A Travellerspoint blog

Transitions and remembering old friends

Day 56, 25 March 2011

YEP, I STILL LOVE LONDON

We landed at Hethrow at about 5am, rushed through to immigration, grabbed our bags and got out asap. Unfortunately they wouldn’t let us into the arrivals lounge so we set up in a coffee shop to sort ourselves out. We got in touch with my friend Mel and C’s friend Ewan and rearranged our bags to be able to leave most of the stuff at the left luggage counter (C- luggage storage rates are extortionate)..

We made our way into town, jumping off at Piccadilly Circus and meandering through Covent Garden, along the Strand past St Pauls to Bank station. It was a cold but beautiful blue sky morning and it bought back every good memory I had of the place.

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We met Mel in Clapham at 10 and had a great long catch up. She is going well with her pregnancy and is absolutely glowing. We made our way up to Holburn and met Ewan – for a beer, then headed back to Covent Garden to the outdoor gear shops. After much consternation we located what we needed and by about 4pm headed back toward the airport.
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Terminal 5 at hethrow is phenomenal, we dumped our bags, then bustled through security and did a bit of duty free shopping with our last pounds. After locating the lounge we had showers and tried to get ready for our next part of the adventure.

We only just realized that it was time to go at 8:55 to make it to the gate for our 9:25 flight. We sprinted down through to the monorail transport, up two long flights of escaladers and along the concourse to be told that we weren’t the last ones! (C- surprisingly our fitness is still ok when adrenalin is involved)

We squashed onto our flight (I swear that BA seats are smaller than any others we’ve been on) and settled in for the long haul.

Posted by ourlife 18:04 Comments (0)

Zimbawe, the final stop in Africa

Victoria Falls, a lesson on getting drenched

Day 54, 23 March 2011

After packing down camp we made our way to the Zimbabwe boarder. We didn’t have a great perspective on this crossing, as our guides mentioned that it may take hours and there may be a few police stops that could ‘take a while’. However after waiting about 20mins and having a few truck inspections (avoiding paying them bribes) we got through and zoomed down to Vic Falls. The scenery is much the same as Botswana, very green, and difficult to see much from the road, but soon enough we got to the outskirts of the town Vic Falls and saw the plume of smoke coming from the falls.

We got to camp, set up – well c and I moved into our room, went and found some $$$ and signed up for our activities. After our last tour lunch we walked down to the falls and were set free within the park. It was phenomenal. The amount of water rushing down was amazing. We went from being hot, to a bit wet, to absolutely soaking. The water is pushed down so hard that it creates a big rain mist that hits anyone standing on the other side. This is why it’s called the smoke that thunders. The waterproof camera held up well and C managed to stay partially dry from his waterproof jacket (except for the sweat). We wandered back through town and bought a funky wall hanging.

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We headed off on our sunset cruise after 4 and had a great time chatting with everyone on our tour, while the rest of the people looked for hippos and animals (we’ve seen enough). There was way too much alcohol freely available, and after being limited to beer for too long, we indulged (Me in gin and Fanta and C with rum). By the time we finished we were both pretty greased (C a little more than others). We went back and changed and walked down to meet the rest of the tour group for dinner.

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I had an interesting crocodile steak for diner which was better than we’d tried before, but still a bit tough. C hiccupped throughout dinner and when we got back to the campsite, relieved himself of the rum ( and dinner) on a tree outside our chalet.

Day 55, 24 March 2011

We were up early and packing today. Luckily our antics from the previous night didn’t hurt too much so we were able to get it done without too much pain. Although we’d bought another bag we decided to try to fit everything into our usual two big backpacks – we did well.

After breakfast we were picked up for our last African adventure – a helicopter ride over the falls. This was something that I was really looking forward to. It was awesome. Although there were very different safety ideas than home (no safety briefing or instructions here) we were soon whisked up into the sky and headed to the falls. It was only twelve minutes but I could be convinced it was a lot more. The pilot did about four long figure eights around the falls and it really helped us to see the enormity of it all. The only down fall is that C now wants a helicopter licence!

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Wendy's camera 444


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Exhilarated and beaming we made our way back to camp. C had made friends with a Canadian dentist who had a better camera so he downloaded the pics from his camera. I went to say my goodbyes to everyone on the tour and eventually we were picked up to be taken to the airport.

After spending a few more $ on a special ‘Shona stone’ sculpture and some presents we boarded our flight to J’burg. Once there we managed to scam our friend Dan into the lounge where we all lazed until our 8pm flight.

It’s strange that when you’re in Africa it doesn’t seem to be a big deal, but now (from South America), it’s unbelievable that we managed to see and experience co much. I suppose it is kind of bitter sweet that we don’t get to see more – but get to move onto a new continent.

