A Travellerspoint blog

A Touch of Paradise: Tanzania - Malawi

Arusha, Lake Mayara, Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Chitimba

Mambo,
I am just sitting looking out at Lake Malawi, which is so huge it just seems like the ocean. We have all found it hard to snap out of island mode after Zanzibar, as everyone is so laid back it is infectious. But before getting to that, I’ll start from the beginning…(lucky you, cancel your plans for the day)
Tanzania was been everything I imagined to see in Africa, compacted into one country. We crossed the border from Kenya Saturday (25th) and drove to Arusha. I love photos of the road as I think you see so much of a place by the sides of the roads. There were cow markets, Maasai walking down what seemed like an endless road, with nothing in site but red dirt and of course acacia trees. There must be some walking done over here! People are quite laid back about work, one roadwork area we passed a guy had a green and a red flag for stop and go, and he was waving them both and when we slowed down he was cacking himself that he had messed with us. Everything is “Poa” (Cool) and Hakuna Matata.
We arrived at Arusha at our camp, Snake Park. On Sunday we started our 3 day safari, first day at Lake Manyara national park. I had a really good group in my 4wd, and our driver Jovin was lovely. Lake Manyara was not the best safari we have done, but that is just being spoilt. It was pretty seeing the salt lake from a distance, but other than that the highlight was definitely having elephants come so close to our 4wds and cross the road in between the cars. I was sure one was about to charge as it had a baby with it, but Hakuna Matata. That night we arrived at camp at Karatu, a town seemingly dedicated to Hilary Clinton. There were at least 5 “Hilary Clinton” stalls and shops. Even a “Hilary Clington supermarket” with the g crossed out. Our guides had set up our tents and had cooked dinner ready for us, which was a real treat! There were also some dancers that performed at the site which was great and we got to join in dancing, which doesn’t take much for this group.

Next morning was another early start for Ngorongoro crater which was spectacular! (trying to mix up the describing words) It was so cold and misty driving down to the middle of the crater and once we got down there it was just open plains and more wildebeest, zebras and antelope than I have seen in such density anywhere else. The great migration stared early this year so I think they had already reached the northern part of the Serengeti by the time we were there. I won’t mention all the wildlife we saw again, I’ll save that for the Serengeti. The crater was formed by a volcano ???????????? years ago which erupted. The volcanic ash formed the Serengeti, and the volcano collapsed, forming the crater. After the crater we went to another Maasai village, which was optional but I thought it would be interesting to compare villages. I am glad I did because the location, singing and dancing was fantastic, though they were a bit pushy with their markets and there was a bit of pressure to buy from the person whose hut you went into. The Maasai have more than enough of my money!

We then continued on towards the Serengeti, with an afternoon game drive, which was really just driving towards the location of our camp in the middle of the Serengeti, no fence, no night guard (which luckily I didn’t know until the next day). We saw a leopard with a gazelle dragged up the tree, and a pair of lions on their honeymoon. Apparently when lions first “pair up” they go off for about a week and mate every hour. These 2 lions were on the side of the road and as our 4wd was parked there a few metres away, the female made some ‘sexy lion moves’ and they mated there right in front of us….for a whole 17 seconds! That was pretty cool to see. That night camping I could hear all sorts of noises; hyenas, wild dogs…. in between all the snoring from the nearby tents. Tuesday we woke up early to watch the sunrise over the plains. The safari was great, though I think anything compared to the Maasai Mara is going to come 2nd, as being able to drive off the actual road really made it. We were excited to see a cheetah lying on a rock in the distance, and then further down the road there was one actually sat on the road. They are usually so rare to find so this was lucky. All of our trucks were lined in front of it, and on the other side of the road was another cheetah and the one on the road made this crying noise as it couldn’t see its friend past all of us. Then the other walked over and they met on the road and walked off together. Very cute. After a few break downs and flat tyres we were back to Snake Park.

