We left Cape Town in May 2007 and sailed via St Helena and the Azores to Belgium (Jan’s home country). We sailed our beloved Boa Esperanza in 60 something days to Nieuwpoort, a Belgian coastal town. We unexpectedly had to sell the boat (a very looong story you can read in the diary…) and cycled back to Cape Town via Africa. We recently arrived back in Cape Town.
This is our story:
Finally after a difficult couple of months our flight from Brussels to Cairo has been booked for 6am (ouch!) Sunday morning, 4/11/07, the day before my birthday!
As mentioned it has been a difficult couple of months what with being co-erced into selling the boat and no longer being part of the trip to the Antarctic as planned, but that has ended up being a good thing as we have been able to spend time in Belgium with Jan’s family during which time his mum lost her long battle with cancer; she passed away on the 10th October 2007…
But now it is time to move on to another adventure.
Cairo to Cape Town with folding bicycles – I wonder if it’s been done before?
We have just read of a girl travelling from Cairo to Cape Town with a tractor (we’d like to meet her!) and of another guy cycling from Brussels to the Congo, but we haven’t read anything anywhere of anyone attempting this trip with folding bicycles… We think it’s a great idea; we’ll be independent but also flexible enough to use public transport where necessary. The bikes do fold to a sort of holdall size so they will be much easier to transport than a normal bicycle – let’s just hope they are sturdy enough to cope with Africa!!!
We had a slight delay in Cairo (Jan had another puncture plus we needed to change some money as we suddenly remembered that Friday & Saturday is the weekend here!!), but we spent the time exploring Giza and the next village to Harriniya where we were staying at 'Salma Camping'.
We also met Sabrie, and were invited for tea…
We finally left on Friday morning and cycled the +/-30km to the Dashur Pyramids – the first time cycling with our full packs!
The Red Pyramid and the Bent pyramid, absolutely stunning! We were even able to go into the Red Pyramid, quite a spooky experience as it was not very busy and very dark – I was glad the lights were working!
These pyramids are much better than the pyramids at Giza – a bit more off the beaten track and not so busy!!!
We carried on cycling towards Beni Suef, a town +/-120km south of Cairo. Saw a bottle store in one of the small villages we passed so stopped to enjoy a cold 'Stella'.
More cycling, but after about 70km we still had 50km to go – we were getting tired now so we decided to hitch a lift. Three lifts later ad we arrived in Beni Suef!
We checked into the Semiramis Hotel which was once very glamorous but not so now! Before checking out the town Jan took a (cold) shower – Egyptian plumbing!! In the morning the water was too hot for me to take a shower!!!
We found the town to be very busy but very friendly. We ate kushari again (a delicious filling meal of pasta, rice, noodles, lentils and tomato sauce all for less than R10 for 2!) before having a couple of beers in our hotel.
Saturday morning and we went to catch the train to Minia, a town another +/-100 km south. Strange that we walked around the town the previous evening unescorted but we needed a police escort to walk the 100m to the train station from our hotel!!
In Egypt they are a bit paranoid about independent tourists after the terrorist attacks +/-10 years ago and have special 'tourist police' everywhere…
We caught the 10am local train, and were a source of curiosity to the locals! We were soon 'adopted' by our fellow travelers who saw that we weren't hassled too much and made sure we got off at the right station – everyone is just so friendly!
Exiting the station in Minia we were stopped by the 'tourist police' who wanted to know where we were staying. We told them some hotel in the book which seemed to satisfy them and then we were left alone to go and find the 'house-boat' that we had read about.
Dahabia House-boat – what a stunning place to stay! Stunning small, clean rooms right on the Nile!
We met Violet (Hungarian) & husband, Kamal (Egyptian) a fantastic couple who live in Minia/Australia/Hungary and who invited us to their apartment for coffee/tea. We ended up spending a great afternoon with them!!
Everywhere we go we are meeting such nice, friendly people!
We were only planning to stay 1 night in Minia, but the house-boat is so nice and Minia is such a nice town (not too touristy) that we have decided to stay another night...
We have bought train tickets to Luxor, leaving at lunchtime tomorrow…
Our last day in Egypt after a busy few days in Luxor and Aswan.
We had a great time in Luxor; we found a cheap hotel with amazingly helpful and friendly staff, the New Everest Hotel. We celebrated Jan's birthday in Luxor, I took him to a restaurant for dinner (instead of our usual fare) where we enjoyed a nice meal and a bottle of good Egyptian wine before heading back to the hotel where the guys had organized a surprise birthday cake for Jan complete with candles!!!
We enjoyed the sights of Luxor Temple one day, Karnak Temple another day (absolutely awe inspiring!) before crossing over to the other side of the Nile to explore the Valley of the Kings by bicycle plus the Temple of Hatshepsut. Everything is absolutely amazing and to think that these places are more than 3000 years old, it just blows your mind!!!
Friday we said our farewells to the guys and headed off to Aswan by train… the public transport system here is amazing – South Africa could take some lessons!!!
Aswan has a more beautiful setting on the Nile than Luxor but not as much to see without traveling out of town. We spent our days here relaxing, we took the ferry to Elephantine island and today tried to cycle a circular route around the dams but were stopped by police as bicycles are not allowed to cross the Aswan dam??? OK for buses, taxis, cars, trucks and motorbikes but no bicycles…!!! Luckily we checked this out as it was the route we were going to take tomorrow to catch the ferry to Wadi Halfa, Sudan. Never mind, we found another way so that's how we'll go tomorrow…
The end of our trip through Egypt. I must say we have found everyone to extremely friendly, although Luxor and Aswan have become a bit tiring as they are very touristy and you do get constantly hassled to spend money… but our over all impression of Egypt has been good.
As mentioned tomorrow we are off to Sudan – let's see what the next leg has in store for us…
Well what a couple of weeks we have had...!!
We are now in Khartoum in Sudan and we have had quite an adventure to get here...
We caught the ferry from Aswan on the 19th November; we arrived in plenty of time (we had been told to be there by 10am) and secured our spot under one of the lifeboats as recommended by our guide book; then we waited as the ferry was loaded with more and more people and stuff – TVs, washing machines, food-mixers, boxes of tomatoes and all sorts of crazy stuff. Every inch of the ferry was packed – we have never seen anything like it!!
The whole day we sat watching as more and more trucks arrived piled at least 3 metres higher than they should be loaded – unbelievable! 2pm and the loading was still going on. More and more trucks arrived; we watched in disbelief as they managed to get everything on including the hundreds of plastic chairs…
Just as light was fading, around 5:30pm, the ferry finally left. As mentioned every inch of the ferry was packed – luckily we had our spot, we were sort of fenced in by a railing which secured us a bit of 'privacy' which we guarded as passers-by looked on jealously. We were able to roll out our sleeping mats and sleeping bags and had enough space to stretch out and get a pretty good night's sleep under the stars.
We arrived in Wadi Halfa around lunchtime the next day, but by the time all the paperwork was done it was nearly 4pm by the time we were allowed to get off the boat. We were helped by Star, a Sudanese guy we met on the boat, to quickly get through customs before cycling the 2km to the 'town'.
