Reasons why I love Paris – #1- Vive la Revolution!

Paris is one of those cities that divides people. You either love it or hate it! It is a very personal choice. I personally love it, although even I have eye rolling moments where the love affair swings perilously close to the other emotion. To celebrate why I love it so much I am launching my own personal list of reasons why I truly love Paris. Please keep in mind that there is no specific order to this list other than my own stream of consciousness and random events.

This personal blog moment was brought to you as a result of my sojourn Monday night at a Cafe on rue de Rennes. It was a cool and rainy evening as we sat outside on the Cafe terrace under the cover of an awning  enjoying the best Camembert cheese and baguette I think that I ever have had the pleasure of eating. Now this scenario in and of itself is a reason to love Paris. Sitting in the company of friends, eating and drinking and watching the movie of Paris life stroll by.

Ah, but it gets so much better. As those of us learning the language struggle to frame coherent french sentences intermixed with English words or those from other languages (as we are a multicultural gathering) the discussion turns to one of the most gloriously unique of French topics: Manifestations!

For those who are unfamiliar with French ways, there is no more frequent or celebrated activity than to strike, which enviably means marching through the streets of Paris descending upon either the National Assembly or some other significant French institution.

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These strikes or manifestations as they are referred to here in country, often at times have a rather parade like quality to them. This is because the French believe in the right to protest!!!! Hallelujah!!! There is no belief in just quietly taking what comes and conforming to the will of the political or economic powers that be. No, it is the right of citizen of the Republic to express their opinion. If only Canadians could get the hang of this concept……

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It is no wonder I love it here, the non-conformist that I am. And what better addition to the philosophy of manifestation and revolution than the fact that you can actually sit in a Cafe and discuss the whole concept whilst dreaming up possible reasons for which you would lead a revolution. Let me tell you that I came up with a few of my very own while a very nice French gentleman sitting next to me could not resist fist pumping and joyous expressing “Vive la Revolution!” in support of me.

Oh, I do so love Paris and a good revolutionary discussion!

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Where in the World is Cheryl?

I know, it has been awhile but once again I am on the move finding adventure, new friends and living life to the fullest. A friend recently told me that she is always waiting for an email or new blog posting from me as she is never certain but always eager to know where on earth I will exactly turn up.

Well this time around I have made Paris the destination of choice. The city of classic architecture, grand and petite parks, pain chocolate and pompiers (those oh so good looking men eager to provide first aid that you are almost tempted to have a heart palpation just by looking at them).

While my heart still belongs firmly with Africa, Paris also feels like home to me. I lived here 27 years ago while completing my Masters in International Relations. And in a typical Cheryl fashion when I received an invitation for a Champagne launch of an International Relations Academic Journal in June it seemed like the universe’s serendipitous lure me back into the world. A month later I had officially ended my career as a Canadian federal public servant (thank god!!!!) and on my way to a Paris studio apartment located in the Latin quarter five minutes away from the banks of the Seine.

My Paris apartment
My Paris apartment

I have contemplated changing my blog’s name but knowing that eventually I will make my way home to one of the glorious 55 African countries is seems right to keep it. What makes it all the better is how, when and where I will go before I do. So I hope that you enjoy following my adventures where ever they take me!

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Buche and Cheryl tourist day out

With my final weeks ticking down before I leave Gaborone and Botswana to return to life as I know it in Canada, I am doing all that I can to make the most of my remaining time.

Today, I got to have a perfect day out with Buche. A couple of weeks ago Buche and I were discussing my leaving. During our conversation I told him that although I have seen a large majority of the country, I have not been so good about exploring closer to home. He quickly rhymed off a long list of places surrounding Gaborone that I could only tell him that I hadn’t visited.

So I issued him a challenge – when he was able to arrange his schedule I wanted him to take me out for a sightseeing tour. Not so much of challenge you might say but of course I complicated it. No visiting any tourist sites that he normally takes anyone else! I wanted him to take me somewhere special that he truly wanted me to see as an important part of Botswana.

