Music calms the savage beast, but Matt Urban rules over all beasts

I used to go out and see live music more nights per week than I stayed in. During my developmental years of 17 or 18 through my mid-20’s I probably spent as much time standing in front of live music as I did sleeping. As I got older and fell out of the scene of people that went out to live music, I never missed it. I have been occasionally drug to something, or chose to go to a show because it was right around the corner. I enjoyed being a homebody, not staying up late, not driving all corners of the country chasing bands. Wifey is constantly telling me how much I love live music, and how much it must be a part of my blood. She tells me that my head lifts, my eyes get wide, and my ears perk up just when I hear something simple, as we are walking by a park, or when I simply hear a guy with a guitar at a coffee shop. I don’t notice, but she does.
My longest running friend Matt Urban (pictured here, the less handsome guy) has a project called In the Light. They perform the Led Zeppelin double album Physical Graffiti. They did it once already back in January, but I was occupied running away with the Carnival. That was a nice built in excuse to not have to stay out late one Saturday night. Selfish I know. In the Light performed again last night. Matt told me about it a long time ago, and I got my tickets. I was going. In my mind I was going to support my friend and his endeavors. I knew I would have a nice time, but dragging my ass out on a Saturday night is a chore all by itself. I went last night with the newly formed Chappy Clan. We got there early and had dinner. The Queen is an excellent place, just the type that I would see any show. I was able to have ice cream, coffee, sit with my legs crossed and partake of the evening. A nice transition back into the live music scene for a fancy man like myself.
As the band took the stage I was leaning against the balcony rail with a cup of coffee in my hand. I was not prepared for what happened next. The first notes of Custard Pie kicked in. My body exploded on me, I mean completely revolted against me and everything I thought I had retrained my brain to think. With one simple drum kick and strum of a guitar my entire body filled with goose pimples and my love for live music flooded every cell in my body instantly. I never could have predicted such an occurrence. I had a blast. All night I got to watch a bunch of guys having the times of their respective lives. Not just a group doing something for the money. Best of all was seeing a man that I admire most in this world keeping time from rear stage right (my left).
I went from supporting a friend to having a great time. That is usually what happens when I take the time and effort to step outside of myself and outside my limited view of the world. Now I am looking forward more than ever to going to see Primus with Matt in a couple weeks. Les Claypool is like a god to me. I could have ridden an elevator with him one time in Vegas. I backed out of the elevator and told him I would take the next one. I made it seem like I was doing him a courtesy, but actually I was afraid I would simply puke annoying fanboy praises at him for the entire ride. Primus is one of 3 or 4 bands that could actually get me out of the house on a dare.
Enough Les, back to Matt. I can’t even get over how amazing this clown is. After the show I take a look at my phone to check the time, because I’m old and need to get into a bed soon. I had a message from him asking if I was having fun. What the hell?! According to my calculations and the time stamp of the message, I’d say Matt should have been somewhere balls deep in The Wanton Song. Thinking back now it must have been the beginning of Ten Years Gone, and he took a second to say hello to me. I don’t know that I have ever felt more special as when is saw that message.


Goodbye to the greatest place I have ever visited. Hello rest of my life

Day 21 Londolozi – South Africa day 7
Robbie has split for his time off and another gentleman woke us up with coffee for our last day here. This place treats you great all the way up until the end. Most places just kick you out on the last day of your stay. Londolozi took us on a game drive still this morning even though we depart this afternoon. Wifey went to bed last night not feeling too well. We are pretty sure she had a case of six-hour malaria. At least that is what the internets told her. The sunrise this morning was again marvelous. The sky in the background turns into the most beautiful pinks and baby blues. It looks like cotton candy hanging at the carnival. Last Night during dinner Kirsty told us about the zebra and gnu migrations that happen north of South Africa. I think we may have seen the beginning of the migration. Zebras were by far the animal we saw the most of today and gnus not far behind. Big herds of both animals running, I mean walking together. We saw a rhino mommy and her baby. This was the first baby rhino we saw. He was not too sure about us. He kept acting tough, as if he was going to charge us. Then we got to see him run. My word, that was adorable. Every animal baby runs the same, awkward and wobbly. At least baby animals can walk. Baby humans are useless for at least 5 years, some for 20 or more.
After we were done setting the baby rhino into a tough guy tizzy the radio went off saying a leopard and her cub were spotted somewhere. Eckson and Jules tried to track them for a bit, but found the tracks and estimated where they had left the property. Tough luck for us, no baby leopards this trip. After a bit more driving around we ran into a couple groups of warthogs. We did not see too many of these guys, but today finally got a nice close up view.
Then it was time for coffee break. Jules picked a nice place that we were able to watch zebras come and drink from a pond while also watching giraffes eat from the tops of trees in the background behind the zebras. Today we also finally saw a baby giraffe. It was smaller, but still giant and looked just as goofy. It looked just as goofy as an adult giraffe that was far away. After coffee break we saw a giant family of hyenas, a couple mothers and a few baby hyenas. I would not have thought they would be so cute. I have come to the conclusion that all baby animals are disgustingly adorable except human babies. Human babies simply looked very undercooked and needy.
Wifey and I truly felt we were on an unplanned second honeymoon at Londolozi. We decided this would have to be the greatest place for a honeymoon. I would recommend it to any young couple, right after I recommended reconsidering marriage. Neither of us could believe how hard it was to say goodbye. I know I say this a lot but this was unquestionably the greatest experience of my life. I have been lucky enough to do some amazing things. This trip to Africa for safari springboards into the top spot of memories, without exception.
After the morning drive we got cleaned up and packed up. After that they gave us a farewell breakfast and Kirsty chatted with us until it was time to go back to the landing strip. Jules drove us over and we said our goodbyes. He does this everyday, or at least a couple times a week, but this Tsonga Shangaan man has no idea the impact he just had on two peoples lives.
We were the first stop in the airplane shuttle route, with one other stop after us at Mala Mala…booo on them. We boarded the plane with the photographer that flew into Londolozi on the same incoming flight. After the stop at Mala Mala it was on to JNB.
We arrived about a half hour before we could check in and turn over our luggage. We waited around and then checked in, we still had a few hours before our flight took off. The one thing I was not able to do was grab a geocache in Africa. There were none anywhere near Londolozi. There are a few in the Kruger Park, but we never entered the park property. There are plenty near JNB. I ended up dropping thirty dollars for a cab ride to the closest geocache and back to the airport. I think it was money well spent. It was four kilos away, too far too walk back and forth and ultimately in a not so great looking neighborhood. So I did find that one geocache in JNB and can add that to the list of things done on the continent of Africa.
We arrived back to the airport to wait for take off of our 16-hour flight. Wow. Nothing else could happen until after Wifey does some shopping, of course.
I am on the plane now with about four hours left in the flight. I watched a movie and slept so far. Airplanes are basically time traveling when you can sleep. Now I am home and the entire thing feels like a dream I might have had once, or maybe it was a movie I saw the previews for…I don’t know anymore what is real and what is imaginary.