Posted by ourlife 17:40 Comments (0)

Chobe, land of the leopard

Day 53

Day 53 22, March 2011

What is a better way to start the day than going looking for animals in an open top jeep? We had a very early start at 5:00 to get out into Chobe. There were lots of tour 4WDs around but we still managed to see some hippos, lions and got quite up close and personal with a big bull elephant (C- W thought it was a little too close, particularly when the engine was turned off and the other vehicle had kept its going). We have a few hours now, until going out on a sunset cruise to see more.

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A better way is to finish the day on a sunset cruise, watching elephants frolic in the water and then get within10m of a leopard for 30 mins! We were a bit skeptical, but ended up being very lucky.

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A few of our crew were fully kitted out with the photography gear, but our little snap snaps did very well in capturing some of the beauty. We out ran a nasty storm and enjoyed a spectacular sunset on the top of the boat.

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Dinner, showers and general house keeping followed.

Posted by ourlife 14:53 Archived in Botswana Comments (0)

Okavango Delta - the Venice of Africa

Days 50 to 52

sunny 40 °C

Day 50, 18 March 2011

After packing up camp we headed off to the Botswanan boarder (C -they have the happiest immigration officers in the world there!). After a quick shop in a very dodgy supermarket (C- at a place called ‘shikawe’, renamed ‘fikawe’, as in where the f**ck are we?) we got to the ferry crossing.

Miraculously, our guide Jennie, managed to reverse the truck onto the tiny ferry (that sank at least 3 inches when the truck loaded) and we made the river crossing. We then had a long, hot, and very bumpy drive to the Umvuvu Camp in the Delta where we met our mocorro drivers. I think that traditionally the mocorros were made out of wood, but they’re now made out of fiber glass – essentially it’s a canoe pushed by a stick in the water.

After lunch we loaded the boats and set off into the Delta. It was pretty cool. Each boat has a driver who stands at the back with a long stick and ‘poles’ you through the reeds. We called it ‘Venice in Africa’, but you also have to add that there are 1000s of bugs flying around, landing on you – down your top. My fears of spiders, frogs and grasshoppers had to dissipate very quickly (it was kind of taken over by the fear of falling in and being eaten by a hippo or a croc…).

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Luckily I didn’t get a rash from the grass, but poor C’s hay fever flared up from the clouds of pollen and he was sneezing like buggery. After what seemed like a lifetime, we made it to the bush camp (a rustic toilet and no showers) and set up our tents. We then were taken off on a sunset mocorro to see the hippos. We eventually found a few and saw the sunset and made it back to camp in time for dinner.

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Day 51 19 March 2011

We were taken out quite early on the Mocorros – unfortunately we were the pioneers, at the front of the group so we copped the brand new spider webs, bugs and pollen. C had taken a few antihistamines and he added a face mask so his sneezing wasn’t too bad (but he looked like a bandit). I was over it after the first 10 mins – but we went around and around until we got to another island. We did a game walk but didn’t manage to see much – a lot of fresh dung and tracks. We endured another long Mocorro trip back to camp then we packed up and went to the next camp. It was frighteningly hot when we made it – luckily this camp had permanent tents, toilets and showers so after dumping our gear we had lunch and cooled off in the shower. We could have swum in the delta, but apparently there is a worm here that gets into your body and eats your organs – not nice.

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We had a lazy afternoon a yummy dinner and a few drinks while we played Texas hold’em Poker. (C –James, you would have been disappointed with me, I was the first out!)

Day 52, 20 March 2011

We had our last mocorro trip early this morning, thankfully there weren’t as many bugs, and got back to the truck about 9am. After bumping all the way back to the ferry, we waited about 30 mins for our turn and made the trip back. We stopped at ‘Fikawe’ again and crossed the boarder back into Namibia and drove towards camp. Unfortunately we couldn’t get to the planned camp because it was flooded so we went back to Rainbow Camp.

You’ll be happy to hear that C shaved his beard off. It was getting to annoying for him (and I’d had enough of it. C- which reason holds more weight?). Everyone on the tour thinks it looks funny because they don’t know him without it, but it looks normal to me. (C- although W is now eyeing off my hair and claims it is too long and needs to be trimmed.)

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We had a few drinks and snuck off to bead at a reasonable time. (C -there were some Swedish girls at the camp, the seem to keep a few of the boys going until some ridiculous hours - ?a benefit of being married?).

