Aug 1 in Vic Falls

We made it to Victoria Falls. Land of elephants in the streets. Warmer than Joburg, very much a tourist town. Small town, about 40k people. Helicopters buzzing about constantly, filled with folks like me gawking at a world wonder.

Our lodge and rooms here are excellent, a huge improvement from the in-decline family lodge at Joburg. Here we have electricity and (sporadic) Internet.

We see the falls in about an hour. I’ll try to find a way to share pictures without a damn laptop.

Oh, and happy birthday to my brother Mark! Hope you do something fun today.

July 29

My previous post was a little dramatic, but I *am* bummed about my laptop. Much harder to do anything online, and I don’t have access to most of my data without the laptop. It’s still there, you just can’t navigate to it with a dead display.

Our current safari camp at Karongwe Game Preserve is wonderful, but the animal density was much better in Kruger Park. Accommodations here are very, very good. Pictures of it all will generally have to wait until I get back to the States. And we have some superb pictures.

Health status here halfway thru the trip is…rough. Lots of pain and we’ll leave it at that. If I had known it would be like this I would have shifted the trip a few weeks. But at this point the only way thru is forward.

Finally, my old friend John Wiseman’s memorial service is today. I’ll never forget John, he was one of a kind. RIP, buddy.

Fuck me

Well, posting updates and pictures from Africa just got complicated. My laptop display just showed damage, and then went completely blank. Dead laptop. And I’m a million miles from an Apple Store. It’s been one of those days. The single short safari here in our new location was a bust. Now this.

I haven’t been without a working laptop for a couple of decades. This should be fun.

Other animals and sights

We saw a *lot* on our first safari day. Here’s a larger sample.

Nile, Nile Crocodile

Roadside monkeys, I forget what type. They’re everywhere.

Zebra. Zebras? Zebrae?

Big mouth hippo.

Not an animal, but epic views above Kruger Park, from atop the escarpment.

The lichen-covered cliffs – might have been an inspiration from one of my all-time loved SF series, The Many Colored Land, by Julian May. If you haven’t read it, get busy and read.

A pox on poachers

We heard so many heartbreaking stories about rhino poaching yesterday. It’s worse than imagined, with the rhinos even in African national parks like Kruger being slowly massacred. It’s all so stupid and greed-driven that I can’t be rational about it. Poachers (and their higher-ups, the ones driving the market for rhino horn) should be gunned down on the spot. Or imprisoned and their keratin fingernails and toenails (same dumbass substance as rhino horn) should be ripped out every time they grow back, ad infinitum. I wish them all eternal kidneystones.

So it was a surprise that we encountered a couple of rhinos as we were leaving the park yesterday. They’re big gentle giants. This guy has had his horn filed down by park rangers, but even that won’t deter poachers, who will simply chain saw the remaining horn off the snout and condemn them to a slow painful death bleeding out.

Apparently COVID accelerated the demise of rhinos in a big way. Tourists left the parks, rangers absent too, so poachers came in and slaughtered at will during 2020 and 2021. Rhinos are an uncounted victim of COVID-19. Fuck.

It’s things like this that make me a hard-core cynic with regards to humanity. Individuals can and will be wonderful. But in groups and as a species, we are tragically flawed.


It’s late, I’m tired, but it’s worth noting that our first safari day was a huge success. In only one day in the Kruger Park, we saw pretty much everything. Lions, hippos, giraffes, elephants, hyena, water buffalo, crocodiles, zebra, and an infinite number of impala. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the day.

These elephants walked out of the forest and scared all the hippos into the water. Elephants take no shit from anyone.

In a different location we managed to get close to this guy. He was part of a small “ostracized mature male” group. The matriarchs of the larger family groups won’t put up with any old man elephant shit.

And this pair of lions…wow!

Lots more good pics to share, but these are some standouts. More of the same tomorrow.

Day 3 notes

I chose this trip and itinerary because I wanted to get into the bush and see wildlife ASAP after landing in Africa. Today made me second guess that decision. It was a looooong drive from Joburg to Hazyview, Hazyview being right at the gates of Kruger Nat’l Park. Long and bumpy – and by “bumpy” I mean really rough, which wasn’t easy on us. My post-surgery body didn’t like it at all. We left at 6am and arrived at 4pm, with a few stops along the way. I could’ve done without that drive.

