Sunday, February 27, 2011
Yo yo yo... So after most of our truckm companions left Livingstone and deserted us for another tour with Acacia, we slowly dried our tears and decided to head for some dessert ourselves!!!
Of we (Sarah, Rayna, Emz, T-dog, Michael and myself) drove to the Royal Livingstone Hotel for high tea. Being the incredible laydees we are we all opted to wear dresses and jazz it up a little bit. Sadly Michael decided not to join us in the dress wearing, however he did scrub up nicely with a freshly trimmed beard!
We arrived and waltzed in, quickly ordering an array of brewed teas from the menu! We were then escorted into heaven! We were seriously like kids in a candy store. The food before us was to die for and incredibly decedant - not to mention scrumptious - and yes we did sample everything - there were cakes, tarts, scones, muffins and savouries! The boys who took the other tour would have thought it was 'well tidy' (sorry guys you did miss you), although there was no strawberry cheesecake for Mole!
Anyway we 'sipped' and 'stuffed' for most of the afternoon, stopping inbetween rounds for a leisurely swim and some exercise to help our tummies (now food babies) for even more cake in!
As the sun started to go down we decided to retire to the river bar for some cocktails. Continuing our posh lady theme we chose pimms - yum yum - though could have been stronger.
We were given some fancy nibbles and chilled out in peaceful bliss but not for long - little did we know that we were being spied on out of the trees - a 'blue balled' monkey jumped up on our table and with two swipes stealthily stole the nibbles and ran off - he sure was ballsy!!!
We sat with stunned giggles and wished we'd caught it on camera. in a group effort of brilliance we tried to lure the monkey back! At this stage we had no idea monkeys loved to drink as much as us - but before long another monkey joined us at the table and took a fancy to T-dog's cocktail - T-dog wasn't going to give up her delicious pimms without a fight, so proceeded to have a tug of war match with the monkey - luckily it was a lot littler than the first! T-dog stood strong and won the battle and happily escaped without any bites or scratches!
Ahhhh a day in the life of a 'posh laydee' is very hard indeed - take me back to camping anyday!!! hahah
Peace out yo
First stop is along the Kafue River, about 480km from Livingstone, where we board a boat for a river cruise, following which we set up camp in a basic camp area which the members of the local community have set up, and enjoy entertainment in the form of drumming and dancing by the village members in some rather revealing costumes.
We eat dinner and consume a few beverages on board the boat which is anchored nearby to our camp and then settle in for some drumming lessons. Sadly the weather gods have other ideas and the spectacular lightning which we have seen from afar decides to pay a visit along with bucketloads of rain. So its an enforced early night as everyone retires to their tents.
The next morning we do a dance of a different kind as we hop from foot to foot to avoid some ants which have decided to set up residence under our tents. Misson accomplished, we travel about 20 minutes down the river where the group disembark and visit a local village, where they can find out more about local Zambian life with a Tonga tribe.
On the way back to meeting the truck we get fed a hearty breakfast and then its a short trip to Lusaka (capital of Zambia) where the local markets are in full swing and we can negotiate to our heart's content.
The evening will be spent in a campsite beside a game farm, so fingers crossed for visits from the zebra, impala and giraffe that live there, but hopefully not the buffalo...
Friday, February 25, 2011
Thursday, February 24, 2011
First stop in Livingstone is a trip to see Victoria Falls, one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. The water is 30cm higher than this time last year, and the spray is visible from the road as we approach. Everyone carefully wraps their camera in plastic bags which proves a necessary precaution as all end up soaked. In high water (May-June) the water over the edge reaches an incredible 9000m3/s and though we haven't reached that figure yet, it still seems like we are in the middle of a rainstorm.
Livingstone is the second adrenaline centre of our tour, which perhaps explains why the group duly heads out for high tea at the Royal Livingstone hotel, a quick round of golf and a meal out. Some rectify this sedateness by throwing themselves off a 111m bridge attached to a thin rope later.
Livingstone marks the end of the road for some, and others are swapping trucks and heading to Jo'burg. So its goodbye to Mark, Mole, Jason, Dan, Haggis, Cho, Mun, Eunjin, George, Helen, Hamish and Tanith - we'll miss you!
