Visions of Zanzibar

Just hearing about Zanzibar evokes visions of an exotic bustling city with winding streets packed with houses, spice markets, bazaars, and mosques with a fusion of cultures and people. We were quite unprepared for Zanzibar, having done virtually zero research. We arrived with no cash and no idea how to get to our hotel! The official taxi cab stand had reasonable rates to Stone Town, the main city on Zanzibar, and so once we had exchanged more USD for a couple hundred thousand Tanzanian Shillings (we felt super rich with all those 000’s!) we were on our way.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Tembo Hotel

 

The Tembo House Hotel is one of the few hotels in Stone Town that offers beach access but also is right in the heart of the city. Wasting no time once we arrived, we were off to explore the city!

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Stone Town is an important historical and artistic city for Eastern Africa due to its diverse mixture of influencing cultures from Arab, Persian, Indian, European, and local Swahili. But don’t just take our word for it. This has led the city to reach UNESCO World Heritage status for it’s ‘outstanding material manifestation of cultural fusion and harmonization.’

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar - St. Joseph Cathedral

 

Visions of Zanzibar - St. Joseph Cathedral

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

The majestic House of Wonders, a former palace of the Sultan of Zanzibar, Bait As-Sahel, another former palace, and the Old Fort, built by the Omani Arabs over 300 years ago when they expelled the Portuguese, stand proudly facing the harbor, though are many decades past their prime, which adds to the unique appeal of the city.

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

After meandering our way through some of the narrow streets we found ourselves back at our hotel, where we cooled off enjoying the luxury of air conditioning compared to our safari tent (read about our safari experience here and here)!

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Feeling luxurious, we walked next door to the beautiful Park Hyatt Zanzibar for drinks and dinner, with another incredible sunset view.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Park Hyatt Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset at Park Hyatt Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset at Park Hyatt Zanzibar

 

The beach seemed to come to life at sundown and was full with fishermand and tourist boats coming back to shore (and taking the boat motor with them), as well as kids playing and swimming.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset

 

For our next day we had visions of taking a boat to nearby Prison Island, or complete a spice tour at one of the many spice farms on the island, however, the weather had other stories.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Tembo Hotel

 

A couple of thunderstorms came rolling through Stone Town during the first half of the day so we instead decided to relax in our hotel room and around the pool – with our trip so far being pretty jam-packed (you can read about our safari here and here) this was our day to sit back and relax, especially through the heat of the afternoon sun.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Tembo Hotel

 

We still managed to spend a few hours wandering around the hotel and the beach right out front once the storms had passed.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

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Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 


 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

In the early evening we ventured back out to explore the streets, finding the Darajani Market which was chaotic...

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Streets of Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Streets of Stone Town

 

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Visions of Zanzibar - Streets of Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Streets of Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Streets of Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Streets of Stone Town

 

... and full of some the best smells (think local cinnamon, cardamom, and currys) ...

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Market in Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Market in Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Market in Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Market in Stone Town

 

... and worst smells (think of raw fish, raw meat, and rotting vegetables) all combined into one bombardment of the senses.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Market in Stone Town

 

We spent dinner at Lukmann Restaurant, which we can highly recommend. They have a massive selection of local fare for a reasonable price, and the place was full of both tourists and locals alike, eating like it was their last meal.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Stone Town at Night

 

Haggling or bartering is not exactly our speciality, but we were getting better throughout the trip. Talking to a Danish couple at our hotel that used to live on Zanzibar, we soon realized we had been duped at the airport two days before! The ‘Official Taxi Prices’ listed, 30,000 Shilling, there were about double what the going rate should be if you can barter appropriately. We are ashamed to admit our mistake and naivety at paying the listed price. We learned our lesson though and drove a hard bargain with a talkative taxi driver, getting him down to half of what we paid from the airport.

Tip: A cab ride from downtown Stone Town to the airport is about 10,000 - 15,000 Shilling. If you arrive in Zanzibar and are being quoted 30,000 Shilling to get to downtown, mention that you got it for 10,000 Shilling last time (or your friend got that price) and the drivers will likely meet you at 15,000 Shilling. 

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

We absolutely loved Stone Town.  There is a very unique blend of Arab, Moorish, English, and African architecture with grand buildings and décor all in various states of disrepair.  The streets are tiny, and crisscross the city in no discernable pattern, but Stone Town is small enough that you can walk until you are lost but can’t really get more than 20 minutes off course. The people are friendly and talkative, and the streets are full of energy.  We can highly recommend spending a few days in Stone Town, and will definitely be doing so again when we return to explore the rest of the island of Zanzibar. Have you been to Zanzibar? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments below!

 

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2018: A Year in Review

Ah 2018. Another year of travel in the books with a number of firsts along the way. Looking back at the very beginning of 2018, we had no idea the experiences we would have and the new places we would visit. No doubt the year went by fast, however if you take the time to sit back and reflect on what you have accomplished and experienced, it makes the year seem more meaningful and richer than just living day to day. Without further ado, here was our 2018:

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

As an avid avgeek, I use OpenFlights to track all of our flights, which comes in handy when you need to look back at where you’ve been. 2018 was our most travelled yet, as we travelled to new countries, new continents, and marched futher towards our goal of visiting all 50 US states. Both working in finance, we love some great statistics, so here we go:

Miles flown: 124, 261 over 88 separate flights (full disclosure, this does include about 25,000 miles flown for work)

Time flying: 12 days, 4 hours, and 9 minutes

Longest flight: 6,529 mile San Francisco to Auckland, NZ

Shortest flight: 24 miles Stiegler’s Gorge Airstrip to Mtemere Airstrip in Tanzania

Countries visited: 12

New countries visited: 2

US states visited: 27 (+5 Canadian provinces!)

