Our Travel Adventures

Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category


Our Africa Adventure, July 2013

On Saturday, June 29, 2013, our Africa Adventures began. That morning, we drove our car to the Santa Maria Airport and parked it in the free long-term parking lot. We next caught the Central Coast Shuttle van and rode it south for four hours to the LAX Radison Hotel. There, we relaxed and slept before our Sunday 3:30 a.m. international-flight check in with United Airlines. Joined there by Abby’s sister Alice Addison, we took off for the 5-hour flight to Washington D.C. Dulles Airport at about 6:45 a.m. That afternoon, we boarded a South African Airways plane and began our 8-hour overnight flight across the Atlantic to Dakar, Senegal.


While United Airlines wanted to charge us for everything from snacks to video entertainment, South African Airways offered us free meals with wine and a wide selection of current and classic movies to enjoy on our seatback monitors. Unfortunately, our U.S. carriers have a lot to learn about customer service.

After a short stop in Dakar to drop off and pick up passengers, we began our last leg of the journey: eight more hours to Johannesburg, South Africa.

After clearing customs and immigration, we were met at the Jo’burg airport by our safari guide, Phillip Steffny.
This young and enthusiastic South African’s appearance reminded Rusty of a lot of his red-headed brother, Ron.


Phillip Steffney, our first-class safari guide! (And world-class wildlife photographer:   http://www.phillsteffnysafaris.com/)

He quickly rounded up our tour group’s thirteen members and got us aboard our bus to the magnificent Michelangelo Hotel on the Nelson Mandela Square.

We visited a local restaurant for dinner,
then got to know some of our traveling companions.

DSCF0889               DSCF0886

On Tuesday, 02 July, our group gathered after breakfast for our first outing.

We set off for a half-day tour of Soweto township with visits to Desmond
Tutu’s home, the Nelson Mandela home and museum, and the Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum, dedicated to the Soweto student killed in the segregated schools uprising in 1976 that helped bring down the Apartheid government.

Our Soweto guide, Ngugi, had been an associate of Mandela and was instrumental in turning the home into a museum.


Our knowledgeable Soweto guide, Ngugi.


Our visit to the South Africa Human Rights Center.


The unusual structure that housed the South Africa Human Rights Memorial.


The Circle of Human Rights and eternal flame (temporarily out of order).

The South Africa Bill of Rights (We wished everyone on earth was guaranteed these rights!)

You cannot be discriminated against.
Everyone is equal before the law and may not be discriminated against.

Your dignity must be respected and protected.
Everyone has a basic human dignity which must be respected.

You have the right to life
Everyone has the right to life.

You cannot be detained without trial, tortured or punished poorly. Domestic violence is not allowed.
You may not be physically detained without trial or abused in any way.

Slavery and forced labour are not allowed.
You may never be subjected to slavery or forced labour.

You cannot be searched or have your home or possession searched.
Your right to privacy includes your body, home and possessions.

You can believe and think whatever you want and can follow the religion of your choice.
You have the right to think, believe and worship however you may choose.

All people (including the press) can say whatever they want.
You have the right to say, read and study whatever you choose but hate speech is not allowed.

You can hold a demonstration, picket and present a petition. But you must do this peacefully.
You have the right to peacefully assemble, demonstrate and protest.

You can associate with whomever you want to.
You have the right to associate with anyone.

You can support the political party of your choice. If you are citizen and at least 18-years old, you can vote.
You may form a political party, run for office, and vote for any party in free and fair elections.

Your citizenship cannot be taken away from you.
No citizen may be deprived of citizenship.

You can go and live anywhere in the Republic of South Africa
You have the right to enter and leave the Republic at will.

You can do whatever work you choose.
You have the right to choose any legal trade or occupation freely.

You may join trade unions and go on strike
Every worker and employer has the right to organise and negotiate to further their aims.

You have the right to a healthy environment
You have the right to live in a protected, healthy environment.

Your property can only be taken away from you if the proper rules are followed.
No one may be deprived of property, except in terms of law of general application.

The Government must make sure that people get proper access to housing.
You have the right to access adequate housing.

