I can't upload all my photos, but here are some of my favourites. I've back my card onto disks now so I won't lose the rest and can show those that want when I get back. Hope you all enjoy them.
... the adventure continues
I can't upload all my photos, but here are some of my favourites. I've back my card onto disks now so I won't lose the rest and can show those that want when I get back. Hope you all enjoy them.
22.11.2008 20 °C
Well I'm pleased to report that I made it to Cape Town, this is a photo of me with my feet in the Atlantic and the spectacular Table Mountain in the background. It's day 42 and the tour officially finished at breakfast this morning where we said goodbye to those that aren't staying around for a few more days or weeks. Just a recap of whats happened in the last few days.
After leaving Swakopmund we began heading inland to the Namib desert, this was by far the hottest few days of the whole tour, with temperatures over 40 degrees on three days in a row, its just too hot to do anything and despite drinking litres of water everyone still got very dehydrated! We spent the first afternoon in the desert on a walk with one of the local sandmen, he was a great guy who showed us the different plants and animals in the desert and explained how they all survive in such a hot climate. This is a picture of one of the dead trees, some of them are 800 years old.
The next day we were meant to be heading to Fish River Canyon but encountered a few problems, it was a normal driving day when just after lunch the truck came to a stop and out driver started playing around with the engine. It was a couple of hours by the time we got going again, but about 20km up the road we stopped again and the crew gave up hope of fixing the truck. Still about 100km short of the canyon we had to make a change to our plans and find a local campsite to stay at. ATC only have offices and spare trucks in Nairobi and Cape Town, meaning a new truck needed to be sent all the way from down here, luckily the wait wasn't too bad as one of the guys drove 19 hours overnight to get the truck to us the next day! What the stopage meant is that we had lost a day and decided to cut out Orange River (which I was looking forward to canoeing on) but still see Fish River Canyon as planned. Everyone took the setback pretty well, its one of those things that happen when overlanding Africa.
The canyon was brilliant, having seen the Grand Canyon I was sceptical at whether I would enjoy it as much as others, but it really is just as big and spectacular. Here we watched the sunset over the canyon before going out for a nice group dinner.
Because of the lost day Thursday was a long driving day to make up for the milage, however we stayed in the Western Cape which has great vineyards and produces some of the best wine in the world. The campsite we stayed at is run by an ex-overland driver who purchased his own vineyard, here we had a night winetasting some local South African wine.
Yesterday we drove into Cape Town and I've been relaxing here since. The current plan is to stay here for about two weeks which gives me more than enough time to see the city and unwind after an intense trip. The wildlife, scenery and people of Eastern and Southern Africa are truely unique and it really has been as good as I'd hoped for when I signed up. More importantly, the guys and girls on the truck travelling with me (whom I've barely mentioned) added to the experience and I've made some great friends who I hope I'll be able to stay in touch with... and stay with when I end up in their part of the world!
So this is the end of part one of my trip, I hope you'll continue to read on as I spend the next seven weeks untill Janurary 6th in South Africa. After a couple of weeks in Cape Town, I'm planning to travel along the south coast on the baz bus (www.bazbus.com), through Port Elizabeth and East London to Durban, and then cut inland to Jo'burg. I'll update when I have some fun stories about Cape Town, this afternoion though we're going to head to the waterfront to annoy the locals during the England vs. South Africa rugby game!
06.11.2008 - 16.11.2008 25 °C
This is going to be my longest entry yet as I didn't realise I'd left it so long from Maun. In the past ten days I've relaxed in the Olkavango Delta, entered Namibia and enjoyed seeing more wildlife at Etosha National Park and Cheetah Park, picture perfect scenery at Spitzkoppe and finally spent some time at the coastal town of Swakopmund. It's from Swakopmund that I write this, on the West coast of Namibia having completed a journey right across Affrica from the Indian Ocean waters of Dar es Salam in the last 4 weeks.
At the Olkavango Delta we enjoyed a two night sleep out in the company of local villagers. Having driven part of the way into the Delta, the only way to access our camp is via water. The villagers met us and transported us, our tents, bags and food on dug-out canoes to the camp. The delta has numerous shallow waterways that they travel in canoe, using a long pole to push off the bottom of the riverbed. The journey is very relaxing, and fortuantly no-one overturned (that time!). Once at camp we were deep into the delta and had no running water, showers or toilet... very remote! There is a lot of wildlife around, and in the mornings and late afternoon the villagers took us on walks to see some of the animals. It's a great experience to be wondering around the plains and seeing zebra, buffalo, girraffe, warthogs, honey badgers, elephants, hippos and other animals! Fortunately we didn't see a lion! In the second afternoon we were taken out on the canoes again and had a chance of 'poling' ourselves, I actually wasn't too bad but some people ended up very wet!
