A Travellerspoint blog

Africa Part One

Dear all,
It has been a while since we updated our blog due to our laptop deciding to break down! We are still to write about China but first here are our tales of Africa where we travelled overland for two months.

Our first destination was Cape Town, South Africa. Flying into the city was an incredible sight. We flew over the grand Table Mountain cradling Cape Town and the pretty coastline. It was simple taking the bus from the airport into the city and allowed us a tour of the surroundings. Our initial impression of the people of South Africa was extremely friendly and helpful, especially the hotel staff, the smiling was contagious! As we drove into the city we passed the huge slum areas. They were just awful, it's hard to imagine people live like this, no one should have to live in this state of poverty. It was quite a shock seeing this so close to both the city and airport, in a central area. 

We had a lovely week in Cape Town despite a few 'run ins' with some of the locals, we were lucky on a few occasions not to have had anything stolen, there was one incidence where we had to sprint back to our hotel away from a man. A big scary. Obviously this sort of thing can happen anywhere but when you are not in your own country- especially one where 300 people are murdered every day (not an exaggeration)- it does tend to leave you feeling out of your comfort zone! 
We spent a lot of time at the Victoria and Albert Waterfront which is a really nice and safe area. It reminded us a lot of Circular Quay in Sydney, what with the harbour, restaurants & shops. Very laid back. During our week in CT we did so many things! Went on a sunset cruise, many seals, waves & champagne! Had lovely dinners with traditional African dancing and singing groups entertaining us, the music they make is great, so upbeat! We did a hop on hop off bus tour around the city and the wine lands of Constantia & others. Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens which are one of the largest in the world, were extraordinary. We visited the District Six museum which is a tribute to an area which was inhabited by the natives, their community. During the years of apartheid the whites decided they wanted to build on this land and make it a whites only community. They evicted people from their homes and destroyed the entire district, leaving these people displaced & without a sense of belonging anywhere. Even when some were found accommodation they had lost the community they knew, subsequently leading to social & mental issues for many. The land was never actually developed, it still lies vacant to this day, as a reminder of the consequences of apartheid & a memorial for those who lived there. A fascinating piece of South Africa's history. 

One of our highlights was cage diving with the great white sharks!! We were nervous but really excited!! We were taken to Gaansbaai the 'great white capital', two hours south of Cape Town. After a short 15 minute boat trip out to sea we anchored, waiting for our fishy friends! The crew throw out chum to attract them to the boat, a cocktail of tuna, guts and fish oil, mmm. Once we spot a shark they throw a huge tuna head out as bait to bring them close to the cage.
After half an hour we got our first spotting, a medium sized white nice and close up! Considering it was low season for sharks we saw a lot, about ten or so and some really big ones. The water was very murky, in the cage you couldn't see them until they came out of nowhere bearing their teeth next to you! The cage was tiny, poor Loges was crouching! A bit claustrophobic. The water was absolutely freezing even wearing two wetsuits! The view from the boat was a lot better, you could see all of the sharks on the surface. It was creepy but cool seeing the dorsal fin coming towards you when you're inside the cage knowing all that's between you is a thin piece of metal! One shark went a bit mad and bit a finger of the man next to Logan. The shark got it's mouth through the viewing window into the cage, pretty frightening! We had to get to shore pretty quickly then. Once you see these creatures in their environment and look right into their black eyes, you find that you have a new found respect for them, they are really incredible. 

One of our favourite spots in Cape Town was Camps Bay. On the red bus tour we drove all around the coast, which is very similar to the Great Ocean Road, stunning. Camps Bay had amazing restaurants & hotels lining the shore and white sandy beaches, bliss! This is a celebrity hangout we are told. Although it was hot it was not hot enough for the five degree water! 

We had a nice sunset picnic on Signal Hill just off Table Mountain, a panoramic view over the city. We went up Table Mountain on the one day there wasn't a huge cloud covering it! We visited the castle of Good Hope and went to see the penguins at Boulders Beach. This was an interesting expedition taking the train out here to Simons Town to see them.. As a tourist it's strongly advised that you buy first class ticket, although not crash hot it sure beats the raucous that goes on in the other carriages! Peole walk up and down the aisles with instruments and sticks beating the poles, they come and beg and don't leave you alone and there were loads of kids without tickets who crept on and were going mad ANC throwing stones out the window at people! Whoa! The penguins were very nice though, we were so close to the whole colony.

After an action packed week it was time to join our tour group!
We went through eight countries on this overland trip, very exciting! We are travelling by truck, it is converted in the back with seats and tables, quite comfortable and enough space. We began the trip with 21 people then at different places we would drop people off and pick up 'new blood' as they call it! At one point our group dropped down to 9 people, it was bizaare having so many extra seats on the truck and getting organised in the mornings so much faster! 

Camping for 47 of the 54 days prover not to be as bad as expected. We really enjoyed it. We had the morning from hell with our tent only one of the days.. We were in Uganda at a lake, camping here, which didn't seem so bad until I realised whilst sipping away a drink at the bar watching the sunset, that we were not alone on this campsite... It was home to a large hippo population.. I don't know if you've seen how big hippos are before but they are HUGE. Upto 5 metres long and standing at 2ish meters with a lot if weight on them! They also happen to kill more people in Africa than any other animal, you can imagine this made me feel a tad uneasy watching them swim past the bar.. At night hippos come to feed on land and our tents were strewn all over their feeding patch! We were having dinner around the fire when  a group of hippos started wandering around our tents into the bushes! It was petrifying! Even Logan ran away! The next morning at 4 am when leaving camp not only did we have to worry about the threat of hippos but the rain was torrential! We all looked ridiculous trying to put down these tents with the wind blowing a gale too! That was definitely my least favourite moment!