We, like the few other westerners on the ferry, went and found a 'hotel' to stay in (funny how most of us ended up in the same one of about five hotels in the town) before deciding our next move.
Our plan was to catch a bus and follow the Nile down to Khartoum – there was no way we could cycle from Wadi Halfa as it is surrounded by desert!
After checking out the 'buses' (which are basically open-sided trucks with some seating welded in the back) we decided to take up the offer of a lift through the desert with the American group of young 'missionaries' from an organization called 'Overland Missions', who were traveling with 2 fully equipped overland trucks on their way to their base in Zambia from Holland…
…this entailed having to wait in Wadi Halfa for the vehicles which were being transported separately on a barge from Aswan.
There was quite a group waiting – the 8 Americans (plus 1 Canadian and a South African) in the one group, a Dutch couple driving a camper van, an Austrian couple with a baby, another Austrian guy plus 3 Spaniards with their motorbikes and then us and a German guy, Toby, who was also getting a lift…
The barge was supposed to arrive the next day (Wednesday), but actually only arrived on Friday, but then couldn't be unloaded as Friday is Sunday here. Finally the vehicles were unloaded on Saturday morning…
We actually had a good time in Wadi Halfa; apart from having to register with the police on arrival there wasn't much to do, but we kept ourselves entertained…
There was a reasonable 'restaurant' in the dusty square which we think served as the centre of town and at night the TV was hauled out for the locals to watch and WWF (American wrestling) drew quite a crowd!
Driving through the desert proved to be quite an experience.
We finally left Saturday afternoon, the two trucks plus the Austrian family with their 2-wheel drive old Mercedes van (Michael really wanted to travel through the desert).
We only made 10km in the 2 hours before sunset as the Merc kept getting stuck in the sand which was great fun on the first day… There is no actual road through the desert, you just have to follow the railway line and hope for the best!
Camping in the desert is amazing – the sunsets are stunning plus our timing was great as it was full moon.
We were lucky to meet a great bunch of people who we got on well with and who went out of their way to look after us. Melanie cooked up a storm and even made sure there was something vegetarian to eat for Jan & I – thanks Melanie!!
The trucks were well equipped and of course were able to carry charcoal (no wood in Wadi Halfa) so we were able to have a fire in the evenings – it was pretty cold in the desert as soon as the sun had gone down!
Everyone laughed at our small tent but we were very comfortable and snug.
The next day saw us continue but after 4 hours and only about 20km covered it soon became clear that Michael, Stephanie and baby Maria would have to turn back. We put their old Merc on the actual railway track and waved them goodbye – they had plenty of water, fuel and food and if they stayed on the track should have been back in Wadi Halfa within a few hours… we hope to see them again soon.
After we said goodbye we were able to make much better progress, but even the 4x4 trucks were getting stuck – we eventually also got onto the tracks and made better time.
600km and another day later we finally made it to Abu Hamid where the paved road to Khartoum began. There is so much development going on in Sudan with new roads and buildings going up everywhere…they really have ambitious plans!
Finally another day later and we arrived in Khartoum (after letting Toby out at the pyramids of Meroe).
We camped at the 'Blue Nile Sailing Club' an oasis in the city, where Toby found us about 1/2 an hour after we arrived! He wandered around the pyramids before catching a bus…
The next day we had to register in Khartoum. The beaurocracy in Sudan can be enough to spoil your time here; you need a visa to be here ($100) then you have to register within 3 days of arrival and then you need to register and get a 'blue sticker' in Khartoum (a total of another $50!) – they don't make it easy for tourists which is a shame as the actual people here are generally amazingly friendly and helpful, whereas the officials are generally unfriendly and unhelpful and are constantly changing the rules.
The American group left to continue their journey yesterday, after being unable to register and get their 'blue sticker' – we hope they don't have problems at the border…
We have been having a great time in Khartoum – who said Sudan is a 'dry' country…???
We have been enjoying the hospitality of the Sudanese and Mohammed from the Blue Nile Club has really been looking after us. We enjoyed a moonlit boat ride up the Blue Nile with him and some friends the night of our anniversary but that's another story we will tell you one day!!!
Tomorrow we plan to leave Khartoum and head for the border and our next country, Ethiopia…
Thursday 6th December 2007
We left Khartoum a few days ago. We cycled along the road in the direction of the Ethiopian border for a couple of hours; the road was very busy and it started getting really hot – it may be winter in Sudan but temperatures were hitting the high 30’s and even up to 40 degrees…!
We hitched a ride with a truck driver who didn’t have any fuel or any money to buy fuel, which we found out after about an hour… He asked us for some money, but indicated (he didn’t speak much English and we obviously don’t speak Arabic apart from a few words…) that when we got to the next town he would be able to get fuel and money while waving a kind of voucher at us.
We gave him the last of our Sudanese money which he said would be enough to get us to Wadi Medina and we sat there as we drove along wondering if that was the last we would see of that money…
Well we made it to the next town and somehow or other our driver got a full tank of fuel and some cash with his ‘voucher’ and he promptly paid us back!!!
I must say the Sudanese have proved to be extremely generous and honorable people…
We eventually got dropped off in the town Gedaref before waving goodbye to our mate who was on his way to Port Sudan.
We overnighted in the cricket infested town of Gederef before starting to cycle the 155 km to the border.
After another couple of hours cycling Jan had a flat tyre – we were picked up by the police who took us to their ‘hq’ and some shade for Jan to make the repair. We also had tea with the captain and a security police officer who were extremely friendly but we were now thinking that at this rate we will never make it to the border…
Three truck rides later we finally arrive in the Ethiopian town of Gonder. Wow what a difference in scenery – almost immediately after you cross the border the landscape changes from very flat featureless land to a mountainous landscape as you climb higher and higher. Ethiopia is really beautiful (or the little bit we have seen so far…).
We checked into a hotel and went for a walk in town. We arrived in the dark so it was very difficult to get orientated but we found a bar (very important as we have been without a beer since Egypt!) and we bump into our German friend Toby!! Obviously a few beers were consumed before bed…
By daylight Gonder is amazing – try and search for it on Google. 17th century castles are the order of the day – you really don’t associate castles with Africa but Gonder is a really stunning place…
We are planning to leave tomorrow, but are still deciding whether to go North or South. Find out on the next update….
Wednesday 19th December
Apologies for the delayed update – good internet connections are not
always easy to find on the road…
What a lot has happened and many miles traveled since our last update.
There is so much to see and do in Ethiopia, one month isn’t nearly
enough and choices have to be made…
We stayed an extra couple of days in Gondar – one to meet a Belgian
couple who we had heard about and another as Jan was not well (just a
cold but coughing and sneezing a lot; not good to travel with…!)
Lea and Jacob are an amazing couple who were traveling through Africa
by bicycle; they got to Gondar and stayed to work with a local charity
organization to help street children – check out their web-site and
the work they do at www.fietsenvoorendoorafrika.be or
We decided to travel North from Gondar to the Simien Mountains that we
kept hearing were so beautiful…
We left Gondar by bicycle and headed off into the mountains; after
cycling for +/- 2 hours (and all uphill) we stuck our thumb out at the
next truck that passed. It stopped and we spent the next 4 hours
sitting on top of the truck slowly traveling higher and higher. It’s
only 100 km to the town of Debark but the road is so bad and steep it
took nearly the whole day to get there!