After leaving the delta we drove for Etosha National Park in Namibia, crossing the border. The park is very large (over 22,000 square km) and dry. In terms of animals we saw it was probably the worst we've been to on this trip with game drives having long periods without seeing anything, most of the more common animals were spotted, with the highlight being seeing a group of girrafes at a waterhole. The campsite we stayed at has a waterhole with a light on nearby, it is supposed to be full of animals some evenings but we sat up there for an hour or so and saw nothing!
Cheetah Park was the next destination of our next short drive, this is a santary in Namibia set up to look after Cheetahs that would have been killed by local farmers. Similar to foxes in the UK, Cheetahs are a huge pest and kill farmers animals so are often shot. There are some cheetahs at the park which have been hand-reared and are very tame, we got the chance to take pictures stroking these. Next, we were taken on the back of a truck which was feeding the 'wild' cheetahs donkey meat, the cheetahs all get very close and were fighting over the meat right in front of us.
Spitzkoppe is a group of rock formations in Namibia, it is one of Namibia's biggest tourist attractions and we spent a night camping alongside the rocks, great for taking pictures at sunset and sunrise, but very cold in the evening as its in the middle of the Namibian desert.
We arrived at Swakopmund on Friday morning and have been here all weekend, Swakopmund is a lovely ex-German town (Namibia was their colony untill the end of WW2), still very much dominated by German arcitecture. Its a much enjoyed relief from the past few weeks as we're all in hostels meaning I'm sleeping out of a tent for the first time in four weeks, and has some modern shops. The town has become the 'adrenaline capital' of Namibia and the most popular excursions are the 'big three ' (sky-diving, sandbording and quadbiking). About half of our group skydived over the Namib desert but I passed, claiming that I'll do it in Australia or New Zealand instead! I have completed the other two activities on the sand dunes though and both were brilliant. The quad biking is a huge adrenaline buzz, riding up and down the dunes on a 125cc bike (I started on a larger semi-automatic but had to downsize!). This morning we sandborded, basically its a snowboard with wax on the bottom which you ride down a 90m dune like a snowboard, the landing is very soft though! The ride down lasts about 30 seconds, and then you walk all the way to the top of the dune, which takes significantly longer! We also managed to do a lie-down run, in which you ride down the dune headfirst on a bendy piece of wood and hope for the best! They had a speed gun at the bottom, with most people reaching 65-70km/h. I didn't manage to get recorded because my board span so I was going backwards halfway down and I ended up in a spectacular crash with limbs and sand flying everywhere! We have a viewing of the DVD tonight, and I've got a feeling I'll be the star!
Five days till Cape Town and the end of the overland trip, I'll probably next update from there.
05.11.2008 27 °C
Just a quick update as I'm about to enter the Okavango Delta for three days and have no running water let alone internet connection! I'm currently in Botswana and have been since leaving Zimbabwe on Monday.
After rafting on the Zambezi I had a day off when I wrote my last post, later on we visited Vic Falls which were pretty amazing considering they are only about half as long as they would be in June. Some people on the trip took a helicopter ride over the top and the pictures look amazing. Around the Falls there are a lot of craft markets and Zimbabweans attempting to sell you anything they can get their hands on, the people are clearly desperate and at the border you can spot people carrying crates of bread and other supplies because of the shortages inside the country. I bought a few 100 billion dollar notes off a guy on the street, these used to be worth US$3, but have now been replaced and are worthless- a good souvenir though!
We drove yesterday to Chobe National Park in Botswana (free visa!!) which has good wildlife, particularly elephants which have been over-preserved and are currently being culled or moved to protect the environment; they rip the bark off trees and kill them. Some of our group took the option to go on an overnight trip to the centre of the park and camp there, game driving in the evening and morning. I took the cheaper option of just game driving early morning from the outside. We still managed to see loads of elephants bathing in the Chobe River, crocodiles, a big herd of buffalo, hippos, lots of types of antelope and others. Yesterday evening we went on another river cruise, this time on the Chobe River and saw the sunset and plenty of hippos, crocs and other animals from the boat.
Today was a driving day (left at 6am) and we're just in Maun, a town about 10km from our campsite on the edge of the Okavango Delta. The Delta is a desert which absorbs the end of a river, meaning it is part flooded and attracts a lot of wildlife. We leave camp tomorrow and are moved around the Delta on dug-out canoes, bush camping in the evening.