A select few pictures here.

If dung spitting is a sport, then why not dick kicking?

Day 20 Londolozi – South Africa day 6
Today is our last full day in Londolozi. Booooo. This morning may have been the most beautiful sunrise we have seen yet. Or maybe not. Maybe it was just today’s sunrise and the same amount of beautiful as the others we have seen here. It only felt more beautiful because it was happening today. This morning during sunrise we saw a big herd of elephants. It was a lovely scene with the elephants eating and the sun rising as the backdrop. This happened in the same area as the pond we watched the sunset last night with the rhinos. We popped by to see the leopard from yesterday morning and how she was making out with her kill. The kill was still hanging in the tree, but mostly gone at that point. About all that was left appeared to be the rib cage area. You could tell she had eaten quite a lot, her belly was full, she was breathing hard, and she looked sleepy. We saw African ducks. They are different then our ducks, they do a lot of flying, live in trees, and build nests in those trees. It felt strange seeing a duck standing on the branch of a tree high in the air.  Some zebras finally reappeared this morning. Todays herd of zebras included a baby zebra that was still nursing. These were the first zebras we had seen since our first day here. Zebras have very weak spines, this is why there are not a working animal, like horses. Overall it was a quiet morning in the bush. We really did not see a lot of animals.
We had nice conversation with the LA couple. This was their last drive. They are heading out for the rest of their journey today. He is surfing in Cape Town and she is climbing Kilimanjaro. After that they are doing safari in several more African countries. It was nice to finally meet someone else that does not shy away from the issue of unicorns, but knows they are real, as I know.
Now that they are gone we will have our last two game drives alone again. A huge thank you goes out to the eccentric and reclusive Fenton family in room 2. Because of them we have been the luckiest boy and girl in the world. We don’t know what is going to happen for lunch today, we just know we were told to be ready to leave for our game drive at 1:45pm instead of 3pm. Some more Londolozi surprises we are sure. I guess they were not quite out of surprises. I assume it will be some kind of lunch out in the bush since the weather today is absolutely perfect.
Another private ride this afternoon thanks to the other couple leaving and the eccentric Fenton’s. Did someone say surprise? Of course they had another surprise for us. Jules drove us out into the bush to what we both expected to be an outside lunch. It was that and more. He took us to a place the call The Lookout. Wow. It is literally every little boys dream tree fort. It was a giant deck with a table set up with our lunch, a couch and bean bag chairs. It was up in the air about 25 feet, right on the river, overlooking almost 360 degrees, yet still completely shaded by the tree in which it’s built. Just insanely amazing. Jules dropped us off and left us alone for about an hour and a half. This is another reason I do not think it is actually that dangerous out here. We ate lunch and then just relaxed in the tree house/fort. He came back to get us at 3:30pm and we restarted the afternoon game drive.
This will be our last evening drive :-(.  The first thing that came along was a rhino. A really weird story goes along with this rhino. The most tactful way I can describe this rhino is that he was a dirty dragging dick kicker. This rhino’s junk was so big it drug in the dirt underneath of him. It also had wings, strange. Yes wings, like those wings shown on TV commercials for the lady products. Nothing was wrong with any of that. The problem was that he was intentionally kicking his own dick with both of his back feet. It was not just something that happened as he strolled. He looked really angry at his own penis, like it had recently betrayed him in some way. If he spoke English he would have been yelling, “bad dick!” We watched, laughed, and then moved on.
We saw a lot more elephants tonight. This pack had a few babies. Baby elephants are quite adorable. We saw bunches of animals that did not get mentioned daily but were seen daily. There were impalas, gnus/wildebeests, hippos, nyalas, grey dykers, steenboks, hyenas, mongooses or mongeese. We headed back over to the area that was control burned. On the way there we passed another Land Rover going the opposite direction. That was the first time we saw other people in a long time. It sometimes felt like we were the only people left on the planet. Once we got to the burn area we came across a small herd of zebras. The zebras oddly blended in on the charred land.
Back over on the other side of the reserve it was time to check in on the cheetah. The sun was setting and the skyline was beautiful. We found the cheetah. We could tell from her belly that she had recently eaten. She was relaxed and mostly laying around. We watched the sun set over the landscape of the bush as the backdrop of the cheetah. Amazing. We had a quick stop for happy hour where we saw a dead, eaten turtle. It was a leopard tortoise. This is one of the small five, but we can’t count it. After sunset we headed back to camp. We spotted a sleeping lion on the way back in. He was annoyed with the spotlight, but too much of a sissy to do anything about it.
As soon as we arrived back it was dinnertime. We were assuming a normal dinner since we were the only guests, wrong. Kirsty and Jabs still set up this amazing dinner for us with a private table at the top of the steps to the lodge…candles, lanterns, everything. It looked like a fairy tale land. I know I probably say this a lot but this week at Londolozi has truly been the most amazing week of my life. I think Wifey feels the same. This trip will be one of our most memorable events from all aspects. The scenery, animals, service we received, attention, accommodations, everything imaginable.

