Bustling through the Balkans

Woke up after a restless sleep on my flight from Cape Town thanks to the obnoxious man next to me who had decided that half my seat was also apparently his seat.  I was a bit out of it due to my lack of sleep so it wasn’t until the captain announced we were landing soon and said the local time and date that I realised it was my birthday, hooray!

Got into Dubai early morning and transferred straight away to my flight to Munich, had a full row to myself (thanks for the birthday present Emirates), and a few hours later I had landed.  Went to arrivals where my friend Cassie was waiting for me, super exciting to see her as it had been over a year since she’d moved to Sweden!  We grabbed our bags and got an Uber to the bus station, our driver was going 160km/h at one stage and having just had 2 months in Africa where the top speed the truck travelled was 80km/h – I was freaking out!

We got on our bus at 4:30pm after eating a delicious kebab (seriously amazing), left Germany behind and entered Austria, had the most beautiful scenery along the way, amazing mountains!  Stopped along the way and we had a celebratory pretzel and beer, continued on our way and at 9:30pm we had arrived at our final destination, Ljubljana, Slovenia!

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Birthday done right!

Checked into the hostel and went to the bar for birthday beers.  Just before midnight we decided to check out a place that supposedly had the best burek in town, it did not disappoint! I got the meat one, delicious AND only 1 euro! The clock ticked past midnight and my birthday was over! Had spent my birthday in 4 different countries, eating delicious food and drinking beer! Perhaps a bit symbolic of what the next year was going to bring for me!

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Amazing burek!

The next day we got up early, we only had the one day to explore Ljubljana so had to make the most of it.  Got a bus an hour away to Lake Bled which was stunning despite the chilly weather!  Stopped at a small hotel for a Slovenian breakfast, fresh bread, sliced meat, antipasto, cheese – delicious!

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Seriously so good, food was so fresh!

Spent the next hour walking around the lake, went up to a castle on the hill, had coffee in a cute café and then hopped on the 1:30pm but back to Ljubljana.

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Lake Bled

Back in the city we had a wander around old town, which was really nice! Lots of old buildings and really clean streets.  Sat down for a late lunch and just people watched until the evening.  Headed back to the hostel to grab our bags and then went to the bus station.

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Boarded the bus and a few hours later we had arrived in Zagreb, Croatia – unfortunately it was just a pit stop before we headed south the next morning.  Our hostel was pretty cool and I wish we could’ve spent longer but we had a lot to fit in the next 2 weeks!  We had a beer and made a plan for the next day, it was going to be a big day, lots of buses, bit of sightseeing and crossing the border into Bosnia & Hercegovina.

Another early start to get the 7:30 bus to Plitvice Lakes, we got to the station only to find out the bus was sold out.  Next bus was at 8:40 so we booked on to that and went and got some breakfast, had an amazing antipasto roll, never been so happy to miss a bus before. Had mushrooms, peppers, lettuce, feta, eggplant and the bread was sooo fresh!  Bought another one to have for lunch later! We decided to book our bus on from Plitvice Lakes because we didn’t want to have another fully booked bus situation, so went online and booked a bus from Bihac, Bosnia to Jajce, Bosnia.  We contacted a local taxi driver to pick us up from Plitvice Lakes and to drive across the border to Bihac – all sorted!

Hopped on our bus and passed out asleep straight away, woke up for the last half hour which I’m glad I did because scenery was fantastic! Arrived at 11am to Plitvice Lakes, dropped our bags in storage and then set off into the park to do the 3.5km walk.

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Plitvice Lakes

The lakes were so beautiful! The water was crystal clear and the leaves were just starting to turn yellow, red and orange which contrasted amazingly against the water. It was pretty busy and it wasn’t even high season, I had read they had banned selfie sticks at the park which isn’t surprising, I can only imagine how many people have been wacked by selfie sticks and almost fallen into the water.  We finished the trail earlier than anticipated so we sat down in a quiet area a bit off the path and enjoyed our lunch looking over the lakes.

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Went and grabbed our bags and met our taxi driver out the front, we headed towards the border, felt like we were middle of nowhere, not many people take this route into Bosnia.  As we were driving along I suddenly had the thought that it was actually not the smartest thing to have booked a random taxi company we found online and drive us across the border, Cass had had the same thought and she had messaged her boyfriend telling him where we were. No need for worry as 20 minutes later we had crossed the border and were safely dropped at the bus station in Bihac.  Bihac was a very very small town, and the station was tiny!  We had booked the 4pm bus but there wasn’t a whole lot of activity going on, I decided to go investigate.  Went into the ticket counter and showed the man my booking on the phone, after a whole lot of hand gestures between two people who couldn’t speak the others language I figured out the bus that we had booked wasn’t actually coming today. Crap. He wrote down that there was an 11pm bus, and I was like well guess that’s what we will do! Went and filled in Cass on the situation, we were going to book the 11pm bus when a young guy with a bit of English offered to help.  I showed him the website we had booked on and he said he had never seen the website before but there was a 7:15pm bus we could catch, hooray!  Bought tickets for that, we had a few hours to kill and the only thing open was a small pub at the station.  Went inside the little dark room and there were 2 cops sitting and drinking, next few hours we sat and drank watching the different sorts of people coming in and out.  For about an hour there were 2 men just staring at us at the bar.  We went outside at 7 to get the bus, while we were in the pub the station had gone from deserted to packed! Our bus arrived, we raced on and were pulling out a moment later – they won’t wait for you here! Slept most of the ride which I’m glad because the driver was going like a maniac!  A few minutes before we arrived the driver slammed on the brakes, bags went flying, I braced myself against the chair in front, Cass said we had just been inches from hitting a car that ran a red light! When we arrived the driver was shaking he was so terrified!

We walked about 10 minutes through the town Jajce to our hotel, dropped our bags and went for pizza around the corner because we were starving.  Got back to the room and we fell asleep while watching hilarious Bosnian music videos on TV.

Following morning we had a “sleep in”, got up at 8am and headed off for the day.  Jajce is a really small town, and I don’t think they get many tourists at all, absolutely no English spoken here which I actually really like!  Our plan was to hire bikes to ride to the watermills but the bike hire place had no bikes…  We had to taxi instead, but first we decided to book our bus tickets for that afternoon after the mess from yesterday.  We booked the 2:15pm bus to Mostar, waited for ages for a taxi to come by and then had him drive us to the watermills.  About 15 minutes later we got dropped off at the watermills, really cool looking place!

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Watermills of Jajce

They look like tiny houses on stilts over the water, about 20 of them all linked by wooden bridges.

We had ducked into the small tourist information in Jajce and the lady had told us there was a hotel and café next to the lake, so our plan was to go have lunch and then get a taxi back.  After a wander around the watermills we went to the lakeside to find the hotel and well… the only café we could see was an abandoned house with a sign that said café, and as for the hotel… I’ve got no idea!

We ended up walking down some random dirt road past some houses, no idea where we were, took a wrong turn, had to turn back, ended up on a backroad and had to walk through a few tunnels which were definitely designed for one car at a time.  We would wait to make sure no cars were coming then sprint through the tunnel to the other side. Got to the main road and there was a massive tunnel to the left, no way were we walking through that, and to the right was a sign that said café and wifi, we went that way.

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Walked up the road and all we could find was a liquor shop where 2 guys and a young girl were having lunch on a cardboard table, amazingly one of them spoke English! They called us a taxi and a few minutes later a guy showed up and drove us back to town.  For a moment I thought we were going to be stranded in the middle of nowhere!  Back in town we went for a walk up the top of the hill along cobblestone streets to the old fortress, had a quick walk around, nice views of the area!

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Views from the top of the mountain

Headed down to the main town past lots of destroyed houses with bullet holes in them from the war.  Seemed like most of the town was sitting along the main road drinking coffee, we decided to join them and people watch.

From there we walked a couple of minutes to the main sight in town, the waterfall.  Jajce is known as the town that was built on top of a waterfall, it’s quite a beautiful sight.  We paid to go up close to it which probably wasn’t necessary as it was more impressive looking at it from afar.

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Jajce Waterfall

We went back to the hotel, grabbed our bags and got to the bus station.  Hopped on the bus at 2:20 and headed off towards Mostar.  The scenery was AMAZING! Soooo beautiful! We were up high in the mountains and were heading down, crazy heights, windy roads and blue rivers!  We went through a lot of towns which still hadn’t been restored since the war, lots of bullet ridden houses, sitting next to houses that had been fully restored.

One of the towns we went through that had the most destroyed houses was called Bugojno.  We decided to look up the town and find out a bit more about it.  Turns out there was an “ethnic cleanse” within Bugojno the town had gone from being majority Croats to there now being none, some were expelled, some were in concentration camps and some just went missing.  It was pretty confronting driving through that town.

We got into Mostar at 5pm and got a taxi to our guesthouse, greeted by the owner Taso.  Really friendly guy who made us tea and gave us food and sight recommendations.  The guesthouse had photos on the wall from what it looked like after the war, it had basically been completely destroyed but Taso’s family had built it back up again.  We signed up to do his day tour the following day as well. Went to the place he recommended for dinner and it did not disappoint, wow!  It was a meat platter for two and honestly it could have fed 4-5 people.  We had lots of cats sitting around our feet for company, but strangely enough they disappeared when we finished eating…  After dinner we wandered through the old town, Mostar is such a beautiful town I was keen to see it in the daylight!

We ended up at a pub with 2 Dutch guys we had met at the restaurant, pretty cool place with live music.  Had a few beers but headed back reasonably early as we were wrecked from the big day.

Had a slow start to the day which was nice, got ready to go for our tour at 10am.  While waiting I got chatting to a guy in our dorm, he had spent 5 months in Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia and was interviewing young people about nationalism and their attitude towards the war and moving on from it for his University thesis.  He had interviewed a 22 year old Croat the day before who had said to him that if anyone came to his side of town he would “beat the shit out of them” and he knew all the Croats in town so if he didn’t recognise you and you were on his side of town he would beat you.  He said of all the places he had interviewed people Mostar had the worst segregation between Croats and Bosnians.  Apparently before the war there was a 50% crossover between them for marriage, but after the wall there is no crossover.  Some people in Mostar have never see Stari Most (old bridge) because it’s not on their side of town and it is not safe to cross into town that is not their area.  They have their own schools, hospitals etc, complete segregation!  I could’ve talked to him for hours about it, but unfortunately I had to leave for our tour.

We hopped into Taso’s car with 3 others from our hostel and headed off for the day.  First stop was Blagaj Tekija, a beautiful monastery sitting on the water.

We had breakfast next to the river before exploring, Taso ordered the local delicacies meat burek, cheese burek and a savoury donut served with feta. So. Damn. Good.  Served with Bosnian coffee, which wow, I’ve never considered myself a coffee drinker, but I think Bosnia was going to change that.  While eating Taso explained the countries name Bosnia & Hercogovina, essentially it is two countries within one.  There are the Bosnians which makes up 75% of the country and the Hercegovinians which is 25% of the country in the south.  They are different people, culture, lives etc, no tension or conflict between the two, that is just how the country is made up, they have never felt the need to separate the countries.  After we finished breakfast we had a bit of time to explore the river and go inside the monastery, very pretty area.

From there we drove too Pocitelj, a beautiful old town built up on a mountain.  After the war there are only 35 full time residents that still live there, all the youth have moved to other parts of the country.

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The best way for them to make money is by selling fruit and handicrafts to the tourists that come by, a shame really because it’s such a beautiful town that is going to fall apart without more residents and money.  Taso drove us to the castle at the top of the hill, we explored the castle and then slowly walked down to the bottom, I bought a cup of raspberries on the way, yum!

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Bought delicious raspberries from this lady

Next stop was Kravica Waterfalls, tallest falls in Bosnia at 29m.  The sun was shining for the first time in days and I hadn’t brought swimwear because of the terrible weather.  We had 2 hours free time to swim and explore, Cass jumped into the water and lasted about 2-3 minutes because the water was so cold, wasn’t upset about leaving my swimmers behind.

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If you look closely you can see the pain in Cass’s face in the freezing water!

We sat in the sun and had a beer before lunch, Taso ordered us a meat platter with bread and cheese, again it was so delicious! I love the food in Bosnia!

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Kravica Falls

We finished up and headed to the next stop, beautiful scenery along the way as per usual.

We went to an old bunker that used to hide up to 25 planes during the war.  It was huge and super creepy.  We drove inside and around a corner where Taso turned the headlights off so it was pitch black.  Inside was spooky, lots of debris everywhere.  Pretty incredible to see such a huge thing that had been hidden during the war.

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Our final stop was back in Mostar, an abandoned bank that during the war had been used by snipers.

Taso showed us how to get in, had to jump over a wall on one side and then walk through the building up to the roof.  Inside there was soooo much broken glass and debris, every window had been smashed in the building, graffiti everywhere.  Walked up about 10 levels to the top on an open staircase, wouldn’t want to slip.  At the top level there was a metal ladder we climbed up to get on the roof.

There was a bunch of people up the top, we just missed the sunset but were able to check out the views over the city.

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Views from the top

Decided to head back down before it got dark, honestly I was glad to leave the place behind.

Back at the hostel Taso gave us a bottle of wine to finish up the tour, it had been such an incredible and informative tour, we were pretty stoked at the end of it.

We went for dinner with the others from our tour at 7:30, went to a small restaurant had a decent meal and went back to the pub from the night before.  We left at about midnight, walked outside the pub and were swarmed by a group of stray dogs.  The dogs ended up escorting us the whole way back to our hostel, was kind of fun having a dog crew.  Got inside and went to bed.

Woke up after a good sleep and walked into old town after breakfast.  We got there a bit early to avoid all the tourists that would show up later on day trips from Dubrovnik.  Got some pictures of the bridge from a bit far away and then we walked down to the waters edge looking up at the bridge.  Poked my finger in the water, freezing! It is apparently the coldest flowing river in the world!

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Stari Most

We headed back up into the old town and it was already starting to get busy, we spent an hour or so strolling through the old Turkish bazaar, bought a couple of things along the way.

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We went to the war photo museum near the bridge, amazing museum.  A photographer from New Zealand snuck into Bosnia during the war disguised as a soldier to photograph the whole thing.  The photos were incredible, it showed during the war and then after the war along with a narrative.  Really glad we went there because it gave us a bit more understanding of what the war had been like.  There were photos of the day to day lives of people and when the bridge had been blown up.  Something that stood out was that a lot of the photos showed the streets, and there were lines that people had drawn on most walls in the city that basically said don’t poke your head above this line because you are in a sniper’s range.

When we left the museum a crowd had started to gather because men were gathering tips to jump off the bridge.  We decided to go into the café next to the photo museum that overlooked the bridge.  Coolest little café with really nice décor, and the perfect seat overlooking the bridge.

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The café owner was super friendly and chatty, he was telling us the seats we were in had sat lots of famous people including Prince Charles (apparently half the old town got cleared out for security reasons when he was there because no one was allowed to be within 300m of him), Pavarotti, Hamish and Andy plus heaps of other people I can’t remember.  He was very proud of his café.  He was giving us tips on how to live a happy life and that we should always smile because that’s something that no one can take from you etc.  He told us that of the foreigners that jump off the bridge 20% of them are Australians, he was impressed by Australian bravery (you won’t get me jumping off that damn bridge).

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Our mate in the coffee shop, yes he is eating a lemon

By the time we had finished our coffee the men had got enough tips and were getting the crowd to start clapping, dressed just in his speedos the man jumped off and did a smooth dive into the icy water. The crowds quickly disappeared after that.

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Diving off the bridge

We reluctantly left the coffee shop behind as we had to catch our bus.  We were on the last bus to Dubrovnik at 12:30 and it was packed! I sat next to a woman who was travelling with her daughter, she told me all the things she didn’t like about Bosnia especially the fact that no one spoke English and how can they expect to maintain tourism if they don’t learn English blah blah blah.  I just responded and said it was unreasonable to expect someone to speak your language when you are visiting their country, put my headphones in and turned away.

