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Africa Revisited – Victoria Falls to Nairobi

The crew have gone and it’s free time to do whatever our individual plans are. I think it’s time I get these braids tidied up a bit so get taken into town to a salon. It’s a bit different to what I’m used to back home but the job gets done and soon I’m back at the lodge. While I’m sitting eating lunch, I recognise one of the drivers from another truck. It’s my guide from 2010 !! And he still remembers me  . Must have made a lasting impression for some reason. Best I don’t think too hard about that . We chat for a while and coincidently he is taking his clients to the same hotel that I am moving to. I get a ride.

It’s 7pm and I am meeting some of my group at a restaurant called The Boma. I came here in 2009 and loved it so recommended my group to join me. We are greeted outside and given authentic African clothing to wear. Once at the table we drink African beer and the buffet is all game meat complimented with all sorts of vege dishes. Im going for the warthog, ostrich and chicken. A face painter comes to the table so I get a lion painted on my forehead.There’s live entertainment in the form of drumming. Everyone is given a drum and asked to participate. Then….as usual…they drag people from the audience to make fools of themselves dancing. Yep…..me again !! It’s a great night out and we are the last to leave. It’s got a lot of character to this place.

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The Boma, Zimbabwe

The Boma, Zimbabwe

I’m on my own now so decide today I will do the Lion Walk. It’s another of the things I have done before and enjoyed so why not make the most of an opportunity and re-do ? On arrival at the Encounter, within the Zambezi NP, we are shown a short video and given a talk about the 4 stage program the lions go through before being released back into the wild. Then a safety briefing ( all important ). It’s a short walk to find the lions. They are free and roaming and today I have the opportunity to get hands on with a brother and sister aged one year. I am able to crouch behind the sister and , in her lazy state, am able to hold up her foot and rub her stomach. These are not pets but used to human interaction. However they are still wild animals and have to be treated as such. She’s had enough of this and up she gets. I now get the chance to walk along side as the two lions go wandering through the bushes. Near a river they stop to drink and it’s time to leave them behind and go find the 6 month old cubs. It’s late afternoon and they are in a playful mood, biting and chasing each other. So cute. Good things come to an end and I’m later back at the hotel and packing my bag to begin the next part of the journey.

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Lion Encounter, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Lion Encounter, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Tour begins…..

It’s day one of the second part of my Nomad tour. Because of the company’s popularity and the fact that it’s peak season, there are no Nomad trucks available so we are using an Africa Travel Co truck. It has a different configuration and there are pro’s and cons. There are four from my last tour continuing with me including the Cyprus boys and a young Japanese couple. Plus people we haven’t met yet. This group is predominantly swiss/dutch/german speaking and a different dynamic. This tour is combined accommodated and camping. I am not camping this time !!

After a no-hassle border crossing we leave Zimbabwe behind and enter Zambia. A quick stop in Livingstone for supplies and lunch and we are on the road to Pioneer Camp. There’s heavy traffic in Lusaka so we get held up and arrive in the dark. It’s too late to cook so Kelven, our guide, organises for the camp staff to supply our dinner.

We’re up at 5am this morning to necessitate a long day of driving. It’s one of those days when it’s hard to keep the eyes open …..so I don’t. zzzzzzzzzz

One of my favourite game parks is South Luangwa NP and this is where we are headed today. It’s a very , long and bumpy road. Shocking in fact. We pass lots of villages and little children come running out with outstretched hands. A sign of hunger. We arrive at our camp on the banks of the Luangwa River. I’m in a chalet right above the river. There’s hippoes and crocs and elephants. We’re told not to go outdoors at night because the camp is open to all the wildlife and they frequently walk through at night. There’s to be a visit to a local village and textile factory but as I’ve been there previously I opt to go on a game drive in the park. As soon as we are through the gates we sight animals. It’s a great game drive. At one point we see 4 lions sleeping and the guide takes a long way round to get up close. It’s dusk so time to get back to camp . The group are eager to know what I saw as we are all going out there tomorrow.

I am woken early by noisy hippoes that sound like they are right outside my door. They are sloshing around in the river and making lots of noise. In the distance I can hear the low grunting of a lion. It’s an early start for the game drive and it isn’t as busy as the night before but still see lots of animals…..including a leopard, impalas, zebras,waterbuck, ground hornbill,giraffes, elephants,puku, monkeys………….. A later night drive is just as productive.

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South Luangwa NP

South Luangwa NP

There’s lions roaring in the night again. Awesome really. We are leaving South Luangwa and it’s beautiful wildlife and heading on to Malawi.

We stop once again to change money into the currency of the next country….something we are getting used to now.

