Goodbye South Africa, Hello Zimbabwe!

Amanda Vallone

After an early morning flight on South African Airways (great airline – they include a meal on every flight and perfectly poised flight attendants), we landed in Zimbabwe, home of Victoria Falls!

After exiting the airport, we were welcomed to Zimbabwe by traditional singers and dancers—It was amazing!

Visas: When you fly or Drive from South Africa to Zimbabwe you actually cross borders into a new country. Often times people I run into think of Africa as one big country — it is a continent!!! When you go from one country into another you have to cross the borders of that country and go through their visa and passport checking system. I will say South Africa was the most intimidating one to me, but Zimbabwe was no joke either. After debarking our plane we were walked down a ramp to the checkpoint. My group had to be prepared for 2 different kinds of visas. Six of my people needed a multi-entry visa from Zimbabwe and Zambia called the KAZA because these 6 were going to take a jaw dropping adventure to jump into the Devil’s Pool at the top of Victoria Falls on the Zambian side.

The rest of my group only needed a single-entry visa. These Visas range from $30-50 cash depending on the type.

Of course, when we went to purchase our KAZA visa they were not issuing them anymore L Did this mean we wouldn’t get to take our Devils Pool adventure?

No… We just had to buy 2 single entry visas at the airport, then another visa at the Zambian Border—i.e. spend more money. It seems like all government is on the same path worldwide hehehe.

So we all had our visas and we were on our way. •

The Best Welcome!

After exiting the airport, we were met by a group of 10 men wearing traditional dress of Zimbabwe and singing the most amazing songs. I believe they were performing a traditional Mbakumba dance. Since dancing is very important in the Zimbabwean culture, it was a fantastic way to start our journey through Zimbabwe.

Climate: Opposite of South Africa being very green and chilly, Zimbabwe was about 80-90˚F and extremely dry. Before hopping into our transfer vehicle, we all stripped off all those layers from the morning to t-shirts and pants or shorts.

This is what we all thought Africa would look like.

After a short ride with our tour director, Mombassa, we made our way to Kingdom Lodge, Victoria Falls, where we were met again by a traditionally dressed man.

Kingdom Lodge: We stayed at a 4* resort in Victoria Falls called Kingdom Lodge. It was extremely beautiful and the rooms were quite spacious. Breakfast in the morning was amazing. And this was our first real opportunity to use the pool—refreshing! Our resort had a bar, a pool, a gift shop, a few restaurants, and even wildlife living on property. It was anything you could want and more from a trip to Zimbabwe. It was family friendly too!

But we weren’t there to soak up the hotel amenities. We were there to experience the Mosi-oa-Tunya (read on…), but we would have to wait until the morning.

So, for our evening experience we enjoyed a sunset cruise on the Zambezi river.

Our small pontoon boat sailed slowly upstream meandering along the banks of the river in search of wildlife big and small. The Zambezi River is Africa’s fourth largest river system after the Nile, Zaire, and Niger Rivers. This river actually runs through six countries and into the Indian Ocean. Many of its dams are harnessed for power, though the Zambezi is the least developed in terms of human settlement, as many of the areas are protected.

Along this cruise we saw elephants on the bank, hippos peeking up out of the water, and various species of birds. This was our first “wildlife adventure” and we loved it. We were served hors d’ourves and had an open bar along our journey, meaning we were able to toast the most amazing African sunset!

This was a great experience!

Was it handicap accessible? Yes and no. As you can see there was a ramp to get on the boat. So boarding and disembarking the vessel was certainly accessible. To get into the port-a-potty type bathroom you had go up 2 steps, and it would not be safe for anyone to attempt if they had a walking disability like my mom. But it was only a 2 hour boat ride, so don’t let that deter you from taking this adventure if you are wheelchair bound.

The location that we boarded the boat however, had a steep hill to walk down that was not paved so getting a wheelchair down this would have been very difficult. I am pretty certain the operators would have moved the boat to board a wheelchair or had a backup plan. My mother walked it. It was not easy for her but she did it and was happy she did.

Boma Dinner: Known as more than a night out, it was an EXPERIENCE!

The Boma Dinner Experience began after dark with a traditional greeting in the local languages, Shona and Ndebele. We were all hugged, dressed in chitenges (traditional robes) and prepared to enter the main enclosure by the addition of a face painting.

