What A Handsome Boy

Pretty_Boy_Lion

Another lion picture, seems a good week for lions. Of course any week is a good week for lions. I still look at my pictures and am amazed that I took them.

Going to Africa was a trip I didn’t know if I would ever do and now that I’ve done one I can’t wait to go back. I’d like to see more of the continent because it is a continent not a country with so much to offer.

Next time I would like to see Victoria Falls and maybe Namibia and Botswana. There are a lot of choices and so much to explore and see in Africa. The trip through Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya I feel was just the beginning.

Monday, Yawn Day . . . .

Lioness Yawning

Starting the week with a picture of a lioness yawning.

Fitting for a few reasons today, first being it’s Monday and I’m tired. Will be yawning my way through the day as I keep looking for a job. I’ll just keep throwing my resume out until I find one and I am looking forward to getting back to a routine.

On the Saturday I had to get up early for my first class in a photography course I’m taking. I finally bought a dslr camera and then signed up for the Intro to Photography course. After taking several trips and seeing other peoples photos I decided I really want actually learn how to take a good picture.

I’m happy with my photos, don’t get me wrong but I think they could be even better. Also I really enjoy photography and it’s something I’ve wanted to learn more about for a long time. No time like the present and I spent the first class learning all about ISO, shutter speed and aperture.

It all made sense at the time but then putting it to use everything gets muddled. Well it was only the first class so I’m sure things will get clearer as the class goes on. Also as I do the class assignments. There is learning and then there is doing and the doing is really where it all starts to make sense. It will be worth it, I didn’t put the money into the camera to use it as a point and shoot so the frustration I’m feeling now will all be worth it in the end. I hope.

Also a reminder in the class that often a good picture is about timing, like catching a lioness yawning. Patience, waiting and looking for the right photo opportunity. This week I’m also getting out to play with my camera on top of looking for a job. I need the practice and also the understanding that comes with doing.

The writing is on hold for the moment, I’m signed up for another course about telling Life Stories in February which I’m really looking forward to. I’ve always taken creative writing courses but this one about how to tell your own, or someone else’s life story or stories caught my eye. I picked the text book for the class up on Saturday and now I’m pretty excited about it.

How To Pick A Tour

Elephants crossing road

One of the reasons I wanted to go to Africa was to see ELEPHANTS!

We saw elephants quite a few of them, including this Mother and young one, only about a week old and still getting used to walking. Watching him stumble around was everything I had hoped for on the trip.

Elephant mom and baby

How did I pick the trip? I get asked that a lot and there are so many choices when it comes to choosing a tour to go on.

First I figured out where I wanted to go. Africa is HUGE and you can’t see everything, something I have learnt from planning previous trips. So I looked at a lot of tours and also blog and travel stories about the different countries and started to narrow down what I wanted. A safari for sure, a trip to Africa does tend to be all about the animals. While researching and reading I kept coming back to the Gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda and I REALLY wanted to see them. They became my number one priority and with that decision it was narrowed down to East Africa tours.

Second is budget. The costs for tours vary widely from a few thousand dollars to over ten thousand. I would LOVE to to the luxury trip with the private safari and stay in fancy hotels with amazing food but my budget was a lot less than the going rate for such a tour. I didn’t want too young or too budget. I’m okay with the occasional campsite but generally I like a bed and a bathroom. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just clean and comfy. I also wanted to have activities planned so that I didn’t have to bring a bunch of cash for optional activities. Also optional activities can get expensive and it’s just easier if most things are already included. Once I rounded up a number of trips that fit my budget I started to narrow down my choices.

Third step is very important! READ THE ITINERARY!

I’ve been on quite a few tours and often complaints from travellers arise from things that were stated in the itinerary. Basic accommodation means basic. Camping means sleeping outside, in a tent. Figure out what meals are included and what activities. Many budget tours are cheap because the activities aren’t included, if you want to go from place to place and pick what you do GREAT! Just don’t complain when there is a lot of free time for activities that aren’t included. I’d rather pay up front for park admissions and such so that everything is taken care of and I know what I’m doing. Also read the reviews for the tour you are thinking of and for the company in general. By seeing what people liked and what they didn’t it will give you a picture of what the tour experience will be like.

