North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and Oceania · 63 Days · 86 Moments · June 2017

Catino family world adventure

19 August 2017

New Zealand video is up and running.
Mission accomplished! 33,349 miles, 63 days, 23 flights, 21 different beds, 7 countries, 3 continents, 1 life, No Regrets! Headed home!!!

17 August 2017

Auckland was great. Nice chill finally to a crazy adventure. What a summer 😎

16 August 2017

Zip lining on Waiheke island yesterday was awesome. A 30 minute high speed ferry ride away was a whole other experience- somewhere in between Vancouver and Martha's Vineyard. Our guide Sarah was great and the island setting was beautiful!

15 August 2017

In Rotorua to see the native Maori culture, geysers, and some crazy glow worm caves. The Maori show turned out to be very 'participatory' and we all ended up on stage! Maori seem to have a much happier story than most indigenous people and are fairly well integrated into society here. Pretty amazing scenery with rainbows on the way up to Auckland.
Hong Kong and Australia video is up and running here:

14 August 2017

Finally got a break in the weather and took a scenic flight down to the Milford fjords. Mya got to be copilot on the way home!

13 August 2017

A few chill days in Queenstown has been great. We rode the land luge, played mini golf, got terrified on the Shotover canyon jet boat ride, did some retail therapy ... and ate the famous Ferg Burger. Couldn't get anyone to bite on bungee jumping ... maybe next time.

10 August 2017

Skied Porters today and stole another sunny spring-like day. Mya fell off a dirt cliff to end the day! Keas are native parrots and I saw one in the parking lot.

9 August 2017

Skied at Mt Hutt today on soft springlike snow. It was all above tree line with great alpine skiing. Off piste was super and made for a great day! Had a bit of a sheep traffic jam on the way

8 August 2017

High Peak Heli was really awesome! The name is misleading because they are not a heli operator at all. They are a multigenerational farm that also does hunting and skiing trips. Simon Guild is the main guide for the ski touring and his brother-in-law Tom helps. (Tom used to be a professional big mountain skier who is now a bee keeper - go figure). Their 'lodge' is really just a house on a golf course near their family farm. Hillary was the chef and couldn't have been nicer. We also got to meet Kate, Simon's wife, their little kids, Pat and Polly, and their cocker spaniel, Remmy. On our one non-ski day we toured the family farm and saw the whole operation - 20,000 sheep and a thousand deer with one named MiMi who thinks she is a dog! In the end it was this great low-key, authentic visit with some super nice Kiwis! Great stay!

7 August 2017

Happpy birthday to me ... may have made a tragic mistake by taking the family heli skiing today! But, what a day we had! Yesterday was at the ski fields - Today we skied with these guys:

6 August 2017

First day of skiing today. What an experience. We went to Olympus, a local 'club field'. These are volunteer run little areas with rope toes that you need to use a 'nut cracker' device and a climbing harness to put yourself on and off the lift. The vibe is like MRG meets AMC hut. Very low key and member / family oriented. The members do everything from building it to running it. The single hut is the lodge, hotel, bar and cafeteria- w/ members doing everything! We were definitely the only non-locals but felt very welcomed. The road to get in is a crazy switch back - also maintained by the members. We skied with Simon and his brother in law Tom - both great skiers. Simon grew up going here so he knew all the members. Highlight was meeting local 'Derek' in the Container lodge (yes a little station made from a shipping container). He has a glass of whiskey with all new guests as they arrive - and then skis all day ... and remembers everyone's name! Total cartoon character

5 August 2017

Arrived in Christchurch New Zealand and got picked up at the airport by Simon Guild who runs a family farm business with 20,000 sheep ... and tours skiers in the winter. We had way too much gear for Simon's 'ute' (SUV) so we literally had to use our belts to strap the skis to the rack and Briggs ended up buried in the third row (as usual) Total family run business and all so nice. A couple of other guests from different countries are at the house with us. A Brit and Scotsman at the dinner table was good fun - but it turns out they all knew way more about our broken politics and Trump was a major topic. Hillary, our cook is aces and we couldn't be happier. Great vibe so far!

