Saturday, July 24, 2010

23rd July Fiona's Perspective

This morning we chilled, waking a little later than normal and deciding to drive in to Monkey Bay harbour and see the old ship the Chauncy Maples, 101+ yrs old from the days of Livingstone.

After breakfast, we set off for the harbour. About 4km after we hit the tar, we got pulled over by a Policeman standing in the middle of the road. The embankment on our side of the road was so steep that Alan pulled over to the right hand side, off the road onto the dirt. We then got a 20min lecture on how it was illegal to park facing oncoming traffic and it was a major offence in Malawi (where goats, cows, bicycles etc are all over the road). After apologising, we then reversed and parked on the road, on the correct side, in the middle of the lane, blocking traffic, but that was ok, totally legal!!! We were then asked for Alan's drivers license, and when that was in order, he asked to see our fire extinguisher, which is actually not a legal requirement, so we showed it to him. Alan then asked him what else he would like to see as we would love to show him anything he wanted to see (facetiously). This put him on the back foot and we were allowed to go.

Wouldn't it be great if all the burnt out trucks lying next to the road had had a fire extinguisher on board, maybe they wouldn't be a shell of their former self!!!

We stopped at a roadside stall, called 'Toys R us' a couple of guys sitting under a Lapa making wooden replicas of Landrovers and Landcruisers. (I have uploaded a pic of their signage). So we ordered one to be made to look exactly like our vehicle and showed him a photo on my camera of Gavin's vehicle and ordered one for him too. Incredible workmanship.

Back for lunch and an afternoon snooze! Well, actually I snoozed and Alan repacked the car to fit in all the Curios I had bought. Especially Herman the Giraffe, a caricature of a giraffe that Taffy&Jen had just brought back from Zambia from a lodge they had stayed at. It wasn't for sale, but they managed to purchase it, just to give it to ME!!!

Afternoon drinks were relaxed and we sat chatting to Taffy and Jenny (South African owners of our accommodation), watching the sun set, when I got an sms that Gav and Jen where close to Monkey Bay and where were we.

They arrived about 30min later and joined us for dinner, drinks and more drinks. So, the team was back together.
We decided then and there that we would extend our stay by another night...

Do we have to leave?

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Toys R us

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Friday, July 23, 2010

22nd July Fiona's Perspective

Our Hosts Taffy & Jenny arrived and joined us for drinks. We soon learned that we were going out on the boat tomorrow to snorkel and feed the Fish Eagles.

After a real home cooked meal with Beef and Pork roast and loads of Vegetables, we retired, exhausted from the last 20 days of continuous driving.

This morning we woke to the sounds of Red tailed Monkeys playing on our tin roof, actually it sounded more like Hippo's.

We have an outdoor shower, which works here as we are in the middle of winter and it was warm enough to shower outside last night.

So, after a shower and the first decent breakfast in a while, although the egg yolks are quite pale and creamy coloured, almost the colour of the white, because the Chickens apparently don't get enough greenery to eat, the local vendors set up their wares at the bottom of the beach. They are allowed to come once a day for an hour to peddle their wares. This stops the constant hassling every time you set foot on the beach and seems to work quite well.

Taffy took us down the Bay on his speedboat to a site where we could snorkel. He then threw a couple of dead fish out, which got the Fish Eagles out of their nests in the trees on the cliffs. We had a few circling and then swooping down in front of us to grab the fish out of the water, quite a magnificent sight.

The snorkeling was amazing, it was like being inside our tank at home in the days when we had some really beautiful Cichlids (Malawi fish). The colours were quite spectacular. Blues, Turquoise, zebra striped with yellow fins....

Alan and Taffy drank a few beers whilst I snorkelled, after which we headed back to the Lodge for lunch. What a way to spend the morning.

Taffy tells us his story of how he decided to get out of the rat race and sell everything and take a chance on starting this Lodge in Malawi. Now, as Alan put it, we pay him to drink beer with us and live a life that we were quite envious of.

Lunch was served and after a bottle of white Wine, we thought it would be the right thing to do, to have an afternoon sleep.

Later, we met a 55yr old American lady that spends her time traveling through Africa selling her paintings and artwork to fund her travels. We exchanged some tips on where we had both been, and which Campsites were worth a visit.

After another great dinner, the day was over.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Following Paul to Murchison Falls

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Nairobi policeman

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Sunset on Lake Malawi

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21st July Fiona's Perspective

Well, 9 days to go and we will be back home and back in 1st world Africa.

Whilst we may not be 1st world, we certainly are compared to most places north of our borders in the African continent.

This morning we were up early, and after packing everything (cutlery, pillows etc) back into the car, we set off to find better accomodation in southern Malawi.

We had been recommended a place by a SA family from Durban (parents and 2 girls) who were doing a 3 month trip, in their 200 series Landcruiser. Home schooling (tent schooling) for the girls.

They told us of a place run by a SA couple that was worth visiting. So we set off to find the place as we could not get hold of them by phone. We drove for 4 hours and finally got hold of them an hour before we got to their place. They had been away for 5 days and out of cell contact.