A select few pictures here.

Quality sometimes outweighs quantity

Day 19 Londolozi – South Africa day 5
Never a dull moment at Londolozi. We were lucky enough to have another private morning game drive. The other couple decided to sleep in and miss it. Oh boy.  The weather was overcast all morning, which made it great. It kept the bit of warm air in the atmosphere trapped in and kept the sun trapped out all morning. Overcast stopped it from warming up too badly. It also made for perfect picture weather. No blaring sunshine everywhere ruining photos. The morning started rather slow. To summarize, we saw both the least and the most.
We were casually driving along and Jules starts chatting on his radio. Next thing I know Eckson jumps in the passenger seat from his front bumper seat, which always means something. Before I realized it we are in high-speed pursuit, I mean flying. It may have only been 20 or 30 mph but compared to the speed we typically drive, it was fast. This alone was a thrilling and exciting ride regardless of what we saw. Jules yells back to us that a cheetah was spotted near the property perimeter and that is where we are heading, and quickly. He informs us that cheetahs are the most rare animals to see in this area and there were no cheetahs for eighteen months until a couple days ago. So we were in a high speed, mad, mad, mad cheetah chase.
We drove into an area that we have not been anywhere near before today. It was an area that had recently been control burned. You could still smell the cinders. Animals still roamed this area but not as much. It is mainly animals crossing into or out of the borders. The cheetah chase concluded in a male cheetah awake and wandering the plains. We were told how lucky we were to see a cheetah. The fact that we are lucky is not something we need to be told. After we watched him stroll aimlessly for a while he went over to a giant termite mound and decided to take a load off. We drove in closer and were able to observe him for a while just relaxing, then looking around with paranoia, then relaxing again. While watching the cheetah Eckson heard mother nature call. I was glad because she was ringing me too. So with a cheetah a few hundred feet away we stood in the middle of the bush with our manhood in our hands and our heads on swivels.
After we left the cheetah we drove around leisurely for a while not seeing much except the beautiful landscape. All of a sudden Eckson jumps back in the passenger seat. I see nothing, but Jules and Eckson are looking around at the weirdest things. Trackers…you know. Out of nowhere they point at a big bush and say leopard. I see two animals lying inside the bush, but not very well. Our view was quite obstructed by the bush. Jules drives into a position so we can see better. I immediately recognize a leopard and another animal, I couldn’t believe they were lying nicely together…they weren’t. The other animal was a dead impala that the leopard had just killed. The leopard was sleeping and the impala was intact, just not moving or breathing. We couldn’t see too much, parts of each of the two animal’s bodies. We watched for a bit. All of a sudden the leopard wakes up and decides it is breakfast time. She grabs the impala by its dead neck and drags him a few feet away, giving us a better view. She proceeds to tear into his stomach. The sound of fur being torn away, flesh being ripped off, and finally bones cracking under the pressure of her teeth, it was intense. We were able to see a lot of it. At one point the leopard tears into the stomach lining and it sounded like a balloon deflating. I had our Contour camera recording, hopefully that video will turn out. We saw intestines spill out and drip, then gush blood. It was quite the scene. After she ate her fill she curled back up to fall asleep.
That was about all we saw, other than a few random, single animals. It was both the least and most we have seen in one drive. On the drive back to the lodge we saw a lilac breasted roller. I tried to get a photo and wish I could get a photo of it in flight. It is the most stunning bird.
The safari shows and video footage I have seen on TV make much more sense to me now. I always wonder how they were recording this footage? Why isn’t the cameraman getting mauled? The animals out here in the bush don’t care at all about these noisy, diesel smelling Land Rovers. They don’t view then as a threat. Nobody every gets out or stands up. The Land Rovers are just part of the landscape that will not hurt them, or help them.
Another great game drive tonight. I think today was the best, most unique day possible. One way to describe it is that today was the most quantity poor yet experience rich experience. I also never imagined that simply driving around the terrain in a Land Rover would be half the fun. The first thing that we spotted was something in a tree. We could see it from a long way away but not sure what it was. Turns out it was a dead, half eaten impala. The carcass was hanging in the tree, the head was drooped down hanging by a strand and the insides were on the outside. It was wild looking. Jules and Eckson knew immediately it was the kill and food of one of the leopards. After a couple minutes parked there the leopard, she did appear. She came out of the weeds and lay down quickly. She had eaten, was tired, and ready to rest. After a couple minutes she got up to move around. We all saw where she had a giant wound on our back leg. It was just a flesh wound, but very recent. Quite icky, to be technical. I got some fantastic photos of her and her injury. At one point she got really upset at us being there, or the camera sound. She started to stalk toward the Land Rover. We all admitted to losing a couple heartbeats. She sneered and growled at us, and came right up to the Land Rover. It was apparent she was not happy about us sitting between her and her refrigerator.
We saw the first jackals of the trip. It was a pack of dogs running around. The best part was to watch them scratch themselves like domestic dogs. I have not seen that in a couple weeks. Next Jules took us to a den where laughing hyenas were living. I don’t believe I knew that was an actual animal.  I think I believed they were only in Bugs Bunny cartoons. They were babies, nine months old. The baby hyenas were hanging out on the front porch of the den. Dare I say they we adorable? I dare.
Then came the amazing closer to the day. It was around sunset and we came upon three rhinos. They were meandering slowly just giving us plenty of time to see them from all angles and get plenty of shots. Then as if by design for the tourists the rhinos slowed and stopped to drink from a small pond covered in algae. We drove to the far side of the pond to watch. The view was over a sparkling body of water, bright green algae scattered on top, the brown sand and color of the desert with a background of green grasses, a vivid sunset, and three rhinos. It was breathtaking, not to mention almost unbelievable. I wish my camera skills were up for the task, but unfortunately not quite yet. I still have a lot to learn. It was such the perfect scene that even one of the landowners of the Londolozi private reserve was in the same area videoing. He is one of the Varty’s, from the original family of owners.
Tonight is the last night for the couple from LA. We all had dinner together, the four of us, and Jules. Kirsty was too good for us tonight apparently. We had a fun dinner with the three of them. We all shared our near death experiences. I think mine is the best, but we all voted that Jules wins. A lion almost mauled Julius while he was essentially wearing sheep’s clothing.