Fourth is one I’ve added in the last few years and that is the age of the participants. I’m happy to be in a group with a wide range of ages but no longer want to be in with a young group. By that I mean early twenties, I don’t want the drinking or the drama. Remember your twenties??? There is always DRAMA. One tour I went on had a couple in their early twenties who had broken up just before the trip, thankfully they went with two other friends so they didn’t have to room together but oh the drama and tears along the way. With a tour that has a wide range of ages the drama tends to be a lot less and I also have a lot more in common with the people.

In the end I found this Exodus tour that seemed to have everything I wanted. It started in Rwanda and a trip to see the Gorillas and carried on through Uganda and into Kenya. As well as the Gorillas there were several safaris and a hot air balloon ride (optional activity). It involved a lot of driving and this was clearly stated in the itinerary but I like sitting on a bus and watching the world go by. Also there was some camping (often places had the ability to upgrade) and all the food was prepared by the cook for the group. Godfrey made the most amazing pancakes and the meals in made from what little equipment he had on the truck was amazing. It was an overland trip, so we were on the truck for at least a part of everyday.

The was really happy with Exodus and many of the people on my tour had done several tours with them. Ages ranged from mid-twenties to over seventy, a really good mix of wonderful people. By all accounts everybody was happy with the tour. A few complaints here and there but nothing major. By the end everybody was hugging so that has to be a good sign.

Giraffe

Giraffe

A giraffe was certainly on my list of things to see when I went to Africa and I saw this beauty in Kenya.

It really was a trip of a lifetime and I hope to go back to see more of Africa, this trip was East Africa. The tour started in Rwanda, went through Uganda and ended in Kenya. It exceeded all of my expectations. There is nothing like seeing animals in the wild.

They don’t seem fussed at all about all the safari vehicles driving around. They just go about their business and like the giraffe occasionally look over but then go on their merry way.

The vehicles do stick to the roads and aren’s suppose to drive off of them. That works out well most of the time and I was surprised at how close we got to many of the animals. It’s an odd experience in that it’s so wild in the Masai Mara yet there are so many vehicles driving tourists around. It’s big business and they drivers are constantly radioing each other to tell each other where the animals are.

We had a good driver, I believe and often we were the only vehicle around. Then driving back towards the gates we would see a line up of vehicles, sometimes over a dozen and I was glad that my experience wasn’t a whole day spent in a line with other cars waiting to take pictures. Early in the day we had a long drive where we saw nothing, the Masai Mara is HUGE and then suddenly we would come over a rise or approach some bushes and there were the animals.

The first time I saw an elephant, I squealed. The first time I saw a lion I was so stunned I almost forgot to take a picture. The giraffe’s made me smile and who could ever tire of zebras?

I know I’m forgetting something . . . . . .

Elephant Bum

I’ve been home now with my Mom for almost a month and I’m happily settled in the basement. Not my ideal home but for saving money and getting settled back in Calgary it will work for now.

I’ve been checking off the things on my to do list and I’ve updated my resume, even started looking for a full-time job. I’ve been walking everyday.  I just keep thinking I’m forgetting something.

That’s why we have the elephant picture, I think he’s walking away with something I’m suppose to remember. The feeling has been with me for over a week and every time I think  I’ve remembered the elusive task it slips away. As far as I can tell I’ve got everything covered so I’ll just patiently wait for the rolodex in my brain to roll around to what I’m forgetting.

Maybe it’s nothing? In the meantime in between looking for a job I’ve been looking at travel ideas. Too many ideas, I need a lottery not a full-time job but so far I think this will be the year of bears. Grizzly Bears and Polar Bears!

First find job then book trips……… or book trips and the job will come?

Isn’t that how it works?

tonybony!

TonyBony

On my trip through East Africa this past fall we stopped at a supermarket and to my delight we found tonybony’s!

Apparently the African answer to Smarties. I love Smarties, I have had a Smarties problem for most of my life and still sleep with a jar of Smarties next to my bed. They don’t create crumbs so they are the only food I allow in the bedroom.

The name tonybony made me laugh, how did they come up with that name? In Prague I found Smarties but they were called Lentilky and the packaging was otherwise recognizable as Smarties. The tonybony’s are almost like a discount version. Is that why the “t” isn’t capitalized? The chocolate is not great and the candy coating is thin. As you can see the colours also look a bit washed out and they don’t have that sheen to them.

