A very good friend of mine took a little inspiration from my own adventures and has decided that she too needs to explore her own backyard. With Kenya featuring a lot in the press these days, with both good and bad news stories, Wanjiru has gone on a mission to show you the beauty of a place we both call home. From her own home county to the far reaches of Northern Kenya she is on a mission to visit all 47 counties without leaving a stone unturned.

Take a look at her page and follow her on all social media to keep up to date. I for one look forward to her updates all the time, even though I have been to most of these places before there is nothing more special than reading about why Kenya is a place that everyone should love. Don’t be put off by the bad press or the horrific stories that you hear, like every country Kenya has it’s bad moments. After all you don’t need to be in a third world country to face the fears of our every day lives. Look at Paris and Sydney to name only two examples. There is definitely no better time than the present to pack those bags and sun cream and book some flights.

Kenya is still a magical place and I will always call it home. Check it out for yourself, and if you are still worried, you can always ask the locals where the good places are. Generally they will point you in the direction of the most secluded and magnificent places Kenya has to offer. Get out of Nairobi and breath in the African air, feel the rhythm of her music and submerge yourself in the beauty of my home. You will not be disappointed.

Penetrating The Impenetrable Forest

I am going to really struggle with writing this blog post simply because the experience was indescribable. I don’t think my writing will do it justice but with the help of some really good describing words hopefully I will paint the picture for you. I have heard from so many people that this is a once in a lifetime experience and I now realise why so many people were telling me so. It truly is. There is nothing more exhilarating than watching a young gorilla play in the trees under the watchful eyes of his loving parents from only a matter of feet away. And the beautiful scenery of the Impenetrable Forest providing the dramatic backdrop making the experience truly unforgettable.

The morning started out very early. The earliest morning we have had yet however the adrenalin from the excitement didn’t allow the early start to dampen our spirits. We started off the day with a hearty breakfast and a chance to pack up a lunch that was going to fuel us for a long day ahead. As we were all unsure exactly how long we were going to be we all packed our bags to cover every eventuality. As the gorillas are wild animals that move around in search of food and places to sleep they never stay in one place. As they are not radio collared either we have to trek to find them with the help of an advanced tracking team. We could have been out for a whole day or for a matter of hours so being prepared was tricky. We had to ensure we had enough water and enough food to keep us going. The last thing any of us wanted was to have to bail out from dehydration or exhaustion. As it was turning out to be a sunny day I was glad to be bringing along heaps of water with me. After all was packed in the car we headed off for a drive towards the starting point. The views along the road were fabulous. Sadly we didn’t have much time to stop to take them in as we wanted to make it in good time but the chance that we did have was wonderful. Misty mountains and a beautiful sunrise was another bonus to the having to be awake early.

When we arrived we headed up a small hill to the briefing point. Ok so the hill alone was enough to put me out of breath, I realise at this point that I was definitely not born to trek. In all honesty I started to worry about the day ahead, I wasn’t sure if I could take a few hours of trekking. Not too sure why I was worrying to be truthful, I was about to embark on an adventure to find a family of Gorillas, being out of breath should really have been the last thing on my mind! Once we were all in the briefing room we had a chance meet the guides and porters as well as the security that would be escorting us a long the way. When all the introductions were over we headed off with our guide Florence in search of the Nshongi family of Gorillas.

The going was pretty easy at the beginning and I slowly began to get more comfortable and sure of myself. This was going to be easier than I thought which made my levels of excitement reach an all new level of high. The scenery was beautiful, as we wanted to get to the Gorillas as soon as possible we rarely stopped for long but when we did have moments to break to catch our breath the views made it hard. The trek alone was a highlight for me already. It was well worth every stumble and slip just to be up there. If by chance we didn’t see the gorillas I was going to be happy with the trek, I love being outside in the sunshine and somewhere new. Nothing beats that and I was happy to be there.

Along the way Florence was on the radio with the advanced tracking team. The gorillas had moved away from the main trail and were heading deeper in to the bush. As this was the case we had to leave the comfort of the beaten track and follow the real trails that the gorillas made. The going became a lot tougher. With not having a well worn track below your feet it can get pretty hair raising. Our guides did a lot to help us by clearing away as much of the track as possible and were always there to lend a helping hand on the uphills and downhills too. Yet again I became the laughing stock of the group. I am quite clumsy naturally so as you can imagine having to attempt to lug myself up a hill can get pretty awkward. My porter too found it hilarious. I spent most of the time on my bum sliding as it was easier and better for my own safety. A decision I should have made sooner but refused to give in to the forest. Still though providing some entertainment was the least I could do. I have become used to this, it seems like I’m getting good at it! We had been on the move for a few hours now and our energy was beginning to fade. Luckily Florence had been on the radio with the team ahead and we were getting closer. We could hear their calls at this point and the signs were definitely pointing us in the right direction. We just had to make it over the ridge, up a bit and then down on to the area where the gorillas had decided to stop for their lunch. Our excitement and energy perked up we put our heads down and headed on up. Once we were over the ridge we got our first sightings of the gorilla family. It was hard to spot them at first as they we so busy gorging themselves on the delicacies the forest has to offer but as the guides cleared more of the vegetation away we all soon realised that we were surrounded by the creatures that closely resemble us. Leaving our porters and bags behind we headed in closer armed with nothing but our cameras. Taking a quick look around I could see everyone was smiling, even Florence. It’s so good to see that even the guides don’t get tired of this. They have to do this every day and it seems like every day is better than the last. It was so wonderful to see the smiling faces of the members of the group too. I could tell that even though we were all exhausted we all thought that it was worth while. We wouldn’t have changed anything for the world!

