Looking for tickets or info for the Get Happy Tour 2018 featuring Bowling for Soup, Army of Freshmen and The Aquabats?

This domain name was used for the Get Happy Tour back in its original run around 10 years ago, when I used to do work for BFS and AOF. However, for the past 5 years it has been used for my travel blog as I never thought we would have another Get Happy Tour and I didn't want it to go to waste.

But as a favour to two bands who have done a lot for me over the years, and so you don't miss out, ticket info is:
O2 Presale: 10am on 25 September
General Onsale: 10am on 27 September.

Tickets available from ticketmaster.co.uk and bowlingforsoup.com
 


Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Camping’

Jeti-Oguz Gorge

June 3rd, 2015 No comments

Three years ago I bought a Polaroid Pogo printer as I thought it would be useful when travelling, so that I could give kids a copy of photos they ask me to take, but I have never had a chance to use it. This is partly as when I last went to Africa I took the wrong connector cable and partly as my other trips have been ones where we didn’t spend too much time interacting with local kids. This all changed today and I was able to use it for the first time.

After breakfast I spent some time sitting and interacting with the kids who live at the camp with their family. They kept asking to pose for photos and as we had some time before we had to leave, and as we had a working power supply, I thought this was a perfect chance to bring the printer out. You should have seen the face of the first kid I gave the photo to – his eyes lit up, he had a huge smile and he ran away to grab the other kid to show him. I spent about 15 minutes taking and printing photos for both kids before I ran out of paper for the printer and it was nice to see something so simple make them happy. They showed their mother, who asked them to say thank you to me in Russian, before running around the campsite showing everybody. I think I’ve used the phrase “take things for granted” a lot in this blog, especially the entries from this trip, but when you travel to the sort of places I do, get immersed in the culture, and see kids as happy as this over something so simple it really puts things into perspective.

Kids in Kyrgyzstan

This is the kid who was watching the suspicious video last night

Kyrgyz kids

This one wasn’t

Cowboy in Kyrgyzstan

They liked dressing up for photos

Posing for photos

The kids here were adorable

Me and Kyrgyz kids

Me and the kids at the camp

Yurt Camp

Saying goodbye to the camp. Notice the kid still looking at the photos I gave him.

Scenery

Scenery as we left the camp

Lunch was a little later than normal today as we stopped to do some walking at a spectacular area near the town of Jeti Oguz. I can’t remember the name in Kyrgyz but it translates to “Fairy Tale Canyon”. If you happen to be passing along the south shore of Lake Issyk-Kul definitely stop here as you will not be disappointed. The rocks have such a deep red colouring that they remind me of the red centre of Australia, just closer to civilisation. They have been sand and wind blasted over tens of thousands of years and are just so beautiful. When we first arrived I wasn’t sure where we were walking to as the trail to get to it seemed to go on for ages through the baking heat – smaller vehicles can drive all the way up but our one couldn’t. However when we arrived we were presented with sights like these.

Fairy Tale Canyon

Fairy Tale Canyon

Fairy Tale short cut

Some people decided to take a short cut down

Fairy Tales do come true :)

Fairy Tale Canyon was beautiful

Fairy Tale Canyon

The scenery here was just breathtaking

We spent some time looking around the area, taking photos and climbing up to various view points. Some of them can be very high and up steep slopes so be sure to take care if you visit, but it’s worth the effort. There wasn’t a set time limit but most of us looked around for about an hour before heading back to the truck for the short journey to Jeti-Oguz town. Here we had a chance to grab some lunch at a small local cafe and stock up on supplies before heading up into the mountains.

Jeti Oguz Town

Jeti Oguz Town

Jeti Oguz Town

The cafe we ate at was in the parade to the left

Tonight we are staying in the mountainous area near Jeti-Oguz and I can’t believe how different the scenery is. I think today the scenery has been more diverse than any other day on this trip so far – this morning we woke up on the shores of a lake, then a few hours later we were surrounded by red rock canyons and now it looks like we are in the Alps in Europe. The journey up was a bit treacherous as we had to pass over a lot of wooden bridges, some of which looked less than safe, and the roads were nothing more than dirt tracks but I’m glad we made the trip. We had the option of Yurts or camping again and after seeing the brand new Yurts that were available I immediately chose to pay for the upgrade. I love getting off of the beaten path and visiting remote places but whenever an upgrade from camping is available I generally take it just to improve my enjoyment of the trip as I’m a tall person and find tents uncomfortable to sleep in.

