Botswana – Mabuasehube and Maun

 Tsabong,  the first town after entering  Botswana at McCarthy’s Rest

Springbok Bar, Tsabong

 We withdrew some Pula from an ATM and filled up with diesel at 7.26 Pula per litre (about R9.30) What a pleasure! 

We were told that Jill had closed Berry Bush farm where we stayed last tIme. She had not been well.

The first 60 kilometers of the route to Mabuasehube was on good gravel that had recently been graded and we made good time. Then we hit the sand! It was as if everybody that had gone this way before had made their own track. It was a mess! Our Landcruiser took it in its stride and we managed a steady 40 kph in 3rd gear high range.

There was a bit of confusion when we booked in at the gate, the head office was offline. We could stay where we liked and sort it out on departure.

We were so lucky with our timing…The pan was filled with water. A rare event!

Mabuasehube Pan with water!

We headed for campsite #1 where I thought we were booked, but it was occupied by a couple, Charles and Emma, who were leaving the next day. We returned to site #4 which was vacant and set up there.

Set up and ready for drinks in 5 minutes at Camp #4

 It was in a beautiful position on top of a hill overlooking the pan. Equipped with a drop toilet, no water, no shower, an A- frame shelter, fire pit and plenty of trees. 

Camp #4 setup on top of a hill

There were a number of small creatures that had taken up permanent residence here.

The butterflies everywhere after the rains

And this friendly creature looking for a handout

Friendly Ground Squirrel

The sunset at camp #4 was beautiful and very relaxing

Sunset with reflections in the pan

And dawn the following morning was also spectacular

Dawn at Mabuasehube camp #4

We could overlook the plain filled with grazing Springbok in the fresh new grass without having to leave camp 

Our view from camp

Later that day we drove over to camp #1 on a cliffside overlooking the pan. We decided to camp right on the edge instead of in the campsite as there were no facilities there either and it lacked the spectacular view.

George came with us this time too!

That evening we witnessed an approaching storm. Fortunately we escaped the main force of the wind and rain,

We were in awe of the spectacular sunsets and views

On our last day we could already see the water in the pan was receding and these Gemsbok had no difficulty crossing.

Gemsbok at Mabuasehube

Our route out took us back on the same road to Tsabong as recommended by the officials at the gate. It was a long days drive to Kang Ultra where we enjoyed wonderful hot showers for the first time in 4 days but our stay at Mabuasehube was really worthwhile. Between Kang and Ghanzi the road had many cows, goats, donkeys and horses. There is also a lot of heavy traffic on the Trans Kalahari highway and unfortunately this horse was probably killed by a truck.

Road Kill

We had another long days drive to Maun which was taxing not only because  of the animals in the road, but also dodging  the potholes!

Our first nights camp was at Maun Rest Camp 

Carol had given us this teacloth with these meaningful words as seen in this photo and Solveig turned the cloth into a much needed apron. 

Meaningful words, so fitting to our journey

While in Maun we visited Birgit and Reiner who have supplied our shop for many years with cloth used in jackets. They make regular trips to West Africa and Central Africa to purchase African treasures. Always good to see them and visit their stunning home. 

Our next night was spent at the iconic restcamp, Audi Camp.

Swimming pool area at Audi

We could never come this far and into this region without a visit to N’Gepi. Even though it was in the Zambezi region in Namibia it was worth the detour. We left Maun and took the route on the western side of the Okavango swamp once again. This time we decided to try a different campsite and chose Drotsky Camp  on the banks of the Okavango River. Words are hard to find to describe the serenity and beauty of this place secluded under huge trees covered in vines.

Drotsky camp

The next day, a border crossing  and a short distance of less than 50 kilometers  to N’Gepi……

2017 A New Year…A New Journey 

“THE WORLD IS A BOOK – THOSE THAT DON’T TRAVEL READ ONLY ONE PAGE

14th January

We awoke to idyllic weather following a day of thunderstorms with everything fresh.  We’d slept at Springbok Pan Guest Farm in the Bateleur Campsite a few kilometers from McCathy’s Rest Border post.

Bateleur campsite

Green grass and beautiful yellow flowers everywhere. This whole region, normally an arid, dry part of the Kalahari, had been transformed. The rains had performed their magic!

