Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Livingstone, Zambia Part 2

So the plan for today was to go and watch Tom bungi jump off the bridge between Zambia & Zimbabwe and then continue our way accross the bridge into Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls from the other side, but at breakfast we learned that Zambia might give us a hard time about leaving for the day on our single visit visas, but we set off with high hopes.

Tom's bungi jump was 111 metres and I had a hard time watching him do it, but I managed to get a video of it, which I hope to share once I get to an internet connection which isn't super slow!

Unfortunately before getting to Tom's jump, we had to pass through Zambia's immigration where we learned they would charge us US$50 if we wanted to come back into Zambia, cause they've changed the rules and don't let you cross over just for the day anymore.  So our original plan of US$30 for Zimbabwe's visa plus US$10 for entry into Victoria Falls turned into a US$90 for the day instead of US$40, which we had all decided anything under US$50 was acceptable . . . so after the jump, we just turned back around & went back to The Waterfront campsite.  We actually weren't even allowed to cross the white line on the bridge which divides the two countries, but Sara being Sara of course put both feet over the line and before getting a photo was told to step back, so I have no photo evidence of it, but I know I was there!

Once back at the campsite, we had lunch and just relaxed in the sun by the Zambezi River.  Now off to grab some dinner . . .

Monday, 22 February 2010

Travel Facts about places I've been thus far

Masai Mara National Reserve is in the south-western area of Kenya. Named after the Masai people (the traditional inhabitants) and their description of the area when looked from far away and "Mara" which is Maa (local language) for spotted (description for the trees, scrub, savannah and cloud shadows in the area).  It covers 1530 square kilometers.

Serengeti National Park in Tanzania is most famous for it's annual migration of over 1.5 million white bearded wildebeest and 200,000 zebra. The park covers 14,763 square kilometers (5,700 square miles) of grassland plains as well as riverine forest and wooded areas. It's located in the north of the country, bordering Kenya on the northborder, where it is continuous with the Masai Mara National Reserve and just to the south-east is Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), which we visited as well.

The NCA is situated 180 kilometers (112 miles) west of Arusha in the Crater Highland area of Tanzania.  the Ngorongoro Crater, a large, unbroken, unflooded volcanic caldera, which formed from a giant volcano explotion followed by it collapsing on itself about three million years ago, it is 610 meters (2,000 feet) deep and its covers 260 square meters (100 square miles).  The estimated height of the original volcano ranges from 15 to 19 thousand feet (4500 to 5800 metres) high.  We spent one night sleeping on the rim of this crater & then went for a morning game drive inside the crater.  The NCA also holds Olduvai Gorge which is in the flat area and considered to be the seat of humanity since the discovery of the earliest known specimens of the human beaings. This excavation work was pioneered by Louis Leakey and his wife Mary back in the 1950s and is still going on today thanks to their family.

Lake Malawi is the third largest in Africa and the 8th in the world and second deepest in lake in Africa and an African Great Lake.  It borders Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique. This great lake's tropical waters supposedly has more species of fish than any other lake on the Earth.  It is 580 kilometers long, but only 75 kilometers wide at it's widest point.  The lake also supports large populations of snails, some of which are known to carry , a reason I never swam in the water, cause I sure as heck don't want to have schisto, but then maybe some of my mates in London and Saranac Lake could do research on me - LOL.

Victoria Falls also called Mosi-oa-Tunya (the Mist that Thunders) is a water fall located on the Zambezi River and considered to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world.  It was first recorded viewing of the falls was by David Livingstone the Scottish missionary.  Even though it is not the highest or widest in the world, it clains to be the largest based on it's widthe of 1,708 meters (5,600 feet) and 108 meters high (360 feet), making it the largest sheet of falling water in the world.  Apparently 1,000 cubic meters per second fall over the falls, which equals tons of water as well - CRAZY huh?

Livingstone, Zambia

We arrived into Livingstone yesterday afternoon around 2pm, after driving in the rain all morning long.  The rainy season is Southern Africa is in full swing & everything is soaking wet at this point.  Sara woke up in a puddle this morning, literally a puddle!  The mattress had kept her mostly dry, but the edges of the sleeping bag which had slipped off the sides were very wet & goodness only knows when it will dry, since the weather is forecasted to rain for next 10 days (aka the rest of our trip).

