Checked luggage gets a ride on the airport roller coaster. Fun to watch
Checked luggage gets a ride on the airport roller coaster. Fun to watch
Checked luggage gets a ride on the airport roller coaster. Fun to watch
Ever since I started my Professional Organizing business (Organizing Resources) 21 years ago, I have always stated the most important thing to do to guarantee success is to be a lifelong student and carry pen and paper wherever you go.
Learning is paramount in all areas of life - personal and professional development. Learning changes everything. It broadens your horizon, opens your mind, develops conscious living, and aids in making future decisions.
How do I broaden my horizons? Reading, seeing, doing! That is why I travel.
> Before I go anywhere I read -- read about places, people, culture and historical aspects of where I will be visiting. I spend time studying maps of the different areas. I learn as much as possible beforehand to set the stage of conscious openness.
> While I am traveling, there is always so much to see, so much to do, so many people to talk to. Learning never stops and along the way new conversations, new friends enhance the lessons learned.
> Then when I come home, I take all my pictures and pull together a journal -- written and pictorial -- of the experiences I gathered along the way. This process allows time to reabsorb the lessons learned, rehash truly memorable moments. I am a strong investor in experiences. I build lasting memories from the precious moments of each trip.
Why I travel? Two reasons: To collect moments and when opportunities come my way, I take them!
Scotland: The wee land with the huge landscapes
Scotland, the U.K.’s northernmost country, is a land of mountain wilderness such as the Cairngorms and Western Highlands, interspersed with glacial glens (valleys) and lochs (lakes).
Tourism is one of Scotland’s most lucrative assets focusing on its rich history and landscapes. The Scots are proud of their heritage.
Food & Drink:
Why visit Scotland?
It is a marvelous experience! What are you waiting for?
Today's the day my sister and I finally (after many, many years of hearing about this castle from our grandmother), get to visit our Scottish ancestor's home -- Castle Menzies, Weem, Perthshire, Scotland.
Brief history: It is believed that Menzies families were well established in Perthshire by the middle of the 12th century. In 1910 Sir Neil Menzies (the last of the main line of the family) died without heirs. Our great-great-grandmother was Jane Menzies (a distant relative). As things turn out, the extensive Menzies estates was divided and auctioned by Sir Neil's trustees in 1914 scattering four hundred years of documented history of the family and district.
The Castle fell into disrepair and remained empty for many years. The newly-formed Menzies Clan Society purchased it in 1957 with the hope of restoration of their appropriate historical base. In September 1972 restoration began. Small confined areas of the castle were 'unofficially' open to the public for a fee to help offset expenses. The first Menzies Clan Society dinner was held in 1995 to commemorate the restoration progress and officially open the castle for visitors.
As a descendent of the Menzies Clan, we were greeted at the front door with a warm welcome home. It was truly a heartwarming moment. The current Castle Manager, Major David Henderson, provided an extensive 3-1/2 hour tour regaling us with stories of Menzies past.
The most distinguishing feature of Castle Menzies is its Z-shaped construction. This was designed not only as a clan residence but for protection from enemies.
The Menzies Clan adopted a neutral position at both the 1715 and 1745 Jacobite Rising. However many clan members on the outskirt areas were involved.
In February 1746, Menzies Chief, Sir Robert Menzies offered his hospitality to Bonnie Prince Charlie, who rested for 2 days on his way to Inverness and Culloden; and just four days later, hosted the Duke of Cumberland, son of the British Monarch and commander of the Government forces. How ironic that the Menzies came through both uprisings unscathed.
Scotland is indebted to the Menzies for the introduction of the Austrian larch tree from which now flourishes all over the Highlands.
Culloden Battlefield - just 5 miles east of Inverness. Our final stop of the day.
Culloden: It was here that the Jacobite army fought to reclaim the throne of Britain from the Hanoverians for a Stuart king. The British army was equally determined to stop this happening. The ferocious European war had come to Scotland - dividing families and setting clan against clan.
Anyone who has studied the Jacobite Rising in 1745 understands the significance of this melancholy battlefield. It was not, as often portrayed, a battle between the Scots and the English: large numbers of Scots fought on the Government side while the Jacobite army included French units and some English Jacobites. Rather it was the last chapter in a sporadic civil war for succession to the throne that had been under way since 1688.
"Culloden was the last hand-to-hand battle fought on British soil and it took less than an hour. Part of a wider European religious and political conflict, the short but bloody fight changed the course of history. Today the causes and consequences of the Forty-Five are still hotly debated."
Standing where this bloody battle took place, emotions quickly run to the surface. A truly reverent spot that touches your heart, knowing that the hungry, tired Jacobites were out numbered, out maneuvered at this horrific battle and the following days of massacre. The course of history changed on that fateful day - the last battle fought on British soil. Pray that there shall be no more.
Back on the coach to continue south to Fort Augustus for a lunch break. This quaint little village with a series of locks has a population of about 700.
In the aftermath of the Jacobite rising in 1715, General Wade built a fort which was named after the Duke of Cumberland. Wade had planned to build a town around the new barracks and call it Wadesburgh. The settlement grew, and eventually took the name of this fort. The fort was captured by the Jacobites in April 1745, just prior to the Battle of Culloden.
We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day. Bright blue sky with puffy white clouds stayed with us as we traveled south from Inverness to Fort Augustus along Loch Ness.
Back in the coach and off to our final stop of the day...
Our journey continues as we slowly approach the Urquhart Castle sitting on the headland overlooking the Ness. We disembark to enjoy a leisurely stroll around the remains of this medieval fortress, yet still so impressive even today. This was once the largest castle in Scotland with commanding views of Loch Ness and the Great Glen.
Urquhart Castle figured prominently in the Scots’ struggle for independence and came under the control of Robert the Bruce after he became King of Scots in 1306.
In the twilight of its days this was the seat of the chief of Clan Grant. It was last garrisoned in 1692 with 200 soldiers. Though lacking weapons they were well-provisioned and able to hold until after the defeat of the main Jacobite forces. As the last soldiers marched out, they deliberately blew up the towering gatehouse to prevent the Jacobite forces from using this strategic stronghold. The castle soon fell into disrepair and a violent storm in 1715 collapsed the 5-story Grant Tower to complete the destruction.