Tomorrow is our first full day of safari, starting at 5am. We’ll see if I have further regrets about this itinerary after that. The hotel/lodge we’re staying in for tonight and tomorrow is lovely. Very nice modern rooms. Umbhaba Eco Lodge. Recommended, with one notable exception. They have the hardest beds on the planet. Somehow, being “eco” means they have to use repurposed concrete for mattresses. Miserable, miserable beds, bot good other than that.

In other news, I’m hating Texas more than usual lately. Bastards.


A couple of hours relaxing at the lodge and away from airports have improved one’s mental health immensely. They have great old leather couches here, my favorite, and I’m currently ensconced on one. A nap is imminent. Meanwhile, I’ve noticed two interesting things right off the bat:

  1. The lodge had no power, no electricity when we arrived. They got their generator started and now most things work here, including Wifi. It’s sporadic, but it’s mostly on. Apparently this is normal – S Africa has ongoing and systemic problems with their power grid. I know some engineers who could fix this. Microgrids, anyone?
  2. Walking around the property, we could just as easily be in San Diego. Same flora, halfway around the world. Can’t really tell about the trees because it’s winter here and anything deciduous has dropped its leaves. But the succulents, flowers, cycads, etc. are all the same as at our CA home.

In country and cranky

We finally made it to our first in-country S Africa stop, Nkanga Lodge. It’s really just a rallying point for the sixteen tour participants. It’s a quaint, family-owned lodge that has (had?) potential but I think has seen better days. But the owner/proprietor Jane is extremely nice, so I’m keeping an open mind about the place.

But first, a bit about British Airways that I wrote in flight last night.

BA Sucks

You can skip the rest and just read this first paragraph – BA’s business class cabin on an A380 is a crime. I cringe at what we paid for a flight experience that was the worst I’ve ever seen on an airline. BA should be ashamed for taking our money for the flight.

Or you can read the rest of this rant. We had a good flight out from LA to London on a 777-300. Their business class seat configuration was more dense than any I had seen before, but once in my little pod, it worked quite well. Comfy enough, private enough, and very modern. I found myself congratulating BA on stuffing a lot of business class seats (6 in each row!) into a 777.

But then we boarded for our longer journey from London to Johannesburg and the shit hit the fan. This time we boarded an Airbus A380. The cabin configuration looked similar at first, but the more I looked the worse it got. Even smaller seats/cubbies arranged in a bizarre configuration where more than half faced the rear of the plane, including ours. Eight seats across each row. Very tight seats – my shoulders wouldn’t fit in the space allowed, and my hips would only fit in the seat when it was near upright. They have some weird armrest thing where the armrests sink down to hip level as you lean the seat back for “comfort”.

There was absolutely no place to stow anything in our little den. Glasses, iPad, headphones, a bottle of water – nowhere to store any of these items. The only storage was down at foot level, a drawer that could be accessed if you returned your seat to the landing and takeoff position. Not convenient at all if you’re expected to read, write and sleep.

Next I realized that, our seats being the two in the center, I would have to step over the sleeping form of the person on the aisle next to me to exit my seat. That was…astounding. I had to try to step over a sleeping passenger, not a small hurdle, just to get to the john. Who the hell ever thought that was a good idea? I just did it and it was a workout.

Finally, all the tech for the seat/cubbie was *old*. A tiny pop-out movie screen – my laptop screen is bigger. A wired remote, a very unresponsive user interface, plastic bubble control buttons for the seat – the tech for this BA seat must’ve been designed in 1990.

So here I sit at 40,000 feet, somewhere over the Med or north Africa, pissed off that I paid a premium price for a shitty seat. And now I know why BA makes you wait until 24 hours before departure before checking in and selecting a seat. If I had seen this aircraft and this configuration as our flight, and had done my normal research on customer sat, I would have said “hell no” and flown another carrier. But we could get no information on the scheduled aircraft model or configuration, and I have to believe BA does that on purpose. Worthless fuckers.

One way or another BA is going to hear from me, though I have no illusions that it’ll make much difference. I feel *exactly* like they snatched a few thousand dollars out of my pocket and expect to get away with the theft. I’ll make it a point to find every review site I can and let people know that BA will sell you a “business class” seat and provide you with something much, much worse than you would expect.

First stop – LAX

It’s nice to be able to return to this blog’s original charter – travel blogging. Here we sit in the OneWorld Lounge at LAX, enjoying comfortable seats, some so-so food, and free drinks. Airport lounges are a godsend, even with so-so food. While on the subject, the absolute best airport lounge ever is the Turkish Air lounge in Istanbul. I could just live there – it’s that good. Gourmet food, top-shelf drinks of all types, beds and showers, a movie theater, workout equipment, acres of hospitality…it’s the best. So I can say with some authority that the OneWorld lounge at LAX is just OK. Beats the cheap seats.