Upon arriving in Livingstone, we went straight to Victoria Falls for 2 hours - what fun to see - Niagra Falls is apparently 1/5 the size, but since Sara has never been to NF she cannot compare, except to say that Victoria Falls is breathtaking!  It was almost sunny during our time at the falls, which considering how wet it's been the past few days was a miracle :-) Sara was able to take a few photos, but some times the spray from the falls was so heavy that she couldn't take photos without risking ruining her camera with water damage.

In front of the falls there is a walking bridge, which Sara went on cause the mist/spray from the falls was so heavy she couldn't see how high up she was and therefore wasn't scared to cross it - lol.  In doing so, anything that wasn't covered by her raincoat got DRENCHED, but was able to dry since it was reasonably warm for the rest of the time.  Sara got to see some people bungy jump off the bridge which goes to Zimbabwe & decided NEVER in a million years would she ever even think about doing that, I mean for goodness sakes you all know what a woose she is about going on rollar coasters, can you imagine her going on something like that???

We'll be here in Livingstone for the next 3 nights and then we head to Botswana and then South Africa.

This morning as I was walking from our tent to the buffet breakfast which is offered with our camping fees I almost thought I was in Florida for a second.  The grass is the same type as I remember from my aunt & grandmother's yards in FL and there are many palm trees and the small after the rain in FL is similar to here as well.  Plus it's the type of rain which isn't so bad since it's warm weather you never really feel cold, just WET!

Hi all, Sara here, just wanted to say quickly that I have to be honest, I'm getting a bit sick & tired of camping in the rain.  I love camping, but camping in the rain for a week straight where you wake up with a puddle in your tent is not exactly my idea of a holiday!  But to be honest, compared to some others I'm with I'm dealing with the weather quite well.  Today my tent mate, Stef & I decided to upgrade to a "permenant tent" which is only slightly larger than our travelling tent, but it's up on a cement slab (so no waking up in a puddle), had electricity (small lamp & fan) and 2 beds in it - smaller than Boy Scout tents which I spent many a summer in, but to be dry is very important, as I've been sneezing a lot & woke up with a sore throat today.  Last thing in the world I want is to get sick right now!!  Only 9 more nights before I'm in Jo'burg & then I fly to Sydney, Australia - YIPEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!  I'm really looking forward to that . . . not to say I'm not enjoying this as I am, but I've been wanting to go to Australia since I was about 10!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Lusaka, Zambia

Last time we wrote I think we still in Kande Beach, Malawi, right?  Well since then Sara has been to Livingstonia, for one last night in Malawi, where it POURED starting at 3am & kept on going through to lunch time the following day - making camping oh so much fun, cause who doesn't love setting up & putting away tents in the pouring rain??  Luckily I get to stay locked safely away in the truck & rarely need to get soaking wet :-)

Sara likes to call Malawi the land of 1,000 one lane bridges, cause there are hundreds of little rivers going to & from Lake Malawi.

From there we drove across the border into Zambia yesterday, stopping in Chipata, Zambia, just over the border for the night at Mama Hula's campsite, which was rather non-descript and again with the rainy season here in Southern Africa, we didn't see much but the inside of the bar, where we were able to watch Tiger Woods give a 15 minute speech . . . not that any of us were really interested, but that's what was on before dinner.

Today we drove what feels like a million miles, but probably only about 600km to reach Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, where we've stopped at a little mall, similar to Aviation Mall in Glens Falls, New York.

