In 2009 I did a three month overland tour from South Africa up to Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. Easily my favourite trip.
+From the office to Heathrow
Straight from the office to the airport. James gave me a lift and got there with plenty of time to spare. SAA aren't exactly the best airline I've travelled on but they did the job and got me to Cape Town.
+Arrived in Africa!
Cape Town, South Africa
Landed at Cape Town international airport and went through customs without a problem. Took a shuttle from the airport to the hostel which cost 180 Rand, probably half the price of what a taxi would have cost, and was able to organise it from inside the airport without any hassle.
Just waiting on my room to be sorted at Big Blue backpackers then will have a look at going up table top mountain and going for a walk down to the water front. Nice sunny day so from the sounds of it I need to make the most of it.
Looks like the tour group is going to be a bit smaller than I imagined, there's only 6 names on the board at the moment! Will be interesting to see how that pans out. Likely that others will join at later stages I guess.
Went up Table Top mountain this afternoon. When I got there the top was covered in clouds so I was a bit dubious about going up though the guy at the desk said that it was coming and going. Decided to go up anyway which turned out to be the right choice. Took the cable car as wasn't quite up for a big hike after the flight. On the way up we actually passed through the clouds and the top was sunny. By the time I got down there wasn't a cloud in site.
The top is actually a national park and quite impressive in it's own. Was quite pleasant walking around the top listening to all the frogs and insects chirping away. The part closest to the harbour side has some seriously steep drops that the path goes right next; it just drops right away. There's warnings about not doing it when it's windy and I can understand why.
You can also abseil from the top - apparently it's the highest commercial abseil - and there were some people doing that when I got up there. Looked like you'd get a serious adrenalin rush doing it as it's a long long way down and the only way to get there was to climb down to the starting point.
+Met the group
Cape Town, South Africa
So met the group tonight and there are only the six of us. Seems like a nice relaxed bunch though so should be good.
In the morning went for a wander down by the V&A docks, was a bit overcast but it's quite nice though a bit touristy and has a big shopping mall. Picked up a couple of extra things that I'd forgotten to get back home.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼In the evening we all went down to the waterfront to get some food and had a few drinks before turning in for the night.
+Rain and more rain
Citrusdal, South Africa
After a pretty late start, almost mid day, we all piled on the truck and drove north a few hours to hour first camp site. Managed to get our tents up just in time for the rain which absolutely hosed down. All the dorm rooms were taken so we had no choice but the tents that night; but since it was the first night would have gone for the tent in any case. Tent stood up pretty well to the rain with only one or two little wet spots.
The next day was meant to be a 7 hour hike to go see some cave paintings but it got called off because the river was flooded and the guide said that it was just too wet. So spent most of the day by the fire playing cards while the rain poured. Did manage a brief walk in the afternoon to see what was a pretty vague painting on a rock.
The evening was a good laugh, lots of drinking games and some pretty drunk people. Got back to my tent at about 3 to find that Bruno had been parked in it along with a litre bottle of water which he'd managed to knock over after unpacking my entire backpack. The bar manager gave me a bed to crash in for the night though so it was all good.
+First Border crossing
Noordoewer, Karas, Namibia
Packed up the tents early in the morning and headed north through our first border crossing into Namibia. Stopped of at Springbok along the way to get come more food.
Fish River Canyon, Karas, Namibia
On the way North we stopped off at Fish River Canyon which was impressively large though you can't do day trips down into it anymore. In the evening we stopped off at a farm for the night and had our first bit of game, Springbok pie. Climbed the hill next to the camp site just before sunset and had a brilliant view around for miles. The country side was great, didn't expect to like Namibia so much. Wide plains of tall grass, with trees scattered around and hills all around the horizon, fantastic.
It was freezing overnight and in the morning one of the washing up bowls froze over; I was expecting to get too hot not too cold on this trip.
+Kudu steaks, Dune 45
Visited Fish River Canyon on the way North which was impressively large. Stopped at Sesriem Campsite near the Namib Desert and had Kudu steaks done on the fire for dinner.
