Slow drive south

From the north of the country we traveled slowly to the south, making our way through beautiful towns where my family lives. Stopping in different cities and spending time with family along the way. After 25 years everything is new and different and I’m enjoying everything I see. Although we had rain along the way we managed to do some sightseeing on our drives, what a beautiful country. You have to see it for yourself.

Long dinners with late nights ending in softly talking in the kitchen or the dining room until 2 A.M. no one noticed the time….

Every visit with family was filled with so much love, hugs and kisses and a lot of tears. Happy tears, we cried, or maybe I did most of the crying. On Saturday we were in church (that was probably the last or second last service before church closed down due to the virus) we were celebrating one of my cousins’ baby dedication.

This was the first announcement of the possibility of churches closing temporarily. On this day there were only 13 reported cases in Portugal, you kind of think that this is still a China problem and that everything is OK and people are just being paranoid.

So far I had been with two of my aunts, there was one missing, and then she walked into church! I was emotional and cried at every hymn and then when she walked in….well the tears were uncontrollable.

We had such an awesome reunion that day, we could not fit everyone in one photo the apartment was too small for all of us, there were people bursting from every crack in the apartment. It was beautiful, the long talks and continued laughing and old stories told by some of the best characters in the family.

I went to Portugal to experience this…this is what I longed for and missed.

It was especially rewarding to also meet some family members for the first time, cousins that have over the years married and had children that I had never met. The embraces were given as if we’d known each other all this time….I miss them all already.

We traveled south to the beautiful Algarve where hubby’s family lives. I though he had hardly any family left that we just had to see a few people and would have time for more sightseeing but it turns out there are aunts and cousins in every corner of Algarve. It was something so special, to see everyone again, every photo is a reminder of that. Just by the way, on my cell phone I have over 2 000 photos, I imagine its double on my photographers camera!

Every visit was a photo shoot and we spent the days there literally going from one table to the next – for breakfast, lunches and dinners – it was insane but so enjoyable and I loved connecting with old friends and family again.

On the 11th of March we left for Ireland.

Corona update on this day – Italy now had over 12 000 confirmed cases, Ireland 43 and Portugal 35. Some people were starting to panic just a little.

At least I got to hug her

We arrived in the north with the first visit and nights sleep in a cute little town called Joane, oh there was so much excitement at the dinner table. So much noise, the TV going, a noisy extractor fan (my cousin kept switching off but mysteriously found its way back on) the frying of bacalhau and chips and kids talking loudly while playing on their iPads. The continuous talking you hardly had time to answer one question and the next one was being asked. This is exactly what I longed for and why I wanted to be there I wanted to experience this again. I get emotional just thinking about it.

One very exciting thing was going to happen the next morning, we were picking someone up form the airport. That someone special was my sister!!! We have not seen each other since Dec 2014. We speak to each other daily, but wow, to actually see each other again after so long….I was beyond excited. Also we had a surprise for her, that’s the day we told her we coming to Italy to spend a few days with her & GC and the boys. We arrive on the 19th  ask your husband about the plans, he knows everything, we are coming to see you all in Italy.

The reason for her quick visit is a complicated thing around her driver’s license….filled with lots of bureaucracy.

Well that little bit of excitement was very short lived. Because on that very day our airline sent an email saying that flights to Italy had to be postponed or cancelled. Sadly we had to opt for the cancellation and a refund.

Corona virus was now spreading quite a bit in Italy they were not on lock-down yet, but the country was starting to suffer under this virus. Countries were not flying in to Italy to avoid the spread.

We spent a day with my sister and then she had to leave and go back home to full lock-down. To the uncertainty of what was going on back home with the number of reported cases escalating daily. The day she left, Italy had just over 3000 confirmed cases.

Our dream mini holiday in Italy was cancelled and we made plans to just come back to Portugal for more time with family after our trip to Ireland. At this point things were still pretty normal in the places we visited and we still had some touristic sightings and visits and lots of family catch ups with long lunches and dinners. Anything that involved lots of food, laughter and love.

At least I got to hug her ♥

A travel diary

I don’t know how to start this story, I just know that it has a few parts to it that need to be broken down a bit. By now a few people have written about living in a time of the coronavirus – the lock-downs, the self-isolation and the quarantine. My story is about my observation as a traveler during this time.

We holiday a lot back home but stamps on my passport are scarce – this is my story and travel diary –

I was last in Portugal in May 1995. At that time I had two babies in my arms both in nappies. I was on maternity leave of my second child and when we came back home a month later maternity leave was over and I was back at work.  And just like that 25 years later I was finally going on my dream trip to Portugal. I just wanted to visit my aunties (my dad’s sisters) I was so excited that I think I started packing end of January.

