Friday, August 31, 2007

Today is Blog Day

So, as the rules of Blog Day go, I'll refrain from including any of the recent additions to my actual Blog Roll - since that's a far more permanent link :) But I will mention them briefly, in case you missed their addition: The Adventures of Miss M and What Am I Reading.

Now it's time to set off and find my 5 recommended links:

1. noodle was here - just a girl from durban talking about my life: food, friends, family…
> I really enjoy this blog and the photos are always stunning, currently I'm still just getting it daily via rss but perhaps one day it'll move onto my blog roll :)

2. AfriGadget - Gadgets for Africa: Solving everyday problems with African ingenuity.
> This site is hysterical, especially after my recent travels and those brilliant wooden Congo bicycles!

3. Sugar Girls and Seamen - I am writing a book about the social dynamics of dockside prostitution in Cape Town & Durban. This blog explores my research experiences, the writing process, and some of my findings about this shadowy world.
> I found this blog a while back when there was that whole skandaal over the Male Prostitute who was posting all his experiences with loads of top SA names. I only really read it back then, but the book concept sounds interesting enough.

4. Cape Town Daily Photo - Each day we post a new photo, taken somewhere in or around our beautiful city, Cape Town, together with a little bit of history, a touch of culture, some entertainment, a smidgen of sport, and a whole lot of enthusiasm for the place we call home.
> Now this sounds like a good idea to me :) I small reminder of home - not that I recognise any of the picture on their page at the moment. Still, it might just be worth checking out in the future.

5. Credo Mutwa - Zulu Shaman, traditional healer, Zulu Sangoma & High Sanusi
> Hmmmm, I added this one because Witch Doctors fascinate me ... I'm not sure how much of it I'd read, but it certainly piques my curiosity!

Well, those are my 5. I'm pretty sure I've covered the request that "bloggers from all over the world will post recommendations of 5 new Blogs, preferably Blogs that are different from their own culture, point of view and attitude. "

12 August: Lake Bunyoni to Jinja

Another long day driving. But the campsite in Jinja, over looking the White Nile is a really good one and most of us have upgraded to the dorms.

The most exciting part of the drive was crossing the equator where we stopped for lunch. It was incredible to watch their water tricks (the Coriolis effect) - how it circles clockwise or anti-clockwise on either side of the equator and then doesn't circle at all right on the equator line. Unfortunately this thrill was ruined after my return and a few minutes spent online as I discovered it was only an urban legend :(

The picture is of one of the many "outdoor butcheries" we passed in Uganda. I'm not sure I'd be very comfortable eating that meat that's been hanging out in the open for who knows how long - even if it had been cooked after that.

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Am still feeling yucky but not nearly as bad thanks to the wonders of Vick's Acta Plus :)

Varen and I had a lovely evening, went over for a home cooked meal at JofH & YogaCherryl's new spot. Was fabulous - even if entirely Vegetarian. Sheesh, I'm realising just how little red meat Varen eats these days, must be my good influence :) The evening was hysterical as usual with more reminiscing over their future calamity-prone kid Snorkel and our future book series based on The Seven Habits including titles like
The Seven Habits Visit the Beach and Habit One Goes Missing. Paha.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Rush Out and Buy Cosmo!

So other than leaving work early today and heading home to read my book (which seems never ending!) and get some sleep, I got some very exciting news.

Varen called me just as I was arriving home, he'd had a phone call from Brother Swoop asking about what my blog was called - we'd all had a bit of a chat about such things at dinner last night. But Varen couldn't figure out why he'd even be interested till he was told that Brother Swoop's girlfriend had said she thought I'd got a mention in the September issue of Cosmo Magazine's Hot Stuff section.

I did, I did, I did! Now you can all rush out and buy your own issue of Cosmo (Varen did just that for me, mostly just to make sure the news was true before he told me tho!) It is very exciting and they said some fab stuff (on page 40, to be exact). Nothing like a little flattery to make one feel better :) I'm just a little devastated that they managed to get the web address wrong tho :( Hopefully the truly dedicated new readers will just google search by the name - since they included a handy screen shot.

