Dispatch #5: From Botswana with Love

Posted by: Micato

Fresh off a helicopter ride--and the Pinto action film begins!

We felt like cool characters in an action film as we jumped in and out of whirling helicopters, plied wide lagoons aboard swift speedboats, careened across the Kalahari on quad bikes with our heads turbaned like modern Laurence of Arabias, glided exotically along papyrus and water lily filled channels in dugout canoes, drove Land Rovers through large bodies of water in the Delta, and perched high atop elephant backs in search of lion on the savannah.  It seemed like only a matter of time before James Bond himself would appear.

Indeed, there are so many reasons to love Botswana and our days in the Okavango Delta hit every single one of them.

The Delta from above

Amazingly, the Delta is an immense wetland within a huge desert. And the Delta’s water is so clear that it’s possible to see all the way to the white Kalahari sands at the bottom. That is, if the view isn’t obscured by masses of pink water lily blossoms.

The trick to a fabulous Botswana safari is to include the right mix of water and land based camps, offering both seasonal and permanent water, plus activities by mokoros (dugout canoes), speedboats, land vehicles and even on foot. Helicopters and elephants, of course, push the experience over the top—we loved that!

Comfortably viewing Botswana from a new vantage point: Mokoros

Our stay at Vumbura Plains spoiled us from the start.  Seasonal high water made it virtually impossible to drive, necessitating most jaunts via helicopter.  Piloted, no less, by the beautiful Tilani…she of the long tanned limbs, sassy haircut and green eyes.  Before Vumbura, she flew choppers for the Johannesburg police, tracking car thieves from the air.  Wow.

Casting a shadow across the Okavango

Our first game drive was equally thrilling. We encountered a pack of three male lions “hunting” another group of lions encroaching on their territory—behavior so exceptional that even our guide was agog.  These were lions with a mission!

Lions busily sniffing out their competition

They paced swiftly and soundlessly with noses to the ground, stalking, sniffing, spraying and tasting the air through half-opened, bared-teeth grimaces.  We followed them for many miles before they disappeared into thick bush.  As far as we know, they never found the marauding newcomers. (And we were relieved!)

Safari by elephant back

A different kind of thrill?   Elephant-back safaris at Vumbura’s famous sister, Abu Camp, in the western Delta. Cruising comfortably atop the largest animal in Africa while exploring a pristine wilderness threaded by crystal waters is utterly indescribable.  Even more amazing is the chance to interact with the elephants. We learned their names, whispered in their ears as we walked and posed for photos with them at the end. Sasha and Tristan were in heaven, and we adults were mighty tickled too.

Our rides became our new-found friends

Yes, we’ve flown, driven, rode, helicoptered and speedboated.  But my favorite form of transportation, above all, has been the mokoro dugout canoe.  Being softly “poled” along papyrus and reed lined lagoons, channels, floodplains and waterways is absolutely dreamy.

Sasha and Tristan glide through lilypads and rushes

The tranquility and peacefulness of a mokoro is extraordinary and the perspective —sitting so low on the water—is dramatic.  Then there’s that wonderful watery scent that fills the senses and helps the eye take in the small details that often go unnoticed.  On some days, all we saw was water lilies and tiny painted reed frogs.  On other days, groups of red lechwe leaped through the shallow water, herds of elephants with baby calves waded along the shore, and raptors soared overhead.  Imagine!

The ideal ending to any good action film

Botswana is one of Africa’s greatest success stories.  It has exceptional wildlife conservation practices, one of the fastest growing economies in the world, an impressive track record of good governance, a stable middle class, high quality low volume tourism, and a forward thinking president.

And with that, we’ll sign off from Botswana where a Motswana citizen speaks the Setswana language to their fellow Batswana countrymen.  Got that?


11 Responses to “Dispatch #5: From Botswana with Love”

  1. Paul and Elyse Chambers says:

    Your Bush Dispatches have brought back wonderful memories of the Safari that we took with you in 2006. It was a trip of a lifetime and there isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t fondly remember our travels with your wonderful guides. We hope to join you again soon for another visit to your spectacular Africa!