A select few pictures here.

Londolozi creates realities that make my dreams look boring

Day 18 Londolozi – South Africa day 4
Up around five this morning. Robbie popped by at 5:30am with some coffee and biscuits. Off for this mornings game drive at 6am. Before we set out Jules came strolling up to the Land Rover with his gun out. He had it with him for protection, or simply to look awesome. Either way this became the opportunity we needed to get some pics of him with his gun out. He said he is camera shy, but then struck quite the pose and smile. Jules lies a lot. This morning it was us and the other couple from LA. Jerry was feeling much better after a nights sleep. This morning felt extremely eventful and the animals all seemed a bit more rammy and eager to do us harm or at least let us know whose house we are in. We saw our first gathering of giraffes. We have seen single giraffes a couple times, but never a group. Giraffes seemed to be one of the more skittish and camera shy animals. Most of the animals don’t give a care that we are in their business, watching, or taking pics. A few definitely flee the scene when they notice us approaching. The giraffes this morning hung around long enough to get some great shots, maybe some of my favorite shots of the trip. Of course who knows what they look like once I get them on a screen bigger than two inches. We saw several large groups of elephants today. These are the guys that were most rammy with us. They kept inching their way closer to us and Jules had to keep moving the Land Rover. Several times one showed aggression and screamed at us. Between instances of getting punked down by elephants we watched a couple younger elephants playing and/or fighting. They were tusk and trunk fighting. It was amazing to watch these giant beasts be so aggressive and gentle at the same time. When we finally left one of the large groups of elephants they actually chased us away, as if doing that “hold me back” thing that drunk guys do at parties.
Londolozi never stops being amazing and full of surprises. Yet another surreal surprise today. Around 9am I noticed that we had not yet stopped for our coffee break. Jules and Eckson usually stop after a couple hours to have a drink, coffee, tea, whatever and some cookies and muffins. Next thing I know we crest a hill and see some people off in the distance. I assumed it was another rover of people and we were going to a site with something to see. Turns out it was Kirsty and a couple of the chefs with an entire breakfast set up outside and ready. Breakfast was in the middle of the bush under the shade of a giant tree. They had a full breakfast, fresh and waiting for us. It was completely unexpected and mind blowing. It was the most amazing setting for a meal anywhere. We were in the middle of the bush with giraffes off in the distance as part of the landscape scenery. They may have been wondering whether to come steal our eggs. Londolozi creates realities that make my dreams look boring.
After breakfast another surprise…. we are walking back to camp. Yeah, walking. It was a fairly uneventful stroll. We saw a few animals, but mainly learned about a lot of the growth, tracks, and the landscapes. We ate some leaves that made our mouth numb.  I can’t get over this place. Everyday here has been something completely unimaginable and fantastic. We think they must have blown their wad on us by now. The rest of our days will have to be just standard safari days, which are still the greatest days we know.
When we walked back into our room at camp there was a lizard sleeping on my charging iPad, that doesn’t seem quite right.  Another afternoon nap. I seem unable to fend them off. Today is another day it warmed up significantly after a nice crisp morning air. We saw our first wild boar tonight at the beginning of the evening drive. Not for too long. He was covered in mud and took off running almost immediately. It was a sighting nonetheless. We saw the male leopard, Camp Pan, sleeping again tonight. So far we have seen leopards a couple times but always sleeping. Hopefully we will see them up and about before we leave. Saw a ton more elephants again tonight. After the impalas, elephants are the animals we have seen the most off. Nothing compares to the number of impalas. They call them jungle fast food. We also saw a big heard of elephants after sun down. In the pitch black there were elephants within a couple feet of our truck. They could have eaten us if they chose, and if they were not vegetarians.
The driving that Jules does in the Land Rover is mind-boggling. We have been truly off road a few times, but nothing like tonight. He was running over top and mowing down trees that were as big around as my leg. Definitely trees that a vehicle should not roll over top. Maybe a Sherman tank. I don’t think there is any chance I could ever go to a zoo again in my life. When we got back we ended up having yet another private dinner. The other couple had there special in-room dinner tonight, which left only Wifey and I on the deck of the lodge. They had the lanterns and candles out for a gorgeous atmosphere. Kirsty and Jabulani are the best. The only thing that interrupted our dinner were elephants, of course. Giraffes at breakfast, elephants at dinner. Who could ask for anything more?

