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Archive for February, 2008

To Cape it off

Oh, you’ve got to admit, I come out with some cracking titles!  This one was donated by kind permission of one of my travelling partners, Libby Jex-Blake.So, in 48 hours I’ll  almost be arriving in Londinium, blinkey blimey.  I’m in Cape Town at the moment – we arrived yesterday to rain.  I swear it was just like England, grrrr.  Anyway, it’s sunny again now and we’ve spent the day pottering around and buying last minute souvenirs (although compared to the markets we’ve been to on the way, they are absolute rip-offs!)  One of the couples on the trip, Guy and Regan, recently got engaged so Regan, Libby and I trotted off excitedly this afternoon to collect her sparkling diamond ring (and I was offered a husband-finding service if I agreed to buy my ring in the same shop.

Here is a list of all the things I’m looking forward to:

  • A kettle and, therefore, not having to get up an hour before breakfast (usually 5.30am) to boil water
  • Not being permanently shiny from humidity / sun cream / sweat (or usually all three)
  • My car
  • Red wine in cold weather – it’s just not as good in the heat
  • Reading the newspaper
  • Not being constantly covered in a fine layer of red dust

Here are the things I’m going to miss the most

  • My new friends, most of whom will be the other side of the world
  • Tennis biscuits
  • Ouma’s rusks
  • Sun (presumably)
  • Laid back people
  • Sunsets
  • Stars as far as the eye can see
  • Amazing steaks (and cheap, good food in general)
  • Pottering about aimlessly (although I am looking forward to having a purpose in my life again)

Last night was the worst night I’ve had in the whole trip, Regan, Guy and I were in a nine-person dorm right by the bar with four Norwegian slappers who screamed, laughed banged on doors all night, eventually coming in at 4am and then getting up to unspeakable business in the bunk between Guy and Regan.  Naturally, I was incensed so complained this morning (after my precious four hours of sleep) and have been moved to a more appropriate four-bed room, he he.

Right, I have to go as my time is a’running out and I need to go and shower before my Ethiopian-themed dinner!  I’ll put my pictures on Facebook over the weekend

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Destination: Cape Town

Whoppeeee – I actually have amazing Internet connection!  Therefore I am going to babble on for a bit…

 After Swakopmund we did some hard-core driving through the desert – the heat was all around and made everyday activities, such as erecting / taking down tents, cooking dinner and even just walking around, very trying. We went to Sesriem Canyon (where I was somehow talked into doing a 2.5k run.)  We then went to Fish River Canyon, which was massive!  The highlight of the last few days though was definately watching sunrise from Dune 45, which was spectacular.  We were dreading the climb up but it was totally worth it.  Sitting at the top of one of the world’s highest natual dunes in silence, watching the birds circle around you and seeing the dunes speread out for miles was very memorable.

We are now in Stellenbosh after a marathon 13 hour drive from Orange River (the border between Namibia and South Africa) and I am off to do a wine tour shortly (it’s 9.30am!) We went out for a few drinks in Stellenbosh last night and, wait for it, I wore make up!  Brilliant.  It is so wierd to be back in proper civilisation – like a holiday within a holiday!  So much so, that when I wondered the streets this morning in seach of a humble tea and pastry, I was lured in by a posh place I had visited during my last trip.  Although I was determined to stick to a budget and just have a simple breakfast, how could I possibly resist courgette and smoked salmon eggs benedict??  After 40 days of eating baked beans and rubbery eggs, this was like heaven to me (then when I went to pay, I realised the whole thing had cost me less than three Pounds, travelling on the Pound is fantastic).  So, naturally, I indulged and I read a newspaper!  Ah, the small luxuries.  Although it was a South African papaer I learned all about Bruce Willis’ new girlfriend (23 years his junior), about the Oscars and also about serious stuff like how Robert Mugabe is planning a 8,000000 Rand birthday bash this week and how their inflation has officially hit 100 000%. 

Anyway, I am off to prepare for my day of wine tasting in the beautiful South African sunshine – I shall see you all soon.

