Africa part 5 of 6 Tanzania AKA Paradise and Animals

Feb 12, 2012 by     2 Comments    Posted under: Brandyn's blogs, Malawi, Tanzania, Uncategorized, Where we've been, Zanzibar

For part one of my Africa series, please click here
For part two of my Africa series, please click here
For part three of my Africa series, please click here
For part four of my Africa series, please click here

Paradise and Animals

Dar es Salaam
Stone Town
Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Recap and Reflections

Before we left Malawi our tour leader said to us something like this, ‘okay everyone, sorry to interrupt, everyone, hello…we will be going to Tanzania, for the first day there will be no ATMs. Make sure that you get out enough Malawian Kwacha so that you can change it for Tanzanian Shillings across the border. No one will accept Kwacha once you get further into Tanzania.’ Once we crossed the border, there was a man on the other side who was exchanging Kwacha for Shillings. The official exchange rate was about 10:96, so ten Kwacha equals about 96 Shillings. The exchange guy was a friend of our tour leader and wanted to give us 10:75. We were all livid. A lot of us felt as if our ‘leader’ completely screwed us over and more than likely got a commission off the sale, especially because he made sure to tell us that we should probably take out enough Kwacha to change.

We drove to the highlands into Iringa, Tanzania through coffee plantations, banana groves, and some really cool street scenes. Iringa didn’t have much to offer, but because it was at a higher elevation, it was much cooler than a lot of the country. To cope with the cooler temperature Cori got Amarula hot chocolate. We went to bed early and had to get up at the crack of dawn to drive to Dar es Salaam before heading off to Zanzibar.

For Iringa and the drive to Dar es Salaam please click HERE

Dar es Salaam (place of peace) was very crowded. We stayed on the outskirts of town on an island away from the city itself. It took us something like 8 hours to go 300kms. Cori and I spent some time in Dar es Salaam on our own after we left the tour and will talk about it in part six.

For a few pictures from Dar es Salaam please click HERE

After a two and a half hour ferry ride we arrived in Stone Town. Stone Town is a multicultural mixing pot of colors, flavors, smells, architecture, heat, fraud, allure, history, and everything you could imagine. We arrived during the holy month of Ramadan, which meant that very few restaurants would be open during the day; we’d have to dress more conservatively, and hide our water when walking down the street.

Because we were afraid that we wouldn’t be able to eat, we decided to take a spice tour with the group. A spice tour sounds lame but it offered 1) lunch 2) a brief tour of the city 3) a trip to a plantation where we’d get to see the spices grow 4) coconuts and refreshments later. Sold. The tour was pretty cool and I would definitely recommend doing one. I think that it is easy to do on your own so that you wouldn’t have to pay the inflated Africa Travel Co prices or deal with their BS representative on Zanzibar.

That night we went to the night food market and ate like royalty. We had octopus, crab legs, barracuda, sugar cane juice with rum, and many other delights. I could tell I was going to fall in love with Zanzibar.

For pictures from Stone Town, Zanzibar please click HERE

It is important to introduce a few key people in this blog who played such a huge role in our enjoyment of this leg of the trip.
Charles and Thein An, from France, have been traveling with us since Cape Town and we’ve been getting on well with them the entire time. Charles and I were involved in the nabbing of Pumbaa.
Dominic and Francis, a Welsh couple, Liverpool season ticket holders, and would always have a beer with us. They’ve been with the trip since Victoria Falls but we clicked immediately.
Liz, from Australia is amazing. At first I didn’t know how much we’d get along, but it was a strong finish. She was on from Cape Town.
Nate, from the US of A. My beard buddy and super fun to be around. He’s also been on since Cape Town and was going to study in Nairobi for a semester when the trip was finished.

This was a great group of people and hanging out with them enriched our African trip exponentially. It also allowed me to have some guy time. As any couple traveling for long times together will tell you; it is really hard being a husband, best friend, gossip buddy, fashion advisor, and Joanna (Cori’s best friend back home). When Cori needs to just talk and doesn’t need a response, she’ll start with, ‘okay Joanna…’ and that is my cue to listen and not talk. I’m sure that Cori was happy to have women around that she could talk to that would give her more than one word answers half the time.

