A Travellerspoint blog

October 2009

An Eating Tour of Brussels

31 Oct 2009

overcast 50 °F

Happy Halloween from Brussels, Belgium.
Brussels is about 6 hours from home so we left Friday night, hit the new PX in Ramstein and the Macaroni Grill. I had trouble reserving a room there so we ended up going to Spangdalem Air Base for the night. We arrived in Brussels by 1230 today and found our place, Hotel Bloom. It was a very modern and nice hotel for only 70 euros per night. It was a 20 minute walk from the center of town and that happened to be down a shopping street :)
Our first purchase was Belgian chocolate. They are so into their Mannequin Pis that they have him in all different flavored chocolate. They also had chocolate potato chips like Pringles that we had to try.
Grand Place is the center of town with the Town Hall, restaurants and a flower market. We sat here and had one of those famous Belgian Beers. Eventually we wanted to see what the hype was with this little mannequin of a boy peeing so we headed that way.
On the way we passed a The Waffle Factory and got another Belgian Specialty. Our waffles were piled high with strawberries, chocolate and banana. We hit some lace and tapestry shops which are famous in Brussels.
Eventually we came upon a crowd on the street and saw what we had been waiting for....the Mannequin Pis. All the assessments were right - he is disappointing.
This little mannequin had been given over 700 outfits by various countries so I was excited to see what he would be wearing. I was sad to find out it was ....nothing! Because of this we decided to go to the museum in the Kings House to see the outfits on display there. It was hilarious to see the costumes he has worn including an Elvis Pisley suit donated by the US.
After this we headed to the comic strip museum because my beloved Smurfs are from Belgium. As it turned out they didn't play that much of part in the museum.
Tin Tin seems to be famous with the Belgians and the museum went thru the making of comics.
When we finally got to the Smurfs they had a poster with all 100 listed - however no Female Smurf. They also showed a little model of their house, hefty's work out equipment and what I think is Gargumels Cookbook calling for a few Smurfs!
For dinner we had the famous mussels in Brussels at Chez Leon. It is a bit of a touristy place but along the restaurant Row it was the busiest. They crank out tons of pots of steamed mussels.
After all the walking we did today we were exhausted and headed to the beautiful room in Hotel Bloom.

Posted by ErinDriver 11:05 Archived in Belgium Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Chimpanzee Reserve

13 Oct 09

sunny 80 °F

Our last day before the 2 day trek home we spent at the Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Reserve in Nelspruit. The reserve has 30 chimps, all who have lived a heartbreaking life before being rescued.
Our tour started at 1000 which is feeding time for the chimps. This one was just waiting to get his breakfast.
This young male looked like he was doing some serious thinking in the tree.
Then he decided to pose for his glamour shot.
The reserve had three different enclosures so three different communities. This enclosure had a male, female and lots of young chimps. When the dominant male came over for breakfast the female ran up to him and greeted him with a hug.
Because these chimps are usually taken away from their mothers when they are murdered the don't have a parent to spend their youth with. So they end up making close friends with a "sibling". Many of these would walk around with their arms around each other.
The young apes spent most of their time after eating playing and wresting.
At the second enclosure the scene was dominated by a male that had been brain damaged by humans who kept hitting him in the head. He was also taught to suck his thumb and still does it frequently. But because he is brain damaged he doesn't know any better than to run up and down throwing rocks at us and clapping his hands. He had actually bit off part of the finger of our guide in the past.
The next enclosure was what the guide called the real chimps. These are the adults and as soon as we got there a couple of the females got in a fight and the dominant male tried to break it up. Because we were standing so close to the enclosure he also threw huge rocks at us and a large tree branch that got stuck in the fence. We had to move early so no one got hurt.
Luckily for these chimps they were rescued a brought to a place where they can live out a healthy life. These will never be allowed back in to the wild.
On the way back thru Marloth Park we saw some more zebras and I got to practice my black and white shots again.
Unfortunately our trip is over and we have to start home early in the morning. However we had one more excellent meal of ox tail which is popular in South Africa but actually just a stew. One more night drive did not prove to be very productive for us so we called it an earlier night.

Posted by ErinDriver 12:17 Archived in South Africa Tagged animal Comments (0)

I get another day in Kruger!