Posted by ourlife 14:42 Archived in Botswana Tagged bugs fever hay mocorros Comments (0)

Swakapmund to the Ocavango

Days 43 to 49

sunny

Day 43, 11 March 2011

Sand boarding today! We got up and dressed in our grubbiest clothing as we predicted that it would get trashed. After a quick coffee away we went in one of the vans toward the dunes of the Namibia desert that were only about 20 mins out of town.

After a brief drive we saw the dunes, they were pretty impressive. We were given an initial demonstration of how to use the ‘Kalahari Ferrari’ (a 3 x 5 sheet of particle board), and away we went, walking up the dune. It was bloody hot. We secretly laughed when we found out we got the ‘cooler’ walks up the dunes and the sand boarders we going to have to walk up the longest dune with snow boarding boots on, carrying their boards.

They said that we would start on the easy incline dunes (W – I disagree it was very steep!). Toward the end of her first run, W dropped her hands to stop instead of stopping with her feet and as a result covered herself in sand.

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We did a few other cool runs and then tried the tandem. W volunteered the front position purely on the basis the first person had to be flexible and keep the back break person under control and encourage them to keep the breaks ( ie hands) on the ground. It sort of worked but instead of breaking I made us go faster.

Then I accepted the challenge of jumping the board off the sand boarders’ jump. I managed to get over the jump and roll, but managed to break the board on landing it. The guys running it didn’t mind – they said it would have been a fluke if I didn’t.

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We graduated to the fastest speed runs where they actually use a speed gun to note how fast you get. I managed to beat our tour leader with a speed of 75 km/hr, W clocked a respectable 71km/hr (W-It is as fast as it sounds). We had a great time doing a few more speed runs, then had lunch and a well deserved beer at the bottom of the dunes. We were a mess – sand everywhere.

The afternoon was spent catching up on more emails and admin and then we went home to chill out. After a few games of Euchre we headed out to a bar to meet everyone else – had a few beers then stumbled home.

Day 44, 12 March 2011

Today we drove to Spitzkoppe via the Cape Fur seal colony. The smell of a couple of thousand seals is burned into our nasal passages for the rest of time. Although the pups with their big brown eyes do look very cute, if only for the smell!

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We went on to the bush camp at Spitzkoppe. As soon as we set up the tents down came the rain and wind. The rain was very intense to begin. It poured off the volcanic rocks and then formed makeshift rivers, right through the middle of the camp

The canopy attached to the truck started to lift itself off the hooks and those that were smart took shelter in the bus. W and I decided to be adventurous and run around in the rain, making sure that the tents were secure and cleaning up floating rubbish. We followed one of the water paths and found a waterfall, a bit brisk, but the water pressure was great.

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It eased off and we eventually setup camp and turned in early. It rained on and off throughout the night, but we managed to stay mostly dry.

Day 45, 13 March 2011

We started early and surveyed the damage, we managed to stay relatively dry- our bags were a bit damp though. We packed up and had breakfast and then made a move.

We were warned at the beginning of the drive that when given the command, we had to hold on or brace because the road could be bumpy- always encouraging. A bit of a drive and we made it to Etosha national park.

We setup tents and bits of gear to dry off and went on an afternoon game drive. W and I were looking for the animals we hadn’t seen close up, ie rhinos and leopards, but everyone else were still at the wow, a zebra stage. It is wet season at the moment so the grass is long and there is lots of water around, so it is very green and very hard to find the large animals.

We tried the watering hole later near the camp and continued out into the savanna. We saw some giraffes, springbok and some birds. We feel bad as W and I are still comparing the animals to what we saw at the crater and Serengeti.

The rules about getting back to camp by sunset are quite strict. If you don’t get inside the gates of camp by 7.30pm for lockdown, apparently it’s a US$500 fine.

Dinner was the ultimate indulgence, burgers and chips. I had two helpings. We went to the bar and I killed my target in the game of murder with a towel and then found out they had my name, so I had committed suicide! We had a nice cold beer to calm me down and charged the laptop and now bringing the blog up to date.

Day 46, 14 March 2011

Game driving day. I, (C), am back on kitchen duty.

It was a reasonably early start so we could get out looking for animals early. We followed a big salt lake and kept branching off to the water holes. We saw bits and pieces – but generally it was a long hot boring day in the truck.

We stopped by a lookout point on the salt lake and set up lunch. W went out onto the salt lake and came back claiming it ‘was very warm’. After lunch we were back on the truck to continue to hunt for animals – but most of us had a snooze.

After a lot of driving (a lot more giraffes, oryx and springbok) late in the afternoon we stumbled upon a rhino, which was lazing in the afternoon sun. Initially we thought it was dead, but occasionally it would stir.

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We continued on and saw lion, but he wasn’t moving very much either. Luckily we spotted a pride of lions at the last moment before we had to get inside the camp gates before curfew.

