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Published: July 28th 2010
Muli Shana from Zambia….
Im over halfway through my Africa adventure now and although I have a fair few weeks left before I step on my homeward flight, we have just lost most of the group in Livingstone.
There are only 8 of us continuing on to Cape Town….through Botswana, Namibia and into S Africa.
If im honest, the prospect of another month camping is a bit of a daunting one. This trip has been a test of one’s limits in many ways. Since we left Tanzania, our time in Malawi and now in Zambia has been blighted by heavy rain. Trust me, there is nothing more character building that waking at 430am in the pitch dark, to dismantle a sandy tent in a quagmire of mud that has developed overnight due to the continuous precipitation which is still falling as you negotiate iron tent poles by the light of a head torch and the stars, whilst getting your poncho trapped folding the whole dripping shelter up….
However, I managed about 1 week of non-camping when we got to the spice island of Zanzibar….the exotic archipelago off the mainland. Having got a taste for sleeping in a bed again as we were in a hotel in Stone Town, I chose to ‘upgrade’ for a few days - for additional dollars I spent time in beachside cabins and in Malawi, a dorm room. Parts of Africa are incredibly poor and this has encouraged greed and capitalization like you wouldn’t imagine. The mzungus with their tourist dollars are an opportunity for the locals to make as much money from one night’s accommodation as they would harvesting a month’s supply of ugali. Hence, most of the opportunities to upgrade have been way beyond the budget of any of us travelling. For a few days though, the additional cost was more manageable I have reveled in having a room, not a canvas ceiling. A mattress not a sleeping mat, and sheets not a sleeping bag.
Internet access too, has been somewhat limited. Where we have had it, the connection speed is akin to the dial-up era and uploading photos has been an impossibility. However, im pleased to say Zambia is a notch up the civilization scale and I have been able to spend some decent online time.
Here are pics from Tanzania:
Part 1 - http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=193306&id=691995235&l=e169ad0b82
Part 2 - http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=198279&id=691995235&l=a83b1c0bfc
Im sure you have been suffering blog withdrawl (lol) as its been ages since my last proper post so I shall condense the past month into something manageable!
Most of the past few weeks have been spent in Tanzania…. A country I shall remember for its intense heat, flies, Masai people and variety of wildlife. From Nairobi in Kenya we headed south…long days (11hrs) in the truck with the sun relentlessly shining. Often it felt like were in a sauna and the sweat literally just runs off you until your clothes are quite damp and the seat feels almost moist. I am at the front of the truck - more legroom but less breeze. At the back of the truck with all the windows open, at least you have the sense a hairdryer is blowing on you so your perspiration can evaporate. We rotate standing at the back in front of the lockers so we don’t faint from the heat. Air conditioning?! Ha. You must be joking.
Leaving the truck behind for our Serengeti Safari, we took minimal stuff for 3 days in the wilderness and split into a number of different 4x4 jeeps - 5 people in each. Knowing there would be no facilities for showering as we were bush camping , I tried to take the opportunity to use the camp showers efore we departed but at 5am, the water had stopped so all I managed was a cold bucket wash in the dark. Lets just say, travelling like this makes you really value the most basic things we all take for sheer granted on a daily basis… hot water…clean clothes. These things are luxury here and I know I sound puritanical but boy, do you appreciate it when you get them.
With our tents down by 6am, we drove to the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater for dawn. The crater is a 19km wide chasm where millions of years ago, a volcano collapsed creating a 600m deep hole and now home to wildebeast, zebras, hippos, rhinos, buffalo, flamingo, hyenas, antelope, lions, elephants, ostrich - all of which we spotted in abundance, unbelievably close. It was a remarkable experience….nowhere else (apart from the Galapagos Islands) have I been so close to nature. I hope you get a real sense of the amount and diversity of animals from my photos. I particularly liked the bootylicious zebras with their juicy , ripe arses! I can understand a lion wanting a piece of that butt!
Having spent a few hours in the Crater, the sun became too ferocious to endure so we battened down the roof and drove on past giraffe and warthogs through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area into the Serengeti itself, a 15sq km park of flat nothingness. Horizons in the distance were dotted with the occasional acacia tree or herd of elephants lumbering along the plain. The unsurfaced road stretched ahead into apparent infinity, bisecting the endless grassy plains..as we drove deeper into the park, the sky darkened and though the sun pierced the swirling clouds, directing shafts of sunlight onto the land, the rains won and the air filled with the smell of damp earth. Great gobbity chubby rain fell for a short time refreshing the land all too briefly. We were all covered in dust and filth when we got to the campsite. With no showers it was a question of baby wipes to remove the layer of accumulated grime. Ach…one survives.
We shared the campsite with lions…I slept like a baby and was oblivious but their presence was notable. Apparently, they don’t attack sleeping humans - though the knowledge there is only a millimeter of canvas between you and one of nature’s greatest predators is a slightly uncomfortable thought.
On one afternoon game drive we were treated to frolicking baboons, rapacious hyenas, a leopard, cheetahs and lionesses resting in a tree. The leopard was amazing. We realized something had been spotted as suddenly trucks hurtled towards a spot, all congregating on top of each other. There in a tree sat a beautiful leopard seemingly oblivious to the rally of jeeps cutting each other up to get closer. Camera lenses clicked all round and you could almost hear the orgasmic sighs of the spotters. Unlike the Galapagos where I felt on the periphery of the creatures, here I thought the jeeps intruded too much, revving their engines to get closer and closer, so the mzungus can get their perfect photo. At times it was almost like wacky races when in the distance, the amassing jeeps signify an animal has been spotted….it made me wonder what the ramifications genuinely are to the animals by this kind of harassment. However, the leopard seemed unbothered , came down out of the tree , walked through the convoy of cars, flicked its tail, almost disdainfully and strolled off into the long grass,,,,,, So, perhaps i am mistaken.