Overnight in Debark where it was freezing cold at nearly 3000m.
The next day (Sunday) and we were up early to carry on. What amazing
scenery, the Simien Mountains certainly lived up to their reputation;
absolutely stunning, breath-taking scenery around every corner! A
bakkie stopped to offer us a ride but we were enjoying ourselves too
much to accept…
Downhill along rough roads for about 20 km; but of course after every
downhill an uphill begins…
By 3pm I was absolutely finished. Uphill, downhill, I just couldn’t
anymore. Uphill I had no power in my legs and downhill my arms were
finished from breaking over the rough terrain. It was Sunday and there
had not been much traffic – the little traffic we had stopped had all
demanded money for giving us a ride…
We stopped at the roadside and made lentil soup before carrying on
until we reached the bottom of a valley where there was a river. We
went off the road and made a camp – beautiful and we were alone
almost! (You are never alone in Ethiopia…)
A small boy came up to us; against our better judgment we gave him a
pen and indicated that he must be quiet about us being there – maybe
it worked as we were left undisturbed for a peaceful nights sleep…!!!
We still had +/-250km to go before reaching our destination of Aksum.
First light and we were back on the road; lady luck was with us again
as the first vehicle stopped to give us a lift to the next town of Adi
We cycled further, with the accompanying kids running alongside that
you get everywhere.
Another truck stopped and we negotiated a good price to get us nearly
to Aksum. Again beautiful scenery; more mountains and huge plateaus…
people farming and livestock everywhere.
After another full days traveling we eventually arrived.
Our plan was to spend a couple of days in Aksum before heading off to
see some rock churches +/-150 km further before returning to Aksum to
fly down to Bahir Dar to spend a couple of days relaxing by Lake Tana…
We saw the historical sights of the stelae fields and tombs in Aksum,
but then it was my turn to be sick for a day.
We also enjoyed an evening with a bunch of students being asked the
most bizarre questions but that’s another story…
We had to cancel the trip to visit the rock churches, but then we flew
‘Ethiopian Airlines’ to the lake…
We cycled into the town of Bahir Dar and checked into the Ghion Hotel
where we knew we could camp… Guess who we find there – the Austrian
couple from Sudan, Michael and Stefanie with their daughter! Not only
them but the SA couple we had met in Cairo were there too now
traveling with an English couple on their old Triumph!
We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening catching up with
A couple of days by the lake watching pelicans, fish eagles and
numerous other birds before heading off to Addis Ababa where we are now.
Again an interesting couple of days to get here but we’ll tell you all
the stories when we see you…
We are enjoying the good food in Addis and are planning to head south
in a day or two.
Hopefully the next update won’t take so long…!!!
Firstly Merry Christmas to everyone!!
Christmas is not celebrated at this time of year in Ethiopia – it is a different calendar here and it is now April 2000 and they have just celebrated the millennium; there are still lots of banners and signs everywhere you go… I won’t even get started on the time here as in Ethiopia they also use a different clock system – the only thing that is the same is the day of the week!!
We enjoyed our couple of days in Addis even if most of the hotels (even those recommended in Lonely Planet) seem to double up as brothels!!! We stayed in a government run hotel, the Itegue Taitu Hotel, which was probably very beautiful in its former glory, but now falling apart - but at least they weren’t trying to rent your room by the hour during the day!
Addis is a dusty, sprawling city but extremely safe to walk around. We enjoyed the Ethnological museum and would have liked to enjoy the public parks but they always seemed to be closed!
The Hilton hotel proved to be a good place for a beer beside the pool, but we didn’t get to sample the restaurant as Jan was wearing shorts… Never mind, back to the hotel to change and off we went to Castelli’s and treated ourselves to a stunning meal in the best Italian restaurant in Ethiopia!!! Expensive but well worth it – the fettuccini with truffle sauce was absolutely delicious!
Addis also seems to be a meeting point for all the travelers on the road. We bumped into so many people that we have met at various places in Ethiopia…
A couple of days before Christmas we left for Awasa – a much as we enjoyed Addis we didn’t fancy being in the city for Christmas, relaxing by Lake Awasa sounded much more our style…
We got up and had breakfast at the hotel before getting on the road by 9am, but it was 11am by the time we actually left Addis as we had to stop for a chat with people we ‘know’… Cycling out of Addis was pretty hectic with lots of traffic and road-works to contend with.
Once out of the city the cycling was pretty easy – no mountains and tarred road!!! Addis Ababa really seems to be the dividing point between the mountainous highlands of the North and the lowlands of the South.
We were enjoying the cycling so much we decided to cycle the +/- 80km to the town of Mojo 200km before Awasa (we had a couple of days before Christmas).
We arrived in Mojo around 5pm – thankfully as my backside was in agony; but reason enough to celebrate as this was the first day that we have started and finished a days cycling and reached our planned destination!!!
The next morning and back to hitching the next 200km to Awasa. We made Awasa by lunchtime where we checked into the Adenium campsite and guesthouse run by a German lady and her Ethiopian husband which will unfortunately be closing soon due to their return to Germany… It was a great choice to spend a few days relaxing; the place is a small oasis with a beautiful garden full of birds. Clean toilets and hot water, what luxury!
We were not the only people – the SA couple Charles & Renchie, the English couple, Clive & Denise with their Triumph and Toby were all here… We all spent Christmas Eve together; we all put on our (only) clean shirts (reserved for such occasions!) and then enjoyed a 3 course meal as prepared by Jana the lady who runs the place. Local wine and beer were consumed and we had a great evening. Midnight to bed – that’s really late for us!!!
The following morning we waved goodbye to the 3 motorbikes with ideas to meet again in Nairobi… Jan & I spent the day having a nice long walk along the lakeside where we saw monkeys, fish eagles, marabou storks, pied and malachite kingfishers, plovers, ducks and countless other birds we don’t know – really beautiful.
Many local people were also relaxing and enjoying the lake, fishing, swimming, washing clothes and themselves. We were soon joined by a group of small schoolboys who were laughing and joking about walking with the ‘faranjis’ but who were a real pleasure and didn’t ask us for money!!!
Christmas dinner and as it was now Jan, myself and Toby we decided to cook. The guys went and did the shopping an I prepared the meal with the limited ingredients available – split pea, fresh tomato and rosemary soup to start, penne with a mushroom & fresh tomato in a white (cream) sauce, and fresh fruit salad of pineapple, mango & banana for dessert which we all really enjoyed!
Our visa for Ethiopia runs out soon so now it is time to start thinking about heading for the border… We have really enjoyed the country despite it being quite hard traveling. The country itself is absolutely stunning but the infrastructure has a long way to go yet, plus the begging has sometimes been tiring; over all we have found the people to be friendly.
The next couple of days we plan to head for Moyale, and then to Nairobi before heading for the coast which we are both looking forward to – it’s been a very dry and dusty couple of months…!!!
Wednesday 2nd January 2008
Happy New Year!!!
We finally made it to Nairobi amongst the rioting of the elections (good timing on our part) and after 4 days of hard traveling.
