From here we went to the Serengeti, which is freakish terrain – just an endless plain going for miles and miles. Within it are large rock mounds, which are the tops of mountains pushing through. There are sparse trees around and sometimes lines of greenery where the rivers flow. It was beautiful. We did a game drive to the camp spotting a lion feasting on a buffalo, eagles, lots of thompson’s gazelle, hyena’s, hippos and a few other animals.
Arriving at camp, it was very basic but swamped with every other tourist in a 4×4 as well. With 2 basic toilets, it became a bit messy later on but suited our needs. We again ate from a table (novelty) and had a few drinks around the camp, building up the terror of camping in the wild for a few of us. The camp was nowhere as novel as Chobe was, where we were isolated from everyone and had that better feeling of wild to it. This one was really just to serve a purpose – sleep and security.
In the morning we set out early to be greeted by a cheetah, then many prides of lioness’s stalking throughout the day, also seeing elephants, more antelope, eagles, baboons and a few other things. We returned to some lions to see them feasting having just missed the kill. With the park so massive, it did become a bit much in places with 10 different vehicles watching the same lions stalking. So touristy, but then it is the Serengeti.
However, spending a good few days standing in the back of a 4×4, with dust blowing around, a beating sun, animals, clicking of camera’s, dirty clothes, the constant taste of dust and many good laughs along the way is a brilliant way to spend you time. Although the game viewing wasn’t exceptional, the experience was.
We return to and left the Snake Camp the next day to cross the border into Kenya and make the final drive up to Nairobi after a quiet night of drinks at a quiet campsite. At this point the trip was ending too quickly, even though it had been 6 weeks, we didn’t want it to be over so soon….
Around 3pm we got collected from our campsite, and driven out to a small town near the Ngorongoro Crater to spend the night at a tiny little “campsite” before the early rise in the morning. It became a nice relaxed night with a only few beersas we were still nursing hangovers from the previous night at the Snake Park. We had a delicious meal, while sitting at a table which was always a novelty these days. Usually we eat from our laps with the only illumination being from the headlight we always wear around the camp. After dinner there was a show for the tourist – with a local group doing dancing, singing and lots of acrobatics. Really really cool. It ended with all of us being pulled up to dance, which after the witchdoctor incidents didn’t bother me as much now.
The second it was over, the sales began – literally on the final note of the music. “Come see my stall, looking is free.” We slowly wandered around, looking again at statues and Masai blankets (massive things 2m x1.5m which the Maasi people wear all the time). Initially we declined all sales, then sat with the group to examine the blankets they bought, and quickly changed our mind as they were packing up. Will be an excellent addition to the yak wool one from Dharamsala.
The next morning we were quickly through the National Park gates, and headed towards the crater along a mountain road with fog all around us. Very dramatic. We entered another gate to receive sales pitches from local Masai wanting to sell more blankets (even though we were draped in one for the cold), weapons and whatever you showed interest in. We passed through the gates, to look upon the crater – a bowl of mist and fog glimmering in the rising sun, which now crept into the brilliant blue sky above us. We took some photos, then descended 600m down into the crater.
This was one of my favourite places. We spent the whole morning in here exploring every edge. The crater is a perfect bowl, and within it is nearly every animal – massive herds of Wildebeest, swarms of flamingos, dazzles of Zebra, black rhino’s (thus completing our big 5 viewing), hippo’s, elephants and black Kites (i’ll get to them shortly). It was cool as the guide used radio contact with the other cars to keep track of the animals, and with the crater being so small you were anywhere in about 10 mins. Pity we only had a morning as it would be awesome to spend a few days here.
We stopped for lunch by a watering hole where every other tourist also stopped. Everyone has a packed lunch, seemingly with some chicken in it. There are large birds of prey called Black Kite’s who have also figured this out and are circling overhead. We were told of a “stupid tourist” who didn’t heed the warnings that the Black Kites will actually swoop on people, so it’s best to stay near to the truck. We were having lunch, picking through the different treats and ended up with Amber yapping and waving a piece of chicken around. She was about to take a bite when a Black Kite swooped down between us in a gush of wind, clawed at Amber’s chicken but missed as Amber fought back. Everyone bursts out laughing as we move near to the truck. It was especially funny to Nick and Chris as they watched the bird swoop once, then the second time for the attack but said nothing about the air raid from above.
Leaving Dar es Salaam at an early 5am we started the biggest drive of the trip. The roads were actually pretty good quality but just many many km’s to cover. Most of us slept through the morning, then the games of pictionary and travel scrabble broke out to kill the hours. We quickly established who had the best drawing skills in the group, and whose were the worst (no names). The highlight along the way was spotting Mt Kilimanjaro along the way above a field of sunflowers. Nothing but a peak of snow in the distance, which was awesome considering we are in Africa.