I managed to sneak out for lunch (at Sandwich Junxion in Woodmead - not too shabby, but I think I'll stick to Subway & Sandwich Baron myself) with Varen too, after this news, how could I not? Plus I had to get the mag and read it for myself!

Fingers Crossed

Am feeling yucky this morning ... it has been getting consistently worse since Monday. I'll be calling my doctor shortly and keeping fingers crossed it's not Malaria - only cause it's less than 2 weeks since I got back. In which case this will be a very short post cause I'm hoping to get out of work in the very near future.

10:40am - okay, I'm pretty sure it's not Malaria, based on the Wikipedia symptoms of fever, shivering, joint pain & vomiting - I just have a sore throat. I had previously heard you should have any flu-like symptoms checked out in the 2 weeks after being in a Malaria area. Plus, my doctor is on leave today ... I'll call her again tomorrow.

Had a lovely dinner at Dino's last night for Varen's dad's birthday. Was nice to see his whole family again since I haven't since before my trip. The restaurant was good, my Spicy Calamari starter was fab and so was Varen's Crocodile tail steaklet starter. Unfortunately I don't think I picked my main course very well (Springbok and Pheasant Pie - based purely on the most divine Springbok Pie I've had at Pomegranate previously) and it wasn't as impressive.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

11 August: Kisoro to Lake Bunyoni

Was up early-ish this morn (6am - nothing like some of our previous mornings, but still earlier than I would be up for work usually!) and headed to Lake Bunyoni.

We managed to get there by lunch time so that we could enjoy an afternoon by the lake, since we'd lost our free day there yesterday. I spent the afternoon relaxing on the grass next to the lake reading my book - and for the first time on the entire trip, it actually felt like the day it was, a Saturday. And yes, that's my tent in the picture :)

10 August: Kisoro

Today we had a free day in Kisoro while the last 6 people on our tour visit the Gorillas (there weren't enough permits for everyone yesterday so another change to our itinerary and we skip the extra day at Lake Bunyoni). I cannot explain just how fabulous it was to have a lie-in and not have to drive anywhere today! Spent most of the day wandering the small town, after doing some much needed clothes-washing!

Bought, wrote and posted a postcard to the Folks with a cool gorilla picture on the front :) And got myself one or two items. Ended up spending half an hour online google talking to Varen and The Peeb. Was fabulous to have an almost normal conversation instead of sending smses back and forth. Was quite necessary after yesterday's jaunt into the DRC with no cell phone contact - Varen wasn't too impressed with me and this did wonders to smooth things out between us.

Also, we had some children from a local orphanage (children who have lost their parents in the Genocide in Uganda & Rwanda) come over before dinner to dance for us. Was very entertaining because of their enthusiasm and we got to chat with them afterwards. This was especially nice for me because I got to meet the boy who'd carved my Gorilla Mask (bought the one in the picture).

Yesterday I forgot to mention the bizarre wooden bicycles the Congolese have made themselves - I wish I'd been able to bring one back with me :)

Plenty Exciting

Last night was a good evening spent at home with the Book Club girls - Loulou was hosting. And so, it was awash with plenty of good food and interesting conversation :) Nothing more exciting than that, but since that is always a pleasure, it's plenty exciting enough on it's own.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What Am I Reading

So, I have launched a new blog. It happened last week and is a collaborative effort. So far so good. I've got the Peeb posting, as well as JofH and The Divine Miss M - and I'm still waiting for 2 more bloggers to come on board :) Which is very exciting.

The basic concept is an online book club of sorts. No, not like Oprah's book club where everyone reads the same book and gushes over it. More like the actual book club that I attend. We all read books that interest us. But I figure something I'm reading might interest someone else, but it may be a book they'd never heard of before. So, I'm exposing them to some new stories and some new authors and getting a suggestion or two for myself :) Although it's not like I don't have enough to read already!

I sort of got the idea while on my trip. I read 2 books that other people on my trip had brought along. And I've written down the names of other books that I want to read too. Definitely some I would never have considered before, let alone heard of. So I figure I'm not alone in that ...

The idea is basically to get about 8 to 10 people with varied reading tastes to contribute their reviews. I hope you find some good recommendations on the site and please feel free to add your review as a comment if you've read any of the books (Thanks, Varen)!