3 August 2017

Hike in the Blue Mountains, Fetherdale zoo and botanical gardens. Some clouds kept us from seeing the Three Sisters rock formations - but this is basically a green Grand Canyon that is 90 minutes outside of Sydney. Australia was superb. Their winter is lovely. Surry Hills was the perfect neighborhood for us. Looking forward to coming back here - this is a city we could totally spend a lot more time in. So sad to say goodbye to Meghan and John😢 it's been so fun touring Australia with them!!

2 August 2017

Sydney Bridge Climb today. Really fun adventure. Top of the bridge is nearly 500' above the harbor. John is a scared of heights- so pretty awesome that he did this with a smile. Perfect day for it!
Morning tea on Sydney harbor and lunch at Bondi Beach ;-)
In Sydney now for 5 nights. We are renting an apartment in Surry Hills neighborhood. It is fun being in an apartment and going to the supermarket for the first time in quite a while. Surry Hills is great - tons of fun shops right out the door! Great running city - Jess found a great loop down to the Opera house and botanical gardens. Great city! Jess and I have agreed that we could definitely live in Sydney!

30 July 2017

Nature tour of the mangroves and Dunk Island hike. Beautiful country here. No crocs today!

30 July 2017

Coral expedition boat. This really turned out great. I was really concerned after the rocky start - but it was great. I don't think we'll be 'cruise people' any time soon - but the staff was great - food was excellent and this was a phenomenal way to experience the Reef.
Snorkeling on Nathan Reef - amazing! Best yet 👍
First dive and snorkel on the reef. We are at Coates Reef and the water and coral are beautiful. The kids tried their hands at diving! They did great and made it down the rope and through the mask and regulator clearing drills. Pretty intimidating for a first go at diving - water was quite choppy on top and quite deep below!

28 July 2017

Snorkeling at Fitzroy Island was fun. I followed a large sea turtle for several minutes! Good to let everyone try their gear before the main event tomorrow. Dinner on the boat was great - fun having Meghan and John with us. Boat was rocking last night - you would not want to be prone to sea sickness here! #noescape
Video update link below Got into Cairns Australia yesterday morning. This is our launch spot for a few days out on the Great Barrier Reef. It is weird being back in the majority as a white english speaking person - I kind of miss the other. Being the minority certainly makes you less average - which is a plus in my book. No internet or cell out on the boat - so I'll leave you with our latest video. Spoiler alert - Jess eats two massive silk worms at the end .... mmmmmm 😳

26 July 2017

Leaving Asia after more than a month of travel here. It has been a great experience and met every expectation we had. Today we had our first 'down day' in longer than I can remember (not saying much based on my memory these days). I think everyone enjoyed the time. We have an overnight to Australia where we'll meet our San Fran friends Meghan and John for a down under adventure.

25 July 2017

Hiked the Dragon Trail today. So hot and humid - but great views and a decent breeze made it a fun day. There are 'wild cows' in the hills of Hong Kong. They belonged to the farmers who left them behind when they sold their land and became millionaires. We also made it back up to see the view over the city after being shut out on the 'typhoon day'. So glad we made the effort. Many buildings here don't have a floor 14 - in China 4 and 14 are bad luck . 13 is good luck here!

