Africa Day #33

Today we are heading to Zanzibar, and I am beyond excited for the three day retreat on the island. I was feeling a bit annoyed this morning, as packing up tasks are not shared equally, and I ended up completely filthy by the time all was said and done. This is typically the norm starting the day dirty, but it was harder today, as we are headed to the beach, and I have a limited supply of conservative clothing with me. There will be a much needed break from shared responsibilities while on the island, which I think will be very helpful. We are picked up by tuk tuks, which this is my very first time riding in one, and it was quite fun! I almost wished it lasted longer than the 10 minute ride to the ferry.

We hop on a local ferry with car and locals. The transport is servicable at best, but it got us across, and thankfully we managed to get on and off without incident. Next we walked to the fast ferry that would take us over to Zanzibar. This was quite an experience as well. Thankfully we had seats in the cabin for the hour and a half ride, albeit cramped. I bought some somosas while on the ferry that were very good, and with the rocking of the boat I pretty well passed out for the whole trip.

Once we arrived on the island, we had to go through immigration and be stamped into Zanzibar, even though it is part of Tanzania. I have found in Africa, there is very little respect for lines, and people just push in and cut the line. It can be a very frustrating process as you try to keep your position. Once we were all through, we find our tour company, as our CEOs are not allowed to guide on Zanzibar, and we are off to Nungwi, which is North on the island.

It was a crazy hour ride to our hotel, through the villages, and our driver, like most African drivers, is a bit nuts. There has been a lot of motorcycles in Tanzania, and in Zanzibar it is much of the same. It is how most of the locals travel. I was a bit apprehensive of how our hotel was going to be, but it turned out to be very very nice. Once we got settled in, a couple of us headed off to find lunch on the beach, and figure out the plan for the next couple days.

I decided to I was going to do a dive with my full day in the North beach, so I booked that in with 2 other travelers. After lunch, we headed over to the village to do some shopping. I finally bought myself some African pants, which I am beyond thrilled about! I tried to get some from my nephew, but I have yet to find any that would fit him and are not too feminine. We also got a really great mango while we were in the village. Once I became more open to eat the local fruit, I have missed fresh fruit a lot less. I must say, I have gotten a little more lax on eating local food, hopefully that doesn’t come to be a bad choice, but everyone else seems to be getting along just fine, and they have been eating everything. I also found this amazing painting, but I am unsure if I will get it. I need to figure out logistics, and if I really want to purchase it. I think I need to sleep on it.

I thoroughly enjoyed my en suite shower today. It was absolutely fantastic to have a nice warm shower, in a cool room, where I was not going to get dirty the moment I walked out. I wore my new Africa pants, and actually put on some lipstick, which felt really nice! It is amazing how a good shower can be such a luxury.

Tonight, as a group we headed to a cocktail bar, where you sit on beds and drink cocktails. It was a really good night, as a group of three of us sat on our bed and had a really nice and personal chats. It was a really relaxed evening, and I really got to know some of my travelers a bit better, as they me. We grabbed some apps, which were just as good as the cocktails. Before heading to bed, a couple of us went out and grabbed some pizza before bed, which was not very good but did the job. Tomorrow I am so excited to go diving and enjoy the beautiful ocean!

Africa Day #32

I find really early mornings not to be that bad. I think the worst part is trying to get something in my stomach super early, so between lack of sleep and some breakfast, I had a bit of an upset stomach to start the day.

Today was a long drive day, with the bad roads and more police stops. We made some stops along the way, more really bad squat toilets, where again, you miss peeing behind a bush, but there are too many villages to do this. We made a lunch stop and I bought another local mango which was meaty and delicious. Some of the local fruit is so good, and mango and pineapple are in season.

