After 24 hours on a bus we were all a bit tired, cranky, and hot, but the moment we saw Norman Carr Cottage and the dancing waters of Lake Malawi out front we took a deep breath and the whole world changed. We instantly knew we were going to love it here and soon three days turned into eight.
Every morning we went out on their rustic and charming boat Alfie. We bought fish from the local fisherman floating around in their dugout canoes and as we threw them into the air fish eagles would gracefully swoop down and grab them in their claws.
We snorkeled and took in the incredible medley of fish. Some had polka dots, some had neon stripes, and others were even black and white. We jumped off boulders into the warm water and each evening we would swim again as the sun dipped behind the shores and return to a candlelight dinner on the veranda.
On market day we went to the village. The market was full of piles and piles of old clothes.
There isn’t a Gap or any store around and even if there was the families are too poor to buy anything. It made me a bit sad but we decided to do a costume party with my family, Jenny, Taffy, Alida, and Alice (the owners of our amazing home for the week and two of their friends.) The theme was movie characters and we all had to buy for someone else. I bought a Maria costume from The Sound of Music for Alida, and Alice bought a flapper costume for me. We looked ridiculous but no one cared. After our fun night we donated all the clothes back to the community.
Throughout the week we listened to the beautiful sounds of the local people singing in their huts just steps away. Our final day it hit me that the end was near and that we needed to enjoy every last second so we hopped in some kayaks and explored the lake for hours. The setting couldn’t have been more picturesque; the mountains in the background, the fishermen in their wooden boats and the sparkling turquoises water. We had such an amazing stay that this was one of the most difficult places to leave. Thank you Jenny and Taffy, and goodbye Lake Malawi!
The mighty Zambezi was calling our name so we ventured up river to see The Falls from a different perspective. Our tented camp was right on the edge of the river. We spent our days listening to the one million liters of water thundering each second and watching the smoke it created hover over our heads.
One afternoon we went into town and visited a school. It is hard to imagine 60 students in one class with just one teacher, but in Africa there are often larger classes. Even though the school was built of four simple walls, all the kids were happy and learning. We wanted to do our part to help so we went to the school supply store and bought tons of paint sets, pencils, colored pencils, exercise books, erasers, and glue sticks. They all seemed so incredibly happy about our small contribution.
While we were in town we also went to the craft market. At every stop in Africa we have seen extraordinary crafts, but in Zambia the collection of artists and crafts was outstanding. To our right there were vibrant fabrics, to our left there were intricately woven baskets, and in front of us were wildlife oil paintings so real you thought the animals might hop off the canvas and bite (and of course my mom fell in love with one).
The patterns and colors of the fabrics are so beautifully African. The women use the fabric for everything; for their skirts, for their bags, and for their baby holders. Something else I noticed as we wandered through the shops is their creativity and the fact that nothing goes to waste. We saw people playing checkers with some rusty bottle tops in the sand. We also saw people taking old pieces of plastic and weaving them into bags and dresses.
Our final night in Livingstone was really special. We went out for an evening boat cruise. The sunset that night was stunning. The sky turned a fiery orange and the reflection in the turquoise water made it even better. Then to top off a perfect night we saw a herd of elephant (instant smile) at the water’s edge. They were admiring the awe-inspiring night just like we were. The Smoke that Thunders wowed us and will always be remembered, but the time had come to move on, so we are off to Malawi, the warm heart of Africa.
Many years ago David Livingstone was the first white person to experience the mighty smoke that thunders or as David Livingstone called it Victoria Falls. This week we had the good fortune to experience Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world! We stood on the edge of a cliff and stared in awe at its power. The water was piling over the edge, the smoke was rising, the water was thundering, the white river was swirling and my clothes were soaking.
Later in the afternoon we took our adrenaline buzz up a notch with a zip-line across the mighty Zambezi River from the shores of Zambia all the way to the shores of Zimbabwe. The wind was blowing in my hair, my heart was beating fast, the falls were thundering in my ear, and we were zipping across the awe-inspiring gorge at 70 miles per hour! My mom was squeezing my hand, hoping the wire was secure, as we looked down over 200 feet and saw nothing but water, water filled with crocodiles.
As if we hadn’t had enough adrenaline already, the next day we jumped into a cage and were lowered down into crocodile infested waters. Their Jaws were chomping, their eyes were staring, and my heart was pounding.
With loads of adrenaline still racing through us we decided to take it down a notch. The next day took an art class with a local Zimbabwean artist. We were jammin’ to Marley, making jewelry “with good energy man”, and letting out our inner Rasta. Another amazing night we went to Mama Africa and saw a traditional show. Their drums were beating, their feet were moving to the rhythm, and their voices were singing to the music.
To end the week we took our energy from laid back to elegant and rolled in to the grand Victoria Falls Hotel. It is a beautiful colonial property, steeped in history. Old black and white photos adorn the walls, tea and crumpets are delivered each afternoon, the gardens are gorgeous and the veranda has epic views of The Falls. The night we arrived there was a full moon which made the experience even better. It was full of pure elegance.
After zipping, swimming, soaking, jammin’, and eating crumpets we all agreed that Victoria Falls was super awesome.