24 July 2017

We were down by the Star Ferry for sunset and to check out the sky line. We checked out the 'Lady Market' on the way home. This city feels like the old Blade Runner movie at night with all the lights and different people. Another example of how space is at such a premium here: the hallways of our hotel are so narrow that Briggs can spider crawl them and I can palm the ceiling. It is like being on a boat!
Since we haven't seen enough Buddhas on this trip- we went to go see a really big one today! Yesterday the city was on a Typhoon alert - and because insurance companies charge businesses more to operate when the warnings are present- the city was basically shut down- really strange. Today was much nicer and great to see some views. This is a very cool city because it is so mountainous here and it is on many different islands. Everything is built into landscape and connected in layers of modern bridges and tunnels. The city actually looks more modern from a distance. Outside of the financial district, many of the high rises are old government subsidized housing. There are 7.5M living here and it is one of the most expensive in the world - so most need help to get by. Our guide San and his wife both work so they don't qualify for assistance- they pay 40% of their income on a 450 sq/ft apt. Land here is worth so much that many formerly poor farmers are rich now after selling out.

22 July 2017

Hong Kong was only a two hour flight and one time zone from Da Nang, Vietnam. Since we arrived early we got in a quick hike around a reservoir created by Pineapple Damn. Just on the outskirts of Hong Kong it felt pretty remote. Definitely a locals get away spot from the city. Thought we might get some relief from the heat - no such luck. Our hotel is right downtown and literally on top of a massive mall. Talk about polar opposite of most all of our trip thus far. Looking forward to a few days here. San, our guide is great (even though he got lost on our hike today and ended up going 2x as far as planned).
Having a suntan in Vietnam is associated with being a poor farmer- so people here (even the poor farmers) where sweatshirts, gloves, hats and masks (even though it is 100 degrees with 100 humidity) to keep their skin as light as possible.

20 July 2017

Street food tour with 'Nancy'. Who is taller - Nancy or Jess? She was great - funny and engaging with us and the kids. She got us off the main streets and into the alleys of Hoi An. What a difference that makes in terms of having a better experience. We also ate some fantastic food at places we never would have found - or gone into without her. We ended the night by launching our wish lanterns into the river. I hope mine continues to come true ;-)
Cham island today. Had some good snorkeling and got a little sense of living out on these small islands about a 30 min boat ride off the main land.

19 July 2017

Fishing tour today. Great tour where we got to try three different types of local fishing techniques. The local guides were great and we all got to try our hand at it. HOT today - glad we got to retreat to the hotel this afternoon. We swam in the Eastern Vietnamese Sea today- great sand on the beach - clean clear water and the temp was about the same as the pool - warm enough for Jess! Our beach front is China Beach!

18 July 2017

Vespa tour around the little streets and alleys on the outskirts of Hoi An. We stopped to visit a family that makes rice crackers and another that weaves mats. Both operate out of their houses and only earn about $10 - $15 a day. Both multi-generational families were very nice and welcoming of us into their homes and businesses and showed us a little bit about their lives. True they get money from the tour company, but compared to visiting the Masai in Tanzania- this was a much more authentic experience. Maybe all the new food experimenting was not a good idea - Briggs got some stomach pains but seems to be better now after some iPad time and a gasx👍
When your kids knowingly and willingly eat pig brains and duck embryos - you know things are changing! Vy's market cooking class was a hoot. First we toured the local market with Bo. Nice kid who showed us all the local fruits and veggies. We have toured a bunch of markets now- but it never gets old to me. The mix of sights sounds smells people and commerce always makes it interesting. After we went back to the restaurant and we sampled some crazy items - pig ear, pig throat, pig brains, snails, frog, duck embryo and silk worms. Kids ate almost everything and Jess ate two huge worms! I got a really funny video! After, the head chef gave us a cooking class. We made spring rolls, veggie pancakes and a great grilled chicken and mango salad. We each had our own chef station and it was really fun!

17 July 2017

Had dinner on a bamboo raft after arriving in traditional basket boats. Pretty silly but fun. Dinner was great - kids and Jess have done a great job trying lots of new foods!
We got a great walking / boat tour of Hoi An - a beautiful UNESCO city. Mix of French, Vietnamese and Chinese architecture. Great shopping - we saw how silk is made and got fitted for some clothes! We had lunch of banh mi sandwiches from a place made famous by Anthony Bourdain.
Hoi An Tour with our new guide Vu. He is funny and laid back with solid English and has put us in the right track. Today we built lanterns to start the day. Not as easy as it looks - I had more glue on my fingers than anything else. It was a fun hands on activity - and we got to keep our sweet productions!