On Wednesday morning we had a walk around our campsite which, as you may know from the name, has a snake park. I held a baby croc, brown house snake and some other small snake….but big enough. Call me Bindi Irwin. We started the drive on towards Dar es Salaam. The sunset over the distant mountains was amazing as we drove along. I think I am using that word too much. Then we started to see more banana trees and the landscape turned more tropical, like we were back in Uganda. We stopped overnight and had some things stolen from a couple of peoples tents in the campsite, so instead of fixing the fence they sent out a guy with a rifle to stand by our tents all night.

Arriving in Dar es Salaam I was awoken from my long sleep to the sticky humidity. It is by far the most developed city we have been in, more so than Nairobi to my surprise. We got the ferry, as we were told by a guy sitting next to us, from the “good side of town” to the “bad side” and arrived at our campsite on the beach. It was really nice and camping on the beach a lot softer than dirt and rocks. The toilet doors all have signs on them “Inside camp=safe, Outside camp=not safe, Please this is not a joke” and there is about 100m of beach then on either side a big warning sign not to pass that point. But besides all that it really was beautiful and the water was SO warm. Even had hot outdoor salt water showers. Luxury! A dance/acrobatic group came to perform, which was great, drinks on the beach, then we hit the tents for a sticky night sleep.

We left early the next morning, back to the good side of town to get the ferry to ZANZIBAR! We checked into Safari Lodge in Stone Town then headed out to do whatever we wanted to do….FREEDOM! I think that was half the draw of Zanzibar, being able to do whatever with whoever and having no time limits, no cook group, and no packing up tents at 5am. I went shopping at Gizenga St markets which was fun, buying some scarves to cover my shoulders. I loved Stone Town and wish I had more time there. Through the dark winding alley ways dodging speeding motorbikes and street touts, lined by worn out crumbling buildings, all with absolutely beautiful huge wooden doors. We went to the Night Markets to sample the fresh seafood. Fisherman Johnson was very entertaining and described absolutely everything he had to offer, then went and found a beer for a couple of us from a bar and found us ‘V.I.P seating’ which he dusted off for us….we later noticed we were sitting next to prostitutes haha. The food was amazing and I had a fresh lobster skewer for $2, squid, barracuda, calamari…..so much. It was nice to take our minds off the humidity for a while. Also they have these pizzas but they make them with egg mixed in, they are like a pizza omelette and they are so good!!! It’s worth going to Zanzibar just for that. More drinks on the beach at Livingstone’s.

This brings me to last Saturday (only a week to go).
A big group of us did the Stone Town Spice & Slave tour. It was such a great day and only looking back I realise how much variety was packed in. We stopped at a few sites in Stone town, the Old Fort, House of Wonders and Dr Livinstone’s house from before he set off on his expedition (Livingstone is very highly respected in Zanzibar for his role in the abolishment of the slave trade), we drove by Freddie Mercury’s childhood house (he was born and lived in Stone Town until around 8y/o) and the went into the first Anglican cathedral in East Africa. The cathedral was built on the site of the old slave markets, with the alter built on the spot where the whipping post used to be. Here the slaved were whipped, and their sell price would depend on the amount they cried. We went down into the slave chambers and just 15 of us were cramped and stuffy, but 70 slaves would be left there for 2-3 days without food or water, thinking that any who died were too weak anyway.
Then we stopped at Darajani Markets….fishy, but fun wandering off down the side streets which are so full of character. We drove inland to the spice & fruit plantations and were taken around on the tour showing us which part of the plants the spices came from. The aroma around the place was lovely. Also got to try all of these fruits….have you tried Durian? It is FOUL! Apparently it tastes delicious but even if you don’t sniff when you put it in your mouth, the scent comes through and it is like bad foot mixed with any other bad smell you can think of and was with me for the rest of the day. It still makes me shudder thinking about it. We went to our guides friends’ house for lunch, all sat on the floor in a little concrete room in a little village of half ruined concrete homes. Then drove up the coast to our destination, Nungwi on the North Coast. I met some very interesting characters along the beach, Captain Dolphin and Captain Computer Error were just a few. “Captain Computer?” “No, Captain Computer Error”. A few of us headed a bit further down the coast to Kendwa for the big beach party which was a lot of fun. There were plenty of “Maasai” guys there which was funny seeing them try to pick up and see some girls swoon. The next day was torrential rain, which was a nice excuse to sleep off the cocktails and get a massage. Had the most delicious fresh king prawns on the beach for dinner watching the sunset.