Coffee stop in the Kalahari

A week before on Saturday 7th January we started our journey at last! Our first nights stay was in Plettenberg Bay to say farewell to my sister Carol and David. We’d not seen their new home yet and also had a “limited edition” calendar as a gift for them. Carol had arranged a wonderful send off for us by inviting family and friends over for the evening.
Despite roadsigns to the contrary, we were able to detour on the old road through beautiful Natures Valley and the Groot River pass, as well as the Blaaukrantz pass, with its huge trees covered with old man’s beard and “Tarzan ropes “, rejoining the N2 at Coldstream. Thus bypassing the Toll road!

Our first night of actual camping  was in Jeffery’s Bay, virtually right on the beach at one of our favourite places. We needed to check that we had made adequate preparations to our camping setup and vehicle. The caravan park was still charging holiday rates unfortunately. To add to our dissapointment, the weather was stormy too.

Our vehicle passed our final check and we left the next day for Camdeboo Game Reserve in Graaff Reinet at the Valley of Desolation.

Valley of Desolation

A lovely campsite in the bush but with very little game.

Black Shouldered Kite at Camdeboo GR

The main attraction, The Valley of Desolation, didn’t let us down. After seeing the dam level and being told that the Sunday’s river had not run for 4 years we forgave the heavy rains that dampened our stay there. It was summer and we expected lots more rain before the end of our travels. We were adequately prepared for all types of weather.

The roads became rivers!
Newly hatched butterflies after the rains
Solveig dancing with the butterflies

After  a nights stay in the town at the Urquhart campsite and a night in Kimberley at the Big Hole campsite, I must comment about some municipal camping facilities. Both campsites are run by their respective municitalities and in both instances, the electricity supply was faulty. NO EARTH !  Extremely dangerous to campers prepping their food in damp grass! To overcome the danger I took emergency steps!

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A wire clamped to the car is attached to a metal peg stuck in the ground

Before reaching Kimberley we  detoured to view the Solar Power Station at De Aar. Very impressive! From unconfirmed information we received it is said  to be the largest installation of this type in the Southern Hemisphere. We drove alongside it for about 4 kilometers!

De Aar Solar Power Station

After another night on the road in Kuruman we did some last minute shopping and our journey began for real!!

Part Two. Travelling at home in South Africa

South Africa is such a popular foreign tourist destination we are allocating time this year to find out what we’ve overlooked here at home.  We’re so often ready to explore destinations in other countrie before right here on our doorstep.

SAN Parks undoubtedly does the best job of running one of the most outstanding nature destinations in Africa. They offer such good value for money too. The rest of the country has such a diversity of everything a tourist wants. From its People, to its Mountainous areas, Arid regions, Sub tropical, Savannah and Mediterranean climatic zones. Not to mention it’s coastline of over 3000 kilometers flanked by two oceans. It’s literally a world in one country.

So let get started!

We re-entered South Africa at the Pont Drift border, through an absolutely dry, sandy Limpopo river and we headed for Louis Trichardt. Solveig walked across!
Sven and Anka crossed here before when they rode their bikes through Mashatu on a cycling safari. They used this cable car to cross the then flowing river.

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Cable car across the Limpopo
You can see that the river in the background is dry.

Our plan was to traverse the northern part of the country from west to east, in the Limpopo province, which is so far from home we seldom venture there.
We enjoyed the mountain scenery in contrast to the almost flat landscape in Botswama as we travelled along the beautiful Soutpansberg range to Louis Trichard. After stocking up with provisions we headed north once again through the stunning Wyllie’s Poort with its lush forests of huge indigenous trees. 

That night we camped at Tshipise. A hot spring resort we’d often heard about but never visited. A huge change from the wild camps that we are accustomed, but after all, we were exploring what was on offer in our country! The resort’s beautifully appointed with everything just perfect. The hot springs very relaxing too. The place wasn’t busy,  we were grateful it wasn’t the July holidays, their peak season, as there are more than 300 sites!

The altitude dropped as we left the escarpement before reaching Pafuri in the Northern region of the Kruger Park where the air was thick and hot.
The Shingwedzi river was another big surprise. It wasn’t flowing either! The drought had left only patches of water here and there! On our previous visit here with Dukken and Rolf it was flooding its banks. Wherever water was to be found, it was crowded with animals quenching their thirst. The Kanniedood dam was empty too.

