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Botswana

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Wednesday 15 April

Felicity’s birthday continued in Botswana.  On entering we crossed through a Foot and Mouth checkpoint, where you all have to get out of the vehicle, wipe your feet on a mat soaked in chemicals and drive the vehicle through some dip. The lady asked if we had a fridge and then went round to check its contents.  Raising some sandwich ham above her head she asked Felicity if we had any meat, to which Felicity replied no and we were allowed to carry on!

We drove the main road through the National Park to Chobe Safari Lodge, spotting some sable and an ele bull on the way.  The lodge and campsite are situated on the edge of the Chobe River and the unusually high water had flooded a few of the camping spots and normally well situated campsite bar.  We had sundowner cocktails beside the river before cooking birthday curry at the campsite to the sound of an extremely angry ele creating a load of racket and keeping the guards very busy.

Thursday 16 April

Felicity’s parents and bro caught up with us today, having driven from Windhoek, and after some very excited hellos, we exchanged stories over a couple of beers.

It was Felicity’s second birthday and to celebrate we went out on afternoon river safari, which was excellent and very relaxing.  We saw loads of game and it gave a different perspective to the Park.  When we got back we had a braai and Felicity opened more (maybe not such surprise) presents.

Friday 17 April

We got up early for a full day safari in Chobe.  We mainly drove along the river route, but having 2 4×4s we also had a good explore down some of the smaller, less used tracks.  On the way back the bush was absolutely crawling with ele coming down to the river to drink, which everyone, particularly Cherry enjoyed.  In fact, she was so excited she would quite regularly screw her eyes up and make a squealing noise!  The highlight for her was definitely when a large ele bull stood blocking the road, clearly going nowhere and Bob had to coax it out of the way, so we could continue.

Sunday 19 April

Yesterday we relaxed at the lodge with Cherry while Felicity’s family went off to Victoria Falls for the day.  In the evening we pushed the boat out a little and ate at the restaurant.  There was some fantastic cultural singing and dancing and almost countless buffet style courses, which we did our best to gradually work our way through.

After sad farewells to Cherry today, we stocked up on supplies and the rest of us headed off to the funky Planet Baobab (with its giant aardvark) close to the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans.

Monday 20 April

The organised excursions to the Salt Pans and nearby National Parks were all very pricey, so we decided to take the risk of driving into the unknown of Ntwetwe Salt Pan on our own, with a surprising confidence that having two vehicles and more worryingly Marc we wouldn’t get lost, or stuck in the wilderness to become one of the few travellers that, according to the guidebook, never make it back! 

We drove to Gweta and then as directed south with the added hope that we may find the huge zebra migration that we had been advised was down that way.  Basically there are loads of tracks winding their way down to and across the pan and no set route.  Fortunately, the GPS came in very handy again, as it had Chapman’s Baobab, at the northern edge of the pan, marked on it.  This immense and quite famous baobab was our first stopping point before we started out across the desolate and vast pan itself.  The tracks became fewer and fewer as we carried on and the horizon was a blur of mirages.  This and the slight concern, having read in the book about the risk of breaking through the pan crust and getting stuck made the drive quite exciting!  We stopped again in what we believed was the middle at a sort of petrified dune (slight rise in the flatness) for some brunch.

Feeling adventurous, after brunch we decided to keep going south and then wind our way back up around the western edge of the pan, wildly guessing that would probably be the direction the zebra would have been moving.  Taking bearings we gradually made our way back north and found our starting point.  En route we also found thousands of zebra poos, but we did fail to find th 10,000s of zebra.

Tuesday 21 April

We found out that we had been hot on the hocks of the zebra yesterday, but that they had actually entered the Makgadikgadi National Park already, so we purchased a permit to visit Nxai Pan in the morning and then drive through Makgadikgadi on the way back.

We did find the herds of thousands of zebra this time spread across the large open expanses of grassland and spent the afternoon just watching them and enjoying the peace over a couple of cold Savannas (ciders).

Thursday 23 April

Yesterday we drove to Maun the entry town for most visitors to the Okavango Delta. We got the power steering pump that Cherry had brought out with her fitted and then camped at the peaceful and friendly riverside campsite of the Old Bridge Backpackers.

Today we were all very excited, as we were flying in to the Delta for a bit of luxury, courtesy of Felicity’s parents.  In the morning we decided to get Bob a jet and engine wash before we flew, which proved a bit of a mission.  Place number 1 had a 2/3 hour wait, at the second the guy succinctly explained, “Err, you see sir, err, the problem is err, my machine it is fucked!”, and finally finding somewhere that could do it they waved us into the covered parking bay.  As we drove cautiously in, pointing at the jerry cans on the roof and the height of the bay, the guy watched them meticulously and waved us on until crunch - we hit the bar and broke the jerry can holder!  Tight for time we made a temporary plan, got the car washed for a discounted price and a promise they would fix it when we got back and went to the airport to meet the others.

We arrived on the dot of check-in time and much to the relief of Stuart (F’s dad) who was looking a bit tense.  The flight was just us and one other person in a little 6-seater and we watched the channels and amount of water gradually increase as we flew further into the Delta to Pompom; the first of two camps we were staying at.

Pompom, was a pretty little camp on the edge of a large lagoon and with permanent luxury ensuite tented rooms; quite a contrast to the rest of our trip.  All food and drinks were included, which we all quickly made the most of and our evening activity was a game drive in our own guide and vehicle.

Friday 24 April

Today’s morning activity was a mokoro (traditional dug-out canoe) trip along the channels.  This was a very peaceful way to enjoy the Delta from a different angle and we stopped to look at smaller things like the tiny painted reed frogs.  

Felicity’s family were pretty keen to try their hands at poling the mokoros, as they had been punting on the Thames most years in the UK.  The guides seemed pretty surprised by their skills and that they didn’t just fall in, as the mokoros are quite had to balance.

After a short siesta - much needed due to all the effort we were putting in to eating, drinking and sitting - we took the mokoros out again in the afternoon; this time poling ourselves and one accompanying guide around the island.

The day ended with another delicious meal and then we sat around the fire, having a drink, as the camp staff entertained us with some dancing and singing.  Felicity was dragged up, much to her embarrassment, but put on an excellent, if not fairly crazy, impression of their dancing.

Saturday 25 April

We had a morning drive and then early afternoon had a ten minute flight to Gunn’s Camp, situated deeper into the Delta on the edge of Moremi Reserve.  This had a bit more of a rustic and more informal feel to it, which we liked and the main lodge bar and lounge area looked out over a vast expanse of swamp and waterways with 4 large ele bulls in view when we arrived.  We also had the entire camp to ourselves for the first night.

After settling in to our rooms we went out on the mokoros along the much deeper channels.  We then had a short walk (due to the amount of water here all activities are boat based, or walking).  We actually saw quite a bit of general game during the walk, but the highlight was walking into some ele bulls; one of which picked up on us and gave a spirited trumpet and mock charge, sending a couple of hearts racing.  We made our way back before sunset and the mokoro munching hippos came out into the main channels.

Sunday 26 April

We started at 6, had breakfast, and then set off on the motor boat to a large sand island in Moremi and a full day in the bush.  We had another really enjoyable and much longer morning walk and saw lots of general game, smaller stuff (tracks, signs etc.), herds of ele and came across a recent kill.  Although we didn’t actually find the carcass itself we followed the stench to the kill site, which was quite exciting when we knew we were so close.

After the walk we nipped across to another smaller island, shared only by some hippos and a black mamba! and tucked into our picnic lunch.  As we lazed/snoozed a herd of eles crossed the river towards us, creating a huge amount of drama and noise as they did so to scare away crocs and anything else from the young with them.  The young had to swim through the deeper channel with just their trunks out of the water and as they reached shallower water again the herd picked up speed, kicking up loads of spray, as they passed nearby.

We had a short afternoon walk before making it back to the lodge for sundowners.

Monday 27 April

We had an early flight out of the Delta, as Felicity’s family had a long drive to their next stop.  After breakfast we made a quick visit to the new and more luxurious Gunn’s Camp, which was in the process of being built.

Back in Maun we sais our goodbyes at the supermarket and Felicity’s family set off through the Kalahari back to Namibia.  We got the jerry can holder fixed and then went back to the backpackers to camp for the night, the crew reunited again.

Tuesday 28 April

We headed up the western side of the Delta today to the Panhandle and stayed at Drotsky’s Camp.  On the way we passed through a couple of foot and mouth checkpoints and at the first the lady said we couldn’t take our bacon through with us and she would have to confiscate it and burn it.  Instead we quickly pulled over and cooked it up beside the road, so we could take it through.

Wednesday 29 April

We went to Tsodilo Hills today; a group of hills/mountains in the otherwise flat plains, with a lot of cultural and spiritual importance and famous for the San rock art there.  We relaxed there until late afternoon when we went for a guided walking trail to see some of the rock art and climb up on to one of the hills.  The guide was pretty unenthusiastic about the whole thing, but we enjoyed the walk.