12 Oct 09

sunny 80 °F

This will be our first day in Kruger in an open safari vehicle so I'm very excited about that. Its a little chilly at first in the morning but I get over it.
I have now taken several pictures of most animals in the park so I start practicing with black and white. I liked this one of the warthog.
It wouldn't be a day in Kruger in the spring without seeing a baby elephant. This one for some reason was carrying this branch along as they walked.
And this one thought if he couldn't see us we wouldn't be able to see him.
Another group of babboons crossed the road in front of us.
I took so many photos of giraffe last time that I laid off a little but I couldn't resist this one.
Sometimes I think they find us more interesting to watch.
Little did I know that my best Kruger moment was about to happen. We turned on to a dirt road and saw the tail end of a lion disappearing into the bush. When we got up to the spot another lioness was coming out on the other side of the road.
And then another and another and another. Us and the car on the other side of the road were the only ones to witness the event.
There were 14 lion cubs that crossed all in a line.
A total of 20 lions crossed before it was over. The sad part was that the huge male was at the end of the lion and that is when my camera decided to quit taking photos.
Nothing much could beat this sight but we did stop at a river crossing and see these turtles resting on a rock.
This monitor lizard was the last interesting thing. Two of them actually met up and we thought there would be a great fight. But in the end they just bobbed their heads at each other and took off in opposite directions.
Before the day was over Monet fed us another great dinner and took us on a night drive around Marloth Park. This amounted to putting plastic chairs in the back of Andre's truck and driving around with a spot light. Our big find was a hyena near their dump site.

Posted by ErinDriver 11:51 Archived in South Africa Tagged animal Comments (0)

No hiking for us

11 Oct 09

rain 65 °F

Today's schedule had us hiking in the Drakensburg Mountains. However overnight it rained and the morning was very cloudy. The point of the hike was to get to a scenic overlook that would not have been visible with that weather. So instead we drove back to Marloth Park a day early. The drive was 8 hours without much excitement. Lunch was at Wimpy which is a restaurant similar to McDonalds and very popular in South Africa.

When we got back to Marloth Genie's son, Monet, had arrived for his vacation. He is a chef in Cape Town so for the next three days we ate really well. I was a little bummed about not being able to hike but the bonus was that we would get another day in Kruger and this time it would be in an open vehicle...and I got another day of seeing my bush babies:)

Posted by ErinDriver 11:26 Archived in South Africa Tagged transportation Comments (0)

Midlands Meander

10 Oct 09

sunny 80 °F

The Midlands Meander is a set of roads in the Midlands of South Africa that have all sorts of small shops and craftsman. There was everything from furniture we would love to have, leather goods, jewelry, antiques, African themed goods and wines. I had a blast driving from one shop to another. Lunch was at a brewery in a gorgeous mansion. The beer left something to be desired as most of it was cold but the food hit the spot. When our meander was complete we were on the road to Escourt and our next overnight stay at the Blue Haze. It was another gorgeous place with a large lawn overlooking a lake. It was the prom that weekend in South Africa and some teens were there taking their photos by these palm trees.

Posted by ErinDriver 11:20 Archived in South Africa Tagged shopping Comments (0)

St. Lucia

9 Oct 09

sunny 75 °F

Early this morning we were on the road again for St. Lucia, another world heritage site. We were in town for a cruise on the lake but stopped for some breakfast first.
The town is well built up for tourists with lots of restaurants and shops. It also has the greatest donut I ever ate.
The focus of our cruise on the lake was hippos and crocs and we saw one right away. There was a family of three to include a little baby right under the bridge when we got started.
The next thing of interest was the weaver birds that make these upside down nests.
The males make the nests and if the females don't like them they take them apart until its done right :)
The focus was crocs and hippos but this is about the only croc we were really able to see.
We did see tons of hippos again.
They were very playful just like in Kruger!
They compare the sizes of their mouth to see who is the most dominant.
They also were chasing each other around in the water.
We were also able to see several fish eagles relatively close up - they weren't catching any fish though :)
The guide on the boat passed around a huge and very heavy hippo tooth. It is easy to see how they could kill someone by biting them in half!
After the cruise we hit the highways again for the midlands. Our hotel was absolutely adorable and a nice change from the rustic accomodations in Sodwana. The place was a B&B called Penny Lane and it was run by a French expat. He was a very talkative guy and recommended the restaurant St. Ives for dinner. It was a very good choice and a beautiful location.

