Friday, December 31, 2010

The Year in Review

As I sit up here in this winter wonderland, ringing in the new year I can't help but be amazed at where this past year has taken me. Exactly a year ago I was exploring and surfing my way through Puerto Rico, snorkeling in Bioluminescent Bay, exploring the Spanish Virgin Islands, surfing the winter swells, and scuba diving. I flew back to Savannah just in time for my good friend Ed's wedding. After a quick stop in L.A. to visit Heidi and the Tole Mour I landed in Texas to the Odyssey.
The Odyssey is a 35.5ft sailboat that I spent a month fixing up with the owner and then nearly capsized in halfway to Mexico in the middle of a big Northerner in the Gulf of Mexico. Limping back into southern Texas we fixed her back up, and with the help Heidi and Ryan we succeeded in sailing to Isla Mujeres, Mexico. There I jumped on another boat, this time a 44ft Lancer and sailed this one to Roatan, Honduras, San Andres, Columbia, and finally Bocas Del Toro, Panama. Both of these trips were incredible learning experiences for me as well as a good test for our relationship. I managed to get some wild cave diving in the Yucatan in, as well as some beautiful reef diving in Honduras. After so long out on the water I was craving some terrestrial time so I bussed it up thru Panama in Costa Rica and got lost in the wonder of Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula, C.R. After some sweet waves at Pavones and Mata Palo I was on my way back to L.A. for a summer of fun onboard the Tole Mour.
I was so excited for my 2nd Tole Mour summer program. The Tole Mour is the 156ft 3 masted tall ship on which I taught marine biology and sail training for the previous year and a half. The "brain trust" was reunited and some crazy adventures ensued including a great white shark attack on a sea lion right off the Santa Barbara Island sea lion rookery, and splitting my head open on my surf board at one of the most remote surf breaks in all of the Channel Islands that will remain anonymous for secrecy sake. The summer ended as usual with another incredible Voyage of the Friends with an unprecedented display from of whale friends.
Another trip up to Vermont to see it during the summer and experience the famous "Stave Island Party" and then I quickly found myself packing down in Savannah for a huge Africa/Baseball4Africa adventure.
Baseball4Africa season 5 went off without a hitch. We brought over enough donated equipment to replace any broken or lost equipment that the 11 current teams had as well as enough to outfit a brand new team. We also introduced softball to a new high school, a girls high school, and the local grade school. We figured the key is to start them learning the basics young. After teaching baseball for a month we were ready to see some wildlife, so after the big Baseball4Africa 2010 tournament we headed out on what would become a 9 country, 100 day safari through East and Southern Africa.
Looking back on all the highlights from the trip it is almost unbelievable. Here are just a few:
*Kenya: deep sea fishing at the Pemba Channel Club in Shimoni, snorkeling the Kenya coast, catching crocs at Tsavo Nat'l Park, sun setting behind the Baobob trees, mud bogging in the Abadairs, Acacia Camp and running from angry Ostriches, flying Eagles at Lake Naivasha
*Uganda: rafting the source of the Nile, walking with Chimps at Murchinson Falls Nat'l Park, finding the bat cave at Queen Elizabeth Nat'l Park, surviving the roads of Uganda (easily the worst we were on), the turtle catching on fire, and an incredible day spent with gorillas in the Mgahinga Mntn National Park
*Rwanda: incredible roads and an indepth tour thru the rural health system from Zack and his team of Dartmouth grads
*Tanzania: being part of the Great Migration at Serengeti, Ngorogoro Crater, finding that incredibly authentic Japanese restaurant in Arusha, driving thru the valley of the baobabs, talking our way out of speeding tickets...twice, and making it across the worst border crossing yet into Zambia
*Zambia: aka the 'nemesis of the Turtle', getting thru a 18 hr 'bus ride from Hell' to pick up Heidi from the Lusaka airport, watching a cow fly after slamming into our car and ending the Turtle, and adrenaline seeking in Livingstone with lion walks, elephant back safaris, rafting the Class V rapids on the Zambezi, the trying to hit baseballs over Victoria Falls, and the infamous incident of falling thru a tree on the Zambezi Gorge Swing.
*Zimbabwe: very pleased to see 500 million dollar bills are just tourists souvenirs, seeing the falls from the Zim side which is a must, dinner at the Victoria Falls Hotel, and surviving the worst night of Heidi's african sickness.
*Botswana: Chobe River safari and game drives into the park, Heidi's first big cats, exploring the Okavango Delta on traditional canoe, the most dangerous walking safari, and chameleon fun in Maun
*Swaziland: Milwani game reserve, making it thru the beautiful mountains
*South Africa: Kruger Park and the Big 5, scuba, dolphins, and whale sharks at Sodwana Bay, Southern Right Whales breaching along the coast, surfing Supertubes at J-Bay, swimming with Great White Sharks off Gansbaii, Cape Point, penguins, Table Mtn, Kirstenbosch Gardens, and couch surfing in Cape Town, wine and brandy tasting in Stellenbosch, driving Route 62, Addo and Mntn Zebra National Parks, Golden Gate Nat'l Park, and a Johnny Clegg concert in Joburg.

Phew. It was quite the 100 days. It doesnt seem possible that all of these adventures happened in just one year. Now after digging out from a christmas blizzard in NJ I am ringing in the new year in Vermont.

And after looking at this year in review I can't help but look forward into what 2011 might bring. After a quick drive down to Savannah, Heidi and I will jump on a plane bound for Maui, Hawaii where we will start working as naturalist for the Pacific Whale Foundation. I feel so lucky that I am able to live this kind of lifestyle. The adventure continues.

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