Lions, elephants, warthogs – the traffic jam you don’t want to avoid

Living on the other side of the world makes it a bit challenging when it comes to keeping in touch with your friends and family.

Even though there are many ways to communicate online today, one cannot fully explain in details the life and atmosphere in Africa, and especially in the case of such a big and diverse country like South Africa.

However, the last two months have been very busy: two groups of friends came over, and each time we spent about a week on safari in Kruger Park.

The second time I even got to practice my ranger skills as we mostly did self-drives and I have to say that it went much better than we expected: we managed to spot all animals from the Big Five (rhino, elephant, lion, leopard and buffalo) in one day!

This was the first and only time I saw the Big Five in one day for more than two years of living in Africa!

Yaaayy! Lekker!

Also, it’s also pretty amazing that my cute super low city car survived the whole experience without a single scratch! ( but driving an old pickup truck is the way to go really).

We mainly explored the area around Crocodile Bridge Gate, and this is also the area with the highest density of animals in the park. My friends got a bit confused after we saw the Big Five in their first safari ever and then it got a bit more difficult in the next few days – but each day was very different, and we had many amazing close encounters with different animals.

For a self-drive, the most popular morning safari route is Crocodile Bridge Gate to Lower Sabie – I definitely recommend it because it’s always easy to spot the animals and there is a high likelihood that you would see a whole herd of 30-40-50 elephants as you get to Sabie River, especially around noon.

The cats typically start hunting in the evening, eat until sunrise and then usually go to sleep.

Lions are relatively easy to find as many of them move in prides but leopards are really, really difficult to spot.

A small lion pride feeling lazy before the evening hunt.

Elephants, giraffes, buffaloes and sometimes rhinos like to stay close to the road, and you can even see them walking on the main roads – so it’s very important that you stick to the speed limits. The picture below shows a herd of elephants crossing the road on their way for a mud bath.

Spotted hyenas are also likely to stay close to the road.

This is a very pregnant hyena sunbathing on the road. I don’t know how many puppies she’s expecting but it looks like a big litter:

Staying in a tent is another useful safari tip: there are some very basic ones, as well as really beautiful luxury tented camps, but in both cases the tents have one big advantage: they are bug-proof! Now of course I’m sure a lot of girls would appreciate that, especially since it also keeps the mosquitoes away – pretty important as there are some malaria cases in Kruger Park.

Hearing the animals walking around your tent at night is also pretty exciting , as it is seeing a bunch of monkeys fighting on the roof of the tent. Or simply waking up from the roars of a lion.

The picture below shows a warthog mom looking for her babies. They’re not in my tent lady!

Danza de los Voladores – Dance of the Flying Men

I’m walking through the park on a sunny day in Mexico City, and what do I see – flying men!

Well, more precisely, four men climbing a 30-meter pole, then tying themselves with ropes and jumping off the top of the pole, while another man sets the pace of their air dance with his flute.

This is a popular ancient religious ritual in some parts of Mesoamerica, and it is a form of asking for rain from the gods.

Today, the Flying Men are especially popular in Veracruz, but you can probably see them most Mexican states.

No matter how much time you’ve spent exploring Mexico, there is always something new to learn about the local culture.

The county is divided into 32 states and all of them are completely different – each state has its own unique geography, history, traditions, and ethnicities.

I took this video next to Museo National de Antropología in Mexico City. They seem to be performing the ritual frequently, so make sure to look for them in case you are visiting the city, especially since the museum is, at least in my opinion, the best in the country.

The Friendly Ghosts of Mount Kōya

The Ichinohashi Bridge separates the world of the living from the underworld.

Thousands of lighted stone lanterns illuminate the path that leads to the mausoleum where Kobo Daishi, the founder of Koyasan, is resting in eternal meditation.

Most visitors choose to walk through the Okunoin, the largest cemetery in Japan, at night.

The weather in Mount Kōya is usually cold, humid, and misty – just perfect for a late night meeting with the ghost of an old samurai – or even maybe with Kobo Daishi himself.

Legend says that the monk chose to build a Buddhist temple in Koyasan after once meeting a hunter walking with a black and a white dog.

The hunter was actually the spirit of Mount Kōya and he gave him a permission to build a temple.

Today, there are 117 temples in Koyasan.

Although they were originally built to accommodate travelling monks, nowadays about a half of them are also open to tourists who wish to live the Buddhist monk life for a while.

They only serve vegan food and the meals generally consist of different types of tofu. Almost all restaurants in the town are 100% vegan, even the ice cream stores (expect tofu ice cream).

A good number of the monasteries have their own private onsen – the only option for a bath in many temples. Visitors are also expected to join the prayers at 5a.m. in the mornings – maybe it’s a good prevention from meeting evil spirits on the way to the mausoleum?

Although many people would definitely find the monk life to be quite tough, it is also a  beautiful one:

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Sailing the Ionian Sea

I grew up far away from the sea.

My parents were very overprotective but I guess that wasn’t enough to reshape my adventurous personality.

I’m an explorer at heart and so is Captain Fox who didn’t stop believing in me even for one moment (mainy due to the lack of more suitable candidates for the co-skipper position).