In the evening we set up camp at the foot of the hills and listened to a school group singing nearby after it got dark.  This created quite a mystical feeling to the place, as we sat, with noone else around, the mountains lit by the moon and they seemed to sing back.  This was made even stranger, as the timing of the echo did not seem to be right and the voices from the school were female and those that sang back from the hills sounded male.

Saturday 2 May

From the Panhandle we drove back through the Caprivi Strip and Chobe in Botswana to Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, Bob was broken into and the camera bag with Marc’s camera, lenses and the video camera were stolen at the border crossing from Bots to Namibia.  Luckily we had just downloaded the photos, but we lost most of the video from the trip.

Namibia

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Thursday 26 March

Our border crossing from South Africa to Namibia had been quite jovial with the officials until the final lady who we had to pay a N$160 border crossing fee.  We waited while she completed the paperwork and chatted on her mobile.  Then, finishing her call she handed over the permit and asked Marc for the money, which he had already given her.  However, she disagreed and asked us to please check nicely in our pockets and things.  We did so and definitely didn’t have it, but she continued to insist we hadn’t paid. We asked where she usually put the money and she opened up the till, pointing inside to a stack of 100 and 20 notes, which we had also paid with, so we politley suggested she may have distractedly placed them here.  But no, Mmmm Mmmm, she hadn’t put them in here and we should “Look nicely, look nicely!” and now suggested a couple of times that she should bring the police.  Marc had had enough at this point and strongly agreed that she should bring the police.

At a stand-off she brought her manageress instead, who calmly counted all the money and confirmed it was correct, still to the disputes of the clerk.  No apology was given, just “yes it’s right, you can go,” until Marc stared in amazement for long enough and was just about to put her right when she mumbled a sorry.

Apologies graciously accepted we carried on to Ai-Ais Hot Springs, sadly finding a sign stating that the camp was under construction, so we carried on a little further to Fish River Canyon and Hobas campsite.

We drove to the Canyon viewpoint for sunset, unfortunately Marc with a pretty bad migraine by now.  It is very impressive, but maybe a little over-rated in our opinion as a must-see.  We returned to the campsite to enjoy the house tunes of the Acacia overland lorry and got an early night, only to be woken by Marc needing to vomit out of the tent in the middle of the night!  All in all a very romantic Africa day on our arrival in Namibia!

Friday 27 March

We decided to break the journey to Windhoek with a stop at Quiver Tree Forest near Keetmanshoop.  We spent the afternoon relaxing then went for a wander around the unusually stacked rock formations of Giant’s Playground.  Back at the camp we watched the rescued cheetah being fed and then enjoyed an early braai by the Quiver Trees.

Wednesday 1 April

We arrived in Windhoek on Saturday and stayed at Chameleon.  We spent the few days here visiting a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation project, catching up on emails, and yes taking the opportunity to get Bob checked over by a friend of the Foleys.  Fortunately nothing new and extremely costly was found that we were unaware of on this occasion.  We also gave him a thorough clean, blasting all the dust away (which we knew would last about 30 mins. back on the dirt road.)

Marc’s mum (Cherry) arrived this afternoon and we went out for a drink and dinner.

Friday 3 April

We drove to Sesriem yesterday; Cherry checked in to Sossusvlei Lodge and we checked into Sesriem Campsite, right next door to each other and in a beautiful setting.

After a lot of negotiation yesterday, because only people camping at Sesriem campsite are allowed to enter the park and drive through to Sossusvlei an hour before sunset, we all set off at 06.00 in the dark.  It was definitely worth leaving early to reach Sossusvlei in time for sunrise, climbing along the crest of one of the dunes, perfectly blown by the wind to a razor fine peak, and watching the deep tones of red change in the morning light.  It also meant we could explore Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei nearby before 10.00 when it was already getting very hot.

We had some breakfast and then made our way back to the campsite to relax during the heat of the day.  The last 5km to and from Sossusvlei are 4×4 track only and Bob relished the opportunity to play in the deeper sections of sand and pose in the desert!

In the evening Cherry went to relax at the lodge and we drove 45km back to Dune 45 for a sundowner and a few more photos – again Hilda insisting on being involved in all the fun!

Saturday 4 April

Swakopmund today and we did a tandem skydive with Ground Rush Adventures – Wooohooohoooooooooooo!  Not even going to try to describe what it is like – you either know or jump out a plane at 10,000 feet, freefall for about 40 seconds at 220kph, then spend another 4 minutes spinning, drifting and diving back to earth and then you’ll know.  Flipping wicked to use language suitable for this site.  

This is something we had been saving up for and looking forward to and so worth it.  We had a long wait in the afternoon while the tiny plane took others up in twos and threes and dropped them over the desert.  As the afternoon dragged on the guys we were going to jump with told us that we would be holding on until the last jump, which would be at sunset, closer to the beach over the airstrip and by far the best of the day.  We got a video made of the jump and it was awesome with the setting sun in the background.

In the evening we went out for a delicious, belated Mother’s Day dinner, at The Tug.

Sunday 5 April

We drove to Brandberg Massif today, stopping at Cape Cross Seal Colony on the way.  The latter was pretty stinky, but amazing with thousands of Cape Fur Seals sunning on the beach, swimming and playing in the surf.

At the lodge and campsite we got pretty good service from one of the staff when he learned Peter Crouch was Marc’s uncle.  Even when he told him he wasn’t the actual Peter Crouch it didn’t matter, as according to him in Namibia if you have the same surname then you are related.

We had a braai in the evening and were joined for a short while by a habituated meerkat, which was very cute and kept lieing down on its front stretched out for a stroke.

Monday 6 April

In the morning we went for a walk at Brandberg to see the White Lady (clearly a man from the illustration) and other rock art. Then we stopped off at the dinosaur footprints on the way to Okonjima, home of Africat the predator rescue and rehabilitation organisation.  The footprints were interesting to think of dinosaurs roaming around there hundreds of millions of years ago, but in terms of something to look at you have to wonder how someone actually found and identified them!

Wednesday 8 April

We spent the day yesterday at the volunteer project and getting involved with activities like collecting bones from one of the large cheetah enclosures and hunt the missing cheetah in 8 acres – we didn’t find it.  We joined Cherry for a posh dinner at the Main Lodge.

Today we drove to Etosha and our first night’s camp at Okaukuejo.  Felicity had been stung by a wasp when we were hunting the cheetah and by now her thigh had ballooned to worrying proportions!

Saturday 11 April

We had some good game viewing in Etosha, especially of lion, which we had four different sightings of, including cubs and large males.  The game was maybe a little bit sparse, due to the amount of rain there had been recently, but the scenery is very different to other parks, so we enjoyed the drives and Etosha pan was full of water, which is very unusual to see.  We also saw a honey badger and a porcupine one night at Halali, which was a bit different.

We stayed the night at Roy’s camp en route to Caprivi Strip.

Sunday 12 April

We spent the morning at a San Bushman village, learning a little about their traditions and bushcraft.  We started a fire by rubbing sticks together, which was actually less palm-blistering work than expected.  Then the women were supposed to watch the ladies crush nuts and learn to make jewellery, but soon returned to the men’s activities, learning to make bows and arrows for hunting.  Then after Marc participated in a mock hunt of a ‘straw and stick’ antelope with one of the San guys everyone had a go at shooting it.

We then made the long drive to Nundu Lodge where we stayed, as our original camp had been flooded and we were greeted by the smiliest and chattiest gate guard ever.

Monday 13 April

At Nundu we went out on a morning boat ride along the Kavango to a small rapid and look at the hippos.  We spent the remainder of the day relaxing at the lodge.

Wednesday 15 April

We made the short drive to Kwando Safari Lodge yesterday and then relaxed by the pool and enjoyed the peace and quiet, as there were no other guests.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Felicity today.  We started with a treat of breakfast at the lodge rather than Weetabix and Felicity opened some of her presents.  When the staff caught wind of a birthday the waitress came over and asked how old she was, shortly followed by a second asking how old she was.  The result was breakfast chocolate cake and the staff singing ‘Happy Birtday to You, How Old Are You, How Old Are You!’

South Africa & Swaziland

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

Sunday 22 February

Early morning we crossed into Kruger National Park in South Africa!  This felt like a big milestone in our trip, having all 3 of us successfully made it there! 

We had not been in Kruger long when we came across a large elephant bull coming toward us on the road.  We switched off to assess the situation as the car in front started to reverse up past us and stop a comfortable distance back.  However, this ele seemed like he might be on a mission to walk all the way to Mozambique and we didn’t really want to go all the way back there, so we sat it out a bit longer.  As he drew close he finally veered off the road.  We carried on, but only got around the next bend before we were faced with an even larger bull bowling along the road (and behind him in the distance another).  Again we decided to play chicken, but on this occasion the bull ele was swaggering with a little more mischievous intent!  We waited and waited and finally switched on and waited and with only a few metres between us revved a little and crept back gently and revved a little and almost within touching distance the ele felt he had made his point and decided we could pass this time! Cherry check out the photo, we think you would have loved it!! 

