Safari with Chasin’ Africa

In mid-April, my family and I went to the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Safari has been something I have always wanted to do. I love elephants, to the point that I shake when I see them. I get so nervous and excited all at once. I think they are just the most majestic animal, so wise and massive and if you look into their eyes you can see into their souls… okay, I digressed a little then. OBSESSED is the word you are looking for. But basically, I’ve always wanted to see them in the wild, so a safari has always been one of the top things I want to do.

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The Kruger National Park is situated in the most North East of South Africa, bordering Mozambique’s national park, Limpopo. They have a partial fence between the two, most of it has been taken down to encourage natural migration of the animals. It is 19,485km², making it the largest game reserve in South Africa. It was originally established in 1898 by Paul Kruger, the President of Transvaal as the Sabie Game Reserve. Later in 1927, it merged with Shinwedzi Game Reserve, and became the Kruger National Park.

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We were collected from our lodge by Donald, who is one of the owners of Chasin’ Africa at 5.20am – an early start but 100% worth it. They get you in before the gates open so the park is quieter and you don’t have to queue to do all of the fun paper work. Something you don’t really think about when on safari, but everyone has to go through the same gates and have the same checks which can take a while to do. We were off and through the gates by 5.50am. Only 10 minutes before the rest of the crowd, but this really was our own fault as we weren’t the fastest at leaving the lodge, ooops! Either way though, we were in! We were also incredibly lucky in the fact that there was nine of us, the exact number that fit in their trucks! So it felt more like a private tour. We were also provided with blankets to snuggle under as it was a little chilly (okay not UK chilly but still!) that early in the morning which was great.

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Donald was AMAZING! I must admit, I was mostly interested in the mammals that live in the park – elephants, cheetahs, lions etc but he got us looking at all the birds, the plants and the bugs. All these animals and foliage help make up a remarkable eco system. It’s easy to forget that even the smallest of creatures make a massive difference to the Kruger. It also helped that when we didn’t recognise a bird he put it in context by using the Lion King – red-billed hornbill aka Zazu! It was just brilliant that he knew the best way to get people to take note of the smaller, but just as important, animals. From then on, we looked at so many different birds – fish eagle, lilac breasted roller, saddle billed stork. It was great to see so many different animals up close, that otherwise I would never have known about. His knowledge and professionalism definitely made the trip, it just made those stretches where we didn’t see much just as great as when we save the wildlife. I’ve learnt so much from him and loved every second of it. Though gutted we didn’t get to ask any questions that stumped him, next time!

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The skill of Donald also meant we got to see the Big Five in one day. An old hunting term referring to those animals most dangerous to hunt ie they kill the hunters – Lions, Rhinos, Elephants, Leopards and Cape Buffalo. It was pure magic seeing them all. Obviously, elephants were my favourite, they always were going to be, but seeing the others (and the cubs of the lions and buffalo) was extraordinary. I never really believed we would see them all. Apparently if you drove every road in the Kruger and could see 500m either side of the road you would still only see 5% of park! Isn’t that just crazy!! You then realise how fortunate you are to see ANY animals.

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The lunch available in the park is fairly average – sandwiches, pies etc, almost what you were expect in an airport. I advise you take your own, and DO NOT forget water! Super important! And mozzy spray for the sunrise and sunset part of your dive, you don’t want to be eat alive. Would take away from the joys of the Kruger if you are scratching the whole time.

We were out in the park for 12 hours! Initially supposed to be dropped back off at our accommodation at 4.30pm but Donald gave us more time so that we could we a Leopard and Lion cubs right at the end. We ended up leaving at 6.30pm!!

Hopefully I will one day be returning to the Kruger and if I do I will definitely be booking another trip with Chasin’ Africa, and I really think you should to.

Have you been to the Kruger before? Would you love to? What would be your favourite animal to see?

