Friday, July 29, 2011

Waka Waka - South Africa II

I flew back to Johannesburg from Livingstone after my Cape to Vic camping. Upon arrival, called and booked with one of those hotels near the airport that included free airport transfers. While waiting for my ride, I hastily made arrangement for a 4-day Kruger safari for the next day. Note that I managed these last-minute bookings outside the S African school holidays and high season. The safari pickup was at the crack of dawn taking the Panorama Route in Mpumalanga en route to Kruger passing by some of the most impressive landscape that S Africa have to offer. Along the well-beaten path is the Bourke’s Luck Potholes.These giant potholes have been carved over centuries by pebbles swirling around in pools where the Treur River plunges into the Blyde River. Not far from the potholes is the Drakensberg escarpment in Mpumalanga - God’s Window. Just one look down and you will begin to understand why it is called 'God's Window'. It was just getting dark by the time we got to Kruger. After camping for 20 days, I opted for more luxury with an accommodated safari and for the price, I found the standard of the lodge and meals rather high although it was located outside the national park.

bourke’s luck potholes
Kruger National Park is one of the largest (nearly 2 million hectares) game reserves in Africa. This world-renowned park also offers a wildlife experience and facilities that rank with the best in Africa. Even though it was the fourth game reserve or national park that I have visited on that trip - Etosha, Chobe and Okavango Delta before that - I was still excited about going on game drives like it was my first time. You never know what you are going to see or happen on a game viewing activity so it is a different experience every time. It was also in Kruger that I finally saw a leopard - the last of the Big-Five that eluded me up to that point - albeit for only 2 seconds.

Friday, July 15, 2011

An Experience Outside This World

The other day when a friend asked what was the highlight of my Argentina/Chile trip, I replied 'the Atacama' right away without hesitation. The Atacama desert is the top attraction in northern Chile and it is easy to see why. This otherworldly land is composed mainly of salt flats and sand. The desert is believed to be the driest on earth with some areas having never received even a drop of rainfall. In the middle of the desert at about 2400m elevation, the village of San Pedro de Atacama is the base for most visitors. Most travel agencies in San Pedro offer similar packages and I did four of the most popular (half) day tours here. I will publish each of them in separate posts.

sunset at moon valley

It was a tough choice but I picked the Moon Valley (Valle de la Luna) tour for Day 1. The tour began at three in the afternoon and headed first to the Death Valley (Valle de la Muerte). The Cordillera de Sal (Salt Mountains) with a variety of natural sculptures and colorations by the mineral diversity and spectacular volcanoes including the Licancabur which could be seen from hundreds of kilometers away in the background. Next, a short drive brought us to an ancient salt river bed and caves. We walked through the river bed and some caves for only about 300m before rushing off to Moon Valley for the sunset. On the way, we made a quick stop to see some strange rock and salt formation known as Las Tres Marias. The Moon Valley make for a dramatic setting to watch the sunset. To one side, a large rock formation shaped by the wind to form a valley with panoramic vista. To the other, the severe peak of Mount Licancabur shed shades of gold and orange as the sun sets. The pamphlet that I picked up from the park office read 'An Experience Outside this World' - considering the Atacama is so Mars-like that NASA frequently uses it as a test region for their personnel and equipment, that statement is not far-off.

Friday, July 1, 2011

First Peek at the Cataratas

During my flight to Puerto Iguazu from Salta, I was treated to an unforgettable spectacle. As the plane began to descend, I looked out the window hoping to catch a glimpse of the Iguazu Falls or Cataratas as the locals called it. I saw what I assumed was the River Iguazu so I had my camera ready but after several minutes, no sight of the Cataratas. Just as I thought it was not going to happen, the pilot announced that we would be flying pass the falls in a minute. It was my lucky day indeed - not only was I seated on the side with the view, I also had the window seat that was unobstructed by the aircraft wing too.

an unforgettable spectacle

The pictures in this post are understandably not of the highest quality but I like that because of the height that they were taken from, they are still quite awesome with the overview of not only the entire falls but also the surrounding jungle. Some of the details like the bridge leading to the Devil's Throat (Argentina side) and the Hotel Das Cataratas in Brazil are apparent but to find the Devil's Throat in Brazil, you may have to look a little more carefully. It was a perfect way to arrive and I cannot think of a better way to start off my visit to the Cataratas.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...