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Bennachie Hills

So by now we’ve realized the perfectly sunny and beautiful weather we experienced for the first two weeks we were here were pure dumb luck.  Now we’re settling into the cool, rainy, “normal” weather that everyone was warning us about.  Don’t get me wrong, the cooler temperatures are VERY welcome in book!  We’ve learned that when we get some nice weather we have to get out and take advantage of it, because it probably won’t be there for too long.  We’ve also learned those sunny days are very rare, so sometimes you’ve gotta get out when the weather is less than ideal.

This past Sunday was one of those overcast dreary days, but we figured “no rain? lets go!”.   We headed out to climb one of the peaks in Bennachie Hills, which is a quick and BEAUTIFUL 30 minute drive from the house.  Jers loved the drive out.

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We arrived just after noon, and checked out the visitor’s center to pick out the right route for us.  Seth ran in to grab a map and some treats to enjoy at the top, we picked out our  trail and were on our way.  For the past 2 months, I have spent a lot of time trying to convince myself I enjoy running, so I figured this would be easy… boy was I wrong!  The trail follows a  constant incline which is quite rocky at some points.  Jersey, on the other hand, took every climbing foot in stride and barked every time we stopped to take a break.

It was crazy how much the landscape changed as we climbed.  It seems like every 20 feet we had a new view to indulge in… like something straight out of a Bob Ross painting with “happy little trees” and all.  We were surrounded by tons of these purple beauties as we started the hike.DSC_0875We hiked and hiked, and I huffed and puffed.  Keep in mind there were plenty of families with small children on this path… clearly I have some work to do in the “get in shape” column.  We finally made it above the treeline and enjoyed the view for as long as Jersey would let us.DSC_0818

1600 feet and 1.5 hours later, we made it!  The hike was absolutely worth it, we had a 360* view of Aberdeen!

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We enjoyed the view from the top and had some munchies (my first mars bar.. holy moly!).  As we made our way down we looked back at the hill we just climbed.DSC_0873

Party in the USA!

Lucky for us, we only had 1 week back in PoG before we continued summer vacation and were on our way back to the states.  This trip was short but was chock full of food, family, and friends!

We started with my husband’s family reunion in Okaboji, Iowa.   We only got to spend 2 days in Okaboji this year but they were an AWESOME 2 days.  This reunion is the one time every year we get to spend with this part of the family so its a very special time.

After Okaboji we made our way down to Table Rock Lake to visit my husband’s Dad and Stepmom.  While Seth and his Dad worked on a few projects around the property I made up for the lack of shopping in PoG and hit up the outlet malls with Joyce.  It was a wonderful few days but passed by way too quickly.  We can’t wait until we get to head back to Table Rock!

We rounded out our midwest tour in my husband’s home-town, St. Louis.  We kicked it off with a trip to the Cardinal’s game and soaked in some more family time.  We got to share this special night with Seth’s mom, sister and her family… such a fun time!

The end of the week was spent celebrating the love and witnessing the vows between two of our favorite people, Brad and Kaitlin!  St. Louis is the city where Seth grew up, so anytime we are there we get to catch up with his friends from way back.  We had a blast reuniting, getting our drank on and dancing the night away.

Happy Anniversary to us!

Life over here is great.  We have 2 beautiful beaches we can choose from to visit, plenty of fun activities and opportunities to volunteer, and we’ve formed some amazing friendships.  All this being said, life here can also get a little complicated and frustrating.  Just recently we have had a lot of issues with the water supply to our compound….  The issues being that there isn’t any.  It is not the end of the world as we’ve learned to keep a stock pile of 2 liter bottles filled with tap water, but after your 3rd “bottle bath”, not being able to flush toilets (TMI?), and trying to wash dishes, you start to get a little irritated.  My husband (being the fantastic guy he is!) picked up on my frustrations, and planned a surprise get away weekend for our 3rd anniversary! So where do you go for a weekend get-away in Gabon? A little place called Omboue!

Right now, the only way to get to Omboue is by boat.  So Friday morning we headed down to the port- which is also the fish market- to wait for our ride.  By the time we got there, most of the action was over, but we still had lots of sites to see!

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portable haberdashery! He was a good salesmen too… he made several sales while we were waiting.

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Our boat arrived and did not have enough space to dock, so they docked to a boat.
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Loading our luggage
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Seth earning his keep, loading the beer!

Finally it was time for us to board, taking the same path as our luggage, and we set sail.  The ride was very nice and we were very fortunate to not have too much rain.  The ride was about 2.5 hours and we got to take in some pretty scenery on the way.