 

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Cape Town – My Top Things To Do 

At the beginning of April I was lucky enough to go to Cape Town! We were there for five days and everyday was JAM BACKED! It was hard to pick a few top things but here they are…

Table Mountain 

There are lots of different routes for you to choose from, depending on how long you wish to take and your fitness pick accordingly . We took the Platteklip Gorge route, right around the corner from the cable cars. It’s hard work, but the views you get make it worth it. In total it took us about 2 hrs. We range in fitness but I would say we are all average or above. We never rushed and did take loads of water breaks! That’s one thing you need to make sure you have lots of- WATER. This hike is said to be the one that gets the most sunshine! Try to avoid doing it in the midday sun (something we failed at!). Take your time up at the top, the views are incredible. There is a place you can get more water, food and ice cream. Plus all the other facilities you need after a long walk. There is also a gondola you can take up and down. We had planned to take it down but some one had set four fires along the mountain so it was closed. For some crazy reason we decided rather than waiting we would walk back down. Something my legs regretted for the next four days! Try to pick your timings when you go up – you’ll want a clear day though this can sometimes be unpredictable. If you are in Cape Town for a few days try to stay flexible  so you can pick the best time to climb up.

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Boulders Beach 

Penguins, penguins and MORE penguins! What is not to love. It costs R65 to get in, but this can be used at any of the 3 entrances so you get to see as many penguins as you want. The first gate we went through went onto the beach. Here you can actually, paddle/swim with the penguins. But remember these are wild animals. They will bite and they do get stressed. Try to keep a safe distance and NEVER cut off a penguin from his buddy. It’s not fair on them, they are only little! Also, whatever you take with you make sure you take away, think plastic bags/bottles and wrappers. It’s hard when you get excited to remember these things but it’s better for everyone if you do. The second entrance we went into takes you along the boardwalk. It takes you right up to the beach where (during April) you can see the baby penguins as well as ones sitting on their eggs. It’s an amazing site! You’ll see nature at it’s best. I loved just watching them all. I could have stayed for hours but the entrances close at 5pm during April and varies throughout the year so make sure you get your timings right.

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V&A Waterfront 

So we actually ended up here for the day as our tour for Robben Island was cancelled due to poor visibility . Apparently this is quiet common. Something you should remember when you book your tickets. We were all gutted that we couldn’t go but it means we will be back! But as we couldn’t make it we did Jerry 1, which is only small but still moving. This is actually the original site where people were taken before they were taken to Robben Island. It’s full of letters and people’s requests to see loved ones on the island. Really powerful stuff.

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The waterfront has a fair amount to do. We started with breakfast at the V&A Food Market. Literally heaven. Has something for everyone and seating where you can all reconvene when you’ve picked your food! Plus it’s cheap! A win win in my world! I personally loved the coffee from the Coffee Power Station. And if you bring your reusable cup coffee only costs R20!

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Just behind this is the Water Shed – a huge hall filled with craft bits. There was some lovely stuff here from cushions to clothing to jewellery. You’ll definitely be able pick up some nice items for people or something for yourself of course.

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If you enjoy your rugby the Springbok Experience is a must! You start with fun games where you try to get on the team (remember those sore legs from our hike… This did not help). But we had fun looking silly and laughing the whole time. You then move on to learn about the history of the sport in South Africa. With the Apartheid being such a prominent part of the sports history it’s incredibly interesting to see the changes it went through. The most moving part is South Africa beating the New Zealand favourites in the 1995 World Cup and the handing over of the cup by President Mandela to Peinaar, the Springbok captain. The embrace and smiles reverberated through all of South Africa. An incredibly moving piece of history. Oh and if you’re an adult you get a free beer with your ticket to have down on the Water front she you’re done.

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If your lucky or bold enough like my sister and brother-in-law were try to get up to the rooftop bar at the top of the Silo Hotel. The views are incredible! The perfect place for an afternoon drink in the sun.

Wine Region – Franschhoek and Paarl

This is the perfect day out … wine and (hopefully) sunshine. There are so many different vineyards you can choose from. As we had locals taking us round, we let them pick as they definitely know what they are doing. We started at the Haute Cabrière vineyard in Franschhoek, where for about £3 you get a tour, wine tasting for 4 wines (red, whites and sparkling!) And you get so see them open a bottle in the old French style, Sabrage, they cut the top off with a sword. It’s great. Plus the view is pretty spectacular.

