cut my hair. Since we didn’t have scissors and  I didn’t want a buzz cut, he used his hair trimmer to cut my hair, and he cut it very short. When he was done, there was so much hair that we couldn’t just wash it down the drain in the shower, we had to give it the finest burial that we could have in a bathroom. Not that many choices there, are there? Sadly, we didn’t have a goldfish to go with it. When I finally looked at myself in the mirror, I saw how short he had cut it and swore to myself that I would wear a hat for the next month.

As it turns out, I didn’t, we went to one of those ever present 7-11s and got me some hair gel. Then we got ice cream. It was very good and we relished every last bite of it.

For dinner we went to Boutique della Pasta and we had a Caprese, two Bruschettas, pine nut and raisin ravioli, ravioli with greens, and ravioli with ricotta with walnut. Last, (but definately not the least) we had a dessert of chocolate Panna Cotta. It was very good.

All Flora and no Fauna

Today we went to the Ratchaphreuk Royal Gardens and walked around for a ways, there was an orchid farm in it and it had a maze-like collection of paths that connected the sides and the back. As far as I could see, there were very few orchids, but there were lots of plants. When I heard from my mother that Eryn was in the back, I went there immediately and tried sneaking up on her but the fountain was motion activated so she knew that I was there before I even knew where she was. Then Eryn and I hung out in the back and interested ourselves with looking at the sign that said “Do not Inhale” and it was in front of a flower. I didn’t inhale. We sat back there until our parents came to the back an finished looking at the orchids.

There was also a couple of small ponds that had so many fish in them. There was a pagoda out on the biggest pond and fish stayed right underneath it so when they came out you could almost reach down and grab one, there were so many. I would have, but they are fast fish, instead, I got myself wet. Eryn also humored herself by taking off her flip flop and waving it right over the fish so the all ran in different directions. In one of the smaller ones, there was a pipe going through it and on that pipe there were a lot of snails the size of my fist. There was also a boot floating upside down and Eryn seriously wondered whether it was connected to a person, I said ‘no’.

Water and Mist make you WET!

Today we went on a drive with Mr. Dew, a coworker of Mr. Boon and went to a waterfall, at the waterfall, it was all misty because there was so much water coming down, which meant that it was a little bit hard to take a picture because the mist kept coming and getting on your lens……How wet. At the waterfall, there were several different lookout places going up the hill to the waterfall’s top. Eryn and I went up the path to get to the top of the waterfall, but as it turns out, (after we had walked through lots of mud and gone uphill a lot) there wasn’t much of a view because there were so many trees and the rangers had blocked off the “slippery route” that went to the edge of the waterfall. Still, though, I got a couple of good pictures. Also, in the lower parking lot, there were several ice cream stands and Eryn and I got chocolate while my mother had the [last] magnum chocolate bar. Sadly, though, when Eryn and I were almost done with our chocolate cones, we saw (to our disappointment) that the bottom was filled with strawberry jelly, not chocolate. Still, though, it was okay.

What Wat??

Today was not a busy day, and we sat around and had naps for a big chunk of the day. In the morning, we had gone to Nature’s Way (again) and we sat around and had the same things as last time; mango and banana pancakes. An hour after we finished breakfast, we headed down the road for two Wats. One of the Wats was really big and had an old temple with elephant statues on the side of it and the other had a large temple building inside and was pretty big…..In the afternoon, Eryn and I swam in the deeper of the two pools and had a lot of fun, less fun, perhaps, when Eryn accidentally  made a big scratch on my back. For supper we went to back to the place where we had met the Oregonian family and didn’t see them but dined anyway.

To the Zoo!!!

Today we went to the zoo in the early afternoon and stayed for about two hours. It was fun to feed the giraffes pieces of banana straight from your/my hand. We were going to go to the so-called “snow dome” but it turned out to be just an opportunity to get your picture taken in 19.4 degrees Fahrenheit next to a styrofoam snow man……Not exactly the best thing to do, even if it was only eighteen dollars for the four of us. Anyway, we also saw an elephant that had its tusks curled together so that it couldn’t skewer people in the passing buses that sometimes stopped there. The zoo also seemed so proud of the fact that it had some pandas, and it even had a gift shop that had some panda-dung notepads. We saw a couple of different varieties of big cats, including tigers, white tigers, lions, leapords, and panthers, and for the leapord, for twenty baht, I fed it a piece of beef on a stick.

