Walking the Americas- Levison Wood

Snip20180427_1I love travel books about walking across the world, bicycling or motorbiking. I live vicariously through the authors and feel every step they take.  I picked this book up a few months ago at a local independent bookshop because I fell in love with the cover. It is a beautiful book to look at. I thought Mr. Penguin would enjoy reading it because it takes place in Central America and Mexico which is an area he has always been interested in. But as it goes, when one buys a book for another, it was not his mood at the moment and it sat unread on the shelf until I picked it up.

I read it in less than two days as I could not put it down.  As I got further into this book it dawned on me that Levison Wood also wrote a book I read, Walking The Nile. That book was gripping as one of his friends actually died on that walk due to extreme heat. It took him awhile to get over that. When I bought this book I had no clue he was the author of the Nile book, then the penny dropped and it all fell into place.Snip20180427_4

The author is a British citizen, aged in his 30’s and spent four years in the army in the Parachute Regiment.  He served a tour of duty in Afghanistan and his interest in walking in various countries appears to be unabated. He left the army in 2010.

Another walk he undertook was to walk in the Himalayas from Afghanistan to Bhutan. The Nile walk was made into a tv series of which I saw a few episodes.

The blurb on the back of the Americas book states:

“Walking The Americas chronicles Levison Wood’s 1,800 mile trek along the spine of the Americas, through eight countries from Mexico to Colombia, experiencing some of the world’s most diverse, beautiful and unpredictable places.

His journey took him from violent and dangerous cities to ancient Mayan ruins lying still unexplored in the jungles of  Mexico and Guatemala. He encountered members of indigenous tribes, migrants heading towards the US border and proud Nicaraguan revolutionaries on his travels, where at the end of it all, he attempted to cross one of the most impenetrable borders on earth: the Darién Gap route from Panama into South America.

This trek required every ounce of Levison Wood’s guile, tact, strength and resilience in one of the most raw, real and exciting journeys of his life.”

The blurb does not state the fact he had a good friend that did this walk with him; Alberto, who is Mexican, accompanied him along the entire trip.  I think the walk would have been much more difficult had he been a solo traveller.

It was written in 2017 and the walk occurred during the lead up to the 2016 U.S Presidential election. They too were gobsmacked when in a small Central American town they heard Trump won. There is some good humour from Alberto about the wall Trump wants to build between Mexico and the U.S.

Snip20180427_5.pngMr. Wood is an excellent writer. This journey details a great deal of history of the eight countries travelled. There are some real danger spots in the Darien and very much of the book is extremely suspenseful. The reader really wonders if they will make it or not.  I doubt the book would have been published had they not succeeded but I was never completely certain.

I have read a great deal of travel writing and this is right up there with the best. It is a wonderful journey of history, hardship, friendship and suspense. If you enjoy travel writing this man is a wonderful one to follow.  One day I will chase up his Himalaya walk but I am still committed to reading mostly from my TBR shelves so I want to stay on Snip20180427_2track.  I will warn readers- if you have a lot to do around the house, don’t pick up this book as you won’t be able to move until it is finished and nothing else will get done.

 

 

 

 

Best Intentions- Africa continued

With starting times to most days at 5:30 am, long days on the road and not finishing with even longer buffet dinners at lodges there was no time for writing on this blog. We were also exhausted at the end of each day and internet connections were dodgy at best.

We arrived home Easter Sunday night about 10:00 pm and although this trip was incredibly beautiful, challenging, often confronting and glorious we are very happy to be home. I will now attempt to catch up with the myriad of photos taken and put some of the highlights here during the next couple of weeks or so.

I am sharing another Namibia day here with photos from a living museum we visited. The day was hot and dusty and the people we met here were so friendly and eager to share their way of life with us. Here are some photos.

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This village was a display of life as a bushman.
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She explained how the various local plant life is used for medicinal purposes and how they work. Another tribesman translated for her.
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We were treated to a method to light a fire. It was amazing how fast the fire started and how quickly they could make it larger.
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The people then shared a dance of greeting for us. 
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The dance continued. 
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Outside of the museum we gathered together to have our lunch which we carried with us most days to eat in the desert. This guy helped out with the dishes. He is earning money to study at university in Windhoek. He wants to work as a tour guide and speaks four languages including German. Lovely man.

 

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This is the lodge were checked in later that day.
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Later that day we went on a desert tour to look for the desert elephants. We came across this old guy.
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The desert elephants are different to the ones we saw elsewhere. They are tall and this one was reportedly about 45  years old. It is incredible how they survive in the heat of this desert. 
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While touring this desert we came across this common form of transport out here.
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On the way back to the lodge were were treated with our first sighting of a giraffe in the distance.
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A glorious Namibian desert sunset. This land is truly spectacular.

Going up the west coast of Namibia

I have come down with a sore throat and a cold so no energy at the end of the day to write anything. So I am doing some highlights from the last couple of days. This trip is full on. Up at 5 or 6 am, in the truck and moving about 60 to 90 minutes later after breakfast.  The days are long, the activities are interesting and we fall into our beds at night after showering off all of the dust. Here are the highlights of the last two days.

