Get Comfortable with Uncomfortability

I am just going to be honest here: Travel is uncomfortable. It is a series of hand gestures, charades, directional mistakes, uncertain surroundings, unexpected detours, ever-changing time schedules and accommodation surprises. But isn’t that the whole point of travel? Aren’t we curious to see how people live differently than we do? Don’t we long to experience new sights and scenery that we would not otherwise have the chance to experience? If that is not what we are looking for, then we should not leave home in the first place. It is time to get comfortable with uncomfortability.

Overland camping truck

Way back at the beginning of this whole trek, while in Iceland, I mentioned my disinterest in camping. But since I have a major interest in adventure, it edged out the discomfort. I signed up for an overland camping trip to Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. I will deal with the tents and bugs to have the adventure. Secretly, it was the overland camping truck I wanted to experience.


Township of Guguletu

My tour group conveniently met and departed from Cape Town. Our first day was by far the most emotionally uncomfortable. We kicked off the adventure with a tour of Guguletu, one of the poorest townships in the Cape Town area. One of the residents was gracious enough to invite all twelve of us into her single room, corrugated steel shack to physically see and hear how they live.


One small shack is considered home for two to ten people. Most have only one room which is used for everything. It is the sleeping quarters, the living room and the kitchen. During the day, the occupants have to leave the house and spend their time outdoors due to lack of space. Without windows or proper ventilation, the shack becomes an extremely unsafe hot box. The structures are packed so tightly together that a small house fire can quickly spread into a devastating disaster, claiming homes and lives. These dwellings do not have running water which leads to a 10+ km round trip walk with buckets to haul just to have the essentials for cooking and bathing. The “bathroom” is located at the back of the township in the weeds which is also the only open space for children to run and play. As you can imagine, the waste bacteria breeds like crazy causing much illness and in some cases, death.

We slowly drove through Guguletu’s dusty streets. Business buildings made from shipping containers, plywood and cardboard lined the streets. We took a moment to stop by a memorial dedicated to several men who lost their lives fighting for equality during the apartheid era. We eventually arrived at a large concrete pavilion structure where a number of men and women were cutting different types of meat to be sold. As we walked through, I noticed numerous attempts to keep the flies away from the raw meat. I learned that markets and grocery stores are too expensive for most residents of Guguletu so they often congregate at this pavilion as a central point to connect with community and buy affordable meat.

My group had the opportunity to try sheep’s head, tongue and liver. These are considered delicacy meals amongst the Black communities. (Please be aware that the terms “Black,” “Colored,” “Indian” and “White” are completely appropriate in South Africa.) They are favored and savored meals for life’s milestone celebrations.

Okay, at this point in the story it is important for me to mention my conservative approach to food. I usually will not try something “weird.” I am not an adventurer when it comes to food; I leave that to my sister who will try nearly anything. But considering I am still wearing a necklace that says “Be Adventurous” and the fact that the guide cut the delicacies into very small pieces, I went for it.

Left: Me with sheep liver, Top: Sheep head, Bottom: Sheep liver

I do not have too much to say about the experience other than I did it and I lived to tell about it. The flavors were not as bad as I expected. The textures were not as gross as I imagined. The whole food experience was not nearly as bad as I pictured but I was uncomfortable.

The food challenged my comfort zone. The scenery around me challenged my comfort zone. I was challenged by people who live on very little and still laugh together at the community center point. I was challenged by people who cannot buy meat from a proper market so they purchase only the amount they can afford from an open air market trusting it will not be spoiled. I was challenged by people who enjoy sheep liver as a treasured delicacy. I was challenged to not feel pity for what this community does not have but encouraged by the relationships and care they have for each other.


Every time I travel, I have an opportunity to choose to get comfortable with uncomfortability. Sometimes, I do not respond appropriately. In fact, I would venture to say most of the time I do not respond appropriately at first. Eventually, I have to figure it out. This entire camping journey is another step outside of my comfort zone. I have been uncomfortable for much of these last many trekking months. I will continue to be uncomfortable as I am challenged by new experiences and new people.

The truth is, we will always be uncomfortable in places we do not really belong. But the question remains, who will I fail to become if I am not challenged beyond what I know?


Philippians 3:20-21

Mandela Capture and Imprisonment

Following his trial in which he was found not guilty in for treason, Nelson Mandela went into hiding. Because some protests took violent measures, Mandela and others were viewed as terrorists. For 17 months, Mandela remained in hiding but continued to use his influence to fight apartheid (South Africa’s equivalent to segregation). With his knowledge from studying law, he knew it be only a matter of time until the apartheid Security Police came after him again.

“Suddenly, in front of us, the Ford was signaling to us to stop. I knew in that instant that my life on the run was over; my 17 months of ‘freedom’ were about to end.” (Taken from Nelson Mandela’s autobiography: Long Walk to Freedom.)

On August 5, 1962, Nelson Mandela was captured near Howick, KwaZulu-Natal.

Now on this historic site stands a visitor center which outlines Nelson Mandela’s life. To commemorate this historic site and event, a sculpture by artists, Marco Cianfanelli and Jeremy Rose was erected on the 50th anniversary.

As visitors turn from the main road, they are welcomed by 50 steel columns of varying heights. The columns look like a random assortment of scrap metal. But following a visit to the main building, guests can walk down the path toward the sculpture and watch it take form. Take a look at the video to watch the change.