In the morning we up early to go see Dune 45. It was pretty hard going to make it to the top as you slid down almost as far you went up when you took a step but worth the effort in the end. Bruno motored to the top while the rest gave up pretty early on.
After Dune 45 we went to Sossusvlei which is probably the main attraction, a clay bed in the middle of the dunes that is slowly getting covered by sand and is still full off dead tree trunks. Really weird scenery. Also had a guide that gave us an idea of the animals that live in the area and what the Bushmen used to be like.
Another long trip to Swakopmund but again the scenery was spectacular. I don't mind these long trips as the view is so great. Had Oryx and Springbok steaks for dinner at a nearby Italian restarant which was great.
Had a late one last night but we decided at some stage that we should give quad biking a go today. We only went for one hour but wished we'd gone for the longer option as it was great. Went for the semi automatic option - no clutch - and basically you had to go as fast as you could to keep up with the guy in front. It was brilliant shooting up the dunes then coming back down in big archs, so much fun.
There's only six of us on the trip at the moment but five of us went sky diving along with Claire the tour leader who is apparently addicted to it.
It was a lot less nerve racking than I expected. The only point where I thought "oh shit, what am I doing" was when we actually fell out of the plain and there was a tumbling sensation where I wondered where the ground was and where the sky was. But it levelled out pretty soon and the guy soon had me spinning in a circle before the 30 seconds free fall was over and he pulled the chute. Got to stere around a bit on the decent until the guy took over for the landing. It was all over pretty quickly but what a buzz! My photos didn't come out as the guy doing to filming forgot to turn it on or something but the video did come out and Georgie took some photos on my camera as I was landing anyway so not the biggest lost.
Kamanjab, Kunene, Namibia
I wasn't that excited about visiting the Cheetah Park but what an experience. The place is run by a German family that take in injured Cheetahs and have a large enclosed area where they keep them and feed them daily. I think they have something like 18 at the moment.
When we arrived in the afternoon it was just in time for feeding and we jumped on the utes which they drove into the enclosure then threw the meet from. In the morning we stopped at the house where they have some Cheetahs that they've raised since they were cubs and that you could sit with and stroke. There was also a young giraffe which they'd helped and that hangs around which you could go up to as well.
+Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park, Namibia
We spent two nights in Etosha at a couple of the camp sites in the park which are great as they have watering holes that they light up at night.
The first night we saw Rhinos, Elephants, Giraffes, a Hyena and also a couple of Lions go after a Springbok.
The next day we drove up to the next camp site and in the morning we saw a Lion hide in the grass near a watering whole so waited around for a couple of hours. It was worth it as it exploded from the grass and Charlie (the truck driver) got a couple of greats shots of the Lion on a Zebras back. The Zebra did manage to escape which was nice for it but a bit disappointing for us.
Just before we got to the camp site at night we saw five Lions go after a Springbok but again they didn't get it.
+The view with a loo
Popa, Caprivi, Namibia
I wasn't that impressed when we arrived at Ngepi but it tirned out to be a really funky and entertaining place. The toilets and showers are really different, some are in trees, other are just outside where you can see for quite a distance in front. Didn't like it at all at first but it's kind of liberating to sit on the loo in the open air.
They also had frisbee golf which was a good laugh and me and Bruno gave though all we managed to do was loose a lure and tangle a line.
Crossed over into Botswana in the morning and made our way to our campsite in Maun. The next day we went into the Delta in Mokoros which are dug out canoes, though the ones we were in were of the fyber glass variety. It was still fantastic though lying back as we got poled to our campsite 3 hours away. Apparently the Delta was far more flooded than usual so there was water everywhere. We stayed two nights and went on a few walks though the most exciting thing we saw was an Elephant. On the last night we went in the Mokoros to the Hippo pond and saw some more Elephants on the way as well.
We got back to Maun mid afternoon and then went for a flight over the Delta in the afternoon which was fantastic. It really is impressive how big the place is and the view from above gives you a very different perspective. We saw herds of Buffalow, Giraffes, Elephants, Zebras and Empala all over the place and the pilot threw in a couple of tight turns to add a bit of excitement to the flight. It was great fun, well worth it.