So come on, go and find out What Am I Reading.

ps. I'm pretty certain the books I read will still appear here too ... it's just interesting to see what everyone else is reading there.

09 August: Kisoro to Virunga National Park to Kisoro

Today we were up at 4:50am and left camp around 6am after making our packed lunches and having a bite of breakfast. It was a bit of a drive to the Doctor Congo (so dubbed after our tour T-shirts had it printed: DR. Congo) border, over the Kisoro airport landing strip, and then they stamped our passports (5 & 6) and checked out Yellow Fever certificates and then we waited around for the Safari guys to sort themselves out. Then we drove thru rural DRC for another 2 hours with security escorts in our vehicles.Eventually we arrived at a mielie field and were told this was our stop. As part of our "Community Walk" we hiked thru mielie, sugar cane and banana fields and past mud huts for about an hour up to the ranger station to meet our guide Joseph and our jungle escorts (the reason we have to do the Community Walk is because the road is miles away from the edge of the jungle).Joseph (in the picture) and his team of French speaking guys with guns proceeded to take us up and into the dense jungle and into the Virunga National Park - there really was a reason for those machetes! The hike thru the jungle was long and slow-going and at around 3pm it poured with rain for about half an hour. After which, I was drenched. The waterproof label on my jacket turned out to be a fairly inaccurate description! This did not make the hiking any more pleasant.

About half an hour later, at 4pm in the afternoon, we were paused as the trackers tried to pick up the trail (which we'd already had to back-track once or twice) and suddenly a single youngish Gorilla ran past us, crying and looking for his troop. It was amazing. We were lucky to be able to follow him back to the rest of them.
The family we were visiting was made up of 12 Gorillas. First we spotted an adult female who "played" with us by sitting and watching while pulling at branches (to try and get some sort of reaction, I guess?). As we followed her, we saw the giant male Silverback, it was spectacular - he is massive!Our best experience was being able to watch 3 young Gorillas playing for almost half an hour. They were tumbling around, pulling at each other and beating their chests :) Our last sighting of them (you're only allowed to spend an hour with them) was watching the giant Silverback eating bamboo.

Seeing the Gorillas made the whole day's hiking and rain worthwhile -
although the day was far from over and we now had to hike back down thru the jungle & community back to the road to meet our transport. Although this should've been easier and more direct, since you no longer have to follow the Gorilla's path, it was more difficult because the rain had made everything muddy and we were far more prone to slipping - which I can tell you happened to almost everyone at least once!After more hours of hiking, we finally made it back to the car, it was now after 7pm and I was freezing and soaked. But the night was still young, we had a 2 hour drive ahead of us along bumpy, muddy rural roads. Then the night got frightening. We got stopped at a military roadblock for about an hour - well, that's what we thought it was when we drove past a guy holding a rocket launcher. Our guide & driver proceded to leave us in the car, alone, with no explanation.

It turned out to be fine tho, and was just a normal stop to pick up our security escort. Sheesh, our hearts started beating again and we wondered why they hadn't just mentioned that relief-giving fact when they left the car in the first place! But we survived (clearly, since here I am writing) and made it to the border. Where we had to wait a little longer for the stamps (7 & 8) and finally got back to the campsite at 00:15. It was a long but indescribable and unique day!

August 2013: I have entered this blog post into the Travelstart Blogger Experience Contest. It was, without doubt, one of the most wonderful (seeing the Gorillas) and frightening (the rocket launcher, obviously) days of my life!

The Best Way to Start a Week

So yesterday afternoon I was supposed to start Yoga again. Good intentions. But Varen had a bit of a rough day emotionally (family stuff) so we decided instead to go for a drink at Xai Xai in Melville.

We had the traditional darwa's, as is customary. And since we were both a little peckish, we ordered some starters to share. Between us we scoffed their fabulous chicken trinchado, a portion of squid heads and some fingers of haloumi. Yummy. Such a perfect way to spend a Monday late afternoon and so out of the ordinary - that's something I do love about Varen, the way that nothing else is more important that what we want to do, never work, never gym. It's so refreshing and it's lovely to be surprised with spontaneous moments of sheer enjoyment at doing something unusual :)

After that we headed to my house and watched some more Series and shared a Woolies tomato soup - our originally intended dinner, which hit the spot about 2 hours after our earlier snacks.