Jeti-Oguz Gorge

Ascending up to Jeti-Oguz Gorge.

Jeti-Oguz

This is only a couple of hours from Fairy Tale Canyon but looks like another world.

Jeti-Oguz Gorge

Almost at the camp for tonight

Yurt and Tent camp

This is where we stopped tonight in Jeti-Oguz Gorge

Helena rests

Helena at Jeti-Oguz Gorge

Washing up time

Getting water for washing up

I spent some time walking in the Gorge on my own before dinner. There weren’t any view points to speak of but it was great to walk through the woods listening to the river and taking photos. I planned to have a shower after returning but the motor which pumped water from the river to the heating unit wasn’t working which meant one thing – washing my hair in the river. The water was freezing so I was definitely glad of the heat from the bonfire that we made this evening. The smoke from the bonfire was a little powerful, and my eyes felt like they did after being exposed to volcanic fumes in Nicaragua a few years ago by the time I called it a night, but it was a great evening chilling with the group in a lovely setting.

Jeti-Oguz Walking

Going for my walk

Jeti-Oguz Gorge

A photo from my walk

Bonfire time

Bonfire time

Andy, one of the Dragoman crew, is sharing the Yurt with me tonight as the only other guy who wanted to pay for an upgrade but it’s a huge Yurt so I have loads of space to myself. Tomorrow we make the short trip to Karakol where I can jump on Wi-Fi and work out whether or not I’ll be finishing the trip with the group. I’m getting nervous now as I think I’ve definitely decided I will be travelling back early so I just want to get there and book the flights if I can find any.

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Eagle hunting and Lake Issyk-Kul

June 2nd, 2015 No comments

Today ended with an overnight stop at a beautiful lakeside retreat, but earlier in the day I witnessed something which will stick in my mind forever. Those who are squeamish, or those who believe that hunting is wrong, may wish to skip to the end of post as it contains information and photos from an Eagle hunting demonstration which was organised for us.

After breakfast at the home stay we made our way into Kochkor town to pick up some supplies. Prices here were a little higher, although still cheap by western standards, but they had a wider selection and we were able to stock up on personal items like toothbrushes and pens for letters in addition to the usual group supplies. We spent an hour or so shopping before getting back into the truck to head towards Lake Issyk-Kul.

My bed

My bed at the home stay

Dining area

Dining area at the home stay

Home stay

This is the Kochkor home stay

Kochkor

Outside the home stay

Kochkor town

Kochkor town centre

Kochkor

Kochkor town centre

The journey was through the same lovely scenery but this time I spent more time thinking than looking at the landscape going by. The wi-fi started working in the home stay last night as I going to bed and so I was able to get in contact with people and chat to them for a while, but this has made me start to consider whether I want to stay until the end of the trip or come back early. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the trip, in fact I’m having a great time, but somebody close to me is leaving the UK forever on the day that I’m due to arrive back and with all the problems people had with Turkish Airlines on the way out it would be too much if I was delayed and missed saying goodbye. I won’t have any internet tonight to be able to look into prices but should do in Karakol the day after. Although more about that later, if I do decide to come back early, as for now I want to tell you more about my day today.

Kyrgyz scenery

We stopped at a lake to take photos

Helena the truck

Helena while we take photos

A couple of hours passed before we turned off of the road and made our way to a remote spot behind a hill, where we set up lunch. This was also to be the place where we would be given a demonstration of how the locals hunt for food with Eagles, and so was out of the way in order to give the Eagle a quiet place to hunt. Lunch was the usual selection of sandwiches and we had some time to walk around and take in the scenery before the Eagle hunter arrived.

The eagle hunting demonstration was the only part of the trip that I am not sure should have been included so far. I agree that it is part of local tradition but over half of the group were unsure about whether an animal should have to die in order for us to understand the tradition. The animal chosen was a rabbit that was raised by the eagle hunter and which didn’t stand a chance when the Eagle was let loose from a hill overlooking the valley.

Lunch time

Lunch time in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyz scenery

Helena being dwarfed by the scenery

Kyrgyz scenery

Some lovely Kyrgyz scenery

Final warning for those who don’t wish to see photos from the Eagle hunting.