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Once you are done here head into the town. It’s fill of small shops and there is a great little coffee shop, The Hoek, where I would recommend you get an afrogatto from. It’s incredibly refreshing after all the wine. Plus gives you a little boost to carry on.

A little further out is the Spice Route in Paarl. A vineyard with so much more… They pride themselves on having other small independent business all in one place, where neither two are the same! Here you can do more wine tasting, beer tasting at CBC brewer or even ice cream tasting!

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I would love to go back soon, I feel like we only scratched the surface of this amazing city. Have you been to Cape Town? What was your favourite thing or things to do? 

Crohn’s Disease and Me

I’ve realised this blog is “Travel, Food and Me” and I’ve not written a single one about me! So this is my life with my lovely Crohn’s Disease…

First and foremost everyone’s disease is different! I have it relatively easy, but it doesn’t stop it being any harder – especially when someone knows someone else who has it so much worse and mine is nothing compared to theirs.

For those who don’t know Crohn’s Disease is a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (gross right!). It can affect any part of the gastro system from your mouth to your anus (again, ewww!). It’s an auto-immune disease – in layman’s terms my body attacks itself, all fun and games. Turns out I’ve been suffering from it since I was 16 but not diagnosed until I was in my 20s. And here I am nearly 10 years later…

A lot of people will ask “oh no is it your Crohn’s” when you feel slightly unwell. It’s hard to get annoyed as they mean it in such a caring way but trying to explain that it’s not always that, sometime like them I just get ill. It’s is exhausting. Most people think Crohn’s is a pain in my side that makes me go to the loo a lot. They really don’t know the half of it.

I have a lot of problems thanks to Crohn’s. Some days I can’t stay awake. Fatigue takes over and all I want to do is sleep. I’ll get home from work, cook dinner and sit on the sofa not doing anything and I find myself wanting to go to bed at 7.30pm! I’m 26 years old and the thought of going to bed that early makes me feel ancient. Sometimes when I am in the middle of a flare up I have to sit down in the shower because my body is just too tired. To get across to people how the pain in my side is nothing compared to the exhaustion I can feel.

My joints – wow who knew your joints could feel on fire. When it gets bad I fidget endlessly trying to find that comfortable spot, I’ve been known to be in the oddest positions with limbs everywhere as for that minute it might just stop it. Last Sunday was the first time my Crohn’s has really affected my life (note – I’ve been in hospital, missed my last semester of uni and cancelled so many events) but this was the first time I’ve been out and couldn’t do anything about it. The Boy and I went to see Bear’s Den, and I could hardly stand. I moved around so much, felt so unwell that we had to leave 30 min before then end. I felt ill and upset. My disease ruined someone else’s night and I feel so guilty about it.

My weight goes up and down like a yo-yo! But I made things worse; I put on a bit more weight than I should have so I’ve been working hard to get it off. I’ve managed it WHOOP! I’ve lost a stone since the beginning of the year. The downside – I instantly get asked if I’ve been ill, if my Crohn’s has been causing problem. I don’t get that praise normal people get. I’ve also been told it’s not because I’ve been working hard but because “I’m lucky and my disease helps me loss weight”. But that’s life, sometimes you have to be strong and tell people they are wrong. It can be hard as it makes you second guess yourself.

My diet has changed a lot over the years, not because I was unhealthy before but I have to deal with the consequences of my eating habits. I used to love pasta, I think when I was at uni I had it 5 days a week. Now, I have it once, maybe twice at a push. I used to have a lot of cereal with skimmed milk. Now I don’t even have milk in my coffee. It’s odd, lots of this was just natural progression, some of it I made a conscience decision. I can’t have a lot of dairy as it’s hard to digest so I cut milk so I could have cheese. Sounds crazy but for me it works. And that’s it, for me it works. It makes me happy – I tried to cut dairy and gluten and it made me depressed. I am a foodie and I couldn’t live with a life where I couldn’t eat things. So I go for the little of everything method.

