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Trip Report - Africa Under Way

· Travel,Award Bookings
This entire trip came about due to Helen's diligence in completing a full 18 month certification course to become an Abercrombie & Kent Africa specialist. Combined with the aceing of all the tests required and our sales with A&K, Helen qualified in the Top 6 advisors in the country, and won a 9-day full Southern African immersion with A&K. If I had taken the course I know that we would not be here now! If you have not heard of A&K before, they are one of the absolute best high end small group luxury tour suppliers, and are particularly valued for their amazing African itineraries. We are incredibly grateful for this opportunity.

But there's more. After realizing that the A&K adventure finished in the wine region near Cape Town on November 14th, we were then offered the opportunity of another 11-day trip through GIFTE, which is the educational arm of our host agency Gifted Travel Network. Considering this begins on November 14th and that Africa has been our number one bucket list destination for many years, we could not turn it down. Hills of Africa will be our hosts for this portion of our trip and you will hear all about both of these experiences over the next 4 or even 5 weeks. I have the feeling there is going to be a lot of content.
For anyone who loves their Instagram we have been invited to attempt a full Instagram Takeover of Gifted Travel Network's account on November 7th through 14th and we will have lots on the A&K trip (wifi willing). Please follow along HERE

Meanwhile, here's the top 5 list from the start of our adventure.

Top 5 - Africa Under Way

1. Flight Awards
So it wasn't a perfect itinerary as we needed an overnight layover in Doha, but to fly CLT to ORD to DOH to JNB entirely in business class for 70K AA miles plus low taxes is a deal too good to pass up, especially as 2 of those legs are with Qatar Airways, whose Q-Suite product (above) I have mentioned at least 3 times this's that good.

2. Doha
This particular overnight layover was a little short for us and we needed a very early departure time back to the airport. Usually when an overnight is required we try to time it at almost 24 hours. That way it's actually possible to experience the bonus destination. Even so, with our stay at the Grand Sheraton Doha (the first 5-star property in the city, but now slightly jaded), we were waterfront, and there is a great boardwalk that affords spectacular evening views of the skyline (above).

3. Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg
As happy as everyone here is right now, with South Africa having just defeated England in the Rugby World Cup Final, we opted to start our short independent visit to Johannesburg with a sobering visit to the beautifully laid out Apartheid Museum (above and below).
It was a simple task, but choosing 2 of Nelson Mandela's quotes that resonate deeply within you, and matching the color they are sculpted in to the sticks, followed by taking those 2 sticks and adding them to the many displays, was an emotional event, especially after working through the disturbing history beforehand.

4. Lebo
Lebo is the founder of Lebo's Soweto. He grew up exactly where his business now thrives, and he runs a backpacker hostel, a fairly new outdoor restaurant (below), which provided us with an authentic, hearty and delicious lunch, along with bike, walking and tuk tuk tours of Soweto, short for South Western Townships. Lebo’s Soweto strive to create jobs in the local community and all the employees, who beam from ear to rear, are from or live in Soweto, many from the actual neighborhood where Lebo’s is located.

5. Soweto
Only 2 1/2 hours in Soweto taught me that perhaps it is just a simple choice to be happy. We have never given so many high fives and waves, or seen so many faces filled with such pure joy, as we drove around in our bright yellow tuk tuk. We've been swarmed by children before in different continents, but those circumstances have been clouded by the confusion of begging and how to handle that situation. These kids wanted nothing more than to say hello, get a fist pump, or have a photo taken.
They provided a much needed counter-balance to the story of Soweto, it's long role in finally bringing apartheid to an end, and how it's 3 million inhabitants coped for so long with near squalid living condition all the while under segregation and extremely restrictive curfews.

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