"During the 1800s the ancient stronghold came to be viewed as a noble ruin in a majestic setting. It passed into State care in 1913, and is now one of the most visited of all Scotland’s castles."
In 1994 Historic Scotland proposed construction of a visitor center and car park to alleviate the problems of parking on the main road. Strong local opposition led to a public inquiry, which approved the proposals in 1998. The Visitor's Center is sunk into the embankment below the road, with provision for parking on the roof of the structure.
Next stop... Lunch
"No visit to the Scottish Highlands is complete without a cruise on Loch Ness. This area is famous for its fascinating myths, turbulent history and tales of a legendary monster," state the travel brochures. And, it is right now!
Today, aboard the Jacobite Queen with warm temperatures, gorgeous blue sky and puffy white clouds, we slowly meander down the Caledonian Canal into Loch Ness, of course keeping a sharp eye out for Nessie.
The Caledonian Canal runs some 60 miles from northeast to southwest linking Inverness in the east to Corpach near Fort William in the west. There are a total of 29 locks. An impressive feat of early 19th century engineering.
At the Dochgarroch Lock there is a minimal change of water level. The captain announced that today it was only a 3-foot change. Still it was impressive considering that this is where we are now entering Loch Ness.
This area is called the Great Glen as it follows a large geological fault known as the Great Glen Fault. It bisects the Scottish Highlands into the Grampian Mountains to the southeast and the Northwest Highlands to the northwest. In April 2002, a long-distance route for cyclists, canoeist and walkers, called the Great Glen Way, was opened with a series of footpaths, forestry tracks, canal paths and
occasional stretches of road. It links Fort William to Inverness.
A truly delight journey with spectacular scenery! What more could we ask for?
But, wait... Is that something in the water making those ripples?
Next stop... Urquhart Castle
Aboard the coach again for our next stop which is not too far away except there is a sign that large coaches are not allowed at this entrance. No problem, we need to backtrack, go down another road for several miles, take a left, then a right, then a left again, oh, maybe there was another right...
Did I say road? Well yes, it is a narrow (very narrow) paved twisty two-lane road just big enough for the coach (not unlike most of the country roads in Scotland). No problem. Glad I am not the driver.
We have arrived at the RSPB: Loch Garten Osprey Centre. (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). Now we all understand, right?
This is a gorgeous place. A short walk through the woods leads us to a semi-circular building that houses the many large-screen monitors focused on the activity in the nest as well as microphones to hear the chattering of the resident ospreys. There are also quite a few binoculars and telescopes to get a good look at the nest without disturbing the ospreys. Many other birds are being fed at the Centre and can easily be watched through the special coated windows.
Cotton grass is found throughout the arctic, subarctic and temperate portions of the Northern Hemisphere in acid bog habitats. It is such a delicate looking plant, yet thrives everywhere we traveled in Scotland.
Heather is a low-growing perennial shrub found in acidic soils in open sunny situations and in moderate shade.
The Centre is an educational facility to study the behaviors of the parent ospreys as well as the migrating flight of the offsprings. In 2008 the Centre began a satellite tracking project to monitor the movements of young ospreys as they migrated for the first time from Loch Garten to their wintering grounds in Spain and West Africa. Ospreys are fish-eating birds and follow the rivers and coastline as they make their way south. They will not return for breeding until they are 2 or 3 years old.
Videos on display showed last year's three chicks as they developed and how the largest two chicks were tagged. While the audience was eagerly watching this video, a great deal of chattering could be heard from the nest. Monitors were quickly changed to view the current situation and discovered a rogue osprey arrived at the nest trying to take over the domain. We were mesmerized as we watched the antics of the male and female osprey forcing the newcomer away.
This has been an exciting and action-packed day from Cairngorm Funicular, to Strathspey Steam Railway to Ospreys. Time to head back to Inverness and dinner.
See you all tomorrow...
After the spectacular Cairngorm Mountain excursion, we head back into Aviemore for the Strathspey Steam Railway journey to Boat of Garten and Broomhill. Lunch will be served while on this hour-long trip. (Sadly we learn that the steam engine will not be used today due to the dryness of the weather and potential of igniting a fire along the tracks. Oh, well..
One of our stops was Glenbogle Station at Broomhill. We learned that Glenbogle is a fictional Scottish estate, created by Compton MacKenzie in his Highland novels, and featured in the BBC series Monarch of the Glen filmed in the area of Cairngorms, Badenoch and Strathspey.
After another hearty breakfast (because you never know when the next meal will arrive), we board our private coach and head to Aviemore in the heart of Cairngorm National Park, one of Scotland's top 10 attractions and home to the UK's highest Funicular Railway. Also, the highest postbox in the British Isles.
Click here to watch a video on the spectacular journey to the summit.
After disembarking at Kyle of Lochalsh, we board a bus to traverse the bridge connecting the island to the mainland. Isle of Skye is the largest and most northerly large island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, 639 sq mi. The terrain radiates from the Cuillin Hills to peninsulas and bays. The rocky slopes provide some of the most dramatic mountain scenery in the country.
To get an adrenalin rush and see the spectacular scenery from a new perspective, watch Danny MacAskill: The Ridge Click here.
The island's largest settlement is Portree, where we stop for a lunch break. It is a beautiful port town with a population near 2,000. Lots of lovely little shops and quaint cafes.
The roadside is speckled with brilliant flowers, the bays are dotted with white sailboats, and the hillside sparkle with waterfalls. A very beautiful place on a gorgeous Scottish summer day.
Next stop... Eilean Donan Castle
After a hearty breakfast, we are off to the train station. Today we are going on one of the world's most scenic rail journeys.
The Kyle Line curves around the western edge of the Beauly Firth to Dingwall before heading west through mountains and lakes, through Strath Bran and Glen Carron, before the final few miles from Strath Carron, alongside Loch Carron into the small port of Kyle of Lochalsh on the West Coast.
Peacefully pleasant scenery of pastures, hillsides and lakes as we meander along the 80 miles for 2-1/2 hours. We arrive at the terminus -- Kyle of Lochalsh -- the crossing point for the Isle of Skye.