The border crossing into Croatia was the longest one we had yet, the drivers assistant went along collecting all our passports, 40 minutes later he came back with all the passports stamped.  He was yelling peoples names out and no one could understand them so he thrusted all the passports on a passenger and she took over returning the passports. My passport is like gold, I watched her like a hawk until I got mine back. Because of the geography of Croatia and Bosnia we crossed into Croatia for about 20 minutes, then drove back through Bosnia and then back into Croatia.  We got into Dubrovnik about an hour later than planned, got a taxi to near where our place was but had to walk up and down stairs to find our Airbnb. Which wouldn’t have been a big deal if my bag didn’t weigh about 27kgs…

We finally found the Airbnb and the owner showed us inside, really nice place with an awesome view over the old city! Dumped our bags and walked into the old town, it wasn’t too busy at this time, we think because all the people on cruise ships had returned to their ships.

Looked at a number of restaurants, so damn expensive, came to the conclusion it was just going to be an expensive stay in Dubrovnik.  Had a delicious seafood platter, worth the extra $$$.  We slowly made our way back to the apartment, watched a movie and went to bed.

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Seafood platter!

Had a bit of a sleep in the next day, we had decided we would cook up a feast for dinner so once we were ready we headed to the market.  We bought prawns and octopus, got some fruit and vegetables and then some cheese and sliced meats!

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Walked back towards the apartment stopping for a delicious breakfast sandwich on the way.  The walk was mostly uphill and the sun was blaring down, I was glad to get back to the apartment and drop off the food!

We headed back out to the old town, wandered around for a bit, ate a gelato, then headed to the big castle outside the old town.

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The castle is used for Kings Landing in Game of Thrones (lots of recognisable scenes from Game of Thrones here).  We missed the turn for the castle and ended up on a random hill, which worked out well because the views were beautiful looking back over the castle and old town.  Headed back to the castle, got there and didn’t want to pay the entrance fee so after all that we skipped it.

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Stumbled upon this view

Went back to the old town and had a wander around the streets before stopping for a light lunch at an oyster and sushi bar.  We splurged and had a few oysters each and sushi plus wine of course.  Delicious!

We had a further walk around the town stopped in a shop and bought pate and fig jam for our feast and bought some wine a bit further along.  We were pretty tired so we headed back to the apartment to start cooking up our feast.

We boiled the prawns with salt, had garlic butter squid, made bruschetta and laid out all the meats and cheese. We definitely cooked way too much and had to do a few trips to carry our 6 plates of food up to the terrace.  Spent the remainder of the afternoon feasting, drinking wine and watching the sunset.  Perfect end to our day in Dubrovnik!

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Next morning we packed up our bags and stored them outside the apartment.  I had contacted my parents the day before because they were coming from Kotor to Dubrovnik that day and I was hoping we would cross paths, they weren’t sure of their plans but we would keep in contact.

Cass and I headed to the old town to walk around the castle walls, 2km all the way around.  Started our walk before the large crowds arrived, great views all around.  Stopped halfway along for a coffee overlooking the ocean, very nice!  Continued on the walk, we ended up spending about 2 hours walking around the walls.

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Finished up and went for a gelato, sat by the fountain and people watched for a while which was great.  I contacted my parents again and they thought they’d be at the old town at 1:30pm, we needed to be at the apartment at 1:30pm to make our bus in time but we decided to push it and see if I could see them briefly.

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People watching by the fountain

While waiting we went and got lunch, had a delicious chicken sandwich and was one of the cheaper meals we had in Dubrovnik.  We sat by the main entry gate until 1:40 waiting for my parents but in the end had to leave to get our bus. Picked our bags up from the apartment and got an uber to the bus station, we left at 3pm on an absolute clunker of a bus.  The clutch wasn’t working properly, we kept stalling, bus was making noises, genuinely thought it would fall apart on the ride, at least the scenery was beautiful.

We crossed into Montenegro leaving Croatia behind, a short while later we arrived in Kotor.  We walked about 10 minutes into town to our apartment for the night. Left the bags in the room and went for a walk around the city, so many cats everywhere! Shops selling cat related things, there is a cat museum, locals leave food and water out for the cats. Cats cats cats!  We went to a recommended restaurant for dinner and honestly the food was terrible, it was a bit disappointing.  We went back to the room fairly early and watched a movie before bed.  Before I fell asleep I got a message from my parents, turns out they had got to the main gate less than 5 minutes after we had left!

We were almost halfway through our time in the Balkans and it had gone so quickly!  I was keen to see what Montenegro and Albania would bring!

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Sunset over Dubrovnik Old Town

The final leg

Leaving Swakopmund behind, it was hard to believe I was on the final leg of my trip, only 6 days to left!
We drove down the coast for a while before turning back inland, as soon as we were away from the coast it started to heat up and we were peeling off layers of clothing. The landscape was very dry and rocky, and as it began to even out we passed across the Tropic of Capricorn.

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Tropic of Capricorn

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We got into camp reasonably early at 3pm, spent the afternoon relaxing, enjoying a hot shower and the wildlife wandering through camp. We had an early start the next day so we were all in bed straight after dinner.

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Up at 5am, we didn’t pack up the tents as we would be coming back to camp after our morning excursion. We passed into Namib-Naukluft National Park at 6:00am, half an hour before the rest of the crowds showed up who weren’t camping next to it. We had about a 20 minute drive to Dune 45, 170 metres high and the point people go to watch sunrise. There were already a fair few people climbing up the dune when we got there, now I don’t consider myself a competitive person but when I saw those people ahead of me something sparked inside me and I was like NOPE I WANT TO BE FIRST! I think I was motivated by the fact that I wanted sunrise pictures without people or footprints in them.

Don’t know where the energy came from but I passed about 40 people and ended up being 3rd to the top! Hard work! For every step you take up the sand dunes you slide back half a step.
When I got to the top I collapsed and completely forgot that I had wanted to be up there to get pictures without footprints, a woman walked by me and I ended up half chasing her across the dune to try get ahead to get a photos but she powered ahead of me, oh well!

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Getting down the dune is a lot more fun, running down the side you slide just as much as you are running, got to the bottom covered head to toe in sand!
At the bottom our cook had prepared breakfast for us, delicious spread! We quickly ate before hopping back into the truck to get to the next point to beat the crowds. Ten minutes later we got to the carpark, dozens of trucks and jeeps, there were guides jumping out of vehicles and sprinting to the ticket point to line up for their tourists.
They don’t allow private vehicles to drive further than the carpark because too many self-drive tourists get stuck in the sand, so they have a jeep shuttle system to bring the tourists in and out.

Luckily we only had to wait about 20 minutes for our turn to get in the jeep. 10 minute drive later we arrived, on our left was Big Daddy, the largest sand dune in the world standing at 300 metre high and on the right was Big Mama the second biggest sand dune.

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Big Daddy in the distance!

We were given 2 hours to explore the area, our guide suggested we climb the smaller dune next to Big Daddy and we would get a good panoramic view of the dunes and Deadsvlei, then we could go down to Deadsvlei and look around. I asked why he didn’t suggest Big Daddy, he said it would take the full 2 hours and I would miss out on Deadsvlei. Myself and 2 friends (Debbie and Ross, Australian couple) looked at each other… challenge accepted! Our guide told us we better start running if we wanted to make it, so off we went!
Started running across the sand, which then turned into a salt pan that we were running across, took us 15 minutes to get just to the base of Big Daddy. I kept chanting in my head “we can make it, we can make it”.

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Running across the salt flats to Big Daddy

It was only 9am and the sun was already blaring down on us, a guy had just come down and we asked him how long it took to get up, he said it took him an hour but it was very hot now so it would take us longer. Didn’t like his attitude… not very positive I don’t think! Besides we are from Australia, this isn’t hot yet (ignore the fact I’m from Canberra).
We started the climb, stopping occasionally to check the time and catch our breath. It was A LOT harder than the dune this morning, I think because in the morning I had been stepping in other people’s footsteps which makes it a bit easier, but the footsteps here had already sunken away.

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If you look closely at the top you can see tiny dots which are people

After 45 gruelling minutes we finally made it to the top! Dripping with sweat but sooo happy! We sat down for about 10 minutes taking it all in, we could see right down into Deadslvei. Took a few photos and then decided to head back down as we had 45 minutes to get back to the meeting point.

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Red faced! Made it!!

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Getting to the bottom of Big Daddy took only 5 minutes, almost disappointing after the effort involved in getting up. It was fun though! We were sliding/running down the hill and it felt never ending, I saw a sand diving lizard on the way down too!
We reached the bottom at Deadslvei, emptied the ridiculous amount of sand from our shoes and started walking.

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Huge salt pan, you can see the trees way in the distance

It was a huge salt pan, we started jogging because we knew we were short on time. We finally got to where the trees were, the trees are dead and some are over 800 years old.

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800 year old trees

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The black contrast against the white salt pan, red sand and blue sky is beautiful! We kept on walking to get back to the start point and amazingly we got back at 10:50, 10 minutes to spare!
We were so pleased with ourselves, red faced and dripping in sweat but we had conquered Big Daddy!
The drive back in the jeep to the carpark was eventful, I got the last seat which was in the front with the driver. The whole way he was on the radio screaming that there had been tourists who had jumped into a jeep without paying the fee and that they couldn’t get away with it. Apparently it’s common for hotel jeeps to only charge tourists one way fees which meant that jeep drivers like him lose money. He would go silent and then 30 seconds later scream into the radio GET THE MONEY! He was screaming at other jeeps as they passed telling them what happened, it was intense! I was happy to arrive at the carpark!
Got back into the truck with sand everywhere, in my hair, in my mouth, everywhere! We drove 45 minutes back to the campsite, put the tents down and had lunch before heading off!
We only drove 2 hours today, after truck cleaning duty I raced to the shower still filthy from the morning. After dinner we played a bit of pool in the bar, exhausted after the big day went to bed fairly early.
Had a freezing cold night, terrible sleep because I kept waking from the cold. My tent mate (Steph) told me I kept waking her because I kept breathing heavily, oops!
We headed off after breakfast, stopped in a small town called Bethanie on the way. We were going to have cheese and crackers that evening so we tried to scrounge what we could in the small town. I found chilli bites (dried meat) at a small butcher, block of cheese at the mini market and some plain biscuits. That’ll do! The town itself wasn’t the nicest, there was a lot of creepy men hanging around asking for money or whispering hey there lady, I was glad to leave.
We stopped at a bridge along the way to take some pictures of fish river, the river was dried up so we took photos of the sand instead.

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We continued on the drive and at one stage I could smell something burning, after the tyre incident in Etosha NP I panicked and quickly told my guide. They stopped the truck and jumped out, turns out a tiny bit of wood had got stuck in the brake and had been burning. I can cope with that! As long as no more fires on the truck!
We got into camp at 1pm, it was a new resort under construction but it looked like it was going to be very expensive when finished! Beautiful bar and pool area. We had lunch and relaxed until 3pm then we got in the truck and drove 10 minutes up the road to Fish River Canyon.
We got dropped at the starting point of the walk along the canyon, it was a 3km walk back to the viewing point. Really hot weather! The canyon was super impressive though, 600m in depth at some points. Took about 40 minutes to walk, stopping for pictures along the way.

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Walking along the canyon

We had a water break at the viewing point then walked a further 2km along the canyon in the other direction to check out the view before heading back for sunset.

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Next 2 hours we enjoyed the view with our cheese and crackers. Once the sun was down we all got back into the truck to go back to camp. Had another excellent dinner before heading off to bed.
Following day we only had about an hour or so to drive to our next campsite, we got in and it was beautiful, lots of lush green grass everywhere.


At this campsite we would be switching to a new truck, reason being South Africa doesn’t allow tour companies to use trucks that aren’t registered in South Africa and the one we had been in had been registered in Kenya. We emptied out the truck, I had my things strewn everywhere in my two lockers and in the overhead compartments and back seat pockets. Guess that’s what happens when you are living in a truck for weeks! The new truck was a lot smaller and my big bag did not fit inside the locker! Took out the important things for next couple of days then put the big bag underneath.

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Emptying the truck

Rest of the afternoon I laid on the grass napping, went down near the pool for a while as well. After lunch we got told that our driver John would be leaving us here and we would have a new driver from South Africa from tomorrow. Really sad after spending 40+ days with him, really friendly guy!
That evening a few of us were talking to our cook and driver about their first experiences with western culture. John had never used a knife and fork until he started working for the company, and he used to hide in the truck watching tourists using cutlery until he was confident to eat in front of them. Our cook when he first went to a restaurant and was given a teabag had torn it open to pour into the cup because he had never seen one before. Crazy such little things that we don’t even give a second thought to.
We had a really nice dinner that night, lamb chops, roast potatoes, vegetables, our cook really put on a show for John’s last night. We finished the night with a drink with John at the bar before bed.

Early start at 6am, we had breakfast, said our goodbyes to John and met our new driver Goodman, very chatty guy from Johannesburg!
We drove only 10 minutes to the border, very straight forward being stamped out of Namibia and into South Africa. Apparently normally when they enter South Africa we have to empty out the truck to be searched with dogs and everything but Goodman somehow talked the officer out of it. My guide just shook his head and said I don’t know how he does it, he is the only driver that never gets searched.We stopped in a town called Springbok to go supermarket, I was so excited when I saw they sold hummus! FINALLY! I had been craving it for weeks and there it was! Bought that and went back to the truck, I demolished the whole tub before we headed off.

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Man made canal system for the vineyards

We got into our final campsite for the trip, it was at a beautiful winery with green grass and nice views over the vineyards. I had planned on upgrading for my final night of the tour but the campsite was so nice I didn’t feel the need to.

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Final campsite

At 5pm we had a wine tasting, we tried 6 different wines with cheese and crackers, really enjoyable evening. Had a delicious final meal which included chocolate pudding for dessert. We all went up to the bar for a few drinks, played a few games of pool and then went off to bed.

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Woke up to a beautiful view from the tent overlooking the vineyards. I packed up my tent for the last time in 63 days, felt a bit sentimental. That was short lived when my finger got pinched by one of the poles. We hopped into the truck and drove the final 300km to Cape Town.
As we got closer to Cape Town, Table Mountain came into view super impressive!

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Table Mountain coming into view

We arrived at the ending point hostel, myself and Steph were the only ones who had booked rooms there and everyone else had split to other hotels. We emptied out the truck and all said goodbye to each other, the crew were staying at the hostel so I’d catch them later.
Lots of friendly staff at the hostel, I had decided to splurge and stay in a private room with Steph instead of the dorms. Got into the room and collapsed on the bed, laid there for about an hour not really doing much. I needed to do laundry but even that seemed like too much effort. Finally at about 5 we went down to the bar/restaurant for a few drinks. Ended up having a couple of drinks with the crew and chatting with them. Had a really nice pizza from the bar and enjoyed a few beers. I felt like I got some weird kind of culture shock looking around at the people at the bar. Everyone was dressed so nicely and seemed so clean compared to my filthy clothes after 2 months of camping!
I went up to my room at one point to get a jumper, told the crew I’d be back in 10 minutes, sat on the bed aaaaaaaaaand fell asleep!
Following morning I couldn’t believe it when I woke up! I quickly raced out of the room to catch the crew before they left because I knew they were leaving early. Bumped into them in the hallway and they were like what happened? Classic Shannon falling asleep, I apologised and explained. We said our goodbyes and off they went with the truck.
Had breakfast then went to meet Debbie and Ross for the day.

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Cape Town Streets

We spent couple hours wandering around the markets and buying a few things. We were all keen to do Table Mountain but the issue was the weather. Because of the crazy weather in Cape Town the cable car opens and shuts non-stop throughout the day, part of when you buy a ticket up there is they say you have to be prepared to have to climb down if they can’t run the cable car. Before we went to the market the cable car had been closed, we came back afterwards and it was open! We quickly bought tickets and hopped in a taxi to race to the mountain. Got to the station and after a short wait hopped into the cable car. The wire stretches 1km long, takes a minute to go up to the top at 1080m high. The inside of the cable car rotates and can fit 65 people and the views were amazing.

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We were starving once we got to the top so we went to the buffet style café. With full stomachs we had a wander all around the top for an hour, incredible views over Cape Town and the south coast.

