Favourite Places of 2014

Last week, we posted our most memorable moments of 2014. This week we wanted to take you to some of our favourite places. In order of travel:

Berlin, Germany

reichstag
The Reichstag in Berlin

We only spent a few days in Berlin, mostly to visit a darling travel girlfriend of mine from southeast Asia, but our few days were the perfect balance of relaxing local-style and visiting all the tourist must-sees. Berlin was fantastic, and as it was also Moreno’s first time there, as a history nut, it was definitely a phenomenal learning experience.

Mesosaurus, Namibia

Crazy quiver trees at Mesosaurus bush camp
Crazy quiver trees at Mesosaurus bush camp

This wasn’t on our list of places to visit, and it’s not exactly a place we would drive out of our way to see, but the first time we laid eyes on the crazy quiver tree landscape at the Mesosaurus bush camp our first night in Namibia we were completely stunned and couldn’t get enough of how absolutely alien everything around us looked.

Fish River Canyon, Namibia

Moreno silhouette at Fish River Canyon, Namibia
Moreno standing on the edge of Devil’s Peak at Fish River Canyon

Fish River Canyon was breathtakingly stunning, and standing on the edge of it while the wind whipped the light rain back off our clothes was one of our favourite experiences of the trip.

Sossusvlei, Namibia

People on dune, Sossusvlei, Namibia - AnywhereBound
Tourists climbing one of the dunes at Sossusvlei

One of the most popular destinations in Namibia that still manages to feel deserted, the dunes of Sossusvlei are some of the highest in the world and are something to behold. Next time, we climb even higher.

Ngepi Camp, Caprivi Strip, Namibia

The bar and reception at Ngepi Camp
The bar and reception at Ngepi Camp

The only actual campsite on this list, Ngepi Camp on the Caprivi Strip honestly goes down as one of our favourite places in Africa. I swear! The atmosphere of this place, the wilderness, the sounds, the treehouse feel, the outdoor bathrooms, the hippos on the lake…and (bonus!) completely sustainable and eco-friendly. Heaven.

Lake Malawi

beach swings
Just another gorgeous sunset right outside our bungalow

We only saw a snippet of Malawi and unfortunately it wasn’t our favourite part of the trip due to various other circumstances. That said, the lake itself was beautiful and we know we want to go back and tour around more of it.

Tofo, Mozambique

Bench outside Casa Barry, Tofo, Mozambique - AnywhereBound
Bench outside our bungalow at Tofo beach

Small enough to get to know quickly, but with enough amenities (not to mention yoga, snorkelling and diving!) to spend a good couple of weeks, the little village of Tofo quickly earned a soft spot in our hearts and became the place we’d definitely return to ‘next time around.’

Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa

Moreno with Policeman's helmet, Drakensberg, South Africa
Moreno facing the Policeman’s Helmet at Drakensberg North

The Drakensberg Mountains weren’t the type of mountains we expected but were nonetheless beautiful. The hikes alone could easily justify spending at least a week or two in the area and doing just that is also on our ‘when we return’ list.

Oh, and the colours are that intense.

Tsitsikamma, Garden Route, South Africa

Storms River Mouth in the Tsitsikamma National Park…foggy but gorgeous

The weather was not in our favour when we visited the Garden Route but we could still tell (even through the dense fog) that the area was just gorgeous. We’d return to the Tsitsikamma Park in a heartbeat, but definitely want to visit the rest of the Garden Route as well.

The Cape Peninsula, South Africa

View from Chapman's Peak, Cape Peninsula, South Africa - AnywhereBound
Just one of the stunning views off Chapman’s Peak

Cape Town, Boulders Beach, Chapman’s Peak, the V&A Waterfront…I think I’m in love with this area. As I mentioned before, it’s the only place we agreed was actually more stunning than Vancouver (crazy, right?) and we could easily take our time exploring the area for more than the two days we had.

That sums up our 2014!

Next task: plan the year ahead. Stay tuned!

Most Memorable Moments 2014

Happy New Year!