The eight of us decided that in Zanzibar, we would ditch the group and stay on the east side of the island. The east is known to be more of a relaxed environment and more beautiful (and cheaper) than where our leader wanted us to stay. The next morning we left early to head out to the east of the island to a village called Jambiani and stayed at the Oasis Beach Inn. We arranged a driver with the representative (the same BS one I mentioned above). Our driver spoke zero English and had no idea where we were going. We stopped probably 10 times to ask directions. If you look at a road map of Zanzibar, you can see there are only a few roads and you have to be completely idiotic to not know where you’re going, especially if your profession is a driver. About an hour into the drive we were getting really frustrated and the driver pulled over to the side of the road and yelled WAIT! We were sitting in the car for about 15 minutes watching him run up and down the road. Finally a van pulled up next to us and we were motioned to leave and go with the new van.

When we arrived we got our first glimpse of heaven. I’ve flown in an airplane many times and know that above the clouds there is no heaven; but there, right there, off the coast of East Africa on a tiny island, that is where heaven is.

I paid for the first round of beers. We all were absolutely stunned at how beautiful it could be. The water was glass. The sand was the color of paper and soft as cotton. We all were hooting and hollering because of how excited we were to be out of the minivan and in heaven. We dropped our stuff and just sat and looked around us. The women sat on the beach and relaxed while we guys started horseplay with the kids from the village. We raced them on the sand, played some football and brushed up on our Swahili.

The tide was low which meant that swimming was difficult at this time of the day. It also meant that the local women were picking seaweed from the seaweed farms in the water. The women would sell the seaweed to Japan. It is known to be some of the best in the world. We ordered lunch; this was our first taste of Zanzibar time. It took approximately two hours to receive our food after ordering (which is about the standard). The food was worth the wait. We could taste the spices we’d seen the day before mixed with coconut slathered on a fish that was swimming that morning. Heaven is the only describable word for Jambiani.

Being on the east side of the island meant that we had amazing sun rises and that it was ‘winter,’ meant it wouldn’t be up too early. The sun rises made going to bed early worth it. Oasis had free breakfast so we’d have a fried egg, bread and fruit every morning. The next day we went to The Rock Restaurant for lunch. Easily the coolest restaurant I’ve ever been to. It was the first time in a while that we had good white wine, perfectly cooked pasta, and amazing seafood. The beauty cannot be described and pictures don’t do it justice. Take my word for it; The Rock Restaurant may be the best restaurant in the world.

We came back and found a dead shark which Captain Kiko and the other boys caught. I really wanted to go out with them and catch one myself. I knew I would be back in Jambiani in about a week and wanted to go out with them next time. We went out on Martin’s boat for sunset. Because it was Ramadan, everyone was starving and as soon as the sun was setting, they all quickly left us to go eat. We had a fire on the beach that night and had a really great and chill time.

For pictures from Jambiani please click HERE

We left Jambiani too soon and met up with the truck in Dar es Salaam. The next morning we had to be up and leaving the campsite before the sun came up to drive around 650 kms to Arusha. The traffic made traveling slower than slow. It had taken us three hours to get 100kms. It was torture. We were all excited to get to Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater and to see animals. We got to a campsite a few kms outside of Arusha as sun was setting. That night we picked our groups; naturally, we picked the same eight that went to Jambiani together.

We left for a campsite on the outskirts of the Ngorongoro Crater. Ngorongoro Crater got its name from the Maasai who live on the lands in and around the region. Ngorongoro is onomonopia for the way that the bells around their cows’ necks sound when dinging. It is a volcanic crater and one of the densest populated places for African game. It is a Unesco World Heritage Site and home to all of the Big Five.

We were all in our groups of eight and riding in open aired safari vehicles. I really felt like Steve Irwin or David Attenborough. Arriving on the rim of the crater as the sun was coming up was a beautiful experience. When the sun rises and sets in Eastern Africa it lets you know that you are but a minor cog in something far greater. The sun is three times the size in Africa as it is anywhere else on the globe. It was freezing on the rim of the crater and through the early morning mist, we saw buffalo. This brought the Big Five count to four. We were excited at the possibility of seeing a rhino in the crater (the only one we had yet to see).

