A Travellerspoint blog

Not all those who wander are lost, but some of them are....

sunny 26 °C

As all my worldly possessions get dustier, my jandals get more worn and my memory card hits its limit. I am forced to see Africa not for the lost cause that the world media would have you believe. Not wars, famines and arbitrary colonial borders, but individuals just trying to make their way in the world; have a good life and make their existence mean something. The same as everyone else.

We have just crossed into Malawi and already I can feel the 'warm heart' of Africa. The kids are smiling, the people seem industrious and the land is green. This is making me philosophical, so what continues is my cathartic murmurings, don't say I didn't warn you.

I am constantly astounded by my travel companions fear of the land outside the truck. Every gathering of people over 20 people causes them to shut the windows, every suggestion to eat outside of the campsite is questioned with concerns, worries and phoney logistic issues.

NZF laughed at me the other day for waving to the kids out of the window, while he had his earplugs in watching episodes of Breaking Bad.

I know Africa is a big place, and there are hundreds of kilometres on my journey, but I didn't come here to be passive, scared or overly cautious. I don't live my life like that at home, so why would I do that here. I understand as a white female I have additional precautions that I need to keep in mind (yes, mum) but Africa is not for the faint hearted. If you thought it was, you are doing it wrong.

So it will come as no surprise to you all that I am extending my trip. My original destination was Nairobi, I am now jumping off the truck in Arusha, Tanzania to go and climb Mount Kilimanjaro. And if that isn't enough, I am rejoining the truck in Kenya to head up to Uganda to track the Gorillas. I won't be back in London until the 3rd of November (sorry, Ken and Liz). But as I have been saying since Easter, if not now... When?

I have settled into an African routine, and all the chaos associated to London life and the restricting personal quirks I have acquired are falling away. I wake up with the sun, I take time for myself, I (try to) ignore ignorance, I read, I nap, I swim in every pool I find, I passionately snap away on my camera, I even sleep well. Last night there was an adult elephant eating from the tree less than 5 metres from my tent at about 2am, and I didn't hear a thing.

My feet are black with mud and grime, my white shirts are brown, my book count since leaving London is 7 and a half, and for the first time in my life I stopped reading a book because I didn't like it, and didn't think it was worth my time. I needed this adventure.

Don't get me wrong, Africa is not relaxing. It's full of potential death and injury around every corner. Malaria means remembering to take your tablets on time, insect repellant burning your skin and long trousers in the heat. Waterborne illnesses means every tap is questioned to its quality, beer is drunk often in higher quantities than water (well that's normal for me anyway). Bags are carefully monitored, possessions are locked away, roads are treaturous littered with flipped buses and mutilated cars. One guy gave a high five to a kid in Botswana only to find when he looked at his hand that it was covered in blood. Botswana being one of the highest concentrations of AIDS sufferers in Africa.

If it was easy everyone would do it. NZF asked me today if I was excited about climbing Kili and I said, yes, but it was anxious about the effects altitude would have on me. Without being in that situation before it is a complete unknown. He said to me, 'Oh yeah kinda like the first time taking Cocaine'...

I guess there is always a challenging and easy path to everything.

Posted by kayles 26.09.2014 01:10 Archived in Malawi Comments (0)

Zambia

sunny 26 °C

Zambia has been our first real view of Africa outside of the relatively progressive and functioning South. It has a much more haphazard, makeshift and community feel to it. A place where the roadside villages are filled with juicy red tomatoes and clean bursting bags of rice, vivid coloured liquor stores and bright eyed children waving enthusiastically.

Although this is all once you get outside of Livingstone and Lusaka.

Livingstone is the home to the mighty Victoria Falls. I decided to only see it from the Zambia side as it was going to cost about $90 USD in additional visas and park fees to head to the Zimbabwe side. It wasn't in full force while we were there. So this meant I could head out to the actual waterfall side and walk right out to the edge where I sat with my feet out next to the cascade. Here I met a new friend called Felix who took me out walking in the Zambezi to a pool that has formed right before the drop. I did have to ensure I had my big boy pants on though. I just kept saying to myself, don't slip, don't slip....