Helping the planet is a big part of what our world trip is all about and that’s exactly what we did this past week.
We helped get a hydroponics farm started. This farm will be a model for the local villagers so they can start their very own self sustaining farm. Hydroponics is a type of farming that uses a third of the water needed in an average farm and it is covered by a tarp so the elephants and rhinos don’t smoosh it.
The farm is set right next to a beautiful flood plain (the sunsets are epic) and the property is home to trees that have lived for thousands of years. Speaking of trees, one of my projects while we were there was planting trees that will one day be just as amazing as the others. There was one great granddaddy called a baobab on the property. It was so big; when I saw it my mouth dropped open.
All of the villages throughout Botswana have their own chief who controls a certain amount of land. We had the opportunity to sit in on a meeting with the chief of Katchikow, we called it “Catch a Cow.” In the meeting we discussed starting a hydroponics farm in his area. He seemed to be all for it and said that it was god’s plan that the project we were helping with had come to his area.
Another problem the village people face is the destruction caused by wild animals such as the elephant. Elephants will walk through and destroy their crops, trees and huts in just one night. The cheap and easy solution is to soak rope in chili water and put it up around their fence and it will keep the elephants and other wild critters away.
It is crazy to think that the garden is their life, where as for us it is really something we do for fun. We take for granted that we have other options if our fruits and vegetables don’t grow. It will definitely be something that I will think about a lot more when we go home.
The difference we made by just sharing some new simple farming methods is astonishing. Our hope is by teaching these new methods they will double their crops and their income.
It was a fantastic week and it always feels good when you know you are making a difference in the world. I hope to continue to “make it a better place for you and for me and the entire human race…”
Just looking at our Land Cruiser made me excited, it was the perfect open air safari truck and how we would be traveling through Botswana’s best game parks for the next week. Our guide William was a wealth of knowledge with everything from birds and antelope to the traditional food (which he ate an extraordinarily large amount of)!
Our first sighting was a herd of elephant just steps away. We thought we were hearing lions off in the distance but William told us that it was just the sound of the elephant’s stomachs digesting their food.
Speaking of digestion you should know that while all of this was happening I was curled up in a ball with a case of African belly. But it was my fault for trying all these new yummy African foods.
Even though I felt awful we still had an epic game drive. We saw loads of impala, warthog, elephant, and monkeys with blue butts (they are called velvet monkeys, although I think they should just be called blue butts). As we were setting up camp a herd of elephant walked right by, it made my heart beat soooo fast! We spent all of our nights enjoying braii cooked meals and gazing at the stars.
That night while we slept hippos danced two feet from our heads, lions walked through our camp and monkeys got into our trash. It’s a good thing that I am a sound sleeper.
We saw hundreds of elephants throughout our next day and they always brought a smile to my face.
We then experienced a giraffe fight. There were two males fighting over a female and they would swoop down with their heads and bang the other guy in the belly. It seemed like this was all happening in slow motion and made it very funny to watch. I wasn’t sure who was winning but I knew the next day they were going to have some serious stomach aches (just like me.)
Each of our games drives had been so incredible that we couldn’t imagine things getting better, but they did… guess what we saw? Ya… you are right it, was a male lion walking down the road… wait no he wasn’t walking he was strutting his stuff just as if he were a runway model. He had all kinds of scars all over his face so we realized he wasn’t the kind of cat you wanted to cuddle up with.
Then something even more amazing happened we came across a leopard and her fully grown cub lounging on a dead tree. They didn’t have a care in the world all that mattered to them was their nap. After we watched them lounge for a while it started to rain cats and dogs… no not latterly but if you keep listening we saw more of each!
Next a lion spotting even more amazing than the first. He was in the high grass and you could tell the thunder and lightning really freaked him out. Whenever it would boom his eyes got really big and he would yawn giving us a great view of those massive canines. Right then William got close enough that in one little bound he could be on my lap but luckily that didn’t happen! Phew!!!!
Now you want to hear about the dogs? Okay, I will tell you. On our way back to a swamp of a camp I spotted something frightening two wild dogs trying to get a yummy impala dinner. We were really lucky to see these wild guys because William told us there are only 4,000 in all of Africa.
To end our epic day we saw a black mamba getting a drink from a puddle. Just so you know black mambas are very poisons and my mom doesn’t like snakes so it absolutely freaked her out.
On our final day in Chobe National Park we completed our sightings of the big five with a cape buffalo off in the distance. I heard they can be very ornery for no reason at all so I was fine by me that they were far away. Their horns look like someone used a lot of gel in their hair to make a silly hairdo.
Sadly all of the excitement in these incredible parks was coming to an end, but there are still loads of adventures to come. Talk to you next week!
The hippo and crocodile infested waters were just outside our front door at the Old Bridge Lodge. It was a little unnerving knowing they could just crawl into bed with us, but we decided to stay a few nights anyway. Although the water is full of all kinds of creepy creatures the riverfront is gorgeous.
On our first day in Maun we visited the local village and an empowerment program where woman and men from that and many other villages nearby sell their handicrafts.
