Saturday, May 23, 2009

KP has landed

KP is back home- more will follow shortly.

KP

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

apologies.

just a short note to my dad... am alive and well - sorry about not updating my blog... will do so in bulk next week. love KP

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sand in places unimaginable

Its all just Rock n roll baby

TBC

Cheeting Cheetahs.

On route to Swakomaund, we stopped overnight at a cheetah farm home of 13 wild cheetahs (fed at 430pm by the owners of the farm so not exactly sure how wild they actually are- they looked fierce but if they don't hunt for themselves are they 100% wild.. who knows veterinarians please email me the answer) and 3 domesticated big cats.

At the farm i was terrified, surrounded by 3 metre high fence the tame cheetahs roamed the front Yard and a large red sign hung high near the gate- enter at your own risk.

The cats prowled as if they owned the place and i felt as though i was on borrowed time just by entering.

TBC- i will finish this soon... and all the posts above

Namibia

Is Namibia the BEST country in Africa? It is easy to see why it is a favourite amongst travelers when you arrive. Namibia has a definite European feel (the Germans and Africans were coloniasers- Namibia gained independence in 1990) that exists in perfect harmony with its African appeal. Namibia could be the perfect place to visit for first timers as it has all the beautiful scenery you would expect, the animals that you want to see in abundance would and the convenience of being elsewhere.

Located in Southern Africa it boarders Angola, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia and South Africa.

Our boarder crossing into Namibia was so uneventful that 1 week after the event i can't even remember it... which is saying something of a girl with the memory of an elephant.

Our first few days in Namibia were spent at the Etosha National Park where big yellow (our truck)and the team went for a game drive. With low expectations i got out my binoculars and got ready for some spotting.


Our first 30 minutes were spent cruising through the park and I contemplated sleep having done it all before and then something remarkable happened - we saw a family of lions and then another and before long we had spotted more than a dozen on route to our camp. So dense was the park with lions that even i 'no spotter' parry coudl ID the kind of the jungle at a hundred paces.

At Etosha, we also saw our first Springbok (almost identical to a Thompson's Gazelle (only bigger) and our first Kudu and Orax. Their was also tens of Giraffes (my favourite animal)

At night we feasted on a game BBQ and fell asleep sitting up exhausted at 830pm. Our guide Tito, an early bird had been encouraging us to do early starts for weeks it seems with our latest departure since taking over from Julius was 8am and it had taken its toll.

The following day we drove through the park on an en route game drive to another more up market camp ground complete with resort style pool, sun beds, curio shop, resteraunt, bar and canteen and instead of participating in an afternoon game drive i laid under a sun umbrella and read Barack Obama's autobiography (i am sure lots of you have read it all ready- he is a phenomenal writer.... seriously the book is exceptional and a must read!!).

10 things you did not know about Africa

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I will be writing this up tomorrrow

African dreaming.

You know that life is wonderful, truly wonderful when you arrive at the Okavango Delta. It is the Africa of dreams, the Africa of your imagining- scenic, peaceful with a beauty and stillness unlike anywhere else in the world

The delta is a series of inter connecting canals and estuary's with large plains, grasslands and marshes at its core that flood once a year.

After a 1 hour drive by land drover from Maurn we reached our departure point. Barko a tall, wiry Botswana man approached Rob and I and offered his boat for us to ride on. The boats like ancient, archaic gondolas or the punts you might find on a sunny day in Oxford or Cambridge were used to transport us in pairs to our camp site deep inside the delta.

Rob stuck up an easy conversation with Barko and when asked if there were holes in his boat was told 'just a few but don't worry we wont sink'.

The sun shone bright above us and even though it was only 10 am it was hot and strong- you could feel your skin burn by it's glance upon you.

Comfortably reclined at the front of the boat i fought sleep as Barko navigated us through the thick reeds in knee deep crystal clear water full of lillys and the occasional frog.

My relaxation was soon destroyed by a small leak at my right shoulder that allowed water to seep into my skin, it was not long before Rob who lay behind me was covered too and finally Barko our trusty guide was shin deep.

Convinced we were going down, we set about lightening the load- I made jokes about Rob's weight and he chastised me for yesterdays sausage roll- soon Lee the leader of all the guides pulled up in his new fibre glass boat and we off loaded all of our gear. Barko sped up and our last 30 minutes were spent drenched but in hysterics.

We made camp quickly and i placed my roll mat under some trees and had a long mid day snooze to the sounds of birds and crickets and the beauty of dragon flies making themselves at home on my body.

Later in the afternoon, we travelled by canal for about 30 minutes before setting off on a 1 hour walk through the serenity of the game park. It was magic and whilst the scenery was not too dissimilar to the Serengeti being on foot allowed me to feel like i was apart of the park too- like the other animals that called the Delta home I saw the reserve as they did. The silence was deafening and alone in my thoughts i pondered, content, happy and truly relaxed.

At sunset we cruised back on our boats, I took the opportunity to talk to Barko about his homeland, his family, his girlfriend and enjoyed our conversation like two long lost friends catching up on life. We watched the sun saying her goodbyes from the hippo pool and saw it disappear from the delta slowly, slithering behind the lake and the sky fill with full colour.

It seems that so much of the 'African experience' revolves around dusk and dawn and i usually see both here and end up tucked up in bed by 9 or 10pm. It seems like you can measure your day by the sunset, reflect on how much you've seen or done and remember what a wonderful world we live in when nature gives you delights like that for free.

That night our guides sang us traditionally Boatswain songs and the sound of their voices and harmonies were spellbinding- somehow Africans are just better singers that us Anglos. Really their impromptu song selection was almost better than anything i had ever heard before. Deep, smooth velvety voices carried soothing bass lines as the ladies sang high above them like birds flying in the wind. I slept liked a log, humming their African melodies in my sleep. Music here is like that, almost always hypnotic.

At dawn, we awoke with sleep still in our eyes and set off on a 4 hour walking safari. We watched Zebras graze at close range, baboons being baboons and not the sleazy scavengers that pester us at camp sites giving their whole species a bad name. We saw lots of birds too- Lilac breasted rollers, king fishers, pelicans and hook nose ones (i cant remember their name now).

Our ride back to Maurn, saw us jump in our boats again for one final paddle. This time at midday with the sun beating down overhead i was happy to be in a leaking boat, cooled by the clear delta water. It was a morning of reflection for me, the date of my mother's birthday. It seemed that despite the years that have passed since her death i always think of her on this date. My thoughts this year were not sad nor happy just reflective.

Botswana

After an exhilarating time in Livingstone doing all the things i have wanted to do since i could dream we jumped on board the truck and headed to Botswana.

I had heard good things about Botswana from friends who had travelled my route before me and i was excited to be on the road again.

The truck had been revitalised by the addition of 6 more people- Bec (my new tent buddy... not a patch on Dave) a kiwi girl on here way home to NZ after a few years in the UK, Lindsay a 21 year old from Salt Lake City, Jane an Obama campaign worker from St Loius, Sarah a londonite and Charlotte and Rusty farmers from NZ.

The newbies brought with them all their enthusiasm and excitement that had been lacking from us originals after 2 months on the truck and for me their addition was welcome. Rob (my bestie a remarkably kind, generous and organised brit) was worried about the impact of the Americans - would they be loud, brash and dominate group discussions, would they be bossy, complaining and nag alot were the questions he was trying to resolve.

Our first day on the drive to Botswana was unremarkable. The road was good (a welcome relief) and our boarder crossing smooth involving a trip through no mans land on a ferry and passing a point where 4 countries meet- Botswana, Zambia, Angola and Zimbabwe.

Once in Chobe we spent some time at the local shop rite (the equivalent to woolwortsh in OZ or tesco in the UK) before setting up camp and heading down the river for a sunset game cruise.

The landscape of the Chobe river was similar to that of the Zambezi (it is actually a tributary/ addition of it) and the sunset was magic. The sky filled with her colours and i could not help being amazed as the sky turned a fairy floss pink before fading to lavender lilac and eventually a deep grape purple. It seemed eatable, it was delicious.

The game on the Chobe was like all of what i had seen already, Hippos, elephants, crocodiles and giraffe but the animals of Africa never cease to amaze, their sizer and beauty a constant reminder that i am small part of a wide world far away from home.

That night we organised for a driver to take us to the swankiest bar in town to watch Manchester United play Roma (???)- and sitting their on a dreamy couch i fell asleep, waking only at the end in time for my ride home. In the car as i battled slumber i was awoken suddenly as our car came to a grinding holt- in front of us a heard of elephants had decided to cross our path- they were massive by moonlight and it was both beautiful and scary to see. They could trample our old beat up Toyota in a single move.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

In Doctor Livingstone's Livingroom

After 3 blissful days on the house boat, a 12 hour drive that took us just over 300 kilometres we arrived at Livingstone- Africa's adventure sports capital.

Livingstone straddles the Zimbabwean boarder and is named so after the same Livingstone i sprinkle into all my entries.

The town itself is nothing flash and reminds me of a country town in rural Australia- complete with a dusty main street, flanked on both sides by buildings with corrugated iron roofs housing the usual shops and occasional bureau de change.

What makes Livingstone special, a tourist mecca is it's proximity to the breathtaking Victoria falls described by Livingstone in 1855 as


The whole scene was extremely beautiful; the banks and islands dotted over the river are adorned with sylvan vegetation of great variety of color and form…no one can imagine the beauty of the view from any thing witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes; but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.


It was here that i faced some of my largest and biggest fears- I jumped out of an aeroplane at 8000 feet, walked with a lion (I navigated myself by holing it's tail), jumped of a 100 metre ravine backwards in a gorge swing... (similar to bungee jumping), abseiled down a 60 metre cliff face and I have survived (completely unscathed) to tell the story.


TBC

Ramblings from an itinerate

When we arrived at Lake Kariba I was stunned by her beauty, it was sunset, natures own make up, a perfect time of day that makes everything beautiful, not that the Lake needed much help. The sky was working her magic well... like a water colour painting, colours filled the sky merging into one.