Sneaking in a little closer we cleared an area and settled down to an hour of what would be the best wildlife watching any of us would ever encounter. When my friends found out I was going to see the gorillas they told me to not sit there and look at them through a camera lens, they said it was important to take heaps of photos but sitting there watching them was like nothing else. I am glad they gave me this last piece of advice, I have this tendency to be a little snap happy so putting down my lens and just sitting back to watch was hard but the best thing I have ever done. Watching a young male gorilla swinging and bouncing in the trees was so much fun and such a special moment. It’s so incredible to think how closely related we are to these wild creatures and to see the resemblance in the way they play or care for their children is fascinating. It has to be without doubt the best hour I have ever spent. The gorillas weren’t fazed by our presence at all, they continued on with their day and provided us with many many moments of entertainment, heaps of really great photos and of course a lifetimes worth of great memories too. No body was talking, not because we weren’t allowed to but because we were all speechless. Nothing could prepare me for the elation I was feeling at that point and there are no words to describe it.

When our hour was up I was sad to leave, I could have stayed there for days. It was time to go though, we were encroaching in on them so it was only fair to leave them in peace. An hour was all we needed really, it was a good chance to get a glimpse of gorilla life and ample time to take heaps of great photos! I soon forgot that my feet were sore and my body ached, all I could think was “Oh. My. Goodness. I have just been within reaching distance of one of the worlds rarest and endangered species. Amazing!” Of course on the way out we spoke of nothing else. All of us trying to out do each other on our descriptions of the experience and somehow comparing photos on the move. All knowing that it was worth every second of it and of course every penny. In fact I couldn’t even put a price on it, I would definitely have shelled out more just to be there and I will most certainly do it again. And again. And again.

We stopped to eat our lunch on the way out and were soon back on the tracks that we used to come in. It took less than half the time to make our way back to the starting point and when we all arrived we were sad that it was over. It was truly a great way to spend a day in Uganda. Florence then presented us all with our certificates and explained that she wasn’t expecting us to get back until 6pm, we all breathed a sigh of relief. We made it back by 3pm so we were all quite impressed with ourselves too. Florence was great and the other guides were awesome too. We really did have a good team to guide us for the day and I left feeling very jealous that they got to do it all again the next day.

Not Born A Trekker!

Uganda, Chimpanzee Trek

As this title would suggest, I was definitely not born to be someone to scale the tallest mountains or have the ability to endlessly walk for hours or even enjoy a casual stroll through a forest to spot a family of chimps in their natural habitat but trek is exactly what I did, and my style was far from anything Sir Edmund Hillary would be proud of. Saying this though it was well worth every near fall and the blisters on my toes. I have seen many a chimp in a rescue sanctuary and have had the chance to care for some rescued ones along the way too but I have not had the pleasure or the privilege to see them in their natural habitat, that was until the other day. I was very luckily granted a permit by the Ugandan Wildlife Authority to try my luck and see if I could in fact cross off spotting wild chimps from my endless list of animals to see outside of a zoo or the safety of a wildlife sanctuary.

I, along with 4 other fellow travellers who have been with us since Livingstone and Emily the tour leader were given the opportunity to spend some time watching a family of these amazing apes in their forest of the Kyambura Gorge in The Queen Elizabeth National Park of Uganda. The day started off as an early start for us to get there with ample time to have a bite to eat and prepare ourselves before setting off on a 2 hour trek down in to the gorge then along the floor to where we were hopefully going to spot the chimps. It isn’t always guaranteed to see them as they are wild animals and do move about more than we imagine so I for one was keeping my fingers and toes crossed for the chance to catch a glimpse of them.

Our guide Nelson met us at the reception and after signing in and checking that we were all wearing the right gear.  We headed to the top of the gorge which would be our starting point. Nelson gave us a briefing about what to expect and a little bit about the history of the chimps and the problems that they are facing today with caring for the chimps and ensuring their survival. Once we were full of knowledge and as prepared as we could be we headed down in to the gorge. The going wasn’t exactly a walk in the park but with the aid of a handy walking stick and the help and guidance of my fellow group members we all managed to get down to the bottom in one piece and with only a couple of us stumbling along the way.

The jungle at the bottom was beautiful and the views on the way down were breathtaking, already making this trip to Uganda worthwhile and with the added element of possibly seeing a chimp I wondered to myself why it had taken me so long to get myself to Uganda to do this. When we were in a small clearing in the gorge floor, Nelson gave us a bit more of a briefing about the vegetation and the signs to look out for. We couldn’t just rely on Nelson’s eyes; we too had become chimp spotters to increase our chances. Every sound and crack of a branch became a possible sign so all of us where on high alert. As well as the chimps we were also on the lookout for other species of monkey that call the forest home too. A family of Black and White Colobus monkeys were out and about so we had a chance to watch them for a bit as well. After a water break and Colobus watching we continued onwards still on the lookout for the creatures that we came to see. The signs were everywhere and I was certain that the chimps were just round the corner. Along the way we saw lots of fresh chimp droppings and the fruit that was dropped from the trees, these were sure signs that they were about.

Nelson then left us on one of the fallen tree bridges to head up to a view point to see if he could spot them and to make sure we were heading in the right direction. After some time he came back and took us to where he thought they may be. As these chimps are wild we can’t track them with any of the wildlife tracking technologies available today, we have to use the natural signs and signals and keep our fingers crossed. I for one was enjoying spotting the animals this way. I feel that if we use modern technology it is in a way cheating and can become very invasive for the animals too. The idea is to see them in their natural habitat and to experience their real behaviour. If we knew where they were at all times the excitement would be far less and the experience would be completely different.

As we were drawing closer and closer to the end point in the gorge I was quite sad that it seemed that it wasn’t going to be our day. The rest of the group seemed a little disheartened too however we were in a beautiful place and we were all enjoying the adventure so our mood didn’t stay somber for long. Not far from the exit we all started hearing a noise similar to big water droplets dropping on to the ground, I could tell by the smile and almost relief on Nelson’s face that we hit the jackpot. We had indeed found the chimps. They were a little difficult to spot at first but when you sat down and really concentrated the chimps were everywhere. We sat and watched the mothers with their babies swinging from the trees and foraging for their evening meal before heading back to their nests for the night.