We had the opportunity to learn how the beautiful Botswana baskets are made and let me tell you it was not easy. I spent three hours on mine and the inside was just a little bigger than a quarter. It made me realize the amount of time, energy and focus that goes into these baskets that they sell for little or no profit.
After spending a few days in civilization we realized we were ready for the wilderness again and a different kind of safari. This time we were going into the wild by way of boat along the Okavango Delta.
The wind blowing our hair, the water glistening and our first HIPPO!
There he was three feet from our boat and ready to tip us at any minute. Our guide Phaladi steps on the gas and rides right over this massive creature and into the next channel before we become his lunch.
Our next spotting was a baby crocodile lurking in the murky waters just inches away. He was so close I thought he would crawl into our boat but fortunately Phaladi assured us that would not happen. Phew!
Our next morning we took scary to a new level and walked out of our tent and into the animal filled savannah with nothing but Phaladi to protect us. My heart felt like it might just jump out of my chest. Within minutes we saw dozens of different antelope and my dad kept saying, “Where there are prey there are predators”, but to be honest I had no interest in seeing any predators especially lions. AHHHHH!
We finished our walk a few hours later in one piece without seeing any predators and got back into the canals of the Delta. The reeds in the water form a massive maze. Fortunately Phaladi grew up here and knew where to go because I would have been totally lost in about two seconds.
Everest was excited to go fishing and we were excited to have grilled fish for dinner so Phaladi took us to an island where we cast out our lines and put our feet in the sand (hoping they didn’t get bitten off by a croc). After an hour of trying we came to the conclusion that the crocs ate all the fish and didn’t leave any for us.
As the sun was setting we road back to camp and saw six more hippos, all just as frightening as the first especially because we had heard more stories about boats being tipped by hippos. We arrived back to camp and listened to the low moans of a lion off in the distance and enjoyed our fishless dinner under the stars.
Our final day in the peaceful Okavango Delta was spent speeding down the reed canals and keeping a lookout for hippos and their bubbles.
We had an amazing time and didn’t want our Okavango adventure to end but there are sooooo many more great things to come!
The spotted beauties were pacing back and forth in anticipation of our arrival, actually their yummy lunch, just as we pulled into the Cheetah Conservation Fund. The ravenous cheetahs welcomed us as they devoured their horse and donkey meat.
Their meat is surrounding a big bone to slow them down. In the wild they have to eat extremely fast, if they don’t vultures or jackals will take their kill away from them. The only problem is, if they eat super fast they might choke. The six in front of us had very good manners.
We spent the day wandering the 60,000 hectare property and shared dinner with all of the remarkable staff and volunteers. CCF is an amazing project leading the world in the conservation of cheetahs. The project is home to 46 orphaned cheetahs that will never be able to go back to the wild. They have done extensive research on the cheetah and taken injured cheetahs found on the land of local farmers and released them back into the wild after healing injuries or illnesses.
On our first evening we had the honor of meeting the person behind the entire project, Dr. Laurie Marker. She is such a humble and extraordinary lady. We could have talked for hours. She is known as one of the world’s leading cheetah experts. She came to Namibia in 1977 and found her love for these gorgeous creatures. She learned that they were in serious danger. Instead of waiting for someone else to help she decided to BE that someone. In 1990 she founded what is now the Cheetah Conservation Fund.
She has inspired people all over the world to start projects to save the cheetah and other endangered species. One day I hope to do something as incredible for this world of ours as she has.
Dr. Marker and CCF have done some other things to help make our world a better place. They are now taking an encroaching acacia bush and turning it into a slow burning organic wood logs. This is creating jobs and restoring the cheetah’s habitat.
Our next day we watched three cheetah siblings devour their lunch and were told this incredible story:
There once was a mama to be cheetah wandering around a farmer’s property. He didn’t want the cheetah to harm his livestock so he shot the mama. He then realized the cheetah was pregnant. Luckily the babies were developed enough that when he cut her stomach open he saved three of the four cheetah cubs. The farmer tried to care for them but didn’t really know how so he took them to CCF and they have been there ever since.
At sunset we took a beautiful drive through the CCF game park and the Waterberg Plateau. Kudu, eland, warthogs, springbuck and Oryx were roaming around us as the sky turned orange and purple.
Our final morning Dr. Marker wanted me to hear her babies purr so she let me go in and watch an incredible cheetah run. It was epic! They were so close that I could feel the wind as they ran by. I had the once in a lifetime chance to sit down with them and hear them purr… my heart stopped!
I learned so much the last few days and have a new found love for these creatures. Leaving was SO hard I could have stayed forever, but I know that one day I will return and be reunited with my spotted friends and my new role model, Dr. Marker.
Let our African animal adventure begin!
Etosha National Park or “Great White Place of Dry Water” is a world renowned game reserve; it is also where we spent our next epic week! Fun fact… Etosha covers an area of 22,912km.
Within minutes of entering the park we spotted an oryx catching some shade under a tree, from then on the excitement continued. At our first campsite there was a beautiful watering hole filled with all kinds of game; zebra, springbok, kudu, dik-dik, oryx, wildebeest and my favorites… a family of giraffe coming for dinner and a drink. There were four of them so they reminded me of our family. As the sky started to turn purple we watched a lone elephant come for a bath and a drink. Did you know that over 12,000 elephants now live in Namibia thanks to the help of animal conservationists?