We have been taking our time settling in back home and taking full advantage of the holidays (because we were due for a vacation), but with the new year, I thought I’d take a quick look back and share with you some of the most memorable moments of the year (in order of occurrence).

Hiking Monte Pasubio [Vicenza, Italy]

Tunnel entrances at Monte Pasubio, Italy - Anywhere Bound
One of the 52 tunnels at Monte Pasubio.

The Monte Pasubio tunnels are an important part of Italian history that Moreno just happens to be super interested in (WW1). He wanted to hike them when we heard about them last time we were in Italy, and this year while I stayed sniffling in bed, he ventured off and checked it off his Italy bucketlist.

First wildlife sightings [Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa]

elephants crossing
Real live elephants!

Pilanesberg was just a couple hours outside of Johannesburg and was our first experience seeing all these animals in the wild. It was surreal to see them not in their own designated zones like in a zoo, instead there were zebras hanging out with wildebeest while ostriches ran around and we never quite got over feeling like we were in a movie.

Tracking our first cheetah [Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa]

Cheetah with cub, Kgalagadi, South Africa - AnywhereBound
A mama cheetah scans the area while waiting for one of her cubs to catch up.

It’s one thing to spot a lazy lion chillin’ under a tree when there’s already three other vehicles parked taking photos and giving away its position, and a whole other to watch other animals’ behaviour and patiently track and wait for a cheetah to appear. Suffice it to say we were very proud of ourselves.

Getting blown away at Cape Diaz [Luderitz, Namibia]

Moreno flying
Blown away at Cape Diaz

Moreno took a video of me standing on top of this lookout at Cape Diaz on the Atlantic coast trying to explain just how windy it was while holding on to one of the pillars and to my hood. I can tell you it was so windy you can’t actually hear anything.

Seeing (and getting charged by) elephants in the wild [Damaraland, Namibia]

Desert elephants in Damaraland, Namibia - AnywhereBound
Dream come true – elephants in the wild

Not necessarily a pleasant moment, but a memorable one nonetheless. Seeing elephants in the wild was probably one of my most vivid African dreams, and Moreno getting charged by one while I hid in the bushes definitely delivered.

Skydiving [Swakopmund, Namibia]

Kat skydiving, Swakopmund, Namibia - AnywhereBound
Feeling awesome while freefalling at almost 200km/h.

Probably the funnest experience of the whole trip, we tandem skydived for my birthday to a backdrop of ocean and desert. Definitely made up for not bungee jumping!

Whitewater rafting [Victoria Falls, Zambia]

Rafting Victoria Falls 2, Zambia - AnywhereBound
Just before we flipped over on the “Stairway to Heaven” rapid.

We were a bit hesitant about doing the whitewater rafting at Vic Falls but in the end were wishing we had signed up for the full day! Even the flipping over was a thrill – and helped us cool off from the Zambian midday heat.

Canoe Trip [Lower Zambezi, Zambia]

Moreno on Canoe Safari, Zambia - AnywhereBound
A couple canoes about 10 meters from a bunch of elephants. No biggie.

When we post the video of the elephant that sloshed over to us (a good three or less meters away) you’ll be able to imagine how absolutely magnificent, and absolutely terrifying, they truly are.

Bush camping [Lower Zambezi, Zambia]

bush camp
Our bush camp in the middle of nowhere somewhere along the Zambezi

An experience in its own right, camping on a small island on the Zambezi River with a group of great people and hearing all the wildlife around was heart pounding and one of those experiences where we caught ourselves thinking, “life is good.”

Snorkelling with whale sharks [Tofo, Mozambique]

whale shark with snorkeler
A snorkeler. with a whale shark – not us, but we did this! (Img from Peri-Peri Divers)

Snorkelling in Tofo was particularly amazing because somewhere along the line I had developed a fear of such things…snorkeling, deep water – it wasn’t my favourite situation to be in. But throughout our trip we had done enough little things that by the time our ocean safari guide yelled, “Whale shark! Jump!” I jumped in that water with the rest of them :D

Getting pampered at Rosendal Winery & Wellness Retreat [Robertson, South Africa]

Free wine upon arrival before our spa treatments begin? Yes please.
Free wine upon arrival before our spa treatments begin? Yes please.