The Government must make sure you have access to food and water, Health care, and social security.
You have the right to health care, adequate food and water, and social security.

Children under the age of 18 have special rights, like the right not to be abused.
Every child has the right to a name, nationality, and protection from abuse and exploitation.

You have the right to basic education, including adult basic education, in your own language (if this is possible).
You have the right to a basic education in the official language of your choice.

You can use the language you want to, and follow the culture that you choose.
You have the right to use the language of your choice and practise your own culture.

Communities can enjoy their own culture; practice their own religion; and use their own language.
You have the right to form, join and maintain cultural, linguistic and religious grouping of your own choice.

You have the right to any information which the government has.
You may access any information held by the state for the protection of your rights.

Actions by the government must be fair.
You have the right to administrative action that is lawful, reasonable and fair.

You can have a legal problem decided by a court, or a similar structure.
You have the right to resolve legal disputes in a court or another impartial tribunal.

This right protects people who are arrested, imprisoned or accused.
When arrested, you have the right to remain silent, to be brought before a court within 48 hours and the right to legal representation.



The former home of Nelson Mandela and now his museum and memorial library.




A street view of surprisingly modern Soweto.



Desmond Tutu’s home.


Monument to Hector and the student uprising.


Hector carried by another youth during the police shootings of unarmed students.

Phill took us next to the nearby Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve in the heart of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site.
We bought our lunches in their restaurant, then went out in 4x4s to see what game we could spot.


The team refueled before our first game drive.


We soon spotted a kudu.



These antelope are oryx, also known as Gemsbok.


Rusty’s spirit animal, the giraffe.


Its beautiful puzzle-piece coat.


These towering twins watched us as we passed.


A pretty profile.


All rhinos are the same color, but white rhinos, like this one, are grazers of grass, so have square faces.


This black rhino is a browser of leaves, so has a more triangular face.


Another rare black rhino.


These are tracked by armed guards and protected from poachers 24/7.

From our 2 days in Jo’burg, we’d found it to be so very modern
and much like the best U.S. cities.

On Day 4, Wednesday, 03 July, our tour group returned to the Jo’burg airport
to catch a short flight up to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
From there, we bussed out to the luxurious Stanley and Livingstone Lodge.
This beautiful group of colonial-style buildings was situated within
a Saudi-owned private game reserve where all their animals were well cared for
and protected from poachers by electric fences and armed guards.







The lodge was just a 10-minute drive from the world-famous Victoria Falls.
Phill arranged a van to take us all over there in the late afternoon to catch the rainbows as sunset approached.


A park ranger showed us the extent of Africa’s fourth-longest river.


He then pointed out the size and shape of the gigantic crustal fracture that the river falls into.


The statue to David Livingstone, first European to view the falls in 1855.


Our first sight of the “Smoke That Thunders” and its 300-foot-deep gorge.






Abby and Alice were soon dripping with wind-blown mist.


The sinking sun shown golden through the clouds of spray.

Day 5, the Fourth of July in Victoria Falls, featured an elephant-back safari through the Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve.


Orphaned African elephants were trained to give rides to visitors.


Our little elephant with trainer.


Our boarding platform.


(Photo by Alice Addison)

Africa July 2013 51
As we approached the ending of this gentle ride, our elephant purred with pleasure, knowing the peanuts were next.
After the ride, waiting for peanut treats.

Africa July 2013 54

These big feet gave a smooth ride.

Africa July 2013 52

A smiling goodbye wave.

Africa July 2013 53

Lavishly long eyelashes.

In late afternoon, the group traveled a few kilometers up river to take a “Sundowner Cruise” on the Zambezi River.

We enjoyed a sunset dinner aboard our floating restaurant.

Africa July 2013 57

Hippos popped up to inspect a pontoon boat like the one we were on.

Africa July 2013 59

Sunset provided us with Fourth of July fireworks over the mighty Zambezi River.

On Day 6, 05 July, Abby and I used our morning’s free time to return to
Victoria Falls to experience this wondrous sight under early eastern lighting.

Near the park entrance, we spotted a family of baboons.

Africa July 2013 61

The big male checked out the bags of trash.

Africa July 2013 62

The mother and youngsters watched us from a nearby tree.