We drove up from South Africa where the landscape is completely barren and the roads seem to go on forever.. We then went to Namibia where you probably would have seen pictures of the famous Dune 45 and Sossuvlei pans before. The dunes were incredible, very similar to the landscape of the red centre in Oz. The pans are white salt pans with dead trees protruding from them surrounded by red desert, quite a sight. We went to Fish River Canyon  which is the second largest canyon in the world. We had a picnic with chews and champagne here whilst watching the sunset, wow!

Next we journeyed to Swakopmund which is the 'adventure capital' of Namibia. It also has quite a claim to fame as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt own a house here! We went quad biking on the dunes which was amazing! We went on some huge dunes, a bit scary at times! We also went sandboarding which wasn't much fun in the heat having to climb back up huge dunes just to slide down them again! I chickened out of sky diving, I thought if I ever decide to do it I will do it in a country which has strict safety regulations!!!

We began to see wildlife in Namibia, we had zebras running alongside our truck and hundreds of Springbok (a type of antelope) crossing the road. Seeing the wildlife we only see in zoos soon becomes the norm! Our first game drives were in Etosha National Park, we were very lucky on the first day to see a few lions at a kill! We also saw a very rare sight of two male rhinos chasing each at full speed through the park to then have a battle in the waterhole! We were right up close putting bets on the winner! Turns out the underdog won! We saw many ugly wildebeest, giraffes, vultures and a memorable experience of following a herd of elephants to a watering hole where they were joined by another herd. There were at least 30 of them and had tiny little ones with them! Throughout our African safaris we had to keep pinching ourselves to remind us we're actually in Africa seeing these amazing creatures in the wild!

Our next country was Botswana which we especially liked. The scenery is very nice, very green with much forestry. Due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the country a few years back, they now conduct checks/ quarantine at many places on the roads. These aren't exactly effective however, basically you wipe you're feet on a mat which is so deteriorated all it does is maybe spread out any possible infection. I'm not entirely sure why they bother with this routine, most probably to get money bribes from people they 'suspect'.

We stayed at s traditional bushmans camp in grass huts that they make. We watched their traditional hunting dances by the fire and the next morning they took us out into the bush to find various roots and leaves which cure different things e.g stomach pains. It was fascinating. Even watching them converse with one another is interesting. They speak in clicks, so bizarre! They use their tongues to produce different cluck sounds. They wear almost nothing, small patches of animal skin to cover privates and that's about it. We found it ironic that one if the elders in the tribe who was happily smoking away at an unfiltered tobacco filled pipe was currently being treated with a root for poor lungs. She had been coughing up blood for a while. A great experience seeing these tribes people.

For a couple of nights we stayed in the Okavango Delta, an area of wetlands with many islands. We were basic bush camping so we were in the wild. We could hear the hippos at night near our camp, terrifying! They make a horrible grunting noise. Whilst here we went on many mokoro rides around the delta, the only mode if transport here. They are traditional dug out canoes made from the boabab tree. We did a walking safari- 3 hours in the blistering heat searching for animals. It was scary but exciting knowing that we could come across any animal including predators and we have no protection between us and them! We had strict instructions of what to do in the situation if coming face to face with a dangerous animal. For example: leopard- do not look up into the tree at it or it will jump down and scratch your eyes out. Lion- do not run or make any movement, try and take a picture if you can otherwise just wait it out until they leave. Rhinos- run in a zig zag. This was a comforting initiation speech to our walking safari. Great. Luckily we didn't have any troubles, we saw many zebras, wildebeest and giraffe up close. That night we went fir a subset cruise to the hippos playground. Sounds romantic right?! We got very close to them in our tiny canoes! It was really incredible though to be in their environment.

Our next safari was in Chobe national park. We went on a boat cruise where we saw alot of wildlife, hundreds of baboons- those horrible monkeys, a herd of elephants playing and bathing in the water and many hippos, buffalo and crocs.

Our crossing into Zambia was an eventful one, it also happened to be Friday the 13th which didn't help our luck! Half of our group plus the leader got a horrible virus and they were vomiting the entire day. Our border formalities with visas took 4 hours in the sweltering heat with locals harrassing us from every angle to buy their goods. Very distressing. We finally got to our campsite where the monkeys are extremely vicious and tried to attack everyone. Logan bought a slingshot which you didn't actually have to shoot, you just pretend and they run very quickly ! The Victoria Falls were breathtaking, one of the biggest in the world. You get absolutely drenched even from the viewing decks! Whilst in Livingstone I did a lion walk with two young lions, you can pat them and walk alongside them. It was surreal being in contact with these predators. An organization has setup this activity in order to protect the lions in a conservation area. They have contact with humans when they are young and as they get older the contact becomes less frequent until it ceases completely and they are monitored in a Park to hunt for themselves. They are aiming to encourage breeding and to protect the lions.

The next part of our trip was in eastern Africa, more of the 'real' Africa. This includes; less hot water, unreliable power, awful roads, poorer and more corruption= bribes at almost every police check for no real reason.

Posted by cdiblmull 07:29

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