About 8:30 p.m. we finally arrive at the Palace Hotel (base for the coming week) nestled on the banks of the River Ness, opposite Inverness Castle. A quick dash to our room to deposit suitcases then off to the dining room for a 3-course meal. Lots of choices on the menu from appetizers, to entrees of meat, fish or vegetarian, and finally scrumptious desserts.
The origin of the Palace Hotel was a mansion house in the 19th century. Today, it has the charm of the past, yet adequate-sized bedrooms well appointed with all the amenities we could ask for. The location was perfect; just a short walk across the bridge to the center of Inverness. And, that is exactly what we did after eating, walked and walked. It feels good to be moving the body after the long flight and long train ride.
Sunset at this time of year is around 10:30 p.m. and sunrise is at 4:30 a.m. -- not very conducive to sleeping, but allows lots of time to explore.
Ah... Inverness, the Capital of the Highlands. We have arrived!
Finally heading north through the English countryside into Scotland with multiple stops along the way and the North Sea not too far from our view. It is a beautiful day, a beautiful trip with so many fantastic sights to see along the way as the train rolls along smoothly at approximately 125 mph.
With 7,334 miles of coastline, Scotland is a nation of water bordered by water - the Irish Sea, the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Consider the 6,000 river networks, over 340 square miles of freshwater lochs (Gaelic word for a lake and a sea inlet), 10 firths (large sea bay or strait) and a 137 mile canal system, all contained within it's 30,000 square miles, you can understand the vivid green countryside, lush forests and beautiful flowers.
OK, Harry Potter fans, I am sure you recognize this spot for the Hogwarts Express to the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. (Hum... don't think I'll travel there!)
Yup... We are at Kings Cross Train Station, London and ready to embark on our long-anticipated rail journey to Scotland from Platform 5.
Time of departure: 12 noon
All aboard! We are traveling on Virgin Trains East Coast. For those that do not recognize the "Virgin" name, it is owned by none other than Richard Branson who pledged to change the way people viewed and used the train system in the UK. This is a new experience for us. In the USA, car and airplanes are the travel choice.
Time of arrival in Inverness, Scotland: 8:00 p.m.
> Wake up time: 3:00 a.m.
> First flight commenced: 5:20 a.m.
> Second flight: 9:20 a.m.
> Arrival time: 9:30 p.m. with a 5 hour time change (4:00 p.m. body time, but exhausted)
> Prehired driver to take us from airport to hotel: No show
> Solution: London Underground. Ride nearly 1 hour, then a quick taxi ride from station to hotel
Happy to collapse into bed.
St John, Virgin Islands was settled in the 1700s by Danish immigrants who saw the agricultural potential of growing sugar cane. Sugar cane requires a growing period of up to seven to twelve months (depending on the weather) and an average temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The continual tropical climate of the Virgin Islands provided ideal conditions to grow and harvest the canes. Almost every hiking trail skirts around sugar cane factory ruins.
The Annaberg Sugar Mill is a well preserve example of what the sugar factories and the surrounding buildings were like. This important commodity of the early settlers provided not only sugar for export but its byproducts, molasses and rum.
Annaberg means "Anna's Hill" and there are several different stories regarding the name. One story says the sugar plantation was named after the plantation owner's daughter, while another story states it was his wife. No matter how the plantation got its name, it was a thriving business during the infamous rum-running days.
Because of St John's hilly terrain, natural vegetation needed to be cut and burned so the hillsides could be terraced. As a result of the culling of native plantings, the soil became thin requiring a fertilizer made of ash and dung. Water was hauled by hand to keep the plants healthy and strong during the growing cycle. During harvest the slaves worked nearly 20 hours a day. The plants were cut, loaded onto carts which the donkeys brought down to the mill for processing.
Sugar cane is a thick, tall, perennial grass that flourishes in tropical or subtropical regions. After harvest of the cane plant, the canes are crushed and the sweet sap is collected, boiled and crystallized.
The old sugar and rum factory buildings were made from coral, lime and sand mixed with molasses and mud. The roof was thatched with sugarcane leaves or palm fronds.
The view from the top of hill is worth the climb. We feasted our eyes on Leinster Bay, the Narrows, the Sir Francis Drake Channel, several of the British Virgin Islands and the forested the mountain and valleys of St. John.
Today, the Virgin Island National Park includes St. John Island, Hassel Island (located within St. Thomas’ Charlotte Amalie Harbor) and the coral reef and mangrove habitat. This National Park encompasses the underwater areas that teem with marine life, gorgeous white sand beaches, rocky coast line, multitude of inlets and bays, hilly terrain with cactus and other vegetation, and acres of lush green forests for hiking all of which we enjoyed fully.
For me, traveling is all about expanding my horizon, learning about the history, photographing flora and fauna, experiencing the culture and talking with others. You'll never know what you don't know unless you begin to explore.
Adventure travel requires that you leave your worries behind and get off the beaten track. Distance yourself from the routines of home and devote your energy to exploring unfamiliar places. Take the road not taken before, bypass the hyped tourist sites and find the surprises around the next bend. This is where real life resides.
Traveling, either abroad or within your country's borders, should be far more than seeing the sights. There must be a change in your thoughts, ideas and living because of all you have experienced. Celebrate life!
Autumn ~ crisp, cool nights and pleasant days; vibrant red, yellow, orange and rust; a hot cup of tea and a cozy fire; a good book and the call of Canada geese. These are autumn changes and they fill me with peace and joy. As Henry David Thoreau said, “Only that day dawns to which we are awake.” It is time to wake up and look around; we are in the midst of change.
As I venture forth in Vermont during this time of year, I am amazed at the power of nature. It has the ability to heal, to provide rest and rejuvenation, and the courage to burst forth with a new color scheme. Autumn is eloquently a part of the circle of life. I stop for a moment and ponder my own circle of life. What changes have I made and do I have the courage to change some more?
Life is a journey, a journey to enjoy. I am going to embark on a journey right now. Do you have the courage to come along? I hope so and I hope this journey will be a vehicle for change for you and for me.
The journey of change…
Let’s park the car, get out, and walk awhile. The sun is bright and warming the day nicely. The air is fresh. Put on your hiking boots, as the ground is uneven and slick with the morning dew. Grab your backpack and let’s go!
