Friday, June 22, 2012

On Safari

During my two years in Africa, I was super blessed with the opportunity to go on two different safaris:  Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Sabi Sands, South Africa.
Victoria Falls
In my opinion, this is one of the most special places on earth.  I am a huge fan of David Livingstone, so visiting Victoria Falls was a dream of mine.  We stayed at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, which was absolutely beautiful.  They have great rooms, great food, and a fantastic view.  We hiked around the waterfall and also went on an awesome safari.
statue of David Livingstone

Victoria Falls

This bridge over the Zambezi River next to the falls has one of the largest bungee jumps in the world!
We took a helicopter ride, which I totally recommend.  It allows you to really see the falls.  We rode with United Air Charter.

"The Smoke that Thunder"
The Lodge also has some great local entertainment:

Sabi Sands, South Africa
The Sabi Sand Reserve is one of Kruger Park's private reserves in South Africa.  This is the best safari I went on judging by the amount of animals we saw.  This game reserve has gorgeous accomodations and really good food.

Walking Tour!!  Yeah, that's a lion print:)
Johannesburg, South Africa
I was able to stop in Johannesburg to see some friends, and we went on a tour of Soweto.  This is where Nelson Mandela grew up, and you are able to take a tour of his childhood home.

These are once in a lifetime adventures that I will never forget.  If you ever have the opportunity to go to Africa, it will be one of the most significant events of your life.  A big thanks to my mom and sister for making these safaris possible:)

Monday, June 18, 2012


Another post for the Travel Blog:)  It had been a life long passion and dream of mine to travel to Africa, so after college I moved there for two years.  I was given the opportunity to work in Senegal, West Africa, where I lived in the capital of Dakar with various trips out to different villages.  Senegal is in sub-Sahara Africa and right on the Atlantic coast, so it is a great mixture of desert and tropical landscape.  I'll touch on some of my favorite places in and around Dakar.
Dakar, the city
Dakar is a good introducation to life in a 3rd world country.  It is largely Islamic, French-speaking and has one of the largest universities in West Africa.  Below are some pictures from the city.
downtown mosque

view from the roof of my apartment

Typical scene. The men are carrying bed foam pads; the boys are playing soccer:)

Horse carts share the roads.

public transport

Mamelle Mosque on Plage d'Ouakam

Fishing. Pulling in the nets for the day.

Me with University Cheick Anta Diop students across the street from campus.
Dust storm over the city.

Some of the awesome African crafts for purchase in one of their many
Villages of Senegal

Some of the most beautiful people you will ever meet.

baobob trees
Reserve de Bandia
Giraffes and animals you would normally picture in Africa are not native to Senegal.  Reserve de Bandia is a protected area where you can view some of these animals on a mini-Safari.

That baboon had just stolen my shoe... ;)
Ile de Goree
Goree Island is a tourist attraction due to it's tragic history as a major slave-trading port.  It has a heart-breaking beauty as you walk through the colorful buildings and pass clear blue water to the Maison des Esclaves (House of Slaves).

The Door of No Return, where they loaded the boats.
Ile de Ngor
Ngor Island is a surfer's paradise.  It has some of the best waves in Senegal and is a beautiful tourist attraction with colorful houses and restaurants.  I have a whole photo album of just doors and gates that I found there, but that is for a different post.

Ile aux Serpents
Snake Island is by far my favorite.  It is one of the uninhabited islands of the Iles des Madeleines.  You can pay one of the fishermen to take you out on their boat, and they will come and pick you up that evening.  Be sure to bring lots of sunscreen because there is only one lonely little tree on that whole rocky island.  There is a small lagoon that has the most calm, clear water I have ever seen.  You can jump off rocks and float all day.  Just be careful of the sea urchans lining the shallow rocks surrounding the lagoon.  It is an amazing place to explore.

Senegal will always hold a very special place in my heart. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

One backpacker's guide to Europe

This blog post is for my Travel Blog page.  This covers my 13 day backpacking experience around Europe; just one suggestion on how you can map out your trip.  I'll include some tips I learned the hard way, things to do in each city, and my favorite spots.  I had the awesome priviledge to backpack Europe with one of my best friends, Lyd.  We started our adventure in...
When you go to Amsterdam, one of the best ways to explore is by renting a bicycle at one of their many rental locations.
We really enjoyed taking the ferry across the river away from the busy part of the city and into the beautiful country side.  We had the lady at the bicycle shop circle where all the windmills were in the city, and we went on an adventure to find them all:)

From Amsterdam, we started our 13 day Eurail pass.  We boarded the train for...

Enkenbach, Germany
Many of you have not heard of Enkenbach, but it is one of the cutest little towns in Germany and where I happened to live when I was little.  If you want a taste of true German culture without the tourists, it's a great place to visit.

We didn't stay in a hostel here, but with some of my family's dearest friends:) 
Next we boarded the train to... Berlin

the Berlin wall
We spent about two days just walking around Berlin, taking it all in.  Then we left for...
Salzburg, Austria
There are two organized tours I highly recommend when you reach Salzburg.  The first is the Sound of Music tour.  This will take you out into the beautiful country surrounding the city, and on a bus where they play all of the music from the movie!

the Von Trapp house from the movie

the famous gazebo! "I am 16 going on 17..."

the church where Maria and the Captain got married in the movie
The other is a tour of the Salt mines.

There's this really fun slide you take to get deeper into the cave:)
Our next stop was Garmisch, Germany in Bavaria
This was my favorite city on the trip, absolutely beautiful!

then Venice
We stayed in a camping village about an hour outside of Venice called Alba D'Oro in one of their cabins. I don't recommend it. What I recommend is trying to find one of the cool hostels in Venice on a canal before you arrive in the city. We were kind of winging it, which proved very entertaining most of the time, but we would've preferred to stay in the city. 

We made two mistakes in Florence. One, we were there on a Monday. Museums are closed on Mondays. So we didn't get to see the David statue or anything else.  Still a very cool city to walk around with some awesome cathedrals. Second mistake, we planned to just sleep in the train station that night. The Florence train station actually closes at 1am.  So we ended up hopping on the last train out of there, which was to Pisa.  The Pisa train station doesn't close;)

This was the only picture we took in Florence;)hehe  Now Mattioli is this awesome Italian leather boot shop where I bought my boots!  Highly recommend!! ;)
Rome, Italy
We finally made it to Rome: from Florence, to Pisa, to Rome. If you're ever in Indiana, I'll tell you the full story over a beer;)

St.Peter's Basilica

The Colosseum

Now these guys stand outside of the Colosseum and will grab your camera to get their picture with you. WARNING: They will force you to pay them for the picture by holding your camera hostage! You do get a pretty funny picture out of the deal, but just be ready to pay.hehe
Geneva, Switzerland

Reformation Wall in Bastions Park

Lake Geneva.  Lyd went paragliding off that mountain!
Paris, France

Our final stop on day 13 was London, England
We made sure to stay in a Bed and Breakfast here.  London has some great ones.  The highlight of our stop in London was seeing Phantom of the Opera at Her Magesty's Royal Theatre, which is absolutely beautiful.

So this is just one take on how to organize a backpacking trip of Europe.  We had way too much fun and will never forget it.  This post is totally dedicated to Lyd, who is now raising her own little family of adventurers:)