• Flight Home from Cape Town

    We left the hotel at noon for our transfer to the airport.  We left Cape Town at 5:39 pm for a 10 hour 15 minute flight to Istanbul, had a 9.5 hour layover, then a 13 hour flight to Houston.  Long two days!  Once we landed in Houston we were about to walk right through customs with Global Entry, but it took over an hour for our luggage to arrive. By the time we drove back to Lake Charles it was 1:30 AM.  A very long two day journey.

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    We enjoyed lunch at an airport restaurant where we were able to plug in our electronics and charge them before the long flight home.

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  • Cruising on a yacht from Cape Town

    We took a wonderful cruise on this beautiful yacht in the Atlantic Ocean around Cape Town .  It was beautiful to see Table Rock Mountains and the city from the water.  The water was especially calm so we were also able to cruise around Robben Island where the former prison (now a museum) where Nelson Mandela was a prisoner. 

     

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    The Cape Town soccer stadium where the 2010 World Cup was played. It seats 96,000 and is now used as an event center in addition to hosting soccer games.

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    We had plenty of appetizers and drinks while on the yacht.  (There has definitely been no shortage of food on this trip)!

     

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    The weather was beautiful, but a little too windy for me, so here I am looking ridiculous amidst the other ladies.

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    We saw hundreds of seals swimming in the water, but they also seem to enjoy basking in the sunshine on the buoys.

     

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    In the evening we enjoyed a private lecture by Christo Brand, Nelson Mandela’s prison guard and the author of two books --Mandela: My Prisoner, My Friend and Doing Life with Mandela. Mandela was a political activist and a lawyer who was imprisoned for 27 years before the fall of apartheid and introduction of a multi-racial democracy in South Africa..  He was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and was elected President of South Africa in 1994, the first black president to serve. 

  • Cape Town, South Africa

    On Friday morning we left the Mowana Resort in Kasane, Botswana by bus at 9:00AM. Only seven of us are going to Cape Town.  Our friends Joyce and Diana are flying home to Minnesota. We took a final group picture before we parted.

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    We rode twenty minutes to the Zimbabwe border where we went through border control and got our passports stamped. There we transferred to another bus, and road to the Victoria Falls airport where we boarded our flight to Cape Town, South Africa.  When we landed in Cape Town it was 59 degrees, MUCH cooler that the near 100 degree temperatures we left behind.  It was very windy!

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    Cape Town from the airplane with Table Mountain mostly hidden by the clouds.

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    We are staying at the Cullinan Hotel across from the Convention Center.

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  • Chobe National Park-Day 3

    This morning at 11:00 we walked down to  the Mowana Safari Resort ’s dock  to board a special boat equipped with swivel chairs and state-of-the-art zoom lens DSLR cameras.

    After the boat ride we were given the  memory stick from the camera to take home, containing all the wildlife photos we took along the way

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    Our first stop was to take some closeup shots of a group of warthogs.  When warthogs eat, they knell on their knees so they can reach the grass since their necks are so short.

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    Next, we spotted some hippos in the water only able to see their eyes and nose above the water.

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    We also were able to spot a few hippos out of the water. They are huge!

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    We spent a few minutes taking pictures of the Malachite kingfisher.  This little bird is only about three inches long, so it is balanced on a blade of grass.

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    We enjoyed seeing these elephants playing in the mud.

    We arrived back at the resort about 1:00.  I spent about an hour in the pool which felt so refreshing.  As we swam three monkeys were playing around the pool chairs and tried to grab  Cecelia’s purse and passport.  Cheryl and Dorian kept trying to shoo the monkeys away which was hilarious, but the monkeys kept bothering them.  Finally, they moved to chairs on the other side of the pool and the monkeys got bored and left.

    Final Game Drive

    Our final game drive was from 3:00-6:00 in the afternoon.

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    The pride of lions were waiting up from an afternoon nap.

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    A big yawn from the lion king.

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    King of the jungle

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    A pod of hippos

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    We ended the evening with cocktails on the deck in front of the baobab tree.

     

  • Chobe National Park, Botswana

    We started the day at 6:00AM with a game drive in Chobe National Park. We spotted a leopard shortly after we entered the park along with hundreds of impalas, Next we encountered an elephant that was being a little too playful and seemed as though he was going to ram the jeep.  A little too much excitement for some of the members in our group.

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    Leopard 

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    Impalas

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    An elephant running towards our jeep!

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    Our biggest excitement of the morning was watching a den of lions devour a Cape buffalo.