We arrived at Letaba where we were going to camp the night and it was suddenly very clear we were in South Africa.  Even though we were still in a National Park the shop had far more choice than most we had visited on the way down and the price was vaguely reasonable and not more expensive than shopping in the UK.  After an excessive number of celebration cool drinks and ice-creams, which we hadn’t had since Egypt, we decided we felt happily a little sick.

Wednesday 25 February

We spent the last couple of days in Kruger, which we enjoyed even though it was a bit drizzly much of the time and so we didn’t see huge amounts of game.  The best bit was camping in a bird hide at one of the dams last night, which you get all to yourselves.  There are beds that fold down from the hide walls and behind the hide is a boma (wooden fenced area) where you can have a braai – very cool!  Bob also got a lot of attention, admiring looks and was the topic of much conversation in Kruger!

Leaving Kruger we stopped briefly in Phalaborwa to check email and were once again a bit daunted by the shops; too much choice, fashionable clothes and stuff and so we avoided going in most of them to allow ourselves more time to adjust!

We then headed to Monkey Rehab project and on to a conservation project bordering Kruger where we stayed the night.

Thursday 26 February

We had quite a long and hectic day of project visits.  We left the conservation programme and visited a Horseback/Conservation Programme and then a Reptile Park.  The reptile park was quite interesting to walk around and we held some baby rock pythons that were about to be released.  The only other thing we could fit into the day was pies and ice-cream!

We were running out of time at the end of the day, so stopped off en route to Swaziland at a campsite in the Blyde River Canyon – enjoying that we had enough time in S.A. to have the flexibility to do so.

Friday 27 February

We drove along the Panorama Route to Nelspruit, stopping at God’s Window one of the better known views.  Unfortunately, his window was a little misted up and so we couldn’t see anything through it.

In Nelspruit we made a pitstop to get the bushes replaced on Bob’s steering, as he had developed an occasional violent juddering.  We then carried on to Swaziland, where we met with a volunteer organisation and chatted over a good steak dinner.

Saturday 28 February

We spent the day at the project accommodation where we were camping and had a bit of a catch up day.  One of our old friends from Real Gap, Rachael, was managing the backpackers place, so we (Felicity and Racahel) had a good old gossip.

In the late afternoon we drove up into the hills to stay at the Rock Lodge, a really cool, very remote, community run place.  The whole lodge, ceilings and walls, is basically just boulders and it has great views over a river valley – possibly the most unique place we had stayed on the trip.

Sunday 1 March

Today we hiked down into the valley to go tubing on the river, or in Felicity’s case swimming/partially drowning!  It had rained all night and we could feel the river level rising as we were going down.  When we reached the end point to get out and hike back up the river was visibly higher and Rols mentioned that if it had been that high when we started he probably wouldn’t have gone.  An enjoyable day though.

Tuesday 3 March

We had a couple of days at the projects, sitting on an arrival orientation, visiting project sites, meeting with staff and Felicity gave some first aid training.

In the evening, to end our time in Swaziland, a few of us went up to a sundowner spot, overlooking the Ezulwini Valley and Mbabane.  We watched the sunset and then sat around a fire having a few drinks.

Wednesday 4 March

We stopped off at Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary on the way out of Swaziland, mainly so Felicity could see the quite habituated warthogs and get up close and personal!

We re-entered South Africa and drove through to Injasuthi, a fairly remote National Park campsite in the Drakensberg, but, because we left a bit late, got there in the dark just before 20.00.  We had decided to wing it and hope there wasn’t a gate closing time, but we were not in luck as the Park Gate had closed at 19.00 and was chained and padlocked.  We really didn’t want to drive all the way back along the dirt road to find somewhere else to camp overnight, so decided to park up outside the gate for the night.  It was very dark in the shadow of the mountains and there was a strong wind blowing down the valley.  As we stretched our legs and assessed where would be the best, most flat spot to park the gate swung open behind us and we turned to see who had opened it and hoping they may let us in late.  Shining the spotlight on the half-open gate there was no one there!  We didn’t like this at all, as we were both certain the gate had been properly chained up and locked when we had pulled up in front of it.  We said hello, but got no response and decided to climb back in the vehicle for safety.  Now with half the gate open there was a clear opportunity to enter the Park and carry on to the site.  Felicity preferred to stay in the Landy, so Marc got out and after shining behind the wall on each side opened it fully, so that we could drive through.  We quickly closed it behind us and carried on, still very confused and quite spooked about how suddenly the gate had swung open for us!   

Thursday 5 March

We went for a long hike in the mountains today.  It is always nice, having driven for so many hours to go for a long walk and the Drakensberg are beautiful.  When we got back it looked like it might rain, so we set up the awning and for the first time the side walls as well. This was just in time and we sat in the shelter, having a cup of tea and another first - some of the popcorn we had brought with us from England - and watched the pouring rain.

Saturday 7 March

We drove yesterday from Drakensberg to Durban were we stopped over for the night. Today we stayed in Coffee Bay for the night where we met up with Johan, one of the bikers hat we met up with on the fery from Egypt to Sudan. It was fun to catch up and hear the tales of what he and the others we had travelled with briefly had got up to.

Friday 13 March

After Coffee Bay we travelled down to Cintsa where we spent a few days visiting volunteer projects, catching up and most importantly, making the most of our first opportunity to kite since Kenya.

Buccaneers, where we stayed, has a great view over a river lagoon and then out over the sea.  The wind picked up on a couple of days and the shallow lagoon proved a perfect place to improve our skills, without being hammered by the surf.  We are definitely not pro yet, but at least were riding back and forward for a reasonable distance by the time we left.

Saturday 14 March

Today we drove to JBay, after 250km scenic diversion (wrong route) that Felicity took.  A cool place to surf, or kite if the wind had been up, but to us looked a bit like Margate with tons of surf shops.

Sunday 15 March

We had decided to press on quite quickly along the Garden Route.  We stopped in Knysna for an ice-cream at the harbour and then carried on to nearby Buffels Bay in search of a good camping spot.  We bypassed the backpackers that we had intended to stay at and found a camping ground right on the coast and by a good beach.  This was much wilder coastline than the more built-up town of Knysna, which we were happy about.  After a dip in what had been described as ‘bath tub temp’ sea! we had an early braai and enjoyed the sunset before getting into the tent to escape the cold evening and what became a very windy night.

Monday 16 March

Woohoo! The windy night became a hurricane day, but it didn’t stop us making the southernmost point of Africa, Cape Agulhas, today.  The weather was still pretty crazy at the coast, but all occupants of the vehicle and Bob got well involved in the celebrations of getting here, as we cracked open a bottle of sparkling and took the obligatory photos.

Tuesday 17 March

What most people would consider the end to a trip from the UK through Africa today, as we finally reached Cape Town after almost 6 months.  We don’t want to tempt fate, but we made the whole trip with just one puncture and on the same set of tyres (although now slicks), so we quickly set about finding the best deal we could on some more roadworthy replacements.  Bob was ever so pleased that, due to lack of supply of some cheaper tyres, the best deal for his new feet was a set of BFG’s!

Bob’s feet sorted we then went to the Waterfront to spoil ourselves a little with the most expensive  bottle of water we could buy and two pieces of bread.  Whatever, why should Bob have all the fun – a bottle of wine and some fish, as the sunset!

Wednesday 18 March

A relaxed start to the day and we took the fairly long bus-ride into the City from Bloubergstrand where we were staying.  An afternoon spent enjoying the shops at the Waterfront (Marc mostly sitting outside at a bar) and then we went for a great dinner at Mama Africa’s with live drumming (Marimba) band.

Friday 20 March

Having completed visits to the township projects in Cape Town and couple of meetings we decided to walk up Table Mountain today; ideally in the full heat of the day.  We still made rapid time, probably due to the strict exercise regime we have been on, and made it up in just 1.5 hours!  Hilda also hiked up with us to see the amazing views over Cape Town and surrounds, but wasn’t quite as good on the hiking front, so we had to lug a hippo up on our backs in the end.

When we had descended in the cable car we drove to Boulder’s Bay to see the penguins on the beach, some of which had newborn chicks.  We then carried on to one of the few campsites in the area near Chapman’s Peak and cooked dinner on the lawn mower!

