Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Malawi: Relaxing at the Lake

This is a retrospective post since the events all occurred well before I was blogging :) It was written on 23 April 2008.

25Mar04: Lilongwe, Malawi
To be honest I don't remember much about Malawi except for our days at the Lake. In fact I think the night in Lilongwe & Blantyre were purely "necessary stops", purely there to break up the driving. It is Africa, folks ... that's why it's called over-landing, Places are miles apart!

26Mar04 - 28Mar04: Kande Beach, Malawi
By this point we've been living out of a bag for ages and the trip is very clearly starting to wind down with all the upcoming Beach stops :)

The days were spent mostly lazing on the beaches of Lake Malawi, meeting locals with interesting names :) I had my hair dreaded by Julius Caesar and we took a walk around the village with his older brother, Mel Gibson.

We also spent time kayaking out to a nearby island (the one in the pic) and snorkeling. I didn't think the snorkeling was all that impressive ... but apparently there are parts of the Lake where it's fantastic!

The weather was lovely and we even spent a night out sleeping under the stars. On one of the afternoon's, the boys played a friendly game of soccer against some of the locals. I sat by and watched with the many kiddies who'd taken to following us around, holding our hands.

This is where I snapped one of my favourite photos of all time (And it's damn hard to snap a secret photo of these curious kids!). They were fascinated by the feeling of the white beard stubble. And after sitting, holding my camera but not taking any photos (so they'd go back to ignoring it), I finally managed to snap this shot that captured their expressions of delight perfectly!

29Mar04: Blantyre, Malawi

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Zambia: The Smoke That Thunders

This is a retrospective post since the events all occurred well before I was blogging :) It was written on 23 April 2008.

20Mar04 - 22Mar04: Livingstone, Zambia
I had a slightly more interesting (and shorter) drive to Livingstone than the rest of our tour group. Since myself, the new guide (Wayne) and the trainee guide (Nelson) all had South African passports, we said goodbye to the foreigners (they'd need visa's for Zim) and Andrew (someone still had to get them onto the ferry and across the river!) and headed to Livingstone via Zimbabwe!

We spent a fair amount of time in Livingstone and I did many amazing things. The first was the most obvious one, we visited the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls. In rainy season to boot, so it was even more powerful than usual! They give you rain gear for a reason, people :) And I know that pic looks like it came from a Google image search but, it's really the only place you can get a decent photo of the falls without a water-proof camera, so everyone takes the *same* shot!

I also went micro-lighting over the Falls which made for some lovely views! And did a rhino walk. We got up close to 3 rhino and it was unbelievable and we learnt plenty of interesting animal facts :)

I also went on an Elephant Ride. This was one of my most amazing experiences of the tour! These African Elephants are absolutely huge and you ride almost right on their backs (not at all like riding Asian Elephants in Thailand, as I discovered). I left my slip-slops behind and enjoyed the feeling of their rough skin & hair under my feet. I'd do this again in a second!

What's also fascinating is learning about the relationship between each Elephant and their rider / handler. The good handlers can recognise their very own Elephant from it's unique foot print (like our finger prints!). It's amazing stuff and these guys really loved their very large "pets".

23Mar04: Luangwa Bridge, Zambia &
24Mar04: South Luangwa National Park, Zambia:

Neither of these spots sticks out in my memory. I think these two are mostly just to break the journey from Zambia to Malawi :)

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Botswana's Beautiful Delta

This is a retrospective post since the events all occurred well before I was blogging :) It was written on 23 April 2008.

15Mar04: Maun, Botswana
We spent most of our day driving from Windhoek (Namibia) to Maun in Botswana. It's a helluva long drive! Apparently (and I'm trusting our guide here), Joburg to Cape Town, Cape Town to Windhoek and Windhoek to Maun are pretty much the same driving distance. We spent the night in a campsite here before setting off to the Delta the next morning.

