Tag: friends and family

Himalayan Happiness

Our next 10 days involved nearly one hundred miles of beautiful, glorious mountain scenery. The weather was fantastic, our group was so much fun, our guide was amazing, and the variety of landscapes and trail was a treat. We walked through charming villages (and exchanged dozens of namastes with the adorable children), past hundreds of local porters transporting goods on their backs from village to village, over roaring rivers of glacial melt, along the sides of cliff edges, up steep switchbacks, down into picture-perfect valleys, and through all of this the Annapurnas continually graced us with their presence.

Gorgeous, or what?


Wicked peaks like we've never seen!

Lots of glaciers means turquoise glacial lakes

Our idyllic trip was made even easier and better with the help of our guide and porters. Each couple had a porter carrying their bag of gear so we were only schlepping our day pack on our backs. Our guide Shiba was exceptional and we learned a lot from him while having lot of fun. He took care of everything from picking our accommodation each night, helping us to order food, teaching us some Nepali words, filling our water bottles, taking our pictures and answering our millions of questions (How high is that peak? Tell me again which mountain is Annapurna IV? When will this uphill be over?). At the same time he was taking care of us, he also knew how to sit back and relax and hang out. He was a rockstar guide and we would happily recommend him to anyone who is headed to Nepal to do some trekking – Look him up! (email: trekkingnepal2001@yahoo.com)


Our porters, Sunkar, Mila, and Krishna

Shiba and the crew

Nepal, Sweet Nepal

After an amazing and trying 5 weeks in India, we were looking forward to heading to Nepal for a change of pace. We’d been told that Nepalese folks are much more chill and the pace of life is a welcome relief from the intensity of India. Indeed, there was a significant reduction in hassling and haggling immediately upon crossing the border. After two back-to-back days of 10+ hour bus rides on local transport (read – made for small people, dirty as all hell, lacking any sort of suspension) from Varanasi to the Nepal border and from the border to Pokhara, we were very happy to arrive. Not only were we happy to be getting off a bus in one of the most picturesque mountain towns in the world, but we were meeting up with some of our favorite old and new friends.

The Annapurna trekking crew unites at the North Face Inn

Our great friend Charles and his girlfriend Kate flew over from Colorado to meet us for some Himalayan hiking and we were so excited to see them. They earned the title as first non-family visitors on our trip and it was such a treat to arrive at our hostel and hear Charles’ booming laugh from the rooftop. And to make life even more fun, our fellow round-the-world trippers, Dave and Jesse, who we met in Argentina and rendez-vous’d with in South Africa also wanted in on the Annapurna action. Woohoo!

Hanging with Dave and Jesse by Pokhara's lake, Phewa Tal

Pokhara vistas with aptly named beer

We had a day in Pokhara to enjoy the overly-priced Western food and to purchase Chinese North Face knock-off gear and other supplies for our 10+ days of trekking in the mountains. We also met our guide to make sure we liked him and that he spoke English – we did and he did. Everything was in order and we were off!

It’s a Small World After All

One of the many rewards of traveling for an extended period of time are the small world encounters. With over 6 billion people on the planet, it’s a wonder that any random encounter 3000 miles from home could result in a shared connection. But miraculously, it happens, and it’s not that uncommon. Our two most striking small world encounters:

We’re on the last day of our Northern Circuit Safari in Tanzania at Lake Manyara National Park, in a rare moment outside the Land Rover, standing at the hippo pool. Another Land Rover pulls up, and a couple hops out and comes to stand next to us. An exchange of greetings identifies that we’re both from the US, and after a couple “where are you from” rounds, we come to find that we’ve grown up in cities within 50 miles of each other. We keep digging deeper, learning that they went to the same high school of many of our college friends, so for the hell of it, we throw out a few names of people we know from their high school:

Sarah: Do you know Katie Waller?

Katie C: I love Katie Waller!!

Sarah: No, I love Katie Waller!! Wait, who are you?

Katie C: Jim and Katie Constantine

Ted: As in, the brother of Lori Constantine?

Katie C: Yes!!

Wow, small world. Standing in front of us is the younger brother of one of our best friend’s best friend. At the hippo pool in Tanzania.

