The 3 A's... Africa, Asia & the Americas

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11apr07

Hi all, hope you are all well...

wARNING: for fear of falling asleep at your computer, please print this off and read when you ahve time - it's a long one!!

Well it's absolutely aaaages since I sent an update of where we're at and what we're up to!!! We've actually just arrived in India after nearly 3 months travelling from Cape Town to Nairobi.... I think the last time I wrote we were just leaving Vic Falls to head on up through Zambia and Malawi to Tanzania and then finally to Kenya.

Well we had Many adventures along the way..... Travelling through Zambia, Malawi & Kenya we really found out what rough travel was about. They didn't have many bus services as such, just little mini buses that they call matatus. On the whole these are small minibuses that are meant to hold about 16 people!!!! We very quickly learnt the key phrase in matatu-speak - "there's always room for one more" !! These things might be crammed with about 30 people on occasion!!!! and with a backpack on your lap that's not much fun. Not to mention the fact that you really take your life in your hands when you get into one of these things. Because the driver only gets money for the no. of passengers he carries means that the more he can cram in and the more he zips back and forth on his route, the more money he gets. This equates to the matatu screaming along, often on 2 wheels as he rounds the corner - on the OTHER side of the road from the one he's meant to be on!! It was terrifying.

One other frustrating fact about this mode of transport is that they will not leave until they have enough people. On one occasion this meant that we waited about 3 hours to get somewhere.... that somewhere we didn't end up getting cos it was going to be too damned late by the time we got there!!!! Through Zambia and malawi we took to hitch-hiking to avoid the frustration of waiting 3 hours for the car/van to fill up... This led to quite a few experiences - one ride was with the guy who was the cousin of the tribal chief of the whole area - that was interesting....

In Malawi we stayed right on the lakeside in a beautiful bamboo hut. That was bliss for a few days.... White sandy beaches, beautiful crystal clear water to swim and snorkel in... In north Malawi, Chitimba, we took our life in our hands and went abseiling, gorge swinging and rap-jumping off a 1000 metre escarpment. Abseiling was great, easy! Rap jumping - for the uninitiated is effectively abseiling down the rock face front ways - so in actual fact you walk down the rock face - that hurt!!!!! The gorge swing, WELL!! I don't think I have ever been so damn terrified in my life!!!! We first of all had to abseil down an overhang, until we got to the end of our rope- YIKES!!!! THEN we simply had to let go of the abseiling rope - as easy as that. Then you fell 25 metres into mid-air before the ropes took up and we started swinging in mid-air!! TERRIFYING!!!! I'd NEVER do it again!!!!

We're now pretty much in the middle of no-mansville as far as public transport is concerned. We'd arrived into Chitimba on the back of an open lorry which we'd hitched on, along with a pig and several other livestock. The only thing that passes regularly along this road are overlander trucks - these massive lorries fitted out with seats and the rest of the business to truck 28 people across africa for the period of 32 weeks at a time.... We didn't really like the whole overlander thing as it seemed just to be a great excuse to have a piss-up every night in a different african town!! Not my idea of travelling, But when needs must.... We met one of the drivers who'd jacked in his job and was carting his lorry back up to the company. We asked if he minded giving us a lift and her very reluctantly agreed to take us part of the way.

This was not the most easy of rides we'd had. Sat in between Darren, the driver and Simon, I tried for about 2 hrs to make polite conversation. In the end when I realised that he just was not interested, I just gave up. He dropped us off where he said he would, on the side of the street about 10 kms from where we wanted to be. We were very lucky though as another car driven by a dutch doctor and her friends picked us up and took us right to our destination. That was us now in Tanzania....

See Virtual Tours of Tanzania

In Tanzania we based ourselves in Arusha in the north. Here is the best place to get to that Serengeti & Mt Kilimanjaro. Our plan was to do both of these..... until we realised how much they were going to cost. Do you know, to climb Mt kilimanjaro costs $750 per person - for 4 days hiking!!!! Needless to say, we didn't do that! We did do a 4 1/2 day safari to the Serengeti and Ngorogoro Crater though. What an amazing experience. If you're ever going to do a safari in Africa, you should not go past the Serengeti. We'd been in the reserve for less than half an hour when we saw a lion and a lioness lying dosing right at the side of the dirt track. We were so close to them and they just lay there oblivious to everything.... It was an amazing sight. After a while they woke up and he decided that he was going to try it on with his missus.... Until she gave him a bat around the chops that is!!!!

WE saw many many lions, leopard, cheetah, hundreds of zebra and wildebeest, giraffe, elephant. That night we camped in the park. Now unlike Kruger there are no fences that seperate you and the animals.... and that night was very entertaining to say the least.... We had lions around our camp. The low pulsing roar was like nothing else I've heard before.... and it haunted us for most of the night!!! At our camp in Ngorogoro there was a massive bull elephant, just wandering around at his leisure. Elephants are sooo dangerous, they could crush you with one footstep, or one flick of their trunks. It was hilarious when, sat down to dinner, this massive elephant appeared right at my back. He was on his way to the 5000 L water tank which services the showers etc for the whole site. He stuck his trunk in and proceeded to drink all the water from the tank!!! WE just watched in amazement as he marched on his merry way once he'd finished - truly an amazing sight I'll never forget!!!!