Africa July 2013 63

The morning sun didn’t create rainbows, but caused the clouds of mist to shimmer and glow.

Africa July 2013 65

This postcard shot showed the aerial view we witnessed a few days later when our chartered plane’s pilot banked over the falls.

Africa July 2013 38

Back at the lodge,we spent the afternoon roaming around in a Toyota 4×4 safari truck looking for big game.

Here’s what we spotted:

Africa July 2013 40

A gorgeous giraffe.

Africa July 2013 55

A pair of eland.

Africa July 2013 56

A waterbuck

Africa July 2013 106

And hundreds of impala, like this beautiful male.

Africa July 2013 132

And glowing females.

Late that afternoon, our tour group relaxed around the lodge’s elevated deck
and watched as various groups of animals approached the water holes in the fields below us.

Africa July 2013 66

First, a big tribe of baboons with many youngsters crossed before us.

Africa July 2013 67

Then a small herd of Burchell’s zebras approached the pond.

Africa July 2013 68

Africa July 2013 69

Africa July 2013 70

At breakfast the next morning, Saturday, 06 July, our tour group compared our various adventure stories.

Africa July 2013 71

Phillip next took our team to visit a local Victoria Falls elementary school where the student dance team performed.

That afternoon, we traveled west two hours by motor coach, crossed into Botswana, and entered Chobe National Park.

Africa July 2013 110

Our new riverfront resort was the Chobe Marina Lodge.

Africa July 2013 115

That afternoon, our team set off on another sundowner cruise.

Africa July 2013 73

This big guy walked the shore but kept an eye on us.

Africa July 2013 74

An African fish eagle scanned the river for fish.

Africa July 2013 77

Large monitor lizards hunted insects and small animals.

Africa July 2013 78

Africa July 2013 80

Dozens of Nile crocodiles basked in the sun.

Africa July 2013 79

Or patrolled the water’s edge.

Africa July 2013 81

This big croc looked positively primordial.

Africa July 2013 82

Details of its awesome armor plating.

Africa July 2013 83

Along the river grazed giraffes and strolling groups of female elephants with their young.

Africa July 2013 84

Africa July 2013 85

This extended family decided to cross the river right in front of us.

Africa July 2013 86

With snorkel trunks held high, they swam across the deeper channel.

Africa July 2013 87

Mother and baby climbed slowly onto the island.

Africa July 2013 88

Once ashore, the herd enjoyed the lush grasses growing there.

Africa July 2013 90

Great egrets and an African jacana surround this hippo herd.

Africa July 2013 91

This big boy had quite a yawn!

Africa July 2013 93

Sunset over elephant island.  These images will forever be in our dreams.

Africa July 2013 92

Boating back to the lodge.

Africa July 2013 95

This traditional dance group greeted us on our return.

Africa July 2013 96

Jim and Linda Laponis enjoyed twilight on the Chobe together.

At the corner of four African countries
(Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Namibia),
Chobe National Park covers over 7,000 square miles and provides habitat
for the world’s largest elephant herd with over 70,000 protected pachyderms.

Africa July 2013 127

On Sunday, 07 July, we set out early on another game drive.

Africa July 2013 130

As we got underway, we asked Phillip to find us some big cats.

Africa July 2013 99

We didn’t have to wait long before he’d spotted these three big female lions.

Africa July 2013 100

One had been up to her belly in mud.

Africa July 2013 97

Bringing up the rear was this handsome black-maned male.

Africa July 2013 98

His chest-rumbling growl let us all know that he didn’t appreciate being followed.

Africa July 2013 101

This lovely lead lioness simply ignored the several trucks escorting her.

Africa July 2013 102

However, her companions headed into the brush.

Africa July 2013 103

A black-jacketed jackal kept a safe distance and watched us warily.

Africa July 2013 104

On returning to our lodge, we discovered more local wildlife that made the grounds their playground.

Africa July 2013 108

These playful vervet monkeys scampered down from the trees looking for food to steal.

Africa July 2013 109

Africa July 2013 111

This beautiful red-billed bird was searching trees for termites.

Africa July 2013 114

A troop of banded mongooses took over the back lawn and frolicked in the grass.

