Friday, 17 February 2012

Out to play in all kinds of weather

Ok so we spent 4 nights at Che Colin, during which James got to chill out and catch up with his old compadre. Just so you know we weren’t roughing it here is Colin’s place….

We met some of Colin’s friends too, all very nice though I particularly liked Dutch couple Wim  and Monique who were very funny.
This is Monique talking about Wim who had to nip out to work when we were invited over for coffee..’if you are lucky he will be 10 minutes if you are unlucky he will be straight back’. Wim telling us about his great fun in letting off some smoke bombs at posh do’s where local dignitaries were behaving like ‘arseholes’. He was particularly pleased as one smoke bomb rolled towards ‘the judging panel’ and gassed them out of the room..’ah yes that was good, I was happy’.

 In the end though we had to head back on down that there traveling road so we left lovely Colin…Here he is with lovely James…

And drove the 300 odd K to a place called Sipi Falls, a small village up near the border between Uganda and Kenya. Sipi village was pleasant enough, the Moses campsite we stayed at had a stunning location

But most of the campsite was in disrepair, the long drop was a short drop (amazing how long you can hold your breath for). The father and son who ran the place called in on us the next morning to see if we could contribute any money to help the son go through University which we couldn’t, but that was probably difficult for them to understand as we in comparison appear rather wealthy.
We set off from here to the border crossing at Suam River, the drive was along a ‘road’ that had the most fantastic views over the rift valley. A feature of this drive is one that is particular to Uganda, these are volcanic intrusions scattered like popcorn across a huge green table of land. The intrusions look like they have been pinched upwards so they rise up like peaks of merangue….it is so so beautiful.

 About 4 hours later along this very rough road full of ruts and holes and stones, you come to the border crossing.
The official border offices are so small that they could be mistaken for a shed, but hey the immigration and carnet dudes are very friendly on both sides and the crossing only takes half an hour.  The passage through is eased by the schmoozing James and I have gotten quite good at, so when we leave a country we say how wonderful it has been and how sad we are to leave…then when we go into the next country we say ah yes the country we have just been in was good but we are so glad to be here…..and we are welcomed like long lost cousins. Actually the guy at immigration going back into Kenya got chatting and it turns out his mother is a nurse in the Royal Liverpool Hospital….no way says I …I am a nurse and I used to work there…..’Ah Karibou Karibou (welcome..welcome) friend’…. And so the world turns.
From here we drove another 3 – 400 ks to Eldoret and to Raj’s campsite, this is another of James friends from yonks ago but unfortunately Raj is away checking out another possible business so we don’t see him….but amazingly enough the bar manager remembers James and they indulge in some reminiscing about drinking and stuff….I close my ears. It’s best. There is no time for slacking on this trip so the next morning we up camp again and head for a place called the Kakamega Forest. Now this place is protected, part of it is a National Reserve and the other is National Park, (we go to the reserve it is cheaper). The forest has trees that are thousands of years old, these and some of the shrubs have over many years have been used by local people for medicinal purposes, the ancient trees are also believed to be spiritual beings and certain ceremonies are still performed in what are believed to be sacred places. But like much of the forests in Africa this place has been shrunken down to a tiny proportion of its original size through logging and an expanding population wanting land to live on. What is left is beautiful and the people who look after the place are peaceful and knowledgeable. 
We arrived at Kakagmega Forest late in the afternoon, after spending time travelling we were fortunate that David the forest warden was available to take us on a guided tour. This began with him saying ‘would you like to see a horned rhinoceros viper, we have one that has shed it’s skin it is over here…..’ Well it seemed rude not to so off we crept round to the woodpile that it was snoozing in only to find….oh what a shame it had gone.  Personally I was chuffed to bits until David told us it would have gone back into the forest, the same forest that for the next few hours we would be trotting round with David. Stamping loudly more like (scares ‘em off) as we were treated to the wealth of David’s knowledge, which included the Latin names for all the trees and shrubs he pointed out (which were forgotten by the two of us in about 3 mins).

Here is James paying lots of attention to David’s talk..