Tuesday 24 March

On Saturday we drove to Langebaan, which is well-known for its kite-surfing and shallow lagoon.  Particularly beautiful was Shark Bay with knee to waist high, quite warm and calm, turquoise waters out for a very long way, and ideal we felt for improving our skills on.  We looked at the wind report, got a bit of advice on conditions and decided to stay on for a bit.  Unfortunately, the forecast winds, which were good, did not really develop into the kind of strength we had hoped for in Shark Bay during our stay, due to the direction and shelter.  We spent quite a lot of time patiently waiting for the winds to pick up, as forecast.  Late on the first afternoon it was just strong enough for Felicity to get some really cool runs in and then just strong enough for Marc to get up for a run out and back before he was pretty much surfing on the sea-bed and we called it a day.

We had to accept that to kite we would have to go to Main Beach, less sheltered and with better wind.  However, in contrast fricking freezing, deep dark waters and no tide to bring your board back to shore just a rip current dragging you down wind away from it, as fast/faster than you can body drag back!  Yes, it seems we are still in a bit of a fair weather kiting stage, but hey we learnt in Zanzibar!  Anyway, we knew the main objective was not to lose the board when we had ridden right out into the channel.  Marc sadly failed dismally at this – after a keen start, on just his second run in he decided to launch himself dramatically in the air and fly downwind for a considerable distance, sadly not taking his board with him.  After about half an hour freezing his tits off trying to get back to his board and then drag to shore, which was also a battle in itself, because of the wind direction, he had pretty much decided bollocks to Main Beach.

Felicity on the other hand had clearly grown in confidence after Shark Bay and tactically kited out and back quite a few times.  She was so confident by her last run in to shore that she dropped the kite and really started to tear along, not gradually slowing as she neared the shallower water, but still racing along.  Reaching the beach she flicked her feet (well one foot out of the bindings) then powered up into a bit of a jump landing on her feet just short of the beach!  Planned - you reckon!!

We did have a great time at Langebaan; relaxing, camping, braais, beach, and some kiting.

Wednesday 25 March

Winds didn’t really warrant us staying on today, so we decided to break up the journey to Namibia and drove to Springbok, about 125km for the border where we camped the night.

Mozambique

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Wednesday 11 February

We plugged Vilanculos (our destination in Mozambique) into the GPS, and left Malawi through the nearby Milange boarder post and entered Mozambique with little trouble.  However, the route that the GPS followed was little more than what a bumpy farmhouse track would look like in the UK for much of 250km until we reached the ferry crossing over the Zambezi.  We decided to call it a day once we had crossed and looked for somewhere to stay in Caia.

There are not many places that we have stopped at that we would call a dump during our trip, but this was – wet, creepy, mosquito hell and a place we couldn’t wait to leave.  At one point we woke in the night and took ages to get back to sleep, as a squadron of mosquitoes kept screaming and flying kamikaze at the netting of our tent trying to get to us.

Thursday 12 February 

After debating whether we should extend our stay at one of Africa’s shittest campsites we agreed to stick to our plan, chucked on our clothes and legged it.  Finally on tar, we decided to hammer the remaining 700 km in one day.

We happily arrived at Vilanculos in the daylight and after asking around decided we would camp at a recommended place a little out of town.  First though we decided to splash out and treat ourselves to some hearty pub fare at Smuggler’s – apple pie and ice-cream on the specials had clinched the deal.

Saturday 14 February

We cut a deal to camp at Blue Waters for a couple of nights and enjoyed the large horizon pool, overlooking the sea and ended today with some red wine, watching the moon rise over the ocean.

Sunday 15 February

Today we took a dhow boat tour out to one of the nearby Bazaruto islands.  It was a brilliant day.  Sailing across to the island the waters are shallow and turquoise for much of the way and we spotted a manta ray, which after a short while flicked its wings and darted off.

We stopped on a deserted white beach, had a quick wander and then went for a snorkel.  The snorkelling was great, as the coral wall is literally right at the edge of the island and we drifted slowly with the current back toward the boat with lots of tropical and some very large parrot fish.

After a delicious fish lunch we had another snorkel before sailing back to Vilanculos and meeting up with the guys from the project here.

Tuesday 17 February

We said our farewells and headed to our next stretch of beautiful Mozambique coastline at Tofo. On the way speedy Gonzales Milligan managed to get herself on to the speed fine scoreboard.  We attempted to have a bit of light-hearted banter with the first police officer until his extremely grim looking buddy strolled around to Felicity’s window, at which point all smiling ceased!

Wednesday 18 February

In the late morning we went out on an ‘Ocean Safari’ to try to locate some of the whalesharks that are found just off the coast.  After quite some time searching we thought we may be in for a similar experience to the one we had at the dolphin project in Zanzibar! But on the way back a large, dark shape was spotted alongside and we all quickly slipped off the boat into the water to spend an absolutely amazing 20 minutes snorkelling with a 6.5 metre whaleshark.  We had barely clambered back on the boat when we spotted another and were back in the water for another really long swim.  These are seriously huge fish, but possibly their disproportionate size and the very slow speed that they move at makes them in no way scary and it was very peaceful swimming along, keeping just a couple of respectful metres from them.

After a beach afternoon we went to a talk on the whalesharks, which was pretty interesting, even though it turns out no one knows much about them at all.  We then rounded off a great day by chucking a few shrimps (actually really big, delicious prawns from the local market) on the baaaarbie.

Thursday 19 February

Nothing happened, except we went into Inhambane to use internet and Bob was broken into!  Fortunately we had put his alarm on and when we went out to investigate it seemed someone had picked the front passenger lock and the alarm had not gone off, but then lent across to unlock and open the driver door, as both were unlocked when we got there.  This had set the alarm off and the thief had probably shat themselves that the vehicle actually had an alarm and legged it, fortunately and much to our surprise and confusion taking absolutely nothing!

Saturday 21 February

Marc had a dive with Manta Rays yesterday morning and then due to the sweltering heat and humidity and lack of any decent kiting winds we decided to carry on to S.A. today.  We had a last minute change of plan and rather than driving along the coast toward Maputo we decided to cut inland and into Limpopo National Park, crossing the border into S.A. through the recently formed Transfrontier Park and into Kruger.  After a massive drive we camped overnight at a pretty site overlooking a huge dam in Limpopo.

Malawi

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

 

Sunday 18 January

Yesterday we had a morning drive and stayed overnight at a cosy campsite on a farm just south of Iringa.

We had a fairly relaxed start and set off for the Malawi border.  We had really enjoyed Tanzania, but were also excited about getting to Malawi and travelling through it at a relaxed pace with no set plan.  On tar all the way we made quite good time and soon reached Karonga on the Malawi side.  We had intended to stay here, but drove into the campsite, took one look, pulled a doughnut and were off another 100km south to Chitimba and a lovely little lodge campsite on the lake with its own private beach.  On the way we crossed the 20,000km mark!!

It was extremely hot and humid in Malawi and after dinner we sat on the beach watching a large electric storm lighting up the lake.  

Monday 19 January

We drove to Vwasa National Park, stopping at Rhumpi on the way to pick up supplies.  The campsite we stayed at was right beside the lake and we sat watching hippos during the afternoon.  When it had got a bit cooler we set off for a short drive, which quickly turned into the game-drive from hell, as plagues of Tsetse Flies swarmed through the windows.  When Felicity had nearly swerved off the track a few times unable to see properly, due to all the flies on her sunglasses and in her ears, we frantically looked for somewhere to turn back.  Safely back at the campsite again we opened a bottle of wine and sat on Bob’s sundeck – much more relaxed.

Tuesday 20 January

We drove about 130km of dirt road from Vwaza to Nyika National Park.  Nyika is set at a slightly higher altitude and as we climbed we left the Miombo woodland and the scenery became very different and it felt more like we were in the hills of Wales, or the Yorkshire Dales than Africa.

We watched herds of Roan and Eland walking across the open hills.  It was quite a bit cooler so in the evening we sat huddled round the campfire.  Just before we went to bed we were sat chatting to the few other people at the campsite when we heard the rasping call of a leopard very nearby in the tree line.  Very exciting and we decided time to call it a night!

Wednesday 21 January

We had a relaxed start to the day and took a scenic route out of the park before driving on to Mzuzu.  We met up with Felicity’s friend Alan, who used to coach her volleyball.  We stayed with him in his place up in the hills with a great view of Lake Malawi where he is building a luxury country club and sports centre.

Thursday 22 January

We had a scary start to the day, as we were both let loose with a pair of scissors on each other’s hair.  Western hairstylists aren’t easy to find and as Marc did not want either dread locks or a shaved head, F got to work with the kitchen scissors.  Throughout, Marc nervously kept commenting “ my hairdresser doesn’t usually do it this way’!

Thursday night was domino night at Chez Alan and after ripping it out of him a bit we actually thought it was quite good fun and something we may do again when we are 60!