My big boy pants remained on the next day, as I went white water rafting though the gorge. We got booted out into the water on the first rapid, with our whole boat flipping. The force of the water and the impact was terrifying, I came up firstly under the boat, then on the edge of the boat and then finally the third time I got air. I have rafted a number of times, but this was the first time I genuinely feared for my life. I got thrown out on two other occasions. The final time was the worst, I back myself against the water, but not against the boat. I got sucked into a rapid, and the boat in front of me got pushed up against a rock. I saw the bow of the boat go up in the air, I put my foot up to save it crashing down on my head, but instead it slammed down like that scene in titanic and crushed me under the boat. I came up once under the boat, and literally licked the bottom of the boat. The Zambezi takes no prisoners, the day after a girl broke her leg and arm on one of the class 5 rapids. Awesome, but petrifying.

Whilst in Livingstone, I also went to a lion breeding programme sanctuary with 3 baby lions, they were super cute. One of them tried to chase a monkey up a tree and failed miserably. Falling from about 7 foot. Yep, in true fine form, I sneezed in their face too.

Since Livingstone we have had a couple of big driving days, lots of time to see the villages and watch the landscape change.

We have had a big change around of crew, thank god. We have gone from 18, down to 8. All bar 3 moved truck and headed back to Johannesburg, we have 3 more from the tour up, and a Canadian couple on their honeymoon that got married about 8 days ago. It is much MUCH better than the first lot. Mostly because the ozzie parading as a kiwi ringleader has no cheering monkeys to egg him on. He has become really quiet, moody and restrained. All good with me, I have no sympathy, yesterday when we managed to get internet and look at the election results, he told me for the last election he had voted for NZ First because he believed in their immigration policies. That will give you a bit of an opinion of him. On another note, we had a baboon run into the truck at Vic falls! A big baboon, and the only person in the truck was the guy (from now on I'm going to call him NZF for sake of simplicity, as there is a number of hilarious stories about him). NZF was so terrified he was pressed up against the inside of the truck screaming, 'shoot him! shoot him!'. The baboon just ran it, took a bag full of groceries and ran out. Couldn't have happened to a nicer person.

Our last days in Zambia are in the South Luangwa National Park, sitting in an amazing camp ground right on the river, with one of the highest concentrations of hippos. And I have an embankment and a canvas tent between me and them. I love how many indemnity forms you sign here in Africa.

In saying this it has been probably my favourite campsite yet. Although I woke up this morning to a monkey parliament next to the trucks upturned rubbish bin. I fought them off, until a baboon came over to replace them. I wisely decided to left that big bastard have whatever he wanted, and hid in the truck.

Tomorrow we head out to Malawi's Kande beach.

Posted by kayles 26.09.2014 01:09 Archived in Zambia Comments (0)

Botswana

sunny 27 °C

Botswana has been a a fleeting visit. From Namibia we travelled west into a country that's 85% desert, but with some of the most beautiful luscious wetlands I have ever seen.

Like a lot of Africa it is a country with stark contrasts. Botswana is arguably one of the most economically dependable and wealthy countries of Africa, due to its relatively stable political history and supply of diamonds. However when you look at this in relation to the San/Bushman population who have been slowly displaced from their nomadic lifestyle and now are a significant social welfare burden on the state you realise that having money doesn't solve everything in African society.

We spent some time with the San tribe just over the border from Namibia, they showed us their hunting techniques, their most important flora and how to utilise it and then showed us a bit of the traditional way of living. The San population is dwindling because of the pull of city life and the challenges of living nomadically in a country that has a lot of controlled national parks and protected areas.

From here we headed into the Okovango Delta where I went up on a scenic flight over the western corner of this expansive wetlands. It is a beautiful sight to see. Everywhere you look there is wildlife, stunning mixtures of blue water, green lush reeds and brown dry baked grass. It was probably one of the most stunningly surprising landscapes I have had the privilege of seeing.