We did remember however that the tree called the Elgin Teak was visited by her royal highness Queen Elizabeth II some time back and that not only was this tree over 1000 years old the bark was also a good treatment for gonorrhoea. Wonder if they told our Bet that bit? Other shrubs in the forest we learned were used to treat prostate cancer, snake bites, malaria and sore throats. Not sure how they figured out how each one does what but there you go. We also saw monkeys….red tailed, blue and colobus.  The walk around the forest was great and David was a very nice man (and before you even think of asking yes, he remembered James from 10 years ago and could even recount a funny story of red ants running up the legs of one of James’ passengers) who had an interesting feature all of his own. Now you know how ‘they’ say that animals look like their owners and vice versa? Well we reckoned that David had been in the forest so long he was turning green, or at least his teeth are. Strangest set of teeth I have ever seen, about 2 cms from the gums downward they are dark green. Noticing this feature early on did sometimes make it slightly difficult to concentrate on bolinorus flituatus or whatever. Still, a lovely man and a lovely place to camp in even if the thought of horned rhinoceros vipers make you hold on to your wee all night.
The next day we were back on the road, this time we were off to spend a night camping in Nakuru National Nature Reserve (which is bloody expensive but rather fabulous).  The NNNR is famed for the sheer volume of flamingos that inhabit the massive Nakuru lake, the black as well as the white rhino, side orders to this feast of wildlife are the zebra, the warthogs, the Thompson gazelle, impala, giraffe and the LIONS.  grrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaarrrrrrrr!!!!!!! We timed our arrival after lunch so we could drive around the game park when the wild beasts had wakened from the furnace heat of the day……the blanket of silence only broken by cries of ‘oh my god would you look at that’..(me of course not James who was preoccupied with other more zen like thoughts). We saw loads of animals, I was so so so sexicited, they are so beautiful. (I have decided ‘so’ is an underused word).
The zebras are really as stripey as you think they are going to be,

 and the giraffes’ really are like marley tiles with nobs on their heads..

the rhinos have e n o r m o u s bums,

the buffalo’s look like fat old ladies wearing Charlotte Bronte wigs

and the LIONS are of course…’kin scary. It was about 4.30 and we had been around a fair bit of the reserve, we drove out to the reserve airfield and saw a couple of guards so we stopped to say hello, one of the guards said we were very near to a pride of lions that had just killed a buffalo, if we drove on for 3 more minutes we would come to them. He told us they had just been brought in from Tsarvo and that they were maneaters. (great). So we drove on for three more minutes and this is what we found…
There were two females and 3 cubs. The cubs were about 8 months old, the male was a little back from the others, he had already eaten and was now lounging around, the mothers were with the cubs, the cubs had their heads in the carcass of the buffalo.  We were about 3 metres from them. They were beautiful and terrible at the same time.At one point the male sauntered up to the others and roared, cuffed one of the cubs and then sauntered off on his own (we found him back down by the guards later on drinking out of their water tank).


We sat gobsmacked for about 20 mins watching them then made our way a few kilometres north to the campsite.
Here is James after he saw the lions…
All I am going to say at this point is that I happily spent the night in the car and James happily spent the night in the tent. The next day we set off early to try and catch sight of more of the animals (particularly the cheetah) and saw lots (but no cheetah), pretty soon our 24 hour pass was up so we left the reserve and headed back to Karen Camp in Nairobi for a few days so we could catch up with stuff. The next time we moved on we move on to Tanzania…..and Zanzibar….
When you first enter Tanzania the drive takes you past huge expanses of land that has crops of sisal growing (they look like pineapple forests), these are interspersed with dry dusty kilometres where  dust devils sweep up hundreds of metres…

Then you spot Kilamanjaro way off in the distance… is snow covered….it is massive