Saturday 24 January

We left Mzuzu yesterday and stayed at Njaya in Nkhata Bay; pretty deserted, but nice place and camping at the edge of the lake.  Today we went kayaking for a couple of hours along the unspoilt beaches of the Lake south of Nkhata Bay and past a few small fishing villages.  Despite our incredible speed we were caught by a small motor boat with a few tourists on and sat bobbing nearby, as the guide threw fish for a pair of fish eagles, which swooped and grabbed the fish just metres from our kayak.

Alan joined us in the evening for a braai and couple of beers.

Sunday 25 January

We gave Bob a bit of TLC and polish up this morning then drove an incredible 52km south to Chinteche Strip.  A quick snooze in the hammocks and then an even shorter effort at beach volleyball and badminton.

Tuesday 26 January

We spent a couple of days in Lilongwe in order to try and get Bob’s numerous leaks fixed.  Unfortunately the Land Rover garage did not have the parts to fix a couple of them, but kindly did the one that they could for free.  Lilongwe was also good for picking up some much needed food rations from a decent supermarket, much to the pleasure of Marc’s dwindling waist line!

Monday 2 February

From Wednesday to Friday we had spent time with a community project on the shores of Lake Malawi, near Monkey Bay (a stunning drive over the hills from Lilongwe).  It’s a lovely project working in the schools and running home based care projects in the local villages.  The volunteers headed off for the weekend, so we also headed off for the weekend to Cape Maclear; a gorgeous part of the lake with clear waters and beautiful views of nearby islands.  On Saturday we had a first for the trip – Marc finally got his guitar he insisted on bringing out of its case!  We also spent some time trying to teach the local kids how to play badminton on the beach.

Wednesday 4 February

We spent the last couple of days back at the community project in Monkey Bay.  This included doing a home visit to one lady in the local village who had extremely big and deep wounds on her legs and back, which she had decided that, as she could not get to the hospital, putting pesticide into the wound would help!  Needless to say it didn’t and the volunteers assisted her to get some proper treatment. 

Yesterday we went with the volunteers for a sunset cruise on the lake on a research project boat, which made a perfect last night there!

Marc and Neale (the project co-ordinator) had an unexpected early morning dip in the lake today as whilst having breakfast we noticed that a boat being made for the project was rapidly sinking.  With only 1 plank of wood above water before it was a wreck at the bottom of the lake they rapidly canoed out to it with buckets in hands.  45 minutes of frantic bucketing later and the boat lived to see another day!

Friday 6 February

We are in Blantyre visiting a project here.  Bob has also visited another garage - he could write a great book on the garages of Africa!  Nothing major, just leaks and things rattling apart, but it’s best to fix things before they do become major.

Saturday 7 February

After finishing up what we needed to in Blantyre in the morning we headed for Mulanje Mountain to do some hiking.  We sorted out our porter - not really optional for tourists, and actually quite welcome once you start hiking with all your food, cooking equipment, sleeping bags etc., and set up camp at The CCAP guesthouse at the base of the mountain.

Tuesday 10 February

We spent 3 days/2 nights up the mountain hiking.  We were pretty lucky with the weather, as it is peak rainy season, although the steep rocky paths were quite slippery in places.  The rains had made the mountain beautifully green and the dramatic craggy peaks and vast bare rock faces had temporary streams and waterfalls rushing down them, which we had to take our boots off to wade across a couple of times.

The first night we stopped at the cosy CCAP mountain hut and after 6 hours of pretty tough hiking it was very welcome when the caretaker boiled up some water for us to have a hot bucket bath.  We had the hut all to ourselves, which was a bonus, and we spent the remainder of the afternoon relaxing, and sat by the log fire.

The second day was a much easier and shorter hike to Chisepo Hut at the foot of the highest peak of Mulanje.  Again a really cool hut, if a little more basic, with mattresses on the floor and no hot bath!  But amazing views more than made up for it.  Sadly, we were joined by another couple of hikers, so no exclusivity. 

Today was a long hike down, which although less strenuous, was also quite hard going, due to the tricky and steep descent.  A great hike and really enjoyable 3 days.  However, we did get some severe sunburn, despite it being a little overcast most of the time and our efforts to keep covered up and constantly applying sunblock.  We couldn’t work it out, as just stepping out in the sun felt like you were being burnt alive.  We eventually put Felicity’s diseased looking and rotten smelling flesh shoulders down to - bollocks suncream called Carotten, a new strain of Doxycycline from Zanzibar that we had started taking and a big hole in the ozone directly above Mulanje.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

Tanzania - Part II

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Tanzania - Part II

Monday 12 January

Heading off a little later than we hoped we were on our way back to Tanzania to Dar Es Salaam.  Bob’s brakes were deteriorating rapidly once we were in Tanzania, due to a leak from the brake pipe, so we stopped at a garage where the mechanic fixed it by wrapping a piece of cotton around the pipe!  It did the job though (temporarily) and we made it to Dar to spend a couple of days visiting some community projects on the outskirts.

Wednesday 14 January

3pm we finally managed to leave Dar, after trying to leave since 08:00.  First the mechanic who was looking at our car the day before had not finished, then we searched for a new tyre for Bob and then diesel started pouring from the fuel sedimenter while we were filling up.  Just outside of Dar we were then pulled over by the Police and Marc was fined for speeding (again!).  Marc felt it was a bit of a conspiracy, but not wanting to go to court on his birthday and both desperate to get out of Dar, we gave in to paying a bribe on this occasion.  We were aiming to drive to Iringa about 600 km away, but by 20:30 we were tired and night driving is not ideal in Africa, so we stopped just after Mikumi for the night.

Thursday 15 January

We made it to Ruaha National Park mid-afternoon after having another brake failure on the dirt road leading to the park.  The cotton was no longer a solution to the leak and we lost all of our brake fluid (we were also pretty P’d off with the mechanic in Dar who we had paid huge amounts of money to do work on the vehicle, but who had failed to fix the one thing we had taken in it in for).  We appeared to be in the middle of nowhere, but after just a few minutes we were joined by some friendly locals who helped us to fix it in true African style.  With a bit of wood we blocked off the pipe at the junction, topped up with our remaining brake fluid and drove on 3 brakes to the park to celebrate Marc’s 31st birthday!   

We were staying at Ruaha River Lodge, which was in a lovely location and after a quick shower sat on a rock by the river and cracked open a bottle of champagne to celebrate.  We then had a lovely dinner and the staff at the lodge (much to Marc’s embarrassment) sang Happy Birthday and had baked him a special birthday cake!

Friday 16 January

We had a great day in the Park game driving.  We went out early, despite being told that they don’t really advise their guests to go out until after breakfast and that there was no good time for game viewing!  We had a couple of lion sightings (one pride and two big males on their own) and enjoyed sitting watching a herd of elephants with their babies very close to the road.

We came back for breakfast and then headed out again for the day with our packed lunch.

Kenya- Part II

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Monday 29 December

Two officials made it quite an interesting border crossing into Kenya, as once we had finished immigration and customs they then decided that we should pay an extra $40 for a foreign permit for Bob. 

We had successfully driven all the way through Kenya before without needing this permit, so were pretty sure that we did not really need it.  At pretty much every border we have been to, there seems to be an additional cost that you NEED to pay, however it is very difficult to know whether the officials are telling the truth or not. 

We debated for about 30 minutes the reasons we didn’t think we should pay it with them.  Half way through one left the room and when he returned the official we had been talking to said to him that it was OK, and explained the situation – we “did not need to pay anymore as it was Felicity’s sister’s wedding in Kenya next week and we were just going to attend the wedding,” which made us exempt from this particular fee!  Not sure how he got to that story, but we were happy we didn’t need to pay and we left laughing along with the officials who also found their attempt at getting some additional cash out of us amusing!

Tuesday 30 December

We spent the day in Diani visiting and meeting with the staff at one of the volunteer projects in the area.  After a hard day’s work we needed a break, so got a couple of hours kite surfing in.  However, frustratingly most of this time was spent in, or under the water, rather than doing some cool riding!

Wednesday 31 December

After catching up on some tidying and doing the never ending job of cleaning the dust off Bob and everything in him we had a lovely BBQ dinner on the beach in the evening.  We then headed up to a friend’s house right on the beach and celebrated seeing 2009 by having bubbly on the beach at midnight while watching the fireworks.  Just further along the beach there was a big party with some apparently famous DJ, which we joined in until the bouncers chucked us out for just strolling in off the beach without paying.

Thursday 1 January

Slightly bleary eyed we headed off to a camp in the hills where some of the volunteers stay.  This was a perfect place to enjoy New Years Day and recover - beautiful scenery, peace and quiet and great accommodation.  We stayed in an open fronted banda looking out over the forest, with a swinging sofa, so you could lie and just enjoy the view.