Chiang Mai has Delicious Ice Cream

Today we went nowhere. How fun…….Actually, it was fun, because we got to do what we wanted to do and nothing was scheduled so we just sat around in the air conditioning reading books and sorting pictures on the computer. The highlight of my day (and probably Eryn’s too) was swimming in the pool. The water was a little cold and we had to dunk a couple of times before we were warmed up enough to swim around. We had a couple of races and breath holding contests before we “discovered” a new stroke and I call it the squid stroke. It is where you are going back-first underwater and you just kick, and you don’t use your arms. Also, when I came back from using the bathroom, Eryn was giving a lecture to some ants that were walking across the filter in search of food; she was blocking one off to prove that they didn’t care about one another and all they cared about was getting food back to their home. As it turns out, she was right, and when she barricaded an ant off from the rest and it was stuck, no other ant came out to help it. When we got out of the pool, we read a little bit before going across the street to an ever-present 7-11 and bought ice cream for us all. It was really good. I got a chocolate cone, and the rest of my family had a Chocolate Truffle Magnum Bar. When we got back, my dad was editing pictures from the wax museum, and some of the pictures were of Eryn with “Justin Beiber.” Oolala……not.

Splish Splash goes the Elephant

Today we went to an elephant training camp and rode elephants for some of the day, here are some of the things that we did,

Getting There, A pickup truck picked us up at our place and we got to ride up to the mountain tops with my family, a couple from Canada, some french people, and two young women from England. It was a very bumpy ride once we had gotten off of the paved road and it was mostly dirt. Sometimes, though, there were strips of concrete that you could drive on that were very narrow. When we finally got there, we saw a bunch of elephants and their trainers working on some projects. We had to follow all of the elephants up a mountain trail and across the same stream three times to get up to the base camp where there were some tables and bathrooms.

Training, Before we started anything, they gave us clothes to change into so that we did not get any of our clothes that we had on sopping wet. The clothes were just an itchy shirt and some itchy pants, it was all very itchy. When we were all changed, we started our training. We had to learn about the elephants and their basic commands, it was very interesting, and I do not really remember anything except for that saying “by” makes the elephants go forward. We also learned how to get onto our elephants that we were going to ride.

Riding in a Loop, When we started out, we rode two to an elephant and rode in a small loop that lasted about 30 minutes. My dad and I were at the front of the line of elephants and the guy that was leading tossed back a bunch of bananas that we could feed to our elephant that we were riding. Our elephant was a mother of a 6 month old calf, and the calf stayed up with us the whole ride, and the guide gave it some pieces of sugar cane. While we were riding around in the loop through some marshy grasslands, it started to rain and we were glad when we finally got back to the “camp” to eat lunch.

Lunch, When we got back from the short ride of about 30 minutes, we found lunch prepared for us at one of the tables under a roof. Lunch consisted of noodles wrapped in banana leaves and spring rolls that you got to make yourself. That was all pretty good and we all ate a good amount, when we got done, we started out on another elephant ride up to a waterfall.

The Waterfall, When we finished lunch and the other group had come back, we got back onto our elephants and started up the hill to the waterfall, which formed a pool that stayed in place because bags of soil made a small wall. At the waterfall, there was a young elephant that was trained to spray people with water from its trunk and we all got wet from that. Also, you could pose with an elephant or get “kissed” by one and then you would have an interesting picture. You could also scrub the elephant with brushes that were up there or you could splash other people with water from buckets. On the way back to the camp, we rode on a different path that went uphill a lot but still down hill a lot. When we got to camp, we changed out of our wet clothes and back into our dry ones so that we did not smell like elephant on the ride back down the mountain.

Going back DOWN, The ride back down was a bit more slippery because it had rained and the road was all slick, but we did not crash, which was very good. Once we got back onto paved roads, our driver took us to a place that sold ice cream and we all got some. When we finally got back to our home at the M.D. House, we started on “real” work…….

Evening Fun, In the late afternoon and evening, Eryn and I swam in the other pool and found a pair of sunglasses and tried to jump in and come up with the sunglasses still in place. When we finished, we went upstairs like obedient little children and started our schoolwork. For supper, we went to a place that Mr. Boon had recommended us to go to and right on the table next to us, there was a family from Portland……WOW!!! My mother chatted with them for a little while before Eryn my dad and I joined her and we talked a little about our trip and the fact that they are away from home for 6 weeks. Their family consisted of a 6 year old girl named Sadi, a 13 year old girl named Summer, a dad named Jim, and a mom named Brook. On our way back home to the M.D. House, we stopped and an ice cream shop and got some more ice cream to take back to the M.D. The ice cream was really good and I think that we all enjoyed it. Anyway…..When we got back, Eryn and I finished up on homework and read a little bit out of our books.