On Monday Jess, Jayne and I got a taxi down to Matemwe on the east coast. The taxi ride was so funny and it was great to be able to have a laugh with the driver and his friend along the way, although they didn’t speak any English and we know just as much Swahili. They dropped us off at some beach bungalows on the beach (my big $16 splurge) which was the easiest bargaining of my life. “$60 for room” “”Can you do for $50?” “Ok Cool, Hakuna Matata”. Matemwe is a fishing village and the walking down the beach there was so much to see. To the left in the water and on the shores women picking and drying seaweed, and to the right men building fishing boats. We sat at the Bob Marley shrine of a bar for a drink and were wondering where everyone was, then noticed it was only 10am. After having our door kicked in for us when the key wouldn’t work by Bob Marleys biggest fan, we arranged to go out on a fishing boat when they finished for the day. We didn’t realise at the time but out room was right next to the fish markets. We sure noticed the next morning. The boat took us out snorkelling at Mnemba Atoll which was beautiful. So many fish, also a sea snake and massive bluey/purple jellyfish. It was worth the scary boat ride over as the water was pretty choppy the boat tipping so much that if our elbows were on the edge the would dip into the water. We were actually at the stage of discussing what to do if we flipped, but “Hakuna Matata”, sometimes I wish they WOULD worry. Something about me and boats in Africa always has me on edge! After some more amazing seafood for lunch and dinner we skipped the stoner bar and had a few quiet drinks in our room.
We watched the sunrise over the beach in the morning which was so pink and after Jess got a slight electrocution from out light switch we got a Dalladalla with the local ladies down to Stone Town. (since we splurged on accommodation we thought we’d save the $8 taxi ride and get this for $1.50). It was worth every cent haha. It was so funny, a dalladalla is like an open sided van, with a lower roof so you have to crouch, and at one stage we counted 27 people squashed in, plus the money man hanging on the back. It was priceless to see peoples’ faces as they got in, see Jayne first and do a double take at the Mzungu, then see me and Jess squished at the back and do another double take, then laugh. Arriving in Stone Town nice and sweaty we got the ferry back to Dar es Salaam.

Waking at 3:15 to pack up tents and leave at 4am was a real wake up call that we were back on the road. And a 15 hour drive day. We drove through Mikumi National Park on the way to Malawi and saw some more wildlife. Yesterday (Thursday) we crossed into Malawi and stopped at Chitimba Beach on the shores of Lake Malawi. What a gorgeous country and the reputation as the nicest people is well deserved. I know I am going to spend a lot of money here on woodwork as the carvings are just beautiful and most things can be personalised. I would come back just to buy more!
Ok so now you know literally everything, minute to minute of my last couple of weeks.

Posted by neerg_08 03:37 Archived in Malawi Tagged town lake safari zanzibar stone tanzania malawi crater es serengeti ngorongoro dar nungwi arusha kendwa salaam matemwe chitimba mayara Comments (0)

We Heart Jinja: Uganda – Kenya

Kampala, Jinja, Lake Naivasha, Crater Lake

We are back in Nairobi, picking up more people for the next stage of the tour. And saying a few sad goodbyes. I have just typed up a day to day itinerary so far and have notice how much we have actually done. And the 3 weeks has flown! We are again staying again in the area called Karen, named after Karen Blixon (‘Out of Africa’). One of the funniest things I have heard here is a Kenyan guy wearing an Aussie hat yelling out “A dingo stole my baby” to me.

I enjoyed Kampala, me and one girl on the tour had a very ‘western’ day there at the Garden City shopping centre, eating burgers and milkshakes and watching a movie, meanwhile the rest of the truck did a slum tour.