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    This is a picture of a Cape buffalo that the lions killed and ate.

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    In the afternoon we were able to see that same spot from our boat cruise on the water.

     

    The baboons were fascinating to watch.  Obviously, this little guy was not listening, so his dad picked him up and carried him to his mom.

     

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    The Chobe Explorer

    We cruised  the Chobe River on the triple-decker Vantage Chobe Explorer from late morning until about 4:00,. As we slowly cruised down the river we were able to spot animals from a different perspective than on our morning game drive on land.

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    Those swinging loungers on the top deck were very comfortable, but the sun was a little too intense to be sitting up there. The middle deck was nicely shaded with comfortable seating, so we spent most of the cruise on that level.

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    We enjoyed a delicious lunch on the bottom deck and then returned upstairs to take more photos.

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    Animals, Birds, and Crocodiles

    We were able to see the same spot  where the lions had eaten the Cape buffalo in the morning and now saw the buzzers and other birds feasting on the leftovers—until one of the lions started to walk in that direction.

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    As soon as the lion walks away, the birds return.

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    Yellow billed stork

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    Pied Kingfisher

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    Elephants playing in the mud

  • Botswana

    This morning we left the Iganaya Tented Camp around 9:00 and drove across Zimbabwe to get to our next destination in Kasane, Botswana where we are staying at the beautiful Cresta Mowana Safari Resort located along the Chobe River and near the entrance to Chobe National Park.  We stopped for lunch at Zulu’s and enjoyed an absolutely delicious fo

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    I had grilled chicken and a salad.  Tom had a hamburger and French fries.  Our friends Joyce and Diana had the pizzas picture above.

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        The outside of Zulus

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    Here we are eating our lunch together

    We had to go through passport control to get out of Zimbabwe.  That entailed getting out of the bus and waiting in a building to get our passports stamped getting back into the bus.  Riding another 100 feet of so before we had to get out of the bus again.  This time we and all our luggage transferred to a Botswana Bus.  That bus had to drive through a disinfected to clean the tires.  We walked across the border and had to step into the disinfective solution and place our other pair of shoes in it as well.  It looked absolutely filthy, so I can’t imagine it was keeping our any germs.


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    Here we are on the Botswana side holding our “theoretically: disinfected shoes.

    We got back in the bus and rode for about twenty minutes before arriving at Cresta Mowana Safari Resort located along the Chobe River and near the entrance to Chobe National Park. 

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    This hippo at the resort is the first one we’ve seen out of water, but that was about to change.

    We checked into our rooms and relaxed for about an hour before taken a private river tour on the Chobe River.

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    This is our boat today for our private tour of the Chore River.  We saw our first hippos out of the water and also a huge number of water buffalos, a giraffe, kudu, crocodile, elephants, crocodile, and finally some hippos our of the water!

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    We started out seeing just parts of the heads of the hippos, but by time time we finished the trip, we had seen seven

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    Delicious dinner outside by the pool

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  • Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

    The road was absolutely horrible and the ride was rough from the Palm River Hotel to our new location. We traveled by small bus into very remote areas where we drove by small villages along the way.  Each “village” contains the parents’ hut, Childrens’ hut, grandparent’s hut, and the outside kitchen.  There were road cows and goats walking along the road as we drove past.

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    The Iganyana Tented Camp, located outside of Hwange National Park , is the destination where we will be spending the next three nights. Once we were near the tent camp, our luggage and we were transferred from the bus to two safari jeeps to be driven into the camp.  

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    Our driver Dome (pronounced do me)

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    The road into the camp

    Our beautiful tent.  It has an air conditioner and electricity, but the generators don’t run when we are out on a game drive.  When we walk back to the tent and go inside, the heat is oppressive.  It takes about two hours to cool it down to a bearable temperature, but as it becomes evening, the temperature drops outside and the inside temperature is quite comfortable .  The generator turns off at 10:00 and we can unzip the tent flaps and are able to sleep quite comfortably. In fact, it gets very cool at night (low 60s).

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    This is the entrance to the lounge area, where we dined and had access to wi-fi.

    While we were eating lunch on the deck, a small herd of elephants came right up to the pool to get some water to drink. Seeing them so close was absolutely incredible.  

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    Dorian and Cheryl

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    The water is chlorinated, but the elephants don’t seem to mind!

    GAME DRIVE

    We took our first game drive in the afternoon when the temperature was 105 degrees.  Although the jeep had a canopy for sun protection, the temperature was oppressive, but we saw some amazing sites! Our driver and game ranger Ray was extremely knowledgable and made the game drives very interesting.

