Category Archives: Misc

THE SAGA CONTINUES AND…..CONCLUDES….COINCIDENCE?

The phone was lost on Friday; we bought a new one on Sunday afternoon; and by Wednesday we had put the whole experience behind us and were happily exploring Boysen Reservoir. This reservoir stretches in a north-south direction between Shoshoni on the south end and Thermopolis on the north end with the spectacular Wind River Canyon joining them. Mike wanted to see as much of the reservoir as was possible, the roads around it, and any potential camping spots we might be able to pull our fifth wheel trailer into.

We started on the west side of the reservoir, heading in the direction of Lake Cameahwait which is very close to Boysen reservoir…you can see the reservoir when you drive into the lake. This time though, instead of turning right onto the road to Cameahwait we went straight…the road was paved for a lot of the way but eventually turned into a well graded gravel road. We stopped often and turned into every side road we saw to explore….beautiful and remote-feeling.

Eventually the gravel road (turned out it was a loop road) became pavement again. Continuing along, we drove directly past the spot where we had gone fishing and kayaking exactly 7 days prior! No sooner had we passed “THE SPOT” and noted the absence of the fishermen and their fifth wheel trailers, than my phone, the new one that is, started to ring. It was a woman asking to speak to “Michael.” I put it on speaker and it turned out to be “Heather” calling from the Verizon store in Thermopolis to tell us that she had our phone!!!! We were gob-smacked….astounded….amazed…..couldn’t believe it…..asking each other “Now What?” COINCIDENCE? I always have believed there are no coincidences but this???? Hearing it had been found when we were in almost exactly the same spot we’d lost it???

At that point, we were near the south end of the reservoir, heading around to the east side where there are a lot more campgrounds to check out. We were already half way to Thermopolis so we headed directly there, deciding to investigate all the campgrounds on the return trip.

Arriving in Thermopolis, we located the Verizon store and met Heather who turned the phone over to us. Oh how we wished that phone could talk!!! She told us that the phone had been turned in by their ‘mail lady’ whose husband had found it floating not in Lake Cameahwait but at “Tough Creek” (Boysen Reservoir). Floating….probably it had been; close….but not where we’d been fishing and kayaking. It had been turned in a few days prior and Heather said she’d kept waiting for someone to call for it. We’d checked Shoshoni, Riverton, and Lander but hadn’t considered Thermopolis! She’d finally looked up the ID# on the back of the phone and had seen it belonged to us and called us. All the way back, we conjectured about what had happened because the facts didn’t match but finally, knowing we’d never get an answer, we stopped “scenario-izing” and simply were grateful for getting the phone back. That gratitude was amplified tenfold when we were informed by Heather that we would be able to return the new iPhone we’d purchased.

A huge thank-you goes out to the Verizon staff in Riverton, Lander and Thermololis who were so helpful; to Verizon, the company; to the fisherman who found the phone and to his wife who returned it to the Verizon store!

GRANSTAFF CAMPGROUND…A SPECTACULAR SITE!

This past week we have been staying at Granstaff Campground, about 5 miles up the canyon along HWY 128, from Moab. I had to include some of the pics we’ve taken. The first few days were cloudy…no sunrises or sunsets until the past few days.

We’ve taken pics from above….

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….from the water…..

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….from our windows…..

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….in the evening…..

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….at night when they lit up the cliffs for the ‘river-going-canyon-watchers’….

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…and inside eating dinner!