One thing I will say is that I am amazed with the beauty, majesty and strength of the Eagle. I have never seem one up close but was given a chance to get up close and personal with her while the hunter was telling us about the local traditions, and about how he came to own her. For the local tribes owning an Eagle is a sign that you are a man, and when you come of age you take your friends up into the mountains to take an egg from a nest (occasionally having to fight off the parents in order to do so). The egg is then incubated by the hunter and the Eagle is raised from birth in order to form an unbreakable bond which allows them to hunt together and remain loyal to each other. A couple of the group said they were going to write to Dragoman to complain but I’m not sure this is necessary – we were all given a chance not to watch the demonstration and to go for a walk while it took place.

Eagle

The hunter and his eagle

Eagle

Vicki and the Eagle

Kyrgyz scenery

Some more beautiful scenery

Eagle hunting

The Eagle closing in on her prey

Eagle hunting

The Eagle proudly guarding her catch

While I’m not sure it was necessary I did find it a very informative and effective insight into local culture. I’ll never forget the images, or the noises, from the demonstration though.

The drive from the Eagle hunting demonstration was fairly uneventful and we arrived at our destination for the day after not much more than an hour. We are staying at a camp on the shores of the lake which is owned by a family and where we have the option to camp or upgrade to a yurt. I was the only guy who chose to upgrade and as the camp is fairly empty I have been given a yurt all to myself. It doesn’t have any lighting or power like a couple of the other yurts but it will be my space and I’m looking forward to it tonight. Don’t get me wrong I love the interaction you get with people on this sort of trip, and that’s one of the reasons I come on them, but you do need your own space occasionally to make sure people’s individual habits don’t bother you.

I spent some time later on at the shore of the lake. The scenery was beautiful and the air was really warm but wow was the water cold. Obviously due to the high altitude, the glacial melt and the deepness of the lake it doesn’t get too warm so if you are planning to swim here please take care. The only other place I have been swimming where the water was this cold was at a national park in Namibia so I was only able to stay in there for about a minute before having to get out.

Lake Issyk-Kul

Lake Issyk-Kul

Lake Issyk-Kul

These were at the Yurt Camp

Yurt Camp

This is our Yurt Camp

After dinner a few of us made a bonfire out of some wood that was made available for us, but we were basically given whole trees so this meant a lot of axe work to make anything small enough to burn. It was also really wet so was hard to light and we had to use a combination of fire lighters and toilet paper to get it going. Once it was lit we had a great time chatting to each other and soaking up the atmosphere, although I’m a little worried about one of the kids from the camp who decided to join us. He showed us a video that he had on his phone, and acted it out, but it looked and sounded like some sort of jihadi extremist propaganda video. Hopefully I’m just thinking too much into it but it was a bit scary!

Bonfire time

Bonfire time

I’m sat in my private yurt now and am thinking some more about whether or not to make the journey home early. I think I probably will come back early as long as flights are available but I will have to wait for two more days until we are in Karakol before I will have wi-fi in order to check. As I said in a previous entry I’m not thinking about coming back early due to the trip itself it’s simply because I have something I need to take care of back home – sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

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Camping in Kyrgyzstan

May 28th, 2015 No comments

After leaving the home stay this morning we proceeded to a local market in the town of Kochkor-Ata to buy supplies and I was surprised how cheap the prices were! We were given a budget of 5000 som to buy dinner, breakfast and lunch for the group but only ended up spending 3250 (around 40 US dollars). Not only was the market so cheap compared to prices I am used to it was fun to browse around. Luckily the local guides were on hand to translate at the butcher so that we could get the cut of meat we wanted and have it chopped into cubes for dinner. The only problem was that the money had recently been drawn from a bank so our money was a 5000 som note, much to the annoyance of the first stall we went to where we only spent 350.

My room

My room in the home stay

Dining area

The dining area of the home stay

Our home stay

Leaving the home stay

Helena the truck

Helena parked up by the home stay

Market

The market in Kochkor-Ata

Lunch today was at a quarry overlooking a lake and was really beautiful so I was glad when we were told there was some free time to wander around before we would have to head off. I just can’t get used to how quickly the scenery changes in this country – what you see in these photos is the third area of drastically different scenery that we have seen today.

Animals in the road

One of the smaller herds

Lunch

Lunch at the side of the road

Lake photo

The lake where we stopped for lunch

Marker

A common sight in the former USSR

We had to travel along a few narrow roads to get to our final destination today and this wasn’t easy due to the huge herds of sheep and cattle being driven to new pastures that had to be avoided, with oncoming traffic making a point of pushing through aggressively, however when we arrived at the lake it was worth the hassle as the view was breathtaking.