I’m not a photographer, nor is my camera anything more than a point and shoot, but I hope that they do some kind of justice to the sheer awesomeness of it all. This was Africa, absolute Africa in its primal best. Getting to see a male lion do its mating ritual and let out a roar was definitely a highlight of the day. Seeing hundreds of wildebeest run across the road in front of us made my hair stand up on edge. Observing animals who seemed absolutely oblivious to the droves of trucks made me think about how amazing and truly a once in a lifetime opportunity we were having; not only being on a safari, but the whole trip. There wasn’t much driving inside of the crater nor where there many places for the animals to hide. We had some lunch and saw some of the biggest elephants we’d seen yet and their tusks reached out in front of them a few meters in length. We got to walk around for a bit around a lake. Hippos where 3/4 underwater, giraffes were drinking, and warthogs were running all around. I was stunned and can’t begin to describe how magical an experience it was to be there.

All of the guides use walkie-talkies to communicate with one another so that if they find an animal of interest their friends can get in there as well (maybe for a better tip or maybe because it is the good thing to do, I don’t know). If you are lucky enough to find something awesome on your own, your guide will undoubtedly call his buddies over to share with them. This leads to tons of vehicles all running around to the same spots, which means that the animals may not act as naturally as they had, and it means that there will be one group who does not know how to whisper that will piss everyone off.

Before we left to the Serengeti National Park, we saw in the distance (too far for my camera to take a picture of) a pride of lions with a fresh kill. Our guide told us that the male lions don’t even really hunt. That the female lions hunt in packs kill and then the male lions eat. That kind of put a damper on the whole ‘King of the Jungle’ thing for me, maybe it should be ‘Queens of the Jungle.’

For pictures from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area please click HERE

The drive to Serengeti National Park was arduous, barren, pot holed, and made taking a nap difficult. We arrived in the early afternoon after driving four or so hours. We set up camp and went out on a quick safari. I had only ever heard about how amazing the park was. It was incredible, but massive. It was impossible for us to see a small fraction of the animals that we saw in the crater. That afternoon after the triumphant morning we had, it was going to take something magnificent to make the day much better. The sunset was that something magnificent. The most beautiful sunset I could even imagine was gracing us with its presence. It was remarkable.

One particularly awesome thing about that night was that we were going to camp inside of the Serengeti National Park. I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited I didn’t know how I was going to sleep. The eight of us set up our camp away from the main group of people so that we could hear animals in the distance if at all possible. One downside to that was the far proximity to the bathroom. Which inevitably meant a night trip to the bathroom with the wife…I hoped with the same hilarity as when we crossed the Orange River and Cori accidentally opened the wrong tent and grabbed Cameron’s foot, and not to find a man eating female lion in our path.

We had on this trip our guide, who is a registered guide with the National Parks and our trip leader, the guy from the truck who says about 14 words to us each day. Our leader from the truck, for whatever reason came on the trip as well. We didn’t see him all day and he was at the camp when we arrived that afternoon. Our cook and driver weren’t here because there was no need. We were being cooked for, guided, and cared for by local people. The only thing that our leader had to do; again because he wasn’t leading us this whole time, didn’t go on safari with us, and arrived hours before us to the site, was to get fire wood for that evening.

The entire 20 something of us sat in the dark while all of the other groups were sitting around their fires and having a great time. We had a big box of wine that we were all getting into, but even that was not great because we couldn’t see right in front of us. It turned out to be an early night. Cori and I got ready for bed and walked together to the far end of the campsite where the bathroom was. On the way back to our tent about 4 meters in front of us was the giant head and neck of a hyena. It looked right at me and its eyes lit up like green fireballs from the reflection of my flashlight. It didn’t seem to care and went about its business. It was a pretty cool ending to a very cool day.

That morning was ‘baby day’ at the park. It seemed like every animal we saw had a baby around. We saw baby monkeys, baby elephants, baby pumbaas, baby lions, and a few others. The highlight of the morning was when we came across a beautiful cheetah a few meters from us.

