Memories of Namibia

When asked about my favourite travel experiences, Namibia always comes to mind. I’ve never done justice to Namibia on my blog because the trip was in 2008, long before my blogging days, and many of my photos are stored cumbersomely on CD-ROM. Well, I finally dug out our shoe boxes of discs, waded through countless images, and transferred them to my photo library. Too much time has elapsed for me to provide a detailed travel report, but I hope you enjoy my photo memories of this stunning country.

Namibia is located on the southwestern coast of Africa. It’s a large country by land size—a third larger than France—but it has only 2.3 million people. We spent three weeks road tripping and explored only a fraction of the country’s many charms. I was struck by Namibia’s vast emptiness and enchanted by its austere desert beauty. It seemed like hours before we passed another car (I’m sure it was less). The photo below best captures my enduring image of Namibia.

And so does this next one. Three flat tires in three weeks. But it isn’t the frustration I remember, it’s the kindness and helpfulness of locals.

NamidRand Nature Reserve

The Namib Desert is a long coastal desert that stretches the length of the country and beyond. We spent significant time exploring different sections of this desert. Perhaps most memorable was our 3-day hiking/camping trip in the NamibRand Nature Reserve with our guide from Tok Tokkie Trails. During the day we hiked through incredible desert landscapes, and at night we slept under the brilliant southern hemisphere sky— no light pollution.

Namib-Naukluft National Park

Just north of the NamibRand lies one of Namibia’s top tourist attractions: the giant, intensely coloured sand dunes of Sossusvlei in Namib-Naukluft National Park. Like most visitors, we had fun climbing Dune 45. Its curves and colour, accentuated by shadows, are magnificent. At 80 meters tall, it is dwarfed by neighbouring 200m+ dunes, among the largest in the world. Surrounded by the dunes of Sossusvlei is the eerily beautiful Dead Vlei, a sun-baked clay pan filled with the skeletal remains of trees.

Swakopmund and area

Swakopmund is an eclectic place. It’s a beach resort that sits within the Namib Desert. Shimmering beaches stretch for miles in both directions but the water is cold and wild. The remains of German colonization (1884-1915) are strongly evident in the city’s architecture and cuisine. It’s oddly fascinating to be eating strüdel in a German cafe while a traditional Namibian arts and craft exhibit is taking place across the street, under a blazing African sun. Swakupmond is an interesting place to visit in its own right but also makes an excellent base for day excursions into the dunes and along the coast.

Damaraland

My photos of Damaraland, a mountainous region in north central Namibia, are unexplainably lacking, but it deserves special mention. I loved its “Flintstonesque” landscape. Giant round boulders dot the landscape and sit precariously on top of one another. We splurged at the Movani Mountain Camp, which has incorporated the rocks into the property design. This area is also home to thousands of ancient rock paintings and desert adapted wildlife, most notably elephants and rhinos.

Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park, in northwestern Namibia, was our first experience at an African wildlife park. I will never forget driving into the park and seeing our first zebra in the wild (we probably took a hundred photos of that zebra). Over four days of driving through the giant park and staying in two different sections, we saw plenty more zebras and giraffes, elephants, rhinos, lions, warthogs, ostrich, gemsbok, wildebeest….Since our visit to Etosha, I have been to wildlife parks in South Africa, Botswana and Zambia. They have all been great experiences, but that first time seeing the animals in Etosha National Park will always stand out for me.

Unfortunately, I’m missing photos from other regions we visited, most notably Windhoek, Namibia’s capital—a modern, orderly city with a quirky African-German vibe. Like most visitors (and many locals) we had to try Joe’s Beerhouse—a big indoor-outdoor restaurant that serves icy cold beer and an assortment of Namibian cuisine with a German twist.

Another photo gap is from our visit to the Cheetah Conservancy Fund near the city of Ojiwarongo. It was a bit of a detour, but Alex and I (cat lovers) managed to convince Mike. I think he’d agree that the afternoon we spent with the cheetahs and learning about how CCF works to save cheetahs and their habitat was worth the extra few hours on the road.

Tips for a Namibia visit

Namibia is large and the distances take longer to cover than expected. Give yourself lots of time and don’t cram your itinerary. Although many of the roads we traveled (in 2008) were gravel and punctures were to be expected, they were in relatively good condition. We never felt unsafe traveling via rental car and we were happy with the flexibility that this gave us. We had invaluable assistance in planning our trip through the Cardboard Box Travel, now under the Gondwana Collection. Although I’m hesitant to recommend a company we used 12 years ago, their website provides lots of good information.