We have a stop at the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre while Kelven goes to get supplies. The animals here are orphaned, rescued, injured or brought in from zoos and rehabilitated. This centre is crucial to Malawi’s wildlife conservation. It’s an interesting guided walk around the premises.

We’ve got our first stop at a beach….Kande Beach. It’s a lovely spot with white sand and gentle waves lapping the edge. There’s Malawian ladies eager to provide laundry services. Bougainvillea vines adorn the main building.There’s time to go for a wander before dinner. One thing that is expected is the locals who walk also on the beach and try to sell their time or products. There is a point at the lower end of the beach that has an invisible line….they are not supposed to cross it…but some do. They call out but are very friendly. My room is right on the beach and the door opens out onto the sand. The sound of the waves reminds me of home.

In the distance there appears what looks like smoke. It’s actually a natural phenomenon …an entomological wonder of the world. Billions of flies that feed off the bottom of the lake rise into the sky controlled by circadian rhythms….their internal clocks. They are not only eaten by fish and birds but also by the local people. They are crushed and made into cakes and dried in the sun.Rich in protein and calcium they are an important staple for these people.

Billions of flies

Billions of flies

We hit the bar after dinner and it’s relatively quiet so I go to bed. I’m woken at some ungodly hour of the night by the drunken Cyprus boys who inform me that I missed the dancing on the bar. Really ?….Go away !!!

Kande Beach, Malawi

Kande Beach, Malawi

It’s gorgeous walking early on the beach next morning. The Cyprus boys , of course, are asleep ! There are fishermen in their boats and a couple of young guys washing in the water.The beach boys see me and approach. “Good morning boys”. The group heads off for a village visit after breakfast and I stay back as have already done that too. I take the opportunity to go to a small house just through the main gate. A young girl and her sister and brother spend the next 3 hours tying coloured beads to the ends of my braids. Each one is tied on with small pieces of cotton. They tell me that royalty in Malawi has beads in their hair. Nice !  I am sitting just outside the door on a low box and it does get rather uncomfortable after some time. The family is inside and they peer out the corner of the window from behind the curtain. The parents, however, are not living here. I’m told they have gone to South Africa to earn money to send home. They haven’t been here for over a year. The older girls and grandmother are minding the younger children. That’s the way it is. I double the money pre organised to pay for this beading….the family needs it.
This evening the group is invited into the village for dinner. It’s a short, dusty walk. We are met and greeted by one of the men .Mats are laid on the ground so we sit. There is no electricity here so we use our headlights. We begin with sweet potato soup followed by beef, beans,rice,cassava and wild spinach. After dinner we listen to the local youngsters singing then we are invited to sing and dance. There’s a bright moon in the sky that lights our way back to camp after an enjoyable evening of hospitality.

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The next two days are long driving days with a night at Chitimba Beach.

Lilac Breasted Roller

Lilac Breasted Roller

We are now in Tanzania and another game park….Mkumi NP. There isn’t much to see on this drive unfortunately but zebras are predominant. The beautiful lilac breasted roller bird is seen too. We leave the next morning beginning with a slow drive along the international highway. We are still within the boundaries of Mkumi NP so we see giraffes,zebras and a large herd of buffalo on the side of the road. This day is taking us to the city of Dar Es Salaam and the farewell of 10 of our group. Including my friends the Cyprus boys. It’s emotional. We see them safely on their way, get some Tanzanian currency then make our way through the crazy traffic to Kipepeo Beach and a nice, cold cider.

We’re off next morning to the ferry terminal with a small bag packed for the island of Zanzibar. We have a new member in our group…she’s from Canada and lovely.It takes two hours on the ferry and luckily the sea is smooth. Once back on shore in Stone Town, a van transfers us to Africa House for lunch. It’s Ramadan and most of the eateries are closed during daylight hours. Africa House is owned by non-muslims so remains open for service. We sit on an open terrace looking out over the Indian Ocean. Bliss !

We ‘re at Nungwi Beach now , white sand and blue water.Very touristy which, although I am one, it’s not my preference. Get me back to the animals and wide ,open spaces.  I’m off to the maasai market for a browse. There’s lots of calling out ” Rasta ” as I walk by. All in good fun though. I see some ladies sitting under a palm tree so go and sit with them and have a henna tatoo on my arm ( as ya do ). The sun is setting so it’s time for sundowners on the beach with friends before heading off for dinner.

Today is a free day. Some of the group head off for a day fishing and snorkelling. I’m going back to the maasai market to do some more bargaining. Then it’s a relaxing day lying in the sun next to the water. There’s always someone who wants to make money however, and if you make eye contact …that’s it. Conclusion….I’m now lying on a mat enjoying a massage. And I haven’t even moved. There’s lots of restaurants along this stretch of beach so I go with a friend to check out a good option for the group. Dinner at Paradise followed by cocktails on the beach.