After we entered, we were invited to take part in a hand washing ceremony and then let loose to  sample traditional beer (that was worth one try, but not on my top 10,000 things to taste again) and snacks, as a prelude to dinner.

Partially open to the African skies, the Boma offers a unique experience that bombards the senses with the tastes, sights, sounds and smells of Africa. There was not only food and entertainment, but handicraft workers and artists selling their wares. You could even go and have the bones cast by the Sangoma (traditional healer). All of this together with the warmth and hospitality of Zimbabwe and its people, Boma was the perfect dining experience for our group.

Several of us even were awarded a certificate of bravery for eating the Mopani Worm- that’s right! We ate a WORM, people.

Don’t believe me? Watch the video umm chewy!

The food was plentiful, there were many vegetarian options as well as desserts, meats, and sides. In all honesty, I enjoyed this food much more than the dinner in Cape Town. To anyone going on this adventure, I would recommend not choosing one over the other- go to both Gold & Boma—they are too different to only choose one.

Don’t tune out too quickly though… wait to see what we did next!

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Explorer Spotlight: Patricia Bovio

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What made you interested in traveling to Hawaii as a family?

 

We’ve wanted to visit Hawaii for a while. We were also very attracted to what it has to offer and that there are so many different things to do like hiking, sight-seeing, nice beaches, etc.  We got the recommendation of doing a cruise and that was definitely the best option to see different islands without the hassle of traveling in between.

 

What was the best part of Hawaii?

 

We absolutely loved all the islands and what each had to offer. Our absolute winner was Hilo and the excursion to the Kilauea. Seeing the old lava flows and the volcano so close, made for an extraordinary experience that we will never forget. We really got to see Mother Nature in all its splendor.

 

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How would you describe traveling with your 2 year old to Hawaii?

 

Surprisingly it was not too bad (other than the long flights), we were also surprised to see many other families traveling with babies and young kids as well. Because we were doing so many things and constantly changing sceneries, Sophia was busy and entertained. We did not even have to go around everywhere with toys or other things, only plenty of drinks and a few snacks. All the tours we took were very patient and accommodating with us and the baby. The cruise was definitely the best way to go, since we wanted to see more places and did not have to worry about constantly packing and unpacking and the time that consumes. The only disadvantage was the limited space; next time we will definitely look into having a little bit more room.

 

Do You Know the Real Story of Mount Rushmore?

Knowing the “Real”story behind a destination: Mount Rushmore

By Amanda Vallone

Have you ever wondered what the “real story” is behind a destination, piece of art, or monument? If you are like most, you have probably learned about famous sights in history from a book, magazine articles, history lesson, or television show. It is a unique opportunity to put that knowledge to the test when you see the sight in person.

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One of the most recognizable monuments in the US is Mount Rushmore- nearly three million people each year travel worldwide to marvel at the majestic beauty of the Black Hills of South Dakota and see the National Monument to four of our nation’s most influential leaders. What may surprise you, is that it was not the original idea of artist Gutzon Borglum to create a monument to the president to the badlands of South Dakota… rather, South Dakota historian Doane Robinson was initially looking to bring tourists to the badlands by celebrating the West. They were to commission an artist to sculpt Western heroes like Oglala Lakota leader Red Cloud, explorers Lewis and Clark, and Buffalo Bill Cody into the nearby stone pinnacles known as the Needles. But the dream of making this tourist attraction large enough to draw people from around the globe needed to be larger than the Needles…. It needed to be carved into the side of a mountain. And so, it was.

Did you know:

* Jefferson was supposed to be on Washington’s Right? But the rock didn’t work out so his face was blasted out and replaced to the left.

* There is a hall of records behind the head of President Lincoln which holds our Nation’s most valuable information and is stored and meant to be opened thousands of years from now to educate our future generations.

* The carving was originally meant to include the bodies of the presidents down to their waists.

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* In 1937, a bill was introduced to Congress to add the image of women’s rights leader Susan B. Anthony to the mountain… But then, Congress then passed a bill requiring only the heads that had already been started be completed.