It was finally a place we could relax and chill for a day or two. I posted a picture on the blog of the view from our cottage.

Before I could get the bags out the car Alan had a beer in hand and had his feet in the sand.

Norman Carr cottages, Cape Mcclear, Monkey Bay, Malawi. Worth a visit.

I would say that the three other places that I enjoyed and would recommend were Utengule Hotel, Mbeya on a Coffee plantation in Tanzania, Bahoma Lodge, Bwindi, Uganda and Ishasha tented camp, QE National Park, Uganda.
And then of course our first nights camping in Murchison Falls, in the middle of nowhere at the side of Lake Albert with only the Hippo's for company (a place not even marked on Tracks4Africa) ..... But if I give out the location, will it be private anymore?

I'm off for a Sundowner, whilst watching an African sunset over Lake Malawi in the "Warm heart of Africa"

Till tomorrow....

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Monkey Bay, Lake Malawi - View from our room

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20th July Fiona's Perspective

The border crossing into Malawi was pretty uneventful. We bumped into our biker freinds again at the Malawi side of the border. The BMW had a slashed tyre (not surprising after some of the roads travelled) and they needed to get a new tyre at a dealership in Lilongwe, Malawi or in Zambia. We tried to help them by making a few calls, but had no luck.

We had arranged to meet our Domestic worker's sister in Malawi in order to pick up some Rice and Mielie meal for her. Apparently the Rice and MMeal in Malawi is much nicer than the SA brands, but you cannot get it in SA. We called ahead and met Catherine and her husband at Kapolo, the third Police roadblock from the border.
What a nice couple. I took photo's for Elizabeth and a video message for her from her sister. When we get closer to Blantyre we will be going to meet her son, Precious at his school. We have saved some soccer balls and pens to hand out there.

I have never been to Malawi before and besides the fact that they have a large lake that stretches down the country for 580km I did not know what to expect.
I was surprised by how mountainous it is and how beautiful the drive through the mountains was. They seemed to go on forever.

We got a recommendation to stay at a place called Kande Bay on the shores of Lake Malawi. Well, if we had been 25 years younger, British and backpacking across Africa, this would have been where we would have stayed.
I think it was the worst place we have stayed in so far. We lit a big fire, used all our own Cutlery, plates etc as I was not eating off anything in the rondavel's kitchen. I even brought my own pillow in from the car as I wasn't sleeping on theirs.

So after the initial shock of seeing where we had to sleep for the night (moving was not an option, it was a long drive back to the main road and who knows what else we would find) we unpacked the car and lit a big fire and Alan made me a great meal! Rump steak, Veg accompanied by lots of Jamesons (this would help us sleep).

Another experience in Africa...
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

19th July Fiona's Perspective

Up early this morning as we wanted to try and make it to Mbeya. Overnight there and cross over to Malawi Tuesday.
This means at least 8hrs driving today.

Alan started collecting number plates from countries we visit a couple of years ago after I managed to purchase old plates in Cuba (essentially illegal). Since then we have managed to purchase them in countries where you have number plates assigned to you for life.

On this trip we have only managed to get a Kenyan plate so far. In Tanzania there is not a lot of English spoken, so it is a bit of a challenge. In Uganda we may still get one.

In the last 2 days we have passed 8 trucks that have gone off the road and rolled or collided with other vehicles and gone off the road or are burnt out.
This is hardly surprising as they drive these roads at high speed.

We have also passed a couple of foreigners who are cycling through the country with their sleeping bags etc all strapped onto their bicycle. Very brave, the roads are long, steep at times and treacherous. The buses and trucks give way to NO ONE!!

Driving through little villages or just in the middle of nowhere you see a mud house with no windows, but a huge satellite dish on the roof, held in place by bricks and a small solar panel. It just goes to show everyone watches Sky news or CNN, wherever they are.

The car seems fixed and is going well, this is a good thing as our back up vehicle (Gav & Jen) is 2 days behind us. They are off to the Ngorogoro crater whilst we want to spend a bit of time in Malawi. I am sure we will touch base with them in Mozambique.

Every time you go near a village, the speed limit drops to 50km/h. We are always careful to obey the set limits, but despite this, we were stopped and fined for going 96km/h. I think they were pulling a fast one, so Alan negotiated them down from a R260 to R100 fine, with no paperwork! The police here are at all times very freindly, especially whilst taking your money.
We have subsequently discovered that the maximum fine they can give legally is R130.

On the way North, Alan and Jess handed out almost 50 soccer balls to children in various villages. Imagine our surprise when driving back through one of these villages, we saw the school children playing soccer with one of them!

We phoned ahead and booked into the Utengulu Hotel on a Coffee Plantation 15km out of Mbeya. The team stayed there on their way up. I think Alan is going to need a hot bath and a stiff drink after the last couple of days driving.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised by the accommodation. It was really stunning.