Lying on the ground looking in to the trees watching the chimps was an enthralling experience and one I would gladly do time and time again. That very moment was well worth it and I soon forgot about the sore feet and sweatiness. Chimps are magnificent creatures, each with their own personalities. The babies of the group were adorable and watching them learn and play under the watchful eyes of their mothers and aunts provided us with some great entertainment, far better than anything a TV could provide. We were with the family for some time, long enough for us to really enjoy them but just enough time so as to not stress out the animals either. The information from Nelson was really great and it made the group on a whole appreciate the experience so much more. These animals are always under threat from predators and poachers and us as humans encroaching on their land. It is a pleasure to see locals like Nelson have so much care and desire to want to save them and do what he can to protect this family of apes. Being given the chance to see them and hear what Uganda is doing to help them will remain as a highlight for me for some time. We all left the chimps on their way to their nests with very happy faces and many memories and photos to boot.

It was a really great day spent in Uganda and one that I would recommend to everyone. We are now currently on our way to another town in Uganda in the hopes that we can also have a once in a lifetime chance to see the Gorillas in Bwindi National Park. I have heard many great things about this experience and am very much looking forward to our trek. My fingers and toes are still crossed but I can safely say it is going to be another fantastic day in this beautiful country.

Back In The Homeland

Kenya 🙂

Nothing beats being back in the homeland. Don’t get me wrong, my travels have been out of this world amazing and the places I have been to have been breathtaking but to be back on home soil and where everything is so familiar is indescribable. And to add a few hours of family time and catch ups with friends was the perfect way to spend my few days there. I don’t think I will ever tire of coming home. It is always good to get out once in a while to wash out the cobwebs and the dust from life there, and I will always be sad to leave as well as excited to be going somewhere new and exciting but nothing will equal the excitement of returning. I can’t say I arrived very refreshed or very clean but as always I was welcomed back with many hugs (mostly from the nephew, which wasn’t necessarily his choice) and many many invitations for drinks and catch ups. I have the best family and friends. It was like you all knew exactly what I needed and had the best remedies to fix any traveling blues. I simply can’t thank you enough. I am also not lying when I say I miss you all so much already, I am already looking forward to coming back to hopefully be spending more time this time and having a better chance to catch up with those of you who I only saw for a brief moment or didn’t get to see at all. I will keep you posted on when that may be and for how long so be prepared to clear your schedule, I am coming to see you.

So what exactly could I possibly do in Nairobi over two days I hear you think. Well I think the staff of Talisman know me by name now I spent so much time there but other than that I was shopping, socialising and harassing my poor nephew (sorry Ewan!!). It was lucky that we arrived on a Thursday so I had a Friday night to get involved in the Nairobi silliness.

We drove up from Arusha on Thursday so we didn’t get in until after lunch. As soon as the truck was switched off I ran to Louiza’s house to actually look for some milky bar ice cream that I remember leaving in the freezer. I completely forgot about the ice cream when I saw Ewan through the little peep hole in the gate. I miss that child so much. I actually cried when he looked at me like a complete stranger. I can hardly blame him as it has been a while so for a small baby who is growing so fast it must feel like ages. I am not sure if it was because he finally recognised me or if because he was happy to have the entertainment but that cute smiley face was back and I was in love with him all over again. It still surprises me that Ali could produce something so cute!! Anyway after I caught up on the baby snuggles I took him for a wonder to see the truck. He didn’t seem all that impressed really but the rest of the unwashed travellers enjoyed his cute self and he loved the oohing and aahing. Once I couldn’t carry him anymore I headed back to the house and waited for the family. It was awesome seeing them all, especially the added visit from my cousin who was out for half term. The afternoon is a bit of a blur, all I know is that most of my new things were stolen from me or given away and then I was dragged round the shops. Not such a bad idea as I needed some new clothes but I could have used a shower and a change of clothes before being let out in public! We then headed out to Talisman later for dinner with the whole group. It was hard to sit round a table with everyone who I had just spent the last few weeks with when my family and some friends were on a table not too far or propping up the bar. I don’t think I managed it too well as I constantly found myself surrounded with familiar faces of old friends rather than the faces that became so familiar from new friends. Anyway a few drinks were had with both parties and I finished the night sitting at the bar with an old friend from South Sudan. We must have had one too many drinks as we both decided that returning to South Sudan was a must even if just for a weekend. Not sure how well that would go down with the family or the government but I won’t lie, a weekend in Juba with the bunch of crazies I know from there would be hilarious and so much fun but slightly too extreme. Anyway it was good laughing about the old times and putting the world right. I also didn’t end up going back to the campsite either, the promise of a good bed and a cuddle with the nephew pre breakfast was too good to pass on. Luckily the campsite isn’t far from the house (within walking distance) so I could sneak in in the morning. My last day in Nairobi was spent having breakfast with the tour leader and then joining the family for their late breakfast, then another quick trip around the shops and an afternoon full of Carlo Rossi and a pedicure. The best day I have had in Nairobi for a while. It was filled with everything I could possibly wish for. My feet look more presentable and finally clean!! It’s sad that clean feet should be so exciting but if you know my family you would know why. Anyway Katie and Lynn, you will be happy to know that my toes are newly polished with red polish and not blue and that the layers of dirt have been scrubbed off. Not sure if it will last long but I am now wearing socks with my new shoes so I hope that this prolongs it a little more.

Once all the grooming and repacking was done I headed back to The Rubber Arm bar at the campsite for a last drink or two to say bye to the nomads we were leaving behind and then off out for a sushi dinner. As it was Friday we had to venture out for a night out on the town. In hindsight this was probably not such a good idea as we had to leave the next day but it was hard for me to resist. Back to Talisman we went although this time is was slightly less civilised and I spent the night dancing my clean feet off and shooting vodka. Still though, I met some amazing new people and caught up with the amazing old friends. Another perfect way to spend my time off the road and in the homeland. Thank you to all who were there, I am still smiling at the good times. Same thing when I get back please!

After two and a half hours of sleep it was back on the truck and Nakuru bound. The view on the escarpment was very foggy but I will never tire of it. I was sad to keep driving on through Naivasha but I had rhinos to see in Nakuru! A quick lunch outside the gate and then a drive through what was left of the park. It seems that Nakuru has had lots of rain because the lake has doubled in size and the water is not far off flowing in to the offices at the gate. This did cut off most of the game viewing plains but it provided with some great bird watching. I have to admit that it was hard to keep my eyes open but being back in a park where I used to frequent back in the day was a good way to spend a hungover day. After that we headed to the campsite where I saw some more familiar faces and spent the evening sipping on Amarula hot chocolate and watching David Attenborough’s Africa.