* 400 men worked on Mount Rushmore, only one of whom was hired an artist, the rest were miners who were good with dynamite. Surprisingly, no man died during this project.

* The one artist Borglums did hire Korczak Ziolkowski, to work as an assistant on the mountain. But after 19 days and a heated argument with Borglum, Korczak Ziolkowski left the project. He would later begin another mountain carving nearby, Crazy Horse Memorial, which today is the world’s largest mountain sculpture in progress.

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You see, some of the most famous monuments in our nation have a lot of interesting and fun facts behind them. This summer the Aging Tree will take a group departure to Mount Rushmore and get a first hand view of these 60 foot tall carvings in the side of a mountain that draw over 3 million visitors from around the world every year. This guided tour brings you to experience the greatness of Mount Rushmore, sightseeing, dinner, and the spectacular lighting of the memorial at night. You will partake in

a patriotic welcome and salute to our Veterans and the Presidents who were chosen for their significant contribution to the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of this great country.

Do you want to learn more about Mount Rushmore, or the rest of the destinations on this departure including Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Devils Tower and Crazy Horse Memorial?

Join us February 28th at 4:30 at the Aging Tree for more information. Call 386-734-7245 today to RSVP and for more information- CLICK HERE

Can I tell you a story about the time I lived in India

My Bollywood Adventure… Well maybe not quite that glam.

By Amanda Vallone

Picture this, I am in my last year of grad school at Auburn University and my husband (yes, husband- I was a child bride) was completing his second bachelors degree in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering also at Auburn University.  It is 2008 and George (hubby) is taking graduate classes at university and working on some scientific things I couldn’t even begin to explain pertaining to everything from space travel, rockets, to providing sufficient hydration and protection for our military while learning about renewable energy sources.

December of 2007 we were offered the opportunity only seven students in the whole University were awarded- the chance to travel abroad to India all expenses paid if we came back with a research project and an international perspective of the “foreign -exchange student” experience to share with other Auburn students in our own curriculum.

So what would any other poor, working (three jobs)- yet barely surviving, adventurous student do before they had to graduate and get their “big boy and big girl jobs”?

I don’t think you need to think hard to figure that one out… We of course said YES to the opportunity to travel to India and take part in the 4 month research program. No Questions Asked!

Hahahaha- we were literally crazy. We knew nothing about India and we had to apply for our Visas, find a place to stay, work, research, and figure out the travel. We were connected to one of the most prestigious universities in all of India and even the wold- IIT Madras.

Except, upon arrival, they did not have housing for us- party foul! How does one travel this far and plan for 6 months without a place to stay?

 

So what did we do? We left Chennai and traveled 7 hours down mostly unpaved, bumpy, dirt roads to Tiruchirappall, IIT Trichy to stay at a neighboring university for our first two weeks until we could find other accommodations and come up with plan B.

The drive was… rough. I will leave it at that. No, I am not talking about the bumpy roads. That was difficult too, but getting off at street markets and needing to use a eastern facility that is similar to an outhouse is a bit more of what I am considering rough. And figuring out what to eat,  or what not to eat, and the conversion of money… it was all a bit much on extreme jet lag.

  • At this point in my story I am wondering if those reading it are questioning how I got into the travel industry if I am “complaining” — keep reading on…

So we arrive in Trichy after asking directions (because there are not street signs everywhere) and people just give head nods to our drivers questions “Ana Trichy Bono” Which means “Which way Trichy, thank you?!”

Things I saw along the way:

  • Signs for STD’s everywhere- say whaaaat? I later found out it was their sim card for their phone. Totally different from what I would have ever guessed.
  • Coconut Oil- You think you are up on the latest trend by using beauty products or cooking with Coconut Oil in the last few years? India has been doing it forever. No conditioner to be found… but Coconut Oil is sold at the street corner shop in individual packages.
  • Monkeys… they just ran right across the street like squirrels do here. Difference is, if we hit a squirrel in the states we might be upset or even cry about it… In India if you hit a monkey you will sell your car because it is bad luck and some believe monkeys are gods.
  • Rickshaws- an awesome form of transportation to try once or twice.
  • Motorcycles as the family vehicle- with 5-6 people piled up on them
  • Traffic lanes that fit three times the amount of vehicles we would ever dare into the same area.

