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Africa/Middle East

Malawi Misadventures & the Magnificent “Lake of Stars”

Posted by on Jan 31, 2014 | 4 comments

Malawi Misadventures & the Magnificent “Lake of Stars”

“If we hit a goat, we don’t leave it behind, we take it. It’s good meat.” said my driver, Jacob, as he halfheartedly slowed to avoid a smattering of languid goats along the dark and deserted (of cars, anyway) road from the airport in Lilongwe to my hotel on Lake Malawi. It was after midnight now, so at this point I’d known Jacob for about an hour which suddenly seemed like not long enough.

We’d gotten off to a bit of a rocky start at the airport in Malawi and now I was mildly alarmed that he’d just seriously floated the idea of loading a dead goat into the back seat with me. But before I move on to my exciting drive from the airport on my first night in Malawi, let’s back up to how I got here…

From Durban, getting to Malawi required more work than it should have. My Round-the-World ticket had last left me off in Johannesburg 2 ½ weeks ago and now it was time catch up to it. I flew from Durban to Johannesburg and then had to connect again in Nairobi to reach Lilongwe, Malawi.

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Cruising to Mozambique on the MSC Opera

Posted by on Jan 29, 2014 | 2 comments

Cruising to Mozambique on the MSC Opera

For my second cruise with MSC in as many weeks, I was headed up the eastern coast of South Africa bound for Mozambique. Like Namibia, Mozambique was a country that I hoped to visit while exploring southern Africa but the logistics of getting there and deciding where to stay were complex.

So when I discovered that MSC had several cruise itineraries from Durban that visited Mozambique, it was a no-brainer. I had originally planned to do a cruise that included both Madagascar and Mozambique but couldn’t work out the dates for that sailing with the rest of my itinerary so I settled for the MSC Opera’s sailing that called at the capital city of Maputo and made a second stop on the uninhabited sands of Portuguese Island.

For nearly 200 years after Vasco da Gama landed at Mozambique Island en route to India in 1498, the Portuguese ran trading posts along the coast of what they called Portuguese East Africa. In the centuries that followed, the gold trade turned to the ivory trade and by the end of the 18th century, both had been replaced by the slave trade. Nearly a million Africans were sold into slavery through Mozambique’s ports making it a major center of the African slave trade.

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Lesotho & the Sani Pass: A 4-Wheel-Drive Adventure to the Kingdom in the Sky

Posted by on Jan 24, 2014 | 0 comments

Lesotho & the Sani Pass: A 4-Wheel-Drive Adventure to the Kingdom in the Sky

It’s the world’s highest-altitude nation where even the “lowlands” sit at a dizzying 4,500ft above sea level earning it the nickname, the Kingdom in the Sky. Though Lesotho is surrounded on all sides by South Africa, its defensible position in the mountains and a determined people kept it independent through the decades of apartheid. While tiny Lesotho is one of Africa’s poorest nations, this alpine mountain kingdom just might be one of the continent’s most underrated travel destinations.

Easily accessible from Durban or Johannesburg (as long as you have a 4×4, that is), Lesotho’s highest peak tops 11,400 feet, the highest in all of Southern Africa (topped on the continent only by Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro).

I didn’t have much planned for my two nights in Durban before the Mozambique cruise but the one thing I was dying to do was visit Lesotho and the Drakensberg Mountains via the legendary Sani Pass. While spending the night in Lesotho was recommended due to the travel distance from Durban, day trips were available if you were willing to start early as the roundtrip drive takes about 12 hours.

I only had one full day to go but unfortunately it was a Sunday when no regularly scheduled trips were available. So, in the end I had to stomach the cost of a private trip (which meant paying for 2 people) if I wanted to go. I just hoped it would be worth it.

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The Township Legacy of Cape Town

Posted by on Jan 22, 2014 | 0 comments

The Township Legacy of Cape Town

Cape Town, South Africa…I loved it so much on Round the World #1, I went back for more on Round the World #2. But it had been more than 6 years since my last visit and I was long overdue for a return to one of the world’s most stunning cities.

I had two days before my cruise to Namibia and one day after to enjoy all that Cape Town had to offer. After spending my first night settling in at the Westin, the next day I headed over to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront area (an easy walk from the hotel) for lunch and a little shopping.

The V&A (as the locals call it) is a working harbor and its importance dates back to the Cape Colony of the 1800’s. Safe shipping was essential for the budding colony and the first load of stone for the harbor breakwater was tipped by none other than Prince Alfred – second son of Queen Victoria.

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Cruising to Walvis Bay Namibia: USA, Party of One (Are Americans Missing the Boat?)

Posted by on Jan 20, 2014 | 0 comments

Cruising to Walvis Bay Namibia: USA, Party of One (Are Americans Missing the Boat?)

It’s the only place on the planet where the dunes of the world’s oldest desert meet the crashing Atlantic surf; a German colonial legacy set against a lunar landscape. It’s Namibia…and no journey through Southern Africa would be complete without a visit.

Namibia has been on my list ever since Matt Lauer stopped there a few years ago on “Where in the World is Matt Lauer.” I know, I know, I seem to get a lot of my travel inspiration from Matt and it doesn’t always pan out (see Seychelles), but watching him explore those incredible dunes in the Namib Desert was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and I just had to see it for myself.

Since Africa was a major focus for this year’s RTW, I figured there was no better time to add Namibia to the itinerary. After a little research I realized that I couldn’t get to the major airport, Windhoek, on Skyteam so I would need a separate flight (outside my RTW ticket) if I flew. But even if I did book a flight to Windhoek, it appeared that the places I would actually want to visit were hours away and driving on your own was roundly discouraged. I needed a better plan.

Enter, MSC Cruise Lines.

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Off the Grid in the Kingdom of Swaziland

Posted by on Jan 13, 2014 | 0 comments

Off the Grid in the Kingdom of Swaziland

Where in the world is Swaziland?” said pretty much everyone I know when I rattled it off between Paris and Cape Town on the Round-the-World #9 itinerary. Sandwiched between South Africa and Mozambique, the tiny nation of Swaziland has been independent since 1968. Known for its natural beauty and friendly people, I decided no 3-week trip around southern Africa could be complete without at least a brief stopover.

But first, a recap of how I got to Africa’s last remaining monarchy…

When last I left off, I was boarding the world’s largest aircraft, the Airbus 380, in Paris. Now, flying on the A380 is awesome, it’s just a behemoth. Unfortunately, loading and unloading that behemoth takes about twice as long as any other plane. As a result we departed Paris late and a comfortable ninety minute connection in Johannesburg turned into a mad dash through yet another airport. Luckily, my flight to Manzini, Swaziland was an international connection, meaning I didn’t have to clear customs in Jo’burg. Both times I’d connected here before I’d been headed to Cape Town (a domestic connection) and had to wait in long immigration lines before heading to my gate.

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