Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tim's Spain & Morocco travels

G'Day again,

My last email left with me at school, the Spanish course in Granada.
This was a great change from holidaying for me, I actually enjoyed the
routine factor in getting up, going to school for 4 hrs then having a
siesta (sleeping during the day still makes me feel guilty but when
nothing is open in Spain then there is not much else to do), studying,
partying AND then sleeping in the same bed! 14 nights in the same bed
was a real change.

Granada may not have been the best choice as a location to learn
Spanish as they have a thicker accent, but then my goals were quite
unreasonable anyway...learn and speak fluent Spanish in several
weeks...laughable! The course was great but I´m afraid I probably
didn't do much to impress the other nationalities as to Australians
learning abilities. The others in the course already spoke an average
of 2.5 languages hence they had no problems learning another. My first
day I had to learn what a verb, adjective, noun...etc was in English
let alone in Spanish so started a long way behind!

After 2 weeks of Spanish school I went walking in the Serra Nevada
mountains, the highest point in Europe outside the alps. Whether the
altitude had anything to do with it or I am really unfit I don't know
but it was hard work getting to 3400m. Sleeping in a tent on a
mountain that high was a nice change from living in cities although
when it started sleeting/snowing the next morning it made me
reconsider the sensibility behind Australians wearing shorts in all
hiking conditions.

The common sense way to get to Morocco from Granada is a short 150km
dash down to the ports but rather I decided a more inventive way to
get there...via Madrid and the north of Spain. A quick couple of days
in the nation's capital and I was off for a fiesta in Logroño (where
they stomp on grapes in a half barrel to make wine and celebrate the
new harvest). The other event at any good Spanish fiesta is a Bull

Bull fighting...controversial, is it animal cruelty? I had seen the
bull fighting museum in Valencia and was shocked at the way the bulls
death was prolonged so anticipated that I wouldn't enjoy it at all,
but why would thousands of Spanish attend bull fights and thousands of
bulls be killed in this way each year if it didn't have something else
to it? Needless to say I decided the only way to know was to go to a
Bull Fight. MY personal conclusion...I´d go again, cruelty = not
really, brutality = definitely. Done correctly the Bull does not
appear to suffer, the sheer anger and rage the bull is feeling, and
desire to gore the matador takes over any emotion. The bull will
literately die mid-charge. When done poorly (yes the odds weren't good
as this was 2 of the 6 bulls killed) then it is the hardest thing to
watch, when the matador missed the mark with the sword the bull did
suffer and giving credit to the Spanish crowd they gave it to the
matador and were not happy about the suffering. Tradition is also
amazing to see at a bull fight. MY RECOMMENDATION...go, make your own
mind up but be prepared for blood and to spend the next 2 weeks trying
to make sense of what you saw and why humans are the way humans are!

It was around this stage that I found out about the Camino de Santiago
which was to become a big part of my Spanish travels. The Camino de
Santiago is a collection of pilgrimage routes across Europe to get to
Santiago de Compostella. The pilgrim routes in Spain are really well
marked and set up and thousands of pilgrims trek across northern Spain
each summer to get to the west side. This sounded like my cuppa tea!

Hence I went to Pamplona, walked the route were the running of the
bulls occurs and dumped some luggage...ongoing theme here...I have too
much luggage...for a round the world tip PACK LIGHT. From Pamplona I
did several camino routes across the Pyrenees Mountains. Beautiful
mountains and full of history and culture (aka foods and old
buildings), the walking takes you past villages, small farms (slightly
biased opinion growing up in Aust), herd animals wearing bells (huge
novelty) and you see more of the true Spain than you get from several
days in a city.

How´d my Spanish go...hmmm, disgraceful but the Spanish were very
patient with my attempts to recall the correct word and the horrific
pronunciation. So many people tried to help teach me the language,
sadly I usually ended up acting (universal language) again or telling
them I was going to 'swim' my way to Pamplona...I also had a few
creative teachers who tried to convince me to pick up a Spanish lady I
should say XXXXX...later, fortunately I got out the dictionary to find
I wasn't commenting on her eyes at all but lower down!

After the Pyrenees I headed to San Sebastian surprised to find beaches
without rocks! The north coast of Spain is a surfers pilgrimage, the
city is really well built to take advantage of the great beach but I
prefer the mountains so picked another section of mountainous Camino
to walk through, the Picos de Europa. These mountains are amazing,
hard to explain so I´ve attached a pic!