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Looking over Cape Town

We decided to head back down and get on the hop on hop off bus that goes around the south peninsula of Cape Town, we booked tickets online and just as we got to the bottom of the cable car the next bus had arrived. Got seats on top of the bus and listened to the audio while looking at the views. Really beautiful scenery all along the coast, we got off at the Camps Bay stop and had a wander along the beach, really buzzing area, I’d like to come back and explore if I have time.

We headed back towards the city getting off at the main stop, we got there just before 4pm and we were able to join the free walking tour to Bo Kaap, perfect timing!

Bo Kaap is the Islamic area in Cape Town, made famous for its very colourful buildings. We got shown the oldest mosque which was built in 1764, he said this was strange because at that time the Dutch were still in charge and the Dutch were intolerant of any religion other than theirs.

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We got taken all around the streets for 2 hours, the tour finished up and I made plans to meet Debbie and Ross the following day. Went back to the hostel and met Steph for dinner, the place we wanted to go was booked until 9pm, we decided to go to bar nearby for a drink before going there. At the bar I bumped into a girl from Canberra! Never met anyone from Canberra while travelling, she was just as excited as I was!
We headed back to the restaurant and ended up ordering a feast, so delicious! We got butternut squash mash, spinach feta pumpkin rolls, calamari and caprese salad and a serve of fries. Food was so good!
Got back to the hostel and Steph went to bed, I stayed at the bar chatting with some hostel staff and other travellers. A few of us decided to head out to the clubs, went to a super touristy bar which wasn’t bad. I asked a guy from the hostel if he knew any local spots and he took us all to a place around the corner where there was not a tourist in sight, perfect! Ended up having a really good time at this club and got home in the early hours.
After a couple hours sleep I got up and showered, Debbie and Ross came to meet me at the hostel at about 8 because we wanted to hire a car for the day to explore south of Cape Town. After a lot of confusion about whether we could hire a car or not because it was a public holiday we got the location of a place nearby, hopped in a taxi and after a bit of searching found the place.
Ended up paying $25 each for car hire for the day, perfect! We headed off down south, first stop was Hout Bay. Cold weather but was still nice to walk along the pier where all the fishermen were. One of them was feeding a seal from his boat which was cute!

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We hopped back into the car, the scenery was seriously breathtaking! High mountains and sheer cliffs all along the way, stopped at a lookout point along the way and saw a couple of whales in the distance!

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From there we drove inland towards Simons Bay, to see the penguins at Boulders Beach. We had a walk along the beach to watch them for a while before stopping for lunch at a café near the beach. Had a nice meal, we could see a few penguins from where we were sitting, cuties!

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After lunch we continued our drive to Cape of Good Hope the most south-western point of Africa. As we got closer we could see the hoards of tourists there, we parked the car and walked up the hill to the lookout point. Tourists were still piling in so we decided to head towards the lighthouse 10 minutes away.

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Parked the car and walked about 20 minutes to the top, the whole way up there were baboons on the path. Signs everywhere saying to not have food, leave them alone etc. We saw a number of baboons charging at tourists who ignored these rules.

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At this point we had almost run out of time so we missed out on going to Hermanus Bay to try see some whales. Headed back towards Cape Town on the inland road, definitely not as scenic but it was quick. We drove through a small town called Fish Hoek which reminded me of some coast towns in Australia, I’d like to go back one day and explore!
We got back to my hostel and parked the car. We went inside to book tickets to Robben Island for the next day, unfortunately it was fully booked out! Debbie and Ross headed off and I went up to the room to start packing my bag for my flight the following evening, ended up laying on my bed for hours just looking through pictures from the trip and then falling asleep without dinner!
Following morning I did a quick pack of my bags and checked out. Met Debbie and Ross, we dropped the car back at the car rental place, then got a taxi to the Apartheid Museum for Nelson Mandela.
We spent an hour and a half at the museum, it was fascinating. All about Nelson Mandela from when he was born, his youth, education, activism, imprisonment and then once he was president.
We were pretty hungry so we walked to the VA waterfront, sun came out just as we got there so we chose a café outside overlooking the water. Debbie and Ross shouted me lunch for my birthday which was really nice of them. Had a really tasty lamb dish, best meal in Cape Town so far! We went back to my hostel where I said my final goodbyes to them!

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Down on the waterfront

Spent the next half hour moving things around in my bag before ordering an Uber for the airport. My Uber driver was from Zimbabwe, he got super excited when I said I had just been there, we chatted the full 45 minutes to the airport. Check in was straight forward, next 2 hours in the airport I was feeling nostalgic for all the adventures I’d had in Africa, I was so upset to be leaving but knew I had more amazing adventures ahead of me.


Back in Australia when I had booked the tour I had only been excited for all the safaris and animals I was going to see. I didn’t realise how much I was going to enjoy Africa, the animals were just the start. So many beautiful friendly people I had met along the way, the constantly changing scenery and such varied cultures not just from different countries but within the countries themselves. I really fell in love with Africa and I know it’s a place I will return to many times throughout my life!

 

Namibia – Beautiful people, animals and landscapes

Back in Namibia! When I booked my tour through Africa I really hadn’t given Namibia much thought and I didn’t know much about it. Namibia surprised me and it became one of my favourite countries to visit in Africa.

Having returned from the Okavanga Delta we were back on the road.  We had the usual stop for groceries, ATMs, snacks etc before arriving at our campsite in the middle of nowhere!  I was pretty surprised when I realised our campsite had a good bar and a nice swimming pool! We didn’t do much that afternoon, swam, had a few drinks etc, I was on cooking duty so I helped chop up the vegetables and then went for a shower.

After dinner I went to the bar and got chatting with the bartender and my guide.  They were talking about how a couple weeks earlier there had been an accident with one of the overland truck companies.  The truck was driving along the road and a ute ahead of them saw an animal and did a u-turn to go back and see.  Because of the dust and the gravel road by the time the truck saw them it was too late, they t-boned the ute and the truck ended up flipping on its side and sliding along the road.  The truck had about 20 tourists from Spain on it, 1 died at the scene and most of them were in hospital in critical condition. The only person wearing a seatbelt was the driver and he was one of the few that hadn’t been badly injured.  The family in the ute walked away with no injuries, pretty horrific!

My campsite had a waterhole that you could go and sit at, decided to go check it out before bed.  I was super excited to see 3 giraffe, a jackal, duiker, zebra, kudu and an owl! Completely different experience watching them at night and I was only metres away hidden in a bunker!  It was absolutely freezing though and I eventually tore myself away from the animal watching to go snuggle up in my sleeping bag!

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Zebra – bad quality photos taken on my phone

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Kudu

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Duiker

The following morning after breakfast we headed off for an hour long drive to the San Bushmen village.  Along the way my guide kept telling people over and over to make sure they had their seatbelts on (more so than usual). I later asked him about it and turns out the road we were on was the same one the truck accident had been.

We were getting close to the Bushmen’s reception area and a few of them had come out to the side of the road to wave and welcome us, I was jumping out of my seat with excitement at this stage. We pulled over and picked up a couple of them to drive to their main village, they sat near me and I could hear them talking to each other in their clicking language. I’m glad I sat behind them because my jaw was on the floor listening to them!

We hopped out of the truck and started walking to start our guided visit, we were going to be guided by two men (an uncle and nephew I wish I knew their names but they had the clicking sound in them). There bodies were so lean – not a shred of fat on them!

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The uncle

We followed them to the communal area of the village, where about 30 bushmen of all ages had gathered.  Children run around butt naked playing games with each other, the women wear skirts made from animal skin, some of them had animal skin shawls but most were topless, plus jewellery and headbands made from nuts, seeds, grass, animal skin etc and the men just wore animal skin to cover their bits.

They all had the biggest smiles on their faces and were so happy and welcoming, I couldn’t keep the smile off my face!

We started our bush walking tour, first we were shown their way of making fire with sticks and grass.

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Throughout the tour we got shown lots of different plants that are used for poisons, medicine, eating and even a plant they use as a toothbrush.  They then showed us one of their traps they used to catch animals by the neck.

Our guide dug up a plant that is used for muscle aches and it smelt exactly the same as deep heat, after showing it to us he put it into his leather pouch and said he needed it for later. We asked what he needed it for and he showed us one of his arms which was massively swollen, he then casually told us he got bitten by a scorpion the other day and the plant helped the healing. Tough guy!

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Walking through the bush

We had 3 of the women walking along with us during the tour as well, they went ahead of us at one point and started searching around on the ground before digging up a plant that was similar to potato. A couple of us tried the raw plant, but they kept the rest for their dinner that night.

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Three women along for the walk

We asked the uncle how old he was and his response was “I do not know but I was born in the rainy season”.  The bushmen do not keep time or have dates so they have no idea of how old they are!  We asked when they get married and they said again they wouldn’t know maybe 12-15 years old, because once a boy or girl hit puberty they would then be ready to marry.  Couples are matched depending on how good they are at hunting (male) and gathering (female), a good hunter will only marry a good gatherer as in the past if you weren’t good at doing this you would not survive in the bush.

The end of the tour we had one of the men show us their technique on how they would hunt for animals, tracking them in the bush and then shooting them with the arrow. The arrows are designed to inject poison and not kill so the arrow pierces the skin but then falls out and can be reused.  Different poisons are used for different animals and they take varied amount of times to take effect. For example the poison they use on giraffe takes two days for the giraffe to be killed, during that time the men take turns tracking the giraffe until it is dead.

We walked back to the main village where they had singing and dancing.  Myself and my tentmate as the youngest females were included in a young females dancing game.  We held hands with 4 other women in a straight line and while they sang you kind of went in a circle and looped your arms around each other.  Again I was grinning ear to ear having the best time!

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After our dancing game they sung a few more songs and danced together, it was honestly one of the best moments I had had in Africa!

We finished up at their little market where they had hundreds of necklaces, bracelets, arrows etc to buy.  The Bushmen don’t accept tips but they sell their goods, so I started bulk buying bracelets and necklaces, all made of seeds and nuts.  Can’t get them back into Australia but I figure I have 10 more months of wearing them before I return home!

I was super sad to say goodbye, I wanted to spend all day and night there but we had to head back to camp.  Lunch was burgers and chips (seriously how does our cook make this stuff on the tiny stove?), I spent the afternoon relaxing by the pool.

After dinner I went back to the bar and was chatting with the bartender about wild animals. He told me he had killed leopards before, I was not impressed when he said that and I think my face showed it because he went on to explain.  He said the first leopard he killed was at his village, the young kids had been out playing and came inside to the adults screaming and crying.  The adults raced outside and found a leopard up in a tree with one of the young boys from the village, he shot the leopard but it was too late the leopard had already killed the boy. He said it was an ongoing issue with farmers and for that reason he had killed a few and he knew of others who had killed them.  Difficult situation.

It was freezing again that night so finished off my beer to go snuggle in the sleeping bag again!

We left the following morning at 8:30, stopped for groceries along the way before arriving at Etosha National Park at about midday.  Etosha really surprised me, it was the last national park we would be visiting and having been through so many I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it as much as the previous ones – turned out to be one of the best!  The landscapes were so different to anywhere else, the sand and dirt is almost white because of all the saline, the plants were dry and yellow which contrasted amazingly against the blue sky, it was beautiful! As there are no rivers or lakes in Etosha the animals gather around waterholes, some are naturally made and some are man made, the waterholes make for excellent game viewing!

We got into the campsite and had lunch, had a bit of time before our afternoon game drive, it was so hot and windy it took me about 2 seconds to jump into the pool. We headed off for our afternoon game drive at about 2pm and saw plenty! Oryx, zebra, giraffe, elephant, duiker, jackal, hyena, 2 cheetah, black rhino and lots more. We got back to the campsite for dinner at 6:30, those of us doing the night game drive headed off at about 7:30 to the entrance of the campsite to meet our guide for the night.

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It was pitch black when we set off, 5 minutes in we saw a porcupine! Super lucky to see that, they are rare to find.  We saw lions, rhino, elephant, giraffe and of course lots of antelope.  It went quiet a bit afterwards and we didn’t see much for a while, hate to say it but I ended up somehow dozing off! I woke up when we braked suddenly, there was an owl with 3 baby owls on the ground! They were so cute!  Apparently the baby owls just stay on the ground the whole time until they can fly, mum watches out for predators while dad goes and hunts.  We finished up the game drive at 11 and I went straight to bed, I was exhausted!

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Up early to depart the campsite at 6:30 for our game drive – incredible! We saw oryx, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, elephants, jackal, rhino, baby rhino (we’d seen about 8 rhino in this national park so far both black and white), dik-dik, daiker, impala, kudu, red hartebeest, countless birds!!

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Zebra Crossing

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The national park has salt flats that we stopped at to get a few pictures.

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Salt flats

The first waterhole we stopped at had a herd of elephant there, zebra and lots of different antelope.  Fascinating to watch them interact with each other, you can tell the elephants are top of the ladder!

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At the waterhole

Everyone keeps their distance from them… almost everyone.  We saw a rhino approaching from the distance, it came up to the waterhole and started to roll around in the mud.  The elephants were watching the whole time, the elephants then started to approach the rhino so we then watched a bit of a stand off between the rhino and the elephants.  There was a young elephant that kept on going at the rhino but the rhino stood its ground and at one point the rhino chased it off, the matriarch was keeping a close eye on the situation. Eventually the rhino moved on, but it was a pretty tense situation!

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Stand off

The next waterhole we went to there were hundreds and I mean HUNDREDS of zebra! It was crazy they were walking up to the waterhole in a massive procession, having a sip of water and then moving on. Haven’t seen so many of them together before! We saw a few other species there as well but the zebras stole the show.

From there we had about an hours drive to get to the campsite to have lunch, about 20 minutes into the drive we heard a bang an then what sounded like air coming out of the tyre. Truck came rattling to a stop and my guide jumped off to check out the tyre, I stood up to look out the window and see what was going on. I saw a flash of orange go by the truck and then a second later Victor was at the back door screaming EVERYONE OFF THE TRUCK NOW! Didn’t have to tell me twice! I don’t think I’ve ever moved so fast, I was out the door without putting the step down and sprinting up the road. I turned around when I was about 30-40 metres away and people were still climbing out of the truck – well I guess we know how I react in stressful situations… RUN AWAY! I waited for everyone to catch up and was looking all around.  I thought we had got a flat tyre and then when we pulled over a lion had approached the truck (the flash of orange I saw) which on reflection was really stupid because it was actually the drivers shirt which was fluoro orange and also if there was a lion outside why would our guide be telling us to get off the bus.

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Truck repairs

So anyway I then noticed my guide, driver, the cook and a few of the guys all running to get fire extinguishers and the cans of water. Holy crap the truck was on fire! I just stood there mouth open like what the hell do I do? The driver was fully climbing underneath the truck with flames in his face throwing water at it to get the fire to stop.  Eventually the fire stopped I looked over at my friend Debbie who was jumping around, looked down and saw she had one sandal on. In the panic she had grabbed one sandal, a jumper and her camera. I just started pissing myself laughing, of all the things to grab a jumper is not right up there in this stinking hot weather! We moved closer to the truck to see what had happened. Turns out the brake pipe had got hot and was letting air out, which caused the brakes to jam which then got very hot and the tyre caught on fire from the heat which then popped the tyre. (I’m sure that could have been far more technically explained and I’m sure my father will cringe while reading that). Fortunately the truck has lots of spare parts and all the guides, cooks and drivers are trained in basic mechanics, so the three of them set to work on replacing the brakes (or brake pad or whatever it was that started the fire).  Couple of the guys helped redirect traffic as there were lots of cars coming flying around the dusty roads, I stood in the shade taking photos, looking around to make sure there were no lions and occasionally screaming when a pigeon would spook me coming out of the bush – oh yeah I’m real tough! About an hour later we were all ready to go, and almost everyone was in good spirits, honestly I thought it was kind of fun, added a bit of excitement!

We decided that rather than heading to camp at this stage and having lunch we would just start our afternoon game drive and then have an early dinner – best decision we could have made! We went to a waterhole and it was unlike anything I’ve seen before, it was amazing! There were hundreds and hundreds of impala, giraffe, ostrich, a dead zebra, jackal and an elephant that was standing there almost frozen like he was asleep.