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    Male Kudu

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    Acacia Tree

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    A giraffe out for a walk in the woods

    Termite mound

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    This termite mound is approximately 4 feet tall, but is 3-4 times that large underground where the termites actually live. Termites in Zimbabwe build gigantic mounds inside of which they farm a fungus that is their primary food source. The fungus must be kept at exactly 87 degrees F, while the temperatures outside range from 35 degrees F at night to 104 degrees F during the day.

    The mound is constructed out of a mixture of soil, termite saliva and dung. Although the mound appears solid, the structure is incredibly porous. Its walls are filled with tiny holes that allow outside air to enter and permeate the entire structure.

     There is a queen and king termite, workers and soldiers. The workers go out of the mound in search of food for the colony and bring it back through underground tunnels that lead back to the mound.  Elephant poop is all grain.  The termites cover the elephant dropping with mud, so the temperature inside the dropping is cooler.  Once it is coated with the mud, the termites eat all the grain and transport it back to the mound to regurgitate it to residents in the mound.  After the termites are finished with the elephant droppings, all that remains is the hollow dirt that once coated the dropping.

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    The elephants returned in the evening and stayed for over an hour and a half .  It was the highlight of our day!

  • Victoria Falls Hotel and Zambezi River Cruise

    We started the day with a bus ride to the Victoria Falls Hotel. The Victoria Falls Hotel is a historic luxury hotel at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, situated with a view of the Second Gorge of the Zambezi River and the Victoria Falls Bridge from its terrace. The hotel was opened in 1904 to accommodate passengers on the newly built National Railways of Zimbabwe railway, part of the planned Cape to Cairo Railway.IMG 8062

    Victoria Falls Hotel

    IMG 8093The Zambezi River flowing through Victoria Falls Gorge

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    We enjoyed frozen lemonades with mint on the terrace.

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    We ate lunch at the Wild Horizans Cafe.  When we walked out of the restaurant, there were four warthogs grazing on the lawn but these two looked so cute!

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    Warthogs

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    This is a baobab tree.  It is estimated to be between 1,000 and 1,500 years old.

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    We took a two-hour boat ride on the Zambezi River  while special guest lecturer Chris Ward told  us about Dr. David Levingston’s life and journeys through Africa.

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    The unexpected highlight of the boat ride was seeing the elephant herd cross the Zambezi River

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  • Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

    Today we started the day with a stop at the Victoria Falls Craft Market.

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    Most of the goods were handcrafted from wood and were very pretty. 

    Afterwards, we visited the Chinotimba Primary School where 1600 students attend grades K -5. Students performed some dances for us, a 5th grader welcomed us, and the assistant principal told us about the school. There are 50 students in each classroom! Also, the assistant principal told us that teachers are paid very little and as an assistant principal he earns $32 a MONTH!

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    Chinotimba Primary School

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    The Vice Principal Victor with a 5th grade student welcoming us to their school.

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    Our next stop was a private home for an authentic Zimbabwean meal. Our meal consisted of caterpillars (a delicacy which I did not try), samples of sautéed kale, sautéed kale with peanut butter, black eyed peas, tiny fish (kapenta), green beans and carrots, and peanuts. We had a polenta, beef and gravy and chicken and gravy as the main meal.

     

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    The home where we were guests for lunch

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    It is a tradition for the hostess to wash the hands of the guests before they eat.  The meal is typically eaten with our hands (but our hostess did provide silverware for the less adventuresome).

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    This afternoon, we took  a guided walk for 3 miles to the very edge of Victoria Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

     

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    We ended the evening with a delicious dinner on the lawn by the Zambezi River. At dark we saw two water buffalo walk onto the property.

  • Zambia to Zimbabwe

    We flew from our campsite near Lazyview, South Africa to the country of Zambia. There we went through customs, purchased our $50 visa, and then drove 20 minutes to the country of Zimbabwe. Our luggage and we were loaded on a bus in Zambia where we were driven to the border of Zimbabwe. There we got off that bus, walked through passport control, got back on the bus, stopped again to go through passport control to get into Zimbabwe. We transferred to another bus that brought us to the town of Victoria Falls where we are staying at the The Palm River Hotel.
    We had a leisurely afternoon with appetizers on the hotel’s beautiful grounds along the Zambezi River with a delicious dinner on the porch of the resort.


    We spotted baboons and mongoose running around on the grounds this afternoon and were warned to always keep our doors shut to keep the baboons and monkeys from entering.