It was quite simply the best Monday evening I've had in a long while :)

Monday, August 27, 2007

08 August: Kampala to Kisoro

Today was our most extreme day of driving yet, we drove solidly from 6am - 6:30pm with only 3 pee-stops - we didn't even stop for lunch as we made packed sandwiches this morning before we left! Again I'm thankful for motion sickness pills :) And luckily the drive was made bearable by card games and a simple version of Pictionary.

Managed to see the vague outline of 3 of the volcanoes that lie on the Uganda, DRC & Rwanda borders during our drive. Yay, tomorrow we're off to see the Mountain Gorillas.

The picture is of the Ugandan Vegetable Markets on the sides of the road - I love how all the goodies are stacked, the pyramids of tomatoes!

Drive-By Weekend

What a lovely weekend it was :) How annoying to be back at work already :(

On Friday night Varen & I decided to do something different and went Bowling in Rosebank with Koet, Nambi & Hammi. Lesson number 1, don't go bowling with Koet - he get's all the strikes (except when Varen cleaned up on his last turn!) . Lesson number 2, the outer most pins (on both sides) are now known as the ZAP pins - based on the girl's ability to only hit them ;) Lesson number 3, although two games of bowling does not seem like a lot, an uninitiated arm will fail to function as expected by half way thru the second game. Lesson number 4, boys are hysterical in the luminous shoes ;)

So, all in all a pretty entertaining evening out. Something different :) And in more bizarre news, I bumped into my third cousin there - how bizarre. I mean she's been in Joburg longer than I have but I only found out a few months ago thanks to facebook and we bump into each other in as random a place as a bowling alley? Anyway, it was fab to see her :)

Saturday was filled with much car test-driving. First Varen & I (gotta have a boy for this sort of shopping experience) headed to the Ranburg Renault to try out the Clio 3. What a disappointing experience. The guy we'd actually booked a test drive with was late - apparently he didn't know anyone had a test drive booked. Then he didn't "sell" the car to us at all, he didn't tell us a thing about the model or the bells, whistles and dials. So in I climbed to this completely foreign car and that was about as good as the experience got. Luckily I managed to get a chance to properly look round the interior when Varen drove it back from our half way point. Either way, I wasn't very impressed with the car interior (the one I really liked is about 20 grand more!) or the dealership. Scratch Renault off the list.

Then we headed to Northcliff Citroen and their C2 iPlay where our experience was completely different! The friendly sales guy (Hilton) gave us a complete tour of the C2 (including all safety feature & he even opened the bonnet & boot) before we left the showroom. The drive was much better than the Clio and the C2 really has some nifty features - if Varen was posting he'd go on about the variable steering or something ;) I like this one and hell, at this stage I'm thinking it might just be the one :)

Then after a quick lunch at Mochacho's (hey, it's the first time since I've been back, quite momentous!), we headed to Norman's Toyota in Craighall Park to give the Yaris T3 a spin. This was impressive if only because it was the one test drive we hadn't booked and our sales-lady (Sharon) had a mad scramble to find a car we could take out - which she managed impressively on such short notice :) The Yaris was fine - it drove easily but the only issue is going to be the fact that the model with all the features of the C2 is a little out of my price-range. We're going to have to see what sort of deal we can get after adding things like smash-and-grab tinting, car kits and service plans (included for the Yaris, but not for the C2). The only other issue for me is going to be the interior ... which is really the bit I have to look at most, plus I'm quite happy with the exterior of both :) The C2 has quite a crazy interior (and I do mean crazy!) but the dash is fab (all in black, which is what I think they all should be) whereas the Yaris has all these cool hidden away compartments but parts of the dash (the middle and the arm rests) are in a white - what is that all about?

So, I think we'll be getting quotes and what not during the week and then test drive them both again next Saturday and make the final decision, but I will tell you that the C2 is winning right now.