Choosing a path…
Shall we go this way or that way? Shall we choose our own path or follow someone’s footsteps? You decide. Sometimes it is easier to travel down a trail blazed and well worn; other times it is best to choose a new direction. Let’s stop for a moment and think about what we are seeking. Do we want to climb the mountain and enjoy the autumn scenery from the top – a mountaintop experience? Or, do we want to tread the serene valley along the meandering brook? Are we looking for peace and solitude or do we need the company of fellow hikers? Do you have the courage to choose?
Enjoy the moments…
As we tread along, we must be conscious of where we place our feet. The trail is uneven with rocks and exposed roots that have a tendency to trip us if we are not attentive. Periodically we need to stop to take in the vista. We need to experience the harmony of nature around us. It is a simple pleasure to watch the chipmunks scurry among the rocks, lose our thoughts at the edge of a waterfall, or breathe in the scents of the pine grove. Take a deep breath. Ah, wonderful autumn air!
Think for a moment about your life and side journeys along the way. Too often, we focus on where we are placing our feet and fail to recognize the peaceful surroundings. Too often, we spend a great deal of time taking care of all our stuff, our successes of the past and choices for the future and forget to look around at life’s treasures of the moment. Too often, we go through each day doing things by rote without even thinking about why we are doing them. We repeat old habits, get the same results and wonder why. Too often, we fail to take the time to nourish our soul. Too often, we miss golden opportunities.
If we do not slow the pace, we will miss the small blue flowers cascading over the ledges. We will miss the call of the birds high in the branches. We will miss the brilliant autumn display. What was the point of this journey, anyway? We need to remember that it is the process, not the destination that is important. Do you have the courage to slow down?
The simple life…
As we journey along our chosen pathway, we begin to notice the tension deep within the body gradually dissipate. We relax and breathe deeper transferring oxygen into the cells. We feel a sense of peace. Little by little our attitude changes and a smile spreads slowly across our face.Think for a moment about your daily schedule, the rat race on the highways, the pressures of success, chaos, clutter and confusion. Do you feel your shoulders tightening and your breathing become more rapid and shallow? Now come back to our autumn journey and relax. Life is simpler here.
Our journey continues and we travel through thick wooded areas. We are glad that we remembered to put some items into our backpacks. It is time to pull out the sweatshirt. It provides warmth in the coolness of the forest.
A little farther along, we notice light filtering through the trees. It is time to sit in a patch of sunlight savoring the warmth; the sweatshirt no longer needed. We reach into the backpack for water and a nourishing snack. We packed well; we have what we need. Do you have the courage to lighten your load?
A journey of choices and changes…
As we walk along harmoniously with nature, I would like to pose another question for you to ponder. What choices and what changes could you make that would free you from your daily stress? Pick just one change and try it out. Do not rush the process. Take it one-step at a time. Do you remember the story about rabbit and the turtle? Slow steady steps win the race.
When I am working with clients who have the massive goal of organizing their whole life, the first thing I want them to understand is that one small change yields huge benefits. After all, in the autumn the leaves start to change gradually – a spot of red here and there, a blend of yellow and orange in the midst of green. Nature teaches us that gradual changes are the easiest to bear. Do you have the courage to make small changes?
Our autumn journey has ended, but your journey has just begun. Here are a few thoughts to take along with you.
If you are interested in more information on the attitudes of living a simple life and the power of organizing, please contact me @ Organizingresources.com
Click here to help: Amani Orphanage Challenge
Update: $3,130 raised of the $10,000 goal to provide a new kitchen and clean drinking water to these children. There is only 35 days left. Can you help?
I took this picture of the charming residents in the care of a small multifaith orphanage in Tanzania. Together the staff seek to bless the lives of children with love, security encouragement and peace. Established in 2009, the orphanage was originally home to 4 boys and 6 girls left homeless from the devastation of AIDs and malaria.
Today, forty children from ages 3 to 12 call this orphanage home. According to Amani, a home means many things: provision of food, health care and basic needs; supervision and guidance; encouragement on school work and a love community of peers and adults.
Consider donating whatever amount you can comfortably give. Every penny will be used for the children's benefit.
I can't even begin to imagine what life would be like if I had to boil water over a wood fire just for safe drinking water. But, I was there and I saw. It touched my heart. Thankfulness and gratitude for what I have spurs me on to help those who care for these children.
Please consider the "Pay It Forward Challenge" so the Amani Orphanage in Tanzania can improve their conditions, finish the kitchen and drill a well for clean water.
By contributing to the Amani Orphanage Project through Indiegogo.com, you, too, can make a difference and insure sustainability for these innocent, bright eyed children who have lost their families to rampant diseases of Africa.
So far: $1,770USD has been raised of $10,000 goal. Can you please help? Only 55 days left in this campaign and we need YOU!
Anyone wanting to participate in the "Pay It Forward Challenge" should consider helping an African orphanage in need of clean water? Check this out. http://childrenofamani.org/
My sister and I visited this orphanage in January and fell in love with the smiling faces and bright shiny eyes as the children sang to us. What a privilege!
These children taken in, housed and fed by the pastor's wife are what remains of families struck with HIV/AIDS and malaria. Blessings to the church and staff who generously care for them.
These are innocent children of multiple faiths just wanting a fresh start in life. Your challenge is to help them achieve clean water.
Summer vacation and far-away trips are opportunities to snap photos. I know! My sister and I took thousands of pictures on our last trip to Africa! But, did you know that taking pictures of important documents could become a life-saver or at least a stress reducer? I know people that cart along paper documents of everything, but those papers are usually back in the hotel room not with you all the time, whereas your phone is always in your pocket.
When you embark on your next adventure, don't forget the endless possibilities your camera equipped-phone, iPad or other handheld device can help with memory lapses. Here are a few ideas:
1. Snap pictures of receipts to track your spending and eliminate the paper clutter.
2. Take a photo of your parking space so you can find your car again.
3. With electronic room keys, the room number can easily slip your mind especially if you change hotel locations frequently. So, get in the habit of taking a quick picture of your room number.