Categories: Namibia, Places | Tags: , , , , | 60 Comments

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60 thoughts on “Memories of Namibia

  1. Your photos are extraordinary. I sat with my jaw gaping open scrolling through your post. I’m not sure we would be adventurous enough to rent a car and do our own driving but it seems, other than the flat tires, that all worked well for you. The variety of landscapes and the colours of the sand are mesmerizing. I’m glad you dug through to find the photos. Extraordinary.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sue! We were pretty nervous at the start. First trip to Africa and renting a car! I did a lot of research and the company we worked with in planning our trip was awesome. I’m really glad we decided to do it on our own. Except for the flats, the driving was easy, there were no worries about traffic, and we never got lost. In many ways, it was less stressful than renting in a place like LA where the freeways scare the life out of me. Namibia is extraordinarily beautiful. Highly recommend it.

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  2. Great post and such wonderful travel photos, Caroline. Three weeks exploring Namibia’s dramatic landscapes, which range from desolate deserts to shimmering salt pans, sounds like every traveller’s dream! One of the things I love about it is that nearly half of the country is protected and under conservation management. Hence the abundance of wildlife. Thanks for sharing and have a good day. How are things in Canada? The Irish government is just starting to slowly ease travel restrictions and that comes as a relief because it’s been more than a hundred days in a very strict lockdown. Take care. Aiva 🙂 xxx

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    • Thank you, Aiva. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you for pointing out Namibia’s admirable conservation efforts. I’ve just read that the country’s entire coastline is protected through its network of national parks.
      It’s good to hear that the situation in Ireland is improving. Here, unfortunately, the 3rd wave has hit hard (especially the variants) and I think it’s because we did not have enough restrictions in place. As a result, things are tightening up. We have been told not to leave our local area and this is in effect through May 24. Hopefully it will help, but people are getting restless and it’s difficult to enforce. The good news is that we’ve had a couple of weeks of beautiful spring weather and we have lots of great local places to enjoy nature.

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  3. I so enjoyed reading about your 2008 trip to Namibia, Caroline. Such a vivid narrative of it despite it being so long ago. I remember the days of CD-ROM when I saved all my photos and files on CDs. These days it’s a drag to get the files out of them (if I ever wanted) as I would need a CD burner or external drive. Quite the hassle so good on you for persevering for the photos. And your images are stunning.

    Three flat tires in three weeks sounds like a lot to handle. Maybe it was something in the roads that caused the flat tires. You must have been so excited to see your first wild zebra at Etosha National Park. Must have been very memorable. Fabulous sightings of all of the wild animals all round. I am guessing you got quite close. That giraffe parade looks so orderly 😄

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    • Thanks Mabel! Good to “see” you. I hope you are doing well. This post was an effort but also a very enjoyable trip down memory lane. I have photos from trips to Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Guatemala…on CD-ROM. I don’t know if I have it in me to transfer these as well.
      I guess if you’re driving on gravel for good chunks of the day, you’re bound to get flat tires. It was a bit stressful, but, as mentioned, we had such positive experiences with locals stopping to help and garages that were quick to make repairs.
      Our time in Etosha, seeing our first ever African animals in the wild, will always be a top travel memory for me. We did get quite close and also invested in a better camera with telephoto lens…not good enough though for some sightings like leopards sleeping in trees.

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      • Yes, it is good to see you too, Caroline. That is quite a few trips you have on CD-ROM. Maybe one day when you are really bored, you can sort through them 😄 You did really great with these photos with the camera equipment you had back then. It is great work 🙂

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  4. Wow! I really don’t know what else to say except like that looks to have been an incredible trip!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mom in the Mtns

    Wow this looked like an incredible trip! I’ve been on safari in Tanzania, but Namibia looks amazing! Adding this to my long travel bucket list!

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  6. This post made me both thrilled and envious at the same time. I imagined being there and could feel your excitement at seeing for the first time African wildlife in the wild! There’s nothing like it. Some of the landscape reminded me of northern inland Australia, and some reminded me of crossing the Sahara. Wonderful post Caroline.
    Alison

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    • Thanks Alison! After all these years, I can still feel my excitement at seeing that first zebra in the wild. We had no idea how common they are, and after a few days I remember our son saying, “Dad, you didn’t need to pull over, we’ve seen a million zebras.” I had never seen such red/orange sand, but now that you mention northern inland Australia I can imagine some of the similarity (only from pictures I’ve seen). You did a Sahara crossing? Very cool. I’ve only seen a tiny piece in Egypt and that was spectacular.

