EAST AFRICA TRIP: 8 August – 6 September 2007
Our Great East African Adventure
8/8/07: Arrived safely despite Rwandan Express – thank God!
9/8/07: Surprised to discover we are staying at JAM at Giterama – having visited JAM Nooitgedacht just 3 weeks ago near home! Amazing buildings, school for skills and accommodation for 250 orphans all ages with room mom for the 22 children in each room – 10 rooms. Again a wonderful reception by all the orphans at 6pm singing their special WELICOME(!) song to us! Unpacked, repacked and sorted food containers out. Went to lovely little quaint restaurant for supper in Giterama with Nicole (in charge) and our group.
10/8/07: Went to Lake Kivu – stunning and HUGE! Such a green, lush, hilly, terraced, cultivated countryside! Lovely drive. Boat ride around islands on Lake Kivu plus lovely lunch at Centre Bethane (Presby). Packed car now and ALL SET for next part of the BIG ADVENTURE! This whole area so full of people and every square inch crops grown intensely from tops of hills to valleys. And PEOPLE everywhere! Almost claustrophobic! No open veld or unoccupied land!
11/08/07: Crossed Rwanda/Tanzanian border. Took ages despite only us there. Another squatting, long drop loo! Huge river with spectacular waterfall under bridge as we crossed border into Tanzania. Much drier, less crops, more veld, HUGE banana fields everywhere.. More SPACE, but crowds of people and bikes on road ALL the time and villages crowded with pedestrians and especially bike repair stalls. Got to BIHARAMULO, very small but village with dubious “guest rooms” – BAD! – NO accommodation, and finally sent to Catholic Mission. NICE, clean simple rooms. Had drinks on gravel next to our car. Lady who brought hot water for us to wash in, must have felt sorry for us – NO place to buy food (could cook our own!) so she went to market stalls and cooked a meal for us! So kind! Dried, big fish with heads and eyes on, plus tails on! Tomatoes and chips I could eat! Dad loved it, so did Mick and Wendy!
12/08/07: TERRIBLE dirt roads, even worse than yesterday! Dongas, potholes and corrugations. Breakfast in style next to our car. Villages FULL of people and bikes and millions of market stalls. Had lovely cakes at Geita at little “pub”/kiosk – clean – called The Kick (soccer ball). THEN PUNCTURE! (Before cokes! FIRST TIME! Thick dust, Tom and Mick under Pajero, crowds appeared out of bush, road in middle of nowhere. Had to unpack ENTIRE boot! CALMLY TENSE till screws off wheel and jack worked. Had to dig deeper hole under tyre with saw and axe! Fixed quickly, MandT did excellent job. Then to Geita and RELAXED with Coke. Then Lake Victoria! Beautiful! Lovely ferry ride to Mwanza. TARRED road FULL of people and bikes all way to Speke Lodge on Lace Vic! Beautiful, cool, crashing little waves, lovely birds, a real haven. DBB here! Lovely chalet. We are being SPOILT! Serengeti tomorrow!
13/08/07: WOW! WOW! WOW! Serengeti here we are! Vast plains, fever trees,distant volcanic mountains and herds of Thompson’s gazelles, impala (!), zebra, buffalo and herds of wildebeest! Plus stunning, colourful birds! Terribly bad roads – corrugated like anything – we and the whole car rattled and shook! Loads of Landrovers with guests coming towards us. Dust! Battled to find campsite. Patch of veld grass with cooking place / commune and NO ablutions except half-finished 2 shower room, 2 outside broken basins, 2 loos in corrugated shack – 2 holes with 2 raised foot places and STINKY! Tank with non-drinking water BOIL IT. Set up camp, cooked nice supper. Stunning star sky. Then heard hyenas while sleeping. NO fences. They were ruffling around between our tents! We are on the edge of the “camp”!
14/08/07: WOW! Our early morning drive saw so MUCH! Ellies, lions, lion chasing cheetah away! Followed cheetah through veld from one road to another. Limping – probably injured by the lion. Buffalo, hippos. Just WONDERFUL! Washed hair under leaking tap, knelt beneath broken basin – worked well! HOT over lunch. Sat under shady thorn tree. Afternoon game drive saw little, but second half saw lions, ellies, huge herd buffaloes, topis etc. LOVELY! Tomorrow Ngorongoro!
15/08/07: Left Serengeti – on way out saw 2 HUGE male lions, more lions, one male picked up and carried gazelle in its mouth! Plus jackal and hyena. Stunning view exit gate. Appalling road, dust billowing in!. Entire car and us shaken and rattled to pieces! Don’t know how car remains intact! A wonderful Pajero thanks to Bronnie and Brett. Stopped Olduvai briefly then Ngorongoro Crater. Picked up guide and went down into crater. Like a zoo! Herds of animals everywhere. Lions right next to us in stream. Ellies on way out. Camp at top – freezing! Not much water, loos same, less smelly! Wendy and Mick woke 1 am with buffalo munching grass around their tent!