A select few pics here.

Sometimes I get the feeling that the animals don’t want us here

Day 17 Londolozi – South Africa day 3
This mornings bush drive was another private one. Just us and Jules and Eckson. We are getting a service by accident that some people pay a super premium for. Another couple shows up this afternoon though, so that is all over and was brilliant while it lasted. The sunrise over the bush was again dramatic. There was mist off in the distance. We saw another large pack of elephants and their babies just after sunrise. They were eating which is about all they do. We saw the smallest elephant so far. It was not any bigger than Charlie, weighed more I’m sure, but not much bigger in size. We saw one of the lionesses this morning that we saw the other day. Today she was in charge of all five of the cubs and you could see and hear her annoyance at the situation. Apparently the other lioness was off shopping? The cubs were beyond adorable. I find it hard to believe they would not want or let me give them a good shooka shooka under the chin. We saw our first groups of monkeys today, baboons to be exact. There were a couple large groups gathered around a couple different big trees. They were either playing, or fighting, or raping, we were not sure. There was definitely at least one of each activity that happened while we watched them. The most impressive thing so far was the way the baboons scaled a tree. It was an absolute spectacle to see. They could go from ground level to 100 feet in the air in about five seconds.
Around the middle of the drive we crested a hill with a big valley then a rise to the top of the other side of the trail. The roadway was narrow and well tree lined. At the top of the other side of the valley we all saw a rhino at the same time. Then the rhino saw us. The rhino started running down the trail toward us. A second went by, no biggie, still coming. Another second it was much closer but still far away. Another second later Wifey opens her mouth with a bit of a panic and blurts out something unintelligible. Still charging, and fast. Then Jules throws the land rover in reverse and I could tell that he too had a real concern. At no point was I ever scared or panic. I was invested, thrilled, excited…for the life experience we were having, but fear never entered my mind. I guess my jaded life of “everything is a work” had me think that this was a set up and it happens all the time. Or maybe it was two guys in a rhino suit that Jules radioed ahead to, and they were part of the ride. Neither of those hypotheses are true, it was a rhino charging at our land rover. The actual amount of time was just long enough for me to take the lens cap off my camera, snap one shot, switch it to high speed shutter when I realized he was charging, and shoot off about another 5 or 6 which included the rhino skidding to a complete halt and creating a dust storm like a cartoon character. He never actually got too close, but it would have only taken another 3 seconds to get to us at the pace he was charging. During the aftermath Jules explained that was the first time a rhino has ever charged him. I found that hard to believe, but he insists it is true, you never know what is around the corner in the bush. Eckson never left the front spotter seat, which to me says there was no real danger. Speaking of Eckson, he gives me another indication of why this must be the greatest activity a human can participate. After twenty years on the job at Londolozi as a spotter/guide he still carries a camera and takes photos. A picture of Eckson taking pictures speaks a million words of how unbelievable this experience must be. It is a good thing Eckson and I were there to keep Jules and Wifey safe. The day we almost lost half our safari group if it was not for Eckson and Jimmy.
After the morning drive and breakfast we got cleaned up and then massages. One of the best massages I have had. On top of that it was outside on our deck with the sounds of nature all around. When the massages were over and we sat up, there was a pack of at least ten elephants only about 100 feet away in our “yard”.
Tonight’s game drive was great. We had company for the first time in two days. A couple from LA arrived today. They are traveling Africa for six weeks! We saw our first buffalo tonight. There were a handful of them around but we really never got close or great angles for any length of time. We have officially seen all of the big five game now. I hope we see buffalos better before we leave. They are an odd looking creature. The horns they have on their heads are unlike any other set of horns/antlers I have seen. It looks like some dumb hairdo toupee is glued to their skull. Either that or an awful middle school haircut parted in the middle and slicked down. Or maybe a Rollie Fingers mustache. They should be ashamed. We saw some giraffe bones the other day that Jules told us was from a kill nine months ago. Tonight he stopped at those bones and reconstructed the giraffe neck. It was quite disturbing and brilliant at the same time. We all had a nice chuckle. We saw a bunch more elephants tonight. A few were grazing on the right hand side of the jeep. Out of nowhere one decided to punk Wifey. That elephant mean mugged the crap out of Wifey, enough to make her jump up from her seat and let out a little squeal of some kind. Later, another was really close to the land rover eating a tree. We sat and watched her for while. All of a sudden she decided she did not like us there observing her and calmly made her way closer to the vehicle. Jules noticed this and started up the land rover. She then fell in behind him driving away slowly and started running. Not for too long, but long enough to give some of the sissier people a scare. Two elephant run-ins in one night?! Maybe they are not as cute and cuddly as Dumbo wants me to believe. So now a rhino and elephants have charged us at. Will the fun ever stop here at Londolozi?
When we got back this evening there was another surprise. Tonight they had a big outdoor dinner in the burma area for us, the new couple, Jules, and Kristie. It was amazing. Completely decked out with lanterns, fire pits, gorgeous outdoor bar, and cooking area. The food was tremendous. We had a lot of fun, good conversation, and a lot of laughs. Before desert the Londolozi ladies choir put on an African singing and dancing show for us. I got to use the phrase “you are snotty about your bush”. No job openings here for me.