In February I was surprised with a visit from something called shingles!!! And to add to that I also contracted tick bite fever. I have no idea how I got either one of them, and the doctor actually said stop thinking about it. Stop trying to figure it out, what matters is that we have the blood results; you now have the correct medication and you will be fine. At one stage I really thought I was dying and that I would not make this trip at all. I cried in-between fever sweats and lay awake at night sweating and thinking that maybe I should plan my own funeral. Just in case…it was that bad 😦

It was a terrible month. But I did recover and I did get better and the planning and packing continued. I was most excited because no one knew we were coming. Some of my cousins found out in the middle of the month of February, I told five of them about our arrival date, and five might sound like a good amount of people knowing but in a large family like ours that is nothing!

My sister in law found out about our arrival the day we were leaving SA. At the airport after checking in we sat down for lunch and then we made a video. She received this with photos of our bags being wrapped and put on airport scales. Photos of boarding passes and us standing next to check-in counters. I was excited for us and excited for them!!! It was such a good feeling doing that video, sending it to her and saying; Hi, we coming, we will see you Sunday night at around dinner time. But don’t cook we going out for dinner, a place has been booked. Just give us a bed and a good Portuguese breakfast the day after.

And that she did.

We left SA on the 2nd of March for Portugal, on to Ireland, Italy, and then back to Portugal and finally back home to land in SA on the 25th.

Phew that’s a lot of places in such a short time, we were a bit stretched but the adventurous spirit was larger than life.

So exciting I cant even !!!!!!!!!! ♥

Silver anniversary

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9 October 1990

October is a pretty month, the weather is good and the city turns a beautiful light purple because of the Jacaranda trees, there’s a wonderful smell in air, it’s sweet and fragrant especially at night and the air has a magical feel to it.

This year October is extra special because my bear and I celebrate our wedding anniversary, our 25th silver anniversary! Three cheers to me because I have worked the hardest….raising two mischievous very busy sometimes naughty little boys and then a third one – my biggest and oldest child requiring more adult supervision than the other two a.k.a. my husband.  Ok, ok three cheers to both of us 😀

We committed to the insanity, refusing to give up on each other. And I know we are not a dying breed, there are so many special couples around us celebrating longer years together. But I feel that this really is something special for us, almost like we are the only ones.  A silver anniversary to be celebrated and rightly so!  Spending a quarter of a century with one person must be celebrated with a really special occasion and we are sooo doing that. We deserve it.

On the 10th of October we are taking a little trip, it’s something we have not done for ourselves in all the years together. We never really went overseas, I’m purposely not counting the trip together to Portugal in 1995, that was oh so long ago.  Yes there were many holidays here in SA and Mozambique and such awesome weekends away too but these always involved family, the boys, and extended family, sometimes with friends and sometimes with the camera club.  We managed to escape once or twice just on our own too for those ‘dirty little weekends’ 🙂 but no big trips for only two.

Looking back I know we were spoilt, we have made such amazing memories. Our home is filled with little curios gifts, souvenirs & things, shells, bottles and frames from those special holidays.  There are numerous albums and envelopes full of photos, boxes overflowing with slides and there must be millions of digital photos at home…

So blessed, we have truly been blessed in our marriage, I have felt God’s hand & guiding all the time, His presence was always near.

So this month we are doing something extra special just the two of us and I’m dying with excitement I can’t wait to arrive at the airport.  A little trip to an exotic island off the coast of East Africa  ♥♥  to celebrate relax and love. We deserve this.

Hello Zanzibar, jambo, we are coming!!

 

PS:   this was our wedding song, our first dance. I know he remembers this because every time we hear it, if it plays on the radio or somewhere he smiles and always holds my hand

Nothing’s gonna change my love for you, George Benson

The bad & the ugly, there is no good!

The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP) will link the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique; Kruger National Park in South Africa; Gonarezhou National Park, in Zimbabwe. The GLTP will bring together some of the best and most established wildlife areas in southern Africa. The park will be managed as an integrated unit across three international borders.

Those are two sentences from one of the websites telling us how wonderful the ‘transfrontier’ park is. So for those that have not been there and might one day think this is a good idea; let me tell you about our wonderful experience in that not so wonderful part of the park.

We left Letaba camp early in the morning, on 26 December 2013 and drove to Giriyondo Border. From here it is about 300 kilometers to Bilene, Mozambique. Using a clever website to calculate distance and arrival time, it gives me an estimate of 5 hours 34 minutes driving (with no stops).

We arrived and started our trip from Giriyondo border at ‏‎08:04:43 AM recorded on my phone when I took this picture.

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The border opens at 08h00; so we were by no means off on a late start!

