Spitzkoppe, Namibia

Update

Roughly six months ago I finished my Africa overland trip. Over the coming days I’ll be posting some pictures taken along the way. Why has it taken so long to post more pictures? 8000.

I took 8000 pictures between Nairobi and Cape Town and sorting through those has been a challenge to say the least. Between work, school and whatever little free time in between I have narrowed the pictures down to about 3-400 that I ‘like’. My job now is to narrow those down to less than 100 of my favourite pictures and get them online asap.

In the meantime, here is a picture of a place that I will be returning to some day- Spitzkoppe, Namibia.

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Whoops

So apparently it’s been quite a while since I’ve done a post. Until I get a chance to do a more detailed recounting, here is a quick summary of the amazing time that the last few weeks have been since my last posting in Tanzania

  • Spent an amazing three days on Zanzibar island in Tanzania wandering through the markets of Stonetown, dining at Mercury’s bar. Two nights at Kendwa beach, one of the most amazing beaches I have ever been to.
  • Traversed down the coast of Lake Malwi spending 4 crazy nights at Kande Beach including a pig roast, the wost dressup party yet, and swimming in the lake known to be home to many crocs.
  • Crossed into Zambia where I spent four great days along the Zambezi river overlooking the spray from the falls.
  • Traversed into Botswana where I spent an amazing birthday doing game drives and a safari cruise
  • Visited one of the most amazing countries I have visited yet, Namibia. Sand dunes and alien landscapes mingle with German cities and PAVED ROADS!! Such an amazing place that nobody seems to know about yet. I’ve still got a few days here before heading into South Africa.

Hopefully by the end of all of this, I’ll have a nice post about everything that has happened.

Tenting in Tanzania

February 17th to 27th, 2010 (Part 1 of 2)

We all woke at 5am for our 5:30am departure from Nairobi headed south to Arusha, our first stop in Tanzania. The trip is a ‘simple’ 300km trip, and in Canada it should take 3 hours. Simple enough, right? Ha ha ha no. Picture a road that was once paved, but is in such disrepair that it has simply turned back into a dirt road; the area covered by potholes was greater than that of the ‘flat’ road. Add to the picture a 10-ton overland truck, off-roading to avoid the worst parts of the road, a 2-hour border crossing and extreme heat and you’ve got my 12 hour, 300km trip to Arusha.

Finally arriving in Arusha around 6pm, we setup camp at one of the more interesting campsites that I’ve ever seen. Snake Park was not only a campsite, but an animal reserve home to numerous dangerous snakes such as the African Rock Pythons (which are rumoured to have eaten people before) and the famous deadly Black Mamba in addition to their collection of crocodiles. After a few drinks at the coolest bar I have seen in a while, it was off to bed as we had another stupidly early wakeup and drive to the Serengeti, Ngorogoro Crater and the Olduvai Gorge.

The next morning, after a quick set of introductions with our new driver, Brown, we set off for the Serengeti in our 4×4 Land Cruisers. The Serengeti National Park is located directly South of the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya, but since there is no official border crossing between the two parks, you need to drive 12 hours, through Arusha, to get to the other park. The animals of course don’t need passports. The drive from Arusha to Serengeti is a particularly stunning one. Travelling from relatively flat plains, we quickly ascend to lush green jungle-like mountainside forests interspersed with tiny mud-hut and cattle filled Masai Villages. It seems that as sudden as the lush hilly forests appeared, they disappeared and we were now travelling through flat, open grasslands (Serengeti in the Masai language means ‘endless plains’). Definitely reminded me of the ‘Lion King’, including rock formations that matched exactly that of ‘Pride Rock’ in the film.

Our first game drive that evening was definitely a successful one after spotting the incredibly hard to find (in daytime) Leopard. It was just sitting there in a tree as we pulled up, having just woken up from its daytime nap. As we neared the park closing time of 6:30pm, the park rangers showed up to ensure that the leopard wasn’t being disturbed too much, and to kick us all out of the park. Many of the animals in the park are night-time hunters, and the conservation authorities are trying their best to stay out of the way of the animals at night.

We finished our game drive and headed to our campsite for the evening. This camp site was located right in the middle of the park, and the only fence in sight was the one that surrounded the kitchen and eating areas. The site was very basic, with the only other ‘facility’ being the two squat toilets to be shared with the 100-or-so other campers. We were prohibited from keeping food in our tents and the smell would likely attract scavengers like Hyena, but also lions or wildebeest.