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Schwabenweg – Jacobsweg Day 0.5

Finally, the day arrives….World Here I come
The first travel of the Camino… Switzerland… so long in the planning and preparation…. from making lists of things to take;  crossing off items with a dubious weight – to – utility ratio… (we have to carry EVERYTHING  we need on our backs) … we weighed every possible item right down to tooth brushes… packed only one deodorant & one tube (mini – sized) of toothpaste. I scrounged light – weight cases for my glasses… It was all about being able to enjoy the  walk without feeling like a pack animal…

We tried a number of ‘trial’ packs, each time eliminating items.  Once, I took the pack to the treadmill and walked 5 km at a 6% grade,… just to see how it felt. But, my real concern was for Tilly … her hip and then back was giving her problems (aches and pains) off and on … could she ( and me too) withstand the rigors of a 100km walk over a 6 day span? For the last 6 months we had seen two different doctors… a couple of physiotherapists … finally, three days before we were to leave, we went to a chiropractor who in one session eliminated the pain – at least temporarily… more we hope.

This next 6 days will tell … whether Till’s back/hips/feet and my feet also can handle the hiking. I’m hopeful. But it is not the physicality that worries me it is the mentality… do we have the will to struggle a bit, suffer a little and still find the joys of the journey. After all, we had not “trained” as hard as we might have and maybe  should have. Outwardly optimistic, I harbor a few minor doubts…

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After two flights, a train ride and a short 2 km walk (in total –  19 hours of continuous travel) we arrive at our first lodging – the Hotel Trompeterschlössle… 2 meters from the German border…WWII era concrete posts for a border fence still existing – there is still fencing but not chainlink or razor wire… just waist high residential fencing. Other than an empty border control building in the middle of the road you would never know you were crossing an international border. Sadly, I remember a time when the US  and Canadian border was almost as easy to cross…

We are tempted to fall onto our bed and crash for the night, but decide to explore in hopes of finding the Kathedral of Konstanz our guide book said was the starting point for the Jakobsweg.…. Google, Google Maps, iPhone maps were of little use.. the Kathedral of Konstanz would not be found….. Using  the map our host had given us, we managed to find The Basilika Unsere Liebe Frau Konstanz.. Only after Tilly asked the woman behind information counter if the Basilika was also known as the Kathedral of Konstanz did we confirm our starting point.

Better though,  is our discovery that the opening parade for Oktoberfest is forming up right outside in front of the Kathedral.

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After a brief look around we hurry out to sit, have a beer/wine and watch various traditionally dressed bands march, drum and play their way out of the Kathedral square after consuming copious amounts of the freely flowing beer.

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I had always  thought Oktoberfest was celebrated throughout the month of October. I/we did not know that it began the evening of the 18th of September and continued for two weeks until October 4. I like it… the Germans complete a month of  beer consumption in two weeks … fast track honest debauchery.

I consider that there might be a  conflict between the purpose of our journey… the walking of a sacred pilgrim path… and celebrating Oktoberfest But,  it all fits. We are here to experience the pilgrims path and the culture of the region.

Visit to Himba Village

Day 12 Dec. 24 Wednesday
We both slept well last night but woke up feeling tired and just a bit abnormal; nervous, anxious, no appetite …. but didn’t give it much thought. I had been highly anticipating this day – a visit to one of the villages of the Himba, a “semi-nomadic tribe living in scattered settlements……whose women are noted for their unusual beauty and intricate hairstyles and traditional dress…..they rub their skins with dark red ochre….” (notes taken from Kiboko’s notes). Our crew told us that they typically will shop for food for the village being visited as a sign of respect and gratitude for allowing us a glimpse into their lives. In addition, we collected more money from each of group members to add to the pot and ended up with lots of groceries ….. big bags of their staple, maize, and oil and …… I am unable to remember what else we bought. We also picked up a Himba guide who spoke some English and who was to be our translator in the village.

When we were finally ready to go, groceries packed into the ttruck, guide already in narrative mode, I started to feel sick and had to stop the bus, thinking I was going to start with what Mike had. There was absolutely no way I was going to sit on the bus and go through what he had the day before so when the offer was made to drive me back to camp, I accepted. I missed the visit but dear Claire took my iPhone and took some pictures for me …. and here they are.

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Mikal’s point of view:

Woke up feeling much improved … Compared to yesterday I would say resurrected would not be too exaggerated. 