Many many many hours later we drove through Arusha then out to the Snake Park, a well known campsite where every overland truck stops before the Serengeti. For so much traffic, you would think the toilet blocks would be a bit better, but then who can complain if you are travelling around in a giant truck on a budget.
All dinner duties were off as a Braai was provided for us and then into the bar. A darts drinking game began and 3 quick games later everyone was nicely drunk and well on their way into the night. The bar stayed open an extra 1 1/2 hours for us, then we sat elsewhere listening to Big Boy’s stories while nodding off and rejoining them part way through. Since we had bar tabs a lot of damage was done to the wallet that night, with 95 shots shared between about 8-9 of us. It all goes to building an orphanage we are told…..
The morning saw many hangovers, with an especially bad one for me. We wandered the free activities at the campsite, namely a Snake Park with all the deadliest snakes in Africa. They are behind glass but still watch you and move towards you if you stare a little too much. They are terrifying.
The other was the Maasi museum, which contains exhibits about the local tribespeople of the area. It was filled with interesting diorama’s of village and cultural life. I was expecting simple photos and maybe a caption. I actually did sneak out for a breather as they started talking about male circumcision and blood-letting of cows for health benefits. Nice little set-up though.
Then we waited around the camp for the Serengeti excursion and decided to change from the 1 to a 2 night excursion, only a few hours before. This bumped the numbers up to 9 which meant 2 vehicles should be sent out but the company doing it was too cheap to do so (due to extra park fees, etc) so we took a vote and reluctantly left Kat behind at camp as we drove off with Laurence our guide towards the Ngorongoro national park.
Four days out on the infamous spice island. What a treat from camping life. We forfieted a day in Zambia to spend an extra one on the beach. Well worth it. Our first stop was a hostel in Stone Town – the original city on the island, made of – you guessed it – stone, and with a strong arabic influence. Lots of narrow alleys, shops, markets and seafood. Very nice.
We were whisked away on a Spice Tour starting around town learning about the slave trade and seeing the few sights then out to a spice plantation for a walk. I know it doesn’t sound too exciting but it was really cool. Every 10 meters we stopped to pick or cut plants and smell the aromas – fresh cinnamon bark, vanilla, cardamon, cloves etc. We also discovered lots of the tropical fruits with pineapples growing all around, mango trees, paw paw, and watching guys climb massive coconut trees with only a rope tied between their legs. Fresh coconut is the best as well. It all ended with a feast of fruit and us receiving new attire made from palm leaves – woven ties, crowns and necklaces. We were pimped up and ready for town.
We spent the night at a few bars, a traditional restaurant with a definite middle east feel of hanging lanterns, rugs and cushions. We all were pretty achy after an hour or two on the floor waiting continually for our waitress to return with the dessert menu we asked for but she never came. We paid and left to find a sisha bar to finish of the night with a few beers.
The next morning me, Amber and Kristen headed out to Prision Island. About a 30 minute boat ride away to where slaves used to be in quaratine for 14 days before heading to the mainland. The process didn’t really work as everyone still got sick. Our purpose here was to see the giant tortises in a scantuary. There were dozens of them around, and we were given bundles of celery to feed them with. A few just didn’t bother moving but others were keen. Crooning their necks around, getting onto their tiptoes to walk and making a slow motion movement towards us. All their motions are nice and slow, but they were loving the celery. We spent ages there, it was cool. Each of them has a personallity on their face, looking like a 90 year old grandmother with no teeth 🙂
From here we transferred to the north to spend a few days on the beach. We all piled into our basic accomodations and spent the next two days swimming in the beautiful turquoise waters, drinking beers and cocktails, eating nice seafood (Zanzibar Pole Pole Coconut Octopus was the best) and getting some sun. Was cool just to hang out with everyone.
The highlight though was going snorkelling. We went out on the smallest boat possible for 2 hours cruise, then got a reef just off a private island. Donned the snorkels and jumped into the awesome warm water. Instantly we were immersed with fish all around and perfect clarity of everything. A few of the others were good snorkellers so showed us how to dive down and equalise. Made the experience so so much better as rather than watching the fish, you are down there with them. Scuba diving must be an awesome next step. After a good hour or so in the water, we went back to a nearby beach for lunch of steamed kingfish, chapati and fruit. Delicious.
We ended our days here going for a sunset cruise on a traditional dhow – fishing boat. We just relaxed in the sun, rested, drank beers and chatted watching the sunset and other boats out around the place. Very cool. Zanzibar is a place I would love to return to, to explore the island some more and swim in the nicest seas ever another time.