    Paul and Elyse Chambers

  2. Vicky says:

    Hi, Joy — This is such an amazing photo journey and seeing your family is lovely. It’s been so long since we’ve seen each other–I cannot believe how old your children are! My girls are 20 and 22 now, one having graduated from college last year and is living in Phili!

    Someday we’d love to take a journey like yours. Love, Vicky

  3. Steven Ford says:

    Dennis, I hope your beautiful wife is as good with video as she is with a still camera. Your adventures will make excellent National Geography story soon, the writing is as good as the pictures. Let me know next time you are at DeerValley -Park City, I would love to take a couple runs with you and meet her.

    Warmest regards,

  4. Evelyn McCarty says:

    Have enjoyed watching your great vacation Pinto family!!! Went on your Stanley Wing safari 3 years ago with my best friend. Most life changing thing I have ever done! Hope to go on another trip of yours to South Africa in the near future. You are a wonderful family….and an amazing company! Thx for the fabulous memories!


  5. Alan Payne says:

    Being a South African who has been out of Africa for a number of years I have enjoyed your experiences immensely and makes me really homesick for Africa.

    Thank you.

  6. Nancy and Bill Ramsey says:

    We have thoroughly enjoyed our trips with you. We agree you are the BEST!!!!! Thanks for your emails on your present visits. Our Best to you, family, Felix and Jane!!!!

  7. Vince Latorre says:

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos and experiences. I feel like I was right along with you. I went to Africa for the first time last year, and if I ever am able to go again, I want to go with you! I look forward to your next Bush Dispatch.

    Vince Latorre

  8. Ann Sager says:

    I have had the luxury of traveling with a group of my clients in the Okavango Delta. Your adventures and photos make me eager to return. Thanks for sharing your spectacular experiences in Southern Africa with us agents.

    It will be wonderful to see you and the Micato travel professionals at Travel Mart!

    Warmest regards,

    Provident Travel

  9. Sally Dziedzic says:

    Wonderful Bush Dispatch! You guys do the best job. Thank you for including me on your Emailing List.

  10. Gail Osborne says:

    I am definitely going with you next time. Oh! to have the wonderful opportunity to live in Africa. Thank you for being you. You are the best company in the world!

  11. Elaine Carey says:

    I love your colorful description of everything you see and experience. I think I actually got your last line! Amazing! It looks like you are all having a wonderful time over there.
    Take care and see you next week at Travel Mart.
    All the best,
    Travel Experts

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Dispatch #4: Serendipitous Swakopmund, Spectacular Sossusvlei

Posted by: Micato

The quaint hamlet of Swakopmund was only on our itinerary because of a flight misconnect. In fact, it’s rarely on anyone’s itinerary. But it should be. We completely adored it.

With the ambiance of a tidy colonial German village, it’s a perfect gem. Moreover, it’s a haven for active sport lovers, while the less-active will find paradise both in the town and on the harbour cruise at nearby Walvis Bay, which was, in a word, astonishing!

Being from New England, Joy was initially blasé about a Namibian harbour cruise. But when the first of the many adorable, puppy-faced Cape Fur Seals trundled up the steps of the boat, waiting to be invited aboard, we were all in love. Fur seals are characters, funny and playful. And, it turns out, rather polite.

That was only the beginning.  Bottle-nosed dolphins swam alongside, causing the seals to splash us when we ignored them. Plus, depending on the season, there are also whales, the occasional leatherback turtle, cormorants, pelicans, herons, flamingos and even more exotic creatures like sun fish, a reminder that not all harbours are alike.

The Captain and crew were great fun, hugely informative and absolutely charming. Serving enormous platters of the sweetest local oysters imaginable, they also offered German beer and Sedgwick Old Brown Sherry (of South Africa renown), insisting that the libations counter-balanced the ship’s movement. And we believed them.

Our one regret was that we didn’t have more time. Dennis and Joy yearned to sea kayak with the fur seals and dolphins. Tristan was keen to try “ecologically sensitive” quad biking and deep sea fishing, while Sasha thought sandboarding sounded pretty nifty. Tandem skydiving, dune parasailing and paragliding would also have to wait — for a long, long time, as far as Joy was concerned!

Our people in Namibia also took care of Angelina and Brad during their baby confinement at neighboring Long Beach, and we (guiltily) enjoyed their fascinating Brangelina stories, too—a lovely family by all accounts.