After the best nights sleep we headed on to Eldoret for a little bit of shopping then an afternoon spent relaxing in the campsite. Didn’t get up to much other than note writing and the like but it was another fine day. The evening was spent with a beer this time but more of the Africa series. We live in a beautiful world round here. We are so lucky. Anyway this episode featured the Ruwenzori Mountains which is where I am heading so as you can imagine there was much excitement and more oohing and aahing. David Attenborough really has a way of imprinting Africa in to you and showing it in all its glory. I don’t think I will ever feel like I know this place until I have seen down every nook and cranny, peeped in to every hole and trekked every mountain peak. I will give it a good shot though, lets see how far I get. For now I am keeping my fingers crossed for a spare Gorilla permit. I hear so many great things and many reviews of it being a once in a lifetime opportunity so I would love to be able to take this opportunity to see them for myself. I hopefully find out today if the permit is available so I shall keep you all posted. Until then if you haven’t already done so, watch the Africa series and get booking some holidays. It’s coming up to that time of year and I know a few of you who could use some time on the road. Don’t forget that you can come visit me too!

Enjoy being home for me, and please do still keep in touch. I miss you all so much and will always enjoy hearing all the news and dramas. See you all again in two weeks though for some more stories to make you jealous!

It’s Uganda and Gorilla time, Eeks!

“Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave but not our hearts.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

Hipopos In The Geti

Serengeti and Ngorongoro

This place really does live up to its name. It is just a vast plain with nothing around but animals. And the crater, it is enormous. I wasn’t expecting something quite as extraordinary, in fact I wasn’t too sure what I was expecting but it blew me away. The views were amazing and the wildlife that we saw was incredible. Where else in the world can you see the big 5 plus more in 2 days? And before you think I have gone cray cray and caught bush brain, no the title is thanks to a new friend. I was explaining to her how we call police popos in our family so she came up with a little joke:
“Who are the law enforcers of the Serengeti?”
The Hipopos!!
I couldn’t resist using it as it became the topic of many a conversation and the cause of endless amounts of laughter (mainly mine as I don’t think anyone else got it!). And Geti well I travelled with many Australians and as you well know they are very good at shortening all of their words, why would Serengeti be any different?

We left sometime after breakfast for the drive to the Ngorongoro crater area, the drive on the main road was unexciting but the drive through the conservation area was beautiful. We stopped at the view point and it was simply stunning. I can’t explain to you how breathtaking it is. I hope none of you are thinking that it is over rated because it really isn’t. My photos don’t do it justice at all so you all must visit it at some point. You will not be disappointed!

We then drive in to the Serengeti on back breaking roads and definitely the reason why I am walking like someone sent me through a mangle. When we arrived there we headed for a short game drive towards the campsite. We pretty much saw most of the big 5 in that moment. It was awesome. We got to the campsite and grabbed a quick lunch, which I didn’t have to cook (whoopie!!) and headed out for another game drive. When we arrived at the entrance gate we were all planning on walking up to the view point but. Large elephant was blocking our way. It’s amazing to see how stupid some people can be. One American (it’s always the Americans) tried to walk up to it and touch it. After I screamed at them for a bit they moved further down and posed for photos. The elephant started moving towards them and they still didn’t move. Part of me was hoping that the elephant would charge at them to teach them all a lesson but sadly it wasn’t my day. When they came down the ranger gave them a bit of a lecture and they weren’t sure why. Don’t people understand that it’s a wild f**king elephant!! Not long after than a couple dressed to match decided to do the same thing. Tourists are really stupid sometimes. Thankfully all the touris I was with had their heads screwed on and joined me in the lectures and shouting at people. What I don’t understand is how no one can understand how dangerous animals are. Luckily for them the elephant didn’t seemed too fussed that day but if it was there would have been a few squashed people and a few less stupid people in this world. After that excitement we were in the park and my camera and binos were at the ready. We saw so many lions I lost count and heaps of elephants with some small babies too. I was pretty happy! I was also in the truck with the crazy people. Someone must have given them a happy pill or something as it was not stop laughter. I haven’t laughed until I cried for a while. By the time we finished my stomach muscles were aching so much! The other car in front of us filled with the rest of the group didn’t seem all that impressed. According to them we scared off all the animals. Not sure how as we managed to see more than they did (thanks to my amazing spotting ability of course)! Anyway they were aptly named the fun sponge truck. Slightly offensive but they did nothing to change it. I think their tempers really rose when we randomly burst out in spontaneous laughter whilst watching some hippos wallowing. That day was definitely one of the best days I have spent on safari.
We spent the rest of the evening sipping on Amarula hot chocolates and looking at the stars. A perfect way to end a very perfect day.

The next day was an early start as we were heading in to the crater. We had a game drive out of the park where we saw some lazy lions. We were so close to them I am pretty sure I could have plucked out one of their whiskers if I wanted to. Anyway as you can imagine we weren’t the only vehicle there. One lady in another vehicle decided that she would ask her guide a very serious question (a stupid question too, she was also American!). Anyway she said it quite loudly which made us all piss ourselves laughing. Her question of choice was “If I walk towards it, will it attach me?”. Her guide was a hero and suggested to her that she should try it and see. I was looking forward to a good stand off between the lion and her. Thankfully for her own good she used her brain and didn’t try and attempt it. My money was always on the lion. Anyway this got us in to quite a serious debate about lions and wildlife which turned in to a debate. We also had a moment with another safari vehicle that kept blocking off this female lion so she couldn’t cross the road. Anyway between the stupid tourists and bad safari guides I was over it and just wanted to leave the animals in peace.

As we hadn’t seen a cheetah yet this was our mission for the way out. We weren’t lucky this time around but I was pretty happy with the rest of our game viewings. We managed to see most of the 5’s minus the small five. Not bad going for a couple of days.