Sundowner. We drove across the desert to a spot near rocks to watch the sun set over the desert. We passed a springbok.

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Our shadow across the desert floor._N3A9406

Our guide sets up a table with bubbly and nibbles. We toast the sunset. The rocks are beautiful in the light._N3A9416

The next day we get our first blown out tyre in the absolute middle of nowhere. The three guys on board helped change it. Then a couple of hours later the spare blew out. Fortunately we were close enough to our destination where a tyre supply shop was called and they sent someone to put a new tire on the bus and also give us two new spare ones. Thank goodness we weren’t in the remote desert area when the second one happened. We travelled about six hours through the desert yesterday.

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This is where we were when the tire blew out. A couple of ladies decided to take a walk. _N3A9440

Changing the tire.

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One of our stops was at a cheetah sanctuary.  When cheetahs attack cattle or sheep the farmers like to shoot them. There is a movement under way to trap and relocate them that is helping to save these beautiful animals.  These animals were a family to a cheetah who had been injured and now lives in the sanctuary._N3A9515_N3A9532

We continue our rattly, bone shaking journey through the desert. They have not had rain here since 2010.

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Today saw us on a harbour cruise in the Atlantic ocean on the west coast of Namibia. I would tell you the name of the city but I can’t pronounce it and I’m too tired to look it up. On the west coast towards the north of the country.

This is lucky.  A few seals jump up onto the boat as we leave the harbour. He is a young seal who does not appear to have a mother and the crew see him regularly and help him out a bit.  He hangs around the harbour but he is also able to cope in the wild.

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This pelican also landed on our boat. He came out of nowhere and startled all of us on the boat. There were only 8 guests on the boat and 3 crew.
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Coming back into port. We saw cormorants (landed on the boat), gulls, dolphins and thousands of seals.

Passing by flocks of flamingos along the lagoon that leads to the Atlantic Ocean.

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After 3 hours on board the boat, more champagne, raw oysters, nibbles and small pastries we transferred to the dune rides. Modern SUV’s took us through incredibly high dunes. We travelled about 120 kms along the beach and sand dunes. Again stopped and were watered and fed with incredible  food.

The national park- remote and so much sand._N3A9795

 

 

 

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We saw Ostriches going up and over the sand dunes. We saw quite a few animals in the sand dune area.

Well that is a quick summary of the past couple of days. Having a cold, long hours in the heat and more activities in two days than I do in two months have us resting as much as possible in the evenings. Tomorrow we are off again. I need to consult our paperwork and map to see where. Snip20160609_6

Africa- Day 2: Namibia

Today we travelled from Windhoek west through the Namib Desert to Sossusvlei. This amazing desert has been in existence for some 43 million years and its current landscape has remained unchanged for the last two million years. We were in the 4 wheel drive bus for about 6 hours. The road was mostly dirt, full of potholes and had we not been belted in, would probably have hit our heads on the ceiling. What a rough ride. The land is harsh. I saw a meerkat running along a dusty roadside carrying dead prey in its mouth. Not sure what it was. We saw a jackal running as a solitary figure across the stark land. We stopped under a few trees to have a lunch that we put together ourselves. Our guide’s wife baked a lovely spaghetti lasagna type dish and we had baked beans, salad, tea and coffee and a large pack of biscuits for dessert. As we ate our lunch in the welcome shade of the trees we faced a fairly large hillside of rocks. At the top of the rocks we could see baboons sitting across the skyline and we could hear them barking. Angry barking sounds. Nearby there was a skeleton head of a baboon. All teeth were still intact.
Travellers along the road ranged from small cars through to four wheel tour buses. We also passed a donkey cart with a singular man and three little donkeys pulling it. One would not want to get lost in such a place. Hot, dusty, mountainous, eerie, stark with dangerous animals behind every rock. It was always good to get going again.
We arrived at our lodge at 3:30 and the cool showers were a welcome relief. Enjoy that photos. Try not to sweat onto your keyboard.

Our Vehicle_N3A9286

Six hours on these roads.

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The donkey cart we passed_N3A9271

These birds are weavers_N3A9255

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Having lunch under the trees_N3A9218

A rock agana (lizard)_N3A9206

This is a Weaver’s nest. The weavers fly into it from below. More than 1000 birds can be in it. They build the next so eagles will roost above the next. When the snake climbs into the weaver’s next they all make a lot of noise. The eagle hears the weaver’s alarm calls and catches the snake. HE then lifts the snake high into the air, dropping it, catching it, dropping it, catching it until it dies. He then brings it back to earth when he eats it. Clever eh?

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More beautiful scenery. _N3A9181

 

The view from our hotel room now we have stopped. We will be here two nights.

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Wildlife Sanctuary- Namibia

We had an extremely long hot day today and I am really tired tonight. We have an early start so I won’t write a great deal today but I will share some basic photos I took. Haven’t had time to touch any of them up in Lightroom or Photoshop but you’ll get the point.