The package also seemed to be half full when I bought it. Were children (or adults) eating them while waiting in line?

They get a BIG thumbs up for the name and making me smile and also made Ben who was in our group smile for a moment. Ben was looking for tonic water and Pringles at the supermarket. The supermarket had neither and being very disappointed Ben declared the place “total shit”. Like he was grading a nightclub or new restaurant, he won’t be going back. Although the tonybony’s made him smile for a moment he also declared them “total shit” after trying a couple.

10,000 Steps A Day

Rainbow Nanimo

Just before I left for Nanaimo back in July I bought myself a fitbit, a little step tracker that simply counts the number of steps you do in a day and uploads them to your computer. It’s a very easy, lazy way to keep track of how many steps you do.

In the summer and especially in a place as beautiful as Nanaimo, it was easy to get in 10,000 or more steps a day. When you can see a beautiful rainbow and walk along the waterfront it’s easy to get out.

Now I’m back in Calgary and the last few days have been snowy and cold. The good news is that I live close to a mall so I can go and walk in circles until I have my steps for the day done but it doesn’t make for a very entertaining walk. Suddenly those 10,000 steps seem more like a chore. Also it might be bad for the bank account, walking by all those sales.

When the weather is better it’s a great motivator to get out and enjoy the fresh air. It also goes well with my other hobby, photography. Armed with camera and fitbit I spent many lovely afternoons wandering around Nanaimo. When the weather improves here I’ll do the same here, I’ll miss the rainbows and sea walk but Calgary has a lot of great walks as well.

I made a New Year’s resolution to walk 10,000 steps a day. Now I’m wishing I was back in the land of rainbows when I made that resolution. The weather is suppose to warm up later this week and then I’ll be back outside where I find it much easier and much more enjoyable to get the steps done. Many of my long term goals involve hiking and in the big picture the 10,000 steps is nothing compared to what I will need to be able to do for the South West Coast Path or many of the hikes through out Europe. It’s a start though and one I plan to keep up.

If you don’t have one and want an easy way to motivate yourself, I love the fitbit. I find it motivates me to get off my ass and also to push myself to walk more. I just have the simple one that counts steps but there are also ones that track stairs and also your sleep patterns. The online support allows you to track your food and weight as well. I’ve been ever so pleased the little gadget and am curious to see how many steps/kilometres I do over the next twelve months!

In the six months I’ve had the fitbit I’ve tracked just over 900km’s and the fitbit rewards you with badges for the distances you walk. Daily badges for steps in 5,000 step intervals and also distance achievement badges, I just got one for 804km the Serengeti badge, next one is for 1,184 km and I find the badges to be a great motivator as well.

Anybody else have a fitbit? You can also connect with friends and walking groups on the fitbit site to provide even more motivation.

Happy New Year!

Lion

Well so far the New Year has started off a little lazy.

Okay a lot lazy but like the lion in the above picture I have plans for 2015!

I think the lion has plans, I would imagine he would, wouldn’t he? Lots and lots of plans and I figured I could use the first few days of January to rest up. I did just move back to Calgary and now that I’m settled in the real work begins.

That would be looking for work. Haven’t worked much this year and I’m looking forward to getting back to a routine. Starting today I start the job hunt and hopefully something pops up pretty soon. The charmed life has come to an end although the summer out on Vancouver Island and the trip to Africa were totally worth depleting my savings.

This year I have a few ideas of what I want to do. There is a one day Grizzly Bear tour I’d like to do in June and then August I might go see Polar Bears! Then the plan right now is February 2016 for Antarctica. The travel continues! Also a sunny stay in Hawaii next Christmas is in the works.

2015 is all about bears (I love bears) and also saving my pennies. I also just bought a new camera, my first actual DSLR and I’m signed up for courses on how to use it. I’m pretty excited about the photography courses which I’m sure will lead to me wanting to go back to every place I’ve already been to photograph them all again!

Actually I already want to do that, the problem with the travel bug is that the more places you visit, the more places you want to see, which leads to more places you want to go back to. Oh the vicious travel bug ……… love it!