Sunday, 24 May 2015
Tuesday, 22 April 2014
It was 40 degrees plus every day, and we were forced into an existence where we were only outside for the couple of hours either side of sunrise and sunset. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the main things to see in this part of the world are massive sand dunes, and giant arid canyon (as well as making the most of the local German connections by eating a wide variety of apple strudel!)
|Sand dunes as far as the eye can see in Sossusvlei|
|Dried up lake beds - hard to believe that there's ever water...|
|Big canyon at Fish River|
|This photo get across how hot and dry it was quite well|
This is proper frontier country, and you really felt out of it, barely seeing another person in a full day of driving.
With that in mind, you can understand how at odds our accommodation on our last night in Namibia seemed. We landed mid afternoon at Ai-Ais, a natural springs with several pools to sooth aching limbs (unfortunately, they are hot springs - not ideal!) You can imagine how impressed Anna was in this situation (ie 40 degrees, only hot pools to cool off in), when I started playing the stupid game where I drove away every time she tried to get in. Luckily though, this game highly amused the local park ranger, who happened to have a luxury villa going spare that night, and decided to bestow it upon us for free!
That night we slept in air conditioned luxury, with an odd treat of being able to watch the Oscars under the beautiful desert stars from our personal hot tub!
From here, we continued south into South Africa, our last country. It was then that I started to get nervous.
Sunday, 27 October 2013
|Not the most formidable border|
|Disadvantages of crossing borders off road: sometimes you reach a dead end / lake|
Unfortunately, for all of Namibia's wildness it does maintain a deep love of paperwork, and we had to get a foreigners driving permit, which is apparently only available from Windhoek, on a Tuesday, under a fair wind. Fearing the police would fine us without it, we dutifully headed in the other direction (hadn't seen a policeman in a while!)
Our destination was the incredible Etosha National Park - our last proper safari of the trip. If you google photos of Etosha, you will find some unbelievable photos of the watering holes there, which look like the queue for Noah's ark. The reason for this, is the dryness of the surround areas - there is no water for dozens of miles around, so any watering hole becomes an animal Mecca. Unfortunately, as we drove into the park, the heavens opened (good news for Namibia, which was in the middle of long drought, bad news for us) - and suddenly there were plenty of puddles for the animals to drinks from everywhere.
As a result the animal viewing was sparse but we had only one thing in mind. We'd seen plenty of the other big 5 animals on our trip, but were missing a rhino. Etosha is famous for Rhinos, so we thought we had a good chance. On the first morning we drove around the various watering holes and saw very little. We eventually turned on to one of the rougher tracks, more to kill time than anything, and after a while approached a pool on the left with two very large shapes in it. RHINO! An amazing sight, given how solitary they usually are. It was unclear whether one of them was quite keen on the other, or wanted a fight, but after a while it gave up either way and disappeared into the bushes. Something must have been in the air, because later on we saw a bit of Giraffe loving too (a bit light the fight on the BBC series Africa, but a with lot gentler neck action!)
|Fighting / loving Rhino|
|Getting going with the Braii routine|
|Chilling out on Safari, watching the Rhino|
After travelling with some Saffas earlier in our trip, and talking A LOT about the South African obsession with the Braii, we thought it was about time we got into it, and Etosha marked the beginning of our nightly bbq routine for most of the rest of the trip. I was doing a mean Boerewors by the time we got to the Cape!
We then made a fleeting trip to Windhoek to pick up our papers (we did get stopped by the police in the end, but Anna charmed her way out of a ticket!), and were quickly off to the very german coastal down on Swakopmund.
The car needed some running repairs, so we had a hang around a couple of days on the coast. Fortunately, a friend of a friend, Henry, is a geologist working in the dessert just outside Swakop, and became our excellent host for the weekend! After showing us the sights and sounds of this small town, and introducing us to crazy drillers, and even more crazy local farmers alike, we felt like we had gotten a pretty good feel for the town. We even managed to find somewhere to watch the rugby again - was 3 for 3 on the six nations games, despite being on the road.
|Killing time by the beach in Swakopmund|
After a couple of days static, we were keen to be on the road again, and out of Swakop, we were quickly off the tarmac, and on to the gravel road (it would be a good 600km until we say tar again). I love getting off the tar a bit, but this really wasn't as fun as elsewhere - the roads were dead straight, there was noone around, and it's all too easy to let your speed get away from you, and start sliding around on the gravel. It was also chewing up my expensive tyres.
Fortunately, my tyres were in better nick that than a car we found about an hour out of Walvis Bay. It was a young German couple who hired a car in Windhoek with rubbish tyres, and had a blow out. We were starting to make a habit of being a roadside rescue team, and I think they were truly shocked when we turned up from nowhere, changed the tyre for them in 10 mins, and then got them on their way. They looked in dispair when we arrived. It was just the kind of thing to lift your spirits before a long drive. We were heading south into the cauldron of South Namibia - things were about to get very hot!
Monday, 8 April 2013
After the long and hard road to Livingstone, it was time to take stock. We only had 3 weeks to get to Cape Town, but now, after all that driving, the odds were shifting in our favour. A quick check of the sat nav, revealed we were only 3 days drive from the Cape if we headed straight for it, so there was a time for a bit more fun on the final leg of the trip. For us, that meant heading straight west into Botswana and Namibia, to visit the Bushmen for a while.