So we spent our two week allotment at IIT Trichy worked in their lab and met with countless professors about engineering stuff that was over my head. I am not dumb by any means, it just was not interesting at all. The culture however, was extremely interesting. I went to temples, bazaars, and watched traditional dance performances after every single meeting. One of my favorite parts of India was mingling with the people.

We went to the famous Rock Fort that is said to geologically date back a billion years (the actual rock). This historic Rock Fort and temple complex are built on the very top of this huge hill/ rock that measures 273 feet high in the city of Tiruchirapalli. It was truly a pilgrimage to so many. For us, it was our first temple and an amazing experience. We had to take our shoes off before going in and walk barefoot out of respect. The colors on the walls were spectacular and the carvings and designs of the gods and deities were spectacular. There are two Hindu temples inside the Rockfort, The Uchchi Pillaiyar Koil and The Siva Temple.

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This temple was just the beginning of us visiting countless more temples and faith-filled places. It really was quite an experience.

So onto the rest of our time.

I had a professor in the states, Dr. Veena Chattaraman who had a connections with the Gandhi Rural Rehabilitation Centre (GRRC), which was located in a little rural village just a couple hours away in Alampoondi. GRRC was originally founded by monks who wanted to help those of society who were considered “castaways” including those who had leprosy.  GRRC is now working with the disadvantaged and under privileged village youth, children, women, widow and handicapped people.

Since I was an undergraduate student of Fashion Design and a Masters of Science in Consumer Affairs with emphasis in Entrepreneurship in the apparel industry my project was to come to GRRC and help the handloom weavers and the tailors create designs that would be marketable to a more “Western” market. And to then help with the marketing plan of this.

George was to stay with me and bring solar energy to this community or at least this compound, as they were so far off the grid there would be three days at a time we did not get electricity.

Some of the best people in all of India we met were located right here… they did not speak English, and our only way to communicate was pointing and hand motions or with the one gentleman who could speak Tamil and English. Mr. Kumar was the director of the compound, welcomed us into his facility  and into his home for dinner on a few occasions. He had a different type of home because it was whats they called a “love marriage” rather than an arranged marriage. They educated us greatly on the cultural views of marriage, cast system, and what they thought of the US… it was an election year and an Olympic year too. Being an outsider looking into these events was quite an interesting experience.

We stayed in India for about 4 months traveling all over the place. We explored Southern India going back and forth from Chennai to Trichy to Aloompoondi and we even took a vacation to the backwaters of Kerala in which we stayed on a houseboat. Kerala’s backwaters is somewhat similar to the bayou as it is a network of interconnected canals, rivers, lakes and inlets. It is truly a labyrinthine system formed by nearly 600 miles of waterways.

Though I have been a vegetarian collectively almost 1/2 of my life picking it up and dropping it on and off over the years, I found it difficult in India. The one thing I looked forward to was when we would go to Chennai  (one of 2 times total) they had a Pizza Hut and I ordered myself a whole large pizza with real pepperoni…. omg it was delicious.

 

At the end of our trip we had the forethought to plan to fly out of Northern India so we had no excuse not to visit the tourist sights and see the Taj Mahal. So George and I visited a Indian travel agent and set up a trip to see the Golden Triangle which included Seeing the Taj Mahal, visiting New Delhi, Agra, the Pink City of Jaipur, Rajastan  New Delhi, Agra and Rajasthan.

Jaipur is the capital city of Rajasthan and is also known as the Pink City. The maharaja painted the whole city pink, the color of hospitality, when Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales visited Jaipur in 1876. We visited the city’s historic forts and palaces.

We also visited Amber Fort- a marvelous example of Rajput architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The interior of the fort has various royal halls decorated with intricate ivory, mirror and glass work complemented by exquisite wall paintings. It was here that we took an elephant ride around the fort and realized if you give an ounce of interest to those selling you something you will miss all of the sights and you will only haggle the whole tour…

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Luckily today I have 2 beautiful blankets with round mirrors on them to tell everyone about the scenery I missed because I had to buy these blankets.

