Our early 2013 travels got our "countries visited" list to over 100. Our last trip of the year was a safari to back to favorite places.
We went to three new countries and visited friends across the country and on the other side of the world.
When we tell people where we're going, they say, "That's the trip of a lifetime."
We think all of our trips,
big and small
are trips of a lifetime.
We want to help you take your trip of a lifetime too...
...that's why we have all those pages on planning tips and packing tips and travel tips.
We almost think of our travels as retirement jobs!
We KNOW we go to more places every year than most people do. We KNOW we're lucky... but we work at it too. We hope that stories like these about our 2013 travels... and last year and the year before will inspire you... get you out into your own wonderful world adventure.
Just so you know...
Click on any of our photos...
That starts a slide show for larger photos and more stories...
Last year we said we had been to 100 counties if you counted the USA...
Well, now we've visited over 100 countries. 102 by our count.
We'll still be exploring new countries, but some old favorites deserve re-exploring... and we did a bit of that this year too.
And of course, we did manage to see a few antique airplanes so we'd have something for our sister site Antique-Airplanes.com.
OK… Let's get to the details of our 2013 travels for MouseTours…
Friends in Lower Alabama were the reason for this quick trip. We saw Gulf Shores during our visit, and we revisited the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola.
Our 2013 travels took us to visit a friend in Phoenix again too. We make this an opportunity to catch a Spring Training baseball game.
There were also antique airplanes to see... the Commemorative Air Force's B-29 "Fifi" was touring the area.
After we saw her, we made our way down to Casa Grande for their Cactus Fly-in. (You know, air show food usually isn't too good, but I picked up a great cole-slaw recipe there! Wonders never cease!)
This was the trip that put us at 100 countries visited.
We have friends who have family in Montevideo, and a little house there... AND as luck would have it, they were there for the week that we were. We stayed with them one night, then we explored the coast, stopping in the little beach town of Piriapolis.
There was also an unique hotel that Mark wanted to visit.
So, we headed to Punta del Este and stayed at the Casa Pueblo Hotel.
When I try to describe this place, I say it looks like a cross between a Greek Island village and the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
No two rooms are alike, and there are few straight lines in the whole hotel.
It was a bit of a splurge, but a fun birthday treat.
For our winemaking friends... yes, we tried the local Tannat wine. An interesting varietal.
Two more new countries... These two countries have the distinction of being the least visited countries in Central America. That could be because of their recent tumultuous history. But in spite of that, both counties are full of little adventures.
We visited Mayan ruins and pretty little cities. We saw LOTS of volcanos... ran down one and hiked in others. We visited plantations that grew cashews and coffee and cacao. We rode horses, kayaked, and boated on coastal estuaries. We boated on thermal lakes next to more volcanos too.
I still need to write a page about our unusual border crossing.
El Salvador and Nicaragua do not share a border.
Our guides arranged for us to make the transfer by boat.... across the Gulf of Fonseca.
All I'll say now is that the boat was smaller than I envisioned for this crossing...
...And it was the first time we've ever cleared customs in bathing suits and flip flops!
We arranged a private tour which made us feel very safe, and it was all done at a reasonable price. Read more at Nicaragua and El Salvador. Remember to click on any of the photos there to start a slide show.
This was the biggest trip of our 2013 travels... at least it was the most expensive! That's one thing to remember when you plan a trip there... Africa is expensive.
We'd been to all of these counties before, but some were a long time ago... and we love safaris and seeing all those amazing critters. We spent a couple of days in Johannesburg to get over jet lag and try to reconnect with friends in Africa.
We took 4 days at Shindzela Tented Camp in Timbavati Private Reserve next to Kruger NP. Many of the animals had moved into the park closer to water, but we did see lots of elephants, a lion pride with a young cub, and we got close enough to a cheetah mom and her nearly grown cub to hear them purring…. and that's pretty close!
Oh, and I should mention the black mamba that we nearly ran over!
I'm always telling people that you don't need to worry about snakes and bugs in Africa because you don't see that many…
But that black mamba… well, let's just say, I'm glad we were in the vehicle!
Then we flew to Victoria Falls and began a 15 day safari that started in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.
Lots and lots of elephants at the waterhole in front of our tents...
Zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, sable antelope, and buffalo too (to mention just some of the critters visiting that waterhole).
The last morning was electric as we woke to mayhem…
Lots of bellowing and a thundering herd of Cape Buffalo…
Then the camp staff banging on the door saying, "Lion kill across the water hole."
No wonder the buffalo were stampeding.
Drove on into Botswana to see the Nata Pan area. It was at an unlikely, scruffy water hole with lots of elephant that we saw Wild Dog. For a video that our guide shot of that encounter, check our MouseToursTravels Facebook page. Watch this young elephant chasing the Wild Dogs off. (Those videos were posted in early December, 2013, so you might have to scroll down.)
Lots of our friends asked if the wild dogs look like hyenas… not really. A couple of photos to compare them…
Then we were off on a big driving circle around the Okavango Delta... Started with good game viewing in the Khwai River area and Moremi NP. Got onto the water at Nguma Island in the heart of the Okavango. Then we drove around to the panhandle where we stayed in Namibia. Finally we drove across the Caprivi Strip and back into Botswana for a couple of nights in Chobe NP.
It was early in the season for babies, but we did see some.
And my favorite...
When I say "we drove" what I really mean is that our guide drove. While self-drive is possible, I wouldn't try it… mostly because those guides have the most amazing eyesight for finding all the critters… plus they all share information for the best possible sightings.
We ended our safari by crossing back into Zimbabwe and to Vic Falls to actually see the falls and repack to get home.
Collecting passport stamps could just as easily have applied to this trip as we drove back and forth across several borders in this last adventure of our 2013 travels.
Brooklyn really, to visit with travel buddies.
They took us on a walk along the High Line Park and the Brooklyn Bridge Park on a beautiful fall day... quite a difference from Africa, but fun all the same.
We're hardly recovered from our 2013 travels, but we're starting to research new adventures for next year. Will it be an adventure to new countries? The Silk Road? The Congo Basin? Visiting new corners of counties we've been to?
We haven't settled on or excluded anything yet. Check back.
For past adventures see our previous stories... you can find them in Travels Through the years up on the right column, or just search around. Inspired by our 2013 travels? Past, present or future, we're always hoping to give you ideas and encouragement.