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Pictures don’t do it justice

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Small segment of the waterhole

Another truck pulled up and they told us that at waterhole nearby there was a couple of lions, we decided to check it out. We got there and there were 2 lions in the distance, we were watching them when on the other side of the truck suddenly we noticed some more coming out of the bush. Two females and little cub! They walked up to the other lions and when we got there we realised there was actually 2 more that had been hidden behind a concrete block.

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We watched them for about half an hour which was great. They all had very big bellies, obviously just eaten! There were 3 half grown males that were all kind of playing around with each other. The young cub was playing with the alpha male and there were two females that were by the water most of the time.

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At the waterhole

We finally left to head to the campsite, all in all a fantastic day!  We got into the campsite and went to the waterhole nearby, there were 3 bull elephants there in the water, which were shortly joined by about 20 more elephants that all filed in a procession. It was really cool watching the interaction between the female matriarch of the herd and the male elephants, you could tell she was the boss. One of the males was ready to mate and kept going to all the females in the herd and a second later the matriarch was there chasing him away.

I missed the sunset because I had an excessively long shower (gotta appreciate the good hot showers when you get them), but apparently it was beautiful! We had dinner and then a few of us went back to the waterhole, there were a few giraffe there and about 10 minutes later 4 rhino showed up! We had seen about 13 rhino in total in this park, amazing! I was pretty tired so I went to bed soon afterwards.

The following day we left the campsite at 8am to head to Spitzkoppe. On the way out of the park there were some women from the Himba Tribe sitting on the side of the road.  I was super excited because I hadn’t expected to see the Himba Tribe this far south in  Namibia.  We stopped the truck and I jumped out, bought a few bracelets and asked for some pictures.

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The Himba tribe puts clay on their skin and hair for sun protection as well as beauty.  Their hair was incredible!

We continued on the drive from there, scenery wasn’t great but we kept entertained with cards and reading. Stopped along the way for groceries in a town, and afterwards we pulled over on the road for lunch.

We continued on driving and got into Spitzkoppe at about 4, we were hoping to do a walking tour with a guide to see some Bushmen cave paintings but when we got in all of the guides were busy. We went straight to the campsite to set up for dinner, however no tents tonight as we would be camping up on the rocks! Spitzkoppe is a huge rock formation in the middle of the desert and it is impressive! A few of us decided to go for a walk up one of the big rocks, it was huge but only ended up taking us about 10-15 minutes to clamber up to the top, we watched the start of the sunset but started to head down before it went down because we didn’t want to walk back in the dark.

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That night it really cooled down in the desert! I was completely rugged up! That night for dinner we had delicious Kudu steaks, really tasty! A few of us stayed up to have drinks and the rest headed up to the rocks with sleeping bags and mats to set up for the night. I stayed up a bit later and at about midnight headed to the rocks to set up my mat and sleeping bag. I was sooo damn cold! Had heaps of layers but it was freezing! However the stargazing was amazing! Middle of nowhere so no light pollution, the stars were just incredible. I spent a solid 30 minutes trying some astrophotography but didn’t have much luck, fell asleep soon afterwards.

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Woke up the following morning pretty tired, I had a pretty restless sleep because of the cold.  But every time I woke up and looked up and saw the stars it was amazing!  I got up just as the sun was rising which was so beautiful!

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We went down off the rocks for breakfast and headed off in the truck around 8am.  As we drove closer to the coast the weather really started to cool down, very misty along the road and the landscape was barren!

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Barren landscape

Finally after weeks inland we arrived at the Atlantic coast, and it certainly did not look welcoming! Huge waves crashing in, looked dangerous!  We drove 30 minutes up north along the coast arriving to Cape Cross Seal Colony, wow!  Our guide said we had 30 minutes, some people complained this was too long and he said don’t worry we rarely spend 30 minutes because people can’t stand the smell.  Well he wasn’t wrong about the smell… I hopped off the truck and it hit me like a wall!

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Seals seals seals

The stench of thousands of seal filth was sooo intense! BUT it did not deter me from being excited about being around this many of them!  We walked towards the footpath that had been constructed to avoid seal-human contact, however I guess seals don’t understand this concept so they seals were everywhere, we got within feet of many of the way to the footpath!

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The noise was incredible, non stop blaggh blaggh blaggh orh orh orh, I hope that can translate to the noise they made.  We saw a few fights, lots of babies suckling on the mother, the numbers were crazy, so many just flopped all over each other in giant piles.  Myself and 2 others spent the full half hour there, realising we were late we sprinted back to the truck and were met with some unhappy people who didn’t appreciate the smell, oh well!

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Masses of seals

We headed back the way we came down the coast stopping along the way to check out a shipwreck on the beach, disgusting weather!

When we arrived we got taken to the tour office first to be told what tour options we had.  I decided to take the next few days to chill out and only chose one tour, ‘The Living Desert’ (more on that later).

We headed to our accommodation for the next few days, we were upgraded from our tents to shared beach houses, actual beds in private rooms, private bathroom and a kitchen.  We emptied the truck of our things and said goodbye to the crew for the next 3 days.

A few of us decided to check out one of the German pubs in town, Swakopmund had a bit of a German feel to it because of the architecture.  We ended up spending over an hour walking around because all of the pubs were closed! Walked most of the town in that time, we saw some women from the Himba tribe near the pier selling things, don’t know how they don’t freeze to death!

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Ended up at a nice restaurant on the water for a beer, it was freezing cold by the time the sun went down so we went back to the house for showers before dinner.  Went out for dinner, and it was a bit overwhelming having to choose something to eat when the past 6-7 weeks I basically had food put in front of me.  Ended up ordering an oryx steak, which was so. damn. good.  It was cooked so well and had a nice sauce to go with it.

We were all pretty tired by the end of dinner so we went back to the house and fell asleep straight away!

The following day I successfully did a whole lot of nothing! Slept until 8am before going into town for breakfast, had a really good big breakfast. Had a bit of a wander around town, looking into some of the shops along the way, very pricey souvenirs!

Ended up down on the pier at one of the restaurants and that was where I spent the next 3-4 hours.  Drunk delicious strawberry daiquiris, ate pork belly, chips, salt pepper squid and finished up with a flight of 3 beers. The day had started off quite cold but by the afternoon I could feel myself burning.  When I left the restaurant my stomach was aching from all the food and beer, slowly made my way back to the cottage.  We had bought chips, dip, cheese etc to enjoy before dinner, I shouldn’t have eaten any but I couldn’t help myself.

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For dinner we went to the Barhaus, I ordered a chicken schnitzel.  Chicken was so tender and really nice chips, couldn’t finish it of course because I was still full! On the way back to the house we stopped at the Desert Tavern, only bar in town I think. Had a beer which I was struggling to finish because of all the food in my stomach, ended up back in the room asleep at 11.

The following morning I got up at 7, still had a full stomach from night before so decided on vegemite and crackers for breakfast.  Five from my group had chosen to do the Living Desert tour, the tour basically was to take us into the desert to show us the life there, animals, plants etc.

We were picked up by our guide Ygritte with 4 others in the jeep and headed off with 2 other jeeps to the sand dunes.

The dunes used to be completely open to the public but the eco system was being destroyed by people coming in with their jeeps and driving all around for fun. We entered the protected area for our tour.  First stop was the horses graveyard.

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Horses Graveyard

In 1914, 15000 horses were brought over by South Africans to help work. The horses got a disease and a vet with treatment was being sent over by ship however they didn’t make it in time because the ship was shipwrecked.  The locals decided the best thing to do was to just kill all the horses in case it infected the people. The graveyard that we were looking at had 1645 horses and 950 mules that were all shot. They had been buried but over time the wind had blown the sand and the bones were now visible.  Apparently every now and then jackals and hyenas come to see if there is any meat still on the bones for them.

The next few hours were spent searching for animals in the sand, which was incredible to watch!  We would be driving along then suddenly one of the drivers would slam on the brakes, go sprinting up a dune because they had seen a track, they’d start digging and amazingly find some sort of creature, really impressive!

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Into the dunes

Throughout the day we saw 2 snakes (slide winding snake and horned snake), a scorpion (deadliest one in the world), gecko (beautiful rainbow colours), sand diving lizard, a weird worm, few bugs. Overall we were pretty lucky with everything we saw.  We stopped at one point to feed some birds, reason being that the guides were bringing grubs to show clients the tongue motion of the chameleon.  The birds knew that the guides brought grubs so now every day the birds wait around to be fed!

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As well as the creatures we got shown various plants that can be used for survival in the desert.  All in all it was a good day!

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The dunes

We got back to town at 1 so I went to meet my friend for lunch at the same place as yesterday, I ordered the meat skewer and far out SO MUCH MEAT! I think I overdosed on red meat, really I think I just overdosed on food in general, Swakopmund had sent me mad with food.  My skewer had eland, kudu, beef, ostrich and oryx on it, it was delicious but man I felt sick afterwards. I was slowly waddling through town heading back to the room, thought an ice cream might help me… it didn’t.

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Meat skewer, so happy before I realised how sick I would be

Got back to the room, showered and passed out on the bed for a while. Woke up because the others were having cheese, crackers and salami which of course I could not say no to. We went into town for our final dinner in Swakopmund, surprise surprise I over ordered. Entrée I had 6 oysters, yum! Main I had calamari and chips which was really nice and for dessert I had a lava cake. I think I had reached my peak of food intake, walking back to the room was so hard because my stomach hurt so much.

Back in the room I passed out in bed pretty quickly.  I was looking forward to getting back on the road the next day, I had obviously proven I am not capable of making my own food decisions and couldn’t wait for our cook to serve up healthy decent sized meals.  Swakopmund is known as an adventure city, lots of adrenaline activities. I didn’t do any of these but I definitely tested the limits of my body by sampling all the food it could offer!

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Swakopmund

Beautiful Botswana

Last day in Zimbabwe and first day of the final leg of my big African journey!

We had a slow start to ease the newbies in and to meet our new cook for the final leg, Henry.  Straight away he was in my good books because he made the best eggs I’d had in Africa yet, nice runny yolk!

We left the campsite and by 10am we were stamped out of Zimbabwe! Before crossing the border into Botswana we had to walk across a wet sponge thing to clean our feet before entering.  Didn’t see the point…

We drove another hour to a small town to get money and snacks.  All 3 ATMs in the town were not working!  Victor had just been telling us that we would have no issues with getting money here, Botswana has a strong currency and they are very proud of it – hah! There was meant to be another ATM near our hotel that we could try out, fingers crossed!

We arrived at the camp which was on the grounds of a big resort in Chobe National Park.  Victor told us that last time he was here he had lions walking around the tents at night!  After lunch we walked up through the resort, very nice pool and bar area and we walked past some warthogs, monkeys and mongoose!  Just around the corner was a supermarket, liquor store and ATM, had success at this ATM so we hurriedly went to the liquor store to lighten our wallets.

At 3:30pm we hopped into a jeep to go for our game drive in Chobe NP.  Chobe National Park has the highest population of elephants in the world – over 150,000!

We drove along the main street before turning into the gates, the next 3 hours were spent driving on sand and boy was it bumpy!  We drove down to the river and wow, I have never seen so many elephants in such high concentration! I mean hundreds, hundreds and hundreds of them, they all come down to the river in the afternoon to cool down before heading back into the bush at night.

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Driving down to the river

As well as the elephants we saw impala, kudu, giraffe, warthog, hippo, waterbuck, baboon, water buffalo and I was so excited to see giraffe bending over eating and drinking! I had wanted to see one bending over because they look so funny, I was super happy with that!

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We stopped after 2 hours to have tea and coffee before starting the drive out of the park.  On the way out we saw 2 lions way in the distance, too far away to get any decent photo of them but it was exciting that we got to see them!

Got back to the hotel and had time for a quick shower before dinner, peanut butter chicken curry, pumpkin soup, rice and mixed vegetables. Henry is still impressing me so far with the food!

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Sunset

After an early night to bed we were up at 5am to start our 5:45am game drive.  It was pretty cold heading into the park so we were given blankets to wrap around ourselves, which I was grateful for because within 10 minutes I was freezing!

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Sunrise

We got to the park and drove the same trail down to the river.   The game drive was pretty good, we saw all the same animals we saw the day before (minus the lion) and I reckon we saw at least 50 giraffe! What was exciting though was that we saw 2 male giraffe fighting, they were wacking their necks around hitting each other, it was intense!

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Had been trying all trip to get a good shot of this one!

We got back to the campsite just after 9 and I was shivering like crazy! Henry gave me 2 cups of hot tea to warm up and I stood in the sun for a solid half hour, finally felt like I was getting some life back into my body!

I went up to reception to try give dad a call for father’s day, I hadn’t had a chance the day before because of travel and bad internet and I wasn’t having much luck now!  Spent a solid hour calling home and dad, mum and Jetlyn trying to call me.  By lunch time still had no luck so decided to come back and try later. Lunch was burgers and chips, yum! Few of us went to the shops after lunch to stock up on beer, snacks and toilet paper (my Africa essentials).  Had 2 hours before our evening river safari so went to the bar for a drink and to attempt to call home again.  The internet worked well enough and I FINALLY got through, call only lasted 5 minutes before it cut out but I was able to have a quick chat with dad!

At 3pm we piled onto a big boat with about 100 people on it!  I wasn’t overly impressed with the size of the boat but once we got going it was perfectly fine, we were able to pull up to the waters edge a number of times and get good views of the animals.  We saw hundreds of elephants! Getting only metres away at some points and right at the end we saw a family of elephants crossing across the river! Super cute seeing the little baby elephants with only their trunks visible out of the water trying to cross.

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So many elephants!

As well as the elephants we saw a lot of Nile crocodiles, hippos, water buck, water monitor, impala, giraffe and lots of different birds.  In the middle of the river is a small island which is disputed territory between Namibia and Botswana, both countries want the international court to settle the issue but for now there is a Botswana flag there.

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We finished up the cruise just on sunset, very beautiful seeing the silhouettes of the elephants against the sun.  Enjoyable cruise, I’ve seen a lot of elephants along my Africa trip but not in those numbers which was really special.

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We went back to the campsite, dinner was a delicious steak, the meat has been getting better the further south we go in Africa!  Went to bed with a full stomach!

Up early enough in the morning to watch the beautiful sunrise over Chobe river.  We had breakfast and packed up the camp to head off. I was walking over to the truck and then noticed in the dirt in big letters it said HENLY. Henly?? I looked around and our cook Henry was smiling at me. Is your name Henly not Henry? I half yelled at him. He just laughed. I asked why he didn’t say anything and he said he didn’t want to be rude! Far out! I went around telling everyone in our group that his name was Henly and not Henry! The confusion was because of his accent he pronounces L’s with an R sound!

Off we went just after 7am, now knowing everyone’s correct names!

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Sunrise! Amazing colours!

We drove to the border to stamp out of Botswana, we would be overnighting in Namibia before heading back into Botswana.  If you look at the map below we travelled from Chobe north into Namibia to stay at Bagani and the following day we accessed the Okavango Delta at the most northern part, much easier to cross into Namibia rather than drive all around the Botswana country to get there.

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Map of Botswana/Namibia border

We continued on our way into Namibia, stopping along the way to get money and groceries.  We stopped at about 1pm to have lunch on the side of the road, kept on going and at 3pm we arrived at camp!  The camp was next to a river, no swimming allowed because of hippos and crocodiles!

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Don’t need to tell me twice!

Spent the afternoon sitting by the bar over the river, very pleasant! Got chatting to the bartender, 24 years old and just finished secondary school!  He said that in Namibia you only go to school when your parents can afford it, so he only started primary school when he was 13 years old!  He said he wanted to study nursing but he couldn’t afford it, he was hoping after 2 years working at the bar he would have enough money saved to start his degree.

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Kingfisher seen from the bar

We watched the sun go down and then went for dinner, everyone went off to bed after dinner so I decided to head back to the bar.  Had a drink while looking out over the water it was quite pleasant!  My peace was interrupted by a Brazilian guy on another tour called Jose.