The old German Railway Station from 1901 is now the marvelous Swakopmund Hotel, but we hardly had a moment to enjoy it. Our evening was filled with another incredible adventure: drinks high atop a rocky outcropping, facing the dramatic Mountains of the Moon landscape, and a seriously gourmet dinner staged deep in the ancient rock canyons of Moon Valley, glowing in the light of a thousand candles. What could possibly top this?

Next: Spectacular Sossusvlei….

Well, the towering sand dunes of Sossusvlei topped it pretty quickly. They’re preposterously beautiful. Furthermore, flying over the Sossusvlei Rift Valley was perhaps the most spectacular flight of our collective lifetimes.

In the last few months, Sossusvlei has received its heaviest rains in twenty years and the desert is positively glowing in velvety green vegetation. It’s almost eerie, actually, but exceptionally beautiful. Some scientists speculate that Africa has just finished a 20-year dry period and is entering a 20-year wet cycle.

From our anecdotal observations, that would be correct.

Indeed, it is odd to see those colossal, iconic, pink-orange sand dunes dotted in green. Even odder still is seeing the Namib Desert no longer a brown barren stretch of sand, but delicately layered in verdant waving tall grass as far as the eye can see. Green, brown or pink….we couldn’t gaze at it long enough.

First we took to the sky in a hot air balloon and soared at sunrise over the dunes, desert and salt pans, gasping in amazement at the lofty mountainous shapes and luxuriant widening landscapes changing colors in the rising sun. We’ve made myriad spectacular balloon flights over game-rich South African veldts and East Africa savannahs, but the scenery here is much more dramatic, and in many ways, more breathtaking. During the champagne breakfast that followed the flight, we were surrounded by remarkable beauty in every direction.

The following day was equally memorable. We packed a full proper British afternoon tea and outfitted ourselves in full bush picnic style – safari chairs, tables, kilims and all – to enjoy on the edge of the towering dunes. We admired the view, dined, laughed and documented the occasion.

When the sun lowered and the sand cooled, we made the magnificent ascent of an arm of the Big Daddy dune. Graham, our fun and fabulous pilot who has been flying us throughout Namibia, led the charge. (Our children would have followed him anywhere!) Jane and Felix wisely observed from the comfort of the picnic.

We departed the dunes after the sun had disappeared, but before the moon had risen—during that charmed period when the sky is pitch black and the firmament is dusted with a zillion stars. We stopped to stargaze, of course. Never before have we seen the Milky Way so wide and so bright. And seldom have we seen so many constellations so clearly. Our children can now easily spot Scorpius, with the Southern Cross as their anchoring stars.

That night we slept in “starbeds” on the flat top roof of our lovely chalet room, naming constellations and admiring the moon. It was crisp, clear and oh so exciting. The next day, we jumped into vehicles to find desert game like ostrich and springbok, and after nightfall set out again to locate bat-eared foxes and aardwolf in the cool desert air. We took a magnet and lifted iron ore out of the dune’s rich sand, miraculously filling half of a bottle. And, in between, we luxuriated in the lodge’s modern design with its soothing neutral colours, gorgeous textures, huge serene rooms and refreshing private plunge pools.

Graham played chess with Tristan, Jane relished the company of her granddaughter, Felix and Dennis enjoyed the luxury of chatting about everything from politics (on two continents, no less) to the potential of electric safari vehicles, while Joy, when she wasn’t blogging, at long last caught up on her reading.

Ahh…the joys of safari life.

P.S. A Slideshow Sojourn…

For manual forward and backward controls, roll your cursor over the slides.
By the way, the best shots on our safari are by Tristan Pinto, our serious amateur photographer.


6 Responses to “Dispatch #4: Serendipitous Swakopmund, Spectacular Sossusvlei”

  1. Betty Staley says:

    Thank you, Pinto family. What a treat. It will make teaching about Africa to the High School Teacher Education students at Rudolf Steiner College in 2012 eye-opening.
    Betty Staley

  2. Peg Aikman says:

    Simply Amazing. Truly beautiful photos – awe inspiring. Beautifully written. What a gift you have given us all by sharing your experience. Thank you. It fills the heart.