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Breakfast is very welcome (pancakes and all the toppings) and then we head to town for a few hours - and a KFC - before heading out on an evening game cruise down the river. Again, we are lucky - the elephants have come down to the river to play, fight and drink and we see nile monitor lizards, buffalo (so thats four of the Big 5 seen) and mongoose.
Everyone agrees that Chobe has been exceptionally good - so much so that most call it an early night, leaving a few hardcore souls to see the night in with a very competitive cards tournament.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
We get up early ready for a transfer on the back of an open-air truck to the mokoro station where we meet our polers. (Mokoros are dugout canoes made from sausage trees, or nowerdays, fibreglass). The mokoros seat two people in a reclining position, which allows incredible temptation to sleep, which in turn, allows wonderful opportunities to suntan/ sunburn, depending on whether your pre-trip packing included suntan lotion.
Whilst in the delta, we spent the hot part of the day swimming in the safe spots that our guides have pointed out to us - swimming without taking this advice is too risky as there are lots of hippos and crocs in this area. The group uses this time productively, having mokoro races, battles (Mole got beaten by a girl half his size) and making human pyramids. Once the weather has cooled down a bit - its 40 degrees midday - we go for a sunset cruise, and end up sharing a lilypond peacefully side by side with an adult male hippo, who yawns his way into the evening.
Dinner (and all meals) are necessarily simple - we have pasta carbonara and salad - and as the night draws in, the polers light a fire and teach us traditional songs. Inspired by this some of the group decide to sing mostly tunefully into the early hours, conducted and led by Dan.
The next morning its an early start for a wilderness walk - the animals have left plenty of evidence of their presence overnight but only a few zebra were present. However, more than 2 weeks into our journey, its always nice to stretch our legs - wildlife or no wildife!
Once we have had breakfast its time to pack up, leaving the island looking exactly as we found it - completely uninhabited.
Nearly all the group choose to spend their afternoon in a 5 seater plane over the delta, and this time we see plenty of wildlife - including lion, elephant, buffalo and hippos. This was a fantastic opportunity to see the sheer size and scale of the delta, which is the largest inland delta in the world.
The evening is given over to punch night, regardless of the fact that the next morning is a distinctly early start to allow for the 600km journey to Kasane, home of Chobe National Park.
Delta tip: be prepared for anything to be seen as entertainment. Case in point: one person's chief enjoyment of the delta trip appeared to be digging the communal toilet!
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Earlier in the day we had had the opportunity to look around the city centre, though for some, the absence of internet (it was down across the whole city) was more than a little frustrating.
With one last night and one tour extension, as well as a night out of the tents (in dorms) to celebrate, the group made sure the night was memorable...
Day 12: No cook team this morning as breakfast is included, so its a well rested group that pile into the truck, ready to cross the border. First though we bump into a southbound Acacia truck (with Tony and Sammie) so have a quick stop to exchange news and views from the road. The border crossing is again uneventful, and we get to Ghanzi, our first stop in Botswana mid afternoon. On the journey though, the Botswanian wildlife lives up to its reputation and does its best to become tonight's dinner - its amazing how the sight of a truck approaching, with the horn blowing does not even merit a blink of an eye for these donkeys/ cows/ horses, let alone a step from the centre of the road where they have taken up residence. (The reason for this apparent stupidity is because the roads are unfenced and the animals are unguarded.)
Quite a few people choose to reside for the night in straw 'bushman' huts, and set up home here before heading off on a walk with a bushman tribe, which proves illuminating - these tribes live a threatened existance as increasingly they are being forced out of their homes in the Kalahari and surrounding areas, and given alternative accomodation quite unlike what they have used for the past thousands of years.
We only spend one night in Ghanzi, and tomorrow its off to Maun - our gateway to the Okavango Delta!
We were given guided tours of two townships in the Cape area, where we were greeted with friendliness and visited a local beer making business. We sampled sourdough beer in the traditional manner - fresh beer was poured into a steel bucket which we passed around the group. Definitely an acquired taste!