The following morning we headed for another game drive, but this one was much less eventful for animal sightings. A few hyenas, monkeys playing and a couple hippos rounded off the mornings sightings. About half way through our morning drive, one of the vehicles in our group broke down and so we all decided to stay and ‘help’. While they were transferring fuel between the two tanks of the land cruiser, we in ours did our best to pass the time. We opened the bar at 10:30 in the morning. We sat on the roof of our car pouring each other vodka and juices, while the others watched in envy (there was no way they were getting out of their cars as we had just spotted a lion) and watching our driver ‘supervise’ the fuel transfer (aka trying his best to not do anything and stay clean).

Finishing up with our drive, we headed to our next stop at the Olduvai Gorge. The gorge is home to the worlds oldest set of foot prints. A local guide explained the significance of the area to the study of human evolution and its effect on modern day theories of it. Finishing off our day, we headed to our next camp site, directly on the edge of the famed Ngorogoro crater. Quite a beautiful location for a camp site, with a massive tree providing needed shade and rain protection to a good 20-30 tents. We settled (aka drank) for the night around our campfire, not noticing that we were surrounded in our camp by a herd of Buffalo who also decided to also make camp for the evening.

Buffalo are one of the most feared animals in Africa mostly due to their unpredictability of their actions. Generally they’re calm animals, but as soon as they decide that they don’t like you, they’ll charge as a group and most have no hope of escaping it.

Waking up to the sound of Buffalo eating grass right next to your head while in the tent is certainly an interesting noise to wake up to, but probably one that I wouldn’t mind avoiding in the future. We woke the following morning all sharing similar stories of buffalo eating their way through our camp, but luckily there were no confrontations outside of a few sightings on the long walk to the washrooms in the middle of the night.  Driving off from our gorge-side camp site, we descended into the crater basin. The crater is that of an extinct volcano which forms an almost perfect circle 10-or-so kilometres across. It is teaming with wildlife that can make the difficult descents and ascents of the crater (so no Giraffe as they’re too shaky with their lanky legs).

We definitely saw many more animals than I had anticipated including some Lions ‘getting it on’ in front of what must have been 20 land cruisers. They procreate up to 360 times over the span of five days to maximize their chances at reproduction as up to 40% of lion cubs don’t survive their first few years. Definitely one of the more spectacular scenes in the crater was hundreds, if not thousands, of vibrant pink flamingos sitting in the crater pond (which were shortly thereafter interrupted by a pack of Hyena who decides to chase the flamingo much like a child running through a pack of pigeons in a park. Definitely a good end to a spectacular day.

That night, we headed back to Snake Park camp in Arusha for the last night of one of our group members, Kevin (the other Canadian on the trip, from Victoria too!). He was heading up Kilimanjaro the next day, so what better thing would there be to do but get mangled as a group and send him off in style. The next morning we were greeted by various stories from the night previous including a broken nose, trips trough acacia thorn bushes, and heads through roofs (and that was just one person). As we wrapped up breakfast, we were greeted by the owner (‘Ma’) wondering who broke into the bar, breaking down the door in progress, and took their camera charger. The liquor however, remained untouched. We were the only people in the campsite that night, so we were able to narrow it down to one (unnamed) individual. How was the hangover Kev? Did you make it up Kili?

Almost no pictures again – slow internet of course. You’ll get to see them all when I make it to faster internet in Cape Town in a few weeks.

Up next: the beaches of Zanzibar and Malawi.

Masai Mara

February 14th to 16th, 2010
Early in the morning on Day 1 of my 43 day African Overland trip, we met for the first time with my group that I’d be spending the next 6 weeks travelling with. Our stop for the first night was to be spent at the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Southern Kenya (bordering Tanzania). The first leg of our trip wasn’t going to be done on our truck, but rather we would be travelling via 4WD vehicles for the duration of the trip to the Masai. This allowed us to be able to easily get around the Masai Mara.
Leaving Nairobi, we head North for about 50km until we hit the edge of the Great Rift Valley, which spans from Lebanon in the North to Mozambique in the south. After passing countless curio-shops and viewing points, we began to descend into the valley. Driving in Nairobi was an experience in itself, horns everywhere (even though they are banned in Central Nairobi), people cutting you off, animals in the road- nothing had surprised me, even after just two days of being in Nairobi. Not just two minutes after hitting the main road in the valley we had to stop suddenly; A Mara Giraffe decided that it wanted to cross the road. It was from this point that I knew I’d be in for something good with the Mara trip. After an hour of driving on a decently paved highway, we made a sharp left onto an unmarked dirt road. The next two hours were spent navigating seemingly random forks-in-the-road and thorn bush diversions. I though that he must have been taking shortcuts to get to the Mara with a more direct route, but our driver, Jackson, said that this was the main road to the Mara.