4. Before leaving the car rental lot, take time/dated shots of any visible scratches for proof of damage when you return the car. Also, take a photo of the license plate and other paperwork in case of an emergency.
5. If you happen to take a cab while on a trip, snap a photo of the taxi number and license plate just in case you leave something important behind or other issues develop.
6. If you don't have a contact manager on your phone, create a document with a list of emergency phone numbers. Also make a list of medications, allergy information, etc. Then snap a photo of these lists to have easy access when and if you need the information.
7. Snap a picture of your passport. Losing it in a foreign country could become a disaster. You might also want to include your immunization card to quickly access medical information.
8. Traveling with a laptop? Then take photos of any distinguishing details, such as scratches and dents. Include make, model, and serial number.
9. Finally, before you close your suitcase to head out of the house, snap a photo of the luggage and contents. It just might come in handy if your suitcase is lost or items stolen.
The point of learning how to save brain cells is to have information handy just in case an emergency happens. That is not the time to rack your brain trying to remember details. Using your camera phone is paperless, stressless and easily deleted when you no longer need the information.
Have fun and less stress on your next trip knowing that you are well prepared!
What other ways do you use your camera to keep track of details when traveling? Share your ideas with all our readers.
When traveling alone, do you worry about the security in hotel rooms or housekeeping opening the door at inappropriate times? An easy fix is to tuck a door stopper into your luggage and stick it under the door for added security.
This small item can also be used to keep the door open while schlepping items into the room.
A handy device!
Want to learn a few more slick packing tips. Check out: Howdini Travel: 12 Travel Packing Tips: Howdini Hacks
Do you have an special trick you want me to highlight? Add a comment below.
While traveling to Africa, my sister and I received several travel amenity kits. These kits almost always contain thin, flimsy, over-sized socks. Instead of disposing, re-purpose.
They take up very little space in your carry-on and you never know when you need to protect a trinket, make a pouch for small items that will get lost in the bottom of the suitcase, a glass case, protection for your hands, a polisher for shoes, a quick puppet to entertain a child, or knot several together for an instant jump rope.
Do you have any other suggestion?
Cat/Dog hair clings to everything and escapes notice until you are ready to board your flight or do a big presentation. The following list may be just what you need:
1. Purchase a packet of small lint remover rolls and leave one in your carry-on, purse, checked luggage, car's glove compartment and briefcase.
2. Roll duct tape around your fingers, sticky side out. You can also use cellophane tape, sticky labels or any other sticky item such as the baggage tracking sticker carefully removed from luggage. Some sticky items may leave a trace of adhesive on clothing, so wash as soon as possible.
3. Use the hook side of a Velcro strip. After use, attach the loop side to keep the Velcro clean.
With the increased fees for checked luggage, the carry-on bag has become popular, while TSA regulations have become a headache unless you stock up on travel-size containers.
So, what happens if you forget the shaving cream, men and women? No problem, simply use a dab of your TSA-approved container of conditioner or the hotel amenity. As an added bonus, it moisturizes!
What freebies do you use when traveling?
Every night on our Tanzania safari, we witnessed gorgeous sunsets and beautiful sunrises. The pictures do not do it justice, but the memories will last forever.
Aron, our safari guide for the past 8 days, expertly weaves through the Arusha traffic to our last lodging in Tanzania. We are headed to the Kia Lodge which is close to the airport since we have a 4:00 a.m. flight to South Africa. We settle into our room, decide to just snack on our leftovers rather than a full dinner, walk around the premise and stop to enjoy the views of Mount Kilimanjaro. Oh, how I would love to venture near this majestic mountain and maybe do a bit of climbing. I guess I'll leave that desire for another time.
The last stop in this incredible journey is Lake Manyara National Park. The park roadway winds through an expanse of lush jungle-like forest where we witness large troops of baboons, blue monkeys scamper between the ancient mahogany trees, bushbuck hiding in the shadows, and a cheetah searching for lunch.
We ate our boxed lunch overlooking the Rift Valley, enjoying our final moments in Tanzania. After lunch we head back to Arusha in preparation for the next African adventure.
Next accommodation is Ndutu Safari Lodge facing Lake Ndutu. The lodge is situated in the southeastern part of the Serengeti ecosystem. The tiny stone cottages, shaded by majestic acacia trees, were built with local materials in order to blend into the rustic surroundings.
Our room was small, but comfortable. Even though all the lodges we have stayed in are powered by generators, this is the only one that turns it off during the night which meant that flashlights were needed when dark and no hot water for the early morning showers. Oh, well... we will survive. The gift store was the best we encountered so far, but we knew this ahead of time from the multiple review sights we scoured. So we were prepared to purchase a few tokens to take home to family and friends.
Water is a continual problem at Ndutu and the surrounding areas. Water in the bathrooms comes from a dug-out waterhole near the lake. It is hauled by bowser every day to the Lodge and pumped up to the watertower into four storage tanks. This water contains dissolved minerals (mostly sodium carbonate or 'washing soda') which is impossible to remove and makes the water feel soapy. For this reason it cannot be used for drinking or cooking, nor for mixing cement. Also, uniforms, sheets and towels, which are regularly washed in it, deteriorate after a few months, so replacing these is a constant problem.
The compound is small but quiet and offers beautiful photo ops. There are no fences around Ndutu Safari Lodge and wild animals wander through at all hours of day and night. Watchmen are on duty to escort guests back to their rooms.
Before dinner we took a quick walk before settling down at the camp fire chatting with other adventurers. It became apparent that we got to experience so much more than the larger groups, and we still have a couple more days to go. Yippy!
The best part of this lodge is dinner time. The food is marvelous, the best so far on the trip. And, the entertainment was beyond expectation. Every evening 4 genets sneak in through an opening in the thatched roof and sit on the rafters overhead enjoying the warmth and companionship. It was a pleasant distraction for everyone.
Second discovery was the giant snail. Couldn't resist this photo op.
So much to experience at every stop along our trip as we savored the moments. This trip was totally incredible because we did experience a world so remote from our own daily life. So beautiful, so incredibly beautiful.
Stay tuned to find out what experiences we had the next morning...
Yes, there were more cheetahs as we traveled around the Serengeti Plains and Lake Manyara. We got a chance to capture a few more shots while we waited and waited to witness a chase, but to no avail. Oh, well... maybe the next time.