  3. Elaine Carey says:

    Thank you once again for the wonderful photography Tristan! Even though I cannot flip through your slideshow, I’m sure they’re all fabulous. He might just have a career in photography.

    Can’t wait to see you at Travel Mart next week.

    Take care and safe journey home!

  4. Barbara King says:

    Namibia is on my list for 2012! I know you meant to include me on your family holiday, right? Michael and I had our bags packed, but alas…
    See you at Travel Mart! You are the best—company, world citizen diplomats, and friends!

  5. Ruth Hodges says:

    Tristan, I am so impressed with your photos!

  6. Patricia Vopalensky says:

    This is just most wonderful! I have so enjoyed your
    trip and the beautiful pictures. Please include me on
    you next post. Thank you.

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Dispatch #3: Moonlight in Namibia

Posted by: Micato

The chill in the air made it even more dramatic:  a rare central lunar eclipse in the sky above, with four rare white rhinos outlined in silvery moonlight at the waterhole below. It was absolutely otherworldly.

We chose our fabulous Namibian lodge for a few reasons:  1) With only three exquisite bungalows, we could take it over for our family alone;  2) Located within its own private game concession, it’s rich in lion, cheetah and more;  and 3) It’s within striking distance of legendary Etosha National Park.  But most importantly, 4) it had a high-powered Swarovski Optik telescope for watching the eclipse!

Sasha and Tristan man the telescope

And what a show the moon put on for us. We settled down to dinner on the terrace next to the telescope and watched while we dined—ooh-ing, aww-ing and photographing madly as bites were taken out of the oversized white moon. After it completely disappeared behind the earth’s shadow, we played a rousing game of Jenga awaiting its reappearance. All in all, it was a night to remember and an especially unforgettable experience for Sasha and Tristan.

The moon rapidly disappearing

Namibia has brought other unexpected surprises and delights. Namibians, we’ve decided, are amongst the most enlightened, educated and up-to-date people in Africa.

Formerly a German colony, Namibia gained independence in 1990 and seems to have been doing everything right since then. It’s one of very few countries in the world to specifically address conservation and protection of natural resources in its constitution. What a stellar example for other countries to follow.

From a traveller’s perspective, it’s also well-organized, spotless and exceedingly friendly. Communication is effortless since English has been the official language for decades, and rarely in Africa have we experienced such uninterrupted, seamless cellular reception. This is a blessing and a curse, of course. We can speak to Joy’s mother in Connecticut whenever we wish, but we also receive continuous email from the office…

Our stay here has been a relaxing first safari stop, especially considering the long and busy month ahead of us. We’ve had a sumptuous lodge all to ourselves (other than the family of rock hyraxes who love our bungalow’s sunbeds and the multitudes of birds who visit our plunge pool), a low-key day visiting Etosha National Park to see its famous elephants, as well as flamingoes on the salt pans (millions more will migrate back any day, turning the pans into a pink wonderland), plus we’ve enjoyed day and night game drives in the lodge’s private concession, effortlessly locating the resident trio of lion brothers hunting each day.

Even the bathroom is breathtaking

What’s next on the Pinto program?

The sweet, sleepy town of Swakopmund – if it sounds familiar it’s probably thanks to Angelina and Brad, who took up temporarily residence a few years ago, awaiting the birth of their first child. Then, the stunning Sossusvlei Desert with Graham, our private plane pilot who we can’t live without, followed by Botswana via helicopter, bush plane, elephant back, dugout canoe, ATV and speedboat. What fun!

In the bush: Tristan, Sasha, Jane, Felix, Joy and Dennis

We’ll be posting again soon. In the meantime, we’re wishing you a very happy summer wherever you may be!



8 Responses to “Dispatch #3: Moonlight in Namibia”

  1. Sally Fisher says:

    Thank you so very for sharing all of your wonderful experiences with your loving family. Cheers! Sally Fisher

  2. Elaine Carey says:

    What a bathroom!! I want one please. Again, loving all the comments and family photos. What a wonderful experience for all of you to share with us!