The Serengeti is so massive and the area that we covered was so small that it would never (for me) be able to compete with the majesty that the Ngorongoro Conservation Area had. We drove around for hours seeing animals here and there but mostly in the distance; too far to get good photos. It was an experience of a lifetime, but, I’d almost have wished that we’d gone to Serengeti first, then to Ngorongoro. We did see a leopard lazing behind a dirt mound before we left the park that afternoon. The drive back was more of the same; we stopped by the rim of the crater to take a few pictures then drove all the way back to Arusha.

Cori and I made a mutual decision to end our tour in Arusha rather than carry on to Nairobi and see the Maasai Mara with the tour. We’d had it. I couldn’t stand another extremely long drive in an uncomfortable truck, we didn’t want other one of our cook’s meaty meals, our leader didn’t even know that the visa fee for Kenya had doubled when we asked him, the list goes on and on and on. We decided that this was going to be our last night and we were going to go see Arusha, Dar es Salaam, and more of Zanzibar on our own. That night we all got a little loopy. Thien An, Charles, and I exchanged photos and movies. Dominic and I had a few too many beers. Charles, Nate, and I had some beard love…and before we knew it, Cori and I were on our own in Arusha.

For pictures from the Serengeti National Park please click HERE

Recap of the second half of the trip from Victoria Falls to Nairobi.
I think that the area that this trip covered on the second half was insane. The first four days of driving were to get through Zambia to get to Lake Malawi with nothing in between. The buses in Africa go faster than our Africa Travel Co truck did (on the second half) and run at different hours so that you don’t have to spend all day on a bus, you can take an overnight bus instead.

There was nothing between Lake Malawi and Zanzibar and nothing between Zanzibar and Arusha. We took the public bus from Arusha to Dar es Salaam and even after breaking down for two hours, we were still faster than the ATC truck. Reflecting back, I would not have done the second half of this trip as a group and believe could have easily done it on our own for a fraction of the cost.

I do not regret the decision to have overlanded Africa; we met some amazing people who we’ll be friends for life, saw some incredible animals and landscapes, and shared a number of once in a lifetime experiences.

If I was to do it again, I would do the overlanding trip from Cape Town to Victoria Falls. We were in the middle of nowhere and didn’t go on the main roads the entire trip. The drives were short and the truck was fast. I would split from the group at Victoria Falls and take a public bus to Lilongwe. I would then take the bus to Lake Malawi and stay for a week rather than just a couple of days. Then it is easy to catch a bus up to Dar es Salaam, relax a day or two and explore the city, then take a bus to Arusha, set up a safari on my own, see the animals, then I would take the bus back to Dar es Salaam and Ferry over to Zanzibar where I would spend the next week or two relaxing in paradise.

Part six is Cori and I on our own in Tanzania.

Africa Part 4 of 6 Zimbabwe and Malawi

For part one of my Africa Series please click here
For part two of my Africa Series please click here
For part three of my Africa Series please click here

Africa Part 4 of 6: Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi

Victoria Falls The City
Victoria Falls Village Trip
The Waterfalls
Crossing into Zambia
Entering Malawi
Hike to Livingstonia
Crossing into Tanzania

Zimbabwe has an interesting history and painful history, it was known as Rhodesia until it gained independence 1980. Mugabe since 1980 has been president. One of his famous and probably his most disturbing quote is “I am still the Hitler of the time. This Hitler has only one objective, justice for his own people, sovereignty for his people, recognition of the independence of his people, and their right to their resources. If that is Hitler, then let me be a Hitler tenfold.” He’s known to be charismatic, well educated, racist, and has been described as a power monger. His people have suffered dearly because of him. An amazing documentary that anyone interested in this region is Mugabe and the White African it gives a really good and in depth account of the “Willing Buyer Willing Seller” land reform which was to distribute the land which white farmers held back to the blacks. In reality it was to Mugabe’s men and the people never saw any of it. I know that Zimbabwe is much more than just Mugabe. I was excited to see the country, get acquainted with the people, and of course see Victoria Falls.

Most people know a little bit about Zimbabwe’s ‘funny money.’ At one point the largest single note was One Hundred Trillion Dollars ($100,000,000,000,000.00). Ray told us that in the past their dollar was 1:1 with the US Dollar and the most valuable currency in Africa. In 2009 the Zimbabwean Dollar officially was discontinued and all of the ATMs in Zimbabwe distribute US Dollars.

