After all of the sight seeing over the last few days it was time to move on to the real reason for our trip…the family reunion.  It had been a while since Foster and Rosely had been back to Africa so now it was time to visit the place where they were born and grew up We hopped back on the buses and drove up to Choma which was a bit of a drive from Livingston.

Although where we stayed was definitely downsized from where we had been staying, the accommodations were still nice.  We stayed at Racheal’s Lodge.  How the driver ever found it I do not know.  Once we got off of the main road nothing was paved and there were no street signs pointing the way.

Here are some pictures of Racheal’s.  In the second picture, our room was on the left.  I was surprised by the electric fence surrounding the place and the fact that there was a gate that had to be opened by a security person to enter the place.  You can see that the area around the buildings was not paved.


We had enough time to place our bags in our rooms then it was time to board the buses and head out for lunch.  A tent was set up for us at a near by farm.  Here you can see what it looked like.

Foster’s sister made all of the floral centerpieces.  There was also a neat corner ideal for picture taking.

Let the party begin.  There was singing and dancing before and after the meal.  A local band provided music.

This guy was waiting.  I really don’t know if he got anything.


More singing and dancing.

As Foster told us, about 95% of the people here were related.  After lunch we headed out to the grave sites of Foster and Rosely’s parents.  Here they held a short ceremony and everyone placed flowers on the graves.

George built the first New Apostolic Church in Choma so that is where we headed next.  The church is still used today.

We visited other churches as well.  Yes, the “C” is missing.

Next was a visit to the house where George and Nellie raised their 8 children, two being Foster and Rosely.

I was surprised at how small the house was and can’t imagine 10 people living there.

The next day we went to visit the village where Foster’s husband, Gift, grew up.  This was really out in the middle of nowhere.  After traveling the roads to get there I will never again complain about the pot holes here in PA.

We saw where Gift’s father and sister are buried.  Melisa, our niece and Shadreck’s grandfather laid flowers on the grave.

It was time for one more meal at the farm before we left.

It just happened to be a full moon while we were there.

Next week Johannesburg and home.


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Elephants, Big Cats, and Victoria Falls


Today was going to be an exciting day.  It would start with an elephant ride and walking the big cats in the morning.  In the afternoon we were scheduled for a helicopter ride over Victoria Falls.

I got up rarin”to go.  Oh no!  All of a sudden my stomach started acting up.  I couldn’t leave the room.  I knew I would not be able to go on the elephant ride or walk the cats. Bummer.  Hopefully if I took some Imodium and rested I would be OK for the helicopter ride.  I was disappointed.  However, since this was this only time I had problems on the whole trip I guess I can’t complain too loudly.

Anyway, here are some pictures of what I missed.  Here is our niece Melisa (in the middle) and her friend Vanessa riding an elephant.  I understand that it was about a half hour ride and maybe not the most comfortable.


Being a Leo myself, this is the one thing I regret not having the opportunity to do.  I am glad that Melisa shared this picture with me.


And another one’


Luckily, after taking a pill and staying close to a bathroom all morning I was in better shape by the afternoon.  So, it is off to take a helicopter ride over Victoria Falls.  I have never been in a helicopter before so I wasn’t sure how nervous I would be.


Victoria Falls lies at the southern end of the Zambezi River.  The river and the falls separates Zambia (where we were) and Zimbabwe.  We flew over the Zimbabwe part but couldn’t land since we had no visas for that country.

Victoria Falls is known as  Mosi-oa-Tunya (The Smoke That Thunders). After seeing and hearing it I can understand why. David Livingstone was the missionary to first discover and name the falls in  16 November, 1855.  It is considered to be one of the natural wonders of the world.

While it is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls is classified as the largest, based on its combined width of 1,708 metres (5,604 ft)and height of 108 metres (354 ft), resulting in the world’s largest sheet of falling water. Victoria Falls is roughly twice the height of North America’s Niagara Falls and well over twice the width of its Horseshoe Falls. (Wikipedia).