We had a very lazy Saturday afternoon, in fact I slept for most of it after our early morning to get to the Renault test-drive on time, and in the evening we got a couple of dvds and stayed home. We watched The Messengers (Varen's choice of scary movie).

The Messengers is a 2007 supernatural thriller film directed by the Pang Brothers. The plot of the film is about an ominous darkness that invades a seemingly serene sunflower farm in North Dakota, and the Solomon family is torn apart by suspicion, mayhem, and murder.

Blegh, your typical scary movie type story ... which I can watch cause it was in the safety of my own home with the lights on :) Girl sees scary spirits, no one believes girl blah blah. Sheer mindless entertainment with a couple of scream-factors every so often - I hate when they make the dead people crawl up the walls and on the ceiling!

The second movie, after deciding to skip the dinner out we'd planned, was Children of Men.

Set in an apocalyptic United Kingdom of 2027, the film explores a grim world in which two decades of global human infertility have left humanity with less than a century to survive. Societal collapse, terrorism, and environmental destruction accompany the impending extinction, with Britain, perhaps the last functioning government, persecuting a seemingly endless wave of illegal immigrant refugees seeking sanctuary. In the midst of this chaos, Theo Faron (Clive Owen) must find safe transit for Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey), a pregnant African refugee.

I liked this movie when I saw it the first time on big screen :) Varen hadn't seen it tho, and I really didn't, mind watching it again (Clive Owen, hello!)

On Sunday morning we decided to try somewhere new for breakfast and went to the Full Stop Cafe in Parkhurst. It's not earth-shattering and I'm certainly not giving up Doppio Zero any time soon ;) I had a very nice (if over-priced) Breakfast Burrito. Then we headed to the Rosebank Rooftop market for a bit of a browse-around and ended up spending most of the afternoon at Varen's watching series, smoking hubbly and eating steak - very unusual for me, admittedly, but he whipped something up from the bare minimum he had in his fridge & freezer and it wasn't too bad :) He's promised to do a more impressive (less functional) steak meal soon with Camembert and cranberries ... I'm strangely looking forward to it :)

Friday, August 24, 2007

07 August: Kisumu to Kampala

Today we crossed the border from Kenya into Uganda (stamps 3 & 4). It is very entertaining to see all the Ugandan taxi's at the border - the guys in pink shirts on their bikes.

Also I saw a hysterical billboard in Kampala (who knew it was such a problem to warrant a giant billboard?):
"You may want all these things (with a picture of a young woman and thought bubbles of perfumes, cellphones and cars), But you don't want HIV/AIDS. Say NO to Sugar Daddies"
Pahahaha, hysterical.

06 August: Lake Nakuru National Park to Kisumu

Had a morning game drive (see the stunning picture of sunrise at LNNP) before leaving Lake Nakuru and heading to Kisumu where our campsite was literally on the bank of Lake Victoria. Really just another day spent driving ... I'm noticing a frightening trend.

Also, I was a little disappointed not to have any Hippo strolling between our tents during the night ;)

Food, Glorius Food

Last night was quite a night. We had a work dinner at 7pm at Vilamoura. So, I dashed over to Varen's office (also in Sandton CBD) after work and we went to The Baron for drinks first.

Drinks turned into a little snack as well since I was hungry and Varen figured he might as well eat too. We kept it simple (or so we thought) with starters: Haloumi and Potato Skins. Turned out to be giant portions and I was left wondering if this had been a particularly good idea right before dinner at Vilamoura. But the food was yummy and it was lovely to see Varen, even just for a little bit :)

Well, the night at Vilamoura was good - we had some of the London guys out, so it was time to impress. We ended up eating fairly late as well as 2 of the guys were at our Action Cricket game (I skipped it again this week) ... we lost for the first time in my experience :( I started wit hsome more Haloumi, this time with Parma Ham. Was lovely, but I couldn't finish it. Mains were an amazing selection of shellfish. I had a platter of Lobster, Langoustines and Queen Prawns. Another Return Request bites the dust :) Not bad, I think I've managed to do them all in my first week back!