Just as the sun was waking up the next morning we left for a sunrise drive.
Coming across the savannah were different kinds of antelope, zebra and then the most amazing of all, can you guess what it was? It was a lioness and her two fully grown cubs. They had just killed a zebra for breakfast and they were gorging themselves on his tender organs. You could hear them tearing his flesh to pieces with their razor sharp teeth. It wasn’t a pretty sight. They couldn’t have been any closer; if I stuck my hand out the window I could nearly touch them. They definitely are not vegetarians like me!
After a yummy breakfast and a successful hunt they were tuckered out so they said goodbye and were on their way. We couldn’t have started the day with anything more incredible.
The watering hole at our next peaceful amazing campsite was beautifully natural and also full of wildlife. Our best sighting was of four rhino coming for an evening splash. They are so prehistoric looking with their wrinkly skin and crusty horn. I had never seen a rhino before so it was extra special.
Our next radiant morning was unbelievable; we saw another elephant, a group of three giraffe just a few feet from our car and last and certainly most amazing a leopard pacing in the bush. That made four of the big five. What is the big five? The big five is denoted as the hardest animals to hunt on foot. We aren’t hunters but seeing those animals was pretty special. We had seen lion, leopard, elephant, and rhino all we need now is a cape buffalo.
Each of our evenings in Estosha was spent by the campfire cooking dinner, gazing at the brilliant sky and sharing stories about the animals and our adventures with my family. We were really lucky to have seen SO many beautiful animals.
Namibia is an extraordinary country full of natural beauty and wonder!
The Namibian sand was calling our name so we grabbed our Kalahari Ferraris (sand boards) and hit the dunes. My heart was thumping in my chest as I was hanging over the slip face. I didn’t even have time to catch my breath and they pushed me over the edge. Each of our seven runs was steeper and faster than the last.
After our adrenaline buzz we wandered the beach and streets of Swakopmund and came across the world’s largest quartz crystal cluster. It is estimated to be about 520 million years old and weighs 14,100 kilograms. Namibia is home to some of the world’s most fine gemstones.
Our next stop was Cape Cross, home to over 100,000 cape fur seals; half of them were one month old pups. The moment we saw the seals our mouths dropped open. Many of the adorable pups were taking their first swim in the ocean and you could tell they were having a ball.
Then something awesome yet scary happened, we were charged by a seal. He was trapped in the pathway and thought we were in his territory. At first it was kind of fun having the seal be so close to us but when he bared his teeth we ran as fast as we could to the truck.
Next we were off to
Brandberg, home of the desert elephant. On our way we visited a local Himba village and learned about their culture and purchased some traditional crafts. The Himba people rub their bodies in a red ochre and fat to protect them from the harsh desert climate. Arriving in Brandberg we were greeted by Bonnie the meerkat and Peanut the talking bird.
The next morning we set out for a sunrise game drive. “ELEPHANT!” is what Everest screamed when he saw a massive bull only ten feet away from us. We drove on and saw another 30 incredible elephants; Moms, Dads, and lots of little calves.
After an epic elephant experience we went back in time 6,000 years to when the local Bushmen roamed the land. There were ancient rock engravings that they used to inform the other tribes what animals were in the area, what animals they were hunting, and to teach the children about the animals. The engravings at Twyfelfontein were very stark but had a beauty about them. My favorites were the engravings of the giraffe. Did you know the Bushmen never killed the giraffe because they thought the giraffe had long necks to speak to the sky gods who brought the rain? Africa couldn’t be more amazing!
Africa started with a bang! When the 4X4 showed up at our door and they told us how to set up our roof top tents I could feel the excitement in the air. We were all busting to hit the road.
Our first stop was Naukluft National Park where the baboons stalked our camp, but we were surrounded by spectacular canyons, natural pools and waterfalls perfect for swimming. The next morning we saw a herd of mountain zebra galloping through the bush.
In the trees there were these giant birds’ nests created by birds called sociable weavers. We also spotted springbok playing around. Our next stop was Sesriem, home to some truly enormous sand dunes. We woke up with the moon still high in the sky, the stars glistening and we started out for Dune 45. The color was a radiant red.
We hiked up the dune’s spine, and sat down in the warm sand just in time to watch the sun rise. We later drove our speedy 4X4 to Big Daddy, perhaps the largest sand dune in the world. Do you know the reason the sand is red? The sand has iron in it and when it rains the iron rusts and turns the sand a reddish rust color. Well now you know!
Later we went deep into the desert and saw the dry remains of an old lake basin. Crazy right? Actually the entire desert was once believed to have been an ocean. That night our campsite was incredible. We slept under our own acacia tree. When the sun was setting we made our brai (African barbeque) and watched the sun slip below the horizon. As darkness fell we could hear the animals crunching in the bush just a few feet below us. While we were driving through the park we saw our first oryx. The oryx has the most beautiful horns I have ever seen. Another spectacular stop was Mirabeb, a campsite in the middle of absolutely nowhere. There was nothing in sight for miles. We slept under a rock escarpment (over hang). While we were hiking we found mica, a rock with thin pieces of translucent papery material running through it like a mirror. Later in the day we visited the local people in their village and delivered a bag of clothes, toys and school supplies. The children had big smiles on their faces. How about that for another epic week… wow, I am SO lucky!
