Mzungu Migration - Africa Safari (part II)

Trip Start Feb 18, 2004
Trip End Dec 05, 2005

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Friday, January 14, 2005

After having spent a few days in Zanzibar, we took the ferry back over to the mainland and stayed at the same campsite in Dar es Salaam (Dec 23). The hotel manager decided he was going to raise the prices on us so Danie had us all go with him to talk to the manager. It was less like a talk and more like Danie yelling at him and seeming on the verge of getting in a fight. We eventually pulled him out of the office 'cuz it wasn't that big a deal to us.

The next day was a long drive to Iringa. I sat next to Euna which improved the situation immensely. We passed the time by listening to various songs from the i-Pod. It was also discovered that [little] Simon had bites/welts all over his body. It was pretty gross looking (sorry, no pics). The campsite at Iringa was really nice and the lady that owns it even came over to check on us (despite having her family over for the holidays). As it was Christmas Eve, we had our gift exchange in the campsite bar (cool round bar with x-mas tree and fire). I received a book for bedtime reading. A lot of the gifts were quite silly like Danie's "Mzungu Bus Driver" t-shirt he received from Nigel. Jamie received a Zanzibar joke book that had really bad, pointless jokes (funny in that they were so unfunny). After the gift exchange, we enjoyed some amarula and hot chocolate.

Christmas Day we had another long drive to Chitimba by Lake Malawi. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Simon and his bug bites. I think everyone was afraid it would spread. Unfortunately, there were no phones or Internet access at any of these places for me to write or call home (and cellphones had no signal). We spent the evening boozin', dancing and getting our feet cut by broken glass. It was actually a very fun Christmas.

There was no running water at this campsite and the manager was trying to rip some people off on their bar tabs, so we decided to move on a day early. Before leaving there was the little matter of dealing with our new friend, Billy. You see Billy was to be dinner for the coming evening, only he was still alive and it didn't seem Danie meant to invite him as a guest. Some of the guys went over to see Billy [the goat] before he was slaughtered (for before and after pics) and others stayed to watch/help. I had no interest in seeing the poor fellow killed (ya, I'm a wuss).

On to Kande Beach, also by Lake Malawi. We stopped in a small town to do some shopping for a coming dressup party on the way to Kande (we drew names and bought clothes for that person). Of course we all got dresses for the guys. There's a parasite that lives in warm freshwater (like Lake Malawi) called Bilharzia. Bilharzia is bad - gets into your intestine and does irreversible damage. And you may not know you have it until it's too late. That made me and some of the others reluctant to swim in the lake. People were rather tired that first night in Kande so nothing too crazy happened.
The next day we heard about the tsunami in SE Asia on the radio while in the cafe at the campsite. Information was limited then and we saw no pictures to know the extent of the devastation. Everyone was upset by the news and we were concerned about fellow travellers and locals in the area. We went out to explore around the campsite that day and found a bunch of shops setup right outside the gate. The shops were run by some familiar people - Robert DeNiro, James Brown, Pink Floyd, Sunshine and Sweet Like Chocolate (the shopkeepers gave themselves these names). Most the shops all had woodwork - chairs, tables, statues, etc... Euna and I learned the game bao from a couple of the guys, though I think they were playing the easy way and letting us win. That afternoon we had a volleyball tournament (no, my team didn't win but I did get in a good spike). We cleaned up then put on our clothes for dressup night. I had a lovely flowery dress to wear. Brooke had gotten a makeup kit for her x-mas gift so we used that to make the guys look, I mean pretty. Australian Shaun looked horrid in his spandex pants and tight top, but Kiwi Shaun took the crown as "Miss Acacia" with his lovely makeup, flowery dress and beard. The dinner that evening was our recently departed friend, Billy. Makes you want to be a vegetarian. We hung out in the bar that night with some of us playing pool and foosball. The power went out and we stayed a bit longer by candlelight.

I went on a village walk the following day and saw the local hospital, school and some of the countryside. The people running the hospital and school were wanting monetary donations, but I'd feel better giving supplies and knowing whatever I give is actually going to the proper recipient. My stomach wasn't doing so well at this point - the bottled water we were getting from the campsite had no label and may not have been so pure. More chilling out by the lake and in the evening we went to the local village chief's house for dinner (though we didn't actually meet him). They fed us and had some of the local kids sing and dance.

The shopkeepers at Kande were all disappointed to see us go (especially since some of the people bought lots of stuff). It's hard to go places around Africa and not want to help out the locals any way you can. Just giving them money doesn't really improve their situation in the long run though. I'm not really sure how best to help out...if I could guarantee school supplies sent would get to the kids, I'd send that. Seems like being there in person to make sure donations get to the proper recipients would be about the only sure way. We proceeded on our drive towards Lilongwe with another stop at a curios market. [little] Simon and a couple others didn't bother getting off the truck and he said he was "tired of seeing the same old African shit" (refering to the stuff being sold). Danie was still in the driver's seat and gave Simon a hard time about this the rest of the trip. Claire, Euna and I played some cards at the campsite before the power went out. Then it was just hanging out 'til bedtime.