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    When we walked out of the building for passport control, we saw this baboon sitting on the lawn.

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    These baboons were walking down the sidewalk as we were driving toward the border.

     

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    Only one truck at a time is allowed on this bridge and there can be hundreds of trucks lined up to cross.  Sometimes the truck is five miles long.

     

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    An aerial view of our lodging at Palm River Resort

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    Our room on the third floor (no elevators)

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    We had appetizers of chicken on a stick, mozzarella stuffed meatballs, regular meatballs, homemade potato chips and popcorn.  After we served our plates and were seated at the table, a baboon jumped up and stole a chicken on a stick (and broke a plate while making his getaway)

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    Fact for the day:  a group of mongoose are called a “business of mongoose.”  We saw thirty or so.

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    Not that clear, but I screenshot it from a video.

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    A boat cruising by as we sat and ate our appetizers.

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    Filet, green beans and potatoes for dinner

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    Our mealtime entertainment 

  • Kruger National Park - Day 2

    Our driver took us from our campsite at Lions Rock Rapids Camp to Kruger National Park where we transferred to the safari vehicle for our six hour game drive,  The temperature was much cooler (high 70s )this morning and stayed pleasant (mid 80s) the rest of the day.  We were so fortunate to see so many new animals today that we didn’t see yesterday.

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    Hyena

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    African Fish Eagle

     

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    Warthog

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    Wildebeest

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    Painted Dog

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    Baby Elephant

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    Yellow billed Horn Bill

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    Blue helmeted guniea

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  • Kruger National Park - Day One

    We left our campsite at 8:00 this morning for a 40 minute drive to Kruger National Park.

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    Here we are with our safari driver Happy (who did an excellent job of finding the animals for us to see).

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    Our tour guide Johanna gave us  a Souther African Animal checklist so we could mark off the animals we saw while on the game drive. We ended up spotting 13 animals and 4 birds, so the day was definitely a success.  It was definitely a hot day, but with the jeep on the move, it really wasn’t too bad.  We were in the park almost six hours before heading back to our camp.

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    Leopard

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    Waterbuck

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    Impalas

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    The lion eating a water buffalo

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    We were all very hot and tired after returning to the camp.  After taking a short nap, we dipped our feet in the water and enjoyed drinks before dinner.

  • Lions Rock Tent Camp

    After breakfast at the hotel, we were taken to the airport for a 50-minute flight to Kruger Mumalanga Airport, followed by a 1-hour road transfer to our tented safari camp on the banks of the Sabie River. This is our base for exploring Kruger National Park and it’s Big Five animals.

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    Lions Rock Rapids Camp

    We were greeted by a group of high school singers and dancers who entertained us while we enjoyed a late lunch.

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    After lunch we were escorted to our private tent suite that we are staying in for the next three nights.  We have a private porch that overlooks some rapids, an air conditioned room with a private bath.

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    Dinner was served outside by the rapids.

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    Perfect way to end the day!

  • Soweto, South Africa

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    After breakfast at the Houghton Hotel, we boarded our 16 passenger bus for a narrated tour of Soweto, South Africa. This area was originally set aside by the South African white government for residence by Blacks, it adjoins the city of Johannesburg on the southwest; its name is an acronym derived from South-Western Townships. It is the country's largest Black urban complex.

    Soweto grew out of shantytowns and slums that arose with the arrival of Black laborers from rural areas.  These areas today have no running water in the homes or toilets.  There are Porta Potties inside the neighborhoods where ten families use ONE potty.  Trash pickup is supposedly once a week, but the whole area is covered in trash as though there were no pick up at all.  

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    We passed neighborhoods with long buildings called hostels which were built to be used by men only.  There is no privacy in these buildings, no sanitation and no running water.. A person’s personal space and now often a family's space is only limited to the space immediately surrounding a single bed, hence the term “bedhold.”
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    Apartment buildings were built in an attempt to deliver decent living conditions, but these particular buildings pictured below have been vacant in the nine years since they were built because they are unaffordable to the people that need them.

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    Nelson Mandela’s home

    Nelson Mandela is the former president of South Africa. He was a protester, prisoner, and peacemaker. He was a hero for South African non-whites by getting rid of the apartheid system during which time he was infamously incarcerated at Robben Island Prison (1964–82).

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    Nelson Mandela lived here with his family from 1946 until his arrest in 1962.  