Tigers!!!!!

Today, we went on a tour with Mr. Boon and got to see a couple of things, here is the list: we went to Wat Umong, Doi Suthep, the Orchid Farm, and the Tiger place.

Mr. Boon picked us up at our place and took us to the following things, waiting for us at each place:

Wat Umong: Wat Umong is a temple up on the hills surrounding Chiang Mai, it has a tunnel system that runs underneath some bricks, where there are bowls and multiple statues of Buddha. It also has a lake where you can buy food and feed it to the pigeons or the fish, sounds kind of anti-temple, doesn’t it? Then we went to Doi Suthep

Doi Suthep: Doi Suthep is a temple on another hill that is built on the place where a white elephant died. The legend tells it that a king ordered that wherever the elephant died, a temple had to be built, and so, there was a temple, and there was a hermit there named Suthep, so someone named the temple Doi Suthep, after that hermit. It took about 100 steps of vendors and 200 of steep stairs (300 total) to get to the top of the hill where the temple is situated (there was also a tram, but we didn’t use that). Once on the top, you can either go up a little bit further to the inner part of the temple or walk around the outer bit, we chose the former. Inside the top part, there is a golden dome that people walk around saying prayers. There are a couple of Buddhas with five heads, and a green-colored stone that was made into a Buddha. There was also a little stone wall that was covered in coins. There were two buildings on opposite sides of the inner courts that both had a bunch of Buddhas and some elephant tusks. After we saw all of that, we went down to the outer courts and explored a little bit there. There are two big drums laying on their sides in carts, also, there are a lot of different bells. Then there is a statue in commemeration to the white elephant that “founded” the temple. Then we began our grueling descent back down the mountainside. When we got down about three quarters of the way, we came across a man selling waffles, so we bought a few. There were waffle sandwiches with chocolate inside, and a banana fried that was wrapped in waffle. My dad ordered some corn across the way. Then we went to the Orchid Farm.

Orchid Farm: At the orchid farm, the first part of it is a butterfly enclosure with lots of different types of butterfly. After that, we went out of the other door of the enclosure and entered the “real” orchid farm. In that part, there were lots of different colors of orchids, red, purple, blue, orange, pink, and a lot more that I don’t care to list. In the gift shop, there were some necklaces that were made out of real butterflies and orchids, they had been dipped in some sort of glaze and then rimmed with gold. Then we went to the Tiger place.

The Tiger place: At the tiger place, there were 3 different kinds of tigers that we got to see and touch, large (full grown), small (“teenagers”), and smallest (cubs.) Eryn and I were only allowed to see the small and smallest ones, too bad. I liked the small ones the best (maybe they just reminded me of me when I fight my sister, but who knows???) because the were more fun to be around since the littlest ones who didn’t do much at all. Later, when we were having snacks of ice cream and pineapple juice, we saw a man playing with the full grown tigers, making them chase some pieces of dried grass. Eventually, one of them got it and sat there, in the little pond, chewing on it while the rest of them chased a “flying” coconut. Then we went back to our place.

Our place: When we got back to our place, Eryn and I swam in the pool before going inside and working on schoolwork. Boring…….Yawn. Anyway, when we got done sorting some of our pictures and doing most of our schoolwork, we all went to the Italian place right down the road from the M.D. House (our place.) For supper, we had pasta and ice cream. YUM!!

Tomorrow: Tomorrow, we are going to an elephant place by a bumpy pick up truck ride. We have to get up at around 6:30 AM to be downstairs and waiting to be picked up somewhere in between 8:00 and 8:30, and somewhere in there, we have to squeeze in breakfast. Now that is going to be soooo much fun.

When in Chiang Mai

So, we arrived in Chiang Mai last Sunday and have found our place of residence; the B.D. House in the inner city.

Our accommodations are situated right inside the moat that surrounds the old city. It is a fairly large place with two pools, but it has only a small breakfast menu. We are in the second building, on floor 3, and we are one of the few people on our floor.

