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Africa is all booked again

May 26th, 2009 No comments

I’m pleased to announce, now that I’ve added a full blog of my first ever overland Africa trip, that my next one is now fully booked – Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda with Dragoman!

I’ll be flying out to Nairobi in the last half of August, staying there for the night before heading out through Kenya, into Uganda and finally to Rwanda to see the rare Mountain Gorillas. Then we’ll be making our way back through Uganda to Kenya again where I’ll have one final night in Nairobi before flying back to the UK.

Highlights of the trip will include

  • Nairobi, Kenya
  • Lake Nakaru
  • Eldoret, Kenya
  • Kampala, Uganda
  • Jinja / Lake Victoria
  • Queen Elizabeth National  Park
  • Trekking with Chimps in the Kibale Forest
  • Lake Bunyoni
  • Lake Mburo
  • Kigali, Rwanda
  • Rwandan Genocide Memoria
  • Trekking with Mountain Gorillas near Ruhengeri, Rwanda

There’s no point going into too much detail as I don’t know everything that will be going on just yet – and being Africa things will change quite a lot. I thought I’d post it now that everything including any extras have all been booked, so that you can access the RSS feed of this category to subscribe should you wish to. I’ve given this trip it’s own category as I’ll be out of the country for 18 days and will have lots of things to talk about so it’s probably a good idea to separate things 🙂

I’m getting really excited about this. I love Africa and had a great time in Namibia when I was there in 2002. I don’t know why but I’ve always wanted to visit Rwanda and in a few months I’ll get my chance :). Expect a full report from me when I get back, maybe quick updates from me when I’m out there if I get net connection.

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Packing for africa

August 19th, 2009 No comments

I’ve taken over my grandmother’s spare bedroom and am packing for my trip to Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.

All is going well so far except for the fact I have just managed to break the bottle for my iodine droplets and my fingers are now orange. Oh goody!

Two days to go… Wish me luck!

Taking over my Nan’s house to pack for Africa

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Africa Day 1 – Travel to Heathrow

August 21st, 2009 No comments

I got up fairly early this morning and made final preparations for my holiday before getting a taxi to the train station. The train ride was rather uneventful, as was the tube ride until we started approaching Heathrow. The door I was standing next to wasn’t closed properly and as it was raining water started coming in and getting me wet.

I got to Heathrow fairly early so I could check in and pick a good seat – my flights for this trip are with Virgin Atlantic and they have automatic check-in machines where you decide which seat you wish to have. I checked in and had a quick coffee before going through passport control, doing a little bit of shopping and having a meal at TGI Fridays. After the meal, which took a little longer than I’d have expected, I wandered around the terminal for a while during which time I saw Calvin that worked for Canadian Airlines on that Airport show a few years ago.

The flight was a little late arriving at Heathrow so we were a little late boarding but I was in for a nice surprise when I got on board – they asked me to move to the exit row since there was nobody there. I tried to select it at check-in but the machine said it was unavailable. I was only required to stay there for take-off but decided to stay there for the entire flight due to the extra leg room, as did the guy next to me who was from Fiji and being sent to Kenya by the British Army to do logistics for some military manoeuvres.

It’s getting late and they’ve turned the lights off on the plane so I’m going to try to get some sleep. Next stop Keyna!

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Africa Day 2 – Nairobi

August 22nd, 2009 No comments

After arriving at Nairobi I changed some money before taking a taxi to our starting poing, the Kivi Milimani Hotel, which cost around 2000 KSh. When I arrived at the hotel it was still only 730am but there was already somebody else from my tour checking in. She had travelled on the same flight so it’s a shame we didn’t car-share to save money. There was a problem with check-in and the names were mixed up – they had me on the list as Scotte Bernadette, which caused a few delays, but we were all eventually able to check in.

I had a quick shower and a quick nap before being woken up by Leon, who had been assigned as my room mate. After chatting for a bit we decided to head into town so got a taxi from the hotel into the city which cost 400KSh.

Nairobi - KCC

Nairobi – KCC

We wandered around the city for a while seeing the Kenyatta Conference Centre, Maasai Market with all the touts and various shops but didn’t really see anything we wanted to buy. We looked for somewhere to eat or find a coffee and found a branch of Steers, which is like the holy grail for me. I had my usual chips with special seasoning as well as a coffee before getting a taxi back to the hotel with Leon. Nairobi seems a good city to wander around but you need a taxi to explore most places unless they’re in the city centre or you’ll get lots of people begging or touting for business.