Let the planning begin. This crazy week was spent preparing for our awesome trip to Africa. We started by narrowing down the countries that were the highest on our list. After hours of studying travel books, maps, and websites our heads were spinning but our current plan is to start in Namibia and travel on to Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and finally Mozambique. There are tons of incredible things to do in Sub Saharan Africa. I was only five when I came to Africa the first time so I am super excited to go again. Have you ever been to Africa?
I still can’t believe we have been to 27 countries already in the past 18 months and that this is our last continent. I could travel forever. I love everything about our journey but maybe not the packing. We spent an insanely busy weekend packing our one carryon suit case with school books, a very small amount of clothing, cameras, and binoculars. On Sunday morning we said a sad goodbye to my grandma and grandpa and hopped on the train to Chicago. In Chicago the temperature was four degrees and we nearly froze our fingers off, but we ended our day with piping hot Chicago style pizza.
We left Chicago the next morning and started out on our four day journey to Africa. Within the first five minutes of our drive from the airport to our hotel in Windhoek, Namibia we saw two gorgeous giraffes grazing in the bush.
When we arrived at our hotel we jumped in the pool and started talking to travelers from all over the world. They shared their stories and confirmed that there is an endless list of amazing things for us to do and see. Our first day we toured the city of Windhoek. We visited the handicraft center and saw handmade creations from the small villages throughout Namibia. The indigenous people use things that we would just throw away and turn them into beautiful creations. There were picture frames made of bike chains, boxes made of computer keys, African animals carved from old wood, they even took old radio parts and made solar powered portable radios. It just makes you realize our trash is their treasure. I am so excited to explore the rest of this awe inspiring African continent!
Hi guys! We ended our unforgettable five months in Eastern Europe and the Middle East and started our family Christmas in Michigan with a bang. We did sooo many fun things while we were home. We went sledding on our Zipfy sleds and had a few wipe outs, too. The next day we went to the movies and saw Parental Guidance which was really funny. On Christmas Eve there was a huge snowstorm, so we had to build a snowman and snow angels. We named our snowman Frosty.
We have a tradition twice a year in the summer and at Christmas to see my dad’s family at an old lodge. In the winter they have an awesome toboggan track. This year the track was covered in ice and we reached a speed of 38 mph. Yet another fantastic day we had a family bowling night, and of course I won.
One of the highlights of this holiday season was a fascinating evening at the Cranbrook Institute of Science. They have one of the most powerful telescopes ever in their brand new observatory.
On Christmas morning we decided to stay in our pajamas all day and play with our new gifts. My favorite was my iPhone and Everest’s favorite was his microscope and remote control rat.
What did you get for Christmas? What was your favorite gift? What holiday do you celebrate? When we went to Christmas mass there were stories told about the River Jordan and the Red Sea, and it was amazing to think that we were there just days ago. We had a wonderful time in Jordan, the memories that will stay with me forever. For the rest of our stay at home we saw some of our friends, spent time with my grandparents, did A LOT of school, and started preparing for our amazing trip to Africa… ROAR!
Hello! This week in Jordan was just as amazing as last or maybe even more. We started it off in the desert of Wadi Rum where we stayed in a Bedouin camp. Our first night there we went on an epic sunset camel ride. My camel was only one year old and had quite a spirit about him. Later in the evening we rolled down gigantic sand dunes. The sand was so fine it was like powdered sugar.
In the morning we loaded in to a four-by-four and began our unbelievable tour of the entire desert. There were times when we were going so fast I thought we might tip over. All the rock formations were massive. There was even one that looked like an enormous mushroom (soup anyone?).
Has anyone ever seen Lawrence of Arabia? On our tour we saw where he lived and where they filmed the movie. After a long day of exploring we sat around the fire and listened to the Bedouins sing and play their drum for us. We had a private concert. Everest fell in love with the drum and decided it was what he wanted for Christmas. With the help of our new friends, my parents found an awesome drum so can have our own little drummer boy for Christmas.
After our extraordinary stay in Wadi Rum it was off to Petra, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Our first night there we went to Petra at Night.
We walked through the winding sig that was lit up by thousands of candles. As we walked to the end we stood in awe of The Treasury, one of the most significant monuments in Petra. It really takes your breath away. We sat and listened to old stories and traditional music under the moonlight. We woke up the next morning and were off to Petra again. We wanted to see everything. We started on horseback and then walked through the Siq, which is kind of like a little canyon. Did you know a Siq is created by tectonics not water erosion? We approached The Treasury in daylight and again stood in awe. It was so different during the day. We then wandered for hours in this historic city filled with treasures, tombs and intricate carvings. Our final destination was The Monastery. We climbed hundreds of steps and all I could say when I turned the corner was “Wow.” It really made you feel so insignificant and miniscule compared to its scale. Now a few fun facts… Did you know that only 5% of Petra has been excavated? Did you also know that Petra was once home to over 20,000 inhabitants but no residential buildings have ever been found? Petra is AMAZING! Our last day in Jordan was spent at a castle, in a city, and in a village. Our first stop was Shobak Castle. Shobak was built in 1115 by the Crusaders. The castle complex was an entire town with a church, a jail, a school and much more. We then went to Amman which is the capital of Jordan and a blend of old and new. While we were there we visited the ancient Roman Theater, The Citadel and the Historical Museum. For dinner we shared one last mezze platter with our kind Jordanian friends and live music at a small local restaurant in a little village. Life doesn’t get any better. We all had tears in our eyes as we concluded this third leg of our world adventure. It has been the most incredible year and it is sooooo hard to imagine all the amazing people I have met and all the things I’ve done this year. Now we are off to Michigan to spend the holidays with all of my family. Merry Merry Christmas!!