16 July 2017

After 30 days and 14 flights we have arrived in Vietnam (our 4th country) and checked into our 12th hotel! First impressions after landing in Da Nang is that it is modern, clean and bustling. Looking forward to this leg.

15 July 2017

Wow - busy day! Before wrapping up at the Phare Cambodian Circus we also got a family blessing from a Cambodian Buddhist monk and toured a local artesan school. The circus was really special- aside from having amazingly talented performers it also has an incredible philanthropic story to tell and the whole thing is set against the story of their recovery from civil war with the Khmer Rouge. All and all Siem Reap was great. Just the right mix of Lux, grit, chaos and order. We had a blast!
Boat trip to Tonle Sap river and lake - one of the largest in Southeast Asia. More than 700 families make their homes on the water to avoid buying land and paying taxes. They have built a whole ecosystem on the water with shops, schools, churches and even pool halls. They move their villages ten times a year based on the water level of the river. Amazing to ride through and get a glimpse of this lifestyle.
Started today with a ATV tour through the local roads and rice fields around Siem Reap. It was really cool - could have done that for another hour or two - just checking life here out. Briggs was pissed that he had to have someone on the back of his to 'supervise ' him .

14 July 2017

Uncle Thom City center - Bayon Temple. The 216 faces of all the Buddhas in this temple are what makes this temple special. Sonrya, our new guide, has this crazy kind of drunk Texan/ Australian accent. He talks loudly and out of the side of his mouth like the joker in batman ... but we like him just fine. He has a good personality and has a lot of knowledge.
Ta Prohm temples were our favorite because they are set in the jungle with moss and trees growing through them. It really feels ancient and mystical at these temples ... until the Chinese tourists with their selfie sticks and lack of spacial awareness show up ... moving on.
We arrived in Siem Reap Cambodia yesterday and ventured to Angkor Wat for sunrise this morning! It was a very early departure- but totally worth it. Some 5000 people visit this temple every day. Our guide 'Sunny' got us their early to beat the heat and the crowd. We brought breakfast from the hotel which was an advanced Chinese tourist evasive maneuver- since they all go back to their hotels for breakfast.
Tanzania video available for your consumption here: Thailand video available here: Enjoy!

12 July 2017

Snorkeling in Koh Tao - amazing! So wish we had a underwater camera. The water was so clear and the coral was healthy. This was as good or better than even Belize. The water is so salty that you can float effortlessly and the temperature was very nice. Tons of fish and really interesting terrain under the water. This was about 90 minutes off shore on a tiny little spot of land. After we booked we found out that this island has recently been named 'Death Island' because 7 tourists have gone missing or died there in the past couple of years. Of course I asked our captain if he ever lost any passengers and I felt good when he assured me he hadn't. That is responsible isn't it?

8 July 2017

Took our twelfth airplane flight of the trip from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui, an island in the Gulf of Thailand. We have 5 days to chill here. No more temple tours. Looking forward to being in one place for a few nights and being unscripted. This was a great few days. The Anantara here was nice and close to lots of stuff to do. We went Go Karting a few times - which were each adventures of their own. We also went jet skiing - did the adventure room escape and got a couple of massages. Funny story there - kids didn't really know that 'full body' meant their little butts too! Briggs turned 11 and had a great day - many friends and family called and he was surprised with a chocolate cake at the end of the night.
Thanks June and Tea - Chiang Mai was great - off to the beach!

