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Month: February 2018

South Africa

After a week in Abu Dhabi and Dubai (if you haven’t read that post yet, click here to catch up before scrolling further), we finally headed to South Africa! The plan was to stay four days in Cape Town before flying to Johannesburg and spending ten days with the Pelzer family (if you’re confused again, click here to ready about them).

***A little tip: I had SO many pictures from our trip that I made little galleries throughout the post. You can click a smaller picture and scroll through each gallery if you want a closer look!

As much as I want to say we had a fantastic first day in Cape Town…I can’t. One of the many things you learn while traveling is that just like everything else in life: things don’t always go as planned. In fact, our struggles started the night before, shortly after we landed in Cape Town. We had reserved a rental car and requested an automatic since neither of us knows how to drive a stick shift. After we loaded the car and set the GPS, we looked down and, our hearts sank. A stick shift. We were so busy getting everything settled that we forgot to double check and make sure they had given us the right car.

One of the many wonderful qualities my husband possesses is his ability to figure out anything—as long as he has access to YouTube. Unfortunately, since we had just landed in a foreign country and were sitting in the middle of a parking lot, we didn’t have cell phone service or WiFi. So, no YouTube. Nonetheless, he declared that it couldn’t  possibly be that hard to figure out and turned the car on. Which promptly made the car jerk forward and roll into the middle of the aisle.

After multiple attempts, we finally looked at each other and admitted defeat. Embarrassed for officially winning the title of “silly Americans who can’t drive a stick,” we went back to the rental car office and requested an automatic. Of course, they were fresh out. So, we proceeded to ask three more rental car companies until we FINALLY found one that had an automatic left.

The next day, our luck was still running low. Our friend, Christine, had planned a wonderful itinerary for us while we were in Cape Town. Day one was supposed to be a trip to Table Mountain. She recommended that we wait to go on a clear day, but unfortunately we walked outside, and the sky was far from sunny. Clouds everywhere. Since we had already gotten a late start, we decided to grab an early lunch and pray the clouds cleared soon.

While we ate, what do you know—the clouds disappeared! 

There were still a couple of small clouds, but we decided to chance it. As we made our way up the mountain on the gondola, we looked up and once again our luck seemed to vanish. A giant cloud had suddenly appeared and was sitting on top of the entire mountain (which is impressive since it’s such a wide space). I will say, it was pretty cool to literally be in the clouds, but the coolness factor quickly wore off when we realized the cloud was there to stay.

The picture below shows how important it is to go to Table Mountain on a clear day…the view wasn’t exactly great…

After an hour of exploring the viewless mountain, we finally decided to give up and head to our next destination. Between terrible traffic, learning to drive on the wrong side of the road, and a delayed GPS app…we were struggling. A lot. Eventually we came to the conclusion that maybe we were supposed to go back to our Airbnb and have a relaxing evening. (This was definitely a good lesson on when to take a break while traveling.)

While on Table Mountain the previous day, we met a very nice man from a town in South Africa called Muizenberg. We planned to take a drive near that area the next day, so he recommended that we eat at a restaurant in Kalkbay with “the best fish and chips ever.” He made it sound so delicious, that we decided to have lunch there!

As we pulled up to the little shack/boathouse, we thought “this place must be great” since it fell into the classic “hole in the wall” category. Until our food arrived. And we proceeded to eat the absolute worst fish and chips we’ve ever had. It may look good in the picture, but trust me, it wasn’t!

After we finished our far from delicious lunch, we headed to Boulders Beachaka the penguin beach!! That’s right; I said penguin beach! They literally have penguins living all over the beach and for a small fee you can go swimming with them. Unfortunately, the water is VERY cold, so as far as swimming goes, we only made it up to our calves. The beach was beautiful though, and it was amazing to get to see such an incredible site!

The next stop: Cape of Good Hope. I don’t know why it was such a fantastic experience to stand at the tip of Africa, but it was incredible!

They even have a path with something resembling stairs where you can hike up to the top of the cliff. The hike doesn’t look bad in the picture above, but there are large stretches of the walk where the stairs are widely spaced pieces of wood where you have to hop from one platform to the next. It was terrifying (especially for someone with tumors on their balance nerves), but the view was worth it!

The picture below shows just one of many moments throughout our trip where Cardin decided to look over the edge of a cliff, and I proceeded to panic!

After we finished at Cape of Good Hope, we began the most breathtakingly beautiful drive we’ve ever done! The pictures below don’t even come close to doing it justice! The drive is through an area called Chapmans Peak Drive, and I would happily fly all the way back to Cape Town just to do that drive and get to experience those views again! You drive along winding cliffs that hug the coast, and they have lots of great areas where you can pull off and take pictures.