    He became famous in South Africa for his political and anti-apartheid activism during this period. His second wife Winnie Mandela and their children remained here throughout his imprisonment. Winnie was subjected to routine harassment and imprisonment herself during her husband’s incarceration. He only lived there 11 days after he was released from prison in 1990. The house had no electricity.  Cooking was done of the wood stove which was also used to heat the house.  

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    This was the actual bed in which 6’4” Nelson Mandela slept.

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    The umbilical cords of Mandela’s children and grandchildren are buried in the ground at the base of this tree.

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    We were treated to several street dance performances as we walked along the street where Mandela once lived.

    Hector Pieterson Memorial

    Hector Pieterson was one of the youths that died in the protest against having Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in local schools. He was shot and killed by police when he was only 12 years old. The museum is named after him, but commemorates all of those who marched through Soweto and were shot at by police on June 16, 1976. That date has now become Youth Day, a public holiday in South Africa. He was immortalized by this photograph published across the globe by Sam Nzima, photographer at the time for The World newspaper in Johannesburg,  The photograph shows Hector Pieterson being carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo after being shot by South African police. His sister, Antoinette Sithole runs beside them.

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    The Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum opened in Soweto in 2002, not far from the spot where 12 year-old Hector was shot on the 16 June 1976 during the Soweto uprising that today is a symbol of resistance to the brutality of the apartheid government.

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    Although the museum was very interesting to tour, we arrived during that area of town having no electricity due to load shedding and were not able to watch the news clips on the video displays.

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    We were served lunch in this restaurant which is located in the owner's garage attached to the house located in the neighborhood shown below.

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    Load Shedding

    The South African energy crisis is an ongoing period of widespread national level rolling blackouts as electricity supply falls behind electricity demand, threatening to destabilize the national power grid. It began in the later months of 2007 and continues to the present.  Generally, areas are  scheduled to be without power for two hours in the morning, two hours in the afternoon and two hours in the evening.  These times rotate in different parts of the city.

  • Trip to South Africa

    And we are off on our next adventure!  This time it’s a three week trip to South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana,  We had so many immunizations :  Hepatitis A (two of those), Hepatitis B (two of those), typhoid, Dtap, and malaria pills.  (Plus, we both had the 3rd COVID booster and flu shot)

    We boarded Turkish Airlines flight 34 in Houston at 8:50PM for a 12 hour flight to Istanbul where we had an 8.5 hour layover.  The airport is huge and contains enough shops to be a mall and many food courts as well.  We enjoyed the use of the NAP ZONE to take a nap and charge our electronics before boarding our 1:35AM flight to Johannesburg which took another 9 hour and 45 minutes. 

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    Tom is the one in the yellow shirt closest to the window taking a nap.

    Johannesburg, South Africa

    By the time we went through customs and got our luggage, it was noon on September 30. After a picture by these wooden elephants at the airport, we took the shuttle to our hotel.

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    We are staying at the Houghton Hotel for the first two nights. Luckily, we were able to check in early and so we slept for about three hours before showering and eating dinner.  

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  • Ketchikan, Alaska

    The Regal Princess docked this morning in Ketchikan and we were able to walk off the ship into the town.  We headed first towards the Totem Pole Museum  and were able to watch the salmon jumping up a waterfall.and swimming up stream which was so fascinating.

     

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    The Totem Heritage Center was established in 1976 to house and preserve endangered 19th century totem poles retrieved from uninhabited Tlingit and Haida village sites near Ketchikan and to preserve and promote Native artistic and cultural traditions through traditional classes.

     

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  • Juneau, Alaska

    Today our ship docked in the capital city of Juneau, a city that has no roads leading to the mainland.  The only way in or out is by boat or plane.  When we walked off the ship, it was raining, but we put on our rainwear and walked the city of 30,000.IMG 6897

    Patsy Ann

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    From the sign on the right behind the statue of Patsy Ann.

    Ships arriving in Juneau in the 1930's could count on being met at the dock by a small, white dog named
    Patsy Ann. A local dentist, Dr. E.H. Kaser, brought the English bull terrier as a puppy from Portland, Oregon in
    1929. Although loved and kindly treated by the Kasers and later by The Rev. C.E. (Dean) Rice’s family, Patsy Ann was not cut out to be a homebody. She became a popular dog-about-town making the rounds of shops and offices where she was welcomed and given treats. Steamships of that era did not arrive like clockwork as they do today. Juneau knew a ship was coming when Patsy Ann dropped whatever she was doing and trotted briskly to the waterfront. Although deaf from birth, she somehow sensed when an incoming ship was about a halt-mile away. She also had an uncanny ability to determine the dock where it would moor. On one occasion, a crowd had gathered to meet an arriving ship. Patsy Ann studied the group a long moment. then turned and trotted to another dock. The ship tied up next to Patsy Ann.