On June 11, 1963, Mandela and seven comrades were sentenced to life in prison for sabotage. Due to apartheid, one man was sent to a white prison in Pretoria. The rest were sent to Robben Island.


Mandela served the first eighteen of his twenty-seven years of imprisonment at Robben Island. He and the other political prisoners were held in solitary confinement. They had only a mat on the floor to sleep on and a bucket in the corner for a toilet. Every morning they were required to clean their own bucket.


Each were allowed thirty minutes in the morning and thirty minutes in the evening to walk around the small courtyard area. It is said that Mandela tended to the garden. It was later found out that it was not the garden he really cared about; He was able to successfully hide his manuscripts in the dirt around the plants.


At the end of the courtyard is Mandela’s Garden


The prisoners were required to work at the limestone quarry a short distance away on the island. They were required to work Monday through Friday for eight hours. All work was manual with an ax and shovel. They were not given any protective gear, provided with shelter from the hot sun or the privacy of a bathroom. After Mandela’s release, they found his tear ducts had been damaged. The doctors attributed the damage to the hours of exposure bright sun’s reflection off the limestone. In their later years, many ex-convicts suffered from lung related issues which is suspected to have come from the amount of limestone dust inhaled.

On March 31, 1982, Nelson Mandela was moved off Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town. He was then moved again to Victor Verser Prison in Paarl. On February 11, 1990 he was released from prison after twenty-seven years. And as they say,  the rest is history as he went on to eventually become the President of South Africa.



Cape Town is for the Birds

Birds are on a whole different level on the continent of Africa. The diversity of species, size and color is simply out of this world. If you happen to be a “birder,” you will not be disappointed here. South Africa is no exception – the variety of birds is amazing. When you come, you have to visit the penguins and ostriches!

My favorite, favorite, FAVORITE visit was to Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town to see the African Penguins. Seriously you guys, this was far more of a close encounter than I expected and far more enjoyable than I had hoped.



The African Penguins can be found along the southern tip of South Africa and the western coastline of Namibia. In fact, they are the ONLY found in African and they are the ONLY penguin that breeds in Africa. So the moral of the story: If you want to see African Penguins in their natural habitat, pack your bags for an adventure!


They are relatively small animals, growing only to about two feet or so and as large as seven pounds. As with most penguins, they are black and white but have black feet and  a small pink patch around their eyes. Research says the pink patch assists them in the changing temperatures. The warmer the temperature, the more blood is sent to the pink patch causing it to become a deeper shade. How amazing is that?!?

Penguins are monogamous birds, meaning they only have one partner throughout their life. They breed during the winter month, then lay eggs and nest from March to May. They often dig a hole for the eggs, often in foliage to keep the eggs hidden from predators. Both mom and dad take turns sitting on the egg for incubation.


After we found a place to park, we walked down the street toward Boulder Beach. The road tapers down to a walk path to reach Boulder Beach Penguin Reserve. For a fee of about five US dollars, we took the wood slatted path to the lookout points which overlook a large grouping of penguins on the beach. BUT, this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. We went back out the entrance and continue down the foot path where another entrance awaiting our visit. My already purchased entrance let me actually join the penguins on Boulder Beach. This is where the real fun happened.


The beautiful beach is guarded by large boulders, which provides a protection and calms waves rolling in to shore. The penguins meander around on the sand and rocks to sunbathe. Their eggs can be found hidden in rock crevices and pre-dug holes in the foliage. They swim among the tourists to cool off and hunt for food. Around every turn, a penguin was doing what penguins do, even amongst the people.

The penguins are rather calm and do not bother the tourists. We were able to come within just a couple of feet of them. Of course if given reason, they will bite but for the most part, they tend to their business and did not get their feathers ruffled.


I was really quite impressed with the other tourists. They treated the penguins with respect and for the most part, kept their distance. I did not see anyone mistreat or try to physically handle the penguins. I did not see anyone try to feed them or touch one of the eggs.


The only thing I would have done differently is plan on a full day and take a swim suit. I did not do enough research ahead of time. This is the only place in the world where swimming with wild penguins is available. If given the opportunity, I will go back to Simon’s Town again in a heartbeat!

What is it with me visiting birds that cannot fly?!?  I also visited the Cape Town Ostrich Ranch with hopes of riding an ostrich. Okay well, I was not able to ride one but I did get to sit on him.

Ostriches are plentiful in South Africa. They are not endangered or protected. Contrary to the animal reserves and sanctuaries, this is a farm. Just like cattle or sheep, ostriches are raised to be sold for the meat, feathers and leather.

I started out on an informational tour learning all sorts of fascinating facts about the ostrich. I will not get in-depth with the information but, did you know:

  • The ostrich has been compared to a camel with the long neck and large eyes. They also tend to live in warmer climates and can survive for long periods of time with little water.
  • Adult ostriches can weigh anywhere from 150-300+ lbs.
  • Male ostriches are mostly black with some white feathers while the females are greyish-brown in color.
  • The male may have a harem but will choose one female as the alpha female. Although, he may reproduce with any of his ladies.
  • Ostrich eggs are the largest of all eggs.
  • The eggshell is so thick that the baby cannot break its way out. An adult ostrich has to use its thick, breastplate to crack the egg open for the offspring.
  • The brain of an ostrich is smaller than a golf ball while its eyeball is larger than a golf ball.
  • They have two toes on each foot to help maintain balance. They also have one claw to provide traction and defense against predators.
  • They can run to speeds over forty miles per hour.
  • Their necks are so flexible that they can eat off their own backs.
  • Their diet mostly consists of seeds, leaves and roots but will eat insect, small lizards  and rodents.
  • Ostriches also swallow rocks and pebbles to help their digestive system grind up the food. The rocks simply pass through their system and exit as waste.
  • In Africa, ostrich riding does happen with use of a saddle, bridle and reins.