The harsh conditions were favourable to game viewing with the sparce vegetation a bonus for visitors, but unfortunate for the animals. Nevertheless it was wonderful to be back at Kruger and we enjoyed five nights at various camps. 

Before continuing our homeward journey we detoured via Gauteng for a week! Visiting Eli and Shirley, family we hadn’t seen for ages. Dear friends, Noleen who once worked with us, as well as Yvonne and Boet, who live in Denokeng on a game farm! A week caught up in the rush of the Big City once again, with its trendy markets and eateries also made for a wonderful break.

We still had time to kill while our home was being rented with nowhere to go. Back to Swaziland for a few days. On the way we stopped over in Chrisiesmeer for coffee and to find a place to camp for the night.There we met Andrew Rathbone, the owner of the shop, so friendly that we ended up parking around the back of his place for the night! We’ve met the nicest and friendliest people wherever we’ve  been. We’re so lucky,  absolutely everywhere!

Back to Botswana

Botswana is so special you can’t keep us away. After New Year in the Caprivi we returned to Botswana. This time to the Chobe area.
We could not believe that at the Ngoma Bridge border the Chobe was not flowing at all. About 18 months earlier we had difficulty getting to Chobe Lodge, where Max was working, due to flooding. He had to guide us to the lodge using a special route.

Our second shock came when we could not get a campsite at The Chobe Safari lodge. It was full! So were other campsitea we tried in Kasane.

Fortunately we’d been told of an amazing campsite near Kasangula on the Hunter’s road; The Senyati Safari Camp.

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Luck was once again on our side. We got a site with private ablutions and a covered stoep. The real bonus was to come that evening after sunset. Senyati’s floodlight waterhole.

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We had so looked forward to staying at the Chobe Safari Lodge campsite that we decided to return to Kasane and have another attempt.
Senyati is located almost on the Hunter’s Road, which runs along the border between Botswana and Zimbabwe. We choose this route to return to the Kasangula border post.

What a treat! We saw lots of game and we felt quite a rush too as we probably strayed over the border at times.

There was no problem getting a campsite this time. We got the one alongside where we’d stayed with Keith and Tickey.

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Chobe Sunset

Our journey continued a few days later southwards to Elephant Sands. We made an attempt to travel along the Hunter’s Road but gave up not wanting to risk it alone. There were patches of sticky cotton soil mud on the route and we might have got stuck if we’d continued. We had enjoyed being on our own but this was one of those occasions we needed someboby as backup.
For those of you that have never been to Elephant Sands you might have heard that it’s a bit like being in large zoo. The animals are so dependant on the waterhole that they just have to visit. But what makes it real is the fact that there are no fences and the animals walk right amongst the campers.

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Unfortunately it’s difficult to exclude the chalets from the photos.

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We were amazed at the inovation of some people…..using a mosquito net instead of a tent! So much more comfortable in the heat.

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But it’s not easy to take down afterwards.

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Sometimes the elephants came real close

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A really worthwhile stopover on our penultimate night in Botswana.

What lay ahead was a long drive to the Tuli Block. We’d been advised by other travellers that it was possible to cross the Limpopo this year because of the drought. The river was not flowing! This occurs sometimes during winter but seldom in summer. The so called rainy season!

We’d never been to the Tuli before due to its location in an out of the way corner of Botswana. It’s a fairly mountainous region which makes it very beautiful and different to the plains and pans we were familiar with. In fact, similar to the Motopos in Zimbabwe across the border.

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We came across this Elephant carcass in a dry river bed at the boundary of Motswari.

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Our campsite right next to the Limpopo under these huge Nyala Berry trees.

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Look carefully and you’ll see Solveig walking across the Limpopo River!

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After a very hot, dry and wonderful six weeks we were back in South Africa where our journey continues. …..

The Caprivi – Zambezi Valley

After we sadly left N’gepi we visited the real Pupa Falls, which are only 10kms away. At Pupa Falls the Kavango river breaks into a collection of streams, each with their own rapids. The river is so low that there isn’t much of a show.