We quickly boarded our boat, a monster with room for 30 people, bar, roof top terrace and spa bath (minus the bubbles). Somehow I managed to secure a birth all to myself, something that has more to do with my unpopularity with the girls than anything else. My cabin with it's bunk beds, en suite and wood panelling was pure luxury compared to my canvas tent. I took no time in spreading out utilising my two spare beds as luggage storage and space for Nelson ( i have been reading Nelson Mandela's autobiography).

That night, i sat at the bar with Lucy the English owner of the boat and we spoke about African politics, Africans and the problems of Africa late into the night.

Lucy, originally from Derby had been in Africa for 12 years and based in Zambia for about 5 and knows Africa well. I found our conversation illuminating, disturbing and her honesty frightening.

Lucy is opinionated (despite not wanting to appear that way at first)with strong and interesting views on Africa and Africans.

Similarly to my arrogant pariah Paul Theroux Lucy felt that it is Africans' themselves that need to fix Africa.

As an aside the longer i spend here i am beginning to wonder what is actually meant by the idea of 'fixing'. I think about it often and wonder if it is another term for colonise, westernise or Christianise or does it mean alleviate poverty or even still are those objectives one and the same. I am battling that question and i don't know the answer, just being here challenges my ideas of what is right or wrong (ie a lot of aid seems to destroy responsibility) and I fear I am becoming racist and insensitive to the plight of others but these big questions pose paradoxes that are not simple to untangle.

Lucy spoke openly about the damage that aid is doing and the problems that arise from our western 'do gooder' attitude born out of love (or is it ego) towards Africa. A lot of African countries are utterly dependent on aid (fact) which has apron strings attached. Sometimes the aid giving is utterly inappropriate but meant well and at other times aid acts as a tool to further entrench poverty by deniyng people the opportunity to fend for themselves and take responsibility. Things like micro finance schemes (which i think are excellent) go someway to removing this dependence.

Lucy, like PT criticised aid agencies for their lavish spending (they all seem to have brand new land drovers)and goes further branding do gooders as being a big part of the problem. In Lucy's eyes and in her experience Africans live day to day thinking only of the next meal and the way to get through the day- is this because long term thinking is not a part of the African phyche or is it born out of circumstance- don't you just love how everything goes back to nature vs nurture??? To illustrate the point i was told a story which i will attempt somewhat ineloquently to retell here

A fisherman sits under a tree at 10:00am drinking a beer, a white man approaches him and says 'why are you not still fishing the day is young?' the African man replies 'I have caught all i need' to which the white man replies 'but have you thought if you fished longer maybe you would make a profit and in time you could buy a second boat which your brother could fish from, and then in time you could by a third boat and your cousin could fish from that one and then you could sit under a tree at 10:00am and drink beer everyday to which the African replies 'but that is what I am doing'.

Rob's idea to this quandary is a good one but born out of his studies as an economics student way back when... trade and tourism, plain and simple. I like it a lot and am yet to fault too much of it. His motto is spend big when you travel, buy local and visit far and wide- not a bad solution for an itinerant like me.

*******

When we weren't debating the value of aid vs trade, the house boat was an oasis that provided pure joy after 50 days on the truck. With a chef on board meals were prepared, dishes were washed by the crew and with nothing much to do mornings were lazy, afternoons indulgent and evenings drunken. In some down time I utilised one of the crews fishing rods and caught my own fish- my very first,a palm sized Zambezi bream (not a bad start to my professional fishing career)... better watch out Rex hunt... KP has a rod and knows how to use it.

Lots of love.

KP

My own heart of darkness.

In an attempt to follow in some famous footsteps, face Africa's final frontier and have a little adventure i accepted Ziz and Zane's offer of free flights in and out of The Congo.

The truck was on it's was to Lake Kariba for a mellow trip of a house boat and given the politics of the group, my feelings of being on the outer circle and the opportunity to have my own 'crazy' adventure i was eager to accept such a kind invitation.

I have always been interestiong in The Congo, an almost mythic country, unmapped, uncharted until late in the piece and the setting for Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness'- I could not think of a better place to go.

The drive to the airport filled me with anticipation. I could not get my good byes to my truck mates out of my head Even though we would only be apart for 4 days our good bye felt final. As the truck drove up the dirt track leaving me in the custody of my Zim mates i began thinking have i done the right thing?

As the land cruiser speed into town, my eyes photographed Lusaka for one last time and I watched the sun make rainbows on the soviet style high rises remembering back to Dorthy in the Wizard of Oz and felt i too was about to enter another world.

Surprisingly bureaucracy at the airport was minimal- Zane gave our papers to an attendant and in only a few minutes we were ushered onto the tarmac.

We were flying a small plane (a cesner i think??) and aside from the boys, there we two armed guards and a french translator the other 4 seats were empty.

The guards guns made me nervous, i had never been that close to one (it was virtually on my lap) and i was praying that it would not be used, well not in my presence.

*************************************

I never did get to the end of that adventure.... at the time of writing my mind was full of pictures, African vistas i longed to capture for my blog but now as i sit in a stinking hot net cafe, persperation dripping from every pore my inspiration has surprsingly disappeared... next time.

Leaving Lusaka

The drive to Lake Kariba was a slow one. Located less than 250 kilometres from Lusaka, to get there you have to travel along some of the worst roads in all of Africa. For most of the afternoon our speed was comparable to a fast paced walk, travelling 67 kilometres in 4 hours.

I was not in the mood for a long drive, irritable and hung over i was a real pain in the arse to be around.

The night before i went 'crazy' and decided to have a tipple (or two... ok three) for the first time since Dave had departed. The bar at the Eureka campsite (incidentally the toilets were identifiable by a Shelia and Bruce sign... the Aussie diaspora is amazing)was heaving as another truck was in residence.

Rob, Steve & I played pool (the boys swapping as my partners) and we occupied the table for most of the night with my form ranging from extraordinary to piss poor.

It was at the table that i met Zane and Ziz two cashed up Zim boys (people from Zimbabwe are abbreviated as being from Zim... well on the truck anyway). Ziz was a sleazy 30 something (looked about 40 with a huge beer belly and red nose) whilst Zane was younger, baby faced and talkative.

For the entire night they challenged the boys and I at the table and refused to allow us to buy our own drinks... as the drinks were drunk i decide to delve deeper into why they were together (such an odd union)and what they were doing in Zambia.

So the story goes... they were in Zambia on their way to The Congo so they could trade car parts for diamonds, surreal does not even cut it. Despite not being able to spot any glaring illegality with their money making scheme (unless buying diamonds is a crime... and i am not talking ethics)- with their story they seemed like dodgy but very interesting people... I felt as though i was on the set of Blood Diamond and instead of Leonardo DiCaprio i was staring face to face with a fresh faced all American quarter back type (who had a Zim accent) and his unintelligible pot bellied accomplice.

According to Zane because of the economic situation in Zimbabwe it is almost impossible to make any money so diamond trading (or smuggling) is his only way to make ends meat (believiable). I asked him why he does not leave Africa or at the very least Zimbabwe to give him more options, safer options and his answer surprised me (it should not have) he said

'I am a Zimbabwean, 4th generation, i have white skin but i have a Zimbabwean passport and no one wants a Zimbabwean immigrant... i have no where i can go'.

I was shocked because he was white and for some reason i never associated white people with being real Africans but i should not have been as Zane is as African as anyone else.

On a tangent, I have thought about national identity a lot on this trip (mainly because i have been associating lots with people from lots of different places) and i always ponder the same question when is it that you become less of where you are from and more of where you are??? enough digressing.

As a joke and for a writing exercise i decided to write my next entry about The Congo as if i went with them (they did ask multiple times)anything to pass the time on the bus.

With love,

KP

Monday, April 06, 2009

Zambia

By afternoon it seemed like it had been a gloomy day. It was not that it started badly, on the contrary i was awoken by bright sunshine at about 6:00am, which was quickly replaced by Malawai's mercinless rains.

Our spirits were at there lowest in days and I like the rest of the crew were keen to get out of Malawai. I had decided that my time must have been cursed- my Ipod had broken and my stomouch was back to doing its usual samersaults.

By late afternoon we had driven across the country and we were at the Zambian boarder, drizzle was threatening to drown us and i loneged for respite. With a Malawain exit stamp easily obtained i walked across no mans land and to my astonishment as i crossed the boarder the sun began to shine- she was not strong, nor very bright but she was there. Surely this was a positive sign?

At the boarder a charming Zambian looked up from reading his local paper and said as we arrived 'i suppose i better do some work now'.

After over an hour he handed back my passport (lucky last) and the boarder offical wished me a fond farwell 'enjoy my country and travel well, i am sorry to have delayed you miss'. It was a thoughrally charming introduction to my 8th African country. As horriable as it seems i was beeming just to be out of Malawai.

That night we camped in Chimpanda (i think??) were we met a british expat i will call Paul (for ease's sake... i have no idea what his name was). It was Paul who spoke to us about the economics of prostitution (he used to own a bar - although i think he may have been a pimp), he was quite eccentric and entertaining after a long day on the road.

Next morning we were up early an (its very entertaining) and watching Spooks on my new BFF Rob's laptop we approached Lusaka. At first glance tge city appears clean with double laned, dual carriage ways seperated by median strips covered in trees. Traffic lights decorate street corners and signs 'keep lusaka clean' populate the road side.

The City sky line is dotted with a few tower blocks, a power plant and is reminisent of a soviet city; square buildings, grey and brutal. Industry seems to dominate downtown; there are flour mills, copper production plants and other refineries next to office blocks. Most of the buildings look like they were designed in the 1970's and some reach 20 stories tall. Certainly lusaka is not a capital that would win a prize in a beauty pagent but drenched in sunshine, desolate on a late sunday afternoon there is a certain charm to be found. Maybe it is the civic pride that is demonstrated by the 'keep Lusaka beautiful' signs or the ordiliness of the goings on, perhaps it is the lack of traffic or the sheer joy to be out of malawai... i have not worked it out yet but it will be a joy finding out!





