Monthly Archives: February 2014

Countdown to Africa – South African History Simplified

I’ve long enjoyed reading a novel about the area I’m visiting.  I’m currently reading the classic, Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton about South Africa for this trip.  Some of the following information comes from that novel.

South Africa, referred to as the Cradle of Humankind, has been occupied for many thousands of years.  The earliest occupants were native Bushmen and the Khoikhoi (Hottentots) in the Cape area and the Bantu (Zulu) to the north.  Europeans arrived on the scene in 1652 when the Dutch landed at the Cape of Good Hope and founded a colony.  The Cape Colony gradually expanded, driving the native people from the land and eventually the need for additional workers resulted in the import of slaves.  (Sound familiar?)

By the early 1800’s, the British took over rule of the area from the Dutch and British settlers moved in causing resentment among the Dutch Boers. (Boer is the Dutch word for farmer.  These people were later called Afrikaners.)  Soon after the abolition of slavery in 1834, the Boers began the Great Trek to escape British rule and eventually established 2 republics of their own, the Orange Free State and Transvaal.

Eventually, the British wanted control of the Dutch republics to unite the area and by 1900 the Anglo-Boer War ensued.  The British prevailed and in 1910 the Union of South Africa was formed.  Lack of agreement between the British and the Afrikaners over the treatment of the majority native population, however, resulted in the policy of separate development later known as apartheid.

Apartheid became the official policy of racial segregation and subjugation in South Africa following WWII.  People were classified by race as black, white, colored, or Indian.  Racial injustice to dispossess and disenfranchise the majority native population flourished in South Africa in spite of international pressure until apartheid was finally abolished in 1993.  Nelson Mandela, the resistance leader who was jailed for 27 years, was elected the first black President in 1994.

Today, 20 years later, the struggle to establish social and economic justice in post-apartheid South Africa continues.

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Countdown to Africa – Preparation

I knew when we planned a trip to South Africa that additional safety precautions would be required.   We scheduled an appointment with the doctor for whatever inoculations we would need.  Once there, we got Hepatitis A shots and prescriptions for live vaccine for typhus and a prophylaxis for malaria.

I am a mosquito magnet.  No, really.  If there is one mosquito in the county, it zeroes in on me, finds me, and sucks my blood.  So, needless to say, I’m paranoid about malaria.  Plus, the medicine causes sun sensitivity and we’ll be closer to the equator so I have concerns about serious sunburn as well.

After some research on the internet, I bought two products.  The first is Sun Guard, made by Rit, the dye people.  It washes in 30 SPF sun protection to your clothing when added to your laundry.  I couldn’t find it locally so I ordered it online and washed all my clothes in it.  It supposedly lasts through eight washings.  The second product is Permethrin Insect Repellent.  It’s a spray to use on your clothing (it won’t work on your body) and can be used on tents and other outdoor gear to repel mosquitoes.  So, if you’re a big camper, fisherman, or other outdoor enthusiast and a mosquito magnet like me, this might be a product for you.  I found it locally at Walmart.  You must use it liberally to ensure effectiveness but it’s extracted from chrysanthemums so it should be relatively non toxic.

My clothing is now doubly treated and ready to go.  I have, however, packed topical sunscreen and mosquito repellent, too.

Tomorrow I’ll share some information about South Africa.

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My packed carry on rolling backpack is 22X14X9 and my small backpack that I carry as a personal item is 15X10X6.


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Countdown to Africa: Packing Tips

Some of my friends have suggested I blog travel tips in addition to a travelogue so if this is boring stuff to you, just skip it.

We leave for South Africa in 3 days.  Those of you who know me well know I’m already packed and ready to go.  In fact, I started packing when I got home from the last trip.  The guest room is now called the packing room and I spend as much time packing as planning-which is a lot.  My husband Jim, on the other hand, packs at the last minute.

To me, packing is a science and a challenge.  We travel with only carry on bags.  Yes, you read that right.  We carry on.   Consequently, we’ve never lost our bags and we’re more mobile without all that luggage.  This space limitation requires thoughtful consideration of each item before it goes into the bag.  And in spite of careful consideration, I still come home with clothes never worn on the trip so I’m still taking too much.  And yes, I do change my clothes!