 

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We found our shipment on the way!!
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Ready for some R&R

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DSC_0451DSC_0109We were greeted by Loic, who took care of us for the whole weekend.  He was so attentive and made us feel right at home.  After settling in and a nice lunch, we decided to take some bikes offered by the lodge around the village.  This turned out to be one of our favorite parts of the trip (unfortunately I did not bring my camera!).  School was getting out while we were touring, so we quickly had a group of adorable little guys waving and chasing after us.  We made our way back to the hotel in time for dinner and then an early lights out, as the proprietor, Ghislaine, had planned an early morning safari for us the next day.

Saturday morning we were taken to another lodge, Luango, which is situated right on the edge of the safari park.  Unfortunately, we did not reach the park until about 10 AM and animals typically come out at 6-7AM or 4-6PM.  We spent the next 2.5 hours driving around the park viewing gorgeous scenery (I’m all for pretty landscape… but I wanted some animals man!).  We were all getting pretty bummed, including the guide, and at one point he jumped out of the truck and started walking towards the forest in hopes that something would appear.  THEN we saw one lonely buffalo.  We all “ooed and ahhhed”, he gave us enough time to snap a couple of pictures and then he vanished in to the forest.  We continued on with our drive.

DSC_0160 DSC_0163DSC_0174 DSC_0168We were taken to a small camp deep within the park for lunch.  More beautiful landscapes… but no animals.

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No elephants to be found… but we knew they had to be close by…

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After lunch we hopped back in the truck and headed back to Luango.  By now, we had given up any hopes of seeing animals and had accepted the fact that we payed a lot of money to see pretty African land.  All of the sudden the guide pointed out of the truck and told the driver to slow down.  We looked towards the woods and saw what he was so excited about… 2 elephants!! The guide led us out of the truck and we walked towards the elephants.  These guys were amazing.DSC_0223 DSC_0227 DSC_0235  We got back in the truck and headed off.  Eventually we came across another elephant duo (momma and baby this time!).

DSC_0265 DSC_0243 DSC_0268 DSC_0232DSC_0248One last time, we all climbed back in to the truck and took off for the lodge.  On our way back we were surprised by this guy running through the field.  Its very hard to see, but hes some kind of monkey… a really fast one!DSC_0253We made our way back to Luango lodge and several hours later, finally made it back to Hotel Olako.  We had another great dinner on the doc and the staff even surprised us with an anniversary cake for the group to share for dessert.  We were so taken back by how well the staff at Olako took care of us, they made this anniversary trip a very memorable one for us.

The next morning, we were scheduled for a crocodile tour and visit to St. Anne’s Mission.  Living in Louisiana previously and taking a lot of alligator tours, we were not too excited about the crocodiles… but we got on the boat and headed out.  Our first stop was the Mission; a Catholic church constructed in the late 1800’s with the same materials and by the same company that constructed the Eiffel Tower.  It was absolutely beautiful!! Masses are still held every Sunday, however this week the priest was at the Vatican.  After walking through St. Anne, our guide took us on a short hike behind the church to the bamboo forest. THIS was unreal.   DSC_0335

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DSC_0315We finished exploring the mission and got back in the boat.  After an hour boat ride and some beautiful scenery (reminded me of ferngully!) the driver slowed down and we started to see the crocs.  They were so little!

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The water was pretty incredible. So flat and dark, and the reflection was insane!

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DSC_0362 DSC_0360 DSC_0403 DSC_0425  Eventually we came across a larger crocodile and some other slimey guys too.

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DSC_0421The only downside to this tour was getting bitten by a couple of Tsetse flies.  We spent the entire morning out on the water surrounded by gorgeous scenery, and slowly made our way back to the hotel.  By the time we arrived, we had enough time for a quick lunch, pack up, and grab a picture with Loic before we had to head back to Port-Gentil.  Our trip to Omboue was an amazing experience and the perfect way to celebrate our anniversary and recharge our batteries.

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Holiday Recap

After a 2 month long trip back to the United States to see family, friends, and celebrate the holidays, we are officially home and settling back into Port-Gentil life.  While being back in the states was amazing and we have some wonderful memories from this trip, it feels nice to come back to a comfortable place that we consider home (Its still weird to think that “home” now is a place in West Africa!).

Before our holiday trip began, we got to celebrate Thanksgiving in PoG with a group of friends.  Some of our guests had never been to a Thanksgiving dinner, and I had a hankerin for some real deal comfort food, so I wanted to make sure we did this dinner right!  My friend and I set out around town on a mission to find all appropriate accoutrement for our Thanksgiving dinner and after searching through the various grocery stores PoG has to offer we even found a turkey!!  Sadly, pumpkin was nowhere to be found.  Here are a couple of pictures from our Turkey day.

Ani and Habiba prepare for their first wishbone break!  Mary standing by explaining the "pinkie rule"
Ani and Habiba prepare for their first wishbone break! Mary standing by explaining the “pinkie rule”

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Habiba wins!
Habiba wins!
Our group
Our group

It was so fun to celebrate and share such an important tradition with our Port-Gentil family.

 

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