New US states visited: 10 (+4 Canadian provinces!)

 

Kyle’s Favourite Trip

 

For a number of years I had been dreaming of doing a camping trip through the San Juan mountains of Colorado, and completing the famous Alpine Loop, which you can read about here and here.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

This past August we made the long trek from Chicago out to Colorado and were able to complete that dream. The high alpine views were spectacular and better than I had imagined.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

We also experienced the Great Sand Dunes, which you can read about our scary first night tenting here and Denver (read about our day in Denver here) on that trip and had an absolute blast!

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

Bettina’s Favourite Trip

 

Although we were only in Cancun for less than 48 hours, it was the most relaxing trip all year (get my full review here).

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

Having heard other people rave about Mexico and the temperature in Chicago still freezing cold in April, I couldn’t wait to spend some time at the beach and enjoy the sun.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

Staying at the Westin Resort & Spa, Cancun, the trip was everything you could imagine – pristine beaches, warm water, a beautiful pool area, and more guacamole and chips that I could eat.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

Should winter be just as long as last year, we might escape to Mexico for a weekend again!

 

Other Highlights

 

Tanzania

One of our most recent, and most exotic, trips was to Tanzania which was also amazing. Going on safari was a definite highlight and better than we could have imagined! We thought we’d be lucky to see one giraffe far in the distance running away, but instead, we saw hundreds far and wide. You can read about our safari here and here and our exploration of Dar es Salaam here.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

New Zealand

Of course, how could we forget our first trip venturing into the Southern Hemisphere! Heading down to New Zealand (for only four days no less), was a trip we will not forget about anytime soon, and is a place that we have pegged to visit again in the near future.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

We had a great time exploring the beautiful countryside, which you can read about here, as well as Auckland (read about here), and everything in between (Geothermal Wonderland and Lake Taupo).

 

Eastern Canada Roadtrip

Lastly, we spent the fourth of July on a great American road trip – to Canada – and explored the maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

The weather was great, the people were friendly, and we covered a lot of ground, however we are most proud to have eaten seafood and ice cream on each day of the trip! You can read about our trip here, including Prince Edward Island, historic Peggys’ Cove and Lunenburg Nova Scotia, and the impressive Bay of Fundy here.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

We also thoroughly enjoyed a weekend in Paris, a few days in Bruges, a family get together in Venice and the Dolomites, visiting Montreal, exploring Charleston, and eating our way through New Orleans!

 

The Next Trip in 2019

 

We’re not wasting any time in 2019, starting the year off in Switzerland our first flight will be heading back to Chicago on January 2nd. Shortly after, we will be heading back to Iceland for a weekend in January hoping to catch some Northern Lights. Looking further into the future we hope to round out all 50 US states, so that means trips to hotspots like Hawaii, Alaska, and North Dakota (?), as well as Tennessee, North Carolina, Utah, and New Mexico. We will likely also have a small handful of trips to Europe and hopefully somewhere else warm and sunny! Stay tuned for more adventures on The Next Trip in 2019 and thank you for being here!

 


 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

If you've been following along on our trip to Tanzania, you might recall that we spent our first day in Dar es Salaam (you can check out our city tour here) and the second day on a river safari at the Selous Game Reserve (you can read about our adventure here). With two additional days for safari, we decided to do an early morning game drive the day after we arrived and a full day game drive on the third day.

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

 

Early-Morning Safari Game Drive

 

Doing an early-morning game drive on the second day of our African safari was definitely a struggle as we were still jetlagged. However, it was immediately worth it when no more than five minutes into the drive we came across two giraffes chowing down on a tree near the road! Our safari guide patiently stopped and let us take some imperfect pictures due to the angle and distance. Little did we know, there would be hundreds more giraffes to come.

 

Giraffe on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Giraffe on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Giraffe on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

The best place to look for animals in the wilderness is, of course, close to food or water sources. In talking to our guide, the Selous Game Reserve near the Rufiji River Camp contains about seven or so watering holes for the animals, which can make it slightly more difficult to find them, given that water is so plentiful. This is not the typical dry, desolate savannah that you might have expected from an African safari, but rather the geography is rolling hills with trees and bushes all over.

 

Scenery on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Scenery on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

View from the Safari Car - African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Each turn around the next corner brought new excitement as we discovered new animals and views along the way. Forewarning – this is a picture heavy post!

 

Water Buffalo on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Marabou Storks - African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Warthog Family on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Giraffe Family on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Impala on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Zebra on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Warthog Family on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Halfway through we stopped to enjoy a bush breakfast, complete with hot coffee, delicious fresh fruit, and homemade pastries. This gave us a chance to stretch our legs and walk around.