But here I am, I work 40hrs a week, gym 4-5 times a week and have a social life. My life isn’t bad, in fact my life is pretty damn good. I just happen to have this disease but it will not define what I can do. It will never stop me living the life I want, I’m too stubborn for that.

If you’ve just been diagnosed stay strong, half the battle is mental. If you’re suffering, it will be okay, your more than just your disease. 🙂

 

 

 

Travel – is it ticking boxes or experiencing cultures? Asking and attempting to answer the question

This is a hard one to write. Are we travelling to tick boxes, to say we’ve been somewhere, to get that perfect Instagram picture or to learn about other cultures, to admire the natural world, to explore the untouched? Just because our experiences are different does it mean that theirs was wrong, or even ours was wrong?

I went off for 6 months with The Boy and went to South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. The stick I got for picking those locations was ridiculous, upsetting and judging!

“Why do you want to go there? It’s so touristy? Everyone does that?”

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Yes I knew people that had been, in fact my stepbrother had done it years before me and the stories he came back with made me want to go. I wanted to see a different culture, eat different foods and see a new world, something I had never seen before. Yes, I did touristy things, but are things touristy just because a lot of people do them? Would you say Angkor Wat is touristy? No. So why is going to S.E.A classed as a touristy thing to do? Once you start digging (or lightly scrapping the surface) you can see why – drunk westerners in Bangkok, the Full Moon Parties and the Island Hoping. This isn’t the South East Asia I saw, this was “Lads on Tour”, “I want to lay on a beach”, “I need a tan to show I’ve been away”. Why have these people travelled so far to do something they could do in the South of France for a fraction of the cost? Have they come just to say they have been, and got that perfect Instagram picture?

“If it’s not on Social Media did it really happen?”

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Is this what we’ve become? Or are they trying something that doesn’t interest me? Am I wrong for judging people’s travels or holidays because I think they could have just done that at home, because it doesn’t seem “cultural” enough? I think that if you go somewhere, you respect their culture, just like I feel when people come to the UK. Respect is key. So as long as they are respectful why does it bother me that they are just partying and drinking? In my view we should want to travel to explore what makes our planet so beautiful, so diverse, and so original. I personally don’t think you get that at the bottom of a bottle. Some cultures have a lot of drinking in them, look at Ireland, and imagine visiting and not having a pint of Guinness. But Ireland isn’t just about the black stuff, it’s about its history, Vikings, scenery, religion and so so so much more. A beach is just a beach unless you explore the area around it. A city just a city if you don’t go into the buildings. A country is just another ticked box if you don’t find out what that country is about. In my view, don’t go to a country just to do what you would do at home…

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I also know some people pick their location based on the land mass they can scratch off on their map. When I first heard this is how they were picking their next trip it was hard not to laugh. It sounded so ridiculous to spend all that money to go somewhere just because it’s a big land mass to show off on your map. Why not read about different places and pick from that? But then I started to thinking about it more. If you know you want to see the world and you can’t decide where to start why not start by picking large countries? Then do your research on that country? Can you really go wrong, you’re still going to see the culture of somewhere new? I suddenly felt bad about the fact I had been that judgy person. If you want to see the world does it matter how you choose your location? I mean, I made a promise to myself that I would visit one new country every year but why a new one, why not go back to something I loved? Because I want to experience somewhere new, or because I want to have another country ticked off. And if I am honest, it’s both. When I’m old and grey I want to look back at all the places I’ve been to, to have got as close to seeing all 196 countries (and yes I’m including Taiwan as its own country) as I possibly could. But not just to say I have been there, to have seen as many cultures as I can, to try new things, to eat and learn to cook new foods.

Yes travel, pick your location however you want, but don’t go somewhere because you feel you have to, go because YOU want to. Explore what that country has to offer, do those touristy things, and learn something new.