The second night we camped on the rim of the crater with the game drive being on the morning on our way out. I definitely wasn’t prepared for that night. I have never been so cold and I definitely didn’t have enough clothes! It was still heaps of fun. The highlights being sitting round the campfire attempting to roast some marshmallows and drinking Amarula hot chocolate. What really made it for me was the story from one of the girls on the truck. She has to wake up twice in the night for a wee and both times was met with the beady eyes of a buffalo. I think it is one of those you have to hear the story from her moments as she tells it so well but it was hilarious. I’m not even brave enough to wee with buffalos around the fact that she did it twice is brave and hilarious as well as completely crazy!

The drive back was entertaining too. They were all so curious about South Sudan and what I was doing there so their questions just kept coming. I think I scared them all off after that but it was fun reminiscing, I actually forgot how awesome life could really be there and how ridiculous all at the same time. Saying that though I can’t help but realise how gat things are not too. The fact that I am on my way home having driven from Nairobi to Livingstone and back again is simply amazing. And to makes things even better the adventures haven’t stopped here. In fact they haven’t even really truly started. I still need to get my own truck first and go all the way to Cape Town! For now though I am happy to be back in the homeland for two short days. I am going to enjoy every last minute of it before its back on the truck and Uganda bound.

It has been awesome so far and I can’t wait for the upcoming adventures. Things just get better and better. Life right now couldn’t be any better.

“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they are going” ~ Paul Theroux

““I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Sunshine Reggae, Shopping and Sea Sickness In The Sun

Dar, Zanzibar, Back to Dar and Arusha.

I still hate Dar. Yep. No amount of time I will ever spend there will make me change my mind. Thankfully the promise of Zanzibar and the Indian Ocean make up for it but I can’t say I will ever book my own trip to go there. If I were to do Zanzibar on my own, I would fly. The traffic is worse than Nairobi which is enough for anyone with a severe road rage problem to avoid it and the suppressing heat and humidity and smell of rotten fish just make it a thousand times worse than what it could be. Unless you are visiting a long lost family friend that is stuck there then there is simply no reason to visit. So don’t.

The beaches are however a saviour. Granted we don’t spend much time in Dar so I am probably not really one who should judge but the journey through the traffic, on to the small ferry and then on to a matatu that we have to take to get to the beaches still doesn’t make Dar anywhere where I would spend much time. I can see a beach in Kenya that would probably be nicer and visit it in the comfort of a private car. Why would I bother going to Dar to get to Zanzibar. The true answer is I wouldn’t. I only do it because the itinerary says so. I guess it is a good way for the tourists to get a taste of the local life and the experience is quite something but I dread that part of the journey. Every time. What also makes it worse is the butt crack of dawn early wake up call (4:30am) from Chitimba and the very long drive to avoid the traffic. We then only stay a matter of hours and the small ferry, heat, chaos and pandemonium starts all over again to catch the big ferry to Zanzibar. Thankfully on the way over this time it was smooth sailing and no one I was near was sea sick. In fact I think I spent most of the time sleeping or watching snippets of the Jackie Chan movie being played on the screens. Some say that this ferry journey is a highlight. Granted this time around it was actually sunny so the views were pretty good but being stuck on a floating boat with many people (some who actually get sea sick) just doesn’t quite cut it as a highlight for me. At best it’s a great time to catch up on sleep.

Once we arrived in Zanzibar I didn’t have to do the spice tour this time around so I had a chance to have time to myself. As I was with the tour leader and her family we decided to hit a really cute cafe tucked away behind a big building for some fresh seafood lunch and a chance to shop. Thanks to my shopping companions I now have more crap that I don’t need and a new outfit or two. Unnecessary but it was such a pleasure spending my time not really being a tourist and doing things that I would do back home. It was then sundowners and a delicious seafood dinner followed by cocktails. Zanzibar is awesome. I can see why people now told me that I simply had to go. Stone Town reminds me a lot of Lamu with the people, buildings and alleyways and general lifestyle. I don’t think I could spend much time there but it is nice to be somewhere that feels so familiar. I look forward to the days when I can explore it on my own, I have no doubt that there are little treasures tucked away round the back somewhere. I can not wait to go back already and I only left there a few days ago. Oh and the beach. Who could not love it there. On North Bound trips we have 3 days at the beach instead of 2 so more time to soak up the sun and spot some fish. I literally spent my days catching up with old friends (another tour leader I met a while ago and a randomer I met in Kenya), having a few cheeky bevvies, dancing my shoes bare at a reggae party and sleeping. It was heaven. Ad the fresh fish thrown in there too. Uh. Take me back. I could stay there for a while.

The return journey on the ferry was horrendous. I sat right at the front, stupidly, so ended up feeling a little green. Not green enough to bring out the sick bag but green enough for want it to be over. The two people sitting me either side did help with the distractions of games if scrabble and logos but at the time I knew getting off was going to be the only cure. I have to remember to get some anti nausea tablets or something because that was not enjoyable. And to think people call it a highlight. They have to be crazy.
When we got back to Dar I headed straight to the sea to wash off the grime of the day and settled down for the evening to some email checking and Facebook.
It’s times like these that I miss my family. I love Facebook but I hate it too. I just realised how much I miss out on when I am not there. To be fair my adventure is awesome and I can guarantee you are all missing out here too but nothing beats being at home with the family and doing fun things together. It was only bad this time around as everyone sounded like they had such fun at the rhino charge and I desperately wanted to go. I soon got over it because I too was heading home and then on to Uganda. I realised that moments of homesickness are allowed but only short moments.

As it was a very long drive the next day to Arusha I decided to call it quits and go to sleep. 4:30am is not my favourite time of the day but being awake for sunrise does make it all a little more worthwhile. As a group we a also getting really good at these long driving days. One of the girls comes up with quizzes and fun games to play. My musical knowledge is growing greater by the day and I am fast running out of good reading material. I guess that I should enjoy it while it lasts as when I am working I am us accounting and planning will be keeping me busy but there nothing worse than sitting in a truck for 8 hours going crazy and realising that you are only half way to the destination. Ma and BJ at the Meserani Snake Park are really a good cure for Arusha road rage and 16hour driving insanity. They always have a friendly face and a cold beer waiting for you. It’s always a pleasure seeing them and catching up. It’s like meeting your grand parents and them doing everything they can to cheer you up. I can see why everyone loves them so much, they make it so easy.