Nairobi

Nairobi

This evening we met in the hotel lobby for the group welcome meeting before being taken to a small meeting room in the hotel where we met one of our drivers and introduced ourselves to the rest of the group. We weren’t able to meet the other staff members as Jono was fixing the truck and Den was shopping for supplies so after paying our $1120 kitty contribution we went back to the bar for drinks. It’ll be an early night tonight as we need to be up at 5am to meet at our truck at 6.

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Africa Day 3 – Nakuru

August 23rd, 2009 No comments

I got up early today and got ready before going down for breakfast at 630. It was a really nice buffet breakfast with pretty much anything you could want including sausages, weird potato things, fruit, cereal and also a chef that would cook eggs or omelette for you.

After getting my bags from the room we checked out and headed to the truck for about 7am. We loaded the bags into the truck as Den arrived with shopping and started chatting to each other. Our truck is called Oscar and has an African God statue called a Tokoloshe on the front of it – I can see it causing many laughs over the next few weeks.

Traffic through Nairobi was pretty bad, but got better as we started making our way out of the city. The scenery changed from city, to outskirts, to slums, to little stalls selling things at the side of the road and soon after to lovely countryside. We also passed several police check points at regular intervals with vicious looking spike strips which would destroy any car that drove over them.

Stalls near Nairobi

Stalls near Nairobi

Spike Strips

Spike Strips

We drove past Hells Gate National Park before arriving at the town of Nakuru where we spent a while shopping for souvenirs, getting money from the cash point etc. It was a nice town but while getting into the truck this guy tried to sell me a hat and nothing I said would make him back down. He started at $30 and came down to $5 but I still didn’t want it as I have a good hat – I showed it to him and he tried to just swap but I said no and he worked out I wasn’t interested. People that won’t take no for an answer tend to frustrate me but they’re all part of the African shopping experience.

Scenery on the way to Nakuru

Scenery on the way to Nakuru

Zebra

Zebra

Nakuru Town

Nakuru Town

After Nakuru we drove to Lake Nakuru NP and went for a short game drive to Baboon Cliffs where we had lunch overlooking the lake – seeing Zebra, Flamingo, Rhino, Baboon, Warthog, Rock Dassie and many more animals on the way. While at the cliffs a baboon stole some food from somebody and ate it on the edge of the cliff, which seems quite normal for them, although it was surreal to see it sitting down eating a sandwich.

Warthog at Nakuru

Warthog at Nakuru

Impala at Nakuru

Impala at Nakuru

Nakuru NP

Nakuru NP

Me at Baboon Cliffs

Me at Baboon Cliffs

Rock Dassie at Nakuru NP

Rock Dassie at Nakuru NP

Baboon stealing food at Nakuru NP

Baboon stealing food at Nakuru NP

After lunch we had another short time game driving but it was soon time to head on to the camp site. The camp was a bush camp in the park itself and Amanda said that last time she was in the park they stayed at the same place and a Lion killed and ate an animal right behind their tent. This made us all nervous but we all relaxed after tasting Dens cooking for the first time – steak, chicken and salad. LOVELY FOOD!!

Rhino at Nakuru NP

Rhino at Nakuru NP

Setting up camp

Setting up camp

Camp at Nakuru

Camp at Nakuru

Dens dinner was legendary

Dens dinner was legendary

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Africa Day 4 – Gilgil to Eldoret

August 24th, 2009 No comments

This morning we got up early and started getting breakfast together when, on time, the baboons arrived. Den decided to scare them away by running at them waving cooking utensils above his head and somehow I got volunteered to join in to stop them stealing food, raiding the bins etc which they continued to do anyway. It was quite an experience chasing them away but I would have been in trouble if they decided they wanted to confront me – plastic plates would have been no match for teeth!

Baboons guarding the toilet

Baboons guarding the toilet

Me and Baboons

Me and Baboons

After breakfast we went for a game drive and managed to get some good photos but saw mainly the same animals, with the exception of Hyena which we saw for the first time. The drive took us back along the lake to the park entrance and after leaving the park we travelled to the town of Gilgil to visit the Ngumo Primary School which is part of the Kariandusi School Trust Project that Dragoman sponsor.

Hyena

Hyena

It took a while to find the school – Den had to ask the locals for directions several times but eventually somebody knew where it was. The final road up to the school was rather steep and rocky and Oscar really worked hard to get there but we were rewarded with an amazing view from the top. While waiting for a teacher to greet us we relaxed and took in the view.