I'm wishing we could have started our trip three weeks later; when we were in Nairobi everyone was Obama crazy, wearing his t-shirt in the street and front page news most days. Apparently they've declared tomorrow a public holiday and there are parties in the streets!
Because of the slow speed I'm still waiting for a chance to get photos, I'll need a couple of hours at the speed of this net I think!
27.10.2008 - 02.11.2008 34 °C
It's been a week since I last managed to update due to long days travelling and very unreliable internet connections in Zambia and then Zimbabwe. Since last updating I spent 3 days at a second campsite in Lake Malawi, 3 days travelling through Zambia to Victoria Falls (the border with Zimbabwe) and then yesterday here, white water rafting and riverboarding the Zambezi. I'm currently in the town of Victoria Falls, on the Zimbabwe side of the border.
The three days at the second campsite, further down Lake Malawi than the one I last updated from, were mostly spent relaxing by the lake and swimming. On one of the evenings we organised a dress up party where everyone on the trip drew someone else's name and spent $5 shopping in a market for the most ridiculous clothes possible, some of the outfits had to be seen to be believed. The markets contained the worst dresses and colourful tops imaginable, probably discarded from Western charity shops!
The highlight of Lake Malawi for me was a village walk that some of us went on with some local villagers. They took us to the local market but also to an orphanage where about 100 children live and go to school. The buildings were all modern but basic, paid for by English and American doners. The children were fantastic, reciting their times tables and singing songs for us.
After Malawi, we were 'in transit' through Zambia in order to reach Victoria Falls. What this actually means is getting up at 5am for three mornings in a row and spending most of the day on the truck! Although some people have had enough of the truck already, I don't find it too bad, plenty of chances for reading and playing cards! Also, we were arriving at the campsites an hour or so before sundown which allowed us to use their pools, much needed in the temperatures. The worst thing about Zambia is the visa cost, due to a fall-out with the British, we're currently being charged US$150 to enter. Great!
We stayed at Livingstone (named after Dr. David, who 'discovered' the falls and named them after the queen) on the Zambia side on Thursday night and crossed the border on Friday, two bribes were required but we got through eventually! I've yet to be out to the falls but am planning to tommorow evening. It's currently the dry season which means that the falls are not the size they are in June or July. Some people have still been out on helicopter rides over the top and say they're still fantastic (as you'd expect one of the seven natural wonders of the world to be!).
The Zambezi is the river that the falls are on and the rocks and volume of water means that they are perfect for rafting and kayaking. This is fairly expensive to do, but its worth it. We rafted down 21 sets of rapids in a raft with 7 of us in, there were four rafts in our group with kayakers to rescue anyone who goes overboard. 14 people from our tour went meaning we could fill two rafts to ourselves. The rapids are some of the best in the world and vary from grade 3 to 5 (grade 6 cannot be rafted by us). The raft I was on overturned twice and I was sent overboard on two other sets, these are by far the best moments, although the time I got caught underneath the raft and couldn't breathe wasn't so much fun! It takes the full day to raft the 21 rapids, after breaking for lunch some of us paid out to go riverboarding which involves going down the rapids on a boogie/bodyboard with flippers on, tough to do considering the huge currents trying to drag you to rocks. By far the best was rapid 18 (named oblivion!) which is grade 5 and had a wave at least 2m big crashing on top of me and my board. The rafting and bodyboarding was filmed and I will get a copy and show everyone eventually.
We leave Vic Falls tommorow morning and head into Botswana to Chobe National Park. Yesterday was day 21 of our 42 day trip and I can't believe how fast it is going.
20.10.2008 - 24.10.2008 28 °C
I'm writing from a campsite on the northern shores of Lake Malawi, the second biggest lake in Africa. Since my last post I've been on the islands of Zanzibar for three days and then had the two longest travel days yet. We arrived here yesterday evening.
Zanzibar was a great chance for everyone to unwind after the early mornings of game viewing, in theory we were free to do what we wanted for the three days but most people on the tour took the same option as me, spending the first night in Stone Town in the south and then Nungwi in the north for the following two nights. Zanzibar was as good as we'd all expected it to be, with perfect sunsets and white beaches. From Stone Town, I took a cheap snorkeling trip out to Prison Island (which doesn't have a prison!), to view the fish and coral reefs. On the island itself there is a giant tortoise conservation project, which has the second most rare tortoises in the world, great for a fun photo!