We left Awasa on the 27th December, heading for the border +/-500 km away...
We had a really relaxed time in Awasa and I started to think that maybe we were being too hasty just heading straight for the border; we still had a few days left on our visa , maybe we should take our time and see a bit more... Well we started cycling and the landscape changed again – a lush green almost tropical landscape with fresh pineapples and bananas growing everywhere, really beautiful; but unfortunately there were more villages and as soon as the people see you the 'yoo, yoo yoo-ing' started again, but now even from the adults and not just the kids!!! That was enough to change my mind... We don't know where it comes from but the people become almost hysterical when they see you and it becomes extremely tiring...
The first day out of Awasa, and two truck rides later we made it to the small town of Agra Miryham where we overnighted in a small hotel which turned out to be another truck-driver brothel stop; we didn't get much sleep especially when a fight broke out at about 2am!!!
The next morning we were up and on the road by 6am to try and get a ride the next 300km...
We cycled out of the town and continued cycling; there was no traffic.
The first truck that passed us a few hours later stopped and gave us a lift but he only went +/- 60km and dropped us off in the middle of nowhere, 40km away from the next town of Yabelo.
The landscape had changed again, flattening out more and becoming more bush-like. We cycled on and saw camels as well as the cattle and goats. There were less villages and fewer people, and the people we did see were more traditionally dressed, especially the women in their bright sarongs and distinctive braided hairstyles.
We reached the town of Yabelo by lunchtime, where we decided to wait for either a bus or try and get a lift to the border, still 200km away. We waited, but the little traffic there was either headed into town or was going back the way we have come...
We cycle down the road and wait.
We cycle back to the town and wait.
Jan asks every vehicle, but no-one is going as far as Moyale. We ask a bus, he first wants 35 birrh for the journey which 5 minutes later turns into 200 birrh.... later we find out he isn't even going to Moyale.
Just as we were about to give up for the day and find a hotel we find a truck that is going all the way – and will take us for 80 birrh; hooray!!!
We sat on top of the grain sacks and watched the landscape change again. Accacia trees and termite mounds now becoming familiar, the earth the colour of red ochre.
It grew dark and we bundled down trying to keep out of the cold wind.
Eventually after 5 hours we arrive in Moyale – I can't figure out why in Ethiopia that it always takes truck drivers at least 2 hours to cover 100km whether the road is good or bad...???
After a good nights sleep we get up to cross the border to Kenya – we find out that the Kenyan side opens a 6:30am but the Ethiopian side only opens a 9am...
We also find out that due to elections in Kenya there has been no buses for the last few days... We have to catch a bus to Nairobi as the 500km stretch of road from the border to the town of Isiole is the worst part of our journey through inhospitable volcanic plains that will be impossible to cycle!
Somebody else speaks to us and tells us there is a bus today leaving at 9:30am, it is now 8:30am. We go to the Ethiopian immigration, there is somebody there so we explain that we have to catch the bus and could he please stamp our passports. 'That is not procedure' he replies, so we took a chance and just cycled through with him shouting after us that he 'won't stamp our passports if we come back'! Luckily the Kenyan side is more relaxed and they give us our visa and off we go to catch our bus....
This has to be the worst and longest bus ride I have ever taken in my life...!!!
We finally left Moyale at 10am (after police passport/ID checks – there has been some banditry on this road...).
Moyale – Marsabit – Isioli, more than 500km of relentless bone shattering, teeth clenching, headache inducing, shuddering dirt road that just doesn't stop. There are no better parts or worse parts, it is all really BAD!!! Unbelievably bad!!!
18 hours later we finally reach Isioli at 4am only to find that the bus driver is refusing to drive into Nairobi because there are riots because of the election results!!!
We change to another bus that is only supposed to leave at 6:30am. After much arguing and discussion amongst the drivers and the 'ticket official' with people getting on and off the bus we finally leave at 9am..
..and arrive in Nairobi around lunchtime where we got dropped off in some dodgy back street, crowded with people all wanting to 'help'.
We grabbed a taxi and got taken to the sanctuary of the Jungle Junction, off into the relative calm of the suburbs.
A really great place to stay and full of other overlanders. We meet Toby there, plus one of the Spanish guys from the ferry in Wadi Halfa. We also meet a great English couple who have traveled with the SA and other English couple with their motorbikes.
We can hear gun shots and shouting around us but we are safe where we are.
We spent a great New Year's Eve, a braai, in the grounds with a nice fire and good company.
New Year's Day and things seem to have calmed down – there are more shops open and the atmosphere is generally more relaxed.
Jan treated us to lunch in a fancy hotel with a bottle of crisp, dry white wine that I have been pining for...!! And we spent the rest of the afternoon by the hotel pool which I think we are planning to do today too!!
Tomorrow we hope to go to Mombasa and the coast before heading off to Tanzania...
This week finds us relaxing on the coast of Tanzania at Peponi Beach Resort; we were planning to stay here a couple of days and now its day 5!!!
Beautiful palmed fringed beach, excellent camping right on the beach underneath a palm shelter. Facilities include full bar, restaurant, e-mail & deli, oh and I think I forgot to mention the swimming pool and warm sea...!!!
But paradise is what we needed after things got pretty bad in Nairobi...
We were planning to leave for Mombasa straight after New Year but things were not back to normal in Kenya with shops closed and no public transport running...
The day after New Year we spent another day at the hotel pool and the next we visited the David Sheldrick Trust, an organization that rehabilitates baby orphaned elephants. At the site just outside Nairobi they had 5 babies under the age of 2 years with which we were encouraged to mingle. You cannot believe the experience of having a baby elephant sucking on your hand!!! For more info about the organization and the fantastic work they do you can go to www.sheldrickwidlifetrust.org – we will definitely be adopting an elephant when we get back!
This was the day the opposition was to hold a protest about the election results in the city. As mentioned things got pretty bad suffice to say that’s a story we will tell you when we see you...
The next day things seemed quieter in the morning so we took the decision to get out of Kenya. Pete & Gill, the English couple we had met, offered to give us a ride in their 4x4 juts to get us out of town which we gratefully accepted. We were planning to head to Mombasa and to follow the coast to Tanzania but we had heard that things were unstable there too, so we changed our plans and headed for the closest border, Namanga, +/-150 km away.
A couple of truck rides later and we arrived at the border around lunchtime.
This is Masai territory, and believe me they are indeed impressive people in their traditional wear and beaded jewelry.
The town of Namanga seemed nice enough with a couple of camping spots, but we decided to press on. Closer to the actual border is where the hassle starts – as soon as we were out of the vehicle we were surrounded by Masai woman all trying to sell us some beaded jewelry... I must say their approach was different trying to tell us ‘no money, it’s a gift’ as they put bracelets on your arm & until you try and walk away...
We didn’t hang around and crossed the border into Tanzania, with a view of the clouds where Kilimanjaro is supposed to be!
It was extremely hot; we had no water and no Tanzanian shillings with us. Plus there is no town on the Tanzanian side of the border so nowhere to change money, except for the hustlers, who of course give you a really bad exchange rate...