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One of the bigger streams of rapids

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A family enjoying their day at the river

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The boardwalk leads to the chalets overlooking the falls

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We spent an enjoyable time visiting the falls as day trippers but don’t plan to sleep over. It’s very expensive and there are other more affordable places in the neighbourhood as well as N’gepi.

The road through the Caprivi passes by mixed usage tribal areas where wildlife lives alongside rural family villages and livestock.

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Everybody knows of the Big Five. Do you know what the Little Five are? With names and characteristics derived from their bigger counterparts they are:
The Elephant shrew, the Buffalo Weaver, the Leopard tortoise, the ant-lion, and the Rhino beetle.
Thank you to Roy Rudnick and Michelle Weisz from their book “World by Land” for the above piece of interesting trivia.

Katimo Mulilo, a border town in the Zambezi Valley. The commercial and administrative centre of the area.  We’ve stopped there on numerous travels north and south, and is our prefered border into Zambia and Central Africa. We usually stay over at a lovely campsite at the Protea Hotel, with a view of Zambia across the Zambezi river, and hippos!
We know our way around town and have our favourite places to shop and enjoy a coffee or bite to eat. It’s a town where even the supermarkets become a tourist attraction!  But, it can become somewhat repetative and not portray the true experience of the Caprivi. 

Solveig maintains that by being a smoker she always meets the most interesting people while having a quick puff outside. Well it happened again!  Fellow smoker Bruce,  MD of Island View Lodge about 25kms downriver told her of their facility.

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This sounded like just what we were wanting as a change from the norm in Katimo Mulilo :- Nature,  River frontage, Electricity, Pub area deck, Free WiFi, Shaded sites, Swimming pool and clean ablutions. If you’re not Wild Camping and you’re paying for it you expect the lot! We booked in until after the New Year madness!
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Not one of the Small Five, but a closer look at nature.
Here’s another….
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Pieter, the birdlife was incredible!

Namibia (N’gepi revisited)

The Namibian border was only a short drive from where we’d been staying at Shakawe. We were soon at N’gepi.
Mark’s offer overwhelmed us  when we’d enquired about accomodation over the Christmas weekend. Since finding the campsites rapidly filling as Christmas approached we thought we’d better make enquiries before simply pitching up.

Mark invited us to stay in a reed and thatch Tree Hut, usually reserved for special guests and honeymooners! We were speachless! We never expected such generosity. What an amazing Christmas present for both of us and fantastic birthday present for Solveig. I could never have matched that!  We had such a good feeling about being back at N’gepi again, almost as if we were home.

There are numerous signs dotted about the property. Mostly humerous, but there is a serious side too….

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N’gepi is a fully sustainable property on the banks of the Kavango River – change of name in Namibia. By fully sustainable I refer to the various projects successfully embraced, such as all electrical power is from solar energy as well as hot water and water purification of water for drinking. Refrigeration in their kitchen is from a water and charcoal evaporation construction. Many of the vegetables and salads are grown on the property and there is an interesting sustainable tree project practiced by the many staff required to run a place of this nature and the locals.

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The facilities like showers and toilets are so creatively constructed they’ve just got to be seen to be believed!

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Late Christmas afternoon nature delivered the best present ever…much needed rain!

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The heavens opened up and an almighty storm ensued as witnessed from our bed where we sheltered.

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My dad’s Bass Saxophone finds a new home alongside my Autoharp and other instruments, hanging from the ceiling in a riverside lounge.

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The sign says it all!

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Our campsite

We stayed on for a further two enjoyable nights of camping after our complimentary Tree Hut  stay. Thank you so much to all of those that made this such a memorable occasion for the two of us.

The Okavango

Our route to the Caprivi took us up the panhandle on the western side of the Okavango Swamps. We weren’t in a hurry and wanted to make a few stops on the way.

For our first night we had chosen the Ngoma Island Lodge and Campsite . The description in the T4A book on Botswana and Veronica Roodt’s wonderful travel guides looked inviting. After 12 kms of sandy track with detours around washed away bridges we arrived at the camp.

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A beautifully shaded camp on the edge of the swamp. The lodge was a number of en-suite tented huts on raised decks with a communal kitchen.

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We were accomodated in a shaded campsite.

