Africa February 2015- Part 4

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I like to have a mix of culture and relaxation when I take longer trips. I normally go to Europe for 4 or 5 days and I end up running around the entire time.  10 days of running around is just too much for me. So I decided to head to Mauritius for some relaxation after the cultural portion of my trip.

Mauritius is a island in the Indian Ocean, located off the east coast of Madagascar.

FullSizeRenderWhy would an American from Chicago go to Mauritius for holiday? Simple, there was a direct flight from Johannesburg and a Hilton. I could not have asked for a better location.

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The Hilton Mauritius in Flic En Flac was amazing!!  It was exactly what I needed. I was able to relax, in fact I did not touch my laptop for the 5 days I was there.  My room was located right near the ocean. When I checked in I was told I was upgraded to an oceanfront room. Well I went to check out my view, it was ocean alright, with a side of nude sunbathers.  Turns out, the beach is not nude, just these 2 older women decided it was for them. Lucky for me they moved the next day.

I had one activity free day, so I parked myself at the adult only infinity pool. It was amazing. The best part? The hotel staff made sure it stayed adult only.

IMG_3533I had signed up to walk with Lions over at Casela Park. It sounds scary then it was. The only problem? Apparently I am allergic to lions. I was also able to have an interaction with some cheetahs, more like I posed for pictures and they just laid there. But it was a great place to spend a day while on holiday.

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I also did a city tour of Port Louis and learned a bit about the Mauritian history. The tour included some shopping near the waterfront. It was raining so hard, I am pretty sure it was upside down at one point, so I have minimal photos. Normally I try to find some fun local items to purchase, but the only purchase that day was a umbrella.

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I had a memorable time in Mauritius. I made several new friends, in true Flo fashion. But then I had to begin my 36 hour trek home…… Mauritius to Johannesburg to Munich to Toronto to Chicago.

I would definitely go back, because I just realized I can do a different routing, like go through Paris or Frankfurt. As you can probably  already tell, I had a great time just relaxing, hence the short blog posts.

But don’t worry more adventures await! Upcoming trips include, Paris, Dallas, London and Australia………….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Africa February 2015- Part 3

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Have you heard of the 4 corners? It’s a region in the southwest of the United States where Colorado, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico meet. The Africa continent has something similar. Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia. So someone trying to get passport stamps, could easily visit 4 countries in 1 day. I only managed to get stamps from Zimbabwe and Botswana. I guess I have a good excuse to go back.

Since it was Valentine’s Day, I thought what better way to spend the evening than a romantic river cruise along the Zambezi River with some hippos. The hippos seems somewhat happy to see me, or so it appeared.

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The next day I headed to Chobe National Park in Botswana.  This was my 3rd safari and hands down the best park, so far. Chobe has the highest concentration of elephants in the world.  Unfortunate for me, there was quite a significant rain the night before, so the elephants were enjoying the puddles.  I did manage to see a few and well some other animals as well.

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If ever I had the opportunity to return, I will.  The park was just amazing, I wish I had spent more time here. I hear the best time to visit is August/September, maybe I should add it to list for my birthday party in 2016.

The next day I headed over to Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe side. I messed up with my visa, so I did not go over to the Zambia side.

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It was quite magical. I had gone early in the morning and practically had the place to myself.  Of course that ONE tourist was there. You know the one that really thought he had the place to himself, and gave no regard to the others that were there trying to take pictures.

You really only need a few days in the Falls, unless you plan to partake in the various activities. Since I had seen the Falls, it was time to move on. I had an afternoon flight back to Johannesburg.

Due to flight schedules, I ended up spending the night. Lucky for me, there was a Hyatt.  It was a quick train ride to the hotel. I figured I would pretend to get some work done in the lounge.  Part of the reason I love staying at Hilton’s and Hyatt’s worldwide is the executive lounges. Sometimes you just don’t want to be sitting in your hotel room.

So I was quietly attempting to work while drinking some wine, when the lounge attendant asked me something, and it became quite clear that I am American.  The man, sitting the table over, heard me speak and come over to me and said ” I just want to warn you, I am going to jump you”.  WHAT? I said “Excuse me?” He said ” Well it’s just that I get excited when I see blacks that are not from South Africa and I just want to jump them”.  I think he meant he wanted to talk?  I should have run away at this point.  I guess he was sort of serious about the whole “jumping” business, but thankfully the Hyatt staff working the lounge that night were amazing.

The next day I had my 6th flight, yes flight number 6 to Mauritius.

More details to follow…….

 

 

 

Africa February 2015- Part 2

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Once I was finally able to sort out all the travel details, like flights, hotels and tours, it was time for next stage of planning, packing.

A good lesson I learned on my 2nd trip to Africa, bring clothes that I may no longer need and just donate them. This will help lighten your load as your travel or make room for souvenirs. Due to the fact that I had 10 flights, my goal to stick with a carry-on bag. Once it was determined I would be going to Zimbabwe, I checked out the Pack for A Purpose page. Luckily the resort I was staying at was accepting donations for a local organization.  The US Soccer Foundation has a Passback program, in which they will send you soccer balls to bring to various organizations around the world.  I had requested the soccer balls and promptly forgot.

I managed to get my bags packed the weekend before I left. It was a tight squeeze, but I knew that I would be shedding as the days when on. Well 2 days before I left, I found the box of soccer balls on my front step.