Tomorrow we drive another long day to Livingstone, near Victoria Falls where we will set up camp for 4 nights, woo hoo to not moving for a few days!!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Kande, Malawi Part 2

Our last full day here at Kande Beach Campsite in Kande, Malawi.  Yesterday Sara & friends had pancakes, scrambled eggs, baked beans and hot chocolate for breakfast, before heading off on a village walk.  Once out of the gate about 12 local guys started following them & trying to make friends (aka trying to sell their paintings & bracelets).  First stop was just down the beach away to visit a day care centre, run by an Aussie woman.  They have 70 children, 2 "classrooms", 2 staff members and 2 teachers.  The children are from 2 to 5 years old, they arrive at 06.30 have lessons until 08.00 when they have a break for tea, then back to lessons until 10.00 when they get porridge, and they are done by noon, when they go home to their families, returning at 14.00 for a similar schedule to the morning.  They were singing twinkle twinkle little star when Sara arrived & it reminded her of her first violin recital, when she played that song 5 different ways, to the agony of all the parents who'd come to listen.

Second stop was a 20 minute walk through a corn field, which was super hot & humid & of course in direct sun, to see the primary school.  The principle invited us in "chat" and explain that there are 1200 students and only 10 teachers, but the reason it works is that education is optional, so the students who are there are there because they want to be, which makes their behavior on the whole much better than Western children (he didn't say that, but Sara thinks that's what he was implying).

After that they headed over to the local clinic, which consists of 3 rooms, OB/GYN, Infectious Disease, and office.  There are 3 people working there, a training General Practictioner (from Europe), a self trained mid-wife (local man) and an assistant.  They deal with 2000 cases of malaria a month he said and second to that is HIV care.  They have the facilities only to deliver babies, give malaria blood tests, and hand out malaria drugs, anything beyond that gets sent to the local hopsital which is 70km away & with only one ambulance to service 7 "local" hospitals, they lose many patients before they even get to the hospital for care.  They'd just had a baby born the evening before we arrived & luckily all had gone well, especially considering their blood pressure cuff and stethoscope are both broken, so all they can do is assist her in a natural birth, if there had been any complications they're sure both would not have survived because it was after dark & therefor impossible to get to the hospital.  Glad they were there to hear about the happy ending!

From there, the group headed back through the village centre to have lunch with a local family, a meal of rice, beef stew, and spinach.  Then back to the campsite around 13.30.

Everyone was a sweaty mess from all the walking around all morning in the sun, so they all relaxed on the beach, before their lovely dinner of roasted lamb, fried green beans & eggplant, roasted baby potaotes, and cold slaw and a fancy dress party, where they all bought each other an outfit - the photos are too funny, Sara wishes the internet connection where faster so she could upload the photos, as they're hysterical, but once in Aus she should be able to get all these back logged photos up for your viewing pleasure.

Tomorrow we're off to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi for a night before heading into Zambia the following day.  Not sure when our next stop with internet access is, but will update when we can!

Monday, 15 February 2010

Kande Beach, Malawi

Sorry it's been so long since I last wrote, but Zanzibar has been having a problem for the past 2 months of not having electricity on their island, which means no internet access!  It was a cute little island, we spent the first night in Stone Town, where we eat locally caught fish in a restaurant over looking the water & sunset.  The following morning we went on a Spice Tour & learned that cinnamon is actually bark, not a stick at all, who knew?  We got to try lots of spices, cardamon, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon grass, ginger, pepper (also learned the different colours is all from the same tree just depends on how long you let them grow for & if you dry them in a certain way - again who knew?) Then our guide climbed up a coconut tree & cut down 3 coconuts then opened them up for us to drink.  After that we had a taster of ginger tea, marsala tea, and lemon grass tea along with lots of fresh fruits, pineapple, custard apple, mango, banana, some others I'm forgetting now and then after that we went to the guide's mothers' house for lunch of spiced rice, coconut curry chicken and onion & tomatoe salad - YUM!  That afternoon we drove up to the northern part of the island & stayed at Sunset Bungalows which was right on the beach, all our meals were served on the beach & the sand was so beautiful & white.  We stayed there for 2 nights, before heading back to Stone Town for our last night, where we checked out the night market & taste tested white shark (I'm not a huge fan), Zanzibar pizza (mince, minced up veggies, egg, all in a crepe like pancake which they fry) and also "sweet" pizza (banana, chocolate in a crepe like thing) and then back to Dar the following morning.  The only part which was annoying about Zanzibar is that it's humidity is SOOOOO high & the temperature is super high as well & without any electricity, we had no A/C, not even a fan, which got very hot & sticky!!