+Chobe National Park
Got to Kasane in the evening and had a pretty quite night as another early start in the morning so that we could go for a game ride in Chobe National Park.
Chobe was good value, we saw some male Lions finally up nice and close as well as plenty of Baboons, some hippos, fish eagles and millions of empala. We also got a decent look at a couple of Kudu which were far larger than I'd expected.
In the afternoon we went for a cruise down the Chove river and saw a bunch of hippos and crocodiles as well as a massive group of Elephants some of which were crossing the river as we got there
+Bungee jumping and rafting
Livingstone is insane, there is so much stuff to do. The border crossing into Zambia was a bit of a laugh as Charlie got the truck stuck and had to spend an hour digging it out.
On the first full day we did the "Big Air Experience" which involved a bungee of the bridge, a swing of the bridge and a slide across the gorge. The bungee and the swing were equally terrifying as the drop is 111 meters but what a thrill. Sure I'll do it again somewhere. In the afternoon we visited the falls where you really do get absolutely soaked, it's amazing how much water that gets sprayed up.
The next day was rafting down the Zambezi which started of slow but got pretty good. I managed to fall out once all by myself and our raft flipped twice on rapids 16 and 18, The Terminator and Oblivion. The first tip was the best by miles as the front just went straight up and over, looked awesome on the video. I did have a wee panic on that one though as I swallowed a lot of water and ended up floating down a few meters off the side of the raft for quite a way.
Apparently Tucan used to go to Lake Kariba for the house boats but they're not an option anymore. This wasn't the most exciting stop along the way and the visit to the dam was OK but there wasn't really much to it.
There was a volleyball court here but it turned out that we all sucked at it. Bit of fun though.
+Stop before the border
The stop here was just before the border so that we could cross over easily the next day. Apparently it rained but I slept right through it. Champagne in the morning as it was Georgies and Gemmas birthday.
+Gemmas and Georgies birthday
Was the girls birthday today so everyone proceeded to get pretty hammered. Another dress up theme, this time the costume had to begin with G - for obvious reasons.
Kande Beach, Lake Malawi, Malawi
Bruno had his birthday at Kande beach and it was a much more respectable affair with no one getting too hammered. We had a spit roast pig for dinner and Claire had picked up some glow in the dark bands so it was all pretty cool. Went to see the pig get slaughtered but it was already tied and they knifed it under it's leg; it was all over very quickly.
Went on a village walk as well and visited the local school where the kids were pretty cool.
+34 km hike
Chitimba, Lake Malawi, Malawi
There's not much to be done at Chitimba so we all went on the hike up to Livingstonia. Livingstonia itself is a pretty damn boring place and not the most exciting destination ever for a hike. The walk itself was pretty mild I started to run down with Bruno and my feet blistered up pretty quick. Even so didn't get down there too long after him. The others had issues however as Claire fell over and ripped something so they didn't get back down until after dark.
We weren't looking all that forward to this stop as other trucks had told us that it would be freezing cold but wasn't that bad to be honest. This was just a stop on the way north and there was nothing to do, and no time in any case.
Dinner involved quartering up some whole chickens that were apparently fresh off the farm. Pretty easy to do as it turns out.
+Meeting the Trainee
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
After an early start (about 4am) to avoid road works we made it to Dar later in the afternoon. I was able to change some of my travellers cheques which I needed to do since I'd lost my debit card and hadn't worked out that my credit card would give me cash just fine.
At the campsite we met Laura the new trainee for Tucan who was going to finish off the rest of the tour with us. At last another kiwi. We'd all booked an upgrade because had sold the huts as being really cool and facing the ocean but the one that me and Fergal had faced back to the camp so we passed and went for the tents.
Nungwi, Zanzibar, Tanzania
Normally the first night is spent in Stone Town but because Margarita had to head back early the trip was changed a bit so that we headed straight up to Nungwi.