Bright and early, no queues, we were the only ones at the border. Here we had to pay the ridiculous fee of R740.00 (that was for the four of us and the car) to gain entrance into the Parque Nacional do Limpopo – Limpopo National Park.

While still in the border reception area I saw this very informative customs poster about the travellers allowances – note the sentence about perfume and toilet water!?

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Eau de toilette and toilet water are NOT the same thing, and one should not use these words in the same sentence. Duh! Anyway that funny, but bad translation should have been a good indication of the not so wonderful park we were about to drive into….Alas we still went in.

Hubby wanted to buy a map of the park; he was told there was no map and they told him there were road signs along the route that he could follow.

It is advisable to use a GPS in the Limpopo Park – signboards are scarce and the roads can be somewhat confusing. Any vehicle with high ground clearance will make it although one might need a 4×4 after heavy rains.

Another useful nugget from another informative website. Yeah we did have a GPS, just that the thing was rather confused and not sure which roads to send us on. The road signs, if we were lucky enough to find them, were faded and you could not read names or distances of where you were going. To drive in this so-called park you definitely need a 4×4 don’t attempt this with a normal car, unless you hate it so much you want a forced upgrade as soon as you arrive at your destination.

Anyway we continued….the scenery is pretty for now, there were lots of trees on either side of the road and I was still in “romance” mode and took a few pictures of the colours in front of me.

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Lush green bush and trees that have both red and green leaves. It’s very pretty. But so far no animals. We noted that it was ok to throw cold drink bottles out the window because we saw many of them on the road. It was also ok to speed because so far the first two cars coming in the opposite direction flew past us. We quickly closed all windows so we didn’t die from the dust inhalation.

Then in the middle of nowhere and unannounced we reached a boom gate.

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We had to sign a book and add registration number and hubby asked:

“What is the boom gate for?”

“Oh it’s for traffic control”

“Do they have elephants here?” we asked and where?

”Yes, they are in the bush” was the reply

Oh dear, I thought we were already in the bush. Anyway we continue our slow drive always in search of animals. The road is so bad, so bad, that you feel like popcorn in the car. There are speed bumps all over and with no warnings. Very soon we started having car trouble. The bolts on the brake calipers broke on the right front side of the 4×4, cutting off the brake pipe, which in turn made quite a racket as the caliper scraped against the inside of the mag wheel.

Lucky for us, our driver (daddy & hubby in-car) knows more about cars than just filling it up with petrol. We made a few stops so he could tighten and fix some things and try to get us to the end of this trip safely and in one piece.

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I could see he was worried. The times we did stop the approaching cars slowed down enough to pass us by and then kept driving. There is nothing in sight. Nothing civilised or helpful to anyone in this situation. Animals in this national park consisted of these cows – 595

Then we came across two villages

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By now it is very clear that this is nothing like the Kruger National Park and that the advertising and websites telling us this area combines the three established wildlife areas in southern Africa is a load of bull shit. I can’t comment on the Zimbabwe side of the transfrontier park, but the Mozambique side is not a national wildlife park. That is all fake or old news that has not been updated.

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We finally reached the end of this horrible dry piece of land they claim is a national park. Filled a complaint in their book which I’m sure is just ignored, but there is a toilet at this gate and I suspect the complaint book is the toilet paper, who knows. We left the park and drove through Massingir, Chokwe and Macia towards Bilene beach.

We stopped at Macia to have the brake pipe replaced and continued the trip. Luckily we found some friendly locals at a kind of metal scrap yard and they made a plan and got us a brake pipe for the Toyota. By now we are starving, thinking that a late breakfast or early lunch at Parque Nacional would have been possible, water was just about the only thing we had in the car. Parque Nacional does not have animals let alone places to eat or toilets. Maybe the camp sites in this park have some kind of facilities, we never visited, not even out of curiosity. With car problems and the state of the roads no one was in a mood for another adventure.  From there on it was just driving and trying to arrive in one piece at our destination – Bilene.

We now see lots of little tables on the side of the road with people selling fruit. But hubby (my bear) is too miffed to stop one more time not even for food and I close my eyes. I don’t want to see the mangos or bananas!

We arrived late afternoon, it was pass 17h00, a little more than 9 hours to do 300 kilometers! Tired, hot, hungry and very unhappy! Not because of the car problems but because we were cheated of a Transfrontier National Park – bush to beach experience and to top it all we paid what I think is a small fortune. For what?

Oh yes that was for the pleasure of driving with no front brakes thanks to the many high-speed bumps and kak roads. For the pleasure of no direction, no sightings, no support or security. Whatever you do, don’t visit Parque Nacional do Limpopo – Limpopo National Park, the name is misleading, the experience is bad and the association with our national park is embarrassing!