We spent the night in Dar es Salaam, which I have to be honest, I do not recommend!!  A girl in the camp site had to go to hosptial cause a guy attacked her on her way back from the toilet one night - all for her flip flops, she got 8 stiches on her arm . . . note to self NEVER go back!  PLUS, again it was hot, humid & since we were camping, there was no fan, I don't think any of us where able to sleep we were all so freakin hot!

Leaving Dar we drove for 12.5 hours, eating sandwiches in the truck on the road, and arrived into a small highland town in southern Tanzania, name of which evades me now.  It was a wonderful campsite, but we arrived so late & left very early the next morning we didn't really get to enjoy it much, but they did have hot showers, (for those counting this is my 3rd hot shower since leaving Rwanda)

Yesterday we again had a 12 hour drive day, but crossed the border into Malawi & spent the night in the northern region on the beach, in a town called Chichuwa (I think) and again just really an over night spot, we had dinner, relaxed, played darts, slept, and then back into the truck today for our drive to Kande Beach.

Along the way we stopped in Muzuzu, got some local cash, a few snacks, stopped at 2 markets and then arrived about an hour ago at our camp site, which is again right on the water's edge of Lake Malawi, which is so freakin big it looks like the sea & has more waves than Zanzibar ever did!

We're here at this camp site for the next 3 nights, not sure what we'll do, but I'm sure it will be fun!  Okay, gotta run, I'm making dinner tonight with Jess - I think we'll be making beef pot pies (well something like that, we are camping remember, so no nice pastries available to us)

I'm exhausted by the end of each day and have been sweating more than I ever have in my life, I'm not sure how people live here full time without A/C, but I'm having so much fun!  After our 3 nights here, we head south again & have one night in the capital of Malawi (some name with an L) and then the following day we cross into Zambia, headed towards Victoria Falls, which I think is in Livingston, but I might have the confused with another town. 

P.S. Happy 34th Birthday MMW, wish I was there to celebrate with you like last year, but we'll celebrate our birthday's in July, when I'm back home :)

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Arusha, Tanzania

Safely back from another few nights of camping in the Serengeti National Park, again camping without showers for 3 days and with wild animals wondering through the camp site, this time an elephant was feet from our tent.  Sara survived quite well, but some others with her are not enjoying the camping - lol.

In the Serengeti, we saw a wildebest giving birth, lions courting, a black rhino which is super rare (only 25 in park and we saw 5, including a baby one!)  It was awesome, our drivers name was Brown and he was super knowledgeable & every thing we wanted to see we got to see, which was awesome.  The only things we were not actually close to were the flamingos, but since Sara has seen lots of them in Florida, she was not that upset.  The only problem was her camera does not have a great zoom so her photos are not the greatest.

Last night we stayed at a site called "Snake Park" which is run by a South African couple who have started a snake bite clinic just outside the city of Arusha, to bring awareness to the local people about snakes & to provide free anti-venom for those who get bitten.

We're on our way to Dar, but will stop half way for the night, and then tomorrow night we will take the ferry from Dar to Zanzibar.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Day ? - Nairobi, Kenya

So we've lost all track of time, but we're having a blast.  Just back into Nairobi for the night after 2 nights & 3 days camping in the Masai Mara Game Reserve . . . yes I said camping in tents with no fences to stop the wild animals from wondering through the camp site - it was awesome!  It was also CRAZY HOT, 40C as we walked along the Mara River yesterday to see the hippos and crocs, who were enjoying the cool water.  Poor Sara looked like she was going to melt when she got back from this walk, but she also had a huge smile on her face cause she'd been up close with an elephant, lion with clubs, giraffe, water buffalo, tortoise, gazelle, and even saw a lioness get it's dinner (something apparently rarely seen even for those who do these drives on regular basises).  She went on 3 game drives, one in the evening to see sunset, one all day long, and one early morning to see the sunrise. 

Camping in Nairobi tonight before heading to Arusha, Tanzania a rather LONG drive on a BAD road, which is being replaced, but at the moment is mostly gravel.