Africa July 2013 112

Africa July 2013 113

Their good-natured play made us wonder if they’d make good pets.

On Day 9, Monday 08 July, we joined Philip as he led us aboard a ferry to cross the Chobe river to the neighboring country of Namibia to visit an isolated island village there.

Africa July 2013 116

We filed into a border checkpoint to get our passports stamped  for leaving Zimbabwe and entering Namibia.

Africa July 2013 117

In the center of this village, we discovered the biggest baobab tree we’d ever seen.

IMG 6982

(Photo by Phillip Steffny)

IMG 6905

(Photo by Phillip Steffny)

Africa July 2013 118

Fresh-water fish drying in the sun.

Africa July 2013 119

Chobe river catch of the day.

Africa July 2013 120

Living close to the earth and building with natural materials.

Africa July 2013 121

Old meets new: note the solar panel in the lower right.

Africa July 2013 123

Africa July 2013 124

Africa July 2013 125

A solitary woman’s shoe sat abandoned in the sand.

Africa July 2013 126

Day 10, Tuesday, 09 July, we took a bus out to the Livingstone, Zambia, Airport.
Here we caught these two chartered aircraft and flew an hour across the border to Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park.

We landed at the private airstrip serving the Royal Zambezi Lodge. This park is Zambia’s newest reserve (founded in 1983) and the least developed,
having been the former private sanctuary of Zambia’s president. Located in a rich river valley on the northern banks of the Zambezi River,
it offers one of the last stretches of pristine riverine wilderness in all of Africa.

Africa July 2013 128

We were greeted at the lodge’s front door by Swat,
a lone male Kalahari elephant that has free access to the grounds.

Africa July 2013 129

The lodge’s elegant suites were the fanciest tents that we’d ever enjoyed.
At night we heard wild animals all around us and we were told to call for an armed guard if we wanted to leave our tent.

During the next two days and nights, we would drive, walk, motorboat, and canoe the lands and waters here.

IMG 6828

Bouncing around the roadless terrain became an adventure in itself. (Photo by Phill)

IMG 6818

Chilly 5:30 a.m. game drives offered opportunities to catch animals in the golden morning light. (Photo by Phill)

Africa July 2013 143

Great grumpy cape buffalos lounged about.

Africa July 2013 145

But these nasty-tempered bulls were not to be messed with!

Africa July 2013 139

We found a family of sable.

Africa July 2013 58

Solitary and small groups of elephants would carefully cross the river, watching for crocs.

IMG 7386

Phill captured a group of us spotting birds.


And what amazing birds they were, such as:  A lovely lilac-breasted roller.


This helmeted guineafowl prowled the underbrush.


A wooly-necked stork watched patiently for prey.


Yellow-billed storks stood like statues.

IMG 6748

Phillip captured this dramatic shot of a pair of black skimmers.


Local fishers worked in dugout canoes along the elephant grass.


Dozens of hippos stood on the bottom and watched us warily before slipping below the surface.

IMG 7461

On a night drive, we came close to three lions.
Phillip took this amazing shot of them illuminated only by headlights.
Our guides later found their tracks crossing through the grounds of our lodge.

On another day, we were fortunate indeed to see a leopard cub.

Africa July 2013 133

Our sharp-eyed driver spotted this one feasting on a rib cage provided by its mother.

Africa July 2013 134

It didn’t seem to mind our close proximity, but the nearby mother was invisible in the underbrush.

IMG 6458

Our fun safari group: Don, Jim, Kay, Claude, Rusty, Abby, Linda, Phill, Mary Jo, Mary Ann, Julie, Elaine, Pat and Alice.

We said farewell to them at the Lusaka, Zambia, airport as they headed off to Jo’burg, South Africa, and we met Jonathan to begin our Tanzania travels.

On Friday, July 12, Jonathan and Andrew, another Peace Corps volunteer, greeted us in the Lusaka, Zambia, airport.
Having recently taken vacation time to see the Zambian side of Victoria Falls,
Jonathan and Andrew were there to safely guide us back to their Ruvuma area of southwestern Tanzania.