Perhaps not as exhilarating as some of the other things on the list but we wished we had more time at this winery and spa anyway. The food was delicious, the wine was free, the spa treatments were sooooo relaxing, and we walked around as if on a lavender filled cloud 9 the whole time. Perfect for settling down a bit before coming home.

And that’s it. Well, actually, there’s a lot of things that could’ve made the list. Some of the top ones were actually meeting up with friends in Germany and Italy, and my whole family being together (for the first time ever) in Poland.

And just because we couldn’t fit them in here, stay tuned for a post on our favourite places of 2014, coming up next!

Week 13: From Ready-to-Leave to Newly Rejuvenated

Huddling Down in Tofo

Our week started in the beachside town of Tofo, Mozambique, where we were hoping to snorkel, surf, and sun worship for a few days but the weather turned from slightly cool to downright cold and rainy.

A few gung-ho surfers played on, but we weren't about to go snorkeling.
A few gung-ho surfers played on, but we weren’t about to go snorkeling.

Instead of frolicking in the sun we were huddled underneath the extra comforters watching movies in our fleeces! It didn’t help that the chalet we were in had reed walls and the windows were nothing more than mosquito nets, so the whole place was windy and everything was damp. At this rate, we’d have preferred to be back in Vancouver with a nice warm fireplace and some delicious shawarma!

When Moreno bundles up in a comforter, you know it's serious.
When Moreno bundles up in a comforter, you know it’s serious.

Whale Sharks and Sunshine

Luckily, the extended forecast promised sun, so we decided to stick it out, eventually wandering out to get to know the town, and we loved it! We’re really bad for comparing every beach experience to our paradise in Mexico, and while it was no Sayulita (scruffier with less atmosphere and more persistent hawkers), it was perfect to hang around for a couple of weeks (warm waters with lots of activities and a small beach town where you could get to know everyone pretty quick).

All Moreno wanted from Mozambique was handfuls of prawns...and NO ONE had them! We did almost end up getting this crayfish to compensate though.
All Moreno wanted from Mozambique was handfuls of prawns…and NO ONE had them! We did almost end up getting this crayfish to compensate though.

The highlight of the whole stay, as expected, came during our ocean safari, where we jumped in the ocean to swim with whale sharks and rays! (Never saw the rays though…they’re too damn quick). It was mind blowing to swim next to such a giant and be able to see it up close.

We don't have a go-pro or an underwater camera (*facepalm) so this is the closest we came to photographing a whale shark :P
We don’t have a go-pro or an underwater camera (*facepalm) so this is the closest we came to photographing a whale shark :P

No Bribes to Speak Of

We left bright and early the next day (4:30am) determined to make it to the South African border and beyond. We were expecting to be stopped several times – we were told by two ladies that had just driven that particular stretch of road that it was notorious for cops stopping tourists for every possible (and often false) infraction to solicit a bribe – but we weren’t stopped once!!

They either ignored us, smiled and waved us through, or flat out motioned us on so they could get to someone behind us! For what we were expecting, it was bizarre but we were definitely relieved.

Craziness on the highway near Maputo, Mozambique's capital. Lots of cops, but none interested in us (phewf!).
Craziness on the highway near Maputo, Mozambique’s capital en route to the border.

The Panorama Route

Eleven hours later we entered the Mpumalanga province in South Africa and it was like night and day. We could finally see why this is considered one of the most beautiful countries in the world! We drove the Panorama route and in the morning headed to Blyde River Canyon which was breathtaking and made us really glad we decided to detour and see it (read: Moreno was glad he listened when I insisted we see it as it was barely out of the way and likely more beautiful than the photos :P).

The "Pinnacle" viewpoint was like looking down into a prehistoric world...
Especially with the morning fog, the “Pinnacle” viewpoint was like looking down into a prehistoric world…

Touring South Africa

Next up: We’re newly rejuvenated and ready to continue our two week ‘tour’ of South Africa. We’ll be heading through Johannesburg to pick up some stuff and then heading to the coast via the Drakensberg Mountains!