Sadly I then made the mistake of reading the Moroccan guidebook whilst
waiting for a bus...I was having time of my life in Spain but all I
want to do was to get to Morocco. Hence I sped up my travels to get
there ASAP while seeing as much as possible.

Santiago de Compostella was the end of the Camino de Santiago so I
called in to get a stamp in my Camino passport. I probably should
explain more about the Camino. The walk traditionally has a high
religious importance to pilgrims as the routes follow several
centuries of Christians walking to see the burial site of one of the
guys from the table with Jesus at his last dinner. Now it is so famous
it attracts people from all faiths and backgrounds. The pilgrimage is
meant to be a way to discover yourself through hard work this being
walking 20-30km per day for 4-6 weeks. Due to its popularity over the
centuries businesses, accommodation and towns have been built to cater
for the pilgrims needs. Apart from offering some great walking I did
it because the opportunity to meet loads of different people and for
the cheap accommodation that is provided to pilgrims. You get a
pilgrims passport that you collect stamps in and proves you are
walking the Camino. Smile nicely, offer them some basic Spanish and
most importantly tell them your Australian and they will not mind that
you aren't following the typical pilgrim route and doing the whole
walk! I recommend the Camino de Santiago to everyone, as great way to
see Spain and get to meet people (from both Spain and every other
country in the world), I don't think I gave it enough opportunity to
´discover myself´ as I only walked for 4 days at a time...4-6 weeks
might lead to self discovery or you could book a holiday to NZ and go
solo walking in the mountains to achieve it much quicker and with a
lot more effort. The walk is reasonably challenging to your average
adult 20-50yrs old but is well marked, well set out and you won't
regret it at all!

After standing at the northern most point of Spain and then eastern
point I headed to Portugal. Here I had plans to go walking again but
the weather dampened my plans so I went tasting Port in Porto (city in
Portugal) instead. I should also mention that I stayed a night for
free in the Fire Station, realising every boys dream by sleeping in
the rooms where the firemen sleep/wait for the fires to start. Sadly
there was no sirens or bells, or pole to slide down (this is opening
myself to many jokes) but it a memory I won't soon forget either.

I also was able to discover Couch Surfing in the best way possible and
used the website to stay at a Portuguese blokes place in the sea side
suburbs of Lisborne (capital of Portugal) and see the city, the
amazing castles in the hills next to Lisborne and attend a Portuguese
birthday party without paying 20euro a night for a hostel. PLEASE if
you have a spare room, couch or floor space register to and spread free accommodation!

Following Portugal I quickly called into see Sevilla, watched a
backyard flamenco show in a pub and then to Cadiz (smaller Spanish
city with some fantastic old castles right on the waterfront), then to
Tarifa to do some washing (using a machine) and eat ham before
catching the ferry to morocco.


My first 2 weeks in Morocco I spent traveling around the rural areas
of the country. The first stop was the famous blue walled city of
Chefchauoen. This city is painted in shades of blue, a stunning effect
but try to navigate a Medina (lots of really close buildings and
narrow laneways within a walled fortress) where everything looks the
same and is in blue…it confused me as much as the bees. (one rumour is
that the city is painted blue to keep out the bees who think its

This blue town sits in the Rif Mountains, famous for the amount of
hashish that they produce. I put on the walking shoes and spent
several days exploring the farming terraces cut into the mountains and
quaint mountain villages. I was a month late for the Hashish plant
harvest, so all I saw was the dry stalks remaining, yep disappointed,
BUT then I got curious as to the drumming noises coming from the
villages so went to find out. It turned out to be the sound made as
they beat the hashish plant to extract the pollen…fascinating to watch
and wonder how many years in jail you would spent if caught with the
equivalent of 6 round bales full of hashish leaf and flower!

From northern morocco I headed East to the Sahara desert where it
started to rain…just my luck. I spent the next day sitting beside
raging rivers as the bus waited for each river to go down, the one
bonus was that the rain kept out some the tour buses and things were
quieter once I arrived. Sand dunes are always spectacular but after
the Egypt oasis's and Namibian monster dunes I didn't need to ride
another stinking bloody dromerder (camel with 1 hump).

Eastern Morocco also has some fantastic gorges were the water runs
from the Atlas Mountains out to the desert. I got homesick looking at
the scenery here as the colours and rocks are very similar to central
Australia. However I couldn't confuse myself with being at home as the
palmeries (date palm groves) were fascinating to walk through as they
feed the overpopulation from these groves using ancient watering
systems and tools (donkey/mule ploughs).