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Oops… Well I am creative packer, but no amount of creativity was going to make those balls fight in my carry-on. So plan B. Check a bag. 3 airlines, 4 flights? Normally that would be a no, but the alternative was to not take the donations. So I put my faith in the airlines gods. And boy was I surprised. I actually had quite the experience trying to check in for my first flight. I was actually quite disappointed how I was treated by the first United agent I encountered. It was really a case of ” I just can’t be bothered to help you”. I mistakenly thought by calling United to confirm that I could check my bag thru would be sufficient, silly me. Given my 4 flights on 3 airlines, was just too much for this agent. He insisted that I had to contact each “operating” carrier to get my reservation number. Never mind that United has issued the ticket and therefore my reservation number was in my reservation. He just did not have access to that information. Really I do it’s on app…..

So yes, the start of my trip was just going great. I was sent over to Terminal 2, which was just great, seeing as I was dressed for Africa and not the frozen tundra that was Chicago that day. 1 minute with Air Canada and I was good to go.

Thank you, Serafina who was working the United Check In counter in Terminal 2 that day. The bag arrived! Chicago-Toronto-Frankfurt-Johannesburg-Victoria Falls.

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I would like to say my travel woes ended with that nonsense in O’hare. Of course they did not.  Upon arrival in Toronto, I manage to ripped my pants getting out of my seat. And no, it was not a case of pants too tight, more like dysfunctional pant eating airline seat took a bite out of my leg. Great, 3 more flights to go with ripped pants. I had a few hours on Toronto, so I headed to the Maple Leaf Lounge, where I managed to leave my ring in the ladies room. Of course I did not realize said ring is missing until the flight just about to depart.  So just imagine, my arrival in Frankfurt with ripped pants, missing ring and super tired, with a 10 layover before my next flight. I walked all the way to the wrong terminal only to be told I had to go back to basically where I came from to get a boarding pass. I do not have proof of my next flight so I tried to get something from the Lufthansa desk.The security agent will not let me talk to the Lufthansa Staff because he’s insistent the I need to go to the South African Airways check in desk outside the secured area. I stood my ground and requested to speak to the agents. They pretty much said the same thing, that maybe I could could check in online. I said how?  (remember I was really tired). Ma’am the internet? Finally, they gave me a piece of paper with my ticket number and itinerary printed out.  So I quietly walk away and had a mini-meltdown. Mini because thankfully I had internet and friends awake somewhere in the world, who were laughing at all the nonsense I was enduring.

Finally I was able to clear security and I headed to the lounge, because of the whole ticket situation, I was not about to leave that airport. I was of course was asked for my ticket……. Thankfully I had the silly little piece of paper that I had just fought for.

My next flight from Frankfurt to Johannesburg was not too bad. Except the flight attendant serving me was quite odd. I think he just felt that I did not need food, ironically I was actually hungry. He keep skipping options, like when it was time dessert it was cheese or tart. I was just given the cheese, no option for the tart. And for breakfast, no hot option for me, only yogurt. At this point in the trip, I just laughed. I was not about to fight for airplane food.

I arrived in Johannesburg on Valentine’s Day, which was like a free pass for the African men to flirt. After traveling for 36 hours, I dared anyone to look at me, let alone wish me a Happy Valentine’s Day.

And then off to my last flight

IMG_3244 And finally 2 days later, I had arrived at my first destination, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

Stay tuned for Part 3

Africa-February 2015

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I am having a love affair with Africa. The more I go the more I want to discover. Last June, there was a fare sale to Johannesburg via Toronto. So I booked a ticket for February, thinking it was perfect time to escape Chicago and that I would have plenty of time to figure out my plans. Well…. let’s just say life (other trips) got in the way and come December I realized I should probably at least get some hotels booked.

I had the original foresight to book my flights to and from Toronto. So I just had to figure what I planned to do once I arrived in Johannesburg. On my previous trip, I had booked a private tour with Ekala Tours, so I considered booking them again.  But for me a day or two in Johannesburg is plenty, as it’s just another big city.  I considered doing safari but after my Kenya fiasco of a solo safari, I was hesitant to book another one. I also knew that I would need some downtime preferably some place the sun would be shining.  I am stilling hoping to hit my 50 before 40, but I decided I rather really enjoy my travels, rather than just go to get a stamp in my passport.

I had originally considered going to Victoria Falls ,Zimbabwe. But something deterred me. So then I looked into going to Durban, South Africa and taking a day trip into Lesotho. Since I was traveling solo, I experienced some difficulty arranging tours.  I made a rookie travel mistake of booking my airfare and hotels before confirming my tours. I am thankful for refundable airfare options and understanding hotels, (Hyatt Johannesburg). Ironically I ended up doing my first choice, Victoria Falls.  I had considered several beach options, Cape Town ( water is way too cold), Mozambique ( visa issue),  Seychelles ( too far north).   I finally ended going to Mauritius, an island off the east coast of Madagascar.  If I am honest, it’s because there was a direct flight on South African Airways,  part of Star Alliance so I get my miles, and well there was a Hilton.  I am sure there is a world out there where there is no Star Alliance flights and no Hilton or Hyatt’s, but it’s a not a world I am willing to discover yet.

So in the end, my trip went a little something like this…..

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10 flights, 3 airlines and one amazing story.

Stay tuned for more details…..