 

This Golden Triangle Tour really was everything that people think they will see in India. We ran into so many Western Tourists who said they absolutely LOVED India because they only stayed in Northern India. We had such a different and life altering experience in India the two weeks we spent doing the golden triangle was like a vacation that I only remember sparse memories from. The sights were beautiful and I would totally plan to go back for this Northern India Experience again… Ask me to move to India all expenses paid again? I would have to decline.

So moral of the story, I LOVE what I do in tourism… I think traveling the world opens your mind, heart and soul to people. There are new experiences all around you waiting for you to enjoy. It opens your life to opportunity, and it opens your eyes to the world.

I will be sharing pictures of my experience at our upcoming event “Spotlight on Travel” Wednesday, February 8th and would be more than happy to share the full story with you. Want more information on a specific destination in India? Just let me know. 386-734-7245

 

Explorer Spotlight: Antarctica on Azamara Club Cruises

explorer-spotlightExplorer Spotlight: Antarctica on Azamara Club Cruises

 

dianeheadBy: Diane Congdon- an adventurous and well traveled client of Roseborough Travel Agency.

 

The most absolute-over-the-top trip I have ever taken was a cruise to Antarctica in 2008 on the Azamara Journey.  At about 700 passengers, it was the smallest, most luxurious ship and the longest trip I had taken.

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Why Antarctica?  As a long-time Floridian, I am always looking for cooler weather and mountains for my trips.  The scenery was so breathtakingly spectacular that it is not describable in words.  I spent three days standing on the deck from dawn to dusk in rain, snow, sleet, hail and sunshine looking at icebergs more than a mile long and much taller than the ship (and remember only 1/10 of the berg actually shows above the water), beautiful mists, whales and bazillions of penguins and other birds, only coming in to get dry gloves and socks and a hot drink.  We went where the ice captains knew there were things to see with no set itinerary; if we saw something, the ship stopped and we looked.

The real bonus was the Chilean fjords.  Because the ship was so small, we hugged the coast line of Chile from Valparaiso down to the tip of South America.  The fjords rivaled, and may have exceeded, the beauties of the Alaska and Norway coasts.  The other real bonus was the people; the Chileans, Uruguayans and Argentinians were so welcoming and so proud of their lands.  I took a horseback ride to the end of the Americas; drank great Chilean wines; had Uruguayan barbecue at a ranch; bought a hand-woven wool shawl from the woman who carded the wool, wove the yarn and made the shawl (using sign language, finger waving and smiles to make the purchase).

 

And, yes, Roseborough planned this trip for me.

 

This trip is still at the top of my list to do again.  Along with a safari-laden trip to South Africa.

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South Africa for Children & Jungle Book

South Africa for Children, the Jungle Book, and Mommy who loves wine- how it all “Works”

By Amanda Vallone

So I just got done watching Jungle Book with my Two and a half year old baby girl Aurora the Explorer… (mommy side note, OMG I cannot believe she is almost  3 eeeeek) Anyway, Similar to my Tarzan movie experience I started jumping and getting all excited about going to Africa, specifically South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe on our September  22–October 2, 2017 departure next year with Salute Africa.

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The animals get me every time. By no means am I am  person to own a farm or ton of animals, though from these blogs you may think I am a total wildlife psycho. But something about traveling to a destination and seeing the wild roam free is literally tear-jerking to me. Yup… I used tear-jerking as a adjective because I am crying I am so excited. That’s Me!

I don’t know… I grew up with “different” types of pets when I was young. My dad had snakes, iguanas, turtles, mice (to feed to the snakes) and toads when I was young. I remember driving home (Dunkrik, New York) from Florida in a Pontiac Grand Am one year with a massive iguana separating my sister and I in the back seat (saved lots of fights).

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(Embarrassing photo alert! Who does this to their kids hair? MOM! This is me and my younger sister Jess who I lovingly call Buttmunch… literally. Hence, the fighting in the grand am story)

I digress, the wildlife does something to my soul… and I realize my daughter Aurora has the same type of soul- the kid LOVES animals. As we were watching Jungle Book she was rawring with the tigers and panthers, howling with the wolf pack, and trumpeting with the elephants it literally makes my heart smile 🙂

So I am going to South Africa in   2017 on this AMAZING Adventure which includes two full days on Safari PLUS other animal encounters…  (Penguins and Seals off Cape Town). When planning this adventure I knew I had to bring my kid. She will LOVE this trip. Plus she doesn’t get the nickname Aurora the Explorer because she never takes a trip… nope, this child has more frequent flyer miles than most adults do and she is a GOOD traveler. Seriously, as my clients and trip-goers who have traveled with us… they tell me all the time they would have never known she was on the trip with us.