16Mar04 - 17Mar04: Okavango Delta, Botswana
The Okavango Delta is an amazing place. Sadly we were there in their rainy season and didn't get to see that much wildlife on our walks around (because they weren't confined to specific watering holes due to the abundance of water). I was particularly sad not to see any hippos as we floated by Mokoro to our campsite. Sadly the camping was not ideal. Firstly there was no toilet (this was deep in the bush, my dear!) and secondly it rained almost solidly for the 2 nights we were there.

18Mar04: Maun, Botswana
Today we headed out of the Delta and back to our Maun campsite. We were lucky enough to have a flight over the Delta before we moved on tho. The views were more spectacular by air and we saw far more animals this way.

I definitely wanna go back someday. Probably with a touch more luxury (they have some amazing lodges, I've heard!) and when it's less wet, in the hopes of seeing more wildlife.

19Mar04: Chobe National Park, Botswana
We spent a night in the Chobe National Park on our way up to Victoria Falls. It's an interesting place because their national roads go literally straight thru the park and as you can see from the photo, the animals just don't care.

Sadly it wasn't a very good night for 2 members of our tour. We'd been told that crime was rife in the area because of it being very closer to the border of 4 countries (Namibia, Botswana, Zambia & Zimbabwe) ... which makes it much easier to escape. So in light of this news, we all locked the bulk of our stuff in the van we were traveling in and kept the bare minimum and most important items (passports & cash under our pillows at the far end of the tent!) with us in the tent. And we had a break in and two bags were stolen. And they'd left their cash, passport & camera in their main bags. So while we went for an early morning game drive before heading across the border to Zambia ourselves, they struggled with the local police and applied for emergency passports.

One of the little known facts about Botswana, other than the fact that they are the only Southern Africa country with a better exchange rate than South Africa (amazing in itself!), is that people are outnumbered by donkeys. Which is why this is one of my favourite photos (cropped for blogging purposes). The donkeys are all crowded in the shade of a petrol station. And there were no cars vying for position either. A different form of transport "re-fueling" - pahahaha. Okay, I thought it was funny!

Monday, March 15, 2004

Namibia: Desert Sands

This is a retrospective post since the events all occurred well before I was blogging :) It was written on 23 April 2008.

04Mar04: Fish River Canyon, Namibia
We proceeded across the border into Namibia and spent a night at the Fish River Canyon Viewpoint in our tents. Honestly we barely got to do more here than actually see the sunset over the Canyon. Canyon's don't really fascinate me much. Although that said I'd still really like to see The Grand Canyon in America.

05Mar04 - 06Mar04: Aus, Namibia
The next morning we headed to our campsite near Aus, which overlooked the Restricted Area. for those of you who don't know, Namibia is mostly desert (I bet the tabloids didn't mention it when reporting on Brangelina's Baby Birth!). Part of the desert falls into a diamond-rich restricted area, called the Skeleton Coast. It's beautiful and on our first evening there we all took a walk up the hill next to our campsite to enjoy the sunset & view.

The two night's spent tenting there gave us an opportunity to visit nearby Luderitz, Kolmannskuppe (the highly photogenic ghost town between Aus & Luderitz and of great fascination to me! I'd love to go back here) and spot the Namibian Wild Horses (we only saw one or two, but the history behind them is interesting).

07Mar04 - 08Mar04: Sesriem, Namibia
The next day we set off to Sesriem which serves as the perfect stop-over point to Sossusvlei and the opportunity to climb Dune 45 before sunrise. The climb was exhausting but the view from the top was well worth it. That photo is of the actual dune we climbed!

We also had a chance to wander thru the Sesriem Canyon, which I preferred to the Fish River Canyon. Mostly because you could easily see the layers of rock differentiating when the river had been flowing faster or slower as it carved it's way thru the rock.

09Mar04 - 10Mar04: Swakopmund, Namibia
After all our days spent in the sands of the Namibian desert, we headed into town, Swakopmund. Here I was lucky enough to try quad-biking for the first time and I went on a Dolphin Cruise - although we saw very few dolphins, but did get a visit from the trained seals who jump on board and allow you to feel their dry under-fur.

