25 February 2013

{Half a Decade of Togetherness}

This may be a repeat for those of you who already follow on instagram, but I wanted to share a few photos from last weekend when Jurg and I slipped away to the Drakensberg in celebration of our five year anniversary!  It was a quick, but wonderful few days away from the city filled with yummy food, cozy fireplaces, and lots of relaxed quality time.  And I'm proud to say that I planned it as a surprise, and it remained a surprise until the moment that we pulled into the driveway of Impofu Lodge {which is really saying something for me}.  Jurg was happy, I was happy, and it turned out to be a perfect place to celebrate half a decade of togetherness.

On my way to Pretoria to meet Jurg at work via the Gautrain //  The unexpected weather we enjoyed on our drive to Underberg // Our adorable country kitchen at Impofu Lodge // How we spent our anniversary - cozied up next to the fire with books and a glass of wine.  Perfection.

View of the Drakensberg mountains from our cottage // Afternoon outing to Lake Naverone // No shortage of lilly pads // Jurg wanted to scope out possible fishing spots {of course}

At Lake Naverone we happened upon the most adorable labrador and immediately made friends {she was an exact replica of my lab {Vogue} in California} // Delicious breakfast spread on our porch one morning // A spontaneous cheese-tasting detour at Underberg Cheesery one afternoon {this was all my doing} // Cute gumboot planters outside

A glimpse of our idyllic mountain cottage // And of course, the sun decided to show its face on the morning that we had to head back to Jo'burg... typical // A mega fail at an attempted selfie // This is what you would call an African road block - this guy was not about to budge!

Relationships aren't easy.  They require complete and utter selflessness and involve a lot of hard work and compromise and personal growth and soul searching and forgiveness.  Our relationship is no exception to this.  Jurg and I have enjoyed tremendous moments of love and joy and laughter together {moments where you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you've met your soul mate}, but we've also been through our fair share of struggle and tears and cultural differences and long distance drama.  

But looking back on the last five years what I can say this: there is no one in this world that I would rather make a life with.  No one that understands me like Jurgen, no one who I can share my heart with like I can with him, no one who can appreciate my weird antics like he can {he constantly says "man, I just wish other people could see the way you act when it's just us two - they wouldn't believe that it's the same person!"}, no one who pushes me to pursue my wildest of dreams like he does, and no one who accepts me just as I am and still loves me like he does.  Through all of our highs and lows, he's been there and I've always known that we have each other.  Which is something that I never want to take for granted.

So today, since we're being sappy and all {which is rare around here}, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite little things about Jurgen.

+  Jurgen is funny.  Belly laugh funny.  He's a storyteller of note and the center of attention at any social gathering or function.  People just gravitate towards him.

+ Jurgen dyes my hair for me.  This may rank as the sweetest thing that a guy has ever done in the history of ever.  He never complains about it and each and every time it makes my heart melt a little bit more.

+ He makes a mean paella and spaghetti bolognese {and he almost always does the dishes: bonus!}.

+ He's smart.  He knows something about everything and can chat for hours to anyone about anything from the Middle East to South African politics to rugby to NFL to Warren Buffet to the new iPhone.  I never have to worry whether he'll be ok at family gatherings because he's always able to find some topic of interest with just about anyone.

+ He loves travel and road trips.  And I just don't think I could make it work with anyone who didn't.  Some of our greatest memories as a couple involve adventures in Zimbabwe, Zambia, California, Namibia, and South Africa... with no shortage of adventures planned for the future.

+ He enjoys the simple things in life.  For instance, people always tease him because he loves to braai {bbq} so much and insists on using only the best wood {South Africans often use actual wood instead of charcoal}.  He's even found a specific "wood guy" who sources chopped wood all the way from the rural area of Tzaneen and this guy drops about 100 bags of wood off directly to Jurgen several times a year. Obsessive... yes.  Bordering on pyro... yes.  But I think it's kind of awesome.

+ He has a pretty darn sexy accent.  And I love it when he mispronounces English words... such as fathom.  He says phantom every.single.time.  Example: "Jenna, I couldn't even phantom that!"