Of course this is just a brief list of facts I found interesting about the ostrich and they are far more complicated. Truth be told, I had never really been that interested in them. The opportunity to sit on one was far more of a draw but once I was there learning about them, they became far more fascinating.


After learning fun facts, I was able to meet the ostriches face to face. I stood on top of ostrich eggs to test the strength. I had an opportunity to feed an ostrich, who makes a swift pecking maneuver to eat.

I also met and hugged, “Tom Thumb,” who is the smallest ostrich in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Tom was a very friendly bird who did not mind the attention. Due to molting, he was wearing a special made feather “vest” so he did not look like an oversized chicken. I thought it was hilarious!

At the end of the tour I was able to sit on the back of a male ostrich. The workers first had to wrangle him to a platform stall where they gently buckled him for safety. I climbed the few stairs to the top of the platform and was able to climb on his back.

Now, this was an experience in and of itself because the ostrich was a bit cranky. Of course our guide said, “I don’t know what is going on with him today, he’s usually never like this.” In order to escort him to the stall, they have to put a small bag over his head with a hole cut for his beak. It’s kind of like putting blinders over the eyes of a horse. It took the guide a few extra minutes with the hissing bird for him to calm down enough to put the bag over his head and carefully nudge him to the stall. The guide took the time to rub the birds long neck to calm him before taking the bag off. But, once the bag was pulled, the hissing started again. Again, one of the guides carefully approached and rubbed his neck. In a few short minutes, the ostrich was calm. The guide turned to me and said, “Are you ready?” After that show, I nervously laughed. I took a deep breath, climbed the stairs to the platform and sat on his back.


His back was wider than I anticipate; Similar to sitting on a horse’s back. His feathers were soft. I was able to pet the soft fuzz on his neck as he stayed mostly calm. I only sat on is back for about two minutes, just enough time to snap a couple of photos. Then he was released to return to his wives.

Cape Town Ostrich Farm also offers a gift shop, microbrewery and on-site restaurant where visitors can taste ostrich meat. This was an interesting experience all around with interactive opportunities. Take some time to google around about ostriches, they are actually quite fascinating birds.

More information on Cape Town Ostrich Farm:





Truth Coffee


I love coffee. Even more than the actual coffee, I love coffee shops. I love local coffee shops. I love shops with individual creativity in décor and ambiance.

In February, I read one of those silly Facebook lists of top “must visit”

Coffee Art

restaurants around the world. It was just a list of restaurant names with their location and a photo. That’s it. No description, no background, no reason why they made the list. On the list was one location in Cape Town, South Africa: Truth Coffee. Based on a name and photo (it helped to have the word “coffee” in the name), my mind was made up. I was going to visit Truth Coffee.

After arriving at the shop, I learned that Truth Coffee has been recognized by the UK news agency, The Telegraph, as the #1 coffee shop in the WORLD for two years in a row. This quite a prestigious award considering South Africa is not known in any way for their coffee culture.

The beautiful coffee bar.

To say that I enjoyed this shop would be an understatement. It boasts steampunk décor with a variety of different sized gears for tables, metal work of brass, copper and steel highlight the various coffee machines, stamped metal panels outline the dark wood coffee bar, yellow light bulbs hang from the ceiling from plain wire at random lengths, dark velvet chairs and couches bring a sort of sophistication to the encasing warehouse atmosphere. Standing center of the room, just beyond the bar with the shiny, old-timey cash register stands a the pride and joy of Truth Coffee, the pristine, cast iron coffee roaster which dates back to the 1940’s.

The roaster can roast up to 70 kg of coffee at one time. That is equal to over 150 lbs of coffee beans! They also use a smaller, more modern roaster for roasting lesser quantities and specialized flavors.

The diverse wait staff is adorned in vintage clothing from long-tail vests with brass buttons and tattered bolo hats to rough, brown leather aprons and classic, round lens  motorcycle goggles. The details of this place all add to the steampunk atmosphere right down to their unique uniforms.

At the beginning of all of this, I mentioned that I love coffee. However, I am not a coffee connoisseur. I believe coffee is a personal preference. Some people enjoy weaker coffee, some darker coffee, some sweeter coffee and the list goes on from there. I cannot argue how or what makes one brew better than another. I just know when I like it. I liked this coffee. When I ordered a cappuccino and asked for sugar, the server assured me that I probably would not need sugar because their special processes naturally makes the coffee sweeter. I tried the coffee without sugar and she was right. I only needed one sugar instead of two. I thought the coffee was fabulous…which is why I went back for more. In fact, my friends and I sat down for coffee three times in one week at Truth Coffee. I mean, come on, if the best coffee shop in the world is at your finger tips, might as well enjoy it to the fullest!