We flew into the Aman Airport and instantly the world felt more foreign. Everything was more gritty and exotic. Our days were packed with adventure. We visited some of the most amazing places I have ever been. Our first stop was Mount Nebo where Moses looked out to the Promised Land. Later we swam in the Dead Sea, the deepest spot on the face of the earth. The water is saltier than any ocean. Since there is so much salt you float to the surface. It is a feeling you have to experience to understand. While floating in the Dead Sea we could see all the way to Israel.
We visited Bethany and the River Jordan where Jesus was baptized. It is hard to put it into words how special it was. Knowing I was walking in the footsteps of our savior was truly unbelievable. Our final stop was the Ma’in Hot Springs. Playing in the waterfalls was a perfect way to end an unbelievable day. Hot water was spilling out of the rock cliffs above us and falling down our backs.
We began our second day at an orthodox church where a mosaic map dating back to 542 AD was discovered, the map was so accurate that it led to more archaeological discoveries all over the Middle East. Later in the day we hopped in our car with Arabian music blasting and drove to an eco lodge in the Arabian Desert. We went on a beautiful sunset hike and climbed to a peak amazing views that went on for miles. That night we gazed at the stars through and insanely good telescope. We saw Jupiter and its four moons, and a bunch of constellations. My favorite was Orion. The night sky was so incredible that we decided to sleep under the stars.
The next morning as the sun was rising we set out on a hike deep into the canyons. It could not have been any more stunning. There was even a natural rock that looked just like a tiger. Roar!
After our amazing candlelight days at the eco lodge we were off to the Red Sea to find some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world. We dropped our bags, ran to the beach and grabbed a snorkel and mask. There were hundreds of funky fish, urchins and all kinds of coral. The next morning we went on an underwater submarine boat to see even more of the fascinating fish and coral.
We even saw some garbage fish that weren’t exactly what we were hoping, but YOU can help stop this by saying NO to plastic! I just don’t know if anything could top this week, Jordan is full of so much history and adventure. I can’t wait until tomorrow … until next week, Aubrey.
This week we flew across the blue Mediterranean and onto the island of Cyprus. Can you imagine that Cyprus is in between the three continents of Europe, Africa, and Asia? Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean. Over 260 species of fish circle the warm Mediterranean waters around Cyprus, and most of them like to eat bananas. Everest tried to catch some but unfortunately even with bananas he didn’t have any luck.
We spent the week at a beautiful resort. There were all kinds of awesome activities. I worked on my tennis skills, but I still don’t have my stroke or my grunt down. We made mosaic Christmas cards in the craft center.
One afternoon we had fresh chocolates made by a chocolatier that has been making chocolate for years. He has even made a super healthy dark chocolate called Flava that is filled with antioxidants (tell your parents!). He told us that it helps keep your skin soft, maintains heart health, protects your brain, and keeps you young and fit. Wow. He was like something out of a story book with a jolly face and round tummy.
Another beautiful day we went into the mountains and visited an amazing waterfall and monastery. The monastery was gorgeous and full of tranquility. It was so quiet. We were up in the Troodos Mountains and you could hear every sound, from the monks praying to the birds chirping! One of the highlights of the week was visiting the birth place of Aphrodite. Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love and beauty. Aphrodite was said to have been the daughter of Zeus (god of the sky) and Dodna (mother goddess.) The Greek myth says that she rose from the sea at Petra tou Romiou in Pafo.
At the end of the week we took an adventure to the Turkish side of the island. Cyprus is split into two parts the North is part of Turkey and the South is part of Greece. Visiting Turkey was crazy; even though the two sides are right next to each other they are so different. Turkey felt more exotic and foreign. We had a fabulous time in Cyprus but now it’s off to another continent… Africa!
Geiá sou [hello], readers, guess where I was this week… Athens. Athens is full of history and culture. We started in Delphi, the center of the world. According to Greek mythology Zeus released two eagles at opposite ends of the world and they met in Delphi and that’s why they call it the center of the world. We also had the chance to see the stadium where the first Pan-Hellenic Pythian Games took place. These were only second in importance to the Olympics. When these games took place they didn’t wear anything except grape vines, phew… at least they wore clothes when we were at the Olympics in London. The winners at the Pythian Games were awarded with a palm tree twig or a wreath of laurels. After exploring the wonders of Delphi we drove south to Athens.