The highest mountain in Morocco was always going to be a draw card for
me. The only problem was that the recent snow meant that its 4167m was
covered in snow and I was to chicken to learn how to use crampons and
ice picks by myself. The walking around is bottom was spectacular
though with the autumn colours and snow..

After the rural areas I spent the final 2 weeks traveling the cities
with Deborah, my cousin who the Moroccans insisted that as she was a
maternal cousin I could marry! We basically went city hoping to eat…
her first lunch in Morocco was a BBQ/Boiled sheep-head. The experience
will be well remembered, particularly playing with it while pretending
to enjoy it! Other foods included home made cous cous with a family we
met in the streets, sugary & oily pastries, targine's, bread, bread
and more bread. Moroccan food is nice but the array is limited and
surprisingly for the amounts of spice they have on offer at markets it
is not particularly spicy. The best way to enjoy good food I guess
like anywhere is to have it in someone's home…easy to do, just drop
the right hints to a family in the markets and they'll get you to buy
the food for that nights meal for the family and invite you. One last
memorable food moment was eating sheep testicle…the experience of
buying single 'nut' you've chosen off the carcass hanging in the
street and then taking it to be grilled in front of you is not to be
forgotten and the taste…I'd eat it again before a sheep-head anyway!

The cities of Morocco are chaos as with any 3rd world city, but the
Medina's provide hours of fun walking around, getting lost or more
correctly realising at different times that you actually know where
you are! The shops owners use aggressive sale tactics and bargaining
is essential for everything, make them drop their price to a 3rd of
the starting price and you are probably then only paying double what
it's really worth to a local. Mint tea is offered to all potential
customers and then the unfolding of every carpet in the shop will
begin, if you want to 'think' about it and not buy now! then watch out
for the language and screaming.

I have just finished a week in London, doing touristy stuff,
organising myself and watch repeats of TopGear episodes on Dave...also
trying English ales and get educating my liver with pint's (not
drinking for several months made London much cheaper).

Currently I am in Stockholm (waiting for my sisters flight) looking
forward to seeing Scandinavia and spending time with Mum & Dad.
Currently -4 C and fresh snow...any tips on how to deal with -30 C
further north would also be appreciated…

Best wishes back home and across the world and I look forward to
getting some Christmas 'what the year entailed' type emails.


PS: where to next...Scandinavia for 3 weeks (Finland, Sweden, Norway),
1 week in the UK early dec, Swizterland for Xmas, New year in the UK
and THEN fly to South America Jan next year...5 months to go!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Middle East and Europe

After traveling through Africa to Cape Town here is what I have been up to:


After 12hrs watching movies overnight instead of sleeping and then an uncomfortable 12hr stop over in Heathrow airport I needed to sleep, but I love flying...hence more movies and British Airways great red wine selection on my flight to Cairo took precedence. Cario at 1am was just as lively as 10am or 10pm I found out, I immediately loved the is polluted, overcrowded, stinks and really hot but then that is what makes is so much fun...the CHAOS. I fell into bed an passed out not giving John much more than a G'day nice to see you chat. I traveled Egypt with John, a scout buddy and his first time outside Australia, hence I think more a shock to him as I had experiences Africa to soften the impact of poverty and chaos!

The pyramids were great, as the museum but what I really liked about Cario are the taxi's! The taxis are crappy old cars that somehow make it through each day being driven by men who don't understand how to use the clutch or have any knowledge of road rules. Road and driving license is acquired by showing competent use of the horn! (aka overuse)

From Cario we did the typical route that a Contiki tour would take (far cheaper solo, but harder work) upstream along the Nile (downward on map of Africa) to the largest and grandest collections of Egyptian stone work/carvings and also the tombs. Seeing is believing...they are impressive in photos but to stand underneath the Abel Simbel or Luxor temples you really begin to appreciate the dedication and effort that went into making each monument.

We floated/sailed down the Nile on a traditional boat (faluca); enjoyed the Valley of the Kings (lotsa tombs) and the temples around Luxor are in most postcards of egypt when the pyramids dont figure! We then caught an 18hr bus across the country to the Red Sea where the most amazing coral grows just off the beach (the beaches havent yet compared to Australian ones) but the water is beautifully warm.We climbed Mt. Sini (with every other person and his ... camel!) where a guy out of a book heard something (go back to being PC Tim!) and then more snorkeling. From here I decided to go to Jordan while John went to Cario ->London (thanks for the company John, great to have someone to vent frustrations with rather than at).