Today was to be a visit to a Himba village… But on the drive Tilly started feeling symptoms similar to how I began yesterday… at least she had a choice to return to camp … Which we did… 

Tilly wanted me to go with the rest of the group but NO WAY was I leaving her  after the care she took for me. 

At least she didn’t suffer the indignities of puking and shitting roadside…

 

I never did get sick the way Mike did …. just some extreme nausea but after resting in the tent until everyone came back, we were both more or less back to normal and with the others, trooped over to the lodge for an afternoon of poolside R & R.

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It was Christmas Eve  and we had planned an evening of “Secret Santa”and so, after a relaxing afternoon, we headed back to camp to decorate  our tree, wrap the presents and stash them in the tree. We poured wine and ate sparingly of the nuts and chips on offer while we entertained each other with Secret Santa antics. Dumi, Richard and Mandhla had never played it before so it was just that much more fun. They had prepared a Christmas dinner of gammon (pork), corn on the cob and a cheese bake. We didn’t eat much but what we did eat was very fine!!

Richard told us a Christmas story about growing up with very little money …. so little that they had only bread and peanut butter for their Christmas dinner! How fortunate were we this Christmas?

Into Himba Country; Opuwo Country Lodge 550 km

Day 11 Dec. 23 Tuesday
This was the day I was convinced that Mike had contracted Ebola!!!

The day began perfectly. Mike had set his alarm for 5 am so he could climb Spitzkoppe in time to photograph the sunrise. Much to the surprise of both of us, I managed to wake myself up enough to join him on the mountain. It was truly spectacular . . . . from almost completely dark to the first lightening of the sky to the full splendor of the newly awakened sun casting its rays on the surrounding rocks.

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As we were leaving Spitzkoppe, we found a cave. Richard told us that tribe members will go to a cave like that with a candle and some medicine from the local shaman and will spend ‘alone’ time there, meditating. . . . communing with the spirit world . . . . time spent in prayer and ritual.

We were enroute to our next 2 nights in Kaololand, reputedly one of the most remote, harsh environments in Namibia. It was also one of the longest days in terms of the number of kilometers we were to cover. In Opuwo, our final destination and where we would stay for 2 nights,  we had a visit planned with the Himba people. It was one of the things I was most eagerly anticipating.

The first part of jelephant signourney took us through Damaraland, the north-central part of Namibia. The Damara people who live here are an ethnic group making up 8.5% of Namibia’s population (thank you Kiboko for those facts and figures). We had been informed in our pre-trip information that the terrain here is rugged, consisting of mountains interspersed with gravel plains and hot, sandy valleys. We entered elephant country and started to see numerous  “caution elephants”  road signs. We never did see any at this point. The road was rough and by 830 am,  Mike became violently sick.

Dumi barely had time to stop the bus. Initially, I thought Mike was sick from the combination of cough medicine, wine the night before and the rough road, but as the day progressed, Mike went from bad to worse. From 830 am until late afternoon, he was sick, both ends trying to clear his system of whatever had disturbed it so viciously. Every hour we had to stop the bus. It got so that I dreaded any change in the motion of the bus. Every time the bus slowed down, panic-stricken, I would grab the roll of tissue and a plastic bag and support Mike out the door to his new favorite spot by the rear wheel. By afternoon, he could no longer stand up or support himself . . . Dumi and Richard had to help him or he would fall. Meanwhile, we were in the middle of nowhere in “one of the most rugged, inhospitable regions of Namibia”. Trust Mike to choose this day to be sick.

Mikal’s point of view:

Today was the shits, literally. It was both the longest drive of the trip and the roughest road too. We started out as usual but the road was very much rougher than I thought it would be which would have been bad enough… but I caught a bug ( besides single handedly downing an entire bottle of red wine last night.. incredibly STUPID!) and after about an hour of bouncing I was sick … Out of the bus and spewing from both ends….