Victoria Falls is the name of the city, which is in the park, which houses the falls themselves, all of which have the same name. We arrived in Vic Falls and before setting up camp were forced to watch another video offering all of their optional activities including bungee jumping over the Zambezi River for $130 (which was $30 more than I paid to go from the highest bridge in the world), elephant safari for over $100, walking with lions over $100, river rafting on the Zambezi for over $100 per person, and a few other BS activities that were WAY too expensive. This is Zimbabwe, one of the poorest countries on the planet and they expected us to pay these outrageous prices for their activities. We later met a local guide that would have taken Cori and I rafting with his group for $40 a person, so if you shop around you don’t have to pay as much for the same activities.

We set up camp at one of the more beautiful camp sites we’d been to. We could hear Victoria Falls in the distance rumbling and see mist rising from it in the distance. We had a beer by the pool and hung out for a while before going out to wander around. We decided that we were going to go walk across the bridge to see Victoria Falls from one perspective and walk a few meters into Zambia. We watched a friend bungee jump and walked around town a bit more. One of the coolest things about Vic Falls is that there are a ton of Pumbaas (warthogs) running around town. They would let you get right up to them and take their picture. We saw a Pumbaa getting into the garbage at the campsite when a monkey attacked it. It was a brief altercation but pretty cool to see nonetheless.

The end of the first night we had our goodbye dinner. The tour was split into two parts the first was Cape Town to Victoria Falls the next was Victoria Falls to Nairobi. So those who were leaving at Vic Falls were stopping here. We had an amazing time that night, after dinner we went to Shoestrings, a hostel in town, which was lame-o-potato and left when it closed at midnight. We decided to go to Hunters, a kind of locals only joint, we had to walk down a dark path to get there. This normally wouldn’t be a big deal but because we were in a National Park, there were animals around and elephants had been known to kill people in the streets that spooked them (this is what we’re told and I no reason not to believe them). The walk went fine and a large group of us went into the bar and were greeted by blaring beats. Super good African music pulsed and the place was absolutely packed. We all drank too many beers and got back to bed around 2am. It was one of the happiest nights that I had on the trip. It was awesome to hang out and be welcomed with open arms (sometimes the local guys would grind up a bit too much on the women from our group, but it was a friendly grind); we danced until we couldn’t stand, partied with the locals, and got to listen to some awesome music.

We had to start saying goodbye to some of the people we had gotten so close with. David and Cinzia were leaving, Cameron was heading back home to Mozambique, and Rob and Marieke were deserting us as well. I could go on and on about all the people leaving, but it happens. Janus and I were drinking a Fanta by the pool when a black guy covered in tattoos asked me where I was from. I said America and he said that his brother Tupac was from America too. He went on and on about Mugabe and what a horrible person he thought that he was. He even said that he wanted to be a security guard for him so that he could “make it an inside job.” Once he said that, I freaked out a little bit and left not wanting to get involved with a guy like that.

For pictures from Victoria Falls, the City please click HERE

That day Cori and I went on a village tour to see what people lived like outside of the city. We paid too much for it, but in hindsight was a pretty good experience. We went to a village about an hour outside of Victoria Falls and first met with a farmer who didn’t speak much English. We learned about making some traditional foods. Culturally it was a funny experience for me. The guy’s place we were visiting was obviously a little buzzed. We all sat inside of his mud hut which was built by his wife. Women build the huts. I got to sit on a small chair inside of the hut while Cori sat on the floor with the man’s daughter, because, women of course, aren’t allowed to sit on chairs either. Elephants from time to time will terrorize villages, take all of their food, and sometimes knock down their huts. So from time to time these elephants are shot and killed by the park’s authorities. Everyone from all around will share in the booty from the elephant and no part gets wasted.