We finally made it to Dar es Salaam, the city we will be taking the ferry to Zanzibar from, and became stuck in traffic. I never thought I would miss Boston traffic while in Africa, but it took us just under 4 hours to go about 2 miles, and finally start moving again. There seems to be no order and no rules on these roads, and really you need a motorcycle or a tuktuk to get around efficiently! I think this was the hardest part of the day. It is one thing to be stuck on a long drive day and be moving, but very different being in stand still traffic for hours.

We were approached by many local vendors, and there were ice cream trolleys that moved through the traffic trying to sell. Some of the travelers ended up buying some avocado, that were literally the size of a melon! I decided to try a bite of one, just because it was so massive, but I still do not care for them. All I could think of, is that I know so many people who would love an avocado this size!!

When we finally made it to camp, it was after dark, so we got right to business of setting up camp, and then heading to dinner. We again had dinner made for us at the camp site. Tonight it was chicken, rice, curry sauce, salad and potato salad. It was so good I had to go up for seconds. It was made by a local guy from Tanzania, and the curry was delicious! I know I have said this before, but I never expected to eat so well in Africa. Almost everything we eat has been amazing! Not so helpful on the waste line.

Tomorrow we head to Zanzibar, and I am very much looking forward to it. Packing is a bit tricky, as we need to be modest with our clothing when in the town, covering both our knees and shoulders, as it is a dominantly Muslim community, but at our hotel we can wear what we would like. Should be a good couple of days!  

Africa Day #31

And we are off by 5am. Last night was another hot one, to the point I took off my shirt in the middle of the night to wipe the sweat off my face. It was great! We are told that tonight will be much cooler, and I really hope so! The goal today is to reach camp by 8pm, so it will be a long day driving… but this is over landing! Also, we have reached the portion of the trip, where other than at the campsites, toilets are now squat toilets, basically a ceramic hole on the ground that you literally squat at. The CEO was not wrong when she said I would come to appreciate bushy bushy stops, because I certainly miss them.

We packed lunch today, and I used the leftover Chapati to make a PB&J and a PB, banana and nutella sandwich, which I will be excited to eat.

Today we cross over the border to Tanzania, which takes about 2 hours to stamp out of Malawi and get a visa for Tanzania. It was suppose to be a $50 charge for the visa, and it was for everyone but myself and the other girl from the US who had to pay $100. We contested it, but was shown the rate sheet, and I literally think we were the only country on there that had to pay over the typical $50 fee. Also, they do not accept any USD that is older than 2006, which is really frustrating. When I left I had made sure that I had what I thought to be new notes, but I didn’t check the dates and I have $30 that they will not accept. Thankfully I brought extra, but it is really frustrating. Especially if you look at some of the currency we have been getting, that is acceptable but barely legible.

You can definitely see a difference between countries, and the houses have gotten bigger and nicer since arriving in Tanzania. This is a richer country and you can tell. There is also a lot of cops in Tanzania, and a good hour of our travels was spent being pulled over at police stops, where they are looking for bribes to get out of tickets. It is pretty corrupt, and as a tourist vehicle, we seem to be getting pulled over at every one. This is a known problem here, and our CEOs are trained and prepared to deal with these annoyances. We are in the mountains, and we have been having some cool breezes today, which has been such a treat!

I think when you prepare yourself for a long day driving, it isn’t so bad, although there are a few members of our group that have not handled the day as well as others. I don’t think everyone read about the trip before deciding to join it, as we have some people who complain about general aspects of the trip, like camping and over landing.

I bought some local mango today, which were meaty and delicious! I also bought some local chapati, which is one of my favorites!

We arrive at camp just before 7pm, which is ahead of schedule! We setup our tents, and head to dinner, which the camp has prepared for us! This was a welcomed treat, as most of us were pretty hungry and tired from a day of travel. We ate a carrot and peanut soup, which I actually really enjoyed, and then beef, potatoes and vegetables. Our CEO was right, and it was a bit chilly at camp, which we all appreciated. I had a hot chocolate for dessert and headed to bed, as we are starting tomorrow at 2:30am for another long day on the lando. This will be our last long drive day before 3 nights in Zanzibar.

