A Travellerspoint blog

9. A wild encounter or two...

Zimbabwe

all seasons in one day 20 °C

15th July 2011,

We enter Zimbabwe after one of the longest border crossings yet, unsure what to expect. First impressions are good: everybody is waving at us again. After a few hours, we arrive into Harare – the capitol. It’s the first place that has been built up and developed in Africa. It’s quite a surprise. There are some beautiful properties, with acres of land, but each house is surrounded by a six-foot electric fence and barbed wire. Even the windows have metal bars across them.

We spent three nights camping at Bird Park – 28 kms out of Harare, around a beautiful lake. We’ve pitched our tent 6m from the edge of the water only to find after that it contains crocs! We wake in the morning, to find two Zebra’s strolling amongst the tents. It’s incredible and a real reminder of how wild Africa is.

After breakfast, several of us take a Matata (local mini bus) into town where we unexpectedly find a very cosmopolitan cafe and enjoy coffee (with real milk!) and cake.

After three nights, we leave Bird Park and move on to Antelope Park. Set in a private game reserve the park is run as a breeding programme for rescued Lions. During the day temperatures reach 25 degrees, but on an evening they drop down to below zero. We wake with frost on the ground, cold after little sleep. Camping isn’t much fun in these temperatures, and cold showers are unbearable. On the second day, I wake at 5.15 and meet my guide who takes me out to walk with two lions – Leowa and Liona. Leowa is 7 months old and Liona is 10 months old. They stroll along next to us, occasionally leaving us to wander off into the fields…

Our final stop in Zimbabwe is Victoria falls. One of the worlds largest waterfalls by width and height and also home to a host of adrenaline activities from rafting to bungee jumping. I contemplate the bungy but I can’t get excited about it so I don’t sign up. On our second day, I take a helicopter flight over the falls. Having never been on a helicopter before I’m really looking forward to it. Sure enough the flight was incredible, and the only way to comprehend the size of the falls and the River Zambezi. I’d walked along the falls the day before, but they seemed a hundred times more impressive from the air.

We’re in Victoria Falls over a weekend, so on the Saturday night, most of us go out for a few drinks. At 2am, we leave the pub after a boozy night ready to walk the short 200m back to the campsite. It’s pitch black outside, and we can’t see a thing. The Chief shoots off skipping up the street. We’re all laughing and singing. Jess and Nicole G decide they need a wee and cant wait until we’re back at camp so they go off into the bush. Derek comes back and tells them that there are homeless people in the bush and they should get out. We hear rustling. Derek takes a couple of steps into the bush and shouts to leave us alone, thinking it’s homeless people. We shine the torch into the bush, but instead of people we pick up the silhouette of a massive elephant. In disbelief, we search for it again. It can’t be an elephant. This time it’s looking at us straight on, its ears opened wide. It stomps it’s foot and blows its trunk. We run as fast as we can. I drop my purse, stand in some elephant dung and lose a flip flop, but keep going – I’d rather stay alive. Nic loses her flip flop too. Tuc falls over the elephant dung and takes the end of his toe off needing first aid when we finally get back to the truck. We reach the campsite – thankfully it hasn’t followed us. No-one can believe it, and a few people want to go back. We sneak carefully back up the road and retrieve our belongings. The elephant is not happy, so we wisely decide to leave it alone...

Posted by Jayne Breckon 22:01 Archived in Zimbabwe Tagged oasis; oasis_overland_trips overlanding_africa; oasis_overland; oasis_overlanding; vic_falls_zimbabwe; victoria_falls; zimbabwe; things_to_do_in_zimbabwe; Comments (0)

8. Pig day & Truck Olympics

Malawi

sunny 30 °C

10th July 2011

Malawi is a small country nestled between Tanzania and Mozambique. The vegetation is more tropical than Tanzania presumably because of the abundance of water in the lake. With a current and tide, and stretching out to the horizon, it could easily be mistaken for the sea. The long white sandy beaches are reminiscent of Zanzibar, and on our first day we enjoy a game of touch rugby on the beach.

The people are uber friendly and we’re invited to walk around the village and have a meal at one of their houses. We even get a game of football going with the local boys. After five weeks of sitting on a truck and very little exercise, we’re terribly unfit and clearly the weaker side. However, the locals take pity on us and let us win (I wont be popular for writing that!).