The drive also takes you through Houts Bay, Llandudno, Camps Bay, Clifton and Bantry Bay, which are known as the most beautiful beaches in the world! We stopped at Llandudno beach, which was incredible! They had a photo shoot taking place on the beach while we were there—sadly they weren’t interested in including us 😉 I will also say these are probably the windiest beaches in the world. We pretty much got sandblasted the entire time, which I guess is great exfoliation! I’m still finding sand in my purse from that day!

On our last day in Cape Town, we decided to make the trip up Table Mountain again to try our hand at catching a cloudless view. It was AMAZING!!! Definitely worth having to pay twice to see it!

That night we decided to go to Victoria & Alfred Waterfront for dinner. It’s a great area full of restaurants, shopping, and views of Table Mountain (check out the giant cloud sitting once again on the mountain).

The next day we flew to Johannesburg to finally meet up with the Pelzer family! We drove to a town called Nelspruit to stay at their grandmother’s house. At dinner, we were joking about how much my husband and I dislike bugs and critters. Later that evening when their grandma showed us to our bedroom, I noticed something crawl behind the picture above the bed. I mentioned what I had seen, so she went over to take a peak. “Oh, it’s probably just a gecko, they love to hide behind pictures,” she said. Then as she looked behind the picture, she added, “hmm that’s quite a large one.”

As she pulled away the frame and revealed the baby dinosaur clinging to the wall, I yelped and immediately went to the other room to tell everyone what we found. They all started laughing and making fun of me for being scared of a little gecko…until they went into the room and saw the supposedly “little gecko!” Thankfully their cousin safely removed it and freed it outside. I’m also happy to report that the lizard incident was the only indoor critter sighting we experienced on our trip!

The next morning we left bright and early to start our 4-day safari adventure in Kruger National Park. Below is a list of just some of the animals we saw throughout the massive park.

We spent four days and three nights in the park and stayed in a little hut-like cabin (which thankfully included air conditioning). Electric fences surround the camps, and the park has a curfew at 6:30 pm, so everyone is required to be in the gates by then, or you get fined. We did a night drive guided tour one evening, which was amazing! They took us on a jeep for 2 hours where we saw SO many adult lions and cubs!

One of my favorite things about the safari park was all of the elephants. They’re so massive and were so close to our car! We got charged by an elephant at one point, but thankfully it gave up as soon as we started to drive away. Seeing them bathing at the watering hole was one of my favorite moments of the trip—especially the babies!!

Below is a picture of blue monkeys at one of the picnic areas of the park. They may look cute, but they are notorious for being very naughty (there is a sign there for a reason). The family we were with even has a problem with blue monkeys coming into their house and stealing their food since they leave their windows open.

On the third day of the safari, we left the park to visit Moholoholo (yes that’s how you spell it) Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.

As we were petting the cheetah, she suddenly stood up, which made us jump back since we were so startled! Petting a cheetah isn’t exactly the least nerve-racking activity, so it was hard not to be a little jumpy! Then she started to lick the trainer…it was amazing!

The pictures below are of two lions who seriously reminded me of Simba and Nala; they were so fun to watch! The last image is of a honey badger named Stoffel who is famous for being an escape artist. If you Google “Stoffel”, you’ll find videos of him and his devious girlfriend opening gates and breaking through barricades.

Yes, that is a picture just after a vulture slapped me across the face (you may have seen my video of it happening on my Instagram). The vulture standing on the branch behind me was the one who was supposed to jump on my arm to eat the meat. Instead the vulture in front of me decided it was his turn (again), therefore smacking my eye with his wing. I’m also happy to report that I have yet to contract some rare form of vulture-carrying disease from this incident!

The picture above shows the type of grill they use to braai—South Africa’s version of a BBQ. The process and the spices are very different from what we use in America, but it’s delicious!! Below is a picture of lamb braai that the family cooked one night in the safari park.

We also found baboons running around the braai one night looking for food!

After four days in Kruger National Park, we started the drive to a tiny town called St. Lucia. On the way, we stopped at several incredibly beautiful spots—as if we hadn’t already seen enough amazing views on our trip! (Also, sorry for my overuse of the words ‘beautiful, amazing, incredible, etc.’—but seriously how else can I describe this magical place?!)

The town of St. Lucia is known for their hippo population, so we took a boat tour to see all of the hippo families. During the tour, the guide explained that one hippo family, in particular, leaves the water every night and strolls around the town eating grass. He advised us to not walk around the town at night since hippos are very dangerous (they kill more humans than any other animal).