Our first day we went for a serendipitous wander through the soulful streets of Monastiraki. My mom bought a pair of Greek sandals from the same man who made sandals for John Lennon. We also visited… dun dun dun dunnnn… the Parthenon! It is just as amazing as it sounds. When you stand next to it you seem so insignificant, the pillars tower over you.
The Parthenon was built in honor of the goddess Athena, who the people of Athens considered to be their Patron. They started building the Parthenon in 447 B.C. and it was finished in 432 B.C. It has survived all kinds of wars, invasion, and natural disasters for over 20 century’s. Across from the Parthenon is the Acropolis museum. It is one of the most amazing museums I have ever seen, even though most of the pieces from the Parthenon are in the British museum.
Next to the Parthenon is the world’s first theater, built in honor of Dionysus. They performed dramas and comedies over 2,600 years ago. Only boys were allowed to act in the plays and they had to wear large masks so the people in the audience could clearly tell the part they were playing.
For Thanksgiving we visited friends that we met during our first world trip 8 years ago. They invited us to their home and cooked a super yummy turkey lunch that had us stuffed just like the turkey. We had a great time with Sophia, Melina and their mom and dad.
Our last day my dad and I did something super special, we went on a Segway tour through the city. They were super fast and super duper fun. We explored every nook and cranny. Our guide Pluto even took us to his favorite restaurant to have a look. It was so awesome we came back there for dinner. They had live music, people dancing on the tables and throwing plates on the ground “Oppa” and delicious traditional Greek food. Antío [goodbye], from Aubrey!
Hello readers! Guess where I was this week. You give up… okay I’ll tell you… this week we were on the Greek island of Skopelos where they filmed the movie Mamma Mia. The island was amazing and full of beauty. We woke up every morning gazing at the ocean. We toured the little island one day in an open top jeep and went to see many of the places where they filmed the movie. Have you ever seen Mamma Mia!? Mamma Mia! means a lot to me because I was in the play a couple of years ago and played the role of Donna.
Another day we hiked in fields of eight hundred year old olive trees and watched some local families make olive oil. First they pick the olives, then they remove the stems, then they cleaned them, then they mix them into a paste, and finally they separate the oil and the solids. After watching it being made we had to try some. We had it on everything from salads to bread. Greece is the third leading producer of olive oil in the world and it is delicious! Did you know you know that in Greek mythology Poseidon (God of the sea) and Athena (Goddess of wisdom) were in a battle over who would rule the city? Each god brought one gift to the people. Athena brought the olive tree and Poseidon brought the salty water of the sea. The people of the city chose the olive tree, the symbol of peace and named Athens the capitol city after Athena.
One evening we received a very special blessing from a priest at the church right above our house. The sun was setting over the Aegean Sea and the bells were ringing. He seemed like the grandfather to all the children in the town.
Later in the week we had our Friday Night Dance Night which is a tradition we’ve had in our family for a really long time. We put on funny hats, use kitchen utensils as microphones and dance around. We of course danced to the Mamma Mia! soundtrack this week. After all the crazy dancing we needed some Greek fuel so we set out for the local taverna. The food here has been amazing. Some of my favorites are saganaki (fried cheese) and tzatziki (cream yogurt with cucumbers.) We had a great time eating, dancing, and exploring Skopelos, but now it is time for one of the greatest history lessons ever, so we are off to Athens. Talk to you next week.
Hello, friends in cyberspace. What did you do this week? I was in Meteora, Greece. The word Meteora means “in mid-air.” There are monasteries that sit on top of these sheer, ancient, massive rocks that seem to hang mid air. We did some pretty awesome things while we were there. We visited all the monasteries and all the convents. There once were 24, now only six remain, four monasteries and two convents. They built them on top of the rocks to avoid invasion. My favorite was Great Meteoron. It is the biggest monastery in Meteora and in my opinion it was the most beautiful and moving.
Did you know the Greek word monk means alone? Since these monasteries were built on top of huge rocks they had to pull the monks and their supplies up in a basket. Luckily now there are stairs. When you reach the top you fell like you’re on the top of the world and could fly away. No, I didn’t try… AHHHHHHHHHH!
We didn’t try flying, but we did do something pretty crazy. With the help of our rock climbing guide Kostas; I put on my harness, tied up my shoes, and conquered one of the massive rocks. It was a little scary; OK a lot scary, but totally worth it. It was awesome. Everest even made it to the top. It was totally different from climbing a wall in a gym or other rocks I have climbed back home. Have you guys ever been rock climbing? If you have then you know how amazing it is. If you haven’t you should definitely give it a try. Well, that’s all for this week. Aubrey signing off!
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Hey there readers, how’s it going? This week we were in Dihovo, Macedonia. After 18 months on the road we realize it’s not the places we go but the people we meet that make the journey special. This week we met some pretty fabulous people. The family that ran our bed and breakfast couldn’t have been any more hospitable, friendly and welcoming. We joined them for a traditional lunch one day and met every one from the great aunts to the second cousins. There were even two girls around my age Matea 11 and Alexandra 14. We had a great time together playing cards and eating ice cream. We also did tons of other fun things.