Click on pictures to enlarge
The thrill today was our first Cheetah sighting in the deep grass watching over a reedbuck antelope. However, there was a body of water between the two causing the cheetah to cautiously wait until she was within striking distance. Click on the pictures to enlarge.
The cheetah can run faster than any other land animal— as fast as 70 to 75 mph in short bursts covering distances up to 1,600 ft, and has the ability to accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in three seconds. We watched and watched but to no avail. The hunt was a slow process.
The coarse, short fur of the cheetah is tan with round black spots affording it some camouflage while hunting. There are no spots on its white underside, but the tail has spots, which merge to form four to six dark rings at the end. The tail usually ends in a bushy white tuft. The most distinguishing feature are the black "tear marks" running from the corner of its eyes down the sides of the nose to its mouth. This black area keeps sunlight out of its eyes and aid in seeing long distances.
The reedbuck is a sturdily built antelope with yellow to grayish brown coat. Only the males possess horns about 10-14 inches long. Its large, oval-shaped ears distinguish it from other antelopes. A small, black, bare glandular patch can be noticed at the base of each ear.
As we continued to watch this cheetah, she hopped on top of a stump to make it easier to survey the surrounding area. Click on the video below to watch a brief clip.
After awhile, the cheetah walked right in front of the safari vehicles that were watching the show. No one needed a telephoto lens to capture this majestic powerful animal. Stay tuned for more cheetah sighting.
We were in the right place at the right time - the Ndutu region of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. In January, the Great Serengeti Migration, movement of vast numbers of wildebeest and zebras, is in the southeast portion of the Serengeti. We were there and parked our safari vehicle in the midst of this awesome experience. Click on the video to experience a few seconds of this movement.
The great Serengeti migration is the movement of millions of wildebeest, accompanied by large numbers of zebras and gazelles in search of greener pastures and better quality of water. Every year is an endless journey across woodlands, hills and open plains, chasing the rains in a race for life. This movement is a predictable annual pattern. The month-by-month pattern is shown on the map on the right.
It is estimated that 1.5 million wildebeest, 400,000 zebras and 200,000 gazelles make up a total of over 2 million migrating animals! They travel in large herds and are active day and night, grazing constantly. Mid February is calving season when approximately 8,000 wildebeest are born every day for a period of approximately 3 weeks. Calves learn to walk within minutes of birth and within days are able to keep up with the herd. The Serengeti plains are rich in nutritious grasses, providing the herds with the best conditions to raise their newborn.
The wildebeest, also called the gnu is an antelope. They were first discovered about 1700 by Dutch settlers on their way to the interior of South Africa. Due to their resemblance to wild cattle, (large head, shaggy mane, pointed beard, and sharp, curved horns) these people called them "wild ox" or "wildebeest."
Predators include lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, and hyenas. Although wildebeest can run up to 40 miles per hour, the young and weak are easy prey. As we contemplated the migration movement, our guide easily pointed out a tree in the distance. Looking through binoculars we located a tree-climbing lion, watching and waiting for the right one to appear.
Next stop: Ndutu Lodge with a wonderful dining experience.
Serengeti is derived from the Maasai language, "Siringitu " meaning "Endless Plains" and it truly seemed that way as we traveled across the dusty, gravel roads. As our guide, Aron, proceeded to obtain the National Park permits, we climbed Naabi Hill to take in the view. Incredible! The Serengeti is made up of rivers, woodlands, plains and kopjes (small rocky hills).
These endless plains fill the southern half of the Serengeti and one of the reasons why the yearly Migration of Wildebeest, along with their zebra friends to lead the way, takes place. More about the migration in the next posting.
Along the way we came across fields of giraffes. What an incredible sight, both near and far. I'll let the pictures tell the story... (click on pictures to enlarge)
Next stop was to watch a lion eating lunch - a zebra. Then, another lion lounging on a rock next to a pull off.
So much to see and witness along the bumpy, dusty, gravel roadway for miles and miles in order to arrive at our next accommodation. It seems that all safari vehicles need to check into lodging before 6:00 p.m. and we were cutting it close, BECAUSE... there was one more stop. Here is a picture as close as we could possibly get! Yes two leopards - momma and cub. The other cub was in a tree right next to this one. Look at the picture closely and you will see the dangling legs of an impala. Leopards carry their kill into a tree to prevent the ground feeding animals an opportunity to steal lunch.
Now it is time to head to our lodging, Serengeti Serena Safari Lodge made up of cute bungalows. We sat on our back porch, absorb the scenery of the Serengeti and watch a little dik-dik playing in the grass.
We will be staying at this darling little bungalow in the heart of the Serengeti for two nights to give us ample time to explore the region. It sits on the saddle of a tree-clad ridge with commanding panoramic views across the Serengeti. The lodge incorporates traditional African architecture and has won numerous awards from the world travel press. It blends completely into the living landscape with a series of traditional domed ‘rondavels' widely spaced throughout the grounds in the midst of a grove of acacia trees. Because of the potential night time animals wandering around, guides with flashlights escort you to and from the dining area. A reassuring idea we took advantage of, because who wants to meet a lion along the way?
Next days adventure... Oh, wow surprises ahead!
More animals found inside the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area. Click on pictures to enlarge.
Next stop: Serengeti Plains...
The African Big Five term has nothing to do with a safari; it was coined by the big game hunters who described these five as ferocious and difficult to hunt. However, "Big Five" it is a great marketing tool for safari operators and a term we were about to use in one day. The Big Five consists of: lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and cape buffalo.
Our day begins around 8:00 a.m. when we meet our guide in the hotel lobby. With luggage stowed in the back of the safari vehicle, lunch boxes safely stored on the floor in the front, water in the cooler, we are off to travel the twisty road down to the crater floor. This area is truly unique because it is the only conservation area in Tanzania that protects wildlife while allowing human infiltration via safari 4-wheel vehicles during daylight hours. The crater is 2,000 feet deep and its floor covers 100 square miles. Lake Magadi, easily seen from the top of the crater, is a saline pan and home to thousands of pink-hued flamingos.