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  7. You really were ahead of the crowds getting to Namibia! Two years ago, we waffled between Hawaii and Namibia for a celebration of our two special birthdays, and now that I know what has happened with international travel, I wish I’d chosen the latter. Even your old photos depict the incredible landscapes of this country, and as you might expect, the photos of camping and hiking are making me drool! Amazing place.

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    • Hi Lexie! Hopefully you’ll still be able to get to Namibia once travel opens up. I’m sure you’d enjoy it. I remember your post from Hawaii and it looked pretty nice! Crazy that I’ve never been there. This is a big birthday year for me, but I suspect travel will be limited to domestic stuff. That’s OK…we have a few interesting backpacking/hiking trips lined up for the summer.

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  8. Loved the pictures . reminded me in some ways of a recent trip to Morocco during which i fell in love with that country and its people

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  9. How lovely to walk with you down memory lane this morning, Caroline. Namibia is definitely one of my favourite countries in the world. It was my first introduction to proper dunes, and I loved them at first sight. And don’t get me started on NamibRand. Unfortunately we passed through too early for the Tok Tokkie trail, but we went on delightful guided walks and drives in the three days we spent there. It must have been so lovely for you do go through all those old photographs, and can only imagine all the various memories they evoked.

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    • Nice to hear from another Namibia fan. Those dunes are really something. I’ve since been to other places with sand dunes but they don’t compare to the colour of the ones at Sossusvlei or the amazing dunes meet ocean landscape near Swakopmund. I would love to return and visit the Skeleton Coast in the north. NamibRand is a special park. Glad you were able to spend some time there. This post has made me think about other great trips from pre-blogging days. We’ll see how motivated I am to pull together the old photos!

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      • I agree with you that no other desert landscape quite compare with that of Namibia. Good luck with getting motivated to pull out all those old photos. I for one hope you do, as I think there is so much benefit in looking back to the experiences that formed us and got us to where we are today, and that definitely includes travel most of all.

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  10. Hi Caroline, Thank you for sharing Namibia. Not an African country that I knew much about. I love the photos especially the green and orange dappled valley. I get the austere beauty comment. Sam and I spent 3 months North West Africa – Algeria, Niger, Mali, (briefly through Senegal) and then to The Gambia. We were in the Sahara mostly and saw a lot of sand. It was early 1988. There were no bitumen roads and no tourism infrastructure. I don’t know many people who a can say they have been to Timbuktu. We were travelling independently on public transport and paid our way in a truck until we met up with 3 American guys and we paid to travel with them in their four when drive for while. There was a lot of hard work and sand. There were some highlights but it was mainly just the whole experience. As usual it wasn’t my idea, I wanted to go to Thailand for a beach holiday. Sam wanted to practice his French and go somewhere warm during the European winter. Seems like a lifetime ago.

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    • Louise, you continue to surprise me. Thank you for sharing this awesome travel tale. I don’t think I know anyone (except you now) who has been to Timbuktu. You might have been a tad disappointed about not being on a beach in Thailand, but this makes a much more interesting and impressive story. I don’t know what safety was like back in ’88, but I’ve heard that Mali in particular is pretty sketchy. I’ve seen some lovely ads for the beaches of La Gambia. What an adventure! I’m usually the one pushing the envelope on travel in our family. I doubt I could convince Mike to go to these countries (I’m working on Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda).
      Sounds like you guys have things much more under control pandemic-wise than many other countries, including Canada.

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      • Yes Mali is very risky now. A lot of ancient manuscripts were destroyed by extremists there a few years ago. Sam has been pushing Ethiopia for a while. A teacher where I work who is a keen cyclist lived there for twelve months a few years ago. He said it is a beautiful country and they loved it there. Another teacher goes to Ethiopia annually (usually) for music gigs with his band. He loves that part of Africa also. Needless to say it has quite a good music scene and some world renown musicians. Anyway, no one is going anywhere for a while. Yes we are very proud of our Premium, Dan in Melbourne and of our lockdown efforts. Australia in general has done well but perhaps understandably, no one wants to give us the vaccine. So our roll out of that is very slow. Stay safe.

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        • Great! Thanks! More positive material about Ethiopia to use on Mike! Hope you guys get your vaccines. We’ve struggled with this too but they’re starting to roll in. Goal is to get all Canadians their first dose by July 1. We’ll see! Mike and I have not made any travel plans beyond our province.