Posted by ErinDriver 11:05 Archived in South Africa Tagged animal Comments (0)

Last day of Scuba

8 Oct 09

sunny 70 °F

We made our second effort at scuba today but by the second dive today we both vomited. I am never going to go diving again without dramamine!
The first dive today was the most productive and we saw a large octopus and more eel along with lots of other fish and the tail of a HUGE ray.
The second dive we could barely see anything in the water. A huge sea turtle was about 3 feet from us and we could barely see it. Its kind of scary to be diving in water that has sharks when you can't even see whats right in front of you. But we made it with all of our bits and pieces. In the end we weren't very impressed with Sea Escapes but we would definately go back to Sodwana Bay, hopefully on a clear day.
The next activity was to ride 4-wheelers that Curt was despirate to do. The ride was awesome! The trails were all sand and wide which were easy to navigate.
The sand dunes in the back ground of the photo are the largest living sand dunes in the world.
Here is Curt driving up one of the monster hills.
The guide got cool points from me for stopping to take our photos frequently :)
Around dinner time Lindsay, the dive master, had invited us to a location good for sundowners. We brought our beers and watched the sun set over a lake with tons of other people.
We went off track tonight and had dinner out at Mi Casa. They had great mixed drinks and pizza. I also liked the sign on the door for the dress code.

Posted by ErinDriver 08:57 Archived in South Africa Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Finally we see something underwater!

7 Oct 09

overcast 70 °F

So I don't have an underwater camera yet so I can't show you what we saw today but it was way better than Croatia. It took about 20 minutes to get to Sodwana Bay which is a World Heritage Site and the launch site for our dive.
There are many Africans that need work so we didn't have to lift our tanks or anything. We just got in the boat when it was time. The ride out to the first reef was wicked. It was not the best day for diving because according to them the water was cold and green. Green means poor visibility but for our first dive it didn't seem bad to us.
We saw so many colorful fish, a blue spotted ray, trumpet fish and huge honeycomb eel.
The waves were pretty stong I was getting sea sick as soon as we got back to the boat so we went back to shore. In the end there was something wrong with his boat engines so we didn't go back out for the second dive of the day.
When we got home we went for a drive to check out some shops and try to go ride 4-wheelers. We couldn't ride them that day but we made an appointment for the next day and went home for another braai.
These tuck shops were numerous and sell little snacks.

Posted by ErinDriver 08:15 Archived in South Africa Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Driving thru Swaziland

6 Oct 09

overcast 65 °F

We were up early this morning to drive to Sodwana Bay and it was a good thing because otherwise I would have missed the Kudu females that came by for a snack.
Genie gave me an apple I got to feed them by hand.
To get to our scuba diving site we had to drive pretty much the length of Swaziland. The border crossings were some of the most confusing and slow I have ever experienced but then again the slow pace is one of the reasons we love Africa so much.
There is really no great announcement welcoming you to Swaziland other than this sign. The country is extremely clean and forces people to drive very slowly but not otherwise that much different that South Africa.
After several hours we arrived in Sodwana and stopped at a grocery store for some braai materials. Lets just say we were different than everyone else in the store. Our digs for the next 3 nights was with Sea Escapes and their lodging. It was a bit rustic but had a bed, shower and braai area which works for us.
We met our dive guide, got equipment and spent the night listening to him work on his boat. Whe were wondering if we were actually going to be diving the next day.

Posted by ErinDriver 07:56 Archived in Swaziland Tagged transportation Comments (0)

Waking up in Kruger!

5 Oct 09

sunny 75 °F

Several times during the night I sat up in bed a tried to make out what was right outside our hide making so much noise. But the morning was magical with the sun coming up. I really wanted to see a hippo getting back in the water so I was disappointed to see they were already back in the water by 0500. I was really excited when Genie woke me up to show me the one late hippo that was making his way back to the water.
Right outside the hide there were klipspringers on the rocks and buffalo in the bushes.
These birds were gathered in the tree bright and early.
The majority of the rest of the day was spent driving thru Kruger back towards Marloth Park.
On the way we saw zebra,
more baby ele's,
wildebeest crossing the road,
and a babboon hang out.
I was also excited to see the baby babboon's. The mom would groom this one when he allowed it.
I'm not sure what this baby was planning to do with the stick.
This was decided to be the trip of the hippo because they were the animal we seemed to end up watching the most. It was cool to see these guys gathered outside the water.
I was sad to leave Kruger but ready to see what old friends would be waiting at Marloth. For right now we only had one night before leaving for Sodwana Bay and scuba. Andre had another magnificent Braai for us and I got to see another of my favorite animals - the bush babies.
They seem to be doing just fine here but we had to wait for the vervet monkeys to leave before we could feed them their bananas. They sound like little squirrels sitting in the trees whining for their treats.

Posted by ErinDriver 05:55 Archived in South Africa Tagged animal Comments (0)

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