“WHY ARE YOU SO SAD?”. I’m sorry what?

“You are just sitting there crying looking at the water”. Woah… definitely not crying and definitely not sad!

Started chatting with him and his friend Rafael, it was nice to chat to some other people outside of the group but my God did he complain. Too hot, too cold, people in his group too old, not enough animals, too many mosquitos, don’t like the beer, don’t like this, don’t like that rah rah rah. He went on and on!  His friend went to bed after a while and we were joined by one of the staff members Bonky. Bonky brought beers and interesting conversation! He was from a town near the border with Angola and as such could speak Portuguese (did not realise they spoke Portuguese in Angola!) as well as English, Afrikaans and his tribes language.

The more Jose drank the seedier he got, so after a while I decided it was time to go hide in my tent, said goodnight to them both and raced off to bed.

Woke up before 5am the next morning, poked my head out of the tent and saw an otter splash by in the river! Out in the distance there were a bunch of hippos as well! This is my favourite part about camping in Africa, being surrounded by the wildlife!

My least favourite part of camping is the anticipation of whether the showers are going to have hot water or not! It was a pretty chilly morning, I hadn’t showered the night before because there had been no power so fingers crossed as I walked to the shower block it would be hot… success! Had an amazing hot shower to wake up!

After breakfast we drove about half an hour to the border, stamped out of Namibia and walked over to the Botswana side to get stamped in again.  We had another 10 minute drive to the river where there is a free ferry provided by the government until the bridge is constructed.

Once on the other side we had an hour of bumpy roads before getting to the Okavango Delta.  We had lunch by the water surrounded by cows, donkey, horse and in the far distance was a herd of elephants!

A short while later our polers arrived, the polers would be driving our mokoros (dug out canoes) for the next 2 days. They are called polers because that is what they do, they push the boat with a pole – simple.

Once they were all there we did introductions, the head poler was Siga, the rest of them had names like Hustler, KV, BBT, Lizard etc. Reason being their real names are too complicated for us to pronounce! Steph and I are had BBT as our poler, out of curiosity I asked him what his name was, I reckon it had about 30 letters in it and had some of the clicking noises, we’ll stick with BBT.

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Loading up the mokoro, you can see how the sleeping mats have been turned into seats

We got into the mokoros, loaded up with our overnight bags we had packed, sleeping mat (now turned into a seat with back rest) and in another mokoro was our tents, chairs, cooking supplies for the night.

We had about an hour ride along the delta in the mokoro, it was so peaceful! Gliding past the livestock on the river bed, going through the water lilies and lily pads on the water.  We saw tonnes of birds, can’t remember the names of them all, but what I do remember was the cormorant, African Jacana, knob-billed duck, spur-winged goose. I like birds… I just can’t remember any of their names! At one point BBT steered us up to a plant sticking out of the water and asked if we could see it, see what? There was a tiny little frog about 3cm long, apparently it is the smallest frog found in the delta and poisonous to all animals!

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We eventually pulled up to a small island, Kau Island, which is where we would be spending the night. We emptied out the mokoros and went and put our tents up, we had a safety briefing as hippos, elephants and lions regularly walk through the camp (definitely believed him as there was a lot of poo around).  Our toilet on the island was a hole dug in the ground with a toilet seat on a frame hovering above it.

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Five star toilet!

Once set up we went for a walk around the island, saw monkeys, elephants and hippos out in the water.  Our guide kept showing us different poop and telling us which animal it belonged to. After the walk we got back into the mokoro for our sunset ride, went to deeper parts of the water where there were hippos bobbing up and down in the water.  Bit nerve racking surrounded by massive hippos when you are in a tiny boat, hippos can move so fast and I know we would have no chance if they decided to go at us.  As we glided by they had their eyes fixed on us, they weren’t letting us out of their sight!  We pulled up against some thick reeds to watch the sunset and the hippos bobbing around.  The sunset was beautiful, once it was down we raced back to the island before it got too dark!

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We had dinner and drinks around the campfire that night which was fantastic, looking up we could clearly see the beautiful stars in the sky.  After dinner the polers did a bit of a performance for us, they sang 4 different songs, the one that has been stuck in my head since then is Beautiful Botswana (this is a link to a video I found on youtube of the song, different people singing of course https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoMVIqzSo1E ). They also did a couple of dances which involved dragging a few of us to dance along with them.  Once they were done a few from our group told stories and sang songs, I had nothing to contribute whoops.

Everyone slowly went off to bed after that, I stayed up a bit longer to speak with Siga.  He said you have to do a 2-3 day course before taking an exam, you have to learn about the flora and fauna in the area and then also how to pole properly.  He had been poling for about 4 years (officially) but he said he grew up using mokoro and most of the other polers had been doing it their whole life.  However for them to take tourists out they had to pass this exam.  While we were sitting there we heard a lion growl, Siga said it was probably about 1km away, scary!  Went to bed shortly after that.

Woke up at about 6am, had breakfast and we got dressed to go for our morning walk. We rode in the mokoro for about 20 minutes to another island in the area.  As it was a walking safari we had a few rules for safety, main one being we had to walk in a straight line as it is less intimidating to animals than a big group walking.  For a while we were tracking lion footprints but no luck!.  Siga told me that the lion we had heard the night before had killed one of the villager’s cows!  Halfway along the trek we came across a herd of elephant blocking our path, so we had to turn around and head back. On the way back we saw four red lechwe in the distance, asides from that we didn’t see much else on the walk, but I did enjoy it anyway.

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We got back to the campsite and packed up our tents and got back on the mokoro, we went back the way we came the day before but continued a further 10 minutes up the river to our new campsite.

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En-route to the new camp

We got in and were surprised to find we would not be camping we actually had beds!  They were set up in big tents, 2 single beds with a light as well, fancy!  We settled in for a chilled afternoon, a few people went off for mokoro lessons, I read a book and had a drink by the bar.

I decided to test out the outdoor shower and was pleasantly surprised with hot water!! Not that I needed it, it was a stinking hot day!  In the afternoon there was to be another walking safari, only about half the group went off for the walk, I stayed behind was feeling especially lazy that afternoon.

When the others got back from the walk we sat around a campfire near the water, really nice sitting out and again the stars put on a good show for us. I attempted to get some photos of the sky but didn’t have much success.  For dinner Henly and one of the polers KV had both cooked dishes so we had a massive feast!  The flavours were amazing, had a variety of vegetarian dishes as well as 2 beef meals.  After dinner we sat by the campfire before passing out in bed just before 9!

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Campfire at sunset

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My best attempt at capturing the stars

From 4am onwards I kept being woken by the sounds of hippos grunting and moving in the bush just outside our tent! It went quiet at about 6 so I decided it was safe enough to venture to the bathroom.  A fire had just been lit for the shower so I was one of the lucky few to get a hot shower! After breakfast we got back in our mokoro and went 10 minutes down the delta to get back to the truck.

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Steph and I with BBT

We said goodbye to our polers and headed back towards the Namibian border.  Along the way I was really enjoying looking at all the bee-eaters on the electric wires.  It’s such dry brown landscape so these beautifully coloured birds just stand out!

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Bee-eaters on the wire

We had to cross the same river on the ferry, this time there was a bit of a queue so we had to wait about 40 minutes.  As we were crossing the river a fish jumped up onto the boat from the water! One of the locals was quick to stamp his foot on it to kill it and then put it in his bag, guess he’s having fish for dinner!

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Dinner

We left Botswana behind and entered Namibia, back to the same campsite we had stayed in previously.  The afternoon was spent relaxing by the river and watching the sunset.

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Another gorgeous sunset

We only spent about 4 days in Botswana in total, but they were definitely highlights from the trip.  Botswana is on my list of countries to come back and visit, I think it has a lot more to offer!

 

Eight days in Zimbabwe

After South Luangwa National Park we just had transit days to get to Zimbabwe.

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The first day driving was only about 6 hours, so we got into our camp at Petauke just before 2pm. At our campsite there were goats with their kids, and so many different birds, apparently the owner likes birds!

Nothing to do in Petauke so we spent the afternoon relaxing at the bar, had an early dinner then in bed!

The following morning we had an early start at 5:30am.  We arrived in Lusaka around 11am, interesting driving through the city as it is the most built up city we have seen on the whole trip. Victor told us that when the Zimbabwe economy crashed, Zambia boomed. Largely due to the fact that the wealthy Zimbabweans moved across the border. Lots of international companies around and heaps of new shopping malls and houses, I even saw a Jaguar car dealership (must tell dad).

We got into the campsite, and there were giraffe at the entrance! Then after putting up tents we had zebra walk through the camp! Turns out the camp is owned by a man who used to own a zoo, however as Lusaka grows he has had to sell off his land and most of his animals, he only has a few animals left.  I asked why there is a zoo in Zambia when there are wild animals everywhere and Victor said not everyone can afford to go to national parks, the zoo entry is a lot cheaper!

After lunch we hopped back in the truck to go into town for groceries. There were so many familiar brands in the supermarket, but no hummus (the great search for hummus continues)! We wandered around the rest of the mall to kill time before we headed back to the camp.

When we got back there were about 5 other overland trucks there, heaps of other travellers around.  It’s almost intimidating seeing all the tourists having been away from them for so long! I loved watching all the drivers, cooks and guides catching up, they are like little kids running around chatting to each other! I guess part of being on the road for months at a time is that you don’t know when you will see your friends next!  I spoke to one of the other guides, apparently they had seen another truck that had hit a ute. Truck overturned, 1 dead and majority of people in truck had serious injuries. Apparently only the driver was wearing a seat belt at the time, scary!

Headed to the bar after dinner with Kate and got chatting with a few locals.  First guy we spoke to asked straight away: Do you have a husband? Subtle! He asked Kate if she went to church and when Kate said no I don’t believe in God, he looked gobsmacked! He didn’t know how to respond, he just stared at her. He asked me the same question and I got a similar response when I said no.  The next 10 minutes was him telling us why we should believe in God, he wasn’t getting anywhere with the conversation so I changed the subject.

His friend came over and joined us and they started asking us if we liked Africa, yes we do. The response of course was; well then you should come back and settle here with a nice husband.

No thank you.

He then told us that in Africa that if he asked us to be his wife we wouldn’t have a choice and we would have to accept and in his hometown girls are taken away when they reach womanhood to be taught how to be a good wife. Which is essentially cooking, cleaning, home duties and how to keep your husband happy. If the girls don’t submit then they are beaten by the women who are training them.  Lovely.

The two of them started telling us about how they were cousins even though they are from different towns because one of them grew up in the north and the other in the east of Zambia. They don’t like people from the south or west. They also told us that apparently in the north they eat bush rats (definitely know it’s true because earlier that day we saw them for sale on skewers) and in the east they eat monkeys (don’t know if it’s true but wouldn’t be surprised!).  Apparently, the tail of a bush rat tastes like popcorn and is the best bit… ew.

The first guy asked us where we were staying, when we said we were camping he asked if he could share our tent with us that night. No thanks. I was done with the conversation so I went and sat on the couch to watch some local music videos, which was amazing.

A song came on I really liked so I asked the bartender the name of it, got started chatting with him about Zambia which was super interesting.  He said the current president is a bit like a dictator and he doesn’t like him. He has been in power 3 years and has only just started doing good things for the country.  Copper is their biggest export, but unfortunately it is being mined by foreign companies so the country isn’t reaping any real benefits from it.  He said that they also sell a lot of cotton to China and India which is then made into clothes for big international brands. He said Zambia had the potential to earn a lot but they are constantly being taken advantage of by foreign countries.

He then told me that the night before he got pulled over by a cop for drink driving and he had to bribe 45USD (a lot in Zambia) because if he got a fine he would lose his job straight away and would not be able to be employed again because of his reputation. He said it was his first time bribing a cop and it was super easy.  I was pretty tired so I finished up my drink and went to bed.

Up at revolting 4:30 the next day, bit of a slow morning though, we didn’t leave until 6am.

We got to the border at 8:30, very quiet border! No one selling anything and no cars lined up, just a huge building we had to walk into. It was a one stop border so we stamped out of Zambia then walked across the hall to fill in visa forms, handed over $30USD then waited. While waiting I was looking around the room at all the signs about anti-corruption.  Kind of funny one of them said the steps to take if you want to report corruption, the fourth step was if you didn’t hear back from management to post it on their Facebook or Twitter account, make it public!  Visas and passports got handed back and we headed off just after 10.

Shortly after the border Victor asked us to gather around, he had been very quiet all morning so I was a bit worried. Turns out the night before his boss had called him to tell him that our cooks mother had passed away and last night he had told our cook, Emmanuel.  Emmanuel would be flying back to Nairobi once we got to Harare and at this stage we didn’t know if we would have a replacement cook until Victoria Falls (5 days time), Victor was waiting for an update.  Really sad news, Emmanuel had been the sweetest friendliest guy the whole way and it was terrible to hear.

As we drove into the city centre of Harare we could see the influence from the previous English settlements. Big Victorian houses, wide streets, front gardens, very different to everywhere else we have been.  We had an hour free time in the city before heading to our campsite, honestly I wish we skipped it.

Harare was the first place we had been where I felt uneasy walking around – bit of a seedy city.

We decided to go in a group, walked a block around to get to the supermarket, lots of stares and not friendly. We had a number of people yelling things at us and very persistent beggars following us and demanding food and money.  When we finished up at the supermarket a man outside selling onions was half yelling at us saying that it is safe here, we don’t need to worry he doesn’t have a gun like how in South Africa everyone has guns so he won’t shoot us. Oh ok then I feel much better! Couldn’t get back on the truck fast enough!

We drove out of the city for camp that night, when we got there we found out that Cosmos (my cook from the first leg) would be joining us for the rest of the leg. He was flying in that night to take over from Emmanuel.

We had our last meal with Emmanuel and then we all went inside to have a drink with him. I ended up falling asleep on the couch (standard), shuffled off to the tent and went to bed!

Woke up after a restless night, so damn cold! The days are getting hotter, but the nights are getting colder! We were greeted by Cosmos at breakfast, we said goodbye to Emmanuel which was real sad and then we headed off.

We had a short drive that morning to the Great Zimbabwe Ruins.

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Saw lots of dairy farms on the drive!

Arrived at 1pm and had lunch before starting our guided tour.  We started the tour by walking up the ancient path to the top of the hill that has the Kings residence, at times it was very steep and narrow.

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Great Zimbabwe Ruins

At the top we explored the Kings residence and a monastery dating back to approximately 1400BC.  Only the King and priests lived up the top, everyone else lived down the bottom including his 200 wives… yes 200 wives.

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We walked back down to the bottom this time taking the modern path.  Stopped in the museum, there were lots of artefacts collected from the ruins, and a lot of carved wooden totems.  There was also a big collection of items that had been traded with other cultures from around the world which I found most interesting. They had found things from China, Iran, Italy, Persia, Indian, amazing that they had made peaceful contact with so many other civilisations all those years ago!

From there we went to a cultural village to see how the wives would have lived.  The number 1 wife lived in the big “enclosure” (as they called it) and the others lived in this village. Wife number 5 was the favourite wife apparently, didn’t quite catch the reason why she was favourite or how they know that.  Our guide said part of the reason the King had so many wives was so he could have a lot of children (he had approximately 1200 children) and these kids he would marry off to people in other tribes. By doing this he maintained good relations with everyone and he was not at risk of being attacked by other tribes… hate to say it but I guess it’s kind of smart!

After a traditional dance we went to visit the big enclosure of wife number 1.

It was huge! 11m high and the wall was 4m wide in some spots. Inside there was a 10m high cone shaped tower, which is a completely unique structure that was built during that period. Our guide told us that wife number 1 had all the power, if the King asked for wife 57 to be sent to him she could send wife 94 and he wouldn’t complain.  She had the final say in all matters involving the other wives and children.

After the tour we drove another 20 minutes to our campsite perched up on a hill. Beautiful! Really nice gardens, after putting up the tent we went for a walk around the gardens, went to a lookout over the lake.

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I decided it would be a great idea to get a photo of me jumping off a big rock. It was not a good idea. I cut my hand open in a couple of places, and boy oh boy did it sting!

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Cut my hand open for this gem of a photo!