In Nungwi in the north, we spent the days relaxing on the beach and the evenings at the beach side bars and restaurants. On the last night, some of the locals were having a game of football on the beach, encouraged by the rest of the group some of us joined in- they were slightly better than us though!
After a few too many drinks on the last night, the last thing we needed was a windy ferry ride, this is of course what we got and everyone spent nearly three hours feeling very sea sick. Tuesday was our last night on the East Coast of Africa in Dar Es Salem, we have now began to cut South-West and are into Malawi, we'll meet the West Coast in Namibia in three weeks, slightly colder waters there though!
Wednesday and Thursday were are two worst travel days yet, our wake up on Wednesday morning was 3.30am, 4.15am breakfast and 5am leave (still dark!), I was asleep by 9pm, but it was still not good. We spent nearly 14 hours minus lunch and pit-stops to get to our campsite, and then were all up at 5am again yesterday. Two very long and tiresome days, but everyone has come to accept you can't travel the distances we are without them.
We arrived at our current campsite on the northern shores of Lake Malawi yesterday and leave tommorow. Lake Malawi (also known as Calender Lake as its 365km long and 52km wide) looks like the sea because its so large and has a nice sandy beach. It's hot so another great chance for sunbathing and football/volleyball on the beach. Tomorrow we travel 200km south to another campsite down the Western side of the lake and stay for three nights, there they have watersports, craft markets and other activities.
I'm still trying with photos, hopefully next time!
15.10.2008 - 18.10.2008 32 °C
Just arrived in Zanzibar, a small group of Islands off the East Coast of Tanzania, famous for spices and its role in the Africa-Asia slave trade (Zanzibar translates as 'land of the blacks'). I've spent the last few days at the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Parks before a couple of travel days on the truck to Dar Es Salem where we caught the ferry to here.
The two game parks were brilliant, even better than the Masai Mara NP in Kenya, the number of animals we saw was so impressive that I doubt anywhere in the world has better wildlife. Unlike the Masai Mara, we switched into 4x4 trucks with six of us in, in mine were Cheryl/Barry (NZ/SA), Clare (NZ) and Vicky and Melissa (Aus). This made it quicker to get around the crater and several trucks with radios allow information on the whereabouts of animals easy to spread.
The Ngorongoro crater is a couple of miles in diameter and has different sections of forest and plains which attract millions of animals. As we drove down the crater we could see the usual groups of gazelles, wildebeest and zebra which we have seen so many of we drive right past now. Inside the crater we also saw elephants, hyena, giraffe, two lions and lionesses and a cheetah (unsuccessfully) hunting. We even managed to stop for lunch at hippo pond, which was unsurprisingly full of hippos.
After spending the morning there we moved onto Serengeti, which is a couple of hours drives but along the worst road I've ever seen- it literally felt like driving over a cattle grid for 2 hours straight! The plains of Serengeti are just like I'd imagined, miles and miles of flat land with just dry grass on is all you can see on the way in! We camped out in the national park, the campsites there have no guards and no barriers to stop animals coming in, therefore we were warning about going to the toilet in the night. Apparently if we flashed out torch out and saw green eyes this was very bad! Needless to say, I avoided using the toilet until morning!
We spent the following morning we had a few more hours of game driving in the more covered parts of the Serengeti, again the number of animals was amazing, I actually lost track of the amount of lions we saw, it was over 10 although we didn't see any cubs. By the end of the day we'd been able to spot nine out of the 'big ten' we'd created (the 'official' list is a big 5): Lion, Elephant, Hippo, White rhino, Buffalo, Cheetah, Giraffe, Crocodile, Leopard. We just have the Black Rhino to go!
After returning to Arusha on Wednesday evening we've have a couple of days on the road to get to Dar Es Salem. The drives weren't too bad in comparison to what is to come, just 6 or 7 hours a day! The campsite we stayed last night was right on the beach and we arrived early giving us a couple of hours in the sea and playing volleyball before dark.
This morning we got the ferry over to Zanzibar; I'm currently in stone town in the south, which is nearly 100% Muslim meaning I have to wear trousers in the heat (its over 30 degrees and very humid). I'm going snorkeling in the morning before transferring up to the north of the island which has some of the best beaches in Africa. It'll be a great chance to relax after a week of early mornings and long game drives.
Hakuna Matata! (No worries!), Lawrence
09.10.2008 - 13.10.2008 24 °C
Had a very busy few days after arriving and have began to see some of the amazing wildlife here in Eastern Africa. I'm currently in Arusha, Tanzania.