The townships mostly had very small houses built wall to wall, with some hostel buildings and the occasional shipping container acting as a shop. Living conditions had much improved from the apartheid era and we saw the extent of these changes when we visited a hostel. Standing in the lounge/dining area of a six bedroom hostel "house" we learned that the houses had been designed to accommodate 18 men, with three beds per room and a single toilet and shower. At one point the men's families had joined, making for about 96 people per house. Considering that the 14 of us felt cramped and a little invasive as we squashed into the lounge, conditions must have been horrendous for the families who had to live here. In response, some families built shelters beside the township boundaries, where many people still live with no running water or electricity. Directly beside these shacks the apartheid government built spacious brick houses in view of the main highway, to give foreign visitors a good impression of the townships.
When we visited the shacks a group of children welcomed us with amazing trust and enthusiasm. A small hand slipped into mine and Michael and I walked with a beaming child between us. Children were being piggy backed and flipped into the air by our other group members. Apparently young children struggle to recognise white people as individuals, so it's likely they thought we were their friends returning from an earlier visit. This probably explains their exuberance, but it was still a special experience.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Feeling smug, we make it into town the next morning in record time, leaving the best part of two days to explore the town, and get the heart racing with various adrenaline activities. Arriving in the typical Swakop fog, some pax are unsure whether their ambition to throw themselves out of a perfectly good plane from 10000 foot will be realised, but luckily the coastal clouds burn off, and the group heads out to the desert to skydive to their hearts content.
Unfortunately for some, skydiving is addictive, and more than one person has decided to blow the budget on their round-the-world trips by vowing to repeat the experience soon.
We head out to start the evenings entertainment at Napolitanas - a local restaurant famous for its game and massive portions. Nearly everyone was defeated by their dinner, which was anticipated by the restaurant as it had plenty of doggy bags available. After the dinner, it was universally agreed that the night would not be complete without a visit to a club for dancing and drinks...
Most Swakop activites have a very flexible cancellation policy, but this group is tough and despite some sore heads and minimal hours sleep, everyone duly turned up at the alloted times for their activities. Fun for the day was sandboarding (top speed of the day an impressive 74kph), quadbiking and sea kayaking with seals. We welcomed three new pax, and headed out to dinner at a local seafood restaurant before heading back to the same club/pub to close the evening.
Tip for Swakopmund: its not easy to get lost here, but if you really try you can manage it!
Day 8: Leaving the mists of Swakop behind us, we travel up the coast, looking out for shipwrecks, before reaching the Cape Cross Seal Colony, aka the stinky seals. There are 80000 resident seals here and in breeding season (December) this number increases to 210,000. This time, the babies are just beginning to show some signs of independence, much to their mother's concern. We never spent too long here due to the smell, and the group is under strict instructions not to open the windows or push-ups will be issued to the guilty party.
Trying to ignore the faint odour still clinging to our clothes (and apparently, cameras), we drive to the Spitzkoppe mountain, which was formed from magma over 100million years ago. A local guide takes everyone to see the impressive natural formations and the bushman art which is thought to have survived from 2-5000 years ago, and provided vital information between groups of what habitat and animals they should expect to encounter.
Everyone is hoping for another night under the stars, but the weather has other plans, and tents are hurriedly put up just as its getting dark. At least people have had lots of practice by now. The sunset first however is spectacular, with a double rainbow and lightning making it truly memorable.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
The blog is back baby!!
Guys my name is Lauren Lees and I am a tour leader here at Acacia, follow me here to get all the inside info over the next 110 days while myself and TJ (my dreamy driver) take a truck full of eager passengers around Africa. Over the next 3 ½ months we’ll be touring all the way to Uganda and back again! Experiencing and soaking up probably the BEST continent on earth!
Having flown in from taking a holiday back home in England it was straight to the office as we wasted no time in getting our truck together. I should probably introduce you to our truck, her name is Mara named after the Mara River which separates The Serengeti and The Masai Mara (all of our trucks are named after rivers in Africa) and she is a beasty 18 tone 224 horse power MAN. Having been worked on for 2 weeks she now looks clean and shiny and ready to rock and roll us safely around Africa over the next 20,000 Km’s. Massive thanks to the boys in the workshop for making her look so beautiful!!
After 2 days in the office sorting out all the paperwork (thank you operations team for putting up with us….and buying me a mcflurry when in need) we are ready to head to our pre departure. . . .