Friday 2 January

Marc’s Dad (Tony, Mr Crotch), sister (Becky, Stinko) and brother in law (Greg, Geegar), arrived today looking like they could definitely do with some sun.  We all met up at Pinewood Hotel where Greg and Bec were staying while the bungalow at Chale Sea Villas (a considerably more budget option) where dad was staying with us was prepared.  We had dropped in prior to their arrival and been told by Christopher, the manager, that the room was ready for us.  However, on inspection we felt that the lack of mattresses in one room, no fridge, not clean and with someone else’s toothpaste and shaving foam still in the bathroom was not ready and told him politely to pull his finger out.    

After a quick catch up and beer we all hit the poolside, so they could start working on their tans.

Sunday 4 January

We had been giving some hard consideration to whether we should buy our own kite and had been offered a really good deal on some second hand gear.  The cost of hiring equipment, the hope that if we needed to we could sell it again in S.A., and a kind present from Marc’s gran made our decision and we picked up our gear late afternoon and had our first test runs.  After an initial period of getting used to the new kite we were up each time and enjoying the new board.

Monday 5 January

Today we drove with Greg and Bec to Tsavo East National Park to check out some volunteer programmes and have a safari in the Park.  We arrived early afternoon and were warmly met by the project staff and showed around.  The accommodation was great and we told them not to fuss and that we would do all of our own cooking etc., so they pretty much gave us full run of the Camp’s facilities.

We took ourselves out for an evening drive on the large game farm where the Camp was based and soon found some giraffe.  We then headed for a sundowner spot that had been recommended.  En route we saw an elephant bull approaching a long way on the track that we were on.  He was moving very slowly, but as we got a little nearer we noticed his walking pace had gradually started to increase and then he seemed on a bit of a mission.  We stopped and waited and then as he got closer and closer decided to turn around.  While we looked for somewhere to turn he broke into a trot and then as Felicity perfected an eight point turn he accelerated into a run and let off a trumpet, at which point Marc shouted to forget the bushes and just turn around.  He was quite close by the time we were safely pointed in the opposite direction and had made nice photo for Bec!

So as not to encourage him to chase cars in the future we didn’t rush off, but waited for him to calm down a little.  Now that we had a good escape route we didn’t back down to a couple more idle threats from him, as he stood eating by the roadside.  When he had calmed down sufficiently and was a safe distance from the road we continued on our way for a drink in a nice open area with the sun setting behind a large hill.

Back at camp they had lit us a fire and we sat around having a few drinks, cooked ourselves a good braai and chatted to the Camp staff and volunteers.  A good end to a day in Africa!

Tuesday 6 January

We were off at the crack this morning, keen to get into the Park early for our safari.  Before we had left the ranch we had seen a herd of buffalo and one of the grumpy old males initiated a bit of a mock charge.

We had only driven about 3km in the Park when we saw some lions, which was a promising start.  They were quite a distance from the road though and in true lion fashion doing very little, so we soon decided to move on and come back to them at the end of the day.

As we wound our way close to the river we saw a lot of general game and loads of elephant with some close and very relaxed sightings of lone bulls and breeding herds with very small calves chasing each other around and learning to use their trunks.

After a while we came across another pride of lions that had killed a zebra and dragged it into a bush. Every now and again one would walk out of the bushes, so we got a better view.

At about midday we decided we needed a picnic site to get out of the heat, as it was getting sweltering, so we made the quite long drive to Croc Point and a small falls that had been recommended.  It was a nice spot and we had lunch and then brief snooze in the shade of Bob’s awning.

At about 3 and still very hot we started to make our way back to Voi Gate.  Along the drainage line we had more good sightings of giraffe and eles and with no other vehicles around.

On reaching Voi Gate we learned that we had half an hour longer in the Park than we thought and went back to watch the lions over a cold beer.  This was ideal timing, as they started to become active, walking closer to the road and we eventually counted a pride of 10. 

Wednesday 7 January

In the morning we went to visit the local school that the project was working with.  This was a very rural school and needed a lot of work on the buildings to be done.  Greg and Bec found it quite interesting to see this as well.

We then returned to Diani.  When we got back to Pinewood we found that dad had cut a deal and checked himself in there.  We didn’t blame him either; whilst we really liked Chale and found it a peaceful place to stay on the beach as part of a trip across Africa it didn’t touch Pinewood for a nice week’s holiday.  Also, not such a lively place to stay on your own for a couple of days.

After a bit of a kitesurf in the afternoon and no drastic improvement in our skills – out OK, flying back 50/50 chance we all met for dinner at Pinewood.  Dad then convinced us ‘Oldies’ that a night at Shakatak (which we renamed ‘Shark Attack’) would be fun.  This was a local cheese place, but Wednesday night seemed to be African dance music night and it wasn’t until about 01.00 that they played more than one tune that we recognised in a row.  We then cut some very crazy shapes on the dance floor, scaring most of the local prostitutes off it, until we overheated and called it a night.

Thursday 8 January

Greg, Bec and dad’s last day and a final day off mixed pool, beach and kiting activities, allowing them to get nicely frazzled before flying home.

We had a final couple of farewell drinks at the Beach Bar at their hotel before saying our goodbyes, as they had a seriously early departure for the airport the following day.

Sunday 11 January

We decided to spend a couple of extra days in Diani after Marc’s family left to catch up on emails/work and do some kiting.  We generally spent the mornings meeting with our partners, visiting projects and on the computer and a couple of hours each afternoon kiting.  Ending each day with a BBQ.

 

 

Zanzibar

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

Wednesday 17 December

We wanted to catch the fast ferry to Zanzibar this am, but the driver was a bit late.  However, we got lucky and after a quick negotiation and small tip (bribe) for the Captain we were rushed on and sat out front with the luggage – actually quite a cool spot to enjoy the ride. 

We spent the afternoon exploring the narrow, winding streets of Stone Town and then had a delicious seafood dinner on the beach with a sideshow of the guys trying to load a few vehicles on to the ferry.  Seeing that they must have to do this for a few ferries daily it was the most disorganised shambles you could imagine, but very very good dinner entertainment!  The vehicles, from small cars to big loaded lorries, had to be driven down a stretch of beach and up quite a steep loading ramp; maybe 1 in 10 made it first go.  The best was the final lorry, which after hours of digging, pushing and pulling to the point that the guys stood in the trench digging were waist deep was abandoned on the beach for another day.

Thursday 18 December

We caught the 08.00 sharing bus to Jambiani and after visiting a couple of places chose a reasonable and comfortable bungalows on the beach called Shehe to stay at.  When we arrived we donned swimming costumes and trekked the couple of miles out to where the sea was deep enough to swim – the tide goes out a long way on the east coast.

Luckily we had ordered lunch before we set off, as you need to give two or three hours notice to most places in Zanzibar, so that they can get the order from the fishermen and this worked perfectly with the 2 or 3 hour walking time to and from the sea!

The long white beaches are amazing in Zanzibar, the sea a clear turquoise that would rival most exotic locations, the water very warm and the pace decidedly laid back – a very welcome relaxing day was had, finished off for Felicity and Katie with a massage on the beach.

Friday 19 December

Today we moved the few hundred metres up the beach to stay at accommodation for one of the projects that we were visiting and walked around the small village, taking a look at the schools and nurseries.  Quite an idyllic location to volunteer!

Saturday 20 December

We were picked up in the morning to go slightly north of Jambiani to a smaller village called Paje to meet with some other partners there.

When we saw the hotel where we would be staying the night and our luxury room, again right on the beach, and walked out on to the even more postcard perfect beach and saw the kitesurfers pulling off tricks in the shallow bay we realised our Christmas plans for Selous may be in doubt and kitesurfing a possible replacement for snowboarding this year.

Sunday 21 December

We left Paje and headed to Kizimkazi on the South coast; another beautiful spot.  After breakfast we boarded a boat and the plan was to see the dolphins and hopefully swim with them and then go for a scuba dive.  However, on this very RARE! occasion the dolphins had gone for a day out we think, as they were nowhere to be seen. 

We were able to dive though.  Marc buddied up with Muhammed, the owner of the hotels we were staying at, while Felicity and Katie, as they were new to diving stuck with the instructor.  Once in the water, the instructor was indicating to everyone to start swimming down, however Felicity and Katie were both struggling with this, due to F’s ears not equalising and Katie apparently just liked bobbing around on the surface for a while!  Once both were finally down at the bottom they had been told not to touch the coral.  However, as beginners they found it quite hard to control their buoyancy, so at some points quite challenging to avoid any contact.  At one stage Katie was touching the coral, or more like lying face down on the coral completely motionless, because she was so nervous about moving and damaging it.

Somehow we had been given the two best rooms in the hotel, right at the front and very close to the beach and we spent the rest of the day relaxing and enjoying the facilities and beach. 

Monday 22 December

Aboard the dolphin boat for a second try we set off in search of the dolphins again.  After about half an hour we saw their fins gliding out of the water, donned our masks and fins and joined them for a swim.  There were around 20 bottle nose dolphins and it was amazing to see them so close, especially when they dived down to the bottom and then came up to the surface again right in front of you.  If you kept fairly still, or swam normally, the dolphins would come to you, however most of the tourists would frantically splash around and front crawl as fast as they could after the dolphins!  