It was a quick dinner and an early bed, we were heading to the Serengetti and Ngorongoro crater the next day. I have always wanted to go there so I refused to be tired. This is the first real chance of wildlife spotting I have had since I left and I was not ready to miss out. I was lucky that the company let me go this time too. I love Arusha and a few days break and rest would have been awesome but game viewing and bush camping just seemed much more exciting. Who wouldn’t want to go?

Bed that night was awesome and the shower was the best shower I had had in a while. Even though it was cold it was still great to get the dust off and to refresh. Sleeping on a Safari is a big no no for me so getting a decent 6 hours was all that I needed. I woke up way beyond excited and ready to see some Elephants. It was that great that it gets its own blog post!

Malawi Moments

Malawi!! Yes, it is still amazing.

On the drive up from Zambia to Kande I jumped in to the cab of the truck and spent some time with the tour leader and driver. I always had an idea but after today these two have definitely become very good friends of mine. I shall always look forward to those moments where we bump in to each other on the road and to the quick catch ups. I spent most of the journey laughing, it has been a while since I have done that. To be truthful the laughing was mainly at them rather than us laughing together. You can tell that due to many weeks on the road they have become like brother and sister, husband and wife, best friends, worst enemies and complete strangers all in one. It’s great to watch and see. I hope that my driver and I become like that, although something tells me we will have no choice. Spending that amount if time with something, amazing friendships are bound to be formed. The real entertainment came when we tried to fish out a USB stick from a random hole in the compartment between the seats. Trying to pick up a small USB with a spanner and two pens in a moving vehicle is tricky work. Watching the tour leader attempt it for a good hour was more entertainment that TV could provide. If you have ever seen a chimp try to pick up rice with chopsticks you will be getting the picture. Hilarious. After a while she gave up so I decided to have a go. Being slightly less chimp like I fashioned a hook contraption out of a bracelet and fished it out within 15 minutes. I was impressed with myself and I don’t think she will ever get over it.

We also had a chance to plan for our party that we were going to have in Kande. Acacia, the company that I work for was turning 18 and so all trucks got given some extra money to throw a party wherever you would be. As we had a truck full of girls with one token male we decided to throw a cocktail party. We planned to buy umbrellas and balloons and put on our finest traveling outfit and have a jolly good time sipping on piña coladas and eating some good food. As soon as we arrived we got down to cooking dinner and the group got stuck in to the cocktails. It definitely wasn’t anywhere near as crazy as the previous time I had been in Kande but it was definitely up there with the good nights. Sadly as we had a long driving day that day we all went to bed early fairly sober, so nothing like how 18th birthday parties should be but we gave it a good shot and definitely did have some fun doing it too.

The next day was really chilled out, I spent most of the morning writing notes and catching up with things. I look forward to the days where I don’t have to continuously note write and instead can unpack my kikoi and enjoy the beach and the fresh water of Lake Malawi. The afternoon I spent most if my time with the driver and tour leader, they gave me heaps of good points and provided me with some insightful information. It was a good afternoon well spent. The evening was spent having dinner in the village, kindly cooked for us by Christopher Columbus the Second’s wife and watching his children sing and dance. Wen we headed back to the camp most of us were exhausted so it was an early bed again. The Oasis truck that was also staying in camp were having a large one in the bar so a couple of us decided to go and have a drink or two and watch the messiness unravel. I am so glad that I decided to do this. The entertainment that they provided was priceless. They had travelled down from London through West Africa and were now on their way up through the East. Apparently they had a rough 18 days where they ran out of food and had no opportunity to shower so as you can imagine the sight of semi civilisation and a bar was enough to get the party started. I had the chance to meet a couple of them and get talking to them. It turns out they were a bunch of friends who all knew each other before hand and had all decided to get together for the drivers lat hoorah working as an overlander. This is definitely the way to travel. They all had such crazy stories and good memories that made me so jealous. I was glad to be a part of their fun for one night, and thankful too that it was only one night. I knew I would be bumping in to them again at some point but that was enough. They were too crazy for me and there was no way I would have been able to keep up. They were fun people though and I would like to think that one day my friends would do that for me too. That is definitely the way to travel, they had it spot on.

The rest of my time in Malawi was spent in Chitimba. I love this place. There is something about it that makes me happy. It sounds cheesy and it is but it is so true. The beach, the lake, the scenery and the managers all make for a magical place. We had two days here where we did very little but relax. We snuck in a night of fancy dress and fruit punch that didn’t turn in to a wild party but in fact a great evening dressed like idiots sitting round a campfire. I also had a chance to walk through the village here, much the same as Kande with the same “we need more donations to make our lives better” spiel from the locals. The difference with this village walk was that I was on a mission to find pasta. I though the driver and tour leader were testing me but they weren’t. I had to find some pasta in a very small town where they didn’t even know what pasta was. With lots of explaining and hand gesturing I manage to find one small measly packet of spaghetti. I was pretty chuffed. I also popped in to the local witch doctor just for a laugh. According to him and his potions I am going to have a job soon (yay), my family is healthy (yay), my trip up north would be very successful with few problems (yay) and that I will have three children (not sure what to make of this yet). Probably not worth the few dollars I paid to visit him but it was all about the experience and for the laughs. His outfit was also very typical of an African witch doctor. See for yourself in the photos, I don’t think I could do it justice!

All in all it has been a pretty chilled time in Malawi. It’s been awesome actually and just what I needed. We had some laughs and some drinks and did some shopping, pretty much what you would do on any vacation. Even though it was very different from the last time I still very much enjoyed myself and will again be excited about returning time and time again.

Zooming Through Zambia


This blog post is going to be short and sweet as nothing really happened through the rest of Zambia.