Had a nice hot shower and then we all sat around a campfire with a drink.  Dinner was delicious, the after dinner conversation got a bit tense. Our guide was talking about cultural differences. He was saying how in his culture if a husband can’t get his wife pregnant then his brother will come in and do the deed. It is not romantic or emotional in any way, it is just to get the woman pregnant so that she can have a child that is as close to the husband’s bloodline as possible.  This caused a bit of outrage from a number of people in the group, our guide tried to explain that that was normal for them.  He then tried to use an example of something that is normal for us that isn’t for them which was homosexuality.  He said that that was something that his people did not understand and also did not accept, but he knew it was different in our society.  This really just made the situation worse I reckon, I sat quietly sipping my beer while the conversation exploded.

Finally everyone agreed to disagree and everyone slowly went off to bed.

The following day we got up at 6am and headed off, uneventful drive arriving at camp at 1pm.  We were greeted by the owners two dogs, super friendly!  Had lunch and then most of us hopped back into the truck to go explore the city Bulawayo.

We got dropped at city hall and were given 2.5 hours to explore, we walked into the tourist information and an elderly woman jumped up from the desk and said: “Ooh! Tourists!”

Guess they don’t get many tourists!

We got a map then headed up the street, stopped at a street market selling handicrafts. I was very restrained and didn’t buy anything! We continued up the street, checked out a few shops along the way. Went to an art gallery but we decided it wasn’t worth the entrance fee. Wandered a bit more around town, I bought a newspaper to get all the local gossip!

Big drama in Zimbabwe at the moment!  The first lady on a recent trip to South Africa assaulted a model who was hanging out with her sons. She is back in Zimbabwe and South Africa is demanding she go to South Africa to face charges but the President is refusing, so bit of tension between the two countries! DRAMA!

We ended up spending our remaining hour at a bar, the town was quite nice but really not a whole lot to do! We got back to the campsite and had dinner. A cat showed up halfway through dinner and once I cleared my plate he decided my lap was the place to be – no complaints from me!  One of the dogs showed up though and spooked it so I went off to bed!

The following day we had a full day tour, (send me an email if you are interested in the first half of the day).  We went to a national park with the most unusual landscapes, massive rocks all around, piled up on each other.

We stopped for lunch by a lake, had yummy salad, bread and meat.  Just as I finished making my sandwich I heard a rustling next to me looked over and a damn baboon was coming at me!  I jumped out of the way at the last second it knocked my plate to the ground and grabbed the bread rolls.  My heart was racing! If there is one animal I’m scared of here it’s baboons, vicious buggers!  I looked down at my sandwich in the dirt, no bread left I just had salad and meat!

After lunch we drove further up the road and hopped out to walk up to a cave, went through the bush and clambered over rocks to get up to a giant rock that overlooked the park, beautiful!

Walked a bit further to get to the cave, there we got to see 36,000 year old San Bushmen painting! Incredible! Apparently in the park there are thousands of cave paintings dating from 200 years old to over 150,000 years old!  He said the newer paintings had clear drawings of English and Dutch (you could tell by the clothing that had been drawn) and in some caves there were paintings that images of the typical alien (big head, small body etc).

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36,000 year old paintings!

He pointed out different animals and scenes of people preparing for the hunt, hunting, cooking etc.

He then gave us a bit of information about the Bushmen.  Physically they have dark skin, high cheekbones, tight curly hair which is fast growing and they never grow taller than 150cm.  They are also the only people in the world where the man always has a semi-erect penis and women have some sort of flap over their vagina.  Anthropologists believe it’s for hygiene reasons living in the bush without clothing. Their body shape is unique to them, they are incredibly strong and lean but have a large bum that stores fat, he said when you see a Bushman who has not eaten in a while their bum sits flat with loose skin drooping down but as soon as they eat the fat goes directly there.  There bodies over time became this way as it was always a long period in between meals.  In one sitting a Bushman could eat up to 25kg of meat!  The Bushmen do not waste anything, so when they killed an animal the family would sit there eating non-stop until every part of the animal had been eaten, occasionally breaking for naps.  They use arrows to hunt, the arrow is not used to kill but to inject a poison, some poisons would take up to 48 hours to take effect.  They cooked all their meat to draw out the poison so it was safe for them to eat.

They were monogamous, only had 1 wife and no more than 2 children.  They believed more than 2 children would have an impact on the environment.  Part of the way they controlled this was they knew of a plant that caused abortions and another plant that could suppress menstruation for up to 13 months.

They live in small groups of 6-8 people as this caused less disruption to the environment, and they were nomadic for the same reason.  There is no status, everyone is equal, man, woman, elderly, children.  They only bathed twice in their life, when they are born and when they die, water was for sustenance not hygiene.

Really fascinating culture!

We headed back down the mountain and hopped back in the jeep to head to the local chiefs house.  On arrival we had to wait outside to be invited in by the chief, Onponde.  Once we had the invitation we walked in the fence area, lots of small huts and so many chickens!

We went into his hut and he was there waiting for us in his finest, porcupine spike necklace, leopard skin, other big cat skins, mongoose arm and leg bands. He had a spear and shield made from a hard leaf or something.  Next half hour we sat down with him while he told us a bunch of stories, his face was so animated the whole time.  He would tell us a story and our guide would translate for us, as he translated he would watch our faces for our reactions and get super happy when we laughed!

One of the stories was about how he got the leopard skin he was wearing.  When he was 23 years old his cows were being killed so he set a trap, went out one day and there was a leopard with his paw caught in it.  He went over to kill it but ended up in a wrestling match with the leopard, his dog was nearby barking going crazy.  A white man driving by heard the noise and came to investigate and saw what happened, he pulled out his gun and shot the leopard saving Onpondes life.  He put him in the back of his ute and tried to get the dog to come as well, the dog had never seen a white person so it freaked out and ran away.  The man took Onponde to the hospital and left him there with the dead leopard, he still does not know who saved him.  He showed us all his leopard scars, big gashes on his arms and legs and a massive one on his back about 30cm long!

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Chief Onponde

After story time we went out to the garden where he showed us his prized possession, a leopard skin given to him by another chief with a matching mongoose hat.  A bunch of villagers had appeared and set up their handicrafts for us to buy, I spotted a stack of old Zimbabwe money from when the currency was super inflated. I couldn’t resist buying a few (25 billion, 1 million, 50 thousand, 10 thousand, 100 thousand).  The afternoon finished with a dance performance, they were looking for volunteers… I moved further away.

The sun had gone down so we hopped in the jeep to head back to camp, we had been warned about the cold ride back so we had brought extra clothing.  I had 3 layers up top and a beanie and gloves, and oh my it was freezing! As we went through valleys we would have a slight relief with a warm patch, but it would go straight back to freezing! I was keen to get back to camp and have a hot shower!

Got back to camp and paid the 95USD for the day trip (our most expensive extra activity, but worth it!).  I had my hot shower then sat down with the cat on my lap waiting for dinner.  While I was waiting Victor came over and was asking everyone how much they had paid, because the guide was short. Turns out someone in our group had thought 95USD was too much and decided to only pay 50USD… yeah that’s not how it works.

Dinner was delicious that night!  Had coconut lentil curry, chapatti, grilled lamb chops and polenta. Yum!

After dinner I was sitting with the cat on my lap again, the owner of the campsite came up to settle everyone’s drinks bill. I asked him what the name of his cat was, he said it wasn’t his cat it was a stray that appeared a few months earlier and just never left.  Oh… well hopefully he’s clean!

Up early for our drive to Vic Falls, said goodbye to my lap warmer and we left at 7am.  The first 3 hours of driving we were pulled over 7 times by police! They are just random checks, but tourists are targeted because they try to get any bit of money they can! Every time they would check the headlights, indicators, brakes, make sure everyone is wearing seat belts. I think across the whole morning we were pulled over at least a dozen times.

We arrived into Vic Falls just before lunch, set up camp, had a bite to eat then we got dropped at Victoria Falls.

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Vic Falls Entrance!

Victoria Falls is one of the natural seven wonders of the world, 108 metres tall, 1737 metres wide and borders both Zimbabwe and Zambia.

We walked along the path to the furthest part to start the walk.  We spent the next hour and a half walking all along the falls stopping at the different lookouts. Incredible the amount of water going over the edge and we were there in dry season! We were getting light sprays of water every now and then, apparently in wet season you are drenched walking along the paths and you can see the spray of water from miles away!

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Lucky to see a rainbow over the falls!

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We finished up at the falls and walked towards the Lookout Café, the whole town is in a national park so we were on the lookout for animals on the way. The café was amazing!

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Views from the cafe!

Views overlooking the falls and I had the most delicious chocolate milkshake ever, I was super happy! We were about to leave when the waiter came running in and said there were elephants in the carpark, we all rushed out with our cameras to look.

Four male elephants just strolling by, I was keeping my distance because you know elephants can trample you and stuff. But there were a few people that I think forgot that it was a wild animal and were getting up real close! It was only when one of the waiters told them to back off because one of the elephants was getting agitated that they reluctantly left them alone.  We paid our bill and headed back to the campsite, had to walk very close to the elephants to get past them.  You suddenly feel a lot more vulnerable when you are standing near an elephant and not in a jeep, I know I wouldn’t be able to outrun an elephant!

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Had to walk up this path when we left!

We had our final dinner that night at the restaurant at the campsite, super delicious food! There was a dance performance as well which I got sick of after about 5 minutes.  After dinner a couple of us went out in search of a bar, nothing! It was a Thursday night and everything was dead quiet. Walked back to the campsite, Kate had upgraded for her last night on tour so I went to bed by myself in the tent!

Had the first sleep in for a while (7:30 wow). A couple of us went to a café up the road for breakfast, wanted a change from the breakfast we had been eating for the past 5+ weeks! Afterwards we strolled down the main street to do some souvenir shopping, I left the girls behind to go chill out at the campsite. Got back and Victor asked me to sweep out my tent because my new tentmate was arriving that day. Damn it. Cleaned up the tent then said goodbye to a few people from my group that were leaving. A couple of us decided to go back to the café from the day before, along the way we saw bushbuck, baboons and warthogs!

Had another delicious chocolate milkshake and shared a plate of chips! After lunch we went to one of the markets, I had been on the lookout for a giraffe wooden carving and I finally found one I liked! The price started at 90USD and I got it down to 50USD hooray! While the man was wrapping it up for me he started to chat, conversation went a bit like this…

Seller: I’m Paul, what is your name?

Me: Shannon

Paul: Where you from?

Me: Australia

Paul: Is he your father (pointing at John my travel mate)

Me: No, he is a friend

Paul: *smiling* I am not married

Me: OK

Paul: I am single

Me: OK

*Paul staring intensely*

Paul: Say something

*Me standing there like I know where this conversation is going hurry the hell up and give me my damn giraffe*

Me: Nice to meet you! *grabs giraffe and runs away*

Yikes!

We left the market behind and went to the campsite to meet our new group members for the last leg of the trip. Continuing on for the next 3 weeks there would be 9 of us, 5 Aussies, 2 English and 2 Americans. My new tentmate was Stephanie from San Francisco. After the meeting I was super unsociable and raced to the bar to use the WiFi so I could finally watch the rest of Game of Thrones, was devastated when the WiFi wasn’t working.

Went to dinner that night with a mix of people from the old and new group.  There was a guy playing saxophone at dinner who was getting super into it, going up to tables and getting in their face. I could’ve slapped him I couldn’t hear anything over his stupid saxophone. Am I becoming a grumpy old woman? MAYBE! But stop with the damn sax! Went straight to bed after dinner!

Woke up and had breakfast, last one cooked by Cosmos, he did not have the documentation to come with us to South Africa so we would be joined by a new cook later that day.  Said goodbye to him then went and met up with a couple of people to explore another market, finally bought the ten trillion dollar note I had been on the lookout for. I ended up paying $7.50 for it but that was the best price I had been able to get so far, most were asking $30USD, crazy!

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Ten trillion dollar note looks like this

Bought a couple of other things then went back to my favourite café for lunch! Chocolate milkshake of course and I stupidly ordered a cheese and meat platter that was definitely for 2 people, but you know… challenge accepted!

There were warthogs grazing on the grass for our lunch company that day! Headed back along the main street stopping by the supermarket along the way, sunscreen was $30USD, I guess I can get burnt for a few more days… Got back to the campsite and the WiFi was working! Sat down and watched Game of Thrones finally!

For the last night in Zimbabwe I went to dinner with a few people from the new group, had a delicious trio of sliders (impala, crocodile and beef).  Was good getting to know the newbies.  We went to bed reasonably early, big day tomorrow!

Vic Falls was the longest I had stayed in one place since arriving in Africa and I was keen to get started on the next leg! Botswana here I come!

 

Lakes and Leopards (lots and lots of leopards)

We left the majority of our group behind on Zanzibar, only 7 of us were continuing on for the next leg of the trip.  We went back on the ferry to mainland Tanzania (super bumpy ride) and met back up with our driver John and cook Emmanuel who had stayed with the truck. Now that there were 7 of us we got two seats each on the bus and also two lockers, luxury wow!

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Leaving beautiful Zanzibar

The next couple of days were just going to be travel days to get out of Tanzania, that first day when we left Zanzibar we didn’t get into camp until 8pm and didn’t end up cooking that night instead we went to the restaurant at the campground. It was nice not having to cook and do our dishes but the food was pretty average!

The following day was a shocker, the roads in Tanzania are painful. Speed limit is 50km/h half the time, very bumpy roads, constant road works, we were stopped by the police numerous times to check out the truck, weighbridges every hour or so. If you miss a weighbridge in Tanzania the fine is $2000USD! Despite all that the scenery was fantastic, for about an hour we were driving through baobab trees and we even saw 4 elephants along the way which was exciting.

Our campsite that night was a farm in middle of nowhere, they had a function on as well so we were restricted to our campsite so we wouldn’t disturb the other guests, hah!  We had an early night anyway because the following morning was going to be an early one!

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Baobab tree – truck for scale

3:30am wake up, yikes! Earliest start yet! Breakfast was eventful, the tables were a bit wobbly and the table tipped and Kate was covered in hot drinks, luckily she wasn’t burnt. Then about 10 minutes later the same thing happened to me. Covered in coffee and my leg was scratched and bruised. Not fun at 4 in the morning! We left camp later than planned at 4:45. Tried to sleep but the roads were so damn bumpy I was being thrown all around my seat. We stopped a few times for bush toilets, at one of the stops I had an acacia thorn go through my thong and into my heel, I then tripped on a bush and scratched up my legs. Got back on the truck with scratches and blood all over me, oh dear haha.

We got to the border at 2pm, changed our money over before leaving Tanzania. Our Malawi visas took about half an hour to be sorted, when we got them back everyone rushed out to the truck, I stayed to check the stamp and lucky I did because they said we had entered on 30 August instead of 20 August! Meant we were in no mans land for 10 days! I called everyone back inside so our stamps could get fixed up.

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You can see where he wrote over the 30 in pen to change it to 20… seems legit

We got back on the truck and continued on. The whole drive we had people on side of road running up to wave at us in the truck which was really nice. Shortly after arriving we were driving alongside Lake Malawi – the 9th largest lake in the world, huge! Couldn’t see the other side of it, apparently the lake almost runs the full length of the country.

We got into camp next to the beach, which was the lake. Weirdest thing. It was like we were at the ocean.. but we weren’t because it was a lake… with a beach… with waves…

While dinner was being prepped I went to the bar and chatted with the barman, about 10 minutes in to the conversation he asked me if he could come to Australia to live with me and while I worked he would look after the house. No thank you. I scurried off to dinner and went to bed shortly after that.

Got up early to watch the sunrise over the beach, beautiful! Went back to the campsite and before breakfast we went to the market just outside the gates. Really friendly people again! A lot of them had names like Mr Cheapy Cheap, Mr Worldwide etc. I thought they were joking but they were serious. A few of them were asking to trade shirts or batteries for their woodwork. I bought a couple of things and as we left they all thanked us for supporting their village.

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Sunrise over Lake Malawi

We left the beach behind and drove up a bit into the mountains, we got into the main city and it was freezing!