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  11. When I think of Namibia, vast and majestic landscapes comes to mind, and your photos further justify that. About a year before the pandemic I was so ecstatic when I found out that Indonesians can now travel to this southwestern African country without a visa. But of course, that trip has not happened. For the time being, I have to be content dreaming about those stunning deserts — your shots seem to do this place justice.

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    • That is good news about the visa Bama, if bad timing. Hopefully the visa situation will not change when it’s safe for us to travel again. Have you been to Africa? I can’t remember. But I do remember another amazing desert environment you’ve been to: Jordan. Thank goodness for travel blogs that help us daydream and inspire us for future travel.

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      • I hope so. I haven’t been to Africa, but two or three years ago I was mulling the idea of going to Ethiopia when I found out that Ethiopian Airlines started flying to Jakarta. I even sent an email to their embassy here, asking about the visa requirements. Fortunately, now Indonesians can apply for e-visa to go there. You’re right about travel blogs as a source of inspiration of where to go when the pandemic is over, and I thank you for writing about some of your past travel experiences which will definitely inspire us to go to those places as well one day.

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  12. This sounds (and looks) like it was an amazing trip!

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  13. We visited in 2017 – absolutely loved it. Its a great country for a self-drive trip (apart from those flat tyres of course!!). I love the camping photo – you are a lot braver than I am!

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    • Marie, good to hear from someone who has been to Namibia more recently. Sounds like you enjoyed it as much as I did. I agree that the country is perfectly suited for self-drive trips. And, we’re now experts at changing tires! The camping was quite luxe and we were well taken care of with wonderful warm sleeping bags, cushy mattresses, good food and a very competent guide.

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  14. I’m so glad you dug through your old pictures for this post. What a fascinating place. I really only had heard of the desert with large sand dunes and the tree graveyard, but you’ve shown that there is so much more! I would love to do that hiking/camping trip. It looks like you had luxurious mattresses in the open desert! I would also be interested in the Cheetah Conservatory,glad you convinced Mike to go. We’re trying to decide where we’ll travel to first and Namibia is moving higher up the list. Maggie

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    • The large sand dune at Sossusvlei has really become “the” Namibia image, and it’s a must-see, but there’s absolutely more things to do and see. In addition to the places I mentioned in this post, if you decide to go, also check out the Skeleton Coast. I think the more remote northern parts are fly-in only —look magnificent. The Caprivi Strip in the far northeast—wetlands that border Botswana and Angola— is another place we’d add to a more adventurous itinerary. The mattresses were indeed very luxurious. And, they even put hot water bottles in our sleeping bags before we turned in (below freezing at night). There are lots of independent camping options and I might consider renting a camper van or pop-up tent van if we go again (though some of those lodges were a nice treat).

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      • It sounds pretty safe too compared to other African countries. You didn’t have problems? We weren’t on our own much in Kenya or Tanzania but some of the cities didn’t feel very safe.

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        • No problems at all and we always felt safe. Overall, I think it’s true that Namibia is safer than many other African countries. Of course the usual precautions are required: avoiding driving at night, being extra cautious in the cities (have heard that parts of Windhoek are sketchy)…We didn’t stay in many towns (really just Windhoek and Swakopmund), the rest of the time we were in parks and isolated areas geared mostly to tourism. That was actually one of the peculiar things about Namibia in that we had very little exposure to locals (outside of those involved in tourism) versus other countries we’ve visited. Perhaps to be expected in a country with such sparse population. My biggest recollection of the locals is the surprising number who stopped to help/ask if we were OK when we had our flat tires (certainly more than would do so in Vancouver!)

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  15. jawatson852

    Excellent post. Evocative photos.
    You certainly piqued my interest in a place that had escaped my notice. Thanks Caroline

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    • I’m glad, John! It’s a fascinating place, especially if you enjoy the desert and wildlife viewing. Perhaps it’s the extreme contrast from what we have here that I also enjoyed so much.

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  16. Aha.. Lovely Desert Homestead Lodge 🙂

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    • Doesn’t that pool look enticing? Unfortunately the water was darn cold! We were there in July (winter) and even though daytime temps were warm, nights were frosty in the desert. Despite the cold pool water, I’d still recommend traveling in the winter period for more comfortable temperatures and better wildlife viewing.

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  17. Wow.. Excellent post Caroline!! Wonderful captures and enjoyed reading it !!

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  18. Magnificent terrains. I wonder how much tourism this country has.