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

However, you couldn’t wander too far or too close to the water, in case a crocodile had his eyes on you for breakfast.

 

Crocodile on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Just after breakfast we caught a hippo running out of the water – it may not be slim, but can sure run fast. Seeing a hippo out of water during the day is relatively rare as hippos tend to stay in the water all day to protect their skin from the sun and heat. For pictures of hippos in water, check out this post.

 

Hippo on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Further along that day we came across more giraffes, birds, and impalas than we could count.

 

Tower of Giraffes on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Blue Bird on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Blue Bird on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

The impalas give birth to their young each year in November, so there were hundreds of little calves running around.

 

Herd of Impalas on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Impala on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Impala on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Impala on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Baby Impala on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Last but not least, we came across three lions lounging in the sun. We drove right up to them, within 10-15 feet and turned the motor off of our open top, open door safari vehicle. (The third lion was hiding in the bush.)

 

Pride of Lions - African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

The lions couldn’t have cared less that we were there, and just kept on sleeping in the shade, trying to stay cool and away from the hot African sun.  We stayed here quite a while, and saw them stretch, yawn, and lay around, just like a slightly-oversized housecat.

 

Pride of Lions - African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Lion on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Male Lion on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Male Lion on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Before we knew it we were heading back to the lodge, extremely pleased with all of the animals we had seen that morning.

 

Full-Day Safari Game Drive

 

The next day was our full-day game drive, and we were on the road for almost 7 hours. We saw a lot of the same animals as the day before, but also now spotted an elephant in the wild (and not next to our tent, which you can read about here), ...

 

Lonely Elephant on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

...a small herd of wildebeest,...

 

Herd of Wildebeest on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Herd of Wildebeest on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

...a large heard of zebras,...

 

Zebras on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Herd of Zebras on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

...and a small family of lions and their cubs.

 

Family of Lions on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Lion Cub on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Lion on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Lion on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Two Lion Cubs on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Bettina really wanted to cuddle with the lion cubs, but it was not advised by our safari guide.

 

Lion Mom and Cub on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Lion Cub on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Lion Cub on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Lion Cub on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Lion Cub on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Everyone has heard of the big five game animals – consisting of the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo, of which we saw three on this trip – but did you know that there is also an ugly five? The less glamorous grouping of animals consists of the warthog, hyena, marabou stork, vulture, and the wildebeest.

 

Warthog on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Two Hyenas in Water on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Two Hyenas in Water on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

We were fortunate to catch all five of these animals on our day-long safari drive.

 

Marabou Stork on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Vulture eating on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Wildebeest on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

And here we have another beautiful animal, affectionally known as the toilet-seat, which you can see from the rings around it’s behind.

 

Male Water Buck on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Female Water Buck with Baby on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Baby Water Buck on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Despite the cute lion cubs and the toilet seat babies, Bettina's favourite animal on the safari was by far the giraffe.

 

Young Male Giraffe on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Mostly due to their elegance and perfect posting.

 

Giraffe Mom and Baby on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Giraffe on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

But also because they made her laugh with their indecisiveness when it comes to directions!

 

Tower of Giraffes on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Our first African safari turned out better than we could have imagined, with our excellent accommodation, sunny weather, and of course all of the animals that we saw.

 

Scenery on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

If you’d like to book your own African safari in Tanzania, we have partnered with Takims Holidays, who booked our safari, and are offering you a 20% discount (use the code thenexttrip20 with your inquiry). Have you been on a safari before?

 

Make sure to pin this pin to your favourite personal travel board on Pinterest so that our tips are only one click away!

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

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The Start of our First African Safari

Having spent a day in Dar es Salaam, it was finally time to start our first African safari!

 

Getting to Selous Game Reserve

 

We awoke early to head to the airport, though this time we were headed to the smaller, domestic terminal. We had heard that the terminal was small, but we weren’t quite ready for how small. There was a single waiting area of a few benches, a couple passengers sitting around, and an open door out onto the tarmac. Five minutes before our flight was due to take off someone appeared at the door and called for boarding – and off we went with Auricair.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Flying Auricair

 

Only a few minutes later all 12 passengers were seated and we were taking off towards the Selous Game Reserve. Named after famous British explorer, hunter, and conservationist Frederik Selous, the reserve covers 50,000 square km (19,000 sq miles) and has been protected for over 120 years. Wildlife populations are high, however less dense than some of the more popular parks in Northern Tanzania (the Selous reserve is almost 4 times larger than the Serengeti).

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Flying Auricair

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Flying Auricair

 

We dropped off one group of German tourists at Stiegler’s Gorge at another African safari camp, and then it was just Bettina and I for our private 15 minute flight onto the next airstrip. We flew low over the Rufiji River and even spotted our safari camp from the air! The "airport" closest to the Rufiji River camp was everything we had imagined it would be - rustic and outdoorsy. 🙂

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Selous Game Reserve Airstrip

 

Booking and Accommodation

 

Our dedicated time for our African safari adventure was only 3-4 days. Not knowing where to go with our time and budget constraints, we decided to book with Takims Holidays. Our travel agent Abbas suggested we explore the Selous Game Reserve due to a high possibility of wildlife sighting. He booked our stay at the Rufiji River Camp where we had a private tent nestled in the trees with a view over the river.