Africa Day #30

It was so hot last night. There was no breeze, we all pretty well just sweat it out in our tents, as the temperature never dropped in the night either. Today is Sunday, and I think a lot of us are planning on having a bit of a lazy Sunday. I was thinking about doing wood carving, but we will see how I feel as it gets closer. Some people opted to go for a 6 hour hike, but it was just too hot for me to even consider it.

In one of the huts on the beach, they have a TV with a load of movies, and I am a little embarrassed to say, a group of us sat around and watched movies today, which was so nice, and a bit needed. It was a nice way to have a day off while still being with eachother, if that makes sense. Plus the breeze on the beach was a welcomed treat to the heat. I ended up not going wood carving, which was okay, because I could go a day not feeling like I needed to buy something.

I did make it to the lake after lunch to cool off, and we managed to find some cool spots when you swam out deep enough. Plus, if you swam out deep enough, you avoided being hustled by some of the locals. The water was still clear, but not like the other campsite. The sand was unbearable though, and you had to be quick as, even with flip flops, you managed to burn your feet.

In the evening, we watched a movie as a group, and again, not what I would have pictured myself doing in Africa, but much needed. By the time we had dinner, the wind died and the heat was back, just in time for bed. I have a feeling it will be another hot one. For dinner, we had locally made Chapati, with steak and veggies for filling. I really like Chapati, it reminds me of an Indian bread (not naan) that I like to get.

Tomorrow we have an early start and one of our longest drive days, with a border crossing into Tanzania.

Africa Day #29

Today is another hot day, but to be fair it really hasn’t cooled off much even at night. For the past two nights we have been woken up a couple times with things on the roof of our room. Still very unclear what makes all the racket, but with the tin roof, it is loud. We have a later start today again, as we don’t have much of a drive today. Unfortunately, that was made longer by one of the CEOs realizing he left his phone behind after we had already been on the road for 20 minutes.

Today we will be celebrating our African Thanksgiving, and I will be making a campfire dessert! The goal is a brownie, but I am without wifi, so I will be winging it with the ingredients. (There is a part of me that enjoys the lack of wifi, as it has challenged us all to use our brains rather than just relying on google to answer questions for us!) I help a bit with the shopping today, as I am consulting on the menu. I am so appreciative that we can celebrate this holiday, as it is probably my favorite, and it is pretty special to spend it with all these new friends, and share this tradition with people who have never had Thanksgiving.

Instead of Turkey, we will be having stuffed chicken, mash potatoes, squash, lentils for the vegetarians, green beans and our CEO was able to find cranberry jelly, which completes the meal. I hopefully have all the ingredients for a dutch over camp fire brownie.

We arrive at camp, and it is really nice, although the lake is not as nice as it was at the last place. It was so hot, and the sand was scorching, I opted to help with dinner under the shade of an open hut and a nice breeze, instead of wrangling on a bathing suit and heading to the water, which again is so very warm.

There is something a bit theraputic, sitting under a beach hut pealing potatoes, and I quite enjoyed the afternoon, spending time with the other travelers. I also made, what I hope will be a brownie for dessert.

Thanksgiving dinner was a sucess! The food was delicious, and everything I could have hoped for and more. We also kept with tradition and went around the circle sharing what we are thankful for. I am so thankful for this oppertunity to travel, to have the love and support of my family and friends, to have a group of people to travel with, who make this trip what it is, and for the health and happiness of my friends and family.

To my delight, the brownie came out better than expected and people really enjoyed it! This was such a great night, and I do feel truly thankful for all of it! Tomorrow will be our last full day in Malawi. I have yet to decide what I will be doing with my day.

Africa Day #28

** Pictures to be added on better wifi

Today we had a late start, breakfast at 8am, for our second day at Lake Malawi. This place is really beautiful, as we are staying along the beach. It doesn’t feel like I am in Africa, but rather a destination island. I went over to the dive shop this morning, and unfortunately I will not be able to do a dive. I still could possibly do it in Zanzibar.