Crazy encounter with Michiganders

Our next encounter happened here in Udaipur, on one of the fabulous rooftops overlooking the lake. I’m looking over at this couple sitting a few tables away, trying to place why they look familiar. And then it comes to me. I walk over to them, and ask if they are from Barcelona (the one fact I remembered from our previous encounter). Yup it’s them, only 1/2 a world away. We first Montserrat and Aleix back in Bolivia, 6 months earlier on our salt flat tour. It was a short encounter, but they stuck out to me because they were Spaniards who looked like they were Swedish. 2 months after the Bolivia meet, we saw them again in Torres del Paine National Park in southern Chile. This 2nd encounter was already pretty crazy, but within South America, it’s not unheard of to see people who are on the same general path. But 4 months after Chile, we had chosen different directions around the globe (us to Africa, them to Australia and New Zealand), we find each other sitting on the same rooftop in Udaipur, India. That is a crazy small world.

Spaniards on the right, us on the left, and random Israeli guy in the middle

Holi Cow

Holi Cow Ticket

Holi is an important Hindu and national holiday in India, and we coincidentally arrived in the country just in time to celebrate it.  Sasank insisted that we stay through the weekend so that we could check out the Delhi festivities in full force.  Ok, big fun party – twist our arms…

I am not familiar with the religious significance, but from what we witnessed, Holi involves dressing up in white clothes, going to a party and then covering yourself and others with large quantities of bright-colored powders.  It’s quite hilarious.

However, colors (as they’re called) are not reserved for private parties between friends.  On Holi (and the days leading up to Holi), one is at the mercy of anyone they may pass on the street.  We regularly saw people on the metro covered in color days before the main Holi celebration.  Ted and I got targeted on our cycle-rickshaw ride through Old Delhi (the kid missed, thank goodness).  People in the street outside Sasank’s apartment were also a threat, with both colors and water balloons stockpiled on balconies.  These colors are beautiful and fun however, they are extremely potent and could easily ruin your clothes, stain your skin or dye your hair.  Kinda intense if you aren’t ready for it.

At the big party we went to on Holi (aptly named Holi Cow) – we were ready for it.  We got decked out in new white outfits we secured at a cheap market, we lathered our skin and hair with coconut oil (to avoid staining, seriously), we drank a couple beers, and we piled into a cab to the party, ready to go get colorful.

The "before" picture

Holi provisions

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves but all in all, we had a hilarious day relaxing in the sunshine and making a complete mess of ourselves.  Our before and after pictures say it all.  Luckily the oil did its job and most of the color came out of our hair and off our bodies after our first shower.  As we traveled through the country for a few more weeks, we came across many blonde travelers that were not so lucky.  They were sporting pink hair for weeks!

Applying colors

Colored up!

Colorful and happy

Our Holi Cow Crew

The "after" shot

A Soft Landing in India

We had heard a lot of intense things about India before our arrival, so we didn’t quite know what to expect.  Overall most people liked the place, but no review of the country was without some obvious cautions.  Some of the most common warnings we heard had to do with lack of personal space on a daily basis, the general dirt and filth of the streets and public spaces, the fact that you are being stared at by someone at all times, and the glaring and depressing poverty.   Someone once told me that India stands for I’d Never Do It Again.  Wow, what were we getting ourselves into?!?

Despite all of these warnings, our arrival to the Indian sub-continent was actually quite smooth.  Delhi, known as an overwhelming big city that most people try to get in and out of as fast as possible, turned out to be a place we rather enjoyed, thanks to an old friend.  Sasank is a friend from high school who learned of our round-the-world trip via Facebook.  He saw our travels were taking us to India and he invited us to stay with him.  No, we hadn’t seen him since high school graduation, nor had we emailed or spoke on the phone, but that didn’t stop him from offering us a gracious invitation and didn’t stop us from happily accepting.  It was great to catch up after all these years – in no time we felt like we’d been in touch all along.  He was an amazing host and a wealth of information about the city, Indian culture, religion, food menus, and more.  AND he’s got a sweet pad in a cool area of the city, complete with full-time domestic help – a super nice guy named James.  James whipped us up breakfast, did our laundry, and made the most delicious chai in India.  Delhi”s not so bad…

Sasank and Sarah

James and Ted

A huge thank you to Sasank and his roommate Brian for hosting us twice as we toured the country, and for telling James to take care of us!

