A Travellerspoint blog


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)

There are no rain out here in Africa...

sunny 34 °C

Namibia is a country of everything. Deserts, beaches, mountains, culture and Animals. I have been spoilt by Namibia. Of all of the countries we visit, we spend the longest in Namibia. I am very glad.

So far we have stayed in amazing 'resort' like campgrounds, back country campgrounds, on rocks under the stars, in hostels and in cheetah parks among others.

We have hiked around the Fish River Canyon, been in the worlds oldest desert, taken selfies in the Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei, been quad biking, sand boarding, seen ship wrecks on the Skeleton Coast, and patted Cheetahs. I could die now and be happy. But every day there is a new excitement to find around the corner. We'll more like 200kms down a frighten dusty road.

There are a couple of very interesting people on my trip. I'm sure more details will follow as the blogs go on, but in the mean time I have:
- the most complaining and underprepared Canadian, who has been sick since day 2,
- the loud obnoxious one, who despite being 29 and a kiwi acts like a 21 year old Ozzie,
- the ridiculously overweight smelly one... With a stroke of brilliance, is my tent partner,
- the 'at-one-with-the world' silent hippy dreaded vegetarian, and
- a couple of 'I don't drink' 19 year old Danish girls, loads of fun.
It's a real mixed bag, after 10 days people are starting to loosen up, but I will be surprised if I connect with more than one or 2 on my return to civilisation.

So far we have seen oryx, springbok and kudu, mountain zebra, baboons, cheetah and a couple of cool birds (zazu from Lion King) a scorpion (under my tent). Of that count, I have eaten the first 3.

In terms of radhaz Kayleigh moments or stupid things I have happen to me (that I'm sure you have been waiting on). I almost flip the quad bike, I found out I am allergic to cheetah, I have twerked with locals to their hilarity, chosen the worst tent mate, got sand in my camera and fallen down a sand dune. So standard really.

We have a couple more days beef or we head to Botswana, but I feel like so many things have happened. My intention was to do blog a country, but if I do that, it ends up as lists. I have learnt an African country can not be simplified into a black and white paragraph for page 17. It is living and breathing, it is divided and united, it is varied further than I could have ever imagined. No one word can describe Namibia and it's people, nor should it.

Posted by kayles 10.09.2014 09:28 Archived in Namibia Comments (0)

Cape Town, my new home?

semi-overcast 18 °C

After a 4 hour delay in Dubai sitting in a giant flying tin can with a broken computer, sitting on the runway in 40 degrees I finally arrived in Cape Town in the dark, rain and to a taxi that cost me more than 3 nights accommodation.

The shock of the cold from Dubai was not as bad as I thought, so the next day I headed for a hike up Lions Head and Table Mountain. I thought to myself a number of times (actually was talking out loud to myself at points) that maybe I should have told someone where I was going... But seen as I hadn't, I thought I had better man up and not fall.

When I arrived at Table Mountain car park the lady at the kiosk, told me the view from the top was rubbish because of the low lying cloud, so I headed off on a city sight seeing bus, and went up later in the afternoon, before hiking back to meet my crew.

The first day in Cape Town was great. I had lovely weather, amazing sights and it was generally a beautiful experience. I decided it would be one of the few places I could live in. In saying that, my liveability of a city based on three things:
1) Mountain and sea front ratio to flat land,
2) The requirement and adherence to the law for cars stopping at pedestrian crossings and red lights, and
3) The ability to flush toilet paper.

I don't ask for much.

However my second day in Cape Town was a very different experience. Still wonderful and unique, but of an area very much ignored by the city sight seeing tour bus. We all know the struggle for South Africa to rid itself from the shackles of apartheid, and from an international perspective they display that everything is fixed, everything is sorted now. They exude the image that 20 years since, the Rainbow country had caught up with the rest of the world. This image is so far from the truth.

The townships on the outside of Cape Town, particularly the original 'District 6' now named Langa was a harrowing experience. The so called 'past' is still very present to its occupants. The definition of township, is quote unquote 'where the black people live' and it is essentially slums. But unlike other slums that capture the world attention, these are removed from the tourist eye by proximity to the city. On the road between airport and the city is partitioned by 1 row of nice government paid for houses. To keep up he facade. Everything behind is a shanty town, houses made of corrugated iron or hostels where up to 6 families will live in 6 rooms. 3 beds a room. We were taken around by a guide who lives in the township, he told us the people in the community don't want anything apart from awareness. It definitely made me aware. Aware of a culture that portrays itself as 'fixed' but has a long way to go to mend the wounds of the previous generations.

But it's not an easy fix, Cape Town and the surrounding suburbs are 2 different ends of the scale, it's as if the city took the bit of the African culture it likes and forcibly excludes the parts it doesn't. It's sad to see a city so full of barbed wire and electric fences to keep the 'have-nots' out. The black and coloured communities are still in the lower service professions, and someone asked me, 'What jobs are Maori people allowed to have?' It's hard to shift something that's so endemic.

We head out of the city through a vineyard. I have always been told the only thing South African wine is good for, is cleaning the driveway. However on this occasion it wasn't half bad, not sure if the sheer quantity helped, or the delicious dinner that followed.

We head out to Namibia from here....

Posted by kayles 10.09.2014 09:22 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

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