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At 140 Pula per person it was the most expensive place we’d stayed at. No electricity, nor Internet.  But we enjoyed the setting so much, and we were on our own again, so peaceful…

We were sidetracked on our way to the Tsodilo Hills, a world heritage site, that has 4500 rock paintings in a 10sq.Km area created between AD 850 and AD1100. There are also numerous archaeological finds such as metal spearheads, pottery, glass beads, stone tools. The cliff faces  consist of 4 hills. Ledgend has it that they make up a family. Male, female, child and grandchild. Too good to miss! We’ll have to go there tomorrow!

On our travels we are often sidetracked.  We go where our fancy takes us…. We’d  seen signs every now and again advertising  Sepopa Swamp Stop Rest Camp. The final straw was getting a pamphlet handed to us at a Vetenarian check point.

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We were hot and thirsty and and decided to  look in.

Next we’d found a shady riverside site and booked in for the night. It wasn’t even lunchtime!

We met up with Ziggie and Catrin again who we’d first seen in the CKGR at Piper Pan and again in Maun. We just spent the day chilling in the campsite and pool.

George approved of our choice. While travelling he has to lie on the seat in the back and doesn’t get to see much.

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It’s amazing the difference water makes to nature.

Early the next morning we did visit Tsodilo Hills, but never stayed over.

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The colours of the rocks were such a contrast to what we’d been used to seeing.

A storm was brewing on the way. We hoped it would develop and some rain would fall.

It’s so hot and dry everywhere.

At last the heavens opened and there was a short but heavy shower. The poor domestic animals, so desparate for water just stood in the middle of the road and drank from the puddles and wouldn’t move out of the way.

There are numerous placed to stay along the Okavango River part of the panhandle near the Namibian border . The well known Drotsky Cabins offer camping too, but we stayed at the Shakawe Lodge which has 10 campsites on the banks of the river in paradise.

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The campsites were fully booked but we went to have a look anyway as we were there.  Imagine our surprise when we found Ziggie and Catrin there too. The campsites were large and they suggested we share theirs.

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We made many new friends along the way. Always discussing where we’d been and what we’d seen, but we seldom discussed details of our future route as none of us really knew. Most, like us, had a vague plan only. This is one of the best things about the way we travel.

Having said that, we knew definitely where we were going for Christmas Eve and Christmas day, Solveig’s birthday….

We’d been invited to stay at N’gepi by the owner, Mark Adcock. We’d become good friends since meeting him on our Cape Town to Oslo atempt in 2014. More about that later….

Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

This post disappeared from the blog for some unexplainable reason!  I’m going to recreate it from scratch as I feel that it was the whole reason we undertook this journey.

Joe and Pam Stallebrass were to have been with us. In fact Joe had asked us to accompany them and he did the advance bookings. Unfortunately Pam became ill just before our scheduled departure and they had to cancel.

Our route took us via Witsands Nature reserve in North Cape. On the way we encountered  Sociable Weaver nests decorating the disused telephone poles from an earlier era.

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The stop enabled us to acclimatize ourselves to extremely high temperature of the Kalahari at this time of the year – 42C !

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Resting in the shade on the way up
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Solveig at the summit

I surprised Solveig by also making it to the top, just 5 months after a knee replacement.

The original reason for the two night stay was to give us an extra day to explore the Nature reserve. All we managed to do was spend almost the whole day in the swimming pool. It was too hot to hike around in the dunes. 

Mating tortoises at a waterhole

Never the less, it was worth the detour. The reserve was very well managed and the shady campsites had water and electricity.

Witsands campsite

We entered Botswana at the MacArthy’s Rest / Tshabong border post later the next day and proceeded to Merry Bush Farm. The owner, Jill, recently widowed, was struggling to run the the place, which needed some TLC, on her own. We hoped she would succeed. We enjoyed our stay there and would support her when we pass that way again.

We travelled the Trans-Kalahari highway through Kang to Gweta, refueling there before entering the CKGR. The first section was good gravel which ended abruptly. The last 80kms to the Xade entrance gate, and our first camp, was in deep sand.  The Cruiser’s diffs left a twin trail in the middelmannetjie.

Twiga’s Penthouse (our cruiser) coped well in high range 4×4,  mainly in 3rd and 4th gear, occasionally having to drop to 2nd. Some welcomed rain showers cooled the parched land slightly. We never had to use low range during our entire stay.