Tomorrow is DAY 1 and my 19 passengers will be heading straight into the depth of Cape Town visiting Langa township for the morning, drinking some of the local home made beer and having lunch at the popular Mzolis. 250Km’s later we shall be hitting Highlanders campsite near the town of Trawal where I am hoping everyone is keen for a spot of wine tasting……if we’re lucky Sparky will turn up in his kilt!!.....we can all hope!!
Shall keep you all posted but in the mean time keep groovy. xx
Thursday, February 3, 2011
This trip is a participation tour, which means that everyone gets involved with cooking, cleaning, washing up and the all-time favourite - packing. We've chosen not to run a rota except for cooking - which technically means no one ever has a day off!
With duties still a distant threat until the afternoon we pack up and leave Highlanders for the border. We follow the Oliphants wine route for a while and pass through Springbok, which features mountains where gold was mined. The drive is uneventful and we reach the South African border in good time. Some time later and we're through, all in one piece. We only have 10km to go after the border (the Orange River is the actual physical border between South Africa and Namibia) until we get to our Camp - Felix Unite.
Felix Unite is a beautiful campsite, with a much needed pool overlooking the very swollen river (we couldn't stay at our usual campsite on the South African side as its currently underwater - on the way down last time we were getting reports that the water levels of the river were rising 1m per day - so no canoeing then!)
Tip of the day: South African Rand have the same value as Namibian dollars and can be used in Namibia
Letaloi and Shashe left the workshop and headed over the border yesterday, and we will be following tomorrow, but in the meantime we're in a special South African charter vehicle for the first two days of our adventure. A sense of flexibility and willingness to adapt is definitely a bonus when it comes to overlanding, and two phrases should be kept in mind at all times - "TIA" or 'This Is Africa' and of course, Africa time!
There are 14 pax (passengers) starting from Capetown and the first stop is a highlight, as well as an eye-opener. The guys head off on a township tour, run by guides who live in one of the largest townships in the area (Langa). The tour includes a visit to local homes, community buildings and historic areas, such as the old overcrowded hostels where men used to live in appalling conditions to be close to their areas of work. On a lighter note, lunch in a local restaurant is included as well as an obligatory trip to a local bar where the guys could try the local ale (looks, smells and tastes like off milk - nice!)
I use the time during the township tour to go shopping for the fresh ingredients we need for the first couple of days of the tour - and once we're reunited, we load onto our temporary truck and start the overlanding element of the tour.
Day 1 is a nice easy drive - only 260km on sealed roads - luxury! We travel past the Cederburg Mountains, and the famous flower fields (its not the season, but still a pretty drive). Home for the night is Highlanders Campsite, with an awesome bar overlooking vineyards and mountains - a perfect setting for winetasting and sunset pictures.
Winetasting is the perfect icebreaker for a new group, and the African Ruby (the local fortified red) goes down especially well...
Before a trip starts, we (the crew) are in the office for three days, preparing the truck, making sure everything is in place and doing possibly the biggest imaginable food shop to (hopefully) set truck supplies up all the way to Uganda - 11000km and over 50 days away.
This time, we must move all our equipment from one truck to the other, not forgetting the essentials that make the truck our home on the road - photos, information sheets, and of course skeleton duty rosters - which can only be filled in once we've met the awesome people who are travelling with us for the next 11, 19, 34 or 41 days.
Tomorrow Letaloi and I will head to Makro, then off to Ashanti Greenpoint for predeparture - we'll next be in Capetown after 120 days on the road...
Overlanding must haves:
- Sense of humour and willingness to get up early!
- Sleeping bag (and check first which weight you'll need - the Namibian desert and Ngorogoro Crater in the African winter are COLD)
- Closed shoes and flip flops
- Waterproof (for rainy season)
- Torch (preferably head torch)
- Ipod or similar (audio books are a good option as you can look out of the window at the amazing scenery)
- Passport/ yellow fever certificate
- Camera, batteries, charger (plus spare memory cards, or USB sticks)
- Phone charger
- Adapters for chargers (and note - South African adapters are not part of a universal charger)
- Small padlock and key for internal lockers on truck
- Pens, paper, cards etc