Then there were the very cheeky baboons that came into the campsite and SWITCHED ON the water tap to drink from it!! Cheeky things never switched off the tap though!! We had the most amazing experiences in the Serengeti and the crater... It was so lovely to watch herds upon herds on zebra and wildebeest frolicking by the water. Oh and then there were the hippos - I've never smelt such a stench - their water hole stank to high-heavens - and they just wallowed and played in this cess-pool. They were amazing to watch too.

After spending some more time around Arusha in Tanzania, we headed across the border to Nairobi, Kenya. We heard so many bad stories about "Nairobbery" and we weren't too enamoured about being here. But because it cost us $50 for a visa to get into the country we were damned if we were just going to sit in our hotel rooms until we had to catch our flight like so many other travellers we talked to had done. In actual fact we were very pleasantly surprised with Nairobi - we didn't have any trouble at all, in fact everyone was VERY pleasant to us. Apparently the new President has really cleaned up the streets and is doing some really great things for the city.

See Virtual Tours of Kenya

As we didn't get to fulfill our dream of climbing the highest mountain in Africa, we settled for the second highest... Mt Kenya. Apparently this trek is meant to be alot more scenic and a bit more difficult than Kili.... WE did a 5 day trek. The first 2 days were very easy going - a walk in the park. WE stayed in huts along the route up the mountain. These are nothing more than corrugated tin huts with a few bunkbeds in. Day 3 was the biggie!! We left our camp at 3.30am and walked in the dark in order to reach the summit for sunrise. It was a steep old climb but we were too fast! We reached there too early and had to stop and wait until the sun was ready to rise. Despite the fact we sheltered in the rocks of the mountain, it was SO cold even though we had about a 101 layers on.... It was amazing though when we got to the summit and watched the sun rise. We felt on top of the world!! We'd achieved so much !! However, the days trekking had only begun at this point ... we were still to do a circuit of the whole summit!! This was a long old day of going up very steep faces and then coming down... going up again... coming down again!! Oh I was SO exhausted when we finally got back to our camp 9 1/2 hrs later!!! It was exhilarating though and it was such a big achievement for me, both physically and emotionally...

After Mt Kenya we treated ourselves to a week on a paradise island - Lamu. This is a very old island which is predominantly islamic. Stepping off the boat onto the island feels like you've stepped back 100's of years. The town itself is a maze of sand-covered narrow alleyways. The bustling seafront is a buzz of commotion. All the dhow boats - some used for fishing others used for transporting the very few tourists that were on the island - lined up along the harbour. Some of them loading the most extraordinary wares. We saw one poor cow, up to his knees in the water, surrounded by many men trying to entice the poor cow onto the dhow to be transported to one place or another. The goods that were offloading were even more interesting! One boat had just offloaded 4 baby tiger sharks!! These sharks didn't really resemble babies - they were between 1 1/2 - 2 metres long!! The fisherman would have spent most of the night and all of the morning catching these and getting them onto their boats. And now they lay motionless on the waterside.

We stayed by the beach 40 mins walk from all the bustle of the town. For most of the week we lazed between the gorgeous breezy seafront balcony of our hotel room, shading from the very warm pre-monsoon days, venturing out to the white sandy beach when it felt a bit cooler, to swim in the crystal blue water. Lamu is also a place where the jetset crowd come... Prince Michael (?) of Monaco has a house here, as does Princess Stephanie. Bryan Adams was also a recent guest in the local hotel. Lamu really is a place where Islamic women cloaked in black, young african men aspiring to be Bob Marley, old weathered fishermen and the jetset crew rub shoulders. It was an amazing place!!! One I'd definitely go back to.

Now we're in India - and WOW I love it.... We've been here for 3 days now and really I am so in love with the place.... We're staying in a really travel-y area of Delhi. We step out of our hotel and every one of our senses is bombarded!! We're in a narrow street lined with market stalls - rickshaws, motorbikes, tuk-tuks, cows, dogs and pedestrians vying for any inch of space there is on this busy busy street. WE stop for a freshly squeezed juice which costs 25p before going out for our delicious feast of mouthwatering indian food which costs us all of 70p a dish!!!

We visited the Red Fort today. What was so nice is that the place isn't overrun with foreign tourists - it was mainly Indian visiting their own country. What's so funny as that the locals spend more time staring at us than anything else. So many of them today came up and asked if they could have their picture taken with us. One little group of 4 ladies all wanted to touch me and hold my hands... they were quite taken with me. I must admit I did feel like a piece of meat as they pawed me and exchanged remarks to each other as they smiled at me and shook their heads. It was very sweet though. The people are just so friendly and gentle...

I've been doing a bit of shopping now.... In Nairobi we went shopping in an street antique market. We came away with an African door!!! Yes a door!! It is not a full size door - more a window shutter door. So we'll have hours of enjoyment deciding what we're going to do with that!! In Delhi the purchases have been more of a personal nature - ie for me!! I've bought shoes, bags , some hippy clothes..... and I haven't even got started yet!!!

Anyway, thats all from me folks. You're eyes will be hurting if you've managed to get this far. I hope everyone is well.

Take care, Lots of love Wendy xxxxxx