We stay on the shores of Lake Malawi at Makindi beach and Kande beach. Malawi seems to be a haven for overland trucks. We meet two in particularly – Absolute Africa and Dragoman. After a few days, we pull out of Makindi beech. Dragoman are trying to leave the same morning but are having some engine problems. We’ve already challenged them to truck olympics and so whilst they are being jump-started we play ‘simply the best’ followed by ‘eye of the tiger’, and all sing along at the top of our voices. They’re laughing, but they’ve got the message. The game is on! Tension continues to mount over the course of the day as we see them on the road and antagonize them with notes such as ‘Dragoman, always in Oasis’s shadow’ on the window. As we arrive into camp, we play Queen’s ‘We will rock you’.

On the day of truck olympics, we’re up early to watch a pig that has been bought for us, slaughtered. It’s then gutted and roasted on a spit for us to eat that evening. It’s clean and done professionally so the animal doesn’t suffer.

We make a brandy and gin based punch and head down to the beach at midday for truck olympics. The games commence. First it's the tug of war. Despite a valiant effort, both Oasis teams lose. Next contestants have to run with a plate balanced on their head. Everybody cheats and the game has to be stopped and restarted. The egg and spoon race follows and shots are dished out in between. We glue our eggs to the spoon and come home in first and second places. Next up is the three-leg race, but everyone cheats. Oasis plays fair and square in comparison, but despite coming first and second, gets disqualified for not crossing the finishing line.

The boat race follows and I’m in final position. I down a drink and throw myself to the ground before starting to run for one of three flags. It all gets very competitive and there’s apparently biting, punching and someone who complains he got his bits tickled at the other flag. The race is stopped without a winner and team number two lines up to play. The final game of the day is a relay, which involves wading out into the lake, circling the three tour leaders and coming back. Once back you have to put your head on the chair and spin round it five times. I’m second but its tough. There's a very strong current and a big swell. It's seriously hard work, and everyone emerges exhausted. I can't spin around the chair without falling over. Ruben is up last and brings it home for the team. Oasis comes first and second.

Finally, the scores are in, and Oasis are the winners! After much cheering, chanting and singing we retire to the truck to feast on roast pig. After dinner and a shower, we all get dressed up as pirates and the night continues. It’s been a fun day for all and tomorrow there’ll be some serious hangovers…

Posted by Jayne Breckon 21:21 Archived in Malawi Tagged malawi africa; oasis; overlanding; africa_overlanding; makindi_beach; oasis_overlanding; lake_malawi; Comments (0)

7. A man from Hull

Zanzibar

sunny 30 °C

1st July 2011

Zanzibar is an archipelago off the east coast of Africa and part of Tanzania. It’s 60 miles long, 20 miles wide and 130m high at its tallest point. Lying on the Indian Ocean, it’s known for it's long white sandy beeches, soft shallow coral reefs and the World Heritage site that is Stone Town. It was also the centre of the slave trade in the 1700s and 1800s. At the height of the slave trade, around 10,000 slaves would pass through Zanzibar’s slave market every week on their way to the Ottoman empire.

William Wilberforce, a man from Hull and an independent Member of Parliament for Yorkshire, led the campaign for the abolition of slavery. Over a period of 18 years, he introduced numerous antislavery motions in the House of Commons. In 1807, he finally succeeded, and slavery became illegal, but it was not until 1833 that it was finally abolished throughout the British Empire.

Down the eastern coast of Africa, however, the Arab led slave trade continued. Zanzibar had become the main gateway to and from Africa through which most slaves would pass. In the 1860's, David Livingstone, the explorer, discovered the slave markets in Stone Town and forced the British government to exchange land, take control of Zanibar, and close them down entirely.

As a girl from Hull, I've seen many references to Wilberforce and Livingstone in my own home town so it's fascinating to be here. We visit the church, which stands on the site of the old slave market, first. Inside, the alter marks the spot where the whipping post stood whilst pictures and plaques depict the slave trade beneath the vast stained glass windows. Along a narrow underground passage are the last few remaining slave chambers. Inside, there is barely room for us to stand, let alone fit our entire group of eighteen, and yet, these dingy underground caves would hold up to 100 slaves. The conditions would have been appalling. Rusty chains lay on the stone ledge as a poignant reminder. Outside, four stone statues are chained together: a symbolic monument in memory of all the slaves who passed through Stonetown. We walk around a little more, but by now we have seen most of what remains.

In the evening, we move onto the night market, which specialises in seafood and pizza. I select lobster, snapper and prawns, and watch them cook in front of me. The pizza is made from an extremely thin layer of dough wrapped around your selected toppings and mixed with a raw egg. Both are delicious and a welcome break from food on the truck.