We start the villiage tour at 9am, where we are greeting at the gate by a load of villiagers. Each person is accompied by one or two of the villiagers. My two guys called themselves Popcorn and Vegimite. All of these guys were local craftsman, who were hoping to sell their crafts at the end of the tour, but thankfully the guys I had, had other things to talk about during the tour. I actually really enjoyed talking to these guys about themselves and their culture and how they live. They were both in their mid twenties, and were funding themselves through school, one in highschool, the other in college to become a teacher. This is a big deal, as all schooling past primary school you have to pay for, and so it is not an oppertunity for everyone. I think one of my biggest takeaways of this experience with these two guys, is their happiness. They asked me if people are happy where I live, and my immediate answer was no. We have so much, yet we are always so stressed or unhappy, and I really am going to strive to be better with this, and I challenge anyone reading this to do the same. We really are so lucky and fortunate, we need to be happier and more appreciative of what we have rather than focusing on what we don’t. Life is too short, we need to enjoy it a bit more!

Once we made it to the villiage, we met with local woman who were showing us their native crop, Kasava. It is a root vegetable that can be eaten raw, cooked in a variety of ways, or soaked, dried and pounded into powder. It also grows at all times of year. I find it amazing how these people have done so much with so little. They also keep chickens, which they eat only on special occasions. Mangos are also in season, and they were just falling off the tree and delicious.

We regained our companions and walked over to the villiage school, where we were greeted by the local children on their way to and from school. They have three, three hour bocks of school for the different ages. A little girl Martha found me, and we walked the rest of the way to school together, and she was very sweet. These children were so excited to spend time with us and hold our hands and play with our sunglasses and check out our cameras. As much as I enjoyed the interaction with the children, I do worry if there is a negative to these interactions.

We met with the school principal and learned about the school and its stregths and weaknesses. Again, it is amazing what this villiage can do with so little, and it really makes you appreciate what we have in the states.

The final stop was at the hospital. I think this was the hardest place to visit. The conditions of the hospital were awful. They showed us the the labor and delivery, as well as where the woman stay after having the baby. I wouldn’t have wanted to eat in these rooms, nevermind bring life into this world. This clinic is also used for malaria treatment, which is sucessful when they have the medicine, which is not always the case.

Again, i met back up with Popcorn and Vegimite, and we walked back. I should mention today was a really hot day, and we were all hot and sweaty for the whole time, which is kind of just how some days are in Africa! We stopped at the shops before heading back into camp, which is always my least favorite part of these tours, and especially where I spent so much time with my guys I really felt like I needed to support their crafts, so I ended up buying something from both of them.

When we got back to camp, we had a brunch like lunch and then I went straight to the lake to cool off. The lake was like bath water, so not as refreshing as I was hoping for, but it was still really nice! The water was crystal clear and it is fresh water, but it is so big and has waves that you think you’re in the ocean.

In the afternoon, a couple of us went out to the small island to go snorkling and jump off the rocks. Our CEOs arranged a boat, that was quite smelly to get us out there, which was really nice, once you made it out. I jumped off the rock, which was exhilerating, and then attempted to snorkle, but the equiptment was just so bad, I opted to just swim around the island with a couple other girls. The water was so clear, that I could still see the fish swiming around us from above.

After the swim, my feet started cramping up, so I spent the rest of the time hanging on the rocks with the group in the water, before heading back to camp.

When we got back from the island, we had to quickly get ready to head back to the villiage for dinner. We were invited for a villiage dinner of sweet potato and kavasa soup, rice, beans, cabbage, and chicken. It lacked some spice, but it was actually a really good meal, and I really ejoyed the soup. The local villiage kids came to sing and dance for us, and we were invited to participate in some of the dancing and some of the songs. It was a really fun night, and I really enjoyed it. These kids had moves too! They put all of us to shame!