A senior teacher met us and took us on a tool of the school, showing us the old classrooms that were in a horrible state of disrepair, then onto the new rooms, the staff room and the new ground before we were given an opportunity to meet some of the kids. I talked to two of them that were sitting next to each other and they were asking very intelligent questions. It was the same day as the Kenyan Census so a lot of the questions were census themed but they were so inquisitive and well thought out that it made me feel really sorry for them. Maxwell wants to be an engineer and Dorothy wants to be a nurse and they have so much enthiusiasm I really hope they are able to achieve all of their dreams. We spent some time compareing our countries and I gave them some photos of my hometown before we had to leave.

Old classroom at the school

Old classroom at the school

Me, Maxwell and Dorothy

Me, Maxwell and Dorothy

New Classroom at Ngumo

New Classroom at Ngumo

Me painting at Ngumo

Me painting at Ngumo

The others

The others

I had a good signal on my mobile phone so decided to call home at this point while the others played football when, to my surprise, I saw a tornado going along the valley floor. It was only small and wouldn’t have caused any damage but seeing one was on my travel bucket list so it saves me a trip to Tornado Alley.

I’m not much of a sports person but I decided to join in with the football game while lunch was prepared s I wasn’t ready to finish interacting yet. Lunch consisted of mainly sandwiches but it filled a gap and was quick as it was soon time to drive back down the hill and head the town of Eldoret. On the way the scenery changed from dry to a lush rainforest-like area with thatched huts instead of corrugated iron and we also passed into the northern hemisphere.

Oscar and scenery

Oscar and scenery

A view towards Gilgil

A view towards Gilgil

A tornado outside Gilgil

A tornado outside Gilgil

Change of scenery

Change of scenery

In Eldoret we’re staying at the Naiberi Overland Stop and it seems really really nice although it was already almost dark by the time we arrived. We just enough time to set up the tents, refresh ourselves and relax in the bar for a few minutes before dinner. Dinner tonight was a group Indian meal, as the owners are Indian, and it was really nice. During the meal the owner let his dogs out into the building but even though they were really friendly there were 13 of them so they did get in the way occasionally.

Indian Food at Eldoret

Indian Food at Eldoret

Who let the dogs out?

Who let the dogs out?

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Africa Day 5 – Into Uganda

August 25th, 2009 No comments

Another early start today, with breakfast at 530, in an attempt to make it to the border early. It wasn’t far to the border but we expected it to take some time due to all the processes that needed to be undertaken. We made a quick stop at Webuye, near Bungoma, to refuel the truck on the way to the border where just as I predicted the Tokoloshe got us quite a lot of attention from the locals. They weren’t quite sure if his attachment was his belly button or his penis and spent some time rubbing it trying to find out!!

Stopping for fuel at Webuye

Stopping for fuel at Webuye

Kenyan side of the border

Kenyan side of the border

It’s quite a surreal experience crossing a land border in Africa. In Europe we don’t have any proper land borders but this border had the Kenyan departure section, then customs control, then the border itself, then Ugandan medical control, then Ugandan Arrivals and then finally Ugandan customs. All of the time you have people trying to sell you everything from meat samosas to Ugandan passport covers and everything in between.

Changing money is also a new experience. On both sides of the border there lots of people wearing what look like rain coats and holding big bundles of money- these are the official, licensed, money exchangers. Even though they’re licensed you have to be careful. When I tried to change USD to Ugandan Shillings he offered 1800 despite the exchange rate being 2030. We negotiated him up to 1950 which was the best we were going to get but then he conveniently miscounted so after arguing the case and getting the correct number of shillings from him I was happy and got back on the truck.

Uganda seems more built up than Kenya and as soon as we crossed the borders there were more houses, factories, hotels and bigger farms. It also seems a lot greener even just after crossing a river. We stopped for lunch at Kakira, near Jinja, and of course were the centre of attention to the kids again.

Ugandan Scenery

Ugandan Scenery

Adorable

Adorable

Centre of attention again

Centre of attention again

Lunch time

Lunch time

We arrived at the Red Chilli campsite in Kampala this afternoon, after making a brief stop at a petrol station near Mukono, and set up camp. Dinner was a nice large amount of Spaghetti Bolognese and afterwards we all met for drinks in the bar. The bar was basic but the drinks were cheap and the surroundings were really nice. I really like this camp site and wish we were able to stay here an extra day as we’ve been told we won’t have any time to explore Kampala and this would give us an opportunity to do so.