We visited N/a’an ku sê Activity Centre today. It is a wildlife sanctuary for injured and orphaned animals that can no longer live in the wild. There are strict rules around visiting these animals. You must be on  a tour. You can’t take selfies with them. You must follow the directions of the guide and they remove you from the tour. The compounds the animals are in are huge. You can’t see but only a tiny part. They are fed according to how they would eat in the wild. They only give them treats when the tour does the rounds. They are treated as wild animals with all the respect that involves. We felt privileged to spend time with such magnificent animals that have had a rough time in life. They are now happy and comfortable. I hope you enjoy the photos.

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You can see here how massive this wildlife sanctuary is._N3A8979This is the vehicle we rode in.

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These wild dogs were beautiful. Their coats were very colourful._N3A8984

 

These wild cats are solitary animals. There were only two in the compound. This one got upset when the second one sauntered up to see what treats were on offer._N3A9018

 

This beautiful cheetah only had three legs. Caught in a trap years ago, she was rescued and brought to the sanctuary. She is very old now. _N3A9044

The baboons were very funny.  They loved their treats and spending time with us. They looked us over pretty good.

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There were three babies playing king of the mountain on this stump, knocking each other off, playing like kittens do. Jumping into the air, running then climbing back on the stump._N3A9066

 

There were two leopards in this compound and both came up to see us. The guide threw it a piece of chicken and this guy caught it with his paws._N3A9101

 

We weren’t allowed to get out of the truck with the lions as they have been relocated here recently and are very wild and dangerous.  They were relocated when the farmer decided that should happen rather than shooting them after they attacked domestic stock (cattle).  Very dangerous the farmer thought a sanctuary was a better place for them and allows them to live their lives out in this very large area safely. They have a couple of miles of area to room in the compounds.  We stayed in the truck as they get upset if people are on the ground walking near them. _N3A9131

This was her partner.  A beautiful guy. He was so laid back. Wasn’t even interested in eating much of the chicken treats.

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The Penguin enjoying a bit of lunch.

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(All photos taken by PSParks-The Travellin Penguin- copyright)

South Africa-The Journey Begins

Snip20180309_1.pngThe Penguin sends his apologies. He is asleep in my backpack and won’t be moving for awhile. IN fact we are still in transit.  We have been travelling since yesterday, 11:00 am Australia time. That is about 30 hours ago.

We arrived at the Hobart airport, boarded our Virgin airline flight to Melbourne only to be  told after half an hour of waiting the plane was leaking hydraulic fluid. Only a one in a million chance that would be a problem but would we mind disembarking until the the problem could be sorted.  Into the airport we went. To make a long story short, amidst chaos at this small airport with the bad food and no Virgin lounge for Business class, a new plane was sent from somewhere in Australia with a crew who came in on their day off to fly to Hobart. Our flight from Melbourne to Perth was lost and we feared we’d miss the connection to Johannesburg. Virgin, to their credit did get us booked on another flight out of Melbourne to Perth. We arrived in Melbourne at 8:30 pm instead of 2:30 pm and had less than an hour to catch the flight to Perth, which we made. It was a very pleasant flight with good entertainment and food and staff were lovely. I watched the film LBJ which I really enjoyed and Mr. Penguin caught up with Three Billboards which I had seen before and loved.

Arriving in Perth we had one hour to get the flight to Johannesburg. Virgin staff in both Hobart and somewhere else along the line, I forget, told us to pick up our baggage in Johannesburg because it is the first point of call into Africa.  We arrived. We went to baggage claim and after waiting for everyone else on the plane to get their bags ours were nowhere to be seen.  A ground crew woman told us go here, here, do a you turn, end of hallway, by carousel 13.  No such place. Finally found an office for baggage enquiries with no one there but rounded up some people who came to help us and a few others in the same predicament.

Turns out as we are only transiting through South Africa we do not claim our baggage. Our cases were checked to Windhoek, Namibia and that is where they probably are.

Now 30 hours into this journey we still have another hour before going to board our 2.5 hour flight to Windhoek.

On the bright side the airport here is easy to navigate and everyone is so friendly.  I went into an electronics shop to get an adapter and three people were dying to serve me.  We don’t see this in Hobart, so I was impressed. Staff everywhere and everyone wanting to help while smiling at the same time.

Hopefully our bags will be in Windhoek when we arrive. The tour only has 12 people on it and the guide will meet our plane.  We have managed to get some Rand and found the South African Lounge. I know, I know…we’re spoiled by flying business class, but hey, we never had children and we both worked 40 years.  You save a lot of money that way for things you want to do once retired. No school fees for cats and dogs.

I might add we also have a welcome dinner tonight to attend after a few hours rest in our hotel.  I’m going to use this blog as a bit of a travel journal for us.  If you’re interested, please feel free to follow along. If you’re not interested, that’s okay and I’ll be back to talking about books and other things in April.  Stay tuned…. or not….Snip20180309_2