This country is extensive so it is mainly long driving days and lots of time spent on the truck. I spent most of my days reading and getting to know the new people on the truck. I can’t say I was surprised to meet another bunch of equally crazy and awesomely fun new people. I have a feeling that this could be the trend here. Luckily we all get a long so well. Spending hours sitting side by side making small talk conversations would be hard to do with someone who you would rather not have to be in the same country as would be nightmarish. Most of the group had been traveling together since Cape Town and a couple of others since Jo’Burg so their friendships were already formed and the inside jokes had been established therefore it made traveling with each other very easy. For us newbies (5 in total including me) it was quite daunting. It wasn’t long before everyone slotted in and we became a truck full of a strange and crazy family. You would think it would be quite dysfunctional but we all seem to compliment each other, take the piss out of one another and work well together that any competitive sports team would be envious. Luckily as well we all had a taste for cheesy music which again seems to becoming a trend on my overland trucks. It wasn’t long before Disney was being played over the truck speakers and all of us we singing a long. When we weren’t trying our luck at truck karaoke we all had our heads down in our books. I have started to realise how much I actually enjoy reading and I am looking forward to having a chance to read all the serious books I skimped out on in South Sudan. We have some long driving days coming up so its a good thing to be in to reading. There isn’t really much else to do over 12 hours in a confined space with very little on offer.

I am really struggling to write anything more than this for these few days we spent in Zambia. The main reason for really visiting this country is to head to the falls so when that is done its hard to find much else to do. I am definitely not doing this place any justice and some of you who know Zambia will probably be wanting to shake me awake and talk at me for hours about how awesome this place is. Don’t worry, I do realise this. Which is why I am adding Zambia on to my list of future destinations. I would love to come back, not on a truck but in a car with a bunch of friends who have endless lists of must do’s and have to see’s. Sadly I don’t make the itineraries so its all about Livingstone and not much about anything in between. We really did zoom through the rest of Zambia. Don’t worry though, I shall be back and hopefully the next time my blog post will be more exciting. I will say this though, I do love how Zambia can be very South African if you know what I mean. On a shopping trip I really struggled to remember that I was in fact trawling the shops of the small towns in Zambia and not the high streets of say Cape Town. It’s civilisation like nowhere in Africa or at least the Africa that I am used to. The endless choices of supplies and goods just isn’t the same as the Nakumatt selection we get back home. You must all be thinking that I don’t make any sense and wondering why I am talking about shopping but if you have ever had the opportunity to shop in South Africa and in Kenya you will know what I am talking about. Zambia still has the Africa spirit that I know but there is also a little something extra that is a lot like an Africa that I don’t know. I definitely look forward to returning one day. There is something so special about it.

Killing Time In Kafue

Woo hoo! Something new for my trip up North, we didn’t do this part of the journey down South. It’s hard to fit it in so we bypass and head straight on. I have to say though that I am glad that on the way up we find the time to stop in. Only because its beautiful, a chance to get out of the truck and because the soft grass allows for one of the best nights sleep. Doesn’t seem like a lot but when you spend your time sleeping on mattresses that are bound to slip a disc or two, some nice green soft grass is exactly what any chiropractor would order.

Kafue is one if those places that unless you were a tourist or you lived there and had a boat you wouldn’t necessarily go there or even look at it on a map. Don’t get me wrong I am glad that I went but I am struggling to find a reason why I would go on my own without the truck load of the soap dodgers. Basically it’s a river cruise and a night camping out in the bush. The boat itself is nothing fancy so if you are picturing something similar to what Livingstone and Stanley would have travelled on stop now. It is more like a pontoon than a boat. A double decker pontoon at that with a bar and basic bathroom attached so really who needs much more? The cruise takes about 2 hours, the scenery is beautiful (as you can see for yourself in the photos) but other than sightseeing there is really nothing else to it. Luckily we all had a good book and a comfy mattress to lie on. I think I enjoyed it more that I expected simply because cruising a long a river is a wonderful break from the bumpy roads that Africa becomes so famous for and also for the chance to catch up on some light reading. The peace and tranquility didn’t last too long however, a storm blew in out of nowhere and suddenly we were stuck in the papyrus. Luckily the campsite was right there so we were able to fashion some stepping stones out of nowhere to get on to the bank and pitch the tents before the rain really set in. I don’t often sleep in a tent (one of the perks of being a tour leader) but I have to say that I am getting pretty swift at this tent erecting business. Once the tent was set up it was back in the boat for some ugali and chicken. The best thing about it was that I didn’t have to cook it myself aside from that it was delicious. After dinner was when the real tourist attraction started. 5 guys break out the bongo drums and sing and dance the night away. One even did a little fire breathing action and some other crazy stunts involving his skin and a burning stick. Not something that any health and safety officer would approve of.

Once the entertainment was done it was a wet wipe wash for me (only the second thus far) an early bed time. And the best nights sleep I have had since this whole thing started. It was the first time in a while I woke up without a crick in my spine or an ounce of pain. I was actually starting to feel like a little old lady up until this point. I think a visit to the chiropractor is definitely in order when I find some time and someone qualified enough to straighten me out. This and the un availability of a good mani pedi is definitely my biggest problem with overlanding. It sounds trivial but nice feet and a straight spine doesn’t seem like a lot to ask for and if these are the only problems then I think we are not doing too badly.

The next morning we headed out on the speed boat to a random house in the middle of nowhere. I say random because it really was. It looked as though someone decided to start building a house that would have been so beautiful and well thought out but then ran out of money and abandoned it. There was also a strange collection of children’s toys brushed away in to the corner and a small selection of veggies. What really did it though was the slate that was used to construct some kind of outdoor seating and the dilapidated police boat moored outside. We were left their for a while as they had to do a couple of trips in the boat to bring everyone there, it was long enough for us to start discussing survival scenarios and establishing a plan if we would ever get left behind. Thankfully we were not left behind and heading up the hill towards the village. Incidentally this was my survival tactic after of course having diminished the vegetables and got bored of the toys. After a very scenic walk we arrived at this gentleman’s house. So it wasn’t really a village, just a collection of his family homes. We spent some time listening to him explaining about their life there and watching his grand children play a game of dodgeball with an added element of rock collecting. Nothing overly exciting but a good way to kill some time and to get away from truck life. Once all that was done it was back on to the boat and back to the truck and back on the road in the direction of Lusaka.