Through a hired driver arranged for by our last lodge owners,
we learned that driving 200km north to the train station in Kapiri
and then taking the Tazara train to Tanzania was just too far
and too unpredictable to even consider trying that day.
Instead, our party of four boarded the first of many harrowing and horrible
long-distance buses, traveling all through the night and most of the next day
to reach Mbeya, Tanzania.


The buses were filled not only with people, but also chickens (in both these photos)
and sometimes goats tied to the top.


Having not seen Jonathan for two years, we spent the bumpy hours catching-up. We’d never seen him with such long hair!

For the next three weeks on our bus rides, we were the only white people on board.
And we were huge, hairy white people who spoke a foreign language,
causing non-stop stares and laughter to the petite, lovely Africans.


Every few hours we’d reach a major bus stop where locals sold drinks, nuts, and fresh fruits.


We finally reached Mbeya and stayed two nights in this special “guestie” B&B.



The Peace of Mind Guest House was decorated withTanzania arts and crafts.
Every morning the kitchen served a breakfast of fruit, juice, coffee, eggs, sausage, toast, steamed pumpkin, and potatoes.


Now in Tanzania, Abby needed to wear a kitinge (fabric wrapped as a skirt) over her slacks. The fabrics had vibrant designs.


Jonathan helped us choose fruits for our next bus trip.
His Swahili was magnificent.


He took us on an early morning hike up a steep hill that looked over the valley.

We enjoyed two lunches at an Indian restaurant at the Mbeya Hotel.
After our two nights resting at Peace of Mind, we boarded another series of buses
to the town of Songea, where we spent the night, then caught another bus to Mbinga, the last large town before the dirt roads rose into the mountains towards his village.
In Mbinga, he gathered painting supplies for his library project.
The local education department supplied him with a car and driver
to deliver the supplies and us to his village, Matekala.


His brick house was built by the village.


Jonathan has added furniture, and decorations to make it quite comfortable
even though there was no electricity nor running water.
He brought buckets of water from a spigot a block away.


Jonathan cooked on a charcoal stove inside and a wood stove out in his courtyard.
So for coffee in the morning, we’d need 45 minutes of prep time.


He gave us his bed, with mosquito netting.
A hen roosted in a perch right outside our window, clucking away every morning.


Some neighborhood children stopped by so Abby read them some children books she’d brought.


On our first morning in his house, Jonathan went to assist the Samweli family
in slaughtering a goat for a welcome gift.
Around 12:30 Jonathan returned with Mamma Sharifu and the goat meat that she cooked for us at Jonathan’s wood stove in his courtyard.

Soon, the Samweli family arrived to join us in the goat feast.

As villagers learned Jon’s parents were visiting, many came to welcome us.
They all so respected Jonathan.
We were called Mamma and Babba Jony—mother and father of Jonathan.


Babba Samweli (center right) has a big extended family with two (or more?) wives
and many children and grandchildren.


We ate the saucy goat with ugali, a soft doughy starch (Play-dough consistency) that is held in the right hand, instead of a fork, to eat the meat stews, tomato salads, and cooked greens.
Before and after eating, Jonathan brought a pitcher of water and basin for all to wash their hands.
All restaurants also either provided a sink in the dining room
or brought a pitcher and basin to the table for hand washing.


The beautiful mountains of Matekela, with vegetable gardens, fruit trees, coffee bushes and cassava.


Here grown in a waffle-like pattern to retain rainfall.
The cassava tuber is the base of ugali and is also served boiled,
sometimes for breakfast.

Jon’s village is at 6000 feet, quite chilly in early morning and night.
Being in the southern hemisphere, this was the winter dry season in southern and central Africa.
We wore our down jackets to bed.
Mid afternoons, though, were sunny and spring-like.


One morning, Jonathan took us on another long hike, eventually arriving at this wheat field.


The wife of a village elder, at Jonathan’s request, had showed him how to plant the wheat. He will harvest it in another month, pulling up each stalk by hand.

Another of his surprising skills was making and baking delicious whole-wheat bread on his charcoal stove.
Every day we were continually amazed at all he has learned and done since arriving in Africa.


The medical clinic was near his house. Jonathan works here most mornings.