The man was a sculptor and made hippos from teak wood, which was technically illegal to chop down but he said that he did it in the night to not get in trouble. While he was trying to sell us his wares, he kept talking on his cell phone. I asked him where he charged his phone and he said, “At the bar next door to my house, of course.” This is where the memory gets a little better. I’d read about Chibuku before coming to Zimbabwe and knew that it was a popular drink and hard for Westerners to get accustomed to. It comes in a two liter plastic bottle with a screw top lid 5 centimeters in diameter. When you take a sip undoubtedly, your nose will touch the brew. It is to be served at room temperature, which in Zimbabwe is hot. The brew is not at all fizzy like beer, but it flat and chunky. The brew is also to be shared and not drunk alone. To recap, Chibuku is a warm and chunky brew to be shared warm everyone around while their noses touch it. We had six liters of the brew while we were there.

Throughout the day they kept asking if we had any questions. I didn’t know if it was okay to ask about Mugabe or if he was feared enough to where people didn’t say anything. His picture was up all over the place and I thought that it would be taboo to ask the questions that I really wanted to know. I asked them if they had any questions that they wanted to know from an American. They were interesting and thoughtful questions. The first question was, “why did your government impose economic sanctions on Zimbabwe, why does your government want to hurt the Zimbabwean people, and what do you think about it.” My jaw hit the floor and I think I said something along the lines of, “we’re citizens of a country which does things all around the globe which I don’t believe in; we’re here spending money in your country and I’m buying the next Chibuku.”

We got to go to the township of Victoria Falls as well to see what the people hawking goods on the side of the roads lived like. Which in all honesty, the township looked better than a lot of places in Los Angeles or Arizona. One thing about Victoria Falls which is wears on us is the number of people hawking goods on the side of the road. They pester you and walk with you the entire length of the walk which makes it impossibly difficult to avoid or ignore. Cori thought it was so bad that she didn’t want to leave the campsite; which even there people were trying to sell us goods through the fence. We ended up trading a lot of used clothing for some pretty cool wood carvings.

We had our briefing with our new team leader which left a lot to be desired. He seemed like he was in a partial coma and didn’t do much talking at all. He wasn’t the charismatic leader that we’d gotten used to with Ray.

For pictures from the village tour around Victoria Falls please click HERE

After the briefing we went to see Victoria Falls. They were magnificent and truly amazing. There isn’t much I can say that hasn’t already been said about them.

For pictures from Victoria Falls please click HERE

The next morning we went to Livingston, Zambia. Crossing the border was simple. We paid our $50 visa fee and went right across. Livingston, like many African cities is much more modern than you’d expect, has a few malls, and restaurants all around. We went to the grocery store and picked up some wine (which is getting more and more expensive the further away from South Africa we were getting). Our camp site that night was at a beautiful location right on the Zambezi River. Charles and his wife Thien-An joined us for a few beers by the river. There was a giant crocodile sleeping under the deck by the river that afternoon.

Jan and Karen joined us for beers as well. We bunked with them when we had our party dorm in Swakopmund were an amazing duo. Jan’s daughter was married to Karen’s son. The two of them planned their wedding from New Zealand as the “kids” (who are Cori and my ages) lived in England. They are such troopers, leaving the significant others behind to camp with a bunch of kids half their age and loving it. I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for these ladies and hope to do something that cool when my kids are all grown up. We’d gotten close with them on the first leg of the trip, but naturally had gotten closer as time went on.

Zambia as far as Cori and I are concerned doesn’t really count as a country we visited, but rather a country we paid to get into and drove out of three days later.

The coolest things about the drives were the kids and getting a sample of “real Africa”. The kids we’d see would get so excited to see our big green truck coming. They’d all wave like crazy. Some of them would be jumping up and down because they were so excited. Our arms would get tired from all of the waving back we’d be doing. It was really cool to see to start seeing the women who were draped in colorful sheets (called Kanga) walking slowly with baskets on their heads. The roads surprisingly weren’t as bad as we’d anticipated and certainly better than a lot we’ve been on in Asia. Nonetheless, it was tiresome only being able to go a maximum speed of 80kms an hour (about 50mph).

Long boring days of playing cards in the truck pursued for the next three days until we crossed into Malawi. Malawi for whatever reason had been calling me. I really wanted to visit and was ecstatic to be going. Crossing into Malawi was a breeze, no visa fees for most of us, except oddly the nations who need one which include Ireland, South Korea, and Switzerland.