Driving the Panorama Route just before a gorgeous rainy sunset.
Driving the Panorama Route just before a gorgeous rainy sunset.

Week 12: Searching for a Beach Paradise

The twelfth week took us from the sick bed on Lake Malawi, through an interesting border crossing into Mozambique, and onto the rainy coast of Tofo.

Leaving Malawi

We were planning on leaving Lake Malawi right at the beginning of the week, but since Moreno fell ill, we knew we’d have to stay another day or so. Well, he did get better, but the next day, I caught a weaker version of the bug and it was my turn to spend the whole day in bed. (For those of you keeping track, the wife of the neighbor that was sick also got sick when I did…strange….We never did figure out what it was).

driving malawi
Driving up the deforested hills of Malawi.

Crossing into Mozambique

We arrived at the Mozambique border a bit hesitant: we weren’t sure about the safety of the roads or whether we’d actually be able to get a visa on arrival, as any guidebook we consulted or other traveler we asked had the same answer: “They don’t. Except sometimes they do.”

driving behind a truck
Children go to school and people are off to work in the early morning drive.

But everything seemed to be going good until I noticed that beside my photo on the visa, bold and in uppercase was MORENO’S full name. The BS and lack of formality in these places, I swear:

“Hi, sorry. This is his name. Not mine.” I walk up and politely point to the visa.

The official that clearly screwed up and forgot to change the name when he took my photo and printed my visa, stared at my passport for a few seconds, then asked to see Moreno’s (yup, that’s him), and then shuffled off to get his supervisor. The supervisor walked up.

“This is fine.” He said after a few seconds of pondering.

“Can you change it?” I ask, hesitant but still polite.

He shakes his head and looks deep in thought. “This is just how our computer works.” He lies.

“You cannot make a new one?” I don’t want to push, but I sure don’t want to take a chance with an incorrect visa.

“No.” He shakes his head. “That is how our system is.”

Right, so from hereonin, everyone that comes in a requests a visa will be named Moreno, till the end of time?

Moreno takes over as I start muttering under my breath. “That is a complete lie!”

“And if the police check, this will be ok?” Moreno asks. We had heard that the police are notorious for fining tourists for whatever they can.

“Yes, they see you together, it’s ok.” Uhhh…

“Can you just print up a new one? Unpeel this one, and stick a new one in?”

Moreno’s logic was just too much. The supervisor, looking defeated but hesitant, gets on the phone.

“My boss will be here soon. He will see. Take a seat.”

In the end, the boss came and disappeared into the back room where we had our photos taken to issue me a new visa like I expected them to do (a Western expectation perhaps) and they managed to peel off the incorrect one and stick in the new one, and that was that. *Phewf!*

Beaches of Bazaruto

boats in vilankulos
The turned over boats, slightly filthy water, and empty beaches of Vilankulos weren’t exactly what we expected paradise to look like.

By mid week, we were finally on the coast (and I’m happy to report we had no scary incidences and only got asked for a cold drink bribe twice). We got to the small town of Vilankulos, where our main task was to take a dhow (a wooden sailboat) around the Bazaruto Archipelago. And while the beaches in town lacked a bit of “come hither-ness,” the unspoiled islands were exactly the sort of beaches we were waiting for. We boated around (more on that later), swam and snorkeled, and came back very sunburned and very pleased.

Vilankulos

But Vilankulos isn’t known as a very safe town, at night anyway, and staying at the lodge we once again felt like we were in a guarded off compound (we technically were), so while the girl that was managing the lodge took us around the town a couple of times and we got to see it, we were ready to move on to somewhere we could actually enjoy.

ordering at casbah
Sarah orders from the menu board during one of our lunches out.

To Tofo

We arrived in Tofo, one of the three main beaches in the Inhambane peninsula and it seemed immediately to be what we were hoping for…with a small caveat: the weather had turned gloomy and no one was on the beach!

chalet view
The view from our chalet: since it’s not considered ‘right on the beach’ Moreno managed to talk the guy down to almost half price. Score!

What’s next: We hang out here for a few days and wait for the sun to come back out. We’ll go from there.