New Friends

Ted is the type of guy that if you meet once or twice and casually say, “If you are ever in Tanzania, give me call,” he will actually do so. Matt Brown is a former Boulderite that works for The Nature Conservancy in Arusha, Tanzania. Ted had connected with Matt in Boulder at one point through a mutual work colleague/friend, and Matt had invited Ted to look him up on our trip when we were in Tanzania. And we did.

Since January 2009, Matt has lived in Tanzania with his wife Lisa and 3 beautiful children. They graciously welcomed us into their home and along on a family camping trip with some other friends for the weekend. We had a wonderful time getting to know them and hearing about the challenges and rewards of living and raising children on the other side of the world. They have a beautiful home, a great international school down the road from their house, and a community of friends and other expats.

Sarah playing with the Brown girls

Packing for camping - nice digs in Africa!

Start driving early in Africa

The camping was a blast. Just a couple hours from their house was Lake Chala. No one in the group had been there before so we were all equally blown away. Upon Google-ing the lake name, the first link that comes up is about a death by crocodile attack a few years back, however the parents sussed it out, talked to the locals and decided it was no longer a threat. Phew! Though quite a steep hike down to the lake for children ages 3-8, it was totally worth the effort to get there and the kids were troopers. The lake was clear and the perfect temperature for swimming. The evenings were spent relaxing, playing with kiddos, eating yummy food and, after the kids went to sleep, drinking a few cocktails.

Lake Chala

Sarah and Lisa

Fun at gorgeous Lake Chala

Very fun indeed! A huge thank you to the Browns for generously letting us overstay our welcome. Next time you’re in Boulder, dinner is on us!

Southern Africa Wrap-up

We visited a total of 6 countries in Southern Africa – Zambia, Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Mozambique – but some for only a matter of days, and some for only a matter of hours! That being said, we’ve decided to combine them all together for a regional wrap-up. Below, in no particular order, are our Top 10 Highlights, Bottom 5 Bummers, as well as Favorite Food/Drink and Animal Sightings (new category for Africa!) of our two months in Southern Africa. You can also check out our Best of Southern Africa photo album for some more visual highlights (and don’t forget the African Mega-Fauna album for our top animal sightings).

Top 10

  1. Mokoro Ride

    Victoria Falls – What can we say? They are one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World and they are some incredibly impressive falls.

  2. Remoteness of the Botswana bush – A safari in Botswana is a unique experience. You are hundreds of miles into the wilderness away from cities, towns, and other people. There are no power lines or fences or signs of civilization. The only way in and out is via bush plane. It’s just you and the animals in the bush.
  3. Small plane flights between safari lodges – Due to the remoteness of the safari camps in Botswana and seasonal weather conditions, several times our transport between camps was by small plane. One flight was a total of 8 minutes and Ted got to sit shotgun with the pilot.
  4. Mokoro ride – Our safari group in Botswana got treated to traditional Mokoro rides, which are similar to dug-out canoes. Powered only by a long pole, you are gliding just inches above the water and kinda feel like you’re flying.
  5. Family-filled January – How incredible is it that both sets of our parents came all the way across the ocean from the Northern United States to Southern Africa to visit us?!
  6. View from Table Mountain – Nothing quite like it and I think we appreciated it even more due to the energy we expended to get up there!
  7. Morning at Clifton Beaches – Just around the corner from Cape Town’s city center are the most beautiful, tucked-away beaches. We went with the Graces on a weekday and nearly had the place to ourselves.
  8. Cheetah!

    Animal Sighting Good Luck Charms – The Martens saw it all in the animal department – including the much talked about Big 5 (elephants, leopards, rhinos, buffalo and lions) plus cheetahs and lots of other good stuff in a matter of days. Ted and I had not seen a rhino or a cheetah before their visit and we’d been on nearly 30 game drives before they came.