Here are some pictures of the river and falls taken from the helicopter.  Words can’t begin to describe the experience.

The falls is only at 20%capacity since the rainy season has not yet begun.  The guide told us that March and April are the time to see it in all of its glory.  At 20 % it was still impressive to me.

Although it was exciting to see the falls from the air, the next day we took a trip to Livingstone Island for an up close and personal view.  To say I was awestruck would be an understatement.

Because of the rising mist and sunshine, there is an ever present rainbow, sometimes even a double one if you looked at the right angle.  The guide led us to the edge.

We then walked over to the main part of the falls.  You can see the rainbow behind us.

Kathy chose not to walk to the edge because she was unsure of her footing.  I was not going to miss the opportunity.


When I sat down the edge was no more that a foot away from me.

I am so glad I did not miss this opportunity.

Next week on to Choma.


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On to Zambia

After breakfast at the Saxon we boarded the buses an headed back to the Johannesburg airport.  It was time to leave South Africa and travel to Zambia, Livingstone, to be exact.  It was an hour and a half flight on British Airways.

I will say that arriving at the airport was a little unnerving because there were armed soldiers walking around the airport.  This was election day in Zambia and people weren’t too sure as to how things would turn out.  Sound familiar? This, however, was a welcome sight.  This little guy was cute.


We collected our bags, boarded another bus, and headed to the Royal Livingstone where we would spend the next several days.

The Royal Livingstone is located right next to the Zambezi River.  Victoria Falls is a five minute walk from the hotel.  Anyway, here is our greeter dressed in his traditional tribal garb.


Our rooms each had their own deck.  We were told, however, to make sure the doors to the outside were closed and locked at all times because of these guys.


Apparently the baboons  knew there was sugar in the rooms and they knew how to open the sliding doors.  They would also steal whatever they wanted.  One woman, not in our group, told us she one had a baboon steal her malaria pills.

I don’t know about you, but at our house we often step out the door and a squirrel or chipmunk on our lawn.  At the Royal Livingstone if you came out in the morning it was not unusual to find this grazing on the lawn outside your door.


We were told to stay clear of them because they liked to kick.

One day Kathy and I were taking a walk.  We met one of the workers at the place and he asked us to follow him.  Here is what he showed us.

The giraffes live on the grounds as well as the zebra and impala.  Twice a day they feed the animals and people can come to watch and see,  We were getting a private showing.  This gal doesn’t mind if you get close to her as she eats.

I just love how they seem to blend into the surrounding area.


Of course these guys wanted some food as well.



Here are some pictures of the hotel and grounds.  You can see the Zambezi River in the background of some of the pictures.

One afternoon we took a boat ride on the Zambezi.  Here is the kind of boat we were on. We had the first deck reserved for our group.

Here are pictures of the Zambezi taken from the boat.

Sunset on the Zambezi was beautiful.

Of course, there was food served.

There was also music and dancing as we headed back to dock.

Next week – Victoria Falls.


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Soweto and the Saxon


After checking out of the Shepherd’s Tree Lodge we boarded our buses and headed to Soweto.  Soweto gets its name from the first two letters of SOuth WEstern TOwnship which is what Soweto was once known as.  We visited the most popular street in Soweto, Vilakazi Street.

The street’s fame derives from its two most well-known residents, Bishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela.  Bishop Tutu’s house id a private residence so we could not tour it.  Mandela’s House is a public attraction so we began our walk up the street.


As we walked there was constant street entertainment and open air stalls lining the steret.

We got to Mandela’s House.

We gathered in the courtyard to listen to a brief history.  The woman who spoke to us is a direct descendant of Nelson Mandela.

There is an interesting story about the tree you see behind the sitting group.  Here is a better picture.


When each of Mandela’s children were born, after their umbilical fell off, the cords were buried under this tree.  This is the way to show that the human spirit is connected to the earth.

