A Travellerspoint blog

July 2011

Zim and a bit've Botswana

Bulawayo, Victoria Falls, Kasane, Maun

Have had another great week over here. We are in Botswana now getting ready for our 2 nights in the Okavango Delta. After leaving Gweru & Antelope Park we headed for Bulawayo, stopping on the way at Great Zimbabwe Ruins. The ruins are from the 15th Century and around 25000 people lived in the kingdom (including the king and his 200 wives). I did manage to get lost from my group amongst the ruins with another girl for a little while, you know me and directions. It was interesting hearing about the time, even though everything was “this is probably what happened”. Another opportunity to take plenty of photos. We then continued to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s “second city”, which seemed like a really nice area with its tree lined streets and quaint shops. Our camp site, Burke's Paradise, was nice and I compare to like being at Grandparents house as it was so nice and homely in the LIVING ROOM we had access to (LOUNGES and a TV!!!). We jumped at the chance to put some videos on.

Then on to Victoria Falls – “The Smoke That Thunders for 4 nights. Victoria Falls town is in the National Park, so animals get right of way. This was obvious with the warthogs running through town one day and the elephant we ran into in the bushes on the way home one night. On Saturday I did a Bungy Jump off Victoria Falls Bridge, 111m over the river running through the gorge below….if the guy didn’t push me I would still be there. Why people would do that more than once is a mystery. We did an afternoon sunset cruise on the Zambezi river which was really nice and saw some hippos, crocodiles and elephants before watching the sunset. Tried as best I could to get my moneys’ worth of the all you can drink. The night turned out much the same as the previous ‘sunset cruise’ plus getting up to perform with a traditional African dance act. Probably wasn’t as authentic after that.

Sunday, (Happy Christmas in July) I went back to the bridge for a Bridge Swing. A swing sounds fun but this was worse than the bungy jump as you have to step out and fall forwards. My gosh it was AWFUL! The videos are priceless though you can see the guy prying my hands the bars. Monday we went for a walk around the falls, which gets you saturated from all of the spray a couple of hundred metres away. They are beautiful to see. Then went out for some ostrich, impala and worms for dinner. It got a bit draining walking through the town as although such a tourist town there is obviously still poverty and the hawkers are very insistent (even try to offer you “African Man”) but will sell you their items for absolutely nothing .

We crossed into Botswana on Wednesday and had our spare pairs of shoes out for inspection. We have gone from countries with seemingly no regulations to Botswana, where at inspection points across the country we have to hide all fresh produce (even stuff bought in Botswana) under the floorboards and seats and have a 2nd pair of shoes to be decontaminated to avoid the spread of foot & mouth. It is nice though and a very well developed country (behind South Africa, the 2nd most developed in Africa) but the prices are going up. When we arrived to our camp in Kasane, on the Chobe River, we went out for an afternoon river cruise. The Chobe is known for its large hippo and crocodile population. Also saw lots of elephants but really noticed the high number of crocodiles when our boat broke down. There were crocodile heads popping up in the water all around us. Eventually the driver got the boat working, but it would only work in reverse, so we spent about 45minutes spinning on the spot in circles, then attempting to continue the cruise in reverse. Another driver finally came over to try and help and managed to get it working in a forward motion, but it wouldn’t reverse, so for the rest of the afternoon whenever we got close to the shore viewing wildlife, we had to push away with the ores. Lucky we didn’t need any quick getaways from the hippos. Yet another relaxing African boat experience. The Welcome to Botswana sign says that Elephants have the right of way, which makes sense with all the ones we have seen long the roads. It is a very dry country from what we have seen so far, mostly scrub covered savannah. Last night we had another bush camp, pitching our tents close together in case any elephants decided to wander through.
We are now in Maun, a town where the waters of the Okavango Delta meet the sand of the Kalahari Desert. Tomorrow head for the Delta for 2 nights which I am really looking forward to.

Posted by neerg_08 03:53 Archived in Botswana Tagged victoria ruins falls great zimbabwe botswana maun kasane bulawayo Comments (0)

2 Days, 3 Countries: Malawi - Mozambique - Zimbabwe

Chitimba, Kande Beach, Lilongwe, Harare, Gweru

Greetings from Zimbabwe! If you’re lucky, this could be a shorter than usual chapter, as I have had a somewhat lazy week.

Chitimba was a nice place to stay, we were there for 2 nights but it was a bit windy to make the most of the beach. There were some stalls outside the camp selling all sorts of woodwork, and if you go out and look it’s pretty much guaranteed you will be taking some of their items back into the camp to try and sell for them, for a commission of course. I ended up with 4 shops’ jewellery, a carved keyring and another guys carving to practice my sales technique. No sales. We met up with a couple of other overland trucks at the site and practiced our chanting for the upcoming Truck Olympics, held at Kande Beach. As we left camp the next morning we blasted out a bit of Simply the Best, We Will Rock You, Eye of the Tiger and We are the Champions to wake them all up and everyone cheered us all the way to the main road. I think we had already won those Olympics. We stopped to get some piratey outfits at a flee market at Mzuzu then at 11am started our first official truck party. One more stop along the way at Nktata Bay to pick up some more wood craft (went a bit wood crazy) then we arrived at Kande Beach. Bar dancing is encouraged so the night was spent practicing more moves and chants. Everyone also had a laugh at breaking the law, as farting is illegal in Malawi. We all actually wanted a fine written up for a Silent & Deadly or a Loud & Proud. A few guys went into MbaMba village in the morning to pick up our pig for Pig Day…day of the Truck Olympics. It was slaughtered in camp before I woke up and by the time I walked by was roasting over the fire. We were onto the punch by brunch which probably wasn’t a great idea for Olympians but, after losing the tug of war, we worked on our cheating skills and managed to win enough other rounds to WIN! My super glue came in handy for the egg & spoon race, and we all picked up a few parasites thanks to Lake Malawi in the final round. Things did get a bit serious when a girl from our truck bit a guy and drew blood. We got into our pirate gear and carried on the night as very ungraceful winners.