It is also the name of one of the beers (aka Killy, which has a strap line of ‘if you can’t climb it drink it’) in Tanzania that James likes rather a lot bless him and can be purchased at the wonderful Meserani Snake Park (aka Ma’s) which is where we spent the night.
The place is mostly used by overlanders to camp and sort travelling stuff out, the facilities are pretty good and Ma (the owner) has developed the place up well enough to build and provide free health care in an adjacent community clinic. One of the attractions at Ma’s (besides the bar) is the snake park. Now I thought that I was pretty ok about snakes, (spiders are the thing that make me run like tornado with legs), but after the lovely Masai guide took James and I for a tour of the park I decided that well if I never see another snake that will be tip top.  The guide really loved snakes and took a real delight in telling us which snake’s venom was cytotoxic and which was heamotoxic, he also liked to describe how long it took to die or get seriously ill from snake bites and to complete his tour he even had pictures of men who had been swallowed by pythons.  This grisly knowledge was gleefully imparted with the sort of look on his face that would have been at home in a horror film; James of course found the whole thing very interesting and even held one of the snakes at the end. ‘But James didn’t you notice the look on his face when he was telling us, don’t you think he looked a bit mad?’ ‘Uh?’ Needless to say it was down to me to protect James from having venom squirted in his eyes and then being swallowed whole as the only item on his agenda was quaffing Killy at the bar.
From Ma’s salubrious establishment we drove 680k (t’was a long old day) to the Kigamboni peninsula in Dar es Salam and landed in the Mikadi Beach Resort. For those of you planning driving through Tanzania it may worth you noting that you will need lots of reflector strips all over your car, a danger triangle, a fire extinguisher (we had two cos of the sodding Egyptians) and you have to make sure you don’t drive into many unmarked sleeping policemen. These vary in size from the skinny and cruel ones that give you whiplash, to those that are enormous (you need a 4 wheel drive to get over them). After a few 100ks or so you get used to them and get used to spotting them, you also get used to the very keen Tanzanian real policemen who hover about under trees (not literally of course although that would be top wouldn’t it?) with speed guns trying to catch out anyone going over the 20 and 30 and 50k speed limits.  Having lived in N. Wales for so long and having gotten used to the very keen N. Wales traffic police this was not a problem for me and Mr. West. Oh no. I did not speed at all but  was stopped three times by police who were chancing it that we didn’t have a fire extinguisher or whatever so they could ‘fine’ us, but they were so astounded that a female was driving (and that I am so beautiful) that they mostly gawped and asked a few questions. The first of which was always ‘where are you from’ and to which I enthusiastically replied ‘Oh we are from England, and we have driven all the way to be here!’, I always emphasised the word England as if they were deaf and as if coming from there imparted a magical quality, I also grinned like a maniac. This combination worked a treat and we were soon wished on our way, I probably scared them a bit.  James was stopped once, he was actually speeding but he talked us out of a fine thus…
‘yes sir you were speeding, you were driving at 65k in a 50k area….oh and you are not wearing your seatbelt…’
‘so that will be 60,000 ts for speeding and 30,000 ts for not wearing a seatbelt. Can you show me your driving licence’..
‘yes, of course, Dee can you pass me my driving licence out of the folder’.
‘yes dear’
‘please come over here sir’….
‘yes of course’…’Dee hide this money’….
James gets out of the car and walks over to the three big fat policemen who are hovering about under the trees…James comes back and says right then we can go…
so what happened’?
‘Well, I agreed it was terrible, and I was very very sorry. He wanted 90,000 ts so I showed him my near empty wallet and told him I had just bought lots of fuel which is why I had hardly any cash. He said I must pay the fine, yes I said I must. Can I pay it at the next town we are going to, if you give me a ticket I will go to the next town and pay, I have been very stupid and I must pay the fine. Well says the policeman if you don’t need a receipt for payment you can give me 10,000 ts how about that? What, no I said I must pay and I want to pay. Well what about you give us 10,000 ts for sodas then? What! For sodas sir, this is not a matter for sodas this is a matter for police business!  ….ok you can go….
Not all the police are like this, we got lost in Dar es Salam trying to find our way to the ferry that takes you across the peninsula to Makardi Beach, we found a lovely little policeman who escorted us on his motorbike taking us the wrong way up one way roads till we found the terminal.
James did warn me that when we dropped down from the Tanzanian mountains in the north to the coast it would become rather humid……did you know that you could excrete fat through your skin? I didn’t but you can, at least that is what it feels like being down on the coast in Tanzania. It is so hot (average 35 degrees) and with high humidity (average 75%) that you don’t just sweat sweat… oh no…your skin feels like melting wax…..or like you are excreting fat with the sweat. This I believe is what it would feel like to be a joint of pork cooking in the oven in a mixture of it’s own lard and water. So you can imagine what we looked like after about 11 hours driving  and arriving at Mikardi beach….not only were our clothes soaked in fat water our hair do’s were a right mess. My hair just stuck to my head and neck and James hair and head had become a big curly spoon, flat at the back where had sweated and leant on it. Still, they let us in and we joined the throng of beautiful young things at the bar and settle down to a few kilamanjaro baridi (cold beers). Bliss.
Look at our lovely camp spot…

We spent a couple of nights here, I had my first swim in the Indian ocean and got stung across my derrière by a jelly fish…..ow ow ow; then we packed our rucksacks, left Milo in the secure car park and got the speedy marleedy ferry to Zanzibar.