 

Anyway, the whole point of my writing this blog was to tell you this trip is CHILD FRIENDLY! It is a huge deal. No, by no means is it a Disney theme park that your kid will be entertained 24/7… you have to have a good traveler to begin with because it is a long flight and then lots of travel and on the game drive the kid MUST stay in their seat and quiet for hours (many children cannot do this and it is okay, but for those who can they will get to see the best wildlife). Mom and Dad, if you have a child who you “think” can go on this trip but you are worried about the game drive part I just mentioned with hours of quiet time… NO PROBLEM!!! We will set you up, in advance a private game drive that your family can enjoy but then come back when the kids get antsy… you know what this means? No dirty looks from other passengers in your jeep, plus the game drive experience for your family… best of Both Worlds!2015-03-09 21.41.20

In closing, I if you cannot tell am extremely excited about traveling to South Africa with you! Or telling you all about it when I get home, either way, I am going.

I have already started talking to Aurora the Explorer about visiting South Africa as well as started my personal “tasting” experience on African Wines… yummmmmmmm

Want more information? Click here or give me a call at Roseborough Travel Agency 386-734-7245

 

National Parks Celebrate 100 years #NPS100

National Parks Celebrate 100 years #NPS100

By Amanda Vallone

Happy birthday to you.. happy Birthday to you… Happy birthday NPS… Happy birthday to you.

So my birthday was just on Tuesday. I’ve heard the birthday song almost more times than I can bare.  I love celebrating, don’t get me wrong- But hate being serenaded. And believe me, no one in their right mind would have wanted to hear me sing that birthday song.

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So today is the national park services 100 year birthday. That’s pretty spectacular. One true milestone I think we all can agree upon. Yellowstone national park was the first of the national parks within the system and possibly the world. Known for its wildlife and many geothermal features, especially for Old Faithful Geyser-one of the most popular features in the park, Yellowstone is a favorite park to many.

(Some of Amanda’s pics from her previous National Parks article)

Jean recently went on a Mayflower tour to the National Parks and this was her experience “Old Faithful- Our Yellowstone naturalist guide was like a walking guidebook and showed us all sorts of great information about Yellowstone that I didn’t know. Most important, he coordinated with our Mayflower tour manager to be sure we got to see Old Faithful go off after grabbing a bite to eat at the visitor’s center. The smell of Sulphur all around, we saw a little bubbling as we stood at a viewing platform all around. Then, all of a sudden- whoosh! The geyser shot up and it sounded like a heavy rain falling.”

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Continental Divide- this was a really cool spot where we had breakfast with a view of the Grand Tetons in the background. We had hot coffee, juice, flapjacks, French Toast, sausage and bacon which were delicious- but it was the view that made it spectacular!

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Devil’s Tower- according to Native American legend, the rock rose up to save seven little girls from a larger bear. It’s home to more than 20 Native American tribes and we’ve seen it in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Pretty awesome to be standing right in front of it!

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Custer State Park- up close with all sorts of beautiful creatures

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Float trip- our view of the Grand Tetons from the raft on the river was totally free of any cars or buildings blocking them. Our raft guide kept us safe on our soft adventure, while giving all sorts of insight about the birds, wildlife, history and stories of the area. And we even got to see a bald eagle! They say smelling the fresh pine is actually a stress relief…and I agree!

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Mt Rushmore- so pretty with the sun shining, but we also got to see a ceremony at night- what a patriotic way to experience this monument.Validation that it is great to be seeing such cool things right in the states!

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– Picture of the mountains- Pretty much sums up the natural beauty of this trip…this is going up on the wall!

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As the great John Muir said “The mountains are calling, and I must go!”

If you are interested in joining a tour like Jean or Amanda took check out this link It is our group going June 2017 to Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and Mt. Rushmore…

Or give us a call at 386-734-7245 at Roseborough Travel and we will be happy to help you with planning your National Parks tour.