Let me fill you in on what happened since I left you in Bangkok:

  • We got to the train station around 4:30 PM on Sunday after we had gone to 3 different malls in the center of town. On the train ride, we had first class seats (did I say seats, I meant bunks) that were in adjoining compartments. On the train ride, we had supper, which was good, and breakfast was pretty sparse, the only part that most of us ate was the toast with butter. It was a bumpy night, but most of us slept all right, but still, we were all tired in the morning.
    When we got to Chiang Mai, we went to our place by a taxi man (who had a long Thai name, so he called himself “Mr. Boon” and said that Daniel was his brother) and went to the park at the corner of the old town after a time where we just sat on a couch for a while. Then we tried to go to an Italian resturaunt, but found out that it was closed, so we went to a place a little ways down the street from our place that served good food, and both Eryn and my mother commented on how great the iced tea was.

Today:

  • Today, when we went down to breakfast, Eryn, my mother, and I all got “french toast” which was little more than glorified toast.Then we went to the Airport Plaza Mall and went around the food court, eating coconut ice cream and fried bananas. When we came “home” Eryn and I swam, and met a 13-year-old girl from Brazil named Louisa. When we got out of the pool, we went upstairs and got our schoolwork done, before going out to supper in a tuk-tuk. It took us about an hour to get there, because our driver didn’t know where in the world (Chiang Mai, that is) our resturaunt. The food there was o.k. But it wasn’t my style. It was a curry soup that you got to put your own condements on, such as cabbages, challots, fish sauce, coconut milk, sugar, lime, pepper paste, and banana slices. As it turns out, when we got a tuk-tuk to go back, it only took us about 5 minutes to get back.

Tomorrow, we are going to go on a ride with Mr. Boon and go to tourist places. Then, on Thursday, we are going to the elephant farm. And that is as far as we have planned ahead.

Our 2 days in Chiang Mai have been very nice and interesting ones, and we hope to have many more.

Last full day in Bangkok

Today was our last full day in Bangkok, and I thinkwhat we did a pretty good job of enjoying it while we could. Here are the things that we did today:

We ate a meal (breakfast) consisting of rice, chocolate milk, mangos, and scrambled egg. Then we went down the street to the coffee shop (Chimney) and had mochas, small for the kids, medium for the adults. We also had two pieces of cake and a triple brownie. It was all very good.

On our way back home we stopped at the Buddha Dharma Relics Museum and saw a lot of Buddha relics. It was interesting because we saw a bunch of weird items, like Buddha blood relics (which looked a lot like red sand) and other stuff like that.

After that we went down to the pool (all four of us) and swam for a long while, using my father as a horse to ride upon, (I know that that sounds stupid, but you probably don’t want to get in between someone and the wall of a pool) also we used him as something to splash. It was very liberating……..

Then we went up to our room and sat around for about an hour before heading down to go to our favorite restaurant across the street, Buri Tara. Again, for the third time. By the time we came home, it was about 7:15 and we decided to pack and then swim for a while (we being Eryn and I). Today was our first day of 270 that we have to take malaria pills. Lucky us…..

Paddleboating!!!!!!!!

Today we went to the Lampini Park which is a big park right in the middle of Bangkok. For the first half hour we sat on a bench and took pictures of water monitors and turtles. After that, we went to a dock and rented two paddleboats that each had two duck figureheads made out of plastic. We paddled those around for about half an hour before returning the boats to the dock. Then we went home after going to the grocery store and getting ice cream, which we had for supper along with pizza after we swam in the pool for a little bit.

Oh, I just remembered, as we were leaving the bus station, we saw some people filming a movie that involved people in black suits having a gun pointed at them.

Swenson’s are more popular here than in America!!!

Wat Pho and Wat Arun are both temples on the river running through Bangkok. Wat Arun was my favorite because you could climb up high on steep staircases. However, Wat Pho was interesting because there were some school girls who practised their English by asking us questions about where we are from and if they could take their picture with us. On our way home, we stopped by Swenson’s and had some ice cream before going into Tesco to buy some things for supper, which we had at home.

WE FOUND IT!!!!! (kind of)

Well, we finally found the resturaunt. As it turns out, it is a chain that is around Thailand, it is called MK. It is an interesting place, where, sitting in the middle of each table, there is a stove burner with a pot of spiced water in which you put in your food that you order. There are no forks or knives, only a soup spoon, a ladle, and a set of chopsticks for each person.
Now to start at the beginning of the day,
For breakfast, we went to the coffee shop down the street, then we went back to our apartment for a while before heading to the MBK mall by the national stadium.We stayed there for a while (about 6 hours) before heading home. We had supper at the mall

Where was that restaurant again???