  9. Bush to Beach to Bush – I wrote about this day in a previous post, and it was really quite awesome. Seeing big animals and swimming in the ocean makes for an incredible day.
  10. SCUBA Diving in Moz – We both love being underwater and I wish we got to do it more often. We were very impressed with the coral and the variety of fish in Mozambique.

Bottom 5

  1. Lame NYE – We’d love to have a memorable, exciting story to share about our New Year’s Eve on the trip, but low and behold, we were asleep before midnight.
  2. Theft – At the lodge we stayed at in Cape Town with my parents, we had an issue with some sticky-fingered housekeepers. Wily Ted was able to prove their misdeed. The manager was appalled and immediately and appropriately addressed the situation, including reimbursing us for the small amount taken.
  3. Bad Bus Ride

    Bus to Tofo BeachWe’re wimps. We didn’t take a whole lots of public transportation in Africa, and I’m using this fairly uncomfortable bus ride as justification of why we didn’t do so.

  4. Visa debaclesLet’s just say that in Johannesburg we went to the India Embassy three times (to get a visa), the Mozambique Embassy four times (to get a visa), and the U.S. Embassy once (to get more pages in my passport).
  5. Failing to visit NamibiaWhen we left the US for our trip, we were 100% positive we were going to Namibia. Ted has a travel industry friend and contact living there with his family and we were planning to pay them a visit. Sadly, it didn’t happen.

Favorite Meals and Treats

  1. Sundowners – The idea of having a cocktail while watching the sun go down is a good one. We enjoyed our sundowners on the Zambezi River in Zambia, in the Botswana bush, with city views in Cape Town, throughout the greater Kruger Park area, and the list goes on.
  2. Ostrich Fillet - Mmmmmmm

    Stuffed Crabs – Mmmm. We discovered these stuffed treats in Mozambique and ate them all week.

  3. Unique Game – Never before had we eaten ostrich or impala – and we quite liked it. Other game options included crocodile, kudu (a type of antelope), and warthog!
  4. Ocean Basket – OB is a South African chain restaurant that serves fresh seafood, fish and chips, and sushi. They are everywhere and we ate there many a time including with both sets of parents.
  5. NatHab Safari Meals – When we were on safari in Botswana, we ate entirely too much amazing food. How they got such fabulous fresh food out into the middle of the bush in order to feed us so well is beyond me.

Animal Sighting Highlights

  1. Wild Dog

    Wild Dog – Our one and only sighting of wild dogs was in Botswana. They are endangered and extremely rare to see. Even the guides were excited, that is how we knew we were lucky.

  2. Pursuit of first leopard – Francis, our guide in Botswana, is the man. With his animal tracking know-how, his persistence and determination, his off-road driving and a little bit of luck we spotted our first leopards – a momma and two older cubs. You wouldn’t believe the amount of vegetation we got to drive over just to find them.
  3. Baby animals – Due to the time of year we were visiting, we got the opportunity to see lots of mommas and their babies. There isn’t anything much cuter than baby lions, elephants, and impala.
  4. Elephants – Ted’s favorite animal to see. We saw lots.
  5. Giraffes – Sarah’s favorite. Oh, and to see a giraffe running is incredible – it appears to be happening in slow motion.
  6. Rhinos

    Game drive with Ocean – Ocean was one of our guides with Ted’s parents and he kept things interesting. Within a couple hours we saw 4 of the Big 5 (elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo and rhinos) and evaded an aggressively charging male elephant!

  7. First rhinoceros – Finally! After our Botswana safari and several days in the Kruger Park area we were beginning to think they didn’t exist. But they do!
  8. Cheetah with it’s kill – What an amazing site to come upon. We didn’t realize it had just hunted until the little impala almost got away and the cheetah had to finish it off.
  9. Surprise night-time leopard sighting – Last night in the Kruger Park area and our way back to the lodge we magically came upon a leopard.
  10. Lotsa fish – Between snorkeling with the Martens and SCUBA diving in Moz, we got to see some great underwater animals as well!

Don’t forget to check out the Best Of photo albums here and here.