After dinner that night, we drove around in search of hippos roaming the town. Honestly, after hearing the story on the boat earlier, I assumed that we probably wouldn’t find any hippos and thought maybe the guide was just exaggerating for effect. But seriously, hippos wander around the town at night eating people’s grass!!!

Picture a nice suburban neighborhood and pulling up to your house to find a gigantic hippo standing in front of your driveway eating your lawn…it’s not like you can just get out of your car and go inside! We were so close to the hippos, it was terrifying, especially when one of them suddenly made a very threatening snorting noise at us. The whole experience was crazy and probably one of the most memorable and ridiculous things we’ve ever done!

The next day we left St. Lucia to finish the drive to Durban (the city where the Pelzer family lives). On our way, we made another stop to a beautiful beach where they had a massive man-made tide pool next to the ocean. It was so cool!! And great for swimming!

Here is the world’s largest bag of fruit loops (or at least the largest bag of fruit loops I’ve ever seen). Seriously, if I could have fit them into my backpack, I would have and would currently be snacking on them as I’m writing this post.

The Pelzers own a couple of stores called Bargain Basket, so we visited their two main shops. Both were HUGE! It was so fun getting to be in a store after hours where we had the whole place to ourselves. (They’re also the sellers of the gigantic fruit loops!)

One of the last days of our trip, they took us to their lake house. During the drive there they kept telling us about this massive swing that people do in a gorge. My husband was, of course, eager to try it, so they promised us we’d stop there on the way back from the lake.

As we drove up to the gorge, we realized that the supposed “swing” was essentially bungee jumping off a cliff with a waterfall. At first, we thought, OK, that doesn’t seem that bad…until we saw someone jump and noticed just how far you fall. We all promptly chickened out. It was still fun getting to see other people do it though (while we all safely watched from afar).

During our time with the Pelzers, my husband and I kept looking for a Christmas ornament with the words ‘South Africa’ on it. We don’t purchase souvenirs on our trips (since we have no room in our bags and want to save money). The only item we’ll buy is a Christmas ornament—but we typically try to buy wooden ones since they’re less likely to break in our backpacks.

By the end of our trip we still couldn’t find any ornaments that represented South Africa, so we gave up our search. Then, while having lunch in the coffee shop inside one of the family’s stores, Christine came up and handed us the absolute BEST ornament we’ve found so far. She had reached out to a friend and asked her to make us a special ornament. We were both in awe! Not only is it perfect for our Christmas tree, but it’s one of a kind and handmade just for us!

Our trip to the UAE and South Africa will probably be the most memorable trip of our travel year, and we couldn’t have done it without this special family featured above. Not only did they open their home and hearts to us, but they so thoughtfully planned our entire two weeks in South Africa. They are by far some of the most loving and generous people we know, and it was an honor to spend that time with them. God certainly knew what he was doing when he used Andrea’s and my condition to bring us into each other’s lives, and we are forever grateful for our South African family.

If you’re reading this, that means you made it through the entire post, so thank you (I know that was some crazy scrolling)! If you want updates about our travels, feel free to subscribe to my blog to receive posts directly to your email. Or if you want to keep up with us daily while we travel, follow me on Instagram at Being_Positioned!

Abu Dhabi & Dubai

After spending the past few months traveling around the U.S., visiting family and friends, my husband and I finally went on the first big trip of our adventure! We spent one week in the United Arab Emirates and two weeks in South Africa [find out here why we chose this as our first trip abroad.] I’m breaking the post into two because that would be way too many pictures!

Since flying to South Africa required a layover in Dubai, we decided to spend a week there. Aside from the typical draws to visiting the area (i.e., incredible architecture, malls and beaches) they also have an abundance of theme parks! My husband is a major theme park fan, so we decided to add a week to our trip.

And let me just say, we were not disappointed!

I took this picture on the bus ride from the Dubai airport to Abu Dhabi. I mean I knew that Dubai had the world’s tallest building, but the Burj Khalifa is seriously SO much taller than I expected! It gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘skyscraper!’

[Little tip: If you fly Emirates to Dubai, they offer a free shuttle the day of your flight from Dubai to Abu Dhabi.]

I left the majority of the planning for this part of our trip to my husband since he wanted to go to the theme parks, which meant we spent our first day at Yas Waterworld and Ferrari World! What better way to fight jet lag than going to two parks in one day, right?!

Our first stop was the water park. Before leaving for our trip, I researched culturally appropriate clothing, especially swimwear. I made sure that it was okay to wear a two-piece bathing suit to water parks, pools and beaches. EVERY site I checked assured me that it was acceptable to wear bikinis. I usually wear a high neck bathing suit top to cover up my port scar [an implanted device for infusions], so I figured I was wearing a relatively conservative bathing suit.