We cycled a bit further before stopping under the shade of a tree to wait for a lift. This is supposed to be a very busy border (open 24 hours) but because of the Kenyan election problems things were very quiet.
After about ½ an hour a car passed, and the lady stopped. This is where the folding bikes again come into their own – she looked dubiously at the bikes, but Jan showed her how they fold and we were able to get both bikes in her boot before we went off to Arusha (a very fast lady driver who wasn’t ‘very good at bumps’!!!).
We camped at the Masai Camp, which we wont recommend, as their were 4 overland trucks in and it was extremely noisy with the ‘disco’ going on until 2am (we must be getting old...!!!)
The next morning we were going to try and reach the coast. We started cycling and it was so nice we carried on cycling the 80km to Moshi, the town on the slopes of Kili – a strange feeling to be hear again after I climbed Kili almost 3 years ago to the month if not the day!! I hadn’t expected to be here again!!!
The landscape as we cycled past Mount Meru was absolutely stunning, so lush and green; and what a pleasure to be cycling without the ‘yoo, yoo, yooing’ of the Ethiopians!!! The Tanzanian people are so friendly and are happy enough to wave at these two crazy Muzungu’s.
We spent the night at the Honeybadger Campsite where after dinner we met the owner, Mama Lucy, a very impressive lady with a great sense of humour and strong opinions of the world and African politics!!!
The next day it was time for the coast and we set off early to hitch a ride. Two bakkie rides and a tour of the town of Tanga later we had arrived!!
What a nice feeling to see the ocean again – it’s been a very dusty 2 months!!!
Tanga even has a yacht club which we had to check out – not many boats but what a stunning club house. It puts all or most of the SA clubs to shame! No actual marina, just swing moorings, but with a clubhouse terrace overlooking the water and steps down to a sandy beach.
We spent 2 nights in Tanga, basically taking a day to do some shopping and draw some money as we knew Peponi and Panagani have no banks!!! What a pleasure to have ATM’s again after so long...
The rest is as we say history – we cycled the 30km to Peponi beach from Tanga but haven’t actually made it to Pangani yet where we plan to catch a dhow to Zanzibar...
OK, so plans changed again….
We were planning to try and catch a dhow from Pangani, but we met Stuart & Natalie at Peponi Beach, who also spent time traveling with Pete & Gill plus all the bikers. They offered us a lift to Dar Es Salaam which we couldn’t refuse! The thing is if we didn’t get a dhow in Pangani we would have been pretty stuck as Pangani is at the end of a dirt road, 50km from Tanga, and 60km from the nearest main road…!!! After Ethiopia we have really had enough of cycling on dirt roads…
We arrived in Dar Es Salaam without incident, except for the maniacal bus drivers here in Tanzania, who all seem to be Muslim and obviously arrive at their destination ‘inshallah’!
We all agreed on a campsite as recommended by Lonely Planet just on the North coast of Dar. We arrived at the Silver Sands Hotel & Camping we all agreed straight away that it was definitely only a ‘one nighter’! It was extremely run down and not particularly friendly – the bar was pretty shocking and we didn’t even want to risk the ‘restaurant’.
We were all pretty hungry by this time but we were +/-25km away from the city and it had been a long day in the landrover – Stuart organized a taxi and we headed off to the nearest hotel resort where we were surprised by a very up-market, bling-bling hotel (7 pools, 3 restaurants, etc); we enjoyed a great meal with a bottle of SA wine and at a fairly reasonable price!
The next day saw us go our separate ways; Stuart & Natalie had things to do in town but we hope to see them for a beer again soon!
We had our own agenda – Jan had been on the ‘couch-surfing’ web-site where you can hook up with people in various destinations and find somewhere to stay for free. There was a guy who was supposed to be in Dar Es Salaam, but it turned out he was in Morogoro nearly 200 km away! It was worth a try…
We cycled into town and went to check out the yacht club – maybe someone is sailing across to Zanzibar in the next couple of days? No such luck, but we did meet a SA guy who had met Jan on St Helena 4 years previously!
We enjoyed a couple of beers with him before it was time to head off and find somewhere to camp. We had read of a place in LP on the South coast of Dar and hoped it would be better than the previous recommendation!
We cycled round the peninsula by the coast passing through a stunning area that was full of huge houses with enormous gardens that were all the residences of various consulates – what do you have to do to get their job???
We then had to catch a small, ramshackle, crowded ferry to cross to the south coast where you were immediately out of the city and into a more rural or traditional area. We also saw a Swiss couple also waiting for the ferry who we had met in Arusha - they recommended the camping next to the place we were planning to go to…
Sunrise Beach resort was stunning with a beautiful beach in the bay with views over small islands; stunning white powdery sand and clear blue sea without the tidal differential that we had at Peponi. Camping right on the beach. Bliss.
We hadn’t really thought about how long we were going to stay, but it turned into 4 nights…!!
The first day we did nothing except relax, read & swim…
The next day we ventured into the city to check out tickets for the ferry to Zanzibar, to try and organize a gas canister, internet, etc…
We took the ferry again, but this time Jan caught a thief. The guy standing next to him tried to pickpocket our camera!!! Well Jan shouted at the guy (got the camera from him!) and made a scene; a crewmember from the ferry grabbed the guy and asked Jan if he wanted to go to the police – we said yes. As the ferry docked the thief was frog-marched off the boat – he started to struggle which drew a crowd and other guys grabbed him and he was forcibly frog-marched to the police station while other people jumped in to give him a good smack.
Once at the police station he was taken inside – Jan followed while I took care of the bikes.
The thief got quite a beating from a police mama & another policeman. We were asked if we wanted to press charges but as we are only tourists we thought the beating was probably enough…
Afterwards we checked out the ferry ($20 per person on the slow ferry + bikes for free); the rest was pretty unsuccessful…
Back at Sunrise Beach we decided it was enough excitement for one day and we will go to Zanzibar the next…
Zanzibar – wow! Stone Town is stunning – all narrow streets with beautifully carved wooden doors that you get completely lost in. We spent a couple of days in Stone Town with a couple of local guys, Allan & James (who we found off the ‘couchsurfing’ web-site) who really looked after us and helped us out a lot as Zanzibar is quite expensive...
We then headed to the beach, Nungwi, 60km to the NW of Stone Town. Absolutely stunning – a beach that is as good a beach that you will find on any picture-postcard!!!
Aah, a few days in paradise…
Reluctantly we dragged ourselves away from Zanzibar – time to move on and there are still so many new places to discover…
After cycling the 60km back to Stonetown we had a beer with James & Allen before catching the night ferry back to Dar Es Salaam. They showed the Africa’s Cup Football on the ferry so we were able to watch Bafana Bafana draw their second match…
6am we arrived in Dar – we disembarked, put our bikes together and we started cycling out of the city, we are now heading for Malawi, but first destination Morogoro or Mikume. The road goes through a national park just before Mikume and our idea was to stay just this side of the park and cycle trough the park in the morning…
After cycling about 20km outside Dar we got a lift with a truck that was going all the way to the Congo via Zambia and so could take us all the way to Mikume. Great!