Memories  of the rest of the day are nothing but a blur because from that point on I had to stop every 30-45 minutes to be sick… again and again and again…

I had lots of time to think and worry on this worst of all days. I thought back to when we entered South Africa at the Cape town airport and being ordered to “go this way if you have been in an Ebola infected country”. But there didn’t seem to be any enforcement of that order that I could remember seeing. When we entered the country, Ebola was the least of my worries . . . I didn’t give Ebola a second thought, my mind being much more occupied with the adventure about to begin. I did, however, think to myself as I was going down some stairs, my hand resting on the bannister, that I must be sure to use my hand sanitizer. Of course I forgot. I had never ever seen Michael so sick before – I started to think maybe ???? Especially since all of us on the trip had been eating the same foods . . . he was the only one who got sick.

The rough roads not only created a problem for Mike bus also for the bus . . . a problem with a brake line. Fairly early on, we stopped at the side of the road for the crew to try a patch job until we got to the nearest service station. A short distance up the road stood a rustic stand operated by three Damara women and their children selling handicrafts they had made. We decided to shop while we stopped. Not for long . . .  no sooner had I started to look then ….  I followed Mike into the bushes again.

 

Mikal’s point of view:

Dehydrated & extremely weak, I had Tilly very worried to the point she was thinking “Ebola?”. I  even had to be helped to the bathroom by Dumi …too weak to walk a straight line.

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We finally found the proverbial service station. We were deposited at a local, enclosed camp/resort spot where we had lunch and where we put Mike on a mat, in the shade to rest. These flowers were a small bright spot during this short stop.  So vivid! We waited for about an hour or so for the truck to be repaired and then, once again, we were under way.

I have to commend Dumi, Richard and Mandhla. They handled the situation superbly,  panic – free (I was doing that for all of us!!), but steady and helpful. Mike had by this time lost all of his bodily fluids. Dumi made him a concoction of  water, sugar and salt and Mike tried to keep it down.

Mikal’s point of view:

The crew – Dumi, Richard, Mandla were phenomenal in their care for me.They concocted  a homemade re-hydration salt/sugar solution… (1 teaspoon salt to 7 teaspoons sugar per liter). Getting it down my throat was easy… keeping it down? … We stopped every 30-45 minutes for me to be sick… again and again and again…

Our fellow travelers were incredible also, being supportive of Tilly and understanding of my situation by NOT taking a video for YOUtube posting later.

At this point, you’d think it couldn’t get any worse. It did. Mike just couldn’t get comfortable. After some discussion, it was decided he might be more comfortable in the cab of the truck, beside Dumi, who was driving.  All of a sudden, the brakes went on. There was a commotion in the front seat. I leaped out of my seat, and just as I got to the window and able to see Mike, I saw him having a seizure. He had thrown up again (thank heavens there wasn’t much left by this time). The seizure was very short – only a few moments. We quickly got him out – the nether region was also excreting. Mike told us that he thought maybe he was too hot but too incapacitated to say anything – basically I think he lost consciousness. Little did we know the sun had been shining on him full blast, through his open window, so on top of whatever bug he had, we had inadvertently caused him to have heat stroke too. We soaked everything we could find in water and laid him on the floor of the bus where he stayed for the duration of the trip. Once we got him cooled off, he started to rally and I started to hope that maybe the worst was over. Thank heavens we were finally on a paved road.

Finally, after a stop at the ‘already closed’ medical clinic, we arrived in Opuwo, at the Opuwo Country Lodge. Our tent was the priority that evening (it was already 7pm). We were already much later than planned with the numerous stops for Mike and the longer stop for truck repair. I think we were all exhausted. We showered, washed clothes, ate dinner and headed off to our respective tents.

Spitzkoppe Bush Camp 100 km

Day 10 Dec. 22 Monday
Much as we loved camping and were happy and content in our tent, we certainly appreciated ‘real beds’. We woke up early, washed and hung the rest of our clothes and went for the breakfast included in our guesthouse stay. We both had a continental breakfast and coffee. Knowing that shopping was on our agenda and that we only had until noon, we packed up as much as possible and headed towards the shopping area a few blocks away.