I’m hoping we’ve done the hardest part of the journey already. The drive from northern San Diego to LAX on the 405N is/was bad. Stressful. Packed bumper-to-bumper on a Sunday afternoon. The least scenic drive you can imagine – it’s like driving through a post-apocalyptic world at 80 and 20 miles per hour, varying at random. I absolutely hate the urban sprawl up the Socal coast – I can think of few worse places on Earth. Worse than the traffic in Lima or Mexico City. Humanity is a plague, and we have royally fucked up a place that used to be paradise. That’s part of what I love about KY. Sure, there are messed up places in eastern KY and in downtown Lexington and Louisville, but they are small. Contained. Tiny. Most of the state still is a paradise. Just don’t tell the 30-40 million people living in concrete Socal.

Rant over, I suppose. But that drive triggers me. I did it or a variation of it for years. Decades. Kind of a crummy way to start on a vacation.

On a better note, at checkin the British Airways clerk showed us pictures of his Africa trip, and they were pretty great. He was anxious to share his tour/location details, but I think the dirty looks of the people in line behind us killed that idea.

We have about two hours to kill before boarding. After that, it’s fly all night a couple of times and we’ll be there. At least someone else will do the driving.

Departure day and thinking ahead

Here’s the weather we’re heading into at Johannesburg. Not bad at all. Pretty much San Diego winter weather.

On the 31st we move from S Africa to Zimbabwe. Quite a different weather situation there, about 15-20 degrees warmer, but still pretty darned good.

I have high hopes for the Zimbabwe/Botswana visit and Victoria Falls. Here’s the Natgeo writeup about our first day there.

Day 8 Victoria Falls   Morning Join a knowledgeable guide for an unforgettable experience at Victoria Falls. Explore the rainforest and learn about the geology, history, and local legends of this world wonder. After your immersion, get up close to the falls and discover the beauty of “the smoke that thunders.” Be sure to have your camera ready!   Zambezi River Sunset Cruise
Climb aboard and cruise along the beautiful Zambezi River. Enjoy some snacks, drinks, a festive atmosphere, and gorgeous views of the sunset. It’s the ideal way to end an eventful day in Victoria Falls.

And the next day we head to a wildlife area on the Zimbabwe/Botswana border.

Day 9 Full Day Excursion to Chobe National Park Depart Victoria Falls in the morning for a full-day guided tour of Chobe National Park in Botswana – a wildlife-abundant region covering about 11,700km2 of the Northern Kalahari. Begin your adventure with a cruise down the Chobe River, taking in the sweeping views and witnessing the wildlife grazing along the riverbank. Enjoy an included lunch on land before boarding 4×4 safari vehicles for an afternoon wildlife safari drive with an expert guide. Keep an eye out for lions, elephants, and buffalo. Transfer back to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, arriving in the early evening. Please note that this activity includes two border crossings between Zimbabwe and Botswana. The ordering of activities is susceptible to change.

After that, it’s just unwinding all the travel – over 10,000 miles to travel to get home. Fly Zimbabwe back to Johannesburg, spend the night, then Johannesburg back to LAX via Heathrow. We gain a day flying west, just as we lost one flying east.

Sitting here today, I don’t know why we waited this long to make this trip. We got really enamored with wine trips to Europe in the 2015-2019 timeframe, as opposed to seeing the rest of the world. But that’s the theme of this blog – Better Late Then Never.

T minus one

Today is the last full day in Socal before we fly east and south to S Africa. We have everything ready, including extra security on the homeplace. Today was also the first time I got off my butt and got out to play 18 holes of golf. That went surprisingly well after being a couch potato for five solid weeks. Weirdly, I always play better after I’ve had a long layoff from the game.

One small glitch remaining is that British Airways won’t let us select our seats until 24 hours before flight time. After paying business class prices, they want to charge us about $200 per seat, per flight, to select our seats “early”. It’s free inside the 24 hour window, but that practice is just BS. I hope the rest of BA’s service is more customer-friendly than that.

My health seems up to the trip, and my MD assures me that another stone attack during this trip is very unlikely. That’s one of my worst case scenarios, along with eaten by lions, bitten by cobra, and smash-drowned by hippos. Now that I think of it, Cabo or Hawaii are sounding better and better. But we’re committed.