Once back on the ground we swapped our wings for a paddle and jumped on a mokoro (traditional canoe) up into the Delta for the night under the stars. The camp was luxurious considering we have spent all but two nights on sleeping mats in tents - basically luxurious meant there was beds to sleep in, an 'ensuite' of long drop and bucket shower filled from the delta water and heated up on the fire and a three course dinner, eaten with our hands. Happiness filled. They treated us to some traditional song and dance after dinner and (once covered in insect repellant) I slept fantastically.

Before heading to bed though, I tried to take a photo of the stars. The Milky Way was amazingly bright as we were so far from city lights, however this didn't work. Mostly because if you want to take a photo of the stars you need a long exposure, right? So I had to get myself away from the tents, into the wilderness - fine you are thinking, a cheeky headlamp will guide your path, you'll be fine Kayleigh. You would be correct. However... for the exposure I had to stand in the middle of an national park with hyena, lion, elephants and god knows what other things for 30 seconds while the photo took in complete darkness. I should have been wearing brown pants, I was terrified. Nothing happened, but your head psychs you out. Every noise is amplified, every crunch is a predator, ever buzz is a malaria mosquito, every splash is a croc moving along the shore towards you. I tried twice, then after deciding that was an admiral attempt, I did the girliest thing I could do. I to my room, got into the bed and pulled up the covers as fast as I could!

This was increased when we stayed at an elephant camp, that basically had elephants roaming around everywhere, we had to sign a waiver just to pitch our tents. Pretty awesome, but there was a wee fear that I might wake up with an elephant foot crushing through my tent.

From there we headed to Chobe National park, I was a little hungover so I thought the sunset game cruise might be a little dull. I was wrong, there was a crazy amount wildlife, pretty cool to have a croc, hippo and elephant all I'm the same photo. Elephants fighting, buffalo herds, crocs and monkeys battling it out, we even had a patriotic hippo posing in front of the Botswana flag.

The night we stayed in the Elephant camp there was a hilarious truck moment. We had acquired a couple in Swakopmund that never really joined the group. Billy Connelly would call them a 'beige cardigan' of a couple. Anyway long story short the guy flipped out, complaining that the music was too loud, he had asked nicely and he was sick of it. Shouting, finger pointing, swearing and the like came out of him while the rest of us just sat there a little shocked. Mostly that someone would go from zero to hero quite so quickly, especially when you weren't even at zero more like minus 2.

Anyway the whole group one by one moved to the back of the truck (near the music and the cooler box) and opened a beer... It wasn't a planned activity everyone just individually banded together over a common 'enemy'. The couple then complained to the tour guide who told us to turn it down, so we did... But then we sung really loud instead. Then we got told to stop singing... Then the couple got moved up to the cab of the truck with the driver. Hilarious, it was probably the only time in the whole trip that everyone spent time together, 16 people against 2, very childish really. But as a positive we finally all talked to each other and generally had a good time... Until we broke the tables.... Haha... Good night.

Posted by kayles 19.09.2014 11:14 Archived in Botswana Comments (0)

The rains are on the way.

sunny 30 °C

I love Africa. However, I have a very strong dislike of my travel companions. I have never been in a situation where I have had no strong connection with anyone, to the point where I actively avoid some people and actually prefer my own company. It is pretty lonely.

I haven't really travelled within a tour group before, there are certainly lots of benefits - local knowledge, etc. But I really thought the friendship and comraderie would make the tour. 12 days in and it's not making it, it's breaking it.

I didn't come to Africa to make friends, but to spend every day surrounded by ignorance and laziness is wearing me down. I have been trying really hard to keep positive but it is hard. I have a racist and bigoted kiwi in the group who might be 'entertaining the masses' but he is an embarrassment to New Zealand, and I am ashamed to listen to his opinions as he prattles on incessantly, always being one better, one bigger and always with the last word.

I used to love travelling by myself. And I knew by coming to Africa without Iain I would be travelling by myself, which I was perfectly content with. Instead I am stuck with a bunch of people I would barely share an elevator with let alone an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I have decided that of the whole group, that was 22, I would only invite 2 to my house. I am not even adding people on Facebook. So I can keep my blogs and my opinions to myself. To my long reading bloggies, these people are worse than The Edward experience.

