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The Blogger Relay – My Top Three Travel Memories

I’ve heard it said that travel changes lives but I didn’t believe it applied to me until I had to choose My Three Favorite Travel Memories.

I realized that each trip has altered my life in significant and not-so significant ways. Most importantly, traveling has made me more appreciative of what I have, and also expanded my circle of friends. Traveling for me is both therapy and education – it’s my antidote to boredom and malaise.

I have so many favorite memories of my travels, it was very difficult to narrow it down to my top three. Hopefully, you’ll see why I decided on these.

This post is part of The Blogger Relay that is sponsored by LowCostHolidays. The goal is to keep this chain of stories going and the team with the longest chain of travel stories by September 28th wins.

Bronze – Mérida

Mérida was my first trip abroad. I had spent the year before I started university teaching basic and intermediate Spanish to 10 and 11 year olds. When we heard about a one-week immersion program in Mérida that was organized by the Ministry of Education, another Spanish teacher and I decided to participate. in a one-week Spanish immersion program in Mérida and became chaperones for three of our students.

All the arrangements were made through a travel agency contracted by the Ministry of Education and we turned over newly minted passports so they could obtain our visas and tickets and arrange our accommodation.

But when we made the 4-hour drive back to Kingston for our appointment to get our documents, we learned that our passports had been destroyed in a fire at the agency. No one had bothered to alert us and there was no way for us to get new passports and visas in time to leave with the rest of the group. We wouldn’t be going to Mérida. We returned home feeling disappointed and defeated. But that was not the end of this story.

A few weeks later, the travel gods smiled and with new documents in hand, we were on a direct flight to Mérida. Since we had missed the immersion, we were free to do whatever we wanted to do.

The first thing I noticed was how different the Spanish in Mérida was. It sounded like an entirely different language than what I’d been studying since primary school. I could pick out one or two words but the rest sailed right over my head.

At the market the day after we arrived, I met Mario and his friend, Belgio. Between my version of Spanish and his limited English, I agreed to go with them to the beach at Progreso.  (I wouldn’t have done that now!)

We spent a great afternoon swimming, and exchanged phone numbers when they took me back at the hotel. If you think trying to understand a language when you’re face to face with someone is hard, try doing the same thing on the phone. But there’s no mistaking Belgio when he called later that evening and declared, “Te amo. Te adoro.”

‘I love you’ in any language gets your attention. Said in Spanish with Belgio’s intensity and passion, it was a bit romantic. But I couldn’t stop giggling. I was a cynic even then. But what did I really know about matters of the heart at that age?

[Read more…]

Travel Photo Thursday: Elephants

There are more than 30,000 elephants in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe so it’s not a matter of whether you’ll see a few elephants when you go game watching, but when.

We first saw this mother’s baby at the side of the road and stopped to take it’s photo when we heard the unmistakable sound of an elephant on our right. When I turned round, I noticed her ears were fully open — elephants use this technique to frighten other animals, and us. She was so close, I’m not sure how we didn’t see her first but glad I didn’t fumble the shot.

Lone Elephant, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

Lone Elephant, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

We were very lucky the day we watched as a herd approached a watering hole. The baby got there first and began drinking right away, totally oblivious to our presence.

Baby elephant at a watering hole, Hwange National Park

Baby elephant at a watering hole, Hwange National Park

Soon more came and they drank, played, squirted water on their backs, rolled around in the mud and had a good ole time.

Elephants taking a mud bath, Hwange National Park

Elephants taking a mud bath, Hwange National Park

Elephants playing at a watering hole, Hwange National Park

Elephants playing at a watering hole, Hwange National Park

We were very fortunate to catch this scene — several hundred cape buffalo near our camp. As we sat quietly watching the buffalo, we saw a herd of elephants approaching. From the corner of my eye, they looked like a dark shadow but the day was clear so I began looking more intently. Then I saw them. For animals that can weigh up to 7,000 lbs., they are astonishingly quiet and nimble on their feet. Soon, about three or four herds joined buffalos, zebras and impalas at the watering hole. It was a beautiful sight.

Elephants and Cape Buffalo, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

Elephants and Cape Buffalo, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

A lone bull elephant, Mbisa, Zimbabwe

A lone bull elephant, Mbisa, Zimbabwe

Towards the end of the day, we caught this elephant slowly making its way as if he’d had a hard day at work and was on his way home. I hoped that where ever ‘home’ was, it wasn’t too far away.

This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website!

A Wordless Wednesday

Elephants and Cape Buffalo

Elephants and Cape Buffalo, Hwange National Park

Weekly Photo Challenge: Wildlife

I took these photos last year in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. The experience of watching wildlife in their natural habitat was life changing.

I knew that animals are intelligent, compassionate and caring but watching them interacting with each other or with other species and taking care of their young was heartwarming.

Zebras and Impalas

Zebras are incredibly beautiful up close. And almost every time we saw them, impalas were not far away.

Giraffe

Despite their height, giraffes are stately and gentle animals.

Lioness at rest

We watched this lioness for about 20 minutes. She was so full after a kill the previous night, she hardly moved.

Buffalo and elephant

As we watched this herd of buffalo — there could easily have been 100 of them — we noticed several herds of elephants approaching. Despite their size — they’re the largest land animals in the world — they’re incredibly quiet. You hardly ever hear them coming!

Elephant

We were watching a baby elephant on one side of the road and didn’t see her mother standing a few feet away. I was so shocked, I’m glad I didn’t scream or fumble the camera.

Enjoy!

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