If you are thinking about going on your own African safari and don't know where to start, we can highly recommend Takims Holidays. Everything was well taken care of and Abbas made sure we would get the best experience possible given our constraints. Get 20% off your safari with Takims Holidays by using our exclusive discount code: thenexttrip20. 

 

The main area of the camp had a large open dining area, firepit, pool, and a number of places to kickback and relax. Upon arrival, we were escorted to our tent due to known elephants in the area.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Rufiji River Camp

 

Shop Bettina's Safari Look

 


 

The Start of our First African Safari - Rufiji River Camp

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Rufiji River Camp

 

The tent is definitely towards the glamping end of the spectrum given it had a wooden door, two king-size beds, and a full bathroom.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Rufiji River Camp

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Rufiji River Camp

 

We were told right at arrival that the cute baboons love to stroll through the guests' camps if you don't keep the door closed and they will make quite a mess looking for food. Sure enough, baboons were walking around our tent at all daytimes, hoping we would leave something for them.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Baboon

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Baboon

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Baboon

 

No sooner than ten minutes after, we heard some rustling in the bushes along the path and this guy appeared.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Elephant at Rufiji River Camp

 

This elephant was munching on a tree on the very path we walked to get to our tent only ten minutes earlier!

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Elephant at Rufiji River Camp

 

African River Safari

 

One of the thing’s we didn’t realize about safaris until we got here, was that you could choose your activities each day, so whether you were staying for three days or ten, each night you chose your activity for the next day, which could be a walking tour, river safari, various safari drives, or a trip to the local village. We thought it best to start with an easy river safari.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - River Safari

 

Before we even made it to the boat we could hear a bunch of grunting, splashing, and animal noises coming from the river. These were the hippos, and they are a noisy bunch!

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Hippo

 

Heading out on the water the hippos live in pods of usually a dozen or more, and all had their heads above water in the distance. As we got closer in the boat they would slowly, one by one, drop under the water until we were nearby and they were all gone! It made photography a bit of a challenge, however since they can only hold their breath for about 5 minutes, they frequently resurfaced.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Hippo

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Hippo

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Hippo

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Hippo

 

Further down the river we spotted our first crocodile! Crocodiles often choose to live near hippos as their droppings attract certain fish crocodiles like to eat. However, hippos and crocodiles definitely do not get along. We witnessed one crocodile getting slightly too close to a hippo near the end of our boat ride.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Crocodile

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Crocodile

 

While harder to photograph, everywhere we turned we saw new types of birds that we’ve never seen before.

 

The Start of our First African Safari

 

The Start of our First African Safari

 

The Start of our First African Safari

 

The Start of our First African Safari

 

Further down the river, we were near the border of the Selous Game Reserve, where villagers commute back and forth on the Rufiji River in dugout canoes.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - People in Selous Game Reserve

 

The Start of our First African Safari - People in Selous Game Reserve

 

The Start of our First African Safari - People in Selous Game Reserve

 

As we were nearing our camp, there was a bunch of splashing and grunting coming from a nearby pod of hippos. We spotted a crocodile that was getting a little bit too close. See for yourself who won this fight!

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Hippo Fighting a Crocodile

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Hippo Fighting a Crocodile

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Hippo Fighting a Crocodile

 

As this was a slower time of the year, all of our activities were either just the two of us, or with one or two other travelers. No complaints here on our private African safari by boat!

The evening was finished off with a fantastic dinner and African sunset.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Sunset at Rufiji River Camp

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Sunset at Rufiji River Camp

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Sunset at Rufiji River Camp

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Sunset at Rufiji River Camp

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Sunset at Rufiji River Camp

 

We were just getting started, as we heading out on the early game drive the next morning! Is doing an African safari on your bucket list?

 

Make sure to pin this pin to your favourite personal travel board on Pinterest so that our tips are only one click away!

 

 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

 


 

A One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Travelling to a new country for the first time is always exciting, but it is even more exciting when the trip is to a whole new continent (if you look at our travel map, Africa is looking quite empty)! We took the long way to Tanzania (intentionally), including a 23 hour and 50 minute layover in Switzerland, which allowed us to visit Bettina’s family and spend the night in a real bed. This meant that we arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, late at night about two days after we left Chicago.

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

We had one day in our itinerary to explore Dar es Salaam and were very fortunate to have a local tour guide, Rumina, show us around. We started at one of the smaller local markets which was full of fresh fruit and vegetables, spices, and an assortment of other household goods.

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

We were less than 20 minutes into our day and Bettina had already purchased a new handbag! According to Rumina, this would be one of the best places to pick one up on the cheap.

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

The heat and humidity (about 33C/92F and 85% humidity) was quickly getting to us – so why not freshen up with a little bit of coconut water?

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

Dar Es Salaam has an estimated population of over 5 million. With a fairly small city center it certainly does not seem to be that large.

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

We enjoyed getting a sense of the city on our driving tour, along with a stop along the coast at Coco Beach to pick up some freshly fried cassava chips.