Until we walked outside. And I was the only person wearing a bikini.

In the entire water park.

I was so embarrassed! I made my husband rent a towel so I could walk around the park wrapped in it! I should add though—when I say I was the only one there wearing a bikini, I mean the only one out of like 30 people. The park was completely empty! Which was a bummer for me in my bikini wearing struggles, but great for my husband who got to ride every ride as many times as his heart desired!! Thankfully, after a couple of hours the crowds picked up, and I was no longer the only one in a two-piece!

After lunch, we headed to Ferrari World. The best part about the park is it’s indoors! Since temps can reach up to 120 degrees in Abu Dhabi in the summer, AC is a must and waiting in line for a ride outside would be awful! Fun fact about the water parks in Dubai and Abu Dhabi: they have to chill the water because it gets so hot! Thankfully since we were there in the winter, the weather was much milder. I even wore a sweater most days!

Yes, we rode the world’s fastest roller coaster. And yes, I almost peed my pants.

Formula Rossa goes 150 mph—you have to wear goggles while on the ride to protect your eyes! My husband claims it’s just to make the ride seem more intense and that you don’t really need to wear eye gear…I suspect he was lying just to convince me to go on it with him.

Another cool thing we noticed on most of the rides is that they offer special head coverings for both men and women. Since things like abayas and burqas are loose and would fly off during the ride, instead of making people take them off and break their religious practices, they just give them something to wear on top of them.

Don’t be fooled…this picture may make Formula Rossa look nice and easy, but trust me…you don’t breathe the entire ride, and it rattles like crazy! But of course, my husband LOVED it!

The next day, we headed to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It was beyond beautiful! The word ‘grand’ is an understatement when it comes to describing it! We were in awe of the entire place. It was easily my favorite part of our week in the UAE!

We started the next morning bright and early at Dubai Parks and Resorts. A stop at Starbucks was a must, but I mistakenly ordered a ‘tall’ flat white and received the world’s tiniest coffee cup! [It also came in an old Christmas cup, but I definitely didn’t mind!]

Dubai Parks and Resorts consists of three parks: Motiongate, Bollywood and Legoland. Thanks to my husband’s wonderful friend, we had free tickets to all three parks!

Bollywood: the most beautiful theme park EVER! Everything was so colorful and so well done! We weren’t big fans of any of the rides, but some of that was because they were all based on movies we’d never seen.

We loved Motiongate and Bollywood, but both parks were surprisingly empty! Which again, was great since we didn’t have to wait in long lines, but also sad since they built such nice parks and hardly have any visitors.

After finishing at the other parks, we decided to quickly check out Legoland since they built a scene of Dubai out of legos.

Now for the malls: they are nothing short of amazing! We went to both The Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates. It’s a good thing that Cardin and I are minimalist travelers (aka I only have a 35L backpack with no room to spare) so neither of us has any room to shop—otherwise, I don’t think I would have been able to resist so many stores!

Honestly, I’m not even sure you can consider these places malls. They’re more like an aquarium, ice skating rink, shopping, dining, and fountain show combo! You could spend an entire day just walking around The Dubai Mall without even stepping into a store.

Before leaving for our trip, everyone kept asking if we were going to go indoor skiing at Mall of the Emirates. Well, we went to see the indoor ski resort, which was completely crazy, but unfortunately, you need to have at least 4 hours to devote to it, and we didn’t have enough time before our desert safari. It’s definitely on our list for our next trip though!

We were SO excited to find a store with Cardin’s name on it!

They have a huge fountain show outside of The Dubai Mall. It’s very similar to the fountain show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, except the fountain is directly under the Burj Khalifa—the world’s tallest building!

Keep in mind the building is even taller than it looks in these pictures since I couldn’t get the very top to fit in the frame! They also do a light show on the building, which is amazing! It alternates every half hour between doing the fountain show and the light show. And they extended the New Year’s celebration show since it was such a big hit, so we got to see that too!

On the last night of our week in the UAE, we did a desert safari. They start the afternoon by taking you out in the middle of the desert and doing something called dune bashing. It’s ridiculous and completely terrifying, but SO fun! A must if you go to Dubai! Our driver was great, but he was, of course, the one person who kept deviating from the group and driving off huge hills, which was hilarious, but so nerve racking! They end the night by taking you to a campsite where they have camel rides, dinner, and belly dancing. The camel ride was really cool, but we weren’t big fans of the dancing and other activities at the campsite since they felt so touristy.

Overall, we had an amazing time in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai!! Stay tuned for part II of our trip: South Africa!