The Serengeti was definitely a highlight of this leg of the trip so far but there have been many other moments ….camping on the slopes of Kilimanjaro and visiting something called the Village Education Project - set up by a high flying city lawyer who turned her back on London life. She came out to teach English in Tanzania and built up - through sheer determination and fundraising - the most incredible educational facility for village children. Elsewhere, we have been taken to a children’s home for street kids who are being rehabilitated and fostered again as well as a school for the mentally handicapped - at both we spent time playing with the children and their delight at talking English or playing some football was palpable. Intrepid supports these projects through the Intrepid Trust Foundation which I donate to - so it was quite inspirational to see what the money goes on. It wasn’t at all like some ghastly human safari which has occurred in some villages where we have been taken on ‘village walks’….
The other great highlight of this leg so far has been the few days spent on Zanzibar. Getting to the coast meant the humidity levels were quite horrific and temperatures in the late 90s. However, the azure coloured Indian Ocean brought blessed relief. Zanzibar was as exotic and spicy as one imagines. Predominately Muslim, Stone Town is a collection of dark alleys - even more so at the moment as the island has been without electricity since December.
A cornucopia of cultures and Islamically influenced architecture… Its not a place for a night stroll as the overhanging roofs make the narrow streets even more shaded, Without the generators on, all one can make out in the pitch dark are the shrouded women and shalwar kameez clad men gliding around. We enjoyed a very wet tour of a spice plantation where we were shown fresh pepper, lemongrass, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, ginger, turmeric and ylang ylang growing but the beaches of the north were calling ……
Kendwa where we holed up for a few days was paradise on a plate - it had the archetypal palm trees, blinding white sands, and a perfectly calm turquoise sea. The beach bar and huts were right on the edge of the ocean and there were plenty of shady hammocks for lounging in when the heat of the day - in fact by about 10am! This was serious and much needed chillax time. Mock all ye like but you try overlanding tens of thousands of kilometers and camping night after night! You need some respite!
I did some diving - super maize coral - and treated myself to a beach massage whilst the heady tropical nights were filled with plenty of mohitos, dancing on the sands, and skinny dipping. Teehee….i mean, who could resist? A warm ocean and a sky full of stars. The bar filled with locals every night and it may be a generalization but man, those guys can dance! The sweat was flying…..
I would have loved to stay on Zanzibar for longer but sadly the itinerary didn’t permit and it was back to the mainland to plough on, crossing the border into Malawi - a country famous more recently for the column inches gained by Madonna’s adoption. Driving through the villages where the children come running down to the road, beaming with smiles and waving frantically to the truck…most of the 30 something women on the truck could feel their ovaries squeaking. The kids are truly beautiful here…..i wonder how hard it would be to do a Bruno and bring home your own African orphan baby??!!
After a few relentless transit days where the truck pounded the rutted roads for hours on end, we arrived at the shores of a very grey Lake Malawi…..the weather deteriorated dramatically and the rains came. The Lake is rumoured to have all sorts of nasties in it including bilharzia and so none of us decided to partake in any water based activity. Erring on the safe side meant I didn’t do any diving which was a shame as it is lauded as one of the best freshwater dive sites in the world. However, with messages from Rich & Paul (thanks boys!) about the possible dangers and the fact that a paramedic travelling on the truck wasn’t going anywhere near the water, meant sense and sensibility won us over.
I was also concerned about my rather dramatic spider bite I suffered back in Tanzania getting poorly again. The extreme saltwater of the Indian Ocean in Zanzibar had done it (and all my mosquito bites) lots of good but the two puncture marks were still raw and open to infection. I have no idea what the hell it was but my thumb swelled up with these lymph/pus filled blisters where the critter pierced my skin. Quite unpleasant ….. Apart from the normal collection of stings and bites, we have all been very lucky - no more maggots in arms and managed to avoid a boomslang snake which was captured in a tree in the campsite we were at on the Lake. Its head was swiftly severed from its body with a speedy blow by the gardener’s machete….its one of Africa’s most poisonous snakes (looks just like a green mambo) so there was no way they were going to let it hang around. I don’t have a problem with snakes the way Im agitated by spiders so rather macabrely (sp?) took the still flexing, twisting decapitated body of it around the campsite to show everyone. Partly because two Neanderthals on another overland truck were all up for leaving the body somewhere to scare unsuspecting people….. call me boring but I thought that was rather mean and dangerous. This snake was no joking matter…. although.very beautiful really.
Another day, another border crossing which brings me to the here and now. Zambia and the famous Victoria Falls….i wonder if they will be as awe-inspiring as Iguazu? Apparently we are here at just the right time of year…wet enough for the wow factor but not impassible. Livingstone will be our base for a few days (still in a tent though!) and then 1 newby will be joining our much depleted group before we depart onwards and downwards towards Botswana, Nambia and finally S Africa.
Hoping the snowdrops are out in London with the crocuses not far behind……here its suffocatingly hot but I reckon some Grade 5 white water rafting on the mighty flow of the Zambezi river may cool me down….
Apparently the further south we head now, the more developed it gets but I cant guarantee what sort of online access ill get.
Hope you enjoy the pics and thanks to those whove been in touch. Tis appreciated!
Love Han x
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