A couple rules apply:

1. Pick a color scheme and stick with it.  Usually I go for black but a safari requires khaki.  All items of clothing go together so with a small number of pieces you can combine in more ways than you have days.  This allows you to take fewer shoes, too.  My rule is one dress shoe, one casual shoe, and one other (running or hiking, whatever.)

2. Pack lighter weight clothing and wear your heaviest, bulkiest items including shoes. Other countries have weight restrictions in addition to size limits for carry on bags so lighter is better.  I’m always on the lookout for the lightest carry on and currently I’m using a rolling backpack.

Along with your carry on, you can take one personal item such as a purse or computer bag that fits under the seat.  We each take a small backpack as our personal item and put our electronics, toiletries, small purse(for me) and snacks in it.  If you’re on a small plane (like we take out of Des Moines,) they will take your carry on at the jetway because it’s too big for the overhead compartment.  Make sure any items of value are in your personal item.

Here’s a tip:  Be considerate of other passengers and don’t put your personal item in the overhead bin until everyone else has stowed their carry ons.  I’ve seen men fold and lay their sport coat in the overhead bin alongside their carry on and expect the rest of us to honor that.  Come on, guys.  That’s just unrealistic on a full flight.

Some of you may be thinking you can’t possibly carry on because you can’t get all the liquids and gels you need in 3 ounce sizes to fit in a quart baggie.  Well, take along the things you can’t purchase away from home and buy the mouthwash, sunscreen, etc. when you get there.  Actually, you’ll be surprised at how much will fit in a baggie if you buy little containers and put in just the amount you need for the trip.

If you have tips to share, please post them in comments.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you how we picked this trip and how we planned the itinerary.

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Countdown to Africa- How This Trip Found Me

Now that we’re retired I really want to go somewhere warm for the entire winter.  My husband, Jim, however, isn’t keen on the idea of being gone for an extended period.  We’ve compromised by taking several shorter trips to warm spots over the cold months.

About the time we decided a cruise of the Hawaiian Islands would cost more than we wanted to spend, I received an email from offering a special deal on a trip to Vuyani Safari Lodge in South Africa.  I told Jim it would cost less to go there for 7 days than a cruise of Hawaii and he said, “Let’s go.”   Check it out at to see where we’re going.

After booking the trip, I watched airfare prices for a while and finally booked a Delta flight from Des Moines to Atlanta, then Atlanta directly to Johannesburg, but the ATL to JNB leg is nearly 16 hours!  More on that later.

Tips for booking airfare:  I use a number of sites like,, and  Each one allows you to set alerts to send you a daily or weekly email with the current price at various airlines and online booking agents for your desired route.  Kayak also has a tool that shows the airfare trend that tells you whether to buy or wait.  When you’ve watched prices long enough to know a good deal when you see one, jump on it before it’s gone.  Then stop looking. If the price goes down, you’ll just feel bad and who needs that? Incidentally, you can also sign up at Airfarewatchdog for their newsletter sent to your email each day showing the best airfares from your selected home airport to all kinds of destinations.  If you just want an inexpensive flight and don’t have a destination in mind, this is a great tool.  That’s how we ended up going to Boston.

We have 2 days in Johannesburg before Vuyani Lodge picks us up and drives us 5 hours northeast to the lodge located just outside Kruger National Park.  We usually like to go off on our own to explore but I’ve read conflicting reports about crime in JoBurg so we’ve selected the safest options for touring the city.  The first day we will do the City Sightseeing JoBurg Hop On Hop Off Red Bus and day 2 we’ll have a tour guide from Themba Day Tours and Safaris show us Soweto.  I checked each of these organizations through Tripadvisor and both show very positive reviews.

Another tip:  I always try to check hotels, restaurants, and sights on  The reviews are submitted by users like me and are very helpful in planning our trips.

If you have favorite tips to share, please post a comment.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about some unusual preparations for this journey.

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About Me

About Me

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Why blog?

I’m considering starting a travel blog.  Why, you ask?  I was talking with friends at lunch today about blogging and asked, “Who would be interested in reading someone’s blog?” I was assured there are people who would read it, if only friends and family.

After some thought and floating a trial balloon on Facebook, I think the idea has some merit.  I used to journal my trips but stopped when I started posting my trips on Facebook.  This blogging thing kind of combines the two ideas.  My friends and family can still track me while I travel and I will also have a better record than random Facebook posts.

So, this is my blogging experiment.

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