The rest of the evening was pretty laid back at camp. Tomorrow we head to the northern part of Lake Malawi for another two nights.  

Africa Day #27

Today is Thanksgiving, but also one of the girls birthdays! We have a 12 hour drive day today, so we will be waiting to do our African Thanksgiving for another day. We are all up at 4am to pack up and be on the road by 5:30am. Today we are crossing over to Malawi and headed to Kande Beach at Lake Malawi. We will spend a total of four nights at Lake Malawi, two at Kande Beach and two at Chitimba, which is the northern part of Lake Malawi.

This morning had some excitement, as we had two Hippos in camp while we were packing up and eating breakfast. I was diverted twice from where I was headed. The first time because there was a Hippo by the bathrooms, and the second with a Hippo walking through camp. It really is an incredible experience to have a Hippo walking through camp! These are the things I will miss the most!

Despite the long drive day, we tried to make the most of it, and had birthday celebrations all along the way. We had a bunch of different Happy Birthday songs, in a variety of languages, the CEO decorated her seat and had birthday chocolate. We did a couple rounds of birthday treats and birthday snacks around the Lando and we also had birthday beers when we were getting close to camp.

We finally arrive around 5:30pm to camp, which is right on the Lake and is absolutely beautiful. Our CEO has arranged a pig roast for tonight, which is not a bad way to spend a Thanksgiving, and has purchased a birthday cake for the birthday girl.

Most of us decided to upgrade today from camping to rooms, and it is so nice to have a day where you have your own bathroom and when you get out of the shower you remain clean for more than two minutes.

I didn’t have much time, but I did go down to the lake to check it out and it is so clear and warm, I cannot wait to spend more time in it tomorrow!

We had a punch party tonight, to continue on with the birthday celebrations, and followed with dinner. Dinner was amazing, especially the crackling on the pig, it was like crack! It was served with potatoes and a cabbage salad, and it was so good. The pig was a bit fatty for my taste, but I did find some good bits to eat. We finished off with cake, which was not the best, but it was cake!

For a long drive day, it really wasn’t that bad of a day! Tomorrow I plan on going on a village tour, and then depending on things, I may try to do a dive. I really need to find time to get my open water certificate, and unfortunately I am not staying any place long enough to do it here. It is on my to do list for sure! 

Africa Day #26

**Pictures will be uploaded on better wifi

Another early morning for a morning game drive! I am beyond excited! Pickup time is 6am and I am ready to go! The goal of today is Leopard, although I am trying to keep my expectations low, as this can be a rare sighting.

Our driver is Moses, and he is really great. He seems to have a lot of knowledge and is great at fielding our questions. We head out to South Luangwa National Park, and along the way we spot Elephant. Once we get into the park, we cross the river and what I can only assume to be at least a hundred hippo all in the water. I spot some baby hippo as well. Mixed in, you can also spot some crocodile! I don’t think I will ever get tired of seeing Hippo. It is crazy since most of them are all together and just look like rocks in the river.

We saw some different bird species, and some antelope with babies. We also spotted a large male Kudo who was feeding on some type of fruit. Then Moses speaks to another driver, as we are off! This was definitely a time when you held on with both hands. There are 9 of us in a 4×4 safari vehicle, with just bars on the sides to keep us in! Thankfully he is a skilled driver, but I may have some bruises come in from this ride! We pull up to a pack of Wild Dogs who are getting a drink by some Water Buffalo. Wild Dogs are an extremely rare sighting since they are practically extinct. In this herd, there are over 20, with a good number of pups. The markings on them make them almost look like Hyenna and they are very cool to watch. Once they leave, we head back out and spot some Zebra. The colors on the Zebra in this park seem to be a lot more vibrant! We also spot a very masculine warthog!