7 July 2017

How about a foot pedicure by flesh eating fish? Relaxing? Maybe not - but definitely funny 😂 This was at the night market near our hotel. Jess got scolded for screaming and taking her feet out of the water ... the owner thought she was discouraging potential customers!
Elephant riding - wow that was a lot more intense than we planned. We thought we were going to feed some elephants - we ended up feeding, petting, cleaning, riding and bathing them! The ride must have been a mile through the jungle. No saddle - just knees on top of their ears. We wore these poncho like shirts that smelled like elephant to help us 'bond' and pants to help keep us clean while riding them. Did you know that elephants spend 80% of their waking hours eating - and that it only takes them 2 hours to digest and pass what they eat? This makes their poop really clean - smells like grass and in a pinch you can squeeze it and drink the liquid from it to survive. This is why we were told to 'feel good' about washing them in a pond filled with their own excrement while they blasted us with that same water from their trunks. Things that make you go hmmmm ... It would have been nice to have a place to properly wash our hands prior to the jungle lunch!

6 July 2017

Padong Karen village visit- long neck tribe who are refugees from Burma. Still not sure how I feel about this? Kind of like the Masai ... where you pay money to see this village - but the whole thing is contrived and lacks any real impact. Kind of like going to see a tiger in a small cage ... it really takes away from the beauty or uniqueness of what you're hoping to see. However, the guy who set this up has created a sanctuary for them to escape ethnic cleansing happening in Myanmar. They have a safe place and their willingness to put themselves on display pays for them to continue to have a safe place. Meanwhile the kids are being educated and the men leave during the day for laborer jobs in the city. Same story over again - parents working as hard and best they know how to create a better life for their kids. Much like the Masai - staying in the culture (women stretching their necks and legs) - is an option now and many of the youth are opting for a mainstream life.
Morning rickshaw ride through the street markets of Chiangmai. Don is a bit large for the rickshaw - the guy who got to pedal Don definitely drew the short straw! White elephant temple that overlooks the city from 3,500 feet. All of these temples have been cool - but we have reached total temple saturation at this point.

5 July 2017

River dinner cruise tonight from the Tati Lanna hotel. Our guide here is June - nice guy but a bit of a nerd I think. Unlike Siddhi, June can not pick up on the fact we have information overload. June almost seems nervous for us - but I think he just wants to do a really good job by showing us how much he knows. He brought us over to the dinner cruise and seemed despondent when we left the dock w/o him. For a second I thought he might do a Forest Gump and jump off the dock and swim after us. What was I saying about not judging people? I guess I'm still a horrible person. Good thing we still have a lot of trip in front of us so that I can find myself 😳
Said goodbye Siddhi and Tiger in Bangkok and made the 700 km trip north to Chiang Mai. We checked into a cool new place on the river and near the night market - should be cool.

4 July 2017

Fancy dinner at the Blue Elephant for our last meal in Bangkok! It was a 12 course affair in a private room where the chef cooked right in front of us! All and all our Bangkok visit far surpassed our expectations. Most people we knew that had been didn't have it in very high regard - but we found it quite nice. Maybe because we were coming from Africa - Bangkok seemed like an amazing, clean, energetic and modern version of New York. We had heard about a Bangkok that was hot tangled mess of traffic, people, animals, human trafficking and sex shows on dingy narrow streets. What we found was a orderly, friendly cosmopolitan metropolis that had a lot to offer. We all could have happily spent a few more days there.
Floating market today - super fun and delicious! Sadly this is a dying tradition that the new generation does not have the patience for. Today this is largely ceremonial for domestic and international tourists. Still very interesting and tasty. Our guide knew the best vendors and we had banana fritters, pork noodle bowl and mangos with sticky coconut rice! Happy 4th of July from Bangkok :-) Siddhi, has really made Bankok great for us. He is really funny and gets along well with us and the kids. He was a history teacher for 25 years before becoming a guide - so he could talk all day - but he had a great read on our crew and would move right along when he sensed us glazing over. He is always right on the edge of picking on the king or the lady boys or Chinese tourists - but always did it in a very innocent way that he got away with it ... and we laughed.

