Monday, April 27, 2009

Sand in places unimaginable

Its all just Rock n roll baby


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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,


Monday, April 06, 2009


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


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 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.