We got to see and photograph the "Big Five" on this particular day. Click the pictures to enlarge.
1. Lions: Our first sighting of lions was a fairly large pride that had recently killed a cape buffalo. We watched them for a considerable amount of time as their posturings was amazing. The hyenas and jackals were waiting in the wings to get their fair share.
Next we found 3 male lions sleeping in the shade of a tree near a brook. And, finally 4 more male lions hanging around the hippo pool. This is where we stopped for a lunch break and many, many more photos with the amazing shot of one lion walking between the vehicles.
2. Leopard: The leopard is the smallest of the four "big cats" with relatively short legs and a long sleek body. Its spots are small, densely packed rosettes. The unique feature of this mighty cat is its ability to climb trees even when carrying a heavy carcass. We were fortunate to see several in trees snoozing after a kill. The evidence were still visible on higher branches.
3. Rhinoceros: Rhinos are large mammals, only second in size to the elephant. They have a thick protective skin, formed from layers and layers of collagen. Adult rhinos have no real predators in the wild, other than humans poaching for the rhino horns. Young rhinos can however fall prey to big cats, crocodiles, wild dogs, and hyenas. We were fortunate to see two (or maybe three) rhinos resting, but quite far even for our zoom lens.
4. Elephant: The largest living terrestrial animals, male African elephants can reach a height of 13 feet and weigh 15,000 lbs. They are herbivores and can be found near a source of water.
African elephants have larger ears (used to control body temperature) and concave backs. (Asian elephants have smaller ears and convex or level backs.)
5. African Buffalo: The African Buffalo (also called Cape Buffalo) is a fearsome animal in looks and behavior. Owing to its unpredictable nature, which makes it highly dangerous to humans, the African buffalo has never been domesticated unlike its Asian counterpart, the Asian buffalo.
Next will be pictures of all the other animals we saw while traveling inside the crater...
We are on the road again heading to a large volcanic caldera - Ngorongoro Crater - the world's largest inactive, intact, and unfilled volcanic bowl. This conservation area is recognized as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. It is about 110 miles west of Arusha.
We arrived at our accommodations, Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge late in the afternoon, checked in, and followed the guide to our room.
The lodge, built entirely of local river stone and camouflaged with indigenous vines, blends into the landscape perfectly as it hugs the jagged crater rim.
Our room was comfortable, the changing room, bathroom and shower area humungous, and the outside timbered floored deck afforded an uninterrupted view of the crater below.
Dinner, an incredible culinary delight, was served in an upstairs room with floor to ceiling windows that allowed a panoramic view of the sunset and amphitheater below. It is stunning and we can't wait for our next day's adventure to the crater bottom.
Click on the pictures to enlarge.
The Maramboi Permanent Tented Camp - our first safari lodging - not exactly what Patty had in mind as she is strictly not a tent camper. However, for one night she just might have to suffer through this.
We arrived late afternoon and were immediately greeted by the manager who offered us cool towels and a fruity drink ( and we soon learned this was a standard custom at all the safari lodges).
After a brief introduction and orientation, we were escorted down a long rock walkway to our "tent." Progression was slowed by the picture opportunity before us - zebras just walking around the area as if they were domesticated.
Once we finally arrived at our "tent room" Patty was pleasantly surprised and quite comfortable with her upcoming tent experience. The accommodations were spectacular. The huge canvas-walled, screened-windows, thatched-roof rooms were raised on platforms and consisted of all the necessities, including electricity and running water. Let's just say the were luxurious - from all the amenities to the linen and pillows! I personally enjoyed the marvelous pillows! Why can't all places have pillows like this one?
Our afternoon and early evening was filled with animal watching - zebras, impalas, wildebeest, jackal and the lone Leopard tortoise.
Next stop: Ngorongoro Crater and Conservation Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Besides all the elephants at Tarangire National Park, we were able to snaps some photos of a variety of animals throughout the park. Click on a picture to enlarge.
Next stop: Our "luxury" accommodations for the night...
We were blessed to have a guide who could rattle off the names and facts of specific birds. Although we didn't always get great pictures, here are a few that are somewhat okay. Click on the picture if you want to enlarge.
Tarangire National Park, located 75 miles southwest of Arusha is an easy drive on mostly surfaced roads (well, mostly... except the several detours onto back-country-dusty-bumpy-trails while the main road was being resurfaced.) At a small village that sported Coca-Cola signs everywhere we turned off the main road for the last 4 miles of graveled bumpy dusty roadway to the entrance and a giant baobab tree. These beautiful trees grow to heights of over 100 feet, have massive trunks as large as 36 feet in diameter, and can live for several thousand years.
The Baobab Tree has a special role to those that live near them as well as to the elephants, monkeys and baboons. It can provide shelter, food and water for animal and human inhabitants in savannah regions. The tree's fruit is a large pod known as 'monkey bread' or 'cream of tartar fruit' and rich in vitamin C. The seeds are rich in protein, calcium, oil and phosphates. They can be roasted and ground like coffee beans. Young leaves have a high calcium content and can be used as spinach. The trunk is fibrous and can be woven into rope mats and paper.
Tarangire National Park is 1,096 sq miles. The name of the park originates from the Tarangire River that crosses through the park, being the only source of water for wild animals during dry seasons. And, this is where we found the elephants. Many, many elephants. Huge herds of elephants. I am sorry that our pictures do not do it justice. I suppose a video of the huge herds would have been better, but here are a few to let you experience the thrill of elephants.
Click on the pictures to enlarge.
Next post I will share photos of the other animals in Tarangire. Stay tuned...
Arusha, a multicultural city in northern Tanzania, is surrounded by some of Africa's most famous national parks and game preserves: Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, Olduvai Gorge, Tarangire National Park, Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru. It has a temperate climate with January averaging a high of 84 and low of 50 and rainfall about 2.3 inches. This is where our adventure begins.
The area is serviced by the Kilimajaro International Airport which is approximately a 45-minute drive to Arusha. Thus this city is a stopover for the many safari trips.
As we drive through the city heading west, we are bombarded with traffic, people and markets. The main mode of public transport is walking, motor bikes and the daladala, a minibuses which is cramped and safety is a serious concern. However, the ride is very cheap, US$ .20 is the fixed price for any trip around town.