After an 11 hour drive we approached Luska

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Malawi

Since Dave's departure things have gone a little pear shaped. Without Dave around the trip certainly has lost some glamour for me, i lost both my best friend on the bus (incidently the funniest person i have ever met) and my tent buddy too... and things are just not quite right.

Malawi has proved to be a cold, wet and unsympathetic place and the country that i have liked the least in Africa...maybe even the world. Despite scenery that could be beautiful if it ever stopped raining and a cheery populace, our constant battle with the floods has taken its toll and i think the entire bus is worn out, wet, exhausted and are now left praying for sunnier times.

I like to think that everything (me included) are rebelling against Dave's departure and the out of the ordinary things (even for Africa standards) that have been happening left right and center are a direct result of him leaving...like the rain... i will let you be the judge.

Firstly and bizarrely since Dave has left my tent has decided to stage a one tent protest against him or maybe it is me. Now that it is my job to put the tent up all by myself the poles no longer stay in the ground, moreover they have decided to fling themselves far and wide and remove themselves from the earth when ever i am not looking, making the assembly of the tent next to impossible. The poles now have minds of their own and clearly miss Dave's firm hand.

Next, my stomach has decided that without Dave around it is fine to have a severe bout of vomiting. Whilst ill (and i mean ill) i won the prestigious title of first person to spew on the bus whilst in motion (an award i never thought i would steel away from some of the more obvious favourites), all in all my food poisoning/bug lasted for just on 24 hours and have never vomited with such intensity, regularity, speed in as long as i can remember. Surprisingly it was the boys on the bus who took care of me (perhaps the girls were worried i would vomit on them) and when i burst into tears because i vomited all over myself (well, actually i vomited into a bag that had a whole in it) one of the boys said 'don't cry KP, just think when you get to Cape town you'll look like a supermodel' which made me laugh whilst another boy (one of the tougher ones) said 'we are all in this together mate, don't worry i am here with you'.... the girls generally avoided me like the plague (ehich i could well have had). As i was cleaning myself up on the roadside it was the boys who scrubbed and disinfected the bus, it was also the boys who calmed me down when i was sure i had cholera (as i had all the symptoms)... the kindness and care shown to me by them knocked me for six.

Next the roads in Malawi are obviously missing Dave (despite the fact he has never been to Malawi i hust know they miss his presence) and we have had to contend with truck pile ups, localised flooding and washed away bridges. The pile up we saw (and thankfully were not involved in) slowed our progress down by a day as a road we needed to travel was a witness to a BIG accident that involved three semi trailers.... insanity seems to be the motto of the truckies here. The boys loved the crash site and as we waited, and waited for someone to come and clear the road (we gave up after about 5 hours) the boys delighted in watching cars/vans avoid the accident by going off road and getting bogged and sliding side ways towards a cliff face (we could not get round the accident as our truck was just too big).

We have also battled flooding on many fronts- first the roads have been impassible and we have had to re route (or just wait till the rain eased) our trip many times. Since the rains begun, the truck has begun to stink (of damp,wet and mould) and the tents are disgusting with a capital D. Unfortunately for me there was aleak on the truck and my backpack bore the brunt- now everything i own is saturated, smelly and unwearable... Fortunately there has been some sympathy directed towards me- one of the boys offered me my pick of his dirty laundry whilst another said i could lend anything at all- (i have had no such love from the ladies).

Truck dynamics are different without Dave- he was a lynch pin, someone who made everyone laugh and without him things are naturally more sedate.

Our group leader changed when Dave left and our new guide, whilst perfectly pleasant lacks Julius' charisma, enthusiasm and likability instead he is extremely serious and too rules orientated to make things FUN.

I have noticed that some of the people who joined us in Nairobi are starting to shine (like my buddies Rob, Wiki and Ash) and a few (nameless)people are getting a little big for their boots if you ask me. Some of our bus buddies (one in particular)is at times condescending with lines like 'you did not lock this', 'No- we don't want that', 'No, do it this way', 'Please remember only to put washing here', 'please remember to do this', blah blah blah. It has taken the edge off things and almost like they are auditioning for their role on who wants to be a control freak tour guide. I never knew i was so laid back but it appears that i am in conparison.

I am still getting along fine and despite the moaning tone of this entry i am happy and at the end of the day i am in a privileged position- each day is a blessing- i just hope tomorrows brings with it some sunshine.

Lots of love -KP


ps- i have had VERY limited acess to email (everytime i get on the net i write this)that i have not been able to reply to anyone lately... i am sorry for this and please know i love receiving your mails and comments- i will endevour to write replies when i have a day off in a town that has fast internet- in the meantime know i am thinking of you.... i am sure you know who you are.
XXXXX

Monday, March 30, 2009

Goodbye

Goodbye

Dave and I’s 430am goodbye was sad- despite not wanting to cry… a few silent ones escaped as I bade farewell to my dear friend An and then a few more fell as Dave and I shared our last embrace…one which I can still feel in my belly. To write more makes me sad, even now… so I will leave it at that.

Back in Dar and Dave's last day

Back in Dar and Dave’s Last Day.

The journey back to Dar was a sleepy one, Dave and I took turns to rest our heads. The entire journey took forever; we reached base camp in Dar after dark. With his departure so close it hung the air like a noose around our necks… we were both sad to be leaving each other and at the very thought of it I would burst into spontaneous tears which was impossible for Dave. He hated seeing me upset and managed to talk them away with a promise to find mw in Sydney and an embrace that lingered long after it ended. Earlier in the week we made a promise that we would only be upset for 1 hour…with one night to go we were running low on minutes….

As our last night came to a close, we entered our ridiculously hot tent for the last time and I could not help thinking that this was not how it was supposed to end. We spoke briefly and Dave confirmed what I have thought all along- we do have a future together…. We’ll just have to work hard at making it happen.

I am not sure what will happen next in my great African love story... with no promise to stay together, his situation back at home and my global nomad status… I only hope that despite the odds being against us we make it- ‘cause I would like to introduce you to my loveable liverpudlian when he finds me in Sydney.

Zanzibar

Zanzi

After a sleepless night in Dar, caused mainly due to ridiculous humidity a pack of hungry mosquitoes that had made a home in Dave and I’s tent, making it feel like you were tying to sleep in soup we made our way to Zanzibar.

On board our luxury liner (which proved anything but) we begun to sweet it out. With out AC the air was thick heavy and airless (is that possible?).

With Dave beside me carefully fanning me with the newspaper I feel asleep in his arms and thankfully missed most of the journey. At port I was surprised to have to hand over my passport…. We were still in Tanzania…. Weren’t we? Zanzibar signed a declaration of unity wit Tanganyika in 1964 creating the united republic of Tanzania.

The port art Stone Town was busy, women in colourful hijabs roamed, men with skull caps and heads with big mosque bruises dominated. The light was hot an harsh and the sky perfectly blue.

On return of our passports we set off on foot to the Safari lodge located down one of Zanzibar’s labyrinth like lanes. As we wandered you could be forgiven for thinking that you had stepped back in time. Stone Town famous for being the commercial centre of the Spice Islands was once home to one of Africa’s largest slave markets which saw 17 million people sent off to the Middle East in the 400 years proceeding Livingstone’s courageous petition to the motherland which outlawed the practice in the 1960;s.

Stone Town has oodles of charm, decorative doorways and a feeling tat not much has hanged lately. Distinctly middle eastern in architecture d├ęcor or dress it feels very exotic and a million miles from my imagining of what Africa was like before the trip.

After checking into the Safari we went for a walk to a local restaurant where I ordered some Pilau rice (a delicious cardamom flavoured dish). Afterwards despite the tempeture pushing 40 degrees and an inhumane humidity level we set of on a tour of the Slave market, cathedral and spice plantation.

Dave decided to stay behind with his brother and sample some local brew at Mercury’s bar on the dock- FYI Freddie Mercury of Queen fame was born on the island and is the local legend.

Our tour of the island was very good- who knew that doctor Livingstone was so busy… not only was he responsible for discovering the source of the Nile, tramping into deepest darkest Congo he found time to utilise his influence to end the abhorrent practice of slavery too…. Definitely the next biography I read.

I was really impressed with the Spice tour- I had never seen what spics look like before they are put into those cute little jars at the supermarket.

That night we watched Dave’s beloved Liverpool take on my favourite team Villa at Mercury’s and saw Liverpool assert their dominance winning 5:0. Afterwards Dave and I had our first argument and it was horrible…. I was in a mood and he took the full force of my anger…. Luckily his forgiveness was close at hand and aside from feeling rather embarrassed and annoyed at myself for the way I unfairly acted in what I label ‘my rebel hour’.

The next morning we drove deep into the island’s interior and stopped at Kendwa beach, a small sea front which is paradise.

With beautiful endless white sandy beaches, clear aquamarine waters that you can se forever through….. I was in bliss with my lovely handsome liverpudlian beside me.

If I have ever been to a postcard perfect panorama this was it.

With 3 days up our sleeves I encouraged Dave to arrange a boys day out as a chance for him to do some bonding (aka drinking) with his brother as some how I felt like I may have hijacked Rob’s holiday and stolen his brother….

I took the opportunity to snorkelling with the girls and whilst I was having perfectly lovely time exploring a nearby atoll, watching dolphins swim and catching some rays Dave and his lads were getting hammered. I returned to one very drunk scouser passed out at the beach bar. Seems that the boys did more drinking than fishing and caught only one measly fish between 9 of them… but they had an amazing time.

Later that afternoon after Dave had sobered up we went sunset swimming. It was nicer than words watching the sun set over the sea and hard not to wish time would stop and we could be together like that forever. As we watched the sun show us her magic turning the sky all the colours of the rainbow before departing I decided that our sunset swim was my favourite moment of the trip ….

Our final day at Zanzibar was marred by two things….