The lake, as we found out this morning, is the result of soviet-era dams and powerplants which flooded the area in order serve the needs of Moscow. The lake it created is a bit green, as were some of the suspicious looking leaves growing in the surrounding fields, but the locals didn’t seem to mind swimming in it. I opted to stay on the banks and have a walk around before it was time to get ready for dinner while the others either drank or chatted to some Swiss people that they had seen a couple of times in Uzbekistan.

Camping in Kyrgyzstan

Camping with a view

Helena

Looking back towards Helena

A lake

The lake was lovely

Suspicious

These were growing sporadically around the field

I was in the cook group tonight, for the first time all trip, and we put on a lovely feast of stir-fried beef with rice and vegetables. I thought that we had cooked way too much, which was surprising considering the cost, but everything was eaten except two servings of rice which made me happy.

We chatted for a bit before calling it a night. I’m starting to get exhausted but I’m having a great time.

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Central Asia is booked!

August 9th, 2014 No comments

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve booked my next trip. In May 2015 I’ll be jetting off to Central Asia to overland with Dragoman through Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, via Istanbul.

This is a region that I’ve had my eye on for a while, ever since I travelled with Dragoman in 2009. After returning from Africa I decided to research other trips that Dragoman offered and a photo of one of their trucks next to a mountain lake got my attention. After some research I discovered that it was a photo of a trip through Kyrgyzstan and it looked so beautiful I decided to add it to my to-do list. I kept getting distracted by other destinations, such as North Korea and Myanmar, but the time has come to go!

Central Asia is best known for being the region through which the Silk Road sliced on its way from Turkey to China, and we will be visiting some of the old Silk Road cities, but the main focus will be the beautiful scenery we’ll see on the way.

The route will be as shown below.

The route of the land portion of my trip

The route of the land portion of my trip

The entire route I'll be taking, including the flights.

The entire route I’ll be taking, including the flights.

I recently stated that I didn’t expect to be doing any more camping trips but once you’ve tasted overland travel you can’t stay away for too long. The way of life on the road, the sights you see and the experiences you have just trump any other form of trip and help you grow as a person.

I’m really looking forward to the trip. It’ll be the best part of a year before my blog is online but expect tales of pristine landscapes, new cultures and great experiences from a land that’s off of the main tourist trail.

To see a Google image search of images from Kyrgyzstan, to see some of the sights I’ll encounter, click here.

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Africa videos

September 16th, 2009 No comments

I’ve finally been able to upload all of my videos from Africa. They’re all now on YouTube and can be viewed below, or in full by clicking on the videos themselves. If you have a user on YouTube feel free to comment on the videos if you want.


Baboon Family at Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya – August 24, 2009
 


View from Ngumo Primary School, Gilgil, Kenya – August 25th, 2009
 


Meeting local kids on the Tea Plantation walk near Fort Portal, Uganda – August 27th, 2009
 


Chimpanzees at the Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda – August 27th, 2009
 


The Amahoro Group of Mountain Gorillas during our trek, Rwanda [1/2] – August 31st, 2009
 


The Amahoro Group of Mountain Gorillas during our trek, Rwanda [2/2] – August 31st, 2009
 


Pygmy village dancing and singing for us near Ruhengeri, Rwanda – September 1st, 2009
 


Some of our group rafting on the River Nile at Jinja, Uganda – September 4th, 2009
 


Visiting Bujagali Falls near Jinja, Uganda – September 4th, 2009
 


Den, Amanda, Jono and Al go Bungee Jumping at Adrift near Jinja, Uganda – September 4th, 2009
 


Al number 2 goes Bungee Jumping at Adrift near Jinja, Uganda – September 4th, 2009
 


Having fun at the campsite near Eldoret, Kenya – September 5th, 2009
(This is the video with the 50 states, the rapping etc)
 


A Sparrow attacking itself in Oscar’s mirror at the campsite near Eldoret, Kenya – September 6th, 2009

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Africa Day 16 – Back to Kenya

September 5th, 2009 No comments

I got up before 6 to have an early shower before all of the hot water was used up and, after falling down the big hole in the campsite, found it to be a nice and very hot shower. There was then time for a quick breakfast and last minute photos before heading off at 7 – I managed to get the table for only the second time this trip as people kept moving my bag. Next time I do a Dragoman trip I’m going to have to be more forceful and get the table more often as I worked out I should have sat there at least once a week.