On Thursday I left Nairobi behind for a few days to go to the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya, had my first experiences of the roads here and the overland trucks which send you at least 20cm off your seat when you hit a bump (more complaints on this to follow!) We did a long day in the park on Friday, setting off at 7.30am and getting pack at gone 6pm. About 20 minutes in we saw a half eaten zerbra, thinking we'd missed the lion we were pleased to see him relaxing under a tree by the side of the road with a huge belly just 50m away. Have got some fantastic shots from close of him and his friend but the internet is too slow to upload here.
As well as the two male lions we saw a lioness, buffalo, hippo, crocodiles, vultures, three types of antelope, tens of giraffe and elephant and thousands of zebra and wildebeast! The only hyena and leopard to report were in our campsite on the first night, the Masai people saw them off safely though! In the evening we had a chance to visit the local Masai village and go around their thatched and mud-huts, watch their dancing and ask questions about their way of life.
After driving back to Nairobi on Saturday, a few people from the safari and I went out to a resturant called Carnivores. Anyone going to Nairobi, this is a must do, you wait at your table whilst they bring round lots of different types of meat; the best part being its not just beef, pork, chicken and lamb! They have different game meats avaliable on different nights but we tried crocodile and ostrich, the ostrich was great, the croc too fishy.
Yesterday we set off on the full 42-day tour to Cape Town, about 9 of the people from the 3-day Masai Mara trip were also on this. Others have joined from tours in Uganda, giving us 25 people. It's a mix of travellers, including 8 couples, some friends travelling together and 6 single travellers like me. The bus is dominated by Aussies/Kiwis but also have other nations represented! We range from me at 21 to two of the older couples who are late 40s/early 50s. Because of my age and inexperience at travelling compared to the others I've been granted the nickname junior (pronnounced by the Aussies as June-Ya!!), I personally think they're jealous!
So, after spending yesterday on the truck crossing the Keynan-Tanzanian border, I'm currently in Arusha where people keep yelling Chelsea at me because I'm wearing my shirt. We are off on another day of game driving in small 4x4s tomorrow at Seregneti National Park and Ngorogoro Crater. Should give me some more good pictures and a chance to add to my list of animals. After that we drive to Dar-es-Salam on Friday near the East coast before going to Zanzibar. I should update from there.
07.10.2008 - 08.10.2008 23 °C
Well I made it to Nairobi, flight felt surprisingly short considering it was over 8 hours! I've spent most of the day lazing around the hostel I am staying out, but have been for a bit of a wonder around the part of the city I'm staying.
I'm staying near the centre, but towards the East which is apparently the dangerous part where I shouldn't go walking even in daylight. The area immediately surrounding me seems fine though, doesn't seem to be any other white tourists round though! The room is extremely basic and the bathroom looks terrible, really can't complain for 700ksh (about 6 pounds) a night though!
Nairobi is pretty much as I expected it to be, its very busy for a start, and pedestrians seem to have right of way over traffic during rush hour (I think this is due to the sheer number of pedestrians!). Luckily I booked my overland trip before I came, it allows me to get away from the crowds of agents roaming the street waving flyers and offering all sorts of deals to me.
I've booked a day out tomorrow going to some wildlife parks around Nairobi, one to a giraffe sanitary and one to an orphaned rhino and elephant project, will fill the day for me before my Masai Mara 3-day safari on Thursday and then the 42-day trip to South Africa starting on Sunday.
I doubt I'll have the chance to update before I get going on my 42-day trip, most likely update to be at Arusha in Tanzania next Monday.
Sorry for the text blog... I'll get some pictures up next time!
Bye for now, Lawrence
A map showing where I'm currently planning to be a various times
04.10.2008 - 06.10.2008 10 °C
Firstly, welcome to my blog. The first thing I've done is to create this map of my travels, which I'll hopefully be able to update if anything changes. If you zoom in on it, you can see the dates where I'm planning to be places which should be handy for those who are possibly in similar places.
My trip is split into a few stages:
1) Nairobi to Capetown overland tour: 6 week organised tour starting in Keyna, travelling through Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Nambia and then South Africa.
2) Capetown to Jo'burg travels: After a few weeks of Capetown, I'll be making my way along the south coast of South Africa to Durban and then inland to Jo'burg.
3) Melbourne: Working for the two summer months, should be a great a chance to top-up both energy and my funds!
4) Travelling up Australian East-Coast
5) Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
Up to Melbourne, my plans are reasonably concrete. After that, my trip becomes a lot less organised and more likely to change!
I hope to get my first update once arriving in Keyna. All the best!