We joined our overland tour organised by Africa-In-Focus and hooked up with the other members of our group and tour leader. There are 14 of us on the tour in total, made up of 3 Aussies, 3 UK, 3 Americans, 4 Canadians and 1 Swede
. The crew make up Gareth, originating from Tanzania and then South Africa, a chef who has cooked for Mandela (cool!) and Mugabe (eerrmmm!) and a driver. The food has been excellent thus far and Ali hasn’t struggled for vegetarian options. The group are a good mix of ages and nationalities and there’s some willing victims I can annoy, I’ve already started chipping away at the American lawyer called Rob. The truck is a monster. There is plenty of space for 16 and there’s plenty of room for Ali’s stuff. I have a small space in the corner. There’s books, snacks and a fridge on board. It carries all the camping stuff and we have personal lockers inside and outside the truck. At the moment I’m very impressed and we should be able to stomach two months aboard.
The trip at the moment is about learning as we go. What we’ve learnt so far is that travellers cheques are useless, baboons are dangerous, mosquito repellent is the best invention ever (even if some of the little bastards seem immune), Lake Victoria is massive and we don’t like early morning starts. We managed to have a 7am lie in this morning but the two previous mornings we had to wake at 5am for our early morning game drives. How we love early morning game drives and those 5am starts. We joined our tour in Nairobi and the following morning left for Lake Nakuru, another natural reserve
. This is a wildlife reserve in Kenya where they’ve introduced the animals to a protected 100km squared area surrounding Lake Nakuru. The highlight of the lake was the pink flamingos of which there were thousands, but we also saw black and white rhinos, lions, hyenas and a wealth of lion food including zebra and impala. We managed to tick off the big five and are now anxious to see some wildlife action, such as a leopard chase or lion ambush. However as Gareth warned us, sights such as these are very rare and it just shows you the patience that wildlife film makers and photographers have. Gareth is the African Marino (hello girls ;-) regaling us with stories about how he survived an elephant charge (he ran for his life then climbed a massive tree), wrestled with a baboon over a picnic hamper and was caught in the middle of a lion fight, where 5 male lions fought 3 female lions in a bid to kill their cubs and recruit the female lions into their pride. Gareth claimed the noise and strength of that lion fight was like nothing he’d seen or heard, and the noise hit him right in the sternum. Hopefully we’ll hear something similar because we’re wild camping tonight in the Serengeti and lions have been known to come close to the camp and remind the tourists who exactly is king of the jungle. I hope they warn Rob the American in abundance.
After crossing into Tanzania we camped on the shores of Lake Victoria, in a town called Musoma. This lake is the source of the Nile, discovered by English explorer John Speke in 1858. Unfortunately I didn’t know this off the top of my head, I’m reading a book about explorations in central Africa in the 19th century by Dr David Livingstone and the expedition to find him by Henry Morton Stanley. Dr Livingstone, I presume? The lake is the size of Ireland and 60 million people live on its shores. We were camped up, with the sound of the waves lapping onto the beach. Unfortunately you couldn’t swim in the lake due to some sort of killer snail. It’s one of the many things that can kill you, but the beach was relatively safe and Ali got some nice shots of the sunset, whilst I assisted with passing lenses and following her general instructions. Fortunately, unlike the 19th century, she doesn’t shackle me in chains and beat me if I get something wrong!
It's been a few days since our last entry and our Africa experience has changed dramatically, most noticeably in our living conditions. Gone are the tented campsites and 5* hotels to be replaced with our 4 man tent which will be home for the next 2 months. Gone are the buffet lunches and dinners to be replaced with assisting the resident chef and washing up. Gone are the highlands of Uganda and the mosquito free zone to be replaced with the lowlands of Tanzania and Lake Victoria, a breeding ground for malarial carrying mosquitos. After the relative luxury of our gorilla trek and highbrow Kenyan hotel, this is starting to feel like real Africa. Yesterday was my first day where I didn’t wash. Alison was so proud.