We then had time to walk around the house.  If the house seems small it is because it is.  In this picture you can see bullet holes from when police shot at the house.


Pictures from the inside include the living room, the kitchen where Winnie cooked, and one  daughter’s bedroom.  There are also plaques and pictures adorning the walls.

Winnie had the wall you see in this picture built to protect her children from gunshots.


Sorry for the sideways shot.  Couldn’t rotate it.

One last shoe of Kathy and me before we head to lunch.


From here we walked up the street to The Wine Bar where we had lunch.  Food was delicious.


After lunch we once again boarded the buses to head to our lodging for the night.  We were booked at the Saxon. It was only for one night since we were headed to Zambia the next day.  Because it was just for one night you can see that the accommodations were just so-so.

Here is the grand entrance.


Here is one of the lobbies.


There was a display of Nelson Mandela’s books in one side room.

Imagine a wall of baskets.


The bedrooms were a bit on the small side.

Oh well, we survived the night.

The next morning we left for Zambia.  Of course he had to have breakfast before we left.(I’ll bet you thought there would be no food pictures in this post.)

Here is the dining room.


And the breakfast buffet.

Next week, on to Zambia.



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Safaris and a Birthday Celebration


After depositing out bags in our room we went back to the main building of the lodge for our first safari.  We were scheduled for 4 over the course of our stay – 2 evening safaris and 2 morning.

When we got to the lodge entrance, there were two jeeps waiting for us.  With 25 people we couldn’t fit into one.

img_1559-copyOur transportation.  Of course the group split naturally – young ones in one ans us old foggies in the other.  We were off for a three hour tour of the game preserve.

This is the first thing we were shown.

dsc00014This is a Shepherd’s tree, the namesake of the lodge.  It turns out that this tree has many uses.  The shepherd would bring his flock to the tree.  While they grazed on the low hanging leaves, the shepherd would sit in the shade of the tree to cool off.  The leaves also have medicinal properties as well.  If you had an upset stomach, eating the leaves would provide relief.  This tree is an evergreen and is often called “the Tree of Life” because of its use by both humans and animals.

Now it was time to look for animals.Shepherd’s tree is considered a transition reserve because it is located between forested areas on one side and a desert region on the other.  Because of this, animals from both regions coexist on the preserve.

The first group we saw were the impalas.

Wherever we saw impala you could be sure the wildebeest weren’t far away.

Even though there weer elephants back at the lodge, it was still something to see them roaming around the preserve

Here in PA in is not unusual to see deer crossing the highway while you are driving around.  There we had baboon crossings.

Another common sight was the zebras.

I will say that for me the most thrilling part of the safari came during the first morning ride.  This little guy and his friend crossed the road right behind our vehicle.

Halfway through the three hour trip we stopped at a rest area for refreshments and a potty stop.  Here we are enjoying something to eat and drink.

On returning to the lodge we were greeted with warm damp washcloths so that we could wipe the dust off of our hands and face.  Because the sun had already set while on the evening safaris we also had the choice of a cup of hot chocolate or warmed sherry.  Then we went for dinner.

While we were at the Shepherd’s Tree Lodge someone in our group celebrated her 70th birthday.  So of course unknown to her our wonderful guide arranged for a cake at dinner that evening.

The young people couldn’t let it go at that so after dinner they arranged a little party for the birthday girl.  Even though we were tired and I was ready for sleep we had to go.

This brings our 3 days at the Shepherd’s Tree to a close.

Next week Soweto, the Saxon, and on to Livingstone.


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Shepherd’s Tree Lodge, Pilanesburg


Well, we made it to South Africa.  After collecting out bags at the Johannesburg airport and meeting our guide for the next two weeks we boarded the waiting buses.  At this point I have to acknowledge these four ladies:


Rosely, Rowena, Alice, and Foster.  These four planned everything for us.  Rosely and Foster (sisters and Foster is our nephew’s M-I-L) took care to planning and organizing things in the stater.  Alice and Rowena worked with them on the African part.  What a lovely group.