All I can say is that he certainly didn’t disappoint me and we truly had the perfect outing!

Where did he take me? Well, the list included a few places.

The first destination on our itinerary was the village of Manyana

Manyana
Outskirts of the village of Manyana

The village of Manyana is located about an hour south west of Gaborone. It is famous for being the home of rock paintings which date back over 2000 years.

Finding the site was a little bit of a challenge however! Along our drive Buche, ever the gentleman, spied an older woman by the side of the road looking for a drive. He stopped and picked her up as she was heading towards the village of Manyana too to attend a funeral. During the twenty minute drive the rest of the way to the village, I am happy to note that I completely behaved myself and didn’t embarrass Buche even once 🙂

Once we arrived in the village, Buche stopped to ask directions….I know! Amazing! And he actually stopped and asked directions a few different times. I made sure to tell him on our way home that men in North America seldom ever stop and ask for directions. He was completely surprised and wondered how anyone found where they were going? Oh, the culturally differences.

Back to our adventure, following our first set of directions Buche easily found the base of the hill we were heading for and where our guest needed to be dropped off coincidentally. Saying goodbye to her, Buche then asked for directions again to ensure that we found the entrance to the heritage site.

Following this set of directions we set off down a clay and sand track around the base of the hill.

Our road
Our road

We soon saw some farmers harvesting their crops

Harvesting cabbages
Harvesting cabbages

As we continued down the track, Buche began to seriously question if we were heading in the right direction. Stopping again when we came across a goat herder and his feisty adorable herd, it was time to ask directions again! and of course Buche’s instinct was right on. We had been given bad directions.

So we turned around and headed back the way that we came with me still thoroughly enjoying the view. Although we were soon caught up in a traffic jam as we got back to the outskirts of the village…

Who has the right of way?
Who has the right of way? I think the horns win….

It soon became apparent that our ultimate destination was closer than we thought. Had we simply turned left exactly where we had dropped off our former passenger we would have been right where we needed to be. Fortunately, Buche’s perseverance paid off and we arrived at our destination.

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The site of the rock paintings is a 8 meter high rock. The paintings are spread out over five separate areas of the rock cliff face. On site is a government guide whose job it is to protect the heritage site and provide you with a guided historical tour of the site. Honestly, without the guide you would never have been able to find the rock paintings on your own as they are so faint and far apart.

However, the guide we had was so incredible at his job. He proudly informed us that these paintings were done by Bushmen over 2000 years ago as they migrated through the area hunting. Part of the ceremony after a good hunting kill was an elaborate ritual involving the spiritual leader and the men of the tribe. As the spiritual leader entered into a trance and the men danced visions would come to him which he described. Part of the visions resulted in the creation of the paintings using a combination of minerals, animal blood and rocks.

The first paintings he showed us – Buche was seeing them for the first time too! – was a painting of an antelope. See if you can pick it out in the photo

2000 year old Rock painting of an antelope
2000 year old Rock painting of an antelope

Close by was another far more visible painting whose symbolism we were told still had not been identified by experts.

Look for the distinctive black dots
Look for the distinctive black dots

The next hour was spent climbing around the rock face visiting all of the painting sites and learning the history of the rocks and caves.

Can you see the giraffes?
Can you see the giraffes?
Stick man
Stick man
Another stick man who is really well-endowed!
Another stick man who is really well-endowed!

The guide quizzed me on this stick figure asking me if I thought it was female or male? He was proud to show me that African men were really well endowed even 2000 years ago – or at least in their imagination they were.

Entrance to a cave
Entrance to a cave

This is the entrance to what is called Mma Kgosi cave, a histrocial site thought to be the cave where the Kwena Queen mother hid during the battle of Dimawe  in 1852 while her husband and tribesmen fought against the Boers. Getting into these caves is definitely a tight squeeze and you are not allowed to enter for preservation reasons. I was glad that I didn’t have to go in!