We then left for Jinja, Uganda’s adventure capital. We are already planning a reunion there it was so much fun. Our camp site was right on the Nile River and it was so nice to set up camp and know we were staying for 3 nights. No packing up tents and day packs. We got straight into the Chapati’s, which are DELICIOUS and overflowing with avocado (obviously not as expensive here as in Oz) and arranged a sunset cruise on the Nile – Lake Victoria. Turned out it is more of a Booze Cruise and we were forced to drink by the bar guys. “You guys drink too slow” and out came the Ugandan whisky bottles. We are a very musical group and as usual the night ended up with a lot of loud singing, continuing to the bus trip back to camp as we told people we were a travelling choir, and conga lined down to the bar to disturb everyone’s night. The next day I did White water rafting on the Nile. The drive there was beautiful, driving right through villages. We got a flat tyre, and as there was no spare we had to drive the last couple of km’s really slow. At one stage I looked behind and there must’ve been half a village following us! The first rapid – a Grade 5, 3m waterfall - was the perfect hangover cure. And the guides weren’t hard on the eye either. Ours was a Ugandan with an Aussie accent. He was HILARIOUS and we were in stitches all day. It would have to be one of the most fun days I have ever had. “If you fall out in the rapid, just chillax and enjoy the ride”. Easier said than done, especially getting stuck under the raft. We flipped a few times and one time the guide pulled me on top of the raft and we rode out the rest hanging on top. FUN! We partied on that night with all the guides at the bar and it was there I made the decision to go back and do it again in a tandem Kayak. Once again the first rapid was enough to wake me up. Always unnerving when your guide tells you he is shitting himself haha. It was a lot of fun, but definitely more scary than the rafting. The waves look a lot bigger from that small thing, and I did at moments wonder what I had got myself into. We were on the water for about 4 hours, and in between the rapids you just get to casually drift down the river, watching locals fishing and washing on the rocks. I really loved Jinja, the dirt roads, the villages, the weather and just being on the water. It just had a really nice vibe about it. One more day would have been great, just to relax on the river or look in some more shops (though it is probably best I avoid any more shops, I already have to send a box of things home).

We left early Monday morning and crossed back into Kenya to stay at a really nice camp site in Eldoret. Dinner was delicious, much better than any cook group meal.

Next stop was Lake Naivasha where our campsite was located right on the lake. Lake Naivasha is known for its Hippo population so we were comforted to see the electric fence to keep them from the tents. They leave the water to graze at night so although we were too scared to sleep, it was worth it to see them come up from the lake and eat less than 10m from our tents. We visited Elsamere, home of Joy and George Adamson (‘Born Free’) and had high tea in the gardens. A really beautiful location and was interesting to look around. She was an amazing artist! Also watched a short movie on Joy’s life and her work with wildlife.

On Wednesday we had the choice of a cycling safari through Hell’s Gate or a walking safari through Crater Lake Game Park. I did the walk and it was unreal! Although we had seen all of the animals before, it was pretty special to not be in a vehicle at all and just out in the open. There were so many Zebra’s and Giraffe’s and we were able to get within 5-10m. We hiked to the crater and down to the lake looking out for monkey’s overhead. When we got back to camp, we took some boats out onto the Lake to go Hippo hunting. I was a bit worried as I am sure the hippo’s could swim faster than these boats, and the drivers seemed to think they could drive through anything so we got stuck a few times. But it was pretty amazing, for about $5 an hour on Lake Naivasha watching hippos and even giraffes on the shore. We would have seen about 30, and if I said I wasn’t nervous at all I would be lying. Then stayed up watching the shore line again that night to catch them out of the water.

Yesterday we arrived back in Nairobi and visited the Giraffe Centre. They offer free entry to school students to educate them in the hope they will grow up to be wildlife warriors. We were able to feed the giraffe, Daisy, and I put a pellet in my mouth and she gave me a big tongue kiss. Very rough tongue but my first kiss in Africa. We went out for dinner last night in Karen as a farewell to a few people who are leaving, and once again singing was a big part of the night. This morning I went to the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage which was great. A kiss from a giraffe one day, patting an elephant the next. All there is is a rope to separate us. Many are orphans from poaching, drought, being left behind stuck in wells as babies, or being driven out of their land with their families by humans and being lost in the confusion. They seem to do great work there to reintroduce them into the wild.

Tomorrow we leave for Tanzania.