1. I thought I could have Malaria- somewhere between dinner and sleep the night before I had developed a fever and a general malaise overwhelmed me. I awoke the next morning feeling pretty rubbish but thankfully with out a fever, instead I had all the signs of a cold (which coincidently are the same symptoms of Malaria). I took the opportunity to chat to my group leader who said he doubted I had it but he did request I monitor myself and at the onset of any fever go to the hospital (so you don’t worry it had been 5 days since this and I have felt progressively better every day so no need to worry!!!).
2. Dave was leaving in less than 36 hours and that thought is just plain cruel. How would I survive with out his energy, enthusiasm and likability until he came to Sydney??? NOTE- I am no closer to working this out 3 days since our last hug.


After a lazy morning spent dosing up on panadol and tissues for my runny nose Dave and I had a quiet afternoon getting henna tattoos, swimming, sun baking and playing a dice game called Zilch. Dave and caught the last of the sunset together and I tried to keep a brave face.

Later that night at dinner, Dave got really sad to be leaving and I did my best to cheer him up with bad jokes which did the trick.

Later still, Dave and I went for a moonlight swim and it as MAGIC, so still was the water and so active the plankton I thought I was swimming in a pool full of diamonds and a sexy liverpudlian.

Dar

DAR

With low expectations on what Dar would be like, I was shocked to find myself in a thriving metropolis, complete with modern roads (and traffic lights), tall multi story building painted various pastel shades, well dressed locals and a nice beach on the northern side of town.

The City itself is for most tourists (myself included) a jumping off point for East Africa’s beach paradise Zanzibar. The Cities modernity was surprising, its affluence and obvious development a million miles from the chaos that is every other African capital – think Nairobi, Cairo, Kabali and Kampala.

We drove to Absolute Africa’s base camp a sweat filled house on the shores of the sea. After a delicious seafood BBQ and game of beach cricket which amused the locals we made a camp fire and Dave and I escaped for a quiet moonlight swim.

I won’t bore you with the lovey bits but our swim was incredible as the sea was full of plankton and lit up with sparkles every time you moved.

Arusha

Arusha


For some bizarre reason when we arrived in Tanzania we were camping in a snake park that is home to many of Africa’s deadliest and most dangerous snakes including a real Black Mamba, rock python and more varieties of Cobra than you could spit at.

The Park was also home to a couple of dangerously low fenced crocodile enclosures with only waist height walls.

After an early night (relatively) we woke early to hitch a ride in our land cruiser to the Serengeti. Our driver shared his name with the king of the jungle; hopefully Simba would prove to bring us some good luck in our pursuit of the big 5.

Our first day was pretty disappointing, aside from a couple of Cheetah spotted at some distance the Cats were illusive and morale was as low as the storm clouds that hung overhead.

We awoke early on day 2 keen to make amends for yesterdays poor display and despite missing a lions pride laze under a tree we were not disappointed. By 10:00am we had seen more than 20 female lions and cubs at close range, a leopard cruising the road so close I could have touched it (amazing), elephants, Zebras, wildebeest on migration, vultures, hyenas and more birds than I could ever possibly name.

The scenery of the Serengeti is unlike my imaging- the plains are wheat coloured, dry and mostly flat with no dense cover for the animals to hide. The sunrises and sunsets of the Serengeti are magic and the sheer concentration of animals made me question why anyone would EVER game drive anywhere else.

Next stop was the phenomenal Ngorongoro crater, heaven on earth. Neighbouring the Serengeti it is the most stunning place I have ever been privileged enough to see. The crater measures approximately 20 kilometres in diameter and is greener than a Christmas tree plantation. It is also home to more animals than one would think possible and by being there we wee able to get close and I mean within centimetres of some male lions strutting there stuff walking down the road, so majestic was the sight I felt my heart miss a beat. The adult male lion is breathtaking and clearly the king of the jungle. We were also able to get within inches of a female lion and her playful cubs who posed for pictures, spitting distance from a heard of elephants and we were also able to see 6 black rhino (One of the worlds most endangered species) which completed our pursuit of the BIG 5.

After a couple of magic days in the Serengeti we headed back to the Masi Camp in Arusha. It was Lily and Aziz’s last night and the first time that the ladies had a dance on the trip. Together (with An) we busted our favourite moves and even invented some new ones. Whilst we shake out tale feathers the boys played pool and drank the bar dry.


During the night I came to logger heads with one of the girls (the one I have mentioned previously) who like a lot of girls on the trip like getting physical with the boys in an attention grabbing way they slap, punch, pinch and play with them at any opportunity and as long as they leave Dave along I have no qualms with it… on this occasion though the girl thought it fun to hit Julius our Ugandan team leader across the face. Aside from thinking that this act was immature it was also disrespectful, culturally insensitive and just not cricket! I made my feelings very clear on this (as I will on any subject after a few vinos) as no one else dare spoke… group mentality sux sometimes.

Subsequently, I have received some dirty looks and despite An and Dave trying to mollify me with talk of jealously (on the other individuals behalf) I don’t buy it and just feel that it is not nice to be disliked.

In the morning I said goodbye to Lily and Aziz and Lily was so sad o be leaving that she cried…. I will definitely miss her.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

It is a long way to Tan- Zan-ia

Waking up still dreaming of goat and with a late night conversation with Dave still fresh in my mind- i was not in the best mood.

Before slumber last night Dave told me that one of the other girls on the trip said some nasty things about me to him the details of which I wont bore you with here.... the end result was that I was and am pretty upset.

I also remembered how upset i was at his flirting with other people. It is Dave's fault that he is hilarious and handsome and that girls naturally flock around him and given girls out number boys on the trip 5:1 the stakes are high, girls are bitchy and Dave for all the positive qualities he possess likes the attention- which really aggravates an already tense situation.

I wont go in to specifics but say this- the flirting that happens is at times outrageous, at other times hurtful and whilst it is surely fun, it is extremely destructive and makes me like him less as it is clear that he does not respect me.

Mindful not to let my aggravation show in front of the team, i have found myself having to walk away when it gets too much. Silently i slip away and take 5 minutes of KP time to cool off, secretly praying that his outward flirtations will stop.

Last night i told him i was very upset with the situation and only hope that he changes his outward behaviour to the others because with all the girls throwing themselves at him and his displays of friendly flirting i fear i may loose my mind if things continue as they are. The joys of being a women.

After such a long digression I forgot to mention that we picked up 9 more passengers in Nairobi 3 of which are set to be good friends... first there is a kiwi couple called Ash and Wiki from Invercargil and Rob 2 (moby) a Manc who now lives in St Albans in the UK. Sadly we lost Aziz and Lily (my favourite couple) who i really like and am so glad that i met.

The drive to Tanzania was long and the air was hot- I could not think of a worse way to assimilate a new group of people but they seemed to manage.

It was a quiet day on the roads and aside from a 1 hour wait at the Tanzanian boarder there was not much to report....

One of my favourites

Back in Nairobi to met 9 more passengers i was surprised to have one of my favourite days of the trip.For a girl who is afraid of animals, i have taken massive strides on this holiday... firstly there was my pain stricken encounter with the Hippos at lake baringo, then my terrifying brush with a 400 kilo silver back in Rwanda and now I had the opportunity to interact with my favourite herbivore- the giraffe.

At the Karen Blixen giraffe sanctuary in Nairobi i fell in love with Lauren the giraffe as i felt her slimy tongue caress my hand as i fed her.

Lauren's breath stunk and her lick was slurpy but her manner was so friendly i could not resist, grabbing more and More food- patting her head and posing for photos with her.

With a track record of never hurting humans giraffes make great friends.

Afterwards when girl could not get any happier we went to a elephant and rhino orphanage and watched as the cutest elephants came and played with us....they are the cutest thing in the world. next we were introduced to a 2 month old baby black rhino who was adorable and the size of a Labrador...shiny, leathery and lovely too.

That night after a few games of Killer (darts) where i discovered i am hopeless and only hit the board about 50 % of the time- despite aiming for the BIG 10 i did manage to hit the bullseye once.

Afterwards of the recommendation of Julius we went to dinner at a local restaurant named hysterically 'the Mamba' and only Goat available i was unsure of waht to expect.... but i was in for a perfect ending to a perfect day.... we delighted in the succulent meat and i decided that goat is fair game... it is amazing and i urge you all to try it if you can.

Aside from the food dinner was amazing, the company (Lily, Aziz, An and rob (Dave's brother) had a ball.

Navasha

After Nakuru we travelled about 100 kilometres down the road to a town called Navasha. I Navasha Dave and I decided to upgrade from our smelly tent and get a room to share.

On one day we ventured into town with my hero Steve in search of a tennis ball t facilitate a truck ashes series with a game of cricket.

The Town (if you can call it that) was small, dusty and seemed to be one that time had forgotten... aside from a bright blue Barclay's bank on the main street that consisted of 5 shops that all sold the same thing and a bar- it was completely devoid of modernity. Cows wandered the litter filled streets. After stopping at all the shops without sicess we stopped by the bar for a quick beer to the delight of the publican... mazungus (white people) are a novelty in this part of the world.

Afterwards in an attempt to nullify the stupid heat... he was ridiculous that anywhere should be so ht we had a nap and afterwards we woke up and went for a walk around the camp and spotted An who seemed delighted t see us- seemed that after we left the town it had burned down and she was worried we were missing... Reading the newspaper the next day i saw that 100 homes were destroyed as well as the market.. we had missed it by minutes.

****************

Back in Kenya

Crossing the boarder back into Kenya was painless and gave me the opportunity to better observe the differences between Kenya and Uganda.

It seemed that Kenya was dryer, more barren (but more affluent at the same time) than it's neighbour.

We were headed back to Nakuru, the city where the original 4 spent our first night of the tour.

This time however we were to stay in the Nakuru national park after a game drive.

Nakuru is Kenya's second largest game park and home to thousands of smelly pink flamingos, leopards (who were on holidays when we visited), White Rhino and Lions (who had in the past 2 years killed 14 people at our very campsite).... wnough to guarantee a good nights sleep.