If I was willing to relocate just for a coffee shop, I would choose to live next door to Truth Coffee Shop. The whole experience was just that wonderful…And I did not even tell you about the food. As my friend, Margi said, “It was absolutely divine.”

Truth Coffee offers more than just coffee and food. They also sell beans and ground coffee, supply offices around the area with coffee, offer training for coffee roasting and even taste testing opportunities! Curious to know more about Truth Coffee? Check out their website at:

Around the Cape

If you have loved what you have seen so far of South Africa, you will love Cape Town. The warm weather, sea breeze, hilly surroundings, palm trees and laid back beach atmosphere reminds me of San Diego. No matter which direction you drive, the coastline is varied and gorgeous. A panoramic photo waits around every corner.


I rented a vehicle for my time in Cape Town. Although I was staying with friends, I wanted the freedom to “go” if need be. I was able to rent the car for less than twenty US dollars per day from “Rent A Cheapie” in Cape Town. The car was a very basic, manual Volkswagon Golf with no bells or whistles but it did the job.

Here is a random assortment of locations, sights and scenery around Cape Town:

Table Mountain

With the city built at the base, Table Mountain is probably the most iconic landmark in Cape Town. On a clear day, it can be seen from miles upon miles away. Take a rotating cable car or an intense, nearly vertical, three hour hike to the top for stunning views of the city, coastlines and surrounding area. The mountain top is large with walk paths, providing plenty of places to roam.

Victoria and Alfred Waterfront

Located in city centre along the Atlantic coast, South Africa’s oldest working harbor is also the hub of tourist activity. It was first established in the mid-1800’s and with iconic Table Mountain towering in the backdrop, the shops, restaurants and entertainment bring people from all over the world together.

Castle of Good Hope

The completed building of Castle of Good Hope in 1679, makes it the oldest surviving building in all of South Africa. In 1652, the first Dutch settled in the Cape to establish a location of trade for the Dutch East India Company. When rumor of war between the Dutch and British reached Cape Town, Castle of Good Hope was built as a fort to defend against the British. It is not a “castle” in the classic sense of the word as no king or queen ever occupied the building. According to the official webite for Castle of Good Hope, “It is called a castle, as in the case of other Castles in Europe, in addition to being a defensive structure, it comprised a small community or town on its own.”


Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens

Beautiful Botanical Gardens cover the land at the base of Table Mountain. Sadly, this year the Cape has been experiencing the worst drought in recent history leaving the area on tight water restrictions. Even though the garden is not in bloom as a normal year, the green lush foliage was stunning against the clear blue sky and Table Mountain backdrop.

Intaka Island

This small wetlands park is set right in the center of Century City. Amongst the growing city, it provides a protected area for bird and plant life. An easy wooden sidewalk weaves around the edges of the peaceful wetlands to view the fowl and foliage.

Hout Bay

In Afrikaans, Houtbaai means “Wood Bay.” As you can guess, this area was covered in timber so when the Dutch settled in the Cape area, they used the timber from this bay for building material. Now, it is a beautiful tourist area with a nice marina, restaurants, shops and beach.

Chapman’s Peak

Across the water from Hout Bay is Chapman’s Peak. Chapman’s Peak drive is a stunning winding drive hugging the steep mountains along the Atlantic Ocean. It was a major feat of engineering when it was built between 1915 and 1922. It is a popular, challenging destination for runners and bikers with its many curves and hilly roads.

Cape Point

Located at the southern tip of Cape Peninsula, Cape Point boasts its ridged cliffs which plummet into the Atlantic Ocean. High on the cliff stand a lighthouse to warn ships. This area has seen a number of shipwrecks in its day. Set in Table Mountain National Park, this can easily be a full day’s visit on its own as there is much to see within the park.

Cape Agulhas

Cape Agulhas is the southern most tip of the continent of Africa. It is also the point where the Indian Ocean ad Atlantic Ocean meet. It is known to be a dangerous point for ships as well. A lighthouse fashioned after Egyptian-style architecture stands proud to warn ships of the shallow coastline. In the winter, the area is know to have strong winds with waves reaching 100 ft in height. It is speculated that over 150 ships have shipwrecked over the past few hundred years.

With coastlines, mountains, gardens and city, this place has it all!

Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve

South Africa has a wide array of game parks, game reserves, animal sanctuaries and zoos to choose from. Some have a variety of animals while others focus on one specific species. Some have a large area of land while others have a small plot to work with. Some parks allow the animals to roam freely while others keep them in separate, secure areas. Some allow for hunting expeditions while others do not. Some have a hiking option while others are strictly driving. Some offer restaurants or concessions on the property while others do not. Some are operated and maintained by the government while others are privately owned. Each park has its own layout and style allowing for a unique experience no matter which facility you visit.

After my visit to Hazyview, I went back to my friend’s house in Krugersdorp to assist as they moved homes. After a few long days of hauling boxes and furniture, we took a break to visit the nearby Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve. Do not be fooled by the name, the reserve houses far more animals than just rhino and lion.

In our own vehicle, we drove through the large park to different areas of animals. This reserve has the predatory animals divided into large, fenced sections by species. One of my favorite happens to be the Wild Dog.