I was looking forward to going back in the direction of civilisation and also because we were coming closer and closer to Malawi. Something that I can’t help but get excited about.

Oliving The Dream

Livingstone, Zambia!

Sitting on the shores of the Zambezi river with a view to the Smoke That Thunders (Mosi O Tunya) I have to say that Zambia is another highlight. I have spent many more days here than usual and I am ready to get back on the road but every day has been amazing. Sadly I haven’t been able to indulge in any of the adrenalin junkie activities but I have been to watch a few crazies brave the bungee jump and bridge swing so I feel like I have had my fair share of heart stopping action just by watching.

Unfortunately my onwards journey has changed and I am now heading North. I say unfortunately but it isn’t really. As much as I would love to be going South the North route does have its plus points and I am just as excited. Not only because it is back to Malawi but also because instead of three nights in Zanzibar we have four. And this is is just the beginning. So spoilt I know which is why you are probably wondering why I am complaining. I am not really, I am just a little gutted that I have to miss out on the Okavango Delta and Namibia this time round. There will be plenty of other chances so I am getting over it slowly. As I have changed routes I have therefore changed trucks, tour leaders and group. I was sad to say goodbye to the others as they had become good friends a long the way but the new bunch of nomads all seem just as lovely so things should be just as awesome if not much more. My new tour leader and driver also seem great too so I am sure much learning and note writing will be done a long the way. Not sure why HQ decided to change the direction but as with all other traveling, plans always change and evolve so why should my overland experience be any different? Our route is slightly different so for some of the way there will be new sights which is always great. Not that I will find it boring anyway but seeing new places is always exciting. For a start we stop over in Kafue in between Livingstone and Lusaka with a chance to cruise a long the river and hopefully view some game. It will then be back to Lusaka then on to Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya and then on further still to Uganda. Yes. I possibly have a chance to visit the Gorillas. I hear that a lone is the most amazing experience ever so I feel very lucky to be including that in to all the other amazing things I will be doing on the way there. We also have a company birthday coming up, a big 18th so a small celebration is in order. We will be in Kande Beach, Malawi so I imagine things will get a little merry and festive. A typical 18th birthday party if you will. You would think that this isn’t work. Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way I have to admit as I am only a trainee so getting really hands on is hard to do but I am sure that when I get my own truck things will be different and I will be working a lot more than just enjoying what Africa has to offer. I look forward to those days actually. The thought of controlling a budget and getting tourists round Africa is a little daunting but its all part of the adventure. I still have lots of learning to go but I have plenty of time to do that so I am sure by the time I am in control I will be more clued up on how things are done. Until then I am going to do my best to squeeze in some sights and exploring in amongst the shopping and organising that I can do. It should hopefully be slightly easier now that I am heading back on a route I have already been, at least I now know what to expect.

Exactly what have I been doing in Livingstone I can hear you thinking. Well the first day was spent driving. We drove from Lusaka which took a while. We arrived with enough time to visit the falls so a thorough soaking was had. Some say that Vic Falls is over rated. Ok realistically it is just a waterfall but the sheer size a lone is impressive. We have come at a time when the water levels are high so there is lots of spray and the visibility is poor but even still you can’t help but get an idea of the impressiveness that is. It was so amazing being so close to the falls and in and amongst the spray. The photo opportunities were minimal as the spray was obviously camera damaging but hopefully the ones I managed to sneak in will give you an idea. The spray and sunlight also allowed for some impressive rainbows, sadly no pot of gold at the end but with 3 or 4 rainbows in one spot I felt like it more than made up for it. After a couple of hours getting soaked to the bone we headed back to campsite. And what a campsite it is. The Waterfront is definitely a recommendation from me. They have so many river view rooms for those who don’t like roughing it and plenty of space for tents for those who do. And the views. Uh. Words can not describe, quite seriously. To my left I have the view to the falls, the only thing I can really see is the spray but it is still beautiful and to my right I have up river. Luckily this is in the direction of the sun sets so as you can imagine, every evening as been an array of reds, yellows, oranges and pinks with everything sporting that warm glow. Africa, this Africa is simply breathtaking. I have seen my fair share of sunsets in my time but there is something about them in this place. Not sure whether it is the happy hour beers which are in full flow or just the setting but you can’t help but be in love with Africa here. If you haven’t been here yet, come and see for yourself. I 100% promise you will not be disappointed. I am already excited about returning and hope that next time I will have a chance to truly enjoy everything that Livingstone has to offer. The bungee jump and all!

After an afternoon at the falls the other days have been a blur of relaxing and sight seeing. There was a morning spent watching a few brave the bungee, this was amazing. I would have loved to have done it and was so keen but with the history of my broken leg they weren’t too keen to send me and I wasn’t in the mood to spend hours getting evaluated so I passed on it. Next time though I shall see how I feel and possibly brave the 111m fall. It just has to be done. The setting itself is enough to make the fall amazing. If I don’t do the bungee I will definitely be doing the swing. A 70m free fall then a massive swing though the valley for a few breathtaking minutes. I am so excited just thinking about it. Some of us then jumped on to a boat for a booze cruise at sunset. That evening was spent getting merry and meeting the new people joining the tour. It was a great evening spent with great people in a great location. The other days were spent wondering around town and simply laying back, catching up on the reading and soaking up the magic of Zambia. Things really don’t get much better than this.

For my final night this country has provided me with the most amazing sunset. My photos simply don’t do it justice but the pinks of the sky are incredible. I haven’t seen anything like it ever before so on that note I am going to head off to enjoy it. This post has been short but sweet but as not much has really happened I think I can get away with it. Not to mention my terrible writing is not doing Livingstone and the beauty of it any justice so it is better to leave it here than try and continue. Just do yourselves a favour and find some time to come here, see it for yourself. You will not be disappointed.

Next stop, Kafue. I am well and truly Living The Dream.

P.S. Vic Falls photos to come soon. Have to find better Internet first! T.I.A!!