With the new year here it seems like a time to reflect on the memorable moments of 2014. I didn’t realize there were so many until I started to put this post together. And then it started to get really long. But I’ve tried to shorten it a bit for those who follow my journey regularly and added links for those who are new here.
South Africa for the 3rd glorious time
Did I really start the year off with three months in South Africa? Oh Yea! But it seems so long ago already and I long to return. Of course January’s photos are limited because of my computer being stolen however the memories linger on. After my arrival and stocking up on supplies Joan and I spent a few days in Pilanesberg GR/NP with Impala, Zebra, and unfortunately destructive Baboons, wandering into camp.
Next we went to Kruger National Park for an almost two week safari, by far my favorite park in the country. Once again I saw the Big 5 and added Wild Dogs to my species list. We saw lions almost every day usually first thing in the morning while they still lounging on the warm road. Became mandatory birders due to well watered and tall grasses reducing visibility. And according to Joan we saw more leopards than usual. Of course elephants ARE my favorite.
In February we traveled from Kruger to the coast via Badplass where the water-slides flow with warm thermal water. Drove to Sodwana Bay but needed 4×4 to get anywhere so camped in St Lucia, a perfect base to visit Hluhluwe National Park and Cape Vidal iSimangaliso Wetland Park. So much contrast between the coast and ‘the bush’ as so much inland landscapes are referred to.
The bush has captured my spirit so it was no problem convincing Joan, who used to guide there, to return to Kruger after replacing the laptop. And why not the warm waters of Badplaas along the way.
After another week of wildlife in Kruger we headed south to the Wild Coast where we saw magnificent fossils along the beach and ate out twice at the highly recommended Mac Banana. We toured a mohair factory (which I still haven’t posted about) just outside of Port Elizabeth on the way to Tsitsikamma National Park, my fourth visit and favorite coastal park so far.
Our journey headed inland in March to another diverse landscape of the almost harsh looking Great Karoo and Karoo National Park. We only stayed a couple days and with limited accessible roads that was plenty of time to see the wildlife, digest the geology and get acquainted with our neighbor the giant turtle. I wanted to return and share Warmwaterberg Spa with Joan, a place she’d never been. So we splurged on accommodations in the Main house and enjoyed our private Roman bath for two nights stay.
Then another little backtrack, which we are famous for, through Meiringspoort pass to Addo National Park, my third visit and second favorite SANPark, and where Joan volunteers education programs. Elephants every day for 5 days, lots of them, many miles of passable roads, diverse landscapes, much wildlife, and did I mention lots of elephants.
Our next stop, Mt Zebra National Park, and having been there before knew our way around and again enjoyed the rolling landscape and wildlife, despite the rain.
Next we headed north with a restocking stop in Upington before a planned 7 days in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The dunes, mountains and valleys are rich with wildlife. But unfortunately we couldn’t visit most of it because of absolutely terrible roads due to unusual recent rains and broken maintenance equipment. We cut our visit short, returning to Upington.
Then on to Augrabies Falls National Park where I celebrated 60. And because of heavy rain the falls flowed with a magnificent palpable power. And also because of the rain our camp was flooded and we splurged on a Chalet.
From there our long journey back to Johannesburg where I’d fly out in April and a return to Pilanesberg for 10 days over holiday. Joan and I talked about our three months traveling together. Both agreed it was wonderful, maybe just a little too long, and we would miss each other immensely. We put 5,000 miles on Joan’s truck, camped 80 out of 85 days, and visited 10 national parks, plus a whole lot more. Another memorable journey for me and every visit I leave a little more of my heart behind in South Africa.
Grand Canyon and surrounds
After returning to Arizona mid-April I had about two weeks to pack and roll to the North Rim for my summer season at Grand Canyon. I actually managed to stay awake for the first half of the lunar eclipse and got pretty good photos. During training time the staff went camping at Toroweap, unfortunately the only time I made it out there this year. We spent a little time on the South Rim for some very informative presentations and even saw condors at Navajo Bridge on the way back. After cleaning up and preparing for the crowds the North Rim opened on May 15th and we were busy right from the first day.
In early June, blogger Pat visited Grand Canyon and after showing her around we also visited Zion National Park. I just love meeting bloggers as I feel like we’re already friends. The weather cooperated with Grand Canyon’s annual Star Party that began on Solstice and lasted a week offering visitors incredible views of the night sky through at least a dozen telescopes.
Like climate clockwork monsoon season began in July. In fact the annual 4th of July water parade was almost rained out, but then we all got wet there anyway. I discovered a new place to camp along the canyon rim at Jumpup Point although the drive is long and rough so not sure how often I’ll return. Monsoon storms continued to put on quite a show through August and into September some days filling the canyon with drifting clouds. Yet the weather gave a break for the North Rim’s annual Heritage Days entertainment and also gave some brilliant rainbow gifts.
Then Autumn arrived with bright splashes of golden aspen mixed amongst the deep ever-greens and even showed off a bit of oranges and deep reds in the most brilliant fall I’ve seen there yet. The colors came on early and hung on into October to the end of my season.
Fall into Winter road trips
I had planned a Fall road trip with a camper to the Pacific Northwest but the camper didn’t come along in time. So instead, after one week back in Yarnell, my dear friend Berta and I flew to Portland where we visited with some of her family and explored her old stomping grounds in Bandon. We also managed to squeeze in a bit of the Columbia River Gorge and a dear friend in Washington. All in ten days.
I still had itchy feet and continued to hunt for and found a cab-over camper. So in mid-December I headed off the cold 5,000 feet in Yarnell and headed for the warmer desert finding my way to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in California where I sit writing this post.
The most memorable event from this year happened just before Christmas when a terrible assault on my dear friend Joan in South Africa occurred. She was beaten and robbed of her laptop with no means to replace it. I asked for help and was overwhelmed at the response and donations. Sitting with tears of joy literally running down my face it dawned on me what the true spirit of Christmas means. I avoid all the holiday hubbub. I ran away to the desert. Yet my heart was filled with love and caring, because of YOU. I can’t thank you all enough. I chatted with Joan Tuesday while she used a borrowed computer and I know she feels this same overwhelming joy. Enough funds were gathered, and transferred, for her to replace the laptop. Thank you all from both of us. And thanks for sharing the memories.
Happy New Year!
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