African adventure a dream come true for wife of Richland manager
Turning 60 inspired Barbara Bastianini of Richland to go wild.
“I wanted to go to Africa my whole life,” said the wife of Richland Township manager Dean Bastianini.
“When Dean asked me what I wanted for my 60th birthday, I said, ‘Do you know what I really want?'” she asked him.
“Sure. I'll go,” Dean Bastianini replied when his spouse of 36 years confessed her wish to go on a safari.
So off they went in late April, leaving behind their three grown daughters.
After driving to Washington, D.C., and then flying to London — where they spent nearly two days — the Bastianinis boarded an 11-hour flight to Cape Town, South Africa.
“I just went along for the ride,” said Dean Bastianini, who ended up taking about 5,000 photos, including close-ups of lions, warthogs, rhinos, giraffes, Cape buffalo and elephants, plus a leopard and a cheetah.
Along the way, the Bastianinis saw two poisonous snakes, including a cobra, and dined on “really good food,” she said, including ostrich, crocodile and impala.
During their April 26-to-May 12 getaway, the Bastianinis stayed at Kirkman's Camp in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve and Pondoro Game Lodge in the Balule Nature Reserve, both in Kruger National Park.
During their first lunch in the 19,600-square-mile park, a monkey stole a loaf of bread from their table.
“It jumped on the table, snatched that bread and ran,” Barbara Bastianini said. “I was a little intimidated about finishing the rest of the meal.”
Each morning and evening, the Bastianinis climbed into an open-air vehicle with guides to look for wild animals within the park.
“How close they let us get to the lions surprised me,” Barbara Bastianini said about their tour guides and animal spotters. “When you see that your guide and your tracker aren't afraid, then you're not afraid.
“The spotters were incredible. They tended to come from the tribes in that area,” she said. “They know everything — they know by the way the grass is broken in a certain direction that animals have been there. … They can tell by smelling the air. It's amazing.”
The Bastianinis also visited Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town, where the late Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, spent 18 years in prison. A former political prisoner led their tour.
“That was so moving. Dean and I were both political science majors (at Slippery Rock University),” Barbara Bastianini said. “Our guide had done eight years of hard labor after being picked up for protesting against the government teaching children in Afrikaans — an official language of South Africa — instead of their native languages.”
The Bastianinis also toured South Africa's wine country and viewed prehistoric cave art in the Cederberg Wilderness Area.
“The hotels were wonderful. The people were so friendly, so grateful,” said Barb Bastianini. “Our driver to the airport, when we were coming home, made a little speech and thanked us for coming to South Africa. We just felt so welcome, the whole time.”
Barbara Bastianini arranged the trip through Rhino Africa at www.rhinoafrica.com.
“I think travel is a very broadening experience,” Dean Bastianini said after the trip. “We stayed in some of the nicest places we've ever stayed in.
“I think it's a good travel destination. It's a beautiful country. There's a lot to see,” he said about South Africa. “It was a real adventure.”
Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or email@example.com.