Had a little bit of time in the morning in Lilongwe to get pics uploaded at an i-net cafe before we headed off to Chipota in Zambia. We were supposed to all get free visas into the country with our tour manifest but the officials seemed to have misplaced it. The funny thing is right in the office is a sign that says they're cracking down on corruption. Doesn't seem to be working... The campsite in Chipota had a pool, though it was kind of slimy. Dinner that evening was spoiled by rain so we moved into the bar to eat. Played some cards before going to bed.

Another long day of driving. We camped at Lusaka at a spot that has its own game reserve. A few of us went on a walking safari and got to see giraffe, zebra, eland and other animals kind of close up. This was New Year's Eve so we had a little bit of celebration along with dinner. There was a balloon art competition - I have no future as a clown. Many people in the group went to bed early but several of us stayed up for New Year's. We hung out in the bar, drank and celebrated. While wandering around outside with Euna, we noticed the zebra had come into the campsite. That was kind of surreal. The party didn't last too long past midnight, but considering we'd usually be going to bed by 10pm it was a late night.

I'll pause for a reflection on 2004...might sum it up as a year of great joy and great sorrow with a lot of the in-between. Traveling is an incredible experience - I saw so many cool places and met some fun people. Definately a lot of wonderful memories from the last year. Traveling solo though can be a bit boring and lonely, but that tends not to be what I remember about it. Finishing up the year on a tour getting to spend Christmas and New Year's amongst new friends was probably a good idea. The year also brought with it some losses in the family. I lost a really cool and fun uncle shortly before I left. He was always full of good stories and humor and will definately be missed. And if you read my update at the end of September, you'll know that I lost my mom. I can't begin to explain in words how sad that was. That's a loss that hurt a lot, and I imagine will continue to for quite some time to come. Life keeps moving on and I with it. I think they'd want me to be out here traveling, seeing the world and enjoying life. The dawn of 2005 proved to be very nice so I can only hope the rest of the year will be as good.

Off again and hanging out in the back of the truck with the other late-nighters. We went to Livingstone near Victoria Falls. Soon after arriving, we had an afternoon booze cruise on the Zambezi River. We saw some hippo, but the trip was more focused on drinking games. Luckily, Danie was giving drinks to [little] Simon and vice versa which helped keep the attention off me (so I wasn't getting as many drinks). I did manage to instigate some fun though - I suggested [little] Simon moon another boat which he promptly did then Danie picked him up and spanked his bare ass; and I suggested to Shaun and James that they should relive Arusha so they lifted [big] Simon's shirt and gave him a big old slap on the back. Awww, what fun. After the booze cruise we proceeded to the campsite bar and continued the evening. James and Lauren left us there :( to stay at a nicer place before flying home. Eventually most the group went to bed and I was left with Euna and a couple round English brothers. They were funny. Got back to the camp kinda late and found [little] Simon standing dazed amongst the tents. Apparently, he had passed out next to the creek in the camp, woke up, saw a crocodile and fell in the water trying to get away. He was almost dancing as he retold the story. :)
The next day I went to see Victoria Falls with Claire and Euna. That's very pretty. Ran into several other people from our tour there. Went into town after that then back to camp. There were vervet monkeys around the campsite so they were good fun to chase around. We had dinner with the group and an early night to bed (a few people going alcohol-free after the past couple nights).

Being that I'm a cheapskate and I can go rafting for free with Tony and his dad on the Deschutes, I opted out of rafting on the Zambezi with most the group. Euna and I went back into town and wandered around. Back to camp to hear the group retell their stories of their rafting experience (sounds like it was a lot of fun). Chased the monkeys around some more.