16/08/07: Left Ngorongoro – lovely rain, rainforest and buffaloes, zebra etc along road. Arusha huge. Did shopping. Colobus Lodge nice. Mt Meru cleared at top and SNOW on top and sides! Kili not visible – clouds! Saw lovely little reptile park nearby. Ellies and giraffe in bush around Lodge yesterday not today. Excited and nervous! Got all packed and sorted.
17/08/07: Sense of nervous excitement! All ready and waiting for transport to take us to foot of Mt Meru. Supposed to pick us up at 8:30 – arrived about 10:00 – had a breakdown. By the time we got to Northern park and signed etc., finally set off at 11:30! Herd of buffalo we walked past; then 3 giraffe a little way off! Lots of ellie poo 3 days old. All the way Kili covered in cloud – even still! Lovely climb up to first camp (MIRIAKAMBA) all so green and lush, lovely forest glades, colder as get higher. Continuous climb straight up but lovely path. Went VERY slow pace to accommodate all AND to allow altitude acclimatisation. A great day! 8,622 ft high. Fantastic accommodation and loos and meal. Our ranger guide and cook and tour guide all super people.
18/08/07: Beautiful 4 hr walk UPHILL(!) Through pristine forests – saw no Colobus monkeys just heard their chattering. Arrived at SADDLE CAMP 3 pm. Awful stinky loos again. Supper 5:30pm, bed 7:30 and woken 1am for summit bid! Did lovely hike up Little Meru in afternoon. Nervous, excited about ALTITUDE and BIG climb. Keeping us all in prayer. May we safely succeed.
19/08/07: All with head torches off we set – nice path, then higher and higher (MERU 4566m high – very aware of altitude and possible altitude sickness. Tom and I were fine. Scaled across 2 massive slabs of rock, then steep uphill in deep, loose ash, narrow path with steeply sloping-away ash sides. Had no idea where we were – just patch of torch light in front. Hectic hiking. Just kept praying for us all. Tom turned back with guide after 3 hours – halfway mark. He was exhausted and finished. We went ON and ON in dark, it had rained from 7:30 pm – 11:30 pm. Then stopped! Couldn’t believe it AND BRILLIANT stars out! Higher and steeper. Saw beautiful sunrise over Mt Kili – visible for few seconds then cloud. We could see stunning view of ash cone and were on edge of crater. Climbed higher forever, over huge rocks and steep, vertical ash paths – two steps up, slide one down. Dangerous with BOTH sides disappearing over edge. After HOURS and tired, reached frozen ground. Spectacular rock formations and finally hit the slopes of Meru, covered in frozen snow – had to chip footsteps out, – and rocks covered in frozen ice. Went up so CAREFULLY, so dangerous if slipped. No grip. Pace slow as breathing not so easy, 2-3 paces then rest, then on. FINALLY could see flag and TOP – small, rocky and disappearing, slippery cliff sides. Spent 20 min on top. Heard Bronwyn pregnant! FREEZING and MISTY. Took us 6 hours to summit!. And return was in daylight (3 ½ hours) STUNNING views of crater, ash cone, amazing rock formations and disappearing slopes. Steep climb down and down, icy snow melting so easier but tiring. Minute glimpse of Kili, and of stunning views which were covered rapidly in swirling mists. Back at 12:00. Tom gave us huge welcome! Hot soup, then 20 min rest, then backpacks to porters and off we set on 3 ½ hrs hike down to lower camp. Saw Colobus monkeys! A whole group, huge, beautiful and such long hair. Early supper and bed – all tired! Excellent climb! Thank you God, for awesome climb, views and experience AND our SAFETY.
20/08/07: Had wonderful night’s sleep – 7 pm – 6 am! Woke then because of sudden rumbling quite strongly! We woke and listened! Lasted a while. Probably from active volcano LENGAI. Drizzling lots like CT winter! Stunning breakfast then long trek (3 hrs.) down (Buffaloes, giraffes, warthogs, close by!) to office park where we got certificates for the climb (gate guy couldn’t believe we had done Meru Age !) and had a beautiful lunch all set out for us – HOT – AND a bottle of champagne. Such a sense of fulfillment! Sad goodbyes to all our porters, cooks and guide! Bought T shirt. Back at Lodge with HOT water shower – and someone who is doing our washing!