Once we leave Stonetown, we travel up to Nungwi beech in the north of the island. Once we come off the paved road, we hit dirt tracks with enormous pot holes. It's a bumpy ride in the minibus. Our lodge in Nungwi, overlooks the crystal clear waters of the Indian ocean at one side, and a small white sandy beech at the other. Away from the guest house, it's far less pretty and a stern reminder that we are still in Africa. The roads are terrible, and the streets are littered with rubbish. The island is not as well set up for tourists as you might think, but in that, lies it's charm.

After two nights in Nungwi, Jess, Nicole and I take a taxi to Matemwe beach on the east coast of the island. Our official taxi is driven by two young guys. They put on some pop music for us, so we feel obliged to sing along as we drive. The CD has a habit of sticking. The driver hangs it out the window to cool down after telling us the CD player has overheated. When that doesn't work, they pour water on the CD before hanging it out again. We watch in disbelief. We do not have the heart to tell them that it's because of all the scratches on it.

Our next stop is Matemwe: an endless long white sandy beach, picture postcard Indian Ocean. As soon as we arrive, we order three Malibu and pineapples at the bar, before realising its only 10am. Ops! We wander down the beech and decide to go snorkeling. Two locals offer to take us out on a rickety dowa. The ride out to Mnembe Island is a bit scary and the thought of capsizing crosses our mind more than once. We snorkel for over an hour. The corals and abundance of fish are astounding.

The following morning, we watch the sun rise before heading back to Stone Town. Instead of a taxi we take the local matata, or bus. Anywhere else in the world (apart from perhaps Asia) this would seat eight people comfortably. We manage to squeeze in an additional twenty-seven people. For two hours, people sit on our laps or on crates in the middle of the floor.

Zanzibar was not at all what I expected. It is a beautiful island that has not yet been ruined by development or throngs of tourists and chains of hotels. It's fascinating, from the cobbled streets of Stone Town to the beaches of Matemwe as well as steeped in history and symbolically significant. It's yet another side of Africa that I've only just managed to scratch the surface of. It's also a welcome break from the truck and a little reminder of home.

Posted by Jayne Breckon 20:23 Archived in Tanzania Tagged oasis; oasis_overland; zanzibar; tanzania; kingston_up_hull; slave_trade; slaves_in_africa; william_wilberforce; hull; david_livingstone; wilberforce; things_to_see_in_zanzibar; things_to_do_in_zanzibar; things_to_see_in_tanzania; things_to_do_in_tanzania; livingstone; Comments (0)

6. Tanzania

Serengeti & Masai Mara

sunny 25 °C

20th June 2011

We pull out of Nairobi for the second time on what will be one of the longest drive days of the trip. The new group is on board - we’ve lost four people and gained eleven. This is it - the group that’s heading all the way to Cape Town! And we’re completely full. It’s carnage in the back with stuff everywhere and no room to spread out. It’s a good group though, and there’s a good vibe.

We head for Tanzania. With a population of 40m, Tanzania, which derives its name from Tanganyika and Zanzibar after the two regions merged, is known affectionately as ‘little Africa’. Apparently this is because Tanzania has everything Africa has to offer in one country! With Mount Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti and Zanzibar, you can imagine that is true. So far it doesn’t disappoint. However, we notice a change in temperament towards tourists. Kids are throwing things at us and making rude hand gestures.

As soon as we’re over the border the terrain changes. Before long we’re driving through flat savanna grasslands and dusty plains. Mountains line the horizon. It’s quite moving – think ‘circle of life’ in the opening sequence to the Lion King! You can understand where the inspiration came from (and yes I know that’s cheesy, but we all felt the same and before long we were all singing away to the tune in the back of the truck).

Our first stop is Snake Park, Arusha. We arrive late, pitch the tents in the dark and are greeted by freezing cold showers. The temperatures have already plummeted to zero so the showers are particularly unwelcoming. It’s another freezing cold night, and its hard to sleep.

The next day we head towards the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti. The crater itself is thriving with wildlife as far as the eye can see – elephants, giraffes, zebras, antelopes, buffalo and hippos. The lake is a salt lake which dries out in the summer leaving a shimmering white crust around its edge. We ascend the steep crater wall. Lush green tropical trees overhang the road, and every few metres, debris scatters the road where elephants have crossed. A buffalo steps out right in front of us, and we swerve to miss it.