IMG_20170301_165441_362African Wild Dog has similar coloring to a hyena but is shaped more like a canine. Compared to the hyena, it has rounder ears and a flat back. They are a very social animal but only the alpha male and female will breed. While hyenas scavenge for food, a pack of dogs will hunt for their own food and work together to quickly take down their prey. Wild dog is one of Africa’s most endangered species due to disease and persecution from humans. Efforts are being made to keep them from extinction but unfortunately at this point, the dogs have to be in captivity to be preserved.

One great feature of this specific park is the ability to interact with different cubs for a small fee. Lion cubs, cheetah cubs, leopard cubs…All available to see up close and personal. Since the animals are constantly exposed to humans throughout the park, they try to introduce them at a young age with the goal of helping to prevent harmful acts in the future between man and beast. We decided to visit the sleepy, white lion cubs.

White lions are rare. Their color comes from a unique recessive gene which limits the number of white lions in the wild. Therefore, efforts are being made to preserve and boost the white lion numbers in captivity. The common brown lion can give birth to a white cubs but white lions cannot birth brown cubs.

During our drive, we also were able to see cheetah. Was there ever a more mesmerizing cat? With the black lines down its face, the slim body made to run and the beautiful spotted pattern from head to toe, even in captivity, the cheetah is a delight to watch.

The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve also has a zoo component to the property. Birds like the red-headed, Marabou Stork (photo above) roam freely. Baby rhinoceros and pygmy hippopotamus are kept safe. Different types of fox and rabbit meander about. A variety of African snakes and lizards can be viewed in the reptile house.

Take a drive. Watch the animals. Take a close-up photo. Enjoy the moment.

Next stop: Capetown

Matthew 6:26

The Panoramic Route

From being a tour guide, I learned to never let the weather deter me from attempting to experience what I am there to experience. Of course if safety is being challenged, then I need to make a decision. But I try to not let drizzle or rain take away from the adventure. In some ways it adds to it, just like Tropical Storm Dineo did.

Upon recommendation, I wanted to see the “Panorama Route” near Hazyview. An all-day drive takes a person to some of the most spectacular scenic views the area has to offer. Lookout points over canyons, mountain formations, rushing rivers, waterfalls and quaint towns awaited me. I decided to request the professional guiding experience of the Laughing Waters Guesthouse Manager, John so that I would be able to enjoy the scenery around me as he navigated the path and potholes while providing interesting information along the way.

Because of Dineo, we experienced drizzle, rain, and low clouds. While I was not able to see all of the sights boasted about in online articles due to the low clouds, I did get to see the waters rush like they have never rushed before in the area. In fact, John told me that in all the years he has lived and guided in the area, he has never experienced such a high volume of rushing water. This really was unique timing to be along the eastern side of South Africa.

Low clouds keeping scenic sites secret from visitors along the Panoramic Route


Blyde River Canyon


Blyde River running through the canyon

At over sixteen miles long and on average 2,500 feet high, Blyde River Canyon is one of the largest canyons on earth. Since it is found in a subtropical climate, it is often green with lush foliage and colorful wildflowers. The rock walls are a swirl of brown and orange. As I gazed upon the natural beauty of this canyon, I could not help but feel like I was standing in a painting. It really is a breathtaking beauty.


Treur River on right joins together with Blyde River on left

In Blyde River Canyon is Bourke’s Luck Potholes. Round “potholes” have been carved into the side of the rock from the many, many years of water swirling. Due to the volume of water rushing through this place, the potholes were difficult to see. But this is also the location where the Treur River joins with the Blyde River. In Afrikaans, Treur means “sorrow” or “sad” and Blyde means “joy” or “happy.” At this point, the “sad river” joins with the “happy river” and together they live happily ever after in unity.


Lisbon Falls and Bridal Veil Falls

The Panorama Route has a number of waterfalls along the way. Usually, the falls are mild with a relatively low line of water flowing over the edge. But with the constant rainfall for over a week or so, these waterfalls were flowing at high volume. I could feel the power in my feet and chest as the water thundered down the rock fronts to the bottom. The mist rose up the sides of the canyon in a thickness the local people had not experienced before. Even in the drizzling rain, the waterfalls were a sight to be seen.

Harrie’s Pancakes


South African Pancake

Before I get too far on the subject of Harrie’s Pancakes, I should really inform you about the difference in South Africa between pancakes and flapjacks. From what I could read online, the batter differs by a couple ingredients but I am a simple person who likes the gist of things. So for the gist of it, a flapjack is pretty much the same as a pancake or flapjack in America. A pancake is made with a similar batter but rolled with ingredients stuffed inside. I would venture to say it is the same concept as a crepe but thicker batter as the outer shell. Pancakes can come stuffed with sweet fillings like fruit, syrup, honey or chocolate but can also be filled with mince (ground beef), chicken, lamb, vegetables, cheese and more.


Harries’s Pancakes is a well-known stop along the Panorama Route and for good reason. After being in business for eighteen years, they know how to make the perfect pancakes. The restaurant will probably be packed when you arrive, so put your name on the list and feel free to wander to the shops and craft kiosks while you wait.


Even when the weather looks bad, make use of the time you have. Incorporate the rain into your adventure. You never know when the clouds will part just for a glimpse of sun to shine. You never know which sights will be more clear in the midst of a foggy day. You never know if animals will come out of hiding when normally they would not have on a hot, sunny day. And most times, your photos will turn out far more vibrant in cloudy conditions. Seize the moment and chase the adventure.

