Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I'm hopping on a flight to Zurich and then to the US today... heading to Florida for Kevin's wedding and then back to Chicago on April 5. I have tons of things to post about that have happened in the past few weeks, but have been too busy making them happen to do so. Luckily I have many, many hours on planes to do that. In the mean time, check these out...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Electronic Weirdness

Of course, as soon as I got down here, my electronics started falling apart. Somewhere on my trip from Chicago to Jo'burg, the LCD screen on my point and shoot camera stopped working. My Blackberry comes up with new freaky ways to fail me every so often - keys working only one at a time, text messages taking 3 days to show up, new emails showing up with the date stamp 10 days in the past, etc. The saddest though is my iPod. I've had it for just over 3 years, so it's a few months past its planned obsolescence. Rather than failing altogether though, some of the files just became corrupted. The weird thing is that it's only the back half of the alphabet. Artists A-M are pretty much fine, but if I put on something from artists N-Z, the iPod crashes and I have to force re-start it. So, I have to be on alert when I play a playlist so that none of those come up. It's pretty sad.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Won't You Stay a Little Bit Longerrrrrr

So it looks like I'll be down here a little longer - at least til mid-April and possibly through early May. I'll be using the extra time to help sell the next project to our client. Well, that and going to Kruger, Cape Town, Victoria Falls, the Drakensburg Mountains...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Woolworth's - The South African Whole Foods

The mall closest to me has two grocery stores in it - Pick N Pay (the Jewel / Shaw's / etc) and Woolworth's, which is basically the Whole Foods of South Africa. Interestingly enough, you have to walk through a mall and through part of a department store to get there...

But if you keep going...

You get to the actual supermarket. It all closes at 7 PM, so work makes weeknight grocery shopping difficult.

Yes, everyone around the world is all over organic. The local food craze hasn't quite hit here yet, I think I give it a year or so.

The produce is decent, but the wild game meat selection is disappointing. I have bought ostrich, but that's about as exotic as my Woolworth's gets.

The dried fruit and nut section - this is what keeps me going in my office during the day. Current favorite dried fruit - pineapple.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Madikwe Game Reserve - Etali Safari Lodge

While at Madikwe, we stayed at Etail Safari Lodge, one of the most luxurious experiences I've ever had. From the welcome drinks to the farewell, we were well taken care of by all of the staff. Meals and snacks were served roughly every 3 hours, the bar was open, there was a complimentary massage therapy session, etc etc. The lodge did a great job of incorporating the resplendent beauty that was all around as opposed to struggling against it to create something separate. We were constantly reminded that we were in the middle of nature - we even required an escort with a rifle when we were walking from the main lodge to our units at night. Also, our total cost for the room, 2 game drives, 4 or 5 meals, drinks, and a massage came to roughly $300, or half the cost of a room in a Manhattan hotel. Good times.

The beach chair by the stone whirlpool overlooking a valley - nice place to get a tan

The stone outdoor shower. One of the best showers I've ever had, and lemme tell ya, I'm somewhat of a shower snob

The deck - great place for a sunburn-free nap. I opted for the one that included

My room

The bathroom

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Madikwe Game Reserve

My first real African safari was at Madikwe Private Game Reserve, which is roughly 4 hours from Jo'burg. It was raining on our drive in, so it took more like 5 1/2 hours. The last 100 km is unpaved, so the rain made it slow going. Once Rafael, Tat-Seng, and I got there though, we were greeted by our driver, our spotter, and our host as well as 3 cold drinks. After a late lunch and then high tea, we went on our first game drive. It was rainy, so a lot of the paths were too muddy for us to take. We ended up just driving on bigger roads, but we still managed to see some good stuff, including a pair of lions (right at sunset) and tons of zebra and impala and wildebeest. We got back around 8 PM, had dinner, and went to bed in order to wake up at 5 AM the next morning.

We were back in the safari vehicle around 5:30 AM as the sun was just starting to show on the horizon. You have to get going early because that's when the animals are actually out - they sleep in the middle of the day when it's too hot to do anything else. We drove around for 4 or 5 hours, all around parts of the reserve we couldn't go to the previous night because of the rain. We saw a lot more on our morning drive - a white rhino, a few elephants, dozens of giraffe, and countless zebra and impala and wildebeest and fancy birds. We also saw the dominant male lion of the reserve - basically the Mufasa of Madikwe. He was huge. At point he crouched down as if he was going to pounce on our car, at which point our driver/guide had us all stay still. With all of the big animals, the strategy is to get reasonably close, shut the engine off, and let them come to the car (or not). He said we'd drive out of any trouble we got ourselves into, but there was also a rifle sitting on the dashboard of the vehicle just in case. We didn't really have any trouble though, which was mildly disappointing.

(Click on the slideshow to see it in higher resolution in another window)

The whole experience was just incredibly relaxing. Relentlessly tranquil. The serenity of the lodge and the drives were unlike anything I've experienced before. Maybe it's just that I haven't been somewhere quiet in too long, or that far away from TV or internet or Blackberry or even cell phone reception. Or maybe it was just the realization of the dreams of a lifelong Discovery Channel / National Geographic / Animal Planet devotee. Whatever it was, I'm sold. Next stop: Kruger.