Our first night was at Xade #1, about 5 kms from the entrance gate near the artifical waterhole. It was fed by a solar pump which only ran during daylight hours.

Xade waterhole

During the night we were woken by about 10 elephants rushing around the tree which we’d parked beneath, searching for water. Fortunately we had secured all liquids and fruit inside our vehicle. We were relieved when they eventually stormed off making lots of noise. So unlike elephants which are normally so quiet you hardly hear them.

At about 4:30 am we were again woken. This time by an awful crashing of metal and trumpeting a good distance away. Sound travels far when you are in such a silent environment.

In the morning we went back to the entrance gate to ablute and found what the nights noise had been about……

Elephants had damaged the taps in their search for water

We were thankful that they never found anything in our camp earlier that night!

We spent most of the day in the air conditioned comfort of our vehicle. The outside temperature was 42° C ! 

Early the next morning we set off to our next two night campsite at Piper Pan. With numerous stops for photopgraphs it took us most of the day to cover the roughly 80 kilometer distance through thick sand.

Piper Pan waterhole
A thirsty ground squirrel at Piper Pan

We heard the rare sound of a vehicle passing our camp and rushed out waving and shouting, thinking that it might be Pam and Joe. A HiLux resembling theirs dissappeared off in the distance on the road around the pan! Then the HiLux returned in our direction and our expectations rose. However, it was a kind couple from Germany in a rented vehicle. They had seen us running after them and thought we may  be in trouble so came back to investigate. 

Sue and Pieter had given us a container of sprouts which we’d been nurturing and were looking forward to enjoying with our salad that evening!

Home grown sprouts from Sue
A concoction of Strawberry Jam and Vodka

The two  unfenced Piper Pan campsites, located a few kilometers apart, comprised of a simple setup of a firepit, long drop toilet in a shelter and a similar structure with a shower bucket, but no water at all. You had to provide your own from your precious supply.

We hoped for some rain to cool the evening

We had never before experienced such a oneness with nature. The complete freedom we felt, removed from our daily comforts and completely on our own……. to observe how the animals, birds and insects existed side by side and were all dependant on one another for their very existence in this harsh environment.

Water was the most important resorce for all creatures.

Waterhole at Piper Pan
Our campsite at Sundays Pan

The campsites,  although basic, were all situated in beautiful surroundings. Another feature of the landscape was the “tree islands ” on the pans..

A “tree island” with Springbok sheltering from the heat
Sundays Pan #1 at dawn
Chilling in the shade at Passarge #1

On day 6 we calculated that our water was going to run out before we completed our stay. On our arrival the gate officials recommended that we should have 10 litres water per person per day with us. A total of 160 liters!! We had 120 litres which would have to be enough. We had no more space.

So we took a trip of 90 kilometers (and back) to the exit gate to get water instead of a game drive. It took the whole day!! We also had a taste of the road that lay ahead. The worst sand of our entire stay. At least we knew it was doable!  

We could only get 15 litres of water as their well was dry and they were shipping water in from Maun.

Pale Chanting Goshawk 

Mexico. Eventually after three attempts……

Our last night in Antigua we spent as guests in Brant’s Hostel as we no longer had Michelle.
It was going to be a hard adjustment to make. No freedom to travel as we chose.  We’d be tied to schedules. We now have to stay in hotels and eat restuarant food!
In other words we’d just become ordinary tourists

We left early in the morning on a shuttle bus filled with happy, young backpackers for San Christobal. 
There were two ex South African girls, now living in Australia. A young Israeli girl, a young Dutch couple, a British couple and a family from France.
We had lots of laughs. Luckily we’d learnt to adapt to anything that came our way and enjoyed ourselves too. Especially me who was able to relax and enjoy the scenery for a change!

Back at the La Mesilla border for the second time we had a surprise when we came out of immigration.

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A Palomino the same as ours, but on the back of a Toyota!!
Was it there just to torment us?

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We had to wait for our new transport to pick us up on the Mexican side of the border.

In San Christobal that evening we had to find a place to stay. The first hostel we tried was full. They recommended a few others to try. We’d already dragged our massive pile of luggage to the first hostel and had barely made it!