A select few pictures here.

Londolozi > Disney, voted new best place on earth!

Day 16 Londolozi – South Africa Day 2
We were woken up at the butt crack…a lizard just ran past me in our room…of dawn, 5:30am. Robby knocked us up with a fresh pot of coffee and some small breakfast biscuits. We left for our morning game drive at 6am. It was still dark out, the sun had yet to rise.  It was quite chilly first thing in the morning. It did not start to warm up until we were back and having breakfast. It is wintertime here, they apparently had snow in JNB last week. It was all anyone could talk about. We watched the sun rise from the drive. It was glorious. I know this place isn’t a zoo, the animals are not in captivity, and they are free to come and go from the Londolozi and Sabi Sands area. There is something about it that still feels like a work. I know it is tremendously dangerous, but it doesn’t feel like that. The land rovers are always here following and watching. The animals know there is no threat from the noisy diesel powered machines that roam the landscape. That is why the guides can drive right up onto a couple lionesses and five cubs sleeping and nobody flinches. Something about that just doesn’t feel right. But because of this conditioning we are lucky enough to be able to watch the animals in their natural environment. The humans do not get involved at all. So far we have seen animals while they are being lazy or napping, but able to see them nonetheless. Jules is great. He is able to tell us about every animal. Not just the animal in general but specific animals. Since they see and follow the same animals from time to time, they actually name and track the families. They know that a certain lion is the son of another lion, that used to live north of here, but is now in Sabi Sands, it went to grammar school with the gay baboon and Tim the albino zebra…you get the picture. We saw hippos mating in a pond this morning. The weirdest part of that was after the pair were identified as mating, a third hippo popped out from below the surface of the water next to the mating couple. I’m not judging anyone, just saying.
We were lucky enough to ride both last night and this morning with the most pleasant couple, Jay and Nicki. They live in JNB now but are originally from the states, Chicago and Milwaukee. They moved to South Africa back in the 90’s after falling in love with it here. She has a safari tour operating company,, and he is a maritime lawyer, defending pirates and whatnot. Having them with us for our first safaris was one of the most fortuitist things to ever happen for us. They know so much and were very chatty and helpful in several ways. The were indispensible for information, etiquette, and enjoying the overall experience. Talk about a small world, Nicki’s sister lives right around the corner from Bradford on the same lake is Cheesetown. That is ridiculous. It is enough to believe this world is not real and some type of program or game that is being played by an overall game master…Truman Show town. The only sad part is that I had to beat Jay at my first ever dung spitting contest. He has had years of practice and I came along and destroyed him. Apparently I am the new world champion of dung spitting…yes, dung spitting, it is exactly what it sounds like. We have been told that the absolute best time to go on safari in Africa is the end of August. Imagine our luck. Who would have thunk it. Thanks American legal system!
We took a walk to the gift shop they have here at Londolozi. When we opened our front door there were two bushbucks nibbling away at our front garden. Then during the walk we saw a cluster of vervet monkeys monkeying around. One that was on the highest branch of the tree almost shat upon Wifey.
This afternoon’s game drive was absolutely stellar. There is currently no one else staying here in our camp so we had a private drive today, just the two of us with Julius and Eckson. Talk about being lucky and living in luxury. It is amazing how drastically the temperature changed here today. Cold this morning, long sleeve and pants, and then super hot, Africa hot, this afternoon. And this is their wintertime. First thing we stumbled upon was a lady giraffe. I know this because they have smaller horns and still have tufts of hair on the top. The hair is still there because they don’t do any horn fighting. Next we scouted out some crocodiles and watched them sun bathe for a bit. We saw so many elephants today, too many to count. Mostly mommy elephants with their babies. Elephants only have one baby at a time like humans. Then another pond where we saw a bunch of hippos clustered together. It looked like the beginning of a hippopotamus rugby game scrum. After we giggled at the hippos for a while we saw what I believe was our first rhinoceros. I recently learned that the horn on their heads is not a bone but actually tightly wound hair. However I forgot that fact when tested by Jules and looked like an idiot according to Wifey. The ornamentals are apparently poaching the rhinos because they think that the horn hair is an aphrodisiac. Bunch of weirdos. The rhino started running. Running rhinos are hysterical. They are so giant that it looks fake. It looks like two men in a rhino suit that can’t get coordinated trying to run away from a ghost in a cartoon. Seeing most of these animals do anything looks faked to me. It is both so natural and unnatural at the same time. Natural for them, yet nothing like anything I have ever seen before. So it all looks fake, like people in suits or the robot animals at Showtime Pizza. We had the best time today. I think my newest calling in life is to be a wildlife photographer. I know it is a long shot but with enough practice I think I could get good.
We came home tonight after the evening drive to a surprise from Londolozi. When we got into the room there was a beautiful note explaining we would be having a private dinner tonight outside on our deck. Then the letter was surrounded in rose petals that fell to the floor and started a trail of rose petals through our entire room and into the bath. In there was a hot drawn bubble bath all ready for us. Absolutely the most amazing treatment we have ever experienced anywhere else on the planet. It caused my wanner to get buckbushed.