+ He always respects my point of view.  Even when we differ on issues surrounding topics such as politics, religion, or other ethical dilemmas {e.g. the death penalty}, he never tries to downgrade or change my opinions.  We just learn from each other and agree to disagree.  It's amazing.

+ I'm pretty sure he loves me to the moon and back :)

- - - - -

Thanks so much for the most wonderful 5 years Jurgy Bird - it's certainly been an adventure!

Can't wait to see what the next half decade brings.

Love you THIS much.

{cue end of sappiness}

19 February 2013

{Namib Desert Lodge}: Fossilized Dunes + A Sunset Drive

As most of you know, 
Jurg and I toured through Namibia for a month during this past December and January.
If you're new around these parts, you can catch up here.

Sunset in the desert near Sossusvlei, Namibia

After navigating through Spreetshoogte Pass and Solitaire, we headed for the small desert settlement of Sesriem where we checked-in at Namib Desert Lodge (which forms part of the Gondwana Collection).  We were pleasantly surprised from the moment we stepped foot in the reception and literally did a happy dance once we discovered the air con in our room (which is not as common as one might expect) and the two large pools located on the property.  After having driven through smoldering heat that day, it probably took all of about 15 seconds for us to decide that we would be spending the rest of the afternoon in the water.  

It was glorious.  

That evening we took a lovely walk along the fossilised dunes and then enjoyed what was probably the most idyllic dinner of our entire trip.  Aside from the fact that the meal itself was delicious {a tomato soup starter, gemsbok fillet main, and pudding dessert}, the location and the ambiance of the dining area made the experience absolutely magical.  Having just started our month-long trip, I sat in disbelief as we watched a group of gemsbok {a type of antelope} drinking from a waterhole just feet away from our table - all of this against the backdrop of ancient fossilised dunes illuminated by spotlights.  Add a good bottle of wine and the most excellent company to the picture and you have yourself a once in a lifetime experience.  It was an evening that we will never forget.  I took several 'mental' snapshots throughout our meal.

Over dinner, Jurg and I decided that we would spend the following two days enjoying the lodge and the immediate area surrounding it.  We would be heading on to Sossusvlei in a few days time, so there was no reason to spend our time travelling south when there was so much to enjoy in Sesriem itself.  We immediately signed up for a sunset drive for the following evening and spent the following morning and afternoon sipping cocktails by the pool.

When we arrived at reception for our sunset drive that afternoon, we were surprised to find out that we would be going on a personal tour with a vehicle and guide of our own {score!}.  Our guide was nice enough to snap a few photos of us before we left and then she said she would be taking us on a different route from the others and hinted that she knew of a perfect place for sun downers right on top of the dunes.  

As we drove away from the lodge, we saw lots of herds of gemsbok on the move and we even spotted a few desert geckos camouflaged against the sand.  Once on top of the dunes, it was amazing to admire a bird's eye view of the lodge - a green oasis in the middle of an otherwise barren and brown landscape.  As the sun slowly dipped out of sight, we sipped on gin and tonics and tried to take it all in.  I probably took about 200 photos - it was very difficult to narrow them down to the few that are in this post.  Like our first dinner at the lodge, the sunset drive remained as yet another highlight of our entire trip.

 If you happen to find yourself in Namibia, I cannot recommend Namib Desert Lodge enough.  The lodge in and of itself is an experience and there are so many day-trip options available if you have the time and budget.  We'll most definitely be returning on our next trip to Namibia.  Our entire stay was unique to anything else I've ever experienced.

By the numbers:

Rates: R650 - R860 ($74 - $98) per person per night
Breakfast: Included in above rates
Dinner: R220 ($25) per person per night
Sunset Drive: R330 ($38) per person

To book a stay at Namib Desert Lodge, see here.
To research other accommodation in the area, see here.

Pin This Post for Later...

14 February 2013

{Spreetshoogte Pass + Solitaire}

If there's one sentence that sums up my travel advice to just about anyone it would probably be:

"Enjoy the journey, be spontaneous, and don't stick to a set schedule."