What is it like to travel Egypt not on a tour? exhausting, but so many more memories and you also feel the culture of the country rather than simply take photos of it going by your bus window. It was Egypt in summer which made thing easier as less tourists around but it was hot as Alice Springs in the summer and to walk around without shade in the desert is hard work. I thought I might have caught 'Pharaohs Revenge' (gastro) after walking the pyramids but it was simply I was used to the weather in Cape Town, not Cario and had heat stroke. Without tourists we could bargain hotel prices down further, e.g 12.5 Egyptian pounds per night = less than $3 (normal was $5-10), we however were the amongst the few tourists to hound/beg/annoy therefore more of a target??? I cant say but you have to love attention when traveling Egypt! Enjoy the culture shock, see the positive in the 4.30am Muslim call to prayer, the city comes alive and a mixture of sound and mosque lighting (who sleeps then anyway!, sleep in the heat of the afternoon). Muslim women have very attractive cant see anything else! Egyptians will bend over backwards for you...just expect to be "back-sheesh'd" Pita bread at home is expensive...not in Egypt...10cents for x5, breakfast for <$1...BARGAIN!

Few things to make life easier are, learn the Arabic numbers (written) and choose want you want off the menu. You are guessing at what you will be eating but at least you know the price...some fun meals were had when we kept ordering liver for John...I was full and he hadn't even eaten! If you are a female don't travel the middle east alone, take a "husband"/bloke to keep the touch to a minimum. Have your passport at hand... so many check points! Dont take winter clothes for an Egyptian summer...(maybe a jumper for climbing Mt Sini) as I carried 5kg of parka, beanie, gloves, thermals, jumpers and pants through Egypt...that was stupid!

Crossing border an Egyptian border into Israel was an experience...lotsa "ladies in uniform" and more to the point I had my passport checked 20+ times across a single border! I spent 2hrs in Israel before crossing into Jordan so cant say much for the country expect it was full of..."ladies in uniform" and young guys (17yrs) carryiong guns.

Jordan was a huge contrast to Egypt (new fact Tim...just like all English speaking countries are not the same, not all Arab countries are the same). Here my/the Australian dollar was actually worse (first county on this trip) and there was organisation (less poverty also). I visited Petra for 2 days, Petra is the place out of Indiana Jones movie 'the Temple of Doom' where he rides through the narrow canyons to a temple carved into the rock face...yeah its amazing to see in the physical form! The other top moment from Jordan was swimming/floating in the dead sea.

Crossed through Israel again..."ladies in uniform"

Back in Egypt I went downstream (North) from Cairo. I visited the Port where the Suez canal connecting Mediterranean Sea to Red Sea was dug 100+ yrs ago. Then I caught a series of buses to get way over in the west of Egypt (the Siwa desert oasis). This is your typical oasis from cartoons, the Sahara desert dunes almost touch the water except for a ring of Date Palms and houses. Yes I swam in the Shara desert! Driving through the desert was also an experience...flat knacker in a beat-up old Toyota with it tires down was enough to make me fear for my safety as he jumped the 4WD off 30m high sand dunes and I couldn't help but egg him on!

I had one last night in Cairo where I saw the Pyramids Light'n'sound show (very touristy) and then walked around the city trying to find Stuffed Pigeon to eat/try...I dont speak arabic so it was 1+hrs of coo-ing like a dove/pigeon...maybe I should admit myself to a pshyic ward!

London, I stayed in Sheperds Bush...aka Australiana! Drank with Aussies, partied, stayed and everything with Aussies...nice for 3 days but next time in London I want to meet a British person! It was also sunny...go figure that one!

LOVED the food...cheese...mmmm Did the Paris thingy after meeting up with Anthony & Stephen from CSU Pharmacy. I went to France a pesimist thinking it was going to be a crapy tourist/photo moment (I did this) and it will actually blow you away. Catacombs are a must for anyone going Paris but also enjoy the Eiffel tower, Notre Dame and the Louvre (if "Mr. walk past a painting without looking twice" aka me can enjoy the Mona Lisa then maybe the artist did get something right...or was I looking at the crowds. Another point...the egyptian collection in the Paris's Louvre is beter than in Cario's Museum!
I then went wine tasting in Bordeux and St. Emilion. Felt slightly posh eating french cheese and drinking french wine then realised I was in short-shorts and hiking boots!