We took the ferry from Dar across to Zanzibar in the morning and landed at Stone Town. The afternoon involved going on a spice tour which was actually really cool as it described what all the spices were and what they were used for. Quite a few didn't look at all like what
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼you'd expect before they'd been processed. A guy also climbed up a coconut tree for us and they'd made some bags for the girls out of some kind of palm and hats and ties for the guys. We got to sample some spiced teas and sample a bunch of the local fruits which was great. After the spice tour we all jumped in the minivan and headed north to Nungwi, North Beach.
Nungwi was fantastic. We spent three nights here and did nothing but eat, drink and smoke till late in the night. Brilliantly chilled out and relaxed time with a bit of swimming and sun bathing thrown in to give us something to do during the day.
Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania
No one really wanted to head back to Stone Town but Margarita had to get back and so did the rest of us. It was actually pretty enjoyable as we went to the "fish market" in the evening which isn't really a market but a bunch of stalls with guys in chef outfits behind them cooking up skewers of seafood. There was quite a bit of choice and most of it was really good (I had one shell fish skewer that was so chewy I couldn't eat it).
Margarita left early in the morning though us guys were pretty slack at saying by, Fergal and Bruno sleeping while I waved and mumbled bye.
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
The ferry crossing back to Dar was pretty rough and Fergal definitely suffered. We had to make our own way back to the hostel as Claire had headed off early with Margarita in the morning but she'd left pretty detailed instructions with Bruno on what to do. Georgie had stayed behind as she had three days to kill before her flight out and sensibly decided to head back up to Nungwi rather than stay in Dar.
+Another transit stop
We had another transit stop just outside Moshi as we pushed on up to Arusha. Apparently you can get a view of Kilimanjaro from here but we didn't have any such luck, apparently Claire has never seen it yet.
After another fairly long day sitting on the truck we arrived in Arusha and made our way to the campsite which is part of the snake park in Arusha. It's probably one of the cooler campsites that we stayed at as you can go for a walk and see all the snakes, crocodiles and birds that they keep there. They make a point of saying that the birds that they keep are there because they are either recovering, or are too injured to be released back into the wild. Had a good night at the bar but probably called it quits a bit early as we were heading off to the Serengeti the next day.
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
This was one part of the trip that I was never going to miss. Going to the Serengeti is one of those things that I've always wanted to do. The Masai Mara which is actually part of the same park, just in a different country, has for whatever reason never had the same appeal.
The ride out there was pretty rough as the road is corrugated insanely and the driver seemed to be going a lot faster than he had on the main roads. We'd had lunch at the top of Ngorongoro crater and I think that they take their time to get there as otherwise they'd arrive too early. The cool thing about this safari is that we were in proper land cruisers rather than the mini vans that seem to be used on all the others. It seems a lot more proper somehow.
We did a drive for a couple of hours when we got there that night and saw a Leopard walking down the side of the road There were so many other jeeps around though that I didn't manage to get a decent photo of it until it walked of a fair distance. Still after 6 weeks I'd finally seen a Leopard so was quite stoked.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼The game drive the next morning was better than the one the night before. We saw another Leopard, this time sunning itself on some rocks and a male Lion making a pretty pathetic attempt as it turned out to catch a gazelle. There were also more Lions, Cheetahs, Elephants, Buffalo, Hippos, Monkeys and Antelopes.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania
Ngorongoro crater was created by the collapse of a massive volcano. The result is a large basin that is kind of sealed off from the rest of the world. On the drive up the hills were covered in thick green foliage and surrounded in mist, quite different than what I'd been expecting but really cool, like a lost world or something. The crater itself was full of animals although we managed to not see any of black rhino that are supposedly there. Still there was a diverse amount of scenery for such a small area with areas of bush, small lakes and rivers dotted over the plain and all surrounded by the steep sides of the crater.
As soon as we got to the bottom of the crater we came across some Cheetahs then went off in search of some Rhinos. Although we never found the rhinos we did see Elephants, Flamingos, Buffalo, Wildebeest, Hippos, Hyenas and Lions. The last lion we saw was when all the safari vehicles were leaving and a Lioness was using them as cover to try and get a Gazelle, something it typically failed at.