Since my voyage around the world on Semester at Sea in 2006, this has been my travel motto.  I swear by it and it has yet to let me down.  Whether it be scuba diving in Egypt or wading through floods in Burma or hitchhiking over the border in Uganda or stumbling upon the most adorable little backpackers in Zimbabwe - spontaneous travel consistently seems to offer the most magical and memorable experiences.  It should come as no surprise then, that Spreetshoogte Pass was no different.

On our road trip through Namibia, the Spreetshoogte Pass route was not the most direct method of getting from Windhoek to Sesriem.  The road was dirt and in a semi-bad condition and the pass weaved delicately through a small mountain range meaning that we would have to drive relatively slow.  I was a bit hesitant at first, but Jurgen insisted that he had heard wonderful things about Spreetshoogte and said that the viewpoints supposedly offered some of the best desert views in Namibia.  

And so it was decided.

Well, it turns out that Jurgen had heard right and we "oooh'd" and "ahhh'd" our way through the mountains, stopping every few hundred meters as the view continued to get better and better.  I would have never thought that desert views could be so awe-inspiring.  Seriously though, the photos below don't even come close to doing it justice.  The Namib Desert is simply beautiful.  If you ever find yourself in Namibia, pretty please set aside a few hours for this drive!  We were both so pleasantly surprised and agreed that it was one of the highlights of our trip.  You'll need a bakkie {truck} to do it, but four-wheel drive isn't necessary.

Once we had cleared the pass, we approached the small settlement of Solitaire, which basically consists of Solitaire Country Lodge, a general dealer, a petrol station, and a small bakery.  It's like a tiny little oasis in the desert, and the perfect place to stop for a leg stretch and something cold to drink.  The lodge also happens to be surrounded by several broken down cars {pictured below} which makes the whole experience feel even more unique and desolate than it already is.

Had Jurg and I been on a fixed schedule or had we been not been open to the idea of altering our route, we would have completely missed out on this part of the trip.  Spreetshoogte Pass is yet another perfect example of my travel motto.  

Many of the best things in life are unplanned.

- - - - -

ps: Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

pps: Jurg and I leave on our surprise anniversary getaway tomorrow!  Follow along on instagram here.

12 February 2013

Insta-Birthday: I'm 26!

For those of you who missed it on twitter... we celebrated a birthday this weekend!

Well, my birthday to be exact.  My 26th birthday.  

For some reason 26 just sounds and feels really old.  The whole quarter of a century thing has come and gone and the next big milestone I'm headed for is the big 3-0.  Still, I must say that my first 26 years have been pretty darn good to me and I'm genuinely looking forward to the years to come.  Marriage, careers, travel, houses, babies {god willing}... there are still so many exciting times ahead!

Happy Birthday poster from my classmates // Lots of presents waiting for me Sunday morning - some from Jurgen and some all the way from California // A quick lunch stop at Lucky Moo in Parkhurst - the Orange Blossom Chicken was delicious! // The best surprise birthday outing - the Joburg Zoo!

Quick snow cone stop at the zoo // Jurgen found a Pygmy Hippo! // This little guy wanted to shake everyone's hand // An unusually curious African civet

After the craziness that was the first two weeks of Master's, I told Jurgen that this year I didn't feel like having a party or doing anything with a big group of people.  I just wanted a chilled day together just the two of us.  He did a superb job of adhering to this criteria and we kicked off the birthday festivities on Saturday night by going to see Les Mis {which was amazing!}.  On Sunday morning I opened my presents and then Jurgen surprised me with a lunch at Lucky Moo in Parkhurst {which proved to be the best Chinese food I've found in South Africa to date} and a trip to the zoo, which is always a winner in my book!  That evening I popped popcorn and we lounged in front of the t.v.  Oddly enough, it was the perfect way to kick off my 26th and unwind from a hectic couple of weeks.  In fact, I wouldn't have had it any other way :)   

Thank you Jurg for another wonderful birthday - you sure do know how to make a girl smile!

{to see what the sneak did last year, see here}