Anyway, when we entered the buses on each seat was a itinerary detailing what we would be doing each of the days we were in Africa.

Of course, because of delays we were already off schedule.  Oh well.  I was looking forward to checking in somewhere and grabbing a hot shower.  This was not to be.  We had a 40 minute ride to the Shepherd’s Tree Lodge in Pilanesburg where we would spend the next three days.  We ha time to get checked in, take our bags to our rooms, and head back down for our first safari.

Here are a few pictures from the lobby and deck.

While standing on the deck this was not an unusual sight.

These ladies (they were all female) walked right below the deck.  You can see that they even came close to the dining room.


We got out keys and it was off to our rooms.  Not too shabby.

Each room had its own patio.  The last picture, the one with the stone wall, is actually an outside shower and yes, it is outside.  The only thing was that it was too cold in the morning and evening to go out and take one and we weren’t in dour rooms during the day.  I did, however, get one in just for the feel of showering outside.  Neat!

st-3 Here’s a picture of Kathy enjoying one of the chairs on the deck.

st-1  In the dining hall, we had our own table set for set for 27.

Just a sample of the kind of food we were server.  Come on, if you have been reading my blogs for any length of time did you honestly expect me not to post food pictures?

It was now time for our first safari, we were scheduled for four while we were there.  However, this is getting lengthy so I will stop here and devote next week to the safari and other things that happened at the lodge.

Just to give you a preview:



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Getting From Here to There


I can’t believe that the time for our Africa trip was finally. here.  I still couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that someone who had never left the country in 65 years was going halfway around the world.  I was ready.

Of course, before our African adventure could begin, we had to get there.  That meant packing.  I am not the world’s best when it comes to packing a suitcase so it was nice to have some help.

packing for Africa 1As you can see, packing is tiring work.

Well, we finally did it.  Our bags are packed and we’re read to go.  Leavin’ on a jet plane.

packing for Africa 2

Since there were 23 of us making this trip, we couldn’t all get seats on the same flight so we departed in two groups at two different times.  We were in the first group leaving JFK at 4:00 P.M.  It was decided that we would leave Reading at 7 A.M. to make it to JFK by noon giving us several hours to check in before our 4″00 flight.

Here we are gathering at JFK.

packing for Africa 4

We got in, made it through security and found out that out flight was delayed until 6:30.  The week before there was a crash (no one hurt) on a runway in Dubai which is where we were going.  As a result, they had lost the use of one runway while the crash was being investigated so all flights were delayed.

Oh well, we decided to go get some lunch for ourselves.  After a bit we went to our departure gate.  We were flying Emirates.  You can see our double decker airbus through the window.

packing for Africa 5We were in economy so our seats were in the lower level.

Finally, around 6:30 we took off for a 12 hour flight to Dubai.  Now, because we were delayed we missed our connecting flight to Johannesburg.  Just our luck.  Here you see our group trying to make new connections.

packing for Africa 8

We now had 8 hours to kill in Dubai airport.  We couldn’t leave the airport since we did not have visas for Dubai.  There was only one thing to do.

packing for Africa 6Let’s hear it for Starbucks and a caramel frappichino!

One good thing about this delay, however, was that we were now scheduled to be on the same flight as the second group of our traveling companions.  This was we all arrived in Johannesburg at the same time.

We all boarded and after another 8 hour flight we were in South Africa.  There we were met by the woman who would be our guide for the entire trip.  Rowena was fantastic.  She, as well as a camera crew that was filming our entire trip met us as we deplaned.  Keep in mind, I flew for 20 hours, sat in airports for 14 hours, was wearing the same clothes for two days and hadn’t shaved in two days.  I was at my photogenic best.

Anyway, we were in Africa and now our adventure could begin.  Next week…part one.


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