11Mar04: Ojitotongwe Cheetah Farm, Namibia
After a brief detour via The Cape Cross Seal Colony (a colony of bad laughs, if you ask me!), we headed north to Ojitotongwe Cheetah Farm. This was a fantastic day. We started out driving thru the fenced Cheetah areas, seeing their more wild animals and watching them being fed, an amazing site as they fight each other for the giant chunks of meat thrown to them. They may not have to hunt to kill, but they certainly have to fight for their meal! After that we went back to the main house and got to pet the 5 "tame" Cheetah's (yes, that's my arm in the picture!). One even stole my slip-slop but luckily the owner got it back for me :) An incredible experience.

12Mar04 - 13Mar04: Etosha National Park, Namibia
After our brief wild animal experience at the Cheetah Farm, we headed to the Etosha National Park. Here my most amazing animal sighting (and let's remember that I live in Africa, so merely seeing animals in the wild is just not enough to crack it to the top 10 list!) was watching two lions mating (that's them in the picture, crossing the road in front of our van just after they'd finished). It was an amazing experience and I'd think fairly rare. Especially since we were the only van (thanks to our guide who spotted the tell-tale signs) that stuck around and waited and were there when they got to it again. Lion's tend to mate every 20 minutes for 3 to 4 days. Essentially it was just a matter of time so we waited patiently and were privileged to watch the (very short) show ... as per the timestamp on my photos, it lasted less than a minute and the lioness howled thruout!

14Mar04: Windhoek, Namibia
Out last night in Namibia was spent in the capital, Windhoek. This was a pretty quiet evening and we spent it at the Spur celebrating 1 country down! Yes folks, I went all the way to Namibia to eat at the Spur ... but fair enough since I was the only South African on the trip so the tacky American Indian decor was a novelty for the rest of them ;)

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Overlanding Around Southern Africa

This is a retrospective post since the events all occurred well before I was blogging :) It was written on 22 April 2008.

At the end of February 2004 I finished my last working day in Cape Town. Shortly thereafter (3rd of March to be exact), I headed off on a 5 week Overland Tour of Southern Africa with Wagon Trails.

This trip was sadly triggered by a boy (can I even admit that one?). One of the only things I remember from my break up with The Lying Pilot (other than it was one of the best things that ever happened to me ... although I didn't think so at the time!) is that he said to me something along the lines of: I'd follow him where ever he wanted to go, but where did I want to go? I'd honestly never thought about it before. And in more ways than one, the breakup with him was a turning point in my life. I did this trip a year after that break up and since then have made sure that I've had at least one major international holiday of my choosing each year.

So how did I decide on this trip? South Africa is an interesting place. Aside from the vast mix of cultures that live here, we are greatly influenced by *both* America and Britain when it comes to television, music etc. This means that in general (in my opinion), most young, white South Africans seem to either head straight to Europe or USA, depending on which influence they most align themselves with. I easily fall into the Europe category, but had already done a 6 week Contiki-type tour in the December-January holidays after finishing Matric (Grade 12).

And I decided I didn't really understand why everyone rushed off to a First World country. They'll be around for ages. I decided (and you'll see the trend in my future trips) that while I was young, I'd stick with the Third World countries where things may not run smoothly, there'd probably be no discernible public transport and I may well end up spending the night in a tent. I could travel tourist-geared places like Europe and USA when I was older and needed comfortable accommodation and easy to reach destinations!

Unfortunately, the company doesn't seem to be offering the exact tour I did anymore (or seem to be trading as Wagon Trails these days either) but it was pretty much a 36 day combination of their (currently on offer) 21 day-Cape to Vic Falls and 24-day Tropical Trek. But, here it is in a nutshell :)

03Mar04: Cape Town / Johannesburg to Upington, South Africa
We started in Cape Town (or Joburg, depending what was convenient) and caught an over night bus to Upington, South Africa (where we met up with the Joburg folk and our guide, Andrew)

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