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Queen of the Dune-iverse

I am coming to you from lovely Swakopmund in Namibia.  Since leaving Windhoek a week ago, we’ve spent two fruitless says scouring the bizarre landscape of Etosha national park, where we saw hardly anything, save a few Jackals and some Antelopes.  Never mind though, the disappointment was soon forgotten when we went to Cheetah Farm, a few hours away, and got to stroke three rescued cheetahs (they purr so loudly!) and were able to go out and watch the feeding of the wild ones too (which were caught by farmers and sent there, rather than being shot for eating cattle.)  That was pretty cool, as they were fighting and snarling and the guys had to ward them off with sticks.  We were also forced to party into the small wee hours with the three rather attractive guys who had been taking us around, during which my pool-playing skills greatly improved (though this might have had something to do with the sambucca penalty shots which we had to take from a mounted Warthog’s arse on the wall…)  It’s hard life, ladies, you have to pity me.Anyway, after that we did a bush camp on the Skeleton Coast – wine, marshmallows, sing songs etc., then came here to Swakopmund (and real beds.)  Yesterday I went quad biking on the dunes, which I wasn’t going to bother with, but turned out to be one of the top highlights of my trip.  The scenery is truly spectacular, especially with the shadows of the clouds on the dunes as far as the eye can see.  I also went sandboarding today, which was brilliant but I am still finding grains in all sorts of places, despite a swim and a shower.  I really like Namibia, the people are great and there is just a lovely vibe in the air.  That said, there is a poster in our hostel warning drivers not to flash their lights at cars without headlights on at night.  The reason being that it is part of a gang initiation, whereby the new member has to drive without headlights until someone gives him a courtesy flash.  They then have to turn around and shoot every individual in the car in order to be accepted into the gang.  Thankfully though we haven’t seen any evidence of violence or hostility at all yet. Right, now that I have probably scared all my friends and family to death, I had better go.  I imagine I’ll be able to blog again in Stellenbosh, which ought to be in just under a week (and only a few days before I arrive back in sunny England!)

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The Leopard that we saw (finally!)

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Livingstone to Windhoek

We arrived in Windhoek (the capital of Namibia) yesterday and I can’t tell you how weird it is to see a proper town – skyscrapers, working ATMs, broadband, Nando’s…(don’t judge me, but that’s my next stop.)  It’s also bizarre because it was a German colony before the second world war, so all the roads are named ‘Bahnhosstrasse’ etc. and there are lots of German signs about.So, we managed to go white water rafting on the Zambezi after all, which was brilliant!  Because the water was so high we were able to get in and hold on to the boat for some of the smaller rapids, which was great fun (until the emergency “crocodile! Get everyone in the boat.  NOW!” calls were sounded.)  We also obviously went to see the falls and got drenched in the process – they are spectacular though.  I was very marginally tempted by the bungee jump because you jump straight into the rainbow of the falls, but I only entertained that idea for about two minutes until I saw someone else do it and bounce to buggery (excuse my language!)In Livingstone we were joined by five other girls, who are all great fun.  They had loads of trouble coming here as they were told to fly into Zimbabwe, only to find that we were holed up in Zambia and, with the visa situation as explained in my last blog, that was a bit of a bummer (not to mention that there is not food on supermarket shelves in Zimbabwe so eating out – at a cost – is the only option.)  Also in Livingstone we had some things stolen from the lockers of our truck, so everyone is paranoid. However, we left there and went to Botswana where we did a bush camp and walking safari in the Okavango Delta in local Mokoro canoes, which was a wonderfully authentic experience (but hayfever sufferers be warned – the grasses are plentiful and taller than me at most points!)  I also did a one hour flight over the delta on our last evening in a little five-seater Cessna (?), which was absolutely fantastic!  We saw lots of game from the air too, which made it even more special.So, tomorrow we move on to Etosha national park (with a random kiwi guy, Keith, who our guides enlisted at the bar last night), then spend a further nine days or so in Namibia (sand dunes, Skeleton Coast, Swakopmund etc.), before entering South Africa for our final days.  I can’t believe how quickly the last four and a half weeks have gone and how full my passport pages look!