Last Monday I did a village walk through MbaMba which was interesting. Seeing the process of growing cassava and making it into bread or flour, seeing the homes and kitchens and the local school and hospital. It’s hard when a 15 year old girl comes up to you with a letter asking to be supported as her and her little sister have no parents and the little girl, about 2, keeps hugging you and tugging at your arm. I seemed to be assigned 2 local guys for the day, Spiderman and Happy Hippo, who try to sell you their specialty all day. They really ware you down! If that was their sales tactic, it worked. The guide later made me a necklace out with one of the pigs teeth….haven’t quite brought myself to wear it yet, I think I ate enough of his crackling that the tooth would just be rubbing it in. In the afternoon we all went and played a game of soccer against a local side, and to our surprise (& definitely theirs) we won! It was fun, hot and dusty. In the night we went into the village again and had dinner outside Robert’s (our village guide and pig chef) house. The food wasn’t great but the 30+ kids that came to dance for us after the meal was. It was so funny, they obviously study rap & hip hop videos as they dance so provocatively! I mean hip thrusting and grinding on each other! Then we were taken 2 at a time to dance with them, and I am not sure if these photos will make it to facebook as it was SO inappropriate. Obviously they don’t know any better but to have 5-10 year old kids bumping and grinding on you…..a little uncomfortable! A good laugh though and you constantly have these kids tugging at your arm for a hug, or grabbing your hand and placing theirs in your and closing your hand around theirs. Very cute.

We left the next morning for Lilongwe. We had 2 nights there, and there is not much to see. Our free day I spent in town trying to send some things home (all woodwork so hopefully it makes it) and other than that, I think the most memorable thing was our campsite stinking of wee.

After Lilongwe we crossed into Mozambique and followed the Tete corridor, an old gun running route. I love passing truck weigh in points as we all have to cram to the front of the truck to make the back lighter, and the one time we got caught we had to bribe the guy with a book. Everyone just laughs at us though, it must be weird to watch. We bush camped at Changara for the night and then crossed into Zimbabwe the next morning. I would love to have spent more time in Mozambique. We drove through Harare, which is a pretty well developed city centre and nice suburbs around. Passed the sign “Be a Winner – Defend yourself from HIV – Get circumcised today!” which I think is worse than Uganda’s “Avoid Morning Sex Africa” as the guy on the sign is a Zimbabwean soccer player, and arrived at Bird Par camp site, on Lake Chivera. “Don’t worry, we have killed the croc that killed 18 people last year, and the one that comes up on to the shore, he’s ok”. It was interesting that night having an ‘illegal’ conversation with a couple of guys who work there about the situation in Zimbabwe. In February this year Mugabe’s militia stormed the camp site and again tried to take the land from the owners. Saturday a few of us went back into Harare for some Nando’s and to look around the shops. The Matatu there was ok but the drive home was a lot more complicated. After 2 short rides and being dumped out when they realised where we wanted to go, we finally got a car to take us back and then a couple of tag alongs as usual jumped in just for the ride and to make us all that much more squeezed in. We hitched 2 rides back from the main road to our camp, crammed in the boot of 4wd’s with firewood and whatever else. (Don’t worry Mum & Dad, there were 6 of us). Sometime between here and the next morning my wallet has disappeared. I had been so happy the day before, as we were offered a dorm room upgrade for $4 a night and I decided to stick it out in the cold tent instead and save $12 and also did my own washing instead of paying $5….$17 up, $500 and 3 cards down.

On Sunday after lazing around much of the day, watching Zebra’s walk through the bar, I went on a Rhino boat trip around the lake and finally was able to get close up photos of White Rhino’s. We saw about 6 on the lakes edge about 5m or so from the water.

Yesterday we left Harare and are now in Gweru at Antelope Park.Tomorrow I have booked lion cub viewing and lion feeding. This afternoon I did an hour elephant ride. It was good but I was a bit disappointed when half way through we asked how the elephants came to be there and not in the wild. We had been told they were orphaned by culling in the north, however our guide today said they were just bought from a guy who used to breed them and sell to game park. I am hoping it was the language barrier. Oh and Africa is FREEZING! What the?! The days are ok as long as you are in the sun, my pastey skin still manages a burn. But on the truck we look like we are in Antarctica and the nights are so cold now I am onto sleeping in my clothes, big jacket and double layered socks and still wake up freezing so I have to put my bag of dirty washing on my feet to keep warm(er). I am wearing socks with thongs! WHAT a tourist! We ran into a truck going the opposite direction to us, and they have told us where we are going there will be some nights in the minus degrees!!!!!! Zanzibar is calling my name already to go back after the tour I think. On a morepositive note, the stars out here are amazing. Did a bit of star gazing last night and saw 3 shooting stars…until we started to frost up and had to retire to the fire.

Posted by neerg_08 04:02 Archived in Zimbabwe Tagged beach overland olympics malawi truck zimbabwe carvings mozambique harare lilongwe chitimba kande gweru Comments (0)

A Touch of Paradise: Tanzania - Malawi

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

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)

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