One thing that was very different about this trip versus the previous one is that there was a fine line between whom the crew was and who the people on the trip were. On the first leg, Ray stood up to make it more accommodating for us and anyone who wanted could sit up front with Christie. This leg our guide sat alone on the best and most comfortable seat. Our cook, who actually was a great cook, sat in the cab next to our driver the entire way. We were given strict chores and the men were referred to as “dog’s bodies.” Dog’s Bodies is a derogatory term for someone who is meant to do menial tasks. These menial tasks were performed by us men while the crew stood back and watched. The women were assigned to be in different groups. One group would do the prep work with the cook. The next would clean the truck.

The cook was a complete and total scum bag who would treat the women poorly and degrade them while they were on his duty. He wouldn’t even tell the women what it was that they were helping him make. One of the women on our trip was constantly being harassed by him and had to fend off his sexual advances on a daily basis. He asked one guy on our trip who took a slice of avocado which was waiting to be served, “What’s your problem,” when he did so. It was a much different vibe and one that I wasn’t happy with. I feel okay posting negative things about Africa Travel Co because we complained to them and never received any response back from their office. If anyone was going to do an overland trip, I wouldn’t suggest using them.

For pictures from Zambia please click HERE

Malawi is home to Lake Malawi, the second largest lake in Africa. It is wide enough to not be able to see the other side and is the border with Mozambique on the east and Tanzania on the north. 20% of the country is water. David Livingstone came to Malawi in the mid 1800s and played a large role in the colonizing of Malawi by Britain’s as bringing Christianity to some of its people. There is a town which we hiked Livingstonia which was the site where he successfully settled after a few failed attempts at other locations.

We stayed at Kande Beach for three nights; but we arrived late the first night. It was a beautiful location right on Lake Malawi. Beautiful clean sand as far as we could see in both directions and an island covered in rocks laid a few hundred meters from shore. It was a perfect location and a wonderful and welcome stop after all of the driving we’d been sitting through. We chilled out, drank a few beers, and swam out to the island on the first day. Later we were met by Janus and Marlene, the doctors from Denmark that traveled the first half of the trip with us. It was good to see that Janus still hadn’t shaved. Nate, Charles, Janus, and I all decided that we weren’t going to shave until the trip was over. If you look at us day one versus the last day we look more and more like we’ve been camping through Africa.

That night we got sauced and forgot that the second half of the trip had been pretty bogus so far. Janus and I got up to our usual no good and Cori and the girls enjoyed themselves pretty well. It was a stellar night and one of the fondest of the trip.

Liz, who has a heart of gold and has been travelling with us since the beginning stopped by an orphanage the day before and told the man who ran it that we’d be by to give some things to the kids. The next morning I was super hung over but persevered. We went to the orphanage early in the morning and a few minutes later Jonathan showed up and let us in. We first went and met with a group of women who were all HIV positive and were making crafts that were sold in Australia. Jonathan said that these women were all free to stay there and that living with HIV wasn’t the end of the world for them. It tore my heart out to see all of these women, some with babies in their laps, and know that despite everyone’ efforts they wouldn’t get the medical care they needed and may not be around much longer.
Cori and I bought coloring books crayons, and bubble mix in Lilongwe so that we could donate them. We gave them to the kids who were incredibly appreciative. They were very careful with the books and crayons. They didn’t fight over the goods nor did they cause any fuss when someone else was using the colors that they wanted. It was the first game of the Premier League season and we were invited to Jonathan’s village to watch Liverpool play Sunderland at one of the few televisions in town. We went with Jonathan to his village which was about a twenty minute walk from the beach through cassava farms and palm groves. We arrived to an outdoor hut which had bamboo mats up on the walls so that people couldn’t see in on 3/4 of the sides. We weren’t asked to pay an admission but the rest of the people were. There was around six of us from the trip in total and the rest of the place was packed with locals. I decided that we all needed to pay for Fanta (alcohol was not allowed) and buy some snacks as well.

Luis Suárez scored a goal for Liverpool. Everybody in the place booed and hissed. Remember, Suárez was the guy who during the World Cup while playing for Uruguay used his hand to score a goal against Ghana and eliminated the last African team. Everyone in Africa from what we were told hates this guy. It was funny because everyone wanted Liverpool to when but was disgusted to see him score.