During the second half of our time on Lake Malawi, we were at another campsite with heaps of the overland trucks around. Having bar tabs quickly turned it into a big night out which for some reason ended with everyone having arm wrestling constests representing their countries.
The next day to relieve the hangovers, a few of us went on a village walk. It wasn’t as detailed and varied as the previous one, but we ended up at the witchdoctors house. After waiting a while, we were escorted into a little house, and a small gathering formed with a guy playing a bongo drum in the corner. The witchdoctor came out and the dancing began. Due to the darkened room it did give a strange creepy vibe but only started getting weird when they handed him burning embered sticks and he began biting off the ends and chewing the embers. Good times.
Once the show was over and a connection was made between us, we had a reading done of our futures. I didn’t believe it too much, as it’s all for fun. Me and Amber went together and he stated obvious things about our relationship, mentioned our next job will be the right one and if we work hard, we will go far. The most interesting bit was that in 3 years we will apparaently have our first child. It will be girl, boy then girl. Which means 3 in total, and is slightly terrifying. I hope he is wrong.
One of the girls bought some anti-hangover potion to tryout later that evening. Apparently he does cure many illnesses, but not HIV/Aids. Quite realistic. He did offer various love potions to create a relationship or strengthen one. And yes, they were called Love Potion #7 and #9. Just like the song (which I’m sure was the inspiration in the first place).
In our final days here, we headed down to the beach to re-meet some boys selling things. One of them noticed I had one more braclet then before and started scorning me – “You promised you would buy from me, this is a big problem for you”. Amber quickly turned before I could say anything and told him not to talk to people in that way as his friend quickly agreed it was not my problem but his friends. Too funnny.
From here we moved into Tanzania, for a night of hot hot showers and Amarula hot chocolates. Amarula is like an African verision of Bailey’s, but way tastier. Sorry to any Irish readers, but its a fact…
We ended up in Dar es Salam for a quiet night of meeting one new person on our tour, then awoke early to catch the ferry to the magical spice island of Zanzibar 🙂
After two long long days on the truck driving through Zambia, (a slightly more posh country than the others we have seen) we pulled up at Lake Malawi to chill out for a few days. The lake is massive and so so blue (when it’s sunny). Over the few days we got to know the new people through 2 birthday parties at night and then sitting around hungover the next few days.
We learned that when it rains our tent will leak through the old torn seams. Amber’s side was okay, but I kept waking to little puddles around my pillow – mop it up with my towel, and repeat every few hours. We hung everything out to drip dry the next day and embarked on a village walk. We wandered to the local village with a guide, visiting so many people in any sort of power – nurses, ministers and headmasters who all have a little guestbook for us to sign, and the usual conversations of where we are from etc. The Headmaster had a big map in his office but struggled to pick out any of our countries. A teacher had to help fill him in. I think the map is really just for show. The most fun bit was visiting a small school for deaf children who swarmed around us wanting photos taken, and laughing when shown each one. While I was taking pics, Amber was spelling names in sign language which they loved. We have the school address and will be sending them all the photos to put up in the classroom.
We filled the remaining time haggling at the local markets, which consisted of about 6 stalls. Was so so relaxed and friendly after Vic Falls. We got some cool stuff and even struck a business deal with one of the guys who wants us to sell his paintings in Canada. We took his address and told him we would check out the situation/market and be in touch if we wanted to consider the idea.
After some good days here we moved further up the lakeside, driving through lush green scenery to arrive at a busy campsite with so many overland trucks and had a chuckle as we watched groups of people cooking their own food. So glad we have Malinga on board as our chef 🙂
Yesterday we did the walk with lions excursion. It was really really cool. After a little intro we spent an hour or so initially stroking 15 month old lions, then hiking through their territory with them leading or following the group. We then switched with another group to see some other lions with different personalities and moods. The staff were awesome, making sure everyone got a turn with the cats and took really cool photos as well. We ended up with about 100 or so on the camera. Still have to filter through them. A really cool experience.
Today we took the good we bought in Botswana down to the market to barter with. We had some sugar, rice, cooking oil, laundry soap and hand soap, plus a few clothes we didn’t want. Instantly we were called from all directions but went to the shopkeepers we had talked to previously. After a bit of haggling at various stalls we came out pretty happy with what we got. You could always bargain the price right down as low as possible but its a bit of effort and not always fair to completely rip off someone so you save a dollar or two while they lose out on it. If you are happy with the purchase on both sides then its good for all involved. We are pretty happy with “Dribbs” the hippo which we now own.
Heading into Zambia tomorrow, and driving for a good few days towards Lake Malawi. We have 5 new people on board and say goodbye to the last few from our previous group tonight. Will be sad to see them go as it’s been a great few weeks with them all 🙂