3 July 2017

Temple tour and Thai lunch. Saw the jade Buddha, reclining Buddha and the Grand Palace. Super hot walking around. Lots of Chinese tourists. Used the river for transport and enjoyed an authentic Thai lunch ... yum!

2 July 2017

China town tour and street food dinner - fun scene... (cockroaches notwithstanding) Did you know that Thailand has a king? Longest standing monarchy in the world. Not just ceremonial either - they have withstood 35 separate coup attempts and just saying something negative about the king can land you in jail with higher penalties than murder! The king has graciously appointed the whole city with huge pictures of himself and his family so that you don't forget how wonderful he is. Sort of reminiscent of the Kim Jong Un we saw in a less intense way. Other than the king there are about 500 other families that control everything in the country- including the press. Outside looking in it seems super nice, clean, modern and happily organized. We really liked it.
Checking into the Banyon Tree hotel in downtown Bangkok with a questionable mocktail. It is fun being in a major urban environment again. Lots to see here.
Our journey from Africa to Asia commenced with a two hour ferry ride from Zanzibar to the mainland. We knew we were in trouble when we were given a barf bag upon boarding the boat. A very long 2 hours with the sound, sight and smell of everyone barfing around us. Miserable. We arrived in Bangkok after another overnight flight and 4 more time zones! First impressions from the airplane window is that we are clearly not in dry dusty and struggling Dar Es Salaam any longer. We ended up having to get yellow fever shots in the airport because we were coming from Tanzania. We had great help in the airport and our new guide Siddhi 'citi' speaks great English.

1 July 2017

See ya Africa - Nairobi to Bangkok here we go!

30 June 2017

Stone Town tour with our guide Khamis (hamese). A couple hours walking around seeing the sites. The local market was by far the most interesting part. The fish market blew our minds - the thick crowd, the heat, the crazy variety fish ... and fish 'parts', the lack of ice, the dirt, the flies, the dirty hands and bare feet, the ancient stalls and in it all - total mad commerce happening. I hope my fish last night didn't come from here!

29 June 2017

Our hotel here is in a killer location. Situated on the beach on a small little peninsula we can watch the fishing boats come in and out and a never ending parade of people pass by. The water is warm and clean with locals and tourists swimming around. There is not a lot of beach here in Stone Town and this has public access so there is an incredible mix of tourists from all over the world and locals. Zanzibar is a big vacation spot for the local Tanzania people too - so it is fun seeing everyone all mixed together. The people of Tanzania have been so nice in every place we have been.
Stone Town, Zanzibar. Friendly people and fabulous, colorful attire. The island is 85% Muslim and we arrived just as Ramadan ended so the streets were alive and full of happy energy.
Drive from KonaKona back to Stone Town is so amazing- feels very foreign and very exciting! I feel like I could have just sat in a chair on the side of this road all day long ... it was impossible to soak it all in from the window of our van. We've never been in a mostly Muslim place before. This is a whole new kind of minority experience for us and one that has been very pleasant.
Spice tour with Mohammad on our way back to Stone Town. We drank coconut water and sampled cinnamon, turmeric, lemon grass, nutmeg, cardimon, vanilla and coffee. This is one of those things I thought was going to be lame - but turned out to be great. The guys who worked there were really nice and made the whole thing really fun. Even the grass hats were funny - I think I'm finally starting to settle in. A great reminder for me to withhold my judgement of events and people until they have had a chance. This was fun.

