In route to Cuba, and throughout the planning process for the trip, there is some anxiety, mixed with the usual excitement that surrounds traveling internationally. On trips like these I’m never the primary planner – I’m a secondary planner, at best, and don’t mind the random meandering and tripping over the most amazing local restaurants. Occasionally I threaten to hire someone to book all of the accommodations, side trips and excursions!
Some of the countries I’ve visited are heavily, and regularly, traveled by US Citizens (e.g. Mexico and Canada). Knowing where to go, finding out what experiences are not to be missed, and how to find the most delicious and authentic food greatly enhances a trip. Other countries I’ve explored are more foreign to American tourists (e.g. Morocco, Thailand and Cuba). The culture, language and customs are so different that every moment is a brand new experience, an adventure!
Call it whatever you like . . . a Wish List . . . a “Bucket List” . . . or just the daydream that keeps popping into your head when you need a distraction. . .
Exploring the culture, diversity and natural beauty of Africa is absolutely on my list! It seems like an adventure I’d better have while I’m young, and can get around on dirt roads, walking long distances. I’ve been to Morocco, (https://kathleenodowd.wordpress.com/2016/12/06/in-search-of-community-lost-in-your-travels-dont-forget-look-toward-home/), but there is so much more to see!
Right now it feels like the universe is conspiring, and telling me to go back to Africa, sooner rather than later. A surprising number of my friends have visited recently, for work, charitable projects & personal adventure. Others have made a point to bring parts of African culture into their homes.
A cycling buddy, industrial engineer, and professor at OSU shares photos of landscapes that look as though they are stretching to see if there is more room to occupy. There are startlingly blue skies, and a mother and daughter walking hand-in-hand wearing light & airy, brightly colored dresses down to their ankles. Outdoor markets and street vendors are the norm.
There’s a lot of foot traffic on the roads. Large parcels, tied in colorful cloth bundles, balance atop a young woman’s head as she makes her way home – it’s the most economical means of transport! This is a place where something as simple as a bicycle can make the difference between an education and child labor.
My friend, and her amazing family, has put heart and soul into making a difference. They are the founders of Tour de H2O, a bicycle ride with the aim of raising enough money to invest in important projects to bring water to those in Africa who would otherwise spend half a day transporting it back and forth from the local source.
I’ve ridden in this ride for the last 3 years, including the 35 and 62 mile routes. I’ve grumbled every time because of the steep hill we have to ascend in order to make it back to the starting point. But it’s worth it, for all the good this charity does. Please consider donating to Tour de H2O! I commit to riding again in 2017. (http://www.tourdeh2o.org/Pages/default.aspx)
Traditional African food brings riders together at the end of the route, catered by Medina restaurant. Another dear friend of mine has recently taken it upon himself to learn a few techniques of African cooking. He welcomed his daughter’s boyfriend to their Thanksgiving feast by preparing a favorite comfort food from Togo, called Fufu. Food brings people together, creates a way to share flavors and experiences, and demonstrates love.
His daughter’s suitor, who is from Western Africa, knew a thing or two about Fufu, and took a hand in assisting in its preparation. (He may have been the instructor, in the end.) Special ingredients were bought, special techniques employed, and a taste of home was recreated. See below for a link to a recipe, and explore the Congo Cookbook.
I’ve had a friend take her family on an African safari, and when the leader of the pack is a photo enthusiast the family vacation moves at the speed of the shutter. Another friend chose South Africa as the place to celebrate her 50th birthday, and relished every moment of the three weeks she was there.
From the John Glenn Columbus International Airport she headed to Gaborone, Botswana. It’s a place where you might eat worms, or find a waterfall, with a rainbow forming a brilliant arch overhead. She traveled to Botswana, Zambia, Kazungula, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. She rode a Bike just because she could, and made it a tour in Cape Town, South Africa!
She wrote to her friends back home: “SO not ready to end this AMAZING vacation tomorrow! I have fallen in love with this continent and now must figure out how to see more of it in the near future! In lieu of the Columbus Tweed Ride which I missed yesterday, I rode a bike through the streets of Soweto today! Such an awesome day, and we even parked our bikes in a bar and stopped for a beer, just like at home :)!!!” 11/20/16
From picnicking with the monkeys, to tracking rhinos and running into giraffes, zebras, impala, kudu, baboons, and ostriches along the way, it was a trip of a lifetime. The highlight, she says, was watching the dung beetles!
Visiting Morocco managed to sprinkle a bit of sand in my hair, and I look forward to returning to Africa to explore the rest of this amazing part of the world.
Join me on my next adventure!
The Congo Cookbook: http://www.congocookbook.com/index.html
Tour de H2O: http://www.tourdeh2o.org/Pages/default.aspx