    Some said she felt at home there because the longshoremen shared her keen interest in the arrival of the ships. In 1934, when a city ordinance was passed requiring the licensing of all dogs, several people chipped in to buv the first license and a bright red collar for Patsy Ann. She wore them politely for a short time, after which they mysteriously disappeared. From then on, she went about happily unencumbered and the city donated her annual license. She eventually chose to live at the Longshoremen's Hall. Patsy Ann died in the Longshoremen's Hall in 1942. The following day, a small crowd watched as her coffin was lowered into Gatineau Channel near where this sign now stands.

     

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    This is the state capital building  of Alaska

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    Alaska becomes the 49th State!

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    From the memorial above located by an Orthodox Church in Juneau:

    "In the turbulence of WW2 when Japan invaded the Aleutian Islands, Americans were removed from their homes by the US Government and sent to isolated internment camps in SE Alaska.  Between 1942 and 1945, Aleuts were confined to camps were abysmal conditions and government neglect led to disease and death. Ten percent of the men, women, and children died. As Aleuts prayed for deliverance their homes and churches were looted by “friendly forces” sent to defend the Aleutian Islands."

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    It was definitely a foggy day!

  • Icy Straight Point and Hoonah, Alaska

    The third day on our cruise included a stop in Icy Straight Point.  We were supposed to be stopping in Skagway where we had planned to bicycle down the Klondike Highway,  but a rock slide closed the port to cruise ships. From where our ship docked, we rode a gondola over the forest to get to the Icy Straight Point.  From Icy Straight Point we walked 2.5 miles to the town of Hoonah.  The town has a population of nearly 800, a few restaurants and gift shops.

    The Tlingit settled in the vicinity of Hoonah and Icy Strait Point more than 2,000 years ago when they were forced out of Glacier Bay by rapidly advancing glaciers.

    The Northwest Trading Company built their first store in Hoonah in 1880.  The town was incorporated in 1946.  The town is only 30 miles west of Alaska’s state capital of Juneau.  In 1912 the Hoonah Packing Company built one of the world’s most productive salmon canneries on the outskirts of Hoonah.  It changed hands several times during its existence and closed permanently in 1953.

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    The town of Hoonah commissioned this artist to carve a new totem pole for the town by hand.  He told us no sandpaper or electric tools were going to be used.

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    We took a shuttle back to Icy Straight, rode the gondola once again.  The ship moved while we were on shore and we had to ride a tender to get back on.

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  • Anchorage to Whittier, Alaska

    We boarded the train at the Alaska Train Depot in Anchorage for a 2.5 hour ride to Whittier.  It was a very gloomy day, so we weren’t able to take good pictures of the beautiful scenery in Turnagain Bay because the windows in the train were covered with raindrops.

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    Whittier, Alaska

    Whittier has a population of 115. 90% of Whittier’s population live in a single building that also houses the grocery store, school and medical clinic. Children don’t have to go outside to go to school, an inside tunnel leads them directly to their classroom.

    This eyesore is very visible from the cruise ship and train as everyone enters the town of Whittier.

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     The Buckner Building was destined to become the largest bullding in Alaska. Construction began in 1949 and was ready for occupancy in early 1954. The six story Buckner Building had 223,660 square feet of floor space and was virtually a city under one roof . In addition to providingbarracks for 1,000 offIcers and enlisted personnel, the Buckner had all the amenities
    of home. The facilities within the giant structure included a hospital, 350 seat theater, a four lane bowling alley,
    A bakery, church. barber shop, library, radio and TV Station, rifle range, photo lab, commissary, a huge cafeteria
    and kitchens, and officers and enlisted personnel clubs--all connected by wide stairwells.
    The massive concrete building was built in 7 sections, each separated by 8 inch gaps.This design gave the
    structure the flexibility to ride out earthquakes including the devastating 9.2 Alaskan Earthquake of 1964.


    1950s cost of the completed Buckner Building was $6 million dollars. Built under the direction of the
    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, The military mothballed the bullding in 1960 when the Whittier Army Port was closed.  Since then it’s been abandoned and condemned.  OUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK!

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    We walked through the tunnel and up a hill to find a stream where we watched salmon swimming upstream.

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    When we were walking back to board our ship, it was raining pretty hard.  We were soaked by the time we got back on the ship.