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

When we stopped the car here we were immediately bombarded by everyone hawking whatever food they had to sell. While everyone was friendly, it can be a bit overwhelming when you have 10 or more people all following you around trying to sell you something! The fact that we very much looked like tourists didn't help.

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

If you’re interested in getting some great African artwork, there is a market near the Slipway which has a huge selection of locally made goods, where we picked up a few more souvenirs!

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

And when you are tired of shopping, right next door is a couple of great oceanside restaurants for food and drinks with amazing views.

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

Her purse is from Aldo and is currently on sale!

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

During our short trip to Dar es Salaam, we stayed at the Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro. (We managed to pay for our stay entirely with Hyatt points which we had collected on previous trips.) The hotel itself is beautiful and everyone made us feel very welcome.

 

Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

We loved our room and the city views that came with it.

 

Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

After our city tour, we went back to our hotel to cool down in the air conditioning and freshen up before dinner, but not before stopping off at the rooftop bar of our hotel.

 

Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

With a great view over the harbour, this is one of the many great spots to catch a sunset in Dar.

 

Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

Shop Bettina's Evening Look

 

Another great place to catch a sunset is the Cape Town Fish Market, a restaurant and bar right on the water. The perks of being there on a Sunday night included great live music, including local Tanzanian songs and other popular Western music sung with a very questionable accent, causing us to wonder which language they were actually singing in!

 

Cape Town Fish Market, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

We finished the night off with some great food – we have no idea what was ordered, but it was all delicious!

For only having one day to spend in Dar es Salaam, we feel like we got a pretty good feel for the city, but also can’t wait to return to spend a few more days. For anyone who has safety concerns, as long as you apply typical common sense considerations as you would in any large city in the world, you will have a great time exploring this wonderful city. We were surprised at how incredibly friendly everyone was and how delicious the food was!

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

Have you been to Dar es Salaam?

 

Make sure to pin this pin to your favourite personal travel board on Pinterest so that our tips are only one click away!

 

 


 

A Day of Discovery in Denver

Denver is surprisingly close to the Rocky Mountains, which means you’re never short of mountain views while in the city. We only had one day in Denver at the tail end of our Colorado adventure (which you can read about here,  here, and with amazing sand dunes here) before our two days of driving back to Chicago.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

Since we only had one day we wanted to get a bit of an early start, and probably started our self-made walking tour of downtown around 10:00am. Let’s just say that we were definitely not impressed the first few hours in the city. There seemed to be camps of people (quite literally camps, with tents, chairs and everything) around every second corner with many of them giving an all new meaning to the ‘mile high city.’ It overall gave us a bit of an uneasy feeling while walking around. We did, however, find time for a few quick shots around the Colorado State Capitol building and loved the view from one mile above sea level.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

We ventured over to the LoDo neighbourhood and found Urban Farmer, a modern yet rustic steakhouse with delicious brunch options and outdoor seating. Things were starting to turn around.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - LoDo

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - LoDo

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

Our brunch was excellent, the sun was shining, and my mimosa and Bettina's bloody mary bar were on point.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

We can definitely recommend Urban Farmer if you're looking for a great Sunday brunch spot!

No sooner had we finished eating were we looking for even more food. Bettina had been talking to a few locals on Instagram and received a large list of places to go to. The Milk Market at Dairy Block came highly recommend to us, and we can only pass along the recommendations.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

Customizable Disk Necklace by GLDN

Earrings by Coco Loves Rome

 

This bumping market hall was full of modern restaurants and bars all with delicious looking and (smelling!) food. Since we had just eaten brunch, we weren’t that hungry but that has never stopped us in the past from indulging in more food!

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

As we strolled around the market, we stumbled upon Morning Jones and just could not resist their decorate your own doughnut station. You basically got six fresh doughnuts on a plate and were free to add as much Oreo crumble, sprinkles, bacon, marshmallows, chocolate sauce, or caramel as you could fit.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market Morning Jones

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market Morning Jones

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market Morning Jones

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market Morning Jones

 

For better or worse, we finished it all and were thoroughly stuffed the rest of the day. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking along 16th Street doing some shopping before heading back to Chicago.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver

 

On our way to leave the city, we drove through the RiNo neighborhood, a trendy and artsy neighborhood too cool for us to be let in. We didn’t have time to stop, but it is definitely at the top of our list when back in Denver. Our drive back to Chicago took us through Nebraska and of course, Bettina had to capture the essence of the state by taking some sunset pictures in corn fields!

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Nebraska

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Nebraska

 

 

Have you been to Denver for the day? If so, have you been to the Milk Market?

 

Make sure to pin this pin to your favourite personal travel board on Pinterest so that our tips are only one click away!

 

 


 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

After a restful sleep, we took our time getting packed up, cleaned up, and walking along the river. This was the first time on our trip we put our fancy new camping shower and with pop-up tent to use. Despite pouring a pot of boiling water into mix with the “room temperature” (ie. freezing cold) water we had with us, the water flowing out of the shower head was frighteningly cold, causing fits of giggles to laugh off the pain. It was probably one of the least enjoyable, yet most satisfying showers I have ever had. After camping for a number days it felt great to have a fresh start to the day.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

We used this Green Elephant outdoor shower tent, the Nemo Helio outdoor shower, and this cute Nemo Helio green floor mat.