Staring Contest - Trip vs Tokoloshe - Trip lost

Staring Contest – Trip vs Tokoloshe – Trip lost

Me and my new friend Tokoloshe

Me and my new friend Tokoloshe

We got quite good at packing stuff away by now

We got quite good at packing stuff away by now

The Exodus Truck

The Exodus Truck

The trip to the border was fast, as was the border crossing which was a nice surprise. They had run out of forms so we didn’t have to fill any out and didn’t have to pay either which was good. I had a multiple entry visa just in case anyway but this also gives me an excuse to ask for my passport back when it is renewed this year. While at the border I bought some samosas from the local vendors and they were actually surprisingly tasty, hot, and haven’t played havoc with my stomach yet.

The journey to Eldoret was quick and we arrived before 3pm which gave us plenty of time for swimming. I decided to upgrade to a room tonight as it was the last night and I wanted to splash out – at $25 for a single it was fairly reasonably priced for its quality.

Camping at Eldoret

Camping at Eldoret

My room in Eldoret

My room in Eldoret

After settling into the room we went down to the pool to relax for a while. Some people were already in there and after a while I was persuaded to join them. The water was cold but nowhere near as cold as the pool at the Hardap Park in Namibia a few years ago. Trip had a swimming race against Amanda and lost by 2 laps which was embarrassing.

Walking to the pool at Eldoret

Walking to the pool at Eldoret

The Swimming Pool

The Swimming Pool

I relaxed for a bit before showering, changing and then relaxing with a drink before dinner. The meal was similar to when we stayed here on the way out in the form of an Indian buffet but was slightly different at our request. The potatoes and veg were different and they had a paneer cheese curry in addition to the other selection which was really nice and just what I needed.

Trip

Trip

Me and Den The Chef

Me and Den The Chef

A few of us talking while waiting for dinner

A few of us talking while waiting for dinner

We relaxed with drinks and toasted marshmallows before the dogs were let out again. We chatted for a bit and took photos before heading to bed where I’ve been catching up on writing this blog and repacking my bags ever since.

Dinner at Eldoret, again.

Dinner at Eldoret, again.

Dinner at Eldoret, again.

Dinner at Eldoret, again.

Chatting in the bar after dinner

Chatting in the bar after dinner

...and of course time for Marshmallows

…and of course time for Marshmallows

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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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Swakopmund

August 21st, 2002 No comments

What a nice place Swakopmund has been especially compared to the last couple of nights we were at Fish River Canyon. I’ll give you no points for guessing who caused the problems again!

The Truck / campsite

The Truck / campsite

I guess the start of the problems weren’t specifically Dan’s fault. Remember that nice meal I told you about? It was indeed a nice meal but we had to wait over two hours for it. We all ended up eating everything that was food on the table, including the sugar cubes, but we needed some sugar and energy in us after the trek so not a bad thing. The frustration from this delay made Dan R even more of a pain than he was.

Later that evening me, Simon and Sam were relaxing in the tent trying to get to sleep when we heard movement then this weird noise. What had Dan done? He had found a hose pipe, connected it, put it under the top sheet of our tent and turned the water on resulting in a nice waterfall of water over all of us. One of Simon’s books got ruined, as did the film that was in his camera. Luckily I had a waterproof camera because of the sand, even though people did make fun of me for it, so the photos from Fish River Canyon were saved. We turned it off and saw Dan behind his tent laughing but were too tired to do anything so went over to the truck and slept there. That was one of the coldest nights sleep I have ever had and how Rod sleeps in there every night I don’t know. We woke him up and had to explain what was going on but he let us sleep in there for the night which was a big help.

A bird came to say hello!

A bird came to say hello!

The next day we just relaxed by the pool again all day. There were some hot springs too but they were too hot to paddle in this time compared to the ones at the start of the trek. A few people went to the indoor swimming pool but I was quite happy outside. Today was also the first day most of us were able to call home to get results from GCSEs, AS Levels etc. I decided not to ask as I wanted to open the envelope myself when I got home but mostly people did well. We were planning to have another meal in the restaurant but after the chaos the night before Rod cooked us a BBQ comprised mainly of Springbok. It was nice but certain people had too much beer and caused problems again. Sam and Simon escaped into other peoples tents which left me alone and at the mercy of the bog brush, which had somehow made an appearance again. Not a good night, but it was the last night we would have to camp this trip so I survived it.