A select few pictures here.

I bless the rains down in Africa

Continuation of day 14
We arrived at the Nice Airport right at 4am, just as it was opening up. We were 2 of only a handful of living souls floating around there this morning. Customer service for Air France did not open until 4:30am, so we waited right in front of the counter. Someone called us up almost immediately at 4:30am. There were 2 people working the counter this morning, and we were the only customers at that time of the day. We received the benefit of 2 helpful people. I went up with low expectations and walked away with a big smile and a new found love for an airline that I thought had just put a bid D in my A. They canceled a major international and important flight just 20 hours before takeoff. Air France put us on a flight to Amsterdam and then on to JNB later tonight. We left for Amsterdam almost immediately. We will actually be in JNB 12 hours earlier than or original schedule. This is a million times better than arriving 14 hours later than scheduled and long after a flight that may have been just for the Sellers clan. In my head I was figuring the worst is that we may have had to be driven from JNB to the game reserve. It’s a two-hour flight so not sure how long of a drive. It ended up working out better for us, as usual. But it has been a while since I panicked and freaked out about anything so it was good to get that out of my system.
Sometime during the flight I got up to pee and looked out the windows at the rear of the plane. Below was so obviously the Sahara Desert. I didn’t know it for sure, but it was as obvious as flying over snow-capped mountains, you just know what they are. I can’t believe that brown desert could possibly be so distinguishable from 35k feet. I got back to my seat and confirmed it was the Sahara with the in flight GPS map that was built into the back of the head of the person sitting in the row in front of me.  We landed in JNB safely and on time. Luckily for us there is hotel right across the street from the airport, walking distance. It is by far the closest hotel I have ever seen to an airport. Hopefully we will get air France or the travel insurance to pay for our night at the hotel. We got a great night sleep, like corpses.

Day 15 South Africa
That’s right, Africa. Woke up after a fantastic night sleep and had breakfast. Went over to the airport only to find that nobody there had ever heard of the airline we were looking for. Turns out that is because it is a private charter airline and we had to go outside of the airport to meet up with them. We figured it out quick enough. It makes perfect sense…we had to go to the bus terminal to catch an airplane flight. The worst part of missing our original flight and coming in early was that we missed a guy standing at the gate with a sign that had our name on it, like celebrities. So we staged this picture. Turns out the flight to Londolozi was a private charter service. The flight we were on was more like a shuttle. It made a total of three stops and we were the third. The airstrips were all private and some were nothing more than dirt and rock. We had to take off and land three different times in a tiny plane. It was a Cessna that held 10 passengers at most, only 6 today. Wifey was pretty stressed out about it. She hung in there like a big girl. Before we even landed the first time we saw long neckers and grey fatsos from the plane.
We were the last people off the plane. The landing strip was right at the place we are staying. The treatment, presentation, and accommodations are all so far unparalleled. Way more than anything we deserve. This is quite the place. We didn’t expect today to be much but we already went out on a 3 o’clock game drive. The fact that they took us out on a game drive the same afternoon we arrived was simply a precursor to the unbelievable commitment Londolozi has to customer happiness.   It was unreal. Maybe the best thing either of us has ever done. We were out long after sunset, in the pitch black by the light of only a splinter moon and a spotlight. We saw giraffe, baby elephants, lionesses and 5 cubs, male lion, zebras, and tons of impalas and wildebeests. The lion cubs were playing so cutely. One was eating his mama’s tail while she was sleeping and she woke up grumpy about that. In hindsight we are both so glad that our plans out of Monte Carlo changed and we ended up in JNB the day before. Getting a good night sleep was a huge benefit. Had we shown up after and overnight flight we might not have been able to enjoy our first day here nearly as much as we did. But again, we don’t typically expect much on check in day. Our guide for the entire week is Julius. So far he is great. He is a true local to this area. The food we ate so far has been delicious. Everyone treats us like we are royalty. I understand they are getting paid for it, but it is amazing. We had our first nights dinner with Julius. He gave us the lowdown on our upcoming week, and a lot of information about the local area and people. I was enthralled, so much more interested than I would have ever imagined. We heard hippos yelling while we were eating dinner and an Aussie guy showed us how to do the hippo dance. There is mosquito netting around our bed just like in the movies, but luckily it is not mosquito season in the winter.

