The alarm went off way too early today and Giff and I slowly rolled out of bed. We got our things packed up including the 8 bottles of wine we bought in Stellenbosch. We were in the car by 5AM and on the way to the airport to catch our 7AM flight.
The flight was fairly quick but the layover in between was long. While we waited for our 1PM flight into the Madikwe Park reserve, Giff spent much of the time on the phone dealing with the travel agent Go2Africa (the worst travel agency we have dealt with over the past year). Finally it was time to check-in with our private charter airline, Federal Reserve Air!
The plane was teeny-tiny with a propeller…there were 2 pilots and 8 passengers including Giff and I. We fastened our seat belts and stared out our window as we felt the wind under the wings of the plane. The ride was a bit bumpy, it was like the wind was literally holding the plane up…a bit scary but fun. Giff and I were in the second row with a clear view of the pilots flying us! About an hour later, we saw the green “bush” below…miles and miles of trees and bushes in every direction. The plane started sharply turning towards a long dirt road in the middle of no where with nothing around except two safari jeeps waiting at the side. This was definitely our first time landing in a tiny plane on a random dirt road in the middle of Africa!
The landing was bumpy but we made it and our ranger walked over to the plane, grabbed our bags from underneath and introduced himself to us. One other couple got off the plane and into the other jeep, while the rest of the people stayed on the plane as it took off to another part of the reserve. Once in the jeep, the guide had us sign a waiver…we were now in the middle of a live reserve with many wild animals including lions and we needed to sign a waiver. This jeep was not a regular jeep by the way…this thing was bad-ass! It was all open-air…there were two seats below (where the driver sat), then each row from there was stadium seating so everyone could see easily. There were 3 rows behind the driver but only Giff and I in the car. We were going straight to the lodge to check-in which was about 20 minutes away, but we had only gotten about 5 minutes when the jeep stopped. There was a kudu (type of antelope) staring straight at us very close to the car chewing his food. We also saw a few Impala grazing before we arrived at our lodge Rhulani (www.rhulani.com) meaning RELAX in the local language.
As we pulled up to the lodge, the staff was waiting for us and as we got out of the car, took our luggage and handed us a welcome drink. They showed us around…it had a very open-air feel and was literally in the middle of the bush. We saw the main lobby, eating area, the pool, and then were shown to our room. As the ranger walked us down the long path to our bungalow, he stressed the importance of never walking around at night by ourselves. He would walk us to our room at night and if we needed to leave the room while it was dark out…to use the walkie-talkie on our nightstand and someone would come and escort us. Because the “big 5” are on the reserve (Rhino, Buffalo, Lion, Elephant and Leopard) as well as poisonous snakes amongst other species in the wild…it is always better to err on the side of caution!
Our room was very nice…it had stone floors, high ceilings and had a big patio with private plunge pool. The bed was surrounded by a huge mosquito net. We freshened up and then walked back to the lobby to have a late lunch before our very first evening safari drive. Lunch was chopped seasoned chicken with goat cheese stuffed inside crispy Phylo dough, served warm with a side salad. As we were eating, a group of zebra walked up to the “watering hole” which was a small pond for a drink of water. We dropped our forks and walked over to stare…wild zebras…so cool!
Published by Brandey Kabat
What I like: Dark chocolate, yoga, fresh squeezed juice, laughing, hiking, wine, travel, food, lush products, being warm, having long hair, the ritual of drinking something hot first thing in the morning…
What I don’t like: When people smell their fingers, pushing elevator buttons, confrontational situations, not being able to fall asleep quickly at bedtime…
Most random job ever: Plastic surgery consultant
As for my love life: I met my husband mid way through my junior year in college, as soon as I laid my eyes on him I was attracted to him. In fact, I made the first move which was a bit out of character but there was something about him…probably the fact that he was smokin’ hot!!