 

                                       

 

All products we link are the actual products we use and we would not recommend them if we didn't truly like them. We are participants in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program which is designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. 

 


Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Not far from our campsite was Animas Forks, a ghost town and relic of the heydays of mining in the San Juans. The first buildings were constructed in the 1870’s, and by the early 1880’s the town was home to 450 people, complete with a post office, general store, saloon and a telephone.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

The great thing about exploring Animas Forks is that you can walk inside all of the buildings to get a real sense of how it might have been to live here back in the day. Some buildings still had preserved wallpaper or ornate woodwork, but most had substantially succumbed to the elements.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

The crown jewel of the town is the grand, two-storey Duncan Residence, built in 1879 to withstand the long cold winters. Previously, most residents of Animas Forks spent the winters a bit further south in Silverton (which you can read about here). The Duncans were one of the first families to brave the full winter in Animas Forks where the snow would easily bury the first floor of the house!

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

We enjoyed exploring the town, though didn’t see any ghosts, and were soon headed towards our final, and highest offroad pass of the trip: Engineer Pass. We zig-zagged our way up the shelf roads with plenty of multi-point turns to get around the corners.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop - View of Animas Forks

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

We own a Toyota Tacoma and were extremely happy with its performance throughout the trip. This post is not sponsored by Toyota but we can highly recommend them.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

We came to a breathtaking viewpoint, “Oh Point”, with an almost 360 degree view of the mountains and valleys around us. We must have taken hundreds of pictures trying to capture the moment and the beauty of our surroundings.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

After what felt like an eternity, we reached the 12,800 ft (3,901 m) summit of Engineer Pass and stopped for a ceremonial picture before quickly jumping back into the car to escape the wind and the cold and head down the other side.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

No sooner had we started our decent and there were a few locals blocking the road and getting in our way!

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

It took us a couple of days and with a few detours, but we finally completed the famous Alpine Loop. This was something I had on my bucket list for a number of years and I was glad to have successfully completed the loop, taking in all the magnificent views along the way.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

It wasn’t the end of our driving day though as we had a few hours of highway driving to reach our next campsite! However, compared to the last days of offroading, highway driving was a welcomed change. We arrived in the dark at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It was a beautiful warm summer night and we enjoyed sitting in front of the stars and taking it all in.

Not knowing what to expect of the Canyon because we arrived in the dark, we set off the next day and enjoyed our coffee with some prime canyon views.

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is famous for its dramatic views, as it is especially deep, narrow and steep compared to some of the more famous canyons around. Why is it called the Black Canyon you wonder? It's because some parts of the canyon are so narrow and deep they receive only 33 minutes of sunlight each day.

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

 

As we were having coffee, we made friends with this little guy who was hoping for some breakfast.

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

The Canyon was our last stop before going back to civilization and at this point, we were both looking forward to a real bed. We had camped for five days in a row which was certainly pushing our limits. (Did you read about our nights in the Sand Dunes, in Silverton, and Ouray?) I'm not sure I'll be able to convince Bettina to go on another camping trip anytime soon but the trip was a dream of mine for years and the entire adventure made it all worthwhile.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Have you completed your dream road trip yet? What was your longest camping trip?

 


 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

Ouray is a beautiful mountain town tucked away in the San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado. We arrived at camp with plenty of time to set up our tent in full daylight which was a nice change.  Once again we were warned of bears in the area, but at least this time it was a proper campground with other people all around, for better or worse. Read about our bear scare during our first night here.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Sometimes our laziness gets the best of us and since we were so close to downtown Ouray we decided to head into town for dinner. The charming town really just has one main street, but it is bursting with places to eat and drink. We chose Ouray Brewing Company for the great rooftop patio views!

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

The food and beer also lived up to expectations and were delicious! With full stomachs we settled in for an excellent night’s sleep, but not before some stargazing! The wilderness of Colorado provides an amazing opportunity to see more stars than you have ever seen before! It has been quite some time since Bettina and I have seen the Milky Way, but it was back in force under a clear Colorado night.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Milky Way

 

The next day we arose early as we had a full day of driving ahead of us with three main passes on the agenda. Bettina couldn't resist posing next to the 'Switzerland of America' sign!

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

First up was Corkscrew Pass, living up to its name by twisting uphill between the creatively named Red Mountain 1 and Red Mountain 2. The road was steep and surprisingly busy as we encountered a number of modified Jeeps and ATV’s, making our stock Toyota Tacoma from Illinois look slightly out of place.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Red Mountain 1

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Red Mountain 1

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Red Mountain 1

 

At 12,257 ft (3,736 m) high, the top offered expansive views of the surrounding alpine area.  We didn’t hang around for long though as the wind negated all the warming effects of the sun. We continued on climbing slightly higher to Hurricane Pass at 12,730 ft (3,880 m) and then climbed further still across the laid-back California Pass at 12,963 ft (3,951 m).