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Cold overcast weather as we drove up into the mountains

I was in denial and kept my shorts on not wanting to put on pants, but I think my legs were blue! We went to the local market so Emmanuel could stock up on groceries, our guides friend Vin Diesel (yes that’s his name) showed us around while Emmanuel did the shopping.

We continued on, driving back down the mountain area to the camp by the beach, beautiful place! A few of us decided to upgrade to cottages for the stay. Sat at the bar chatting with the owners until sun down, went for dinner and then we came back to the bar for a drink. I was pretty tired and went to bed shortly afterwards.

The next day we had a free day at the beach, there were a few activities like village walk, horse riding etc. but I decided I just wanted to sit by the bar and chill out for the day… maybe watch some Game of Thrones! Got to skype home which was nice to catch up with the family. The day went quickly despite my lack of activity and after dinner I went almost straight to bed.

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Kande Beach… it’s a lake!

Woke up at 5:15am and the power was out, got ready in the dark, couldn’t shower because no water was coming out, oh well! Put our gear back on the truck and had breakfast. Set off at 6:30am. Uneventful drive to the border, got there at 1pm. The Malawi side was packed, people everywhere trying to get into Malawi, we crossed over to Zambia side and it was empty. Half an hour and $50USD later our visas were sorted, back on the truck!  We stopped in a city to get money out and buy snacks. My jaw dropped when we walked into the supermarket, first fully stocked supermarket I had seen this whole trip! I was overwhelmed with the options available, I suddenly decided I needed to eat hummus. Searched the store but no luck, no hummus! I’ll have to keep looking!

We drove another 2 hours to get to our campsite, Croc Valley. Just as we pulled in we saw a herd of elephants next to the campsite. Got the usual safety briefing, another wild camp where animals can and will wander around camp so look and listen before leaving the tent! The campsite was overrun with monkeys, so we had to be careful to keep food hidden away and always keen the tent locked up.

Jumped in the shower and I died of happiness, it was the best shower we had had in weeks! Big showerhead, good pressure and it was hot! I legit think I was in there for half an hour, it was just so great, I felt so clean! We checked out rest of the campsite, bar, restaurant and a pool! I would definitely be hitting that up the next day.  Next to the pool was a sign that said swim at night at your own risk because of hippos and crocodiles. Don’t need to tell me twice!

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Definitely won’t be swimming at night

Had dinner at 8pm that night, fell asleep to the sound of hippos grunting in the water!

Got up early and had a light breakfast before heading off at 6am for our safari. It was an open safari (no roof no doors, nothing). We had been told to wear proper footwear in case we needed to suddenly evacuate the jeep, animals had jumped into vehicle in the past – yikes!

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Poked my head out the tent because I could hear this guy wandering around

Drove to the entrance of the park, did the usual paperwork. Set off and saw lots of animals! Elephant, giraffe, zebra, puku, impala, gazelle, mongoose, ground squirrel, hippos, crocodiles, warthogs etc. The park is known for lions and leopards so we were on the lookout!

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Elephants in the water

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Still not tired of seeing zebras!

I was losing hope on seeing a big cat but then 2 hours in we saw a leopard in a tree eating its kill – a monkey! I was super excited, a few weeks earlier I had said to someone in my tour group that I wanted to see a leopard in a tree eating its kill and they told me I was dreaming. Well take that! We were so close to it! We sat right under the tree it was in, and for company we had two hyenas waiting around for scraps to fall for them to eat. While we were watching this leopard another one jumped out of the tree next to it and slunk off into the bush! Two leopards!

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We left the leopard behind all feeling very happy about our luck. We drove a further 10 minutes away, our driver spoke to another driver on the road and we turned around and headed back the way we came. Pulled up to a huge bush, we were trying to figure out where we were going. Went around the bush and another leopard!! Just snoozing in the grass, I have no idea how the first driver had seen the leopard! Three leopards in the morning! Our driver said he normally sees at least 1 leopard a day but never 3, so we were all pretty chuffed!

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Leopard number 3!

We pulled over at about 9:30 and had tea and biscuits while overlooking the water, hippos bobbing in and out of the water.

We headed back to the campsite, and just outside our campsite were 14 giraffe! We sat and watched them for a while before heading into the camp.

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Just outside the camp

Fun fact: a group of giraffe is called a tower, and a group of giraffe walking is called a journey.

When we got back to camp we had brunch waiting for us, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, fried potato, pancakes, fruit. Huge spread and once again I ate way too much!

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Saw this fella chewing down on a frog right next to my tent. Frog was fighting back!

Got into my swimmers and spent the next couple of hours laying in the sun next to the pool. Temperature was close to 40 degrees and the pool was about 10 degrees I reckon. Hopped in every now and then to cool down. Ended up falling asleep in the sun, woke up because I could feel something near my feet, looked up a damn monkey was poking around my bag! Scared him off and decided it was time to shower. Had another excessively long shower, chilled by the bar until our evening game drive.

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Perfect

At 4pm we hopped into the jeep, when Kate was getting in she hit her shin on the metal corner and her leg cut open. So much blood! Victor ran to get the first aid kit and patched her up, had to clean all the blood off the jeep. While this was happening on my other side Suzy was overheating and was suddenly laying down on the seat. I was in the middle of them trying to fan Suzy while pat Kate on the shoulder, worst person to be in that situation!

Everything calmed down and we finally set off in the jeep! Got to the park and saw all the same animals as this morning, we drove past an old hangar with two planes there. They used to be used for anti-poaching but fortunately poaching was under control in the park and they were rarely taken out.

 

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Anti-poaching planes

About an hour in we stumbled across 4 lions! A male and 3 lioness all laying around in the grass, they were right next to our jeep! Panting in the heat, not bothered by us at all! Hung around them for a while then kept going.  Just around the corner we saw another male, which was apparently the brother of the male we just saw. He was a funny light colour which our driver said was due to a problem with the gene pool.

We pulled over just before sunset by the water, enjoyed a drink and popcorn as we waited for the sun to go down so we could start our night drive.

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Beautiful red African sunset!

I was chatting to our driver about the park.  Apparently elephant population used to be 5000 but since poaching had stopped numbers are up to 25,000 and there are so many elephants now it causes problems for villages. Last night elephants crushed down 5 houses because they could smell the wheat in the house and trampled the house to get it. People were sleeping inside at the time it happened and it was lucky no one was hurt. They used to solve the problem by killing 1 elephant in that herd, as an elephant never forgets the herd would not return to that village.  However now that there are so many herds of elephants they can’t keep killing elephants because a new herd will come along and do the same thing, they’d be continually killing elephants. They are trying to think of a solution to the problem but don’t know what to do.

The last black rhino was killed in 1980 by poachers and there used to be 3000 I think he said, they are about to reintroduce black rhino from South Africa. In the park there are 375 lions and they aren’t sure of leopard numbers but its more than lions. We asked about hunting and he said it was legal but controlled outside of the national park.  Lots of American trophy hunters come to shoot animals, apparently each year the government based on animal numbers says how many of each species is allowed to be killed, disgusting. The bridge that we crossed to enter the park marks the boundaries, so on the other side of that people can kill whatever, so the elephants, giraffes etc we had seen can easily and legally be killed.  He said in the past hunters would kill a buffalo on the outside of the park to lure a male lion across the bridge so that they could shoot it. Sick people.

It was finally getting dark so we headed off to start our night drive.  Our guide told us we were looking for the nocturnal animals, servals, anteater, hedgehog, caracals etc. he said we’d see other animals but wouldn’t stop for them because we’d seen them during the day.

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This is what we could see!

Soon after heading off a hyena came trotting down the road towards us, awesome seeing them at night! In the front seat we had a spotter, he was holding a big torch, completely different experience seeing animals at night. Everywhere we shown the torch there would be a pair of eyes! Bit further up we saw about 6 hyena hanging around, heaps of impala everywhere, shortly after a huge herd of buffalo. Saw elephants, giraffe and a couple of hippos. It was pitch black all around and silent, but when the light  passed over them, bam they were there!

About half an hour in we saw a leopard!!! Then 5 minutes later, another leopard! AND THEN 5 MINUTES LATER ANOTHER ONE!! We saw 6 damn leopards today! Mental! Our driver was gobsmacked, said he never saw so many leopards in a day!  The rest of the drive was fairly uneventful, didn’t see any of the nocturnal animals unfortunately, but honestly I was on such a high after seeing bulk leopards I did not care!

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Leopard #4

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Leopard #5 – shocking picture but you can just see him there!

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Leopard number 6! Beauty!

We headed back to the campsite at around 8, when I got out of the jeep, my legs peeled off the seat and I realised I was 100% burnt all over my back and legs. Oopsies, guess I shouldn’t have fallen asleep next to the pool!

Was so happy going to sleep that night, we had been so lucky seeing 6 leopards! Our luck with wildlife had continued, I was excited for what was to come.

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Mountains and Beaches

After our Serengeti adventure we had one night in Mto Wa Mbu before heading off for the mountains.  The next night we were camping in a village called Musanga, the campsite was in a lush green garden and bonus we didn’t have to put up our tents as they were provided.

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Our campsite – lush greenery!

We got in reasonably late that night so we didn’t do much before dinner, just relaxed. Dinner of course was delicious, a selection of local dishes cooked up by the owner’s wife.  After dinner the owner of the campsite came out and was telling us stories about the area, something about an English lawyer who came to the village and wanted to make a difference in the schools so she decided she wanted to teach English and for years she struggled to try and get approval from education minister to be a teacher. I’d love to tell you the end of the story but I might of uhh… fallen asleep.  It was actually a really interesting story and I feel terrible, but I was so wrecked and well when I’m tired as most people know there is no stopping my body from shutting down, oopsie! He wrapped up his story, I woke up when people started clapping and I hurried off to bed for the night!

Woke up after a 10 hour sleep – beauty!  We had breakfast and then separated into 3 groups for our village walk. Our guide Calvin was from the village and was of the Chaga People, the walk was uphill for the first half but wasn’t too strenuous. We saw the local pub which was about 3 metres by 3 metres in size where the locals drink banana beer.

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Kids in the village

We got to the top of the hill which was meant to be our viewpoint for Mt Kilimanjaro but unfortunately it was foggy so we didn’t get to see it! Ah well!We then headed back down the hill, walked past a huge fancy mansion which looked way out of place with all the other wooden and clay houses around it.

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Dentist Mansion

Turns out it belongs to a man who grew up in the village but is now a dentist and lives in the city, he stays in the house for a month each year over Christmas and New Years and otherwise it is empty all year round! We continued on, while we were walking out of the corner of my eye I saw something, quickly stopped and realised it was a chameleon! Master of disguise can’t fool me!! He was a light brown colour, our guide put him up next to his yellow shirt and we slowly watched him change to a pale yellow colour. We had him sitting on a stick and we then watched him change to a dark brown colour.  So cool!

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Chameleon

Exciting seeing a chameleon, made even better when you are the one to spot it! We kept on walking and headed down to the waterfall, quite nice, not too big.

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Too cold to swim!

After that we headed back to our campsite for lunch, we finished lunch and then walked the 2.5km down the hill back on to our truck. We drove away from Musanga and back on the main highway, we had a second chance to glimpse Mt Kilimanjaro but again no luck because of bad weather.

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Baobab trees along the road

Reasonably short travel day with the last 30 minutes of the drive winding up the roads to the Usambara Mountains. Beautiful scenic drive but for the first time in my trip we had some unfriendly kids throwing rocks down on the truck, bit rude!

Got into camp and Kate and I decided to upgrade to a room because we had heard they were nice at this spot, not to mention it was bloody freezing and a room sounded amazing. Rooms did not disappoint, very nice stone buildings and with a hot shower!

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Our hot water system – fire heated!

Uneventful night, went to the bar before dinner and had our meal a bit later at 8:30. Went to bed just before 11!

Got up at 7 and had an amazing hot shower, didn’t want to get out! Went up to breakfast before our village walk at 8:30. Another great walk! Lots of steep windy paths, red dirt all muddy and lots of happy kids running around wanting high fives. We walked through rice fields farms and saw the local primary and secondary schools. We even saw two more chameleon!

We walked all the way up to a viewpoint, sat out on a big rock that had a sheer drop. The outlook was misty but occasionally a gust of wind would push the clouds away and we would get a glimpse down in the valley, breathtaking!

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From there we walked on to our lunch stop, cooked up by local women, delicious! After lunch there was singing and dancing. The dancing was essentially the women walking around the drummers while twerking! Then there was a dance where you had to bend over while twerking and pick up money in your mouth haha, they dragged a few of us in to join which was hilarious!

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Young girl

We then started to head back to our campsite, the rain was starting and we had about a 40 minute walk. We did the walk a lot faster because of that! We got back at 2:30, the walk was 11.7km in total, really good!

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The walk back

 

That afternoon went up to the restaurant, waited 40 minutes for a lava cake to arrive which was 100% worth the wait! The internet was actually working so I got to watch an episode of Game of Thrones yay (bit sad really, I’m in an amazing country but still desperate to watch Game of Thrones, oh well!).

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DELICIOUS LAVA CAKE!

Before dinner I packed up my bag for Zanzibar, we would be leaving the truck behind for a few days so were just taking small bags and leaving the rest with the truck. This was also the second crossover of trips so we were going to lose most of the people on our trip and gain a few newbies!

 

Woke up at 5am (yikes), showered and had brekky. We left at 7am for our big driving day, about 3 hours into the drive we were pulled over by the cops. Fined for someone not wearing a seat belt.. not going to name names but far out, our guide has told us soo many times to wear the seat belts, felt sorry for him and the driver! We carried on driving, fortunately uneventful all the way to Dar es Salaam. We then spent 2 hours crawling through the traffic, at times we didn’t move for 15-20 minutes.

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Leaving the mountains behind

We got into our campsite at 6pm, right on the beach yay! Lots of other overland trucks were there, we could see tents being cleaned and trucks having work done on them, obviously a main pit stop! We went to the bar before dinner, and straight to bed once we were fed!

Got up at 630am, didn’t have to put down tents so it was a quick morning (yay for not putting tents down!). we piled onto the truck, it was raining a bit not ideal whether for the beach!

We drove an hour to the ferry station, said goodbye to our driver John and cook Emmanuel. We would be seeing them again in a few days when we came back. Tight security at the ferry station, can’t enter without a ticket, bags were x-rayed, went through metal detector. Had to show our passport and ticket about 4 times! We sat in the waiting area until boarding at 9:30, got seats right up the front and we headed off at 10am.

The TV started playing a Bollywood film, I rolled my eyes to begin with but oh my god I was hooked! I was devastated I didn’t get to see the end of it, figured out it was called Bahubali and its part of a movie series. I need to look up online somewhere to watch it because that was amazing, the 2 hour trip went so fast!

By the time we got to Zanzibar the sun had come out strong. Even though we were still in Tanzania we had to fill in arrival cards for Zanzibar, I didn’t quite catch the reason for this… We had a short walk to our hotel, had a briefing on available activities, in the end a few of us went down to a restaurant on the water to have lunch and spend the afternoon relaxing and drinking. Beauty!

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We wandered back to the hotel, looked in some shops and got some yummy gelato. We had also been advised by our guide to stock up on USD before we got to Zimbabwe, because of their currency crisis a lot of the ATMs don’t actually spit out money and the best thing to do is to take USD with you. As we were spending 9 days in Zimbabwe I wanted to get enough USD, went to post office to change and I took all they had which was $340USD! Hopefully that plus what I already had is enough!

We freshened up and then went to the Africa House Hotel to watch the sunset over the ocean. Average sunset because of the clouds but it was nice sitting out with a drink. For dinner we tried the local market but nothing looked appealing so we ended up in a restaurant, had a good meal with a woman singing to us the whole time (that got a bit old after the first song). Headed back to the hotel together, Zanzibar gets a bit dodgy after dark. We were in bed by 11!

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Sunset

Woke up and had a terrible breakfast, the eggs were rank! I’ve never seen egg so pale in colour before! Ate enough to take my malaria tablet then scooted downstairs for our 9am departure. We put all our bags into one van that would go ahead to the accommodation and then we got into a separate van for our day tour.