Sani Pass to Lesotho

Upon leaving the beach, we headed inland to the Drakensburg Mountains. South Africa does not disappoint with the rich variety of scenery packed into a relatively small space. The Drakensburg Mountains aren’t jagged and pointy like the Rockys, but rather impressively green and endlessly rolling hills. The drive through the area is quite stunning and we were happy to be spending a few days in the region.

The Southern "Burg"

Drakensburg Mountains

The Drakensburg Mountains are also where South Africa and Lesotho (pronounced le-su-tu) share a border. Similarly to Swaziland, Lesotho is a teeny, tiny country that few have heard of that is surrounded by South Africa on all sides. The popular day trip in the southern “Burg” takes you by 4×4 Jeep up the wickedly steep, rocky and bumpy Sani Pass and into Lesotho. The road was more gnarly than we anticipated, but our experienced guide got us safely to the top and the views along the way up kept us quite entertained.

Sani Pass Border Control

Up the road to Lesotho

View to South Africa from Lesotho

After the hilariously brief ‘customs’ and ‘immigration’ procedures, we got the opportunity to visit a local village. Though just miles from the border of Africa’s most developed nation, Lesotho is a much poorer country and we felt it right away. In the village we visited, the men are traditionally shepherds that spend weeks and months at a time in the hills with their flocks. The women are busy at home carrying for the family and all of life’s other tasks. They did not have electricity or plumbing and have to rely on their blankets and indoor fires to keep them warm during the brutal winters at high altitude.

Lesotho Musicians

Traditional Lesotho Family Home

The tour finished up with a meal and a beer at “The Highest Pub in Africa” topping out at 2874m (9500 feet). We made it safely back down the mountain to our little B&B and our gracious host. We had one more delicious dinner at the only restaurant in town and the next morning we woke up and headed back to Johannesburg (visit #8 of 10 to the JoBurg airport). It was time for the Martens to go home and we couldn’t believe how fast the two weeks had gone by. We had an amazing visit and managed to pack in 3 different countries, hundreds of big animals, mountains and beach, and lots of kilometers on the rental car. We can’t thank them enough for their generosity and look forward to our next group road trip!

Big Cats

While we were in the St. Lucia area with Ted’s parents, we had the opportunity to visit The Emdoneni Cat Rehabilitation Centre to see some big (and not-so-big) cats up close. Animals end up there for a variety of reasons – some were orphaned at a young age and would not have survived alone in the wild, some were injured, some were born in captivity, etc. The ultimate goal is that the (capable) cats will be treated and released, but there are a few that won’t because after being raised in captivity they just couldn’t hold their own in the wild.

We got to meet several different kinds of cats – many which are very difficult to spot in the wild. Our guide was the cats’ care-taker and he knew everything about where they had come from, how long they had been there, if they would ever be released, etc. He also knew the animals’ personalities which allowed us to enter their cages and even pet some.

African Wild Cat

Caracal (Lynx)

Caracal (Lynx)


The highlight of the day was definitely the cheetahs. Raised by our guide from a very young age, the two male cheetahs that we got to “meet” were very comfortable with visitors. Though our safety had been guaranteed, I have to admit that I was still a little nervous to be voluntarily walking towards two large, male cheetahs with the end goal of petting them.

Ted and his mom, however, had no such qualms. While Rob and I were content to pet the things and take their photos, Ted and Sarah happily sat down and allowed the cats to sit and purr on their laps, petting their rough coats while being licked by their even rougher tongues. Ted compared the licking to running sandpaper over his skin – it’s no wonder cheetahs are able to keep their coats so clean just by licking!

Petting Cheetahs

Getting licked by Cheetahs

However, the cats weren’t all fun and games. Within minutes of leaving the cheetah pen, both Sarahs had intense allergic reactions. Sarah (Ted’s mom) broke out in a rash all over her arms from where the cheetahs had been licking her. Though she is allergic to regular house cats, she had never experienced the intense physical reaction that she did from the cheetahs and it lasted for several days. I too am allergic to cats and was quite miserable with traditional allergy symptoms from itchy eyes and throat to sneezing and congestion, but mine only stuck around for a couple hours.

So, for future reference, we can vouch without a doubt that if you are allergic to house cats, that same allergy also applies to cheetahs!