We reached this side of the park but unbelievably there were no camp sites or lodges. As it was already around 4pm and it was 50km to cycle through the park we carried on with the ride in the truck through the park to the other side where we knew of a couple of places to stay… Lots of game viewed from the truck including elephants, giraffe, zebra and buck…
Later we heard that there is quite a large lion population in the park so maybe it was a good that we didn’t cycle!!
Overnight at the Tan Swiss Motel where we camped in the garden. One oversight – we had forgotten to draw money in Dar this morning and the nearest bank to Mikume was in Morogoro, 120km back!! Luckily we had enough money for camping fees, but not for dinner in the restaurant. Jan cycled into the village and found some veggies to make a salad and we still had enough money left over for a beer each.
Travelling in Africa cash is king as not many places accept credit cards…!!!
The next day and back on the road; today we made it to Iringa with another truck travelling to the Congo.
Iringa, and the rain started…
We stayed at a lovely campsite, Riverside Camping, which had a beautiful setting but it rained and rained… We were only planning to stay one night but everything was soaked so we stayed a second… That day it rained the whole day. We sat in the lounge area ad read and caught up on some writing and watched the rain… At one stage I went to check the tent and the whole camp site was under a couple of centimetres of water -the tent was still dry (we had camped underneath a shelter) but for how much longer???
Luckily the rain eased off and the bulk of the water drained away. Sometime in the second night it did actually stop and we were able to leave the next morning for our next destination of Mbeya, +/- 100km from the Malawian border.
It was Sunday and not much traffic – why do we always seem to be trying to go somewhere on a Sunday? Plus it started to rain again… We cycled a bit then stood at the side of the road for a while. Nothing. We carried on cycling – at least we knew of a place to camp about 45km further…
After a while a 4x4 stopped – they were going the +/- 350km to Mbeya, hoorray! Government officials on business for the dept of Agriculture – how many government officials would stop and give you a ride in Europe or SA??? The driver was super-fast and we were given cokes and fed corn along the way.
We reached Mbeya and the driver knew of the place where we planned to stay and dropped us virtually at the door! People are generally so nice and kind in Africa…
Overnight in Mbeya before starting the +/-100km stretch to the Malawian border and then 45km to the 1st town of Karonga, piece of cake!
Sometimes the shortest distances take the longest… 5 hours and 3 lifts later we were only at the border. At the border we had the usual hassle with the moneychangers and a final Kilimanjaro beer on the Tanzanian side before crossing into Malawi.
A straight forward crossing (and a free visa!!!) and off we cycled to Karonga.
45km of flat road, cycling next to the lake with lush green surroundings and friendly people waving to us.
A local guy cycled with us for a while – he had been to the border to buy paraffin as there is a shortage in Malawi(?).
We arrived in the town of Karonga (me exhausted and Jan still as fresh as a daisy) to find the banks ATM only accepts Visa – they don’t seem to like Mastercard in Africa! Luckily Jan has a Visa card…
The town of Karonga we found a bit depressing plus the campsite was empty and they had no stock – no beer and the restaurant no food, nothing! Definitely a one-nighter!!!
(We did find food and beer in a hotel close by…)
The north of Malawi poorer and less populated than the south, so things can only get better…
Up and on the road again the next morning to cover the +/-100km to Chitembe… Just out of town we got a ride with Vincent who works for a mobile phone company (Celtel). What a nice guy, we chatted the whole way to Chitembe (he actually wasn’t going that far) where he also dropped us outside the place we planned to stay by 11am – Chitembe Beach Camp, this is the earliest we have arrived anywhere..!!
Chitembe Beach Camp – now this is more like it. Right on the beach, plus a fully stocked fridge and a menu!!! Definitely more than a one-nighter!
We settled in and then went for a nice walk on the beach alongside the lake where we met some local kids who walked with us for a while, even managing to slip their small hands into ours to hold – how cute, no wonder Madonna adopted a Malawian child!!!
The next day Jan went for carving lessons and I had washing to do – how very African!
Rain again the next day – we had planned to hike up to Livingstonia today, oh well there’s always tomorrow – it’s a tough life in Africa…
1/2/08, today no rain, actually it was a beautiful day, perfect for the 15km hike up to Livingstonia.
We definitely noticed a difference in our fitness (or mine anyway…) as the hike, all uphill was great and with no rest stops! We stopped at Mushroom Farm 10km up to set up camp on the edge of a cliff (wow what a view!) before carrying on… Livingstonia itself was a bit of a disappointment; a collection of administration buildings, a hospital (once the largest in central Africa), a school, a technical college and of course a church. No beer, as the village is run by missionaries…!
Back at Mushroom Farm and a delicious vegetarian meal – probably the best on the trip so far!!
No electricity here and we still have no torch so early to bed…
Well what a night…. We went to bed with thunder and lightening happening all around.
We did manage to fall asleep but were woken again when the rain started – we were underneath some trees but they didn’t really provide much shelter.
We lay in the dark hoping it was just a shower, but no such luck. It became clear some action was needed before we were soaked through…. No torch, pitch dark and the edge of a cliff less than 1m away…
Jan took a chance and went to find a night watchman and a torch. I got bags and stuff together and we made a run for the chill-out area where we bedded down for the rest of the night. The thunder & lightning and rain continued…
The next morning dawned dry and fair and we were able to hike back down to Chitembe – but what was it I said about fitness levels??? Hiking obviously uses different muscles to cycling as my (and Jan’s) legs were sooo stiff!!!
The next day and off to Nkhata Bay…
We were planning to spend about a month in Malawi, but with the rain we will see… We did know it would be rainy season now but had hoped we would be lucky and that we would see more of the sun between rain… watch this space!!!
Aah, Nkhata Bay… a real backpacker type of small town, the first we have come across. Not much to do here except relax! We stayed in a lovely rustic backpackers overlooking the lake, Butterfly Lodge. The first night we camped but were completely rained out of our tent at about 4am. We had to move up into the communal lounge area to try and find somewhere dry to sleep (without much success)!
Rain, rain and more rain; everything was soaking wet.
Our plan was to catch the ferry on Monday, across to the islands, but with the rain and the fact that we would have to be on the islands for a week (as that’s when the next ferry is) we decided to give them a miss this time…
As we were saving the ferry fare we decided to treat ourselves and move into a chalet. We got a stunning wooden and stone chalet overlooking the lake with our own private balcony – plus a double bed, luxury! We had found (and bought) a bottle of Old Brown Sherry in Mzuzu which we enjoyed admiring the view on our balcony…
All in all we ended up staying 9 days in Nkhata Bay. The one day we had planned to leave it rained – no point in cycling in the rain! I can see how it’s very easy to get stuck here; there are a couple of people here that have been staying here for +/- 5 months!!! The atmosphere is very laid back and easy with nothing to do except kick back and relax.
We swam in the lake the days it didn’t rain; Jan practiced his dug-out canoe skills; we ‘discovered’ a beach in the next bay and generally took it easy…
News came in of a possible yacht delivery from Durban to Cape Town, the timing of which would suit us very well, but would mean traveling via Mozambique to Durban instead of through Zambia & Namibia as planned… yes it is time to start thinking about returning to normal life at home in Cape Town…
Finally on Tuesday it was a beautiful day; we managed to leave Nkhata Bay and the people at Butterfly… We set off cycling, but started having problems almost straight away… My gear cable had rusted in the rain which Jan changed for a spare we were carrying; Jan had a puncture then I had a puncture. Eventually I had a second puncture but now all our spare inner tubes were damaged – the Chinese crappy inner tubes were just splitting, possibly because of the heat???