We drove past the ruins of a palace that had belonged to a king. The palace was built for his concubines, he had 99 concubines and he would visit them on the weekend sleeping with 6-8 a day.  If one of the women got pregnant he would pay her a lot of money to leave so there could be no challenge to the throne. Each concubine was called number 1-99 and if number 47 got pregnant he would replace her and that woman would be the new 47.

Our guide said that his father had 11 children and 3 wives which is normal because he is Muslim. We asked how many wives he had and he said only 1 and 3 children but later in his 50s he might get more wives because its expensive to educate children.

We drove a further half hour and arrived at the spice farm. It was a good tour but I hate to say it I’ve done so many spice tours they get to be a bit the same. Near the end of the tour it started to piss down raining, we raced for cover under one of the shelters. We were given flower crowns and bracelets to wear for a group photo then we watched a man climb up a coconut tree and get us fresh coconut. I really wish I liked fresh coconut because I like the idea of it but god I hate the taste. Everyone passed around the coconuts and I stood back. We then headed to another shelter where we had the most delicious meal cooked up for us! Wowza! We had pilaf, spinach dish, coconut curry, plus other dishes I don’t even remember so good! After lunch they showed us how to make the spinach dish which was amazing! We then were given lots of tropical fruit freshly cut before we headed back to our van.

Drove an hour to our bungalows at a real nice resort in Nungwi. I think Kate and I got the pick of the rooms, overlooking the pool and the ocean right behind it!

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View from our room, pool, then ocean!

Got into swimmers asap and hopped in the pool. After our swim I had a shower and then met the others for happy hour while we watched the sunset, amazing!

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Sunset from our hotel bar

It was the final dinner for this leg of the trip so we all sat down at the restaurant. After dinner a few of us decided we wanted to go out for a bit. It was a Wednesday so we weren’t sure how we would go. Just around the corner was a place called Cholos, it was pretty dead apparently party nights are Thursday and Saturday. We had a couple of drinks then decided to try find the reggae party that we had heard about. In the end there was only 5 of us that went in search of the party. We were told to not go on the beach at night because it is dangerous but we were standing on the edge of the beach near a hotel and saw 3 Masai warriors. Not sure if I’ve previously mentioned but Masai are employed as security in a lot of places, and Zanzibar was packed with them!  We went and asked them if they knew where the party was and they said yes they would take us there, in hindsight it was probably stupid following 3 Masai down the beach but I think because we had a group of us we felt safe! We turned off the beach and walked past a dozen or so more Masai warriors, all traditionally dressed holding their clubs and spears. We could hear the music further up so we hurried along, the Masai I was talking to was telling me he was a rapper and he just finished recording his first music video and he was going to be famous. We got to the club and the three Masai walking with us threw their spears on the ground and came in with us.  I wish I had a camera or phone on me to take a photo of the club. I cannot explain how surreal it was walking into the club and there being reggae music and seeing dozens of Masai on the dance floor bobbing away to the music. We were there a couple of hours dancing with them, I had to stop every now and then just to take in the scene.  The rapper Masai was clinging to me and kept wanting to dance, his dancing was bloody intense, so erratic! He started getting defensive whenever anyone else wanted to dance near me. He pulled me aside at one stage, conversation went like this;

“Why is your hair white?”

“My hair what?”

“Your hair, it is white, what do you do to it?”

“It’s blonde, this is what my hair is naturally”

His mouth dropped open “Wow! It is so beautiful!”

He then kind of grabbed a handful of it and looked amazed by it. Haha ok!

Masai

Didn’t take this photo (from google images) But for context this was what Masai warriors generally wear. Was unable to get any decent photos of them during the trip, they don’t like photos.

Kept on dancing, love African music, so much rhythm! I went to the bathroom and when I came out my lover boy was there and he asked to speak with me. He then asked me to marry him, I laughed when he said it. He was a bit upset and asked why I was laughing. I said I didn’t know him and it was a bad idea. He then told me he liked me very much and then for the next 15 minutes was telling me why it was a good idea that we get married. I listened on completely bewildered, fortunately my friends appeared and we went back to the dancefloor.

My future hubby was being super clingy now so I was half running away from him on the dance floor. Had a few other Masai want to dance with me, holy moly some of them had the most intense body odour ever.

Everyone was keen to head back so we bailed, piled into a taxi and got back to the resort just after 1. Collapsed into bed!

Woke up feeling not too crash hot, mucho drinks! We went to breakfast and then couple of us went to the markets to have a quick wander around, it wasn’t even 9 but the day was heating up! Didn’t end up buying anything but thought I might come back a bit later when I had the energy to barter with them. We went back to the hotel to be picked up at 10am to go to a turtle sanctuary.

When we got there I was so damn excited! The sanctuary was set up because there were a lot of fishermen finding injured turtles. They stayed in the lagoon area that was connected to the ocean so the water goes up and down with the tide each day and fresh water comes in and out. They hang around I’d say because they are getting fed. I reckon there was about 30 of them. Ranging in size from 30cm up to over a metre!

I jumped in the cool water and it was the best thing ever! I kept trying to keep my distance from them but they just did not give a crap, they kept pushing past me with their flippers. One of the girls got a flipper smacked in the face haha! Could’ve spent hours in there just watching them!  I pulled out my GoPro and found that the battery was dead, devastated! I then spent the next 10 minutes googling how waterproof my Samsung phone actually was. Decided to risk it and thank goodness, can confirm Samsung Galaxy S7 is waterproof! Got a few videos and photos of them under water which made me happy because I didn’t want to forget that moment.

While at the turtle sanctuary I had forgotten about my hangover, but as soon as we got back to the resort I was not feeling well at all! Spent a couple hours sitting in the restaurant trying to keep cool, ate a pizza which helped!

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That afternoon we went back down to the markets, I bought a couple of things but was keen to get out of the sun. Went back to the hotel and laid next to the pool, ended up falling asleep, luckily I didn’t wake up sunburnt!

Went to the room, showered and got dressed, came outside and saw the last bit of the sunset. A few of us went to the hotel next door and had dinner in their restaurant, had delicious calamari and fish of the day!

I was pretty wrecked but a few people said they were going to go out, I didn’t want to miss out so I joined them! We went back to Cholos, it was all sectioned off and had a cover charge. Masai warriors were on the door as security. We went inside, got a drink and sat and watched a few people outside on the beach dancing to the music coming from the bar. Three guys were doing choreographed dance moves and eventually a guy on the inside paid for them to come into the bar.

We got up on the dance floor, next minute my damn husband from night before shows up.  He told me he hadn’t slept all night because he thought I was angry at him and that he had been at the Masai market all day looking for me because his friend said he saw me. Ok buddy.

I was wearing a Masai bracelet that I had bought at the market that day he said he wanted to bring me two bracelets to wear and could he meet me tomorrow to give them to me. Hell no, I bet its some damn engagement bracelet or something! I told him we were leaving at 6am and he looked devastated. Slowly edged away from him and kept dancing, had a lot of people from night before coming up saying they recognised me and wanted to dance.

I had a Masai come and ask if I was Swiss, I said no Australian, but you look Swiss, Ok well I’m Australian. But you look Swiss. That conversation went nowhere!

My husband came back to show me pictures on his phone, I think I was meant to be impressed… Pictures of him and his friends night before, picture of him standing on beach looking in distance, picture of him holding a guitar. I was getting a bit tired of it and our group ended up leaving the club shortly afterwards.

The tide had come in so we had to walk through the ocean to get back to the hotel, went to bed just after midnight.

The following morning we left the beach behind with our new smaller group to start our way out of Tanzania. Tanzania had really impressed with the different landscapes, the dry Serengeti, lush mountains and then the turquoise waters of the beach. Another country on my list to come back to!

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Sunrise in Zanzibar

Into the Serengeti

From Rwanda we travelled back across Uganda into Kenya. My tour group changed at this point, lost most of the people but picked up some newbies. We had a new tour leader as well, Victor, and a new cook and driver! The following day we left Kenya and crossed the border into Tanzania.

Our first stop was Mto Wa Mbu which was our pit stop before the Serengeti. After the Serengeti we would return to the same camp for a night stay.  Some people from our previous group who had done this leg told us it was a must to upgrade to a room after the Serengeti because you would be filthy. So once our tent was put up my tent mate Kate and I raced to reception to book our upgrade for our return.

The following day we split into 4 jeeps, I was with Pasci, Celine, John, Ruth, Hellen and Aurelia.  We left at 7am and headed up the mountain to the entrance gate to the Ngorongoro Crater National Park.

Arrived 8am at the gate, and while our driver did paperwork we had a look in the information centre. Ngorongoro Crater is 310sqkm, approx. 21km wide and 18km long, with a depth of up to 760m.  There are 32000 animals in the crater, including 12000 wildebeest and 5 pride of lion.  The crater is the only place where hyenas hunt to kill. Reason being there are more hyena than lion and the hyena cannot rely on scavenging for food.

Once all paperwork was done we got back in the jeep and the paved road turns to gravel (a.k.a African Massage) The roads were misty so we didn’t have much of a view as we worked our way around the rim of the crater.  Windy narrow roads that you aren’t allowed to drive on between 6pm and 6am because animals (especially elephants) wander along them. We stopped at a “viewpoint” I’m sure it’s wonderful when it isn’t misty but we just saw grey and from there we drove down into the crater.

 

As soon as we got into the crater we had animals all around us – wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, impala, warthog, ostrich, jackals.

Everywhere we looked there were more animals. Our lunch stop was at a small lake filled with hippos, while eating our prepacked lunch we had kites swooping around looking for someone’s food to snatch up.

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Lunch stop

At 1:30pm we left the lunch spot and started to head out of the crater. Lots more animals on the way out, buffalo, elephants and we saw a male lion in the grass!

We drove back up the crater towards the rim, this time the mist had cleared so we were able to see the incredible view looking down into the crater.

When we got to the top of the crater we had to close up the roof and the windows because we were about to enter the Serengeti and be covered in dust for the next couple of days! Driving down and away from the crater we saw Masai settlements and Masai herding their goat and cattle. Getting pictures was not easy with the combination of dust and bumpy roads. It was stinking hot inside the jeep but if we had the window open we would get covered in dust.  We would have the window open for a little while then close it up quickly as a car passed us on the other side.

After a couple hours driving we arrived at the entrance gate for the Serengeti, there were a few Masai there wanting money for pictures. They were young males with white paint on their face, the white paint means that they have been circumcised and have started their training to become warriors. We took some pictures of the gate then headed into the park.

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Entry to Serengeti

The jeep I was in and another one drove to the information centre which was also the hot air balloon registration.  Most of us had pre-booked but there was a group of 6 of us (myself included) that was on the waiting list.  By the time we had got to the park I had decided I didn’t want to do the hot air balloon ride anymore as I couldn’t justify the $700AUD for an hour long ride.

Turns out the waiting list isn’t my definition of a waiting list. I was under the impression that if someone else cancelled we would take their place on the balloon, but it was actually if we had enough people on the waiting list then they would take another balloon up. There was a moment where everyone was a bit worried they wouldn’t be able to go up because I had backed out, but fortunately there had been a stuff up with Kate’s booking so she made up the numbers on the extra balloon. Phew!

While the others had their safety briefing I wandered around the information centre taking pictures of the cute rock hyrax and mongoose.

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Rock Hyrax

We then headed to camp and our tents had already been put up for us (yay). As we were camping in the national park without fences we were given a safety briefing.  If you needed to get up in the middle of the night you had to take someone with you and when leaving the tent you first had to listen for animal noises and then scan with the torch and make sure no animals were around.  If animals are around you need to wait in your tent until they pass

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First night in Serengeti

The camp was packed, lots of other groups there and in the large kitchens the cooks were all working away at their stations.  Once we were all set up we had our dinner and then went to bed shortly afterwards.  I fell asleep listening to the sound of hyena!

Up nice and early for breakfast at 7am. While eating we had lots of hornbills and superb starlings hopping around the campsite eating the scraps, obviously a pest because I saw a few cooks chasing them away.

The people doing the hot air balloon had left at 5am so I changed jeeps and hopped in with Meghan, Ebony, Francine and Javier. We set off on our morning game drive, a bit chilly to start with but we knew it would warm up quickly!

After just 10 minutes we saw a cheetah! I was so excited, I love big cats but the cheetah I think is the nicest looking, such pretty facial markings. We watched it for a while, there was a jackal that was nipping at its feet, obviously hanging around in case there was a kill. The cheetah was getting peeved off and a few times the cheetah chased after the jackal! I was dying to see a cheetah run at full speed, but this was pretty amazing anyway watching the movement of its slender body.

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Our first cheetah!

We looked behind us to the other side of the road and saw 2 male lions walking straight towards us! They ended up walking right in front of our jeep, not bothered by us at all. We carried on and about 5 minutes later we saw a second cheetah! This one was a bit further away but we still had a great view of it. Amazing start to our morning game drive!  We saw a huge variety of animals hyena, warthog, impala, Thomson’s Gazelle, dik dik, baboons, crocodile, hippo plus more.

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After a few hours we headed towards the information centre and saw another cheetah on the way there! Got to the information centre and read through the information about the Serengeti and some of the animals that are there. We then headed back to our camp for lunch, saw a herd of elephants right next to our campsite!

After lunch we had some time to kill before our afternoon drive at 3pm. I tried to brush my hair but it was already covered in dust and matted. Felt sticky when I tried to put the brush through it so decided to deal with it once we left the Serengeti.

I got back in the jeep with Meghan, Ebony, Francine and Javier for the afternoon drive. Saw waterbuck, common eland, zebra, impala, hyena, we spent about half an hour sitting at a tree that had a dead impala up it waiting for the leopard to appear. Apparently it was sitting in the bush below the tree but after 30 minutes of no sighting we gave up and left.

We followed a lioness along the road to her pride, at times I thought we were going to hit her she was so close to the jeep! The pride had a few females AND FOURTEEN CUBS! They were sooo cute, I wish I could have gotten more photos of them. Drove a bit further up and there was a huge herd of water buffalo, they were heading in the direction of the lions so we waited to see what would happen. Nothing. They veered off as they got closer but the lions were very alert watching them as they passed.

We drove off again and saw jackals, hyenas and about 30 elephants. Tiny newborns and massive matriarchs, got so close to them as they were crossing the road.

The time was up for the day so our driver headed back, we were flying along the road when Meghan yelled out stop! Slammed on the brakes and skidded along, thought I was going to go flying out the top of the jeep! She thought she’d seen something in the bush, we reversed back and sitting there all pretty was a serval! So cute! Right on the edge of the road just staring at us, it was happily sitting there but another jeep came up and it got spooked and ran away.

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SERVAL!

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So gorgeous

We got back to the camp and then our driver got a call from the other driver saying that the leopard from the morning we had been waiting to see had appeared, unfortunately we were too far away to go back to it. I was so happy about seeing the serval I did not even care!

That night after dinner Victor told us stories around the campfire. The history of Africans and where they come from, why some of them are short and fat, some are tall and skinny, some store fat on their tummy and others on their bum. I’m kicking myself I didn’t take notes because thinking back on it I can’t remember details.

He told us a story about how when he first became a guide he was at the camp, and in his group was a woman who always overexaggerated everything. One night at the campfire she suddenly said there was a lion right near them, the group ignored her but then they heard the growl. They jumped up to run away from it and were trying to get into a cage that kept the food but couldn’t. while they were panicking they didn’t realise the lion walked right past and towards a herd nearby. Obviously more interested in the herd than the humans!

Another story was about one of the drivers in the camp had been unwell and while on a game drive he had to go running out of the jeep because he had diarrhoea. He ran out of view of the tourists and pulled down his pants and went. Heard a noise behind him and turned around and there was a pride of lions right next to him.  He literally shat right next to a bunch of lions. He went sprinting back to the jeep with his pants around his legs and all the tourists were snapping photos of him.

Good stories! We were all pretty buggered so we headed to bed straight after that.

Up the next morning we heard lions and elephants during the night! We packed up our tents, loaded into the jeep and headed off at 8am.  We were doing a game drive in the morning before heading out of t