A select few pictures here.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I finally understand.

Day 12 Disembark and Monte Carlo
Today was quite a busy and eventful day. It started by disembarking from the Seabourn boat. Eff that place. No we go back to being regular, unknown people. It is amazing how the staff on the boat knows every ones names. Whether you meet them on day one or the very last day, the entire staff can greet you by first and or last name. We were able to walk from the boat docks to our hotel in a few minutes, quite convenient. We dropped off our luggage and set forth on a walking journey to make the Jews applaud. We went to the Prince’s Palace and watched the changing of the guards at 11:55am sharp. Apparently that is the big tourist attraction thing to do. After that we took the tour of the inside of the Prince’s Palace.
We rode another Le Petit Train around Monaco. Wifey loves these. Wifey tried to enquire about diving but the only place we found insisted that she have a medical doctors certification. Weirdest thing I’ve heard in a while. We found the one place in the country that dives and made the pilgrimage to their location. It was quite far from anywhere we planned to go. The way I see it, if they don’t advertise diving as a tourist activity, and it is that hard just to find a diving club, it is probably not the kind of place a traveler passing through would want to dive. So she isn’t diving again and was bummed about that. Later we went to the aquarium and oceanography museum. Compared to the glitz, glamour, pomp and circumstance, styling, and profiling ways of Monte Carlo, the aquarium was pretty ghetto. We were both disappointed.
We found five geocaches along the way today. There are a lot of them here. There is one series of caches that runs all along the Grand Prix circuit. When it was time to go back to the hotel we took the city bus. We missed our stop, got lost, and rode it back around to where we should have gotten off. The hotel is pretty swanky. The room is really big and the view is remarkable. It looks out right over the harbor and into the Mediterranean Sea. It also looks right down into several yachts. We can see right into the rooms and swimming pools (yes swimming pools) of these yachts docked here.  We decided to have dinner here at the hotel. I don’t know if food is actually worth what they charge for it here. Starvation and/or cannibalism seem like realistic options.

Day 13 Monte Carlo
It’s hard to believe that the view from our hotel room is yachts with servants walking around. Today was spent as a lazy day wandering around Monte Carlo. We walked from one corner to the other corner of this tiny country. Mostly we wandered around The Casino and the high dollar shopping sections. We found a few geocaches while wandering and didn’t find a few. We took a tour of The Casino before it opened. Casino’s in Monte Carlo do not open until 2pm. It cost ten euro to get inside but you can go into all the rooms, private included, and take pictures. Private rooms and pictures are a no-no during the hours of operation. One of the private rooms is awesome. It looks out over the Mediterranean Sea with cool orange colored tables. This is definitely where James Bond played. I can tell you from experience, nothing tastes more delicious for lunch than a $30 hamburger. In the ritzy shops area we saw a dog walk into a shopping mall…just swaggered right into the stores. It must be his owner’s birfday and he is buying presents.
Every car in Monte Carlo is a stunner. Mercedes followed by BMW followed by Audi followed by Ferrari followed by Porsche with an occasional Lamborghini, Bentley, Jaguar, and Smart Cars mixed in. Even the taxis are luxury automobiles.
The second half of today can only be described as complete failure. I dropped Wifey off to go out alone. I was unsuccessful at finding several geocaches. That alone made me feel like a loser. Early in the evening we found out our flight to JNB was canceled. I immediately panicked and was unsure of what to do. I did a bunch of quick, unproductive research on the internets. It seems like the best we can do is go to JNB the next day and miss a day of safari. Our connecting flight out of JNB goes directly to a landing strip at the place we are staying in South Africa. I have no idea how often that flight goes. It is a charter flight, not a regular scheduled flight. I tried to calm myself down, but I legitimately freaked out for a few minutes. I tried to make this wonderful trip for Wifey, and now it is all falling apart. And falling apart at the time she was looking forward to the most is about to start. We have no real way to contact anyone. It was late at night and we have no phones anyway. We ended up buying a calling card. I had to travel all the way to 1975 to get one, but at least we had it. We decided to try to calm down, cool off, and go out to The Casino hoping to rekindle our good times. I was surprised to find out that even though I just traveled back to 1975, The Casino would not take the travelers checks I brought to gamble with. Gambling here was the ONLY reason I bought travelers checks. We ended up leaving without having done any gambling or rekindling any fun. It was probably a good idea that we did not gamble, our luck was shit today. I guess we can’t win everything.
After getting back from The Casino we decided to simply try to get to Paris ASAP, and then hopefully on to JNB. We originally were going to take the helicopter ride from Monte Carlo to the airport in Nice, France. It seemed like a novel and fun idea. We had to cancel that plan and decided to just pack up and leave for the airport in Nice immediately. I was hoping we would have traveled by all methods of transport on this trip. After canceling the helicopter that won’t happen. We did planes, boats, cars, trains, busses, and bikes…everything but a helicopter.
About 3:30am we got a cab and headed to the airport. We were hoping to get to Paris early and then just suck up the fees and pay whatever to get to JNB in time for our charted flight. That flight felt like one we could not afford to miss. Hopefully our travel insurance would cover whatever additional costs we incurred. I completely failed as a husband, provider, and August 2012 Holiday travel guide today.

A select few pictures here.