Laughing Waters Guesthouse

I am going to go ahead and call Laughing Waters Guesthouse in Hazyview, Mpumalanga, South Africa, a beautiful, unexpected miracle in my life. I only chose it because of the reasonable price and positive reviews found through Mark my words, if I ever get to go back to Hazyview, this will be the only place I stay because it was THAT wonderful.


Driving through the lemon tree groves

When I pulled up to the security gate, posted instructions said to call John or Heather for security code to enter. After receiving the pin code and punching it in, the gate opened to a whole new world. The drive from the gate was gorgeous as I slowly crept my way through the lemon tree farm. Rows and rows of not-quite-ripe, green fruit with the occasional early bloomer, yellow lemons lined the drive. As I neared the end of the lemon trees, a grove of macadamia nut trees carried on along the path until the second gate came into view. As the gate opened in front of me, so did the view to a large home nestled in an  exquisitely manicured garden. The entire drive from the main road simply took my breath away.



Once a farm house, now a guesthouse nestled in beautiful gardens.


Heather met me at the door to welcome me to Laughing Waters Guesthouse. Even though I was a bit early, she took it in stride and was prepared for my arrival. She gave me a tour of the house and showed me to my room. At one time, this was home to the farmer of the lemon trees and his family. He still owns the house today but stays in another home on the property, allowing this one to be used as a guesthouse. The home has only six bedrooms with an open, but covered area for dining. The large, spacious, common rooms offer plenty of breathing room, even when the Guesthouse is booked to capacity.

Heather escorted me to my room and made sure I was comfortable. She brought a carafe of fresh, homemade lemonade. It was, without a doubt, the best lemonade I have ever had. And then left me to adjust and get comfortable.

The room was newly renovated. It was simple, classy and elegant. I had access to the patio outside with a  view overlooking the garden and swimming pool. Plump, little greenish blue birds flitted and fluttered about in the flowers by my window, then landing on the window’s burglar bars to take a rest. Needless-to-say, the place was gorgeous.

Laughing Waters Guesthouse includes breakfast as most guesthouses do. A cold breakfast buffet is available as well as hot options. The omelet was delicious and made to order. One thing that sets Laughing Waters apart from other guesthouses is offering a dinner option. Hazyview is a small town with limited restaurant options. The next two towns are nearly an hour away and with the roads covered in deep potholes, many guests are hesitant to drive at night on roads they are not very familiar with. The chef is incredible. Every meal I ate was fantastic. She could easily have her own restaurant, and to think it is right at my fingertips was a delight.

As if the accommodations were not enough, Guesthouse managers, John and Heather, were fantastic. As soon as I entered the property, I felt calm and relaxed. They are laid back, easy-going and very knowledgeable. They look forward to chatting with their guests and never made me feel like I was interrupting them. They have combined experience of over forty years in the tourism and hospitality industry. John is also a tour guide in the area and is always happy to help you explore your interests of places to go and things to see. But their kindness does not stop at hospitality; They go above and beyond. While I was staying with them, through a series of confusing events, my credit card was shut down. While trying to deal with the run around that is the American call center, I ran out of minutes on my South African sim card and of course, the cell phone website was now having technical difficulties. Heather did not hesitate to hand over her own cell phone and let me use it for as long as I needed to in order to get things sorted. When I offered to give her Rand (South Africa’s currency) to offset the phone call, she would not take it. Then, while leaving Hazyview to head back to my friend in Krugersdorp, I blew a tire trying to avoid a pothole. You know how it goes, swerve to avoid a pothole and gash your tire on a huge rock. When I called Laughing Waters to see if John would be able to help me, he wasted no time to come help me change the tire…okay, okay I will be honest, I did not do anything. He changed the tire while I finished my coffee. Again, I offered to give compensation for his assistance and he would not take it. These two lovely people take customer service above and beyond. They were God blessed miracles in my journey.


Birds on burglar bars


I could have stayed at any guesthouse in the area, there are many. But I believe this guesthouse was specifically picked out for me for my time in Hazyview. Because of tropical storm Dineo, it rained every single day and yet I was provided with a place of comfortable rest with an evening dining option that all other guesthouses in the area do not provide. I had two major issues strike without warning – the credit card and blown tire. I was provided with the kindest of guesthouse managers who looked to help and did not want any compensation. That is a great blessing.

Psalm 145:1-7

Elephant Kisses

For simplicity sake, only two species of elephants exist in the world, the Asian elephant and the African elephant. From their classifications, I assume you can guess where each species originates from…either Asia or Africa.

Asian elephants are the smaller of the two species. Proportionally, they also have much smaller ears which are in the shape of a rough triangle with the point facing outward. Also, their skin often has a reddish hue to it. Only the male elephants grow tusks. Asian elephants tend to be more trainable and used for transportation or work like we would use oxen or horses.

In 2008 I visited Thailand on two separate occasions, six months apart. Each time, I had the opportunity to ride an elephant. The first time was a very tourist oriented facility with platforms to get on the elephant and padded bench seats to sit on as we trudged along well-worn paths. After the ride, the workers gave a demonstration of the amazing abilities the elephant possesses in terms of work, sport and memory. It was a nice introduction to the Asian elephant. My second encounter was through private elephant owners where we went to their village, climbed up the elephant’s shoulder to sit in a bamboo basket and roamed our way through an overgrown jungle. A man walked in front of the elephants swinging a machete to clear the overgrowth from the path. It was such a uniquely different experience from the first!