We left early on the 18th for an all-day drive back up to Windhoek to stay at the Roof Africa Lodge. The other place we stayed at was better but this was a nice place to stay. We all went out for a meal at the famous “Joe’s Beerhouse” and all but one of the group ordered the Bushman Sostie – a shish kebab comprised of lumps of Ostrich, Crocodile, Zebra, Chicken and Kudu meat. I was a little hesitant but it was actually really nice! If you’re in the area I highly recommend this place for the great food and great atmosphere.

On the 19th we left Windhoek and travelled to Swakopmund before spending most of the rest of the day just generally exploring the local area and relaxing in the hostel. Duneboarding was organised for the next day and we had paperwork for that to sort out too. I had to go to the bank to exchange some more money as I had kept a bundle in both British Pounds and US Dollars due to the exchange rate slowly getting better all month!

The 20th was another highlight of the expedition so far – Dune Boarding. There is no greater way to soak up the atmosphere than to rush down sand dunes that face the Atlantic Ocean. I chose the slightly cheaper option of laying on the board rather than what was a converted snowboard. Not only was it cheaper but it was easier! We went down various slopes on our own before going down another slope in pairs which a lot of people failed at miserably. I was with Dominic and we didn’t fall off in a big pile even though I expected we would. The last run was the fastest, steepest and the sight of the famous “Sam Thomas falling off his board at top speed, rolling off across the sand and having his shorts fall down” incident. It looked painful but was impressive to watch!

Preparing for Dune Boarding

Preparing for Dune Boarding

Me Dune Boardfing

Me Dune Boarding

The scenery

The scenery

More scenery

More scenery

Me and Dominic

Me and Dominic

After duneboarding we had a picnic with the whole group which mainly comprised of us but also contained some Americans and Germans. I removed sand from places I didn’t know existed again but it was a great day. In the afternoon the team leaders went skydiving and the rest of us explored Swakopmund again. I had a KFC before returning to the hostel to watch the video from the Dune Boarding. I decided to purchase a copy, as well as a floppy disk with some photos on and also bought a T-Shirt. Apparently last night some of the group went out to a nightclub. They didn’t invite me which sucks, but most people didn’t get in and I’m not a nightclub person anyway!

Picnic after Dune Boarding

Picnic after Dune Boarding

A low-quality version of the video is shown below. It could take a while to load if you have a slow connection as it’s quite long. The first 1 1/2 minutes are a generic introduction introducing Swakopmund and the company that operated the day so if you only want to see the actual Dune Boarding you can skip to 90 seconds. (By the way I’m the person in what looks like a luminous blue t-shirt. It wasn’t that bright in real life!)

Today was another good day, as so many others have been while in Namibia. A few of us (Me, Dan Becks, the two leaders and Rod) went fishing to catch some fresh fish for dinner. I think we all caught at least one fish (I caught 2) but Rod caught something ridiculous like 17 which meant we all had enough to eat tonight. The difference in our catch was confusing as we were all on a small boat but we thanked Rod for his efforts! I don’t know what most of the fish were but I know dogfish was in there somewhere. I’m not much of a fish person but they all tasted nice, especially when cooked on a BBQ in the terrace of the hostel. Another highlight of today…. a ceremonial sacrifice of the bog brush which made up for me not being able to get back into the room for a couple of hours after fishing due to Sam and Simon going to the cinema with the only pair of keys for our room! It gave me a chance to wander the town and buy some local music and a Namibian flag though.

Fishing

Fishing

Swakopmund Harbour

Swakopmund Harbour

Our boat

Our boat

Tomorrow we head back to Windhoek for the last time before leaving this amazing country!

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Fish River Canyon

August 16th, 2002 No comments

We did it! Fish River Canyon has been conquered by a gang of kids from Kent, a Metropolitan Police trainee and a trainee teacher! At 85km it was a bit tiring but we saw some amazing things along the way.

We got up early on the 13th to begin the trek. We took a while to get ready which meant we didn’t start until a bit later than we wanted to but we made enough distance to an ideal camping location 7km into the canyon. Before we started Rod took group photos for us all and this is another photo that brings back such great memories as I type up this transcript.