Once a month women with young babies come to have the babies checked and their growth charted.
They proudly posed for this shot with their beautiful children.
Note the lovely kitenges that not only serve as skirts, but also as baby slings.

Jonathan has helped deliver babies.
He also makes home visits to teenage mothers who do not have husbands,
to make sure they have nutritious food and take the vitamins the clinic provides.

The village of Matekela spreads across a wide valley.
Although many local men own and use Chinese-made motorcycles,
the Peace Corps forbids its members from riding them.

So Jonathan walked everywhere, sometimes for several hours.
We tried our best to keep up as he led us around the valley.


A few of the more well-to-do homes in this valley.


Dusty, rutted, red-dirt roads ran everywhere.


Mr. John, an English teacher, and Jon’s project counterpart and good friend came by the house to say hello.


The next day, Mr. Sam invited us to visit his prosperous home and farm on the other side of Matekela.


Some of the many cute and curious children in the family examined
a family photo album.


Mama Sharifu and another of Sam’s wives (or daughters?).


Mr. Sam requested that Rusty take several formal pictures of his family that included Jon and our family.


We never learned who all of these other fellows were,
but assume they are the sons or sons-in-law.


One of Sam’s sons had this young puppy that Abby enjoyed cuddling.


Each wife had her own kitchen.
Here Abby and Jon joined Mama Sharifu in this dark smoke-filled room as she prepared lunch.


Exterior view of Mr. Sam’s family compound.
The size of his home and family indicated that he was a relatively wealthy villager.


He took us on a tour of his farm that included banana trees and this catfish pond.


Up the road, one of Sam’s sons was building his own home.


Here, he showed us how he packed the red clay into a brick mold,
then popped out each one to dry in the sun before firing.


Another villager had his own business of making and selling bricks.

Buildings often included their date of construction.


We loved the fancy tuxedo vest that the local crows all wore.


Another of Jon’s friends that came by to visit was Mr. Kevin.
Here he showed Jon his Obama cap (though miss-spelled)…


and bright Obama shirt.
Abby had printed a set of Obama family photos, and Kevin proudly holds his here.


After one of Jon’s great pancake breakfasts,
we headed off across hill and dale to see the Mimbua elementary school.


Its respected director was Madame Komba who spoke very good English.
She proudly showed us her school and introduced the students.
Jonathan had taught English classes there before undertaking the library construction project.


The school’s classrooms surrounded this garden courtyard.
Her students were as interested in seeing their rare caucasian visitors as we were in seeing them.

Although not given notice by Jonathan that we were coming,
Madame Komba served us an excellent lunch in her home.
Abby then had the opportunity to join teacher Eric,
Mama Lupogo’s son, in teaching an advanced English lesson.


The director’s humble office with very limited written materials.
Rusty gave the school three new soccer balls.


We watched as the youngest classes lined up for their lunch of beans, served by older students.


Some of these students took double helpings
to share with those children who didn’t have their own bowls.


For our farewell, we were then treated to an impromptu parade.
Jon later told us that they sang a song praising him!


On our long hike back home, Jon took us up into the hills
to see some of the coffee crops with their bright red berries.


The new plants are kept out of direct sun
by shading them under straw awnings like these.


While resting on one of the hills’ many granite boulders,
Rusty spotted this little chameleon.


It was the fist Jon had seen that season.


Jon showed us one of his favorite spots to rest and relax:
a boulder-strewn steam out of sight of the village.


Not long after returning to Jon’s house, Mr. Sam and some of his children
checked in on us again and invited our family to see the harvest festival’s
women’s dance competition.


In the village square just across from Jon’s home,
colorful dance troupes performed with their male drummers.


These young women watched as each women’s social club
did their own enthusiastic version of the dance.


Abby joined Mama Lupogo on the sidelines,
but soon got caught up in the drummers’ contagious rhythms.


In no time, she got pulled into the line of dancers by one of Mr. Sam’s wives.
She really got down with it!


Village women will long tell the story of how Mama Jony joined in their dancing and strutted her stuff.


Here, Mama Sharifu performs in Jon’s Mariners cap,
proudly wearing the Boeing whistle that Rusty gave her.