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    We are sailing on the Princess Royal for the next week from Whittier, Alaska to Vancouver, British Columbia.

     

  • Anchorage

    Anchorage

    We left Homer at 6:5AM so we could make it back to Anchorage in time to drop off our luggage at the hotel and return the rental car by noon.  After dropping off the rental car at Avis downtown, we chose to walk to the movie theatre (2.3 miles) to watch Where the Crawfish Sing.  After the movie we walked an additional 2.3 miles to the Alex Motel where we met Dan, Vicki and Britney who were flying in from home to meet us for the cruise

    Friday morning we ate breakfast together at the hotel before walking to the bus stop and catching a ride to downtown.  We started at the Visitor’s Center and then walked across the street to the Federal Building to see the displays and watch the movies about the Goldrush and the 1964 Earthquake.

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    We ate lunch at Humpy’s Grill and then took a deluxe Trolley Tour of Anchorage.

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     On the tour we stopped at the Fish ladder and saw thousands of salmon swimming upstream.  

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    We drove by the Alaska Train Depot and saw the “Moose Gooser” which was used to push Moose off the tracks before they were killed by the train that followed.

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    We stopped at Earthquake Park where 75 homes once stood in Anchorage’s Turnagain Heights neighborhood before the 9.2 magnitude Great Alaskan Earthquake on March 27,1964. The land was dropped as much as 40 feet and slid as far as 2,000 feet away from its original location. The earthquake was the largest in US history and the second largest ever recorded in the world.  

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    58 years later the land were the houses fell is still dropped and wave-like, but now it is covered by birch and spruce trees. These hardy trees are able to thrive above the permafrost. 

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  • Lake Clark National Park - Our #54 National Park

    Lake Clark National Park

    This morning we met our guide at 7:00AM for a six hour guided tour by boat to Lake Clark National Park.  The group included the guy that drove the boat, our guide Trevor, and four other people.  The weather was perfect and the seas were calm for our two hour ride to the park.  This park can only be accessed by float plane or boat. 

    The park was first proclaimed a national monument in 1978, then established as a national park and preserve in 1980 . The park includes many streams and lakes vital to the Bristol Bay salmon fishery, including its namesake Lake Clark. The park protects rainforests along the coastline of Cook Inlet, alpine tundra, glaciers, glacial lakes, major salmon-bearing rivers, and two volcanoes, Mount Redoubt and Mount Iliamna. Mount Redoubt is active, erupting in 1989 and 2009.

    Once we arrived at the coastline for the park, we spent the entire day walking in the low tide waters.  There we walked over 5 miles in water and muck to view the park and bears.Three times my foot came out of my boot because my boat got stuck in the muck. I fell into the water twice and so did Tom.

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    In the morning each of us climbed the ladder into the boat while the boat was still on land.

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    This big tractor pulled us INTO the water.  That was a first for us!  (When we returned, the tractor was in the water and pulled us back on shore).

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      We briefly stood outside on the boat for this photo opportunity and then moved inside.  It was 49 degrees at this point in the morning.

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    Finally, we saw the shoreline!

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    The boat was not able to come near the shoreline because of low tide.  We had to get off and walk in the water to shore.

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    We spent the morning watching the bears dig for clams and eat them.

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    Our photo opportunity with a bear in the background!

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    Here I am getting back on the boat.  After falling in the water TWICE when my boats stuck in the muck, I was soaking wet.  It was a COLD ride back!!

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    This was a much more grueling day than we expected.  We were both very sore and worn out by the time we got back to Homer.  We stayed at the Stay and Play B&B while in Homer.

  • Katmi National Park-our 53rd National Park

    Katmai National Park

    Katmai National Park was our destination for today and it was quite an adventure! It is located in southwest AK and the only way to get there is by boat or float plane, so we booked a guided tour with Emerald Air.

    The park is known for its many brown bears and for the Valley of 10,000 Smokes (named after the 1912 eruption of Novatupta. Following the eruption, thousands of fumeroles vented steam from the ash).

    We were given hip waders to wear because when we landed on the water, we had to walk to shore. Plus, many times during the day we walked across streams. We walked 4 miles while enjoying the beautiful scenery and looking for bears.
    We saw at least 18 bears, but my cellphone didn’t capture how magnificent they were.

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    Here we are at the dock waiting to board our float plane. Please notice the fashionable waders we are wearing.

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    There were ten of us on the plane.  Our pilot does this as a side job.  His real job is with special ops in Panamal.  We were definitely in very capable hands!