+Back to the snakes
￼￼￼After the Serenghetti it was back to the Snake Park in Arusha where we had a pretty good night getting smashed before an early start the next day. Sometime during the night the bin lid had apparently gone missing so we had half hour dely in the morning while we wandered around in the dark trying to find it but with no luck.
Karen, Nairobi, Kenya
Getting to Nairobi was a pretty standard trip with a quite a long dirt stretch as they're redoing the highway. Border crossing was as easy as all the others have been though Fergal took a bit more interest as he'll have to go back this way when he comes to go up Mount Kilimanjaro.
Arrived in Karen to see two Tucan trucks already parked up at the camp. One is for Laura who'll be starting her own tour in three weeks while the other is still here because there'd been a crash involving a jeep of passengers on there way to the Masai Mara and a few had entered up in hospital with some pretty bad injuries.
Went on a safari at Lake Nakuru where we saw a shit load of flamingos, some rhinos and buffalo but not much else.
Eldoret didn't have much going on but we stayed at one of the most awesome campsites. The bar is basically half underground in what's effectively a massive cave with cushioned areas all over to lounge about and get drunk on.
We had a few Aussie girls join us in Kampala. Pretty fussy bunch as it turned out.
Ended up in a Irish pub where funnily enough in Claire knew the owner. Not a bad night from what I remember though the new bunch didn't want to come out.
+Nothing to do
Lake Edward, Uganda
As I'd already done quite a few safaris and hadn't enjoyed the last one so much decided to skip QEII. As it turned out though there was absolutely nothing to do at the camp so passed a pretty boring day. There was quite a mix up for the guys who did the safari and boat trip though so probably wasn't a bad thing to miss as those guys know how to complain.
+No Gorillas :(
The main attraction of Rwanda is of course going to see the Gorillas but I was hard out of luck. It's a bit unfortunate really as with the earlier trip I'd booked I'd gotten a Gorilla permit but was now in the middle of the peak season with no chance. It actually got a bit worse than that because I decided to skip the Volcano hike last minute which was a shame as they actually saw Gorillas, even had one charge right past them on the path. Oh well, an excuse to come back really :)
On the way out of Rwanda we stopped of at the Memorial Museum which is very well done and a pretty moving experience. The last room especially got to me where they have pictures of all these little kids and descriptions of what their favourite things were and then how they'd been killed which was usually pretty brutal.
Jinja was a pretty decent location. Went rafting again but for the most part I was feeling pretty lazy; went for a few swims in the Nile but otherwise fairly inactive.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼On the first afternoon there we had a small storm come through and send our tents of down the side of the cliff which added a bit ofexcitement. On the last night some of the girls were kind enough to hide my tent down there just for shits and giggles apparently. Decided to leave it down there rather go to the effort of moving it back up.
Karen, Nairobi, Kenya
I decided to skip the Masai Mara as I was feeling pretty safaried out by this stage and didn't think that I'd get the most out of it. I also think that I'll be back to see the Gorillas and climb Kilimanjaro so I'll leave it to then.
There's not much to do in Karen so caught up on my internet, ate some decent food and drank. Nice quite wind down to my 10 weeks in Africa, just what I needed to be honest.
+One extreme to another
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
So I decided to spend 3 days and nights in Dubai on the way back, pretty much going from one extreme to the other. Everything in Dubai is artificial and most things are done on a grand scale. I had a nice hotel booked for pretty cheap so made the most of it while I was there. Didn't see much of Dubai in the end but then unless you're into malls and big buildings there's not so much to do or see as far as I can tell. Did visit Dubai Mall on my last day which is supposedly the largest in mall the world with over 1200 shops but it was pretty quite when I was there, probably because of Ramadan. The food mall was open for takeaway only so you basically bought food then went and found a quite spot on the other side and ate there. It's also got the tallest building in the world just next door which looked pretty impressive from the ground.
+Back in London
Got bumped up to business class on my flight back which was great, the leg room was fantastic. Arrived to a pretty crappy hotel which was more expensive than the luxury I had in Dubai but that's London for you.