We met a South African guy who is on contract in Dar es Salaam and two Bulgarian bikers who had ridden from Bulgaria all the way to Egypt and down through Sudan to Tanzania and were ending their 10 week trip in Cape Town.
We had a great evening, chatting, drinking and eating with them. We also gave them tips on where to stay and got some idea from Alex the South African on where to stay in Malawi.
Simon, one of the Bikers organises adventure trips through Bulgaria, so guess where our next trip will be....

We got a tip that a South African running a Tyre dealership in town could help us with a number plate. As he could not locate one, he saw that his own Tanzanian plate was about to fall off, so he helped it along. We left town for Malawi with our Tanzanian plate, exchanged for some biltong.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

18th July Fiona's perspective

This morning we left Arusha and set off for Moshi en route to Morogoro. Another long day in the car.

Driving through Moshi, I caught a glimpse of Mount Kilimanjaro's snow capped peak. Almost 6km high, it is very impressive.

The landscape has changed again, with the flat plains becoming mountainous.
The majority of the locals seen on the roadside have changed from Maasai to Swahili, dressed in pretty bright coloured sarongs.

There is a big Muslim influence in this part of the world and one area I really notice it is the public toilets. They are all long drops with a porcelain bowl in the ground. So you have to squat. These are normally filthy so using them is just not an option.
I now understand why Jess always opted for a bush wee on the side of the road.

Today was a long day in the car. 8 hours of driving terrible roads.
We arrived in Morogoro and went in search of the best hotel in town.

This was because the rest of the team stayed in the New Acropol on the way North , as the guide book rated it highly and it was apparently awful.
We stayed at the Hilux hotel, which was better (I'd hate to see what the other hotel was like if this was better!)

After a few double G&T's, (in order to sleep in our room) we ate some dinner and went to sleep intent on an early start in the morning for another 8hrs on the road.

We have changed our plan and are hot footing it for Malawi. We decided that we have been to so many great game parks that we would rather spend our last few days seeing Malawi and Mozambique, both countries we have not yet seen.
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Sunday, July 18, 2010

17th July Fiona's Perspective

This morning we set off with much trepidation. The question in both our minds was whether the vehicle would hold out for the long trek home, through remote areas where back up would be questionable if not non-existent.

5km soon became 200km and our anxiety started to fade. We sms the Workshop Manager in Nukuru to tell him that all was well and the problem had been sorted. They spent an entire day on our vehicle, fixed it properly and charged us R500. The amount we have spent at Rivonia Toyota, Steve's Auto clinic and various other garages is frightening, especially as they achieved nothing.

We drove through Nairobi at about lunchtime and seriously considered looking for a KFC, but found the traffic too congested and headed south without stopping. As we were negotiating our way out of Nairobi, we took the wrong turn and ended up in a roadblock going into the airport. Very freindly police gave us directions. Another soccer ball went to good use. I will upload the pic of the Policeman with his ball.

We headed for Arusha, Tanzania. A long drive, but we are starting to feel that we are running out of time and need to push the daily travel a little more. We found the roads fairly decent and stopped for a quick roadside snack of biscuits and cheese. Just before the Tanzanian border we stopped at a roadside curio shop run by the community. We did some serious negotiating and bought 2 wooden Maasai statues, about 1.3m high. Fitting them into an already fully packed car was a challenge, but soon we were on our way to the border.

The Kenyan border crossing was pleasant and quick, the entry into Tanzania also quick, but we found the Customs officials very self important and officious. All in all it was quick and we were on our way in 30minutes.
We soon discovered why it was a quiet border post. The roads from then on were just plain awful. Dirt and ruts and trucks... It took us 2 hours to travel the 80km to Arusha. At one stage we needed to pull some bushes out of the road to get onto a better section of the road. I got out and lifted the branches to discover they were full of thorns and as I reacted it swung round and hooked onto the back of my shirt and pants. There was nothing I could do to get unstuck and Alan had to come to my rescue.

Our hopes of getting to Moshi dashed as it was already getting dark. Alan was not keen to stay at the Maasai campsite again as it was probably the worst place they had stayed at on this trip, although it was highly rated in the guide book. Alan happened to befriend the Marketing Manager of the Arusha hotel, who had recently been to SA. He told us we had a wonderful country, much better than Tanzania. He then organised us a heavily discounted rate at the Arusha 5* hotel, the only one of this rating in town. I think another Soccer ball helped.

Uganda, Kenya and now Tanzania, power failures are common. At dinner, whilst in your room, the power just goes off. At least at home we believe they are scheduled.

The Maasai are a very colourful tribe and are now seen everywhere. The women wear tons of jewellery and Earings. They are not keen for you to photograph them, but I paid 4 women R100 to take a photo. It was only with my cell phone, but I have uploaded it to the blog.

We are heading for the Selous (pronounced Seloo) Game Reserve. The biggest in the world, 3 x bigger than the Kruger Park at 45 000 square km. It is a long drive and will probably take us another 2 days.

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