After my Thailand visits, I realized how much I loved elephants. When I thought back over my childhood, I remembered being interested in elephants and owned little elephant figurines. I had always loved elephants but had never realized it! When I learned about the Elephant Sanctuaries in South Africa, it was a “must-do.”

African elephants are different from Asian elephants. Typically they have enormous, dark grey bodies with larger ears, shaped like the continent of Africa. Both male and female elephants grow tusks. They are more temperamental than Asian elephants and are more difficult to domesticate.

African elephants – large, grey, big ears in the shape of Africa.

The Elephant Sanctuary has three different locations in South Africa. The Sanctuaries provide unwanted elephants who have already been domesticated elsewhere, a healthy and safe place to live. Because they are very social and have already been accustom to human interaction, the Sanctuary can offer a unique experience to curious visitors and satisfy the elephant’s needs. Depending on the visitor’s interest and budget, several experiences are available from “Trunk-in-Hand” (walking the elephant) to being an elephant keeper for a day. I opted to do Trunk-in-Hand and an Elephant Back Ride.

Elephant stalls

The Elephant Sanctuary in Hazyview, South Africa is the newest of the three facilities and currently houses only two elephants, Kasper and Kitso. Our time started off with seeing the stalls where Kasper and Kitso sleep. They look similar to a horse stall except a much larger space. Nothing too exciting to tell about it.

After the stalls, the guide shared information about the anatomy of the elephant. As we looked at an elephant skull, different holes were pointed out where the tusks would be, the ears and spine. Check out the photo of the elephant diagram, it is fascinating. Elephants only have one stomach unlike cattle which have four different stomach chambers. The heel has a large air pocket which actually pushes the elephant up on its toes, allowing it to walk rather quietly. The end of the trunk has a little “finger” which allows the elephant to pick up the smallest of items like nuts to feed itself. The trunk also inhales dirt or water just to be forcefully blown back out as sun protection or bathing. The tusks are used to fight, dig and even rip bark off trees which is why they vary in length. One tusk is usually shorter than the other based on the elephant’s preference – it is kind of like being left or right-handed. This animal is so incredible. No other animal in existence that has similar anatomy to the elephant!

After our classroom phase, we headed to the elephant experience. We were introduced to Kasper and Kitso by being given a large handful of pellets to feed them. As each elephant put his trunk out for the pellets, we were instructed to drop the entire handful in. We were all hesitant to drop so many pellets at one time, I think we were all worried about suffocating them!

Each person took a turn with the elephant keeper and one of the elephants to learn hands-on about them. We were able to touch the rough, one-inch thick skin. We poked the air pocketed heel. We petted the soft belly and grabbed the solid tail. We felt the beautiful, ivory tusks and peeked inside his mouth at the tongue and teeth. At the end of the demonstration, we all received a muddy kiss. Basically, the elephant puts his trunk on you and blows air through it. The trunk was a bit scratchy against the skin.

Then, we all had a chance to walk the elephant, “trunk-in-hand.” The walk was not very long but one really feels small when walking a few feet in front of a full size African elephant. The elephant keeper kept telling me I needed to walk faster. While elephants look like they mosey along, it is just an illusion to their size. I had to walk at a much quicker pace than I anticipated.

Last but certainly not least, came the elephant rides. We climbed a tower of stairs to board the back of the elephant with the elephant keeper. This experience was far different from the rides in Thailand because it was bareback. I did not have a cushy seat or anything to hold on to. I sat on the elephant’s spine as we went for a ten-minute stroll around the grounds. With each step, I was shifted to the right or the left. I had to hold my body core together to maintain balance giving a great abdominal workout! The ride was fairly uncomfortable so I was okay with only ten minutes. But what an experience.

If you visit South Africa and want to visit one of three locations, click on the website for the Elephant Sanctuary:

Of course other differences exist between the Asian and African elephants so feel free to do some googling if they interest you. Both species are very fascinating in their different biology, behavior and social interaction. Even if you visit a zoo, take note which type of elephant they have; You will start to see the differences quite quickly.

Kruger National Park

I debated bringing my good camera on this journey. I love my digital Canon SLR with additional lenses and filters, but trying to figure out how to carry without damaging it along with all my other belongings was a difficult puzzle I decided to not solve. So I chose to use my phone and just be happy with the results. The only thought I had was, “If I wind up in Africa on safari, I am going to wish I had it.” Boy was I right.

While my phone does a nice enough job, the zoom feature is lacking when I am trying to get a close shot of animals who blend in with the surroundings. I did the best I could and will only share the best photos of the lot. Thank you for your patience and understanding. Let this be a learning lesson. Always figure out a way to bring your best camera on big adventures.

That was my disclaimer. Now on to the good stuff: Kruger National Park.


Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in the entire continent of Africa. It spreads across more than 7,500 square miles (nearly 5 million acres) in the northeast corner of South Africa. According to Wikipedia, protection of this land dates back to 1898 and is now a UNESCO site.


In the previous blog, I shared that I was staying at the Sefapane Safari Lodge. In addition to accommodations, they also offer various activities. I signed up for the Evening Safari With Bush Braai through the lodge. A braai is the South African term for “grill-out” or “barbecue.”