On our way to the Serengeti, we stop off at a Masai village where we meet the local tribe, dance with the Masai and visit their home. The homes are arranged in a circle with approximately 30 huts surrounded by a fence. Inside the hut, there are four areas: - the adults bedroom (literally space for a bed), the children’s bedroom, an area for the calves (which seems the biggest) and a central area for the fire. The hut, which is approximately 3m x 3m, is very warm and dark inside. Made of Acacia tree and cow dung it's very solid and weather proof. Surprisingly there is no smell, but there are plenty of small cockroaches and flies. As cosy as it is, it's probably not somewhere you'd want to spend the night!

The Serengeti is a vast open plain dotted with Acacia trees as far as the eye can see. In places its almost desert like at this time of the year. The migration has already passed through the Serengeti this year – beating us by two weeks unfortunately. It’s now in the Masai Mara. Despite that, there’s still plenty to see and before long we’ve spotted a Leopard in a tree with a kill – it looks like an Impala. He’s casually sat on the branch tearing off chunks of meat, blood all over his face. He’s about 50m away. It’s the first time I’ve seen a leopard and the animal I most wanted to see on this trip.

On our way to camp, we see two lions at the side of the road. We watch them for half an hour before the female gently cuffs the male, and they mate right in front of us! He lasts a whole 17 seconds according to the video Tuc takes. Our guide tells us that mating lions leave the pride for a week or so to mate when the female is in heat. They mate as much as 24 times a day.

That night we camp out under the stars. There’s a long drop toilet where we pitch our tents, but no showers and nothing to keep the animals out. As we go to sleep, hyenas can be heard in the distance. Thankfully nothing comes sniffing around our tent in the night.

We rise and watch the sunrise over the Serengeti before returning to camp and packing up the tents. It’s spectacular and really quite moving. During the morning game drive, we spot eight Cheetah’s. The best of which are two males hunting. They walk between the safari vehicles – one round the front and one round the back, calling to each other and communicating. It’s an incredible sight. They look us straight in the eye and for a split second I thought "don't pounce".

We get lost that afternoon and take a three hour detour around the Serengeti. Eventually we end up back at camp and after three days of no showers have the delight of showering in icy water and zero degree temperatures.

Posted by Jayne Breckon 04:10 Archived in Tanzania Tagged africa; ngorongoro oasis_overland_trips; overlanding_africa; oasis_overland; tanzania; things_to_see_in_tanzania; things_to_do_in_tanzania; traveling_in_africa; snake_park_tanzania; crater; serengeti; overlanding; Comments (0)

5. Kayaking on the Nile

Ginger, Uganda

sunny 20 °C

18 June 2011

The next stop on our journey is Ginger. Not long after arriving in camp we’re persuaded to go on a ‘sunset’ cruise up the river and into Lake Victoria. With the exception of two, the whole truck goes. As soon as we arrive we’re handed a beer and told it’s a free bar. Wahey! Snacks and a light meal are served as the sun sets and we cruise up the river. It doesn’t take long before the shots come out and everyone’s hammered. We get off the boat and onto a minibus to take us back to camp. Sure enough everyone starts singing. We call ourselves the travelling choir as we run through renditions of Wonderwall and Mr Brightside. Everyone can hear us coming up the road. We get off the truck and do the conga into the bar, where we continue to sing and dance. The music takes a turn for the worst and we decide to put on a ‘Mzungu’ ipod starting with Rihanna. The bar erupts into a dancing frenzy. The party goes on into the small hours, with games of passport being played and various dance offs. Eventually around 4am the last of us crawl off to bed for a couple of hours sleep before hitting the water tomorrow.

Ginger sits at the source of the Nile - Lake Victoria. It's a favourite for white water junkies with some of Africa’s finest grade five rapids. Having done white water rafting before, I’m not that bothered about rafting. However, once I’ve seen the promotional video I’m drawn in and sign up for kayaking. I’m the only kayaker in a field of 60 rafters. “Why raft the rapids when you can kayak them” I reason with myself – that sounds even more fun! Sure enough it was, but the waters full on, you roll on almost every rapid and most of the time you can’t see for the water in your face. On the very first rapid we roll, I hold my breath and hold on, we roll four times and end up under water. My breath is starting to run out, and I’m eager to go up for air. We start to roll left but don’t make it, instead going right. Again we don’t come up. After what feels like an age, I’m ready to pull myself free, but finally Hassan rolls us up the right way and I’m able to breath! We congratulate ourselves, do a celebratory chink chink of paddles and push on eager to watch the rafters.

Posted by Jayne Breckon 07:36 Archived in Uganda Tagged waterfalls oasis; oasis_overland_trips overlanding_africa; nairobi_to_cape_town; oasis_overland; rafting_in_uganda; rafting; white_water_rafting; nile; nile_uganda; white_water; Comments (0)

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