While Abby sat in a seat of honor and spent the afternoon
watching the other dance teams perform,
Jonathan took Rusty on another long hike across the valley
to see the new library building he was supervising.


Here he saw for the first time the partially completed paint scheme
for the building’s exterior.


Thanks to the donations of our friends and family in conjunction with village labor,
this will be the first library for the village.


The inside had been painted a lovely light blue and white.


The hand-made shelving stood waiting the hundreds of new Swahili books
stored in the neighboring school’s office.


The new government-appointed librarian will start organizing things soon.
And the official grand opening was scheduled for later in August.


Our shadows pointed to the elementary school compound
that now includes the new library on the right.
This library is a community library, not a school library,
containing books to help all villagers.


This is Jon’s little hen that clucked us awake each morning,
patrolled his courtyard during the day, and roosted outside our bedroom window each night.


Mama Lupogo (the clinic director) holds the picture of the Obama family given to her by Abby. And Abby holds the kitinge fabric given to her.


We visited another special friend, Moyo,
a skilled carpenter who built most of Jon’s furniture. He displayed a cabinet he hoped to sell soon.


This humble man nearly lost his life to an infection,
but is now back supporting his big family.


On another day, Jon led us on a three-hour hike up and over a line of distant hills
westward toward lake Nyasa to visit his closest Peace Corps friend and chess partner, Jerome.


We toured his remote secondary school with its own girls’ boarding barracks.
He later served us dinner in his spacious school-provided house.

It was time for Abby and Rusty to say goodbye to Jon’s village and start making their long way back to Lusaka, Zambia, and their flight back to the States.

Since one of our departure routes away from Matekela and back towards Songea and Mbeya would take us close to Lake Nyasa,
Jon suggested that we spend a couple of days down at Mbamba Bay.
He’d enjoyed a relaxing getaway there back in December with Kaiti,
his girlfriend, when she’d come to visit him, so wanted to show it to us.

Up before the sun, we caught a series of buses and taxis,
sometimes waiting up to five hours in-between.
Late that afternoon, we finally arrived at the lakeside resort on Mbamba Bay.
Since it was the off season, we had most of this lovely complex all to ourselves.
Although still under construction, staff provided us with everything we needed to relax and rest.


Our bedroom was inside this cozy brick cottage. It had a bathroom with a real toilet and hot shower.


Jon slept in this tent shelter closer to the beach.


Our afternoon meal was set for us beside Lake Nyasa’s Mbamba Bay.
Malawi was six-hours by boat west across the lake.


Next morning, the winds were calm enough and the water warm enough for us to take a swim.


Men used dugout canoes to set their nets for the night.


But all they were catching that time of year were tiny,
boney fish we didn’t want to eat.


This beautiful building would soon be the restaurant and bar.
It had once served as Jon and Kaiti’s bedroom.


The steep and narrow beach dropped directly down into the depths of the lake.
We tried walking towards the south end, but soon gave up.


Our last dinner on the lake was served in this lovely open room.


While sitting around a big beach fire, we watched the sun set over Malawi’s distant mountains. Soon the full moon glowed above us.

After another long day of crazy, crowded bus rides,
we finally reached the town of Mbeya and had another great Indian dinner at the Mbeya Hotel.

We spent the night back in our favorite room at the lovely Peace of Mind B&B.

Jonathan went off to run some errands in town.
He asked us to meet him at the Mbeya Hotel for another tasty curry lunch.


He surprised his delighted mother by coming back sporting freshly cut hair.


Now that Jonathan again loved Indian cuisine,
we ordered some of their best dishes to share for lunch.

Later that morning, Jonathan arranged for us to visit the Utengule Coffee Lodge,
a high-end hillside resort with an outstanding cafe serving Tanzania’s best coffee
to visiting tourists and business people.

In Mbeya, we met a special group of friends of Jonathan who were American expats who worked in coffee exporting.
We so appreciated that they were helping local farmers receive the best prices, with fewer middle men.
Brandon, a Peace Corps volunteer, turned his PC assignment into advocating for coffee farmer cooperatives.