We had only managed to cycle +/- 25km and we started to walk the 15km to the next village of Chitenche. We tried hitching a ride but there was not a lot of traffic along this road…
Arriving in Chitenche we got the guide out and picked Flame Tree Lodge to stay at. It was another 2 km past the village and then another 2 km along a dirt track down to the lake…
What a beautiful place, full of trees and manicured green lawns with a bay sweeping to the left so that the camping had the lake on 2 sides… stunning. The English owner was also very friendly and we felt very welcome even though we were the only guests there.
Malawi is really a ‘low impact’ country. There’s no ‘Big 5’ here and life revolves around the lake, but it slowly grows on you and the people are so friendly and relaxed.
Flame Tree Lodge was an unplanned stop, but it was so beautiful we ended up staying 2 nights. After Jan managed to do some kind of repair on our remaining inner tubes we took a stunning walk along the lake where in some places the water was too high so we had to cut inland and walk alongside people’s smallholdings and farmland where cassava and corn was growing everywhere. People were so friendly, greeting us and pointing us in the right direction. Sometimes we were back on the beach where women and children were playing and washing, soap suds everywhere.
Thursday morning, and as tempting as it might be to stay another day it was time to leave. We needed to get to Lilongwe to find out more about the delivery and to get spares for the bikes. We started off cycling; the cycling here is good – at least 50km along the lake which means it’s fairly flat!!
The first few kilometers were fine but it wasn’t long before my repaired wheel went flat again – we had no more spares so it was time to hitch a ride; we still had a long way to go (+/-300km to Lilongwe!!).
2 truck rides later (with the local people, chickens, sacks of cassava and baskets of fish) we made it to Salima where we stopped at a garage to drink a coke. There were 2 guys sitting outside the service station drinking SA beer, so we stopped to say hello. It turned out the one guy was the owner of the service station, but travels to SA a couple of times a month. Before we knew it he was buying us beers, even a Savannah! This must be the first time we have sat on the stoep of a service station drinking beer – Malawians are so nice. We eventually said our goodbyes with the promise that next time we are in Malawi we will definitely stop at his service station again!
A 2 hour minibus taxi ride later and we arrived in Lilongwe. This is the capital city of Malawi but it’s very small. As we approached the traffic got busier and we saw a few buildings amongst the trees, then all of a sudden we were being dropped at the taxi rank. The usual assortment of dodgy characters were hanging around so we got out of there fast before asking for directions for the camp we wanted to stay at. Luckily it was fairly close so it wasn’t far to push my bike!
We are now waiting for confirmation of the delivery before we decide which way to go. I hope the delivery happens as we have found out that Zambia have doubled their visa fees and for some reason British passport holder have to pay double – a whopping $140!!!
Monday 10th March 2008
Apologies for the delayed update, it’s not always easy to find internet on the road…!!
The last update saw us in Lilongwe waiting for info for a yacht delivery and whether we would head to Durban via Mozambique or Cape Town via Namibia – the delivery got delayed so we carried on through Zambia and Namibia as planned…
After a very enjoyable stay at Mabuya Lodge in Lilongwe, where we met some amazing people (Manon with her tractor; Ron and Linda who had been traveling with their old Morris Minor, plus many more…), we eventually said our goodbyes and left on the 22nd February. We cycled to the border with Zambia – the landscape in view had changed again – it looked like Zambia was going to be more hilly and mountainous…
We checked out of Malawi with no problems but there was a queue to enter Zambia (an overland truck had got there ahead of us!) so we went for a beer in no-man’s land.
Afterwards we went back to Zambian immigration where the last few overland passengers were finishing up.
We handed over our passports and feigned surprise when the lady asked for $200! Jan worked his charm and mentioned that we do live in SA – she looked through our passports and consulted a colleague and we managed to bargain down to $100 for both visas! What a result – we don’t normally condone corruption but when visa fees are doubled to a ridiculous price with no warning then…
…as soon as our passports were stamped we got out of there fast before someone changed their mind!!!
Once through the border we cycled the +/-30km to the town of Chipata where we overnighted at a campsite where we found our friends in the overland truck.
The cycling to Chipata was fantastic; gently rolling hills skirting the mountains through a much wilder landscape than Malawi (where a lot of the land is cultivated by small scale farming); the people here are also very friendly waving to us as we passed.
The next day we wanted to reach Lusaka, +/-600km away, so we were up at 6:30am and on the road by 7am – we needed to catch an early lift plus we had heard the roads are pretty bad in Zambia…
After an hour, no lift and not much traffic – a bus approached which we stopped and after some bargaining for us and the bikes, we enjoyed an 8 hour luxury bus ride to Lusaka passing through beautiful green scenery with a few traditional villages. Zambia is huge with miles and miles of what looks like unspoilt land, but no wildlife as it has all been hunted or poached…
We had decided to take the train from Lusaka to Livingstone and Victoria Falls. We arrived in Lusaka on Saturday and the train was only leaving on Monday night so we spent a couple of days chilling at the Chachacha Backpackers and enjoying the luxury of the shopping centers of Lusaka where every second business is South African – we are definitely getting closer to home!!
Monday night and we made our way to the train station around 10:30pm – the train was supposed to arrive at 11:42pm and depart at 00:37am. We had been to the station a couple of times to buy our ticket but it was always closed – it was still closed now… We asked around and were told that the train was still coming so we settled down to wait. Another guy came to tell us the train was delayed and we should come back around 4am(?). Yet another guy came to tell us ‘yes the train has been delayed but it should be here between 2 & 3am’ – what do we do??? We asked if there was somewhere we could rest and were shown to a quiet place on the platform. Out came the sleeping bags and sleeping mats and we bedded down on the platform where we did manage a couple of hours sleep despite the ‘killer mosquitoes!!!
We were woken at 3:30am; the train was finally arriving. Hundreds of people got off before a security guard came and led us to the rear carriage where there was plenty of space and also the security and cleaning teams.
We managed to sleep pretty well stretched out on a bench seat each. The train is supposed to take 18 hours (to do 470km) so we should arrive in Livingstone around 10pm???
Of course with our usual good planning we had no food or water with us – Jan jumped out at all the bigger stops to buy juice, biscuits, corn or whatever he could find – no water for sale anywhere! We spent the day reading and watching the scenery go by – very relaxing.
7pm we left the last big town of Chome, 120km before Livingstone – surely we will be on time?
We finally arrived the next morning at 7am – how does it take a train 12hours to do 120km??? Never mind at least we had managed a good nights sleep and were feeling quite refreshed!!
Victoria Falls and what can we say except absolutely awesome! We have both been here before but wow, what a sight – much more water here than either of us have previously seen and it was just incredible! The walk on the Zambian side takes you pretty close to the falls and you just get absolutely soaked – its wetter than standing under a shower - but sometimes the ‘mist’ clears and you are faced by the incredible sight of the falls themselves…
Friday 29/2, and it was time to leave. We decided to cycle the 70km to Kasane, just inside Botswana. A slight change in our itinerary but we hope to be able to cycle the transit road through Chobe National Park.