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Hurricane Pass

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - California Pass

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Unfortunately, even though the road was relatively flat, it was very rough with a lot of large rocks, so our progress was slow.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

As we noted in our Silverton post (which you can read about here) this area experienced a mining boom in the late 1800s and you could see remnants of old mines scattered amongst the mountains, even at seemingly impossible locations.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

We came across the impressively preserved Sound Democrat Mill which has been maintained and preserved as good as possible in a remote area like this.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

The mill was built in 1905 to process the mineral-rich ore mined from the surrounding hills.  The ore was transported by a network of aerial trams and then processed through this gravity-fed mill to be crushed, stamped, and stripped of all the valuable minerals.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Shop Bettina's Travel Look

 

 

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

The mill ceased operations in 1914, having never turned a profit. Being able to walk inside the mill and climb to the various levels on rickety ladders was a humbling experience. Even though the massive old machinery has been sitting here for over 100 years, you definitely get a sense of the difficulty and hard-work involved to keep this mill operating.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Soon we were back on the road, or the vague imitation of a road, that was California Pass. It was incredibly rough, and we were driving at less than a walking pace. Luckily we didn’t have much further to go before setting up camp along the Animas River.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

There was a truck parked nearby with an older woman sitting in the cab the whole time we were setting up our tent and preparing dinner. Curious to hear her story, we walked over to talk to her as it was getting dark and she appeared to have no tent or other items with her. Chatting for a few minutes, we learned that she was waiting for her husband to arrive who was hiking to this point and had set off from Ouray that morning. We were confused – we left Ouray that morning as well and had spent over eight hours driving to get his far. Surely we misunderstood?

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Animas River

 

We went back to preparing and then eating our dinner. Another hour passed and there was still no sign of her husband. The sun was long gone, the sky was getting darker, and the air colder by the minute. Then off in the distance, there was a man walking along the road, with a stick in hand, making his way towards our group. Sure enough, it was her husband who she was very happy to see arriving with a smile and all in one piece.  Eager to get the full story, we went back to chat with them and confirmed that he had in fact left Ouray that morning just before sunrise and had hiked over a handful of almost 13,000 ft mountain passes to get to the same point it took us all day to drive to! The man was very cheerful and seemed to have enjoyed every minute of it – so much so that he was going to do it all over again the next day. Oh, and he was well over twice our age – definitely putting us to shame!

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Milky Way

 

Would you rather hike across a pass or offroad like we did? Let us know in the comments below!

 


 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

After a fairly rocky first night to our trip (which you can read about here), we were eager to get back into the rhythm of things and prove to ourselves that we could actually do this whole camping thing for days on end. After all, there is nothing more motivating than waking up with views of cheerful flowers for days.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

Our next destination was near Silverton, Colorado, but to get there we first had to conquer Cinnamon Pass.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

The views heading up the pass were breathtaking as we got our first glimpse of the high alpine area of the San Juan Mountains.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado - Cinnamon Pass

 

Cinnamon Pass is on the southern portion of the famous Alpine Loop. This 65 mile (105km) “loop” is not to be taken lightly though as it is 4x4 only, far from civilization, and crosses two high mountain passes.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado - Cinnamon Pass

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado - Cinnamon Pass

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado - Cinnamon Pass

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado - Cinnamon Pass

 

Shop Bettina's Look

Earlier in the summer, these alpine basins are overflowing with alpine wildflowers, however, we were a few weeks too late to experience them.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado - Cinnamon Pass

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado - Cinnamon Pass

 

The road was rough and bumpy, but worth the drive when you can conquer the pass and are rewarded with views like this. At least it was worth it for me, Bettina may have other ideas. Our Toyota Tacoma performed extremely well again and we had no issues getting up the steep and rocky roads.

This post is not sponsored by Toyota in any way but we can highly recommend Toyota as we didn't have any problems with the truck throughout the trip.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado - Cinnamon Pass

 

Clearly, I'm overwhelmed with excitement that we managed to make it to the top.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado - Cinnamon Pass

 

We reached the top of Cinnamon Pass at 12,640 ft above sea level (3,853 metres) in the early evening, and so we had the whole place to ourselves! We couldn't resist stopping to take in the view and to make sure we remained hydrated. Voss was so kind as to provide us with their flavoured water for our trip, which are incredibly refreshing! My favorite flavour is Lime Mint but Bettina swears by their Lemon Cucumber water.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado - Voss Water

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado - Voss Water

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado - Voss Water

 

The road downhill on the other side was even rockier, but we were soon setting up camp again hoping for a better nights sleep. This was our second night camping remotely in an area with nobody else around (except for perhaps the odd deer and bear). Luckily we had a much better sleep that night, and with the sun warming up our campsite we packed up our tent and were headed into town.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

Silverton is a town that appears to be stuck way back in the past, but in a good way. The town was founded back in the 1870’s as a center for the numerous silver mines that were operating in the area. Back in the day, this town was booming, with thousands of prospectors scouring the hills for gold, silver, and everything in between.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

The town has managed to preserve most of its architecture and feel from that era.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

We enjoyed walking the streets, feeling like we were on a film set, window-shopping, and also having a connection back to civilization.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

With buildings like these, you can just imagine what it would have been like to be here over a hundred years ago.

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

While the town is fairly small, it’s easy to fill a day exploring, and we both had a great time. (Can't get enough of Silverton? We also share a few glimpses of the town here.)