Posted by neerg_08 03:15 Archived in Kenya Tagged victoria lake nile kenya crater giraffe kampala rapids jinja uganda naivasha sheldrick Comments (0)

Loving life: Uganda

Kampala

Yesterday we crossed back into Uganda and drove most of the day. I still can’t get over the scenery!!!! We stopped at a bush camp (all the other sites so far have been secure camping grounds). The land is owned by a local man who was sponsored by another Oasis tour leader as he grew up and got through school because of it so as a favour he lets Oasis stay on his land. The kids all came up and shook our hands when they got home from school. They were so polite. We were all awake in the night as I think a bull got out and was mooing around all our tents. Better than a lion. Today we drove to Kampala again where we are for the next 2 nights.
Friday we leave for Jinja, Uganda’s adventure capital. Everything so far has just topped my expectations and I still don’t think it has hit me I am here.

Posted by neerg_08 03:11 Archived in Uganda Tagged overland kampala uganda Comments (0)

Mzungu in the Mist: Uganda to Rwanda

Kabale, Lake Bunyonyi, Kigali, Ruhengeri

all seasons in one day

Friday we crossed back into the Southern Hemisphere and drove to Kabale in Uganda near the Rwanda border. As we were setting up tents there were all the heads sticking over the ‘security fences’ and Mzungu being called out from everywhere, it doesn’t seem many tourists come through here as people gathered around our truck to stare when we stopped for the shop in town.

Saturday we visited Lake Bunyonyi, set amongst old volcanos the greenery of the surrounding 35 islands is beautiful. There is the old Leper Island and Punishment Island, where people used to leave women who were pregnant out of wedlock (it’s a TINY island, about 20m across). Eventually families would come back to check on the girl to see if she was alive still and found that they were going missing as men who couldn’t afford a wife would come and take the girl. The community decided to instead get the brother to throw the girl off a waterfall until one girl pulled the brother over with her and they stopped that too. (YOU GO GIRL) We stopped at one island and visited a Pygmy community of 52 people who had been given land here after being kicked out of the mountains where the gorillas are. It was a pretty walk there and the Pygmy’s were sooooo friendly! It was so cheap for what the day was. Our guide was great and as the money goes to their community they are very happy to have us there and want us to tell people about them so they aren’t forgotten. They performed a few dances and in return we had to as well, so we did the macarina, the crocodile song/dance and the conga, which they all joined in. It was so funny walking through the hills and you could hear “how are yoooooo” from everywhere but couldn’t see where it was coming from. On the way back to the boat the kids followed us the whole way and we all danced the way back to “Ma Ma Mzungu Zunga Ma Ma Ma”. We tried some locally made beer at the bar on the island which besides the odd taste, had the texture of sand…not the best. Then on the boat return to another island for dinner a storm hit and it was POURING. There was crazy lightening all around, which made me pretty nervous in our little open boats, and so we had to stop for a bit under a hut on a closer island.

We had drinks around the fire waiting for the rain to die down and continued to party on at the campsite with a couple of girls who work there which was a huge night. Rough getting up at 5:00am and packing up a tent!

Sunday we drove to Rwanda, visited the genocide museum in Kigali which was very interesting and pretty heavy stuff. We spent a few hours there, there is a mass grave with over 250,000 bodies buried, and more are always brought in as they are found in mass graves around the country. The last room of the museum had 14 images of child victims with hobbies, best friends etc and how they were killed and I don’t think anyone got through that room without crying. It was a very emotional day. There were also lots of video’s with interviews and it was just really devastating. The museum is a lot better than I expected, you can see a lot of money has been put into it. It is sad to think that anyone over 17 experienced the genocide, and everyone is still affected in some way. People are genuinely happy to have tourists here it’s lovely. As a surprise we stopped at our campsite for last night and tonight and it turns out we get DORM ROOMS! BEDS!!!! And a place to hang my washing I did last week as it keeps raining at night, just as we put our tents up and re-wetting the washing. Nothing hanging your undies out the side of the truck as we drive along can't help though.