We enjoyed the cycle from Livingstone to the border; not too many hills but it was very, very hot. Lots of butterflies and chameleons along the road.
The ferry border crossing from Zambia to Botswana at Kazangula must be the most inefficient way to cross a border. The ferry can only take a maximum of 2 trucks at a time and there are hundreds of trucks waiting to cross on either side – we heard it can take up to 2 weeks to get across; luckily we have our bikes!!! Pretty straight forward for us and we were soon on the Botswanan side cycling the 15km to Kasane where we overnighted before carrying on the next day.
Cycling out of Kasane the next morning we saw an elephant at the side of the road before we had even reached the park! He did flap his ears at us and made a mock charge – we had heard elephants don’t like bicycles; we got out of there fast!
At the park gate we were definitely not allowed to cycle through – OK it makes sense; but we were soon whisked through at about 120km by a warden. Not much opportunity for any game spotting!
The other side of the park and another border crossing, this time into Namibia via the Ngoma border post. Another straight forward immigration procedure and another free visa…
We overnighted at a very nice lodge that allowed us to camp, on the Zambezi River before heading off to our goal destination of Ngepi Camp on the Okavango River the next day.
Jan had read about Ngepi Camp in an article nearly 2 years ago – I remember him cutting the article out and saying we must go there one day…
We hitched a ride the 300km from Katima Mulilo to Divundu and then cycled the +/-15km to the camp. The last 4km are on a sand track which proved very difficult with the bikes. I remember thinking ‘I hope this place is bloody well worth it’ as I sweated and pushed my bike in the sand and heat!
Well what can I say it definitely was!!! What a fabulous place! Private camp sites overlooking the river, beautiful tree-houses, a fantastic laid-back atmosphere and great people with a quirky sense of humour (check out the ablutions)!
We were the only guests the first night but we were made to feel extremely welcome and we were even invited on a game drive early the next morning to celebrate one of the guys’ birthday.
What a privilege – we even got to see lions, 7 of them lazing in the road! Plus hippo, buffalo, baboons, kudu, etc before having a great cooked breakfast at a picnic spot overlooking the river. Beautiful!
We had only planned to spend 2 nights at Ngepi Camp, but it is such a lovely place and the people were so great (we were really made to feel like family) that we stayed an extra couple of nights – how could we not when we even had a free upgrade to one of the tree-houses where you can lie in bed and watch the sunrise over the river complete with hippos in the background; a big thank-you again!!!
Eventually we had to tear ourselves away – the trip is slowly coming to an end; responsibilities are unfortunately calling…
6/3 and we were up and packed before coffee!!! We sadly said our goodbyes before hitting the road. Next target destination, Windhoek, still a long way to go….
We got a ride quite quickly and eventually made it to Grootefontein where we overnighted at ‘Die Kraal Camping Ground & Steakhouse’. Well what had we walked into??? A German owned and run place; we were the only guests – but what followed was quite unbelievable! What a contrast to Ngepi!!! The German was an old man who still thought Germany should have ‘won the war’. One of those people who is not happy back in Germany but not in Africa either where there are ‘too many black people’ and the only things that work ‘were made by the Germans!’ – do people like this still exist???
We left early the next morning.
It took 2 lifts to cover the +/-500km to Windhoek, the first with a white Afikaaner truck driver who’s musical taste included a rave CD (so early in the morning?) and The Best of Erasure (does he know they’re gay???).
The second from a colored guy (JC) complete with tattoos on his hands whose musical taste included a Chinese classical chill-out CD!!!
What a contrast – it just shows you never can judge….!!!
The rain was pouring, the lightening flashing and the thunder rolling as we pulled into Windhoek and although JC was in a hurry he still took time to drive us to the backpackers we planned to stay at – what a nice guy!
We are now in Windhoek, waiting for another train that leaves this evening….
The trip is slowly coming to an end and we both have mixed feelings – we are sad that the trip is nearly finished as it has been the most amazing experience, but we will be happy to see family and friends again. There will be other adventures and this one is still not quite finished yet…!!!
Monday 17th March 2008
We made it!!!! We arrived in Cape Town last Wednesday evening and have been picking up the pieces of our life ever since.
What a shock to have arrived back in the ‘real’ world…
We caught the train from Windhoek to Keetmanshoop on Monday evening, arriving around 7am on Tuesday morning – a bit faster than our Zambian train experience, but not quite as comfortable…
We had about +/-400km to cover to reach the South African border, and as we really had to start getting back to Cape Town to start ‘picking up the pieces’ we knew we would be pushing to get there.
We cycled out of Keetmanshoop and into the Namibian desert. It was so beautiful to cycle through this vast landscape. We cycled for a couple of hours, admiring the hugeness of it all – the land stretching away for kilometres with a haze of blue mountains in the distance.
Not much traffic passing but eventually a truck driver stopped for us. The driver, Saaci Bullbar, was a friendly guy who was going to Picketberg via Uppington, where he was picking up his next load. He offered to take us with him but we decided to stick to our plan of travelling via the West Coast. Saaci dropped us off in Grunau, where he turned off the road towards his destination.
We were still +/-140km from the border.
Instead of waiting at the service station we decided to carry on cycling sure of the fact that we would be able to get a lift…
We cycled for another couple of hours but now with a head wind against us and virtually no traffic passing. Again we had no food and not really enough water, but we had decided we could bush camp for the night if no-one stopped for us…
Our luck stayed with us – 90km from the border and a guy in a Toyota landcruiser with Angolan number plates stopped for us. Plus he was going all the way to Cape Town!!
Louis was on his way to Cape Town to start his own African adventure after spending some time working in Angola…
At the SA border the vehicle paperwork took some time, but we were kept entertained by the friendly SA border police – welcome home!!
It was late by the time we left the border and as the three of us weren’t in a particular hurry to arrive in CT after dark we decided to take a small diversion to overnight in Port Nolloth…
None of us had particularly heard of anything about Port Nolloth and the sun was setting as we drove into town. It’s a fairly typical West Coast fishing town but we were quite surprised by its size and impressed by the dangerous looking channel which the fishing and diamond boats have to negotiate to come in and moor safely.
We set up camp for the night at the beachfront campsite and went in search of dinner. Anita’s seafood restaurant and grill was recommended to us and indeed we had a great meal!
We slept very well in what could possible be the last night in our little tent (for a while anyway!) and woke up to a beautiful view of the ocean and the salty smell of the West Coast.
Wednesday was our last day on the road. There was a mixture of feelings as we got closer to Cape Town and the landscape became more and more familiar…
We arrived in Cape Town in the early evening and after sorting out Louis somewhere to stay the three of us went to meet my parents for a happy reunion and dinner in a familiar restaurant!!!
We have had the most fantastic trip – we’re both a bit sorry it is over, but now a new chapter is beginning as we pick up the various pieces of our life…
Decisions will be made and new adventures will be planned so watch this space….!!!