The park and game drive were spectacular- the landscape straight out of a photo anthology of what Africa should look like. Wheat coloured plains dotted with acica trees and an endless cobalt blue sky filled with the occasional marshmallow like fluffy whte cloud.

The wild life proved more dense and plentiful than that of Queen Elizabeth and allowed us to see dozens of Buffalo, zebra, rhinos (only 3 or 4), thousands of Flamingo (who don't photograph well) baboons (awful aggressive monkeys with red bottoms) and our first Dik Dik (a fox like little animal).

That night i felt distant from the Liverpudlian... almost as if he'd switched offa tap of affection and attention for me... for a minute t seemed that i might have made a mistake... t was at this moment i decided to reclaim my trip fr me and not let anyone Else's thoughts or actions impact on the enjoyment of my trip.... easier said than done. it was a terrible feeling.... that of being unwanted or uncared for by a man who until that moment i was thiking i could be falling in LOVE with. The feeling highlighted what a vulnerable position i was in.

At bed time i said good bye to the group and did not single Dave out.... Almost asleep i was amazed when a light appeared at my tent door- yep you guessed it- the Liverpudlian had come to apologise for being distant and quiet and also he came to say good night... the effort even though it was only a few steps through lion infested forrest gave me some faith in there beig an US existing. Since then each day has seen the affection grow and after pages and pages of gushing i bet you might be interested to know what the Liverpudlian is like....

Well looks wise he is about 6 foot tall (maybe taller), skinny with brown eyes and cheek bones to die for with short dark hair. Workwise dave is an aspiring photographer who studied film and Tv at University and currently works as an art director on movies and Tv. He is also hilarious.

Jinga

After the longest drive in history, the entire bus were all in a good mood to arrive in jinga Uganda's action capital. Situated at the start of the mighty Nile it's claim to fame being that it is the source of the river.

Approaching the City from the north it was easy to see hat this town is somewhat different to those in the rest of Africa and to Paul Theroux's assertion that all big Cities in Africa are slums- Jinga's red earth roads lead to grand colonial homes with wide verandas, bay windows and a general affluence unseen in the rest of Africa.

After lots of encouragement from a nameless boy i decided to go white water rafting on the mighty Nile (with out travel insurance)- the first and only crazy thing i have done this Holiday.

On the morning f the rapids i expected to be a ball of nerves instead i was ready for action and adventure as my blog title suggest i should be.

The boat was lead by Paulo a Ugandan champion kyacker who has competed all over the world whose mission was to maximise our fun, ensuring that we avoided the 'chicken' runs at all costs instead flipping our boat 4 times on monster rapids... causing optimal carnage.

Despite falling upside down in grade 5 rapids i never felt unsafe and instead got a massive rush.

The other 2 days were spent lazing Nile side with Dave being cute and developing an infatuation. Jinga was also the place where we came out to the rest of the team.

The news was well received buy the rest of the group (in the main) the girls seemsed happy for me and the boys seemed not to care... well all accept one girl who made nasty comments under her breath... the remarks were hurtful and i was more offended by her unwavering and unrequited affection that she displayed to you know who (this is a common theme of the weeks ahead).

Apologies- After Rwanda

First and foremost apologies from Dave for being such a distraction that I have not written a word of sense since we met n Entebbe.

This blog has become more of a 'love fest' than i had ever imagined and i appreciate that not everyone wants to hear about a lovable Liverpudlian wowing me all over Africa.

So i thought i would recap about some of the things that i have been doing lately and try not to mention the man.

After our drive back from Kabali we landed in lush, tropical Uganda- it was coincidentally the Liverpudlians birthday and also the day of our first game drive.

The bus was very excited- we were all eager to catch a glimpse of the BIG 5- despite most of us not being able to name them (me included). For the record they are

1 Elephant
2 Water Buffalo
3 Leopard
4 Black Rhino
5 Lion


Queen Elizabeth national park is located in South Western Uganda and home to Uganda's largest collection of mammals. Unfortunately some of this collection were victims of Uganda's bloody civil war.

On entrance to the park we were all thrilled to find a heard of African elephants not More than 20 metres from the truck.... the size, power and strengh were breathtaking- graceful, elegant and enormous.

The rest of the drive gave us the opportunity to see hundreds of Poomba (warthog), Hippo, more elephants but unfortunately NO cats- which lead t some disappointed faces.

Dave and I (ok, i wont mention him often) sat next to each other for most of the drive and the tension between us was building.... later that night we had our first kiss (which was like being hit for 6), made our first team bon fire and slept scared that the lions that the ranger came to warn us were in the vicinity might maim us.

The next day was the longest drive of the trip- a full 15 hours undertaken on minimal sleep but with a funny fellow beside me it flew by.

Back to Niroberry

I was not happy when the trucks itinerary included a weeks drive back to Nirobbery- complete with stops at the same places, campsites, monuments and parks as we did in our first week.

However there was one shining light- Dave & I- I am still really enjoying his company, affection and laughter (which is contagious).

The dynamics of the bus have changed a little- there are lots of romances in the air.

1- Dave and I
2- An (my favourite Belgium)and Julius our Ugandan tour guide.
3- Tweedie (my old tent buddy before Dave) and Ian (the Aussie Chippy)
4-Steve (our mechanic and my hero... he is awesome)and Rachel ( a particularly sweet lawyer from Manchester).

It is strange having a relationship on the truck- fr starters i have discovered i posses a jealous streak which i hate. Dave being a ladies man attracts attention from the girls and i hate it when other girls hug, touch, squeeze and flirt with him... i know that i am not really allowed to have these feelings but they certainly exist.

Also i feel that it would be nice t go out on a date with him with out the whole world following us- it is hard too know f there really is stuff happening or if the chemistry that exists would follow us to Sydney or Liverpool at some future stage.

rainbows and wonderful adventures

Africa has proved a wonderful adventure for me- providing me with not only a thousand unanswered big questions but also with the opportunity to get to know myself (and like myself) better.

It is now day 19 and i feel more comfortable than ever... the only sadness that exists within my soul is associated with the departure of the lovable Liverpudlian.

I desperately don't want him to leave in Zanzibar as preplanned and whenever i catch myself thinking about it i want to cry.

I am not sure if it is fair but his presence is like a huge rainbow in my life- shining beautifully now but certain to disappear at some point- like all rainbows do.

In my mind i try and think of solutions to the departure-i am cheered by the fact Dave has promised me he will move to Australia at some point this year.

The last few days

Since Dave's birthday which was spent at a game park in Uganda dodging Lions, Hyenas and Hippos we have become inseparable.

After a few perfect days in Junga (Uganda) where we spent our time swimming in a secluded part of the Nile river, whitewater rafting and sleeping under shaded trees doing the cross word... it is fair to say i like him... a lot.

he is not perfect (but then again neither am I)- but he is perfect for me. Last night he said the sweetest thing- that I write here purely to preserve the sentiment

'You know everyone hates the long bus rides but me i hope that sometimes they were longer so i can spend more time with just you'.

These are not the exact words he said but close enough for you to get the idea.

I really like myself when i am around him, he is the kind of individual that brings out the best qualities in those he surrounds, most of the time i am beaming from ear to ear.... I worry a little too- he has unfinished business back in Liverpool and leaves the trip in 3 weeks.

In other news the Bus has turned into a Love fest and Dave and I have nick named it the Love Bus- there are a few other romances in the air which makes things all the more interesting.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

a quickie

Just a quick one to let you know i am in Zanzibar (Tanzania) and will be back writting my blog later tonight- tomorrow- i have written almost daily in my notebook so it will be a monmster session.... cant wait to share the news... LOVE you- Love me

XXX

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Back to Uganda

It was still dark when we got up- the 5th morning in a row that we left camp before 5:30am and it is begining to take it's toll- my morning wake up calls are sounding less cheery and i think we are all just a little flat.

Last night we were in bed by 10pm and slowly our sleeping time is getting earlier and earlier soon we will be in bed by 930 and no doubt it will eventually get to sunset at the rate we are going.

Due to bad road conditions we have had to drive back to Uganda the way we came (which is the long way apparently)-- via Kambali. Which is both good and bad- good because the scenery is stunning but bad because we have another long truck... i am so thakful that i have Dave who makes the hours fly by.

As we make our way back to Uganda i am very content to lie under my sleeping bag (surprisngly Rwanda is very cold in the mornings...) with Dave and look out the window.

Rwanda is a special place with a rare etheral beaty- the hills here are so green and the lushiest i can remember and I want to saviour the memory of their beauty and make special mind photograps that i go back to later.

Rwanda is so different to the land i had imagined- i am still finding it hard to imagine the atrocities that occoured here as they are so incongerious with the land that surrounds me... to think that the mud rivers once ran red with blood, that the very roads we travel on were once littered with dead bodies and people trying desperatly to get to the boarder as refugees... some 2 million people were internally displaced in the genocide.

I have noticed that the people of Rwanda are more reserved that their Rwandian neighbours but still friendly and they still wave to us on the bus as we pass.

There is very little sign of wealth here, people are either dressed in rags with bare feet or some second hand western style suits that are a few sizes too big... ocassionaly there is a women in an african style frock and she usually looks amazing.

There are very few cars on the roads (aside from mini vans, buses and Land crusisers used by aid agencies)and the people carry most goods by hand balanced precariously on their heads... anything from a whole banaa tree to a sheet of corrigated iron.

As we pass through the grubby Ugandian boarder around lunch time i amsad to be leaving Rwanda... i was only there a second but it was a second i will cherish.

Gorillas in the Mist- Day 10 & 11

Seems Rwanda has turned me into a hyperbpowlic maniac-the beauty here is magic! The country is certianly a looker.... breathtaking vistas as far as the eye can see, if the world's countries were in a beauty contest Rwanda would get a prize!

I find it hard to fathom that a place that looks like heaven could ever have decended into hell. When i imagined coming here i thought of red dusty roads, trees bare of leaves and rubbish and mud everywhere... instead it is lush, green and full of foliage.