The patio of their restaurant was a perfect place to take in the sweeping views
of the Mbeya valley, 20 km away.


The interior of the comfortable coffee bar.


Abby and Jon braved the chilly swimming pool.


Both Abby and Jonathan read B. Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible while on this journey and often discussed her provocative insights.
Jon enjoyed a chance to relax, read, write letters, and not worry about the welfare of his parents and villagers.


The following day, we packed our bags with the plan for Jonathan to put us on the train back to Lusaka.


After purchasing our tickets, we had one final lunch at the Mbeya Hotel,
meeting more of Jonathan’s Peace Corps cadre there. Delightful folks!


We were so excited to have a two-day train journey instead of long bus rides.
Our guide books indicated that the Tazara train schedule was unpredictable.
Not only the schedule, but the booking process was unpredictable. As we finally boarded at dusk, we learned that the first class cabin we’d reserved a week previously was not available.


Luckily, we were able to get a second-class cabin all to ourselves.
Soon we were rocking and rolling along the tracks from Tanzania and over the border into Zambia.
The custom officials came cabin to cabin, stamping our passports and making this the easiest border crossing of our entire trip.
Our down jackets again proved their worth during the chilly nights and mornings.



After two days and nights on the train, with time for reading, eating in the dining car,
and private healing time for Rusty’s bad cold, our helpful porter, Leslie, informed us that the train was stuck at our present station in Mpika, Zambia, eight hours from Lusaka.
Apparently there had been a freight train tanker car derailment that blocked the tracks west of Mpika.
Passengers were told to disembark and find their own way to Lusaka.
Oh no!  Stuck somewhere in Zambia without our trusty guides, Phillip or Jonathan!

The good news is that we learned a thing or two from our nine-month travels in South America.


Soon, with the help of some locals,
we found a family driving to Lusaka who welcomed paying passengers.
Ignatius drove us safely in his Toyota while singing along to CDs of Celine Dion and lively African music.


Abby shared the back seat with his beautiful wife
and happy nine month old baby boy.


Our final African hotel was the Zamcom Lodge, near central Lusaka.
At 8:00 p.m., we checked in, just in time for the final dinner call.


We found it funny that, within the logde’s fenced grounds, this big tom turkey had made its home.

With two days to spare before our August first flight home, we explored busy, modern Lusaka.

Missing seeing more wildlife, we journeyed on our second day
to an animal rescue reserve just outside the city.


We marveled at these inquisitive ostriches.


They wanted to get up very close and personal.


This type of fluffy feather is often found in women’s fashions.


A powerful clawed foot reminded us of their dinosaur ancestry!


These female waterbucks reminded us of Roosevelt elk.


We found that warthogs often roamed through African towns and villages, as common as stray dogs.


No one knows for sure why zebras developed stripes.


However, each of their perfectly spaced patterns is as distinctive as our fingerprints.


We visited Levy Mall, a modern shopping mecca near our hotel. Truly  a new world from rural Tanzania!


There we enjoyed many yummy meals, both at the food court and at another special Indian restaurant.
Who would have thought that Indian meals would be some of our most remembered meals in Africa?


Thursday, August first, we left Lusaka on our 24-hour journey home—halfway around the world!

Reflecting on our time with Jonathan in Tanzania, this quote from Nelson Mandela kept coming to mind:
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived.
It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”


From Central California to Southern Africa

We’ve been back in the States one year after completing our tour of South America.

Where has the time gone?

Since then, we bought a comfortable cottage in the Central California town of Arroyo Grande and are enjoying the good life in this sunny beach community.

01 1161MapleAG frnt805s

Now, we are about to embark on another adventure to that other southern continent: Africa.

Our son, Jonathan, is completing his Peace Corps assignment in Tanzania, so we have been invited by him to visit his remote village and see the new library he has helped to create and to meet the community members who have welcomed and worked with him for the last two years.

Before Tanzania, we will join a wildlife safari tour that will start in Johannesburg, South Africa and then take us to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, Chobe National Park in Botswana, and Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia.

We won’t have internet access until we return home, so stay tuned for future posts where we’ll recount our African adventures and share favorite photographs.

Until then, “Asante!”

Tag Cloud