We dropped Elissa and Jules off in Livingstone and proceeded on our way to Zimbabwe with a brief stop at the border so Nigel could do a bungie jump. We stayed just the other side of the border in the touristy town of Victoria Falls. Being in places like Vic Falls and Livingstone doesn't give you an idea of what the country is really like and how the locals live. When we arrived at the campsite, Savanna Lodge, they marked up the prices on their menu (which was a sign of things to come). The Zimbabwe currency isn't very stable and fluctuates a lot plus you can't use/exchange it anywhere outside of Zimbabwe. On the walk into town people would be trying to sell you necklaces, carvings and stuff most the way (it gets annoying). The town itself has some shops, a very slow Internet cafe and a curios market. We had a look around before getting to walk back in the afternoon rain. That night we went to the local casino to an Italian restaurant for dinner. Service was incredibly slow, though we were a large group. Food in Zimbabwe was expensive too...same prices as back in the U.S. No one was in too jolly a mood by the time dinner was done.
Cathy left the next morning for a short tour of Botswana before returning home. I went into town with Euna and checked out the curios market. "Same old African sh*t" there and the shopkeepers would block your way to try to get you in their shops. They were very interested in trading for hats, shirts, sunglasses and stuff though. Euna got a soapstone statue with the condition that she return the next day to trade her hat. After two days we had had enough of the Victoria Falls area (certainly didn't need 3 days in Livingstone and 3 days in Vic Falls). Claire, Euna, Shaun, Amelia and I went to dinner at another restaurant at the casino that evening. They told us one price for the beer then brought it over and told us it was going to be more. Amelia was good about standing up for us and got the manager to give it to us at the original price. The restaurant was also out of various ingredients so options were limited. Back at the campsite, the bartender kept the bar open extra late for us so we could have a few more drinks (and played Euna's bongo CD).
The tour group was actually splitting up at this point with some of us continuing on to Jo'burg and others going through Namibia to Cape Town. The group going to Cape Town left the next morning (Jan 5). Euna and I decided to check out Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe side - we heard the views were good...and they were. Went into town and met Claire, Shaun and Amelia for lunch and milkshakes. Went back to the curios market so the ladies could work at trading their clothes and hat for stuff. That evening we had a pre-departure meeting with the new group. Our tour leaders, Bernie and Johan, seemed laid back and cool. The others joining us had been traveling with Bernie and Johan from Cape Town through Namibia. Saskia (Belgian), Dan (British), Corinna and Carol (German) were now joining us. All were very nice and not too crazy. The wild and crazy people were part of the Nomad's tour and came back to camp from a booze cruise and proceeded to skinny-dip in the pool.

We eventually got moving the following morning across the border into Botswana to Kasane and Chobe National Park. Botswana was much more westernized than the other countries we had been in lately (e.g., stripmall). We stopped by the river to setup camp and had a "beware of crocodiles" sign nearby. We met back up with the old group there (they were passing through Chobe to Namibia). We all went on a wildlife viewing cruise together and saw lots of hippo and elephants plus a few crocs. Had a last night at the bar with the old group and said goodbye to everybody.

In the morning, we saw off the old group as they left. There was also a friendly warthog wandering around the campsite. Had a long drive to near Francistown. Noticed the area has robots (traffic lights - hadn't seen these in ages) and real orchards. The campsite we stayed at had a really nice swimming pool so we all went for a dip after setting up tents. Had a good dinner and an early night to bed.

Another long day of driving to Tzaneen in South Africa. Nothing too special that day. (Ya, at this point I'm getting tired of typing.)

Continue through South Africa with stops at Blyde's River Canyon and God's Window. It was all foggy and rainy at God's Window so we didn't get to see the view. The weather improved by the time we got to Kruger National Park and we did a game drive on our way to camp. There's a lot of trees and brush in Kruger which makes the scenery pretty but also makes it very difficult to spot animals. We really didn't see much that first day (rhino were the highlight).

The next morning we went on another game drive...didn't see much. Afternoon game drive...didn't see much. I did ask a giraffe if he'd seen any leopards, but got no reply. Went on a special park night drive...didn't see much. The driver did stop so could see a rabbit. There was a elephant close to the side of the road so the driver pulled out his big rifle which caused a girl sitting right behind him to get scared. The next elephant we saw started charging at us from behind, but the driver seemed unaware of this as the passengers are freaking out.
Left early the following morning (Jan 12) so we could do another game drive...didn't see much. I think we were all disappointed with Kruger. The scenery was awfully pretty though.
Had a fairly long drive to Johannesburg that day. The hostel in Jo'burg wasn't that nice so several people opted to go to a nicer hotel. Euna and Claire were planning on taking a bus south the following day so Bernie and Johan gave them the option of a free ride with them that night (they had to transit to Cape Town). Euna and Claire said I should go too so I called Qantas to check on the possibility of getting on my waitlisted flights (very slim) and called Melanie (friend in Jo'burg) and she said she didn't have much free time this weekend and that the end of January would be a better time to visit, so I decided I'd take the free ride too. That evening we all went out to dinner at a nice game restaurant in the Sandton area of Jo'burg. Had some wine, good food and conversation. After dinner I went out to the square area outside the restaurant and the guys came out and grabbed me to throw me into the fountain. I kept saying "get my camera, get my camera" 'cuz it was in my pocket. They weren't listening to me so I put up some resistance and kicked and flailed to get them to let go. In the kicking and flailing, I kicked [big] Simon in his bad knee which pissed him off enough to punch me in the eye. Johan got me some ice and bandaged me up good. The girls were giving me lots of sympathy too. :) Said goodbye to everybody before the long, long drive to Cape Town with Euna and Claire...


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