Our group

Our group

Rod - the TRUCK driver

Rod – the TRUCK driver

It took a while to descend into the canyon. The trail was a bit crumbly under foot and you needed to watch where you were treading. One of our group was a little hesitant so I stayed back with him and Jez until we caught up with the others at the bottom of the canyon next to the river. We relaxed there for a bit before starting off on the main portion of the trek. We only progressed a few km on the first day, which was a lot less than we hoped, but where we stopped was an ideal location to spend the night. Our campsite was on a bit of an embankment with ditches that had been etched in the sand on either side. We had some sort of monumental WWI trench battle throwing sand backwards and forwards which was fun for a while but soon got annoying. We won anyway when me and Dominic went behind enemy lines and ambushed everybody from the flanks.

Bottom of the canyon

Bottom of the canyon

Our group

Our group

The next day we stopped at some hot springs and a building which somebody, probably from the UK, had painted “Sainsbury’s” down the side of. I didn’t get a photo of that but somebody else did – I’ll see if I can find it later. The hot springs really helped the feet which were starting to ache by now. While we were there we also saw a Horse although how he was there and how he survives is a good question! That day we progressed quite a bit and trekked about 23km and our campsite for the night was next to some bushes near the river on the bend of the canyon. It was really windy so we had to weigh the top sheets of the tent down with rocks to stop them blowing away. Although strangely enough even though the tents only just stayed in position the cutlery and plates that we had to abandon when the sandstorm came in were still there. I guess they had a low enough profile even when abandoned mid-way through a run from the river up to camp! We also saw our first rain of the trip although it only lasted 20 seconds.

Me at the Hot Springs

Me at the Hot Springs

Horse

Horse

My tent group

My tent group

Yesterday was our longest stint of the trek. We trekked about 35-36km seeing some really lovely scenery such as “Four Fingered Rock” and also the grave of a German soldier. When the country was a German colony the army had a huge battle against the Nama tribe who didn’t want them there. The battle took place in Fish River Canyon and the Nama were destroyed but only one German soldier was killed and he was buried at the scene. Our campsite last night was near the river but surrounded by bushes, which we thought was a good idea after the storm the night before, and it also provided us a good shelter from the baboons we saw 15 minutes or so before setting up camp. Last night was also the night most of the group decided to “sample the facilities” – ie digging a hole in the ground… but enough said about that. We thought it was going to be another storm due to the sky but nothing happened and it was a fairly calm night. This was just as well as Harley decided it would be a good idea to swim across the river yesterday when he took a shortcut that got him stuck on the other side of the river – his stuff was wet enough from that!

German soldier's grave

German soldier’s grave

Four Fingered Rock

Four Fingered Rock

Red sky at night!

Red sky at night!

Something I will really remember from that day is the Haribo incident. We were resting at the bottom of a hill that we were going to climb over as a shortcut when Will suddenly said “Do you know what I could do with right now? Haribo!”. He then went into his bag and pulled out a big bag which he had been saving and shared it out. Jez, our other leader, said the same thing but about Kylie Minogue but alas she wasn’t in there even after he pulled everything out all over the floor!

Dan R went one too far last night too so Jez got his own back by poking him with a big bit of wood then chasing him around the canyon floor. I didn’t take part even though I felt like it due to him being a complete menace to society so far this trip! We had a nice campfire going though which added to the atmosphere and he didn’t make this one explode !

Dan and the stick #1

Dan and the stick #1

Dan and the stick #2

Dan and the stick #2

This morning we knew the end was in sight as we only had 24km to go. The leaders decided it would be a good idea to give us some training so gave us one of the radios we had then set off into the distance without letting us get ready first. It was good to be out on our own but the group did get split up a few times. We all regrouped at the bottom of what we thought was a shortcut before heading up the hill a bit to try and get reception on the radios to contact the leaders. It turns out it was the wrong way anyway so we went back to the river and followed it along its course until we found our leaders waiting for us. After a few harsh words we progressed further before stopping for lunch.

After lunch we all headed off at our own pace. Some people were faster than others, then there was a group of people that finished a little later, followed by me, Dan Becks and a couple of other people. We were all pretty exhausted by the end but when we walked up those final steps and saw the campsite there was relief! We walked into the campsite, around the corner and saw the truck which was even more of a relief. Dan B screamed “trruuuuuuck!!!” and ran towards it which was something I didn’t have the energy for despite it looking like paradise.

Finishing the trek

Finishing the trek

Since getting back we’ve just cleaned up and relaxed by the pool. Unfortunately my electric razor has run out of battery so I had to get a disposable one from Simon and attempt to use it for the first time ever while in the shower. New experience but I managed it.