Diving and dancing in Zanzibar
We had a whole week on Zanzibar. While in Stonetown we stayed at the Manch Lodge (cheap and odd) long enough for us to suss out tickets for the “Sauti Za Busara Zanzibar Festival” and then travelled about 40k up the coast to Kendwa to the rather upmarket hotel Kendwa Rocks.  Check out the Masai dude having a stroll.
Kendwa is a quiet place so Kendwa Rocks ensures that tourists don’t stray too far by providing a large bar and pretty good restaurant right on the beach. We actually had our funniest encounter with a waitress in a nearby restaurant, we had learned that the menu wasn’t really the menu it was more like a wish list and we ended up being told what we were going to eat. Then James wanted a juice and as we had learned the menu was a fantasy we asked her what was available. ‘Orange, Mango, Papaya….’ Then her voice trailed off and she stared into the middle distance…so James asked ‘what about passion fruit’? It was as if she had received an electric shock. ‘Well why not!” She looked both startled and incredibly pleased at the same time and off she ran. Rather odd but quite endearing.
Kendo Rocks hosts the now famous ‘Full Moon’ parties but the moon wasn’t full while we were there so we had to make do with cheap cocktails during happy hours, swimming in the gorgeous crystal clear warm Indian Ocean and…..going diving. Wooooo Hooooooo. Check out the James Bond bird below....

We sailed out to the island of Mnemba on a creaky Dhow, there was a 2 metre swell of water which meant that the waves were rather large. It was great, the Dhow went up and down, we got soaked in warm salty water, the sun shone and we were accompanied by dolphins. The waters around Mnemba teem with all sorts of fish, we saw lots…lion fish, stone fish, angel fish, long green/gold eels, fish of every shape and colour you can imagine. Unfortunately we don’t have any pics of us under the ocean but here is us back at our lush hotel room after a day seeing the pretty fishes…aw…its hard work but somebody has to do it..

It wasn’t long before heading back to Stonetown so we could partake in the rather fabulous “Sauti Za Busara Zanzibar Festival”, we arrived in Stonetown early Saturday morning and by 4pm were in situ at the Old Fort, Killy’s in hand ready to dance the night away.

It was awesome….all the bands were fantastic but favourites were the Ndere Troupe from Uganda and headliner Nneke from Nigeria. If you want to check any of this lot out look at This was like WOMAD but even more WOMADIER…if you know what I mean. Everyone there was super friendly and the food was great.

The next day saw us first of all back in the long wait for the ferry but by mid-afternoon we were at Mikadi Beach and after a night of camping we set off again on our journey west towards Malawi.  Driving the 557k distance for our first stop at the Tan Swiss campsite led us through the Mikumi National Park and guess what….we saw loads of elephants for FREE!

Check out my face…..I love elephants..
And check out these baby elephant dudes having a drink....
From here we drove 248k to Iringa and stayed in Kissolanza at Kissonlanza Farm, and guess what it sodding lashed down! Yeah and not just rain but hailstones too.

But ‘twas all ok as we had a top notch restaurant on the campsite that made hot chocolate with Amarula. Mmmmmmmmmmm.
So to bring you all bang up to date we left Kissolanza this morning and drove along a stunning road 398k to spend our last night in Tanzania in the community run campsite ‘Bongo’ near to Tukuyu. We were stopped 9 times by the police but have not been fined, the funniest experience were with a group of 3 police. We were flagged down by one guy, the police lady was sitting on the other policeman’s knee giving him a hug. Well why not! After James being grilled about fire extinguishers and the like the policeman asked him for some money in the following way ‘If you give me 1,000 ts God will bless you’. Meanwhile on my side of the car the policeman and woman were chatting to me and I was being very English. This seemed to please them no end. When we were driving off the policemen said something in Swahili that I didn’t understand and the policewoman shouted ‘He says you have a good body’.  Yeah tell me something I don’t know police dude.
We are way up in the mountains now, it is verdant (wet like Wales) and as we are in Tanzania’s rainy season it is somewhat er rainy. The hills are beautiful though (about 1700 metres high), they are sort of folded and there are trees right up on the tops, when the sun is going down they are silhouetted so they look like cartoon trees poking out at angles all along the top.  Tomorrow we should arrive at lake Malawi, we shall find a suitable spot to camp, cook some nosh and consider what bit of fun to have next.
Asante sana for all your wonderful messages please keep them coming. Hope you are all well and in fine fettle…and just one more thing as this month two very special ladies have had their birthday we would like to dedicate this bit of the blog to them.

               MUCH LOVE AND LOTS OF HUGS AUNTIE DEE AND UNCLE JAMES  xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


  1. it seems to get better and better - love the blog

  2. love hearing your news, looks fantastic, love to both

  3. I have been off on my own adventure and lost the blog address....what a joy to find it again and catch up on the travels of these beautiful eedjuts!!