We are happy to be safely inside our safari vehicle.
We can't say enough about the amazing experience and marvelous education Good Earth Tours and Safari provide us while in Tanzania. Certainly our travel expectations were exceeded as neither one of us had any real concept of what we were getting ourselves into. Yes, we had seen pictures and listened to tales of other adventurers, but did we really understand what was ahead? No, no, no... As Aron, our guide frequently said, "Every day is full of surprises!" And, it was!
Pick up: First morning pickup was 9:00 and we placed our adventure into capable hands. After the first day, we usually began our adventures shortly after 8:00 a.m. as both of us are early risers.
USA Coordinator: Baraka Maro 888-776-7173 provided us with timely information to make our journey possible. It was his attention to details that convinced us to take the leap and put down the deposit. You can bet we are so, so glad we did! Thanks, Baraka for setting the stage for this trip of a lifetime. Without you, it wouldn't have happened.
Guide: Aron - What can we say? Everyone thinks they have the best guide. But, really??? Aron had eagle-sharp vision to spot a tree climbing lion, park us in the middle of the wildebeest/zebra migration and still not run over the chameleon in the middle of the road. His gentle persona was just what these two sisters needed. We will never forget our muddy adventure as Patty tried so hard to direct the rescue operation.
Vehicle: Toyota Land Cruiser held together quite well through the rough graveled pot-holed roads, muddy streams, over the plains, around the wooded areas and safely to our accommodations each evening. A cooler between the back seats held a good supply of bottled water (well needed) and energy-packed chocolate candy bars salvaged from our daily lunch box.
Accommodations: All were quite nice and more than adequate. Nice? Hum... more luxurious than we expected. We thrilled at the huge permanent tent equipped with bathroom and shower and the most luxurious pillows! There was plenty of wildlife running around the property to keep us entertained all evening. We marveled at the vista from our balcony at Ngorongoro Crater and could hardly wait for our next day's adventure into this wildlife sanctuary. We enjoyed the private escorts between our room and the dining area just in case a lion came to visit. Sunsets and sunrises were a special treat every day along with the early morning rainbow and balloon flight over the acacia trees at Ndutu.
Sister's agreement: This was the best trip ever and worth every penny we spent!
Ok, well, the excitement isn't really beginning today since we slept until noon. A quick shower, searched the suitcase for warm weather clothing and then off to fill our bellies. The dining area is outside on a covered patio which was truly delightful. We are pleased to find the lunch menu enticing - hamburger and fries, Coca-Cola and coffee.
Our little round bungalow is delightful and Mt. Meru is visible in the background. Mount Meru is an active volcano with the most recent eruption in 1910. At a height of 14,977 feet, it is the ninth or tenth highest mountain in Africa, dependent on definition. Who's going to quibble with the facts?
We spent the afternoon walking the grounds, sitting by the pool, listening to the birds, marveling at the flowers, and enjoying the warm sunshine. So, so far away from the bitter cold and snow!
After dinner, we repack our suitcases knowing that for the next 8 days we will be on the move daily and very little time to rummage through our stuff. Task complete, we head off to bed eager for the safari to begin. Tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. we begin our adventure!
I arrived at the airport hours ahead of schedule; you take a ride whenever it is available. Sitting in the Club Lounge reading my book, chatting on the phone and sipping wine made the afternoon a breeze. Finally it was time to board the first of three legs - 7:00 p.m. Monday night with the expected arrival time in Tanzania at 2:00 a.m. on Wednesday. I am happy to say, all flights were on time and completely bearable since we had comfortable seats that reclined to 180 degrees for sleeping. After dinner, we popped a sleeping pill and relaxed the hours away.
Once we were at the Kilimanjaro Airport we experienced a confused system: Lane #1 - pay for and obtain an entry visa ($100 bucks gone real fast); Lane #2 - answer a few questions (like, ah, why are you here?) and get passport stamped; Lane #3 - fingerprinting both hands all while the electrical lights blinked on and off. (Seems government has a problem supplying consistent electricity).
With all that rigmarole behind us, we gathered our suitcases and headed outside to find our guide waiting for us with our names on a sign. Whew!!! Our biggest fear was that in the wee hours of the morning we would be left alone. I must say Good Earth Tours and Safari was well organized!
The drive into Arusha took nearly an hour with very little to see except zebra crossings. Chuckle... Patty really looked for the zebras! We even stopped for a brief minute to view Kilimanjaro in the distance in the dark. (You could just make out a barely visible outline.)
Arrived at our lodging around 3:30 a.m. and had to wait while the proprietor got up, dressed and opened the front doors. Once we were shown to our quarters, we collapsed into bed (mosquito netting in place), popped another sleeping pill and fell fast asleep.
Stay tune for the excitement to begin...
Actually, we are catching a late night flight from Washington to Turkey, then a connecting flight to Tanzania for an 8-day safari. Kilimanjaro here we come!
The next leg of the trip is an early morning flight (4:05 a.m. - that's right in the morning) to Ethiopia with a connection to South Africa where we will spend the night.
Then we will hop, skip and jump to Zimbabwe for a few days to see Victoria Falls (one of the Natural Wonders of the World) and have a bit of fun before heading back to reality (and snow and cold) the end of January.
We have had our Hepatitis shots, tetanus booster, Yellow Fever shot and Typhoid vaccine pills. We have malaria prevention pills to be taken before, during and after we get home. We sprayed our clothes with Permethrin, packed the Deet and sunscreen, and slipped the cameras into the backpack. We are ready!
If possible we will post pictures either on this website or on Facebook, but internet connection may be a bit spotty since most of the tent camps run off of a generator. Electricity may be a problem; water is definitely a problem. Oh, well... Can't wash or blow dry my hair, so every day may be a bad hair day!
Oh, the Passport Health Consultant informed us that we should stay away from coffee since the water is a problem. If the coffee is of percolator-type then we can be assured the water has boiled, otherwise a drip coffee maker only uses hot water, not boiled. So, anyone under these circumstances looks for an alternative and "Pocket Coffee" - chocolate with a dollop of espresso inside is a great alternative. I'll get my chocolate and coffee fix all at the same time.