Would have liked to see more of France, but it really was a way to get to Spain, for the Tomato Festival. As was Barcelona! BUT I arrived in time for a festival!...The spainish know how to party, the fireworks were amazing and then they proceded then to do a parade with huge figurines and spainish dancing. What I will tick off as the most spainish experience I have/will have is that at the tail end of this parade they were lighting fireworks and waving them at the crowd. The crazy spainards would then try to dance around them without getting burnt or bursting there ear drums! The party went on til 7.30am for me...what a way to start Spain.
Next was the tomato festival in Valencia
This experience is not to be forgotten, the mass of people, lots of tomatos and permison for all out war...see the photos is all I can say or better still...go! Suprisingly out of 30,000+ people I managed to find my cousin...

Granada is currently where I am based and have been here for 2 weeks...thats 2 whole weeks of the same bed...WOW.
I am doing a spanish course...difficult, but hopefully it will make it easier to speak/communicate aka "to get what I want" when I get to South America and for travelling around Spain.

Plan for next 3 months is Spain, Portugal and Morocco (more chaos!)

Hasta luego


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

African Epilogue - Where's Tim been...

Now that I have no excuse about the quality or African internet services and
time constraints (do banking, download photos off camera, back on the truck
in 1 hour) I will elaborate on the fun I have had in Eastern and
Southern Africa.

10 weeks on an overland truck go by really, really fast...but then it seems
like so long ago getting on that truck in Nairobi.

*Joburg (South Africa) - Nairobi (Kenya) - Jinja (Uganda)*

Joburg has a reputation and it certainly is a rough town, security is a term
taken to new level in South Africa, electric wire topped fences,
savage dogs, shards of glass sprinkled liberally on wall tops, and
lots of security men.
Fortunately Joburg and the Soweto tour (township where uprising against
apartheid happened) went smoothly, the flight out however was a timely
reminder about the necessity of checking your flight details as I only just
made it on-board (<30min to get through check-in, customs and to the
boarding gate must be a world record for Joburg airport on Saturday

Nairobi was when I first mee Africa nastiness face to face...this
happened 10meters from the departure terminal when my waiting taxi
driver tried to hustle me
out of the airport without trying to confirm that he knew my destination or
what his name was supposed to be...fortunately whilst he tried to take my pack
off for me the real taxi driver arranged caught my attention the would be
'mugger' vanished.

Life on an overland truck: keep in mind that I choose the budget of budget
options...not everyones cuppa tea
The driver and his Mrs had the cab whilst the tourists were in the back of a
regular heavy rigid truck such as one would cart cattle, x30 seats
sideways facing each other, tarp windows, tarp for the roof that could
be rolled back for game
drives and cruising in fine weather, camping every night, cooking our own
food purchased that day at local market (bartering), charcol fires, more
cold showers than hot, GOOD FUN, not good "clean" fun, as it was
rather dusty but really good fun!
Early starts figured regularly due to the quality of roads in Africa
(potholes/traffic) and long distances needed to travel to next
destination. We only ever had max of 11 people on the truck, but most
of the trip was with 5-6 people so we had plenty of seats to chose
from and slept on the truck on those 5am starts. Other overland
companies we came across had completely full trucks x30 ppl, windows
to keep out dust, a cook with truck so they didn't do their own
cooking and
everyone had one particular duty for entire trip....BORING.
Food: Breakfast and Dinners were included in the package and like most good
camping trips we spent ages thinking, purchasing, preparing and cooking our
evening delicacies. We ate really well, much to the credit of a young
British lad who tantalised our taste buds whilst boosting blood
presure as we had to watch his every move almost spill that nights
Lunch when I ate it (a huge breakfast and 3 helpings in the evening meant I
was rarely hungry during the day) was local cusine. Toasted maize,
road-side kebabs, goat stew/beans/casava/rice, grasshoppers, sardine
sized BBQ
fish, tripe...I tasted everything and went back for more.

Nai-robbery shanty towns are amongst the most crowded that I was able to
observe. The lean-to's offered all services in ordinary towns cinema (TV in
the back of a hut), butchers (a cooking fire keeps the flys away and buy the
meat "still warm" in the morning to avoid afternoon warm meat bescause
it had been sit out in the sun rather than just killed)

Nairobi elephant orphanage was my first wildlife experience but I
would still do it again as touching and the attitude of the adolescent
elephants ignoring tape fences and needing blankets to keep the warm
was pretty cool.