Ice cream and pizza, in Thailand!!! Who would’ve thought?!?!?!
Sounds more like Italy, except there you would change it to be gelato and pizza (or would that be piazza??)
Anyway, today started out like any other day, we got up, took showers and had breakfast. But that is as far as the similarities go, today we stayed at ourbapartment building doing schoolwork until we left for supper. Eryn had looked up everything for our supper arrangements and had it all planned out when we found out that she had remembered the wrong mode of transportation. So, instead of doing that, we decided to go to a Lebanese place somewhere down the street.

Guess what, it wasn’t there, so we changed our plan again and decided to go to a piazza place. The pizza was okay, but what I really liked was the chocolate ice cream…..YUM!!!!!

Palaces & Temples

Some people like Buddha, and some people don’t, right???
Today we got to experience what people who like Buddha do and see when they visit the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Karo (pronounced Pre Q). We saw that, in a legend, there is a demon king with 10 heads and, when he gets angry, 20 arms. Also there are snake guardians that have five heads and necks. Their faces look like human faces when they are happy and crocodile faces when they are mad.

Buddhists have lots of ways of getting good luck, including dripping holy water off of flowers and onto their heads, taking a small piece of gold leaf and sticking it onto a statue of Buddha, putting some money on top of the heads of elephant statues, and many more. Also, elephants with curled in trunks are supposedly happy, while ones with out facing trunks are supposedly lucky.

We also learned that you can tell the difference between monkey statues and demon statues by looking at their feet; demons have shoes, monkeys don’t.

Market Day

Today we got up early (6:45 haha) to go to the Jatujak weekend market and the Or Tor Kor to look at stuff. The Or Tor Kor sells fruits and vegetables, while the Jatujak market has just about everything. We found the weekend market but then could not find the Or Tor Kor. So we just gave up on that idea and went to the park for a little bit. On the way home we decided to go to Tesco and buy some more food for breakfast. When we finally got home it was around three and I swam in the pool for a little bit. Then my mother joined me and she and I raced, me beating her most of the time. After that we went out to supper to the same place that we had supper at the day before yesterday and had the same things, too (bean curd with bean sprouts, chicken with sweet and sour sauce, and green curry soup with chicken.) 🙂

A Busy (and sweaty) day in Bangkok

Since you can’t be friends with dogs in Thailand and since it is so hot and Americans sweat so much, bottled water has become man’s new best friend. The pool at our hotel is fairly big, with fountains and tile whales at the bottom. We also found out today that 7-11 is a very common store on the streets behind our apartment building. On a single walk on only two streets we saw 4 7-11s!!!!

When in Bangkok

Today it is Saturday and we have been in Bangkok for about 30 hours, and we have done a lot of things. We have learned that almost all of the locals wear long pants and jeans, making us easy for pickpockets to spot as rich tourists if we wear shorts. So, since we decided to wear long pants, we sweated a lot yesterday as we walked around searching for the “elusive” 7-11, that, as it turns out is only a little ways down the street. We also have to keep ourselves from petting or in general, touching dogs, because most dogs in Thailand have rabies and sometimes rabies can be transferred by a lick of a dog. This change might be hard for me, since I really like dogs.

Waiting in an Airport

Our whole family has been up since 5:30 (some earlier) taking showers, eating breakfast, and getting ready to go to the airport. Since then we have ridden one plane from Portland to Seattle. Soon, though, we will fly away to Japan for another layover. Then we will fly to Bangkok, in Thailand. Right now, though, we are sitting in the United Lounge charging our electronics and waiting to go to our gate.

Two more days!!

Two more days!! (and two exclamation marks, too!!)

Are you done packing?
We are leaving in two days! But we still have a lot to do. So no.
Is it hard to handle the fact that you will be away from home for a year?
Not that much, I mean, we don’t even know when we will come back, because the airlines only let people book tickets 330 days in advance so we won’t know anything until sometime in August.
How do you fit everything in boxes?
We don’t, but we make it seem like we do. So many people say stuff like they packed all their stuff in boxes that wasn’t furniture, but that isn’t true, most of the stuff we don’t pack ends up right alongside the stuff we do pack, but we won’t pack everything, like the stuff too big for boxes.
Oh………Well bye for now.