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