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Gemsboke painting
More rock paintings
More men!
More men!
Hunter carrying his kill
Hunter carrying his kill
A whole herd
A whole herd
View from half-way up the rock face
View from half-way up the rock face

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Once I made it safely back to flat ground with the assistance of Buche and waving good bye to the crowd of Rock Dassies who live on the rock but are too shy to be photographed, the guide joined us in Buche’s car to make the trip to another interesting site. A tree.

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This enormous fig tree is now a protected heritage site because it was the historical site of where David Livingstone converted local tribes to Christianity and practiced western medicine. As I told you about in December when I visited Zanzibar, Livingstone was a medical missionary who also worked tirelessly to abolish slavery in Africa.

Under this very tree, Livingstone preached to convert locals to Christianity while he also doled out western medicines. I loved this tree and could have happily moved into it

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What a tree! Buche looks so tiny standing next to it. 

After leaving Manyana, Buche continued our driving tour of Western Bots, we drove through the entire western districts on our way back to Gaborone. But Buche had one more surprise up his sleeve. 

A visit to the famous village of Gabane, which is known for its pottery. Let’s just say that I love pottery and Buche proved exactly how patient he truly is as he patiently roamed the shop with me as I picked out my purchases and asked a million questions. We even got the chance to visit the back rooms and watch the pottery makers in action. 

Pottery making in Gabane
Pottery making in Gabane

So Buche earns a gold star! He not only rose to my challenge, he absolutely exceeded it. Since he did so well, I have now challenged him to do it again, only better! I bet he can. What do you think?

The Cheetah Brothers

We also had the pleasure of meeting these 3 cheetah brothers out for an afternoon stroll proving that brothers who play together, stay together!

The first brother spotted - no pun intended
The first brother spotted – no pun intended
Bath time
Bath time

Cheetah on the move

It was time to find his brothers

Cheetah brothers on the move

These brothers also proved that they are just like every other male I know – eager to mark their territory!

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Of course everyone had to do the same! Men!

two cheetahs

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and with a final male gesture, the 3 cheetah brothers left us to go off to hunt

Cheetah brother 1

The Big Cats came out to play

Unlike the other safari trucks that I have been in, Lagoon’s trucks are wide open and allow for lots of great game watching opportunities. It also means that you are wide open to all of the elements such as the cool breeze when you are out driving at 6:3o am in the morning to the blazing mid-day sun.

Luckily, I had come prepared just like a good girl guide and had a hat to protect me from the sun and lots of warm layers to put on and take off as the day progressed. Given that you headed out so early in the morning and it is currently winter here in Botswana, the temperatures could be very chilly starting out. Everyone on the truck was given a blanket to snuggle up in and a bush baby to hold on to.

The bush babies were actually hot water bottles that you could use to keep you warm as you were zooming across the terrain in search of game. And zoom you did. The guides and trackers at Lagoon certainly take their game tracking seriously (not that they didn’t at Camp Pom Pom – they were just more fun while they were doing it!). Along with the safari truck being fully open, the tracker sat on a seat which was located on the front of the truck so that he could have a clear visual of all of the animal tracks and be able to guide in the direction that the game appeared to be moving.

Tracker PD on the front with our guide, Bale driving
Tracker PD on the front with our guide, Bale driving

Within ten minutes of embarking on our first game drive at Kwando Lagoon Camp, we came across what was to be the first in many sightings of big cats. Having spent the morning in Camp Pom Pom tracking a leopard with Rams, it was a little hilarious that less than ten minutes in here was a beauty of a leopard, which I am proud to say I spotted first before even the tracker! This picture proves how good my tracking eyes for cats really are – Rams would be proud of me!

Can a leopard change it's spots? or can you spot the leopard?
Can a leopard change it’s spots? or can you spot the leopard?
Stalking with grace
Stalking with grace
Talk about great camaflogue
Talk about great camouflage
Would you want to be a fireman to rescue this kitty from a tree?
Would you want to be a fireman to rescue this kitty from a tree?
We felt a little like she could easily jump into the truck with us
We felt a little like she could easily jump into the truck with us
A lounging leopard feels a little safer to watch
A lounging leopard feels a little safer to watch
How is that for a close up?
How is that for a close up?
On the move again
On the move again
On the hunt for tasty morsels like impala
On the hunt for tasty morsels like impala

 

And this is only a tiny portion of the great sightings that we had at Lagoon Camp. There are lots more wonderful pictures to share 🙂

Luxuriate at Lagoon Camp

We were met at the airstrip and quickly transported to our new lodge. This camp was certainly very different from Camp Pom Pom which we had just sadly left.