We asked if we could leave it all there until we found a place and set off by foot. We couldn’t find the first recommendation but fortunately the next place we tried was ideal and we booked in.
We fetched our luggage in a taxi and afterwards looked for a place to eat and get a much needed drink.
Will we ever adjust to this form of travel????

San Christobal is a lovely old city with many beautiful buildings. We were staying near to the Plaza so headed in that direction.

Looking for a restuarant that served regular food we ordered a very tasty schwarma and a salad, which we shared.
To celebrate, I had a cerveza and Solveig red wine and a bucket of ice, followed by wonderful cinnamon flavoured iced coffee…. A lovely end to our first day in Mexico! At Last!!

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The next day we explored San Christobal.

Sue and Pieter had said that it was their favourite Mexican City and it cetainly looked as if it could be our favourite too….
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The streets were filled with colourful people and musicians which all add to the soul of the city.
We checked out the bus options and found tickets to Mexico City on an overnight luxury bus. Expensive – about the same as flying – but we’d save on the hotel expense for the night!
We’d also been dying to try bus travel as an alternate method of getting around.

We enjoyed our stay in San Christobal for another three days before bussing out.
While there Solveig came out with a massive itchy rash all over her body. So off to see a doctor. The big surprise was the visit was free!! He diagnosed an allergy of sorts and also found she had hypertension which she’ll have to see to when home again.

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We weren’t cooking for ourselves any longer and had to get used to eating out in the colourful restuarants.
So many amazing dishes to try…..We even found a favourtite treat of ours – Chorros – a crispy doughnut-like deepfried pastry, with a cinnamon and sugar coating. Yummy!
Haven’t had those since our last visit!

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The bus left in the evening and was almost in Mexico City by the time we awoke.

It was a pleasure for me to just relax and watch the countryside pass by even though we weren’t able to stop on the way.

I’d found a weekend special on Booking.com for a Howard Johnson hotel in the centre of Mexico City and we took a controlled fare taxi from the bus terminal. We were amazed at the absence of traffic from the centre of the city (other than public transport, commercial vehicles and taxis). It was so much quieter than the previous times we’d been there.
Considering that it’s the largest city in the world it’s a miracle. The controlling of which vehicles may enter the city, and when they may, really works.

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It was great to be back again. I’m sorry Sue, but Mexico City must take the prize for being our favourite city in Mexico with its many parks and historic buildings.
We returned to the Grand Hotel near the Zócalo where we’d stayed before. The Zócalo is the main Plaza of the city and has been since the Aztecs. image

The hotel is magnificent with its stained glass ceiling, bird cages and wrought iron elevators.
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We enjoyed returning to all our favourite sites using the topless city tour bus.

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But our stay was dampened somewhat by Solveig not being fully recovered yet. We took the intercity bus through the beautiful countryside once again in comfortable luxury to San Luis Potisi, our next stop.

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San Luis Potisi, Gisela’s home town…..She married our nephew Ryan. We were sorry we hadn’t attended their wedding there 5 years before…..

We spent a few days staying with Gisela’s parents, Juan Luis and Carmen.

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Coco, her aunt and Sissi her sister also accompanied us while we were being royally treated.
What wonderful hosts they all were. We’re so glad we’d made the decision to include San Luis Potisi.
A highlight was our day trip to the hacienda where Ryan and Gisela were married. A Christening was taking place there and luckily we were included on the guest list! Juan Luis and Solveig at the Hacienda…

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So we got a taste of what the wedding might have been like. What a party!

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We also visited an old mining town outside of San Luis Potisi .

When we sadly had to say goodbye to our generous hosts, we undertook an 18 hour journey to Houston in USA in another overnight (and all day) bus trip.

Our thoughts on bussing ?
A comfortable way to travel offering an alternative to flying. The cost is much the same; it takes a lot longer; you don’t see that much on the ground as much of the time we travelled was at night; during the day we never stopped anywhere half decent, only service stations. Not a suitable way to overland. Renting a car and staying in the same accommodation as we did would have been a far better option. We’d give it a try in the USA.

Our final thoughts on our stay in Mexico were that the experience would have been so much better in Michelle. We had been so looking forward to that. It was to have been the highlight of our entire journey. But that wasn’t to be unfortunately.

But we’d done it very differently and still had a great time there. Thanks to the wonderful people that made us so welcome.