The first two nights at the Mara were spent in a simple tented camp. Large stand-up tents for 2-4 people, dining tent, toilet tents (with running water nonetheless!) and Masai warriors (more about them later) patrolling our camp to protect us from the wildlife around us.

Our campsite was located about 10 minutes from one of the gates to the park, so we were able to do plenty of drives. In total we did three game drives. I was in true awe when after only a 2 hour drive the night we got there, I had seen Buffalo, Elephants, Giraffes, Lions, Cheetahs, Warthogs and Zebra amongst the many gazelle, antelope and other animals. There are no words on how to describe how gorgeous the landscape truly is. The following day we did a full-day game drive reaching deep into the south end of the park, straddling the border with Tanzania and having lunch with the monkeys.
Our last day was spent with a final short game drive, and then our trek back to Nairobi. Returning to our campsite in Nairobi, we spent the night watching a soccer (I still have a hard time calling it football, something everyone on this trip gives me shit for) and using the last bit I of internet I would have access to for over a week.

Small Update

For the first time since Nairobi, I have internet access. That said, it is too slow to upload any posts or pictures yet. I’ve got a big backlog of posts coming in the next couple days. I havent forgotten about you all.

Since the Masai Mara I’ve been to Serengeti National Park, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. Today we return to Dar es Salaam, and begin heading south to Malawi tomorrow where I’ve been told I can get fast wireless internet.

Masai Mara National Park

This’ll just be a short posting, as the only internet I have access to doesnt allow photo uploading.

We spent the last 3 days since Nairobi doing game drives of the Masai Mara National Park. It was probably one of the most amazing wilderness experiences I have done in my life. We did two half day drives and one full day trip. We stayed at a great tented camp patrolled by the Masai people to protect us from curious animals (namely Lions) at night. Their means of defence: a spear.

I am back in Nairobi tonight before heading off to Arusha, Tanzania for 3 days in Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater and Olduavi Gorge. I’ll be out of contact until I am in Dar es Salaam next week. Until then!

Jambo Kenya!

For anybody who knows me, they know that I think flying sucks. This trip was no exception. To summarize: Overnight flight with no meaningful sleep, connecting flight that felt more like sitting on a park bench for 8 hours 3 inches away from the park bench in front of you, screaming babies galore, delays, shitty food. But hey, I got here without any missed flights, AND my bags showed up. All in all, a normal trip.

Nairobi is a city lacking any sort of planning, having grown out of the savanna less that 100 years ago. It is chaotic, noisy, and full of life. Exactly as I expected, and yet not at all what I was expecting at all. I arrived at the airport to find that the pickup I had arranged hadn’t shown up. I waited a half-hour, and got my own taxi from the chanting herd of local drivers standing behind a painted yellow line on the floor of the arrivals level, like a flock of mimes trapped behind a fictitious wall.

Getting to the hotel, there is no reservation. First though through my mind: “Of course, reservations are meaningless. This is Africa”. I manage to get one of the last rooms available at the hotel. Crawling into bed after not sleeping for 37 hours was an amazing feeling. That is until I woke up at 1:30 am, not being able to get back to sleep. Thanks jetlag! I did manage to get a couple hours more before being woken up to the sound of workers renovating the rooms above me.

That morning I was met by my dad’s former university roommate, Sam. Sam and my dad went to Trent University together in the mid-60’s and my dad had since visited him in the 80’s while on an African trip of his own. He and his two daughters showed me around town seeing all the sights there are to see in Nairobi. We ended up visiting his hometown of Limuru and drove up to the edge of the Great Rift Valley for a picture stop. What an amazing view.

After returning to Sam’s house for a feast of a lunch with some friends of Sam, having many discussions comparing my life in Canada with that of an ‘average’ Kenyan. After that, I checked into my new hotel after bailing on the decrepit original one and met up with part of the group of 22 that I’ll be spending much of the next 43 days with.

Today we head off to the Masai Mara National Park. Two nights there with two or three game drives throughout our stay before returning to Nairobi mid-week next week. Until then here are some pictures to tie you over.

Parliament Buildings
Parliament Buildings

Great Rift Valley
Great Rift Valley

Nairobi!

View of Downtown Nairobi from my hotel
View of Downtown Nairobi from my hotel

After nearly 24 hours of travel and two excruciating flights, I have finally made it to Nairobi. A more detailed posting is coming in the next day or two, but for now I’ll leave you with a picture from my hotel window in Nairobi.