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    • Thanks Neil. Tourism is an important part of Namibia’s economy, but it tends to be concentrated in the biggest attractions like Sossusvlei and Etosha. We never had any issues with crowds at these spots though I know the country has seen big gains in visitors since we visited (pre-Covid that is). Other than the country’s beauty, I think many people who have never been to Africa (like us before we visited Namibia) feel some peace of mind as it’s considered relatively safe (roads, crime..) compared to many other African countries.

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  19. What an incredible place to visit. The desert landscape in Namibia looks beautiful. I’m glad you decided to revisit your old pictures.. It must have been such a blast from the past to go through them all. What a bummer that some of them are missing though.

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    • I’ve wanted to do a dedicated Namibia post for a long time but the task just seemed too daunting. I’ve now managed to locate some more missing Namibia and other Africa photos but they’re in PDF slideshow version on CD-ROM rather than jpeg, and I can’t figure out how to transfer them…aargh! Glad you enjoyed my post. Highly recommend it for nature/desert lovers.

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  20. wow! Namibia is a country high up on my list of places to go. love your photos it just looks beyond spectacular. thanks for sharing

    would you like to do an interview for me? please please please! email me at andyjamesb75@gmail.com

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    • Thanks! I hope you get to visit Namibia, Andy…finally, a country you haven’t been to!
      Thanks for the interview offer. I’ll send you an email.

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  21. Wonderful blog.
    I am renewing my invitation to have a look on my blogs, i would be happy if you follow too

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you like my blog and I appreciate your follow and everyone who decides to follow my blog. As a rule, I don’t follow a blog simply because someone follows my blog or requests that I do. There are so many excellent blogs out there and I understand the effort and passion that you and many bloggers put into writing them, but I must simply can’t follow all (I wish I had endless reading time). No offence to your blog, but I select based on what interests me and the quality of the material. My likes and follow stats are important, but they are not my motivation in doing this blog. All the best to you.

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  22. A lot to digest here! A great post. Love the photos too. A place that I have not been to.

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  23. Brian Foster

    Brings back many memories. Yes, a country of many splendid and diverse natural wonders. Our experience was however terribly tainted by time. We were on a 7 day self drive safari. Sounds great but the problem was just 7 days to see this vast and wonderful country. We’d get up in the morning, have a great breakfast with others staying at whatever lodge. Then it would be about 7 hours driving to the next lodge. You couldn’t linger too much or else it would get dark and you’d miss the road sigh to get off the main road and drive 10-20 km off road to the next lodge for dinner and a sleep. Some of the lodges were absolutely magnificent and would have been great to chill in for a few days with side trips before moving on to the next location, many hours away. The drives though were enthralling. Yes a great place. Wish we had more time. Your three weeks sounds perfect.

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    • Hi Brian! I’m sorry to hear that your trip wasn’t as good as you’d hoped. Thank you for sharing your experience as it’s important and something that potential visitors can learn from. We too found the traveling time between “attractions” great, but as you say, with 3 weeks we had time to linger at places for several days before moving on. This was really important to us as we like to see places in more detail and I have very limited patience for long, uninterrupted road trips. I must admit that I’m a huge desert lover and the endless expanse of emptiness and monochromatic scenery is appealing to me. Others might find it a tad boring. Live and learn, right! Any travel plans post-Covid? Hope you and Barb are doing well.

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      • Brian Foster

        We certainly have learned over the years to slow down especially since we’ve been going on our three month sojourns. Was more difficult when had business and could take just three weeks. No plans yet. This was to be the year of Japan and Korea for my 70’th but’s off the table completely. They barely bother vaccinating, go figure for Japan. We’ve had our first round of vaccination but the rest of the world including ON and AB are going crazy. No fun traveling when everything is closed. Maybe in 2022 a train trip across Canada from Quebec City to Victoria with many day stops along. Fulfillment of a long held dream. You?

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        • We were supposed to go to India in November 2020. We have made absolutely no plans for international travel in 2021 (it’s my 60th year and I was hoping for lots of interesting travel). Like you, we will have to wait. Mike and I were just talking about Korea and Japan has been high on our list for some time.

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          • Brian Foster

            Maybe we might hook up for a section in either Japan or Korea at some stage. You’re much more adventurous than we are at this stage but a shared low key experience could be fun. Something to dream about; and travel dreams really do matter when one’s in withdrawal.

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  24. Wow! Thanks for sharing an amazing trip.

    Liked by 1 person

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