As we are traveling through, the pack of Wild Dogs cross in front of us, after a gizelle. It was so amazing to see them chasing down an animal, although sadly, which it is weird to say that, it got away. The pack then took this oppertunity to rest under the shade of the trees. We were so close to them, we really got to check them out, and we waited around a bit to see if they would attempt a hunt or not. They did not. It was interesting to learn about them from Moses, about the alpha male and female, and how she is typically the only one to produce offspring, and she can have up to 16 in a liter. Also, once the pups are old enough, like the ones we saw, they join for the hunting activities, although they stay behind the pack and do not actually participate in taking down an animal.

Once we left the dogs we saw a Warthog with her very new baby, we saw some Giraffe, which again seemed much more brightly colored than some we have seen before in other parks. We also took a bit of a scary ride down to the river bed to check out these birds, I want to call them bee eaters, but I cannot recall their full name. They come to this park for 3 months to breed, and build their nest into the side of the river bank. There were hundreds, and they were so cool to watch and their colors are amazing! There was also a water monitor there who, by the looks of it, claimed some of the chicks for a meal.

We ended the morning back at the Hippos at the river, where I witnessed a Hippo pooping! He was standing out of the water to poop, and while he did, his tail acted a bit like a windshield wiper set on high, and sprayed it all about, pretty great!

After an exciting morning, we came back to camp for a really great brunch of bacon, eggs, beans and corn fritters, and then spent the rest of the morning/afternoon bumming around the campsite and pool.

We are limited to how far we can walk around camp, but we are allowed to make the trek over to reception, which I had to do to pay for the game drives. It is about a 5 minute walk parallel to the river bed, and you basically follow fresh prints made from a Hippo in the past couple of days. Again, super awesome, but it makes you a bit wary! Once again, we had an afternoon rain shower, but thankfully this one was a quick one, and did not create the mud as the day before.

The evening game drive starts at 4pm, and we are once again hopeful for Leopard. This park has a large population of Leopard, so it is one of the best oppertunities, if we are going to spot one. I am also hopeful for Lion.

Once again we see a lot of the animals we have been spotting. I also manage to get a tree to the face early on, but thankfully it barely left a mark and it didn’t get my eye. We do find a massive herd of Water Buffalo, over a hundred of them. It is unreal to see so many all together, and to be in the thick of them. We got to watch them move through, and one of the calves was making quite a fuss as its mother was taking a bit longer to get a drink at one of the puddles of water.

We spotted more Zebra, but this time with babies as well, as well as a mother elephant with her calf and a warthog with her babies. While we were heading to find a spot for sunset, Moses saw a fresh path with tire marks, so we headed in as well. Up in a tree was a dead Gizelle. This was a kill from a Leopard, but there was no Leopard in sight. He told us after sunset we would return, to see if the Leopard has also returned.

At sunset, he told us that the African Elephant got its name because the ears of it, look like the continent of Africa. I thought this was a fun fact.

After sunset, we now use a guide with a spot light to look in the dark for eyes. This is the time when you see a bunch of the smaller animals around the park, but also looking out for the Lion and Leopard. We went back to where the Gizelle was in the tree to no avail. However, shortly after Moses recieved a phone call, and once again we are on a wild ride! We arrive to see THE LEOPARD!! This makes number five, and it is so amazing. It is walking past, but with the low light, it is impossible to get a good picture. It was crazy to see it walking by, with its mouth slightly ajar. It is a bit scary to look at, as it looks quite fierce.

We are all so overjoyed by this sighting! The rest of the game drive is spent spotting smaller animals, but we also ran into a bunch of hippo out of the water grazing. It was funny spotting them, as they had a bit of a “caught in the act” look to them. Again, still cannot get enough of them!

We get back to camp in time for dinner, which is beef poikee and squash, which I really enjoy, as it is basically stew over rice.

We have super early 4am start again tomorrow as it is a 12 hour drive day, so I am off to bed early after dinner. Plus all the bugs are out again, and between being pinged by them the last two hours of the game drive and being surrounded at dinner, I am ready for some solace from them in my tent.

I should also mention, thankfully another incident free evening bathroom run!