That night we did more of the same. We had to go the next day early in the morning which didn’t make much sense because it was only a short drive up the coast to our next site. We stopped at a market along the way. The power was off which made shopping more difficult and made me worry about eating the meat we’d be served later that night. We stopped for hours to pick up supplies and by the time we arrived it was already too late to enjoy the scenery.

For pictures from Malawi please click HERE

The next morning I went on a 35km hike up to Livingstonia. The hike itself wasn’t that great. We got up there and the church we were supposed to see was closed and didn’t seem to be worth it regardless. We stopped by a beautiful waterfall on the way back which made the trek completely worth the while. We swam in a pool and took some great photos. On the way down my knee crapped out on me and I struggled almost the entire way down.

For pictures from the hike to Livingstonia please click HERE

The next day we were to go to Tanzania! Animals Animals Zanzibar Animals! Crossing into Tanzania was the easiest one that I’ve ever had to do. We gave our passports and visa payment to our leader; he went in, returned with our passports, and a receipt. We didn’t even have to leave the truck.

Africa part 1 of 6 To Overland or Not to Overland

An organized tour doesn’t sound like the way to do anything; one travelling more than 10,000 kilometers in a truck full of strangers, camping every night, and having zero flexibility on route or schedule sounds especially tedious and lame. So why did we chose to do an overland trip? Simple answer, we didn’t feel like we had a choice.

The longer answer, we both wanted to see Africa the same way that we saw South America. We traveled overland on our own from Bogota, Colombia to Buenos Aires, Argentina stopping at cities and small villages down the entire continent. Truthfully, we were a little overwhelmed and underprepared for Africa; it is not in our repertoire to plan to far ahead. Having arrived in Cape Town with nothing more than a backpack, a wife, and a vague idea of where we wanted to go. This is the first time that lack of planning seriously bit us on the hind sides. After speaking with a couple who had done the trip from Tanzania through Malawi to Mozambique and another guy who’d done the same and hearing the perils and tales of woe. We gave in and decided that it would be the easiest and most importantly the safest way to see as much of Africa as we could. Shortest answer, we got a half off promotion which sealed the deal. I’m glad we did it this way because stress is no way to spend a vacation and that is what Africa would be if we tried to do it on our own.

Looking back six months from this point, I still have no idea if we did it the right way or not. Also I would say that I do not regret the decision and am happy we did so because I have some of the greatest memories of my life because of the trip. We met many incredible people, saw scenery only previously known from National Geographic, and got to see Africa.

Africa, like I have told many surprised faces is expensive. It is expensive by western standards in that you don’t pay for what you get and it is assumed that if you’re there that you’ve got money. In Africa hostels will be on average a little less expensive than Europe but the quality will be vastly different. We stayed at a hostel in Arusha and paid $20 for a room with no windows, no fans, no sheets, and not enough room between the floor and bed to put our bags. This was the cheapest room available in the city. Everything is imported throughout the continent, so a candy bar in Botswana will cost you more than it would at home, a coloring book and crayons in Malawi will cost around $12; it is bloody expensive in Africa.

We were in Outdshoorn, South Africa and decided to talk with a woman at their official travel desk. She had a recent fax on her desk that was a promotion for Africa Travel Co that said that if we book the first half of the trip (Cape Town, South Africa to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe) we would get the second half (Vic Falls to Nairobi, Kenya) for free.

After doing the budget, we found that overlanding especially because we got the promotion with an organized group would cost us less in stress and money than if we were to rent our own 4×4 vehicle and explore some of the same parts of Africa.

We went from Cape Town, South Africa north into Namibia visiting Etosha National Park, then going east along the Caprivi Strip into Botswana visiting both the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park, we then went to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, made a mad dash through Zambia, spent a week on Lake Malawi, we then went to Zanzibar, Ngorongoro Crater, and Serengeti National Park and finished our overland trip in Arusha before heading back to Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar on our own. Here’s an interactive Google map showing where we went, zoom in for more information of specifics. I will try to be as specific as possible about where we went and what we did in the blog. There is a flaw in Google Earth and it thinks that Spitzkuppe, Namibia is in the water.

For part two of my Africa blog which took us from Cape Town up through Namibia, please click here



April 2020
« Jun