Ten of us loaded up into the lodge’s safari vehicle. Since I forgotimages-1 to take my own photo of the truck, I borrowed this photo from Sefapane Safari Lodge’s site.

We set out on a five hour adventure into Kruger National Park in hopes of seeing animals, birds and beautiful scenery.


With Tropical Storm Dineo expecting to hit the Mozambique coast, rain was in the forecast starting the evening we went on our safari. We were all hoping the rain would hold off until after it was complete. It did hold off until much later that night but we did experience some strong wind at points along the way.

Warthog in center of path

From the lodge, we drove about five minutes to one of nine entrance gates to Kruger National Park, the Phalaborwa Gate. Once we passed the gate-keeper, we cautiously bumped our way down the deeply potholed and pitted dirt path into the park. Within minutes, a large, female warthog welcomed us. The first animal sighting is always exciting!


As we slowly drove along the fence line toward another safety gate, large amounts of heavy-duty vehicles, machinery and earth piles came into view on the other side. Separated by only an electric fence stands an operating copper mine. South Africa is incredibly rich in natural resources and minerals like copper, gold, diamonds, granite, platinum, and the list goes on. This particular operation in Phalaborwa is now owned by a Chinese company. It felt a bit strange to be looking for animals in their “natural habitat” with mining operations going on just a stone’s throw away. But, it is just an example of the way things work sometimes in South Africa.

On any African Safari, we are always on the lookout for “The Big Five.” The Big Five was a phrase coined by hunters to reference the five most difficult animals to hunt on foot. The term stuck and transferred over to the safari world as well. The Big Five include: African Elephant, African Lion, African Leopard, Cape Buffalo and Rhinoceros. While Kruger National Park is home to all five, the chances of seeing them all in one game drive are unlikely as the African Leopard and Rhinoceros are rare sightings on their own.

After passing through the security gate, we headed deeper into the park. Beautifully colored birds darted around our safari vehicle through the thick, lush foliage. As we came to a “T” in the road, a gasp was heard. Immediately to our right was an African Leopard. I do not think anyone the in the vehicle was able to catch a photo because of how quickly it moved back into the overgrowth but we all caught a glimpse of the spots. What glorious spots they were. The leopard is among the most difficult to spot while on safari because they are nocturnal (typically active at night). In fact, the rest of my immediate family have been on numerous game drives and have never seen a leopard. This was a very special sighting. Even after the spots were gone, we all sat in silence hoping it would reappear but it never did.

We continued on down the jerky, uneven paths. We saw impala by the herds, feeding with their young. Cape Buffalo (one of The Big Five) were spotted in the shade under the trees, always with the Oxpecker bird on their back. Monkeys darted around just behind the first layer of trees – easy enough to see but not photograph. And then, the giraffe was spotted.

Just a baby. A curious baby, male giraffe happened upon the right hand side of the vehicle. We sat quietly looking at it, as it looked at us. The thought of “If the baby is here, the mama must be near,” gnawed the back of our minds. And then, she appeared. He was on our right and she stood at the end of the trail in front of us, watching. Giraffe’s are mild, timid, curious creatures. They do not often make sudden or defensive movements. They watch. They look. They listen. They wait. The baby waited. The mother waited. We waited. Who was going to move first? Finally, mama giraffe made the first move, cutting through the growth to get to her baby. We crawled forward at a snail’s pace to watch but also to let her know we are not a threat. I never see enough of the giraffe. They are such a unique animal; No other animal with similar look or characteristics. I could see a hundred of them and still be intrigued.

As we crested a hill, the most beautiful, unexpected river came into view. The largest of the water sources running through Kruger National Park, Olifants (Afrikaan’s for “Elephants”) River runs north to south, through Mozambique, eventually emptying out in the Indian Ocean. The view was breathtaking. Impala fed upon the grass around the river. Waterbuck wandered in the muddy  sandbars. From beyond the banks, we could hear the grunting of the hippos making their presence known. From where we sat, they looked like boulders out the water. Just a glance through binoculars and one can see the hippos staring at our safari vehicle, alert to the new arrival.

We drove a bit further and took a break along some river rocks and boulders. As the sun was starting to set, the clouds took on beautifully muted shades of pink and orange. We had just enough time for a beverage, snacks and a deep breath of appreciation, all the while hearing the hippos grunting in the background.

We ended our evening with a Bush Braai. A table was set, lit up by lanterns for a fabulous braai (grill-out). Several salads, chicken kebab, steak and more awaited our arrival and a glass of wine topped it off. Such a great way to end our safari.



As we drove our way back toward the gate along the bumpy dirt paths, handheld spotlights illuminated  the wilderness, always looking for more animals. We were delighted to have one more encounter with Cape Buffalo in the middle of the road.

It was uncommon for us to not see any elephants or zebras. Although we were not given any exact reason as to why they were not present, I am guessing Tropical Storm Dineo has something to do with it. Elephants are extremely sensitive to changing weather conditions. I am guessing they made their way to a safe place. But again, that is my own speculation.

The rain started to fall only a couple of hours after our return to Sefapane Lodge and then again the entire next day. I am glad I took the opportunity for the Kruger National Park game drive while it was available!



Psalm 91:2