Africa, part one.

It's pretty wild to think that this time last week I was somewhere in Zimbabwe (versus somewhere in New Jersey). And while I'll get to that soon - for now, let's start at the beginning. 

The number one question people have asked me is "why Africa?" Well, long story short, my mom and I decided to go on a big trip to mark the end of a big chapter in both of our lives. In doing so, I suggested that we think outside the box. To be honest, I wasn't sure she would go for it. But after doing our research, we settled on this Nat Geo journey. Going with a tour afforded us peace of mind and took the pressure off in terms of planning. 

The first couple days were spent on the road. Or in airports, to be more specific. We booked our flights through the tour company, which might not have been the best idea. We had a lot of layover time. Too much, if I'm being honest. If I did it again I'd probably book this part myself. 

Let's call this Day 1 - Upon arrival in Johannesburg, we were whisked off to Malikana Guesthouse where part of our group had already checked in and were eating breakfast. Following few hours of sleep, I spent the afternoon exploring the property and its many animals, both live and stuffed (see photos). I hung out with a cute dog named Tinkerbell and met my fellow travelers. That night included a traditional braai, or barbecue, prepared by the guesthouse owners, Suki and Ben. 

The braai introduced us to pap, a.k.a. mieliepap or sadza, depending on the country. This was served alongside some tomato and onion chutney, various grilled meats and sausages, potatoes, rice and vegetables. Overfed and unsure of the time zone, the group (which now totaled 10) went off to bed. 

On to Day 2 - Thunderstorms raged all night and we woke up to pouring rain. POURING. Swapping seats on the bus to avoid leaky windows, we hit the road and left Johannesburg for the Panorama Route

The day included several stops along the way, namely Blyde River Canyon and the Three Rondavels (or sisters), Bourke's Luck Potholes and God's Window. We explored the local fauna including a few types of protea (sometimes called sugarbushes) and stopped for lunch in a rather nondescript town. Luckily, our tour guide or "CEO" (eyeroll) kept things interesting without overdoing it on the informative bits. He'll come up again later but let's just say he rivals the Dos Equis guy for most interesting man in the world. 

Greeted by impala and ostrich, Muluwa Lodge was welcome reprieve after hours on the bus. We had a fireside dinner under the stars and set up camp in the nicest tents I've ever seen (complete with air conditioning). But the real adventure was just about to begin...stay tuned.