Jinja is the source of the Nile river in Uganda. We went rafting on grade 5
rapids here. Flipping the boat, falling out upstream of a 2m drop
waterfall and getting held under trying to swim up but going no where
was a the first real highlight of travelling Africa.

*Gorrila's (Uganda) - **Kenya*

Uganda was my favorite country due to the people (really friendly and
overpopulation meant they were on all roadsides every single km of the
trip), the country side was lush green, rolling valleys and a
patchwork or crops and best of all was Uganda Beer.

Beer in Africa has been cheap, ranging from 75cents for 500mL to max of $3
for a 330mL stubby. The quality has been no worse than Australian beers and
they can be brought anywhere...just never expect them to be cold. Mazie beer
was also available and it took me 3 attempts on 3 different nights to drink
the 1 litre paper carton of sour porridge slugde...yuck! Other spirits are as
expected but I tended towards those in plastic tear off strips...tacky but
better than carrying a hip flask into a pub.

The Gorrilas were the entire reason to visit Uganda, the mountains they live
in took lots of driving to get us there but the scenery was beautiful.
Standing next to a family of gorillas was an awesome experience. They were
so relaxed and not the slightest worried that we were spying on them, the
size of a juvinile male mountian gorrila 3m away did have me worried that I
might make the wrong move but he/they were more content to scratch, pick
their noses, fart and occasionally grunt. We also caught a glimpse of the
silverback and the rest of the females and babies playing are memories I'll
remember for life (I'd better anyway considering the cost!)

We also visited a Pygmi village...legally the only people to be able to grow
marijunana they proceded to get themselves stoned at 8:30am and dance for
us...worth every cent for the laughter and weeks of ongoing jokes.

Game drives started in Nakuru, Lake Naivasha and Masi Mara, we saw plenty of
rhino's on the first drive and stopped photographing them...only to never
see another rhino for 8 weeks! The effrct of seeing zebra, impala,
giraffe and the rest of africas standard game animals slowly wore off
over the 10 weeks of Africa but those first game drives seeing a
giraffe even in the distance was I guess like
see your first kangaroo. To WALK amongst them was something else!

Climbed my first mountain, to a crater ontop were the views took second place
to doing CooooooWeeeeeee into the crater and having it echo around
several times.

We missed the game migration as they were in between Tanazia and Kenya in an
area hard to reach but I was plenty satisfied with watching the hippos and
the baboons THE best creature in Africa! Monkeys and baboons spend minimal
time feeding unlike other animals, they'd rather "hang out with their wang's
out" or cause mischeif and non-stop comedy for the observer.

*Kenya - Arusha (Tanziania)*

Several of the crew who had done game drives the previous week and myself
decided no to do the Serengetti NP as we needed some rest days, to spend less
$$$ and had seen most of the African game expected those who
went saw plenty of lions but I had my sightings later on so the rest days
were a good idea.

*Zanzibar Island*

The fish market in Dar Es Salam was a highlight and a full size tuna was
only $3 USD or $9/kg for prawns. However Tanzanians have a reputation and they
lived up to it by stealling the charcol bag from the back of the truck
whilst we were in a traffic jam.

Zanzibar spice tour was right up my alley...what is it?, where does it
come from?, what does it taste like?... this tour also inlcuded a
visit to sights where the slave trade occured and insights into the
past horrors of Zanizbar. The remainder of Zanzibar was spent at a
resort were we partied hard and filled in the days by laying on the
beach, seeing green turtles, deep see fishing african style (I caught
the biggest at 13cm), and the best fun was on my birthday which we
spent snorkeling.

Is a small African country based around a mammoth lake...Lake Malawi. Here
we spent a night sleeping in the open ontop of a mountain over looking the lake
and then several days relaxing beside that lake. Malawi had some amazing wood
work, particularly the Malawi chairs but like every other Curio shop
(tourist souvenirs) I admired the work and got the poor store owners hopes
up for a sale, before leaving empty handed. Why I woulf want to carry around a
pack full of nic-naks for another 10months?. I did however buy myself
a set of tyre shoes (African injinuity at its best) and regretted it
the next day as the cushioning in Dunlop Tread is not the same as

