Though a straight line appears to be the shortest distance between 2 points, life has a way of confounding geography. Often it is the dalliances and the detours that define us. There are no maps to guide our most important searches; we must rely on hope, chance, intuition and a willingness to be surprised.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


(Cheetah on the look out for Thomsons Gazelle. This completed a full set of animals spotted on the Serengeti.)

There were a couple of quiet days after the game parks as we drove down through Tanzania towards Zanzibar. This was a good time to get to know the group together.
(In the Serengeti. me, Nikki, Jane, Nick, Brock and Alex.)

The group is very different to the one I went round South America with. Firstly, there are 28 people on the trip, which makes for a very different dynamic to the eight people on the previous trip. Also, I now find myself the second oldest person on the trip, when i was the second youngest in S Am. There are quite a few people under twenty. Good luck to them - I was still going to Crete and Majorca when I was 18, which (in some ways!) wasn't quite as fulfilling a voyage of discovery as Southern Africa.
(The lads in the group. Back row, L-R, Josh, Rod, Brock, me, Cal, Nick, Alex. Tim and Sam in front and some of the locals.)

I like the big group. And I like the people on the group too. There's a good mix of Brits, Kiwis, Aussies plus a few others, including a crazy Canadian.

However, one thing that's perhaps not as welcome with a big group is the 'impact' that we have as we travel around. It's impossible to be inconspicuous. When the truck stops anywhere populated, we are an attraction in ourselves. Plus getting people on to and off buses and ferries can be time-consuming and a bit of a process. The three hour ferry journey to Zanzibar was a case in point, though at least we cleared customs pretty smoothly.

Zanzibar is beautiful, laid-back and with great diving and snorkelling. In some ways it reminded me of Belize. Even speaking some Swahili was a bit like talking Creole.

We had a couple of days relaxing when I had the chance to do some diving and snorkelling. Really enjoyed getting back in the water and there were some nice things to see though nothing amazing to report. I won't forget the dive in a hurry though. My dive buddy (crazy Brock from Canada - he's a good guy though) sucked through his air in twenty minutes and i buddied him back to the surface. Went up far too fast though and hurt my eardrums. A few hours of constant pain and fuzzy hearing will remind me to ascend more slowly next time...

After we left the beach resort in Zanzibar, we headed to the main town of Stone Town, famous as the birthplace and home of Freddie Mercury.

I had an afternoon of frustration and expense on the phone to the UK after my bank claimed that they couldn't find my savings account. Quite a serious concern at any time (!) but as I was reaching the limit on my credit card, I was about to run out of money.

Sorted now, but a wasted afternoon left me with a desperate need to releave some tension with a big night out. And it was a big one! We at last had a chance to go out on the town with the locals and get away from the tourist bars. We got to a club where there was a lot of bumping and grinding going on - reggaeton (think Sean Paul) being the music of choice. And after having had plenty of practise in Belize I was able to go mental with the locals!

Next stop Malawi, where the weather isn't looking great, but fingers crossed for some top diving.

Last stop in Tanzania was at a handcrafts market. I've bought some really nice souvenirs. Carved wooden tables, chairs, boxes and other handcrafts are beautiful and very cheap. Carrying all the stuff I've bought home will be the only problem. That said, the craftsmen are keen to do swaps, especially on watches, clothes and shoes! I won't trade my watch, but I might be able to make some space in my rucksack by trading a couple of t-shirts.

(Herds of wildebeeste in the Ngorongoro crater.)

Monday, July 09, 2007

It Began in Afrika

(Shot of the trip???? On the morning of the second day, we did some game-spotting in the Serengeti. One ranger spotted a dead gazelle in a tree and when our landrovers arrived we spotted this leopard lying at the bottom of the tree. After a few minutes, he leapt into the tree and started devouring the gazelle. Just amazing to see these things happen. I nearly died when I saw this pic come out!)

Hey! I'm in Africa.

After a week I have so much to write about it it's just not funny. The next few updates are definitely going to be of the string of consciousness variety rather than the considered thoughtful commentary I usually like to (try to) come up with.

The internet is far too slow here and there's so much to do that any time I spend in the internet cafe is time lost when I could be seeing/doing something great.

So I arrived in Nairobi after a hellish trip from India. I was supposed to have a day to myself in Nairobi but I went straight to bed and joined the group I'm trucking round Africa with first thing in the morning.

The trip we are doing is a 54 day journey from Nairobi, Kenya to Capetown, S Africa. Some of the group have already spent 3 weeks in Kenya and Nairobi. This was the trip I was originally booked on to, and it's a bit of a shame that I missed out on trekking with the Gorillas which sounds like it must have been quite an experience.

(Meerkats in a classic pose.)

So we didn't hang about in Kenya - the first day's travel took us across the border into Tanzania where we spent two nights camping and visiting a local Masai Mara village. This was a great experience. The kids were absolutely adorable and it was great to see some genuine African village life, even though they were somewhat used to visitors.

(We got incredibly close to a lion and lionness just 20 minutes into the Ngorongoro crater. What an incredible place.)

After the second night, we had an early morning start on a two-day game-park trip to the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti.

I would have expected this to be one of the highlights of the African trip and wondered how it would feel to do this so early in the journey. Even on the first day in Africa - which was mostly spent on the truck the - the atmosphere felt special and Africa felt like somewhere exotic. How would a sight as famous and anticipated as the Serengeti bear-up?
(He's making tusks at me! While we were sitting at the side of a small lake having lunch an elephant appeared in the distance and slowly made its way right past us, through the edge of the lake and then walked off again. Unbelievable. At the point I took this picture, the park rangers started shouting to us to "back away from the elephant"!)

In short - it was mind-blowing! I saw... everything! Lions, lionnesses, leopard, cheetah, elephant, rhino, hippo, flamingo, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, warthog, gazelle, ostrich, meerkats, water buffalo and quite possibly a lot of other things that I can't even remember. And most of these things we saw up close, the lions were almost close enough to reach out and touch. It was one of the best days of the year and not something that I'll ever forget.
(Lets get it o-on! This is the least explicit of a series of photos of mating lions. It's incredible how the animals just get on with things and completely ignore the landrovers. Apparently they dont perceive people in vehicles as people. But step outside of the car...)

I got some of the best pictures of the trip and have already looked over them so many times I'm worried about wearing out the buttons on my camera. I'm going to set up a flickr site and put more photos on there. I have at least twenty photos that I want to print out.

There should be more days like these over the next couple of months. We will be walking with lions at one point and swimming with elephants at another. I can't wait.

(Hangin time at the end of the day.)