25 June 2017

Arrived at the beach in Zanzibar! This is a welcome change from the safari and the kids and Jess and I are psyched. We are out in the eastern side of the island about 40 minutes from Stone Town. The drive from the airport out here was really cool. Virtually all Muslim here - really exotic feeling! Our Guides name is Muhammad- nice younger guy, but his English is pretty weak so it is hard to get too much information - but we are here to chill for a couple of days so we'll be just fine. We swam in the Indian Ocean today - a first for everyone! It was nice and warm and the beach here has the softest, whitest and powdery sand I've ever put my feet in. Ally is the hotel concierge and was super nice ... even though he threw Briggs in the pool ;-) The pool here was great and both of the kids spent a ton of time swimming. The kids are settling in and are happy that we are making progress on our trip. Doing this was a big deal for them - one that they were no too psyched about.
Headed out on our last day of safari with Edwin. Great day - we got so close to dozens of lions and giraffes. Tons of wildebeest, zebra, hyena, gazelle, buzzards, buffalo, ostrich too. Different in the Serengeti than the crater but equally cool - the wildebeest are here in incredible numbers. There are over 2 million of them! Edwin continued to be a great guide and a really nice person. We had dinner with him on our last night an it was nice to give him our full appreciation. He really does love his job - after many years doing this he still has his phone out snapping pictures right with us!

24 June 2017

Serena tent camp is great. Big change from the hotels - but super cool. We are rooming boys and girls in two separate tents. Tents have power, hot water and full bath. Everything here is fashioned after original colonial safari. Dinners are served in a dining tent and are formal multi course affairs including sorbet palette cleanses. Food has been great and everyone's stomachs are doing well so far. Great pool here that is actually warm enough to swim in - even Jess went in! Briggs smashed his toe - thought it was going to be an issue - but it healed nicely. The wildebeest are on migration here and they make a noise similar to a bullfrog- just a lot louder. Between them and all the other animals it is a cacophony of sound here at night.
Headed out to the Serena tented camp site in prep for our last day of safari. Saw a leopard up in an acacia tree with the remainder of his gazelle lunch. Trip was only 100 miles - but on bumpy dusty 'roads' - it was a long 5 hours! We entered the Serengeti! Incredible how bountiful the wildlife is ... animals out the window for virtually the entire trip. We could also see Masai encampments here and there with their young children out tending and driving their livestock from one place to the next. The Masai kid in this picture was pissed that I'd only give him a dollar for his photo. Nzungo - is the 'white man' in Swahili and some of these young Masai work every jeep they see. Sort of sad to see that they can make more money doing that rather than their traditional lifestyles- it is eroding their values and diminishing the desire for many young Masai to stay in their villages.

23 June 2017

Hot air ballon ride this morning with Serengeti Balloons! So much fun - except the 4:00 am wake up call. Got there at sunrise for an hour flight followed by champagne and a full English breakfast served in the field. Captain Shawn, from Canada, was our pilot and he did an amazing job! Very peaceful experience- the pilots can guide the balloons to within inches of the tree tops! Saw a lioness with two cubs :-). None of us had ever done this before and it really was awesome. Watching the sun come up over the Serengeti was something to behold. The Balloons themselves were pretty simple. We had 12 people plus the pilot in our basket. You are roped in so you can't fall out. Take off happens with the basket on its side- so you have to climb into your spot. The burners are super loud - but once going it is really quiet. Great experience

22 June 2017

OMG - People are so incredibly nice here! Karibu means welcome in Swahili. Briggs brought a soccer ball with him and it seems to be the international peace sign. It always starts conversations and makes a common bond. A kid from NH and a guy from Tanzania arguing who is the best football team's in England and Spain! This hotel built a watering hole right below the pool so you can literally 'game watch' while swimming and lounging - fun for everyone! Still over 4000 ft here - hot in the sun but cold at night. That pool is pretty 'refreshing ' to say the least- but the first one I've been able to get in past my ankles.
Headed to the Serengeti today and toured a Masai village along the way. Interesting experience for our kids - especially being able to go inside one of their tiny dung covered huts and to see the 'school'. This nomadic lifestyle is not easy. They build small huts because they are in the move to keep fresh grass and water for their cattle. The Masai send one child to school in the hopes of a better life - but need the others to help with the daily work that it takes to survive here. As cool as this was it was hard not to feel a little sad about the noble Masai people selling out to tourists. This village uses the money earned and shares with all of the Masai in this area. This allows them to buy corn instead of harvesting their own and has made their lives a lot easier. Still, no power, no lights, no refrigerator, no running water. This is hard living - we are a long way from Rye.