Yesterday we went and saw the Gorillas int he wild and it was such a privledge to spend an hour in their presence. To reach our designated Gorilla family, we had to trek into thick jungle in the presence of armed guards. It was sometimes scary but mostly amazing....

I wont give a blow by blow account- it would or could take hours- what i would say is that if you ever get the chance to spend some time in rural Rwanda (on the Ugandian and DRC boarder) do it- as an hour with the gorillas will stay with you forever.

KP

XXXX

Rwanda

The land of the rolling hills was covered in a canopy of thick mist as we made our way to the Capital Kabali.

The lushest green hills enveloped the road- covered in luminous, eatable green tea plantations as far as the eye could see. Rwandian country side is stunning, in fact so beatiufl is the scenery one cant help wanting to get all hyperbowlic and say some big sweeping statement like... 'The landscape of Rwanda is the most beatiful in all of Africa' with out lying.

Knowing a little about the atrocities that occoured here when the world turned a blind shoulder in 1994 it is uncomprehsable and athetical to all that surronds me.

We stopped in Kabli for lunch and a visit to the genocide museum- the very sight that 50,000 people died just 15 short years ago.

What is contained within the walls of the museum/memorial is a harrowing inditement on the human condition... brutality enough to make grown men weep.

I dont look at the people of Kabali much, I find eye contact difficult as what the people here have seen and done to each other is just unthinkable.

As the bus makes it's way out of Kabali we pass rivers of mud that resemble Willy Wonka's river of chocolate, picturesque banana plantations and terraced alotments that seem to reach into the clouds.

On the bus front-seems that Steves crush on Tweedie has been pacified by Aussie Amanda's presence. Dave and I are getting along famously- he is hilarious and I feel special that he chooses to sit with me as he is easily the funniest and most well liked person in our group....slowly in seems we are devloping our own secret language of stolen looks, winks and smiles. Mel is still mother hen and coolest couple would be Aziz and Lilly- two sydney-ites who i just adore.


Love me

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Road to Rwanda

Awake at 5:30am as designated alarm clock we packed our tents quickly and left Kampala for the second time- on the road towards Rwanda.

We stopped en route at the equator to pose for pictures and confirmed that water does really go down the drain differently in different hemispheres.

Afterwards we stopped at a fruit market as some kids from a local orphage were making their way to a near by church.... without warning teras suddenly flooded my face - the smiling faces of these beautiful orphans was enough to break my heart.

Mother hen Mel wrapped her arms around me and as i apologsed she said 'KP at least you feel and that is a wonderful thing'. It was a really nice thing to say. I am pretty embarressed by my mini break down- but sometimes the poverty here in Africa is gut wrenching... I feel fragile here- given the smile of a little kid is enough to make me cry... is that normal? Am I normal?

I have noticed that the further outside Kampala we get and the closer we get to Rwanda the happier the children get. Kids wave like maniacs and i feel a little uneasy and too privledged in my luxury bus waving regally to anyone that passes... maybe i am thinking about things too much???

Africa has certainly made me question so many things... i just hope i will find right answers.

KP

XXX

The Black Mumba and my new friends

The bus has been injected with new blood and it is good. Whilst I have only spent a few hours with the newbies firm favourites are already developing.

I can see myself gettig along really well with Dave from Liverpool- with a sense of humor to die for, since meeting him i have not stopped laughing. There is also An from Belgium who is interesting, mature and intellectual (someone i am not afraid to say... 'i have read a book about that' too)...It is funny to think how the injection of 14 people will effect us... the orginal 4. Will Mel (my favourite) mother hen who thankfully reminds me daily to take my malaria meds be over taken??? Will Steve's infactuation with my lovely 18 year old tent buddy Tweedie survive now that flirty aussie amanda is on the scene??

Tweedie and I are developoing a really nice friendship- i feel a little like her mentor and only wish i was 18 too and could do all the things that she does instead of being the older wise friend. I have to say- she is defiitely the coolest 18 year old i have ever met... at an age where i was deciding if i should go to the enterance for the weekend she is off on a wild african adventure by herself...

Today whilst our new friends went off to a chimpanze reserve Tweedie and I decided to save some $$$ and spend the afternoon at the botanic gardens in down town Entebbe.

Our peace, serenity were unfortunatly shattered when a man let his trouser snake escape (black mumba) on purpose.... poor tweedie does not need to be exposed to anything like that whilst I as her more mature chaperone definitely dont need to see anyone flashing me...

Thats about it for today.

KP

XXX

Picking up new friends- Day 5

Waking up early with no sign of our fearless leader and commander Julius (who as it turned out had been out to a night club until 5:00am the night before) we made a breakfast of fried tomatoes on toast and waited and waited for Julius to wake up so we could head to Entebbe and pick up our 14 new bus mates.

At 10:30am Julius surfaced and with trick/bus packed we decended into the maze that is Kampala's traffic.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Kampala

After a welcome sleep in we made our way to Kampala, Uganda's bustling capital.

Like Rome, Kampala is nestled between 7 hills and is the thriving commercial heart beat of Uganda.

On our way into the City, the traffic increased and for much of the journey it was stop/start/stop/start. The only interesting things we saw were the people out the window. Hawkers were walking through the traffic selling a range on unusal wares which included electric squash rackets used presumably to zap mosquitoes, rain coats (in Africa??), jumper leads, blow up raindeers, coffee tables and colourful baseball caps.

The City seems a hub of activity, people walk confidently and with purpose as if they are on a mission to somewhere.

The hills are dotted with some medium rise buildings, mostly square comprised of a mix of pastel and glass in a style reminisent of the wonderful late 1980's.

Billboards promoting Ugandan goods, banks, phone companies and fast food outlets line the roads.

The traffic is brutal, nmotorcyles seem to be in the majority here and are used as the local taxi, mini vans also dominate and they are usually white in coloure with blue piping stripes. The windshields are often embossed with a slogans like 'god is great' or 'all praise the lord' and sometimes there are colourful painted slogans on the side of the road in bright painted letters you might see 'Power belongs to the people' prayed across a government building.

There is a faint burning smell in the air- probably a mix of charcol and timber.

As for my bus mates-it is clear that allegences are being formed- friendships are devloping and i have to admit there have been times where i have felt a little left out.

.... But solitude is a wonderful thing. My problems, noteably my own personal insecurities (am i funny enough?, kind enough? patient enouhg?, helpful enough?) are amplyied here... it is almost as though a trip to Africa provides you with a mirror to view yourself.

I have also noted as the days have passed that because i am a bona fide book worm, somwhere in my life i have turned into a know it all.... it is a quality that i sometimes deplore in myself... i am trying to keep quiet more than i would at home or with friends beacuse no one likes someone who has read a book about everything!

In the afternoon at our campsite, i did a spot of hand washing and settled into the pool.

Whilst there I met 2 Pakastani UN Peace Keepers who were on leave from working in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They prooved facinating and interesting pool companions. After plesentries were exchanged and we had spoken about the one thing that can unify 2 Pakistani troops and an Australian girl in depth... CRICKET, we begun a discussion about their service... i had read bits and pieces (there I go again) on the conflict but was keen to get a first hand impression of the situation.


Both men spoke humbily about their jobs and spoke openly about the reasons that they thought they were there.... i wont go into too many details except to say that the DRC is the 5th richest country in the world in terms of natural resources but it still one of the poorest nations of earth... that thought makes me want to vomit.

I could say any number of things i have read on the topic but instead i will close with this... such corruption, nepotism, oppression and brutality is EVIL.... full stop.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Day 4- The long road to Jinja (Uganda)

Day four saw us make our way across our first boarder crossing- leaving the comforts of Kenya for neighbouring Uganda. To be honest i did not know a lot about Uganda as we made our way there- except of course about their terrible dictator Idi Amin.

I read in the guide book that Churchill called it the Pearl of Africa when he first visited and i hoped that sentiment was still true.

It took less than 1 hour for Uganda to give me a small green stamp of approval. as soon as we arrived i noticed the roads deteriorate- red, dusty and dangerous is how i would best describe them.

I also noticed a change in the people- the children here are beyond excited to see us pass and sometimes they look like they are going to pee their pants as they wave their arms uncontrollably yelling hello Muzunte (meaning hello whitey!!). Their enthusiasm is welcome and whilst i try and wave back to everyone, my arm does get sore... i cant even imagine how the queen does it- it probably takes year to perfect it.

I also notice that the people here look more active than those in Kenya... it seems that the rural people here are usually on their way somewhere (on foot or on bike) and less inclined just to sit under the shade of a tree watching the hours pass.


The terrain here is also greener and more lush than the parts of Kenya i visited and similar to Northern NSW (My second home).

We make camp early at one of Jinja's most happening youth hostels and my tent is replaced with a dorm room.

For dinner we cook fish and whilst i am keen to go out and explore the night life i am exhausted and tucked up in bed by 9:00pm.

Day 3- What it looks like from the plane.

We woke painfully early at 6:00am- the stars still hung to their existence in the black sky overhead.

I have been nominated alarm clock holder- a dangerous job for anyone who knows me well knows of my love of slumber.

As soon as we woke we were off to meet Sam our guide from the day before who was going to take us on a sun rise cruise over the lake so we could get up close and personal with some crocs and hungry hippos.

The fear that had consumed me the night before was left somewhere in the night time .... instead it became clear to me that i just don't love animals as much as my fellow travel companions.Their faces light up as we spotted a family of hippos bathing near by whilst i kinda sit there and think 'gee they're big... hope they don't get any closer'. Mel's face was beaming, Steve looked like a kid in a candy store and Tweetie looked amazed... I wanted their excitement but i just could not fabricate it.

Steve picked up on my nonchalance and said 'you don't like animals much do you?' and i was honest in my reply 'I prefer people' and its true... my face lights up when a child smiles at me, when kids run to the side of the road to see our truck pass.

needless to say- the sunrise on the lake was majestic- the water looked as still and clear as glass and the sun lite up the sky in a kaleidoscope of colours- turning the clouds first into lilac marsh mellows, then pink and finally gold.