A project has been set up to try to educate the boat captains and the tourists about the dolphins to minimise their impact and any stress to them. 

We then headed to Stone Town, had a bit of a wander round the old streets and enjoyed our last meal with Katie on the beach.  We sampled the local nightlife in Stone Town, with the prostitutes at one bar staring in disbelief at the white people trying to dance.  Think we may have been on their patch!

Wednesday 24 December

We said goodbye to Katie early yesterday and then got our transfer back to Paje where we had managed to cut a great deal for staying and kitesurfing over Christmas.

Today we started our kitesurfing course with Jan from Airborne kites. Half the day was spent on the beach perfecting our kite flying skills and learning how to set up the kite ready for action.  We then went into the water to get more of a feel for things with the kite and the positions for flying it and also what to do in an emergency if you need to pack down your kite in the water.

We had bought a few decorations in Stone Town to make it feel more Christmasy and decorated our room with these ready for Father Christmas.

Thursday 25 December

Santa still comes to Zanibar!  We woke up and sure enough there were a few presents to open from our parents who had sent them over with Katie.  Lovely presents and great to have a few xmas treats such as a little Christmas pud and cake to make it feel more like home!

After a chilled out morning, we cracked open a bottle of sparkling wine in the sea and began our drinking for the day.  We had a lovely fish dinner in the evening overlooking the sea and finished it off by getting them to cook the Christmas pud in the microwave for us!

Friday 26 December

We had our second kite surfing lesson today and by the end of the day we had the board on our feet! At one point after Felicity had crashed the kite into the sea, she then got dragged further and further down the coast as she battled to relaunch the kite.  This resulted in the instructor having to run along the beach after her and rescue her and Felicity being totally exhausted!

We both had several goes at getting on the board, many of which involve getting up for a few seconds and then face planting into the water! Had a lot of fun and now just need to practice!

Unfortunately the wind was not great the following day, so we didn’t have much opportunity to perfect our new found skills on the board.

Monday 29 December

We caught the ferry back yesterday to Dar and left early for Diani, Kenya today.

Tanzania

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

Tanzania

Wednesday 3 December

After finishing our project work we crossed the border into Tanzania to Bukoba in order to catch a ferry across Lake Victoria to Mwanza.  Getting the tickets for us and the car took some negotiating and as with most things in Africa a fair while!  We realised on seeing it that it was not really a car ferry, but for passengers and an unbelievable amount of Bananas!  Bob had to be lifted onto the ferry by a rather flimsy looking crane…..which caused a fair bit of sweating from Marc, particularly as we had pointed out a few times that they had underestimated the weight of our vehicle by about 2.5 tons!

On the first attempt this resulted in the front lifting and the back barely getting off the floor. Everyone, including the captain, predicting disaster, panicked and shouted to lower him back down.  We then had to quickly offload everything heavy from the back and put it on the front 2 seats to try to balance the weight a little more evenly.  Nervously we watched as Bob went up, still at a bit of angle, and was lowered over the bananas and into the hold.  This nervous anticipation wasn’t helped by the ship’s music being the Titanic theme tune, as we boarded!

Thursday 4 December

We arrived in Mwanza around 06:30, then about 4 hours later, once every single banana had been offloaded we had Bob safely on the quay and were on our way. 

Bob’s brakes were still not 100%, so we headed to a Land Rover garage again to get them looked over.  Once again the mechanics decided bleeding and adjusting them was the way to go, despite explaining to them that we had done this several times and it was just a temporary fix.

We then headed to visit the street kids centre and spend some time there.

 Friday 5 December

The boys from Solefield School in the UK, where Marc’s mum teaches had kindly donated some football boots, which we gave to the boys at the street kids’ centre.  They absolutely loved their new boots and looked well kitted out along with football strips that had been donated by Liverpool Club and spent the next hour or so tearing about, playing in the yard/football pitch at the centre.  They loved the boots so much that once the game had finished they all kept them on whilst watching a film.  We are not sure if they slept in them too, but can imagine a few of them did!

Saturday 6 December

We caught up on emails and work today; not a bad location for it, overlooking Lake Victoria!

Sunday 7 December

Another long driving day from Mwanza to Arusha.  We made good time initially, but then came the standard bad stretch, which hampered progress, battered the shocks again and 13 hours later we limped into the popular Maasai campsite just outside Arusha.

Wednesday 10 December

After a couple of days spent catching up on work, sleep and cleaning and tinkering with Bob we were well ready for our friend Katie’s arrival from the UK.

We met her at Kili airport, but unfortunately not her bags, so we sat and had a drink and catch up while we waited for them to come in on the next flight and Katie had an early opportunity to adapt to Africa time.

We then headed to the foot of Kilimanjaro and visited some rural schools in beautiful settings on the mountain’s lower slopes.

Thursday 11 December

We split up in the morning – Katie and Felicity visited some of the community development projects in Arusha, while Marc tried to make a supermarket sweep style dash around town to get some jobs done and supplies bought ready for Ngorongoro and Serengeti.

Later than planned we were on our way, but fortunately made good time to the gate, getting there with about 30 minutes to spare.  However, this time was eaten away, debating with Park staff and trying to communicate with a couple of contacts who had agreed to assist us in some way with our entry.  At the last minute (well actually quite a few minutes after that) our man came through, which was very much appreciated and we made our way to Simba A campsite on the crater rim, stopping briefly for some buffalo and hyena.

It had just started to get dark when we reached the camp and we chose to set up away from all of the other tents and vehicles.  Maybe unsurprisingly this is where a herd of buffalo and an elephant felt they wanted to venture out on to the open grass area and we sat slightly tensely cooking and eating dinner, stopping every now and again to shine on the watching eyes of the buffalo that were often just a little too close for comfort.

Friday 12 December

06:00 was a little on the early side for Bob, so a jump start was needed to get him going.  We then drove down into the volcano Crater.  The Crater is around 25kms across and takes about ½ an hour to drive down into.  After only a few minutes down in the crater we had an amazing view of two big male lions, which walked right in front of the car.

The sightings continued to be excellent; as well as general game we saw many buffalo, some huge tusked elephant bulls, we had two more close lion pride sightings and black rhino.  We stopped for lunch at a picnic site by a small lake and watched the many hippo, as weaver birds flew in and out of and around the car.

Bob’s battery had run flat again in this short time and we had to get a shunt start from one of the other cars.  The battery had now started to steam and stank when we were driving, so was clearly stuffed and it was confirmed by a mechanic when we got to the rim of the crater that it was overcharging.  We had little option of what to do, so quickly swapped the batteries over, so that our second battery was driving Bob and the Solar panels driving the fridge and headed for Serengeti.

When we got close to the gate of the Serengeti the concentrations of wildebeest and zebra had increased considerably on the plains.  At the gate we decided to change our plans slightly and reduce our time in Serengeti by one night to camp at a special (wilderness) campsite for our final night in the nearby area of Ngorongoro that we heard the migration was now in.

We had only been a few minutes inside the Serengeti when we found a pair of cheetah lying on a small bank right at the edge of the road.  They didn’t hang around for long though and we carried on to the campsite, arriving their after dark.

We quickly set up camp, so that we could get ready for the ‘alternative’ Real Gap Christmas party, as the office party was going on at a similar location – ‘The High Rocks’ in Tunbridge Wells back in the UK.  This was a slightly different affair though, as we actually ate all of the BBQ food that we cooked rather than throw it at each other, or rub it in people’s hair, and we had to keep an occasional watch out for wild animals that may come through camp and not for Matt who may decide to rugby tackle you at any time!  We also had Santa’s lucky dip, which Marc had bought luxury gifts for in Dar, as opposed to Secret Santa.  Felicity drew a Yoyo, Katie got a turbo racer dinky toy and Marc got ‘Lick and Learn’ safari animal lollipops!

Saturday 13 December

Game viewing started off with the ‘spot the animal win the corresponding lollipop game’ today and it wasn’t long before Marc had won a significant proportion of the lollies, which for everyone else at least meant we were seeing a lot.  Driving along the river we saw many hippos, much to Hilda’s excitement and she managed to get her photo with one stood quite close behind her.

We decided to stop for breakfast at pretty much the only picnic site we could find on the fairly vague Park map.  We were pleased to find it though, as it was a beautiful and, for most the time we were there, deserted spot on a little hillock that gave you 360o views of the surrounding plains. After breakfast Marc decided this would be a fantastic spot for an open air bush shower, laid out the water bag to start heating from the sun and went about setting it up.  Just when it was all about ready another vehicle turned up and then the whole plan was scuppered when the lady saw a leopard jump down from a tree not far from where he had rigged the shower!  We packed up and spent the next half an hour watching the leopard instead.