21/08/07: Relaxed at Colobus Mt Lodge after saying goodbye to EJ who came out from the UK to climb with us. Tom and Mickey spent till 2:30 pm in Arusha sorting stuff and making bookings for Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. Workers cleaned inside/outside of car – looked amazing! Wendy and I clean/wiped all boxes and condensed contents. Kept checking for Meru and Kili but cloud cover unrelenting. Did two short, brisk walks down dirt road to get circulation going! Mickey seems to have lost ALL photos – devastated. Finally, Kili came into view briefly – just the top, covered in snow and streaked with clouds. Meru sides, crater sides, ash cone and Little Meru and Rhino Point became visible – but not the TOP of Meru! Hope for clear day and Meru top peak tomorrow.
22/08/07: Raining! Can’t believe it! All mountains covered deeply in cloud!. Left 20 to 8 to drive to Dar. Beautiful drive. Stunning mountains all along our left. Everything so lush and green. Suddenly as we had a loo stop, saw – only just – the very top of Kili, snow-covered. Then nothing! Such poverty in villages we passed through. But still the villages function, with people doing their thing, or men just hanging around. Most kids seem to be at school of some sort. Then outskirts of Dar – TRAFFIC, BUSES, TAXIS, HOOTING – each one doing its own thing! Huge blockages in rush hour. Took wrong turn, had to cut in front of whole queue of taxis! Tom quite enjoyed that! Then easily found hotel – so posh! What a spoiling plus lovely dinner! Comparison unbelievable: Serengeti camping = piece of ground hole in ground (loo) and undrinkable water – $30; Colobus Mt Lodge DBB $50 with bathroom, loo and hot shower. This hotel $80 BB and proper bath, loo and hot water, stunning view over harbour etc. Really good value. Early (6.30 am) tomorrow ferry to Zanzibar for 2 nights.
23/08/07: Lovely ferry crossing 2 hrs on fast ferry. Chaotic at ferry port, promised breakfast on ferry was one plastic cup (nice) tea then sandwich -1 slice bread (nice) cut in half and folded over! Couldn’t even find the butter! Beautiful sea with turquoise patches (coral). Met at harbour Zanzibar – crowded, pools of muck and water, people, bicycles, cars and touts hounding you everywhere. Driven to our chalet (lovely) via Stone Town Village . Beautiful place, lovely “villas”, beautiful pool just above beach, blue, blue sea at foot of pool and dining/bar area. Went on Spices Tour this afternoon – really excellent, lovely guide and assistant, wandered through these spice “farms” smelling and tasting. Then HIGHLIGHT – a very agile man “Mr Butterfly Man” climbed up a very tall coconut palm, stopping every now and then to sing at top of voice (beautiful voice!) and do a bum-wiggle dance, then continue climbing! He cut down coconuts and brought them down with him. Amazing! Micky tried and successfully jumped up about 2 steps! Had rope in figure of 8 round his ankles like the man had. Then “shop” and bought some spices , then seated on “indigenous” benches under tree and another man cut various fruits up which we each had to taste . Some we knew, some not. Everything set in this rural “farm”/village area. Really lovely, local and well done.
24/08/07: Stunning, sunny beautiful day! What a wonderful day! Left early with our “tour guide” and his mates to go on our water safari. Went down good dirt road, finally a muddy track between bushes out on to a white sand beach (FUMBA), curio stalls and stunning turquoise sea! Off we went in a dhow with engine 1 ½ hrs to a beautiful sandbank near a larger island. Nothing on sandbank, felt like Robinson Crusoe stepping onto it! Our guys put up little shade awning (plastic woven sack) and we had lovely swim. Stunning sparkly waters! Next minute masses of boats arrived filled with Italian tourists and the whole tiny island got almost taken over! Couple of other private groups also with their “tatty” awnings. It was like Durban beach! We were swamped! Got back into dhow and were taken to a nearby spot for snorkelling. Saw lovely fish, coral etc. Swam some more. Then sailed to bigger island to see mangrove swamps and amazing, rocky, coral formations. Then round to front of island, beached dhow and went ashore to sit under one of many crude little shady shelters where we were given a spectacular seafood lunch prepared in the bush right next to us. What I ate was very delicious including freshly made bread! Relaxed, bought sarong from one of several little temporary stalls and then sailed back in dhow with SAIL, not engine – lovely. Saw amazing leaps and spouts of water from very distant whales. Then back to our resort. Traffic, people, bikes everywhere! Swam and relaxed at pool at resort, short beach walk. Stunning sunset over sea.
25/08/07: Can’t believe it’s the 25th already! More than halfway through our BIG African adventure. First late am breakfast for a while! Fetched 9am by “Allie” and Hussein and had a really great walking tour through Stone Town. Saw slave parts (very sad), Anglican church, market place (stinky fish, meat and chicken areas ), windy, dirty quaint alley ways. Incredible carved wooden doors with brass knobs sticking out (so elephants butting heads against doors would feel the pain and not knock door down!) And House of Wonders, lunch Old Fort and more wandering, ending up at very colonial New Africa House! (for tea, Mickey and I went and bought delicious ice cream). External electrical wiring down alleys and between buildings was something to behold! A dangerous nightmare. Waited 1 ½ hours for our fast ferry. Lovely boat, luxury seats right up front – then huge pitching and rolling and suddenly everyone was vomiting (except Dad and I). It was like a plague. Thank goodness they had handed out blue plastic bags with our tea and snacks. People were filling them left, right and centre and the poor guy was rushing around like mad handing out bunches of them and long rolls of loo paper. Got to Dar two hours later, unpacked, repacked and had lovely Thai meal. Mickey joined us , Wendy too nauseous.