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Day 47, 15 March 2011

Today we left Etosha and spent some of the morning in Tsumib doing some grocery shopping. A window on the truck smashed in Spitzkop so the leaders tried to find replacement glass with no luck. Eventually we made it to camp and set up. We set off to go to the bushman tour but as we drove along the highway we were stopped for the best part of 15mins whilst a police officer inspected our vehicle. We all think she was trying to get a bribe.

It was a graded road most of the way but then we hit the sandy strip. Holding on was fun.

The Bushmen tour was very interesting. I think we’ve explained that the Sun Bushman were the local native people, but now have been forced to move into society. The tour was about their traditional ways. We were a bit taken aback when the guide turned up with little more than a square inch of leather covering his privates. We were shown how the Bushmen found the traditional plants and what they were used for. About half way through the tour it started to pour so we were herded in the makeshift reed shelters. We followed the locals and divided males and females into each shelter.

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(W – it was really interesting to be squashed into a space with 11 women and four babies – none of whom spoke any English – and some were all topless). Apparently the locals were very envious of wendy’s long hair and kept on stroking it and draping over their own heads and admiring themselves.

We bought some souvenirs, W chose bracelet and I chose a traditional Bushman’s ‘multi-purpose tool’. It is hand axe with rotating blade, knife in the handle and also able to be used as a pipe. Customs may have field day with me though.

After we finished we heard them singing about their good fortune with sales.

We jumped back on the truck and headed towards camp.

Whilst we were away it had poured with rain at camp. The tent was fine, but walking towards the tent took longer as we had to detour on high ground and not get stuck in the mud.

During the night it rained again and we had to shut the rain fly completely, it makes everything very dark and very disorientating.

Day 48, 16 March 2011

Today was predominantly filled with driving and finding a window in Rundu. W & I
walked around town and tried to catch up on some internet. Oh! how we miss the internet at home! The speed, the security and the ease of use!

We found a coffee shop and W found two new doggy friends.

After a nice piece of carrot cake we headed off to post the postcards. I was told that it was a 15 min walk. We no longer trust Africans’ sense of distance. It was a 25 min walk and time was against us as we had 20mins to get back to meeting point. But when we got there we found it bustling and we had to line up behind about 7 people just to get postcard stamps. You better appreciate the postcards people!

Anyway, with about 10 mins to go we got the stamps and then posted the cards and ran back to the truck.

Whilst we were away the dragoman tour truck coming from north Africa also arrived in Rundu. We hitched a ride to our truck and inspected their vehicle, we definitely had the better truck! We spoke to their passengers and compared experiences.

They also stole Mash, our cook, due to their cook having visa issues. No one was very happy about that. Apparently they had also been shot at by bandits in northern Kenya and been bogged quite few times. Sounds like fun?

When we were back on the road (with a piece of Perspex for the window) we were told that we couldn’t make it to the camp was flooded and the other tour group had gotten bogged that morning. So we headed off to ‘rainbow camp’.

Our tour leader, Jennie, has now also taken on cooking duties until we (hopefully) get Mash back.

We planned for a rest day the next day to help people get the laundry done and recharge, so dinner was relaxed and few too many drinks were consumed. Afterwards everyone went to the bar. People had stocked up on bags of goon and started trading and mixing white and red wine – not a good idea. We escaped at a reasonable hour – without having had too much goon (maybe you do get more sensible as you get older).

Day 49, 17 March 2011

6mth wedding anniversary! We can’t believe all that palaver was only six months ago.

The golden rule about not mixing drinks is a very good one. The morning afterwards there were plenty of examples of why you do not mix red and white goon and shots. Enough said.

We’re now catching up photos and writing the blog and generally recharging (Including the computer and our own batteries).

A relaxed day, W is practicing her Spanish – can’t believe we only have a week until we’re in South America!

W - Later that day we went on a sunset cruise, on the Okavango river on a very basic boat. It took us up to see the Popa falls which, because it is wet season, were not very much more than some rapids. Our guide then took us down to the hippo area and we got quite close to a few big hippos. You cannot see much of the hippos except for their eyes and ears, but you have to assume that most of the rest of them (even some other hippos) are still under water. We did get to see a few playing in the water. Our guide also let us know that his friend was doing a tour in a smaller boat that was knocked over by a hippo and as they were swimming to the shore one of the tourists was taken by a croc….I was happy to get safely back to dry land.

We had a quiet night, celebrating our anniversary with a gin and tonic, looking over the river and listening to the hippos.

Posted by ourlife 14:25 Archived in Namibia Tagged desert driving tour Comments (0)

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