Argentina Wrap-up

Wow, Argentina is a bit of a show-off – this will not be easy. We’ll do our best to narrow down our Top 10, come up with a bottom 5 and limit ourselves from going on and on about all the great food. Okay, here we go.

Top 10

  1. Salta Road Trip

    Salta Road Trip

    Lotsa Boulder friends – Getting to see Courtney and Jed in a different South American country, overlapping with Steph in Bariloche AND El Chalten, as well as connecting with Bern and having an amazing few days in Patagonia – we were feeling the Boulder love.

  2. New fun friends – We met Dave and Jesse, a hilarious couple, doing their own ’round the world thing; We connected with Estefania’s little sis in Buenos Aires and we got to meet and hike with other fun folks from Mexico to the Netherlands to Michigan!
  3. Salta road trip – After a lot of public transportation it’s quite fun to have your own car and get to be on your own schedule for a change.
  4. Luxurious bus rides – Nicest buses we have ever been on. Double-decker, super reclining seats, meal service, air-conditioning, movies, the works.
  5. Watching a giant chunk of the Perito Moreno glacier hit the sea – Yup. Would have loved to get a picture of it but you’ll just have to take our word for it.
  6. Unfair proportion of Patagonia blue sky days – We’d been warned about the regions notoriously unstable bad weather, but lucky for us it was (mostly) for naught.
  7. Frey Sunset

    Super-Trekking – Though one of the longest hikes Ted has ever done – the scenery, the weather, the hiking companions and the accomplishment made it oh-so worthwhile.

  8. Most amazing waterfalls on the planet – Iguazu is a sight to see. You can’t visit that place and leave feeling disappointed. Mother Nature at her best.
  9. Refugio sunset – You’re in the middle of nowhere at a backcountry hut and the sun is setting over ridiculously jagged, snow-covered peaks. Life is good.
  10. Biking the Circuito Chico – Northern Patagonia is a gem and this not-so ‘chico’ bike loop shows her off quite nicely.

Bottom 5

  1. 18+ hour bus rides x 4! – Yes, the buses are luxurious but 18+ hours is a really long time to be in transit.
  2. Cost of transportation – Yes, the buses are luxurious but you should not have to pay nearly as much as a plane ticket when the travel time is six times longer than a flight.
  3. The Glacier was well worth the hassle

    Getting ourselves from our fancy hotel to the glacier – We’re really stretching here but our fancy hotel made it quite a hassle (and an expense) to get us to and from the Perito Moreno glacier. As we were trying to meet up with our friends, we were a little bitter that our transit involved hitching to get there and walking 7km to get home.

  4. Expensive dorm beds (yes, we slept in a lot of dorm beds) – Just like in Chile, we had to do the dorm bed thing to save some money. However, when dorm beds are still expensive it’s a bit depressing.
  5. Leaving Argentina, meant leaving South America – And we weren’t ready to go yet! We heart South America and can’t wait to return one day…

Food and Drink

  1. Steak – Argentina is known for their beef and for good reason. We rarely go out at home and order a steak off the menu. In Argentina we did it quite a few times and were never disappointed. A special shout-out to our first Argentine steak in Cachi, to Disnevel Parilla in San Telmo (where we went twice, including our last night on the continent) and to the steak dinner we had with Ninon and her friend.
  2. Wine tasting with Courtney and Jed

    Wine – Like Europeans, Argentines drink wine like water. It’s cheap, it’s prolific and it’s delicious. We drank a lot of it.

  3. Family night – For our last night with our new friends in Patagonia we decided to whip up a dinner at the hostel family-style. Wine drinking, game playing and tango dancing ensued.
  4. Dona Salta’s empanadas – We asked several people in Salta where we could find the best empanadas in town and they all said the same place. Mmmm.
  5. Bariloche’s famous ice cream – So good we had to have it. Every day.

If you really want to see how amazing this country is, check out our “Best of Argentina” photo album, and then go see it for yourself.  Trip highlight for sure.

Copyright © 1996-2010 Oh, the Places We'll Go. All rights reserved.
iDream theme by Templates Next | Powered by WordPress