Thursday, 30 June 2016

Cycling the Mount Vernon Trail to Tudor Place and Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, Washington D.C.

The Mount Vernon Trail in Washington DC runs for 18 miles (29 km) from Mount Vernon in the
Tudor Place, Georgetown, Washington DC
south to Theodore Roosevelt Island, just past Arlington Cemetery - click here for a trail map. Still jet-lagged and nowhere near as fit as we would have liked to be (are we ever!), we parked the car at Daingerfield Island about 7 miles from our objective at Georgetown. I know, I know 7 miles is pretty whimpy but we had just flown from Sydney,  Australia.

The sealed surface of the trail made the cycling easy - thankfully! Even the few small uphill sections slipped easily beneath the rhythm of our wheels. With a single interruption where we passed Ronald Reagan Washington Airport (I love airports as long as I don't have to arrive or depart from them) this section of the trail runs along the western bank of the Potomac River and has some beautiful views across the water. There is nothing like a nice view to make the cycling easier.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Washington D.C to Maine: - A road trip and cycling adventure.

The USA has some of the best off-road cycle paths in the world, thousands of kilometres of them, and we are on a mission to cycle as many as we can - well David is, I'm just along for the ride. Each year for the past few years we have flown our bikes over from Australia (don't get me started on the hassle of flying with bicycles), or sometimes bought cheap ones at Walmart, and set out to explore bike trails in different parts of America. Not being total masochists we also hire a car. Did you know it is possible to fit a car bike carrier into a duffle bag  - neither did I until we started this madness.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Gunston Hall - the home of George Mason, a man who refused to sign the U.S Constitution.

No-one can deny that the Washington DC area has many great tourist attractions. If you haven't been to the city before, you probably shouldn't miss sights like the Capitol, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and Mount Vernon. There is a downside to all of these however - their very popularity transforms the experience. Standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial surrounded by enough other tourists to populate a small European country, detracts a lot from the magic of the moment.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Market Fair Day at Claude Moore Colonial Farm, Virginia.

On the third weekend in May 2016, David and I slipped through time and found ourselves deep in North America's colonial past. It was Market Fair day at Claude Moore Colonial Farm in Fairfax County, Virginia only 20 minutes drive from Washington DC. It was the year 1771, four years before the American War of Independence. The local townspeople had gathered to show off their wares, sell their produce and socialise with one another.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Mount Vernon - George Washington's home.

Mount Vernon Washington DC
More than any other figure in American history, George Washington defined the U.S.  He is revered as a soldier, patriot and president  - he was also a farmer, husband, step-father (to Martha's two children) and slave owner.

Born in 1732 at Pope's Creek, Virginia, George Washington inherited the estate at Mount Vernon in 1761. Washington may have been commander of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War (what in Australia we know as the American War of Independence), presided over the convention which drafted the Constitution of the United States and served two terms as the new country's first president, but it is Washington the farmer and family man whose spirit pervades the estate at Mount Vernon.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Shamwari Game Reserve - and the fastest animal on the planet!

130 kilometres per hour - the fastest animal on the planet. In the pre-dawn light, six pairs of eyes scanned the landscape for our quarry. This was his habitat - he had been seen two days before and last night there were fresh tracks. With twenty years experience as a guide, Frans was confident he knew the animal well enough to flush him out. We passed by giraffes and antelope with barely a glance, stopping only briefly to investigate two large grey shapes a few hundred metres from the rough dirt road. On any other morning we may have been excited by the white rhinos, but not today.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Surviving a riot at The Nekkies, Knysna

The Nekkies, Knysna
The plume of smoke rose hundreds of metres in the air, like a dirty tornado, as if  the weather gods were suddenly, unreasonably, angry with us. Then the traffic stopped. All we could see ahead was a long line of cars - and the smoke. We assumed there have been a car accident - a bad one. We were wrong! Judging by the sirens and all the emergency vehicles racing toward us it had not happened very long ago. Strangely, there were no ambulances - just police cars.

I wanted to wait it out but David doesn't do waiting very well.  It

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Botlierskop Private Game Reserve, South Africa

Lion at Botlierskop 'Never run from a lion. You will just die tired.'

With that advice ringing in our ears, our guide pointed his remote at the electronic gates separating the lion enclosure from the other animals at Botlierskop Private Game Reserve. I had finally made it to the Africa of my dreams. Now it seemed I stood a good chance of being served as breakfast to the King of the Beasts.

We were on our first morning game drive - the sun just peeping over the horizon. The Land Cruiser had open sides - no windows, no wire mesh, nothing between us and the lions. The guide didn't appear to have a weapon. Someone asked if the vehicle could out run a lion.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

The Winelands, South Africa - Vergelegen, Delaire Graff, Zorgvliet and Asara Wine Estates

I came to South Africa for the animals. David came for the scenery. Neither of us went home disappointed. With safari parks coming later in our trip, our first stop after leaving Cape Town was the Winelands - a region rich in history, architecture and beautiful scenery. Centred around the towns of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl, and set against a mountain backdrop, this is one of the prettiest regions we have ever visited. The myriad of wine estates seem to compete with each other for the prize of most picturesque.

Friday, 29 April 2016

The Cape of Good Hope - Cape Point, Chapman's Peak Drive and African Penguins.

Cape Point, Cape of Good Hope
We can't say we weren't warned. There were signs everywhere and at least one local told us to lock the car even if we were standing next to it. 'They will open the doors and steal your food'. We have been the victims of car break-ins twice in recent years and it was not an experience we wished to repeat.

David, however, just sometimes won't take advice - and he was hungry. He opened the boot of our car to retrieve a couple of bread rolls from his backpack. Within seconds the thief had leapt from the bushes and dashed toward us. David threw the rolls back into the boot, slammed the lid closed and retreated, leaving me trapped in the front seat with the thief staring malevolently down at me from the roof of the car parked beside us. It was as if he was daring me to be foolish enough to open the door.