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Nungwi Beach, Zanzibar

Nungwi Beach, Zanzibar

We leave Nungwi Beach and head back to Stone Town. Some of the group go for a Spice Tour but I want to head back and seek out a market that I missed last time I was here. As on the beach, I am approached by a gentleman eager to assist me with my holiday plans. I tell him about the market I’m looking for and a couple of things I want to buy while in Stone Town. He is very friendly ( of course ) and leads the way through the narrow alleyways typical of this old town. It’s impossible to walk in a straight line as there are people everywhere. They are looking at me as if they’ve never seen a tourist before. Must be these braids. The little shops on both sides are jam packed with all manner of things from clothes to shoes to jewellery. ” Come, Madam, look in my shop ” they call. We’re on a mission to find what I’m looking for so my guide is focused on finding them and doesn’t stop anywhere else. We have been walking some time , going left and right, and he brings me to a more open area. It smells bad !  I mean it smells BAD !!  It’s the food market and they are selling fish and meat. It’s hideously hot and humid and nothing is refridgerated. I have to watch where I walk as there’s blood on the ground. There’s many stalls with fruit and vegetables. As already mentioned, it’s Ramadan so the markets are buzzing with women buying food for the evening meals. My arms and shoulders are covered out of respect but, just quietly with this heat, I can feel the sweat dripping down my back.

The food markets in Stone Town, Zanzibar

The food markets in Stone Town, Zanzibar

Trying to cross the road is taking your life in your hands. My guide puts his hand in the air to stop cars moments before I get hit. God help me !! Crazy place. I eventually find the things I’m looking for, get back to point A and bid farewell and many thanks to my friendly guide. Without his local knowledge and help I would never have found the market and been hopelessly lost in this maze of alleys. It’s back to Africa House for much needed sustainance.

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Africa House terrace overlooking the Indian Ocean

Africa House terrace overlooking the Indian Ocean

We’re back on the ferry this morning and leaving the lovely island of Zanzibar behind. The sea is a bit rough and the ride takes 2 and a quarter hours. A quick run to the ATM in Dar Es Salaam . Driving out of the city is bedlam in the traffic. But, creeping along the road gives time to peruse the shops on the side. There’s a coffin shop of all things…..made to order with pretty flowers adorned on top !!

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The outskirts of Dar Es Salaam city

The outskirts of Dar Es Salaam city

Then a long drive to our next stop at Lesosho. To get to the hotel we have to traverse a very narrow and windy mountain road. It’s last light of day and we go higher and higher. I’m sitting in a window seat and looking out is also looking DOWN….and it’s a LONG way down !!! It seems like we are on the edge of the road and if the wheels go over the edge….we’re history. I don’t like this and can’t wait to get to the hotel. We get lost in the dark and our driver has to ask directions. Thankfully, coming down again the next morning doesn’t seem to take as long.

We’re in Arusha now and maddening traffic again. We stop to refresh our supplies and lunch at a very nice cafe. A new member joins us here for the last part of the tour. She’s Australian and has just climbed Mt Kilimanjaro.Welcome.

Street markets in Arusha

Street markets in Arusha

En route to our next accommodation, Kudu Lodge, we make a brief stop at a look out over Lake Manyara in the distance. Our lodge is beautiful and sundowners are taken around the pool. We need to pack a small bag again as we are heading into the Serengeti and camping. Our drivers arrive the next morning to collect us. Our own truck will stay behind until we return. We are in 4×4’s…two for us and one for our camping equipment and supplies. There is time for a picturesque photo stop high above the Ngorongoro Reserve.

Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater

We register to enter the Serengeti NP and back on long, dusty, bumpy roads. We stop to visit a traditional Maasai village. We are met by one of the tribe and introduced. It’s blowing like crazy and the dust is getting into the camera and everything else. We are welcomed by a small group of maasai and they dance for us. Then we are escorted into the village and shown around . We go inside their huts and hear how they are made and how they live. The huts are made only by the women and are made of sticks and mud covered with cow dung.  The work is done mostly by the women while the men tend to the cattle and protecting them from lions. They make their own jewellery which they display for sale. We are taken to a small hut to the side which is full of little children…..kindergarten I’m told. This is an interesting culture and they still live their nomadic lives.

inside a maasai manyara

inside a maasai manyara

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maasai warriers

maasai warriers

We do a game drive through the Serengeti to get to our camp site. We see lions and a leopard in a tree with a kill. We are off to a good start. Arriving at camp in the dark, we are shown where our tents have been pitched. We don’t do this ourselves this time as our guides have this responsibilty. It’s a cold shower tonight which is not pleasant. There are only two showers for all these people….unisex. There’s one toilet for all the women ( toilet = hole in ground with porcelain edge which necessitates squatting ………ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING . The men have two urinals and two normal toilets ! Go figure !!!! There’s so many people here and lots of noise. The cooking staff in the kitchen make so much noise that it’s very difficult to get to sleep.