The previous day, we had decided we would celebrate Christmas Eve by doing the ‘Secret Santa’ game that some of us had done so many times in Christmases past. When consulted as to the best day to do this, either the 24th or the 25th, Dumi, Richard and Mandhla  enthusiastically agreed to participate and that in terms of our travel plans, campsites, and mileages, the 24th would be the best day. That meant we had to find some secret Santa gifts. Of course, we were looking for grand baby gifts too – you never know if the grand baby might turn out to be as much of a gypsy as Mike and I. The Bush Babies were still slumbering after their night on the town so Rhea decided to join us on our shopping spree.

We discovered to our delight, that Swakopmund is a really ‘tourist friendly’  little town with lots of great shopping. I bought a travel mug and a fly swatter for my secret Santa gift; Mike bought a set of plastic wine glasses for his gift and we found a small present for the ‘baby’. Some mosquito repellent cream, sunscreen and Advil cold and flu meds completed the shopping list. We returned  to the guesthouse to pack and put things away, buy water for 2 days and have lunch. Lunch was a Greek salad, bread and melon.

From Swakopmund we made our way north along the coast. The ocean was in view the whole way , miles and miles of sand, surf, and sea.

We even dipped our feet in the Atlantic Ocean. We stopped to see a ship wreck and just had to test the waters.

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The Zeila, a fishing trawler, being towed as scrap metal to India in 2008, came loose from its towing cable, becoming one of the many ships which, over the years, have become stranded on ‘the Skeleton Coast’.

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We all were fascinated not only by the ship but also by the waves crashing onto the shore, and the fishermen further up the coast. The Atlantic at its best!

 

 

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We were making our way to the one and only remote ‘bush camp’ of the trip, a place called ‘Spitzkoppe’, translated as “sharp head”, nicknamed “The Matterhorn of Africa”. It’s one of Namibia’s most recognizable landmarks and as you will see from the pictures, absolutely stunning. This was by far our favorite part of the trip.

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This is what it looked like from afar.

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As we got closer and closer, we started to get an idea of the grandeur and size of these Spitkoppe Mountains.

 

 

 

 

We arrived at our remote, “only place with a long-drop toilet” campsite. Our crew got busy organizing our camp; we got busy exploring. First, the camp.

bcd1This is Richard setting up the first of our tents, always checking for shade and comfort. In the foreground you can see the acacia tree with its many weaver bird nests.

Below – the long-drop toilet! In the shade, no less!bcd2  bcd3

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Our bush camp with the mountains as the backdrop. Absolutely spectacular!

 

 

After exploring the camp and getting things ready for the evening routine, we set off to scramble around on the mountains.

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These big huge boulders were easy to climb up but higher than they appeared and very steep coming down.

Below left, Mike & Jan “getting to the top”, right, the ‘Bush-babies’.

 

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Next, we had a 2 hour walking tour scheduled with a local Damara guide who showed us the bushman paintings done with blood and ‘something something’, a bottle tree and finally ‘the bridge’.

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We made it to the top, right into the arch from where took a picture down, at Jan’s suggestion, of our shadows!

 

 

We continued our walk through the boulders and surrounding grasslands.

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The sun was starting to set so up the mountain for sunset we went, each of us with a bottle of red or white in our arms. What a sunset and what a party! We all made it back down safely, believe it or not!!

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This is what our camp looked like in the evening. By the time we got down it was quite dark and our dinner was waiting for us.

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We had a dinner of fish (Snooke I think it was called, cooked in foil over the fire), an African version of scalloped potatoes, a rice dish, wine, all accompanied with lots of laughs and good conversation. In this remote area without the reflection of lights, the display of stars overhead was brilliant. Mike stayed sitting outside for a long time, fascinated by stars, satellites, and shooting stars.