We’re going out for a meal in the restaurant tonight!

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From Namib Naukluft to Fish River

August 12th, 2002 No comments

Only a few days have passed since we left Sesreim and so much has happened already!

As I was the leader on the 10th when we transferred to Namib-Naukluft it was my job to make sure camp was set up in time for us to go out on a short trek that evening but unfortunately things didn’t go to plan. Dan seemed to have turned one or two people to the dark side and they just made life difficult for me. They took ages to set up camp and then took a long time to get ready for the trek meaning that it would be dark by the time we got back, which didn’t help. Although I did manage to get a photo of me with a bird eating out of my hand during the time I was waiting which is pretty cool.

Me feeding a bird

Me feeding a bird

After a while we were all finally ready for the trek. We had to do the 10km Olive Trail today as the longer Waterkloof trail takes 8 hours and would just not have been possible this late in the day. It was still daytime when we started the trek but the sun was rapidly approaching the horizon. The scenery was absolutely amazing as you can see from my photo below. The Naukluft region of Namib-Naukluft is a lot more mountainous than the Namib region, which Sesreim borders, and I saw some of the most amazing scenery I’ve ever seen while in the region.

Me on the Olive Trail

Me on the Olive Trail

Trekking the Olive Trail

The trek only took a couple of hours but it was dark by the time we reached the last part – a traverse along a rock wall over a dark pit full of water. I’m OK with heights but not the idea of falling from them so traversing a rock wall without being able to see what was below me was not fun. To get around we attached ourselves to the chain that had been attached around the side of the canyon with a harness and carabina and traversed it one by one, albeit slowly. Not one of the best parts of the week but it was worth it for the views.

This was scary!

This was scary!

On the 11th we headed off in the morning on the longer Waterkloof trail which was estimated to take 8 hours. Once we started Rod took a few people who developed pretty bad blisters on the night trek with him into town to get supplies. We continued on our trek and saw, once again, loads of absolutely amazing scenery including trees as far as the eye could see, a quiver tree, rock pools and also some baboons just ahead of us in the canyon near the end of the trek. There was a little bit of climbing up hills on this trek but nothing compared to that traverse on the Olive Trail.

Trekking the Waterkloof Trail

Trekking the Waterkloof Trail

Amazing views on the Waterkloof Trail

Amazing views on the Waterkloof Trail

When we returned back to the campsite we found that those baboons we saw had caused all sorts of trouble. After the others returned from buying supplies they were relaxing in the campsite when they heard a noise. They didn’t know what it was until a few minutes later when some baboons went walking past them carrying our medical kit. Will, one of the group leaders, chased them up a hill before throwing rocks at them to make them go away (but not before they ate half of our paracetamol collection). That wasn’t the only thing they did – they broke into the truck, ate all of our bread, threw Jon’s T-Shirts onto the ground and left some rather smelly deposits on one of the seats. That cause quite a few problems throughout the rest of the expedition, as did them peeing on one of the other tents in our group.

That evening we relaxed at the campsite and had an early night ready for a long drive ahead of us but the sleep was short lived due to a visitor that came past our tent in the night. I was half asleep when I heard some rustling outside. It made me alert but I didn’t know what it was until I heard the loud growl of a Leopard right outside our tent. Sam didn’t wake up but I’ve never seen anybody jump and sit up as quickly as Simon did when he heard it. It walked away after a couple of minutes and we all slept again but I was very nervous at the time as I didn’t know what it was planning to do.

This morning we made the trip from Namib-Naukluft to Hobas – the town at the start of Fish River Canyon. We passed through Mantahohe and Bethanie on the way and stopped at a petrol station for supplies, to use the toilet and to refuel the truck. We thought the toilet was locked until the attendant at the petrol pumps called us over and unhooked a key out of the tree above him and handed it to us. Hardly secure but it worked. Somebody bought a HUGE bag of what looked like wotsits – it was 12 inches square at the bottom and about 3 foot tall!

Look at those snacks!!

Look at those snacks!!

After stopping off for supplies we made our way to the Hobas campsite where we watched the sunset over the Fish River Canyon and had a nice BBQ to mark our last day before embarking on a long trek through the canyon that will take 4 days starting tomorrow. I’m not looking forward to it as I’m not the most athletic of people but it will be an experience I’m sure.

At Fish River Canyon with a beer

At Fish River Canyon with a beer

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