campsite in the Serengeti

campsite in the Serengeti

I’m awake at 4.30am by the noise from the kitchen again. They’re up preparing breakfast….bless them….but can they not be quiet ? Our morning game drive finds us lots of lions and two leopard sightings. Interspersed with waterbuck, gazelles, monkeys and baboons. It’s very hot as we do our afternoon game drive. We see another leopard in a tree, a hyena chasing a jackal , zebras and a pair of bat-eared foxes before we are back at camp on dark. AAgghhh…lots of noise from the kitchen again.

After only two hours sleep and up at 5.15am, it’s a quick cuppa before packing bag and off on another game drive en route to our next campsite. The tummy is rumbling today…quite queasy. Most likely a combination of the not-so-clean ablutions and the heat. Lucky I have remedies onboard to assist.  It’s early and as we round a bend, 19 lions stroll across in front of us. I have never seen such a large pride as this one. They make their way down to the river to drink as we watch them in awe.

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We make our way over to the Serenera area and find lots of zebras and giraffes grazing on the plains. There’s wide, open spaces here and it’s beautiful. We visit a noisy and smelly hippo pool which has all sizes and shapes. There’s more lions and giraffes and baboons and……………………..

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On our way to the Main gate , we stop off at a visitor centre. This place looks familiar but it doesn’t come to me immediately so I wander around reading and looking at the information. There’s that smell of dassie again and the telltale excrement . It’s an interesting place with animal footprints imprinted into the concrete pathways. Then it comes to me…..this is where I came after my hot air balloon incident in 2009. I get a very heavy ,sinking feeling as memories come back to me.

We get to our next campsite, Simba, late afternoon. It’s high up on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater. It has a fantastic view but, being at high altitude, it’s very cold and out come the woolies. Yay…..hot showers here .

campsite on crater rim

campsite on crater rim

sunrise over the crater

sunrise over the crater

Next morning we pack everything in the vehicles again and descend into the crater for a day of game driving. Although most of the animals are on their migration north, there are still lots of animals left here. No giraffes though as physically they cannot walk down into the crater. We see several lion prides…some with a kill and others just sleeping on the road or in the grass. Lots of zebras, buffalo, hyenas, numerous species of birds- including flamingoes- elephants………………….

Wildebeest herd in Ngorongoro Crater

Wildebeest herd in Ngorongoro Crater

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Our lunch break is next to a hippo pool and we are permitted to get out of the vehicle. Our other vehicle has broken down so our driver leaves us and goes to tow it back. He doesn’t leave us our lunch so we are ravenous by the time he gets back. In the meantime we sit under a tree and watch the hippoes blowing bubbles and grunting at us in their territory. Some of them get a bit close so I keep a watchful eye. The broken vehicle is going nowhere so everyone has to pile in the one. It’s cramped and hot but we have no option. We’ve just heard of a rhino sighting so we’re off to find it. Those in the group who have still not seen all of the Big 5 in Africa, now get their wish. It’s off in the distance but , at least, we can say we saw it. It’s time to ascend the crater and head back to Arusha. At the gates we learn another vehicle has come to assist with transport so we are relieved of our cramped spaces. In Arusha we visit a snake park and maasai museum. I don’t go near the snakes ..aagggghhhh…so browse a little shop nearby.

This is our last day in Tanzania and we leave at a busy time of the morning. Our driver takes a bumpy back road to avoid traffic which speeds things up. After another border crossing and another stamp in the passport, we are now in Kenya and making our way to Nairobi. Getting into Nairobi at lunchtime , we learn there has been a fatal accident and the traffic has slowed us to a crawl. We pass the site as the smashed up van is being loaded onto a truck and taken away. It’s clear to see that it would be almost impossible to survive.

We’ve reached the drop-off hotel and the tour ends here. It’s time to get our bags and make our own arrangements. It’s a late lunch first though at a very nice cafe just a few metres away. Those of us left, sit and chat about where we go from here and staying in touch. I need a sim card and ask the guard at the door where is the best place to go. He is so willing to help that he takes my money and disappears down the street. A short time later he returns with the card and change ( which I give him ) and even puts the card in my phone for me. Good to go !  Such friendly and helpful people.

I’m the only one not leaving Africa at this point and I am waiting to be picked up and taken to another hotel to begin the next stage of my journey.

It’s thanks again to Nomad Adventure Tours for giving me another taste of Africa….it’s friendly people, it’s wildlife, it’s culture and it’s hospitality. Africa revisited !

To be continued…………………………