Dessert wasn't as spectacular as I was expecting. I skipped the usual Creme Brulee and opted for something new, Strawberries and Shortbread. It was a disappointment. Not that it didn't taste lovely, it's just that the 5 strawberry-halves on my plate were far less than I was hoping for. But it's okay, who needs dessert anyway ;)

In other exciting news, my boss mentioned my possible London move again - in front of everyone, so he must be serious :) This is good news cause I'd pretty much figured it was never going to happen. So fingers crossed on that one ... now that I'm just about done with my travels on the African continent ;)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

05 August: Nairobi to Lake Nakuru National Park

This morning I joined my second tour, the 14 day Gorillas & Game Parks Safari. We have an even bigger group of 28 travellers (plus our tour guide, driver & cook) but 6 of us were on the previous 3 day trip together which is cool.

We found out they've changed our itinerary somewhat because there are 2 trucks doing the trip at the same time. So we've swapped our Masai Mara visit to the end and instead headed to Lake Nakuru National Park today. Suits me since I just couldn't face the drive straight back to the Masai Mara again today!

Lake Nakuru provided the most spectacular volume of flamingos I've ever seen. It made for a beautiful view - blue sky, a stripe of pink flamingos and then the green grass. Unusual.

04 August: The Masai Mara to Nairobi

Today it was back to Nairobi. Another mammoth drive - at this point I'm not sure I thought this through very well, since the itinerary of my next trip starts with us heading straight back to the Masai Mara and I'm not sure I have enough motion sickness pills for these roads!

The drive wasn't very exciting since it was straight back on the road we'd taken only 2 days before. But we did have a fairly interesting end to the trip - Moses our cook got literally nabbed out of his passenger seat by a cop for not wearing his seatbelt and put straight into the back of the Police van. Apparently they're fairly strict about this in Kenya. But he was okay and just had to pay a fine.

Checked into the Comfort Inn (a shocking blue building) for my 2nd night in Nairobi (right next door to a Steers & Debonairs - now I feel like one those idiot Americans who point out every familiar home-brand they see in foreign countries!)

Mindless Un-tertainment

Yesterday afternoon was awesome, I went to Jeanius for another massage. I had smartly booked this before I left for my trip, knowing that driving around in a truck and sleeping on my yoga mat in a tent was probably not going to be the best thing for my body. Although I felt a lot better than I thought, the massage was still a very welcome way to relax! I'm definitely going to turn this into a monthly event :)

After that, Varen came over and I made us dinner again (Woolies, naturally - calamari this time, so divine!) and then we headed off to watch The Bourne Ultimatum.

Jason Bourne Comes Home
Now, in the new chapter of this espionage series, Bourne will hunt down his past in order to find a future. He must travel from Moscow, Paris, Madrid and London to Tangier and New York City as he continues his quest to find the real Jason Bourne – all the while trying to outmaneuver the scores of cops, federal officers and Interpol agents with him in their crosshairs.

Now I'm not a huge Matt Damon fan, but that (and the massage) can't have been the only reason I found myself dozing off in this movie. It was honestly aiming for a Guinness entry for longest chase scene in a movie - I think it'll win too! I dunno, I loved the orginal book and I really haven't enjoyed the movies much. This was no exception. I think they're pretty bland, honestly. Sorry Varen, I know you enjoyed it ;) But I think a mindless movie was what you needed!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

03 August: The Masai Mara

Our first full day in the Masai Mara started early (up for breakfast at 6am - this was going to be a trend for the holiday!) and then we set off for our day-long game drive. The Masai Mara is a beautiful place, the dry yellow grasses against the light blue sky reminded me of taking the back-roads past all the farms to Riebeck West in the Western Cape. We saw loads of animals, nothing I hadn't really seen before (aside from a cheetah in the wild). Mostly it was just fun for me to watch the foreigners rush to the one side of the truck when someone saw an Elephant so far away it might've been a tree ... or an Elephant, or a tree :) To me, seeing animals from that far away is a useless exercise. I want them up close.

We did see hordes of Widebeest and their Zebra buddies. It is unbelievable, I have never before seen animals in this sort of quantity - aside from perhaps, ants. And from a distance, they really do look like ants because they queue. That's right, millions and millions of Wildebeest all in one long straight line. Well, just about. Unforutnately as spectacular as all that was, we didn't manage to see them crossing the Mara river - apparently that only happens for about 3 or 4 days of the year and is scheduled on a Wildebeest whim and cannot therefore be diarised.