We went on an absolutely, positively, amazing hike in the Baba Mountains. When we got to the top it was pouring rain, we were sopping wet and the wind was howling, but that added to the awesomeness. Our guide taught us a lot about mushrooms and showed us which mushrooms were poisonous and which ones weren’t. If you eat one type of mushroom you will slowly die for two to three years.
Another day we visited the ancient ruins of Heraclea Lyncestis which was founded by Phillip II in 168 B.C. It is the remains of a roman village. There is an amphitheater, church, the foundation of many houses, and beautiful floor mosaics. We also visited the American corner in Bitola. There is a little library area were Americans can go and read. They also have activities and classes offered in English.
For Halloween many American children and some Macedonian children went trick or treating and to a party there. Our last day we went into town and explored the old bazaar which oddly enough was filled with new stuff. The market was full of fruits and vegetables. Apples are in season and so delicious that we decided to get a four pound bag of every kind you can imagine. Another week filled with amazing people and things. Ciao for now, Aubrey.
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Hi guys, I hope you had a great week, because mine sure was fantastic. We spent our days on Lake Ohrid, Macedonia which is one of Europe’s deepest and oldest lakes. Do you even know where Macedonia is? You don’t… okay I’ll tell you. It is a little country bordering Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Kosovo, Albania, and Montenegro. We had an amazing time touring the city on the shores of the lake.
Did you know the man Saint Clement who invented the Cyrillic Alphabet was from Ohrid? The Cyrillic Alphabet is used by over 250 million people all over the world. Every single letter of the Cyrillic Alphabet has it on unique sound. We also visited a place called the Bay of Bones which is a recreation of an old Macedonian village dating back to between 1,200 and 700 B.C. At this site they have found artifacts dating back to 2800 B.C. We visited the 2, 500 year old amazing churches filled with the most outstanding frescos (paintings) I have ever seen.
The next day we went on an amazing hike in the beautiful Galichia Mountains. The leaves were just starting to change from green to scarlet, golden, and orange which made it even more gorgeous. We went on a stunning boat ride and saw naked algae… awkward. We also went to their farmers market and saw the biggest cabbage I have ever seen. They were bigger than basketballs. One Macedonian treat that cannot be beat is the baklava. It is a sweet treat swimming in honey.
Something else very special and spooky happened this week… it was Halloween. In Macedonia no one celebrates Halloween so we got a lot of funny looks while we were walking through the village all dressed up in our costumes. I was a mouse with a bow tie…cheese please, Everest was Dracula… I want to suck your blood, Mom was a sheep… baaaa, and Dad was a crayon. We trick or treated at any door my mom could find and got some yummy candy. What’s your favorite type of candy? My favorite might have to be Twix… yumm. It truly was a spectacular week. Until next time Aubrey.
Something very special happened on Monday, it was my birthday! It was an amazing week of fun and celebration in Montenegro. We stayed in Perast, an old stone fishing village. After my chocolate covered birthday croissant we visited the little island in the bay. It is a manmade island built on top of hundreds of ocean ships and rocks. We toured the beautiful church and museum in honor of the Blessed Mary. Later in the day we went on a magical sunset boat ride through the bay and into Porto Montenegro. The water was so still it’s almost like a lake, but it is FREEZING!
On Monday we climbed up the old walls to the top of Kotor, a nearby town and looked down upon the stunning city. We visited Sveti Stefan which is the quintessential picture of Montenegro. It was once a little fishing village but is now a five star resort where we had a wonderful lunch on the cliffs gazing at the sparkling ocean. Later we had an awesome swim in the Adriatic.
A few days later we saw six incredible bottle nose dolphins trained by the US Navy to search for sea mines and other explosives left over from the wars of Montenegro’s past. We were there for the last day of their mission and saw the dolphins put on a show. They did all kinds of tricks like playing catch, jumping through hoops, and sliding onto the boat.
In the next village we saw mosaics that dated back to 230 B.C. They were very detailed, one even had Hypnos the Greek God of dreams who watched over them while they slept and controlled their dreams.
During the week I became friends with a caramel colored stray kitten that I named Snuggles. On our last day there was another huge storm. The rain was pouring and when we were walking back home after dinner there was a gust of wind that I thought was going to blow us away. I felt like Dorothy in Wizard of Oz during the tornado. “Toto I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.” Montenegro and my birthday were amazing!
Our next stop Dubrovnik, Croatia started with a surprise. Aunt Julie came to visit! Dubrovnik is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The weather was super warm for October so we swam in the Adriatic Sea every single day. My favorite swim was deep into a spooky sea cave full of birds and other creepy critters.
Hi readers. Wow, what a week… it started in Serbia. Do you even know where Serbia is? Serbia is a little Balkan country bordering believe it or not, eight other small countries. We visited Belgrade the capital city. Our first afternoon we explored the old ramparts, and oddly enough there was a photographic exhibit on the USA. There was a beautiful picture from every state. Later that night went to the bohemian quarter, perfect for us, and we listened to traditional music.
Our next day we wandered and ate dinner at the coolest opera restaurant, we pulled a rope for our waiter to come and sat in a vintage opera box. At the end of the night a pianist and a violinist came and played, the violinist was hilarious.