Today we did the gorilla trek….. WOW! It is so surreal to think I have done it, I need to keep looking over photos (of which there are many). We could choose between 3 treks, easy medium or hard. I did hard which I was worried about as I didn’t know what to expect, but it was a couple of hours longer trek than the others and following the Susa family, the largest family they offer tracking to. 32 gorillas, 3 silverbacks. Fact: instead of fingerprints, gorillas are identified by the shape of the markings in the crease of their nose. The trek was actually not too hard besides the altitude. There was an older man on our trek who we had to keep stopping for, which I was more than happy about. The jungle was just what I imagined a jungle to be! There is supposed to be a 7m rule with the gorillas but we were within 1-2 metres! The trackers go up into the mountains early in the morning to track them and then follow them until they make their nests at night. They were all really good and wanted us to get closer and good photos. It’s nice to see that the guides who see them pretty much every day are still excited to be there. It was actually kind of scary as you remember they are wild animals and those silverbacks are MASSIVE. The guides can actually communicate with the gorillas, making noises to assure them we are friendly and to gain permission to come near them. They will hear them make a noise and straight away tell us that they are about to move or want to mate. Pretty incredible. I felt safest next to the guy with the rifle, though they’d probably sooner use it on us than the gorillas. There were two 2 week old twins in the family as well and they are all just so human like! There were 2 or 3 other gorillas watching over the mothers shoulder at the babies just like we do at newborns.

Today one of the guys on the trip proposed to his girlfriend after the trek so we went out for dinner and bought some things from the market for them to wear as sash and veil. We are staying in Ruhengeri and leave tomorrow morning to head back into Uganda. I would love to come back to Rwanda!

Posted by neerg_08 03:07 Archived in Rwanda Tagged lake rwanda kabale kigali uganda pygmy bunyonyi ruhengeri gorlla Comments (0)

Truck Life Begins: Kenya to Uganda

Turbot, Nakuru, Kampala

all seasons in one day

Hello!
Overland Truck life is going well. The truck is really well equipped, even with drinking water which I am happy about (save my $1-2 a day water budget). I like how the seats are arranged, facing the middle of the truck instead on rows of 2 facing the front, as everyone has window (or in our case, open side) and it is more social…when we are not all sleeping. The beach area is good too, as a bit more out of the wind and sticking your head up over the top of the truck is probably the best view to see all around. The group on the truck seem like a good bunch and the tour leader and driver are great too. We have 17 people at the moment, and the truck has room for 24 for the extra seats are a bonus. We have split into 4 cook groups, so each night one group does dinner and then breakfast and sometimes lunch the next day. My group cooked last night and also a 5:30 breakfast this morning. The best part was shopping in the local market in Nakuru for pretty much everything besides the chicken. We fed 19 people 3 meals for $30-$40. I am not sure about this weight loss in Africa I was expecting though, as I can see we will be having a lot of pasta, rice, bread and potatoes over the next 10 weeks. All the good stuff.

Today we crossed the Uganda border and are heading for Kampala.
We did Lake Nakuru on Tuesday, a 6am start which was gorgeous that time of morning. Within the first 10 minutes we were called to see where some lions had just killed a buffalo and were sitting nearby waiting to drag it away. That was exciting and pretty lucky. Also saw black and white rhinos as well as many of the animals we had already seen. The lake looks just as it does in photos with all the pink flamingos and pelicans.

After Nakuru, we stayed overnight at Turbot and then crossed the Equator into the Northern Hemisphere, stripping off our ski jackets. The days are warm but as soon as the truck gets moving the wind really chiils things.

The people in the rural areas especially are sooo friendly and as we drive by, hanging out the side of the truck like dogs everyone waves and shouts “Jambo” and “Mzungu”. Particularly the kids, driving past a school you will see them over 100m away in the playground all with the 2 handed wave, One man lifted both his hands off his steering wheel to wave. It’s so nice and I just imagine how crazy we would look if we were at home doing that. We have had a couple of long drive days but even those are interesting as you get to see all the areas no one stops.

The scenery became greener and we crossed into Uganda. The border crossing was pretty hassle free as we are a big group. We are now in Kampala for the night, staying at Red Chilli’s. It is a pretty good campsite with FREE WIFI so us technology addicts are satisfied.

Posted by neerg_08 03:03 Archived in Uganda Tagged overland lake kenya equator kampala uganda nakuru turbot Comments (0)

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