After the game driving we visited the Masai Manyata (village). We were shown around and the women welcomed us with a dance. We learnt loads of interesting Masai facts: 1) Every man in the village is descended from the chief. They are essentially all the chief's sons. Women join their husband's village when they marry 2) The women each build a house for themselves and their children. The men live in their wives houses. 3) They Masai with large holes in their ear-lobes have not been educated. The ones who have attended school have one of their bottom tooth knocked out (ouch!). 4) They move their entire village every 9 years because the houses deteriorate and they need to move their cattle. 5) The dowry (number of cows) a Masai man must pay will depend on his skill as a "jumper". The highest jumper in the village doesn't have to pay any dowry.

After our visit, the men walked us back to the Acacia campsite and put on a Warrior dance (complete with jumping).

02 August: Nairobi to the Masai Mara

This morning I joined my first tour, the Masai Mara 3 day Safari add-on. There are a massive 25 of us on our truck. Oh, and it turned out the trip was actually run by Africa Travel Co and Go2Africa was just the agent. We drove and drove and drove all the way from Nairobi to the Masai Mara. With a few stops. Once at the Rift Valley view point (not as amazing as you'd expect with all the cloud cover, but it still turned out to be the best view we ended up getting after passing by at least 3 more times!). We also stopped briefly in Narok (at the petrol station, so I can't really comment on the town). We must've stopped for lunch as well, although I forget where exactly and for plenty of pee-stops (this was a trend of the trip with the large amount of cross-country driving we did!).

Then we stoped for an hour. This was unscheduled because we got a flat! This meant we ended up arriving at the Masai Mara later than expected, but were still attacked at the gate by the keen women trying to sell their wares. We entered the Masai Mara at the Sekenani gate and skirted round the edge (with a few animal sightings) to exit at the Ooloolaimutia gate and head to Acacia Camp where we were staying for two nights. At least they surprised us with permanent tents that had beds in them, it was a good start :)

Quiet Time at Home

I can honestly say I have not yet done a stitch of work since I've been back, mostly I've been sorting thru my photo's and trying to write my marathon post :) Although I have been forced to sit thru some very dull meetings - some of which have made me wonder if I was even away (since the discussions do not seem to have progressed at all!).

Last night was nice and quiet. Varen & I skipped the weekly Tuesday night dinner with the Goof Troop to spend some quality time together, which is the order of the week. Next week we'll get back to being sociable, I'm sure. But right now, our free time is just for us :) I made us a yummy dinner at home (Woolie's Chicken Roulade with veggies) and then we watched the last few episodes of How I Met Your Mother Season 2.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

01 August: Nairobi

So, the marathon holiday post's first entry... I had a lovely home cooked (Woolies) dinner with Varen the night I left and then we both headed to the airport. He presented me with some fab gifts before I left: a box of Geldhof Chocolates, a new book (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne) and a lovely notebook to use as a diary. This last one was the big one. The Divine Miss M inadvertently came up with the idea which she & I had a good laugh over as there was no way we thought any boy would go thru the effort of writing sweet notes for me while I was away - let alone one a day! After telling Varen the story as a joke, he actually offered and said if that was what I wanted most as a gift, he was happy to oblige. Let me tell you that I can honestly say it was one of the most lovely presents I've ever received. It was amazing to be able to read his page (he'd even gone to the effort of aligning it to my itinerary) in the morning and hear his voice and feel close to him while miles away. The best days were when he shared one of his "us memories" with me. Made me all warm and fuzzy inside and really miss him & home!

So, armed with all this, I set off for East Africa. I arrived in Nairobi, Kenya early on the morning of the 1st, it was overcast and rainy - not what I'd had in mind for my African holiday on the equator ... but fingers crossed that this would pass, - it is after all, their dry season! I was lucky enough to get my room on arrival at the Hotel Boulevard and went and got some sleep for the first few hours. After lunch I headed to the Giraffe Centre, which was seriously over-priced (might've been because I booked it thru the hotel!) but still a fun experience. Let me tell you, those Giraffe, they have long tongues!