Unable to enter Zimbabwee due to Uncle Rob, we went through Zambia which in
light of the Zimbabwee situation has decide to increase VISA's
150%...mongrels. However the country made up for it with the best National
Park in Africa (South Luangwa). Here we did 2 game drives Morning = pack of
lions eating a Zebra and then drinking out of the river (walking within 2m
of the Land Cruiser) and we also saw a Leopard at <5m distance (Leopards are
hardest african animal to see) Night = Buffalo charged the Landcrusier
shaking us about before fleeing into the bush with the lion pack still
chasing it :)! The campsite for this NP was itself worth it as we had
monkeys attack another trucks campsite (lifted the lid of a camp oven to eat
the contents), a giraffe stroll through and Hippo's walk between the tents
at night.
Victoria Falls was amazing to see, it is HUGE. I did a microlight flight
over it an still the sheer size was hard to comprihend. I also jumped off
the bridge rather than cross it into Zimbabwee (with a bungee cord and
also did the
gorge swing) and I DONT need to do either again...terrifing! Rafting the
Zambezi was at high water level so the rapids averaged grade 4 but still had
a few grade 5 rapids to flip the boat and get the adrenaline going.

The biggest change between this stage of the trip and East Africa
(Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania) is that the number of ppl on the roadside.
Botswanna was the first country where you could travel for 10km
without seeing a roadside stall or ppl carrying a load to their
nearest village. I kept hoping that this is due to the size of the
country but fear the HIV might have something to do with it also.
Okavango Delta is a massive water catchment that several major rivers
drain into...think of Lake Eyre back home but where the rivers are
always running. Hence it is a massive soggy wetland. Channels through
papyrus are formed thanks to the Elephants & Hippos that waid through
out the area to-and-from islands. We caught the local canoes (hollowed
out trees with long poles to push along the channels) and had guides
that polled us out to an island where we camped and spent 2 relaxing
days walking around the island looking for animals and teaching
ourselves to use a canoe/pole.

The border crossing marked Namibia as a totally different type of
Africa. Gone was the organised chaos of Africa that had trucks backed
up for hours/days and the necessary 'encouragement' to the officals to
ensure that we werent held in those long ques. Gone were the street
kids asking you to buy a boiled egg, samosa or other luke warm food
item. Namibia was many peoples favorite country due to its beauty but
I also feel because civialisation had returned. The Etosha Pan is a
massive clay pan and we spent the game drive wishing a springbok would
'pronk' and trying to count the number of elephants in a herd gathered
around a watering hole (>50 adults). Giraffe drinking (gangly legs)
and warthogs also provided amusement.

Swakomund was a German stronghold and retains that German feel whilst
offering SANDboarding and Quadbiking on the sand-dunes. Sandboarding
was just like snowboarding but I had to hike up a sand dunes and then
use floor wax to polish the board so it slid faster. As a farmboy I
was dubious that the quad biking was another tourist scam. However the
bikes were not speed restricted and the crazy SAFA's only advice was
to "stay in my tracks and keep up if you can..." Whizzing up one sand
dune to hoot down it to the next was a great way to spend 2 hours
before sunset across the dunes.
Nambia's sand-dunes are world renowned and I was particularly looking
forward to them as soon as I booked the overland trip. 300m high and
rust red coloured sand they didn't let me down, nether did running
down them...just like a scree slopes on the mountains in NZ.
Fish River canyon is second only to the Grand canyon, but was plenty
big enough to make it difficult to photograph and it was best just to
'soak it in' and enjoy an immense hole.

*South Africa*
Stellenbosh wine tour was a great day followed by almighty Christmas
in July party, polystyrene snow, $2 jagerbombs and the unfortunate
hangover that slipped away as soon as we hit cape town and saw Table
Cape town is a beautiful city, climbing the mountain on a clear day
provides some amazing views and a realisation that I had lost any
trace of fitness that I had before starting travelling. We also hired
a car to visit the Cape of Good hope and the most southern point in
Africa. Finally I topped Cape Town off with a shark cage dive, coming
face to face with a 3-4m shark chewing on a tuna head less than a foot
from you was surprisingly not scary but what a moment to remember.

Now I am in Egypt and then onto Europe. Thankfully I have been writing
a diary of sorts as the last 2.5 months have gone by really fast and
the diary will help trigger the memories in future years.

I hope this finds everyone well at home and abroad, if you have been
travelling with me/run into me on the road then pat yourself on the
back, the company has been fantastic!

Till next time


PS: photos still wont up load...I guess Egypt is on the African continent!

PPS: pls see

for other ppls pics on Africa