    Best to you all and your folks too!
    Elaine Carey

  3. Ludo & Odette Pinto says:

    What a great trip! The pictures are super too and we look forward to seeing more photos from Tristan! Sarah, Sheldon and Alys are also very much into photography ….. we will have to share photos! Thanks for sharing your adventures with us. Much love to Jane, Felix, Dennis, Joy, Sasha and Tristan from the “Edmonton Pintos”

  4. TOMS Shoes says:

    It is amazing how many things you can find online, without even really trying. Thanks for sharing this!

  5. Jane Engel says:

    Dennis and family,

    What a wonderful evening you have described! My husband and I glimpsed Namibia from the Chobe River some years ago, but we were not able to visit. Will have to now! I loved everything about our trip to Southern Africa and so thank you for including me in your family safari dispatches.

    Best regards,
    Jane Engel

  6. Jackie Fox says:

    Dear Pinto Family:

    What a wonderful experience. I am sharing your emails with my 12 year old grandson. His Aunt lives in Narobi and some of his cousins. Muji is wanting me to bring him to Africa and I am hoping to be able to do so in the near future.


    Jackie Fox

  7. Nancy says:

    I want to live in that bathroom……The trip looks wonderful.

  8. emilene says:

    Pinto family! I can’t believe how Sasha and Tristan have grown!! Your trip seems absolutely perfect – I look forward to seeing your Sossusvlei and Botswana photographs. Regards to you all!

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Dispatch #2: Jaunt to Johannesburg

Posted by: Micato

Johannesburg airport, outclassing airports worldwide

Our 11 year old son expected it but we didn’t… Johannesburg International Airport is a thing of beauty. Why did he know this but we didn’t? He’s an avid soccer fan, of course. And Joburg received a totally new and fabulous airport for last summer’s World Cup Soccer games. It couldn’t have been more impressive. Our private escort was waiting at the gate as we descended the breezeway – an exclusive Micato touch that makes a terrific first impression – and our luggage appeared within 10 minutes. Take note, New York’s JFK and LaGuardia: the southern hemisphere has upped the ante.

Epitome of luxury - The Saxon Hotel

The Saxon Hotel in nearby Sandton is drop dead gorgeous—sleek, cool African moderne. Ancient wood fertility gods in every conceivable size and shape meet textured white walls and rich silk upholstery in shades of tan and beige. Joy photographed excessively, daydreaming about a total home redecoration.


Served in style, clockwise from bottom left, Jane Pinto, Felix Pinto, Farida Lukie (from Micato Cape Town) and Dennis Pinto

Dinner at the Chef’s Table* capped the day, comfortably ensconced in an air-conditioned glass box in the kitchen, observing the hotel’s dynamic new executive chef from Australia running her kitchen with an iron hand—barking orders, cooking, saucing, instructing and testing. After two courses, jet lag claimed Sasha and Tristan. Jane and Felix made it through four courses before succumbing to their sumptuous bedroom upstairs, while Joy, Dennis and Farida Lukie (of our Cape Town office) indulgently made it through all eight courses with wine pairings. Wow! The safari had officially begun.

* Travellers take note – we can arrange Chef’s Table for Micato Bespoke travellers at Saxon Hotel.



13 Responses to “Dispatch #2: Jaunt to Johannesburg”

  1. Elaine Carey says:

    Wow, what a way to travel! I feel so bad that you’re roughing it out on your way to the bush!

    I love seeing all your descriptive comments and the photos with all the family makes it even more enjoyable. Can’t wait to go on my first safari with Micato. It’s on my bucket list!

    Thank you for sharing your family adventure with us,

  2. Allen Jones says:

    We are looking forward to following your adventures for the next month..what a wonderful opportunity to share with your family..thanks for including BI.

    Best regards and have a wonderful time.

    Allen Jones

  3. Kathleen Wahab says:

    Thank you for sharing your photos & comments on those exciting destinations and so informative for sharing with clients. Africa is fascinating!

  4. Vicki Mitchell says:

    My family traveled to Kenya with Micato in 2001, it was wonderful. South Africa looks like a great trip, too. Enjoyed the commentary with pictures. Makes me want to go back to Africa again.

  5. Raven says:

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience. Looking forward to seeing photos of the animals in the bush. This is my incentive to going on a Micato safari sooner than later.

  6. Susan Maddox says:


  7. georgette serrano says:

    Africa is a wonderful destination! Still want to make it to
    Namibia. You make it seem so easy.