I am brought back to earth when Sam our guide says 'your fear of hippos is probably like my fear of flying, 'Kateria, please tell me what is it you see when you are in a plane' i answered as best i could... 'Sam, you see clouds, colours and shapes... not scary' and he replied 'like the hippo Katerina, not scary!!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hungry Hippos- Day Two

Another day, another African animal.

Breakfast was delicious- Julius treated us to some of the most yummy fried eggs i had ever tasted. We we up early and had eaten, packed the camp site and on the road by 8:00am on our way to Lake Barlingo.

On route we stopped at the Equator. The invisible line passed straight across our strech of road in an unremarkable part of rural Kenya.

At the equator, ladies ran from the bushes and their tin huts to try and sell us their wares (something that looked like an egg in a wooden bowl looked popular). Somehow i broke free of the scrum athat had surrounded me for long enough to take in the surrounds- i thought a lot and felt extremely hot- it was pushing 40 degrees here in the shade (well it felt like it).

Back on the bus we drove on and at each village kids ran out of their houses to wave and smile at us as we passed. The kids smiles light up their faces as a full moon might a darkened sky. The kids here are beautiful, iridescent and seem affectionate.

At Lake Birango we visited a reptile refuge where i held both a python (it was enormous) and a boa constrictor, i hated the feeling of them on my skin especially as they moved and when my patience and calmness ceased to exist i almost screamed 'get them off me now, please!'.

Later that night as we packing up from dinner two hippos decided to graze a few metres from our tents... i was scarred- Hippos are responsible for more deaths in Africa than any other animal. The other members of our group thought that u was b3eing silly by my fear of Hioppos is (i believe) completely rationale. The are massive, perhaps the size of two full grown cows and can weigh up to 3 tonn.

The campsite is very pretty, resting on the banks of a lake home not only to the Hippos but also to a variety of crocodile (that i was also keen not to get to know too well).

In the trees, birds chirp and flock around us hopeful i might drop some tasty crumbs,it is a bird watches paradise. Colourful kingfishers, herons, finches crowd us and for a second it is easy to image a heaven looking like this.


In the afternoon we visit a Patock tribe located deep into the countryside. We drive for about 1 hour from the camp down a dusty road and it seems to get hotter and hotter as every minute passes.

In the village one man lives with his two wives, parents and twelve children. It is a society where the men seem to have it good. Their job is look after and count the animals as well as hunting dinner. Whilst the women are responsible for building the marital home, raising the children, cooking food, make beer for the man and play seem stress.

The men here buy their wives from their perspective father in laws for an average of 3 cows and 10 goats a piece.

Women have little choice in these unions and are circumcised at the age of 10/11 when they are first put on reserve for a particular gent.

It feels like an ancient culture, the women dress with large beaded collars to signal their marital status and in their ear are large wholes the size of twenty cent pieces as well as large gold hoop earrings.

The children are beautiful- all big eyes and toothy grins... they are fascinated by me and one of the wives holds my hands and asks me to burse one of her babies.

The child looks about 2 or 3 and has sleepy eyes and a gentle nature. Comfortable in my arms i say a silent prayer to an unknown god that the child will survive infancy and grow into a beautiful Young girl.

The children of the tribe are dressed in rags and i wish i had not left some old unwanted cloths in Nairobi as they could have been of use here.

The village provides a shocking experience- it was a sad place for me to visit and half of me wants to cry (the bit that believes in colonialism). I want to wash the people, bring them foods to cook, tare down their huts made of cow dung and sticks and give them something more durable in this harsh heat.

The other half of me remembers that these people have to stay the way they are- they have to do things there way- difficulties and harshness aside... i can not place my values and virtues up on them.

I wonder if the imperialist thoughts on my mind exist only to make me feel better? I am reminded by a book i read recently that 'no body can fix Africa except for Africans themselves' ad looking at the tribe i see that. I am not sure that the Potock tribe need 'fixing' per say but it is clear that these people are poor and a few luxury's like a well, clean cloths, toys for the kids would not go astray here. Am i wrong in thinking like this? Am i just another cultural imperialist? Am i like the people who went on the slum tour in Nairobi- a poverty voyerist?

I wish i knew the answers to these questions- i hope i don't forget i ever felt them or thought them... especially when consumerism takes over again like it is bound too.

NOTE- this was written a few days ago... internet access in Africa is VERY limited- i will update everytime i can... ps spelling is terriable- will try and proof and check things going forward but...i hope you get the gist and can read it.

Love

KP

Day 1- Welcome to Africa

Steve and I (a guy i met at the Wildebeest Camp) arranged to share a cab to our Safari meeting point.

Steve would be accompanying me to Cape Town- from Bendigo he was a Diesel Mechanic (very handy in Africa) and seemed every bit like a good Aussie bloke should.

In the foyer of the Heron Hotel (where our safari left from) we met Iona (from now on called Tweedie), a pretty 18 year old Scottish gap year student and Mel, a 34 year old Queenslander (who had relocated to Melbourne) who now lived in Melbourne.

I was surprised that this would be the team- until we got to Entebbe where we would pick up 13 more people.

After a brief chat with Julius our Ugandan team leader we were off in the largest truck/bus i had every seen outside Dulles airport.

We wasted no time getting to know each other and we chatted all the way to the outskirts of town. It felt good to be leaving Nairobi- i was keen to get into the country side and watch life pass me by.

AS the bus made its way down the old and battered African highway, Steve pointed out a man on the side of the road selling grave stones- soon it seemed we were passing numerous funeral parlours and the reality of the aid epidemic in Africa came home to me- the funeral business in frica is good business and big business if the highway out of Nairobi was any means to judge.

After a few hours on the road we entered the rift valley, the largest valley in all of Africa, one which stretches itself all the way to Morocco in its north west corner.

At our photo stop we were surrounded by the usual touts you'd expect anywhere in the world crys of 'free to look' and 'you need Masai blanket' were ignored by me, instead i was just content to look at the scenery which was beautiful. Long steaches of vivid colour all blurred into one and it looked almost like an old landscape painting... one i had seen before but could not put my finger on.

We were back in our bus in no time- outside i noticed us pass numerous gum trees and suddendly i did not feel too far from home despite being in the Kenyan country side.

AS we approached Nakuru we saw our first animals- ZEbras grazing beside the road... and lots of them too. I was pretty excited i hads not imagined seeing such a beautiful animal just wandering on the side of the road kinda like kangaroos might in rural Australia.

Next we saw some angry looking baboons, ape like but scary looking.

We stopped in town for supplies and loaded the truck/bus with fresh fruit, veggies, pasta, rice, meat, sauces, canned food, eggs, bread, spreads and anything we thought we might like.

We were accosted to gangs of market stall workers who followed us around town trying to persuade us to buy their wares for presents, souvenirs etc with their sales pitches failing they tried the old favourite 'if not today, maybe tomorrow'... i love that one.

As we waited for the bus to come back and collect us we were stared at by some street children who seemed full of joy. Each would make eye contact with us, smile before getting shy and bashful and hiding their face in their arms only to repeate the exact same thing dozens more times. Each time inching a little closer until e were almost touching.

They were laughing too and i could not stop myself- their smiles and their looks were contagious... the laughter of children always is.

We made camp around 5:00pm- Tweedie and I were destined roommates (well tent mates) and together we put our tent us with ease.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Wildebeest Camp

Having 2 days to spend in Nairobi was a luxury I did not really want. I had read up on the City in a number of guide books and utilised the trusty british travel advice website and decided that it actually was a City i had no interest to see.

Conscious of the description that the grumpy and slightly annoying Paul Theroux gave the City- well all big cities according to him are actually just big slums- i really had no desire to leave the safety of the nicest hotel i have stayed in on my trip to date.

The Wildebeest Camp is a lovely art deco mansion kitted out with antique furniture set in lush tropical gardens. My room is located up the grand staircase and overlooks some hibiscus and birds of paradise trees. With a four poster bed, gorgeous linen and mosquito net it feels like i have stepped onto the Antiques Roadshow.

At the Camp I have met some lovely girls- Sophie an English medic with the Flying Doctors out here for 1 month working all around East Africa. She is an incredible individual. Just yesterday she flew into Somalia to lift out a UN worker who had been shot in Mogadishu. I find her incredibly brave, likable and totally devoid of pretension.

I also met Rachel an English aid worker on her way to the Tanzanian/Democratic Republic of Congo boarder to teach and Mara a German PHD student here to compile information on the perception of HIV in young people. The girls are inspirational, friendly and provided me with a wonderful welcome to Kenya.

Today keen to venture out of the compound for the second time Sophie (the medic) and I went for a drive in her borrowed land cruiser. First we went to a Butterfly Museum recommended by the Lonely Planet. Unfortunatley the museum had closed more than 5 years before. Next stop was the Karen Blixen Museum and House, Karen for those of you not in the know was the author who wrote Out of Africa, a tale/memoir made famous by Meryl Streep and the handsome Robert Redford. Her house is stunning (although really overpriced like lots of things here), a single story bungalow with high ceilings and left as she had it in the 1930s. After taking a quick tour of the house and gardens we headed to a fair trade bead factory. The workshop was established in the 1980's to allow single mothers to obtain an income.

I had never seen how beads were made and the process was interesting and the clay beads so stunning I just had to buy some.

Some people at the camp when on a tour of the Kibera slums this morning but i opted out for 'ethical' reasons... i have thought about this all day and hope i made the right decision. I could not fathom why i would want to visit poor people and watch them like watching a TV show....but this is Africa and I am here and so many people are poor... is just being here like watching the show anyway??? The sticky point for me is that proceeds of the tour go to the community and by not going on principal am I not contributing to the betterment of the society???

I have also thought a lot about NGO's and forgein aid (paul theroux talks a lot about this too) and the more I think about it the more I realise that nothing is just plain black and white here.