Katie then decided she would like a turn driving Bob.  She enjoyed it, but also found the pressure of driving an almost 4 ton vehicle quite nerve racking.  Game drives are supposed to be quite slow, but she took this to a whole new level!  One car even stopped and then reversed back up to check she was OK, because she had been going so slowly.

It wasn’t long before we had another leopard sighting and this was a classic pose; slumped along a branch of a tree right beside the track, with two legs hanging down on either side.  The sightings continued to be excellent.  Katie was put under further pressure when we came across a small, relaxed herd of elephants.  We sat as they walked toward us and crossed the road close by.  The matriarch then approached closer and closer and Marc told Katie to be ready to turn the ignition on immediately if he said to.  She reached about 2 metres from the vehicle opened her ears and then turned and slowly ambled away.  We all enjoyed the sighting, although Katie seemed to also enjoy it when we got going again!     

Sunday 14 December

We made our way via the picnic site back to the Serengeti/Ngorongoro border and chose to explore around some of the rocky kopjes en route.  This resulted in a really good lion sighting where a large male walked straight past our vehicle and lead us to two lionesses basking in the sun on top of a large boulder.

We entered Ngorongoro and soon left the main road, following a track across the plains and through large numbers of general game animals towards Lake Ndutu, a less explored area of the Park, which we had heard the main part of the migration was near.

The tracks here were not marked on the map and we had to start using the GPS to try to locate the ‘special campsite’ that we had booked.  Special campsites are called special campsites, much to Katie and Felicity’s confusion, because you pay more and get less!  No showers, no toilets, no water, for an extra $20 per person usually!  They later understood what made them special though.

When we found our spot we set about collecting dead wood for a fire and preparing our early Christmas dinner.  Dan and Hilda joined us for a Christmas drink, the Christmas table cloth, crackers, hats, party blowers and flashing santa were brought out, and we played traditional Christmas games like calling the Pearl Spotted Owls, ‘Think While You Drink’ and animal impression charades.  We cooked a delicious meal of chicken flatty (instead of turkey), butternut, potatoes and onions roasted in the fire and veg.

After a few drinks we saw some giraffe moving in the tree line nearby, so we were quiet and turned off our lights, sitting in the shadow of the vehicle and watching them in the moonlight.  Gradually, one after the other, nine giraffe moved very quietly out into the open and then from tree to tree and much closer to the vehicle, seemingly unaware of us watching.  As we continued to watch Marc caught sight of something out of the corner of his eye and asked Felicity to quickly shine the torch, which lit up a hyena that had crept within a few metres.  Everyone leapt into action to scare it off; Marc ran at it with a stick whilst Felicity and Katie quickly dived into the front passenger seat!  It was pretty cheeky and didn’t back off far each time Marc ran at it and it kept coming back when he turned away.  However, eventually when Katie and Felicity got out of the car and Marc threw a large rock in its direction, it grew bored and loped off to lie in the nearby bushes and watch.  When we all retired to Bob’s roof terrace for a final nightcap he ambled back out and walked around the vehicle, sniffing at the area where we had cooked the BBQ – this is what made it a ‘special’ campsite and very worth it.

Monday 15 December

Our last day in the park, so we dragged our arses out of bed early again to go off in search of the migration.  There are relatively few vehicles in this part of the park, which also meant the tracks were fairly hard to follow at times and most of them were not on the increasingly pointless map.  The directions we had been given by the ranger the day before of where the main migration had last been seen were along the lines of that way (as he pointed), past a swamp area and when you get to the plains pass three trees and then head off-road south and don’t get lost!

We were quite excited by the feeling of exploration, trying to find where the migration had moved to and the freedom of being able to off-road once we reached the plains, but to be safe we marked a couple of waypoints in our GPS as we headed out.

After a couple of doubts as to whether we were going in the right direction we came across a large herd of wildebeest moving down to a drainage line from a ridge of trees and others continued to filter out of the tree line. We pressed on feeling that we were getting close and crossing the small ridge came into a plains area where we found lines of wildebeest and zebra feeding from several directions down to a central plateau.  There was no longer any clear track and although it was quite difficult to determine we headed towards where most of the animals seemed to be converging.  Once we were surrounded on all sides by tens of thousands of wildebeest and zebra grazing, or filing nose to tail across the plains, we were pretty confident we were with the migration.

We spent some time parked, or slowly driving in the ranks until we decided we should make our way back and see if we could find any cats on the return trip.  Very soon we spotted 3 cheetahs lying in the open grassland and still being in the plains area and some way from the track we were able to get right up close.  They were very attentive and as we watched one jumped to attention and started slinking quickly and optimistically towards an approaching zebra.  The other 2 followed, but the zebra soon spotted them and despite a bit of a run from the cheetah was never in any great danger.

We followed and sat with the cheetah a little longer and then agreeing we had had a fantastic safari headed back to the camp and then out of the park and back to Arusha and Maasai Camp for the night.

Tuesday 16 December

Today we made the long drive to Dar (about 10 hours).  Despite our best intentions to set off quite early we stopped to get our first puncture fixed, which we picked up in Serengeti on safari.  While we were at it we noticed the transfer box was still leaking a bit and decided to get that looked at, another tyre developed a large bulge in the sidewall when we pumped it up, and we asked the guys at the garage if they could get us a replacement battery.  All in all we didn’t set off until gone midday.

The drive at least was quite scenic and we made good time.  On the outskirts of Dar though Marc quickly remembered why it was his favourite city!  At about the same time we hit a wall of traffic and humidity.  We sat and occasionally crawled into Dar, Marc slowly melting, puffing and fairly regularly swearing (obviously in good humour) at pretty much everything that moved, or didn’t move!

We met our partner eventually and grabbed a pizza and quick beer and finally hit the sack at about 01.00.

Uganda

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Uganda

Tuesday 25 November

It was sad to say goodbye to our hosts in Kimilili, as they had looked after us so well and fed us extremely well!  We headed off toward Jinja in Uganda.  A few Km’s before the border the trucks were queuing to get through, which we later found out was because they were on strike.  Luckily we could skip past them and as we approached the border, many men ran at the car wanting to be our touts (local customs officials!) and help us through the process.  Whilst this can be annoying, having someone get you in the right place and get you through quickly does help especially time wise and only costs a £1 or 2.  This turned out to be a bit of an expensive border crossing, as we had to pay for our visas, plus pay for 3rd party car insurance (Yellow card) for the rest of Africa here.  With the erratic driving in Africa, the lack of road rules, potholes and donkeys to avoid……. insurance could be handy!

Wednesday 26 November

After arriving late last night this was our first lie in… well ‘til 07:45 when the tent became too hot once the sun was on it.  Today was a much needed rest day, due to the big drives and the work that we had been doing.  It consisted mostly of lying in the shade, eating and sleeping… just what we needed!  In the evening, one of Felicity’s old school friends, Sharon, who now lives in Jinja came to meet us and have a good catch up on the last ten years!

Thursday 27 November

Woohoo…white water rafting today!  Brilliant fun spending the day going down class 5 rapids, getting drenched and getting flipped out of the boat.  In the words of one of our American raft companions it was “Totally sick!” and at times “Solid!”, terms which we quickly learned could be used universally to sum up pretty much anything from the biggest rapids to the pineapple we had for lunch!  We have some good video footage of the action, which we will hopefully load up when we work out how. 

Friday 28 November

We headed to Kampala today to spend a couple of days with a community project focused on education and rights for children.

Sunday 30 November

We had a long drive today from Kampala to get to Bwindi to see the mountain gorillas.  This was made around 2 hours longer as our GPS decided to direct us a very rural route out of Kampala along dirt track roads, rather than using the main highway.  On arrival in Bwindi at the community camp, the long drive was soon forgotten as we delved into our dwindling emergency UK food rations and had mashed potato and ‘Sausage Tonight’.  Simple, but amazing!

Monday 1 December

We met our guide early in the morning and then headed into Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in search of the gorillas.  Trackers are sent into the forest a couple of hours before we set off in order to try and find them.  It was proper jungle trekking as our guides carved a path through the thick vegetation.  After about two hours of trekking we found them.  It was amazing to see them up close.  The group of 21 gorillas we were watching consisted of 2 silverbacks and many youngsters.  It was great to watch them playing and interacting with each other in the wild.  We had 2 very annoying Spanish people in our group, who insisted on getting in the way of everyone else’s view of the gorillas, posing for ridiculous pictures, talking too loudly and getting too close to the gorillas. The gorillas seemed to find their behaviour most peculiar as well!

Tuesday 2 December

Today we drove to Kyotera (another long drive) in the South of Uganda to visit some more community projects.  It was great to see the school nursery that has now been built thanks to Marc running those long, hard 26 miles of the London Marathon last year.  The school staff and headteacher were very pleased to meet him in person and thank him for his donation.