At the petrol station in Mukono

At the petrol station in Mukono

I love this pic

I love this pic

Red Chilli Campsite, Kampala

Red Chilli Campsite, Kampala

Bar at the Red Chilli

Bar at the Red Chilli

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Africa Day 6 – Kampala to Chimps

August 26th, 2009 No comments

A fairly leisurely start this morning as we all had a rough nights sleep – there were a few dogs that decided they didn’t like each other in the night and kept fighting near our tents. Den cooked ueggs for breakfast which was a nice change although it was quite worrying to see vultures on the roof of the bar looking at us while we ate!!

Vultures watching us eat

Vultures watching us eat

After finishing breakfast quickly so as not to attract more vultures we headed into Kampala to a shopping centre to get supplies for the tour and buy anything we wanted to have personally. I bought some coffee beans, steers seasoning and batteries before going with Trip, our token American, to the coffee shop on the corner for some “Good African Cffee”. It was actually rather nice – I had an iced coffee and Trip had a hot chocolate but we both agreed that the setting combined with the fresh produce did make it good experience.

Good Africa Coffee

Good Africa Coffee

Good African... er... Hot Chocolate

Good African… er… Hot Chocolate

Shopping Centre

Shopping Centre

We passed out through Kampala and had lunch at the side of the road somewhere. The kids didn’t seem to come as close today but probably just as well as one of them was waving a machete. They did seem friendly enough however and cheered at us, as did a car full of businessmen when they saw our Tokoloshe when we drove through Kainjojo. I was in the front of the truck for this part of the journey as Jono was in the back fixing the window where I was sitting which allowed me to get some great photos.

We saw this on the way!

We saw this on the way!

Kids watching us have lunch

Kids watching us have lunch

Portrait shot

Portrait shot

We’re staying at the Chimpanzee Guest House for a couple of nights and the scenery on the way here was amazing. It was so lush and covered with so much tea which resulted in good photo opportunities. Another good photo opportunity was about 10km from the guest house when a whole herd of longhorn cattle came walking down the road towards us and went all around the truck on their way to wherever they were going.

These were in the way

These were in the way

It was raining when we got to the campsite but the setting here is amazing. The camp consists of lovely grounds on a hill, overlooking a lake and next to a tea plantation. The service was also great – the owners came straight out to greet us, followed shortly by a group of women who offered to do our washing for us for the equivalent of $7 a bag and a lot of us decided to make use of the offer.

Before dinner, which was a chicken curry of some description, I got on top of the truck with Al and Trip for some photos and to look at the scenery and I wasn’t disappointed!

Dog!

Dog!

2 Dogs

2 Dogs

Chimpanzee Guesthouse

Chimpanzee Guesthouse

Me and the scenery

Me and the scenery

I’ll try to get a good nights sleep tonight as I’m on truck lockup duty tomorrow and there are a few people that have decided to do the morning trek to see the chimps so I’ll need to get up early.

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Africa Day 7 – Chimp Trek

August 27th, 2009 No comments

I didn’t have a good nights sleep last night as I hoped so wish I could have had a lay-in today but I was on bag duty this morning so had to get up on time to open up the truck for people who were trekking to see the chimps in the morning. Once I’m awake I can’t usually get back to sleep so I relaxed and enjoyed the scenery while waiting for breakfast before going on a walk through the tea plantation with the rest of the group.

The walk through the tea plantation was really informative. The guide worked at the campsite and started by telling us all about the process of growing tea before taking us to meet some tea workers and explaining what they do every day. We were then taught some phrases in the local language before taking us through a small village on the way to the lake. The phrases such as “how are you?” came in quite handy as all the kids knew in English was “what is your name? My name is…“ and “we know English”. They were really friendly and we were able to get some really good photos and interact with them a lot.

Tea Plantation Walk

Tea Plantation Walk

A few of us in the tea plantation

A few of us in the tea plantation

This kid was adorable

This kid was adorable

Kids and Amanda

Kids and Amanda

We visited the shores of the lake and saw the boats that are used for fishing before saying bye (kalee kalee) to the kids and setting off back up the hill and into the plantation again. The last stop on the walk was a tea nursery where they grow all of the baby tea plants before planting them in the fields and we were explained the processes involved before returning to the camp site.