  8. Anne Williams says:

    Enjoy reading your commentary while on your trip. The best trip in my life time was going to Nairobi, Kenya and Tanzania Dec 09 with Micato. We were treated like Kings and Queens. I would like to visit Johannesburg as well, but my husband is now handicapped and I will not be able to travel that far for a while. I’m anxious to read about the rest of your trip and the Saxon is fabulous.

  9. Barbara King says:

    Loved reading this! The Saxon is one of my absolute favorite hotels and the Pintos and Micato are equal faves, in the people category! Talk about a perfect pairing!

  10. Bettie Grandison says:

    I am glad I am on your mailing list. Look forward to more pictures. Thank you

  11. Vicki Purcell says:

    Absolutely beautiful!!!!!!!!!!

    Makes me want to start planning my next trip.
    Can’t wait for the next post.

  12. Lynn says:

    The added pictures and smiles make the reading even more enjoyable. Thanks for sharing. Lynn

  13. Judy Rafter says:

    Wonderful! I live vicariously through your emails!!

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Dispatch #1: Greetings from Micato’s Africa!

Posted by: Micato


The Pintos (from left): Dennis, Joy, Felix, Jane, Sasha, and Tristan at the Vumbura Plains Camp in Botswana's Okavango Delta


Our annual summer migration brought us some 7,960 miles from New York City to join up with Felix and Jane in Johannesburg, where we relaxed and regrouped before embarking on a month-long sojourn to Namibia and Botswana. Despite our best intentions to unplug the family, we were deeply inspired by our South Africa discoveries – as we always are on safari – and couldn’t resist sharing a few favourite moments with you.

Micato’s Africa never fails to take our breath away, no matter how often we visit.  We hope you’ll enjoy these dispatches.

Dennis and Joy Pinto


13 Responses to “Dispatch #1: Greetings from Micato’s Africa!”

  1. Kathy Bissinger says:

    I’m VERY tardy in sending this message but nonetheless – what a fabulous “travelog.” It makes me want to pack my bags and fly to Namibia and Botswana.

    Wishing the Pinto family our very best and many thanks for sharing this wonderful experience.

    Warm regards,

    Kathy and Paul Bissinger

  2. George Gretser says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this – we are instantly transported back to our wonderful Micato experience and dinner with Felix and Jane, and for some reason I am remembering a parrot??

  3. Sandy Friedman says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us. You are an incredible family. We have journeyed with your company to Kenya and can’t wait to do another safari with you. Jane and Felix you have not changed since we last saw you in your home.

  4. AMO says:

    Dear Dennis & family,
    The smiles tell it all – great and wonderful family experience! Very inspirational. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Kathy Bissinger says:

    I have just joined your journey and can’t wait for further installments. Sounds glorious.

    My best to all of the Pintos.

    Warm regards,


  6. Bonnie Humble says:

    What a great idea to share your beautiful family trip to South Africa! Wonderful to see Felix & Jane who have hosted our groups in their beautiful home. Happy Travelling to you all!! Bonnie

  7. David Ratterman says:

    You have a beautiful family and you are blessed to be able to be together for experiences such as this. Thank you for sharing your family holiday with us. Personal touches like this are what make you number one in the world.

  8. Maggie & Vince Hall says:

    Dear Jane & Felix,
    So many years have past since we were part of your Team!
    Jane and Felix you haven’t changed,you are both looking incredible, time has stood still.
    Best wishes to all of you from Vince & Maggie (The Brit)

  9. Lynn says:

    Loved seeing and reading along with you. How wonderful, thanks and enjoy. Lynn

  10. Patrice Blair says:

    Dear Pinto Family,

    I thank you for the chance to join you on Safari! The children have grown so and Ms. Jane your looking quite marvelous :-)

    Keep the news from Africa coming.

    You remain in our hearts and prayers!

  11. Shirley Fehrman says:

    Everytime I get an email from you or see anything about Africa I relive my Micata safari all over again and hope that I can someday take another one.

  12. Mary Lyon says:

    I will be eagerly waiting for your next dispatch! Thank you so much for sharing with us.

  13. Debbie Centoni says:

    Thank you!! Enjoyed reading your wonderful journey. Have a safe trip. Debbie

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