26/08/07: Left Dar and travelled ALL DAY through beautiful mountain/hill scenery, very rural and isolated and poverty stricken villages that seem to function well, within their world-view. All people so friendly. Finally got to Iringa– a really SAD DECAYED town. After a beautiful drive alongside large Ruaha river. After Iringa came a 103 km BAD dirt road drive. The car shook and rattled and so did we. Large, loud noises, but nothing fallen off or hanging. We went for miles and miles shaking, rolling and car being battered. Huge racketing noise back of car. Finally arrived Ruaha National Park. Beautiful and isolated. Camps right next to river with no water and long drop loo and no fence. Park guy took one look at us and must have got worried. Mickey concerned about lions ripping tents and Wendy about ellies rubbing their rumps against our tent poles! Think guide was worried about us being “older” and roughing it! Took us back to where there are some very basic “bandas” (huts) with sit-on loos that occasionally flush and outside tap with water, Moved 2 beds into a big hut so all 4 of us are sleeping like dormitory! Lovely supper and moonlit evening with lions roaring across the river. Hippos walked out of river – so beautiful. Really in WILD with huge ellie poo around our hut. Mickey great this morning but nauseous and vomiting tonight. Hope better tomorrow. Armed guard on duty at night. Beautiful moonlit evening. Too dangerous to walk outside.
27/08/07: Lovely relaxing morning – left for game drive about 9am. Dry and brown, green and beautiful, tall shady umbrella trees along river. Saw amazing herd of buffalo – hundreds and hundreds crossing the river. Earlier lioness plus 5 others further on were all carefully positioned for possible kill – but so many buffalo that although lions moving carefully, etc, and very alert, they would have been flattened if had made an attempt. Wonderful variety of birds. Mickey not great, but joined us for afternoon drive. We did the same route again – some lions, hippos, crocs AND 2 baby cubs!! Also, had a family of ellies come right down to river in front of us to drink with cute babies! Were chatting and eating supper in dark outside our hut (with bright full moon) when Wendy exclaimed loudly and leapt . We all leapt, I thought it must be lion or ellie and leapt onto chair, up steps and bashed our metal door open so all could race inside! Only then did I discover it was a hippo who had walked (a few feet away) past Wendy. Hippo got such a fright he raced down bank into grassy river bed!
28/08/07: Had such a wonderful game walk! About 3 ½ hours saw magnificent crocs and hippos lying in pools and amongst rocks in one rocky section of Ruaha River. Amazing number! Bumpy road and car got hammered (and so did we) on other road – called UNENDING ROAD – back to Iringa. Got some groceries after searching for a shop of sorts, then 60 kms outside Iringa, on advice of Mickey’s friend, came to a beautiful haven, an oasis of peace – camping and luxury chalets with breakfast for same price as camping at Serengeti! So not camping! On way here got signal and then smses from Claire, Karie and Derek W – about Karie in hospital with contractions etc. Just so worried and weepy about it – not able to be there and help. Phones Karie and she was weepy and sore and “MISSING Mommy” at a time like this. So difficult. Praying for baby and Karie to be fine and well-monitored and cared for by gynae, etc and that all will be well. Just so worrying and concerning despite careful reassurances. Just keep praying.
29/08/07: Up early and quite long drive through to Chitimba campsite!. Beautiful countryside as we went along turnoff to Malawi before Mbeya. Windy road leading down into Rift Valley just richly green and so densely cultivated with tea, mealies, bananas, etc. All people so very friendly and helpful. Tanzania/Malawi border post amazing – CLEAN, NO smoking, NO hawkers or money changers allowed – through in 30 mins! Chitimba Lodge lovely place on Lake Malawi with stunning full RED moon shining on water. Stayed in crude bamboo hut. Had lovely swim/bath! In lake. Got signal sms from Karie – “I just want you now, Mommy” – heart rending. Smsed her back and phoned tonight. Still in pain but more irritable uterus than contractions. Sonar shows baby +- 2kgs, good fluid and placenta healthy. Keep praying for all to be well and think much of Steve managing Sasha on his own and missing Karie. Thank goodness for Claire’s kindness and reassurance to Karie. Thank you, Lord, for your provision and your hand of protection. Bless them all, I pray and keep them all safe and healthy, and us, too.