At the lake

At the lake

At the tea Nursery

At the tea Nursery

Me relaxing at the chimp guesthouse

Me relaxing at the chimp guesthouse

This afternoon the majority of us, except for the 4 early birds, went into the national park to visit the chimps. We were given a short introductory talk before being taken to our starting point where we had to battle to get into the woodland for a little while. While trekking we saw all sorts of animals, from hornbills to red tailed monkeys before finally seeing some chimps. Unfortunately in the afternoon they decided not to come down to the ground like they did in the morning, so if you have a choice make sure you trek in the morning. We did see a few of them including babies though, and they were eating figs, throwing them at us and then trying to pee on us which meant we all had to play an interesting game of dodge.

Trekking for Chimps

Trekking for Chimps

A chimp and her baby

A chimp and her baby

Another Chimp

Another Chimp

A lovely view over the plantation

A lovely view over the plantation

We returned to the campsite after about 3 hours in the forest, collected our laundry and then relaxed with a nice dinner of chops, veg, beans, sausages and chapatti before heading to bed.

The wood-fuelled boiler for the showers

The wood-fuelled boiler for the showers

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Africa Day 8 – Queen Elizabeth NP

August 28th, 2009 No comments

It was a fairly leisurely start today as we didn’t expect it to be a very long day… we were wrong. The day started with us heading into the nearby town of Fort Portal for supplies. I was on cook duty today so helped Den with shopping in the local supermarket and also bought a few things myself such as snacks and Vodka. The shopping didn’t take long as we found everything except ice in one store so we soon found ourselves walking back to the truck which had been driven to a nearby petrol station to get its tyres checked. Den headed off to find some ice while we talked to the locals at the petrol station and some police with big guns that were stationed there about our time in the country so far. In the middle of the conversation the police had to break up a fight by hitting somebody with a big stick, but were more than happy to continue talking to us after this – TIA.

We were about an hour late leaving Fort Portal as it took Den a while to find some ice but it was nice to talk to the locals and they did give us some useful facts – for example the palace on the hill was owned by the local king, part of the Portal family, after whom the town is named. Our 1 hour drive to the Queen Elizabeth National Park ended up taking almost 4, but we did get a chance to stop on the equator for a quick photo, however we were told there would be better opportunities for photos at the equator on the way back so we only stayed long enough to stretch our legs.

Fort Portal

Fort Portal

Starting to get mountainous now

Starting to get mountainous now

Me at the Equator - part 1

Me at the Equator – part 1

After the equator we floored it to the National Park and used the side gate to save time which surprised the guards who told us that almost everybody uses the main gate. After a very fast “Ferrari safari” seeing Buffalo, Elephant and a few others we had a quick lunch before checking in for our boat cruise on the Kazinga channel.

The Young Bull Elephant

The Young Bull Elephant

The cruise was one of the highlights of the tour so far and despite the storm that brewed half way through causing rough water and reduced visibility we managed to see lots of hippo, buffalo, birds and one lone crocodile. The majority of the buffalo were described as rejects by the guide – they had been kicked out of their herds and were sticking together for safety. Today was also the start of a running joke within the team. The guide pointed out a Palm Nut Buzzard but some of us thought it was called a Permanent Buzzard… which doesn’t sound too funny on it’s own but you had to be there to get it.

Loser / Reject Buffalo

Loser / Reject Buffalo

The only Croc we saw all trip

The only Croc we saw all trip

Fishing Village

Fishing Village

Fishermen leaving the Village

Fishermen leaving the Village

Hippo on the Kazinga Channel

Hippo on the Kazinga Channel

On the way back to the port we saw some fishermen setting off for a night on the lake and also saw the mountains that were just over the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo which I took photos of for my collection.

Fishermen and mountains of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Fishermen and mountains of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Fishermen setting off for the night

Fishermen setting off for the night

After the cruise we headed up to the campsite overlooking the channel where we were greeted by a few warthogs and a Water Buck with her baby. We also ran into some rangers who were trying to track mongoose without any success – we had better success when they walked through our campsite 2 minutes after they left.

Roast beef and potatoes followed by banana and custard for dinner filled a gap after our rushed lunch trying to get to the baot cruise on time and it was also really nice to sit around the camp fire in a lovely setting chatting with the group before heading to bed just after 10pm.

A waterbuck watching me

A waterbuck watching me

Me and a Warthog

Me and a Warthog

Sunset over the Kazinga Channel

Sunset over the Kazinga Channel

The photo above is my favourite photo of the trip so far!

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