A grand way to start a more fun based bit of the trip was a visit to Victoria Falls. Anna had been before, but not when the river was in full flow. The locals call it the 'Smoke That Thunders', and it was hard not to agree as you approached the falls; you heard them well before seeing them. The rate of flow was incredible, and it was impossible not to get soaked as you looked at them. Later in the afternoon, we wound our way down to the riverside to the scarily named Devil's pool (though the scariest thing in reality was fighting off the insistent baboons with sticks and stones who thought we might have food). Overall an amazing day - a true natural wonder.
|They look innocent (note tiny baby), but they were soon to be chasing us down the path!|
|Awesome whirlpool-iness at the Devil's Pool - the bridge you can just see in the background is the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe|
|Getting very wet from the Smoke that Thunders|
Feeling a bit more chipper and rested, we headed on to Botswana by crossing the Zambezi river on a barge (approved level of border), and landed in town just in time to take a cruise into the Chobe National Park. It's pretty wet in Botswana right now, so driving isn't so easy, but the cruise was a great way to get up close to some pretty amazing Elephants without being in too much danger (they can't swim as fast as they run!) A nice treat for Valentine's day, followed by a very fancy meal (inc. roses and chocolates) at the amazing lodge we were staying at (fortunately we were allowed to camp in the car park).
|On the border between Zambia and Botswana - approved on the James' scale of proper borders|
|Getting up close and personal with the elephants|
Our next stop was Maun, a dusty, end of the world type town, which marks the edge of the Okavango Delta. The main reason we were going was my obsession with a tv show called 'Bush Pilots' (http://www.radiotimes.com/programme/q9c62/bush-pilots). The show follows rookie pilots who turn up in Botswana, usually from the UK, with a bare minimum of flying experience, and try to find their first flying job. Our trip to Maun was basically the fan tour. We stayed at the hostel where they bunk whilst waiting for work, ate at the Bon Arrivee restaurant outside the airport where they hang out, and obviously took an incredible tourist flight over the Delta itself (for any Mum's reading, we found a pilot will well over 100 hours experience, don't worry!)
The delta is an incredible place. Because it gets so completely flooded in the wet season, the population has always been limited to a few small villages hemmed in on the higher ground, who get around in canoes. This has meant that the area is wonderfully remote, and rammed full of wildlife. Really amazing from the air (though Anna did need to make use of the facilities a couple of times in response to the pilot dipping the wing to look at elephants!)
|Looking healthy and happy - notably, pre-flight|
|Our worrying small vessel|
|Flying low over the swamps, lovely reflection of the clouds and sky in the water|
|Butterfly trap, but the car is still going strong!|
Thursday, 21 February 2013
- Crossing a proper border between Rwanda and Tanzania, which is a flimsy bridge over a massive torrent of a river with huge rapids (I really don’t like borders which are just a line on a map)
- Exploring the less trodden route through some of mining towns of north western Tanzania; hungry after a long day on the road, we wandered into a dusty cafe and I practised my best Swahili "ni kuna chakula” (“Is there food?”), to which a chips omelette was produced – a culinary delight!
- Masai warrior on a bicycle. In fact, pretty much anything and anyone on a bicycle - even bicycle taxis which are a great idea
- After our horrible day on the road to Iringa (see below), sampling the most incredible steak and fresh vegetables at the Old Farm House Camp – this healed many wounds
- Finding a posh coffee plantation to camp in Mbeya, where we could swim in the gorgeous pool, and got to camp next to the helipad (they weren’t expecting anyone that day, but said we’d have to move quickly if one appeared!)
- Winding through the colourful hillside towns of southern Tanzania near the Malawian border, where the locals were very cheerful and beautifully dressed
- Benefiting from some of our car based misfortunes (see below), to be in Lilongwe at the right time to see Wales overturn the French in Paris, with the big group of fun ex-pats we met in town
- Being handed a copy of the highway code at the Zambian border, and finding out that all cattle being herded on the road at night (a common sight in Zambia) should have a white light on the front animal, and a red light on the back one – the herder should also wear a high vis jacket. Sadly never actually saw this in action...
- Bumping into old friends on the road; a group of 3 lovely couples we’ve met along the way, which we had a great time exchanging stories with
- The rain of Livingstone stopping in time to enjoy the majesty of Victoria Falls in full flow: Incredible!
- Turning out of Tanzania’s uninspiring capital, Dodoma, to find the road I expected to be tar to be horrible bumpy gravel all the way to Iringa (including having to get towed out of some mud along the way) – despite the incredible vast mountainous forests we were seeing out of the window
- Discovering a broken wheel bearing at Chitimba on Lake Malawi (potentially caused by the evil road), and having to crawl into Mzuzu to get it fixed (in a bloke's back garden)
- Getting locked out of the boot at Kande beach, and not being able to wash until we made a detour to Lilongwe to fix it
- The number of overturned trucks on the road in Zambia; the terrible accident that happened there recently seems like it was inevitable
In Kigali we met up with Kamanda - a friend of a couple of guys from our work. He works for Friends of Rwandan Rugby, an NGO that promotes the sport in Rwanda. Here's their website if you're interested in going out to help with their work as Tom and Rob did.http://www.friendsofrwandanrugby.org.uk/da/109570
|Rwanda delivering on the 'Land of a Thousand Hills' tagline...|
|...although not all the time|
|Campsite at Bujagali Falls|
|Bwindi Impenetrable National Park|
|This chap is known as The Judge - what you can't tell from the photo is that he was constantly letting rip with massive farts...|