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Seniors on Safari, Page Two

A Weighty Problem

One of the biggest logistical problems of our trip was packing.  Although we could take up to seventy pounds in a large suitcase and 15 pounds in hand luggage on our overseas flight, we would be limited in weight on our in-country flights and at the safari camps.  When we traveled to our first safari in Sabi Sabi for a two-night stay, we were limited to 44 pounds packed in a duffle supplied by Tauck Tours.  The big suitcase was sent on to our Johannesburg hotel.  When we later flew from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls, we were also limited to 44 pounds and our hand luggage. Our suitcases were sent to Johannesburg Airport awaiting our flights home.  But those of us who were going to continue on to Botswana from the Falls were in a bind.  We could only take 26 pounds with us in our duffels and this meant that we could only take 26 pounds to Victoria Falls, where we spent two nights and had our “formal” farewell dinner. 

We then flew to Botswana for five more days before we arrived back in Johannesburg.  The airplanes that took us to the camps were very small and had to limit the weight they carried.  We were told that they would ask our weight and adjust the passenger lists accordingly, but no one ever did that, thank goodness.  The camp vehicles that met us at the airstrips could only hold a small amount of luggage.  It took one vehicle to hold the duffels of all our group of 15. We were able to have some clothes cleaned/washed for us in the hotels, and in each of  the safari camps the staff would wash clothes for you — no ironing and no smalls (the English term for underwear and socks).  

Needless to say, once we hit the safari camps, dressing for dinner was limited to brushing off the day’s dust and washing hands and face. A change of clothes lasted for two days.  Our tents were decorated with lines of  smalls drying.

Debugging

 When traveling outside the US, it's possible to enjoy many new experiences to be treasured for a lifetime; you're also likely to encounter a range of health risks that demand some preparation.   In late April some six to eight weeks before our departure date,  we made an appointment with the Doylestown, PA branch of PENN Travel Medicine, an affiliate of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. 

The providers at PENN Travel Medicine are familiar with the health concerns in each country you intend to visit. They're current about disease outbreaks around the globe, and about new means of prevention and treatment of diseases that are of concern to travelers.  After reviewing our travel itinerary, the nurse at PENN Travel gave us an oral polio vaccine and administered a Hepatitis A injection in addition to a supply of typhoid oral vaccine to take during the next week.   She gave us each a prescription for Malarone, the most effective malaria pills, but also the most expensive: $9 a pill.  We began taking these two days before we visited our first potentially infected area, then every day in Africa after that as well as for the first seven days we were back home.  

As for dysentery or other related problems, we were to take Imodium first, then if the problem persisted, we were to take an antibiotic until clear and, in this case, she gave us a prescription for Cipro.  She suggested that we visit our primary physicians to get a combination tetanus and diphtheria shot if we weren’t up to date on those (we weren’t). 

The nurse also sold us some special insect repellent in spray form that we were to use to soak up to five outfits made up of shirts, jackets and pants.  After these dried, they would repel insects even after washing.  We purchased high SPF rated sunscreen lotion that was non-irritating to the body and face.  Our bill for the consultation, shots, vaccine, repellent and lotion was over $300 apiece, none of it covered by our health insurance.  However we were covered for most of the Malarone and Cipro costs, but not the tetanus shots.

(Note:  All of the hotels and safari camps supplied us with insect repellent for personal use and for the rooms, as well as sunscreen.  Since we each brought our own cans/bottles of each, we could have saved some money and gained some weight allowance for the safaris.  However, the information about the amenities provided didn’t reach us until we arrived in Africa.)

Cape Town, here we come!  

 On the morning of June 4, 2005, Don and I woke up to the alarm at 2:30 AM.   We quickly dressed, didn’t even stop for coffee, and took off for Philadelphia International  Airport.  Our flight left about 6:30 AM for Atlanta.  The flight to Johannesburg left about 10:30 AM from there. Actually, the plane stopped after about eight hours for a refueling and crew change at Ilha do Sal, a Portuguese Island off the coast of Africa.  After an hour layover, it was another eight hours to Johannesburg where we disembarked to go through passport control with another layover before flying two and a half hours to Cape Town. 

South Africa time is six hours ahead of EDT so it was about 9 AM EDT, thirty or so hours since we left home the day before, when we arrived at our Cape Town hotel, the elegant Table Bay Hotel.  Since we arrived a day early, we didn’t meet our thirty traveling companions until the next night at a welcome dinner in Cape Town.  Except for two 15-year old teens and two women in their thirties, the age range of our group was early sixties to eighty. Seven of the women were traveling either by themselves or with another woman companion.  One group of five was comprised of grandparents, parents and a teenage daughter.  Another group of three was two grandmothers and a teenage grandson.  All but four of the group, who lived in Australia, came from the US. 

For the next four days, we visited many of the sights that make Cape Town popular with tourists: the Cape of Good Hope area: Table Mountain with its unique round, revolving cable cars; Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for twenty-eight years; the Winelands; and the town of Stellenbosch founded in 1679 by the Dutch settlers.  The food was very good and resembled what you can get in restaurants in the US, with the exception of the fresh South African Rock Lobster tail and the game entrees on the menus: Kudu, Impala, Springbok, and other African creatures.  I tried the Springbok at the hotel and it was delicious – much like filet mignon, but moister.

On to Sabi Sabi

From Cape Town we flew into South Africa’s newest airport, Kruger-Mpumalanga International, taking an afternoon drive through the middle and eastern veldt with bush-covered plains, steep mountains and unique grasslands. Gold was discovered more than 100 years ago in 1873 in the town of Pilgrim’s Rest.  After spending the night at Mount Sheba Country Lodge (where I sampled the warthog for dinner – Ugh!), we headed to our first safari camp, Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge, stopping on the way to see some of the interesting views of the Blyde River Canyon’s formations. 

After driving in the bush for quite a few miles, we came to the entrance to the Sabi Sabi bushveldt area, a private part of the Kruger National Park. As we transferred from the bus to the Land Rover vehicles that would be our home for six to eight hours a day on safari, we got our first experience with the vehicles.  These special open safari Rovers have three rows of stadium-like seating behind the front seat.  Although each row can seat three to four people, the camps usually only seat two people in each row to maximize the viewing.  Because I have knee problems, hauling myself up to the back rows was extremely tricky, so I sat next to the driver in the front seat.  Even here I needed some boosting, because the vehicles sit fairly high above the ground.   As we drove to our lodge, Bush Lodge, one of several Sabi Sabi lodges, we saw baboons, zebra, warthog and some brilliant birds – our first real glimpse of African wildlife. 

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©2005 Joan James Rapp for SeniorWomenWeb

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