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Mosquiters, drunken geezers and Zambian visas

Right, it’s been two weeks since I had decent access to the World Wide Web, so I have a bit of ground to cover in this entry.  With this in mind, I am going to give you a handy bullet-point synopsis of the highs and lows of the last 14 days, for those of you who simply can’t be bothered to read for ages. Highlights:

  • Eating enough fresh seafood to last a lifetime in Zanzibar.  Not to mention the sunsets…
  • Snorkeling at Jambiani, Zanzibar
  • Three hot showers!
  • Dusk swims in lake Malawi
  • Buying a beautiful Malawi chair, for about £15 (plus some cheap hair clips I brought over from Claire’s Accessories!)
  • Our three day safari in South Luangwa national park – we got free upgrades to rooms!
  • African tonic water contains Quinine, an old malaria remedy, so G&T’s are practically essential in my daily intake
  • Canoing on the upper Zambezi river

Lowlights:

  • Cutting my foot snorkilng, then again scrabbling over rocks in Lake Malawi.  Then again hanging up my washing (don’t ask)
  • Having my (brand new) head-torch stolen and now having to make do with a shoddy plastic one from a Malawian supermarket
  • Having a leaky tent during rainy season (but Bob does try)
  • Being in Malaria country at the height of rainy season (lots of jeans and long tops on evenings when, really, all you want to wear is a bikini)
  • The Zambian government deciding to up British visa costs from $0 to $150 two days before I enter the country.  Then reducing it to $50 two days after I have entered.  All other nationalities pay $50 – what did Gordon Brown do to these people?
  • Having a MasterCard and not a Visa in Africa

OK, so those of you who may want more – here’s a run down of what I’ve been up to. Still in Zanzibar we went on a tour of the town and a local spice plantation with a bizarre guide, Ali T, who insisted on speaking in cockney rhyming slang throughout – I think he was a little disappointed to learn that I was not a hardcore Londoner, but a boring ‘upper Thameser’ (as I was described yesterday – minus the boring bit, I hasten to add)  After that we went to Jambiani, on the Eastern coast, which was very quiet and beautiful.  We found a lovely little restaurant shack on the beach, where everything was prepared fresh (Libby asked for a spinach dish and he had to go and check if there was any in his garden).  It did take two and a half hours for the food to arrive though.  Mind you, we had no where else to be!After that we travelled the length of Tanzania heading towards Malawi, where we stayed at a couple of campsites right on the lake – it was stunning.  We went for a walk around the village and got accosted by hundreds of children, as well as young men.  What a surprise.  Mr. T was my particular cling-on, he stank of alcohol and kept telling me he’d had a dream about a white wife and was asking me when I would come back to see him and could he give me some gifts…it was a long walk with him – then boring Kevin Cosmic joined in on the attack.  I was glad to get back to camp.  The same day we also had dinner in the village and the local children sung songs for us and danced – we had to return the favour so lamely sung the Hokey Cokey, to little effect.After Malawi we entered Zambia – which was a mission due to the visa increases.  All other (non-UK) visas are based on US Dollars, but they saw the opportunity to make more money by making the UK one in Pounds Sterling, so it’s always going to ‘increase with inflation’.  Why we have to pay $150 when Kiwis, Aussies – anyone else, in fact, only has to pay $50, I don’t know.  However, I understand that the tourist industry in Zambia kicked up such a fuss that they are lowering / have lowered it.In Zambia (which is still where I am), we went on a safari to South Luangwa national park, which was really, really beatutiful.  It reminded me a lot of Garonga, where I volunteered in 2005 – lovely bushveldt with so much atmosphere – it’s quite magical. Especially on an evening game drive with our guide, Andrew who was fantastic – not just concerntrating on mammals, but also talking about birds, the relationships with the trees, ancient beliefs etc. etc.Anyway, so now I am here in Livingstone, still in my sopping shorts from our upper Zambezi canoe trip.  I can see the spray from Vic Falls from the bar and we are off to go white water rafting in the morning!We have five new girls joining us in a few days, then we’re off to Botswana to see Chobe national park and the Okavango Delta, before moving into civilisation (and desert) in Namibia.Ciao for now.

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