We'll Take a Cup of Kindness Yet,
for Auld Lang Syne!

December 31, 2005
What a long day we had!! We were up just after 5:00 this morning and on the road by 6:00. We drove out of Maun toward Ghanzi and were fortunate enough (not!) to encounter a police road block (more about these later), where we were asked to get out of the car and step into the nearby tent for a safety briefing. We were given tips for safe driving in Botswana (drive on the left, obey the speed limit, watch out for animals on the road, adjust your speed appropriately for driving condition, e.g. rain, fog, etc.) and several pamphlets were also distributed as well as a pair of surgical gloves (in case you come across an accident - to prevent the spread of HIV through blood) and 4 condoms, also to prevent the spread of Aids.

After this brief break and without further ado, we crossed the border into Namibia. Clearing immigration and customs on both sides of the border went very smoothly. We arrived at the Sundown Lodge around 4:00 PM, having traveled over 860 kms (520 miles) in 10 hours. We had stopped at one of the supermarkets in town to get a few munchies and a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Unfortunately, we were pretty wiped out and pathetically, couldn't even stay awake until midnight to ring in the New Year! But, we did enjoy the food and the champagne!

January 1, 2006
Doogle DogHappy New Year!
Since we crashed so early last night, we were awake about 6:30 this morning. After breakfast, we started to tackle the task of cleaning out the Land Rover and organizing the numerous crates and bins. I also felt compelled to clean/disinfect the refrigerator - it was really rank after it died 5 days ago! Once these chores were completed, we rewarded ourselves by doing absolutely nothing for the rest of the afternoon.

Bob and Silke, the proprietors of the Sundown Lodge have a fantastic dog - we think his name is Doogle. He comes over to hang out with us on our patio. He knows a sucker when he sees one (or two!).

With nothing exciting to write in the journal today, we thought we would explain the police road blocks. They are very prevalent, both in Namibia in Botswana, particularly on the outskirts (about 15 kms) of the major towns. We encountered the first one on the way from the airport to Windhoek on the day we arrived a month ago. The primary purpose seems to be to allow the police to check for stolen vehicles and in the more remote areas, to check for poachers. As we always had proper documentation and never had a kudu tied to the roof rack, we never had any difficulty passing through. In total, we passed through 10-12 of these check points throughout our travels.

January 2, 2006
This morning we went for a walk in the hills around Sundown Lodge. The views were beautiful, but the walking really brought home how pathetically out of shape we are after spending a month sitting in a car for most of the day (you don't want to get out of the car for fear that something will eat you)!

As today is the first weekday following the holiday yesterday, it is a public holiday here in Namibia (as it probably is in most of the world). That means that offices and shops are closed today, however, our host, Bob, found a launderette for us that is open. So, after breakfast, we sorted our clothes and headed into town for an exciting morning of laundry!! We will never again take for granted in-house laundry facilities!!

There is a "famous" restaurant in Windhoek called "Joe's Beerhouse" (it claims to be the most famous brew house on the African continent - as if we would know!) - it was one of the few establishments open today, so after laundry, we stopped in for lunch and a beer. It's definitely an ex-pat hangout, reminds us of the Carib Beach Bar in Barbados, which was a favorite among the ex-pats, including us. The food and service were quite good. We can see why it has such a good reputation.

We returned to the lodge and spent the afternoon/evening playing a Rummy Cube tournament. Don't believe what Markus tells you - we finished the evening in just about an even draw. Okay, okay, maybe he won ONE more game than I did!

January 3, 2006
After sleeping until 8:00 this morning, we went to breakfast and the proprietors had baked a little cake for my birthday. It was chocolate with chocolate icing - yummy! Chocolate is most definitely the best way to start the day! After breakfast, we got the truck packed with our bags and drove into town. We found our way back to the Safari Drive offices and turned in the Land Rover. Mark was so happy to be rid of the responsibility! After 6000 km (3600 miles) of driving, only about 1/2 of it on paved roads and 1/4 of it completely "off-road", we didn't even have a flat tire. Even the staff at Safari Drive couldn't believe it! I shared the remainder of my birthday cake with the staff and two of the women sang "Happy Birthday" to me in an African language (I have no idea what language it was, but I did recognize the birthday melody). That was truly a once in a lifetime event.

In the afternoon, we flew from Windhoek to Johannesburg. Business class wasn't very full and it was a very enjoyable 2 hour flight. We quickly cleared immigration and customs in Jo-burg and only had to cross the sidewalk from the airport to our hotel. Since it was my birthday, we are splurging by staying at the Intercontinental. Our room is very nice, so it was worth the indulgence. We sat outside at the bar for a drink and then had a really nice dinner in the hotel restaurant. Really a perfect birthday from beginning to end.

January 4, 2006 and January 5, 2006
Despite our best efforts to sleep in, we were awake at 6:30 this morning. We enjoyed a leisurely morning in the hotel and then checked in for our flight to Hong Kong. We stopped in at a couple of the airport shops (Markus bought me a belated birthday present!) and just chilled in the lounge until our flight boarded.

This was our first flight with Cathay Pacific and we were really impressed with the Business Class service. We wish we could fly them more often!

JIA HotelThe flight was 12 1/2 hours long, landing at 7:40 on the morning of the 5th. Immigration and Customs was predictably efficient and we were on our way in less than 45 minutes. We stopped at one of the tourist information booths to inquire about the best way to get to our hotel. The representative's advise was to take the train to the central station and from there, catch a free shuttle bus to our hotel. This is exactly what we did, arriving at our hotel before 10:00. Fortunately, our room was ready and we got settled in and took a nap.

We went out in the evening to explore the area and to pick up a few items from the supermarket. There is a kitchenette in our room, so we are planning on enjoying a light in-room dinner this evening.

January 6, 2006
Hong Kong BayWe absolutely and completely crashed last night - slept like the dead for 14 hours!! So, needless to say, we missed breakfast this morning. This afternoon, we walked around Causeway Bay (the area of the city where we are staying) and window-shopped. Although availability and variety is quite good (especially after Namibia and Botswana), it seems an expensive city. Everything from designer clothing and handbags to jewelry and electronic goods is more costly than in the U.S. Foods at the supermarket are reasonable, but restaurants are on the expensive side. Also, alcoholic beverages are very expensive, both in the shops and in the bars/restaurants.

Outback Hong KongWe dined at the Outback Steakhouse this evening. It was fantastic - the first really good meal we have had in over a month! It's amazing that in a restaurant chain on the other side of the world from its parent, the food and service can be so consistent!