Carried by the wind and water, on a 34 ft Beneteau Oceanis, the two of us crossed the Ionian Sea, explored many of the islands and even conquered the mighty Ithaka – the kingdom of the ancient hero Odysseus.

This journey certainly required some sailing skills and a good amount of courage, so here I’m going to share our experience in navigating around this beautiful and legendary part of Greece.

Day 1

Vliho to Meganisi

We chartered the boat from Vliho Yacht Club. Vliho is a small but important bay on Lefkada Island and many people start their sailing holidays from this place.

Meganisi island is quite close to Lefkada but considering my limited sailing experience, we decided to take some baby steps until I managed to learn more.

The water was smooth and the wind was about 15 knots in the afternoon. One thing that makes Greece a sailing paradise is that the wind is very predictable – 1 to 5 pm is the ideal time because there’s almost no wind before noon but it gets too strong after 4.30.

We spent the night next to a village called Little Vathi – highly recommended!

Sleeping in the Desert 

Sometimes, you find yourself in the middle of nowhere and sometimes, in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself.

Four hours of driving and we passed only two very small towns on the way from Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, to the Namib Desert. 

We stopped in Solitaire – an interesting place known for its cars drowning in the sand.
I was seventeen when I went to Egypt and saw the desert for the first time: a million stars in the sky and I thought the sand came from another planet. Some nights I still wish I could go back to this moment just to feel it twice.

We don’t have the luxury of going back in time but this was a new and beautiful opportunity to experience something close to it and yet – so different.

Namib was incredible. I felt the same way again – smaller than nothing, standing in front of the old sand dunes.

I never really understood what was so special about the sunsets until I came to Africa – the sky here is just different and the horizon stands much lower.
We slept in a tented lodge and this is definitely one of my most memorable travel experiences ever.

A view through the window of the tent:


It was extremely cold at night and very windy – although it wasn’t supposed to be like that. 

The good thing is that the tent and the nets keep the incests away, so if you don’t want to share a bed with a scorpion, this is a great option (much better than a room but definitely not as comfortable in terms of temperature).


There are a few people living and working in the lodge and they were all very nice. The chef was taking his job seriously – the food was really delicious, the main specialty was Oryx – a type of antelope, huge and with big horns.

We also met Meowie – the local cat hero who fights scorpions and cobras. He was the cutest kitten ever and he had survived several poisonous attacks. He managed to sneak in one night and purr on the bed – I love cats, so that was a great surprise for me.


I believe Namibia could be a very interesting and beautiful honeymoon destination too, especially during the summer season (most of the year).
Don’t miss the sign Tropic of Capricorn on the way to Swakopmund – after all, there are only two tropics in the world 🙂

Namib Desert

I was thinking of the fox in the “Little Prince” as I was leaving the Namib Desert and there he was, right in front of me.He winked at me.

I saw many mirages that day but this wasn’t one of them. It was so surreal that I had to make sure I took enough photos.

You probably remember this part:

“So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near –

“Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.”

“It is your own fault,” said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you . . .”

“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

“But now you are going to cry!” said the little prince.

“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

“Then it has done you no good at all!”

“It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.”


It made so much sense in the desert – and it happened just as I was leaving Namib. In my previous post I mentioned that Namibia was a magical place.

One doesn’t go to the desert just like that. Most people prefer to go to Paris or Venice or a fly to a tropical island with white sand and turquoise water.

The desert is a special place where you are all by yourself and your inner demons; there you can set them free.

Have you ever felt the same way during some of your travels?

A VISIT TO THE MAGICIAN 

To me, Yucatán was another world.

 The people were not taller than a meter and a half, of native origin, and the women were wearing their hair in incredibly long and thick braids, and their clothes did not seem to have been influenced by the fashion trends outside of Yucatan.


I was still worried about my very limited Spanish, although most of the locals were speaking in Mayan, using Spanish only if it was absolutely necessary. 
We went in some of the local clothing stores and while señor Jonas bought a few traditional shirts, while I didn’t have the courage to actually wear a Mayan dress. I was definitely experiencing a culture shock because Yucatán is nothing like the other Mexican states and nothing like the film cliches about Mexico and the Mexicans.
We spent the rest of the evening under the fans in the nearby restaurant, the food was extremely hot and I tried to balance it out with something called agua fresca in Mexico.

There is everything in Yucatan – from the huge and rich haciendas to the very simple huts built with simple materials, but everywhere there is a sense of hope – because of the many young people living in the smallest and most remote villages and surely because of the sun and the heat , and because everything is painted in bright and warm colors.
The hacienda, which is next to Uxmal, offers an ancient setting, a lovely pool and a hammock under the thick shades of a gazebo made of palm trees.


Uxmal is just out of this world – they even had an Observatory that actually looks like a modern observatory!


The pyramid of the Magician is huge and it’s interesting how fit the shamans that had to climb it were. 

If you look up close, you’ll see come scary monster faces on the walls:

There is a very interesting legend about the Magician, he was a son of a local witch but he wanted to be a king, so he managed to kill the king by using magic and competing with him in difficult challenges until he managed to kill him… As most traditional Mexican stories, it’s not exactly about love, piece and humanity.

Nevertheless, an incredibly interesting and stunning place.