Upon our arrival at Kwando’s Lagoon Camp it was quickly apparent that this was not a bush camp but one that offered a much more luxurious side of being on safari. As we had gotten a very last minute deal through the Maun company, Safari Specialists, our stay here was a real deal for us. It was easy to see why this camp tends to attract a very different clientele from North American, Europe and the Middle East looking for a safari experience that is a little more upper class.

Kwando lodge

A water view of my lodge
A water view of my lodge which was the second one from the right
Certainly more luxurious than a tent!
Certainly more luxurious than a tent!
A massive dressing room
A massive dressing room
My favorite spot!
My favorite spot! A bath with a view
And your choice of an indoor or outdoor shower
And your choice of an indoor or outdoor shower
And a deck to hippo watch from
And a deck to hippo watch from

Safari time at Camp Pom Pom

Safariing is hard work! Now granted all you have to do is get dressed properly, make sure that you have visited the loo and show up on time, it still really hard work.

I have been on numerous game drives since coming to Botswana last September but I have never actually been on safari before. Luckily, I had a wonderful introduction to it at Camp Pom Pom. As I mentioned before, we completely lucked out with our guide, Rams and tracker, Major.

The happy trio of Rams, me and Major relaxing during Sundowner time on Safari
The happy trio of Rams, me and Major relaxing during Sundowner time on Safari

Rams, as I noted earlier, was a sweetheart who shares many similarities with Buche, including driving styles and went where others feared to tread…including Buche, who was dismayed when I showed him these pictures,

Did I sign up for a water safari?
Did I sign up for a water safari?
Is this a Safari truck or a boat?
Is this a Safari truck or a boat?

So while Rams navigated us around land, water, mud, airstrips and just about anywhere else you could throw in, Major spent his time amusing us and being on the look out for wildlife.

Major's winning smile
Major’s winning smile

Major also has other claims to fame. Check out his singing on this YouTube video posted by a previous camper http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHSvKoUFd0U

With these two capable gentlemen taking care of us and catering to all of our needs, we happily set out for our first game drive after a huge brunch and a siesta. They don’t call this an eating safari for nothing!

Shortly after leaving camp we crossed Pom Pom International Bridge and let’s just say that Cheryl almost made history and became famous

Pom Pom International Bridge
Pom Pom International Bridge

While this bridge is remarkable in its construction having been built by the staff of the Camp Pom Pom and capable of withstanding a huge heavy safari vehicle stopping mid way on it so that the wildlife and birds can be viewed, it is a bit of a rough ride. Being a short, round bouncy person, I found it a bit of a challenge to not bounce right out of the safari truck straight down into the swamps and wetlands joining the birds, crocs and fishes. When I queried Rams if he had ever lost a guest out of the truck, he prompted responded no but figured that I might be his first! In that case, I would become famous and perhaps they would even rename the bridge after me 🙂

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So with me still safely in the truck and Rams prepared to check his rearview mirror every so often to ensure that I was still on board, we set out to find some wildlife.

It didn’t take long to start spying lots of great game

Elephants galore
Elephants galore

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Even when there wasn’t any game in sight the scenery was beautiful

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Impala bum view
Impala bum view

 

In my opinion, ugly birds!
In my opinion, ugly birds!

 

up close and personal with the ugly bird family
up close and personal with the ugly bird family

During our drive, Rams and Major discovered very fresh leopard tracks so we were soon on the hunt for her.