Good To Be Back

So, before I get into the marathon holiday post, which I have started, I think I better explain my plan for it: I've decided to split it up into byte (bite?)-sized chunks, no doubt this will generally be a day by day sort of thing since I have the diary I kept to keep me on the straight and narrow with the facts. I figure this will be easier and then I can post when I can and not just leave it hanging for one gigantic post - I was away for 2 & half weeks, telling the entire story of my trip would just be too huge for a single entry and no doubt that would also make it simply exhausting for you to read :) So out of consideration for anyone reading, byte-sized chunks it is ... to follow :)

In other news, my first day back wasn't anything special aside from the pure thrill of seeing Varen again. I left with the mistaken idea that we would have occasional sms contact (every 2 days or once a day at the most). My expectations while away were quickly proven naive and we generally had very regular sms contact thruout (I wouldn't go so far as to suggest it was as much as an sms an hour, but it was way more than one a day!). But even with the regular smsing and my daily notes from him (will explain this in the 01 August post to follow), I still missed him far more than expected and we have barely left each other's side except for work and the occasional visit to the loo since my return.

On Sunday, after a fabulous breakfast at Doppio Zero, we went back to my place and I did masses of washing and unpacked my bag and sorted thru gifts and what not. That afternoon was slept for a while - only got to bed around 3am on Sunday morning after the whole airport thing (arriving just before midnight) and then the excitement of gift-giving (I gave him a Masai-head dagger), a much needed (on my part) hot bath and then the general conversational catch-up and just reveling in being in each other's company ... it all adds up and makes for a very late night. So the afternoon nap was much deserved!

Then we went to fulfill two of my "return requests": Pizza from El Capo and Moulin Rouge on dvd.

Moulin Rouge! is a 2001 Academy Award-winning Australian jukebox musical film directed by Baz Luhrmann. It tells the story of a young British poet/writer, Christian, who falls in love with the star of the Moulin Rouge cabaret actress and courtesan, Satine. It uses the colourful musical setting of the Montmartre Quarter of Paris, France.

All there really is to say about Moulin Rouge is: I love that movie! It was a good day.

Last night we did a giant shop at Woolies for work lunches and dinner for tonight & tomorrow - admin type stuff. And then we had sushi for dinner with Loulou (another of my return requests).

On The Long Drives

Although I wasn't expecting to read too much on my trip, I ended up finishing 3 books with all the driving we did.

The first was The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne. Varen bought this for me as part of my "gift package" before I left (more on that in my mammoth holiday post).

It is Berlin, year 1942. When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance. But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.

I loved this book. It is written in a similar style (like you're in the mind of a 9 year old child) to Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It's a delightfully innocent story :)

The second was a book I borrowed from one of the girls on the trip, Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith.

THE NO.1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY introduced the world to the one and only Precious Ramotswe - the engaging and sassy owner of Botswana's only detective agency. TEARS OF THE GIRAFFE, McCall Smith's second book, takes us further into this world as we follow Mama Ramotswe into more daring situations ... Among her cases this time are wayward wives, unscrupulous maids, and the challenge to resolve a mother's pain for her son who is long lost on the African plains. Indeed, Mma Ramotswe's own impending marriage to the most gentlemanly of men, Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, the promotion of Mma's secretary to the dizzy heights of Assistant Detective, and the arrival of new members to the Matekoni family, all brew up the most humorous and charmingly entertaining of tales.

Clearly a fairly easy read. Quite a pleasant story but, nothin g spectacular. I only really found it interesting because it was set in Botswana. Although I found the way it was written, the actual language, very strange and not especially easy to read.

So was the third (but this one belong to a different girl) and was The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards.

Dr. David Henry is forced by a blizzard to deliver his own twins. His son is perfectly healthy, but his daughter has Down's syndrome. Rationalizing it as a need to protect his wife, he asks his nurse to take the baby away to an institution. Instead, the nurse disappears into another city to raise the child herself.

The book was pretty good, I enjoyed it as a fairly light holiday read - nothing especially dark & twisty here. But a nice enough story with the obvious hollywood ending none the less.

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