21 June 2017

Safari day- Ngorongoro Crater. Edwin our guide is the man! We saw the entire big five (buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard (only one we were not super close to and don't have good pics of) and rhino (the rarest here)). There are tons of jeeps in the crater but it is so huge that we all seem to have our space. They do share info on the radio so sometimes when the rhino or leopards are spotted it can get a little busy. Our only cameras are our phones. We made the choice not to lug a big SLR and so far so good. Edwin knows where to find the animals and how to maneuver the jeep so that we are always in a great spot anytime their are a bunch of jeeps.

20 June 2017

Checked in at Sopa Lodge on the rim of the Ngora Crater. Amazing location @ almost 7000 ft in the middle of nowhere. Safari tomorrow! All of these lodges are on generators - but still have satellite WiFi. This place only has hot water for a couple of hours each day and the wifi is jammed with everyone doing the same thing I am. Is this roughing it? It is cold here!
Edwin our guide is a super nice guy. His English is great and he really has a passion for his job. We spend a lot of time with him in the jeep and are getting to know him ... and the fact that as different as he is in his upbringing and life in Tanzania- much remains the same. He works hard and so does his wife as a hair dresser. They have a young son that they want to provide a better life to. He showed us their wedding pictures and told us about his plans for an upcoming honeymoon... in so many basic ways ... we are all the same. Today, Edwin took us shopping on the way to Sopa Lodge. We shipped some cool things home and got to watch the woodcarvers do their thing. All the lodges supply box lunches for the road - not a lot of places to eat during the day when you are out and about. We ate ours at a popular 'safari pit stop'. Lots of Khaki going on here - much of it too tight. The lodge is located at 7000 feet on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater. Glad we brought jackets

19 June 2017

Checked into Plantation Lodge - awesome 👍. What a great place super nice staff and fantastic food. Met a nice family from San Jose at the pool and the kids played together for a while. Nice for our kids to see that we are not the only crazy parents. Interesting note - All around the country we see partially built homes. Usually just walls - no roof. We asked, and found out that since locals don't trust the banks so much and don't have the money to build a house all at once - they build them in phases. This process can take many years - so many of the houses that have only walls - look like ruins with trees growing up through them and covered in vegetation.
Chilling in Arusha - dirt strip airfield - last flight for a week. Looking forward to safari!
Dar Es Salaam to Zanzibar to Arusha to Lake Manyara today. .
Tanzania's capital city international airport isn't much to speak of. The ride out to the airport from city center was wild. Right at rush hour on Monday morning. A mad crush of insanely packed buses - scooters - bikes and pedestrians. Hardly any traffic lights and seemingly no rules. Dirty - dusty and pretty broken looking. The fact that we are in the very tiny minority as white English speakers is really weird - coming from NH. Good to have some perspective from the other side - I think this is a great and healthy experience for our whole family.

18 June 2017

Arrived in Dar after 24 hours of travel. Dar is certainly a 3rd world country and that set in with the kids as they watched out the windows of our van. This is a gritty place - classic developing country with a beautiful new building with cows out front and right next to a hair salon in a freight container. When we pulled into hotel we could feel the kids' relief as we entered in through their gates. Looking forward to a shower.
... getting there. Just landed in Kilimanjaro. One more hop to Dar!
Arrived in Amsterdam this morning after a very nice flight. Flying in high style - it was nice to see the kids smile - they were pretty sad leaving home.

17 June 2017

See ya Rye, NH
63 days in 7 countries / 3 continents - around the world we go!