Where from and where to: I grew up in NY, went to college at The Ohio State University and then headed to CA after graduation. My boyfriend (Giff) and I had a map, a borrowed van and used stuff from his mom’s basement aka a vacuum, silverware, old Christmas ornaments etc., and about $1000 each. We thought it would be a good idea to head straight to CA since neither of us had been. Being we didn’t know anyone there nor did we have a job or job interviews set up or a place to live…I would say we did it the hard way! However with a bit of help from Giff’s mom who flew out to put us up in a hotel, bought me a suit for interviewing and co-signed a lease to get us a place to live we eventually found jobs and an apartment and have been in CA for 10 years.
Our story: After moving out to CA and living together for about 3 years we got engaged. He popped the question while down on one knee on the beach at sunset after we finished our picnic he had packed of bread, cheese, shrimp cocktail and wine. He even had the ring in a box that had a light shining down on it when opened so as it was getting dark, this amazing man was asking me to be his wife as he handed me a huge rock…Yes! Yes! Yes!
In 2005 we were married (I am biased but our wedding was absolutely amazing). By the end of 2005 we were new home owners. 2006-2009- we were both happily married, attached to our 3 cats and were focused on building our careers.
Giff and I got pregnant mid year 2009 with our first baby but what should have been one of the highlights of our life was soon distracted by the news I received at the doctor’s office.
The lump in my breast that had been dismissed the year before as nothing was now being diagnosed by a different doctor as breast cancer. Thankfully Giff is a persistent person and when we went in for our ultrasound (to hear our baby’s heartbeat) he brought up the request for testing to be done on the lump rather than dismissing it based on feeling it.
The going gets rough: Things began to move so quickly at that point, it was hard to breathe. I was 30, pregnant with my first child and going into surgery to remove breast cancer. I was about to go through what would be the worst year of my life. The plan had been discussed, we were going with the most aggressive regimen possible- double mastectomy, port surgically placed in my chest, chemotherapy, drug therapy and radiation. We also had to terminate the pregnancy. This cancer was estrogen positive and the hormones were actually feeding the cancer. That little angel whom was the cause of our going into the doctor saved my life.
Giff was my rock through every step…interviewing a team of the best doctors, memorizing which medicines I needed to take and when, driving me to chemotherapy and sitting next to me while I was so scared, telling me I was beautiful when I was bald, and so many other things…words cannot express. When you say your vows, in sickness and in health…you would never guess sickness of this magnitude at this age would be in the near future. In addition to this hardship, Giff’s dad died of a complicated prostate cancer the day we came home from my surgery. I could not hold my husband as he mourned for his dad because of the pain I was in from the mastectomy. How did Giff handle all of this pain at one time? How was he so strong for me? He is amazing. Giff’s dad was one of those people whom you naturally wanted to be around…his smile was contagious, his love for life was invigorating and he listened so intently when you talked in a conversation with him. He made you feel special. We think about him often and will miss him so much.
My family and friends were also by my side…my mom flying out from NY several times to help us with cooking and cleaning and holding my hand. It must be one of the most awful things in the world to watch your baby girl be diagnosed with breast cancer. My girlfriends also flew out to take care of me and help with anything they could. Other friends living closer would come by just to sit and talk or watch movies. There were so many cards, letters, flowers, cookies, and other gifts that came from all over the country. It’s amazing to have such great people in my life. In addition to my amazing circle of friends and family, there were the strangers with whom crossed our path. Whether it was a letter in the mail from a breast cancer survivor, the anesthesiologist who called Giff during my surgery crying happy tears that the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes, or our fertility doctor who promised to watch over our frozen embryos as if they were her own. There were so many small gestures that made such a big impact on our lives.
Looking at the bright side: Thankfully this was caught in stage 1, had it been caught a year prior by the first doctor I had gone into about the lump, it may have been caught at stage 0. Please learn from my lesson…insist the lump be tested – a lump cannot be diagnosed by touch. They were able to cut all the cancer out and after I finish the entire regimen including a pill I take over the next 5 years, they said there is a 95% chance the cancer will never come back.
Our exciting future: We’ve decided to re-prioritize, we are taking 400 days starting February 7th of 2011 to travel the world! We will travel to new places, eat new foods, taste new wines and meet new people. We will focus on healing ourselves both physically and mentally. This will be one of the best years of our lives.
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