It is going to be a long trip, but as a benefit to those following my travels, I will always have blogs for you, and my photos are my dedication for the next 30 odd days.

I am in Africa, I have resided to the fact I will have to enjoy it alone. Or at least with the hum of stupid conversations or awkward silence in the background.

Posted by kayles 12.09.2014 06:43 Archived in Botswana Comments (0)

Animal Crackers

sunny 30 °C

So we have just spent 2 days in the Etosha National Park and have been out game driving. I have lots of animals to add to my arsenal of ever increasing photos. Each one has own personality and is a lot of fun to imagine their little animal conversations with each other. Weird I know. But that's why you love me.

Elephant: This was the first animal we saw. A lone elephant chilling out in the shade of a tree, after this I saw a number at the floodlit watering hole including a couple of bubs. They marched in holding tail to trunk, it was possibly the cutest thing ever. It was also the most difficult thing to photograph (no flash), hence you just have to imagine 9 or 10 odd elephants all in a line swinging their connected tails and trunks. Awesome. Also the little one in the waterhole during the day had a big old swim and then got out and chased the birds. Baby elephants are so cool. I think I can definitely fit one in my one bedroom apartment as a pet. Body corporate would be fine.

Giraffe: There were hundreds of these lumbering creatures in the park. I have always associated them with poise and elegance, I think due to their long neck. But they are un-co as, well, as un-co as me. They run like Phoebe on Friends, they walk like a tommy tippy cup but the most hilarious thing to watch is giraffes drinking. Head down half way, then they bob back up wary of predators, then half way down again, then up. This process goes along for a while before they awkwardly move their front legs apart, and finally take a drink. Imagine someone with full broken leg casts and crutches trying to pick up a coin from the sidewalk. That's what it looks like. I couldn't help but laugh every time.

Rhino: At one point I was at the water hole and there was a couple of rhino, elephants and giraffe and I thought to myself what a prehistoric environment it was. It looked like another planets creatures. The rhino is such a lumbering monster, I watched a couple of black rhinos have a big fight, once they have prodded at each other with their horns, they just throw their weight at each other. A little bit like a rugby scum, I found myself watching, and saying crouch, touch, engage.

Deery, antelopey, galloping creatures: We say millions of springbok, I don't say that lightly, they are everywhere... I didn't really think about them as animals but a walking buffet dinner for lions. Everytime I saw one by itself, I would try and taunt the predators to eat it. If I was allowed out of the truck, I'd eat it, they are delicious. We also saw oryx, impala and kudu.

Zebra: I know I should put these in the one above, but I heart zebra so I am giving them it's own paragraph. These stripey little guys are the bootylicious creature of the Etosha Park, for some reason they are just as entertaining to look at from behind, as from the front. Their little pudgy bellies and their ability to blend together but stand out as individuals are cool beans. I think I would have been sad if I had seen one being eaten by a lion. Won't stop me having one for dinner tonight though in Windhoek (the Capital of Namibia), before heading off to Botswana tomorrow.

Cats: Lions are lazy little bastards. Lying around all the time in the grass, just out of sight. Grrrr. How am I meant to take a good photo of you if you do that? I have a lot of photos of lion looking shadows. Although we did watch 2 young male lions sleeping yesterday, and one rolled over to put his legs in the air. I also had a lion alarm clock this morning, the sound of roaring from outside my tent woke me up. I saw a big male lion at the watering hole overnight, but it's much easier to hear him than see him. Crickey they are loud. No leopard sightings or cheetah unfortunately. But I have had a big fill of cheetah the other day, so I am good for a few days.... I was going to check how a baby elephant and a baby cheetah would get on as room mate... But it turn out am so highly evolved that I am allergic to cheetah. I know, what a lameo huh? So apparently if your allergic to cats you will be allergic to cheetah. Imagine a normal sized allergic reaction to a normal sized cat, now supersize it. That was me sneezing in the cheetahs face. We will never be best mates. Screw you cheetah.

We also got to see some hyena, mongoose, lots of birds and a bunch of other stuff. So it's back to civilisation for a while, and then off to Botswana.

Posted by kayles 10.09.2014 20:53 Archived in Namibia Comments (0)

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