 

Stepping Back in Time in Silverton, Colorado

 

Have you been to an old mining town before?

 


 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

I have been wanting to visit Colorado for years and this desire for pristine wilderness, majestic peaks, and the great outdoors has only been further amplified by our life in the flattest state in the United States. We literally couldn’t be further away from the mountains that we both grew up with at our doorsteps.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

The simple way to solve this problem would be to jump on a plane and arrive in Colorado a few hours later.  However, we rarely do simple. My plan was to drive the nearly 2,400 km (1,500 miles) to our destination in the San Juan mountains in southwest Colorado. My decision to drive was primarily driven by (get it?) our plan to camp, offroad, and explore the more remote regions of Colorado that would require our 4x4 Toyota Tacoma and camping supplies. I say "my decision" because I love to camp but had to convince Bettina to tag along.

We own a Toyota Tacoma and were extremely happy with its performance throughout the trip. This post is not sponsored by Toyota but we can highly recommend them.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park - Offroading in our Toyota Tacoma

 

We began our drive west early on Friday, beating rush hour out of Chicago and continuing on the 8 or so hours to Lawrence, Kansas where we spent the evening visiting friends.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park - Offroading in our Toyota Tacoma

 

The next day, we spent hours staring at the rolling hills of Kansas and the endless wind turbines as we made our way to the Colorado state border and eventually to Colorado Springs.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

The First Day of Offroading

 

We started our adventure at the Garden of the Gods park, which was so stunning, I could write an entire blog post about it. If you haven’t been, the park is very close to Colorado Springs and is a great place to walk and hike while exploring the interesting rock formations.

 

Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs

 

Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs

 

Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs

 

Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs

 

Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs

 

Heading south we had a short 45 minute drive before what we considered the true beginning of our offroading experience when we turned off the paved road. Our first offroading adventure would be to conquer Medano Pass as a test of our rusty 4x4 driving abilities and trial run for the days to come.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park - Offroading in our Toyota Tacoma

 

We aired down the tires and took in the fresh Colorado air before proceeding up the dusty forestry road. (For the less offroad experienced among you, airing down the tires reduces your risk of punctures to the tires as you drive over sharp rocks. It's crucial though to get the tires back to normal pressure once you get back on the pavement for proper handling and safety.)

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park - Offroading in our Toyota Tacoma

 

We came across a few obstacles that we had to stop and take a second look at before proceeding, but the trail was otherwise perfectly manageable and a lot of fun.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park - Offroading in our Toyota Tacoma

 

Towards the end of the trail, there were a number of creek crossings which could fill your truck with water if they are deep enough. We didn’t fully appreciate the depth of the water of one particular one until we were smack in the middle of the river with no turning back. The water reached the bottom of the doors of our truck!  This is what it looked like on the Jeep that went through just after us.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park - Offroading in our Toyota Tacoma

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Arriving at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Our destination goal for the day was the Great Sand Dunes National Park. It is a special place where you can freely explore the 30 square miles (78 square km) of dunes and the tallest sand dune in North America, at 750 feet (229 metres).

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Nearing the end of the trail we could see glimpses of the sand dunes in the distance, and the road turned to sand as well, which was a fun challenge to drive on.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

We decided to hike up the sand dunes but almost didn't make it! Bettina and I weren’t yet used to the higher altitude and hadn't eaten much yet that day, which is mainly a way of saying that we're totally out of shape.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

The views from the top were absolutely breathtaking and definitely worth the effort.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

 

It was perfectly quiet out on the dunes, and the setting sun cast golden light across the area.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

We set up camp for the night in a primitive site nearby, with nobody around.

 

Tenting in Bear Country

 

Driving up to our site, we came across a few bear warning signs. Having camped in the Rocky Mountains, we are no beginners at camping in bear country and know to follow the bear rules. The most important of which is to lock all your food items and toiletries in the car and leave nothing at all outside that will attract bears. And yes, bears love toothpaste so make sure you lock it up as well.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Not all travels go exactly as planned. This was our first night camping in our tent in a while, and also one of the worst nights we had.

To start off, it was windy which causes the forest to make a lot of noises that your brain can’t always justify as ‘just the wind.’ Next, it rained a couple times throughout the night. While we stayed completely dry, the noise of the rain did wake us up each time.

 

Blown Away at Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

Lastly, we had a few visitors to our camp in the early morning. At around 4:00am we were both awake and could hear something moving around our campsite. It was still very dark outside and fairly quiet except for the noises we were hearing. We both held our breath and listened intently for quite some time. Tents provide a false sense of security against anything that may want to ruin your night. I mustered up the courage to see what was out there, and so we very slowly and very quietly prepared our headlamps and flashlights on our phones for a surprise attack on whatever was out there.

Unzipping the tent I quickly flashed the lights all around and found six eyes reflecting sharply back at me, about 20-30 feet away. Three deer were nonchalantly enjoying an early breakfast around our tent and didn’t seem to be bothered by us being there. After shooing them away, we got a bit more sleep but overall had a very restless and sleepless night. A great way to start off almost a week of camping…

Have you had a rough night camping in a tent before? What was your experience?


 

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