Dedicated trackers checking the leopard tracks
Dedicated trackers checking the leopard tracks

 

What we did find were these beauties

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With the sun going down it was time for “sundowners”, an African term for drinks at sunset

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and heading back to camp for the evening where we spent the evening on an eating safari and relaxing around the campfire

our candle lit dining room
our candle lit dining room

With full bellies it was soon time to be escorted back to our tent for the night so that everyone could be well rested for the next day’s adventures. Once night had fallen on camp no guests were allowed to walk alone with out a guide or tracker to escort them as the likelihood of meeting an elephant on the pathway to the tents was incredibly high.

Elephant highway
Elephant highway

So safely escorted home it was time to put on the thermal underwear and climb into bed as the morning activities started bright and early with wake up at 6:00 am with the delivery of coffee and tea to the tent! Now that is service!

 

Road Trip

Woo hooo!!! I am going on a road trip with Lawrence! I couldn’t be any more excited, can you tell?

Next week we are finally making the trip to Gweru, Zimbabwe to visit his family and give me a taste of life in Zimbabwe. We were suppose to make this trip at Easter time but a number of circumstances intervened to delay the trip. There is nothing going to stop us this time.

And unlike our road trip to Ghanti, I am bringing my own shampoo this time as I have come to accept that Lawrence simply doesn’t get the importance of shampooing my long flowing locks every day. How could he, he shaves his head and the only women that he knows well are African. While I am over the profound disappointment that I suffered at his hands when he failed as my Knight in Shining in Amour by not bringing me shampoo as requested; I learned a valuable packing lesson.

Although I had learned the lesson of packing for travel in Africa 25 years ago when I made my first foray to the continent with a couple rolls of toilet paper securely packed in my purse, it seems that I have become complacent.  When traveling in African countries ensure that you bring with you any and all things required as the likelihood of you acquiring it easily where you are going is very slim or non-existent. But lessons learned, I am packing everything that I could possible need for this trip. Besides my suitcase will still be smaller and lighter than Mr. Zimbabwe’s – yes, Lawrence I am going to post the picture yet again! And now I know for sure that he will make me suffer but it is sooo worth it ……

Who says girls pack more than guys?????
Cheryl’s suitcase on the left, Mr Zimbabwe’s is the much bigger one on the right 

 

I figure that I might as well tease him as he is making horrible threats to me.

Are any of you familiar with the collars that dogs wear which give them an electric shock if they wander out of bounds?

Well, Lawrence is threatening to get something similar for me to wear when I meet his grannies and other family members. He figures that if he has the means to send me an electric jolt when I say something inappropriate that I will be on my best behavior. The poor boy still hasn’t figured out that nothing is capable of making me being on my best behavior other than if I make up my mind to be. Plus, I like the idea of making him sweat as to whether I will behave or not….after all the trip was his idea and I am an evil being.  🙂

I can’t wait to see where he grew up and meet the rest of his family but the best part I am sure will be the travel there and back. I love being on the road with Lawrence laughing, singing and having lots of fun. Although I feel slightly sorry for Lawrence’s younger brother who will be stuck in the vehicle with us, I am certain that he will never have another trip like it!

Lawrence has really done it this time!

My friend and colleague Lawrence is really in hot water this time!

This morning while discussing my trip home with him to Zimbabwe for Easter, he was telling me how he would even take me to meet his grannies in their rural village. Of course they do not speak English and I have no ability to converse with them other than through Lawrence or a translator.

Which according to Lawrence is a good thing! Otherwise he wants to get one of those electrical shock devices to attach to me so that when I say something that I shouldn’t, he can shock me and I will shut up!

Now to be fair, he has a point. None of you heard what I did on our road trip. Let’s just say that we picked up a passenger which I totally forgot was in the back seat of the truck and I made reference to part of my anatomy that polite Motswana girls wouldn’t. Oblivious to the passenger in the back seat I also could not see her reaction. Lawrence could! and still didn’t shut me up!

So this time around he is planning for all contingencies. At least he is still not only happy to travel with me but also introduce me to all of his family and his wonderful country, Zimbabwe. Guess I can’t be too mad at him!

And maybe he will even leave me in the bush in Zimbabwe! That would be something to look forward to….