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    This sign is a picture from the internet.  Where we landed was so remote there were definitely no signs!

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    We landed in the water and had to walk to shore.  When the first men with our tour got out of the plane, the water was so deep that it when into their waders.  They got back up on the float and paddled the plane a little closer to shore.

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    Notice with Tom’s long legs he’s higher out of the water than the rest of us.

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    Here is a picture of the rest of the group walking to shore.  Three of these were from North Carolina and four were a family from Poland.

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    We’ve sighted some bears!

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    When I saw these streams from the air, I didn’t realize we’d be walking across some of them in search of bears!

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    One of the streams we walked acrosss.

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    Tom is literally sitting in a bear’s bed!

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    We spent several minutes watching this male bear watch the female and cub on the other side of the water.

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    This bear print was huge!

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    We found this set of teeth from a beaver that one of the bears ate.

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    Our group picture with a glacier in the background.

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    Here’s the plane coming back to get us!

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    Ready to board the plane for our 1.5 hour trip back to Homer.

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    Some beautiful views from the sky!

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    This was definitely a huge bucket list experience.  

     

  • Kenaii Fjords National Park-our 53rd National Park

    Kenai Fjords National Park

    We started the day by driving from Eagle River (near Anchorage) to the entrance into Kenai Fjords National Park.  

    The park contains the Harding Icefield, one of the largest ice fields in the United States, and is named for the numerous fjords carved by glaciers moving down the mountains from the ice field. The field is the source of at least 38 glaciers, the largest of which is Bear Glacier. The fjords are glacial valleys that have been submerged below sea level by a combination of rising sea levels and land subsidence. 

    After our obligatory photo opportunity at the sign, we drove to the parking lot for Exit Glacier, a popular destination at the end of the park’s only road.The remainder of the park is accessible by boat, airplane, and hiking. IMG 6255

    Here we are at the entrance to the park.  Notice Exit Glacier to the left in the background.

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    The Exit Glacier

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    Kenai Fjords Dinner Cruise

    After the hike we drove into the town of Seward to eat lunch and then boarded a Kenai Fjords Dinner Cruise.  The cruise left at 3:00 and got back at 8:30.  Along the way we saw seals, sea lions, sea otters, two eagles, a black bear, a hump back whale and an orca whale, 

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    The white dotted lines mark our trip.

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    Sea lions playing on the rocks

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    Icebergs floating close to the base of the glacier.

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    We are holding a piece of glacial ice that the guides retrieved from the water

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    On our way to our cabin in the evening we passed this moose and her calf eating some grass in someone’s yard.

  • Matanuska Glacier, Sutton, AK

    Matanuska Glacier

    The Matanuska is a valley glacier located right off the Glenn Highway in Sutton, AK. It is 27 miles deep and about 4 miles wide.

    On the way to Glennallen we ate at the Long Rifle Restaurant and were seated right by the window where we could see the glacier.  We decided to stop and hike on it on the way back.  It’s on private property so there is a charge to walk on it, but that price ($125) includes a guide, a pole and hiking spikes for our shoes.

    During the summer melt up to 172 million gallons of water an HOUR melt and drain into the Matanuska River.

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    Here we are with our hiking poles ready for the adventure

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    The guide explained that a rock shades the ice underneath and a pedestal is formed. The pedestal grows higher and thinner until the ice breaks off and the rock rolls forward.  It’s not unusual for a rock this size (about six feet across) to move 20’ during the melting season.

     

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    Crevices in the ice like this one can be 100’ deep.

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    It was a perfect day to be hiking on the glacier.  The 3.2 miles were a little harder than walking on dry ground!

  • Wrangell-St. Elias National Park-Our #52 National Park

    Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

    Fun facts from the National Park Service:
    1. The lowest elevation found in Wrangell-St. Elias is 0 feet at the Pacific Ocean and the highest is 17,008 feet on Mt St. Elias. Who knew that???
    2. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is by far the largest national park in the United States. At over 13 million acres, it is nearly six times the size of Yellowstone, a huge national park itself.
    3. At 18,008 feet, Mount Saint Elias is the second tallest peak in the United States and Canada, and the highest point in Wrangell St. Elias National Park.
    4. The park is larger than Switzerland !
    5. Grizzly bears in the park can reach 10’ tall here
    6. 9 of the 16 tallest peaks in the US are located here.

    We enjoyed our day in the park, but now we realize we didn’t allow enough time to really see and enjoy its vastness and diversity.  We should have allowed at least three days!!!

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