I am off on my trip tomorrow morning and not sure when i will post again- hopefully soon.

Lots of love

Your KP

XXXX

Friday, February 20, 2009

Nairobi

With the next adventure about to begin, I left the comfort of my Egyptian family and departed for the airport. My driver tuned into Nile FM and we listened to classic rock tunes the whole way- my heart lifted when Survivor's 'Eye of the Tiger' came on, surely it was a good sign.

The airport had changed dramatically since I was in transit in Cairo in 2001, the terminal is new, and as you'd expect for a large metropolis, gone is the feeling of being in a dusty tin shed in the middle of desert.

I was anxious and easily irritable at departure, I seem to get that way when i am afraid... my patience was thin and i was not a nice person to be around.

As we boarded the plane, I was surprised with how many westerners there were on the flight- there were some people from Melbourne, old people, young families and even some other girls on their lonesome... that gave me comfort... I was not the only crazy one on the midnight flight into Nirobbery.

Once we touched down in Kenya I woke up, I must have fallen asleep somewhere over the Sudan.

I passed through passport control with ease and could spot at 50 paces the sign with my name. My driver was called Charlie- a stocky African with the widest and whitest smile I had ever seen- he could light up a room. He drove at speed down the dark roads- there were no street lights and I could only see the shadow of some low rise buildings as we passed.

At 4:40am with out a room to check into, I was told I could sleep outside under the pergola, first I took out my beloved whistle (a present from Ra) and tried to stay awake to fight off the boogie man, it was useless I was in lala land in 5 minutes... surfacing round lunch time (now).

I went out of the compound to get some lunch and whilst I only walked a few blocks it is so different from anywhere I have ever been it will take some getting used too.

The road outside my hotel is made of dirt and to enter you have to pass through a security check point- there are two guards in uniforms with guns watching the gate.

The people at my hotel are excellent, it is owned by an Australian couple (no one can ever escape them when you are on the road).

I plan to spend the next day here in the compound- I am pretty wary about leaving (aside from a quick trip to the shops down the road).I start my safari on Sunday.

Please don't worry about me too much (especially dad), I am in good spirits (happy and healthy now) and I am a tough little cookie.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Cairo- Part 2

Back in relative safety and comfort of my Cairo hotel, I retold the story of the meltdown in Alex to much merriment and laughing... things alays seem so much better after the fact.

I was probably a little harsh in my descriptions of Alex- think a dirty, smelly, souless, Gold Coast and you'd be half way there. Founded by Alexander the Great, with one of the world's largest libraries it is listed as a must see on a visit to Egypt... so i will let you be the judge.

The night I go back to Cairo I went out to my favourite resteraunt- Abu Tareks, famous for it Koshary dish- a mix of spagetti, maceroni, onion, chick peas and lentis with a tomatoe sauce- delicious.

In Cairo I made some great friends, the owners of the hotel were amazing and felt like my Egyptian family. We bonded over late night tea and endless games of backgammon- it felt like a home away from home.

Over the next few days, I wandered aimlessly. I walked the Islamic quarter, a labrinth comprising ancient mosques and narrow souques. It felt like time had stopped there. Donkeys pulled carts of homewares, women dressed in the full hijab and men sat on the pavement at tiled cafes smoking shisha.

I visted the Citadel, the large bazaar, got my eyebrows threaded and prepared for safari. It was a lazy time full of lazy days- long sleep ins, lots of reading- 3 trashy novels from the hostel in as many days.

It leads me to now as I sit at Cairo Airport on my way to Nairobi and the thought it is called nirobbery is in my head, as I sit here I take stock of my emotions- I am scared, highly strung but ready too.

KP

The end of Alexandria

So after securing a taxi me and the driver set off in search on the Union Hotel, sans Lonely Planet (I had managed to loose mine), I had copied the address from the Lonely Planet owned by my hotel in Cairo.

I was keen for a change of scene and hoped that I would have a good time. After about 20 mins my driver stopped outside the Mecure Hotel and demanded 20 Egyptian pounds to take me to the correct address- seemed that he had deliberately driven past my hotel as some way of increasing the lengh of the journey and fare. Wise to his tricks, head strong and having none of it i decided to get out and walk- we were already ont he correct street it was only 300 or so houses away.

I set off on foot- back the same way we had just driven. The road that I walked down Corniche was adjacent to the sea, 12 lanes wide, 22 ilometres long and with impossible traffic. The buildings that fringed it were old dusty high rises similar to Cairo except that the overlooked the Med.

I glanced over at the swell and it was up, it was blowing a gale and cold too- perhaps only 10 degrees. I was determined not to give up even though i was walking with my 24 kilo ruck sack.

Things got worse when the rain came, i sought shelter under an alcove and despised myself for rejecting the taxi driver.

From where i stood Alexandria looked grim, it was dirty and as run down as Cairo but with out the charm.

As i approached tha address that i had copied after more than 1 hour of walking i started feeling sick again and added my own decoration to Alex's street.

Finally as i thought things could not get any worse I discovered that the hotel had gone Missing in Action. The address that I had so carfully copied down was that of the grimiest high rise building i had ever seen. The situation was useless- tired, annoyed, sick and grumpy i hailed a cab back to the station and brought a ticket on the next train back to my beloved Cairo... seems there a some places you just can't ever leave.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

No one said it would be easy.

Not sure what I had done but for a moment this morning I was convinced that the gods were conspiring to made sure that I stayed in Cairo.

After getting up with ample time to spare, I only just made my train to Alexandria (Alex).

As luck would have it- i managed to flag the slowest, Sunday driving cabbie in all of Cairo. Before taking me to the station he decided to give me a tour- 1st he showed me the Egyptian Museum, then the Hilton hotel and finally I demanded out when we approached the main square. I tried to promt him along the entire drive with cries of yella yella (lets go, lets go) but they fell on deaf ears.

I was angry, my nostrils flared as i was convinced that iw as going to miss the tulipi express train.

With my backpack on i ran for dear life keen to leave the city and knowing that if i missed the train i would probably not attempt to leave again because clearly it was proving too difficult a task (i did not catch my train earlier in the week to Aswan on account of illness).

Once at the station, i found my platform with ease and by the time i had sat down we were off. Still breathless from the run i was excited to be going somewhere new.

As the carriage made its ay out of the platform i made eyes at the window and took in Cairo's metropolis.

The cities high rise apartments stood before me, painted shades of orange, peach, tan and grey. High into the sky went the tower blocks, each decorated uniquely by the colourful washing drying on the balconies.

As the apartment buildings dwindled, they gave way to a low rise, more industrial landscape of factories, the odd mosque and more half finished apartment buildings.

Finally we were in the countryside, urban sprawl replaced with green fields dotted by palm trees and eucalyptus.

Growing used to the new landscape i was surprised when little satellite towns sprung up... mostly they consisted of 50-100 unfinished medium rise unfinished red brick apartment buildings surrounded by lush green fields.

As the train speed along, i thought back to the night before .. I had spoken with a man at my hostel who told me that in Cairo everything is forbidden but everything is allowed too- he was referring to the large number of prostitutes in Cairo and the growing gay scene. In a country where sexuality is hidden and unspoken it was interesting to hear. He mentioned that it was commend for older female travelers to visit Egypt as sex tourists- Germans mainly and i was shocked.

The train was soon in Alexandria- it is only 200 kilometres from Cairo and as i got off i felt ready for my next adventure.

**********************

Just when i thought i had broken the gods curse things went from bad to worse. Unable to find a taxi who wanted to take me to the address of the hostel i had copied from the lonely planet for a reasonable fare i was beginning to feel stressed from the touts at the train station.

With the help of a very friendly Egyptian lady my spirits brightened when i managed to get a cabbie who assured me he knew where we were going.

TBC

Note in the end i am ok but it does go from bad to worse...and then finally back to good again.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Pyramids

I awoke early and headed out to Giza to see the pyramids in a taxi. I was preparing to be disappointed, expected to be but I was in for a surprise.

My driver talked incessantly the whole way and whilst he was perfectly pleasant i wished i could be impolite and cease the chatting. I was not feeling well, my body ached and my arm was still really sore.

I was fascinated looking at the enormity of the city as we drove ... it seems to go on forever. I thought it was interesting that there seemed to be hundreds of unfinished high rise apartment buildings on the way...partly lived in but with windows and doors missing on some floors ...the result of the credit crunch perhaps? I asked my driver who told me that the government only taxes the owners when a building is completed and so to avoid tax people live in half finished dwellings....bizarre.

My first glimpse of the pyramids came from the highway and I was inspired, they seemed to rise out of the dessert and they are truly are massive.

I was captivated and wanted more.

On entry, i managed to avoid a few touts ad tricksters and was in. I could not help thinking that they are the first building i have ever seen that is better in the flesh than in photos. They are majestic and it is easy to see why they attract so many visitors each year and have done for the last 4500 years. I was struck by their size- one of them is almost 150 metres tall with stones bigger than i am.

I cant even begin to explain how wonderful they are... but will say this.... Go there and see them for yourself... you will not be disappointed...they live up to the hype and then some.

It is strange how the sit on the edge of the desert but still in the middle of the city ...

After my trip to Giza I was feeling really unwell for the first time on my trip. I decided not to take my night train to Aswan as planned, forgoing my 25 USD ticket...I was annoyed at myself for being so unwell but I had a fever and was worried I might have caught something nasty... malaria or dengue fever were top of my list. I contemplated going to the hospital but decided i would assess things in the morning. And so i slept.. could of got a gold medal for my efforts as i woke up more than 18 hours later in a cold sweet.

I feel better now, not 100% better but well enough to leave the hotel and walk around a little. I spent the day in the Coptic Christan quarter and loved the gorgeous old buildings of old Cairo. I visited some Churches and saw where king Herod escaped too. I have now canned the idea of going to Luxor and instead am off to Alexandria for 3 days before i head to Kenya. I thought some time by the sea my do me good.